Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bailout is a scandal
on: July 25, 2008, 07:52:29 AM
The Fan/Fred Bailout Is a Scandal
By DICK ARMEY
July 25, 2008; Page A15
Americans who work hard, pay taxes and play by the rules can't seem to get fair representation in Washington, D.C., these days. In the current debate over a government bailout of speculators, irresponsible banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the responsible majority has once again been pushed aside in a legislative rush to "do something."
This should have been a perfect opportunity for Republicans, struggling to regain some standing with the American people, to rise united and demand real accountability and reform.
Remember how Democrats put the collapse of Enron and the subsequent losses to shareholders at the feet of the Bush White House? Freddie and Fannie are like Enron on steroids. There's a well-documented history of accounting corruption to benefit senior management; hundreds of millions of dollars spent lobbying against oversight and reform; and myriad connections to both Democratic committee chairmen and subprime lender Countrywide Financial.
Actions by Fannie and Freddie management and their regulators this year precipitated the current crisis. Under pressure from the Democrat-controlled Congress, the Bush administration lifted Fannie and Freddie's portfolio caps in February and reduced their capital reserve requirements in March. In this year's stimulus bill, Congress went further and nearly doubled the size of the loans that Fannie and Freddie can purchase or guarantee.
As a result of this reckless expansion, the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) now touch nearly 70% of all new mortgages. At the same time, they are insolvent by most measures. The ostensible purpose of Fannie and Freddie is to provide liquidity to America's housing markets. In practice, they are the source of systemic risk and instability in a time of need.
What is needed now is an orderly restructuring that protects taxpayers from such financial exposure in the future, such as the plan proposed by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas). Mr. Hensarling's legislation would phase out the charter of either GSE over a five-year period if they access credit lines from the Federal Reserve or Treasury. It also provides a receivership option if the GSEs continue to stumble. Instead, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson offered the beleaguered GSEs and their patrons in Congress a blank check signed by the taxpayers, promising potentially unlimited funds to backstop the lenders. Not surprisingly, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd accepted.
Just as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicted last week, President Bush withdrew his previous veto threats against the overall legislative package on Wednesday, having gotten virtually nothing in return. The emboldened Democrats have simply attached the Paulson proposal to their housing bailout legislation. Having repeatedly called for Fannie and Freddie restructuring in the past, Mr. Paulson now fights to defend them in their current form.
An explicit government guarantee for Fannie and Freddie could ultimately end up costing taxpayers more than $1 trillion, according to an analysis by Standard & Poor's in April.
The entire spectacle reinforces a persistent public prejudice that the GOP routinely defends the interests of their big business and Wall Street cronies at the expense of the little guy. Messrs. Dodd and Frank won't likely wear this political albatross. Republicans who go along with this GSE bailout certainly will.
So what will congressional Republicans do? Ironically, a veto-sustaining majority of House Republicans -- led by House Minority Leader John Boehner, Financial Services ranking minority member Spencer Bachus, and Republican Study Committee Chairman Hensarling -- voted against the bill on the very same day that the Bush administration caved. "I'm deeply disappointed the White House will sign this bill in its current form," said Mr. Boehner in a statement. "We must take responsible steps to ensure our financial and housing markets are sound, but the Democrats' bill represents a multibillion dollar bailout for scam artists and speculative lenders at the expense of American taxpayers."
The final Senate floor battle on the proposed housing bailout could prove to be a definitive one for Republicans. Will they be the party defending taxpayers that play by the rules, or will they continue to indulge the Beltway crony capitalism advanced by this bill? Will they be a compliant minority browbeaten into "doing something," or will they stand for accountability and fiscal responsibility?
When Mr. Paulson appeared before the Senate Banking Committee, only Jim Bunning (R., Ky.) directly challenged his proposed blank check. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) is still fighting to offer an amendment that would prohibit Fan and Fred from lobbying while on the federal dole. That's a great first step. Expect these two brave senators to force a full and rigorous debate.
The American public is way ahead of the Beltway intelligentsia on this issue. Multiple polls show that majorities oppose a federal mortgage bailout by a two-to-one margin. For Republican senators, a "nay" vote on the mortgage bailout is both good policy and good politics.
Mr. Armey, House majority leader from 1995 to 2002, is chairman of FreedomWorks.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Cellphones; Fructose
on: July 25, 2008, 07:36:55 AM
WELL; Experts Revive Debate Over Cellphones and Cancer
By TARA PARKER-POPE
Published: June 3, 2008
What do brain surgeons know about cellphone safety that the rest of us don't?
Last week, three prominent neurosurgeons told the CNN interviewer Larry King that they did not hold cellphones next to their ears. ''I think the safe practice,'' said Dr. Keith Black, a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, ''is to use an earpiece so you keep the microwave antenna away from your brain.''
Dr. Vini Khurana, an associate professor of neurosurgery at the Australian National University who is an outspoken critic of cellphones, said: ''I use it on the speaker-phone mode. I do not hold it to my ear.'' And CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon at Emory University Hospital, said that like Dr. Black he used an earpiece.
Along with Senator Edward M. Kennedy's recent diagnosis of a glioma, a type of tumor that critics have long associated with cellphone use, the doctors' remarks have helped reignite a long-simmering debate about cellphones and cancer.
That supposed link has been largely dismissed by many experts, including the American Cancer Society. The theory that cellphones cause brain tumors ''defies credulity,'' said Dr. Eugene Flamm, chairman of neurosurgery at Montefiore Medical Center.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, three large epidemiology studies since 2000 have shown no harmful effects. CTIA -- the Wireless Association, the leading industry trade group, said in a statement, ''The overwhelming majority of studies that have been published in scientific journals around the globe show that wireless phones do not pose a health risk.''
The F.D.A. notes, however, that the average period of phone use in the studies it cites was about three years, so the research doesn't answer questions about long-term exposures. Critics say many studies are flawed for that reason, and also because they do not distinguish between casual and heavy use.
Cellphones emit non-ionizing radiation, waves of energy that are too weak to break chemical bonds or to set off the DNA damage known to cause cancer. There is no known biological mechanism to explain how non-ionizing radiation might lead to cancer.
But researchers who have raised concerns say that just because science can't explain the mechanism doesn't mean one doesn't exist. Concerns have focused on the heat generated by cellphones and the fact that the radio frequencies are absorbed mostly by the head and neck. In recent studies that suggest a risk, the tumors tend to occur on the same side of the head where the patient typically holds the phone.
Like most research on the subject, the studies are observational, showing only an association between cellphone use and cancer, not a causal relationship. The most important of these studies is called Interphone, a vast research effort in 13 countries, including Canada, Israel and several in Europe.
Some of the research suggests a link between cellphone use and three types of tumors: glioma; cancer of the parotid, a salivary gland near the ear; and acoustic neuroma, a tumor that essentially occurs where the ear meets the brain. All these cancers are rare, so even if cellphone use does increase risk, the risk is still very low.
Last year, The American Journal of Epidemiology published data from Israel finding a 58 percent higher risk of parotid gland tumors among heavy cellphone users. Also last year, a Swedish analysis of 16 studies in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed a doubling of risk for acoustic neuroma and glioma after 10 years of heavy cellphone use.
''What we're seeing is suggestions in epidemiological studies that have looked at people using phones for 10 or more years,'' says Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News, an industry publication that tracks the research. ''There are some very disconcerting findings that suggest a problem, although it's much too early to reach a conclusive view.''
Published: June 3, 2008
Some doctors say the real concern is not older cellphone users, who began using phones as adults, but children who are beginning to use phones today and face a lifetime of exposure.
''More and more kids are using cellphones,'' said Dr. Paul J. Rosch, clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College. ''They may be much more affected. Their brains are growing rapidly, and their skulls are thinner.''
For people who are concerned about any possible risk, a simple solution is to use a headset. Of course, that option isn't always convenient, and some critics have raised worries about wireless devices like the Bluetooth that essentially place a transmitter in the ear.
The fear is that even if the individual risk of using a cellphone is low, with three billion users worldwide, even a minuscule risk would translate into a major public health concern.
''We cannot say with any certainty that cellphones are either safe or not safe,'' Dr. Black said on CNN. ''My concern is that with the widespread use of cellphones, the worst scenario would be that we get the definitive study 10 years from now, and we find out there is a correlation.''
Does Fructose Make You Fatter?
High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener used in many processed foods ranging from sodas to baked goods. While the ingredient is cheaper and sweeter than regular sugar, new research suggests that it can also make you fatter.
In a small study, Texas researchers showed that the body converts fructose to body fat with “surprising speed,'’ said Elizabeth Parks, associate professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. The study, which appears in The Journal of Nutrition, shows how glucose and fructose, which are forms of sugar, are metabolized differently.
In humans, triglycerides, which are a type of fat in the blood, are mostly formed in the liver. Dr. Parks said the liver acts like “a traffic cop” who coordinates how the body uses dietary sugars. When the liver encounters glucose, it decides whether the body needs to store it, burn it for energy or turn it into triglycerides.
But when fructose enters the body, it bypasses the process and ends up being quickly converted to body fat.
“It’s basically sneaking into the rock concert through the fence,” Dr. Parks said. “It’s a less-controlled movement of fructose through these pathways that causes it to contribute to greater triglyceride synthesis. The bottom line of this study is that fructose very quickly gets made into fat in the body.”
For the study, six people were given three different drinks. In one test, the breakfast drink was 100 percent glucose. In the second test, they drank half glucose and half fructose; and in the third, they drank 25 percent glucose and 75 percent fructose. The drinks were given at random, and neither the study subjects nor the evaluators were aware who was drinking what. The subjects ate a regular lunch about four hours later.
The researchers found that lipogenesis, the process by which sugars are turned into body fat, increased significantly when the study subjects drank the drinks with fructose. When fructose was given at breakfast, the body was more likely to store the fats eaten at lunch.
Dr. Parks noted that the study likely underestimates the fat-building effect of fructose because the study subjects were lean and healthy. In overweight people, the effect may be amplified.
Although fruit contains fructose, it also contains many beneficial nutrients, so dieters shouldn’t eliminate fruit from their diets. But limiting processed foods containing high-fructose corn syrup as well as curbing calories is a good idea, Dr. Parks said.
“There are lots of people out there who want to demonize fructose as the cause of the obesity epidemic,” she said. “I think it may be a contributor, but it’s not the only problem. Americans are eating too many calories for their activity level. We’re overeating fat, we’re overeating protein and we’re overeating all sugars.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin: Time
on: July 25, 2008, 07:12:48 AM
"Remember, that Time is Money."
-- Benjamin Franklin (Advice to a Young Tradesman, 1748)
Reference: Franklin: Writings, Lemay, Library of America (1198)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: July 25, 2008, 12:53:49 AM
My prediction: He's going to lose.
He realizes what won him the primaries will lose him the election and as he jettisons previously held positions while denying having done so, he loses credibility. His speech yesterday sounded in part like "Bush Lite". When he gets specific (e.g. Germans, you should send more troops to Afg.) it falls flat.
Here's an example from this morning's chattering class at the NY Times:
Playing Innocent Abroad
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: July 25, 2008
Radical optimism is America’s contribution to the world. The early settlers thought America’s founding would bring God’s kingdom to earth. John Adams thought America would emancipate “the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.” Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush preached their own gospels of world democracy.
Skip to next paragraph
Go to Columnist Page »
Times columnists David Brooks and Gail Collins discuss the 2008 presidential race.
All Conversations » Barack Obama is certainly a true American. In the first major foreign policy speech of his campaign, delivered in Chicago last year, he vowed a comprehensive initiative to “ensure that every child, everywhere, is taught to build and not to destroy.” America, he said, must promote dignity across the world, not just democracy. It must “lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good.”
In Berlin on Thursday, it was more of the same. Speaking before a vast throng (and a surprising number of Yankees hats), he vowed to help “remake the world.” He offered hope that a history-drenched European continent could “choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday.” He envisioned “a new dawn in the Middle East.”
Obama’s tone was serious. But he pulled out his “this is our moment” rhetoric and offered visions of a world transformed. Obama speeches almost always have the same narrative arc. Some problem threatens. The odds are against the forces of righteousness. But then people of good faith unite and walls come tumbling down. Obama used the word “walls” 16 times in the Berlin speech, and in 11 of those cases, he was talking about walls coming down.
The Berlin blockade was thwarted because people came together. Apartheid ended because people came together and walls tumbled. Winning the cold war was the same: “People of the world,” Obama declared, “look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together and history proved there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.”
When I first heard this sort of radically optimistic speech in Iowa, I have to confess my American soul was stirred. It seemed like the overture for a new yet quintessentially American campaign.
But now it is more than half a year on, and the post-partisanship of Iowa has given way to the post-nationalism of Berlin, and it turns out that the vague overture is the entire symphony. The golden rhetoric impresses less, the evasion of hard choices strikes one more.
When John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan went to Berlin, their rhetoric soared, but their optimism was grounded in the reality of politics, conflict and hard choices. Kennedy didn’t dream of the universal brotherhood of man. He drew lines that reflected hard realities: “There are some who say, in Europe and elsewhere, we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin.” Reagan didn’t call for a kumbaya moment. He cited tough policies that sparked harsh political disagreements — the deployment of U.S. missiles in response to the Soviet SS-20s — but still worked.
In Berlin, Obama made exactly one point with which it was possible to disagree. In the best paragraph of the speech, Obama called on Germans to send more troops to Afghanistan.
The argument will probably fall on deaf ears. The vast majority of Germans oppose that policy. But at least Obama made an argument.
Much of the rest of the speech fed the illusion that we could solve our problems if only people mystically come together. We should help Israelis and Palestinians unite. We should unite to prevent genocide in Darfur. We should unite so the Iranians won’t develop nukes. Or as Obama put it: “The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.”
The great illusion of the 1990s was that we were entering an era of global convergence in which politics and power didn’t matter. What Obama offered in Berlin flowed right out of this mind-set. This was the end of history on acid.
Since then, autocracies have arisen, the competition for resources has grown fiercer, Russia has clamped down, Iran is on the march. It will take politics and power to address these challenges, the two factors that dare not speak their name in Obama’s lofty peroration.
The odd thing is that Obama doesn’t really think this way. When he gets down to specific cases, he can be hard-headed. Last year, he spoke about his affinity for Reinhold Niebuhr, and their shared awareness that history is tragic and ironic and every political choice is tainted in some way.
But he has grown accustomed to putting on this sort of saccharine show for the rock concert masses, and in Berlin his act jumped the shark. His words drift far from reality, and not only when talking about the Senate Banking Committee. His Berlin Victory Column treacle would have made Niebuhr sick to his stomach.
Obama has benefited from a week of good images. But substantively, optimism without reality isn’t eloquence. It’s just Disney.
Paul Krugman is off today.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam
on: July 25, 2008, 12:50:39 AM
Not sure why you question the sincerity of my search for Truth. What facts or logic have proven me wrong?
If you want to discuss Guantanamo, may I suggest FIRST READING and then posting in the "Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism" thread?
Abu Graib: Where on earth do you get that I approve?!?
What is the basis for questioning my decency?!?
I simply pointed out that it was the Army's internal procedures that picked up on it and brought it to the light of day-- which seems relevant to me. Did you even know this? Do you ask yourself why you did not? What does the fact that you did not know tell you about the sources of info that you use?
Iraq and collateral damage: My point is that in a very difficult battle space we commit quite a bit of blood, sweat, and tears to there being as little collateral damage as possible-- yet you seem to be unaware of this and make "the perfect the enemy of the good". May I ask how often you get to have extended conversation with those who have served there about these things?
On the Japanese HS girl article: I see the point you are making and will have to reread the article in question. What thread is it in?
As for America going to war without an ulterior motive-- that would be the Clinton administration.
Concerning you and GM: Name calling such as "average child" and "eight year old" really are out of place here-- particularly when I took the time to explain to you how in the culture of this forum that the pasted article ofen IS the response. I'm thought I was clear and you seem like a bright fellow-- may I ask you to reread what I posted?
As for the go-round on whether GM would be happy at the death of thousands of innocents: IMHO perhaps GM could have been more lawyerly in how he expressed his point originally, but FWIW what communicates to me is that you are in something of a "gotcha" mode looking for something that to my eye is not really there-- perhaps this explains the testiness of GM's response? I'd like to suggest that the two of you take three deep breaths each and start fresh.
As for this:
"I guess if you want this "forum to serve as a tremendous resouce for people who want to read about a subject/theme" it should offer different perspectives on the question/subject, don't you think? And I think commentary
is important; yes it takes more time and thought, but anyone, even an eight year old can cut and paste ad nauseam."
Once again, the articles posted here can either BE the conversation and/or simply be a sharing of analysis and intel. IMHO the standards around here are-- no brag, just fact-- well above average. I have no problem realizing that there are people writing about these things who know more than me and think deeper about them than me, or who express what I want to say better than I do. I have no problem with using such articles as a form of communication.
In short sometimes we do comment directly-- for example in my unsuccessful comments to you-- and sometimes we paste. This is how we do it around here. I regret you don't care for it.
The Adventure continues,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam
on: July 24, 2008, 06:42:31 PM
"please don't forget the military is not above the law. Guantanamo, Abu Graib, and killing innocent Iraq civilians and raping Japanese High School girls and Philippine girls (the U.S. troops in Japan seem to run amok) is wrong and the individual soldier(s) should be severely punished, not slapped on the wrist."
Guantanamo? As reported in the Media Matters thread, the MSM often reports accusations as fact. Careful now.
Abu Graib? No one was killed and INTERNAL ARMY PROCEDURES ARE WHAT BROUGHT THE CASE TO LIGHT. IT WAS THE PENTAGON THAT INFORMED THE MEDIA.
Iraq? Given the kind of war that it has been, I for one am quite proud of the tremendous job our troops have done in minimizing the casualties of the innocent. There was an article the other day in the NY Times I think it was on the same subject in the context of Afg front of the war. Perhaps you can find it and have a better sense of this subject , , ,
Raping Japanese HS girls? I almost posted on this forum the other day an article that pointed out that our troops in Japan overall have an outstanding record of being law-abiding, but did not because I thought the point was so obvious as to not need being made , , , Why do you smear so many with the actions of one?
As for the Philippines, educated man that you obviously are I am sure you know that when we had bases there that they were surrounded with whore houses and that whore houses and soldiers are a surefire combination for trouble and that discerning the facts can often be highly problematic. I lack the experience
to discuss the whole subject of prostitution and military bases meaningfully, and would hope that you do too
Jason, of course we civilians are in charge. That does not mean that when it comes to fighting or knowing WTF is going on in the field that we should not listen carefully to those who so selflessly (yes this is a dig at your comment the other day about what America is willing to give
) put their butts on the line. I'd rather hear Gen. Petraeus's take on Iraq than BO's.
