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24001  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: March 31, 2009, 12:28:56 AM
Very nice.  Some smooth lead changes in there amongst many good things.
24002  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's Harold Koh wants to submit US law to , , , on: March 30, 2009, 10:00:08 PM
http://www.nypost.com/seven/03302009/postopinion/opedcolumnists/oba...

JUDGES should interpret the Constitution according to other nations' legal "norms." Sharia law could apply to disputes in US courts. The United States constitutes an "axis of disobedience" along with North Korea and Saddam-era Iraq.

Those are the views of the man on track to become one of the US government's top lawyers: Harold Koh.

President Obama has nominated Koh -- until last week the dean of Yale Law School -- to be the State Department's legal adviser. In that job, Koh would forge a wide range of international agreements on issues from trade to arms control, and help represent our country in such places as the United Nations and the International Court of Justice.

It's a job where you want a strong defender of America's sovereignty. But that's not Koh. He's a fan of "transnational legal process," arguing that the distinctions between US and international law should vanish.

What would this look like in a practical sense? Well, California voters have overruled their courts, which had imposed same-sex marriage on the state. Koh would like to see such matters go up the chain through federal courts -- which, in turn, should look to the rest of the world. If Canada, the European Human Rights Commission and the United Nations all say gay marriage should be legal -- well, then, it should be legal in California too, regardless of what the state's voters and elected representatives might say.

He even believes judges should use this "logic" to strike down the death penalty, which is clearly permitted in the US Constitution.

The primacy of international legal "norms" applies even to treaties we reject. For example, Koh believes that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child -- a problematic document that we haven't ratified -- should dictate the age at which individual US states can execute criminals. Got that? On issues ranging from affirmative action to the interrogation of terrorists, what the rest of the world says, goes.

Including, apparently, the world of radical imams. A New York lawyer, Steven Stein, says that, in addressing the Yale Club of Greenwich in 2007, Koh claimed that "in an appropriate case, he didn't see any reason why sharia law would not be applied to govern a case in the United States."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Think about this: the State Dept. job might be a launching pad for a Supreme Court nomination. (He’s on many liberals’ short lists for the high court.) Since this job requires Senate confirmation, it’s certainly a useful trial run.

What happens to Koh in the Senate will send an important signal. If he sails through to State, he’s a far better bet to make it onto the Supreme Court. So Senate Republicans have a duty to expose and confront his radical views.

Even though he’s up for a State Department job, Koh is a key test case in the “judicial wars.” If he makes it through (which he will if he gets even a single GOP vote) the message to the Obama team will be: You can pick ‘em as radical as you like.
24003  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: April DB Tribal Gathering on: March 30, 2009, 09:49:25 PM
Lonely Dog
Cyborg Dog
Guide Dog
Pappy Dog

C-Kaju Dog (aka) "Doc"
C-Lefty Dog
C-Scotty Dog
C-Spider Dog
C-Tahiti Dog
C-Tennessee Dog
C-Boo Dog

Dog Matt
Dog Randall
Dog Ryan
Dog Tom Stillman

Terry Crutcher
Will Dixon (Lone Wolf)
Dominic Ischer (Lonely Den Clan)
Mike Norrell (MikeGPK)
Rene Cocolo
24004  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / sharia's growing influence in US on: March 30, 2009, 10:48:13 AM


http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,511361,00.html

Islamic Law's Influence in America a Growing Concern
Sunday, March 29, 2009 
By David Lewkowict

Print ShareThisAs America's Muslim population grows, so too does the influence of Islamic law, or Shariah, in daily life in the U.S.

"Shariah Law is the totality of the Muslim's obligation," said Abdullahi An-Na'im, a professor of law at Emory University in Atlanta. According to An-Na'im, Shariah is similar to Jewish Talmudic Law or Catholic Canon Law in that it guides an adherent's moral conduct.

"As a citizen, I am a subject of the United States," An-Na'im said. "I owe allegiance to the United States, to the Constitution of the United States. That is not inconsistent with observing a religious code in terms of my own personal behavior."

While many view this as a testament to the "great American melting pot," others see Islamic law's growing influence as a threat. Shariah's critics point to cases such as the airport in Minneapolis, where some Shariah-adherent taxi drivers made headlines in 2006 for refusing to pick up passengers they suspected of carrying liquor. The drivers' aversion to alcohol stemmed from a verse in the Qur'an that describes "intoxicants and gambling" as "an abomination of Satan's handiwork."

Last year, a Tyson Foods plant in Shelbyville, Tenn. replaced its traditional Labor Day holiday with paid time off on Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival — marking the end of fasting during Ramadan. A labor union had requested the change on behalf of hundreds of Muslim employees— many of them were immigrants from Somalia.

But public outcry over the decision to dismiss Labor Day quickly prompted the company and union to negotiate a new contract that makes accommodations for both holidays.

In 2007, the University of Michigan installed ritual foot baths to accommodate Islamic tradition. "These things are beginning to percolate up as Shariah-adherent Muslims insist that their preferences and practices be accommodated by the rest of the population," said Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy — a Washington think tank.

