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23251  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: September 22, 2008, 04:01:00 AM
I usually find Krugman to be an ass, an idiot, or both-- but here I think he raises some fair questions.

Cash for Trash
PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: September 21, 2008
NY Times

Some skeptics are calling Henry Paulson’s $700 billion rescue plan for the U.S. financial system “cash for trash.” Others are calling the proposed legislation the Authorization for Use of Financial Force, after the Authorization for Use of Military Force, the infamous bill that gave the Bush administration the green light to invade Iraq.

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There’s justice in the gibes. Everyone agrees that something major must be done. But Mr. Paulson is demanding extraordinary power for himself — and for his successor — to deploy taxpayers’ money on behalf of a plan that, as far as I can see, doesn’t make sense.

Some are saying that we should simply trust Mr. Paulson, because he’s a smart guy who knows what he’s doing. But that’s only half true: he is a smart guy, but what, exactly, in the experience of the past year and a half — a period during which Mr. Paulson repeatedly declared the financial crisis “contained,” and then offered a series of unsuccessful fixes — justifies the belief that he knows what he’s doing? He’s making it up as he goes along, just like the rest of us.

So let’s try to think this through for ourselves. I have a four-step view of the financial crisis:

1. The bursting of the housing bubble has led to a surge in defaults and foreclosures, which in turn has led to a plunge in the prices of mortgage-backed securities — assets whose value ultimately comes from mortgage payments.

2. These financial losses have left many financial institutions with too little capital — too few assets compared with their debt. This problem is especially severe because everyone took on so much debt during the bubble years.

3. Because financial institutions have too little capital relative to their debt, they haven’t been able or willing to provide the credit the economy needs.

4. Financial institutions have been trying to pay down their debt by selling assets, including those mortgage-backed securities, but this drives asset prices down and makes their financial position even worse. This vicious circle is what some call the “paradox of deleveraging.”

The Paulson plan calls for the federal government to buy up $700 billion worth of troubled assets, mainly mortgage-backed securities. How does this resolve the crisis?

Well, it might — might — break the vicious circle of deleveraging, step 4 in my capsule description. Even that isn’t clear: the prices of many assets, not just those the Treasury proposes to buy, are under pressure. And even if the vicious circle is limited, the financial system will still be crippled by inadequate capital.

Or rather, it will be crippled by inadequate capital unless the federal government hugely overpays for the assets it buys, giving financial firms — and their stockholders and executives — a giant windfall at taxpayer expense. Did I mention that I’m not happy with this plan?

The logic of the crisis seems to call for an intervention, not at step 4, but at step 2: the financial system needs more capital. And if the government is going to provide capital to financial firms, it should get what people who provide capital are entitled to — a share in ownership, so that all the gains if the rescue plan works don’t go to the people who made the mess in the first place.

That’s what happened in the savings and loan crisis: the feds took over ownership of the bad banks, not just their bad assets. It’s also what happened with Fannie and Freddie. (And by the way, that rescue has done what it was supposed to. Mortgage interest rates have come down sharply since the federal takeover.)

But Mr. Paulson insists that he wants a “clean” plan. “Clean,” in this context, means a taxpayer-financed bailout with no strings attached — no quid pro quo on the part of those being bailed out. Why is that a good thing? Add to this the fact that Mr. Paulson is also demanding dictatorial authority, plus immunity from review “by any court of law or any administrative agency,” and this adds up to an unacceptable proposal.

I’m aware that Congress is under enormous pressure to agree to the Paulson plan in the next few days, with at most a few modifications that make it slightly less bad. Basically, after having spent a year and a half telling everyone that things were under control, the Bush administration says that the sky is falling, and that to save the world we have to do exactly what it says now now now.

But I’d urge Congress to pause for a minute, take a deep breath, and try to seriously rework the structure of the plan, making it a plan that addresses the real problem. Don’t let yourself be railroaded — if this plan goes through in anything like its current form, we’ll all be very sorry in the not-too-distant future.
23252  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: September 22, 2008, 03:56:36 AM
Bill Kristol's conservative bona fides are in good order, so , , ,

A Fine Mess
By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Published: September 21, 2008
NY Times

A friend serving in the Bush administration called Sunday to try to talk me out of my doubts about the $700 billion financial bailout the administration was asking Congress to approve. I picked up the phone, and made the mistake of good-naturedly remarking, in my best imitation of Oliver Hardy, “Well, this is a fine mess you’ve gotten us into.”

People who’ve been working 18-hour days trying to avert a meltdown are entitled to bristle at jocular comments from those of us not in public office. So he bristled. He then tried to persuade me that the only responsible course of action was to support the administration’s request.

I’m not convinced.

It’s not that I don’t believe the situation is dire. It’s not that I want to insist on some sort of ideological purity or free-market fastidiousness. I will stipulate that this is an emergency, and is a time for pragmatic problem-solving, perhaps even for violating some cherished economic or political principles. (What are cherished principles for but to be violated in emergencies?)

And I acknowledge that there are serious people who think the situation too urgent and the day too late to allow for a real public and Congressional debate on what should be done. But — based on conversations with economists, Wall Street types, businessmen and public officials — I’m doubtful that the only thing standing between us and a financial panic is for Congress to sign this week, on behalf of the American taxpayer, a $700 billion check over to the Treasury.

A huge speculative housing bubble has collapsed. We’re going to have a recession. Unemployment will go up. Credit is going to be tighter. The challenge is to contain the damage to a “normal” recession — and to prevent a devastating series of bank runs, a collapse of the credit markets and a full-bore depression.

Everyone seems to agree on the need for a big and comprehensive plan, and that the markets have to have some confidence that help is on the way. Funds need to be supplied, trading markets need to be stabilized, solvent institutions needs to be protected, and insolvent institutions need to be put on the path to a deliberate liquidation or reorganization.

But is the administration’s proposal the right way to do this? It would enable the Treasury, without Congressionally approved guidelines as to pricing or procedure, to purchase hundreds of billions of dollars of financial assets, and hire private firms to manage and sell them, presumably at their discretion There are no provisions for — or even promises of — disclosure, accountability or transparency. Surely Congress can at least ask some hard questions about such an open-ended commitment.

And I’ve been shocked by the number of (mostly conservative) experts I’ve spoken with who aren’t at all confident that the Bush administration has even the basics right — or who think that the plan, though it looks simple on paper, will prove to be a nightmare in practice.

But will political leaders dare oppose it? Barack Obama called Sunday for more accountability, and I imagine he’ll support the efforts of the Democratic Congressional leadership to try to add to the legislation a host of liberal spending provisions. He probably won’t want to run the risk of actually opposing it, or even of raising big questions and causing significant delay — lest he be attacked for risking the possible meltdown of the global financial system.

What about John McCain? He could play it safe, going along with whatever the Bush administration and the Congress are able to negotiate.

If he wants to be critical, but concludes that Congress has to pass something quickly lest the markets fall apart again, and that he can’t reasonably insist that Congress come up with something fundamentally better, he could propose various amendments insisting on much more accountability and transparency in how Treasury handles this amazing grant of power.

Comments by McCain on Sunday suggest he might propose an amendment along the lines of one I received in an e-mail message from a fellow semi-populist conservative: “Any institution selling securities under this legislation to the Treasury Department shall not be allowed to compensate any officer or employee with a higher salary next year than that paid the president of the United States.” This would punish overpaid Wall Streeters and, more important, limit participation in the bailout to institutions really in trouble.

Or McCain — more of a gambler than Obama — could take a big risk. While assuring the public and the financial markets that his administration will act forcefully and swiftly to deal with the crisis, he could decide that he must oppose the bailout as the panicked product of a discredited administration, an irresponsible Congress, and a feckless financial establishment, all of which got us into this fine mess.

Critics would charge that in opposing the bailout, in standing against an apparent bipartisan consensus, McCain was being irresponsible.

Or would this be an act of responsibility and courage?
23253  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dominic Pitchard on: September 22, 2008, 03:47:43 AM
RIP Dominic Pritchard  KIA from war wounds to the spirit.
23254  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 21, 2008, 08:53:29 PM
"Frankly, the fact that Israel has accomplished so much while under such constant threat is nothing short of miraculous."

Amen to that.  I am reminded of the words of the heroic Wafa Sultan, when responding to comments about us Jews being "people of the book"; she said "No, they are people of MANY books- of science, medicine, and art and more."

Making editor of Law Review at Harvard is a really big deal.  Odd is not writing any articles while there , , , kind of like voting "present"  cheesy 

Anyway, time for dinner, gotta go.
23255  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 21, 2008, 04:03:04 PM
Jack Wheeler:

Over three years ago (April 2005) in Bye Bye Bolivia, you learned that under Evo Morales, Bolivia would someday break apart.  Ever since, Evo's puppet master Hugo Chavez has desperately tried to prevent this.  Now, this week, the moment of dissolution seems to have arrived.

With the lowland provinces of the "Media Luna" in outright rebellion, Morales has been unable to trust his military enough to order it to crush the rebels.  The New York Times is reporting that Chavez is publicly ridiculing the Bolivian military and threatening to invade the country with Venezuelan soldiers.

One or another, Morales or the country itself as an intact nation will not be around for much longer.

***

Speaking of nations that may not be around brings up Pakistan.  It's so upset over the US sending real live soldiers based in Afghanistan across its border to kill Taliban terrorists trying to kill them that the whole country is having a temper tantrum over the violation of its sacred "sovereignty."

The reason for the tantrum is that the sovereignty they demand the US "respect" doesn't exist.

I've crossed from Pakistan into Afghanistan - on foot, on horseback, by truck, even in a raft across the Kabul River - and vice versa many times.  I have seen with my own eyes:  there is no border.  Pakistan has never exercised anything approaching sovereign authority over its border with Afghanistan.

