Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / CFLs
on: March 18, 2009, 07:58:44 AM
Lights Out for Thomas Edison
December 10, 2008
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by H. Sterling Burnett and Amanda Berg
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will soon ban the most
common light bulbs in the United States. New efficiency standards will
require manufacturers to produce incandescent bulbs that use less energy per
unit of light produced, starting with 100-watt incandescent bulbs in 2012,
down to 40-watt bulbs in 2014.
Under the new standards:
100-watt light bulbs are banned entirely.
70-watt light bulbs will have to be 36 percent to 136 percent more
50-watt bulbs must be 50 percent to 112 percent more efficient.
40-watt bulbs will have to improve 50 percent to 110 percent.
Incandescent bulbs cannot meet these new standards absent a significant
technological breakthrough. Thus, the common light bulb will soon be
Illuminating Efficiency. The alternative for most household uses will be
compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) designed to fit standard incandescent bulb
bases. CFLs currently make up only 5 percent of the light bulb market.
They have been touted for years as the smart choice for consumers interested
in reducing their energy bills, due to their extended lifespan and low
energy use vis-à-vis the equivalent light output from an incandescent. For
example, a 60-watt incandescent bulb produces 850 lumens - the same light
output as a 13-watt to 18-watt CFL. Unfortunately, except under a fairly
narrow range of circumstances, CFLs are less efficient than advertised.
Manufacturers claim the average life span of a CFL bulb is 10,000 hours.
However, in many applications the life and energy savings of a CFL are
CFLs must be left on for at least 15 minutes or used for several hours per
day to achieve their full energy saving benefits, according to the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Applications in which lighting is used only briefly (such as closets,
bathrooms, motion detectors and so forth) will cause CFL bulbs to burn out
as quickly as regular incandescent bulbs.
CFLs often become dimmer over time - a study of U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Star" products found that after 40 percent of their rated service
life, one-fourth of tested CFLs no longer produced the full amount of light.
At about $3 per bulb, CFLs are expensive, whereas incandescent bulbs cost
only 20 cents per bulb, on average. And there are other drawbacks. For
When initially switched on, CFLs may provide as little as 50 percent to 80
percent of their rated light output and can take up to three minutes to
reach full brightness.
CFLs often don't fit existing light fixtures, such as small-base lamps and
candlelabras, so these will have to be replaced.
Standard CFLs will not operate at low temperatures, making them unsuitable
for outdoor lighting.
CFLs can emit an annoying buzz.
CFLs emit infrared light that can interfere with remote-controlled devices,
such as televisions, video games and stereo equipment.
CFLs are simply unsuited for many common uses. The new law therefore
excludes whole classes of light bulbs from the standards, including
appliance light bulbs (ovens and refrigerators), flashing and colored
lights, traffic signals, shatter-resistant bulbs, three-way adjustable bulbs
and so forth.
Hidden Dangers of CFLs. CFLs contain potentially toxic mercury. Thus,
there are health and environmental concerns regarding their proper disposal.
Shattered CFLs in municipal landfills have the potential to leach mercury
into the soil. Over time this mercury could seep into the groundwater or
nearby streams. For this reason, a number of states and localities have
outlawed disposing CFLs with normal trash - instead, consumers must take
their used CFLs to authorized hazardous waste disposal sites.
The EPA recommends recycling CFLs. However, curbside recycling is not
available everywhere and often doesn't include CFLs. Recycling facilities
that accept CFLs are not common within major metropolitan areas, much less
in rural areas where on-site incineration or trenches are often used - both
of which release mercury into the atmosphere.
Perhaps even more important is the danger of broken CFLs in the home. The
EPA has provided detailed guidelines to avoid unsafe indoor mercury levels
[see the sidebar].
Cleaning up mercury from a shattered CFL can be costly. For example, when a
CFL broke in her daughter's bedroom, Brandy Bridges of Prospect, Maine,
called on the state's Department of Environmental Protection to make sure
she cleaned up the broken glass and mercury powder safely. A specialist
found unsafe levels of mercury in the air and recommended an environmental
cleanup firm, who estimated the clean up cost of at $2,000. Beause her
mother was unable to pay the exorbitant cleaning bill, the girl's room
remained sealed off in plastic for more than a month.
Conclusion. Consumers consider many factors in addition to energy
efficiency when they purchase light bulbs. The ban on incandescent bulbs
will be costly and potentially dangerous. The public has not yet embraced
CFLs, and the government should not impose on consumers its preferences
regarding the types of lights used in the home. As the deficiencies of CFLs
become more apparent with widespread use, perhaps Congress will let
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Unorganized Militia
on: March 18, 2009, 06:58:44 AM
U.S. and Texas Law on Independent Militias
Our duty as citizens
Most American citizens are aware that the U.S. Constitution guarantees
certain rights and limits the powers of government. However, it also imposes
certain duties, not only on organs of government, but on each citizen. One
of these duties is to function as members of the Militia, and the state has
the duty to organize and train citizens to so serve.
The U.S. Constitution provides for this in Article I, Section 8:
Congress shall have power ...
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union,
suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for
governing such Part of them as may be employed in the service of the United
States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the
Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the
discipline prescribed by Congress;
The Framers contemplated that the citizens who compose the Militia would
provide their own weapons, which is reflected in the Second Amendment:
A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,
the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
It is important to understand that the prevailing practice at the time the
Constitution was adopted was for people in each locality to organize as
independent local militias and to train themselves. The only change the
Framers sought to make was to make this organization and training more
systematic, along the model of Switzerland. They never imagined that future
governments might try to restrict the local organization and training of
independent militias by contending that people had the right to assemble and
the right to keep and bear arms, but not to combine the two rights. To them
that would have seemed absurd.
U.S. legislation on the Militia
In 1792 President Washington tried to get Congress to fully implement the
constitutional requirement for organizing and training the Militia, but
Congress, wanting to avoid the expense imposed on the states, only agreed to
pass a law that required every able-bodied [free] male to keep a "musket or
firelock". This was the Militia Act of 1792. By failing to require
organization and training, it laid the basis for the decline of the Militia
In 1903, the Militia Act of 1792 was superseded by the Dick Act, which
established the National Guard system, and made a distinction between the
"organized" and "unorganized" Militia, reflecting the attitude that the
Powers that Be didn't want most of the people to get organized as
independent militias, despite the support for universal military training
from most U.S. Presidents up to the administration of Harry Truman.
The Dick Act is encoded in 10 USC:
United Stated Code (USC)
TITLE 10--ARMED FORCES
Section 311. Militia: composition and classes (a) The militia of the United
States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and,
except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who
are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the
United States and of female citizens of the United States who are
commissioned officers of the National Guard. (b) The classes of the militia
are-- (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and
the Naval Militia; and (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the
members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the
Naval Militia.Section 312. Militia duty: exemptions (a) The following
persons are exempt from militia duty: (1) The Vice President. (2) The
judicial and executive officers of the United States, the several States and
Territories, Puerto Rico, and the Canal Zone. (3) Members of the armed
forces, except members who are not on active duty. (4) Customhouse clerks.
(5) Persons employed by the United States in the transmission of mail. (6)
Workers employed in armories, arsenals, and naval shipyards of the United
States. (7) Pilots on navigable waters. (
Mariners in the sea service of a
citizen of, or a merchant in, the United States.(b) A person who claims
exemption because of religious belief is exempt from militia duty in a
combatant capacity, if the conscientious holding of that belief is
established under such regulations as the President may prescribe. However,
such a person is not exempt from militia duty that the President determines
to be noncombatant.TITLE 32--NATIONAL GUARD
Section 313. Appointments and enlistments: age limitations (a) To be
eligible for original enlistment in the National Guard, a person must be at
least 17 years of age and under 45, or under 64 years of age and a former
member of the Regular Army, Regular Navy, Regular Air Force, or Regular
Marine Corps. To be eligible for reenlistment, a person must be under 64
years of age. (b) To be eligible for appointment as an officer of the
National Guard, a person must-- (1) be a citizen of the United States; and
(2) be at least 18 years of age and under 64.It should be understood that
these definitions apply only to the Militia that is subject to call-up by
the federal government, and states may require other people to perform
militia duty, with different age ranges and exemptions.
Texas law on the Militia
The Texas Constitution once had a strong provision regarding militias:
Article 16. Section 46.
The Legislature shall provide by law for organizing and disciplining
the militia of the State, in such manner as they shall deem expedient, not
incompatible with the Constitution and Laws of the United States.
This section was deleted. The effect of this is that such authority
reverts back to local communities.
Present statutes are encoded in Texas Government Code Chapter 431:
Subchapter A. General Provisions
In this chapter:
(1) "Reserve militia" means the persons liable to serve, but not
serving, in the state military forces.
(2) "State militia" means the state military forces and the reserve
(3) "State military forces" means the Texas National Guard, the
Texas State Guard, and any other active militia or military force organized
under state law.
(4) "Texas National Guard" means the Texas Army National Guard and
the Texas Air National Guard.
431.010. Organization Prohibited
(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a body of persons other
than the regularly organized state military forces or the troops of the
United States may not associate as a military company or organization or
parade in public with firearms in a municipality of the state.
(b) With the consent of the governor, students in an educational
institution at which military science is a prescribed part of the course of
instruction and soldiers honorably discharged from the service of the United
States may drill and parade with firearms in public.
(c) This section does not prevent a parade by the active militia of
another state as provided by law.
Subchapter D. Texas State Guard
431.051. Supplemental Militia
To provide militia strength for use by the state as a supplement to
the Texas National Guard, the Texas State Guard exists as part of the state
militia under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and a
defense force under 32 U.S.C. Section 109.
Subchapter F. Service and Duties
431.081. Persons Subject to Military Duty; Persons Not Eligible to
(a) A person is subject to military duty if the person is: (1)
able-bodied; (2) a citizen or a person of foreign birth who has declared an
intent to become a citizen; (3) a resident of the state; (4) at least 18 and
not more than 60 years of age; and (5) not exempt under Subsection (b) or
(c) or United States law.(b) A person is exempt from military duty, except
in case of war, insurrection, invasion, or imminent danger of war,
insurrection, or invasion if the person is: (1) the lieutenant governor; (2)
a member or officer of the legislature; (3) a judge or clerk of a court of
record; (4) a head of a state agency; (5) a sheriff, district attorney,
county attorney, county tax assessor-collector, or county commissioner; (6)
a mayor, council member, alderman, or assessor and collector of a
municipality; (7) an officer or employee of the Texas Department of
Corrections, a state hospital or special school, a public or private
hospital, or a nursing home; (
a member of a regularly organized and paid
fire or police department in a municipality, except that a person is not
relieved of military duty by joining such a department; (9) a minister of
the gospel exclusively engaged in that calling; or (10) a person who
conscientiously scruples against bearing arms.(c) A mentally disabled
person, vagabond, confirmed alcoholic, narcotics addict, or a person
convicted of an infamous crime is exempt from military duty regardless of
Now, what about that Section 431.010 prohibiting military companies or
organizations or parades within municipalities? It clearly expresses
hostility to independent local militias within municipalities, but it has no
penalties, and does not apply to rural areas. It's main intent seems to be
to discourage local officials from calling up the militia.
