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24051  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Commercial Real Estate on: September 01, 2009, 10:06:02 AM
Federal Reserve and Treasury officials are scrambling to prevent the commercial-real-estate sector from delivering a roundhouse punch to the U.S. economy just as it struggles to get up off the mat.

Their efforts could be undermined by a surge in foreclosures of commercial property carrying mortgages that were packaged and sold by Wall Street as bonds. Similar mortgage-backed securities created out of home loans played a big role in undoing that sector and triggering the global economic recession. Now the $700 billion of commercial-mortgage-backed securities outstanding are being tested for the first time by a massive downturn, and the outcome so far hasn't been pretty.

The CMBS sector is suffering two kinds of pain, which, according to credit rater Realpoint LLC, sent its delinquency rate to 3.14% in July, more than six times the level a year earlier. One is simply the result of bad underwriting. In the era of looser credit, Wall Street's CMBS machine lent owners money on the assumption that occupancy and rents of their office buildings, hotels, stores or other commercial property would keep rising. In fact, the opposite has happened. The result is that a growing number of properties aren't generating enough cash to make principal and interest payments.

 .The other kind of hurt is coming from the inability of property owners to refinance loans bundled into CMBS when these loans mature. By the end of 2012, some $153 billion in loans that make up CMBS are coming due, and close to $100 billion of that will face difficulty getting refinanced, according to Deutsche Bank. Even though the cash flows of these properties are enough to pay interest and principal on the debt, their values have fallen so far that borrowers won't be able to extend existing mortgages or replace them with new debt. That means losses not only to the property owners but also to those who bought CMBS -- including hedge funds, pension funds, mutual funds and other financial institutions -- thus exacerbating the economic downturn.

A typical CMBS is stuffed with mortgages on a diverse group of properties, often fewer than 100, with loans ranging from a couple of million dollars to more than $100 million. A CMBS servicer, usually a big financial institution like Wachovia and Wells Fargo, collects monthly payments from the borrowers and passes the money on to the institutional investors that buy the securities.

CMBS, of course, aren't the only kind of commercial-real-estate debt suffering higher defaults. Banks hold $1.7 trillion of commercial mortgages and construction loans, and delinquencies on this debt already have played a role in the increase in bank failures this year.

But banks' losses from commercial mortgages have the potential to mount sharply, and the high foreclosure rate in the CMBS market could play a role in this. Until now, banks have been able to keep a lid on commercial-real-estate losses by extending debt when it has matured as long as the underlying properties are generating enough cash to pay debt service. Banks have had a strong incentive to refinance because relaxed accounting standards have enabled them to avoid marking the value of the loans down.

"There is no incentive for banks to realize losses" on their commercial-real-estate loans, says Jack Foster, head of real estate at Franklin Templeton Real Estate Advisors.

CMBS are held by scores of investors, and the servicers of CMBS loans have limited flexibility to extend or restructure troubled loans like banks do. Earlier this month, it was no coincidence that CMBS mortgages accounted for the debt on six of the seven Southern California office buildings that Maguire Properties Inc. said it was giving up. "During most of the evolution [of CMBS] no one ever thought all these loans would go into default," says Nelson Rising, Maguire's chief executive.

Maguire Properties
Among the office buildings that Maguire will turn over to creditors is Stadium Towers Plaza.
.Indeed, many property developers and investors complain there is no way to identify the investors that hold their debt and that it is difficult to negotiate with CMBS servicers. In light of the complaints, the Treasury is considering guidance that would allow servicers to start talking about ways to avoid defaults and foreclosures sooner, according to people familiar with the matter. But investors in CMBS bonds argue that the servicers are ultimately bound contractually to the bondholders.

So Maguire will soon have a lot of company. In a study for The Wall Street Journal, Realpoint found that 281 CMBS loans valued at $6.3 billion weren't able to refinance when they matured in the past three month, even though 173 such loans worth $5.1 billion were throwing off more than enough cash to service their debt.

Mounting foreclosures in the CMBS sector would likely depress values even further as property is dumped on the market. And this would put pressure on banks to write down loans. "What's going on in the CMBS world is a precursor for what might be seen in banks' books," predicts Frank Innaurato, managing director at Realpoint.

The commercial-real-estate market could yet be salvaged by an improving economy and bailout programs coming out of Washington. In addition, capital markets are starting to ease for publicly traded real-estate investment trusts. Since March, more than two dozen REITs have managed to raise more than $13 billion by selling shares.

Still, most of the $6.7 trillion in commercial real estate is privately owned. Also, it is unlikely commercial real estate will benefit much from an early stage of an economic recovery. What landlords need is occupancy and rents to rise, and that means employers have to start hiring and consumers need to shop more. So far, there are few signs this is happening.

Write to Lingling Wei at and Peter Grant at
24052  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Government can on: September 01, 2009, 09:56:50 AM
24053  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: Federalist #1 on: September 01, 2009, 09:40:36 AM
  • f those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1
24054  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Very punny on: August 31, 2009, 05:39:13 PM

Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers were asked to supply alternate meanings for common words. The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.) describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n.) It is an Emergency vehicle that will pick you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Jewish phrases.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), the belief that when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

In a second category, The Washington Post's Style Invitational asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.
Here are this year's winners:
1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stop bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.
8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
9. Karmageddon (n): its like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
10 Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things those are good for you.
11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.
12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.
16. Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an ass.
24055  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO bullies Honduras on: August 31, 2009, 12:12:13 PM
In light of Glenn Beck's report of the FCC Czar referring to Chavez"s "wonderful revolution" (or something like that) the following is subject to sinister interpretations , , ,
If the Obama administration were a flotilla of ships, it might be sending out an SOS right about now. ObamaCare has hit the political equivalent of an iceberg. And last week the president’s international prestige was broadsided by the Scots, who set free the Lockerbie bomber without the least consideration of American concerns. Mr. Obama’s campaign promise of restoring common sense to budget management is sleeping with the fishes.

This administration needs a win. Or more accurately, it can't bear another loss right now. Most especially it can't afford to be defeated by the government of a puny Central American country that doesn't seem to know its place in the world and dares to defy the imperial orders of Uncle Sam.

I'm referring, of course, to Honduras, which despite two months of intense pressure from Washington is still refusing to reinstate Manuel Zelaya, its deposed president. Last week the administration took off the gloves and sent a message that it would use everything it has to break the neck of the Honduran democracy. Its bullying might work. But it will never be able to brag about what it has done.

View Full Image

Supporters of Honduran President Roberto Micheletti (August 24.). The U.S. continues to implement punitive measures against the country.
.The most recent example of the Obama-style Good Neighbor Policy was the announcement last week that visa services for Hondurans are suspended indefinitely, and that some $135 million in bilateral aid might be cut. But these are only the public examples of its hardball tactics. Much nastier stuff is going on behind the scenes, practiced by a presidency that once promised the American people greater transparency and a less interventionist foreign policy.

To recap, the Honduran military in June executed a Supreme Court arrest warrant against Mr. Zelaya for trying to hold a referendum on whether he should be able to run for a second term. Article 239 of the Honduran constitution states that any president who tries for a second term automatically loses the privilege of his office. By insisting that Mr. Zelaya be returned to power, the U.S. is trying to force Honduras to violate its own constitution.

It is also asking Hondurans to risk the fate of Venezuela. They know how Venezuela's Hugo Chávez went from being democratically elected the first time, in 1998, to making himself dictator for life. He did it by destroying his country's institutional checks and balances. When Mr. Zelaya moved to do the same in Honduras, the nation cut him off at the pass.

For Mr. Chávez, Mr. Zelaya's return to power is crucial. The Venezuelan is actively spreading his Marxist gospel around the region and Mr. Zelaya was his man in Tegucigalpa.

The Honduran push-back is a major setback for Caracas. That's why Mr. Chávez has mobilized the Latin left to demand Mr. Zelaya's return. Last week, Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández joined the fray, calling for Honduras to be kicked out of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (Cafta). Mr. Fernandez is a close friend of Mr. Chávez and a beneficiary of Venezuela's oil-for-obedience program in the Caribbean.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.Mr. Obama apparently wants in on this leftie-fest. He ran for president, in essence, against George W. Bush. Mr. Bush was unpopular in socialist circles. This administration wants to show that it can be cool with Mr. Chávez and friends.

Mr. Obama's methods are decidedly uncool. Prominent Hondurans, including leading members of the business community, complain that a State Department official has been pressuring them to push the interim government to accept the return of Mr. Zelaya to power.

When I asked the State Department whether it was employing such dirty tricks a spokeswoman would only say the U.S. has been "encouraging all members of civil society to support the San Jose 'accord'"—which calls for Mr. Zelaya to be restored to power. Perhaps something was lost in the translation but threats to use U.S. power against a small, poor nation hardly qualify as encouragement.

Elsewhere in the region there are reports that U.S. officials have been calling Latin governments to demand that they support the U.S. position. When I asked State whether that was true, a spokeswoman would not answer the question. She would only say that the U.S. is "cooperating with the [Organization of American States] and [Costa Rican President] Oscar Arias to support the San José accord."

In other words, though it won't admit to coercion, it is fully engaged in arm-twisting at the OAS in order to advance its agenda.

This not only seems unfair to the Honduran democracy but it also seems to contradict an earlier U.S. position. In a letter to Sen. Richard Lugar on Aug. 4, the State Department claimed that its "strategy for engagement is not based on any particular politician or individual" but rather finding "a "resolution that best serves the Honduran people and their democratic aspirations."

A lot of Hondurans believe that the U.S. isn't using its brass knuckles to serve their "democratic aspirations" at all, but the quite-opposite aspirations of a neighborhood thug.
24056  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Star Wars on: August 31, 2009, 11:36:12 AM
"Now more than ever it is vital that the United States not back down from its efforts to develop and deploy strategic defenses. It is technologically feasible, strategically necessary and morally imperative. For if our nation and our precious freedoms are worth defending with the threat of annihilation, we are surely worth defending by defensive means that ensure our survival." --Ronald Reagan
24057  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hints of religious pluralism in Egypt? on: August 31, 2009, 09:31:54 AM
nts of Pluralism in Egyptian Religious Debates
Published: August 30, 2009
CAIRO — Writing in his weekly newspaper column, Gamal al-Banna said recently that God had created humans as fallible and therefore destined to sin. So even a scantily clad belly dancer, or for that matter a nude dancer, should not automatically be condemned as immoral, but should be judged by weighing that person’s sins against her good deeds.

Gamal al-Banna, 88, is a religious writer in Cairo. He has found a broader audience on the Internet for his liberal Islamic views.
This view is provocative in Egypt’s conservative society, where many argue that such thinking goes against the hard and fast rules of divine law. Within two hours of the article’s posting last week on the Web site of Al Masry al Youm, readers had left more than 30 comments — none supporting his position.

“So a woman can dance at night and pray in the morning; this is duplicity and ignorance,” wrote a reader who identified himself as Hany. “Fear God and do not preach impiety.”

Still, Mr. Banna was pleased because at least his ideas were being circulated. Mr. Banna, who is 88 years old and is the brother of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, has been preaching liberal Islamic views for decades.

But only now, he said, does he have the chance to be heard widely. It is not that a majority agrees with him; it is not that the tide is shifting to a more moderate interpretative view of religion; it is just that the rise of relatively independent media — like privately owned newspapers, satellite television channels and the Internet — has given him access to a broader audience.

And there is another reason: The most radical and least flexible thinkers no longer intimidate everyone with differing views into silence.

“Everything has its time,” Mr. Banna said, seated in his dusty office crammed with bookshelves that stretch from floor to ceiling.

It is a testament to how little public debate there has been over the value of pluralism, or more specifically of the role of religion in society, that so many see the mere chance to provoke as progress. But now, more than any time in many years, there are people willing to risk challenging conventional thinking, said writers, academics and religious thinkers like Mr. Banna.

“There is a relative development, enough to at least be able to present a different opinion that confronts the oppressive religious current which prevails in politics and on the street, and which has made the state try to outbid the religious groups,” said Gamal Asaad, a former member of Parliament and a Coptic intellectual.

It is difficult to say exactly why this is happening. Some of those who have begun to speak up say they are acting in spite of — and not with the encouragement of — the Egyptian government. Political analysts said that the government still tried to compete with the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned but tolerated Islamic movement, to present itself as the guardian of conservative Muslim values.