That 1600-mile border was drawn by a British civil servant, Sir Mortimer Durand (1850-1924), in 1893 in his capacity as Foreign Secretary of British India.  The government of Afghanistan has never recognized the "Durand Line" as a legitimate border - since it divides the Pushtun people (who make up the majority of Afghans) in two.

Further, the Durand Line Agreement - which the Brits claimed Afghan King Abdur Rahman Khan signed, but only in English which he didn't speak or read - was valid for 100 years and expired in 1993.  No subsequent Afghan government has renewed the Durand Agreement.

Thus the Afghan-Pakistan border does not exist either legally or actual reality.

The Pakistan "government-within-a-government," the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency or ISI, is conducting a proxy war against the United States and the government of Afghanistan via the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists.  The US, NATO, and Afghan military forces have every right to take whatever measures are necessary to shut this war down in territory the Paks have no legal right to nor control.

Pakistan is rapidly becoming a failed state - so failed that there is an increasing chance it may break apart into its constituents:  Baluchistan, the Sindh, Punjab, and "Pushtunistan" which may merge with Afghanistan.  India and the US better have a well-thought out and well-practiced plan to seize control of Pak nukes if necessary.
23256  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 21, 2008, 03:59:13 PM
"his brain worked well enough to get through Harvard and Harvard Law"

Actually his undergrad was Columbia. smiley
23257  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 21, 2008, 02:00:06 PM
Woof GM:

We have here Exhibit A as to why it is a good idea to put in an explanatory sentence or three as to WHY you are posting articles cheesy  If you had included the descriptions you include here with the original post, all would have been clear to JDN.

Yio!
Marc/CD

23258  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 21, 2008, 01:19:40 PM
Jack Wheeler:

 , , , And fourth is the release this week of John Fund's book Stealing Elections.  This is an incredibly important book.  John exposes the plans of the ultimate "community organizer" ACORN to commit massive voter fraud in cities throughout the country - and details how Obama is an ACORN operative.  He was a "community organizer for ACORN and then their lawyer.

Obambi, John reveals, has 9,000 lawyers ready to challenge November 4 election results in thousands of precincts in hundreds of counties in dozens of states, all under the phony claim of "voter suppression" perpetrated by evil election-stealing Republicans.

Just to take one single county, Bernalillo County in New Mexico:  over 1,000 fraudulent voters registrations have been submitted by ACORN, and if they are not accepted, ACORN will scream "voter suppression!"

Incidentally, Obambi's call for his followers to "argue with your neighbors and get in their face" if they don't support him (9/17 in Elko NV) is a classic ACORN intimidation technique.  Read John's book.
23259  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: September 21, 2008, 10:22:41 AM
Like most Americans, I feel a special affinity for/bond with the British-- so much of the best of America we inherited from them--, but on several fronts (the response to Islamic Fascism, the hostility to self-defense, the Orwellian supervision, the PC nanny state and its intimidation of common sense leave one wondering where the heck they are headed.
23260  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: September 21, 2008, 10:13:28 AM
Ali, who became an international celebrity after refusing to accept her marriage to a man three times her age and winning a divorce, is now back to a semblance of a normal life in Sana.
By Delphine Minoui and Borzou Daragahi, Special to The Times
September 20, 2008

SANA, YEMEN -- Still groggy, the schoolgirl brushed her hair, struggled to pull on her socks and snuggled into her school uniform: a green gown and a white head scarf.

By the time she gathered up her books and strapped on her backpack she was smiling and enthusiastic, her nervousness eclipsed by anticipation of the first day of class.  Like children across the world, 10-year-old Nujood Ali went back to school this month after a lengthy break. But Nujood hadn't been lazing about or playing hide-and-seek with her friends during the summer.  Instead, after she was pulled out of the second grade by her father earlier this year, she was married off to a man three times her  age, who beat her and sexually abused her.

For many girls in this traditional society, where tribal custom and conservative interpretations of Islam dominate, that would have been the end of the story. But Nujood was outraged. She gathered up her courage and on the advice of an aunt went to court in April. She got the help of a lawyer and filed for divorce.


A judge quickly granted it.

And on Tuesday morning, the divorcee, possibly the world's youngest, once again became a schoolgirl.

"I'm very happy to be going back to school," she said, waiting in her ramshackle home for her younger sister Haifa to get ready. "I'm going to study Arabic, the Koran, mathematics and drawing. I will do that with my classmates and I will definitely make friends there."

Nujood's unusual story of rebellion made her an international celebrity. Since The Times wrote of her in June, CNN, Elle magazine and other international media have come to this mountaintop capital to chronicle her tale.  Hordes of nonprofit organizations offered to help her get back to school, some even willing to foot the bill to send her abroad or to a fancy private academy, though they ignored Haifa, Nujood's little sister and best friend.

In the end, Nujood opted for a small, government-run public school relatively close to her home. She would begin where she left off, starting the second grade again.

Even then, it wasn't easy. One teacher said she worried that Nujood might disturb other students by talking about her sexual experiences.  The night before she went to school, Nujood said she dreamed of notebooks, drawings and new friends.

"When I left school, I learned how to count from one to 100," she said. "Now, I am going to learn how to count until a million."

Nujood said she wanted to study hard, to be able to attend university and become a lawyer like Shada Nasser, the well-known Yemeni human rights advocate who helped her get her divorce.  The girl's experience, and her ambition, have even served as an inspiration to her parents, uneducated rural people who moved to the capital's outskirts a few years ago and say they married her off to protect her from the dangers of the city.

"We were never asked if we wanted to go to school when we were children," said her father, Ali Mohammed Ahdal, who has two wives and 16 children.

"If we had a choice, we would have loved to study like Nujood."

On Tuesday morning, Nujood and Haifa climbed into a yellow taxi paid for by an Italian aid group and drove through the capital's smog-choked streets, passing vendors of the mildly narcotic khat leaves and the occasional shepherd.

Outside the schoolhouse, Nasser stood waiting, eager to share a day she had anticipated. "I can't believe we finally made it," said the attorney, who agreed to drop the rest of her caseload to take up Nujood's cause after the girl showed up alone in a Sana courthouse in April.
----------
Nujood and Nasser were welcomed by Njala Matri, the principal of the school in Rawdha, a lower-middle-class neighborhood along the road to the city's international airport.

"You are welcome here. You can feel at home," she said, smiling at Nujood.

Only about half of Yemeni girls attend primary school. Last year, one of the school's 1,200 girls, a 13-year-old, dropped out to marry, though the legal age of consent is 15. "Now, she's a mother," Matri said in dismay.

Women's rights activists say child marriage is part of a vicious circle. Girls drop out of school and bear too many children, contributing to Yemen's high female illiteracy and exploding birth rate.  But on Tuesday, Nujood stepped through the school's gates into a vast courtyard, disappearing into a swarm of noisy classmates. Some paid her no mind, while others approached the girl who had become a local and international media star.

"I am so excited," she said, playing nervously with her hands.

A bell sounded and the students quieted down, forming lines for roll call before shuffling into classrooms of about 50 students each. 
Nujood took a seat in the third row, neither at the front nor the back of the classroom.  The teacher, dressed in an all-covering black abaya, hushed the students and began the day's lesson by asking them to recite the national anthem as well as passages from the Koran.

Small hands shot into the air.

"Who can recite the Surat al-Hamd?" the teacher asked, referring to the first chapter of the Koran.

She saw Nujood's hand, and called her name.

"Nujood?" she said.

Nujood stood up and began, ending with: "Show us the straight path. The path of those whom You have favored. Not the path of those who earn Your anger nor of those who go astray."

"May God bless you," said the teacher.

"Let's give her a round of applause."

The others clapped as Nujood sat down, a little girl once again.


LA Times
23261  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: September 20, 2008, 01:32:54 PM
Yes, go to Search or Advanced Search and type in "Correct" and click the box for "thread titles".   In that you might not have remembered whether it was titled "Politically Corrret" or Politically Incorrect" this seach command will find you the thread no mater what.
23262  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 20, 2008, 12:20:21 PM
BTW, I already posted that WSJ editorial.

Concerning this: "a Murdoch publication (Fox News)"  as a very long time WSJ reader (30 years now) I found the Murdoch takeover to be very concerning and since it has happened I have seen a disconcerting drift towards posting more and more articles by Democrats, liberals, and others of that ilk in some sort of misguided "fair and balanced" nonsense.  I don't go to the WSJ for "fair and balanced", I go there for informed, intelligent discussion i.e. people who have already figured out the free minds and free markets are the way to go.  Fox News (excepting the outstanding Brit Hume Report, and the solid Neil Cavuto show) is not right or left, it is pandering to market segments underserved by the MSM.

23263  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: September 20, 2008, 12:12:12 PM
JDN:

Forgive me, but unless I misunderstand here you are missing the point.  The one is not of legal or constitutional rights, it is about whether the responses, or lack thereof, are hypocritical.

CCP: 

For future reference there is a thread on "Politically (in)correct" which is where this would have been a better fit.
23264  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: September 19, 2008, 09:47:04 PM
Me too.

I did add to PHO at 19 and CSCO too.
23265  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: September 19, 2008, 06:25:20 PM
A Howl of welcome into the Tribe to

Dog Lorenz Glaza

HCTHC!
CD
GF
23266  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / People who don't stickfight on: September 19, 2008, 06:06:56 PM
run the risk of ending up like this!

http://www.break.com:80/index/office-worker-goes-absolutely-insane.html
23267  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 19, 2008, 10:56:35 AM
financial crisis changes the entire shape and feel of the presidential election. It isn't just bad news, it's bad news that reveals what many people deep down feared, and hoped not to see revealed: that the huge and sprawling financial system of Wall Street is maintained essentially on faith, mood and assumption; that its problems are deep; that at some level the system looks to have been a house of cards. It isn't just bad news; it's deep bad news that reaches into the heart of widespread national anxiety.

