Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: October 03, 2008, 10:15:12 AM
In alignment with its agenda, the NY Times seeks to share the blame. Is the point fair?
y STEPHEN LABATON
Published: October 2, 2008
“We have a good deal of comfort about the capital cushions at these firms at the moment.” — Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, March 11, 2008.
As rumors swirled that Bear Stearns faced imminent collapse in early March, Christopher Cox was told by his staff that Bear Stearns had $17 billion in cash and other assets — more than enough to weather the storm.
Drained of most of its cash three days later, Bear Stearns was forced into a hastily arranged marriage with JPMorgan Chase — backed by a $29 billion taxpayer dowry.
Within six months, other lions of Wall Street would also either disappear or transform themselves to survive the financial maelstrom — Merrill Lynch sold itself to Bank of America, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection, and Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley converted to commercial banks.
How could Mr. Cox have been so wrong?
Many events in Washington, on Wall Street and elsewhere around the country have led to what has been called the most serious financial crisis since the 1930s. But decisions made at a brief meeting on April 28, 2004, explain why the problems could spin out of control. The agency’s failure to follow through on those decisions also explains why Washington regulators did not see what was coming.
On that bright spring afternoon, the five members of the Securities and Exchange Commission met in a basement hearing room to consider an urgent plea by the big investment banks.
They wanted an exemption for their brokerage units from an old regulation that limited the amount of debt they could take on. The exemption would unshackle billions of dollars held in reserve as a cushion against losses on their investments. Those funds could then flow up to the parent company, enabling it to invest in the fast-growing but opaque world of mortgage-backed securities; credit derivatives, a form of insurance for bond holders; and other exotic instruments.
The five investment banks led the charge, including Goldman Sachs, which was headed by Henry M. Paulson Jr. Two years later, he left to become Treasury secretary.
A lone dissenter — a software consultant and expert on risk management — weighed in from Indiana with a two-page letter to warn the commission that the move was a grave mistake. He never heard back from Washington.
One commissioner, Harvey J. Goldschmid, questioned the staff about the consequences of the proposed exemption. It would only be available for the largest firms, he was reassuringly told — those with assets greater than $5 billion.
“We’ve said these are the big guys,” Mr. Goldschmid said, provoking nervous laughter, “but that means if anything goes wrong, it’s going to be an awfully big mess.”
Mr. Goldschmid, an authority on securities law from Columbia, was a behind-the-scenes adviser in 2002 to Senator Paul S. Sarbanes when he rewrote the nation’s corporate laws after a wave of accounting scandals. “Do we feel secure if there are these drops in capital we really will have investor protection?” Mr. Goldschmid asked. A senior staff member said the commission would hire the best minds, including people with strong quantitative skills to parse the banks’ balance sheets.
Annette L. Nazareth, the head of market regulation, reassured the commission that under the new rules, the companies for the first time could be restricted by the commission from excessively risky activity. She was later appointed a commissioner and served until January 2008.
“I’m very happy to support it,” said Commissioner Roel C. Campos, a former federal prosecutor and owner of a small radio broadcasting company from Houston, who then deadpanned: “And I keep my fingers crossed for the future.”
The proceeding was sparsely attended. None of the major media outlets, including The New York Times, covered it.
After 55 minutes of discussion, which can now be heard on the Web sites of the agency and The Times, the chairman, William H. Donaldson, a veteran Wall Street executive, called for a vote. It was unanimous. The decision, changing what was known as the net capital rule, was completed and published in The Federal Register a few months later.
With that, the five big independent investment firms were unleashed.
In loosening the capital rules, which are supposed to provide a buffer in turbulent times, the agency also decided to rely on the firms’ own computer models for determining the riskiness of investments, essentially outsourcing the job of monitoring risk to the banks themselves.
Over the following months and years, each of the firms would take advantage of the looser rules. At Bear Stearns, the leverage ratio — a measurement of how much the firm was borrowing compared to its total assets — rose sharply, to 33 to 1. In other words, for every dollar in equity, it had $33 of debt. The ratios at the other firms also rose significantly.
The 2004 decision for the first time gave the S.E.C. a window on the banks’ increasingly risky investments in mortgage-related securities.
But the agency never took true advantage of that part of the bargain. The supervisory program under Mr. Cox, who arrived at the agency a year later, was a low priority.
Page 2 of 3)
The commission assigned seven people to examine the parent companies — which last year controlled financial empires with combined assets of more than $4 trillion. Since March 2007, the office has not had a director. And as of last month, the office had not completed a single inspection since it was reshuffled by Mr. Cox more than a year and a half ago.
The few problems the examiners preliminarily uncovered about the riskiness of the firms’ investments and their increased reliance on debt — clear signs of trouble — were all but ignored.
The commission’s division of trading and markets “became aware of numerous potential red flags prior to Bear Stearns’s collapse, regarding its concentration of mortgage securities, high leverage, shortcomings of risk management in mortgage-backed securities and lack of compliance with the spirit of certain” capital standards, said an inspector general’s report issued last Friday. But the division “did not take actions to limit these risk factors.”
Drive to Deregulate
The commission’s decision effectively to outsource its oversight to the firms themselves fit squarely in the broader Washington culture of the last eight years under President Bush.
A similar closeness to industry and laissez-faire philosophy has driven a push for deregulation throughout the government, from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency to worker safety and transportation agencies.
“It’s a fair criticism of the Bush administration that regulators have relied on many voluntary regulatory programs,” said Roderick M. Hills, a Republican who was chairman of the S.E.C. under President Gerald R. Ford. “The problem with such voluntary programs is that, as we’ve seen throughout history, they often don’t work.”
As was the case with other agencies, the commission’s decision was motivated by industry complaints of excessive regulation at a time of growing competition from overseas. The 2004 decision was aimed at easing regulatory burdens that the European Union was about to impose on the foreign operations of United States investment banks.
The Europeans said they would agree not to regulate the foreign subsidiaries of the investment banks on one condition — that the commission regulate the parent companies, along with the brokerage units that the S.E.C. already oversaw.
A 1999 law, however, had left a gap that did not give the commission explicit oversight of the parent companies. To get around that problem, and in exchange for the relaxed capital rules, the banks volunteered to let the commission examine the books of their parent companies and subsidiaries.
The 2004 decision also reflected a faith that Wall Street’s financial interests coincided with Washington’s regulatory interests.
“We foolishly believed that the firms had a strong culture of self-preservation and responsibility and would have the discipline not to be excessively borrowing,” said Professor James D. Cox, an expert on securities law and accounting at Duke School of Law (and no relationship to Christopher Cox).
“Letting the firms police themselves made sense to me because I didn’t think the S.E.C. had the staff and wherewithal to impose its own standards and I foolishly thought the market would impose its own self-discipline. We’ve all learned a terrible lesson,” he added.
In letters to the commissioners, senior executives at the five investment banks complained about what they called unnecessary regulation and oversight by both American and European authorities. A lone voice of dissent in the 2004 proceeding came from a software consultant from Valparaiso, Ind., who said the computer models run by the firms — which the regulators would be relying on — could not anticipate moments of severe market turbulence.
“With the stroke of a pen, capital requirements are removed!” the consultant, Leonard D. Bole, wrote to the commission on Jan. 22, 2004. “Has the trading environment changed sufficiently since 1997, when the current requirements were enacted, that the commission is confident that current requirements in examples such as these can be disregarded?”
He said that similar computer standards had failed to protect Long-Term Capital Management, the hedge fund that collapsed in 1998, and could not protect companies from the market plunge of October 1987.
Mr. Bole, who earned a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Chicago, helps write computer programs that financial institutions use to meet capital requirements.
He said in a recent interview that he was never called by anyone from the commission.
“I’m a little guy in the land of giants,” he said. “I thought that the reduction in capital was rather dramatic.”
Policing Wall Street
A once-proud agency with a rich history at the intersection of Washington and Wall Street, the Securities and Exchange Commission was created during the Great Depression as part of the broader effort to restore confidence to battered investors. It was led in its formative years by heavyweight New Dealers, including James Landis and William O. Douglas. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt was asked in 1934 why he appointed Joseph P. Kennedy, a spectacularly successful stock speculator, as the agency’s first chairman, Roosevelt replied: “Set a thief to catch a thief.”
The commission’s most public role in policing Wall Street is its enforcement efforts. But critics say that in recent years it has failed to deter market problems. “It seems to me the enforcement effort in recent years has fallen short of what one Supreme Court justice once called the fear of the shotgun behind the door,” said Arthur Levitt Jr., who was S.E.C. chairman in the Clinton administration. “With this commission, the shotgun too rarely came out from behind the door.”
Page 3 of 3)
Christopher Cox had been a close ally of business groups in his 17 years as a House member from one of the most conservative districts in Southern California. Mr. Cox had led the effort to rewrite securities laws to make investor lawsuits harder to file. He also fought against accounting rules that would give less favorable treatment to executive stock options.
Under Mr. Cox, the commission responded to complaints by some businesses by making it more difficult for the enforcement staff to investigate and bring cases against companies. The commission has repeatedly reversed or reduced proposed settlements that companies had tentatively agreed upon. While the number of enforcement cases has risen, the number of cases involving significant players or large amounts of money has declined.
Mr. Cox dismantled a risk management office created by Mr. Donaldson that was assigned to watch for future problems. While other financial regulatory agencies criticized a blueprint by Mr. Paulson, the Treasury secretary, that proposed to reduce their stature — and that of the S.E.C. — Mr. Cox did not challenge the plan, leaving it to three former Democratic and Republican commission chairmen to complain that the blueprint would neuter the agency.
In the process, Mr. Cox has surrounded himself with conservative lawyers, economists and accountants who, before the market turmoil of recent months, had embraced a far more limited vision for the commission than many of his predecessors.
‘Stakes in the Ground’
Last Friday, the commission formally ended the 2004 program, acknowledging that it had failed to anticipate the problems at Bear Stearns and the four other major investment banks.
“The last six months have made it abundantly clear that voluntary regulation does not work,” Mr. Cox said.
The decision to shutter the program came after Mr. Cox was blamed by Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, for the crisis. Mr. McCain has demanded Mr. Cox’s resignation.
Mr. Cox has said that the 2004 program was flawed from its inception. But former officials as well as the inspector general’s report have suggested that a major reason for its failure was Mr. Cox’s use of it.
“In retrospect, the tragedy is that the 2004 rule making gave us the ability to get information that would have been critical to sensible monitoring, and yet the S.E.C. didn’t oversee well enough,” Mr. Goldschmid said in an interview. He and Mr. Donaldson left the commission in 2005.
Mr. Cox declined requests for an interview. In response to written questions, including whether he or the commission had made any mistakes over the last three years that contributed to the current crisis, he said, “There will be no shortage of retrospective analyses about what happened and what should have happened.” He said that by last March he had concluded that the monitoring program’s “metrics were inadequate.”
He said that because the commission did not have the authority to curtail the heavy borrowing at Bear Stearns and the other firms, he and the commission were powerless to stop it.