Several factors have changed the public debate and erased some of the fear associated with challenging conventional orthodoxy, political analysts, academics and social activists said. These include a disillusionment and growing rejection of the more radical Islamic ideology associated with Al Qaeda, they said. At the same time, President Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world has quieted the accusation that the United States is at war with Islam, making it easier for liberal Muslims to promote more Western secular ideas, Egyptian political analysts said.

“It is not a strategic or transformational change, but it is a relative change,” said Mr. Asaad, who emphasized that the dynamic was for Christians as well as Muslims in Egypt. “And the civil forces can unite to capitalize on this atmosphere and invest in it to raise it to become a more general atmosphere.”

Two events this summer highlighted the new willingness of a minority to confront the majority — and the overwhelming response by a still conservative community.

In June, a writers’ committee affiliated with the Ministry of Culture gave a prestigious award to Sayyid al-Qimni, a sharp critic of Islamic fundamentalism who in 2005 stopped writing, disavowed his own work and moved after receiving death threats for his writing.

Muhammad Salmawy, a committee member and president of the Egyptian Writers’ Union, said he thought Mr. Qimni had been honored in part because “he represents the secular direction and discusses religion on an objective basis and is against the religious current.”

What happened next followed a predictable path, but then veered. Islamic fundamentalists like Sheik Youssef al-Badri asked the government to revoke the award and moved to file a lawsuit against Mr. Qimni and the government.

“Salman Rushdie was less of a disaster than Sayyid al-Qimni,” said Mr. Badri in a television appearance on O TV, an independent Egyptian satellite channel. “Salman Rushdie, everyone attacked him because he destroyed Islam overtly. But Sayyid al-Qimni is attacking Islam and destroying it tactfully, tastefully and politely.”

But this time Mr. Qimni did not go into hiding. He appeared on the television show, sitting beside Sheik Badri as he defended himself.

A second development involved a religious minority, Bahais, who face discrimination in Egypt, where the only legally recognized faiths are Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Nine years ago the state stopped issuing identification records to Bahais unless they agreed to characterize themselves as members of one of the three recognized faiths. The documents are essential for access to all government services.

An independent group, The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, won a court order on behalf of the Bahais that forced the government to issue records leaving the religious identification blank. The first cards were issued this month. While the decision was aimed specifically at solving the problem faced by the Bahai community, the case tapped into the evolving debate, said the group’s executive director, Hossam Bahgat.

“It is an unprecedented move to recognize that one can be Egyptian and not adhere to one of these three religions,” Mr. Bahgat said. Still, he remains less than optimistic; most of the public reaction to the Bahais’ legal victory was negative, Mr. Bahgat said.

“It is known that you are apostates,” read one of many comments posted on Al Youm Al Sabei, an online newspaper.

But there has been at least a hint of diversity and debate in response to Mr. Banna’s remarks on belly dancers. Hours after they were posted, some readers began, however tentatively, to come to his defense. “Take it easy on the man,” an anonymous post said. “He did not issue a religious edict saying belly dancing is condoned. But he is saying that a person’s deeds will be weighed out because God is just. Is anything wrong with that?”

Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting
24058  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: August 31, 2009, 08:32:08 AM
Here are some things that occur to me:

The situation with Medicaid and Medicare (btw, someone please define each for me please) is unsustainable.  Even if we succeed in knocking BO back, this problem remains (similar to the Dems knocking back Bush's substantial and sincere efforts to reform Social Security)

The problem is that the structure of an entitlement creates a consumer unrestrained by cost.  (Indeed, the dynamic of insurance itself creates a consumer little restrained by cost).   If we stay within the entitlement structure AND limit our spending to what we can afford, then as best as I can tell, are not death panels inevitable?

If we cannot answer this connundrum, are not our criticisms full of sound and fury that lacks substance on this essential point?

Two part question:

A) What do we think should be done?

B) How do we get there?

24059  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / FSRC on: August 30, 2009, 08:24:57 PM
I. Force Science finds common theme in peak performances across variety of force encounters; details soon

"Startling revelations" about police performance in force encounters will be revealed shortly by representatives of the Force Science Research Center at a gathering of cognitive and behavioral scientists from throughout the world in Rome, Italy.

The findings are expected to have "profound implications" for future law enforcement training, according to FSRC's executive director, Dr. Bill Lewinski.

Addressing the 4th International Conference on Spatial Cognition Sept. 14-19 at Europe's largest university, La Sapienza of Rome, Lewinski and Dr. Joan Vickers will reveal results of their unique research into officers' scan patterns and attentional focus before and during life-threatening confrontations.

Vickers, an internationally acclaimed authority on "the quiet eye" and other aspects of the relationship between vision and peak performance, is the founder of the Neuro-motor Psychology Laboratory at Canada's University of Calgary and a faculty member for the popular Force Science certification course for law enforcement.

Nearly a year ago, as a part of broad-based research into use of force, she and Lewinski conducted complex research under FSRC auspices in Belfast, Ireland, that for the first time meticulously and extensively tracked eye movements of police officers during the build-up and eruption of deadly force conflicts.

Volunteers--some of them officers with only basic firearms training and little experience and others who were members of elite, highly seasoned tactical teams--were outfitted with small, sophisticated corneal reflection "eye-tracker" that allowed researchers to record where their eyes were focused at each phase of the action.

One at a time, the officers, armed with training guns, then were introduced to a live-action scenario and told to react as they thought appropriate. The role-play involved the officers witnessing a citizen profanely confronting a government employee in a dispute about a passport. As the citizen's anger escalated, he pulled a pistol or a cell phone from his waistband, spun around, and fired (or appeared to fire) at the officer being tested.

Background details of the investigation and its goals were reported in Force Science News Transmission #104 sent 11/7/08 [Click here to read it now]. But the results were not then known.

In the months since the experiments, Vickers and her staff have been carefully analyzing the eye-tracker data. They now know precisely what each officer looked at, in what order, and for how long as he or she experienced the scenario, made decisions regarding the proper force responses, and then delivered deadly force or chose not to engage.

"Their focus of attention, body positioning, judgment, speed, and shooting accuracy have all been evaluated," Lewinski says. "And most important, from the massive amount of data gathered, we now have identified the critical differences in scan patterns between 'elite' and 'ordinary' officers and can report which patterns seem to correlate most closely with good judgment, speed, and accuracy--in short, with successful performance.

"Force Science has now measured successful behavioral elements across a variety of high-stress performance situations, from high-speed pursuits to deadly force encounters, and a common theme among great performances has clearly emerged.

"Some of the findings are startling revelations, and the implications for training are going to be profound. Among other things, this information will help officers learn to better predict suspect actions so they have a greater advantage in reacting and will help trainers take officers to their highest personal level of performance in crisis situations. We have learned a great deal from this research about human performance that will significantly impact subject control and officer survival."

Precisely what has been learned and what it means to you will be reported in Force Science News after the conference in Rome.

Meanwhile, Lewinski again expressed his gratitude to the Police Federation of England and Wales, which helped fund this vital research.

II. New project seeks "first reliable tool" for measuring performance in OISs

A new research project getting underway at Washington State University in Spokane aims to develop a means to "dramatically improve the ability to measure police officer performance in deadly force encounters, and thus evaluate the impact of management and training practices."

The result "has the potential to help save lives" as well as to "increase government efficiency," according to an abstract describing the project.

The study is headed by Dr. Bryan Vila, a CJ professor at WSU, director of the Critical Job Task Simulation Lab there, author of the insightful book on police fatigue, Tired Cops, and a LEO and trainer for 17 years.

Currently, says Vila, there's "a critical lack of scientific evidence" about whether or to what extent "deadly force management, accountability, and training practices actually have an impact" on how officers perform in lethal confrontations and "whether alternative approaches would be more effective."

Vila intends to create what he calls a Deadly Force Scenario Performance Metric, a "measurement scale" for evaluating life-threatening encounters.

When refined, he says, this tool will make it possible to consistently grade police shootings according to their complexity and "difficulty" and to compare officer performance across multiple departments and situations.

The project was launched recently with a 2-day meeting of a focus group in Spokane, facilitated by Vila. Some 20 experts with diverse perspectives on "deadly force judgment, decision-making, and performance" from across the country attended--veteran trainers, academics, command and supervisory personnel, police association leaders, researchers, and veteran street officers regarded as elite performers by their peers. Among the participants was Dr. Bill Lewinski of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato.

The group brainstormed extensively on 3 subjects, Vila says:

1. What objective elements tend to add to the complexity or difficulty of a deadly force encounter, making it harder for an involved officer to bring about an "optimum outcome" (i.e., the officer accurately identifies a threat, and neutralizes it lawfully, while minimizing harm to innocent bystanders and officers);
2. What skills, actions, or decisions by an involved officer tend to lead to an optimum outcome;

3. What relative weight, on a scale of 1-11, should be assigned to these various factors in terms of overall importance.

A sophisticated technique known as "concept mapping" was used to filter the group's comments and produce a consensus of core ideas.

"Such things as light-level, number of suspects, the distance between officer and subject, and the types of weapons involved were agreed upon in the first category," Vila told Force Science News. "The second included use of cover, command presence, the ability to clear a malfunction rapidly, and clear communications.

"With the collective experience and expertise of the people in the room, I'm confident we captured the major issues that need to be considered." To be certain, however, the opinions of deadly force instructors from across the US will be sampled through an online survey in the near future.

From all the data, Vila and his colleagues hope to compile a list of about 100 items that can be the basis for measuring a confrontation's difficulty and an officer's performance. That template will then be pilot-tested with officer volunteers confronting a variety of deadly force situations in simulator exercises and ultimately be refined into a valid checklist in printed form.

The eventual goal, Vila explains, is not so much to rate any individual officer's performance but from aggregate numbers to determine a baseline, develop performance standards, and see how scores might be affected for better or worse by changes in training and policies and by other pertinent variables such as officer fatigue, multi-tasking, duty hours, and so on.

Having reliable measurements, Vila says, "is vital for evaluating organizational performance and developing effective deadly force training.

"People have strong opinions on the best way to teach rules of engagement. But in order to test these opinions scientifically, there has to be a means of measuring them in a context of scenario difficulty and officer performance. What we hope to produce for the first time is that measurement tool--something more precise, objective, and reliable than anything currently available for use by researchers, trainers, and police managers."

Beyond that, he speculates that a proven scale for measuring a confrontation's difficulty could also have implications in court. "Applied to a case at issue, it could help explain the challenges an officer faced in making reasonable decisions in the midst of dynamic, rapidly unfolding, ambiguous circumstances," he says.

Vila hopes to have an elements list in draft form for testing by the end of this year, followed by at least another year of pilot experiments. The research is being funded by a grant from the National Institute of Justice.

 Here is something a good friend of mine with the nomme du internet of "Belisarius" wrote and I post here with permission:
Cool article. I think that the term "awareness" is too vague for our purposes and should generally be replaced with "selective attention". FSRC is a cutting-edge group. Use of common terminology will make for much easier transitions when we cross disciplines---specialists in other fields will immediately know what we are talking about.

Karl, I like to use a "flashlight" model of selective attention; the literature often uses the basically identical "searchlight" analogy, but tactical/SD people seem to respond better to flashlights for some reason.

If you can imagine the world as being a gigantic, pitch-black aircraft hangar of a room, selective attention would be the beam of the flashlight. The important thing to note here is that our attentional resources are quite limited and thus have to be used carefully. The light can only illuminate part of the room at one time.

-Before you can use the light, it needs to have batteries in it. This would be the equivalent of being conscious and generally at full capacity (i.e., no chemically-induced cognitive fog, extreme fatigue, etc). This could be referred to as "basic physiological responsiveness."

-The light may have batteries, but it needs to be turned on. Turning the light on means moving from an internal narrative orientation (reflecting on the past, building mental models of the future) that uses up attentional capacity to an external orientation that is engaged with the present environment.

-Last, the light's beam needs to be pointed in the right direction. "Right direction" means different things at different times---it might mean spotting your future wife in a crowd, it might mean an orientation towards potential hazards in the environment as they come up. Generally speaking, of course, hazards take priority. If we don't have a "right direction" at the moment, we need to be scanning. There is a lot of evidence that people going into an internal narrative mode tend to look straight down at the ground or up at the sky and to fix their head movements in place; just keeping the head up and vision level and moving the head slowly, like a turret---as if trying to have a slow 180-degree panorama while moving forward through the world---makes it harder to turn inwards and block out environmental information. Try it for yourself and see---catch yourself when you are turning inwards and see what your head and eyes are doing. By moving the head and keeping the foveal cone of vision engaged with the world without tasking it specifically, attentional capacity is being kept as free as possible---think of it as working memory that you want to keep accessible for future tasks and that's a pretty good analogy of what is really going on.

