Dog Brothers Public Forum
Return To Homepage
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
November 26, 2015, 07:13:19 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
Welcome to the Dog Brothers Public Forum.
90480 Posts in 2291 Topics by 1080 Members
Latest Member: Tedbo
* Home Help Search Login Register
  Show Posts
Pages: 1 ... 470 471 [472] 473 474 ... 700
23551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: October 26, 2009, 10:58:10 AM
The Foundation
"But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever." --John Adams

You can either support Democrat health care or the Constitution ... but not both

"At the heart of the American idea is the deep distrust and suspicion the founders of our nation had for government, distrust and suspicion not shared as much by today's Americans. Some of the founders' distrust is seen in our Constitution's language such as Congress shall not: abridge, infringe, deny, disparage, violate and deny. If the founders did not believe Congress would abuse our God-given rights, they would not have provided those protections. After all, one would not expect to find a Bill of Rights in Heaven; it would be an affront to God. Other founder distrust for government is found in the Constitution's separation of powers, checks and balances and the several anti-majoritarian provisions such as the Electoral College and the requirement that three-quarters of state legislatures ratify changes in the Constitution. The three branches of our federal government are no longer bound by the Constitution as the framers envisioned and what is worse is American ignorance and acceptance of such rogue behavior. Look at the current debate over government involvement in health, business bailouts and stimulus packages. The debate centers around questions as whether such involvement is a good idea or a bad idea and whether one program is more costly than another. Those questions are entirely irrelevant to what should be debated, namely: Is such government involvement in our lives permissible under the U.S. Constitution? That question is not part of the debate. The American people, along with our elected representatives, whether they're Republicans or Democrats, care less about what is and what is not permissible under our Constitution. They think Congress has the right to do anything upon which they can secure a majority vote, whether they have the constitutional or moral authority to do so or not." --George Mason economics professor Walter E. Williams

"Can President Barack Obama and Congress enact legislation that orders Americans to buy broccoli? If so, where did they get that authority? What provision in the Constitution empowers the federal government to order an individual to buy a product he does not want? This is not a question about nutrition. It is not a question about whether broccoli is good for you or about the relative merits of broccoli versus other foods. It is a question about the constitutional limits on the power of the federal government. It is a question about freedom. Can President Obama and Congress enact legislation that orders Americans to buy health insurance? They might as well order Americans to buy broccoli. They have no legitimate authority to do either. Yet neither Obama nor the current leadership in Congress seems to care about the constitutional limits on their power. They are now attempting to exert authority over the lives of Americans in a way no president and Congress has done before. ... All versions of the health care bill under consideration in Congress would order Americans to buy health insurance. If any of these bills is enacted, the first thing it would accomplish is the amputation of a vital part of our Constitution, and the death of another measure of our liberty." --columnist Terence Jeffrey

Faith & Family
"Hard work and self-denial were part of our national character -- actually our Christian heritage. In recent years, the 'sound economic values' have eroded. ... But the problem, you see, is that values and the character they produce aren't divisible. People will not exercise restraint in their economic dealings while casting off restraints in their sexual and social ones. ... Or turn on the television. There, people are indulging every sexual desire in the midst of a consumerist paradise -- big homes, expensive cars and fashionable clothes. You can do anything you want. The 'Calvinist restraint' ... didn't preach chastity or thrift; rather it preached chastity and thrift. That's because it saw both as proceeding from a common source: the Christian understanding of man's nature and the purpose for which God created him. If you try to have the one without the other, you will get neither. Far from being obsolete, the old culture war is more relevant than ever. Restoring moral values across the board is essential to rescue a sagging economy as well as renew our nation's spirit." --author Chuck Colson

"Quick: when I say 'Matthew Shepard,' what do you think? A man killed because he was gay? Or just some poor sap in the wrong place at the wrong time? More on that in a minute. Hate crime legislation aimed at making it a federal crime to assault someone for being a homosexual passed the House last week, and could be on its way to becoming law. It sounds great, doesn't it? Who wouldn't be against a law that would prosecute someone for targeting another person based on bigotry and bias? What could be wrong with this scenario? Plenty. I'm all for prosecuting criminals for their acts, especially violent criminals. I'm pro-death penalty, if truth be told. I figure that if you deliberately take someone else's life, you should pay by forfeiting yours. Not very PC of me, but there you have it. However, it bothers me that individuals may soon be prosecuted for not just the crime, but the 'behind the scenes' thoughts that may have contributed to that crime. ... When we begin to prosecute for the thoughts behind the crime, we open a very wiggly can of worms that can't be shut again. ... Thanks to the pop culture myth that helped perpetrate the false reason for Matthew Shepard's senseless death, we could now all be facing regulations that resemble '1984' more than they do 'Land of the Free.' Is this really the direction in which we want to head?" --columnist Pam Meister

The Gipper
"Our party must be the party of the individual. It must not sell out the individual to cater to the group. No greater challenge faces our society today than ensuring that each one of us can maintain his dignity and his identity in an increasingly complex, centralized society. Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business ... frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise. They are the residue of centralized bureaucracy, of government by a self-anointed elite. Our party must be based on the kind of leadership that grows and takes its strength from the people. Any organization is in actuality only the lengthened shadow of its members. A political party is a mechanical structure created to further a cause. The cause, not the mechanism, brings and holds the members together. And our cause must be to rediscover, reassert and reapply America's spiritual heritage to our national affairs. Then with God's help we shall indeed be as a city upon a hill with the eyes of all people upon us." --Ronald Reagan

Opinion in Brief
"President Obama keeps roaring out deadlines like a lion -- only later to meow like a little kitty. Remember, for example, how he bellowed to cheering partisan crowds that he would close down the detainment facility at Guantanamo within a year? The clock ticks -- and Guantanamo isn't close to being shut down. It once was easy for candidate Obama to deplore George W. Bush's supposed gulag. Now it proves harder to decide between the bad choice of detaining non-uniformed terrorist combatants and the worse ones of letting them go, giving them civilian trials or deporting them to unwilling hosts. Going back further to September 2007, candidate Obama postured about Iraq that he wanted 'to immediately begin to remove our combat troops. Not in six months or one year -- now!' That 'now!' sure sounded macho. On Iraq, candidate Obama also railed that 'the American people have had enough of the shifting spin. We've had enough of extended deadlines for benchmarks that go unmet.' Talk about 'unmet' deadlines and 'spin'-- here we are in October 2009, and there are still 120,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The reason why Obama fudged on his promised deadline is that the surge in 2007 worked. American deaths plummeted. The theater is quiet. Iraqi democracy is still there after six years. Obama cannot quite admit these facts, but on the other hand he does not want to be responsible for undermining them. ... The list of what a melodramatic Obama threatens or promises to do and what he actually does is endless." --Hoover Institution historian Victor Davis Hanson


For the Record
  • n Thursday, the administration tried to make [the MSM] complicit in an actual boycott of Fox. The Treasury Department made available Ken Feinberg, the executive pay czar, for interviews with the White House 'pool' news organizations -- except Fox. The other networks admirably refused, saying they would not interview Feinberg unless Fox was permitted to as well. The administration backed down. This was an important defeat because there's a principle at stake here. While government can and should debate and criticize opposition voices, the current White House goes beyond that. It wants to delegitimize any significant dissent. The objective is no secret. White House aides openly told Politico that they're engaged in a deliberate campaign to marginalize and ostracize recalcitrants, from Fox to health insurers to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There's nothing illegal about such search-and-destroy tactics. Nor unconstitutional. But our politics are defined not just by limits of legality or constitutionality. We have norms, Madisonian norms. [James] Madison argued that the safety of a great republic, its defense against tyranny, requires the contest between factions or interests. His insight was to understand 'the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties.' They would help guarantee liberty by checking and balancing and restraining each other -- and an otherwise imperious government. Factions should compete, but they should also recognize the legitimacy of other factions and, indeed, their necessity for a vigorous self-regulating democracy. Seeking to deliberately undermine, delegitimize and destroy is not Madisonian. It is Nixonian." --columnist Charles Krauthammer
23552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: October 26, 2009, 10:53:42 AM
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series), Part 3: Rise of the Civiliki
October 26, 2009 | 1131 GMT
The global economic crisis has led the Kremlin to examine its decisions about running Russia's economy, financial sectors and businesses. A group of intellectuals including Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, called the civiliki, want to use the crisis as an opportunity to reform the Russian economy. The civiliki's plan will lead to increased investment and greater efficiency in the economy, but it will also trigger a fresh round of conflict between the Kremlin's two powerful political clans.

Editor's Note: This is part three in a five-part series examining the Russian political clans and the coming conflict between them.
In the aftermath of the global economic crisis, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has had to step back and examine the Kremlin's decisions on running the country's economy, financial sectors and businesses and the effects of a state-controlled system on investment, growth and the freedom of capital. In response, a group of Russian intellectuals called the civiliki, who are trained in economics, law and finance, have presented proposals on "fixing" the economy. The civiliki (a play on words, since the Federal Security Service and other members of the security class in Russia are called the siloviki) is a new group of economically liberal-minded (by Russian standards) politicians and businessmen. This group includes Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin (who is also a deputy prime minister), Sberbank chief German Gref and many more.

The civiliki are not ideologues like the liberal Russian reformers of the 1990s and understand that the Russian economy and institutions must maintain some sense of balance with national security and national interests. But the civiliki also see how much damage the siloviki's control of key power structures and businesses has done to the Russian economy.

The civiliki's plan has one main goal in mind: to implement real structural reform in Russia's major economic sectors. This will improve competition, attract investment and purge waste and mismanagement. The plan has three parts -- purge the non-business-minded siloviki from positions of economic responsibility, introduce new pro-investment laws and partially liberalize the economy. It is an incredibly ambitious plan that would reverse laws designed by the FSB and Putin over the past six years. But the reforms are being spearheaded by the one man Putin trusts on all finance and economic issues: the civiliki's Kudrin.

Related Links
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series Introduction): The War Begins
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series), Part 1: The Crash
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series), Part 2: The Combatants
Kudrin is an experienced official, being one of the very few to make the transition from the Yeltsin era to Putin's Russia and having held a prominent position in every one of Putin's governments. The reason for his longevity at the Kremlin is simple: Rather than playing politics (to the extent usually seen in Russia) he is a technocrat who makes decisions based largely on the economic facts. His numbers-oriented mind, apolitical nature and competency as a manager are at least as important to Russia's relative financial stability as the strong energy prices of the past decade. Because of this, Putin values Kudrin's counsel greatly. Kudrin has also been an important buffer between Deputy Chief of Staff and First Aide to Vladimir Putin Vladislav Surkov and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, the heads of the Kremlin's opposing clans -- until now.

Kudrin's Plan
Part 1: Purging the Siloviki
The most controversial part of Kudrin's plan is to purge the siloviki from positions of control over businesses and economic institutions. The siloviki clan, run by Sechin, took command of most of the Russian state firms over the past six years, and has -- by Kudrin's technocratic reckoning -- run them poorly. The siloviki run firms including oil giant Rosneft, rail monopoly Russian Railways, Russian airline Aeroflot, nuclear energy company Rosatom and arms exporter Rosoboronexport. The issue is that the siloviki have placed former KGB agents as heads of industry and businesses though many have no expertise as businessmen. According to Kudrin, it was largely Sechin's clan that sought access to international credit before the global economic crisis hit. Some $500 billion flowed into Russia via such connections, flooding the Russian financial sector with foreign capital. Sechin's clan spent the money as if it were free, often on irrational mergers and acquisitions that increased the clan's political power but had little economic purpose.

When the global recession occurred, all those funding sources dried up in a matter of weeks. And as the ruble declined, all of those loans still required repayment -- in the then-appreciated U.S. dollars, euros and Swiss francs. Consequently, the Russian economy suffered a contraction worse than any other major state in the world. The Kremlin was forced to bail out many firms, particularly those linked to Sechin's clan, to prevent a broader collapse. As part of the efforts to contain the crisis, the Kremlin also spent more than $200 billion on slowing the depreciation of the ruble so that the loans taken out by corporations and banks did not appreciate so much that they would not be repayable. From Kudrin's perspective, this was a huge cost to save companies whose managers had no business being in business.

Kudrin's plan is to weed out the security-minded officials now occupying leadership positions in industry and business, leaving only those who can actually run their institutions properly. But in doing this, Kudrin would strip Sechin's clan of massive economic and financial clout --something the siloviki would not stand for.

Part 2: Making Russia Investor-Friendly
Next, Kudrin's plan calls for legal changes that would make Russia more attractive to investors. One of the issues investors have with Russia is that there is very little legal protection, which leaves them highly vulnerable to hostile takeovers and becoming a target for the Kremlin or its power players. Moreover, the few legal authorities that do exist -- like the Federal Tax Service or the Audit Chamber -- often are tools for the Kremlin to help it pressure Russian and foreign firms that the government wants to either destroy or devour. The best-known case of this is the story of Yukos, whose owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky had evolved from businessman to ruler of Russia's vast oil sector and aspiring politician -- much to the Kremlin's ire. In 2004, the government brought the full power of a reinvigorated state to bear against Khodorkovsky and sent him to a Siberian prison. Other examples are of the Kremlin targeting energy assets belonging to foreign firms like BP and Royal Dutch/Shell to give those assets and/or control over projects to state-controlled energy firms.

In theory, the new investors' rights laws would protect businessmen and investors in Russia. The country has never had sound laws protecting investors' rights. However, it is most likely that any new laws will leave the state plenty of wiggle room to ensure that the Kremlin has significant control over investors' actions.

The next step to creating an investor-friendly Russia, according to Kudrin's plan, is to repeal the strict energy cap laws Putin put in place in 2007. These laws affect strategic industries and clarify which assets would be off-limits to foreigners. The sector affected most by these laws was energy. The laws limit foreign firms' ability to own more than 40 percent of a project in the country and forbid foreign firms from owning any projects involving the subsoil. These laws have made Russia an unattractive environment for foreign businesses to maintain or expand investments in energy projects, even though Russia is one of the world's most energy-rich countries.

But Kudrin's plan involves more than repealing the energy laws and allowing foreign firms to rush back in. There is a political side to the plan, masterminded by Surkov. The changes in Russian energy laws will allow foreign companies to own up to a 50 percent stake in projects, but if a foreign firm wants majority control then it must "trade" assets outside of Russia with one of the Russian energy behemoths. In essence, Russia will allow foreign companies to own majority stakes in large projects like the new fields on the Yamal peninsula in exchange for downstream projects in those companies' own countries. The goal is for Russian energy companies to not only move more into the downstream sector, but also have greater access to international markets -- something the Kremlin can use later for political purposes. STRATFOR sources say deals like this are already being negotiated with firms like BP, France's Total and EDF Trading, and U.S.-based ExxonMobil.

Part 3: Reprivatization
The last part of Kudrin's plan is to reprivatize the vast number of companies the Kremlin has taken over in the last few years. Under Putin, the Russian state once again became the main driver of economic activity. Upon becoming leader of Russia in 1999, Putin set a goal to reverse the massive privatization that occurred during the 1990s -- like the housing and voucher privatizations and loans-for-shares schemes -- that, in most Russians' eyes, wrecked the country. Putin wanted to put the Kremlin back in control by consolidating its power over a slew of economic sectors, including energy, banking and defense. As of this year, the Russian state and regional authorities own approximately 50 percent of Russian businesses, according to Kudrin.

In the short term, Russian state control over strategic sectors made sense. It pushed out forces that were not too friendly with the Kremlin, like the oligarchs and foreign groups. But it also allowed the state to marshal its financial resources toward certain key domestic and foreign policy goals. Russian economic consolidation under the state brought about a stability that most Russians had longed for after the 1990s.

However, in the long term, the lack of non-state funding and private capital has become a problem, creating inefficiencies across the board -- particularly in areas where the state does not focus a great deal of its resources. Russia is traditionally capital-poor; therefore, any major economic overhaul needs to include the creation of an investment-friendly climate. The financial crisis made this clear; when the state took on the burdens of the failing private sector, it swallowed more businesses and industries but also took on their debt and need for cash.

Kudrin's plan is for the state to step back and start reprivatizing some 5,500 firms over the next three years -- which would drop state ownership in Russian firms by approximately 20 percent. The goal is to abandon some of the companies currently draining the government's coffers, but this step will also generate cash through the sales needed for the government to plug 2010's estimated budget deficit. Kudrin also believes that once the government starts to reduce its stake in companies, a more competitive environment will form in the Russian economy, allowing it to become more diversified.