“Implementing a purely voluntary program was very difficult because the commission’s regulations shouldn’t be suggestions,” he said. “The fact these companies could withdraw from voluntary supervision at their discretion diminished the mandate of the program and weakened its effectiveness. Experience has shown that the S.E.C. could not bootstrap itself into authority it didn’t have.”
But critics say that the commission could have done more, and that the agency’s effectiveness comes from the tone set at the top by the chairman, or what Mr. Levitt, the longest-serving S.E.C. chairman in history, calls “stakes in the ground.”
“If you go back to the chairmen in recent years, you will see that each spoke about a variety of issues that were important to them,” Mr. Levitt said. “This commission placed very few stakes in the ground.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon
on: October 03, 2008, 09:23:09 AM
I agree Ifill behaved, indeed I thought she did a rather good job-- though I suspect her personal policitics being put in the spotlight had something to do with that.
I thought SP did quite well. Although not able to wonk with Biden on some of the points and there were some passages where he scored well, she showed a strong ability to define things on her terms and an impressive abiilty to absorb and articulate a lot of material-- to operate at this level after 5 weeks on the national stage I find genuinely impressive. She did very well keeping track of Biden's points and answering them-- and ducking the ones that she wanted to. I thought she did well by steering the conversation to energy matters where she was able to show substance, and did VERY well with "the vision thing", leaving Biden looking the wonk.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: October 02, 2008, 05:12:43 PM
Unlike Clinton, Biden Gets Pass for Saying He Was 'Shot At' in Iraq
When Hillary Clinton told a tall tale about "landing under sniper fire" in Bosnia, she was accused of "inflating her war experience" by Barack Obama's campaign -- but the campaign has been silent about Joe Biden telling his own questionable story about being "shot at" in Iraq.
By Bill Sammon
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Barack Obama and Joe Biden wave to the crowd as they arrive for a rally in Fredericksburg, Va., Saturday. (AP Photo)
When Hillary Clinton told a tall tale about "landing under sniper fire" in Bosnia, she was accused of "inflating her war experience" by rival Democrat Barack Obama's campaign.
But the campaign has been silent about Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, telling his own questionable story about being "shot at" in Iraq.
"Let's start telling the truth," Biden said during a presidential primary debate sponsored by YouTube last year. "Number one, you take all the troops out - you better have helicopters ready to take those 3,000 civilians inside the Green Zone, where I have been seven times and shot at. You better make sure you have protection for them, or let them die."
But when questioned about the episode afterward by the Hill newspaper, Biden backpedaled from his claim of being "shot at" and instead allowed: "I was near where a shot landed."
The senior senator from Delaware went on to say that some sort of projectile "landed" outside a building in the Green Zone where he and another senator had spent the night during a visit in December 2005. The lawmakers were shaving in the morning when they felt the building shake, Biden said.
"No one got up and ran from the room-it wasn't that kind of thing," he told the Hill. "It's not like I had someone holding a gun to my head."
The rest of the press ignored the flap at the time because Biden was viewed as having little chance of ending up on the Democratic presidential ticket. But even after Biden was selected to be Obama's running mate last month, his claim to have been "shot at" drew no scrutiny from the same reporters who had savaged Clinton for making a similar claim that turned out to be false.
FOX News has been asking the Obama campaign for details of the alleged shooting in Iraq ever since Biden was tapped to be vice president. Biden campaign spokesman David Wade promised an answer last week, but failed to provide one.
Meanwhile, the gaffe-prone Biden has again raised eyebrows with another story about his exploits in war zones - this time in Afghanistan. Biden said he will grill Republican rival Sarah Palin in Thursday's vice presidential debate about "the superhighway of terror between Pakistan and Afghanistan where my helicopter was forced down."
"If you want to know where Al Qaeda lives, you want to know where Bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me," Biden bragged to the National Guard Association. "Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down, with a three-star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are."
But it turns out that inclement weather, not terrorists, prompted the chopper to land in an open field during Biden's visit to Afghanistan in February. Fighter jets kept watch overhead while a convoy of security vehicles was dispatched to retrieve Biden and fellow Senators Chuck Hagel and John Kerry.
"We were going to send Biden out to fight the Taliban with snowballs, but we didn't have to," joked Kerry, a Democrat, to the AP. "Other than getting a little cold, it was fine."
Biden never explicitly claimed his chopper had been forced down by terrorists. Nonetheless,
John McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said Obama-Biden officials have been less than forthcoming about Biden's dramatic war stories.
"They never explained Biden's helicopter story from last week - which is very similar to the story about getting 'shot at' in Baghdad," Rogers said.
Bill Sammon is deputy Washington managing editor for FOX News Channel.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe
on: October 02, 2008, 05:09:56 PM
Let the Howl Go Forth!
May it be recorded on the Fire Hydrant of the Tribe!
Mat “Boo Dog” Booe
Stefan “Cro Dog” Kostanjevec
Oskar “C- Spider Dog” Bernal
Riccardo “C- Full Metal Dog” Bassani
Roberto “C- Staffy Dog” Cereda
Tomek “C- Tank Dog” Jurkiewicz
Colin “C- Point Dog” Stewart
Christian “C- Lefty Dog” Eckert
“Dog” Abu Dayyeh
“Dog” Andreas Hommel
“Dog” Chris Smith
“Dog” Detlef Thiem
“Dog” Frederico Corriente
“Dog” Gabriele Cortonesi
“Dog” James Macdonald
“Dog” Jerome Challon
“Dog” Kai Schilling
“Dog” Martin Blatter
“Dog” Matt Tucker
“Dog” Miguel Lopez
“Dog” Pawel Imiela
“Dog” Peter Fray
“Dog” Ray Wilson
“Dog” Sebastian Ehlen
“Dog” Thomas Rickert
“Dog” Torben Lorenian
“Dog” Vitaliano Sestito
"Higher Consciousness through Harder Contact!" (c)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / That was then, this is now
on: October 02, 2008, 12:37:01 PM
House Financial Services Committee hearing, Sept. 10, 2003:
Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.): I worry, frankly, that there's a tension here. The more people, in my judgment, exaggerate a threat of safety and soundness, the more people conjure up the possibility of serious financial losses to the Treasury, which I do not see. I think we see entities that are fundamentally sound financially and withstand some of the disaster scenarios. . . .
Clockwise from top left: Sen. Thomas Carper, Rep. Barney Frank, Sen. Robert Bennett, Rep. Maxine Waters, Sen. Chris Dodd and Sen. Charles Schumer.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), speaking to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez:
Secretary Martinez, if it ain't broke, why do you want to fix it? Have the GSEs [government-sponsored enterprises] ever missed their housing goals?
* * *
House Financial Services Committee hearing, Sept. 25, 2003:
Rep. Frank: I do think I do not want the same kind of focus on safety and soundness that we have in OCC [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] and OTS [Office of Thrift Supervision]. I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing. . . .
* * *
House Financial Services Committee hearing, Sept. 25, 2003:
Rep. Gregory Meeks, (D., N.Y.): . . . I am just pissed off at Ofheo [Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight] because if it wasn't for you I don't think that we would be here in the first place.
Fannie Mayhem: A History
A compendium of The Wall Street Journal's recent editorial coverage of Fannie and Freddie.
And Freddie Mac, who on its own, you know, came out front and indicated it is wrong, and now the problem that we have and that we are faced with is maybe some individuals who wanted to do away with GSEs in the first place, you have given them an excuse to try to have this forum so that we can talk about it and maybe change the direction and the mission of what the GSEs had, which they have done a tremendous job. . .
Ofheo Director Armando Falcon Jr.: Congressman, Ofheo did not improperly apply accounting rules; Freddie Mac did. Ofheo did not try to manage earnings improperly; Freddie Mac did. So this isn't about the agency's engagement in improper conduct, it is about Freddie Mac. Let me just correct the record on that. . . . I have been asking for these additional authorities for four years now. I have been asking for additional resources, the independent appropriations assessment powers.
This is not a matter of the agency engaging in any misconduct. . . .
Rep. Waters: However, I have sat through nearly a dozen hearings where, frankly, we were trying to fix something that wasn't broke. Housing is the economic engine of our economy, and in no community does this engine need to work more than in mine. With last week's hurricane and the drain on the economy from the war in Iraq, we should do no harm to these GSEs. We should be enhancing regulation, not making fundamental change.
Mr. Chairman, we do not have a crisis at Freddie Mac, and in particular at Fannie Mae, under the outstanding leadership of Mr. Frank Raines. Everything in the 1992 act has worked just fine. In fact, the GSEs have exceeded their housing goals. . . .
Rep. Frank: Let me ask [George] Gould and [Franklin] Raines on behalf of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, do you feel that over the past years you have been substantially under-regulated?
Mr. Raines: No, sir.
Mr. Frank: Mr. Gould?
Mr. Gould: No, sir. . . .
Mr. Frank: OK. Then I am not entirely sure why we are here. . . .
Rep. Frank: I believe there has been more alarm raised about potential unsafety and unsoundness than, in fact, exists.
* * *
Senate Banking Committee, Oct. 16, 2003:
Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.): And my worry is that we're using the recent safety and soundness concerns, particularly with Freddie, and with a poor regulator, as a straw man to curtail Fannie and Freddie's mission. And I don't think there is any doubt that there are some in the administration who don't believe in Fannie and Freddie altogether, say let the private sector do it. That would be sort of an ideological position.
Mr. Raines: But more importantly, banks are in a far more risky business than we are.
* * *
Senate Banking Committee, Feb. 24-25, 2004:
Sen. Thomas Carper (D., Del.): What is the wrong that we're trying to right here? What is the potential harm that we're trying to avert?
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan: Well, I think that that is a very good question, senator.
What we're trying to avert is we have in our financial system right now two very large and growing financial institutions which are very effective and are essentially capable of gaining market shares in a very major market to a large extent as a consequence of what is perceived to be a subsidy that prevents the markets from adjusting appropriately, prevents competition and the normal adjustment processes that we see on a day-by-day basis from functioning in a way that creates stability. . . . And so what we have is a structure here in which a very rapidly growing organization, holding assets and financing them by subsidized debt, is growing in a manner which really does not in and of itself contribute to either home ownership or necessarily liquidity or other aspects of the financial markets. . . .
Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.): [T]he federal government has [an] ambiguous relationship with the GSEs. And how do we actually get rid of that ambiguity is a complicated, tricky thing. I don't know how we do it.
I mean, you've alluded to it a little bit, but how do we define the relationship? It's important, is it not?
Mr. Greenspan: Yes. Of all the issues that have been discussed today, I think that is the most difficult one. Because you cannot have, in a rational government or a rational society, two fundamentally different views as to what will happen under a certain event. Because it invites crisis, and it invites instability. . .
Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.): I, just briefly will say, Mr. Chairman, obviously, like most of us here, this is one of the great success stories of all time. And we don't want to lose sight of that and [what] has been pointed out by all of our witnesses here, obviously, the 70% of Americans who own their own homes today, in no small measure, due because of the work that's been done here. And that shouldn't be lost in this debate and discussion. . . .
