Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sotomayor
on: June 01, 2009, 10:58:38 PM
Right. Like John McCain , , ,
Its been so long since I caught Rush that I don't really have an opinion on him. Glenn Beck I am finding very interesting though. A bit quirky, but he brings on really bright guests, and asks prepared thoughtful questions, and has a decent concentration span-- withness his recent praiseworthy relentless pressure on ACORN.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Feds taking over all water?
on: June 01, 2009, 10:53:39 PM
By Jack Hoogendyk
Michigan, through its Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is one of only two states in the union that regulates wetlands with a state agency rather than through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
This has been a problem, because the state guidelines are much more strict than the federal guidelines. Additionally, the DEQ has proven to be arbitrary and capricious in its decision making and has often caused long, unnecessary delays in approving permits.
While the concerns about over-regulation by a state agency are valid, they may be rendered moot by recent efforts in Congress.
U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold has introduced a bill with 23 sponsors including Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow.
Senate Bill S787 is titled, “To amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to clarify the jurisdiction of the United States over waters of the United States.”
Notice they start the description with the words “pollution control.” That makes it sound caring and good, doesn’t it?
The fact is, this legislation will put ALL surface waters in the United States of America under congressional jurisdiction.
The bill language has a couple of key phrases in it. The first changes the definition of what is under congressional jurisdiction. Ever since the Commerce Clause of the Constitution and several test cases in the Supreme Court, Congress has had jurisdiction over navigable waters. The meaning of that word has been argued, but according to precedent and legal definition, navigable includes anything you can get a canoe down, or anything that is connected by water to the same.
No matter, because under S787, the word navigable is stricken, which means now ALL surface water is under congressional jurisdiction.
Additionally, in case there were any question of state’s rights, the bill also states that this applies to interstate and intrastate waters. That means there is no state sovereignty over waters within that state’s boundaries.
And, if you have any doubt as to what the congressional definition of “waters” is, they spell that out, too. It includes, “all waters subject to the ebb and flow of the tide, the territorial seas, and all interstate and intrastate waters and their tributaries, including lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, natural ponds, and all impoundments of the foregoing, to the fullest extent that these waters, or activities affecting these waters, are subject to the legislative power of Congress under the Constitution.”
The bottom line is this: Congress is taking over all the water.
If the Obama administration and Congress are anything like this state’s governor and her administration, you will see free trade and commerce come to a virtual standstill. Manufacturing, especially, will come to a screeching halt.
Water is an essential resource in the manufacture of virtually any consumable or durable good. Without ready access, manufacturers will be stifled in their attempts to create new products for market and the jobs that go with them.
Jack Hoogendyk is a former state legislator and executive director of CIVPRO, a nonprofit property rights organization based in Michigan
Now mind you Michigans DEQ water quality standards are much stricter than the EPA . So this isn't about pollution this is about controll over the states and manufacturing.Also this will then enable the feds to start draining the great lakes and pumping the water else where which every Michigander is opposed to except the sellout obamites levin and stabenow.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NYT: Hip-knee interactions
on: June 01, 2009, 06:01:15 AM
Hips Are Bringing More Athletes to Their Knees
Published: May 31, 2009
The quest to build ever more proficient athletes keeps hitting unexpected snags, and perhaps nowhere is this more vivid than in Major League Baseball. Several top players have been hampered by a hip ailment that was unheard of in the sport a decade ago.
Knee injuries to countless recreational and professional athletes in recent years made anterior cruciate ligament a household phrase and compelled trainers to emphasize building leg strength. Sports medicine experts now say that approach, while mitigating knee injuries, may be making hips vulnerable.
“No matter what we do, as complex as we try and make workouts and training methods, we lose sight of other things,” said Mackie Shilstone, a trainer based in New Orleans, who works with baseball, football and hockey players who are rehabilitating injuries. “We tend to concentrate on what is directly in front of us.
“In all my years as a trainer, I have not seen anything like the increase in hip injuries that I have seen over the past two years.”
No studies have been published to confirm this phenomenon. But many trainers and orthopedists say the anecdotal evidence is jarring, and medical staffs for Major League Baseball teams and franchises in other sports are scrambling to understand why athletes’ hips suddenly seem so fragile.
Experts said other factors could be at work in addition to the overemphasis on leg strength. Advances in magnetic imaging have enabled doctors to see inside the hip and identify certain ailments, and the increasing number of children playing sports at younger ages has led to more instances of improper bone development.
Several of baseball’s biggest stars — including Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies and Carlos Delgado of the Mets — have been forced to the sideline after having surgery to repair a torn labrum, the cartilage that runs along the rim of the hip socket. Rodriguez recently returned after missing two months, and Delgado has said he may not return this season. On Thursday, one of Utley’s teammates, pitcher Brett Myers, was found to have a damaged labrum in his hip. He is expected to have surgery this week.
Not all doctors are convinced that training is the culprit.
“It’s not like workouts have changed all of a sudden; it doesn’t explain it,” said Christopher Powers, an associate professor of biokinesiology at the University of Southern California. “People and doctors are just more aware of it diagnostically. We’ve always had hip problems; now we are just finding it better.”
The number of players on the disabled list because of hip and groin-muscle injuries rose to 34 in 2008 from 20 in 2007. Through the first quarter of this season, at least 13 players have gone on the disabled list with hip injuries.
“Delgado and A-Rod asked me about it,” said Utley, who had hip surgery last November after the Phillies won the World Series. “They both wanted to know what I did to keep playing.
“Before, guys never had hip surgeries and never let them work on their hips. But this was different.”
No sports medicine experts pointed to performance-enhancing drugs in explaining the rise in hip injuries. But dozens of major league baseball players, including Rodriguez, have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs in recent years, raising suspicions every time a new injury trend appears.
“It’s interesting to see what injuries increase as we come out of the steroid era,” said Stan Conte, the head trainer for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The sudden prominence of hip injuries comes a year after an unusual number of baseball players sustained strained oblique muscles, which run from the ribs to the abdomen.
The apparent rash of hip injuries extends beyond baseball, doctors and trainers said. Athletes of all ages and skill levels and in varying sports are having hip problems at higher rates and being found to have labral tears, they said. Soccer and hockey players in particular have followed the conventional training wisdom in recent years and bolstered their knees. Now some of them, including Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro and midfielder Freddie Ljungberg of Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders, who have both had labrum surgery, are having hip trouble.
“In soccer, they train harder than they used to train 10 to 15 to 20 years ago, when soccer had had a lot of A.C.L. tears,” said Dr. Andreas H. Gomoll, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School and a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“They started worrying much more about knees; they now do special training to protect the knee. And one belief is that this is why we have more of these injuries because the strength is putting more pressure on the hips.”
Dr. Bryan T. Kelly, a surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, performed Utley’s operation and is scheduled to operate on Myers. He said he did not believe it was a coincidence that “I get 40 hockey players in a six-week period at the end of the season all coming into my office with the same-looking bone structure in their hips, all saying that they have been skating since they were 3 years old.”
Kelly added, “I believe we are seeing some consequences from having our kids over the past few decades playing sports more at younger ages.”
As magnetic imaging has become more sophisticated, doctors have gained the ability to see inside the hip and identify labral tears.
“We are doing a much better job at imaging the injuries, and we are also seeing athletes with bigger bodies that are working harder on strength and conditioning, and the bigger, stronger muscles are allowing athletes to torque faster and more pressure is being put on the hip,” said Dr. Jordan Metzl, a sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
Problems with labral tears occur when the head of the femur does not fit correctly in the hip socket. If it is not a good fit, the labrum is squeezed between the ball and the socket when the hip is flexed. Over time, the labrum can become irritated and tear.
The problem with an adolescent, doctors said, is that the head of the femur is still growing. Stress on the hip can cause the bone to become misshapen. As the athlete continues to play sports into adulthood, the improperly shaped bone rubs against the labrum.
“I believe the situation with the hips is similar to Little League baseball, where there is a high awareness to elbow injuries from pitching too much because the joints are still developing,” Kelly said. “But with the hips, nothing is said. There is nothing done to try and prevent damage from being done.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From Russia, with perception
on: May 31, 2009, 09:00:33 PM
American capitalism gone with a whimper
It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American decent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people.
True, the situation has been well prepared on and off for the past century, especially the past twenty years. The initial testing grounds was conducted upon our Holy Russia and a bloody test it was. But we Russians would not just roll over and give up our freedoms and our souls, no matter how much money Wall Street poured into the fists of the Marxists.
Those lessons were taken and used to properly prepare the American populace for the surrender of their freedoms and souls, to the whims of their elites and betters.
First, the population was dumbed down through a politicized and substandard education system based on pop culture, rather then the classics. Americans know more about their favorite TV dramas then the drama in DC that directly affects their lives. They care more for their "right" to choke down a McDonalds burger or a BurgerKing burger than for their constitutional rights. Then they turn around and lecture us about our rights and about our "democracy". Pride blind the foolish.
Then their faith in God was destroyed, until their churches, all tens of thousands of different "branches and denominations" were for the most part little more then Sunday circuses and their televangelists and top protestant mega preachers were more then happy to sell out their souls and flocks to be on the "winning" side of one pseudo Marxist politician or another. Their flocks may complain, but when explained that they would be on the "winning" side, their flocks were ever so quick to reject Christ in hopes for earthly power. Even our Holy Orthodox churches are scandalously liberalized in America.
The final collapse has come with the election of Barack Obama. His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been a record setting, not just in America's short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more then another year, and there is no sign that it will not, America at best will resemble the Wiemar Republic and at worst Zimbabwe.
These past two weeks have been the most breath taking of all.
First came the announcement of a planned redesign of the American Byzantine tax system, by the very thieves who used it to bankroll their thefts, loses and swindles of hundreds of billions of dollars. These make our Russian oligarchs look little more then ordinary street thugs, in comparison. Yes, the Americans have beat our own thieves in the shear volumes. Should we congratulate them?
These men, of course, are not an elected panel but made up of appointees picked from the very financial oligarchs and their henchmen who are now gorging themselves on trillions of American dollars, in one bailout after another. They are also usurping the rights, duties and powers of the American congress (parliament). Again, congress has put up little more then a whimper to their masters.
Then came Barack Obama's command that GM's (General Motor) president step down from leadership of his company. That is correct, dear reader, in the land of "pure" free markets, the American president now has the power, the self given power, to fire CEOs and we can assume other employees of private companies, at will. Come hither, go dither, the centurion commands his minions.
So it should be no surprise, that the American president has followed this up with a "bold" move of declaring that he and another group of unelected, chosen stooges will now redesign the entire automotive industry and will even be the guarantee of automobile policies. I am sure that if given the chance, they would happily try and redesign it for the whole of the world, too. Prime Minister Putin, less then two months ago, warned Obama and UK's Blair, not to follow the path to Marxism, it only leads to disaster. Apparently, even though we suffered 70 years of this Western sponsored horror show, we know nothing, as foolish, drunken Russians, so let our "wise" Anglo-Saxon fools find out the folly of their own pride.
Again, the American public has taken this with barely a whimper...but a "freeman" whimper.
So, should it be any surprise to discover that the Democratically controlled Congress of America is working on passing a new regulation that would give the American Treasury department the power to set "fair" maximum salaries, evaluate performance and control how private companies give out pay raises and bonuses?
Senator Barney Franks, a social pervert basking in his homosexuality (of course, amongst the modern, enlightened American societal norm, as well as that of the general West, homosexuality is not only not a looked down upon life choice, but is often praised as a virtue) and his Marxist enlightenment, has led this effort. He stresses that this only affects companies that receive government monies, but it is retroactive and taken to a logical extreme, this would include any company or industry that has ever received a tax break or incentive.
The Russian owners of American companies and industries should look thoughtfully at this and the option of closing their facilities down and fleeing the land of the Red as fast as possible. In other words, divest while there is still value left.
The proud American will go down into his slavery with out a fight, beating his chest and proclaiming to the world, how free he really is. The world will only snicker.
The article has been reprinted with the kind permission from the author and originally appears on his blog, Mat Rodina
© 1999-2009. «PRAVDA.Ru». When reproducing our materials in whole or in part, hyperlink to PRAVDA.Ru should be made. The opinions and views of the authors do not always coincide with the point of view of PRAVDA.Ru's editors.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Schumpeter
on: May 31, 2009, 10:16:38 AM
By CARL SCHRAMM From today's Wall Street Journal Europe.
We continue to be in the middle of a frightening economic drama, one that is putting the core tenets of modern capitalism at the center of the global debate. That is an important debate to have, considering that the fundamental assumptions of modern economics -- that governments have appropriately designed counter-cyclical tools, that central banks are omnipotent, that the business cycle has been tamed and that our securities markets have finally rationalized risk -- have been shattered.
Is this the moment the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter had envisaged when he spoke of "creative destruction"? After all, it was Schumpeter who worried more than any other modern economist about what might be called the fragile condition of capitalism. He did so having lived through the economic horrors of Weimar, witnessed the terror of Soviet-style political economy, experienced the Depression -- and seen the chaos of World War II. Plenty of destruction, to be sure. His life's work concentrated on entrepreneurs renewing the economy through what he called "creative destruction."
If Schumpeter were alive today, he would surely ask, What caused this crisis? And, is this kind of scandal or drama endemic to the nature of capitalism itself? While a lot of attention has been given to the first question, I want to focus on the more ominous second one. Namely, how to save capitalism from a potentially fatal reaction to this crisis.
We need to remember that Schumpeter embraced capitalism not as a reaction or as the second-best solution to the unproductive reality of utopian economic planning. Rather, he saw capitalism as the foundation of two complementary forces. The first was economic expansion. The second was its role in protecting individual freedom.
