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23551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / White House grabs census power! on: February 12, 2009, 09:42:01 PM
White House grabs 2010 census power
GOP warns Democrats attempting unconstitutional vote manipulation
Posted: February 07, 2009
11:15 pm Eastern

By Drew Zahn
© 2009 WorldNetDaily
In a move with major political implications for voting, districting and representation in future elections, the Obama administration has demanded oversight of the 2010 U.S. census.

The move has Republicans crying foul, alleging that transferring the power of census-taking from the Commerce Department, which normally oversees the U.S. Census Bureau, to the White House is an attempt to manipulate redistricting of congressional seats.

"This action appears to be motivated by politics, rather than the interests of our country," House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. "The United States Census should remain independent of politics; it should not be directed by political operatives working out of the White House."

The Washington Post's Mary Ann Akers reports a senior Republican aide telling her that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has no business overseeing the headcount that will shape the future of U.S. elections.

"With all of its political implications," the aide reportedly said, "hijacking the census from the Commerce Department and letting it be run out of Rahm's office is like putting PETA in charge of issuing hunting permits."

Discover how we can break the hammerlock of statism and reestablish our freedom in Joseph Farah's "Taking America Back" from WND Books!

Congressional Quarterly reports that Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the top Republican on the House Government Reform Committee, said the proposed move may even be in violation of federal law.

"Any attempt by the Obama administration to circumvent the census process for their political benefit will be met with fierce opposition," said Issa. "This ill-conceived proposal undermines a constitutionally obligated process that speaks to the very heart of our democracy."

Bruce Chapman, director of the U.S. Census Bureau under President Reagan, explains the Republican objection and why the census is so important in his Discovery blog:

"Everyone knows that it is possible to organize a decennial census in a way that benefits one party or another politically," Chapman writes. "One way to effectuate this otherwise unpalatable departure from the Census Bureau's 200-year history of non-partisanship is to put the Bureau administratively under direction of the politicos in the White House. In reality, that would be a sure invitation to cook the books on the highly consequential count of Americans."

Chapman also claims, "The only reason the White House would want to be involved is in figuring out how to add more voting power to certain states and groups within states."

The decennial census, taken every 10 years, generates maps and numbers then used to draw congressional districts. Ideally the census director conducts the count in a non-partisan manner under the authority granted by U.S. code to the secretary of Commerce.

Congressional Quarterly, however, announced earlier this week that a senior White House official reported the director of the Census Bureau will now report directly to the White House and not the secretary of Commerce.

CQ later updated its report, stating that the White House "took a small step back from what the senior official told CQ" by announcing that the director of the Census Bureau would "work with the high-level officials rather than report directly to them."

Secretary of Commerce nominee, Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H.

Several news outlets speculated that the White House power play was prompted by objections from minority group leaders over Obama's nomination of Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., to be secretary of Commerce, the office responsible for the census. Many of the groups are concerned about how particularly Hispanics will be counted in the next census, since the numbers affect both redistricting and federal funding based on demographic changes over the past decade.

Several minority leaders have expressed dismay over Obama's nomination of a Republican with a questionable track record on the census.

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said in a statement, "Sen. Gregg's record of previously voting to abolish the Commerce Department and his attempts to block President Bill Clinton's efforts to secure adequate funding for the 2000 census raise troubling concerns."

A National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials spokesman told Politico, "Secretary of Commerce-designate Judd Gregg's record raises serious questions about his willingness to ensure that the 2010 census produces the most accurate possible count of the nation's population."

An editorial in the Hispanic newspaper La Opinion went further, emphasizing a fear that Gregg may not place a high enough priority on getting an accurate count.

"We cannot afford this risk," the paper opined.

At a White House briefing, however, spokesman Robert Gibbs denied that the change was linked to worries over Gregg's nomination.

MSNBC reports a White House spokesman further arguing that Obama's action actually has historical precedent.

"From the first days of the transition the census has been a priority for the president, and a process he wanted to reevaluate," the spokesman reportedly said. "There is historic precedent for the director of the census, who works for the Commerce Secretary and the president, to work closely with White House senior management – given the number of decisions that will have to be put before the president. We plan to return to that model in this administration."

Former Census Bureau Chief Chapman, however, disagrees.

"Simply put, there is no excuse for this idea," Chapman writes. "It is not true that the Census Bureau has ever been under the direct management of the White House, and for good reason. Even if angels were in charge of the executive mansion, if the nation's premier statistical agency were placed under White House direction, the danger to public trust would be enormous. The Decennial count is one of the few federal functions specifically described in the Constitution itself and must be operated above suspicion of politics."

Chapman added, "Power flows from an accurate census count. Everyone involved for years has seen the count therefore as a sacred trust. It must not be polluted with even a semblance of presidential meddling."

23552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: February 12, 2009, 06:00:48 PM

Although GB occassionally says things with which I agree, mostly I find him not to be worth the time it takes to listen to him.

As for the credibility and respect that should be given someone simply because they are a Dem Congressman?  Surely you jest , , ,

23553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: February 12, 2009, 03:04:42 PM

How did you find out about this site?  What is its track record?
23554  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: LA Panel challenges WOD on: February 12, 2009, 02:42:16 PM
MEXICO CITY -- As drug violence spirals out of control in Mexico, a commission led by three former Latin American heads of state blasted the U.S.-led drug war as a failure that is pushing Latin American societies to the breaking point.

"The available evidence indicates that the war on drugs is a failed war," said former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, in a conference call with reporters from Rio de Janeiro. "We have to move from this approach to another one."

The commission, headed by Mr. Cardoso and former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and César Gaviria of Colombia, says Latin American governments as well as the U.S. must break what they say is a policy "taboo" and re-examine U.S.-inspired antidrugs efforts. The panel recommends that governments consider measures including decriminalizing the use of marijuana.

View Slideshow

Associated Press
Mexico has been besieged by drug violence amid a two-year government crackdown.
The report, by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, is the latest to question the U.S.'s emphasis on punitive measures to deal with illegal drug use and the criminal violence that accompanies it. A recent Brookings Institution study concluded that despite interdiction and eradication efforts, the world's governments haven't been able to significantly decrease the supply of drugs, while punitive methods haven't succeeded in lowering drug use.

John Walters, former director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said, "It's not true that we've lost or can't do anything about the drug problem," and cited security improvements in Colombia.

President Barack Obama has yet to appoint a successor to Mr. Walters. A spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy said he couldn't comment on speculation over the appointment of a new director.

According to a Democratic official familiar with the process, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske is under consideration for an administration job, most likely to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The three former presidents who head the commission are political conservatives who have confronted in their home countries the violence and corruption that accompany drug trafficking.

The report warned that the U.S.-style antidrug strategy was putting the region's fragile democratic institutions at risk and corrupting "judicial systems, governments, the political system and especially the police forces."

The report comes as drug violence is engulfing Mexico, which has become the key transit point for cocaine traffic to the U.S. Decapitation of rival drug traffickers has become common as cartels try to intimidate one another.

Mr. Walters said increased violence in border areas of Mexico was partly a result of criminal organizations compensating for reduced income from the supply of drugs by turning to other activities, such as people-smuggling, and continuing to fight over turf.

U.S. law-enforcement officials -- as well as some of their counterparts in Mexico -- say the explosion in violence indicates progress in the war on drugs as organizations under pressure are clashing.

"If the drug effort were failing there would be no violence," a senior U.S. official said Wednesday. There is violence "because these guys are flailing. We're taking these guys out. The worst thing you could do is stop now."

Latin American governments have largely followed U.S. advice in trying to stop the flow of drugs from the point of origin. The policy has had little effect.

In Colombia, billions of dollars in U.S. aid have helped the military regain control from the hands of drug-financed communist guerrillas and lower crime, but the help hasn't dented the amount of drugs flowing from Colombia.

In the conference call, Mr. Gaviria said the U.S. approach to narcotics -- based on treating drug consumption as a crime -- had failed. Latin America, he said, should adapt a more European approach, based on treating drug addiction as a health problem.

—David Luhnow, Louise Radnofsky and Evan Perez contributed to this article.
Write to José de Córdoba at
23555  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: February 12, 2009, 12:25:22 PM
As always, sound, pithy, and penetrating analysis from Scott Grannis:
23556  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Round 2 with Crafty in Toronto on: February 12, 2009, 12:20:17 PM
Oh yes, I had forgotten about that.  We looked at "breaking the mirror": 

a) the J pattern matching Heaven 6
b) then we worked Lameco combos 1-5 with an eye to working "mett, merge, follow" with Lameco 5 against Standard 6 but I could see that I was losing just about everyone and so simply abandoned the mission and moved on the Kali Tudo.

Glad to hear of the synergy for you of the Dos Triques DVD with the seminar.  That was/is part of the idea  smiley
23557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: February 12, 2009, 11:51:58 AM
Also, I gather that all the increased farming to produce the ethanol uses fertilizers which run down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico where a very large and growing oxygen void "dead zone" is killing pretty much everything in to , , ,  cry
23558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: February 12, 2009, 11:46:21 AM
Whoa!  shocked

and here's this:

FBI may shift counterterror agents to anti-fraud

The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 11, 2009; 6:05 PM

WASHINGTON -- With thousands of fraud investigations under way, the FBI is considering shifting agents away from counterterrorism work to help sort through the wreckage of the financial meltdown.

FBI Deputy Director John Pistole told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that the bureau may reassign some of the positions that were reallocated to anti-terrorism work after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Such a move would be a further sign of the government breaking with the Bush administration's priorities, which pledged to assign every available resource to averting another terrorist attack.  Pistole told Congress his investigators have 530 active corporate fraud investigations, and 38 of them involve some of the biggest names in corporate finance _ cases directly related to the current crisis.
In addition, FBI investigators are tackling an even bigger mountain of mortgage fraud cases in which hundreds of millions of dollars may have been swindled from the system, he told lawmakers.  The FBI now has more than 1,800 open mortgage fraud investigations, more than double the number of such cases just two years ago.  There are so many mortgage fraud cases to investigate, he said, that the bureau is not focusing on individual purchasers, but industry professionals generating fraud schemes that could total as much as hundreds of millions of dollars.

"It is a matter of lawyers, brokers or real estate professionals that are systematically trying to defraud the system," Pistole said.
Agents have even seen some instances of organized crime getting involved in mortgage fraud, he said.

Also appearing before the committee was Neil Barofsky, the watchdog of the government's $700 billion Wall Street rescue package passed last year.

Senate Democrats are urging more spending to expand the ranks of the FBI's financial fraud investigators.  After the 2001 terror attacks, about 2,000 FBI agents were moved to counterterrorism work, and Pistole said they are considering moving some of them back to beef up anti-fraud efforts.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., urged the FBI and the Justice Department to put people who have committed mortgage fraud behind bars.

"Most people are honest," Leahy said. "The ones who are not honest in this field are creating economic havoc and I want to make sure that we're able to go after them. I want to see people prosecuted.... Frankly, I want to see them go to jail".

Barofsky, who was appointed the inspector general of the ongoing financial bailout plan, suggested the best way to clean up mortgage fraud is to pursue licensed professionals in the industry, and make examples of them.

"They have the most to lose, they're the most likely to flip, and they make the best examples," said Barofsky, a former federal prosecutor in New York.
23559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Epidemics: Bird Flu, TB, etc on: February 12, 2009, 11:42:32 AM
That is fascinating!

I wonder if this sort of thing will meet the approval of the O-bot bureaucrats?  tongue
23560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: The tree of Liberty on: February 12, 2009, 11:40:41 AM
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Stephens Smith, 13 November 1787
23561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Torture by fellatio on: February 12, 2009, 11:35:51 AM
Female FBI officer " Tortured Mumbai terror attacks suspect with sex "


Female FBI officer 'tortured Mumbai terror attacks suspect with sex'

A female FBI officer tortured a suspect in the Mumbai terrorist attacks by performing a sex act on him during interrogation, it has been claimed.

By Ben Leach
Last Updated: 10:29PM GMT 11 Feb 2009

Fahim Ansari is accused of helping to plan the attacks in which 173 people were killed in November.

His lawyer, Ejaz Naqvi, has filed legal papers with Mumbai magistrate's court, claiming the "white woman" removed all his clothes and showed him pornographic films.  In the papers, he claims that three foreigners, including the woman, sexually abused him, causing him "severe itching and wounds" on his body, including his genitals.  Mr Ansari, a devout Muslim, claims this amounts to torture because it is against his religion, The Sun newspaper has reported.

A court in the Indian city ordered medical checks on "wounds on his private parts and all over his body."

Mr Ansari was arrested with five other suspects last year.  Police have said that he is a trained member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist organisation responsible for the Mumbai attacks.  He was detained in February last year in connection with an attack on a police camp in Rampur that left seven paramilitaries and one civilian dead.

Police have said Mr Ansari had hand-drawn maps of key Mumbai landmarks, some of which were hit in the attacks that started on 26 November.
23562  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: February 11, 2009, 08:59:50 PM
Sorry for the delay in following up.  I am informed the error was inadvertent and that all has been taken care of.

