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23601  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Derivaties on: October 08, 2008, 09:01:04 AM
Briefing: Wall Street’s hidden time bombs

The WEEK magazine (link embedded) offers a brief, but excellent, primer on the derivative securities that caused, and cause, the maelstrom on Wall Street.

Briefing: Wall Street’s hidden time bombs

The financial meltdown engulfing Wall Street would not have happened without the advent of complex financial contracts known as derivatives. Why were they created, and why were so many supposedly smart people fooled?

What is a derivative?

In a very real sense, it’s a bet. A derivative is a contract in which an investor agrees to pay for either a commodity or financial instrument at a set price today, in return for the right to take profits if that asset’s value rises. Some derivatives, such as stock options and commodities futures, have been used for years and are considered completely benign. A farmer, for example, can agree to sell a ton of wheat he’ll harvest in three months to a major grain buyer for $1,000. That deal enables the farmer to lock in the price of wheat as he’s growing it. In exchange for that guarantee, the grain buyer gets an assurance he’ll have a steady supply of grain while also safeguarding against future price increases. Both sides, in other words, reduce risk and future uncertainties. But in recent years, a new, highly toxic form of financial derivative has spread like wildfire throughout the financial system, ultimately laying waste to some of Wall Street’s oldest and most prestigious firms.

What are these new derivatives?

They’re called credit derivatives, and were designed to serve as a kind of insurance against borrowers defaulting on their debts. Credit derivatives first appeared on the scene in the boom of the 1990s, but really became popular in the early 2000s, when Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan sought to stave off a post-9/11 recession by slashing interest rates from 6.5 percent to 1 percent. Money became very easy to borrow, and tens of millions of people bought homes or took out second mortgages, many of which were offered to financially shaky buyers at “subprime’’ rates. Those mortgages were then bundled into securities, and firms such as Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch created credit derivatives to protect investors in case the securities defaulted.

Why were these securities so popular?

They provided above-market rates of return, and because these complex instruments were so poorly understood, they seemed more solid—and less risky—than they really were. Investors thought that they were getting AAA-rated securities. The sellers—caught up in the assumption that housing prices would continue to rise indefinitely—also thought they were safe from losses. Each security involved hundreds or thousands of individual mortgages, chopped into pieces, so that the risk of default appeared small. And by selling them, investment banks and brokerage firms made hundreds of millions in upfront fees and premium payments. That’s why global insurance giant AIG also jumped into the derivatives game. “It is hard for us, without being flippant, to see us losing even one dollar in any of those transactions,” Joseph Cassano, then AIG’s head of credit derivatives, declared last year, expressing a common sentiment.

Was everyone so clueless?

No. Concern about financial derivatives first surfaced in the late 1990s, and congressional Democrats launched a drive to bring them under federal oversight. The effort was beaten back by Republicans led by then­–Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, who pushed through a law that explicitly exempted financial derivatives from federal regulation. By 2003, the pace of derivatives trading had exploded, leading Warren Buffett, one of the world’s most successful investors, to call derivatives “financial weapons of mass destruction.”

Why was Buffett alarmed?

Because the well-being of the entire global financial system rested in part on a hidden world of multitrillion-dollar bets that financial regulators couldn’t control or even monitor. Indeed, since 2000, credit default swaps became one of Wall Street’s most popular products, with firms such as AIG, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns selling swaps covering trillions of dollars in bonds. At Cassano’s urging, AIG became the biggest player in the field, selling protection on $527 billion in bonds.

So what went wrong?

Home prices started to fall and interest rates started to rise. When rates rose, many subprime borrowers with adjustable-rate mortgages found themselves unable to make their monthly payments. They also couldn’t sell, because the demand for houses began to crash. Very quickly, as defaults mounted, the derivatives that had made so many bankers and investors rich lost their value. In turn, firms such as AIG and Lehman, which had guaranteed these securities, couldn’t meet their debts. It was a worst-case scenario, causing the collapse of many banks and investment firms. Despite the federal government’s rescue efforts, many financial executives worry that further damage is yet to come, because of bad debt hidden in other banks’ derivative holdings. “It’s not the corpses you can see that scare you,” says one Wall Street banker. “It’s the corpses you can’t see that could pop out at any time.”

Can derivatives be brought under control?

Washington and Wall Street are struggling to find a way. One of the most popular ideas is to set up a clearinghouse for all financial derivatives trades. Regulators would monitor the clearinghouse to be sure that no market player took on more risk than it could afford. And firms would have to keep money on deposit to show that they could honor their guarantees. The question now is whether safeguards can be put in place before another AIG-style meltdown unfolds. “If it all goes horribly wrong, it will not be just Wall Street that suffers,” says veteran investor Michael Panzer, who has warned against derivatives for years. “Those seeking a mortgage, a college education, a job, or even day-to-day sustenance will be left wanting.”


The derivatives in your portfolio
If some of your savings are in a mutual fund, you’re probably an investor in derivatives. Many bond funds, including the nine most widely held funds, use derivatives both to protect against losses and to increase returns, because these swaps can appreciate in value when the prospects for a company and the overall economy improve. Funds aren’t required to disclose derivatives holdings, although those that make them a major part of their strategy typically do so. To see if your fund holds derivatives, check its prospectus and the listing of holdings contained in Securities and Exchange Commission form NQ. Those forms can be accessed at http://www.sec.gov/. If you’re still unsure about your fund’s holdings and don’t want to take the chance, financial advisors say, don’t hesitate to switch to an ultra-safe government bond fund. “Don’t be complacent,” says financial advisor Lawrence Glazer. “If you are uncomfortable with something, don’t be afraid to make a change.”
23602  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt on: October 08, 2008, 08:49:07 AM
It would appear that McCain's populist pandering on the economic crisis has doomed his campaign and has doomed America to a President Obama leading an unrestrained Dem Congress.

We are fcuked.
========================================

October 7, 2008
Vol. 3, No. 41
 
Where We Find Ourselves This October:
The Bush-Paulson Economy is a Failure
Obama and the Left Would Be Worse
Can McCain Offer a Path to Economic Growth and Prosperity? By Newt Gingrich 
 
America this October is like a patient who has barely avoided a massive heart attack. We have no strategy for recovery, no strategy for economic growth, and no strategy for holding accountable those who have created this mess.

We're also far from out of danger. If we do not create an economic recovery program, we will be facing another bailout next year.
To put it another way: We can mop up water all we want but if we don't fix the leak we will simply have to keep mopping. Similarly, we can pass a bailout, but if we don't fix the economy we will have more and more bailouts.


America Must Get Back to the Fundamentals to Be Healthy Again
If we don't develop an energy abundance plan, we will continue to send $500 billion or more a year overseas and our economy will continue to weaken.

If we don't focus on making it easier for small business and for entrepreneurial startups, we won't have the new jobs to replace the old ones that are fading away under the pressures of science, technology and the world market.

If we don't get government spending, government regulations, government bureaucracy and government-mandated litigation under control, our economy will continue to weaken and we will be hit with rising inflation.

America has to get back to the fundamentals to become healthy again.


The Bush-Paulson Economic Strategy Has Been a Disaster
The Bush-Paulson strategy has been a disaster and has made things more difficult.

This spring, the $152 billion stimulus bill was wasted money. It should have been invested in science, technology, energy, infrastructure and pro-jobs, pro-savings tax cuts.

Imagine repealing the business killing Sarbanes-Oxley bill, eliminating the capital gains tax, going to 100 percent annual expensing for small businesses, and other practical steps to create jobs and generate wealth to mop up the bad debts.

Imagine half of the $152 billion invested in clean coal, biofuels, solar power, wind power, nuclear power, natural gas vehicles, hydrogen vehicles and drilling for oil and natural gas. Imagine the other half being invested in the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and in a space-based air traffic control system that would increase capacity in the Northeast by 40 percent. That would have been a long-term investment strategy instead of a wasted stimulus package.


Amazingly, the Housing Bailout Contained $500 Million for Radical, Anti-Free Market Groups
To give you a sense of how failed the current strategy has been, consider this: This summer a $300 billion housing bailout was passed with a $500 million a year payment to a radical, anti-free market group called ACORN and other left-wing organizing groups.

ACORN is a left-wing, political extortion racket. It's currently busy bussing people to vote early in Ohio and elsewhere - these are your tax dollars at work. You get taxed to send a left-wing group money to use to elect left-wing predatory politicians to raise your taxes to give more money to groups who help them get elected, etc.

It was suicidal for a Republican president to sign that housing bailout bill and any bill that contains funding for groups so radically opposed to the values and interests of the vast majority of Americans.


The Paulson Bailout a "Paradigm Shift" Toward Big Government and Big Cronyism
The Paulson bailout was initially bad and made worse by the Congressional Democrats. Then, John McCain and the House Republicans moved the bill from terrible to merely bad.

Still, lobbyists are already lining up to get their piece of the Paulson pie. They see a goldmine of new government regulation and involvement in private industry for them to exploit for their clients. One lobbyist told the Hill newspaper: "This will ripple through every piece of major legislation we are looking at next Congress. This is a paradigm shift."


Too Little Too Late: The SEC Moves Away From Mark-to-Market Accounting
Finally, the Bush Administration resisted for months modifying the mark-to-market accounting system which has been the source of many unnecessary bankruptcies.

The need to abandon the mark-to-market rule was the focus of my speech last Tuesday morning at the National Press Club. By Tuesday afternoon, to its credit, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) admitted the mark-to-market rule needed to be revised and announced a substantial change in its application. If the SEC had done this three months ago, it might have avoided $500 billion of the $700 billion in bad debt that Paulson wants to bail out with your money.


But If Bush-Paulson is Bad, Obama-Frank-Dodd-Pelosi-Reid Will Be Worse

Clearly, by any reasonable standard, the Bush-Paulson stewardship of the economy has failed.  But the Barack Obama-Barney Frank-Chris Dodd-Nancy Pelosi-Harry Reid-left-wing policies of big government, high taxes, more litigation, and insider deals for their left-wing special interests will be even worse.

We've heard a lot about predatory lenders in this current economic crisis. They deserve their share of the blame. But it's time to introduce a new term that gets us closer to the real roots of this crisis: Predatory politicians.  Predatory politicians are much more dangerous than predatory lenders. Predatory politicians have the power of the government to coerce you.  Government under Obama, Frank, Dodd, Pelosi and Reid will be government by and for predatory politicians. It will make dealing with predatory lenders seems like a walk in the park.


McCain and Palin Should Sound the Call Against Predatory Politicians

The elite media has desperately sought to avoid the guilt of the left for the current crisis. But this is a topic Senator McCain and Governor Palin should spend at least one-third of their time on for the next four weeks.

For more information on predatory politicians and their role in the making of the economic crisis, see my paper "Predatory Politicans, Destructive Leftwing Politics and the Roots of the Housing Crisis."

