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23451  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: December 14, 2011, 05:38:43 PM
WWWOOOFFF!!!  cool cool cool
23452  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ's case for Mitt on: December 14, 2011, 10:46:04 AM

Week 3,334 of Mitt Romney's quest for the presidency hasn't been a good one. Newt Gingrich has seized the lead in the polls. The voluble front-runner has even lined up with Ted Kennedy, Paul Krugman, Obama's campaign brain trust and the Pulitzer department of every major newspaper in assaulting Mr. Romney as a job killer for his role in private equity.

Oddly, though, these are now the discordant media notes. For the first time, and perhaps here we can blame the Gingrich phenomenon, the press has suddenly found Mr. Romney a fascinating, nuanced figure.

The New York Times discovers him frugal in his personal habits, generous with his family, personally U-Hauling the clan's gear between vacation homes. The Washington Post says that in debates Mr. Romney's "body language speaks of physical modesty, discipline." Another Post profile finds him "supremely rational," a "problem solver," "devoted to data," keenly appreciative of the role of "incentives."

Stereotypes are fun: The greedy businessman. The sneering, tenured professor. The clapped-out pundit who hides his creative destitution behind crude appeals to prejudice. But Mr. Romney never really fit his assigned part as Gordon Gekko or Milburn Drysdale. His Bain Capital period has already been in the rearview mirror for 12 years. When other private equity pioneers were turning their millions into billions, he left to rescue the Winter Olympics.

Before Bain, he spent two years proselytizing for Mormon converts in the unpromising vineyards of France. After Bain, once his financial independence was secured, he turned with suspicious enthusiasm to politics and policy.

Of his Bain period, a former colleague (not a supporter) said it best: The goal wasn't to maximize job creation but to maximize returns for the private equity fund's investors.

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Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich
.At that, he succeeded. At rescuing the Olympics, he succeeded. At winning the Massachusetts governorship, he succeeded. At crafting a bipartisan Massachusetts health-care plan, he succeeded. At subsidizing demand for health care without breaking the bank, he didn't succeed.

RomneyCare has been his biggest albatross, yet it merely makes him the soulmate of our two most recent presidents, ideological opposites though they are considered to be. Both Presidents Bush and Obama also expanded access to health care without figuring out how to pay for it.

Mr. Romney should probably just tell the truth: He faced a political imperative to act but no political consensus to act effectively, so he acted ineffectively. Oh well. His lack of a consistent ideological lodestar might be a handicap when a lodestar is needed. But—and we know this contravenes everything you've been taught—America is not headed in 2012 for a landmark decision on the size and role of government. America is headed only for a moment of recognition.

Like Greece. Like the troubled businesses Bain overhauled. Like the failing Salt Lake City Olympics. There's no money to pay for bigger and bigger government. There's no money to pay for the government we've already promised ourselves. Yes, around the edges, there may be room for adjustment, if we can get the economy growing again. But that means tax reform to make the fiscal engine more efficient, not tax hikes on some imaginary motherlode of billionaires to get us off the horns of our dilemma.

On the particular problem that made a fool out of Mr. Romney (and Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama), don't worry, bankrupting the nation to pay for health care is not an option. If we do nothing, if entitlements remain unreformed, the money simply will be withheld to pay for them. You'll still be entitled to that knee operation at taxpayer expense. Good luck finding a doctor to perform it. The waiting list will be long.

Our world that's coming is a world of narrowing, not widening, choices. It's a world that suits Mr. Romney's skills and history, his knack for operating within constraints and making choices based on data, data, data. Mr. Obama lives in the same world, of course, but is unequipped to deal with it given his dubious gifts for execution, execution, execution. Also, given his inclination to seek refuge in a clueless reverie of big new programs at a time when the resources simply don't exist.

Nor is there a Big Idea that can transform our unhappy prospects. Lunar mining will not rescue Medicare. People like Mr. Gingrich play a useful role in politics: It's good to be able to talk thrillingly about history, civilization. But they make bad—perhaps we should say, unnecessary—presidents. When ideas are new and unfamiliar, they're not executable. When they're executable we need people who can execute.

The consensus for painful reform comes when the status quo hits the wall. It's a myth that we don't know what our choices are. That's the Romney moment. His strong suit has always been to do what everyone else has put off.

23453  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: December 14, 2011, 10:39:12 AM

Frankly I see these articles you post as non-responsive to the points I am making.

a) we should not depend upon costs of intrusive surveillance for the protection of our freedom
b) costs of the technolgy are and will continue to decline dramatically
c) the technologies capabilities and sneakiness are and will continue to increase dramatically.


On a different but related matter, its a good thing that we have Attorney General Holder to protect us from the misuse of surveilling technology in the government's hands like this:


In August 2010, Libyan journalist Khaled Mehiri shot an email to his editor at al-Jazeera proposing an article about the hollow nature of the Gadhafi regime's anticorruption efforts.

Before the story was even written, the regime knew about it. Libyan security agents had intercepted the email, using an Internet-surveillance system purchased from a French company, Amesys.

For months, the agents monitored the journalist's emails and Facebook messages via the Amesys tools, printing out messages and storing them in a file that The Wall Street Journal recovered in an abandoned electronic-surveillance headquarters in Tripoli.

In January 2011, as the Arab Spring was exploding in neighboring Tunisia and unrest was building in Libya, Mr. Mehiri was summoned for a face-to-face meeting with Moammar Gadhafi's intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi, who Mr. Mehiri says admonished him not to publish remarks by certain leading anti-Gadhafi activists.
The surveillance operation now is causing headaches for Amesys, a unit of French technology company Bull SA. Lawmakers from the opposition Socialist Party in France have called for a parliamentary inquiry into any role the French government might have played in facilitating Amesys's sale of equipment to Libya. Human-rights groups have filed court complaints asking French prosecutors to investigate Amesys for what the groups call possible violations of export rules and complicity in torture. Prosecutors haven't yet ruled on the requests.

The French company acknowledges it sold Web-surveillance equipment to Libya but says it has done nothing wrong. "All Amesys activities strictly adhere to the statutory and regulatory requirements of both European and French international conventions," a spokeswoman said. "We are fully prepared to answer any questions which the legal authorities may ask us."

French government officials said the presidency and the office of then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy were routinely informed of Amesys's negotiations and the subsequent contract in Libya. French authorities, however, didn't vet the Amesys export to Libya because such equipment doesn't require a special license when sold outside France, the officials said. Mr. Sarkozy, who became president in May 2007, declined to comment through a spokesman.

In statements, Amesys and parent company Bull have emphasized that Libya had become a counterterrorism ally with Western governments by 2007, when the contract was signed.

Mr. Mehiri's tangle with the Libyan surveillance apparatus shows how U.S. and European interception technology, though often exported for the stated purpose of tracking terrorists, could instead be deployed against dissidents, human-rights campaigners, journalists or everyday enemies of the state—all categories that appear in Libyan surveillance files reviewed by the Journal.

The story also underscores how the intelligence apparatus overseen by Mr. Senussi, the spy chief, invaded the lives of Libyans amid acquiescence from the West.

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Emails of reporter Khaled Mehiri, pictured, were monitored, and he was called to a meeting with Gadhafi spy chief Abdullah Senussi.
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Abdullah Senussi
.Mr. Mehiri calls Amesys's decision to sell Libya an invasive spying tool despite Gadhafi's history of repression "a cowardly act and a flagrant violation of human rights," adding: "To me, they are therefore directly involved in the work of the Gadhafi criminal regime."

Mr. Senussi is wanted by the International Criminal Court at The Hague on war-crimes charges for his role in the brutal crackdown against Libyan protesters this spring. About three weeks ago, forces loyal to Libya's transitional government said they had apprehended him, but the government hasn't confirmed this. His whereabouts remain unclear.

Philippe Vannier, a former head of Amesys and current chief executive of Bull, was seen in Tripoli meeting with Mr. Senussi around 2007, according to a person familiar with the matter. Bull and Mr. Vannier declined to comment on that.

Mr. Senussi was long viewed by human-rights advocates as one of Gadhafi's most ruthless operatives, suspected of a role in the assassinations of Libyan dissidents abroad. A French court in 1999 convicted him in absentia of masterminding the 1989 bombing of a French airplane in central Africa that killed 170 people.

Libyan authorities didn't make Mr. Senussi available for questioning by the French court. It is unclear whether he ever made any public statement concerning the bombing or assassinations.

Mr. Mehiri antagonized the Gadhafi regime with articles that took aim at rights abuses. He wrote about poverty that persisted despite Libya's oil wealth. He came to be considered by some an expert on a mass killing of more than 1,200 inmates in Tripoli's Abu Salim prison in June 1996, after he spent months interviewing relatives and survivors.

Mr. Mehiri, 38 years old, grew up in a small town outside the eastern city of Benghazi and studied journalism there. He worked for various Libyan media outlets, some of which were shut down. When Internet service became widespread in the country around 2004, he worked for online Arabic news outlets, including one of the top Libyan dissident sites, Libya Today. In 2007 he started writing for the website of al-Jazeera, the Arabic television channel based in Qatar.

"I had ambitions to find professional and free journalism in my country," Mr. Mehiri says. "For this reason, I decided not to leave the field and to continue my work no matter the circumstances or threats against me."

Those threats ebbed and flowed, he says. By the mid-2000s, he found himself the defendant in a series of what he calls harassment lawsuits, filed by people he said had ties to the security agencies. Human-rights lawyers came to his defense, helping him avoid stiff penalties or jail time in these cases.

In 2009, however, he was convicted of the criminal offense of working for a foreign news organization without the proper license, after a controversial interview he gave to al-Jazeera. In it, he alleged, based on his reporting about the mass prison killing, that Mr. Senussi was at the prison that day, a conclusion that groups like Human Rights Watch have also reached based on survivor testimony.

Mr. Mehiri says a prosecutor allowed him to remain free on condition he sign in each week at the central judicial office in Tripoli. Harassment by intelligence agencies increased, however, he says, including interrogation by prosecutors who said he was under investigation for spying and threatening state security—crimes punishable by death.

During this period, Gadhafi, long a pariah to Western governments, was reaping the benefits of a newfound acceptance. Libya started to come in from the cold around 2003 by relinquishing its weapons of mass destruction program, agreeing to help fight terrorism and later paying large sums to the families of terrorism victims, including those killed in the airliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, for which a Libyan was convicted.

In 2007, Mr. Sarkozy welcomed Gadhafi on an official visit to France, his first in more than three decades.

The Libyan regime saw an opportunity to upgrade its surveillance capability with French technology, according to people familiar with the matter.

Amesys signed its contract with Libya that year, it said, and then in 2008 shipped its "Eagle" surveillance system and sent engineers to Libya to help set it up. The system became fully operational in 2009, the people familiar with it said.

The Libyan government now had a powerful new tool to track its adversaries. The system intercepted traffic from Libya's main Internet service provider and sent it to the monitoring center in Tripoli, which the Journal found in August after rebels overran the capital city.

There, a wall of black refrigerator-size devices inspected the Internet traffic, opening emails, divining passwords, snooping on online chats and mapping connections among various suspects. A sign on the wall in the main room gave the name, French phone number and Amesys corporate email of an Amesys employee, Renaud Roques, to call for technical help. Mr. Roques didn't respond to a request for comment. The Amesys spokeswoman said the company didn't have access to the use made of the equipment in the center.

In an adjoining room, a file on Mr. Mehiri, bound in a green folder marked with the name of Libya's internal-security service, lay amid scores of others stacked in floor-to-ceiling shelves. It shows he had been subjected to electronic surveillance at least as far back as August 2010 and as recently as last February.

The file consists of dozens of pages of emails. All feature the designation "https://eagle/interceptions" in the upper right corner, an indication that agents printed out the messages using the Eagle interception system from Amesys.

The file reveals a journalist working to document the underbelly of Libya, while struggling to fend off pressure from the regime.

In an email to a Human Rights Watch researcher, Mr. Mehiri frets about a defamation suit, which he worries could become a pretext for an arrest. In another email, he tells the researcher the date of the first hearing and updates her on the case of another Libyan journalist.

"Please do not reveal my identity because things are risky here," he writes. "We hope that you support the journalists here in Libya."

Much of the file consists of emails between Mr. Mehiri and other journalists, including editors at al-Jazeera, describing his ideas for articles. One was to be a piece about a Gadhafi son who said there was no strife in Libya. Another he planned was about how Libya was compensating victims of bombings by the Irish Republican Army, which Libya at one point helped arm, but not victims of the Libyan prison massacre.

Mr. Mehiri long suspected his communications were being monitored, but didn't confirm this until a meeting in January with a longtime source, a Gadhafi cousin and policy adviser. He says the man told him the regime had copies of his emails. "He even described the color of the text written by my editors when they were making changes in my copy," Mr. Mehiri says.

A few days later, Mr. Mehiri found himself in a confrontation with the official whose surveillance apparatus had been tracking him. He was summoned to a meeting with Mr. Senussi in Tripoli on Jan. 16. It was two days after the departure from office of Tunisia's president, Zine el Abedine Ben Ali, signaled the full explosion of the Arab Spring.

Mr. Mehiri says he showed up for the meeting in Mr. Senussi's office wearing jeans, tennis shoes and an old jacket, a sign of disrespect in his culture, because he wanted to show he wasn't scared.

