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23851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Power to tax and , , , to revolt on: May 05, 2010, 06:41:07 AM
The Power to Tax ... and Revolt
"An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation." --John Marshall
On December 16th, 1773, "radicals" from Boston, members of a secret organization of American Patriots called the Sons of Liberty, boarded three East India Company ships and threw into Boston Harbor 342 chests of tea.

This iconic event, in protest of oppressive British taxation and tyrannical rule, became known as the Boston Tea Party.

Resistance to the Crown had been mounting over enforcement of the 1764 Sugar Act, 1765 Stamp Act and 1767 Townshend Act, which led to the Boston Massacre and gave rise to the slogan, "No taxation without representation."

The 1773 Tea Act and resulting Tea Party protest galvanized the Colonial movement opposing British parliamentary acts, which violated the natural, charter and constitutional rights of the colonists.

In response to the rebellion, the British enacted additional punitive measures, labeled the "Intolerable Acts," in hopes of suppressing the burgeoning insurrection. Far from accomplishing their desired outcome, however, the Crown's countermeasures led colonists to convene the First Continental Congress on September 5th, 1774, in Philadelphia.

Near midnight on April 18th, 1775, Paul Revere departed Charlestown (near Boston) for Lexington and Concord in order to warn John Hancock, Samuel Adams and other Sons of Liberty that the British army was marching to arrest them and seize their weapons caches. While Revere was captured after reaching Lexington, his friend, Samuel Prescott, was able to evade the Red Coats and took word to the militiamen at Concord.

In the early dawn of that first Patriots' Day, April 19th, Captain John Parker, commander of the Lexington militia, ordered, "Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they want a war let it begin here." That it did -- American Minutemen fired the "shot heard round the world," as immortalized by poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, confronting British Regulars on Lexington Green and at Concord's Old North Bridge.

Thus, by the time the Second Continental Congress convened on May 10th, 1775, the young nation was in open war for liberty and independence, which would not be won until a full decade later. (Read more here.)

Today, the tax burden borne by most Americans, even those who pay no direct federal taxes but at the least pay a great hidden cost in federal regulation, is far greater than that which incited our Founders to revolution.

Thus, some 221 years after the ratification of our Constitution, Americans are once again at a crossroads with oppressive centralized government -- a point at which we must choose to turn up toward liberty or down toward tyranny and anarchy.

Those at the helm of the federal government, by way of generations of overreaching executive orders, legislative malfeasance and judicial diktat, have abandoned their sacred oaths to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," and to "bear true faith and allegiance to the same."

Although our Constitution provides the People with an authentic means for amendment as prescribed in Article V, successive generations of leftists have, by way of legislation, regulation and activist courts, altered that august founding convention well beyond any semblance of its original intent.

Consequently, they have undermined constitutional Rule of Law, supplanting it with the rule of men.

They have done so in order to win the allegiance of special interest constituencies, which then ensure perpetual re-election of their sponsors in return for political and economic agendas structured on Marxist-Leninist-Maoist collectivism.

How have leftist politicians succeeded in this assault?

They accomplished this through direct taxation on an ever-smaller number of Americans for the benefit of an ever-larger number of Americans -- "progressive taxation" and "social justice" as the Left so self-righteously calls it.

So, shouldn't those who have more give to those who have less?

Well, yes, in my humble opinion, but individuals should rightly be left to decide how best to use their resources for the benefit of others. And in this respect, Americans are the most generous people on earth and from any time of human history.

However, Barack Hussein Obama, an ideological Marxist, believes that government should be the ultimate arbiter for the redistribution of wealth. Indeed, he said as much on the campaign trail in 2008.

Obama claims our economy is "out of balance," and our tax policies "badly skewed."

To resolve this, he says we need a "tax policy making sure that everybody benefits, fair distribution, a restoration of balance in our tax code, money allocated fairly..."

"Fair distribution"?

By this, of course, he means "redistribution."

It's not enough that 20 percent of Americans are already forced to fund 80 percent of the cost of bloated government largess; if Obama can saddle them with 100 percent of this cost, then he could anoint himself king.

Never mind that progressive taxation constitutes, in effect, a "Bill of Attainder" as outlawed by Article I, Section 9, of our Constitution. Who in Washington these days pays that venerable old parchment any mind?

As devoted socialist George Bernard Shaw acknowledged, "A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul," which is the template for a bloodless socialist revolution.

Further, Obama asserts that free enterprise is nothing more than "Social Darwinism, every man or woman for him or herself ... [a] tempting idea, because it doesn't require much thought or ingenuity."

Free enterprise "doesn't require much thought or ingenuity"?

Only in the distorted worldview of a "community organizer" and lifelong adherent of Marxist doctrine could such an absurd assertion originate.

The current debacle of progressive taxation is the result of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's class-warfare decree: "Here is my principle: Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle."

We beg to differ. Roosevelt's "principle" was no more American than Obama's. Roosevelt was merely paraphrasing Karl Marx, whose maxim declared, "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."

At the time Marx was formulating his collectivist manifesto, classical liberal Claude Frederic Bastiat, a prominent 19th-century political economist, wrote, "Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. ... Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Thus the beneficiaries are spared the shame and danger that their acts would otherwise involve. But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them and gives it to the other persons to whom it doesn't belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another... Then abolish that law without delay; No legal plunder; this is the principle of justice, peace, order, stability, harmony and logic."

Now, according to Heritage Foundation's Index of Dependence on Government, "Despite the famed 1996 Welfare Reform Act and the more recent welfare adjustments in 2006, 60.8 million Americans remain dependent on the government for their daily housing, food, and health care. Starting in 2016, Social Security will not collect enough in taxes to pay all of the promised benefits -- which is a problem for all workers, but especially for the roughly half of the American workforce that has no other retirement program. Add in spiraling academic grants, flat-out farm socialism, and the swelling ranks of Americans who believe themselves entitled to public-sector benefits for which they pay few or no taxes -- and Americans must ask themselves whether they are near a tipping point in the nature of their government." (Also see How the Tax Code is Expanding Government.)

Perversely, almost half of all American workers pay no income tax per the current tax code scheme, though under the Obama plot many now qualify for a tax refund.

Once a majority of Americans can be "protected" from a tax burden, they will ignore the constitutional, moral and civic implications of "progressive taxation."

The fact is that the only way to ensure fiscal accountability at the federal level is to directly spread the cost of government to a much broader number of taxpayers so all Americans "feel the pain." Of course, the Left understands that in order to escape any fiscal accountability, they need only ensure that the cost of government is borne by a targeted minority of income earners.

Obama is now poised to propose the implementation of a supplemental value-added tax, a national sales tax. Though this would seemingly spread the cost of government to all Americans (precisely what liberals want to avoid), Obama's VAT coupled with the myriad proposed exempt products and "rebates" to the "poor," would most assuredly be yet another avenue for the central government to use the tax code to bludgeon a minority of consumers in order to expand its authority and constituencies.

Vladimir Lenin asserted, "The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation."

And that is precisely Obama's political model.

But the problem with the socialist model is, as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher aptly noted, "they always run out of other people's money."

If I could emphasize but one point, it would be this: The Left has bankrupted the nation and the bill for freeloading on others is coming due. It will most certainly be paid back in the currency of liberty.

The time is at hand when we must inquire with a unified voice: "If there is no constitutional authority for most laws and regulations enacted by Congress and enforced by the central government, then by what authority do those entities lay and collect taxes to fund such laws and regulations?" (See the Patriot Declaration.)
23852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Charles Murray: Vouchers, Charter Schools, and , , , on: May 05, 2010, 06:28:36 AM
THE latest evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the oldest and most extensive system of vouchers and charter schools in America, came out last month, and most advocates of school choice were disheartened by the results.

The evaluation by the School Choice Demonstration Project, a national research group that matched more than 3,000 students from the choice program and from regular public schools, found that pupils in the choice program generally had “achievement growth rates that are comparable” to similar Milwaukee public-school students. This is just one of several evaluations of school choice programs that have failed to show major improvements in test scores, but the size and age of the Milwaukee program, combined with the rigor of the study, make these results hard to explain away.

So let’s not try to explain them away. Why not instead finally acknowledge that standardized test scores are a terrible way to decide whether one school is better than another? This is true whether the reform in question is vouchers, charter schools, increased school accountability, smaller class sizes, better pay for all teachers, bonuses for good teachers, firing of bad teachers — measured by changes in test scores, each has failed to live up to its hype.

It should come as no surprise. We’ve known since the landmark Coleman Report of 1966, which was based on a study of more than 570,000 American students, that the measurable differences in schools explain little about differences in test scores. The reason for the perpetual disappointment is simple: Schools control only a small part of what goes into test scores.

Cognitive ability, personality and motivation come mostly from home. What happens in the classroom can have some effect, but smart and motivated children will tend to learn to read and do math even with poor instruction, while not-so-smart or unmotivated children will often have trouble with those subjects despite excellent instruction. If test scores in reading and math are the measure, a good school just doesn’t have that much room to prove it is better than a lesser school.

As an advocate of school choice, all I can say is thank heavens for the Milwaukee results. Here’s why: If my fellow supporters of charter schools and vouchers can finally be pushed off their obsession with test scores, maybe we can focus on the real reason that school choice is a good idea. Schools differ in what they teach and how they teach it, and parents care deeply about both, regardless of whether test scores rise.

Here’s an illustration. The day after the Milwaukee results were released, I learned that parents in the Maryland county where I live are trying to start a charter school that will offer a highly traditional curriculum long on history, science, foreign languages, classic literature, mathematics and English composition, taught with structure and discipline. This would give parents a choice radically different from the progressive curriculum used in the county’s other public schools.

I suppose that test scores might prove that such a charter school is “better” than ordinary public schools, if the test were filled with questions about things like gerunds and subjunctive clauses, the three most important events of 1776, and what Occam’s razor means. But those subjects aren’t covered by standardized reading and math tests. For this reason, I fully expect that students at such a charter school would do little better on Maryland’s standardized tests than comparably smart students in the ordinary public schools.

And yet, knowing that, I would still send my own children to that charter school in a heartbeat. They would be taught the content that I think they need to learn, in a manner that I consider appropriate.

This personal calculation is familiar to just about every parent reading these words. Our children’s education is extremely important to us, and the greater good doesn’t much enter into it — hence all the politicians who oppose vouchers but send their own children to private schools. The supporters of school choice need to make their case on the basis of that shared parental calculation, not on the red herring of test scores.

There are millions of parents out there who don’t have enough money for private school but who have thought just as sensibly and care just as much about their children’s education as affluent people do. Let’s use the money we are already spending on education in a way that gives those parents the same kind of choice that wealthy people, liberal and conservative alike, exercise right now. That should be the beginning and the end of the argument for school choice.

Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of “Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality.”
23853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH on the attempted Times Square bomber on: May 05, 2010, 06:23:33 AM
They took their places in the wood-paneled courtroom, 58 people from 32 countries. They listened as a federal magistrate banged the gavel and said it was “a wonderful day for the United States”— the day they would become Americans.

The magistrate talked about Thomas Jefferson and told the group that they could run for office — only the presidency and the vice presidency were off limits, according to a tape recording of the proceedings in a Bridgeport, Conn., courtroom last year, on April 17. On her instructions, they raised their right hands and repeated the oath of citizenship.
One man in the group was the Pakistani-born Faisal Shahzad, whose father or grandfather was a Pakistani military official and who, at 29, had spent a decade in the United States, collecting a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree and landing a job with a Connecticut financial marketing company.

He had obtained citizenship through marriage to a woman who was born in Colorado — the authorities say she and their two young children are still in Pakistan, where they believe he was trained in making bombs last year in Waziristan, a tribal area that is a haven for militants.

On Saturday, the authorities said, Mr. Shahzad drove a Nissan Pathfinder packed with explosives and detonators, leaving it in Times Square.

About 7 p.m., as a robot from the bomb squad was being summoned to the S.U.V., Mr. Shahzad called his landlord from the train to Connecticut and said he had lost his keys; in a criminal complaint filed on Tuesday, the authorities said the keys had been locked inside the Pathfinder.

The landlord met him at the apartment that night to let him in. “He looked nervous,” said the landlord, Stanislaw Chomiak, who had rented him a two-bedroom apartment in Bridgeport since Feb. 15. “But I thought, of course he’s nervous, he just lost his keys.”

In nearly a dozen years in this country, Mr. Shahzad had gone to school, held steady jobs, bought and sold real estate, and kept his immigration status in good order, giving no sign to those he interacted with that he had connections to terrorists in Pakistan. Nor was there any indication that he would try to wreak havoc in one of the world’s most crowded places, Times Square.

His neighbors in Connecticut said the things neighbors always say about someone who suddenly turns up in the headlines — he was quiet, he was polite, he went jogging late at night. Like so many others, he lost a house to foreclosure — a real estate broker who helped him buy the house, in Shelton, Conn., in 2004 remembered that Mr. Shahzad did not like President George W. Bush or the Iraq war.

“I didn’t take it for much,” said the broker, Igor Djuric, “because around that time not many people did.”

George LaMonica, a 35-year-old computer consultant, said he bought his two-bedroom condominium in Norwalk, Conn., from Mr. Shahzad for $261,000 in May 2004. A few weeks after he moved in, Mr. LaMonica said, investigators from the national Joint Terrorism Task Force interviewed him, asking for details of the transaction and for information about Mr. Shahzad. It struck Mr. LaMonica as unusual, but he said detectives told him they were simply “checking everything out.”

Mr. Shahzad was born in Pakistan in 1979, though there is some confusion over where. Officials in Pakistan said it was in Nowshera, an area in northern Pakistan known for its Afghan refugee camps. But on a university application that Mr. Shahzad had filled out and that was found in the maggot-covered garbage outside the Shelton house on Tuesday, he listed Karachi.

Pakistani officials said Mr. Shahzad was either a son or a grandson of Baharul Haq, who retired as a vice air marshal in 1992 and then joined the Civil Aviation Authority.

A Pakistani official said Mr. Shahzad might have had affiliations with Ilyas Kashmiri, a militant linked to Al Qaeda who was formerly associated with Lashkar-e-Taiba, an anti-India militant group once nurtured by the Pakistani state. But friends said the family was well respected and nonpolitical.

“Neither Faisal nor his family has ever had any links with any jihadist or religious organization,” one friend said. Another, a lawyer, said that “the family is in a state of shock,” adding, “They believe that their son has been implicated in a fake case.”

Mr. Shahzad apparently went back and forth to Pakistan often, returning most recently in February after what he said was five months visiting his family, prosecutors said. A Pakistani intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Mr. Shahzad had traveled with three passports, two from Pakistan and one from the United States; he last secured a Pakistani passport in 2000, describing his nationality as “Kashmiri.”

Mr. Shahzad’s generation grew up in a Pakistan where alcohol had been banned and Islam had been forced into schools and communities as a doctrine and a national glue.
23854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Immigration issues in Britain on: May 05, 2010, 06:13:45 AM
LUTON, England — When Mohammed Qurban stood outside the Jamia mosque in the heavily Muslim Bury Park district on Tuesday and spoke anxiously about Britain’s record-high levels of immigration, he was reflecting a powerful undercurrent that could help tip victory in dozens of constituencies in Thursday’s general election to the main opposition groups vying with the governing Labour Party for power, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Nick Griffin, British National Party leader, waited to confront the Conservatives’ David Cameron in Dagenham on Saturday.
“I think this country is coming overpopulated, too many people coming in from everywhere, especially Europe,” Mr. Qurban said, as fellow worshipers nodded in assent. In particular, he said, thousands of Poles in Luton were taking jobs from the children and grandchildren of a previous generation of immigrants like himself, those who arrived from Pakistan in one of Britain’s early waves of migration in the 1960s.

The conversation with Mr. Qurban, and at least a dozen others like it with Muslims in Luton, captured a shift of potentially far-reaching significance. The most strident opponents of large-scale immigration have traditionally been white, native-born Britons, and their favorite target immigrant blacks and Asians, particularly Muslims.

The incongruity was not lost on Mr. Qurban, 56, a rental agent who seemed keen to separate himself from the skinheads and others whose anti-immigrant agitation has sometimes turned violent. “This is my town, this is my bread-and-butter,” he said. “I’m a law-abiding citizen, never crossed the line, that is definitely out of order. The Poles have a problem at home as we do in Pakistan, no jobs, no money. I want to go along with them. But definitely, it’s up to the government to put a cap on it.”

The Poles, of course, are not technically immigrants. As part of the European Union, Britain is subject to its labor laws, which guarantee free movement of workers among member nations. With the financial crisis and the evaporation of millions of jobs, these legal migrants — accounting for 40 percent of the inflow in Britain — have stirred tensions throughout the union. The other 60 percent are foreigners, most of them illegal immigrants.

Voters consistently rank the high level of immigration as one of the most pressing issues, after the recession-hit economy, the state-run health service and crime. But since the 1950s, when Caribbean immigrants gave the country its first experience of large-scale, sustained population inflows, it has been an issue that has carried the potential for electoral disaster. Then and in succeeding decades, when new arrivals began arriving in large numbers from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, any politician advocating stricter curbs risked drawing charges of racism, as well as alienating increasingly important voter blocs.

But this election has been different, with all three major parties saying something must be done to reduce migrant flows that have brought a net inflow since Labour came to power in 1997 of about two million foreigners, many of them people who found their way into Britain without prior approval. (a.k.a. illegally  rolleyes)

That has been enough to have government statisticians predict that the population of Britain, already one of Europe’s most overcrowded nations, could grow by nearly 10 million, to 70 million, within 20 years, according to the Office for National Statistics, a government agency.

Luton, a city 50 miles northwest of London where a fifth of the population of about 100,000 are of Asian origin, has been a microcosm, in many ways, of the challenges immigration has posed. The party winning the constituency of Luton South, where most of the city’s Muslims live, has won every general election in Britain since 1951.

For the last decade, Luton has been a byword for many of Britain’s social and economic afflictions, as well as for tensions over immigrant communities. It has long been a down-at-the-heels neighbor to the more prosperous cities and towns that surround it. A major blow came in the last decade, when General Motors closed a local car plant, with the loss of more than 30,000 jobs.