Kudrin wants to ensure that the next reprivatization looks nothing like the feeding frenzy of the 1990s. In the minds of the civiliki, the failures of the 1990s were caused not only by investor greed but also by the state's failure to create a rational environment for privatization. The Russian state in 2009 is much stronger than it was in the 1990s, so Kudrin believes that the new round of privatization would be controllable, and the fact that the Kremlin would know who would gain control of each company would keep anyone hostile to Russian (read: Kremlin) interests out. The last thing Kudrin wants is a new generation of oligarchs.

Kudrin's plan would start with selling the state's stakes in companies purchased during the financial crisis, such as telecommunications giant Rostelecom and a series of banks, including Globex, Svyaz and Sobinbank. After that, the civiliki would like to consider companies such as oil giant Rosneft, banking giant Sberbank and railway monopoly Russian Railways for privatization -- a rather bold move since many of these companies are run by the siloviki.

In Putin's mind, the state consolidated the economy during Russia's identity crisis in the 1990s. Certain people, groups, influences and companies needed to be purged, in his opinion. Now that this has been completed, the government can step back and, in a highly controlled manner, start to reprivatize businesses. Putin is starting to believe that this is all just a cycle.

Easier Said Than Done
Kudrin and the other civiliki's plans are a technocratic approach to a crisis that has been long in the making in Russia but was exacerbated by the global financial crisis. The civiliki's plans have very specific economic goals in mind, leaving out power politics. The plan is actually not a new one, but it is one that the siloviki have continually sidelined over the years as they placed national interests above economic reform. The civiliki have also never been powerful enough by themselves (even with one of their own as president of the country) to push through any of their reforms.

What the civiliki needed was for one of the truly powerful clan leaders in Russia to stand behind their reforms. Fortunately for Kudrin and the civiliki, one such leader -- Surkov, who serves as Medvedev's deputy chief of staff and first aide to Putin -- has done just that. However, Surkov is not interested in Kudrin's plan in order to reform the Russian economy. He sees the plan as something that will help him eliminate his rivals and consolidate his power.

23553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Hudson: on: October 26, 2009, 10:52:30 AM
The Church of England has survived the Spanish Armada, the English Civil War and Elton John performing “Candle in the Wind” at Princess Diana’s Westminster Abbey funeral. So it will probably survive the note the Vatican issued last week, inviting disaffected Anglicans to head Romeward, and offering them an Anglo-Catholic mansion within the walls of the Roman Catholic faith.

But the invitation is a bombshell nonetheless. Pope Benedict XVI’s outreach to Anglicans may produce only a few conversions; it may produce a few million. Either way, it represents an unusual effort at targeted proselytism, remarkable both for its concessions to potential converts — married priests, a self-contained institutional structure, an Anglican rite — and for its indifference to the wishes of the Church of England’s leadership.

This is not the way well-mannered modern churches are supposed to behave. Spurred by the optimism of the early 1960s, the major denominations of Western Christendom have spent half a century being exquisitely polite to one another, setting aside a history of strife in the name of greater Christian unity.

This ecumenical era has borne real theological fruit, especially on issues that divided Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation. But what began as a daring experiment has decayed into bureaucratized complacency — a dull round of interdenominational statements on global warming and Third World debt, only tenuously connected to the Gospel.

At the same time, the more ecumenically minded denominations have lost believers to more assertive faiths — Pentecostalism, Evangelicalism, Mormonism and even Islam — or seen them drift into agnosticism and apathy.

Nobody is more aware of this erosion than Benedict. So the pope is going back to basics — touting the particular witness of Catholicism even when he’s addressing universal subjects, and seeking converts more than common ground.

Along the way, he’s courting both ends of the theological spectrum. In his encyclicals, Benedict has addressed a range of issues — social justice, environmental protection, even erotic love — that are close to the hearts of secular liberals and lukewarm, progressive-minded Christians. But instead of stopping at a place of broad agreement, he has pushed further, trying to persuade his more liberal readers that many of their beliefs actually depend on the West’s Catholic heritage, and make sense only when grounded in a serious religious faith.

At the same time, the pope has systematically lowered the barriers for conservative Christians hovering on the threshold of the church, unsure whether to slip inside. This was the purpose behind his controversial outreach to schismatic Latin Mass Catholics, and it explains the current opening to Anglicans.

Many Anglicans will never become Catholic; their theology is too evangelical, their suspicion of papal authority too ingrained, their objections to the veneration of the Virgin Mary too deeply felt. But for those who could, Benedict is trying to make reunion with Rome a flesh-and-blood possibility, rather than a matter for academic conversation.

The news media have portrayed this rightward outreach largely through the lens of culture-war politics — as an attempt to consolidate, inside the Catholic tent, anyone who joins the Vatican in rejecting female priests and gay marriage.

But in making the opening to Anglicanism, Benedict also may have a deeper conflict in mind — not the parochial Western struggle between conservative and liberal believers, but Christianity’s global encounter with a resurgent Islam.

Here Catholicism and Anglicanism share two fronts. In Europe, both are weakened players, caught between a secular majority and an expanding Muslim population. In Africa, increasingly the real heart of the Anglican Communion, both are facing an entrenched Islamic presence across a fault line running from Nigeria to Sudan.

Where the European encounter is concerned, Pope Benedict has opted for public confrontation. In a controversial 2006 address in Regensburg, Germany, he explicitly challenged Islam’s compatibility with the Western way of reason — and sparked, as if in vindication of his point, a wave of Muslim riots around the world.

By contrast, the Church of England’s leadership has opted for conciliation (some would say appeasement), with the Archbishop of Canterbury going so far as to speculate about the inevitability of some kind of sharia law in Britain.

There are an awful lot of Anglicans, in England and Africa alike, who would prefer a leader who takes Benedict’s approach to the Islamic challenge. Now they can have one, if they want him.

This could be the real significance of last week’s invitation. What’s being interpreted, for now, as an intra-Christian skirmish may eventually be remembered as the first step toward a united Anglican-Catholic front — not against liberalism or atheism, but against Christianity’s most enduring and impressive foe.
23554  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spring 2010 DB Tribal Gathering on: October 26, 2009, 10:10:14 AM
May 2 is also getting a strong response on the DBMA Assn forum, but it does not work for Guide Dog so lets also think about the last weekend of April.
23555  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty on: October 26, 2009, 10:08:29 AM
Banks around the world have been battered in the past year, but most have not responded by turning over control of their businesses to their borrowers. Yet this is what creditors at the International Monetary Fund moved closer to doing at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh last month. We understand why fund borrowers want more power, but why would creditor nations, especially Uncle Sam, cede it?

The terms "debtor" and "creditor" may seem foreign to anyone who reads IMF press releases for the first time. The fund prefers the terms "emerging and developing markets" to describe countries that traditionally borrow hard currency, and "advanced countries" to describe those that provide it. But there's no getting around the reality that only a fraction of the IMF's 186 members are long-term creditors.

That became clear earlier this year when the G-20 passed the hat to collect $500 billion for a lending facility known as "new arrangements to borrow." Major emerging countries led by Brazil quickly made clear they would only contribute if the fund issued short-term bonds that could be traded in the secondary market. In other words, no long-term commitments from them.

Creditor countries have always enjoyed more voting power at the fund because without them there would be no reliable pool of money. But several years ago borrower nations, led by members from Asia and Latin America, began clamoring for a greater voice in fund decisions. They argued that since their economies have grown and now represent a larger share of total global GDP, a "democratic" IMF ought to give them a greater share of voting rights.

Creditors might have replied that the fund is not a democracy and that anyone who wants more votes can get them by ponying up more real money. Instead, in 2008 the board approved a 5% shift in voting rights from what it called "over-represented" creditors to "under-represented" countries. Among the biggest beneficiaries of the 2008 change, once it is ratified, will be China, Korea, India, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Singapore and Turkey. The eight biggest losers will be the U.K., France, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Russia, Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.

Now the debtors want still more power, and the creditors, led by the U.S. Treasury, are ready to yield. The Pittsburgh G-20 communique states that there will be another "shift in quota share to dynamic emerging market and developing countries of at least five percent from over-represented to under-represented countries." Why "at least?" Because the likes of Brazil and China are lobbying for a 7% shift in votes. Europe, which has the most to lose, opposes this change.

A spokesman for the fund tells us that the March 2008 voting shift increased the vote share held by emerging and developing countries to 42.1%. That means that if the new 7% solution prevails, emerging countries will have close to a majority. So politicians in Beijing and Brasilia would have more sway over how U.S. taxpayer contributions are spent.

Perhaps only Barney Frank has benefitted more from the financial crisis than the IMF has. Searching for revenue and without a mission in 2008, it has tripled its resources since the panic began and is now bidding to police the world's economic policies. Given its record of recommending tax increases and currency devaluation, this is not a road to prosperity.

At least the IMF of yore could be counted on to support Western geopolitical interests. If the IMF is going to turn into something like a bank for the United Nations, with the debtors running the joint, U.S. taxpayers should stop being asked to pay for it.
23556  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams: National Morality on: October 26, 2009, 08:55:05 AM
"The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families. ... How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers?" --John Adams, Diary, 1778
23557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / BO's declaration of emergency on: October 25, 2009, 11:37:32 PM
Obama declares H1N1 national emergency


Washington (CNN) -- President Obama has declared a national emergency to deal with the "rapid increase in illness" from the H1N1 influenza virus.

"The 2009 H1N1 pandemic continues to evolve. The rates of illness continue to rise rapidly within many communities across the nation, and the potential exists for the pandemic to overburden health care resources in some localities," Obama said in a statement.

"Thus, in recognition of the continuing progression of the pandemic, and in further preparation as a nation, we are taking additional steps to facilitate our response."

The president signed the declaration late Friday and announced it Saturday.

Calling the emergency declaration "an important tool in our kit going forward," one administration official called Obama's action a "proactive measure that's not in response to any new development." Having trouble finding vaccine? Share your story

Another administration official said the move is "not tied to the current case count" and "gives the federal government more power to help states" by lifting bureaucratic requirements -- both in treating patients and moving equipment to where it's most needed.

The officials didn't want their names used because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

Obama's action allows Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements" to help health care facilities enact emergency plans to deal with the pandemic.

Those requirements are contained in Medicare, Medicaid and state Children's Health Insurance programs, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rule.

Since the H1N1 flu pandemic began in April, millions of people in the United States have been infected, at least 20,000 have been hospitalized and more than 1,000 have died, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Watch how to find out if you have H1N1

Frieden said that having 46 states reporting widespread flu transmission is traditionally the hallmark of the peak of flu season. To have the flu season peak at this time of the year is "extremely unusual."

The CDC said 16.1 million doses of H1N1, or swine flu, vaccine had been made by Friday -- 2 million more than two days earlier. About 11.3 million of those had been distributed throughout the United States, Frieden said.

"We are nowhere near where we thought we would be," Frieden said, acknowledging that manufacturing delays have contributed to less vaccine being available than expected. "As public health professionals, vaccination is our strongest tool. Not having enough is frustrating to all of us."

Frieden said that while the way vaccine is manufactured is "tried and true," it's not well-suited for ramping up production during a pandemic because it takes at least six months. The vaccine is produced by growing weakened virus in eggs.


What does this have to do with firearms politics you ask? well, many in the U.S(mostly conspiracy buffs) believe there are more sinister plans involved.

The first and biggest question being asked is what emergency?

The declaration of this national emergency seems suspicious from the start. Where’s the emergency? The number of people killed by swine flu in the United States is far smaller than the number of people killed each year from seasonal flu, according to CDC statistics. People obviously aren’t dropping dead by the millions from H1N1 influenza. Most people are just getting mild flu symptoms and a few days later they’re fine.

So what does this mean for Americans? The decleration of a national emergency means the government trumphs the bill of rights. They now, by decleration of this emergency, have the power to:

•The power to force mandatory swine flu vaccinations on the entire population.

• The power to arrest, quarantine or “involuntarily transport” anyone who refuses a swine flu vaccination.

• The power to quarantine an entire city and halt all travel in or out of that city.

• The power to enter any home or office without a search warrant and order the destruction of any belongings or structures deemed to be a threat to public health.

• The effective nullification of the Bill of Rights. Your right to due process, to being safe from government search and seizure, and to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination are all null and void under a Presidential declaration of a national emergency.

None of this means that federal agents are going to march door to door arresting people at gunpoint if they refuse the vaccine, but they could if they wanted to. Your rights are no longer recognized under this national emergency declaration.

23558  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: OPERACION PANDEMIA on: October 25, 2009, 11:33:10 PM
Disculpe que lo siguiente sea en ingles:

Obama declares H1N1 national emergency


Washington (CNN) -- President Obama has declared a national emergency to deal with the "rapid increase in illness" from the H1N1 influenza virus.

"The 2009 H1N1 pandemic continues to evolve. The rates of illness continue to rise rapidly within many communities across the nation, and the potential exists for the pandemic to overburden health care resources in some localities," Obama said in a statement.

"Thus, in recognition of the continuing progression of the pandemic, and in further preparation as a nation, we are taking additional steps to facilitate our response."

The president signed the declaration late Friday and announced it Saturday.

Calling the emergency declaration "an important tool in our kit going forward," one administration official called Obama's action a "proactive measure that's not in response to any new development." Having trouble finding vaccine? Share your story

Another administration official said the move is "not tied to the current case count" and "gives the federal government more power to help states" by lifting bureaucratic requirements -- both in treating patients and moving equipment to where it's most needed.

The officials didn't want their names used because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

Obama's action allows Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements" to help health care facilities enact emergency plans to deal with the pandemic.

Those requirements are contained in Medicare, Medicaid and state Children's Health Insurance programs, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rule.

Since the H1N1 flu pandemic began in April, millions of people in the United States have been infected, at least 20,000 have been hospitalized and more than 1,000 have died, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Watch how to find out if you have H1N1

Frieden said that having 46 states reporting widespread flu transmission is traditionally the hallmark of the peak of flu season. To have the flu season peak at this time of the year is "extremely unusual."

The CDC said 16.1 million doses of H1N1, or swine flu, vaccine had been made by Friday -- 2 million more than two days earlier. About 11.3 million of those had been distributed throughout the United States, Frieden said.

"We are nowhere near where we thought we would be," Frieden said, acknowledging that manufacturing delays have contributed to less vaccine being available than expected. "As public health professionals, vaccination is our strongest tool. Not having enough is frustrating to all of us."

Frieden said that while the way vaccine is manufactured is "tried and true," it's not well-suited for ramping up production during a pandemic because it takes at least six months. The vaccine is produced by growing weakened virus in eggs.


What does this have to do with firearms politics you ask? well, many in the U.S(mostly conspiracy buffs) believe there are more sinister plans involved.

The first and biggest question being asked is what emergency?

The declaration of this national emergency seems suspicious from the start. Where’s the emergency? The number of people killed by swine flu in the United States is far smaller than the number of people killed each year from seasonal flu, according to CDC statistics. People obviously aren’t dropping dead by the millions from H1N1 influenza. Most people are just getting mild flu symptoms and a few days later they’re fine.

So what does this mean for Americans? The decleration of a national emergency means the government trumphs the bill of rights. They now, by decleration of this emergency, have the power to:

•The power to force mandatory swine flu vaccinations on the entire population.

• The power to arrest, quarantine or “involuntarily transport” anyone who refuses a swine flu vaccination.

• The power to quarantine an entire city and halt all travel in or out of that city.

• The power to enter any home or office without a search warrant and order the destruction of any belongings or structures deemed to be a threat to public health.

• The effective nullification of the Bill of Rights. Your right to due process, to being safe from government search and seizure, and to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination are all null and void under a Presidential declaration of a national emergency.

None of this means that federal agents are going to march door to door arresting people at gunpoint if they refuse the vaccine, but they could if they wanted to. Your rights are no longer recognized under this national emergency declaration.

23559  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Barefooting on: October 25, 2009, 11:28:33 PM
Exactly so.


At the most recent DB Gathering I was very impressed by dramatic improvement in Linda "Bitch" Matsumi's footwork-- particularly so in light of her broken ankle of a year or two ago.   I was intrigued by the "Vibram Five Finger" "barefooting shoes" she was wearing (google them). 

Now of course "barefooting shoes" is an oxymoron, but basically the idea is that the "shoe" is essentially nothing more than an additional layer of skin-- think of the Apaches as great distance runners wearing mocassins and you will have the idea.

As inferred above in my rumination on squatting, I have always intuitively gravitated to the barefooting concept and so inspired by Linda about two to three weeks ago I got my own VFFs (the RSO model) and absolutely love them.  My feet and calves are feeling much stronger, my hips roll much more fluidly, and my back feels better.

Today was the first time I did full bore sprints in them.   The circumstances were ideal for a first time test.  It was a lacrosse field (synthtetic grass over ground up rubber tires) and I was assisting my son's coach with the drills.  The first 30 minutes were working on scooping ground balls on the run catching passes while jogging/running.  Then it was time for some 2 on 2 attack-defense drills.  As the workout wound down I tested myself with a full on sprint the length of the field (a bit longer than a football field if I am not mistaken).    My speed felt both good and effortless.

