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23751  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Syria on: April 26, 2011, 10:22:21 AM
The Syrian regime is obviously having a lot of trouble putting down unrest as crackdowns are intensifying and as protests are spreading. A number of regional stakeholders are meanwhile trying to exploit the regime’s current vulnerabilities in trying to promote their own agendas in the region, particularly as tensions are escalating between Iran and the GCC states in the Persian Gulf region.

The Syrian regime has been employing this me-or-chaos theory. It’s one that’s had a pretty good effect so far. The current regime has been in power since the ‘63 coup and there’s no real viable political alternative to the al Assad regime. At the same time, there are a lot of patronage networks tied to this regime that do not want to see the government go. And the main drivers to these protests have come from the majority Sunni conservative camp. There are a number of players in the region who just don’t know how a majority Sunni regime would conduct their foreign policy. That’s of great concern to a number of players in the region who are concerned by sectarianism spreading not only in Lebanon, where Syria is a major player, but also in Iraq. There is major Kurdish unrest in Syria’s northeast that could spill over into Turkey and also fuel unrest in northern Iraq where protests have also been significant.

Given all these factors, the Saudis, the Turks, the Israelis and the Americans - pretty much anyone with a major stake in Syria - have not been openly advocating for regime change in Syria. They have a lot of reason to worry about the fallout of a regime collapse. At the same time, certain players see an opportunity. The Saudis in particular have been trying long and hard to coerce Syria into joining the Arab consensus and into cutting its ties with Iran and Hezbollah. The urgency of this demand has intensified, especially as tensions have been on the rise between Iran and the GCC states in the Persian Gulf region. Syria has accused a number of the surrounding Sunni Arab states of supporting the protests in its country. The Saudis have responded by saying that Syrian compliance with its demands in cutting relations with Iran and Hezbollah could lead to an easing of domestic pressure.

And therein lies the paradox. Syria could always reject foreign pressure to end its relationship with Iran and Hezbollah, but then it would be giving a reason to these regimes to search for alternatives to the al Assad regime. On the other hand, Syria could comply with these demands and try to sever ties with Iran and Hezbollah. But Iran has built up an insurance policy to such a scenario. Remember Iran has a core interest in maintaining a strong stake in the Levant region with which to threaten Israel, and Syria’s crucial to that agenda.

Syria also derives a lot of leverage from its relationship with Iran. That’s the main reason why the Saudis and others have been throwing cash at the Syrian regime in an attempt to coerce the Syrians out of that relationship. Plus there’s a huge indigenous factor to these protests. There’s no guarantee that Syrian compliance with foreign demands will actually ease the pressure at home. Syria is undoubtedly in a tough spot on a number of fronts. Regime collapse may not be imminent nor assured in the near term especially as the army seems to be holding together, but the regime’s room to maneuver is definitely narrowing by the day.

23752  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: April 26, 2011, 09:31:37 AM
A 5% margin rate (I believe I have this number correct) tends to magnify volatility too.  Why does it seem like I am the only one who notices this?

23753  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No right to representation for the right on: April 26, 2011, 09:28:05 AM


A major law firm has caved to pressure from militant homosexual activists, and one of America’s top Supreme Court lawyers resigned from that firm rather than abandon principle. That lawyer is former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, and this is a story that everyone who values the rule of law needs to understand.

In 1996, a bipartisan majority of the Republican-controlled Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton. The law specifies that for purposes of federal law, marriage is the union of one man and one woman. The law also provides that if any state breaks with 2,000 years of Western civilization by redefining marriage to include homosexual couples, no other state need recognize those unions.

Then some people started redefining marriage. In 2003, Massachusetts became the first state to do the same through an egregious instance of judicial activism. Today, a total of five states out of fifty have same-sex marriage.

Predictably, some activists challenged DOMA in federal court.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has a duty to defend every federal law in court. The only exceptions are for laws that undermine the president’s power (and even then, DOJ sometimes defends it) or for laws where no reasonable argument can be made defending that law.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that DOJ would no longer defend DOMA because he and President Barack Obama believe that there is no rational basis for the law. This is shocking, because President Obama is speaking out of both sides of his mouth, saying that he still believes marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

Let’s make sure we have this right: Marriage is between a man and a woman, but any law saying that is so irrational that it cannot be defended in court. It seems President Obama is either schizophrenic or disingenuous.

Thankfully, the U.S. House of Representatives took up the defense of DOMA. To do so, they retained former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement—now a partner at King & Spalding—to defend the law in court.

In response, a militant homosexual-agenda group, the Human Rights Campaign, took the disgraceful action of organizing a nationwide boycott of King & Spalding and tried to discourage graduating law students from working there.

Everyone should have access to a lawyer. The U.S. Constitution empowers the courts to decide whether a law is unconstitutional, but also requires that a court only do so if arguments are presented on both sides. Our constitutional system of government calls for both parties putting their best arguments on the table, so that a judge has everything necessary to arrive at the correct decision.

But leftist zealots evidently don’t care about a court reaching the right decision, calling for punishing anyone who has enough faith in the American legal system to wage an honorable contest in court.

When Ted Olson decided to take a case arguing that the U.S. Constitution includes a right to same-sex marriage which mysteriously went unnoticed by anyone in the country for over 200 years, no reputable group called for boycotting his firm, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. Nor should they. Gibson Dunn argues for many causes and clients, many of them right.

Yet in an instance of craven cowardice, King & Spalding caved to pressure and has withdrawn from the case. Rather than stand by the principle that every issue—especially one unpopular to some—deserves fair consideration in court, the firm’s chairman, Robert Hays, said that the firm was quitting.

Clement—a top Supreme Court lawyer with over fifty cases before the Court—would not cave. Rather than abandon his client, he resigned from King & Spalding. He has now joined Bancroft PLLC, a law firm and policy organization featuring well-respected conservative lawyers and analysts.

And no one can lose sight of his client’s identity: the U.S. House of Representatives. This isn’t some traitor, or depraved serial murderer of children, or terrorist regime. This is the House representing the American people, chosen by We the People.

I don’t even know if Clement is personally pro-marriage. Maybe he’s not. But he took it as his duty to represent our Congress in court. He’s a patriot for answering that call.

People should remember this episode as showing the oppressive nature of some leftists. They scream about freedom when it suits their purpose, only to deny others freedom to even be heard. On this issue, pro-marriage advocates—especially churches and ministries faithful to biblical teaching on marriage—had better take heed. You will be next.

The truth is never afraid of a good debate. At the core of the First Amendment is the idea that people must be free to speak, because the best ideas should win in the end. The Federalist Society was founded upon that premise in hosting debates at law schools, reasoning that on a level playing field, the best ideas should prevail.

Those who oppose debate do so because they fear that they cannot overcome opposition. Those who try to prevent an opponent from having a good lawyer in court fears that the law may not be on their side.

A nation under the rule of law requires top lawyers to take up both sides of legal issues going to court. Solicitor General Paul Clement shows great courage by upholding that principle. Every solicitor general and deputy solicitor general alive today—both Republican and Democrat—should express their support for the brave stand taken by Paul Clement.
23754  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who could have seen this coming? on: April 26, 2011, 07:38:33 AM
Iraq, Iran and the Next Move
April 26, 2011


By George Friedman

The United States told the Iraqi government last week that if it wants U.S. troops to remain in Iraq beyond the deadline of Dec. 31, 2011, as stipulated by the current Status of Forces Agreement between Washington and Baghdad, it would have to inform the United States quickly. Unless a new agreement is reached soon, the United States will be unable to remain. The implication in the U.S. position is that a complex planning process must be initiated to leave troops there and delays will not allow that process to take place.

What is actually going on is that the United States is urging the Iraqi government to change its mind on U.S. withdrawal, and it would like Iraq to change its mind right now in order to influence some of the events taking place in the Persian Gulf. The Shiite uprising in Bahrain and the Saudi intervention, along with events in Yemen, have created an extremely unstable situation in the region, and the United States is afraid that completing the withdrawal would increase the instability.


The Iranian Rise

The American concern, of course, has to do with Iran. The United States has been unable to block Iranian influence in Iraq’s post-Baathist government. Indeed, the degree to which the Iraqi government is a coherent entity is questionable, and its military and security forces have limited logistical and planning ability and are not capable of territorial defense. The issue is not the intent of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who himself is enigmatic. The problem is that the coalition that governs Iraq is fragmented and still not yet finalized, dominated by Iranian proxies such Muqtada al-Sadr — and it only intermittently controls the operations of the ministries under it, or the military and security forces.

As such, Iraq is vulnerable to the influence of any substantial power, and the most important substantial power following the withdrawal of the United States will be Iran. There has been much discussion of the historic tension between Iraqi Shia and Iranian Shia, all of which is true. But Iran has been systematically building its influence in Iraq among all factions using money, blackmail and ideology delivered by a sophisticated intelligence service. More important, as the United States withdraws, Iraqis, regardless of their feelings toward Iran (those Iraqis who haven’t always felt this way), are clearly sensing that resisting Iran is dangerous and accommodation with Iran is the only solution. They see Iran as the rising power in the region, and that perception is neither unreasonable nor something to which the United States or Saudi Arabia has an easy counter.

The Iraqi government’s response to the American offer has been predictable. While some quietly want the United States to remain, the general response has ranged from dismissal to threats if the United States did not leave. Given that the United States has reportedly offered to leave as many as 20,000 troops in a country that 170,000 American troops could not impose order on, the Iraqi perception is that this is merely a symbolic presence and that endorsing it would get Iraq into trouble with Iran, which has far more than 20,000 troops and ever-present intelligence services. It is not clear that the Iraqis were ever prepared to allow U.S. troops to remain, but 20,000 is enough to enrage Iran and not enough to deal with the consequences.

The American assumption in deciding to leave Iraq — and this goes back to George W. Bush as well as Barack Obama — was that over the course of four years, the United States would be able to leave because it would have created a coherent government and military. The United States underestimated the degree to which fragmentation in Iraq would prevent that outcome and the degree to which Iranian influence would undermine the effort. The United States made a pledge to the American public and a treaty with the Iraqi government to withdraw forces, but the conditions that were expected to develop simply did not.

Not coincidentally, the withdrawal of American forces has coincided with tremendous instability in the region, particularly on the Arabian Peninsula. All around the periphery of Saudi Arabia an arc of instability has emerged. It is not that the Iranians engineered it, but they have certainly taken advantage of it. As a result, Saudi Arabia is in a position where it has had to commit forces in Bahrain, is standing by in Yemen, and is even concerned about internal instability given the rise of both reform-minded and Shiite elements at a time of unprecedented transition given the geriatric state of the country’s top four leaders. Iran has certainly done whatever it could to exacerbate this instability, which fits neatly into the Iraqi situation.

As the United States leaves Iraq, Iran expects to increase its influence there. Iran normally acts cautiously even while engaged in extreme rhetoric. Therefore, it is unlikely to send conventional forces into Iraq. Indeed, it might not be necessary to do so in order to gain a dominant political position. Nor is it inconceivable that the Iranians could decide to act more aggressively. With the United States gone, the risks decline.


Saudi Arabia’s Problem

The country that could possibly counter Iran in Iraq is Saudi Arabia, which has been known to funnel money to Sunni groups there. Its military is no match for Iran’s in a battle for Iraq, and its influence there has been less than Iran’s among most groups. More important, as the Saudis face the crisis on their periphery they are diverted and preoccupied by events to the east and south. The unrest in the region, therefore, increases the sense of isolation of some Iraqis and increases their vulnerability to Iran. Thus, given that Iraq is Iran’s primary national security concern, the events in the Persian Gulf work to Iran’s advantage.

The United States previously had an Iraq question. That question is being answered, and not to the American advantage. Instead, what is emerging is a Saudi Arabian question. Saudi Arabia currently is clearly able to handle unrest within its borders. It has also been able to suppress the Shia in Bahrain — for now, at least. However, its ability to manage its southern periphery with Yemen is being tested, given that the regime in Sanaa was already weakened by multiple insurgencies and is now being forced from office after more than 30 years in power. If the combined pressure of internal unrest, turmoil throughout the region and Iranian manipulation continues, the stress on the Saudis could become substantial.

The basic problem the Saudis face is that they don’t know the limits of their ability (which is not much beyond their financial muscle) to manage the situation. If they miscalculate and overextend, they could find themselves in an untenable position. Therefore, the Saudis must be conservative. They cannot afford miscalculation. From the Saudi point of view, the critical element is a clear sign of long-term American commitment to the regime. American support for the Saudis in Bahrain has been limited, and the United States has not been aggressively trying to manage the situation in Yemen, given its limited ability to shape an outcome there. Coupled with the American position on Iraq, which is that it will remain only if asked — and then only with limited forces — the Saudis are clearly not getting the signals they want from the United States. In fact, what further worsens the Saudi position is that they cannot overtly align with the United States for their security needs. Nevertheless, they also have no other option. Exploiting this Saudi dilemma is a key part of the Iranian strategy.

The smaller countries of the Arabian Peninsula, grouped with Saudi Arabia in the Gulf Cooperation Council, have played the role of mediator in Yemen, but ultimately they lack the force needed by a credible mediator — a potential military option to concentrate the minds of the negotiating parties. For that, they need the United States.

It is in this context that the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, will be visiting Washington on April 26. The UAE is one of the few countries on the Arabian Peninsula that has not experienced significant unrest. As such, it has emerged as one of the politically powerful entities in the region. We obviously cannot know what the UAE is going to ask the United States for, but we would be surprised if it wasn’t for a definitive sign that the United States was prepared to challenge the Iranian rise in the region.