When four Islamic suicide bombers attacked London’s transit system on July 7, 2005, killing 56 people, including themselves, they set off from Luton. Last year, Muslim extremists caused an outcry when they disrupted a parade for British soldiers returning from Iraq. Soon after, a Luton mosque was firebombed.

But there has been little sign of ethnic tensions in the current campaign, in which Luton South has been singled out as one of about 100 Labour-held “marginal” seats the Conservatives need as part of their strategy for winning the election. Conservative hopes have been raised by the disgracing of the departing Labour member of Parliament, Margaret Moran, who said she was stepping down after drawing headlines in last year’s scandal over parliamentary expenses.

But the immigration issue is the one that could cut most into the Labour vote. Labour, traditionally strong with immigrants, has defended its record by saying that new rules since the last election have brought arrivals down sharply from a high of 330,000 in 2007 to 250,000 in 2008 — though much of the difference was accounted for by Europeans who chose voluntarily to go home. The Conservatives have said they will introduce a cap on the total numbers, reducing the inflow by as much as 50 percent.

Liberal Democrats also favor a reduction, but would grant an amnesty to an estimated one million illegal immigrants who can prove they have been in Britain for 10 years.

Even the far-right British National Party has changed its policy, bowing to court rulings that threatened it with a ban unless it shed its whites-only dogmas. Now it favors an end to all immigration, although it says people from “alien cultures” should be offered $75,000 each to accept “voluntary repatriation.”

“It’s not about race,” Nick Griffin, the party’s leader, said in an interview over the weekend as he led a noisy protest against David Cameron, the Conservative leader, in the London suburb of Romford. “What we’re saying is, ‘Britain is full up. The door is closed.’ ”

An influential immigration-monitoring group, Migration Watch, says it, too, sees the issue as having moved beyond race. “It’s about numbers and space, not about race,” said Sir Andrew Green, a former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who leads the group. “We’re a very small island, and the issue is what it will mean to the country if the population grows to 70 million in 20 years’ time.”
23855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: May 04, 2010, 04:40:05 PM
IMHO storage technology is accelerating exponentially and costs are dropping dramatically.  No firewall to be found on that front.
23856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WTF?!? :x on: May 04, 2010, 11:58:59 AM
This has me looking like a Jewish Don King

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8EjQrrsZIU&feature=player_embedded

especially when combined with this:

Bailout Bill Would Require Banks to Track and Report Personal Checking Accounts to Feds

Published on 04-30-2010

It’s amazing to watch the civil libertarians hide when Democrats propose the most sweeping intrusions of privacy in generations.  In addition to the litany of bad policies contained in the Dodd Financial Reform bill is this nugget on pages 1039-1040.  In short, it extends government reach to every deposit account of every citizen.

Required Acct MonitoringSubtitle G of the Dodd discussion draft bill requires that records be maintained and reported “for each branch, automated teller machine at which deposits are accepted, and other deposit taking service facility with respect to any financial institution, the financial institution shall maintain a record of the number and dollar amounts of deposit accounts of customers.”

What’s worse, banks will be required to submit these records to the new super regulatory agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (page 1041).  The CFPA will be allowed to use this information for any purpose “as permitted by law” under CFPA rules—rules set by CFPA themselves.

So, lets get this straight—the law requires banks to snoop on its customers MOST PERSONAL INFORMATION and submit it to another government agency so it can be used anyway the CFPA see’s fit.

Must submit to CFPASo, if the CFPA Czar see’s fit, information about your deposit account activity could be shared with the IRS, immigration officials, state officials, or any other entity that the Administration and their various Czar’s think beneficial.

But CFPA will impact your life even before they give away your personal data. Remember that part of the excuse for including this authority is to make policy recommendations. So, be careful not to run your credit limit too high above the amount of money you are depositing in the bank or the CFPA will know you can’t pay your bills and make the appropriate “policy recommendations”.

This is exactly why conservatives have fought so hard against things like national ID cards—if the government is authorized to collect and utilize data, there is no way to prevent the government as a whole or certain individuals within the government from using the information against the citizens.

But passage of the CFPA will settle the whole ID card thing once and for all. There will be no need for them because if you have a bank account, you already have a number and the CFPA will have it.

The breadth of sweeping new powers given to the federal government by these three pages is astonishing.  Yet we have heard nary a peep about this provision.

After capitulation and surrender, Republicans will have a chance to amend the legislation when it comes to the floor of the Senate and protect the private details of your banking account.

But if they don’t, smile the next time you go to the ATM because Big Brother will be watching.

article: http://www.blacklistednews.com/news-8469-0-13-13--.html

 
23857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on: May 04, 2010, 05:46:36 AM
"I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution." --James Madison, letter to Henry Lee, 1824
23858  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Footwear on: May 04, 2010, 05:39:15 AM
BB:

If you do get them, just take the time to ease your way into them.  Tune in to the feedback from your feet.  Listen carefully to the feedback you get as you play with and adjust your gait.  In your case I would pay particular attention to some release of the femur rotators (piriformis and adductors)-- remind me and we will work this a bit at next class.
23859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The fecklessness continues , , , on: May 04, 2010, 05:31:29 AM
WSJ:

UNITED NATIONS — The Obama administration for the first time made public the extent of the U.S.'s atomic weapons arsenal, as the U.S. and Iran dueled for the international backing of their strategic agendas.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad both addressed a special U.N. conference on the global nuclear nonproliferation regime Monday as Washington pushes for a new round of sanctions against Iran for its nuclear work.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Ahmadinejad sought to define the other nation's nuclear capability as the principal threat to international stability. The Iranian president charged Washington with leading a skewed international system that seeks to deny peaceful nuclear power to developing nations while allowing allies such as Israel to stockpile atomic arms.


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad slams U.S. nuclear policy and denies his nation is seeking atomic weapons. Plus, the market rallies on news of a major airline merger and BP begins drilling a relief well in the hopes of stopping the oil from continuing to spill into the Gulf of Mexico.
."The first atomic weapons were produced and used by the United States," Mr. Ahmadinejad said in a 35-minute morning speech laced with religious imagery and idioms. "This seemed … to provide the United States and its allies with the upper hand. However, it became the main source of the development and spread of nuclear weapons."

Mrs. Clinton followed in the afternoon by declaring, to the surprise of some delegates, that the U.S. was announcing the size of its nuclear arsenal, as well as the number of atomic weapons it has destroyed from its arsenal; the Pentagon announced the figures in a news conference on Monday.

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Opponents to Ahmadinejad's regime protested outside the U.N.
.U.S. officials have been working for almost a year to undercut Tehran's charges about Washington's nuclear threat by bringing both transparency to the U.S. program as well as by reducing its numbers. In April, the U.S. and Russia signed a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that lowers the numbers of deployed American and Russian nuclear weapons to their lowest levels since the 1950s. The U.S. also hosted a nuclear security conference in Washington last month.

"So for those who doubt that the U.S. will do its part on disarmament: This is our record—these are our commitments—and they send a clear signal." Mrs. Clinton told the conference.

The Pentagon said the U.S. had a total of 5,113 nuclear warheads in its stockpile as of Sept. 30, plus a few thousand more that had been retired but still needed to be dismantled. Between fiscal years 1994 and 2009, the U.S. dismanted 8,748 nuclear warheads. At its peak at the end of fiscal year 1967, the U.S. had 31,255 warheads, the Pentagon said.

It was the first time the U.S. has disclosed those figures, which had been previously regarded as highly classified. A senior defense official said at a Pentagon briefing that the stockpile had been reduced by 75% since 1989 and roughly 84% since 1967.

Also on Monday, Mrs. Clinton said Washington will continue to increase funding and technical support for countries pursuing civilian nuclear power while adhering to safeguards that prevent the development of military applications.

After Mr. Ahmadinejad had charged the U.S. with double standards by tacitly supporting Israel's assumed nuclear program, Mrs. Clinton said the Obama administration supported a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Mideast once progress is made in pushing forward the Arab-Israeli peace process. She added that the administration would support such zones in Africa and the South Pacific.

The Obama administration is in the final stages of a global push to enact new sanctions on Iran for its nuclear work. Mrs. Clinton on Monday met nations seen as still on the fence on the sanctions issue, such as Brazil. And President Barack Obama released a statement claiming the course of Iran's nuclear work could define whether the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the subject of the monthlong U.N. conference, survives into the 21st century. The NPT holds existing weapons states to reduce their arms and other countries not to pursue them.

Related Video
U.S. and U.K. Step Out as Ahmadinejad Speak
The Ticking Clock on Iran Nukes (04/22/10)
Iran Launches War Games (04/22/10)
Ahmadinejad Criticizes Obama's Nuclear Proposal (04/07/10)
Iran, U.S. Battle in Shadows of Afghan Offensive (03/25/10)

.Further Reading
John Bolton: Get Ready for Nuclear Iran
Metropolis: Who Protects Ahmadinejad in NYC?
U.S. Revises Mideast-Arms Tack
Complete Coverage: WSJ.com/Mideast
.Mr. Ahmadinejad, in his speech, called for a vast remaking of the global institutions guarding the development of nuclear technologies, while denying his own nation was seeking atomic weapons.

British, American and French diplomats walked out of his speech in quick succession about 10 minutes into its delivery.

The U.S. release of nuclear data reverses decades of Cold War doctrine that concluded that the U.S.'s national security could be threatened if Washington's adversaries knew the size and status of its nuclear arsenal. China and Russia have made similar arguments in denying U.S. calls for them to provide greater transparency.

The U.S.'s nuclear program has been regularly tracked by specialty websites. Some voiced little surprise with the released numbers.

The release of the nuclear data was vigorously debated inside the White House and Pentagon, according to U.S. officials. Mrs. Clinton stressed Monday that the conclusion was that it served the U.S.'s national security interests by placing the issue of transparency back on the shoulders of nations such as Iran and North Korea.

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the conference on the enforcement of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Monday.
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.Conservative critics quickly attacked the release of the nuclear data. "From a strategic standpoint I think the problem is that it becomes yet another ax to grind against the United States: You have X and we only have Y, and … we are not going to disarm until you have Y," said Danielle Pletka, vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. "It puts us at parity with other countries, which we are not."
23860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: May 04, 2010, 05:01:03 AM
Amen!!!
23861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT on Recission on: May 03, 2010, 05:24:03 PM
End to Rescission, and More Good News Recommend
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Americans are already starting to see the benefits of health care reform. The new law requires health insurance companies — starting in September — to end their most indefensible practice: rescinding coverage after a policyholder gets sick. In recent days insurers and their trade association have rushed to announce that they will end rescissions immediately.

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That is very good news for the thousands of people who each year pay their premiums but lose their coverage just when they are likely to run up big medical bills.

The insurers decided to act quickly after they were whacked by some very bad publicity. An investigative report by Reuters said that one of the nation’s biggest insurers, WellPoint, was targeting women with breast cancer for fraud investigations that could lead to rescissions.

Although WellPoint fiercely denied singling out breast cancer patients for scrutiny, it acknowledged using computer algorithms to search for a range of conditions that applicants would likely have known about at the time they applied. That seemed like a backhanded admission that it was indeed searching for excuses — the company would say legitimate reasons — to cancel coverage. The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats urged insurers to end rescissions at once.

Insurers claim policies are rescinded only when people have misrepresented or lied about their health status or other important factors at the time of application. Insurers do rescissions only on individual policies, not employer-based coverage. They argued that to keep down rates for the rest of their customers they needed the ability to exclude people who failed to report pre-existing conditions.

An investigation and hearings last year by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce challenged those claims. They found many troubling cases where the pre-existing conditions were trivial, unrelated to the claim, or not known to the patient.

Some companies issued policies quickly to start collecting premiums and only later, if a policyholder filed expensive claims, performed a detailed examination of medical records. If they found any discrepancies or omissions, they would retroactively cancel the policy, refund the premiums paid, and refuse to pay for further medical services. At that point, of course, the applicant would be unable to get coverage from any other insurer.

The House investigation found that three big insurers rescinded some 20,000 policies over a five-year period, and a survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners found more than 27,000 rescissions in an overlapping five-year period. That’s a small percentage of the millions of policies issued or in force in any given year, but a disaster for the thousands of people who lost their insurance.

The insurers were wise to short-circuit the criticisms and end rescissions now. This follows a recent agreement by many companies to start letting dependents stay on their parents’ policies until age 26, which isn’t required until September. Under pressure from the White House, the industry has also agreed to cover children with pre-existing medical conditions as soon as new rules are issued.

Many of the other major provisions of reform don’t kick in until 2014, but it is already changing the behavior of insurers. That means more security for many Americans who might otherwise find insurance unaffordable or unavailable
23862  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Footwear on: May 03, 2010, 05:03:13 PM
"My understanding about the "not suitable" for fucking is that they tend to wear a bit faster than other boots"

 cheesy cheesy cheesy
23863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: May 03, 2010, 04:59:48 PM
Let's take this to the Homeland Security thread.
23864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Music on: May 03, 2010, 11:03:59 AM
Oh I dunno , , , maybe as an extra on one of our DVDs , , ,
23865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: May 03, 2010, 11:03:14 AM
I think GM was asking whether we were glad to have video from a surveillance camera , , ,
23866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bolton: Get ready on: May 03, 2010, 11:00:28 AM
By JOHN BOLTON
Negotiations grind on toward a fourth U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran's nuclear weapons program, even as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives in New York to address the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference. Sanctions advocates acknowledge that the Security Council's ultimate product will do no more than marginally impede Iran's progress.

In Congress, sanctions legislation also creaks along, but that too is simply going through the motions. Russia and China have already rejected key proposals to restrict Iran's access to international financial markets and choke off its importation of refined petroleum products, which domestically are in short supply. Any new U.S. legislation will be ignored and evaded, thus rendering it largely symbolic. Even so, President Obama has opposed the legislation, arguing that unilateral U.S. action could derail his Security Council efforts.

The further pursuit of sanctions is tantamount to doing nothing. Advocating such policies only benefits Iran by providing it cover for continued progress toward its nuclear objective. It creates the comforting illusion of "doing something." Just as "diplomacy" previously afforded Iran the time and legitimacy it needed, sanctions talk now does the same.

Speculating about regime change stopping Iran's nuclear program in time is also a distraction. The Islamic Revolution's iron fist, and willingness to use it against dissenters (who are currently in disarray), means we cannot know whether or when the regime may fall. Long-term efforts at regime change, desirable as they are, will not soon enough prevent Iran from creating nuclear weapons with the ensuing risk of further regional proliferation.

We therefore face a stark, unattractive reality. There are only two options: Iran gets nuclear weapons, or someone uses pre-emptive military force to break Iran's nuclear fuel cycle and paralyze its program, at least temporarily.

There is no possibility the Obama administration will use force, despite its confused and ever-changing formulation about the military option always being "on the table." That leaves Israel, which the administration is implicitly threatening not to resupply with airplanes and weapons lost in attacking Iran—thereby rendering Israel vulnerable to potential retaliation from Hezbollah and Hamas.

It is hard to conclude anything except that the Obama administration is resigned to Iran possessing nuclear weapons. While U.S. policy makers will not welcome that outcome, they certainly hope as a corollary that Iran can be contained and deterred. Since they have ruled out the only immediate alternative, military force, they are doubtless now busy preparing to make lemonade out of this pile of lemons.

President Obama's likely containment/deterrence strategy will feature security assurances to neighboring countries and promises of American retaliation if Iran uses its nuclear weapons. Unfortunately for this seemingly muscular rhetoric, the simple fact of Iran possessing nuclear weapons would alone dramatically and irreparably alter the Middle East balance of power. Iran does not actually have to use its capabilities to enhance either its regional or global leverage.

Facile analogies to Cold War deterrence rest on the dubious, unproven belief that Iran's nuclear calculus will approximate the Soviet Union's. Iran's theocratic regime and the high value placed on life in the hereafter makes this an exceedingly dangerous assumption.

Even if containment and deterrence might be more successful against Iran than just suggested, nuclear proliferation doesn't stop with Tehran. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and perhaps others will surely seek, and very swiftly, their own nuclear weapons in response. Thus, we would imminently face a multipolar nuclear Middle East waiting only for someone to launch first or transfer weapons to terrorists. Ironically, such an attack might well involve Israel only as an innocent bystander, at least initially.

We should recognize that an Israeli use of military force would be neither precipitate nor disproportionate, but only a last resort in anticipatory self-defense. Arab governments already understand that logic and largely share it themselves. Such a strike would advance both Israel's and America's security interests, and also those of the Arab states.

Nonetheless, the intellectual case for that strike must be better understood in advance by the American public and Congress in order to ensure a sympathetic reaction by Washington. Absent Israeli action, no one should base their future plans on anything except coping with a nuclear Iran.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
23867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Borders we deserve on: May 03, 2010, 10:44:31 AM
By ROSS DOUTHAT
Published: May 2, 2010
Critics of Arizona’s new immigration law have not been shy about impugning the motives of its supporters. The measure, which requires police to check the immigration status of people they question or detain, has been denounced as a “Nazi” or “near-fascist” law, a “police state” intervention, an imitation of “apartheid,” a “Juan Crow” regime that only a bigot could possibly support.

Faced with this kind of hyperbole, the supposed bigots have understandably returned the favor, dismissing opponents of the Arizona measure as limousine liberals who don’t understand the grim realities of life along an often-lawless border. And so the debate has become a storm of insults rather than an argument.

On the specifics of the law, Arizona’s critics have legitimate concerns. Their hysteria has been egregious: you would never guess, amid all the heavy breathing about desert fascism, that federal law already requires legal immigrants to carry proof of their status at all times. But the measure is problematic nonetheless. The majority of police officers, already overburdened, will probably enforce it only intermittently. For an overzealous minority, it opens obvious opportunities for harassment and abuse.