I really like these VFFs.

PS:  For you single guys: They are outstanding for getting fun conversations started with women.   I have had several women notice the shoes and start animated converstions with me about them.  If I were not a happily married man, it would have been easy to score several phone numbers wink
23560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 25, 2009, 03:18:15 PM
To quote myself  "I sense us drifting off point from the question presented-- the use of lucid views by persons who hold views on other subjects that we consider beyond the pale."

Folks, please let us address this point specifically with specific suggestions. 

23561  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Spring 2010 DB Tribal Gathering on: October 25, 2009, 03:14:15 PM
Woof All:

First things first, lets choose the date.

How about May 2?  This would return us to the tradition of the first Sunday of May.  Or sometime in April (what we have done the past two years).

"Higher consciousness through harder contact"(c)
Crafty Dog
GF of the DB
23562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: October 25, 2009, 11:38:54 AM
So, investigative reporters are subject to discovery?!?
23563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: UK Surveillance Society on: October 25, 2009, 09:48:48 AM
Ever-Present Surveillance Rankles the British Public

Published: October 24, 2009
POOLE, England — It has become commonplace to call Britain a “surveillance society,” a place where security cameras lurk at every corner, giant databases keep track of intimate personal details and the government has extraordinary powers to intrude into citizens’ lives.

A report in 2007 by the lobbying group Privacy International placed Britain in the bottom five countries for its record on privacy and surveillance, on a par with Singapore.
But the intrusions visited on Jenny Paton, a 40-year-old mother of three, were startling just the same. Suspecting Ms. Paton of falsifying her address to get her daughter into the neighborhood school, local officials here began a covert surveillance operation. They obtained her telephone billing records. And for more than three weeks in 2008, an officer from the Poole education department secretly followed her, noting on a log the movements of the “female and three children” and the “target vehicle” (that would be Ms. Paton, her daughters and their car).

It turned out that Ms. Paton had broken no rules. Her daughter was admitted to the school. But she has not let the matter rest. Her case, now scheduled to be heard by a regulatory tribunal, has become emblematic of the struggle between personal privacy and the ever more powerful state here.

The Poole Borough Council, which governs the area of Dorset where Ms. Paton lives with her partner and their children, says it has done nothing wrong.

In a way, that is true: under a law enacted in 2000 to regulate surveillance powers, it is legal for localities to follow residents secretly. Local governments regularly use these surveillance powers — which they “self-authorize,” without oversight from judges or law enforcement officers — to investigate malfeasance like illegally dumping industrial waste, loan-sharking and falsely claiming welfare benefits.

But they also use them to investigate reports of noise pollution and people who do not clean up their dogs’ waste. Local governments use them to catch people who fail to recycle, people who put their trash out too early, people who sell fireworks without licenses, people whose dogs bark too loudly and people who illegally operate taxicabs.

“Does our privacy mean anything?” Ms. Paton said in an interview. “I haven’t had a drink for 20 years, but there is nothing that has brought me closer to drinking than this case.”

The law in question is known as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, or RIPA, and it also gives 474 local governments and 318 agencies — including the Ambulance Service and the Charity Commission — powers once held by only a handful of law enforcement and security service organizations.

Under the law, the localities and agencies can film people with hidden cameras, trawl through communication traffic data like phone calls and Web site visits and enlist undercover “agents” to pose, for example, as teenagers who want to buy alcohol.

In a report this summer, Sir Christopher Rose, the chief surveillance commissioner, said that local governments conducted nearly 5,000 “directed surveillance missions” in the year ending in March and that other public authorities carried out roughly the same amount.

Local officials say that using covert surveillance is justified. The Poole Borough Council, for example, used it to detect and prosecute illegal fishing in Poole Harbor.

“RIPA is an essential tool for local authority enforcement which we make limited use of in cases where it is proportionate and there are no other means of gathering evidence,” Tim Martin, who is in charge of legal and democratic services for Poole, which is southwest of London, said in a statement.

The fuss over the law comes against a backdrop of widespread public worry about an increasingly intrusive state and the growing circulation of personal details in vast databases compiled by the government and private companies.

“Successive U.K. governments have gradually constructed one of the most extensive and technologically advanced surveillance systems in the world,” the House of Lords Constitution Committee said in a recent report. It continued: “The development of electronic surveillance and the collection and processing of personal information have become pervasive, routine and almost taken for granted.”

The Lords report pointed out that the government enacted the law in the first place to provide a framework for a series of scattershot rules on surveillance. The goal was also to make such regulations compatible with privacy rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

RIPA is a complicated law that also regulates wiretapping and intrusive surveillance carried out by the security services. But faced with rumbles of public discontent about local governments’ behavior, the Home Office announced in the spring that it would review the legislation to make it clearer what localities should be allowed to do.

“The government has absolutely no interest in spying on law-abiding people going about their everyday lives,” Jacqui Smith, then home secretary, said.

One of the biggest criticisms of the law is that the targets of surveillance are usually unaware that they have been spied on.

Indeed, Ms. Paton learned what had happened only later, when officials summoned her to discuss her daughter’s school application. To her shock, they produced the covert surveillance report and the family’s telephone billing records.


Page 2 of 2)

“As far as I’m concerned, they’re within their rights to scrutinize all applications, but the way they went about it was totally unwarranted,” Ms. Paton said. “If they’d wanted any information, they could have come and asked.”

She would have explained that her case was complicated. The family was moving from their old house within the school district to a new one just outside it. But they met the residency requirements because they were still living at the old address when school applications closed.

At the meeting, Ms. Paton and her partner, Tim Joyce, pointed out that the surveillance evidence was irrelevant because the surveillance had been carried out after the deadline had passed.

“They promptly ushered us out of the room,” she said. “As I stood outside the door, they said, ‘You go and tell your friends that these are the powers we have.’ ”

Soon afterward, their daughter was admitted to the school. Ms. Paton began pressing local officials on their surveillance tactics.

“I said, ‘I want to come in and talk to you,’ ” she said. “ ‘How many people were in the car? Were they men or women? Did they take any photos? Does this mean I have a criminal record?’ ”

No one would answer her questions, Ms. Paton said.

Mr. Martin said he could not comment on her case because it was under review. But Ms. Paton said the Office of the Surveillance Commissioners, which monitors use of the law, found that the Poole council had acted properly. “They said my privacy wasn’t intruded on because the surveillance was covert,” she said.

The case is now before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which looks into complaints about RIPA. It usually meets in secret but has agreed, Ms. Paton said, to have an open hearing at the beginning of November.

The whole process is so shrouded in mystery that few people ever take it this far. “Because no one knows you have a right to know you’re under surveillance,” Ms. Paton said, “nobody ever makes a complaint.”
23564  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: October 25, 2009, 09:42:10 AM

This smells to me like a matter of trying to intimidate those who raise, , , pardon the expression , , , inconvenient questions and facts.  I'm willing to entertain hearing the other POV, but this smells to me like the prosecutors are being bullies.
23565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 25, 2009, 09:38:54 AM
I'm missing the point here about the Not so Right Rev. Wright.   Why are we discussing him at all GM? Has anyone been quoting him? 
Perhaps I am missing the point here, but I sense us drifting off point from the question presented-- the use of lucid views by persons who hold views on other subjects that we consider beyond the pale.

FWIW in my own life I have had to wrestle with this three times.  In no particular order:

a) Jude Wanniski:  Author of the utterly brilliant "The Way the World Works", considered by the WSJ to be "one of the one hundred most important books of the 20th Century", in his later years Jude became quite an anti-semitic crank (e.g. hung out with Farrkhan) and apologist for Saddam Hussein;
b) Carl Jung:  Only after years of random study in admiration of Jung did I discover that, at the least, apparently he had dalliance with the Nazis to the point of attacking Freud for his "Jewish science" or something like that;
c) Konrad Lorenz:  An Austrian scientist whose influence on me is so great that I named my son Conrad after him, apparently had his Nobel Prize removed because of some things he said in the 1930s-40s.  I'm not really clear on what they were or what happened.

In all three cases I have decided to bifurcate the good and the bad.  Where the anti-semitism question arises, I address it openly and when it doesn't, I don't-- though I have prefaced quoting Wanniski by prefacing it by saying something like "Though in his later years JW became quite a crank, including anti-semitism, here I find his thinking quite sound. etc."

In the case of Pat Buchanan, in my opinion he is a anti-Jewish bigot.  He also holds lucid opinions with which I don't agree, and he holds some lucid opinions which I am willing to entertain.   As a Jew, like Rachel, I do tend to wince a bit to see his name pop up, but I am not ready to call for banishing any and all use of his writings.

Perhaps the solution with quoting such person is to note from time to time, the dubious nature of some of this person's views and that quoting them here should not be taken as thinking all his views respectable?
23566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Pak army takes Kotkai on: October 25, 2009, 09:11:28 AM
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — After a week of fighting Taliban and Qaeda militants in the mountains of South Waziristan, the Pakistani Army said Saturday that it had captured a town important for both its symbolic and strategic value.

Kotkai, a strategic town, was taken after "intense fighting."

The town, Kotkai, most of whose 5,000 residents had already fled, is the home of the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, and one of the most feared Taliban commanders, Qari Hussain. Mr. Hussain is believed to be the organizer and trainer of the group’s suicide bombing squads.

The army has been struggling in the treacherous terrain in South Waziristan, long a militant sanctuary. Military officials said Saturday that Kotkai had been taken only after “intense fighting.” Four days ago, the militants repulsed the first army attempt to capture the town and killed nine soldiers, according to a military intelligence officer.

It was the first notable sign of progress in what military analysts say will be an arduous slog for the army against a resilient enemy. And it came as Pakistan has been enduring a withering series of terrorist attacks over the past three weeks.

At a military briefing Saturday, the information minister, Qamar Zaman Kaira, acknowledged that the attacks, which have focused on police and government sites and have killed about 200 people, had taken a serious toll. But he insisted that “the nation will not be terrorized.”

The farther the army tries to penetrate South Waziristan, the harder the fighting will get, as soldiers encounter defensive positions dug into the sides of mountains that the guerrillas will battle hard to keep, military analysts and residents of the area said.

For example, on the southeast axis of the army’s attack into the Taliban stronghold, soldiers will soon encounter the defensive positions leading to Kaniguram, a village about 6,700 feet high that serves as the hide-out of Uzbek fighters, some of the most battle-hardened around, a former resident of the area said.

“The military’s movement is faster than in their previous campaigns,” a former government official from North Waziristan said, referring to three short-lived army campaigns that ended in negotiated settlements with the Taliban. “But the more they get inside the sanctuary, the more they will be bogged down.”

Time may also be working against the army. In past years, many of the Taliban militants fighting American and NATO forces in Afghanistan have come to Waziristan as winter approached to train and prepare for the next year’s fighting.

Although there is evidence that the seasonal fighting in Afghanistan has become a more year-round affair, the concern is that any Taliban fighters who do cross the border into Pakistan could be used against the army in South Waziristan. One militant organizer in the region, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the migration had already started, swelling the number of active militants in the region well beyond the present estimates of 7,000 to 10,000.

Reinforcements for the militants were also coming from other parts of the Pakistani tribal region, the militant organizer said.

Still, Pakistani soldiers are receiving more support than they did in past campaigns, including better winter gear and air support from fighter jets, the former Waziristan official said.

American officials have praised the Waziristan offensive, after months of pressure on Pakistani officials to begin. But at the military briefing, the army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said that the fight was a purely Pakistani enterprise, unaided by the United States or anyone else.

There have been no reported missile attacks by American drones in South or North Waziristan against Qaeda targets since the beginning of the Pakistani Army offensive a week ago. Both South and North Waziristan have been the focus of the more than 40 drone attacks this year.

Pakistan had asked the United States to refrain from drone attacks while the army operation was under way in South Waziristan, a senior Pakistani government official said Saturday.

Families continued to flee South Waziristan, and Mr. Kaira said the government was granting the refugees a month’s supply of food and a monthly stipend worth about $50.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it still had no access to North or South Waziristan to care for civilians. “We are concerned by the lack of access granted to humanitarian organizations like the I.C.R.C. whose role it is to protect and assist victims of fighting,” the committee said in a statement.

Elsewhere, in the tribal belt in Bajaur, a missile fired from a drone killed 22 people in the town of Damadola on Saturday, two Pakistani officials said.

The strike appeared to be aimed at a senior Pakistani Taliban leader, Faqir Mohammad, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. They said two relatives of Mr. Mohammad were killed.

Jane Perlez reported from Islamabad, and Pir Zubair Shah from Peshawar, Pakistan.
23567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Prosecutors turn tables on student journalists on: October 25, 2009, 09:02:29 AM
EVANSTON, Ill. — For more than a decade, classes of students at Northwestern University’s journalism school have been scrutinizing the work of prosecutors and the police. The investigations into old crimes, as part of the Medill Innocence Project, have helped lead to the release of 11 inmates, the project’s director says, and an Illinois governor once cited those wrongful convictions as he announced he was commuting the sentences of everyone on death row.

But as the Medill Innocence Project is raising concerns about another case, that of a man convicted in a murder 31 years ago, a hearing has been scheduled next month in Cook County Circuit Court on an unusual request: Local prosecutors have subpoenaed the grades, grading criteria, class syllabus, expense reports and e-mail messages of the journalism students themselves.
The prosecutors, it seems, wish to scrutinize the methods of the students this time. The university is fighting the subpoenas.

Lawyers in the Cook County state’s attorney’s office say that in their quest for justice in the old case, they need every pertinent piece of information about the students’ three-year investigation into Anthony McKinney, who was convicted of fatally shooting a security guard in 1978. Mr. McKinney’s conviction is being reviewed by a judge.

Among the issues the prosecutors need to understand better, a spokeswoman said, is whether students believed they would receive better grades if witnesses they interviewed provided evidence to exonerate Mr. McKinney.

Northwestern University and David Protess, the professor who leads the students and directs the Medill Innocence Project, say the demands are ridiculously overreaching, irrelevant to Mr. McKinney’s case, in violation of the state’s protections for journalists and a breach of federal privacy statutes — not to mention insulting.

John Lavine, the dean of the Medill School of Journalism, said the suggestion that students might have thought their grades were linked to what witnesses said was “astonishing.” He said he believed that federal law barred him from providing the students grades, but that he had no intention of doing so in any case..

A spokeswoman for Anita Alvarez, the Cook County state’s attorney, who was elected last fall, said the prosecutors were simply trying to get to the bottom of the McKinney case.

“At the end of the day, all we’re seeking is the same thing these students are: justice and truth,” said Sally Daly, the spokeswoman. She said the prosecutors wished to see all statements the students received from witnesses, whether they supported or contradicted the notion of Mr. McKinney’s innocence.

“We’re not trying to delve into areas of privacy or grades,” Ms. Daly said. “Our position is that they’ve engaged in an investigative process, and without any hostility, we’re seeking to get all of the information they’ve developed, just as detectives and investigators turn over.”

If the courts find that Mr. Protess and the journalism school must turn over the student information, they risk being held in contempt if they refuse, said Dick O’Brien, a lawyer who is representing Northwestern.

But if the school gives in to such a demand, say advocates of the Medill Innocence Project and more than 50 similar projects (most involving law schools and legal clinics), the stakes could be still higher, discouraging students from taking part or forcing groups to devote time and money to legal assistance.

“Every time the government starts attacking the messenger as opposed to the message, it can have a chilling effect,” said Barry C. Scheck, a pioneer of the Innocence Project in New York, who said he had never seen a similar demand from prosecutors.

In October 2003, Mr. Protess’s investigative journalism classes began looking at the case after Mr. McKinney’s brother, Michael, brought it to the attention of the Medill Innocence Project — one of more 15,000 cases the project has been asked to consider investigating over the years.

Mr. Protess, who has been on the faculty at Northwestern since 1981 and began leading his investigative reporting students on such cases in 1991, created the Medill project in 1999, the same year he and his students drew national attention for helping to exonerate and free Anthony Porter, an inmate who had come within two days of execution.

The McKinney case took three years and nine teams of student reporters, all of whom have since graduated from Northwestern. In the end, the teams concluded that Mr. McKinney had been wrongly convicted of killing Donald Lundahl, a security guard, with a shotgun one evening in September 1978 in Harvey, a southern suburb of Chicago.

The students said they had found, among other things, that two eyewitnesses had recanted their testimony against Mr. McKinney and could not have seen him commit the killing because they were watching a boxing championship (Leon Spinks vs. Muhammad Ali). The students collected an affidavit from a gang member who, they say, confirmed Mr. McKinney’s alibi that he was running away from gang members when the shooting took place.

