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23751  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO seeks Muslims for WH posts on: March 29, 2009, 08:11:25 PM
Obama seeks Muslims for Whtie House posts

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WASHINGTON – Barack Obama is conducting his own affirmative action program to get more Muslims in the White House.
The move began with Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn, who took his oath of office with a hand on the Quran, to solicit the resume of what he considered to be the nation’s most qualified adherents of Islam.

According to the Denver Post, when White House officials heard about the program, it was put on overdrive.
So far, 45 Ivy League grads, Fortune 500 executives and government officials have been submitted for consideration.
J. Saleh Williams, program coordinator for the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association, sifted through more than 300 names as part of the search.
“It was mostly under the radar,” Williams said. “We thought it would put (the president) in a precarious position. We didn’t know how closely he wanted to appear to be working with the Muslim American community.”
Ellison is serious about his faith. He made the pilgrimage to Mecca with the sponsorship of the Muslim American Society, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In 1991, Mohamed Akram wrote a memo for the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood that explained its work in America as “a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ’sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”
23752  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Petition to Congress on: March 29, 2009, 12:17:16 PM
Petition to Congress

http://www.numbersusa.com/petition?ID=3&jid=122120&lid=31&rid=698&tid=934126
23753  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Art in its Homeland on: March 29, 2009, 12:11:38 PM


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSlcwt-4RgA
23754  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Germany on: March 29, 2009, 11:49:05 AM
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‘100 dangerous Islamists in Germany’

AFP/Berlin

Germany is home to several hundred “potentially dangerous Islamists” including a hard core of around 100 people classed as dangerous, a senior interior ministry official said yesterday.  Between 60 and 80 “Jihadists” have returned to Germany out of some 140 who have undergone training in camps in the tribal areas of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area, state secretary August Hanning said.

“The danger should not be underestimated. The 60 to 80 who have returned make up the overwhelming majority of up to around 100 people whom we class as dangerous,” Hanning told the Tagesspiegel daily’s Saturday edition.  “On top of that there are about another 300 potentially dangerous Islamists. All in all we are talking about a circle of around 1,000 people,” said Hanning, who used to head Germany foreign intelligence agency, the BND.

He added that he is worried about the possibility of attacks in the run up to this September’s general election.
“We remember that the attacks in Madrid in 2004 were carried out a few days before elections in Spain,” he said, referring to the train bombings that left 191 people dead in Europe’s worst terror attack. “That really did affect the outcome of the elections ... Al Qaeda sees this as a model for success.”

A number of videos - sometimes in German or with German subtitles - have emerged in recent months warning of future attacks on German soil because of the presence of 3,500 of the country’s troops in Afghanistan.

The closest Germany came to an attack was in July 2006 when suitcases containing homemade bombs were placed on two regional trains passing through Cologne’s busy main train station. They failed to detonate.

http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topic...9&parent_id=21
23755  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 29, 2009, 08:43:33 AM
Woof Krenz et al:

My concern is two fold:

1) Can we do it?  For the answer here, I look first and foremost to those there.  In a closely related vein, do we have the will to do what it will take?  Given that the CiC is giving less than half of what his generals are asking for, there is goodly reason to wonder.

2) Will we at home backstab the efforts in the field -- as we did with our efforts in Iraq?  My doubts here begin with our Commander in Chief.  Yes he said some right things the other day, but , , , what will he do when his supporters, who voted for him to bug out of Iraq NOW, abandon him over the hard times his announced path is sure to bring?  Will he throw away the investment our troops make in blood, sweat, and tears as he would have done in Iraq?

=================

WSJ:  Pakistan is the main issue

By GRAHAM ALLISON and JOHN DEUTCH
In announcing his new Afghanistan and Pakistan policy, President Barack Obama articulated "a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future."

This is a sound conception of both the threat and U.S. interests in the region. Mr. Obama took a giant step beyond the Bush administration's "Afghanistan policy" when he named the issue "AfPak" -- Afghanistan, Pakistan and their shared, Pashtun-populated border. But this is inverted. We suggest renaming the policy "PakAf," to emphasize that, from the perspective of U.S. interests and regional stability, the heart of the problem lies in Pakistan.

The fundamental question about Afghanistan is this: What vital national interest does the U.S. have there? President George W. Bush offered an ever-expanding answer to this question. As he once put it, America's goal is "a free and peaceful Afghanistan," where "reform and democracy" would serve as "the alternatives to fanaticism, resentment and terror."

In sharp contrast, during the presidential campaign Mr. Obama declared that America has one and only one vital national interest in Afghanistan: to ensure that it "cannot be used as a base to launch attacks against the United States." To which we would add the corollary: that developments in Afghanistan not undermine Pakistan's stability and assistance in eliminating al Qaeda.

Consider a hypothetical. Had the terrorist attacks of 9/11 been planned by al Qaeda from its current headquarters in ungoverned areas of Pakistan, is it conceivable that today the U.S. would find itself with 54,000 troops and $180 billion committed to transforming medieval Afghanistan into a stable, modern nation?

For Afghanistan to become a unitary state ruled from Kabul, and to develop into a modern, prosperous, poppy-free and democratic country would be a worthy and desirable outcome. But it is not vital for American interests.

After the U.S. and NATO exit Afghanistan and reduce their presence and financial assistance to levels comparable to current efforts in the Sudan, Somalia or Bangladesh, one should expect Afghanistan to return to conditions similar to those regions. Such conditions are miserable. They are deserving of American and international development and security assistance. But, as in those countries, it is unrealistic to expect anything more than a slow, difficult evolution towards modernity.

The problem in Pakistan is more pressing and direct. There, the U.S. does have larger vital national interests. Top among these is preventing Pakistan's arsenal of nuclear weapons and materials from falling into the hands of terrorists such as Osama bin Laden. This danger is not hypothetical -- the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, A.Q. Khan, is now known to have been the world's first nuclear black marketer, providing nuclear weapons technology and materials to Libya, North Korea and Iran.

Protecting Pakistan's nuclear arsenal requires preventing radical Islamic extremists from taking control of the country.

Furthermore, the U.S. rightly remains committed to preventing the next 9/11 attack by eliminating global terrorist threats such as al Qaeda. This means destroying their operating headquarters and training camps, from which they can plan more deadly 9/11s.

The counterterrorism strategy in Pakistan that has emerged since last summer offers our best hope for regional stability and success in dealing a decisive blow against al Qaeda and what Vice President Joe Biden calls "incorrigible" Taliban adherents. But implementing these operations requires light U.S. footprints backed by drones and other technology that allows missile attacks on identified targets. The problem is that the U.S. government no longer seems to be capable of conducting covert operations without having them reported in the press.

This will only turn Pakistani public opinion against the U.S. Many Pakistanis see covert actions carried out inside their country as America "invading an ally." This makes it difficult for Pakistani officials to support U.S. operations while sustaining widespread popular support.

As Mr. Biden has warned: "It is hard to imagine a greater nightmare for America than the world's second-largest Muslim nation becoming a failed state in fundamentalists' hands, with an arsenal of nuclear weapons and a population larger than Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea combined."

Avoiding this nightmare will require concentration on the essence of the challenge: Pakistan. On the peripheries, specifically Afghanistan, Mr. Obama should borrow a line from Andrew Jackson from the battle of New Orleans and order his administration to "elevate them guns a little lower."

Mr. Allison is director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and author of "Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe" (Holt Paperbacks, 2005). Mr. Deutch is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Bill Clinton.

 
23756  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia plans new military force on: March 29, 2009, 08:03:40 AM
Russia plans military force to patrol Arctic as 'cold rush' intensifies

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Russia plans military force to patrol Arctic as 'cold rush' intensifies

Tom Parfitt in Moscow
The Guardian
Saturday 28 March 2009


Russia has released plans to create a dedicated military force to patrol the Arctic, where it is laying claim to billions of tonnes of hydrocarbons.

Countries in the northern hemisphere are vying for control of the polar region, which is thought to contain up to a quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas. The presidential security council issued a strategy document which outlined Russia's plans for defending its vast swath of polar territory up until 2020.

A major component of the strategy was the creation of a group of general-purpose units of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and other military units and agencies, primarily border guard agencies to ensure security.

The Kremlin has engaged in sporadic tub-thumping over its right to the Arctic's resources ever since two mini subs planted a titanium Russian tricolour on the seabed under the North Pole in 2007. President Dmitry Medvedev said in September that the region must become Russia's strategic resource base for the 21st century.

Moscow's bold assertion that it will militarise the region comes as Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland) lobby UN bodies to decide jurisdiction over the region.

The five countries with an Arctic coastline have exploitation rights over a 200 mile zone extending north of their borders, but the Kremlin is claiming a much bigger territory on grounds that an underwater ridge running towards the North Pole is connected to Russia's continental shelf.

The "cold rush" for the Arctic's resources has intensified as global warming opens up new shipping routes and eases the difficulty of offshore exploitation and drilling.

Artur Chilingarov, the polar explorer who is Russia's envoy on international co-operation in the Arctic and Antarctic, said this month that the country was justified in laying claim to waters off its Arctic coast. "We are not squeezing anyone out," he said.

However, other states have said they are unnerved by the Kremlin's "aggressive" stance. Earlier this month the Canadian government demanded an explanation after Russian bombers and a submarine were recorded entering its Arctic zone.

In turn, Moscow has reacted angrily to suggestions by Nato that it could enter the fray in the far north. The Nato secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said in January that the security alliance needed a military presence in the region to defuse tensions. "I would be the last one to expect military conflict - but there will be a [Nato] military presence," he said, adding: "It should be a military presence that is not overdone, and there is a need for political and economic co-operation."

Russia's envoy to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, said yesterday he would not discuss military co-operation with Nato in the Arctic because it was "totally absurd" for countries not abutting the region to get involved.

The security council sought to play down its strategy document later on Friday, saying its emphasis was on improving the border guard service and its co-operation with other states in "combating terrorism in the sea, seeking to prevent illicit trade and illegal migration, and in seeking to protect aquatic biological resources."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009...il-arctic-nato
23757  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Govt troops arrest Son of Iraq, setting off fighting on: March 29, 2009, 07:41:43 AM
Is this the result of Is BO's bugout?

Or , , ,?
==============================================

Troops Arrest an Awakening Council Leader in Iraq, Setting Off Fighting
             ALISSA J. RUBIN and ROD NORDLAND
Published: March 28, 2009

BAGHDAD — American and Iraqi troops arrested the leader of a crucial Awakening Council in Baghdad on Saturday, setting off a rare spasm of street fighting and raising fresh concerns about the troubled Awakening program, which has brought many Sunni extremists over to the government’s side.

A combined force of American and Iraqi Army troops and National Police descended on Fadhil, a Sunni neighborhood and former insurgent stronghold in central Baghdad, and arrested the head of Fadhil’s Awakening Council, Adil al-Mashhadani, on terrorism charges, according to Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, spokesman for the Iraqi security forces in Baghdad. He said firefights broke out afterward.

The Awakening Councils, the Iraqi name for what the Americans call the Sons of Iraq, are neighborhood-based groups of Sunnis, many of them former insurgents, who are now paid by the Iraqi government. They are credited, along with the increase in American troops, with helping to diminish violence in Iraq.

Many of the Awakening groups recently have complained about mistreatment and warned that some of their followers might switch back to supporting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown extremist group believed by American intelligence to have foreign leadership. Mr. Mashhadani has been a strong critic of the failure of the Iraqi authorities to incorporate Awakening Council fighters into Iraqi security agencies, as had been promised.

“There’s a 50-50 chance that Awakening guys who are not very loyal to Iraq or who need to support their families may decide to join Al Qaeda again,” Mr. Mashhadani said in an interview a week ago.

Abu Mirna, the media coordinator for the Fadhil Awakening Council, said: “American forces have broken the alliance with us by arresting our leader. Now there are clashes in the area between the Americans and Awakening fighters and you can hear shooting. It’s chaos.” Heavy gunfire could be heard over the telephone while he was speaking.

Fifteen Iraqis were wounded in the fighting, according to a high-ranking police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. American officials did not respond to requests for information.

Five Iraqi Army soldiers were also taken hostage, according to two officials in the Ministry of Interior, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were also not authorized to speak to reporters. The officials said the Iraqi Army called off the fighting to negotiate for the soldiers’ release. Awakening Council members demanded Mr. Mashhadani’s release in exchange for the soldiers’ freedom, the officials said.

It was the first time that disputes between the Sons of Iraq and the authorities have erupted into armed clashes in Baghdad. There have been arrests of some other Sons of Iraq members suspected of still working for insurgents, but not of anyone so prominent.

There were immediate expressions of concern from other Awakening Councils in Baghdad. “Members of the Iraqi Army are trying to pick a fight between them and the Awakening,” said Ahmed al-Rubaie, one of the leaders of the council in the nearby Abu Safain neighborhood. “Do they want the sectarianism to come back, like in 2006?”

Fadhil is a densely populated area of narrow alleyways and congested streets, where some of the city’s most bitter street fighting took place. It was one of the last neighborhoods in the city to join the Awakening movement.