And if McCain and Palin find themselves in need of arguments against the left's all-purpose excuse that a lack of government regulation is all that is behind the economic crisis, they should read this conversation with Warren Buffet. The government had a 200-employee agency whose sole job was to watch over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and yet Fannie and Freddie still managed to bring the economy to its knees.


The Questions Senator Obama Needs to Answer

Senator Obama is intimately tied to corruption, left-wing radicalism, and predatory politicians. But the elite media has done everything it could to avoid asking the key questions. For a list of the questions Senator Obama needs to answer before we can judge his fitness for office, see my paper "Why is Barack Obama Afraid to Answer These Questions?" Senator McCain and Governor Palin should spend another third of their time asking Obama and the elite media to answer these questions.

They could use the same technique that Senator Richard Russell used in 1936 to defeat populist Georgia Governor Gene Talmadge. Russell literally posted a list of questions on the podium in Macon and told the crowd "Don't let him leave until he answers them." It was the psychological turning point of that campaign because Talmadge refused to answer and the people knew it.

If everywhere Obama and Biden went for the next 28 days they were faced with these questions they would rapidly lose popular legitimacy.


The McCain Crisis: Danger and Opportunity
Senator McCain now faces the crisis of his career.

He is behind. He will not catch up on a state-by-state basis.  He will either win the argument in the national media, suddenly growing stronger in many states or he will lose the national debate and gradually decline further in a number of states.


The Danger For McCain
If Senator McCain is not prepared to separate himself from the Bush-Paulson economic program, he has no opportunity to win.

The country is deeply fed up with the Bush presidency and angry about the Paulson bailout. If McCain is confused or uncertain about how bad this economic performance is, he will never get the country to listen to him.


The Opportunity for McCain
Just as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan (as well as the House Republicans in 1994 with the Contract with America) created a large argument which led to a decisive result, so McCain has an opportunity to reach beyond the daily attacks and clever tactics and spend the last 28 days of this campaign making a large argument over America's future.

If McCain is prepared to declare that it is time for a fundamental change away from the failure of Bush-Paulson and away from the leftism of Obama (a "clean rupture" as French President Nicolas Sarkozy described it in breaking with President Jacques Chirac (watch my video on Sarkozy here) or "bold colors with no pale pastels" as Reagan described it in breaking with President Ford in 1976), then he has a huge opportunity on three levels:

First, small business and free markets are better than bureaucrats and socialism.

We know this as a matter of American values and polling confirms it. The margin isn't even close; it's about 70 -20 or better. Clinton pollster Doug Schoen and Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway recently did a survey for American Solutions which proves the American people hold the government responsible for much of our current economic pain. On other key issues like energy and taxes, the Platform of the American People proves that McCain could build a big majority.

Second, the vast majority of the American people are deeply fed up with the corruption, dishonesty, and arrogance of Washington and of many of their state capitals.

A candidate with the courage to tell the truth about Franklin Raines, Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, the Carter and Clinton-era pressures for bad loans, the ACORN pressure for bad loans (trained in Chicago by Barack Obama in his community organizer days) would have an enormous response from a country which is sick of predatory politicians, arrogant bureaucrats, and elitist reporters.

In short, the elites would be enraged but the American people would be enthusiastic.

Third, there are huge groups of Americans eager to have someone address their concerns and offer them hope.

Millions of small business owners would like a program that cut spending in Washington and taxes on their businesses and reduced regulations and red tape.  Millions of drivers would like an energy program that offered them hope. They believe in drilling here and drilling now.  Every person who uses electricity is eager for a determined effort to develop clean coal.  Millions of retirees or soon to be retirees would like a program that would strengthen the economy and increase the value of their investments.  Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists would fight for a program that abolished Sarbanes-Oxley, eliminated the capital gains tax, and expanded H-1B visas for talented workers.

A bold program of the right changes would rally a massive number of activists and donors to fight for a better future.


"Action This Day"
That was the slogan Winston Churchill used to focus and energize the British Government when he became prime minister in the darkest days of World War II.

If Senator McCain is prepared to be as bold as Winston Churchill and as aggressive as Theodore Roosevelt, this is an election that can be won and might be won by a shocking margin (like Harry Truman in 1948).

The choice is his. As for myself, I know of no other path that will work.

Your friend,

Newt Gingrich 
23603  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACORN on: October 08, 2008, 08:38:39 AM
Finally ACORN is getting investigated. AND a dem controlled election board caught it. I just saw on FOX News the investigation has expanded to 9 states. While not old news about ACORN, the news is they are finally being investigated.
=================================================

http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/10...investigation/

Nevada state authorities seized records and computers Tuesday from the Las Vegas office of an organization that tries to get low-income people registered to vote, after fielding complaints of voter fraud.
Bob Walsh, spokesman for the Nevada secretary of state's office, told FOXNews.com the raid was prompted by ongoing complaints about "erroneous" registration information being submitted by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, also called ACORN.
The group was submitting the information through a voter sign-up drive known as Project Vote.
"Some of them used nonexistent names, some of them used false addresses and some of them were duplicates of previously filed applications," Walsh said, describing the complaints, which largely came from the registrar in Clark County, Nev.
Secretary of State Ross Miller said the fraudulent registrations included forms for the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys football team.
"Tony Romo is not registered to vote in the state of Nevada, and anybody trying to pose as Terrell Owens won't be able to cast a ballot on Nov. 4," Miller said.
Walsh said agents from both the secretary of state's office and Nevada attorney general's office conducted the raid at 9:30 a.m. local time, and "took a bunch of stuff." Miller's office reported seizing eight computer hard drives and about 20 boxes of documents.
Bertha Lewis, interim chief organizer for ACORN, released a statement saying the group has for months been turning over any suspicious registration information to elections officials. She said those officials routinely ignored their tips, and called the raid a "stunt."
"When we have identified suspicious applications, we have separated them out and flagged them for election officials. We have zero tolerance for fraudulent registrations. We immediately dismiss employees we suspect of submitting fraudulent registrations," she said. "Today's raid by the secretary of state's office is a stunt that serves no useful purpose other than discredit our work registering Nevadans and distracting us from the important work ahead of getting every eligible voter to the polls."
Neither the group, which hires canvassers to register voters, nor any employees have been charged or arrested for fraud or other crimes, said Miller, a Democrat.
But it's not the first time ACORN's been under investigation for registration irregularities. The raid is the latest of at least nine investigations into possible fraudulent voter registration forms submitted by ACORN -- the probes have involved ACORN workers in Wisconsin, New Mexico, Indiana and other states.
In response to the Las Vegas raid, Republican Nevada Sen. John Ensign and seven other senators penned a letter to the Federal Housing Finance Agency calling for the suspension of taxpayer dollars to "controversial groups like ACORN." The letter referred to contributions that potentially could come from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.
In 2006, ACORN also committed what Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed called the "worse case of election fraud" in the state's history.
In the case, ACORN submitted just over 1,800 new voter registration forms, and all but six of the 1,800 names were fake.
More recently, 27,000 registrations handled by the group from January to July 2008 "went into limbo because they were incomplete, inaccurate, or fraudulent," said James Terry, chief public advocate at the Consumers Rights League.
__________________
October 8, 2008

In today's Political Diary

The 'Voter Registration' Racket
McCain Is an Unguided Missile
The Housing Skit Is Back - Minus the Incitement to Homicide
Looking on the Bright Side of President Obama


A Smelly Acorn

Members of the left-wing activist group ACORN had a quick and predictable response to yesterday's raid of their Nevada offices by authorities investigating a possible massive voter registration fraud scheme.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that ACORN volunteer Frank Beaty immediately claimed the raid, which removed computers and files from the group's offices, was a conspiracy designed to prevent the registration of new voters. ACORN's national chief Bertha Lewis called the raid "a stunt that serves no useful purpose other than [to] discredit our work registering Nevadans and distracting us from the important work ahead of getting every eligible vote to the polls."

Reverting to the rhetoric of the 1960s voting rights struggle in the South may be politically useful, but it bears precious little resemblance to the reality of ACORN today. The group has constantly faced charges it mistreats its employees and even broke up their internal efforts to unionize their workplace.

Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax told the Sun that ACORN has been registering voters in Las Vegas since January and "we started having problems with them almost immediately." His staff met with ACORN and was offered promises that fraudulent registrations would no longer be turned in. "But those controls weren't sufficient," Mr. Lomax said.

Indeed, the more his office and that of Nevada's Secretary of State looked into ACORN's effort, the more worried they became. Jason Anderson rose to the rank of supervisor in ACORN even though he was a convicted felon. Other employees had served time for identity theft. Another former inmate who worked for ACORN told authorities his co-workers were "lazy crack heads."

ACORN's activities are under investigation or suspicion in a dozen states, with one of its workers indicted just last week in Wisconsin. Perhaps the Nevada raid will spur authorities elsewhere to dig down and conclude their investigations by Election Day -- before ACORN can do even more damage to the integrity of the vote.

-- John Fund
23604  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: October 08, 2008, 08:27:20 AM
JDN:

As best as I can tell, your assessment of McCain's populist pandering is dead on.  angry cry sad

TAC,
Marc

23605  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: April 2009 US Gathering on: October 08, 2008, 08:23:04 AM
Woof All:

April 4-5 it is.

"Higher consciousness through harder contact"
Crafty Dog
GF
23606  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dates of Dog Brothers Gatherings of the Pack on: October 08, 2008, 08:06:05 AM
Woof All:

The Dog Brothers 2009 Tribal Gathering will be April 4-5.

"Higher consciousness through harder contact"(c)
Crafty Dog
GF
23607  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 08, 2008, 07:50:52 AM
I just noticed my post of the first and am grateful that I put in tight stops.
23608  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington on: October 08, 2008, 07:45:02 AM

"Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the
great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to
this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here
offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of
public life."

-- George Washington (Address to Congress on Resigning his
Commission, 23 December 1783)

Reference: George Washington: A Collection, W.B. Allen, ed. (273)
23609  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: October 07, 2008, 06:46:32 PM
Palin on Ahmadinejad: 'He Must Be Stopped'
By SARAH PALIN | September 22, 2008
 http://www.nysun.com/opinion/palin-on-ahmadinejad-he-must-be-stopped/86311/
Governor Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president, was scheduled to speak today at a rally in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza to protest the appearance here of President Ahmadinejad of Iran. Her appearance was canceled by rally organizers who sought a nonpolitical event. Following are the remarks Mrs. Palin would have given:

ROBYN BECK / 2008 AFP

Sarah Palin

***

I am honored to be with you and with leaders from across this great country — leaders from different faiths and political parties united in a single voice of outrage.

Tomorrow, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will come to New York — to the heart of what he calls the Great Satan — and speak freely in this, a country whose demise he has called for.  Ahmadinejad may choose his words carefully, but underneath all of the rhetoric is an agenda that threatens all who seek a safer and freer world. We gather here today to highlight the Iranian dictator's intentions and to call for action to thwart him.