Just because this is the wrong way to enforce America’s immigration laws, however, doesn’t mean they don’t need to be enforced. Illegal immigrants are far more sympathetic than your average lawbreaker: they’re risk-takers looking for a better life in the United States, something they have in common with nearly every living American’s ancestors. But by denouncing almost any crackdown on them as inherently bigoted and cruel, the “pro-immigrant” side of the debate is ultimately perpetuating a deeply unjust system.

There’s a good argument, on moral and self-interested grounds alike, that the United States should be as welcoming as possible to immigrants. But there’s no compelling reason that we should decide which immigrants to welcome based on their proximity to our border, and their ability to slip across.

It takes nothing away from Mexico or Mexicans to note that millions upon millions of people worldwide would give anything for the chance to migrate to America. Many come from nations that are poorer than our southern neighbor. Many have endured natural disasters, or suffered political or religious persecution. And many have spent years navigating our byzantine immigration bureaucracy, only to watch politicians in both parties dangle the promise of amnesty in front of people who jumped the border and the line.

As of the mid-2000s, roughly 700,000 migrants were entering the United States illegally every year. Fifty-seven percent came from Mexico, and 24 percent from the rest of Latin America. Only 13 percent came from Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and the Pacific Rim.

In a better world, the United States would welcome hundreds of thousands more legal immigrants annually, from a much wider array of countries. A more diverse immigrant population would have fewer opportunities to self-segregate and stronger incentives to assimilate. Fears of a Spanish-speaking reconquista would diminish, and so would the likelihood of backlash. And instead of being heavily skewed toward low-skilled migrants, our system could tilt toward higher-skilled applicants, making America more competitive and less stratified.

Such a system would also be fairer to the would-be immigrants themselves. America has always prided itself on attracting people from every culture, continent and creed. In a globalized world, aspiring Americans in Zimbabwe or Burma should compete on a level playing field with Mexicans and Salvadorans. The American dream should seem no more unattainable in China than in Chihuahua.

But this can only happen if America first regains control of its southern border. There is a widespread pretense that this has been tried and found to be impossible, when really it’s been found difficult and left untried.

Curbing the demand for illegal workers requires stiff workplace enforcement, stringent penalties for hiring undocumented workers, and shared sacrifice from Americans accustomed to benefiting from cheap labor. Reducing the supply requires bigger Border Patrol budgets and enforcement measures that will inevitably be criticized as draconian: some kind of tamper-proof Social Security card, most likely, and then more physical walls along our southern border, as opposed to the “virtual” wall that the Obama administration seems to be wisely abandoning.

You can see why our leaders would rather duck the problem. But when Washington doesn’t act, the people on the front lines end up taking matters into their own hands.

If you don’t like what Arizona just did, the answer isn’t to scream “fascist!” It’s to demand that the federal government do its job, so that we can have the immigration system that both Americans and immigrants deserve.
=====
PS:  I just made those two call too.
23868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Founding Amateurs? on: May 03, 2010, 10:12:39 AM
By GORDON S. WOOD
Published: May 2, 2010
Providence, R.I.

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THE American public is not pleased with Congress — one recent poll shows that less than a third of all voters are eager to support their representative in November. “I am not really happy right now with anybody,” a woman from Decatur, Ill., recently told a Washington Post reporter. As she considered the prospect of a government composed of fledgling lawmakers, she noted: “When the country was founded, those guys were all pretty new at it. How bad could it be?”

Actually, our founders were not all that new at it: the men who led the revolution against the British crown and created our political institutions were very used to governing themselves. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams and John Adams were all members of their respective Colonial legislatures several years before the Declaration of Independence. In fact, these Revolutionaries drew upon a tradition of self-government that went back a century or more. Virginians ran their county courts and elected representatives to their House of Burgesses. The people of Massachusetts gathered in town meetings and selected members of the General Court, their Colonial legislature.

Of course, women, slaves and men without property could not vote; nevertheless, by the mid-18th century roughly two out of three adult white male colonists could vote, the highest proportion of voters in the world. By contrast, only about one in six adult males in England could vote for members of Parliament.

If one wanted to explain why the French Revolution spiraled out of control into violence and dictatorship and the American Revolution did not, there is no better answer than the fact that the Americans were used to governing themselves and the French were not. In 18th-century France no one voted; their Estates-General had not even met since 1614. The American Revolution occurred when it did because the British government in the 1760s and 1770s suddenly tried to interfere with this long tradition of American self-government.

Of course, a deep distrust of political power, especially executive power, had always been a part of this tradition of self-government. Consequently, when the newly independent Americans drew up their Revolutionary state constitutions in 1776, most states generally limited the number of years their annually elected governors could successively hold office.

“A long continuance in the first executive departments of power or trust is dangerous to liberty,” declared the Maryland Constitution. “A rotation, therefore, in those departments is one of the best securities of permanent freedom.” In addition to specifying term limits for its plural executive, the radical Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 required that after four annual terms even the assemblymen would have to give way to a new set of legislators so they would “return to mix with the mass of the people and feel at their leisure the effects of the laws which they have made.”

At the same time, the Articles of Confederation also provided that no state delegate to the Congress could serve more than three years out of six.

In the decade after the Declaration of Independence, however, many American leaders had second thoughts about what they had done amid the popular enthusiasm of 1776. Since many of the state legislatures were turning over roughly 50 percent of their membership annually and passing a flood of ill-drafted and unjust legislation, stability and experience seemed to be what was most needed.

As a consequence, many leaders in the 1780s proposed major changes to their constitutional structures, including the abolition of term limits. In Pennsylvania, reformers eliminated rotation in office on the grounds that “the privilege of the people in elections is so far infringed as they are thereby deprived of the right of choosing those persons whom they would prefer.”

The new federal Constitution, itself a reaction to the excessive populism of 1776, also did away with any semblance of term limits, much to the chagrin of Thomas Jefferson and many others uneasy over the extraordinary power of the presidency. Jefferson thought that without rotation in office the president would always be re-elected and thus would serve for life. When he became president he stepped down after two terms and thus affirmed the precedent that Washington had established — a precedent finally made part of the Constitution by the 22nd Amendment in 1951.

Although federal term limits have been confined to the presidency, the fear of entrenched and far-removed political power, as the present anti-incumbency mood suggests, remains very much part of American popular culture. Yet precisely because we are such a rambunctious and democratic people, as the framers of 1787 appreciated, we have learned that a government made up of rotating amateurs cannot maintain the steadiness and continuity that our expansive Republic requires.

Gordon S. Wood, a professor emeritus of history at Brown, is the author, most recently, of “Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815.”
23869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: May 03, 2010, 08:32:00 AM
"They are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose. To consider the latter phrase not as describing the purpose of the first, but as giving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please which may be good for the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please.... Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It was intended to lace them up straightly within the enumerated powers and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect." --Thomas Jefferson, Opinion on National Bank, 1791

"The Constitution on which our Union rests, shall be administered by me [as President] according to the safe and honest meaning contemplated by the plain understanding of the people of the United States at the time of its adoption -- a meaning to be found in the explanations of those who advocated, not those who opposed it, and who opposed it merely lest the construction should be applied which they denounced as possible." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Mesrs. Eddy, Russel, Thurber, Wheaton and Smith, 1801
23870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: May 02, 2010, 05:36:54 PM
Additional comments from my friend:

I am not beating the drum for the ratings agencies to be “the responsible party”.  I am merely pointing out that the ratings agencies were an important part of the entire regulated system.  The regulatory system encouraged reliance upon the evaluations of the agencies.

 

As the 1990’s progressed, purchasers of credit securities wanted higher yields than government bonds and bank deposit interest were providing.  Mortgage securities appeared to be the right answer to this market demand.  Conventional wisdom held that real estate value would remain relatively stable.  Default rates were low and predictable.  In fact, prepayment was thought to be the biggest risk to an MBS holder.  Yields were better than traditionally safe investments.  Prepayment and default risk could be minimized by spreading these risks across large pools of mortgages.  The largest issuers of MBS were Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both of which possessed the undeclared backing of the federal government.

 

As interest rates remained low in this decade, more and more investors flocked to the higher relative yields of the MBS.  This led Wall Street to create derivatives so that large holders of MBS could hedge their risk.  In this environment, there were likely sales abuses.  However, Wall Street did not cause large numbers of sophisticated and unsophisticated investors to buy mortgage debt and the derivatives of mortgage debt.  Higher yield combined with apparent relative safety caused the demand for these securities to skyrocket.

 

The systemic failure in this area occurred because the assumptions in the generally accepted risk models failed.  The regulators and Wall Street all accepted these assumptions.  Buyers of the debt securities accepted these assumptions.  When the risk model failed, owners of these securities wanted to know the specific default risk they faced in each mortgage security that they owned.  That specific risk was not easily determinable because the securities themselves were complicated.  If someone owned a derivative, they needed first to learn the identities of the actual mortgage securities that the derivative concerned.  Then, they needed to determine the state of the actual mortgages covered by the security referenced by the derivative.  Supply flooded the secondary credit markets and bids dried up because potential buyers could not easily determine the default risk in any security that had been offered.

 

Most everyone in most mortgage securities transactions believed in the same risk models.  The regulators believed in the same risk models.  The rating agencies believed in the same risk models.  The Wall Street firms that made markets, that bought, and that sold these securities believed in the same risk models.  Only a few short sellers using credit default swaps began to doubt those models.

 

Without the demand for higher yields and without the assumption that mortgage securities were almost as safe as US government debt, capital would not have flowed into mortgage securities.  Without that capital, New Century, WaMu, Countrywide and all of the other sub-prime and Alt-A blackguards would not have had possessed capital sufficient to make all of their bad loans.  This does not excuse the fraud at mortgage origination and any fraud committed by any Wall Street firm that marketed mortgage securities and their derivatives.  IMO, however, these things occurred because of the systemic failure; they did not cause the systemic failure.
23871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Drill, baby, drill? on: May 02, 2010, 05:32:47 PM
Most of us here are of the "Drill, baby, drill!" school of thought.  What do we have to say about events in the Gulf of Mexico?
23872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dirty Bombs on: May 02, 2010, 09:10:32 AM
Dirty Bombs Revisited: Combating the Hype
April 22, 2010
By Scott Stewart

Debunking Myths About Nuclear Weapons and Terrorism

As STRATFOR has noted for several years now, media coverage of the threat posed by dirty bombs runs in a perceptible cycle with distinct spikes and lulls. We are currently in one of the periods of heightened awareness and media coverage. A number of factors appear to have sparked the current interest, including the recently concluded Nuclear Security Summit hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama. Other factors include the resurfacing rumors that al Qaeda militant Adnan El Shukrijumah may have returned to the United States and is planning to conduct an attack, as well as recent statements by members of the Obama administration regarding the threat of jihadist militants using weapons of mass destruction (WMD). A recent incident in India in which a number of people were sickened by radioactive metal at a scrap yard in a New Delhi slum also has received a great deal of media coverage.

In spite of the fact that dirty bombs have been discussed widely in the press for many years now — especially since the highly publicized arrest of Jose Padilla in May 2002 — much misinformation and disinformation continues to circulate regarding dirty bombs. The misinformation stems from long-held misconceptions and ignorance, while the disinformation comes from scaremongers hyping the threat for financial or political reasons. Frankly, many people have made a lot of money by promoting fear since 9/11.

Just last week, we read a newspaper article in which a purported expert interviewed by the reporter discussed how a dirty bomb would “immediately cause hundreds or even thousands of deaths.” This is simply not true. A number of radiological accidents have demonstrated that a dirty bomb will not cause this type of death toll. Indeed, the panic generated by a dirty bomb attack could very well result in more immediate deaths than the detonation of the device itself. Unfortunately, media stories hyping the threat of these devices may foster such panic, thus increasing the death toll. To counter this irrational fear, we feel it is time once again to discuss dirty bombs in detail and provide our readers with a realistic assessment of the threat they pose.

Dirty Bombs Defined
A dirty bomb is a type of radiological dispersal device (RDD), and RDDs are, as the name implies, devices that disperse a radiological isotope. Depending on the motives of those planning the attack, an RDD could be a low-key weapon that surreptitiously releases aerosolized radioactive material, dumps out a finely powdered radioactive material or dissolves a radioactive material in water. Such surreptitious dispersal methods would be intended to slowly expose as many people as possible to the radiation and to prolong their exposure. Unless large amounts of a very strong radioactive material are used, however, the effects of such an exposure will be limited. People are commonly exposed to heightened levels of radiation during activities such as air travel and mountain climbing. To cause adverse effects, radiation exposure must occur either in a very high dose over a short period or in smaller doses sustained over a longer period. This is not to say that radiation is not dangerous, but rather the idea that the slightest amount of exposure to radiation causes measurable harm is not accurate.

By its very nature, the RDD is contradictory. Maximizing the harmful effects of radiation involves maximizing the exposure of the victims to the highest possible concentration of a radioisotope. When dispersing the radioisotope, by definition and design the RDD dilutes the concentration of the radiation source, spreading smaller amounts of radiation over a larger area. Additionally, the use of an explosion to disperse the radioisotope alerts the intended victims, who can then evacuate the affected area and be decontaminated. These factors make it very difficult for an attacker to administer a deadly dose of radiation via a dirty bomb.

It is important to note that a dirty bomb is not a nuclear device, and no nuclear reaction occurs. A dirty bomb will not produce an effect like the nuclear devices dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki. A dirty bomb is quite simply an RDD that uses explosives as the means to disperse a radioactive isotope, and the only blast effect will be from the explosives used to disperse the radioisotope. In a dirty bomb attack, radioactive material not only is dispersed, but the dispersal is accomplished in an obvious manner, and the explosion immediately alerts the victims and authorities that an attack has taken place. The attackers hope that notice of their attack will cause mass panic — in other words, the RDD is a weapon of fear and terror.

The radioisotopes that can be used to construct an RDD are fairly common. Even those materials considered by many to be the most likely to be used in an RDD, such as cobalt-60 and cesium-137, have legitimate medical, commercial and industrial uses. Organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency warn that such radioisotopes are readily available to virtually any country in the world, and they are almost certainly not beyond the reach of even moderately capable non-state actors. Indeed, given the ease of obtaining radiological isotopes and the ease with which a dirty bomb can be constructed, we are surprised that we have not seen one successfully used in a terror attack. We continue to believe that it is only a matter of time before a dirty bomb is effectively employed somewhere. Because of this, let’s examine what effectively employing a dirty bomb means.

Dirty Bomb Effectiveness
Like a nonexplosive RDD, unless a dirty bomb contains a large amount of very strong radioactive material, the effects of the device are not likely to be immediate and dramatic. In fact, the explosive effect of the RDD is likely to kill more people than the device’s radiological effect. This need for a large quantity of a radioisotope not only creates the challenge of obtaining that much radioactive material, it also means that such a device would be large and unwieldy — and therefore difficult to smuggle into a target such as a subway or stadium.

In practical terms, a dirty bomb can produce a wide range of effects depending on the size of the improvised explosive device (IED) and the amount and type of radioactive material involved. (Powdered radioisotopes are easier to disperse than materials in solid form.) Environmental factors such as terrain, weather conditions and population density would also play an important role in determining the effects of such a device.

Significantly, while the radiological effects of a dirty bomb may not be instantly lethal, the radiological impact of an RDD will in all likelihood affect an area larger than the killing radius of the IED itself, and will persist for far longer. The explosion from a conventional IED is over in an instant, but radiation released by a RDD can persist for decades unless the area is decontaminated. While the radiation level may not be strong enough to affect people exposed briefly in the initial explosion, the radiation will persist in the contaminated area, and the cumulative effects of such radiation could prove very hazardous. (Here again, the area contaminated and the ease of decontamination will depend on the type and quantity of the radioactive material used. Materials in a fine powdered form are easier to disperse and harder to clean up than solid blocks of material.) In either case, it will be necessary to evacuate people from the contaminated area, and people will need to stay out of the area until it can be decontaminated, a process that could prove lengthy and expensive.

Therefore, while a dirty bomb is not truly a WMD like a nuclear device, we frequently refer to them as “weapons of mass disruption” or “weapons of mass dislocation” because they may temporarily render contaminated areas uninhabitable. The expense of decontaminating a large, densely populated area, such as a section of London or Washington, is potentially quite high. This cost would also make a dirty bomb a type of economic weapon.

Historical Precedents
The world has not yet witnessed a successful dirty bomb attack by a terrorist or militant group. That does not necessarily mean that militant groups have not been interested in radiological weapons, however. Chechen militants have perhaps been the most active in the realm of radioactive materials. In November 1995, Chechen militants under the command of Shamil Basayev placed a small quantity of cesium-137 in Moscow’s Izmailovsky Park. Rather than disperse the material, however, the Chechens used the material as a psychological weapon by directing a TV news crew to the location and thus creating a media storm and fostering public fear. The material in this incident was thought to have been obtained from a nuclear waste or isotope storage facility in the Chechen capital of Grozny.

In December 1998, the pro-Russian Chechen Security Service announced it had found a dirty bomb consisting of a land mine combined with radioactive materials next to a railway line frequently used to transport Russian troops. It is believed that Chechen militants planted the device. In September 1999, two Chechen militants who attempted to steal highly radioactive materials from a chemical plant in Grozny were incapacitated after carrying the container for only a few minutes each; one reportedly died. This highlights another difficulty with producing a really effective dirty bomb: The strongest radioactive material is dangerous to handle, and even a suicide operative might not be able to move and employ it before being overtaken by its effects.

Still, none of these Chechen incidents really provided a very good example of what a dirty bomb detonation would actually look like. To do this, we need to look at incidents where radiological isotopes were dispersed by accident. In 1987, in Goiania, Brazil, a tiny radiotherapy capsule of cesium chloride salt was accidentally broken open after being salvaged from a radiation therapy machine left at an abandoned health care facility. Over the course of 15 days, the capsule containing the radioisotope was handled by a number of people who were fascinated by the faint blue glow it gave off. Some victims reportedly even smeared the substance on their bodies. The radiation was then dispersed by these people to various parts of the surrounding neighborhood, and some of it was even taken to nearby towns. In all, more than 1,000 people were contaminated during the incident and some 244 were found to have significant radioactive material in or on their bodies. Still, only four people died from the incident, and most of those who died had sustained exposure to the contamination. In addition to the human toll, the cleanup operation in Goiania cost more than $100 million, as many houses had to be razed and substantial quantities of contaminated soil had to be removed from the area.

