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23401  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing Crisis Explained and Questions Answered on: March 10, 2011, 08:10:22 PM
a) I will take a look at Project Syndicate

b) We disagree substantially on Keynesianism, but this is not the thread for that conversation.  I will grant that by itself Keynesianism is not economic fascism, but submit the proposition that it is being used by progressives for that purpose.  I'm not sure to what you 3, 5, and 7% numbers refer,

c) "Yes you would make your debt bigger, only by the smallest of margins".  Forgive me, but this is factually profoundly inaccurate.

d) The Stiglitz piece is mostly correct-- and quite unKeynesian wink  I would quibble on this though:

"while free-market ideology dissuaded regulators from intervening to stop reckless lending."

Not quite.  The reckless lending was multiplied immeasurably by the Federal Government, via mortage the guarantees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, (and also the legal pressures to lend to the unqualified of the Community Reinvestment Act.)  This is a fundamental point without which no analysis is complete.  See the other housing thread nearby for extensive discussion of all this.


"Securitization – putting large numbers of mortgages together to be sold to pension funds and investors around the world – worked only because there were rating agencies that were trusted to ensure that mortgage loans were given to people who would repay them. Today, no one will or should trust the rating agencies, or the investment banks that purveyed flawed products (sometimes designing them to lose money)."

Again, this leaves out the fundamental role of the Federal Government's Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Lets continue this on another thread more suited to our conversation.

23402  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yet more on the BATF sting operation on: March 10, 2011, 04:58:35 PM

Grassley Requests Investigation of ATF’s Fast and Furious Policy be Removed from the Justice Department Inspector General

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today said that he did not have confidence that the Justice Department Inspector General’s office could produce a report that the public would view as frank and unbiased in its investigation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) policy of letting guns “walk” along the Southwest border—a policy that may have contributed to the death of a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent.

In a letter today to Kevin Perkins, the head of the Integrity Committee of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, Grassley cited several conflicts that lead him to believe that the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Justice cannot be seen as completely disinterested and independent.

“There are certainly better and more independent ways to conduct this investigation. To have an acting Inspector General’s office lead an investigation like this one just won’t pass the smell test,” Grassley said. “The fact that the Inspector General did not take this whistleblower’s allegations seriously enough to even call him back raises a lot of red flags for me.”

Grassley’s concerns outlined in his letter are:

1. The Inspector General position at the Justice Department is currently vacant. Any acting Inspector General is ill-equipped to take on an entrenched bureaucracy and challenge senior officials with tough questions.

2. The Justice Department Inspector General’s office was made aware of the allegations brought forward by ATF Agent John Dodson shortly after Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death. The Inspector General failed to respond to Dodson’s numerous attempts to contact the office until Grassley’s staff notified the office.

3. ATF officials have cited an Office of the Inspector General report as one of the factors that prompted the shift to a riskier strategy of letting guns be trafficked rather than arresting straw buyers.

Grassley began looking into allegations brought forward by Dodson, and more than a dozen other ATF agents, after the Justice Department Inspector General failed to investigate. The agents indicated that their supervisors kept them from stopping gun traffickers with the normal techniques that had been successfully used for years. They instead were ordered to only watch and continue gathering information on traffickers instead of arresting them as soon as they could. In the meantime, the guns were allowed to fall into the hands of the bad guys even as agents told supervisors that it could not end well. Many of the guns have subsequently been found in firefights along the border, including a December 14, 2010 firefight where Terry was killed.

Grassley’s requests for information have gone unanswered about what transpired at the ATF and the Department of Justice during the time when Terry was killed and the policies instituted during Project Gunrunner that allowed guns to be sold to known straw purchasers and moved across the border without intervention.
23403  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Democratic Socialism on: March 10, 2011, 04:44:16 PM
Democratic Socialism
Political Consequence of the Looming Debt Bomb Shockwave
"I place economy among the first and most important virtues and public debt as the greatest dangers to be feared." --Thomas Jefferson

Socialist EvolutionParaphrasing the noted economist and philosopher F.A. Hayek, Future Freedom Foundation President Jacob Hornberger wrote, "There is no difference in principle, between the economic philosophy of Nazism, socialism, communism, and fascism and that of the American welfare state and regulated economy."

Not only is there no economic distinction between socialist systems in different political wrappers, ultimately there is no consequential societal distinction between Marxist Socialism, Nationalist Socialism, or the most recent incarnation of this beast, Democratic Socialism. The conclusion of socialism by any name, once it has replaced Rule of Law with the rule of men, is tyranny.

Noted Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, no stranger to the consequences of statism, wrote, "Socialism of any type leads to a total destruction of the human spirit."

Democratic Socialism, like Nationalist Socialism, is nothing more than Marxist Socialism repackaged. Likewise, it seeks a centrally planned economy directed by a single-party state that controls economic production by way of regulation and income redistribution. The success of Democrat Socialism depends upon supplanting Essential Liberty -- the rights "endowed by our Creator" -- primarily by refuting such endowment.

So what do these observations have to do with the current state of economic and political affairs in our great nation? Unfortunately, more than most Americans currently realize.

However discomforting this fact might be, there is abundant and irrefutable evidence that Barack Hussein Obama and his socialist cadre are endeavoring to "fundamentally transform the United States of America" by planting a debt bomb, the future shockwave of which, they surmise, will break the back of free enterprise. From the ashes of that cataclysm, Obama and his ilk envision restructuring our nation as the USSA.

If you think such assertions are just rhetorical hyperbole, think harder.

As the direct result of Obama's "economic recovery plan," the central government budget forecast for the current fiscal year includes a historic $1.65 trillion deficit. Given the economic consequences of continued growth in unfunded government spending (including ObamaCare), the potential inflation on our immediate horizon (prompted primarily by increasing energy costs), and diminished confidence in the U.S. dollar, the deficit proportion of fiscal-year 2012's $3.73 trillion budget will set yet another appalling record.

More perilous for consumers is the potential for "stagflation," a remnant from the Carter era that combines static or decreasing wages (stagnant economic growth) with increasing commodity prices (inflation).

In February alone, Obama's central government accrued a record $223 billion deficit for one month. To put this in perspective, that single-month deficit exceeds the entire 2007 budget deficit under George W. Bush -- you know, the one that was Demo-gogued during the 2008 campaign cycle.

Republicans scraped together a few more cuts for their feeble $61 billion in proposed 2011 budget reductions, but Obama and his Senate Democrats declared they would approve only $4.7 billion in additional cuts. "Do we want jobs?" asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). "If we do, then we simply cannot pass the plan the Tea Party has already pushed through the House."

Indeed, the Senate voted down the House budget, which was to be expected. Reid went so far as to declare it "mean-spirited." Obama's Senate protagonist, John Kerry, defined the meager Republican cuts as an "ideological, extremist, reckless statement" that "would contribute to the reversal of our recovery. It might even destroy our recovery."

Since Democrats have lambasted and voted against any cuts proposed by Republicans, the Republican "leadership" should stand true to last fall's elections and propose those deep cuts promised on the campaign trail.

What is needed, if we're to have jobs in five years, is $4.7 billion in additional cuts for every day of this year's budget, and those that follow. There are budget solutions, but these require political courage and resolve, a rare commodity in our nation's Capital.

"Deficit spending," concluded Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (1987-2006), "is simply a scheme for the hidden confiscation of wealth." And that is precisely the prescription necessary to establish Democratic Socialism.

If the future shock of this debt bomb set by Obama and his Useful Idiots does not yet cause you considerable heartburn, consider the implication of these statistics: Of total U.S. wages and employee benefits paid in 2010, 35 percent were paid by the central government as wages, or in fulfillment of entitlement programs. Read that again and let it sink in.

In 1960, wages and entitlement program distributions by the central government were 10 percent of total U.S wages and benefits. Over the next 40 years, that figure doubled to 20 percent. In just one decade since, that figure has increased to 35 percent, with the baby boomer wave yet to fully draw on government income and social services. This explains, in part, why federal spending has increased from $1.86 trillion in 2001 to $3.82 this year. Social welfare spending alone has increased by $514 billion since Obama took office.

Some 8 percent of the total work force is government employed, which is to say that the remaining 27 percent of government wages and benefits doled out by the welfare state is the foundation for Democratic Socialism.

Both political parties are resorting to tired old political formulas when asked about the challenge of balancing the national budget. Both suggest that it will take more than a decade -- a pathetic excuse that we have heard for decades. (As for those claims of surpluses in the Clinton years resulting from the economic growth set in motion during the Reagan years: not so when one takes into account the Social Security "lock box IOUs.")

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) concludes, "It is very difficult to balance the budget within 10 years without cutting seniors' benefits now, and as I said before, our vision of entitlement reform will protect today's seniors and those nearing retirement."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) insists, "We're not going to [have a balanced budget] in 10 years, but we have to be on a very considered path to get there, certainly, within the next decade and a half or two decades."

Any pretense that Obama has any intention of balancing the budget is spurious, as the smallest estimated annual deficit that his budget will run during the next decade is $615 billion.

Meanwhile, he continues to recycle these prevarications: "Not only were we able to yank this economy out of the recession, not only were we able to get this economy going again, but in the last 15 months we've seen the economy add jobs. We didn't just rescue the economy; we put it on the strongest footing for the future."

As it stands now, Congress is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends and our national debt is now at $14 trillion, which is about 97 percent of our nation's gross domestic product (economic production) in 2010.

So what are the political consequences when the money runs out, when the lenders withdraw, when the smoke clears and the mirrors shatter from the debt bomb shockwave?

Some will settle for the institution of Democratic Socialism.

However none should underestimate the potential groundswell of protest across our nation, composed primarily of legions of Patriots fully capable of intervening on behalf of the Rule of Law enshrined in our Constitution.

If those elected to national office, regardless of political affiliation, fail to abide by their oaths to Support and Defend our Constitution, particularly its limitations on the central government which have been disregarded for much of the last century, then we, the people, will restore the integrity of our Constitution, as is our right and obligation. Rest assured, there will come a time for choosing as outlined by Ronald Reagan, and that time must come.

One might recall that our Declaration of Independence and Constitution were the product of civil disobedience and revolution against a lesser form of tyranny than that imposed today. In the words of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, "The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

For those whom such notions offend, I offer these words of parting from Samuel Adams: "If ye love wealth better than Liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!"

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post

23404  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 3/28/11 Guro Crafty in Gardena on: March 10, 2011, 04:25:07 PM

DATE:   Monday, March 28, 2010
TIME:    6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
PLACE:  South Bay Jeet Kune Do Academy
             Nakaoka Community Center Auditorium
             1670 West 162nd Street
             Gardena, California
COST:   $25.00 cash only
CONTACT:  David Cheng at
TOPIC:  Stickgrappling and Short Stick/Palm Stick

Please bring a pair of escrima sticks and a palm stick/short stick.
23405  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / French outmacho BO on: March 10, 2011, 04:05:51 PM
The French government said on March 10 that it would recognize the Libyan National Transitional Council as the sole representative of the Libyan people. It will soon move its ambassador to Benghazi from Tripoli. This comes as French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he would call for airstrikes against Libyan forces at the March 11 EU Council meeting.

France has been one of the most vociferous supporters of a no-fly zone in Libya. However, the issue for French involvement is the capacity of Paris to enforce such a zone on its own. The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is the only aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea at the moment. However, its (around) 35 aircraft alone would be insufficient to set up the initial zone. Therefore, the question is: To what extent can France enforce the zone on its own?

The logic for the call to an intervention is largely a domestic one for Paris. Initially, France took a lot of criticism for how it responded to the wave of protests in Tunisia and Egypt. France’s then-Foreign Minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, took a lot of criticism not only for vacationing in Tunisia by flying in a private jet of a businessman close to the regime, but also for offering the regime help from French security forces in repressing its protesters three days before the Tunisian president fled the country. Sarkozy ultimately had to replace Alliot-Marie with veteran Alain Juppe. The replacement was a considerable embarrassment for Sarkozy and for the French government. Therefore, one aspect of the logic for France’s support of a no-fly zone is the compensatory for the earlier lack of clarity on French policy toward change in the Middle East.

Another reason for the support of the no-fly zone is, of course, the French role in EU affairs. With Germany’s rising clout in economic and political policy of the eurozone and the wider European Union, Paris wants to maintain its leadership in foreign affairs and any military initiatives of the Europeans. Therefore, leadership on this issue is very important for Paris. Furthermore, what aids Paris in its diplomatic push for a no-fly zone is an actual lack of interest in Libya.

That is not to say France has no interest in the country; it does import 10 percent of its oil from Libya. However, it has nowhere near the level of interest in Libya as its Mediterranean neighbor, Italy, has, which imports about 20-25 percent of its oil from the North African state. Therefore, France has less of a need to hedge its policy toward the Gadhafi regime. It can be far more forceful in supporting an intervention because it is not as worried as Italy about its energy assets and investments in Libya.

