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23251  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: May 29, 2011, 03:04:52 PM

http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2011/05/08/
23252  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of the Republicans on: May 29, 2011, 02:55:10 PM


http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2011/04/12/
23253  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: May 29, 2011, 02:46:38 PM

http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2011/03/27/

http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2011/04/10/

23254  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: European “Gathering of the Pack” 2011 on: May 29, 2011, 02:24:09 PM
There is rumor of a sarong with a baseball inside vs double sticks fight.  cool
23255  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Prof. Wally Jay on: May 29, 2011, 02:11:28 PM
Sifu Mark Gerry wrote:
"It is with great sadness that I must report Professor Wally Jay has passed away after suffering from a stroke. He has touched the world and will be sorely missed by everyone. May God strengthen his family to endure such a loss as we all thank God for him having been born."
23256  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times ombudsman's ruminations on: May 29, 2011, 10:45:39 AM
Loitering on the FringesBy ARTHUR S. BRISBANE
Published: May 28, 2011
THE culture is headed for the curb, and The New York Times is on the story.
.The Public Editor's Journal
.E-mail: public@nytimes.com
.Twitter: twitter.com/thepubliceditor
.Phone: (212) 556-7652

Address: Public Editor
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018
.Readers' Comments

Recent examples include a May 19 article (“With a Harsh Light on Two Men, Much of the Scrutiny Falls on the Women”) about the privacy-invading media coverage of the women in the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn cases, as well as a Sunday, May 22, investigation (“The Gossip Machine, Churning Out Cash”) into how pay-to-play tabloid journalism works in the digital age.

The same Sunday paper brimmed with stories touching on the business and pop-cultural dimensions of a society that convicted Lenny Bruce in the 1960s for saying some words you can now hear every night on cable. Vampires and werewolves, Chelsea Handler’s sharp tongue, Charlie Sheen’s heavy-hitting lawyer, a cross-dressing memoirist and a two-page Sunday magazine essay on the semantics of women’s private parts — they’re all there for your consideration!

I can appreciate that, as a chronicler of the times, the newspaper has a mandate to cover events and culture wherever they may lead. As Jim Rutenberg, the author of the article on the cash economy behind tabloid reporting, told me: “We can’t pretend that this part of the world doesn’t exist. This is part of our culture.”

That said, it’s a challenge for The Times to preserve its dignified brand as it undertakes to cover the world as we have come to know it: high, low and, at times, suffused with vulgarity.

The “Harsh Light” article is a case in point. The story focused on how old taboos against revealing personal details are disappearing in today’s media environment. It also took note of the sharp disparity between the two men, who have wealth and position to deploy in their own defense, and the two women, who seem relatively powerless.

The article’s premise was, I think, a solid one and a good way to advance the Schwarzenegger and Strauss-Kahn stories. The question is whether it was necessary to actually put the seamy stuff in the paper.

To develop the personal-details theme, The Times started by describing a media mob camped out near the women’s homes, looking for dirt. The story named Mr. Schwarzenegger’s former housekeeper and quoted a disparaging comment about her appearance that had been published on a Forbes.com blog. It then added a second nugget from the gossip Web site TMZ that also cast her in a bad light. The Times took care to note that “several news organizations” had repeated the TMZ item.

In effect, the story took a kind of anthropological approach, donning latex gloves to report on how others were reporting the story — chronicling, as it were, others’ low standards.

Rick Berke, The Times’s national editor, said it was necessary to print the unpalatable details to document the premise of the piece. “If you cut it out, you are withholding from the reader what we are talking about,” he said, adding that this wasn’t a “backdoor” way of getting sleazy details into the paper.

It’s a fine line The Times walks. In Mr. Rutenberg’s story about the tabloid press, he eschewed what I am sure were many opportunities to publish choice samples of trashy journalism. As a result, the story — months in the making and ultimately pegged to the Schwarzenegger case — seemed more comfortably situated inside the boundary line of good taste.

The taste and standards issue isn’t static, of course, but moves with the times. Coverage of major public figures, like the former California governor and the former head of the International Monetary Fund, adapts with shifting social standards, and so does softer journalism that addresses popular tastes. What formerly existed off the page finds a way onto it.

In “An Unspeakable Word Is the Word That Has to Be Spoken,” published in the Sunday magazine, the author, Jenny Diski, rather creatively addressed a distinctly feminine obscenity: bits of literary history concerning it, BBC bloopers using it, the lingering cultural objection to it, and her own call to actually use it in print. All without ever using the word or resorting to asterisks or other such substitutes.

Accompanying the essay was an excerpt from The Times’s “Manual of Style and Usage” that included this admonition: “An article should not seem to be saying, ‘Look I want to use this word, but they won’t let me.’ ”

I suggested to Hugo Lindgren, the editor of the magazine, that the essay seemed to flout The Times’s guidelines, but he said that he and Philip B. Corbett, associate managing editor for standards, had discussed the question and decided carefully on how to handle it. Mr. Corbett said, “I would view this as a carefully considered exception to the rules, rather than a flouting of them.”

So I suppose we can feel assured that this loitering at the edge of propriety is not done heedlessly. But it is done with some regularity.

An illustration comes from the checkered realm of memoir-writing. In the Book Review section on Sunday, The Times published a review of “The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt” by Jon-Jon Goulian. This came on top of an earlier review of the same book in the May 18 Arts section, and an article in the May 19 Styles section about the fuss surrounding the book and its underachieving author. All this for a work summarized by Publishers Weekly as follows:

“A man wears women’s clothes, rejects a legal career, and otherwise baffles his parents in this flamboyant but callow memoir.”

Granted, there is another view: Mr. Goulian is a fascinating creature of the New York publishing scene who got a $750,000 advance for a book that plumbs his riveting psyche. But still, three print articles in five days?

The Times editors overseeing the various pieces told me they made their assignments without knowledge of the others. This makes sense in the surprisingly decentralized system that produces The Times in print every day and, online, all day. But the ubiquitous Jon-Jon is symbolic, I think, of the strong tug on The Times and other mainstream news media to follow society, sometimes eagerly, to its fringes.

My preference would be to see more restraint. True, other media are indulging in questionable journalism, and it is difficult to resist the downward revision of standards. But The Times could just as easily pull back, recognizing that its readers don’t need and aren’t relying on it to chronicle these badlands. Other news outlets are more than willing to go there.

23257  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Weak Foundation on: May 29, 2011, 10:10:43 AM
ThE protesters who have toppled or endangered Arab dictators are demanding more freedoms, fair elections and a crackdown on corruption. But they have not promoted a distinct ideology, let alone a coherent one. This is because private organizations have played only a peripheral role and the demonstrations have lacked leaders of stature.
Both limitations are due to the longstanding dearth, across the Arab world, of autonomous nongovernmental associations serving as intermediaries between the individual and the state. This chronic weakness of civil society suggests that viable Arab democracies — or leaders who could govern them — will not emerge anytime soon. The more likely immediate outcome of the current turmoil is a new set of dictators or single-party regimes.

Democracy requires checks and balances, and it is largely through civil society that citizens protect their rights as individuals, force policy makers to accommodate their interests, and limit abuses of state authority. Civil society also promotes a culture of bargaining and gives future leaders the skills to articulate ideas, form coalitions and govern.

The preconditions for democracy are lacking in the Arab world partly because Hosni Mubarak and other Arab dictators spent the past half-century emasculating the news media, suppressing intellectual inquiry, restricting artistic expression, banning political parties, and co-opting regional, ethnic and religious organizations to silence dissenting voices.

But the handicaps of Arab civil society also have historical causes that transcend the policies of modern rulers. Until the establishment of colonial regimes in the late 19th century, Arab societies were ruled under Shariah law, which essentially precludes autonomous and self-governing private organizations. Thus, while Western Europe was making its tortuous transition from arbitrary rule by monarchs to democratic rule of law, the Middle East retained authoritarian political structures. Such a political environment prevented democratic institutions from taking root and ultimately facilitated the rise of modern Arab dictatorships.

Strikingly, Shariah lacks the concept of the corporation, a perpetual and self-governing organization that can be used either for profit-making purposes or to provide social services. Islam’s alternative to the nonprofit corporation was the waqf, a trust established in accordance with Shariah to deliver specified services forever, through trustees bound by essentially fixed instructions. Until modern times, schools, charities and places of worship, all organized as corporations in Western Europe, were set up as waqfs in the Middle East.

A corporation can adjust to changing conditions and participate in politics. A waqf can do neither. Thus, in premodern Europe, politically vocal churches, universities, professional associations and municipalities provided counterweights to monarchs. In the Middle East, apolitical waqfs did not foster social movements or ideologies.

Starting in the mid-19th century, the Middle East imported the concept of the corporation from Europe. In stages, self-governing Arab municipalities, professional associations, cultural groups and charities assumed the social functions of waqfs. Still, Arab civil society remains shallow by world standards.

A telling indication is that in their interactions with private or public organizations, citizens of Arab states are more likely than those in advanced democracies to rely on personal relationships with employees or representatives. This pattern is reflected in corruption statistics of Transparency International, which show that in Arab countries relationships with government agencies are much more likely to be viewed as personal business deals. A historically rooted preference for personal interactions limits the significance of organizations, which helps to explain why nongovernmental organizations have played only muted roles in the Arab uprisings.

=======

Page 2 of 2)



A less powerful business sector also hindered democracy. The Middle East reached the industrial era with an atomistic private sector unequipped to compete with giant enterprises that had come to dominate the global economy. Until then, Arab businesses consisted exclusively of small, short-lived enterprises established under Islamic partnership law. This was a byproduct of Islam’s egalitarian inheritance system, which aimed to spread wealth. Successful enterprises were typically dissolved when a partner died, and to avoid the consequent losses Arab businessmen kept their enterprises both small and transitory.


Arab businesses had less political clout than their counterparts in Western Europe, where huge, established companies contributed to civil society directly as a political force against arbitrary government. They also did so indirectly by supporting social causes. For example, during industrialization, major European businesses financed political campaigns, including the mass education and antislavery movements.

Since the late 19th century, commercial codes transplanted from abroad have enabled Arabs to form large, durable enterprises like major banks, telecommunications giants and retail chains. Still, Arab companies tend to be smaller relative to global norms, which limits their power vis-ŕ-vis the state. Although large Western corporations have been known to suppress political competition and restrict individual rights, in Arab countries it is the paucity of large private companies that poses the greater obstacle to democracy.

Despite these handicaps, there is some cause for optimism when it comes to democratization in the Middle East. The Arab world does not have to start from scratch. A panoply of private organizations are already present, though mainly in embryonic form. And if the current turmoil produces regimes more tolerant of grassroots politics and diversity of opinion, more associations able to defend individual freedoms will surely arise.

Moreover, the cornerstones of a modern economy are in place and widely accepted. Economic features at odds with Shariah, like banks and corporations, were adopted sufficiently long ago to become part of local culture. Their usefulness makes them appealing even to Islamists who find fault with other features of modernity.

Over the last 150 years, the Arab world has achieved structural economic transformations that took Europe a millennium. Its economic progress, whatever the shortcomings, has been remarkable. If political progress has lagged, this is partly because forming strong nongovernmental organizations takes time. Within a generation or two, as the economic transformations of the past century-and-a-half continue to change the way citizens interact with organizations, insurmountable pressure for democracy may yet arise even in those corners of the Arab world where civil society is weakest.