The Saudis will be watching the American response very carefully. Their national strategy has been to uncomfortably rely on the United States. If the United States is seen as unreliable, the Saudis have only two options. One is to hold their position and hope for the best. The other is to reach out and see if some accommodation can be made with Iran. The tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia — religious, cultural, economic and political — are profound. But in the end, the Iranians want to be the dominant power in the Persian Gulf, defining economic, political and military patterns.

On April 18, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s adviser for military affairs, Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, warned Saudi Arabia that it, too, could be invaded on the same pretext that the kingdom sent forces into Bahrain to suppress a largely Shiite rising there. Then, on April 23, the commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jaafari, remarked that Iran’s military might was stronger than that of Saudi Arabia and reminded the United States that its forces in the region were within range of Tehran’s weapons. Again, the Iranians are not about to make any aggressive moves, and such statements are intended to shape perception and force the Saudis to capitulate on the negotiating table.

The Saudis want regime survival above all else. Deciding between facing Iran alone or reaching an unpleasant accommodation, the Saudis have little choice. We would guess that one of the reasons the UAE is reaching out to Obama is to try to convince him of the dire consequences of inaction and to move the United States into a more active role.


A Strategy of Neglect

The Obama administration appears to have adopted an increasingly obvious foreign policy. Rather than simply attempt to control events around the world, the administration appears to have selected a policy of careful neglect. This is not, in itself, a bad strategy. Neglect means that allies and regional powers directly affected by the problem will take responsibility for the problem. Most problems resolve themselves without the need of American intervention. If they don’t, the United States can consider its posture later. Given that the world has become accustomed to the United States as first responder, other countries have simply waited for the American response. We have seen this in Libya, where the United States has tried to play a marginal role. Conceptually, this is not unsound.

The problem is that this will work only when regional powers have the weight to deal with the problem and where the outcome is not crucial to American interests. Again, Libya is an almost perfect example of this. However, the Persian Gulf is an area of enormous interest to the United States because of oil. Absent the United States, the regional forces will not be able to contain Iran. Therefore, applying this strategy to the Persian Gulf creates a situation of extreme risk for the United States.

Re-engagement in Iraq on a level that would deter Iran is not a likely option, not only because of the Iraqi position but also because the United States lacks the force needed to create a substantial deterrence that would not be attacked and worn down by guerrillas. Intruding in the Arabian Peninsula itself is dangerous for a number reasons, ranging from the military challenge to the hostility an American presence could generate. A pure naval and air solution lacks the ability to threaten Iran’s center of gravity, its large ground force.

Therefore, the United States is in a difficult position. It cannot simply decline engagement nor does it have the ability to engage at this moment — and it is this moment that matters. Nor does it have allies outside the region with the resources and appetite for involvement. That leaves the United States with the Saudi option — negotiate with Iran, a subject I’ve written on before. This is not an easy course, nor a recommended one, but when all other options are gone, you go with what you have.

The pressure from Iran is becoming palpable. All of the Arab countries feel it, and whatever their feelings about the Persians, the realities of power are what they are. The UAE has been sent to ask the United States for a solution. It is not clear the United States has one. When we ask why the price of oil is surging, the idea of geopolitical risk does come to mind. It is not a foolish speculation.

23755  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Noah Webster 1788 on: April 26, 2011, 07:35:15 AM
"The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities; and for this reason, the heart should be cultivated with more assiduity than the head." --Noah Webster, On the Education of Youth in America, 1788
23756  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: April 26, 2011, 07:32:44 AM
I saw fomer Senator Rick Santorum interviewed by Bret Baier the other night and must admit I liked what I saw heard I don't think he has what it takes to win.
23757  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chinese sign deal on: April 26, 2011, 07:28:48 AM
Americans fight, liberate, and die.  Chinese kick back and collect all the bennies:


Iraq: Power Plant Expansion With Chinese Company Signed
April 25, 2011 2030 GMT
The Iraqi Electricity Ministry signed a $1 billion deal with China's Shanghai Electric on April 25 to double the size of the power plant located in Zubaidiya, south of Baghdad, Reuters reported. The plant was originally slated to have four 330 megawatt generators for a 1,320 megawatt capacity, but the new deal will add two more 610 megawatt units for a total capacity of 2,540 megawatts.
23758  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: california on: April 25, 2011, 06:07:22 PM
Alrighty Mr. Smartypants cheesy Meg Whateverthefhernamewas.
23759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: April 25, 2011, 05:37:04 PM
The "Survival" thread would seem like a good choice smiley
23760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson 1791 on: April 25, 2011, 05:36:09 PM
"In observations on this subject, we hear the legislature mentioned as the people's representatives. The distinction, intimated by concealed implication, through probably, not avowed upon reflection, is, that the executive and judicial powers are not connected with the people by a relation so strong or near or dear. But is high time that we should chastise our prejudices; and that we should look upon the different parts of government with a just and impartial eye." --James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791


23761  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: california on: April 25, 2011, 05:20:45 PM
Meg Ryan was an absolutely terrible and completely unprincipled candidate and lot of people simply wanted to bitch slap her for her attitude that she could buy the election.  This is not entirely a bad thing.

There are other laws which we here in CA need to learn.  For example, just as you cannot repeal the law of gravity, you cannot repeal the law of supply and demand.  Nor is there such a thing as a free lunch.
23762  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: April 25, 2011, 05:16:57 PM
GM:

As important as this theme is, it is an example of Islam vs. Free Speech and there is a thread for exactly that.  As I understand it, this thread is for what Sharia says or does not say e.g. can women drive cars, must they cover themselves, that sort of thing.

If a woman believes Allah does not want her to drive (e.g. as Sharia is interpreted in Saudi Arabia) that for her to decide and a subject for this thread so that we may become more educated about Sharia.  OTOH if Christian missionaries are being denied their First Amendment rights because of PC pre-emptive dhimmitude or because of intimations of intimidation on the part of certain Muslim groups, that is a matter of Islam vs. Free Speech.
23763  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No elections and no erections for AQ on: April 25, 2011, 10:33:36 AM
That would be better in the Free Speech vs. Islam thread.  Also not exactly related to the subject of this thread but I don't know where else to put it is this which comes to me from a source I believe to be reliable, but without citation:

Excerpt from a Wash Post article:

It was an unusual complaint for someone who was so committed to al-Qaeda. According to documents, to avoid the distraction of women, he “reportedly received injections to promote impotence and recommended the injections to others so more time could be spent on the jihad.”
23764  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 25, 2011, 10:29:19 AM
I have a particularly busy day today, so again I must beg off a most extensive reply.

I note that Rachel's post today at http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1327.400 tells a story that if the roles were reversed and it were Israel were doing it to Palestinian Arabs would have received quite a bit more coverage, both in Europe and here.
23765  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man formerly in Iraq reports on: April 25, 2011, 10:15:09 AM
Ali Wazzan has once again given me an excellent summary of Laith’s current condition and treatments.   

Ali also told me that there seems to be a chance that Laith will leave the hospital in the next day or two.  If so, he will remain under a doctor’s care at home.  He still needs attention for his diabetes and for several pieces of shrapnel remaining in his face and chest.  Contrary to what I reported earlier, the removal of shrapnel yesterday required quite a bit of exploratory cutting and probing.  As a consequence Laith now has numerous small incisions closed with stiches.  Also, I was wrong in reporting that his jaw was broken.  It seems that there is only a minor fracture of his jaw.  Most of the force was absorbed by his teeth, which is why he lost them. 

Every day provides new encouragement.

23766  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Burpees - The World's Best Anaerobic Conditioning Exercise? on: April 24, 2011, 08:19:06 PM
Coincidentally enough, we were discussing a closely related question on the DBMA Ass'n forum this week:  "What is the best single exercise?"

My nominee was Sex:

*Testosterone production
*Hips and glutes-- range of motion, coordination, and strength
*other muscles depend on which position(s) used
*aerobic
*anaerobic
*reduces blood pressure
*promotes restful sleep
*highly motivating
23767  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law on: April 24, 2011, 03:26:10 PM
For the record, I am not clear that the article is accurate.  I could be wrong, but the way I remember it is that it was not carotid chokes that were the problem but windpipe attacks.

Question for all:

We all get the point stated by JDN here.  Question presented:  What of the feeling that something is not right with letting someone keep trying until they get it right?  What of the feeling that society is safer when there are those amongst us willing to step forward? (The Unorganized Militia)  Certainly doing nothing is a viable, respectable, and often correct option, but does that mean we should criticize those who have things go sideways (this is different that a study of what happened) when they do step forward?  Do we not praise those who step forward when things go well?
23768  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Who could have seen that coming? on: April 24, 2011, 12:43:00 PM

Stimulus by Fed Is Disappointing, Economists SayBy BINYAMIN APPELBAUM
Published: April 24, 2011


WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve’s experimental effort to spur a recovery by purchasing vast quantities of federal debt has pumped up the stock market, reduced the cost of American exports and allowed companies to borrow money at lower interest rates.

But most Americans are not feeling the difference, in part because those benefits have been surprisingly small. The latest estimates from economists, in fact, suggest that the pace of recovery from the global financial crisis has flagged since November, when the Fed started buying $600 billion in Treasury securities to push private dollars into investments that create jobs.

As the Fed’s policy-making board prepares to meet Tuesday and Wednesday — after which the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, will hold a news conference for the first time to explain its decisions to the public — a broad range of economists say that the disappointing results show the limits of the central bank’s ability to lift the nation from its economic malaise.

“It’s good for stopping the fall, but for actually turning things around and driving the recovery, I just don’t think monetary policy has that power,” said Mark Thoma, a professor of economics at the University of Oregon, referring specifically to the bond-buying program.

Mr. Bernanke and his supporters say that the purchases have improved economic conditions, all but erasing fears of deflation, a pattern of falling prices that can delay purchases and stall growth. Inflation, which is beneficial in moderation, has climbed closer to healthy levels since the Fed started buying bonds.

“These actions had the expected effects on markets and are thereby providing significant support to job creation and the economy,” Mr. Bernanke said in a February speech, an argument he has repeated frequently.

But growth remains slow, jobs remain scarce, and with the debt purchases scheduled to end in June, the Fed must now decide what comes next.

The Fed generally encourages growth by pushing down interest rates. In normal times, it reduces short-term interest rates, and the effects spread to other kinds of borrowing like corporate bonds and mortgage loans. But with short-term rates hovering near zero since December 2008, the Fed has tried to attack long-term rates directly by entering the market and offering to accept lower returns.

The Fed limited the program to $600 billion under considerable political pressure. While that sounds like a lot of money, the purchases have not even kept pace with the government’s issuance of new debt, so in a sense the effort has amounted to treading water. And a growing body of research suggests that the Fed could have had a larger impact by spending more money on a broader range of debt, like mortgage bonds, as it did initially. (MARC:  Oy vey!)

A vocal group of critics, meanwhile, argues that the Fed has already done far too much, amassing a portfolio of more than $2 trillion that may impede the central bank’s ability to raise interest rates to curb inflation. Some of these critics view the rising price of oil and other commodities as harbingers of broader price increases.

“I wasn’t a big fan of it in the first place,” said Charles I. Plosser, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and one of the 10 members of the Fed’s policy-making board. “I didn’t think it was going to have much of an impact, and it complicated the exit strategy. And what we’ve seen has not changed my mind.”

The Fed’s decision to buy bonds, known as quantitative easing, emulated Japan’s central bank, which started buying bonds in 2001 to break a deflationary cycle.

The American version worked well at first. From November 2008 to March 2010, the Fed bought more than $1.7 trillion in mortgage and Treasury bonds, holding down mortgage rates and reducing borrowing costs for well-regarded companies by about half a percentage point, according to several studies. That is an annual savings of $5 million on every $1 billion borrowed.

As the economy sputtered last summer, Mr. Bernanke indicated in an August speech that the Fed would start a second round of quantitative easing, soon nicknamed QE 2. The initial response was the same: Asset prices rose, interest rates fell, and the dollar declined in value.

But in addition to being smaller, and solely focused on Treasuries, there also was a problem of diminishing returns. The first round of purchases reduced the cost of borrowing by persuading skittish investors to accept lower risk premiums. With markets closer to normalcy, Mr. Bernanke warned in his August speech that it was not clear that the Fed would have comparable success in persuading investors to accept even lower rates of return.

“Such purchases seem likely to have their largest effects during periods of economic and financial stress,” he said.

The Fed says that its expectations were tempered by these realities, but that the program nonetheless has lowered yields on long-term Treasury bonds by about 0.2 percentage point relative to the rates investors would have demanded in the Fed’s absence. That is about the same impact the central bank might have achieved by lowering its benchmark rate 0.75 percentage point, which in normal times would be an aggressive move.

But some economists say the new program has had a more limited impact on the broader economy than would a traditional cut in short-term interest rates. The Fed predicted that investors would be forced to buy other kinds of debt, reducing rates for other borrowers. But the supply of Treasuries available to investors has grown since November, as issuance of new government debt outpaced the Fed’s purchases.

A study published in February found that interest rates decreased, but only for companies with top credit ratings. “Rates that are highly relevant for households and many corporations — mortgage rates and rates on lower-grade corporate bonds — were largely unaffected by the policy,” wrote Arvind Krishnamurthy and Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, both finance professors at Northwestern University.

Another indication of its limited success: Borrowing has not grown significantly, suggesting that corporations — which are sitting on record piles of cash — are not yet seeing opportunities for new investments. (Marc: Duh!) Until they do, some economists argue that the Fed is pushing on a string.

“What has it done? It has eased credit conditions, it has pumped up the stock market, it has suppressed the dollar,” said Mickey Levy, Bank of America’s chief economist. “But does the Fed think that buying Treasuries and bloating its balance sheet is really going to create permanent job increases?”

