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23751  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Latin America on: July 21, 2009, 10:34:15 AM
I see that Hillary made a phone call to the Honduran president telling him he better negotiate with the wannabe strongman that they threw out or we will cut off all sorts of aid. 

I'm so glad we elected His Glibness and no longer interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
23752  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington on: July 21, 2009, 08:13:58 AM
"The best and only safe road to honor, glory, and true dignity is justice."

--George Washington letter to Marquis de Lafayette, September 30, 1779
23753  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sun spots on: July 21, 2009, 07:53:22 AM

ANOTHER VIEW These photographs show an ultraviolet view of the Sun on the same days: July 19, 2000, left, and March 18, 2009, right. Most solar physicists do not think anything odd is going on with the Sun.

Ever since Samuel Heinrich Schwabe, a German astronomer, first noted in 1843 that sunspots burgeon and wane over a roughly 11-year cycle, scientists have carefully watched the Sun’s activity. In the latest lull, the Sun should have reached its calmest, least pockmarked state last fall.

Indeed, last year marked the blankest year of the Sun in the last half-century — 266 days with not a single sunspot visible from Earth. Then, in the first four months of 2009, the Sun became even more blank, the pace of sunspots slowing more.

“It’s been as dead as a doornail,” David Hathaway, a solar physicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said a couple of months ago.

The Sun perked up in June and July, with a sizeable clump of 20 sunspots earlier this month.

Now it is blank again, consistent with expectations that this solar cycle will be smaller and calmer, and the maximum of activity, expected to arrive in May 2013 will not be all that maximum.

For operators of satellites and power grids, that is good news. The same roiling magnetic fields that generate sunspot blotches also accelerate a devastating rain of particles that can overload and wreck electronic equipment in orbit or on Earth.

A panel of 12 scientists assembled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now predicts that the May 2013 peak will average 90 sunspots during that month. That would make it the weakest solar maximum since 1928, which peaked at 78 sunspots. During an average solar maximum, the Sun is covered with an average of 120 sunspots.

But the panel’s consensus “was not a unanimous decision,” said Douglas A. Biesecker, chairman of the panel. One member still believed the cycle would roar to life while others thought the maximum would peter out at only 70.

Among some global warming skeptics, there is speculation that the Sun may be on the verge of falling into an extended slumber similar to the so-called Maunder Minimum, several sunspot-scarce decades during the 17th and 18th centuries that coincided with an extended chilly period.

Most solar physicists do not think anything that odd is going on with the Sun. With the recent burst of sunspots, “I don’t see we’re going into that,” Dr. Hathaway said last week.

Still, something like the Dalton Minimum — two solar cycles in the early 1800s that peaked at about an average of 50 sunspots — lies in the realm of the possible, Dr. Hathaway said. (The minimums are named after scientists who helped identify them: Edward W. Maunder and John Dalton.)

With better telescopes on the ground and a fleet of Sun-watching spacecraft, solar scientists know a lot more about the Sun than ever before. But they do not understand everything. Solar dynamo models, which seek to capture the dynamics of the magnetic field, cannot yet explain many basic questions, not even why the solar cycles average 11 years in length.

Predicting the solar cycle is, in many ways, much like predicting the stock market. A full understanding of the forces driving solar dynamics is far out of reach, so scientists look to key indicators that correlate with future events and create models based on those.

For example, in 2006, Dr. Hathaway looked at the magnetic fields in the polar regions of the Sun, and they were strong. During past cycles, strong polar fields at minimum grew into strong fields all over the Sun at maximum and a bounty of sunspots. Because the previous cycle had been longer than average, Dr. Hathaway thought the next one would be shorter and thus solar minimum was imminent. He predicted the new solar cycle would be a ferocious one.

Instead, the new cycle did not arrive as quickly as Dr. Hathaway anticipated, and the polar field weakened. His revised prediction is for a smaller-than-average maximum. Last November, it looked like the new cycle was finally getting started, with the new cycle sunspots in the middle latitudes outnumbering the old sunspots of the dying cycle that are closer to the equator.

After a minimum, solar activity usually takes off quickly, but instead the Sun returned to slumber. “There was a long lull of several months of virtually no activity, which had me worried,” Dr. Hathaway said.

Page 2 of 2)

The idea that solar cycles are related to climate is hard to fit with the actual change in energy output from the sun. From solar maximum to solar minimum, the Sun’s energy output drops a minuscule 0.1 percent.

But the overlap of the Maunder Minimum with the Little Ice Age, when Europe experienced unusually cold weather, suggests that the solar cycle could have more subtle influences on climate.

One possibility proposed a decade ago by Henrik Svensmark and other scientists at the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen looks to high-energy interstellar particles known as cosmic rays. When cosmic rays slam into the atmosphere, they break apart air molecules into ions and electrons, which causes water and sulfuric acid in the air to stick together in tiny droplets. These droplets are seeds that can grow into clouds, and clouds reflect sunlight, potentially lowering temperatures.

The Sun, the Danish scientists say, influences how many cosmic rays impinge on the atmosphere and thus the number of clouds. When the Sun is frenetic, the solar wind of charged particles it spews out increases. That expands the cocoon of magnetic fields around the solar system, deflecting some of the cosmic rays.

But, according to the hypothesis, when the sunspots and solar winds die down, the magnetic cocoon contracts, more cosmic rays reach Earth, more clouds form, less sunlight reaches the ground, and temperatures cool.

“I think it’s an important effect,” Dr. Svensmark said, although he agrees that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that has certainly contributed to recent warming.

Dr. Svensmark and his colleagues found a correlation between the rate of incoming cosmic rays and the coverage of low-level clouds between 1984 and 2002. They have also found that cosmic ray levels, reflected in concentrations of various isotopes, correlate well with climate extending back thousands of years.

But other scientists found no such pattern with higher clouds, and some other observations seem inconsistent with the hypothesis.

Terry Sloan, a cosmic ray expert at the University of Lancaster in England, said if the idea were true, one would expect the cloud-generation effect to be greatest in the polar regions where the Earth’s magnetic field tends to funnel cosmic rays.

“You’d expect clouds to be modulated in the same way,” Dr. Sloan said. “We can’t find any such behavior.”

Still, “I would think there could well be some effect,” he said, but he thought the effect was probably small. Dr. Sloan’s findings indicate that the cosmic rays could at most account for 20 percent of the warming of recent years.

Even without cosmic rays, however, a 0.1 percent change in the Sun’s energy output is enough to set off El Niño- and La Niña-like events that can influence weather around the world, according to new research led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

Climate modeling showed that over the largely cloud-free areas of the Pacific Ocean, the extra heating over several years warms the water, increasing evaporation. That intensifies the tropical storms and trade winds in the eastern Pacific, and the result is cooler-than-normal waters, as in a La Niña event, the scientists reported this month in the Journal of Climate.

In a year or two, the cool water pattern evolves into a pool of El Niño-like warm water, the scientists said.

New instruments should provide more information for scientists to work with. A 1.7-meter telescope at the Big Bear Solar Observatory in Southern California is up and running, and one of its first photographs shows “a string of pearls,” each about 50 miles across.

“At that scale, they can only be the fundamental fibril structure of the Sun’s magnetic field,” said Philip R. Goode, director of the solar observatory. Other telescopes may have caught hints of these tiny structures, he said, but “never so many in a row and not so clearly resolved.”

Sun-watching spacecraft cannot match the acuity of ground-based telescopes, but they can see wavelengths that are blocked by the atmosphere — and there are never any clouds in the way. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s newest sun-watching spacecraft, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, which is scheduled for launching this fall, will carry an instrument that will essentially be able to take sonograms that deduce the convection flows generating the magnetic fields.

That could help explain why strong magnetic fields sometimes coalesce into sunspots and why sometimes the strong fields remain disorganized without forming spots. The mechanics of how solar storms erupt out of a sunspot are also not fully understood.

A quiet cycle is no guarantee no cataclysmic solar storms will occur. The largest storm ever observed occurred in 1859, during a solar cycle similar to what is predicted.

Back then, it scrambled telegraph wires. Today, it could knock out an expanse of the power grid from Maine south to Georgia and west to Illinois. Ten percent of the orbiting satellites would be disabled. A study by the National Academy of Sciences calculated the damage would exceed a trillion dollars.

But no one can quite explain the current behavior or reliably predict the future.

“We still don’t quite understand this beast,” Dr. Hathaway said. “The theories we had for how the sunspot cycle works have major problems.”
23754  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Iqbal case makes for important changes on: July 21, 2009, 07:23:27 AM
The most consequential decision of the Supreme Court’s last term got only a little attention when it landed in May. And what attention it got was for the wrong reason.

But the lower courts have certainly understood the significance of the decision, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, which makes it much easier for judges to dismiss civil lawsuits right after they are filed. They have cited it more than 500 times in just the last two months.

“Iqbal is the most significant Supreme Court decision in a decade for day-to-day litigation in the federal courts,” said Thomas C. Goldstein, an appellate lawyer with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington.

On its face, the Iqbal decision concerned the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. The court ruled that a Muslim man swept up on immigration charges could not sue two Bush administration officials for what he said was the terrible abuse he suffered in detention.

But something much deeper and broader was going on in the decision, something that may unsettle how civil litigation is conducted in the United States. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dissented from the decision, told a group of federal judges last month that the ruling was both important and dangerous. “In my view,” Justice Ginsburg said, “the court’s majority messed up the federal rules” governing civil litigation.

For more than half a century, it has been clear that all a plaintiff had to do to start a lawsuit was to file what the rules call “a short and plain statement of the claim” in a document called a complaint. Having filed such a bare-bones complaint, plaintiffs were entitled to force defendants to open their files and submit to questioning under oath.

This approach, particularly when coupled with the American requirement that each side pay its own lawyers no matter who wins, gave plaintiffs settlement leverage. Just by filing a lawsuit, a plaintiff could subject a defendant to great cost and inconvenience in the pre-trial fact-finding process called discovery.

Mark Herrmann, a corporate defense lawyer with Jones Day in Chicago, said the Iqbal decision will allow for the dismissal of cases that would otherwise have subjected defendants to millions of dollars in discovery costs. On the other hand, information about wrongdoing is often secret. Plaintiffs claiming they were the victims of employment discrimination, a defective product, an antitrust conspiracy or a policy of harsh treatment in detention may not know exactly who harmed them and how before filing suit. But plaintiffs can learn valuable information during discovery.

The Iqbal decision now requires plaintiffs to come forward with concrete facts at the outset, and it instructs lower court judges to dismiss lawsuits that strike them as implausible.

“Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the five-justice majority, “requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”

Note those words: Plausible. Common sense.

The old world was mechanical. A lawsuit that mouthed the required words was off and running. As the Supreme Court said in 1957 in Conley v. Gibson, a lawsuit should be allowed to go forward “unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Things started to change two years ago, when the Supreme Court found a complaint in an antitrust suit implausible.

In the new world, after Iqbal, a lawsuit has to satisfy a skeptical judicial gatekeeper.

“It obviously licenses highly subjective judgments,” said Stephen B. Burbank, an authority on civil procedure at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. “This is a blank check for federal judges to get rid of cases they disfavor.”

Courts applying Iqbal have been busy. A federal judge in Connecticut dismissed a disability discrimination suit this month, saying that Iqbal required her to treat the plaintiff’s assertions as implausible. A few days later, the federal appeals court in New York dismissed a breach of contract and securities fraud suit after concluding that its account of the defendants’ asserted wrongdoing was too speculative.

The judge hearing the claims of the falsely accused Duke lacrosse players has asked for briefing on whether their lawsuit against Durham, N.C., can pass muster under Iqbal. But the judge considering a case against John C. Yoo, the former Bush administration lawyer, said it could move forward despite Iqbal because the suit contained specific allegations about Mr. Yoo’s conduct in justifying the use of harsh interrogation methods.

In the Iqbal case itself, Javaid Iqbal, a Pakistani Muslim who was working as a cable television installer on Long Island, said he was subjected to intrusive searches and vicious beatings after being arrested on identity fraud charges two months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Justice Kennedy said Mr. Iqbal’s suit against two officials had not cleared the plausibility bar. All Mr. Iqbal’s complaint plausibly suggested, Justice Kennedy wrote, “is that the nation’s top law enforcement officers, in the aftermath of a devastating terrorist attack, sought to keep suspected terrorists in the most secure conditions available.”

Justice David H. Souter, said the majority had adopted a crabbed view of plausibility and had in the process upended the civil litigation system.

In his dissent in Iqbal, Justice Souter wrote that judges should accept the accusations in a complaint as true “no matter how skeptical the court may be.”

“The sole exception to this rule,” Justice Souter continued, “lies with allegations that are sufficiently fantastic to defy reality as we know it: claims about little green men, or the plaintiff’s recent trip to Pluto, or experiences in time travel.”

But that is no longer the law. Under the Iqbal decision, federal judges will now decide at the very start of a litigation whether the plaintiff’s accusations ring true, and they will close the courthouse door if they do not.
23755  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Home Burial on: July 21, 2009, 07:19:22 AM
PETERBOROUGH, N.H. — When Nathaniel Roe, 92, died at his 18th-century farmhouse here the morning of June 6, his family did not call a funeral home to handle the arrangements.

The home funeral for Nathaniel Roe, 92, who died in Peterborough, N.H., on June 6. His family handled the arrangements.

Instead, Mr. Roe’s children, like a growing number of people nationwide, decided to care for their father in death as they had in the last months of his life. They washed Mr. Roe’s body, dressed him in his favorite Harrods tweed jacket and red Brooks Brothers tie and laid him on a bed so family members could privately say their last goodbyes.

The next day, Mr. Roe was placed in a pine coffin made by his son, along with a tuft of wool from the sheep he once kept. He was buried on his farm in a grove off a walking path he traversed each day.

“It just seemed like the natural, loving way to do things,” said Jennifer Roe-Ward, Mr. Roe’s granddaughter. “It let him have his dignity.”

Advocates say the number of home funerals, where everything from caring for the dead to the visiting hours to the building of the coffin is done at home, has soared in the last five years, putting the funerals “where home births were 30 years ago,” according to Chuck Lakin, a home funeral proponent and coffin builder in Waterville, Me.

The cost savings can be substantial, all the more important in an economic downturn. The average American funeral costs about $6,000 for the services of a funeral home, in addition to the costs of cremation or burial. A home funeral can be as inexpensive as the cost of pine for a coffin (for a backyard burial) or a few hundred dollars for cremation or several hundred dollars for cemetery costs.

The Roes spent $250.

More people are inquiring about the lower-cost options, said Joshua Slocum, director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit watchdog group. “Home funerals aren’t for everybody, but if there’s not enough money to pay the mortgage, there certainly isn’t enough money to pay for a funeral,” Mr. Slocum said.

Baby boomers who are handling arrangements for the first time are particularly looking for a more intimate experience.

“It’s organic and informal, and it’s on our terms,” said Nancy Manahan of Minneapolis, who helped care for her sister-in-law, Diane Manahan, after she died of cancer in 2001, and was a co-author of a book, “Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully,” about the experience. “It’s not having strangers intruding into the privacy of the family. It’s not outsourcing the dying process to professionals.”

While only a tiny portion of the nation’s dead are cared for at home, the number is growing. There are at least 45 organizations or individuals nationwide that help families with the process, compared with only two in 2002, Mr. Slocum said.