Moving forward now:


We have gotten feedback (very positive btw) and are finalizing the edit on Friday.
23563  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DLO 3 on: February 11, 2009, 08:57:18 PM
Bringing is to the top because this is going to be front and center real soon.
23564  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: February 11, 2009, 07:04:59 PM
Most of the points are good, but this simply is silly:

"Second, Obama states: “It’s not acceptable for Pakistan or for us to have folks who, with impunity, will kill innocent men, women and children.” For us? Perhaps by this bizarre statement Obama meant not only Pakistan but any country assisting terrorists must be opposed by U.S. policy, but it came out sounding as if the U.S. was somehow itself fostering terrorism."

No, you moron, his obvious intended meaning is that it is unacceptable both to Pakistan and the US to have terrorists.  While I doubt the veracity of the statement with regard to Pak, the meaning taken by this piece concerning his language with regard to the US is childish.
23565  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Stockton, CA memories on: February 11, 2009, 03:31:36 PM
Stockton hits jackpot: named America's most miserable city has ranked America's most miserable cities.. and the winner is ... Stockton!

No small feat, the magazine says.

It compiled its findings by looking at the 150 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S., and ranking them on nine factors: commute times, corruption -- the criminal conviction of government officials in the area -- as well as ''pro sports teams, Superfund sites, taxes (both income and sales), unemployment, violent crime and weather.''

And voila!

''Stockton was ground zero for the housing boom and now the subsequent bust. Home prices more than tripled between 1998 and 2005 and then came crashing down last year. Stockton had the country's highest foreclosure rate last year at 9.5%, according to RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed property.''

''Things are not looking much brighter in 2009 as housing prices are expected to fall another 36% on the heels of a 39% drop in 2008. Also, unemployment is expected to jump to 13.3% from 10.4%, according to economic research firm Moody's''

But have no fear, California wasn't shorted. Modesto came out No. 5 on the list, with other such notable friends as Chicago, Miami, Flint, Mich., and Detroit.

Why? "Unemployment has skyrocketed in Modesto with further pain to come. It is expected to average 16.7% in 2009, up from 11.4% last year. Another drawback: It has the highest car theft rate in the U.S."

So did Stockton and Modesto take an unfair hit? Or were there some other California nominees -- we can think of a few -- that were overlooked?

23566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: February 11, 2009, 03:03:18 PM
About half-way through President Obama's press conference Monday night, he had an unscripted question of his own. "All, Chuck Todd," the President said, referring to NBC's White House correspondent. "Where's Chuck?" He had the same strange question about Fox News's Major Garrett: "Where's Major?"

The problem wasn't the lighting in the East Room. The President was running down a list of reporters preselected to ask questions. The White House had decided in advance who would be allowed to question the President and who was left out.

Presidents are free to conduct press conferences however they like, but the decision to preselect questioners is an odd one, especially for a White House famously pledged to openness. We doubt that President Bush, who was notorious for being parsimonious with follow-ups, would have gotten away with prescreening his interlocutors. Mr. Obama can more than handle his own, so our guess is that this is an attempt to discipline reporters who aren't White House favorites.

Few accounts of Monday night's event even mentioned the curious fact that the White House had picked its speakers in advance. We hope that omission wasn't out of fear of being left off the list the next time.
23567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Yet another Trojan horse on: February 11, 2009, 02:36:47 PM
The "stimulus" is the bill that keeps on giving, not least for journalists. Health-care providers and patients may have a different reaction, however, when they learn that Democrats are using the bill to create a health information monopoly that will help centralize government control of the health-care market.

In theory, electronic medical records are among the few stimulus ideas that might do some actual good. Democrats and Republicans agree that exchanging the paper files we mostly use now for digital versions will lower costs, cut down on medical errors, and maybe cure the common cold.

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Both the House and Senate stimulus bills include about $20 billion in incentive payments (mainly through Medicare and Medicaid) to encourage the digitization of medical records. Fair enough. But one of the reasons only an estimated 17% to 29% of doctors use health IT is because there are still many technical issues to work out. Different systems must be compatible so doctors can communicate with each other, coordinate care and share information -- and they don't want to invest in a platform that could become as obsolete as HD-DVD.

Democrats have decided that the way to jump this gap is for government simply to pick the next Blu-Ray. Instead of building on a voluntary public-private standard-setting body created by the Bush Administration, the stimulus bill codifies it as a federal office and gives it broad new powers if private companies are not "substantially and adequately" meeting the needs of doctors and hospitals. The health IT outfit will soon be deciding which platforms are up to code and shutting down competitors.

This will certainly muffle innovation, given that high-school dropouts have been known to scam U.S. health bureaucrats out of millions of dollars that should be preventable with off-the-shelf auditing software. Anyway, what's the rush? Democrats give the game away by mandating that most medical providers who aren't linked into the government-approved health information network after 2016 will start to be penalized. Their real political goal is to make a down payment on national health care.

The stimulus actually makes it harder for doctors, hospitals and pharmacies to use health IT, under the guise of "privacy." This is especially dishonest. Insurers already know the health condition of millions of Americans from claims information, which list diagnoses, prescriptions, procedures, etc. The government does too, because it pays so many medical bills through the entitlement programs.

In its pure form, the primary purpose of health IT is to organize all this data in a useful way, so we can get a better sense of health trends and outcomes. Large insurers like Kaiser Permanente and others are starting to do just that on their own, as well as creating the data-based tools that could give consumers a better value for their health dollars. The plug could get pulled from such efforts because the faux privacy provisions are so onerous.

The true political goal is cost control. For the Pete Stark Democrats whose ambition is Medicare for all -- no exceptions -- giving government exclusive control over electronic health information and reporting is a step toward "comparative effectiveness" research. That in turn will be used to impose price controls and deny some types of medical treatment and drugs. And because government is able to skew the whole health system through Medicare and Medicaid, comparative effectiveness could end up micromanaging the practice of medicine.

If three Republican Senators are going to help pass this stimulus, the least they can do is demand that this stalking horse for government-run health care is out. We need to debate this in the open, not slip it into legislation under false cover.

23568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Czech POV on missile defense on: February 11, 2009, 01:07:39 PM
Russia Shouldn't Have a Veto on Missile Defense
European leaders relied on U.S. commitments.Article
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If the United States builds a radar system in the Czech Republic as part of the missile defense program developed by the Bush administration, it's likely that the Russians will target the Czech Republic with their tactical nuclear missiles. But many Czechs are fearful of an even greater danger than Russia: The possibility that the U.S. may decide not to deploy the defense system. Unfortunately, Vice President Joseph Biden suggested this prospect last week in Munich when he said, "We will wait for what the experts say and then we will see."

Czech politicians and their Polish counterparts have invested a lot of political capital in the missile defense project. If the Obama administration doesn't follow through, supporters of the missile shield would feel abandoned by the U.S.

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What's worse, Czech and Polish leaders would lose credibility among their opponents and, most importantly, Russia. Moscow would see the failure to build the radar system as proof of its influence over Central Europe, and as recognition of its veto power over European security policy.

Mr. Biden doesn't seem to appreciate that the missile defense project isn't just about American interests. It's about the Czechs and the Poles, too.

The Americans wanted the radar and the interceptors, and they wanted them within the borders of our countries. Our leaders went to great lengths to meet Washington's requests. They stood firm in the face of passionate protests at home and intimidation from Russia. Recently, Moscow backed down from its threat to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, but it stands ready to follow through if missile defense becomes a reality.

It's beginning to look as though the Americans were taking us for a ride. Now that there's a new driver in the White House, they think they can just drop us off at the curb.

Even if the Obama administration wants to backtrack on missile defense, doing so won't return relations with Russia to the status quo ante. This is because Russia has transformed the issue of the missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland into evidence of its growing influence. Russia has turned this into a question of its power beyond its borders.

If it weren't for Russia, there would be little difficulty in Washington's change of heart. Yet Russia's involvement makes the game a different one entirely. While several interceptors in Poland can stop individual missiles, they can't prevent a massive strike by a nuclear power like Russia. This is because the system is aimed at Iran, not Russia.

Moscow's rigid position has hardened the resolve of Prague and Warsaw, which fear that the Kremlin is attempting to dictate the limits of Czech and Polish sovereignty and foreign policy. We have experienced this before.

This, at least, is how the situation appears from the Czech point of view. I can already anticipate the Obama administration's conclusion: that missile defense is an expensive diversion with uncertain benefits and unpleasant side effects. Such an outcome is all the more likely given the global economic crisis and the difficult fiscal situation in the U.S.

There's no doubt that Russia would profit from a scenario in which the U.S. put the missile defense project on hold. Just consider the situation in Georgia last summer.

During the conflict in South Ossetia, it was alarming how many observers in the U.S. press implied that NATO enlargement was a mistake. The tone of these articles strongly suggested that expansion of the Atlantic alliance only caused the U.S. more trouble with Russia. They also implied that the U.S. and other Western powers were less than fully committed to their new eastern partners.

In this light, it's clear that American retreat on the missile defense program would hand Moscow a huge victory. Washington can't afford to leave the Czechs out in the cold.

Mr. Vodicka is senior writer for the Czech newspaper Mladá Fronta Dnes.

23569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MY: Enemy tactics on: February 11, 2009, 01:03:05 PM
23570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: February 11, 2009, 01:02:31 PM
Another slice of real life report from our man on the ground in Baghdad:
I was interviewing an Iraqi Judicial Police officer this morning.  I asked him "so have there been any attacks by prisoners inside the courtroom against judges, police, whoever?"
He responds "well there was the one time the 1-legged Afghani prisoner jumped a U.S. Army soldier trying to get his firearm."  (That would mean his M-9 Beretta pistol).  These are all terrorists, insurgents, kidnappers, murderers, show throwers, etc. 
The attack didn't go to well for the Afghani.  For the most part these attacks work better when you are operating from a 2-leg platform.  And I gather the Afghani got pounced on and subdued pretty...hmmm...overwhelmingly.
But overall that took some cojones.


As you may know, one of the things our team really took notice of at CCCI and made major efforts to address, was the cavalier manner in which the Iraqis moved and watched prisoners in the courthouse.
I went back to CCCI today for the first time in about two weeks.  Man the folks couldn't wait to give me the scoop on the goings on.
Yesterday an Iraqi prisoner at CCCI, who had just been sentenced to hang (remember if you are at CCCI you are in the major big leagues), walked away from his guards and walked up to a GI at C3 (the courthouse front entrance) begging for help in English and Arabic.  "Meester, meester.  Help me,  help me."  He was blindfolded yet could clearly still see where he was going.  Freaked out the soldier, who felt a bump against his shoulder, and turned to see this guy blindfolded.  The soldier pushed him away.  A couple of seconds later the Iraqis tackled the prisoner and dragged him down the stairs.
Seems the Iraqis were each moving different prisoners when they bumped into each other at the top of the stairs...less than 10 meters from the courthouse front door exit.  They were like "hey bro, ain't seen you in a while."  "Yeah dude, I been busy."  Kiss, kiss (the kiss each other on the cheek thing).  And I guess the bandit was like "man I need help real bad because today has been a real bad day so far."

It took me a while to get this photo. 
If you look in the sky between the two trees you can see one of Baghdad's other quirks.  What I call the mortar blimps.  They probably have a more official name.
Essentially they are part of an indirect fire detection system.   And they are tied into an audible alert system on the ground that warns of "incoming."  In theory, and it has had its value in practice, indirect fire (e.g. mortars, artillery, and I believe to a lesser detectable degree rockets) have a signature to them.  The rounds move at a certain speed.  They have a certain angulation to their trajectory.  They have a certain mass.  This combination of factors is what the equipment in this blimp is abble to detect and immediately forward as part of an early warning system.  Additionally, the network of them, if I am not mistaken, can also help in determining with pretty good precision, where the round was fired from.
Anyway on any given day if you look up in the sky you can usually see a couple of these lazily floating in the air.

Iraqi government ceases arrests among Sadrists in Diwaniya
February 10, 2009 - 04:12:29

DIWANIYA / Aswat al-Iraq: The federal government has ordered to cease arresting Sadrists in Diwaniya, the commander of the emergency brigade said on Tuesday.


“There are verbal orders issued to the emergency police by the federal government to cease arrests among Sadrists in Diwaniya,” Colonel Ghassan Mohamed Hassan told Aswat al-Iraq news agency, noting that this comes within the national reconciliation project.


He criticized statements made by some lawmakers, who said that “the emergency police’s arrest campaign against Sadrists in Diwaniya comes within political clearance, asserting that the police implement the judicial orders.


Diwaniya is 180 km south of Baghdad.

23571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An oldie but goodie on: February 11, 2009, 12:46:06 PM
Israeli Sense of Humor at UN

An ingenious example of speech and politics occurred recently in the United Nations Assembly which made the world community smile.

A representative from Israel began: 'Before beginning my talk I want to tell you something about Moses. When he struck the rock and it brought forth water, he thought, 'What a good opportunity to have a bath!'

He removed his clothes, put them aside on the rock and entered the water.

When he got out and wanted to dress, his clothes had vanished. A Palestinian had stolen them.'

The Palestinian representative jumped up furiously and shouted, 'What are you talking about? The Palestinians weren't there then.'

The Israeli representative smiled and said, 'And now that we have made that clear, I will begin my speech

stolen from:
23572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington; Madison; Adams; Jefferson; S. Adams on: February 11, 2009, 12:45:06 PM
"Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience."