Ultimately, Paris understands that no one is going to ask France to enforce a no-fly zone on its own. It is comforted by the fact Germany and Italy are very carefully considering their steps, and France knows that it can essentially support an aggressive interventionist approach without being called to do it on its own. This gives France considerable liberty in how its treats the Libyan situation, and it allows Sarkozy to gain political points at home.

23406  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: March 10, 2011, 03:58:40 PM
VERY interesting CCP.

"Unknown and unannounced to the public, monies were indiscriminately withdrawn from the PFRS and used to pay for Whitman's tax cuts and to balance the state budget."

This caught my eye.  How can this be?

23407  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Saudi police fire on Protesters on: March 10, 2011, 03:49:07 PM
Red Alert: Saudi Police Fire On Protesters In Oil Hub
March 10, 2011 | 1946 GMT
Saudi police have reportedly opened gunfire on and launched stun grenades at several hundred protesters March 10 rallying in the heavily Shiite-populated city of Qatif in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province.

The decision to employ violence in this latest crackdown comes a day before Friday prayers, after which various Saudi opposition groups were planning to rally in the streets. Unrest has been simmering in the Saudi kingdom over the past couple weeks, with mostly Sunni youth, human rights activists and intellectuals in Riyadh and Jeddah campaigning for greater political freedoms, including the call for a constitutional monarchy. A so-called “Day of Rage” of protests across the country has been called for March 11 by Facebook groups Hanyn (Nostalgia) Revolution and the Free Youth Coalition following Friday prayers.

What is most critical to Saudi Arabia, however, is Shiite-driven unrest in the country’s Eastern Province. Shiite activists and clerics have become more vocal in recent weeks in expressing their dissent and have been attempting to dodge Saudi security forces. The Saudi regime has been cautious thus far, not wanting to inflame the protests with a violent crackdown but at the same time facing a growing need to demonstrate firm control.

Yet in watching Shiite unrest continue to simmer in the nearby island of Bahrain, the Saudi royals are growing increasingly concerned about the prospect of Shiite uprisings cascading throughout the Persian Gulf region, playing directly into the Iranian strategic interest of destabilizing its U.S.-allied Arab neighbors. By showing a willingness to use force early, the Saudi authorities are likely hoping they will be able to deter people from joining the protests, but such actions could just as easily embolden the protesters.

There is a strong potential for clashes to break out March 11 between Saudi security forces and protesters, particularly in the vital Eastern Province. Saudi authorities have taken tough security measures in the Shiite areas of the country by deploying about 15,000 national guardsmen to thwart the planned demonstrations by attempting to impose a curfew in critical areas. Energy speculators are already reacting to the heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf region, but unrest in cities like Qatif cuts directly to the source of the threat that is fueling market speculation: The major oil transit pipelines that supply the major oil port of Ras Tanura — the world’s largest, with a capacity of 5 million barrels per day — go directly through Qatif.

23408  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Scalia objects on: March 10, 2011, 11:08:27 AM
Maybe Prof Big Dog will comment?
One rough measure of how any Supreme Court term is going is to track the decibel level of Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissenting opinions. In a case last week, the question was whether statements made to the police by a shooting victim as he lay bleeding to death in the parking lot of a Detroit gas station were properly used at trial to obtain a murder conviction of the man he named as the gunman.

The court’s answer, by a vote of 6 to 2, was yes. Writing for the majority in the case, Michigan v. Bryant, Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained that what was all-important was the context in which the police-victim interaction occurred. Rather than trying to obtain a dying man’s testimony for later use in a courtroom, she said, the police were urgently investigating what they believed to be an “ongoing emergency,” someone with a gun on the loose on the streets of Detroit. Under that view of the facts, the victim’s statements were not “testimonial,” meaning that their use at trial did not violate the defendant’s right under the Sixth Amendment to “confront” an accuser who was unavailable for cross-examination.

That conclusion enraged Justice Scalia. Of course the police officers knew they were gathering evidence for potential use at trial, he objected, and to maintain otherwise was “so transparently false that professing to believe it demeans this institution.” With this decision, the Supreme Court “makes itself the obfuscator of last resort,” he complained. A “gross distortion of the facts,” “utter nonsense,” and “unprincipled” were a few of the other zingers the dyspeptic justice aimed at Justice Sotomayor’s opinion.

Granted, Justice Scalia has long been the court’s leading champion of a categorical view of the Sixth Amendment confrontation clause, one that admits of only the narrowest of exceptions to a defendant’s right to face his accuser. And no less than any other member of the court, Justice Scalia doesn’t like to lose. (The other dissenter, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, notably did not join Justice Scalia’s opinion, instead filing a bland two-paragraph one of her own. Justice Elena Kagan did not participate.) But what strategic sense could lead a justice to administer such a public thrashing to a junior colleague?

Antonin Scalia, approaching his 25th anniversary as a Supreme Court justice, has cast a long shadow but has accomplished surprisingly little.

.I was reminded of how, in a crucial abortion case years ago, Justice Scalia lashed out at Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for refusing to provide a fifth vote for an outcome that would have left Roe v. Wade a hollow shell. It was the Webster case in 1989. Justice Scalia was then only in his third term on the court. Justice O’Connor, the court’s only female member, had written critically of Roe v. Wade in earlier opinions. But she found this case an inappropriate vehicle for overturning the decision. When the right case came along, she said pointedly, “there will be time enough to re-examine Roe. And to do so carefully.”

With the result he desired having slipped from his grasp, a furious Justice Scalia wrote in a separate opinion that Justice O’Connor’s position was “irrational” and “cannot be taken seriously.” Would he have aimed those particular put-downs at a male colleague? Maybe. As the ensuing years have demonstrated, male colleagues, including Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., have not escaped Justice Scalia’s barbs. He recently described a majority opinion by Justice Alito as incoherent and as displaying such sleight of hand as to be worthy of Alfred Hitchcock. But in the innocence of 1989, the insults he delivered to Justice O’Connor appeared shocking.

They also proved wildly inefficacious. Just three years later, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Justice O’Connor did “carefully” consider whether to retain the constitutional right to abortion and voted with four other justices to do so.

In fact, I can’t think of an example of one of Justice Scalia’s bomb-throwing opinions ever enticing a wavering colleague to come over to his corner. Certainly his angry prediction in a dissenting opinion three years ago that granting habeas corpus rights to the Guantánamo detainees “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed” did not lead Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, author of the majority opinion in that case, Boumediene v. Bush, to switch sides. Publishing such an inflammatory statement once it was clear that it would not shake the majority loose was an exercise in self-indulgence that could serve only to undermine the court’s own legitimacy.

So the question raised by Justice Scalia’s most recent intemperate display remains: what does this smart, rhetorically gifted man think his bullying accomplishes?

It’s a puzzle. But having raised the question, I will venture an answer. Antonin Scalia, approaching his 25th anniversary as a Supreme Court justice, has cast a long shadow but has accomplished surprisingly little. Nearly every time he has come close to achieving one of his jurisprudential goals, his colleagues have either hung back at the last minute or, feeling buyer’s remorse, retreated at the next opportunity.

The area of property rights is a prime example. A 1992 Scalia opinion, Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, had raised the prospect that even temporary restrictions on a land owner’s right to develop property can amount to a “taking” for which the owner is entitled to compensation, as if the government had physically seized possession of the property. But within a decade, the court was backing away from this unsettling position, treating the Lucas decision as an exception rather than a rule.

Justice Scalia did have a moment of triumph with his majority opinion three years ago in District of Columbia v. Heller, interpreting the Second Amendment to convey an individual right to own a gun, at least for a law-abiding person, in the home, for self-defense. Because so few jurisdictions have stringent gun-control laws of the sort that the ruling invalidated, it remains to be seen whether the Heller decision will have much practical impact. Just last week, the federal appeals court in Philadelphia rejected a Heller-based constitutional challenge to the federal prohibition on gun use by convicted felons.

Justice Scalia’s real shining moment had come four years earlier, on the subject of the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause. His opinion in Crawford v. Washington ushered in a revolution in criminal procedure. While under the Supreme Court’s prior approach, statements by unavailable witnesses could be admitted at trial if a judge deemed the statements sufficiently “reliable,” the Crawford decision established a contrary bright-line rule: confrontation means confrontation. If a statement was “testimonial” in character and the witness could not appear in court, the statement stayed out unless the defendant had an earlier opportunity for cross-examination. Speaking for seven justices, Justice Scalia said that this was the only interpretation of the confrontation clause that was true to the original understanding of the Constitution’s framers.

The Crawford opinion left open the crucial question of what kinds of statements were “testimonial.” A series of decisions drawing various distinctions followed. Two years ago, to the consternation of prosecutors around the country, another Scalia opinion held that the affidavits of crime laboratory technicians, attesting to a substance’s identity as an illegal drug, were testimonial, inadmissible unless the individual analyst appeared at trial or had previously been available for cross-examination. “This case involves little more than the application of our holding in Crawford v. Washington,” Justice Scalia wrote in this case, Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts. Not all his colleagues were persuaded. His margin shrank to 5 to 4, with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer in dissent.

Like Justice Alito, Justice Sotomayor is a former prosecutor. She replaced Justice David H. Souter, a reliable member of the Scalia majority in these cases. A new case, argued last week, gives the court an opportunity to revisit the Melendez-Diaz precedent if a new majority is so inclined. The question in the new case, Bullcoming v. New Mexico, is whether for confrontation clause purposes a laboratory supervisor who did not actually perform the analysis is an acceptable substitute for the individual technician.

Which brings us to last week’s decision and dissent in Michigan v. Bryant. While Justice Sotomayor’s majority opinion purported to accept Crawford as binding precedent, the opinion is suffused with an attitude of pragmatism. In the originalist cosmos of Antonin Scalia, pragmatism has no place. With the highest achievement of his originalist jurisprudence now in peril, fear as well as anger was palpable in his dissenting opinion as he suggested that the majority was not only wrong but was composed of hypocrites.

“Honestly overruling Crawford would destroy the illusion of judicial minimalism and restraint,” he said, wondering aloud whether the court instead was now embarked on a course that would, through “a thousand unprincipled distinctions,” resurrect the old “reliability” test “without ever explicitly overruling Crawford.”

This Friday, March 11, is Justice Scalia’s 75th birthday. It doesn’t promise to be a happy one.

23409  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bahrain on: March 10, 2011, 10:43:43 AM
Tuesday, March 8, 2011   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

Bahrain's Shiite Split

A recently formed Bahraini Shiite opposition coalition issued a joint statement Tuesday in which it vowed to push for the creation of a republic in Bahrain. As Bahrain has been governed by the al-Khalifa Sunni monarchy for more than two centuries, this is quite a bold aspiration, and eclipses the demands issued by the protest movement thus far. Until now, the predominately Shiite protesters have called for the resignation of the government and other political reforms, but not outright regime change.

The coalition, dubbed the “Coalition for a Republic,” is made up of three Shiite groups: the Haq Movement, the Wafa Movement and the lesser-known London-based Bahrain Islamic Freedom Movement. It does not include the more moderate Al Wefaq Movement, which is significant. Al Wefaq is not only the leading Shiite opposition party (it won 18 of the 40 seats in the lower house during the 2006 elections, though it walked out in protest after the crackdown on demonstrators in February), it also has been the leading player in the opposition coalition that the government has sought to engage for the past several weeks. Though the protesters on the streets have proven that they are not all Al Wefaq followers (many are devoted supporters of the Haq Movement’s founder, Hassan Mushaima), it is still widely believed that Al Wefaq has more support with Bahrain’s Shia.

“The emergence of the ‘Coalition for a Republic’ gives Tehran an additional tool with which it can pressure the al-Khalifa regime, one that differs somewhat from the more moderate Al Wefaq.”
There is now an open split in the Bahraini Shiite community, with one side (led by Al Wefaq) continuing with calls for Bahrain’s prime minister to step down and for the Sunni monarchy to grant the majority Shiite population a greater share of political power, and the other (led by Haq and Wafa) calling for a complete toppling of the monarchy.

The trait that the Haq and Wafa factions have in common is that they are likely both operating under varying levels of influence from Iran, which is the object of immense suspicion these days in Manama’s royal court (not to mention Riyadh’s). As the protector of Shia throughout the Persian Gulf region, Tehran has an interest in fomenting instability wherever a significant Shiite population exists in a country run by Sunnis. Bahrain, situated in the Persian Gulf just off the coast of Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, fits the bill, as roughly 70 percent of its residents are Shia. Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Bahraini regime has lived in a constant state of unease in relation to its eastern neighbor. But the presence of the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet is a nice reminder to Tehran that Bahrain has friends in high places.