A stronger civil society alone will not bring about democracy. After all, private organizations can promote illiberal and despotic agendas, as Islamist organizations that denounce political pluralism and personal freedoms demonstrate. But without a strong civil society, dictators will never yield power, except in the face of foreign intervention.

Independent and well-financed private organizations are thus essential to the success of democratic transitions. They are also critical to maintaining democracies, once they have emerged. Indeed, without strong private players willing and able to resist undemocratic forces, nascent Arab democracies could easily slip back into authoritarianism.
23258  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: May 29, 2011, 09:53:51 AM

Big piece from Pravda on the Hudson as to where the revolution is headed.  It is an interesting read.  
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/magazine/egypts-next-crisis.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha210

Here is the first of 8 pages:

On a recent Wednesday morning, Zakaria Moh­yeldin steered his father’s black Skoda sedan through a thick belt of Cairo traffic and drove northward into the sleepy farmland of the Nile Delta. Mohyeldin, a tall, broad-shouldered 27-year-old with a jutting chin and a thicket of jet-black hair, had just quit his job as a stockbroker trainee. The revolution was almost three months old, and the hard work was just beginning, he told me. Mohyeldin had seen his life transformed during those amazing 18 days: battling police in clouds of tear gas, ferrying food to the protesters in Tahrir Square and cheering in awe as Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s modern-day pharaoh, was cast out in a youth-led revolt. Now he wanted to see what he could do to spread the revolution’s high ideals in Egypt’s agricultural heartland. And he was vaguely contemplating a political career, starting in the village of Kafr Shukr, where his grandfather, a former prime minister, was born.

He parked his car outside his family’s old house, now a weathered brick meeting hall along a dusty road lined with vegetable and fruit stalls. Donkey carts bumped along among the cars, and date palms sheltered the lush green fields beyond. Inside the hall, photographs of his grandfather and other relatives adorned the walls. A group of middle-aged local men in brown and gray galabias stood up and addressed him with the respect due to his family: “Zakaria basha.”
A thickset butcher named Elsayed Shahba proclaimed, “What began in Cairo has echoed across the country.” He described how the town’s new “popular committee” — one of the many makeshift civil-defense forces that formed across Egypt during the revolution — protected the courthouse against a band of marauding criminals. It also warned the local member of Parliament, who belonged to Mubarak’s party, never to show his face there again. And now it was trying to reinvent the local government and its corrupt practices: training the police to treat people with respect, lecturing merchants not to gouge customers, forming subcommittees in every field. By Shahba’s account, it seemed the revolution’s ideals were already in bloom in Kafr Shukr.

But a chicken farmer named Ayman Dahroug dismissed the speech with a scornful gesture. “The truth is, there are no leaders in Kafr Shukr anymore,” he said in a loud, angry voice. “It’s only the Muslim Brotherhood that works here now.” Like others in the room, he seemed deeply anxious about the brotherhood’s rising influence. “They are in Kafr Shukr every day. They set up tents with bread, cooking oil, dried fish,” he said. “When they hear someone is sick, they bring medicines. They are at the level of the people. You say you have a popular committee, but I haven’t even heard of it. It is on Facebook, so what? Zakaria, if you want to do something here, you must be here every day like the brotherhood.”

Two other men nodded uneasily. The brotherhood was buying imported meat at a discount and selling it in town, earning goodwill among the poor, one of them said. “They are more active than ever before,” he added.

A third man, sitting cross-legged on the floor, looked at Mohyeldin pleadingly. “The revolution came, the revolution ended,” he said. “Now I want to know, who do I belong to? Everyone says it’s the revolution of youth, but it’s the revolution of everyone who suffered injustice. Now we want someone who will lead us to something correct, and we can’t find anyone.”

Mohyeldin began asking questions — about the local Islamists, the prices of food, the level of political awareness among the villagers. Each answer provoked a storm of arguments among the men, and stern warnings that the town would fall to pieces if someone did not step in and provide an alternative to the brotherhood. “The void of the Mohyeldin family is dangerous,” said Dahroug, the chicken farmer.

“I have quit my job in Cairo,” Mohyeldin said at last. “Now I am prepared to come live here all the time.”
23259  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NYTimes: Fake police on: May 29, 2011, 09:47:22 AM
In Florida, Criminals Pose as Police More Frequently and for More Violent Ends
By DON VAN NATTA Jr.
 
MIAMI — A black BMW flashing red and blue lights suddenly filled Alexandria Armeley’s rearview mirror one evening last month. At a stoplight, the BMW’s driver pulled up next to her, waved a gold badge and told her “I’m a cop.”

 
But Ms. Armeley was suspicious. Before she pulled over, she called her stepfather, Alex Hernandez, a police detective in Biscayne Park, Fla., who warned her that the man was probably not a police officer. Speed away, he told her.

A terrified Ms. Armeley took off and was chased by the BMW for several miles through southern Miami-Dade County. Detective Hernandez had jumped in his car to help and eventually caught up to them.

So the real officer arrested the fake officer, whose name is Daniel A. Barros. Asked why he had tried to pull over Ms. Armeley, a 23-year-old college student, Mr. Barros, 22, told officers, “She was speeding.”

The BMW 7 Series car, outfitted with police lights and a siren, was “lit up like a Christmas tree,” Detective Hernandez recalled about the midnight encounter. “There are a lot of guys walking around with phony badges, but this guy had the whole works. Who knows what he would have done if he had gotten my stepdaughter to stop?”

Mr. Barros is facing several charges in the case, including impersonating an officer.

As long as police officers have worn uniforms and carried badges, criminals have dressed like them to try to win the trust of potential victims. Now the impersonators are far more sophisticated, according to nearly a dozen city police chiefs and detectives across the country.

In South Florida, seemingly an incubator of law-breaking innovation, police impersonators have become better organized and, most troubling to law enforcement officials, more violent. The practice is so common that the Miami-Dade Police Department has a Police Impersonator Unit.

Since the unit was established in 2007, it has arrested or had encounters with more than 80 phony officers in Miami-Dade County, and the frequency has increased in recent months, said Lt. Daniel Villanueva, who heads the unit.

“It’s definitely a trend,” Lieutenant Villanueva said. “They use the guise of being a police officer to knock on a door, and the victim lowers their guard for just a second. At that point, it’s too late.”

He added that part of the problem was that it was easy for civilians to buy “police products,” like fake badges, handcuffs and uniforms. “The states need to lock this down and make impersonating a police officer a more serious crime because we’re seeing more people using these types of these things to commit more serious crimes,” he said.

Detective Javier J. Baez of the Miami-Dade Police Department said, “These types of crimes here in Miami typically have a nexus to drugs.”

Increasingly, fake police officers are pulling off crimes together, the authorities say.

One evening three weeks ago, three men in police uniforms knocked on the door of a home in southwest Miami-Dade County.

When the home’s owner, Jose Montoya, opened the door, the men barged in and yelled, “Police, police! Get down, get down!” The men tied up Mr. Montoya, his wife and their toddler and then spent hours ransacking the house, the authorities said. They beat up Mr. Montoya, who was treated at a nearby hospital, and stole cash, jewelry and several weapons, the police said.

Before leaving, the robbers warned Mr. Montoya and his family not to call the police, the authorities said, or they would return and kill them.

Some police impersonators commit violent crimes like home invasions, car-jackings, rapes and, rarely, murders.

Last summer, a Tampa man impersonating an undercover officer used a badge and a siren to pull over a 28-year-old woman and rape her. In January, the man, Luis Harris, 31, was convicted of sexual battery, grand theft, kidnapping and impersonating a police officer, among other charges. A judge sentenced Mr. Harris to life in prison

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

Page 2 of 2)



Other police impersonators, police chiefs and detectives say, masquerade as officers for more benign reasons, like trying to scare or impress someone. “Usually,” Detective Baez said, “the wannabe cop outfits their vehicles with police lights and fake insignias to fulfill some psychological need.”

This happened in Chicago when a 14-year-old boy named Vincent Richardson donned police garb and walked into the Third District precinct during morning roll call in January 2009. Officers handed him a radio and told him to ride along with a female officer. The teenager even helped make an arrest.

“After four or five hours, she asks, ‘Who is this guy?’ ” recalled Jody P. Weis, who was the Chicago police superintendent at the time. “He’s in a uniform, he has a goofy badge, he doesn’t have a weapon and he’s a high school kid. It was so embarrassing.” (The embarrassment did not end there for Mr. Weis, who said he had recommended against punishing the teenager in juvenile court because no harm had been done. Three months later, the boy was arrested and charged with stealing a car. Last week, he was arrested on several weapons charges.)

Impersonating an officer is a misdemeanor in some states, though it is a felony in Florida. The charge’s severity, and punishment, increases if a criminal charged with posing as a police officer commits a felony. Several chiefs and detectives say the crime is not taken seriously enough by the justice system and the public. Often, the crime goes unreported, the police say.

“Unfortunately, there is not a lot of downside for a criminal to impersonate a police officer,” said Commissioner Edward Davis of the Boston Police Department. “You can charge them with impersonating a police officer, but that’s not a very serious crime. The way the law views this crime, it’s as an innocent or silly prank. But it has become a much more serious crime than it is perceived by the public.”

Detective Hernandez, of Biscayne Park, Fla., said: “People minimize it. They just let it go. They won’t think about how dangerous this potentially can be. They just don’t see it.”

Some law enforcement officials said the public did not take these types of episodes seriously because of the types of cases often highlighted by the news media. People charged with impersonating police officers are often portrayed as befuddled, hapless and harmless.

In March, a motocross champion was arrested in Orlando, Fla., and charged with impersonating a police officer. The man, James Stewart Jr., 25, tried to stop another car using red and blue lights, the Florida Highway Patrol said. The car that he tried to stop contained two off-duty troopers.

Last October in Boca Raton, Fla., Andrew Novotak, in his white Crown Victoria with flashing green lights, pulled over motorists and quizzed them about whether they had been drinking alcohol, the police said.

When the police questioned him, Mr. Novotak was wearing a police badge and carrying a loaded gun. He also had a German shepherd in his back seat, which he insisted was a police-trained dog. After arresting him, officers said they smelled alcohol on his breath. He was charged with impersonating an officer and driving under the influence.
23260  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Rest in Peace on: May 29, 2011, 09:46:45 AM
I saw a report that said he was 62, which is odd because he was a year behind me (and I am 58) when I attended Fieldston HS (until I was thrown out for political activism, but that's another story)  Fieldston was a private school that was about 90% Jewish with substantial diversity scholarships.    One of Gil's friends told me that Gil was stirring up a lot of trouble until finally his mom was called in.  In a big meeting the various teachers told her of their problems with Gil.  She looked back at them and said "When I have problems with Gil at home, do I call you?"
23261  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Criminals pretending to be police on: May 29, 2011, 09:42:09 AM
In Florida, Criminals Pose as Police More Frequently and for More Violent Ends
By DON VAN NATTA Jr.
 
MIAMI — A black BMW flashing red and blue lights suddenly filled Alexandria Armeley’s rearview mirror one evening last month. At a stoplight, the BMW’s driver pulled up next to her, waved a gold badge and told her “I’m a cop.”