The students have also suggested alternative suspects in the case and offered witnesses who said they had heard the others admit their involvement.

In 2006, the students took their findings to the Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern’s law school, and by late last year, the claims were being considered by a Cook County Circuit Court judge and were described in an article in The Chicago Sun-Times and on the Medill Innocence Project Web site.


Page 2 of 2)

The students provided their videotaped interviews of critical witnesses and affidavits to the prosecutors, but in June the prosecutors subpoenaed far more — the students’ investigative memorandums, e-mail messages, notes from multiple interviews with witnesses and class grades.

In their quest, prosecutors have raised a central question about the role of the students — suggesting that they should be viewed as an “investigative agency,” not journalists, whose unpublished materials could, under certain circumstances, be protected under a state statute.

“The school believes it should be exempt from the scrutiny of this honorable court and the justice system, yet it should be deemed a purveyor of its inadequacies to the public,” a legal brief from prosecutors said.

Professional journalism groups have said the students are clearly journalists, and offered support for their wish not to reveal their notes. Beth Konrad, president of the Chicago Headline Club, said the club was seeking a discussion with Ms. Alvarez, the state’s attorney.

“We want to know, what was the decision to overreach on this?” Ms. Konrad said.

Donald M. Craven, the interim executive director of the Illinois Press Association, questioned the prosecutors’ motives. “Taken to its logical conclusion, what they’re trying to do is dismantle the project,” Mr. Craven said.

Mr. Protess said his students most assuredly functioned as journalists and, as such, did not wish to become “an arm of the government” by providing their notes and private exchanges.

“It would destroy our autonomy,” he said. “We function with journalism standards and practices to guide our work.”

The notion that students would have been rewarded with better grades for witnesses who confirmed the thesis that Mr. McKinney was innocent is simply false, he said.

“My students are told to uncover the truth, wherever that leads them,” he said. In the last four years, he said, students had twice concluded that the convicts whose cases they were studying were indeed guilty.

Sarah Forte, one of the students who investigated Mr. McKinney’s case and who graduated in 2006, said she was frustrated that prosecutors were making the requests, even as Mr. McKinney, 49, remained in a prison in downstate Dixon.

“Why are they focusing on these unrelated things?” asked Ms. Forte, a defense investigator at the Southern Center for Human Rights who said she went to Northwestern partly to get involved in Mr. Protess’s project. “I cannot even imagine what they think they are going to find.”
23568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq; T. Friedman on: October 25, 2009, 08:55:20 AM

Bombs in Iraq: One of them hit the Ministry of Justice building today.  A place I have been to a number of times.  In fact coming back from there was when I missed being atomized by 5 minutes a month or two ago....

Glad I was on a C-130 from Amman today....

Eyes on the Prize
Published: October 24, 2009

BAGHDAD, Aug. 25, 2012 — President Obama flew into Baghdad today on his end-of-term tour to highlight successes in U.S. foreign policy. At a time when the Arab-Israel negotiations remain mired in deadlock and Afghanistan remains mired in quagmire, Mr. Obama hailed the peaceful end of America’s combat presence in Iraq as his only Middle East achievement. Speaking to a gathering of Iraqi and U.S. officials under the banner “Mission Actually Accomplished,” written in Arabic and English, Mr. Obama took credit for helping Iraq achieve a decent — albeit hugely costly — end to the war initiated by President Bush. Aides said Mr. Obama would highlight the progress in Iraq in his re-election campaign.

Could we actually read such a news article in three years? I wouldn’t bet on it. But I wouldn’t rule it out either. Six years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq continues to unnerve and tantalize. Watching Iraqi politics is like watching a tightrope artist crossing a dangerous cavern. At every step it looks as though he is going to fall into the abyss, and yet, somehow, he continues to wobble forward. Nothing is easy when trying to transform a country brutalized by three decades of cruel dictatorship. It is one step, one election, one new law, at a time. Each is a struggle. Each is crucial.

This next step is particularly important, which is why we cannot let Afghanistan distract U.S. diplomats from Iraq. Remember: Transform Iraq and it will impact the whole Arab-Muslim world. Change Afghanistan and you just change Afghanistan.

Specifically, the Obama team needs to make sure that Iraq’s bickering politicians neither postpone the next elections, scheduled for January, nor hold them on the basis of the 2005 “closed list” system that is dominated by the party leaders. We must insist, with all our leverage, on an “open list” election, which creates more room for new faces by allowing Iraqis to vote for individual candidates and not just a party. This is what Iraq’s spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is also demanding. It is a much more accountable system.

If we can get open list voting, the next big step would be the emergence of Iraqi parties in this election running for office on the basis of nonsectarian coalitions — where Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds run together. This would be significant: Iraq is a microcosm of the whole Middle East, and if Iraq’s sects can figure out how to govern themselves — without an iron-fisted dictator — democracy is possible in this whole region.

What is tantalizing is that the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who emerged from the Shiite Dawa Party, has decided to run this time with what he calls “The State of Law Coalition,” a pan-Iraqi, nationalist alliance of some 40 political parties, including Sunni tribal leaders and other minorities.

Mr. Maliki was in Washington last week, and I interviewed him at the Willard Hotel, primarily to ask about his new party. “Iraq cannot be ruled by one color or religion or sect,” he explained. “We clearly saw that sectarianism and ethnic grouping threatened our national unity. Therefore, I believe we should bring all these different colors together and establish Iraq as a country built on rule of law and equity and citizenship. The Iraqi people encouraged us. They want this. Other parties are also organizing themselves like this. No one can run anymore as a purely sectarian bloc. ... Our experiment is very unique in this region.”

That’s for sure. The Iranians want pro-Tehran Shiite parties to dominate Iraq. Also, the Iranian dictatorship hates the idea of “inferior” Iraq holding real elections while Iran limits voting to preselected candidates and then rigs the outcome. Most Arab leaders fear any real multisectarian democracy taking root in the neighborhood.

“The most dangerous thing that would threaten others is that if we really create success in building a democratic state in Iraq,” said Maliki, whose country today now has about 100 newspapers. “The countries whose regimes are built on one party, sect or ethnic group will feel endangered.”

Maliki knows it won’t be easy: “Saddam ruled for more than 35 years,” he said. “We need one or two generations brought up on democracy and human rights to get rid of this orientation.”

If this election comes off, it will still be held with U.S. combat troops on hand. The even bigger prize and test will be four years hence, if Iraq can hold an election in which multiethnic coalitions based on differing ideas of governance — not sectarianism — vie for power, and the reins are passed from one government to another without any U.S. military involvement. That would be the first time in modern Arab history where true multisectarian coalitions contest power, and cede power, without foreign interference. That would shake up the whole region.

Yes, let’s figure out Afghanistan. But let’s not forget that something very important — but so fragile and tentative — is still playing out in Iraq, and we and our allies still need to help bring it to fruition.
23569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 24, 2009, 03:34:24 PM
May I suggest we begin with a discussion of the question presented?
23570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 24, 2009, 02:57:56 PM
I think the question presented by Rachel is a worthy one:    At what point is someone beyond the social pale for all areas because of the views held in some areas?

Concerning the not so right Rev. Wright, no one here has found anything he has ever said worthy of consideration-- so what is the point of the question to Rachel?
23571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq, currently in Jordan 2.0 on: October 24, 2009, 01:46:37 PM
So I am back in Amman overnighting for trip bck to Baghdad tomorrow.  The hotel has quite a few Australian soldiers staying here.  I think they arrived today and would not be surprised if they are on my flight out tomorrow.

Anyway, I have a couple of them on my floor.  They have their room door propped wide open and are walking around in shorts and t-shirts.  This is a 5 star hotel in the capital of a Muslim country.  There are even several fully covered Arab women on my floor and these clowns are walking around like they are back home in their trailers.  The only thing I haven't seen is them drinking beer but the night is still young.

Ths kind of behavior will be remembered far more and far longer than any other "good" things these soldiers may do over here.  They will be rememberedby those who saw them as uncouth and disrespectful.
23572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran, NK, & Syria on: October 24, 2009, 07:59:42 AM
Iran, N. Korea supplying weapons to Syria


WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Iran has acted as mediator with North Korea to deliver weapons of mass destruction and missile technology to Syria, a congressional report said.

The U.S. Congressional Research Service said in a report released earlier this month that Iran is one of the biggest customers for North Korean arms, acting as a possible go-between for Syria's arsenal.

"Iran purportedly has acted as an intermediary with North Korea to supply Syria with various forms of WMD and missile technology," the report said.

The Israeli air force in 2007 struck a facility near al-Kibar, Syria, which intelligence officials claim was a nuclear reactor of North Korean design under construction since 2001.

A report from Jane's Intelligence Review in February says commercial satellite imagery of another Syrian site, al-Safir, depicts what are thought to be the defining characteristics of not only chemical weapons manufacturing, but also of heavy construction activity near a missile base.

Iranian officials, for their part, were thought to be on hand when North Korea tested a nuclear device in May and a long-range missile in April, reports South Korea's Yonhap News Agency.

The congressional report goes on to say Iran has "several" submarines with sonar-evading technology that were "possibly" connected to North Korea.

Iran this year unveiled several new lines of military
technology, including three stealth submarines and a rapid-fire 40mm anti-Cruise missile canon, dubbed Fath.
23573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO offers millions in Muslim technology subsidies on: October 24, 2009, 07:44:58 AM
Wasn't quite sure where to put this:

Obama offers millions in Muslim technology fund


The White House Friday highlighted a new multi-million-dollar technology fund for Muslim nations, following a pledge made by President Barack Obama in his landmark speech to the Islamic world.

The White House said the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) had issued a call for proposals for the fund, which will provide financing of between 25 and 150 million dollars for selected projects and funds.

The Global Technology and Innovation Fund will "catalyze and facilitate private sector investments" throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa, the White House said in a statement.

Eligible projects would advance economic opportunity and create jobs in areas like technology, education, telecoms, media, business services and clean technology, the White House said.

OPIC said sample projects could help foster the development of new computer technology or telecommunications businesses, or widen access to broadband Internet services.

Proposals must be submitted by the end of November, and managers of funds that make a final short list will make presentations in Washington in January.

Final selections will be announced next June.

In his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo last June, Obama argued that "education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century" and that under-investment was rife in many Muslim nations.

As well as the fund, Obama also said he will host a summit on entrepreneurship this year to deepen ties between business leaders in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

In his speech on June 4, Obama vowed to forge a "new beginning" for Islam and America, promising to purge years of "suspicion and discord."

In what may be one of the defining moments of his presidency, Obama laid out a new blueprint for US Middle East policy, pledged to end mistrust, forge a state for Palestinians and defuse a nuclear showdown with Iran.
23574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 10/30 at Congresswoman Harman's office on: October 24, 2009, 07:25:36 AM
This is my Congresswoman.

CAN YOU HEAR US YET? – Pink Slips are coming November 2010
Stop Socialized Government Healthcare.  There is still time to stop this criminal expansion of government.  We want less Government not more.  Cap and Trade is still not passed let's keep it that way.
Education in California is Worst we want First. 
We want California to stop chasing businesses out of the state.
Join us for the one year countdown to firing Congress, and replacing California’s legislature.

Date: Friday, October 30, 2009
Time: 4:30 – 5:30 PM
Location: In front of Jane Harman’s office.
2321 E. Rosecrans Avenue, El Segundo, CA 90245

23575  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 24, 2009, 06:40:28 AM
I love it when questions are presented of/by archetypes.
23576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 24, 2009, 06:33:38 AM
One sign that an adversary isn't serious about negotiating is when it rejects even your concessions. That seemed to be the case yesterday when Iran gave signs it may turn down an offer from Russia, Europe and the U.S. to let Tehran enrich its uranium under foreign supervision outside the country. The mullahs so far won't take yes for an answer.

Tehran had previously looked set to accept the deal, which is hardly an obstacle to its nuclear program. A Democratic foreign policy shop called the National Security Network heralded the expected pact in a blast email this week as "Engagement Paying Dividends on Iran." But now Tehran may be holding out for even more concessions, as Iranian news reports suggest Iran wants to be able to buy more enriched uranium from a third country to use in a research reactor for medical use—as opposed to shipping its uranium to Russia for a roundtrip.

This may merely be the equivalent of last-minute haggling over the price of a Persian carpet, because the West's enrichment offer is already a good one for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran would give up one bomb's worth—about 2,600 pounds—of uranium enriched at its facility in Natanz to the low level of 3.5%. Russia would then enrich the uranium further to 19.75% and someone, most likely France, would put the uranium into fuel rods for transfer back to Iran for ostensible use in a civilian nuclear reactor. Western officials say this would delay Iran's efforts to get a bomb.

.There are a couple problems with this theory. With the exception of the regime, no one knows for sure how much uranium Iran possesses. Given Iran's long history of lying to the world and the discovery of covert enrichment facilities (most recently in Qom) that need uranium from somewhere, a fair guess would be that Iran has more than the 3,500 pounds it has declared to U.N. inspectors.

Meanwhile, Iran insists it won't stop enriching uranium on its own, in violation of Security Council resolutions. Aside from rewarding Iran for past misbehavior by letting it use illegally enriched uranium, this deal fails to solve the problem it is intended to solve. That's because as long as the Natanz facility continues to enrich uranium at its current rate of about 132 pounds a month, Iran will produce enough low-enriched uranium within the year for a bomb. Make Natanz more efficient and the time could be cut in half.

Claims by Western officials that Iran can't convert the uranium enriched abroad for military use are less than reassuring. Though encased in a fuel rod in France, the more highly-enriched uranium returned to Iran would be simple to extract, using something as basic as a tin snipper to force open the fuel cladding, and enrich further.

"With 19.75 enriched feed"—as opposed to the 3.5% that Iran now manages—"the level of effort or time Iran would need to make weapons grade uranium would drop very significantly," from roughly five months today "down to something slightly less than four weeks," says Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center.

Iran may also welcome the Russian-enriched uranium because its own technology is less advanced. The October 8 edition of the trade journal Nucleonics Week reports that Iran's low-enriched uranium appears to have "impurities" that "could cause centrifuges to fail" if Iran itself tried to enrich uranium to weapons-grade—which would mean above 20% and ideally up to 90%. In this scenario, the West would be decontaminating the uranium for Iran. Along the way, Iranian scientists may also pick up clues on how to do better themselves.

The mullahs know that President Obama is eager to show diplomatic gains from his engagement strategy, and they are going to exploit that eagerness to get every possible concession. The one thing Iran has shown no desire to bargain over is its intention to become a nuclear power.
23577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Forfeiture on: October 24, 2009, 06:29:20 AM
With states and cities struggling with deficits, one fertile source of revenue has been money or property seized by police in possible connection with crimes. Not to be left behind, Illinois has pursued this tactic aggressively, using a law which encourages both police departments and prosecutors to take property for forfeiture, long before the accused ever get their day in court.

This practice was challenged at the Supreme Court recently in Alvarez v. Smith, where six people allege that police use of the Illinois Drug Asset Forfeiture Procedure Act violated their right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Though forfeiture laws are designed to strip criminals of ill-gotten gains, three of the six were never charged with a crime. All six had their property or money taken without a warrant and had to wait for months or years without a hearing on the legitimacy of the forfeiture.

By now, the individual cases in Illinois have been resolved with either a forfeiture or a return of the property, leading the Justices to question during oral argument whether the case should be dismissed as moot. Whether the court considers the details in Alvarez, the court will soon need to resolve when detention of property violates due process.

Under Illinois law, the state has 187 days after property is seized to file forfeiture proceedings. Meanwhile, of forfeited funds seized, 25% lands in the lap of the prosecutor's office. Another 65% goes to the department that seized the property, giving police added incentive to take the property to pad their budgets. Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted this police incentive with concern.

The numbers can be hefty. In 2008, the Chicago Police Department bragged it took in some $13.5 million in asset forfeitures, nearly double what it had seized the previous year. Golly. Inquiring minds will wonder if there were actually double the situations that called for asset forfeiture last year, or if the Chicago PD is simply more assertive about detaining property when the city is short of money.

The case comes from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which vindicated the citizens when it ruled that the time between forfeiture and judicial hearing presented an unconstitutional delay. The court required the state to provide property owners with an informal hearing to establish whether there is probable cause to continue to keep the property in custody.

The question for the Supreme Court is whether to uphold what's known as the "Mathews standard," a well-worn method by which courts determine how individuals may challenge government "takings." The standard requires courts to take into account the individual harm caused by a property seizure as well as the risk of mistakes and the cost of additional hearings or other procedures. Illinois prefers a looser standard, allowing the state to continue to delay due process.