--George Washington, The Rules of Civility, Circa 1748


"If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one...." --James Madison

Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it." --John Adams
"It is of great importance to set a resolution, not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth. There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible; and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good disposition."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, 19 August 1785

 "I hope our country will never see the time, when either riches or the want of them will be the leading consideration in the choice of public officers."
                      Samuel Adams, Jan 2, 1776

 "No People will tamely surrender their liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and virtue is preserved. On the contrary, when people are universally ignorant and debauched in their manners, they will sink under their own weight without the aid of foreign invaders."
                      Samuel Adams, 1775

 "I have long been convinced that our enemies have made it an object, to eradicate from the minds of the People in general a sense of true religion and virtue, in hopes thereby the more easily to carry their point of enslaving them. Indeed my friend, this is a subject so important in my mind, that I know not how to leave it. Revelation assures us that righteousness exalts a Nation; communities are dealt with in this world by the wise and just ruler of the universe. He rewards or punishes them according to their general character. The diminution of public liberty will not long survive the total extinction of morals."
                       Samuel Adams, April 30, 1776

23573  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Round 2 with Crafty in Toronto on: February 11, 2009, 12:02:05 PM
Woof All:

Another fine time in Toronto.  Once again a particularly enjoyable group to work with, and a great pleasure to see my good friend Sled Dog.

Due to my struggling with a lingering case of the cooties, we passed on working our Kali Tudo Running Dog Game (I did demo it for about 20 minutes on Sunday though) and focused mostly on various aspects of stickwork.

Due to a smaller room at the first seminar, I had not gone into Dos Triques (our double stick blend of Kali and Krabi Krabong of Thailand) which is one of the primary building blocks of the system.    This time around though we had a bigger room (thank you once again Cross Fit) and so we were able to get some good work done.   I speak of DT consisting of "mathemaniacal formulaes" -- and I suppose I could say that the stages that people go through in learning the material is a mathematical progression of its own.

Step One:  Oh, that looks really easy.
Step Two:  Ummm, , , uhhhh, , , show me that again please?
Step Three: OK, got it.
Step Four:  Ummm , , , no I don't.  I (or DT  cheesy ) must really suck.
Step Five:  OHHHH!!! I get it , , , No I don't , , , Yes I do , , ,  Light bulbs begin to light up everywhere.
Step Six:  As the rules of the formulae are understood, the practitionere begins to self-correct.
Step Seven:  Additional details are brought out
Step Eight:  Additional combinations are introduced, deepening the understanding of the formulae.

Then we see how the footwork matrix and its formulae apply in different weapon categories.

In this case we went to single stick:

1) Salt & Pepper:  "a triangle from the third dimension" (TF3D) combination series against the forehanded counter attacker
2) the Kalimba Dodger: again TF3D, this time against the forehanded "Mongo Smash" fighter
3) Outside sweep, Inside Diamond:  TF3D against the backhander

We finished on Sunday with Kali Tudo Trig 101 into outside diamond triangle angular crash-strike combination:  "Stepping throught the portal to the magical dimension where martial arts and crafts actually work" (c)

Monday morning worked with Rene and two good friends of his (Gordon, Andre) on some closed door material.

I am delighted to announce that Rene is now a DBMA Group Leader.

Walk as a Warrior for all our days,
Guro Crafty

23574  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA now on Facebook on: February 11, 2009, 01:34:12 AM
Trying to get the hang of this thing, but so far it is eluding me.  It seems to take up an incredible amount of time looking up who people are and then accepting or rejecting them.  huh huh huh
23575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Quotes, quips, and sayings on: February 11, 2009, 01:02:32 AM
Mom and dad say I should make my life an example of the principles I believe in. But every time I do, they tell me to stop it. Calvin
23576  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 10, 2009, 10:13:28 PM
"Looking to reframe"  , , , I like that. cool
23577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights on: February 10, 2009, 08:05:18 PM
WND is not my idea of a relible site, so caveat lector, but FWIW:

 8 States Introduced Resolutions Declaring State Sovereignty


8 States Introduced Resolutions Declaring State Sovereignty, 20 more States may do the same

Posted: February 06, 2009
11:50 pm Eastern

By Jerome R. Corsi
© 2009 WorldNetDaily

NEW YORK – As the Obama administration attempts to push through Congress a nearly $1 trillion deficit spending plan that is weighted heavily toward advancing typically Democratic-supported social welfare programs, a rebellion against the growing dominance of federal control is beginning to spread at the state level.

So far, eight states have introduced resolutions declaring state sovereignty under the Ninth and Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, including Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington.

Analysts expect that in addition, another 20 states may see similar measures introduced this year, including Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nevada, Maine and Pennsylvania.

"What we are trying to do is to get the U.S. Congress out of the state's business," Oklahoma Republican state Sen. Randy Brogdon told WND.  "Congress is completely out of line spending trillions of dollars over the last 10 years putting the nation into a debt crisis like we've never seen before," Brogdon said, arguing that the Obama stimulus plan is the last straw taxing state patience in the brewing sov ereignty dispute "This particular 111th Congress is the biggest bunch of over-reachers and underachievers we've ever had in Congress. A sixth-grader should realize you can't borrow money to pay off your debt, and that is the Obama administration's answer for a stimulus package," he added.

The Ninth Amendment reads, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

The Tenth Amendment specifically provides, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Brogdon, the lead sponsor of the Oklahoma state senate version of the sovereignty bill, has been a strong opponent of extending the plan to build a four-football-fields-wide Trans-Texas Corridor parallel to Interstate-35 to Oklahoma, as WND reported.

Rollback federal authority

The various sovereignty measures moving through state legislatures are designed to reassert state authority through a rollback of federal authority under the powers enumerated in the Constitution, with the states assuming the governance of the non-enumerated powers, as required by the Tenth Amendment.

The state sovereignty measures, aimed largely at the perceived fiscal irresponsibility of Congress in the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, have gained momentum with the $1 trillion deficit-spending economic stimulus package the Obama administration is currently pushing through Congress.

Particularly disturbing to many state legislators are the increasing number of "unfunded mandates" that have proliferated in social welfare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, in which bills passed by Congress dictate policy to the states without providing funding.

In addition, the various state resolutions include discussion of a wide range of policy areas, including the regulation of firearms sales (Montana) and the demand to issue drivers licenses with technology to embed personal information under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and the Real ID Act (Michigan).

Hawaii's measure calls for a new state constitutional convention to return self-governance, a complaint that traces back to the days it was a U.S. territory, prior to achieving statehood in 1959.

"We are trying to send a message to the federal government that the states are trying to reclaim their sovereignty," Republican Rep. Matt Shea, the lead sponsor of Washington's sovereignty resolution told WND.

"State sovereignty has been eroded in so many areas, it's hard to know where to start," he said. "There are a ton of federal mandates imposed on states, for instance, on education spending and welfare spending."

Shea said the Obama administration's economic stimulus package moving through Congress is a "perfect example."

"In the state of Washington, we have increased state spending 33 percent in the last three years and hired 6,000 new state employees, often using federal mandates as an excuse to grow state government," he said. "We need to return government back down to the people, to keep government as close to the local people as possible."

Shea is a private attorney who serves with the Alliance Defense Fund, a nationwide network of about 1,000 attorneys who work pro-bono. As a counter to the ACLU, the alliance seeks to protect and defend religious liberty, the sanctity of life and traditional family values.

Republican state Rep. Judy Burges, the primary sponsor of the sovereignty resolution in the Arizona House, told WND the federal government "has been trouncing on our constitutional rights. The real turning point for me was the Real ID act, which involved both a violation of the Fourth Amendments rights against the illegal searches and seizures and the Tenth Amendment," she said.

Burges told WND she is concerned that the overreaching of federal powers could lead to new legislation aimed at confiscating weapons from citizens or encoding ammunition.

"The Real ID Act was so broadly written that we are afraid that it involves the potential for "mission-creep," that could easily involve confiscation of firearms and violations of the Second Amendment," she said.

Burges said she has been surprised at the number of e-mails she has received in support of the sovereignty measure.

"We are a sovereign state in Arizona, not a branch of the federal government, and we need to be treated as such, she insisted.

23578  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for fighters for stickfighting TV series on: February 10, 2009, 06:22:47 PM
Honesty compels me to mention that I think it originally was Woody Allen.  Not one of my favorite people (indeed as the epitome of the whiny neurotic cowardly little d*cked jew I loathe him) but with this one he nailed it. 

BTW, you have PM.
23579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Justice Dept appointments on: February 10, 2009, 06:18:35 PM
President Obama has learned that choosing a Cabinet without proper vetting can produce painful headaches. The same may be said of some sub-cabinet officials at the Justice Department, now being rushed through the confirmation process. Today the Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings on Elena Kagan to be Solicitor General and Thomas Perrelli to be Associate Attorney General. Their consideration should not come at the expense of a thorough airing of their records.

Much government policy gets made at the sub-cabinet level. Attorney General Eric Holder may be on the front pages, but it is the subalterns whose work will leave a mark on the country's laws and legal policy. Last week's hearing for Deputy Attorney General David Ogden raised issues involving his work on abortion, the death penalty and obscenity cases while in private practice. Mr. Ogden told the committee he did not always share the controversial views of those he represented.

At the confirmation, Senator Jon Kyl said Mr. Ogden had "talked about the need to employ human compassion and described a tension between the rule of law and human compassion in judging cases." This resembles former Senator Obama's comment on the campaign trail that "empathy" was an important qualification for a judge. Pressed by Senator Kyl, Mr. Ogden said, "I think it's important, as I think the President does, that judges understand the circumstances of the people who are in front of them and understand the consequences of their rulings. I think that's quite important. But in the end, the law has to guide legal judgment."

In an op-ed in the Legal Times earlier in his career, Mr. Ogden wrote that "Constitutional interpretation cannot be limited to ascertain the way a particular law would have been viewed by the Framers." We'll see.

As a dean of Harvard Law School, Ms. Kagan has a thinner paper trail, though there are areas of her record the Senators should explore today, including her opposition to the Solomon Amendment. This law makes it possible to deny federal money to colleges and universities that ban military recruiters on campus -- an action Harvard Law School took under her guidance in 2004. In 2006 the Supreme Court ruled the Solomon Amendment constitutional with an 8-0 decision. Mr. Perrelli was known for his work with the Florida ACLU in defense of Terry Schiavo's husband in the hard-fought case over whether to take the Florida woman off life support.

None of these positions may trump the appropriate deference President Obama deserves in choosing those who serve him, but they qualify as legitimate information to be shared with the voters. While Mr. Obama has staked moderate positions on many issues, appointing sub-cabinet officials with more radical views amounts to a kind of back-door activism, out of view of the voters. Shortened timelines for confirmation leaves the Senate with little time to consider the thousands of pages of documents that were submitted for consideration prior to these hearings.

Complicit in this haste has been Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, who arranged the Justice hearings at lightning speed, a sharp turn from the endless stalling that marked his treatment of Bush nominees. Ms. Kagan's hearing comes only 36 days after her nomination -- a sprint compared to the average 56 days for Solicitor General nominees since 1980 or the 74 days since September 11, 2001. Similar fast reviews apply to Messrs. Perrelli and Ogden.

Elections have consequences and no one should be surprised that Mr. Obama is picking people who represent the left of the political spectrum. But Senate confirmation exists for a reason. The point is less to give Senators a veto than it is to inform the public. These people will govern in their name.
23580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Return of Welfare as we knew it. on: February 10, 2009, 06:13:36 PM
Twelve years ago, President Bill Clinton signed a law that he correctly proclaimed would end "welfare as we know it." That sweeping legislation, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, eliminated the open-ended entitlement that had existed since 1965, replacing it with a finite, block grant approach called the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.

TANF has been a remarkable success. Welfare caseloads nationally fell from 12.6 million in 1997 to fewer than five million in 2007. And yet despite this achievement, House Democrats are seeking to undo Mr. Clinton's reforms under the cover of the stimulus bill.

Currently, welfare recipients are limited to a total of five years of federal benefits over a lifetime. They're also required to begin working after two years of government support. States are accountable for helping their needy citizens transition from handouts to self-sufficiency. Critically, the funds provided to states are fixed appropriations by the federal government.

Through a little noticed provision of the stimulus package that has passed the House of Representatives, the bill creates a fund for TANF that is open-ended -- the same way Medicare and Social Security are.

In the section of the House bill dealing with cash assistance to low-income families, the authors inserted the bombshell phrase: "such sums as are necessary." This is a profound departure from the current statutory scheme, despite the fact that, in this particular bill, state TANF spending would be capped. The "such sums" appropriation language is deliberately obscure. It is a camel's nose provision intended to reverse Clinton-era legislation and create a new template for future TANF reauthorizations.

Most liberals have always disliked welfare reform; critics of TANF believed Mr. Clinton supported it only to get re-elected. Some asserted it was racist or intended to punish the poor. Others claimed that the funds to assist single mothers with child care, transportation and job training were never as generous as were allegedly promised. Today, the fact that disqualification from the program is based on failing to secure a job within two years seems especially harsh given this economic crisis.

There are legitimate objections to the program that are worth debating. But this is not an open debate: It is a near secret provision buried deep in a more than 600-page piece of legislation.