The meeting lasted four hours. Mr. Senussi, a man with jet-black curly hair and small, deep-set eyes, talked about the need for reform in Libya and said the government was interested in change, but he also leveled subtle but clear threats, Mr. Mehiri says. He warned not to publish remarks by certain core activists and reminded Mr. Mehiri that he could be picked up by police at will because of his prior conviction.

"He argued about my style in covering events," Mr. Mehiri says. "I spoke about myself, my family, my profession and the origin and history of my tribe. I found out that he already knew all my personal information."

Libyan agents continued to intercept Mr. Mehiri's emails after the meeting. They printed out one he sent two days later to editors at al-Jazeera.

"Tomorrow, journalists here are holding a protest against confiscating people's properties," he wrote. "Should I send a report?"

Surveillance continued after the uprising began. On Feb. 25, Libyan agents intercepted an email sent by a Libyan law professor, Faiza al Basha, to a group that included Mr. Mehiri and employees of the U.S. State Department and a United Nations agency, in which she advocated trying to get Google Inc. to open up a live view of Libya on Google Earth that would "help us track down the security personnel and therefore inform protesters and demonstrators about the locations of the security personnel so they can avoid them." Ms. Basha confirmed making that suggestion "to help the rebels achieve the liberation."

By then, Mr. Mehiri wasn't checking his email. Though he had covered the protests the first few days after they broke out in eastern Libya on Feb. 15, he began to worry that if the regime sent troops to Benghazi, he was likely to pay for his years of criticizing it. Fearing also for his wife and young son, he put down his recorder and reporting pad and went into hiding. He stayed out of view for the rest of the war.

"When I went underground, large amounts of news discussing this crackdown was not published," Mr. Mehiri says. All along, the medium had been the message, he says: "Surveillance alone is enough to terrorize people."

Mr. Mehiri came out of hiding in September, shortly after Libya's rebels gained control of the capital. He's now back at work in Benghazi writing about Libya's political changes for al-Jazeera.

—David Gauthier-Villars contributed to this article.

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23454  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: December 14, 2011, 10:25:32 AM

Grateful for each day's Adventure!
23455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Stratolaunch, Rutan & Allen on: December 14, 2011, 10:12:55 AM

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen indicated he is prepared to commit $200 million or more of his wealth to build the world's largest airplane as a mobile platform for launching satellites at low cost, which he believes could transform the space industry.

Announced Tuesday, the novel, high-risk project conceived by renowned aerospace designer Burt Rutan seeks to combine engines, landing gears and other parts removed from old Boeing 747 jets with a newly created composite craft from Mr. Rutan and a powerful rocket to be built by a company run by Internet billionaire and commercial-space pioneer Elon Musk.

Dubbed Stratolaunch and funded by one of Mr. Allen's closely held entities, the venture seeks to meld decades-old airplane technology with cutting-edge booster-rocket designs in an unprecedented way to assemble a hybrid that would offer the first totally privately funded space transportation system.

The ultimate goal—which has eluded corporate and government rocket scientists for decades—is to build a reliable and flexible aircraft-based launch option capable of hurling satellites as heavy as a pickup truck into low-earth orbit.

Intent on recycling parts to reduce both development time and expense, Mr. Allen nonetheless conceded in an interview that "the price of admission is stiff for these kinds of projects."

Messrs. Rutan and Allen, who made history in 2004 by teaming up on SpaceShip One, the first privately built rocket ship to reach the edge of space, now hope to modify and supersize that same concept. Industry officials estimate Mr. Allen spent at least $25 million on their original venture, and he doesn't dispute that.

Without releasing specific numbers, the billionaire investor and philanthropist reiterated Tuesday that the latest effort "will end up costing at least an order of magnitude more than I put into SpaceShip One."

Stressing that he has "long dreamed about taking the next big step in space flight," Mr. Allen released a statement emphasizing he hoped to usher in "the dawn of radical change in the space launch industry." But in response to questions from reporters, he said Vulcan Inc., his Seattle-based investment company, wouldn't be ready with such a large financial commitment "if we didn't think there were going to be a lot of customers."

Earlier: Budget, Technical Woes Hamper Space Ventures
Earlier: SpaceX Wins Major Deal to Launch Commercial Satellite

.Mr. Allen and his team hope to offer attractive rates well below current launch costs, which can run anywhere from $30 million to more than $200 million, depending on the weight of the payload and height of the orbit.

The concept seems to border on science fiction. It envisions a behemoth mother ship with twin, narrow fuselages, featuring six Boeing Co. 747 engines attached to a record 385-foot wingspan, plus a smaller rocket pod nestled underneath. Expected to weigh roughly 1.2 million pounds, the combination would roughly match the maximum takeoff weight of the largest, fully loaded Airbus A380 superjumbo plane, but the wings would be more than 120 feet longer than those of the Airbus A380.

Flying at roughly 30,000 feet, the craft would climb sharply just as it released the rocket, which would use a cluster of four or five engines to boost itself into orbit.

The sheer size of the endeavor presents severe engineering and production challenges. While scientists have long studied the principles of air-launched rockets—Mr. Rutan recalls beginning preliminary work on such a project as long ago as 1991—Stratolaunch Systems Inc., as the new venture is called, still hasn't firmed up critical design details.

In an interview, Gary Wentz, a former senior National Aeronautics and Space Administration official tapped as the new company's chief executive, suggested the business case for the project also may be fluid. He didn't give details about the most likely types of missions and why the new system would manage to attract a wider range of customers than NASA's phased-out Delta II rockets, which Stratolaunch hopes to replace. The Delta II's production costs and other expenses were too high to justify serving limited government and commercial markets.

Unlike conventional rockets that blast off from a pad, air-launched systems similar to the one Mr. Allen wants to put together are designed to deliver a broad range of satellites to space without the constraints of weather or optimal times and locations to try to reach specific orbits.

As a result, the project's motto is "any orbit, any time," and a big selling point is that the carrier aircraft can relocate more than 1,300 miles without refueling to search for a suitable launch location.

Costs are supposed to be kept under control partly by recycling 1960's-vintage airplane technology and partly by spreading rocket development and operating costs across various commercial, military and civilian missions. Different-size versions of the proposed rocket already have flown and are currently under development by Mr. Musk's team for U.S. government and commercial launches, as well as for foreign customers.

If all goes well, Stratolaunch officials predict test flights of the hybrid space vehicles could begin in five years and commercial operations could commence by the end of the decade. "I'm optimistic because we're reusing so much existing technology," Mr Allen said.

Ultimately, the aim is to spur human space flight, though the officials acknowledged work on a capsule that potentially could carry astronauts or, less likely, a spaceplane with wings vaguely resembling NASA's retired space shuttles, remains at an early stage.

Mr. Rutan, renowned for his engineering prowess and penchant for secrecy, said in an in interview that one of the nagging questions had been "whether you could build something big enough to deliver a significant payload to orbit." The plan calls for launching satellites weighing up to 13,500 pounds.

Scaled Composites LLC of Mojave, Calif., the company Mr. Rutan founded and sold to Northrop Grumman Corp. years ago, is slated to build the all-composite structure. Mr. Rutan retired a few months ago but agreed to sit on the new company's board. Speaking of his close relationship with Mr. Allen and calling the former Microsoft chief technologist "a visionary" when it comes to space flight, Mr. Rutan said "he is more than someone you just go to for money."

The 58-year-old billionaire, along with high-school classmate Bill Gates, wrote the programming language that led to the founding of Microsoft.Since he left Microsoft in 1983, Mr. Allen has launched into a variety of enterprises. He founded a rock museum in Seattle as well as a computer museum that houses old mammoth-sized servers. He and owns the Seattle Seahawks football team and the Portland Trailblazers basketball team. He lost $8 billion in his investment with cable company Charter Communications when it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009.

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Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft Corp.
.The proposed launch system also brings into the mix a third high-profile champion of commercial space flight: Mr. Musk, who so far has spent some $100 million of his personal fortune on Space Exploration Technologies Corp., a Southern California start-up that last December became the first commercial entity to successfully launch and recover a capsule from outside the atmosphere. His company, called SpaceX, is slated to supply a slimmed-down version of its Falcon 9 rocket.

With its historic breakthrough, SpaceShip One helped give birth to the fledgling space-tourism industry—its basic design was embraced by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic LLC suborbital project. Virgin Galactic also harbors dreams of satellite launches, but its primary focus will be giving thrill rides exposing passengers briefly to the sensations of weightlessness.

In a statement Tuesday, the Virgin Galactic chief said he welcomed the announcement because "the potential of the industry we are leading is immense, but will depend on the continuing emergence of truly safe, affordable and transformative technologies." Messrs. Allen And Rutan, the statement said, boast a "record in that respect (that) is unmatched."

The latest brainchild of Mr. Allen, who also thought earlier about launching a space-tourism venture, suggests the logical evolution of commercial space efforts. Until now, the budding industry has primarily featured companies operating on their own and typically eschewing connections to mainstream space firms or leaders. But Stratolaunch Systems, based in Huntsville, Ala., the center of traditional U.S. rocket design, has former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, as directors.

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23456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Issa to interview gun sting principal again on: December 14, 2011, 09:06:11 AM
‘Fast and Furious’ Gets New Scrutiny
Issa to Interview Gun Sting Principal Again

By Jonathan Strong

Congressional investigators will get another crack at one of the Justice Department principals for Operation Fast and Furious, a weapons sting that has set up an oversight battle between Republicans and the Obama administration.

Dennis Burke, the former U.S. attorney for Arizona, will be interviewed by the office of Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) for the first time since an interview over the summer was cut short.

When Senate Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) first asked the Justice Department about allegations that a gun-smuggling investigation on the Southwestern border allowed hundreds of assault weapons to escape into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, Burke denounced Grassley for even asking the question.

“What is so offensive about this whole project is that Grassley’s staff, acting as willing stooges for the gun lobby, have attempted to distract from the incredible success in dismantling [Southwest border] gun trafficking operations,” Burke told Justice Department lawyers who were preparing a response.

Pushing lawyers to “categorical[ly]” deny the allegations, Burke bristled when other officials raised the “risks” of an aggressive denial. “What risk?” Burke wrote to colleagues.

Grassley had questioned whether two AK-47s that had been found at the site of U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry’s murder had been tracked by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ investigation.

In fact, they had been. But Burke, in a Feb. 4 email, blasted Grassley’s office for “lobbing this reckless despicable accusation that ATF is complicit in the murder of a fellow federal law enforcement officer.”

The same day the email was sent, the Justice Department would send a letter to Grassley broadly denying that ATF investigations had allowed guns to “walk,” which means ending surveillance on guns suspected to be in transit to criminal networks.

Attorney General Eric Holder has since conceded the letter contained false information, and the letter was formally withdrawn by the Justice Department on Dec. 2.

“Any instance of so-called gunwalking was unacceptable. This tactic was unfortunately used as part of Fast and Furious,” Holder told Senators at a Nov. 8 Judiciary Committee hearing. “This should never have happened.”

Burke received frequent oral and written briefings from the operation’s lead prosecutor and from ATF officials heading it. Congressional investigators have asked whether Burke knew gunwalking tactics were being used at the time he told Justice Department lawyers to deny to Congress they were, and if not, how he could have been ignorant about them.

In an Aug. 18 transcribed interview, Burke opened by saying he was taking responsibility for Fast and Furious. “I’m not going to say mistakes were made. I’m going to say we made mistakes,” Burke said, according to a source close to the investigation.

He hinted at his role urging Justice Department lawyers to deny Fast and Furious allowed guns to walk, saying, “I regret that I was strident” when Grassley first contacted the Justice Department.

Burke said he didn’t have “full knowledge” of the investigation at the time the letter was sent and talked about how his “attitude” about the case had “evolved.”

Pressed repeatedly about what exactly he had learned since he urged the Justice Department to broadly deny guns were walked, Burke cited matters such as how long the case took and that there should have been more questions about “anecdote” from Fast and Furious that “occurred in Mexico.”

Unlike other officials, such as Kenneth Melson, the former head of ATF, Burke did not describe a process of learning that the investigation was allowing hundreds of assault weapons to escape to Mexican drug cartels.

Burke eventually asked to “come back to you on that” so he could “give it more thought.”

Today’s interview represents the continuation.

“These aren’t the answers you would anticipate from someone who was in the dark and had only recently come to learn about the outrages in Fast and Furious,” the source close to the investigation said.

A Dec. 7 “frequently asked questions” memo from Democrats on the House Oversight panel sent to Democratic staff and obtained by Roll Call asks whether Burke “approve[d]” of gunwalking in Fast and Furious.

“No, according to then-U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke,” the memo said, citing other portions of Burke’s Aug. 18 interview in which he denied approving the tactic’s use and said he did not “recall” knowledge of its use.

“Did you ever discuss with [ATF Special Agent-in-Charge William Newell] a deliberate tactic of non-interdiction to see where the weapons ended up? To see if they ended up with the [cartel] in Mexico?” Congressional investigators asked Burke.

“I do not recall that at all,” Burke said.

However, in January 2010, Burke was prompted by lawyers in his office to decide on two tactical approaches in Fast and Furious, according to documents released by the Justice Department on Oct. 31.