23769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Christopher Hitchens: When the King saved God on: April 24, 2011, 12:34:20 PM

CULTURE
When the King Saved God
An unbeliever argues that our language and culture are incomplete without a 400-year-old book—the King James translation of the Bible. Spurned by the Establishment, it really represents a triumph for rebellion and dissent. Accept no substitutes!
BY CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
MAY 2011
BIBLICAL PROPORTION The title page of the New Testament in the first edition of the King James Bible, published by Robert Barker (“Printer to the King’s most Excellent Maiestie”) in 1611.

After she was elected the first female governor of Texas, in 1924, and got herself promptly embroiled in an argument about whether Spanish should be used in Lone Star schools, it is possible that Miriam A. “Ma” Ferguson did not say, “If the King’s English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for the children of Texas.” I still rather hope that she did. But then, verification of quotations and sources is a tricky and sensitive thing. Abraham Lincoln lay dying in a room full of educated and literate men, in the age of the wireless telegraph, and not far from the offices of several newspapers, and we still do not know for sure, at the moment when his great pulse ceased to beat, whether his secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, said, “Now he belongs to the ages” or “Now he belongs to the angels.”

Such questions of authenticity become even more fraught when they involve the word itself becoming flesh; the fulfillment of prophecy; the witnessing of miracles; the detection of the finger of God. Guesswork and approximation will not do: the resurrection cannot be half true or questionably attested. For the first 1,500 years of the Christian epoch, this problem of “authority,” in both senses of that term, was solved by having the divine mandate wrapped up in languages that the majority of the congregation could not understand, and by having it presented to them by a special caste or class who alone possessed the mystery of celestial decoding.


Four hundred years ago, just as William Shakespeare was reaching the height of his powers and showing the new scope and variety of the English language, and just as “England” itself was becoming more of a nation-state and less an offshore dependency of Europe, an extraordinary committee of clergymen and scholars completed the task of rendering the Old and New Testaments into English, and claimed that the result was the “Authorized” or “King James” version. This was a fairly conservative attempt to stabilize the Crown and the kingdom, heal the breach between competing English and Scottish Christian sects, and bind the majesty of the King to his devout people. “The powers that be,” it had Saint Paul saying in his Epistle to the Romans, “are ordained of God.” This and other phrasings, not all of them so authoritarian and conformist, continue to echo in our language: “When I was a child, I spake as a child”; “Eat, drink, and be merry”; “From strength to strength”; “Grind the faces of the poor”; “salt of the earth”; “Our Father, which art in heaven.” It’s near impossible to imagine our idiom and vernacular, let alone our liturgy, without them. Not many committees in history have come up with such crystalline prose.

King James I, who brought the throne of Scotland along with him, was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and knew that his predecessor, Queen Elizabeth I, had been his mother’s executioner. In Scotland, he had had to contend with extreme Puritans who were suspicious of monarchy and hated all Catholics. In England, he was faced with worldly bishops who were hostile to Puritans and jealous of their own privileges. Optimism, prosperity, and culture struck one note—Henry Hudson was setting off to the Northwest Passage, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theater was drawing thoughtful crowds to see those dramas of power and legitimacy Othello, King Lear, and The Tempest—but terror and insecurity kept pace. Guy Fawkes and his fellow plotters, believed to be in league with the Pope, nearly succeeded in blowing up Parliament in 1605. Much of London was stricken with visitations of the bubonic plague, which, as Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (head of the committee of translators) noted with unease, appeared to strike the godly quite as often as it smote the sinner. The need was for a tempered version of God’s word that engendered compromise and a sense of protection.

Bishop Andrewes and his colleagues, a mixture of clergymen and classicists, were charged with revisiting the original Hebrew and Greek editions of the Old and New Testaments, along with the fragments of Aramaic that had found their way into the text. Understanding that their task was a patriotic and “nation-building” one (and impressed by the nascent idea of English Manifest Destiny, whereby the English people had replaced the Hebrews as God’s chosen), whenever they could translate any ancient word for “people” or “tribe” as “nation,” they elected to do so. The term appears 454 times in this confident form of “the King’s English.” Meeting in Oxford and Cambridge college libraries for the most part, they often kept their notes in Latin. Their conservative and consensual project was politically short-lived: in a few years the land was to be convulsed with civil war, and the Puritan and parliamentary forces under Oliver Cromwell would sweep the head of King Charles I from his shoulders. But the translators’ legacy remains, and it is paradoxically a revolutionary one, as well as a giant step in the maturing of English literature.

Imagining the most extreme form of totalitarianism in his Nineteen Eighty-Four dystopia, George Orwell depicted a secret class of occult power holders (the Inner Party clustered around Big Brother) that would cement its eternal authority by recasting the entire language. In the tongue of “Newspeak,” certain concepts of liberty and conscience would be literally impossible to formulate. And only within the most restricted circles of the regime would certain heretical texts, like Emmanuel Goldstein’s manifesto, still be legible and available. I believe that Orwell, a strong admirer of the Protestant Reformation and the poetry of its hero John Milton, was using as his original allegory the long struggle of English dissenters to have the Bible made available in a language that the people could read.

Until the early middle years of the 16th century, when King Henry VIII began to quarrel with Rome about the dialectics of divorce and decapitation, a short and swift route to torture and death was the attempt to print the Bible in English. It’s a long and stirring story, and its crux is the head-to-head battle between Sir Thomas More and William Tyndale (whose name in early life, I am proud to say, was William Hychyns). Their combat fully merits the term “fundamental.” Infuriating More, Tyndale whenever possible was loyal to the Protestant spirit by correctly translating the word ecclesia to mean “the congregation” as an autonomous body, rather than “the church” as a sacrosanct institution above human law. In English churches, state-selected priests would merely incant the liturgy. Upon hearing the words “Hoc” and “corpus” (in the “For this is my body” passage), newly literate and impatient artisans in the pews would mockingly whisper, “Hocus-pocus,” finding a tough slang term for the religious obfuscation at which they were beginning to chafe. The cold and righteous More, backed by his “Big Brother” the Pope and leading an inner party of spies and inquisitors, watched the Channel ports for smugglers risking everything to import sheets produced by Tyndale, who was forced to do his translating and printing from exile. The rack and the rope were not stinted with dissenters, and eventually Tyndale himself was tracked down, strangled, and publicly burned. (Hilary Mantel’s masterpiece historical novel, Wolf Hall, tells this exciting and gruesome story in such a way as to revise the shining image of “Saint” Thomas More, the “man for all seasons,” almost out of existence. High time, in my view. The martyrdoms he inflicted upon others were more cruel and irrational than the one he sought and found for himself.)


Other translations into other languages, by Martin Luther himself, among others, slowly entered circulation. One of them, the so-called Geneva Bible, was a more Calvinist and Puritan English version than the book that King James commissioned, and was the edition which the Pilgrim Fathers, fleeing the cultural and religious war altogether, took with them to Plymouth Rock. Thus Governor Ma Ferguson was right in one respect: America was the first and only Christian society that could take an English Bible for granted, and never had to struggle for a popular translation of “the good book.” The question, rather, became that of exactly which English version was to be accepted as the correct one. After many false starts and unsatisfactory printings, back in England, the Anglican conclave in 1611 adopted William Tyndale’s beautiful rendering almost wholesale, and out of their zeal for compromise and stability ironically made a posthumous hero out of one of the greatest literary dissidents and subversives who ever lived.

Writing about his own fascination with cadence and rhythm in Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin said, “I hazard that the King James Bible, the rhetoric of the store-front church, something ironic and violent and perpetually understated in Negro speech … have something to do with me today; but I wouldn’t stake my life on it.” As a child of the black pulpit and chronicler of the Bible’s huge role in the American oral tradition, Baldwin probably was “understating” at that very moment. And, as he very well knew, there had been times when biblical verses did involve, quite literally, the staking of one’s life. This is why the nuances and details of translation were (and still are) of such huge moment. For example, in Isaiah 7:14 it is stated that, “behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” This is the scriptural warrant and prophecy for the impregnation of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Ghost. But the original Hebrew wording refers only to the pregnancy of an almah, or young woman. If the Hebrew language wants to identify virginity, it has other terms in which to do so. The implications are not merely textual. To translate is also to interpret; or, indeed, to lay down the law. (Incidentally, the American “Revised Standard Version” of 1952 replaced the word “virgin” with “young woman.” It took the Fundamentalists until 1978 to restore the original misreading, in the now dominant “New International Version.”)

Take an even more momentous example, cited by Adam Nicolson in his very fine book on the process, God’s Secretaries. In the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Saint Paul reminds his readers of the fate that befell many backsliding pre-Christian Jews. He describes their dreadful punishments as having “happened unto them for ensamples,” which in 1611 was a plain way of conveying the word “example” or “illustrative instance,” or perhaps “lesson.” However, the original Greek term was typoi, which by contrast may be rendered as “types” or “archetypes” and suggests that Jews were to be eternally punished for their special traits. This had been Saint Augustine’s harsh reading, followed by successive Roman Catholic editions. At least one of King James’s translators wanted to impose that same collective punishment on the people of Moses, but was overruled. In the main existing text, the lenient word “ensamples” is given, with a marginal note in the original editions saying that “types” may also be meant. The English spirit of compromise at its best.

Then there are seemingly small but vital matters of emphasis, in which Tyndale did not win every round. Here is a famous verse which one might say was central to Christian teaching: “This is my Commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. / Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” That’s the King James version, which has echoed in the heads of many churchgoers until their last hour. Here is how the verse read when first translated by Tyndale: “This is my Commandment, that you love together as I have loved you. / Greater love than this hath no man, than that a man bestow his life for his friends.”

I do not find that the “King’s English” team improved much on the lovely simplicity of what they found. Tyndale has Jesus groping rather appealingly to make a general precept or principle out of a common bond, whereas the bishops and scholars are aiming to make an iron law out of love. In doing so they suggest strenuous martyrdom (“lay down,” as if Jesus had been a sacrifice to his immediate circle only). Far more human and attractive, surely, is Tyndale’s warm “bestow,” which suggests that a life devoted to friendship is a noble thing in itself.

Tyndale, incidentally, was generally good on the love question. Take that same Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, a few chapters later. For years, I would listen to it in chapel and wonder how an insipid, neuter word like “charity” could have gained such moral prestige. The King James version enjoins us that “now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Tyndale had put “love” throughout, and even if your Greek is as poor as mine you will have to admit that it is a greatly superior capture of the meaning of that all-important original word agape. It was actually the frigid clerical bureaucrat Thomas More who had made this into one of the many disputations between himself and Tyndale, and in opting to accept his ruling it seems as if King James’s committee also hoped to damp down the risky, ardent spontaneity of unconditional love and replace it with an idea of stern duty. Does not the notion of compulsory love, in any form, have something grotesque and fanatical about it?

Most recent English translations have finally dropped More and the King and gone with Tyndale on this central question, but often at the cost of making “love” appear too husky and sentimental. Thus the “Good News Bible” for American churches, first published in 1966: “Love never gives up; and its faith, hope and patience never fail.” This doesn’t read at all like the outcome of a struggle to discern the essential meaning of what is perhaps our most numinous word. It more resembles a smiley-face Dale Carnegie reassurance. And, as with everything else that’s designed to be instant, modern, and “accessible,” it goes out of date (and out of time) faster than Wisconsin cheddar.

Though I am sometimes reluctant to admit it, there really is something “timeless” in the Tyndale/King James synthesis. For generations, it provided a common stock of references and allusions, rivaled only by Shakespeare in this respect. It resounded in the minds and memories of literate people, as well as of those who acquired it only by listening. From the stricken beach of Dunkirk in 1940, faced with a devil’s choice between annihilation and surrender, a British officer sent a cable back home. It contained the three words “but if not … ” All of those who received it were at once aware of what it signified. In the Book of Daniel, the Babylonian tyrant Nebuchadnezzar tells the three Jewish heretics Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that if they refuse to bow to his sacred idol they will be flung into a “burning fiery furnace.” They made him an answer: “If it be so, our god whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thy hand, o King. / But if not, be it known unto thee, o king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”

A culture that does not possess this common store of image and allegory will be a perilously thin one. To seek restlessly to update it or make it “relevant” is to miss the point, like yearning for a hip-hop Shakespeare. “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward,” says the Book of Job. Want to try to improve that for Twitter? And so bleak and spare and fatalistic—almost non-religious—are the closing verses of Ecclesiastes that they were read at the Church of England funeral service the unbeliever George Orwell had requested in his will: “Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home. … Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. / Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was.”

At my father’s funeral I chose to read a similarly non-sermonizing part of the New Testament, this time an injunction from Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

As much philosophical as spiritual, with its conditional and speculative “ifs” and its closing advice—always italicized in my mind since first I heard it—to think and reflect on such matters: this passage was the labor of men who had wrought deeply with ideas and concepts. I now pluck down from my shelf the American Bible Society’s “Contemporary English Version,” which I picked up at an evangelical “Promise Keepers” rally on the Mall in Washington in 1997. Claiming to be faithful to the spirit of the King James translation, it keeps its promise in this way: “Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.”

Pancake-flat: suited perhaps to a basement meeting of A.A., these words could not hope to penetrate the torpid, resistant fog in the mind of a 16-year-old boy, as their original had done for me. There’s perhaps a slightly ingratiating obeisance to gender neutrality in the substitution of “my friends” for “brethren,” but to suggest that Saint Paul, of all people, was gender-neutral is to re-write the history as well as to rinse out the prose. When the Church of England effectively dropped King James, in the 1960s, and issued what would become the “New English Bible,” T. S. Eliot commented that the result was astonishing “in its combination of the vulgar, the trivial and the pedantic.” (Not surprising from the author of For Lancelot Andrewes.) This has been true of every other stilted, patronizing, literal-minded attempt to shift the translation’s emphasis from plangent poetry to utilitarian prose.