Gaffney predicted the U.S. could soon face problems similar to some Western European countries, where the religious values of Muslim immigrants sometimes clash with their highly secular host cultures.

But Professor An-Na'im believes it will be different in America. "The variety of American secularism — which is much more receptive of public displays of religion and a public role for religion — is, in fact, more conducive for Muslims to be citizens and to be comfortable with their religious values and citizenship than European countries," An-Na'im said.
24005  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / lacrosse on: March 30, 2009, 09:41:15 AM
http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/428539

Lacrosse player dies in `tragic accident'
 
LARISSA ISSLER
Jamieson Kuhlmann, shown in a Facebook photo, was taken off life support on the afternoon of May 21, 2008.  Email story
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15-year-old's death after Monday game leaves sport community reeling in shock

May 22, 2008 04:30 AM
Emily Mathieu
Staff Reporter

Note: Jamieson Kuhlmann's team was playing Newmarket, not Mississauga, when the fatal injury occurred. Incorrect information was provided to the Star.


An on-field collision during a lacrosse game has resulted in the death of a promising 15-year-old Toronto athlete and devastated his family, friends and members of the city's sporting community.

Jamieson Kuhlmann was fatally injured during a field lacrosse game in Newmarket late Monday afternoon. His Toronto Beaches team was playing against a Mississauga team when the incident happened around 5:30 p.m. It was about five minutes into the first quarter of the game.

Kuhlmann, a left-hander, had just passed the ball up field when a Mississauga player hit him. The player's shoulder and head connected with Jamieson's shoulder and head.

Peter Gibson, a long-time family friend and team trainer, ran onto the field.

"I was the trainer on the team ... his dad asked me to go on the field, so I did," said Gibson.

"He indicated that he felt sick and then he went unconscious. He never regained consciousness from the moment he left the field."

Kuhlmann was transferred to a hospital in Newmarket, then to the Hospital for Sick Children. The decision was made to take him off life support yesterday.

The death of the teen has left the lacrosse community reeling.

"This is unheard of for lacrosse," said John Steele, vice-president of Toronto Beaches Lacrosse Club. "Lacrosse is a very safe sport, very few injuries and admissions to hospital.

"It was a tragic accident."

Steele said the club plans to offer whatever support they can to his family and the community, and plans to offer grief counselling to Kuhlmann's team. "The whole club is shaken by this.

"It's a very sad time."

During a phone interview from the hospital yesterday, Gibson had the sad task of speaking on behalf of a family in mourning.

He has known Kuhlmann's parents Michelle Weber and Mark Kuhlmann since Kuhlmann was a child. His son played on the same lacrosse team; "he's devastated" over the sudden death of his friend, said Gibson.

Kuhlmann was an incredibly passionate, powerful player, said Gibson. Standing at about 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, he took pride in being in peak condition, something reflected on the field, he said.

Kuhlmann was his parents' only child. They are divorced, his father had remarried and he had two stepsisters. Both his mother and father live in the Beach and presented a united message through Gibson about the nature of their son's death.

"They want the message to be clear that Jamieson died as the result of an accident. The boy that hit him, it wasn't his fault. They really believe it's an accident and there is nothing else than a tragedy."

 

Gibson went on to describe a charming young man, possessed with a "wry sense of humour," flourishing in school. His family recently made the decision to transfer their son from Malvern Collegiate to The Hill Academy in Kleinburg, a private school with a special focus on sports.

"His mother and father realized he needed that attention and it worked for him ... You could see he was in love with his school work this year."

They invested heavily in their son with whatever emotional and financial support was required to give him an edge in life, he said.

"When you have a child in sports, you are completely involved ... but you do it gladly," he said.

"You go to something like that and your child dies. It's hard to make sense out of any of that. They can't make any sense of that."

His family will be donating his organs. Gibson said the decision is a perfect fit for someone who was so generous and got so much out of life.

"He was a very considerate kid."

The family will hold a private funeral on Monday.

On Tuesday, there will be a celebration of Jamieson's life at the Balmy Beach Club.
24006  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Cap and Trade War on: March 29, 2009, 11:56:13 PM
One of President Obama's applause lines is that his climate tax policies will create new green jobs "that can't be outsourced." But if that's true, why is his main energy adviser floating a new carbon tariff on imports? Welcome to the coming cap and trade war.

 
APEnergy Secretary Steven Chu made the protectionist point during an underreported House hearing this month, when he said tariffs and other trade barriers could be used as a "weapon" to force countries like China and India into cutting their own CO2 emissions. "If other countries don't impose a cost on carbon, then we will be at a disadvantage," he said. So a cap-and-trade policy won't be cost-free after all. Apparently Mr. Chu did not get the White House memo about obfuscating the impact of the Administration's anticarbon policies.

The Chinese certainly heard Mr. Chu, with Xie Zhenhua, a top economic minister, immediately responding that such a policy would be a "disaster" and "an excuse to impose trade restrictions." Beijing's reaction shows that as a means of coercing international cooperation, climate tariffs are worse than pointless. China and India are never going to endanger their own economic growth -- and the chance to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty -- merely to placate the climate neuroses of affluent Americans in Silicon Valley or Cambridge, Massachusetts. And they certainly won't do it under the threat of a tariff ultimatum.