In Adhamiya, another important Sunni area in downtown Baghdad, the local Awakening leader, Abu Sejad, said news of the arrest was received with concern. “All of our guys are asking, ‘What about us? Are they going to arrest us next?’ ” he said.

Mr. Rubaie accused the Iraqi security forces of ignoring Awakening Council members and treating them with disrespect. He also said council leaders’ pay had also been cut recently.

He said Mr. Mashhadani and his followers were particularly volatile about their grievances.

In December, disputes broke out between the Iraqi police and the Fadhil Awakening members, and Mr. Mashhadani ordered his men to abandon some joint checkpoints with the Iraqi police, complaining they had branded the Sons of Iraq as insurgents and Qaeda followers.

The government had pledged to enlist a fifth of the 94,000 Awakening members nationwide in the police and other security forces, and find government jobs for the rest. So far, however, only 5,000 have gotten jobs.

Atheer Kakan and Tareq Maher contributed reporting.
23758  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Spanish Court weighs inquiry on: March 29, 2009, 07:37:58 AM
Spanish Court Weighs Inquiry on Torture for 6 Bush-Era Officials
comments

MARLISE SIMONS
Published: March 28, 2009

LONDON — A Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an official close to the case said.

The case, against former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and others, was sent to the prosecutor’s office for review by Baltasar Garzón, the crusading investigative judge who ordered the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The official said that it was “highly probable” that the case would go forward and that it could lead to arrest warrants.

The move represents a step toward ascertaining the legal accountability of top Bush administration officials for allegations of torture and mistreatment of prisoners in the campaign against terrorism. But some American experts said that even if warrants were issued their significance could be more symbolic than practical, and that it was a near certainty that the warrants would not lead to arrests if the officials did not leave the United States.

The complaint under review also names John C. Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who wrote secret legal opinions saying the president had the authority to circumvent the Geneva Conventions, and Douglas J. Feith, the former under secretary of defense for policy.

Most of the officials cited in the complaint declined to comment on the allegations or could not be reached on Saturday. However their defenders have said their legal analyses and policy work on interrogation practices, conducted under great pressure after the 2001 terrorist attacks, are now being unfairly second-guessed after many years without a terrorist attack on the United States.

The court case was not entirely unexpected, as several human rights groups have been asking judges in different countries to indict Bush administration officials. One group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, had asked a German prosecutor for such an indictment, but the prosecutor declined.

Judge Garzón, however, has built an international reputation by bringing high-profile cases against human rights violators as well as international terrorist networks like Al Qaeda. The arrest warrant for General Pinochet led to his detention in Britain, although he never faced a trial. The judge has also been outspoken about the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

Spain can claim jurisdiction in the case because five citizens or residents of Spain who were prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have said they were tortured there. The five had been indicted in Spain, but their cases were dismissed after the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained under torture was not admissible.

The 98-page complaint, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, is based on the Geneva Conventions and the 1984 Convention Against Torture, which is binding on 145 countries, including Spain and the United States. Countries that are party to the torture convention have the authority to investigate torture cases, especially when a citizen has been abused.

The complaint was prepared by Spanish lawyers, with help from experts in the United States and Europe, and filed by a Spanish human rights group, the Association for the Dignity of Prisoners.

The National Court in Madrid, which specializes in international crimes, assigned the case to Judge Garzón. His acceptance of the case and referral of it to the prosecutor made it likely that a criminal investigation would follow, the official said.

Even so, arrest warrants, if they are issued, would still be months away.

Gonzalo Boye, the Madrid lawyer who filed the complaint, said that the six Americans cited had had well-documented roles in approving illegal interrogation techniques, redefining torture and abandoning the definition set by the 1984 Torture Convention.

Secret memorandums by Mr. Yoo and other top administration lawyers helped clear the way for aggressive policies like waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques, which the C.I.A. director, the attorney general and other American officials have said amount to torture.

The other Americans named in the complaint were William J. Haynes II, former general counsel for the Department of Defense; Jay S. Bybee, Mr. Yoo’s former boss at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and David S. Addington, who was the chief of staff and legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Mr. Yoo declined to comment on Saturday, saying that he had not seen or heard of the petition.

Mr. Feith, who was the top policy official at the Pentagon when the prison at Guantánamo was established, said he did not make the decision on interrogation methods and was baffled by the allegations. “I didn’t even argue for the thing I understand they’re objecting to,” he said.

But Mr. Boye said that lawyers should be held accountable for the effects of their work. Noting that the association he represents includes many lawyers, he said: “This is a case from lawyers against lawyers. Our profession does not allow us to misuse our legal knowledge to create a pseudo-legal frame to justify, stimulate and cover up torture.”

Prosecutions and convictions under the Torture Convention have been rare.

Reed Brody, a lawyer at Human Rights Watch who has specialized in this issue, said that even though torture was widely practiced, there were numerous obstacles, including “a lack of political will, the problem of gathering evidence in a foreign country and the failure of countries to pass the necessary laws.”

This year for the first time, the United States used a law that allows it to prosecute torture in other countries. On Jan. 10, a federal court in Miami sentenced Chuckie Taylor, the son of the former Liberian president, to 97 years in a federal prison for torture, even though the crimes were committed in Liberia.

Last October, when the Miami court handed down the conviction, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey applauded the ruling and said: “This is the first case in the United States to charge an individual with criminal torture. I hope this case will serve as a model to future prosecutions of this type.”

The United States, however, would be expected to ignore an extradition request for former officials, although other investigations within the United States have been proposed. Calls for the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation have so far been resisted by the Obama administration, but for more than four years, the Justice Department ethics office has been conducting its own investigation into the work of Mr. Yoo and some of his colleagues.

While the officials named in the complaint have not addressed these specific accusations, Mr. Yoo defended his work in an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal on March 7, warning that the Obama administration risked harming national security if it punished lawyers like himself.

“If the administration chooses to seriously pursue those officials who were charged with preparing for the unthinkable, today’s intelligence and military officials will no doubt hesitate to fully prepare for those contingencies in the future,” Mr. Yoo wrote.

Scott Shane and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.
23759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Chinese internet computer spying operation on: March 29, 2009, 07:33:14 AM
TORONTO — A vast electronic spying operation has infiltrated computers and has stolen documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, Canadian researchers have concluded.


In a report to be issued this weekend, the researchers said that the system was being controlled from computers based almost exclusively in China, but that they could not say conclusively that the Chinese government was involved.

The researchers, who are based at the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto, had been asked by the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader whom China regularly denounces, to examine its computers for signs of malicious software, or malware.

Their sleuthing opened a window into a broader operation that, in less than two years, has infiltrated at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices, as well as the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London and New York.

The researchers, who have a record of detecting computer espionage, said they believed that in addition to the spying on the Dalai Lama, the system, which they called GhostNet, was focused on the governments of South Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

Intelligence analysts say many governments, including those of China, Russia and the United States, and other parties use sophisticated computer programs to covertly gather information.

The newly reported spying operation is by far the largest to come to light in terms of countries affected.

This is also believed to be the first time researchers have been able to expose the workings of a computer system used in an intrusion of this magnitude.

Still going strong, the operation continues to invade and monitor more than a dozen new computers a week, the researchers said in their report, “Tracking ‘GhostNet’: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network.” They said they had found no evidence that United States government offices had been infiltrated, although a NATO computer was monitored by the spies for half a day and computers of the Indian Embassy in Washington were infiltrated.

The malware is remarkable both for its sweep — in computer jargon, it has not been merely “phishing” for random consumers’ information, but “whaling” for particular important targets — and for its Big Brother-style capacities. It can, for example, turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of an infected computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room. The investigators say they do not know if this facet has been employed.

The researchers were able to monitor the commands given to infected computers and to see the names of documents retrieved by the spies, but in most cases the contents of the stolen files have not been determined. Working with the Tibetans, however, the researchers found that specific correspondence had been stolen and that the intruders had gained control of the electronic mail server computers of the Dalai Lama’s organization.

The electronic spy game has had at least some real-world impact, they said. For example, they said, after an e-mail invitation was sent by the Dalai Lama’s office to a foreign diplomat, the Chinese government made a call to the diplomat discouraging a visit. And a woman working for a group making Internet contacts between Tibetan exiles and Chinese citizens was stopped by Chinese intelligence officers on her way back to Tibet, shown transcripts of her online conversations and warned to stop her political activities.

The Toronto researchers said they had notified international law enforcement agencies of the spying operation, which in their view exposed basic shortcomings in the legal structure of cyberspace. The F.B.I. declined to comment on the operation.

Although the Canadian researchers said that most of the computers behind the spying were in China, they cautioned against concluding that China’s government was involved. The spying could be a nonstate, for-profit operation, for example, or one run by private citizens in China known as “patriotic hackers.”

“We’re a bit more careful about it, knowing the nuance of what happens in the subterranean realms,” said Ronald J. Deibert, a member of the research group and an associate professor of political science at Munk. “This could well be the C.I.A. or the Russians. It’s a murky realm that we’re lifting the lid on.”

A spokesman for the Chinese Consulate in New York dismissed the idea that China was involved. “These are old stories and they are nonsense,” the spokesman, Wenqi Gao, said. “The Chinese government is opposed to and strictly forbids any cybercrime.”

The Toronto researchers, who allowed a reporter for The New York Times to review the spies’ digital tracks, are publishing their findings in Information Warfare Monitor, an online publication associated with the Munk Center.

At the same time, two computer researchers at Cambridge University in Britain who worked on the part of the investigation related to the Tibetans, are releasing an independent report. They do fault China, and they warned that other hackers could adopt the tactics used in the malware operation.

============

Page 2 of 2)



“What Chinese spooks did in 2008, Russian crooks will do in 2010 and even low-budget criminals from less developed countries will follow in due course,” the Cambridge researchers, Shishir Nagaraja and Ross Anderson, wrote in their report, “The Snooping Dragon: Social Malware Surveillance of the Tibetan Movement.”


In any case, it was suspicions of Chinese interference that led to the discovery of the spy operation. Last summer, the office of the Dalai Lama invited two specialists to India to audit computers used by the Dalai Lama’s organization. The specialists, Greg Walton, the editor of Information Warfare Monitor, and Mr. Nagaraja, a network security expert, found that the computers had indeed been infected and that intruders had stolen files from personal computers serving several Tibetan exile groups.

Back in Toronto, Mr. Walton shared data with colleagues at the Munk Center’s computer lab.

One of them was Nart Villeneuve, 34, a graduate student and self-taught “white hat” hacker with dazzling technical skills. Last year, Mr. Villeneuve linked the Chinese version of the Skype communications service to a Chinese government operation that was systematically eavesdropping on users’ instant-messaging sessions.

Early this month, Mr. Villeneuve noticed an odd string of 22 characters embedded in files created by the malicious software and searched for it with Google. It led him to a group of computers on Hainan Island, off China, and to a Web site that would prove to be critically important.

In a puzzling security lapse, the Web page that Mr. Villeneuve found was not protected by a password, while much of the rest of the system uses encryption.

Mr. Villeneuve and his colleagues figured out how the operation worked by commanding it to infect a system in their computer lab in Toronto. On March 12, the spies took their own bait. Mr. Villeneuve watched a brief series of commands flicker on his computer screen as someone — presumably in China — rummaged through the files. Finding nothing of interest, the intruder soon disappeared.

Through trial and error, the researchers learned to use the system’s Chinese-language “dashboard” — a control panel reachable with a standard Web browser — by which one could manipulate the more than 1,200 computers worldwide that had by then been infected.

Infection happens two ways. In one method, a user’s clicking on a document attached to an e-mail message lets the system covertly install software deep in the target operating system. Alternatively, a user clicks on a Web link in an e-mail message and is taken directly to a “poisoned” Web site.

The researchers said they avoided breaking any laws during three weeks of monitoring and extensively experimenting with the system’s unprotected software control panel. They provided, among other information, a log of compromised computers dating to May 22, 2007.

They found that three of the four control servers were in different provinces in China — Hainan, Guangdong and Sichuan — while the fourth was discovered to be at a Web-hosting company based in Southern California.

Beyond that, said Rafal A. Rohozinski, one of the investigators, “attribution is difficult because there is no agreed upon international legal framework for being able to pursue investigations down to their logical conclusion, which is highly local.”
23760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tiger Woods speaks on: March 29, 2009, 07:26:02 AM


http://www.anotsocapitolidea.com/2009/02/youll-never-walk-alone-by-tiger-woods.html
23761  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 29, 2009, 07:18:02 AM
Normally this thread is not for articles, but the reference to gratitude and its role in Life leads me to post this one here:

Margaret Somerville | Friday, 27 March 2009
The last great act of living

Legalising euthanasia would deny the full potential of the human spirit.

An extraordinary public exchange of letters between two Canadians over the past six months has illuminated in a very personal way the profound issues posed by death and all that leads to it. Ian Brown, who writes for the Globe and Mail, has a disabled son, Walker. Jean Vanier is the founder of L’Arche, a world-wide organization that provides a refuge and life-long home for intellectually disabled people. In their latest exchange of letters Brown asked Vanier, “Are you fearful of death?” Vanier replied, “No, I cannot say I am”.