* * *
Senate Banking Committee, April 6, 2005:
Sen. Schumer: I'll lay my marker down right now, Mr. Chairman. I think Fannie and Freddie need some changes, but I don't think they need dramatic restructuring in terms of their mission, in terms of their role in the secondary mortgage market, et cetera. Change some of the accounting and regulatory issues, yes, but don't undo Fannie and Freddie.
* * *
Senate Banking Committee, June 15, 2006:
Sen. Robert Bennett (R., Utah): I think we do need a strong regulator. I think we do need a piece of legislation. But I think we do need also to be careful that we don't overreact.
I know the press, particularly, keeps saying this is another Enron, which it clearly is not. Fannie Mae has taken its lumps. Fannie Mae is paying a very large fine. Fannie Mae is under a very, very strong microscope, which it needs to be. . . . So let's not do nothing, and at the same time, let's not overreact. . .
Sen. Jack Reed (D., R.I.): I think a lot of people are being opportunistic, . . . throwing out the baby with the bathwater, saying, "Let's dramatically restructure Fannie and Freddie," when that is not what's called for as a result of what's happened here. . . .
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.): Mr. Chairman, what we're dealing with is an astounding failure of management and board responsibility, driven clearly by self interest and greed. And when we reference this issue in the context of -- the best we can say is, "It's no Enron." Now, that's a hell of a high standard.
Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fatwa for Zardini
on: October 02, 2008, 12:33:20 PM
I suppose I could have posted this in the Gender thread as well
Flirting with Palin earns Pakistani president a fatwa
A leading religious leader condemned Asif Ali Zardari's comments to Sarah Palin at the UN.
By Issam Ahmed | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor from the October 2, 2008 edition
Lahore, Pakistan - After the flirtation came the fatwa.
With some overly friendly comments to Gov. Sarah Palin at the United Nations, Asif Ali Zardari has succeeded in uniting one of Pakistan's hard-line mosques and its feminists after a few weeks in office.
A radical Muslim prayer leader said the president shamed the nation for "indecent gestures, filthy remarks, and repeated praise of a non-Muslim lady wearing a short skirt."
Feminists charged that once again a male Pakistani leader has embarrassed the country with sexist remarks. And across the board, the Pakistani press has shown disapproval.
What did President Zardari do to draw such scorn? It might have been the "gorgeous" compliment he gave Ms. Palin when the two met at the UN last week during her meet-and-greet with foreign leaders ahead of Thursday's vice presidential debate with opponent Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee.
But the comments from Zardari didn't end there. He went on to tell Palin: "Now I know why the whole of America is crazy about you."
"You are so nice," replied the Republican vice presidential hopeful, smiling. "Thank you."
But what may have really caused Pakistan's radical religious leaders to stew was his comment that he might "hug" Palin if his handler insisted.
Though the fatwa, issued days after the Sept. 24 exchange, carries little weight among most Pakistanis, it's indicative of the anger felt by Pakistan's increasingly assertive conservatives who consider physical contact and flattery between a man and woman who aren't married to each other distasteful. Though fatwas, or religious edicts, can range from advice on daily life to death sentences, this one does not call for any action or violence.
Last year, the mosque that issued the fatwa, Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad, condemned the former tourism minister, Nilofar Bahktiar, after she was photographed being hugged by a male parachuting coach in France.
Clerics declared the act a "great sin" and, though less vocal about it, similar sentiments were shared by many among Pakistani's middle classes. The Red Mosque gained international infamy in July 2007 after becoming the focal point of a Pakistan Army operation.
For the feminists it's less about cozying up to a non-Muslim woman and more about the sexist remarks by Zardari.
"As a Pakistani and as a woman, it was shameful and unacceptable. He was looking upon her merely as a woman and not as a politician in her own right," says Tahira Abdullah, a member of the Women's Action Forum.
Dismissing the mosque's concerns as "ranting," she, however, adds: "He should show some decorum – if he loved his wife so much as to press for a United Nations investigation into her death, he should behave like a mourning widower," in reference to former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto, a feminist icon for millions of Pakistani women.
The theme of decorum was picked up by English daily Dawn, whose editorial asked: "Why do our presidents always end up embarrassing us internationally by making sexist remarks?"
The incident bears some resemblance to yet another charm offensive by a senior Pakistani politician. Marcus Mabry's biography of Condoleezza Rice includes a passage in which he relates a meeting between former Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Ms. Rice, in which Mr. Aziz was said to have stared deeply into the secretary of State's eyes and to have told her he could "conquer any woman in two minutes."
There are some, however, who see things as having been blown out of proportion.
"It was a sweet and innocuous exchange played as an international incident on Pakistani and rascally Indian front-pages with one English daily [writing] it in a scarlet box, half-implying Mrs. Palin would ditch Alaska's First Dude and become Pakistan's First Babe. As if," wrote columnist Fasih Ahmed in the Daily Times.
For most, it will soon be forgotten in a country dealing with terrorism, rising food prices, and a struggling economy. "We don't care that much how they [politicians] behave – what really matters is keeping prices down," says Nazeera Bibi, a maid in Lahore.http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/1002/p04s01-wosc.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread
on: October 02, 2008, 12:12:07 PM
Well, some folks think partial birth abortion (supported by BO btw) is infanticide, likewise leaving aborted fetuses to die outside of the womb (supported by BO btw) -- this apart from the general circular discussion about when life begins.
Furthermore, it does seem like polygamy is on the radar screen, see e.g. the beginnings of Sharia in the UK, Canada, as discussed in other threads.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Secret WMD, State and Non-State
on: October 01, 2008, 01:48:02 PM
Mysterious Cargo Aboard Iranian Ship Seized by Pirates Raises WMD Concerns
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
By Joseph Abrams
As Somali pirates brazenly maintain their standoff with American warships off the coast of Africa, the cargo aboard one Iranian ship they commandeered is raising concerns that it may contain materials that can be used for chemical or biological weapons.
Some local officials suspect that instead of finding riches, the pirates encountered deadly chemical agents aboard the Iranian vessel.
On Aug. 21, the pirates, armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, stole onto the decks of the merchant vessel Iran Deyanat.
They ransacked the ship and searched the containers. But in the days following the hijacking, a number of them fell ill and died, suffering skin burns and hair loss, according to reports.
The pirates were sickened because of their contact with the seized cargo, according to Hassan Osman, the Somali minister of Minerals and Oil, who met with the pirates to facilitate negotiations.
"That ship is unusual," Osman told the Long War Journal, an online news source that covers the War on Terror. "It is not carrying a normal shipment."
The pirates reportedly were in talks to sell the ship back to Iran, but the deal fell through when the pirates were poisoned by the cargo, according to Andrew Mwangura, director of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers' Assistance Program.
"Yes, some of them have died," he told the Long War Journal. "Our sources say [the ship] contains chemicals, dangerous chemicals."
Iran has called the allegations a "sheer lie," and said that the ship "had no dangerous consignment on board," according to Iranian news source Press TV. Iran says the merchant vessel was shipping iron ore from a port in China to Amsterdam.
The ship's contents are still unclear, but the reported deaths and skin abrasions have raised concerns that it could be more than meets the eye.
The massive shipping company that controls the vessel, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL), was recently designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury over nuclear proliferation concerns. IRISL, which is accused of falsifying documents to facilitate the shipment of weapons and chemicals for use in Iran's missile program, is blocked from moving money through U.S. banks as well as from carrying food and medical supplies as part of U.S. trade sanctions against Iran.
"IRISL's actions are part of a broader pattern of deception and fabrication that Iran uses to advance its nuclear and missile programs," said Stuart Levey, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
The U.S. government has made no accusation against IRISL regarding the Iran Denayat; the State Department would not comment on reports of its suspicious cargo.
"I don't have any information on that case," said State Department spokesman Curtis Cooper. "We're aware that there are currently 12 other hijacked ships off the Somali coast. This is obviously something that is disturbing."
Experts on Somalia are dubious of claims made by the country's provisional government, whose president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, reportedly has family ties to the pirates.
"I'm not saying it's impossible that this has happened, but I'd take anything they say with a great deal of salt," said J. Peter Pham, director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University. "They have made fanciful claims before in the hopes of attracting U.S. and other international attention."
Pham said that the 14 provisional governments that have ruled Somalia since 1991 have all relied on foreign aid for support and profit and could be trying to attract attention by inflating the current crisis.
"Would it be beyond them to raise the specter of WMDs in order to attract resources and international assistance? The only source of revenue for this government is foreign aid," he told FOXNews.com.
Chemical experts say the reports sound inconsistent with chemical poisoning, but may reflect the effects of exposure to radiation.
"It's baffling," said Jonathan Tucker, a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. "I'm not aware of any chemical agent that produces loss of hair within a few days. That's more suggestive of high levels of radioactive waste."
Tucker, a chemical and biological weapons expert, said that Chinese companies have been implicated in selling Iran so-called dual-use chemicals, legal ingredients that can be processed into chemical weapons.
The U.S. government says that Iran maintains facilities to process those chemicals as part of a chemical and biological weapons program. "Iran continues to seek dual-use technologies that could be used for biological warfare," said Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell in testimony before Congress in February.
But while Iran has purchased and shipped such chemicals in the past, it remains unclear whether the Iran Deyanat contains any illegal chemicals or harmful agents.
"A number of Chinese companies have been implicated in this illicit trade, but I've never heard of extremely toxic chemicals being shipped," Tucker told FOXNews.com. "It's very rare it's very unlikely that a country would ship manufactured weapons from one country to another."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread
on: October 01, 2008, 01:40:44 PM
Is it OK to "marry" your ewe?
The Flint Journal
Man involved with sheep will stay off registry
The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that a Battle Creek man who pleaded no contest to sodomizing a sheep does not have to register as a sex offender after his release from prison.
Jeffrey Haynes, 45, is serving 2 1/2 to 20 years for sodomy- a "crime against nature" under state law. Haynes was sentenced in 2006 after police said he had sex with a sheep at a Bedford TOWNSHIP FARM IN 2005.
The animal's owner caught him on the property, and the sheep was found injured. A DNA sample taken from the animal matched Haynes' genetic material.
A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing purposes.
In a 3-0 opinion released Wednesday, the appeals court said the state sex offender registry is intended to track people who have committed crimes against humans, not animals.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe
on: October 01, 2008, 11:03:18 AM
With the Dog Brother Bern Tribal Gathering on the 26th and the DB Bern Open Gathering on the 27th, we have a goodly amount of news to report.
Until I get the full list from Lonely Dog, off the top of my head:
Many more to come!
"Higher Consciousness through Harder Contact!" (c)
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Cooties in Training
on: October 01, 2008, 08:07:38 AM
Good point here from Dog Ryan-- which is the matter of speaking up. In the deeper sense of things, its a matter of self-defense and asserting your space.
Sometimes we may hesitate for fear of giving offense. Apart from clarity of what is at stake and a sense that I am worth defending, I like to use humor. Indeed my use of the word "cooties" from my boyhood is part of my technique. Instead of "Hey man, is that some Herpes you got going there?" sometimes it plays lighter to say "I dunno man, you're looking a tad cootied there".
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Street Weapons
on: October 01, 2008, 08:01:59 AM
Thank your for your thoughts, which echo mine. GM your LEO background adds weight to your words.