In a more recent case involving a scrap dealer, this time in a slum outside New Delhi, India, eight people were admitted to the hospital because of radiation exposure after a scrap dealer dismantled an object containing cobalt-60. The material apparently arrived at a scrap shop March 12, and the owner of the shop was admitted to the hospital April 4 suffering from radiation-poisoning symptoms (again another case involving prolonged exposure to a radiation source). The radiation source was found at the scrap yard April 5 and identified as cobalt-60. Indian authorities hauled away eight piles of contaminated scrap. The cleanup operation was easier in the Indian incident, since the radioactive material was in metallic form and found in larger pieces rather than in powdered form seen in the cesium in Goiania. Intriguingly, a nearby scrap shop also was found to be contaminated April 16, but it appears from initial reports that the second site was contaminated by a second radioactive source that contained a weaker form of cobalt-60. Though we are watching for additional details on this case, so far, despite the long-term exposure to a potent radioactive source, no deaths have been reported.

At the other end of the spectrum from the Goiania and New Delhi accidents is the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in northern Ukraine, when a 1-gigawatt power reactor exploded. It is estimated that more than one hundred times the radiation of the Hiroshima bomb was released during the accident — the equivalent of 50 million to 250 million grams of radium. More than 40 different radioisotopes were released, and there was a measurable rise in cesium-137 levels across the entire European continent. No RDD could ever aspire to anything close to such an effect.

Chernobyl wrought untold suffering, and estimates suggest that it may ultimately contribute to the deaths of 9,000 people. But many of those affected by the radiation are still alive more than 20 years after the accident. While STRATFOR by no means seeks to downplay the tragic human or environmental consequences of this disaster, the incident is instructive when contemplating the potential effects of a dirty bomb attack. In spite of the incredible amounts of radioactive material released at Chernobyl, only 31 people died in the explosion and immediate aftermath. Today, 5.5 million people live in the contaminated zone — many within or near the specified EU dosage limits for people living near operational nuclear power plants.

It is this type of historical example that causes us to be so skeptical regarding claims that a small dirty bomb will cause hundreds or even thousands of deaths. Instead, the most strategic consequences of this sort of destruction are economic. By some estimates, the Chernobyl disaster will ultimately cost well in excess of $100 billion. Again, in our opinion, a dirty bomb should be considered a weapon of disruption — one that will cause economic loss, but would not cause mass casualties or any real mass destruction.

Fighting Panic
Analytically, based upon the ease of manufacture and the historical interest by militants in dirty bombs — which ironically may in part be due to the way the RDD threat has been hyped — it is only a matter of time before militants successfully employ one. Since the contamination created by such a device can be long-lasting, more rational international actors probably would prefer to detonate such a device against a target outside their own country. In other words, they would lean toward attacking a target within the United States or United Kingdom rather than the U.S. or British embassies in their home country.

And since it is not likely to produce mass casualties, a dirty bomb attack would likely be directed against a highly symbolic target — such as one representing the economy or government — and designed to cause the maximum amount of disruption at the target site. Therefore, it is not out of the question to imagine such an attack aimed at a target such as Wall Street or the Pentagon. The device would not destroy these sites, but would limit access to them for as long as it took to decontaminate them.

As noted above, we believe it is possible that the panic caused by a dirty bomb attack could well kill more people than the device itself. People who understand the capabilities and limitations of dirty bombs are less likely to panic than those who do not, which is the reason for this analysis. Another important way to help avoid panic is to carefully think about such an incident in advance and to put in place a carefully crafted contingency plan for your family and business. Contingency plans are especially important for those who work in proximity to a potential dirty bomb target. But they are useful in any disaster, whether natural or man-made, and something that should be practiced by all families and businesses. Such knowledge and planning provide people with the ability to conduct an orderly and methodical evacuation of the affected area. This allows them to minimize their exposure to radioactivity while also minimizing their risk of injury or death due to mass hysteria. For while a dirty bomb attack could well be messy and disruptive, it does not have to be deadly.
23873  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Military tells Congress to keep "Don't ask, don't tell" for now on: May 02, 2010, 09:02:11 AM
Military tells Congress to keep gay ban for now - Yahoo! News

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100430/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_military_gays
23874  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knife Talk - Reviews and Rants on: May 01, 2010, 02:04:01 PM
*That design is not for me at all.

*What do you mean by " wave action knives are starting to become a issue in California"?
23875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Good analysis of Mortgage fraud and regulatory issues on: May 01, 2010, 11:15:44 AM
A friend writes:

I am not claiming the absence of fraud in the origination of mortgages.  I am talking about the impact of mortgage securities and derivatives of mortgage securities upon the balance sheets of deposit banks and investment banks.  Also, I am talking about the creation and sale of these securities and derivative securities by investment banks to other institutional investors.

 

As the real estate boom progressed, banks and mortgage companies originated more and more bad mortgage loans.  These loans continued to be securitized along with the good loans that were originated at the same time.  Even though these mortgage securities contained the bad loans, federal government approved credit rating agencies continued to rate these securities as AAA and AA debt.  Why?  Mainly because of flawed risk models that ignored the individual components of the mortgage security and focused upon quantitative analyses of probable default rates.  These models underestimated the probability and the size of the eventual default rates.

 

The Basel accords encouraged deposit banks and investment banks to invest their own capital into low risk assets.  They also encouraged the same institutions to rely upon the government approved ratings agencies to determine the risk of their assets.  Why?  Because the banks could then show their regulators that government regulated third parties without any financial interest in the bank had determined the riskiness of their assets.

 

Why was there a sudden demand by institutions and people to own mortgage securities?  Simply, it was the low interest rate environment created by the regulators of the deposit banks.  Everyone from Lehman to my parents wanted higher interest.  Mortgages were safe because real estate never went down in value.  Right?

 

So, then, let’s address David’s original complaint.  It focused upon the creators and sellers of the mortgage securities and the derivatives of those securities.  Let’s assume David’s opinion is entirely true.  Still, the investment banks and securities firms operate in a highly regulated environment.  They are self-regulated by FINRA.  In turn, the SEC oversees and must approve every FINRA regulation that is implemented.  Moreover, the SEC itself directly regulates the investment advisory business at these big investment banks, hedge funds at and independent of these banks, and the securities themselves.

 

The Federal Reserve, the OCC, the States’ banking regulators, and the FDIC all regulate and oversee the deposit banks.  Their examiners obviously saw that these banks owned growing amounts of mortgage securities on their balance sheets.  None of these regulators thought to ask these banks why they owned mortgages originated at other banks and not their own.  Why?  Because all of these securities were comprised of slices of lots of mortgages thereby spreading the risk even better than keeping one’s own mortgages plus the regulated ratings agencies all said that this paper was rated AAA and AA.  Diversification.  Ratings.

 

The reason that internal “whistleblowers” (and I use that term loosely) like Mr. Lee were ignored was simply that their employers owned stuff that was rated investment grade and that the employers had bought into the flawed risk model.  Government approved regulators had also approved the risk models.  So had the ratings agencies. 

 

The only effective risk management came from the short sellers like Paulson.  They were the only people that actually looked into the individual mortgage components of each security and derivative.  Also, they had studied the residential and commercial real estate markets and had concerns about another cycle of oversupply.  But they needed investment vehicles through which they could invest against mortgage securities according to their analyses.  Hence, the synthetic CDO.  But since the synthetic CDO is also a security, it, too, is regulated by the SEC.

 

So, the solution proposed by the political class is to create more of the same type of regulatory institutions that have missed the excesses of every investment and credit cycle since their creation.  Yep, next time, it will be different.  Right.  Like Natalie Wood’s character in Miracle on 34th Street, “I believe.  I believe.  I believe …”
23876  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knife Talk - Reviews and Rants on: May 01, 2010, 11:11:19 AM
Spyderco's "Pa'kal" designed by my friend Southnark (whose DVD we carry at
 http://dogbrothers.com/store/product_info.php?cPath=39&products_id=135 ) IMHO is an excellent exectution of the reverse grip reverse edge concept.  The locking mechanism seems unusually sound and solid to me as well, and its wave opening technology is among the very fastest I have seen.
23877  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Kali Tudo 3 on: May 01, 2010, 11:06:49 AM
The edit of Kali Tudo 3 is coming along nicely.  We will be integrating some footage shot last year in Hawaii with the Hawaii Clan of the DBs of the Malayu Game.



As discussed and shown in our "Staff" DVD, "Malayu" means "Malaysian" and is a reference to the Malayu Sibat (Malaysian Staff) structure that I learned in the Philippines from GT Leo Gaje.  For us it is the name of the core power strike in this system.



Friday afternoon is open mat time at Rigan Machado's and is one of my favorite sessions of the week and has become part of my conditioning program.  Rolled last night for a solid 75 minutes, including the last 15 minutes doing friendly stand up MMA sparring with a nice purple belt.  Integrating the Malayu Game and the Bolo Game was working really nicely.   



Now a big tough young blue wants to try me next week.



The Adventure continues!
23878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: May 01, 2010, 10:41:08 AM
URL?  Source?
23879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / It works! on: May 01, 2010, 10:39:30 AM
http://www.nationalledger.com/ledgerdc/article_272631548.shtml

@ Rarick:  Clearly you have not seen her dance grin  

@CCP: Of course her looks do not qualify her, any more than looks qualify a goodly % of the news personalities on FOX or elsewhere.

Question to all:  Why do we have no Shakiras on our side, speaking up for defending our borders.
23880  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: April 30, 2010, 09:00:57 PM
Grateful for a nice 75 minute jits roll with a bit of Kali Tudo thrown in.
23881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: April 30, 2010, 08:50:38 PM
Yeah, but she is seriously HOT :-)o==8  grin
23882  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Some legal facts on AZ law on: April 30, 2010, 11:23:23 AM
The Foundation
"Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in society, conforming, as I doubt not you will do, to our established rules. That these rules shall be as equal as prudential considerations will admit, will certainly be the aim of our legislatures, general and particular." --Thomas Jefferson


Government & Politics
Arizona Immigration Brouhaha

Did these guys just come to work?Last week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, signed a tough new law designed to crack down on the flood of illegal immigration in the state and the violence and mayhem that has accompanied it. Political mayhem is the price of the law's enactment.

Stepped-up enforcement of the border in California and Texas has funneled much of the illegal alien traffic and cross-border smuggling through Arizona. A sharp increase in crime has resulted, with Phoenix now being the kidnap capital of the United States. Ranchers near the border live under a state of siege, but demands that the federal government take aggressive remedial action have been unavailing. The recent murder of Rob Krentz, a kind-hearted rancher who often assisted desperate immigrants abused and abandoned by their "coyote" guides, prompted widespread outrage at the federal government's fundamental failure to protect its citizens against a dangerous foreign invasion.

The race-baiting grievance mongers wasted no time in denouncing the law. Vandals smeared refried beans in the shape of a swastika on the Arizona Capitol building (which we find to be an incredibly strange mixed message). Some leftist church leaders denounced the law as "hateful." Race hustler Jesse Jackson called it "terrorism." Calling it "stupid," "an embarrassment" and "racist," Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik (Tucson) said he would refuse to enforce it.

Latino activist and far-left Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) called for a boycott of his own state, saying, "I support some very targeted economic sanctions on the state of Arizona. We will be asking national organizations -- civil, religious, political -- not to have conferences and conventions in the state of Arizona. There has to be an economic consequence to this action and to this legislation." We're sure Arizona's 2.3 million unemployed will thank Grijalva for his principled stand.

Meanwhile, in a stunning display of hypocrisy, the government of Mexico issued a travel advisory and expressed concern about the rights of its citizens in the United States. Of course, Mexico plays by much more stringent rules when dealing with its own immigration issues.

These critics either haven't read the law or, more likely, don't want to be bothered with reality. Among other things, Arizona's new law makes it a state crime for people to be in Arizona if they are in the United States illegally. If the police have an otherwise lawful encounter with someone, and if they have "reasonable suspicion" that the person is in the United States illegally, the police are required to ask for documentation of immigration status. An Arizona driver's license is presumptive proof of lawful status.

The law specifically forbids police from basing their actions solely on someone's race or ethnicity. It also compels the police to base their "reasonable suspicion" on criteria that are permissible under the U.S. and Arizona constitutions. Moreover, when she signed the bill, Gov. Brewer issued an executive order directing additional training specifically to avoid racial profiling when the law is enforced.

The new law, which in many places quotes federal law verbatim, was enacted because of the failure at the federal level to enforce those same laws. None of this matters to the Left. With tactics straight out of Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals," they have demonized everyone who dares stand up for responsible enforcement of our laws and for the protection of our citizens.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama declared that the nation may not have the "appetite" for an immigration fight this year, so he removed the issue from his agenda. That's a relief.
23883  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: April 30, 2010, 07:56:08 AM
GM:

An excellent piece that gives me specific ammo in dealing with hysteria.
23884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Robert Hicks on: April 30, 2010, 07:52:20 AM
Someone had called to say the Ku Klux Klan was coming to bomb Robert Hicks’s house. The police said there was nothing they could do. It was the night of Feb. 1, 1965, in Bogalusa, La.

 
Associated Press
Robert Hicks in 1965, the year of a sit-in by blacks at a cafe in Bogalusa, La., where he lived.
The Klan was furious that Mr. Hicks, a black paper mill worker, was putting up two white civil rights workers in his home. It was just six months after three young civil rights workers had been murdered in Philadelphia, Miss.

Mr. Hicks and his wife, Valeria, made some phone calls. They found neighbors to take in their children, and they reached out to friends for protection. Soon, armed black men materialized. Nothing happened.

Less than three weeks later, the leaders of a secretive, paramilitary organization of blacks called the Deacons for Defense and Justice visited Bogalusa. It had been formed in Jonesboro, La., in 1964 mainly to protect unarmed civil rights demonstrators from the Klan. After listening to the Deacons, Mr. Hicks took the lead in forming a Bogalusa chapter, recruiting many of the men who had gone to his house to protect his family and guests.

Mr. Hicks died of cancer at his home in Bogalusa on April 13 at the age of 81, his wife said. He was one of the last surviving Deacon leaders.

But his role in the civil rights movement went beyond armed defense in a corner of the Jim Crow South. He led daily protests month after month in Bogalusa — then a town of 23,000, of whom 9,000 were black — to demand rights guaranteed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And he filed suits that integrated schools and businesses, reformed hiring practices at the mill and put the local police under a federal judge’s control.

It was his leadership role with the Deacons that drew widest note, however. The Deacons, who grew to have chapters in more than two dozen Southern communities, veered sharply from the nonviolence preached by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They carried guns, with the mission to protect against white aggression, citing the Second Amendment.

And they used them. A Bogalusa Deacon pulled a pistol in broad daylight during a protest march in 1965 and put two bullets into a white man who had attacked him with his fists. The man survived. A month earlier, the first black deputy sheriff in the county had been assassinated by whites.

When James Farmer, national director of the human rights group the Congress of Racial Equality, joined protests in Bogalusa, one of the most virulent Klan redoubts, armed Deacons provided security.

Dr. King publicly denounced the Deacons’ “aggressive violence.” And Mr. Farmer, in an interview with Ebony magazine in 1965, said that some people likened the Deacons to the K.K.K. But Mr. Farmer also pointed out that the Deacons did not lynch people or burn down houses. In a 1965 interview with The New York Times Magazine, he spoke of CORE and the Deacons as “a partnership of brothers.”

The Deacons’ turf was hardscrabble Southern towns where Klansmen and law officers aligned against civil rights campaigners. “The Klan did not like being shot at,” said Lance Hill, author of “The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement”(2004).

In July 1965, escalating hostilities between the Deacons and the Klan in Bogalusa provoked the federal government to use Reconstruction-era laws to order local police departments to protect civil rights workers. It was the first time the laws were used in the modern civil rights era, Mr. Hill said.

Adam Fairclough, in his book “Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972” (1995), wrote that Bogalusa became “a major test of the federal government’s determination to put muscle into the Civil Rights Act in the teeth of violent resistance from recalcitrant whites.”

Mr. Hicks was repeatedly jailed for protesting. He watched as his 15-year-old son was bitten by a police dog. The Klan displayed a coffin with his name on it beside a burning cross. He persisted, his wife said, for one reason: “It was something that needed to be done.”

Robert Hicks was born in Mississippi on Feb. 20, 1929. His father, Quitman, drove oxen to harvest trees for the paper mill. He played football on a state championship high school team and later for the semi-professional Bogalusa Bushmen.

He was known for his generosity: at the Baptist congregation where he was a deacon, he bought new suits for poor members. As the first black supervisor at the mill, he helped a young man amass enough overtime to buy the big car he dreamed of. Children all over town called him Dad, his son Charles said.

A leader in the local N.A.A.C.P. and his segregated union, Mr. Hicks was the logical choice to head the Bogalusa Civic and Voters League when it was formed to lead the local civil rights effort. He was first president, then vice president of the Deacons in Bogalusa.

Besides Valeria Hicks, his wife of 62 years, and his son Charles, Mr. Hicks is survived by three other sons, Gregory, Robert Lawrence and Darryl; his daughter, Barbara Hicks Collins; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

By 1968, the Deacons had pretty much vanished. In time they were “hardly a footnote in most books on the civil rights movement,” Mr. Hill said. He attributed this to a “mythology” that the rights movement was always nonviolent.

Mrs. Hicks said she was glad it was not.

“I became very proud of black men,” she said. “They didn’t bow down and scratch their heads. They stood up like men.”
23885  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Footwear on: April 30, 2010, 07:51:26 AM
Amen to the foot being the best design of all!

I am intrigued by what I read about the Nike on the site but

a)in that I am doing some rucking right now I wonder about the occasional comments about not suitable for rucking; and

b) when I worked with 5th SF a few years ago, several of the guys were wearing some really slick looking Converse boots, so I bought a pair.  For my feet they were a mistake.  I hardly ever wear them.  Lesson learned-- buy according to what my feet like. 

c) The idea of having to send them back if the size I select turns out to be not quite right is unappealing.