This letter brought to mind many issues that I struggled with in a speech I gave recently in Ottawa called, “Dying as the Last Great Act of Living”. In it I explored the impact that legalizing euthanasia might have on the possibility of our experiencing death as such an act.

Some of the issues I examined were our fear of mystery and uncertainty, the nature of the “human spirit”, what an ethics of respect for human potentiality and its fulfillment would require in our treatment of old or dying people, and the role of hope in our lives and death.

Fear of mystery and uncertainty

Traditionally, as Jean Vanier’s writings show is still true for him, we have dealt with mystery of death, through religion or spirituality. But, now, many of us are not religious.

Mystery always involves uncertainty, which makes us feel we don’t have control and, in the case of death, that causes intense fear and free floating anxiety. One way to deal with that fear is to try to take control by converting the mystery of death to the problem of death and seeking a technological solution. Euthanasia can be seen as such a response: death is viewed as a problem, not a mystery, and the proposed solution to that problem is a lethal injection.

Euthanasia allows people to feel that although they can’t avoid death, they can control its manner, time and place. It’s a terror reduction or terror control mechanism that operates at both the individual and societal level. So if we believe legalizing euthanasia would be a very bad idea, we need to develop and communicate other ways to deal with our fear of death.

The human spirit

One such way is to enrich our experience of the “human spirit”. In both his actions and words Jean Vanier movingly and beautifully manifests and describes his experience of the “human spirit”. It’s a term I use in a religiously neutral sense, in that it can be accepted by people who are not religious and those who are, and, if religious, no matter what their religion. By it I mean the intangible, immeasurable, numinous reality that all of us need access to in order to find meaning in life and to make life worth living; that deeply intuitive sense of relatedness or connectedness to all life, especially other people, to the world, and to the universe in which we live; the metaphysical – but not necessarily supernatural - reality which we need to experience to live fully human lives.

Vanier speaks repeatedly of the deep suffering caused by loneliness, which can be especially acute for old or terminally ill people – the latter often encounter “intense pre-mortem loneliness”. Loneliness is the opposite experience to that of the human spirit – it’s the feeling of disconnection from others and our world, a sense of profound isolation.

The human spirit is the means through which we can generate the feeling of belonging to something larger than ourselves, that is, transcendence - an experience values’ surveys show people are increasingly longing to encounter – and perhaps transformation. Vanier is a powerful example of living a life based on values that are the opposite of intense individualism and narcissism – both dominant features of our societies and entities that make the human spirit harder to find and experience.

A narcissist sees other people only in terms of how they can benefit him – that is, as instruments or objects. That approach leads to positions such as that taken by an Australian politician arguing for legalizing euthanasia. He justifies it in this way: “When you are past your 'best before' or 'use by' date, you should be checked out as quickly, cheaply and efficiently as possible”.

One could not imagine Vanier speaking of people as products to be checked out of the supermarket of life.

An ethics of human potentiality

The profound wisdom, humanity and humanness of Jean Vanier’s approach to disability show us the opportunities that disability provides to “become more human”, to experience the essence of our humanness and to share it with others. We need to learn from him how to approach old age and the disability that can entail, and death.

As is true for romanticizing disability, there is a grave danger in romanticizing death, which is not the same as respecting its mystery – the latter requires looking tough realities in the face and struggling to live with them and finding meaning in doing so. Vanier does not romanticize disability, but shows us how one can find hope, joy and love despite – or perhaps in part – because of it.

Vanier’s approach to disabled people epitomizes respect for the mystery of life. In contrast, some people are using reprogenetic technoscience to convert the mystery of the passing on of life to our children to a controlled technological process, including by identifying and eliminating those who would be disabled. This approach causes not only a loss of respect for the mystery of life, but also, for the mystery of death.

In his life and work at L’Arche, Vanier shows the extraordinary flourishing of the human spirit that can occur when a certain kind of love – a truly unselfish, non-self-centred love – is made central to ordinary daily life. His radical, counter-contemporary-culture message is that we “non-disabled” people are the losers in refusing to accept disabled people and rejecting the unique gifts they have to offer us as individuals and societies.

Vanier’s writings gently show that among the many gifts disabled people can offer us are lessons in hope, optimism, kindness, empathy, compassion, generosity and hospitality, a sense of humour (balance), trust and courage. But, as he recognizes, to do that they must be treated justly; given every person’s right to the freedom to be themselves; and respected as members of our community. That requires us to accept the suffering, weakness and fragility we see in them, which means, as Vanier emphasizes, we must first accept those realities in relation to ourselves. Most of us find that an enormous challenge and flee.

The ethical tone of a society is not set by how it treats its strongest, most powerful members, but by how it treats those who are weakest, most vulnerable and in need. Jean Vanier’s life and work is testament to an amazing example in the latter respect.

His remarkable, uncommon “common humanity” shines through his words and deeds. We can learn from him how to enrich ourselves, others and our world through developing, experiencing and celebrating, to quote him, the “gifts of the heart” and putting into practice a “little sign of love in the world”.

So we must ask ourselves what are the “gifts of the heart” and what does putting into practice a “little sign of love in the world” require of us in how we treat people who are old and disabled or dying.

Hope

Hope is the oxygen of the human spirit; without it our spirit dies, with it we can overcome even seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Hope is generated by a sense of connection to the future. Ian Brown quotes “a still-lively 80-year-old [who] gave [him]… his formula for enthusiastically living in the world as you get older: 'Active engagement with the future,' he said. 'That's the secret.'” This old man is describing hope.

Even terminally ill people can have hope – what we can call “mini-hopes” – for instance, to stay alive long enough to see a grandchild born, to attend a daughter’s wedding, to see an old friend the next day or to see the sun rise and hear the birds’ dawn chorus.

Like hope, leaving a legacy also connects us to the future, one we will not see. Palliative care professionals try to help people to identify their legacy, their gifts to those who remain, because they know that can help them to die more peacefully. But those gifts must be accepted and valued by the receiver.

We must accept old or dying people’s gifts, especially those gifts that are of the essence of themselves, recognizing that they and the person who gives them are unique and precious, as are their lives or last days on earth. In confirming the worth of these gifts we confirm the worth of the giver, and the old or dying person needs that confirmation. But often we refuse and for same reason that we reject disabled persons’ gifts. We are frightened: This person is not me and could not be me – that is, dis-identification is the way we deal with our fear. It seems that all of us have a deep fear of dying alone. Might that be, in part, because, then, there is no one to receive our gifts and affirm the worth of our contribution to life?

And might we be able to deal with old age and death with greater equanimity, if we can experience a sense of gratitude for life and might the gifts we can leave help us to feel that? Another way to experience such gratitude is captured by one of my close friends, who talks about “saving up beautiful memories for when you are dying”. I think that’s a “gratitude in practice” response.

The challenge is to maintain death as the last great act of human life, a final human act through which we can still find meaning and, I suggest most importantly, pass meaning on to others.

In other words, in our dying, we need to be given the opportunity to leave a legacy of meaning. We are meaning seeking beings – that seeking is of the essence of our humanness. Euthanasia is a predictable response to a loss of meaning in relation to death and its practice would augment that loss. Even if we believe that doesn’t matter, we should be concerned, because our capacity to find meaning in life may well depend on our being able to find meaning in death.

Margaret Somerville is director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University, and author of The Ethical Imagination: Journeys of the Human Spirit.
23762  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: March 28, 2009, 11:37:05 PM
Today's class:

Kali Tudo:

a) Dodger Dracula variations
b) Low Zirconia variations
c) Four Headed Snake

23763  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Purple Haze on Harmonica on: March 28, 2009, 11:33:37 PM
http://www.youtube.com:80/watch?v=B1sgmj7JvCA&feature=channel
23764  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: March 28, 2009, 07:16:05 PM
I'll show it to my 9 year old son  wink
23765  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 28, 2009, 07:15:29 PM
For reasons not know to us, it is our understanding that his specific use of our name was edited out.  huh rolleyes
23766  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 28, 2009, 11:26:55 AM
5th post of the day

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2009/mar/27/obama-afghanistan-military
23767  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Declassified Secrets on: March 28, 2009, 11:18:39 AM
I haven't given this site a careful look yet, so caveat lector:

http://www.declassifiedsecrets.blogspot.com/
23768  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hezbollah in Mexico? on: March 28, 2009, 11:17:34 AM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/themes/organizations/hezbollah/

23769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: March 28, 2009, 11:00:06 AM
Welcome back Rachel!
23770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / To be 6 again on: March 28, 2009, 08:17:04 AM


To Be 6 Again...

     

  A man was sitting on the edge of the bed, observing his wife, looking at herself in the mirror.  Since her birthday was not far off he asked what she'd like to have for her  Birthday.
   
' .....to be six again', she replied, still looking in the mirror.   
   
  On the morning of her Birthday, he arose early, made her a nice big bowl of  Lucky Charms, and then took her to Six Flags theme park. What a day! He put her on every ride in the park; the Death Slide, the Wall of Fear, the Screaming Monster Roller Coaster, everything there was.   Five hours later they staggered out of the theme park. Her head was  reeling and her stomach felt  upside down.   He then took her to a McDonald's where he ordered her a Happy Meal with extra  f ries and a chocolate shake.
   
  Then it was off to a movie, popcorn, a soda pop, and her favorite candy,   M&M 's. What a fabulous adventure! Finally she wobbled home with her husband  and collapsed into bed exhausted. He leaned over his wife with a big smile and  lovingly asked, 'Well Dear, what was it like being six again??'
   
  Her eyes slowly opened and her expression suddenly changed. 'I meant my  dress size, you dumb ass!'
   
  The moral of the story: Even when a man is listening, he's gonna get it wrong.
   
  SEND THIS TO SMART WOMEN WHO NEED A LAUGH AND TO MEN YOU THINK CAN HANDLE IT.
 

 
23771  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A question for us here on: March 28, 2009, 07:45:10 AM
4th post of the day:

OK folks, I'd like to put it out there:  What do we think of the President's plan?  Do we support it?
23772  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Carbon Cap dilema on: March 28, 2009, 07:43:25 AM
Count me amongst those doubtful of nuclear power, but I post this thoughtful article anyway.
====================


By JOSEPH RAGO
Washington

On the one hand, environmentalists claim that climate change is a "planetary emergency," perhaps the greatest threat ever to face humanity. On the other, nuclear energy is still verboten in the green catechism -- despite the fact that it provides roughly one-fifth of U.S. electricity, all of it free of carbon emissions. And without more nuclear power, it is nearly impossible to see even the glimmers of any low-emission future.

 
Zina SaundersJ. Wayne Leonard, chairman and CEO of Entergy Corp., one of the largest U.S. energy companies and the No. 2 generator of nuclear power, is no stranger to the many contradictions of American energy policy. "Everybody's gums are still bleeding from the '70s," he says of nuclear power, noting that today's technology is far superior to its Three Mile Island vintage.

The avuncular Mr. Leonard, who lives in Louisiana, made his name in nuclear, and over the last nine years as Entergy CEO he has achieved the highest total shareholder return in the nuclear power industry. But now his thoughts are concentrated on more lasting matters -- namely, his deep-seated concern about climate change.

Does he think nuclear energy has a larger role to play in that effort?

"Is it nuclear?" Mr. Leonard asks in Entergy's D.C. office. "Are you really going to mandate nuclear? I don't think so. I mean, mandate private businesses at the kind of prices we're taking about, and the kind of risks? That's pretty tough to do. You'd have to turn all of us into France" -- 79% of its electricity is nuclear -- "and have a government-sponsored program. I don't see that as consistent with what made this country into what it is today."

Mr. Leonard thinks like an economist. He talks about "efficiency" and "maximizing consumer surplus" the same way other utility executives talk about rate schedules and voltage. The most important thing the government can do on climate change, in Mr. Leonard's estimation, is to change the incentives for producing -- or, not producing -- carbon. His answer on the role of nuclear was revealing about his mentality: Set the price, and market forces, not government, will make the decisions.

"We see ourselves as a market economy, and that's created great wealth for society over time," he says, "but we're a market economy that doesn't have price signals for CO2."

Entergy belongs to the swarm of major energy companies that are -- contrary to type -- practically begging Washington to create a cap-and-trade program. Mr. Leonard supports President Barack Obama's plan to slash emissions 80% by 2050. It sounds strange: Lobbying the government to tax your products is generally not taught in business school.

But then, a lot of companies stand to make a bundle off cap and trade. Once Congress puts a ceiling on emissions, and then allows businesses to sell any of its extra allowances that stand for the right to emit, it is essentially creating the world's largest commodity market -- in carbon-backed securities. These will be extremely valuable, and everything comes down to how the government chooses to distribute them.

Mr. Leonard thinks the allowances should be auctioned off, rather than given away. So does the White House. Then the billions in new revenues that cap and trade would raise every year should be returned to the public. "Ideally you want to recycle it all, give all the money back," he says.

That's the purist's view on cap and trade -- and it puts him at odds with many of his peers at big coal-fired utilities like Duke Energy and American Electric Power that emit the most carbon. These companies signed on in the expectation that the allowances would be handed out at no charge. But economically, that is the same as selling them and giving the money to businesses -- i.e., as subsidies and corporate welfare. Mr. Leonard uses more diplomatic language: "Everybody's got their kind of own self-interest out there that they're tending to promote, once you get behind it."