The cost of a death midwife, as some of the coaches call themselves, varies from about $200 for an initial consultation to $3,000 if the midwife needs to travel.

In Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska and New York, laws require that a funeral director handle human remains at some point in the process. In the 44 other states and the District of Columbia, loved ones can be responsible for the body themselves.

Families are typically required to obtain the death certificate and a burial transit permit so the body can be moved from a hospital to a cemetery, or, more typically, a crematory.

But even in states where a funeral director is required, home funerals are far less expensive.

“I think with our economy being the way that it currently is, and it’s getting worse, that many people who may not have chosen to do these types of things may be forced to because of the finances,” said Verlene McLemore, of Detroit, who held a home funeral for her son, Dean, in 2007. She spent about $1,300 for a funeral director’s services.

Some families, like the Roes, choose burial on private land, with a town permit. In most states, those rules are an issue of local control. “Can Grandma be buried in the backyard? Yes, for the most part if the backyard is rural or semirural,” said Mr. Slocum.

(Some members of Michael Jackson’s family have spoken of making Neverland Ranch near Santa Barbara the singer’s final resting place, but officials say no one has submitted an application to the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, which would have to approve the home burial.)

Recently, some states, with the backing of the funeral industry, have considered restricting the practice of home funerals. Oregon legislators last month passed a bill that would require death midwives to be licensed, something no state currently does.

Many death midwives are like Jerrigrace Lyons, who was asked to participate in the home funeral of a close friend, a 54-year-old woman who died unexpectedly in 1994. Ms. Lyons was initially frightened at the prospect of handling the body, but she participated anyway.

The experience was life changing, she said, and inspired her to help others plan home funerals. She opened Final Passages in Sebastopol, Calif., in 1995 and said she had helped more than 300 families with funerals. Weekend workshops for those interested in home funerals have a waiting list.

Ms. Lyons educates the bereaved about the realities of after-death care: placing dry ice underneath the body to keep it cool, tying the jaw shut so it does not open.

Mr. Lakin, a woodworker, makes coffins specifically for home funerals. Ranging in price from $480 to $1,200, they double as bookcases, entertainment centers and coffee tables until they need to be used.

He became interested in home funerals after his father died 30 years ago and he felt there was a “disconnect” during the funeral process. Mr. Lakin is now a resource for funeral directors in central Maine and a local hospice.

His coffins are sold to people like Ginny Landry, 77, who wants a home funeral one day but is content to use her coffin to showcase the quilts she makes. It once stood in her bedroom, but her husband, Rudolph, made her move it to a guest room because he pictured her in the coffin every time he laid eyes on it.

“It’s very comforting to me, knowing I have it there so my children won’t have to make a decision as to where I’m going to go,” Ms. Landry said.

During her battle with cancer, Diane Manahan also requested a home funeral, and the family did not know then how much it would help them with their grief.

“There’s something about touching, watching, sitting with a body that lets you know the person is no longer there,” Nancy Manahan said. “We didn’t even realize how emotionally meaningful those rituals are, doing it ourselves, until we did it.”
23756  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / G. Friedman: Iran-Russia? on: July 20, 2009, 04:25:31 PM
At Friday prayers July 17 at Tehran University, the influential cleric and former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani gave his first sermon since Iran’s disputed presidential election and the subsequent demonstrations. The crowd listening to Rafsanjani inside the mosque was filled with Ahmadinejad supporters who chanted, among other things, “Death to America” and “Death to China.” Outside the university common grounds, anti-Ahmadinejad elements — many of whom were blocked by Basij militiamen and police from entering the mosque — persistently chanted “Death to Russia.”

Death to America is an old staple in Iran. Death to China had to do with the demonstrations in Xinjiang and the death of Uighurs at the hands of the Chinese. Death to Russia, however, stood out. Clearly, its use was planned before the protesters took to the streets. The meaning of this must be uncovered. To begin to do that, we must consider the political configuration in Iran at the moment.

The Iranian Political Configuration
There are two factions claiming to speak for the people. Rafsanjani represents the first faction. During his sermon, he spoke for the tradition of the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who took power during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Rafjsanjani argued that Khomeini wanted an Islamic republic faithful to the will of the people, albeit within the confines of Islamic law. Rafsanjani argued that he was the true heir to the Islamic revolution. He added that Khomeini’s successor — the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — had violated the principles of the revolution when he accepted that Rafsanjani’s archenemy, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had won Iran’s recent presidential election. (There is enormous irony in foreigners describing Rafsanjani as a moderate reformer who supports greater liberalization. Though he has long cultivated this image in the West, in 30 years of public political life it is hard to see a time when has supported Western-style liberal democracy.)

The other faction is led by Ahmadinejad, who takes the position that Rafsanjani in particular — along with the generation of leaders who ascended to power during the first phase of the Islamic republic — has betrayed the Iranian people. Rather than serving the people, Ahmadinejad claims they have used their positions to become so wealthy that they dominate the Iranian economy and have made the reforms needed to revitalize the Iranian economy impossible. According to Ahmadinejad’s charges, these elements now blame Ahmadinejad for Iran’s economic failings when the root of these failings is their own corruption. Ahmadinejad claims that the recent presidential election represents a national rejection of the status quo. He adds that claims of fraud represent attempts by Rafsanjani — who he portrays as defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi’s sponsor — and his ilk to protect their positions from Ahmadinejad.

Iran is therefore experiencing a generational dispute, with each side claiming to speak both for the people and for the Khomeini tradition. There is the older generation — symbolized by Rafsanjani — that has prospered during the last 30 years. Having worked with Khomeini, this generation sees itself as his true heir. Then, there is the younger generation. Known as “students” during the revolution, this group did the demonstrating and bore the brunt of the shah’s security force counterattacks. It argues that Khomeini would be appalled at what Rafsanjani and his generation have done to Iran.

This debate is, of course, more complex than this. Khamenei, a key associate of Khomeini, appears to support Ahmadinejad’s position. And Ahmadinejad hardly speaks for all of the poor as he would like to claim. The lines of political disputes are never drawn as neatly as we would like. Ultimately, Rafsanjani’s opposition to the recent election did not have as much to do with concerns (valid or not) over voter fraud. It had everything to do with the fact that the outcome threatened his personal position. Which brings us back to the question of why Rafsanjani’s followers were chanting “Death to Russia”?

Examining the Anomalous Chant
For months prior to the election, Ahmadinejad’s allies warned that the United States was planning a “color” revolution. Color revolutions, like the one in Ukraine, occurred widely in the former Soviet Union after its collapse, and these revolutions followed certain steps. An opposition political party was organized to mount an electoral challenge the establishment. Then, an election occurred that was either fraudulent or claimed by the opposition as having been fraudulent. Next, widespread peaceful protests against the regime (all using a national color as the symbol of the revolution) took place, followed by the collapse of the government through a variety of paths. Ultimately, the opposition — which was invariably pro-Western and particularly pro-American — took power.

Moscow openly claimed that Western intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, organized and funded the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution in Ukraine. These agencies allegedly used nongovernmental organizations (human rights groups, pro-democracy groups, etc.) to delegitimize the existing regime, repudiate the outcome of the election regardless of its validity and impose what the Russians regarded as a pro-American puppet regime. The Russians saw Ukraine’s Orange Revolution as the break point in their relationship with the West, with the creation of a pro-American, pro-NATO regime in Ukraine representing a direct attack on Russian national security. The Americans argued that to the contrary, they had done nothing but facilitate a democratic movement that opposed the existing regime for its own reasons, demanding that rigged elections be repudiated.

In warning that the United States was planning a color revolution in Iran, Ahmadinejad took the Russian position. Namely, he was arguing that behind the cover of national self-determination, human rights and commitment to democratic institutions, the United States was funding an Iranian opposition movement on the order of those active in the former Soviet Union. Regardless of whether the opposition actually had more votes, this opposition movement would immediately regard an Ahmadinejad win as the result of fraud. Large demonstrations would ensue, and if they were left unopposed the Islamic republic would come under threat.

In doing this, Ahmadinejad’s faction positioned itself against the actuality that such a rising would occur. If it did, Ahmadinejad could claim that the demonstrators were — wittingly or not — operating on behalf of the United States, thus delegitimizing the demonstrators. In so doing, he could discredit supporters of the demonstrators as not tough enough on the United States, a useful charge against Rafsanjani, whom the West long has held up as an Iranian moderate.

Interestingly, while demonstrations were at their height, Ahmadinejad chose to attend — albeit a day late — a multinational Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference in Moscow on the Tuesday after the election. It was very odd that he would leave Iran during the greatest postelection unrest; we assumed he had decided to demonstrate to Iranians that he didn’t take the demonstrations seriously.

The charge that seems to be emerging on the Rafsanjani side is that Ahmadinejad’s fears of a color revolution were not simply political, but were encouraged by the Russians. It was the Russians who had been talking to Ahmadinejad and his lieutenants on a host of issues, who warned him about the possibility of a color revolution. More important, the Russians helped prepare Ahmadinejad for the unrest that would come — and given the Russian experience, how to manage it. Though we speculate here, if this theory is correct, it could explain some of the efficiency with which Ahmadinejad shut down cell phone and other communications during the postelection unrest, as he may have had Russian advisers.

Rafsanjani’s followers were not shouting “Death to Russia” without a reason, at least in their own minds. They are certainly charging that Ahmadinejad took advice from the Russians, and went to Russia in the midst of political unrest for consultations. Rafsanjani’s charge may or may not be true. Either way, there is no question that Ahmadinejad did claim that the United States was planning a color revolution in Iran. If he believed that charge, it would have been irrational not to reach out to the Russians. But whether or not the CIA was involved, the Russians might well have provided Ahmadinejad with intelligence of such a plot and helped shape his response, and thereby may have created a closer relationship with him.

How Iran’s internal struggle will work itself out remains unclear. But one dimension is shaping up: Ahmadinejad is trying to position Rafsanjani as leading a pro-American faction intent on a color revolution, while Rafsanjani is trying to position Ahmadinejad as part of a pro-Russian faction. In this argument, the claim that Ahmadinejad had some degree of advice or collaboration with the Russians is credible, just as the claim that Rafsanjani maintained some channels with the Americans is credible. And this makes an internal dispute geopolitically significant.

The Iranian Struggle in a Geopolitical Context
At the moment, Ahmadinejad appears to have the upper hand. Khamenei has certified his re-election. The crowds have dissipated; nothing even close to the numbers of the first few days has since materialized. For Ahmadinejad to lose, Rafsanjani would have to mobilize much of the clergy — many of whom are seemingly content to let Rafsanjani be the brunt of Ahmadinejad’s attacks — in return for leaving their own interests and fortunes intact. There are things that could bring Ahmadinejad down and put Rafsanjani in control, but all of them would require Khamenei to endorse social and political instability, which he will not do.

If the Russians have in fact intervened in Iran to the extent of providing intelligence to Ahmadinejad and advice to him during his visit on how to handle the postelection unrest (as the chants suggest), then Russian influence in Iran is not surging — it has surged. In some measure, Ahmadinejad would owe his position to Russian warnings and advice. There is little gratitude in the world of international affairs, but Ahmadinejad has enemies, and the Russians would have proved their utility in helping contain those enemies.

From the Russian point of view, Ahmadinejad would be a superb asset — even if not truly under their control. His very existence focuses American attention on Iran, not on Russia. It follows, then, that Russia would have made a strategic decision to involve itself in the postelection unrest, and that for the purposes of its own negotiations with Washington, Moscow will follow through to protect the Iranian state to the extent possible. The Russians have already denied U.S. requests for assistance on Iran. But if Moscow has intervened in Iran to help safeguard Ahmadinejad’s position, then the potential increases for Russia to provide Iran with the S-300 strategic air defense systems that it has been dangling in front of Tehran for more than a decade.

If the United States perceives an entente between Moscow and Tehran emerging, then the entire dynamic of the region shifts and the United States must change its game. The threat to Washington’s interests becomes more intense as the potential of a Russian S-300 sale to Iran increases, and the need to disrupt the Russian-Iranian entente would become all the more important. U.S. influence in Iran already has declined substantially, and Ahmadinejad is more distrustful and hostile than ever of the United States after having to deal with the postelection unrest. If a Russian-Iranian entente emerges out of all this — which at the moment is merely a possibility, not an imminent reality — then the United States would have some serious strategic problems on its hands.

Revisiting Assumptions on Iran
For the past few years, STRATFOR has assumed that a U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran was unlikely. Iran was not as advanced in its nuclear program as some claimed, and the complexities of any attack were greater than assumed. The threat of an attack was thus a U.S. bargaining chip, much as Iran’s nuclear program itself was an Iranian bargaining chip for use in achieving Tehran’s objectives in Iraq and the wider region. To this point, our net assessment has been accurate.

At this point, however, we need to stop and reconsider. If Iran and Russia begin serious cooperation, Washington’s existing dilemma with Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its ongoing standoff with the Russians would fuse to become a single, integrated problem. This is something the United States would find difficult to manage. Washington’s primary goal would become preventing this from happening.

Ahmadinejad has long argued that the United States was never about to attack Iran, and that charges by Rafsanjani and others that he has pursued a reckless foreign policy were groundless. But with the “Death to Russia” chants and signaling of increased Russian support for Iran, the United States may begin to reconsider its approach to the region.

Iran’s clerical elite does not want to go to war. They therefore can only view with alarm the recent ostentatious transiting of the Suez Canal into the Red Sea by Israeli submarines and corvettes. This transiting did not happen without U.S. approval. Moreover, in spite of U.S. opposition to expanded Israeli settlements and Israeli refusals to comply with this opposition, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will be visiting Israel in two weeks. The Israelis have said that there must be a deadline on negotiations with Iran over the nuclear program when the next G-8 meeting takes place in September; a deadline that the G-8 has already approved. The consequences if Iran ignores the deadline were left open-ended.

All of this can fit into our old model of psychological warfare, as representing a bid to manipulate Iranian politics by making Ahmadinejad’s leadership look too risky. It could also be the United States signaling the Russians that stakes in the region are rising. It is not clear that the United States has reconsidered its strategy on Iran in the wake of the postelection demonstrations. But if Rafsanjani’s claim of Russian support for Ahmadinejad is true, a massive re-evaluation of U.S. policy could ensue, assuming one hasn’t already started — prompting a reconsideration of the military option.

All of this assumes that there is substance behind a mob chanting “Death to Russia.” There appears to be, but of course, Ahmadinejad’s enemies would want to magnify that substance to its limits and beyond. This is why we are not ready to simply abandon our previous net assessment of Iran, even though it is definitely time to rethink it.

23757  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CATO appeal on: July 20, 2009, 11:49:39 AM
second post of day

CATO Institute is a strong, high quality libertarian institute with a strong track record and a goodly amount of credibility.


This Thursday we will begin airing six radio ads (one linked here) and a space ad in major newspapers (albeit in black and white) across the nation challenging the idea that government-run healthcare is a good thing.  As with our ads on the “stimulus” plan and climate change, we believe this campaign can have a major impact on the direction of the debate over healthcare.  Increasingly, the public is growing aware of the fact that Obama’s cost savings will come through rationing of healthcare options – from doctors to procedures.  As you can see, our budget for this campaign is $510,000.  Thus far we’ve raised just short of $200,000.  I’m asking for your support and that of other Cato Sponsors to make sure the entire program is funded.  Actually, I like to raise an additional $124,000 to run the ad in the Wall Street Journal.  As it is, the ad will run in the Washington Post and the New York Times this week.  The timing is perfect and the venues are appropriate.  I hope you’re in a position to help us.  Please click here to send your support online or send a (tax-deductible) check to Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001. Please note on the check that it is for the healthcare ad campaign. We can win this battle.
Cordially, Ed
23758  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: July 20, 2009, 09:06:44 AM
It is only natural that the high numbers decline somewhat.  While I certainly hope that the trend continues and accelerates, IMHO it remains to be seen. 