Therefore I am reluctant to buy them online, but would love to give them a try in a store.  Is there some way I could find out who stocks them close to me?  I am in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County.

Please tell me about the Tarahumara sandals.  I know who the Tarahumara Indians are and their reputation as super long distance runners over uneven terrain, so I most certainly am intrigued.
23886  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / RIP Robert Hicks on: April 30, 2010, 07:33:05 AM
Someone had called to say the Ku Klux Klan was coming to bomb Robert Hicks’s house. The police said there was nothing they could do. It was the night of Feb. 1, 1965, in Bogalusa, La.

 
Associated Press
Robert Hicks in 1965, the year of a sit-in by blacks at a cafe in Bogalusa, La., where he lived.
The Klan was furious that Mr. Hicks, a black paper mill worker, was putting up two white civil rights workers in his home. It was just six months after three young civil rights workers had been murdered in Philadelphia, Miss.

Mr. Hicks and his wife, Valeria, made some phone calls. They found neighbors to take in their children, and they reached out to friends for protection. Soon, armed black men materialized. Nothing happened.

Less than three weeks later, the leaders of a secretive, paramilitary organization of blacks called the Deacons for Defense and Justice visited Bogalusa. It had been formed in Jonesboro, La., in 1964 mainly to protect unarmed civil rights demonstrators from the Klan. After listening to the Deacons, Mr. Hicks took the lead in forming a Bogalusa chapter, recruiting many of the men who had gone to his house to protect his family and guests.

Mr. Hicks died of cancer at his home in Bogalusa on April 13 at the age of 81, his wife said. He was one of the last surviving Deacon leaders.

But his role in the civil rights movement went beyond armed defense in a corner of the Jim Crow South. He led daily protests month after month in Bogalusa — then a town of 23,000, of whom 9,000 were black — to demand rights guaranteed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And he filed suits that integrated schools and businesses, reformed hiring practices at the mill and put the local police under a federal judge’s control.

It was his leadership role with the Deacons that drew widest note, however. The Deacons, who grew to have chapters in more than two dozen Southern communities, veered sharply from the nonviolence preached by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They carried guns, with the mission to protect against white aggression, citing the Second Amendment.

And they used them. A Bogalusa Deacon pulled a pistol in broad daylight during a protest march in 1965 and put two bullets into a white man who had attacked him with his fists. The man survived. A month earlier, the first black deputy sheriff in the county had been assassinated by whites.

When James Farmer, national director of the human rights group the Congress of Racial Equality, joined protests in Bogalusa, one of the most virulent Klan redoubts, armed Deacons provided security.

Dr. King publicly denounced the Deacons’ “aggressive violence.” And Mr. Farmer, in an interview with Ebony magazine in 1965, said that some people likened the Deacons to the K.K.K. But Mr. Farmer also pointed out that the Deacons did not lynch people or burn down houses. In a 1965 interview with The New York Times Magazine, he spoke of CORE and the Deacons as “a partnership of brothers.”

The Deacons’ turf was hardscrabble Southern towns where Klansmen and law officers aligned against civil rights campaigners. “The Klan did not like being shot at,” said Lance Hill, author of “The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement”(2004).

In July 1965, escalating hostilities between the Deacons and the Klan in Bogalusa provoked the federal government to use Reconstruction-era laws to order local police departments to protect civil rights workers. It was the first time the laws were used in the modern civil rights era, Mr. Hill said.

Adam Fairclough, in his book “Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972” (1995), wrote that Bogalusa became “a major test of the federal government’s determination to put muscle into the Civil Rights Act in the teeth of violent resistance from recalcitrant whites.”

Mr. Hicks was repeatedly jailed for protesting. He watched as his 15-year-old son was bitten by a police dog. The Klan displayed a coffin with his name on it beside a burning cross. He persisted, his wife said, for one reason: “It was something that needed to be done.”

Robert Hicks was born in Mississippi on Feb. 20, 1929. His father, Quitman, drove oxen to harvest trees for the paper mill. He played football on a state championship high school team and later for the semi-professional Bogalusa Bushmen.

He was known for his generosity: at the Baptist congregation where he was a deacon, he bought new suits for poor members. As the first black supervisor at the mill, he helped a young man amass enough overtime to buy the big car he dreamed of. Children all over town called him Dad, his son Charles said.

A leader in the local N.A.A.C.P. and his segregated union, Mr. Hicks was the logical choice to head the Bogalusa Civic and Voters League when it was formed to lead the local civil rights effort. He was first president, then vice president of the Deacons in Bogalusa.

Besides Valeria Hicks, his wife of 62 years, and his son Charles, Mr. Hicks is survived by three other sons, Gregory, Robert Lawrence and Darryl; his daughter, Barbara Hicks Collins; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

By 1968, the Deacons had pretty much vanished. In time they were “hardly a footnote in most books on the civil rights movement,” Mr. Hill said. He attributed this to a “mythology” that the rights movement was always nonviolent.

Mrs. Hicks said she was glad it was not.

“I became very proud of black men,” she said. “They didn’t bow down and scratch their heads. They stood up like men.”
23887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Plunder -2 on: April 29, 2010, 08:34:09 PM
The Enron Objection

 
Needless to say, the market possesses a great many virtues in addition to these. But what we might call the Enron objection will at this point be raised: doesn't that fiasco reflect a serious moral problem at the heart of capitalism? Enron, it is said, was the free market in action, and Ken Lay an apostle of laissez faire. In fact, neither claim is true. Time constraints limit me to recommending the Enron chapter in Tim Carney's important book The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money (2006). To make a long story short, Enron was on the receiving end of countless waves of government subsidies. It also manipulated the bizarre regulatory thicket that was the California energy market in grotesquely anti-social ways that enriched Enron at the expense, quite literally, of everyone else. The Cato Institute's Jerry Taylor correctly described Enron on balance as "an enemy, not an ally of free markets. Enron was more interested in rigging the marketplace with rules and regulations to advantage itself at the expense of competitors and consumers than in making money the old-fashioned way – by earning it honestly from their customers through voluntary trade."

Enron was in fact punished by the market for its behavior, while the American government, awash in Ponzi schemes, accounting irregularities, and unfunded liabilities it can't possibly cover, goes about its business in peace. "Far from an example of a market failure," argues Jacksonville State University's Christopher Westley, "Enron's saga shows that firms which invest too much in politics can easily become complacent in the face of changing market conditions…. If there's a scandal to be found in the Enron debacle, it is this: Enron's faith that its political investments would eventually solve its problems caused it to avoid making necessary changes in its organization until it was too late. Anyone who checks Enron's stock price, now listed on one of the penny stock exchanges, knows that the market has penalized this strategy." Amazon.com and Kmart, on the other hand, were up front with their investors about their financial difficulties, and ended up doing much better – by and large, their investors, no doubt impressed by these firms' honesty and transparency, stuck by them.

The nature of the attacks on capitalism frequently changes: one day it's the corruption of businessmen, as with Enron, the next it's environmental degradation (which is typically the fault of poorly developed property rights and arbitrary regulatory regimes rather than of capitalism itself). Sometimes capitalism will be criticized for one alleged failing one day and exactly the opposite failing the next. Thus socialists once claimed that capitalism was less efficient than socialism, and could not produce in nearly the same abundance. Now that that argument has been silenced, we have begun to hear exactly the opposite claim: capitalism brings about too much wealth, and makes people materialistic and fat. As Joseph Schumpeter put it, "Capitalism stands its trial before judges who have the sentence of death in their pockets. They are going to pass it, whatever the defense they may hear; the only success a victorious defense can possibly produce is a change in the indictment." For a system that has brought about such astonishing and unprecedented advances in the well-being of the great mass of mankind, it is surprisingly vulnerable to attack.

 
Capitalism and Public Opinion

Murray Rothbard was fond of citing the arguments of Étienne de La Boétie (as well as those of such later figures as David Hume and Ludwig von Mises) to the effect that governments survive or perish on the basis of public opinion. Since those who rule are of necessity vastly outnumbered by those who are ruled, it is curious that any regime – much less the truly oppressive – should get away with it for so long. The only way they can do so, according to these men, is through the voluntary consent of the public. That consent need not take the form of wild enthusiasm, which is rarely forthcoming for any regime; passive resignation is quite enough.

If a critical mass of the population withdraws that consent, on the other hand, regimes collapse. The fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe was a textbook example of exactly what La Boétie meant: when next to no one obeys commands any longer, how can the ruling elite hold on to power?

 
It is not only political regimes but also economic systems that must pass a public opinion test if they are to endure. And here we encounter an essential cultural attribute for the maintenance of a free economy: a critical mass of the population must consider market exchange, and the institutional supports that make it possible, to be fundamentally just.

And yet from our major institutions here in the United States we hear something like the opposite. Schoolchildren are given the impression that the private sector is the source of all wickedness and oppression, from which public-spirited government officials, in their selfless commitment to justice, must rescue and protect us. The selection of subject matter itself exhibits a pro-state bias: students leave school knowing all about how a bill becomes a law, for example, but with no idea of how markets work.

All of this applies just as strongly to popular culture and the media, with of course a few noble exceptions like John Stossel. That is why I am surprised not by how much of the market economy has been suppressed in the United States, but by how much has managed to survive in the face of a hostile educational and cultural establishment. Europe's opinion molders, as Olaf Gersemann observes in his book Cowboy Capitalism, are utterly contemptuous of American capitalism, a phenomenon they do not understand, and it is not surprising that in such an intellectual milieu those countries find themselves burdened with even more statism than we do.

The Culture of Enterprise: Concluding Thoughts

We are being much too ambitious if we think even the best economic institutions can transform human beings from flawed creatures into saints. The correction of human failings is the business of families, churches, and voluntary organizations of all kinds. The twentieth century served, among other things, as an extended lesson in both the danger and the folly of state-led efforts to transform human nature. We can be more than satisfied if our economic system is content to take human beings as they are, direct their energies into productive rather than anti-social outlets, and reward them for satisfying the needs of their fellow men.

 
Thomas Jefferson once observed that the mass of mankind was not "born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them." That is what the free economy is all about: anyone is free to serve the public in the manner he thinks best, and no one, not even those who have been most successful in the past, can claim exemption from the daily referenda that take place whenever the public decides to buy or to abstain from buying what he has to sell.

To my ear, the term "culture of enterprise" suggests a society that possesses a conscious appreciation of the distinct virtues of the market economy, some of which I have described here, and why it is morally and materially superior to statist alternatives, as I have also described here. In other words, the points I have made in my remarks today are the kind of arguments that should resonate with and constitute important pillars for a culture of enterprise. Instead of being held up for condemnation and abuse, entrepreneurs in such a society would be respected and honored for the risks they assume with their own property in order to bring improvement to people's lives, from the latest technological innovation to the most mundane of necessities. For a true culture of enterprise to last, people must see in the unhampered market economy not merely the least intolerable system but a positive good, in which living standards consistently rise, human creativity is given free rein, and human interaction proceeds on the civilized basis of respect for others' person and property.

The decades following World War II taught anyone who was paying attention how not to encourage prosperity or escape from less-developed status: demonize producers and the successful, nationalize industry, harass foreign investors, make property insecure, institute "import substitution" policies, and suffocate entrepreneurship through regulation. Development aid programs, meanwhile, either expressly endorsed these policies (as in the case of import substitution) or enabled them to continue by masking the true effects of such disastrous measures or propping up the regimes that implemented them. If the less-developed countries are to enjoy the prosperity of such success stories as Hong Kong and South Korea, or enjoy the growth rates being observed today in Ireland and even China, they must abandon the destructive and wicked policies of the past, discard the culture of envy their leaders have fostered, and embrace the principles of freedom that have allowed more people than ever before in history to enjoy the material conditions of civilized life.

 
And at a time when our countrymen are being courted by all manner of interventionist politicians – with one noble exception, I hasten to add – peddling all kinds of grandiose schemes for human betterment, Americans themselves could stand to be reminded of the values that inform a culture of enterprise. There was something disturbing, and yet revealing, in the title of MSNBC's election coverage segment last year – Battleground: America. Every two years, but especially every four, the country becomes in effect a battleground between opposing forces, in which the winner acquires the power to take the country to war unilaterally, to impose a uniform social policy on 280 million Americans, and to implement all manner of policies on his own authority, by means of executive orders and signing statements. Americans typically take for granted that this is normal, and indeed how life must be.

But in fact we don't need Hillary Clinton or John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani or John McCain, to "run the country" (to use an infelicitous if unfortunately common phrase) or to make us prosperous. A free and responsible people can manage its affairs without the platitudes and paternal custodianship of a Great Leader, and exhibits no superstitious reverence toward the occupants of political office. Once a society begins to absorb this revolutionary discovery, it has already embraced the culture of enterprise.

Notes

[1] Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason (New York: Random House, 2005), 71–72.

[2] This discussion of envy in Russia relies on Hedrick Smith, The New Russians (New York: Random House, 1990), 199–205.

Reprinted from Mises.org.

April 28, 2010

Thomas E. Woods, Jr. (visit his website; follow him on Facebook; send him mail), holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard and his master’s, M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Columbia University. His nine books include the critically acclaimed study The Church Confronts Modernity (Columbia University Press, 2004) and two New York Times bestsellers: Meltdown and The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. His new book, Nullification, will be released on June 29.
23888  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Plunder or Enterprise on: April 29, 2010, 08:33:17 PM
Plunder or Enterprise: The World's Choice
by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

 
Although supporters of the market economy often have good reason for pessimism, it is important, especially in this age of globalization, not to lose sight of the genuine victories that the classical liberal tradition can boast. Half a century ago, Gunnar Myrdal could declare: "The special advisers to underdeveloped countries who have taken the time and trouble to acquaint themselves with the problem, no matter who they are …all recommend central planning as the first condition of progress." At that time, development economists who dissented from this consensus could have fit inside a phone booth. Today, economists who still favor central planning for the less-developed countries may as well hold their convention in a phone booth.

Public protests against globalization – protests that occur by and large in the prosperous West – denounce free trade and the mobility of capital as instruments of exploitation and oppression. The great development economist Peter Bauer used to say that if that were the case, then we should find the greatest prosperity among those less-developed countries that have the fewest economic connections to the West, and that those places that are altogether isolated – and therefore suffer from none of this alleged exploitation at all – should be paradise on earth. Needless to say, that is not even close to what we find, and most serious observers know it.

Today practically everyone agrees that some kind of market economy is essential if the less-developed countries are to progress to developed status. There are differences of opinion, to be sure, and the so-called "new development economics" of the past decade holds far more peril than promise. But that the terms of the debate have shifted there can be little doubt.

As globalization has proceeded, the subject of the market economy has attracted more and more attention, with friend and foe alike seeking to understand the implications of the creation of a truly global marketplace. One of the market's virtues, and the reason it enables so much peaceful interaction and cooperation among such a great variety of peoples, is that it demands of its participants only that they observe a relatively few basic principles, among them honesty, the sanctity of contracts, and respect for private property.

 
This is not to say that the philosophical principles the market embodies come naturally to every cultural milieu. Peter Bauer always insisted that a people's religious, philosophical, and cultural values could have important consequences for their economic success or failure. A people who believe in fatalism or collectivism, rather than in personal responsibility, will be less likely to undertake the risks associated with capitalist entrepreneurship, for example.

Or consider the example of tenth-century China. Rodney Stark points out that a substantial iron industry was beginning to flourish there at that time, producing an estimated thirty-five thousand tons of iron per year – a figure that ultimately grew to a hundred thousand. This abundance of iron translated into better agricultural tools, which in turn meant increased food production. Great wealth was being created, and China's economic prospects seemed excellent.

 
The imperial court, on the other hand, decided that all this accumulation of wealth by mere commoners amounted to an intolerable departure from pure Confucian principle, which imagined great wealth in the hands only of society's elite, and demanded that commoners be satisfied with their lot. The government simply seized the entire industry, and this wonderful example of innovation and wealth creation was crushed. Here is an example of cultural values that were incompatible with a market economy.[1]

But I want to go even further, and suggest that morality and the market are mutually reinforcing. It isn't merely that the market requires certain moral attributes in order to function properly. The market itself encourages moral behavior.

It takes little imagination to surmise how critics of the market would respond to such a claim. Doesn't the market encourage greed, rivalry, and discord? Does it not urge people to think only of themselves, accumulating wealth with no thought to any other concern?

The Communist Counter-Example

 
That human beings seek their own well-being and that of those close to them is not an especially provocative discovery. What is important is that this universal aspect of human nature persists no matter what economic system is in place; it merely expresses itself in different forms. For all their saccharine rhetoric, for example, communist apparatchiks were not known for their disinterested commitment to the common good. They, too, sought to improve their own well-being – except they lived in a system in which all such improvements came at the expense of their fellow human beings, rather than, as in a market economy, as a reward for serving them.

Communism brought out the worst in human nature, and crippled people's ability or ambition to participate in a market economy. "Traveling around the country," wrote American reporter Hedrick Smith in 1990, "I came to see the great mass of Soviets as protagonists in what I call the culture of envy. In this culture, corrosive animosity took root under the czars in the deep-seated collectivism in Russian life and then was cultivated by Leninist ideology. Now it has turned rancid under the misery of everyday living."[2]

The Soviet ruling class, with their cushy cars, clinics, and country homes, are a natural enough target for the wrath of the little people. But what is ominous for Gorbachev's reforms is that this free-floating anger, the jealousy of the rank and file, often lights on anyone who rises above the crowd – anyone who works harder, gets ahead, and becomes better off, even if his gains are honestly earned. This hostility is a serious danger to the new entrepreneurs whom Gorbachev is trying to nurture. It is a deterrent to even modest initiative among ordinary people in factories or on farms. It freezes the vast majority into the immobility of conforming to the group.

Under the system of tyranny and deprivation that the Russian people were forced to endure for seven decades, illicit "profiteering" – "think of the worker stealing wheelbarrows and multiply him by a million," one writer says – made it possible for countless Russians to acquire the goods they needed. We might therefore expect the profiteer to emerge as at least vaguely heroic, but the actual effect seems to have been to poison the idea of profit in the minds of many Russians, since they came to assume that anyone making a profit must be engaged in behavior that was somehow illicit or underhanded.