If I may offer in closing-- be careful of MSM and assuming what it says is true and be careful of projecting one case on the many.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: July 24, 2008, 06:25:06 PM
Report warns vehicles could be stuffed with explosives for suicide attacks
Publishing Date: 22.07.08 11:08
By Gordon Thomas
LONDON -- Members of Britain's MI5 intelligence service have warned the nation's cash-strapped National Health Services that dozens of ambulances -- along with old police cars and fire engines -- are being snapped up by al-Qaida operatives in the United Kingdom to mount suicide bomb attacks.
So serious is the problem that counter-terrorism officials at the Home Office have written to eBay, the Internet auctioneer, asking them to stop selling emergency service vehicles, equipment and uniforms. But eBay has insisted it can only halt the sales if a new law is passed by Parliament. That could take many months. The use of ambulances is of particular concern to Britain's anti-terror chiefs. They say the tactic has already been used in Iraq with devastating effects.
A report by Lord Carlisle -- the government terrorist czar who last month warned about the possibility of private planes being used for an attack on London -- has been issued to all of Britain's 48 police forces warning of the danger of selling off emergency service vehicles. Lord Carlisle, who works closely with the Terrorism Analysis Centre in London set up since the 9/11 attacks, said ambulances were the ideal weapon of choice for terrorists.
"It is almost rare that police will stop such vehicles on suspicious grounds. An ambulance rigged with high explosives could drive into any ultra-sensitive target like a nuclear power station or even Whitehall," said a senior MI5 source.
The Association of Chief Police Officers has warned that the risk could be "highly significant" if the law is not tightened. Every year dozens of police cars, ambulances and even fire engines are sold on eBay for as little as $3,000. Many are still in working order. Those that need repair can be fixed to pass as genuine emergency service vehicles.
"An ambulance could carry half a ton of explosives. A rigged police car could carry half that amount. So could a fire engine," states the MI5 report.
MI5 counter-terrorism officers say such attacks have been successfully carried out in Iraq and Israel. The report reveals that an al-Qaida attack in Baghdad last February involved a stolen ambulance driven by a suicide bomber into an Iraqi police station.
The report states: "Terrorists have been using ambulances to transport bombs in Israel since at least 2002. The Israelis have told us that Hamas are using ambulances to ferry men and rocket launchers around Gaza."
A national security committee has been set up in London with MI5 and police chiefs drawing up plans to deal with the threat. Chairman of the committee, Steve Watts, said: "There is a need of urgent legislation becoming available to the police which adequately addresses the threat of pseudo-emergency service vehicles being used by terrorists."
Lord Carlisle has suggested all service vehicles to be sold must be clearly decommissioned so they cannot be used to imitate emergency services. Manufacturers of all such vehicles are being asked to urgently inspect vehicles taken out of service to see how this can be done.
Gordon Thomas is the author of a new edition of Gideon’s Spies: The Inside Story of Israel’s Legendary Secret Service The Mossad, by JR Books of London and available on Amazon Books.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survialist issues: Hunkering down at home
on: July 24, 2008, 06:10:31 PM
Thursday, July 24, 2008
A Wall Street Journal columnist has advised people to "start stockpiling food" and an ABC News Report says "there are worrying signs appearing in the United States where some … locals are beginning to hoard supplies." Now there's concern that the U.S. government may be competing with consumers for stocks of storable food.
"We're told that the feds bought the entire container of canned butter when it hit the California docks. (Something's up!)," said officials at Best Prices Storable Foods in an advisory to customers.
Spokesman Bruce Hopkins told WND he also has had trouble obtaining No. 10 cans of various products from one of the world's larger suppliers of food stores, Oregon Freeze Dry.
He said a company official told him on the telephone when he discussed the status of his order that it was because the government had purchased massive quantities of products, leaving none for other customers.
That, however, was denied by Oregon Freeze Dry. In a website statement, the company confirmed it cannot assure supplying some items to customers.
"We regret to inform you Oregon Freeze Dry cannot satisfy all Mountain House #10 can orders and we have removed #10 cans from our website temporarily," the company tells frustrated customers. "The reason for this is sales of #10 cans have continued to increase. OFD is allocating as much production capacity as possible to this market segment, but we must maintain capacity for our other market segments as well."
The company statement continues, "We want to clarify inaccurate information we’ve seen on the Internet. This situation is not due to sales to the government domestically or in Iraq. We do sell products to this market, but we also sell other market segments … The reason for this decision is solely due to an unprecedented sales spike in #10 cans sales.
"We expect this situation to be necessary for several months although this isn’t a guarantee. We will update this information as soon as we know more. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your patience. We sincerely hope you will continue to be Mountain House customers in the future," the company statement said.
But Hopkins wasn't backing away from his concerns.
"The government just came in and said they're buying it. They did pay for it," he told WND about the summertime shipment of long-term storage butter. "They took it and no one else could have it.
"We don't know why. The feds then went to freeze dried companies, and bought most of their canned stock," he said.
A spokeswoman for Oregon Freeze Dry, sales manager Melanie Cornutt, told WND that the increasing demand for food that can be stored has been on the rise since Hurricane Katrina devastated large sections of the Gulf Coast, cutting off ordinary supply routes.
"We are currently out of stock on our cans. We are not selling any of our cans," she confirmed.
She then raised the issue of government purchases herself.
"We do sell to the government [but] it is not the reason [for company sales limits]," she said.
Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency told WND whatever government agency is buying in a surge it isn't them. They reported a stockpile of about six million meals which has not changed significantly in an extended period.
But Hopkins said it was his opinion the government is purchasing huge quantities of food for stockpiles, and Americans will have to surmise why.
"We don't have shelters that [are being] stocked with food. We're not doing this for the public. My only conclusion is that they're stocking up for themselves," he said of government officials.
Blogger Holly Deyo issued an alert this week announcing, "Unprecedented demand cleans out major storable food supplier through 2009."
"It came to our attention today, that the world's largest producer of storable foods, Mountain House, is currently out of stock of ALL #10 cans of freeze dried foods, not just the Turkey Tetrazzini. They will NOT have product now through 2009," she said.
"This information was learned by a Mountain House dealer who shared it with me this morning. In personally talking with the company immediately after, Mountain House verified the information is true. Customer service stated, 'I'm surprised they don't have this posted on the website yet.' She said they have such a backlog of orders, Mountain House will not be taking any #10 can food requests through the remainder of this year and all of the next.
"Mountain House claims this situation is due to a backlog of orders, which may very well be true, but who is purchasing all of their food? This is a massive global corporation.
"One idea: the military. Tensions are ramping up with Iran and news segments debate whether or not we will implement a preemptive strike in conjunction with Israel," she wrote.
Hopkins raised some of the same concerns, suggesting a military conflict could cause oil supplies to plummet, triggering a huge increase in the cost of food – when it would be available – because of the transportation issues.
The ABC report from just a few weeks ago quoted Jim Rawles, a former U.S. intelligence officer who runs a survival blog, saying food shortages soon could become a matter of survival in the U.S.
"I think that families should be prepared for times of crisis, whether it's a man-made disaster or a natural disaster, and I think it's wise and prudent to stock up on food," he told ABC.
"If you get into a situation where fuel supplies are disrupted or even if the power grid were to go down for short periods of time, people can work around that," he said. "But you can't work around a lack of food – people starve, people panic and you end up with chaos in the streets."
At his California ranch, the location of which is kept secret, he said, "We have more than a three-year supply of food here."
In the Wall Street Journal, columnist Brett Arends warned, "Maybe it's time for Americans to start stockpiling food.
"No, this is not a drill," he wrote.
His concern was about various food shortages around the globe, and the fact that in a global market, prices in the U.S. reflect difficulties in other parts of the world quickly.
Professor Lawrence F. Roberge, a biologist who has worked with a number of universities and has taught online courses, told WND he's been following the growing concern over food supplies.
He also confirmed to WND reports of the government purchasing vast quantities of long-term storable foods.
He said that naturally would be kept secret to avoid panicking the public, such as when word leaks out to customers that a bank may be insolvent, and depositors frantically try to retrieve their cash.
"[These] circumstances certainly raise red flags," he said.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Inmate kills woman guard
on: July 24, 2008, 05:18:42 PM
Guard Stabbed, Killed Inside Federal Penitentiary
ATWATER (AP) ― Authorities say a federal prison guard has been stabbed
to death by inmates at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atwater.
Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin says 22-year-old Jose Rivera was taken
to Mercy Medical Center with stab wounds at about 3:30 Friday afternoon
and was declared dead at 4:15 p.m.
A brief statement released by the prison says the officer was stabbed
by two inmates with homemade weapons.
Pazin, who is also the County Coroner, says his department will conduct
an autopsy while the FBI investigates the incident.
The prison is in the San Joaquin Valley about 64 miles northwest of
Inmate Charged With Slaying Of Tomoka Guard
Fitzgerald, 50, Worked At Correctional Facility For 15 Years
POSTED: 11:53 pm EDT June 25, 2008
UPDATED: 8:10 am EDT June 27, 2008
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- An inmate at the Tomoka Correctional Institution
was quickly transferred to the Florida State Prison on Thursday after
officials said he killed a prison guard. Authorities identified the
inmate as Enoch Hall, 39, who was sentenced to life in prison for sexual
battery with a weapon and kidnapping charges in 1993. He had been at the
facility since 1994.
The officer, Donna Fitzgerald, 50, was a veteran guard, who had worked
at Tomoka Correctional Institution for 15 years.
Hall hid in a welding shed adjacent to the Pride workshop area with a
knife made out of a piece of sheet metal, police said. Pride is a
vocational training facility located at the prison.
Officials at the prison said Fitzgerald entered the shed around 7:30
p.m. Wednesday looking for Hall.
When she discovered him hiding, Fitzgerald confronted Hall and was
stabbed multiple times, police said. Fitzgerald was armed only with an
alarm and mace; there are no guns at the facility.
Department of Corrections Secretary Walter McNeil said that there is
usually more than one officer involved in moving an inmate, but he
insisted that protocol was followed.
"Words cannot express the sorrow I feel over the loss of our
correctional officer," McNeil said. "The entire department grieves the
murder of one of our finest officers, and we pray for the victim's
family during this difficult time."
Authorities said they found the knife Hall had made stashed in a
McNeil said death or injury within a violent population is always a
"Yet, when it happens, like we all are across our department today, it
is still very shocking and heart wrenching," McNeil said.
Hall has been charged with first-degree murder. He went before a judge
It is unclear if the protocol of more than one guard being involved in
moving an inmate was followed. Sources said that Fitzgerald was
alone, at least at one point, while locking up the work area and
moving inmates back into the dormitory. The affidavit states that
Fitzgerald was apparently alone while looking for Hall when she was
murdered. The facility was not under lockdown while the search
was under way.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is currently investigating
The prison is located off U.S. Highway 92 on the outskirts of Daytona
Beach. It was established in 1981 and houses adult male inmates. There
is also a work camp and work release center at the facility. The prison
can hold a maximum of 1,263 inmates.
Fitzgerald is the second woman in Florida to die while working as a
guard. In 2003 during an escape attempt, inmates killed Darla
Lathrem at the Charlotte Correctional Institution – a
A total of 13 guards, including Fitzgerald, have died in the line of
duty in Florida prisons since 1928, when records first began being
To comment on this story, send an e-mail to Craig Lucie.
Hall Has History Of Criminal Behavior
Enoch Hall was serving a life sentence for a rape in the '90s. Hall, 39, is a career criminal.
He first showed up in the system in June 1988. That year it was burglary plus a stolen car.
In 1990, the charge was battery on a law enforcement officer two days before Christmas.
In 1992, he moved on to sexual battery. Then in April 1993, in Pensacola, Hall raped a
woman again. This time the charge was sexual battery with a deadly weapon and
kidnapping. For those two offenses, he was sentenced to life in prison.
Hall has spent nearly all of his 14 years in prison at Tomoka.
Jim Baiardi with the Florida Police Benevelont Association represents
the officers who work in the prison. He's spoken with a number of
guards working on Donna Fitzgerald's shift at the time of this incident.
"They're very upset. You know when you lose somebody you work with, in
this line of work we're brothers and sisters because at any moment our
lives could be taken," Baiardi said.
Hall is currently at the Florida State Prison in Stark.
Copyright 2008 by WESH.COM. All rights reserved. This material may not
be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ
on: July 24, 2008, 12:43:24 PM
Hosted by Dieter and His Monkey
Barack Obama's rally in Berlin today will be different in many ways from the ones he's held in America.
Unlike his U.S. rallies, which normally require attendees to get tickets, Obama in Berlin will be open to everyone who wishes to come -- providing exactly the kind of chaotic cheering crowd scenes suitable for TV commercials. The campaign acknowledges it may hire a film crew to shoot footage, providing potential raw material for a commercial highlighting a campaign theme that America's standing in the world would improve under a President Obama.
Nonetheless, Team Obama insists the speech will not be a campaign rally. "It is not going to be a political speech," a senior Obama foreign policy adviser told reporters in Jordan this week. "When the president of the United States goes and gives a speech, it is not a political speech or a political rally."
"But [Mr. Obama] is not president of the United States," a reporter gently reminded the adviser. After all, this is the campaign that sometimes has to be told the inconvenient truth that the election remains to be held.
-- John Fund
Republicans in Love
The Obamacans -- past or present Republicans who are backing Barack Obama for president -- are about to go public.
The Hill newspaper reports that Team Obama has held a conference call with a small group of GOP apostates to plot strategy and see how they can be utilized in the fall.
The most prominent Obamacan is former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who served with Mr. Obama from 2005 to 2007 until the Rhode Islander was defeated by a Democrat. Since then, Mr. Chafee has become an independent. He said he "hadn't thought about" whether he would address the Democratic convention, providing a counterpoint to Senator Joe Lieberman from next-door Connecticut, who is expected to address the GOP convention. Mr. Lieberman has broken ranks with Democrats by endorsing John McCain.
Douglas Kmiec, a professor at the Pepperdine University School of Law, says the Obamacan effort is just getting started, but he expects there will eventually be a Web site, print ads and a surrogate speakers program.
Another prominent Obama supporter is Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Eisenhower and a lifelong Republican. She told me at a recent Aspen Institute meeting that she hasn't decided what role she might play in campaigning for Mr. Obama. I asked her what she would do if Mr. Obama were to lose. "I'd probably become an independent," she told me. "I'm certainly not a Democrat, but the Republican Party has lost me the last few years."
-- John Fund
The GOP Needs Governors
In 2006, Colorado Democrat Bill Ritter captured his state's governorship with a hard-fought, pricey campaign. Two years earlier, New Hampshire Democrat John Lynch unseated incumbent Republican Craig Benson in a very tight race. Now, according to Congressional Quarterly, both states feature Senate races that "lean Democratic." That's a change from just a few weeks ago, when both Senate races seemed to be toss-ups.
As Democrats seek to build on their congressional gains from two years ago, one overlooked ingredient has been their success in gradually shaking off the "liberal" label thanks to strong governors or gubernatorial candidates who've helped redefine their state parties as more conservative than the party's national Democratic leadership. This is true in Colorado, where Rep. Mark Udall, is running strong in his bid for the Senate despite his opposition to increased drilling for oil and natural gas. And it's true in New Hampshire where former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen is putting the screws to incumbent Sen. John Sununu.
But it's also paying off in Pennsylvania, where Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell probably did more than any state official across the country to nail down congressional majorities for his party. Democrats picked up House seats in the suburbs of Philadelphia and a Senate seat in 2006 by picking off Republican Sen. Rick Santorum. That seat now represents the balance of power in the Senate. A similar dynamic is also paying off in Montana. Democrat Gov. Brian Schweitzer has helped redefine his party's image in the state, setting the stage for Jon Tester to knock off incumbent Republican Sen. Conrad Burns two years ago. It's also working in Ohio. Democrats didn't control much there in 2006. But they were able to win both the governor's mansion and a Senate seat thanks to Republican scandals and strong campaigns by Ted Strickland and Sherrod Brown.
In presidential politics, governors can't always deliver their states for their party's candidate. Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina are three states where Democrats have held governorships in recent years while Republicans won solid presidential victories. Another state that comes to mind is West Virginia, where George W. Bush prevailed in 2004 even as Democrats held onto the governor's mansion in electing Joe Manchin. But if Republicans want to find their way out of the congressional wilderness and start picking up seats in the House and Senate, they might want try winning a few governor's races in competitive states.
-- Brendan Miniter
Quote of the Day
"[Barack] Obama will visit Germany, France and England this week. It just happens that those Western European nations have turned to right-of-center coalitions to remedy corrosive welfare systems, never-ending entitlements, unchecked union power and overregulation of industry. In England mere months ago, the left-of-center Labor Party lost more than 400 seats in local elections, including finishing off the reign of London Mayor Ken 'The Red' Livingstone. In France, Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy swept into power in 2007, promising to cut back welfare rolls and revitalize the floundering French economy. In Germany, Angela Merkel vowed free-market reforms to undo theoretical social 'safety nets' that have led to 'terrifyingly high unemployment.' Then, Silvio Berlusconi unexpectedly won Italy's election this year, in part on the pledge to unknot the tangle of economic regulations hampering that nation. Those are the top four economic powers in Europe. That's officially a trend" -- Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi.
The Buck Stops . . . Where?
In the better-late-than-never department, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson finally came out on Tuesday with a statement in favor of a strong U.S. dollar. If he decides to spend the last five months of his tenure working on bailing out the currency rather than bailing out more financial institutions, his legacy may not turn out a complete disaster for GOP election prospects after all.
Without a doubt, John McCain's campaign has been harmed by the public's shrinking purchasing power, an impoverishment blamed on George W. Bush because it happened on his watch. Gasoline prices are through the roof. Food prices are up. Costco, where millions of Americans shop, warned yesterday that inflationary forces are getting the upper hand. History shows over and over that a rising cost of living equals a voting public that believes the country is "on the wrong track" and needs "change" at the top.
Speaking at the New York Public Library Mr. Paulson said that a strong dollar is "really very important." Coming from an administration that has otherwise been largely agnostic about the value of the U.S. currency, this seemingly pro-forma statement was greeted by the market as an unqualified endorsement. Stocks rallied, oil sank further and the dollar moved up against the yen and euro.