Though there is no explicit evidence that Iran is behind the creation of this new hard-line Shiite coalition, Tehran is known to have ties to its leader, Mushaima, while the founder and leader of Wafa, Abdulwahab Hussein, is also known for his more extreme viewpoints. The emergence of the “Coalition for a Republic” gives Tehran an additional tool with which it can pressure the al-Khalifa regime, one that differs somewhat from that of the more moderate Al Wefaq.

It would be presumptuous to believe that Iran has total influence over every Shiite opposition group throughout the region. That said, Iran has learned over the years how to effectively play the divisions within these Shiite camps to its advantage, thereby multiplying its options and acting as a spoiler to rival countries with competing interests. This has been exemplified in Iraq, where Iran has a relationship with myriad Shiite actors, from more independent-minded nationalists like Muqtada al-Sadr to more traditional Iranian allies like Ammar al-Hakim. There is a lot of utility in maintaining influence over multiple factions of dissent in a neighboring country, which leads STRATFOR to believe that the creation of this new coalition may be the first signs of a (likely milder) version of the “Iraqization” of the Bahraini Shia. Mushaima (or perhaps eventually Hussein) would play a similar role to al-Sadr; Al Wefaq would mimic the role of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

While the existence of two competing Shiite groups allows Iran more tools with which to influence the events in Bahrain, a split in the Shiite opposition also allows the al-Khalifas (and by extension, the Saudis) an opportunity to try to weaken the protest movement. Al Wefaq will play a central role in this strategy to have a decent chance of success. Though Al Wefaq could always decide that it would rather unite with those calling for an overthrow of the regime, it proved in its decision not to boycott the 2006 parliamentary elections that it is willing to sacrifice some of its principles if it means advancing its political goals.

23410  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: March 10, 2011, 10:43:07 AM
PIMCO's Gross is a highly regarded heavy hitter and what he says is watched closely.

I see the market is down about 180 right now; will we crack down through 12,000?
23411  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: McCain-Kerry bill on: March 09, 2011, 10:23:51 PM

(See Corrections & Amplifications item below.)

Sens. John McCain and John Kerry are circulating proposed legislation to create an "online privacy bill of rights," according to people familiar with the situation, a sign of bipartisan support for efforts to curb the Internet-tracking industry.

John McCain
.Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, are backing a bill that would require companies to seek a person's permission to share data about him with outsiders. It would also give people the right to see the data collected on them. The bill is expected to be introduced ahead of a Senate Commerce Committee hearing next Wednesday on online privacy.

The move comes amid widening scrutiny of the tracking industry. In the past year, The Wall Street Journal's "What They Know" series has revealed that popular websites install thousands of tracking technologies on people's computers without their knowledge, feeding an industry that gathers and sells information on their finances, political leanings and religious interests, among other things.

In another sign of Washington's efforts to regulate tracking, the Obama administration is moving to fill two key jobs related to privacy policy. People familiar with the matter said the administration is in talks with Jules Polonetsky, who currently heads the Future of Privacy Forum, an industry-funded think tank, to run a new privacy office in the Commerce Department. Mr. Polonetsky was previously chief privacy officer at online-advertising companies AOL Inc. and DoubleClick, now part of Google Inc.

John Kerry
.Daniel Weitzner, a Commerce Department official who pushed for creation of the agency's new privacy office, is expected to become deputy chief technology officer in the White House, where he would oversee a privacy task force, the people familiar with the matter said.

Sen. McCain's endorsement of privacy legislation adds a prominent Republican voice to the issue, indicating that concern over Internet tracking crosses party lines.

In December, the Federal Trade Commission urged Congress to authorize creation of a "do-not-track" system, modeled after the do-not-call list that governs telemarketers. Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, introduced such a bill in January.

The draft Kerry-McCain bill would create the nation's first comprehensive privacy law, covering personal-data gathering across all industries. That was a key recommendation of a recent Commerce Department's report, developed in part by Sen. Kerry's brother Cameron, the department's general counsel. Current laws cover only the use of certain types of personal data, such as financial and medical information.

Experience WSJ professional
 Editors' Deep Dive: Five Aspects of Online Privacy
DOJ Pushes for ISPs to Retain User Logs
Marketers Step Up Self-Regulation Practices
 The National Law Journal
Privacy and Online Data Collection at a Crossroads  Access thousands of business sources not available on the free web. Learn More  The Kerry-McCain bill would cover data ranging from names and addresses to fingerprints and unique IDs assigned to individuals' cellphones or computers. It would also establish a program to certify companies with high privacy standards. Those companies would be allowed to sell personal data to outsiders without seeking permission in each instance.

A spokeswoman for Sen. McCain confirmed that the two senators were "in discussion" but said "we don't have anything to announce at this time." A spokeswoman for Sen. Kerry declined to comment.

Last week, Florida Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns said he would introduce draft privacy legislation soon, although his approach would largely allow the industry to continue many current practices.

Speaking at the Technology Policy Institute, Rep. Stearns said his proposal would allow the FTC to approve a five-year self-regulatory program that would encourage companies to offer more information to consumers about how they were being tracked. "The goal of the legislation is to empower consumers to make their own privacy choices," he said.

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23412  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Medicaid on: March 09, 2011, 10:14:11 PM
Across the country, cash-strapped states are leveling blanket cuts on Medicaid providers that are turning the health program into an increasingly hollow benefit. Governors that made politically expedient promises to expand coverage during flush times are being forced to renege given their imperiled budgets. In some states, they've cut the reimbursement to providers so low that beneficiaries can't find doctors willing to accept Medicaid.

Washington contributes to this mess by leaving states no option other than across-the-board cuts. Patients would be better off if states were able to tailor the benefits that Medicaid covers—targeting resources to sicker people and giving healthy adults cheaper, basic coverage. But federal rules say that everyone has to get the same package of benefits, regardless of health status, needs or personal desires.

These rules reflect the ambition of liberal lawmakers who cling to the dogma that Medicaid should be a "comprehensive" benefit. In their view, any tailoring is an affront to egalitarianism. Because states are forced to offer everyone everything, the actual payment rates are driven so low that beneficiaries often end up with nothing in practice.

Dozens of recent medical studies show that Medicaid patients suffer for it. In some cases, they'd do just as well without health insurance. Here's a sampling of that research:

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.• Head and neck cancer: A 2010 study of 1,231 patients with cancer of the throat, published in the medical journal Cancer, found that Medicaid patients and people lacking any health insurance were both 50% more likely to die when compared with privately insured patients—even after adjusting for factors that influence cancer outcomes. Medicaid patients were 80% more likely than those with private insurance to have tumors that spread to at least one lymph node. Recent studies show similar outcomes for breast and colon cancer.

• Major surgical procedures: A 2010 study of 893,658 major surgical operations performed between 2003 to 2007, published in the Annals of Surgery, found that being on Medicaid was associated with the longest length of stay, the most total hospital costs, and the highest risk of death. Medicaid patients were almost twice as likely to die in the hospital than those with private insurance. By comparison, uninsured patients were about 25% less likely than those with Medicaid to have an "in-hospital death." Another recent study found similar outcomes for Medicaid patients undergoing trauma surgery.

• Poor outcomes after heart procedures: A 2011 study of 13,573 patients, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, found that people with Medicaid who underwent coronary angioplasty (a procedure to open clogged heart arteries) were 59% more likely to have "major adverse cardiac events," such as strokes and heart attacks, compared with privately insured patients. Medicaid patients were also more than twice as likely to have a major, subsequent heart attack after angioplasty as were patients who didn't have any health insurance at all.

• Lung transplants: A 2011 study of 11,385 patients undergoing lung transplants for pulmonary diseases, published in the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation, found that Medicaid patients were 8.1% less likely to survive 10 years after the surgery than their privately insured and uninsured counterparts. Medicaid insurance status was a significant, independent predictor of death after three years—even after controlling for other clinical factors that could increase someone's risk of poor outcomes.

In all of these studies, the researchers controlled for the socioeconomic and cultural factors that can negatively influence the health of poorer patients on Medicaid.

So why do Medicaid patients fare so badly? Payment to providers has been reduced to literally pennies on each dollar of customary charges because of sequential rounds of indiscriminate rate cuts, like those now being pursued in states like New York and Illinois. As a result, doctors often cap how many Medicaid patients they'll see in their practices. Meanwhile, patients can't get timely access to routine and specialized medical care.

The liberal solution to these woes has been to expand Medicaid. Advocacy groups like Families USA imagine that once Medicaid becomes a middle-class entitlement, political pressure from middle-class workers will force politicians to address these problems by funneling more taxpayer dollars into this flawed program.

President Barack Obama's health plan follows this logic. Half of those gaining health insurance under ObamaCare will get it through Medicaid; by 2006, one in four Americans will be covered by the program. A joint analysis from the Republican members of the Senate Finance and House Energy and Commerce Committees estimates that this will force an additional $118 billion in Medicaid costs onto the states.

We need an alternative model. One option is to run Medicaid like a health program—rather than an exercise in political morals—and let states tailor benefits to the individual needs of patients, even if that means abandoning the unworkable myth of "comprehensive" coverage.

Democratic and Republican governors are pleading with the president for flexibility to do just this. At least so far, this has been a nonstarter with an Obama health team so romanced by Medicaid's cozy fictions that it neglects the health coverage that Medicaid really offers, and the indecencies it visits on the poor.

Dr. Gottlieb is a clinical assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine and a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

23413  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Two from the WSJ: Who are these people? on: March 09, 2011, 09:24:46 PM
"America is always talking about democracy and we want democracy to come to Bahrain. . . . We want them to practice what they preach, that's all."

–Mohammed Ansari, Bahraini

Sometimes it's a heavy load, being America.

And it won't stop unless some day the United States finds a reason to unburden itself of the heavy lift posed by the world's aspiring peoples. With the Middle East protests, we may be there.

Less than a week into the massive Cairo street demonstrations, a prominent U.S. foreign policy expert pushed back against supporting them: "No one really knows a great deal about the protesters."

When all at once the people of Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Bahrain, Algeria and even Iran (a Feb. 20 protest by tens of thousands was barely noticed) summoned the courage to take to the streets for greater freedom, the U.S. foreign-policy establishment seemed like stunned deer staring into the incandescent images on television and wondering, Who are these people?

The U.S. needs to produce more than rhetoric on behalf of 10 active democracy protests in the Middle East.

Writing on behalf of de minimis support for the Libyans in these pages Tuesday, Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said: "It is one thing to acknowledge Moammar Gadhafi as a ruthless despot, which he has demonstrated himself to be. But doing so does not establish the democratic bona fides of those who oppose him." A little digging surely would find something similar said in 1770 about the Massachusetts rabble.

The we-have-no-clue-who-they-are excuse is utterly lame. Scholars at places like the American Enterprise Institute, the Carnegie Middle East Center and elsewhere have been writing in detail for years about these people, pleading with the policy establishment to recognize how volatile the "stability" status quo had become.

It's clear, however, from the tortured, unfocused U.S. reaction to these events that policy toward these nations below the level of kings had become a second-level priority. How did so many people become an afterthought?

The reason, in a phrase, is the Arab-Israeli peace process. It sucked the oxygen out of thinking about the Middle East. With every secretary of state dutifully saddling up to solve the endless riddle, the "peace process" reduced everything and everyone in the region to spear-carriers for this obsession. The populations of unemployed youth building and festering across the region became an inconsequential blur, an Arab lumpenproletariat. "We don't know who they are." And whoever they were had to wait until some U.S. president harvested another Nobel Prize by "solving" the Palestinian problem.

Well, they didn't wait. They exploded in January 2011.

None of this is to gainsay the interests of the world economy in the region. But America's leaders should not let that become an excuse to forget who they are and where they came from. Soviet-era dissidents have said and written that among the things that sustained them was that their heads were filled with the ideas drawn from America's freedoms.

What a mess the Founding Fathers and Continental Army made for the grinders at the State Department, this week producing exquisite calibrations of America's interests. We now read in news analyses and opinion columns long lists of reasons why helping the Libyan rebels would backfire. What this means is that U.S. intervention won't come until, as in Srebrenica or Kosovo, Gadhafi's killings escalate from mere slaughter to mass murder. Europe acquiesced in the Balkan genocide, but the U.S. could not, an important distinction of global status.
What is happening here is not just another crisis to work through the bureaucracies until the storm passes. The stakes for the U.S. in how these uprisings are resolved extend beyond the Middle East. They've put on the table the core arguments the U.S. will need to mount in its defense against the competitive challenge of China's market authoritarianism. If U.S. timidity is seen as U.S. acquiescence to a system of "reformed" Middle East autocracies, the debate between the American and Chinese models is over. The world's people will see, rightly, that the Chinese are winning the argument, and the U.S. will spend the next 50 years watching other nations back away from its system.

"Defining moment" may be an overworked phrase, but this one qualifies. With these protests, the trains of history have left the station. The U.S. needs to issue a more public, unequivocal statement of support for authentic representative government. And find an active policy to go with it.