Training tends to take on a role when the scan has found something interesting. As Isaac Asimov wrote, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not "Eureka!" ("I found it!"), but "Hmm, that's funny..." So at that point you may commit SA resources to the particular subject of interest. A trained response would invoke "procedural memory," the ancient partner of selective attention.

To recap: the flashlight model of SA involves A) basic physiological responsiveness; B) a real-time, external orientation towards the world; C) in the absence of interesting data, deliberate scanning behaviors that help to prevent withdrawal into an internal narrative; and D) when something interesting does show up, free working memory---selective attention---can be directed in an efficient and focused way. The next stage involves decision-making and trained behavior.

I have heard it suggested that athletes and/or martial artists naturally possess the equivalent of better SA. This is not entirely true. An athlete driving to a match or game may actually be consumed with internal representations related to future performance and may have an accident because he is engaged in visualization/Mental Skills Training that is appropriate to the sport, but not for the transit to the sporting event. The appropriate time for MST is in a safe, isolated environment.
24060  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: "Craftyisms" on: August 30, 2009, 08:13:09 PM
Well, to be precise, that is one that I use but it does not originate from me.
24061  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Tire Iron vs. Shotgun on: August 30, 2009, 08:11:39 PM

Man killed during Jonesboro home invasion
August 22, 2009 By The Associated Press

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — Jonesboro police say a man was killed after being beaten by a homeowner during an apparent home invasion.

Police say a man armed with a shotgun broke into the home about 11 p.m. Friday.

Witnesses told police the homeowner scuffled with the intruder before striking him in the head with a tire iron. The suspected intruder was taken to a local hospital, where he died.

No names were released, and a police supervisor did not immediately return a telephone message left Saturday by The Associated Press.


Information from: KAIT-TV,

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
24062  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / "Craftyisms" on: August 30, 2009, 07:51:07 PM
Woof All:

All of the following are copyrighted by Dog Brothers Inc and are by Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny (a.k.a. Guro Crafty, Guro Marc, Marc Denny, etc). Permission to quote is granted upon the condition that the copyright symbol and name "(c) DBI" are placed with it.

My students call these "Craftyisms", which appeals to my vanity.  cheesy


"Higher consciousness through harder contact."

The full version is this:

"The greater the dichotomy, the profounder the transformation. Higher consciousness through harder contact."

"Smuggling concepts across the frontiers of style."

"If you see it taught, you see it fought."

"If the feet stop, the heart stops."

"The greater the dichotomy, the profounder the transformation. Higher consciousness through harder contact." (c)

"He is the turd and you are the smell. Wherever he goes, there you are."

Using Wild Dog as a starting point on the Spiritual Level of Real Contact Stick Fighting:

"The Art is Brutal, which can easily hide the Spiritual Level to many, yet it is precisely this quality which lends deeply to its Power, the more pronounced the dichotomy, the deeper the result. The process strips us down to facing what Self it is we truly wish to defend. In the silence of a stick buzzing by your head, you experience the true answer to that question. The physical pain of the experience is nothing to the existential terror of facing the True Self that is revealed in that moment. And it is in that moment that we are most alive."


"Do not have a Way as you Play.
Fight the Way you Play.
Let your Fight be Play."


"Specializing in Generalizing so that we may have a Game to Play, instead of a Way."


"He is the turd and you are the smell. Wherever he goes, there you are."

"Specializing in Generalizing so that we may have a Game to Play, instead of a Way."


"Unless you prepare for that day, when the sun of youth goes down, you find yourself in the dark."

"If we dissolve the nature versus nurture debate and instead simply see a continuum of conception to death (cf. the evolutionary biology ditty "The ontogeny recapitulates the philogeny.") then we can say that man is born genetically requiring acculturation in harmony with his genetics."

"It is not a matter of superseding biology, rather one of manifesting its inner logic into balances of complementary opposites."


"The everlasting search for the neverlasting advantage."

"Being all that you can be, and preparing for what you will be.
By being what you can be, you create what you will be.
By preparing for what you will be, you become what you are."

"Hands are like dicks, they're more useful when they're up."


"If you ain't the lead sled dog the view is all the same. No one beats everyone, so everyone looks at someone's butt sometimes-- so be not humble and be not proud. Respect others as you respect yourself."


"Together our Strength in service of the Heart."


"According to ancient FMA tradition, consistent use of terminology in different systems is prohibited."


"Smuggling concepts across the frontiers of style"

"In search of the totality of ritual and reality"


"Stepping through the portal to the magical dimension where martial arts and crafts actually work"

"working one's way through a cranky crowd of scurrilous scum , , ,"
24063  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: August 30, 2009, 07:49:32 PM
Gentlemen, thanks for getting the conversation going.
24064  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Maudlin-2 on: August 30, 2009, 10:40:32 AM

Frugality is the New Normal
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. The time for good choices was a decade ago. It would have been more difficult at the time, so that is not what we did. And now we wake up and are faced with a set of choices, none of them good.

Reality is staring back in the mirror at the American consumer, and especially the Boomer generation. The psyche of the American consumer has been permanently seared. We are watching savings beginning to rise and consumer spending patterns change for the first time in generations. Even as the authorities try to prod consumers back into old habits, they are not responding. Borrowing and credit are actually falling. Banks, for whatever reason, now want borrowers to actually be able to pay them back. Go figure.

Frugality is the new normal. We are resetting the underpinnings of a consumer-driven society to a new level. It will require a major overhaul of our economy. The normal drivers of growth - consumer spending, business investment, and exports - are all weak, and it is only because of massive government spending that the second quarter was not as bad as the two previous quarters and that the coming quarter will be positive.

But what then? How long can we continue with 10%-plus GDP deficits? We have an economy that is in a Statistical Recovery, fueled by government largesse. In the real world, we are watching unemployment rise, and it is likely to do so through the middle of next year. Deflation is in the air. Capacity utilization is near all-time lows. Housing numbers are only bouncing because of the government program of large tax credits for first-time home buyers and lower home prices. It will be years before construction is significant.

We will be faced with a choice this fall and early next year. If you take away the government spending, the potential for falling back into a recession is quite high, given the underlying weakness in the economy. A few hundred billion for increased and extended unemployment benefits will not be enough to stem the tide. There will be a groundswell for yet another stimulus package. Another 10% of GDP deficit is quite likely for next year.

As I (and Woody Brock) have made very clear in these e-letters, deficits that are higher than nominal GDP cannot continue without dire consequences. Good friend Richard Russell writes today:

"The US national debt is now over $11 trillion dollars. The interest on our national debt is now $340 billion. This is about at 3.04% rate of interest. In ten years the Obama administration admits that they will add $9 trillion to the national debt. That would take it to $20 trillion. Let's say that by some miracle the interest on the national debt in 10 years will still be 3.09%. That would mean that the interest on the national debt would be $618 billion a year or over one billion a day. No nation can hold up in the face of those kinds of expenses. Either the dollar would collapse or interest rates would go through the roof."

That would be at least 30% of the national budget. How would your household do, paying that much as interest? How can you operate when interest payments are 30% or more of the budget? Do you borrow to pay the interest? And the Obama administration openly admits to deficits of over a trillion a year for the next ten years, under very rosy growth assumptions. Anyone outside of Washington and rosy-eyed economists think we will grow 4% next year? I am not seeing many hands go up.

And Then We Face the Real Problem
If we do not maintain high deficits, it is likely we fall back into recession. Yet if we do not control spending, we risk running up a debt that becomes very difficult to finance by conventional means. Monetizing the debt can only work for a few trillion here or there. At some point, the bond market will simply fall apart. And it could happen quickly. Think back to how fast things fell apart in the summer of 2007. When perception of the potential for inflation changes, it changes things fast.

The problem is that we are now in a very deflationary world. Deleveraging, too much capacity, high and rising unemployment, falling real incomes, and more are all the classic pieces of the formula for deflation.

Let's look at what my friend Nouriel Roubini recently wrote. I think he hit the nail on the head:

"A combination of higher official indebtedness and monetization has the potential to yield the worst of all worlds, pushing up long-term rates and generating increased inflation expectations before a convincing return to growth takes hold. An early return to higher long-term rates will crowd out private demand, as lending rates on mortgages and personal and corporate loans rise too. It is unlikely that actual inflation will emerge this year or even next, but inflation expectations as reflected in long-term interest rates could well be rising later in 2010. This would represent a serious threat to economic recovery, which is predicated on the idea that the actual borrowing rates that individuals and businesses pay will remain low for an extended period.

"Yet the alternative - the early withdrawal of the stimulus drug that governments have been dispensing so freely - is even more serious. The present administration believes that deflation is a worse threat than inflation. They are right to think that. Trying to rebuild public finances at a deflationary moment - a time when unemployment is rising, and private demand is still contracting - could be catastrophic, turning recovery into renewed recession."

There are no good choices. Nouriel, optimist that he is (note sarcasm), suggests that there is a possibility that the government can manage expectations by showing a clear path to fiscal responsibility that can be believed. And thus the bond markets do not force rates higher, thereby thwarting recovery.

And technically he is right. If there were adults supervising the party, it might be possible. But there are not. The teenagers are in control. Instead of fiscal discipline, we are hearing increased demands for more spending. Please note that the very rosy future-deficit assumptions assume the end of the Bush tax cuts at the close of 2010. But raising taxes back to the level of 2000 does not make the projected future budget deficits go away.

I mean, seriously, does anyone think Pelosi or Reid are going to lead us to fiscal constraint? Obama talks a good game, but he has not offered a serious deficit-reduction proposal, other than further tax increases. And by serious, I mean we need cuts on the order of several hundred billion dollars. The Republicans lost their way and their power (deservedly, in my opinion). Just as at the high school prom, the very few adults are being ignored.

It is the proverbial rock and the hard place. Cut the stimulus too soon and we slide back into a deeper recession. Let the budget spin out of control for a few years and we will see inflation return, with higher rates and a recession. Raise taxes by 1.5-2% of GDP in 2010 and we are shoved back into recession.

There are no good choices. If we do the right thing and cut the deficit, it means very hard choices. Can we keep our commitments to two wars and our massive defense budget? Medicare and Social Security reform are not painless. Education? Research? The "stimulus"? But cutting the deficit by hundreds of billions while raising taxes by even more than is already in the works, is not the formula for sustainable recovery.

Have we grown up? Are there adults in the room? Sadly, I don't think there are enough. We are still a nation of teenagers. We will do whatever we can to avoid the pain today. We will kick the can down the road, hoping for a miracle. Will we grow up? Yes, but the lessons learned will be hard.

There are no statistical signs of an impending recession. We are not going to get an inverted yield curve this time, which made it relatively easy for me to predict recessions in 2000 and 2006. We are in a deflationary, deleveraging world. A far different world than in the past.

I see little room for us to avoid a double-dip recession. It would take the skill and speed of former Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett hitting a very small hole in the line to break us into the open. I see no running back in our national leadership with such ability. As I have outlined above, recession could be triggered again in any number of very different economic environments. It all depends on the choices we make. But the choices lead to the same consequences, at least in my opinion.

As I wrote in August 2000 and August 2006, I write again in August 2009: there is a recession in our future. I was early both of those times and I am early now, maybe two years early, though I doubt it. And as I pointed out both of those last times, the stock market drops an average of over 40% during a recession. When I was on Kudlow in October of 2006, I was given a hard time about my recession call and prediction of a bear market. I think it was John Rutherford who dismissed my bearish vision. And he was right for the next three quarters, as the market proceeded to rise another 20%. I looked foolish to many, but I maintained my views.

You have choices. You can buy and hold (buy and hope?) or you can develop a strategic alternative. The next bear market, as I wrote in 2003 and in Bull's Eye Investing, will likely be the bottom. (It takes at least three of them to really take us to the bottom.) But the next one will change perceptions for a long time. Valuations will drop. Savings will rise even more. And a generation will grow up. The adults will return. Chastened. Scarred. Shaken. But we will Muddle Through. That is what we do. Even my teenagers.

Choose wisely.