T. S. Eliot left America (and his annoyingly colorless Unitarian family) to seek the traditionalist roots of liturgical and literary tradition in England. Coming in the opposite direction across the broad Atlantic, the King James Bible slowly overhauled and overtook the Geneva version, and, as the Pilgrim-type mini-theocracies of New England withered away, became one of the very few books from which almost any American could quote something. Paradoxically, this made it easy to counterfeit. When Joseph Smith began to fabricate his Book of Mormon, in the late 1820s, “translating” it from no known language, his copy of King James was never far from his side. He plagiarized 27,000 words more or less straight from the original, including several biblical stories lifted almost in their entirety, and the throat-clearing but vaguely impressive phrase “and it came to pass” is used at least 2,000 times. Such “borrowing” was a way of lending much-needed “tone” to the racket. Not long afterward, William Miller excited gigantic crowds with the news that the Second Coming of Jesus would occur in 1843. An associate followed up with an 1844 due date. These disappointed prophecies were worked out from marginal notes in Miller’s copy of the King James edition, which he quarried for apocalyptic evidence. (There had always been those, from the earliest days, when it was being decided which parts of the Bible were divinely inspired and which were not, who had striven to leave out the Book of Revelation. Martin Luther himself declined to believe that it was the work of the Holy Spirit. But there Christianity still is, well and truly stuck with it.) So, of the many Christian heresies which were born in the New World and not imported from Europe, at least three—the Mormons, or Latter-Day Saints; the Millerites, or Seventh-Day Adventists; and their schismatic product the Jehovah’s Witnesses—are indirectly mutated from a pious attempt to bring religious consensus to Jacobean England.

Not to over-prize consensus, it does possess certain advantages over randomness and chaos. Since the appearance of the so-called “Good News Bible,” there have been no fewer than 48 English translations published in the United States. And the rate shows no sign of slackening. Indeed, the trend today is toward what the trade calls “niche Bibles.” These include the “Couples Bible,” “One Year New Testament for Busy Moms,” “Extreme Teen Study Bible,” “Policeman’s Bible,” and—somehow unavoidably—the “Celebrate Recovery Bible.” (Give them credit for one thing: the biblical sales force knows how to “be fruitful and multiply.”) In this cut-price spiritual cafeteria, interest groups and even individuals can have their own customized version of God’s word. But there will no longer be a culture of the kind which instantly recognized what Lincoln meant when he spoke of “a house divided.” The gradual eclipse of a single structure has led, not to a new clarity, but to a new Babel.

Those who opposed the translation of the Bible into the vernacular—rather like those Catholics who wish the Mass were still recited in Latin, or those Muslims who regard it as profane to render the Koran out of Arabic—were afraid that the mystic potency of incantation and ritual would be lost, and that daylight would be let in upon magic. They also feared that if God’s word became too everyday and commonplace it would become less impressive, or less able to inspire awe. But the reverse turns out to have been the case, at least in this instance. The Tyndale/King James translation, even if all its copies were to be burned, would still live on in our language through its transmission by way of Shakespeare and Milton and Bunyan and Coleridge, and also by way of beloved popular idioms such as “fatted calf” and “pearls before swine.” It turned out to be rather more than the sum of its ancient predecessors, as well as a repository and edifice of language which towers above its successors. Its abandonment by the Church of England establishment, which hoped to refill its churches and ended up denuding them, is yet another demonstration that religion is man-made, with inky human fingerprints all over its supposedly inspired and unalterable texts. Ma Ferguson was right in her way. She just didn’t know how many Englishmen and how many Englishes, and how many Jesus stories and Jesuses, there were to choose from.
23770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Custody battle: former lesbian mother vs lesbian former partner on: April 24, 2011, 10:39:52 AM


Federal authorities last week arrested and charged a Tennessee pastor with aiding in the “international parental kidnapping” of a girl who has been missing since late 2009 and is at the center of a lengthy custody battle between her two mothers — a onetime lesbian couple who were in a civil union.

Lisa Miller and the child disappeared in 2009.

The two had a bitter falling-out after one became an evangelical Christian and denounced the other’s continued “homosexual lifestyle.”

Their legal battle over visitation rights and custody, carried out over the last seven years in Vermont and Virginia courts, received wide publicity because of the clashes over sexual orientation and religion, and because it raised questions about the rights of nonbiological parents in same-sex unions that are not recognized in many states.

Lisa Miller, the girl’s biological mother and a newly fervent Baptist, was championed by conservatives for her efforts to shield her daughter from homosexuality. A Vermont court had granted her primary custody of the daughter, Isabella Ruth Miller-Jenkins, after Ms. Miller split with her partner, Janet Jenkins, in 2003. But the court also declared Ms. Jenkins to be a legal parent with liberal visiting rights, and Ms. Miller, who had moved with the girl to Virginia, defied repeated orders to permit the visits.

The case took a turn in late 2009, as the Vermont family court, citing Ms. Miller’s noncompliance, shifted primary custody to Ms. Jenkins. Ms. Miller and Isabella, who is now 9, disappeared. A warrant was issued for Ms. Miller’s arrest, and they have not been heard from since.

According to an F.B.I. affidavit unsealed in Vermont on Thursday, the pastor, Timothy David Miller of Crossville, Tenn., helped arrange in September 2009 for Ms. Miller and Isabella to fly from Canada to Mexico and travel on to Nicaragua, where he worked as a missionary for Christian Aid Ministries. (The F.B.I. said it had no evidence that Mr. Miller and Lisa Miller were related.)

Ms. Miller and Isabella stayed in a beach house in Nicaragua that is owned by a conservative businessman with close ties to Liberty University, an evangelical school in Lynchburg, Va., and whose daughter works at the university’s law school, according to the affidavit.

Lawyers from Liberty, including the dean of the law school, Mathew D. Staver, represented Ms. Miller in court appeals on the custody issues. They argued without success that Ms. Jenkins had no parental rights and that laws in Virginia, which ban same-sex unions, should prevail over those in Vermont.

On Friday, Mr. Staver said the legal team has had no contact with Ms. Miller since the fall of 2009 and had always advised her to obey the law. He said he knew nothing about the accusations involving a law school office assistant, Victoria Hyden, and her father Philip Zodhiates, the beach house’s owner.

Mr. Zodhiates runs Response Unlimited, a Christian direct-mail company in Waynesboro, Va. He did not respond to requests for comment, but on Friday he told The Advocate magazine that the pair were not living at his house in Nicaragua and called the accusations “absurd.”

Ms. Miller and Ms. Jenkins were joined in a civil union in Vermont in 2000 and planned to raise a child together. Isabella was conceived by artificial insemination and born to Ms. Miller in 2002, with Ms. Jenkins present at the birth. But the parents’ relations soured over the following year. Ms. Miller moved with Isabella to Virginia, became deeply involved with a Baptist church and renounced homosexuality. A Vermont court dissolved the civil union but treated Ms. Jenkins as a full parent with visitation rights.

Over time, Ms. Miller began refusing to allow the required visits, among other things objecting that Ms. Jenkins’s “homosexual lifestyle” would offend Isabella’s religious beliefs. At one point, a court in Virginia, which does not recognize same-sex unions, agreed with Ms. Miller’s claim to be the sole legal parent, but the Virginia Supreme Court eventually confirmed that the Vermont rulings should prevail.

Last June, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit, an unnamed person called one of Ms. Jenkins’s lawyers, Sarah Star, and told Ms. Star that the mother and daughter were hiding in Mr. Zodhiates’s Nicaraguan house. Much of the evidence in support of the criminal charges and other accusations, the affidavit said, was obtained through court-approved, covert searches of e-mail accounts, uncovering messages from Mr. Miller that appear to arrange the mother and daughter’s 2009 flight to Nicaragua and from Mr. Zodhiates arranging to send them supplies.

On Friday, Ms. Jenkins issued a statement through Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, a rights group in Boston that has also represented her in court.

“I know very little at this point, but I really hope that this means that Isabella is safe and well,” it said. “I am looking forward to having my daughter home safe with me very soon.”

The United States attorney for Vermont, Tristram Coffin, told the Rutland Herald newspaper that Mr. Miller had been arrested on Monday night in Virginia and was scheduled to appear in Federal District Court in Burlington on Monday. Officials declined to say whether others may be arrested or what measures they are taking to find Ms. Miller, who faces criminal charges, and Isabella, who under current rulings should be in the primary custody of Ms. Jenkins, with visitation rights for Ms. Miller.

23771  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 24, 2011, 10:22:25 AM
Off to do some Easter Egg Hunt stuff with the family (my wife is Catholic btw), but a quick addition to the comments in my previous post:

If I am not mistaken, Persia changed its name to Iran (i.e. a form of the word "Aryan") due to Nazi influence in the 1930s.  Can anyone find a citation for or against this?  Assuming it to be true for the moment, again we see virulent Jew hatred prior to the existence of Israel-- so the problem is not the existence of Israel, the problem is religious hatred fomented within the ranks of Islam.
23772  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chinese Ministry of Truth on: April 24, 2011, 10:17:35 AM
Pasting here BBG's post from the China thread:

http://chinadigitaltimes.net/china/ministry-of-truth/
23773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Debra Saunders: Three Cups of Salt on: April 24, 2011, 10:13:36 AM
I'm more interested in finding a way forward for America.   What are the implications of what YA just posted?
===========

As the search function here will reveal, I read and was impressed by the "Three Cups of Tea" book a few years ago, and so I have followed its recent fall from grace with a certain amount of personal interest.  Here is a column that gives a sense of what was involved:

The first tip-off that Greg Mortenson's memoir "Three Cups of Tea" has some credibility issues comes in the book's introduction. Co-author David Oliver Relin writes that as Mortenson is flying over Pakistan, the helicopter pilot marvels to Mortenson, "I've been flying in northern Pakistan for 40 years. How is it you know the terrain better than me?"

The pilot also confides, "Flying with President Musharraf, I've become acquainted with many world leaders, many outstanding gentlemen and ladies. But I think Greg Mortenson is the most remarkable person I've ever met."

People don't talk like that. Books don't lead with that level of self-aggrandizement. Unless they want to induct you into a cult.

Last Sunday, "60 Minutes" reporter Steve Kroft ripped into Mortenson's claim of stumbling years ago into a Pakistani village as he descended from a K2 climb and meeting a young girl who asked him to build a school. While he refused Kroft's request for an on-camera interview, in a statement, Mortenson admitted his version of events was "condensed."

It seems Mortenson also fabricated a story of being kidnapped by the Taliban. Kroft interviewed Mansur Khan Mahsud, the research director of an Islamabad think tank, who was surprised to see himself in a photo that Mortenson had claimed showed his 1996 captors.

In the statement, Mortenson explained that "Talib" means student of Arabic. And Khan wants to sue him for defamation.

The worst part: "60 Minutes" checked out 30 of the 141 schools that Mortenson's charity, Central Asia Institute, claimed to have built in Afghanistan and Pakistan "mostly for girls." Kroft reported, "Roughly half were empty, built by someone else or not receiving any support at all."

American Institute of Philanthropy President Daniel Borochoff found that in 2009, CAI spent more on "domestic outreach" -- largely advertising and travel promoting Mortenson's books, "like a book tour" -- than it spent overseas.

"Into Thin Air" author Jon Krakauer, who is mentioned in "Three Cups" as a CAI supporter, charged that Mortenson, who has made millions in book sales, used the charity "as his private ATM."

That revelation must have hit "Three Cups" fans in the gut. The memoir asserts that Mortenson made repeated sacrifices -- such as living in his car rather than pay rent -- because "every wasted dollar stole bricks or books from the school."

But there were so many other signals that the book was problematic.

In "Three Cups," Mortenson charmed his Taliban kidnappers by asking for a Quran and showing his devotion -- and so they let him go. Which is amazing.

More amazing was the claim that they gave him money, saying, "For your schools. So, Inshallah, you'll build many more." (It helps if you forget how bad the Taliban take on education for girls is.)

There were other signals. Writer Ann Marlowe questioned some of the "anti-military nonsense" in a 2008 Forbes commentary. Mortenson claimed that during his stint as an Army medic in Germany, Vietnam veterans were hooked on heroin and died "in their bunks and we'd have to go and collect their bodies." Marlowe suggested that readers take his tales with "three grains of salt."

Instead, he sold 3 million books. Why? Through the pouring of "Three Cups," Mortenson came to personify every liberal conceit. He pushed books, not bombs. He had a nuanced take on Islamic extremism. He's not afraid of terrorism; for him, "the enemy is ignorance."

Marlowe observed, "The implication is that this solitary do-gooder's work is a better model for helping the rural poor in areas that are a breeding ground for Islamic extremism." While to the contrary, the U.S. Army built more schools in just one Afghan province in 15 months than CAI built in a decade.

Listeners of KQED-FM's "Forum" last week were outraged and perplexed. On the one hand, Mortenson has done a lot of good for a lot of children. On the other hand, the "60 Minutes" story makes his fans look gullible.

A caller asked: How are we supposed to know a book is a phony?

Hmmmm. If the cash-giving girls-school-loving Taliban tale doesn't ring a bell, if the constant reminders of Mortenson's greatness -- and modesty -- don't do the trick, maybe there is another warning sign. Global Fund for Women Vice President Shalini Nataraj warned about any memoir that hails "the white savior who's going to come in and save the local people."
23774  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 23, 2011, 11:03:30 PM
Andraz:

While GM brings some citations to bear, I will merely offer two points

a) The purpose of my reference to the sales of Mein Kampf in the Arab world prior to WW2 was to establish the existence of vicious, virulent hatred of Jews well prior to the establishment of Israel i.e. the problem is not the existence of Israel, the problem is intolerance of Jews (and in the absence thereof of Coptic Christians and in the absence thereof any kind of Christian and in the absence thereof Muslims of other schools of thought that ones own etc etc etc)  I see GM is fleshing this point out.

b) Please do not confuse the vigor of the conversation for anger.  We do not seek here an echo chamber.  To the contrary we seek Truth.  Your presence and participation here are most welcome. 

c) I will seek to answer some of the particulars of your most recent post tomorrow.