Emory Hurley, the lead prosecutor on Fast and Furious, discussed the approaches in a Jan. 5, 2010, memo about the main target of the case, Manuel Celis Acosta, who was suspected of trafficking more than 600 firearms to Mexico.

“In the past, ATF agents have investigated cases similar to this by confronting the straw purchasers and hoping for an admission that might lead to charges,” Hurley wrote. “Straw purchasers” are individuals who buy guns on behalf of gun traffickers.

Rather than use that approach, “Local ATF favors pursuing a wire[tap] and surveillance to build a case against the leader of the organization,” Hurley wrote.

Mike Morrisey, also from the Arizona U.S. attorney’s office, forwarded the memo to Burke via email and said, “local ATF is on board with our strategy but ATF headquarters may want to do a smaller straw purchaser case.”

Burke replied, “Hold out for bigger. Let me know whenever and w/ whomever I need to weigh-in.”

In an Oct. 21 memo prior to that correspondence, Hurley had written that “[a]gents have not purposefully let guns ‘walk.’”

Issa’s office has not yet interviewed Hurley. 
23457  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mujer que patea a un hombre en la cabeza on: December 14, 2011, 08:17:54 AM
De acuerdo.

Quiero subrayar que respeto mucho las habilidades de personas de MMA, lo incluyo como parte de mi entrenamiento y hay varios cuentos de ellos usando sus habilidades en situaciones en la calle. 

La experiencia de pelear MMA, la cual es en condiciion de adrenalina por lo cual se instala muy profundamente, tiene el riesgo de un eslabon debil-- la logica interna del MMA es de 1 x 1 sin armas con logicia de herarquia.  Responder asi' incluir errores de tactica-- como vemos aqui en este clip.

El reto es en entrenar de una manera que desarrolle nuestras habilidades y mentalidades para la calle.  Hay que haber adrenalina como parte de la experiencia-- y eso MMA hace muy, muy bien-- ?como lo hacemos nosotros?
23458  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Estudio: ?Que paso' aqui? on: December 14, 2011, 08:09:00 AM
"Hombres, instruyan a sus mujeres para reaccionar eficientemente en casos como este, ellas pueden ayudar mucho."

!Muy importante ese concepto!  (Cabe mencionar que nuestro DVD "Die Less Often" ofrece unos ideas al respeto  cheesy )

Tambien, vale preguntarnos sobre el tema de armarnos.  Para muchas personas la decision andar armado es algo nuevo, y posiblemente dificil. 

Al decidirlo, surge el asunto de cual herramiento escoger.

Entendido que en Mexico y otros partes de Latino America es muy comun que la ley prohiba andar con pistola, ?pero que dice la ley donde vive cada uno de Uds sobre cuchillo? )?Importa lo que diga la ley?)  Tambien hay otros herramientos utiles-- una pluma fuerte ("tactical pen") con buen entramiento en como usarlo una PF o cosa semajante puede ser bastante util.

23459  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: GRAN ÉXITO DEL SEMINARIO DBMA EN MÉXICO CON GURO MARC DENNY on: December 14, 2011, 07:58:13 AM
A para mi siempre es un gran placer estar el huesped de Mauricio y Uds.   Estoy bien contento con el progreso que veo en los estudiantes del Mauricio y estar en Mexico una vez mas.
23460  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / T. Paine, Common Sense 1776 on: December 14, 2011, 07:55:34 AM
"Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer." --Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776
23461  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH/NYT Sunni Awakening and the US departure on: December 14, 2011, 07:52:53 AM
RAMADI, Iraq — Meeting various neighbors and supplicants on a recent evening, America’s staunchest ally in Iraq, Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha, sat in a tent sipping tea from an implausibly tiny glass cup. He greeted each new visitor with a hearty outburst of “dear one” and a kiss on the cheek.
At one point a young man walked in carrying an M-16 rifle, leaned over and kissed the sheik on the cheek, too, in a clear sign of loyalty from a member of a tribal militia.
Mr. Abu Risha is often credited with helping turn the tide of the Iraq war beginning in 2006 by rallying local tribal leaders to fight Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, which has some foreign members. He still commands, by his own estimate, about 80,000 militia members.
With two weeks left before the United States military completes its withdrawal from Iraq, these units, known broadly as the Sunni Awakening, still remain outside the new Iraqi police force and army. Ragtag groups of men wearing jeans and carrying rifles at dusty checkpoints throughout western Iraq, they are a loose end left by the United States.
Some Awakening members are former insurgents and members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party who fought in a nationalist wing of the Sunni uprising early in the war, a matter of grave concern to the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Without the buffer provided by the Americans, relations between the Awakening and the central government, always touchy, are growing increasingly strained, and the government now wants the Awakening to disband by Dec. 31, the deadline for the exit of the United States military.
Mr. Abu Risha, in an interview in his compound beside a lazy bend in the Euphrates River, said members of the tribal militias in western Iraq were not likely to disarm quickly — and certainly not by the end of the month.
“I don’t think the Awakening members will give up their weapons,” he said, contending that the problem was a lack of government protection against Al Qaeda. “They want to defend themselves. The weapons they carry are their personal weapons.”
In the tradition of the endless negotiations, feints and shifting alliances of desert tribes, the Sunni chieftains in Anbar Province unexpectedly switched sides in 2006 and 2007, in perhaps the most important single step for establishing stability here after the war and the insurgency. Once on the American side, they were an enormous help in hunting down their former insurgent allies, members of the Islamic militias, including Al Qaeda.
Members of the Abu Risha family first caught the eye of American commanders in Anbar Province by attacking trucks carrying Qaeda militants passing on the highway in front of their compound in 2006.
These were acts of vengeance more than politics; Al Qaeda had killed eight family members. But they illustrated that the tribe and the United States had a common enemy. Soon, platoons of Marines were dropping into the Abu Risha compound for feasts of lamb and rice, and fighting side by side with former insurgents and Baathists they might have been battling just months before.
But the pendulum is now swinging back toward repression of Baathists, something being discussed over tea in places like Mr. Abu Risha’s tent, pitched in the courtyard of his fortresslike compound.
The Shiite-dominated central government has arrested prominent Sunnis on accusations that they are secret members of the long-disbanded Baath Party, which has alienated Sunni elites. Meanwhile, a Sunni revolt a few hundred miles to the north of here against the Shiite-aligned government in neighboring Syria is gathering force.
Last month, government police officers wounded two guards and detained two others in a raid on the home of a Sunni, Sheik Albo Baz, in Salahuddin Province, prompting a protest by several thousand Sunnis in Samarra, a city divided by sect.
This followed the roundup by police officers of 600 suspected Baath Party sympathizers in October; they were accused of planning a coup.
Distressingly for Sunnis, the government paraded some of those arrested on state television in a bizarre spectacle: relatives of their supposed victims were invited into the room and screamed at the suspects, and demanded their execution. Such a program was a tradition on Mr. Hussein’s state television, though the suspects then were more likely to be Shiites.
In the interview, Mr. Abu Risha produced an envelope containing photographs of shrapnel damage on an armored sport utility vehicle, proof, he said, that he was the target of an assassination attempt two months ago on a highway in Abu Ghraib.
He said a Shiite-dominated police brigade that is part of the central government was responsible, because the roadside bomb that struck his car, ineffectually, was set 50 yards from one of the brigade’s watch towers.
The government has denied this, though the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr agreed to open an investigation into the unit, called the Muthana Brigade.
Mr. Maliki and other Shiite politicians insist that they are legally fighting sedition among former Baathists, and that the police are evenhanded with Sunnis.
Mohammad Rida, a member of the Sadrist party in Iraq’s Parliament, said in an interview that the government had documents indicating that Baath Party sleeper cells intended to stage a coup after the American withdrawal. The police obtained the names of hundreds of conspirators in a confession by a former Baathist detained in July, he said.
In addition, Mr. Rida said, documents found in the ruins of the Libyan intelligence office after the fall of Tripoli corroborated the plot. “Iraq did what any other country would do,” he said. “We responded.”
Mr. Abu Risha’s compound is less than a mile from what used to be Camp Blue Diamond, home of the young United States Army officers who first struck up a friendship with him, and who brought him to the American side. (A grandfather of Mr. Abu Risha had chosen a different path, choosing to fight the British occupation in the 1920s.)
About 30,000 former Awakening militia members have received jobs in the Anbar police, and thousands more have entered the army. Mr. Abu Risha said about 80,000 remained in irregular tribal-based units. The central government has put thatfigure at 50,000.
Mr. Abu Risha has entered politics, with nine supporters in Parliament, but he does not hold public office, wielding power instead in informal gatherings over tea or feasts at his house.
He often cites the Iraqi Constitution in asserting rights for Anbar Province and describes himself as an Iraqi patriot opposed to any foreign meddling in Iraq, whether from Syria or Iran.
In the latest calibration of his loyalties, Mr. Abu Risha has become a steadfast supporter of Kurdistan-style autonomy for the Sunni desert regions of western and northern Iraq, a position gaining traction in provincial councils. This, he said, would resolve disagreements with the central government about the expected wealth from natural gas fields in the desert and the future of militias, with regions being granted the right to field their own guard units.
“We will form a region,” he said.

23462  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hezbollah finances self with drug trade money on: December 14, 2011, 07:45:56 AM
Long piece in the NY Times
23463  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Final Details on: December 13, 2011, 11:08:03 PM

Personal Tactical Survivability Seminar


Guro Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny:
Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers, Head Instructor Dog Brothers Martial Arts; Combatives Instructor US Army

Tuhon Jared Wihongi:
Pekiti-Tirsia Tactical Association; SWAT Operator and Combatives Instructor US Army, Special Forces

January 21-22
Open to the public, but hosted by US Army Special Operations Unit
Camp Williams
Building 5170
17800 Camp Williams Road
Bluffdale, UT 84065
(near Salt Lake City)
Attendees should be prepared to provide ID at the gates as you enter the Army Camp

Space is limited, so pre-registration is recommended. Once you register you will receive directions:
For pre-registration contact Jared Wihongi, 1-801-673-8319. 
23464  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kayfabe on: December 13, 2011, 08:24:21 PM
In the News [18] | Contributors [159 ] | View All Responses [159 ]


Eric R. Weinstein

Mathematician and Economist; Principal, Natron Group
The sophisticated "scientific concept" with the greatest potential to enhance human understanding may be argued to come not from the halls of academe, but rather from the unlikely research environment of professional wrestling.
Evolutionary biologists Richard Alexander and Robert Trivers have recently emphasized that it is deception rather than information that often plays the decisive role in systems of selective pressures. Yet most of our thinking continues to treat deception as something of a perturbation on the exchange of pure information, leaving us unprepared to contemplate a world in which fakery may reliably crowd out the genuine. In particular, humanity's future selective pressures appear likely to remain tied to economic theory which currently uses as its central construct a market model based on assumptions of perfect information.
If we are to take selection more seriously within humans, we may fairly ask what rigorous system would be capable of tying together an altered reality of layered falsehoods in which absolutely nothing can be assumed to be as it appears. Such a system, in continuous development for more than a century, is known to exist and now supports an intricate multi-billion dollar business empire of pure hokum. It is known to wrestling's insiders as "Kayfabe".
Because professional wrestling is a simulated sport, all competitors who face each other in the ring are actually close collaborators who must form a closed system (called "a promotion") sealed against outsiders. With external competitors generally excluded, antagonists are chosen from within the promotion and their ritualized battles are largely negotiated, choreographed, and rehearsed at a significantly decreased risk of injury or death. With outcomes predetermined under Kayfabe, betrayal in wrestling comes not from engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct, but by the surprise appearance of actual sporting behavior. Such unwelcome sportsmanship which "breaks Kayfabe" is called "shooting" to distinguish it from the expected scripted deception called "working".
Were Kayfabe to become part of our toolkit for the twenty-first century, we would undoubtedly have an easier time understanding a world in which investigative journalism seems to have vanished and bitter corporate rivals cooperate on everything from joint ventures to lobbying efforts. Perhaps confusing battles between "freshwater" Chicago macro economists and Ivy league "Saltwater" theorists could be best understood as happening within a single "orthodox promotion" given that both groups suffered no injury from failing (equally) to predict the recent financial crisis. The decades old battle in theoretical physics over bragging rights between the "string" and "loop" camps would seem to be an even more significant example within the hard sciences of a collaborative intra-promotion rivalry given the apparent failure of both groups to produce a quantum theory of gravity.
What makes Kayfabe remarkable is that it gives us potentially the most complete example of the general process by which a wide class of important endeavors transition from failed reality to successful fakery. While most modern sports enthusiasts are aware of wrestling's status as a pseudo sport, what few alive today remember is that it evolved out of a failed real sport (known as "catch" wrestling) which held its last honest title match early in the 20th century. Typical matches could last hours with no satisfying action, or end suddenly with crippling injuries to a promising athlete in whom much had been invested. This highlighted the close relationship between two paradoxical risks which define the category of activity which wrestling shares with other human spheres:
• A) Occasional but Extreme Peril for the participants.
• B) General: Monotony for both audience and participants.
Kayfabrication (the process of transition from reality towards Kayfabe) arises out of attempts to deliver a dependably engaging product for a mass audience while removing the unpredictable upheavals that imperil participants. As such Kayfabrication is a dependable feature of many of our most important systems which share the above two characteristics such as war, finance, love, politics and science.
Importantly, Kayfabe also seems to have discovered the limits of how much disbelief the human mind is capable of successfully suspending before fantasy and reality become fully conflated. Wrestling's system of lies has recently become so intricate that wrestlers have occasionally found themselves engaging in real life adultery following exactly behind the introduction of a fictitious adulterous plot twist in a Kayfabe back-story. Eventually, even Kayfabe itself became a victim of its own success as it grew to a level of deceit that could not be maintained when the wrestling world collided with outside regulators exercising oversight over major sporting events.
At the point Kayfabe was forced to own up to the fact that professional wrestling contained no sport whatsoever, it did more than avoid being regulated and taxed into oblivion. Wrestling discovered the unthinkable: its audience did not seem to require even a thin veneer of realism. Professional wrestling had come full circle to its honest origins by at last moving the responsibility for deception off of the shoulders of the performers and into the willing minds of the audience.
Kayfabe, it appears, is a dish best served client-side

23465  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: December 13, 2011, 05:04:52 PM
Ummm , , , I see, , , our American Creed and the Freedom with which we live is to be dependent on the government not deciding to spend/print money on this stuff-- stuff which, like all technology, rapidly decreases in cost?  , , , You know that bill we are discussing on another thread with the troubling language that Congress is working on rather secretly to have American citizens indefinitely detained by US military?