He must be stopped.

The world must awake to the threat this man poses to all of us. Ahmadinejad denies that the Holocaust ever took place. He dreams of being an agent in a "Final Solution" — the elimination of the Jewish people. He has called Israel a "stinking corpse" that is "on its way to annihilation." Such talk cannot be dismissed as the ravings of a madman — not when Iran just this summer tested long-range Shahab-3 missiles capable of striking Tel Aviv, not when the Iranian nuclear program is nearing completion, and not when Iran sponsors terrorists that threaten and kill innocent people around the world.

The Iranian government wants nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency reports that Iran is running at least 3,800 centrifuges and that its uranium enrichment capacity is rapidly improving. According to news reports, U.S. intelligence agencies believe the Iranians may have enough nuclear material to produce a bomb within a year.

The world has condemned these activities. The United Nations Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend its illegal nuclear enrichment activities. It has levied three rounds of sanctions. How has Ahmadinejad responded? With the declaration that the "Iranian nation would not retreat one iota" from its nuclear program.

So, what should we do about this growing threat? First, we must succeed in Iraq. If we fail there, it will jeopardize the democracy the Iraqis have worked so hard to build, and empower the extremists in neighboring Iran. Iran has armed and trained terrorists who have killed our soldiers in Iraq, and it is Iran that would benefit from an American defeat in Iraq.

If we retreat without leaving a stable Iraq, Iran's nuclear ambitions will be bolstered. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons — they could share them tomorrow with the terrorists they finance, arm, and train today. Iranian nuclear weapons would set off a dangerous regional nuclear arms race that would make all of us less safe.

But Iran is not only a regional threat; it threatens the entire world. It is the no. 1 state sponsor of terrorism. It sponsors the world's most vicious terrorist groups, Hamas and Hezbollah. Together, Iran and its terrorists are responsible for the deaths of Americans in Lebanon in the 1980s, in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, and in Iraq today. They have murdered Iraqis, Lebanese, Palestinians, and other Muslims who have resisted Iran's desire to dominate the region. They have persecuted countless people simply because they are Jewish.

Iran is responsible for attacks not only on Israelis, but on Jews living as far away as Argentina. Anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are part of Iran's official ideology and murder is part of its official policy. Not even Iranian citizens are safe from their government's threat to those who want to live, work, and worship in peace. Politically-motivated abductions, torture, death by stoning, flogging, and amputations are just some of its state-sanctioned punishments.

It is said that the measure of a country is the treatment of its most vulnerable citizens. By that standard, the Iranian government is both oppressive and barbaric. Under Ahmadinejad's rule, Iranian women are some of the most vulnerable citizens.

If an Iranian woman shows too much hair in public, she risks being beaten or killed.

If she walks down a public street in clothing that violates the state dress code, she could be arrested.

But in the face of this harsh regime, the Iranian women have shown courage. Despite threats to their lives and their families, Iranian women have sought better treatment through the "One Million Signatures Campaign Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws." The authorities have reacted with predictable barbarism. Last year, women's rights activist Delaram Ali was sentenced to 20 lashes and 10 months in prison for committing the crime of "propaganda against the system." After international protests, the judiciary reduced her sentence to "only" 10 lashes and 36 months in prison and then temporarily suspended her sentence. She still faces the threat of imprisonment.

Earlier this year, Senator Clinton said that "Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is in the forefront of that" effort. Senator Clinton argued that part of our response must include stronger sanctions, including the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization. John McCain and I could not agree more.

Senator Clinton understands the nature of this threat and what we must do to confront it. This is an issue that should unite all Americans. Iran should not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Period. And in a single voice, we must be loud enough for the whole world to hear: Stop Iran!

Only by working together, across national, religious, and political differences, can we alter this regime's dangerous behavior. Iran has many vulnerabilities, including a regime weakened by sanctions and a population eager to embrace opportunities with the West. We must increase economic pressure to change Iran's behavior.

Tomorrow, Ahmadinejad will come to New York. On our soil, he will exercise the right of freedom of speech — a right he denies his own people. He will share his hateful agenda with the world. Our task is to focus the world on what can be done to stop him.

We must rally the world to press for truly tough sanctions at the U.N. or with our allies if Iran's allies continue to block action in the U.N. We must start with restrictions on Iran's refined petroleum imports.

We must reduce our dependency on foreign oil to weaken Iran's economic influence.

We must target the regime's assets abroad; bank accounts, investments, and trading partners.

President Ahmadinejad should be held accountable for inciting genocide, a crime under international law.

We must sanction Iran's Central Bank and the Revolutionary Guard Corps — which no one should doubt is a terrorist organization.

Together, we can stop Iran's nuclear program.

Senator McCain has made a solemn commitment that I strongly endorse: Never again will we risk another Holocaust. And this is not a wish, a request, or a plea to Israel's enemies. This is a promise that the United States and Israel will honor, against any enemy who cares to test us. It is John McCain's promise and it is my promise.

Thank you.
23610  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: The German Question (Deep Read) on: October 07, 2008, 03:45:42 PM
That seems lucid.   smiley

Would you please flesh out how Germany would be "exploited"?
23611  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Women fighters at DB Gathering on: October 07, 2008, 03:33:52 PM
Interesting article.  I certainly respect the skill and character of these women fighters, but overall count me among the sexist on this.  I watched TUF the other night-- have you seen Noguiera's face and ears?
23612  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 07, 2008, 08:05:00 AM
I think BBG is right to raise the question of where this may well be headed.
23613  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington's farewell address on: October 07, 2008, 08:03:35 AM

"Tis folly in one Nation to look for disinterested favors from
another; that it must pay with a portion of its Independence
for whatever it may accept under that character; that by such
acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given
equivalents for nominal favours and yet of being reproached with
ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than
to expect, or calculate upon real favours from Nation to Nation.
'Tis an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride
ought to discard."

-- George Washington (Farewell Address, 19 September 1796)

Reference: Washington's Maxims, 71.
23614  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: The German Question (Deep Read) on: October 07, 2008, 07:21:45 AM
A discouraging and seemingly well-reasoned conclusion it is-- WHY do you disagree?
23615  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Open Letter to Muslims, Liberals, Democrats, et al on: October 06, 2008, 07:51:59 PM
Is that the URL you intended to post?
23616  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: April 2009 US Gathering on: October 06, 2008, 06:05:57 PM
The 3 day Gg was a one-of thing.  From here forward we anticipate 2 days-- at the Temecula Corral if we can.
23617  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The German Question (Deep Read) on: October 06, 2008, 05:57:11 PM
The German Question
October 6, 2008




By George Friedman

Related Special Topic Page
The Russian Resurgence
German Chancellor Angela Merkel went to St. Petersburg last week for meetings with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. The central question on the table was Germany’s position on NATO expansion, particularly with regard to Ukraine and Georgia. Merkel made it clear at a joint press conference that Germany would oppose NATO membership for both of these countries, and that it would even oppose placing the countries on the path to membership. Since NATO operates on the basis of consensus, any member nation can effectively block any candidate from NATO membership.

The fact that Merkel and Germany have chosen this path is of great significance. Merkel acted in full knowledge of the U.S. view on the matter and is prepared to resist any American pressure that might follow. It should be remembered that Merkel might be the most pro-American politician in Germany, and perhaps its most pro-American chancellor in years. Moreover, as an East German, she has a deep unease about the Russians. Reality, however, overrode her personal inclinations. More than other countries, Germany does not want to alienate the United States. But it is in a position to face American pressure should any come.

Energy Dependence and Defense Spending
In one sense, Merkel’s reasons for her stance are simple. Germany is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas. If the supply were cut off, Germany’s situation would be desperate — or at least close enough that the distinction would be academic. Russia might decide it could not afford to cut off natural gas exports, but Merkel is dealing with a fundamental German interest, and risking that for Ukrainian or Georgian membership in NATO is not something she is prepared to do.

She can’t bank on Russian caution in a matter such as this, particularly when the Russians seem to be in an incautious mood. Germany is, of course, looking to alternative sources of energy for the future, and in five years its dependence on Russia might not be nearly as significant. But five years is a long time to hold your breath, and Germany can’t do it.

The German move is not just about natural gas, however. Germany views the U.S. obsession with NATO expansion as simply not in Germany’s interests.

First, expanding NATO guarantees to Ukraine and Georgia is meaningless. NATO and the United States don’t have the military means to protect Ukraine or Georgia, and incorporating them into the alliance would not increase European security. From a military standpoint, NATO membership for the two former Soviet republics is an empty gesture, while from a political standpoint, Berlin sees it as designed to irritate the Russians for no clear purpose.

Next, were NATO prepared to protect Ukraine and Georgia, all NATO countries including Germany would be forced to increase defense expenditures substantially. This is not something that Germany and the rest of NATO want to do.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Germany spent 1945-1992 being the potential prime battleground of the Cold War. It spent 1992-2008 not being the potential prime battleground. Germany prefers the latter, and it does not intend to be drawn into a new Cold War under any circumstances. This has profound implications for the future of both NATO and U.S.-German relations.

Germany is thus in the midst of a strategic crisis in which it must make some fundamental decisions. To understand the decisions Germany has to make, we need to understand the country’s geopolitical problem and the decisions it has made in the past.

The German Geopolitical Problem
Until 1871, Germany was fragmented into dozens of small states — kingdoms, duchies, principalities, etc. — comprising the remnants of the Holy Roman Empire. The German-speaking world was torn apart by internal tensions and the constant manipulation of foreign powers.

The southeastern part of the German-speaking world, Austria, was the center of the multinational Hapsburg Empire. It was Roman Catholic and was continually intruding into the predominantly Catholic regions of the rest of Germany, particularly Bavaria. The French were constantly poaching in the Rhineland and manipulating the balance of power among the German states. Russia was always looming to the east, where it bordered the major Protestant German power, Prussia. (Poland at the time was divided among Prussia, Russia and Austria-Hungary.) Germany was perpetually the victim of great powers, a condition which Prussia spent the roughly half-century between Waterloo and German unification trying to correct.

To unify Germany, Prussia had to do more than dominate the Germans. It had to fight two wars. The first was in 1866 with the Hapsburg Empire, which Prussia defeated in seven weeks, ending Hapsburg influence in Germany and ultimately reducing Austria-Hungary to Germany’s junior partner. The second war was in 1870-1871, when Prussia led a German coalition that defeated France. That defeat ended French influence in the Rhineland and gave Prussia the space in which to create a modern, unified Germany. Russia, which was pleased to see both Austria-Hungary and France defeated and viewed a united Germany as a buffer against another French invasion, did not try to block unification.