For Schumpeter, to sacrifice one was to imperil the other. More starkly, he would remind us in no uncertain terms that, whatever our present doubts, the only way freedom is secure for any individual is within a growing economy. In other words, political freedom depends on economic expansion. In our own time, the Indian-born economist Amartya Sen has shown the importance of this tandem for the world's developing economies where economic expansion has become synonymous with freedom.
The connection between economic growth and democracy is, as political scientist Michael Mandelbaum says, a "tendency," not an "invariable law" of political economy. Economic growth usually brings higher rates of literacy and education, as well as a general shift from rural to urban living, elements shown to be correlated with democracy. Moreover, the overlap between free markets and democracy -- in private property, limited government, a thriving civil society, and established rule of law -- makes the causal connection even stronger.
As a general rule, only capitalism can create wealth and liberty at the same time. And, of course, capitalism can expand welfare faster than any other social or economic order has ever done.
However, given the pressures of the current crisis, a future where growth and freedom continue to jointly secure each other and anchor civil society is not assured. It seems that when economic contractions occur in their inevitable, yet unpredictable way, the critique of capitalism itself becomes more powerful and shrill.
From Schumpeter's vantage point, capitalism's very success allows rich societies to use government to relax the impersonal rules that govern markets, creating new rules that buffer citizens from the rigors of risk-taking and failure. In that sense, government invents for itself the task of mediating market outcomes. Schumpeter had seen the dangers of this play out in Bismarck's conception of Prussia's welfare state. In the face of the Marxist threat, the elite secured its position by causing government to dispense social benefits. Political entrenchment, not charity, had motivated Bismarck. When distorted in such a way, free-market capitalism is seen to suppress -- rather than to encourage -- social and economic mobility.
Since the New Deal, Americans have come to see government as somehow the ultimate protector of their financial welfare. In reality, though, the evidence of the U.S. government behaving in this way during the New Deal is thin to say the least. Although it is largely forgotten now, much of the government's action during the Depression actually had a marginal impact on individual lives. Monetary expansion and technological innovation boosted the economy, while the "second" depression of 1937-1938 is widely understood as having been induced by Roosevelt's attempt to manipulate credit markets.
So what about the ultimate Schumpeterian challenge: Can capitalism be saved? France's President Nicolas Sarkozy in October 2008 proposed a brilliant formulation. He said: "The financial crisis is not the crisis of capitalism. It is the crisis of a system that has distanced itself from the most fundamental values of capitalism, which betrayed the spirit of capitalism."
No doubt, in the face of the continuing financial crisis, entrepreneurial capitalism is threatened. All over the world, people are giving greater emphasis to personal security. Their taste for assuming personal risk may be chastened, at least for the moment. This is an altogether rational and expected response.
Where that becomes troublesome, however, is the moment when government comes to be seen as the sole source of security. What we, the public, need to understand is that the best guarantor of security is not government. It's economic growth. While we want to believe otherwise, the cold fact is that government can't guarantee economic permanency. Nobody, and nothing, can.
Pragmatically speaking, we must figure out how to increase people's sense of security without making government itself bigger or more powerful.
Joseph Schumpeter's answer to all this is that the most important citizen is not the politician, nor the big businessman, nor the bankers on Wall Street. They are important, but not central to the renewal of democratic capitalism. That role, that burden falls to our fellow citizens who, in the face of the challenges we see all around us, are ready to pursuit what entrepreneurs do: Create the new, create jobs and make the wealth that will be more necessary than ever to purchase a future worth living.
Whatever road we choose, entrepreneurial capitalism cannot be revived or flourish if new government security programs end up attenuating the individual's ultimate responsibility to attend to his or her own welfare.
Mr. Schramm is president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation and co-author of "Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity" (Yale Univ. Press, 2007).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan
on: May 31, 2009, 07:44:43 AM
"Let's play grown-up." When I was a child, that's what we said when we ran out of things to do like playing potsie or throwing rocks in the vacant lot. You'd go in and take your father's hat and your mother's purse and walk around saying, "Would you like tea?" In retrospect we weren't imitating our parents but parents on TV, who wore pearls and suits. But the point is we amused ourselves trying to be little adults.
And that's what the GOP should do right now: play grown-up.
The Democrats in the White House have been doing it since January, operating with a certain decorum, a kind of assumption as to their natural stature. Obamaland is very different from the last Democratic administration, Bill Clinton's. The cliché is true: White House staffs reflect their presidents. Mr. Clinton's staff was human, colorful, messy, slightly mad. They had pent-up energy after 12 years of Republican rule, and they believed their own propaganda that Republicans were wicked. They were oafish: One dragooned a government helicopter to go play golf. President Obama's staff is far less entertaining. They're smooth, impeccable, sophisticated, like the boss. They don't hate Republicans but think they're missing a few chips (empathy, logic, How Things Really Work). It is true they don't know what they don't know, but what they do know (how to quietly seize and hold power, for instance—they now run the American auto industry), they know pretty well.
But back to Sonia Sotomayor, which is my subject.
She is of course a brilliant political pick—Hispanic when Republicans have trouble with Hispanics, a woman when they've had trouble with women. Her background (public housing, Nuyorican, Catholic school, Princeton, prominence) is as moving as Clarence Thomas's, and that is moving indeed. Politically she's like a beautiful doll containing a canister of poison gas: Break her and you die.
The New York Post's front page the day after her announcement said it all: "Suprema!" with a picture of the radiant nominee. New York is proud of her; I'm proud of our country and grateful at its insistence, in a time when some say the American dream is dead, that it most certainly is not. The dream is: You can come from any place or condition, any walk of life, and rise to the top, taking your people with you, in your heart and theirs. Maybe that's what they mean by empathy: Where you come from enters you, and you bring it with you as you rise. But if that's what they mean, then we're all empathetic. We're the most fluid society in human history, but no one ever leaves their zip code in America, we all take it with us. It's part of our pride. And it's not bad, it's good.
Some, and they are idiots, look at Judge Sotomayor and say: attack, attack, kill. A conservative activist told the New York Times, "We need to brand her." Another told me a fight is needed to excite the base.
Excite the base? How about excite a moderate, or interest an independent? How about gain the attention of people who aren't already on your side?
The base is plenty excited already, as you know if you've ever read a comment thread on a conservative blog. Comment-thread conservatives, like their mirror-image warriors on the left ("Worst person in the woooorrrlllddd!") are perpetually agitated, permanently enraged. They don't need to be revved, they're already revved. Newt Gingrich twitters that Judge Sotomayor is a racist. Does anyone believe that? He should rest his dancing thumbs, stop trying to position himself as the choice and voice of the base in 2012, and think.
A few—very few—agitate to go at Judge Sotomayor as the Democrats went after Robert Bork in 1987. The abuse suffered by that good man is a still suppurating wound within the GOP, but it is also a wound for the Democrats, the worst kind, a self-inflicted one. They damaged our national political culture and lowered their own standing with their assault, and their victory left them looking not strong and uncompromising but mean and ferocious. And on some level they know it. Ask Ted Kennedy, if he had it to do over again, if he would repeat all his intemperate and unjust words about "Bob Bork's America" and "back-alley abortions" and blacks turned away from lunch counters. He'd be a fool if he said yes. He damaged himself in that battle.
The choice for Republicans isn't between "attack" and "roll over." It's broader than that, and more interesting. There's a new and fresh opportunity here for Republicans in the Senate to be serious, and, in their seriousness, to be seen and understood in a new light.
Serious opposition to Judge Sotomayor is not only fair, it's necessary: It's your job to oppose if you oppose. But it should be serious, not merely partisan. Mr. Obama himself well knows he voted against John Roberts and Sam Alito only in essence because they were conservative. He was planning a presidential run and playing to a left-wing base. But that didn't enhance his reputation, did it? Not with anyone who wasn't part of his base.
Barring extraordinary revelations, Judge Sotomayor is going to be confirmed. She's going to win. She does not appear to be as liberal or left-wing as others who could have been picked. She seems reminiscent of the justice she will replace, David Souter. She will likely come across in hearings as smart, spirited, a middle-aged woman who's lived a life of grit, determination and American-dream proving.
Republicans can be liberated by the fact that they're outnumbered and likely about to lose. They can step back, breathe in, and use the Sotomayor confirmation hearings to perform a public service: Find out what the future justice thinks and why she thinks it, explain what they think and why they think it, look at the two different philosophies, if that's what they are. Don't make it sparring, make it thinking.
Don't grill and grandstand, summon and inform. Show the respect that expresses equality and the equality that is an expression of respect. Ask and listen, get the logic, explain where you think it wrong. Fill the airwaves with thoughtful exchanges.
Here are some areas: What is judicial activism? Is it sometimes more rightly called judicial presumption? Judge Sotomayor sided against the Connecticut firemen in the famous Ricci case—why? Was this empathy, or a very selective sympathy that resulted in the victimizing of human beings who were not members of a politically favored ethnic or racial group? What is affirmative action, when does it become quota making? How does she understand the Second Amendment? What did the Framers intend there? In what ways did her experience, upbringing and ethnicity contribute to her understanding of the law?
These are just a few fertile areas. There are more.
The odd thing Republican elected officials forget is that they often have the better argument. So used are they to the defensive crouch that they find it difficult to stand tall, expand, tell, hear. They should have more faith in the philosophical assumptions of their party, which so often reflect the wisdom of experience, of tradition, of Founders more brilliant than we.
This might be a good time for them to rediscover their faith in the American people, in their ability to listen, weigh and think. That thinking may not always show up immediately in polls, but it adds up in time and has its own weight, its own force, and future.
Trust them. They're grown-ups, even if they don't always dress the part.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ
on: May 31, 2009, 07:18:25 AM
Right after North Korea's first nuclear test, in October 2006, Senator Bob Menendez explained that the event "illustrates just how much the Bush Administration's incompetence has endangered our nation." The New Jersey Democrat hasn't said what he thinks North Korea's second test says about the current Administration, so allow us to connect the diplomatic dots.
At the time of the first test, the common liberal lament was that Kim Jong Il was belligerent only because President Bush had eschewed diplomacy in favor of tough rhetoric, like naming Pyongyang to the "axis of evil." Never mind that the U.S. had continued to fulfill its commitments under the 1994 Agreed Framework, including fuel shipments and the building of "civilian" nuclear reactors, until the North admitted it was violating that framework in late 2002. Never mind, too, that by 2006 the Bush Administration had participated in multiple rounds of six-party nuclear talks, or that it had promised to normalize relations with the North.
Nevertheless, President Bush adopted the views of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who had internalized the views of Bush Administration critics. Led by Christopher Hill (now President Obama's ambassador in Baghdad), the U.S. announced the resumption of the six-party talks -- only three weeks after the first North Korean test. Mr. Hill also held direct bilateral talks with the North Koreans, something Pyongyang had long sought and Mr. Bush had long resisted.
In February 2007, the six parties agreed to a statement in which North Korea promised to shut down and seal its nuclear reactor and bring in inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor compliance. The typical reaction was that the Bush Administration had finally seen the error of its ways. Columnist Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune captured the media consensus by calling it a "surprising breakthrough that belied [Mr. Bush's] hard-line record and shrewdly advanced American interests in a vital part of the world."
As part of the deal, the North promised to provide a complete list of its nuclear programs within 60 days. But Kim's minions refused to provide the list until the U.S. released $25 million in North Korean assets deposited at the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia, which had been sanctioned under the Patriot Act for money laundering and counterfeiting. The Administration even enlisted the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to get the funds to Pyongyang after no international bank would go near the transaction.
By then it was summer and North Korea promised again to provide a complete nuclear report, this time by the end of the year. In exchange, it got more diplomatic goodies: The U.S. said it would work toward a peace agreement with the North once the nuclear issue had been resolved; South Korea proposed a "South-North economic community"; and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda pledged to improve relations despite unresolved issues regarding Japanese citizens abducted by the North.
Amid this Western accommodation, in September 2007 Israel bombed a Syrian nuclear facility that U.S. and Israeli intelligence believe was supplied by North Korea. Pyongyang denied any role, and the U.S. kept its diplomacy active. However, North Korea ignored its end-of-year deadline for producing its nuclear declaration. When it did finally produce one, six months later, it included an incomplete plutonium record and nothing about its uranium nuclear program. The North did publicly destroy the cooling tower of its reactor at Yongbyon for the TV cameras, but it balked at any credible verification process.
Still, the Bush Administration decided to put the best face on it. Mr. Bush announced last June that he was lifting restrictions on the North under the Trading With the Enemy Act. He also removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
This is the state-of-play that the Bush Administration bequeathed its successor. And it was a diplomatic approach that the Obama Administration made clear it was ready to pursue. But then Kim Jong Il decided to return to his familiar script, raising the ante by launching a ballistic missile in April, expelling U.N. inspectors, boycotting the six-party talks and then detonating a second bomb last week.
Whatever is driving Kim, no one can say it's U.S. bellicosity. Our guess is that Kim must figure President Obama will soon come calling with his own "carrots" in return for more empty disarmament promises. That's what the U.S. has always done before.
We offer this timeline of diplomatic futility as a suggestion that maybe it's time to try something different. The U.S. is now working to secure a fresh U.N. sanctions resolution, and good luck making that stick. North Korea has never honored any commitment, or abided by any convention, or respected any international law. And until some very clear signal is sent by the U.S. and its allies that they will not be gulled again by the allure of negotiations, it never will.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / In defense of the Constitution
on: May 31, 2009, 06:48:13 AM
In Defense Of The Constitution
News & Analysis
May 31, 2009
According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) world fact book, the State of Israel occupies a total of 20,770 square kilometers which includes 440 sq km of water. To put this in perspective, the entire country of Israel is smaller than the US state of New Jersey.