Only a U.S. president can lead this fight. But he has to (truly) believe in it. There is a school of thought, popular around the Obama foreign-policy team, that the world would be better off without the myth of American exceptionalism and burdens like these that come with it. If this government can't summon more than rhetoric or a U.N. resolution on behalf of 10 up-and-running democratic movements in the Middle East, that exceptionalism will wither. I'm guessing the world won't be better for it.


America's response to the Libyan crisis is stuck in repeat mode. The Obama Administration keeps insisting that a "full spectrum of possible responses" are in play to stop Moammar Gadhafi's war on his people. And in virtually the next breath, it rules out one credible option after another.

An egregious example concerns the possible supply of military assistance to Libyan rebels. White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday that "providing weapons" to the opposition was among a "range of options." The next day State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley shot this option down.

"It would be illegal for the United States to do that," Mr. Crowley said, citing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970, which sanctions the Gadhafi regime and only passed with U.S. support on February 26. "It's quite simple. In [the resolution] there is an arms embargo that affects Libya, which means it's a violation for any country to provide arms to anyone in Libya."

One question is how the State Department allowed such a resolution to pass in the first place. President Obama has said he wants Gadhafi to leave, yet his own diplomats negotiate and approve a U.N. embargo that reduces his options in achieving that goal. Why are we still paying Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in particular should understand that arms embargoes always benefit the better armed side in a conflict. This had terrible consequences in Bosnia during her husband's Presidency in the 1990s, when the Muslims couldn't fight back against Serb militias stocked with weapons from Belgrade. Likewise in Libya, opposition forces seem to be outgunned on the ground and vulnerable from the air. Multiple air strikes were reported yesterday in Ras Lanuf, an oil port in eastern Libya, and Gadhafi's tanks have been leveling the western city of Zawiya.

Security Council resolutions are open to interpretation, so it's also revealing that Mrs. Clinton's spokesman chose to accept an especially broad reading of the Libyan embargo. The relevant paragraph of Resolution 1970 bans "the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the Libya Arab Jamahiriya, from or through their territories or by their nationals . . . of aircraft, arms and related material of all types." The resolution also forbids "technical assistance, training, financial or other assistance, related to military activities."

By Mr. Crowley's reading, the resolution covers any military support whatsoever by America or anyone else to the forces of the provisional opposition council set up in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi. In other words, America's hands are tied by the U.N.

But another reasonable reading would distinguish between the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, another name for the Gadhafi regime, and the territory of Libya. The rebels don't recognize the regime. Nor does the U.S. now that it has called for Gadhafi to leave power. The resolution doesn't explicitly say the "territory of Libya." This would leave the door open for Washington and its allies to supply the opposition with arms and still abide by the letter of the Security Council.

The next paragraph of Resolution 1970 offers another out for the U.S. It permits "supplies of non-lethal military equipment intended solely for humanitarian or protective use, and related technical assistance or training." Protection can be defined in various ways to cover the needs of the rebel forces and the civilian population.

We don't think the U.S. should ever let the U.N. control its actions, but we suggest these loopholes because the Obama Administration puts so much stock in the U.N.'s legal imprimatur. The White House may finally have retained some new lawyers, because yesterday Mr. Carney tried to split the difference with State: "We believe that the arms embargo contains within it the flexibility to allow for a decision to arm the opposition, if that decision were made."

Once the lawyers have been satisfied, maybe the Administration will even make a decision.
23414  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Muslims vs. Coptics on: March 09, 2011, 09:14:32 PM
CAIRO—Clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims have killed more than a dozen people in recent days in Egypt, heightening a sense that the country's postrevolutionary euphoria is yielding to enduring problems including sectarian violence, poverty and misogyny.

Coptic Christians angry at the burning of a church clashed late Tuesday with thousands of Muslims in a largely Coptic Christian neighborhood near Egypt's capital. At least 13 died and more than 100 wounded in a four-hour clash, said witnesses and the state news agency.

The fighting between different religious groups came just hours after several hundred men roughed up female demonstrators who had gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to mark International Women's Day and demand expanded rights and opportunities.

In a separate tussle on Tahrir Square, the nerve center of Egypt's recent revolt, scores of Egyptian troops and men armed with sticks moved Wednesday night into the square and forced out several hundred protesters who had camped there for the past few days. Dozens of people were hurt, witnesses said.

The military's move came amid growing frustration that life hasn't yet gotten back to normal after President Hosni Mubarak ceded power a month ago following massive nationwide protests.

Various groups have continued taking to the streets to press their grievances. Workers have mounted strikes demanding their bosses be fired and salaries raised. Many police are reluctant to return to duty, fearing attacks by citizens angry at years of police corruption and alleged torture, and at police attacks on protesters during last month's pro-democracy uprising.

Egypt's economy, meanwhile, is struggling to regain its footing after virtually all businesses shut down amid protests. Some state-run banks and companies remain closed, as does the stock market.Advertising has dried up as companies hoard money.

"Another 60 days and the economy will go bust," says Naguib Sawiris, chairman of Orascom Telecom, one of the biggest publicly held companies in the Middle East.

Egypt's latest sectarian unrest began last week after a mob of Muslims—furious over a rumored romance between a Coptic Christian man and a Muslim woman—torched a church near Helwan, an industrial city outside Cairo, witnesses said.

On Tuesday, groups of Christians blocked highways around Cairo to protest the incident, snarling traffic and fraying nerves. The events leading to the day's fatal clash began around 2 p.m. in the Cairo suburb of Manshiyet Nasser, a destitute enclave known to many as "garbage city" for a population of mostly Copts who collect and sift through waste throughout the city.

Protesters in Manshiyet Nasser blocked a small bus on a main thoroughfare. Its angry driver stormed into a surrounding neighborhood and returned with dozens of young, mostly Muslim men, one protest participant said Wednesday.

Angry youths soon joined both sides. By late afternoon, some 2,000 Muslims and 500 Christians had gathered, said Rifaat Atif, a Christian pharmacist who said he saw the escalation.

Young men set fire to a recycling factory and several apartments, witnesses said. Some witnesses said Egyptian soldiers stood by, watching. Others, producing shotgun shells they said were recovered from the scene, said soldiers opened fire on Christian protesters.

An officer among nearly 100 soldiers patrolling the site Wednesday said the military has maintained neutrality in recent events and denied troops fired on Christian youth. Most casualties, he said, had occurred before military troops arrived.

"What have we gotten from this revolution?" asked Mr. Atif, the pharmacist. "We don't trust the army anymore. The money has stopped. There's no security."

Hundreds of Christians have also held noisy protests in front of the country's state television building for the past four days, demanding that the interim government act forcefully to defend the rights of Egypt's Christians, who make up about 10% of the population.

The government of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, appointed last week, held its first cabinet meeting Wednesday, saying it was following reports of the sectarian violence with concern.

For the most part, Muslims and Christians have enjoyed cordial relations in Egypt, which has the Middle East's largest Christian population. But 2010 saw an unusual uptick in tension.

The year began with a shooting outside a church in Upper Egypt on Coptic Christmas that killed six worshippers and a Muslim security guard. Starting in the summer, Salafi Muslims began regular demonstrations outside churches in Alexandria and Cairo against the Coptic Church. The Salafis—who follow an ultra-conservative form of Islam widely practiced in Saudi Arabia—accused the church of having kidnapped two Christian woman who were rumored to have tried to convert to Islam.

On New Year's Day in 2011, a bombing at an Alexandria church killed 23 people.

Adding to sense of looming trouble is Egypt's economy. The stock market was slated to reopen March 6 but a mob of angry retail investors demanded it remain shut until activity in the rest of the economy picks back up, avoiding what the protesters said would be unnecessarily large losses now.

Mr. Sawiris and others want the market opened right away, saying the closed exchange is contributing to an overall sense of unease. "There are no guts in the government. Everyone is scared of mobs right now," he said.

In a statement, Mr. Sharaf's cabinet called on citizens to go back to work and "to delay factional protests and strikes so the government can return stability that would allow the national economy to overcome these difficult times."

Write to David Luhnow at

23415  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Asylum issues on: March 09, 2011, 09:11:56 PM
EL PASO, Texas—Journalist Emilio Gutierrez and thousands of other Mexicans seeking asylum in the U.S. want protection they say their government can't provide. But, for the U.S., granting such requests carries practical and political risks.

Mr. Gutierrez, who accuses the Mexican military of threatening him, is part of a growing community of asylum seekers, largely centered around El Paso. The latest is Marisol Valles, the former police chief of Mexican border town Práxedis G. Guerrero, who fled to the U.S. last week from the town where her predecessor had been beheaded by drug traffickers.

Some experts say the asylum requests put the U.S. in a thorny position, caught between human-rights goals of supporting those in danger and standing by Mexico, a key ally who says it is capable of protecting its own citizens.

Since Mexico opened its war on drug cartels in 2006, its relationship with the U.S. has grown closer. The two countries now share intelligence, coordinate border security and are linked by a $1.4 billion U.S.-sponsored aid package known as the Mérida Initiative aimed at strengthening Mexican institutions' fight against organized crime.

"When you're granting asylum, you're admitting in effect that the government is going to persecute someone, or is too weak to give that person protection from others who could," said Stephen Legomsky, an asylum expert at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

And with violence that has killed more than 34,000 people in Mexico since 2006, many see a potential for a rise in asylum requests if the U.S. appears amenable to them.

Other practical concerns work against asylum seekers. For example, many arrive in the U.S. without paperwork and find themselves under the same scrutiny and procedures as immigrants who are caught crossing illegally.

Among the pending asylum cases are those of a family of an activist slain by unknown attackers and a television cameraman who was once kidnapped by a drug cartel and says the government can't stop it from happening again. Getting asylum in the U.S. isn't easy for Mexicans. In 2010, Mexicans made 3,231 asylum requests and the U.S. granted 49; the previous year, 2,816 requests were made with 62 granted.

Mr. Gutierrez's case is particularly charged because of his accusations against the military.

Last year, Mexico received $450 million in drug-fighting aid from the Mérida Initiative that directed much of the money toward its military. One requirement: The Mexican military must have no record of human-rights abuses or a portion of the funds will be withdrawn.

Mr. Gutierrez, 47 years old, worked as a journalist in northern Mexico for more than 25 years before he sought asylum in the U.S. in 2008.

In 2005, he wrote an article about accusations that soldiers had broken into rooms at a hotel in a small border town and stolen items including jewelry and food.

After the story was published, the journalist says he was threatened by a man who identified himself as a colonel and another whom he recognized as a general. "They said I'd written three articles about the military and there would not be a fourth," he said.

Mr. Gutierrez stopped writing about the military. But he launched complaints about his treatment, one which was published in an unsigned front-page story describing the incident and a second that was filed with Mexico's human-rights commission.

In 2008, the Mexican government sent the military into northern border areas and Mr. Gutierrez says his troubles returned.

One night in May that year, he says soldiers broke down his door unexpectedly and began what they said was a search for drugs and weapons. Nothing was found, but he says he was warned to "behave himself."

His newspaper published a front-page story on the incident and photos of the damage. A few months later, Mr. Gutierrez says a friend who was dating a soldier said that his life was in danger.

Shortly after, Mr. Gutierrez and his 15-year-old son crossed into the U.S., telling border guards that he wanted asylum. He and his son were separated and put into detention centers. Mr. Gutierrez was held for eight months, and his son for two. After being released, the two moved to Las Cruces, N.M., an hour's drive from El Paso.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security appointed a prosecutor to the case to argue that Mr. Gutierrez should be deported back to Mexico. The agency declined to comment on the case.

Mexico's military, in response to written questions, said it is aware of the complaints, but has found no evidence of wrongdoing and isn't pursing an investigation.

Mr. Gutierrez's case is set to be determined by an immigration judge next year.

"I will be killed if I go back to Mexico," Mr. Gutierrez said on a recent day at a law office a short drive from the border.