German unification changed the dynamic of Europe. First, it created a large nation in the heart of Europe between France and Russia. United, Germany was economically dynamic, and its growth outstripped that of France and the United Kingdom. Moreover, it became a naval power, developing a substantial force that at some point could challenge British naval hegemony. It became a major exporting power, taking markets from Britain and France. And in looking around for room to maneuver, Germany began looking east toward Russia. In short, Germany was more than a nation — it was a geopolitical problem.

Germany’s strategic problem was that if the French and Russians attacked Germany simultaneously, with Britain blockading its ports, Germany would lose and revert to its pre-1871 chaos. Given French, Russian and British interest in shattering Germany, Germany had to assume that such an attack would come. Therefore, since the Germans could not fight on two fronts simultaneously, they needed to fight a war pre-emptively, attacking France or Russia first, defeating it and then turning their full strength on the other — all before Britain’s naval blockade could begin to hurt. Germany’s only defense was a two-stage offense that was as complex as a ballet, and would be catastrophic if it failed.

In World War I, executing the Schlieffen Plan, the Germans attacked France first while trying to simply block the Russians. The plan was to first occupy the channel coast and Paris before the United Kingdom could get into the game and before Russia could fully mobilize, and then to knock out Russia. The plan failed in 1914 at the First Battle of the Marnes, and rather than lightning victory, Germany got bogged down in a multifront war costing millions of lives and lasting years. Even so, Germany almost won the war of attrition, causing the United States to intervene and deprive Berlin of victory.

In World War II, the Germans had learned their lesson, so instead of trying to pin down Russia, they entered into a treaty with the Soviets. This secured Germany’s rear by dividing Poland with the Soviet Union. The Soviets agreed to the treaty, expecting Adolf Hitler’s forces to attack France and bog down as Germany had in World War I. The Soviets would then roll West after the bloodletting had drained the rest of Europe. The Germans stunned the Russians by defeating France in six weeks and then turning on the Russians. The Russian front turned into an endless bloodletting, and once again the Americans helped deliver the final blow.

The consequence of the war was the division of Germany into three parts — an independent Austria, a Western-occupied West Germany and a Soviet-occupied East Germany. West Germany again faced the Russian problem. Its eastern part was occupied, and West Germany could not possibly defend itself on its own. It found itself integrated into an American-dominated alliance system, NATO, which was designed to block the Soviets. West and East Germany would serve as the primary battleground of any Soviet attack, with Soviet armor facing U.S. armor, airpower and tactical nuclear weapons. For the Germans, the Cold War was probably more dangerous than either of the previous wars. Whatever the war’s outcome, Germany stood a pretty good chance of being annihilated if it took place.

On the upside, the Cold War did settle Franco-German tensions, which were half of Germany’s strategic problem. Indeed, one of the by-products of the Cold War was the emergence of the European Community, which ultimately became the European Union. This saw German economic union and integration with France, which along with NATO’s military integration guaranteed economic growth and the end of any military threat to Germany from the west. For the first time in centuries, the Rhine was not at risk. Germany’s south was secure, and once the Soviet Union collapsed, there was no threat from the east, either.

United and Secure at Last?
For the first time in centuries, Germany was both united and militarily secure. But underneath it all, the Germans retained their primordial fear of being caught between France and Russia. Berlin understood that this was far from a mature reality; it was no more than a theoretical problem at the moment. But the Germans also understand how quickly things can change. On one level, the problem was nothing more than the economic emphasis of the European Union compared to the geopolitical focus of Russia. But on a deeper level, Germany was, as always, caught between the potentially competing demands of Russia and the West. Even if the problem were small now, there were no guarantees that it wouldn’t grow.

This was the context in which Germany viewed the Russo-Georgian war in August. Berlin saw not only the United States moving toward a hostile relationship with Russia, but also the United Kingdom and France going down the same path.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who happened to hold the rotating EU presidency at the time, went to Moscow to negotiate a cease-fire on behalf of the European Union. When the Russians seemed unwilling to comply with the terms negotiated, France became highly critical of Russia and inclined to back some sort of sanctions at the EU summit on Georgia. With the United Kingdom being even more adamant, Germany saw a worst-case scenario looming on the distant horizon: It understood that the pleasant security of the post-Cold War world was at an end, and that it had to craft a new national strategy.

From Germany’s point of view, the re-emergence of Russian influence in the former Soviet Union might be something that could have been blocked in the 1990s, but by 2008, it had become inevitable. The Germans saw that economic relations in the former Soviet Union — and not only energy issues — created a complementary relationship between Russia and its former empire. Between natural affinities and Russian power, a Russian sphere of influence, if not a formal structure, was inevitable. It was an emerging reality that could not be reversed.

France has Poland and Germany between itself and Russia. Britain has that plus the English Channel, and the United States has all that plus the Atlantic Ocean. The farther away from Russia one is, the more comfortable one can be challenging Moscow. But Germany has only Poland as a buffer. For any nation serious about resisting Russian power, the first question is how to assure the security of the Baltic countries, a long-vulnerable salient running north from Poland. The answer would be to station NATO forces in the Baltics and in Poland, and Berlin understood that Germany would be both the logistical base for these forces as well as the likely source of troops. But Germany’s appetite for sending troops to Poland and the Baltics has been satiated. This was not a course Germany wanted to take.

Pondering German History
We suspect that Merkel knew something else; namely, that all the comfortable assumptions about what was possible and impossible — that the Russians wouldn’t dare attack the Baltics — are dubious in the extreme. Nothing in German history would convince any reasonable German that military action to achieve national ends is unthinkable. Nor are the Germans prepared to dismiss the re-emergence of Russian military power. The Germans had been economically and militarily shattered in 1932. By 1938, they were the major power in Europe. As long as their officer corps and technological knowledge base were intact, regeneration could move swiftly.

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and its military power crumbled. But as was the case in Weimar Germany, the Russian officer corps remained relatively intact and the KGB, the heart of the Soviet state, remained intact if renamed. So did the technological base that made the Soviets a global power. As with Germany after both world wars, Russia was in chaos, but its fragments remained, awaiting reconstruction. The Germans were not about to dismiss Russia’s ability to regenerate — they know their own history too well to do that.

If Germany were to join those who call for NATO expansion, the first step toward a confrontation with Russia would have been taken. The second step would be guaranteeing the security of the Baltics and Poland. America would make the speeches, and Germans would man the line. After spending most of the last century fighting or preparing to fight the Russians, the Germans looked around at the condition of their allies and opted out.

The Germans see their economic commitment as being to the European Union. That binds them to the French, and this is not a bond they can or want to break. But the European Union carries no political or military force in relation to the Russians. Beyond economics, it is a debating society. NATO, as an institution built to resist the Russians, is in an advanced state of decay. To resurrect it, the Germans would have to pay a steep economic price. And if they paid that price, they would be carrying much of the strategic risk.

So while Germany remains committed to its economic relationship with the West, it does not intend to enter into a military commitment against the Russians at this time. If the Americans want to send troops to protect the Baltics and Poland, they are welcome to do so. Germany has no objection — nor do they object to a French or British presence there. Indeed, once such forces were committed, Germany might reconsider its position. But since military deployments in significant numbers are unlikely anytime soon, the Germans view grand U.S. statements about expanded NATO membership as mere bravado by a Washington that is prepared to risk little.

NATO After the German Shift
Therefore, Merkel went to St. Petersburg and told the Russians that Germany does not favor NATO expansion. More than that, the Germans at least implicitly told the Russians that they have a free hand in the former Soviet Union as far as Germany is concerned — an assertion that cost Berlin nothing, since the Russians do enjoy a free hand there. But even more critically, Merkel signaled to the Russians and the West that Germany does not intend to be trapped between Western ambitions and Russian power this time. It does not want to recreate the situation of the two world wars or the Cold War, so Berlin will stay close to France economically and also will accommodate the Russians.

The Germans will thus block NATO’s ambitions, something that represents a dramatic shift in the Western alliance. This shift in fact has been unfolding for quite a while, but it took the Russo-Georgian war to reveal the change.

NATO has no real military power to project to the east, and none can be created without a major German effort, which is not forthcoming. The German shift leaves the Baltic countries exposed and extremely worried, as they should be. It also leaves the Poles in their traditional position of counting on countries far away to guarantee their national security. In 1939, Warsaw counted on the British and French; today, Warsaw depends on the United States. As in 1939, these guarantees are tenuous, but they are all the Poles have.

The United States has the option of placing a nuclear umbrella over the Baltics and Eastern Europe, which would guarantee a nuclear strike on Russia in the event of an attack in either place. While this was the guarantee made to Western Europe in the Cold War, it is unlikely that the United States is prepared for global thermonuclear war over Estonia’s fate. Such a U.S. guarantee to the Baltics and Eastern Europe simply would not represent a credible threat.

The other U.S. option is a major insertion of American forces either by sea through Danish waters or via French and German ports and railways, assuming France or Germany would permit their facilities to be used for such a deployment. But this option is academic at the moment. The United States could not deploy more than symbolic forces even if it wanted to. For the moment, NATO is therefore an entity that issues proclamations, not a functioning military alliance, in spite of (or perhaps because of) deployments in Afghanistan.

Everything in German history has led to this moment. The country is united and wants to be secure. It will not play the role it was forced into during the Cold War, nor will it play geopolitical poker as it did in the first and second world wars. And that means NATO is permanently and profoundly broken. The German question now turns into the Russian question: If Germany is out of the game, what is to be done about Russia?
 
23618  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 06, 2008, 02:29:12 PM
There may be a privacy thread where this could have fit, but this thread seems fine to me so lets carry on here.

What do we think of this gentlemen?
23619  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Chess on: October 06, 2008, 02:26:59 PM
I am quite proud to report that my son has beaten me for the first time cool cool cool
23620  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Biden off his meds on: October 06, 2008, 01:14:12 PM
In the popular media wisdom, Sarah Palin is the neophyte who knows nothing about foreign policy while Joe Biden is the savvy diplomatic pro. Then what are we to make of Mr. Biden's fantastic debate voyage last week when he made factual claims that would have got Mrs. Palin mocked from New York to Los Angeles?

 
APStart with Lebanon, where Mr. Biden asserted that "When we kicked -- along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, 'Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don't know -- if you don't, Hezbollah will control it.' Now what's happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel."

The U.S. never kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, and no one else has either. Perhaps Mr. Biden meant to say Syria, except that the U.S. also didn't do that. The Lebanese ousted Syria's military in 2005. As for NATO, Messrs. Biden and Obama may have proposed sending alliance troops in, but if they did that was also a fantasy. The U.S. has had all it can handle trying to convince NATO countries to deploy to Afghanistan.

Speaking of which, Mr. Biden also averred that "Our commanding general in Afghanistan said the surge principle in Iraq will not work in Afghanistan." In trying to correct him, Mrs. Palin mispronounced the general's name -- saying "General McClellan" instead of General David McKiernan. But Mr. Biden's claim was the bigger error, because General McKiernan said that while "Afghanistan is not Iraq," he also said a "sustained commitment" to counterinsurgency would be required. That is consistent with Mr. McCain's point that the "surge principles" of Iraq could work in Afghanistan.