 
But Ms. Armeley was suspicious. Before she pulled over, she called her stepfather, Alex Hernandez, a police detective in Biscayne Park, Fla., who warned her that the man was probably not a police officer. Speed away, he told her.

A terrified Ms. Armeley took off and was chased by the BMW for several miles through southern Miami-Dade County. Detective Hernandez had jumped in his car to help and eventually caught up to them.

So the real officer arrested the fake officer, whose name is Daniel A. Barros. Asked why he had tried to pull over Ms. Armeley, a 23-year-old college student, Mr. Barros, 22, told officers, “She was speeding.”

The BMW 7 Series car, outfitted with police lights and a siren, was “lit up like a Christmas tree,” Detective Hernandez recalled about the midnight encounter. “There are a lot of guys walking around with phony badges, but this guy had the whole works. Who knows what he would have done if he had gotten my stepdaughter to stop?”

Mr. Barros is facing several charges in the case, including impersonating an officer.

As long as police officers have worn uniforms and carried badges, criminals have dressed like them to try to win the trust of potential victims. Now the impersonators are far more sophisticated, according to nearly a dozen city police chiefs and detectives across the country.

In South Florida, seemingly an incubator of law-breaking innovation, police impersonators have become better organized and, most troubling to law enforcement officials, more violent. The practice is so common that the Miami-Dade Police Department has a Police Impersonator Unit.

Since the unit was established in 2007, it has arrested or had encounters with more than 80 phony officers in Miami-Dade County, and the frequency has increased in recent months, said Lt. Daniel Villanueva, who heads the unit.

“It’s definitely a trend,” Lieutenant Villanueva said. “They use the guise of being a police officer to knock on a door, and the victim lowers their guard for just a second. At that point, it’s too late.”

He added that part of the problem was that it was easy for civilians to buy “police products,” like fake badges, handcuffs and uniforms. “The states need to lock this down and make impersonating a police officer a more serious crime because we’re seeing more people using these types of these things to commit more serious crimes,” he said.

Detective Javier J. Baez of the Miami-Dade Police Department said, “These types of crimes here in Miami typically have a nexus to drugs.”

Increasingly, fake police officers are pulling off crimes together, the authorities say.

One evening three weeks ago, three men in police uniforms knocked on the door of a home in southwest Miami-Dade County.

When the home’s owner, Jose Montoya, opened the door, the men barged in and yelled, “Police, police! Get down, get down!” The men tied up Mr. Montoya, his wife and their toddler and then spent hours ransacking the house, the authorities said. They beat up Mr. Montoya, who was treated at a nearby hospital, and stole cash, jewelry and several weapons, the police said.

Before leaving, the robbers warned Mr. Montoya and his family not to call the police, the authorities said, or they would return and kill them.

Some police impersonators commit violent crimes like home invasions, car-jackings, rapes and, rarely, murders.

Last summer, a Tampa man impersonating an undercover officer used a badge and a siren to pull over a 28-year-old woman and rape her. In January, the man, Luis Harris, 31, was convicted of sexual battery, grand theft, kidnapping and impersonating a police officer, among other charges. A judge sentenced Mr. Harris to life in prison

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

Page 2 of 2)



Other police impersonators, police chiefs and detectives say, masquerade as officers for more benign reasons, like trying to scare or impress someone. “Usually,” Detective Baez said, “the wannabe cop outfits their vehicles with police lights and fake insignias to fulfill some psychological need.”

This happened in Chicago when a 14-year-old boy named Vincent Richardson donned police garb and walked into the Third District precinct during morning roll call in January 2009. Officers handed him a radio and told him to ride along with a female officer. The teenager even helped make an arrest.

“After four or five hours, she asks, ‘Who is this guy?’ ” recalled Jody P. Weis, who was the Chicago police superintendent at the time. “He’s in a uniform, he has a goofy badge, he doesn’t have a weapon and he’s a high school kid. It was so embarrassing.” (The embarrassment did not end there for Mr. Weis, who said he had recommended against punishing the teenager in juvenile court because no harm had been done. Three months later, the boy was arrested and charged with stealing a car. Last week, he was arrested on several weapons charges.)

Impersonating an officer is a misdemeanor in some states, though it is a felony in Florida. The charge’s severity, and punishment, increases if a criminal charged with posing as a police officer commits a felony. Several chiefs and detectives say the crime is not taken seriously enough by the justice system and the public. Often, the crime goes unreported, the police say.

“Unfortunately, there is not a lot of downside for a criminal to impersonate a police officer,” said Commissioner Edward Davis of the Boston Police Department. “You can charge them with impersonating a police officer, but that’s not a very serious crime. The way the law views this crime, it’s as an innocent or silly prank. But it has become a much more serious crime than it is perceived by the public.”

Detective Hernandez, of Biscayne Park, Fla., said: “People minimize it. They just let it go. They won’t think about how dangerous this potentially can be. They just don’t see it.”

Some law enforcement officials said the public did not take these types of episodes seriously because of the types of cases often highlighted by the news media. People charged with impersonating police officers are often portrayed as befuddled, hapless and harmless.

In March, a motocross champion was arrested in Orlando, Fla., and charged with impersonating a police officer. The man, James Stewart Jr., 25, tried to stop another car using red and blue lights, the Florida Highway Patrol said. The car that he tried to stop contained two off-duty troopers.

Last October in Boca Raton, Fla., Andrew Novotak, in his white Crown Victoria with flashing green lights, pulled over motorists and quizzed them about whether they had been drinking alcohol, the police said.

When the police questioned him, Mr. Novotak was wearing a police badge and carrying a loaded gun. He also had a German shepherd in his back seat, which he insisted was a police-trained dog. After arresting him, officers said they smelled alcohol on his breath. He was charged with impersonating an officer and driving under the influence.
23262  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Americans & Euros well-liked in rebel zone on: May 29, 2011, 09:37:14 AM
BENGHAZI, Libya — Frustrated by the gridlocked traffic, the young man in fatigues was leaning on the horn of his old Chevrolet Impala, the one with the front and rear windshields shot out. The shrillness of the pointless noise made a foreigner in the car next to him wince.

What popular Arab movement has ever flown the flags of not only the United States, but the European Union and France?
Then came one of those Free Libya moments.

“Sorry, sorry,” the horn-blower called apologetically, in English. The young man riding shotgun, also in fatigues and carrying a Kalashnikov, grinned sheepishly and apologized as well. Then he saluted, bringing his wounded right hand into view, a giant mitten of a bandage on it, blood soaking through in places.

“Thank you, thank you,” he said. “America No. 1.”

Americans and, for that matter, all Westerners are treated hereabouts with a warmth and gratitude rarely seen in any Muslim country — even those with 100,000 American troops — in probably half a century or more. People smile and go out of their way to say hello to them, and are almost shockingly courteous. It is that oddest of oddities, an Arab war zone where foreign joggers are regarded, not with hostility or even that sympathetic puzzlement reserved for the insane, but with a friendly wave or a toot on the horn.

Here, even taxi drivers do not rip off foreign visitors, and when a taxi cannot be found, some passing driver will soon volunteer a ride, and will be likely to refuse any offer of payment. A big problem for non-Arabic speaking journalists who visit is trying to find a translator who will accept payment for his or her services. The rebels’ press office has signed up all the English translators it could find, and ordered them to work for free.

In some restaurants, they seem almost reluctant to accept a foreigner’s money. It is a society chronically short of change, so a lot of the coffee bars will just say skip it, and serve up an espresso for whatever loose change is handy, if any. Espresso is one of the welcome surprises of Libya, and while no one would confuse it with Tre Scalini, it is pretty good for a region where the standard stuff is either instant Nescafe or Turkish coffee so thick that a toothpick is needed afterwards.

The pizza, too, is respectable, especially at Pisa Pizza in Benghazi, where the pies are about a yard in diameter. Proof that Italian colonialism accomplished something after all.

In other parts of the Mideast, one refrains from advertising American nationality, if only just in case. This is a part of the world where, other than outside American embassies, the Stars and Stripes are most often spotted ablaze and stomped upon.

Here, crowds of chanting youth fly it proudly, alongside their own new flag, a tricolor with red, black and green horizontal stripes and a crescent and star in the center. (It was widely and quickly adopted by the rebels to replace the Qaddafi government’s hated green flag, an unadorned panel so plain that it has been derided as a putting green.) What popular Arab street movement has ever flown the flags of not only the United States, but the European Union, NATO, Italy, France and Qatar, all at once?

Many Libyan parents with newborn girls are reportedly naming them Susan, in honor of Susan E. Rice, the Obama administration’s ambassador to the United Nations, for her vote in the Security Council in favor of establishing the no-fly zone. French visitors find an even warmer reception, and accolades to President Nicolas Sarkozy are graffitied on walls everywhere.

It may be a long time before any other Muslim press officer tells an American journalist, as Col. Ahmed Bani, the spokesman for the Libyan rebel military, did recently, “You are a mujahedeen and journalism is your jihad!” (The exclamation mark was his.)

So it is easy to let the guard drop, especially since the last time anyone was killed by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces in Benghazi was March 19, when they made their final attempt on the city before NATO fighter-bombers put an end to that.

Now the loyalists are far from the city — the eastern front is 100 miles south of here — and NATO controls the skies. Can they all really be gone, though? While the rebels talk constantly about the danger of a Fifth Column of Qaddafi supporters, it is hard to imagine, so universal is the apparent acclaim for Free Libya.

Still, it may explain why the rebels’ Transitional National Council has so far refused to reveal the identities of most of its members. (This is a big issue for the United States, which has not recognized the rebels, at least in part out of concern over who its leaders really are.)

The Qaddafi government must have had some supporters, even here in the alienated east. In every town and city, there are row after row of new apartment buildings, with units that were in effect given away by the government to families in exchange for only token mortgage payments. While people here deride those blocks as “made in China” for their apparent poor quality of construction, free homes have got to win some enduring support, somewhere.

Perhaps such residual loyalty explains the bullet that whizzed just over one foreign jogger’s head, on the seafront Corniche early on a recent morning, a single shot on an otherwise quiet day. The sound of the rifle’s report came a second later, as it would with a high-velocity round. Whoever fired it was not about to show himself, at least not yet.
23263  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: May 29, 2011, 09:29:16 AM
I often use my wife as my own polling survey.  Last night I showed her the Bret Baier interview of Paul Ryan from Thursday.  She liked him a lot.  Several of her comments indicated to me that women would respond well to him.
23264  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH propaganda on: May 29, 2011, 09:27:06 AM
MIAMI — Less than 18 months before the next presidential election, Republican-controlled statehouses around the country are rewriting voting laws to require photo identification at the polls, reduce the number of days of early voting or tighten registration rules.

 
Republican legislators say the new rules, which have advanced in 13 states in the past two months, offer a practical way to weed out fraudulent votes and preserve the integrity of the ballot box. Democrats say the changes have little to do with fraud prevention and more to do with placing obstacles in the way of possible Democratic voters, including young people and minorities.
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas signed laws last week that would require each voter to show an official, valid photo ID to cast a ballot, joining Kansas and South Carolina.