The TANF provisions of the stimulus bill, like the nearly $100 billion Medicaid provisions, are less about stimulating the economy, and more about the federal government absorbing the states' budget problems. State budgets may be swamped with those needing temporary relief, and a contingency fund could help. But it should be a definite amount, not a precedent-setting, open-ended amount. (If the initial TANF allocation is not sufficient, Congress could appropriate another definite amount.)

The offending language is not in yesterday's Senate version of the bill, but that provides little comfort. The attempt to undo welfare reform has not been transparent, and the conference committee provides the perfect closed-door environment for slipping in "such sums" language into the final bill without public scrutiny.

Welfare reform was arguably the most important legislative development of the mid-1990s. It is bad policy to jettison it with five words during an economic crisis.

All who are concerned about our nation's unfunded obligations should be on guard against attempts to slip "such sums" language into any conference committee bill. Welfare policy is too important to change with a stealth maneuver.

Mr. Sasse, former U.S. assistant secretary of Health and Human services, teaches policy at the University of Texas. Mr. Weems, former vice chairman of the American Health Information Community, held the position of administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services until last month.
23581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology on: February 10, 2009, 06:04:03 PM
James Q. Wilson
The DNA of Politics
Genes shape our beliefs, our values, and even our votes.

Radek Pietruszka/epa/Corbis

Studies of identical twins, like Polish president Lech Kaczyński, right, and former prime minister Jaroslaw, show that 40 percent of our political views have a genetic component.Children differ, as any parent of two or more knows. Some babies sleep through the night, others are always awake; some are calm, others are fussy; some walk at an early age, others after a long wait. Scientists have proved that genes are responsible for these early differences. But people assume that as children get older and spend more time under their parents’ influence, the effect of genes declines. They are wrong.

For a century or more, we have understood that intelligence is largely inherited, though even today some mistakenly rail against the idea and say that nurture, not nature, is all. Now we know that much of our personality, too, is inherited and that many social attitudes have some degree of genetic basis, including our involvement in crime and some psychiatric illnesses. Some things do result entirely from environmental influences, such as whether you follow the Red Sox or the Yankees (though I suspect that Yankee fans have a genetic defect). But beyond routine tastes, almost everything has some genetic basis. And that includes politics.

When scholars say that a trait is “inherited,” they don’t mean that they can tell what role nature and nurture have played in any given individual. Rather, they mean that in a population—say, a group of adults or children—genes explain a lot of the differences among individuals.

There are two common ways of reaching this conclusion. One is to compare adopted children’s traits with those of their biological parents, on the one hand, and with those of their adoptive parents, on the other. If a closer correlation exists with the biological parents’ traits, then we say that the trait is to that degree inherited.

The other method is to compare identical twins’ similarity, with respect to some trait, with the similarity of fraternal twins, or even of two ordinary siblings. Identical twins are genetic duplicates, while fraternal twins share only about half their genes and are no more genetically alike than ordinary siblings are. If identical twins are more alike than fraternal twins, therefore, we conclude that the trait under consideration is to some degree inherited.

Three political science professors—John Alford, Carolyn Funk, and John Hibbing—have studied political attitudes among a large number of twins in America and Australia. They measured the attitudes with something called the Wilson-Patterson Scale (I am not the Wilson after whom it was named), which asks whether a respondent agrees or disagrees with 28 words or phrases, such as “death penalty,” “school prayer,” “pacifism,” or “gay rights.” They then compared the similarity of the responses among identical twins with the similarity among fraternal twins. They found that, for all 28 taken together, the identical twins did indeed agree with each other more often than the fraternal ones did—and that genes accounted for about 40 percent of the difference between the two groups. On the other hand, the answers these people gave to the words “Democrat” or “Republican” had a very weak genetic basis. In politics, genes help us understand fundamental attitudes—that is, whether we are liberal or conservative—but do not explain what party we choose to join.

Genes also influence how frequently we vote. Voting has always puzzled scholars: How is it rational to wait in line on a cold November afternoon when there is almost no chance that your ballot will make any difference? Apparently, people who vote often feel a strong sense of civic duty or like to express themselves. But who are these people? James Fowler, Laura Baker, and Christopher Dawes studied political participation in Los Angeles by comparing voting among identical and fraternal twins. Their conclusion: among registered voters, genetic factors explain about 60 percent of the difference between those who vote and those who do not.

A few scholars, determined to hang on to the belief that environment explains everything, argue that such similarities occur because the parents of identical twins—as opposed to the parents of fraternal twins—encourage them to be as alike as possible as they grow up. This is doubtful. First, we know that many parents make bad guesses about their children’s genetic connection—thinking that fraternal twins are actually identical ones, or vice versa. When we take twins’ accurate genetic relationships into account, we find that identical twins whom parents wrongly thought to be fraternal are very similar, while fraternal twins wrongly thought to be identical are no more alike than ordinary siblings.

Moreover, studying identical twins reared apart by different families, even in different countries, effectively shows that their similar traits cannot be the result of similar upbringing. The University of Minnesota’s Thomas Bouchard has done research on many identical twins reared apart (some in different countries) and has found that though they never knew each other or their parents, they proved remarkably alike, especially in personality—whether they were extroverted, agreeable, neurotic, or conscientious, for example.

Some critics complain that the fact that identical twins live together with their birth parents, at least for a time, ruins Bouchard’s findings: during this early period, they say, parenting must influence the children’s attitudes. But the average age at which the identical twins in Bouchard’s study became separated from their parents was five months. It is hard to imagine parents teaching five-month-old babies much about politics or religion.

The gene-driven ideological split that Alford and his colleagues found may, in fact, be an underestimate, because men and women tend to marry people with whom they agree on big issues—assortative mating, as social scientists call it. Assortative mating means that the children of parents who agree on issues will be more likely to share whatever genes influence those beliefs. Thus, even children who are not identical twins will have a larger genetic basis for their views than if their parents married someone with whom they disagreed. Since we measure heritability by subtracting the similarity among fraternal twins from the similarity among identical ones, this difference may neglect genetic influences that already exist on fraternal twins. And if it does, it means that we are underestimating genetic influences on attitudes.

When we step back and look at American politics generally, genes may help us understand why, for countless decades, about 40 percent of all voters have supported conservative causes, about 40 percent have backed liberal ones, and the 20 percent in the middle have decided the elections. On a few occasions, the winning presidential candidate has won about 60 percent of the vote. But these days we call a 55 percent victory a “landslide.” It is hard to imagine a purely environmental force that would rule out a presidential election in which one candidate got 80 percent of the vote and his rival only 20 percent. Something deeper must be going on.

All of this leaves open the question: Which genes help create which political attitudes? Right now, we don’t know. To discover the links will require lengthy studies of the DNA of people with different political views. Scientists are having a hard time locating the specific genes that cause diseases; it will probably be much harder to find the complex array of genes that affects politics.

There are problems with the observed link between genes and politics. One is that it is fairly crude so far. Liberals and conservatives come in many varieties: one can be an economic liberal and a social conservative, say, favoring a large state but opposing abortion; or an economic conservative and a social liberal, favoring the free market but supporting abortion and gay rights. If we add attitudes about foreign policy to the mix, the combinations double. Most tests used in genetic studies of political views do not allow us to make these important distinctions. As a result, though we know that genes affect ideology, that knowledge is clumsy. In time, I suspect, we will learn more about these subtleties.

Further, it’s important to emphasize that biology is not destiny. Genetic influences rarely operate independently of environmental factors. Take the case of serotonin. People who have little of this neurotransmitter are at risk for some psychological problems, but for many of them, no such problems occur unless they experience some personal crisis. Then the combined effect of genetic influences and disruptive experiences will trigger a deep state of depression, something that does not happen to people who either do not lack serotonin or who do lack it but encounter no crisis. Recently, in the first study to find the exact genes that affect political participation, Fowler and Dawes found two genes that help explain voting behavior. One of the genes, influencing serotonin levels, boosts turnout by 10 percent—if the person also attends church frequently. Nature and nurture interact.

The same is probably true of political ideology. When campus protests and attacks on university administrators began in the late 1960s, it was not because a biological upheaval had increased the number of radicals; it was because such people encountered events (the war in Vietnam, the struggle over civil rights) and group pressures that induced them to take strong actions. By the same token, lynchings in the South did not become common because there were suddenly more ultra-racists around. Rather, mob scenes, media frenzies, and the shock of criminal events motivated people already skeptical of civil rights to do terrible things.

Another challenge is politicized assessment of the genetic evidence. Ever since 1950, when Theodor Adorno and his colleagues published The Authoritarian Personality, scholars have studied right-wing authoritarianism but neglected its counterpart on the left. In his study of identical twins reared apart, Bouchard concludes that right-wing authoritarianism is, to a large degree, inherited—but he says nothing about the Left. This omission is puzzling, since as Bouchard was studying twins at the University of Minnesota, he was regularly attacked by left-wing students outraged by the idea that any traits might be inherited. A few students even threatened to kill him. When I pointed this out to him, he suggested, in good humor, that I was a troublemaker.

Yet if you ask who in this country has prevented people from speaking on college campuses, it is overwhelmingly leftists. If you ask who storms the streets and shatters the windows of Starbucks coffee shops to protest the World Trade Organization, it is overwhelmingly leftists. If you ask who produces campus codes that infringe on free speech, it is overwhelmingly leftists. If you ask who invaded the classroom of my late colleague Richard Herrnstein and tried to prevent him from teaching, it was overwhelmingly leftists.

A better way to determine if authoritarianism is genetic would be to ask people what the country’s biggest problems are. Liberals might say the inequality of income or the danger of global warming; conservatives might indicate the tolerance of abortion or the abundance of pornography. You would then ask each group what they thought should be done to solve these problems. An authoritarian liberal might say that we should tax high incomes out of existence and close down factories that emit greenhouse gases. A conservative authoritarian might suggest that we put abortion doctors in jail and censor books and television programs. This approach would give us a true measure of authoritarianism, left and right, and we would know how many of each kind existed and something about their backgrounds. Then, if they had twins, we would be able to estimate the heritability of authoritarianism. Doing all this is a hard job, which may explain why no scholars have done it.

Genes shape, to varying degrees, almost every aspect of human behavior. The struggle by some activists to deny or downplay that fact is worrisome. The anti-gene claim is ultimately an ill-starred effort to preserve the myth that, since the environment can explain everything, political causes that attempt to alter the environment can bring about whatever their leaders desire.

The truth is that though biology is not destiny, neither is it an easily changed path to utopia.

James Q. Wilson, formerly a professor at Harvard and at UCLA, now lectures at Pepperdine University. In 2003, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
23582  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Job offer from State Dept on: February 10, 2009, 05:24:41 PM
State Department Seeks Shooters for Iraq, A'stan


The State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security is looking to bolster its ranks with more bodyguards to serve in high-threat areas like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Bureau yesterday posted a job ad for a new position, Security Protective Specialist. According to the help-wanted listing, these specialists will work at high-threat posts overseas, augmenting the force of Diplomatic Security special agents in protective details and motorcades.

Vacancies are available at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad; Iraq Regional Embassy Offices in Erbil, Al Hillah, Tallil and Basra; at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul; and at Consulate General in Jerusalem.

Diplomatic Security Special Agents are what's known as "Foreign Service specialists," and a job with the bureau is a career appointment. Security Protective Specialists will work on renewable one-year contracts; their positions will be "limited non-career appointments" that they can hold for a maximum of five years.

In effect, it looks like the State Department is supplementing its force of career security agents with a new crop of internal hires. The Bureau of Diplomatic Security is a relatively small force that is stretched thin; in Iraq alone, they must oversee security for nearly 1,000 personnel involved in reconstruction efforts. Diplomatic security in high-threat areas has become heavily outsourced: In July 2005, State selected three companies - Blackwater, DynCorp and Triple Canopy -- to compete for task orders under the Worldwide Personal Protective Service (WPPS) II contract, worth a potential USD1.2 billion to each contractor over a period of five years; the main WPPS II task orders are in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel.
Outsourcing security has had serious consequences. Blackwater shooters escorting a diplomatic convoy in Baghdad were involved in the 2007 Nisour Square shootings; the company is now supposed to be barred from further work in Iraq. In many respects, the backlash against contractors was a mess of State Department's making. The military often grumbled that the zealous efforts of contracted security firms to "protect the principal" were at odds with sound counterinsurgency practice (i.e., not pissing off the local population); further complicating matters, State's convoys often did not coordinate their movements with the military's operations center in Baghdad.

After the Nisour Square incident, State moved to tighten oversight of its contractors, and ordered diplomatic security agents to ride along with Blackwater convoys. These new security specialists will fill a similar role. According to the job annnouncement, the new specialists "will work in tandem with DS Special Agents (SA) to ensure that a DS supervisor is always present and involved with every protective motorcade element. The SPS or SA may act as the Detail Leader and may supervise other DS or contractor personnel."

The job offer also opens the door to ex-contractors. The announcement states: "Persons with current or recent experience in PSD [personal security detail] operations, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, are encouraged to apply."

Base pay for a Security Protective Specialist would be $52,221 per year -- much less than the six-figure pay a U.S. operator for a company like Triple Canopy, DynCorp or Blackwater would expect, but that salary figure would not include overseas allowances and pay differentials. More importantly, a federal officer would presumably the full legal protection -- something that contractors in Iraq can no longer count on.