But give Mr. Chu credit for candor. He had previously told the New York Times that "The concern about cap and trade in today's economic climate is that a lot of money might flow to developing countries in a way that might not be completely politically sellable." He is admitting that one byproduct of cap and trade is "leakage," by which investment and jobs are driven to nations that have looser or nonexistent climate regimes and therefore lower costs. At greatest risk are carbon-heavy industries such as steel, aluminum, paper, cement and chemicals that are sensitive to trade and where business is won and lost on the basis of pennies per unit of product. But the damage could strike almost any industry when energy prices "necessarily skyrocket," as Mr. Obama put it last year.

So in addition to all the other economic harm, a cap-and-trade tax will make foreign companies more competitive while eroding market share for U.S. businesses. The most harm will accrue to the very U.S. manufacturing and heavy-industry jobs that Democrats and unions claim to want to keep inside the U.S. A cap-and-tax plan would be the greatest outsourcing boon in history. And it may even increase CO2 emissions overall, because the developing nations where businesses are likely to relocate -- if they don't simply close -- tend to use energy less efficiently than does the U.S.

Meanwhile, carbon trade barriers would almost certainly violate U.S. obligations in the World Trade Organization. Since carbon energy cuts across so many industries, a tariff would presumably have to hit tens of thousands of products. Any restriction the U.S. imposes on imports can also just as easily be turned around and imposed on U.S. exports, whatever their carbon content.

Run-of-the-mill protectionism is already adopting a deeper shade of green. In January, the president of the European Commission said he may slap tariffs on goods from the U.S. and other non-Kyoto Protocol nations to protect European business. After Mr. Chu's comments, the U.S. steel lobby began calling for sanctions against Chinese steelmakers if Beijing doesn't commit to its own carbon limits, knowing full well that it won't. Look for more businesses to claim green virtue to justify special-interest pleading, a la the 54-cent U.S. tariff on foreign ethanol.

Democrats are already careless about trade -- i.e., the Mexican trucking spat, the "Buy America" provisions in the stimulus, and blocking the Colombia and South Korea free-trade pacts. Now cap and nontrade may lead to a retreat from the open global markets that have done so much to boost economic growth and innovation. The closer we get to the cap-and-trade dreams of Mr. Obama and Congress, the more dangerous they look.
24007  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH on: March 29, 2009, 11:52:10 PM
http://www.victorhanson.com/articles/hanson032809.html
 
March 28, 2009
The Ugly — Part Two
by Victor Davis Hanson
Pajamas Media

After outlining some “bad” trends — the conservative abandonment of budgetary restraint, the new liberal-Wall-Street nexus, the rise of therapeutic excuse-making for substandard behavior — I now offer three “ugly” trends. These are not merely bad, but sort of creepy as well. Don’t despair — I’ll end with some good developments on the next posting.

I) The Corruption of the Press. We have no media — at least as we once knew it. Somewhere in late 2007, it disappeared entirely, and became something akin to the old Pravda, or the livelier Baghdad Bob’s broadcasts, or the rants of Lord Haw-Haw. (We got everything from Judith Warner about the dreams of women having sex with Obama to “I felt this thrill going up my leg” Chris Matthews).

For the short-term thrill of ensuring the coronation of Barack Obama, it gave up all hard-won standards of journalistic objectivity — so much so that it is hard to adjudicate whether the rise of the Internet alone, or the clear bias of the print media, has nearly destroyed the newspaper industry.

Few any longer connect with a Newsweek editorial, a Time essay, a riff from NPR, or commentary on PBS. The front pages of the New York Times or Washington Post are op-eds in thin disguise. The faculty of the Columbia School of Journalism is not objective. We live in an age of affluent, rather inbred ironists who punch in at the Ministry of Truth, and the result is that about half of the population still wakes up every morning and sighs when they turn on the television, listen to the radio news, or read the newspaper, “He’s lying” or “She’s biased”. The utopian ends of social egalitarianism for the new media lords justified the tawdry means of distorting reality.

Now we have those in Congress talking about saving the newspapers by making them “non-profit,” tax-free entities that will drop political endorsements! That rather insane notion would have three deleterious effects:

1) The papers would become even harder one-sided and Left, once market forces were eliminated and the now soon to be unemployed could find federal media tenure doing, at best, what NPR does, and, at worst, having a sinecure at something public, but analogous to Air America. Oh yes, crede mihi, tax-free newspapers will be very biased.

2) A quasi-public print media will become even more incompetent. Think a very big DMV newsletter. Or perhaps a sort of tax-free sinecure for high-paid federal employees who make more at less stress than their private counterparts. Imagine a tax-exempt, quasi-public New York Times, running telethons, praising their public service investigatory work, begging for donations as they sell cups, plates, hats, etc., with scads of G-15 employees manning the phone banks on money-raising day, a Bill Moyers or senior journalist like Marvin Kalb extolling the courage of the new Times.