 
The countless stories in the Soviet press, as late in the socialist experiment as the 1980s, about vandalism and attacks on small shops by those who resented the success of their fellow man "bear witness to the powerful influence of decades of Leninist indoctrination," Hedrick Smith explained. "For great masses of Soviet people, capitalism is still a dirty word, and the fact that someone earns more, gets more, is a violation of the egalitarian ideal of socialism. Tens of millions of Soviets deeply mistrust the market, fearing they will be cheated and outsmarted. They see the profit motive as immoral."

The Supreme Soviet's Anatoly Sobchak once remarked, "Our people cannot endure seeing someone else earn more than they do…. They are so jealous of other people that they want others to be worse off, if need be, to keep things equal." Sobchak described this attitude as one of the chief obstacles to economic reform. Television personality Dmitri Zakharov put it this way: "In the West, if an American sees someone on TV with a shiny new car, he will think, 'Oh, maybe I can get that someday for myself.' But if a Russian sees that, he will think, 'This bastard with his car. I would like to kill him for living better than I do.'" That is what Marxism-Leninism did to these people.

Overlooked Perils of Interventionism

 
That system, the polar opposite of the free market, encouraged greed in the ruling class and apathy, envy, and alienation among everyone else. Scarcely anyone defends it any longer. At the same time, we are urged not to let the socialist debacle sour us on the state itself, which we are told is an indispensable instrument in the pursuit of "social justice." But the less predatory state that such critics have in mind carries its own moral and cultural perils, only a few of which we can consider here.

Economists speak of the disutility of labor. Albert Jay Nock referred to the human inclination to seek after wealth with the least possible exertion. In a formulation familiar to libertarians, Franz Oppenheimer described two ways of acquiring wealth: the economic means and the political means. The economic means involves the production of a good or service that is then sold to willing buyers seeking to improve their own well-being. Both parties benefit. The political means, on the other hand, involves the use of force to enrich one party or group at the expense of another – either to acquire someone else's wealth directly or to give oneself an unfair advantage over his competitors through the use or threat of coercion. That is a much easier way of enriching oneself; and since people tend to prefer an easier over a more difficult path to wealth, a society that hopes to foster both justice and prosperity needs to discourage wealth acquisition via the political means and encourage it through the economic means.

But the state, wrote Oppenheimer, was the organization of the political means of wealth acquisition. It was through this channel that people could find paths to their own economic well-being that involved the use of force – carried out on their behalf by the state – rather than their own honest work. For that reason, the baser aspects of human nature can find in the state an irresistible attraction. It is easier to become dependent on welfare than to work; it is easier to accept farm subsidies and thereby to increase food prices than it is to compete honorably and freely; and it is easier to file an antitrust complaint against a competitor than to outcompete him honestly in the marketplace. By making these and countless other predatory options possible, the state fosters unattractive moral attributes and appeals to the worst features of human nature.

 
In short order, society degenerates into a condition of low-intensity civil war, with each pressure group anxious to secure legislation aimed at enriching itself at the expense of the rest of society. The Hobbesian war of all against all that allegedly characterizes life under the pre-political state of nature creeps into political life itself, as even those who were initially reluctant to seek political favors pursue them with vigor, if only to break even (that is, vis-à-vis groups who are less scrupulous about using the state to secure their ends). All of this looting under cover of law is what Frédéric Bastiat memorably called "legal plunder."

The same phenomena are observable around the world, when misguided development aid programs have strengthened the interventionist state in less-developed nations. Ben Powell makes the important point, echoing Peter Bauer, that the fashionable proposals we hear about nowadays that seek to direct foreign aid to responsible, relatively non-predatory regimes miss the point: these aid programs are inherently bad, no matter how selectively the funds are allocated. Not only do they tend to enlarge the public sector of the recipient country, but competition for a share of the grant money also diverts private resources away from the satisfaction of genuine wants and into the wasteful, anti-social expenditure of time and resources for the purpose of winning government favors.

Some Virtues of the Market

If the state is the organization of the political means of wealth acquisition, then the market is the embodiment of the economic means. The market all but compels people to be other-regarding, but not by means of intimidation, threats, and propaganda, as in socialist and statist systems. It employs the perfectly normal, morally acceptable desire to improve one's material conditions and station in life, both of which can grow under capitalism only by directing one's efforts to the production of a good or service that improves the well-being of his fellow man. This is why the title of Frédéric Bastiat's book Economic Harmonies is such a beautiful encapsulation of the classical liberal message. (The American Anti-Imperialist League's George McNeill made essentially the same observation, if perhaps more vividly, in the late 1890s: "Wealth is not so rapidly gained by killing Filipinos as by making shoes.")

John Rawls famously argued in A Theory of Justice that we could judge a society on the basis of the material condition of the least well-off. The market wins according to that moral criterion as well. Capital University's Robert Lawson has shown that all around the world, the poor are consistently better off in the least interventionist, most market-oriented societies. America's poor are better off than much of the European middle class today, and better off than the American middle class of the 1950s.

This happy outcome follows from the very nature of capitalism. When businesses invest in capital equipment to render the production process more efficient, they make it possible to produce more goods at a lower unit cost. Competition then passes these cost cuts on to the consumer in the form of lower prices (a phenomenon not always so visible in an inflationary economy, but at work all the same). This greater abundance increases the purchasing power of all real incomes, and thereby redounds to the benefit of everyone.
23889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran elected to Status of Women Commission on: April 29, 2010, 08:27:36 PM
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/04...womens-rights/

NEW YORK — Without fanfare, the United Nations this week elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women, handing a four-year seat on the influential human rights body to a theocratic state in which stoning is enshrined in law and lashings are required for women judged "immodest."

Just days after Iran abandoned a high-profile bid for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, it began a covert campaign to claim a seat on the Commission on the Status of Women, which is "dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women," according to its website.

Buried 2,000 words deep in a U.N. press release distributed Wednesday on the filling of "vacancies in subsidiary bodies," was the stark announcement: Iran, along with representatives from 10 other nations, was "elected by acclamation," meaning that no open vote was requested or required by any member states — including the United States.

The U.S. currently holds one of the 45 seats on the body, a position set to expire in 2012. The U.S. Mission to the U.N. did not return requests for comment on whether it actively opposed elevating Iran to the women's commission.

Iran's election comes just a week after one of its senior clerics declared that women who wear revealing clothing are to blame for earthquakes, a statement that created an international uproar — but little affected their bid to become an international arbiter of women's rights.

"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," said the respected cleric, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi.

As word of Iran's intention to join the women's commission came out, a group of Iranian activists circulated a petition to the U.N. asking that member states oppose its election.

"Iran's discriminatory laws demonstrate that the Islamic Republic does not believe in gender equality," reads the letter, signed by 214 activists and endorsed by over a dozen human rights bodies.

The letter draws a dark picture of the status of women in Iran: "women lack the ability to choose their husbands, have no independent right to education after marriage, no right to divorce, no right to child custody, have no protection from violent treatment in public spaces, are restricted by quotas for women's admission at universities, and are arrested, beaten, and imprisoned for peacefully seeking change of such laws."

The Commission on the Status of Women is supposed to conduct review of nations that violate women's rights, issue reports detailing their failings, and monitor their success in improving women's equality.

Yet critics of Iran's human rights record say the country has taken "every conceivable step" to deter women's equality.

"In the past year, it has arrested and jailed mothers of peaceful civil rights protesters," wrote three prominent democracy and human rights activists in an op-ed published online Tuesday by Foreign Policy Magazine.

"It has charged women who were seeking equality in the social sphere — as wives, daughters and mothers — with threatening national security, subjecting many to hours of harrowing interrogation. Its prison guards have beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted and raped female and male civil rights protesters."

Iran's elevation to the commission comes as a black eye just days after the U.S. helped lead a successful effort to keep Iran off the Human Rights Council, which is already dominated by nations that are judged by human rights advocates as chronic violators of essential freedoms. The current membership of the women's commission is little different.

Though it touts itself as "the principal global policy-making body" on women's rights, the makeup of the commission is mostly determined by geography and its membership is a hodge-podge of some human rights advocates (including the U.S., Japan, and Germany) and other nations with stark histories of rights violations.

The number of seats on the commission is based on the number of countries in a region, no matter how small their populations or how scant their respect for rights. The commission is currently made up of 13 members from Africa, 11 from Asia, nine from Latin America and the Caribbean, eight from Western Europe and North America, and four from Eastern Europe.

During this round of "elections," which were not competitive and in which no real votes were cast, two seats opened up for the Asian bloc for the 2011-2015 period. Only two nations put forward candidates to fill empty spots — Iran and Thailand. As at most such commissions in the U.N., backroom deals determined who would gain new seats at the women's rights body.

The activists' letter sent to the U.N. Tuesday argued that it would be better if the Asian countries proffered only one candidate, instead of elevating Iran to the commission.

"We, a group of gender-equality activists, believe that for the sake of women's rights globally, an empty seat for the Asia group on (the commission) is much preferable to Iran's membership. We are writing to alert you to the highly negative ramifications of Iran’s membership in this international body."

A spokeswoman for the U.N.'s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which oversees the commission, did not return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment.

When its term begins in 2011, Iran will be joined by 10 other countries: Belgium, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Estonia, Georgia, Jamaica, Iran, Liberia, the Netherlands, Spain, Thailand and Zimbabwe.
23890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prop 13 on: April 29, 2010, 07:43:55 PM
Don’t Blame Proposition 13

Profligate spending, not property-tax reform, has put California in a hole.

WILLIAM VOEGELI

In 1978, Californians enacted Proposition 13, the famous ballot initiative that rolled back property taxes and made it harder for assessors and legislators to raise taxes in the future. The experts still haven’t forgiven the voters. In 1994, Columbia historian Alan Brinkley ascribed Prop. 13’s passage to Californians who believed that they could get “something for nothing: substantial tax relief without a reduction of services.” In 2009, theWashington Post’s Harold Meyerson blamed the “malign initiative” for “effectively destroying the funding base of local governments and school districts” while empowering Republican “Neanderthals” in the state legislature, who refuse “in good times as well as bad to raise business or other taxes.” Earlier this year, Joe Klein of Time wrote that the proposition had made California “Exhibit A of a public pathology that we’ve inherited from the Reagan Era: the public wants a modified welfare state, excellent schools, a clean environment, low college tuitions . . . but it’s not willing to pay for them.”

You get the picture. According to liberals in politics, journalism, and academia, Proposition 13 is the reason for California’s worsening fiscal nightmare and the declining quality of the state’s public services, and the motives behind it were deplorable. And because Prop. 13 ignited a national tax revolt that remains potent, the Left also blames the measure for much of what it thinks has gone wrong in American political life generally over the past three decades.

Yet no matter how often their moral and intellectual “superiors” denounce them, California taxpayers continue to insist that the problem isn’t their purported stinginess but their government, which makes lousy use of the considerable funds that it continues to receive. On this point, the voters aren’t being stubborn, greedy, or stupid. The voters are right.

 




The first thing to recognize is that Proposition 13 did not destroy the tax base of California’s local governments. True, the average property-tax rate has fallen from 2.67 percent in 1977 to 1.1 percent today, observes David Doerr of the California Taxpayers’ Association. But the state still brings in a lot in property taxes. By 2007, the year of the most recent Census Bureau data comparing state finances, California’s state and local governments levied $1,141 in property taxes per capita, less—but only 11 percent less—than the corresponding average, $1,288, for the other 49 states and the District of Columbia. Property-tax revenues in the state have increased from $4.9 billion to $47 billion in the 30 years since Proposition 13. Adjust those figures for inflation and population growth, and property-tax revenues in California were 87 percent higher in 2009 than they were in 1979, chiefly because of rising property values.

And even if one tax is limited, others can rise. A recent article in theCalifornia Journal of Politics and Policy by Colin McCubbins and Mathew McCubbins shows that, adjusted again for population growth and inflation, total state and local tax revenues in California were higher ten years after Proposition 13’s enactment than they were just before—and that they were half again as high in 2000 as in 1978. Census Bureau data show that California ranked tenth in the nation in 2007 in terms of per-capita receipts from all state and local taxes (property, income, sales, and excise taxes) paid by individuals and corporations. Per-capita receipts from individual and corporate income taxes were 64 percent higher in California than they were in the rest of the country: $1,764 in California, $1,077 elsewhere. All told, California’s governments received $4,731 per resident from all taxes, 14 percent more than the $4,160 average outside California.

Ah, comes the objection: these numbers unfairly compare California with an aggregate that includes many rural states with low taxes and limited public services. But even if we confine our discussion to the ten most populous states in the nation, home to 54 percent of all Americans in 2009, California remains a high-tax jurisdiction. Its per-capita taxes exceed not only the national average but those of every other high-population state except New York.

Not only is California a high-tax state; it is even more conspicuously a high-revenue state. Things that aren’t taxes, such as fees for government services, often have a high degree of “taxiness,” as Stephen Colbert might say. “Charges and fees have become an integral part of the California budgetary landscape” because they “give the government a revenue stream that is not subject to limitation and hard for voters to track,” the McCubbinses argue. For example, local governments impose assessments on real-estate developers for the infrastructure and public services that a new housing tract’s residents will require. The developers then incorporate those charges into every unit’s sales price. “Home developers estimate that fees, new infrastructure, and other mandated expenses now run to between $30,000 and $60,000 for each new home,” journalist Peter Schrag noted in Paradise Lost, his book on California’s fall from grace since the 1950s.

Thus it is that the Golden State, routinely described as desperately short of funds because of Proposition 13, brought in $12,776 per capita in governmental income from all sources—taxes, fees, federal aid, charges for government-administered insurance, and revenue from government-owned utilities—in 2007. This amount was the fifth-highest in the nation and second (again) only to profligate New York among the ten most populous states (see the chart above).

Californians have good reasons, then, to tune out the incessant lectures about how the state wouldn’t be so screwed up if only they reached deeper into their pockets. And tune out they do. Though California has become one of America’s most liberal states in other regards, Proposition 13 remains “the third rail of California government,” as the Berkeley political scientist Jack Citrin wrote last year. “In the throes of the budget crisis of 2008 and increasing fiscal disarray, there was no serious talk of reforming the property tax system.” A 2008 survey by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that Californians continue to favor Prop. 13 by a two-to-one margin. Even 56 percent of self-identified Democrats said it was “mostly a good thing,” compared with just 31 percent who said it was “mostly a bad thing.”

The Californians who refuse to jettison Proposition 13 have a well-founded suspicion: that the state’s public sector is starving on its high-calorie diet because of mismanagement and capitulations to public-employee unions. Consider public education: California spent $8,909 per pupil in 2007–08, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia spent more; 21 spent less, including Florida and Texas, which are also large Sunbelt states with enormous metropolitan areas and significant immigrant populations. Despite outlays that are in the middle of the scale, however, California students perform miserably on the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress. In reading, California fourth- and eighth-graders rank 48th among all states; in math, fourth-graders rank 45th and eighth-graders rank 46th. (Students in Florida and Texas do significantly better on all counts.)

One reason for California’s poor performance may be that its pupil-to-teacher ratio is the country’s second-highest, behind only Utah. A public school with 1,000 students in California is likely to have just 48 teachers; the large classes that result hamper instruction. That problem stems from the efforts of the powerful unions that have helped make California public school teachers America’s most highly compensated, with an average salary of $66,986, 24 percent higher than the national average. (The statistics, for 2008–09, are from the National Education Association.) Such high salaries prevent California school districts from hiring more teachers and perhaps raising those abysmal test scores.

In fact, California taxpayers find themselves charged exceptional prices for unexceptional public services in one area after another. Not just California’s schoolteachers but state and local employees as a whole receive higher compensation than their counterparts in the rest of the country, Census Bureau data show. A veteran reporter for the Sacramento Bee, Dan Walters, calculates that California’s per-prisoner incarceration expenditures are 65 percent higher than the average for the nation’s ten most populous states, costing the state’s taxpayers an extra $4 billion per year. A recent New Yorker article on the University of California, lamenting its fiscal problems and predictably asserting that Proposition 13 “broke the government,” mentions in passing that the ten UC campuses have 229,000 students and 180,000 faculty and staff—nearly four employees for every five students. And this after what the magazine calls “decades of whittling” in the state’s financial support for UC, culminating in a “starveling” budget!

No one ever accused Milton Friedman of being sanguine about government’s willingness to restrain itself. In hindsight, however, his hopes for Proposition 13 were excessive. Friedman argued at the time that limiting a government’s entire budget, as the proposition did, was the only way to reverse the logic of interest-group liberalism, in which micro-constituencies, each focused intently on supporting a particular government program, invariably prevail against the general public, which lacks the time, awareness, and incentive to oppose those programs one by one. “We are not going to vote anybody out of office because he imposes a $3-a-year burden on us,” Friedman wrote. By reining in the budget, measures like Prop. 13 meant that any “special group that wants a special measure has to point out the other budget items that can and should be reduced”—or so Friedman thought.

Thirty-two years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, it’s clear that government’s manifest destiny to grow won’t be so easy to halt. As furiously as liberals have denounced Proposition 13, conservatives have reason to be disappointed in a political victory that proved the Bunker Hill, not the Yorktown, of the tax revolt. The moral of the story is that expenditure and tax limitations, of which Prop. 13 was the prototype, can serve as valuable first steps but are neither decisive nor self-implementing. To get state and local governments to spend tax dollars reluctantly and for the benefit of the general public—rather than profligately and for the advantage of public officials, employees, and their favored constituencies—will require continuous exertion; episodic interventions in the political process won’t be enough.