 
APEveryone is afraid—the rich that they will no longer be rich, the poor that they'll be hit first by the downturn in the "last hired, first fired" sense, the middle class that it will be harder now to maintain their hold on middle-classness.

Both the Democrats and the Republicans spent the week treating the catastrophe as a political opportunity. This was unserious. A serious approach might have addressed large questions such as: Was this crisis not, at bottom, a failure of stewardship?

Instead, from Barack Obama: It's the Republicans' fault, and John McCain means more of the same. From McCain: We're reformers and we'll clean up the mess, unlike Mr. I Can't Think of Anything to Do but Raise Taxes.

Open question only history will answer: President Bush did not address the nation on the crisis until Thursday of this week, almost a week after it began, and Democrats are going to try to paint this as 9/11 times Katrina: Where was he? Will this work? Will it stick? They're going to try to turn Mr. Bush into Herbert Hoover. Hoover was not good for the Republican brand.

The economic crisis brings a new question, unarticulated so far but there, and I know because when I mention it to people they go off like rockets. It is: Do you worry that neither of them is up to it? Up to the job in general? Is either Mr. McCain or Mr. Obama actually up to getting us through this and other challenges? I haven't heard a single person say, "Yes, my guy is the answer." A lot of shrugging is going on out there. This is a read not only on the men but on the moment.

The overarching political question: In a time of heightened anxiety, will people inevitably lean toward the older congressional vet, the guy who's been around forever? Why take a chance on the new, young man at a time of crisis? Wouldn't that be akin to injecting an unstable element into an unstable environment? There's a lot at stake.

Or will people have the opposite reaction? I've had it, the system has been allowed to corrode and collapse under seven years of Republican stewardship. Throw the bums out. We need change. Obama may not be experienced, but that may help him cut through. He's not compromised.

The election, still close, still unknowable, may well hinge on whether people conclude A or B.

A mere hunch in a passing moment: In a time of crisis, confusion and fear, Americans just might, in their practicality, turn back to the old tradition of divided government. They know the Congress will be Democratic. They assume it will soon be more Democratic. Therefore the president they choose may well be of the other party.

A fearless prediction: My beautiful election enters its dark phase.

Lots of signs of the new darkness. Mr. Obama's army is swarming, blocking lines when Obama critics show up for radio interviews. A study out Thursday said the Obama campaign has become more negative than the McCain campaign. There is the hacking—no one at this point knows by whom—of Sarah Palin's personal email account. From Mr. Obama himself, a new edge. He tells an audience in Elko, Nev., to "argue" with McCain supporters and "get in their face." Bambi is playing Chicago style. No doubt everyone around him has been saying, and for some weeks now, "Get tough." But this is not how to get tough, and it does not reflect a shrewd reading of what the moment demands. People want depth, not ferocity. We've got nerves that jingle-jangle-jingle.

And it gives Mr. McCain a beautiful opening. He can now play Oldest and Wisest, damning the new meanness more in sorrow than in anger.

There's another reason things will get more mean than meaningful. Here is the tough, sad, rather deadly assumption I see rising among our media people, our thinkers, observers and chatterers, the highly sophisticated who've seen'em come and seen'em go: It is, again: What if neither of them is the right man? What if neither of them is equal to the moment? What if neither party is equal to the moment?

This is not in itself important—who cares what they think, really? But there will be a small impact in terms of tone. If you are a longtime Obama supporter and are beginning now to admit to deep doubts, you can't just announce you've been wrong for the past year. You'd look like a fool. You cannot speak credibly, or in a way you yourself believe, in rosy support. But what you can do is turn, with new rage, on the guy you've at least long opposed. So you ignore Mr. Obama and attack Mr. McCain with new ferocity. Or, if you have doubts about Mr. McCain, you ignore him and turn your heat on Mr. Obama.

The Obama campaign has been one of real dignity and cool, and in this it reflected its candidate. It won't be good to see this end. It will be sad, actually.

On the Republican side, the legitimate anger sparked by the media's personal attacks on Sarah Palin and her family has now been funneled, coolly and almost chillingly, into antimedia manipulation. This is no good. It may help the Republicans win, because no one likes the media. Even the media doesn't like the media. But it invites charges of winning bad. And if you win bad in a 50/50 nation, it makes it really hard to govern.

A final point. Do you ever have the passing thought that the presidential election doesn't matter as much as we think? Whoever wins will govern within more of less the same limits, both domestically and internationally. A New York liberal leaning toward Mr. McCain told me this week he has no fear that Mr. McCain may be a more militant figure than Mr. Obama. We already have two wars, "we're out of army." Even if Mr. McCain wanted a war, he said, he couldn't start one.

I wonder if we follow the election so passionately because we're afraid. We're afraid a lot of our national problems are intractable, and the future too full of challenge.

We cannot tolerate feeling this way. So we make believe the election can change everything. And we follow it passionately to convince ourselves its outcome will be decisive and make everything better. We reassure ourselves with pictures of the cheering crowds at the rally. We even find some comfort in the latest story of the latest dirty trick. But deep inside we think: Ah, that won't work either.

Some part of me thinks we are all making believe this is a life-changing election because we know it's not a life-changing election. Ever have that thought? Me too. Then there's a rally or a scandal or a gaffe, and it passes.

Please add your comments to the Opinion
23268  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin on: September 19, 2008, 10:54:04 AM

"The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to
the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most
erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection,
rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled
to, and ought to enjoy."

-- Benjamin Franklin (Emblematical Representations, Circa 1774)

Reference: The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Sparks, ed. (457)
23269  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Teheran in the Caucasus on: September 19, 2008, 01:44:55 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iranian Diplomacy in the Caucasus
September 18, 2008
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Wednesday visited Georgia, where he met with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. During the visit, Mottaki told the Georgian leader that Tehran was closely observing the ongoing events in the Caucasus and that his country wants stability and security in the region restored. The Iranian foreign minister also said that his government was in the process of offering solutions to various regional actors in the hopes of normalizing the regional situation.

Mottaki’s visit to Tbilisi comes a day after a meeting with his Armenian counterpart in Tehran and two days after talks with his German counterpart in Berlin. On Sept. 13, Mottaki held talks with Russian leaders in Moscow and then flew to Azerbaijan to confer with officials in Baku. This flurry of diplomatic activity on the part of the Iranians underscores Tehran’s deep interests in the Caucasus.

After seeing Turkey’s moves in the region in the wake of the Georgian crisis, the Iranians do not want to be left out of the game. The Iranian ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural ties to the Caucasus go back centuries — long before the Ottomans took control of the Caucasus, Persian empires ruled major parts of the area.

We have talked about how a resurgent Russia presents Iran with an opening to extract concessions from the United States in Iraq and on the nuclear issue. In this regard, Tehran’s calculus is that a Washington wanting to counter a revived Kremlin would be eager to reach a settlement on Iraq to free itself for dealings with Moscow.

Iran’s cautious behavior toward Russia, however, suggests that Tehran is not ready to jump on the Russian bandwagon. There are three key reasons for this.

First, in order for Iran to reach its goals in terms of Iraq, the nuclear issue, and its own international rehabilitation, it needs to work with the United States. From the Iranian point of view, Russia is a means to an end and not a substitute for the United States.

Second, in the past Russia has used Iran for its own strategic purposes. Tehran is quite disappointed that Moscow has not followed through on any of its promises — whether with regard to security guarantees, weapons sales or even the failure to complete Iran’s first nuclear power plant (for which the Iranians have already paid).

Third, and most important, is that a Russia imposing itself on the Caucasus poses a long-term security threat to Iran’s northern borders. After all, it was not too long ago that the Soviet Union under Stalin invaded Iran. Hence, Iranian moves toward regional diplomacy are largely designed to ensure that a Russian resurgence can be kept at tolerable levels.

But the Turks have the lead in this arena, which raises the question of what the Iranians hope to gain from their attempts to play a role in the Caucasus. The best option for Iran would be to cooperate with Turkey toward the common goal of containing Russia. There is also the additional potential benefit of connecting with the United States via the Turks in the process, not to mention the potential energy links Iran could build to connect to Europe through the Turks.

There are, however, a number of obstacles that prevent Turkish-Iranian cooperation from materializing. To start, Iran would not want to irk Russia at a time when Tehran is still not getting a deal from the United States. The Turks are in a much more comfortable position to risk angering the Russians but the Iranians do not have that luxury. Ankara is the world’s 18th-largest economy and a member of NATO, while Iran has very few friends and is reeling from economic sanctions.

Another reason why Tehran cannot play much of a role in the Caucasus is that its only anchor in the region is Armenia, and that is a relationship of expediency. While the Turks and the Azerbaijanis are moving toward a rapprochement with the Armenians, it is unlikely that they will want to allow Iran — a historical competitor for regional influence (especially for the Turks) — to establish a foothold in the region. Essentially, Iran faces sufficient arrestors blocking its path to becoming a regional player in the Caucasus, which is not unlike the situation that it faces in the Middle East where wealthy Sunni Arab states are reining in its regional ambitions.

Regardless of the role it will or will not play in the Caucasus, Iranian moves in the region highlight a very critical element in Iranian foreign policy vis-a-vis Russia. The Islamic republic is not prepared to align with Russia in Moscow’s efforts to reassert itself on the global scene. This is a critical weakness that the United States can exploit to its advantage in countering both Iranian and Russian moves.
23270  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Logic and political arguement on: September 18, 2008, 11:07:44 PM
TD:

Please expound!!!

TAC,
Marc
23271  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 18, 2008, 11:06:22 PM
About all I can offer is that by being a corporation, I can deduct the cost of my health insurance, rather than pay for it with after tax dollars. 