Apply here:
23583  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for fighters for stickfighting TV series on: February 10, 2009, 04:53:14 PM

Please stop asking when the deadline is.  There isn't one.   90% of life is showing up.  The sooner you get it in, the better for you.

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm in a snarky mood today!
23584  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 10, 2009, 04:40:02 PM
Grateful to be home from a good time doing a seminar in Toronto.
23585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Determined to snatch defeat from jaws of victory on: February 10, 2009, 12:19:34 PM
S-IRAQ: Generals Seek to Reverse Obama Withdrawal Decision
By Gareth Porter*

WASHINGTON, Feb 2 (IPS) - CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus, supported by Defence Secretary Robert Gates, tried to convince President Barack Obama that he had to back down from his campaign pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months at an Oval Office meeting Jan. 21.

But Obama informed Gates, Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that he wasn't convinced and that he wanted Gates and the military leaders to come back quickly with a detailed 16-month plan, according to two sources who have talked with participants in the meeting.

Obama's decision to override Petraeus's recommendation has not ended the conflict between the president and senior military officers over troop withdrawal, however. There are indications that Petraeus and his allies in the military and the Pentagon, including Gen. Ray Odierno, now the top commander in Iraq, have already begun to try to pressure Obama to change his withdrawal policy.

Gareth Porter talks to Real News about his investigative piece for IPS.
A network of senior military officers is also reported to be preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilising public opinion against Obama's decision.

Petraeus was visibly unhappy when he left the Oval Office, according to one of the sources. A White House staffer present at the meeting was quoted by the source as saying, "Petraeus made the mistake of thinking he was still dealing with George Bush instead of with Barack Obama."

Petraeus, Gates and Odierno had hoped to sell Obama on a plan that they formulated in the final months of the Bush administration that aimed at getting around a key provision of the U.S.-Iraqi withdrawal agreement signed envisioned re-categorising large numbers of combat troops as support troops. That subterfuge was by the United States last November while ostensibly allowing Obama to deliver on his campaign promise.

Gates and Mullen had discussed the relabeling scheme with Obama as part of the Petraeus-Odierno plan for withdrawal they had presented to him in mid-December, according to a Dec. 18 New York Times story.

Obama decided against making any public reference to his order to the military to draft a detailed 16-month combat troop withdrawal policy, apparently so that he can announce his decision only after consulting with his field commanders and the Pentagon.

The first clear indication of the intention of Petraeus, Odierno and their allies to try to get Obama to amend his decision came on Jan. 29 when the New York Times published an interview with Odierno, ostensibly based on the premise that Obama had indicated that he was "open to alternatives".

The Times reported that Odierno had "developed a plan that would move slower than Mr. Obama's campaign timetable" and had suggested in an interview "it might take the rest of the year to determine exactly when United States forces could be drawn down significantly".

The opening argument by the Petraeus-Odierno faction against Obama's withdrawal policy was revealed the evening of the Jan. 21 meeting when retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, one of the authors of the Bush troop surge policy and a close political ally and mentor of Gen. Petraeus, appeared on the Lehrer News Hour to comment on Obama's pledge on Iraq combat troop withdrawal.

Keane, who had certainly been briefed by Petraeus on the outcome of the Oval Office meeting, argued that implementing such a withdrawal of combat troops would "increase the risk rather dramatically over the 16 months". He asserted that it would jeopardise the "stable political situation in Iraq" and called that risk "not acceptable".

The assertion that Obama's withdrawal policy threatens the gains allegedly won by the Bush surge and Petraeus's strategy in Iraq will apparently be the theme of the campaign that military opponents are now planning.

Keane, the Army Vice-Chief of Staff from 1999 to 2003, has ties to a network of active and retired four-star Army generals, and since Obama's Jan. 21 order on the 16-month withdrawal plan, some of the retired four-star generals in that network have begun discussing a campaign to blame Obama's troop withdrawal from Iraq for the ultimate collapse of the political "stability" that they expect to follow U.S. withdrawal, according to a military source familiar with the network's plans.

The source says the network, which includes senior active duty officers in the Pentagon, will begin making the argument to journalists covering the Pentagon that Obama's withdrawal policy risks an eventual collapse in Iraq. That would raise the political cost to Obama of sticking to his withdrawal policy.

If Obama does not change the policy, according to the source, they hope to have planted the seeds of a future political narrative blaming his withdrawal policy for the "collapse" they expect in an Iraq without U.S. troops.

That line seems likely to appeal to reporters covering the Iraq troop withdrawal issue. Ever since Obama's inauguration, media coverage of the issue has treated Obama' s 16-month withdrawal proposal as a concession to anti-war sentiment which will have to be adjusted to the "realities" as defined by the advice to Obama from Gates, Petreaus and Odierno.

Ever since he began working on the troop surge, Keane has been the central figure manipulating policy in order to keep as many U.S. troops in Iraq as possible. It was Keane who got Vice President Dick Cheney to push for Petraeus as top commander in Iraq in late 2006 when the existing commander, Gen. George W. Casey, did not support the troop surge.

It was Keane who protected Petraeus's interests in ensuring the maximum number of troops in Iraq against the efforts by other military leaders to accelerate troop withdrawal in 2007 and 2008. As Bob Woodward reported in "The War Within", Keane persuaded President George W. Bush to override the concerns of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the stress of prolonged U.S. occupation of Iraq on the U.S. Army and Marine Corps as well its impact on the worsening situation in Afghanistan.

Bush agreed in September 2007 to guarantee that Petraeus would have as many troops as he needed for as long as wanted, according to Woodward's account.

Keane had also prevailed on Gates in April 2008 to make Petraeus the new commander of CENTCOM. Keane argued that keeping Petraeus in the field was the best insurance against a Democratic administration reversing the Bush policy toward Iraq.

Keane had operated on the assumption that a Democratic president would probably not take the political risk of rejecting Petraeus's recommendation on the pace of troop withdrawal from Iraq. Woodward quotes Keane as telling Gates, "Let's assume we have a Democratic administration and they want to pull this thing out quickly, and now they have to deal with General Petraeus and General Odierno. There will be a price to be paid to override them."

Obama told Petraeus in Baghdad last July that, if elected, he would regard the overall health of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps and the situation in Afghanistan as more important than Petraeus's obvious interest in maximising U.S. troop strength in Iraq, according to Time magazine's Joe Klein.

But judging from Petraeus's shock at Obama's Jan. 21 decision, he had not taken Obama's previous rejection of his arguments seriously. That miscalculation suggests that Petraeus had begun to accept Keane's assertion that a newly-elected Democratic president would not dare to override his policy recommendation on troops in Iraq.

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in 2006.
23586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: February 10, 2009, 12:13:25 PM
A couple of major posts from David Gordon!
23587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: February 10, 2009, 11:46:09 AM
Well, tragically it certainly looks to be going that way.  The present system slandered as being free market, is actually bureaucratic madness.  We of free minds and free markets need to make the case.
Scott Grannis

Stealth Healthcare in the stimulus bill
Tom Daschle didn't make it to the HHS post, thanks to being a tax cheat, but he has left us his legacy in the form of significant legislation buried in the new stimulus bill. Read all about it here if you haven't already. It boils down to creating a new national medical database that will keep track of everyone's medical records, so that eventually a National Coordinator of Health Information Technology can ration healthcare.

Any effort by the government to implement something like single-payer or universal healthcare will inevitably result in rationing and shortages. That's just simple economics: if people don't have to pay for their own health care, costs will rise, health care services will be in short supply, and the whole system will become inefficient. To wish it would happen otherwise is fanciful.

The urge to move us to universal healthcare is based on the belief that a modern, advanced society has an obligation to ensure that everyone receives healthcare treatment; it would be unconscionable to deny anyone treatment. Well, consider what would happen if we felt the same way about food: surely no one should be allowed to starve in this age of abundance ...

If the government paid for everyone's food, imagine the consequences. Filet mignon would fly off the shelves; home refrigerators would be stocked to capacity, spoiled food routinely chucked in the trash can; competition to produce better and cheaper products would become a quaint vestige of the past; hamburger meat would pile up; food quality would decline; complaints would skyrocket. It wouldn't take long before the government created an entire bureacracy to monitor and "regulate" prices. Any mistakes in setting prices would resort in shortages or abundancies. Sound familiar?

Call your Senator now and tell him to vote against this bill!
23588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: February 10, 2009, 11:43:12 AM
The latest from Michael Yon.  Y'all may be interested to know that a couple of weeks ago his assistant here in the US has forwarded to MY some things from me.

How Much is Afghanistan Really Worth to Us?
  Next > 

10 February 2009

While we prepare to shunt perhaps 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan (which still will not be enough), Russia continues to play the Asian chessboard.  The Russians are picking off pawn after pawn, and steadily eroding our foreign policy influence with them and other Central Asian countries.  The Russians know that we need a land route through their country to Afghanistan, especially as we begin the slow process of increasing our combat presence.  The Pakistan land route is one Achilles' heel to our Afghanistan effort, and Russia is working hard to make sure that Russia is the other Achilles' heel, which will strengthen the Russian position on matters such as missile defense.  Russia, at the present rate, will eventually exercise considerable control over the spigot to Afghanistan.  The Russians are successfully wrestling us into a policy arm-lock.  While Russia takes American money and gains influence over our Afghan efforts, we will continue to spend lives and tens of billions of dollars per year on Afghanistan in an attempt to civilize what amounts to Jurassic Park.

We must start asking Russia, and others, who the true losers will be if we abandon Afghanistan and leave a resurgent Taliban to lap at their doorsteps.  I am not advocating that we abandon Afghanistan, but our own population and allies might grow weary during the long journey unfolding before us.  The direct threat to us derives far more from al Qaeda than the Taliban, and we can keep punching down al Qaeda for a lot less than it's costing to prosecute the Afghan war while abdicating significant influence to Russia.  Russia has much to worry about if NATO countries begin to abandon Afghanistan.

Some recent and unfolding examples: Russia allows transit of US military supplies

Russia is not a country given to a humanitarian spirit, and they do not cooperate on matters such as the International Space Station only for the sake of space exploration and science.  Russia can only be trusted to behave in ways that enhance Russian power and wealth.

Beyond the fact that we will need to dedicate decades or even a century to Afghanistan, no country in the neighborhood will cooperate except when it directly affects their own interests.  They will attempt to squeeze every dollar and concession from us as we help secure their neighborhoods, all while the present drug-dealing Afghan government is bucking like a mule while our government is preparing to pin a significant amount of our combat power in a landlocked country.

The sum of many factors leaves me with a bad feeling about all this.  The Iraq war, even during the worst times, never seemed like such a bog.  Yet there is something about our commitment in Afghanistan that feels wrong, as if a bear trap is hidden under the sand.

If I had not witnessed firsthand what our military accomplished in Iraq, I might think our efforts in Afghanistan are destined to fail.  But we are plainly succeeding in Iraq with the long, dark days well behind us.  Our military is proving far more capable of fighting in Afghanistan than any military in history.  The Soviets got crushed by the Mujahidin, with U.S. help.  The Taliban and associates, however, get stacked up every fighting season, though our casualties also continue to increase.  If I did not believe we could achieve success in Afghanistan, I would likely not go back.

As we enter a new fighting season in Afghanistan this year, we need to know that the President has our backs.  Not just that he is behind us, but that he is covering our six and ready to politically and economically pounce on those who hamper our efforts.  We need to know that the President is fully engaged in this fight, that he is there to win and for the long haul, that he listens and takes close counsel from our senior military, and that he has faith that we can make this process work.  But eight years from now, this thing will not be over.

We must also understand that Afghanistan is what it is. The military is acutely aware that Afghanistan is not Iraq.  The success we are seeing in Iraq is unlikely to suddenly occur in Afghanistan.  If we are to deal with moderate elements of the AOGs (armed opposition groups) we must do so from a position of strength, and this means killing a lot of them this year, to encourage the surviving “reconcilables” to be more reconcilable.

Predicting the trajectory of a war is fraught with peril, like predicting next season’s hurricanes.  Anything can happen, and often what changes the course of a war has little or nothing to do with the war.  For instance, a failing global economy, or supervention of some chain of events perhaps still unimagined could cause the Af-Pak war to become less relevant.  Caveats behind us, it seems that 2009 will see the sharpest fighting so far.  That much has been clear for some time, and 2009 is now within our headlights.  We can already resolve from the fog much of what is likely coming this year.  Imagining what is beyond the headlights, my guess is that 2010 might bring the sharpest fighting of the entire war.  My guess is that 2010-11 will likely be crucial years in this process, and that many allies will be making decisions during those years whether to stick it out or to punch out.  By the fall of 2010, we should be able to resolve whether our renewed efforts under President Obama are working or failing.

The Great Game continues, but it’s no game for the people who are fighting it.

23589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AA Laser; Army suspends Bio weapons lab on: February 10, 2009, 11:31:36 AM
US military develops anti-aircraft laser


US military develops anti-aircraft laser

The latest weapon developed by US engineers is a Humvee jeep mounted with a giant laser capable of shooting down aircraft.

By Murray Wardrop
Last Updated: 1:41AM GMT 09 Feb 2009

The Laser Avenger successfully shot down a series of unmanned aerial vehicles during recent tests and is being hailed as a revolutionary weapon for future warfare. 