It would be fair here to note Entergy's own self-interest: Only about 7% of its portfolio is coal, and the nuclear industry stands to benefit as much as any "green" business from a carbon crackdown. Then again, if Congress does create cap and trade, expect the next populist outcry to be for a windfall profits tax on nuclear.

Mr. Leonard acknowledges, though, that coal and other energy companies -- and their customers -- have legitimate reasons to worry about cap and trade: "No utility CEO likes to raise rates, and that's what would happen. Your rates go up no matter what," he says. And even if the government returns every dime of climate revenues to ratepayers, "That's a painful thing for utilities to have to endure, because angriness comes toward you, and somebody else gets the goodwill." Giving out the allowances, he does concede, could help the cushion the blow.

On pure economic grounds, Mr. Leonard seems to prefer a straight carbon tax, which would be simpler and more efficient than cap and trade. But he also notes that "the political will to go the tax route . . . is just not there. Nonexistent" -- namely because the use of the word "tax." The key, he says, is to design a cap-and-trade program that will "simulate the same thing a tax would do." That is, to achieve the increased energy prices essential to the success of cap and trade.

Mr. Leonard does evince a certain . . . uneasiness with the direction of climate politics. "The old adage of 'think globally, act locally' -- it still works," he says. "But with climate change, for it to really be effective, we have to take that thought much more completely and much more deeply than probably we've ever really thought about an issue."

He notes China's breakneck construction of conventional coal plants. China has already surpassed U.S. coal capacity and is on pace to double it sometime in the middle of the next decade. The U.S., he says, could close down every single coal plant immediately and that would be "working to a global solution, acting locally. But that wouldn't do much good in the scheme of things," because atmospheric CO2 concentrations would continue to rise as China continues to expand.

"We go to zero emissions in this country, and if China doesn't follow us, we're nowhere. . . . We've just ruined our economy, and we're nowhere," Mr. Leonard says. "We make mistakes here," meaning a poorly designed carbon system, "and we have a real problem." He goes on, "We talk about that we should lead, then people will follow, but that's kind of" -- he pauses -- "silly. China's not going to follow us because we're the United States. . . . You say, 'Shut down your plants' -- well, that's going to be a short conversation. They've got $2 trillion invested in their plants and they still aren't feeding all their people." He adds that "If we were China, we wouldn't shut our plants down either."

Mr. Leonard argues that the best way to square these circles is to channel U.S. basic research dollars into the technology that can retrofit existing coal plants with carbon capture technology. Most current funding is devoted to second-generation systems that are still 10 or 20 years away from commercial deployment, at best. "We should spend 99% of our time on the problem that we have today, and it ain't going away," he says, referring to coal emissions. He also sees retrofit technology as a realistic way to curb Chinese emissions: "They're going to follow because we can offer them something."

Mr. Leonard worries, too, that Congress may make matters worse as it takes up climate change legislation this spring or summer. One proposal that enjoys wide Democratic support is a "renewable portfolio standard," which would mandate that utilities generate a certain percentage of their electricity -- as high as 20% -- from renewable sources like wind or solar. Nuclear, naturally, does not qualify.

Mr. Leonard points to yet another energy policy contradiction, which is that a portfolio standard -- which Congress would impose on top of cap and trade -- would actually increase carbon emissions. Power companies would be more likely to use renewables to replace sources like natural gas, which is relatively lower in carbon but also expensive, rather than to displace coal, which is cheaper and more abundant but also produces more emissions.

While Mr. Leonard says -- repeatedly -- that Entergy has nothing against solar or wind, "Our view is that government shouldn't be in the business of picking technologies. . . . And we're moving down a path where we're mandating renewables instead of a price signal to do it. We're . . . moving toward a planned economy by mandating a technology. Well, if we're a planned economy, if we're mandating technologies, then we don't have a whole plan."

"The focus," Mr. Leonard reiterates, "should be on developing the cap-and-trade program: Setting the amount of reductions, where we want to be, setting the price signal that works so that it's not so high that it shuts down coal plants prematurely, and that's not so low that it becomes a loophole and people don't end up doing anything -- and all we end up doing is taxing people, and God knows what the government will do with that money."

"This needs to be done with a fine pen to get it right," he adds.

Still, the government is not exactly run by omniscient technocrats. Does he believe that Congress -- with its entrenched constituencies, its own self-interest, its many antibusiness biases -- can actually create a climate system that is as sensitive and efficient as he envisions? That is, can the political class actually write the same bill that economists would write?

"That is really the tough part," Mr. Leonard says. "The trade-offs are not simple. . . . With a well-crafted bill, the market will make those choices. Or you can do it with a planned economy, and hope you get it right."

We may find out.
23773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reich on: March 28, 2009, 07:38:26 AM
I disagree quite a bit with this piece, but post it anyway.  It is glibly plausible-- how do we respond?

=====================


By ROBERT B. REICH
Twenty-eight years ago, Ronald Reagan used the severe economic downturn of 1980-82 to implement an economic philosophy that not only gave force and meaning to a wide range of initiatives but also offered a way back to sustained economic growth. Is there a similarly powerful animating idea behind Obamanomics?

 
Chad CroweI believe there is -- and it's not a return to big government.

The expansive and expensive forays of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board into Wall Street notwithstanding, President Barack Obama's 10-year budget (whose projections may prove wildly optimistic if the economy fails to rebound by early next year) presents a remarkably conservative picture. In 10 years, taxes are expected to fall to around 19% of GDP, a lower level than the late 1990s. Spending is expected to drop to around 22.5% of GDP, about where it was under Ronald Reagan -- including nondefense discretionary spending at about 3.6% of GDP, its lowest since data on this were first collected in 1962.

The real distinction between Obamanomics and Reaganomics involves government's role in achieving growth and broad-based prosperity. The animating idea of Reaganomics was that the economy grows best from the top down. Lower taxes on the wealthy prompts them to work harder and invest more. When they do so, everyone benefits. Neither Reagan nor the apostles of supply-side economics explicitly promised that such benefits would "trickle down" to everyone else but this was broadly understood to be the justification.

Reaganomics surely marked the beginning of one of the longest bull markets in American history and generated enormous gains at the top. But its benefits were not widely shared. After the Reagan tax cuts, growth in the median wage slowed, adjusted for inflation. After George W. Bush's tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, the median wage dropped. Meanwhile, an increasing share of total income went to the top 1% of income earners. In 1980, before Reagan took office, the highest-paid 1% took home 9% of total national income. By 2007, before the economy melted down, the richest 1% was taking home 22%.

Obamanomics, by contrast, holds that an economy grows best from the bottom up. The president proposes to increase taxes on the highest 2% of income earners starting in 2011. Those tax increases will fund more Pell grants allowing lower-income children to attend college, better pay for teachers that show they're worth it, broader access to health care, improved infrastructure, and more basic research. These and related expenditures are designed to help Americans become more productive. You might think of it as "trickle up" economics.

The key is public investment. Reaganomics did not view any public spending as an investment in the future except when it came to spending on the military. Hence, since 1980, federal spending on education, job training, infrastructure and basic research and development (apart from defense-related R&D) have all shrunk as a proportion of GDP. And apart from a modest expansion of health insurance available to poor children, there has been no significant attempt to make health insurance broadly affordable to Americans.

Obamanomics is premised on the central importance of public investments in the productivity of Americans. The logic is straightforward. Capital no longer remains within the borders of a nation where it is saved. It moves to wherever around the globe it can get the best return. Some of it flows as highly liquid investments that slosh across borders at the slightest provocation, as we're witnessing in the current financial crisis. But much takes the form of direct investments in new plants and equipment, telecommunications systems, laboratories, offices and -- most important of all -- jobs. Such capital goes to nations that can deliver high returns either because labor is cheap and taxes and regulations low or because labor is highly productive: well educated, healthy and supported by modern infrastructure.

In this way, every nation faces an implicit choice of whether its strategic advantage will lie in low costs or high productivity. For the better part of the last three decades America's job strategy has tended toward the former. But this inevitably exerts downward pressure on the real wages of a larger and larger portion of our population.

Only those Americans whose parents can afford to give them a high-quality private education and health care, and who can situate themselves in locations with excellent infrastructures of telecommunication, transportation, public health and safety, have been able to link up with global capital on more positive terms. But not even they are entirely secure economically, because they face growing shortages of talented people they can rely on within easy reach, and can't entirely avoid the disadvantages of a deteriorating public infrastructure, such as ever more congested roads and airports.

Obamanomics recognizes that the only resource uniquely rooted in a national economy is its people -- their skills, insights, capacities to collaborate, and the transportation and communication systems that link them together. Public investment is the key to attracting long-term private investment so that a nation's people can prosper.

Bill Clinton understood this but failed to do much about America's deteriorating public investments because he came to office during an economic expansion, when the major worry was excessive government spending leading to inflation. Mr. Obama comes to office during the biggest downturn since the Great Depression, and his plan represents the largest commitment to public investment in 30 years.

Regulation, done correctly, is also a form of public investment because it enables consumers and investors to be confident about what they're receiving, and ensures that the side-effects of trades don't harm the public. Reaganomics assumed that deregulated markets always function better. They do in many respects. But when they don't, all hell can break loose, retarding economic growth.

Energy markets were deregulated and we wound up with Enron. Food and drug safety has been neglected, resulting in contaminated products that have endangered consumers and threatened whole industries. Financial markets were deregulated and we now have a global meltdown. Obamanomics, by contrast, views appropriate regulation as an essential precondition for sustainable growth.

Under Reaganomics, government was the problem. It can still be a problem. But a central tenet of Obamanomics is that there are even bigger problems out there which cannot be solved without government. By building the economy from the bottom up, enhancing public investment, and instituting reasonable regulation, Obamanomics marks a reversal of the economic philosophy that has dominated America since 1981.

Mr. Reich is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and a former U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton.

23774  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Accounts disputed on: March 28, 2009, 07:32:44 AM
JERUSALEM — Israel is pushing back against accusations of civilian abuse in its Gaza war, asserting that an overwhelming majority of its soldiers acted honorably and that the account of a killing of a woman and her two children appears to be an urban myth spread by troops who did not witness it.

Officers are stepping forward, some at the urging of the top command, others on their own, offering numerous accounts of having held their fire out of concern for civilians, helping Palestinians in need and punishing improper soldier behavior.

“I’m not saying that nothing bad happened,” Bentzi Gruber, a colonel in the reserves and deputy commander of the armored division, said in an interview. “I heard about cases where people shot where they shouldn’t have shot and destroyed houses where they shouldn’t have destroyed houses. But the proportion and effort and directions we gave to our soldiers were entirely in the opposite direction.”

The accusations caused a furor here and abroad because they came on top of others that the civilian death toll was high and that soldiers took an unusually aggressive approach in Gaza.

The accounts that have received the most attention came from a taped conversation of Gaza veterans at a pre-military course. The soldiers there told of a sniper killing a woman and her two children walking in a no-go zone and of another case in which an elderly woman was shot dead for approaching a commandeered house.

The army’s advocate general has opened an investigation and has not yet issued a report. But officers familiar with the investigation say that those who spoke of the killing of the mother and her children did not witness it and that it almost certainly did not occur. Warning shots were fired near the family but not at it, the officers said, and a rumor spread among the troops of an improper shooting.

The second killing may also not have occurred, they said, although a similar event was recounted by Col. Herzl Halevy in January in the newspaper Yediot Aharonot.

“We saw a woman coming toward us,” he said then. “We shouted at her. We warned her a number of times not to get closer. We made hand motions. She did not stop. We shot her. When we examined her body, we did not find a bomb belt.”

Israeli commanders defend such actions because they say they confronted armed women in Gaza and Hamas gunmen dressed as women and in other guises, like doctors.

“We had a woman run at us with a grenade in one hand and the Koran in the other,” Brig. Gen. Eli Shermeister, head of the military’s education corps, said in an interview in which he showed ethics kits distributed to commanders. “What we know till now is that there was no systematic moral failure. There were not more than a few — a very few — events still being investigated.”

Col. Roi Elkabets, commander of an armored brigade, told of occasions when fire was held. His troops saw “a woman, about 60 years old, walking with a white flag and six to eight children behind her, and behind them was a Hamas fighter with his gun.

“We did not shoot him.”

Almost everything about the Gaza operation has caused controversy: how many Palestinians were killed and what percentage were civilians, whether the rise in the number of religious Israeli soldiers has led to zealotry, and whether the use of enormous military force was a legitimate response to years of Hamas rocket fire on Israeli civilians.

The dispute is a proxy for a debate — both here and abroad — over whether Israel should shift its policy toward the Palestinians and whether Hamas should be seen more as a resistance movement or as a tool of Iranian ambition and terror.

Those who wish to press for an end to the occupation and settlement of the West Bank and to the boycott of Gaza so as to create a Palestinian state — either out of sympathy with Israel or contempt for it — have focused on the accounts of abuses. Those who think such moves would endanger Israel have dismissed them as a blood libel.