Admittedly, Mr. Paulson had some help when Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Plosser raised his already hawkish profile on Tuesday by saying the Fed will need to begin raising rates soon rather than later. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has been the chief proponent of the easy money policy that has fueled the dollar's decline. With Congress passing a housing bill and bank stocks rallying, he may now have more political room to begin raising rates. If so, the move is overdue and may help take the wind out of energy and grain prices.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nuke Bombers to Cuba?!?
on: July 24, 2008, 11:28:24 AM
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has said there is no need for explanations or apologies over reports that Russia might send nuclear bombers to Cuba, Bloomberg reported July 24, citing a statement from Castro posted to the Internet on July 23. Cuba has the “nerves of steel” needed in current “times of genocide,” and the United States knows it, the statement says.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Escalating Internal Crisis
on: July 24, 2008, 10:47:51 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Escalating Internal Crisis of a Changing China
July 23, 2008
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, speaking at a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday, noted a recent rise in “incidents” in China as the “dissatisfaction of people in China” turned against authorities. Machimura added that he hoped such incidents would not “become obstacles to a smooth holding of the Beijing Olympics,” and expressed some understanding as Japan faced similar “social turmoil” during its period of rapid economic expansion.
While Machimura may have been using his comments to make a subtle jab at his neighbor’s insecurities regarding image and the Olympics, his comments hit directly at the major crisis facing the government in Beijing: managing the social and security consequences of a changing China.
Beijing is well aware of the “contradictions,” as the Chinese Communist Party would call them, littering China’s economic, social and political landscape. Highlighting this point, the Politburo is holding a special session this week to discuss the state of the Chinese economy, particularly in the coastal growth engines, and security and stability during the upcoming Olympics. For Beijing, the Olympics have been both a blessing and a curse, bringing about impetus for economic and social developments, media openings and a sense of national pride spreading far beyond the mainland, yet also stirring up new and old security issues, providing opportunity for critics of the government at home and abroad, and ultimately exacerbating policy differences among the top leadership.
This year alone, Beijing has been faced with numerous crises. Some of these were natural disasters (though perhaps compounded by human factors), such as heavy snow and floods early in the year hitting the southern croplands followed by the Sichuan earthquake in May; others were security related, such as the attempted downing of a Chinese airliner by suspected Xinjiang Islamist militants, the Tibetan uprising, and bus bombings in Shanghai and Kunming; some were diplomatic, including criticism of support for Sudan, a deferred arms shipment to Zimbabwe, and territorial spats with Vietnam and Japan; and still others, such as numerous public demonstrations, riots, and attacks on government buildings and security forces over economic issues, reflected rising social tensions. Perhaps all of these have been exacerbated by the more open media environment inside China in recent years related both to the pre-Olympic “opening” and to changes in Beijing’s image and information management.
There have been similar occurrences in China in any given year over the past several decades. Natural disasters of one form or another aren’t exactly infrequent and security concerns with Tibet, Xinjiang, or other ethnic, religious, political or social movements spring up fairly often. Balancing its international image is a constant challenge and China admits each year to thousands of security incidents and social instabilities. But in recent years, such things have appeared more intense, more concentrated and more frequent. Whether this is a reflection of an actual intensification, as Machimura noted, or of increased media openness in China is unclear, but that these issues are troubling to Beijing is obvious.
But while these sorts of troubles rise and fall in China, Beijing faces added pressure this year, first from the Olympics (pressure it has brought on itself) and second — and perhaps more significant in the long run — from the rapid rise in global commodity prices and the simultaneous slowing of global economies. With the former, China tried to use the Olympics to highlight its self-proclaimed role as one of the “big” powers, opening up various restrictions at home to divert criticism from abroad while at the same time tightening the screws in other areas to prevent “embarrassing” situations from arising in full sight of the increased international scrutiny.
This is a very difficult balance in the best of times, but when the second factor — the commodity crisis — struck, it became nearly unmanageable as economic strains destabilized some of the carefully balanced contradictions Beijing had set in place. (China’s yuan policy and its simultaneous attempts to drive businesses to the interior and keep the money flowing in from the coast are just two obvious examples.) When social stresses exceeded the expected Olympic patriotism, the newfound openness let information about the troubles inside China spread rapidly, with or without Beijing’s consent, limiting the management options for the leadership. The system has been stressed by this short-term event, but it comes at a critical time in the longer-term view of Chinese national control and management.
Throughout history, China has run through cycles of strong centralized leadership, a devolution of power to a large bureaucracy designed to maintain control over the sheer size of the Chinese nation and population, and the eventual loss of central control over the regional and local leaders and economic elite — which in turn triggers an attempt at re-centralization of power frequently accompanied by social and political upheaval before the re-establishment of a strong center. When Deng Xiaoping talked about black cats and white cats both catching mice and opened up the coasts and ultimately the rest of China to economic growth and its attendant social changes, he was in a sense devolving power out to the local bureaucracies. While this led to the meteoric rise of China economically (though not without its social consequences throughout, including Tiananmen Square, a resurgent Uighur uprising in the mid 1990s, the Falun Gong stand-off and the recent Tibetan rising), it also weakened the central leadership’s ability to change course if necessary.
Like the rest of Asia, China’s economic miracle was not so much a reflection of some profound but long overlooked new way of doing business; rather it was the tried and true Asian method of economic growth — one with much less concern for profits, sustainability or efficiency than for… well… growth. In 1992, when the rest of the world was scrambling to learn Japanese and seeing the United States as a waning economic power in the face of Japan’s rising, Tokyo suddenly realized the consequences of the Asian growth model. It was followed half a decade later by the other Asian tigers, as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea all stumbled in the Asian economic crisis. China avoided both, but like its neighbors, China’s time is coming, and while they may not want to admit it publicly, it seems China’s leaders have recognized this as well.
The government has been working for several years, slowly at first but now with more vigor, to reclaim centralized control over the economy, to stave off a major economic crisis, or at least reclaim central control to manage the consequences. President Hu Jintao has repeatedly called for a shift from a raw economic growth focus to the creation of a “harmonious society;” a pleasant way of saying the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. Add to that the raft of new security regulations and policies put in place in the lead up to the Olympics, which may well serve to secure the venues for a few weeks in August and to batten down the hatches as a social storm swells. We may well be entering the crunch time in China’s historical cycle, and the confluence of the openness of the Olympics and the crisis of commodities at this critical moment of re-centralization may well be more than Beijing can manage.
If August passes, and September and October, and the new security, social and economic regulations put in place in the past few months don’t revert to their pre-Olympic status, it will be clear that Beijing sees a crisis coming. But seeing the hurricane bearing down on you doesn’t necessarily mean you can avoid it or weather it. China is reaching a critical moment, and as Machimura noted in classic understatement, “I suppose that overcoming such incidents will be a major theme for Chinese society in the future.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Samuel Williams: Marriage
on: July 24, 2008, 10:43:09 AM
"It is not necessary to enumerate the many advantages, that arise
from this custom of early marriages. They comprehend all the
society can receive from this source; from the preservation, and
increase of the human race. Every thing useful and beneficial
to man, seems to be connected with obedience to the laws of
his nature, the inclinations, the duties, and the happiness
of individuals, resolve themselves into customs and habits,
favourable, in the highest degree, to society. In no case is this
more apparent, than in the customs of nations respecting marriage."
-- Samuel Williams (The Natural and Civil History of Vermont, 1794)
Reference: American Political Writing during the Founding Era:
1760-1805, Hyneman and Lutz, ed., vol. 2 (952)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove: A Tale of Two Flip-Floppers
on: July 24, 2008, 09:45:57 AM
A Tale of Two Flip-Floppers
By KARL ROVE
July 24, 2008
John McCain and Barack Obama have both changed positions in this campaign. That's OK. Voters understand that politicians can and, sometimes, should change their views. After all, voters do. Witness the wide swings in their answers to opinion polls.
But before accepting the changes, voters typically ask themselves three questions: Does the candidate admit he's shifting? What's the new information that altered his thinking? Does the change seem reasonable and not calculating?
Sen. McCain has changed his position on drilling for oil on the outer continental shelf. But because he explained this change by saying that $4-a-gallon gasoline caused him to re-evaluate his position, voters are likely to accept it. Of course, Mr. McCain doesn't explain why prices at the pump haven't also forced him to re-evaluate his opposition to drilling on 2000 acres in the 19.2-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But, then, what politician is always consistent?
Mr. McCain flip-flopped on the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. He'd voted against them at the time, saying in 2001 that he'd "like to see more of this tax cut shared by working Americans." Now he supports their continuation because, he says, letting them expire would increase taxes and he opposes tax hikes. Besides, he recognizes that the tax cuts have helped the economy.
At least Mr. McCain fesses up to and explains his changes. Sen. Obama has shifted recently on public financing, free trade, Nafta, welfare reform, the D.C. gun ban, whether the Iranian Quds Force is a terrorist group, immunity for telecom companies participating in the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the status of Jerusalem, flag lapel pins, and disavowing Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And not only does he refuse to explain these flip-flops, he acts as if they never occurred.
Then there is Iraq. Throughout 2006 and early 2007, Mr. Obama pledged to remove all U.S. troops, even voting to immediately cut off funds for the troops while they were in combat. Then, in July 2007, he started talking about leaving a residual U.S. force, in Kuwait and elsewhere in the region, able to go back into Iraq if needed.
By October, he shifted again, pledging to station the residual U.S. troops inside Iraq with two "limited missions of protecting our diplomats and carrying out targeted strikes on al Qaeda."
Last week, writing in the New York Times, Mr. Obama changed again. He increased the missions his residual force would perform to three: "going after any remnants of al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces." That's not all that different from what U.S. troops are doing now.
And just how many U.S. troops would Mr. Obama leave in Iraq? Colin Kahl, an Obama adviser on Iraq, has said the senator wants to have "perhaps 60,000-80,000 forces" in Iraq by December 2010. So much for withdrawing all combat troops.
It's dizzying. Yet, Mr. Obama acts as if he is a paradigm of consistency. He told a Georgia rally this month that "the people who say [I've been changing] apparently haven't been listening to me." In a PBS interview last week he said, "this notion that somehow we've had wild shifts in my positions is simply inaccurate."
Compounding all this is Mr. Obama's stubborn refusal to admit the surge was right and that he was wrong to oppose it. On MSNBC in January 2007, he said more U.S. troops would not "solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse." Later that month he said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that the new strategy would "not prove to be one that changes the dynamics significantly." In fact, the surge has done far more than its advocates hoped in a much shorter period.
Yet Mr. Obama told ABC's Terry Moran this week that even in retrospect, he would oppose the surge. He also told CBS's Katie Couric that he had "no idea what would have happened" without the new strategy. And he still declares, in the New York Times last week, "The same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true." Given all that has happened, it's hard to understand how Mr. Obama can say, as he did Tuesday in a story on NBC Nightly News, that "I don't have doubts about my ability to apply sound judgment to the major national security problems that we face."
Americans have seen both candidates flip-flop. Mr. McCain at least has a record of being a gutsy leader willing to take unpopular stands who admits his shifts and explains the new information that caused them.
Mr. Obama has detached himself from past positions at record speed. And in doing so he runs the risk of being seen as a cynical politician, not an inspiring leader. If this happens, voters in large numbers may ask -- despite his rhetorical acrobatics -- if he is the change they've been waiting for.
Mr. Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / PB kills 3 year old
on: July 23, 2008, 12:36:18 PM
Pit bull attacks, kills 3-year-old in Jackson
Mark F. Bonner • firstname.lastname@example.org
• July 23, 2008
A chained pit bull attacked and killed a 3-year-old boy Tuesday night in south Jackson.
Jackson police would not identify the toddler.
The mauling happened about 9 p.m. while the child played outside with friends at 112 Maple Ridge Drive across the street from his home.
"Right now, our big question is: Where were the parents?" said police spokesman Sgt. Jeffery Scott. "This child was mauled to death. What was that 3-year-old doing by himself?"
Scott said investigators were still interviewing witnesses late Tuesday. He said it was too early to say whether homeowners Shannon and Shaunda Reason, who own the dog named Blue Eyes, or anyone else would be charged.
The attack occurred when the boy wandered from the front yard into the carport where the dog was, Scott said. As the child made the corner toward the back of the house, he met the dog face-to-face.
The 2 1/2-year-old pit bull bit into the boy's neck and upper torso. Police said the dog then dragged the boy inside the Reasons' house, where he died.
When police and animal control officers arrived, Scott said the dog charged them, forcing officers to open fire. The dog was wounded but not killed.
Now in animal control custody, the dog will be quarantined and observed for 10 days before officials decide whether it should be euthanized.
The Reasons were being questioned late Tuesday.
Down the street, Isaac Stuckley said he heard the attack and mistakenly thought someone had been shot or stabbed.
"It happened so quick," the 12-year neighborhood resident said. "A lot of screaming, yelling and cursing - I thought a big fight had broken out."
Stuckley said the Reasons keep three pit bulls.
Stuckley said there had been a large gathering in front of the home before the attack.
"I have a pit bull myself," Stuckley said. "But it's for safety. It's not for children. That child didn't even have a chance. The whole thing makes me sick to my stomach."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Fannie Mae Gang
on: July 23, 2008, 09:31:01 AM
The Fannie Mae Gang
By PAUL A. GIGOT
July 23, 2008; Page A17
Angelo Mozilo was in one of his Napoleonic moods. It was October 2003, and the CEO of Countrywide Financial was berating me for The Wall Street Journal's editorials raising doubts about the accounting of Fannie Mae. I had just been introduced to him by Franklin Raines, then the CEO of Fannie, whom I had run into by chance at a reception hosted by the Business Council, the CEO group that had invited me to moderate a couple of panels.
Mr. Mozilo loudly declared that I didn't know what I was talking about, that I didn't understand accounting or the mortgage markets, and that I was in the pocket of Fannie's competitors, among other insults. Mr. Raines, always smoother than Mr. Mozilo, politely intervened to avoid an extended argument, and Countrywide's bantam rooster strutted off.
Clockwise from top left: Barney Frank, Franklin Raines, Mike Oxley, Angelo Mozilo and Paul Krugman.
I've thought about that episode more than once recently amid the meltdown and government rescue of Fannie and its sibling, Freddie Mac. Trying to defend the mortgage giants, Paul Krugman of the New York Times recently wrote, "What you need to know here is that the right -- the WSJ editorial page, Heritage, etc. -- hates, hates, hates Fannie and Freddie. Why? Because they don't want quasi-public entities competing with Angelo Mozilo."
That's a howler even by Mr. Krugman's standards. Fannie Mae and Mr. Mozilo weren't competitors; they were partners. Fannie helped to make Countrywide as profitable as it once was by buying its mortgages in bulk. Mr. Raines -- following predecessor Jim Johnson -- and Mr. Mozilo made each other rich. Which explains why Mr. Johnson could feel so comfortable asking Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) to discuss a sweetheart mortgage with Mr. Mozilo, and also explains the Mozilo-Raines tag team in 2003.
FANNIE MAYHEM: A HISTORY
Click here for a compendium of The Wall Street Journal's recent editorial coverage of Fannie and Freddie.I recount all this now because it illustrates the perverse nature of Fannie and Freddie that has made them such a relentless and untouchable political force. Their unique clout derives from a combination of liberal ideology and private profit. Fannie has been able to purchase political immunity for decades by disguising its vast profit-making machine in the cloak of "affordable housing." To be more precise, Fan and Fred have been protected by an alliance of Capitol Hill and Wall Street, of Barney Frank and Angelo Mozilo.
I know this because for more than six years I've been one of their antagonists. Any editor worth his expense account makes enemies, and complaints from CEOs, politicians and World Bank presidents are common. But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are unique in their thuggery, and their response to critics may help readers appreciate why taxpayers are now explicitly on the hook to rescue companies that some of us have spent years warning about.
THE GANG RESPONDS
• Sen. Kent Conrad (D. N.D.) – 06/23/08
• Rep. Michael G. Oxley (R. Ohio) – 05/11/06
• Franklin Raines – 02/25/02My battles with Fan and Fred began with no great expectations. In late 2001, I got a tip that Fannie's derivatives accounting might be suspect. I asked Susan Lee to investigate, and the editorial she wrote in February 2002, "Fannie Mae Enron?", sent Fannie's shares down nearly 4% in a day. In retrospect, my only regret is the question mark.
Mr. Raines reacted with immediate fury, denouncing us in a letter to the editor as "glib, disingenuous, contorted, even irresponsible," and that was the subtle part. He turned up on CNBC to say, in essence, that we had made it all up because we didn't want poor people to own houses, while Freddie issued its own denunciation.
The companies also mobilized their Wall Street allies, who benefited both from promoting their shares and from selling their mortgage-backed securities, or MBSs. The latter is a beautiful racket, thanks to the previously implicit and now explicit government guarantee that the companies are too big to fail. The Street can hawk Fan and Fred MBSs as nearly as safe as Treasurys but with a higher yield. They make a bundle in fees.
At the time, Wall Street's Fannie apologists outdid themselves with their counterattack. One of the most slavish was Jonathan Gray, of Sanford C. Bernstein, who wrote to clients that the editorial was "unfounded and unsubstantiated" and "discredits the paper." My favorite point in his Feb. 20, 2002, Bernstein Research Call was this rebuttal to our point that "Taxpayers Are on The Hook: This is incorrect. The agencies' debt is not guaranteed by the U.S. Treasury or any agency of the Federal Government." Oops.
Mr. Gray's memo made its way to Wall Street Journal management via Michael Ellmann, a research analyst who had covered Dow Jones and was then at Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. "I think Gray is far more accurate than your editorial writer. Your subscribers deserve better," he wrote to one senior executive.
I also received several interventions from friends and even Dow Jones colleagues on behalf of the companies. But I was especially startled one day to find in my mail a personal letter from George Gould, an acquaintance about whom I'd written a favorable column when he was Treasury undersecretary for finance in 1988.
Mr. Gould's letter assailed our editorials and me in nasty personal terms, and I quickly discovered the root of his vitriol: Though his letter didn't say so, he had become a director of Freddie Mac. He was still on the board when Freddie's accounting lapses finally exploded into a scandal some months later.
The companies eased their assaults when they concluded we weren't about to stop, and in any case they soon had bigger problems. Freddie's accounting fiasco became public in 2003, while Fannie's accounting blew up in 2004. Mr. Raines was forced to resign, and a report by regulator James Lockhart discovered that Fannie had rigged its earnings in a way that allowed it to pay huge bonuses to Mr. Raines and other executives.
Such a debacle after so much denial would have sunk any normal financial company, but once again Fan and Fred could fall back on their political protection. In the wake of Freddie's implosion, Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida held one hearing on its accounting practices and scheduled more in early 2004.
He was soon told that not only could he hold no more hearings, but House Speaker Dennis Hastert was stripping his subcommittee of jurisdiction over Fan and Fred's accounting and giving it to Mike Oxley's Financial Services Committee. "It was because of all their lobbying work," explains Mr. Stearns today, in epic understatement. Mr. Oxley proceeded to let Barney Frank (D., Mass.), then in the minority, roll all over him and protect the companies from stronger regulatory oversight. Mr. Oxley, who has since retired, was the featured guest at no fewer than 19 Fannie-sponsored fund-raisers.