This is the proper time, use, and place for drones:

Not as SOP for daily life in America.
23466  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Did Feds really raid a Mormon food storage facility? on: December 13, 2011, 04:50:26 PM
Answer, no-- but interesting questions are presented nonetheless.
23467  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / GM Gilbert Tenio and Decuerdas Esrkima on: December 13, 2011, 04:46:39 PM
Woof All:

I'd like to put out a collective howl for info, URLs etc on the late GM Gilbert Tenio of Stockton CA and his Decuerdas Eskrima.

Thank you,
Crafty Dog
23468  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Winter Camp 2012 on: December 13, 2011, 04:40:47 PM
GM Art is working on getting some material on his teacher GM Gilbert Tenio and his Decuerdas Eskrima to me.
23469  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: December 13, 2011, 04:39:01 PM
The technology in short order will produce zillions of flying surveillance robots, too small or too far away to be seen or heard.

Please feel free to break out of your self-sustaining feedback loop on this one , , ,
23470  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt and FDR on: December 13, 2011, 04:14:56 PM
Obviously all context has been edited out, but with that said , , ,  shocked
23471  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: December 13, 2011, 12:47:29 PM
C'mon GM, you already know the answer to that.  The technological trajectory is towards the capability to have Big Brother watching all the time everywhere.  That may fit your idea of a free people in a free society, but it does not fit mine.  You already know this.
23472  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: December 13, 2011, 12:44:58 PM
I'm wondering if we should start a separate thread concerning the C'l issues and other aspects (e.g. Kagan's recusal vel non) of SCOTUS's consideration of this case , , ,
23473  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Lie of the Palestinian People on: December 13, 2011, 11:10:32 AM
An Invented People
Posted By David Meir-Levi On December 13, 2011

On Friday, December 9, presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich was interviewed on cable TV’s The Jewish Channel, where he made the unexpected comment that the Palestinians are an invented people with no apparent right to their own state.  His remarks, summarized in the Washington Post, were promptly condemned; but is he correct?

Let’s recall that Mr. Gingrich has an MA and PhD in History from Tulane University.  In fact, history is quite clear on this issue.  Mr. Gingrich is correct, and the first to say so was Daniel Pipes.

The name “Palestine” derives from the Philistines, who originated from the Eastern Mediterranean (perhaps Greece or Crete) and invaded the region in the eleventh and twelfth centuries B.C. Related to the Bronze Age Greeks, they spoke a language akin to Mycenaean Greek.  Their area of habitation on the Eastern Mediterranean littoral became known as “Philistia.”

When Romans arrived a thousand years later they corrupted “Philistia” to “Palestina,” from whence “Palestine.”  Six hundred years later, the Arab invaders corrupted “Palestina” to “Falastin.”

Throughout all subsequent history there was never a nation of “Palestine,” never a people known as the “Palestinians,” nor any notion of “historic Palestine.” The region remained under successive foreign rulers, from the Umayyads and Abbasids and Ayyubids to the Fatimids, Ottomans and British.  During these millennia the term “Falastin” referred to an undefined geographical region, much like “Appalachia” or “the great Southwest” in modern U.S. geography.

In 1695 a Dutch orientalist, Hadrian Reland, conducted a geographical survey of the region. He found that none of the known settlements, ancient or contemporary, bore Arabic names.  Most names were Hebrew, Greek, or Latin in origin.  Moreover, the land was almost empty of inhabitants, desolate, the few towns (Jerusalem, Acre, Safed, Jaffa, Tiberius and Gaza) inhabited mostly by Christians and Jews, with Muslims present only in very small number, mostly Bedouin in the hinterland.

His book, Palaestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata (Utrecht, 1714), offers no evidence for a “Palestinian people,” “Palestinian heritage,” “Palestinian nation” or “Palestinian homeland” in ancient times; and it provides a powerful argument against the outrageous and transparently false assertions by some modern Arab spokespersons that what most people know to be Jewish history is in fact “Palestinian” history. Today’s defenders of the “Palestinian cause” are reduced to stealing Jewish history and heritage precisely because the so-called “Palestinians” have none of their own.
Today’s “Palestinians” are indeed an invented people.  But how did they get invented?  Arabs themselves answer that question for us.

The term “Palestine” was given a political meaning for the first time in history by the British after World War I, when they took the region from the Turks and termed it “British Mandatory Palestine.”   At that time (1920) Arab political and intellectual leaders spoke out vehemently against the creation of this new “Palestine” because the region was, in their minds, inextricably connected to Syria.  The Arabs of the area had their own designation for the region: Balad esh-Sham (the province of Damascus), or as-Suriya al-Janubiya (southern Syria). In fact, Arab nationalists protested the use of the term “Palestine” because for them “Palestine” was really southern Syria. Even the most vitriolic and vociferous Arab nationalist, the Hajj Amin el-Husseini, opposed creating “Palestine” separate from Syria.  For documentation see Marie Syrkin’s “Palestinian Nationalism: Its Development and Goal,” in Curtis, Michael, Neyer, Joseph, Waxman, Chaim, and Pollack, Allen, The Palestinians: People, History, Politics (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1975), p. 200.

The General Syrian Congress of 1919 stressed an exclusively Syrian identity for the Arabs of “southern Syria”: “We ask that there should be no separation of the southern part of Syria, known as Palestine . . .” (Ibid, Syrkin, Supra). George Antonius, the father of modern Arab nationalist history, documented in The Arab Awakening (1938. P. 312) the upheaval created among the Arabs of “Greater Syria” and Iraq as they flocked to the streets of Syrian cities, including Jerusalem, in armed uprisings to protest the British imposition of a separate political entity known as “Palestine,” carved out of what was traditionally a part of Syria.

Once France conquered Syria in 1920, leaders in “southern Syria” changed their tune.  Arab allegiances were to Damascus, not to France.  With the French controlling Syria, the ideaof “Palestine” as a separate Muslim and Arab state began to take shape, and Palestinian leaders, most prominently el-Husseini, began a nationalist movement for the Arabs of British Mandatory Palestine, modeled after and in opposition to Zionism. Palestinian national identity was invented in 1920, and midwifed by Zionism!

Even toward the end of the Mandate period, almost 30 years later, there was still opposition to the concept of a separate political entity known as “Palestine” among leading Arab spokespersons.  Philip Hitti, historian and most eloquent spokesman for the Arab cause, testified to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in 1946: “Sir, there is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not.”

In early 1947, when the UN was exploring the possibility of the partition of British Mandatory Palestine into two states, Jewish and Arab, various Arab political and academicspokespersons vociferously protested because, they argued, the region was really a part of southern Syria. No such people as “Palestinians” had ever existed, so it would be an injustice to Syria to create a “Palestine” ex nihilo at the expense of Syria.

Akhmed Shukairi, Saudi ambassador to the UN, asserted in 1956, eight years after the birth of the State of Israel, that “It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria” (and cf. Supra, Syrkin, p. 201).  As late as March 8, 1974, Syria’s President Hafez al-Assad asserted on Radio Damascus that: “… Palestine is not only a part of our Arab homeland, but a basic part of southern Syria.” During the nineteen years from 1948 to the Six-Day War (June, 1967), all that remained of the territory initially set aside for the Arabs of British Mandatory Palestine was the West Bank, under illegal Jordanian sovereignty, and the Gaza Strip, under illegal Egyptian rule. Never during these nineteen years did any Arab leader argue for the right of national self-determination for the Arabs of these territories.

Even Yasser Arafat, until 1967, used the term “Palestinians” to refer only to the Arabs who lived under, or had fled from, Israeli sovereignty; and the term “Palestine” to refer only to Israel in its pre-1967 borders. In the PLO’s original founding Charter, Article 24 states: “…(the PLO).. does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the west Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in the Gaza Strip or the Himmah area.” For Arafat in 1964, “Palestine” was not the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, which after 1948 belonged to other Arab states. The only “homeland” for the PLO in 1964 was the State of Israel.  However, after the Six- Day War, thanks to Arafat’s mentoring by the Soviets, the PLO revised its Charter on July 17, 1968, to remove the language of Article 24, thereby newly asserting a “Palestinian” claim of sovereignty to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

After the Six-Day War, Arab leaders reframed the conflict.  Formerly, Israel was the “David” and the Arab world the “Goliath.” Now Israel was the gargantuan illegal occupier and the “Palestinians” were the weak, hapless, homeless, hopeless “oppressed people” and “victims of colonialism.” But this reframing required, created as it was ex nihilo, an “historic Palestine” and an ancient “Palestinian people” who had lived in their “homeland” from “time immemorial,” who could trace their “heritage” back to the Canaanites, who were driven out by the evil Zionists, and who had the inalienable right granted by international law and universal justice to use terror to reclaim their national identity.

That this was a political confection was revealed by Zahir Muhse’in, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, in a March 31, 1977 interview with British journalist James Dorsey in the Amsterdam-based newspaper Trouw:

The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism.
Dorsey’s original interview is not available online, but has been quoted here, here, and here.

In addition to verifying that the “Palestinians” are an invented people, Muhse’in also tells us why they were invented: “Only for political and tactical reasons…to oppose Zionism.”

The lie of the “Palestinian people,” invented to justify the destruction of Israel, is exposed by their own leaders, and by the fact that, in absence of their own, they must steal Jewish history. Josef Goebbels’ technique of repeating the same lie until it is believed turned this lie into erstwhile “fact,” until Gingrich.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.
23474  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Bret Stephens: A lesson before dying on: December 13, 2011, 11:05:36 AM

Does the manner of our dying count in the final reckoning of how we have lived our lives? Nearly my first assignment at the University of Chicago was to read the Platonic dialogues on the trial and death of Socrates. "Then, holding the cup to his lips, quite readily and cheerfully he drank off the poison." It is the supreme moment in the Western philosophical tradition, when wisdom and courage, resignation and defiance, combine to overcome injustice and, in a sense, death itself.

Would that we could all die as Socrates did. Generally we don't. "The good death has increasingly become a myth," wrote the Yale surgeon and bioethicist Sherwin Nuland in his 1993 prize-winning book "How We Die." Dying, in Dr. Nuland's eloquent telling, amounts to "a series of destructive events that involve by their very nature the disintegration of the dying person's humanity." Who can—who would dare—judge a man's worth when his mind and body are being picked bare by disease?

I've been thinking about all this for over a year now as I watched a brain tumor, along with the associated medical interventions, pick away at my father bit by bit. First, an operation to remove the tumor, which erased his right field of vision and took away his ability to read and drive. Next came debilitating bouts of chemo and radiation, along with an agonizing case of shingles. Then avascular necrosis set in, leaving him unable to walk. Later, as the tumor returned, his memory began to slip. Near the end he was almost totally blind, couldn't utter a sentence, couldn't swallow a pill, couldn't hold his food down. Cancer is a heist culminating in murder.

I suppose Dr. Nuland's book should have prepared me for this. I suppose, too, that I should have known what was coming after visiting my aunt as she was dying of brain cancer. My father had been with me on that trip to wish his sister a final happy birthday. His own tumor was diagnosed three weeks later.

Enlarge Image

CloseBret Stephens
Charles J. Stephens at Gibraltar.
.But I wasn't prepared. My father, always in excellent shape, had a way of projecting an air of indestructibility. When he phoned to tell me about the diagnosis, it was in a tone suggesting it was only slightly more serious than a fender-bender. The five-year survival rate for his kind of cancer is 4%. I looked that up on the Internet, then persuaded myself that he was surely in the 4%.

"The body has 1,000 lines of ingenious defense," I remember my father telling me as a child, in what must have been one of our first talks about death. And I had believed him, because to me he was the living proof.

To grow up is to understand that the confidence a parent radiates around his children is rarely the confidence the parent feels. I knew my father well enough to know his various fears and insecurities. I knew he had seen his own father die of brain cancer and was intimately familiar with the course of the disease. I knew that, born optimist though he was, he had no faith in an afterlife. My father loved the life he had, lived it fully and well, had no desire to leave it.