Not shutting off the conversation for anyone inclined to offer additional or contrary thoughts, but as far as I'm concerned its a green light for SG.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coulter
on: October 01, 2008, 07:33:34 AM
“Under [Bill] Clinton, the entire federal government put massive pressure on banks to grant more mortgages to the poor and minorities. Clinton’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Andrew Cuomo, investigated Fannie Mae for racial discrimination and proposed that 50 percent of Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s portfolio be made up of loans to low- to moderate-income borrowers by the year 2001. Instead of looking at ‘outdated criteria,’ such as the mortgage applicant’s credit history and ability to make a down payment, banks were encouraged to consider nontraditional measures of credit-worthiness, such as having a good jump shot or having a missing child named ‘Caylee.’ Threatening lawsuits, Clinton’s Federal Reserve demanded that banks treat welfare payments and unemployment benefits as valid income sources to qualify for a mortgage. That isn’t a joke—it’s a fact. ... In 1999, liberals were bragging about extending affirmative action to the financial sector. Los Angeles Times reporter Ron Brownstein hailed the Clinton administration’s affirmative action lending policies as one of the ‘hidden success stories’ of the Clinton administration, saying that ‘black and Latino homeownership has surged to the highest level ever recorded.’ Meanwhile, economists were screaming from the rooftops that the Democrats were forcing mortgage lenders to issue loans that would fail the moment the housing market slowed and deadbeat borrowers couldn’t get out of their loans by selling their houses. A decade later, the housing bubble burst and, as predicted, food-stamp-backed mortgages collapsed. Democrats set an affirmative action time-bomb and now it’s gone off.” —Ann Coulter
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Catching up:
on: October 01, 2008, 07:30:49 AM
I've been travelling a lot. I'm glad to be home and begin catching up:
"The greatest good we can do our country is to heal its party
divisions and make them one people."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Dickinson, 23 July 1801)
Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Ford Edition, vol. 8
“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
"It is important also to consider, that the surest means of
avoiding war is to be prepared for it in peace."
-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)
Reference: Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 415.
"I am principled against this kind of traffic in the human
species...and to disperse the families I have an aversion."
-- George Washington (letter to Robert Lewis, 18 August 1799)
Reference: Washington's Maxims, 159.
“Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue; or in any manner affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change and can trace its consequences; a harvest reared not by themselves but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with some truth that laws are made for the few not for the many.” —James Madison
"Our own Country's Honor, all call upon us for a vigorous
and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail, we shall
become infamous to the whole world. Let us therefore rely upon
the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the supreme Being,
in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great
and noble Actions - The Eyes of all our Countrymen are now upon
us, and we shall have their blessings, and praises, if happily
we are the instruments of saving them from the Tyranny mediated
against them. Let us therefore animate and encourage each other,
and shew the whole world, that a Freeman contending for Liberty
on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth."
-- George Washington (General Orders, 2 July 1776)
Reference: Washington, General Orders, July 2, 1776.
“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.” —Thomas Jefferson
“I believe that the people you and I represent are ready to chart a new course. They look to us to meet the great challenge, to reach beyond the commonplace and not fall short for lack of creativity or courage... We can restore our economic strength and build opportunities like none we’ve ever had before. As Carl Sandburg said, all we need to begin with is a dream that we can do better than before. All we need to have is faith, and that dream will come true. All we need to do is act, and the time for action is now.” —Ronald Reagan
"I trust that the proposed Constitution afford a genuine specimen
of representative government and republican government; and that
it will answer, in an eminent degree, all the beneficial purposes
-- Alexander Hamilton (speech to the New York Ratifying Convention,
Reference: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Cabot Lodge,
ed., II, 30.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Quotes, quips, and sayings
on: October 01, 2008, 07:30:33 AM
“The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.” —Herbert Spencer
“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” —Barry Goldwater
“I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth.” —William F. Buckley
“So I became a newspaperman. I hated to do it but I couldn’t find honest employment.” —Mark Twain
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gay Rights= New Battles
on: October 01, 2008, 07:13:32 AM
"before GM as usual added his usual four posts with no comment or relevancy to the topic,"
Although his posted articles may not fit wtihin the logic of YOUR argument, the fit within the logic of HIS argument-- a logic the relevance of which I found easy to discern even with his tradition of not adding an explanatory sentence or three
Anyway, with the beginning of the Sharia thread nearby, I return to a subject which appears regularly in this thread:http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/same_sex_marriage_lessons_from_canada/
Same-sex marriage: lessons from Canada
Where gay rights triumph, new rights battles begin.
In May this year the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 22, which affirmed opposite-sex marriage, was unconstitutional. To date, only Massachusetts in the United States allows same-sex marriage. So what are the Canadian lessons for California and other states that will, in time, face a debate about the redefinition of marriage?
Firstly, where gay rights triumph, new rights battles begin. One example is over the rights of children. Another is over polygamy, which soon involves freedom of religion. A third battle is over freedom of speech -- the right to publicly advocate traditional marriage can be challenged as homophobic. Secondly, where marriage is not understood as an institution, it cannot be defended adequately in the public square. In short, if North Americans are not educated on what marriage is, they will not, in the long term, support an exclusive definition, one that will appear discriminatory even if this is not the case or the intention.
Marriage as an institution is meant to constrain human behaviour, not liberate or grant rights. Put differently, where individuals have both rights and responsibilities, marriage falls more in the latter category; it is a responsibility, not a right.
In his book, The Future of Marriage, American family scholar David Blankenhorn says that "a social institution creates and maintains rules, including rules for who is, and is not, a part of the institution… [A] social institution creates public meaning… [Such institutions] exist to solve basic problems and meet core needs.”
Blankenhorn goes on to say this: “In nearly all human societies marriage is socially approved sexual intercourse between a woman and a man, conceived both as a personal relationship and as an institution, primarily such that any children resulting from the union are—and are understood by the society to be—emotionally, morally, practically, and legally affiliated with both of the parents.”
Keeping this definition in mind, any culture which sanctions same-sex marriage will place children’s rights at odds with adult desires. The January 2007 Ontario court ruling that a child could have three parents was inevitable because with same-sex marriage the concept of biological parenthood is immediately displaced. Same-sex reproduction immediately involves a third party. The idea of a "legal parent" replaced the idea of a “natural parent.”
And from three parents to polygamy: to date, our legislators have ignored the fact, revealed in February, that polygamous Muslim families are living in Toronto and claiming multiple Canadian welfare benefits in many cases. The logical and legal grounds to resist polygamy have been removed, making it difficult to prosecute.
Canadians, we are told, are laid back. But mention polygamy, and precisely the same cultural elites who sanctioned same-sex marriage become a little anxious. Will they accept that? Or will they trample religious freedom to prosecute polygamous families?
The right to practice religion freely has not fared well against gay equality rights. We see this most clearly through the human rights tribunals. In British Columbia, the Catholic Knights of Columbus were fined for declining to host a lesbian couple’s wedding reception. Chris Kempling, a teacher, was disciplined by the teachers’ governing body for a letter to the editor about homosexuality and in Alberta, on May 30, 2008, a pastor, Stephen Boissoin, was fined for the same, and ordered never to speak “discriminatorily” on the topic of homosexuality again.
Certainly, this is not the result of legalizing same-sex marriage. Many factors have combined to create an atmosphere in which marriage looks to be amorphous -- the introduction of no-fault divorce and increasing rights for cohabiting couples changed how we view the institution. Marriage now looks to be strictly religious and strictly private. That it is not purely religious or private at all is lost as equality discourse prevails.
On August 16, 2008, presidential hopeful Barack Obama told a California church audience that marriage was between one man and one woman. California is not a conservative state, yet polls there show support for traditional marriage. But the law also acts as a kind of teacher, which means that, in time, Californians could vote differently, given the recent Supreme Court ruling.
Since same-sex marriage became law, Canadians have been quiet. This is largely self-censoring, led by the real possibility that speaking out will result in public maligning, or worse. California is at a crossroads that Canada has already passed. But both north and south of the border, we need to begin to learn about marriage as an institution, and let those lessons lead public policy in the future.
Andrea Mrozek and Peter Jon Mitchell are staff members of the Institute of Marriage and the Family Canada, a social policy think thank based in Ottawa. This article first appeared in the IMFC's bulletin eReview.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Ecuador
on: September 29, 2008, 06:45:07 PM
LOS ECUATORIANOS DAN UN VOTO MASIVO A LA CONSTITUCION DE CORREA
En Guayaquil el sí tan sólo obtuvo 41’80 %
QUITO (ENVIADO ESPECIAL)
Los ecuatorianos aprobaron en referéndum la nueva Constitución,
dando luz verde al presidente Rafael Correa para que ponga en
práctica los cambios políticos y económicos que, según sus
promesas, deben cambiar al país. Las encuestas a pie de urna
otorgaron al Gobierno una victoria más clara de lo que se había
anticipado. Según Cedatos-Gallup, el sí ganó con un 70%, el no
obtuvo 25 %, y el resto sufragios en blanco y nulos. El canal Uno-
Noticias otorga al sí el 62’8 %, y al no 30’10%. Teleamazonas sumó
66’4 para el sí y 25 % para el no.
El triunfo arrollador de Correa quedó en parte empañado por la
votación en Guayaquil, la ciudad costera que es el motor económico
del país. Según las encuestas a pie de urna, el sí no alcanzó el 50
%. Unos sondeos colocaban al no por encima del sí, y en otros el sí
por delante del no. En todas las encuetas, la suma de los votos por
el no, unido a los sufragios en blanco y nulo superaban las
papeletas por el sí. En el futuro habrá que analizar que supone que
la zona más próspera del país, en defensa de la autonomía, el
respaldo a la Constitución no haya llegado al 50 %..
Al conocer las encuestas que anticipaban su triunfo, Correa saludó
en primer lugar a los emigrantes ecuatorianos, “a los tres millones
de exiliados de la pobreza”. El presidente señaló que el país “vive
un momento histórico que trasciende las personas, es un proceso de
cambio de todo un pueblo.
“Ecuador ha decidido un nuevo país, las viejas estructuras han sido
derrotadas por los soldados de la revolución ciudadana”, dijo
Correa en Guayaquil, desde la gobernación de la provincia de Guaymas.
Con este cuarto triunfo electoral consecutivo Correa ya tiene las
manos libres para presentarse a la reelección y acelerar sus
polémicas reformas socialistas, que, entre otras cosas, otorga al
Estado un mayor control en sectores estratégicos. Sumak kawsay,
buen vivir en lengua quechua, será el eje del nuevo marco
institucional que prometió el presidente. Sin embargo, sumak
kawsay, una fórmula tan difusa como el Socialismo del Siglo XXI
que impulsa el joven mandatario ecuatoriano, parece ser el
envoltorio de un proyecto estatista y de concentración del poder.