Also worth noting is that the cowardice and incoherence of the Republican response is there for all to see.
23759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CCW Full Faith & Credit on: July 20, 2009, 09:04:29 AM
Please click on the link below to send a pre-formatted e-mail to your two Senators supporting this amendment now pending in the Senate. It may be voted on as early as TODAY.  The bill would allow concealed-carry in any state if a citizen has a permit to carry in their home state.  This takes only 30 seconds:


Obama's new Attorney General has already said this is one of his major issues.


This takes literally 2 clicks to complete. Please vote on this gun issue question with USA Today. It will only take a few seconds of your time.. Then pass the link on to all the pro gun folks you know. Hopefully these results will be published later this month. This upcoming year will become critical for gun owners with the Supreme Court accepting the District of Columbia case against the right for individuals to bear arms.

First - vote on this one.

Second - launch it to other folks and ask THEM vote.

Vote in the USA Today poll - click on the link below.

The Question is: "Does the Second Amendment give individuals the right to bear arms?"

Vote at link below and vote Yes!:  Please - Quick Question

23760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Prison Overhaul on: July 20, 2009, 08:17:15 AM
The NYT is often a suspect source, particularly on issues such as this one.  Caveat Lector

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — A sweeping United States military review calls for overhauling the troubled American-run prison here as well as the entire Afghan jail and judicial systems, a reaction to worries that abuses and militant recruiting within the prisons are helping to strengthen the Taliban.

In a further sign of high-level concern over detention practices, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a confidential message last week to all of the military service chiefs and senior field commanders asking them to redouble their efforts to alert troops to the importance of treating detainees properly.

The prison at this air base north of Kabul has become an ominous symbol for Afghans — a place where harsh interrogation methods and sleep deprivation were used routinely in its early years, and where two Afghan detainees died in 2002 after being beaten by American soldiers and hung by their arms from the ceiling of isolation cells.

Bagram also became a holding site for terrorism suspects captured outside Afghanistan and Iraq.

But even as treatment at Bagram improved in recent years, conditions worsened in the larger Afghan-run prison network, which houses more than 15,000 detainees at three dozen overcrowded and often violent sites. The country’s deeply flawed judicial system affords prisoners virtually no legal protections, human rights advocates say.

“Throughout Afghanistan, Afghans are arbitrarily detained by police, prosecutors, judges and detention center officials with alarming regularity,” the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a report in January.

To help address these problems, Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone of the Marines, credited with successfully revamping American detention practices in Iraq, was assigned to review all detention issues in Afghanistan. General Stone’s report, which has not been made public but is circulating among senior American officials, recommends separating extremist militants from more moderate detainees instead of having them mixed together as they are now, according to two American officials who have read or been briefed on his report. Under the new approach, the United States would help build and finance a new Afghan-run prison for the hard-core extremists who are now using the poorly run Afghan corrections system as a camp to train petty thieves and other common criminals to be deadly militants, the American officials said. The remaining inmates would be taught vocational skills and offered other classes, and they would be taught about moderate Islam with the aim of reintegrating them into society, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the review’s findings had not been publicly disclosed. The review also presses for training new Afghan prison guards, prosecutors and judges.

The recommendations come as American officials express fears that the notoriously overcrowded Afghan-run prisons will be overwhelmed by waves of new prisoners captured in the American-led offensive in southern Afghanistan, where thousands of Marines are battling Taliban fighters.

President Obama signed an executive order in January to review policy options for detention, interrogation and rendition.

The Defense and Justice Departments are leading two government task forces studying those issues and are scheduled to deliver reports to the president on Tuesday. But administration officials said Sunday that the task forces — which are grappling with questions like whether terrorism suspects should be turned over to other countries and how to deal with detainees who are thought to be dangerous but who cannot be brought to trial — were likely to seek extensions on some contentious issues.

Last month The Wall Street Journal reported elements of General Stone’s review, but in recent days American military officials provided a more detailed description of the report’s scope, findings and recommendations. A spokesman for the Afghan Embassy in Washington, Martin Austermuhle, said he was unaware of the review, and did not know if the government in Kabul had been apprised of it.

Admiral Mullen felt compelled to issue his message last week after viewing photographs documenting abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan by American military personnel in the early years of the wars there, a senior military official said.  Mr. Obama decided in May not to make the photographs public, warning that the images could ignite a deadly backlash against American troops. The admiral urged top American field commanders to step up their efforts to ensure that prisoners were treated properly both at the point of capture and in military prisons. He told the service chiefs to emphasize detainee treatment when preparing and training troops who deploy to the Middle East and Southwest Asia.

“It is essential to who we are as a fighting force that we get this right,” Admiral Mullen said in the message. “We are better than what I saw in those pictures.”


Page 2 of 2)

American officials say many of the changes that General Stone’s review recommends for Bagram are already in the works as part of the scheduled opening this fall of a 40-acre replacement complex that officials say will accommodate about 600 detainees in a more modern and humane setting.

The problems at the existing American-run prison, the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, have been well documented. The prison is a converted aircraft hangar that still holds some of the decrepit aircraft-repair machinery left by the Soviet troops who occupied the country in the 1980s. Military personnel who know Bagram and the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, describe the Afghan site as tougher and more spartan. The prisoners have fewer privileges and virtually no access to lawyers or the judicial process. Many are still held communally in big cages.
In the past two weeks, prisoners have refused to leave their cells to protest their indefinite imprisonment.

In 2005, the Bush administration began trying to scale back American involvement in detention operations in Afghanistan, mainly by transferring Bagram prisoners to an American-financed high-security prison outside of Kabul guarded by American-trained Afghan soldiers. But United States officials conceded that the new Afghan block, at Pul-i-Charkhi prison, could not absorb all the Bagram prisoners. It now holds about 4,300 detainees, including some 360 from Bagram or Guantánamo Bay, Afghan prison officials said.

Officials from the general directorate for prisons complained about the lack of detention space based on international standards in provinces of Afghanistan. They said most of those prisons were rented houses and not suitable for detention.

Gen. Safiullah Safi, commander of the Afghan National Army brigade responsible for the section of Pul-i-Charkhi that holds the transferred inmates from Bagram and Guantánamo Bay, said his part of the prison had maintained good order and followed Islamic cultural customs. But last December, detainees in the other blocks of the prison staged a revolt in an attempt to resist a security sweep for hidden weapons and cellphones. Eight inmates died.

“There’s a general concern that the Afghan national prisons need to be rehabilitated,” said Sahr MuhammedAlly, a senior associate for law and security at Human Rights First, an advocacy group that is to issue its own report on Bagram on Wednesday.
23761  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: July 20, 2009, 08:09:08 AM
"Let justice be done though the heavens should fall."

--John Adams, letter to Elbridge Gerry, December 5, 1777
23762  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Drills on: July 19, 2009, 07:04:17 PM
Can I explain our "Prison Riot Drill"?

, , ,  drum roll , , ,

Yes I can.


, , , A little more seriously, it is both a warm up and a 360 multi-player training.
23763  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rest in Peace on: July 19, 2009, 01:27:19 PM
Ex-Mossad chief Meir Amit dies at 88
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press

General (res.) Meir Amit, the former head of the Mossad who is credited with modernizing Israel's feared intelligence agency, died on Friday. He was 88 years old.

Amit, who headed the organization from 1963 to 1968, also served as the head of the Israel Defense Forces intelligence branch.

Amit, who was born Meir Slutzki in the town of Tiberias, grew up in a family that identified with the pre-state Labor movement. At a young age, he joined Kibbutz Alonim in the lower Galilee and enlisted in the Haganah. During the War of Independence, he served as an officer and commanded a company of soldiers. Following the war, he decided to leave the kibbutz to pursue a military career. He said he had convinced himself that the army, not just the kibbutz, is vital for the young state.

He commanded infantry and armored corps units before rising through the ranks and becoming a trusted aide to then-chief of staff Moshe Dayan. The relationship between the two men grew closer over the years, and Amit came to be regarded as a protege of one of the country's most charismatic military heroes.

By the end of the 1950s, he was sent to Columbia University in New York, where he completed a degree in economics. Upon his return, he was appointed head of Military Intelligence.

In 1963, after then-prime minister David Ben Gurion forced Isser Harel to resign the top post at the Mossad, he named Amit to head the organization. Amit was the only figure in Israel's history to hold the position of Mossad chief and head of military intelligence at the same time. He remained in the IDF for nine months after being tapped to run the Mossad before leaving the military and focusing solely on heading the agency.

During his tenure, he introduced new modes of operation and oversaw the transfer of a special unit which coordinated espionage activity in Arab states from military intelligence to the Mossad. Amit also contributed to the Mossad's standing as a key intelligence organ whose precise information aided in Israel's victory in the Six-Day War.

On the eve of the war, he was sent on a secret mission to brief top U.S. administration officials. Upon his return, he reported to the government that, in contrast with the assessments given by then-foreign minister Abba Eban, the administration would not oppose a pre-emptive military strike against the Egyptian army.

Other notable achievements of his term included the theft of a Mig-21 which was flown into Israel by a deserting Iraqi pilot, his efforts to reach a peace agreement with Egypt, the contacts and aid provided to the Kurdish rebellion in Iraq, and the expansion of Mossad's cooperation with foreign spy agencies.

"Generations of Israelis, entire generations of children owe Meir Amit a debt of gratitude for his immense contribution - a large part which remains secret - in building the strength and deterrence of Israel," President Shimon Peres said in a statement. "He was a natural leader, whom people trusted, and at the same time he was a visionary for the state."
23764  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Thomas Friedman: May we leave now? on: July 19, 2009, 01:23:42 PM
Marc: The Greg Mortenson book IMHO required reading for any serious student of the situation in Afg.


Thomas Friedman
Teacher, Can We Leave Now? No.

AfghanistanI confess, I find it hard to come to Afghanistan and not ask: Why are we here? Who cares about the Taliban? Al Qaeda is gone. And if its leaders come back, well, that’s why God created cruise missiles.

But every time I start writing that column, something stills my hand. This week it was something very powerful. I watched Greg Mortenson, the famed author of “Three Cups of Tea,” open one of his schools for girls in this remote Afghan village in the Hindu Kush mountains. I must say, after witnessing the delight in the faces of those little Afghan girls crowded three to a desk waiting to learn, I found it very hard to write, “Let’s just get out of here.”

Indeed, Mortenson’s efforts remind us what the essence of the “war on terrorism” is about. It’s about the war of ideas within Islam — a war between religious zealots who glorify martyrdom and want to keep Islam untouched by modernity and isolated from other faiths, with its women disempowered, and those who want to embrace modernity, open Islam to new ideas and empower Muslim women as much as men. America’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were, in part, an effort to create the space for the Muslim progressives to fight and win so that the real engine of change, something that takes nine months and 21 years to produce — a new generation — can be educated and raised differently.

Which is why it was no accident that Adm. Mike Mullen, the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — spent half a day in order to reach Mortenson’s newest school and cut the ribbon. Getting there was fun. Our Chinook helicopter threaded its way between mountain peaks, from Kabul up through the Panjshir Valley, before landing in a cloud of dust at the village of Pushghar. Imagine if someone put a new, one-story school on the moon, and you’ll appreciate the rocky desolateness of this landscape.

But there, out front, was Mortenson, dressed in traditional Afghan garb. He was surrounded by bearded village elders and scores of young Afghan boys and girls, who were agog at the helicopter, and not quite believing that America’s “warrior chief” — as Admiral Mullen’s title was loosely translated into Urdu — was coming to open the new school.

While the admiral passed out notebooks, Mortenson told me why he has devoted his life to building 131 secular schools for girls in Pakistan and another 48 in Afghanistan: “The money is money well spent. These are secular schools that will bring a new generation of kids that will have a broader view of the world. We focus on areas where there is no education. Religious extremism flourishes in areas of isolation and conflict.

“When a girl gets educated here and then becomes a mother, she will be much less likely to let her son become a militant or insurgent,” he added. “And she will have fewer children. When a girl learns how to read and write, one of the first things she does is teach her own mother. The girls will bring home meat and veggies, wrapped in newspapers, and the mother will ask the girl to read the newspaper to her and the mothers will learn about politics and about women who are exploited.”

It is no accident, Mortenson noted, that since 2007, the Taliban and its allies have bombed, burned or shut down more than 640 schools in Afghanistan and 350 schools in Pakistan, of which about 80 percent are schools for girls. This valley, controlled by Tajik fighters, is secure, but down south in Helmand Province, where the worst fighting is today, the deputy minister of education said that Taliban extremists have shut 75 of the 228 schools in the last year. This is the real war of ideas. The Taliban want public mosques, not public schools. The Muslim militants recruit among the illiterate and impoverished in society, so the more of them the better, said Mortenson.

This new school teaches grades one through six. I asked some girls through an interpreter what they wanted to be when they grow up: “Teacher,” shouted one. “Doctor,” shouted another. Living here, those are the only two educated role models these girls encounter. Where were they going to school before Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute and the U.S. State Department joined with the village elders to get this secular public school built? “The mosque,” the girls said.

Mortenson said he was originally critical of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he’s changed his views: “The U.S. military has gone through a huge learning curve. They really get it. It’s all about building relationships from the ground up, listening more and serving the people of Afghanistan.”

So there you have it. In grand strategic terms, I still don’t know if this Afghan war makes sense anymore. I was dubious before I arrived, and I still am. But when you see two little Afghan girls crouched on the front steps of their new school, clutching tightly with both arms the notebooks handed to them by a U.S. admiral — as if they were their first dolls — it’s hard to say: “Let’s just walk away.” Not yet.
23765  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GM's post moved here on: July 19, 2009, 12:43:07 PM

Obama losing some support among nervous Dems
By BETH FOUHY (AP) – 1 day ago

NEW YORK — Could it be that President Barack Obama's Midas touch is starting to dull a bit, even among members of his own party?
Conservative House Democrats are balking at the cost and direction of Obama's top priority, an overhaul of the nation's health care system. A key Senate Democrat, Max Baucus of Montana, complains that Obama's opposition to paying for it with a tax on health benefits "is not helping us."

Another Democrat, Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, tells his local newspaper that Obama is too liberal and is "very unpopular" in his district.

From his first days in office, Obama's popularity helped him pass the landmark $787 billion stimulus package and fueled his ambitious plans to overhaul the nation's health care system and tackle global warming.

Obama continues to be comparatively popular. But now recent national surveys have shown a measurable drop in his job approval rating, even among Democrats. A CBS news survey out this week had his national approval rating at 57 percent, and his standing among Democrats down 10 percentage points since last month, from 92 percent to 82 percent.

With the economy continuing to sputter and joblessness on the rise, many of Obama's staunchest Democratic supporters are anxious for his agenda to start bearing fruit.

"We are eager and impatient, so you're seeing a little bit of that," said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. "Elections have results, and those in the base are the most anxious to achieve what's promised in the election. That's why Democrats are showing some impatience in reaching our goal."