Or consider the experience of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, one of the GOP's bright young lights who decided in the 1990s that Fan and Fred needed more supervision. As he held town hall meetings in his district, he soon noticed a man in a well-tailored suit hanging out amid the John Deere caps and street clothes. Mr. Ryan was being stalked by a Fannie lobbyist monitoring his every word.
On another occasion, he was invited to a meeting with the Democratic mayor of Racine, which is in his district, though he wasn't sure why. When he arrived, Mr. Ryan discovered that both he and the mayor had been invited separately -- not by each other, but by a Fannie lobbyist who proceeded to tell them about the great things Fannie did for home ownership in Racine.
When none of that deterred Mr. Ryan, Fannie played rougher. It called every mortgage holder in his district, claiming (falsely) that Mr. Ryan wanted to raise the cost of their mortgage and asking if Fannie could tell the congressman to stop on their behalf. He received some 6,000 telegrams. When Mr. Ryan finally left Financial Services for a seat on Ways and Means, which doesn't oversee Fannie, he received a personal note from Mr. Raines congratulating him. "He meant good riddance," says Mr. Ryan.
Fan and Fred also couldn't prosper for as long as they have without the support of the political left, both in Congress and the intellectual class. This includes Mr. Frank and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) on Capitol Hill, as well as Mr. Krugman and the Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein in the press. Their claim is that the companies are essential for homeownership.
Yet as studies have shown, about half of the implicit taxpayer subsidy for Fan and Fred is pocketed by shareholders and management. According to the Federal Reserve, the half that goes to homeowners adds up to a mere seven basis points on mortgages. In return for this, Fannie was able to pay no fewer than 21 of its executives more than $1 million in 2002, and in 2003 Mr. Raines pocketed more than $20 million. Fannie's left-wing defenders are underwriters of crony capitalism, not affordable housing.
So here we are this week, with the House and Senate preparing to commit taxpayer money to save Fannie and Freddie. The implicit taxpayer guarantee that Messrs. Gray and Raines and so many others said didn't exist has become explicit. Taxpayers may end up having to inject capital into the companies, in addition to guaranteeing their debt.
The abiding lesson here is what happens when you combine private profit with government power. You create political monsters that are protected both by journalists on the left and pseudo-capitalists on Wall Street, by liberal Democrats and country-club Republicans. Even now, after all of their dishonesty and failure, Fannie and Freddie could emerge from this taxpayer rescue more powerful than ever. Campaigning to spare taxpayers from that result would represent genuine "change," not that either presidential candidate seems interested.
Mr. Gigot is the Journal's editorial page editor.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams
on: July 23, 2008, 08:49:25 AM
"Without wishing to damp the ardor of curiosity or influence the
freedom of inquiry, I will hazard a prediction that, after the
most industrious and impartial researchers, the longest liver
of you all will find no principles, institutions or systems of
education more fit in general to be transmitted to your posterity
than those you have received from your ancestors."
-- John Adams (letter to the young men of the Philadelphia,
7 May 1798)
Reference: The Works of John Adams, C.F. Adams, ed., vol. 9 (188)
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Hawaii Knife Law
on: July 23, 2008, 12:10:02 AM
Knife carry law summary
Date updated: Aug 27, 2005 @ 1:28 pm
§134-51 Deadly weapons; prohibitions; penalty.
(a) Any person, not authorized by law, who carries concealed upon the person's self or within any vehicle used or occupied by the person or who is found armed with any dirk, dagger, blackjack, slug shot, billy, metal knuckles, pistol, or other deadly or dangerous weapon shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and may be immediately arrested without warrant by any sheriff, police officer, or other officer or person. Any weapon, above enumerated, upon conviction of the one carrying or possessing it under this section, shall be summarily destroyed by the chief of police or sheriff.
§134-52 Switchblade knives; prohibitions; penalty.
(a) Whoever knowingly manufactures, sells, transfers, possesses, or transports in the State any switchblade knife, being any knife having a blade which opens automatically
(1) by hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle of the knife, or
(2) by operation of inertia, gravity, or both, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
(b) Whoever knowingly possesses or intentionally uses or threatens to use a switchblade knife while engaged in the commission of a crime shall be guilty of a class C felony.
[§134-53] Butterfly knives; prohibitions; penalty.
(a) Whoever knowingly manufactures, sells, transfers, possesses, or transports in the State any butterfly knife, being a knife having a blade encased in a split handle that manually unfolds with hand or wrist action with the assistance of inertia, gravity or both, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
There is no mention of Blade Length in Hawaii Law. More Information can be at http://pweb.netcom.com/~brlevine/sta-law.htm
This is from http://www.knife-expert.com
Hawaii Case Law:
- "'Other deadly or dangerous weapon' is limited to
instruments whose sole design and purpose is to inflict
bodily injury or death... A 'diver's knife' is neither a
'dangerous weapon' nor a 'dagger'. 'Deadly and dangerous
weapon' is one designed primarily as a weapon or diverted
from normal use and prepared for combat... Cane,
butterfly, and kitchen knives are not deadly or dangerous
weapons... Sheathed sword cane and wooden knuckles with
shark's teeth were 'deadly or dangerous weapons..."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: July 23, 2008, 12:04:02 AM
Gold stars for having read the rules of the road!
GM can speak for himself most ably, but allow me to interject that if you take the time to surf back through the various threads, you will see that many of them are mostly articles-- IMO on the whole articles of well above average quality I might add. This forum's custom of organizing threads by subject matter/themes IMO enables this forum to serve as a tremendous resource for people who want to read about a subject/theme seriously and gain the perspective that can come from seeing what is thought and said over time.
Although it may not readily be apparent at first, these articles often ARE the conversation. GM and I go back and forth sometimes on libertarian questions concerning governmental surveillance, so when he posts about some successful use of data collection, I know he is twitting me a bit and when I post about overzealous or inappropriate use of surveillance cameras, he too knows it is part of the continuing conversation. Thus in the threads, you will often see a comment asking a pithy question or comment--which is then followed by various articles/pieces offering differing perspectives on that question/comment. Again, properly understood, these articles ARE part of the continuing conversation.
Case in point-- you had no problem in understanding GM's point about America's big heart which he made by use of some articles.
The advantage to articles is that they often say what we want to say far better (and quicker than composing a piece of our own). As time goes on I think you will find GM to be an unusually informed and thoughtful man-- one who has been through many times many of the points which are commonly made by many people. As such, he already has a source which is precisely on point and rather than compose a whole new post, he posts it. Case in point-- his use of an article from last year about Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Bird saying "We've lost! Run away! Run away!" To me this clearly makes the point I was seeking to make about the reckless indifference of some of the opposition to the consequences of what it says. Yes of course he has the right to say it! And those of us who wish us success, and those in the field putting their asses on the line (a fine example methinks of Americans giving more than money!!!) also have the right to be pretty steamed that it encouraged the enemy to fight harder in the hope that we were in the process of giving up and about to run away-- as well as discouraging those who think to ally with us.
I have the right to find despicable that a former VP and Prez candidate (Al Gore) speaks recklessly in Saudi Arabia of Abu Graib (which was revealed by the PENTAGON after all!!!) and placing it in moral equivalence to AQ cutting off the heads of captured civilian aid workers.
I have the right to loathe the LA Times for publishing about a secret program to get our point of view into the Iraqi press, or the NY Times revealing a program that tracked AQ's money flows. These things seem treasonous to me.
But I digress , , ,
In short, GM and I ARE having an after dinner conversation
That said, perhaps GM and I can do better in putting in a paragraph fleshing out WHY it is that we are posting a particular piece. I can't speak for GM, but I know I will work at it and I suspect he will as well.
The Adventure continues,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: China & Russia
on: July 22, 2008, 08:09:23 PM
China and Russia’s Geographic Divide
July 22, 2008
By Peter Zeihan
Related Theme Page
Central Asian Energy: Circumventing Russia
Since the Soviet fall, Russian generals, intelligence chiefs and foreign policy personnel have often waxed philosophic about the inevitability of a global alliance to hem in U.S. power — often using the rhetoric of a “multipolar world.” Central in all of these plans has been not only the implied leadership of Russia, but the implied presence of China. At first glance, the two seem natural partners. China has a booming manufacturing economy, while Russia boasts growing exports of raw materials. But a closer look at the geography of the two paints a very different picture, while the history of the two tells an extraordinarily different story. If anything, it is no small miracle that the two have never found themselves facing each other in a brutal war.
A Hostile Geography
Russia east of the Urals and the Chinese interior are empty, forbidding places. Nearly all of Russia’s population is hard up on its western border, while China’s is in snug against its eastern and southern coasts. There is an ocean’s worth of nothing between them. But while ships can ply the actual ocean cheaply, potentially boosting economic activity, trade between Russia and China does not come easy. Moscow and Beijing are farther apart than Washington and London, and the cost of building meaningful infrastructure between the two would run in the hundreds of billions. With the exception of some resource development and sales in the border region, integration between the two simply does not make economic sense.
Yet, distance aside, there are no real barriers between the two. Southwestern Siberia is a long stretch of flatness that flows seamlessly into the steppes of Central Asia and the highlands of western China. This open expanse is the eastern end of the old Silk Road — proof that luxury trade is often feasible where more conventional trade simply cannot pay the transport bill. But where caravans bearing spice and silk can pass, so can armies bearing less desirable “goods and services.”
Ominously for Russia, there is little to separate the Russian Far East — where most of the Russian population east of the Urals resides — from Manchuria. And not only is there a 15:1 population imbalance here in favor of the Chinese (and not only has Beijing quietly encouraged Chinese immigration across its border with Russia since the Soviet breakup), but the Russian Far East is blocked from easy access to the rest of Russia by the towering mountains surrounding Lake Baikal. So while the two parts of Russia have minimal barriers separating them from China, they do have barriers separating them from each other. Russia can thus only hold its Far East so long as China lacks the desire to take it.
Geography also drives the two in different directions for economic reasons. For the same reason that trade between the two is unlikely, developing Russia would be an intimidating task. Unlike China or the United States, Russia’s rivers for the most part do not interconnect, and none of the major rivers go anywhere useful. Russia has loads of coastline, but nowhere does coast meld with population centers and ice-free ocean access. The best the country has is remote Murmansk.
So Russia’s development — doubly so east of the Urals — largely mirrors Africa’s: limited infrastructure primarily concerned with exploiting mineral deposits. Anything more holistic is simply too expensive to justify.
In contrast, China boasts substantial populations along its warm coasts. This access to transport allows China to industrialize more readily than Russia, but China shares easily crossed land borders with no natural trading partner. Its only serious option for international trade lies in maritime shipping. Yet, because land transport is “merely” difficult and not impossible, China must dedicate resources to a land-based military. This makes China militarily both vulnerable to — yet economically dependent upon — sea powers, both for access to raw materials and to ship its goods to market. The dominant naval power of today is not land-centric Russia, but the United States. To be economically successful China must at least have a civil and neutral relationship with the $14-trillion-economy-wielding and 11-aircraft-carrier-strike-group-toting United States. Russia barely even enters into China’s economic equation.
And the way Russia does figure into that equation — Central Asia — is not a positive, because there is an additional complication.
Natural gas produced in the Central Asian states until recently was part and parcel of overall Soviet production. Since those states’ infrastructure ran exclusively north into Russia, Moscow could count on this captive output to sign European supply contracts at a pittance. The Kremlin then uses those contracts as an anvil over Europe to extract political concessions.
“China” has been around a long time, but the borders of today represent the largest that the Chinese state has ever been. To prevent its outer provinces from breaking away (as they have many times in China’s past), one of Beijing’s geopolitical imperatives is to lash those provinces to the center as firmly as possible. Beijing has done this in two ways. First, it has stocked these outlying regions with Han Chinese to dilute the identity of the indigenous populations and culturally lash the regions to the center. Second, it has physically and economically lashed them to the center via building loads of infrastructure. So, in the past 15 years, China has engaged in a flurry of road, pipeline and rail construction to places such as Tibet and Xinjiang.
Merge these two seemingly minor details and it suddenly becomes clear that much of the mineral and energy riches of formerly Soviet Central Asia — resources that Russia must have to maintain its energy leverage over Europe — are now just as close to China’s infrastructure network as they are to Russia’s. And obtaining those resources is one of the few possible means China has of mitigating its vulnerability to U.S. naval power.
All that is needed are some pieces of connecting infrastructure to allow those resources to flow east to China instead of north to Russia. Those connections — road, pipe and rail — are already under construction. The Russians suddenly have some very active competition in a region they have thought of as their exclusive playground, not to mention a potential highway to Russia proper, for the past quarter millennia. Control of Central Asia is now a strategic imperative for both.
A Cold History
The history of the two powers — rarely warm, oftentimes bitter — meshes well with the characteristics of the region’s geography.
From the Chinese point of view, Russia is a relative newcomer to Asia, having started claiming territory east of the Urals only in the late 1500s, and having spent most of its blood, sweat and tears in the region in Central Asia rather than the Far East. Russian efforts in the Far East amounted to little more than a string of small outposts even when Moscow began claiming Pacific territory in the late 1700s. Still, by 1700, Russian strength was climbing while Chinese power was waning under the onslaught of European colonialism, enabling a still-militarily weak Russian force to begin occupying chunks of northeastern China. With a bit of bluff and guile, Russia formally annexed what is now Amur province from Qing China in the 1858 Treaty of Aigun, and shortly thereafter the Chinese-Russian border of today was established.
China attempted to resist even after Aigun — lumping the document with the other “unequal treaties” that weakened Chinese sovereignty and territorial integrity — and indeed the Russians had more or less swindled China out of a million square miles of territory. But Beijing simply had too many other issues going on to mount a serious resistance (the Opium Wars come to mind). Once the Trans-Siberian Railway was completed early in the 20th century, Russia was able to back up its claims with troops, and the issue definitively moved to the back burner — especially as the rising colonial aspirations of Japan occupied more attention than China had to spare.
The bilateral relationship warmed somewhat after the end of World War II, with Russian energy and weapons critical to Mao’s consolidation of power (although notably, Stalin originally backed Mao’s rival, Chiang Kai-shek). But this camaraderie was not to last. Stalin did everything he could first to egg on the North Korean government to invade South Korea, and then to nudge the Chinese into backing the North Koreans against the U.S.-led U.N. counterattack. But while the USSR provided weapons to China in the Korean War, Moscow never sent troops — and when the war ended, Stalin had the temerity to submit a bill to Bejing for services rendered.
Sino-Soviet relations never really improved after that. As part of Cold War maneuvers, Russia allied with India and North Vietnam, both longtime Chinese rivals. Therein lay the groundwork of a U.S.-Chinese rapprochement, and rapid-fire events quickly drove the Chinese and Soviets apart. The United States and China both backed Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani wars. Some 60,000 Uighurs — a Muslim minority that the Chinese still fear hold separatist aspirations — fled across the Soviet border in 1962. In 1965, the Chinese energy industry matured to the point that Soviet oil was no longer required to keep the Chinese economy afloat. Later, Washington turned a blind eye to the horrors of the Chinese-bankrolled Khmer Rouge in Cambodia to destabilize Soviet-backed Vietnam. When all was said and done, the Soviet Union faced a foe to its south every bit as implacable as those on its western and eastern flanks.
But the seminal event that made the Sino-Soviet split inevitable was a series of military clashes in the summer of 1969 over some riverine islands in the Amur.
China and Russia are anything but natural partners. While their economic interests may seem complementary, geography dictates that their actual connections will be sharply limited. Moreover, in their roles of resource provider versus producer, they actually have a commercial relationship analogous to that of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries versus the United States — with all the angst and distrust that suggests.
Strategically, the two tend to swim in different pools, but they still share a borderland. Borderlands — where one great state flows into another — are dangerous places, as their precise locations ebb and flow with the geopolitical tides. And the only thing more likely to generate borderland friction than when one side is strong and the other weak is when both sides are strong. Currently, both China and Russia are becoming more powerful simultaneously, creating ample likelihood that the two will slide toward confrontation in regions of overlapping interest.
So why Stratfor’s interest in the topic? The primary reason the United States is the most powerful state in the international system is that it faces no challengers on its continent. (Canada is de facto integrated into the United States, and Mexico — even were it stable and rich — would still be separated from the United States by a sizable desert.) This allows the United States to develop in peace and focus its efforts on projecting its power outward rather than defending itself. For the United States to be threatened, a continental-sized power or coalition of similar or greater size would need to arise. So long as China and Russia remain at odds, the United States does not have to work very hard to maintain its position.
Which brings us back to the island battles that cemented the Sino-Soviet split: Russia is giving them back.
On July 21, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov put Russia’s final signature — in a deal already signed and ratified by both sides — to a deal that commits Russia to the imminent removal of its forces from 67 square miles of territory on a series of Amur riverine islands. The Russians call them Tarabarov and Bolshoi Ussuriysky, the Chinese call them Yinlong Dao and Heixiazi Dao. These are two of the islands over which the Chinese and Soviets battled in 1969, formalizing the Sino-Soviet split. The final pullout of Russian forces is expected within a month.
When two states enter into alliance, the first thing they must do is stop treating each other as foes. There is a bit of wiggle room if the two states do not border each other as the United States and Soviet Union did not during World War II. But in cases of a shared land border, it is devilishly difficult to believe that those on the other side of the line have your back if they are still gunning for a piece of your backyard. If China and Russia are going to stand together against the United States — or really, anyone — in any way, shape or form, the first thing they have to do is stop standing against each other. And that is just about to happen.
There are still plenty of reasons to doubt the durability of this development. In terms of modern warfare, the islands are strategic irrelevancies, so their surrender is not exactly a huge gesture of trust. Achieving any semblance of economic integration between the two powers still would be more trouble and expensive than it would be worth, making any deepening of the bilateral relationship difficult. Russia’s demographic slide instills a perfectly logical paranoia in the Kremlin; Russians are outnumbered 7 to 1 by their “partner” in terms of population and 3 to 1 in terms of economic size — something that Russian pride will find far harder to accept than merely handing over some islands. There is no substitute to the American market for China. Period. Sharing Central Asia is simply impossible because both sides need the same resources to achieve and maintain their strategic aims. And neither power has a particularly sterling reputation when it comes to confidence building.
Yet while Moscow is known for many, many things, sacrificing territory — especially territory over which blood has been shed — is not on that list. Swallowing some pride to raise the prospect of a Chinese-Russian alliance is something that should not pass unnoticed. Burying the hatchet in the islands of the Amur is the first step on the improbable road to a warmer bilateral relationship, and raises the possibility of a coalition of forces with the geographic foundation necessary to challenge the United States at its very core.
Such a Chinese-Russian alliance remains neither natural nor likely. But, with the territory handover, it has just become something that it was not a week ago: possible.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: July 22, 2008, 05:07:29 PM
Yes we can debate in this democratic republic of ours, but those in opposition should think of the consequences of what they say and how they say it-- AND they can and should be held accountable for those consequences. In my considered opinion, substantial elements of the Democratic opposition and the media have acted with despicable disregard for the consequences of their lies, distortions, hatred of Bush, and lust for power.