In Florida, which already had a photo law, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill this month to tighten restrictions on third-party voter registration organizations — prompting the League of Women Voters to say it would cease registering voters in the state — and to shorten the number of early voting days. Twelve states now require photo identification to vote.

The battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania are among those moving ahead on voter ID bills, part of a trend that seems likely to intensify the kind of pitched partisan jousting over voting that has cropped up in recent presidential races.

When voters in predominantly black neighborhoods in Florida saw their votes challenged in the contested Bush-Gore election of 2000, Democrats made charges of disenfranchisement. (What Pravda on the Hudson forgets to mention here is that-- if I have this right-- the previous mayoralty election in Miami was voided due to vote fraud.) In 2008 Acorn, a group organizing minority and low-income communities, became a particular target, with Republicans asserting that Acorn was trying to steal the election with large voter-registration drives, some of which were found to be seriously flawed.

Democrats, who point to scant evidence of voter-impersonation fraud,  say the unified Republican push for photo identification cards carries echoes of the Jim Crow laws — with their poll taxes and literacy tests — that inhibited black voters in the South from Reconstruction through the 1960s. Election experts say minorities, poor people and students — who tend to skew Democratic — are among those least likely to have valid driver’s licenses, the most prevalent form of identification. Older people, another group less likely to have licenses, are swing voters.

Republicans argue that the requirements are commonplace.

“If you have to show a picture ID to buy Sudafed, if you have to show a picture ID to get on an airplane, you should show a picture ID when you vote,” Gov. Nikki Haley said this month when she signed the bill into law in South Carolina, using a common refrain among Republicans.

Changes to voter law tend to flow and ebb with election cycles as both Democrats and Republicans scramble to gain the upper hand when they hold power. The 2010 midterm election was a boon to Republicans, who now control 59 chambers of state legislatures and 29 governorships. In some states, like Florida and Texas, Republicans hold overwhelming majorities. This has allowed the bills to move forward.

Republicans have tried for years to get photo identification requirements and other changes through legislatures, said Daniel Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University and an expert in election law. Similar bills were introduced over the past decade, but were largely derailed in the aftermath of a political battle over the Bush administration’s firing of several United States attorneys whom Republicans had criticized for failing to aggressively investigate voter fraud.

“That’s what really killed the momentum of more states’ enacting voter ID laws,” Mr. Tokaji said. “Now with the last elections, with the strong Republican majorities in a lot of states, we’re seeing a rejuvenation of the effort.”

Republicans say that large jumps in the immigrant population have also prompted them to act to safeguard elections.

“Over the last 20 years, we have seen Florida grow quite rapidly, and we have such a mix of populations,” said State Representative Dennis K. Baxley, the Florida Republican who wrote the law to tighten third-party registration here. “When we fail to protect every ballot, we disenfranchise people who participate legitimately.”

Taken together, the state-by-state changes are likely to have an impact on close elections, Mr. Tokaji said.

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

Page 2 of 2)



“Remarkably, most of these significant changes are going under the radar,” he added. “A lot of voters are going to be surprised and dismayed when they go to their polling place and find that the rules have changed.”

Most of the measures would require people to show a form of official, valid identification to vote. While driver’s licenses are the most common form, voters can also request free photo IDs from the Department of Motor Vehicles or use a passport or military identification, among other things.
But Democrats say thousands of people in each state do not have these. The extra step, they add, will discourage some voters who will have to pay to retrieve documents, like birth certificates, for proof to obtain a free card. If voters do not have the proper identification on Election Day, they can cast provisional ballots in most states but must return several days later to a local board of elections office with an ID.

A few state bills and laws also shave the number of early voting days, a move that Democrats say would impact Democratic voters once again. In the 2008 presidential election, a majority of those who cast early votes did so for President Obama. In Florida, the number of days is reduced but the number of hours remains the same.

Democrats point to state figures showing that there are few proven cases of voter impersonation (This is rather disingenuous; isn't the real issue phony registrations?) and question why budget-conscious Republicans would want to spend taxpayer dollars on a problem that is isolated.

“There is not one documented case that has been presented to us, and we had numerous hearings,” said race-baiting scum bag and State Senator Brad Hutto of South Carolina, a Democrat. “Republicans have to have some reason to do this because it doesn’t sound good to say, ‘We don’t want Latinos or African-Americans voting.’ ” 

But Republicans counter that detecting and proving voter impersonation is tricky under current law precisely because few states require photo identification. Plus, they add, there is no evidence that the requirement reduces minority participation. In Georgia, where photo IDs became a requirement in 2007, minorities voted in record numbers in 2008 and 2010.

Turnout among Hispanic voters jumped 140 percent in the state in 2008 and 42 percent among blacks compared with 2004, a change attributed in part to President Obama’s candidacy. Two years later, in the midterm election, turnout also rose among Hispanics and African-Americans, according to data from the Georgia secretary of state.

But with the presidential election campaign season already under way, Democrats say they are taking no chances. The Democratic Governors Association started a Voter Protection Project this month to educate voters and encourage them to speak out against the measures. It also began running online advertisements.
23265  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: May 28, 2011, 10:54:28 PM
Thanks for this BD.  This is a subject not often addressed; nice treatment here.
23266  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glick: Netanyahu's triumph on: May 28, 2011, 11:17:33 AM

Caroline Glick   
Lessons of Netanyahu’s Triumph

 
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was hoping to avoid his clash with US President Barack Obama this week in Washington.

Four days before his showdown at the White House with the American leader, Netanyahu addressed the Knesset. His speech was the most dovish he had ever given. In it, he set out the parameters of the land concessions he is willing to make to the Palestinians, in the event they ever decide that they are interested in negotiating a final peace.

Among other things, Netanyahu spoke for the first time about “settlement blocs,” and so signaled that he would be willing to evacuate the more isolated Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. He also spoke of a longterm military presence in the Jordan Valley rather than Israeli sovereignty along the militarily vital plain.

Both strategically and ideologically, Netanyahu’s speech constituted a massive concession to Obama. The premier had good reason to believe that his speech would preempt any US demand for further Israeli concessions during his visit to Washington.

Alas, it was not to be. Instead of welcoming Netanyahu’s unprecedented concessions, Obama dismissed them as insufficient as he blindsided Netanyahu last Thursday with his speech at the State Department. There, just hours before Netanyahu was scheduled to fly off to meet him in the Oval Office, Obama adopted the Palestinian negotiating position by calling for Israel to accept that future negotiations will be based on the indefensible – indeed suicidal – 1949 armistice lines.

So, just as he was about to board his plane, Netanyahu realized that his mission in the US capital had changed. His job wasn’t to go along to get along. His job was to stop Obama from driving Israel’s relations with the US off a cliff.

Netanyahu was no longer going to Washington to explain where Israel will stand aside. He was going to Washington to explain what Israel stands for. Obama threw down the gauntlet. Netanyahu needed to pick it up by rallying both the Israeli people to his side and rallying the American people to Israel’s side. Both goals, he realized, could only be accomplished by presenting his vision of what Israel is and what it stands for.

And Netanyahu did his job. He did his job brilliantly.

Israel today is the target of an ever escalating campaign to demonize and delegitimize it. Just this week we learned that a dozen towns in Scotland have decided to ban Israeli books from their public libraries. One Scottish town has decided to post signs calling for its residents to boycott Israeli products and put a distinguishing mark (yellow star, perhaps?) on all Israeli products sold in local stores to warn residents away from them.

Israelis shake their heads and wonder, what did we do to the Scots? In San Francisco, there is a proposition on the ballot for the fall elections to ban circumcision.

The proposition would make it a criminal offense to carry out the oldest Jewish religious ritual. Offenders will be punished by up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

Israelis shake their heads and wonder, what did we do to the people of San Francisco? It seems that everywhere we look we are told that we have no right to exist. From Ramallah to Gaza, to Egypt, to Scotland, Norway, and San Francisco, we are told that we are evil and had better give up the store. And then Obama took to the stage on Thursday and told us that we have to surrender our ability to defend ourselves in order to make room for a Palestinian state run by terrorists committed to our destruction.

But then Netanyahu arrived in Washington and said, “Enough already, we’ve had quite enough of this dangerous nonsense.”

And we felt things we haven’t felt for a long time. We felt empowered. We felt we had a voice. We felt proud. We felt we had a leader.

We felt relieved.

The American people, whose overwhelming support for Israel was demonstrated by their representatives in both houses of the Congress on Tuesday, also felt empowered, proud and relieved. Because not only did Netanyahu eloquently remind them of why they stand with Israel, he reminded them of why everyone who truly loves freedom stands with America.

It is true that the American lawmakers who interrupted Netanyahu’s remarks dozens of times to applaud wanted to use his presence in their chamber to send a message of solidarity to the people of Israel. But during the course of his speech, it became apparent that it wasn’t just their desire to show solidarity that made them stand and applaud so many times. Netanyahu managed to relieve them as well.

Since he assumed office, Obama has been traveling the world apologizing for America’s world leadership. He has been lecturing the American people about the need to subordinate America’s national interests to global organizations like the United Nations that are controlled by dictatorships which despise them.

Suddenly, here was an allied leader reminding them of why America is a great nation that leads the world by right, not by historical coincidence.

It is not coincidental that many American and Israeli observers have described Netanyahu’s speech as “Churchillian.” Winston Churchill’s leadership was a classic example of democratic leadership. And Netanyahu is Churchill’s most fervent pupil. The democratic leadership model requires a leader to set out his vision of where his country must go and convince the public to follow him.

That is what Churchill did. And that is what Netanyahu did this week. And like Churchill in June 1940, Netanyahu’s success this week was dazzling.

Just how dazzling was make clear by a Haaretz poll of the Israeli public conducted after Netanyahu’s speech before the Congress.

The poll found that Netanyahu’s approval ratings increased an astounding 13 percentage points, from 38 to 51 percent in one week. Two-thirds of the Israelis who watched his speech said it made them proud.

As for the US response, the fact that leading Democrats on Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, felt it necessary to distance themselves from Obama’s statements about Israel’s final borders makes clear that Netanyahu successfully rallied the American public to Israel’s side.

This point was also brought home with Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s interesting request to Republicans during their joint meeting with Netanyahu. In front of the Israeli leader, Wasserman Schultz asked her Republican counterparts not to use support for Israel as a campaign issue. Her request makes clear that following Netanyahu’s brilliant triumph in Washington, Democrats realize that the president’s poor treatment of Israel is an issue that will harm them politically if the Republicans decide to make it an issue in next year’s elections.

While the democratic model of leadership is certainly the model that the founders of most democratic societies have in mind when they establish their democratic orders, it is not the only leadership model that guides leaders in democratic societies. This week, as Netanyahu demonstrated the strength of the democratic leadership model, two other leadership models were also on prominent display. The first was demonstrated by Obama. The second was exhibited by opposition leader Tzipi Livni.

Obama’s leadership model is the model of subversive leadership. Subversive leaders in democracies do not tell their citizens where they wish to lead their societies. They hide their goals from their citizens, because they understand that their citizens do not share their goals. Then once they achieve their unspoken goals, they present their people with a fait accompli and announce that only they are competent to shepherd their societies through the radical shift they undertook behind the public’s back.