Obama won Ohio, a key swing state, by 4 percentage points in 2008 over Republican John McCain. But the one-time industrial powerhouse has been hit hard by the weak economy, and a Quinnipiac University poll released this month showed Obama with a lackluster approval rating of 49 percent.

Redfern argued that the stimulus program has begun to show tangible results in his state and people shouldn't expect the economy to turn around instantly.  A similar argument came from Nevada, another swing state Obama carried. Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross counseled patience, saying that voters in his state want Obama to succeed and that their support would be solidified once they saw stimulus-driven building projects under way.

"Generally, folks in Nevada are waiting to see the effects of the stimulus package," Ross said. "I think the president is probably just as impatient to get this money out in the country to employ people as anyone."

In Missouri, which Obama narrowly lost to McCain, Democratic strategist Steve Glorioso said hardcore base voters were as enthusiastic as ever for Obama but that there was a sense of disappointment about him among less committed Democrats and independents.

"People are scared," Glorioso said. "This is the worst economic time anyone under the age of 80 has ever experienced, and you can't discount people being afraid. Now that we are in July, the fear is turning to disappointment that the president hasn't fixed everything yet. I don't know why they thought he could change everything by now, but some did."

Glorioso said an open Senate race next year in Missouri, where Democrat Robin Carnahan is likely to face former Republican Rep. Roy Blunt, will be a crucial test of Obama's appeal.

"If the economy gets better and they pass a reasonable health care bill, his popularity will be way back up and Carnahan will win," Glorioso said. "If none of that happens, it's a moot point."

In Michigan, where the near-collapse of the auto industry has driven the unemployment rate to 14.1 percent, the nation's worst, the state's Democratic chairman, Mark Brewer, said support for Obama among Democrats has remained strong.

"People are very worried and concerned, I don't want to dispute that," Brewer said. "But they voted for the president in overwhelming numbers and want to support the things he's trying to do."

Obama traveled to Michigan this week to unveil a $12 billion program to help community colleges prepare people for jobs. There, he made an audacious declaration.

"I love these folks who helped get us in this mess and then suddenly say, 'Well, this is Obama's economy,'" the president said. "That's fine. Give it to me!"

Redfern, the Ohio Democratic Party chairman, said he welcomed that statement but cautioned it came with a price.

"When it's the president's economy, it's the president's trouble," Redfern said. "Americans are eager for the change that they voted into office. They support him, they just want to see results sooner rather than later."
23766  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Study: 3 vs. 1 in BC on: July 19, 2009, 02:33:21 AM

Please discuss:

I'd like to suggest commenting after watching only one time (e.g. like you might have to do as a witness) then comment after watching as much as you like. AFTER you make your initial comments, you may wish to view this.

background info:
23767  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: July 18, 2009, 07:39:22 PM
Abridged version: (for full version see: )

What We Know That Ain't So

Will Rogers famously said, "It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so." So it is with the health care debate in this country. Quite a few "facts" offered to the public as truth are simply wrong and often intentionally misleading.

There are large groups of people in this country who want socialized medicine and they sense that the stars are aligning, and now is their time to succeed. They rarely call it socialized medicine, but instead "single payer health care" or "universal coverage" or something that their public relations people have told them sounds better. Whatever they call it, they believe (or pretend to believe) a lot of wrong-headed things, and they must be stopped. Step one is understanding how and why they are wrong. Step two is kicking their asses back to Cuba where they can get in line with Michael Moore and Al Gore for their free gastric bypasses.

Myth #1 Health Care Costs are Soaring

No, they are not. The amount we spend on health care has indeed risen, in absolute terms, after inflation, and as a percentage of our incomes and GDP. That does not mean costs are soaring.

You cannot judge the "cost" of something by simply what you spend. You must also judge what you get. I'm reasonably certain the cost of 1950's level health care has dropped in real terms over the last 60 years (and you can probably have a barber from the year 1500 bleed you for almost nothing nowadays). Of course, with 1950's health care, lots of things will kill you that 2009 health care could prevent.

In the case of health care, the fact that we spend so much more on it now is largely a positive. We spend so much more on health care, even relative to other advances, mostly because it is worth so much more to us.

In summary, if one more person cites soaring health care costs as an indictment of the free market, when it is in fact a staggering achievement of the free market, I'm going to rupture their appendix and send them to a queue in the UK to get it fixed.

Myth #2 The Canadian Drug Story

The general story is how you can buy many drugs in Canada cheaper than you can buy them in the US. This story is often, without specifically tying the logic together, taken as an obvious indictment of the US's (relatively) free market system. This is grossly misguided.

Here's what happens. We have a (relatively) free market in the US where drug companies spend a ton to develop new wonder drugs, a non-trivial amount of which is spent to satisfy regulatory requirements. The cost of this development is called a "fixed cost." Once it's developed it does not cost that much to make each pill. That's called a "variable cost." If people only paid the variable cost (or a bit more) for each pill the whole thing would not work. You see, the company would never get back the massive fixed cost of creating the drug in the first place, and so no company would try to develop one.

Drug companies that spent the enormous fixed costs to create new miracles are charging a relatively high cost in the free and still largely competitive world (the US) to recoup their fixed cost and to make a profit. But socialist societies like Canada limit the price they are allowed to charge. The US-based company is then faced with a dilemma. What Canada will pay is not enough to ever have justified creating the miracle pill. But, once created, perhaps Canada is paying more than the variable cost of each pill. Thus, the company can make some money by also selling to Canada at a lower price as it's still more than it costs them to make that last pill.

If we all tried to be Canada it's a non-working perpetual motion machine and no miracle pills ever get made because there will be nobody to pay the fixed costs.

Myth #3 Socialized Medicine Works In Some Places

This is a corollary to the "Canada as parasite" parable above. The funny part is socialized medicine has never been truly tested. Those touting socialism's success have never seen a world without a relatively (for now) free US to make their new drugs, surgical techniques, and other medical advancements for them.

To put it simply, right now the US's free system massively intellectually subsidizes the world's unfree (socialized) ones. That sucks. The only thing that would suck worse is joining them without anyone to subsidize us all.

Myth #4 A Public Option Can Co-Exist with a Private Option

Part of the current junta's plan is to add a "public option" for health insurance. That is health insurance provided by the government (actually provided by you and your neighbors). They claim this "public option" can co-exist fairly alongside private health insurance, increasing competition and keeping the private system "honest," and not deteriorate to a single payer (socialized medicine) system. They are wrong, or very dishonest, as in unguarded moments they admit that the single payer socialized system is what they really want.

By their logic the government must be a major player in every industry. Ah, just when you think you have them, you remember, they are socialists … dismantling liberty piece by piece.

The government does not co-exist or compete fairly with private enterprise. It does not play well with others. The regulator cannot be a competitor at the same time. Finally, it cannot be a fair competitor if when the "public option" screws up (can't pay its bills), the government implicitly or explicitly guarantees its debts.

Perhaps the best example of the destructive "public option" is our nation's schools. Here we clearly have a government provided "public option" competing with (and in fact dominating in size) private schooling. But, is it fair? Does it work well? Not by a long-shot.

With a "public option" things inevitably would go the horrific way of our public schools. It will be like looking in a funhouse mirror and seeing a doctor where you used to see a teacher.

Finally, let's worry a bit about the end game. We are not here yet, but in a world where the "public option" replaced all private options, would we still be allowed, if we had the resources, to pursue private medical alternatives? Some socialized countries say yes, some say no. Imagine the answer is no in this country, where freedom is valued more than anywhere else in the world. Imagine a person is to be prevented from spending their hard earned money on their or their children's health care, or a doctor was prevented from earning what he could in a parallel free system after all his training and work.

It takes literally seconds to realize that this "public option" cannot co-exist with liberty and thus will indeed lead to full-on socialization. Since the simplest answer is usually best, and the President has already declared his preference for a "single-payer" system, and since this "public option" leads there with near certainty, might I be forgiven for assuming he knows this and is lying, and has a socialized medicine end-game in mind?

Myth #5 We Can Have Health Care Without Rationing

Rationing has to occur. This sounds cold and cruel, but it is reality. If you have a material good or service, like health care, that is ever increasing in quality, and therefore cost, there is no way everyone on Earth can have the best at all times (actually the quality increases are not necessary for rationing to be needed, it just makes the example clearer). It's going to be rationed by some means. The alternatives come down to the marketplace or the government. To choose between those alternatives you judge on morality and efficacy.

It is an uncomfortable truth that tough choices will have to be made. There is no system that provides for unlimited wants with limited resources. Our choice is whether it should be rationed by free people making their own economic calculations or by a bureaucracy run by Congressional committee (whose members, like the Russian commissars, will, I guarantee you, still get the best health care the gulag hospitaligo can provide). Free people making their own choices only consume what they value above price, using funds they have earned or been given voluntarily. With socialized medicine health care is rationed by committees of politicians trying to get re-elected and increase their own power, and people consume as much of it as the commissars deem permissible. I do not find these tough alternatives to choose between.

Myth #6 Health Care is A Right

Nope, it's not.

This is more philosophy than economics, and I'm not a philosopher. But, luckily it doesn't take a superb philosopher to understand that health care simply is not a "right" in the sense we normally use that word. Listing rights generally involves enumerating things you may do without interference (the right to free speech) or may not be done to you without your permission (illegal search and seizure, loud boy-band music in public spaces). They are protections, not gifts of material goods. Material goods and services must be taken from others, or provided by their labor, so if you believe you have an absolute right to them, and others don't choose to provide it to you, you then have a "right" to steal from them. But what about their far more fundamental right not to be robbed?
So why do people scream health care is a "right" if it so obviously is not? If not a right it can still be willingly provided as charity by society.

So, Why Are These Crazy Things Believed (Or, Pretended to Be Believed)?

Lots of politicians understand that the simple free system leaves them out in the cold. No power for them. No committees to sit on to decide people's lives. No lies to tell their constituents how they (the government) brought them the health care they so desperately need. No fat checks from lobbyists as the crony capitalists pay dearly to make the only profits possible under this system, those bestowed by the government.

Finally, if the above is not enough, the rush to pass a huge expansion of government now, and limit debate and discussion, is indicative of a group that knows it is wrong, and if people have time to think they will refuse to go along, but is attempting an exercise of naked power, to impose dictatorship before the people wake up. Paraphrasing Mark Twain, a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth puts on its shoes. They are counting on this, and they don't want to give the truth time to be shod.

And In Conclusion

We do not need a single payer (socialized medicine) system to cut confusion and inefficiency. On the contrary we need unfettered competition and clear legal standards. Another major concern is provision of basic healthcare to the needy. This is an important issue, but not an expensive one in the scheme of things, and not one that should drive the trillion-dollar healthcare debate. You do not reorganize the entire housing industry and tax policy around the need for homeless shelters, you just build enough shelters and let the market take care of, and discipline, the people who can pay for their own housing.
Finally there is the concern that healthcare costs make US workers too expensive to compete in global markets. As long as workers get full value for their healthcare dollars, it shouldn't matter whether companies pay in cash or in health benefits.
23768  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Don't mess with Texas on: July 18, 2009, 12:16:05 PM
Texas Appellate Court Deals Another Blow to Islamist Lawfare—Upholds Free Speech Rights of Internet Journalist; Islamic Groups Lose Appeal

ANN ARBOR, MI – On July 16, 2009, seven Texas-area Islamic organizations lost an appeal of the unanimous ruling of the Texas Second Court of Appeals at Forth Worth, which protected the free speech rights of internet journalists and at the same time dealt a blow to the legal jihad being waged by radical Muslim groups throughout the United States. The Islamic groups asked for a reconsideration of the appellate court’s recent decision through what is known as an en banc opinion (appeal to the whole court, not just a panel of the court). The Court ruling, in a per curiam (in the name of the whole court) two page opinion, upheld the dismissal of the libel lawsuit filed against internet reporter Joe Kaufman by the seven Islamic organizations.
The lawsuit against Kaufman was funded by the Muslim Legal Fund for America. The head of that organization, Khalil Meek, admitted on a Muslim talk radio show that lawsuits were being filed against Kaufman and others to set an example. Indeed, for the last several years, Muslim groups in the U.S. have engaged in the tactic of filing meritless lawsuits to silence any public discussion of Islamic terrorist threats. This tactic, referred to by some as Islamist Lawfare uses our laws and legal system to silence critics and promote Islamic rule in America.
The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan provided the lead attorney to represent Kaufman, at no charge. The Law Center attorney, Brandon Bolling, was assisted by Texas attorney Thomas S. Brandon, Jr. who acted as local counsel, and Los Angeles, CA attorneys William Becker, Jr. and Manuel S. Klausner.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented, “It is gratifying to see our client’s First Amendment rights being upheld by this entire Texas Appeals Court. We do not yet know if these Islamic groups will try another appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, but this ruling is an indication of how strong this First Amendment case is.”
Kaufman, a full-time investigative reporter, has written extensively on Radical Islamic terrorism in America. He was sued because of his September 28, 2007 article titled “Fanatic Muslim Family Day” published by Front Page Magazine, a major online news website. Kaufman’s article exposed the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Islamic Association of Northern Texas (IANT) ties to the radical terrorist group Hamas.
Kaufman’s article called ICNA a radical Muslim organization that has ties to Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. According to Kaufman, ICNA is an umbrella organization for South Asian-oriented mosques and Islamic centers in the United States created as an American arm of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) of Pakistan.
Significantly, neither ICNA nor IANT, which were mentioned in Kaufman’s article, sued Kaufman. It is speculated that ICNA and IANT were afraid of being subjected to pretrial discovery. On the other hand, none of the seven plaintiffs that sued Kaufman were even mentioned in his article. The seven Islamic organizations that sued Kaufman are the Islamic Society of Arlington, Texas, Islamic Center of Irving, DFW Islamic Educational Center, Inc., Dar Elsalam Islamic Center, Al Hedayah Islamic Center, Islamic Association of Tarrant County, and Muslim American Society of Dallas. All are affiliated with CAIR, one of the unindicted co-conspirators in the successful federal prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation.
In what should be welcome news to internet journalists, the Appellate Court specifically rejected the Plaintiffs’ contention that Kaufman is not a “media defendant.” The Court held that the Texas statute that gives procedural protections to traditional electronic and print media, including the right to a pretrial appeal, also covers internet journalists. Thus, the Texas Statue entitled Kaufman the right to appeal the lower court’s denial of his motion to dismiss the frivolous libel claim before a time-consuming and expensive trial. Most parties have to wait until after a trial before they can appeal an unfavorable lower court ruling.

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life. It supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America. The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities. It does not charge for its services. The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at
23769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: Central Europe's fears on: July 18, 2009, 10:03:51 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Central Europe's Longstanding Fears
July 17, 2009
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Munich on Thursday. The meeting produced talk of a Russian-German manufacturing alliance, a 500 million-euro ($704.7 million) joint investment agreement, several business deals that included infrastructure and transportation development, and a lot of chatter on Europe’s energy issues, such as the proposed Nord Stream and Nabucco natural gas pipelines. The business deals are further evidence of a burgeoning relationship between Moscow and Berlin that is evolving into more than just a partnership of convenience based on German imports of Russian natural gas.