Here's one perspective on the ongoing negotiations with Iraq-- IMHO this is the sort of person BO should be talking to BEFORE forming an opinion.
July 20, 2008
By WILLIAM J. FALLON
THE prospect of a long-term security arrangement between the United States and Iraq has become a lightning rod for criticism. Yet such an agreement — which the White House believes could be completed this month now that the two countries have agreed to set a “general time horizon” for reducing the number of American troops in Iraq — would be in the best interests of the governments of both countries, and of the people who live in a region of the world that urgently needs stability.
The United Nations Security Council resolution that authorizes coalition operations in Iraq expires at the end of this year. But the calendar is not the most important reason for the United States to enter into a long-term pact with Iraq. The opportunity presented by the improved situation on the ground begs to be exploited lest it disappear in the ever-shifting sands of Middle East strife.
Are the desires of the American people and the Iraqi people different? I don’t think so. During my year in command of all American forces in the Middle East, I met often with Iraqis of all walks of life. Discussions with people — from Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to clerics, governors and generals to men in the streets of Baghdad and towns and cities throughout the country — left me with several strong impressions. The top objective of both countries is security and stability in the region. Letting Iraq’s security forces assume responsibility for their country is another mutual goal. Withdrawing the vast majority of American and coalition troops from Iraq as soon as possible is a clear priority.
Why is achieving these aims so difficult? The most significant obstacle is war weariness. The war has dragged on so long that people are fixated on yesterday’s many negative aspects and are not aware of the profoundly different and improved situation in Iraq today — which is very different from only a few months ago.
Another major challenge is the continuing tendency to view anything to do with Iraq in the polarizing terms of yes or no, in or out. The prudent and rational approach is more nuanced, and more likely to achieve both countries’ mutual goals.
There are two key aspects of the bilateral security accord that has been proposed. The first is a status of forces agreement, which is a detailed compilation of the procedures and legal protections that govern the presence of foreign troops in another country. The second element is a higher-level strategic framework agreement, in which the two parties agree on the principles that will guide their mutual actions to create long-term security in Iraq. This more important part of the accord focuses on major policy issues like the roles and missions for each country’s military, the control of forces in various security situations, procedures for detainees, and the transition of responsibility.
Objections and objectors to the agreement are numerous. From the American side, we hear that it would tie us to an open-ended commitment to defend Iraq from external threats; that it would continue to drain resources from a faltering domestic economy; and that it violates Congressional prerogatives enshrined in the Constitution.
Some Iraqis, meanwhile, complain that any continued American presence in their country perpetuates what they see as an occupation and an infringement of their national sovereignty. They and other skeptics in the region object to the potential for long-term military bases, and they denounce America’s alleged hegemonic intentions.
And Iran objects to every aspect of continued American-Iraqi cooperation while promoting instability and supporting attacks on coalition forces in Iraq by providing arms and training to Shiite extremists and criminals.
These objections are obscuring what may be a one-time opportunity to achieve the goals so keenly desired by the majority of Americans and Iraqis, who care about peace and stability in the world. Most of the concerns involve worst-case possibilities that play to the fears of the poorly informed. For example, the security accord would define future commitments rather than perpetuate the perception of an “open-ended” engagement. The United States needs access to bases in Iraq to support the current level of operations. As responsibility for security passes to Iraqi forces, the need for bases will diminish.
Negotiators can sort through the issues. Given their recent history in Iraq, contractors and their rights and protections are a controversial topic. But civilian contractors perform a wide range of essential tasks, and the terms of their future service needs to be included in the agreement. Control of Iraqi airspace is another important component that will require clearheaded negotiations to preserve our military’s ability to ensure the safety of the many airplanes flying over Iraq and the timeliness of combat air support for troops on the ground.
The benefits that could be achieved are considerable. The agreement could reap dividends similar to those gained over the past year through the sacrifice and efforts of so many who have carried out an enlightened counterinsurgency strategy.
The number of incidents of violence nationwide in Iraq is less than a tenth of what we were experiencing in the spring of 2007. The casualty rate among American troops is the lowest in more than four years and continues to improve. Ethnic and sectarian violence among the Iraqi population has declined to levels not seen since the early days of the war.
Iraq’s security forces, with only modest coalition support, have demonstrated unprecedented initiative by taking control and assuming security of previously insurgent-dominated areas like Amara, Basra, Diwaniya and Sadr City. These actions signal a more confident and capable Iraqi leadership and military.
The government of Prime Minister Maliki has assumed an increasingly large share of the cost of Iraqi security, paying $3 for each American dollar contributed, and is on track to assume near total responsibility next year as revenues from oil exports continue to rise. Economic activity in Iraq is accelerating. Major oil companies are signing development contracts to improve the infrastructure.
The government of Iraq is eager to exert its sovereignty, but its leaders also recognize that it will be some time before Iraq can take full control of security. They are acutely aware of Iran’s behavior and of the need for continued cooperation with the United States.
This is a pivotal time. The aspirations of the hopeful could come to fruition: a stable Iraq, with a modern oil industry and substantially increased export capacity, that is part of the growing regional economic and political cooperation in the Middle East. This is not wishful dreaming but a very real possibility.
But it will happen only if security in Iraq is maintained. And a long-term arrangement with the United States is key to Iraq’s future security.
Reasonable objectors to the security pact, in both countries, must jettison the rhetorical and emotional baggage of the recent past. Forget the errors and bad decisions and deal with the present. Real progress has been made, and this positive momentum must be maintained.
Compromise, of course, will be essential. But confidence will be, too. The Americans need to trust Iraq’s security forces, and the Iraqis need to trust America’s intentions. The United States must give the Iraqi government an opportunity to demonstrate sovereignty over its territory while the government of Iraq must recognize its continued, if diminishing, reliance on the American military.
But the political posturing in pursuit of short-term gains must cease. All interested parties should cooperate for the general good.
We have come a long way in Iraq. It is in the mutual interest of the United States and Iraq to continue the transition to Iraqi forces and the drawdown of American troops in circumstances most likely to provide for stability. Certainly there is some risk involved. But the opportunity is unprecedented and the potential vast.
William J. Fallon, a retired admiral and a fellow at the M.I.T. Center for International Studies, was commander of the United States Central Command from 2007 to 2008.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Qatar and the C-17
on: July 22, 2008, 01:40:11 PM
Qatar, U.S.: A Strategic Aircraft Purchase
Stratfor Today » July 22, 2008 | 1824 GMT
Photo by USAF
The Boeing C-17 Globemaster IIISummary
Qatar inked a deal with Boeing Corp. for an unspecified number of C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifters July 21 with deliveries expected to begin in 2009. This purchase of a tool of global reach is noteworthy, and likely reflects both Boeing’s intense effort to keep its C-17 production line open and Qatar’s strategic thinking.
Related Special Topic Page
U.S. Military Dominance
Boeing Corp. announced the sale of an unspecified number of C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifters to Qatar on July 21. Deliveries are reportedly expected in 2009. Though few details were given, the acquisition of such a platform — a tool of global reach — warrants closer examination.
The C-17 first became operational with the U.S. Air Force (USAF) in 1995, though its design heritage dates back to the 1980s and the Cold War. Though its development was troubled, delayed and over budget, the C-17 is now considered a very capable transport aircraft. (Its maximum payload weight is four times that of the venerable C-130 Hercules.) With only just over a decade in Air Force service, some airframes have already exceeded their initial service life, racking up in excess of 90,000 hours.
The increased strain of global operations since 9/11, including Iraq and especially Afghanistan, has thrown the metrics of the late 1990s in terms of expected military airlift requirements out the window (something further compounded by the expansion now under way of the U.S. Army and Marines by 90,000 members).
But though the Air Force has ordered some additional airframes, Boeing still faces the closure of its C-17 production line in Long Beach, Calif., in the next few years. Boeing thus has been pitching the C-17 not only to the U.S. Congress bypassing the Air Force), but to allies abroad.
Deliveries of a handful of C-17s already have taken place or are under way to the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and NATO (all not coincidentally feeling the strain of sustaining forces in Afghanistan). But Qatar — a country with fewer citizens than the United States has active duty military personnel — obviously represents a sale to a U.S. ally of a different caliber.
Yet strangely, the move makes a bit of sense. The sprawling Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar is no stranger to U.S. C-17s. According to Boeing, Qatar also will sign a contractor logistics support agreement with the Air Force — meaning the Pentagon can place a fairly high degree of confidence in the state of maintenance of Qatar’s C-17s.
This is no small point. Compared to the other U.S. allies that have invested in the C-17, Qatar’s global military footprint is minuscule. Qatar is not about to become a global player militarily; its might beyond the Middle East is economic in nature.
Though Qatar Airways is making massive investments in civilian airliners (both passenger and freight models), the C-17 deal was signed with Doha directly and explained in terms of the Qatar Armed Forces. The C-17 is optimized for military considerations like landing at austere, basic airfields and for carrying heavy armored vehicles. Freight variants of civilian designs like the Boeing 777 are generally better suited for commercial air freight, especially palletized freight. Even so, it would not necessarily be surprising to see Qatar occasionally contract its C-17s for outsized custom air transport needs, perhaps even orchestrated through Qatar Airways.
But the real underlying attraction is geopolitical. By choosing to invest in the C-17, Qatar will hold a military capability that can be incredibly valuable to the Pentagon in a crisis. This gives Doha an additional card to play, and maybe a modicum of influence (just as allowing major U.S. basing from its territory does) in potential U.S. operations in which Qatar feels it has a national interest.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: July 22, 2008, 01:32:21 PM
Although I fear it to be wrong, as I have been sharing here for some time now, Stratfor has not feared to go its own way with its analysis:
Geopolitical Diary: The Solid Footing of U.S.-Iranian Negotiations
July 21, 2008 | 2336 GMT
After a weekend of heated political haggling in Geneva between the United States and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had some tough words for Iran on Monday. Speaking from Abu Dhabi, Rice basically said that Iran needs to quit stalling, get serious about these negotiations and suspend uranium enrichment or else face another round of hard-hitting sanctions in two weeks. She added that the United States has already done enough to demonstrate that it is serious about these talks, casting doubt on whether Washington would again send a U.S. diplomat to the next meeting in Geneva to hear Iran’s response.
From Washington’s point of view, the U.S. government has already taken a number of concrete steps to create a political atmosphere conducive to negotiating with the Iranians. In the lead-up to the Geneva meeting, the United States floated the idea of setting up a diplomatic office in Tehran, backed away from its demand for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment in the “pre-negotiation” phase, delayed negotiations with the Iraqi government on keeping a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq and broke with long-standing policy by sending a U.S. diplomat to the meeting in Geneva.
As far as the United States is concerned, it is Iran’s turn to make concessions, beginning with the ever-so-touchy subject of uranium enrichment. But by refusing to budge on suspending uranium enrichment to further the talks, Iran made clear over the weekend that it is not about to be rushed with these negotiations. A number of critics of our analysis on U.S.-Iran negotiations are quick to claim that this is all just a stalling ploy by the Iranians to buy time to advance their nuclear program. That might be the case, but the Iranians don’t exactly have the luxury of stalling for time.
Iran cannot afford a stalemate in Iraq that gives the United States and Saudi Arabia ample time to bolster Iraq’s Sunnis and undercut Iran’s historic chance at consolidating Shiite influence in its Western neighbor. Moreover, the Iranians remember well the value of sorting out the tough issues with a weak U.S. administration in an election year rather than starting from scratch with a new and unpredictable government carrying a fresh political mandate come November. To this end, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a highly influential figure in the Iranian leadership, has stressed in recent interviews how Iran must learn from its past and not write off the war threats from Israel and the United States. Rafsanjani has drawn parallels between the current threat environment and the situation Iran faced during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, when the country was hit hard by a U.S.-backed Iraqi regime.
The hard part for both Iran and the United States comes now, and Iran is facing a strict timetable to sort out the nuclear issue and get a fair deal on Iraq.
But Iran has a very delicate matter on its hands. After decades of pursuing a foreign policy built on hostility toward the United States, Iran now needs to convince its public that now is a good idea to talk to the Great Satan. Likewise, the United States needs to demonstrate that it’s politically acceptable to talk to a member of the Axis of Evil. The United States is a bit further along in this public relations campaign. After the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report was released back in December 2006, the U.S. public warmed up to the idea of holding negotiations with Iran. In fact, the political debate has evolved to the point where the bulk of Americans are asking, “why aren’t we talking to the Iranians?”
In Iran, it gets a bit trickier. Living in a relatively closed society and constantly being subjected to stories of Iranian prowess and U.S. cowardice makes for a difficult transition. Indeed, there have already been clear signs of a power struggle within Iran’s ruling circles over whether Iran should move forward with these negotiations, with the main concern being how to open up to the West without having the clerics lose control of the regime.
Comforted by the fact that Washington has largely accepted that the clerical regime is here to stay, the pragmatic conservative faction in Iran appears to be winning in this debate with a public relations campaign already in full swing to prepare the Iranian public for a political rapprochement with the United States. The Iranian state-run press has been smothered lately with articles and op-eds discussing the merits of negotiating with the United States. A number of endorsements for this path have come from the senior clerical leadership, notably including Iran’s primary decision-maker, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In fact, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s vice president in charge of tourism caused quite the stir Monday when he stated “Iran is friends with the American and Israeli people” and that Iran sees “the Americans as one of the best nations in the world” — quite a long way from the traditional Iranian rhetoric of “Death to America”.
We can’t help but notice the uptick in these messages coming from the Iranian leadership. If Iran were simply jerking the Americans and the Europeans around in these negotiations to buy time for a nuclear program that has extremely low chances of developing into a real military threat in the first place, there would be little need to go through the trouble of opening up the public’s mind to re-engaging with the West. And while the U.S.-Iranian political jockeying and military posturing will intensify in the coming weeks, no matter how rocky the road, these negotiations are on solid footing.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Something for Nothing
on: July 22, 2008, 10:40:14 AM
Iran Has Earned Nothing
July 22, 2008; Page A18
In its waning days, the Bush Administration seems to be veering toward a policy of détente with Iran. Recent moves include a face-to-face meeting with Iran over its nuclear program and the likelihood of reopening a diplomatic mission in Tehran for the first time since -- well, you remember. Iran responded to these gestures on the weekend by rebuffing the West's latest set of carrots while refusing once again to give up its uranium enrichment.
What precisely did Iran do to deserve the warm shoulder? Now as ever, Tehran underwrites and arms terrorist proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Gaza, and calls for Israel's destruction. Earlier this month, it tested long-range missiles capable of reaching southern Europe. As for getting that bomb, Iran has made steady progress this decade, enriching uranium in increasingly sophisticated centrifuges in violation of three U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The State Department is playing down any shift in its approach toward Iran. William Burns, the third most senior U.S. diplomat, merely sat in on the latest round of talks this weekend between the 5+1 group -- the permanent Security Council members and Germany -- and Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jailili. And yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, possibly trying to rebalance the latest tilt, threatened a return to sanctions absent a "serious answer" from Iran on giving up its enrichment program.
As for the establishment of a U.S. Interests Section in Tehran, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Thursday wouldn't say when a decision might be taken, adding, "We want to have people-to-people contact with the Iranian people." News reports claim the decision is all but made, pending approval by the Iranians.
Diplomacy has its uses, and the U.S. can do more to support the Iranian peoples' struggle to shake off their oppressive theocracy. Just how a U.S. Interests Section would achieve that is another question: The Iranian government maintains a tight grip on what foreign embassies can or cannot do, as British diplomats have learned after twice coming under attack the past three years.
But diplomacy also means getting something for giving something. That's not how it has worked here. Mr. Bush has conceded Iran's supposed "right" to build nuclear reactors, despite the fact that Tehran forfeited that right when the U.N. found it to be in material breach of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Mr. Bush has also offered to negotiate directly with Tehran on the sole condition -- the only "precondition," as Barack Obama refers to it -- that Iran stop enriching uranium. Yet Iran continues to enrich.
The Iranians understand that the fondest wish of America's foreign policy establishment is to strike what is often called a "grand bargain" that would lead to the normalization of relations between the two states. We would not be opposed to such a bargain, provided it required Iran to verifiably abandon all its nuclear programs, including the so-called civilian ones; stop supplying arms to militias that are killing our soldiers in Iraq; end its support for terrorist groups and hand over the suspects in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombings, in which 19 U.S. servicemen died.
Instead, Iran is having it both ways, behaving like a rogue state even as it is increasingly accorded the respect due a normal one. We understand that the U.S. has had diplomatic relations with other rotten regimes. But so long as U.S. diplomatic recognition of Iran remains a carrot in any negotiations with them, what's the point of surrendering it by stages now?
That's a question some of our friends in the neighborhood are asking themselves. We know from talks with Iraqis that they wonder what price they might pay for our accommodation of their ambitious, meddling neighbor. We know from our Israeli friends, too, that they sense the accommodationist drift of our Iran policy and are drawing conclusions of their own. Unlike the Bush Administration in its legacy-hunting days, inconstancy is not a policy option they can afford.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Mukasey's proposal
on: July 22, 2008, 10:33:30 AM
Mr. Mukasey's Modest Proposal
July 22, 2008; Page A18
We had not known previously that among Attorney General Michael Mukasey's skills was the satirical bite of Jonathan Swift. Only a Swiftian wit could have come up with Mr. Mukasey's proposal in a speech yesterday that the Solons of Congress solve the legal riddles of the Supreme Court's recent Boumediene decision on the rights of Guantanamo detainees. Absent "guidance from Congress," the AG said, "different judges even on the same court will disagree about how the difficult questions left open by Boumediene will be answered."
We can hear the shrieks from the Judiciary Committee chairs, Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative John Conyers: Guidance from Congress?! Us??!!!
Among the reasons given by Mr. Mukasey for "guidance" from Congress is the risk of "inconsistent rulings and considerable uncertainty." Inconsistency and uncertainty of outcomes is of course the goal of most modern-day Congressional enactments.
Satire aside, the Attorney General was right in stepping forward to say that someone has to take responsibility for the consequences of the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling last month that Gitmo prisoners can petition for habeas corpus in the federal court system. With some understatement, he noted that the ruling had left "many significant questions open" on how these proceedings should be conducted.
As the former chief judge of the Southern District of New York, where he presided over terrorist trials, Mr. Mukasey is well aware of the dangers that multiple such legal proceedings could pose. Chief among them is the risk of letting terrorists at large hear how the U.S. gathered intelligence about their captured comrades-in-bombs. To enhance consistency with the some 200 pending cases, the AG suggested that Congress give one court jurisdiction over the cases.