Marc

PS:  Although I missed wishing Happy Passover a few days ago, I would like to take the occasion to wish Happy Easter to our Christian friends here.  The Christian message of forgiveness is a most worthy one.
23775  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / WSJ: Marines using accupuncture in Afpakia on: April 23, 2011, 07:39:49 PM
Marine Lance Cpl. Tristan Bell was injured in a jarring explosion that tore apart his armored vehicle, slammed a heavy radio into the back of his head and left him tortured by dizziness, insomnia, headaches and nightmares.

He is recovering on a padded table at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, beneath strings of soft, white Christmas lights, with the dulcet notes of "Tao of Healing" playing on an iPod and a forest of acupuncture needles sprouting from his head, ear, hands and feet.

In a bit of battlefield improvisation, the Navy is experimenting with acupuncture and soothing atmospherics to treat Marines suffering from mild cases of traumatic brain injury, commonly called concussions—the most prevalent wound of the Afghan war.

After hitting on the idea in late November, Cmdr. Keith Stuessi used acupuncture, along with the music and lights, to treat more than 20 patients suffering from mild brain injuries. All but two or three saw marked improvements, including easier sleep, reduced anxiety and fewer headaches, he says. Cmdr. Earl Frantz, who replaced Cmdr. Stuessi at Camp Leatherneck last month, has taken charge of the acupuncture project and treated 28 more concussion patients.

"I think a couple years down the road, this will be standard care," predicts Cmdr. Stuessi, a sports-medicine specialist turned acupuncture acolyte. "At some point you have to drink the Kool-Aid, and I have drunk the Kool-Aid."

While researchers are still investigating how exactly it works, studies have found that acupuncture can help relieve pain, stress and a range of other conditions. The newest Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs clinical guidelines recommend acupuncture as a supplementary therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, pain, anxiety and sleeplessness.

The VA is recruiting candidates for a study of acupuncture's effectiveness in treating PTSD and traumatic brain injury. Based on other studies of its benefits, "there is good reason to believe that acupuncture will induce recovery across a number of trauma spectrum dysfunctions in patients with TBI and PTSD, at low cost and with little risk," the VA wrote.

In 2008, the Navy put Cmdr. Stuessi, a 44-year-old from Wales, Wis., and a handful of other doctors through a 300-hour acupuncture course. When he came to Afghanistan in August to create a clinic to treat concussions and minor physical injuries, the commander brought his collapsible needling table. He expected to use it for the usual array of sprained ankles and sore backs.

Once at Camp Leatherneck, though, Cmdr. Stuessi stumbled across an article about using acupuncture to treat PTSD and realized many of the symptoms overlapped with those of mild traumatic brain injury: insomnia, headache, memory deficit, attention deficit, irritability and anxiety.

Lance Cpl. Bell, 22, from Billings, Mont., was patrolling a ridgeline in mid-January when the Marines in his vehicle spotted a half-buried bomb in the road ahead. They backed up onto a second booby-trap, leaving five of the seven crewmen, including Lance Cpl. Bell, unconscious. He took medicine, but the headaches and insomnia grew relentless as the days passed. "If I took a nap, I'd have nightmares and crazy dreams," he says. "I don't take naps."

He was waiting to see his regular doctor when Cmdr. Stuessi invited him to watch another Marine get acupuncture. The lance corporal hates needles, but he was getting desperate. The back of his head throbbed so hard it made his eyes hurt. "I thought, 'Something has to change here—I want to get back out there,' " he recalls.

The night after his first session, he slept eight hours, twice what he had managed before. Soon he was returning eagerly every three days, when the benefits began to fade. He made a recent visit after a bad night, in which he woke up disoriented, headed out for a smoke and hit his head on the bunk bed.

When Lance Cpl. Bell showed up at Cmdr. Stuessi's plywood office in a green Marine Corps sweatshirt and camouflage pants, the doctor turned off the overhead fluorescent light and switched on a string of Christmas lights his wife had shipped him. He shuffled his iPod from "Mack the Knife" to the flute notes of his healing music.

He slipped one needle into the top of the Marine's head, and more into his left ear and hands. As he worked, he spoke softly of "chi," which he described as the rush of numbness or warmth when the needle hits the spot, and "shen men," a point in the ear connected to anxiety and stress. "This is Liver Three," he said, sliding a needle into Lance Cpl. Bell's left foot and moving it until the Marine felt the desired effect.

"Right there," murmured Lance Cpl. Bell, letting his eyelids fall closed.

A 2008 RAND Corp. study found that one in five troops who serve in Iraq or Afghanistan suffers traumatic brain injury, ranging from severe head wounds to more common concussions. Standard treatment for the latter can involve painkillers, antianxiety medication, sleeping pills, counseling and group therapy.

Acupuncture immediately appeared to speed recovery, Cmdr. Stuessi says. His first patient, unable to sleep more than four hours a night despite two weeks of standard treatment, put in 10 hours the night after his initial needling. Most other patients have seen similar results.

Cmdr. Stuessi is unsure why acupuncture eases concussions. A few of Lance Cpl. Bell's buddies remain unconvinced.

Lance Cpl. Dominic Collins, who shared a vehicle with Lance Cpl. Bell, was plagued by headaches after the bombing. One night in February, he dreamed he was being mortared. He rolled out of his bunk to take cover.

He declined the clinic's offer of acupuncture. "It's kind of not my thing," he says. "I have tattoos, but it's the idea of getting stuck" that puts him off.

One Marine tried jokingly to discourage Cpl. Francisco Sanchez, who hit two mines in one day, from using acupuncture by making him sit through an action movie in which the hero stabs the villain with a needle in the back of the neck. The villain's eyes bleed. Then he dies.

But word has spread around camp, and Marines with everything from job stress to snuff addiction now plead for acupuncture.

"All we can say is we've learned from the Chinese on this," Cmdr. Stuessi says. "They've been doing this for a couple thousand years."

Write to Michael M. Phillips at michael.phillips@wsj.com

23776  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 23, 2011, 07:16:49 PM
Worth noting is that much of the incoherence of our strategy has its origins in the Bush-Rumbo era , , ,
23777  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: April 23, 2011, 07:15:48 PM
I like Dick Morris.  He's a very good pollster, and like me, he loathes the Clintons.  That does not mean however that he does not get outside of his lane from time to time and IMHO political economics is outside his lane.  While I am hostile to the IMF (see e.g. my pointing out that the bailouts of Greece and Ireland cost the US about $300B and that we should withdraw from the IMF) and DM makes some sound points regarding its make-up and distribution of power, after watching this twice I cannot tell wtf it is that has DM upset here.  That announced some standards.  So?  Without further explication, I'm not seeing the substance.
23778  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: california on: April 23, 2011, 07:04:17 PM
Back in the 70s the Economist was a superior publication, but IMHO it now has deteriorated into smug elitism.  This article is the now usual mix of perceptive comments and pompous elitist commentary.

Amongst the many things missed are

a) the consequences of gerrymandering which have created a one party state-- the incumbent party.  I must give Schwarzenegger considerable credit for his part in bringing this to a close.  With the most recent census and the district lines no longer drawn by the incumbents, there may be hope for genuine democracy
b) the distinction between a republic and a democracy.  The United States is a republic, not a democracy, and for durn good reason-- unbridled democracy leads to demogoguery and tomfoolery of the sort we the idiots of CA have voted in via initiative. 

Life is tough, and it is tougher when you are stupid.  California has been stupid.
23779  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 23, 2011, 06:57:36 PM
And/or it is intimidated by Islamic Fascism, just as Mussolini's Brown Shirts intimidated in the streets of Italy.

Andrew, you are a good person, but in my opinion your opinion is the result of being denied both sides.
23780  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 23, 2011, 06:47:57 PM
I went searching for some clips to support my case, but it appears that youtube has deleted the following angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry
=============
deleted as "schocking and disgusting"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqHUdwePfbM
violating terms of use
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xM0HHYNVPKY&mode=related&search=
http://www.youtube.com/watch?search=&mode=related&v=19mpJRq11Hg
Concentration Camps #1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvViOT_Aqqc&NR=1
#2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ObmI8xfk7Y&mode=related&search=
#3
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=be-F9KyxaFs&mode=related&search=
#4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuVmS1tMXZE&mode=related&search=
#5
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=no8RaAEkuWc&mode=related&search=
#6
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47GOtpV9I6E&mode=related&search=
#7
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y95nCydzC-s&mode=related&search=
===============================
However this little gem from Palestinian TV year 2000 survives
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmnpMXOpaM4&NR
Would you trust this congregation to keep and agreement with you?
=============

And making sure to keep it alive with the next generation , , ,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YM-XeaIn06g&NR
23781  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 23, 2011, 06:41:39 PM
Andrew, you are a bright, well-educated thoughtful guy with a good heart.  Like all of us, you are also the result of the air which you breathe, which in the case of Europe has reverted to its traditional anti-semitism, which is compounded in many areas by its pre-emptive dhimmitude towards the Muslims in its midst.   As you know, I have been to Europe and I have seen iaccuracies and attitudes in the press there that leave me looking like a Jewish Don King (the black American boxing promoter with the hair that goes straight up).

I'm not seeing a source for the maps you cite which I suspect draw things in a way that is subject to dispute, but the larger point is to expand the area in question.  Once we do this we see that it is, and I say this with love, wildly deranged to see the Palestinians as surrounded!  There IS a Palestinian homeland-- it is called Jordan.  The West Bank used to be part of Jordan, but because of Arafat and PLO perfidy, they fg abandoned it.

Mein Kampf was a best-seller throughout the Arab word (Under the name "My Jihad" if I am not mistaken) in the 1930s, well before WW2 and Hitler's final solution.  Jews have been the majority population of Jerusalem since 1500, and due to Islamic oppression (dhimmitude) nearly as many Jews emmigrated to Israel from Arab countries as did from Europe.

It is the Jews who are surrounded and who have had to fight for their very lives against Arab onslaught many times and who haved lived for decades with their women and children specifically targeted by suicidal killers (whose families were paid $25,000 a hit by Saddam Hussein by the way).  Despite this, Israeli Arabs are citizens who vote and can bring lawsuits (which they sometimes win) have their mosques and their religion.  Find me this in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, etc!

Yet despite all their genocidal attacks on the Jews, good people such as yourself do not hold the Palestinians to blame for the natural consequences of their actions.  Indeed you speak of the Jews surrounding the Arabs/Palestinians!?!

In Europe we allowed ourselves to be led to the gas chambers. 

Never again.
23782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 23, 2011, 06:21:45 PM
Whoa.  That's heavy.  shocked
23783  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law on: April 23, 2011, 06:20:11 PM

In honor of my Jewish heritage, allow me to point out

http://dogbrothers.com/store/index.php?cPath=46

 cheesy
23784  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Dan Inosanto as a prison cook on: April 23, 2011, 06:17:42 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZOJWXsHFu8&feature=youtu.be
23785  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law on: April 23, 2011, 12:27:48 PM
"Uhler jumped on Montalvo, who put him in a submission hold, Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano said. The move blocked the teen's oxygen flow, causing a brain injury, Soriano said."

A submission hold blocks blood flow and does not attack the windpipe.  Not clear here whether the reporter grasps this distinction.  (Tangent: When I first moved to LA (1982) there was a political fuss over the disproportionate number of black people suffering drastic consequences from police holds that attacked the windpipe.  IIRC police chief Gates said something to the effect that that was because black people didn't have the same responses as "normal people", but I digress , , ,)


"Further, as pointed out, Montalvo was not in eminent danger (or any danger for that matter) when he initially saw Uhler. 
"The 42-year-old ran to the street, identified two suspects and chased them to the next block.""

Are you saying that Montalvo has to be in "eminent danger", or imminent danger for that matter  evil cheesy to try to catch the bad guy?



23786  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Misean Economics on: April 23, 2011, 12:16:17 PM
An internet friend writes:

I have a couple of thoughts on the subject of books, and how to more quickly gain exposure to the Austrian ideas.


First of all, probably the most important thing to grasp is the fundamental difference between Misean thought and the currently dominant neo-classical economists. The mainstream has tried to turn economics into an empirical science like physics. They believe they can observe the economic world, craft hypotheses to explain the observed phenomena, and then test those hypotheses by measuring how well they can forecast future events. Many people seem to think Popper's ideas about "falsification" are relevant for economic science. For economics and other social sciences, however, Mises argued that empiricism is an impossible process. Controlled experimentation is impossible in this realm, but more importantly man's actions are not determined by invariant physical facts -- as are the actions and reactions of inanimate objects.


Mises offered a completely different method of constructing economic science, a method that was employed and articulated by a number of great economists before Mises' time -- but one that Mises himself developed more fully and explicitly than anybody before him. So here is my suggestion for getting this idea painlessly and quickly: read Robert P. Murphy's new book "Lessons for the Young Economist". Murphy wrote this book for high school and even younger people, but I have read it cover to cover and it is not a baby's book. He keeps the vocabulary at an appropriate level, but that is a good thing; when reading Mises I find myself looking up word definitions several times per page. This book can be read very quickly, and in my opinion, presents the key ideas faithfully and very well.


I will attach the ePub to this email, but you can also download it and several other formats from the link above. If this doesn't appeal to you, there are other options, but I sincerely feel that reading this simple work quickly might be the most painless way to get the most important and fundamental concepts. Economics is a much simpler discipline than the high priests in the Fed would have us believe.