More important than the nitty-gritty details of the talks (none of which were wholly unexpected) was the fact that the German and Russian leaders were meeting shortly after both met with U.S. President Barack Obama. If one was ignorant of Germany’s status as an unwavering U.S. ally, with troops in Afghanistan and nearly 70 years of pro-American foreign policy, it might be tempting to conclude that Merkel and Medvedev were comparing notes on their visits with Obama — which could constitute a level of geopolitical coordination far more important than deals to build new rail cars. In other words, Berlin and Moscow could be seen as getting quite close to each other, to a degree that cannot be accounted for solely by Germany’s energy dependence on Russia.

But this is exactly how ex-communist states in Central Europe perceive the relationship between Berlin and Moscow, precisely because they do not consider Germany to be a staunch and unwavering U.S. ally. In fact, Central European states — Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania — see much in German foreign policy that might be drifting away from the United States. For this group of countries, the NATO alliance has not proved to be the warranty against geopolitical instability they had hoped it to be. In fact, since Central European states have been taking part in NATO, Russia has freely manipulated domestic politics in Ukraine and the Baltics, intervened militarily in Georgia and played energy politics with the entire region, through natural gas cutoffs to Ukraine.

Through each episode of Russian brinkmanship, NATO has remained on the sidelines, unwilling to intervene. During the Russian intervention in Georgia in August 2008, Germany even tried to minimize NATO’s reaction and, since then, has vociferously opposed expanding the alliance to include Ukraine and Georgia.

In light of concerns about Germany’s commitment to their defense and NATO’s ability to stand up to Russia, a group of 22 former leaders from Central and Eastern European states wrote a letter to Obama on Thursday, imploring him not to abandon them in the face of continued Russian meddling in the region. The letter specifically referred to the U.S. plans to build ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, stating that canceling the program “can undermine the credibility of the United States across the whole region.”

For now, the United States is remaining silent on the BMD issue in order to see whether it can win any short-term concessions from Russia, particularly where Afghanistan and Moscow’s help in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions are concerned. Central European states fear that their concerns about Russian power and their own security could be overruled by American interests in the Middle East. Leaders therefore want a firm commitment from the United States to the region, exemplified through the positioning of the BMD system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russian and German domination are familiar themes for Central Europe. Since both Germany and Russia historically have had interests in the region, states often looked to outside protectors with no immediate designs for the territory — examples include the inter-war U.K.-Polish and Little Entente (between France and Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia) alliances. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a similar arrangement was made with the United States through NATO, or so the states of Central Europe had hoped.

However, the reality is that neither the Little Entente concept of the 1920-1930s nor the U.K.-Polish alliance prevented the region from being overrun by combined Russian and German invasions. Now, the Central Europeans are feeling abandoned by the one power that could provide security against the traditional German-Russian threat: the United States. The question, however, is whether Central European leaders will perceive the U.S. stall as a temporary realpolitik move or permanent abandonment. And if they perceive permanent abandonment, will the region’s leaders continue to write concerned letters to the U.S. president, or will they begin forming a security alliance amongst themselves — with the implicit purpose is countering Russia’s presence in the region?

23770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism: on: July 18, 2009, 09:29:00 AM
In my own thinking more and more I find myself turning to the word fascism to describe what is going on today.  Typically, to distinguish it from certain associations, I will specify "economic fascism".

The destruction of the American Creed which I fear we now undergo is, as I see it, fascism.  There is liberal fascism (the Dems and Liberals) and corporate fascism (the Reps and the Dems-- see e.g. Goldman Sachs).  The Reps used to have a strong strand of the American Creed, but it appears to be a dead man walking at this point.

23771  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: July 18, 2009, 05:55:49 AM
Me too.
23772  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Now by sea on: July 18, 2009, 05:54:48 AM
SAN DIEGO — They move north in rickety fishing boats, often overloaded and barely seaworthy, slipping through the darkness and hidden from the watchful radar of American patrols.

Federal agents said a man spotted last month paddling a surfboard north from Mexico was found to be carrying almost 25 pounds of marijuana.
Along beaches north of here, the migrants from Mexico and beyond scramble ashore, in groups of a dozen or two, and dash past stunned beachgoers, sometimes even leaving behind their boats, known as pangas. Drug smugglers, too, take this sea route, including one last month found paddling a surfboard north with a duffel bag full of marijuana on it.

As the land border with Mexico tightens with new fencing and technology, the authorities are seeing a sharp spike in the number of people and drugs being moved into the United States by sea off the San Diego coast.

Law enforcement authorities in the United States said the shift demonstrated the resolve of smugglers to exploit the vastness of the sea, the difficulty in monitoring it, and the desperation of migrants willing to risk crossing it.

“It’s like spillover from a dam,” said Cmdr. Guy Pearce, who oversees the antismuggling effort for the Coast Guard in San Diego.

For generations, people have tried to swim, surf and ride boats, sometimes carrying contraband, into the United States from south of the border.

But Commander Pearce and other officials in the Department of Homeland Security say those sporadic efforts have accelerated to unprecedented levels recently — a doubling in the number of illegal immigrants — more than 300 in the last two years — caught on boats or beaches and a sevenfold increase in maritime drug seizures, principally several thousand pounds of marijuana.

The authorities have taken note that the increase coincides with the near completion of new, more fortified border fencing along a 14-mile stretch from the ocean inland.

New smuggling rings have also emerged, operating out of beach towns south of the border and islands off the Mexican coast, convincing migrants that the passage is safe and the ocean too wide open for maritime law enforcement to catch them.

A recent patrol with the Coast Guard showed they may have a point.

All night and into the morning, the Coast Guard cutter Petrel dashed across the seas looking for suspect boats. A tip that a suspect boat was due to pass miles off the coast around 1 a.m. sent the cutter, nearly all of its lights off to avoid detection, searching by the faint glow of a half moon. The boat was not found.

Later, just after 4 a.m., a radar sweep picked up two boats moving quickly south, prompting the crew to cut off the classical music wafting from overhead speakers on a bridge lighted only by navigation monitors.

As the roaring engines sent the cutter crashing over swells for more than 20 minutes after the boats were first noticed, the crew could see the boats speeding without their lights on.

A boarding team mobilized with body armor and rifles and raced in a small craft from the cutter to check out the boats. Just early-morning fishing, said the people on the boats, who insisted they did not realize their lights were off. With no evidence of contraband, they were let go.

But Chief Petty Officer Gary Auslam, in charge on this watch, had his doubts as he watched the boats quickly motor on. Gunrunners bringing weapons from the United States move swiftly.

“Boy, they got out of here pretty quick, didn’t they?” Chief Auslam said, gazing out the bridge.

It falls mainly to the Coast Guard and the Customs and Border Protection division of the Department of Homeland Security to patrol the seas with a mix of cutters, aircraft and a few small high-speed boats.

The authorities arrested 136 illegal immigrants sneaking in by sea in the fiscal year that ended Oct. 30, double the 66 marine arrests in 2007. Since October, more than 100 illegal immigrants have been arrested, bringing the marine arrests of illegal immigrants in the past couple of years to unprecedented levels, said Michael Carney, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in San Diego who oversees a task force on marine smuggling.

The seizure of drugs, principally marijuana, has similarly skyrocketed. In the fiscal year that ended in October, the authorities seized 6,300 pounds of marijuana in the coastal waters north of the border, a sevenfold increase from the 906 pounds confiscated in 2007. This fiscal year, 6,100 pounds have been found.

“This is somewhat of an alarming trend,” Mr. Carney said. “It has opened our eyes. There is still a lot we need to learn about how these organizations operate.”

The Department of Homeland Security is responding to this surge with orders for more boats and equipment.

Generally, the flow of migrants north has slowed as the economy here has withered and the United States has bolstered patrols and fencing. But people still make the journey and the desire for drugs keeps smugglers busy.

Victor Clark Alfaro, director of the Binational Center for Human Rights in Tijuana, Mexico, who has studied smuggling, said he doubted the fence was causing the spike. Instead, Mr. Clark Alfaro said, “a new generation” of smugglers have simply had success ferrying people over the seas and are encouraging migrants to go their way. The charge is more than $4,000, roughly double what a smuggling guide would charge to lead somebody over land, he said. Marijuana smugglers, likewise, have gotten wise to the sea route.

“It’s always,” Mr. Clark Alfaro said, “a fight between technology and the ingenuity of smugglers.”

Coast Guard officials said they knew of no boats that had sunk but they worry about that prospect. In March they seized a 25-foot boat with 22 people aboard.

The biggest adversary at times, though, is the darkness.

Petty Officer First Class Pablo Mendoza picked up night-vision binoculars and scanned the horizon. When it was suggested that the equipment might offer an advantage, Petty Officer Mendoza replied, “Yeah, the problem is they have these, too.”

Crew members said they did not believe the guard or Customs and Border Protection had enough fast boats to get to suspected smuggling boats in time, though the agencies, as well as the Navy and civilian law enforcement, are making an effort to coordinate their patrols.

In the end, said Petty Officer First Class Jason Tessier, another supervisor on the Petrel, “it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”

23773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GS to buy Treasury on: July 17, 2009, 10:50:40 PM

Goldman Sachs in Talks to Acquire Treasury Department
Sister Entities to Share Employees, Money


In what some on Wall Street are calling the biggest blockbuster deal in the history of the financial sector, Goldman Sachs confirmed today that it was in talks to acquire the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

According to Goldman spokesperson Jonathan Hestron, the merger between Goldman and the Treasury Department is “a good fit” because “they’re in the business of printing money and so are we.”

The Goldman spokesman said that the merger would create efficiencies for both entities: “We already have so many employees and so much money flowing back and forth, this would just streamline things.”

Mr. Hestron said the only challenge facing Goldman in completing the merger “is trying to figure out which parts of the Treasury Dept. we don’t already own.”

Goldman recently celebrated record earnings by roasting a suckling pig over a bonfire of hundred-dollar bills.

Elsewhere, conspiracy theorists celebrated the 40th anniversary of NASA faking the moon landing.

And in South Carolina, Gov. Mark Sanford gave his wife a new diamond ring, while his wife gave him an electronic ankle bracelet.

23774  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA series VHS/DVD's on: July 17, 2009, 08:28:01 AM
Looks like it is the one we did (Pappy was the director) badly misdescribed (the DVD has more content IIRC).  I've emailed him and will get back to you here when I hear back from him.
23775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison, 1792 on: July 17, 2009, 08:08:36 AM
"As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions."

--James Madison, National Gazette Essay, March 27, 1792
23776  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA series VHS/DVD's on: July 16, 2009, 10:47:29 PM
23777  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / LATimes: Congressman helping La Familia on: July 16, 2009, 04:44:24 PM
Congressman-elect Julio Cesar Godoy is suspected of helping protect La Familia, accused of killing 16 officers recently. That has brought pressure on his half-brother, Michoacan Gov. Leonel Godoy.
By Ken Ellingwood
July 16, 2009

Reporting from Mexico City -- Last week, Julio Cesar Godoy was a congressman-elect. This week, he is a fugitive.

Mexican authorities say Godoy, a half-brother of Michoacan state Gov. Leonel Godoy, helped provide protection for La Familia, the drug-trafficking gang that has waged war on federal police across the state in recent days, killing at least 16 officers.
Officials have an arrest warrant but apparently can't find the younger Godoy, an attorney who was elected to Congress on July 5 as a candidate of the left-leaning Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD.

Feeling political heat, Gov. Godoy on Wednesday called on his sibling to turn himself in and confront the accusations. Godoy said his half-brother lived in a modest house, drove a used Volkswagen and showed no signs of links to organized crime. The two last spoke weeks ago, the governor said.

"He has to present his evidence if he is innocent," Godoy said in a radio interview. "If he is guilty, let them punish him with the full weight of the law."

The younger Godoy has not been seen in public since the campaign closed July 1. He didn't show up to vote on election day nor, after his victory, to collect the official notification that he had been elected to Congress.

Authorities, who did not specify when the arrest order was granted, announced the allegations Tuesday as part of the investigation into a string of attacks in Michoacan against federal police officers since Saturday. The attacks, including the slayings of 12 federal officers whose bodies were dumped near a highway, appeared to be in retaliation for the arrest of Arnoldo Rueda Medina, described as one of the gang's top three figures.

Officials say Saul Solis, a failed Green Party candidate for Congress, is also being sought for his alleged role as liaison between the crime group and officials and businessmen in Michoacan.

The allegations add new force to concerns over how thoroughly drug traffickers have infiltrated Mexico's political system, especially in smuggling crossroads such as Michoacan.

"Cartels like La Familia are born, grow and reproduce thanks to narco-politics, thanks to the complicity of those in power and the cloak of impunity that protects them," columnist Ricardo Aleman wrote Wednesday in El Universal newspaper.

The charges against Julio Cesar Godoy brought fresh pressure on his half-brother. Gov. Godoy, a member of the same political party, already faced questions after the state's attorney general and other aides were among 30 local and state functionaries arrested in May over suspected ties to La Familia.

The governor has dismissed the arrests as an election-season stunt by the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, of the conservative National Action Party. And he rejected fresh calls to resign.

"I won't give them the pleasure," Godoy said Wednesday.

Monte Alejandro Rubido, a national security spokesman, said that a senior gunman arrested in the recent attacks revealed details about La Familia's structure. He said Julio Cesar Godoy and Solis worked for the group's alleged operations chief, Servando Gomez Martinez, who lives in Michoacan.

A man who said he was Gomez Martinez phoned a public affairs television show in Michoacan on Wednesday and called on Calderon to reach an accord with La Familia.

Hours later, Interior Minister Fernando Gomez Mont rejected the purported overture, saying Mexico would not negotiate with any criminal group.
23778  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fallujah on: July 16, 2009, 01:03:09 PM;jsessionid=26F40AC4E0566E724DD335F4655D5BAB?displayContent=140289&page=1
23779  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sotomayor on: July 16, 2009, 01:01:41 PM
I found S's refusal to agree that there is a right to Constitutional right to self-defense mind-boggling.
23780  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: July 16, 2009, 12:41:41 PM
23781  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: July 16, 2009, 11:12:59 AM
My son Conrad, his friend Greg and Greg's two brothers have made a youtube clip that addresses the following matters:

1) What is worth fighting over?
2) Gun disarms, and
3) Gun safety

23782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "Optional"?!? Those lying SOBs on: July 16, 2009, 10:01:23 AM
A friend writes:

Here it is, Page 16 of the Health Care bill
"Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day" of the year the legislation becomes law."
You leave a company with health care and go to a different company with a different carrier,  you are screwed.  You must go into the government plan. 
Start up your own company, you are forced into the government plan.
Obamism is alive and well

Here it is, Page 16 of the Health Care bill
"Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day" of the year the legislation becomes law."
You leave a company with health care and go to a different company with a different carrier,  you are screwed.  You must go into the government plan. 
Start up your own company, you are forced into the government plan.
Obamism is alive and well


(a) Grandfathered Health Insurance Coverage Defined- Subject to the succeeding provisions of this section, for purposes of establishing acceptable coverage under this division, the term `grandfathered health insurance coverage' means individual health insurance coverage that is offered and in force and effect before the first day of Y1 if the following conditions are met:


(A) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day of Y1.

(B) DEPENDENT COVERAGE PERMITTED- Subparagraph (A) shall not affect the subsequent enrollment of a dependent of an individual who is covered as of such first day.