Then there's the Senator's astonishing claim that Mr. Obama "did not say he'd sit down with Ahmadinejad" without preconditions. Yet Mr. Biden himself criticized Mr. Obama on this point in 2007 at the National Press Club: "Would I make a blanket commitment to meet unconditionally with the leaders of each of those countries within the first year I was elected President? Absolutely, positively no."

Or how about his rewriting of Bosnia history to assert that John McCain didn't support President Clinton in the 1990s. "My recommendations on Bosnia, I admit I was the first one to recommend it. They saved tens of thousands of lives. And initially John McCain opposed it along with a lot of other people. But the end result was it worked." Mr. Biden's immodesty aside, Mr. McCain supported Mr. Clinton on Bosnia, as did Bob Dole even as he was running against him for President in 1996 -- in contrast to the way Mr. Biden and Democratic leaders have tried to undermine President Bush on Iraq.

Closer to home, the Delaware blarney stone also invited Americans to join him at "Katie's restaurant" in Wilmington to witness middle-class struggles. Just one problem: Katie's closed in the 1980s. The mistake is more than a memory lapse because it exposes how phony is Mr. Biden's attempt to pose for this campaign as Lunchbucket Joe.

We think the word "lie" is overused in politics today, having become a favorite of the blogosphere and at the New York Times. So we won't say Mr. Biden was deliberately making events up when he made these and other false statements. Perhaps he merely misspoke. In any case, Mrs. Palin may not know as much about the world as Mr. Biden does, but at least most of what she knows is true.
23621  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Quotes of note: on: October 06, 2008, 10:55:47 AM


“A bureaucrat is the most despicable of men, though he is needed as vultures are needed, but one hardly admires vultures whom bureaucrats so strangely resemble. I have yet to meet a bureaucrat who was not petty, dull, almost witless, crafty or stupid, an oppressor or a thief, a holder of little authority in which he delights, as a boy delights in possessing a vicious dog. Who can trust such creatures?” —Marcus Tullius Cicero
 
23622  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / B. Franklin on: October 06, 2008, 07:56:42 AM
Benjamin Franklin: "If a man empties his purse into his head, no
one can take it from him."
23623  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Ropa contra balas on: October 05, 2008, 10:13:41 PM
Bullet Proof Clothes In Mexico

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

By Marc Lacey
Published: October 6, 2008

MEXICO CITY: Exclusive clothing boutiques line Avenida Presidente Masarik here. A Burberry coat? A Corneliani suit? A Gucci scarf? Have enough pesos, and they are yours.

But tucked on a leafy side street in the Polanco neighborhood is a shop unlike the others, one whose bustling business says much about the dire state of security in this country. At Miguel Caballero, named after its Colombian owner, all the garments are bulletproof.

There are bulletproof leather jackets and bulletproof polo shirts. Armored guayabera shirts hang next to protective windbreakers, parkas and even white ruffled tuxedo shirts. Every member of the sales staff has had to take a turn being shot while wearing one of the products, which range from a few hundred dollars to as much as $7,000, so they can attest to the efficacy of the secret fabric.

"If feels like a punch," a salesman said of the shot to the stomach he received.

Just who is willing to fork over thousands of dollars for these chic shields? Customers include Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Álvaro Uribe of Colombia, not to mention assorted royalty, movie stars and other VIP's.

As Mexico grapples with an increase in drug-related violence, sales are steadily on the rise, the company said, though it declined to provide precise figures.

Those who duck into the private boutique, passing first through a metal detector, run the gamut.

There is the surgeon who finishes work at the hospital late and feels vulnerable while walking through the parking lot to his car. Now, that potential burglar can take a shot at him with a .38-caliber revolver, a 9-millimeter pistol or a submachine gun and still not pierce his lightweight, heat-resistant and quite fashionable coat.

There is the newspaper distributor who has scores of employees who collect papers from him in the wee hours of the morning to drop at doorsteps across the capital. He stopped at the boutique the other day for a jacket that can keep him in business even if someone tried to knock him off and take the rolls of cash he carries around.

There is the bullfighter who is scared not of bulls but of bullets and consequently ordered a matador's suit that can withstand gunfire.

Then there are Mexican politicians and business executives, some who have received threats and others who want to supplement their existing security measures, which in many cases already include bulletproof cars, home alarm systems, round-the-clock bodyguards and panic buttons.

"What we offer is one more chance at life," said Javier Di Carlo, the marketing manager, as he showed off the top-of-the-line Black collection in a private fitting room. "We don't want people to say to the criminal, 'Shoot me.' Nobody should feel like Superman. But if the criminal does shoot, we give our customers a chance to run away."

There is a whole lot of shooting going on in Mexico today. Every day, the papers are full of victims, bodies lying out in grotesque poses with bullet wounds all about. Some are garden-variety crime victims, but the drug cartels that control much of the Mexican countryside are behind the overwhelming majority. They pay off politicians and police officers and act as shadow governments in town after town along their transit routes. Cross them, and they do not hesitate to pull the trigger.

The rash of drug violence, together with a surge in kidnappings for ransom, has shaken everyday Mexicans. Ask a stranger for directions on the street these days, and fear is the first emotion that crosses the person's face. He or she might recover enough to describe how to go this way or that.

Studies have shown that more and more anxious Mexicans are pouring their money into defensive measures. Families and businesses across Mexico invest $18 billion in private security measures, a recent study by the Center for Economic Studies of the Private Sector found. Some people are trying to get their hands on weapons, which are tightly regulated here but widely available on the black market. To some, bulletproof fashion is the logical next step.

Still, not everybody is lining up. Jon French, a former State Department official who now runs a security company in Mexico City, said he considered the bulletproof luxury items more about ego than anything else. Most of the killings that fill the front pages — there have been 3,000 this year alone — are drug traffickers killing rivals, he pointed out.

"Certain members of the well-to-do class here have a tendency to be ostentatious," French said. "You see it in their bodyguards and chase cars. Some of this is so while at the country club they can talk about how protected they are. Now they can say, 'Look, I'm wearing body armor!' "
But Caballero, who opened the Mexico store two years ago and has since expanded with branches in Guatemala City, Johannesburg and London, counters by telling of his loyalty club program for clients. Called the Survivor's Club, it is open to anyone whose life was saved by wearing one of his protective garments. Its rolls, he said in a telephone interview from Bogotá, are on the rise.

To lower the chance that he is outfitting the bad guys, Caballero runs background checks on customers, checking their names against lists of fugitives compiled by the United States and Mexican governments. He points out that the clothing is not designed for the kind of warfare that is breaking out in some parts of Mexico, where drug assassins have used rocket launchers and grenades to wipe out rivals.

A bulletproof polo shirt is meant more to repel random street violence, of the kind that seemed as if it just might break out just around the corner from Caballero's shop the other day.

Fernando Arias Carmona, a salesman, wore one of the protective leather coats while he sat at a café on Masarik being photographed. People looking on inquired into what was the fuss was about. When told that Carmona's fashionable jacket was bulletproof, a man at the next table reached into his own jacket and said, "Let me test it out."

Fortunately, though, the man pulled out only with his fingers in the shape of a pistol.

Then, looking at the coat again, he said, "I want one of those."
23624  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Seminar: 10/11-12 Guro Crafty in Bloomington IL on: October 05, 2008, 10:12:31 PM
Looking forward to this!

Rumor has it someone wants revenge on me in chess on Saturday night cheesy
23625  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 05, 2008, 10:07:10 PM
The Jackson KO of Liddell came on a hook that created brain stem torsion.  Here, to my eye, it didn't look like much AND should have been seen coming in-- thus lessening the effect.
23626  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bullet proof clothes on: October 05, 2008, 09:52:09 PM
Bullet Proof Clothes In Mexico

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

By Marc Lacey
Published: October 6, 2008

MEXICO CITY: Exclusive clothing boutiques line Avenida Presidente Masarik here. A Burberry coat? A Corneliani suit? A Gucci scarf? Have enough pesos, and they are yours.

But tucked on a leafy side street in the Polanco neighborhood is a shop unlike the others, one whose bustling business says much about the dire state of security in this country. At Miguel Caballero, named after its Colombian owner, all the garments are bulletproof.

There are bulletproof leather jackets and bulletproof polo shirts. Armored guayabera shirts hang next to protective windbreakers, parkas and even white ruffled tuxedo shirts. Every member of the sales staff has had to take a turn being shot while wearing one of the products, which range from a few hundred dollars to as much as $7,000, so they can attest to the efficacy of the secret fabric.

"If feels like a punch," a salesman said of the shot to the stomach he received.

Just who is willing to fork over thousands of dollars for these chic shields? Customers include Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Álvaro Uribe of Colombia, not to mention assorted royalty, movie stars and other VIP's.

As Mexico grapples with an increase in drug-related violence, sales are steadily on the rise, the company said, though it declined to provide precise figures.

Those who duck into the private boutique, passing first through a metal detector, run the gamut.

There is the surgeon who finishes work at the hospital late and feels vulnerable while walking through the parking lot to his car. Now, that potential burglar can take a shot at him with a .38-caliber revolver, a 9-millimeter pistol or a submachine gun and still not pierce his lightweight, heat-resistant and quite fashionable coat.

There is the newspaper distributor who has scores of employees who collect papers from him in the wee hours of the morning to drop at doorsteps across the capital. He stopped at the boutique the other day for a jacket that can keep him in business even if someone tried to knock him off and take the rolls of cash he carries around.

There is the bullfighter who is scared not of bulls but of bullets and consequently ordered a matador's suit that can withstand gunfire.

Then there are Mexican politicians and business executives, some who have received threats and others who want to supplement their existing security measures, which in many cases already include bulletproof cars, home alarm systems, round-the-clock bodyguards and panic buttons.

"What we offer is one more chance at life," said Javier Di Carlo, the marketing manager, as he showed off the top-of-the-line Black collection in a private fitting room. "We don't want people to say to the criminal, 'Shoot me.' Nobody should feel like Superman. But if the criminal does shoot, we give our customers a chance to run away."

There is a whole lot of shooting going on in Mexico today. Every day, the papers are full of victims, bodies lying out in grotesque poses with bullet wounds all about. Some are garden-variety crime victims, but the drug cartels that control much of the Mexican countryside are behind the overwhelming majority. They pay off politicians and police officers and act as shadow governments in town after town along their transit routes. Cross them, and they do not hesitate to pull the trigger.

The rash of drug violence, together with a surge in kidnappings for ransom, has shaken everyday Mexicans. Ask a stranger for directions on the street these days, and fear is the first emotion that crosses the person's face. He or she might recover enough to describe how to go this way or that.