The total population of Israel is listed as 7,233,701; this includes non-Jewish Arabs whom are Israeli citizens. Israel is 76.4% Jewish with a minority of Muslims (16%), Arab Christians (1.7%) with “other Christians”, Druze, and unspecified making up the remaining religious groupings.
The government of Israel is a parliamentary democracy with a number of factions making up the Knesset, which includes members who are not only anti-Israel, but anti-Semitic as well.
In short, Israel, excepting its parliamentary form of government, is somewhat a microcosm of the United States; a multi-religious society with a participatory government that includes those dedicated to its destruction from within.
The US president is expected to present a “Peace Speech” in Egypt on June 4. President Obama is expected to announce his support for a “settlement of the Jewish question” by calling on Israel to accept the two state “solution” that will make it impossible for Israel to effectively defend itself. To be blunt, Israel is being asked to commit national suicide first by division into indefensible borders and secondly by massive immigration that will destroy the country from within.
Israel, a country occupying a fraction of the Middle East; a country re-born following the Holocaust; a country that makes a home even for those dedicated to its destruction; is being demanded of by the rest of the world to commit national suicide by dividing itself into two; one side that is expected to live with a false promise of peace and the other that is totally dedicated to destroying the other by any means necessary. Israel must win every war; her numerous enemies only one.
We shall not have peace by any division of Israel; nor will we “solve the Jewish question” by partnering with countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or any other Muslim-majority country in the Middle East. History has proven, time and time again, that political agreements with Muslim-majority countries are not worth the paper they are printed on and that all “agreements” are viewed by Muslim-majority governments as concessions to their religious ideology.
Let us ask the Saudi’s, the Syrians, and the rest of the Muslim world why they accept the presence of refugee camps housing multi-generations of Palestinians; why they refuse to take these refugee’s or provide them any meaningful assistance? Are not the Palestinians their Muslim brothers and sisters? Why do these Muslim countries turn their back on their brethren and demand of the Jews to destroy their country to accommodate those who have absolutely NO RIGHT to Israel?
The next time someone says “Why, Jew?” when the question of Israel arises, turn your back on him. For an American to pose such a question; given our own history with tyranny at our founding; clearly demonstrates a lack of appreciation for our own freedoms, it would be impossible for such a person to understand other people’s right to the same.
President Obama may get his wish for what could lead to the destruction of Israel; but this would only show the world, again, that the United States stands for what is expedient, not for what is right. How many of our allies will continue to trust us if we turn our backs on Israel?
As for me, I stand for a united Israel…from the river to the sea.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy
on: May 31, 2009, 12:28:16 AM
I think if you look up Alan Reynolds, whom I have followed for many years, you will find him to be a highly regarded economist across the political spectrum (he is definitely a supply sider). IIRC more than once he has won the WSJ's top prognosticator of the year award.
I appreciate your point about the 34% rate, but offer for your consideration that he may be taking into account other taxes e.g. state taxes, as well. I strongly suspect that upon examination his numbers will hold up quite nicely.
I agree with BBG's point about the manipulations of the economy enabled by high tax rates.
Also, the greybeards amongst us may remember Hillary Evita Clinton's amazing string of good luck with commodity straddles (back pre Reagan when the top individual rate was 70%) while advised by the largest employer in the state of AK (Tyson Foods) while her husband was running for governor , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Dirty magazines
on: May 30, 2009, 09:00:34 PM
A Marine husband called home to tell his wife he would be late. He said dirty magazines had been discovered in the platoon's quarters and they had to discipline the whole squad.
She launched into a tirade, arguing that many men had pictures hanging in their quarters at their previous post, so his new platoon should not be penalized for something so trivial.
The husband calmly listened to her gripes and then explained, "Dirty magazines: The clips from their rifles had not been cleaned."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy
on: May 30, 2009, 06:29:58 PM
CCP's post moved to here:
I don't get the previous post. Is he critical of BO, Bush, BO because he is too much like Bush, Bo is too naive, or what?
He is all over the place. I have no idea what his point is or what his conclusion is.
Here is another one who sounds mixed up but states BO is while on the surface similar to Bush's it is at its heart diametrically opposed.
It appears to me that he is saying that it is tranformational in a positive way. Yet one gets the feeling that these people really are holding back because they are not sure that the cuddly adorable we are all the world we are one rhetoric, which is right out of a 1960s pepsi commercial, is going to work.
IN any case my opinion is that BO is selling the US down the river. Sure, he may be popular around the world - he is giving our soveriegnty to them. So what's for them not to like:
***Obama's Foreign Policy Isn't Bush Part 2
by Peter Scoblic
Peter Scoblic is the executive editor of The New Republic and the author of U.S. vs. Them: Conservatism in the Age of Nuclear Terror.
NPR.org, March 25, 2009 · With his bold budget and ambitious plans for health care, no one seems to think that Barack Obama's domestic agenda is anything like George W. Bush's. But many commentators seem to think that when it comes to foreign policy, the new president is just like the old.
Foreign Policy magazine, for example, ran a piece titled "The Making Of George W. Obama." And in the Washington Post, a former John McCain adviser wrote that the "pretense" of change has required "some sleight of hand."
Sure, there are some similarities: Obama hasn't immediately withdrawn troops from Iraq, and he's continuing Predator strikes against Pakistani militants. But his worldview is diametrically opposed to Bush's. And if the last eight years are any guide, that difference will be incredibly important.
At the most basic level, President Bush and the conservatives around him believed that the world was divided into good and evil. They certainly weren't the first to do so. The early colonists proclaimed America a holy refuge from the evils of Europe. And when Thomas Jefferson famously spoke against "entangling alliances," he too was dividing the world into two categories: "us" and "them."
That attitude worked in the 1800s, but in the 20th century, as our security became intertwined with that of other countries, those kinds of binary distinctions lost power. That's why isolationism fell out of fashion. That's why Woodrow Wilson and FDR spoke of a community of nations. And with the invention of nuclear weapons, our very existence became dependent not simply on our ability to wage war against our enemies, but on our ability to cooperate with them.
Yet conservatives resisted history's push toward globalism. They saw the Cold War as a quasi-religious struggle. So they rejected coexistence with communism, negotiation with Moscow and containment of the Soviet Union, because each of these represented accommodation with "evil."
Even after the Cold War ended and transnational threats — like terrorism, disease and proliferation — became paramount, conservatives clung to that vision. In 2000, Bush said, "When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world. And we knew exactly who the 'they' were. It was us vs. them, and it was clear who 'them' was. Today we're not so sure who the 'they' are, but we know they're there."
In office, he put that attitude into practice. He derided diplomacy while emphasizing military action, which didn't require cooperation with other countries. Rejecting negotiation, containment and coexistence with the "axis of evil," Bush invaded Iraq while refusing to engage North Korea and Iran despite their accelerating nuclear programs. The results were disastrous.
Obama's approach is strikingly different. Last month, he said: "In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America."
True, this approach is still developing. But, in and of itself, Obama's dismissal of us vs. them ideology is a crucial transformation in U.S. foreign policy. The only way you can argue it won't matter in the future is to completely ignore the past.
Peter Scoblic is the executive editor of The New Republic and the author of U.S. vs. Them: Conservatism in the Age of Nuclear Terror.****
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Loose cannon gives BO a lesson
on: May 30, 2009, 06:28:24 PM
GM's post moved to herehttp://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25557458-5013460,00.html
Loose cannon gives Obama a lesson
Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor | May 30, 2009
Article from: The Australian
THERE has been a battle of wills between North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il and US President Barack Obama. So far, Kim has won.
However history finally judges Kim - genocidal narcissist, self-declared god king, supreme Stalinist end point of communism - it also will have to acknowledge his extraordinary success in imposing his own reality, his personal paradigm, on the international system and on the US.
This week, former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans argued that Kim's ambitions were essentially reasonable. Kim wanted recognition from the US, a reliable security guarantee and, according to Evans, didn't really want nuclear weapons.
That a sane man can make this judgment after decades of relentless nuclear development by Pyongyang, and after it has rejected or broken this same deal time and time again, demonstrates the feebleness of the foreign policy process mind.
It shows a complete failure of political imagination as to what the North Korean political culture really is.
It is the same kind of mind that dominates the Obama White House.
On May 12, Obama's special envoy on the Korean peninsula, Steve Bosworth, declared: "I think everyone is feeling relatively relaxed about where we are at this point in the process. There is not a sense of crisis." This could go down as one of the great ambassadorial dumb remarks of all time, indicating a disturbing detachment from reality. It certainly would do if it had been uttered by one of George W. Bush's officials.
Consider the implications of Bosworth's remark. Either the US knew a new nuclear test was imminent and Bosworth was telling a blatant lie in an effort to keep everyone calm or, likelier, it was the truth and indicates that the US had not the faintest idea what the North Koreans were up to, despite numerous analysts across the world, operating with far less information than the US Government had available, predicting Kim's nuclear explosion.
Certainly Obama's subsequent remarks, and those of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as US efforts at the UN Security Council, indicate that once the test was undertaken Washington was anything but relaxed.
To put it another way, Kim can predict Obama, but Obama cannot predict Kim.
Obama is plainly a leader of the highest intelligence, with a calm temperament and a very good bedside manner. But sometimes he seems to think he can change the world with PR.
Kim is teaching him that the world is a very intractable place. It is useful for the US to have good PR, but there are no serious problems that good PR alone will solve.
Obama is deeply involved in the detail of his foreign policy. Yet he came to the presidency with no foreign policy experience and few settled or even articulated views on national security. His multi-volume autobiography is noteworthy for its lack of anything resembling foreign policy substance.
Instead, as President he seems to have simply absorbed the world view of the US's great institutions of state, in particular the State Department and the Pentagon. In general this is not bad, as these institutions are generally reservoirs of expertise.
It also has led to Obama adopting almost exactly the foreign and national security policies of Bush's second administration. In the second Bush administration, with Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, the State Department's world view shaped the administration's actions.
The same is true for Obama, even if, through his vast panoply of special envoys and the beefing up of the National Security Council, he has continued the process of concentrating ever more direct power in the White House.
But on policy substance, Obama is an almost eerie replica of Bush's second term. In response to the Korean nuclear crisis, Obama is begging China to allow some sanctions through the UN Security Council, reassuring Japan and South Korea of the US military commitment, and trying to appear calm, all as Bush and Rice would have.
On Iraq, Obama is withdrawing on a slower timetable than he promised and one approved by his Republican rival, John McCain, with plenty of caveats allowing course correction.
On Afghanistan, Obama is surging with more than 20,00 additional US troops. Meanwhile the US predator drones are still flying and still firing missiles at al-Qa'ida and Taliban targets, including in Pakistan, wherever possible. On Pakistan, Obama is pleading with Congress to authorise billions of dollars in new aid for a corrupt and hopeless government because the alternative is Islamist extremists, exactly as Bush did.
On Guantanamo Bay, Obama has not yet closed the prison camp. He says he will try to within a year. He also says some inmates will be detained indefinitely without trial because of the risks they pose, while others will be tried in military commissions, not civilian courts. He has not flung open Guantanamo's doors, and rendition continues.
On Israel, Obama's support for Israel's security and its special relationship with the US is every bit as strong as Bush's. His promotion of the peace process, and his criticism of some aspects of Israeli West Bank settlement policy, are the same as Rice's and follow precisely from the Bush-initiated Annapolis process.
On Iran, Obama has indeed changed the tone, but not the substance, of the policy. He is pursuing dialogue to see if he can talk Iran out of its nuclear ambitions. This, in fact, is just what Bush and Rice were doing. Obama is even using exactly the same senior State Department official as Bush did to pursue this dialogue.
Iran is nonetheless one area where Obama's PR efforts may do some good. The dialogue with Iran will not work, but when crunch time comes the US will be in a better position for having made the effort.
Obama is even following Bush in taking a ridiculous amount of time to appoint an ambassador to Canberra.
In saying all this I am not criticising Obama (except for not appointing an envoy to Australia). Even the Left is slowly waking up to what a conventional and sensible President Obama mostly is on national security.
Even Maureen Dowd in The New York Times last week mocked Obama's national security policy as representing Dick Cheney's third term. Any president who earns that kind of abuse from Dowd is certainly doing a lot right.
At least for the past four years US foreign policy has been completely pragmatic, which is why Obama term I so far closely resembles Bush term II (which ought in honesty to lead to a re-evaluation of Bush II).
The sad reflection thereby arising, however, is that Bush had absolutely no success in stopping North Korea's progress along the nuclear path. The only real success in halting Pyongyang's nuclear proliferation came in 2007 when Israel bombed a North Korean-built nuclear reactor in Syria.
Obama has all the charm. Kim, demented, twisted, weird and evil, certainly has the will.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Palo Canario
on: May 30, 2009, 11:20:55 AM
!Una abundancia de buenas noticias!
a) Lo de las fotos me alegra mucho. Por favor mandemelas en las mas alta resolucion factible a firstname.lastname@example.org
b) La noticia de Angela es tremendo! Como padre a padre me acuerdo come tu te preocubabas y ahora me imagino la felizidad de Rosa y ti.
c) Y tener uno mas-- feliticaciones!
d) Yo tambien soy miembro de facebook, pero la enlace no funciona para mi. ?Posiblement necesitamos ser "amigos" primero?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Pravda Times: Sotomayor on campaign finance laws
on: May 30, 2009, 10:58:22 AM
WASHINGTON — In 1996, Judge Sonia Sotomayor delivered a speech comparing campaign contributions to “bribes” and asking whether elected officials could credibly say they were “representing only the general public good, when private money plays such a large role” in helping them win office.
“If they cannot, the public must demand a change in the role of private money or find other ways, such as through strict, well-enforced regulation, to ensure that politicians are not inappropriately influenced in their legislative or executive decision-making by the interests that give them contributions,” she said.