The debate began within hours of Israel’s attack in late December and continues daily. This week, Human Rights Watch issued a report citing six cases of improper use of white phosphorus by Israel and calling them evidence of war crimes. Israel has not completed its own study.

On Thursday, the military issued its first casualty count, saying 1,166 people were killed. Of those, it said 295 were noncombatants, 709 were what it called Hamas terror operatives and 162 were men whose affiliations remained unidentified.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza says that the number of dead is 1,417, of whom 926 were civilians and 236 combatants.

Both the military and the center have lists of names. The Israelis include some 250 policemen under “Hamas terror operatives.” The Palestinian center considers them noncombatants. The Israeli military argues that about 400 people die from natural causes in Gaza every month, a possible cause for the gap in the two counts.

Some soldiers have complained about the role of military rabbis and religious soldiers, saying that they have taken to their roles with the fervor of holy warriors, leading to more violence.

Stuart Cohen, a political scientist at Bar Ilan University who is religiously observant, says that the army has indeed grown more violent toward civilians in the past 25 years, partly because the Palestinians have. But he says it has nothing to do with the increase of religious soldiers.

For 12 years he has been studying the correspondence between religious soldiers and rabbis on combat morality, and overwhelmingly the rabbis have urged restraint. While he cannot measure how that advice has been put into practice, he suspects it has had a real effect. And other religious soldiers said their behavior in Gaza was especially respectful.

“When we entered houses, we actually cleaned up the place,” said Yishai Goldflam, 32, a religiously observant film student in Jerusalem whose open letter to the Palestinian owners of the house he occupied for some days was published in the newspaper Maariv. “There are always idiots who do immoral things. But they don’t represent the majority. I remember once when a soldier wanted to take a Coke from a store, and he was stopped by his fellow soldiers because it was the wrong thing to do.”

Yaron Ezrahi, a political theorist who lectures military commanders, said they rejected the notion of willful abuse by their troops. But the commanders say more civilians died than should have and attribute it to two factors: faulty intelligence that led to attacking the wrong houses, and a failure, after warning Palestinians to leave, to provide safe escape routes.

Israel lost only a handful of men and almost no equipment, which many attribute to its overwhelming use of force.

But the top commanders say their consciences are clean.

“The question is, did we do all we could do to avoid hitting civilians?” said General Shermeister, the chief education officer. “My answer is yes.”
23775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO's surge on: March 28, 2009, 07:28:27 AM
Third post of the day

President Obama unveiled his strategy for the war in Afghanistan yesterday, and there is much to like in it. Our main question -- and, we suspect, the world's -- is whether the new Commander in Chief is really prepared to devote the resources and political capital that his plan will need to succeed.

Such fortitude is essential because this new Afghan-Pakistan campaign will be both long and expensive. The President's claim yesterday that "the situation is increasingly perilous" overstates the immediate trouble; Afghanistan has nowhere near the level of violence that consumed Iraq in 2006 before President Bush's surge. But denying the "Afpak" border as a safe haven for al Qaeda and the worst Taliban elements will tax the patience of an already war-weary American public.

All the more so because Mr. Obama himself has spent so much time questioning America's antiterrorist mission abroad. While he tried, during the campaign, to distinguish Iraq (Bush's war) from Afghanistan (the good war), the truth is that they are both exercises in counterinsurgency and nation building. The irony is that both tasks are arguably easier in Iraq, because of its denser population and history of a stronger central government.

Mr. Obama barely mentioned foreign policy in his recent address to Congress. And with his vast domestic agenda, the temptation of political adviser David Axelrod will be to have Mr. Obama give this one speech and drop the subject. That is a good way to discover a year from now that he has opponents emerging on both his left and right in Congress.

The left is already restless, with Les Gelb now writing that "We can't defeat the Taliban" and we should thus gradually withdraw. That is the same Les Gelb who was Vice President Joe Biden's strategic partner in writing in 2006 that the surge was doomed and Iraq had to be partitioned. Mr. Biden was reportedly an internal skeptic about Mr. Obama's new strategy.

On the right, many Republicans will also begin to question the mission, much as Tom DeLay opposed Bill Clinton on the Balkans. Mr. Obama could help here if he could manage to bring himself to speak well of our success in Iraq. The Baghdad surge shows the U.S. can learn from its mistakes and prevail in a long counterinsurgency, and a President should celebrate that achievement.

Yet Mr. Obama kept falling back yesterday on his campaign trope that Afghanistan would be going well now if not for the detour in Iraq. It's more accurate to say that Afghanistan got markedly worse after Pakistan's government cut its 2006 deal in Waziristan that created a Taliban sanctuary. Mr. Obama is not going to sustain GOP support by continuing to campaign against George W. Bush.

For all of those political caveats, we believe the war is winnable. And Mr. Obama's strategy takes some important steps. The most significant is to reclaim the battle from NATO, which never really wanted the job. The U.S. will create a new command in Southern Afghanistan, where U.S. and Afghan troops will apply the lessons of Iraq. The irony here is that Mr. Obama is asserting U.S. primacy from the failing "multilateralism" of the Bush Administration, which made the mistake of assuming Europeans really believed in the fight. In the end, as usual, the 60,000 or so Yanks will have to do the bloodiest fighting and the Germans can man the supply lines out of harm's way.

Another step forward is the commitment of 4,000 more GIs to train and expand the Afghan army to 134,000 troops by 2011. We agree with strategists who say the ultimate goal should be 250,000 or more -- making the army a major employer and source of national unity. But Mr. Obama is right to say that Afghans will eventually have to learn to defend their own country.

Mr. Obama made much yesterday of an allegedly new willingness to engage elements of the Taliban. This is hardly as revolutionary as it sounds, since U.S. troops did something similar in Anbar Province in Iraq. It makes sense to try to peel away tribal chiefs and others who may be "Taliban" only because they are paid to be, or afraid not to be. But over time this will only work if the U.S. and Afghans can persuade these Taliban-for-hire that the allies can provide security against al Qaeda and the real Taliban.

Also mark us down as skeptics about his new call for "benchmarks" for the Pakistan and Afghanistan governments. As we learned in Iraq, benchmarks can measure the wrong things amid larger progress, and they also make it easier for Congress to find fault. No doubt both Kabul and Islamabad can do more as allies, but the best way to ensure that is with a broad, sustained U.S. commitment, not with what sound like orders from Washington.

Perhaps the best news in yesterday's speech is that Mr. Obama has now taken ownership of this war. One lesson he can learn from Iraq is that -- as hard as the fighting may get and as vociferous as the opposition at home may become -- Mr. Obama now has an obligation to stay the course until our soldiers can return home in victory and with honor.

23776  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT Graveyard Myths on: March 28, 2009, 07:26:33 AM
Second post of the day

Well, now that BO is president, the NYT prints things like this.  Anyway, posted here as part of my ongoing search for a sense of our strategy in Afg.
=======================


Graveyard Myths
PETER BERGEN
Published: March 28, 2009

AS President Obama orders an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan, he faces growing skepticism over the United States’ prospects there. Critics of the troop buildup often point out that Afghanistan has long been the “graveyard of empires.” In 1842, the British lost a nasty war that ended when fierce tribesmen notoriously destroyed an army of thousands retreating from Kabul. And, of course, the Soviets spent almost a decade waging war in Afghanistan, only to give up ignominiously in 1989.

But in fact, these are only two isolated examples. Since Alexander the Great, plenty of conquerors have subdued Afghanistan. In the early 13th century, Genghis Khan’s Mongol hordes ravaged the country’s two major cities. And in 1504, Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire in India, easily took the throne in Kabul. Even the humiliation of 1842 did not last. Three and a half decades later, the British initiated a punitive invasion and ultimately won the second Anglo-Afghan war, which gave them the right to determine Afghanistan’s foreign policy.

The Soviet disaster of the 1980s, for its part, cannot be credited to the Afghans’ legendary fighting skills alone, as the mujahideen were kept afloat by billions of dollars worth of aid from the United States and Saudi Arabia and sophisticated American military hardware like anti-aircraft Stinger missiles, which ended the Soviets’ total air superiority.

In any case, today’s American-led intervention in Afghanistan can hardly be compared to the Soviet occupation. The Soviet Army employed a scorched-earth policy, killing more than a million Afghans, forcing some five million more to flee the country, and sowing land mines everywhere.

While the American military is killing too many Afghan civilians, in any given year the numbers are in the hundreds, not the hundreds of thousands. And even the most generous estimates of today’s Taliban insurgency suggest it is no more than 20,000 men. About 10 times as many Afghans fought against the Soviet occupation.

The Soviet experience in Afghanistan weighed heavily on the minds of Bush administration policymakers, who kept a “light footprint” lest Afghans rebuff American and allied soldiers as hated occupiers. But as it turned out, the Afghans were widely enthusiastic about being liberated from the Taliban. In an ABC/BBC poll conducted in 2005, a full four years after the fall of the Taliban, 8 in 10 Afghans expressed a favorable opinion of the United States — an extraordinary proportion in a Muslim nation — and the same number supported the American-led overthrow of the Taliban in their country.

And just last month, in a new poll by ABC and the BBC, 58 percent of Afghans named the Taliban as the greatest threat to their nation. Only 8 percent said it was the United States. And while only 47 percent of Afghans still had a favorable opinion of America, the Taliban fared far worse, with just 7 percent approval.

What Afghans want is for international forces to do what they should have been doing all along — provide them the security they need to get on with making a living. That means building up the Afghan Army and police, which are only about one-fourth the size of the security services in Iraq. This will not come cheap, but the cost of putting an Afghan soldier in the field is only one-seventieth that of sending an American. President Obama, who will travel to Europe for NATO’s 60th anniversary in early April, can ask those European countries that are reluctant to send additional troops to Afghanistan to instead contribute to a permanent fund to help pay for the expanded Afghan security services.

The United States should also focus on projects that will bring both security and economic benefits to Afghans. A key task is to secure the all-important road between Kabul and Kandahar, a once-pleasant freeway that has become a nightmarish gantlet of potential Taliban ambushes.

Afghanistan’s vast opium/heroin industry finances the Taliban and feeds rampant government corruption. The American Drug Enforcement Administration should make public the names of the top Afghan drug lords, including government officials, so that they can no longer act with impunity. And because Afghanistan’s court system is still incapable of handling major drug cases, Kabul should sign a treaty with Washington that would allow key heroin traffickers to be tried in the United States.

Measures like these would help return Afghanistan to something like the state it was before the Soviets invaded in 1979: a relatively peaceful country slowly building itself into something more than a purely agricultural economy.

Afghanistan is no longer the graveyard of any empire. Rather, it just might become the model of a somewhat stable Central Asian state.

Peter Bergen is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of “The Osama bin Laden I Know.”
23777  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYT: Puns on: March 28, 2009, 07:21:28 AM
Not that I agree very much with the author's hostility to punning, but I post this anyway.
===========================


Pun for the Ages
JOSEPH TARTAKOVSKY
Published: March 28, 2009

THE inglorious pun! Dryden called it the “lowest and most groveling kind of wit.” To Ambrose Bierce it was a “form of wit to which wise men stoop and fools aspire.” Universal experience confirms the adage that puns don’t make us laugh, but groan. It is said that Caligula ordered an actor to be roasted alive for a bad pun. (Some believe he was inclined to extremes.)

Addison defined the pun as a “conceit arising from the use of two words that agree in the sound, but differ in the sense.” “Energizer Bunny Arrested! Charged with Battery.” No laugh? Q.E.D.

Puns are the feeblest species of humor because they are ephemeral: whatever comic force they possess never outlasts the split second it takes to resolve the semantic confusion. Most resemble mathematical formulas: clever, perhaps, but hardly occasion for knee-slapping. The worst smack of tawdriness, even indecency, which is why puns, like off-color jokes, are often followed by apologies. Odds are that a restaurant with a punning name — Snacks Fifth Avenue, General Custard’s Last Stand — hasn’t acquired its first Michelin star.

How have the great comic writers regarded puns? Jane Austen puns once, in “Mansfield Park,” and it serves to impeach the moral character of the offender. Mark Twain’s first book, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” enamored reviewers with its punlessness. There are “no contortions of words,” said a London paper. “His fun is entirely dependent upon the inherent humor in his writings.” The 20th century’s finest humorist, P. G. Wodehouse, doesn’t use them.

Shakespeare, however, does. Many are bawdy: puns operate, after all, on double entendre. Yet the poet is guilty less of punning than wordplay, which Elizabethan taste considered more a sign of literary refinement than humor; hence “puns” in seemingly inappropriate places, like a dying Mercutio’s “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.”

The true punster’s mind cycles through homophones in search of a quip the way small children delight in rhymes or experiment babblingly with language. Accordingly, the least intolerable puns are those that avoid the pun’s essential puerility. Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin, was a specialist. He could effortlessly execute the double pun: Noah’s Ark was made of gopher-wood, he would say, but Joan of Arc was maid of Orleans. Some Whately-isms are so complex that they nearly amount to honest jokes: “Why can a man never starve in the Great Desert? Because he can eat the sand which is there. But what brought the sandwiches there? Why, Noah sent Ham, and his descendants mustered and bred.”