All this meant that the diagnosis should have been devastating to him. Yet he never betrayed the slightest sign of fear. Except when his shingles were at their most excruciating, he remained his cheerful, interested, encouraging self. For a while I put this down to his belief that he would somehow beat the cancer, a belief I was eager to share.

Yet my father maintained his usual sangfroid even when it became clear that there would be no getting well. There were no five stages of grief, no bouts of denial, anger, bargaining and depression. About six weeks before the end, when we had brought him to a hospice, I asked if he wouldn't rather be at home. "Given where I am," he replied with a cocked eyebrow, "I am where I am." I was astonished he could even speak. We brought him home anyway.

How did my father maintain his composure in the face of his progressive deterioration? We never spoke about it. I sometimes chalked it up to being born in the 1930s, before the baby boom and the cult of self. He was not a complainer. To bemoan his illness after a life in which the good breaks outnumbered the bad ones would have seemed to him ungrateful. The worst he ever said to me about his cancer was that it was "a bummer."

Yet there was something else at work. The sicker my father got, the more dependent he became on his family, the less he had to give back. What could he offer, except not to sink us into the terror he surely must have felt? So he maintained his usual active and joyful interest in our lives and the lives of his friends and in politics and the movies we watched together. Sticking to the mundane and the lighthearted was his way of being protective with the people he loved. For as long as he could muster his wits, death was not allowed to enter the room.

Throughout his life my father taught me many lessons: about language, history and philosophy; about ethics, loyalty and love. In the end, he taught me that death cannot destroy the dignity of a dignified man.

Charles J. Stephens, 1937-2011. May his memory be for a blessing.
23475  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: December 13, 2011, 10:59:17 AM
The U.S. economy is on track to grow faster in the current quarter than any time since the second quarter of last year, though several risks—including a possible meltdown in Europe—are clouding the outlook.

In recent days, a number of economists have increased estimates for fourth-quarter growth, pointing to stronger-than-expected readings on trade, consumer spending and other gauges. Forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers on Friday raised its estimate to 3.7%, from 3.5%, while Goldman Sachs has raised its target to 3.4% from the 2.5% it was predicting two weeks ago.

Nomura Global Economics lifted its target from 3.7% to 3.9%, which, if achieved, would match the fastest quarterly growth of the recovery.

This pace of growth is much stronger than economists were expecting a few months ago, when Europe's sovereign-debt problems started getting worse. A Wall Street Journal survey of economists in October showed they expected growth of just 2% in the fourth quarter. There was good reason for the subdued projection, including a third quarter that sparked little hope of an accelerating economy. Stock-market gyrations earlier this year erased huge amounts of wealth, while weak housing and job markets constrained consumer confidence.

But the economy looks much better now. The stock market has made up much of its losses, although new worries about Europe sent indexes lower Monday, and consumer sentiment has improved, prompting consumers to dip into savings and continue spending. Companies are not only selling more, they're restocking shelves when they become too lean. Retail sales rose 0.5% in October and were up 7.2% from the same month last year, according to the Commerce Department. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires estimate another 0.5% gain when November's retail-sales figures are released Tuesday.

A few months ago, Alan Levenson, chief economist at T. Rowe Price, predicted fourth-quarter growth would come in below 2%—a contrast with his current forecast of 3.5% to 4%.

That updated outlook comes with significant caveats. "My caution is that 3.5% is not the new trend and we're expecting substantial slowing to below 2% in the beginning of next year," he said.

Most economists see more reasons for caution than optimism. In the most recent Wall Street Journal survey, conducted in late November and released last week, 92% of economists said the euro zone now is in recession or faces an imminent recession. A number of manufacturing reports suggest growth has slowed in overseas economies including China and Brazil. In addition to a slowing manufacturing sector, China's cooling real-estate market could damp domestic demand.

Many forecasters also doubt that U.S. consumers can keep spending at their current pace. Home values continue to fall. The personal savings rate, after moving up sharply in the wake of the financial crisis, is heading back down. Americans saved 3.5% of their after-tax income in October, down from 5.2% at the start of the year.

Despite what is shaping up to be a strong fourth quarter, economists surveyed by the Journal said they expect a slowdown in the beginning of next year. They predict growth of 2.1% in the first quarter.

23476  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Drone use growing in LE on: December 13, 2011, 10:43:18 AM
DALLAS—Drones, the remote-controlled aircraft used in combat zones, are now hovering over some U.S. cities as police enlist them to get a bird's-eye view of crime scenes and accidents at relatively low expense.

But as financially strapped municipalities add drones to their crime-fighting arsenal, they are facing increasing questions about the vehicles' safety, as well as their potential to violate citizens' privacy.

Law-enforcement officials say the unmanned aircraft help avoid putting police in the line of fire, either by performing surveillance close to the ground, like a live officer, or by monitoring from high up, removing pilots from potential danger. Earlier this year, a police helicopter in Los Angeles had to make an emergency landing after it was shot at by a gunman.

Drones are also considerably cheaper than regular aircraft. Officials in Montgomery County, near Houston, Texas, estimate it costs $30 an hour to operate a drone, compared with a minimum of $500 an hour for a helicopter. The purchase price of a drone is typically less than that of a chopper or plane, too.

Airborne Enforcer
How one drone shapes up

Department: Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, Texas

Model: Shadowhawk


Manufacturer: Vanguard Defense Industries LLC

Altitude limit: 8,000 feet

Weight: About 50 pounds

Features: Infrared camera that can detect the heat emitted by a person below

Source: Vanguard Defense Industries LLC, Montgomery County Sheriff's Office .That math was attractive to the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, which recently used a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to purchase a $300,000 drone called the Shadowhawk, made by Vanguard Defense Industries LLC, of Conroe, Texas. It comes equipped with an infrared camera that can detect the heat emitted by a person below. In addition to crime-fighting assistance, officials say, that will help track lost hikers in a nearby national forest.

"We certainly do not have the funds to go out and purchase our own helicopter," said Randy McDaniel, the office's chief deputy.

Most departments say the small craft aren't suitable for high-speed chases of suspects. But police are finding they can help with other duties, including monitoring crowds at parades, performing reconnaissance ahead of raids and helping ground officers respond more quickly to accidents such as highway pileups and hazardous-material spills.

Because of increasing demand for small unmanned aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration is devising new rules to regulate their flight. A proposal is expected in January.

The FAA grants permits to operate drones on a case-by-case basis, depending on their planned use. As of September, there were 285 active permits requested by 85 government groups, including public universities, federal law-enforcement agencies and police departments.

However, some airplane pilots complain that the rules set by those individual permits are largely unknown to the rest of the flying public. Heidi Williams, of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, said that drones should be subject to a set of standard rules, just like manned aircraft.

"There has to be some way for them to integrate safely into the airspace system," she said.

Though drones have been used by the military for decades, they are still relatively new in law enforcement on U.S. soil. The models used by police are smaller and unarmed, weigh less than 55 pounds and are maneuvered from the ground through a computer or a joystick. Their range varies from a few hundred to several thousand feet in altitude, and their price from $5,000 for in-house-fabricated models to several hundred thousand dollars.

Vanguard Defense, the company that made the Montgomery County drone, markets its law-enforcement units through in-person presentations and at industry trade shows such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference, said Michael S. Buscher, the company's chief executive.

Civil-rights advocates worry the technology could be used to pry into citizens' lives.

"There's a question about the degree to which Americans are going to be able to preserve the privacy of movement that we've all enjoyed," said Catherine Crump, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in New York.

In response to such concerns, some agencies are setting guidelines that allow the flight of drones only for specific missions, rather than random air patrols.

Andrew Cohen, a sergeant with the Miami-Dade Police Department, said its two units were reserved for emergencies, and hadn't been deployed a single time since the agency got a flying permit for them six months ago.

Another challenge for police is changing the drone's public image.

"We are purposely not calling these drones. When people hear the word 'drone' they automatically think of the huge military-type aircraft equipped with weapons," said Lt. Chad Gann of the Arlington police department.

He prefers the term "small unmanned aircraft" to describe the two units his department is buying. Mr. Gann said they will help jump-start fatal-crash investigations by arriving to the scene sooner and taking aerial pictures, saving money and officers' time.

In Columbia, S.C., police planning a raid on a house where an armed man had barricaded himself used a small drone to get details of the property, such as the direction in which the door opened, said Ruben Santiago, deputy chief of operations. "It cut down on the time it would take for us to do the necessary surveillance," he said.

Mr. Cohen, at the Miami-Dade Police Department, said that whenever the drones make their debut, residents don't have to worry about the aircraft sneaking up on them, because they sound like flying lawn mowers.

"It's not stealth technology at all," he said.  (That may change though, yes?)

23477  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Fewer entering illegally on: December 13, 2011, 10:35:12 AM
Arrests of people trying to sneak into the U.S. from Mexico have plunged to the lowest level in four decades, the latest sign that illegal immigration is on the retreat even as legislatures, Congress and presidential candidates hotly debate the issue.

 Arrests of migrants sneaking into the U.S plunge to lowest level in decades, indicating illegal immigration is on the retreat even as states, Congress and GOP presidential candidates hotly debate the issue. Miriam Jordan explains on The News Hub.
.Behind the historic drop is a steep decline in the birthrate in Mexico and greater opportunities there relative to the weak U.S. economy. Stepped-up U.S. patrols along the border make it both riskier and more expensive for Mexicans to attempt to enter the country.

Government crackdowns on U.S. employers who hire illegal workers also have discouraged immigrants. The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether an Arizona statute targeting illegal immigrants interferes with U.S. law.

The decline in Mexican immigrants is being felt as far away as farms in Washington and Michigan, which weathered labor shortages during the recent apple harvest.

The U.S. arrested 340,252 migrants along the Mexico-U.S. border in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30—down 24% from the year before and the lowest level in 39 years, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security.

In the previous fiscal year, agents apprehended 447,731 illegal crossers in the Southwest, compared with 1.6 million in 2000, the peak year. The last time the border was this quiet was 1972, when agents caught 321,326 people.

"We have reached the end of an era," said Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California. "Even if immigration increases some after this recession, it won't rebound back to levels we saw in the early 2000s."

Rafael Garcia, a 40-year-old undocumented immigrant in Washington State, said he would discourage Mexican friends from attempting to enter the U.S. illegally, even though he has worked in vineyards, apple orchards and dairy farms in the country for two decades.

"You have to be really desperate to come here now," said Mr. Garcia, who is married with three U.S.-born daughters. "It's so hard to get across, and then you have all these states passing laws to get rid of you."

The dramatic decrease in border arrests—which the U.S. considers a key gauge of how many people try to enter illegally—is supported by figures that show a shrinking number of illegal immigrants already in the country.

Journal Community
..In 2010, that undocumented population was estimated at 11 million by the independent Pew Hispanic Center, down 8% from its peak of 12 million in 2007.

Mexicans constitute about 60% of undocumented U.S. immigrants. "Current flows are as low as we have ever seen them," said Jeffrey Passel, a senior researcher at the Pew center. "More unauthorized Mexicans have been leaving than coming."

At 150,000 last year, Mexican immigration to the U.S. was one-fifth of what it was in 2000, when 750,000 Mexicans flocked to the U.S., the majority of them illegally. All told, net immigration from Mexico is "essentially zero," said Mr. Passel.

Nearly 21,500 agents, about twice as many as in 2004, guard the Southwestern border. They are backed by hundreds of miles of fencing and high-tech surveillance, including thermal imaging and unmanned aerial systems.

Mexican drug cartels also may play a role in discouraging people. (Ya think?!?) The cartels often ply the same routes to the U.S. that undocumented immigrants use, making those paths violent and dangerous. Some crossers have been forced to serve as drug carriers for cartels.

Some demographers say more undocumented Mexicans may be leaving the U.S. than arriving as a downturn in construction, hospitality and other industries makes low-skill jobs scarce. Thousands of illegal immigrants have lost their jobs after the U.S. has audited company payrolls to find undocumented workers.

"No one knows better than the migrants themselves about the state of the U.S. economy. They hear that their cousin, uncle and friends are without work," said Primitivo Rodriguez, a Mexican migration expert who formerly worked for the Mexican Human Rights Commission.

Back in Mexico, families have shrunk, providing less incentive for young people to leave. In 1970, each Mexican woman bore an average of 6.8 children. By 1990, that number was 3.4. Today, the birthrate is at replacement level, about 2.1.

That "enormous demographic shift," coupled with a better economic climate in Mexico, is helping curb emigration, said Gordon Hanson, an international economist at the University of California, San Diego.

To be sure, annual immigration to the U.S. from its neighbor has climbed and receded before. It dropped by one-third after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The annual influx of Mexicans averaged 550,000 between 2003 and 2006, according to Pew. It has since tumbled.

Still, illegal immigration remains a contentious political issue. More than one million people have been deported since President Barack Obama took office in 2009. Deportations hit a record 397,000 in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30. The president favors putting undocumented workers on the path to legalization. But as the 2012 election approaches, no immigration bill is expected to come before the House and Senate.

The impasse has propelled several states, such as Arizona, Alabama and Georgia, to pass laws to curb illegal immigration. Supporters say undocumented workers are taking jobs from Americans at a time of high unemployment and burdening cash-strapped public governments.