The only statutes which local officials might invoke against a militia
muster within a municipality would be those against exhibiting a firearm in
a way that "alarms" the public. However, centuries of common law makes it
clear that merely carrying firearms is not to be considered "alarming". The
arms must actually be brandished toward someone in a threatening manner.
This would not prevent arrests on this ground, of course, but successful
prosecution is unlikely if the courts follow the law and the Constitution.
Some of these points are more fully discussed in 29 Tex. Jur.,
Sections 4 and 5, and in 12 Tex. Jur. 3d., Sections 12-28.
The only significant case law involving this statute is a federal
case, Vietnamese Fishermen's Ass'n v. Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (D.C.
1982) 543 F.Supp. 198, in which the plaintiff invoked the state statute in a
federal suit for injunction against the defendant. The injunction was
granted, and the judge took advantage of the case to write an opinion on the
interpretation of the state statute. However, that opinion has no stare
decisis effect, because this was not an appeal, nor was the judgement
appealed. The injunction was properly granted under common law against
intimidation, but a federal judge had no real business interpreting state
law. However, it is indicative of how that judge might decide the
constitutional issues in other cases. The case does, however, underscore the
importance of distinguishing between private associations and public
militias, and of making sure that any constitutional militias that may be
organized take care not to take on the attributes of a private group. Too
many people, including authorities, have examples in mind like the KKK, and
we must always make sure to distance ourselves from such partisan
organizations, and, indeed, indicate that the suppression of such groups is
one of the things that a real militia might be called up to do.
There is another statute that arguably involves the Militia, the Texas
Disaster Act of 1975, which has among its purposes, "providing an emergency
management system embodying all aspects of predisaster preparedness and
postdisaster response. See 12 Tex. Jur. 3d. Sections 51-53. If fully
implemented, the organization of local militia units seems to be required
under this Act.
Present U.S. and Texas law clearly fail to implement the requirements
for organizing and training the Militia established by the Framers. However,
we must also recognize that this failure goes all the way back to 1792, and
that such organizing and training are, therefore, left to the people
themselves, in the form of independent local militias, which they have a
constitutional duty to maintain in a high state of preparedness, even if
they get little support from the authorities, and indeed, especially if they
get opposition from the authorities.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: US weighs strikes into Baluchistan
on: March 18, 2009, 06:52:37 AM
U.S. Weighs Taliban Strike Into Pakistan
LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMy SpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkBy DAVID E. SANGER and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: March 17, 2009
WASHINGTON — President Obama and his national security advisers are considering expanding the American covert war in Pakistan far beyond the unruly tribal areas to strike at a different center of Taliban power in Baluchistan, where top Taliban leaders are orchestrating attacks into southern Afghanistan.
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The New York Times
The Taliban have found a haven in and around Quetta.
According to senior administration officials, two of the high-level reports on Pakistan and Afghanistan that have been forwarded to the White House in recent weeks have called for broadening the target area to include a major insurgent sanctuary in and around the city of Quetta.
Mullah Muhammad Omar, who led the Taliban government that was ousted in the American-led invasion in 2001, has operated with near impunity out of the region for years, along with many of his deputies.
The extensive missile strikes being carried out by Central Intelligence Agency-operated drones have until now been limited to the tribal areas, and have never been extended into Baluchistan, a sprawling province that is under the authority of the central government, and which abuts the parts of southern Afghanistan where recent fighting has been the fiercest. Fear remains within the American government that extending the raids would worsen tensions. Pakistan complains that the strikes violate its sovereignty.
But some American officials say the missile strikes in the tribal areas have forced some leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda to flee south toward Quetta, making them more vulnerable. In separate reports, groups led by both Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of American forces in the region, and Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, a top White House official on Afghanistan, have recommended expanding American operations outside the tribal areas if Pakistan cannot root out the strengthening insurgency.
Many of Mr. Obama’s advisers are also urging him to sustain orders issued last summer by President George W. Bush to continue Predator drone attacks against a wider range of targets in the tribal areas. They also are recommending preserving the option to conduct cross-border ground actions, using C.I.A. and Special Operations commandos, as was done in September. Mr. Bush’s orders also named as targets a wide variety of insurgents seeking to topple Pakistan’s government. Mr. Obama has said little in public about how broadly he wants to pursue those groups.
A spokesman for the National Security Council, Mike Hammer, declined to provide details, saying, “We’re still working hard to finalize the review on Afghanistan and Pakistan that the president requested.”
No other officials would talk on the record about the issue, citing the administration’s continuing internal deliberations and the politically volatile nature of strikes into Pakistani territory.
“It is fair to say that there is wide agreement to sustain and continue these covert programs,” said one senior administration official. “One of the foundations on which the recommendations to the president will be based is that we’ve got to sustain the disruption of the safe havens.”
Mr. Obama’s top national security advisers, known as the Principals Committee, met Tuesday to begin debating all aspects of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. Senior administration officials say Mr. Obama has made no decisions, but is expected to do so in coming days after hearing the advice of that group.
Any expansion of the war is bound to upset those in Mr. Obama’s party who worry that he is sinking further into a lengthy conflict in Afghanistan, even while reducing forces in Iraq. It is possible that the decisions about covert actions will never be publicly announced.
Several administration and military officials stressed that they continued to prod the Pakistani military to take the lead in a more aggressive campaign to root out Taliban and Qaeda fighters who are attacking American forces in Afghanistan and increasingly destabilizing nuclear-armed Pakistan.
But with Pakistan consumed by political turmoil, fear of financial collapse and a spreading insurgency, American officials say they have few illusions that the United States will be able to rely on Pakistan’s own forces. However, each strike by Predators or ground forces reverberates in Pakistan, and Mr. Obama will be weighing that cost.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on “The Charlie Rose Show” on PBS last week that the White House strategy review addresses the “safe haven in Pakistan — making sure that Afghanistan doesn’t provide a capability in the long run or an environment in which Al Qaeda could return or the Taliban could return.” But another senior official cautioned that “with the targets now spreading, an expanding U.S. role inside Pakistan may be more than anyone there can stomach.”
As part of the same set of decisions, according to senior civilian and military officials familiar with the internal White House debate, Mr. Obama will have to choose from among a range of options for future American commitments to Afghanistan.
His core decision may be whether to scale back American ambitions there to simply assure it does not become a sanctuary for terrorists. “We are taking this back to a fundamental question,” a senior diplomat involved in the discussions said. “Can you ever get a central government in Afghanistan to a point where it can exercise control over the country? That was the problem Bush never really confronted.”
A second option, officials say, is to significantly boost the American commitment to train Afghan troops, with Americans taking on the Taliban with increasing help from the Afghan military. President Bush pursued versions of that strategy, but the training always took longer and proved less successful than plans called for.
A third option would involve devoting full American and NATO resources to a large-scale counterinsurgency effort. But Mr. Obama would be bound to face considerable opposition within NATO, whose leaders he will meet with early next month in Strasbourg, France. At the very time the United States is seeking to expand its presence in Afghanistan, many of the allies are scheduled to leave.
As for American strikes on militant havens inside Pakistan, administration officials say the Predator and Reaper attacks in the tribal areas have been effective at killing 9 of Al Qaeda’s top 20 leaders, and the aerial campaign was recently expanded to focus on the Pakistani Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, as well as his fighters and training camps. American intelligence officials say that many top Taliban commanders remain in hiding in and around Quetta, but some Afghan officials say that other senior Taliban leaders have fled to the Pakistani port city of Karachi.
Missile strikes or American commando raids in the city of Quetta or the teeming Afghan settlements and refugee camps around the city and near the Afghan border would carry high risks of civilian casualties, American officials acknowledge.
Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington, and Carlotta Gall from Islamabad, Pakistan.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams; Jefferson
on: March 18, 2009, 06:34:40 AM
"Without wishing to damp the ardor of curiosity or influence the freedom of inquiry, I will hazard a prediction that, after the most industrious and impartial researchers, the longest liver of you all will find no principles, institutions or systems of education more fit in general to be transmitted to your posterity than those you have received from your ancestors."
--John Adams, letter to the young men of the Philadelphia, 7 May 1798
"To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it." --Thomas Jefferson
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ron Silver
on: March 18, 2009, 12:26:47 AM
Ron Silver died on Sunday of cancer, at age 62, having starred in movies, theater and politics. As an actor, he won a Tony Award in 1988 for his performance in David Mamet's "Speed-the-Plow," and more recently he was better known for his role as a hard-bitten political consultant on "The West Wing" on television.
But Silver's most notable legacy was his real-life political activism. A self-described life-long liberal, Silver rallied to the defense of his country and his hometown, New York City, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Three years later, he spoke at the Republican National Convention in New York, reminding his audience that "This is a war we did not seek. This is a war waged against us. This is a war to which we had to respond." He had held similarly hawkish views during the Cold War, and he rebutted those who see America as little different than its enemies: "History shows that we are not imperialists."
By his own account, he suffered professionally for those convictions, but he sought no sympathy for whatever price he may have paid in Hollywood for his stand on the war on terror or his vocal criticism of the United Nations, about which he made a documentary in 2005. In "Broken Promises," Silver held the U.N. to account for its failure to live up to its stated ideals, even as his acting colleagues derided President Bush for using military force against tyrants. His brother, Mitchell Silver, told the New York Times that Silver's politics "were not shared by anyone he knew." His politics, in other words, were born of conviction, not convenience, which is one way to describe an honest patriot.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WaPo: New tests in south
on: March 17, 2009, 04:43:27 PM
March 15, 2009
Troops Face New Tests In Afghanistan
Battalion's Experience Outlines Issues in South
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post Staff Writer
MAYWAND, Afghanistan -- Lt. Col. Daniel Hurlbut rolled into this dusty Taliban stronghold in September with a battalion of U.S. Army infantrymen and a detailed, year-long plan to combat the Taliban.
The first quarter was to be devoted to reconnaissance. The next three months would involve military operations to root out insurgents. By now, his unit should have been focusing on reconstruction and building up the local government.
But the battalion's efforts to pry information about the Taliban from the local population -- by conducting foot patrols, doling out money for mosques to buy new prayer rugs and offering agricultural assistance to subsistence farmers -- have been met with indifference, if not downright hostility.
"Nobody wants to tell us anything," Hurlbut said, sighing.
His initial plan, he has since concluded, was wildly optimistic.
"We're still in the first quarter," he said. "Our expectation for results is now a lot longer than we thought it would be."
U.S. commanders regard Hurlbut's battalion as a harbinger of the 17,000 additional Army and Marine troops that President Obama has ordered to southern Afghanistan this spring to augment NATO forces, which have been stretched thin by the Taliban's growing strength. As those troops flow into a series of new garrisons, they will confront a set of challenges that is very different from what the U.S. military has faced in Afghanistan thus far.
The southern part of the country is now regarded by U.S. and NATO commanders as the central front in the Afghan war. It encompasses the nation's second-largest city, Kandahar, and six provinces where the Taliban has built a significant degree of popular support, in part through intimidation but also by delivering Afghans a degree of security against criminals that the local police and international forces have been unable to provide.