The 1996 speech, a version of which was later published in a law journal, is not the only public marker in the record of Judge Sotomayor, who is now President Obama’s Supreme Court choice, on campaign finance regulations.
Judge Sotomayor has ruled in several cases for outcomes favorable to proponents of campaign restrictions. And before she became a judge, she spent four years on the New York City Campaign Finance Board, which enforces election spending laws, and where, board minutes and other records obtained by The New York Times show, she took an active role.
“People who are First Amendment absolutists are not going to be thrilled with her positions in these cases,” said Richard L. Hasen, a Loyola Law School Los Angeles professor who specializes in election law. “But people who support reasonable regulation of the political system are going to be more in favor of the kind of positions she has taken.”
Several important cases about campaign finance regulations could eventually reach the Supreme Court, including a case challenging contribution limits on independent groups that run political advertisements and another in which the Republican National Committee has brought a fresh challenge to the ban on unregulated “soft money” in elections.
The constitutionality of campaign finance laws has been one of the hardest-fought issues at the Supreme Court in recent years, generating some of its highest-profile rulings.
In 2003, the court voted 5 to 4 to uphold the 2002 McCain-Feingold law, which banned soft money — contributions not subject to donor limits — to political parties for use in campaigns. But the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2006 and her replacement by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. created a new majority bloc that has struck down campaign regulations in several more recent cases.
Justice David H. Souter, whom Judge Sotomayor would succeed if confirmed, has been among the faction willing to uphold such laws. “Sotomayor’s replacement of Souter won’t change the balance on the court in this area — so it means they won’t become more hostile to regulation as a result of this change,” said Richard Briffault, an election law specialist at Columbia Law School who has worked on issues related to the Campaign Finance Board. “This may be a good example of where this will be pretty close to a one-for-one substitution.”
Judge Sotomayor’s engagement with campaign finance regulations dates back to 1988, when Peter L. Zimroth, New York’s corporation counsel, said he recommended that Mayor Edward I. Koch appoint her to the city’s new Campaign Finance Board.
The board members, including Ms. Sotomayor, became pioneers in developing a voluntary program in which local candidates receive public matching money in exchange for accepting disclosure requirements and limits on contributions and spending.
Board minutes provide a glimpse: Ms. Sotomayor, then in private practice, grilled one politician over why his campaign reported receiving some cash contributions as checks, requested a study “on the ethnicity and sex” of program participants, and reviewed the Spanish translation of voter guides.
At other times, Ms. Sotomayor noted approvingly that the program appeared to be encouraging more challengers, and also warned that a certain proposed action “might be construed as a partisan move.” On rare occasions, she dissented from board votes, including a decision to penalize the 1989 mayoral campaign of David N. Dinkins over paperwork problems. The minutes do not say what her specific objections were.
Ms. Sotomayor resigned from the board when she became a federal judge in 1992. But the experience seems to have helped shape her views. In addition to her 1996 speech warning about the influence of money in politics which she wrote with Nicole Gordon, a former executive director of the Campaign Finance Board — she went on to issue rulings in several cases that endorsed election regulations.
For example, as Mr. Hasen noted in a recent blog post, she upheld a law that forbids paying signature-gatherers by the number of people they get to sign petitions. She also upheld a law that prevented minor political parties from gaining official status on ballots.
That record is not without exception. In 2005, she voted to strike down the State of New York’s method of choosing judges, a ruling the Supreme Court overturned.
Still, after a panel of her colleagues upheld a Vermont campaign finance law that imposed strict contribution and spending limits on campaigns, she voted not to rehear the case. The Supreme Court later struck down the Vermont law.
Judge Sotomayor’s record on campaign finance regulations has not gone unnoticed. The Center for Competitive Politics, which opposes such limits, has noted her views with concern, declaring she is “not the Supreme Court nominee we wanted.”
But Democracy 21, which supports such regulations, argued that her “views are within the mainstream of the Court’s well-established First Amendment jurisprudence and consistent with the exercise of robust free speech rights.”
Itai Maytal contributed research.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sotomayor
on: May 29, 2009, 10:32:42 PM
President Barack Obama has laid down his ground rules for the debate over Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. The big question now is whether Republicans agree to play by rules that neither Mr. Obama nor his party have themselves followed.
Ground Rule No. 1, as decreed by the president, is that this is to be a discussion primarily about Judge Sotomayor's biography, not her qualifications. The media gurus complied, with inspiring stories of how she was born to Puerto Rican immigrants, how she was raised by a single mom in a Bronx housing project, how she went on to Princeton and then Yale. In the years that followed she presumably issued a judicial opinion here or there, but whatever.
The president, after all, had taken great pains to explain that this is more than an American success story. Rather, it is Judge Sotomayor's biography that uniquely qualifies her to sit on the nation's highest bench -- that gives her the "empathy" to rule wisely. Judge Sotomayor agrees: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn't lived that life," she said in 2001.
If so, perhaps we can expect her to join in opinions with the wise and richly experienced Clarence Thomas. That would be the same Justice Thomas who lost his father, and was raised by his mother in a rural Georgia town, in a shack without running water, until he was sent to his grandfather. The same Justice Thomas who had to work every day after school, though he was not allowed to study at the Savannah Public Library because he was black. The same Justice Thomas who became the first in his family to go to college and receive a law degree from Yale.
By the president's measure, the nation couldn't find a more empathetic referee than Justice Thomas. And yet here's what Mr. Obama had to say last year when Pastor Rick Warren asked him about the Supreme Court: "I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. I don't think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation."
In other words, nine months ago Mr. Obama thought that the primary qualification for the High Court was the soundness of a nominee's legal thinking, or at least that's what Democrats have always stressed when working against a conservative judge. Throughout the Bush years, it was standard Democratic senatorial practice to comb through every last opinion, memo, job application and college term paper, all with an aim of creating a nominee "too extreme" or "unqualified" to sit on the federal bench.
Mr. Obama knows this, as he took part in it, joining a Senate minority who voted against both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito. Mr. Obama also understands a discussion of Judge Sotomayor's legal thinking means a discussion about "judicial activism" -- a political loser. In a day when voters routinely rise up to rebuke their activist courts on issues ranging from gay marriage to property rights, few red-state Democrats want to go there. Moreover, a number of Judge Sotomayor's specific legal opinions -- whether on racial preferences, or gun restrictions -- put her to the left of most Americans.
Which brings us to Ground Rule No. 2, which is that Republicans are not allowed to criticize Judge Sotomayor, for the reason that she is the first Hispanic nominee to the High Court. The Beltway media also dutifully latched on to this White House talking point, reporting threats from leading Democrats, including New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who intoned that Republicans "oppose her at their peril."
This would be the same Mr. Schumer who had this to say about Miguel Estrada, President Bush's Hispanic nominee (who, by the way, came to this country as an immigrant from Honduras) to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002: Mr. Estrada "is like a Stealth missile -- with a nose cone -- coming out of the right wing's deepest silo." That would be the same Mr. Schumer who ambushed Mr. Estrada in a Senate hearing, smearing him with allegations made by unnamed former associates. That would be the same Mr. Schumer who sat on the Judiciary Committee, where leaked memos later showed that Democrats feared Mr. Estrada would use a position on the D.C. Circuit as a launching pad to become the nation's . . . first Hispanic Supreme Court judge. Two tortured years later, Mr. Estrada withdrew, after the Democrats waged seven filibusters against a confirmation vote.
Republicans will be tempted by this history to go ugly. They might instead lay down their own rules, the first being that they will not partake in the tactics of personal destruction that were waged by the left on nominees such as Mr. Thomas or Mr. Alito or Mr. Estrada. But the party could also make a rule to not be scared away from using Judge Sotomayor's nomination, or future Obama picks, as platforms for big, civil, thorough debates about the role of the courts and the risk of activist judges to American freedoms and beliefs.
Write to email@example.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism
on: May 29, 2009, 08:51:12 PM
By DAVID B. RIVKIN JR. and LEE A. CASEY
President Barack Obama is retaining many important Bush administration antiterror policies, including the detention without trial of jihadist captives as well as military commissions. He is determined, however, to close the Guantanamo detention facility because he believes doing so will not cause many problems in the U.S., and will improve our image abroad and bolster international support for U.S. antiterror policies. He will be disappointed on all counts.
Guantanamo has always been a symbol, rather than the substance, of complaints against America's "war on terror." It's the military character of the U.S. response to 9/11 that foreign and domestic critics won't accept.
There are also longstanding ideological currents at work here. At least since the 1970s, "progressive" international activists have sought to level the playing field between nation states (especially the U.S. and Israel) and nonstate actors such as the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas. Although international humanitarian law is supposed to apply neutrally to all belligerents, international opinion now gives nonstate actors far more leeway to ignore fundamental norms such as the rule against deliberately targeting civilians. The underlying implication is that terrorist tactics, however regrettable, are justified as the only means of achieving laudable goals like national liberation.
This mindset will not change if Guantanamo closes. At the same time, closing the detention facilities will create numerous headaches quite beyond the security issues raised by dangerous detainees who might escape or serve as a magnet for terrorist attacks in U.S.-based facilities.
One immediate problem, identified by FBI Director Robert Mueller, is the very real possibility that the Guantanamo detainees will recruit more terrorists from among the federal inmate population and continue al Qaeda operations from the inside. Radical Islamists already preach jihad in prisons -- this was how the just-arrested New York synagogue bombers were recruited -- and criminal gangs have proved that a half-in/half-out management model works.
A longer-term problem is that once Guantanamo is closed the option of holding captured enemy combatants any place overseas will be undermined. Over time, more and more such individuals, including the ones convicted by military commissions, would have to be brought to the U.S., especially as Europe backs away from taking such individuals. Aggregating the world's worst jihadists on American soil, from which they can never be repatriated, is not a smart way to fight a war.
Meanwhile, the legality of incarcerating captured terrorists in U.S. domestic prisons is far from clear. Today the Guantanamo detainees are held under well-established laws of war permitting belligerents to confine captured enemies until hostilities are over. This detention, without the due process accorded criminal defendants, has always been legally justified because it emphatically is not penal in nature but a simple expedient necessary to keep captives from returning to the fight. It was on this basis that the Supreme Court approved the detention of war-on-terror captives, without trial, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004).
The Guantanamo detainees are "unlawful" enemy combatants and not "prisoners of war" under the Geneva Conventions. Yet they are still combatants, not convicts. By contrast, the individuals held in the federal prison system, and especially those in the maximum security facilities suggested for the Guantanamo detainees, are convicted criminals.
It is very doubtful that under the customary laws and customs of war, the Hamdi decision, or Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (which the Supreme Court also has applied to the war on terror) the Guantanamo detainees can be treated like convicted criminals and consigned without trial to the genuinely fearsome world of a super-max prison.
Segregating the detainees from the overall prison population -- to maintain the "non-penal" character of their confinement as well as to frustrate any recruiting activities or continuing al Qaeda operations -- is also legally dubious. Unless a new Guantanamo is to be constructed, this segregation will have to take place in existing isolation wards used to discipline (and sometimes protect) federal inmates.
This could mean solitary confinement, perhaps for 23 hours a day, without regard to a detainee's conduct or disciplinary status. The chances that courts would consider this to be the "humane" treatment required by the Geneva conventions are not overwhelming.
The Obama administration can be certain these conditions will be challenged in the courts, and it is difficult to see how, in light of current judicial attitudes, the detainees will be denied the entire panoply of constitutional rights claimed by ordinary inmates -- including lawsuits challenging their conditions of confinement. If courts conclude that these conditions are unconstitutional, or that they cannot be held indefinitely as enemy combatants, judges could mandate the release of these jihadists into the U.S.
Mr. Obama can still reverse his decision to close Guantanamo. This would cost him significant political support among his base. But making unpopular decisions to serve the national interest is a president's duty and obligation. In this regard, Mr. Obama should follow his predecessor's example and put American national security before the vagaries of popular approval.
Messrs. Rivkin and Casey worked in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and have served as expert members of the U.N. Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / GM Giron
on: May 29, 2009, 08:48:40 PM
Grandmaster Leo Giron Last of the Bladed Warriors
By Antonio E. Somera
This article is courtesy of CFW Enterprises Incorporated. All Rights
During the outbreak of World War II many Filipinos volunteered for
service. The outpouring was so creditable that orders were issued to activate
the First Filipino Infantry Regiment in Salinas, Calif., effective July 13,
1942 and the Second Filipino Infantry Regiment Nov. 21, 1942. The First and
Second Filipino Infantry was once one division with the strength of 12,000
men, three regiments, plus other special companies. In addition, out of these
12,000 men, about 1,000 were selected for special missions. This force of
fighting Filipinos was known as the First Reconnaissance Battalion and was
activated Nov. 20, 1944. This included the 978th signal service company, which
was identified with the Allied Intelligence Bureau.These men and officers were
called Commandos and "Bahala Na" ("come what may") was their slogan. As part
of General Douglas MacArthurâ?Ts secret force, they were dropped behind enemy
lines and became the eyes and ears of General MacArthur.
One of the most noted of these servicemen was Sergeant Leo M. Giron of the 978th signal
service company. Sergeant Giron served over one year behind enemy lines in the
jungles of Northern Luzon, Philippines. He was a member of a group of secret
commandos that were part of General Douglas MacArthur's secret army.
Grandmaster Giron is head advisor and world-renowned founder of the Bahala Na
Martial Arts Association. At the tender age of 90 he still resides in
Stockton, Calif., and attends class on a regular bases.
His knowledge of jungle warfare is an invaluable asset to those who train with him. He is a
rare combination of humble martial artist and distinguished college professor.