The Illinois law compares awkwardly with the federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000. As the Cato Institute details in an amicus brief, while the two laws may establish comparable time frames, federal civil forfeiture actions can often run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, a level of cost and complexity well beyond the property at issue under the Illinois drug law. The better match-up is with other state forfeiture laws, and here Illinois performs miserably, taking many times as long to provide a hearing as the likes of Florida, Iowa, Arizona, Missouri and Texas.

We're all for relieving criminals of illegal profits, but civil forfeiture laws must be used with caution and oversight lest they infringe on fundamental rights. Alvarez v. Smith provides an opportunity to restore the balance of justice to citizens.
23578  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Brain damage/concussion in boxing, kickboxing, football, etc: on: October 24, 2009, 06:21:57 AM
Published: October 23, 2009
When a survey commissioned by the National Football League recently indicated that dementia or similar memory-related diseases had been diagnosed in its retired players vastly more often than in the national population, the league claimed the study was unreliable.

But confidential data from the N.F.L.’s dementia assistance plan strongly corroborates claims of a link between football and later-life cognitive impairment. Records indicate that pro football’s retirees are experiencing moderate to advanced early-onset dementia at rates several times higher than the general population, the most glaring evidence to date of the dangers of professional football in past eras.
As the House Judiciary Committee prepares to hold a hearing on Wednesday on the issue of brain injuries in football, this latest data further underscores the possible safety risks of the modern game at all levels, from the N.F.L. to youth leagues.

The new information was collected by a lawyer for the 88 Plan, which the league and its players union began in 2007 to reimburse medical expenses of retirees being treated for dementia, and was presented to the union in a memorandum, which was obtained by The New York Times. The lawyer, Douglas W. Ell of the Groom Law Group, compared the age distribution of 88 Plan members with several published studies regarding dementia rates around the world, and wrote that “the numbers seem to refute any claim that playing N.F.L. football substantially increases” later risk for dementia.

But the outside data on which he primarily based this conclusion was not only mishandled — the wrong numbers were taken from one published study, grossly overstating worldwide dementia rates — but the analysis also included several faulty assumptions, experts said in later interviews. Correcting for these errors indicated rates of dementia among N.F.L. retirees about four to five times the expected rate.

“This was a preliminary effort at the request of the union to understand the facts,” said Ell, adding that he was acting as a lawyer for the union. “I understand now that it was flawed. I believe the union wants the true facts to come out and welcomes inquiries into this area.”

Joe Browne, an N.F.L. spokesman, said in an e-mail message that because no one at the league office had yet seen Ell’s analysis, it was phantom.

“I say phantom because we have not seen this analysis in our office and, if it was done, it obviously was written for the N.F.L. player union’s own self-promotional and lobbying purposes in anticipation of next week’s Congressional hearing,” Browne wrote.

“The executive director has made it clear that player safety is too important to be about business as usual, the N.F.L.’s special interests or our special interests,” George Atallah, a union spokesman, said, referring to the new union chief, DeMaurice Smith. “This issue is and will always be only about the players, and we have to obtain the right information to get the right answers. The executive director has directed that all information on player health and safety be exchanged with the N.F.L., with the hope that they will do the same.”

As brain injuries in football have come under scrutiny in recent years, and as several independent academic studies have found high rates of cognitive decline among N.F.L. retirees, the league and its committee on concussions have consistently denied the existence of credible evidence supporting any link. When a telephone survey conducted by the University of Michigan on behalf of the N.F.L. recently reported that its retirees aged 50 and above reported diagnoses of cognitive disease at five times the rate of the national population, the league said such surveys were unreliable.

Members of the 88 Plan, however, are dementia cases that the league itself has confirmed as diagnosed by a physician and incurring expenses worthy of reimbursement. As such they represent a minimum of existing cases — even Commissioner Roger Goodell has acknowledged that there are more candidates either unreachable or unwilling to apply — as well as a severity of disease that is undoubtedly higher than cases in common literature, experts said.

“You know N.F.L. players,” Goodell said when asked about the 88 Plan at his annual news conference before last season’s Super Bowl. “They’ve got a lot of pride. When they have a lot of pride, they don’t always want to become public with their needs.”

According to Ell’s memorandum, 68 men ages 60 to 89 were receiving plan aid as of Oct. 1. (About 35 others had been admitted and died.) Ell then assessed how many plan members would be expected if N.F.L. retirees in various age groups experienced dementia at rates published in six academic studies. The analysis from there was faulty, however.

Only four of the six studies included any data on men in their 60s, whose dementia would be defined as early-onset. One yielded an expectation of 58 dementia cases among the N.F.L. population, another about 40. One included crude estimates from Scotland, which, after Ell further applied them improperly to the N.F.L. population — he didn’t stratify them by age — yielded an estimate of over 200. The fourth included two obvious errors: the wrong column of published data was used, and those numbers were not rates per 100 but rates per 1,000. Ell’s resulting estimate, 135, which he interpreted along with the Scotland figure as balancing the lower figures, should have been 73.


(Page 2 of 2)

The 88 Plan’s living membership (68) looks similar to the three expectations of 58, 40 and 73. But experts in dementia epidemiology and health policy said in interviews that the 68 was far more alarming than at first glance.

"These are apples and oranges,” said Amy Borenstein, professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida, who specializes in dementia research. “You can’t directly compare that plan’s numbers to any population-based study.”
First, as Goodell asserted, the program cannot include veterans who are unreachable or unwilling to apply. One unwilling player appears to be Rayfield Wright, 64, a Hall of Fame tackle for the Cowboys from 1967 to 1979 who lives in the Dallas area.

His friend and caregiver, Jeannette DeVader, said that Wright had all the signs of early-onset dementia — including short-term memory loss and frequently getting lost — but that he would not see a neurologist, let alone apply to the 88 Plan. Wright confirmed that he did not want what he called the stigma: “Players don’t want to look at themselves that way. The truth is, you really don’t want to know.”

The wife of one player experiencing early-onset dementia, who asked not to be identified, said she would not apply for the 88 Plan while her husband was coherent enough to understand it.

“He would be devastated,” she said. “They were so proud as players. They’re not going to admit any weakness now, and I’m not going to break his heart by doing it for him.”

Borenstein said that it was reasonable to conclude that if 68 men ages 60 to 89 are receiving aid from the 88 Plan, at least 40 or 50 more cases of similar severity are unaware of the program, unwilling to apply or do not need financial aid. This estimate was echoed by other experts in dementia and epidemiology, including Dr. Daniel P. Perl of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and Dr. Robert C. Cantu, co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University.

In addition, according to those doctors and published studies, about half of people with dementia are considered mild cases, many of whom were unaware they had the condition before and after a study was performed. “It’s hard to believe that more than a few 88 Plan members are in what we call the mild category,” Perl said, given the anecdotal evidence and financial data the N.F.L. released this month.

The league said $6 million has been distributed to 106 members in the two-plus years the 88 Plan has been in place; given that they have received aid for various periods, that leads to more than half of members receiving $40,000 to $88,000 maximum per year in aid — suggesting full-time at-home or institutional care, Borenstein and Perl said.

And some of the cases receiving low levels of aid are advanced: Sharon Hawkins will place her 71-year-old husband, the former Oakland Raiders lineman Wayne Hawkins, in a full-time facility next week after receiving less than $10,000 per year from the 88 Plan since 2007.

“He gets lost walking the dog,” Sharon Hawkins said. “Thank God the dog has known the way home.”

Borenstein, Perl and Cantu said that if academic studies predicted about 60 N.F.L. veterans to have dementia across the full severity spectrum, which is the case here, only about 20 to 30 would be experiencing the severity that appears in the 88 Plan.

Combining the two major differences between the N.F.L. data and estimates for the general population — only about 25 men should have dementia to that degree, the researchers reasoned, and there are probably about 110 who do — leaves former N.F.L. players experiencing dementia at rates four to five times more often than normal.

“We’re talking about a four-, four-and-a-half-fold increase — that’s substantial,” Perl said. “Playing football for as long as these men have, there’s no other environmental risk factor of that magnitude. There are some assumptions here, yes. The comparability of general population rates are not exact. But those assumptions are reasonable. Maybe it’s three times. Maybe it’s five. But these data suggest that something very serious is going on here.”

In his e-mail message, Browne of the N.F.L. wrote: “According to the literature, dementia has many different causes, e.g., a stroke, as the result of substance abuse or family history. It also can be caused by a series of blows to the head or a severe head trauma years after a player has ended his career.”

Browne’s list notably did not include N.F.L. play. His skepticism was shared earlier this year by Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I believe that our statistics are very similar to what they are in the general population,” Rooney said after Goodell’s news conference. “I don’t think that it’s something that pro football players, every one of them has this. Surely there’s something about getting hit. But they don’t get hit as much as maybe some people are trying to say.”
23579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hefner: The Loin in Winter on: October 24, 2009, 06:12:56 AM
The Loin in Winter: Hefner Reflects, and Grins
Published: October 23, 2009
LOS ANGELES — Hugh Hefner leaned back on a red loveseat, the saggy one in the study of his infamous mansion here, and interlocked his fingers behind his head. A visitor had asked — more like shouted, since he has trouble hearing — a question about mortality.

Despite Playboy Enterprises' struggles, a reflective Hugh Hefner says life at 83 is “even better, richer than people know.”

Hugh Hefner and his girlfriends, from left, Kristina and Karissa Shannon, and Crystal Harris. He says that “pop culture is a thinner soup today,” adding, “It used to be a thick porridge.”
At 83, does he think about it?

In a word, no. Mr. Hefner, the legendarily libidinous founder of Playboy, the prophet of hedonism, does not believe that his denouement is at hand.

He doesn’t act like it, either. He still works full days on his magazine, flies to Europe and Las Vegas, pops Viagra, visits nightclubs with his three live-in girlfriends — each young enough to be his great-granddaughter — and is working with the producer Brian Grazer on a film.

“This is one of the very best times of my life,” he said, grinning, dressed in pajamas and slippers. “It’s even better, richer than people know.”

You want to believe him, but it is hard to ignore the realities of his business. Playboy Enterprises, hobbled by a shifting media landscape, is in need of heart paddles. On Tuesday, the magazine said it would cut the circulation numbers it guarantees to advertisers to 1.5 million, from 2.6 million. The company has lost money for seven quarters in a row.

And perhaps most shockingly, the company said earlier this year that it would consider acquisition offers, something that was believed to be unthinkable while Mr. Hefner was still alive.

Mr. Hefner knows every good party must end, having long ago bought a crypt next to Marilyn Monroe at a Los Angeles cemetery. In interviews over the years, he has talked about how life wouldn’t be worth living without Playboy. “If I sold it, my life would be over,” he has said. But he may be coming around: “I’m taking more seriously the fact that I’m not 30 years old anymore. I need to think about the continuity of the magazine.”

Love him or loathe him, no one doubts Mr. Hefner’s influence in American cultural history. As a magazine publisher, he essentially did for sex what Ray Kroc did for roadside food: clean it up for a rising middle class.

As a cultural force, however, Mr. Hefner still divides the country — 56 years after Playboy’s first issue. To his supporters, he is the great sexual liberator who helped free Americans from Puritanism and neurosis. To his detractors, including many feminists and social conservatives, he helped set in motion a revolution in sexual attitudes that have objectified and victimized countless women and promoted an immoral, whatever-feels-good approach to life.

Mr. Hefner will concede that there are dark consequences of what he helped set into motion, but said “it’s a small price to pay for personal freedom.”

“People don’t always make good decisions. The real obscenities on this planet have very little to do with sex,” he said, adding that “it’s not as romantic a time.”

Less romantic and — with instantly available pornography online and graphic sex talk, including on Mr. Hefner’s own show, “The Girls Next Door,” on TV — it’s a time that makes Playboy’s ideals seem quaint. Mr. Hefner — who uses the word “cat” to describe himself, as in, “I’m the luckiest cat on the planet” — doesn’t think much of today’s cultural landscape.

“I feel strongly that the pop culture is a thinner soup today,” he said. “It used to be a thick porridge.”

At the same time, he tries to be an active participant. While the magazine is still edited largely in Chicago, Mr. Hefner approves “every Playmate, every cover, the cartoons and the letters.” Working from a home office or his bed, where the 1970s-era Tasmanian opossum fur bedspread has been traded for a silk and velvet one, Mr. Hefner helped drive the recent decision to buy a 5,000-word excerpt of Vladimir Nabokov’s unfinished novella, “The Original of Laura,” for a forthcoming issue.

His girlfriends recently educated him about Twitter. (“I’ll be playing gin rummy tonight” was a recent tweet.) He’s hooked on the HBO drama “True Blood.” He recently filmed a Guitar Hero commercial, holding the pipe he gave up after a suffering a small stroke in 1985. He has also suffered personal humiliations. Former live-in girlfriends, including those who have appeared on “The Girls Next Door,” have portrayed him in interviews and a book as a control freak who enforces a curfew of 9 p.m. The mansion itself has seen better days. During a July visit, the game house (the one with a room that has a mattress as flooring) smelled musty, while the bird aviary needed scrubbing. That famous grotto, with its Jacuzzis of varied depth, seemed more like a fetid zoo exhibit than a pleasure palace (although nearby shelves were stocked with enormous bottles of Johnson’s Baby Oil).

In March, with the housing market in a nosedive, he put his wife’s home, located next door to the Playboy Mansion, up for sale for $28 million. It sold in August for $18 million. Mr. Hefner, who separated from Kimberly Conrad Hefner in 1998, filed for divorce in early September; she is suing him, claiming he owes her $4 million under a prenuptial agreement and proceeds from the home’s sale.


Mr. Hefner’s retinue insists that money is not tight, but a series of actions has made it look that way. The Los Angeles Business Journal reported last year that the mansion’s staff had been cut. People can now buy tickets (up to $10,000 each) to what were once invitation-only parties, which remain a vital part of stoking the Playboy brand.

“It’s not always as exciting as people think,” said Holly Madison in an interview last summer. Ms. Madison lived with Mr. Hefner for seven years as his “No. 1 girlfriend” until she broke up with him last fall.

Richard Rosenzweig, who has worked at Playboy since 1958 and holds multiple titles, begged to differ. “This is a very aspirational place,” he said in an interview in Mr. Hefner’s dining room. “Everybody wants to come here.”

When Mr. Hefner’s relationship with Ms. Madison ended, he said he got letters from women around the world begging to move in. “They were climbing over the gates,” he said, beaming. Mr. Hefner chose three new live-in girlfriends, 23-year-old Crystal Harris and twins Kristina and Karissa Shannon, 20.

Despite his chipper attitude, Mr. Hefner clearly has legacy on his mind. Lately, he has been poring over his scrapbooks, which he has been keeping since childhood and now number over 2,000. Never-before-seen material from them — his first library card, self-drawn comic strips and pictures — will form the heart of a 3,506-page, six-volume “illustrated biography” from Taschen. Only 1,500 of the $1,300 behemoths will be sold, starting next month.

For the first time, Mr. Hefner has also given unfettered access to a documentary filmmaker, Brigitte Berman, whose recently completed “Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel” made its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

And a major Hollywood biopic is speeding ahead at long last. Mr. Grazer recently met with the screenwriter Diablo Cody about the project, Mr. Hefner said. Brett Ratner (best known for the “Rush Hour” blockbusters) is lined up to direct. Robert Downey Jr. has expressed interest in playing Mr. Hefner.

“He’s an intellect of the highest order who influenced the worldwide zeitgeist in a grand way — and that influence is drastically underrated,” Mr. Grazer said.

Indeed, some of his long-time friends fret that some of the accomplishments they admire — creating a cultural icon (the Playboy Bunny), eroding racial boundaries (through the inclusion of black performers in his clubs), and supporting many feminist causes, including abortion rights and the Equal Rights Amendment — are getting lost.

Mr. Hefner worries about it, too. “We just literally live in a very different world and I played a part in making it that way,” he said. “Young people have no idea about that.”
23580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Bristish National Party on: October 24, 2009, 05:58:20 AM
Pravda on the Hudson

LONDON — In a usual week, “Question Time” is a worthy but largely unexciting television production, a late-night panel discussion on the BBC that for 30 years has attracted a modest, pre-bedtime audience.

The police tried to keep back protesters on Thursday outside BBC offices in London before a TV appearance by the leader of the right-wing British National Party.

But on Thursday, it was transformed into the forum for Britain’s most widely anticipated political showdown in decades, drawing 8.2 million viewers, more than three times the program’s usual audience, on a par with the World Cup games played by England’s soccer team and more than the number of viewers for such weekly prime time hit shows as “Strictly Come Dancing.”