While the Obama administration forges a new strategy in Washington to salvage an Afghan nation-building operation that is entering its eighth year, the perilous state of affairs in the south has already prompted commanders here to develop a new approach to fighting the insurgency. It may provide a preview of ways in which the overall international military effort in Afghanistan could be transformed over the coming months.
"If we're going to win, we have to fight this war differently," said U.S. Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, a deputy commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. "For too long, we've had an economy of force. We've had a stovepiped approach to combat and to development, too. All that has to change."
The new strategy here involves a major -- but controversial -- push to better coordinate the efforts of NATO troops deployed in the south, a new focus for counternarcotics operations and the allocation of more troops to train Afghan security forces. It also seeks to apply a fundamental tenet of the U.S. Army's new counterinsurgency doctrine: Deploy the troops to create zones of security around population centers instead of mounting in-and-out raids against the insurgents.
Unlike in eastern Afghanistan, where the U.S. military had been concentrating its troops since 2002, American units in the south will be forced to work far more closely with other NATO forces. The new U.S. troops will find themselves in a swath of the country that is the epicenter of opium poppy cultivation and where far fewer resources have been devoted to reconstruction and development. And they will be forced to deal with a deep-rooted, indigenous insurgency -- the Taliban got its start in the south -- that has mounted increasingly potent attacks on civilians and security forces.
What the new strategy does not seek to do, however, is to borrow a page from the U.S. playbook in Iraq by creating tribal militias to fend off the Taliban. Commanders here said that approach could create even more warlords and new intratribal feuds. And the commanders see little benefit from negotiations with the Taliban right now, despite Obama's support for such an overture.
Military officials regard the Taliban, composed largely of ethnic Pashtuns, as both too strong and too fragmented in the south to pursue an effective deal, although they remain open to the possibility in the east, where some tribal leaders who have supported the insurgency could be persuaded to switch sides.
Senior officials at the NATO regional headquarters in Kandahar see the insurgency in the south as made up of a core of die-hard Taliban operatives and a much larger group of young freelance fighters who are motivated more by money than religious zealotry. NATO troops, as well as U.S. Special Forces teams in the region, have been seeking to target the operatives, hoping to stem the flow of funds and munitions to the low-level fighters. The officials also believe that new economic development projects funded by international donors could help to lure some of the fighters to lay down their weapons.
But U.S. and NATO officials in the region are not certain how the Taliban will respond to the new American forces moving into the south. Some may hide or simply move to parts of the country with fewer international forces. Or they may choose to fight with roadside bombs and the occasional ambush. The result could be a significant increase in Taliban attacks -- and U.S. casualties -- this summer.
"With the new troops arriving, it will bring more people into contact with more Americans," said Philip Hatton, an adviser to Nicholson on stabilization issues. "What will the result of that be? We don't know."
Ending the Fractured Approach
When NATO forces were deployed to the south in 2006, the Canadians were assigned the province of Kandahar, the British got Helmand, and the Dutch were sent to Uruzgan. The three nations developed their own battle plans and agendas for development. They established provincial reconstruction teams that report to their capitals, not the NATO regional command at the Kandahar airport.
People at the regional command now joke that the three provinces should be renamed Canadahar, Helmandshire and Uruzdam.
"It's a totally dysfunctional way of fighting a war," said a U.S. officer in the south. "You've got each of these guys doing their own thing in their provinces with very little coordination."
The fractured approach is a result of demands imposed by NATO members as a condition of sending troops to Afghanistan. Each nation wanted its own chunk of the action so it could show off what it had accomplished. That model has been less problematic in the far north and west, where there has been less violence, and in the east, where the U.S. military has established its own command.
"The big question for NATO now isn't whether members are going to send more troops or what caveats will be placed on those troops, but whether the nations who have decided to stand up and fight will actually fight together," a senior U.S. military official said.
The task of trying to get everyone to collaborate has fallen to Nicholson, who is pushing the British, Canadians and Dutch to embrace a more integrated approach to war-fighting and development. "We need a coherent regional plan for victory," he said, "not a bunch of national plans for victory."
Instead of demanding that Britain, Canada and the Netherlands scuttle their individual plans, he is trying to compensate for the differences among the individual approaches by forming a regionwide development agenda. It calls for spending $700 million on road, electricity and water projects, several of which cross province borders. He plans to take the wish list to international donors in the next few months.
Although some British and Canadian officials grouse in private about what they view as Nicholson's efforts to wrest control over reconstruction planning, they also recognize that with the addition of 17,000 troops, the United States will have the largest military presence in the south and a corresponding ability to influence policy.
'Progress Here Has Been Slow'
When Hurlbut's battalion arrived in Maywand last fall, its first order of business was to encircle a swath of dusty plain with razor wire and erect an outpost. It began as a makeshift effort, with tents and wooden latrines and meals in a bag, but Forward Operating Base Ramrod has since assumed the trappings of modern military life: a gymnasium, an Internet room and a chow hall run by the defense contractor KBR.
Although this district 45 miles west of Kandahar had long been regarded by the NATO-led military command in Afghanistan as a key infiltration route for insurgents, there were too few international forces to maintain a permanent presence here. The Canadian army, which has been responsible for the area since early 2006, came every few months to clear out Taliban fighters, but the insurgents would invariably crop back up as soon as the troops left.
Hurlbut's soldiers are trying a different tack and employing a counterinsurgency technique that has been used in the Iraq war. They are staying in Maywand. Some bed down near the municipal building and the police headquarters. Another contingent patrols the highway. Still others walk through villages every day, trying to convince impoverished farmers that they should cast their lot not with the Taliban but with NATO forces and Afghanistan's fledgling national government.
The soldiers had hoped their presence in the district would be welcomed by residents, who keep telling the troops that what they want more than anything is security -- and they will side with whomever can provide it. But it hasn't worked yet.
"The local people are completely sitting on the fence, and they're content to stay on the fence," said Hurlbut, who commands the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Regiment. "They don't really want to give us information."
After almost three years of seeing Canadian troops roll in and roll out, one officer said, "they don't yet believe us when we say we're here to stay."
Even the local officials are wary. The district governor, Hurlbut said, started becoming friendly with him only last month.
The Taliban, however, has taken the 2-2 Infantry's presence in the district seriously. Insurgents mined the roads with scores of improvised explosives devices, more than 150 of which have hit the battalion's patrols and convoys.
In some parts of Afghanistan, police regularly patrol roads and interdict people planting bombs. But in Maywand, the police spend more time in the district capital. Although they have been through a new U.S.-led training program and have been assigned a team of civilian and military mentors, the police officers generally cannot be bothered to walk the beat. And they have little interest in solving crimes. When a man came to police headquarters recently to complain that his motorcycle had been stolen, the police refused to act without a bribe.
"Fine," he said, according to soldiers who witnessed the encounter. "I'm going to the Taliban. At least they'll take me seriously."
Even efforts to hand out money here have not been without peril. Last month, Hurlbut said he sought to win over a local mullah by outfitting his mosque with new prayer rugs and a loudspeaker system. But after three weeks, the Taliban stole all of it.
"The progress here has been slow," Hurlbut said. "We shouldn't kid ourselves into thinking that everything will change when we get 17,000 additional troops in the south. They're going to be moving into places like this, where there haven't been any foreign forces for a long time. And they're going to discover that it's going to take a while to accomplish our goals."
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: March 17, 2009, 03:05:16 PM
Thanks for taking the time for a quality report.
I remember fondly training with Lyoto at RAW Gym a few years back. Very nice guy, class act. His fighting exemplifies DB Kali Tudo Trigg 101 and Trigg 102.
Look forward to meeting you at our Gatherings. 90% of Life is showing up
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rearmament strategy
on: March 17, 2009, 12:26:20 PM
March 18, 2009
Russia Is Planning a ‘Large-Scale Rearming’
By CLIFFORD J. LEVY
President Dmitri A. Medvedev said on Tuesday that Russia would begin a “large-scale rearming” in 2011 in response to what he described as threats to the country’s security.
In a speech before generals in Moscow, Mr. Medvedev cited encroachment by NATO as a primary reason for bolstering the armed and nuclear forces.
Mr. Medvedev did not offer specifics on how much the budget would grow for the military, whose capabilities deteriorated significantly after the fall of Soviet Union.
Russia has increased military spending sharply in recent years, but with the financial crisis and the drop in the price of oil, the country’s finances are under pressure, suggesting that it would be hard to lift these expenditures further.
Even so, Mr. Medvedev’s timing was notable. He is expected to hold his first meeting with President Obama in early April in London on the sidelines of the summit of the Group of 20 industrialized and developing countries.
In recent weeks, he has said he is looking forward to the meeting, and both he and Russia’s paramount leader, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, have been expressing some optimism about improving relations with the United States under the new administration.
Mr. Medvedev’s comments on Tuesday, though, indicated that Kremlin did not want the United States and its NATO allies to presume that Russia was coming to the table from a position of weakness.
“An analysis of the military-political situation in the world shows that there are a range of regions where there remain serious potential for conflicts,” Mr. Medvedev said. “Threats remain that can bring about local crises and international terrorism. NATO is not halting its efforts to widen its military infrastructure near the borders of our country. All of this demands a quality modernization of our armed forces.”
Mr. Medvedev emphasized that Russia would not be deterred in this plan by the financial crisis.
His announcement comes as the Kremlin has already begun an effort to overhaul the operations of the armed forces, which are still run largely according to Soviet-style dictates.
While Russia’s far larger military easily triumphed over Georgia’s in the conflict in August, the fighting exposed what many experts described as flaws in training, weapons and equipment.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/18/wo...dvedev.html?hp
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Remembering jokes
on: March 17, 2009, 11:52:17 AM
In One Ear and Out the Other
Published: March 16, 2009
By all accounts, my grandfather Nathan had the comic ambitions of a Jack Benny but the comic gifts of a John Kerry. Undeterred, he always kept a few blank index cards in his pocket, so that if he happened to hear a good joke, he’d have someplace to write it down.
How I wish I knew where Nathan stashed that deck.
Like many people, I can never remember a joke. I hear or read something hilarious, I laugh loudly enough to embarrass everybody else in the library, and then I instantly forget everything about it — everything except the fact, always popular around the dinner table, that “I heard a great joke today, but now I can’t remember what it was.”
For researchers who study memory, the ease with which people forget jokes is one of those quirks, those little skids on the neuronal banana peel, that end up revealing a surprising amount about the underlying architecture of memory.
And there are plenty of other similarly illuminating examples of memory’s whimsy and bad taste — like why you may forget your spouse’s birthday but will go to your deathbed remembering every word of the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song. And why you must chop a string of data like a phone number into manageable and predictable chunks to remember it and will fall to pieces if you are in Britain and hear a number read out as “double-four, double-three.” And why your efforts to fill in a sudden memory lapse by asking your companions, “Hey, what was the name of that actor who starred in the movie we saw on Friday?” may well fail, because (what useless friends!) now they’ve all forgotten, too.
Welcome to the human brain, your three-pound throne of wisdom with the whoopee cushion on the seat.