Studies have shown that more and more anxious Mexicans are pouring their money into defensive measures. Families and businesses across Mexico invest $18 billion in private security measures, a recent study by the Center for Economic Studies of the Private Sector found. Some people are trying to get their hands on weapons, which are tightly regulated here but widely available on the black market. To some, bulletproof fashion is the logical next step.

Still, not everybody is lining up. Jon French, a former State Department official who now runs a security company in Mexico City, said he considered the bulletproof luxury items more about ego than anything else. Most of the killings that fill the front pages — there have been 3,000 this year alone — are drug traffickers killing rivals, he pointed out.

"Certain members of the well-to-do class here have a tendency to be ostentatious," French said. "You see it in their bodyguards and chase cars. Some of this is so while at the country club they can talk about how protected they are. Now they can say, 'Look, I'm wearing body armor!' "
But Caballero, who opened the Mexico store two years ago and has since expanded with branches in Guatemala City, Johannesburg and London, counters by telling of his loyalty club program for clients. Called the Survivor's Club, it is open to anyone whose life was saved by wearing one of his protective garments. Its rolls, he said in a telephone interview from Bogotá, are on the rise.

To lower the chance that he is outfitting the bad guys, Caballero runs background checks on customers, checking their names against lists of fugitives compiled by the United States and Mexican governments. He points out that the clothing is not designed for the kind of warfare that is breaking out in some parts of Mexico, where drug assassins have used rocket launchers and grenades to wipe out rivals.

A bulletproof polo shirt is meant more to repel random street violence, of the kind that seemed as if it just might break out just around the corner from Caballero's shop the other day.

Fernando Arias Carmona, a salesman, wore one of the protective leather coats while he sat at a café on Masarik being photographed. People looking on inquired into what was the fuss was about. When told that Carmona's fashionable jacket was bulletproof, a man at the next table reached into his own jacket and said, "Let me test it out."

Fortunately, though, the man pulled out only with his fingers in the shape of a pistol.

Then, looking at the coat again, he said, "I want one of those."
23627  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 05, 2008, 05:59:56 PM
The clip I saw DID look like there was a hammer fist to the back of the head/neck.  The first right hand had about as much on it as Ali's KO punch of Sonny Liston in their second fight  wink rolleyes  Did any of the follow up punches land solidly?

No doubt this fight was not pleasing to the monied interests , , , evil
23628  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: soempat on: October 05, 2008, 04:59:43 PM
Well, few people are as entitled to an opinion as EP!

That said, I have also read that he has a similar opinion about trapping, yet I have personally seen him in a vigorous sparring session at RAW pak sao someone who went the distance for the UFC heavyweight title.

FWIW, I do think the Silat sweeps work IF you go about crashing to clinch on angles.
23629  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: October 05, 2008, 02:39:24 PM
A small story:

We live in a two-on-a-lot in the front unit.  Our neighbor in back is a very active and very committed feminazi liberal.  She is running for reelection on the local Health District Council or something like that and so we let her post her yard sign in front of our house (four years ago there had been words over her effort to place a Kerry sign cheesy ),  Anyway, today she is hosting a BO party and people came looking for her house.  My wife happened to be out front chatting with a friend.  One by one they came and stopped in front of our house, and one by one my wife pointed them to the house in the back.  One fella stopped and looked at the McCain sign and said, "She... lives... in... this... house...?"  My wife said, "NO, she lives in the house in the back".  Then my wife leaned in and half whispered, "The people who live in the front are conservatives."  They man crumpled his nose and said, "Ewwwwe".   As he walked off my wife said, "They're conservatives, but they're reeeeeeeeeeeeal nice!"   

  cheesy
23630  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 05, 2008, 02:33:45 PM
I was very impressed by AA when he was winning in the UFC, then it looked like he lost his confidence to the point where I heard he was a bodyguard taking off his shirt on the Jerry Springer show-- WTF?

Anyway, it sure looks like he is back.  shocked Who was that he was fighting there?

Story:  Back when AA was on top of the UFC, he was my son's favorite (my son was about 7 at the time).  As AA entered the octagon and began warming up my son warmed up with him, punching and kicking this way and that.  Then he turned to me and said, "You know Dad, I think he could beat even you."

Love you son  cheesy
23631  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Street Weapons on: October 05, 2008, 02:25:29 PM
 cheesy

Actually, to be precise he, like any good Akita was quite the opposite of juramentado/going amok, which are states in which judgement is disconnected in a killing frenzy.

Although quite fearless any good Akita is supposed to remain aware of the situation and do what is necessary AND NO MORE.  In this case, Morro instantly correctly read Tom's jump back and my exhalation as indicating that it was not necessary to continue.  The intensity of his intent quite startled me.  He was a far less aggressive dog than Zapata, my first Akita and the one you see in the DBMA logo (drawn by Shaggy Dog). 

I saw this "and no more" repeatedly, especially with Zapata, who was a master of provoking other dogs to come over within reach to fight and in an incident where a young male put a fight collar on his Rott to try Zapata.
23632  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: October 05, 2008, 02:18:48 PM
"looking for the open space between the moving objects instead of the focusing on the weapons themselves."

That is a nice little gem there Maija.
23633  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: October 05, 2008, 04:15:57 AM
"Global warming, and its denial are nothing but a way to dodge the issue. Believers and deniers are just opposite sides of the same coin. Both are not talking about the real problems. Go ahead and explain to me why smog is a good thing, or why high levels of mercury in the fish is positive? Try and explain the island of garbage floating around the ocean? You can't spin those into anything beneficial and trying is insanity."

The problem with the theology of "man as cause of global warming" is that a lot of really coercive and expensive solutions are being proposed to solve a problem which may well not exist, or exist in small degree.  Honest science needs to be coin of the realm in this conversation.

I agree that the focus needs to be the fouling of the planet.  With good science perhaps we will realize that the ethanol the government proposes to deal with the false problem of global warming creates the fertilizer run-off by which the Mississippi River dumps so much fertilizer into the Gulf of Mexico that it has a huge dead zone that grows every year.

Instead of blathering about needing to sign the Kyoto Accord and blaming it on Bush (which was rejected by the Senate IIRC under Clinton 97-0) maybe we need to look at the implications of buying from the Chinese who foul not only their next but ours as well by the particulates they create that reach the western US.

Instead of looking to the government to guide the process, maybe we should shift our approach to one of taxing external diseconomies (i.e. pollution)-- costs not born by the buyer or seller of a transaction-- instead of good things like jobs, income, savings (including inheritance) investment, etc.   I vociferously agree that the ocean becoming a garbage dump is a real problem-- so lets tax all the disposable plastic products instead of our work, savings, and investment.  By shifting our tax code to such a concept we will both enable a tremendous increase in economic growth, we will also bring the pricing mechanism of the market to bear as to the trade offs between pollution and other things.  If car manufacters operate in an environment wherein cars that pollute more are taxed more their self-interest motivates them to act for the clean air so they can acquire a cost advantage over their competitors.  This contrasts quite strongly and favorably to what we have now wherein the most profitable thing is to buy Congressman and litigate with the bureaucracies.

What you tax more you get less of-- so lets tax pollution instead of people, profits, savings, income, etc.
23634  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Waitress nails bank robber on: October 04, 2008, 09:31:37 PM
Unarmed Coffee Shop Waitress Nabs Fleeing Bank Robbery Suspect

Saturday , October 04, 2008

An unarmed coffee shop waitress in Hillborough County, Fla., tackled and subdued an alleged armed robber after he hit the Valrico State Bank on Friday, Bay News 9 reported.

The Da Silva’s Coffee Shop employee had been trained in Germany as a police officer, but she was only half the size of the suspect she took down.

Local police said suspect Jeffrey Merritt, 44, ran past Da Silva’s on the way to his getaway car after robbing the bank.

The waitress — the Tampa Tribune reports she wished to remain unidentified — reportedly saw Merritt running with something and looking behind him. She chased him down, yelling, “Freeze or I’m going to shoot” and then tackled him.

She did not have a gun, but the bluff worked, and the suspect surrendered.

"I knew she was a trained officer, but I didn't know what that really meant," Karen Raga, a co-worker, told The Tampa Tribune.

Bystanders then helped the waitress sit on Merritt until police arrived.

Click here to read more on this story from Bay News 9.
Click here to read more on this story from The Tampa Tribune.
23635  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: October 04, 2008, 09:06:48 PM
For a plethora of examples, see the closely related thread "Islam vs. Free Speech".
23636  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wanna buy the Brooklyn Bridge? on: October 04, 2008, 08:54:48 PM
A top national-security adviser to Barack Obama said he expects military spending during a Democratic administration wouldn't drop, a key concern for a defense industry that is accustomed to growing Pentagon budgets and anxious about potential cutbacks.

 
Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama arrives at a rally at Michigan State University in East Lansing on Thursday.
Richard Danzig, a U.S. Navy secretary during the Clinton administration and a leading contender to be the secretary of Defense in an Obama administration, said he doesn't "see defense spending declining in the first years of an Obama administration. There are a set of demands there that are very severe, very important to our national well-being." U.S. defense spending has risen at a steady clip throughout the Bush administration.

Regardless of whether Sen. Obama or his Republican rival, John McCain, is elected, the winner will have little time to tweak details in the fiscal 2010 budget between assuming office in late January and submitting the budget in February. A new administration normally takes months to get new appointees in key jobs, and the Pentagon budget is among the most complex and politically contentious in the federal government.

Mr. Danzig, speaking at a Defense Writers Group breakfast Thursday in Washington, said that Sen. Obama would make sure that the Pentagon doesn't become overly focused on fighting guerrillas and terrorists at the expense of traditional air and sea power. "I think the temptation is to invest in the issue du jour or the cause du jour and to overlook a lot of basics," Mr. Danzig said. At the same time, there will be a focus on "cyber warfare" and unmanned aerial vehicles, he said.

With the election just over a month away, defense-industry executives are hungry for information from either camp. "There is less detail and specifics than there has been in some past elections," said one defense-industry official. While Sen. McCain has a long track record of being tough on defense contractors' waste as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee -- which he highlighted in the debate Sept. 26 -- Sen. Obama hasn't dealt with those issues.

Randy Scheunemann, a top foreign-policy adviser to Sen. McCain, said in an email that "Sen. Obama has no credibility on defense, while Sen. McCain has firsthand familiarity with national-security issues for decades."

Generally, Mr. Danzig was critical of the weapons-buying process during the past eight years. "The record of this administration in the acquisition area in terms of overruns and the like has been quite poor," said Mr. Danzig. "You need to come to grips with affordability issues and the requirements process."

He also singled out the Army's $160 billion-plus Future Combat Systems modernization plan led by Boeing Co. and SAIC Inc., as well as a program to develop a missile-defense system that includes Boeing, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp., as efforts that are worthy but in need of a "serious scrub."