(2) LIMITATION ON CHANGES IN TERMS OR CONDITIONS- Subject to paragraph (3) and except as required by law, the issuer does not change any of its terms or conditions, including benefits and cost-sharing, from those in effect as of the day before the first day of Y1.

(3) RESTRICTIONS ON PREMIUM INCREASES- The issuer cannot vary the percentage increase in the premium for a risk group of enrollees in specific grandfathered health insurance coverage without changing the premium for all enrollees in the same risk group at the same rate, as specified by the Commissioner.

(b) Grace Period for Current Employment-based Health Plans-


(A) IN GENERAL- The Commissioner shall establish a grace period whereby, for plan years beginning after the end of the 5-year period beginning with Y1, an employment-based health plan in operation as of the day before the first day of Y1 must meet the same requirements as apply to a qualified health benefits plan under section 101, including the essential benefit package requirement under section 121.

(B) EXCEPTION FOR LIMITED BENEFITS PLANS- Subparagraph (A) shall not apply to an employment-based health plan in which the coverage consists only of one or more of the following:

(i) Any coverage described in section 3001(a)(1)(B)(ii)(IV) of division B of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).

(ii) Excepted benefits (as defined in section 733(c) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974), including coverage under a specified disease or illness policy described in paragraph (3)(A) of such section.

(iii) Such other limited benefits as the Commissioner may specify.

In no case shall an employment-based health plan in which the coverage consists only of one or more of the coverage or benefits described in clauses (i) through (iii) be treated as acceptable coverage under this division

(2) TRANSITIONAL TREATMENT AS ACCEPTABLE COVERAGE- During the grace period specified in paragraph (1)(A), an employment-based health plan that is described in such paragraph shall be treated as acceptable coverage under this division.

(c) Limitation on Individual Health Insurance Coverage-

(1) IN GENERAL- Individual health insurance coverage that is not grandfathered health insurance coverage under subsection (a) may only be offered on or after the first day of Y1 as an Exchange-participating health benefits plan.

(2) SEPARATE, EXCEPTED COVERAGE PERMITTED- Excepted benefits (as defined in section 2791(c) of the Public Health Service Act ) are not included within the definition of health insurance coverage. Nothing in paragraph (1) shall prevent the offering, other than through the Health Insurance Exchange, of excepted benefits so long as it is offered and priced separately from health insurance coverage.
23783  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson, 1826 on: July 16, 2009, 08:16:03 AM
"All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride legitimately, by the grace of God."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826
23784  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Uh oh , , , on: July 16, 2009, 08:09:02 AM

After 18 days with Lithuanians in Ghor Province, have made it back to Kabul.  We are very short on aircraft in Afghanistan; I was delayed by about a week just waiting for airplanes that never came.  Some U.S. soldiers in Ghor told me that a child who was badly wounded in one of our air strikes had to wait three days for a medevac aircraft.  Apparently the child's leg was badly mangled.

The Afghan war has become more deadly -- on a per capita basis -- than Iraq ever was.  This was predictable a long time ago and is presented in my dispatches starting in 2006.  We are losing the war.  At this rate we will lose the war.

A friend at Soldiers' Angels started a Twitter page and I have started with real time uploads.  Don't be surprised if I start Twittering during a boring Shura or an unfortunate firefight where I am pinned down and have nothing to do.  The Twitter page is Michael_Yon (not Michael Yon).  Please follow that for immediate news.

The latest photo dispatch is up.  Lots of pretty pictures.

Very Respectfully,

Michael Yon
23785  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: July 15, 2009, 06:32:39 PM
A Jewish boy comes home from school and tells his mother he's been given a part in the school play.
"Wonderful. What part is it?"
The boy says,"I play the part of the Jewish husband."
The mother scowls and says, "Go back and tell the teacher you want a speaking part."
23786  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Brits in Helmland on: July 15, 2009, 06:25:53 PM
'It was like Saving Private Ryan': British soldier recalls Helmand rocket grenade

Trooper Anthony Matthews describes being hit and having to apply tourniquet during Afghanistan offensive

Richard Norton-Taylor
Wednesday 15 July 2009 18.06 BST

A British soldier injured in fierce fighting in the biggest offensive against the Taliban since the start of the conflict in 2001 has given a first-hand account of his ordeal.

Trooper Anthony Matthews, 20, of the Light Dragoons, was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during Operation Panther's Claw in Helmand province last week. He described how he managed to apply a tourniquet to his leg wound and to that of an injured comrade as he returned gunfire.

On that day, 7 July, Matthews's close friend Christopher Whiteside, 22, was killed by an improvised bomb in a separate operation in Gereshk.

The number of British soldiers seriously wounded rose significantly last month, according to figures released todayby the Ministry of Defence. A total of 13 were "very seriously" or "seriously" wounded in action, with their lives being "imminently in danger" or their injuries a cause for "immediate concern".

A further 46 soldiers were admitted to field hospitals last month. However, the figures do not reveal the total number of soldiers with injuries conventionally regarded as serious, including the loss of limbs. The figures for July are likely to be worse, defence officials acknowledge.

Matthews, nicknamed "Bulletproof Tony", has returned home to Dunston, Gateshead, with a cricket ball-sized wound after a month of fighting that has claimed the lives of 17 British soldiers.

Recovering from surgery to the blast wound on his left leg, Matthews said he had feared for his own life.

He said: "There aren't many people can tell the tale of getting hit by a grenade. I've just been very lucky. We came out of the compound we had taken over, and there was a tree line that we used as cover. My mates were beside me at either side, and then all I remember is hearing a massive bang.

"There was dirt all over their faces and they were screaming. It was like a scene out of Saving Private Ryan. My ears had gone and I looked at my friend and I could see he had been hit badly. I turned and looked down at my leg and my pants were all broken. I put a tourniquet on while I was still shooting."

The Light Dragoons were based near Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital. During the early hours of 7 July, his platoon stepped into an ambush. A rocket-propelled grenade seriously wounded Matthews and his friend, Trooper Aaron Bradley.

"When the bullets are whizzing past it's terrifying," said Matthews. "They sound like bees flying past your ears, and then you hear them land and it sounds like someone clapping their hands."

After being hit, he said, "it was just adrenaline. I didn't feel anything. I stabbed myself with morphine and held on until the helicopters came. They got us back to Camp Bastion in four minutes."

After treatment there he was flown to Birmingham's Selly Oak hospital, where an operation sealed a deep wound across the back of his left leg. A few days before he was hit by the grenade, Matthews had been on a foot patrol behind a Scimitar tank which was blown up by a roadside bomb. His arms were hit by shrapnel.

He said: "No one was killed or even injured badly that time, amazingly. A team came out to clear the area and make sure it wasn't a 'daisy chain', where a number of bombs are linked to a single command and control wire.

"It's proper war out there. One time it took us from first light until last light just to move 800 metres. We were in constant contact with the enemy."

His house was decked out in Union flags to welcome him home, and he is now recuperating alongside his mother, Karine, brother Kallum, 13, and girlfriend Sam, 20.
23787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: July 15, 2009, 03:00:13 PM
Too bad they quote DEBKA, even as disparagingly as they do-- DEBKA IMHO is lunatic fringe.
23788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO-Panetta castrate US in yet another way on: July 15, 2009, 02:42:38 PM
U.S.: Reaction to the CIA Assassination Program
July 15, 2009

By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton

On June 23, 2009, Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta learned of a highly compartmentalized program to assassinate al Qaeda operatives that was launched by the CIA in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. When Panetta found out that the covert program had not been disclosed to Congress, he canceled it and then called an emergency meeting June 24 to brief congressional oversight committees on the program. Over the past week, many details of the program have been leaked to the press and the issue has received extensive media coverage.

That a program existed to assassinate al Qaeda leaders should certainly come as no surprise to anyone. It has been well-publicized that the Clinton administration had launched military operations and attempted to use covert programs to strike the al Qaeda leadership in the wake of the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings. In fact, the Clinton administration has come under strong criticism for not doing more to decapitate al Qaeda prior to 2001. Furthermore, since 2002, the CIA has conducted scores of strikes against al Qaeda targets in Pakistan using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) like the MQ-1 Predator and the larger MQ-9 Reaper.

These strikes have dramatically increased over the past two years and the pace did not slacken when the Obama administration came to power in January. So far in 2009 there have been more than two dozen UAV strikes in Pakistan alone. In November 2002, the CIA also employed a UAV to kill Abu Ali al-Harithi, a senior al Qaeda leader suspected of planning the October 2000 attack against the USS Cole. The U.S. government has also attacked al Qaeda leaders at other times and in other places, such as the May 1, 2008, attack against al Qaeda-linked figures in Somalia using an AC-130 gunship.

As early as Oct. 28, 2001, The Washington Post ran a story discussing the Clinton-era presidential finding authorizing operations to capture or kill al Qaeda targets. The Oct. 28 Washington Post story also provided details of a finding signed by President George W. Bush following the 9/11 attacks that reportedly provided authorization to strike a larger cross section of al Qaeda targets, including those who are not in the Afghan theater of operations. Such presidential findings are used to authorize covert actions, but in this case the finding would also provide permission to contravene Executive Order 12333, which prohibits assassinations.

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Bush and the members of his administration were very clear that they sought to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and the members of the al Qaeda organization. During the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections in the United States, every major candidate, including Barack Obama, stated that they would seek to kill bin Laden and destroy al Qaeda. Indeed, on the campaign trail, Obama was quite vocal in his criticism of the Bush administration for not doing more to go after al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan. This means that, regardless of who is in the White House, it is U.S. policy to go after individual al Qaeda members as well as the al Qaeda organization.

In light of these facts, it would appear that there was nothing particularly controversial about the covert assassination program itself, and the controversy that has arisen over it has more to do with the failure to report covert activities to Congress. The political uproar and the manner in which the program was canceled, however, will likely have a negative impact on CIA morale and U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

Program Details
As noted above, that the U.S. government has attempted to locate and kill al Qaeda members is not shocking. Bush’s signing of a classified finding authorizing the assassination of al Qaeda members has been a poorly kept secret for many years now, and the U.S. government has succeeded in killing al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

While Hellfire missiles are quite effective at hitting trucks in Yemen and AC-130 gunships are great for striking walled compounds in the Somali badlands, there are many places in the world where it is simply not possible to use such tools against militants. One cannot launch a hellfire from a UAV at a target in Milan or use an AC-130 to attack a target in Doha. Furthermore, there are certain parts of the world — including some countries considered to be U.S. allies — where it is very difficult for the United States to conduct counterterrorism operations at all. These difficulties have been seen in past cases where the governments have refused U.S. requests to detain terrorist suspects or have alerted the suspects to the U.S. interest in them, compromising U.S. intelligence efforts and allowing the suspects to flee.

A prime example of this occurred in 1996, when the United States asked the government of Qatar for assistance in capturing al Qaeda operational mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was living openly in Qatar and even working for the Qatari government as a project engineer. Mohammed was tipped off to American intentions by the Qatari authorities and fled to Pakistan. According to the 9/11 commission report, Mohammed was closely associated with Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid al-Thani, who was then the Qatari minister of religious affairs. After fleeing Doha, Mohammed went on to plan several al Qaeda attacks against the United States, including the 9/11 operation.

Given these realities, it appears that the recently disclosed assassination program was intended to provide the United States with a far more subtle and surgical tool to use in attacks against al Qaeda leaders in locations where Hellfire missiles are not appropriate and where host government assistance is unlikely to be provided. Some media reports indicate that the program was never fully developed and deployed; others indicate that it may have conducted a limited number of operations.

Unlike UAV strikes, where pilots fly the vehicles by satellite link and can actually be located a half a world away, or the very tough and resilient airframe of an AC-130, which can fly thousands of feet above a target, a surgical assassination capability means that the CIA would have to put boots on the ground in hostile territory where operatives, by their very presence, would be violating the laws of the sovereign country in which they were operating. Such operatives, under nonofficial cover by necessity, would be at risk of arrest if they were detected.

Also, because of the nature of such a program, a higher level of operational security is required than in the program to strike al Qaeda targets using UAVs. It is far more complex to move officers and weapons into hostile territory in a stealthy manner to strike a target without warning and with plausible deniability. Once a target is struck with a barrage of Hellfire missiles, it is fairly hard to deny what happened. There is ample physical evidence tying the attack to American UAVs. When a person is struck by a sniper’s bullet or a small IED, the perpetrator and sponsor have far more deniability. By its very nature, and by operational necessity, such a program must be extremely covert.

Even with the cooperation of the host government, conducting an extraordinary rendition in a friendly country like Italy has proved to be politically controversial and personally risky for CIA officers, who can be threatened with arrest and trial. Conducting assassination operations in a country that is not so friendly is a far riskier undertaking. As seen by the Russian officers arrested in Doha after the February 2004 assassination of former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, such operations can generate blowback. The Russian officers responsible for the Yandarbiyev hit were arrested, tortured, tried and sentenced to life in prison (though after several months they were released into Russian custody to serve the remainder of their sentences).

Because of the physical risk to the officers involved in such operations, and the political blowback such operations can cause, it is not surprising that the details of such a program would be strictly compartmentalized inside the CIA and not widely disseminated beyond the gates of Langley. In fact, it is highly doubtful that the details of such a program were even widely known inside the CIA’s counterterrorism center (CTC) — though almost certainly some of the CTC staff suspected that such a covert program existed somewhere. The details regarding such a program were undoubtedly guarded carefully within the clandestine service, with the officer in charge most likely reporting directly to the deputy director of operations, who reports personally to the director of the CIA.

Loose Lips Sink Ships
As trite as this old saying may sound, it is painfully true. In the counterterrorism realm, leaks destroy counterterrorism cases and often allow terrorist suspects to escape and kill again. There have been several leaks of “sources and methods” by congressional sources over the past decade that have disclosed details of sensitive U.S. government programs designed to do things such as intercept al Qaeda satellite phone signals and track al Qaeda financing. A classified appendix to the report of the 2005 Robb-Silberman Commission on Intelligence Capabilities (which incidentally was leaked to the press) discussed several such leaks, noted the costs they impose on the American taxpayers and highlighted the damage they do to intelligence programs.

The fear that details of a sensitive program designed to assassinate al Qaeda operatives in foreign countries could be leaked was probably the reason for the Bush administration’s decision to withhold knowledge of the program from the U.S. Congress, even though amendments to the National Security Act of 1947 mandate the reporting of most covert intelligence programs to Congress. Given the imaginative legal guidance provided by Bush administration lawyers regarding subjects such as enhanced interrogation, it would not be surprising to find that White House lawyers focused on loopholes in the National Security Act reporting requirements.

The validity of such legal opinions may soon be tested. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, recently said he was considering an investigation into the failure to report the program to Congress, and House Democrats have announced that they want to change the reporting requirements to make them even more inclusive.

Under the current version of the National Security Act, with very few exceptions, the administration is required to report the most sensitive covert activities to, at the very least, the so-called “gang of eight” that includes the chairmen and ranking minority members of the congressional intelligence committees, the speaker and minority leader of the House of Representatives and the majority and minority leaders of the Senate. In the wake of the program’s disclosure, some Democrats would like to expand this minimum reporting requirement to include the entire membership of the congressional intelligence committees, which would increase the absolute minimum number of people to be briefed from eight to 40. Some congressmen argue that presidents, prompted by the CIA, are too loose in their invocation of the “extraordinary circumstances” that allow them to report only to the gang of eight and not the full committees. Yet ironically, the existence of the covert CIA program stayed secret for over seven and a half years, and yet here we are writing about it less than a month after the congressional committees were briefed.