Also, I would give a VERY serious look at Health Savings Accounts.  HSAs have a lot to recommend them.

23272  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 18, 2008, 11:02:51 PM
JDN:  A while ago I posted to the effect, "... Muslims getting blamed for everything."  Perhaps it's not true, yet if I read this forum, especially GM's posts, it seems all the evils of the world are caused by and propagated by Muslims.  Otherwise, America is perfect; Europe is perfect, Israel is innocent, etc.  yet it is simply not true.

GM: **, , ,Where have I ever said that all the world's evils are caused by muslims, or asserted that the US, Israel or europe is perfect? Answer: I haven't.**

Me:  JDN, I think you may be confusing having a fundamental problem with certain aspects of the Muslim religion and blaming them for everything.  Anyway, I agree with GM that he has not made the blanket assertions that you assert that he has.  IMHO he may make his points with little concern for the ego of the other  cheesy but I find that he HAS done quite a bit of reading and thinking on these subjects.  I for one am impressed with his ability to come up with pertinent pieces that support his point on a tremendous variety of aspects of the larger question. What do you think?   Agree with him or not, the invitation to you is to answer with similar specificity (or acknowledge when you can't) as well as broad statements.

Speaking for myself, I think in this moment we wrestle with the key difficulty for the west.  Let the conversation continue!

23273  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Uechi Ryu breaking on: September 18, 2008, 04:57:20 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pant_xwqHMc

and in a very different vein "They itch"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0S7jCOEK40
23274  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Swiss Gathering 26-27 of September on: September 18, 2008, 02:10:39 PM
From Lonely Dog:

A friendly bark,
Mit freundschaftlichem Bellen,
Avec amical aboyer,
Con amichevole abbaiare,
Con amistoso ladrar,

Dear Fighter for the „Tribal Gathering“

This e-mail is to give you some information’s about how the Friday will be scheduled…

We will meet at the parking place next to the training hall “Bleichestrasse” (see map) on 2 pm. Please try to be in time… the plan is to leave Stettlen by car (at the latest of 3 pm). If you are to late I’m sorry but we can’t wait for you…

Fighting will be outdoor! We are in Switzerland and it’s end of September, means there is a chance that it will rain… and it will be quite chilly for sure. Bring enough clothing, and suitable footwear (think about fighting in the rain…).

After the fighting we will have the dinner and probably live music at the same location. Fortunately inside a nice old farmhouse...

Looking forward to see you soon

Wuff
Benjamin “Lonely Dog”
23275  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: September 18, 2008, 02:01:29 PM
“[Barack] Obama... blamed the shocking new round of subprime-related bankruptcies on the free-market system, and specifically the ‘trickle-down’ economics of the Bush administration, which he tried to gig opponent John McCain for wanting to extend. But it was the Clinton administration, obsessed with multiculturalism, that dictated where mortgage lenders could lend, and originally helped create the market for the high-risk subprime loans now infecting like a retrovirus the balance sheets of many of Wall Street’s most revered institutions. Tough new regulations forced lenders into high-risk areas where they had no choice but to lower lending standards to make the loans that sound business practices had previously guarded against making. It was either that or face stiff government penalties. The untold story in this whole national crisis is that President Clinton put on steroids the Community Redevelopment Act, a well-intended Carter-era law designed to encourage minority homeownership. And in so doing, he helped create the market for the risky subprime loans that he and Democrats now decry as not only greedy but ‘predatory.’ Yes, the market was fueled by greed and overleveraging in the secondary market for subprimes, vis-a-vis mortgaged-backed securities traded on Wall Street. But the seed was planted in the ‘90s by Clinton and his social engineers.” —Investor’s Business Daily
23276  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 18, 2008, 01:39:45 PM
Plausible, but unsourced from Jack Wheeler's "Tothepoint":

PROOF THE CLINTONS ARE SCREWING OBAMA     
Written by Dr. Jack Wheeler     
Monday, 15 September 2008 

To The Point has long maintained that the Clintons will do what they can to make sure Obambi loses in November - for only then does Hillary have a chance for the White House in 2012.

Now there's proof.

As reported by WorldNetDaily, last Wednesday (9/10), billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife met Bill Clinton in the latter's Harlem office in New York.  Ostensibly, the purpose of the meeting was to gain Scaife's funding support for Clinton's Global Initiative project.

But WND missed the real story - for that wasn't the purpose of the meeting at all, only the cover.  Here's what really happened.

The day after the end of the Republican convention (Friday 9/05) with Palinmania beginning to sweep the country, Bill Clinton made a personal phone call to Scaife and asked when they could meet.  They settled on the following Wednesday - the day before Clinton was to meet Obama in his Harlem office on Sept. 11.

In the meeting Clinton had personally requested, the two discussed the Global Initiative project, but it was clear to Scaife that this wasn't Clinton's purpose.  The discussion was perfunctory, Clinton didn't go into detail about the project nor push Scaife for specific ways to support it.

So Scaife waited for the other shoe to drop and it did. 

"How's NewsMax doing?" Clinton asked.  Scaife is the one the principal investors in NewsMax, which has become a major conservative news website.  Then after a little blah-blah, Clinton casually mentioned the purpose of the meeting.

"You know, Dick, one thing that nobody has really checked out yet is Obama's long-standing and deep relationship with Louis Farrakhan.  It's going to really hurt him badly once it's fully disclosed."

Your assignment, Mr. Scaife, is to unleash NewsMax and the conservative media on Obama's connection with the most rabidly anti-Semitic black racist in America.

Expect NewsMax to do so. 

Finally we have specific evidence of Clinton submarining Obama.  This isn't the only instance, of course.  The Clintons are launching a full-court press to ensure Obama's defeat.

Take Pennsylvania.  It's a must-win state for Obambi.  He cannot do so without the legendarily corrupt "overvote" support of former Philadelphia mayor and now governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell.  As Philly mayor in 2004, Rendell's machine stuffed enough ballot boxes in South Philly to ensure victory for Kerry.

Last April, Hillary defeated Obambi in the Dem Pennsylvania primary by 10%.  Note who is raising her hand in victory in this story:  Gov. Ed Rendell. 

What Clinton has asked Rendell to do is shut off the fraud machine.  And more.  Word is that Rendell intends to shut down the independent vote fraud organizers of ACORN in Philly and Pittsburgh.

Obambi can kiss the Keystone State adios.

Thus the left can also kiss goodbye any hope for their latest delusion - that Obambi will dump Biden and throw a "Hail Hillary" pass.

As explained this week by Jack Kelly, the speculation is that Saracuda is going to field dress Biden and make moose stew out of him in their October 2 debate.  So on October 3, the entire leftie media/blogosphere chorus will deafeningly demand Hillary replace Slow Joe.

She will tell Obambi to not even think about it. 

She and Bubba have too many fun October Surprises planned for Obambi.  What Bubba tasked Scaife with was only one of them.  There'll be lots more.  Relax and enjoy.

 
23277  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Russia's Stock market on: September 18, 2008, 12:44:08 PM
The main stock index is down 55% in four months, banks are starved for capital and teetering on the brink, the currency is at a one-year low and the government is throwing money at the problem. We're not talking about Wall Street.

The current carnage on Russian markets comes amid global market turmoil. But the dive in Moscow began before the wider world cared about AIG's balance sheet, and its chief causes are home-grown. To wit, the bill for eight years of Putinism is coming due. And a Kremlin leadership that only weeks ago brimmed with menacing self-confidence is struggling to slow this financial free fall.

 
APThe first sign of trouble came in late July when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin lashed out at a Russian coal and steel company, Mechel, for alleged price gouging and appeared to threaten personally its chief executive. Mechel shares fell by a third, and the incident sent a chill through the market as a whole. Investors woke up to the systemic risk to property rights and the lack of any rule of law in Russia. They did so belatedly, we'd add, considering the attempted or successful expropriation of Yukos, BP and Shell assets and the blatant use of state resources to menace private business.

Another trigger was last month's war in the Caucasus. The Russians routed the Georgian army in four days and annexed -- in all but name -- its provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Then Russia got routed by the global economy. Since the war started, investors have pulled more than $35 billion from Russian markets. Russian businesses are having trouble getting access to international financial markets, as foreign lenders wonder if they can get paid back. Some $45 billion in foreign debt held by Russian corporates must be refinanced by the end of the year, and the cost of doing so is rising.

Other emerging markets have been hit hard in recent weeks, particularly the natural resource-driven economies. But Russia's is the worst performing market in the world this year. The decline from the all-time high in May wiped out $680 billion in value; Russia's entire GDP was just $1,286 billion as of last year. On Tuesday, the main ruble-denominated index was off 11.2%, the steepest fall since the 1998 ruble crisis. It plummeted yesterday as well, before regulators stopped trading for good at midday.

Each of the past three days, the Russian central bank injected over $10 billion into the money market, and also moved to prop up the ruble. The Kremlin yesterday lent the country's three largest banks $44.9 billion. Thanks to the oil and gas windfall of the past few years, Russia has built up a $573 billion reserve war chest that can tide the financial system over for a while and avoid a rerun of the 1998 crisis.

Not forever, especially if oil prices continue their fall. Russia's economy is hugely dependent on natural resources. In good times, the Kremlin pocketed the billions and didn't worry about pushing economic reforms. The outside investment needed to diversify was discouraged by the Kremlin's backsliding on the rule of law. Now the drop in crude prices is squeezing the country's blue chips and the Kremlin's coffers, even though on the current budget the Russian state will break even with oil at $70 a barrel or above.