Whately shows us that it is the punner himself who gives his art a bad name, by so frequently reaching for the obvious. Nothing vexes so much as a pun on a name, for instance. Yet even these can rise to wit if turned with finesse. Jean Harlow, the platinum-blond star of the 1930s, on being introduced to Lady Margot Asquith, mispronounced her given name to rhyme with “rot.” “My dear, the ‘t’ is silent,” said Asquith, “as in Harlow.” The writer Andrew Lang asked his friend Israel Zangwill if he would take a stand on an issue. Zangwill wrote back: “If you, Lang, will, I. Zangwill.”

Why do puns offend? Charles Lamb, a notorious punster, explained that the pun is “a pistol let off at the ear; not a feather to tickle the intellect.” Surely puns silence conversation before they animate it. Some stricken with pun-lust sink so far into their infirmity that their minds become trained to lie in wait for words on which to work their wickedness. They are the scourge of dinner tables and the despised prolongers of office meetings, some letting fly as instinctively as dogs bark and frogs croak, no longer concerned even with drawing applause; they simply can’t help themselves.

I asked a friend of mine, an inveterate punster, whether he punned while on dates. “Sure, I pun on dates,” he replied. “On prunes and figs, too.” And well he might, considering the similitude between puns and fruit flies, both of which die practically the instant they are born, but not before breeding others.

But low as puns may be, they have been known to appeal to the loftiest minds. Samuel Johnson hated puns, but his friend Edmund Burke, whose intellectual powers daunted even Johnson, was notorious for pun-making (e.g., “What is [m]ajest[y], when stripped of its externals, but a jest?”) Still, Burke was conscious of his sin, revealed in an incident recorded in a friend’s journal: “Lord Mulgrave called to Burke one day at our table with a ‘so, Burke, you riot in puns now Johnson’s away.’ This made good sport for my lord and for the company, but Burke changed color and looked like Death.”

With Burkean contrition, I confess that in a Thai restaurant not long ago, following my company’s attempt to order three curry dishes, I suggested that we not get “curried away.” Punning, it seems, like every non-deadly sin, is easier to excuse than to resist.

Joseph Tartakovsky is a student at Fordham Law School.
23778  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: March 28, 2009, 12:34:05 AM
March 30th?

I am teaching privates on that day and presume the IAMA has its usual schedule.
23779  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: March 28, 2009, 12:21:44 AM
How old is he?
23780  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US troops into Pak? on: March 28, 2009, 12:18:37 AM
US laying ground for troops in Pak?

http://blog.wired.com/defense/2009/03/white-house-won.html
23781  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: March 27, 2009, 10:06:16 PM
Looking forward to tomorrow  cool
23782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Murphy's hat on: March 27, 2009, 04:00:37 PM
Murphy At Mass

Murphy showed up at Mass one Sunday and the priest almost fell down when he saw him. Murphy had never been seen in church in his life.

After Mass, the priest caught up with Murphy and said, "Murphy, I am so glad ya decided to come to Mass, what made ya come?"

Murphy said, "I got to be honest with you Father, a while back, I misplaced me hat and I really, really love that hat. I know that McGlynn had a hat just like me hat, and I knew that McGlynn came to church every Sunday. I also knew that McGlynn had to take off his hat during Mass and figured he would leave it in the back of church. So, I was going to leave after Communion and steal McGlynn's hat."

The priest said, "Well, Murphy, I notice that ya didn't steal McGlynn's hat. What changed your mind?"

Murphy said, "Well, after I heard your sermon on the 10 Commandments, I decided that I didn't need to steal McGlynn's hat after all"

The priest gave Murphy a big smile and said; "After I talked about 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' ya decided you would rather do without your hat than burn in Hell, right?"

Murphy slowly shook his head and said, "No, Father, after ya talked about 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery' I remembered where I left me hat."
23783  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: March 27, 2009, 12:49:30 PM
27 March 2009

President Obama has just spoken on AfPak.  I closed my eyes and listened closely to his words, coming via the BBC from the other side of the world.

The President's words were disappointing.  He talked about our goal to reach a force level of 134,000 Afghan soldiers and 82,000 police by 2011.  This is not even in the neighborhood of being enough.  Further, the increase of 21,000 U.S. troops is likely just a bucket of water on the growing bonfire.  One can only expect that sometime in 2010, the President will again be forced to announce another increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

If there were not people like Gates and Petraeus up there, my gut would say to pull out.  It is only my faith in the military, and what I saw them accomplish against heavy odds in Iraq, that gives me hope.

Others would disagree with me.  A well placed and very experienced British officer just emailed me his impressions, to whit:

“An impressive statement of intent – I particularly liked the bits about bearing down on Afghan corruption and corruption in how USAID money is spent.  The speech inspires confidence and, as he is not Bush, it could encourage others to come to the party in a more meaningful way.

I don’t mean any offence about Bush as I for one see history judging him more favorably than contemporary commentators it’s just that the Europeans might follow Obama in a way that they never would Bush.”

And so my views clearly are not held by everyone.  Most British and American officers – especially American – have been far more positive about Afghanistan than I have been.  My confidence in them is great, and before publishing this I called London to talk about this.  Clearly there is more confidence coming from the British Army than meets the public eye.

Michael
23784  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 27, 2009, 12:36:05 PM
Sorry for my failed effort at laconic wit  smiley

In a free market, who gets something is determined by price.
23785  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Iron Balls on: March 27, 2009, 10:47:40 AM
Iron balls!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyNmV2Y43ko&feature=related
23786  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives/the American Creed on: March 27, 2009, 10:41:47 AM
I too like Newt a lot.

One of my deep concerns is that the Big Lie that "the free market caused it" is becoming accepted fact.
23787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 27, 2009, 10:39:34 AM
"That said we will need to ration care anyway at some point."

The proper mechanism is called "price". grin
23788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The 10th Amendment; States' Rebellion pending on: March 27, 2009, 10:10:43 AM
States Rebellion Pending
By Walter E. Williams

Our Colonial ancestors petitioned and pleaded with King George III to get his boot off their necks. He ignored their pleas, and in 1776, they rightfully declared unilateral independence and went to war. Today it's the same story except Congress is the one usurping the rights of the people and the states, making King George's actions look mild in comparison. Our constitutional ignorance -- perhaps contempt, coupled with the fact that we've become a nation of wimps, sissies and supplicants -- has made us easy prey for Washington's tyrannical forces. But that might be changing a bit. There are rumblings of a long overdue re-emergence of Americans' characteristic spirit of rebellion.

Eight state legislatures have introduced resolutions declaring state sovereignty under the Ninth and 10th amendments to the U.S. Constitution; they include Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington. There's speculation that they will be joined by Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nevada, Maine and Pennsylvania.

You might ask, "Isn't the 10th Amendment that no-good states' rights amendment that Dixie governors, such as George Wallace and Orval Faubus, used to thwart school desegregation and black civil rights?" That's the kind of constitutional disrespect and ignorance that big-government proponents, whether they're liberals or conservatives, want you to have. The reason is that they want Washington to have total control over our lives. The Founders tried to limit that power with the 10th Amendment, which reads: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

New Hampshire's 10th Amendment resolution typifies others and, in part, reads: "That the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General (federal) Government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a General Government for special purposes, delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force." Put simply, these 10th Amendment resolutions insist that the states and their people are the masters and that Congress and the White House are the servants. Put yet another way, Washington is a creature of the states, not the other way around.

Congress and the White House will laugh off these state resolutions. State legislatures must take measures that put some teeth into their 10th Amendment resolutions. Congress will simply threaten a state, for example, with a cutoff of highway construction funds if it doesn't obey a congressional mandate, such as those that require seat belt laws or that lower the legal blood-alcohol level to .08 for drivers. States might take a lead explored by Colorado.

In 1994, the Colorado Legislature passed a 10th Amendment resolution and later introduced a bill titled "State Sovereignty Act." Had the State Sovereignty Act passed both houses of the legislature, it would have required all people liable for any federal tax that's a component of the highway users fund, such as a gasoline tax, to remit those taxes directly to the Colorado Department of Revenue. The money would have been deposited in an escrow account called the "Federal Tax Fund" and remitted monthly to the IRS, along with a list of payees and respective amounts paid. If Congress imposed sanctions on Colorado for failure to obey an unconstitutional mandate and penalized the state by withholding funds due, say $5 million for highway construction, the State Sovereignty Act would have prohibited the state treasurer from remitting any funds in the escrow account to the IRS. Instead, Colorado would have imposed a $5 million surcharge on the Federal Tax Fund account to continue the highway construction.

The eight state legislatures that have enacted 10th Amendment resolutions deserve our praise, but their next step is to give them teeth.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
23789  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 27, 2009, 08:48:04 AM
Grateful for this thread and its daily reminder to have my mind right.
23790  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives/the American Creed on: March 27, 2009, 08:38:59 AM
At the moment   wink I disagree.

I think we are in serious danger of cultural transmission of the American Creed crossing a tipping point from which we may never recover.     Reagan was a clarion voice in the wilderness for many, many years before he was elected.  People trusted that he believed what he said because of this.
23791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IBD: Surprising Facts on: March 27, 2009, 08:33:23 AM
second post

How U.S. Health Care Really Stacks Up
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Thursday, March 26, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Facts: A movie has been made solely to criticize it. The left treats it as if it's an invader that must be repelled. Most Americans, however, are satisfied with this object of so much hate — America's health care industry.


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Read More: Health Care


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Manipulative filmmaker Michael Moore says "we have the worst health care in the Western world" and has offered up Cuba as a paradigm for the U.S. to follow.

Former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle, who was nearly named the administration's health and human services secretary, says the "flaws in our health care system are pervasive and corrosive."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a former Democratic presidential candidate, called the current health care market "predatory capitalism." Some Democrats go so far as to say the system is racist.

The kindest thing most Democrats will say about health care in the U.S. is that it's broken. Their talking points to back up the claim revolve around costs, America's low position (37th) in World Health Organization rankings and the number of uninsured.

The last is a useless measure, since only a small portion of the uninsured are chronically without coverage. So are the WHO rankings, which can't be trusted because of disparities in how countries compile statistics, demographic and cultural differences, and the WHO's leftist bias.

Which leaves us with the issue of costs.

Yes, with $2.5 trillion expected to be spent this year, health care in the U.S. is more expensive than in any other country, including Great Britain and Canada, whose nationalized, universal care systems are held up as models .

But what we spend isn't thrown down a rathole. The National Center for Policy Analysis has published a study, "10 Surprising Facts About American Health Care," that shows how Americans get something for the extra dollars they lay out. To wit:

• "Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers." Breast cancer mortality: 52% higher in Germany and 88% higher in the United Kingdom than in the U.S. Prostate cancer mortality: 604% higher in the U.K., 457% higher in Norway. Colo-rectal cancer mortality: 40% higher among Britons.

• "Americans have lower cancer mortality rates than Canadians." Rates for breast cancer (9%), prostate cancer (184%) and colon cancer among men (10%) are higher than in the U.S.

• "Americans have better access to treatment of chronic diseases than patients in other developed countries." Roughly 56% of Americans who could benefit are taking statin drugs. Only 36% of the Dutch, 29% of the Swiss, 26% of Germans, 23% of Britons and 17% of Italians who could benefit receive them.

• "Americans have better access to preventive cancer screenings than Canadians." Nine of 10 middle-aged American women have had a mammogram; 72% of Canadian women have. Almost every American woman (96%) has had a pap smear; fewer than 90% of Canadian women have. Roughly 54% of American men have had a prostate cancer test; fewer than one in six Canadian men have. Almost a third of Americans (30%) have had a colonoscopy; only 5% of Canadians have had the procedure.

• "Lower-income Americans are in better health than comparable Canadians." Nearly 12% of U.S. seniors with below-median incomes self-report being in "excellent" health, while 5.8% of Canadian seniors say the same thing.

• "Americans spend less time waiting for care than patients in Canada and the United Kingdom." Canadians and Britons wait about twice as long, sometimes more than a year, to see a specialist, have elective surgery or get radiation treatment.

• "People in countries with more government control of health care are highly dissatisfied and believe reform is needed." More than seven in 10 Germans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and Britons say their health systems need either "fundamental change" or "complete rebuilding."

• "Americans are more satisfied with the care they receive than Canadians." More than half (51.3%) of Americans are very satisfied with their health care services, while 41.5% of Canadians hold the same view of their system.

• "Americans have much better access to important new technologies like medical imaging than patients in Canada or the U.K." There are 34 CT scanners per million Americans. There are 12 per million in Canada and eight per million in Britain. The U.S. has nearly 27 MRI machines per million. Britain and Canada have 6 per million.

• "Americans are responsible for the vast majority of all health care innovations." The top five U.S. hospitals conduct more clinical trials than all the hospitals in any other single developed nation; the most important recent medical innovations were developed here.

Can the nationalized, universal systems in Britain, Canada or anywhere else improve on this? No, but we can ruin our health care by following the policies of countries where medical treatment is far below the American standard.