The addition of that many additional lips to briefings pertaining to covert actions is not the only thing that will cause great consternation at the CIA. While legally mandated, disclosing covert programs to Congress has been very problematic. The angst felt at Langley over potential increases in the number of people to be briefed will be compounded by the recent reports that Attorney General Eric Holder may appoint a special prosecutor to investigate CIA interrogations and ethics reporting.

In April we discussed how some of the early actions of the Obama administration were having a chilling effect on U.S. counterterrorism programs and personnel. Expanding the minimum reporting requirements under the National Security Act will serve to turn the thermostat down several additional notches, as did Panetta’s overt killing of the covert program. It is one thing to quietly kill a controversial program; it is quite another to repudiate the CIA in public. In addition to damaging the already low morale at the agency, Panetta has announced in a very public manner that the United States has taken one important tool entirely out of the counterterrorism toolbox: Al Qaeda no longer has to fear the possibility of clandestine American assassination teams.
23789  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fixing Airport Security on: July 15, 2009, 07:32:51 AM
      Fixing Airport Security

It's been months since the Transportation Security Administration has
had a permanent director. If, during the job interview (no, I didn't get
one), President Obama asked me how I'd fix airport security in one
sentence, I would reply: "Get rid of the photo ID check, and return
passenger screening to pre-9/11 levels."

Okay, that's a joke. While showing ID, taking your shoes off and
throwing away your water bottles isn't making us much safer, I don't
expect the Obama administration to roll back those security measures
anytime soon. Airport security is more about CYA than anything else:
defending against what the terrorists did last time.

But the administration can't risk appearing as if it facilitated a
terrorist attack, no matter how remote the possibility, so those
annoyances are probably here to stay.

This would be my real answer: "Establish accountability and transparency
for airport screening." And if I had another sentence: "Airports are one
of the places where Americans, and visitors to America, are most likely
to interact with a law enforcement officer - and yet no one knows what
rights travelers have or how to exercise those rights."

Obama has repeatedly talked about increasing openness and transparency
in government, and it's time to bring transparency to the Transportation
Security Administration (TSA).

Let's start with the no-fly and watch lists. Right now, everything about
them is secret: You can't find out if you're on one, or who put you
there and why, and you can't clear your name if you're innocent. This
Kafkaesque scenario is so un-American it's embarrassing. Obama should
make the no-fly list subject to judicial review.

Then, move on to the checkpoints themselves. What are our rights? What
powers do the TSA officers have? If we're asked "friendly" questions by
behavioral detection officers, are we allowed not to answer? If we
object to the rough handling of ourselves or our belongings, can the TSA
official retaliate against us by putting us on a watch list? Obama
should make the rules clear and explicit, and allow people to bring
legal action against the TSA for violating those rules; otherwise,
airport checkpoints will remain a Constitution-free zone in our country.

Next, Obama should refuse to use unfunded mandates to sneak expensive
security measures past Congress. The Secure Flight program is the worst
offender. Airlines are being forced to spend billions of dollars
redesigning their reservations systems to accommodate the TSA's demands
to preapprove every passenger before he or she is allowed to board an
airplane. These costs are borne by us, in the form of higher ticket
prices, even though we never see them explicitly listed.

Maybe Secure Flight is a good use of our money; maybe it isn't. But
let's have debates like that in the open, as part of the budget process,
where it belongs.

And finally, Obama should mandate that airport security be solely about
terrorism, and not a general-purpose security checkpoint to catch
everyone from pot smokers to deadbeat dads.

The Constitution provides us, both Americans and visitors to America,
with strong protections against invasive police searches. Two exceptions
come into play at airport security checkpoints. The first is "implied
consent," which means that you cannot refuse to be searched; your
consent is implied when you purchased your ticket. And the second is
"plain view," which means that if the TSA officer happens to see
something unrelated to airport security while screening you, he is
allowed to act on that.

Both of these principles are well established and make sense, but it's
their combination that turns airport security checkpoints into
police-state-like checkpoints.

The TSA should limit its searches to bombs and weapons and leave general
policing to the police - where we know courts and the Constitution still

None of these changes will make airports any less safe, but they will go
a long way to de-ratcheting the culture of fear, restoring the
presumption of innocence and reassuring Americans, and the rest of the
world, that - as Obama said in his inauguration speech - "we reject as
false the choice between our safety and our ideals."

This essay originally appeared, without hyperlinks, in the New York
Daily News.
23790  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 12 undercover feds killed on: July 15, 2009, 07:26:21 AM
MEXICO CITY -- Twelve undercover federal police agents were captured, tortured, and executed by a relatively new and dangerous Mexican cartel calling itself La Familia, or The Family, officials said Tuesday.

The killings are a major psychological blow to President Felipe Calderón's war on drugs. The bodies of 11 men and one woman were found by locals on the side of a highway in Mr. Calderón's home state of Michoacán on Monday. The victims had their hands and feet tied, showed signs of torture, and had all been shot in the head at close range.

The agents had been in Michoacán to gather intelligence on the cartel, said Monte Alejandro Rubido, the government's top spokesman on security issues. Officials said they believed the killings were connected to the weekend capture of Arnoldo Rueda Medina, one of the cartel's major operators. "We have reinforced our operations in several states and we will not retreat a single step in our fight against organized crime," Mr. Rubido said at a news conference.

Since the Saturday arrest, gunmen believed to be working for the cartel have gone on a rampage, attacking police stations, army patrols and hotels in several different cities in Michoacán with grenades, AK-47s and AR-15 semiautomatic rifles. The attacks killed two soldiers and six other federal police agents, and wounded a further 18 agents.

Together with the executions, the toll from three days of violence climbed to 18 federal police agents killed, as well as the two soldiers -- not including about a dozen other civilian victims, police said. That would mark one of the bloodiest single episodes against federal forces since Mr. Calderón launched a crackdown on drug cartels shortly after taking power in December 2006.

The violence highlights the increasing power, brazenness, and operational capability of Mexican cartels like La Familia. Within a day of Mr. Rueda's arrest, gunmen attacked a hotel where police were staying in Apatzingán, federal police barracks in the tourist town of Pátzcuaro, a police base in Huetamo, and a police convoy on a rural road -- all in different parts of the state.

Since Mr. Calderón took power, more than 12,000 people have died in Mexico in drug-related killings.

The killings could raise political pressure on Mr. Calderón to retreat in the battle against drug lords. While the war on drugs is popular, many opposition politicians say it is only stirring up trouble and causing more violence. On Monday, leftist senator Carlos Navarrete called on Mr. Calderón to scale back the war on drugs, partly because traffickers could target senior law-enforcement and government officials.

The killings are also a major blow to the Federal Police. Mr. Calderón's government has invested millions in training, technology and arms for the agency, a two-year-old institution being fashioned after the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. It has been part of a national effort to clean up police agencies that have traditionally been corrupted by drug cartels.

Federal police have been dispatched across Mexico in joint operations with the military to take on drug organizations in areas where the local and state police are suspect. The officers work in two- to three-month shifts before being sent to a new hot spot. The reasoning is that if they are there any longer, the risk that the officers might succumb to offers of money or threats by the drug gangs becomes too great.

Responding to the violence, Mr. Calderón said that the cartels were increasingly desperate due to the crackdown by the federal government, which has included sending 45,000 troops to patrol cities. "In these cowardly attacks, brave members of our federal forces have lost their lives," Mr. Calderón said Tuesday. "They have fallen thinking it is possible to construct a safer Mexico. They have fallen fighting for the safety of all of us." A new poll by Mexican pollster GCE, however, showed that 51% of Mexicans believe the cartels have the upper hand in the drug war, while only 29% think the government is winning.

Of Mexico's major drug cartels, perhaps none is as dangerous as La Familia, a relatively obscure trafficking organization that has gained notoriety in the past year. Founded in part by a charismatic leader who preaches family values, the cartel first gained attention in 2006 in grisly fashion: By rolling the severed heads of five men onto a dance floor at a Michoacán disco, along with a hand-scrawled note warning off rival traffickers.

La Familia has tried to cast itself as a Robin Hood-type cartel, a quasi-legitimate business that gives back money to the poor, abides by a code of ethics such as not selling certain drugs like methamphetamines in Michoacán, and metes out justice to its enemies only when it is double-crossed. Experts say it recruits heavily among recovering drug and alcohol addicts. It has published manifestoes in local newspapers. One golden rule: "family" members of traffickers should be off-limits to both other traffickers and the federal government.

"It's a bit like a cult, a mixture of evangelicals with new-age self-help that gives members a sense of belonging and creates a very disciplined organization," says Alberto Islas, a security consultant based in Mexico City.

Federal officials say the cartel has infiltrated the state government to a shocking degree. Soldiers arrested 10 mayors in Michoacán, as well as 17 police chiefs, in May.

—Paul Kiernan and John Lyons contributed to this article.
Write to David Luhnow at

23791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Water on: July 15, 2009, 06:54:08 AM
This seems like a good idea to me:


WASHINGTON—A bipartisan group of lawmakers is proposing to raise about $10 billion a year to fix aging water and sewer systems by taxing the biggest users.

The legislation, which has sparked significant opposition from industry, is expected to be unveiled Wednesday at a news conference on Capitol Hill.

The bill calls for a 0.15% tax on any corporation earning a profit of more than $4 million a year. Manufacturers of any water-based beverages, excluding alcohol, would see a four-cent tax per container. Soaps, detergents, toiletries, toilet tissue, water softeners and cooking oils would face a 3% tax on wholesale prices. Pharmaceuticals would be taxed at 0.5% of the wholesale price.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D., Ore.), the main sponsor of the Water Protection and Reinvestment Act, said he believed the bill was necessary to repair an aging system used by all Americans. The taxes, he said, would target some of the biggest users of water and companies that have the biggest stake in the efficiency of the system. He called the fees modest and fair.

The federal government has paid an average of $2.3 billion each year since 2000 to help maintain the water system. A spokeswoman for Mr. Blumenauer said the trust fund created under the bill would bring in about $10 billion a year.

Concerns about the safety and integrity of water systems is a perennial concern, particularly in older cities. Recent water-main breaks in New York City have disrupted traffic and transit.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce representative, Janet Kavinoky, said: "Anytime there's a broad base of general taxes being used to fund infrastructure, the chamber is going to take a close look at how that affects our members."

The chamber also has concerns that a federal subsidy for infrastructure repair could send a signal to local municipalities that they don't need to charge the real cost of providing water.

Representatives of the industries that would be hardest hit by the proposed fees said they feel unfairly targeted.

Joe Doss, president and chief executive of the International Bottled Water Association, said the proposal singled out one product category, while other water users wouldn't see tax increases.

Kevin Keane, senior vice president of the American Beverage Association, said beverage companies would almost certainly raise their prices to help compensate for the tax. This is just another example of "raising taxes on the middle class," Mr. Keane said. [It] would just add to the burden of taxpayers at a time they are already facing economic struggles," he said.

A representative from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said they have not yet developed an opinion on the legislation.

Mr. Blumenauer is set to testify on the legislation Wednesday in front of a panel of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Write to Jake Sherman at

23792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Texas curriculum on: July 15, 2009, 06:50:46 AM
The fight over school curriculum in Texas, recently focused on biology, has entered a new arena, with a brewing debate over how much faith belongs in American history classrooms.

The Texas Board of Education, which recently approved new science standards that made room for creationist critiques of evolution, is revising the state's social studies curriculum. In early recommendations from outside experts appointed by the board, a divide has opened over how central religious theology should be to the teaching of history.

Three reviewers, appointed by social conservatives, have recommended revamping the K-12 curriculum to emphasize the roles of the Bible, the Christian faith and the civic virtue of religion in the study of American history. Two of them want to remove or de-emphasize references to several historical figures who have become liberal icons, such as César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall.

Associated Press
Don McLeroy, a member of the Texas State Board of Education.
"We're in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it," said Rev. Peter Marshall, a Christian minister and one of the reviewers appointed by the conservative camp.

Three other reviewers, all selected by politically moderate or liberal members of the board, recommended less-sweeping changes to the existing curriculum. But one suggested including more diverse role models, especially Latinos, in teaching materials. "We have tended to exclude or marginalize the role of Hispanic and Native American participants in the state's history," said Jesús F. de la Teja, chairman of the history department at Texas State University.

Social studies teachers from Texas are meeting this summer to write new standards. They can accept, reject or modify the six reviewers' suggestions, all of which were made individually. The teachers' recommendations are sent to the 15-member board of education, a conservative-dominated body that has authority to revise standards.

The three reviewers appointed by the moderate and liberal board members are all professors of history or education at Texas universities, including Mr. de la Teja, a former state historian. The reviewers appointed by conservatives include two who run conservative Christian organizations: David Barton, founder of WallBuilders, a group that promotes America's Christian heritage; and Rev. Marshall, who preaches that Watergate, the Vietnam War and Hurricane Katrina were God's judgments on the nation's sexual immorality. The third is Daniel Dreisbach, a professor of public affairs at American University.

Have there been any curricula debates in your communities? Have you ever looked at your children's history texts? Discuss the issues with other readers in WSJ's Juggle blog.
The conservative reviewers say they believe that children must learn that America's founding principles are biblical. For instance, they say the separation of powers set forth in the Constitution stems from a scriptural understanding of man's fall and inherent sinfulness, or "radical depravity," which means he can be governed only by an intricate system of checks and balances.

The curriculum, they say, should clearly present Christianity as an overall force for good -- and a key reason for American exceptionalism, the notion that the country stands above and apart.

"America is a special place and we need to be sure we communicate that to our children," said Don McLeroy, a leading conservative on the board. "The foundational principles of our country are very biblical.... That needs to come out in the textbooks."

But the emphasis on Christianity as a driving force is disputed by some historians, who focus on the economic motivation of many colonists and the fractured views of religion among the Founding Fathers. "There appears to me too much politics in some of this," said Lybeth Hodges, a professor of history at Texas Woman's University and another of the curriculum reviewers.

Some outside observers argue that curriculum analysts should be trained academics. "It's important to have trained historians establishing the framework," said David Vigilante, associate director of the National Center for History in the Schools at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The conservative Christian reviewers, in turn, are skeptical of the professional historians' emphasis on multiculturalism, views stated most forcefully by Mr. de la Teja but echoed by Ms. Hodges. Reaching for examples of achievement by different racial and ethnic groups is divisive, Mr. Barton said, and distorts history.

The standards that the school board eventually settles on won't dictate day-to-day lesson plans; that is up to individual teachers. But they will offer clear guidelines for educators -- and also for publishers.

Nearly every state has its own curriculum standards, and there are scores of social studies texts to choose from at most grade levels, so what happens in Texas won't necessarily affect other states. But the Texas market is huge, so most big publishers aggressively seek approval from the board, in some cases adopting the majority's editing suggestions nearly verbatim.

While the battle in Texas is just heating up, the tug-of-war over how to present history dates back nearly 150 years, said Jonathan Zimmerman, a New York University professor of education. A single paragraph in a third-grade text might seem insignificant. But it is a powerful symbol, he said, "because schools remain the most important venue for teaching our kids who we are."
23793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / So? on: July 15, 2009, 06:31:27 AM
Here's a different POV:

      North Korean Cyberattacks

To hear the media tell it, the United States suffered a major
cyberattack last week.  Stories were everywhere. "Cyber Blitz hits U.S.,
Korea" was the headline in Thursday's Wall Street Journal. North Korea
was blamed.