None of this will happen. Once into the federal courts, the process most likely will bog down into a Babel of conflicting procedural and legal rulings. The Supreme Court itself may have to revisit its decision. But as to the Attorney General's assertion that this job falls "within the historic role and competence of Congress," that could indeed be called a modest proposal.
Actually Mukasey's proposal reads to me like a rather clever shift of responsibility to Congress in order to make it face up to just how horrendous the B. decision is. If the Bush White House were to try to come up with a solution, whatever they did would be sliced and diced over in Congress and in the media.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude
on: July 22, 2008, 10:25:01 AM
Before eating, our family has the custom of holding hands around the table and saying together "We are blessed". Last night, Conrad suggested that each of us say for what that day he was grateful. Great idea! I felt very good inside that this idea occurred to him. And we did so. I expressed how happy I was to be home.
I would like to express my gratitude to Guide Dog for thinking to start this thread.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care
on: July 22, 2008, 10:07:54 AM
American Cancer Care Beats the Rest
By DAVID GRATZER
July 22, 2008; Page A19
"Your accomplishment of [universal access] is the envy of every U.S. citizen who understands what you've done," Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.) told a Canadian audience in 1996. This week, a major international study confirms that Mr. Kennedy is right to stay at home for his own cancer care: U.S. medicine bests the cancer treatment available to people in 30 other countries.
The Concord study compares five-year cancer survival rates for several malignancies: breast cancer in women; prostate cancer; colon and rectal cancer in women and men. Combining the efforts of some 100 researchers, drawing data from almost two million cancer patients in 31 countries, the study, to be published in the August issue of The Lancet, is groundbreaking.
Who's on top? Arguably Cuba, which records the best overall outcomes for breast cancer and colorectal cancer (in women), and seems to beat U.S. health care in three out of the four categories. The study's authors -- who apparently hold higher standards than filmmaker Michael Moore -- disregard these results owing to data quality issues.
The study finds that the U.S. leads in the field of breast and prostate cancer. France excelled in women's colorectal cancer and Japan in men's colorectal cancer. The news isn't all good here: great discrepancies exist between white and African-Americans. That said, the United States clearly leads other nations in overall survival.
These results aren't completely surprising. Though international comparisons are hard to make, Lancet Oncology published last August a comparison of American and European care, and the U.S. fared better in 13 of the 16 cancers studied.
Americans don't usually hear good news stories about health care. Mr. Moore favorably reviewed British, French and even Cuban health care in the movie "Sicko," showing satisfied patients and happy, chic docs. Paul Krugman wrote last year in the New York Times that: "there's very little evidence that Americans get better health care than the British."
Cancer care there is different than here. Take for instance the country whose health-care system Mr. Krugman likes so much. The Lancet Oncology study finds that five-year survival rates for cancer in men, for example, are 45% in England (slightly higher in Wales, lower in Scotland) but 66% in the U.S.
Why do the British lag behind American survival rates? Screening standards are different. In the United States, internists recommend that men 50 and older get screened for colon cancer; in the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, screening begins at 75. And British patients wait much longer to see specialists. A Clinical Oncology study of British lung cancer treatment found in 2000 that 20% "of potentially curable patients became incurable on the waiting list." Novel drugs offered here often aren't available there; for instance, Avastin, a drug for advanced colon cancer, is prescribed more often in the U.S. than in the UK, by some estimates as much as ten-fold more.
A drug called Temodal is the U.S. standard of care for Sen. Kennedy's type of brain cancer. In Britain, a government body charged with funding decisions -- the euphemistically named NICE, or National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence -- ruled in 2001 that Temodal wasn't worth the money as a first-line treatment; in 2007, they partially lifted the prohibition. Patients can still get the drug, they just need to pay out of pocket -- for all their cancer care. The National Health Service recently ruled that if patients opt out of one type of care (say by getting Temodal), they opt out of all publicly funded care.
Two cheers, then, for American health care and better cancer outcomes. Rising costs, however, threaten to undermine the economy. Not surprisingly, our debate is shifting to a discussion of getting better value from our health dollars. Just last week, the U.S. House of Representatives held hearings on this topic (full disclosure, I was a witness). Former Sen. Tom Daschle and his co-authors speak at length about "value" in their new book, "Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis." Given his potential role in a future Democratic administration, the book may lay out the first outline of ObamaCare.
What's to be done? Mr. Daschle talks up the idea of a federal health-care board charged with "recommending coverage of those drugs and procedures backed by solid evidence. It would exert influence by ranking services and therapies by their health and cost impacts." The inspiration? Mr. Daschle cites Britain's NICE. The Congressional Budget Office is slated to release a paper on this topic later this year.
Given the Concord results, the CBO may want to hold off on that effort. Value -- like in the other five-sixths of the economy -- will come from competition and choice, not a government committee. But the federal government can take a leadership role in promoting competition. How? By creating greater transparency of prices, releasing more Medicare information on complications and outcomes, encouraging hospitals and clinics to standardize their health records, and slashing regulations that discourage competition. Together, these efforts would make it easier for American patients to seek out excellence. And that seems as American as apple pie and good cancer care.
Dr. Gratzer, a physician, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His most recent book, "The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care" (Encounter Books, 2006), is now out in paperback.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: July 22, 2008, 09:59:44 AM
It is long standing US policy that if the people/govt of Iraq says we should go that we go. That has never been in question and I think your concern, though understandable, to be misplaced.
Nor has it been in doubt that many factions there would like us to go, BUT ONE THE WHOLE EVEN THOSE WHO WANT US TO GO WANT US TO DO SO ONLY WHEN THE IRAQ GOVT IS CAPABLE OF MAINTAINING STABILITY.
If I were President, I certainly would want to know my generals' thoughts on where the Iraq govt and people are in that process-- this certainly would be of help in reading the cacaphony of noise coming out of the beginnings of a democracy that we have enabled there with our blood, sweat, and tears.
McC is quite right: it is worth noting fully that BO took his position is one formed before he ever went there and spoke to anyone there-- either our generals or the Iraqi leaders. While this speaks to BO's order of priorities as a CIC (e.g. getting elected/domestic politics first) it is not the central point: The problem with BO's timeline is that it IS a timeline.
I don't know if you have any experience translating from one language to another for accuracy and nuance. My experience is limited to translating judicial decisions and lawyer letters from Spanish to English. This I found to be a pretty good trick, and it was far less nuanced than the subject matter here. Furthermore Spanish-English translation is relatively easy compared to Arabic-German, let alone adding the additional layer of then going to English. As I read it (and I do think the MSM spins these things heavily, whereas you seem to take its presentation here as honest/accurate, so here we disagree) Maliki's comment was that he thought it would take about as long as BO's timeline. THIS DOES NOT MEAN HE FAVORS A TIMELINE.
You seem to take at face value the MSM assertion that Maliki's comments are post-fact spin. Of course this is possible, but also possible is that someone didn't get it quite right (either by accident or on purpose) and that given the political coup that the original and misleading translation seemed to provide BO, the MSM continues to spin and s*ck BO's d*ck by denying Maliki's complaint of mistranslation by spinning it as trying to cover up his moment of honesty. As covered in the Media threads and the BO Phenomena threads, its not like this is not going on in a massive way across the board anyway!!!
Without MSM trying to spin this BO's way, Mailiki's statement IMHO is properly read as an Arab politician trying to surf his way through the competing tensions of several audiences and possibilities:
a) His Shia base
b) the Sunnis
c) the Kurds
d) the possiblity that BO wins
e) the possibility that McC wins
In this context, especially a) and d), it makes sense for him to want to sound relatively specific and able to work with BO should he win, but as a practical matter to really have our exit defined by the reality on the ground-- which is exactly what he says he said!!! This is NOT what the original German article said, and Maliki is right to have complained.
We also need to remember that the make-up of the current government was defined by elections in which the Sunnis did not really participate to the benefit of the Shia, and that , , , ahem , , , once the current government defines certain matters concerning the next elections (the date of which keeps getting postponed
) the make-up of the next government will include a lot more Sunnis-- who on the whole look quite a bit more favorably on our sticking around and guaranteeing their safety than do the Shia who support Maliki.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: July 22, 2008, 09:21:07 AM
One of the biggest concerns I have is the near complete failure of reports and analysis putting the problems there in the context of the drug trade. Afg supplies some 90-95% of the world's opium and THAT'S A LOT OF MONEY a goodly % of which goes into our enemies hands. The alliance between the Taliban, AQ, and the people dedicated to producing opium seems to me to be a key piece of the puzzle, yet I see no one really address it.
I have no idea as to the merits of this article. I post it here because it addresses questions and doubts I have about how we are going about things.
Afghanistan Doesn't Need a 'Surge'
By ANN MARLOWE
July 22, 2008; Page A17
Afghanistan needs many things, but two more brigades of U.S. troops are not among them.
Barack Obama said: "We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there." Mr. Obama should have supported the surge in Iraq, but that doesn't mean that advocating one in Afghanistan makes sense.
Afghanistan's problems are not the same as Iraq's. Its people aren't recovering from a brutal, all-controlling tyranny, but from decades of chaos and centuries of bad government. Afghanistan, unlike Iraq, is largely illiterate and has a relatively undeveloped civil society. Afghan society still centers around the family and, for men, the mosque. Its society and traditions are still largely intact, in contrast to Iraq's fractured, urbanized and half-modernized population.
The Afghan insurgency has no broad popular base and doesn't mirror an obvious religious or ethnic fault line. It is also far more linked with Pakistani support than the Iraqi insurgency or militias were with Iran. Afghanistan needs a better president, judiciary and police force -- and a Pakistani government that is not playing footsie with the Taliban.
In Afghanistan, the situation can differ radically in provinces just a half-hour helicopter ride away. There has been much recent hysteria about an incident on July 13 when nine American soldiers were killed in an insurgent assault on a combat outpost in Want, in Nuristan (mistakenly reported as taking place in Wanat in neighboring Kunar Province). This was the deadliest attack on American soldiers since 16 troops were killed in Kunar in 2005. It was a tragic event, but does not demonstrate that the American effort in Afghanistan is on the brink of disaster, as some commentators have risibly argued.
"RC-East has pushed up to new areas and the bad guys are pushing back there," a serving U.S. government official who requested anonymity told me. Regional Command East has been applying a standard formula in 14 Afghan provinces, usually with great success. Even privates can tell you that it's about living among the people, building projects for them, and, in the Pashtun belt, getting the tribes on your side. This won't do the trick unless the governor and sub-governors are decent and respected by the tribal leaders, and the tribes themselves are cohesive.
"But there is no such thing as tribe in Nuristan," the official continued. "There is no unit above the corporate community." The last governor was fired, but it's not clear how much even a brilliant, honest governor could do in a place so unaccustomed to authority above the village level.
Nuristanis -- who were converted from paganism to Islam only about 100 years ago -- live in isolated villages in terrain that is rugged even by Afghan standards. There are no paved roads in the province, and helicopters can be shot down from above in the narrow valleys, as two U.S. military helicopters were in the last year.
So how do we bring security to Nuristan? Is bringing in thousands of American troops the answer?
"No!" the official said. "It's using Special Forces to get the bad guys who are infiltrating from Pakistan. Our enemy only attacks when they expect to win. If we have to go after them, we need the capacity to hunt them with stealth over trackless mountainsides for which our infantry, cavalry and airborne soldiers are not trained or equipped to operate." Defeating the enemy is best accomplished by highly trained fighters who travel light.
Counterinsurgency is not one-size-fits-all. While there are best practices, they must be applied in a nuanced way. In poorly governed countries where insurgencies are likely to arise, the solution may vary from valley to valley.
It shouldn't be hard to see that adding men, helicopters or projects is not always the solution. But then, a would-be commander in chief who announces his prescription for Afghanistan before setting foot there has a lot to learn about America's top job.
Ms. Marlowe is a New York-based writer. This year she completed her 10th trip to Afghanistan and her third embed with U.S. forces there.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 27, 28-29 DBMA Camp with Guro Crafty
on: July 22, 2008, 09:12:14 AM
When we made the decision to shoot this DVD, already there were several projects in the pipeline:
1) Die Less Often 3: EH vs. Knife-- and this may turn into TWO DVDs, one focused specifically on the Kali Fence and one on the Dog Catcher;
2) Emergency Medicine, featuring our own Dog Dean;
3) Kali Tudo 2;
4) the Dog Brothers movie-- no I am not saying the movie will be completed before turning to the Garrote Venezolano, but I am saying that this project too will place its demands on our time.
So the answer is that the GV DVD may take several months.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Men of character
on: July 22, 2008, 09:03:03 AM
"Men of energy of character must have enemies; because there
are two sides to every question, and taking one with decision,
and acting on it with effect, those who take the other will of
course be hostile in proportion as they feel that effect."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Adams, 21 December 1817)
Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Memorial Edition),
Lipscomb and Bergh, eds., 15:109.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Here's what the NY Times would not print
on: July 22, 2008, 01:54:36 AM
By Sen. John McCain
In January 2007, when General David Petraeus took command in Iraq, he called the situation “hard” but not “hopeless.” Today, 18 months later, violence has fallen by up to 80 percent to the lowest levels in four years, and Sunni and Shiite terrorists are reeling from a string of defeats. The situation now is full of hope, but considerable hard work remains to consolidate our fragile gains.
Progress has been due primarily to an increase in the number of troops and a change in their strategy. I was an early advocate of the surge at a time when it had few supporters in Washington. Senator Barack Obama was an equally vocal opponent. “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there,” he said on January 10, 2007. “In fact, I think it will do the reverse.”
Now Senator Obama has been forced to acknowledge that “our troops have performed brilliantly in lowering the level of violence.” But he still denies that any political progress has resulted.
Perhaps he is unaware that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has recently certified that, as one news article put it, “Iraq has met all but three of 18 original benchmarks set by Congress last year to measure security, political and economic progress.” Even more heartening has been progress that’s not measured by the benchmarks. More than 90,000 Iraqis, many of them Sunnis who once fought against the government, have signed up as Sons of Iraq to fight against the terrorists. Nor do they measure Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s new-found willingness to crack down on Shiite extremists in Basra and Sadr City — actions that have done much to dispel suspicions of sectarianism.
The success of the surge has not changed Senator Obama’s determination to pull out all of our combat troops. All that has changed is his rationale. In a New York Times op-ed and a speech this week, he offered his “plan for Iraq” in advance of his first “fact finding” trip to that country in more than three years. It consisted of the same old proposal to pull all of our troops out within 16 months. In 2007 he wanted to withdraw because he thought the war was lost. If we had taken his advice, it would have been. Now he wants to withdraw because he thinks Iraqis no longer need our assistance.
To make this point, he mangles the evidence. He makes it sound as if Prime Minister Maliki has endorsed the Obama timetable, when all he has said is that he would like a plan for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops at some unspecified point in the future.
Senator Obama is also misleading on the Iraqi military’s readiness. The Iraqi Army will be equipped and trained by the middle of next year, but this does not, as Senator Obama suggests, mean that they will then be ready to secure their country without a good deal of help. The Iraqi Air Force, for one, still lags behind, and no modern army can operate without air cover. The Iraqis are also still learning how to conduct planning, logistics, command and control, communications, and other complicated functions needed to support frontline troops.
No one favors a permanent U.S. presence, as Senator Obama charges. A partial withdrawal has already occurred with the departure of five “surge” brigades, and more withdrawals can take place as the security situation improves. As we draw down in Iraq, we can beef up our presence on other battlefields, such as Afghanistan, without fear of leaving a failed state behind. I have said that I expect to welcome home most of our troops from Iraq by the end of my first term in office, in 2013.
But I have also said that any draw-downs must be based on a realistic assessment of conditions on the ground, not on an artificial timetable crafted for domestic political reasons. This is the crux of my disagreement with Senator Obama.
Senator Obama has said that he would consult our commanders on the ground and Iraqi leaders, but he did no such thing before releasing his “plan for Iraq.” Perhaps that’s because he doesn’t want to hear what they have to say. During the course of eight visits to Iraq, I have heard many times from our troops what Major General Jeffrey Hammond, commander of coalition forces in Baghdad, recently said: that leaving based on a timetable would be “very dangerous.”
The danger is that extremists supported by Al Qaeda and Iran could stage a comeback, as they have in the past when we’ve had too few troops in Iraq. Senator Obama seems to have learned nothing from recent history. I find it ironic that he is emulating the worst mistake of the Bush administration by waving the “Mission Accomplished” banner prematurely.
I am also dismayed that he never talks about winning the war — only of ending it. But if we don’t win the war, our enemies will. A triumph for the terrorists would be a disaster for us. That is something I will not allow to happen as president. Instead I will continue implementing a proven counterinsurgency strategy not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan with the goal of creating stable, secure, self-sustaining democratic allies.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hez attack on Israel coming?
on: July 22, 2008, 01:44:11 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Possibility of a Hezbollah Attack on Israel
July 21, 2008
Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin warned Israel on Sunday of the increased potential for a Hezbollah attack along Israel’s northern frontier. Yadlin said that Hezbollah militants could use continuing disputes over border territories and Israeli Air Force flights over Lebanon as excuses to attack northern Israel. An attack on Israel certainly might be launched under one of the pretexts Yadlin mentioned, but Hezbollah strategy is far more complex than that.
Israel has been engaged in talks with Syria for some time now. Although Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Syrian President Bashar al Assad have not publicly sealed an agreement yet, we have seen a number of indications that the Syrians are taking steps to reduce Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon. Cooperation between Syria and Israel spells serious trouble for Hezbollah, as any deal between the two countries will have to involve Syria cracking down on the militant group and weakening its position in Lebanon. Hezbollah needs to disrupt the talks between Syria and Israel in order to have a chance of survival. By blatantly attacking Israel, Hezbollah could exploit Israeli misgivings about Syria and a weak Israeli leadership to derail the peace talks.
But this strategy comes with big risks, as attacking Israel now would mean almost certain defeat for Hezbollah. The Israelis have been preparing for another war with Hezbollah since the summer 2006 conflict that ended more or less in a stalemate. If Hezbollah sparked another round of conflict, Israel would be much better prepared this time.
Israel, eager to make a better showing against Hezbollah than in the 2006 conflict, would this time not hesitate to unleash its full force on the militant group. Also, unlike in 2006, Israel would enjoy Syrian support against Hezbollah. Hezbollah would suffer hostility along one of its most important supply lines and opposition from a close state ally. Hezbollah’s communications network (its lifeline) would also be completely vulnerable, making victory nearly impossible for the group. A war with Israel would also result in massive damage within Lebanon’s Shiite community, undercutting Hezbollah’s chances of salvaging existing popular support — especially after a military defeat.
In short, the environment in the summer of 2008 is very different from that of summer of 2006.