24065  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Maudlin: An uncomfortable choice on: August 30, 2009, 10:38:14 AM
n Uncomfortable Choice
by John Mauldin
August 28, 2009   
In this issue:
An Uncomfortable Choice
What Were We Thinking?
Frugality is the New Normal
And Then We Face the Real Problem
The Teenagers Are in Control
Choose Wisely
Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, New Orleans, Detroit, and More

We have arrived at this particular economic moment in time by the choices we have made, which now leave us with choices in our future that will be neither easy, convenient, nor comfortable. Sometimes there are just no good choices, only less-bad ones. In this week's letter we look at what some of those choices might be, and ponder their possible consequences. Are we headed for a double-dip recession? Read on.

An Important Announcement
But first, I want to make a very important announcement. There are not many times in a career when you can say that something new has been created in the financial services industry and that you have been a part of it. But now I can say that and, I must admit, with a little pride in helping to bring a new creation into the world.

For years, Steve Blumenthal and I have shared a passion for bringing Absolute Return Strategies to all investors, not just the wealthy and institutional investors.

I want to introduce you to a new mutual fund, one that is different than the typical long-only equity mutual fund. My friends and partners at CMG have created a mutual fund that is comprised of 9 different trading strategies, a "fund of trading strategies," so to speak; and it's one that I believe will be strategically suitable for the economic environment that I think we face. And, as a mutual fund, it is open to all investors.

You can learn more about it by reading a report I have prepared, entitled "How to Deal with Volatility in Extraordinary Markets - Introducing the CMG Absolute Return Strategies Fund." Simply click here.

If you are an investment advisor or broker, you especially should read about this new fund and contact CMG directly for more information and reports. Full disclosure: as a consultant to the Advisor to the fund, my investment advisory firm does participate in the fees. And be sure and read all the disclosures and risk factors in the document.

And now, let's look at the choices we face.

An Uncomfortable Choice
As our family grew, we limited the choices our seven kids could make; but as they grew into teenagers, they were given more leeway. Not all of their choices were good. How many times did Dad say, "What were you thinking?" and get a mute reply or a mumbled "I don't know."

Yet how else do you teach them that bad choices have bad consequences? You can lecture, you can be a role model; but in the end you have to let them make their own choices. And a lot of them make a lot of bad choices. After having raised six, with one more teenage son at home, I have come to the conclusion that you just breathe a sigh of relief if they grow up and have avoided fatal, life-altering choices. I am lucky. So far. Knock on a lot of wood.

I have watched good kids from good families make bad choices, and kids with no seeming chance make good choices. But one thing I have observed. Very few teenagers make the hard choice without some outside encouragement or help in understanding the known consequences, from some source. They nearly always opt for the choice that involves the most fun and/or the least immediate pain, and then learn later that they now have to make yet another choice as a consequence of the original one. And thus they grow up. So quickly.

But it's not just teenagers. I am completely capable of making very bad choices as I approach the end of my sixth decade of human experiences and observations. In fact, I have made some rather distressing choices over time. Even in areas where I think I have some expertise I can make appallingly bad choices. Or maybe particularly in those areas, because I have delusions of actually knowing something. In my experience, it takes an expert with a powerful computer to truly foul things up.

Of course, sometimes I get it right. Even I learn, with enough pain. And sometimes I just get lucky. (Although, as my less-than-sainted Dad repeatedly intoned, "The harder I work the luckier I get.")

Each morning is a new day, but it is a new day impacted by all the choices of the previous days and years. Tiffani and I have literally interviewed in depth well over a hundred millionaires, and talked anecdotally with hundreds over the years. I am struck by how their lives, and those of their families, come down to a few choices. Sometimes good choices and sometimes lucky choices. Often, difficult ones. But very few were the easy choice.

What Were We Thinking?
As a culture, the current mix of generations, especially in the US, has made some choices. Choices which, in hindsight, leave the adult in us asking, "What were we thinking?"

In a way, we were like teenagers. We made the easy choice, not thinking of the consequences. We never absorbed the lessons of the Depression from our grandparents. We quickly forgot the sobering malaise of the '70s as the bull market of the '80s and '90s gave us the illusion of wealth and an easy future. Even the crash of Black Friday seemed a mere bump on the path to success, passing so quickly. And as interest rates came down and money became easier, our propensity to acquire things took over.

And then something really bad happened. Our homes started to rise in value and we learned through new methods of financial engineering that we could borrow against what seemed like their ever-rising value, to finance consumption today.

We became Blimpie from the Popeye cartoons of our youth: "I will gladly repay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

Not for us the lay-away programs of our parents, patiently paying something each week or month until the desired object could be taken home. Come to think of it, I am not sure if my kids (15 through 32) have ever even heard of a lay-away program, not with credit cards so easy to obtain. Next family brunch, I will explain this quaint concept. (Interestingly, I heard about a revival of the concept on CNBC radio, coming back from dropping Trey off at school this morning. Everything old is new again.)

As a banking system, we made choices. We created all sorts of readily available credit, and packaged it in convenient, irresistible AAA-rated securities and sold them to a gullible world. We created liar loans, no-money-down loans, and no-documentation loans and expected them to act the same way that mortgages had in the past. What were the rating agencies thinking? Where were the adults supervising the sand box?

(Oh, wait a minute. DThat's the same group of regulators who now want more power and money.)

It is not as if all this was done in some back alley by seedy-looking characters. This was done on TV and in books and advertisements. I remember the first time I saw an ad telling me to call this number to borrow up to 125% of the value of my home, and wondering how this could be a good idea.

Turns out it can be a great idea for the salesmen, if they can package those loans into securities and sell them to foreigners, with everyone making large commissions on the way. The choice was to make a lot of money with no downside consequences to yourself. What teenager could say no?

Greenspan keeping rates low aided and abetted that process. Starting two wars and pushing through a massive health-care package, along with no spending control from the Republican Party, ran up the fiscal deficits.

Allowing credit default swaps to trade without an exchange or regulations. A culture that viscerally believed that the McMansions they were buying were an investment and not really debt. Yes, we were adolescents at the party to end all parties.

Not to mention an investment industry that tells their clients that stocks earn 8% a year real returns (the report I mentioned at the beginning goes into detail about this). Even as stocks have gone nowhere for ten years, we largely believe (or at least hope) that the latest trend is just the beginning of the next bull market.

It was not that there were no warnings. There were many, including from your humble analyst, who wrote about the coming train wreck that we are now trying to clean up. But those warnings were ignored.

Actually, ignored is a nice way to put it. Derision. Scorn. Laughter. And worse, dismissal as a non-serious perpetual perma-bear. My corner of the investment-writing world takes a very thick skin.

The good times had lasted so long, how could the trend not be correct? It is human nature to believe the current trend, especially a favorable one that helps us, will continue forever.

And just like a teenager who doesn't think about the consequences of the current fun, we paid no attention. We hadn't experienced the hard lessons of our elders, who learned them in the depths of the Depression. This time it was different. We were smarter and wouldn't make those mistakes. Didn't we have the research of Bernanke and others, telling us what to avoid?

In millions of different ways, we all partied on. It wasn't exclusively a liberal or a conservative, a rich or apoor, a male or a female addiction. We all borrowed and spent. We did it as individuals, and we did it as cities and states and countries.

We ran up unfunded pension deficits at many local and state funds, to the tune of several trillion dollars and rising. We have a massive, tens of trillions of dollars, bill coming due for Social Security and Medicare, starting in the next 5-7 years, that makes the current crisis pale in comparison. We now seemingly want to add to this by passing even more spending programs that will only make the hole deeper.
24066  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: August 29, 2009, 07:50:53 PM
Understood about CK's point. 

Agreed that free market/market mechanisms is the way to go. 

So let us brain storm.

Is our answer to be purely economic, or are there any additional analytical variables to be brought to bear?

What IS our answer to the unaffordable spending of Medicare and Medicaid?  Have a bigger mesh in the safety net so more can slip through?  Simply set a finite amount to be set instead of the current (and fraudulent IMHO) baseline budgeting?  Would this not mean that a decreasing % of price would be paid by the govt and concurrently an increasing % paid by the consumer/patient and therefore that some people would not receive care that they currently receive?

I'm sorry, but as best as I can tell at present all the attack on BO's liberal fascist proposals fails to address this question. 
24067  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACTION items on: August 29, 2009, 07:41:42 PM

**The entire Congress of the United States is corrupt.  And I mean both Houses and both major parties. I realize that a few Members of each House are Independents and at least one is a declared Socialist but, as a group of people, they are absolutely the most corrupt bunch to ever disgrace our Nation.**
**In November of 2010 the entire House of Representatives will have to stand for re-election; all 435 of them. One third of the Senate, a total of 33 of them, will also stand for re-election.  Vote every incumbent out.  And I mean every one of them.  WRITE A CANDIDATE IN IF NECESSARY.  Obviously this has to be coordinated so that we have a candidate that can be elected, but we have 14 months.  Let's start all over in the House of Representatives with 435 people who have absolutely no experience in running that body, with no political favors owed to anyone but their own constituents.  Let's make them understand that they work for us.  They are answerable to us and they simply have to run that body with some common sense.**

**Two years later, in 2012, vote the next third of the incumbents in the Senate out.  You'll know who they are because their names will be on the ballot and, in most cases, will be shown as the Incumbent.  If you don't know who your Senators are, (there are only two for each State) find out. 

We can do the same thing in 2014 and, by that time we will have put all new people in the Senate as well.**

**We, the People, have got to take this Country back and we HAVE to do it peacefully.  That's what the Framers of our Constitution envisioned.

 They gave us the power to kick the entire House of Reps out every TWO YEARS if they don't do their job.  IT'S TIME WE BEGAN USING THAT POWER.

24068  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pak missiles mods? on: August 29, 2009, 06:10:59 PM
 U.S. Accuses Pakistan of Altering Missiles

August 30, 2009

U.S. Accuses Pakistan of Altering Missiles


The United States has accused Pakistan of illegally modifying American-made missiles to expand its capability to strike land targets, a potential threat to India, according to senior administration and Congressional officials.

The charge, which set off a new outbreak of tensions between the United States and Pakistan, was made in an unpublicized diplomatic protest in late June to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and other top Pakistani officials.

The accusation comes at a particularly delicate time, when the administration is asking Congress to approve $7.5 billion in aid to Pakistan over the next five years, and when Washington is pressing a reluctant Pakistani military to focus its attentions on fighting the Taliban, rather than expanding its nuclear and conventional forces aimed at India.

While American officials say that the weapon in the latest dispute is a conventional one — based on the Harpoon antiship missiles that were sold to Pakistan by the Reagan administration as a defensive weapon in the cold war — the subtext of the argument is growing concern about the speed with which Pakistan is developing new generations of both conventional and nuclear weapons.

“There’s a concerted effort to get these guys to slow down,” one senior administration official said. “Their energies are misdirected.”

At issue is the detection by American intelligence agencies of a suspicious missile test on April 23 — a test never announced by the Pakistanis — that appeared to give the country a new offensive weapon.

American military and intelligence officials say they suspect that Pakistan has modified the Harpoon antiship missiles that the United States sold the country in the 1980s, a move that would be a violation of the Arms Control Export Act. Pakistan has denied the charge, saying it developed the missile itself. The United States has also accused Pakistan of modifying American-made P-3C aircraft for land-attack missions, another violation of United States law that the Obama administration has protested.

Whatever their origin, the missiles would be a significant new entry into Pakistan’s arsenal against India. They would enable Pakistan’s small navy to strike targets on land, complementing the sizable land-based missile arsenal that Pakistan has developed. That, in turn, would be likely to spur another round of an arms race with India that the United States has been trying, unsuccessfully, to halt. “The focus of our concern is that this is a potential unauthorized modification of a maritime antiship defensive capability to an offensive land-attack missile,” said another senior administration official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter involves classified information.

“The potential for proliferation and end-use violations are things we watch very closely,” the official added. “When we have concerns, we act aggressively.”

A senior Pakistani official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity because the interchanges with Washington have been both delicate and highly classified, said the American accusation was “incorrect.” The official said that the missile tested was developed by Pakistan, just as it had modified North Korean designs to build a range of land-based missiles that could strike India. He said that Pakistan had taken the unusual step of agreeing to allow American officials to inspect the country’s Harpoon inventory to prove that it had not violated the law, a step that administration officials praised.

Some experts are also skeptical of the American claims. Robert Hewson, editor of Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, a yearbook and Web-based data service, said the Harpoon missile did not have the necessary range for a land-attack missile, which would lend credibility to Pakistani claims that they are developing their own new missile. Moreover, he said, Pakistan already has more modern land-attack missiles that it developed itself or acquired from China.