Por tercera vez en este año y por quinta en los últimos 26 meses,
unos 9,7 millones de ecuatorianos (el voto es obligatorio) se
pronunciaron sobre el texto constitucional Aunque con
características propias, el modelo de Correa sigue la hoja de ruta
trazada por Hugo Chávez desde Caracas. El libreto del calendario es
el mismo: referéndum para convocar una Constituyente, comicios para
Asamblea Constituyente, nuevo referéndum para aprobar la Carta
Magna, y otras elecciones para renovar los poderes. Todo en un
tiempo muy rápido; las votaciones se suceden mientras el presidente
mantiene una alta popularidad y la economía todavía no se resiente
de una política populista que multiplica el gasto público.
Al aprobarse la Constitución, Ecuador deberá celebrar a principios
del próximo año nuevos comicios legislativos y presidenciales;
Correa podrá volver a ser candidato -y aspirar a la reelección
cuatro años después- sin que se le computen los 20 meses que lleva
en el poder. De esta manera, el actual mandatario podría continuar
en el palacio de Carondelet hasta 2017.
Muchos ecuatorianos fueron a votar con ilusión y
esperanza, confiando en que se cumplirán las promesas de Correa de
“un mejor vivir”.
“Tengo fe en Correa, me inspira confianza después de tantos
políticos ladrones”, nos comentó Luisa Valle tras votar en un
colegio del barrio quiteño Las Casas, en la falda del volcán
Jaime Costales, psicólogo y catedrático de la Universidad San
Francisco, dijo que el ecuatoriano vive en un "delirio colectivo"
por la manipulación de la conciencia con promesas mesiánicas de
Correa que jamás podrán llevar al país a una nueva democracia”. “Se
usan las mismas artimañas y vicios de los viejos partidos para
instaurar un régimen presidencialista que aspira a controlar todos
los poderes, silenciando las discrepancias e imponiendo su verdad",
señala el profesor.
Aunque Correa mantiene alta popularidad, en el mundo empresarial se
esperan con recelo los cambios. Algunos analistas los rechazan por
considerarlos "un listado de buenas intenciones irrealizables en la
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: September 29, 2008, 05:25:55 PM
October 6, 2008
U.S. Stops Spec Ops Raids Into Pakistani Tribal Areas
By Sean D. Naylor
U.S. special operations forces have paused ground operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas, but military and civilian government officials differ over why the cross-border raids have been halted.
The issue of U.S. raids into the tribal areas was thrust into the international spotlight by a Sept. 3 raid in Angor Adda, in the South Waziristan tribal agency, by Navy SEALs working for a Joint Special Operations Command task force.
“We have shown a willingness starting this year to pursue those kinds of missions,” a Pentagon official said. However, he said, after temporarily granting JSOC more latitude to do cross-border missions, U.S. leaders had decided to restrain the command, at least as far as cross-border missions with ground troops are concerned, to allow Pakistani forces to press attacks on militants in the tribal areas.
“We are now working with the Pakistanis to make sure that those types of ground-type insertions do not happen, at least for a period of time to give them an opportunity to do what they claim they are desiring to do,” the Pentagon official said. The pause did not apply to airstrikes from unmanned aerial vehicles at targets inside tribal areas.
Although JSOC is the organization tasked, along with the Central Intelligence Agency, with finding and killing or capturing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Sept. 3 raid was not aimed at “a huge type of target,” the Pentagon official said. “There were just consistent problems in that area that had come to a point where there was significant evidence that there was complicity on the part of the [Pakistani military’s] Frontier Corps and others in allowing repetitive raids and activities to go on. And there was a firm desire to, one, send a message, and two, also establish any intelligence audit that could be established that would be useful to respond to a frequent question that we get from the other side of the border, which is, ‘Well, show us and tell us where the problem is, then we’ll deal with it.’”
But a U.S. government official closely involved with policy in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region said the military had underestimated the Pakistani response and was reconsidering its options.
The official’s comments were echoed by a field grade special operations officer with Afghanistan experience.
The Sept. 3 raid “was an opportunity to see how the new Pakistani government reacted,” the officer said. “If they didn’t do anything, they were just kind of fairly passive, like [former Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf was, ... then we felt like, OK, we can slowly up the ante, we can do maybe some more of these ops. But the backlash that happened, and especially the backlash in the diplomatic channels, was pretty severe.”
The raid represented “a strategic miscalculation,” the U.S. government source said. “We did not fully appreciate the vehemence of the Pakistani response,” which included the Pakistan government’s implication that it was willing to cut the coalition’s supply lines through Pakistan.
The military’s comments about the Sept. 3 raid sending a message represented a smokescreen, said the government official, who added that the mission “was meant to be the beginning of a campaign.”
“Once the Pakistanis started talking about closing down our supply routes, and actually demonstrated they could do it, once they started talking about shooting American helicopters, we obviously had to take seriously that maybe this [approach] was not going to be good enough,” the government official said. “We can’t sustain ourselves in Afghanistan without the Pakistani supply routes. At the end of the day, we had to not let our tactics get in the way of our strategy.”
However, a Washington source in government said, “I don’t think there’s been another strategic decision to back off.” Instead, JSOC would “go about it a different way.”
U.S. Central Command spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith declined to comment for this story.
Under questioning on Capitol Hill Sept. 23, Defense Secretary Robert Gates did not deny that U.S. forces had made cross-border strikes. “We will do what is necessary to protect our troops,” he said, acknowledging the Pentagon had been granted “authorities” for such action.
Past FATA raids
The Sept. 3 raid was not the first time JSOC forces, the Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta and the Navy’s Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DevGru, also known as SEAL Team 6, have launched into the tribal areas.
In the past, small JSOC elements have operated with the Pakistani Special Services Group in the tribal areas, and the special operations officer with Afghanistan experience said he was aware of “two or three” cross-border operations similar to the Angor Adda raid. “They have happened, but it was by no means a common occurrence,” he said.
However, the government official closely involved with Afghanistan-Pakistan policy said, JSOC “has been pushing hard for several years” to step up their raids into the tribal areas. JSOC’s argument has been “Give us greater latitude; we’ve got to hit where their sanctuaries are,” the official said.
“In the wake of the increased Taliban attacks we’ve seen over the last several months and the sense of frustration that we haven’t been more successful, their point of view has finally gained traction,” the government official said.
Two government sources identified the Taliban’s July 13 attack on a U.S. outpost in the Korengal valley as a turning point in the debate.
“Clearly, we saw what happened in the Korengal valley as a watershed moment,” said the government official closely involved with policy in the region.
The Sept. 3 raid into Pakistan is part of a heightened operational tempo for JSOC forces based in Afghanistan, several sources said.
JSOC has expanded its target list from the original so-called “big three” of bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Omar to a broader list that includes figures in the Taliban-allied network of Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami group (sometimes referred to as HiG by the U.S. military).
The U.S. government official involved with policy in the area described JSOC’s targets as fitting into two categories: the “big guys” with whom the U.S. has “unfinished business,” and “those people that threaten us operationally and tactically on the ground right now.”
Several sources said the Sept. 3 raid appeared to have been aimed at the Haqqani network, along with some of its Uzbek allies.
JSOC is “targeting a range of actors, but one of the big ones is Haqqani,” said a civilian expert on Afghanistan, adding that targeting the Haqqani network represented “payback” for its alleged involvement in attacks on the Indian embassy, the Serena hotel in Kabul and an assassination attempt against Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The U.S. government official closely involved with the region’s policy agreed that U.S. forces were targeting Haqqani as “payback,” but also because the network — mostly controlled by Haqqani’s son, Sirajuddin — “is seen as ... the low-hanging fruit,” because its bases in Waziristan are more easily accessible than the terrain of the Bajaur tribal agency, where Hekmatyar’s fighters operate.
“None of the JSOC activity has been going on in the areas around the sanctuary for Mullah Omar’s Taliban,” which is located in and around the Pakistani city of Quetta, the civilian expert on Afghanistan said. “It’s all happening in the tribal areas.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread
on: September 29, 2008, 01:54:32 AM
No one is challenging the idea that education for women is a very good thing and is a very good way out of ignorance and poverty.
I simply challenged your assertion that Islam has nothing to do with women (and men) being held in ignorance.
Are you asserting some sort of parity when you speak of Zambia? Are you saying that Christianity in Zambia is used to hold women down?
What communicates here is that you find it difficult to acknowledge what is simple fact-- that there are schools of Islam which kill those whom educate women.
And when you speak of the murdered woman policeman in Afg ("this woman was chosen and able
to be a policewomen in Afghanistan, an Islamic country") it seems to me that the thought is not complete without noting that she was chosen and became able precisely because of American (and a handful of allies) force of arms against the Taliban form of Islam and that she died because she was an educated woman because of the Taliban form of Islam.
Of course there are also the matters of women being lesser witnesses in Islam, and being beaten for not covering head to toe in 120 degree weather, being prohibited to drive, etc etc.
Islam in Iran, and elsewhere, is used to issue death sentences for those who write "offensive" books, and world wide riots kill and burn embassies because of cartoons. As is noted in the thread nearby on Islam vs. Free Speech, there are many expressions of Islam which are quite hostile to freedom of thought and expression which are the essence of education.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Afg a narco-terrorist state
on: September 28, 2008, 08:07:53 PM
Is Afghanistan becoming a narco-terrorist state?
By Amitai Etzioni - September 25, 2008, 9:32AM
In his response to my original post in this series, Stephen Schwartz objects to my application of the term "narco-terrorism state" to Afghanistan. He claims that I either "misuse the term" or else "libel the government of Hamid Karzai." I let the facts speak for themselves.
Afghanistan now supplies 93% of the world's heroin. The drug trade now amounts to about one half of Afghanistan's GDP--some $4 billion a year. This, after dramatic increases in production in 2006 and 2007.
A considerable chunk of this drug money is being funneled into the very groups that continue to wage an insurgency against the U.S. and Afghan national forces. In a July 2008 report, former U.S. Drug Czar and Retired Four-Star General Barry McCaffrey finds that drug production and export in Afghanistan has become the main source of funding for Taliban and al Qaeda. McCaffrey refers to Afghanistan as a "narco-state" in the report and calls on the international community to either eradicate the drug crop or risk losing the battle against insurgents.
Thomas Schewich, who served as the State Department's top counternarcotics official, shows that the lack of an effective drug-eradication policy which has allowed production and profits to soar over the last several years is not a sign of incompetence, but rather the product of a corrupt Afghani government with close ties to the drug trade. In his July 27, 2008 New York Times Magazine article, Schewich shows how the influence of the drug trade has infiltrated all levels of the Afghani government, all the way up to President Hamid Karzai.
Karzai's "roots and power base" are in wealthier areas of the Pashtun south, Schewich explains, where much of the opium is produced. A September 2007 Kabul Weekly article emphasizes this point: "More than 95 percent of the residents of...the poppy growing provinces--voted for President Karzai." As a result, Karzai is bound to serve the interests of the drug-trade, or else risk getting voted out of power.
As Schewich shows, Karzai has been "playing us like a fiddle" by preaching anti-drug messages on the one hand, but winking and serving the interests of his drug-dependent constituency. For instance, Schewich explains Karzai's successful opposition to a proposed comprehensive aerial crop-eradication program in a September 2007 speech:
"[Karzai] made antidrug statements at the beginning of the speech, but then lashed out at the international community for wanting to spray his people's crops...He got a wild ovation. Not surprising since so many in the room were closely tied to the narcotics trade. Sure, Karzai had Taliban enemies who profited from drugs, but he had even more supporters who did."