Before Obama, the clearest example of subversive leadership was Shimon Peres. As foreign minister under Yitzhak Rabin, Peres negotiated his deal with the PLO behind the public’s back, and behind Rabin’s back – and against their clear opposition. Then he presented the deal that no one supported as a fait accompli.

And as the architect of the deal that put the PLO terror forces on the outskirts of Israel’s major cities, Peres argued that only he could be trusted to implement the deal he had crafted.

Eighteen years and 2,000 Israeli terror victims later, Israel still hasn’t figured out how to extricate itself from his subversive legacy. And he is president.

Today, Obama recognizes that the American public doesn’t share his antipathy towards Israel, and so as he adopts policies antithetical to Israel’s security, he waxes poetic about his commitment to Israel’s security. So far his policies have led to the near disintegration of Israel’s peace with Egypt, the establishment of a Fatah-Hamas unity government in the Palestinian Authority, and to Iran’s steady, all but unimpeded progress towards the atom bomb.

As for Livni, her model is leadership from behind. Although Obama’s advisers claimed that this is his model of leadership, it actually is Livni’s model. A leader who leads from behind is a follower. She sees where her voters are and she goes there.

In Livni’s case, her supporters are on the Left and their main spokesman is the media. Both the Left and the media oppose everything that Netanyahu does and everything he is. And so, as Livni sees things, her job as the head of the opposition is to give voice to their views.

As Netanyahu stared Obama down in the Oval Office and reminded Israelis and Americans alike why we have a special relationship, Livni was telling audiences in Washington and Israel that Netanyahu is a warmonger who will lead us to devastation if we don’t elect her to replace him soon. With Obama adopting the Palestinians’ negotiating positions and with Fatah embracing Hamas rather than honestly admitting that all hope for peace is dead for the duration, Livni said that Netanyahu is leading us to war by defending the country.

Netanyahu’s extraordinary leadership this week has shown that when used well, the democratic model of leadership trumps all other models. He also showed us that he has the capacity to be the leader of our times.

In the coming weeks and months, the threats to Israel will surely only increase. And with these escalating threats will come also the escalating need for strong and certain leadership.

Netanyahu should realize what his astounding success means for him as well as for Israel.

The people of Israel and our many friends around the world will continue to stand behind him proudly if he continues to lead us as well and wonderfully as he did this week. And we will admire him. And we will thank him.
23267  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: May 28, 2011, 11:08:19 AM
Well, inspired by GM's different tone yesterday and a good night's sleep, I will take a stab at it:

With laws concerning violence, theft, and fraud, we don't really have a choice for they are what in the American Creed is called "natural law".  OTOH, with prohibition laws, just as with the prohibition against alcohol and its repeal, we do have a choice based upon our perception of the empirical results.

With the drugs involved in the WoD's prohibitions, IMHO it is not necessarily one size fits all.  Just as there is a choice whether and if so how much to drink, so too with pot.  OTOH a fair case can be made that as a practical matter the nature of some drugs bypasses man's free will.

Does this help GM?
Marc
23268  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kudlow: Eric Cantor's 5% on: May 28, 2011, 10:59:03 AM
Woof All:

Of course this could have been posted in the 2012 campaign thread, but I post it here; deeper even than Presidential politics is whether this country continues to believe in the free market.

Marc
============================

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor turned the policy temperature down on austerity this week by rolling out a strong economic-growth agenda. Headlined by a 25 percent top tax rate for individuals and business, the Cantor package includes regulatory relief, free trade, and patent protection for entrepreneurs. It’s job creation and the economy, stupid.

Sounds Reaganesque? Well, Eric Cantor has a lot of Reagan blood in him. Back in 1980, while Cantor was still in high school, his father was the Virginia state treasurer of the Ronald Reagan presidential campaign. So the apple never falls far from the tree.

In fact, it looks like Cantor is restoring the supply-side incentive model of economic growth. Forget tax-the-rich class warfare. Throw out wild-eyed government-spending stimulus and dollar-depreciating Fed money-pumping. Make it pay more after tax to work, produce, and invest. Go for a growth spurt, something the economy badly needs. And -- my thought -- crown such a growth strategy with a stable King Dollar re-linked to gold.

When I interviewed Cantor this week, he made it clear that faster economic growth was crucial to holding down spending, deficits, and debt. As scored by the CBO, every 1 percent of faster growth lowers the budget gap by nearly $3 trillion from lower spending and higher revenues. “Grow the economy,” Cantor said. “It will help us manage-down the deficit and it will help get people back to work.”

This is not to say that spending cuts and structural entitlement reforms aren’t necessary. They are. But it is to argue that lately the GOP has forgotten the growth component that is so essential to spending restraint and deficit reduction.

The GOP should say: In return for substantial federal-spending cuts, we’re gonna more than make it up to you with large tax cuts. You will win. Big government will lose.

I suggested to Cantor that the GOP adopt a 5 percent national growth target, which President John F. Kennedy had when he launched his across-the-board tax cuts in the early 1960s. “That is a fantastic goal,” he told me.

Cantor’s growth plan is very timely as the U.S. economy is once again sputtering. In what is already one of the weakest post-recession recoveries in the postwar era, first-quarter GDP came in at a tepid 1.8 percent. Many economists believe the second quarter will be no better.

And consider this: Between 1947 and 2000, average real economic growth registered 3.4 percent yearly -- an excellent prosperity baseline. Yet over the past ten years -- amidst boom-bust Fed policy, a collapsing dollar, and soaring gold -- the stock market on balance hasn’t moved as the economy has averaged only 1.7 percent annually. Because of the ongoing slump, actual real GDP growth from the early 2000s through the first quarter of 2011 has dropped nearly 17 percent below the long-run historical trend. That translates to a massive output gap of $2.7 trillion.

In order to close that gap in five years the economy would have to grow 7.3 percent annually (roughly Reagan’s two-year recovery rate in 1983-84). To close the gap in ten years, the economy would have to grow near 5.3 percent annually.

Alright, so why not establish a national economic growth target of over 5 percent? That might wipe out the current spirit of economic pessimism and decline.

A 5 percent growth target might give some hope to the roughly 15 million unemployed. Or the 12 to 15 million homeowners who can’t meet their mortgages, are in foreclosure, or have upside-down property values. Or the disappointed investors who haven’t made any real cash in ten years. Or the families who are suffering from rising gas and food prices.

A 5 percent growth target might wipe out the sense that we can’t seem to right the economic ship.

For all these reasons, according to the polls, jobs and the economy are the number one political issue today. Entitlements are going to have to be fixed. But that day of reckoning is nearly 20 years away. Right now folks want work and income to pay the bills.

The brilliance of Mr. Cantor’s effort is his attempt to move the GOP back to the economic-growth high ground. It is our most urgent priority.
23269  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Rest in Peace on: May 28, 2011, 10:36:11 AM
I had not heard.  Details?
23270  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Fruity fruit flies go straighten up and go straight on: May 27, 2011, 08:03:20 PM
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,316316,00.html


By Robert Roy Britt


While several studies find homosexuality in humans and other animals is biological rather than learned, a question remains over whether it's a hard-wired phenomenon or one that can be altered.

A new study finds that both drugs and genetic manipulation can turn the homosexual behavior of fruit flies on and off within a matter of hours.

• Click here to visit FOXNews.com's Natural Science Center.

While the genetic finding supports the thinking that homosexuality is hard-wired, the drug finding surprisingly suggests it's not that simple. In fact, homosexuality in the fruit flies seems to be regulated by how they interpret the scent of another.

Dramatic result

Homosexuality is widespread in the animal world. But scientists have long debated whether, in humans a "gay gene" exists.

Previous research in humans has suggested that how we interpret scents given off by another person might impact our sexuality.  In the new work, University of Illinois at Chicago researcher David Featherstone and coworkers discovered a gene in fruit flies they call "genderblind," or GB. A mutation in GB turns flies bisexual.  GB transports the neurotransmitter glutamate to brain cells. Altering levels of glutamate change the strength of nerve cell junctions, called synapses, which play a key role in human and animal behavior.

Post-doctoral researcher Yael Grosjean found that all male fruit flies with a mutation in their GB gene courted other males.

"It was very dramatic," Featherstone said. "The GB mutant males treated other males exactly the same way normal male flies would treat a female. They even attempted copulation."

Overreaction

Other genes are known to alter sexual orientation, but most just control whether the brain develops as genetically male or female. It's not known why a male brain does male things and a female brain acts in female ways, Featherstone and his colleagues say.

"Based on our previous work, we reasoned that GB mutants might show homosexual behavior because their glutamatergic synapses were altered in some way," Featherstone said. "Homosexual courtship might be sort of an 'overreaction' to sexual stimuli."

To test this, the researchers genetically altered synapse strength, independent of GB. They also gave flies drugs to alter synapse strength. As predicted, they were able to turn fly homosexuality on and off, within hours.

"It was amazing. I never thought we'd be able to do that sort of thing, because sexual orientation is supposed to be hard-wired," Featherstone said. "This fundamentally changes how we think about this behavior."

Sense of smell

The team figured fly brains maintain two sensory circuits: one to trigger heterosexual behavior and one for homosexual. When GB suppresses glutamatergic synapses, the homosexual circuit is blocked, the thinking goes.

So they did more tests. As expected, without GB to suppress synapse strength, the flies no longer interpreted smells the same way. The smells in question come in the form of pheromones, chemicals that affect sexual behavior in much of the animal kingdom.

It is not known, however, to what extent human attraction is affected by pheromones. A study in 2005 found that when smelling a chemical from testosterone, portions of the human brains active in sexual activity were turned on in gay men and straight women, but not in straight men.

But at least among fruit flies, "pheromones are powerful sexual stimuli," Featherstone said. "As it turns out, the GB mutant flies were perceiving pheromones differently. Specifically, the GB mutant males were no longer recognizing male pheromones as a repulsive stimulus."

The research was published online today by the journal Nature Neuroscience.

23271  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / SWAT team kills , , , on: May 27, 2011, 07:50:00 PM
http://www.kgun9.com/story/14621212/marine-killed-by-swat-was-acting-in-defense-says-family?redirected=true&config=H264

 cry cry cry
23272  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GB on Michele Bachman on: May 27, 2011, 05:10:14 PM


http://www.theblaze.com/stories/bachmann-reveals-plans-presidential-announcement-in-iowa-next-month/
23273  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GB on SP on: May 27, 2011, 05:07:57 PM


http://www.glennbeck.com/2011/05/27/palin-2012-just-got-more-likely/
23274  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 27, 2011, 04:48:04 PM
The world is a wonder, isn't it?  cheesy

"4. Dissect Pakistan into three smaller states -- Baluchistan for the Baluchi separatists including the city of Quetta, Pashtunistan for the Pashtun separatists covering the Pashtun tribal areas including Peshawar and the border areas, and Pakistan proper including Lahore and the Karachi areas. The ongoing domestic dissent in the Pashtun and Baluchi areas are rooted in the exploitative and discriminatory practices of the ruling class of Pakistan -- the Lahore elite -- who have alienated those groups.
5. Create a strong civilian government in Pakistan by dismantling the ISI, reducing Pakistan's military prowess and supporting the educated and secular population. Pakistan has a strong judiciary and press at this time. A strong civilian government is needed to implement democratic institutions and processes."