In understanding human memory and its tics, Scott A. Small, a neurologist and memory researcher at Columbia, suggests the familiar analogy with computer memory.
We have our version of a buffer, he said, a short-term working memory of limited scope and fast turnover rate. We have our equivalent of a save button: the hippocampus, deep in the forebrain is essential for translating short-term memories into a more permanent form.
Our frontal lobes perform the find function, retrieving saved files to embellish as needed. And though scientists used to believe that short- and long-term memories were stored in different parts of the brain, they have discovered that what really distinguishes the lasting from the transient is how strongly the memory is engraved in the brain, and the thickness and complexity of the connections linking large populations of brain cells. The deeper the memory, the more readily and robustly an ensemble of like-minded neurons will fire.
This process, of memory formation by neuronal entrainment, helps explain why some of life’s offerings weasel in easily and then refuse to be spiked. Music, for example. “The brain has a strong propensity to organize information and perception in patterns, and music plays into that inclination,” said Michael Thaut, a professor of music and neuroscience at Colorado State University. “From an acoustical perspective, music is an overstructured language, which the brain invented and which the brain loves to hear.”
A simple melody with a simple rhythm and repetition can be a tremendous mnemonic device. “It would be a virtually impossible task for young children to memorize a sequence of 26 separate letters if you just gave it to them as a string of information,” Dr. Thaut said. But when the alphabet is set to the tune of the ABC song with its four melodic phrases, preschoolers can learn it with ease.
And what are the most insidious jingles or sitcom themes but cunning variations on twinkle twinkle ABC?
Really great jokes, on the other hand, punch the lights out of do re mi. They work not by conforming to pattern recognition routines but by subverting them. “Jokes work because they deal with the unexpected, starting in one direction and then veering off into another,” said Robert Provine, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the author of “Laughter: A Scientific Investigation.” “What makes a joke successful are the same properties that can make it difficult to remember.”
This may also explain why the jokes we tend to remember are often the most clichéd ones. A mother-in-law joke? Yes, I have the slot ready and labeled.
Memory researchers suggest additional reasons that great jokes may elude common capture. Daniel L. Schacter, a professor of psychology at Harvard and the author of “The Seven Sins of Memory,” says there is a big difference between verbatim recall of all the details of an event and gist recall of its general meaning.
“We humans are pretty good at gist recall but have difficulty with being exact,” he said. Though anecdotes can be told in broad outline, jokes live or die by nuance, precision and timing. And while emotional arousal normally enhances memory, it ends up further eroding your attention to that one killer frill. “Emotionally arousing material calls your attention to a central object,” Dr. Schacter said, “but it can make it difficult to remember peripheral details.”
As frustrating as it can be to forget something new, it’s worse to forget what you already know. Scientists refer to this as the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon, when you know something but can’t spit it out, and the harder you try the more noncompliant the archives.
It’s such a virulent disorder that when you ask friends for help, you can set off so-called infectious amnesia. Behind the tying up of tongues are the too-delicate nerves of our brain’s frontal lobes and their sensitivity to anxiety and the hormones of fight or flight. The frontal lobes that rifle through stored memories and perform other higher cognitive tasks tend to shut down when the lower brain senses danger and demands that energy be shunted its way.
For that reason anxiety can be a test taker’s worst foe, and the anxiety of a pop quiz from a friend can make your frontal lobes freeze and your mind go blank. That is also why you’ll recall the frustratingly forgotten fact later that night, in the tranquillity of bed.
Memories can be strengthened with time and practice, practice, practice, but if there’s one part of the system that resists improvement, it’s our buffers, the size of our working memory on which a few items can be temporarily cached. Much research suggests that we can hold in short-term memory only five to nine data chunks at a time.
The limits of working memory again encourage our pattern-mad brains, and so we strive to bunch phone numbers into digestible portions and could manage even 10-digit strings when they had area codes with predictable phrases like a middle zero or one. But with the rise of atonal phone numbers with random strings of 10 digits, memory researchers say the limits of working memory have been crossed. Got any index cards?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: Reinstatement of Pak's judiciary
on: March 17, 2009, 11:11:45 AM
Well, that was cheery, , , , here's some more sunshine:
Geopolitical Diary: The Reinstatement of Pakistan's Judiciary
March 16, 2009
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, in a speech to the nation early Monday local time, announced that his government would reinstate ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry after Gilani met with army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani and President Asif Ali Zardari. Chaudhry will resume his duties as the country’s top judge on March 21. The last-minute development came as massive processions, headed by opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and the legal community, were en route to Islamabad. There, a sit-in had been planned for March 16 to demand the restoration of the judiciary and the provincial government in the country’s largest province, Punjab.
Chaudhry’s reinstatement by no means signals the end of the political and legal crisis that began when then-President Pervez Musharraf sacked Chaudhry a little more than two years ago, as many detailed issues have yet to be resolved. But this concession highlights a much more significant development in terms of the civil-military balance in Pakistan, which has been ruled by its army for 31 of its nearly 62 years in existence. That the powerful military establishment has played a key role in pushing the government toward a compromise of sorts — without tampering with the existing setup — underscores the relative rise of civilian forces and decline in the army’s ability to impose order single-handedly.
This major shift is clear to the United States, as senior U.S. officials — including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, special envoy Richard Holbrooke and U.S. Ambassador Anne Peterson — have participated in discussions with the government and the opposition in efforts to defuse the situation. In fact, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen on Friday told PBS that Kayani was unlikely to opt for a military coup to resolve the crisis because “he is committed to a civilian government.”
Normally, such a shift would be seen as a move toward stability — but not in Pakistan, which is in the midst of a complex civil war. On one hand is the struggle between secular and Islamist forces, manifesting as a growing jihadist insurgency; on the other is a vibrant civil society movement demanding the establishment of the “rule of law” and an end to authoritarian rule. Pakistan’s security establishment is unable to deal with both at the same time and in fact needs public support to be able to deal with the jihadist challenge.
But Islamabad’s latest move to placate public sentiment will further complicate efforts by the Pakistani army and the United States to deal with the jihadist problem in southwest Asia. This is because those assuming the vanguard of the “rule of law” movement are largely right-wing political forces — either conservative nationalist powers such as Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League or Islamists such as Jamaat-i-Islami. These forces are either openly opposed to using force against jihadists operating in Pakistan or have an ambiguous stance on the jihadist threat, and they definitely lack a coherent policy on how to deal with the security threat from the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies.
Even the largely secular civil society movement, including the legal community, has viewed the conflict with the jihadists through nationalist lenses — as a U.S. war in which Pakistan was forced to participate. The disproportionate emphasis on the restoration of Pakistan’s ousted judges at a time when jihadists are slowly chipping away at the writ of the state underscores the low level of importance a significant cross-section of Pakistan’s political players have assigned to the jihadist threat. As a result, the political stakeholders in Pakistan who are responsible for dealing with the existential threat posed by the jihadists are preoccupied with other battles.
This will further undermine U.S. efforts to secure reliable partners in Islamabad in its efforts to craft a strategy for dealing with the jihadist threat in the region.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word
on: March 17, 2009, 11:02:49 AM
In Your Hands
By Tzvi Freeman
Meditate on a single pool left by the tide and all the life it holds. On a single leaf and all the genius within it. On all the forests of the world, all its seas, and all the life of the skies. Then meditate that all this He has entrusted in our hands. And each person must say to him or herself: "All this He has placed in my hands alone."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CiC BO plans to charge those wounded for cost of injuries via 3d party ins.
on: March 17, 2009, 08:40:53 AM
second post on the subject
The American Legion Strongly Opposed to President's Plan to Charge Wounded Heroes for Treatment
This lame idea has me so angry I can hardly see straight. If nothing else this more than anything reveals the contempt this administration has for the men and women in uniform and their families. Mac
Contact: Craig Roberts of The American Legion, +1-202-263-2982 Office, +1-202-406-0887 Cell
WASHINGTON, March 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The leader of the nation's largest veterans organization says he is "deeply disappointed and concerned" after a meeting with President Obama today to discuss a proposal to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries. The Obama administration recently revealed a plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in such cases.
"It became apparent during our discussion today that the President intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan," said Commander David K. Rehbein of The American Legion. "He says he is looking to generate $540-million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it." The Commander, clearly angered as he emerged from the session said, "This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate ' to care for him who shall have borne the battle' given that the United States government sent members of the armed forces into harm's way, and not private insurance companies. I say again that The American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America's veterans!"
Commander Rehbein was among a group of senior officials from veterans service organizations joining the President, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Steven Kosiak, the overseer of defense spending at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The group's early afternoon conversation at The White House was precipitated by a letter of protest presented to the President earlier this month. The letter, co-signed by Commander Rehbein and the heads of ten colleague organizations, read, in part, " There is simply no logical explanation for billing a veteran's personal insurance for care that the VA has a responsibility to provide. While we understand the fiscal difficulties this country faces right now, placing the burden of those fiscal problems on the men and women who have already sacrificed a great deal for this country is unconscionable."
Commander Rehbein reiterated points made last week in testimony to both House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees. It was stated then that The American Legion believes that the reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate that VA treat service-connected injuries and disabilities given that the United States government sends members of the armed forces into harm's way, and not private insurance companies. The proposed requirement for these companies to reimburse the VA would not only be unfair, says the Legion, but would have an adverse impact on service-connected disabled veterans and their families. The Legion argues that, depending on the severity of the medical conditions involved, maximum insurance coverage limits could be reached through treatment of the veteran's condition alone. That would leave the rest of the family without health care benefits. The Legion also points out that many health insurance companies require deductibles to be paid before any benefits are covered. Additionally, the Legion is concerned that private insurance premiums would be elevated to cover service-connected disabled veterans and their families, especially if the veterans are self-employed or employed in small businesses unable to negotiate more favorable across-the-board insurance policy pricing. The American Legion also believes that some employers, especially small businesses, would be reluctant to hire veterans with service-connected disabilities due to the negative impact their employment might have on obtaining and financing company health care benefits.
"I got the distinct impression that the only hope of this plan not being enacted," said Commander Rehbein, "is for an alternative plan to be developed that would generate the desired $540-million in revenue. The American Legion has long advocated for Medicare reimbursement to VA for the treatment of veterans. This, we believe, would more easily meet the President's financial goal. We will present that idea in an anticipated conference call with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel in the near future.
"I only hope the administration will really listen to us then. This matter has far more serious ramifications than the President is imagining," concluded the Commander.
SOURCE The American Legion
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Webster: American history
on: March 17, 2009, 08:11:21 AM
"Every child in America should be acquainted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country."
--Noah Webster, On the Education of Youth in America, 1788
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CiC BO plans to charge those wounded for cost of injuries via 3d party ins.
on: March 16, 2009, 09:14:20 PM
American Legion commander “angered” after meeting Obama
posted at 7:00 pm on March 16, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Apparently, the Obama administration hasn’t backed away from its plans to start offloading costs for wounded veterans to third-party insurance, which will make acquiring such insurance nearly impossible. The commander of the American Legion emerged from a meeting with President Obama “angered” at Obama’s insistence on generating revenue from those who sacrificed for American security:
The leader of the nation’s largest veterans organization says he is “deeply disappointed and concerned” after a meeting with President Obama today to discuss a proposal to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries. The Obama administration recently revealed a plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in such cases.