The occasion was the appearance on the program, the BBC’s flagship politics show, of Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, whose goal to “take back Britain” includes incentives that encourage the mass repatriation of Britain’s nonwhite immigrants, coupled with a deep hostility to Islam, which Mr. Griffin has described as “a wicked and vicious faith.” He has also spoken of his “repugnance” for lesbians and gay men, and advocated the end of civil contracts for same-sex relationships.

His record includes having denied the Holocaust, suggesting that some of the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau were built after World War II for the purposes of Jewish propaganda, and conceding, under questioning by a biographer, that Hitler, whom Mr. Griffin invoked in the past as a model, may have made mistakes. “Yes,” he said, according to the biographer, Dominic Carman, “Adolf went a bit too far.”

In June, the B.N.P. won two seats — one for Mr. Griffin — in Britain’s 72-seat contingent to the European Parliament, the first time it won election to anything higher than a local council. The party took more than a million votes, 6.2 percent of the total, and gained enough legitimacy, in the view of the BBC’s executives, to have its voice heard alongside the country’s mainstream parties on “Question Time.”

Mr. Griffin, 50, is a pinstripe-suit-and-tie-wearing Cambridge University law graduate whose mission is to put a mainstream gloss on a party that is the ideological descendant of the British Union of Fascists, the pro-Hitler “blackshirts” of the 1930s.

Since seizing the leadership of the British National Party a decade ago, Mr. Griffin, flak jacket concealed beneath his dark suit, has set out from his home in a heavily guarded farmhouse in Wales to change its members’ image, as a profile in Friday’s Daily Telegraph put it, “from skinheads in bomber jackets to ‘politically incorrect rebels.’ ”

For the B.N.P. and other parties, the timing of the TV debate was especially significant. It came barely seven months before the expected date for Britain’s general election in May. Soaring unemployment and immigration levels, as well as the threat of terrorism, are likely to be major issues then, and ones that could offer new openings to fringe parties like the B.N.P.

The BBC’s decision split Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s cabinet, as it did much of Britain. “If they are asked about their racist and bigoted views,” Mr. Brown said, “it will be a good opportunity to expose what they are about.” But his Welsh secretary, Peter Hain, vehemently disagreed. “The BBC should be ashamed of single-handedly doing a racist, fascist party the biggest favor in its grubby history,” he said.

As the TV taping approached on Thursday night, three hours before the debate was broadcast, a thousand protesters gathered outside the BBC’s Television Center in West London, setting off clashes with truncheon-wielding police officers. At one point, 30 protesters broke into the BBC’s lobby, before being pushed back. A handful of policemen and protesters were injured, and there were six arrests.

To reach the BBC studio, Mr. Griffin was ushered by a phalanx of bodyguards through a rear door of the TV center. For a while, it had looked as if the burly politician, once a boxer for the Cambridge team, might duck the occasion, citing the threat from the protesters — an outcome that would have fitted well with Mr. Griffin’s assertions that Britain’s “political class” will do everything it can to prevent the party’s message from gaining traction.

On Friday, Britain’s airwaves resonated with debate about who had won, and lost, in the 60-minute debate. The program’s format consists of five panelists taking questions from a studio audience of about 100 people and from the program’s presenter, David Dimbleby, a 71-year-old veteran of royal weddings and other state occasions who has achieved the status of a British Walter Cronkite with his middle-of-the-road manner and his custom on “Question Time” of ensuring that all points of view get a fair hearing.

The early reading by many of Britain’s major newspapers was that Mr. Griffin lost heavily on points. While he gained a mass audience for the first time, for a party that usually meets in cramped backstreet halls, he appeared shocked by the pounding he took from other panelists, by repeated booing in the studio and by infuriated interruptions from Mr. Dimbleby.

On Friday, Mr. Griffin said he would make a formal complaint to the BBC about “the venom” and “sheer unfairness” of the discussion. “That was a lynch mob,” he said.


Mr. Dimbleby led the charge. Quoting liberally from Mr. Griffin’s past remarks about the Holocaust, Islam, lesbians and gay men, as well as about restoring Britain to its “indigenous” white population, he demanded that Mr. Griffin say whether he stood by the remarks. After Mr. Griffin said he was “the most loathed man in Britain in the eyes of Britain’s Nazis,” the presenter interrupted brusquely: “Do you deny the Holocaust?”

The program drew 8.2 million viewers and angry questions in the studio about his party’s stances on race and the Holocaust.

When Mr. Griffin hesitated, he repeated the question. Mr. Griffin said that he had shifted from his earlier position of denial after listening to World War II radio intercepts of German plans for eliminating the Jews, but that he could not elaborate because of European laws that make Holocaust denial a criminal offense.
Jack Straw, Britain’s justice minister and a fellow panelist, called Mr. Griffin “the Dr. Strangelove of British politics,” a “fantasizing conspiracy theorist.” He said, “You don’t need radio intercepts to know that people were gassed at Auschwitz.”

The B.N.P. leader also sought to mollify anger in the studio audience — many of whose members were Asian or black — at the party’s stance on saving Britain for whites, saying it was not a matter of color but of preserving the rights of Britain’s “indigenous peoples,” who he said could trace their origins back 17,000 years. “We are the aborigines here,” he said.

That brought one man in the audience to his feet. “Where do you want me to go?” asked Khush Klare, whose parents immigrated from India in the 1960s. “I love this country, I’m part of this country.”

The B.N.P. leader also said that to earn the right to remain in Britain, Muslims should “acknowledge that Britain always has been and must remain fundamentally a British and Christian country.” On lesbians and gay men, he said that “a lot of people in this country find the sight of two grown men kissing in public really creepy.” That brought to her feet a woman in the audience who said she was a lesbian. “I have to say the feeling of revulsion is mutual,” she said.
23581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Biden on: October 24, 2009, 05:50:57 AM

Pravda on the Hudson

Biden Dismisses Cheney’s Criticisms Over Afghanistan Sign in to Recommend
Published: October 23, 2009
PRAGUE — Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had a blunt response on Friday to the latest broadsides from former Vice President Dick Cheney: “Who cares?”

In the latest exchange between old and new administrations, Mr. Biden rebuffed his predecessor’s criticism about President Obama’s handling of Afghanistan as “absolutely wrong.” And Mr. Biden rejected the last review of the war conducted by the White House under former President George W. Bush and Mr. Cheney as “irrelevant.”

The dismissive reply, which came at the end of Mr. Biden’s three-day swing through Eastern Europe during an interview with reporters traveling with him, underscored the weariness in the current White House with Mr. Cheney’s periodic assaults. At the same time, advisers to Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden consider the former vice president a useful public foil and have not shied away from escalating the debate by taking him on directly.

At the heart of the dispute is a fundamental disagreement on national security, from how to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan to how to protect Americans at home from possible terrorist attacks. In a speech in Washington this week, Mr. Cheney complained that Mr. Obama was “dithering” in deciding whether to send more troops to Afghanistan and had committed a “strategic blunder” in scrapping the last administration’s missile defense plan in Eastern Europe.

Mr. Biden spent much of this week in Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic assuring leaders in the region that the cancellation of Mr. Bush’s antimissile shield in favor of a more mobile replacement was not a concession to Russia, as Mr. Cheney and others contended. Mr. Biden secured an agreement with the Czech Republic on Friday to participate in the new missile defense system, as he earlier did with Poland.

Asked about Mr. Cheney’s criticism during a half-hour interview at the American ambassador’s residence here, Mr. Biden responded indirectly at first, saying leaders in the region now agree that the Obama plan will be more effective. “They believe that the new architecture is better,” the vice president said.

But as he warmed to the discussion, he became sharper in his rebuttals of Mr. Cheney. “I think that is absolutely wrong,” he said of the “dithering” charge. “I think what the administration is doing is exactly what we said it would do. And what I think it warrants doing. And that is making an informed judgment based upon circumstances that have changed.”

Mr. Biden shrugged off Mr. Cheney’s point that the old administration had left behind a review of Afghanistan.

“Who cares what — ” he said, and then stopped himself to find another way to put it. (“I can see the headline now,” said the famously free-wheeling vice president. “I’m getting better, guys.”)

But he went on to dismiss the Bush-Cheney review as inadequate. “That’s why the president asked me to get in the plane in January and go to Afghanistan,” Mr. Biden said. “I came back with a different review.”

Moreover, he said, the Bush-Cheney review is now dated. “A whole lot has changed in the last year,” Mr. Biden said. “Let’s assume they left us a review that was absolutely correct. Is that review relevant and totally applicable to today in light of the changes that have taken place in the region, in Afghanistan itself? So I think that is sort of irrelevant. Not sort of — I think it’s irrelevant.”

The interview was the first time Mr. Biden had publicly talked about Afghanistan in the weeks since the president began intensively rethinking his strategy and considering Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s request for about 40,000 more troops. Mr. Biden has been a forceful skeptic of General McChrystal’s request and an advocate for keeping troop levels roughly the same while focusing attention on hunting down Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Mr. Biden said that Mr. Obama had lived up to a pre-election pledge to take his vice president’s views seriously and added that he would not be upset if the president rejected them at the end of the Afghanistan policy review. “He has sought my opinion not generically but in detail,” Mr. Biden said. “And if he reaches a different conclusion than I do, that’s O.K. He’s the president.”

The vice president acknowledged that at every stop on his trip through Eastern Europe he ran into uncertainty from allies about whether America was going to stay the course in Afghanistan. “What they wanted to know was, ‘Are you leaving?’ ” he said, adding that they were satisfied with his reassurances that America was not withdrawing.

Mr. Biden wrapped up his trip on Friday with meetings with Czech leaders. Jan Fischer, the prime minister, said his country would participate in the new antimissile shield. “I used the opportunity to express our readiness as a NATO member to participate because the new architecture is going to be NATO based and the Czech Republic is ready to participate,” Mr. Fischer said.

Mr. Biden said a high-level defense team would visit Prague next month to discuss how to structure that participation. While Poland agreed to host SM-3 interceptors, the Czech Republic might help with research and development or by hosting a command and control center. Yet the Czech commitment remains uncertain since Mr. Fischer is a caretaker prime minister until elections next spring.

Still, securing Polish and Czech involvement in the new system may go a long way toward reassuring the region of America’s commitment to its security. Both Poland and the Czech Republic were supposed to host parts of the Bush system and the Obama administration did not inform them of his decision until just before the announcement. As news of his decision was leaking last month, Mr. Obama scrambled to reach Mr. Fischer by telephone after midnight to tell him first.

Mr. Biden acknowledged that the announcement was not handled well. “Could it have been done better?” he asked. “Yeah. Obviously it could have been done better.” He added, “That’s the reason for the trip.”

He said Eastern European leaders were reassured. “There is an understandable reason for the anxiety here. You’ve got a new administration.” But he added, “Missile architecture was more sort of a metaphor for ‘Are we committed?’ ”
23582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NATO pressures President Hamlet on: October 24, 2009, 05:45:51 AM

Pravda on the Hudson

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Defense ministers from NATO on Friday endorsed the ambitious counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan proposed by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, giving new impetus to his recommendation to pour more troops into the eight-year-old war.

Notes from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other areas of conflict in the post-9/11 era. Go to the Blog »
General McChrystal, the senior American and allied commander in Afghanistan, made an unannounced appearance here on Friday to brief the defense ministers on his strategic review of a war in which the American-led campaign has lost momentum to a tenacious Taliban insurgency.

“What we did today was to discuss General McChrystal’s overall assessment, his overall approach, and I have noted a broad support from all ministers of this overall counterinsurgency approach,” said NATO’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The acceptance by NATO defense ministers of General McChrystal’s approach did not include a decision on new troops, and it was not clear that their judgment would translate into increased willingness by their governments, many of which have been seeking to reduce their military presence in Afghanistan, to contribute further forces to the war.

But it was another in a series of judgments that success there could not be achieved by a narrower effort that did not increase troop levels in Afghanistan substantially and focused more on capturing and killing terrorists linked to Al Qaeda — a counterterrorism strategy identified with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The NATO briefing, though held privately, thrusts General McChrystal back into the debate over what President Obama should do about Afghanistan — a role that has raised tensions between the general and the White House in the past, and even drawn a rebuke from his boss, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

NATO’s support got no official reaction from the White House. But an administration official noted that an endorsement by defense ministers was not the same as an endorsement by the alliance’s political leadership. Other officials were emphatic that Mr. Obama would not be stampeded in his deliberations and suggested that the NATO statement should not be taken as evidence that the White House had made a decision about how to proceed.

“In no way, shape or form are the president’s options constrained,” said Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, speaking to reporters at the State Department.

General McChrystal’s review calls for adopting a full-scale counterinsurgency strategy that would protect population centers and accelerate training of Afghan Army and police units — both of which would require significant numbers of fresh troops. NATO diplomats noted that it was difficult to see how an acceptance of this broad strategy could be viewed as anything but an endorsement of the need to increase both military and civilian contributions.

Mr. Gates, who has kept his views about additional troops close to his vest and has discouraged his commanders from lobbying too publicly for their positions, declined to be drawn out on this assessment.

“For this meeting, I am here mainly in listening mode,” Mr. Gates said in Bratislava after the NATO briefing, although he noted that “many allies spoke positively about General McChrystal’s assessment.”

Mr. Gates said the administration’s decision on Afghanistan was still two or three weeks away, and he cautioned that it was “vastly premature” to draw conclusions now about whether the president would deploy more troops. He said that allied defense ministers had not voiced concerns about the administration’s decision-making process.

Although NATO will not meet until next month to decide whether to commit more resources to Afghanistan, Mr. Gates did reveal that he had received indications that some allies were prepared to increase their contributions of civilian experts or troops, or both.

Britain and other NATO members have had their own fractious political debates over troop levels. A retired top general in Britain recently said that the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown had rebuffed his requests for more troops, a charge Mr. Brown denied.

Separate from his strategic review, General McChrystal has submitted a request for forces, which is now working its way through both the American and NATO chains of command.

The options submitted by General McChrystal range to a maximum of 85,000 more troops, although his leading option calls for increasing forces by about 40,000, according to officials familiar with the proposal.

The pressure for more troops was a theme throughout the day at the NATO meeting, as other senior international representatives told defense ministers of the need to increase their commitments in order to succeed in Afghanistan.

The United Nations special representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, who also flew to the Slovakian capital to meet the ministers, stressed that “additional international troops are required.” He also told the allies, “This cannot be a U.S.-only enterprise.”

Mr. Eide acknowledged that it might be difficult to rally public support for force contributions while allegations of election fraud continued to taint the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Senior American military officers have already endorsed General McChrystal’s overall strategy, including Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in the Middle East.

Senior NATO officials made clear that additional commitments should go beyond combat forces to include trainers for the Afghan Army and police force, as well as civilians to help rebuild the economy and restore confidence in the government.

“What we need is a much broader strategy, which stabilizes the whole of Afghan society, and this is the essence in the recommendations presented by General McChrystal,” said Mr. Rasmussen, the NATO secretary general. “This won’t happen just because of a good plan. It will also need resources — people and money.”

General McChrystal was not scheduled to make any public comments here. The general’s reticence was not unexpected, as some administration officials have criticized his recent statements as an attempt to press the White House to act.

The general and his aides have denied they were playing politics. General McChrystal said in a recent interview that success required a unified, government-wide strategy.

NATO officials assessing the potential for allied troop contributions said that delicate negotiations were under way, and that NATO capitals were watching the Obama administration for signals even while they sent signals of their own.

Thom Shanker reported from Bratislava, and Mark Landler from Washington.
23583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Biden in Central Europe on: October 24, 2009, 05:41:52 AM
Yes I know Biden is a buffoon, but still this is interesting.  Stratfor has often spoken of how geopolitical interests constrain leaders far more than we realized.  Given how the Russians have been fcuking with us on Iran, what this piece describes makes sense.

Biden Rallies Central Europe
U.S. VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN was in Bucharest on Thursday to meet with Romanian government officials, during his whirlwind three-country tour of Central Europe. Biden's trip thus far has been mostly about "reassuring" countries in Central Europe that Washington would not abandon the region to Russia’s influence.

However, during his address at the Bucharest University Central Library, Biden significantly upped the rhetorical ante from merely being reassuring about continued U.S. commitments. He encouraged Central European states to actively subvert Russia's influence in states on its periphery.

Related Link
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on America, Central Europe, and Partnership in 21st Century
(STRATFOR is not responsible for content from other Web sites.)
After a cursory introduction – during which he discussed plans for the new ballistic missile defense system to be based in Poland -- Biden launched into the meat of his message. "The United States stands against the 19th-century notion of 'spheres of influence.' We will not tolerate it, nor will we be co-opted by it," he said. The point was simple and direct: The United States does not accept Russia's demand that it be given free rein in its periphery. Biden has said this before -- at the Munich Security Conference in February and many other times since -- but what followed on Thursday was an elaboration of a strategy for how Washington intends to pressure Russia and the rest of Central Europe.