The experiment was the first time that a ground vehicle has used a laser to destroy moving aircraft and marks a watershed moment in the development of lasers for battlefield use.

Invented by Boeing, the laser is fitted to a Humvee off-road vehicle, allowing it to be moved into the most remote locations to shoot down enemy planes.

It is hoped that the Laser Avenger will be used to help US forces tackle small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which often carry explosives or surveillance equipment. Such devices are difficult for conventional air defence systems to shoot down.

The complex testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, required the laser to track three UAVs against a backdrop of mountains and desert.  When the targets were sighted, the Laser Avenger successfully shot down three UAVs with its high-powered directed energy beam.

Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing Directed Energy Systems, said: "Small UAVs armed with explosives or equipped with surveillance sensors are a growing threat on the battlefield.  Laser Avenger, unlike a conventional weapon, can fire its laser beam without creating missile exhaust or gun flashes that would reveal its position. As a result, Laser Avenger can neutralize these UAV threats while keeping our troops safe."

The test firing was observed by representatives of the US Army's Cruise Missile Defense Systems project office.

The experiment follows a previous test in 2007 of a prototype Laser Avenger which obliterated improvised explosive devices and unexploded ordnance on the ground. 

Lee Gutheinz, Boeing's program director for High-Energy Laser/Electro-Optical Systems, said: "We doubled the laser power; added sophisticated acquisition, tracking and pointing capability; and simplified the design.  Boeing developed and integrated these upgrades in less than a year, underscoring our ability to rapidly respond to war-fighters' needs."

The Laser Avenger is an infrared laser with power levels in the range of tens of kilowatts.  It is a modified version of an existing US Army air defence weapon that uses two Stinger missile launchers and a heavy machine gun, with one missile pod swapped for the laser and its target tracker.

Existing weapons struggle to shoot down small, light UAVs, which are often made of plastic rather than metal, because surface to air missiles designed to target normal-sized aircraft cannot lock onto them.


NYT so caveat lector:

WASHINGTON — Army officials have suspended most research involving dangerous germs at the biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., which the F.B.I. has linked to the anthrax attacks of 2001, after discovering that some pathogens stored there were not listed in a laboratory database.

The suspension, which began Friday and could last three months, is intended to allow a complete inventory of hazardous bacteria, viruses and toxins stored in refrigerators, freezers and cabinets in the facility, the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The inventory was ordered by the institute’s commander, Col. John P. Skvorak, after officials found that the database of specimens was incomplete. In a memorandum to employees last week, Colonel Skvorak said there was a high probability that some germs and toxins in storage were not in the database.

Rules for keeping track of pathogens were tightened after the 2001 anthrax letters, which killed five people. But pressure to improve recordkeeping and security at the Army institute intensified six months ago after the suicide of Bruce E. Ivins, a veteran anthrax researcher, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s announcement that prosecutors had been preparing to charge Dr. Ivins with making the deadly anthrax powder in his laboratory there.

A spokesman for the institute, Caree Vander Linden, said an earlier review had located all the germ samples listed in the database. But she said some “historical samples” in institute freezers were not in the database, and the new inventory was intended to identify them so they could be recorded and preserved, or destroyed if they no longer had scientific value.

One scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment, said samples from completed projects were not always destroyed, and departing scientists sometimes left behind vials whose contents were unknown to colleagues. He said the Army’s recordkeeping and security were imperfect but better than procedures at most universities, where research on biological pathogens has expanded rapidly since 2001.

The suspension will interrupt dozens of research projects at the institute, whose task is to develop vaccines, drugs and other measures to protect American troops from germ attacks and disease outbreaks. Ms. Vander Linden said some critical experiments involving animals — often used to test vaccines and drugs — would not be halted.

News of the suspension, first reported Monday by the Science magazine blog ScienceInsider, comes as the Justice Department has been interviewing scientists at the Army institute to prepare the government’s legal defense against a lawsuit filed by the family of Robert Stevens, the Florida tabloid photography editor who was the first to die in the 2001 letter attacks.

That lawsuit, filed in 2003 and delayed by the government’s unsuccessful efforts to have it dismissed, accuses officials of failing to assure that anthrax bacteria at Fort Detrick and other government laboratories were securely stored. Dr. Ivins was not suspected in the attacks at that time, but the F.B.I.’s conclusion last year added new weight to the lawsuit’s claims.

The F.B.I. has released evidence of Dr. Ivins’s mental problems and of a genetic link between the mailed anthrax and a supply of the bacteria in his laboratory. But many of Dr. Ivins’s former colleagues at the Army institute have said they are not convinced that he mailed the letters.

The F.B.I. has asked the National Academy of Sciences to convene a panel of experts to review its scientific work on the case, and the bureau and academy are completing a contract for the review, said an academy spokesman, William Kearney.

The anthrax case has underscored the threat of biological attack by biodefense insiders like Dr. Ivins, who have access to pathogens and the expertise to work with them.

The number of such researchers has grown rapidly since 2001, when the anthrax letters set off a spending boom on biodefense that led to a rapid addition of laboratories working on potential bioweapons, notably anthrax.

Before 2001, only a few dozen such facilities worked with anthrax. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has registered 219 laboratories to do so, said an agency spokesman, Von Roebuck. He said 10,474 people had been cleared to work with dangerous pathogens and toxins nationwide after background checks by the Justice Department.

23590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Jay on: February 10, 2009, 09:30:09 AM
"This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a ban of brethren, united to each other by the strongest of ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties."

--John Jay, Federalist No. 2
23591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Taliban in Pakistan on: February 10, 2009, 09:26:54 AM
Its the NYT, so caveat lector:

WASHINGTON — Even as C.I.A. drone aircraft pound Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal region, there is growing concern among American military and intelligence officials about different militants’ havens in Pakistan that they fear could thwart American military efforts in Afghanistan this year.
American officials are increasingly focusing on the Pakistani city of Quetta, where Taliban leaders are believed to play a significant role in stirring violence in southern Afghanistan.

The Taliban operations in Quetta are different from operations in the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan that have until now been the main setting for American unease. But as the United States prepares to pour as many as 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan, military and intelligence officials say the effort could be futile unless there is a concerted effort to kill or capture Taliban leaders in Quetta and cut the group’s supply lines into Afghanistan.

From Quetta, Taliban leaders including Mullah Muhammad Omar, a reclusive, one-eyed cleric, guide commanders in southern Afghanistan, raise money from wealthy Persian Gulf donors and deliver guns and fresh fighters to the battlefield, according to Obama administration and military officials.

“When their leadership is where you cannot get to them, it becomes difficult,” said Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who until June was the senior American commander in Afghanistan and recently retired. “You are restrained from doing what you want to do.”

The Taliban leaders have operated from Quetta for several years, but the increasing violence in southern Afghanistan suggests that the flow of arms, fighters and money there from the Pakistani sanctuary may be increasing.

Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province, abuts the provinces in southern Afghanistan where the war’s fiercest fighting has occurred. American intelligence officials said that the dozen or so militants who were thought to make up the Taliban leadership in the area were believed to be hiding either in sprawling Afghan refugee camps near Quetta or in some of the city’s Afghan neighborhoods.

American and other Western officials have long said they suspect that Pakistani security services do little to address the presence of senior Taliban commanders in Quetta. Many of the officials would speak only on condition of anonymity because of the delicate intelligence and diplomatic issues involved.

One former intelligence official with years of experience in Afghanistan and Pakistan likened the situation to America’s difficulties during the Vietnam War, when Vietnamese guerrillas used a haven in Cambodia to bring in fresh troops and weapons.

For the past year, the top American goal in Pakistan has been to press the national government in Islamabad for help elsewhere, in killing and capturing Qaeda fighters in the tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan, who intelligence analysts say pose a direct threat to the United States.

But NATO generals and diplomats have long complained that the command and control of Taliban fighters, distinct from Qaeda insurgents, trace back to southern Pakistan, and that Pakistani security services ignore the threat. Pakistani officials have said they lack good intelligence about the specific locations of Taliban leaders, assertions that some American intelligence operatives greet with some skepticism.

“We’ve made progress going into the tribal areas and North-West Frontier Province against Al Qaeda, but we have not had a counterpart war against the Quetta shura,” said a senior Obama administration official, using the term for the Taliban’s ruling council. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said the Obama administration will adopt a tough love approach to Pakistan: threatening to cut off military aid to Islamabad unless it carries out a crackdown on militants operating throughout the country.

“Pakistan will act against any individuals involved with Al Qaeda or the Taliban about whom we have actionable intelligence,” Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, said in an interview. “The problem is we do not always get actionable intelligence in Quetta in particular. It’s a very messy area.”

Some current and former American intelligence officials are sympathetic to difficulties that the government in Islamabad faces in rounding up Taliban leaders. Baluchistan has long been an area hostile to government control, and even Pakistani spies have difficulty building a network of sources there, they said.

Last week, gunmen in Quetta kidnapped an American working for the United Nations in the city and killed his driver, leading Pakistani security officials to lock down transit routes in and out of the city.

Aides to Richard C. Holbrooke, Mr. Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American military commander in the region, said the issue of crippling the Taliban leadership was getting more attention from their bosses. Mr. Holbrooke is paying his first visit to the region this week in his new job.

The influence of the Taliban leadership over operations on the ground in Afghanistan is a matter of some debate among American commanders and intelligence analysts.


e 2 of 2)

“The Quetta shura is extremely important,” said Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, a retired former commander of American forces in Afghanistan who is advising General Petraeus on a strategic review of his region, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. “They are the intellectual and ideological underpinnings of the Taliban insurgency.”

But Gen. David D. McKiernan, currently the top military commander in Afghanistan, said in a speech in Washington in November that any assessment that said the Quetta shura’s dictates were closely followed by field commanders “gives the Taliban far too much credit for coherency at the operational and strategic level.”

“They don’t have that,” the general added.

That may be true, intelligence analysts say, but few disagree that weakening the Taliban leadership in Pakistan, coupled with achieving battlefield gains with the larger American-led force on the ground in southern Afghanistan, could begin to reverse the adverse momentum in the war.

“It would remove the ideological standard-bearer, which also provides links to external financing in the gulf,” a senior administration official said. “It wouldn’t erase the rural-based insurgency and narcotics trade in Afghanistan, but the notion is, if you can disrupt them at the top levels, it will have an impact at the bottom, down in the provinces.”

Even more intriguing, American officials say, is this prospect: diminishing the Taliban leadership in Quetta and weakening its influence over Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan might open the way to engage more moderate Taliban politically.

“The challenge has always been to exploit some cleavages between the top leadership, which we’ve ruled out of bounds in terms of reconciliation, and the layers one or two layers beneath them,” said Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former South Asia specialist for the State Department.

In recent years, there have been some significant successes in the hunt for Taliban leaders. Pakistani operatives tracked Mullah Dadullah, a senior aide to Mullah Omar, as he crossed the Afghan border in May 2007, and he was later killed by American and Afghan troops.

Yet most of the arrests in Pakistan have coincided with visits by senior American officials.

The arrest of Mullah Obeidullah, the former Taliban defense minister, in Quetta in February 2007 coincided with the visit of Vice President Dick Cheney to Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is unclear whether Mullah Obeidullah is still in Pakistani custody or was secretly released as part of a prisoner exchange to free Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, who was kidnapped last February and released three months later.

Mullah Rahim, the Taliban’s top commander in Helmand Province, was arrested in Quetta last summer two weeks after Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a top C.I.A. officer visited Islamabad to confront Pakistani leaders with evidence of ties between the country’s powerful spy service and militants operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas. But an American intelligence official said last week that Mullah Rahim was no longer in custody.

“The dilemma at the moment,” said Seth Jones, a terrorism analyst at the RAND Corporation, “is that some elements of the Pakistani government continue to support the Taliban as a proxy organization in Afghanistan.”
23592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Census on: February 10, 2009, 12:33:04 AM

President Obama said in his inaugural address that he planned to "restore science to its rightful place" in government. That's a worthy goal. But statisticians at the Commerce Department didn't think it would mean having the director of next year's Census report directly to the White House rather than to the Commerce secretary, as is customary. "There's only one reason to have that high level of White House involvement," a career professional at the Census Bureau tells me. "And it's called politics, not science."

The decision was made last week after California Rep. Barbara Lee, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Hispanic groups complained to the White House that Judd Gregg, the Republican senator from New Hampshire slated to head Commerce, couldn't be trusted to conduct a complete Census. The National Association of Latino Officials said it had "serious questions about his willingness to ensure that the 2010 Census produces the most accurate possible count."

Anything that threatens the integrity of the Census has profound implications. Not only is it the basis for congressional redistricting, it provides the raw data by which government spending is allocated on everything from roads to schools. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also uses the Census to prepare the economic data that so much of business relies upon. "If the original numbers aren't as hard as possible, the uses they're put to get fuzzier and fuzzier," says Bruce Chapman, who was director of the Census in the 1980s.

Mr. Chapman worries about a revival of the effort led by minority groups after the 2000 Census to adjust the totals for states and cities using statistical sampling and computer models. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Department of Commerce v. U.S. House that sampling could not be used to reapportion congressional seats. But it left open the possibility that sampling could be used to redraw political boundaries within the states.

Such a move would prove controversial. "Sampling potentially has the kind of margin of error an opinion poll has and the same subjectivity a voter-intent standard in a recount has," says Mr. Chapman.