Mr. Danzig said that controlling costs is crucial. One way to do that may be to shift the Pentagon's focus to buying greater numbers of less-sophisticated weapons systems. "I think industry can live with this, even embrace it," he said.

One of the thorniest weapons-buying issues awaiting either presidential nominee is the award of a more than $40 billion contract to replace the nation's fleet of aging aerial-refueling tankers. Last month, the Defense Department abandoned plans to award the work to either Northrop or Boeing after a political and legal fight. Mr. Danzig said the companies need a level playing field when dealing with the Air Force, as well as on issues such as a dispute between the U.S. and Europe over commercial-aircraft-development subsidies. As a candidate, Sen. Obama doesn't have a view about which company should win, Mr. Danzig said.
23637  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Street Weapons on: October 04, 2008, 08:52:24 PM
Those things are perfect for a mean dog.  I bet even the swishing sound one makes in the air would suffice to back up all but the most determined dog.

Tangent:  Tom Meadows once was showing me what he can do with a sling (EXTREMELY impressive by the way) and he started to whip the thing around in a circle for a super release.  The sound set off Morro, my second Akita, who went from at rest to full attack mode in an instant but fortunately both Tom and I read his movement in timely manner for him to break off before contact.
23638  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: October 04, 2008, 08:47:41 PM
Maija:

Find that footage!!!  Please!!!

TAC,
CD
23639  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 04, 2008, 08:44:48 PM
The steroids wear off and time marches on , , ,
23640  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: October 04, 2008, 01:41:14 PM
Woof Tiburon Ken:

I am very happy to see you here.  Thank you very much for sending me the pictures you took in Hawaii of me working with Daniel, with the sea turtles, and of Dogzilla-- and thank you for your able assistance at the seminar in Chinatown.

As for the training device, I had seen this concept with shorter stick, but duh! -- it had not occurred to me to use longer and heavier sticks.  I like it  smiley

TAC,
Crafty Dog
23641  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Kali Tudo Working Examples on: October 04, 2008, 01:23:31 PM
Woof Jonobos:

Well, I trust Dog Ryan will rectify that  grin 

Of course, hearing of these things puts a wag in my tail.  grin cool

Guro Crafty
23642  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: October 04, 2008, 09:53:31 AM
A physics professor once told me that in physics progress was reducing the amount of principles needed to explain how the world/universe works.  In a similar vein, I think that clarity of thought can often be manifested by reducing the number of words necessary to express a thought e.g. Sarah Palin.  The risk of course is superficiality, but at the moment I'm seeing her as someone with tremendous potential.

It has been pointed out that the world is more complicated than when Lincoln was president.  Accepting that to be true, it seems to me that it correspondingly becomes more important for a president to have a clear sense of the principles that define how the political-economic world works.  Someone without this will be overwhelmed by the rivers of data that are part and parcel of wonkery.  Someone with a clear sense of these things will be , , , a President Reagan. grin

I am delighted to see a shared understanding here of the utter outrageiousness of Biden's position (presumably BO's as well? does anyone have confirmatin of this?), which was also shared by Hillary BTW, that courts should be able to interfere with the terms of mortgage contracts.

I am finding that I like Palin more and more.  I agree that there are areas, some of them important, where she is not ready yet-- on the other hand I like that she doesn't know that the US drove Hezbollah out of Lebanon and that sending NATO in was an option.  cheesy  Clarity on the right to self defense (a.k.a. the right to bear arms) is a matter of great importance to me, and I have no interest or trust in His Glibness's slippery slope of sh*t on this.   That a leader understands that TANSTAAFL (There Aint No Such Thing As A Free Lunch) is a vital matter of importance-- and one that eludes much of the Democratic Party as well as BO-JB.  The idea of a Dem Senate, Dem House, Dem White House-- all of which appoint Dems to the Supreme Court seems to me a tremendous disaster of long lasting consequences for this country.

What I do like so far (and there is more to learn no doubt) is what I see as her core principles, her apparent integrity (e.g. going after the Republican corruption in Alaska) and her apparent ability to define herself on her own terms instead of dancing to the tune of others.  No matter our political persuasion, I hope we can all agree that the process that the MSM seeks to impose on candidates is often one of great stupidity, vapidity, and irrelevance to the matters of import.  Its more than fine by me if a candidate talks to me directly about what is important to him/her instead of "answering the question" of some Barbie and Ken teleprompter reader. (Again, I thought Ifill did a good job on this occasion-- probably due in part to her being put in the spotlight-- OTOH Katie Couric, give me a fcuking break rolleyes).  If instead a candidate uses this as a technique for evading substance, I think the collective wisdom of the democratic process will make note and exact its toll.
23643  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: October 04, 2008, 09:20:28 AM
Why not incest? Because of very clear health risks.

MD: Agreed.

Why not polygamy? I don't know, but you are probably on to something when you say that monogamy worked so we kept it.

MD: Can it not be argued that polygamy has worked in certain times and places and that those who believe that God say polygamy is good show be allowed to follow their religion?  How do we answer that?

I think what you are invoking is called "the slippery slope," and it is a well known logical fallacy. There is no evidence what-so-ever to indicate that allowing gay marriage will lead to incest or polygamy being legalized.

MD:  I must have missed the exposition of this point.  Would you please be so kind as to break down for me why the slippery slope is a logical fallacy?  Furthermore, I challenge your assertion that there is no evidence that there is building legal pressure for polygamy.  I cannot quote the citations, but it is my understanding that there are cases beginning to wend their way through the legal system pushing for exactly that.

All of that being said, you are correct when you state that Sharia Law should not be protected behind the curtain of multiculturalism. We do agree on something after all GM!

MD:  I'm delighted we agree that some of the tenets of Sharia are, to use your term, "religious insanity".  However, what is necessary and what remains to you/us to do is to articulate/define where the boundary between relgious freedom/tolerance and what we will not tolerate lays. 

Care to take a stab at it?  smiley
 
23644  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A nation without women on: October 04, 2008, 09:10:19 AM
The following could have gone just as easily in the Gender thread, but because of the role of abortion I place it here:

A nation without women
India faces a bleak future because of a preference for sons over daughters
Indian filmgoers have a weakness for feel-good song-and-dance spectaculars. So it's not surprising that Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women won a handful of international prizes, but flopped at home. It is a tale of unrelieved horror. An innocent young girl is sold to a rural family of five sons and married to all five, plus the father. In the end, the whole woman-less village gets into the act and murderous fights break out for her favours. The film ends with the lass giving birth to a daughter.

Is this a nightmarish fantasy dreamed up by man-hating feminists?

To Western audiences, perhaps, but in India, the notion of “a nation without women” is no fantasy. It could be the future. So many unborn and newly-born girls are being killed as a result of a deep-seated preference for male heirs that millions of young men will find it hard to marry.

At the moment, according to figures from the 2001 census, the national ratio of girls aged 0-to-6 to boys is 927 to 1,000. The normal figure should be 950 to 1,000. However, this conceals enormous regional and social differences. According to the British NGO ActionAid, the situation is worst in the northern state of Punjab. "The most extreme case that we found in our research was among wealthy Punjabi families where in some communities there's only 300 girls to every 1,000 boys,” says Laura Turquet, ActionAid's women's rights policy official.

"The real horror of the situation is that, for women, avoiding having daughters is a rational choice. But for wider society it's creating an appalling and desperate state of affairs," said Ms Turquet. Despite India's growing prosperity – or perhaps because of it -- there is growing pressure on women to produce sons, because girls are seen as an expense, rather than an asset. To marry them off, parents have to pay a huge dowry. “Spend 500 rupees now and save 50,000 rupees later,” is a slogan which every parent has heard.

"The most extreme case that we found in our research was among wealthy Punjabi families where in some communities there's only 300 girls to every 1,000 boys.” 
The practice also reflects a trend towards ever-smaller families. Some couples now choose to have only one child -- and they make sure that child will be a boy. Some doctors excuse their connivance in this by describing abortion as a “social duty” which prevents the ill-treatment of unwanted daughters or helps with population control.

Many couples use ultrasound scans to detect female foetuses and then abort them. Although the practice is banned, a study in the leading medical journal The Lancet has estimated that half a million are terminated every year. In some rural areas deliberate neglect of girls, including allowing the umbilical cord to become infected, is used to dispose of unwanted daughters.

This dismal story has recently been documented in yet another report, Disappearing Daughters, from ActionAid and Canada's International Development Research Centre.

Their researchers looked at a representative sample of about 6,500 households in five districts in states already known to have especially skewed sex ratios: Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The sex ratio had dropped in four of the five districts, compared to 2001 census data. And worst of all, there were only 300 girls for every 1,000 boys among upper-caste Hindus in urban areas of Punjab's Fatehgarh Sahib district.

"There's only a third of the girls there should be in those communities. We're talking about whole villages where there are hardly any girls and we're talking about classrooms with no girls in them, and streets where only boys are playing." Ms Turquet said.

This tragedy is no secret in India – the real tragedy is that Indian society, and even stringent legislation -- seem powerless to stop it. In April Prime Minister Manmohan Singh – who has three daughters -- launched the “Save the Girl Child” campaign. He declared that no nation could claim to be part of a civilised world if it condoned female foeticide. An estimated 50 million girls have been sacrificed because of son preference.

"Census figures illustrate that in some of the richer states the problem is most acute. These states include Punjab which had only 798 girls (per 1,000 boys), Haryana 819, Delhi 868 and Gujarat 883 girls in the 2001 Census. Growing economic prosperity and education levels have not led to a corresponding mitigation in this acute problem," he said.

"Female illiteracy, obscurantist social practices like child marriage or early marriage, dowry, poor nutritional entitlements, taboos on women in public places make Indian women vulnerable. The patriarchal mindset and preference for male children is compounded by unethical conduct on the part of some medical practitioners," the PM said.

But despite the fine words, the gender ratio continues to fall.

A women's rights activist, Dr Ruth Manorama, told MercatorNet, "It is a misconception to think that this is a problem related to extreme poverty and as is revealed, female foeticide is very high in Punjab and Haryana -- some of the best-off states in the country.

“Female foeticide is a consequence of traditional gender bias and gender discrimination. Girls are seen as an economic liability and burden, partly because of the very expensive dowry that must accompany her future marriage. However, dowry is not the only cause for the selective abortion of girls; sons carry on the family name and often the business, usually inherit the property and perform the last rites. The poor eliminate their girls because of the poverty situation and for the rich, daughters are seen as less desirable. This is the deep rooted patriarchal society that we live in.”

“In spite of the progress of India on the global stage, the mindset is still primitive”, lamented Dr Manorama, laureate of the 2006 Right Livelihood Award (also known as the Alternative Nobel). “This social evil is deep rooted in Indian ethos and the most shocking fact is that the innovative and high-end technologies are eliminating our girl-child. Attitudinal change is essential to put an end to this social malaise.