Write to Nicholas Casey at

23416  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wash. Times: Sliming Rep King's hearings, and on: March 09, 2011, 09:02:29 PM

"To model our political system upon speculations of lasting tranquility, is to calculate on the weaker springs of the human character." --Alexander Hamilton

Editorial Exegesis

Maybe there's a reason for being aware of radical Islam"Rep. Peter King, New York Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, will hold hearings this week on Muslim extremism in the United States. The Obama administration and other pro-Islamic activists argue that because the vast majority of American Muslims aren't violent extremists, Congress has no business examining the growing numbers who are. This redirection is tantamount to saying that because most people are law-abiding, the police should ignore the study of criminal psychology. Mr. King's planned hearings will shine a bright light on a challenge the Obama administration has studiously ignored, with fatal results. Overlooking the motives of Muslim terrorists has become an O Force obsession. ... The Obama administration persistently has stricken the concept of Islamic extremism -- whether foreign or domestic -- from U.S. public policy. In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security drafted a Domestic Extremist Lexicon that listed Jewish extremism as a threat and described various strands of purportedly dangerous Christian extremism but made no mention of any form of Muslim extremism. This document was pulled along with other questionable Homeland Security publications once their contents became public. The February 2010 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review discussed terrorism and violent extremism but didn't refer to radical Islam in any context. Likewise, the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review avoids any terminology related to Islam. Mr. King's hearings are a useful step toward opening up the debate on the pressing problem of domestic Islamic extremism. Mr. Obama's inexplicable tendency to turn aside from the question has harmed the ability of the United States to deal with this threat." --The Washington Times

An Obama administration strategy for building contacts in Muslim communities is taking heat from the left and the right, amid increasing concerns about homegrown Islamic terrorism.

Under the program, which extends one begun under President George W. Bush, U.S. law-enforcement officials meet frequently with Muslim groups to discuss their concerns about discrimination. The hope is that such outreach prevents extremist recruitment of young men by showing good will alongside efforts to investigate plots.

"Striking the right tone in countering violent extremism is something we have to be very careful about," said B. Todd Jones, the U.S. attorney in Minneapolis, who undertakes activities such as attending Ramadan fast-breaking dinners and helping Muslim Americans navigate the immigration bureaucracy.

Many conservatives blast the efforts as ineffective and even dangerous. "There's a whole political correctness that has suppressed discussion" of Islamic radicalization, said Steven Emerson, whose Investigative Project on Terrorism has published articles on radicalization among U.S. Muslims.

Thursday's Schedule for King Hearing
Rep. Keith Ellison (D. Minn.),believed to be first Muslim member of Congress.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.,), active on religious and terrorism issues.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, president, American Islamic Forum for Democracy, physician and former Navy officer.

Abdirizak Bihi, director, Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center, whose nephew traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabaab and was killed.

Melvin Bledsoe, whose son, a Muslim convert, allegedly killed a soldier in a shooting attack at an Arkansas military-recruiting center.

Leroy Baca, Los Angeles County Sheriff, active on outreach efforts in Muslim communities.

Source: House Homeland Security Committee
.Some Muslims, meanwhile, think the outreach is cover for recruiting spiesand doesn't fit with harder-edged tactics such as sting operations. "The FBI's activities are sending a troubling mixed message to the community," said Farhana Khera, president of a San Francisco legal group called Muslim Advocates, which warns Muslim Americans against speaking to law enforcement without a lawyer present.

The program is likely to come up at a House hearing Thursday on Muslim radicalization. Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.), who is overseeing the hearing, said he largely supported the outreach efforts and that the "overwhelming number of Muslims are good Americans." But he said he was concerned by what he described as a general lack of cooperation with federal law enforcement in Muslim communities.

The administration argues that even as it investigates alleged plots it must show an effort to address Muslim grievances—in part to undercut propaganda from radical groups overseas that say the U.S. is conducting a war on Islam. Mr. Jones, who helps coordinate efforts with agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security, speaks of a balancing act between pursuing potential terrorists and showing goodwill toward a suspicious community.

In Minneapolis, the Somali community became a focus of concern after 20 young Somali-American men allegedly traveled to Somalia to join the al Shabaab Islamist group. Young Somalis in particular are "a little more cynical," Mr. Jones said. "They see an opportunity for the government to develop them as massive snitch networks." He said one way to avoid spying concerns is to "wall off" his investigative attorneys from the outreach efforts.

In Michigan, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said meeting with local Muslim groups had helped federal officials send the message that they're here "to protect your rights." Last year, she met with Yemeni-American community leaders to explain how to pack airplane luggage, after two Michigan men of Yemeni descent taped bottles of Pepto-Bismol to cellphones in their checked bags—apparently for tidiness—, inadvertently triggering fears of a bombing plot.

Ms. McQuade brought Muslim American speakers to a meeting with federal immigration agents to educate the agents about potential cultural misunderstandings. One lesson, she said, was that "if someone is averting eye contact, it's not [necessarily] that they are trying to avoid questions or are guilty of something. It's that in their culture, making eye contact is not polite."

Robert Spencer, who runs Jihad Watch, which focuses on Islamic extremism, critiques the outreach effort as "completely fruitless," saying it hasn't resulted "in any significant Islamic efforts to rein in radicals in their community." The program also gets a measure of criticism from some counter-radicalization experts who support outreach but say it shouldn't be led by law-enforcement agencies. Maajid Nawaz, a former jihadist sympathizer in the U.K. who now campaigns against radicalization, says Western countries should reduce their reliance on security agencies to break through to suspicious Muslim communities. "Securitizing a counter-radicalization strategy is unhelpful," Mr. Nawad said at a January speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Officials admit the balancing act can be tricky. At a December dinner in Portland, Ore., Attorney General Eric Holder combined warm words for Ms. Khera of Muslim Advocates and a pledge to defend Muslims against hate crimes with a defense of a sting operation that had led to the arrest of a Somali-American accused of plotting to bomb a Christmas-tree lighting ceremony held in the city. "Those who characterize the FBI's activities in this case as 'entrapment' simply do not have their facts straight," he said at the dinner.

The Justice Department says there have been 49 U.S. citizens, mostly Muslims, charged in international terrorism probes since the beginning of 2009. U.S. officials are especially worried about recruitment by international terror groups of citizens whose U.S. passports allow them easy access to other countries and re-entry to the U.S.

Under pressure from conservative lawmakers, the FBI cut off most contacts with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest U.S. Muslim advocacy group. Federal investigators had found ties between the group's officials and several men convicted in 2008 of providing funds to the Palestinian group Hamas, which the U.S. calls a terrorist group. The council disputes the allegations of terrorism ties and says it is a mainstream body.

23417  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: March 09, 2011, 08:38:05 PM
Well, those of who believe in the will of Baraq and his minions to Machiavellian machinations, might suspect they are looking to create a crisis from which they can take advantage; that they will seek to leverage their campaign against American gun rights by creating a treaty with Mexico and/or the UN.  OTOH others of us might simply believe in the remarkable capabilities of government, espeically the BATFE, for stupidity.

Both sides have ample raw material for their suspicions.
23418  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Unions on: March 09, 2011, 08:33:55 PM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Wed, March 09, 2011 -- 8:00 PM ET

Wisconsin Senate Advances Bill Opposed by Unions

Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate voted Wednesday night to
strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public
workers after discovering a way to bypass the chamber's
missing Democrats.

All 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks
ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members
present to consider Gov. Scott Walker's so-called "budget
repair bill" -- a proposal introduced to plug a $137 million
budget shortfall.

The Senate requires a quorum to take up any measures that
spend money. But Republicans on Wednesday split from the
legislation the proposal to curtail union rights, which
spends no money, and a special conference committee of state
lawmakers approved the bill a short time later.

Read More:
23419  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Well, we can sleep easy now, VP Biden is on the job! on: March 09, 2011, 05:56:48 PM

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden kicked off the official part of his two-day tour to Moscow today. It is his first visit to Russia since taking office. The trip comes at a very interesting time in which Russian-U.S. relations are pretty ambiguous after the so-called “reset” in 2009. All the hostilities and differences of years past still remain.

Vice President Biden is someone that Moscow watches very closely. This is because of a 2009 speech Biden gave at the Munich conference in Bucharest in which he blasted the Russians for maintaining a Soviet mentality in attempting to dominate Eurasia. Since then, there was the so-called “reset” in which Russia and the United States pulled back from being overtly aggressive into attempting to show that relations were warmer and that there was more flexibility and they could work together and cooperate on many issues.

The main reasons for the so-called “reset” are: first, Russia was becoming more comfortable in its dominance over the former Soviet states that it could change tactics. Russia could start moving back and forth between being unilaterally hostile to more cooperative in order to use each tactic depending on what worked best for the relationship at that time. At the same time, the United States was becoming dangerously entrenched in the Islamic theater to the point where it pretty much couldn’t give any focus or bandwidth into its relationship and issues in Eurasia. It got to the point to where the United States needed Russia to help out with certain issues in the Islamic theater, such as Iran and Afghanistan. But the problem is that all the differences of pasts still remain.

The number one issue between Russia and the United States is the division of their power and dominance in Eurasia. Russia, as I said, has dominated the former Soviet states but it has also in recent years created a strategic bargain with Germany and France, creating this very powerful axis across the European continent. At the same time, the United States has created a very solid alliance with not only Poland but the Central Europeans. This is geographically divided Europe. Not only that, it has started to divide and bleed over into NATO relations — seeing a fracture along the exact same geographic lines between Russian issues and Russian influence in the United States’ power.

So the question is what happens when the United States starts wrapping up in the next few years its focus on the Islamic theater and actually has the ability to turn back into Eurasia? What happens to all the differences that have been put aside that will naturally lead to a conflict between the United States and Russia once again? This is the question which Biden is discussing with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. This is the issue in which the United States is starting negotiations with Russia before things lead back to an overt conflict. This is not an easy discussion, a simply resolvable discussion or one in the short term, but it is the issue that will define Eurasia as a whole as well as NATO itself for the coming years.

23420  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lets see, what else happened in 2008 , , ,? And "Ve knw nothing , , ," on: March 09, 2011, 05:46:46 PM
23421  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Man bites dog; burglar calls police on: March 09, 2011, 02:51:42 PM
23422  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Case Study: 2 vs. 3 on: March 09, 2011, 02:31:19 PM
Its been a while since we have analyzed an event:
23423  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What fun! Juan Williams on the new NPR fiasco LOL on: March 09, 2011, 01:54:42 PM
23424  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FOX: Truth? We don't need no stinkin' truth! ??? on: March 09, 2011, 10:51:27 AM

Is this but a local affiliate or is this the big FOX News?

Either way, it looks quite bad.

23425  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing Crisis Explained and Questions Answered on: March 09, 2011, 10:42:28 AM
IIRC there was something about the first born son in Exodus in the Torah, but BO et al and the IRS now seek the enslavement of ALL of our children to the debts of their fathers, imposed upon them by the Pharoah Baraq.
23426  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glen Beck and FOX on: March 09, 2011, 07:57:56 AM
23427  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing Crisis Explained and Questions Answered on: March 09, 2011, 12:20:36 AM

You continue to impress me:  Not only is this in a language outside the language group of you native tongue, but it is some rather challenging material concerning the domestic political economy of another country.  Even for Americans with a decent education (In my case, my father did real estate tax shelters in the 60s and 70s and I have my brief stint as a lawyer to help me understand) this material is not easy.

Concerning Krugman:

For most of us around here, he is considered a seriously confused economist, the Noble Prize not withstanding.  For most of us around here, the Nobel Prize has lost much/most of the luster it used to have for us here in America; the recent progressive propaganda statement of giving Obama the Nobel Prize (and the audacity of him accepting it with so little to show for it!) being but the latest of such twaddle, including in the field of , , , lets say , , , economics. wink

Right now, in the conversation of our Political Economics there is a tremendous debate over the cause, meaning, solution of the Great Bubble Burst and what to do now.  Krugman is of the Keynesian--Demand Side School of economics.   In typical Keynesian logic he seeks to refill the balloon with deficit spending, guided by the government to its friends in labor and business.  For me, this is a form of Economic Fascism.  It is anti-American, anti-free market, and anti-Freedom (e.g. debt enslavement of our children)  Others of us may call it other things, but the general attitude around here is the similar.

I've been in conversation with various Canadian friends, and read an interesting interview of the Canadian PM in the Wall Street Journal and would say that Krugman, being continuously disproven in his increasingly desparate assertions, now looks to the Canadian example to distract from the record of his commentary on the US economy.  The Canadians certainly do have regulations that we do not, but they also have avoided the essence of the US mistake in a decidedly free market manner.  They did not have Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or a Community Reinvestment Act.  They did not absolve the private sector from the losses that naturally ensue when one lends money to people who have no money of their own in the game and no ability to repay it-- instead relying only on continuing price increases to keep the party going.   Our government did-- classic economic fascism, with classic real world consequences.
23428  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: March 08, 2011, 04:56:14 PM
Guess we need to start getting around to that, don't we  grin

Location probably will be either as last year or a nearby place overlooking the ocean.
23429  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: March 08, 2011, 01:48:43 PM
In a back room at half-time at the Army-Navy game in '61 or '62 (I would have been 9 or 10 at the time) my father introduced me to President Kennedy.  It was a big deal for me!!!  Also, I got to shake the hands of lots of big generals and admirals.
23430  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No-fly zone for Libya? on: March 08, 2011, 01:23:22 PM
How a Libyan No-fly Zone Could Backfire
March 8, 2011 | 1550 GMT

JOHN MOORE/Getty Images
Libyan rebels on March 7 load an anti-aircraft gun near oil facilities in Ras LanufBy George Friedman

Calls are growing for a no-fly zone over Libya, but a power or coalition of powers willing to enforce one remains elusive.