More followers of the YA-Crafty Doctrine  grin
23275  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: May 27, 2011, 04:44:58 PM
I would quibble a bit with the broad brush with which the word "exploit" is applied there.    While hiring illegals certainly can and often is done with such motives and in such a manner, it can also be:

a) willingess to work for less means work that is unprofitable at wages that include governmentally imposed costs gets done.

b) there is a work ethic in many illegals not found in many native-born Americans

c) there are cultural values found in many illegals not found in many native-born Americans.  For example, there is a respect to the importance of warm maternal care to young children found in many Latina nannies not commonly found in modern Jerry Springer feminist Americans , , ,

23276  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: May 27, 2011, 04:37:38 PM
Sorry to be slow but I'm still struggling here to follow what you are saying.  If you are not saying that legalizing/decriminalizing pot would lead to the exploitation of children and/or human trafficking, then why aren't you for decriminalizing/legalizing pot?
23277  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: May 27, 2011, 02:15:57 PM
Would you also post that in the Legal Issues thread as well please?
23278  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Gurkhas and their Kukris on: May 27, 2011, 02:13:09 PM
http://www.deathvalleymag.com/2010/10/16/civilian-contractors-the-nepali-gurkha-in-international-security-contracting/#more-5428
23279  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: May 27, 2011, 01:58:45 PM
" However, there are serious short and long term social impacts from legalization and there are many different things that are illegal in this country that I think even the most ardent Libertarian would shy away from legalizing. The exploitation of children and/or human trafficking being a few things that leap to mind."

I'm not following the logical progression here GM.  How does decriminalizing pot for example lead to the exploitation of children and human trafficking?
23280  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Causes of Somali piracy on: May 27, 2011, 01:54:28 PM
Some interesting comments on the causes of Somali piracy can be found here:

http://www.deathvalleymag.com/category/civilian-contractors/
23281  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Internal PD discipline on: May 27, 2011, 01:48:10 PM


http://www.officer.com/news/10277334/nypd-fires-cops-cleared-of-rape-charges
23282  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Grey Man on: May 27, 2011, 01:43:18 PM


http://www.deathvalleymag.com/2010/02/19/civilian-contractors-the-greyman/
23283  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / PB dies defending family on: May 27, 2011, 01:12:26 PM
http://dogsinthenews.com/stories/070301a.php
23284  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Intra-Hamas feud on: May 27, 2011, 11:03:36 AM
Thursday, May 26, 2011   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

Pragmatism Exacerbating Intra-Hamas Fault Lines

A dispute within the Hamas leadership surfaced in the media Wednesday. Hamas’ No. 2 leader in the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud Zahar, reportedly said the central leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement, Khaled Meshaal, did not have the right to say their group was giving Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas another chance to negotiate with Israel. Zahar said Meshaal didn’t consult the entire leadership and that the statements Meshaal made during the May 4 signing of the reconciliation accord with rival secular faction Fatah in Cairo contradicted Hamas’ long-standing opposition to negotiations with Israel. The Gaza-based leader went on to say Hamas needed to review the decision-making process within the movement because “the leadership is here (in the Gaza Strip), and the part (of Hamas) that is abroad is just a part of that.”

“The Muslim Brotherhood cannot move toward a greater political role via elections in Egypt while Hamas (which is an offshoot of the Brotherhood) continues on the path of militancy next door in Gaza.”
These comments clearly show that a major internal schism is under way within Hamas. STRATFOR for a number of years has been identifying several fault lines within the movement: those between the exiled central leadership based in Damascus and the ones based in Gaza; the differences between those in Gaza and the West Bank; and within Gaza between ideological and pragmatic elements. These various schisms have long been kept in check, but Zahar’s remarks represent the first significant sign of serious internal trouble.

At this point, it is difficult to say whether we are looking at the emergence of two rival factions within the movement or if Zahar is speaking for a relatively small group that is at odds with the Meshaal-led central leadership. Nonetheless, this rift is the natural outcome of the current regional situation and its impact on Hamas. The popular unrest in the region has altered the circumstances within the two Arab states that have the most influence over Hamas — Egypt and Syria.

Egypt is in a state of transition from single-party rule toward a multiparty political system — a process overseen by its military. Elections are scheduled for later in 2011, in which the country’s most organized political force, the Muslim Brotherhood, could emerge as the single-largest political bloc in parliament. At a time when it is on a trajectory toward becoming a key stakeholder in the post-Mubarak state, the Muslim Brotherhood has an interest in making sure nothing derails the process, especially the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Therefore, it is very likely that the Brotherhood has been working with the new provisional military authority in Cairo to ensure calm in Gaza and the wider Israeli-Palestinian landscape. The Muslim Brotherhood cannot move toward a greater political role via elections in Egypt while Hamas (which is an offshoot of the Brotherhood) continues on the path of militancy next door in Gaza. There has always been a significant degree of coordination between the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its various sister entities in the region; the Egyptian Brotherhood has likely encouraged its Palestinian counterpart to move toward a more political role and work with Fatah in forming a Palestinian national unity government. This could explain why the military, shortly after taking direct power in Cairo, was able to get the two rival Palestinian factions to finally reconcile with each other after years of feuding.

Also shaping the behavior of Hamas is Syria’s growing popular agitation movement, which threatens the stability of the al Assad regime. Damascus for many years has been a major patron of Hamas, given that the movement’s Meshaal-led exiled central politburo is headquartered in the Syrian capital and much of the group’s financing is handled at the exiled headquarters. The public rising in Syria has led to increased tension between Hamas and the Syrian regime, giving surrounding Arab states an opportunity to try to coax Hamas into relocating their headquarters to another Arab capital — one out of reach of Iran.

Regardless of where and when the relocation takes place, it is associated with a desire by Arab states to pull Hamas out of the Iranian orbit. Given the Iranian-Syrian relationship and Hamas residence in Damascus, Tehran was able to exercise a great degree of influence over the Palestinian movement. Therefore, the hope of the Arab states is that relocating away from Syria will help deny Iran the leverage it has over Hamas — and by extension, the ability to exploit the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There are too many moving parts in play, and it is too early to tell exactly how Hamas’ regional realignment takes shape. But it’s clear that the evolving regional circumstances have pushed (at least part of) its apex leadership toward privileging the political path over a militant one. Opposition to the agreement with Fatah coming from Israel and from hard-liners within Hamas speaks volumes about this shift.

It is also difficult to speak about the future of this emerging trend because the internal rift within Hamas threatens the integrity of the movement. Meshaal is likely to have significant support from within the movement for his pragmatism. But there is also no shortage of people within Hamas who agree with the ideological position of Zahar. Thus, this internal rift within Hamas threatens the group with splintering into more radical groups, which could further complicate an already complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

23285  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: May 27, 2011, 10:59:42 AM
IMHO more to the point than her hypocrisy is the fact that having followed the bankruptcy laws would not have vaporized the companies in question; they would have been re-organized-- a far different matter.
23286  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton, Federalist 78-- the Judiciary on: May 27, 2011, 10:48:03 AM
"Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive, that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 78, 1788
23287  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 18-19 Guro Crafty in Memphis, TN on: May 27, 2011, 09:05:21 AM
Me too.  Glad to see all the support, not just from our Memphis folks, but from nearby and not-so-nearby people.
23288  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Prayers for Prof. Wally Jay on: May 27, 2011, 09:04:08 AM
Prayers for Prof. Wally Jay, whom we have heard is in the hospital due to a stroke.
23289  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Syria, Iran on: May 26, 2011, 09:58:50 PM


By MICHAEL SINGH
Mohsen Chizari gets around.

A top commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Chizari was hit with sanctions last week by the Obama administration. Given his nationality, one might assume that he was sanctioned in relation to the Iranian regime's nuclear pursuits or its crackdown on dissidents. In fact, Chizari, the Quds Force Chief Qasem Soleimani, and the organization itself were targeted for abetting oppression somewhere else: Syria.

According to the U.S. government, the Iranians are complicit in the Assad regime's "human rights abuses and repression of the Syrian people."

If Chizari's name sounds familiar, it may be because he was arrested by U.S. troops in Baghdad in December 2006. According to media reports, Chizari was detained while inside the compound of Iraqi Shiite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim with another Quds Force commander. The two men were reportedly in possession of detailed reports about weapons shipments into Iraq, including of so-called explosively formed projectiles, which were responsible for the deaths of scores of U.S. soldiers. Chizari was subsequently expelled into Iran by the Iraqi government.

It should come as little surprise that Chizari has shown up in both hot spots. Wherever there's trouble, he'll be there to aid the troublemakers or stir things up himself.

The Quds Force reports directly to Iran's leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and it serves as the linchpin in Iran's regional strategy. Iran funds and arms groups like Hezbollah to threaten Israel and thwart democracy-building in Lebanon. And it equips terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan to stymie U.S. efforts to establish peace and security in those places. In all of these cases, the Quds Force is the regime's instrument of choice.

Iran's leaders crowed when popular uprisings unseated their old foes Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. But the travails of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad have clearly caused concern in Tehran. Assad is a longtime ally of Iran, and under his rule Syria has served as a conduit eastward for foreign fighters to enter Iraq to fight U.S. troops, and for Iranian weaponry to flow westward to arm Hezbollah and Hamas. Damascus is essentially the bar scene from "Star Wars" for terrorists in the Middle East, providing a locale where Iranian allies such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad can coordinate unperturbed.

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Associated Press
 
Syrian President Bashar Assad
.Were Assad to fall, a key link in Iran's strategic chain across the region would be broken. While Iran could possibly find work-arounds to supply Hezbollah, such as by sea or air, it would lose both strategic depth and an eager ally. Furthermore, if protesters in Syria were to inspire Iran's own democracy activists to redouble their efforts, the Iranian regime would find itself in serious peril. Thus it is unsurprising that it has dispatched the Quds Force to help Assad stop the Arab Spring at his doorstep.

Iran's latest involvement in Syria should be a wake-up call. Iran's direct assistance in the Syrian regime's crackdown has attracted criticism from many quarters; it's even put Tehran at odds with erstwhile allies such as Turkey. Iran's actions have also contributed to a shift in the Obama administration's approach toward Tehran. In addition to imposing sanctions on Chizari and his ilk, on April 22 President Obama said that Assad was mimicking Iran's "brutal tactics."

Ultimately, tough words and sanctions will not be enough. Chizari and his exploits in Iraq and Syria represent one facet of the threat posed by Iran. If our hopes for freedom and stability in the region are to be realized, we must defeat Iran's efforts to expand its power and influence—above all by denying it the nuclear weapons that would further its destabilizing designs.

Mr. Singh is the managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He was senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration.

23290  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan: Unsustainable on: May 26, 2011, 09:56:11 PM
second post of the day:

Saw Paul Ryan interviewed by Bret Baier this evening.  Very impressive guy, able to express himself clearly, briefly, confidently, and effectively-- but I agree where he is right now (Chairman of House Budget Committee IIRC) is where he can do the most good. 
======================


We're at a funny place. The American establishment has finally come around, in unison, to admitting that America is in crisis, that our debt actually threatens our ability to endure, that if we don't make progress on this, we are going to near our endpoint as a nation. I am struck very recently by the number of leaders in American business, politics and journalism who now get a certain faraway look at the end of an evening or a meal and say, "It's worse than people think, you know." The debt crisis in Europe is not easing but worsening, the U.S. bond markets could bail tomorrow, the culture of Washington will kill any serious attempts at reform . . .