"Biden not only encouraged Central European countries to seek political change in their eastern neighbors; he essentially offered them U.S. support in their efforts."
"We know from history that destroying old oppressive regimes is a great deal easier than building new flourishing democracies," Biden said. "But you've delivered on the promise of your revolution. You are now in the position to help others do the same."

And then:

"You can help guide Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine along the path of lasting stability and prosperity. It's your time to lead. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus can benefit from your personal experiences. … And we will partner with you in working to fulfill the promise of 1989. But your leadership needs to be bold and your voices loud."

With this address, Biden not only encouraged Central European countries to actively seek political change in their eastern neighbors; he essentially offered them U.S. support in their efforts. As he concluded in the speech, "We no longer think in terms of what we can do for Central Europe, but rather in terms of what we can do with Central Europe." This is an important detail. Biden was not idly telling the Central Europeans to start fires in neighborhoods to their east. It apparently was a promise from the U.S. vice president that Washington would supply the matches and lighter fluid, and even give them a lift to the bonfire.

In effect, the United States has given Moscow notice that it intends to actively push against its entire periphery and to conscript the Central European states of NATO as its foot soldiers.

It is not surprising that Biden used his trip to Romania to lay out this vision. More than most countries in the region, Romania enthusiastically has sought political change in the former Soviet countries along its borders -- specifically in Moldova. The Romanians were very active during the April election protests in Moldova: They supported pro-Western parties during the upheaval and even offered to give Romanian passports to 1 million Moldovans -- one-quarter of the population.

Bucharest does not currently have the capacity to devote to spurring political change along the Russian periphery; it is embroiled in a serious economic and political crisis. The government collapsed last week and has been replaced by a cabinet of technocrats. Meanwhile, massive strikes are taking place and the presidential elections on Nov. 22 are likely to paralyze the country for more than a month.

Nevertheless, the significance of making this kind of an address in Bucharest will not be lost on Russia and the regimes that Biden referred to as needing "an example." There were multiple revolutions in Central Europe in 1989, and Romania's was particularly violent. Its longtime communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown in a revolution that did not resemble the non-violent "color" revolutions that the United States has supported during the past decade. The Romanian revolution was an all out-coup by elements of the army, combined with a mass citizen uprising. It ended with the execution of both Ceausescu and his wife.

Therefore, when Biden states that Central Europeans today should "fulfill the promise of 1989," the countries that Biden claimed need "leadership" will remember the bloody Romanian revolution of 1989. Biden's message to Russia is crystal clear: The Americans are in Eastern Europe, and they’re ready to play hardball.
23584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process on: October 24, 2009, 05:32:52 AM
two friends respond:

The program that supports this give away predates Obama by a over a decade.  Take a look at the link.  I just guess it took 15years before the cellphone component could finally be worked out.  Somebody want to see whether Tracfone has investment potential.  If somebody is making hay while the sun shines, it makes sense to jump on and ride the wagon back to the barn.  Couldn't resist the Hayride metaphor with the fall season upon us.

Tracfone is a subsidiary of American Movil  AMX (NYSE) or AMOV (Nasdaq)..
23585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Is this for real? on: October 24, 2009, 05:28:00 AM
A friend forwarded this to me.  Can anyone verify it?


 I had a former employee call me earlier today inquiring about a job, and at the end of the conversation he gave me his phone number. I asked the former employee if this was a new cell phone number and he told me yes this was his “Obama phone.” I asked him what an “Obama phone” was and he went on to say that welfare recipients are now eligible to receive (1) a FREE new phone and (2) approx 70 minutes of FREE minutes every month. I was a little skeptical so I Googled it and low and behold he was telling the truth. TAX PAYER MONEY IS BEING REDISTRIBUTED TO WELFARE RECIPIENTS FOR FREE CELL PHONES. This program was started earlier this year. Enough is enough, the ship is sinking and it’s sinking fast. The very foundations that this country was built on are being shaken. The age old concepts of God, family, and hard work have flown out the window and are being replaced with “Hope and Change” and “Change we can believe in.” You can click on the link below to read more about the “Obama phone”…
23586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues on: October 23, 2009, 10:07:29 PM
I predict a great future as a pundit  cheesy

Lets take this up to the Fire Hydrant thread.
23587  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty's momentary ruminations on: October 23, 2009, 07:41:11 PM
I started my BJJ life with the Machado Brothers in the summer of 1990, when all 5 of the brothers were under one roof.  Out of that time I developed the greatest of admiration for Jean Jacques Machado for many reasons, but today I will speak only of him as an extraordinary BJJ/submission athlete.

At the time of this story, it was about a year after JJ had won the Abu Dhabi submission tournament (widely held at that time to be THE definitive submission event in the world) by submitting every single one of his opponents AND winning "the most technical fighter in any weight division award".  Now we all know the phenomenal levels of athleticism and fitness of these fighter-competitors and to achieve was in essence was "the best pound-for-pound submission athlete in the world" speaks for itself

It is in this context that one day when I was having some achiness in my lower back that I asked JJ for some suggestions and was intent on hearing what he had to say.  I was expecting them to consist of specific physical things to do and so when he simply asked how I was sleeping I was surprised.  That his answer was outside the expectations of my physically oriented mental box simply made it all the more valuable-- instead of trying physically to impose an answer of the "do this" or the "do that" sort, his answer was to give himself permission to chill and recharge.  

Upon reflection this made more and more sense.  When we are tired, what energetic system of the body is overworked?  The adrenal comlex (adrenal glands, kidneys) which are found , , , in the lower back.  So maybe the pain in my lower back was not muscular, but energetic?

In the past few days, I have had benefit of this wisdom and wanted to sally forth with a howl of thanks to Jean Jacques for the benefit today of this lesson of so many days ago.

The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog
23588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ron Bloom on: October 23, 2009, 06:47:52 PM
"We get the joke. We know that the free market is nonsense. We know that the whole point is to game the system, to beat the market or at least find someone who will pay you a lot of money because they're convinced that there is a free lunch. We know this is largely about power, that it's an adults-only, no-limit game. We kind of agree with Mao [Tse-tung] that political 'power comes largely from the barrel of a gun.'" --Comrade Ron Bloom, the White House manufacturing czar, in February 2008 when he was president of the United Steelworkers Union
23589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Rifqa case on: October 23, 2009, 11:43:59 AM
Sent to me by a friend:
The office of the Governor in FL : 850-488-4441  Please call and tell them you're asking the Governor to stop Rifqa from being taken out of the state.

Here is latest on the story from Pamela Geller - it is sickening:
23590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud (ACORN et al), corruption etc. on: October 23, 2009, 11:14:53 AM
From the Left: ACORN Lies Exposed Again

Just when you thought it was safe to visit an ACORN office again, yet another video was released this week at James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, the young conservative activists who posed as a pimp and prostitute in order to get ACORN's advice on tax evasion and other illegal activities, released a sixth video putting the lie to the organization's claim to have "thrown out" the pair from its Philadelphia office. The same employee who claimed she showed them the door is on camera in the newest video giving them the same advice on illegal activities that they received at five other ACORN offices -- and the conversation lasted for 32 minutes.

The audio is frequently muted because of ACORN's legal action against O'Keefe and Giles, but Andrew Breitbart, whose Web site first aired the videos, has challenged ACORN to allow him to play the full audio. O'Keefe said, "We call upon ACORN to state publicly now that it has no objection to the public release of any of its employees' oral statements to us. If they are interested in the truth, why wouldn't they do so?" Furthermore, O'Keefe asks, "Why did the Philadelphia press report that we were kicked out? Will those reporters now print corrections? [Will the] Washington Post print a second correction?" Don't hold your breath.
23591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Where in the C. is the power to , , ,? on: October 23, 2009, 11:10:12 AM
second post of the AM

Patriot Post
Digest · Friday, October 23, 2009

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

Pelosi: "Are you serious?"Government & Politics
A Serious Question
We have known for many years that Democrats view the Constitution as an obstacle to their goals, not as something to be revered or upheld -- despite their repeated oaths to do just that. And as Mark Alexander warned last week, our Constitution is on life support.

More evidence of the trauma inflicted by our elected "representatives" surfaced this week when asked the only truly relevant question in the health care debate: Where in the Constitution is the authority to mandate that Americans buy health insurance?

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was befuddled and deflected: Where, in your opinion, does the Constitution give specific authority for Congress to give an individual mandate for health insurance?

Leahy: We have plenty of authority. Are you saying there is no authority? I'm asking-

Leahy: Why would you say there is no authority? I mean, there's no question there's authority, nobody questions that.

While Leahy's answer is both defensive and outrageously arrogant, in a sense, he's right: Not enough voters question the constitutional authority for anything Congress does. Even Republicans too often simply declare, "Me too, only a little less," instead of abiding by the Constitution.

The interviewer persisted, however, and again asked the question. Leahy dodged, saying, "Where do we have the authority to set speed limits on an interstate highway? The federal government does that on federal highways." He then walked away.

So to get this straight, Leahy defended Congress' unconstitutional attempt to take over one sixth of the U.S. economy by citing another unconstitutional law that was justly repealed 14 years ago.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) answered the question by saying, "Well, in promoting the general welfare the Constitution obviously gives broad authority to Congress to effect [a mandate that individuals must buy health insurance]. The end that we're trying to effect is to make health care affordable, so I think clearly this is within our constitutional responsibility."

On the contrary, in 1994, the Congressional Budget Office reported that a mandate forcing Americans to buy insurance would be an "unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States."

According to Hoyer and his accomplices, however, the General Welfare Clause in the Constitution empowers Congress not only to "promote the general Welfare," but to provide it, demand it and enforce it.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was the worst offender. "Madam Speaker," asked, "where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?" Her brief reply spoke volumes about the Left's contempt for the Constitution and the Rule of Law: "Are you serious? Are you serious?" She then ignored the question and moved on to the next one. Her spokesman later added, "You can put this on the record: That is not a serious question. That is not a serious question."

Even in light of the current recession, we live in a day of unprecedented prosperity and, as a result, we have become complacent. Unfortunately, the likes of Leahy, Hoyer and Pelosi, who mock the Constitution instead of keeping their oaths, have almost completely robbed us of the "Blessings of Liberty" which our Founding Fathers pledged "our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor" to defend.

Though questions concerning constitutional authority are finally being asked inside the Beltway, they have been asked with ever-louder voices across the nation since Ronald Reagan reinvigorated that debate. Of course, since the last election, the national debate chorus has become much more unified.

For example, in The Patriot's home state of Tennessee (which Al Gore claims as "home" but which gave its electoral votes to Bush, twice, and then to McCain), there is a 10th Amendment battle underway, and not a minute too soon.

State Republicans are organizing a state sovereignty campaign in opposition to the federal government's abuse of states' rights. This week, a legislative committee approved a motion to invite representatives from the legislatures of the other 49 states to join a "working group ... to enumerate the abuses of authority by the federal government and to seek repeal of its assumption of powers."

Can you say, "Constitutional Convention"?

Predictably, Obama's state cadre of Democrat sycophants are huffing and puffing. State Democrat Chairman Chip Forrester says, "It's unfortunate that Republican members of the state Legislature have jumped on this crazy train. This is nothing short of lunacy. The Tea Party organizers and their ultra-right wing cronies began this ridiculous issue to disrupt civil debate about how to move this state and nation forward. I hope they are not suggesting we fight another Civil War."

No, we should give the Convention a chance before taking up arms. And if it comes to the latter, I suggest Mr. Forrester say goodbye to the sun and slither down a very deep hole.
23592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kremlin Wars, part 2 on: October 23, 2009, 11:05:26 AM
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series), Part 2: The Combatants
October 23, 2009 | 1507 GMT
Former Russian president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the indisputable executive power in Russia. His strength comes largely from his ability to control Russia's opposing political clans. Those two clans, which have been fighting for influence for most of the past eight years, are about to see fresh conflict as a new force, the civiliki, attempt to use Russia's economic crisis as an opportunity to reshape the country.

Editor's Note: This is part two in a five-part series examining the Russian political clans and the coming conflict between them.


Executive power in Russia indisputably rests with former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Putin emerged as the supreme political force in Russia following the chaos that defined the 1990s precisely because he stepped outside of the fray and acted effectively as an arbiter for the disparate power structures. Although Putin's background is in the KGB (now called the Federal Security Service, or FSB) and he used these links in intelligence and security services to initially consolidate his reign, his power does not rest on those foundations alone. Putin's power comes from his ability to control Russia's opposing clans through favors and fear that he will give one clan the tools and authority to destroy the other.

The two main clans within the Kremlin are the Sechin clan led by Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin and the Surkov clan led by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev's First Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov. These clans have been involved in almost continual competition for power for the past eight years. The group that may tip the balance in the coming clan wars is a newly defined class that is part of the Surkov clan: the civiliki. Putin's balance of power is intertwined with economic reform, and the civiliki -- a group of lawyers and economic technocrats -- want to use the economic crisis to reform Russia.

Sechin and the FSB and Siloviki
Sechin has deep roots within the FSB and the siloviki (a term which translates as "the strongmen") who are either directly linked to the FSB or are former security officers who have tried their hand at business or politics or both during their "retirement." Sechin and his group generally have a comparatively Soviet frame of mind, but without any ideological nostalgia for communism. They do, however, long for the powerful Soviet Union, which acted forcefully on the world stage, was respected by its foes and allies, was suspicious of the West and was led by a firm (bordering on brutal) hand at home. The economic system Sechin favors is one that harnesses Russia's plentiful natural resources to fund champions of industry and military technology, and essentially depends on high commodity prices to sustain itself.

Sechin's main source of power is undoubtedly the FSB. Although the FSB is fully loyal to Putin, this does not mean that it would not side with Sechin in a showdown against its opponents. Sechin uses the FSB as a talent pool from which to fill various positions under his command, including the chairmanships of various state-owned companies. This naturally irks the civiliki, who abhor the thought of intelligence operatives running Russian companies.

Aside from the FSB, Sechin's other pillars of power are the state-owned oil giant Rosneft and the interior, energy and defense ministries. The distribution of assets between the Sechin and Surkov clans is not random; Putin coordinated it precisely so that neither clan becomes too powerful. Sechin's control of Rosneft is therefore balanced by Surkov's control of Gazprom, the state-owned natural gas company. While Sechin gets control of the energy ministry, Surkov is in charge of the natural resources ministry and so on.

Surkov and the GRU
Surkov rose through the ranks by proving himself invaluable in two key episodes of Russian state consolidation: the Chechen insurgency and the collapse of the largest Russian private energy firm, Yukos. Originally from Chechnya, Surkov played a role in eliminating a major thorn in the Kremlin's side: Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev. He also helped mastermind Moscow's win in the Second Chechen War by creating a strategy that divided the insurgency between the nationalist Chechens and the Islamists. His role in bringing down Yukos oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky began the all-important consolidation of those economic resources pillaged during the 1990s by disparate business interests.

Surkov's power base is the Russian Foreign Military Intelligence Directorate (GRU). The GRU represents both military intelligence and the military. Throughout Soviet and post-Soviet history, it has been the counterbalance to the KGB/FSB. The GRU is larger than the FSB and has a longer reach abroad, although it its accomplishments are not as well known as those of the FSB.

Also under Surkov's control are Gazprom; the ministries of finance, economics and natural resources; and the Russian prosecutor general. However, Surkov's rival Sechin controls the interior and defense ministries -- which have most of Russia's armed forces under their command. This limits the GRU's ability to control the military.

Surkov has sought to weaken Sechin and the FSB's position by constantly looking for potential allies to add to his group. In 2003, he formed an alliance with the heads of the reformist camp -- previously known as the St. Petersburgers -- that has proven to be invaluable in the context of the financial crisis. It is this group, the civiliki, that will help Surkov in his attempt to defeat Sechin, possibly for the last time.

The Civiliki
The civiliki are rooted in two camps. The first is the St. Petersburgers group of legal experts and economists that coalesced around Anatoly Sobchak, mayor of St. Petersburg from 1991-1996. Many of Russia's power players -- from Putin to Medvedev to key civiliki figures like Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and German Gref, the former trade and economics minister and current head of Sberbank -- either worked directly under Sobchak or were somehow related to his administration. The second is the somewhat younger group of Western-leaning businessmen and economists that eventually joined the reformists from St. Petersburg.

The civiliki primarily want economic stability and believe Russia has to reform its economic system and move past state intervention in the economy that depends largely on natural resources for output. They try to be non-ideological and are for the most part uninterested in political intrigue. In their mind, economic stability is to be founded on a strong business relationship with the West that would provide Russia with access to capital with which to fund economic reforms. From their perspective, funding from the West has to go to rational and efficient companies that seek to maximize profit, not political power.