Here is his story:
FILIPINO MARTIAL ARTS: When were you inducted into the
LEO GIRON: I was inducted on Oct. 9, 1942. This was in Los Angeles,
Calif., because prior to this I was farming in Imperial Valley, Calif. I was
first stationed at Camp San Luis Obispo, and then in the winter of the same
year I was transferred to Fort Ord.
FMA: How were you selected to be in the
978th signal service company?
LG: Well, everyone was brought into a big room.
It was the recreation room on base. This is where we were given an aptitude
test. Many did not pass and they were sent back to their regiment. But others
made it and were given additional education on Morse code. The Army was
looking for specific types of men. They were looking for men with schooling
and how well they could communicate. That included speaking English. I was one
of the few that made it.
FMA: What was your training experience like in the
LG: During boot camp we also went to school. We were learning
communications like Morse code, wig-wag (flag signals), cyma four,
cryptography and paraphrasing. I was trained to communicate. At the time I did
not know what the Army was planning for me to do. We were never told why we
were training; you just did what the Army told you to do.
FMA: What type of
self-defense training did you receive from the Army?
LG: We learned all the
basic training needed for soldiering. Nothing special, just how to shoot a
carbine, how to use a .45 and some basic hand-to-hand combat. I was fortunate
to learn escrima as a child and later after coming to America with one of my
most influential teachers, Flaviano Vergara. Flaviano taught me the most about
escrima and how to defend myself. In fact, I met Flaviano a second time in
Fort Ord during which time we would play on weekdays after dinner and on the
weekends while everyone went into town. Flaviano and I would do nothing but
drill and drill using estilo de fondo and larga mano. Sometimes a soldier
would come by and ask what were we doing. Some would tell us that they would
never come close to a Samurai sword. They claimed they would give the Samurai
a load of their M-1.
FMA: When did you go overseas?
LG: On Dec. 10, 1943 two
of us were shipped to New Guinea, but this was a mistake by the Army. We were
supposed to go to Australia. So on Jan. 10, 1944 I was sent to Australia to a
place called Camp X. It was close to the little town of Beau Desert about 60
miles from the seaport of Brisbane in Queensland. It was there that I
furthered my training in Morse code, cryptography, visual communications, etc.
I also embarked on my final training in jungle warfare in a place called
Canungra. Thirteen weeks of hard training contributed to my ability to climb
the high mountains of the Philippines and survive in the jungles. One time for
a week we were given only three days of C-rations and the other four days we
were to survive on our own. At this point I was staff sergeant.
FMA: Did you
ever meet General Douglas MacArthur?
LG: Yes, several times, but on Aug. 10,
1944 I was ordered to a briefing at the General' Headquarters. General
MacArthur crossed his arms and said to us, "Boys, I selected you to do a job
that a general can't do. You have the training to do a job that no one else
You are going home to our country, the Philippines-- yours and my
homeland. You'll serve as my eyes, my ears, and my fingers, and you'll
keep me informed of what the enemy is doing. You will tell me how to win the
war by furnishing me with this information, which I could not obtain in any
other way. Good luck, and there will be shinning bars waiting for you in
FMA: How did you land in the Philippines?
LG: On Aug. 12, 1944 we
boarded one of the smallest submarines in the United States Navy armada. It
was called the U.S. Sting Ray. We were loaded and armed with carbines,
submachine guns, side arms, bolo knives, trench knives, brass knuckles,
ammunition and a few other special packages. While on our way to the
Philippines we slept on our own cargo boxes. Myself and one other soldier
slept under the torpedo racks. One time we were fired upon and had to
outmaneuver several torpedoes at full speed. This occurred near the Halmahera
Island on the Celebes Sea. We also were attacked in Caonayan Bay just before
disembarking the submarine. The attack was on the submarine when a plane had
dropped depth charges on us. They came close enough to rattle the sub and
burst some pipes, but luckily this was the extent of the damage. We landed on
the beach Aug. 28, 1944.
FMA: What was the most memorable encounter you had
with the enemy?
LG: Well it is hard to try and choose one particular encounter
because they were all very horrifying. One Bonsai attack comes to mind, in
early June 1945 on a rainy day. A large number of enemy soldiers charged our
position. We formed a wedge or triangle formation, two on the side and one as
a point man. I was point man. Just like any Bonsai charge the enemy was always
noisy. Yelling and shouting, they are not afraid to die. The Filipino
guerrillas, on the other hand, chew their tobacco, grit their teeth and wing
their bolos, chop here, jab there, long bolos, short daggers, pointed bamboo,
pulverized chili peppers with sand deposited in bamboo tubes to spray so the
enemy cannot see. By now my adrenaline must have gone up. One bayonet and
samurai sword came simultaneously. The samurai sword was in front of me while
the bayonet was a little to the left. With my left hand I parried the bayonet.
I blocked the sword coming down on me. The bayonet man went by
and his body came in line with my bolo.
That's when I came down to cut his
left hip. The Samurai was coming back with a backhand blow. I met his triceps
with the bolo and chopped it to the ground. After the encounter I wiped my
face with my left hand to clear my eyes from the rain and found bloodstains on
my face. There were many more encounters. But our job was not to be detected
by the enemy; our mission was to send back vital information on the enemy to
FMA: When did you start teaching the art of arnis escrima?
In October, 1968 I decided to open a club in Tracy, Calif., where I was
residing at the time. I was motivated after I heard on the news that a man in
Chicago killed eight nursing students and some of the nurses were Filipina.
FMA: Why did you name your Martial Art Association "Bahala Na"?
LG: It was the
slogan of my outfit during World War II. I am proud of the men I fought with
during World War II and in the spirit of my comrades. I hold the memories of
all those I fought with in very high regard and close to my heart. I also can
associate the combative spirit we had during the time of World War II and
because of this I feel I have the right to use the slogan of "Bahala Na". By
the way it means "Come what may."
FMA: What makes a good student?
LG: A person with good passive resistance. You must have patience and not be too
eager to win and be the champion. What he should be interested in is learning
how to defend himself and his family against aggression. The end result will
be that you will survive -- this makes you victorious. You do not need to say
I am going to win and defeat my opponent. The attitude is that I am going to
survive and not get hurt. That's what will count; the other man will
eventually fall into a loophole were he will fall by himself and eventually he
will defeat himself.
FMA: Do you feel that your experience during World War
II in the jungles of the Philippines helped you become a better teacher?
know the respect of the bolo knife. Wartime is different. There is no regard
for life. Its different teaching; you must have structure and good
communications with your students. I like to teach more about the application
and fundamentals. Its not about how hard you hit or who is faster; its
about sharing the art of our forefathers, because if you analyze it we are
only the caretakers of the art for future generations.
FMA: Why do you still
LG: Well, first its a hobby. I have the chance to stretch my
legs, work my arms and exercise my body. I feel it is a gift to be able to
learn a combative art like escrima. Being that it falls in the field of
sports, it is good to have and know something that not too many people know. I
feel proud that I have something to share with the children, my friends and
those that want to learn an art that is a little different than other martial
arts. I feel that the Filipino art is a superior art in comparison to other
arts, so I stand firm in saying that I am proud that I have learned and still
know the art of escrima.
FMA: Have you ever fought in any death matches?
No, I have never fought in a death match. From what I understand, to
participate in a death match you will need to have a referee and a second or
back-up person in your corner -- something similar to a boxing match. The
only type of death match I had was during World War II. This is where I fought
in the jungles for over a year, not knowing if we would survive. Our weapons
of choice were the bolo knife or talonason, a long knife whose overall length
is 36 inches long. No referee, no rules; the only rule was to survive.
Grandmaster Leo Giron was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroic efforts. The
letter accompanying the Bronze Star reads: "By direction of the President of
the United States of America, under the provisions of Executive order 9419, 4
February 1944 (Sec. II, Bulletin 3, WD, 1944), a Bronze Star Medal is awarded
by the Commander-in-Chief, United States Army Forces, Pacific, to the
following-named officer and enlisted men for heroic achievement in connection
with military operations against the enemy in Luzon, Philippine Islands,
during the period indicated, with citation for each as shown herein below:
Technical Sergeant Leovigildo M. Giron, 39536996, Signal Corps, United States
Army. 27 August 1944 to 11 June 1945. Address: Bayambang, Pangasinan,
"Volunteering for a secret and dangerous military
intelligence mission, he was landed by submarine in Luzon, Philippine Islands,
where he assisted in successfully extending lines of
communication, securing vital weather data and obtaining military information
which proved of the greatest assistance to impending military operations. By
his loyalty, daring, and skillful performance of duty under most hazardous
condition, he readied a campaign for the recapture of the Philippine Islands."
By command of General MacArthur: R.K. Sutherland, Lieutenant General,
United States Army, Chief of Staff. Official: B.M. Fitch Brigadier
General, U.S. Army, Adjutant General
Grandmaster Leo M. Giron, head advisor
and founder of Bahala Na Martial Arts Association, is known as the "Father of
Larga Mano" in America. There have only been 79 graduates from the Bahala Na
Martial Arts Association over the past 32 years. Some of his most famous
graduates are Dan Inosanto, Richard Bustillo, Ted Lucay Lucay, Jerry Poteet
and Dentoy Rivellar. He remains active and teaches along with grandmaster
Antonio E. Somera in Stockton, Calif.
Antonio E. Somera studies the Filipino
martial arts with grandmaster Leo Giron. For more information on classroom or
private classes, seminars, certified affiliate programs, Stockton training
camps or books, contact grandmaster Antonio E. Somera, P.O. Box 8584,
Stockton, CA 95208; www.gironarnisescrima.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lieberman
on: May 29, 2009, 08:38:44 PM
By JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that it is imperative that the world prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. She pledged that the Obama administration's engagement with Iran to achieve that end would be carried out "with eyes wide open and under no illusions."
Mrs. Clinton is right. Iran's illicit nuclear activities represent a uniquely dangerous and transformational threat to the United States and the rest of the world -- a threat that demands a response of open-eyed realism.
A realistic response requires that we first recognize that the danger posed by the Islamic Republic's nuclear activities cannot be divorced from its broader foreign policy ambitions and patterns of behavior -- in particular, its longstanding use of terrorist proxies to destabilize and weaken its Arab neighbors and Israel, to carve out spheres of Iranian influence in the Mideast, and to tilt the region toward extremism.
The Iranians have supported Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, and Shiite militias in Iraq. They have sponsored terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of innocent Muslims throughout the region. They have also exploited the plight of the Palestinians in a cynical attempt to put a wedge between moderate Arab governments and their people.
Consider how the balance of power and the prospects for peace in the Middle East would change if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons -- and its extremist proxies could attack moderate Arab regimes, Israel and us under the protection of Tehran's nuclear umbrella, which they would use to deter conventional military retaliation in response to their aggression.
Engaging Iran with open-eyed realism also requires that we take seriously the violent words of the Iranian regime, and its acts of domestic repression. I know there are some who dismiss Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's calls for Israel to be wiped off the map as little more than political rhetoric. Others urge us not to hear Iran's rulers when they lead crowds in chanting "Death to America." Still others argue that the Iranian regime's mistreatment of its own citizens should not interfere in our diplomacy. If we ever accept that counsel, it would be at our grave peril.
As the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov once said, "A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors." There is no better proof of this than Iran today.
I am not opposed to pursuing direct engagement with the Iranians. It is certainly the preferred way to end Iran's nuclear program. But engagement is a tactic, not a strategy. What we need is a multipronged strategy that employs all of the elements of our national power. Such a strategy would include a clear and credible set of benchmarks by which we can judge Iran's response to our outreach, a timeline by which to expect results, and a set of carrots and sticks that both sides understand. We must make clear to the Iranians and the region that engagement will not be a process without end, but rather a means to a clearly identified set of ends.
And we must build a consensus domestically and internationally. Just as steps forward by the Iranians will justify continued and rewarding engagement, a lack of progress will be met with what Mrs. Clinton characterized before the House Foreign Affairs Committee as "crippling" sanctions.
With the goal of giving President Barack Obama the authority to impose precisely such sanctions, a bipartisan coalition of senators, organized by Sens. Evan Bayh, Jon Kyl and me, recently introduced legislation that would empower the president to sanction companies that are involved in brokering, shipping or insuring the sale of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran.
During last year's campaign, Mr. Obama expressed interest in using Iran's dependence on imported gasoline as leverage in our nuclear standoff. However, under current law, his authority to do so is uncertain. Our legislation would eliminate this ambiguity and enable the president to tell companies involved in this trade that they must choose between doing business with Iran or doing business with America.
I am especially proud of the breadth of the coalition that introduced this bill. It includes some of the most liberal and most conservative members of the U.S. Senate, and it should send an unambiguous message of unity, strength and resolve from America to Iran and the rest of the world.
We should likewise seek to build greater unity among our friends abroad. In the Middle East today, there is an unprecedented convergence of concerns about Iran among Arabs and Israelis alike. The question is whether we can seize this moment to help usher into place a new strategic architecture for the Middle East -- keeping in mind that some of the strongest alliances in history have been forged among old antagonists when confronted by a new, common threat.
Iran's easiest path to a nuclear weapon is clear: It is by dividing the rest of us, Europeans from Americans, the Russians and Chinese from the West. It is by pitting Arabs against Arabs in Lebanon, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority and the Gulf, and by stirring up hatred between Muslims and Jews. It is by dividing the Iranian people from the American people when we are otherwise natural allies. It is by dividing us here at home -- Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals.
The best way to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons is equally clear: It is by recognizing that whatever differences divide us on other matters, our shared interest in stopping the Iranian government from getting nuclear weapons is far greater. This is why we must urgently unite to prevent that dangerous result.
Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut. This article is adapted from a speech he delivered at the American Enterprise Institute.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree
on: May 29, 2009, 08:35:24 PM
Politicians wouldn't be politicians if they didn't trim their sails to the prevailing winds. Even so, the emerging 180-degree turn by Democrats on taxes and health insurance is one for the record books.
Democrats have spent years arguing that proposals to equalize the tax treatment of health insurance are an outrage against the American people. Workers pay no income or payroll taxes on the value of job-based plans, but the same hand isn't extended to individuals who must buy coverage on their own. Last year liberals mauled John McCain for daring to touch the employer-based exclusion to finance more coverage for the individually uninsured. He was proposing "a multitrillion-dollar tax hike -- the largest middle-class tax hike in history," said Barack Obama, whose TV ads were brutal.
But now Democrats need the money to finance $1.2 trillion or more for their new health insurance entitlement. Last week Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus released his revenue "policy options" and high on the list is . . . taxing health benefits. Or listen to White House budget director Peter Orszag, who recently told CNN's John King that the exclusion "was not in the President's campaign plan, it wasn't in our budget. Clearly, some Members of Congress are putting it on the table and we are going to have to let this play out."
Mr. King tried again. "Let this play out. But would the President sign a bill that includes a pretty significant tax increase? That would be a tax increase." Mr. Orszag: "We're not going to be -- I think it's premature to be commenting on individual items . . . There are lots of ideas that are being put on the table." Translation: You betcha he'd sign it.
The tax exclusion is such a big revenue prize because Mr. Baucus is scrubbing every other tax nook and cranny and only coming up with rounding errors. A sampler:
- Impose an excise tax on hard alcohol, beer and some kinds of wine. That would be in addition to a sin tax on beverages sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, such as soda. Mr. Baucus doesn't offer revenue estimates, though the Congressional Budget Office says a $16 per proof gallon alcohol tax might raise $60 billion over 10 years, and another $50.4 billion at three cents per 12 ounces of sugary drink.
- End or limit the tax-exempt status of charitable hospitals, which only costs currently a mere $6 billion a year.
- Make college students in work-study programs subject to the payroll tax. Also targeted are medical residents, perhaps on the principle that they'll one day be "rich" doctors. CBO has no score on these.
- Reducing Medicare reimbursement rates for supposedly "over valued physician services," such as diagnostic imaging. CBO says that requiring doctors to get prior clearance could save $1 billion in 10 years.
- For individuals with high-deductible insurance plans, contributions to health savings accounts would no longer be tax deductible. That would penalize patients who choose plans that encourage them to be informed consumers. CBO says that banning HSA payments entirely would yield all of $10 billion.
By contrast, the employer-based exclusion offers a huge money pot -- an estimated $226 billion in 2008. Yet as liberal MIT economist Jonathan Gruber recently told Mr. Baucus's committee, "no health expert today would ever set up a health system with such an enormous tax subsidy to a particular form of insurance" (his emphasis). It creates a coverage gap between workers who receive it from their employers and those who pay -- or can't afford to pay -- with after-tax money.
The tax exclusion is also one reason health costs continue to rise. It encourages workers to take an extra dollar of compensation in fringe benefits instead of cash while also routing low-deductible health spending through third parties. Some 84 cents of every medical dollar is spent by someone other than the patient. The insured have no incentives to make cost-conscious decisions about care.
So reforming the exclusion would inject a dose of discipline into American medicine. But for most Democrats the goal isn't to create a more rational health-insurance market. They simply want the revenue for another government program. Mr. Baucus won't target gold-plated employer insurance plans in general, because union-negotiated benefits are usually gold-plated. Rather, he may cap or phase out the exclusion by income, starting with workers earning more than $200,000. Insurance options that don't conform to government diktats (health savings accounts) would also lose any tax advantage. This would do nothing for market efficiency, but it would be one more stealth tax increase.
Democrats owe an apology to Mr. McCain, and it'll be fascinating to see if they will now suffer a political backlash of their own making. Having told the country that this tax reform is really a tax increase, Democrats are opening themselves to the same attacks they leveled against Republicans.
They could avoid that fate if they used the tax exclusion money to finance, say, a tax credit for the uninsured. That would be a genuinely bipartisan reform. But liberals won't accept that because they want to take one giant step toward government-run health care. And the only way they can pay for it is by taxing everything in sight, including your current health insurance.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kurds
on: May 29, 2009, 03:59:29 PM
Geopolitical Diary: The Reality of Iraqi Geopolitics
May 29, 2009 | 0010 GMT
Iraq’s oil ministry has announced plans for oil exports to Turkey, from newly developed fields in the northern autonomous Kurdish region, to begin on Sunday. The Taq Taq and Tawke fields in Dahuk province will be the first new fields brought online in Iraq in more than three decades. Together, they will yield 100,000 barrels per day (bpd), with production growing to 450,000 bpd by 2011.
Though the Kurds are already celebrating the occasion, this is a bittersweet moment for Sunni and Shiite leaders in Baghdad. Iraq’s Shiite-dominated central government has long been in a fierce contest with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over oil reserves in the north. On a strategic level, Iraqi Arabs — as well as Iraq’s neighbors — have a core interest in keeping the Kurds on a leash and quelling separatist hopes. The central government is doing its part to keep the Kurds boxed in: It wants to ensure that Baghdad gets sign-off on any oil deals the Kurds make with foreign companies to develop their energy fields, and that all oil revenues go through the central government before being distributed to the regional governorates.
But after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Kurds knew they had limited time to secure their influence before being ganged up on by an array of rivals (which is happening now.) The KRG signed production-sharing agreements left and right with foreign firms, giving companies 10-20 percent of the profit and partial ownership of the fields, to rush in investment. The Iraqi oil ministry, however, has declared all of these deals void, insisting that Baghdad must be the one to approve agreements and that all deals must be based on less attractive, fixed-fee service contracts, which deny foreign companies ownership of energy fields.
The row between the KRG and Baghdad is ongoing, and it remains to be seen how the foreign companies developing the fields will end up getting paid. But with oil production stagnating at just under 2 million bpd, the Kurds have found a way to exploit the central government’s vulnerability. With the budget in danger, Baghdad reluctantly agreed to get these fields pumping, in order to raise exports and generate more cash for government coffers. The Kurds are getting a nice break, but they are still beholden to central government-controlled infrastructure and the interests of their rivals, like Turkey, to continue exporting oil from KRG territory.
While keeping a close eye on the Kurds, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is also busy picking out scapegoats for the fall in Iraqi oil production. He recently launched a massive anti-corruption drive that has brought down the trade minister and is now targeting the oil and electricity ministers, who could end up getting axed in a widely rumored cabinet reshuffle. Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani, who has close ties to Tehran, is expected to be summoned by the Parliament soon to explain why his mismanagement of the ministry (never mind the effects of the global economic crisis) has prevented production increases.
Al-Maliki is doing this for several reasons. He needs to blame someone for the economic pressure Iraq is under, but he also needs to clean house, consolidate power and prepare his government for the day that U.S. forces leave Iraq and Baghdad will have to fend for itself against a host of powerful neighbors — who all feel they have some stake in Iraq. The Turks are on a resurgent path and are privately discussing with the United States their desire to move into the north to contain the Kurds. The Iranians harbor aspirations about carving out Shiite-dominated southern Iraq for themselves. And Saudi Arabia and other Arab states see themselves as the defenders of Iraq’s Sunnis against the Shia; they do not regard al-Maliki as a legitimate leader or even see Iraq as a legitimate country.
Al-Maliki is on a mission to revive Iraq’s standing as a strong Arab state — only this time, under Shiite leadership. Iraq is already an extremely fractious country, split geographically, ethnically and politically among Shia, Sunnis and Kurds. What al-Maliki wants to avoid is a “Lebanonization” of Iraq that would brand the country as paralyzed, fractured and sufficiently vulnerable to be preyed upon by outside powers. The only way to overcome these internal weaknesses is to impose some level of authoritarianism at home.
Al-Maliki is the leader of the Arab world’s newest democracy, but some of his statements hint at an authoritarian strain of thought. He said recently that in the first stage of post-Hussein Iraq, “consensus was necessary for us.” “But,” he continued, “if this continues it will become a problem, a flaw, a catastrophe. The alternative is democracy, and that means majority rule … From now on, I call for an end to that degree of consensus.” Al-Maliki also has begun standing up to Iraq’s neighbors — telling the Saudis, who among other Arab powers continue to snub him at regional summits, that “Iraq has no intention of making new goodwill gestures towards Saudi Arabia because my initiative has been interpreted in Riyadh as a sign of weakness.”
Contrary to popular perception, this behavior is not necessarily a reflection of al-Maliki’s personality. Whether the person at the helm of Iraqi politics is al-Maliki or anyone else, Baghdad will see a need for the Kurds to be contained and — depending on who has the upper hand — for either the Shia or the Sunnis to rule with an iron fist. Such is the reality of Iraqi geopolitics.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Charges against Black Panther type thugs dropped
on: May 29, 2009, 01:56:21 PM
Well this is certainly a naked exercise of political prerogative.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Charges brought against three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense under the Bush administration have been dropped by the Obama Justice Department, FOX News has learned.
The charges stemmed from an incident at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008 when three members of the party were accused of trying to threaten voters and block poll and campaign workers by the threat of force -- one even brandishing what prosecutors call a deadly weapon.
The three black panthers, Minister King Samir Shabazz, Malik Zulu Shabazz and Jerry Jackson were charged in a civil complaint in the final days of the Bush administration with violating the voter rights act by using coercion, threats and intimidation. Shabazz allegedly held a nightstick or baton that prosecutors said he pointed at people and menacingly tapped it. Prosecutors also say he "supports racially motivated violence against non-blacks and Jews."
The Obama administration won the case last month, but moved to dismiss the charges on May 15.
The complaint says the men hurled racial slurs at both blacks and whites.
A poll watcher who provided an affidavit to prosecutors in the case noted that Bartle Bull, who worked as a civil rights lawyer in the south in the 1960's and is a former campaign manager for Robert Kennedy, said it was the most blatant form of voter intimidation he had ever seen.
In his affidavit, obtained by FOX News, Bull wrote "I watched the two uniformed men confront voters and attempt to intimidate voters. They were positioned in a location that forced every voter to pass in close proximity to them. The weapon was openly displayed and brandished in plain sight of voters."
He also said they tried to "interfere with the work of other poll observers ... whom the uniformed men apparently believed did not share their preferences politically," noting that one of the panthers turned toward the white poll observers and said "you are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker."
A spokesman for the Department of Justice told FOX News, "The Justice Department was successful in obtaining an injunction that prohibits the defendant who brandished a weapon outside a Philadelphia polling place from doing so again. Claims were dismissed against the other defendants based on a careful assessment of the facts and the law. The department is committed to the vigorous prosecution of those who intimidate, threaten or coerce anyone exercising his or her sacred right to vote."http://www.foxnews.com/politics/elections/2009/05/29/charges-black-panthers-dropped-obama/
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / This could get interesting
on: May 29, 2009, 01:50:38 PM
Trouble Brewing for AIG and Federal Government; Challenge of AIG Bailout Allowed to Proceed
May 27, 2009 http://www.thomasmore.org/qry/page.taf?id=19
ANN ARBOR, MI – Proclaiming that times of crisis do not justify departure from the Constitution, Federal District Court Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff allowed the lawsuit against Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the Federal Reserve Board challenging the AIG bailout to proceed. The lawsuit was filed last December by the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and attorney David Yerushalmi, an expert in security transactions and Shariah-compliant financing.
In his well-written and detailed analysis issued yesterday, Judge Zatkoff denied the request by the Obama administration’s Department of Justice to dismiss the lawsuit. The request was filed on behalf of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the Federal Reserve Board – the named defendants in the case. In his ruling, the judge held that the lawsuit sufficiently alleged a federal constitutional challenge to the use of taxpayer money to fund AIG’s Islamic religious activities.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented, “It is outrageous that AIG has been using taxpayer money to promote Islam and Shariah law, which potentially provides support for terrorist activities aimed at killing Americans. Shariah law is the same law championed by Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. It is the same law that prompted the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our soil that killed thousands of innocent Americans. We won this skirmish. But the war to stop the federal government from funding Islam and Shariah-compliant financing is far from over.”
In its request to dismiss the lawsuit, the DOJ argued that the plaintiff in the case, Kevin Murray, who is a former Marine and a federal taxpayer, lacked standing to bring the action. And even if he did have standing, DOJ argued that the use of the bailout money to fund AIG’s operations did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The court disagreed, noting, in relevant part, the following:
In this case, the fact that AIG is largely a secular entity is not dispositive: The question in an as-applied challenge is not whether the entity is of a religious character, but how it spends its grant. The circumstances of this case are historic, and the pressure upon the government to navigate this financial crisis is unfathomable. Times of crisis, however, do not justify departure from the Constitution. In this case, the United States government has a majority interest in AIG. AIG utilizes consolidated financing whereby all funds flow through a single port to support all of its activities, including Sharia-compliant financing. Pursuant to the EESA, the government has injected AIG with tens of billions of dollars, without restricting or tracking how this considerable sum of money is spent. At least two of AIG’s subsidiary companies practice Sharia-compliant financing, one of which was unveiled after the influx of government cash. After using the $40 billion from the government to pay down the $85 billion credit facility, the credit facility retained $60 billion in available credit, suggesting that AIG did not use all $40 billion consistent with its press release. Finally, after the government acquired a majority interest in AIG and contributed substantial funds to AIG for operational purposes, the government co-sponsored a forum entitled “Islamic Finance 101.” These facts, taken together, raise a question of whether the government’s involvement with AIG has created the effect of promoting religion and sufficiently raise Plaintiff’s claim beyond the speculative level, warranting dismissal inappropriate at this stage in the proceedings.