Long reluctant to criticize the thin-skinned Putin regime, businesses have started to voice their unhappiness. On Monday Putin sidekick and President Dmitry Medvedev hosted 50 leading businessman at the Kremlin, and acknowledged that the Georgia war contributed to the country's economic troubles. He said Russia didn't want to be isolated, but added, "If they" -- meaning the West -- "try to stop us accessing certain markets there will be no catastrophe for the state or for those sitting here."

As it has turned out, much faster than anyone realized or hoped during the Georgian war in August, Western governments haven't had to do anything to have Russia pay a price for its aggressive behavior. Which is fortunate, considering the weak stomachs in Europe and at the State Department for any serious response to the war. Investors did it for them.

The war has also exposed the fiction that Russia is the next China -- an authoritarian political regime that's stable, predictable and on a path toward becoming a free-market economy. It's authoritarian all right, but it lags China on other counts. After this war, Russia is unlikely to join China in the World Trade Organization. Georgia and Ukraine, another potential target for Russian aggression, are in that club and in a position to block entry. But the bigger hurdle ought to be the WTO's standard that candidates be "market-based" economies ready to respect the commitments and rules of this international organization. By this standard, Russia doesn't belong there, or in the OECD or G-8.

Perhaps the Russian people, who give their leaders high marks in opinion polls, will begin to see the economic toll from Putinism and question whether their country is well-served by this leadership.
23278  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: September 18, 2008, 12:40:12 PM
Folks:

Whenever possible, please put something in the subject heading for your posts.  For example, in the "video clips of interest" thread, it will help someone search for the video URL you post if the post subject has a title e.g. "multiple player, 2 KOs" or something of the sort.

TIA,
CD
23279  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: McC wasting Palin? on: September 18, 2008, 12:17:20 PM
The media is turning the news into a presidential video game. "Hurricane Ike" or "Wall Street Meltdown" appears onscreen, and the media boots up Barack Obama and John McCain to see how well they talk the problem. Mostly they are speaking gobbledygook about things they barely understand. Whatever a credit default swap is, I'm against it. The public is left to wonder if they are voting for a commentator in chief or commander in chief.

 
AP
Sen. McCain: Make government fit inside this flag.
The credit-market turmoil is serious, but no campaign has the information Treasury or the Fed are using to work the problem.

Rather than be dragged into the path of the financial storm, the McCain campaign especially needs to refocus on its postconvention momentum. It needs to worry about wasting the political capital Gov. Sarah Palin deposited in the Bank of McCain three weeks ago.

Once Mr. McCain picked Mrs. Palin as his running mate, he demoted "experience" and elevated a government "reform" message. It was the right thing to do. Presidential voters are ambivalent about Beltway-marinated senators like Mr. McCain and Joe Biden. John McCain's edge is his famous reputation as a reform maverick. So far, though, he is not casting his reform message in large enough terms.


John McCain should be playing up Palin's popularity and resume of reform, Wonder Land columnist Daniel Henninger tells Kelsey Hubbard. (Sept. 18)
Washington is arguably at its lowest ebb in the public mind since before World War II. Join that fact to Sarah Palin's personally gutsy and professionally strong reform credentials, and Mr. McCain has the chance to offer voters a reform presidency in historic terms.

Yes, the Obama campaign is trying to hang the Bush presidency around his neck. Mr. McCain knows -- and should give -- the answer to that: Voter disgust with Washington goes far beyond George W. Bush.

In the 2006 off-year election, voters threw out the Republican bums and turned over control of Congress to the Democrats. In an odd thank-you, the Democratic Congress earned the lowest approval ratings ever recorded in opinion polls.

This decline is not part of the normal ebb and flow of politics. The fall, the malfeasance, is deeper. It's bipartisan. It's endemic. The most acute comment on what Washington has become -- and what the American public knows it has become -- was a federal judge's Sept. 4 sentencing statement for convicted Beltway favor-meister Jack Abramoff.

Standing before federal Judge Ellen Huvelle, Abramoff said, "So much that happens in Washington stretches the envelope, skirts the spirit of the law and lives in loopholes." Agreed, said Judge Huvelle, who hammered Abramoff with an additional 48-month sentence, more than prosecutors had asked. She said simply: "The true victims are members of the public who lost their trust in government."

Forget the Tina Fey SNL mockery and all the marginalia being written about Sarah Palin now. She did four real things in Alaska that make her fit for anyone interested in a reform presidency.

She took on: her party's state chairman, her party's state attorney general, GOP Gov. Frank Murkowski's tainted gas pipeline project, and then she supported a GOP candidate who ran against Alaska's "untouchable" GOP congressional earmarker, Don Young.

One way or another, each episode involved severing the sleazy ties that bind public officials to grasping commercial interests, something even the Democratic left purports to favor.

It isn't just Washington and Juneau. You could open the nozzle on the same reform fire hose to wash the public-private slime out of the capital hallways of New York, New Jersey, California, Illinois and onward.

You say Sarah Palin doesn't have enough "experience" to run Washington? Washington is barely fit to be run.

The problem isn't standard political corruption. The problem is that the $2.8 trillion federal budget is a vast ocean of Beltway pilot fish feeding off scraps from the whale -- lawyers, lobbyists, ex-Members of Congress. No one runs the Sea of Washington. It's too big, too deep.

Barack Obama wants to dig a deeper hole. John McCain should ask the American people if they want this to go on, because it's nonsense to vote for government to do "more" and then whine when it doesn't work or degrades into sweetheart-deal hell.

Unfocused "reform" rhetoric from Mr. McCain isn't enough. The public has been there, heard that. Sen. McCain should talk about what he knows -- fat Fannie and Freddie, farm-bill bloat, the ethanol subsidy fiasco, the federal procurement mess. Show people Gov. Palin's 18 single-spaced pages of 2007 vetoes. Then identify Congress's bipartisan supporters of the Legislative Line-Item Veto Act and ask the voters' support. Appear with GOP congressman from Sarah's new generation who want to help -- Eric Cantor of Virginia, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Kevin McCarthy of California. There are others.

Promise to spend the first two years on this historic political reform effort, and if a Democratic Congress laughs, promise to barnstorm in 2010 for a Congress willing to act, from any party.

One hears talk of John McCain's temper. My guess is voters want someone to lose it with Washington, big time. Oh, and he should ask what's the difference between a reformist pit bull and a six-term senator. It isn't lipstick.
23280  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Copyright symbol on: September 18, 2008, 11:51:13 AM
© = hold down ALT key and type 0169 (NUM LOCK must be on)
23281  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington on: September 18, 2008, 11:18:06 AM

"The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent
and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all
Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation
of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of
conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment."

-- George Washington (Address to the Members of the Volunteer
Association of Ireland, 2 December 1783)

Reference: George Washington, Address to the Members of the
Volunteer Association of Ireland, December 2, 1783.
23282  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 17, 2008, 11:33:14 PM
You had me, until this:

"Sometimes I think on this forum we blame Islam for every little problem in society today". 

Examples please?
23283  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 17, 2008, 04:34:32 PM
Unfortunately, that end game is facilitated by the integrity of your position.  Big Bummer that!  Any thoughts on this?


@GM:

The piece you post is powerful. Before spreading it around, I find myself wondering about these numbers:

"More than a hundred and thirty million women living today have been victimized by this horrifying crime, and more than two million girls are assaulted by it each year. In other words, we are talking about 6,000 girls every day -- 6,000 girls today."

Lets see.  1.3 billion Muslims= 675,000,000 women.

130/675= approximately 20%.  If we screen out girls too young for the amputation, the percentage is even higher. 

This number seems questionably high to me.  My understanding is that the clitorectomies tend to take place in Ethiopia, Somalia, Egypt, Yemen-- not through out the Muslim world-- though the larger point of the neuroses about women remains.
23284  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Swiss Gathering 26-27 of September on: September 17, 2008, 03:31:14 PM
Woof All:

Lonely Dog tells me that already there are 50 fighters with over a week to go.  Even allowing for the usual 20% rate last minute mini-epidemic of vaginitis, this is going to be a big Gathering.

I leave next Wednesday for Bern.

The Adventure continues!
"Higher consciousness through harder contact!" (c)
Crafty Dog
GF
23285  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: September 17, 2008, 01:34:28 PM
Michelle's Princeton thesis:  http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/thesis.asp
23286  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 17, 2008, 12:40:06 PM
Once again I acknowledge the logic of your point and once again I invite you to address the underlying question about sharia being the camel's nose inside the tent for something seditious.
23287  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: September 17, 2008, 12:35:40 PM
Return of the Keating Five

For a second day in a row, Barack Obama has added references to the 1980s savings and loan scandal as a way of highlighting why John McCain isn't capable of addressing the crisis in financial markets. That Mr. McCain was embroiled in the S&L meltdown as a player in the "Keating Five" scandal is well known to Obama aides.

"When we loosened restrictions on savings and loans and appointed regulators who ignored even these weaker rules, too many S&Ls took advantage of the lax rules set by Washington to gamble that they could make big money in speculative real estate," Mr. Obama told audiences yesterday. "Confident of their clout in Washington, they made hundreds of billions in bad loans, knowing that if they lost money, the government would bail them out. And they were right. The gambles did not pay off, our economy went into recession, and the taxpayers ended up footing the bill. Does that sound familiar?"

Mr. Obama went on to say Mr. McCain's new support for regulation should be contrasted with his "scornful attitude towards oversight and enforcement. . . . John McCain has shown time and again that he doesn't believe" in regulation.

While he didn't specifically tie Mr. McCain to the Keating Five scandal, you can bet other Democrats and outside groups will. In the late 1980s, Mr. McCain was linked with four other senators who met with federal banking regulators in an effort to aid financier Charles Keating, a major campaign contributor. Mr. Keating's S&L empire later collapsed and he spent time in prison.