The American establishment, on both sides of the political divide, is admitting as never before that we are in an existential challenge. And this is progress. It was not always so! It wasn't so two years ago.

That's one takeaway from this week's Peterson Foundation fiscal summit in Washington. Bill Clinton spoke of "permanent structural deficits" and warned that "arithmetic still matters." We must focus on entitlement spending, he said, "for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks: That's where the money is." Virginia's Democratic Sen. Mark Warner: "Congress is Thelma and Louise in that car headed for the cliff." Obama administration economic adviser Gene Sperling—more on him in a minute—called for "serious discussion" of the specifics of a debt-reducing plan.

Republicans were on the same page. No one said, "We can grow our way out of this thing," or "The negative effects of chronic debt are exaggerated, let's look at the positive side." They would have been laughed out of the room.

The people, of course, saw the crisis coming before most politicians did, and every elected official in Washington is now quick to preface interviews with, "The people were ahead of us on this." They say this with an air of discovery, the little Sherlocks. The people were ahead of them. Public concern began to deepen in the polls after the introduction of the new spending bills that followed the crash of 2008. Voter concern was made vivid in the 2009 and 2010 elections, when centrists voted like old-style Republicans who worried about red ink.

Elected officials began to get the message. Now they've got it. Our spending and debt are—and it is interesting that this is the first great buzzword of the new decade—"unsustainable."

But here's how we're in a funny place. The great question now is whether the people who alerted the establishment to the crisis will trust that establishment to deal with it. The people have been like Paul Revere riding through the night warning, "The bankruptcy is coming!" It's unclear whether they'll now trust the politicians to take the right action.

There are many reasons the public might resist Washington's prescriptions, and we know what they are. There are data demonstrating that people like government programs but not government costs. Many people feel they've personally played by all the rules and will reject any specific cuts or taxes that will put new burdens on them.

There's also this. The very politicians who are trying to get us out of the mess are the politicians who got us into the mess. Why would anyone trust them? As Alan Simpson admitted, for generations politicians "were told to go to Washington and bring home the bacon. Go get the money!" Now they must change: "You can't bring home the bacon anymore, because the pig is dead."

Some of the politicians talking about how to stop the spending crisis are the same politicians who, for many years, said there was no crisis. They're like forest creatures who denied there was a fire when everyone else could smell the smoke and hear the crackle. Then the flames roar in, and the politicians say, "Follow me, I know the path out of the blaze!" It will be hard for them to win the trust that will get the American people to back a path out and through.

Rep. Paul Ryan was at the summit, soldiering on. His main problem on Medicare is that people fear the complexities and demands of a new delivery system.

People who draw up legislation, people capable of mastering the facts of the huge and complicated federal budget, often think other people are just like them. It's almost sweet. But normal people don't wear green eyeshades. Republicans think people will say, when presented with new options for coverage, "Oh good, another way to express my freedom! I can study health insurance now and get a policy that will benefit not only me but our long-term solvency!" But normal people are more likely to sit slouched at the kitchen table with their head in their hands. "Oh no, another big decision, another headache, 50 calls to an insurance company, another go-round with the passive-aggressive phone answerer who, even though she's never met me, calls me Freddy as she puts me on hold."

Republicans believe government gives insufficient respect to the ability of people to decide things for themselves, and that's true. But it's also true that normal humans don't relish making informed decisions about things they're not sure of, and that carry big personal implications.Here's the great thing about Medicare: You turn 65 and it's there. They give you a card and the nurse takes it.  (MARC: This seems to me to be a very perceptive observation.)

Supporters of Mr. Ryan's Medicare plan must talk very specifically about how this would all work, and why it would make your life better, not worse. They also have to make two things clearer. One is that if nothing is done to change Medicare, the system will collapse. You'll give the card to the nurse and she'll laugh: "We don't take that anymore." This already happens in doctors offices. Without reform it will happen more often.

Democrats, on the other hand, should be forced to answer a question. If you oppose the highly specific Ryan plan, fine, but tell us your specific proposal. How will you save Medicare? Will you let it die?

If Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling's presentation at the summit was indicative of White House strategy, then we're in trouble. Because that strategy comes down to windy and manipulative statements about how "we're all in this together" but GOP proposals "will lead to millions of children . . . losing their coverage." He added: "We are not criticizing their plan, we are explaining it."

It is a long time since I've seen such transparent demagoguery, such determined dodging. It's obvious the White House political plan for 2012 is this: The Democrats will call for fiscal discipline and offer no specifics or good-faith starting points. They will leave the Republicans to be specific, and then let them be hanged with their candor. Democrats will speak not of what they'll do but only of what they would never do, such as throw grandma out in the snow. In honeyed tones, Mr. Sperling said both parties should "hold hands and jump together," like Butch and Sundance. But it was clear Sundance was going to stop at the edge of the cliff and hope Butch gets broken on the rocks.

23291  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: May 26, 2011, 09:43:20 PM
Exactly so.

BTW Hillary's amazing futures trading profits  wink were a commodity straddle scheme which made sense only under the 70% rates of the late 70s.  When rates came down under Reagan to 30% major amounts of money that had been hiding in tax shelters (real estate with accelerated depreciation was ideal for this) no longer had reason to do so and allowed itself to be exposed to taxation.  This led to an amazing statistical increase in the numbers of millionaires which liberals decried as an increasing concentration of wealth  rolleyes when really it meant a higher taxation on the cash flow previously hidden by the non-cash expenditures of accelerated depreciation.
23292  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israel's dilema on: May 26, 2011, 04:20:13 PM
Thank you BD

My third post of the day:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor speaking to the AIPAC conference, May 22:

The following story illustrates Israel's dilemma. A Palestinian woman from Gaza arrives at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba for lifesaving skin treatment for burns over half her body. After the conclusion of her extensive treatment, the woman is invited back for follow-up visits to the outpatient clinic. One day she is caught at the border crossing wearing a suicide belt. Her intention? To blow herself up at the same clinic that saved her life.

What kind of culture leads one to do that? Sadly, it is a culture infused with resentment and hatred. It is this culture that underlies the Palestinians' and the broader Arab world's refusal to accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. This is the root of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It is not about the '67 lines.

And until Israel's enemies come to terms with this reality, a true peace will be impossible.

And the reality, as we say in Hebrew, is "Ahm Yisrael Chai: The people of Israel live. And what they want is to live in peace. If the Palestinians want to live in peace in a state of their own, they must demonstrate that they are worthy of a state.

To Mr. Abbas, I say: Stop the incitement in your media and your schools. Stop naming public squares and athletic teams after suicide bombers. And come to the negotiating table when you have prepared your people to forego hatred and renounce terrorism—and Israel will embrace you. Until that day, there can be no peace with Hamas. Peace at any price isn't peace; it's surrender. For the survival of Israel, for the security of America and peace of the world, now is that time and right here is the place to begin.

23293  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Mercury emissions on: May 26, 2011, 04:14:14 PM

By WILLIE SOON
AND PAUL DRIESSEN
The Environmental Protection Agency recently issued 946 pages of new rules requiring that U.S. power plants sharply reduce their (already low) emissions of mercury and other air pollutants. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson claims that while the regulations will cost electricity producers $10.9 billion annually, they will save 17,000 lives and generate up to $140 billion in health benefits.

There is no factual basis for these assertions. To build its case against mercury, the EPA systematically ignored evidence and clinical studies that contradict its regulatory agenda, which is to punish hydrocarbon use.

Mercury has always existed naturally in Earth's environment. A 2009 study found mercury deposits in Antarctic ice across 650,000 years. Mercury is found in air, water, rocks, soil and trees, which absorb it from the environment. This is why our bodies evolved with proteins and antioxidants that help protect us from this and other potential contaminants.

Another defense comes from selenium, which is found in fish and animals. Its strong attraction to mercury molecules protects fish and people against buildups of methylmercury, mercury's biologically active and more toxic form. Even so, the 200,000,000 tons of mercury naturally present in seawater have never posed a danger to any living being.

How do America's coal-burning power plants fit into the picture? They emit an estimated 41-48 tons of mercury per year. But U.S. forest fires emit at least 44 tons per year; cremation of human remains discharges 26 tons; Chinese power plants eject 400 tons; and volcanoes, subsea vents, geysers and other sources spew out 9,000-10,000 additional tons per year.

VAll these emissions enter the global atmospheric system and become part of the U.S. air mass. Since our power plants account for less than 0.5% of all the mercury in the air we breathe, eliminating every milligram of it will do nothing about the other 99.5% in our atmosphere.

In the face of these minuscule risks, the EPA nevertheless demands that utility companies spend billions every year retrofitting coal-fired power plants that produce half of all U.S. electricity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which actively monitors mercury exposure, blood mercury counts for U.S. women and children decreased steadily from 1999-2008, placing today's counts well below the already excessively safe level established by the EPA. A 17-year evaluation of mercury risk to babies and children by the Seychelles Children Development Study found "no measurable cognitive or behavioral effects" in children who eat several servings of ocean fish every week, much more than most Americans do.

The World Health Organization and U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry assessed these findings in setting mercury-risk standards that are two to three times less restrictive than the EPA's.

The EPA ignored these findings. Instead, the agency based its "safe" mercury criteria on a study of Faroe Islanders, whose diet is far removed from our own. They eat few fruits and vegetables, but they do feast on pilot-whale meat and blubber that is laced with mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)—but very low in selenium. The study has limited relevance to U.S. populations.

As a result, the EPA's actions can be counted on to achieve only one thing—which is to further advance the Obama administration's oft-stated goal of penalizing hydrocarbon use and driving a transition to unreliable renewable energy.

The proposed standards will do nothing to reduce exaggerated threats from mercury and other air pollutants. Indeed, the rules will worsen America's health and well-being—especially for young children and women of child-bearing age. Not only will they raise heating, air conditioning and food costs, but they will scare people away from eating nutritious fish that should be in everyone's diet.

America needs affordable, reliable electricity. It needs better health and nutrition. It needs an EPA that focuses on real risks, instead of wasting hard-earned taxpayer and consumer dollars fabricating dangers and evidence.

Mr. Soon, a natural scientist at Harvard, is an expert on mercury and public health issues. Mr. Driessen is senior policy adviser for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.

23294  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Rove on NY's 26th vote on: May 26, 2011, 04:07:27 PM


By KARL ROVE
Five and a half weeks after House Republicans passed their budget, Democrats and liberal pundits have decided it is political kryptonite that will fatally weaken the GOP.

Their evidence is Tuesday's special election in New York's 26th district, where Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated Republican Jane Corwin for a vacant congressional seat. This is not just any congressional district, but one carried by George W. Bush and John McCain in the last two presidential elections, and one represented for 58 years by a Republican.

Liberals can barely contain their glee. MSNBC's Ed Schultz said the outcome left "Republicans scrambling" while the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne said "it will petrify" Republicans. Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.) said it proved "Democrats have the keys to drive the budget debate and play offense in 2012."