Except for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who said those in the U.S. more than 20 years should be able to earn legal status, top Republican presidential candidates oppose letting illegal immigrants remain in the U.S.

23478  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: December 13, 2011, 10:30:51 AM
23479  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Long POTH article on on-line schooling on: December 13, 2011, 10:01:52 AM
23480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: December 13, 2011, 09:49:16 AM
Didn't Kagan also work on Obamacare?  huh

Why does a question arise over Thomas and Obamacare?
23481  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Alexander Hamilton 1794 on: December 13, 2011, 09:47:51 AM
"The instrument by which [government] must act are either the AUTHORITY of the laws or FORCE. If the first be destroyed, the last must be substituted; and where this becomes the ordinary instrument of government there is an end to liberty!" --Alexander Hamilton, Tully, No. 3, 1794
23482  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia's plan to disrupt US-Europe relations on: December 13, 2011, 08:50:59 AM

Russia's Plan to Disrupt U.S.-European Relations
December 13, 2011


By Lauren Goodrich
Tensions between the United States and Russia have risen in the past month over several long-standing problems, including ballistic missile defense (BMD) and supply lines into Afghanistan. Moscow and Washington also appear to be nearing another crisis involving Russian accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The crises come as Washington struggles over its many commitments in the world and over whether to focus on present events in Afghanistan or future events in Central Europe. Russia has exploited the U.S. dilemma, using its leverage in both arenas. However, if Moscow takes its aggressive moves too far, it could spark a backlash from the United States and Central Europe.
The Persisting Disagreement over BMD
The U.S. BMD scheme for Europe has long been a source of U.S.-Russian tensions. Washington argues that its European BMD program aims to counter threats emerging from the Middle East, namely Iran, but its  missile defense installations in Romania and Poland are not slated to become operational until 2015 and 2018, respectively, by which time Russia believes the United States will have resolved its issues with Iran. Moscow thus sees U.S. missile defense strategy as more about the United States seeking to contain Russia than about Iran. Moscow does not fear that the United States is seeking to neutralize or erode Russia’s nuclear deterrent, however; the issue is the establishment of a physical U.S. military footprint in those two states — which in turn means a U.S. commitment there. Romania and Poland border the former Soviet Union, a region where Russia is regaining influence.
Russia previously pressured key states in the Bush-era BMD scheme, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, to reconsider acceding to such plans. This assertiveness peaked with its 2008 invasion of Georgia, which both proved that Moscow was willing to take military action and exposed the limits of U.S. security guarantees in the region. The Russian move in Georgia gave the Central Europeans much to think about, prompting some attempts to appease the Kremlin. Still, these states did not abandon all faith in the United States as a strategic counter to Russia.
Russia has since shifted its BMD strategy. Instead of categorically opposing the plan, Moscow proposed a cooperative, integrated scheme. The Kremlin reasoned that if Iran and other non-Russian threats were the real reason for expanding missile defense, then Russian involvement — which would strengthen the West’s defenses — would be welcomed. Russia’s BMD capabilities span the Eurasian continent, though their practical utility to and compatibility with U.S. systems is questionable. This plan was seen as a way to take a more conciliatory approach with the same end goal: blocking the placement of U.S. troops in Eastern Europe.
The United States and most of NATO refused Russia’s proposals, however, leaving the door open for the Kremlin to introduce a new defense strategy, which Russian President Dmitri Medvedev outlined Nov. 23. Medvedev emphasized that Russia had exercised the “political will” to open a fundamentally new chapter in relations with the United States and NATO, only to have the United States spurn the offer. U.S. resistance to Russian inclusion in the BMD system forced Moscow to make other arrangements to counter U.S. plans in Central Europe — precisely the outcome it had hoped for.
Medvedev also said that if United States continues to refuse BMD cooperation with Russia, Moscow would carry out plans for the deployment of the Iskander mobile short-range ballistic missiles and the activation of an early-warning radar system in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea that borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania. He said Russia also would consider the deployment of other Iskander systems, particularly along his country’s western and southern borders, and would hasten to fit its ballistic missiles with advanced maneuverable re-entry vehicles and penetration aids, a process that has long been under way. The prospect of Russian strategic weapons targeting BMD facilities was also raised. Medvedev added that more measures could be implemented to “neutralize the European component of the U.S. missile defense system,” concluding that all these steps could be avoided in favor of a new era of partnership between the United States and Russia if Washington so desired.
The U.S. Dilemma
The United States was expected to respond to Russia’s renewed strategy during the Dec. 8 meeting between NATO and Russian foreign ministers in Brussels. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton avoided doing so, however, reiterating that the BMD scheme was about Iran, not Russia. Clinton’s move highlights the dangerous U.S. position with regard to Russia. Washington has no intention of abandoning its commitment to Central Europe in the face of a resurging Russia, but commitments elsewhere in the world may prevent the United States from resisting Russia in the short term.
At present, Washington is struggling to halt the deterioration of relations with Pakistan, which have reached a new low after a U.S. helicopter strike on the Afghan-Pakistani border killed some two dozen Pakistani servicemen. After the strike, the Pakistanis forbade the shipment of fuel and supplies for the NATO-led war effort in Afghanistan across the Pakistani border, leaving the United States and its allies wholly dependent on the Northern Distribution Network, at least temporarily. Moscow used this as an opportunity to remind Washington that it could cut this alternative route, leaving NATO and the United States in a catastrophic position in Afghanistan — a move tied directly to Russia’s negotiations over missile defense.
While Russia has used previous threats against U.S. interests, such as increased support for Iran, as leverage in its BMD negotiations, its present threat marks a new dynamic. Washington called Moscow’s bluff on its threatened support for Iran, knowing Russia also did not want a strong Iran. But it cannot so easily dismiss the specter of interrupted supplies into Afghanistan, as this puts more than 130,000 U.S. and allied troops in a vulnerable position. Consequently, the United States must work to mitigate the BMD situation.
American Olive Branch or New Crisis?
In recent months, the United States has cultivated one potential olive branch to defuse short-term tensions. Previously, there was little the United States could offer Russia short of abandoning U.S. strategy in Central Europe. When tensions escalated in 2009 and 2010, the United States offered to facilitate large economic deals with Russia that included modernization and investment in strategic sectors, mainly information technology, space and energy. Since Russia had just launched its sister programs of modernization and privatization, it jumped on the proposal, reducing tensions and eventually joining U.S. initiatives such as sanctions against Iran. Now, the United States is extending another carrot: WTO membership.
Russia has sought WTO membership for 18 years. Even though it has the 10th largest economy in the world, it has failed to win accession to the 153-member body. Though the country’s extreme economic policies have given members plenty of reason to exclude Russia, the main barriers of late have been political. For its part, Moscow cares little about the actual economic benefits of WTO membership. The benefits it seeks are political, as being excluded from the WTO made it look like an economically backward country (though its exclusion has given it a convenient excuse to rail against the United States and Georgia).
As Russia sorted through its economic disputes with most WTO members, Georgia alone continued to block its bid because of the Russian occupation of the disputed Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In recent months, Georgia has dropped its opposition under U.S. pressure — pressure that originated from Washington’s need for something to offer the Russians. With all obstacles cleared, the WTO should approve Russia’s candidacy Dec. 15-16, apparently giving the United States the olive branch it sought.
Unfortunately for the United States, however, once Russia is voted in, each member-state must “recognize” Russia as a member. No WTO members, not even Georgia, have indicated that they intend to deny Russia recognition. But there is one country that cannot legally recognize Russian membership: the United States.
The United States still has a Soviet-era provision in federal law called the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which bars trade relations with certain countries guilty of human rights violations (namely, the Soviet Union). The measure continued to apply to Russia after the Soviet collapse, though every U.S. president has waived its provisions by decree since 1992. Only Congress can overturn it, however, and until it does so, the United States cannot recognize Russia as a WTO member.
The White House has called for the provision’s immediate repeal, but with Congress and the White House divided over so many issues, it seems unlikely the issue will be resolved swiftly — if at all — under the current Congress and presidency. This gives Russia another opportunity to increase U.S.-Russian tensions. Indeed, Moscow could noisily decry the insult of the United States making Russian WTO accession possible only to derail it.
Balancing Crisis and Strategy
Just how many crises in U.S.-Russian relations does Moscow want, and what is its goal? Moscow’s strategy involves using these crises with the United States to create uncertainty in Central Europe and to make the Europeans uncomfortable over perceptions that the United States has forced Russia to act the way it is acting. Thus, it is not a break between Russia and the United States that Moscow seeks but a break between Europe and the United States.
Indications are emerging that the Central Europeans are in fact growing nervous, particularly following Medvedev’s new defense strategy announcement. With the United States not responding to the renewed Russian aggression, many Europeans may be forgiven for wondering if the United States is planning to trade its relationship with Central Europe in the short term to ensure the supply lines via Russia into Afghanistan remain open. It isn’t that the Central Europeans want a warmer relationship with Russia, only that they may feel a need to hedge their relationship with the United States. This was seen this past week with Poland announcing it would be open to discussions with Russia over missile defense (albeit within the paradigm of separate BMD systems), and with the Czech Republic, a previous American missile defense partner, signing multibillion-dollar economic deals with Russia.
But with more opportunities arising for Russia to escalate tensions with the United States, Moscow must avoid triggering a massive crisis and rupture in relations. Should Russia go too far in its bid to create an uncomfortable situation for the Europeans, it could cause a strong European backlash against Russia and a unilateral unification with the United States on regional security issues. And it is in Russia’s interest to refrain from actually disrupting the Northern Distribution Network; Moscow is seeking to avoid both complications in the Afghan theater that could hurt Russian interests (one of which is keeping the United States tied down in Afghanistan) and a strong U.S. response in a number of other areas. Moscow must execute its strategy with precision to keep the United States caught between many commitments and Europe off balance — a complex balancing act for the Kremlin.
23483  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Palestinian Hip Hop on: December 13, 2011, 12:10:56 AM
23484  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt on the Second Amendment on: December 12, 2011, 11:29:11 PM
23485  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: December 12, 2011, 10:24:47 PM
Careful GM.  Bret Baier report today reported that the deficit is on track to come in under $1T this year.  This is about 33% down from the peak.  Another $250B and the statement will be true.
23486  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: December 12, 2011, 10:20:05 PM
Krauthammer's criticism of Newt is correct.
23487  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chinese possible Port of Call in Seychelles on: December 12, 2011, 08:26:04 PM
Dispatch: The Chinese Navy's Possible Port of Call in the Seychelles
December 12, 2011 | 2304 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

Vice President of Strategic Analysis Rodger Baker discusses the Chinese dilemma over the use of a port in the Seychelles.
Related Links
•   China Prepares for the U.S. Re-Engagement in Asia
China’s Ministry of National Defense said Dec. 12 that the Chinese navy may use ports in the Seychelles, or other countries, as ports of call for ongoing counter-piracy missions and for future deployments. The comments follow an invitation from the Seychelles for China to use the island nation’s ports and to establish a military presence on the main island of Mahe, already a regular port of call for the United States and other nation’s warships and military aircraft such as U.S. UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] and French maritime surveillance aircraft.
China’s response highlights a continuing debate inside the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] regarding overseas basing. The PLAN [People’s Liberation Army Navy] has been participating in counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and off the east coast of Africa since December 2008. Supplying and maintaining these ships at a distance has been a test of the Chinese navy’s capacity for extended deployment. As part of the resupply, China has used several ports in the region, primarily Salalah in Oman, but also Aden, Djibouti and Karachi. Resupplying from the Seychelles would mark a further expansion of the range of China’s PLAN deployments, and would be the furthest of the resupply ports from the current anti-piracy operations.
Beijing arranges what are essentially ad hoc agreements to use friendly ports and facilities, avoiding the diplomatic agreements necessary to allow more established and enduring access to the facilities for the Chinese navy. This is largely due to the Chinese government’s stated non-interference policies and its attempts to shape the international image of Chinese overseas military operations as purely defensive and cooperative and thus non-threatening.
But this can bring China’s public image in contention with military necessity. The ad hoc arrangements have been effective thus far, but it leaves Chinese long-distance maritime operations without the means to establish more robust and reliable access and facilities, particularly in terms of forward maintenance and rearmament. For now, this appears to be a risk China is willing to take, using its political and economic leverage to ensure basic access for refueling without the formal diplomatic agreements for extended port use by the PLAN and particularly the facilities that a sustained forward presence requires. But as China continues to expand the range and role of its naval forces, this question of overseas basing agreements will intensify.
23488  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: December 12, 2011, 04:49:03 PM

Your point/the point of the piece you post, is quite correct.

I am looking to make an additional point-- which is that the number which is currently 8.6% is the number which people track; just as people (including me I might add) tend to follow "the DOW average" instead of the "S&P 500"-- which is a decidedly better overall metric.  If people see if falling from 10+% to 8.0% (or even 7.9%) His Glibness will be all over it like white on rice and like stink on excrement selling it as "See, I inherited a terrible mess but I have managed to turn things around and now we are in the right direction.  Give me another 4 years to fininsh the job.  Don't put back in the people who got us into this mess in the first place!"
23489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Chinese Cyberspying on: December 12, 2011, 04:43:13 PM
WASHINGTON—U.S. intelligence agencies have pinpointed many of the Chinese groups responsible for cyberspying in the U.S., and most are sponsored by the Chinese military, according to people who have been briefed on a U.S. intelligence investigation.