The question of whether to attack or hold back is reflected in Hezbollah’s leadership structure. Hezbollah is deeply divided. It appears that the main split is between the old guard leadership and the younger cadres emboldened by the 2006 summer conflict. The old guard is willing to focus more on Hezbollah’s economic potential in Lebanon — mainly controlling the drug trade in the Bekaa Valley for a tidy profit. This faction of Hezbollah has something to lose by being clobbered in a war with Israel and Syria. But the younger members, encouraged by Hezbollah’s performance against Israel in 2006, won’t go down without a fight, regardless of the cost. To attack and get beaten back or to not attack and shrivel up — this is the question that Hezbollah’s leadership is grappling with right now.
Disputes over Hezbollah’s future and how it should proceed in light of an Israeli-Syrian agreement only weaken Hezbollah. Without a clear vision on how to proceed, Hezbollah’s chances of succeeding diminish and its chances of splintering rise. Hezbollah’s rivals can exploit and exacerbate this split and are doing so. Syria has recently thrown its support behind minority factions of Hezbollah, even making possible the return of former Hezbollah Secretary-General Sheikh Subhi al-Tufaili. The Amal movement, Hezbollah’s main rival within Lebanon’s Shiite community, is another tool for the Syrians to use in diminishing Hezbollah’s influence. Currently, Hezbollah is vulnerable to the age-old military strategy of divide and conquer.
It is unclear which path Hezbollah will take from here. It certainly still poses a threat to Israel and, even if there is not consensus among Hezbollah’s leaders, there still could be a rogue attack carried out by one of the factions inclined to attacking. Hezbollah’s response to such an act would be interesting to see. If the militants take credit for it, then they would face a two-front war; if they denounce it, they would reveal their vulnerability to splintering just as Israel would be mounting a response to the initial attack.
There are a number of regional powers leaning on Hezbollah to refrain from attacking Israel. They call on Hezbollah to accept its fate and transition from militancy to a more civil form of politics. So if Hezbollah were to attack, it would be doing so without much outside support — meaning that a unified Hezbollah attack would be very desperate, with very little chance of success. But there is too much internal opposition to support the movement’s transition from militancy. Hezbollah does not have any good options right now, and the probability of it suffering a major internal fracturing is higher than ever.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times outdoes itself
on: July 21, 2008, 08:34:43 PM
McCain Campaign: New York Times Blocked Op-Ed Response to Obama
Monday, July 21, 2008
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McCain: John McCain and former President George H.W. Bush arrive for a news conference at the Bush family home in Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP Photo)
The New York Times on Friday blocked an opinion piece submitted by John McCain to the newspaper shortly after it printed a piece by his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, McCain campaign officials confirmed to FOX News on Monday.
Obama’s piece detailed his plans for Iraq and Afghanistan. While McCain’s proposed piece also discussed Iraq, The Times told McCain’s advisers that it would not accept the op-ed in its current form because it did not offer new information. Obama’s speech previewed a series of speeches leading up to a highly publicized trip to war zones in the Middle East.
“I’d be very eager to publish the senator on the op-ed page. However, I’m not going to be able to accept this piece as currently written. I’d be pleased, though, to look at another draft. Let me suggest an approach,” Times op-ed editor David Shipley wrote the campaign via an e-mail later distributed by McCain’s team.
“It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama’s piece. To that end, the article would have to articulate, in concrete terms, how Senator McCain defines victory in Iraq. It would also have to lay out a clear plan for achieving victory — with troops levels, timetables and measures for compelling the Iraqis to cooperate. And it would need to describe the Senator’s Afghanistan strategy, spelling out how it meshes with his Iraq plan,” Shipley wrote.
Shipley, who was named deputy editor in January 2003, served in the Clinton administration as a senior presidential speechwriter and special assistant to the president from 1995 to 1997.
McCain campaign Communications Director Jill Hazelbaker said the two candidates “have very different world views” about Iraq and the campaign wanted an opportunity to state its candidate’s view.
“We have elections in this country, not coronations and it’s unfortunate that The New York Times wouldn’t allow their readers to hear from John McCain and make their own judgment,” Hazelbaker told FOX News.
“John McCain believes that victory in Iraq must be based on conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables. Unlike Barack Obama, that position will not change based on politics or the demands of the New York Times,” added McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.
The New York Times issued a statement defending its process of posting op-eds.
“It is standard procedure on our Op-Ed page, and that of other newspapers, to go back and forth with an author on his or her submission. We look forward to publishing Senator McCain’s views in our paper just as we have in the past. We have published at least seven op-ed pieces by Senator McCain since 1996. The New York Times endorsed Senator McCain as the Republican candidate in the presidential primaries. We take his views very seriously,” said Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis.
Obama’s op-ed ran on July 14, days before the Democratic presidential candidate departed for Afghanistan and Iraq as part of a congressional delegation that received coverage from all three broadcast networks’ news services. It is the first time the networks have traveled overseas with a candidate.
Hazelbaker said that it’s not her job to police the media coverage, but the campaign would have liked to have “made our case directly to the voters.”
“We think the American voter is smart enough to make the call on their own,” she said.
FOX News’ Shushannah Walshe contributed to this story.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: July 20, 2008, 09:11:11 PM
SECOND RESURGENCE OF TALIBAN: INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR—PAPER
The Neo Taliban of Afghanistan has demonstrated a dual capability---- as a
terrorist organization specializing in suicide terrorism and as a
conventional guerilla force capable of conventional set-piece battles
involving attack-stand-and fight tactics.
2. Its capability as a terrorist organization has remained unimpaired for
the last two years. So far this year, it has already committed 73 acts of
suicide terrorism as compared to 137 during the whole of last year.
3. Its acts of suicide terrorism are almost as numerous as those witnessed
in Iraq, but not as deadly due to the poor training of the suicide bombers.
4. It demonstrated its capability for set-piece conventional battles
involving the engagement of large forces during the fighting season of
2006-07. The Taliban units engaged in many of those battles in Afghan
territory were trained, motivated and led by Mulla Dadullah.
5.The death of Mulla Dadullah in Afghan territory in an incident in
May,2007, impaired its conventional capability. It faced difficulty in
finding a suitable replacement for him. This had an impact on the ground
situation during the summer of 2007. The much-threatened (by the Taliban)
and much-dreaded (by the NATO forces) summer offensive did not materialize.
6. As the NATO commanders were hoping that the tide has started turning
against the Taliban, it is showing signs of a second resurgence of its
conventional prowess. One has already seen two instances of this. The first
was its audacious attack on the Kandahar prison on June 13,2008, during
which it took the NATO and Afghan National Army (ANA) forces totally by
surprise and rescued about 400 imprisoned Taliban cadres and took them away
in motor vehicles without being intercepted by the Canadian forces deployed
for the security of this area.
7. The second instance was on July 13,2008, when an estimated 200 jihadi
fighters , who had taken shelter, without being detected, in a village
called Wanat in the Kunnar province in Eastern Afghanistan managed to attack
and over-run an outpost jointly manned by US and ANA forces, after killing
nine US soldiers. The US has since vacated this indefensible area, which has
reportedly been occupied by the jihadi fighters.
8.What should be worrying is not the occupation of this area by the
jihadis, but their ability to keep their movement, assembling in the village
and preparations for the attack a secret and the tenacity with which they
reportedly fought despite the US outpost calling for air strikes to disperse
9.The identity of the fighters and their commander is not yet certain. The
Taliban, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Gulbuddin Heckmatyar's Hizbe
Islami and Al Qaeda are known to be active in this area-----with greater
activity by the Hizbe Islami than others. There have also been reports from
tribal sources in Pakistan that the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), which has been
operating in tandem with Maulana Fazlullah's
Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) in the Swat Valley of the
North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), has now moved some of its trained
cadres to the Kunnar province to fight along with the Hizbe Islami. However,
the JEM is essentially a terrorist organization with very little
10.The kind of conventional capability, which was exhibited during the
2006-07 fighting season and is being exhibited now, could come only from
either serving or retired Pashtun soldiers of the Pakistani and Afghan
armies and those trained by them.
11. In a report carried by it on July 18,2008, the "Financial Times" of
London has quoted Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of
Staff, as saying that the July 13's "well co-ordinated" attack by hundreds
of insurgents against a US military outpost near the border with Pakistan
demonstrated that the enemy in Afghanistan had "grown bolder, more
sophisticated, and more diverse".
12. He added: "We're seeing a greater number of insurgents and foreign
fighters flowing across the border with Pakistan, unmolested and unhindered.
We simply must all do a better job of policing the border region and
eliminating the safe havens, which serve today as launching pads for attacks
on coalition forces."
13. An agency report carried by the "News" of Pakistan on July 17,2008, has
quoted Admiral Mullen as further saying as follows: "The group that launched
the attack trained in safe havens in Pakistan. We see this threat
accelerating, almost becoming a syndicate of different groups who heretofore
had not worked closely together."
14. Till recently, Al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and
the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), another Uzbek group, were content with
keeping their role confined to training the jihadis of the Taliban, the
various Pakistani organizations and volunteers from outside. They were not
participating in actual battles due to their small number, which they wanted
to conserve for operations outside this region. There have been reports that
their number has now been bolstered by the arrival of not only experienced
fighters from Iraq, but also fresh recruits from the Central Asian
Republics, Chechnya and Turks and members of the Uighur diaspora from
15. The Pentagon is reported to have ordered an enquiry into the July 13
fiasco in order to establish the identity of the jihadi forces which
attacked the outpost, how the outpost was taken by surprise and how the
intelligence agencies failed to detect the movement and assembling of the
jihadis near the outpost. It has been reported that the jihadis managed to
plan and carry out the attack within two days of the outpost being set up.
16. The US forces should re-examine their present policy of setting up
thinly-manned outposts in apparently indefensible areas. They only hand over
a seemingly spectacular victory on a platter to the jihadis. They should
reverse this tactics and inveigle the jihadis into setting up their presence
in such areas and then attack and kill them with superior force. The
objective in such isolated areas should be not territorial control, but
inflicting heavy attrition on the jihadis.
17.The jihadi battles presently going on in Pakistan's tribal belt and in
Afghanistan have serious security implications for India. Mehsuds, Wazirs
and Afridis were the tribals used by the Pakistan Army in 1947-48 to capture
what is now called the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK). The Pakistan Army
again used them before and during the war of 1965. Zia-ul-Haq used them for
suppressing a Shia revolt in Gilgit in 1988.
18. President Bush often says with some validity that if the US troops
withdraw from Iraq without defeating Al Qaeda, the Arab terrorists now
operating in Iraq could move over to Europe and the US and step up
19. If the US and other NATO forces fail to prevail over the jihadis in the
Pakistan-Afghanistan tribal belt, these tribals, fresh from their victories
in that region, would move over to Kashmir to resume their jihad against
India. What we are now seeing in Kashmir is the beginning of the end of one
phase of the jihad involving jihadis of the 1980s vintage. We might see the
beginning of a new phase involving better-trained and better-motivated
jihadis of the latest stock.
* **(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt.
of India, New Delhi, and ,presently, Director, Institute For Topical
Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Force Science News
on: July 20, 2008, 09:06:49 PM
Second post of the day:
YIN / yang
--- On Sat, 7/19/08, Force Science Research Center <Info@forcesciencenews.com
From: Force Science Research Center <Info@forcesciencenews.com
Subject: FORCE SCIENCE NEWS: Transmission #102
Date: Saturday, July 19, 2008, 12:07 PM
July 18, 2008www.ForceScienceNews.com
Force Science News #102
In this issue:
New study ranks risks of injury from 5 major force options
How would you rank the relative risk for officers and suspects suffering injury from
these 5 force options:
• Empty-hand control techniques
• OC spray
• Conducted energy weapons (Tasers)
• Lateral vascular neck restraint.
If you judged OC to be the ³safest² and baton to be ³most injurious² to both
officers and offenders, you¹re in agreement with the findings of a new study of
force encounters involving officers on a major municipal department.
The study, the first of its kind in Canada, was conducted by S/Sgt. Chris Butler of
the Calgary (Alberta) Police Service and Dr. Christine Hall of the Canadian Police
They analyzed 562 use-of-force events that occurred across a recent 2-year period as
officers effected the arrests of resistant subjects in Calgary, a city of more than
1 million population. The threatened or actual use of firearms were omitted from the
review, as were handcuffing, low-level pain compliance techniques like joint locks
and pressure points, K-9s, and tactical responses such as chemical agents,
flashbangs and less-lethal projectiles.
Here¹s what they discovered:
• OC, used in roughly 5% of force-involved arrests, produced the lowest rate of
injury. More than 80% of sprayed subjects sustained no injury whatever. About 15%
had only minor injuries (³visible injuries of a trifling nature which did not
require medical treatment²) and some 4% had what the researchers termed ³minor
outpatient² injuries (some medical treatment required but not hospitalization). No
cases resulted in hospitalization or were fatal.
Officers involved in OC use fared even better. They suffered no injury in nearly 89%
of cases and only minor damage the rest of the time.
The pepper spray involved was Sabre Red, with 10% oleoresin capsicum.
• Batons, deployed in 5.5% of force-involved arrests, caused the greatest rate of
higher-level injury. Fewer than 39% of subjects receiving baton contact remained
uninjured. More than 3% were hospitalized and nearly 26% required outpatient
treatment, combining to be ³most injurious,² according to the researchers. About 32%
of batoned subjects sustained minor injuries requiring no treatment.
Of officers involved in baton incidents, nearly 13% required outpatient treatment.
Some 16% sustained minor injury and the rest were uninjured.
In Calgary, the baton used is the Monadnock Autolock expandable with power safety tip.
• Empty-hand controls, applied in 38.5% of the force events, also ranked high for
more serious injuries. For purposes of the study, physical controls included ³nerve
motor point striking and stunning techniques, grounding techniques such as arm-bar
takedowns, and other balance displacement methods.²
Nearly 14% of these subjects required outpatient medical care and about 4% had to be
hospitalized. Almost 50% had minor injuries and about 33% remained uninjured.
Among officers, 1% required hospitalization and 4.5% needed outpatient aid. The vast
majority (77.8%) were uninjured and nearly 17% had minor injuries.
Judging from these findings, the researchers conclude, agencies need ³to seek out
alternatives to hands-on physical control tactics and the baton if they wish to
reduce the frequency and seriousness of citizen and police officer injuries.²
• The second safest force mode for suspects proved to be the lateral vascular neck
restraint. Used in 3% of force-related arrests, the LVNR left more than half (52.9%)
of offenders uninjured. About 41% sustained minor injuries and less than 6% required
minor outpatient treatment. There were no hospitalizations and no fatalities.
Officers applying a LVNR remained uninjured more than 76% of the time and those who
were hurt suffered only minor injuries.
• Conducted energy weapons also scored high in safety for both suspects and
officers. The Taser X26, the CEW issued to Calgary officers, was the most frequently
deployed of the 5 force options studied, being used against nearly half (48.2%) of
resistant arrestees. About 1% ended up hospitalized, about 12% needed minor
outpatient treatment and more than 42% had only minor injuries. Nearly 45% sustained
no injuries and there were 0 fatalities.
Of officers using Tasers, about 83% were uninjured and about 13% sustained minor
injuries. Only about 2% and 1% required outpatient medical attention or
³The commonly held belief² that CEWs carry ³a significant risk of injury or deathŠis
not supported by the data.² Indeed, they are ³less injurious than either the baton
or empty-hand physical control,² which often would be alternative options where
electronic weapons were not available.
In a 14-page report of their study, Butler and Hall point out that ³[N]o use of
force technique available to police officers can be considered Œsafe¹ ² in the
dictionary sense that it is free from harm or secure from threat of danger. ³[E]very
use of force encounter between the police and a citizen carries with it the
possibility for injury for one or all of the participants, however unexpected that
injury might be.²
The best that can be hoped for is an appropriate, proportional balance between ³the
degree of risk of harm² and the ³resistance faced by police² that requires the use
The public has been fed ³a large amount ofŠincomplete or incorrect information and
even intentional artifice² about some force options, the researchers charge. Their
study, they say, may help eliminate the resulting confusion. Plus, knowing the level
of injury likely to result from a given force method can aid trainers and
administrators in developing ³sound policies and practices.²
³This study is a great snapshot about force and its associated injuries and is a
valuable addition to the discussion of force issues in Canada and elsewhere,² says
Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center at
Minnesota State University-Mankato.
³Hopefully, the researchers will now be encouraged to probe further into some of the
issues they touched on, exploring in greater depth the decision-making that led
officers to apply various types of force, the level of emotional and physical
intensity generated by subjects receiving the force, the causes of injuries to both
officers and subjects, and so on. There is still much to be learned in these areas.²
As part of their study, Hall and Butler compiled statistics on the broad overview of
force encounters among Calgary officers, which closely mirror findings regarding
U.S. law enforcement.
• Out of more than 827,000 police-public interactions, the 562 instances which ended
up involving use of force represented less than 1% (.07%) of the total. (Other
studies have pegged that figure in the U.S. at 1.5%.)
• Arrests occurred in only 4.6% of police-public interactions, and 98.5% of the time
the arrests were finessed without force.
• Roughly 88% of all subjects requiring force were under the influence of drugs
and/or alcohol or ³some degree of emotional illness.² Almost 94% of resistant
offenders requiring force were male.
• The researchers found ³a notable pattern of relationshipŠbetween the number of
officers present and the frequency and nature of injuries sustained by both citizens
and officers.² Namely: ³[M]ore injuries occurred in circumstances where only one
officer was present.²
The researchers state bluntly that ³biased reporting of events has led the
lay-public to have the impression that the police use of force is frequent when
compared to the overall number of police and public interactions.²
They mentioned also a bias that results in ³extensive media coverage of events where
subjects have died² after use of a CEW and a ³lack of publication of CEW uses
without an adverse outcome.²
Such skewed reporting ³prevents the publicŠfrom forming an informed opinion about
the actual risk presented² by various force modalities, they stated.
The study¹s official jaw-breaking title is: ³Public-Police Interaction and Its
Relation to Arrest and Use of Force by Police and Resulting Injuries to Subjects and
Officers; a Description of Risk in One Major Canadian Urban City.² It is expected to
be posted online in mid- to late-August by the Canadian Police Research Center atwww.cprc.org
S/Sgt. Butler can be reached at email@example.com
for more information
The Force Science News is provided by The Force Science Research Center, a
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DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / AELE
on: July 20, 2008, 09:02:02 PM
You are welcome to forward this e-mail; please encourage your colleagues to sign up
for periodic mailings at http://www.aele.org/e-signup.html
1. The August 2008 issue of the AELE Monthly Law Journal is online, with three new
* Police Civil Liability
Police Interaction with Homeless Persons
Part One – Sleeping and Possessions
* Discipline and Employment Law
Administrative Investigations of Police Shootings and Other Critical Incidents:
Officer Statements and Use of Force Reports
Part Two: The Basics
* Corrections Law
Prisoner Work Programs
Access the Law Journal's menu page at http://www.aele.org/law/MLJ2008AUG.html
Note: The article on "Administrative Investigations of Police Shootings" focuses on
seven important questions:
** What information needs to be obtained from an officer who has killed or wounded a
suspect, before the officer is placed on paid, administrative leave?