“It became apparent during our discussion today that the President intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan,” said Commander David K. Rehbein of The American Legion. “He says he is looking to generate $540-million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it.”
The Commander, clearly angered as he emerged from the session said, “This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate ‘ to care for him who shall have borne the battle’ given that the United States government sent members of the armed forces into harm’s way, and not private insurance companies. I say again that The American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America’s veterans!”
Commander Rehbein was among a group of senior officials from veterans service organizations joining the President, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Steven Kosiak, the overseer of defense spending at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The group’s early afternoon conversation at The White House was precipitated by a letter of protest presented to the President earlier this month. The letter, co-signed by Commander Rehbein and the heads of ten colleague organizations, read, in part, ” There is simply no logical explanation for billing a veteran’s personal insurance for care that the VA has a responsibility to provide. While we understand the fiscal difficulties this country faces right now, placing the burden of those fiscal problems on the men and women who have already sacrificed a great deal for this country is unconscionable.”
The Obama administration explains that it wants private insurers who sell coverage to vets to pay their fair share, but there are two things wrong with that argument. First, the United States has a moral obligation to provide treatment for those wounded in the service of their country. That’s a commitment we make to the people who enlist in military, and should not get outsourced.
Second, vets with service-related injuries and illnesses can only get third-party insurance because insurers know the US will cover all service-related medical treatment through the VA. If the government reneges on that commitment, it will put insurers on the hook for veterans already enrolled — but it will make it a lot harder for the next set of veterans to get insured. It will also raise costs to the rest of the insured by those companies, when the burden should fall on all Americans equally.
If the country needs more revenue streams, it should find some other way to find them than the backs of our wounded veterans. They’ve sacrificed enough. Shame on the Obama administration for attempting to weasel out of our commitment.
Update: This Ain’t Hell wonders when General Eric Shinseki will resign in protest.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters
on: March 16, 2009, 11:26:53 AM
U.S., Mexico: Forming a Border Response
STRATFOR Today » March 15, 2009 | 1452 GMT
U.S President Barack Obama, along with other prominent U.S. officials, is discussing the possibility of sending U.S. National Guard troops to the border with Mexico. The National Guard already has experience along the border, specifically during an anti-illegal immigration operation from 2006 to 2008. But so far, talk surrounding this latest possible deployment indicates that it would focus on providing security to border areas where spillover violence from Mexico is occurring. While it is not clear exactly what would trigger a National Guard deployment, defining the threat along the border and formulating possible responses is the first step toward creating a national policy on the topic.
Several statements have been released during the first six weeks of the Obama administration that demonstrate its concern about the situation in Mexico and its intent to formulate a policy to address the Mexican border issue. President Barack Obama said March 11 that he was “going to examine whether and if National Guard deployments would make sense” and what circumstances would trigger their deployment. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said March 12 that her department intends to “make some significant movements to the southwest border.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates also has commented on the possibility of more cooperation between Mexico and the United States.
Over the past year, the U.S. government has become increasingly interested in the security situation in Mexico. Spillover of violence into the United States is already occurring, as evidenced by Mexican drug-trafficking enforcers invading a home in Phoenix and killing a delinquent drug dealer on June 22, 2008, and by constant cross-border provocations against U.S. Border Patrol agents, from rock-throwing to gunshots targeting Border Patrol agents.
It is clear that Mexican drug cartels have a degree of influence over crime in the United States, since so much criminal activity in the United States is drug-related. With Mexican drug cartels serving as the primary source of drugs for the U.S. market, it is inevitable that the organized criminal groups in Mexico establish some level of control and supervision over their U.S. criminal allies.
These connections, however, remain at the level of a law enforcement challenge. Presently, the problem is one faced by local and state authorities and, according to Napolitano, will continue to be the first line of attack for the Obama administration. At this point it is not yet clear what would trigger the use of the contingency plans being formulated by the Obama administration. Essentially, it is clear that the influence of the Mexican drug cartels is spreading throughout the United States, and particularly in the border states, it is not clear at what point the federal government becomes involved in coordinating a comprehensive response.
There are several possible scenarios that would trigger a response from the United States. One possible scenario would be a dramatic increase in the use of violence by cartel-linked gangs in the United States, like the Mexican Mafia or Barrio Azteca, mirroring their counterparts in Mexico. Other scenarios could include more violent and specific targeting of law enforcement officers on the U.S. side of the border, obvious incidents of Mexican drug traffickers crossing the border to carry out assaults in the United States, massive migration from Mexico in the case of state collapse or a similar, major security-related catastrophe.
If the situation required, the National Guard has the ability to provide support to law enforcement agencies so that they can better perform their jobs. Napolitano has said that federal support would consist of border-enforcement teams, more intelligence analysts and increased vehicle searches. This is similar to how Mexico’s military is currently assisting police, and how the Italian military was deployed to Sicily in 1992 to secure areas in order to allow police to carry out their work against La Cosa Nostra. The National Guard also has heavier firepower than police forces, which could be used suppress the kind of running gunbattles that frequently occur in Mexico but do not take place in the United States.
National Guard assets like helicopters, armored personnel carriers and aerial surveillance platforms would also contribute to law enforcement efforts along the border. But what the National Guard does not do is operate as a law enforcement agency. It cannot make arrests, and it cannot conduct investigations. The National Guard is simply a tool best used for stabilizing situations that have gotten out of control, or for enhancing government manpower and logistical capacity.
The National Guard has been sent to the border before. From June 2006 to July 2008, Operation Jump Start involved the deployment of 6,000 guardsmen to assist the Border Patrol in stemming illegal immigration traffic. Since then, governors of border states have been utilizing their state National Guard assets to assist in counternarcotics efforts. However, these efforts are relatively small, with less than 1,000 national guardsmen deployed across all four southern border states, and focus on assisting counternarcotics operations. A federally orchestrated response could draw on the deep reserves of National Guard members across the country for the purpose of national security.
Most importantly, drafting a federal plan (or at least talking about drafting a plan) to address violence spilling over into the United States will help build a national strategy on how to handle Mexico, including defining the breaking point that would force the United States to act more aggressively. Plans for securing the border are just one part of the administration’s policy toward Mexico, which Obama has said his administration will define within the next few months.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Shocking development-- Europe hedges
on: March 16, 2009, 10:50:17 AM
European countries that have offered to help the Obama administration close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have begun raising questions about the security risks and requirements if they accept prisoners described by the Bush administration as “the worst of the worst,” according to diplomats and other officials.
Guantánamo Bay Naval Base (Cuba)The concerns, and a deep suspicion of whether the American intelligence community will share full information on the prisoners, are likely to complicate the resettlement effort, which is critical to President Obama’s fulfilling his pledge to close Guantánamo within a year of his taking office.
The offers, from Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Belgium, Switzerland and other countries, have been widely seen as efforts to win favor with the new administration by helping to close the camp, which was a contentious issue during the Bush years.
Still, with a first round of talks on the Guantánamo issues scheduled for Monday in Washington between Obama administration officials and a high-level delegation from the European Union, several European leaders have recently emphasized that they can make no firm commitments until they are given complete details on the prisoners.
“We’d have to study concrete cases,” María Teresa Fernández de la Vega Sanz, Spain’s deputy prime minister, said in an interview last week.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently told reporters she was “quite encouraged at the positive, receptive responses we’ve been getting” to requests for help in accepting Guantánamo detainees.
But some European officials said the Obama administration had yet to detail what would be involved in resettling detainees and whether the United States would also open its doors to Guantánamo prisoners, which the Bush administration declined to do.
It is not clear exactly what conditions the Obama administration may wish to impose, what the detainees’ immigration status would be or whether any detainees released to Europe would be eligible for complete freedom. “We understand, you have a big problem,” said one European official who said he would speak only if not identified. “And we appreciate what President Obama has said about closing Guantánamo. But that doesn’t automatically mean putting all the remaining inmates on a plane and sending them to Europe.”
Obama administration officials say some 60 of the remaining 241 detainees, those who cannot be sent to their home countries for humanitarian or other reasons, could be resettled in Europe.
A senior State Department official conceded that there were some concerns in Europe about accepting Guantánamo detainees. But the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not designated to speak publicly on the issue, argued: “It is really just a small effort to help us deal with a legacy of the past. This is something we inherited, too.”
A senior French official said that France was “ready to help,” but that “Guantánamo is an American responsibility.”
“It’s not an absolute condition, but it would be easier if the U.S. administration is willing to take some detainees,” said the French official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, as did several officials in other countries, to avoid antagonizing the Obama administration.
American officials conceded that talks with Europe were likely to be complex, but said they were working with intelligence agencies to provide as much information about detainees as possible. The senior State Department official said that the White House was considering whether any detainees might be admitted into the United States, in part because of the European focus on that issue.
The detainees most often mentioned for resettlement in the United States are 17 Uighurs, members of a Chinese Muslim minority, who American officials say cannot be returned to China for fear of mistreatment. The men have argued that they were allies of the United States who were wrongly rounded up in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001. After court battles, the Bush administration conceded that the men were not enemies of the United States.
Both American and European Union officials described the talks scheduled for Monday as a critical first step for any possible resettlement of Guantánamo detainees, saying that common European ground rules would ease the way toward decisions by individual countries.
Jacques Barrot, a European Union vice president who is to lead the European delegation, said there was an opportunity “to turn together a dark page” in the history of the fight against terrorism. But officials said the delegation was arriving with far more questions than answers.
Among the host of questions, European officials said, was whether the former prisoners would need to be monitored, whether they would have full travel rights in Europe and whether detainees might entangle their countries’ courts in years of legal battles by suing former American officials for their imprisonment and treatment.
Obama administration officials are working on a two-pronged plan to close the prison. They are analyzing how many detainees might be tried, most likely in the United States, and working toward transferring scores of the others.
The Bush administration often failed when it asked other countries to accept detainees, partly because those requests were usually accompanied by public comments defending the imprisonments by describing the detainees as dangerous terrorists.
The new administration is sending a different message. “We are less vested in trying to prove that these people are rightly held,” the senior State Department official said.
Given that stance by the Obama administration, some European officials say Washington’s focus on sending the detainees to Europe raises many questions.
Germany’s interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has suggested publicly that if Guantánamo detainees pose no security risk, there is no reason the United States should not take them.
Pekka Lintu, Finland’s ambassador in Washington, said, “We should know what is being asked of us.”
William Glaberson reported from New York, and Steven Erlanger from Paris. Reporting was contributed by Victoria Burnett from Madrid, Judy Dempsey from Berlin, Margot Williams from New York and Mark Landler from Washington.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin; Madison; Webster; Reagan
on: March 16, 2009, 10:43:45 AM
"History affords us many instances of the ruin of states, by the prosecution of measures ill suited to the temper and genius of their people. The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy... These measures never fail to create great and violent jealousies and animosities between the people favored and the people oppressed; whence a total separation of affections, interests, political obligations, and all manner of connections, by which the whole state is weakened."