Where were you when North Korea attacked America?  Did you feel the fury
of North Korea's armies?  Were you fearful for your country?  Or did
your resolve strengthen, knowing that we would defend our homeland
bravely and valiantly?

My guess is that you didn't even notice, that -- if you didn't open a
newspaper or read a news website -- you had no idea anything was
happening.  Sure, a few government websites were knocked out, but that's
not alarming or even uncommon. Other government websites were attacked
but defended themselves, the sort of thing that happens all the time. If
this is what an international cyberattack looks like, it hardly seems
worth worrying about at all.

Politically motivated cyber attacks are nothing new. We've seen UK vs.
Ireland. Israel vs. the Arab states. Russia vs. several former Soviet
Republics. India vs. Pakistan, especially after the nuclear bomb tests
in 1998. China vs. the United States, especially in 2001 when a U.S. spy
plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet. And so on and so on.

The big one happened in 2007, when the government of Estonia was
attacked in cyberspace following a diplomatic incident with Russia about
the relocation of a Soviet World War II memorial. The networks of many
Estonian organizations, including the Estonian parliament, banks,
ministries, newspapers and broadcasters, were attacked and -- in many
cases -- shut down.  Estonia was quick to blame Russia, which was
equally quick to deny any involvement.

It was hyped as the first cyberwar, but after two years there is still
no evidence that the Russian government was involved. Though Russian
hackers were indisputably the major instigators of the attack, the only
individuals positively identified have been young ethnic Russians living
inside Estonia, who were angry over the statue incident.

Poke at any of these international incidents, and what you find are kids
playing politics. Last Wednesday, South Korea's National Intelligence
Service admitted that it didn't actually know that North Korea was
behind the attacks: "North Korea or North Korean sympathizers in the
South" was what it said. Once again, it'll be kids playing politics.

This isn't to say that cyberattacks by governments aren't an issue, or
that cyberwar is something to be ignored. The constant attacks by
Chinese nationals against U.S. networks may not be government-sponsored,
but it's pretty clear that they're tacitly government-approved.
Criminals, from lone hackers to organized crime syndicates, attack
networks all the time. And war expands to fill every possible theater:
land, sea, air, space, and now cyberspace. But cyberterrorism is nothing
more than a media invention designed to scare people. And for there to
be a cyberwar, there first needs to be a war.

Israel is currently considering attacking Iran in cyberspace, for
example.  If it tries, it'll discover that attacking computer networks
is an inconvenience to the nuclear facilities it's targeting, but
doesn't begin to substitute for bombing them.

In May, President Obama gave a major speech on cybersecurity.  He was
right when he said that cybersecurity is a national security issue, and
that the government needs to step up and do more to prevent
cyberattacks. But he couldn't resist hyping the threat with scare
stories: "In one of the most serious cyber incidents to date against our
military networks, several thousand computers were infected last year by
malicious software -- malware," he said. What he didn't add was that
those infections occurred because the Air Force couldn't be bothered to
keep its patches up to date.

This is the face of cyberwar: easily preventable attacks that, even when
they succeed, only a few people notice.  Even this current incident is
turning out to be a sloppily modified five-year-old worm that no modern
network should still be vulnerable to.

Securing our networks doesn't require some secret advanced NSA
technology.  It's the boring network security administration stuff we
already know how to do: keep your patches up to date, install good
anti-malware software, correctly configure your firewalls and
intrusion-detection systems, monitor your networks. And while some
government and corporate networks do a pretty good job at this, others
fail again and again.

Enough of the hype and the bluster. The news isn't the attacks, but that
some networks had security lousy enough to be vulnerable to them.

This essay originally appeared on the Minnesota Public Radio website.

A copy of this essay, with all embedded links, is here:
23794  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Security, Group Size, and the Human Brain on: July 15, 2009, 06:27:37 AM
      Security, Group Size, and the Human Brain

If the size of your company grows past 150 people, it's time to get name
badges. It's not that larger groups are somehow less secure, it's just
that 150 is the cognitive limit to the number of people a human brain
can maintain a coherent social relationship with.

Primatologist Robin Dunbar derived this number by comparing neocortex --
the "thinking" part of the mammalian brain -- volume with the size of
primate social groups. By analyzing data from 38 primate genera and
extrapolating to the human neocortex size, he predicted a human "mean
group size" of roughly 150.

This number appears regularly in human society; it's the estimated size
of a Neolithic farming village, the size at which Hittite settlements
split, and the basic unit in professional armies from Roman times to the
present day. Larger group sizes aren't as stable because their members
don't know each other well enough. Instead of thinking of the members as
people, we think of them as groups of people. For such groups to
function well, they need externally imposed structure, such as name badges.

Of course, badges aren't the only way to determine in-group/out-group
status. Other markers include insignia, uniforms, and secret handshakes.
They have different security properties and some make more sense than
others at different levels of technology, but once a group reaches 150
people, it has to do something.

More generally, there are several layers of natural human group size
that increase with a ratio of approximately three: 5, 15, 50, 150, 500,
and 1500 -- although, really, the numbers aren't as precise as all that,
and groups that are less focused on survival tend to be smaller. The
layers relate to both the intensity and intimacy of relationship and the
frequency of contact.

The smallest, three to five, is a "clique": the number of people from
whom you would seek help in times of severe emotional distress. The
twelve to 20 group is the "sympathy group": people with which you have
special ties. After that, 30 to 50 is the typical size of
hunter-gatherer overnight camps, generally drawn from the same pool of
150 people. No matter what size company you work for, there are only
about 150 people you consider to be "co-workers." (In small companies,
Alice and Bob handle accounting. In larger companies, it's the
accounting department -- and maybe you know someone there personally.)
The 500-person group is the "megaband," and the 1,500-person group is
the "tribe." Fifteen hundred is roughly the number of faces we can put
names to, and the typical size of a hunter-gatherer society.

These numbers are reflected in military organization throughout history:
squads of 10 to 15 organized into platoons of three to four squads,
organized into companies of three to four platoons, organized into
battalions of three to four companies, organized into regiments of three
to four battalions, organized into divisions of two to three regiments,
and organized into corps of two to three divisions.

Coherence can become a real problem once organizations get above about
150 in size.  So as group sizes grow across these boundaries, they have
more externally imposed infrastructure -- and more formalized security
systems. In intimate groups, pretty much all security is ad hoc.
Companies smaller than 150 don't bother with name badges; companies
greater than 500 hire a guard to sit in the lobby and check badges.  The
military have had centuries of experience with this under rather trying
circumstances, but even there the real commitment and bonding invariably
occurs at the company level. Above that you need to have rank imposed by

The whole brain-size comparison might be bunk, and a lot of evolutionary
psychologists disagree with it. But certainly security systems become
more formalized as groups grow larger and their members less known to
each other. When do more formal dispute resolution systems arise: town
elders, magistrates, judges? At what size boundary are formal
authentication schemes required? Small companies can get by without the
internal forms, memos, and procedures that large companies require; when
does what tend to appear? How does punishment formalize as group size
increase? And how do all these things affect group coherence? People act
differently on social networking sites like Facebook when their list of
"friends" grows larger and less intimate. Local merchants sometimes let
known regulars run up tabs. I lend books to friends with much less
formality than a public library. What examples have you seen?

An edited version of this essay, without links, appeared in the
July/August 2009 issue of IEEE Security & Privacy.

A copy of this essay, with all embedded links, is here:
23795  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Persons and property on: July 15, 2009, 06:13:10 AM
"It is sufficiently obvious, that persons and property are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act; and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted. These rights cannot well be separated."

--James Madison, Speech at the Virginia Convention, December 2, 1829
23796  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / How to die? on: July 15, 2009, 06:03:25 AM
Woof All:

Question presented:  How would you like to die?

The Adventure continues,

With Help, Conductor and Wife Ended Lives
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LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkBy JOHN F. BURNS
Published: July 14, 2009
LONDON — The controversy over the ethical and legal issues surrounding assisted suicide for the terminally ill was thrown into stark relief on Tuesday with the announcement that one of Britain’s most distinguished orchestra conductors, Sir Edward Downes, had flown to Switzerland last week with his wife and joined her in drinking a lethal cocktail of barbiturates provided by an assisted-suicide clinic.

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Sir Edward Downes conducting the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in 1999.

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Although friends who spoke to the British news media said Sir Edward was not known to have been terminally ill, they said he wanted to die with his ailing wife, who had been his partner for more than half a century.

The couple’s children said in an interview with the London Evening Standard that on Tuesday of last week they accompanied their father, 85, and their mother, Joan, 74, on the flight from London to Zurich, where the Swiss group Dignitas helped arrange the suicides. On Friday, the children said, they watched, weeping, as their parents drank “a small quantity of clear liquid” before lying down on adjacent beds, holding hands.

“Within a couple of minutes they were asleep, and died within 10 minutes,” Caractacus Downes, the couple’s 41-year-old son, said in the interview after his return to Britain. “They wanted to be next to each other when they died.” He added, “It is a very civilized way to end your life, and I don’t understand why the legal position in this country doesn’t allow it.”

Sir Edward, who was described in a statement issued earlier on Tuesday by Mr. Downes and his sister, Boudicca, 39, as “almost blind and increasingly deaf,” was principal conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra from 1980 to 1991. He was also a conductor of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in London, where he led 950 performances over more than 50 years.

Lady Downes, who British newspapers said was in the final stages of terminal cancer, was a former ballet dancer, choreographer and television producer who devoted her later years to working as her husband’s assistant.

“After 54 happy years together, they decided to end their own lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems,” the Downes children said in their statement.

Scotland Yard said in a statement on Tuesday that it had been informed on Monday “that a man and a woman” from London had died in Switzerland, and that it was “looking into the circumstances.” The information that prompted the police inquiry appeared to have been given voluntarily by the Downes family, which, Caractacus Downes said, “didn’t want to be untruthful about what had happened.”

“Even if they arrest us and send us to prison, it would have made no difference because it is what our parents wanted,” he said.

Attempting suicide is a criminal offense in Britain, as is assisting others in killing themselves. But since the Zurich clinic run by Dignitas was established in 1998 under Swiss laws that allow clinics to provide lethal drugs, British authorities have effectively turned a blind eye to Britons who go there to die.

None of the family members and friends who have accompanied the 117 people living in Britain who have traveled to the Zurich clinic for help in ending their lives have been charged with an offense. Legal experts said it was unlikely that that would change in the Downes case.

But British news reports about the Downes’ suicides noted one factor that appeared to set the case apart from most others involving the Dignitas clinic: Sir Edward appeared not to have been terminally ill. There have been at least three other cases similar to the Downes’, in which a spouse who was not terminally ill chose to die with the other.

Sir Edward was known for his support for British composers and his passion for Prokofiev and Verdi. After studying at the Royal College of Music in London, he joined the Royal Opera House in 1952. His first assignment was prompting the soprano Maria Callas. He traveled widely as a conductor and became music director of the Australian Opera in the 1970s.

Friends of Sir Edward said that his decision to die with his wife did not surprise them. “Ted was completely rational,” said Richard Wigley, the general manager of the BBC Philharmonic. “So I can well imagine him, being so rational, saying, ‘It’s been great, so let’s end our lives together.’ ”

Jonathan Groves, Sir Edward’s manager, called their decision “typically brave and courageous.”

But even among those who support decriminalizing assisted suicide, Sir Edward’s death raised troubling questions. Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said in a BBC interview that the growing numbers of Britons going abroad to die, and the manner of their deaths, made it more urgent to amend Britain’s laws. There are “no safeguards, no brakes on the process at all,” she said.

The British Medical Association voted this month against legalizing assisted suicide, or lifting the threat of prosecution from “friends and relatives who accompany loved ones to die abroad.” Last week, the House of Lords defeated a bill that would have allowed people, subject to safeguards, to travel abroad to help people choosing to die.
23797  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: July 14, 2009, 10:55:42 PM
23798  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / More on our success on: July 14, 2009, 03:47:28 PM
Friday, July 10, 2009 Late Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed anamendment to the Federal Switchblade Act as part of the Homeland Security appropriations bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), changes the federal law under which one agency had tried to redefine many common knives as switchblades.

The measure would exempt assisted-opening knives that can only be opened with "exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist or arm" from a federal law that criminalizes commerce in switchblades. Assisted opening knives are highly desired by hunters, anglers, farmers, ranchers, firefighters, law enforcement and emergency personnel and others who may need to open a knife with only one hand.

"The Senate sent a strong message and made clear that the 35 million Americans who own pocketknives are free to continue using them without the threat of federal agency intrusion," Sen. Cornyn said in a statement today. "While U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) proposed changing that, my colleagues joined in a unanimous, bipartisan effort to ensure assisted-opening pocketknives are protected by the law. What's more, the CBP reversal would have inflicted serious economic harm to sporting goods manufacturers and retailers."

In the same statement, Sen. Hatch said, "Without this amendment, there is a real danger that 80 percent of the pocketknives sold in the U.S. could be classified as illegal switchblades, which would hurt knife and tool manufacturers across the nation. The unintended consequences of the CBP's definition could be that state and federal criminal courts could construe Leatherman-type multi-tools equipped with one-hand opening features, as well as folding utility knives with studs on the blunt portions of the blade to assist with opening, to be illegal. That is absurd."

Thursday's Senate action puts us one step closer to passing this common-sense measure into law. The measure now heads to a House-Senate Conference Committee.

To view the amendment, please click here:
23799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACTION items on: July 14, 2009, 03:46:43 PM
More on the success of our ACTION:

Friday, July 10, 2009 Late Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed anamendment to the Federal Switchblade Act as part of the Homeland Security appropriations bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), changes the federal law under which one agency had tried to redefine many common knives as switchblades.
The measure would exempt assisted-opening knives that can only be opened with "exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist or arm" from a federal law that criminalizes commerce in switchblades. Assisted opening knives are highly desired by hunters, anglers, farmers, ranchers, firefighters, law enforcement and emergency personnel and others who may need to open a knife with only one hand.
"The Senate sent a strong message and made clear that the 35 million Americans who own pocketknives are free to continue using them without the threat of federal agency intrusion," Sen. Cornyn said in a statement today. "While U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) proposed changing that, my colleagues joined in a unanimous, bipartisan effort to ensure assisted-opening pocketknives are protected by the law. What's more, the CBP reversal would have inflicted serious economic harm to sporting goods manufacturers and retailers."
In the same statement, Sen. Hatch said, "Without this amendment, there is a real danger that 80 percent of the pocketknives sold in the U.S. could be classified as illegal switchblades, which would hurt knife and tool manufacturers across the nation. The unintended consequences of the CBP's definition could be that state and federal criminal courts could construe Leatherman-type multi-tools equipped with one-hand opening features, as well as folding utility knives with studs on the blunt portions of the blade to assist with opening, to be illegal. That is absurd."
Thursday's Senate action puts us one step closer to passing this common-sense measure into law. The measure now heads to a House-Senate Conference Committee.
To view the amendment, please click here:
23800  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Good news? on: July 14, 2009, 01:20:35 PM

Late Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed anamendment to the Federal Switchblade Act as part of the Homeland Security appropriations bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), changes the federal law under which one agency had tried to redefine many common knives as switchblades.
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