Tom
23787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Soviet Gulags on: April 23, 2011, 12:13:53 PM
By ANDREW STUTTAFORD
The most remarkable thing about "The Way Back," the 2010 film by Peter Weir, was neither its protagonists (escapees from the Soviet gulag system who trekked thousands of miles to their freedom) nor the curious tale of the almost certainly fictional 1956 "memoir" that inspired it (Slawomir Rawicz's "The Long Walk"). No, what distinguished "The Way Back" was its depiction of life in Stalin's camps. There have been a handful of films on this topic, but, as observed Anne Applebaum, author of a fine 2004 history of the gulag, this was the first time it had been given the full Hollywood treatment. Hitler's concentration camps are a Tinseltown staple, but Stalin's merit barely a mention.

Publishers have been more even-handed. There are many books on Soviet terror, and some have won huge readerships. Yet, as Hollywood's cynics understand, the swastika will almost always outsell the red star. That's due partly to the perverse aesthetics of the Third Reich but also to a disconcerting ambivalence—even now—about what was going on a little further to the east. The slaughter of millions by Moscow's communist regime remains shrouded in benevolent shadow. The Soviet experiment is given a benefit of a doubt that owes nothing to history and far too much to a lingering sympathy for a supposedly noble dream supposedly gone astray.


A flurry of recent books on Soviet oppression—surely encouraged by the interest generated by Ms. Applebaum's "Gulag"—is thus to be welcomed. One of the best is edited by Ms. Applebaum herself. "Gulag Voices" (Yale, 195 pages, $25) is a deftly chosen anthology of writings by victims of Soviet rule. Some are published for the first time in English, most are by writers little known in the West and each is given a succinct, informative introduction. Above all, they help illustrate the duration, variety and range of Soviet despotism.

The Third Reich lasted for scarcely more than a decade. Most of those who died at its hands were slaughtered within the space of five years or so. The Soviet killing spree dragged on, however, from the revolutionary frenzy of 1917, through the terrible bloodbaths of the Stalin era, to the last violent spasms in 1991. The ultimate death toll may have been higher than that orchestrated by Hitler, but absolute annihilations like those envisaged by the Nazis were never on the agenda. Instead the nature of Soviet repression shifted back and forth over the years: sometimes more lethal, sometimes less, sometimes carefully targeted, sometimes arbitrary. The gulag itself was, as Ms. Applebaum notes, "an extraordinarily varied place." As the title of Solzhenitsyn's "The First Circle" reminds us, Stalin's hell, like Dante's, was layered. And how it endured: The most recent account in "Gulag Voices" is an excerpt from Anatoly Marchenko's "My Testimony," a memoir from 1969 that highlighted the way that Stalinist cruelty had successfully survived the dead, officially disgraced, dictator.

"Gulag Voices" begins in 1928. Dmitry Likhachev, an old-style St. Petersburg intellectual, was arrested when his literary discussion group was deemed to be a hotbed of counterrevolutionary plotting. He served four years in the Solovetsky Islands, the beautiful northern archipelago that from 1923 hosted the first organized camps, the tumor that metastasized into the hideous "archipelago" of Solzhenitsyn's great metaphor.

Mr. Likhachev's contribution is followed by a sampling of what could be found within that wider archipelago. Misery, gang rape and murder co-exist with Potemkin parodies of "normal life"—an excerpt from Gustav Herling's "A World Apart" (1951) describes the arrangements for conjugal visits. Occasionally, the prisoners might even carry on approximations of a career within the camp as an engineer, doctor or, as Tamara Petkevich recounts in "Memoir of a Gulag Actress" (Northern Illinois, 481 pages, $35), a performer for audiences of fellow convicts.

Such recollections come, as Ms. Applebaum acknowledges, with their own bias. With the exception of Mr. Marchenko, who died in the course of a later sentence, the authors all survived. Millions were not so fortunate. And some of those lives had hardly begun. In the devastating "Children of the Gulag" (Yale, 450 pages, $35), Cathy A. Frierson and Semyon S. Vilensky chronicle the awful fate of those literally countless children whose parents had fallen foul of the rage of the Soviet state. Here, a gulag convict nurse recalls handing over a batch of prisoners' children for transfer to a "special home": "The worst happened: We'd given, according to the receipt, eleven healthy beautiful children, and not one of them was ever returned. Not a single one!" This was a story repeated again and again and again. And as for those who did survive, many were forced to accept a suspect, fragile existence in which, for decades, the knock on the door was never so far away.

That tension would have been familiar to many prisoners eventually freed from the gulag. "Gulag Voices" includes one account by the pseudonymous K. Petrus, describing his 1939 release into what Ms. Applebaum describes as "the strange ambiguity" of a life that was closer to limbo. The big cities were denied to most former inmates. Their families were broken. Many chose to remain near the camps that had once held them.

Tales of the Gulag
The Gulag Archipelago
By Alexander Solzhenitsyn

That "The Gulag Archipelago" had to be written says the worst about humanity. That it was written says the best. Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) created an unanswerable indictment of the totalitarian regime under which he was still living and, no less critically, established that it had been poison from the start. As carefully researched as the difficult circumstances of its production would allow, "The Gulag Archipelago" is no dry roster of the dead but a work of passion and fury, underpinned by bleak humor and the hope (vain, it seems) that someday justice would be done.

Kolyma Tales
By Varlam Shalamov

Far less well-known than they should be, these short stories by Varlam Shalamov (1907-82) are terse, lightly fictionalized, partly autobiographical glimpses into the gulag's abyss. "Kolyma Tales" derives its name from the region in Russia's far northeast that played host to a vast forced labor complex, in which hundreds of thousands (at least) perished. Written in a style of ironic, hard-edged detachment and so spare and so crystalline that they sometimes tip over into poetry, the tales rest at the summit of Russian literary achievement.

Journey into the Whirlwind
By Eugenia Ginzburg

Rightly or wrongly, the Great Terror of 1937, an immense wave of violence that took down many who had either supported or benefited from the rise of the Soviet state, has come to be seen as the epitome of Stalinist despotism. Eugenia Ginzburg (1904-77) was among those expelled from a heaven under construction to a fully finished hell. "Journey Into the Whirlwind" remains a profoundly humane, wonderfully written first-hand account of arrest, imprisonment and exile into the gulag.

My Testimony
By Anatoly Marchenko

Eugenia Ginzburg was a member of the Soviet elite; Anatoly Marchenko (1938-86) was the opposite, the son of illiterate railway workers. "My Testimony," his description of life in the 1960s gulag, is matter-of-fact, something that only makes its horrors seem worse. Marchenko's gulag experience transformed him from everyman into dissident. The last of his many re-arrests was in 1980. Still imprisoned, he died from the effects of a hunger strike in 1986. Perestroika had just begun: too late, far too late.


Faithful Ruslan

By Georgi Vladimov

Moments of extraordinary beauty mark this haunting fable by Georgi Vladimov (1931-2003), told through the eyes of Ruslan, the most loyal of guard dogs. Abandoned by Master after their camp is closed down following Stalin's death, Ruslan patiently patrols the neighboring town waiting for the old order to return. It does, but only as a hallucination as Ruslan drifts into death after one final bloodletting. When Vladimov offered this novella for publication, though, it was rejected. Khrushchev had fallen and new masters were in charge. For real.

—Andrew Stuttaford

The fate of those who emerged is also a central concern of Stephen F. Cohen's "The Victims Return: Survivors of the Gulag After Stalin" (Publishing Works, 224 pages, $22.95), a perceptive study of Khrushchev-era attempts to secure justice for Stalin's victims, the backsliding that followed and, finally, in the Glasnost years, the mass, too often posthumous "rehabilitations" of former prisoners—rehabilitations unaccompanied, however, by any realistic prospect that their tormentors would be brought to justice. Mr. Cohen was a frequent visitor to Moscow in the 1970s and 1980s and came to know some of those who had survived. His account is powerful and, often, very moving, marred only by traces of a belief in the impossible dream of a kinder, gentler Soviet Union, the will-o'-the-wisp that beguiled and destroyed Mikhail Gorbachev.

A very different (and highly unusual) perspective can be found in "Gulag Boss" (Oxford, 229 pages, $29.95) by Fyodor Mochulsky, the reminiscences of an engineer recruited by the NKVD (the Stalin-era secret police) to supervise forced labor in a Siberian camp. It was written during and after the U.S.S.R.'s implosion and ends with Mochulsky appearing to reject the methods, although not necessarily the ideology, of the system he served for so long. But he does so in the strained, awkward prose of a man unwilling to face up to what he had done. Mr. Mochulsky talks of disease, lack of food and other hardships, but the scale of the death toll that he must have witnessed is, at best, only there by implication. His overall tone is one of pained technocratic disappointment that the camp was so poorly run: He was a Speer, so to speak, not a Himmler. Yet Albert Speer served 20 years in jail. Mr. Mochulsky went on to enjoy a successful diplomatic and intelligence career and, in retirement, the luxury of modest regret.

And in those twilight years, he is unlikely to have been troubled by fears of prosecution. There has been no Bolshevik Nuremberg. Total defeat left Nazi horror open for all to see, but many Soviet archives remain closed, their tales of atrocity unpublished. The new books on the gulag cannot begin to redress the crimes they describe, but they can at least help history locate the facts with which it can pass the judgment that the victims and their jailers deserve.

—Mr. Stuttaford, who writes frequently about culture and politics, works in the international financial markets.
23788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH editorial on computer searches at the border on: April 23, 2011, 11:57:45 AM


The Supreme Court has never heard a case challenging the government’s authority to search a computer. It is time, after a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit opened the way last month to vast government intrusion. It ruled that, without good reason to suspect evidence of a crime, border agents could seize a laptop and open a dragnet search of files, e-mails and Web sites visited.

The majority pats itself on the back for stopping “far short of ‘anything goes’ at the border,” since any intrusion must not violate the Fourth Amendment’s ban on “unreasonable searches and seizures.” But by not requiring the government to have a reason for seizing a computer or to say what it is searching for, a dissent notes, the majority “allows the government to set its own limits.” In other words, pretty much anything goes.

The government asked the court to create this precedent, though in this case it had genuine grounds for suspicion. When the defendant crossed from Mexico into Arizona, his criminal record as a child molester came up in a database. When the government looked for child pornography, it found plenty on his laptop. The government has a duty to secure the borders against this and other kinds of illegal material, including drugs and weapons.

Fourth Amendment law already gives border agents huge leeway, allowing them to search travelers and their belongings, without a warrant, proof of probable cause or suspicion of illegal activity. The Ninth Circuit decided that computers could be searched on site as part of those belongings. But this ruling allows the government to hold a laptop for weeks or even months, transport it away from the border and subject it to an intensive search.

The difference between the search of a briefcase’s physical space and a laptop’s cyberspace — a window into the user’s mind — is profound. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, the Fourth Amendment must protect just such “privacies of life.” It was 1928 when he warned that “ways may some day be developed by which the government, without removing papers from secret drawers, can reproduce them in court, and by which it will be enabled to expose to a jury the most intimate occurrences.”

Searching a computer is a major invasion of privacy — one that may be necessary to protect the country’s security. But there still must be limits and protections. It is now up to the Supreme Court to establish those limits.

23789  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Analyze this on: April 22, 2011, 11:38:35 PM
Crime victim uses submission hold, alleged burglar dies from injuries
By Steve Cofield
Martial arts choke holds are no joke. We've talked about that repeatedly after watching television and radio hosts asking MMA fighters to slap on the holds for a photo opportunity. The rear-naked or guillotine choke is a potentially lethal move if not treated with care. Just ask Alex Montalvo, who's in the center of a firestorm in New Jersey.

Back in July of 2010, Montalvo fought off a burglar, slapped on a submission hold and left Douglas Uhler unconscious on the street. Uhler never fully recovered and died yesterday at 19 years old.

On July 31 at 3:39 a.m. in Bridgewater, N.J., Montalvo and his wife heard their car alarm go off. The 42-year-old ran to the street, identified two suspects and chased them to the next block.

With one punch, he knocked out Brian Johnston, 18. That's when Uhler emerged:

Uhler ran out from nearby bushes and shouted: "You want a piece of me, (expletive)?!"

Uhler jumped on Montalvo, who put him in a submission hold, Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano said. The move blocked the teen's oxygen flow, causing a brain injury, Soriano said.

Uhler was taken to Somerset Medical Center and later treated at Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center. He never fully recovered from the injuries:

A once-strapping high school football player, Uhler spent his days in bed or in a wheelchair. He had to be fed through a tube, according to court records. He was non-vocal and unable to walk, sit or roll. He also had poor head control. Uhler had been in and out of several hospitals, including the Children's Specialized Hospital and the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

Back in December, a grand jury indicted Uhler and Johnston on third-degree burglary charges. Johnson pleaded guilty and is awaiting charges. The Uhler family wants Montalvo in a courtroom next, claiming he used excessive force to subdue their son.

"New Jersey law allows you to defend your physical self as well as your property," said Jenny Carroll, an associate professor at Seton Hall Law School. "You're allowed to kill people under certain circumstances, particularly self-defense. If I jump on you, you're allowed to do what is required to make me stop hurting you. But if I pause, you can't just start kicking me in the head."

Carroll said there are no clear-cut answers.

"Here's the trick in this case — did the homeowner exceed the need to protect his property?" she said. "If the kids are still in the process of taking the homeowner's property, then he has a right to defend his property and to use force. The prosecutor must decide whether the homeowner used justifiable force, and whether it was reasonable.

"Even in the heat of passion, if you're trying to subdue someone, it isn't reasonable to kill them," Carroll said.

The response to the story on NJ.com has been heated.

PrivateCitizen:

Self Defense means you are in imminent danger. This man chased these teens down. They were running FROM him. This man needs to go to prison. He is not the hero vigilante some people here think he is!