--Benjamin Franklin, Emblematical Representations
"A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the object of the government; secondly, a knowledge of the means, by which those objects can be best attained." --James Madison
"I apprehend no danger to our country from a foreign foe ... Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter. -- From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence, I must confess that I do apprehend some danger. I fear that they may place too implicit a confidence in their public servants, and fail properly to scrutinize their conduct; that in this way they may be made the dupes of designing men, and become the instruments of their own undoing. Make them intelligent, and they will be vigilant; give them the means of detecting the wrong, and they will apply the remedy." --U.S. Senator Daniel Webster (1782-1852)
"When I took the oath of office, I pledged loyalty to only one special interest group -- 'We the People.' Those people -- neighbors and friends, shopkeepers and laborers, farmers and craftsmen -- do not have infinite patience. As a matter of fact, some 80 years ago, Teddy Roosevelt wrote these instructive words in his first message to the Congress: 'The American people are slow to wrath, but when their wrath is once kindled, it burns like a consuming flame.' Well, perhaps that kind of wrath will be deserved if our answer to these serious problems is to repeat the mistakes of the past." --Ronald Reagan
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / I love you too , , ,
on: March 16, 2009, 10:25:29 AM
A man breaks into a house to look for money and guns. Inside, he finds a young couple in bed.
He orders the guy out of bed and ties him to a chair.
While tying the homeowner's wife to the bed, the convict gets on top of her, kisses her neck, then gets up and goes into the bathroom. While he's in there, the husband whispers over to his wife:
'Listen, this guy is an escaped convict. Look at his clothes! He's probably spent a lot of time in jail and hasn't seen a woman in years. I saw how he kissed your neck. If he wants sex, don't resist, don't complain...do whatever he tells you. Satisfy him no matter how much he nauseates you. This guy is obviously very dangerous. If he gets angry, he'll kill us both. Be strong, honey. I love you!'
His wife responds: 'He wasn't kissing my neck. He was whispering in my ear. He told me that he's gay, thinks you're cute, and asked if we had any Vaseline.
I told him it was in the bathroom. Be strong honey. I love you too.'
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Can we defeat the Taliban?
on: March 16, 2009, 12:32:51 AM
Can We Defeat the Taliban?http://www.aina.org/news/20090312085918.htm
- David Kilcullen, National Review (Accidental Guerrilla book excerpt)
-David Kilcullen, senior counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, explains in this exclusive book excerpt from The Accidental Guerilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One.
On the basis of my field experience in 2005--08 in Iraq, Southeast Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, I assess the current generation of Taliban fighters, within the broader Taliban confederation (which loosely combines old Taliban cadres with Pashtun nationalists, tribal fighters, and religious extremists), as the most tactically competent enemy we currently face in any theater. This judgment draws on four factors: organizational structure, motivation, combat skills, and equipment.
Taliban organizational structure varies between districts, but most show some variation of the generic pattern of a local clandestine network structure, a main force of full-time guerrillas who travel from valley to valley, and a part-time network of villagers who cooperate with the main force when it is in their area. In districts close to the Pakistan border, young men graduating from Pakistani madrassas also swarm across the frontier to join the main force when it engages in major combat -- as happened during the September 2006 fighting in Kandahar Province, and again in the 2007 and 2008 fighting seasons.
These multifaceted motivations provide Taliban fighters with a strong but elastic discipline. Although opportunities may arise for us to "divide and conquer" elements of the enemy, in practice local ties tend to far outweigh government influence. Thus we need to induce local tribal and community leaders who have the respect and tribal loyalty of part-time elements to wean them away from loyalty to the main-force Taliban. Appealing to the self-interest of local clandestine cell leaders may also help isolate them from the influence of senior Taliban leaders who are currently safe in Pakistan.
Clearly, the weakest motivational links within the Taliban confederation are those that are based on the "accidental guerrilla" syndrome and that draw local part-time fighters to fight alongside the main force when it is in their area. Local security measures such as neighborhood-watch groups and auxiliary police units, creation of alternative organizations and life pathways (including jobs and social networks) for young men, protection from Taliban intimidation, and alternative economic activities are potential approaches to detaching these individuals from main-force influence. The main force itself is highly cohesive in most districts and relatively invulnerable to direct penetration or infiltration. But the habit of recruiting part-time local fighters to join the main force, including forced recruitment, might expose the main force to indirect infiltration.
In terms of combat skills, reporting from units in the field, as well as my participant observations, suggest extremely high competence in some areas but some equally significant lapses in others. Key areas of skill include ambushing, use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), sniping, field defenses, and reconnaissance. Weaknesses include a tendency to operate in a set routine, lack of communications security, poor indirect-fire skills, dispersed tactical movement, and sloppiness in the security of cross-border infiltration.
Insurgent groups have mounted ambushes incorporating up to several hundred fighters using coordinated mortar, rocket, and sniper fire to engage coalition troops in the killing area. Tactics include the use of L-shaped or T-shaped layouts to catch troops in crossfire. They have shown good fire discipline, marksmanship, and tactical control during these activities. Though in many cases they have suffered significant casualties, they have shown an aggressive spirit and a marked willingness to accept severe losses in order to press home an attack.
Careful mine placement, good camouflage, employment of unexploded or modified ordnance, use of decoy and secondary devices, baited attacks (to draw first responders or military and police columns into a trap), and use of covering observation, sniper posts, and ambushes are all features of insurgent IED technique, which has shown substantial improvement (especially in the south) over the past several years, including an extremely significant rise in the prevalence of Iraq-style suicide attacks using car bombs, bomb vests, or limpet mines. Although IED attacks are still less intensive than in Iraq before the surge, in most cases this is probably explained by lower population density and scarcity of military-grade ordnance rather than lack of skill. In any case, since the success of the surge in reducing violence in Iraq in 2007--08, Afghanistan has overtaken Iraq as the main source of coalition casualties from IEDs.
Proficient use of snipers, operating in pairs and coordinating their activities by radio (both among pairs and with maneuver forces) are a key feature of improved insurgent tactical proficiency since 2005. Camouflage, stalking, use of high-powered optics, and coordinated engagement are all signs of increasing professionalism by enemy snipers, who have graduated from the category of "marksmen" to become true sniper pairs in the professional military sense. This bespeaks at least some training by professionally qualified military snipers, or by foreign fighters (such as Chechens) with previous operational sniping experience. It also shows an emphasis on training and preparation that was absent from some of the ad hoc Taliban efforts of previous years.
The field defenses of Pashmul and Panjwai during Operation Medusa in 2006, in an area of fertile farmland, small fields, orchards, and hedgerows that the Soviets called the "green belt" and where they took many casualties, showed intensive preparation and skill. Equally professional field defenses have been encountered in several subsequent operations. Good use of terrain, pre-registration of killing areas and firing points (a technique by which mortar and heavy-weapons crews walk the ground before a battle and adjust their aim points for maximum effectiveness), and the use of bunkers, crawl trenches, tunnels, caches, and obstacle plans highlight this tactical proficiency. During the 2006 fighting, because a large number of fighters were inexperienced Pakistani madrassa graduates, dozens were killed every day by Coalition airpower on the approaches to the battle. But once dug into their defensive zones, these fighters proved extremely difficult to extract.
Finally, in terms of strengths, the insurgents have shown great skill in scouting and intelligence collection, using local villagers and clandestine cadres for close-target reconnaissance and conducting stand-off observation from dominating hills, and by means of night and day movement in mountainous and vegetated areas (particularly in the eastern hills and the "green belt" in the Helmand and Arghandab river valleys). Some insurgents have also been very effective in using local informants and illegal vehicle checkpoints to gain and exploit information about the population.
Insurgent tactical weaknesses include the tendency to follow set routines. Because some senior leaders have been operating in the same areas for many years, and because the terrain limits maneuver options (most valleys have only one route in and out, for example), some insurgent groups have begun to set patterns and operate in a routine and repetitive fashion. This creates exploitable vulnerabilities. For instance, local guerrillas typically wait for a Coalition convoy to enter a valley and then seek to ambush it on its way out at a series of "traditional" attack points. This tendency, also noted by observers of mujahidin operating against the Soviets in the 1980s, appears to be widespread and could be exploited by working with local partners ahead of an operation to identify the traditional ambush sites in a given valley and then sending a force into the valley, waiting until enemy fighters move into ambush sites, and engaging these positions with air and indirect fire. Similarly, despite some proficiency in the use of rockets and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) in a semi-indirect fire mode, insurgent skills in mortar work seem less developed than in other areas. In some districts (particularly those along the Pakistan border) their proficiency is better, but in general this is one area where they still have room to improve. Because mortar work is a fairly technical skill, future improvements in this area might signal a higher level of assistance from sponsors located in Pakistan.
There have been several recent instances of insurgents' massing in large numbers (up to 250 fighters) in the open, often at night, only to be engaged by indirect fire or airpower and suffer significant losses. Again, during the September 2006 fighting around Pashmul, the insurgents lost hundreds of fighters who were moving openly in pickup trucks toward the scene of the fighting, while in autumn 2008 there were several coordinated large-scale attacks on British bases and population centers in Helmand Province. Such engagements typically kill young, inexperienced guerrillas rather than older cadres who tend to hang back in the fighting, directing the fanatical young fighters while not exposing themselves to risk.
A final key weakness is in cross-border movement, where infiltrators have typically taken little trouble to disguise their movement or activity, in some cases infiltrating in broad daylight under the noses of Pakistan army checkpoints, or even with direct assistance from Pakistani Frontier Corps troops. If we could convince the Pakistani government to actually take action against infiltrators, we could exploit this lack of skill in cross-border movement so as to ambush infiltration parties or deny specific routes, channeling the enemy into locations where we could engage them using airpower and indirect fire without significant risk to the local civilian population.
Finally, insurgent equipment has improved substantially. By 2005 and 2006, small arms and RPGs being carried by the Taliban were generally of much better quality than Afghan National Army (ANA) or Afghan National Police (ANP) weapons, though government weapons have improved in quality since that time. Other insurgent weapons capabilities (especially rockets and IEDs) continue to improve in sophistication. Handheld radios, satellite phones, and cell phones have become common. Some infiltrators wear camouflage uniforms, and some even have rudimentary badges of rank. Vehicles are of better standard than most ANP or government vehicles, and the supplying of food, water, and ammunition is very effective. But the Taliban still tends to travel more lightly, with far less reliance on the road network or logistic resupply, than the ANA/ANP or the Coalition, giving the enemy greater tactical mobility in rural parts of the country, especially where a measure of popular support exists for their agenda.
By David Kilcullen
National Review Online
This message has been edited. Last edited by: xmikex, March 13, 2009 04:23 PM
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: March 16, 2009, 12:09:52 AM
Ah ya veo. Mas o menos come yo ya habia imaginado. Interesante la pregunta, y la verdad es que no tengo base para opinar. ?Aun mas teoria de conspiracia en Mexico entre miles de otras mas? No se'. ?Otra perfidia gringa? No se'.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!)
on: March 15, 2009, 10:07:31 PM
Minister beaten after clashing with Muslims on his TV show
By Jonathan Petre
Last updated at 4:39 PM on 15th March 2009
A Christian minister who has had heated arguments with Muslims on his TV Gospel show has been brutally attacked by three men who ripped off his cross and warned: ‘If you go back to the studio, we’ll break your legs.’