Most, but not all, of this is wishful thinking. Ms. Hochul won a plurality (47%) of the votes, not a majority, getting only one percentage point more than Barack Obama as he was losing the district in 2008. Not exactly a compelling performance.

Democrats won only because a third-party candidate—self-proclaimed tea partier Jack Davis—spent a reported $3 million of his own money. Absent Mr. Davis as a spoiler—he got 9% of the vote—Democrats would never have made a serious bid for this district, nor won if they did. Ironically, Mr. Davis ran for the same seat in the last three elections as a Democrat. This year he ran as a populist conservative.

Still the question remains: Did the Medicare reforms proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and supported by Ms. Corwin play a role in the outcome? The answer is yes, though not with the blunt force and trauma some Democrats are claiming.

Polling by American Crossroads (an independent expenditure group with which I'm associated) showed that while Ms. Hochul's Medicare attacks galvanized Democrats, they swayed few independents. Among voters who had an unfavorable view of Ms. Corwin, just 20% focused on Medicare, with most Democrats already voting for Ms. Hochul.

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Associated Press
 
Jane Corwin
.A larger percentage of those voters with an unfavorable opinion of Ms. Corwin's campaign—26%—were concerned about an ugly on-camera incident involving her chief of staff yelling at Mr. Davis in a parking lot. These voters felt Mr. Davis was being unfairly harassed. The defection of these overwhelmingly Republican and independent voters doomed Ms. Corwin.

That's not to say Medicare didn't play an important role. Ms. Hochul pummeled Ms. Corwin over it. The GOP candidate did not respond with TV ads until the campaign's closing week, and only then with an ad many voters thought lacked credibility. It alleged Ms. Hochul had endorsed Medicare and Social Security cuts that she claimed she had not.

An earlier, more aggressive explanation and defense of the Ryan plan would have turned the issue: 55% in the Crossroads survey agreed with GOP arguments for the Ryan reforms while just 36% agreed with the Democrats' arguments against it.

Next year, Republicans must describe their Medicare reforms plainly, set the record straight vigorously when Democrats demagogue, and go on the attack. Congressional Republicans—especially in the House—need a political war college that schools incumbents and challengers in the best way to explain, defend and attack on the issue of Medicare reform. They have to become as comfortable talking about Medicare in the coming year as they did in talking about health-care reform last year.

There needs to be preparation and self-education, followed by extensive town halls, outreach meetings, visits to senior citizen centers, and the use of every available communications tool to get the reform message across.

A good starting point is Mr. Ryan's message from his speech at the Economic Club of Chicago that his Medicare reform package "makes no changes for those in or near retirement, and offers future generations a strengthened Medicare program they can count on, with guaranteed coverage options, less help for the wealthy, and more help for the poor and the sick."

The populist note is especially important: When he starts receiving Medicare, Bill Gates should bear a greater share of his health-care costs than the less healthy or less wealthy.

Defense, no matter how robust, well-informed and persistent, is insufficient. Republicans must also go on offense. Democratic nonchalance towards Medicare's bankruptcy in 2024 and the crushing debt it will leave for our children gives the GOP the chance to depict Democrats as tone deaf, irresponsible and reckless. The country can't afford Democratic leaders who simply order the orchestra to play louder as the Titanic tilts and begins to slide under.

Mr. Rove, the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, is the author of "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions, 2010).

23295  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Stephen Moore: 62%?!? on: May 26, 2011, 04:01:28 PM

Unless I am missing something, there is a pears and apples problem comparing the 62% and the 70% number of the pre-Reagan years in that the former includes other taxes and the latter does not, but the fundamental point about the cumulative effect of the various taxes, current and proposed, in the present environment is profound.


By STEPHEN MOORE
Media reports in recent weeks say that Senate Democrats are considering a 3% surtax on income over $1 million to raise federal revenues. This would come on top of the higher income tax rates that President Obama has already proposed through the cancellation of the Bush era tax-rate reductions.

If the Democrats' millionaire surtax were to happen—and were added to other tax increases already enacted last year and other leading tax hike ideas on the table this year—this could leave the U.S. with a combined federal and state top tax rate on earnings of 62%. That's more than double the highest federal marginal rate of 28% when President Reagan left office in 1989. Welcome back to the 1970s.

Here's the math behind that depressing calculation. Today's top federal income tax rate is 35%. Almost all Democrats in Washington want to repeal the Bush tax cuts on those who make more than $250,000 and phase out certain deductions, so the effective income tax rate would rise to about 41.5%. The 3% millionaire surtax raises that rate to 44.5%.

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 .But payroll taxes, which are income taxes on wages and salaries, must also be included in the equation. So we have to add about 2.5 percentage points for the payroll tax for Medicare (employee and employer share after business deductions), which was applied to all income without a ceiling in 1993 as part of the Clinton tax hike. I am including in this analysis the employer share of all payroll taxes because it is a direct tax on a worker's salary and most economists agree that though employers are responsible for collecting this tax, it is ultimately borne by the employee. That brings the tax rate to 47%.

Then last year, as part of the down payment for ObamaCare, Congress snuck in an extra 0.9% Medicare surtax on "high-income earners," meaning any individual earning more than $200,000 or couples earning more than $250,000. This brings the total tax rate to 47.9%.

But that's not all. Several weeks ago, Mr. Obama raised the possibility of eliminating the income ceiling on the Social Security tax, now capped at $106,800 of earnings a year. (Never mind that the program was designed to operate as an insurance system, with each individual's payment tied to the benefits paid out at retirement.) Subjecting all wage and salary income to Social Security taxes would add roughly 10.1 percentage points to the top tax rate. This takes the grand total tax rate on each additional dollar earned in America to about 58%.

Then we have to factor in state income taxes, which on average add after the deductions from the federal income tax roughly another four percentage points to the tax burden. So now on average we are at a tax rate of close to 62%.

Democrats have repeatedly stated they only intend to restore the tax rates that existed during the Clinton years. But after all these taxes on the "rich," we're headed back to the taxes that prevailed under Jimmy Carter, when the highest tax rate was 70%.

Taxes on investment income are also headed way up. Suspending the Bush tax cuts, which is favored by nearly every congressional Democrat, plus a 3.8% investment tax in the ObamaCare bill (which starts in 2014) brings the capital gains tax rate to 23.8% from 15%. The dividend tax would potentially climb to 45% from the current rate of 15%.

Now let's consider how our tax system today compares with the system that was in place in the late 1980s—when the deficit was only about one-quarter as large as a share of GDP as it is now. After the landmark Tax Reform Act of 1986, which closed special-interest loopholes in exchange for top marginal rates of 28%, the highest combined federal-state marginal tax rate was about 33%. Now we may be headed to 62%. You don't have to be Jack Kemp or Arthur Laffer to understand that a 29 percentage point rise in top marginal rates would make America a highly uncompetitive place.

What is particularly worrisome about this trend is the deterioration of the U.S. tax position relative to the rest of our economic rivals. In 1990, the highest individual income tax rate of our major economic trading partners was 51%, while the U.S. was much lower at 33%. It's no wonder that during the 1980s and '90s the U.S. created more than twice as many new jobs as Japan and Western Europe combined.

It's true that the economy was able to absorb the Bush 41 and Clinton tax hikes and still grow at a very rapid pace. But what the soak-the-rich lobby ignores is how different the world is today versus the early 1990s. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, over the past two decades the average highest tax rate among the 20 major industrial nations has fallen to about 45%. Yet the highest U.S. tax rate would rise to more than 48% under the Obama/Democratic tax hikes. To make matters worse, if we include the average personal income tax rates of developing countries like India and China, the average tax rate around the world is closer to 30%, according to a new study by KPMG.

What all this means is that in the late 1980s, the U.S. was nearly the lowest taxed nation in the world, and a quarter century later we're nearly the highest.

Despite all of this, the refrain from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and most of the Democrats in Congress is our fiscal mess is a result of "tax cuts for the rich." When? Where? Who? The Tax Foundation recently noted that in 2009 the U.S. collected a higher share of income and payroll taxes (45%) from the richest 10% of tax filers than any other nation, including such socialist welfare states as Sweden (27%), France (28%) and Germany (31%). And this was before the rate hikes that Democrats are now endorsing.

Perhaps there can still be a happy ending to this sad tale of U.S. decline. If there were ever a right time to trade in the junk heap of our federal tax code for a pro-growth Steve Forbes-style flat tax, now's the time.

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

23296  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: May 26, 2011, 03:29:40 PM
"If you are terminally ill with less than a year to live, you can smoke anything you want.  But at the end of the year, unlike the released and Lockerbie bomber, you have to keep your part of the bargain."

Does this mean Grandma has to commit hara-kiri if she is still alive?  Isn't that against the law?  cheesy

23297  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 26, 2011, 03:22:24 PM
Egypt has announced that it will be opening up the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip this coming Saturday. The move represents a shift in the attitude of Cairo toward the Palestinian territory and is informed by both domestic and foreign policy needs. More important, the move has the potential to create complications between Israel and Egypt.

Egypt has decided to permanently open the Rafah border crossing, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any restrictions for the flow of Palestinian traffic coming from Gaza into Egypt. For starters, it will only be a daytime thing between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and there will be no border crossing on Fridays and holidays. Then there is a restriction in terms of demographics — women will be allowed to go back and forth without a visa but men between the ages of 18 and 40 will require a visa, while those who are not within this age bracket will be allowed free movement. It’s not clear right now what will be the rules regulating the flow of goods because that’s the big concern in terms of weapons coming in, which is a primary concern for Israel and of course the Egyptians share that concern because they don’t want a spillover of any militant traffic moving back and forth between their country and the Palestinian territory.

There are a number of reasons why Egypt has decided that it will open up the Rafah border crossing. One has to do with the reconciliation that is taking place and is being brokered by Cairo between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah and the efforts toward the formation of a unity government. One of the ways in which Hamas was brought onto the table was that Cairo allow for the opening of the border crossings so this was an incentive which has resulted in Hamas moving forward on the efforts to reconcile with Fatah. That is very important for Egypt because it wants to be able to take a greater ownership over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially as it is trying to manage a transition at home and given the regional turmoil that is taking place in the form of popular unrest in the other Arab countries.

The biggest implication is the Israeli concern about how the opening of this border crossing is going to impact Israeli security, knowing that while Hamas may be ruling Gaza and may not necessarily have an interest in hostilities with Israel but then Hamas does not have a monopoly over the militant landscape in Gaza. There are many rival factions that engage in unilateral firing of rockets and there are forces within Hamas that are not comfortable with the reconciliation and insist on maintaining the path of militancy. So from an Israeli point of view this isn’t good news, but then again it’s difficult to imagine that Egypt went ahead with this policy shift and did not take Israel into confidence. For Israel, the big problem is they have very little faith in this working such that militants don’t take advantage of the opening of this border crossing.

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23298  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: May 26, 2011, 03:02:38 PM


http://www.glennbeck.com/2011/05/26/why-are-people-silent-as-old-hatreds-rise-again/
23299  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: May 26, 2011, 02:12:19 PM
Good post Doug.
23300  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: May 26, 2011, 02:10:37 PM
Does anyone know if this forum has a "Poll" function?   I'd love to see a vote on who is "winning" this conversation!
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