The attempted theft did not directly lead to the confrontation, his chasing them down did. Any 12 men or women will know that difference.

drock:

So is it wrong to defend one's property? What if this kid got passed out in the sleeper hold and then later recovered and didn't die? The act of putting one in a sleeper hold that you find robbing your car in the middle of the night doesn't exactly seem punishable to me.......you can't punish based on result or consequence but should punish based on action. In my opinion he didnt' do anything wrong and most people would chase down any if they caught them red handed too.

Some commenters even pointed to the rise of MMA as a reason for this tragedy.

mgm8822:

With the new popularity of MMA, every punk who has taken a martial arts class and learned how to throw a punch or put someone in a choke hold thinks they have the right to kick anyone's ass for any reason. We have a lot of unstable people walking around nowadays who are trained in the use of lethal force.

The Uhler family said their son had plans of attending William Patterson University, where he was looking to study sports medicine.

MMA skills used to fight crime took center stage in the last few months when UFC champion Jon Jones and his trainers subdued a burglar in Paterson, N.J. in late March. In mid-February, MMA fan Joe Lozito helped police catch an alleged serial stabber on a New York City Subway.

23790  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: April 22, 2011, 05:39:37 PM
Ummm , , , ahem , , , have you read the previous post in this thread?  cheesy
23791  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Tribal Gathering Fighter List on: April 22, 2011, 02:08:45 PM
Pretty Kitty should be getting to listing everyone from whom we have received registration forms in the next few days.
23792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: April 22, 2011, 02:05:35 PM
Sic'em Darrell!!!  evil

And coincidentally enough, the Mexicans have announced that they have retained counsel to look into suing American gun manufacturers.
23793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / As correctly called by our man formerly in Iraq on: April 22, 2011, 01:53:48 PM
 
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110422/ts_nm/us_usa_iraq_blackwater
23794  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / BJJ teacher defends LEO on: April 22, 2011, 10:21:39 AM


http://policelink.monster.com/news/articles/153440-video-jiu-jitsu-teacher-defends-officer-from-attacker?utm_source=nlet&utm_content=pl_c1_20110422_jiujitsu
23795  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Spending as a % of GDP on: April 22, 2011, 08:06:36 AM


By JOHN B. TAYLOR
Palo Alto, Calif.

Americans are clamoring for a fact-based debate about the budget, but the numbers they're hearing from Washington are terribly confusing. Here's an example: Speaking at a Facebook town hall meeting here on Wednesday, President Obama sometimes talked about saving $4 trillion, at other times $2 trillion, and he varied whether it was over 10 years or 12 years, never mentioning any one year.

A simple chart, like the one nearby, would greatly clarify the debate. It shows total federal government spending year-by-year for the two decades starting in the year 2000. Spending is shown as a percentage of GDP, which is a sensible and quite common way to assess trends: When the percentage rises, government spending rises relative to total income or total goods and services produced in our economy.

For the past decade, the chart shows the recent history of government spending. For the next decade—the window for the current budget—it shows three different spending visions for the future.

The uppermost line shows outlays under the official budget submitted by Mr. Obama to Congress on Feb. 14. The lowest line shows the House Budget Resolution submitted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan on April 5, while the third line shows year-by-year outlays I estimated from the 12-year totals in the new budget proposed by the president on April 13.

The chart clearly reveals a number of important facts that are not coming up in town hall meetings. Most obvious is the huge bulge in spending in the past few years. In 2000 spending was 18.2% of GDP. In 2007 it was 19.6%. But in the three years since 2009 it's jumped to an average of 24.4%.

Second, and perhaps even more striking, the chart shows that Mr. Obama, in his budget submitted in February, proposed to make that spending binge permanent. Spending would still be more than 24% of GDP at the end of the budget window in 2021. The administration revealed its preference in the February budget for a much higher level of government spending than the 18.2% of GDP in 2000 or the 19.6% in 2007.

Third, the House budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) simply removes that spending binge—it gradually returns spending as a share of GDP back to a level seen only three years ago.

.View Full Image
..When I show people this chart they ask why Washington is even having the debate. They say: If government agencies and programs functioned with 19% to 20% of GDP in 2007, why is it so hard for them to function with that percentage in 2021, when GDP will be substantially higher and with many opportunities for reforms and increased efficiencies? And if GDP and employment grow more quickly, as they would if private investment increased as a result of lower government spending and debt, then that 19% to 20% share of GDP could provide much more in the way of public goods.

Fourth, the chart shows that the second Obama administration budget, submitted a week after the Ryan House budget, is substantially different from the first administration budget. It is highly unusual for an administration to decide to submit a second budget, and the effect of this revision is to move the administration's spending vision closer to that of the House. But it still leaves a big chunk of the spending binge in place.

Fifth, and perhaps most important for economic growth, the chart shows that the House budget effectively deals with the deficit and brings the debt down as a share of GDP without a tax increase. Under the current tax system, revenues as a share of GDP were 18.5% in 2007, so that the budget deficit was only 1.1% of GDP that year. With higher real incomes moving people into higher tax brackets, it is quite likely that under the current tax system revenues will be higher as a share of GDP when the economy fully recovers, perhaps in the 19% to 20% range.

This means that the House budget plan, with spending in the same range, approximately balances the budget with no increase in taxes. This is good news for economic growth. In contrast, balancing the first or even the second Obama budget requires substantial tax increases—more than the administration has yet to propose.

Mr. Taylor, a professor of economics at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, is the author of "Getting Off Track: How Government Actions and Interventions Caused, Prolonged and Worsened the Financial Crisis" (Hoover Press, 2009).

23796  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan: What the world sees in America on: April 22, 2011, 07:59:35 AM


I want to talk a little more this holiday week about what I suppose is a growing theme in this column, and that is an increased skepticism toward U.S. military intervention, including nation building. Our republic is not now in a historical adventure period—that is not what is needed. We are or should be in a self-strengthening one. Our focus should not be on outward involvement but inner repair. Bad people are gunning for us, it is true. We should find them, dispatch them, and harden the target. (That would be, still and first, New York, though Washington too.) We should not occupy their lands, run their governments, or try to bribe them into bonhomie. We think in Afghanistan we're buying their love, but I have been there. We're not even renting it.

Our long wars have cost much in blood and treasure, and our military is overstretched. We're asking soldiers to be social workers, as Bing West notes in his book on Afghanistan, "The Wrong War."

I saw it last month, when we met with a tough American general. How is the war going? we asked. "Great," he said. "We just opened a new hospital!" This was perhaps different from what George Patton would have said. He was allowed to be a warrior in a warrior army. His answer would have been more like, "Great, we're putting more of them in the hospital!"

But there are other reasons for a new skepticism about America's just role and responsibilities in the world in 2011. One has to do with the burly, muscular, traditional but at this point not fully thought-through American assumption that our culture not only is superior to most, but is certainly better in all ways than the cultures of those we seek to conquer. We have always felt pride in our nation's ways, and pride isn't all bad. But conceit is, and it's possible we've grown as conceited as we've become culturally careless.

View Full Image

Getty Images
 
Ambassadress
.We are modern, they are not. We allow women freedom, they do not. We have the rule of law, they do not. We are technologically sophisticated, they are the Flintstones. We have religious tolerance. All these are sources of legitimate satisfaction and pride, especially the last. Our religious pluralism is, still, amazing.

I lately think of Charleston, S.C., that beautiful old-fashioned, new- fashioned city. On a walk there in October I went by one of the oldest Catholic churches in the South, St. Mary's, built in 1789. Across the street, equally distinguished and welcoming, was Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, a Jewish congregation founded in 1749. They've been across from each other peacefully and happily for a long time. I walked down Meeting Street to see the Hibernian Society, founded in 1801. My people wanted their presence known. In a brochure I saw how the society dealt with Ireland's old Catholic-Protestant split. They picked a Protestant president one year, a Catholic the next, and so on. In Ireland they were killing each other. In America they were trading gavels. What a country! What a place. What a new world.

We have much to be proud of. And we know it. But take a look around us. Don't we have some reasons for pause, for self-questioning? Don't we have a lot of cultural repair that needs doing?

***
Imagine for a moment that you are a foreign visitor to America. You are a 40-year-old businessman from Afghanistan. You teach a class at Kabul University. You are relatively sophisticated. You're in pursuit of a business deal. It's your first time here. There is an America in your mind; it was formed in your childhood by old John Ford movies and involves cowboy hats and gangsters in fedoras. You know this no longer applies—you're not a fool—but you're not sure what does. You land at JFK, walking past a TSA installation where they're patting the genital areas of various travelers. Americans sure have a funny way of saying hello!

You get to town, settle into a modest room at the Hilton on Sixth Avenue. You're jet-lagged. You put on the TV, not only because you're tired but because some part of you knows TV is where America happens, where America is, and you want to see it. Headline news first. The world didn't blow up today. Then:

Click. A person named Snooki totters down a boardwalk. She lives with young people who grunt and dance. They seem loud, profane, without values, without modesty, without kindness or sympathy. They seem proud to see each other as sexual objects.

Click. "Real Housewives." Adult women are pulling each other's hair. They are glamorous in a hard way, a plastic way. They insult each other.

Click. Local news has a riot in a McDonalds. People kick and punch each other. Click. A cable news story on a child left alone for a week. Click. A 5-year-old brings a gun to school, injures three. Click. A show called "Skins"—is this child pornography? Click. A Viagra commercial. Click. A man tried to blow up a mall. Click. Another Viagra commercial. Click. This appears to be set in ancient Sparta. It appears to involve an orgy.

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.You, the Kabul businessman, expected some raunch and strangeness but not this—this Victoria Falls of dirty water! You are not a philosopher of media, but you know that when a culture descends to the lowest common denominator, it does not reach the broad base at the bottom, it lowers the broad base at the bottom. This "Jersey Shore" doesn't reach the Jersey Shore, it creates the Jersey Shore. It makes America the Jersey Shore.

You surf on, hoping for a cleansing wave of old gangster movies. Or cowboys. Anything old! But you don't find TMC. You look at a local paper. Headline: New York has a 41% abortion rate. Forty-four percent of births are to unmarried women and girls.

You think: Something's wrong in this place, something has become disordered.

The next morning you take Amtrak for your first meeting, in Washington. You pass through the utilitarian ugliness, the abjuration of all elegance that is Penn Station. On the trip south, past Philadelphia, you see the physical deterioration that echoes what you saw on the TV—broken neighborhoods, abandoned factories with shattered windows, graffiti-covered abutments. It looks like old films of the Depression!

By the time you reach Washington—at least Union Station is august and beautiful—you are amazed to find yourself thinking: "Good thing America is coming to save us. But it's funny she doesn't want to save herself!"

***
My small point: Remember during the riots of the 1960s when they said "the whole world is watching"? Well, now the whole world really is. Everyone is traveling everywhere. We're all on the move. Cultures can't keep their secrets.

The whole world is in the Hilton, channel-surfing. The whole world is on the train, in the airport, judging what it sees, and likely, in some serious ways, finding us wanting.

And, being human, they may be judging us with a small, extra edge of harshness for judging them and looking down on them.

We have work to do at home, on our culture and in our country. A beautiful Easter to St. Mary's Church of Charleston, and happy Passover to Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim.

23797  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Air drops , , , on: April 22, 2011, 07:37:14 AM
WAZA KHWA, Afghanistan—The U.S. military, using Google Earth and disposable parachutes, is escalating its airdrops to troops in isolated outposts, to avoid exposing ground convoys to ambushes and roadside bombs.

Around-the-clock Air Force drops of ammunition, fuel, food and water have doubled annually since 2006, reaching 60 million pounds of supplies last year.

The airdrops have taken on a new urgency with the surge in U.S. forces to almost 100,000 troops and the intensified threat from hidden explosives, which are often placed along known supply routes. Such booby-traps killed 268 American troops last year, up 60% from 2009, according to the Associated Press.

"It's our lifeline," says Army Capt. Cole DeRosa, a company commander in the 506th Infantry Regiment. "Without receiving aerial resupply, we would have no supply."

Capt. Cole's men operate out of a small base in Waza Khwa, in Paktika Province, some 30 miles from the Pakistan border. The only road connecting his position to a major supply depot threads through the Gwashta Pass, a Taliban haven featuring steep mountainsides that offer ideal cover for ambushers.

No U.S. ground convoy has attempted that dangerous trip in two years.

 Parachute drops of supplies to American forces in Afghanistan are increasingly common thanks to rough terrain and roads seeded with booby traps by the Taliban. WSJ's Michael M. Phillips reports from Waza Khwa.
.A dozen of the 18 Army positions in Paktika are supplied solely through parachute drops and helicopter lifts. Capt. Cole's artillery cannon arrived in slings hanging from the bellies of helicopters. Drums of diesel fuel for his vehicles and generators float down from the rear ramps of cargo planes flying overhead.

"You can mitigate the risk by just dropping those supplies rather than lining the vehicles up," says Col. Sean Jenkins of the 4th Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, who commands all U.S. forces in the province.

The air crews prepare for each mission by studying a three-dimensional Google Earth image of the line of approach, giving them a moving, cockpit-window view of the ridges, rivers and villages they'll see as they near the drop zone.

The approach is slow and low, and sometimes the planes come under fire from insurgents on the ground. Unless the delivery is urgent, the pilots usually don't go around for a second run if they can't make the drop on the first pass. "We get one shot at it," says Lt. Col. Karl Stark, commander of the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.

When pinpoint accuracy is needed, crews use expensive satellite-guided parachutes that steer themselves to the drop zone.

In a low-tech innovation, soldiers from the 101st Airborne keep water, food and ammunition in black body bags, nicknamed speedballs, ready for immediate delivery by helicopter or parachute to troops running low during firefights.