The Reverend Noble Samuel was driving to the studio when a car pulled over in front of him. A man got out and came over to ask him directions in Urdu.
Mr Samuel, based at Heston United Reformed Church, West London, said: ‘He put his hand into my window, which was half open, and grabbed my hair and opened the door.
Frightened: TV minister Noble Samuel
He started slapping my face and punching my neck. He was trying to smash my head on the steering wheel.
Then he grabbed my cross and pulled it off and it fell on the floor. He was swearing. The other two men came from the car and took my laptop and Bible.’
The Metropolitan Police are treating it as a ‘faith hate’ assault and are hunting three Asian men.
In spite of the attack, Mr Samuel went ahead with his hour-long live Asian Gospel Show on the Venus satellite channel from studios in Wembley, North London. During the show the Muslim station owner Tahir Ali came on air to condemn the attack.
Pakistan-born Mr Samuel, 48, who was educated by Christian missionaries and moved to Britain 15 years ago, said that over the past few weeks he has received phone-in calls from people identifying themselves as Muslims who challenged his views. ‘They were having an argument with me,’ he said. ‘They were very aggressive in saying they did not agree with me. I said those are your views and these are my views.’
He said that he, his wife Louisa, 48, and his son Naveed, 19, now fear for their safety, and police have given them panic alarms. ‘I am frightened and depressed,’ he said. ‘My show is not confrontational.’http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...s-TV-show.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care
on: March 14, 2009, 12:16:29 AM
Interesting footage, but the connection to the subject of this thread is ephemeral at best. Please repost it in the Isalm in Europe thread.
Extinguishing Physician Conscience
By Mary L. Davenport, MD
The largest generational cohort in American history, the Baby Boomers, will be the first Americans to be denied available effective life-saving treatments for reasons of cost. The seeds for this mass liquidation have already been planted.
Imagine that it is 2016, and you are a 65 year old boomer. You have been admitted to your local community hospital with malaise, fatigue, vomiting and cloudy mental status. You have had blood pressure problems and diabetes for a few years, and have just been diagnosed with renal failure. As you drift in and out of consciousness, you are vaguely aware your old family practice physician, who had taken care of you for 20 years, is not around. A religious man, he quietly retired from medical practice in 2014, after the full force of the Obama administration‘s removal of conscience protection for physicians in February, 2009, came into effect.
You feel vaguely uncomfortable as you are placed in a darkened room in the Comfort Care wing of the hospital. In moments of lucidity, you wonder if you shouldn't have some oxygen, an IV or SOMETHING! But the appropriate therapy, kidney dialysis, is not on the approved list of treatments for patients over 65, having been deemed too expensive. The new regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services were presented just last month to your hospital's Futile Care Committee. It was decided at the highest levels that for those over 65 years of age, renal dialysis would not be a beneficial treatment, that the alternatives of a kidney transplant were too expensive, and that your quality of life on chronic dialysis would be too diminished.
Your children wonder why you are not in an ICU. They are told that you will be placed on a morphine drip to make you more comfortable as you pass away, and that this is the highest standard of care for your diagnosis and age. It is called terminal sedation. You signed an advanced directive indicating that you did not want extraordinary care for a terminal condition, and under the new protocols renal failure, although treatable, qualifies as a terminal condition.
Your children frantically try to find their old family doctor. But your health plan replaced him with a large group of younger physicians, the hospital's Consortium for Health, a private-public foundation that was created to promote efficiency and reduce wasteful spending in medical care. By 2014 when he left, your family doctor was a dinosaur, having been trained in an earlier era. His medical school was one of the last to retain the original Hippocratic Oath. It affirmed the covenantal relationship between the physician and patient, overseen by God, and that whatever the physician did would be for the patient's benefit. You had felt safe entrusting your health to Dr. O'Brien's professional judgment.
Not only did the Hippocratic Oath your doctor took decades ago took specifically forbid physician assisted suicide and abortion, it also established patient confidentiality so that your secrets would never be disclosed. That is, until 2012, when physicians participating in the national healthcare system, which included ALL licensed physicians, were mandated to submit your visits to the unified electronic medical record system. This data base was created in 2003 to coordinate medical care, detect emerging health threats, and exchange clinical information. Your doctor was very uncomfortable with this policy despite reassurances that HIPAA regulations would maintain your privacy.
But forces beyond any individual's control began to erode your relationship with your doctor long before he left the practice of medicine. The insurance companies stopped paying him in the late 1990's for hospital care, preferring to hire "hospitalists" or "intensivists" for greater efficiency in reducing hospital stays. Since office visits were reimbursed at lower and lower rates, your doctor had to see more and more patients in the office to just stay even. So although O'Brien knew you well and was trained to treat conditions such as renal failure or pneumonia, he stopped treating patients in the hospital.
Around 2007 both the hospital and office physicians began to be paid by a formula that rewarded them for saving money on medical care. When your family doctor was forced to join the Consortium in 2012 because the health plans stopped contracting with individual physicians, a powerful new computer system tracked each doctor's prescribing habits, referrals to specialists, and utilization of expensive lab tests. But your doctor was an "outlier" in this new system, having been brought up in Hippocratic tradition of doing what was necessary for the individual patient, rather than the Greater Good, the newer communitarian ethic followed by the younger doctors. He was financially penalized for doing too much for his patients, since the formulas based 30% of physician income on "efficiency."
Your old doctor could tolerate the erosion of his income, but had trouble with the new regulations that insisted that he discuss and refer for "all legal procedures." Since by 2013 physician assisted suicide was legal in 21 of 50 states, the Consortium enumerated the conditions that mandated the "euthanasia talk", including multiple sclerosis, metastatic breast cancer, and many others. He could never actually bring himself to violate his original Hippocratic Oath that not only forbade assisting his patients in committing suicide but also prohibited even mentioning it. It was impossible to rid himself of the idea that a physician's role was to assist in healing and that medical killing was antithetical to his professional integrity.
Back in 2007, ACOG, the ob/gyn's professional organization, issued Ethics Committee Opinion 385, contending that ob/gyn doctors had the duty to either do abortions or have offices in close proximity to abortion doctors to whom they would refer patients. There was an outcry from professional organizations of pro-life ob/gyns, Catholic physicians, and other Christian doctors. Especially troubling to many was the assertion in Committee Opinion 385 that defined conscience as a sentiment, and measured its "authenticity" by the degree to which a provider would suffer "guilt, shame or loss of self esteem" if it were violated. Your doctor and many of his colleagues regarded medical killing as anathema, and were incensed by describing their integrity as a physicians as a "feeling". But by 2013 the protests had died down, and the ethics committee recommendation for ob/gyn's had evolved into a mandate for family practice doctors under new rules enforced by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The final blow came in early 2014. Back in 2008, in Benitez v North Coast Women's Care Medical Group, the California Supreme Court ruled against ob/gyn doctors who did not want to provide intrauterine insemination to a lesbian couple because of their religious beliefs. Although most European nations did not allow the buying or selling of eggs or sperm, and restricted fertility therapies to heterosexual married couples, the California courts not only permitted but required health care providers to cooperate in any reproductive therapies for any patient regardless of sexual orientation or marital status.
Although the birth of octuplets in 2009 with assisted reproductive technology to a single woman with six other children initially created a brief public uproar, ultimately no legislation was passed protecting physicians who did not want to participate in a patient's procreative endeavor. Your physician had a 68 year old bipolar single male patient who wanted to have an heir. The patient requested that your doctor appeal to the Consortium to provide him with a donated egg and surrogate mother for his desired offspring. Since your doctor did not want to be used as a tool in his patient's peculiar agenda and was legitimately afraid of an expensive lawsuit that would decimate his dwindling retirement funds if he refused, he decided at this point to quit medicine altogether and move to a sunny warm state.
Your family doctor had been inspired as a young man by study of the U.S. Constitution and other foundational documents that he thought would forever ensure his liberty. He had studied the same "Rules of Civility" that the young George Washington had encountered in 1747. One of the most memorable of these maxims was "Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience." It was clear to him that conscience here referred to man's innate understanding of moral right and wrong. When the American Founders would later declare independence from Great Britain in 1776, it was by virtue of this "spark of celestial fire" that they would establish the principles of human equality, unalienable rights, and government by consent as the foundations of American constitutional government.
Just before he left for his retirement home, your doctor was deeply disturbed to see the concept of conscience mocked in the New England Journal of Medicine by University of Wisconsin law professor R. Alta Charo in her article "The Celestial Fire of Conscience - Refusing to Provide Medical Care." Charo's presentation did not acknowledge that many Americans do not believe that abortion, assisted suicide, and embryonic stem cell therapies are legitimate medical care in the first place. Her article also did not distinguish between emergency and elective care, and merely regards the health care provider as a tool for whatever ends the patient wants to achieve. Attorneys such as Ms. Charo claimed the right to take whatever cases they want, but seem deny the same basic right to physicians. Patients can always seek the care of other providers.
Your doctor (and many other Americans) believed that failure to protect physician conscience will destroy the trust and accountability that is essential to the physician patient relationship. If the physician and patient cannot freely collaborate, ultimately another agenda -- that of the health plan or state -- will replace it, to everyone's detriment.
Dr. Davenport is an obstetrician/gynecologist in private practice in El Sobrante, California.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Several good ones
on: March 13, 2009, 09:03:02 AM
"If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield."
--George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
The Patriot Post
13 March 2009
Vol. 09 No. 10
"It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth -- and listen to the song of that syren, till she transforms us into beasts." --Patrick Henry
A word from the wise
By Mark Alexander
As our regular readers know, it is customary for The Patriot Post to augment our advocacy for individual liberty, the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and our promotion of free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values, with the enduring advice of erudite sages, both contemporary and historic.
However, I have a particular affinity for the wisdom of our Founders, those who put their lives and fortunes at acute risk by codifying and supporting our Declaration of Independence and its subordinate guidance, our Constitution.
In regard to the latter, let me be clear: I am NOT referring to the so-called "Living Constitution" as amended by executive licentiousness, congressional avarice and judicial diktat -- the one that politicians have adulterated almost beyond recognition.
Rather, I am referring to our lawful Constitution, that formidable document for which generations of American Patriots in armed service to our country have raised their right hands in solemn oath to "support and defend ... against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."
Though Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid suffer their oaths while toasting Clos Du Mesnil champagne over foie gras hors d'oeuvres and imported tournedos, our uniformed American Patriots pledge their very lives in fulfillment of their oaths.
In fact, since our founding, more than 700,000 of our countrymen have been killed in defense of our Constitution, and millions more have suffered greatly in support of their sacred obligation. Thanks in total measure to their sacrifice, we still have an opportunity to restore our Constitution to its original standing, and reinstate its promise of liberty.
At this moment in our great nation's history, we face trying times and formidable enemies, both "foreign and domestic."