“They’re beyond the need to reverse-engineer old U.S. kit,” Mr. Hewson said in a telephone interview. “They’re more sophisticated than that.” Mr. Hewson said the ship-to-shore missile that Pakistan was testing was part of a concerted effort to develop an array of conventional missiles that could be fired from the air, land or sea to address India’s much more formidable conventional missile arsenal.

The dispute highlights the level of mistrust that remains between the United States and a Pakistani military that American officials like to portray as an increasingly reliable partner in the effort to root out the forces of the Taliban and Al Qaeda on Pakistani territory. A central element of the American effort has been to get the military refocused on the internal threat facing the country, rather than on threat the country believes it still faces from India.

Pakistani officials have insisted that they are making that shift. But the evidence continues to point to heavy investments in both nuclear and conventional weapons that experts say have no utility in the battle against insurgents.

Over the years, the United States has provided a total of 165 Harpoon missiles to Pakistan, including 37 of the older-model weapons that were delivered from 1985 to 1988, said Charles Taylor, a spokesman for the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The country’s nuclear arsenal is expanding faster than any other nation’s. In May, Pakistan conducted a test firing of its Babur medium-range cruise missile, a weapon that military experts say could potentially be tipped with a nuclear warhead. The test was conducted on May 6, during a visit to Washington by President Asif Ali Zardari, but was not made public by Pakistani officials until three days after the meetings had ended to avoid upsetting the talks. While it may be technically possible to arm the Harpoons with small nuclear weapons, outside experts say it would probably not be necessary.

Before Congress departed for its summer recess, administration officials briefed crucial legislators on the protest to Pakistan. The dispute has the potential to delay or possibly even derail the legislation to provide Pakistan with $7.5 billion in civilian aid over five years; lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the aid package when they return from their recess next month.

The legislation is sponsored by Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the top Democrat and Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, as well as Representative Howard L. Berman, a California Democrat who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressional aides are now reconciling House and Senate versions of the legislation.

Frederick Jones, a spokesman for Mr. Kerry, declined to comment on the details of the dispute citing its classified nature but suggested that the pending multifaceted aid bill would clear Congress “in a few weeks” and would help cooperation between the two countries.

“There have been irritants in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship in the past and there will be in the future,” Mr. Jones said in a statement, noting that the pending legislation would provide President Obama “with new tools to address troubling behavior.”
24069  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: August 29, 2009, 05:33:28 PM
I too find Hannity a blowhard.

Waiting for the Reps to come up with answers to these questions seems rather futile to me (BTW childcare allowing, we will be going to a Tea Party event tomorrow night) and I would like to challenge our little braintrust here to come up with good answers-- ideally that are also politically plausible too-- to these questions.

I would also like to add the question of what to do about the overspending of Medicare and Medicaid.
24070  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: August 29, 2009, 10:15:26 AM
Also worth noting is that borrowing constitutes 40% of spending this year!!!  shocked shocked shocked
24071  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: August 29, 2009, 10:13:16 AM
Back to the regular schedule.  See everyone on Monday  cool
24072  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Adrenaline on: August 29, 2009, 10:11:37 AM
Understanding the adrenal state and how best to operate in it is a vital matter, thus this thread:


Mailbag: Time distortion, excited delirium, and Tasers

Our readers write:

1. Time speeds up sometimes, slows others. How come?

During my civilian experiences and work as a medic, I have often had to restrain people, end fights, use passive restraint and very mild self-defense. When in these situations, or some intense medical/trauma scenes, time sped up and became choppy, leaving me with poor perception during and poor recollection after the events.

But in other seemingly similar cases, time would see to slow down and I could move and respond much faster than normal, with total clarity and both physical and mental rapidity beyond my normal abilities.

Can you explain why some severe stresses provoke a "tunnel vision" and choppy experience, while other seem to bend time to make it easier to help? And how do you transform the former into the latter?

Jesse Beckow
President/lead medic
Advanced Rescue Consulting
Thornhill (ON) Canada

Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center, responds:

First understand that the human brain does not have a built-in clock that constantly measures time objectively. Instead, the brain uses itself, its experience, and to what and how it's paying attention, as a reference point. So when the more rational, contemplative part of the brain is hijacked in stressful situations by the primitive, emotion-based amygdala or "crisis center", widely differing impressions of time tend to register.

Broadly speaking, when you're feeling suddenly overwhelmed in a stressful situation, with too much to comprehend and accomplish in the time-frame available, you're likely to perceive time speeding up. But in a similar situation, if you are sharply focused and drawing on a deep well of training to respond, time may appear to slow down, because your brain has streamlined the situation and is operating efficiently in survival mode. Because your sense of competence, confidence, emotion, and attention can vary among quite similar situations, your perception of time can vary as well.

Research conducted by Drs. Audrey Honig and J. Roland and earlier work by Dr. Alexis Artwohl inform us that some 41% to 62% of officers who survive shootings report having experienced a "slow-motion" effect in which they felt sufficient time to respond effectively. Only a minority of survivors (17% to 20%) seemed to experience time speeding up.

Either way, we need to remember that officers who've been in stressful events should not be expected to give accurate estimates regarding duration. They may try to do so in response to investigators' questions, but they're only guessing at best.

Any officer who is attempting to accurately note time while in the midst of a highly stressful, rapidly unfolding, life-threatening situation might be better off paying attention to other more important matters.
24073  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Cussing for pain reduction? on: August 29, 2009, 10:08:54 AM
II. In pain? Swear your way out, new study advises


Ahhhhhhhhh! That feels better! At least that's what a new British study promises.

If you're trying to ease the pain of an injury, says this first-of-a-kind research, start cussin'.

Dr. Richard Stephens, a psychologist at Keele University in Staffordshire, England, accidentally smashed his little finger "really, really hard" with a hammer while building a shed in his garden awhile back. "While it was throbbing," he recalls, "I swore a bit." His wife later cut loose a string of expletives during the pain of childbirth--and those 2 incidents got him wondering about the psychology and physiology of cursing.

With 2 colleagues, he arranged a simple experiment. Drawing on some 5 dozen undergraduate volunteers, the team had subjects submerge their hands in a bucket of ice-cold water and see how long they could endure the pain while continuously repeating a swear word of their choice. The test was then repeated, but this time the students could only utter a neutral control word, like "brown" or "square."

Well, [bleep] me! Cursing helped, especially with female subjects!

"Swearing increased pain tolerance...and decreased perceived pain compared with not swearing," Stephens reported. The swearers were able to keep their hands submerged an average of 160 seconds, compared to only 100 seconds for the non-cursers. That's "quite a big difference," Stephens says.

Why? "Swearing has been around for centuries and is an almost universal human linguistic phenomenon," Stephens says. Unlike most language production, which occurs in the outer few millimeters of the left hemisphere of the brain, swearing seems to arise from the primitive emotional centers buried deep in the right-side brain. Uttering an expletive in response to physical pain may be instinctive, akin to a dog yelping when its tail is stepped on.

"In swearing," Stephens told a reporter for Time, "people have an emotional response, and it's the emotional response that actually triggers the reduction of pain." He also noted that the swearers in his experiment experienced consistently accelerated heart rates during their diatribes, suggesting that cussing may increase aggression, "which downplays weakness in order to appear stronger."

A couple of caveats:

• If you casually swear a lot in your daily life, you may be blunting cuss words as an Rx for pain. Speculating on why foul-mouthed women on average did better in suppressing pain during Stephens' experiment, Dr. Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychologist, says he suspects that "swearing retains more of an emotional punch [for women] because it has not been overused. That's one reason I think people should not overuse profanity in their speech and writing...because it blunts [swear words] of their power when you do need them."

• A tendency to "pain catastrophise" also tended to reduce the analgesic effect of obscene words, Stephens found. Catastrophise means to "blow things all out of proportion," explains Dr. Bill Lewinski of the Force Science Research Center, which as not involved in the experiments. "When you are mentally exaggerating a situation, you tend to focus more on the trauma and pain. If you're focused on swearing, you're shifting your attention in another direction, releasing psychological and physiological tension, and suppressing your perception of pain."

In future research, Stephens says, he hopes to explore more deeply "the relationship between induced aggression and reduction of pain." Meanwhile, a full report on his current study can be accessed for a fee at the website for the journal NeuroReport: See the Aug. 5 issue.

24074  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Crafty Saturday class begins on Sat Sept 5 on: August 29, 2009, 09:46:14 AM
Bumping this to the top.
24075  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on BO on: August 29, 2009, 09:23:14 AM
Second post of the morning:

Obama's Foreign Policy: The End of the Beginning
August 24, 2009

By George Friedman

As August draws to a close, so does the first phase of the Obama presidency. The first months of any U.S. presidency are spent filling key positions and learning the levers of foreign and national security policy. There are also the first rounds of visits with foreign leaders and the first tentative forays into foreign policy. The first summer sees the leaders of the Northern Hemisphere take their annual vacations, and barring a crisis or war, little happens in the foreign policy arena. Then September comes and the world gets back in motion, and the first phase of the president’s foreign policy ends. The president is no longer thinking about what sort of foreign policy he will have; he now has a foreign policy that he is carrying out.

We therefore are at a good point to stop and consider not what U.S. President Barack Obama will do in the realm of foreign policy, but what he has done and is doing. As we have mentioned before, the single most remarkable thing about Obama’s foreign policy is how consistent it is with the policies of former President George W. Bush. This is not surprising. Presidents operate in the world of constraints; their options are limited. Still, it is worth pausing to note how little Obama has deviated from the Bush foreign policy.

During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, particularly in its early stages, Obama ran against the Iraq war. The centerpiece of his early position was that the war was a mistake, and that he would end it. Obama argued that Bush’s policies — and more important, his style — alienated U.S. allies. He charged Bush with pursuing a unilateral foreign policy, alienating allies by failing to act in concert with them. In doing so, he maintained that the war in Iraq destroyed the international coalition the United States needs to execute any war successfully. Obama further argued that Iraq was a distraction and that the major effort should be in Afghanistan. He added that the United States would need its NATO allies’ support in Afghanistan. He said an Obama administration would reach out to the Europeans, rebuild U.S. ties there and win greater support from them.

Though around 40 countries cooperated with the United States in Iraq, albeit many with only symbolic contributions, the major continental European powers — particularly France and Germany — refused to participate. When Obama spoke of alienating allies, he clearly meant these two countries, as well as smaller European powers that had belonged to the U.S. Cold War coalition but were unwilling to participate in Iraq and were now actively hostile to U.S. policy.

A European Rebuff
Early in his administration, Obama made two strategic decisions. First, instead of ordering an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, he adopted the Bush administration’s policy of a staged withdrawal keyed to political stabilization and the development of Iraqi security forces. While he tweaked the timeline on the withdrawal, the basic strategy remained intact. Indeed, he retained Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, to oversee the withdrawal.

Second, he increased the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Bush administration had committed itself to Afghanistan from 9/11 onward. But it had remained in a defensive posture in the belief that given the forces available, enemy capabilities and the historic record, that was the best that could be done, especially as the Pentagon was almost immediately reoriented and refocused on the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. Toward the end, the Bush administration began exploring — under the influence of Gen. David Petraeus, who designed the strategy in Iraq — the possibility of some sort of political accommodation in Afghanistan.

Obama has shifted his strategy in Afghanistan to this extent: He has moved from a purely defensive posture to a mixed posture of selective offense and defense, and has placed more forces into Afghanistan (although the United States still has nowhere near the number of troops the Soviets had when they lost their Afghan war). Therefore, the core structure of Obama’s policy remains the same as Bush’s except for the introduction of limited offensives. In a major shift since Obama took office, the Pakistanis have taken a more aggressive stance (or at least want to appear more aggressive) toward the Taliban and al Qaeda, at least within their own borders. But even so, Obama’s basic strategy remains the same as Bush’s: hold in Afghanistan until the political situation evolves to the point that a political settlement is possible.

Most interesting is how little success Obama has had with the French and the Germans. Bush had given up asking for assistance in Afghanistan, but Obama tried again. He received the same answer Bush did: no. Except for some minor, short-term assistance, the French and Germans were unwilling to commit forces to Obama’s major foreign policy effort, something that stands out.