"You don't want guys out there needing food, ammo and water, and it taking you an hour to get it to them," says Capt. Xavier Burrell of the 801st Brigade Support Battalion.

In most cases, however, the air crews use low-cost, disposable parachutes strapped to the top of small pallets of supplies. A single such pallet can hold four 55-gallon drums of fuel.

As they approach the drop zone, the crew lowers the rear ramp and the pilot tilts the plane's nose upwards. A pulley system yanks a blade through restraining straps that hold the cargo in place, and the pallets roll out of the back of the plane.

The parachutes open automatically; their ripcords are connected to a cable that runs along the inside of the fuselage.

Crewmen install a heavy metal protective barrier at the cockpit end of the cargo bay. They don't want tens of thousands of pounds of cargo slamming into the front of the plane if it inadvertently dives—instead of climbing—after the restraining straps have been cut.

When the bundles hit the ground, soldiers race out to collect the supplies, load them onto vehicles and burn the parachutes to prevent them from becoming useful finds for the Taliban.

About 3% of the bundles go wrong; the parachutes get tangled with each other or don't open fully, sending hundreds of gallons of fuel or water plunging to the ground.

Another concern is accuracy. Last year, an Italian crew accidentally dropped most of its load into a base in western Afghanistan. The bundles hit the gym, barracks and a medevac helicopter, but caused no injuries, according to Capt. John Gruenke, a U.S. Air Force officer who visited the site afterwards to help retrain the drop-zone crew.

In another case, special-operations troops on a steep hillside were only able to retrieve 10% of the supplies dropped to their location.

At Waza Khwa, the Army has the opposite problem. Capt. DeRosa's men have received so much fuel by airdrop that they have collected hundreds of empty metal drums. Now commanders are trying to figure out how to get them back to the supply depot to be reused.

23798  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: What would President McCain do? on: April 22, 2011, 07:32:10 AM
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. John McCain, one of the strongest proponents in Congress of the American military intervention in Libya, said Friday that Libyan rebels fighting Col. Moammar Gadhafi's troops are his heroes.

The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee made the remark after arriving in Benghazi, a city that has been the opposition capital in the rebel-held eastern Libya.

Mr. McCain said he was in Benghazi "to get an on-the-ground assessment of the situation'' and planned to meet with the rebel National Transition Council, the de-facto government in the eastern half of the country, as well as members of the rebel military.

"They are my heroes,'' Mr. McCain said of the rebels as he walked out of a local hotel in Benghazi. He was traveling in an armored Mercedes jeep and had a security detail. A few Libyans waved American flags as his vehicle drove past.

Mr. McCain's visit is the highest yet by an American official to the rebel-held east and a boost to anti-Gadhafi forces. Details of the trip were shrouded in secrecy due to heightened security in a country fiercely divided by the two-month-old anti-Gadhafi rebellion.

Mr. McCain's trip comes as Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Thursday that President Barack Obama has authorized the use of armed Predator drones against forces loyal to Col. Gadhafi. It is the first time that drones will be used for airstrikes since the U.S. turned over control of the operation to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on April 4.

The rebels have complained that NATO airstrikes since then have largely been ineffective in stopping Col. Gadhafi's forces.

Invoking the humanitarian disasters in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s, Mr. McCain pressed for U.S. military intervention in Libya in February, weeks before the United Nations Security Council authorized military action to protect civilians and impose a no-fly zone.

When Mr. Obama acted with limited congressional consultation, Mr. McCain defended the president, saying he couldn't wait for Congress to take even a few days to debate the use of force. If he had, "there would have been nothing left to save in Benghazi,'' the rebels' de-facto capital.

But as the U.S. handed operational control over to NATO—and withdrew U.S. combat aircraft—Mr. McCain criticized the administration.

"`For the United States to withdraw our unique offensive capabilities at this time would send the wrong signal,'' McCain said. He said the U.S. must not fail in Libya and said he spoke as someone experienced in a lost conflict, a reference to his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Mr. McCain also has pushed for arming the rebels, saying the U.S. and its partners can't allow Col. Gadhafi to consolidate his hold on one section of the country and create a military deadlock.

23799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Should we stay or should we go , , , on: April 22, 2011, 07:29:52 AM
By ADAM ENTOUS And JULIAN E. BARNES
WASHINGTON—Senior U.S. and Iraqi military officials have been in negotiations about keeping some 10,000 American troops in Iraq beyond the scheduled withdrawal of all U.S. forces at year's end, according to officials familiar with the talks.

But the discussions face political obstacles in both countries, and have faltered in recent weeks because of Iraqi worries that a continued U.S. military presence could fuel sectarian tension and lead to protests similar to those sweeping other Arab countries, U.S. officials say.

A separate drawdown deadline is looming in Afghanistan, where President Barack Obama wants to see a substantial U.S. troop reduction starting in July. Some U.S. commanders have cautioned against making reductions too quickly.

Underlining Obama administration concerns that U.S. forces have been stretched too thin, the White House has put strict constraints on American military involvement in Libya. On Thursday, the U.S. said it was sending armed drones to support operations in Libya, but the administration has stood firm against sending any ground troops.

In Iraq, top U.S. military officials believe that leaving a sizeable force beyond this year could bolster Iraqi stability and serve as a check on Iran, the major American nemesis in the region, officials said. U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Israel have echoed the concern that if the U.S. pulls out completely, Iran could extend its influence.

 Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Baghdad Thursday, urging Iraqi leaders to step up discussions soon if they want U.S. forces to stay beyond the end of 2011.

The timing is critical because the U.S. is scheduled to start drawing down remaining forces in late summer or early fall, and the military would have to assign new units months in advance to take their place.

While American defense officials have made clear they want to leave troops in Iraq, such a decision would require presidential approval. President Obama has yet to indicate publicly whether he would sign off on such a deal.

Mr. Obama could face a political backlash at home if he doesn't meet his campaign pledge to bring troops home from Iraq. If the U.S. pulls out of Iraq and violence there surges, the president could face tough questions, particularly from Republicans in Congress, about whether the U.S. misjudged Iraq's capabilities.

Administration officials say Iraqi security forces have been able to tamp down violence during previous troop reductions and express confidence they would be able to do so again.

Officials said final determinations have yet to be made about how large a U.S. military contingent could remain.

"We have conversations with the Iraqis constantly about security issues," an Obama administration official said. But the official added: "The Iraqis haven't made a request for us to keep troops, and we haven't offered."

Likewise, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other top Iraqi civilian officials have sent mixed messages about the future American military role in the country, U.S. officials say, a reflection of Iraq's delicate political dynamic after years of sectarian warfare.

Anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has threatened to unleash his militia and step up "resistance" if U.S. troops fail to leave as scheduled this year, his aides say.

Mr. Maliki's hold on power depends on the support from parliamentarians loyal to Mr. Sadr. Iraqi officials are also worried any plan to keep a sizeable number of U.S. troops could touch off protests that could bring down the government. Iraqi Embassy officials didn't respond to requests for comment.

Thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets in recent months, demanding better basic services and an end to government corruption. Baghdad responded last week by imposing a ban on protests on the streets of the capital.

U.S. military officials are particularly concerned that Iraqis will stage massive protests in support of fellow Shiites in Bahrain. Bahrain's U.S.-backed ruling al-Khalifa family has cracked down on Shiite-dominated demonstrations there.

Advocates of keeping some U.S. troops in Iraq see the forces as a safety net to ensure Iraq doesn't slide back into sectarian warfare. The U.S. is particularly concerned about the volatile north, where Arab-Kurdish tensions remain high.

There are 47,000 U.S. troops in Iraq; they are assigned to training roles, not combat. At the height of the Iraq surge in October 2007 there were about 170,000 U.S. troops in Iraq

If an agreement to keep 10,000 troops is reached, they would be tasked with helping Iraq maintain air sovereignty, providing medical evacuation assistance and training, and gathering intelligence on insurgents and Iranian agents. The extension could also let the U.S. keep advisers with Iraqi brigades.

At the end of the Bush Administration, U.S. and Iraqi negotiators reached a deal to gradually reduce the number of American troops in Iraq and withdraw them completely by the end of 2011. At the time, U.S. military officials said they assumed a new agreement would be reached that would allow some U.S. troops to remain.

The 10,000-troop deal under discussion represents a significant cut from an initial request made by the top commander in Iraq, Gen. Lloyd Austin. Gen. Austin had talked privately of wanting to keep at least 16,000 troops in Iraq, according to U.S. officials. But other military officials believed that figure would be too large for Baghdad to accept, and unpalatable to Mr. Obama, the officials said.

In a roundtable with reporters this month, Gen. Austin said he hadn't made a formal recommendation on how many troops should remain.

The Pentagon believes that, after years of training by the U.S. Army and Marines, Iraqis have a "solid grasp" on internal security, a U.S. official said.

U.S. intelligence agencies say al Qaeda in Iraq's capabilities have been diminished despite occasional high-profile attacks, security continues to improve, and sectarian tensions, for now, remain subdued.

The concern, the U.S. official said, is that the Iraqis have "very little ability to defend their borders." The U.S. believes Iraq will need help to stanch the flow of weapons and militants across the border with Iran, the official said.

Saudi Arabia has privately cautioned the Americans against a rapid withdrawal because of fears the country may not be able to maintain stability on its own, and because of concerns the departure will embolden Iran. Israel has also voiced concerns about possible instability.

"Any change on the eastern front could have implications for Israel's security," an Israeli official said, referring to Israel's border with Jordan, which neighbors Iraq.

The Iraqi military has little heavy weaponry and almost no combat air power. The U.S. is looking to sell Baghdad advanced radar systems that would allow Iraqis to better pinpoint incoming mortar, rocket and artillery fire, in addition to a proposed sale of F-16s, which would allow Iraq to patrol its skies.

Without additional American training, the Iraqis may not be able to maintain or effectively use the equipment they want to acquire after the U.S. troops are due to depart, U.S. officials say.

U.S. military officials hope continued assistance would be a powerful counterbalance to Tehran's attempts to draw Iraq into its sphere. Administration officials have said Iran continues to supply arms to its militia allies in Iraq. Iran denies this.

Some members of Congress have voiced concerns about the sale of sophisticated weaponry to the Iraqi military, on the grounds Baghdad may be aligning itself more closely to Iran.

23800  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gov. Walker of WI on Medicaid on: April 22, 2011, 07:20:47 AM
WHAT does Medicaid have in common with “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Lost in Space” and “Get Smart”? They all made their debut in 1965. Although we enjoy watching reruns of these classics, the television networks have updated their programming. The federal government should do the same.

In recent years Washington has taken an obsolete program, which covers health care for low-income Americans, and made it worse through restrictive rule-making that defies common sense. It is biased toward caring for people in nursing homes rather than in their own homes and neighborhoods. It lacks the flexibility to help patients who require some nursing services, but not round-the-clock care.

If we were designing a health insurance program for low-income families today, we would use a much different model to drive efficiency and innovation — one that recognizes that the delivery of health care is fundamentally personal and local.

Time and again states like Wisconsin have blazed the path in Medicaid — from giving individuals greater control over their care to expanding the use of electronic medical records — while the federal bureaucracy has lagged behind. Just now Washington is discovering accountable care organizations (networks of doctors and hospitals that share responsibility for caring for patients and receive incentives to keep costs down) and “medical homes” (a model in which one primary-care doctor takes the main responsibility for a patient).

Wisconsin has created a database of claims and payments that gathers information from all insurers, including private companies and the state Medicaid program. It allows people to compare cost and quality across providers. We have asked Washington to add its data to our database, but it has not done so.

We need to modernize not only Medicaid’s benefits and service delivery, but also its financing. In good times, the open-ended federal Medicaid match encourages states to overspend. Amazingly, the program is now viewed by some states as a form of economic development because each state can at least double its money for each dollar spent. That matching feature penalizes efficiency and thrift, since a reduction of $1 in state spending also means forfeiting at least one federal dollar, often more.

Medicaid in its present, outdated form is unsustainable. Without serious reform, it is unthinkable to add 16 million more people, as President Obama’s health care legislation would do. The White House budget would temporarily pay 100 percent of the costs of new Medicaid enrollees. As a result, many states would expand enrollment, deferring the hard decisions until the federal money goes away.

An alternative approach is to offer block grants for Medicaid, as my fellow Wisconsinite, Representative Paul D. Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has urged. Why now support a block grant for Medicaid when similar proposals have failed?

First, we know from more than a decade of experience with welfare reform that switching from open-ended entitlements to block grants pushes both individuals and states to behave more responsibly.

Second, more than a decade of experience with the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has vastly expanded coverage for children while being more flexible than Medicaid, shows the success of the block-grant model.

Third, there are already caps within Medicaid through so-called Section 1115 demonstration projects. It is through such projects, known as waivers, that innovative programs like BadgerCare in Wisconsin and MassHealth in Massachusetts (which President Obama says was his model for reform) were built. States from Arizona to Washington have also had waivers that capped federal liability for Medicaid. Their success shows that we can move beyond demonstration projects and let the federal government relinquish control over Medicaid.

Finally, some state officials oppose block grants because capped financing would bring the fiscal discipline they try desperately to avoid. But this discipline is precisely what is necessary to slow the rate of growth in health care costs. It is unlikely that doctors and hospitals will support authentic cost-saving measures as long as they believe there is more money coming from somewhere.

States are not merely “laboratories of democracy,” but also sovereign governments under our system of federalism. Unfortunately, the encroachment of the federal government in Medicaid threatens to reduce states to mere agents.

Block grants would bring a truce to the tug-of-wars between Washington and the states. This is the best option for Medicaid, facing a midlife crisis, to survive.

Scott Walker, a Republican, is the governor of Wisconsin.

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