Indeed, in the words of Thomas Paine, "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
On that note, I turn to just four of our Founders for their eternal wisdom in respect to the troubles of their day, and ours.
"We should never despair, our situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new exertions and proportion our efforts to the exigency of the times. ... The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. ... It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn. ... The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations. ... [T]he propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained."
"Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom. ... If we suffer [the minds of young people] to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives. ... The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families... How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers? ... We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. ... The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People ... they may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. ... A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever."
"The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys. ... The multiplication of public offices, increase of expense beyond income, growth and entailment of a public debt, are indications soliciting the employment of the pruning knife. ... We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. ... The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale. ... If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy. ... I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious. ... The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. ... [A] wise and frugal government...shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government. ... Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question."
"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents... If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions. ... The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. ... There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."
Those who do not understand our history -- mostly those identified as "liberal" in contemporary vernacular -- assume the words of our Founders are as antiquated as the Declaration and Constitution they created. However, students of history understand that both the threats our Founders confronted at the dawn of our nation, and their advice, have endured to this day.
Indeed, to paraphrase Santayana's aphorism, "They who do not know their history are destined to repeat it."
Quote of the week
"Of all the dispositions and habits which least to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensible supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness -- these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man ought to respect and to cherish them. ... Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths...? Let us with caution indulge the opposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. [R]eason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." --George Washington
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Guardian: Intel failures
on: March 12, 2009, 11:38:53 PM
The Guardian (UK)
March 6, 2009
Intelligence Failures Crippling Fight Against Insurgents In Afghanistan, Says Report
Leaked analysis condemns US for lack of co-operation
By Peter Beaumont
A highly critical analysis of the US-led coalition's counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan has raised serious questions about combat operations in both countries - and the intelligence underpinning them.
The confidential document presents a bleak picture of a counterinsurgency effort undermined by intelligence failures that at times border on the absurd.
Based on scores of interviews with British, US, Canadian and Dutch military, intelligence and diplomatic officials - and marked for "official use only" - the book-length report is damning of a US military often unwilling to share intelligence among its military allies. It depicts commanders in the field being overwhelmed by information on hundreds of contradictory databases, and sometimes resistant to intelligence generated by its own agents in the CIA.
Counterinsurgency efforts are also shown as being at the mercy of local contacts peddling identical "junk" tips around various intelligence officials, with the effectiveness of the intelligence effort being quantified by some senior officers solely in terms of the amount of "tip money" disbursed to sources.
The report describes a rigid reliance on economic, military and political progress indicators regarded by the authors and interviewees as too often lacking in real meaning.
Its sources complain of commanders who have slipped into relying on "the fallacy of body counts", discredited after the war in Vietnam as a measure of success.
The report, prepared by the RAND national defence research institute for US Joint Forces Command in November and leaked to the Wikileaks website, reveals the case of Dutch F-16 pilots in Afghanistan who were ordered by the US to bomb targets, only to be refused access to American "battle damage assessments" showing what they had hit, on the grounds that the Dutch were not "security cleared" to view them.
Another interviewee describes how coalition forces at Camp Holland near Tarin Kowt in southern Afghanistan maintained 13 different intelligence sections, including US, Dutch, UAE, and Australian, all operating with minimal co-operation.
"It would have been helpful (for us to have) combined them; then we would have known everything," complained Lt Neils Verhoef, one of those interviewed for the report. "One section knew the location of an IED (improvised explosive device) factory, and we drove by it for three months."
The unflattering document will make grim reading for President Barack Obama as he grapples with the worsening crisis in Afghanistan, confronted by an increasingly emboldened Taliban and its allies. With counterinsurgency tactics now placed at the centre of the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the RAND report suggests that many of the national armed forces involved lack skills to operate effectively.
It calls for a substantial overhaul of how military intelligence is gathered, organised and acted on. Quoting senior officers, it questions many everyday operations - from weapons searches to the killing or arrest of wanted individuals - suggesting that they "alienate" the local population for little measurable gain.
Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely, former the senior British military representative in Iraq, said: "There were some operations taking place in Iraq where the success of the operation . . . was judged solely against whether tactical success had been achieved; tactical success in terms of attrition of enemy forces, numbers killed or captured, numbers of weapons seized, amounts of explosives captured, extent of area controlled. By these criteria . . . a given operation would be judged a success, regardless of the fact that it had seriously alienated the local population, and the fact that, within a few months, other insurgents had re-infiltrated and regained control."
An anonymous source quoted in the report stated that "operational commanders" continued to "indulge in the fallacy of body counts, and a month in which more Taliban are killed than in the previous month" was seen as progress. He added: "This is actually more likely to reflect the fact that there are more enemy on the battlefield than there were before."
Despite the huge emphasis on counterinsurgency tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last two years, the report's authors, Russell Glenn and Jamie Gayton, find it necessary to remind military readers of the importance of the civilian population in their efforts, not least in protecting civilians "against attack by both the enemy and your own forces".
"Those interviewed in support of this research," they wrote, "noted with no little frustration that coalition forces themselves too frequently neglect to treat local community members properly."
Perhaps most damning of all, however, is the suggestion from several of those interviewed that often they felt that an overall strategy for what they were supposed to be doing was entirely lacking.
One of those interviewed was Brigadier General Theo Vleugels, who described his 2006 command experience in southern Afghanistan in terms worthy of a passage from Joseph Heller's Catch 22. "We didn't have a campaign plan when we started, but we later got one from my higher headquarters that was close to ours, which is not surprising as they told us to do what we told them we would do."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers:
on: March 12, 2009, 12:29:33 PM
"The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virture to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust."
--Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 57, 19 February 1788
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Afghan Army
on: March 12, 2009, 11:43:16 AM
12 March 2009
There is dispute whether the testimony to the British House of Commons regarding the Afghan National Army is correct.
Part of that testimony was published on my site yesterday.
Colonel Bill Hix emailed to me from Afghanistan with an on-the-ground view. It is important to note that Colonel Hix is a veteran of Iraq, with much experience in the tough parts of Afghanistan. I was out with his soldiers in late 2008. Colonel Hix is highly respected among combat soldiers who don't hand out respect easily. His views on Afghanistan are highly-informed, cautious and realistic, but definitely more optimistic than are mine. I greatly respect his highly informed opinion and so it's important to make sure Colonel Hix's counterpoints get wide distribution. Please link to this dispatch. (Note to journalists seeking truth on Afghanistan: Colonel Hix is at KAF and is an important source regarding conditions in southern Afghanistan.)
This from Colonel Bill Hix regarding the testimony:
The assertions on ANA unit independence are incorrect. As well, the ANA is larger than stated in the article, but was only recently authorized by the Bonn Accord constituted Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board to grow beyond 80,000 to 122,000 in structure and 134,000 in end strength. Even with that increase, neither the ANA nor the ANP are adequate in size, fully equipped, or have enough advisor teams. However, while far from perfect, they fight, are capable and can operate effectively.
Some examples from those ANA and ANP forces in the south of Afghanistan:
-75% of the brigade headquarters and 50% of the infantry battalions in the south of Afghanistan are capable of independent action within their organic capabilities. The combat support and service support battalions are lagging for a variety of reasons, including an absence of branch schools [much of their training comes from the advisor teams embedded with them, on the job training, and mobile training and regional training teams] and the propensity of commanders to use them as infantry due in part to over tasking and inadequate numbers mentioned above.
-In November 2008, the brigade in Zabul province mounted an independent, multi-battalion operation into an enemy sanctuary with almost no Coalition support. What little support they did receive was limited to one day of ISR support, occasional attack helicopter support, and an EOD team to reduce IEDs found by Afghan engineers [ANA EOD capabilities are still in development] who successfully cleared a two day route of march of without injury or loss of equipment.
-In October 2008, the Afghans planned and executed the relief of Lashkar Gah [capital of Helmand province -- under the UK Task Force], deploying over 2300 Army and Police into the city and surrounding area from as far as Kabul in less than 2 days, launching operations within 2 days of those forces closing, and sustaining those operations for nearly two weeks. The operation was planned by the ANA brigade commander and jointly executed by the ANA and ANP under the direction of the ANA brigade commander and in partnership with the ANP provincial Chief of Police. Except for advisor teams, coalition support and participation was generally limited to ISR and fire support. This operation was undertaken in response to a threat Afghans government, Army and Police leaders had been highlighting to the Coalition, to little avail, over the preceding two months. Afghan concerns at one point were dismissed as ‘chasing ghosts.’ To their credit, 3 Commando Brigade, having only recently assumed the TF Helmand mission, focused on enabling this operation which contributed to its success.
-With the exception of one very tough district, every district where the Police have undergone the Focused District Development reform program has seen dramatic drops in civilian casualties and significant drops in police casualties. Moreover, despite our constant recriminations and obvious shortcomings, including continued corruption, the police poll very highly with the Afghan people and they do fight to protect their people, suffering 3 times the casualties seen by either the ANA or ISAF.
-ANA and ANP units routinely conduct joint cordon and search operations around Kandahar City independent of support from the Coalition.
-Similarly, ANA companies in remote district outposts with their advisers do conduct operations daily. For example, a series of night ambush operations killed a number of Taliban leaders who threatened locals with death if they came to the local market, and broke the intimidation of the population and restored security and local commerce in the area.
None of this to suggest they are perfect, but they are far better and capable than most of our Coalition partners will admit or allow.
Not sure what you meant by AOG, but if you mean Afghan Opposition Groups, the AOGs suffer significant casualties when fighting the Coalition and, absent IED attacks, most often when fighting the ANSF, especially the ANA.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Davy Crockett
on: March 12, 2009, 01:52:30 AM
"We have rights, as individuals, to give as much of our own money as we please to charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of public money." --American hunter, frontiersman, soldier and politician Davy Crockett (1786-1836)
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: April 2009 US Gathering
on: March 12, 2009, 01:15:49 AM
My brother's place is confirmed.
A word of explanation here for those who missed the discussion in a different thread. The way we do it now, the April Gathering is for DB Tribe only and the Sept Gathering is the Open Gathering.
"Higher Consciousness through Harder Contact" (c)
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Grandfathers Speak Vol. 2: Sonny Umpad
on: March 12, 2009, 01:14:26 AM
"On a personal note, your visit to film Maestro Sonny gave me the opportunity to connect with you and the community of DBMA which has been awesome, and I hope to continue exchanging ideas and learning new things in the spirit of walking like a warrior through all my days."
Whoops! I missed this until just now
I too look forward to continuing to exchange ideas. When next shalll we get together? Shoot me an email and let me know.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: March 11, 2009, 09:56:22 PM
Acabo de re-leer ese post.
La verdad es que no tengo ni el menor idea. No he visto hamas otro referencia al caso, el post no tiene URL ni otra referencia que me permite saber si es digna de fe o si vale el tiempo de investigar.
Si' se que a veces hay desacuerdo sobre si algo se define segun le internacional como "isla" o "small rock that sticks out of water at low tide" la cual no rinde derechos del usufructo del territoria maritima etc. Supongo que como parte del proceso de llegar a un acuerdo, que se hablaba de eso-- si la piedra/isla todavia existiera.