** How long should investigators wait, before formally interviewing an officer who
has used deadly force?
** Should officers be interviewed together or separately?
** Should officers be allowed to be accompanied, at the interview, by an association
representative or attorney?
** Who should complete the Use of Force Report: The involved officers, the field
supervisor, or a member of the incident investigation team?
** Should the involved officer(s) be allowed a walk-through before giving an
interview to investigators?
** If there are videotapes, should the officer(s) review them before or after the
At the end of the article there are 87 references to articles, books, judicial
decisions, model policies, guidelines, reports and studies. Many can be viewed by
The article can be directly accessed at http://www.aele.org/law/2008-8MLJ201.html
2. The August 2008 issues of AELE's three periodicals have been uploaded. The
current issues, back issues since 2000, three 30+ year case digests, and a search
engine are FREE. Everyone is welcome to read, print or download AELE publications
without charge. The main menu is at: http://www.aele.org/law
Among 100+ different cases noted, there are several that warrant mention here:
*** Law Enforcement Liability Reporter ***
* Excessive Force - Pepper Spray
Officers did not use excessive force in response to a belligerent motorist who
shouted and refused to comply with their directions to step to the curb, lower his
voice, and calm down. When he resisted their attempts to place handcuffs on him,
they tackled him to the ground and applied arm locks for purposes of restraint.
After that too proved unsuccessful, they then used pepper spray. The court ruled
that no reasonable officer would have throught that the defendant officers applied
excessive force under the circumstances, and that the officers were entitled to
qualified immunity. Mierzwa v. U.S., #07-3362, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 13523 (Unpub.
* Excessive Force - Taser
Officers were not entitled to qualified immunity on claims that they used excessive
force in deploying a Taser on a 6-year-old, 53-pound minor, allegedly causing
permanent and severe injuries. The child was placed in a school principal's office
after being disruptive in a class. He broke a picture frame in the office, and
police officers allegedly found him standing with a piece of glass in his hand. One
officer kneeled in front of the child while the other sat in front of him, and then
moved within one foot of him just before using the Taser. At the time of the
incident, which was 2003, it was "obvious" that the Fourth Amendment prohibited the
use of the Taser under these circumstances, according to the appeals court. Moretta
v. Abbott, #07-10795, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 11749 (Unpub. 11th Cir.).http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/unpub/ops/200710795.pdf
* Excessive Force - Firearms
Based on disputes about the facts of the incident in which officers shot and killed
a man as he tried to flee a traffic stop, the officers were properly denied
qualified immunity. While the officers claimed that they feared for their safety
even under the facts alleged by the plaintiffs, those allegations were that the
motorist's truck was moving non-aggressively and slowly, and could not have hit the
officers, and also that it was stationary at the time of the shooting. Under those
circumstances, if true, no reasonable officer could have believed that the motorist
posed a threat to them. Further, under these circumstances, the officers would have
had time to assess the situation before firing several times at the motorist.
Officers may not, the court noted, fire at a fleeing felon who is not posing a
threat to anyone. Estate of Kirby v. Duva, #06-1976, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 13573 (6th
*** Fire and Police Personnel Reporter ***
* Disciplinary Punishment - Sexual Misconduct
Tenth Circuit upholds a private oral reprimand for a police officer, who, while
off-duty, had sex with another officer, while attending a training session out of
town. "We think it reasonable for the police department to privately admonish
[appellant's] personal conduct consistent with its code of conduct when the
department believes it will further internal discipline or the public's respect for
its police officers and the department they represent." Seegmiller v. Laverkin City,
#07-4096 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 12417 (10th Cir.).http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/10th/074096p.pdf
* Disciplinary Punishment - Civility
Swearing at another officer does not merit termination. (Other issues also were
discussed in the case). Harder v. Vil. of Forest Park, #05-C-5800, 2008 U.S. Dist.
Lexis 36892 (N.D.Ill.). http://www.aele.org/law/2008FPAUG/harder-fppd.html
*** Jail and Prisoner Law Bulletin ***
* Positional, Restraint, and Compressional Asphyxia
Although a man suffering from delusions attacked a psychiatric hospital staff
member, the defendants knew that restraining him face-down on the floor and putting
pressure on a his back posed a substantial risk of asphyxiation. "Despite knowledge
of this risk, defendants chose to restrain [the deceased] using these dangerous
restraint techniques. Their actions were objectively unreasonable given the fact
that [an] eyewitness testified that [the] defendants continued to restrain [him] in
this dangerous position ..." During the attempt to restrain him, he stopped
breathing, never regained consciousness, and died. The appeals court rejected claims
by certain defendants for qualified immunity in a federal civil rights lawsuit
brought by the decedent's estate. Lanman v. Hinson, #06-2263, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis
12682, 2008 Fed App. 0212P (6th Cir.). http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/08a0212p-06.pdf
* Prisoner Restraint
Placing a prisoner in a four-point restraint and keeping him shackled to his bed in
this manner for four hours did not violate his substantive due process rights. The
inmate was accused of biting the prison guard at the time the restraints were
applied. Grinter v. Knight, #05-6755, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 12919 (6th Cir.).http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/08a0213p-06.pdf
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DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: July 20, 2008, 06:26:06 PM
I'm in Toronto and we caught the UFC freebie on the big screen at a restaurant-bar. Possibly the most boring card I have ever seen. There was a good Peruvian necktie and one hellacious eyejab-- but the rest was a giant snore.
I can't watch the AA clip here on the hotel computer, that will have to wait until I am back in LA.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: July 19, 2008, 07:05:50 PM
This is VERY good for BO and bad for McCain IMHO http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/07/19/maliki-i-support-obamas-withdrawal-timetable/
Maliki: I Support Obamas Withdrawal Timetable
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told a German magazine that he supports Barack Obamas plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.
U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama is right when he talks about 16 months, al-Maliki told Der Spiegel. He said he wants U.S. troops to leave as soon as possible.
The apparent endorsement of a cornerstone of Obamas foreign policy is a big boost for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee ahead of his scheduled meeting with al-Maliki. Obama, who is touring both Afghanistan and Iraq for the first time since becoming a presidential candidate, arrived Saturday in Afghanistan, where he is meeting with U.S. troops.
Al-Maliki said for the first time earlier this month that the U.S. military should work toward a timetable for withdrawal something President Bush and Obamas rival John McCain oppose. The White House also reported Friday that Iraq and the United States are discussing a general time horizon for reductions in troop levels.
Both developments gave Obama fuel in his argument that U.S. involvement in Iraq soon must draw to a close. But al-Malikis comments to Der Spiegel seemingly were the deepest the foreign leader has waded into the tense foreign policy debate between the two major presidential candidates.
Al-Maliki told the magazine that his comments were by no means an election endorsement.
But he seemed to refer disparagingly to McCain when he said short time periods in Iraq are more realistic, while artificially prolonging the tenure of U.S. troops in Iraq would cause problems.
McCain went after Obama in his radio address Saturday for announcing his proposed strategies for Afghanistan and Iraq before even departing.
Apparently, hes confident enough that he wont find any facts that might change his opinion or alter his strategy. Remarkable, McCain said, criticizing his rival for initially opposing the troop surge in Iraq.
Today we know that he was wrong, he said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Declining value of College Degree
on: July 19, 2008, 06:54:43 PM
The Declining Value
Of Your College Degree
By GREG IP
A four-year college degree, seen for generations as a ticket to a better life, is no longer enough to guarantee a steadily rising paycheck.
A college degree may not take you as far as you'd expect. However, WSJ's Jennifer Merritt reports on a few fields where a bachelor's degree still remains a worthy investment.
Just ask Bea Dewing. After she earned a bachelor's degree -- her second -- in computer science from Maryland's Frostburg State University in 1986, she enjoyed almost unbroken advances in wages, eventually earning $89,000 a year as a data modeler for Sprint Corp. in Lawrence, Kan. Then, in 2002, Sprint laid her off.
"I thought I might be looking a few weeks or months at the most," says Ms. Dewing, now 56 years old. Instead she spent the next six years in a career wilderness, starting an Internet café that didn't succeed, working temporary jobs and low-end positions in data processing, and fruitlessly responding to hundreds of job postings.
The low point came around 2004 when a recruiter for Sprint -- now known as Sprint Nextel Corp. -- called seeking to fill a job similar to the one she lost two years earlier, but paying barely a third of her old salary.
In April, Ms. Dewing finally landed a job similar to her old one in the information technology department of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., where she relocated. She earns about 20% less than she did in 2002, adjusted for inflation, but considers herself fortunate, and wiser.
A degree, she says, "isn't any big guarantee of employment, it's a basic requirement, a step you have to take to even be considered for many professional jobs."
Trends in Education, SalariesFor decades, the typical college graduate's wage rose well above inflation. But no longer. In the economic expansion that began in 2001 and now appears to be ending, the inflation-adjusted wages of the majority of U.S. workers didn't grow, even among those who went to college. The government's statistical snapshots show the typical weekly salary of a worker with a bachelor's degree, adjusted for inflation, didn't rise last year from 2006 and was 1.7% below the 2001 level.
College-educated workers are more plentiful, more commoditized and more subject to the downsizings that used to be the purview of blue-collar workers only. What employers want from workers nowadays is more narrow, more abstract and less easily learned in college.
To be sure, the average American with a college diploma still earns about 75% more than a worker with a high-school diploma and is less likely to be unemployed. Yet while that so-called college premium is up from 40% in 1979, it is little changed from 2001, according to data compiled by Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal Washington think tank.
• Ms. Goldin and Mr. Katz have a new book, "The Race between Education and Technology," that provides a historical analysis of the co-evolution of educational attainment and the wage structure in the United States through the twentieth century.
• Jared Bernstein is an economist at the Economic Policy Institute. For more of his writings, visit the institute's Web site.
• Real Time Econ: College Grads, Incomes Stagnant, Turn Against GlobalizationMost statistics he and other economists use don't track individual workers over time, but compare annual snapshots of the work force. That said, this trend doesn't appear due to an influx of lower-paid young workers or falling starting salaries; Mr. Bernstein says when differences in age, race, marital status and place of residence are accounted for, the trend remains the same.
A variety of economic forces are at work here. Globalization and technology have altered the types of skills that earn workers a premium wage; in many cases, those skills aren't learned in college classrooms. And compared with previous generations, today's college graduates are far more likely to be competing against educated immigrants and educated workers employed overseas.
The issue isn't a lack of economic growth, which was solid for most of the 2000s. Rather, it's that the fruits of growth are flowing largely to "a relatively small group of people who have a particular set of skills and assets that lots of other people don't," says Mr. Bernstein. And that "doesn't necessarily have that much to do with your education." In short, a college degree is often necessary, but not sufficient, to get a paycheck that beats inflation.
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• 'Old Age' on HoldEconomists chiefly cite globalization and technology, which have prompted employers to put the highest value on abstract skills possessed by a relatively small group, for this state of affairs. Harvard University economists Lawrence Katz and Claudia Goldin argue that in the 1990s, it became easier for firms to do overseas, or with computers at home, the work once done by "lower-end college graduates in middle management and certain professional positions." This depressed these workers' wages, but made college graduates whose work was more abstract and creative more productive, driving their salaries up.
Indeed, salaries have seen extraordinary growth among a small number of highly paid individuals in the financial sector -- such as fund management, investment banking and corporate law -- which, until the credit crisis hit a year ago, had benefited both from the buoyant financial environment and the globalization of finance, in which the U.S. remains a leader.
Richard Spitzer is one of those beneficiaries. He received his undergraduate degree in East Asian studies in 1995 from the College of William and Mary and graduated from Georgetown University's law school in 2001. The New York firm for which he works, now called Dewey & LeBoeuf, has a specialty in complex legal work for insurance companies. There, Mr. Spitzer has developed an expertise in "catastrophe bonds." An insurance company sells such bonds to investors and pays them interest, unless an earthquake, a hurricane or unexpected surge in deaths occurs.
Experts in these bonds are "probably a rarefied species -- there's only a few law firms that do them," says Mr. Spitzer, 35 years old. He typically spends two to four months on a single deal, ensuring that details like timing of payments or definition of the triggering event are precise enough to avoid disputes or default.
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• Turning That Layoff Into Career CatalystMr. Spitzer's salary has doubled to $265,000 since joining in 2001, in line with salaries similar firms pay.
But not all law graduates are so fortunate; many, especially those from less-prestigious schools, have far lower salaries and less job security. Similarly, some computer-science graduates strike it rich. But their skills are not as rare as they were in the early 1980s, when the discipline took off, and graduates today must contend with competition from hundreds of thousands of similarly qualified foreign workers in the U.S. or overseas.
That helps explain Ms. Dewing's experience. She was raised in a family that prized education. Both her parents went to college on the G.I. Bill, which pays tuition costs for servicemen and some dependents. Four of their six children earned college degrees. In 1979, she earned a bachelor's degree in government and politics from George Mason University in Virginia. Several years later, then a single mother, she decided to get a degree in computer science.
Her first job out of college was with the federal government, earning about $35,000 in today's dollars. "For 16 years I had no trouble at all finding jobs," she said. Earlier this decade she ended up at Sprint designing databases -- a specialty called "data modeling" that isn't widely taught in schools and usually requires hands-on experience.
In 2002 Sprint, reeling from the collapse of the telecommunications industry, initiated a wave of layoffs that eventually totaled 15,000 workers in 13 months, Ms. Dewing among them. She remained in the Kansas City area, posting her résumé on job boards. When recruiters called, she would usually put her expected salary at something close to her old salary. As time went by without an offer she lowered it steadily, to $60,000. She found herself competing for jobs with employees of outsourcing firms brought over from India on temporary visas, such as the H-1B.
A few months ago, Ms. Dewing got a call from a recruiter calling on behalf of Wal-Mart. Company officials pressed her during her interview on how she had kept up her data-modeling ability during her six years away from the specialty. She noted that while at Sprint she had revived the Kansas City chapter of a data modelers' professional association and, long after being laid off, continued to attend its seminars where invited experts would describe the latest advances. She even cited her short-lived Internet café as evidence of how she could solve diverse problems.
When she landed the job, she says, "I felt, 'All right, I'm a professional again.'" Even so, Ms. Dewing has a newfound appreciation for how insecure any job can be and how little a college degree by itself stands for. "There is enough competition for entry-level positions that employers are going to ask, 'What else have you done in your life besides go to college?'" she says. "And in information technology, a portfolio of hands-on experience with programming is a really good thing to have."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Kill the cows!
on: July 19, 2008, 06:39:20 PM
The Lawnmower Men
July 19, 2008; Page A8
Al Gore blew into Washington on Thursday, warning that "our very way of life" is imperiled if the U.S. doesn't end "the carbon age" within 10 years. No one seriously believes such a goal is even remotely plausible. But if you want to know what he and his acolytes think this means in practice, the Environmental Protection Agency has just published the instruction manual. Get ready for the lawnmower inspector near you.
In a huge document released last Friday, the EPA lays out the thousands of carbon controls with which they'd like to shackle the whole economy. Central planning is too artful a term for the EPA's nanomanagement. Thankfully none of it has the force of law -- yet. However, the Bush Administration has done a public service by opening this window on new-wave green thinking like Mr. Gore's, and previewing what Democrats have in mind for next year.
The mess began in 2007, when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Mass. v. EPA that greenhouse gases are "air pollutants" under current environmental laws, despite the fact that the laws were written decades before the climate-change panic. The EPA was ordered to regulate if it decides that carbon emissions are a danger to the public. The 588-page "advance notice of proposed rulemaking" lays out how the EPA would like it to work in practice.
Justice Antonin Scalia noted in his dissent that under the Court's "pollutant" standard "everything airborne, from Frisbees to flatulence, qualifies," which the EPA appears to have taken literally. It is alarmed by "enteric fermentation in domestic livestock" -- that is, er, their "emissions." A farm with over 25 cows would exceed the EPA's proposed carbon limits. So would 500 acres of crops, due to harvesting and processing machinery.
But never fear. The EPA would regulate "farm tractors" too, plus "lawn and garden equipment." For example, it "could require a different unit of measure [for carbon emissions] tied to the machine's mission or output -- such as grams per kilogram of cuttings from a 'standard' lawn for lawnmowers."
In fact, the EPA has new mandates for everything with an engine. There's a slew of auto regulations, especially jacking up fuel-efficiency standards well beyond their current levels, and even controlling the weight and performance of cars and trucks. Carbon rules are offered for "dirt bikes and snowmobiles." Next up: Nascar.
The EPA didn't neglect planes and trains either, down to rules for how aircraft can taxi on the runway. Guidelines are proposed for boat design such as hulls and propellers. "Innovative strategies for reducing hull friction include coatings with textures similar to marine animals," the authors chirp. They also suggest "crew education campaigns" on energy use at sea. Fishermen will love their eco-sensitivity training.
New or modified buildings that went over the emissions limits would have to obtain EPA permits. This would cover power plants, manufacturers, etc. But it would also include "large office and residential buildings, hotels, large retail establishments and similar facilities" -- like schools and hospitals. The limits are so low that they would apply to "hundreds of thousands" of sources, as the EPA itself notes. "We expect that the entire country would be in nonattainment."
If this power grab wasn't enough, "EPA also believes that . . . it might be possible for the Agency to consider deeper reductions through a cap-and-trade program." The EPA thinks it can levy a carbon tax too, as long as it's called a "fee." In other words, the EPA wants to impose via regulatory ukase what Congress hasn't been able to enact via democratic debate.
That's why the global warmists have so much invested in the EPA's final ruling, which will come in the next Administration. Any climate tax involves arguments about costs and benefits; voting to raise energy prices is not conducive to re-election. But if liberals can outsource their policies to the EPA, they can take credit while avoiding any accountability for the huge economic costs they impose.
Meanwhile, the EPA's career staff is unsupervised. In December, they went ahead and made their so-called "endangerment finding" on carbon, deputizing themselves as the rulers of the global-warming bureaucracy. The adults in the White House were aghast when they saw the draft. EPA lifers retaliated by leaking the disputes of the standard interagency review process to Democrats like Henry Waxman and sympathetic reporters. Thus the stations-of-the-cross media narrative about "political interference," as if the EPA's careerists don't have their own agenda. So the Administration performed triage by making everything transparent.
At least getting the EPA on the record will help clarify the costs of carbon restrictions. Democrats complaining about "censorship" at the EPA are welcome to defend fiats about lawnmowers and flatulent cows.