Karzai's loyalty to the drug-world is also on display in his record of selecting numerous known drug traffickers for government positions. To head his anticorruption commission, for instance, Karzai appointed a convicted heroin dealer, Izzatulla Wasifi.
The drug trade in Afghanistan is both fuelling the insurgency and corrupting the government--both on a very large scale. If that's not a "narco-terrorist state," what is?
(More to come about the other, equally fallacious, arguments Mr. Schwartz casts about. As to other comments I received, I will answer all those who will own up to their statements and stop hiding behind their aliases.)
I am indebted to Alex Platt for helping to prepare this statement.
Amitai Etzioni is Professor of International Relations at The George Washington University and author of Security First (Yale 2007) www.securityfirstbook.com
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law
on: September 28, 2008, 07:47:24 PM
A rare piece of good news for our British friends:http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdis...2-7199e598314b
You have the right to
shoot dead a burglar
Wed, 16 Jul 2008
HOME OWNERS and others acting in self-defence were yesterday given the legal right for the first time to fight back against burglars and muggers free from fear of prosecution.
They will be able to use force against criminals who break into their homes or attack them in the street without worrying that “heat of the moment” misjudgments could land them in court.
Under the new laws, police and prosecutors will have to assess a person’s actions based on their situation “as they saw it at the time” even if in hindsight it might be seen as unreasonable.
For example, home owners would be able to stab or shoot a burglar if confronted or to tackle them and use force to detain them until police arrived. Muggers could be legally punched and beaten in the street or have their own weapons used against them.
However, attacking a fleeing criminal with a weapon is not permitted nor is lying in wait to ambush them.
The law change follows a public campaign for people to be given the right to defend themselves and their homes after a number of high-profile cases.
In 2000, Tony Martin, a Norfolk farmer, was sent to prison for manslaughter after shooting an intruder in his home.
Tony Singh, a shopkeeper, found himself facing a murder charge this year after he defended himself against an armed robber who tried to steal his takings. During the struggle the robber received a single fatal stab wound to the heart with his own knife.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) eventually decided that Mr Singh should not be charged.
Until now people had to prove in court that they acted in self-defence but the changes mean police and the CPS will make a ruling before that stage.
Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, said that people would be protected legally if they defended themselves “instinctively”; if they feared for their own safety or that of others and the level of force used was not excessive or disproportionate.
He said the changes in the law were designed to ensure the criminal justice system was weighted in favour of the victim.
Mr Straw — and other Labour ministers — had repeatedly blocked attempts by opposition MPs to give greater protection to householders.
In 2004 Tony Blair promised to review legislation after admitting there was “genuine public concern” about the issue.
But his pledge was dropped weeks later after Charles Clarke, the then home secretary, concluded that the existing law was “sound”.
Two private member’s Bills on the issue were tabled by the Tories around the time of the 2005 general election, but both were sunk by the Government.
In 2004, a Tory Bill designed to give the public the right to tackle burglars forcibly was also rejected.
The new self-defence law, which came into force yesterday, is contained in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 and was announced by Mr Straw last September.
He is understood to have decided that changes were necessary after he was involved in four “havea go’’ incidents, which included chasing and restraining muggers near his south London home. Opposition leaders said that the changes offered nothing new and were merely the latest policy designed to appeal to core Tory voters.
In practice, householders are seldom prosecuted if they harm or even kill an intruder but the Act will give them greater legal protection.
Nick Herbert, the shadow justice secretary, said: “This is a typical Labour con — it will give no greater protection to householders confronted by burglars because it’s nothing more than a re-statement of the existing case law.”
Mr Straw said: “The justice system must not only work on the side of people who do the right thing as good citizens, but also be seen to work on their side.
“The Government strongly supports the right of law-abiding people to defend themselves, their families and their property with reasonable force.
“This law will help to make sure that that right is upheld and that the criminal justice system is firmly weighted in favour of the victim. Dealing with crime is not just the responsibility of the police, courts and prisons; it’s the responsibility of all of us.
“Communities with the lowest crime and the greatest safety are the ones with the most active citizens with a greater sense of shared values, inspired by a sense of belonging and duty to others, who are empowered by the state and are also supported by it — in other words, making a reality of justice.
“These changes in the law will make clear — victims of crime, and those who intervene to prevent crime, should be treated with respect by the justice system.
“We do not want to encourage vigilantism, but there can be no justice in a system which makes the victim the criminal.”
The announcement came as it emerged in a leaked draft of the Policing Green Paper that home owners may have to wait up to three days after reporting a crime before they see a police officer.
The Home Office would not comment on the plans.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread
on: September 28, 2008, 07:22:52 PM
Interesting points. I would quibble with this though:
"Religion is not the issue, note, it is not an "Islamic" problem, but one of poverty and ignorance."
If the religion decapitates and otherwise kills those who teach the girls (as is the case in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere) those schools of Islam are very much the problem.
Were she still alive to speak for herself, I'm guessing this woman would disagree with you as well:
Taliban assassins kill ranking Afghan policewoman
By RAHIM FAIEZ
The Associated Press
Sunday, September 28, 2008; 2:50 PM
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Two Taliban assassins on a motorbike shot and killed a senior policewoman as she left for work in Afghanistan's largest southern city Sunday and gravely wounded her son.
Malalai Kakar, 41, who led Kandahar city's department of crimes against women, was leaving home Sunday when she was killed, said Zalmai Ayubi, spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor. Her 18-year-old son was wounded, he said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility.
Militants frequently attack projects, schools and businesses run by women. The hard-line Taliban regime, which was ousted in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, did not allow women outside the home without a male escort.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the assassination, as did the European Union, which said it was "appalled by the brutal targeting" of Kakar.
"Any murder of a police officer is to be condemned, but the killing of a female officer whose service was not only to her country, but to Afghan women, to whom Ms. Kakar served as an example, is particularly abhorrent," the EU said in a statement.http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...=moreheadlines
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: September 28, 2008, 03:55:06 AM
Obama, McCain and Israel’s National Security
By Yoram Ettinger
Sept. 26, 2008
The policy of US presidents, toward Israel, is a derivative of their worldview, and not of their campaign statements and position papers.
A worldview shapes presidential attitude toward Israel as a strategic asset or a liability and toward Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria and the Golan Heights. A presidential worldview determines the scope of the US posture of deterrence in face of Middle East and global threats, which directly impacts Israel’s national security.
For example, President Nixon was not a friend of the US Jewish community and was not a leader of pro-Israeli legislation in the US Senate. In 1968, he received only about 15% of the Jewish vote. However, his worldview recognized Israel’s importance to US national security, as was demonstrated in 1970, when Israel rolled back a Syrian invasion of Jordan, preventing a pro-Soviet domino scenario into the Persian Gulf. It was Nixon’s worldview which led him to approve critical military shipments to Israel - during the 1973 War - in defiance of the Arab oil embargo and brutal pressure by the Saudi lobby in Washington, and in spite of the Democratic pattern of the Jewish voters.
On the other hand, President Clinton displayed an affinity toward Judaism, the Jewish People and the Jewish State. However, his worldview accepted Arafat as a national liberation leader, elevated him to the most frequent guest at the White House, underestimated the threat of Islamic terrorism, unintentionally facilitated its expansion from 1993 (first “Twin Tower” attack) to the 9/11 terrorist tsunami, adding fuel to the fire of Middle East and global turbulence.
How would the worldview of Obama, McCain and their advisors shape US policy toward Israel?
1. According to McCain, World War 3 between Western democracies and Islamic terror/rogue regimes is already in process. According to Obama, the conflict is with a radical Islamic minority, which could be dealt with through diplomacy, foreign aid, cultural exchanges and a lower US military profile. Thus, McCain’s world view highlights – while Obama’s world view downplays – Israel’s role as a strategic ally. McCain recognizes that US-Israel relations have been shaped by shared values, mutual threats and joint interests and not by frequent disagreements over the Arab-Israeli conflict.
2. According to Obama, the US needs to adopt the world view of the Department of State bureaucracy (Israel’s staunchest critic in Washington), pacify the knee-jerk-anti-Israel-UN, move closer to the Peace-at-any-Price-Western Europe and appease the Third World, which blames the West and Israel for the predicament of the Third World and the Arabs. On the other hand, McCain contends that the US should persist – in defiance of global odds - in being the Free World’s Pillar of Fire, ideologically and militarily.
3. According to Obama, Islamic terrorism constitutes a challenge for international law enforcement agencies and that terrorists should be brought to justice. According to McCain, they are a military challenge and should be brought down to their knees. Obama’s passive approach adrenalizes the veins of terrorists and intensifies Israel’s predicament, while McCain’s approach bolsters the US’ and Israel’s war on terrorism.
4. Obama and his advisors assume that Islamic terrorism is driven by despair, poverty, erroneous US policy and US presence on Muslim soil in the Persian Gulf. On the other hand, McCain maintains that Islamic terrorism is driven by ideology, which considers US values (freedom of expression, religion, media, movement, market and Internet) and US power a most lethal threat that must be demolished. McCain’s worldview supports Israel’s battle against terrorism, demonstrating that the root cause of the Arab-Israel conflict is not the size – but the existence - of Israel.
5. Contrary to McCain, Obama is convinced – just like Tony Blair - that the Palestinian issue is the core cause of Middle East turbulence and anti-Western Islamic terrorism, and therefore requires a more assertive US involvement, exerting additional pressure on Israel. The intriguing assumption that a less-than-hundred year old Palestinian issue is the root cause of 1,400 year old inter-Arab Middle East conflicts and Islamic terrorism, would deepen US involvement in Israel-Palestinians negotiations and transform the US into more of a neutral broker and less of a special ally of Israel, which would drive Israel into sweeping concessions.
Obama’s worldview would be welcomed by supporters of an Israeli rollback to the 1949 ceasefire lines, including the repartitioning of Jerusalem and the opening of the “Pandora Refugees’ Box.” On the other hand, McCain’s worldview adheres to the assumption that an Israeli retreat would convert the Jewish State from a power of deterrence to a punching bag, from a producer – to a consumer – of national security and from a strategic asset to a strategic burden in the most violent, volatile and treacherous region in the world.http://www.israpundit.com/2008/?p=3235#more-3235
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / publisher set ablaze
on: September 28, 2008, 03:35:50 AM
Three held as Mohammed book publisher set ablaze
Police arrested three men on Saturday in connection with a fire at the offices of the publisher of a book about the Prophet Mohammed and his child bride.
The men, aged 22, 30 and 40, were arrested in north London under anti-terrorism legislation after the fire on Saturday morning at Gibson Square's offices. Police were also searching four addresses in east London.
Britain's domestic Press Association news agency said some residents, whom it did not identify, reported that the incident may have involved a petrol bomb being pushed through the firm's letterbox.