3) More fossilization of the economy. Not all the harness-fabricators morphed into tractor producers, but in our new wisdom all newspapers will become — what? I simply don’t know. We are trying to ossify American society at about 1965 in the age of LBJ, as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid prove to be the most reactionary politicians in a half-century.

In the meantime, we are beginning to see that the media is about to add humiliation to its moral failure, as it grasps that once you worship a Messiah, you cannot leave the cult. Mr. Obama tolerates no dissent among the believers. The recent Obama press conference showed what happens to the shunned New York Times or Washington Post once you even consider climbing over the fence of the compound. What were these sycophants thinking as they watched Obama produce all sorts of bogus figures in assuring that tripling the deficit, then halving it will translate into lessening the present red-ink? Again, imagine a sequel to the Wizard of Oz, where everyone goes on thinking that the floating image on the screen with the smoke really is Oz, despite seeing the tiny man behind the curtain with his hands busy with the levers. The media knows what they’ve become, and already have seen the flip side of their one-eye Jack — and is now trapped in culthood.

II) Universities. Uglier still is what is going on in universities. Higher education in the humanities has devolved into a sort of indoctrination/reeducation camp, on the following apologia: the corporation, the family, the church, the military, the government are illiberal. So in our precious, rare chance to have the nation’s youth for a brief four years, we the professoriate have to offset, balance, offer an antithesis to these dominant conservative cultures. So, presto, we cannot be biased since we the anointed are the corrective to the bias.

Science and math hold out (it’s hard to suggest a postmodern Pythagorean theory would pass muster, or houses could rest on ideological constructs of phallocentric power machinations), and still ensure America’s universities are world-class as the partisan, ossified humanities departments piggy-bank on the reputation established by others.

We sadly assume that the higher one’s office in the university — full professor to dean to provost to president — the more likely one has mastered doublespeak. There are no longer real contentious issues, there is only one correct all-encompassing ideology — America’s history is largely race/class/gender exploitation; gay marriage and abortion on demand are civil rights issues of our times; diversity and affirmative action trump disinterested examination of merit; greedy capitalists have smoked the planet for their limos and private jets; improving student “profile,” not demonstration of character and competence, ensures promotion.

The odd thing is that those who excel at all this don’t even seem happy about it. They are empty suits, proverbial ‘hollow men’ without belief who have about as much self-respect for their habitual falsity as the Wall Street guy at AIG who assures his investors his company’s liability is manageable. After all, you cannot make $100,000 a year for 9 months work, with lifelong ensured employment, full benefits, and no daily audit — and seriously believe that you are perennially manning the barricades at the tip of the revolutionary spear.

What might yet restore the university? Transparency would be a small start. Release the test scores, grades, etc. of those who are admitted (we can do that without the individual names). Suggest, in this new age of AIG-accountability, that those institutions that take public funds release full budgetary figures, not percentages, but real detailed expenditures. Cut public funding off for students after four years. Replace tenure with five-year renewable contracts. Have exit exams for graduating seniors (half might well flunk basic benchmarks for math and fundamental English).

As it is now, most colleges expect alumni to give blindly — assuming that they are to remain unaware of the nature of the faculty profile, the content of the curriculum, or the activities of the universities — on the premise that any would-be donor, had he known what his alma mater was up to, would not like to subsidize classes like “The poetics of the low-rider,” or faculty like Ward Churchill (most colleges have a few), or $50,000 and up paid out for a 45-minute “I hate Bush” rant by Michael Moore at the student union, or 139-5 faculty senate votes (like Saddam’s plebiscites) on extraneous issues like gay marriage. Yes, there is humor in higher education. Nothing is weirder to see a provost head-nod among a wacked-out faculty meeting, then put on a suit and rush off to a five-star restaurant to reassure an aging capitalist that the university is a steward of American values. It reminds me of Petronius’s description of Croton.

III) Europeanization. I don’t know quite what the allure of Europe is for the American Left. But it seems to be that more of us will soon all be working for the government, habitually striking, hunting out that rare capitalist in hiding for a shake-down, and bitching over our weary 35 hr. work week.

Yet without hardship, challenge, and hope, the individual dies daily. Once the government ensures that all your needs will be taken care of, from your teeth and joints to job and retirement, ennui sets in, and with it the cargo we see in Europe — pacifism, cynicism, the loss of transcendence marked by atheism and childlessness, and worry about what others have rather than what you aspire to.

A Dutch friend once asked me why we Americans work 2-3 jobs. I replied to leave something better for our children than what we inherited. He answered, “But why? They will be taken care of by the state.” But if one does not have a vision of building something big, a thing that will last, endure, or at least appreciating such audacity in others, then we will be sentenced to live crummy, little lives of punching in at the government clock, perennially worried that someone else has something marginally better in our view than what we were allotted. It’s like running a race in which the goal is that all the runners cross the finish line at the same time, corner-eyes fixed on each other, scared to death that some trouble-maker might bolt out ahead.

So strange (or not so strange, after all?) that the liberal impulse in postwar Europe led to millions living in nearly identical houses and apartments, driving the same sort of cars, thinking about the same (their parties are like the feuds and squabbles among the Democratic Party here at home), and exuding the identical teen-age petulance when events belie the gospel.