23792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 27, 2009, 08:20:31 AM
Ummm , , , has "no care" actually been the case?
23793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times on: March 27, 2009, 08:19:11 AM
Third post of the day

WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to further bolster American forces in Afghanistan and for the first time set benchmarks for progress in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban there and in Pakistan, officials said Thursday.


In imposing conditions on the Afghans and Pakistanis, Mr. Obama is replicating a strategy used in Iraq two years ago both to justify a deeper American commitment and prod governments in the region to take more responsibility for quelling the insurgency and building lasting political institutions.

“The era of the blank check is over,” Mr. Obama told Congressional leaders at the White House, according to an account of the meeting provided on the condition of anonymity because it was a private session.

The new strategy, which Mr. Obama will formally announce Friday, will send 4,000 more troops to train Afghan security forces on top of the 17,000 extra combat troops that he already ordered to Afghanistan shortly after taking office, administration and Congressional officials said. But for now, Mr. Obama has decided not to send additional combat forces, they said, although military commanders at one point had requested a total of 30,000 more American troops.

Although the administration is still developing the specific benchmarks for Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said they would be the most explicit demands ever presented to the governments in Kabul and Islamabad. In effect, Mr. Obama would be insisting that two fractured countries plagued by ancient tribal rivalries and modern geopolitical hostility find ways to work together and transform their societies.

American officials have repeatedly said that Afghanistan has to make more progress in fighting corruption, curbing the drug trade and sharing power with the regions, while they have insisted that Pakistan do more to cut ties between parts of its government and the Taliban. Mr. Obama telephoned President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan on Thursday to share the main elements of the strategic review.

Setting benchmarks for Pakistan could be particularly difficult. For years, the United States has simply paid bills submitted by the Pakistani government for counterterrorism operations, even during truces when its military was not involved in counterterrorism. Pakistan has resisted linking its aid to specific performance criteria and officials acknowledged that developing those criteria could be problematic.

The key elements of Mr. Obama’s plan, with its more robust combat force, its emphasis on training, and its far-reaching goals, foreshadow an ambitious but risky and costly attempt to unify and stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Obama is unveiling his approach at a time when the conflict is worsening, the lives of the people are not visibly improving, and the intervention by American-led foreign powers is increasingly resented.

The goals that Mr. Obama has settled on may be elusive and, according to some critics, even naïve. Among other things, officials said he planned to recast the Afghan war as a regional issue involving not only Pakistan but also India, Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and the Central Asian states.

His plan envisions persuading Pakistan to stop focusing military resources on its longstanding enemy, India, so it can concentrate more on battling insurgents in its lawless tribal regions. That goal may be especially hard to achieve given more than a half century of enmity — including a nuclear arms race — between Pakistan and India.

All told, the 21,000 additional American troops that Mr. Obama will have authorized almost precisely matches the original number of additional troops that President George W. Bush sent to Iraq two years ago, bringing the overall American deployment in Afghanistan to about 60,000. But Mr. Obama avoids calling it a “surge” and resisted sending the full reinforcements initially sought by commanders.

Instead, Mr. Obama chose to re-evaluate troop levels at a series of specific moments over the next year, officials said. Approaching the issue in increments may be easier to explain to members of Mr. Obama’s own party who fear he is getting the country as entangled in Afghanistan as Mr. Bush did in Iraq.

The officials said Mr. Obama planned to frame the American commitment as a counterterrorism mission aimed at denying havens for Al Qaeda, with three main goals — training Afghan security forces, supporting the weak central government in Kabul and securing the population. While the new strategy will call for expanding Afghan security forces more rapidly, it will not explicitly endorse the request from American commanders to increase the national police and army to 400,000.

At the same time, Mr. Obama warned Congressional leaders that he would need more than the $50 billion in his budget plan for military operations and development efforts. Asked by lawmakers about the prospect of reconciliation with moderate members of the Taliban, officials said Mr. Obama replied that he wanted to sift out hard-core radicals from those who were fighting simply to earn money.

Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, emerged from a briefing with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to declare that in his judgment the administration’s review “was right on track.” He said the new strategy would send a significant number of additional trainers to work with the Afghan National Army and police, part of an overall strategy to “transfer responsibilities to the Afghans, both militarily and in terms of economic development.”

Mr. Levin, who was part of a bipartisan group that pressed Mr. Bush to set benchmarks for Iraq two years ago, embraced the idea of doing the same again for Afghanistan. “There is a determination to set some benchmarks for Afghanistan, and that will be incredibly important,” Mr. Levin said. “We haven’t had them in Afghanistan.”

Republicans emerging from briefings at the White House and on Capitol Hill withheld comment. Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, said in a statement that he “had a constructive meeting at the White House” and that he would “reserve public comment until the president makes his formal announcement.”

Dennis C. Blair, the administration’s director of national intelligence, said the United States still lacked intelligence about the power structures inside the country and other basic information necessary for a counterinsurgency campaign. “We know a heck of a lot more about Iraq on a granular level than we know about Afghanistan,” he said.

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Blair estimated that up to three quarters of the Taliban’s rank and file in Afghanistan could be peeled away from the Taliban’s leadership, most of whom are hiding in sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.
23794  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYTimes: David Brooks on: March 27, 2009, 08:14:40 AM
A surprising article from a NYTimes columnist who usually is quite the useful idiot:
=============

Op-Ed Columnist
The Winnable War
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Published: March 26, 2009
Khyber Pass, Afghanistan

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I came to Afghanistan skeptical of American efforts to transform this country. Afghanistan is one of the poorest, least-educated and most-corrupt nations on earth. It is an infinitely complex and fractured society. It has powerful enemies in Pakistan, Iran and the drug networks working hard to foment chaos. The ground is littered with the ruins of great powers that tried to change this place.

Moreover, we simply do not know how to modernize nations. Western aid workers seem to spend most of their time drawing up flow charts for each other. They’re so worried about their inspectors general that they can’t really immerse themselves in the messy world of local reality. They insist on making most of the spending decisions themselves so the “recipients” of their largess end up passive, dependent and resentful.

Every element of my skepticism was reinforced during a six-day tour of the country. Yet the people who work here make an overwhelming case that Afghanistan can become a functional, terror-fighting society and that it is worth sending our sons and daughters into danger to achieve this.

In the first place, the Afghan people want what we want. They are, as Lord Byron put it, one of the few people in the region without an inferiority complex. They think they did us a big favor by destroying the Soviet Union and we repaid them with abandonment. They think we owe them all this.

That makes relations between Afghans and foreigners relatively straightforward. Most military leaders here prefer working with the Afghans to the Iraqis. The Afghans are warm and welcoming. They detest the insurgents and root for American success. “The Afghans have treated you as friends, allies and liberators from the very beginning,” says Afghanistan’s defense minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak.

Second, we’re already well through the screwing-up phase of our operation. At first, the Western nations underestimated the insurgency. They tried to centralize power in Kabul. They tried to fight a hodgepodge, multilateral war.

Those and other errors have been exposed, and coalition forces are learning. When you interview impressive leaders here, like Brig. Gen. John Nicholson of Regional Command South, Col. John Agoglia of the Counterinsurgency Training Center and Chris Alexander of the U.N., you see how relentless they are at criticizing their own operations. Thanks to people like that, the coalition will stumble toward success, having tried the alternatives.

Third, we’ve got our priorities right. Armies love killing bad guys. Aid agencies love building schools. But the most important part of any aid effort is governance and law and order. It’s reforming the police, improving the courts, training local civil servants and building prisons.

In Afghanistan, every Western agency is finally focused on this issue, from a Canadian reconstruction camp in Kandahar to the top U.S. general, David McKiernan.

Fourth, the quality of Afghan leadership is improving. This is a relative thing. President Hamid Karzai is detested by much of the U.S. military. Some provincial governors are drug dealers on the side. But as the U.N.’s Kai Eide told the Security Council, “The Afghan government is today better and more competent than ever before.” Reformers now lead the most important ministries and competent governors run key provinces.

Fifth, the U.S. is finally taking this war seriously. Up until now, insurgents have had free rein in vast areas of southern Afghanistan. The infusion of 17,000 more U.S. troops will change that. The Obama administration also promises a civilian surge to balance the military push.

Sixth, Pakistan is finally on the agenda. For the past few years, the U.S. has let Pakistan get away with murder. The insurgents train, organize and get support from there. “It’s very hard to deal with a cross-border insurgency on only one side of the border,” says Mr. Alexander of the U.N. The Obama strategic review recognizes this.

Finally, it is simply wrong to say that Afghanistan is a hopeless 14th-century basket case. This country had decent institutions before the Communist takeover. It hasn’t fallen into chaos, the way Iraq did, because it has a culture of communal discussion and a respect for village elders. The Afghans have embraced the democratic process with enthusiasm.

I finish this trip still skeptical but also infected by the optimism of the truly impressive people who are working here. And one other thing:

After the trauma in Iraq, it would have been easy for the U.S. to withdraw into exhaustion and realism. Instead, President Obama is doubling down on the very principles that some dismiss as neocon fantasy: the idea that this nation has the capacity to use military and civilian power to promote democracy, nurture civil society and rebuild failed states.

Foreign policy experts can promote one doctrine or another, but this energetic and ambitious response — amid economic crisis and war weariness — says something profound about America’s DNA.
23795  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IBD: Imagine on: March 27, 2009, 08:01:13 AM
Imagine If A Republican Were President
By LARRY ELDER | Posted Thursday, March 26, 2009 4:20 PM PT

President Barack Obama, in an appearance on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno, made a self-deprecating but ill-advised joke, in which he referred to the Special Olympics. He quickly apologized. Crisis averted. Fair enough.

But the real story is the media double standard: Imagine the uproar if a President John McCain made the Special Olympics comment.

For that matter, imagine if a President McCain mistook a White House window for a door, his secretary of Treasury had not paid taxes, he granted two dozen waivers to his no-lobbyists-in-government rule and he had promised bipartisanship but got only three across-the-aisle votes for his "stimulus" package.

Imagine if President McCain, after promising a "clean break" from his predecessor, retained "extraordinary rendition," the FISA program, the option of wiretapping without warrants and the option of using "enhanced interrogation techniques.

Or if he promised to close Gitmo, then said it would take as long as a year, but then our European allies refused to take in "detainees" from their own countries.

Or if he reneged on or fudged his promise to have all combat troops out of Iraq within "16 months of his presidency."

Or if he adopted for Afghanistan the same counterinsurgency strategy used in Iraq, which, as a candidate, he'd criticized for not "achieving its objectives.

Or if he used the same "state secrets" argument as did the Bush administration in the same court case, to avoid turning over certain national security documents in an ACLU-brought case on behalf of an alleged torture victim/detainee.

Imagine if — on the campaign trail — a future President McCain had declared a nuclear-armed Iran "unacceptable" but agreed to engage in negotiations without preconditions, if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the new president he must apologize for 60 years of anti-Iranian activity, if President McCain then reached out to the Iranians in a televised address and, in response, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — who holds ultimate authority in Iran — told him to a) drop animosity and criticism, b) end sanctions, c) unfreeze assets, and d) end "unconditional support" for Israel.

Imagine if President McCain acted "outraged" — as though he, his secretary of Treasury and a party leader (Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.) had not previously known about and approved the controversial AIG bonuses and that executives at Freddie and Fannie, failed institutions now taken over by government, were getting bonuses, too.

Or if, during this recession and after criticizing taxpayer-funded corporate retreats, President McCain and First Lady Cindy McCain threw taxpayer-funded White House parties nearly every night, hiring entertainers such as Stevie Wonder and the Jonas Brothers.

Imagine if, as sitting president, McCain appeared on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno and cracked jokes, while — as the media would have written — "millions of Americans have lost their homes and their jobs with millions afraid they're next, yada, blah, etc."

Or if he tripled the projected annual deficit and intended, within a short period, to double the national debt. Or if he promised to "create or save" an ever-changing number of jobs — never offering a yardstick to define a "saved job."

Imagine that McCain's vice president made a number of gaffes, including not knowing the "recovery" Web site despite going on national television to promote it and revealing on television — through his wife — that he'd had the option of a job as secretary of State or VP — thus showing the administration's extreme disrespect toward the current secretary of state.

Imagine if, of the 18 important sub-Cabinet positions in the Treasury Department, none was filled. Or if, after promising "transparency," McCain wouldn't say where the TARP money had gone and who had gotten it. Or after receiving bailout money, the largest 20 financial institution recipients actually reduced lending — the opposite intent of the program.

Or if after saying that he wasn't a "socialist," McCain defended himself by asserting that "it wasn't on my watch" that we'd bought shares of banks — but omitted that, as senator, he'd supported and voted for it.

Or if he constantly said he'd "inherited" the deficit despite — as a senator — voting for TARP and other programs that had wildly increased it.

Imagine if President McCain ungraciously treated Prime Minister Gordon Brown from the U.K. — our closest and oldest ally — and gave him cheap, tacky gifts apparently picked up from the White House gift shop and someplace like Wal-Mart.

Imagine if, despite a reputation for "eloquence," President McCain relied on teleprompters for even the most minor of statements, verbally stumbling and flailing when the teleprompters malfunctioned.