Gibson Square is responsible for the publication of "The Jewel of Medina" -- a fictional account of the Prophet's relationship with his youngest bride Aisha -- by American author Sherry Jones.
Random House announced last month it had cancelled publication of the book in the United States because of fears of violence.
"The Jewel of Medina" was re-released in Serbia earlier this month after being withdrawn in August under pressure from Islamic leaders.
Martin Rynja, publishing director at Gibson Square, earlier this month defended the decision to publish the book, saying that in "an open society there has to be open access to literary works, regardless of fear."
"As an independent publishing company, we feel strongly that we should not be afraid of the consequences of debate," he added.
Gibson Square could not be immediately contacted for comment on Saturday's fire and subsequent arrests.
The firm is known for having published other controversial books such as "Blowing Up Russia" by former KGB agent turned Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko.
Litvinenko died in a London hospital in 2006 from radiation poisoning which it is thought he ingested through a cup of tea. Russia has refused to extradite lawmaker and ex-KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi to face charges in Britain.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pitcher Perfect
on: September 27, 2008, 07:05:15 PM
Why can't anyone throw a baseball faster than 100 mph?
By Noam Scheiber
Posted Friday, April 8, 2005, at 11:38 AM PT
The physics of flamethrowing
When baseball's elders swap stories about fireballers, the name that ends the conversation isn't Nolan Ryan or Sandy Koufax. It's one that never appeared on the back of a major-league uniform: Steve Dalkowski. Legend has it that the 5-foot-11-inch, 170-pound lefty threw his fastball well in excess of 100 mph. We don't have an exact number for the same reason Dalkowski, who toiled in the minors in the late 1950s and early 1960s, never made the big leagues: He was too wild to time. When a scout tried to gauge Dalkowski's fastball with a primitive radar gun?a beam of light the width of home plate?the pitcher couldn't hit the target until after his arm got tired.
Steve Dalkowski sounds like a genetic freak, but so is anyone who can throw a baseball 90 mph. What he really represents is a blow to the basic notion of human progress. In almost every measurable physical activity, athletes show improvement over time. Jumpers jump higher and farther, and runners and swimmers go faster. Since the late 1950s, the high-jump world record has improved by more than 10 percent, the 100-meter-dash mark has improved by 5 percent, and swimming's best 100-meter freestyle has dipped 12 percent.
Pitchers, though, don't seem to be getting any faster. Pretty much every generation since the early 1900s has boasted a supposed 100-mph pitcher, from Walter Johnson and Smoky Joe Wood to Bob Feller to Dalkowski to Nolan Ryan. If we stick with speeds registered since modern radar guns became ubiquitous in the 1970s, peak velocity seems to be a shade north of 100. Major League Baseball doesn't keep official records on pitch speeds, but the Guinness Book of World Records credits Ryan with the fastest pitch ever, a 100.9-mph heater from 1974. This article disagrees, crowning Mark Wohlers the radar-gun champ with a 103-mph pitch. (For an explanation of why radar gun readings can be inconsistent, click here.)
Maybe it only looks like the outer limit for pitchers is stable at around 100 mph because we can't consistently and accurately measure minute improvements in speed. When it comes to flamethrowers, after all, it's hard to figure out what's the truth and what's a tall tale. Feller once sent a fastball zooming by a speeding motorcycle. Maybe the ball really was traveling at 104 mph, as the organizers of the stunt claimed. Or maybe not.
Still, according to experts in biomechanics, that 100-mph ceiling isn't an illusion?it's a basic property of human physiology. A pitcher generates momentum by rocking onto his back leg and thrusting forward. After that he rotates his pelvis and upper trunk, then his elbow, shoulder, and wrist. Intuitively, it seems like building up the muscles in the legs, upper body, arm, and shoulder would generate more force and make his arm move faster. The reality: There's a point when more torque doesn't yield a faster pitch. It simply causes tendons and ligaments to snap, detaching muscles from bones and bones from one another. (Tendons connect muscles to bones; ligaments connect bones to each other.)
Glenn Fleisig, a biomechanical engineer who studies pitching at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala., has calculated that about 80 Newton-meters of torque act on an elite pitcher's elbow when he throws a fastball. The ulnar collateral ligament connects the humerus and ulna?two of the bones that come together in the elbow. To test the outer limits of the ligament's strength, Fleisig subjected cadaver elbows to increasing amounts of rotational force. These experiments showed that an average person's UCL snaps at about 80 Newton-meters. Smoky Joe Wood said that he threw so fast he thought his arm was going to fly off. It turns out he wasn't far from the truth.
Another way to test the proposition that ligament fragility limits velocity is to see what happens when pitchers strengthen their muscles. Mike Axe, an orthopedic surgeon and prot?g? of Fleisig's partner James Andrews, advises pitchers to build up their shoulder muscles by practicing with a weighted glove on their throwing hand. According to Axe, a pitcher can add up 2 to 5 mph to his fastball with this regimen. The potential gains are lower for those who throw fast to begin with, though. Axe has seen pitchers increase their velocity from 84 to 88 mph and from 88 to 91 mph. He's never seen anyone improve from 98 to 100. The chief benefit for these hurlers is that they suffer fewer muscle tears.
Why do sprinters keep getting faster while baseball pitchers seem to have maxed out? Because track athletes don't approach the limits of what human tendons and ligaments can handle. When you run the 100-meter dash, no single stride represents as violent a motion as the arm makes during a single overhand pitch. Sprinters can build up their muscles without worrying that the extra force will rip their ligaments apart?that's why steroid use seems to make sprinters faster but won't help pitchers generate velocity beyond a certain point. (A better reason for a pitcher to take steroids would be to decrease the time it takes to recover between games.)
Ligaments and tendons can get stronger, but at a much slower rate than the muscles that surround them. There are rumors that pitchers who've undergone Tommy John surgery?that is, a replacement of the UCL with a tendon from the hamstring or wrist?can throw harder than they did before having surgery. But any increase in velocity probably has less to do with getting a new superligament than with the strict rehabilitation program Tommy John patients are supposed to follow. The reason pitchers get injured in the first place is that their muscles, tendons, and ligaments weren't as strong as they should have been.
What about growing taller, more massive pitchers? That doesn't necessarily make a difference, either. Small, slightly built pitchers like Dalkowski, the 5-foot-11 Pedro Martinez, and the 5-foot-10 Billy Wagner throw just as hard as giants such as Randy Johnson. The physical principle here is fairly simple. If two levers move at the same speed, the ball released from the longer lever will have more velocity. But as a lever becomes larger, it requires more torque to move. Randy's lever is larger; Wagner's moves more quickly. The trade-off makes their velocity roughly equal.
In the last two decades, baseball managers and GMs have focused less on speed and more on injury prevention. According to Fleisig, whose clinic has diagnosed mechanical problems in professional pitchers since 1990, "[Baseball executives] don't come to me and say make this guy a few miles per hour faster. They say, help this guy stay on the field." Steve Dalkowski should have been so lucky. He blew out his arm fielding a bunt in an exhibition game in 1963, on the eve of his first major-league start.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Somalis on KLM flight arrested
on: September 27, 2008, 05:09:49 PM
2 Terrorism Suspects Arrested on KLM Flight
By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, September 26, 2008; 6:10 AM
BERLIN, Sept. 26 -- Two Somali-born men who had left notes saying they were willing to sacrifice themselves for "jihad" were pulled off a flight at the Cologne airport this morning, moments before it was scheduled to depart for Amsterdam, German authorities said.
The pair had been under surveillance for months, the German newspaper Bild reported, citing unnamed police officials. Police officials said they moved to arrest the men after searching their apartments and finding notes suggesting that they intended to take part in a terrorist attack.
Authorities identified the men as a 23-year-old Somali national and a 24-year-old German citizen born in Mogadishu. Officials did not immediately release their names or give other details of where they had been living prior to their arrests.
"They are under suspicion of intending to participate in the jihad and in possible attacks," Frank Scheulen, a spokesman for police in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, told German television. "Farewell letters were written."
Police said they boarded KLM Flight 1804 at 06:55 am local time, 10 minutes before it was scheduled to depart for Amsterdam. A KLM spokesman said all passengers were removed from the plane until police could locate luggage belonging to the suspects. The flight was allowed to depart after an 80-minute delay, airport officials said.
German counterterrorism officials have warned of a heightened risk of terrorism in the country, citing threats by Islamist groups over the presence of German troops in Afghanistan. On Thursday, the federal prosecutor's office issued a public alert seeking information on the whereabouts of two terrorist suspects believed to have returned to Germany after attending militant training camps in Pakistan. The two suspects, Eric Breininger, 21, and Houssain al Malla, 23, are suspected of involvement with a group called the Islamic Jihad Union that was accused of planning attacks against U.S. targets in Germany a year ago.
German federal police officials said, however, that they did not believe the suspects named in the alert were connected with the men arrested at the Cologne airport on Friday.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: September 27, 2008, 05:03:38 PM
Army to Test Air Burst Weapon for Joes
September 26, 2008
Military.com|by Christian Lowe
For once it seems the Army is actually turning fiction into science.
After nearly a decade in the shadows -- with billions spent on earlier versions long since abandoned -- the Army is moving quickly to field a revolutionary new weapon to Joes a lot sooner than anyone had ever imagined.
It's a weapon that can take out a bad guy behind a wall, beyond a hill or below a trench, and do it more accurately and with less collateral damage than anything on the battlefield today, officials say. It's called the XM25 Individual Air Burst Weapon, and by next month the service will have three prototypes of the precision-guided 25mm rifle ready for testing.
A 'leap ahead' in lethality
"We've done a lot of testing with this, and what we're seeing is the estimated increase in effectiveness is six times what we'd be getting with a 5.56mm carbine or a grenade launcher," said Rich Audette, Army Deputy Project Manager for Soldier weapons.
"What we're talking about is a true 'leap ahead' in lethality, here. This is a huge step," Audette added during a phone interview with Military.com from his office at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.
Born of the much-maligned and highly-controversial Objective Individual Combat Weapon -- a 1990s program that sought a "leap ahead" battle rifle that combined a counter-defilade weapon with a carbine -- the XM25 only recently gained new momentum after the Army formalized a requirement and released a contract in June for a series of test weapons.
Infantry weapons to date have permitted fighters to shoot at or through an obstacle concealing enemy threats, but the Army for years has been trying to come up with a weapon to engage targets behind barriers without resorting to mortars, rockets or grenades -- all of which risk collateral damage. After fits and starts using a 20mm rifle housed in a bulky, overweight, complicated shell, technology finally caught up to shave the XM25 from 21 pounds to a little more than 12 pounds.
If the XM25 does what its developers hope, it will be able to fire an air-bursting round at a target from 16 meters away out to 600 meters with a highly accurate, 360-degree explosive radius.
"This should have the same impact as the incorporation of the machine gun" into infantry units, said Andy Cline, product director for the XM25.
The XM25 is about as long as a collapsed M4, weighs about as much as an M16 with an M203 grenade launcher attached and has about as much kick as a 12-gauge shotgun, said Barb Muldowney, Army deputy program manager for infantry combat weapons.