Click here to read Judge Zatkoff’s entire ruling.
The lawsuit, which was filed in December of last year in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, is a constitutional challenge to that portion of the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008” (EESA) that appropriated $40 billion in taxpayer money to fund and financially support the federal government’s majority ownership interest in AIG, which engages in Shariah-based Islamic religious activities that are anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish.
According to the lawsuit, “The use of these taxpayer funds to approve, promote, endorse, support, and fund these Shariah-based Islamic religious activities violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Murray, a former Marine who served honorably in harm’s way in Iraq to defend our country against Islamic terrorists. Murray objects to being forced as a taxpayer to contribute to the propagation of Islamic beliefs and practices predicated upon Shariah law, which is hostile to his Christian religion. He is being represented by Thomas More Law Center Trial Counsel Robert Muise and by David Yerushalmi, an associated attorney who is an expert in Shariah law and Shariah-compliant financing, as well as general counsel to the Center for Security Policy.
According to the lawsuit, through the use of taxpayer funds, the federal government acquired a majority ownership interest (nearly 80%) in AIG, and as part of the bailout, Congress appropriated and expended an additional $40 billion of taxpayer money to fund and financially support AIG and its financial activities. AIG, which is now a government owned company, engages in Shariah-compliant financing which subjects certain financial activities, including investments, to the dictates of Islamic law and the Islamic religion. This specifically includes any profits or interest obtained through such financial activities. AIG itself describes “Sharia” as “Islamic law based on the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet [Mohammed].”
With the aid of taxpayer funds provided by Congress, AIG employs a “Shariah Supervisory Committee,” which is comprised of the following members: Sheikh Nizam Yaquby from Bahrain, Dr. Mohammed Ali Elgari from Saudi Arabia, and Dr. Muhammed Imran Ashraf Usmani from Pakistan. Dr. Usmani is the son, student, and dedicated disciple of Mufti Taqi Usmani, who is the leading Shariah authority for Shariah-compliant finance in the world and the author of a book translated into English in 1999 that includes an entire chapter dedicated to explaining why a Western Muslim must engage in violent jihad against his own country or government. According to AIG, the role of its Shariah authority “is to review our operations, supervise its development of Islamic products, and determine Shariah compliance of these products and our investments.”
An important element of Shariah-compliant financing is a form of obligatory charitable contribution called zakat, which is a religious tax for assisting those that “struggle [jihad] for Allah.” The amount of this tax is between 2.5% and 20%, depending upon the source of the wealth. The zakat religious tax is used to financially support Islamic “charities,” some of which have ties to terrorist organizations that are hostile to the United States and all other “infidels,” which includes Christians and Jews.
The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, an example of an Islamic “charity” that qualifies for receipt of the zakat, was recently convicted by a federal jury for providing millions of dollars to Islamic terrorist organizations. As a direct consequence of the taxpayer funds appropriated and expended to purchase and financially support AIG, the federal government is now the owner of a corporation engaged in the business of collecting religious taxes to fund interests adverse to the United States, Christians, Jews, and all other “infidels” under Islamic law.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on the Judiiciary
on: May 29, 2009, 08:53:17 AM
"The Constitution ... is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please."
--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Judge Spencer Roane, September 6, 1819
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sotomayor
on: May 29, 2009, 08:42:04 AM
Well, now it makes sense and this could be serious. La Raza IS a racist and a seditious organizatin IMHO. Also to be noted IMHO is that IMHO, this particular source "World Net Daily" often hyperventilates, omits pertinent facts, and in general is not my idea of a reliable source in its own right-- though, as appears to be the case here, it can serve to flag an important issue/question for worthier sources to investigate.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: May 29, 2009, 08:32:36 AM
I would love to see a serious analysis of recent velocity number and a comparison of them to other periods , , ,
Anway, here's this:
The Week /The Incredibly Uneven Recovery
Rich Karlgaard, Forbes.com Digital Rules (5/26/09): Prior to this
recession, the most notable feature of the late 20th/early 21st century
economy was its volatility. The silicon chip, the Internet and globalism
were accelerants to the renaissance of entrepreneurial capitalism that
began in the late 1970s. Around the world, the storyline was familiar. New
products, services, distribution paths and business models would appear
out of nowhere and cause damage to the old and slow.
The global consultant, McKinsey & Co., summarized this effect in a famous
2005 paper called "Extreme Competition" (published in McKinsey Quarterly).
"Extreme Competition" said top companies, across all industries, faced a
20% to 30% probability of falling out of leadership in a five-year period.
The chance of toppling from the top ranks had tripled in a generation.
Will this pace of disruption and churn continue during the recession and
recovery? I think so. It is tempting to see a recession as a yellow
caution flag that slows all cars in the field. But in fact, recessions
tend to shake out the old, slow and bloated that masked their decline in
flusher times. The 1973-74, 1980 and 1982 recessions dealt death blows to
the incoherent conglomerates created during the 1960s. The 1990-91
recession killed off the minicomputer industry and nearly did in IBM. The
recession of 2007-09 has shredded the Michigan auto industry. Big city
dailies are falling everywhere. Were they killed by the recession or
Craigslist? (By both.)
Recovery from this recession is likely to be weak. Rising oil prices
amidst increasing supply and falling demand is proof of U.S. dollar
weakness and portends stagflation. Real growth for the American economy
when recovery starts will be in the 1% to 2% range, instead of the usual
3%. It will be the 1970s again.
But remember: GDP growth is an aggregate number. Peel back this pedestrian
top line figure, and what you'll see is a jagged landscape of booms and
busts. Some companies, industries, cities, regions and skill sets were
never hurt much and will experience a robust recovery. Others will be
mired in permanent depression.
As one example, the New York Times columnist, Bob Herbert, points out the
disproportionate problems of uneducated young males: "The Center for Labor
Market Studies is at Northeastern University in Boston. A memo that I
received a few days ago from the center's director, Andrew Sum, notes that
'no immediate recovery of jobs' is anticipated, even if the recession
officially ends, as some have projected, by next fall
The memo said: 'Since unemployment cannot begin to fall until payroll
growth hits about 1%--and payroll growth will not hit 1% until [gross
domestic product] growth hits at least 2.5% to 3%--we may not see any
substantive payroll growth until late 2010 or 2011, and unemployment could
rise until that time.'
"We've already lost nearly 5.7 million jobs in this recession. Those
losses, the center says, 'have been overwhelmingly concentrated among male
workers, especially among men under 35.'"
As another example, today's Wall Street Journal has a fascinating tale of
two Michigan cities, Ann Arbor and Warren: "The divide between Ann Arbor,
with a population of 116,000, and Warren, population 126,000, is large and
widening. Ann Arbor's unemployment rate of 8.5% in March trailed the
nationwide rate of 9% and was well below Michigan's overall rate of 13.4%,
based on nonseasonally adjusted figures. By contrast, Warren's
unemployment rate of 17.3% is among the highest in the state. The average
family income in Ann Arbor was $106,599 in 2007, compared with $69,193
nationally and $60,813 in Warren.
"That economic gulf wasn't always there. In 1979, the average family in
Warren made $28,538 annually, not much below Ann Arbor's average of
$29,840. But in the past 30 years, the U.S. economy has undergone a
sweeping transformation that has benefited cities like Ann Arbor and hurt
manufacturing hubs like Warren.
"Warren is suffering from its reliance on the auto industry.
"As transportation and communication costs fell, and countries like Japan
and, now, China, increased their manufacturing capability, Michigan's
advantages have faded. Those same forces of globalization benefited
educated workers--an area where Michigan largely fell short.
The science fiction writer, William Gibson, likes to say: "The future is
already here--it is just unevenly distributed."
Likewise, the economic recovery has already started. But its distribution
will be highly uneven.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea
on: May 27, 2009, 07:34:13 PM
Russia fears Korea conflict could go nuclear
By Oleg Shchedrov
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is taking security measures as a precaution against the possibility tension over North Korea could escalate into nuclear war, news agencies quoted officials as saying on Wednesday.
Interfax quoted an unnamed security source as saying a stand-off triggered by Pyongyang's nuclear test on Monday could affect the security of Russia's far eastern regions, which border North Korea.
"The need has emerged for an appropriate package of precautionary measures," the source said.
"We are not talking about stepping up military efforts but rather about measures in case a military conflict, perhaps with the use of nuclear weapons, flares up on the Korean Peninsula," he added. The official did not elaborate further.
North Korea has responded to international condemnation of its nuclear test and a threat of new U.N. sanctions by saying it is no longer bound by an armistice signed with South Korea at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Itar-Tass news agency quoted a Russian Foreign Ministry official as saying the "war of nerves" over North Korea should not be allowed to grow into a military conflict, a reference to Pyongyang's decision to drop out of the armistice deal.
"We assume that a dangerous brinkmanship, a war of nerves, is under way, but it will not grow into a hot war," the official told Tass. "Restraint is needed."
The Foreign Ministry often uses statements sourced to unnamed officials, released through official news agencies, to lay down its position on sensitive issues.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has condemned the North Korean tests but his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has warned the international community against hasty decisions. Russia is a veto-wielding permanent member of the U.N. Security Council which is preparing to discuss the latest stand-off over the peninsula.
In the past, Moscow has been reluctant to support Western calls for sanctions. But Russian officials in the United Nations have said that this time the authority of the international body is at stake. Medvedev told South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who called him on Wednesday, that Russia was prepared to work with Seoul on a new U.N. Security Council resolution and to revive international talks on the North Korean nuclear issue.
"The heads of state noted that the nuclear test conducted by North Korea on Monday is a direct violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution and impedes international law," a Kremlin press release said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sotomayor
on: May 27, 2009, 10:17:52 AM
Cases that get to the Supreme Court are USUALLY difficult ones-- although sometimes they get there simply to smackdown some really bad decision, so I would be careful with reversal rate arguments.
"[J]udges, therefore, should be always men of learning and experience in the laws, of exemplary morals, great patience, calmness, coolness, and attention. Their minds should not be distracted with jarring interests; they should not be dependent upon any man, or body of men." --John Adams
"We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force." --author Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
"The deterioration of every government begins with the decay of the principles on which it was founded." --French political philosopher C. L. De Montesquieu (1689-1755)
"The soundest argument will produce no more conviction in an empty head than the most superficial declamation; as a feather and a guinea fall with equal velocity in a vacuum." --English cleric and writer Charles Colton (1780-1832)
Judge Sotomayor descends from on high to bestow "empathy" upon us
"In making Sonia Sotomayor his first nominee for the Supreme Court yesterday, President Obama appears to have found the ideal match for his view that personal experience and cultural identity are the better part of judicial wisdom. This isn't a jurisprudence that the Founders would recognize, but it is the creative view that has dominated the law schools since the 1970s and from which both the President and Judge Sotomayor emerged. In the President's now-famous word, judging should be shaped by 'empathy' as much or more than by reason. In this sense, Judge Sotomayor would be a thoroughly modern Justice, one for whom the law is a voyage of personal identity. 'Experience being tested by obstacles and barriers, by hardship and misfortune; experience insisting, persisting, and ultimately overcoming those barriers,' Mr. Obama said yesterday in introducing Ms. Sotomayor. 'It is experience that can give a person a common touch of compassion; an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live. And that is why it is a necessary ingredient in the kind of Justice we need on the Supreme Court.' ...[Sotomayor] is a judge steeped in the legal school of identity politics. This is not the same as taking justifiable pride in being the first Puerto Rican-American nominated to the Court, as both she and the President did yesterday. ... Judge Sotomayor's belief is that a 'Latina woman' is by definition a superior judge to a 'white male' because she has had more 'richness' in her struggle. The danger inherent in this judicial view is that the law isn't what the Constitution says but whatever the judge in the 'richness' of her experience comes to believe it should be. ... As the first nominee of a popular President and with 59 Democrats in the Senate, Judge Sotomayor is likely to be confirmed barring some major blunder. But Republicans can use the process as a teaching moment, not to tear down Ms. Sotomayor on personal issues the way the left tried with Justices Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito, but to educate Americans about the proper role of the judiciary and to explore whether Judge Sotomayor's Constitutional principles are as free-form as they seem from her record." --The Wall Street Journal
"[L]ike conventional liberals, [Sonia Sotomayor] embraces identity politics, including the idea of categorical representation: A person is what his or her race, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference is, and members of a particular category can be represented -- understood, empathized with -- only by persons of the same identity." --columnist George Will
"Why make this complicated? President Obama prefers Supreme Court justices who will violate their oath of office. And he hopes Sonia Sotomayor is the right Hispanic woman for the job." --columnist Jonah Goldberg
"Since when did securing a Supreme Court seat become a high hurdles contest? The White House and Democrats have turned Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination into a personal Olympic event. Pay no attention to her jurisprudence. She grew up in a Bronx public housing project. She was diagnosed with childhood diabetes at 8. Her father died a year later. And, oh, by the way, did you hear that she was poor? It's a 'compelling personal story,' as we heard 20,956 times on Tuesday." --columnist Michelle Malkin
"If you were going to have open heart surgery, would you want to be operated on by a surgeon who was chosen because he had to struggle to get where he is or by the best surgeon you could find-- even if he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and had every advantage that money and social position could offer?" --economist Thomas Sowell
"Sotomayor believes that law, like beauty, is entirely in the eye of the beholder. It is therefore of vital importance which beholders are sitting on the Supreme Court. Judicial philosophy is irrelevant, in this view; the only true judicial philosophy is personal philosophy." --columnist Ben Shapiro
"Senate Republicans must take a stand and vocally oppose this nomination, not on the basis of partisan politics, but in defense of the rule of law and the proper role of the judiciary, principles the president is only pretending to honor." --columnist David Limbaugh
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread
on: May 27, 2009, 09:26:13 AM
What’s the difference?