We can see what Europeanization leads to: you worship at the altar of the goddess Pax, but hate the United States for still having a military that saves postmodern you from premodern others. You praise diversity, but are terrified of unassimilated Middle East Muslims thriving in your midst, who unlike you, really do believe in something and it’s not Western liberalism. You praise openness and tolerance, but demonize anyone who questions orthodoxy, whether it be global warming or the efficacy of state redistribution. You rant about class and privilege, but live private lives of secret values predicated on status, aristocratic pedigree, and rank.

Europeanization is so at odds with human nature that it bifurcates it — a false public face, a cynical private one. (I used to love living in Greece, going to the beach in the summer as a student and seeing all these socialist public power, phone, water, bank, etc., vans parked as their left-wing employees “got away” for some downtime around 2 PM — or being told I could hire a public worker after hours for cash for a phone installation rather than wait 9 months on “the list”.) Marxist at the day-job, conniving entrepreneur in the night hours.

It seems that in just 60 days we are heading that way — fast. These gargantuan deficits will require the most insidious taxes (on everything, as in the age of Augustus) we have yet witnessed, to make up the soon to be $20 trillion national debt. Universal health care, college for everyone, government jobs will mean a vast array of technocrati and less-skilled overseers and guardians. Less defense, higher taxes, more social spending, bigger government will expand the public sector to such a degree that to dismantle it will result in the sort of European mass protests and strikes we see daily in Greece or France when a poor fool like Sarkozy thinks it could be 1950 again, and wants to head-off pension insolvency, or bring back a 40 hour work week to the subway drivers.

The one positive? Have any of you met a disenchanted European who emigrated to the States, or lives a life of near isolation in Europe? They are almost hyper-American in their free market and democratic zeal. So full of anger at what their nation under the E.U. has become, they appear nearly fanatical in their allegiance to the free market, merit, free-thinking, liberty, and Western traditions. I have met dozens and they are the most remarkably competent individuals that I have come across in my lifetime — sort of the last few with unsnatched bodies dodging the zombies of Europe. I only wish we would offer instant citizenship status for these highly educated, highly trained, highly motivated but disconnected Europeans. We could lure 20 million in one fell swoop if we offered fast-track legal American citizenship — and reap the technological and entrepreneurial dividends for a half century to come.

Next posting. The good — and there are lots of good developments. So don’t despair.
24008  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Card Check is unconstitutional on: March 29, 2009, 11:44:54 PM
By DAVID B. RIVKIN JR. and LEE A. CASEY
The Employee Free Choice Act of 2009 -- otherwise known as "card check" -- is organized labor's dream. As a practical matter, this legislation, pursued by both the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress, would do away with the secret ballot in the unionization process. Although card check's advocates and critics have spilled much ink arguing about the bill's fundamental fairness to labor and management, so far the debate has not focused on the other compelling interest at stake: the constitutionally protected right of employees to keep their opinions on controversial issues like unionization to themselves. This is card check's Achilles' heel.

 
David G. KleinThe Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech, along with the Fifth and 14th Amendment due process clauses, to protect a variety of expressive and associational rights. The right to speak and associate anonymously is among those rights. Indeed, anonymous speech has a long and honored tradition in American politics. Much of the political agitation leading up to the American Revolution was necessarily anonymous in order to avoid British sedition charges. And three of the Constitution's Framers -- James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay -- wrote the Federalist Papers supporting its ratification under the anonymous pen name "Publius."

The Supreme Court has consistently recognized the importance of this type of political discourse. The reason is obvious: Public speech on contentious issues often inflames passions, prompting intimidation and retaliation. Outing speakers who prefer anonymity chills speech, and has the potential to suppress it entirely.

In an early and important case, NAACP v. Patterson, 1958, the state of Alabama attempted to obtain a listing of the NAACP's membership, although the organization had "made an uncontroverted showing" that revealing the identities of its members had, in the past, exposed them to "economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercions and other manifestations of public hostility." The Supreme Court affirmed the NAACP's right to associate freely and privately.

The Court similarly vindicated the right to anonymous speech in political campaigns in the 1995 case McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission. It struck down a law forbidding distribution of unsigned campaign literature, reasoning that the state had shown no interest compelling enough (such as the integrity of the campaign financing process) to justify restrictions on this core First Amendment right. "Identification of the author against her will," the Court explained, "is particularly intrusive; it reveals unmistakably the content of her thoughts on a controversial issue."

When courts have upheld restrictions on anonymous speech, they have required that such provisions be narrowly tailored to serve an overriding governmental interest. Moreover, they have been most comfortable in upholding these provisions when the competing interest itself also involved the protection of First Amendment values.

Thus, for example, campaign contribution limits and disclosures have been defended as necessary anticorruption measures, balancing the abridgement of individual speech against the integrity of the political process, and protecting the marketplace of ideas. Whatever one thinks about the legal strength of these rationales -- and they have many detractors -- it's clear that the judiciary has used them when balancing competing First Amendment interests.