William Voegeli is a contributing editor of The Claremont Review of Books, a visiting scholar at Claremont McKenna College’s Salvatori Center, and the author of Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State.
23891  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA versus Reality/Survival based skills on: April 29, 2010, 06:19:18 PM
Many good points in there Sheep Dog.
23892  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: April 29, 2010, 06:15:46 PM
Grateful for a fine workout sledgehammering and lifting in the sun.
23893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Insurance mandate in peril on: April 29, 2010, 06:11:45 PM

Hat tip to BBG

The Insurance Mandate in Peril
First Congress said it was a regulation of commerce. Now it's supposed to be a tax. Neither claim will survive Supreme Court scrutiny.
By RANDY E. BARNETT

A"tell" in poker is a subtle but detectable change in a player's behavior or demeanor that reveals clues about the player's assessment of his hand. Something similar has happened with regard to the insurance mandate at the core of last month's health reform legislation. Congress justified its authority to enact the mandate on the grounds that it is a regulation of commerce. But as this justification came under heavy constitutional fire, the mandate's defenders changed the argument—now claiming constitutional authority under Congress's power to tax.

This switch in constitutional theories is a tell: Defenders of the bill lack confidence in their commerce power theory. The switch also comes too late. When the mandate's constitutionality comes up for review as part of the state attorneys general lawsuit, the Supreme Court will not consider the penalty enforcing the mandate to be a tax because, in the provision that actually defines and imposes the mandate and penalty, Congress did not call it a tax and did not treat it as a tax.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) includes what it calls an "individual responsibility requirement" that all persons buy health insurance from a private company. Congress justified this mandate under its power to regulate commerce among the several states: "The individual responsibility requirement provided for in this section," the law says, ". . . is commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce, as a result of the effects described in paragraph (2)." Paragraph (2) then begins: "The requirement regulates activity that is commercial and economic in nature: economic and financial decisions about how and when health care is paid for, and when health insurance is purchased."

In this way, the statute speciously tries to convert inactivity into the "activity" of making a "decision." By this reasoning, your "decision" not to take a job, not to sell your house, or not to buy a Chevrolet is an "activity that is commercial and economic in nature" that can be mandated by Congress.

It is true that the Supreme Court has interpreted the Commerce Clause broadly enough to reach wholly intrastate economic "activity" that substantially affects interstate commerce. But the Court has never upheld a requirement that individuals who are doing nothing must engage in economic activity by entering into a contractual relationship with a private company. Such a claim of power is literally unprecedented.

Since this Commerce Clause language was first proposed in the Senate last December, Democratic legislators and law professors alike breezily dismissed any constitutional objections as preposterous. After the bill was enacted, critics branded lawsuits by state attorneys general challenging the insurance mandate as frivolous. Yet, unable to produce a single example of Congress using its commerce power this way, the defenders of the personal mandate began to shift grounds.

On March 21, the same day the House approved the Senate version of the legislation, the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation released a 157-page "technical explanation" of the bill. The word "commerce" appeared nowhere. Instead, the personal mandate is dubbed an "Excise Tax on Individuals Without Essential Health Benefits Coverage." But while the enacted bill does impose excise taxes on "high cost," employer-sponsored insurance plans and "indoor tanning services," the statute never describes the regulatory "penalty" it imposes for violating the mandate as an "excise tax." It is expressly called a "penalty."

This shift won't work. The Supreme Court will not allow staffers and lawyers to change the statutory cards that Congress already dealt when it adopted the Senate language.

In the 1920s, when Congress wanted to prohibit activity that was then deemed to be solely within the police power of states, it tried to penalize the activity using its tax power. In Bailey v. Drexel Furniture (1922) the Supreme Court struck down such a penalty saying, "there comes a time in the extension of the penalizing features of the so-called tax when it loses its character as such and becomes a mere penalty with the characteristics of regulation and punishment."

Although the Court has never repudiated this principle, the Court now interprets the commerce power far more broadly. Thus Congress may regulate or prohibit intrastate economic activity directly without invoking its taxation power. Yet precisely because a mandate to engage in economic activity has never been upheld by the Court, the tax power is once again being used to escape constitutional limits on Congress's regulatory power.

Supporters of the mandate cite U.S. v. Kahriger (1953), where the Court upheld a punitive tax on gambling by saying that "nless there are provisions extraneous to any tax need, courts are without authority to limit the exercise of the taxing power." Yet the Court in Kahriger also cited Bailey with approval. The key to understanding Kahriger is the proposition the Court there rejected: "it is said that Congress, under the pretense of exercising its power to tax has attempted to penalize illegal intrastate gambling through the regulatory features of the Act" (emphasis added).

In other words, the Court in Kahriger declined to look behind Congress's assertion that it was exercising its tax power to see whether a measure was really a regulatory penalty. As the Court said in Sonzinsky v. U.S. (1937), "nquiry into the hidden motives which may move Congress to exercise a power constitutionally conferred upon it is beyond the competency of courts." But this principle cuts both ways. Neither will the Court look behind Congress's inadequate assertion of its commerce power to speculate as to whether a measure was "really" a tax. The Court will read the cards as Congress dealt them.

Congress simply did not enact the personal insurance mandate pursuant to its tax powers. To the contrary, the statute expressly says the mandate "regulates activity that is commercial and economic in nature." It never mentions the tax power and none of its eight findings mention raising any revenue with the penalty.

Moreover, while inserting the mandate into the Internal Revenue Code, Congress then expressly severed the penalty from the normal enforcement mechanisms of the tax code. The failure to pay the penalty "shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure." Nor shall the IRS "file notice of lien with respect to any property of a taxpayer by reason of any failure to pay the penalty imposed by this section," or "levy on any such property with respect to such failure."

In short, the "penalty" is explicitly justified as a penalty to enforce a regulation of economic activity and not as a tax. There is no authority for the Court to recharacterize a regulation as a tax when doing so is contrary to the express and actual regulatory purpose of Congress.

So defenders of the mandate are making yet another unprecedented claim. Never before has the Court looked behind Congress's unconstitutional assertion of its commerce power to see if a measure could have been justified as a tax. For that matter, never before has a "tax" penalty been used to mandate, rather than discourage or prohibit, economic activity.

Are there now five justices willing to expand the commerce and tax powers of Congress where they have never gone before? Will the Court empower Congress to mandate any activity on the theory that a "decision" not to act somehow affects interstate commerce? Will the Court accept that Congress has the power to mandate any activity so long as it is included in the Internal Revenue Code and the IRS does the enforcing?

Yes, the smart money is always on the Court upholding an act of Congress. But given the hand Congress is now holding, I would not bet the farm.

Mr. Barnett is a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown and the author of "Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty" (Princeton, 2005).

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704446704575206502199257916.html
23894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lets do it like Mexico! on: April 29, 2010, 10:30:15 AM
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has accused Arizona of opening the door "to intolerance, hate, discrimination and abuse in law enforcement." But Arizona has nothing on Mexico when it comes to cracking down on illegal  aliens. While open-borders activists decry new enforcement easures signed into law in "Nazi-zona" last week, they remain deaf, dumb or willfully blind to the unapologetically restrictionist policies of our neighbors to the south.

 The Arizona law bans sanctuary cities that refuse to enforce immigration laws, stiffens penalties against illegal alien day laborers and their employers, makes it a misdemeanor for immigrants to fail to complete and carry an alien registration document, and allows the police to arrest immigrants unable to show documents proving they are in the U.S. legally.
If those rules constitute the racist, fascist, xenophobic, inhumane regime that the National Council of La Raza, Al Sharpton, Catholic bishops and their grievance-mongering followers claim, then what about these regulations and restrictions imposed on foreigners?

-- The Mexican government will bar foreigners if they upset "the equilibrium of the national demographics." How's that for racial and ethnic profiling?

-- If outsiders do not enhance the country's "economic or national interests" or are "not found to be physically or mentally healthy," they are not welcome. Neither are those who show "contempt against national sovereignty or security." They must not be economic burdens on society and
must have clean criminal histories. Those seeking to obtain Mexican citizenship must show a birth certificate, provide a bank statement proving economic independence, pass an exam and prove they can provide their own health care.

-- Illegal entry into the country is equivalent to a felony punishable by two years' imprisonment. Document fraud is subject to fine and imprisonment; so is alien marriage fraud. Evading deportation is a serious crime; illegal re-entry after deportation is punishable by ten years' imprisonment.

Foreigners may be kicked out of the country without due
process and the endless bites at the litigation apple that illegal aliens are afforded in our country (see, for example, President Obama's illegal alien aunt -- a fugitive from deportation for eight years who is awaiting a second decision on her previously rejected asylum claim).

 -- Law enforcement officials at all levels -- by national mandate -- must cooperate to enforce immigration laws, including illegal alien arrests and deportations. The Mexican military is also required to assist in immigration enforcement operations. Native-born Mexicans are empowered to
make citizens' arrests of illegal aliens and turn them in to authorities.

 -- Ready to show your papers? Mexico's National Catalog of Foreigners tracks all outside tourists and foreign nationals. A National Population Registry tracks and verifies the identity of every member of the population, who must carry a citizens' identity card. Visitors who do not possess proper documents and identification are subject to arrest as illegal aliens.

 All of these provisions are enshrined in Mexico's Ley General de Población  (General Law of the Population) and were spotlighted in a 2006 research paper published by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Security Policy.
There's been no public clamor for "comprehensive immigration reform" in Mexico, however, because pro-illegal alien speech by outsiders is prohibited.

 Consider: Open-borders protesters marched freely at the Capitol building in Arizona, comparing GOP Gov. Jan Brewer to Hitler, waving Mexican flags, advocating that demonstrators "Smash the State," and holding signs that
proclaimed "No human is illegal" and "We have rights."

 But under the Mexican constitution, such political speech by foreigners is banned. Noncitizens cannot "in any way participate in the political affairs of the country." In fact, a plethora of Mexican statutes enacted by its congress limit the participation of foreign nationals and companies in everything from investment, education, mining and civil aviation to
electric energy and firearms. Foreigners have severely limited private property and employment rights (if any).

As for abuse, the Mexican government is notorious for its abuse of Central American illegal aliens who attempt to violate Mexico's southern border. The Red Cross has protested rampant Mexican police corruption, intimidation and bribery schemes targeting illegal aliens there for years. Mexico didn't respond by granting mass amnesty to illegal aliens, as it is
demanding that we do. It clamped down on its borders even further. In late 2008, the Mexican government launched an aggressive deportation plan to curtain illegal Cuban immigration and human trafficking through Cancun.

 Meanwhile, Mexican consular offices in the United States have coordinated with left-wing social justice groups and the Catholic Church leadership to demand a moratorium on all deportations and a freeze on all employment raids across America.

 Mexico is doing the job Arizona is now doing -- a job the U.S. government has failed miserably to do: putting its people first. Here's the proper rejoinder to all the hysterical demagogues in Mexico (and their sympathizers here on American soil) now calling for boycotts and invoking
Jim Crow laws, apartheid and the Holocaust because Arizona has taken its sovereignty into its own hands:

 Hipócritas.
23895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bolton: Folding our nuclear umbrella on: April 29, 2010, 08:49:24 AM

BOLTON: Folding our nuclear umbrella

By John R. Bolton

Although media coverage of President Obama's unfolding nuclear policy has focused on its implications for the United States, it is no less important to understand its effects on America's friends and allies. The New START arms control treaty with Russia, the administration's nuclear posture review, the recent Washington nuclear security summit, and the uncertainty surrounding May's Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference are all reverberating in capitals worldwide.

Bad as Obama policies are for America, they are equally dangerous for friends who have relied for decades on the U.S. nuclear umbrella as a foundation of their own national security strategies. As Washington's capabilities decline and as it narrows the circumstances when it will use nuclear weapons, allies are asking hard questions about whether the U.S. nuclear umbrella will continue to provide the protection it has previously.

Many allies see clearly that our mutual global adversaries have no intention of reducing their own nuclear programs in imitation of Mr. Obama. Our friends accordingly feel increasingly insecure. If Washington will not continue to hold the nuclear umbrella that has provided strategic stability for so long, other countries will begin making divergent decisions about how to protect themselves, including, for some, the possibility of seeking their own nuclear weapons.

Within the administration, there are strong advocates for America pledging "no first use" of nuclear weapons. Although the nuclear posture review "only" expanded "negative security assurances" somewhat, there is little doubt that "no first use" is alive and well in internal administration councils. These self-imposed constraints on the use of nuclear weapons reinforce the allies' concern that Mr. Obama has forgotten the central Cold War lesson about the U.S. nuclear deterrent. There was never any doubt that a Soviet attack through the Fulda Gap into Western Europe would have swept through NATO forces, possibly all the way to the English Channel. Thus, the threat of U.S. nuclear retaliation against such an attack - an unambiguous case of a U.S. first use of nuclear weapons - was precisely what was needed to keep Soviet forces on their side of the Iron Curtain.

The risks come not only from the Obama administration's nuclear policies. By canceling the Polish and Czech missile defense sites, the president signaled that he has less than full faith in the concept of a U.S. national missile defense capability. Moreover, and equally important, Russia and others quickly interpreted the decision not to construct the Eastern European facilities as Washington backing down in response to Russian threats. At a minimum, Mr. Obama showed that he was prepared to use U.S. missile defense as a bargaining chip, exactly the misguided policy option President Reagan consistently and emphatically rejected. If America's homeland remains vulnerable, its willingness to risk confrontation with an opponent will be substantially reduced. In such circumstances, U.S. allies could not count on the threat of nuclear retaliation by Washington in the event of aggression, as they could in the Cold War.

Accordingly, Europeans should be very worried that they are increasingly on their own to face the re-emerging threat of Russian belligerence. Because the New START treaty does not limit tactical nuclear weapons, Europe, simply because of geographic proximity, is most vulnerable to Russia's advantage in that category. It is thus highly ironic that some NATO countries have recently called for removing the last U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, which will simply enhance Russia's existing lead. Moreover, because the conflict in Afghanistan has opened new fissures in NATO, Europe must ponder whether the aging alliance can renew its original focus on defending against Moscow.

In the Pacific, concerns are equally acute, especially in Japan. Faced with the unambiguous reality of China expanding and modernizing its nuclear and conventional military capabilities, and with North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, Japan inevitably faces the question of whether it needs its own nuclear deterrent. U.S. ambivalence on missile defense only heightens Tokyo's concerns, given its proximity to ballistic missile threats from the East Asian mainland. South Korea, Taiwan and Australia, among others, also share Japan's concern, each according to its own circumstances.

Thus, while there unquestionably are variations among America's allies about the precise implications of Mr. Obama's global withdrawal from U.S. strategic nuclear dominance, the overall direction is not in doubt. U.S. decline leaves the allies feeling increasingly on their own, uncertain about Washington's commitment and steadfastness and facing difficult decisions about how to guarantee their own security. Ironically, therefore, it is America's friends that might increase nuclear proliferation, not just their mortal foes. This is the reality created by the retreat of nuclear America, the exact opposite of the Obama administration's benign optimism, namely that reducing U.S. capability would encourage others to do the same.

John R. Bolton, a former ambassador to the U.N., is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
23896  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jihadists down for the count? on: April 29, 2010, 06:49:07 AM
   
Jihadists in Iraq: Down For The Count?
April 29, 2010




By Scott Stewart

On April 25, The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) posted a statement on the Internet confirming that two of its top leaders, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayub al-Masri, had been killed April 18 in a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation in Salahuddin province. Al-Baghdadi (an Iraqi also known as Hamid Dawud Muhammad Khalil al-Zawi), was the head of the ISI, an al Qaeda-led jihadist alliance in Iraq, and went by the title “Leader of the Faithful.” Al-Masri (an Egyptian national also known as Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir), was the military leader of the ISI and head of the group’s military wing, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

Al-Masri replaced Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June 2006. Al-Zarqawi had alienated many Iraqi Sunnis with his ruthlessness, and al-Baghdadi is thought to have been appointed the emir of the ISI in an effort to put an Iraqi face on jihadist efforts in Iraq and to help ease the alienation between the foreign jihadists and the local Sunni population. Al-Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq and the military leader of the ISI, was considered the real operational leader of ISI/AQI efforts in Iraq.

STRATFOR viewed the initial announcement by Iraqi authorities of the deaths of the two leaders with a healthy degree of skepticism. After all, they had been declared dead before, only to later release statements on the Internet mocking the Iraqi government for making false claims. But the details provided in the April 19 press conference by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (complete with photos of the deceased) and the confirmation by the U.S. military helped allay those initial doubts. The recent admission by the ISI, which made a similar statement following the death of al-Zarqawi, has all but erased our doubts about the deaths.

But the ISI’s statement has raised some other questions. It claimed that the deaths of the two leaders would not affect the group’s operations in Iraq because new members had recently joined it. But when viewed in the context of other recent developments in Iraq, it appears that the operational capability of the ISI will indeed be affected — at least in the near future.

Recent Activity
The operation that resulted in the deaths of al-Baghdadi and al-Masri did not occur in a vacuum. Rather, it was a part of a series of operations targeting the ISI in recent months. The raids have come as a result of a renewed effort to counter the ISI following a resurgence in the group’s operations that included high-profile multiple-vehicle bombings directed against targets in central Baghdad on Aug. 19, 2009, Oct. 25, 2009, Dec. 8, 2009, and Jan. 25, 2010.

The raids that resulted in the deaths of the ISI leaders on April 18 were part of a chain of events that stretches back for months, and appear to be the result of the effective exploitation of intelligence gained in one raid used to conduct the next. For example, Iraqi Maj. Gen. Qasim Ata, the spokesman for the Baghdad Operations Command, told Al-Iraqiya TV on April 20 that the intelligence that led to the location of al-Baghdadi and al-Masri was obtained during the March 11, 2010, arrest of Manaf Abdul Raheem al-Rawi, the AQI commander in Baghdad. Iraqi government sources claim al-Rawi is the man responsible for planning the multiple-vehicle bombings in Baghdad. If so, he is another effective operational leader who has been taken out of the ISI/AQI gene pool.