Given the degree to which the Europeans disliked Bush and were eager to have a president who would revert the U.S.-European relationship to what it once was (at least in their view), one would have thought the French and Germans would be eager to make some substantial gesture rewarding the United States for selecting a pro-European president. Certainly, it was in their interest to strengthen Obama. That they proved unwilling to make that gesture suggests that the French and German relationship with the United States is much less important to Paris and Berlin than it would appear. Obama, a pro-European president, was emphasizing a war France and Germany approved of over a war they disapproved of and asked for their help, but virtually none was forthcoming.

The Russian Non-Reset
Obama’s desire to reset European relations was matched by his desire to reset U.S.-Russian relations. Ever since the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine in late 2004 and early 2005, U.S.-Russian relations had deteriorated dramatically, with Moscow charging Washington with interfering in the internal affairs of former Soviet republics with the aim of weakening Russia. This culminated in the Russo-Georgian war last August. The Obama administration has since suggested a “reset” in relations, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually carrying a box labeled “reset button” to her spring meeting with the Russians.

The problem, of course, was that the last thing the Russians wanted was to reset relations with the United States. They did not want to go back to the period after the Orange Revolution, nor did they want to go back to the period between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Orange Revolution. The Obama administration’s call for a reset showed the distance between the Russians and the Americans: The Russians regard the latter period as an economic and geopolitical disaster, while the Americans regard it as quite satisfactory. Both views are completely understandable.

The Obama administration was signaling that it intends to continue the Bush administration’s Russia policy. That policy was that Russia had no legitimate right to claim priority in the former Soviet Union, and that the United States had the right to develop bilateral relations with any country and expand NATO as it wished. But the Bush administration saw the Russian leadership as unwilling to follow the basic architecture of relations that had developed after 1991, and as unreasonably redefining what the Americans thought of as a stable and desirable relationship. The Russian response was that an entirely new relationship was needed between the two countries, or the Russians would pursue an independent foreign policy matching U.S. hostility with Russian hostility. Highlighting the continuity in U.S.-Russian relations, plans for the prospective ballistic missile defense installation in Poland, a symbol of antagonistic U.S.-Russian relations, remain unchanged.

The underlying problem is that the Cold War generation of U.S. Russian experts has been supplanted by the post-Cold War generation, now grown to maturity and authority. If the Cold warriors were forged in the 1960s, the post-Cold warriors are forever caught in the 1990s. They believed that the 1990s represented a stable platform from which to reform Russia, and that the grumbling of Russians plunged into poverty and international irrelevancy at that time is simply part of the post-Cold War order. They believe that without economic power, Russia cannot hope to be an important player on the international stage. That Russia has never been an economic power even at the height of its influence but has frequently been a military power doesn’t register. Therefore, they are constantly expecting Russia to revert to its 1990s patterns, and believe that if Moscow doesn’t, it will collapse — which explains U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s interview in The Wall Street Journal where he discussed Russia’s decline in terms of its economic and demographic challenges. Obama’s key advisers come from the Clinton administration, and their view of Russia — like that of the Bush administration — was forged in the 1990s.

Foreign Policy Continuity Elsewhere
When we look at U.S.-China policy, we see very similar patterns with the Bush administration. The United States under Obama has the same interest in maintaining economic ties and avoiding political complications as the Bush administration did. Indeed, Hillary Clinton explicitly refused to involve herself in human rights issues during her visit to China. Campaign talk of engaging China on human rights issues is gone. Given the interests of both countries, this makes sense, but it is also noteworthy given the ample opportunity to speak to China on this front (and fulfill campaign promises) that has arisen since Obama took office (such as the Uighur riots).

Of great interest, of course, were the three great openings of the early Obama administration, to Cuba, to Iran, and to the Islamic world in general through his Cairo speech. The Cubans and Iranians rebuffed his opening, whereas the net result of the speech to the Islamic world remains unclear. With Iran we see the most important continuity. Obama continues to demand an end to Tehran’s nuclear program, and has promised further sanctions unless Iran agrees to enter into serious talks by late September.

On Israel, the United States has merely shifted the atmospherics. Both the Bush and Obama administrations demanded that the Israelis halt settlements, as have many other administrations. The Israelis have usually responded by agreeing to something small while ignoring the larger issue. The Obama administration seemed ready to make a major issue of this, but instead continued to maintain security collaboration with the Israelis on Iran and Lebanon (and we assume intelligence collaboration). Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has not allowed the settlements to get in the way of fundamental strategic interests.

This is not a criticism of Obama. Presidents — all presidents — run on a platform that will win. If they are good presidents, they will leave behind these promises to govern as they must. This is what Obama has done. He ran for president as the antithesis of Bush. He has conducted his foreign policy as if he were Bush. This is because Bush’s foreign policy was shaped by necessity, and Obama’s foreign policy is shaped by the same necessity. Presidents who believe they can govern independent of reality are failures. Obama doesn’t intend to fail.
24076  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Trinity of the American Creed: on: August 29, 2009, 09:16:29 AM
Dennis Prager
24077  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Libya: A hero's welcome on: August 29, 2009, 08:46:58 AM
Libya: A Hero's Welcome
August 26, 2009
By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton

On Aug. 24, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill addressed a special session of the Scottish Parliament. The session was called so that MacAskill could explain why he had decided to release Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence officer convicted of terrorism charges in connection with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, and who had been expected to spend the rest of his life in prison. MacAskill said he granted al-Megrahi a compassionate release because al-Megrahi suffers from terminal prostate cancer and is expected to live only a few months.

The Aug. 20 release of al-Megrahi ignited a firestorm of outrage in both the United Kingdom and the United States. FBI Director Robert Mueller released to the press contents of an uncharacteristically blunt and critical letter he had written to MacAskill in which Mueller characterized al-Megrahi’s release as inexplicable and “detrimental to the cause of justice.” Mueller told MacAskill in the letter that the release “makes a mockery of the rule of law.”

The flames of outrage over the release of al-Megrahi were further fanned when al-Megrahi received a hero’s welcome upon his arrival in Tripoli — video of him being welcomed and embraced by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was broadcast all over the world.

For his part, Gadhafi has long lobbied for al-Megrahi’s release, even while taking steps to end Libya’s status as an international pariah. Gadhafi first renounced terrorism and his nuclear ambitions in 2003, shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In October 2008 he completed the compensation agreement with the families of the U.S. victims of the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 and of an April 1986 Libyan attack against the La Belle disco in Berlin.

Yet despite the conviction of al-Megrahi, the 2003 official admission of Libyan responsibility for the Pan Am bombing in a letter to the United Nations, and the agreement to pay compensation to the families of the Pan Am victims, Gadhafi has always maintained in public statements that al-Megrahi and Libya were not responsible for the bombing. The official admission of responsibility for the Pan Am bombing, coupled with the public denials, has resulted in a great deal of ambiguity and confusion over the authorship of the attack — which, in all likelihood, is precisely what the denials were intended to do.

The Pan Am 103 Investigation
At 7:03 p.m. on Dec. 21, 1988, an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in one of Pan Am Flight 103’s cargo containers, causing the plane to break apart and fall from the sky. The 259 passengers and crew members aboard the flight died, as did 11 residents of Lockerbie, Scotland, the town where the remnants of the jumbo jet fell.

Immediately following the bombing, there was suspicion that the Iranians or Syrians had commissioned the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) to conduct the bombing. This belief was based on the fact that German authorities had taken down a large PFLP-GC cell in Frankfurt in October 1988 and that one member of the cell had in his possession an IED concealed inside a Toshiba radio. Frankfurt is the city where Pan Am 103 departed before stopping in London. Indeed, even today, there are still some people who believe that the PFLP-GC was commissioned by either the Iranian or the Syrian government to conduct the Pan Am bombing.

The PFLP-GC theory might eventually have become the officially accepted theory had the bomb on Pan Am 103 detonated (as planned) while the aircraft was over the North Atlantic Ocean. However, a delay in the plane’s departure from London resulted in the timed device detonating while the aircraft was still over land, and this allowed authorities to collect a great deal of evidence that had been scattered across a wide swath of the Scottish countryside. The search effort was one of the most complex crime-scene investigations ever conducted.

Through months of painstakingly detailed effort, investigators were able to determine that the aircraft was brought down by an IED containing a main charge of Semtex, that the IED had been placed inside a Toshiba radio cassette player (in a macabre coincidence, that particular model of Toshiba, the RT-SF 16, is called the “BomBeat radio cassette player”), and that the radio had been located inside a brown Samsonite hard-side suitcase located inside the cargo container.

Investigators were also able to trace the clothing inside the suitcase containing the IED to a specific shop, Mary’s House, in Sliema, Malta. While examining one of the pieces of Maltese clothing in May 1989, investigators found a fragment of a circuit board that did not match anything found in the Toshiba radio. It is important to remember that in a bombing, the pieces of the IED do not entirely disappear. They may be shattered and scattered, but they are not usually completely vaporized. Although some pieces may be damaged beyond recognition, others are not, and this often allows investigators to reconstruct the device

In mid-1990, after an exhaustive effort to identify the circuit-board fragment, the FBI laboratory in Washington was able to determine that the circuit board was very similar to one that came from a timer that a special agent with the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service had recovered from an arms cache while investigating a Libyan-sponsored coup attempt in Lome, Togo, in 1986. Further investigation determined that the company that produced the timers, the Swiss company MEBO, had sold as many as 20 of the devices to the Libyan government, and that the Libyan government was the company’s primary customer. Interestingly, in 1988, MEBO rented one of its offices in Zurich to a firm called ABH, which was run by two Libyan intelligence officers: Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Badri Hassan.

The MEBO timer, model MST-13, is very different from the ice-cube timer in the PFLP-GC device found in Frankfurt in October 1988. Additionally, the ice-cube timer in the PFLP-GC device was used in conjunction with a barometric pressure switch, and the IED used a different main charge, TNT, instead of the Semtex used in the Pan Am 103 device.

Perhaps the fact that does the most damage to the PFLP-GC conspiracy theory is that the principal bombmaker for the PFLP-GC Frankfurt cell (and the man who made the PFLP-GC Toshiba device), Marwan Khreesat, was actually an infiltrator sent into the organization by the Jordanian intelligence service. Kreesat not only assisted in providing the information that allowed the Germans to take down the cell, but he was under strict orders by his Jordanian handlers to ensure that every IED he constructed was not capable of detonating. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that one of the IEDs he created was used to destroy Pan Am 103.

One of the Libyans connected to MEBO, al-Megrahi, is an interesting figure. Not only was he an officer with Libyan intelligence, the External Security Organization, or ESO, but he also served as the chief of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA) and had visited Malta many times. The owner of the Mary’s House clothing shop in Sliema identified al-Megrahi as the man who purchased the clothing found in the suitcase, and Maltese immigration records indicated that al-Megrahi was in Malta on Dec. 7, 1988, the time that the clothing was purchased. Al-Megrahi left Malta on Dec. 9, 1988, but returned to the country using a false identity on Dec. 20, using a passport issued by the ESO in the name of Ahmed Khalifa Abdusamad. Al-Megrahi left Malta using the Abdusamad passport on Dec. 21, 1988, the day the suitcase was apparently sent from Malta aboard Air Malta Flight KM180 to Frankfurt and then transferred to Pan Am 103.

On Nov. 13, 1991, the British government charged al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, the LAA station manager at Luqa Airport in Malta, with the bombing. One day later, a federal grand jury in the United States returned an indictment against the same two men for the crime. In March 1995, the FBI added the two men to its most wanted list and the Diplomatic Security Service’s Rewards for Justice Program offered a $4 million reward for their capture. Al-Megrahi and Fhimah were placed under house arrest in Libya — a comfortable existence that, more than actually confining them, served to protect them from being kidnapped and spirited out of Libya to face trial.

After many years of boycotts, embargos, U.N. resolutions and diplomatic wrangling — including extensive efforts by South African President Nelson Mandela and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan — a compromise was reached and all parties agreed to a trial in a neutral country — the Netherlands — conducted under Scottish law. On April 5, 1999, al-Megrahi and Fhimah were transferred to Camp Zeist in the Netherlands to stand trial before a special panel of Scottish judges.

On Jan. 31, 2001, after a very long trial that involved an incredible amount of technical and detailed testimony, the judges reached their decision. The Scottish judges acquitted Fhimah, finding that there was not proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he was involved in the plot (the British government had charged that he had been the person who stole the luggage tags and placed the suitcase on the Air Malta flight), but they did find al-Megrahi guilty of 270 counts of murder. He was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum sentence of 27 years.