There can be little doubt that the act of voting on important issues is a form of symbolic speech, residing at the very core of the interests protected by the Constitution. The secret ballot has not only been adopted in federal and state elections, it is recognized as a fundamental human right in a number of international instruments. This includes the U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a party, that requires secret ballot voting as "guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors."

Labor organizing has been one of the most contentious exercises in modern American history, often leading to violence and employee intimidation on both the management and union side. Demanding that workers state publicly (by checking "yes" or "no" on a card) whether they support unionization would involve real and immediate dangers of intimidation, and would deprive workers of their right to anonymous expression. The fact that individuals could refuse to sign a card is unavailing, since a refusal to choose, in this instance, is an effective no.

Card-check supporters may argue that the activities of labor organizers, no matter how intimidating, involve purely private actions to which the Constitution's protections of free speech and association do not apply. However, the Supreme Court has recognized that certain government-sanctioned regulatory schemes can give associated private conduct the character of state or federal action, making the Constitution applicable.

In one early case, Public Utilities Commission v. Pollack (1952), the Court ruled that a private, Washington, D.C., bus company, which operated a radio news and music service in its vehicles that prompted customer complaints of unwanted political indoctrination, was subject to First and Fifth Amendment requirements. The Court reasoned that the Constitution applied since the local public utility commission had permitted the challenged service. In another important case, Railway Employees' Department v. Hanson (1956), the Court concluded that federal authorization of "union shop" agreements (under the Railway Labor Act) meant that governmental action was present because "the federal statute is the source of the power and authority by which any private rights are lost or sacrificed."

The same would be true of card check, which would endow a successful authorization-card drive by labor organizers with immediate consequences under federal law. The National Labor Relations Board would, under the new law, have to "certify" a collective bargaining unit based upon the completed cards. And the new law would effectively subject employer and employees to binding arbitration.

The presence of sufficient governmental action to require constitutional scrutiny can often be a fact-intensive inquiry. But when such mandatory legal consequences result from ostensibly private conduct, the courts would certainly be justified in concluding that the Constitution's requirements apply.

Sanctioning -- and thereby promoting -- demands that employees publicly disclose how they feel about unionization clearly violates their First Amendment entitlement to vote and practice their speech privately. Significantly, unlike other cases in which such restrictions have been upheld, union organizers cannot articulate even a semblance of an offsetting First Amendment value. While they may complain that the current system does not favor unionization and hence inhibits their associational rights, the problem, if any, arises from possible employer intimidation -- not from the secret ballot as such.

In this context, the new law would entitle organized labor to the government's imprimatur of its card-check choice. With the government thus supporting demands that employees publicly state their opinions on a controversial matter, the courts should view card-check's provisions as being ill-tailored to meet the problem of employer intimidation, and thus, unconstitutional.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey are Washington, D.C., lawyers who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
24009  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The PRI busts a move on: March 29, 2009, 11:39:18 PM
So top bankers smoked a peace pipe with President Barack Obama on Friday and agreed, however vaguely, to go along with his bailout plan. It is unlikely the powwow ended banker-baiting in Washington.


Why? Because our political leaders see the public's angst as an opening for a government takeover of key elements of the economy, finance in particular. In this way, they are not unlike Latin America's 20th century populists who railed against economic liberty, recklessly grew the state's power, and left a trail of want and misery in their wake. Modern day Mexico is a cautionary tale.

There the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) ruled a corporatist state for 70 years and finally got voted out in 2000. Now, the old guard of the party is trying to launch a comeback. While most Mexicans see the economic contraction as a crisis, PRI "dinosaurs" (not unlike White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel) view it as an opportunity. It offers them a chance to regain power and again practice the potent politics of economic nationalism.

A made-to-order issue has presented itself with the U.S. government's new 36% ownership of Citigroup. Since Citi owns Mexico's Banamex, the U.S. is now part owner of the second-largest Mexican bank. Mexico's banking law forbids this: "Foreign entities that exercise governmental functions may not, in any manner, invest in or participate in the capital stock in commercial banks."


Mary O'Grady discusses the consequences of Mexico's opportunism during the current crisis. (March 30)
President Felipe Calderón's government has taken the position that, rather than being an intended purchaser of Banamex, the U.S. is an accidental owner as a result of a rescue. Such "exceptional" circumstances have to be expected if Mexico's banking system is to be open to international investors. The forced unloading of Banamex at a fire-sale price would be the same as announcing to the world that the country's banking system is no longer open to non-Mexicans. This would reduce competition, consumer choice and needed foreign investment.

To keep governments out of the banks in the long run but also keep the banking system attractive to foreign investment, the ministry of finance (Hacienda) has proposed a change in the law that would give governments three years to divest stock acquired in a rescue. After three years the holding company (in this case Citi) would have to publicly offer at least 25% of the Mexican bank (Banamex) on the Mexican bolsa. At the end of six years, if the U.S. were still a Citigroup owner, the number would move to more than 50%.