The scandal ended the careers of Democratic Senators Alan Cranston, Don Riegle and Dennis DeConcini. Two others, Democrat John Glenn and Mr. McCain, were judged less culpable and won re-election. Mr. McCain was found to have used "poor judgment" by the Senate Ethics Committee, and the experience launched his efforts to reform the campaign finance laws that ultimately became the McCain-Feingold law.

While his allies will no doubt bring up the Keating Five scandal, Mr. Obama is likely to remain above the fray on that issue. He has his own vulnerabilities, having received $9.9 million in contributions from the financial services industry. He is also the third-largest recipient of political contributions from the home mortgage giant Fannie Mae, which was recently taken over by the government.

-- John Fund

What's to Debate?

Barack Obama came under unusually tough questioning from ABC's Chris Cuomo this week. The "Good Morning America" co-host challenged the Democratic candidate on why he ducked an offer from the McCain campaign for a series of town hall meetings with voters in addition to the normal trio of debates.

"You're saying the issues are all that matter here," Mr. Cuomo told Mr. Obama during their interview on a train winding its way through Massachusetts. "Why don't you pick up the phone to him and say, 'What are you doing next week? How about Tuesday? How about Wednesday? How about Thursday? Let's get out there as much as possible, you and me and talk about what matters most?'"

Mr. Obama responded that the idea of town hall meetings "is a little bit of a gimmick" and that he had agreed to do three debates in coming weeks. When asked why there wouldn't be more, Mr. Obama responded with impatience, "Listen, I've gone through 22. . . . Nobody's debated more than I have."

What Mr. Obama didn't note is that the Democratic debates he referred to were almost completely taken up by discussions of which Democratic candidate could best take the fight to Republicans. Issue differences -- save for a dispute between Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton over whether government should mandate that an individual buy health insurance -- were conspicuous for their absence. "We were primarily concerned with explaining to Democratic primary voters why each of us would be the best candidate to represent their values in the fall election," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said last spring.

If Mr. Obama really believes that his political philosophy and proposals were challenged during those debates, he attended a different set of encounters than the other candidates did.

-- John Fund

Congratulations, You're in Private Equity!

Politicians in Washington may have to stop sliming hedge fund and private equity operators -- because now they're one.

The Treasury owns warrants for 80% of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's equity, and the Fed just took a similar position in AIG. These highly leveraged "bailouts" -- Washington has yet to put in any real cash -- may be controversial now but could be huge political winners when they pay off. The profits are potentially enormous and potentially a sure thing -- since Washington influences the competitive and regulatory environment for the businesses its owns.

In fact, Washington hardly has to put up cash at all -- just breathe a hint about whether it wishes the share price well or ill. As Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson explained to CNBC's Maria Bartiromo after the Fannie and Freddie operation: "There are a number of reasonable cases where even the existing shareholders will end up having their stock price come back."

Translation: The now-minority shareholders would be wise to shut up about the force majeure takeover and enjoy the ride if they know what's good for them.

Wall Street must be disgusted at how it's been outdone by Washington. Private buyout operators obviously don't have the privilege of dictating that their quarries are insolvent or at what price they'll be taken over. AIG shareholders in particular must be scratching their heads at all the whacks their fundamentally solvent company has taken from politicians in the past three years -- and now the politicians own it.

Why, it almost sounds like . . . Russia under Vladimir Putin. AIG's Hank Greenberg perhaps should strike up a correspondence with Mikhail Khodorkovsky (if he can find the address of the jail he's in) to compare notes.

-- Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

Democratic Breakdown in Upstate New York

The open seat of retiring Republican Congressman Tom Reynolds was supposed to be ripe for a Democratic pickup this year. Mr. Reynolds won by just four points in his last re-election campaign against self-funded millionaire Jack Davis. In a presidential year, the Dems especially liked their chances.

But last week, Mr. Davis lost his bid to take a third run at Mr. Reynolds's seat. In a bruising three-way primary with Iraq war veteran Jon Powers and a little-known lawyer named Alice Kryzan, Ms. Kryzan pulled out a surprise victory after Messrs. Powers and Davis expended all their energy attacking each other. The Democratic Party establishment, which had unified behind Mr. Powers, now finds itself in a bind. Mr. Powers is still on the ballot on the Working Families Party line. A week after his defeat, though, he still won't say whether he'll step aside in favor of Ms. Kryzan, only that he is still "deciding how best to proceed."

That, in turn, puts the diminutive Working Families Party in an awkward position. It has already announced that it will support Ms. Kryzan in November, even though Mr. Powers will remain its candidate on the ballot.

All this is good news for the Republican candidate, business executive Christopher Lee, Mr. Reynolds's anointed successor. Even though President Bush won the upstate district by 12 points in 2004, Mr. Lee was facing an uphill battle thanks to Mr. Reynolds' ties to the scandal-tarred former Republican majority. But serendipity has arrived. He now faces an underfunded Democrat who could see her support siphoned off by Mr. Powers' presence on the ballot. Call it one more way that Election 2008 isn't going according to script for the Democrats.

-- Brian M. Carney

Terminator 4: Arnold Versus the Republicans

"Arnold has lost his mind." That's what one long-time GOP budget aide in California told me in response to news that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will veto the state budget.

Everyone is confused by this latest action, because just a few weeks ago the governor was running around the state insisting on a tax increase to balance the budget. Now that conservative Republicans have won a major victory in forcing the majority Democrats to pass a no-tax-increase version, Arnold seethes that he wants a budget that puts "our fiscal house in order, and I promise the people of California that I will not stop until the job is done."

The problem is that Arnold doesn't have any allies left in the legislature in either party. Conservatives are still fuming for good reason that Arnold tried to ram a tax increase through by going into Republican districts to attack lawmakers in his own party who wouldn't vote for his tax hike. When Republicans in the state assembly tried to insist on a hard spending cap, Arnold was cutting deals with Democrats. Meanwhile, Democrats are angry they didn't get a tax increase or the big spending increases they wanted.

But the budget that Arnold will veto is a victory of sorts for taxpayers and conservatives know it. That's because the budget, three months overdue, does not include a sales tax or income tax increase to close a $15 billion budget deficit. Heroically, Republicans neither bent nor broke and effectively vetoed the tax increase plan the Democrats and their left wing interest groups coveted.

One hero here was House Minority Leader Mike Villines, who convinced his GOP caucus to rally behind the "no new taxes" position despite a big lobbying campaign by the media and recipients of government spending and the governor. "We're all taxed out in California," Mr. Villines tells me. "We all agreed that taxes would be counterproductive, because we are losing so many businesses and families to low tax states in the West."

But now along comes Arnold trying to recreate himself as a fiscal conservative. Many in the state think he's a budgetary Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. Mr. Villines points out that state spending has risen more than 40% in four years on Arnold's watch. Where was the concern then about "putting the fiscal house in order?" Senate Republicans, including the minority leader Dave Cogdill, are vowing to override the governor's veto.

Arnold has betrayed Republicans too often on too many issues -- taxes, environmental regulation, health care, global warming -- to have any credibility left. His budget veto comes years too late and billions of dollars short.

-- Stephen Moore
23288  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: September 17, 2008, 11:20:45 AM
Recommended in the highest terms as a place to go REGULARLY:

http://scottgrannis.blogspot.com/
23289  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 17, 2008, 10:34:27 AM
JDN:

Now that GM has acknowledged your point, is there anything in what he has posted that you wish to acknowledge?

"Marc, i am not defending Islam's treatment of women; I unequivocally do not approve.  But then I do not approve of truly terrible treatment of women in Africa, some places in Asia, and also, I find appalling the amount of domestic violence in this country.  No one is immune.  For example, among those sworn to protect us, domestic violence among police officers is 2 to 4 times the national average and many incidents do not even get reported.  I was raised that you simply do not/ever strike a woman; period."

Two points here:

1) In the comparisons you mention, violence against women is not specifically called for/permitted by God.

2)  There is GM's larger point wherein these sharia courts are specifically part of a larger cause to establish Sharia and Islam for all. 
23290  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton on: September 17, 2008, 09:45:21 AM

"[T]he present Constitution is the standard to which we are to
cling. Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political
foes - rejecting all changes but through the channel itself
provides for amendments."

-- Alexander Hamilton (letter to James Bayard, April 1802)

Reference: Selected Writings and Speeches of Alexander Hamilton,
Frisch, ed. (511)
23291  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: September 16, 2008, 11:09:33 PM
Now THIS is a rant!!!

http://www.atlah.org/broadcast/ndnr09-03-08.html

ROTFLMAO!
23292  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's eligiblility for Pres. challenged in court on: September 16, 2008, 11:03:59 PM

Attached is a .pdf of the motions filed.  I did a quick search and found this story.  Here's the link if you want to see it yourself: http://www.obamacrimes.com/index.php/component/content/article/1-main/1-philip-j-berg-esq-files-federal-lawsuit-requesting-obama-be-removed-as-a-candidate-as-he-does-not-meet-the-qualifications-for-president

all the best,
jvs



Philip J. Berg, Esq. Files Federal Lawsuit Requesting Obama Be Removed as a Candidate as he does not meet the Qualifications for President
Thursday, 21 August 2008 23:09 administrator
 
For Immediate Release: - 08/21/08

Suit filed 08/21/08, No. 08-cv-4083
Contact information at the end of this press release. Documents filed with the court and a copy of this press release can be downloaded at the end of this press release.

(Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania – 08/21/08) - Philip J. Berg, Esquire, [Berg is a former Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania; former candidate for Governor and U.S. Senate in Democratic Primaries; former Chair of the Democratic Party in Montgomery County; former member of Democratic State Committee; an attorney with offices in Montgomery County, PA and an active practice in Philadelphia, PA, filed a lawsuit in Federal Court today, Berg vs. Obama, Civil Action No. 08-cv-4083, seeking a Declaratory Judgment and an Injunction that Obama does not meet the qualifications to be President of the United States. Berg filed this suit for the best interests of the Democratic Party and the citizens of the United States.