Although the case against al-Megrahi was entirely circumstantial — there was no direct evidence he or Fhimah had placed the device aboard the aircraft — the Scottish judges wrote in their decision that they believed the preponderance of the evidence, including al-Megrahi’s knowledge of airline security measures and procedures, his connection to MEBO, his purchase of the clothing in the suitcase that had contained the IED and his clandestine travel to Malta on Dec. 20 to 21, 1988, convinced them beyond a reasonable doubt that al-Megrahi was guilty as charged.

In a December 2003 letter to the United Nations, Libya accepted responsibility for the Pan Am 103 bombing. (In the same letter, Libya also took responsibility for the September 1989 bombing of UTA Flight 772, a French airliner destroyed by an IED after leaving Brazzaville, Congo, and making a stop in N’Djamena, Chad. All 170 people aboard the aircraft died when it broke up over the Sahara in Niger.) Nevertheless, the Libyan government continued to maintain al-Megrahi’s innocence in the Pan Am bombing, just as al-Megrahi had done throughout the trial, insisting that he had not been involved in the bombing.

Al-Megrahi’s reluctance to admit responsibility for the bombing or to show any contrition for the attack is one of the factors singled out by those who opposed his release from prison. It is also one of the hallmarks of a professional intelligence officer. In many ways, al-Megrahi’s public stance regarding the bombing can be summed up by the unofficial motto of the CIA’s Office of Technical Services — “Admit nothing, deny everything, make counter-accusations.”

In the shadow world of covert action it is not uncommon for the governments behind such actions to deny (or at least not claim) responsibility for them. These governments also often attempt to plan such attacks in a way that will lead to a certain level of ambiguity — and thereby provide plausible deniability. This was a characteristic seen in many Libyan attacks against U.S. interests, such as the 1986 La Belle Disco bombing in Berlin. It was only an intercept of Libyan communications that provided proof of Libyan responsibility for that attack.

Many attacks that the Libyans sponsored or subcontracted out, such as the string of attacks carried out against U.S. interests by members of the Japanese Red Army and claimed in the name of the Anti-Imperialist International Brigade, were likewise meant to provide Libya with plausible deniability. Gadhafi did not relish the possibility of another American airstrike on his home in Tripoli, like the one that occurred after the La Belle attack in April 1986. (A number of Libyan military targets also were hit in the broader U.S. military action, known as Operation El Dorado Canyon.) Pan Am 103 is considered by many to be Gadhafi’s retribution for those American airstrikes, one of which killed his adopted baby daughter. Gadhafi, who had reportedly been warned of the strike by the Italian government, was not injured in the attack.

During the 1980s, the Libyan government was locked in a heated tit-for-tat battle with the United States. One source of this friction were U.S. claims that the Libyan government supported terrorist groups such as the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO), which conducted several brutal, high-profile attacks in the 1980s, including the December 1985 Rome and Vienna airport assaults. There was also military tension between the two countries as Libya declared a “line of death” across the mouth of the Gulf of Sidra. The U.S. Navy shot down several Libyan fighter aircraft that had attempted to enforce the edict. But these two threads of tension were closely intertwined; the U.S. Navy purposefully challenged the line of death in the spring of 1986 in response to the Rome and Vienna attacks, and it is believed that the La Belle attack was retribution for the U.S. military action in the Gulf of Sidra. The Libyan ESO was also directly implicated in attacks against U.S. diplomats in Sanaa, Yemen, and Khartoum, Sudan, in 1986.

Because of the need for plausible deniability, covert operatives are instructed to stick to their cover story and maintain their innocence if they are caught. Al-Megrahi’s consistent denials and his many appeals, which often cite the PFLP-GC case in Frankfurt, have done a great deal to sow doubt and provide Libya with some deniability.

Like Osama bin Laden’s initial denial of responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, al-Megrahi’s claims of innocence have served as ready fuel for conspiracy theorists, who claim he was framed by the U.S. and British governments. However, any conspiracy to frame al-Megrahi and his Libyan masters would have to be very wide ranging and, by necessity, reach much further than just London and Washington. For example, anyone considering such a conspiracy must also account for the fact that in 1999 a French court convicted six Libyans in absentia for the 1989 bombing of UTA Flight 772. The six included Abdullah al-Sanussi, Gadhafi’s brother-in-law and head of the ESO.

Getting two or more governments to cooperate on some sort of grand conspiracy to frame the Libyans and exonerate the Iranians and Syrians is hard to fathom. Such cooperation would have to involve enough people that, sooner or later, someone would spill the beans — especially considering that the Pan Am 103 saga played out over multiple U.S. administrations. As seen by the current stir over CIA interrogation programs, administrations love to make political hay by revealing the cover-ups of previous administrations. Surely, if there had been a secret ploy by the Reagan or Bush administrations to frame the Libyans, the Clinton or Obama administration would have outed it. The same principle applies to the United Kingdom, where Margaret Thatcher’s government oversaw the beginning of the Pan Am 103 investigation and Labour governments after 1997 would have had the incentive to reveal information to the contrary.

While the U.S. and British governments work closely together on a number of intelligence projects, they are frequently at odds on counterterrorism policy and foreign relations. From our personal experience, we believe that it would be very difficult to get multiple U.S. and British administrations from different political parties to work in perfect harmony to further this sort of conspiracy. Due to the UTA investigation and trial, the conspiracy would have to somehow involve the French government. While the Americans working with the British is one thing, the very idea of the Americans, British and French working in perfect harmony on any sort of project — much less a grand secret conspiracy to frame the Libyans — is simply unimaginable. It is much easier to believe that the Libyans were guilty, especially in light of the litany of other terror attacks they committed or sponsored during that era.

Had the IED in the cargo hold of Pan Am 103 exploded over the open ocean, it is very unlikely that the clothing from Malta and the fragment of the MEBO timer would have ever been recovered — think of the difficulty the French have had in locating the black box from Air France 447 in June of this year. In such a scenario, the evidence linking al-Megrahi and the Libyan government to the Pan Am bombing might never have been discovered and plausible deniability could have been maintained indefinitely.

The evidence recovered in Scotland and al-Megrahi’s eventual conviction put a dent in that deniability, but the true authors of the attack — al-Megrahi’s superiors — were never formally charged. Without al-Megrahi’s cooperation, there was no evidence to prove who ordered him to undertake the attack, though it is logical to conclude that the ESO would never undertake such a significant attack without Gadhafi’s approval.

Now that al-Megrahi has returned to Libya and is in Libyan safekeeping, there is no chance that any death-bed confession he may give will ever make it to the West. His denials will be his final words and the ambiguity and doubt those denials cast will be his legacy. In the shadowy world of clandestine operations, this is the ideal behavior for someone caught committing an operational act. He has shielded his superiors and his government to the end. From the perspective of the ESO, and Moammar Gadhafi, al-Megrahi is indeed a hero.
24078  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Questions for free marketeers on: August 29, 2009, 07:57:21 AM
CK wrote:

(5) Promise nothing but pleasure — for now. Make health insurance universal and permanently protected. Tear up the existing bills and write a clean one — Obamacare 2.0 — promulgating draconian health-insurance regulation that prohibits (a) denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, (b) dropping coverage if the client gets sick, and (c) capping insurance company reimbursement.

What’s not to like? If you have insurance, you’ll never lose it. Nor will your children ever be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.

So my fellow free marketeers, what do we think about the three proposed ideas by CK?  In particular,

What is to be done about pre-existing conditions?

What is to be done when someone gets sick and gets cancelled?
24079  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post: We're fornicated , , , on: August 29, 2009, 07:52:27 AM
So This Is Hope 'n' Change?
In May, when the federal deficit was projected to be $7 trillion over the next decade, President Barack Obama was asked, "At what point do we run out of money?" His reply was actually rather candid: "Well, we are out of money now," he said. Last Friday, the administration adjusted its deficit projection -- upwards, of course. The White House now says the number will reach $9 trillion, including $1.6 trillion this year and $1.5 trillion next year. So much for The One's promise to end the years of "borrow and spend" budgeting.

The Congressional Budget Office simultaneously projected a deficit of $7 trillion over the next decade, a lower number because the CBO considers only current law, not White House proposals. The Wall Street Journal reports that "these deficit estimates are driven entirely by more domestic spending and already assume huge new tax increases. CBO predicts that debt held by the public as a share of GDP, which was 40.8% in 2008, will rise to 67.8% in 2019 -- and then keep climbing after that. CBO says this is 'unsustainable,' but even this forecast may be optimistic."

Among the problems with the White House estimate is that it depends, in part, on raising $640 billion through the cap-and-tax bill as well as another $200 billion in international business taxes. Both bills face opposition in the Senate, even from some Democrats. And these new taxes aren't guaranteed to produce more federal revenue. Instead, we can count on cap-and-tax to depress the economy, resulting in less revenue. The White House already expects unemployment to hit 10 percent this year.

The CBO estimate, meanwhile, is based on the ridiculous premise that Congress will hold spending to the rate of inflation. The Journal remarks, "CBO actually has overall spending falling between 2009 and 2012, which is less likely than an asteroid hitting the Earth." The CBO also assumes that all of the Bush tax cuts will expire, even those for lower and middle class families.

Finally, the president's crown jewel, ObamaCare, projected to cost at least $1 trillion over the next 10 years, is entirely omitted from the deficit estimate because Obama pledges that it won't add to the deficit. Next, he'll be trying to sell us some oceanfront property in Arizona.
24080  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on govt deficit spending on: August 29, 2009, 07:43:26 AM
"To say that the United States should be answerable for twenty-five millions of dollars without knowing whether the ways and means can be provided, and without knowing whether those who are to succeed us will think with us on the subject, would be rash and unjustifiable. Sir, in my opinion, it would be hazarding the public faith in a manner contrary to every idea of prudence." --James Madison
24081  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Swine Flu on: August 29, 2009, 06:18:34 AM
WHO warns of severe form of swine flu
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor Maggie Fox, Health And Science Editor – Fri Aug 28, 1:36 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Doctors are reporting a severe form of swine flu that goes straight to the lungs, causing severe illness in otherwise healthy young people and requiring expensive hospital treatment, the World Health Organization said on Friday.  Some countries are reporting that as many as 15 percent of patients infected with the new H1N1 pandemic virus need hospital care, further straining already overburdened healthcare systems, WHO said in an update on the pandemic.

"During the winter season in the southern hemisphere, several countries have viewed the need for intensive care as the greatest burden on health services.  Preparedness measures need to anticipate this increased demand on intensive care units, which could be overwhelmed by a sudden surge in the number of severe cases."

Earlier, WHO reported that H1N1 had reached epidemic levels in Japan, signaling an early start to what may be a long influenza season this year, and that it was also worsening in tropical regions.

"Perhaps most significantly, clinicians from around the world are reporting a very severe form of disease, also in young and otherwise healthy people, which is rarely seen during seasonal influenza infections.  In these patients, the virus directly infects the lung, causing severe respiratory failure. Saving these lives depends on highly specialized and demanding care in intensive care units, usually with long and costly stays."


Minority groups and indigenous populations may also have a higher risk of being severely ill with H1N1.

"In some studies, the risk in these groups is four to five times higher than in the general population.   Although the reasons are not fully understood, possible explanations include lower standards of living and poor overall health status, including a high prevalence of conditions such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension."

WHO said it was advising countries in the Northern Hemisphere to prepare for a second wave of pandemic spread. "Countries with tropical climates, where the pandemic virus arrived later than elsewhere, also need to prepare for an increasing number of cases," it said.

Every year, seasonal flu infects between 5 percent and 20 percent of a given population and kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people globally. Because hardly anyone has immunity to the new H1N1 virus, experts believe it will infect far more people than usual, as much as a third of the population.  It also disproportionately affects younger people, unlike seasonal flu which mainly burdens the elderly, and thus may cause more severe illness and deaths among young adults and children than seasonal flu does.

"Data continue to show that certain medical conditions increase the risk of severe and fatal illness. These include respiratory disease, notably asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and immunosuppression.  When anticipating the impact of the pandemic as more people become infected, health officials need to be aware that many of these predisposing conditions have become much more widespread in recent decades, thus increasing the pool of vulnerable people."

WHO estimates that more than 230 million people globally have asthma, and more than 220 million have diabetes. Obesity may also worsen the risk of severe infection, WHO said.