In evaluating such calls, it is useful to remember that in war, Murphy’s Law always lurks. What can go wrong will go wrong, in Libya as in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Complications to Airstrikes

It has been pointed out that a no-fly zone is not an antiseptic act. In order to protect the aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone, one must begin by suppressing enemy air defenses. This in turn poses an intelligence problem. Precisely what are Libyan air defenses and where are they located? It is possible to assert that Libya has no effective air defenses and that an SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) attack is therefore unnecessary. But that makes assumptions that cannot be demonstrated without testing, and the test is dangerous. At the same time, collecting definitive intelligence on air defenses is not as easy as it might appear — particularly as the opposition and thieves alike have managed to capture heavy weapons and armored vehicles, meaning that air defense assets are on the move and under uncertain control.

Therefore, a no-fly zone would begin with airstrikes on known air defense sites. But it would likely continue with sustained patrols by SEAD aircraft armed with anti-radiation missiles poised to rapidly confront any subsequent threat that pops up. Keeping those aircraft on station for an extended period of time would be necessary, along with an unknown number of strikes. It is uncertain where the radars and missiles are located, and those airstrikes would not be without error. When search radars and especially targeting radars are turned on, the response must be instantaneous, while the radar is radiating (and therefore vulnerable) and before it can engage. That means there will be no opportunity to determine whether the sites are located in residential areas or close to public facilities such as schools or hospitals.

Previous regimes, hoping to garner international support, have deliberately placed their systems near such facilities to force what the international media would consider an atrocity. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi does not seem like someone who would hesitate to cause civilian casualties for political advantage. Thus, the imposition of a no-fly zone could rapidly deteriorate into condemnations for killing civilians of those enforcing the zone ostensibly for humanitarian purposes. Indeed, attacks on air defenses could cause substantial casualties, turning a humanitarian action into one of considerable consequence in both humanitarian and political terms.

Airstrikes vs. Ground Operations

The more important question is what exactly a no-fly zone would achieve. Certainly, it would ground Gadhafi’s air force, but it would not come close to ending the fighting nor erode Gadhafi’s other substantial advantages. His forces appear to be better organized and trained than his opponents, who are politically divided and far less organized. Not long ago, Gadhafi largely was written off, but he has more than held his own — and he has held his own through the employment of ground combat forces. What remains of his air force has been used for limited harassment, so the imposition of a no-fly zone would not change the military situation on the ground. Even with a no-fly zone, Gadhafi would still be difficult for the rebels to defeat, and Gadhafi might still defeat the rebels.

The attractiveness of the no-fly zone in Iraq was that it provided the political illusion that steps were being taken, without creating substantial risks, or for that matter, actually doing substantial damage to Saddam Hussein’s control over Iraq. The no-fly zone remained in place for about 12 years without forcing change in Saddam’s policies, let alone regime change. The same is likely to be true in Libya. The no-fly zone is a low-risk action with little ability to change the military reality that creates an impression of decisive action. It does, as we argue, have a substantial downside, in that it entails costs and risks — including a high likelihood of at least some civilian casualties — without clear benefit or meaningful impact. The magnitude of the potential civilian toll is unknown, but its likelihood, oddly, is not in the hands of those imposing the no-fly zone, but in the hands of Gadhafi. Add to this human error and other failures inherent in war, and the outcome becomes unclear.

A more significant action would be intervention on the ground, an invasion of Libya designed to destroy Gadhafi’s military and force regime change. This would require a substantial force — and it should be remembered from Iraq that it would require a substantial occupation force to stabilize and build a new regime to govern Libya. Unlike in Egypt, Gadhafi is the regime, and sectarian elements that have been kept in check under his regime already are coming to the fore. The ability of the country to provide and administer basic government functions is also unknown. And it must also be borne in mind that Gadhafi clearly has substantial support as well as opposition. His supporters will not go without a fight and could choose to wage some form of post-invasion resistance, as in Iraq. Thus, while the initial costs in terms of casualties might be low, the long-term costs might be much higher.

It should also be remembered that the same international community that condemned Saddam Hussein as a brutal dictator quite easily turned to condemn the United States both for deposing him and for the steps its military took in trying to deal with the subsequent insurgency. It is not difficult to imagine a situation where there is extended Libyan resistance to the occupying force followed by international condemnation of the counterinsurgency effort.

Having toppled a regime, it is difficult to simply leave. The idea that this would be a quick, surgical and short-term invasion is certainly one scenario, but it is neither certain nor even the most likely scenario. In the same sense, the casualties caused by the no-fly zone would be unknown. The difference is that while a no-fly zone could be terminated easily, it is unlikely that it would have any impact on ground operations. An invasion would certainly have a substantial impact but would not be terminable.

Stopping a civil war is viable if it can be done without increasing casualties beyond what they might be if the war ran its course. The no-fly zone likely does that, without ending the civil war. If properly resourced, the invasion option could end the civil war, but it opens the door to extended low-intensity conflict.

The National Interest

It is difficult to perceive the U.S. national interest in Libya. The interests of some European countries, like Italy, are more substantial, but it is not clear that they are prepared to undertake the burden without the United States.

We would argue that war as a humanitarian action should be undertaken only with the clear understanding that in the end it might cause more suffering than the civil war. It should also be undertaken with the clear understanding that the inhabitants might prove less than grateful, and the rest of the world would not applaud nearly as much as might be liked — and would be faster to condemn the occupier when things went wrong. Indeed, the recently formed opposition council based out of Benghazi — the same group that is leading the calls from eastern Libya for foreign airstrikes against Gadhafi’s air force — has explicitly warned against any military intervention involving troops on the ground.

In the end, the use of force must have the national interest in mind. And the historical record of armed humanitarian interventions is mixed at best.

23431  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Well, that's embarrassing on: March 08, 2011, 01:09:23 PM
23432  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing Crisis Explained and Questions Answered on: March 08, 2011, 12:54:33 PM
So, in those case, the foreclosed owner would be considered by the IRS as having a gain in the amount of the vaporized loan/mortgage?

23433  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 08, 2011, 12:52:44 PM

I think there are some posts about him earlier in this thread.  Apparently he has extensive successful big corporation executive experience.  In response to the argument of the article you posted, I would point out that this is QUITE a bit more experience than Obama had -- though allow me to make clear that I am not suggesting that it is enough.
23434  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 08, 2011, 12:47:19 PM
Bachmann Calls on Congress to Block $105B in Health Law Money
Published March 08, 2011

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann at the 38th annual CPAC meeting at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, Feb. 10, 2011.

Rep. Michele Bachmann is threatening to leverage a must-pass budget bill to ensure Congress strips billions of dollars from the federal health care overhaul -- money she says was unfairly baked into the law.

Though Democrats dispute her charges and it's unclear whether she could rally enough support in her party to force the rescission, Bachmann, R-Minn., told Fox News she wants to use the fiscal 2011 budget process to eliminate $105 billion in "buried" health law funding. That money was included as mandatory spending over the next eight years, meaning it's automatic and not subject to annual spending votes by Congress.

"This is a crime against democracy," Bachmann told Fox News on Tuesday. "No one knew that Harry Reid, Pelosi and Obama put $105 billion in spending in the bill. ... This is a bombshell."

The hefty down payment for the health law makes it more difficult for Republicans who want to de-fund the policy through the annual appropriations process. To remedy this, Bachmann said she wants to include language demanding the money back in the next short-term budget bill, which will probably be required to fund the government when the latest short-term bill expires March 18.

"You didn't tell the American people, you didn't tell the Senate, you didn't tell the House. Give the money back. And then we'll start talking about the budget. This is the first thing," Bachmann told Fox News Monday night.

But Democrats pushed back on Bachmann's claim, particularly an earlier remark she made about the funding being a "deceitful" trick hidden from public view. One Democratic aide said the $105 billion was calculated as part of the original "score" for the bill presented to Congress.

"The Congressional Budget Office had this included in their score. They scored the bill and found it (saved) $1.2 trillion over 20 years," the aide said. "What is deceitful is Bachmann voting to end patients' rights while keeping her taxpayer-funded health care."

Though Bachmann claims the authors of the health care law "buried" the money, the House had three months to find it before approving the final version last March.  Bachmann's also not the first person to point this out. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, tried earlier this year, without success, to block the $105 billion. The mandatory money was the subject of a study by Heritage Foundation fellow and former congressman Ernest Istook in late January.

Istook got his figures in large part from a Congressional Research Service report dated Oct. 14 of last year.

Though the information has been floating around in various Washington studies, Istook wrote in January that the inclusion of the money was a major foul on Democrats' part. He accused the bill's authors of bypassing the normal appropriations process to block any future Congress from meddling with the money.

"Making years' worth of spending decisions in advance is an attempt to handcuff the current Congress and prevent it from determining current levels of spending," he wrote.

Among other provisions, about $40 billion would go to the Children's Health Insurance Program, $15 billion would go to a prevention and public health fund, $10 billion would go to Medicare and Medicaid innovation programs, and $9.5 billion would go to the Community Health Centers Fund.

Bachmann claims part of that spending would essentially give Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius a $16-billion "slush fund" that would allow her to do "whatever she wants with this money."

Bachmann called on the bill's supporters to give the money back, though Democrats who backed the health law, most notably President Obama, have argued that the law goes a long way toward insuring the uninsured and protecting health care consumers.

Read more:
23435  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing Crisis Explained and Questions Answered on: March 08, 2011, 11:52:42 AM
Just a quick questions that should leave Doug's observations front and center:

In the effect of a foreclosure-- is the termination of the loan obligation by the former homeowner a taxable gain in the eyes of the IRS?
23436  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: March 08, 2011, 11:49:08 AM
I didn't watch yesterday's show when I saw the host was Judge Napolitano (for the rest of the week too? GB being on a well deserved vacation?)  I like Napolitano just fine, indeed I like him a lot sometimes, but there are times I find him a little formulaic. 

Anyway, concerning oil futures:  I fully get the logic of market efficiency and futures trading.  I also remember wondering WTF was up 2-3 years ago when oil shot to $150 a barrel for reasons that eluded me.  As a read around, I ran across a couple of pieces noting that oil futures required only a 5% margin shocked-- which was far less than for stocks (Anyone know what the margin requirement for stocks is?)  As such, these articles argued, oil futures were by far the most highly leveraged hot money/gambling play left.

It is not clear to me that such highly leveraged speculation truly serves market efficiency.
23437  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 08, 2011, 11:36:32 AM
Grateful for the centering words of a friend.
23438  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Damage Potential of Stick -vs- Light Protection on: March 07, 2011, 11:14:25 PM
I want to lay back for a while on this thread so as to encourage comments by others, but for the moment I remember the number of concussions in that Gathering being 6 by GM Gyi's estimation, not 8.  Also, I would draw attention to the thread on head injuries, concussions, etc.  I started it precisely for the reason of raising consciousness and keeping us aware of continuing growth of understanding with regard to head injuries.  Also, please note our "Attacking Blocks" DVD focuses rather intently on head protection skills, as does the "Snaggletooth Variations".
23439  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing Crisis Explained and Questions Answered on: March 07, 2011, 12:25:36 PM
A hearty welcome and a hearty thank you to Pat for this thread afro
23440  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Saudi Arabia on: March 07, 2011, 12:21:15 PM
Are the Shia dispersed, or are they concentrated in certain regions of the country?  My understanding is the latter.

Also, in Bahrain they are 70% and protesting for "freedom and democracy"? We may be concerned about the US 5th Fleet's base there, but how can we oppose this without losing credibility?
23441  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Economic Warfare on: March 07, 2011, 08:32:17 AM
Not really sure where to put this one 
23442  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / "Oral sex, masturbation, and orgasms need to be taught? on: March 07, 2011, 08:01:45 AM

This source is unknown to me.“oral-sex-masturbation-and-orgasms-need-to-be-taught-in-education”/

 NEA To UN: “Oral Sex, Masturbation, And Orgasms Need To Be Taught In Education”
  (Read WP posts from Duane Lester) | (Read MT posts from Duane Lester) | rss
The United Nations was busy recently, deciding what every country in the world needs to be teaching their wards.  Not wanting to be left out of any meeting that involves the programming of children's minds, the National Education Association had a seat at the table.

The brought their sexualization of children packet and made the case for teaching, well, middle school kids:

“Oral sex, masturbation, and orgasms need to be taught in education,” Diane Schneider told the audience at a panel on combating homophobia and transphobia.  Schneider, representing the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers union in the US, advocated for more “inclusive” sex education in US schools, with curricula based on liberal hetero and homosexual expression.  She claimed that the idea of sex education remains an oxymoron if it is abstinence-based, or if students are still able to opt-out.