1. Where was Obama born? Hawaii; an island off of Hawaii; Kenya; Canada; or ?

2. Was he a citizen of Kenya, Indonesia and/or Canada?

3. What was the early childhood of Obama in Hawaii; in Kenya; in Indonesia when he was adopted; and later, back to Hawaii?

4. An explanation as to the various names utilized by Obama that include: Barack Hussein Obama; Barry Soetoro; Barry Obama; Barack Dunham; and Barry Dunham.

5. Illinois Bar Application – Obama fails to acknowledge use of names other than Barack Hussein Obama, a blatant lie.

If Obama can prove U.S. citizenship, we still have the issue of muti-citizenship with responsibilities owed to and allegance to other countries.

Berg continued:

“Eighteen million Democratic Primary voters donated money, volunteered their time and energy, worked very hard and then not only supported Senator Clinton, but voted for her and often recruited other supporters as well. All the efforts of supporters of legitimate citizens were for nothing because this man lied and cheated his way into a fraudulent candidacy and cheated legitimately eligible natural born citizens from competing in a fair process and the supporters of their citizen choice for the nomination.

Voters donated money, goods and services to elect a nominee and were defrauded by Senator Obama's lies and obfuscations. He clearly shows a conscience of guilt by his actions in using the forged birth certificate and the lies he's told to cover his loss of citizenship. We believe he does know, supported this belief by his actions in hiding his secret, in that he failed to regain his citizenship and used documents to further his position as a natural born citizen. We would also show he proclaims himself a Constitutional scholar and lecturer, but did not learn he had no eligibility to become President except by means of lying, obfuscations and deceptions. His very acts proves he knew he was no longer a natural born citizen. We believe he knew he was defrauding the country or else why use the forged birth certificate of his half sister?

Americans lost money, goods and services donated in their support of a candidate who supposedly was a natural born citizen simply because the DNC officers and party leaders looked the other way and did not demand credentials to answer the questions and prove whether or not Senator Obama was a legitimately natural born citizen, even in light of recent information that has surfaced on websites on the Internet suggesting Senator Obama may not be eligible to become President and questioning his status of multiple citizenships and questionable loyalties! If the DNC officers and.or leaders had performed one ounce of due diligence we would not find ourselves in this emergency predicament, one week away from making a person the nominee who has lost their citizenship as a child and failed to even perform the basic steps of regaining citizenship through an oath of allegiance at age eighteen [18] as prescribed by Constitutional laws!

The injunctrive relief must be granted because failing to do so, this inaction defrauds everyone who voted in the Democratic Primary for a nominee that is a fair representation of the voters. Failure to grant injunctive relief would allow a corrupted, fraudulent nomination process to continue. It not only allows, but promotes an overwhelming degree of disrespect and creates such a lack of confidence in voters of the primary process itself, so that it would cement a prevailing belief that no potential candidate has to obey the laws of this country, respect our election process, follow the Constitution, or even suffer any consequence for lying and defrauding voters to get onto the ballot when they have no chance of serving if they fraudulently manage to get elected! It is unfair to the country for candidates of either party to become the nominee when there is any question of their ability to serve if elected.

All judges are lawyers and held to a higher standard of practice than a regular lawyer. It is this Judicial standard that demands injunctive relief prayed for here. This relief is predicated upon one of the most basic premises of practicing law which states no lawyer can allow themselves to be used in furthering a criminal enterprise. And by that gauge alone, failing to give injunctive relief to the 18 million supporters of the other candidate, a true natural born citizen eligible to serve if elected, this court must not allow itself to be used to further the criminal and fraudulent acts to continue and be rewarded by becoming the Democratic Nominee. Failure to give the injunctive relief prayed for will insure that a corrupted Presidential election process will only guarantee a show of unfair preference of one group of people over another group by not demanding the same rules be applied to all groups equally and fairly, especially in light of the fact that both candidates are each considered a minority.

Philip J. Berg, Esquire
555 Andorra Glen Court, Suite 12
Lafayette Hill, PA 19444-2531
Cell (610) 662-3005
(610) 825-3134
(800) 993-PHIL [7445]
Fax (610) 834-7659
philjberg@obamacrimes.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

# # #

Attachments: File Description File size
Complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief   142 Kb
Memorandum in support of temporary restraining order This document contains a complete narrative of the facts. 164 Kb
Plaintiff's motion for temporary restraining order Plaintiff's motion for temporary restraining order 108 Kb
Temporary Restraining Order   79 Kb
 ObamaCrimes Press Release 200820821 Press Release 20080821 Announcing the filing of Obama qualifications Lawsuit  45 Kb

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23293  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 16, 2008, 10:56:13 PM
GM:

JDN's linear logic seems correct to me and his point fairly made.

JDN:

Although it is sure to make many of us uncomfortable, GM's point about Islam seems reasonably made to me as well.  Because Islam seeks theocracy, to treat it as simply another religion raises profound problems because as best as I can tell many of its tenets are inherently seditious to core Western political principles such as (to put it in American terms) pursuit of happiness, freedom of choice, freedom of speech, equality of the sexes in front of the law and separation of church and state.  I can readily understand GM's concern at any expansion of Sharia.  Is there anything in what he says that you can acknowledge?

Marc
23294  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: September 16, 2008, 08:58:20 PM
"Why it’s a bad idea: Obama was right in July when he said that the strategic oil reserve “has to be reserved for a genuine emergency.” Selling oil from the 700 million barrel reserve would increase domestic supply and could drive down prices in the short term, but encouraging consumers to use more oil isn’t going to fix anything. And depleting the reserve would leave the United States vulnerable to a supply disruption caused by a natural disaster or further unrest in the Middle East. Obama swapped common sense for this dangerous boondoggle in August after McCain started to hammer him on offshore drilling. So much for tough truths."

I had a conversation once with someone who worked on the SPR and he said that you can only empty and refill the caverns but so many times (6?) without them degrading.
23295  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: September 16, 2008, 06:05:43 PM
That's very funny BBG.
23296  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sarah and Hillary together!!! on: September 16, 2008, 05:59:41 PM
http://video.google.com:80/videoplay?docid=1592171482172108406
23297  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: September 16, 2008, 09:35:23 AM
McCain, Obama Confront the Market
By NICK TIMIRAOS and ELIZABETH HOLMESArticle
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. -- The U.S. banking crisis is shaking up the presidential race as well as the agenda of the next president, forcing both candidates to confront a financial calamity.

John McCain and Barack Obama jockeyed to seize an advantage on the financial crisis, signaling how Wall Street's troubles have become a bigger concern on Main Street. The candidates wrapped the market instability into broader campaign themes but found themselves wrestling on unfamiliar territory. Republican candidate Sen. McCain pointed to his credentials cleaning up Washington's excesses while Democratic candidate Sen. Obama blamed the crisis on Washington's deregulatory bent over the past three decades.

Both candidates blamed Wall Street greed and special-interest influences in Washington. "We've seen self-interest, greed, irresponsibility and corruption undermine these hard-working American people," Sen. McCain said at a rally in Orlando, Fla., where he promised to "put an end...to running Wall Street like a casino." He offered no specific prescriptions but did call for ending "multimillion-dollar payouts to CEOs that have broken the public trust."

Sen. McCain pushed the need for an updated regulatory system, a cry he began this spring. "And there's an alphabet soup of different agencies, and they have to be streamlined, they have to be consolidated, and they have to be effective," he said. "Those regulators have been asleep at the switch, and we've got to fix it." Sen. McCain also promised he wouldn't use taxpayers' dollars to solve the problem.

Sen. Obama singled out the Bush administration's deregulatory push for what he described as "the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression." While Sen. McCain wasn't at fault, he said, "I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to...one that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down."

While the candidates and their running mates focused on the financial crisis Monday, all four found themselves in unfamiliar territory. Sen. McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, have little experience dealing with financial crises, and neither do Sen. Obama or his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, whose expertise is in foreign affairs.

Sen. McCain's campaign pointed out that the senator had talked with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for "seven to 10 minutes" and contacted his economic team, including former Hewlett-Packard Co. head Carly Fiorina. Sen. Obama said he spoke about the market turmoil Monday morning with his economic team, including former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers.

Regardless of who wins the election, the crisis will further constrain the next president, sapping time and money from proposals on health care and tax relief. Both sides have promised more regulation of financial institutions and more transparency for investors. Sen. McCain has called for tougher measures to overhaul Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Sen. McCain Monday stressed the importance of allowing homeowners to refinance their mortgages, saying that the financial markets couldn't stabilize until the housing market found a bottom.

In a March speech on financial-market overhaul, Sen. Obama called for extending commercial-banking regulations to investment banks, hedge funds and mortgage brokers. He called for a commission that would monitor threats to the financial system. He said deregulation that culminated in 1999 with a partial repeal of the 1930s' Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated investment banks and commercial banks, had been driven by lobbyists and was intended primarily to facilitate mergers.

Neither candidate backed a government rescue deal for Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. over the weekend. But each offered few specifics about what they would do. "We are going to have a lot of rebuilding to do," Sen. Obama said at a rally in Colorado.

The McCain campaign released a new ad Monday to capture the mantle of reform by promising tough changes to "protect your life savings."

Sen. McCain promised to overhaul the regulatory system. Among the problems Sen. McCain has identified, according to policy head Doug Holtz-Eakin, is the lack of a clearing house for derivatives so investors know the risks they entail; the lack of accountability for mortgage brokers; and the overall lack of capital backing in the system.