Starting in 2000, the Census Bureau conducted three years of studies with the help of many outside statistical experts. According to then Census director Louis Kincannon, the Bureau concluded that "adjustment based on sampling didn't produce improved figures" and could damage Census credibility.

The reason? In theory, statisticians can identify general numbers of people missed in a head count. But it cannot then place those abstract "missing people" into specific neighborhoods, let alone blocks. And anyone could go door to door and find out such people don't exist. There can be other anomalies. "The adjusted numbers told us the head count had overcounted the number of Indians on reservations," Mr. Kincannon told me. "That made no sense."

The problem of counting minorities and the homeless has long been known. Census Bureau statisticians believe that a vigorous hard count, supplemented by adding in the names of actual people missed by head counters but still found in public records, is likely to lead to a far more defensible count than sampling-based adjustment.

The larger debate prompted seven former Census directors -- serving every president from Nixon to George W. Bush -- to sign a letter last year supporting a bill to turn the Census Bureau into an independent agency after the 2010 Census. "It is vitally important that the American public have confidence that the census results have been produced by an independent, non-partisan, apolitical, and scientific Census Bureau," it read.

The directors also noted that "each of us experienced times when we could have made much more timely and thorough responses to Congressional requests and oversight if we had dealt directly with Congress." The bill's chief sponsor is New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who represents Manhattan's Upper East Side.

"The real issue is who directs the Census, the pros or the pols," says Mr. Chapman. "You would think an administration that's thumping its chest about respecting science would show a little respect for scientists in the statistical field." He worries that a Census director reporting to a hyperpartisan such as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel increases the chances of a presidential order that would override the consensus of statisticians.

The Obama administration is downplaying how closely the White House will oversee the Census Bureau. But Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insists there is "historical precedent" for the Census director to be "working closely with the White House."

It would be nice to know what Sen. Gregg thinks about all this, but he's refusing comment. And that, says Mr. Chapman, the former Census director, is damaging his credibility. "He will look neutered with oversight of the most important function of his department over the next two years shipped over to the West Wing," he says. "If I were him, I wouldn't take the job unless I had that changed."
23593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: Ukraine for sale on: February 10, 2009, 12:27:41 AM
The Russian Finance Ministry announced Feb. 9 that its Ukrainian counterpart requested a $5 billion loan from Moscow to cover Kiev’s budget deficit. Coupled with the International Monetary Fund’s wariness of disbursing a second tranche ($1.9 billion) of a $16.5 billion loan agreed upon in November 2008, this move indicates the seriousness of Ukraine’s financial state. It also highlights Ukraine’s more fundamental economic problems, showing that Kiev ultimately will fall into the orbit of whichever country can come to its aid financially.

Ukraine made an official request to Russia on Feb. 9 for a $5 billion loan to make up for a decrease in budget revenues, the Russian Finance Ministry announced. Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko has also asked the leaders of the world’s richest countries for emergency loans, citing the difficulties her country faces as a result of the global financial crisis.

Kiev began its frantic search for loans from “powerful and financially stable countries” after a visit by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation the week of Feb. 1 that did not go well at all. The IMF typically works by doling out loans to troubled countries in tranches, usually attached with strict conditions designed for macroeconomic stabilization. Ukraine received its first such tranche of $4.5 billion (out of a total loan of $16.5 billion) in November. But Kiev has failed to live up to the loan’s requirements, which include a deficit-free budget for 2009 — the budget has a 3 percent deficit — and a curtailing of social spending. The latter is an especially dangerous task politically, with Ukrainian unemployment figures soaring above the 1 million mark (out of a population of 46 million) and presidential elections slated for early 2010. Because of Ukraine’s shortcomings, the IMF delegation made no promises that a second tranche would be coming in the near future.

But Ukraine as a country is fundamentally broken, and its economy — which was far from stable even before the global economic crisis — will not be fixed easily with loans from the IMF, Russia or the West. The Ukrainian government is essentially at odds with itself, split between the pro-Russian and pro-Western movements. The country’s political and economic institutions need more than small tweaks, and until they are radically reformed — which would be tremendously difficult to pull off socially — Kiev cannot do without outside assistance. And whoever provides this assistance will hold the most influence over Ukraine.

This reality is only intensified by the financial crisis. Kiev depends heavily on manufacturing and industry for its government revenues, and as of December 2008, industrial production had dropped more than 26 percent year on year. Ukraine’s currency has fallen dramatically since last summer, losing nearly a third of its value, and the country’s gross domestic product for 2009 is expected to contract 5 percent.

Financial assistance does not necessarily need to come from the Russians; Kiev simply needs to find whoever will help its economy survive. Previously, Russia’s influence in Ukraine was underwritten by natural gas prices that were well below what the Europeans were charged. However, Russia raised those prices significantly, causing a monthlong standoff that affected much of Europe and created more economic problems for Kiev. Though Kiev paid its natural gas bill for January, a representative of Ukrainian energy giant Naftogaz said the renegotiated prices will cause Ukraine to go bankrupt. Currently, the Europeans are in no financial position to bail out Ukraine, so Kiev is calling on Moscow to alleviate Ukraine’s financial pains.

To be able to proceed, with the IMF’s assistance, in trying to tackle its myriad economic problems, Ukraine must first take care of its budget deficit — hence the request to Russia for a $5 billion loan, which would roughly cover the deficit. Any Russian assistance, however, will come with strings attached. While the natural gas situation remains shaky and tense, a $5 billion loan would effectively draw Kiev further into Russia’s orbit. And with political infighting and instability the norm in Ukraine, Russia will be sure to take advantage of Kiev’s financial weaknesses in any way that it can. This essentially means that Ukraine will be divorced from its Western leanings and will move firmly into Russia’s sphere of influence, both economically and politically.

23594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Quiet moves in the great game on: February 10, 2009, 12:25:08 AM
It appears that quite a few pieces in the U.S.-Russian game moved this past weekend and Monday at the Munich Security Conference. Though the public negotiations between U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov were tense, both men left the meeting talking favorably about the U.S.-Russian relationship. But there was another American powerhouse in Munich, and not by coincidence.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was at the conference to accept an award for his past role on the international stage — yet Kissinger’s principal role on that stage appears to be ongoing. U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration virtually subcontracted Kissinger to deal with the Russians well before Obama’s inauguration took place. Kissinger has a long and sordid history with the Russians. He is a Cold War veteran who understands what Russia wants and what it is willing to trade to get it — an essential skill for any successful negotiations, and something the Russians respect.

Kissinger quietly visited Moscow on behalf of Obama in December, meeting casually with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and secretly with the real dealmaker, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Now he has returned to the negotiating table in Munich. But Kissinger has never been recognized formally as part of Obama’s plan. This is because Kissinger isn’t formally part of the U.S. government, and as a Republican from the Nixon administration he is despised by many within Obama’s party.

But these are hardly the only meetings that affect the Russians. Biden met with the Russians in Munich to discuss the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I). U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus toured the Central Asian states to broker a deal on new routes to Afghanistan without taking into account the larger deal on the table with Russia. And U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is being as active as one would expect the secretary of state to be. Not only are members of Obama’s public team taking on different issues, but none of the talks seem to fit together into a holistic plan. Put another way, Moscow feels it is receiving schizophrenic signals from such a scattered approach.

If anything, such an approach is undermining the Kissinger effort, which is attempting to forge some sort of grand bargain that includes the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, the soon-to-expire START, NATO expansion to Ukraine and Georgia, U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations slated for Poland and Czech Republic, Russia’s push for preeminence in Central Asia and routes for NATO supplies through former Soviet turf to Afghanistan.

Thus far in the talks, Kissinger has not budged on any major items of friction. This is certainly something that has gotten the Russians’ attention; they were pretty sure they held the upper hand. In fact, Kissinger has explicitly noted that the United States had no intention of trading an Afghanistan supply route for recognition — in public or private — of a Russian sphere of influence.

The Russian leadership is well aware that it is operating on borrowed time. The Russian demographic picture is nothing short of horrid, but there is a bit of a respite as Russians born during the 1980s Soviet baby boom are now having their own kids. This is slightly delaying the enervating impact of a population that is simultaneously dwindling and aging. But after the next three to five years, all trends are down. This is not to say Russia as a state will die in the next few years, but instead that it needs to push back Western influence as far as possible before Russia’s (probably terminal) decline begins. So it looks as if the Russians are pulling back from demanding a deal on the entire picture and working from the short list of items which are most critical because these are the items that change the strategic picture in ways that most worry the Russians.

That list consists of NATO expansion, BMD and START. The NATO item is fairly self-explanatory: every country that joins NATO is one less that can be a buffer between NATO and Russia. But BMD is a more complex issue. Russia’s real concern with BMD in Poland is not the BMD systems, but U.S. boots on the ground in a former Warsaw Pact buffer state. It is uncomfortably close for Moscow. While Russia is certainly uncomfortable with the long-term trajectory and implications of a renewed American focus on BMD, in this case, Russia is using BMD mostly to publicly attack developments on the world stage, harkening back to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

But the granddaddy of them all is START. Renewing the treaty would keep the Russians and the Americans at precisely the same level of strategic nuclear arms. This is far more than simply ego. START allows Russia to demand American attention at any time on any strategic issue — that’s what happens when the other guy has as many nukes as you do.

U.S. policy for the past decade has been that START does not need to be renewed (it expires in December) because the Russians cannot afford the price in dollars or skilled manpower to maintain their deterrent. Why bother negotiating a treaty that will limit American policy options when there is no need to give concessions to the Russians? From the Russian point of view, a continuation of START limits the Americans and keeps the Russians in the game. But an end to START forces the Russians to compete on everything, and there are not a lot of fields in which the Russians can consistently succeed against the combined West.

And so the willingness of Kissinger, Biden and Clinton all to put START on the negotiating table is a gesture that the Russians could not fail to notice. In fact, negotiations seem to already be affected. Russia gave a little on the U.S. plans for a Central Asia route to Afghanistan: On Feb 9, Kazakhstan — which hardly even breathes these days without checking with the Kremlin — announced that it will allow American military shipments to Afghanistan. Just a small glimpse of what it might look like to work with the Russians.
23595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: What happened to promise to cut cap gains? on: February 10, 2009, 12:21:12 AM
One question we wish someone had asked President Obama at last night's press conference is this: Why doesn't his economic stimulus bill include his own campaign proposal to eliminate the capital-gains tax for small businesses? The House bill omits it entirely, and the Senate version offers a rate reduction to 7% from the current 14%, but only on investments made in the next two years. That lower rate would apply to less than 2% of all capital gains.

Mr. Obama's original promise to cancel the capital gains tax for small enterprises was highlighted on his campaign Web site under "Small Business Emergency Rescue Plan." A few weeks before the election, advisers Austan Goolsbee and Jason Furman touted their boss's pro-growth credentials by noting in this newspaper that "he is proposing additional tax cuts" that included "the elimination of capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups."

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The revenue loss would be minimal, especially as compared to the rest of the $800 billion spend-a-thon, because any untaxed gains would only be realized well into the future. We'd prefer an across-the-board capital gains cut rather than a targeted reduction. But the proposal would at least signal some Democratic interest in encouraging businesses to take risks again -- the only way the economy is going to recover.

So what happened? We're told the obstacle is House Democrats, who oppose any cut in capital gains tax rates. The objection seems to be wholly ideological, a concern that such a cut -- even for start-ups, rather than for current capital holdings -- would validate Republican tax-cutters. The White House decided not to fight Democrats to add the President's own pro-growth idea to a bill whose supposed purpose is to promote growth. This looks like an early example of Mr. Obama repeating a mistake that President Bush made too often -- refusing to challenge a Congress run by his own party.

23596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO fails to impress on: February 10, 2009, 12:19:34 AM
Barack Obama has now been president for 21 days, following an inauguration that was supposed to have pressed the reset button on America's relations with the wider world and ushered in a new period of global cooperation against common threats. Here's what pressing reset has accomplished so far:

- Iran. Since President Obama's inauguration, Iran has launched a satellite into space and declared (with an assist from Russia, which is providing the nuclear fuel) that it would complete its long-delayed reactor at Bushehr later this year. At the Munich Security Conference last week, Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani promised a "golden opportunity for the United States" in its relations with the Islamic Republic. He proceeded to make good on that opportunity by skipping Joe Biden's speech the next day.

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Also, as if to underscore that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust-denial is merely emblematic of his regime's outlook, Mr. Larijani offered that there could be "different perspectives on the Holocaust." Mr. Larijani is widely described as a "moderate."

- Afghanistan. This is the war Mr. Obama has said "we have to win" -- as opposed to Iraq. Our NATO allies are supposed to feel the same way.

So what was NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer doing at the Munich conclave? Why, reproaching our allies. "When the United States asks for a serious partner, it does not just want advice, it wants and deserves someone to share the heavy lifting," he said.

But the plea fell on deaf ears. Germany will not, and probably cannot, commit more than 4,500 soldiers to Afghanistan, and then only to areas where they are unlikely to see combat. The French have no plans to increase their troop commitment beyond the 3,300 now there. Mr. Obama, by contrast, may double the U.S. commitment to 60,000 troops.