A good solution to an unforeseen problem? Not if you agree with the PRI that Mexico was a better place when it was closed to foreign competition. Writing in Mexico's El Universal under the headline "Hacienda: Flunked in Law and Nationalism" on March 23, diehard priístas Jesús Silva Herzog (secretary of Hacienda 1982-1986) and Francisco Suárez Dávila (a former undersecretary of Hacienda) tore into the government's proposal. Congress, they wrote, must defend the banking law and promote "the Mexicanization and sale of Banamex."

The champion of this idea in Congress is the leader of the PRI in the Senate, Manlio Fabio Beltrones, who also has grand presidential ambitions. His strategy, which is as old as the PRI itself, is to play on public fears about the U.S. as a powerful northern neighbor that threatens Mexican sovereignty. With the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo still fresh in the national psyche, atavistic politicians like Mr. Beltrones seem to think they can generate a popular backlash against the U.S. Doing it just months before midterm elections doesn't hurt either.

Or so the PRI may think. But this is a dangerous game given the economic importance of the bilateral relationship. What is more, there are suspicions that the party's motivations may go well beyond love of the flag. The Mexican press has been speculating that there are domestic interests, close to the PRI, who might like to buy Banamex in a close-out sale. If that's what's going on, it won't be kept a secret. The revelation will inflict great harm on Mexico's investment profile.

The PRI may feel it has some support from Mexico's Central Bank Gov. Guillermo Ortiz, who has worried aloud about foreign-owned banks restricting credit to Mexicans. But Mexican business columnist Enrique Quintana, writing in the daily Reforma, reported last week that in January, except for Spanish-owned Santander, foreign-owned banks did not cut credit. Instead, Banamex and Bancomer (also Spanish-owned) had increased credit while a number of domestically owned banks cut back. Perhaps Mr. Ortiz would make better use of his bully pulpit by advocating policies that would attract capital to Mexico, not frighten it away.

Surely kicking out foreigners during a crisis has a feel-good component to it, just as piling on bankers in Washington does. But in today's global economy, the cost of such behavior goes straight to the bottom line. Let's hope the PRI figures that out before it does real damage to Mexico.
24010  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Music on: March 29, 2009, 08:17:19 PM
I saw Hendrix twice-- including the New Year's Eve concert at the Fillmore East that become the record/CD "Band of Gypsies".
24011  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO seeks Muslims for WH posts on: March 29, 2009, 08:11:25 PM
Obama seeks Muslims for Whtie House posts

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

According to the Denver Post, when White House officials heard about the program, it was put on overdrive.
So far, 45 Ivy League grads, Fortune 500 executives and government officials have been submitted for consideration.
J. Saleh Williams, program coordinator for the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association, sifted through more than 300 names as part of the search.
“It was mostly under the radar,” Williams said. “We thought it would put (the president) in a precarious position. We didn’t know how closely he wanted to appear to be working with the Muslim American community.”
Ellison is serious about his faith. He made the pilgrimage to Mecca with the sponsorship of the Muslim American Society, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In 1991, Mohamed Akram wrote a memo for the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood that explained its work in America as “a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ’sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”
24012  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Petition to Congress on: March 29, 2009, 12:17:16 PM
Petition to Congress

http://www.numbersusa.com/petition?ID=3&jid=122120&lid=31&rid=698&tid=934126
24013  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Art in its Homeland on: March 29, 2009, 12:11:38 PM


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSlcwt-4RgA
24014  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Germany on: March 29, 2009, 11:49:05 AM
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‘100 dangerous Islamists in Germany’

AFP/Berlin

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topic...9&parent_id=21
24015  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 29, 2009, 08:43:33 AM
Woof Krenz et al:

My concern is two fold:

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

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

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

WSJ:  Pakistan is the main issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
24016  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia plans new military force on: March 29, 2009, 08:03:40 AM
Russia plans military force to patrol Arctic as 'cold rush' intensifies

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

Tom Parfitt in Moscow
The Guardian
Saturday 28 March 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009...il-arctic-nato
24017  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Govt troops arrest Son of Iraq, setting off fighting on: March 29, 2009, 07:41:43 AM
Is this the result of Is BO's bugout?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atheer Kakan and Tareq Maher contributed reporting.
24018  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Spanish Court weighs inquiry on: March 29, 2009, 07:37:58 AM
Spanish Court Weighs Inquiry on Torture for 6 Bush-Era Officials
comments

MARLISE SIMONS
Published: March 28, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prosecutions and convictions under the Torture Convention have been rare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Shane and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.
24019  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Chinese internet computer spying operation on: March 29, 2009, 07:33:14 AM
TORONTO — A vast electronic spying operation has infiltrated computers and has stolen documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, Canadian researchers have concluded.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Page 2 of 2)



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond that, said Rafal A. Rohozinski, one of the investigators, “attribution is difficult because there is no agreed upon international legal framework for being able to pursue investigations down to their logical conclusion, which is highly local.”
24020  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tiger Woods speaks on: March 29, 2009, 07:26:02 AM


http://www.anotsocapitolidea.com/2009/02/youll-never-walk-alone-by-tiger-woods.html
24021  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 29, 2009, 07:18:02 AM
Normally this thread is not for articles, but the reference to gratitude and its role in Life leads me to post this one here:

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

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

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

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

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

Fear of mystery and uncertainty

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

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

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

The human spirit

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

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

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

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

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

An ethics of human potentiality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret Somerville is director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University, and author of The Ethical Imagination: Journeys of the Human Spirit.
24022  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: March 28, 2009, 11:37:05 PM
Today's class:

Kali Tudo:

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

24023  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Purple Haze on Harmonica on: March 28, 2009, 11:33:37 PM
http://www.youtube.com:80/watch?v=B1sgmj7JvCA&feature=channel
24024  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: March 28, 2009, 07:16:05 PM
I'll show it to my 9 year old son  wink
24025  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 28, 2009, 07:15:29 PM
For reasons not know to us, it is our understanding that his specific use of our name was edited out.  huh rolleyes
24026  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 28, 2009, 11:26:55 AM
5th post of the day

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2009/mar/27/obama-afghanistan-military
24027  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Declassified Secrets on: March 28, 2009, 11:18:39 AM
I haven't given this site a careful look yet, so caveat lector:

http://www.declassifiedsecrets.blogspot.com/
24028  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hezbollah in Mexico? on: March 28, 2009, 11:17:34 AM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/themes/organizations/hezbollah/

24029  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: March 28, 2009, 11:00:06 AM
Welcome back Rachel!
24030  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / To be 6 again on: March 28, 2009, 08:17:04 AM


To Be 6 Again...

     

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

 
24031  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A question for us here on: March 28, 2009, 07:45:10 AM
4th post of the day:

OK folks, I'd like to put it out there:  What do we think of the President's plan?  Do we support it?
24032  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Carbon Cap dilema on: March 28, 2009, 07:43:25 AM
Count me amongst those doubtful of nuclear power, but I post this thoughtful article anyway.
====================


By JOSEPH RAGO
Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We may find out.
24033  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reich on: March 28, 2009, 07:38:26 AM
I disagree quite a bit with this piece, but post it anyway.  It is glibly plausible-- how do we respond?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24034  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Accounts disputed on: March 28, 2009, 07:32:44 AM
JERUSALEM — Israel is pushing back against accusations of civilian abuse in its Gaza war, asserting that an overwhelming majority of its soldiers acted honorably and that the account of a killing of a woman and her two children appears to be an urban myth spread by troops who did not witness it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We did not shoot him.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the top commanders say their consciences are clean.

“The question is, did we do all we could do to avoid hitting civilians?” said General Shermeister, the chief education officer. “My answer is yes.”
24035  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO's surge on: March 28, 2009, 07:28:27 AM
Third post of the day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24036  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT Graveyard Myths on: March 28, 2009, 07:26:33 AM
Second post of the day

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


Graveyard Myths
PETER BERGEN
Published: March 28, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Bergen is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of “The Osama bin Laden I Know.”
24037  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYT: Puns on: March 28, 2009, 07:21:28 AM
Not that I agree very much with the author's hostility to punning, but I post this anyway.
===========================


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph Tartakovsky is a student at Fordham Law School.
24038  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: March 28, 2009, 12:34:05 AM
March 30th?

I am teaching privates on that day and presume the IAMA has its usual schedule.
24039  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: March 28, 2009, 12:21:44 AM
How old is he?
24040  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US troops into Pak? on: March 28, 2009, 12:18:37 AM
US laying ground for troops in Pak?

http://blog.wired.com/defense/2009/03/white-house-won.html
24041  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: March 27, 2009, 10:06:16 PM
Looking forward to tomorrow  cool
24042  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Murphy's hat on: March 27, 2009, 04:00:37 PM
Murphy At Mass

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

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

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

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

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

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

Murphy slowly shook his head and said, "No, Father, after ya talked about 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery' I remembered where I left me hat."
24043  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: March 27, 2009, 12:49:30 PM
27 March 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael
24044  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 27, 2009, 12:36:05 PM
Sorry for my failed effort at laconic wit  smiley

In a free market, who gets something is determined by price.
24045  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Iron Balls on: March 27, 2009, 10:47:40 AM
Iron balls!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyNmV2Y43ko&feature=related
24046  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives/the American Creed on: March 27, 2009, 10:41:47 AM
I too like Newt a lot.

One of my deep concerns is that the Big Lie that "the free market caused it" is becoming accepted fact.
24047  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 27, 2009, 10:39:34 AM
"That said we will need to ration care anyway at some point."

The proper mechanism is called "price". grin
24048  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The 10th Amendment; States' Rebellion pending on: March 27, 2009, 10:10:43 AM
States Rebellion Pending
By Walter E. Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
24049  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 27, 2009, 08:48:04 AM
Grateful for this thread and its daily reminder to have my mind right.
24050  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives/the American Creed on: March 27, 2009, 08:38:59 AM
At the moment   wink I disagree.

I think we are in serious danger of cultural transmission of the American Creed crossing a tipping point from which we may never recover.     Reagan was a clarion voice in the wilderness for many, many years before he was elected.  People trusted that he believed what he said because of this.
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