The semi-auto XM25 comes with a four-round magazine, though testers are looking at whether to increase the capacity to as much as 10 rounds.
A 'smart' weapon
Brains are what really makes this Buck Rogers gun work -- it has them. The weapon combines a thermal optic, day sight, laser range finder, compass and IR illuminator with a fire-control system that wirelessly transmits the exact range of the target into the 25mm round's fuse before firing.
A Soldier can aim the XM25 at a wall concealing a sniper, for example, but "dial in" or adjust the distance by an additional meter above the target. When fired, the Alliant Teksystems-built round will explode above the enemy's position, essentially going around the obstruction, Muldowney said.
"It's so accurate, that when I laze to that target I'm going to be able to explode that round close enough that I'm going to get it," Audette added.
The service hopes to field several other types of 25mm rounds for the XM25, including ones for breaching doors, piercing vehicle armor and non-lethal air-bursting and blunt-impact rounds.
Testers at Picatinny plan to put the XM25 through its paces over the next several months, certifying it as safe for a Soldier to operate and tinkering with the weapon's effectiveness and durability.
The weapon costs about $25,000 each, but experts were quick to point out that a fully-loaded M4 for optics and pointers costs pretty close to $30,000. Each ATK-made 25mm round costs about $25.
Testing next year
As Heckler and Koch, makers of the weapon itself, and L3 Communications -- which makes the fire control system -- crank out more weapons, the Army plans to push an initial batch of test weapons out to the field beginning in March 2009. That could include the first use of such a weapon in combat, Cline said.
If all goes according to plan, the first fully-equipped infantry units could have their first XM25s in hand by 2014, far sooner than the Army's small arms community had predicted even last year.
The program "came very close to ending," Audette explained. "But the Army took a look at all the work that was done -- and the testing that projected the kind of lethality increase that we could get -- and they said 'we've got to do this.' "
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Davy Crockett
on: September 27, 2008, 04:38:40 PM
Not Yours To Give
Col. David Crockett
US Representative from Tennessee
Originally published in "The Life of Colonel David Crockett,"
by Edward Sylvester Ellis.
One day in the House of Representatives a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose:
"Mr. Speaker--I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him.
"Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."
He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt, it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and, of course, was lost.
Later, when asked by a friend why he had opposed the appropriation, Crockett gave this explanation:
"Several years ago I was one evening standing on the steps of the Capitol with some other members of Congress, when our attention was attracted by a great light over in Georgetown. It was evidently a large fire. We jumped into a hack and drove over as fast as we could. In spite of all that could be done, many houses were burned and many families made houseless, and, besides, some of them had lost all but the clothes they had on. The weather was very cold, and when I saw so many women and children suffering, I felt that something ought to be done for them. The next morning a bill was introduced appropriating $20,000 for their relief. We put aside all other business and rushed it through as soon as it could be done.
"The next summer, when it began to be time to think about election, I concluded I would take a scout around among the boys of my district. I had no opposition there, but, as the election was some time off, I did not know what might turn up. When riding one day in a part of my district in which I was more of a stranger than any other, I saw a man in a field plowing and coming toward the road. I gauged my gait so that we should meet as he came to the fence. As he came up, I spoke to the man. He replied politely, but, as I thought, rather coldly.
"I began: 'Well, friend, I am one of those unfortunate beings called
"Yes I know you; you are Colonel Crockett. I have seen you once before, and voted for you the last time you were elected. I suppose you are out electioneering now, but you had better not waste your time or mine, I shall not vote for you again."
"This was a sockdolager...I begged him to tell me what was the matter.
" ’Well, Colonel, it is hardly worth-while to waste time or words upon it. I do not see how it can be mended, but you gave a vote last winter which shows that either you have not capacity to understand the Constitution, or that you are wanting in the honesty and firmness to be guided by it. In either case you are not the man to represent me. But I beg your pardon for expressing it in that way. I did not intend to avail myself of the privilege of the constituent to speak plainly to a candidate for the purpose of insulting or wounding you. I intend by it only to say that your understanding of the Constitution is very different from mine; and I will say to you what, but for my rudeness, I should not have said, that I believe you to be honest.
…But an understanding of the Constitution different from mine I cannot overlook, because the Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions. The man who wields power and misinterprets it is the more dangerous the more honest he is.'
" 'I admit the truth of all you say, but there must be some mistake about it, for I do not remember that I gave any vote last winter upon any constitutional question.’
“ ‘No, Colonel, there’s no mistake. Though I live in the backwoods and seldom go from home, I take the papers from Washington and read very carefully all the proceedings of Congress. My papers say that last winter you voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some sufferers by a fire in Georgetown. Is that true?’
" ‘Well, my friend; I may as well own up. You have got me there. But certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing Treasury, and I am sure, if you had been there, you would have done just as I did.'
" ‘It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by a tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means. What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how much he pays to the government. So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. 'No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose. If twice as many houses had been burned in this county as in Georgetown, neither you nor any other member of Congress would have thought of appropriating a dollar for our relief. There are about two hundred and forty members of Congress. If they had shown their sympathy for the sufferers by contributing each one week's pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of wealthy men in and around Washington who could have given $20,000 without depriving themselves of even a luxury of life.' "The congressmen chose to keep their own money, which, if reports be true, some of them spend not very creditably; and the people about Washington, no doubt, applauded you for relieving them from the necessity of giving by giving what was not yours to give. The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.'
" 'So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people. I have no doubt you acted honestly, but that does not make it any better, except as far as you are personally concerned, and you see that I cannot vote for you.'
"I tell you I felt streaked. I saw if I should have opposition, and this man should go to talking, he would set others to talking, and in that district I was a gone fawn-skin. I could not answer him, and the fact is, I was so fully convinced that he was right, I did not want to. But I must satisfy him, and I said to him:
" ‘Well, my friend, you hit the nail upon the head when you said I had not sense enough to understand the Constitution. I intended to be guided by it, and thought I had studied it fully. I have heard many speeches in Congress about the powers of Congress, but what you have said here at your plow has got more hard, sound sense in it than all the fine speeches I ever heard. If I had ever taken the view of it that you have, I would have put my head into the fire before I would have given that vote; and if you will forgive me and vote for me again, if I ever vote for another unconstitutional law I wish I may be shot.'
"He laughingly replied; 'Yes, Colonel, you have sworn to that once before, but I will trust you again upon one condition. You say that youare convinced that your vote was wrong. Your acknowledgment of it will do more good than beating you for it. If, as you go around the district, you will tell people about this vote, and that you are satisfied it was wrong, I will not only vote for you, but will do what I can to keep down opposition, and, perhaps, I may exert some little influence in that way.'
" ‘If I don't’, said I, 'I wish I may be shot; and to convince you that I am in earnest in what I say I will come back this way in a week or ten days, and if you will get up a gathering of the people, I will make a speech to them. Get up a barbecue, and I will pay for it.'
" ‘No, Colonel, we are not rich people in this section, but we have plenty of provisions to contribute for a barbecue, and some to spare for those who have none. The push of crops will be over in a few days, and we can then afford a day for a barbecue. This is Thursday; I will see to getting it up on Saturday week. Come to my house on Friday, and we will go together, and I promise you a very respectable crowd to see and hear you.’
" 'Well, I will be here. But one thing more before I say good-bye. I must know your name.’
" 'My name is Bunce.'
" 'Not Horatio Bunce?'
" 'Well, Mr. Bunce, I never saw you before, though you say you have seen me, but I know you very well. I am glad I have met you, and very proud that I may hope to have you for my friend.'
"It was one of the luckiest hits of my life that I met him. He mingled but little with the public, but was widely known for his remarkable intelligence and incorruptible integrity, and for a heart brimful and running over with kindness and benevolence, which showed themselves not only in words but in acts. He was the oracle of the whole country around him, and his fame had extended far beyond the circle of his immediate acquaintance. Though I had never met him, before, I had heard much of him, and but for this meeting it is very likely I should have had opposition, and had been beaten. One thing is very certain, no man could now stand up in that district under such a vote.
"At the appointed time I was at his house, having told our conversation to every crowd I had met, and to every man I stayed all night with, and I found that it gave the people an interest and a confidence in me stronger than I had ever seen manifested before.
"Though I was considerably fatigued when I reached his house, and, under ordinary circumstances, should have gone early to bed, I kept him up until midnight, talking about the principles and affairs of government, and got more real, true knowledge of them than I had got all my life before.
"I have known and seen much of him since, for I respect him - no, that is not the word - I reverence and love him more than any living man, and I go to see him two or three times every year; and I will tell you, sir, if every one who professes to be a Christian lived and acted and enjoyed it as he does, the religion of Christ would take the world by storm.
"But to return to my story. The next morning we went to the barbecue, and, to my surprise, found about a thousand men there. I met a good many whom I had not known before, and they and my friend introduced me around until I had got pretty well acquainted - at least, they all knew me.
"In due time notice was given that I would speak to them. They gathered up around a stand that had been erected. I opened my speech by saying:
" ‘Fellow-citizens - I present myself before you today feeling like a new man. My eyes have lately been opened to truths which ignorance or prejudice, or both, had heretofore hidden from my view. I feel that I can today offer you the ability to render you more valuable service than I have ever been able to render before. I am here today more for the purpose of acknowledging my error than to seek your votes. That I should make this acknowledgment is due to myself as well as to you. Whether you will vote for me is a matter for your consideration only.’"
"I went on to tell them about the fire and my vote for the appropriation and then told them why I was satisfied it was wrong. I closed by saying:
" ‘And now, fellow-citizens, it remains only for me to tell you that the most of the speech you have listened to with so much interest was simply a repetition of the arguments by which your neighbor, Mr. Bunce, convinced me of my error.
" ‘It is the best speech I ever made in my life, but he is entitled to the
credit for it. And now I hope he is satisfied with his convert and that he will get up here and tell you so.'
"He came upon the stand and said:
" ‘Fellow-citizens - It affords me great pleasure to comply with the request of Colonel Crockett. I have always considered him a thoroughly honest man, and I am satisfied that he will faithfully perform all that he has promised you today.'
"He went down, and there went up from that crowd such a shout for Davy Crockett as his name never called forth before.'
"I am not much given to tears, but I was taken with a choking then and felt some big drops rolling down my cheeks. And I tell you now that the remembrance of those few words spoken by such a man, and the honest, hearty shout they produced, is worth more to me than all the honors I have received and all the reputation I have ever made, or ever shall make, as a member of Congress.'
"Now, sir," concluded Crockett, "you know why I made that speech yesterday.
"There is one thing now to which I will call your attention. You remember that I proposed to give a week's pay. There are in that House many very wealthy men - men who think nothing of spending a week's pay, or a dozen of them, for a dinner or a wine party when they have something to accomplish by it. Some of those same men made beautiful speeches upon the great debt of gratitude which the country owed the deceased--a debt which could not be paid by money--and the insignificance and worthlessness of money, particularly so insignificant a sum as $10,000, when weighed against the honor of the nation. Yet not one of them responded to my proposition. Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people. But it is the one great thing for which most of them are striving, and many of them sacrifice honor, integrity, and justice to obtain it."