Same-sex marriage does make a difference to wider society, especially when the force of the state is behind it.
"What difference,” goes the refrain from same-sex marriage supporters, “ does the marriage of two men or two women make in your life or your marriage?”
Well truth be told, very little because I am Roman Catholic. My marriage is a sacramental union; a union blessed in God’s eyes. The state has very little to do with it and a wedding between two men or two women is as valid in my eyes as a quickie wedding between two drunks at a Vegas love chapel; which means not at all.
Yet something tells me that answer would not satisfy homosexual activists pushing for same-sex marriage, because despite the cry of live and let live, the modus operandi appears to be, live like I say or feel the power of the state.
Earlier this week legislators in New Hampshire rejected a second attempt to pass a bill legalising same-sex marriage, not because the bill did not exempt religious groups from having to join in the celebration of gay marriage, but because it did. Radical supporters of the push for gay marriage joined with opponents to kill off amendments aimed at protecting religious freedom.
The New Hampshire House of Representatives had earlier passed a bill aimed at making same-sex marriage legal. Democratic Governor John Lynch said he would veto any bill that did not include additional protections for religious groups, their employees, and the services they offered, from having to perform, promote, or participate in same-sex weddings.
The New York Times reports on the actions of Republican Steve Vaillancourt, a homosexual member of the House, “During the floor debate on the amendment, Representative Steve Vaillancourt, a Republican who voted for the [original] same-sex marriage bill, accused Mr. Lynch of using bullying tactics, a House spokeswoman said. Mr. Vaillancourt then voted against the proposed changes.”
Vaillancourt is quoted by The Nashua Telegraph as saying, "This bill enshrines homophobia in statute, and I won't ever support something that does that.''
Vaillancourt wants anyone not okay with gay marriage to be out of the marriage business, it has already happened elsewhere. In Canada, private individuals who were licensed by the government to perform civil weddings were forced to hand in their marriage commissioner licenses if they would not perform same-sex weddings. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal order, was taken to a human rights commission for backing out of renting their hall for a lesbian wedding reception. The Knights say they didn’t know the wedding was for a lesbian couple and once they realized that fact, they returned the deposit and tried to help the ladies find a new venue. Unfortunately for the Knights, British Coloumbia, the province where the stand off took place, declared the Knights in violation of B.C.’s human rights code and fined the group.
It is situations like this that New Hampshire Governor John Lynch is trying to avoid and it is situations like this that gay activists like Rep. Vaillancourt want to provoke; he wants to ensure that Knights of Columbus halls in New Hampshire are open to him and his friends so they can celebrate their weddings in grand Catholic style.
Live and let live sounds nice; too bad it’s not true.
Meanwhile in Britain, the Labour government, not happy with having forced Catholic adoption agencies out of business (agencies which were running long before government became involved in the game), is now set to force churches to hire homosexuals, trans-gendered or anyone else feeling grieved by having those moralistic bastards in the church tut-tut their “lifestyle”.
According to The Daily Telegraph, deputy equality minister Maria Eagle broke the news to churches at a conference on religious matters, well, it was a religious conference in the extremely progressive “accept my sexuality” sort of religious sense. Speaking at the Faith, Homophobia, Transphobia and Human Rights conference in London, the minister said, “The circumstances in which religious institutions can practice anything less than full equality are few and far between. While the state would not intervene in narrowly ritual or doctrinal matters within faith groups, these communities cannot claim that everything they run is outside the scope of anti-discrimination law.”
Not content to simply foist her view of equality and human rights upon churches through the blunt instruments of the state, Ms. Eagle is also seeking members of what I am sure she would regard as “homophobic” and “transphobic” churches to speak out against discrimination against the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Trans-gendered) community. "Members of faith groups have a role in making the argument in their own communities for greater LGBT acceptance,” she says. “But in the meantime the state has a duty to protect people from unfair treatment."
So you can hire your homophobic priest or imam but if your organ master makes Liberace look like a country club Republican or your cantor wants to celebrate his sexuality in drag, you’ll have to take it or face charges.
Live and let live, huh?
I truly believe that when it comes to basic requirements of life, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is right regarding homosexuals, “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
Is refusing to hire an active homosexual, engaged to his boyfriend Bill, to act as youth group leader for the local Catholic parish a form of “just discrimination?” You’d better believe it! While the activists in Ms. Eagle’s office obviously can’t wait to work for sub-par wages in the parish office in Lutton, something tells me they won’t be hiring Cardinal Arizne to work as co-ordinator for the next conference on Faith, Homophobia, Transphobia and Human Rights. Something also tells me that if a faithful Muslim was to apply for a job with the local branch of the Rainbow Coalition, his application would get lost in the files. This kind of discrimination is likely perfectly fine with Ms. Eagle.
What’s a traditional religious person to do? I don’t think recoiling into religious seclusion is an option, especially not for Christians called to live out a public witness. The idea that faith can be private and kept to the home just does not wash for Christians who are called to have their faith touch all aspects of their life. As the late Richard John Neuhaus wrote in his book The Naked Public Square, “Christ is Lord of all or he is Lord not at all.” Asking someone to act one way in public and another in private is asking them to lead contradictory and disjointed lives. Isn’t that what homosexual activists, until recently at least, had been saying they were fighting for, the ability to be themselves? Now they want us to be them as well.
Patrick Thompson teaches and writes near Buffalo, New York.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sotomayor
on: May 27, 2009, 09:01:50 AM
OK, lets give her her own thread:
From John Perazzo's article today:
The common thread in Sotomayor’s decisions is her view that discrimination remains pervasive in the United States, and that the role of a judge is to “level the playing field,” even if it means rewarding the less-qualified and punishing the deserving, while ignoring the law in the process.
In May 2009 a video surfaced of Sotomayor speaking at a 2005 panel discussion for law students. In that video, she said that a “court of appeals is where policy is made”—a candid rejection of the notion that a judge’s proper role is to interpret the law rather than to create it. Then, remembering that the event was being recorded, Sotomayor added immediately: “And I know — I know this is on tape, and I should never say that because we don’t make law. I know. O.K. I know. I’m not promoting it. I’m not advocating it. I’m — you know.” Her tone was unmistakably that of a person uttering, with a wink and a nod, words that she did not, even for a moment, believe.
Such judicial activism, founded on the twin premises that the Constitution is a “living document” subject to constant reinterpretation, and that the legal system should give certain compensatory advantages to people who are allegedly victimized by society’s inherent inequities, is “the critical ingredient” that Barack Obama identified, even during the 2008 presidential campaign, as the chief “criterion” by which he would select the next Supreme Court justice. He has proven to be true to his word.
I also gather she is quite bad on property rights and has written a decision that goes further than Kelo.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: CA SCt respects Prop 8
on: May 27, 2009, 04:38:39 AM
"It bears emphasis . . . that our role is limited to interpreting and applying the principles and rules embodied in the California Constitution, setting aside our own personal beliefs and values." That sigh of judicial restraint was actually issued by the California Supreme Court, which yesterday upheld Proposition 8, last year's ballot initiative prohibiting same-sex marriage in the state.
The gay rights lobby is apoplectic, though we suspect the decision will eventually be seen as a victory for gay rights -- precisely because it respected the ordinary rhythms of democratic debate. That wasn't the case in 2008, when the same court created a right to gay marriage by reading it into the state constitution. Yet when moral and social disputes are "settled" by the judiciary, they inevitably become even more divisive than before, inspire a political backlash and in any case are denied the durability that comes from popular consent.
Gay activists appealed Prop. 8 on the arcane grounds that it was a "revision" to the state constitution requiring a two-thirds vote, not a constitutional amendment requiring the 52% majority it received. The good news is that they can still achieve their goals the old-fashioned way: by changing the laws through politics. (Alas, that is not now the case with abortion.) Next year's election will almost certainly see another ballot initiative to overturn Prop. 8. If California voters don't have a change of heart, gays will have to live with the compromises of democratic life -- which in most places means the legal benefits of marriage in all but name.
The California Supreme Court's bow to the ballot box still preserves the 18,000 gay marriages that were recognized before Prop. 8 passed. Meanwhile, states across the country are experimenting with civil unions and same-sex marriage, even if the latter has so far only emerged from a single legislature: Vermont's.
As this democratic evolution continues, a growing question is whether the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act -- which says that states need not adhere to same-sex marriage laws in other states -- violates the U.S. Constitution's Full Faith and Credit clause. This issue is probably headed to the Supreme Court, and it would not be to anyone's advantage if gay marriage were imposed by judicial fiat.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shrimp between two whales
on: May 27, 2009, 03:57:37 AM
This piece strikes me as a bit glib-- but still worthy of the read:
Geopolitical Diary: North Korea's Nuclear Program in the Past and Future
May 26, 2009
North Korea conducted a nuclear test on Monday, a little more than two and a half years after its first such test in October 2006. Since the early 1990s, North Korea has been engaged in a public balancing act between nuclear development and negotiations with the international community — particularly the United States. One of the key factors driving the North’s nuclear program is its own insecurity when faced with the United States’ full might. At its core, the nuclear program is about regime survival — not only now, but into the future.
Pyongyang’s focus on a nuclear program is rooted in its history. The Korean War showed North Korea how quickly the U.S. military could reverse a situation, pushing the North’s forces from their nearly complete conquering of the Korean Peninsula back up to the Yalu River line in a matter of weeks. But even before the vast difference in military capability between North Korea and the United States was reinforced by that war, North Korea, the united Korea before it and even the earlier Korean kingdoms occupied a rather insecure geographical position in Asia.
The Korean Peninsula traditionally has been an invasion route and contested territory between the two regional competitors, China and Japan. It has developed a limited repertoire of tactics to deal with this unchosen geographic position: It can attempt isolation (the so-called “Hermit Kingdom”); play regional competitors against one another (a similar strategy was employed, ultimately to failure, as Korea sought to avoid the push of colonialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries); or find a third-party sponsor to provide protection from its neighbors (for example, as the United States provided protection for South Korea in the second half of the 20th century).
North Korea has employed varieties of these tactics — from playing the Russians and Chinese off one another during the Cold War (and exploiting both powers’ fears of a U.S. occupation of the entire peninsula) to developing a fortress mentality, closing itself off to outside ideas and influence. Even North Korea’s nuclear program, in some ways, has been used at times to draw U.S. attention and maintain U.S. involvement in part to ensure the peninsula doesn’t end up once again stuck between an aggressive China and expansionist Japan.
But the nuclear program, as it developed, also was a manifestation of North Korea’s “Juche” self-reliance philosophy — a philosophy born from centuries of having to rely on others and almost always being sorely disappointed in the end. By developing a nuclear capability, even if in the early stages, North Korea is moving closer to a point where neither its neighbors nor the United States have many options for threatening it without facing a deadly response.
For decades, Pyongyang maintained a massive conventional military, replete with short- and medium-range missiles, rockets and artillery aimed at the nearby South Korean capital, Seoul, as a deterrent to any military action against the North. But this was not seen as a sufficient deterrent to the United States — which continued to carry out military operations around the world against seemingly powerful regimes that ultimately were unable to respond in a manner that truly threatened Washington or even made it think twice. Pyongyang could not be sure that Washington would always consider Seoul as the deciding factor, its threats to turn the city into a “sea of fire” notwithstanding.
Pyongyang’s nuclear and long-range missile programs, then, were part of an effort to demonstrate that North Korea would be able to respond to the United States or other distant aggressors. Initially, Pyongyang was willing to trade away its developing capability in return for more concrete assurances from Washington (whether through a formal peace accord or normalized relations) that Pyongyang would not end up in the U.S. military’s gun sights. But Pyongyang quickly found that its conventional deterrent, coupled with the very different views found among its neighbors and the United States (Beijing rarely agreed to the most stringent sanctions, Seoul was often conflicted about risking destabilizing the North, and Japan opposed concessions), meant that it could escalate a threat, then partly back down in exchange for an economic or political reward — all without really halting its nuclear and missile progress.
The 2006 nuclear test, part of a concerted effort to draw the United States back to the bargaining table, triggered a perhaps surprisingly soft response. In essence, the United States and others gave Pyongyang a sound talking to, and then returned to negotiations. This convinced some among the North Korean elite, particularly in the military, that not only would North Korea never have to give up its nuclear deterrent, but it also could accelerate development with little risk of backlash. This thinking came to the fore again after Kim Jong Il suffered a stroke in 2008, without a clear line of succession. The situation set off intensified maneuvering in Pyongyang as various factions — including the military — sought to take advantage and gain strength.
North Korea’s attempted satellite launch last month and the nuclear test on Monday are both as much about demonstrating Kim Jong Il’s continued strength at home as they are about warning the world (and particularly the United States) not to mess with Pyongyang while the reorganization of top leaders is under way. But it is also an attempt by Pyongyang to show the world that North Korea is both willing to follow through on its threats and not afraid of the consequences (perhaps because it has seen how ineffectual the “consequences” of past actions were).
In essence, North Korea is saying that it does not need to rely on anyone else — that is has found another way to ensure the security of the Korean Peninsula from its neighbors, without relying on outside exploitation. This is, of course, not entirely true: North Korea remains heavily dependent upon China for energy, food and cash, and has grown used to periodic food and fuel aid handouts from the international community, South Korea and the United States.
But to summarize the North Korean behavior as mere attempts to attract U.S. attention or to bargain fails to take into consideration the deep-rooted insecurities of North Korea and its predecessor states on the Korean Peninsula. What the “shrimp between two whales” is trying to do is find a way to avoid being crushed or eaten. It may not fit exactly with international norms, but it has worked for Pyongyang so far.