Enlarge Image

U.S. Air Force personnel work in the Air Force Space Command Network Operations & Security Center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado in a July 2010 file photo.
.Armed with this information, the U.S. has begun to lay the groundwork to confront China more directly about its expansive cyberspying campaign. Two weeks ago, U.S. officials met with Chinese counterparts and warned China about the diplomatic consequences of economic spying, according to a former official familiar with the meeting.

The Chinese cyberspying campaign stems largely from a dozen groups connected to China's People's Liberation Army and a half-dozen nonmilitary groups connected to organizations like universities, said those who were briefed on the investigation. Two other groups play a significant role, though investigators haven't determined whether they are connected to the military.

In many cases, the National Security Agency has determined the identities of individuals working in these groups, which is a critical development that provides the U.S. the option of confronting the Chinese government more directly about the activity or responding with a counterattack, according to former officials briefed on the effort.

"It's actually a small number of groups that do most of the PLA's dirty work," said James Lewis, a cybersecurity specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who frequently advises the Obama administration. "NSA is pretty confident of their ability to attribute [cyberespionage] to this set of actors."

In early November, the U.S. chief of counterintelligence issued a report that was unusually blunt in accusing China of being the world's "most active and persistent" perpetrator of economic spying. Lawmakers have also become more vocal in calling out China for its widening campaign of cyberespionage.

Still, diplomatic considerations may limit the U.S. interest in taking a more confrontational approach because some U.S. officials are wary of angering China, the largest holder of U.S. debt. Chinese officials regularly dispute U.S. allegations of cyberspying, saying they are the victims, not the perpetrators, of cybercrime and cyberespionage.

Identifying adversaries has been difficult because it is easy to fake identities and locations in cyberspace. An inability to tie cyberspying activities with precision to a certain actor has in the past limited the U.S.'s ability to respond because it is hard to retaliate or confront an unidentified adversary.

The U.S. government, led by the National Security Agency, has tracked the growing Chinese cyberspying campaign against the U.S. for decades. Past government efforts have had exotic names like "Titan Rain," and "Byzantine Hades.

"More recently, NSA and other intelligence agencies have made significant advances in attributing cyberattacks to specific sources—mostly in China's People's Liberation Army—by combining cyberforensics with ongoing intelligence collection through electronic and human spying, Mr. Lewis said.

The U.S. investigation of China's activities is the latest round of spy-versus-spy in cyberspace.

The activity breaks down into cyberspying efforts by 20 groups with different attack styles that are responsible for most of the cybertheft of U.S. secrets, said the people briefed on the investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have given different classified code names to each group.

U.S. intelligence officials can identify different groups based on a variety of indicators. Those characteristics include the type of cyberattack software they use, different Internet addresses they employ when stealing data, and how attacks are carried out against different targets. In addition to U.S. government agencies, major targets of these groups include U.S. defense contractors, according to former officials.

Collectively, these groups employ hundreds of people, according to former officials briefed on the effort. That number is believed to be small compared to the estimated 30,000 to 40,000 censors the Chinese government is believed to employ to patrol the Internet.

23490  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Bi-lingual pledge of allegiance in CA school on: December 12, 2011, 02:53:10 PM
23491  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: American History on: December 12, 2011, 02:44:56 PM
Glenn Beck made this point about TR being a progressive frequently and with great vigor due to Jonah Goldberg's influence.  JG appeared on the show at least once, and maybe more. He regularly appears on the panel of the Bret Baier Report where IMHO he handles himself quite well.  I have his book, "Liberal Fascism"
23492  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Linked-in scams? on: December 12, 2011, 02:41:23 PM
This from a trusted friend:

Recently I decided to make a couple of moves to test the integrity of the LinkedIn system vis-a-vis Internet scammers.
This morning I received a LinkedIn invitation from an associate, asking me to join his network. The appearance of the e-mail is exactly what one would expect a LinkedIn communication to look like. However, the red flags of oddness immediately cropped up:
1.   I am already, and have been for five months, connected to this associate on LinkedIn.
2.   The request came in to an e-mail address that is NOT the one I currently use for LinkedIn purposes. I deliberately changed the LinkedIn account e-mail address late last week as part of an integrity test (due to my suspicions that LinkedIn was connected to another ongoing e-mail scam effort) . If this associate (even if it were a legitimate invitation for the very first time) had used the LinkedIn system to send me an invitation, it would not have come in to the e-mail account that it did. It would have come in to the account I switched over to late last week.  As did a legitimate invitataion earlier this morning.
3.   When I access my LinkedIn account, and this is, perhaps, the most significant red flag, there is no invitation activity from this individual this morning. The only LinkedIn activity from him was the July 2011 invitation request, and several other messages during the past five months.
4.   This invitation from this morning came in addressed to my fist initial. My first initial is what would appear on the e-mail account that the invitation came in on. The requesting associate has never, and would never, address me just by my first initial. All his comms to me have been by my first name. The reason this “invitation” came in to my first initial was because the sender does not know my full first name because neither the e-mail address nor the name on the e-mail account provides that information.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is a well developed scam, the goal of which is to get me to click on the link provided in the body of the e-mail.
I am particularly attuned to the possibility of LinkedIn e-mail scams because several weeks ago I received an official looking “LinkedIn” invitation request from somebody I have never heard of, and it came into an e-mail account and name which there is not even an existing LinkedIn account for anybody to send an invitation to.
The moral of this saga is to be wary of the e-mails you receive. No matter how “official” they may look, think a moment before automatically clicking any links inside such an e-mail.
You don't need to be paranoid; you do need to NOT be oblivious.
23493  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on Obama's 8% prediction on: December 12, 2011, 01:55:54 PM

This strikes me as pretty plausible, and the political consequences quite spinnable by His Glibness , , ,

Monday Morning Outlook
Obama's 8%: Sounds Right To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/12/2011
Given his advisers’ track record, you would think President Obama would be very cautious when making predictions about the unemployment rate. Back in January 2009, fresh off his inauguration, his economic team forecast that the $800 billion “stimulus” bill would keep the jobless rate below 8%.
As we all now know, even though the “stimulus” bill was fully implemented, the jobless rate kept heading north, peaking at 10.1% in October 2009 and never once falling even remotely close to 8%. Nevertheless, President Obama is doing it again and predicting unemployment will be 8% around Election Day.
This time, we think he’s right.
It’s important to recognize that 8% unemployment is not good. The unemployment rate was lower than 8% for 25 straight years, from early 1984 through early 2009. During that time no one would have been proud of an 8% jobless rate.
The difference between then and now is the size of government. Spending, regulation and expanded jobless benefits have made the US look more like Europe, where even in the best of times unemployment rates rarely fall below 7%. Nonetheless, the US economy is growing today, it is creating new jobs, and unemployment will continue to fall in the months ahead just as the President has predicted.
Here’s why we think 8% makes sense. Just two years ago, in the last quarter of 2009, the jobless rate averaged 10%. In the current quarter, unemployment will probably end up averaging 8.8%. (We look for an 8.7% rate in December).
That’s a drop of 1.2 percentage points over two years, when real GDP was growing around 2.5% per year. And notice that the drop in the jobless rate was not due to people leaving the labor force. The labor force is up slightly versus two years ago.     
We think the economy will grow in the 3 to 3.5% range in 2012, which makes a drop to an 8% unemployment rate a sensible forecast. Faster economic growth should generate a faster decline in the jobless rate. And remember, this faster growth is occurring without a new stimulus bill and without QE3. The fact that the government has done nothing new in the past few quarters is helping the economy accelerate again.
Some analysts keep waiting for a large surge in the labor force (more people looking for work), which would drive the unemployment rate up again, or at least makes it tough to get the jobless rate down further. But that’s unlikely.
The aging of the Baby Boom generation started putting downward pressure on the labor force participation rate about a decade ago and that process will continue. Any increase in the labor force in the year ahead should be modest compared to prior economic expansions.
Bottom-line: We think President Obama is right about the 8% unemployment rate. What’s interesting is that so many people have been so negative about the economy for so long that 8% is going to feel like a huge victory, even when it isn’t. This is the problem with creating negative expectations…even slight improvement could be considered a victory.

23494  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: We are out of Shamsi Air Base in Baluchistan on: December 12, 2011, 08:55:32 AM
Pakistan's military said Sunday that Washington has met its demand to pull U.S. equipment and personnel from an air base in the southwest of the country.

 US army vacates airbase in Pakistan, as angry demonstrators burn the American flag in protest at a NATO air strike that killed 24 soldiers. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
.Pakistan demanded the U.S. withdraw from Shamsi air base in Baluchistan province as a retaliatory measure after a North Atlantic Treaty Organization strike late last month killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The U.S. had used Shamsi to operate drone strikes against Taliban militants sheltering in the tribal regions on the frontier with Afghanistan, according to Pakistani defense officials.

The U.S. already had scaled back operations at the base this summer due to Pakistani demands to do so, these officials said.

 .The expulsion from Shamsi is more symbolic than a meaningful attempt to halt the drone attacks, which have killed scores of Taliban and al Qaeda militants.

The U.S. has continued the covert program, which is run by the Central Intelligence Agency, from bases in Afghanistan, despite the wind-down at Shamsi begun this summer.

But another Pakistan retaliatory measure for the NATO air strikes — shutting key NATO supply routes through Pakistan — is likely to pose a greater threat to U.S. interests in the region, U.S. officials say.

Pakistan has given no indication of when it will lift the blockade. NATO sends about half of its supplies for its soldiers in Afghanistan via two Pakistani land routes.

If the shut-down lasts much longer, affecting key supplies of fuel, it could begin to hurt NATO's campaign in Afghanistan, U.S. officials have said.

Anti-U.S. sentiment has been on the rise this year due to the drone program, which is unpopular with many people, and the covert U.S. raid on a Pakistani garrison town in May that killed Osama bin Laden.

After the NATO raid on Nov. 26, Pakistan gave the U.S. 15 days to fully vacate Shamsi. The "last flight carrying leftover US Personnel and Equipment departed Shamsi Base today and the Base has been completely vacated," Pakistan's military said in a statement Sunday. "The control of the Base has been taken over by the Army."

Attempts to contact a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad were not successful.

23495  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: December 12, 2011, 08:50:53 AM

A follow up to my post a moment ago concerning Mitt's $10k bet challenge to Perry:

What a kitty response to the psuedo-brouhaha!  He should have pushed back and said that the chattering class was missing the point-- as it so often does-- the point being to challenge Perry to put up or shut up concerning the allegation in question.  Instead of the patricianly guilt he displays, he should have no apology-- "Yes, I have money, and I earned it.  Its a reason I should be president.  Look at what I did for turning the Olympics around!  Let me do that for America!".

We didn't see Newt kittying out to the brouhaha over his comments on the Palestinians, did we?

IMHO this sort of thing encapsulates a lot concerning the ceiling to Romney's support.
23496  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Newt running strong on: December 12, 2011, 08:43:47 AM

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is solidifying his lead in key states as the final stretch before the Iowa caucuses begins, while Mitt Romney faces criticism for a $10,000 bet he offered Rick Perry during a weekend debate.

 ..An NBC News/Marist Poll poll released Sunday showed support for the former speaker of the House soaring in South Carolina and Florida, making Mr. Gingrich the distinct front-runner for those states' late January primaries. His performance in the Saturday night debate in Des Moines suggests Mr. Gingrich also remains on stable footing with just over three weeks left before Iowa's first-in-the-nation voting on Jan. 3.

Mr. Romney, meanwhile, was trying to tamp down a potential misstep after former Texas Gov. Rick Perry accused Mr. Romney during the Saturday debate of saying his 2006 Massachusetts health insurance expansion "should be the model for the country." Mr. Romney disputed ever making such a comment and offered to bet him $10,000 that he was right. Mr. Perry turned down the bet.
A $10,000 wager triggered a backlash among Democrats and Republicans, given Mr. Romney's wealth from his private equity days.
.Who would have won the wager isn't clear. Mr. Perry was referring to a passage from the first edition of Mr. Romney's 2010 book "No Apology." The former governor wrote that "we can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country" in reference to the Massachusetts law that requires most residents to carry insurance or pay a fee.

Those words were cut from subsequent editions of the book. Elsewhere in the book, Mr. Romney called for other states to design their own models, different from the one in Massachusetts.

Still, the $10,000 wager triggered a quick backlash among Democrats and Republicans given the former private-equity executive's wealth and the way he appeared to flaunt the money. By noon Sunday, the Democratic National Committee had sent out seven emails either mocking or slamming the five-figure offer.

Mr. Perry, speaking on Fox News Sunday, said he was "a little taken aback" by the proposed bet, and that it showed how Mr. Romney was "a little out of touch with the normal Iowa citizen." The campaign of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman immediately set up the website with the headline "Why Mitt Romney owes Rick Perry $10,000."

Mr. Romney turned the comment into a bit of a joke at a press conference after a town hall in Hudson, N.H., on Sunday evening. "After the debate was over, Ann [Mrs. Romney] came up and gave me a kiss and said I was great and she said there are a lot of things you do well, betting isn't one of them," Mr. Romney said. He didn't elaborate. Asked a follow-up question, he said, "that's all I got."