Two things to note here.  One, the NEA thinks sex education in America needs to be "more 'inclusive,'" because kids just aren't being indoctrinated enough, and two, choice is for abortion.  These kids need to be forced to sit in this class.

Now, maybe I have always been more of a self starter than others, but I don't remember needing a class on masturbation.  I think this is one lesson that makes everyone a bit autodidactic.

Seriously though, this is stuff the NEA thinks students in grades 6-9 need to be forced to attend.  Apparently, learning about oral sex will help them be less homophobic, or something:

“Gender identity expression and sexual orientation are a spectrum,” she explained, and said that those opposed to homosexuality “are stuck in a binary box that religion and family create.”

Read it again.

Yeah, you are reading that right.  The NEA went to the UN and said this curriculum was needed, and every student needed to be forced to attend, in order to reprogram them out of the teachings they had learned from their religion and their family.

The parents of the child are of no consequence.  The collective is supreme.

And you might not believe this, but the UN agreed:

A Belgian panelist at the same event explained how necessary it was to have government support when educating about anti-discrimination issues.  He claimed that the “positive, pro-LGBT policies in Belgian schools are a direct consequence of liberal and open-minded legislation in Belgium,” and went on to stress the importance of states in providing relevant materials for students and schoolteachers. He also held up Belgium’s “gender in the blender” programs, which are discussion-based programs for Belgian teachers who want to discuss gender and transgender issues in their courses, as a model for other nations who wished to encourage their teachers to address these topics.

You know what this reminds me of?  "Brave New World," by Aldus Huxley.

Here's what I am talking about:

One of the things that makes the society in Brave New World so different from ours is the lack of spirituality. The pleasure-seeking society pursues no spiritual experiences or joys, preferring carnal ones. The lack of a religion that seeks a true transcendental understanding helps ensure that the masses of people, upper and lower classes, have no reason to rebel. What religious ritual they have begins as an attempt to reach a higher level of understanding as a community but quickly turns into a chance to please the carnal nature of man through orgiastic ritual. This denies the human soul, which is usually searching for a pleasure not experienced in the flesh but in the mind, and preserves the society based on happiness which they have established.

The novel addresses the importance of family values and the family structure as an integral part of our society. A new way to be born and raised has done away with the family and brought in a dehumanizing strict class structure and psychological messages to replace it. There are five rigid classes in this world, each with its own characteristics ranging from jobs to clothing to intelligence level. These classes are enforced from birth through experience and suggestion. A dislike of roses and books, for example, is enforced through electric shock while the children are still babies. The knowledge of the different classes in the world and why it is best to be in the class you are in is implanted in the child's mind through hypnopaedia, a series of hypnotic suggestions played while the child is asleep. Through the suggestions that make up the childhood of the adults in this society, the adults are "raised" by the leaders of the State to think and act as they are told. Rather than individual parents instilling their own values into their children, the State chooses how and what each child will learn. The parental relationship of a father and mother to a child has become a dirty and improper idea. Feelings have become obsolete. It is this lack of family that helps keep the different classes in their place. They are conditioned to think and act only as a member of their class, rather than as an individual. Things that create problems in society's class structure, such as the desire of parents to want something better for their children, or people striving for something better for themselves, have been eliminated with the family.

So, in the Brave New World, religion and family were destroyed.  Sound familiar?

One of the more bizarre things in Brave New World is the child sex.  Oh, you may find it abhorrent, but in the book, it's promoted.  Here's an excerpt from Chapter Three:

OUTSIDE, in the garden, it was playtime. Naked in the warm June sunshine, six or seven hundred little boys and girls were running with shrill yells over the lawns, or playing ball games, or squatting silently in twos and threes among the flowering shrubs. The roses were in bloom, two nightingales soliloquized in the boskage, a cuckoo was just going out of tune among the lime trees. The air was drowsy with the murmur of bees and helicopters.

..."That's a charming little group," he said, pointing.

In a little grassy bay between tall clumps of Mediterranean heather, two children, a little boy of about seven and a little girl who might have been a year older, were playing, very gravely and with all the focussed attention of scientists intent on a labour of discovery, a rudimentary sexual game.

"Charming, charming!" the D.H.C. repeated sentimentally.

"Charming," the boys politely agreed. But their smile was rather patronizing. They had put aside similar childish amusements too recently to be able to watch them now without a touch of contempt. Charming? but it was just a pair of kids fooling about; that was all. Just kids.

"I always think," the Director was continuing in the same rather maudlin tone, when he was interrupted by a loud boo-hooing.

From a neighbouring shrubbery emerged a nurse, leading by the hand a small boy, who howled as he went. An anxious-looking little girl trotted at her heels.

"What's the matter?" asked the Director.

The nurse shrugged her shoulders. "Nothing much," she answered. "It's just that this little boy seems rather reluctant to join in the ordinary erotic play. I'd noticed it once or twice before. And now again to-day. He started yelling just now …"

"Honestly," put in the anxious-looking little girl, "I didn't mean to hurt him or anything. Honestly."

"Of course you didn't, dear," said the nurse reassuringly. "And so," she went on, turning back to the Director, "I'm taking him in to see the Assistant Superintendent of Psychology. Just to see if anything's at all abnormal."

"Quite right," said the Director. "Take him in. You stay here, little girl," he added, as the nurse moved away with her still howling charge. "What's your name?"

"Polly Trotsky."

"And a very good name too," said the Director. "Run away now and see if you can find some other little boy to play with."

The child scampered off into the bushes and was lost to sight.

"Exquisite little creature!" said the Director, looking after her. Then, turning to his students, "What I'm going to tell you now," he said, "may sound incredible. But then, when you're not accustomed to history, most facts about the past do sound incredible."

He let out the amazing truth. For a very long period before the time of Our Ford, and even for some generations afterwards, erotic play between children had been regarded as abnormal (there was a roar of laughter); and not only abnormal, actually immoral (no!): and had therefore been rigorously suppressed.

A look of astonished incredulity appeared on the faces of his listeners. Poor little kids not allowed to amuse themselves? They could not believe it.

"Even adolescents," the D.H.C. was saying, "even adolescents like yourselves …"

"Not possible!"

"Barring a little surreptitious auto-erotism and homosexuality - absolutely nothing."


"In most cases, till they were over twenty years old."

"Twenty years old?" echoed the students in a chorus of loud disbelief.

"Twenty," the Director repeated. "I told you that you'd find it incredible."

"But what happened?" they asked. "What were the results?"

"The results were terrible." A deep resonant voice broke startlingly into the dialogue.

Yes, I imagine to the Director, and the hierarchy of the NEA and UN, they were terrible. Good thing actions were taken so that children could be removed from the "binary box that religion and family create.”

Cross posted at All American Blogger.
23443  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Lincoln assumes office on: March 07, 2011, 07:41:15 AM
The First Trick
March 2–9, 1861

The Old Public Functionary attended his last public function this week.

Delayed a bit by a rash of last-minute bills that needed his signature, President Buchanan arrived at Willard’s Hotel a little past noon on Monday in order to escort his successor, as tradition demanded, to his inauguration. Together they were an incongruous pair: the outgoing president, short and round, wore a swallow-tailed coat and broad-brimmed silk hat, while the new president, long and lean, wore a black cashmere suit and his trademark black stovepipe. Mrs. Lincoln and her children had been escorted on ahead.

Traveling in the presidential barouche, they were followed by a long parade: bands, floats full of pretty girls, mounted marshals, color guards, honored veterans and a phalanx of cavalrymen. On this sunny, festive day, President Buchanan’s feelings must have been bittersweet. At the head of a similar parade four years before, he began his presidency as one of the best-prepared political leaders ever to have assumed the office; he exits, after an economic panic and mounting sectional strife, with the country teetering on the brink of civil war so precariously that the rooftops of the buildings lining the route of this procession are crowned with sharpshooters, and artillery pieces command the avenues. Buchanan’s reputation is in ruins: almost daily he suffers to see the words imbecilic, moronic and traitorous affixed to his name. “My dear sir,’’ he at one point addressed Mr. Lincoln, “if you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland, you are a happy man indeed.’’

“Mr. President, I cannot say that I shall enter it with much pleasure,” Mr. Lincoln graciously replied, “but I assure you that I shall do what I can to maintain the high standards set by my illustrious predecessors who have occupied it.’’

Few of the other remarks that President Buchanan happened to utter prior to the ceremonies has been shared; no doubt his comments would be full of the punctilious pleasantries the former ambassador perfected at the palace of St. Petersburg and the Court of St. James’s. But it would be what he was thinking as he sat on that exalted rostrum and listened to his successor’s address that one would dearly love to know. He, after all, has been scorned, and Mr. Lincoln celebrated, by the very same editorialists. And yet a number of their key statements have been nearly identical.

For example, when Mr. Lincoln said, “The Union of these states is perpetual. . . no government proper ever had provision in its organic law for its own termination,’’ Mr. Buchanan no doubt recalled his annual message that he sent to Congress last December, where he said, “The Union of these states was designed to be perpetual. . . .Its framers never intended the absurdity of providing for its own destruction.’’

There are other parallels. Where Lincoln said, “No state upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union,’’ Buchanan said, “No state has a right upon its own to secede from the Union.” Where Lincoln said, “I shall take care that the laws. . . be faithfully executed,’’ Buchanan said, “My province is to execute the laws,’’ and while Lincoln said that the would use his power “to hold, occupy, and possess the property belonging to the government,’’ Buchanan offered a bit more flourish in saying, “It is my duty at all times to defend and protect the public property.’’

Of course, the parallels did not continue all the way through. Mr. Buchanan may have been waiting for Mr. Lincoln to imitate him, and offer an explanation of the origins of the conflict that would prominently feature a sharp and lengthy condemnation of a quarter century’s worth of abolitionist provocations. Instead Mr. Lincoln was succinct. “One section of our country believes slavery is right and out to be extended,’’ he tartly summarized, “while the other believes it is wrong, and ought not to be extended. That is the only substantial dispute.’’

His tone left no doubt which opinion he held. And while Mr. Buchanan may have expected something similar to his long, lawyerly explanation of why the Constitution left him powerless to prevent states from seceding, Mr. Lincoln, though not overtly threatening, was nonetheless clear that he felt far from impotent : “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict, without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to `preserve, protect and defend’ it.’’ Mr. Buchanan found no authorization for action in the Constitution; Mr. Lincoln sees one in his constitutionally mandated oath.

Reaction to Mr. Lincoln’s address has run the gamut, not only among political views, but within them. The abolitionist Frederick Douglass was disappointed, telling friends that the speech, in which Lincoln “prostrated himself before the foul and withering curse of slavery,’’ was “little better than our worst fears.’’ The equally ardent abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner, however, approved of the way the speech showed “a hand of iron in a velvet glove.’’

Most of the voices in the seceded states, predictably enough, condemned the speech, with the Atlanta Confederacy calling it “a medley of ignorance, sanctimonious cant and tender-footed bullyism’’ and the Charleston Mercury saying that a “more lamentable display of feeble inability to grasp the circumstances of this momentous emergency could scarcely have been exhibited.’’

And yet Alexander Stephens, the newly minted vice president of the Confederacy, is reported to have privately admired the address as “the most adroit state paper ever published on this continent.’’ The smirking secessionist Senator Wigfall, the fire-eating Edmund Ruffin and the legalistic disunionist Thomas Cobb have all concluded that Lincoln’s words mean war. But Lincoln’s old adversary, Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, disagrees. “He does not mean coercion; he says nothing about retaking the forts, or Federal property,’’ said Douglas in response to queries. “Every point in the address is susceptible of a double construction, but I think he does not mean coercion.’’ And there are many editorialists, not from northern cities but from Chattanooga and Raleigh and Lexington, all in slaveholding states that have yet to secede, who agree.

It is to these men, the pro-unionists of the upper south, and especially to the delegates of the Virginia Secession Convention, to whom Lincoln was speaking when he said in the address, “My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry any of you in hot haste to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it.’’

Call it coincidence, but when Mr. Lincoln faced a different conflict this week, he took the same approach. Consider: Senator Seward, the man long-designated as Mr. Lincoln’s secretary of state, at the last moment withdrew his name from selection, apparently in protest that the new Cabinet would include Senator Chase of Ohio and other ironbacks who advocate taking a tougher, less conciliatory approach to the South than Mr. Seward prefers.

Was it principle? Pique? A power grab? Regardless — rather than confront Seward’s demand directly, Mr. Lincoln responded with a two-prong approach. He made it clear to a group of Seward’s friends that even though it would be regrettable to lose Seward, he was prepared to name to the State Department William Dayton, the attorney general of New Jersey; and of course he would keep Chase. At the same time, Lincoln wrote to Seward, requesting that he reconsider his withdrawal. In other words, he took a position, and waited for Seward to make the next move; and Seward, of course, acquiesced. “I can’t let Seward take the first trick,’’ Lincoln told a confidant.