- North Korea. A constant liberal lament about the Bush administration was that its supposed hard line on Pyongyang had yielded nothing except five or six North Korean bombs.

So what is Kim Jong Il to do now that the Obama administration is promising a friendlier approach? In late January, Pyongyang announced it was unilaterally withdrawing from its 1991 nonaggression pact with the South.

Satellite imagery later showed the North moving a Taepodong 2 missile -- potentially capable of reaching the U.S. West Coast -- to a launch pad. "The missile is pointing at Obama," Baek Seung-joo, a director at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul, told the L.A. Times. "North Korea thinks that with such gestures they can control U.S. foreign policy."

- Pakistan. Perhaps the most unambiguous of the Bush administration's successes was rolling up the nuclear proliferation network of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, who was kept under house arrest for five years.

But if some latent fear of the 43rd American president prevented the Pakistani government from releasing their dubious national hero, that fear clearly vanished with the arrival of the 44th. Mr. Khan was released last week, ostensibly by order of a Pakistani court, plainly with the consent of the government. So far, the Obama administration has done little more than issue a muted statement of concern.

- Russia. At the Munich conference, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov praised the "very positive" tone set by Mr. Biden. And Mr. Ivanov's tone? Less positive. Russia will continue to build military bases in Georgia's breakaway republics. It will press ahead with the fueling of the Bushehr reactor.

Russia also won't hesitate to complicate the U.S. position in Afghanistan -- and then lie about what it has done in a manner worthy of the late Andrei Gromyko. "There is no correlation between the decision of the Kyrgyz republic and the loans that the Russian federation granted," Mr. Ivanov said, referring to Kyrgyzstan's oddly timed decision to close an airbase used by the U.S. to supply Afghanistan after securing a $2 billion Russian "loan."

- The Arab street. "I have Muslim members of my family," Mr. Obama recently told Al-Arabiya. Yet so far his efforts at outreach have been met with derision from Arab hard-liners and "liberals" alike.

"We welcomed him with almost total enthusiasm until he underwent his first real test: Gaza," wrote Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany in a New York Times op-ed. "We also wanted Mr. Obama . . . to recognize . . . the right of people in occupied territory to resist military occupation." In other words, the price of Arab support for Mr. Obama is that he embrace Hamas and its terrorist tactics.

And so it goes. True, Mr. Obama has made the U.S. popular in places like Montreal and Berlin, where our unpopularity never mattered much to begin with. But foreign policy is not about winning popularity contests. And woe to the president who imagines he needn't inspire fear among the wicked even as he embraces the adulation of the good.

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23597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Tenth/10th Amendment: States Rights on: February 10, 2009, 12:12:22 AM
Although the term has negative connotations for many of us due to its historical interactions with slavery and segregation, States Rights are a essential feature of the American Creed.  With the massive expansion of the federal government being assayed by our President and Congress, it seems the matter of the States' rights under the Constitution is going to be a very hot area.  This thread is for discussion of such matters.

I kick things off with an article by a group about which I know nothing yet.

State Sovereignty is Starting to Steamroll
From The Constitution Party

States Tell Feds: “Back Off!”

Legislatures Cite 10th Amendment In Strong Reminder To D.C.

Lancaster, PA (February 7, 2009) A growing number of state legislatures across the country have put the federal government on notice that the United States Constitution gives states the authority to say: “Thus far and no farther!”

Bills introduced in states, including Washington, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Arizona, defend state sovereignty as guaranteed by the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution which states: .... The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The Constitution Party supports and encourages the effort of individual states to re-affirm that the U.S. Constitution explicitly guarantees certain rights cannot be usurped by the federal government. “The state sovereignty movement is picking up steam,” noted Constitution Party National Committee Chairman Jim Clymer. “The duopoly that controls our federal government has gotten out of hand. Republicans and Democrats alike have been guilty of trampling states’ rights for generations. Finally, elected officials in state legislatures across the country are pushing back,” Clymer added.

D.C.’s blatant disregard for the Constitution has raised the hackles of responsible elected state officials. The effort to restore State Sovereignty is gaining momentum.

Several states have tied their State Sovereignty bills to other constitutionally-protected rights including 2nd Amendment gun owners’ rights and the 14th Amendment right to Life. The Montana State Sovereignty bill , authored by Republican State Representative Joel Boniek, sets the stage for a showdown with the federal government over gun owners’ rights.

It invokes the 9th Amendment as well: .... The regulation of intrastate commerce is vested in the states under the 9th and 10th amendments to the United States constitution, particularly if not expressly preempted by federal law. Congress has not expressly preempted state regulation of intrastate commerce pertaining to the manufacture on an intrastate basis of firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition.

The bill adds a stronger caveat: .... A personal firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately in Montana and that remains within the borders of Montana is not subject to federal law or federal regulation, including registration, under the authority of congress to regulate interstate commerce.

In Oklahoma, Republican State Representative Charles Key authored his second state sovereignty bill, HJR 1089 (reintroduced as HJR 1003) using words like “cease and desist.” Key has been a vocal opponent of such overreaching federal dictates as the No Child Left Behind and Real ID Acts for being unconstitutional, state sovereignty-stealing mandates from D.C.. The bill has been referred to the Oklahoma House Rules Committee.

In Missouri, Republican State Representative Cynthia Davis brought the issue of abortion into the State Sovereignty issue with HR 294. The bill (formerly HR 212), states: Missouri's sovereignty (exists) under the Tenth Amendment and (the state) urges the United States Congress to reject the passage of the federal Freedom of Choice Act which prohibits regulations on abortion.
Michigan Republican State Representative Paul Opsommer authored State Sovereignty bill HCR 4 which aims to: … (A)ffirm Michigan’s sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and to urge the federal government to halt its practice of imposing mandates upon the states for purposes not enumerated by the Constitution of the United States.

The State Sovereignty statement in Arizona’s HCR 2034 bares its teeth calling for dissolution of the federal government in the event: …(The) President of the United States, the Congress of the United States or any other federal agent or agency declares the Constitution of the United States to be suspended or abolished, if the President or any other federal entity attempts to institute martial law or its equivalent without an official declaration in one or more of the states without the consent of that state or if any federal order attempts to make it unlawful for individual Americans to own firearms or to confiscate firearms, the State of Arizona, when joined by thirty-four of the other fifty states, declares as follows: that the states resume all state powers delegated by the Constitution of the United States and assume total sovereignty; that the states re-ratify and re-establish the present Constitution of the United States as the charter for the formation of a new federal government, to be followed by the election of a new Congress and President Washington, and New Hampshire similarly put the feds on notice that the United States Constitution and all its amendments are there for a reason - to keep a centralized government from overstepping its bounds and to protect the rights of American citizens.

The Constitution Party encourages Americans across the political spectrum to contact their state representatives and tell them to uphold the Constitution with a 10th Amendment bill for their state!
Copyright © 2009 Constitution Party,
23598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / illegals sue rancher on: February 10, 2009, 12:07:06 AM
16 illegals sue Arizona rancher

An Arizona man who has waged a 10-year campaign to stop a flood of illegal immigrants from crossing his property is being sued by 16 Mexican nationals who accuse him of conspiring to violate their civil rights when he stopped them at gunpoint on his ranch on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Roger Barnett, 64, began rounding up illegal immigrants in 1998 and turning them over to the U.S. Border Patrol, he said, after they destroyed his property, killed his calves and broke into his home.   His Cross Rail Ranch near Douglas, Ariz., is known by federal and county law enforcement authorities as "the avenue of choice" for immigrants seeking to enter the United States illegally.

Trial continues Monday in the federal lawsuit, which seeks $32 million in actual and punitive damages for civil rights violations, the infliction of emotional distress and other crimes. Also named are Mr. Barnett's wife, Barbara, his brother, Donald, and Larry Dever, sheriff in Cochise County, Ariz., where the Barnetts live. The civil trial is expected to continue until Friday.   The lawsuit is based on a March 7, 2004, incident in a dry wash on the 22,000-acre ranch, when he approached a group of illegal immigrants while carrying a gun and accompanied by a large dog.

Attorneys for the immigrants - five women and 11 men who were trying to cross illegally into the United States - have accused Mr. Barnett of holding the group captive at gunpoint, threatening to turn his dog loose on them and saying he would shoot anyone who tried to escape.   

The immigrants are represented at trial by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which also charged that Sheriff Dever did nothing to prevent Mr. Barnett from holding their clients at "gunpoint, yelling obscenities at them and kicking one of the women."

In the lawsuit, MALDEF said Mr. Barnett approached the group as the immigrants moved through his property, and that he was carrying a pistol and threatening them in English and Spanish. At one point, it said, Mr. Barnett's dog barked at several of the women and he yelled at them in Spanish, "My dog is hungry and he's hungry for buttocks."

The lawsuit said he then called his wife and two Border Patrol agents arrived at the site. It also said Mr. Barnett acknowledged that he had turned over 12,000 illegal immigrants to the Border Patrol since 1998.

In March, U.S. District Judge John Roll rejected a motion by Mr. Barnett to have the charges dropped, ruling there was sufficient evidence to allow the matter to be presented to a jury. Mr. Barnett's attorney, David Hardy, had argued that illegal immigrants did not have the same rights as U.S. citizens.

Mr. Barnett told The Washington Times in a 2002 interview that he began rounding up illegal immigrants after they started to vandalize his property, northeast of Douglas along Arizona Highway 80. He said the immigrants tore up water pumps, killed calves, destroyed fences and gates, stole trucks and broke into his home.  Some of his cattle died from ingesting the plastic bottles left behind by the immigrants, he said, adding that he installed a faucet on an 8,000-gallon water tank so the immigrants would stop damaging the tank to get water.

Mr. Barnett said some of the ranch´s established immigrant trails were littered with trash 10 inches deep, including human waste, used toilet paper, soiled diapers, cigarette packs, clothes, backpacks, empty 1-gallon water bottles, chewing-gum wrappers and aluminum foil - which supposedly is used to pack the drugs the immigrant smugglers give their "clients" to keep them running.
He said he carried a pistol during his searches for the immigrants and had a rifle in his truck "for protection" against immigrant and drug smugglers, who often are armed.

A former Cochise County sheriff´s deputy who later was successful in the towing and propane business, Mr. Barnett spent $30,000 on electronic sensors, which he has hidden along established trails on his ranch. He searches the ranch for illegal immigrants in a pickup truck, dressed in a green shirt and camouflage hat, with his handgun and rifle, high-powered binoculars and a walkie-talkie.
His sprawling ranch became an illegal-immigration highway when the Border Patrol diverted its attention to several border towns in an effort to take control of the established ports of entry. That effort moved the illegal immigrants to the remote areas of the border, including the Cross Rail Ranch.

"This is my land. I´m the victim here," Mr. Barnett said. "When someone´s home and loved ones are in jeopardy and the government seemingly can´t do anything about it, I feel justified in taking matters into my own hands. And I always watch my back."
23599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 09, 2009, 08:56:53 AM
A pleasure to see a serious effort at answering my questions!

I'm on the road at the moment so a long thoughtful post is not possible at the moment, so I simply begin the conversation about this piece by noting my doubts about his perceptions of Pakistan.  Is Pak's IS part of the problem?  Are young officers in the army part of the problem?

Any comments on this piece?
23600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "Reformist" to run? on: February 09, 2009, 07:03:56 AM
Reformist to stand against Ahmadinejad in Iran election

Ian Black in Tehran
The Guardian, Monday 9 February 2009

Muhammad Khatami, Iran's leading reformist, has said he will stand against the hardline Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in this summer's elections, opening up the prospect of significant change that could bring improved relations with the US.

Khatami, 65, ended months of speculation when he told supporters in Tehran yesterday: "I strongly announce my candidacy in the elections. Is it possible to remain indifferent toward the revolution's fate and shy away from running?"

Analysts said the decision would mean a dramatic contest in June, offering voters a candidate who promoted liberalisation at home and accommodation with the west when he served as president for two terms from 1997-2005 during the so-called "Tehran spring".

Ahmadinejad, the incumbent, is blamed for economic mismanagement and for isolating Iran by backing militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah and by his strident attacks on Israel.

In an optimistic scenario, if Khatami became president again he could be the leader who, in the words of Barack Obama, would "unclench the fist" and improve Iran's strained relations with the US and the west. That would clearly have to include agreement to defuse the row over the country's nuclear ambitions. Iran says it wants to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes but it is suspected of seeking to build nuclear weapons.

"The differences between Khatami and Ahmadinejad are bigger than between Obama and McCain," said Mustafa Tajzad, a former minister. "The results of the Iranian election will matter for the whole world."

Khatami has condemned his rival's "aggressive and blistering rhetoric", saying it "plays into the hands of the enemy, harming the country and the system."

Analysts and diplomats are divided over his chances of beating Ahmadinejad, so far supported by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who makes all key decisions.

Muhammad Atrianfar, a close ally, told the Guardian he believed Khatami could win. "We feel instinctively that people are reformists now, especially after such bad government by Ahmadinejad. Poor people who used to support him have turned against him."

Unofficial polling shows Khatami would beat the incumbent by a two-to-one margin, but an unusually big turnout - in the face of widespread voter apathy - would be needed to ensure victory.

Some fear Khatami may have harmed his chances by hesitating for so long over whether to throw his hat into the ring, reinforcing his image as a has-been.
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