Or if he broke protocol and tradition by pre-picking and giving notice to the reporters to be called on in press conferences. Or if he admonished the out-of-power party by denouncing a popular talk show host and imploring the opposite party to refuse to listen to him.

Imagine if the media kept referring to him as "popular" when his poll numbers were virtually identical to those of George W. Bush at the 50-day mark in their respective presidencies.

Or if his chief of staff, in a newspaper article about his achievements as a House member, said in front of a reporter that the opposition party could "go f*** themselves."

On the other hand, Cleveland State beat Wake Forest.
23796  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran recalibrates its strategy for Iraq on: March 27, 2009, 07:49:57 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iran Recalibrates Its Strategy For Iraq
March 25, 2009
Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani met for two hours Wednesday with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s foremost Shiite religious leader, in An Najaf, a holy city in southern Iraq. Earlier this month, Iranian Assembly of Experts Chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani led a 105-person delegation to Iraq, where he too met with al-Sistani, Iraq’s three other grand ayatollahs, its president, prime minister and other politicians.

Larijani and Rafsanjani are two of Iran’s most powerful political figures. Both are part of the pragmatic conservative camp and are bitter rivals of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is seeking re-election in June. Larijani and Rafsanjani both view Ahmadinejad as a reckless leader, and they often coordinate with each other and with their allies to cast him in a negative light. And though al-Sistani welcomed Larijani and Rafsanjani to An Najaf, STRATFOR is told that he refused to host Ahmadinejad, whose radical views apparently do not sit well with the influential ayatollah in Iraq.

The Iranian visits to An Najaf go far beyond the petty political rivalries of Tehran. Regardless of whether a hard-liner like Ahmadinejad or a reformist like Mir Hossein Mousavi wins the election in June, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will still be the primary figure calling the shots as he mediates between the rival factions. In fact, the national election Iran really has to worry about is the one taking place next door in Iraq come December.

Iran’s primary goal is to consolidate Shiite influence in Iraq and use its foothold there for projecting Persian influence in the wider region. Iran’s “Plan A” for making this happen was to carve out a federal Shiite zone in Iraq’s oil-rich south. This would give Tehran a firmer grip on Iraq’s Shiite political factions, while also creating a tie to revenues from the oil fields. The main vehicle for the plan was the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), an allied Iraqi faction led by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, which has devoted significant resources to pushing the idea of an autonomous zone in the south among Shiite voters.

So far, Iran’s Plan A has not progressed as hoped.

The ISCI took a beating in January’s provincial elections, while the more independent Shiite parties that prefer to keep their distance from Iran, like Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Hizb al-Dawah, Muqtada al-Sadr’s radical Shiite movement and the Fadhila Party, saw their popularity soar. In reviewing what went wrong, the ISCI recognized that its close affiliation with Iran, use of religious symbols in campaigning, false claims of al-Sistani’s backing and the push for the creation of a Shiite federal zone in southern Iraq all cost the party support. Ultimately, most Iraqi Shia favored more autonomous candidates, like al-Maliki, who have refused to tether themselves to Tehran when they have other, overarching political, security and economic interests to look after.

Those election results were a setback for Tehran and a sign of trouble to come for Iran’s ability to manage Iraqi Shiite politics. With the United States drawing down its military presence in Iraq and the Turks starting to get more involved in the Middle Eastern region, the time for Iran to consolidate its power in Iraq is now. The Iranians had known this would be no easy task, but they are realizing just how tough it will be now that the plan for an autonomous Shiite zone in Iraq seems unlikely to pan out soon. The best Iran can do between now and the Iraq’s election in December is to shore up support among the various Iraqi Shiite parties, stick to its usual tactics of playing Shiite rivalries against each other and use its commercial, intelligence and religious links to diversify its support base.

To get rid of obstacles like al-Maliki, the Iranians have a contingency plan that would call on their political allies, along with select Kurdish and Sunni groups, to try to unseat the prime minister through a soft coup. (Of course, it would still take a good deal of political maneuvering to get a no-confidence vote passed in Parliament.) Just as importantly, the Iranians must win the support of the Shiite clerical establishment in Iraq if they want their political allies to fare better in December polls. This explains the recent visits by powerbrokers like Rafsanjani and Larijani to An Najaf.

Iraq’s elections are still many months away, but the Iranians appear to be wasting no time in recalibrating their political strategy for Iraq. The fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 created an opening for Iranian expansion into the Arab world, but the United States — backed by the Arab powers and the Turks — remains the gatekeeper in Baghdad. Even as the United States winds down its war in Iraq, the Iranians will not be able to escape Washington’s shadow in their efforts to influence policy in Iraq. That is not to say the Iranians haven’t retained considerable influence to the west. But if Iran already is being forced to turn to Plan B, even as the United States is drawing down its military presence, any lingering ambitions to turn Iraq into an Iranian satellite are likely headed for disappointment.
23797  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin; Madison on: March 27, 2009, 07:40:11 AM
"The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy."

--Benjamin Franklin, Emblematical Representations, circa 1774

THE FOUNDATION
"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite." --James Madison, Federalist No. 45
23798  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Our new strategy on: March 26, 2009, 11:45:53 PM
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration will unveil a new Afghanistan strategy Friday that calls for devoting significant new resources to counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan and economic development in Pakistan, according to senior U.S. officials.

The administration now plans to send about 4,000 military trainers to Afghanistan -- in addition to the recently announced 17,000 additional troops -- and hundreds of diplomats and other civilian officials. The U.S. financial commitment to Afghanistan and Pakistan will grow by billions of dollars per year under the plan.


Aid will be tied for the first time to performance benchmarks, though administration officials declined to specify what they were or how they'd be measured.

The Pentagon also is considering a new U.S. military command in southern Afghanistan that would assume responsibility for the American troops deploying there. The area is currently commanded by European NATO generals, and a new U.S. command would signal increasing American control over the war effort.

The moves are part of a broad push to prevent the stalemated Afghan war from destabilizing both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since taking office in January, President Barack Obama has announced plans to wind down military operations in Iraq next year and shift more military resources to Afghanistan. The president was to outline his approach in a White House address Friday morning.


President Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan-Pakistan region means additional troops and civilian officials to counter narcotics trade in Southern Afghanistan and more financial aid for the economic development, says WSJ military correspondent Yochi Dreazen.
Senior U.S. officials have grown increasingly concerned about Afghanistan and Pakistan. The resurgent Taliban exert day-to-day control over many rural parts of Afghanistan and have pushed U.S. and Afghan military casualties to record highs. Militants in Pakistan have battled the Pakistani army to a draw in several regions of the country and carry out regular suicide bombings.

"There's a clear understanding that the status quo is not remotely sustainable in either country," said a U.S. official involved in the new approach.

The strategy will effectively focus U.S. efforts in Afghanistan on the narrow goal of defeating al Qaeda and its Taliban allies, a shift away from the Bush administration's broader nation-building efforts there.

Officials said the 4,000 American trainers, along with the additional diplomats and civilian officials, will be on the ground in Afghanistan by the fall.

The plan calls for expanded American diplomatic outreach inside and outside Afghanistan. U.S. officials will try to persuade moderate Taliban elements in Afghanistan to abandon violence and join the country's political process. American diplomats will also reach out to Tehran in the hope of winning Iranian assistance in stabilizing the country.

The new strategy is notable for the emphasis it places on Pakistan, which senior officials now see as critical to determining whether Afghanistan stabilizes or continues its downward spiral. The U.S. has given Pakistan more than $10 billion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the U.S., mostly in military assistance. As part of its new strategy, the Obama administration plans to instead give Pakistan at least $1.5 billion in economic development aid in each of the next five years.

The economic aid will be accompanied by additional American strikes on militant targets inside Pakistan. U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials are drawing up a fresh list of terrorist targets for Predator drone strikes.

The policy changes come less than a week before Mr. Obama travels to France for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit devoted heavily to Afghanistan. Administration officials say Mr. Obama has come to accept that NATO nations are unlikely to contribute more combat troops to Afghanistan because of domestic political opposition.

Instead, White House officials say Mr. Obama will ask European nations to provide more military and police trainers to Afghanistan, as well as additional economic assistance to Pakistan.

The U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan has been a source of increasing friction within the military alliance. In response, Pentagon officials are firming up plans to redraw the balance of power between the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan, according to three military officers familiar with the deliberations.

The idea getting the most support calls for a U.S. military command in southern Afghanistan, the officers said. It would be led by a two-star American general.

Most of the American reinforcements are being deployed to the south of the country, a Taliban stronghold that is one of the largest opium-producing regions in the world. U.S. and NATO officials believe that the drug trade provides the Taliban with billions of dollars each year.

The Obama administration hopes to undercut the Taliban by launching a new counter-narcotics offensive in the Helmand River Valley and other parts of southern Afghanistan. The mission will be the primary focus of the U.S. reinforcements.

Under one facet of the plan, U.S. or Afghan troops will first offer Afghan farmers free wheat seed to replace their crops that produce opium. If the farmers refuse, U.S. or Afghan personnel will burn their fields, and then again offer them free replacement seeds. A senior U.S. military official described the approach as a "carrot, stick, carrot" effort.

—Jonathan Weisman contributed to this article.
23799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: MA shows what will happen on: March 26, 2009, 11:39:14 PM
Praise Mitt Romney. Three years ago, the former Massachusetts Governor had the inadvertent good sense to create the "universal" health-care program that the White House and Congress now want to inflict on the entire country. It is proving to be instructive, as Mr. Romney's foresight previews what President Obama, Max Baucus, Ted Kennedy and Pete Stark are cooking up for everyone else.

 
AP
Mitt Romney.
In Massachusetts's latest crisis, Governor Deval Patrick and his Democratic colleagues are starting to move down the path that government health plans always follow when spending collides with reality -- i.e., price controls. As costs continue to rise, the inevitable results are coverage restrictions and waiting periods. It was only a matter of time.

They're trying to manage the huge costs of the subsidized middle-class insurance program that is gradually swallowing the state budget. The program provides low- or no-cost coverage to about 165,000 residents, or three-fifths of the newly insured, and is budgeted at $880 million for 2010, a 7.3% single-year increase that is likely to be optimistic. The state's overall costs on health programs have increased by 42% (!) since 2006.

Like gamblers doubling down on their losses, Democrats have already hiked the fines for people who don't obtain insurance under the "individual mandate," already increased business penalties, taxed insurers and hospitals, raised premiums, and pumped up the state tobacco levy. That's still not enough money.

So earlier this year, Mr. Patrick appointed a state commission to figure out how to control costs and preserve "this grand experiment." One objective is to change the incentives for preventative care and treatments for chronic disease, but everyone says that. It sometimes results in better health but always more spending. So-called "pay for performance" financing models, on the other hand, would do away with fee for service -- but they also tend to reward process, not the better results implied.

What are the alternatives? If health planners won't accept the prices set by the marketplace -- thus putting themselves out of work -- the only other choice is limiting care via politics, much as Canada and most of Europe do today. The Patrick panel is considering one option to "exclude coverage of services of low priority/low value." Another would "limit coverage to services that produce the highest value when considering both clinical effectiveness and cost." (Guess who would determine what is high or low value? Not patients or doctors.) Yet another is "a limitation on the total amount of money available for health care services," i.e., an overall spending cap.

The Institute for America's Future -- which is providing the intellectual horsepower (we use the term loosely) for reforms like those in Massachusetts -- argues that the cost overruns prove the state must cap how much insurers are allowed to charge consumers and regulate their profits. If Mr. Patrick doesn't get there first, that is. He reportedly told insurers and hospitals at a closed meeting this month that if they didn't take steps to hold down the rate of medical inflation, he would.

Even the single-payer cheerleaders at the New York Times have caught on to this rolling catastrophe. In a page-one story this month, the paper reported on the "expedient choice" that Mr. Romney and Democrats made to defer "until another day any serious effort to control the state's runaway health costs. . . . Those who led the 2006 effort said it would not have been feasible to enact universal coverage if the legislation had required heavy cost controls. The very stakeholders who were coaxed into the tent -- doctors, hospitals, insurers and consumer groups -- would probably have been driven into opposition by efforts to reduce their revenues and constrain their medical practices, they said."

Now they tell us. What really whipped along RomneyCare were claims that health care would be less expensive if everyone were covered. But reducing costs while increasing access are irreconcilable issues. Mr. Romney should have known better before signing on to this not-so-grand experiment, especially since the state's "free market" reforms that he boasts about have proven to be irrelevant when not fictional. Only 21,000 people have used the "connector" that was supposed to link individuals to private insurers.

Which brings us to Washington, where Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats are about to try their own Bay State bait and switch: First create vast new entitlements that can never be repealed, then later take the less popular step of rationing care when it's their last hope to save the federal fisc.

The consequences of that deception will be far worse than those in Massachusetts, however, given that prior to 2006 the state already had a far smaller percentage of its population uninsured than the national average. The real lesson of Massachusetts is that reform proponents won't tell Americans the truth about what "universal" coverage really means: Runaway costs followed by price controls and bureaucratic rationing.

 
23800  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 26, 2009, 07:48:10 PM
Amazing how the Crusades being a REACTION to Muslim conquest has been forgotten by so many , , ,
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