Lincoln hoped to do something similar with the seceded states: take a strong position, and then wait until they either came to him on terms he found acceptable or took responsibility for starting the conflict. Shockingly, Lincoln’s plan was dead before he could articulate it. Two hours before the swearing in, President Buchanan received an urgent message from Major Anderson at Fort Sumter, informing his superiors that he was running out of supplies. If not relieved — and Anderson estimated that because of the Confederate forces massed on the shore, it would take 20,000 men to accomplish that mission — he would have to surrender the fort in six weeks. Lincoln had devised a strategy that could be expressed in one phrase: Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. Now, suddenly, time was running out.

This news did not reach President Lincoln until the afternoon following the inauguration, when the outgoing secretary of war, Joseph Holt, gave him a complete report — complete, that is, with explanations and assurances that the previous administration knew nothing of Major Anderson’s difficulties, that he had submitted no request for supplies, nor for reinforcements, nor had he warned about the construction of the rebels’ works. By that point, Buchanan was on a train, on his way back to his beloved Wheatland.
He had spoken to Lincoln since receiving the news; at the reception at the White House after the inauguration, the two men had a tete a tete. Buchanan was observed to be doing nearly all the talking, holding forth with urgent animation. Was the outgoing president imparting some final advice, sharing some guidance that would prove vital in the days ahead? Indeed. “I think you will find the water of the right hand well of the White House better than that at the left,’’ an eavesdropper overheard Buchanan say. Insights about the pantry and kitchen followed. The state of Sumter was never a topic.

Sources: To learn more about these events, please see “President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman,’’ by William Lee Miller (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008); “Lincoln President-Elect,’’ by Harold Holzer (Simon and Schuster, 2008); and “Days of Defiance,” by Maury Klein (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997).
23444  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Douthat: Monogamy matters on: March 07, 2011, 07:36:27 AM
Why Monogamy Matters
Published: March 6, 2011
Social conservatives can seem like the perennial pessimists of American politics — more comfortable with resignation than with hope, perpetually touting evidence of family breakdown, social disintegration and civilizational decline.

But even doomsayers get the occasional dose of good news. And so it was last week, when a study from the Centers for Disease Control revealed that American teens and 20-somethings are waiting longer to have sex.

In 2002, the study reported, 22 percent of Americans aged 15 to 24 were still virgins. By 2008, that number was up to 28 percent. Other research suggests that this trend may date back decades, and that young Americans have been growing more sexually conservative since the late 1980s.

Why is this good news? Not, it should be emphasized, because it suggests the dawn of some sort of traditionalist utopia, where the only sex is married sex. No such society has ever existed, or ever could: not in 1950s America (where, as the feminist writer Dana Goldstein noted last week, the vast majority of men and women had sex before they married), and not even in Mormon Utah (where Brigham Young University recently suspended a star basketball player for sleeping with his girlfriend).

But there are different kinds of premarital sex. There’s sex that’s actually pre-marital, in the sense that it involves monogamous couples on a path that might lead to matrimony one day. Then there’s sex that’s casual and promiscuous, or just premature and ill considered.

This distinction is crucial to understanding what’s changed in American life since the sexual revolution. Yes, in 1950 as in 2011, most people didn’t go virgins to their marriage beds. But earlier generations of Americans waited longer to have sex, took fewer sexual partners across their lifetimes, and were more likely to see sleeping together as a way station on the road to wedlock.

And they may have been happier for it. That’s the conclusion suggested by two sociologists, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, in their recent book, “Premarital Sex in America.” Their research, which looks at sexual behavior among contemporary young adults, finds a significant correlation between sexual restraint and emotional well-being, between monogamy and happiness — and between promiscuity and depression.

This correlation is much stronger for women than for men. Female emotional well-being seems to be tightly bound to sexual stability — which may help explain why overall female happiness has actually drifted downward since the sexual revolution.

Among the young people Regnerus and Uecker studied, the happiest women were those with a current sexual partner and only one or two partners in their lifetime. Virgins were almost as happy, though not quite, and then a young woman’s likelihood of depression rose steadily as her number of partners climbed and the present stability of her sex life diminished.

When social conservatives talk about restoring the link between sex, monogamy and marriage, they often have these kinds of realities in mind. The point isn’t that we should aspire to some Arcadia of perfect chastity. Rather, it’s that a high sexual ideal can shape how quickly and casually people pair off, even when they aren’t living up to its exacting demands. The ultimate goal is a sexual culture that makes it easier for young people to achieve romantic happiness — by encouraging them to wait a little longer, choose more carefully and judge their sex lives against a strong moral standard.

This is what’s at stake, for instance, in debates over abstinence-based sex education. Successful abstinence-based programs (yes, they do exist) don’t necessarily make their teenage participants more likely to save themselves for marriage. But they make them more likely to save themselves for somebody, which in turn increases the odds that their adult sexual lives will be a source of joy rather than sorrow.

It’s also what’s at stake in the ongoing battle over whether the federal government should be subsidizing Planned Parenthood. Obviously, social conservatives don’t like seeing their tax dollars flow to an organization that performs roughly 300,000 abortions every year. But they also see Planned Parenthood’s larger worldview — in which teen sexual activity is taken for granted, and the most important judgment to be made about a sexual encounter is whether it’s clinically “safe” — as the enemy of the kind of sexual idealism they’re trying to restore.

Liberals argue, not unreasonably, that Planned Parenthood’s approach is tailored to the gritty realities of teenage sexuality. But realism can blur into cynicism, and a jaded attitude can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Social conservatives look at the contemporary sexual landscape and remember that it wasn’t always thus, and they look at current trends and hope that it doesn’t have to be this way forever.

In this sense, despite their instinctive gloominess, they’re actually the optimists in the debate.
23445  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Krugman begins lucidly, but then returns to form on: March 07, 2011, 07:28:18 AM

It is a truth universally acknowledged that education is the key to economic success. Everyone knows that the jobs of the future will require ever higher levels of skill. That’s why, in an appearance Friday with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Obama declared that “If we want more good news on the jobs front then we’ve got to make more investments in education.”

But what everyone knows is wrong.

The day after the Obama-Bush event, The Times published an article about the growing use of software to perform legal research. Computers, it turns out, can quickly analyze millions of documents, cheaply performing a task that used to require armies of lawyers and paralegals. In this case, then, technological progress is actually reducing the demand for highly educated workers.

And legal research isn’t an isolated example. As the article points out, software has also been replacing engineers in such tasks as chip design. More broadly, the idea that modern technology eliminates only menial jobs, that well-educated workers are clear winners, may dominate popular discussion, but it’s actually decades out of date.

The fact is that since 1990 or so the U.S. job market has been characterized not by a general rise in the demand for skill, but by “hollowing out”: both high-wage and low-wage employment have grown rapidly, but medium-wage jobs — the kinds of jobs we count on to support a strong middle class — have lagged behind. And the hole in the middle has been getting wider: many of the high-wage occupations that grew rapidly in the 1990s have seen much slower growth recently, even as growth in low-wage employment has accelerated.

Why is this happening? The belief that education is becoming ever more important rests on the plausible-sounding notion that advances in technology increase job opportunities for those who work with information — loosely speaking, that computers help those who work with their minds, while hurting those who work with their hands.

Some years ago, however, the economists David Autor, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane argued that this was the wrong way to think about it. Computers, they pointed out, excel at routine tasks, “cognitive and manual tasks that can be accomplished by following explicit rules.” Therefore, any routine task — a category that includes many white-collar, nonmanual jobs — is in the firing line. Conversely, jobs that can’t be carried out by following explicit rules — a category that includes many kinds of manual labor, from truck drivers to janitors — will tend to grow even in the face of technological progress.

And here’s the thing: Most of the manual labor still being done in our economy seems to be of the kind that’s hard to automate. Notably, with production workers in manufacturing down to about 6 percent of U.S. employment, there aren’t many assembly-line jobs left to lose. Meanwhile, quite a lot of white-collar work currently carried out by well-educated, relatively well-paid workers may soon be computerized. Roombas are cute, but robot janitors are a long way off; computerized legal research and computer-aided medical diagnosis are already here.

And then there’s globalization. Once, only manufacturing workers needed to worry about competition from overseas, but the combination of computers and telecommunications has made it possible to provide many services at long range. And research by my Princeton colleagues Alan Blinder and Alan Krueger suggests that high-wage jobs performed by highly educated workers are, if anything, more “offshorable” than jobs done by low-paid, less-educated workers. If they’re right, growing international trade in services will further hollow out the U.S. job market.

So what does all this say about policy?

Yes, we need to fix American education. In particular, the inequalities Americans face at the starting line — bright children from poor families are less likely to finish college than much less able children of the affluent — aren’t just an outrage; they represent a huge waste of the nation’s human potential.

But there are things education can’t do. In particular, the notion that putting more kids through college can restore the middle-class society we used to have is wishful thinking. It’s no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you’ll get a good job, and it’s becoming less true with each passing decade.

So if we want a society of broadly shared prosperity, education isn’t the answer — we’ll have to go about building that society directly. We need to restore the bargaining power that labor has lost over the last 30 years, so that ordinary workers as well as superstars have the power to bargain for good wages. We need to guarantee the essentials, above all health care, to every citizen.

What we can’t do is get where we need to go just by giving workers college degrees, which may be no more than tickets to jobs that don’t exist or don’t pay middle-class wages.

23446  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Al Jazeera: A listen and a read on: March 07, 2011, 06:59:40 AM
23447  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Saudi stock market down on: March 07, 2011, 06:43:41 AM
23448  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Time to form a Tea Party? on: March 07, 2011, 06:40:01 AM

After the past few weeks, many GOP conservatives – and Tea Partiers – are beginning to understand how some of the Obamaphiles feel. Like Obama supporters, conservatives worked hard to secure leadership that, we believed, both understood what was best for America and had the courage to stand firm for real change. But the first months of GOP congressional control have been disappointing; if the GOP leadership continues down its current road, the disillusionment now being expressed by erstwhile Obama supporters like Matt Damon will soon be an entirely bipartisan affair.
Certainly, there’s no doubt that John Boehner and other congressional leaders have a tough job. In the interest of restoring America’s financial health, they are stuck proposing spending cuts and long-term, structural changes to well-beloved entitlement programs. What’s more, they’re forced to deal with a President whose budget reflected a fundamental unseriousness about the looming fiscal crisis -- and an obvious strategy of abdicating all budgetary responsibility in order to be able to demonize the GOP for any proposed cuts.

But still.

Last month, conservatives across the country were treated to fancy rhetorical footwork as some Republicans tried to explain away the collapse of their campaign-era commitment to a $100 billion spending decrease in this year’s budget. Further reductions were presented only after substantial push-back from the Tea Party and conservatives.

Just this week, Tom Coburn told radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt that a bipartisan “working group” of senators was considering a substantial cut in the home interest rate deduction for houses costing more than $500,000. Although the proposal may hold appeal inside the ornate conference rooms of Capitol Hill, in the real world, it would disproportionately punish homeowners in states with high-value houses, even as it devastates the home-building industry.

Coburn’s revelation came even as the GAO issued a report uncovering as much as $100 billion to $200 billion being spent on wasteful and duplicative government programs each year. It’s hard not to wonder: If more is to be demanded of the already-overburdened American taxpayer, shouldn’t the request come only after government has done its part to “sacrifice” first?

The tone-deafness doesn’t stop there. Days drag on, and Americans hear little from top GOP congressional leaders. What they do hear, too often, is filtered through left-leaning cable television shows. Nowhere are GOP leaders explaining why – in contrast to the “exploding deficit” scare of the early 90’s – our current fiscal situation presents an unprecedented threat, requiring serious and quick remediation. And amid all the hints about upcoming proposals for spending cuts and tax reform, no one is “connecting the dots” to help regular Americans understand how the proposals will create the conditions that secure economic growth, prosperity and a brighter future for all of us.

Instead, it’s beginning to look, once again, like leaders in the highest ranks of the GOP are more focused on their standing inside the Beltway than the promises they made to the people outside it. But this time, that won’t cut it; it’s an invitation for Tea Partiers to form their own, third party, and a recipe for political disaster come 2012.

But above all, the GOP has to act with the understanding that falling short won’t just mean unfortunate electoral results for their politicians. It will mean real trouble for America.
23449  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Govt. can on: March 06, 2011, 11:04:22 PM
23450  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / France on: March 06, 2011, 06:35:21 PM

Date unknown:  French police avoid near lynching by muslim youth, flee"muslim"zone. DRM Ireland

O'Reilly bit (date unknown) on communist-Islamo fascist alliance of convenience

For the record, I don't have a terribly high opinion of O'Reilly
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