Then, following the April 18 raid, Ahmad al-Ubaydi — aka Abu-Suhaib, whom Iraqi officials identify as the AQI military commander for the northern Iraqi provinces of Ninevah, Salahuddin and Kirkuk provinces — was killed April 20. The next day, Iraqi authorities located an improvised explosive device (IED) factory in western Anbar province and seized two vehicle bombs and some smaller IEDs. On April 22, the U.S. Army announced the arrest of a bombmaker in Anbar province. On April 23, Iraqi police arrested another AQI military leader in Anbar, Mahmoud Suleiman, who was reportedly found with several IEDs in his home. Also on April 23, an Iraqi police SWAT team reportedly killed two AQI leaders during a raid in eastern Mosul. They claimed that one of the AQI leaders, Yousef Mohammad Ali, was also a bombmaker. In recent days, dozens of other alleged AQI members have either surrendered or been arrested in Diyala, Mosul, Salahuddin and Basra.

There have even been unconfirmed reports that Izzat al-Douri was captured April 25. Al-Douri, the “king of clubs” in the U.S. military’s 2003 deck of most-wanted Iraqis and who has a $10 million bounty on his head, was a vice president of Iraq under Saddam Hussein and an important insurgent leader.

In late March, progress was also made against AQI in Mosul. Several suspects were arrested or killed, and among the latter were major AQI figures Khalid Muhammad Hasan Shallub al-Juburi, Abu Ahmad al-Afri and Bashar Khalaf Husayn Ali al-Jaburi.

This type of rapid, sequential activity against jihadists by U.S. and Iraqi forces is not a coincidence. It is the result of some significant operational changes that were made in 2007 in the wake of the American surge in Iraq. The then-commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), Gen. Stanley McChrystal, was instrumental in flattening hierarchies and reducing bureaucratic inefficiencies in both intelligence and special operations forces activities inside Iraq in order to create a highly integrated and streamlined organization. The result was the capability to rapidly plan and execute special operations forces raids based on actionable intelligence with a limited shelf life — and then to rapidly interrogate any captives, quickly analyze any material of intelligence value seized and rapidly re-task forces in a series of follow-on operations. The resulting high tempo of operations was considered enormously successful and a key factor in the success of the surge, and recent developments in Iraq appear to be a continuation of this type of rapid and aggressive activity.

Such operations not only can produce rapid gains in terms of capturing and killing key targets, they also serve to disrupt and disorient the enemy. According to Iraqi Maj. Gen. Qasim Ata, AQI is currently in disarray and panic, and he believes that the organization is also facing money problems, since it reportedly has been in contact with al Qaeda prime in an attempt to secure financial assistance. This stands in stark contrast to the 2005 letter in which al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri asked AQI leader al-Zarqawi for funding. At that time there was a large flow of men and money into Iraq, but it now appears that AQI is facing some financial difficulties. Following the recent raids in which senior operational commanders and bombmakers have been captured or killed, it also appears that the group may also be facing some leadership and operational-expertise difficulties.

Leadership
As STRATFOR has previously noted, leadership is a critical factor in the operational success of a militant group. Without skilled leadership, militant groups lose their ability to conduct effective attacks, particularly ones of a sophisticated nature. Leadership, skill and professionalism are the factors that make the difference between a militant group wanting to attack something — i.e., its intent — and the group’s ability to successfully carry out its intended attack — i.e., its capability. The bottom line is that new recruits simply cannot replace seasoned operational commanders, as the ISI suggested in its statement.

Although it might seem like a simple task to find a leader for a militant group, effective militant leaders are hard to come by. Unlike most modern militaries, militant groups rarely invest much time and energy in leadership development training. To compound the problem, the leader of a militant group needs to develop a skill set that is quite a bit broader than most military leaders. In addition to personal attributes such as ruthlessness, aggressiveness and fearlessness, militant leaders also must be charismatic, intuitive, clever and inspiring. This last attribute is especially important in an organization that seeks to recruit operatives to conduct suicide attacks. Additionally, an effective militant leader must be able to recruit and train operatives, enforce operational security, raise funds, plan operations and then methodically execute a plan while avoiding the security forces constantly hunting the militants down.

Of course, not every leadership change is disastrous to a militant group. Sometimes a new leader breathes new life and energy into an organization (like Nasir al-Wahayshi in Yemen), or the group has competent lieutenants able to continue to operate effectively after the death of the leader (like AQI after the death of al-Zarqawi). But the current environment in Iraq, where numerous individuals have been rapidly and sequentially killed or captured, makes this sort of orderly leadership replacement more difficult.

Therefore, it will be important to watch the ISI carefully to see who is appointed as the group’s new emir and military commander. (In practical terms, the emir may be easier to replace than the military commander, especially if the former is just a figurehead and not a true operational commander.) The group may have had a clear chain of command and competent, designated successors who have survived the recent operations. But if not, the leadership vacuum at the top could result in infighting over control, or result in an ineffective leader assuming control. The jury is still out, but with the recent successes against the ISI, there is a very good chance that it may take some time for the group to regain its footing. This, of course, is the objective of the up-tempo operations recently seen in Iraq. Effective counterterrorism programs seek to keep the militants (and especially their leaders) off balance by killing or capturing them while also rolling up the lower levels of the group. Militants scrambling for their lives seldom have the opportunity to plan effective attacks, and sustained pressure makes it difficult for them to regain the offensive.

Like operational leaders, competent bombmakers are not easy to replace. They also need to possess a broad set of skills and require a great deal of training and practical experience to hone their skills. A master bombmaker is a rare and precious commodity in the militant world. Therefore, the bombmakers recently arrested in Iraq could prove to be almost as big a loss to AQI as the operational leaders.

When we discussed the resurgence of the ISI/AQI back in October, we noted that at that time they had retained a great deal of their capability and that they were able to gather intelligence, plan attacks, acquire ordnance, build reliable IEDs and execute spectacular attacks in the center of Baghdad against government ministry buildings. We also discussed how the polarization surrounding the election in Iraq was providing them an opportunity to exploit. That polarization has continued in the wake of the elections as the factions jockey for position in the new government, but the extent of the damage done to the jihadists through the loss of so many commanders and operatives may not allow the successors of al-Masri and al-Baghdadi to take advantage of the situation before their window of opportunity closes.

We will be watching the jihadists in Iraq carefully in the coming months to see if they can regroup and retain their operational capability. The big question is: Will the recent operations against the ISI/AQI merely serve as another temporary setback like the killing of al-Zarqawi, or do they portend something more long-term for the future of the organization? The ISI/AQI has proved to be resilient and resourceful in the past, but we are not sure they have the ability to bounce back this time.

 
23897  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: April 28, 2010, 04:01:10 PM
Those guys look really strong.
23898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: Super Shia Bloc and Iran's calculus on: April 28, 2010, 11:43:22 AM
Iraq: A Super Shia Bloc and Iranian Calculus
April 27, 2010 | 2032 GMT
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ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images
Former Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie (L) in 2009Summary
Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, Iraq’s former national security adviser and a key leader in the country’s Shia Islamist coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), said April 26 that merger talks between the INA and current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc have come to a dead end. Al-Rubaie’s statement is the first sign that intra-Shia negotiations are not going well, but it is not clear whether the moves toward the creation of a super Shia parliamentary bloc have completely failed. Such an outcome would undermine Iran’s efforts to consolidate its influence in Iraq and, by extension, its bargaining power with the United States.

Analysis
Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, a former Iraqi national security adviser and an influential figure in the country’s Shia Islamist coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), said April 26 that merger negotiations between his group and incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law (SoL) coalition have reached an impasse. Speaking to reporters after a meeting in Najaf with top Iraqi cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, al-Rubaie said the two Shia blocs ran into problems over the issue of selecting the next prime minister. He said the INA was now looking into forging an alliance with the Kurdistan Alliance in an effort to form the largest parliamentary bloc, which he described as “an attempt to break the political deadlock plaguing the country and escape this political crisis.”

Al-Rubaie’s statements constitute the first significant indication that several weeks of intra-Shia negotiations over creating a super Shia parliamentary bloc are not progressing well. The INA is the country’s most pro-Iran Shia coalition and it won 70 parliamentary seats in the March 7 elections. The bloc had been negotiating a merger with the Shia SoL, which won 89 seats, to counter former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s non-sectarian al-Iraqiya List, which swept the Sunni vote to win 91 seats — the most in the elections.

Negotiations between the INA and SoL had reportedly worked out all issues other than the question of how to choose the next prime minister. SoL, which has been trying to balance its Shia sectarian core with a centrist agenda, wants to see al-Maliki continue as prime minister in the next government. But it faces opposition from the al-Sadrite movement, which controls as many as 40 of the INA’s 70 seats. Because Sunni-backed al-Iraqiya came in first in the elections, al-Maliki realizes a merger with the INA is the only way to ensure Shia communal interests.

At the same time, though, al-Maliki does not want to lead a government held hostage by the al-Sadrite movement or the INA’s patrons in Iran. Hence, there are reports he has been attempting to put SoL ahead in parliamentary seats by reaching out to some in al-Iraqiya to join his group and attempting to find legal loopholes to bar others from serving in parliament. In response, the INA, which wants to see the creation of a super Shia bloc, is exploiting al-Maliki’s tensions with the Kurds to force him into a merger.

At this point it is too early to conclude that a super Shia bloc is no longer in the making, but that possibility bodes ill for Iran’s plans for a post-American Iraq. Tehran, which has long been working on getting the Iraqi Shia house in order to maximize its influence in its western neighbor, needs to see a single Shia bloc in parliament. The combined 159 seats of a potential INA-SoL coalition, along with the 43 won by the Kurdistan Alliance, could be sufficient to force al-Iraqiya into a power-sharing settlement. If that coalition does not form, it limits Tehran’s bargaining power in its negotiations with the United States on Iraq, the nuclear issue, Afghanistan and other regional disputes.

Therefore, Iran can be expected to accelerate its efforts to sort out intra-Shia issues in Iraq. These could involve visits by Iranian officials to Iraq, or vice versa, to mediate between SoL and INA. The Iranians will be trying to get al-Maliki and the al-Sadrites to see the benefits of a merger and the vulnerabilities of maintaining their separate partisan status, but it is unclear what the outcome of Tehran’s efforts will be.
23899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 28, 2010, 06:51:59 AM
Three Points of View: The United States, Pakistan and India
April 28, 2010




By Peter Zeihan

In recent weeks, STRATFOR has explored how the U.S. government has been seeing its interests in the Middle East and South Asia shift. When it comes down to it, the United States is interested in stability at the highest level — a sort of cold equilibrium among the region’s major players that prevents any one of them, or a coalition of them — from overpowering the others and projecting power outward.

One of al Qaeda’s goals when it attacked the United States in 2001 was bringing about exactly what the United States most wants to avoid. The group hoped to provoke Washington into blundering into the region, enraging populations living under what al Qaeda saw as Western puppet regimes to the extent that they would rise up and unite into a single, continent-spanning Islamic power. The United States so blundered, but the people did not so rise. A transcontinental Islamic caliphate simply was never realistic, no matter how bad the U.S. provocation.

Subsequent military campaigns have since gutted al Qaeda’s ability to plot extraregional attacks. Al Qaeda’s franchises remain dangerous, but the core group is not particularly threatening beyond its hideouts in the Afghan-Pakistani border region.

As for the region, nine years of war have left it much disrupted. When the United States launched its military at the region, there were three balances of power that kept the place stable (or at least self-contained) from the American point of view. All these balances are now faltering. We have already addressed the Iran-Iraq balance of power, which was completely destroyed following the American invasion in 2003. We will address the Israeli-Arab balance of power in the future. This week, we shall dive into the region’s third balance, one that closely borders what will soon be the single largest contingent of U.S. military forces overseas: the Indo-Pakistani balance of power.

Pakistan and the Evolution of U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan
U.S. strategy in Afghanistan has changed dramatically since 2001. The war began in the early morning hours — Pakistan time — after the Sept. 11 attacks. Then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called up then-Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to inform him that he would be assisting the United States against al Qaeda, and if necessary, the Taliban. The key word there is “inform.” The White House had already spoken with — and obtained buy-in from — the leaders of Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel and, most notably, India. Musharraf was not given a choice in the matter. It was made clear that if he refused assistance, the Americans would consider Pakistan part of the problem rather than part of the solution — all with the blessings of the international community.





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Islamabad was terrified — and with good reason; comply or refuse, the demise of Pakistan was an all-too-real potential outcome. The geography of Pakistan is extremely hostile. It is a desert country. What rain the country benefits from falls in the northern Indo-Pakistani border region, where the Himalayas wring moisture out of the monsoons. Those rains form the five rivers of the Greater Indus Valley, and irrigation works from those rivers turn dry areas green.

Accordingly, Pakistan is geographically and geopolitically doomed to perpetual struggle with poverty, instability and authoritarianism. This is because irrigated agriculture is far more expensive and labor-intensive than rain-fed agriculture. Irrigation drains the Indus’ tributaries such that the river is not navigable above Hyderabad, near the coast — drastically raising transport costs and inhibiting economic development. Reasonably well-watered mountains in the northwest guarantee an ethnically distinct population in those regions (the Pashtun), a resilient people prone to resisting the political power of the Punjabis in the Indus Basin. This, combined with the overpowering Indian military, results in a country with remarkably few options for generating capital even as it has remarkably high capital demands.

Islamabad’s one means of acquiring breathing room has involved co-opting the Pashtun population living in the mountainous northwestern periphery of the country. Governments before Musharraf had used Islamism to forge a common identity for these people, which not only included them as part of the Pakistani state (and so reduced their likelihood of rebellion) but also employed many of them as tools of foreign and military policy. Indeed, managing relationships with these disparate and peripheral ethnic populations allowed Pakistan to stabilize its own peripheral territory and to become the dominant outside power in Afghanistan as the Taliban (trained and equipped by Pakistan) took power after the Soviet withdrawal.

Thus, the Americans were ordering the Pakistanis on Sept. 12, 2001, to throw out the one strategy that allowed Pakistan to function. Pakistan complied not just out of fears of the Americans, but also out of fears of a potentially devastating U.S.-Indian alignment against Pakistan over the issue of Islamist terrorism in the wake of the Kashmiri militant attacks on the Indian parliament that almost led India and Pakistan to war in mid-2002. The Musharraf government hence complied, but only as much as it dared, given its own delicate position.

From the Pakistani point of view, things went downhill from there. Musharraf faced mounting opposition to his relationship with the Americans from the Pakistani public at large, from the army and intelligence staff who had forged relations with the militants and, of course, from the militants themselves. Pakistan’s halfhearted assistance to the Americans meant militants of all stripes — Afghan, Pakistani, Arab and others — were able to seek succor on the Pakistani side of the border, and then launch attacks against U.S. forces on the Afghan side of the border. The result was even more intense American political pressure on Pakistan to police its own militants and foreign militants seeking shelter there. Meanwhile, what assistance Pakistan did provide to the Americans led to the rise of a new batch of homegrown militants — the Pakistani Taliban — who sought to wreck the U.S.-Pakistani relationship by bringing down the government in Islamabad.

The Indian Perspective
The period between the Soviet collapse and the rise of the Taliban — the 1990s — saw India at a historical ebb in the power balance with Pakistan. The American reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks changed all that. The U.S. military had eliminated Pakistan’s proxy government in Afghanistan, and ongoing American pressure was buckling the support structures that allowed Pakistan to function. So long as matters continued on this trajectory, New Delhi saw itself on track for a historically unprecedented dominance of the subcontinent.

But the American commitment to Afghanistan is not without its limits, and American pressure was not sustainable. At its heart, Afghanistan is a landlocked knot of arid mountains without the sort of sheltered, arable geography that is likely to give rise to a stable — much less economically viable — state. Any military reality that the Americans imposed would last only so long as U.S. forces remained in the country.

The alternative now being pursued is the current effort at Vietnamization of the conflict as a means of facilitating a full U.S. withdrawal. In order to keep the country from returning to the sort of anarchy that gave rise to al Qaeda, the United States needed a local power to oversee matters in Afghanistan. The only viable alternative — though the Americans had been berating it for years — was Pakistan.

If U.S. and Pakistan interests could be aligned, matters could fall into place rather quickly — and so they did once Islamabad realized the breadth and dangerous implications of its domestic insurgency. The five-year, $7.5 billion U.S. aid package to Pakistan approved in 2009 not only helped secure the arrangement, it likely reflects it. An unprecedented counterinsurgency and counterterrorism campaign conducted by the Pakistani military continues in the country’s tribal belt. While it has not focused on all the individuals and entities Washington might like, it has created real pressure on the Pakistani side of the border that has facilitated efforts on the Afghan side. For example, Islamabad has found a dramatic increase in American unmanned aerial vehicle strikes tolerable because at least some of those strikes are hitting Pakistani Taliban targets, as opposed to Afghan Taliban targets. The message is that certain rules cannot be broken without consequences.

Ultimately, with long experience bleeding the Soviets in Afghanistan, the United States was inherently wary of becoming involved in Afghanistan. In recent years, it has become all too clear how distant the prospect of a stable Afghanistan is. A tribal-ethnic balance of power overseen by Pakistan is another matter entirely, however. The great irony is that such a success could make the region look remarkably like it did on Sept. 10, 2001.

This would represent a reversal of India’s recent fortunes. In 10 years, India has gone from a historic low in the power balance with Pakistan to a historic high, watching U.S. support for Pakistan shift to pressure on Islamabad to do the kinds of things (if not the precise actions) India had long clamored for.

But now, U.S. and Pakistani interests not only appear aligned again, the two countries appear to be laying groundwork for the incorporation of elements of the Taliban into the Afghan state. The Indians are concerned that with American underwriting, the Pakistanis not only may be about to re-emerge as a major check on Indian ambitions, but in a form eerily familiar to the sort of state-militant partnership that so effectively limited Indian power in the past. They are right. The Indians also are concerned that Pakistani promises to the Americans about what sort of behavior militants in Afghanistan will be allowed to engage in will not sufficiently limit the militants’ activities — and in any event will do little to nothing to address the Kashmiri militant issue. Here, too, the Indians are probably right. The Americans want to leave — and if the price of departure is leaving behind an emboldened Pakistan supporting a militant structure that can target India, the Americans seem fine with making India pay that price.
23900  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Kettlebells y Artes Marciales on: April 28, 2010, 06:44:36 AM
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