Both candidates had rushed to address the need for regulatory overhaul in March after the collapse of Bear Stearns Cos., but until the government was forced to backstop Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac last week, the financial crisis was viewed as a problem that concerned Wall Street bankers but not rank-and-file workers.
23298  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The WSJ compares McC and BO on: September 16, 2008, 09:22:44 AM
Studies Detail Contrasts in Rivals' Health-Care Plans
Obama's Proposal Would Insure More but at Higher Cost
By LAURA MECKLERArticle
   
WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential candidate John McCain's health-care plan would make only a small dent in the ranks of the uninsured, at best covering about five million more people, two new reports conclude.

Democratic nominee Barack Obama would cover more people -- eventually adding about 34 million, according to one of those reports, by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

 
Barack Obama
Sen. Obama's plan would be costly, the center concluded: $1.6 trillion over 10 years. Sen. McCain's would cost nearly as much: $1.3 trillion over the same span. The center doesn't give either campaign credit for initiatives to reduce the cost of health care.

The advantages of the McCain plan, according to the reports, are less government regulation, a more generous tax break and, for many, more flexibility and choice in where to buy coverage.

The Tax Policy Center called its estimates for both plans preliminary because neither campaign has put out enough information to provide a full evaluation.  Similarly, a pair of studies analyzing the candidates' plans, being published Tuesday in Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed policy journal, found many details lacking.  But the campaigns have made clear what direction they would take the health-care system. The differences provide a sharp contrast for voters.

Neither plan would offer universal coverage, though Sen. Obama regularly says his would. Critics of each plan suggest the other would erode the employer-based system that currently covers some 170 million people.

The reports shed new light on the potential and the problems of each plan.

THE OBAMA PLAN:
Sen. Obama would give consumers more options, but he would increase federal regulations.

He would create a new government-run plan as well as an "exchange" in which private companies would offer insurance to compete with the government plan. New rules would require that insurance companies provide coverage to everyone, at consistent prices, even those with existing ailments. Parents would be required to cover their children, and large employers would be required to cover their workers or pay a fine.

It amounts to a significant amount of new regulation, health experts Joseph Antos, Gail Wilensky and Hanns Kuttner write in Health Affairs.

"Each of these [new rules] extends the control of government over health insurance, imposing new requirements that will drive up the cost of insurance," they write.

The government-run plan would set a minimum standard for benefits that private plans would have to meet, they explain. Politically, there will be pressure to include generous benefits, they say, and that will lead to high premiums, leaving few options for those who want cheaper, more basic coverage.

 It is likely that companies would be required to offer the same generous benefits to their workers, they say -- another increase in government regulation.  Still, the impact on the uninsured is significant. Overall, the Tax Policy Center predicts that the Obama plan would reduce the number of uninsured by 18 million people in the first year and by 34 million in 10 years.

THE McCAIN PLAN:
Sen. McCain would reduce both state and federal regulations and give consumers more choices about where to buy health insurance.

Current law offers a tax break only to those who get insurance through their jobs. The McCain plan would give a refundable tax credit to all who find coverage: $2,500 per person or $5,000 per family. In trade, workers would pay income taxes on the value of health insurance as part of their compensation.

But, unlike a similar plan put forth by President George W. Bush last year, health benefits still would be exempt from the payroll tax paid by workers and employers, and that is why the McCain plan is more expensive than Mr. Bush's, said Len Burman, director of the Tax Policy Center.  Because people could buy insurance on their own, some would leave the employer-sponsored system, especially young and healthy people who can get a better deal on their own. Older, sicker people are likely to face problems buying coverage.

Overall, the Tax Policy Center and the four academics writing in Health Affairs project that about 20 million would leave employer-sponsored coverage, while about 21 million people would be newly covered on the open market. That is a net increase of about one million insured people.

"Many employers would be quick to drop health benefits in response to a major policy change, such as the McCain plan, that greatly altered the business case for offering benefits," the article concludes. The Tax Policy Center projects that the number of newly insured Americans could climb in future years and perhaps reach five million people before dropping again.

The Health Affairs article, whose lead author is Thomas Buchmueller of the University of Michigan, finds other problems with the McCain plan. Because administrative costs are higher on the open market, where insurers evaluate customers individually, he predicts that coverage would be more expensive but less generous.

The McCain plan would allow consumers to buy insurance across state lines. That would give people more choices, but it also would undermine state laws that mandate certain benefits and provide various consumer protections.

Write to Laura Meckler at laura.meckler@wsj.com

23299  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: September 16, 2008, 08:28:30 AM
"The freedom and happiness of man...[are] the sole objects of
all legitimate government."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Thaddeus Kosciusko, 1810)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Lipscomb and Bergh,
eds., 12:369.
23300  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO on: September 16, 2008, 08:17:08 AM
For those of us who have had quite enough of lipsticked pigs and the politics of personality, here is an effort at discussing the issues from BO's team posting at the WSJ

Why Obama's Health Plan Is Better
By DAVID M. CUTLER, J. BRADFORD DELONG and ANN MARIE MARCIARILLEArticle
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The big threat to growth in the next decade is not oil or food prices, but the rising cost of health care. The doubling of health insurance premiums since 2000 makes employers choose between cutting benefits and hiring fewer workers.

Rising health costs push total employment costs up and wages and benefits down. The result is lost profits and lost wages, in addition to pointless risk, insecurity and a flood of personal bankruptcies.

 
APSustained growth thus requires successful health-care reform. Barack Obama and John McCain propose to lead us in opposite directions -- and the Obama direction is far superior.

Sen. Obama's proposal will modernize our current system of employer- and government-provided health care, keeping what works well, and making the investments now that will lead to a more efficient medical system. He does this in five ways:

- Learning. One-third of medical costs go for services at best ineffective and at worst harmful. Fifty billion dollars will jump-start the long-overdue information revolution in health care to identify the best providers, treatments and patient management strategies.

- Rewarding. Doctors and hospitals today are paid for performing procedures, not for helping patients. Insurers make money by dumping sick patients, not by keeping people healthy. Mr. Obama proposes to base Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals and doctors on patient outcomes (lower cholesterol readings, made and kept follow-up appointments) in a coordinated effort to focus the entire payment system around better health, not just more care.

- Pooling. The Obama plan would give individuals and small firms the option of joining large insurance pools. With large patient pools, a few people incurring high medical costs will not topple the entire system, so insurers would no longer need to waste time, money and resources weeding out the healthy from the sick, and businesses and individuals would no longer have to subject themselves to that costly and stressful process.

- Preventing. In today's health-care market, less than one dollar in 25 goes for prevention, even though preventive services -- regular screenings and healthy lifestyle information -- are among the most cost-effective medical services around. Guaranteeing access to preventive services will improve health and in many cases save money.

- Covering. Controlling long-run health-care costs requires removing the hidden expenses of the uninsured. The reforms described above will lower premiums by $2,500 for the typical family, allowing millions previously priced out of the market to afford insurance.

In addition, tax credits for those still unable to afford private coverage, and the option to buy in to the federal government's benefits system, will ensure that all individuals have access to an affordable, portable alternative at a price they can afford.

Given the current inefficiencies in our system, the impact of the Obama plan will be profound. Besides the $2,500 savings in medical costs for the typical family, according to our research annual business-sector costs will fall by about $140 billion. Our figures suggest that decreasing employer costs by this amount will result in the expansion of employer-provided health insurance to 10 million previously uninsured people.

We know these savings are attainable: other countries have them today. We spend 40% more than other countries such as Canada and Switzeraland on health care -- nearly $1 trillion -- but our health outcomes are no better.

The lower cost of benefits will allow employers to hire some 90,000 low-wage workers currently without jobs because they are currently priced out of the market. It also would pull one and a half million more workers out of low-wage low-benefit and into high-wage high-benefit jobs. Workers currently locked into jobs because they fear losing their health benefits would be able to move to entrepreneurial jobs, or simply work part time.

In contrast, Sen. McCain, who constantly repeats his no-new-taxes promise on the campaign trail, proposes a big tax hike as the solution to our health-care crisis. His plan would raise taxes on workers who receive health benefits, with the idea of encouraging their employers to drop coverage. A study conducted by University of Michigan economist Tom Buchmueller and colleagues published in the journal Health Affairs suggests that the McCain tax hike will lead employers to drop coverage for over 20 million Americans.

What would happen to these people? Mr. McCain will give them a small tax credit, $5,000 for a family and $2,500 for an individual, and tell them to navigate the individual insurance market on their own.

For middle- and lower-income people, the credits are way too small. They are less than half the cost of policies today ($12,000 on average for a family), and are far below the 75% that most employers offering coverage contribute. Further, their value would erode over time, as the credit increases less rapidly than average premiums.

Those already sick are completely out of luck, as individual insurers are free to deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Mr. McCain has proposed a high-risk pool for the very sick, but has not put forward the money to make it work.

Even for those healthy enough to gain coverage in the individual insurance market, the screening, marketing and individual underwriting that insurers do to separate healthy from sick boosts premiums by 17% relative to employer-provided insurance, well beyond the help offered by the McCain tax credit.

The immediate consequences of the McCain plan are even worse. The McCain plan is a big tax increase on employers and workers. With the economy in recession, that's the last thing America's businesses need.

Finally, Mr. McCain does nothing to bend the curve of rising health-care costs downward. He does not fund investments in learning, rewarding and preventing. Eliminating state coverage requirements will slash preventive service availability.

The high cost-sharing plans he envisions will similarly discourage preventive care. And as he does nothing about the hidden costs of the uncovered -- expensive ER visits, recurring conditions resulting from inadequate follow-up care.

Everyone agrees our health-care financing system must change. But only one candidate, Barack Obama, has real change we can believe in.

Mr. Cutler is professor of economics at Harvard and an adviser to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Mr. DeLong is professor of economics at University of California, Berkeley. Ms. Marciarille is adjunct law professor at McGeorge School of Law.
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