The first grouping of economic experts and Western leaning businessmen was led by Anatoly Chubais, who led the St. Petersburg group and was essentially in charge of various privatization efforts in the 1990s under former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. However, most of the St. Petersburg group was sidelined by the general failure of economic reforms enacted during this period. They were then almost snuffed out by the siloviki during the commodities boom from 2005 onward, leaving only Kudrin in a position of some power.

However, Surkov rescued the civiliki and incorporated them, giving them the powerful protector they lacked. Part of Surkov's plan was to turn one of the more prominent civiliki -- Medvedev -- into a superstar at the Kremlin. In Surkov's mind Medvedev was the correct choice since he was neither FSB nor GRU, though Surkov still felt he could influence him. This move helped Medvedev become president. Since Medvedev's ascendance to the presidency, and with Surkov's support, the other civiliki leaders -- Kudrin and Gref -- have been given even greater liberty to run the economy without fear of being replaced. Kudrin is handling the economy while Gref essentially is masterminding the banking system reform. The two of them work very well together, and with their allies Economic Minister Elvira Nabiullina and Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev.

There is a rapidly brewing Surkov-backed conflict between the civiliki and Sechin. The strife is rooted in the simple issue of efficiency: The civiliki argument is that the Sechin clan wasted the good years of high commodity prices, crashed the Russian economy and weakened the state. This forces Putin to look at the conflict differently from previous clan battles. The Surkov-Sechin arguments typically are "just" about power, and thus about maintaining a balance. But the civiliki see Sechin's group not so much as a threat to them but as a threat to Russia. This is an argument that Putin has been able to ignore, but the latest economic crisis could have changed this.

The civiliki have a ready-made solution for the inherent problems in the Russian economy. Surkov's support for the civiliki, along with the financial crisis, has given Putin pause and he is giving their proposals consideration. However, the implementation of such reforms could reignite the feud between the clans and thus completely destabilize the delicate balance Putin has attempted to keep in the Kremlin.

23593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Coast Guard and the 4th Amendment on: October 23, 2009, 10:53:52 AM
Interesting explanation of the basis for the Coast guard's search and seizure authority vs our 4th Amendment rights.....

A warning. If you have no interest in civil liberties, constitutional law, or the unmitigated growth of federal power... don't read the next several paragraphs.

 About six weeks ago, I purchased a 35-foot fishing boat – an Everglades 35CC. I store the boat on a dock behind my house in Miami, where it is properly registered with the state of Florida. It takes me about 30 minutes to reach the ocean through canals maintained by the city of Miami. I've been out ocean fishing three times since I got the boat. On two of those three occasions, I've been threatened, detained, searched, and/or boarded by agents of the federal government without any probable cause of wrongdoing... or even any reasonable suspicion.

These actions were taken against me and my guests with considerable force: The stops involved high-speed boats, helicopters, large caliber automatic weapons, and black-booted officers decked out in SWAT-team like apparel. In the second instance, my boat was boarded and searched. IDs were taken from all eight passengers. We were ordered to stay on the far side of the boat – in the sun – for nearly two hours and treated like suspected drug smugglers while two Coast Guard officers searched every compartment of my boat – including the small tackle box drawers and our personal belongings.

They called the boarding a "safety inspection." And let me tell you... it is scary when heavily armed men are telling you not to make any sudden movements, to get on the far side of the boat. Their hands are sitting on top of their holsters... and you are 30 miles out at sea.


 A safety inspection is supposed to consist of checking life jackets, fire extinguishers, the structural integrity of the boat, the registration, and a few other minor documents, like an oil discharge placard. How could doing this require two hours? Why would doing this require a stop 30 miles out to sea, involving a helicopter, a Coast Guard cutter, and a four-man boarding party? What's reasonable about a "safety" inspection that features black-soled boots marking up nearly every topside surface of a white, brand-new fiberglass boat? Why should our driver licenses have been taken from us?

 You might recall the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution forbids unreasonable searches and seizures:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Obviously, boats are not specifically named as a protected class of property... but papers and effects seem to be protected. And there's plenty of case law that has extended Fourth Amendment protections – to some degree – to places other than your home. For example, you can't be pulled over on the highway without some probable cause or some traffic violation. But... we had done nothing wrong. We received no citations whatsoever. We were in a brand new boat, running at 40 knots... clearly, there was no problem with the safety of our vessel.

Our new "friends" on USCGC 87318 Bluefin

 So the question I had when I was eventually able to return home, after dark, following our two-hour "safety inspection" was: How in the hell do these guys get away with these actions?

Well, it turns out the Coast Guard and other customs agents have more power to search and seize than any other kind of law enforcement. The reason why dates back to 1790, when the Coast Guard was part of the Treasury Department. Back then, the inspections had nothing to do with safety – they were revenue cutters. The Coast Guard was looking for smugglers because, at the time, the main sources of revenue for the federal government were tariffs. Congress passed a law that would seem to violate the Fourth Amendment directly because it had to ensure its ability to collect tariffs:
That it shall be lawful for all collectors, naval officers, surveyors, inspectors, and the officers of the revenue cutters herein after mentioned, to go on board of ships or vessels in any part of the United States, or within four leagues of the coast thereof, if bound to the United States, whether in or out of their respective districts, for the purposes of demanding the manifests aforesaid, and of examining and searching the said ships or vessels...
 Here's the fascinating part... The Coast Guard's role as revenue cutters was abandoned in 1915 with the advent of income taxes. The Coast Guard finally left the Department of the Treasury in 1967. It is now a part of the Department of Homeland Security. And yet, despite the obvious and well-documented changes in the role of the Coast Guard and the nature of its mission, the Supreme Court continues to deny U.S. citizens their Fourth Amendment rights, out of deference to the Coast Guard's former unique duties (see United States v. Villamonte-Marquez, 1983).

The government, which wouldn't ordinarily be able to stop, search, and seize any American-flagged vessel anywhere in the world at any time, is now empowered to do so simply because, 100 years ago, this power was necessary for tax revenues. So guess who is now routinely assigned to duty aboard Coast Guard cutters? DEA agents.

And yet... the Supreme Court continues to pretend these random searches are merely for "safety inspections." It is yet another case of the Constitution simply being ignored.

 Now... you might say, so what? We like the Coast Guard catching drug smugglers. OK, fine. Just change the Constitution. There is a legal process for doing so. But you're fooling yourself if you think the Coast Guard is actually doing any good. The price of drugs has been falling ever since the "War on Drugs" was announced. We keep spending more money trying to stop drug smuggling... but what actually happens out there?

 The Coast Guard has been turned into a weapon against the citizens of the United States. What's the Coast Guard actually doing? Why would they inspect a brand new boat? A boat that's obviously not involved in any large-scale drug smuggling and is loaded up with expensive fishing equipment and top-of-line Yamaha engines? Here's a possibility: If they find a single joint, they can seize the boat.

 What's happened to the job of actually defending and protecting the people of the United States? In January 1984, just as the Coast Guard's new role as the top drug hound was being expanded, it began refusing ALL requests to help stranded boaters. Taxpayers fund the Coast Guard... which now refuses to help boaters in trouble and instead preys on boat owners at every possible opportunity. Maybe we shouldn't just ignore the Constitution.
23594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: October 23, 2009, 10:18:50 AM
"Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards." --Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1738
23595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islamo Fascism gets bold in CA on: October 23, 2009, 09:16:32 AM
Yolo DA: Beating Victim Made Comments Supporting US Actions In Afghanistan

Anti-Taliban Remarks Cited In Attack - POSTED: 7:15 pm PDT October 22, 2009


Four Northern California men were indicted this month on charges of beating up four people after one of the victims talked about supporting the United States and the military's role in ousting Afghanistan's Taliban government.

Mohammed Qumar Ashraf, 29, of Sacramento; Khialluddin Niazi, 69, of West Sacramento; Sarajuddin Niazi, 31, of Union City; and Zafaruddin Niazi, 27, of Los Gatos, face multiple counts, including attempted murder.

The four suspects were released on their own recognizance after Judge Arvid Johnson ordered them to surrender their passports, the district attorney's office said.

The men are accused of going to one victim's residence in March 2004, armed with baseball bats. They beat up four people, prosecutors said; three victims needed medical attention.

Arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 20.
23596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-- Europe on: October 23, 2009, 09:13:22 AM
Serbia: Russia's Eyes on the Balkans
SERBIAN INTERIOR MINISTER IVICA DACIC and Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu signed a deal on Wednesday to set up by 2012 a humanitarian center for emergencies in Nis, a city in southeastern Serbia. At a press conference, the ministers said the center would be a regional hub for emergency relief in southeastern Europe, and that it will include a mine-clearance center.

To those familiar with the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations and its longtime minister, this announcement should give pause. It has the potential to redefine how the world looks at the Balkans and Russia’s involvement in the region.

Given the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the independence of Kosovo, the entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the EU and NATO, and the general enlargement of NATO to the Balkans, the West has had the luxury of being able to forget about the Balkans, for the most part. This is historically anomalous, considering the region’s generally unstable past and its penchant for causing wide-ranging conflagrations. Certainly, trouble spots remain: Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo are still overt Western protectorates with potential for flaring up, and Serbia is generally dissatisfied with Kosovo’s independence. However, with Serbia practically surrounded by NATO members or candidates, the West has believed that it has the time to digest the remaining Balkan problems at a leisurely pace.

Enter the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations.

This is anything but a minor ministry in the Russian government. Shoigu has essentially run the ministry since 1994. He is a member of the powerful and selective Russian Security Council -- a key advisory body to the Russian executive on national security -- and has roots in the foreign military intelligence directorate, better known as the GRU, which is one of the most powerful and shadowy institutions in Russia. The ministry is an unofficial wing of the GRU and an outgrowth of its activities. It handles more than natural emergencies: It is involved in the suppression of militant activity in the Caucasus and is in charge of the Russian civil defense troops -- which basically gives the ministry its own paramilitary force, as well as access to the rest of the Russian military. In addition, it has considerable airlift capability due to Russia’s vast geography and often inhospitable climate, which means that in many situations the only means to deliver supplies to an area in need is by aircraft.

It is not clear what this arrangement with Serbia might entail in terms of logistical capability. The region is prone to a variety of natural disasters, especially forest fires, and the center could have a role in aiding their resolution. However, all neighboring countries are either member states of NATO or the EU, or on their way to joining one of the two organizations. And though Serbia's West-friendly neighbors can always use the extra help, they hardly need a regional logistical center manned by Moscow and Belgrade.

Therefore, if one considers the links to the GRU and the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations' experience with airlift and related logistics, it has to be considered that Moscow might lay logistical groundwork that -- intentionally or not -- has military value. This could range from nothing more than surveys of the airport’s capability to the prepositioning of logistical equipment, allowing the facility to be ramped up into a proper base in times of crisis. The United States has littered the Balkans with exactly such installations, referred to as lily pads -- most notably in neighboring Romania, where it has four. These are a threat to Russian interests in Moldova and Ukraine, and something Moscow has wanted to counter.

Nis is an interesting location for the new emergency center because it long has been a military hub – first for Yugoslavia and later for southern Serbia. It is located on a key north-south transportation link in southeastern Europe, has a major airport and is home of the Serbian special forces' 63rd Paratroopers’ Battalion, quite possibly Belgrade’s (if not the region’s) most effective fighting force.

There are some serious impediments to an effective Russian lily pad. First, Serbia is practically surrounded by NATO states, which means its airspace easily could be closed off during a crisis. Second, there is only so much equipment Russia can set up in Serbia before the “equipped logistical base” starts to look suspicious. Third, Russia is, ultimately, a land-based force, and despite the recent rhetoric about the need to establish expeditionary forces, there has not been much concrete movement in that direction.

Despite these limitations, which make the move largely symbolic for the near future, Moscow is on its way to setting up its first logistical center with potential military uses outside of the former Soviet Union. In addition, the center will be run by a ministry that serves as the wing of the Russian military intelligence unit. If one puts this in the context of the recent visit to Belgrade by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, with his pledge for a $1.5 billion loan for credit-starved Serbia, it must be concluded that Russia is moving into the Balkans with enthusiasm.

Belgrade likely hopes that Russia’s moves in the region will spur the West into action over Serbia’s long-delayed, but much-promised, integration into the EU. This strategy seemed to bear immediate fruit: The EU countered Russia’s lending with loans of its own, including a proposal for a $1.5 billion investment over five years.

However, there is danger in this strategy. It is one thing to play one loan off of another and quite another to be seen as a potential ally of Moscow. Serbia easily could find itself in the middle of a whirlwind, with the potential reopening of the Balkans as a major point of contestation between the West and Russia.
23597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BBG on: October 22, 2009, 08:31:01 PM
Woof All:

I am very proud to announce that our own BBG is under consideration for a pundit job at a newspaper of international reknown.  Of course there are many, many other folks under consideration and the process is long.  Therefore we will not be seeing much of him around here for a number of weeks.

Remember us after you hit the big time!
23598  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Legal issues in MA instruction on: October 22, 2009, 08:14:56 PM
Martial arts school sued
Nelson Bennett
Richmond News
October 21, 2009

A Richmond Hapkido instructor is appealing a recent court decision 
that cleared the way for a lawsuit that, if successful, could have 
implications for a wide range of youth sports and extracurricular 

Victor Wong, 20, is suing Lok's Martial Arts Centre for negligence 
stemming from a broken arm he received while a student at the dojang 
in 2006.

Wong was sparring with a fellow student, Ramin Asgare Nik, who is also 
named in the lawsuit.

A lawsuit against Lok's Hapkido school could have implications for 
other martial arts schools, like this judo club, where sparring 
carries a risk of injury.

Wong's statement of claim alleges 26 incidents of negligence, ranging 
from failing to screen students for emotional or psychological 
problems, to failing to ban Nik from sparring when he had demonstrated 
"previous signs of inappropriate aggression and behaviour."

Wong's lawyer, Bonnie Lepin, said her client does not want to talk to 
the media, but said his injury was severe enough that it continues to 
affect his ability to work.

"He has a permanent partial disability," she said.

Michael Lok, the martial art's school's owner, filed to have Wong's 
suit -- filed in 2006 -- dismissed, based on the fact Wong's mother 
signed a waiver indemnifying his dojang from any responsibility for 
any injury students might receive while practicing martial arts.

But Justice Peter Willcock recently dismissed that application based 
on the B.C. Infant's Act. Willcock's ruling doesn't mean Wong will 
necessarily win his civil suit -- only that it can go ahead.

The civil trial is set for Nov. 23, although that date could be 
adjourned, as Lok is appealing the recent court decision to the B.C. 
Court of Appeal.

The ruling underscores just how vulnerable to lawsuits anyone in B.C. 
who deals with children may be, thanks to the B.C. Infant's Act, which 
essentially means waivers signed by parents on behalf of their 
children have no force in law.

Hapkido is a Korean martial art that employs kicks, punches, throws 
and a range of arm and wrist locks, as well as weapons training. In 
addition to doing drills, students put their skills to the test 
through sparring matches.

By their very nature, martial arts involve a risk of injury, which is 
why Lok requires all students or their parents to sign waivers.

The school's conditions for membership states: "all exercises, 
treatments and use of facilities are taken at the student's sole 
risk," and concludes in capital letters: 'YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL 

Wong's mother, Yen To, signed Wong and his two brothers up for Hapkido 
in 2001, when Victor Wong was 12 years old.

"Ms. To says she signed the Conditions of Membership and Release form 
but did not read it carefully or fully understand it," court documents 
state. "She knew if she did not sign it her sons would not be allowed 
to enrol in Hapkido classes. She says she had no intention of waiving 
her sons' rights to sue..."

Wong's lawsuit alleges the injury he received was not a result of 
ordinary martial arts training. The suit alleges Lok was negligent in 
allowing Nik, who was bigger and 25 years older, to spar with a 
student who was just 16.

Lok's lawyer, Michael Frost, argues that Wong was, in fact, the more 
advanced student.

"In fact, Mr. Wong had a higher belt than Mr. Nik," he said.

Wong'claims Nik became frustrated when Wong got the upper hand in a 
sparring match, grabbed him in a bear hug and threw him to the ground 
-- "a maneuver which was not in any way part of the recognized 
sparring match technique."

Lok's lawyer, Michael Frost, disputes that allegation, saying Wong fell.

"This was an accident," Frost said.
23599  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 22, 2009, 08:07:57 PM
Go Lyotto!!!
23600  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Current Events: Philippines on: October 22, 2009, 03:54:34 PM
Third post:

I have NO idea as to the implications of this and I suspect we have several knowledgeable lurkers here.  Anyone?
Pages: 1 ... 470 471 [472] 473 474 ... 700
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.19 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!