Mr. Romney's stumble came amid new evidence he is losing ground in key states. The new NBC News/Marist Poll showed Mr. Gingrich leading Mr. Romney 42% to 23% among likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina and 41% to 28% in Florida. Adding in likely Republican voters in Florida who were undecided but said they are leaning towards one of the candidates, Mr. Gingrich's lead widened to 44% to 29% for Mr. Romney.

Mr. Gingrich seemed to fare better during Saturday's debate, despite efforts by his opponents to challenge positions he has taken. Over the weekend, Mr. Gingrich drew fire for his recent suggestion that Palestinians were an "invented" people.

Rep. Steve King (R., Iowa) said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that the comment was "probably unnecessary in the scope of this campaign" and makes you "wonder what kind of discipline he might have." Mr. King, who has not yet endorsed a Republican in the presidential race, has an influential voice with Iowa Republican voters.

Mr. Gingrich defended his Palestinian comments Saturday night, saying Palestinians encouraged terrorism and should not be put on an equal playing field with the Israelis.

Mohammed Sobeih, the Arab League official who handles Palestinian affairs, told the Associated Press on Sunday that Mr. Gingrich's comments were "irresponsible and dangerous."

Reps. Ron Paul (R., Texas) and Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.), who are trailing but trying to climb in the polls, said Messrs. Gingrich and Romney shared similar philosophies on governing and didn't represent the break from the past that Republicans need.

Ms. Bachmann, appearing on "Face the Nation," tried to reiterate a theme she invoked Saturday night, when she suggested the two front-runners were essentially the same person who she dubbed "Newt-Romney." "There's not a dime's worth of difference between the two of them," she said.

Mr. Paul said he would not rule out running on a third-party ticket or endorsing a third-party candidate if he didn't win the Republican nomination, but he said it wasn't something he was thinking about now. "I'm not going to rule anything out or anything in," Mr. Paul said.

President Barack Obama said in an interview aired Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes" that whichever GOP nominee emerges will offer Americans a stark contrast with his strategy for running the country. Mr. Gingrich is "somebody who's been around a long time, and is good on TV, is good in debates," Mr. Obama said. "But Mitt Romney has shown himself to be somebody who's … good at politics, as well. He's had a lot of practice at it." He added: "I think that they will be going at it for a while."

Write to Damian Paletta at

23497  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYTimes: When the Truth survives Free Speech on: December 12, 2011, 08:27:53 AM

Last week, a story came across my desk that seemed to suggest that a blogger had been unfairly nailed with a $2.5 million defamation award after a judge refused to give her standing as a journalist. A businessman who was the target of the blogger’s inquiries brought the suit.

I went to work on a blog post, filled with filial umbrage, saddened that the Man once again had used a boot heel to crush truth and free speech. But after doing a little reporting, I began to think that what scanned as an example of a rich businessman using the power of the courts to silence his critic was actually something else: a case of a blogger using the Web in unaccountable ways to decimate the reputation of someone who didn’t seem to have it coming.
The ruling on whether she was a journalist in the eyes of the law turned out to be a MacGuffin, a detail that was very much beside the point. She didn’t so much report stories as use blogging, invective and search engine optimization to create an alternative reality. Journalists who initially came to her defense started to back away when they realized they weren’t really in the same business.
On the surface, it seemed that the blogger, Crystal Cox, was doing the people’s work. A blogger and real estate agent in Montana who spent a lot of time fighting with the National Association of Realtors, Ms. Cox took an interest a few years ago in the bankruptcy of Summit Accommodators, an intermediary company in Bend, Ore., that held cash to complete property exchanges. The company went belly up and Federal prosecutors indicted three senior executives — a fourth pleaded guilty — charging them with conspiring to defraud clients of millions.
Kevin D. Padrick, a lawyer in Oregon, was appointed as trustee in the case after the company entered bankruptcy. Prompted by the postings of someone whom Mr. Padrick was going after to recover assets — the daughter of one of the men who was indicted — Ms. Cox began suggesting in her blog posts that Mr. Padrick had used inside information and illegal measures to take control of the remaining assets and enrich himself.
In a long-running series of hyperbolic posts, she wrote that Mr. Padrick and his company, the Obsidian Finance Group, had engaged in bribery, tax fraud, money laundering, payoffs and theft, among other things. Her one-woman barrage did not alter the resolution of the Summit affair, but it was effective in ruining Mr. Padrick.
In a phone interview, he told me his business as a financial adviser had dropped by half since Ms. Cox started in on him, and any search of his name or his company turned up page after page on Google detailing his supposed skullduggery, showing up under a variety of sites, including Bend Oregon News, Bankruptcy Corruption, and Northwest Tribune.
As it turned out, all of the allegations and almost all of the coverage in the case were coming from Ms. Cox, who churned URL’s and cut-and-pasted documents to portray Mr. Padrick as a “thug,” and a “thief” who “committed tax fraud” and who may have “hired a hit man” to kill her while engaging in “illegal and fraudulent activity.”
Here’s the problem. None of that was ever proved, nor was it picked up by other mainstream media outlets.
Even a broken clock is right twice a day, but there is nothing in Mr. Padrick’s professional history or the public record that I found to suggest he is any of those things. He was appointed as a trustee by the court, he was subjected to an F.B.I. background check, and there have been no criminal investigations into his conduct. About 85 percent of the funds have been returned to the creditors, which seems to be a good result.
Annie Buell, the chairwoman of the Official Unsecured Creditors Committee who was appointed by the United States Trustee’s Office, said in an interview by phone that there was no basis in fact for Ms. Cox’s scabrous postings about Mr. Padrick.

(Page 2 of 2)
“He did a very good job for the creditors,” she said. “He was above board, had all of his cards on the table and was competent and fair. If I ever was in the same situation again, he would be my first choice.” Lawyers I spoke with who had done business with Mr. Padrick used similar adjectives to describe him.

Mr. Padrick, a lawyer who is a member of the bar in four states and has never been disciplined or investigated from anything I could find, said he spent a lot of sleepless nights wondering how he ended up as Ms. Cox’s bête noire.
“A woman who I did not know, who had no connection to me or my company or with this case she has been making statements on, has turned my business life and personal life upside down,” he said. “Companies who are considering doing business with us do a routine search on Google and there is page after page of these allegations. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody.”
And it has. Ms. Cox, who calls herself an “investigative blogger,” has a broad range of conspiratorial/journalistic interests. She has written that Bruce Sewell, the general counsel of Apple, “aids and abets criminals,” that Jeffrey Bewkes, the chief executive of Time Warner, is “a proven technology thief,” and that various Proskauer Rose lawyers have engaged in a pattern of “conspiracy.” And don’t get her started on the local officials in and around her hometown, Eureka, Mont.
When she gets in a fight with someone, she frequently responds by creating a domain with their name, some allegation of corruption, or both. Many of the negative posts about Mr. Padrick appeared on and there are many more like it. In order to optimize visibility to Web crawlers, she often uses the full name and title of her target, and her Web sites are filled with links to her other sites to improve their search ranking. She has some 500 URLs at her disposal and she’s not afraid to use them.
“I have a gift for getting on top of search engines and I want to give voice to victims of the corrupt judicial system,” she said in an interview by phone. “The system wants to shut me up and they have been trying to for years.”
“I’m glad I lost the case, because it gives attention to what I have been doing,” she added, saying she doesn’t have money to hire an attorney — she represented herself in the defamation case — let alone $2.5 million to pay in damages. She plans to appeal.
She said she remained convinced that Mr. Padrick would be indicted, “even if I have to stay on it for the next decade.” But, as Forbes first pointed out following the verdict, she had been willing to negotiate a cease-fire.
“At this Point in my Life it is Time to Think of Me,” she wrote in a letter to Mr. Padrick’s lawyer, David Aman. “So I want to Let you know and Obsidian Finance that I am now offering PR Services and Search Engine Management Services starting at $2500 a month,” she wrote to promote “Law Firms” and “Finance Companies” and “to protect online reputations and promote businesses.”
What looked to be an unsubtle offer to holster her gun in exchange for a payoff was signed, “In Love and Light, Crystal Cox.”
Ms. Cox said she sent that note in response to a request from Mr. Padrick’s attorney — Mr. Aman said he made no such inquiry — and that she was “not on trial for writing e-mails.”
In the pre-Web days, someone like Ms. Cox might have been one more obsessive in the lobby of a newspaper, waiting to show a reporter a stack of documents that proved the biggest story never told. The Web has allowed Ms. Cox to cut out the middleman; various blogs give voice to her every theory, and search algorithms give her work prominence.
Mr. Padrick, who had never met Ms. Cox and had no idea why she seemed intent on destroying him, sued her last January. Judge Marco Hernandez of United States District Court in Portland, Ore., threw out most of his claims of defamation, ruling that Ms. Cox’s posts were so over-the-top that no reasonable reader would conclude she was making allegations of fact.
But Judge Hernandez did allow that a single post published on Christmas Day in 2010 charging all manner of criminal conduct could be read as containing “provable assertions of fact.” A one-day trial took place on Nov. 29 and after deliberating for 75 minutes, the jury awarded Obsidian $1 million and Mr. Padrick $1.5 million.
“I view our case as a blow for the First Amendment,” said Mr. Padrick. “If defamatory speech is allowed just because it is on the Internet, it cheapens the value of journalism and makes it less worthy of protection.”
Mr. Padrick signed off by reminding me that those who have been in conflict with Ms. Cox frequently find their names showing up in newly registered Web addresses. I’m thinking of buying as soon as I’m done typing.
Then again, I’ve got some institutional muscle when it comes to how I’m perceived on the Web. All Mr. Padrick had was his good reputation. Too bad there’s no algorithm to measure truth.
23498  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / My idiot state senator on: December 12, 2011, 07:19:09 AM
Sent by a friend.  I leave in his prefacatory comments.
So let me get this straight. A business can't spend its advertising money where it chooses? Political groups and legislators can force them to spend it where they don't want to? Ahhhh, California slips deeper into the void where idiocy meets lunacy.


California Senator Threatens Boycott After Lowe's Pulls Ads from Muslim-American Reality Show
Published December 11, 2011
In this undated image provided by Discovery, Nawal Aoude, a pediatric respiratory therapist, left, and her husband Nader go for a walk in a scene from the TLC series, "All-American Muslim."

LOS ANGELES –  A state senator from Southern California was considering calling for a boycott of Lowe's stores after the home improvement chain pulled its advertising from a reality show about Muslim-Americans.

Calling the retail giant's decision "un-American" and "naked religious bigotry," Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, told The Associated Press on Sunday that he would also consider legislative action if Lowe's doesn't apologize to Muslims and reinstate its ads. The senator sent a letter outlining his complaints to Lowe's Chief Executive Officer Robert A. Niblock.
The retail giant stopped advertising on TLC's "All-American Muslim" after a group called the Florida Family Association complained the show was "propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values."

The program premiered last month and chronicles the lives of five families from Dearborn, Mich., a Detroit suburb with a large Muslim and Arab-American population.

"The show is about what it's like to be a Muslim in America, and it touches on the discrimination they sometimes face. And that kind of discrimination is exactly what's happening here with Lowe's," Lieu said.

The Florida group sent three emails to its members, asking them to petition Lowe's to pull its advertising. Its website was updated to say that "supporters' emails to advertisers make a difference."

Suehaila Amen, whose family is featured on "All-American Muslim," said she was disappointed by the Lowe's decision.
"I'm saddened that any place of business would succumb to bigots and people trying to perpetuate their negative views on an entire community," Amen, 32, told The Detroit News on Sunday.

Lowe's issued a statement Sunday apologizing for having "managed to make some people very unhappy." The North Carolina-based company did not say whether it would reinstate advertising on the show.

The apology doesn't go far enough, Lieu said. The senator vowed to look into whether Lowe's violated any California laws and said he would also consider drafting a senate resolution condemning the company's actions.
"We want to raise awareness so that consumers will know during this holiday shopping season that Lowe's is engaging in religious discrimination," he said.

In addition to an apology and reinstatement of the ads, Lieu said he hoped Lowe's would make an outreach to the community about bias and bigotry.

A call to Lowe's headquarters seeking comment about the boycott threat was not immediately returned Sunday.

"Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lightning rod for many of those views," the company's statement said. "As a result we did pull our advertising on this program. We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance."

Lieu's office said a decision was expected Wednesday or Thursday on whether to proceed with the boycott.
Dawud Walid, Michigan director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his group felt "extreme disappointment" at Lowe's "capitulation to bigotry."

Walid said he has heard expressions of anger and calls for a boycott by Muslims but said a key to resolving the Lowe's advertising controversy will be how non-Muslim religious leaders and others react to Lowe's decision.

"I will be picking up the phone tomorrow to some of our friends and allies to explain the situation to them," Walid said Sunday.

Read more:
23499  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Remember those grenades on: December 11, 2011, 08:13:42 PM
mentioned in the Gun Rights thread under the post "Grenade Walker"?  Well, here are six of them

The impunity of it all:

Btw, the 23,000 number mentioned is about 20-25,000 too low.
23500  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Corruption on: December 11, 2011, 07:53:47 PM
We are Spartacus-- and this time Spartacus wins! grin
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