“It is most ironic, that advances in medical sciences which are intended to increas the life expectations and quality of life for millions on the contrary are being abused by unscrupulous people to bring about death our of baby girls. Instead there is a culture of death at times being promoted with these innovative techniques, like biopsy, ultrasound, scan tests and amniocentesis, devised to detect genetic abnormalities.”

And Western technology is being used to promote this genocide. Only last month Google and Microsoft were forced to withdraw controversial advertisements from their websites which had been offering sex selection products, home kits and various genetic technique services in India.

The government has tried to ban ultrasound examinations for sex determination since 1994. Pregnant women who seek help for sex selection can be sentenced to a three-year prison sentence and fined 50,000 rupees (US$1,200), while doctors can be suspended. But there have been few prosecutions. In fact, tougher regulations against sex-selection abortions have had the perverse effect of increasing the level of infanticide.

The words of a woman doctor cited in the Disappearing Daughters report spell out the problem: “Even though many families are happy to have a girl if they already have a son, the social stigma of just having girls is enormous. Just today I was treating a woman who has two daughters already and she is suffering acute anxiety that her third child will be another girl. The abuse she will receive from her in-laws and her husband will make her life very difficult if she has another daughter.

“There needs to be a serious step-change in attitudes. India might be developing economically, but in terms of our attitude to women, we’re not moving forward at all.”

Anjalee Lewis is a freelance journalist writing from Mumbai.
23645  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: October 03, 2008, 03:51:19 PM
GM:

I agree.

JDN:

As a general rule, I agree about "answering the question", but where I diverge is when it surrenders that candidate's communication with the people.  The media are not a gatekeeper to the American people whose permission is needed to communicate.  Sometimes, one needs simply to blow them off and define the agenda as one will-- and let the people make of it what they will.

I'll agree ducking some questions for which she wasn't ready may have been a part of it, I heartily approve of her defining herself and what she thinks important directly with the people. 
23646  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iran's Nuke Waltz on: October 03, 2008, 03:23:20 PM
At its annual Vienna powwow this week, the world's nuclear watchdog is taking Iran for a few spins over its atomic ambitions. But the mullahs in Tehran know this diplomatic waltz well, and they can rest assured the dance merely frees up more time and space for them to get their bomb.

The International Atomic Energy Agency report does at least tell us the Iranians are closer than ever to becoming a nuclear power. In unusually scathing terms for an outfit disinclined to criticize Iran, the IAEA lays bare Tehran's lack of cooperation and implies it was hiding illegal military work related to its nuclear program. After six years of monitoring, says IAEA boss Mohamed ElBaradei, "the agency has not been able to make substantive progress" to resolve concerns about Iran's military ambitions.

According to the IAEA report, Iran had built up a stockpile of 1,058 pounds of "low-enriched" uranium hexafloride by the end of August. At this rate, as Gary Milhollin of Iran Watch pointed out in the New York Times, Iran will have the low-enriched uranium necessary to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb by mid-January. Iran has recently tested long-range missiles and tried to retrofit them to carry a nuclear warhead.

The five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, are on record saying a nuclear Iran would be unacceptable. Surely the U.N., meeting in General Assembly last week days after the IAEA report came out, would respond with urgency. Sure enough, the Europeans and the U.S. suggested another round of sanctions, a position backed by China. And sure enough, Russia scotched those plans.

In its place, the Security Council adopted a resolution calling on Iran to abide by the previous three resolutions to suspend its enrichment program. Translation: "Stop -- or we'll do nothing." Condoleezza Rice called it "a very positive step." Her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, a foreign minister in the Andrei Gromyko mold, was more honest: "This is a reiteration of the status quo."

The Russian ambassador at the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, claimed the irresolute resolution would channel "the minds of everybody in the direction of political rather than military enterprises." The potentially tragic irony is that the failure of resolve makes a military conflict more likely. If Iranian nuclear progress isn't halted by political or economic means, someone -- probably Israel -- will try to stop it by force.

The Security Council nonaction did give Iran a pretext to make fresh threats. A senior Iranian lawmaker told the state news agency that Iran would limit the IAEA's access to the known nuclear sites. The covert sites are off limits. Presumably he was speaking on orders. But the Europeans, joined in recent months by the Bush Administration, still claim to believe that Iran can be talked out of the bomb.

The Iranians have been offered everything from membership in the World Trade Organization to Western billions and backing for its energy sector, including civilian nuclear reactors. The mullahs mock those entreaties. And in the latest humiliation, Iran's terrorist client state with its own nuclear ambitions, Syria, was poised this week to win a seat on the IAEA's 35-member board. The U.S. and EU are trying to get Afghanistan in its place.

Both of America's Presidential candidates say they worry about a new nuclear arms race. The best way to stop proliferation, particularly in the combustible Middle East, is to start getting serious about stopping Iran from joining the club.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
23647  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Willing to Lose on: October 03, 2008, 02:54:46 PM
Obama Was Willing to Lose in Iraq
A president cannot treat a war as if it's a game.By ROBERT MCFARLANEArticle
 
A profoundly important point is being missed in the campaign debate over which candidate was right on Iraq. In 2006, when conditions on the ground were trending downward and a decision was required either to continue the struggle or to cut our losses, Barack Obama stated that the proposed deployment of more forces, the "surge," was doomed to failure and instead called for a phased withdrawal of all forces within a defined period.

In short, Sen. Obama was willing to lose. It was an astonishing display of ignorance to be so cavalier about defeat, almost as if losing a war was tantamount to losing a set of tennis -- something without lasting consequence.

I recall very vividly April 30, 1975, the day we acknowledged defeat in the Vietnam War -- the day Ambassador Graham Martin and others were evacuated ignominiously from the roof of our embassy in Saigon. Only later did it become clear how damaging that defeat was.

There were consequences for all nations, especially small states who are vulnerable to great-power pressures. In the late 1970s it contributed to a greater Russian willingness to take risks and a more aggressive Soviet foreign policy. Indeed, in the years immediately following our defeat in Vietnam, an emboldened Soviet Union established a dominant influence in Angola, Ethiopia, South Yemen, Mozambique, Nicaragua and ultimately invaded Afghanistan with 100,000 troops.

Our loss also lessened our willingness to criticize the Soviet Union and thereby undermined the struggles of oppressed minorities inside that totalitarian state.

Losing a war also affects the behavior of allies who begin to wonder whether the United States can still muster the means and will to uphold its obligations, and to ask themselves whether they need at least to hedge their bets by being more conciliatory to adversaries. I recall very well the sudden rush of European foreign ministers to Moscow in the late '70s without so much as a preliminary discussion with their counterpart in Washington.

Further, losing a war also has a profound effect on the thinking within our military concerning how it was led, restricted, or abused in wartime. Painful reflection on a loss penetrates every level of the military and conditions its future relationship with civilian leaders -- as it surely did in the wake of the Vietnam War. Specifically, it led to the adoption, at military urging, of the Weinberger Doctrine, which asserted stringent criteria to be met in the future before any resort to the use of military force. These criteria included not committing forces to combat unless it was vital to our national interest, we had clearly defined political and military objectives, and unless the engagement had the support of the American people and Congress -- and then only as a last resort.

Allies and adversaries could see that these criteria were virtually impossible to fulfill, thus worrying the former and encouraging the latter. Yet such was the effect on senior military leaders of losing a war they knew they could have won. We are seeing some of the same disdain within the military toward our political leadership today as a consequence of how civilian leaders mismanaged the war in its first three-plus years.

Losing a war also affects our body politic. Americans have a low tolerance for foreign wars; losing one only reinforces their inclination to avoid foreign involvement and focus on matters here at home. Now is such a time. Yet can you imagine how much worse our political stability would be today -- faced with the financial and housing crises -- if we were also coming home from losing a war?

Consideration of these costs raises the question of whether we are forever bound to continue suffering losses if it becomes clear that we aren't winning. Considering the family of threats we face today, the question is specious. Notwithstanding the hubris and intelligence failure regarding Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program, which motivated our launching the Iraq war in the first place, and our failure to plan for the likely contingency of an insurgency arising, it is difficult to imagine circumstances anywhere in the world today where the U.S. military cannot prevail if properly employed.

This is not at all to say that we should be frivolous toward using military force -- quite the contrary. We are entering a time requiring consummate judgment and careful deliberation toward how to resolve the panoply of challenges before us. Indeed these challenges put a very high premium on coordinating the use of our political and economic resources with allies and avoiding war wherever possible.

The next president will enter office with the war in Iraq winding down but with the conflict in Afghanistan requiring urgent, focused attention. The stakes engaged there go well beyond restoring order in that country alone. How we emerge from Afghanistan will go far toward determining our ability to prevail in the global war against radical Islam, our ability to limit nuclear proliferation, and to bring order and the hope for a brighter future to the almost two billion people in South and Central Asia. These are issues of profound importance to the future security of our nation and our citizens. Losing is not an option, and no sensible leader should entertain the thought that it is.

Mr. McFarlane served as President Reagan's National Security Adviser from 1983-85.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
23648  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: October 03, 2008, 02:38:55 PM
Profiles of valor: USMC LCpl McLeese
On 16 September 2004, United States Marine Corps Lance Corporal Justin McLeese was riding in a convoy traveling to a compound in central Iraq when his Humvee flipped off the road in the rough, gravel terrain. He was thrown 20 feet from the vehicle but immediately went back to help those trapped inside. McLeese pulled two fellow Marines from the wreckage, including his platoon sergeant. The platoon then lifted the Humvee off the ground to save a third Marine stuck underneath.

It was in Fallujah later that year, though, where McLeese really proved his mettle. As his team was clearing numerous buildings in the city on 11 November, they engaged and killed four enemy fighters. One insurgent had faked his death, however, and tried to engage the Marines from a nearby room. McLeese acted quickly, eliminating the threat with a shotgun blast. Two days later, upon entering another building in Fallujah, McLeese was hit numerous times by enemy fire. Despite his wounds, he continued to fight alongside his comrades until he was fatally wounded by an IED explosion. For his courage and tenacity under fire, McLeese posthumously received the Bronze Star.
23649  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison; S. Adams on: October 03, 2008, 02:29:13 PM
"For the same reason that the members of the State legislatures
will be unlikely to attach themselves sufficiently to national
objects, the members of the federal legislature will be likely
to attach themselves too much to local objects."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 46, 1 February 1788)

Reference: Madison, Federalist No. 46
==================

"No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can
any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffusd and Virtue is
preservd. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant,
and debauchd in their Manners, they will sink under their own
weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders."

-- Samuel Adams (letter to James Warren, 4 November 1775)

Reference: Our Sacred Honor, Bennett (261)
23650  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: October 03, 2008, 02:22:59 PM
Over to you JDN  smiley
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