The good news -- people infected with AIDS virus do not seem to be at special risk from H1N1, WHO said.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)
24082  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Iran and the Question of Sanctions on: August 29, 2009, 06:10:56 AM
Iran and the Question of Sanctions

GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Berlin on Thursday, warning Iran that it will face a new round of “crippling” sanctions if it does not back away from its nuclear program. Their admonishments came after French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s call on Wednesday for similarly tough new sanctions. The harsh words point toward the international pressure coming to bear on Iran as Washington’s September deadline for nuclear negotiations approaches.

While it is not yet clear how international sanctions would play out if Iran disregards the deadline, it is worth considering the general nature of sanctions. Sanctions are a tricky policy to enact effectively on anything other than a long-term time frame, and ultimately require one of two things.

First, they require unanimity. Everyone — and we really do mean everyone — must cooperate. As South Africa discovered during the apartheid years, every major country in the world can declare crippling sanctions — even energy sanctions — against another country, but unless they are willing to cooperate on enforcement there is nothing to stop the odd supertanker from dropping off crude oil on its trip around the Cape of Good Hope.

Or, second, the sanctions must take aim at an array of critical goods and services that immediately impact the behavior or stability of the target country. It does no good, for example, for the EU states to place travel sanctions on the leader of Belarus over human rights abuses when he vacations in Sochi, Russia. Nor is it useful to slap sanctions on a government like Myanmar’s, which is hardly a single entity and, lacking in coherence, has no nerve center or bull’s-eye to strike.

“Iran is a tough nut to crack with sanctions from either the export or import side.”
We use the word “or” at the beginning of the previous paragraph for a reason. Sanctions do not necessarily have to have everyone on board if they target a critical commodity. The Arab oil embargo is a great example of how a non-unanimous sanction policy still can have immediate and massive, far-reaching effects. Conversely, a successful sanctions campaign does not have to shut off a critical commodity entirely if it has uniform application: While it did not deprive South Africans of vital necessities, the decision by most states to stop accepting South African passports did go some way toward cracking the foundation of apartheid.

Iran is a tough nut to crack with sanctions from either the export or import side. More than 90 percent of its export revenues come from oil; therefore, universally adopted sanctions would crack it wide open — yet Iran is the world’s fourth-largest oil exporter, so the rest of the world would feel the pain right along with Tehran. Unanimity would be next to impossible to achieve. Global support for such actions would be dubious at best. Iran’s only other exports of note are carpets and pistachios — and action against either wouldn’t exactly turn the screws on the mullahs. Here it is possible to achieve unanimity, but not criticality.

On the import side, the situation is equally frustrating for those seeking a change of face. Food sanctions achieve criticality, but not unanimity. Nothing is more damning to social stability than a break in food supplies. But actively pursuing a policy of national starvation is a tough sell in the modern age — and Iran imports only about one-fifth of its food.

For Iran, that leaves only gasoline. Experts estimate that Iran imports roughly 40 percent of its gasoline needs. A total shutdown could grind much of the country to a halt — and thus criticality would be achieved. The problem here — again — is coming up with unanimity. In this case, it would be undermined not only by politics, but also by the nature of the product itself.

Sanctions against gasoline are hard to maintain, for the same reason that it is preferred as a fuel source. It is fungible, compact and full of energy (translation: easy to transport). So it can be shipped cost-effectively over water from any number of states to any number of ports via any number of third parties. When you add in politics, it becomes even trickier, since you involve powerful corporations — such as France’s Total or India’s Reliance — that are integrally entwined with governments that would be expected to comply with the sanctions. Moreover, this assumes that Russia — a long-time guardian of Iran whenever an international coalition is mustered against it — is not clandestinely shipping supplies via road or rail from the north, where Russia’s influence is pervasive and an international cordon would be impossible.

So though France, Germany, Israel and the United States do not wish their deadline to be made into a mockery, the limitations of sanctions are difficult to conceal.
24083  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US preparing to kitty out? on: August 29, 2009, 06:03:24 AM

U.S. Mulls Alternatives for Missile Shield Sign in to Recommend
Published: August 28, 2009

BERLIN — The Obama administration has developed possible alternative plans for a missile defense shield that could drop hotly disputed sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, a move that would please Russia and Germany but sour relations with American allies in Eastern Europe.

Administration officials said they hoped to complete their months-long review of the planned antimissile system as early as next month, possibly in time for President Obama to present ideas to President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia at a meeting in New York during the annual opening at the General Assembly of the United Nations.

But they cautioned that no decisions had been made and that all options were still under discussion, including retaining the Polish and Czech sites first selected by President George W. Bush. The Obama review team plans to present a menu of options rather than a single recommendation to a committee of senior national security officials in the coming weeks. Only after that would the matter go to cabinet-rank officials and the president.

Among the alternatives are dropping either the Polish or Czech site, or both sites, and instead building launching pads or radar installations in Turkey or the Balkans, while developing land-based versions of the Aegis SM-3, a ship-based anti-missile system, officials said. The changes, they said, would be intended not to mollify Russia, but to adjust to what they see as an accelerating threat from shorter-range Iranian missiles.

People following the review, including anxious officials in Eastern Europe, said they thought that the administration was preparing to abandon the Polish and Czech sites. “It is clear that Eastern Europe is out of the epicenter of this American administration,” said Piotr Paszkowski, a spokesman for Poland’s foreign minister. “The missile defense system is now under review. The chances that it will be in Poland are 50-50.”

Dmitry O. Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, said Moscow anticipated news from Mr. Obama in September. “I hope that Medvedev will take some good result from this bilateral discussion in New York, and maybe in October we will live in a new world in Russian-American relations,” he said.

Administration spokesmen said it was premature to discuss what the review would conclude or when it would be finished. “Our review of our missile defense strategy is ongoing and has not reached completion yet,” said Philip J. Crowley, a State Department spokesman.

The proposed system inherited by Mr. Obama envisioned stationing 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a sophisticated radar facility in the Czech Republic to defend against potential ballistic missile threats from Iran or other hostile nations. But Russia has long objected to what it sees as a threat in its own backyard and has insisted that the Obama administration abandon the plan as a sign that it is serious about improving relations.

Shifting an anti-missile system out of territory once dominated by Moscow might mollify Russian concerns without jettisoning the missile shield altogether. At the same time, it could set off criticism both at home and in Eastern Europe that Mr. Obama was caving in to Russian pressure.

Polish fears that the United States was having second thoughts were heightened after diplomats learned of a meeting last week in Huntsville, Ala., that included generals who oversee missile defense, including Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, head of the United States Strategic Command.

“What was revealing about such a high-level gathering was that the speakers did not discuss how and when the missile shield would be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic,” said Riki Ellison, chairman of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a Washington-based lobbying group, who attended the meeting.

But administration officials rejected the assertion that a reformulated missile defense system would forsake Eastern European security. “We definitely are not abandoning our commitment to defend our European allies from a missile threat from Iran,” said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the review was not complete. “We are exploring options that will enhance the defense of our European allies.”

The cost of building the complexes in Poland and the Czech Republic could increase to more than $1 billion from $837 million, according to the Government Accountability Office, which published a report this month on preparations to deploy the system.

The cost estimates do not include support at the sites or the development, testing and procurement costs. The overall cost of establishing a modest ballistic missile system in Europe would exceed $4 billion through 2015, according to the G.A.O. report. Even at that, it said, “Congress does not have accurate information on the full investment required for ballistic missile defenses in Europe.”

The Bush administration strongly advocated a missile shield. Mr. Obama has been more skeptical, saying he will proceed only if it is financially and technically feasible. He has also told the Russians that the system would not be needed if they used their leverage to persuade Iran to drop its suspected nuclear weapons programs.

The discussions in Huntsville caused a stir among diplomats in Poland. Eastern European leaders worry that the Obama administration is playing down their security needs even though, they contend, Russia’s war with Georgia last year and increasing tension between Russia and Ukraine show the need for a strong American presence in the region.

“You can see that compared to the former Bush administration, the Obama administration is more interested in Russia, China and of course Afghanistan than Eastern Europe,” said Slawomir Debski, director of the Institute of International Affairs in Warsaw.

In Huntsville, General Cartwright made clear that the administration was focusing on the relevance, adaptability and affordability of any new programs, including missile defense, according to people who were at the meeting.

He also said that the United States had to take into account Russian sensitivities toward the missile shield for Eastern Europe.

Judy Dempsey reported from Berlin, and Peter Baker from Washington. Ellen Barry contributed reporting from Moscow.
24084  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Subversion on: August 29, 2009, 01:01:48 AM
This matter of "subversion of sovereignty through internationalism" is one of the subtlest and most perverse of all the subversions of America by the O-droids.   

I'd like to suggest that future posts on this point appear in the American Creed threads.
24085  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: toronto dbma training camp featuring Crafty Dog, Top Dog and Sled Dog Aug 21-23 on: August 28, 2009, 07:17:00 PM
Just back from visiting my mom in upstate NY with my family on the way home.

Outstanding time-- a hearty howl to Dog Rene for making the First Annual DBMA Camp happen.

A great pleasure to see Sled Dog and Top Dog.

TD was in great shape-- it appears his "retirement" is turning out to be a second sabbatical.  His knife vs. Mai Sowks fight with Tricky Dog was outstanding on the part of both men.

"Higher Consciousness through Harder Contact"
Crafty Dog
24086  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights on: August 28, 2009, 07:05:29 PM
Although I agree with the general sentiments of this piece, the following deserves comment:

"Many scholars then and now thought that Brown v. Board of Education was bad constitutional law, i.e., that the court had abandoned its proper role of policing the Constitution in favor of social engineering. Most, however, approved of the engineering, and paid little regard to the constitutional cost."

I am a strong advocate for States Rights but not only is this statement quite wrong, but it is also precisely the sort of thing that will sink a movement for recognizing States Rights. 

Segregation (a.k.a. Separate but Equal) was a profound violation of equal treatment under the law as required by the Constitution.  Period.

24087  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: August 28, 2009, 09:08:37 AM
ABC, NBC Won't Air Ad Critical of Obama's Health Care Plan
The refusal by ABC and NBC to run a national ad critical of President Obama's health care reform plan is raising questions from the group behind the spot -- particularly in light of ABC's health care special aired in prime time last June hosted at the White House
By Joshua Rhett Miller

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A doctor in the ad by the League of American Voters asks: "How can Obama's plan cover 50 million new patients without any new doctors? It can't."

The refusal by ABC and NBC to run a national ad critical of President Obama's health care reform plan is raising questions from the group behind the spot -- particularly in light of ABC's health care special aired in prime time last June and hosted at the White House.

The 33-second ad by the League of American Voters, which features a neurosurgeon who warns that a government-run health care system will lead to the rationing of procedures and medicine, began airing two weeks ago on local affiliates of ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS. On a national level, however, ABC and NBC have refused to run the spot in its present form.

"It's a powerful ad," said Bob Adams, executive director of the League of American Voters, a national nonprofit group with 15,000 members who advocate individual liberty and government accountability. "It tells the truth and it really highlights one of the biggest vulnerabilities and problems with this proposed legislation, which is it rations health care and disproportionately will decimate the quality of health care for seniors."

Adams said the advertisement is running on local network affiliates in states like Louisiana, Arkansas, Maine and Pennsylvania. But although CBS has approved the ad for national distribution and talks are ongoing with FOX, NBC has questioned some of the ad's facts while ABC has labeled it "partisan."

"The ABC Television Network has a long-standing policy that we do not sell time for advertising that presents a partisan position on a controversial public issue," spokeswoman Susan Sewell said in a written statement. "Just to be clear, this is a policy for the entire network, not just ABC News."

NBC, meanwhile, said it has not turned down the ad and will reconsider it with some revisions.

"We have not rejected the ad," spokeswoman Liz Fischer told "We have communicated with the media agency about some factual claims that require additional substantiation. As always, we are happy to reconsider the ad once these issues are addressed."

Adams objects to ABC's assertion that his group's position is partisan.

"It's a position that we would argue a vast majority of Americans stand behind," he said. "Obviously, it's a message that ABC and the Obama administration haven't received yet."

Dick Morris, a FOX News political analyst and the League of American Voters' chief strategist, conceptualized the advertisement and said its purpose was to "refocus" the debate on health care reform.

"I feel the whole debate on health care reform needed to be refocused on the issue of Medicare," he told "Most of the debate had been on issues of socialized medicine and cost. I felt that the impact of the legislation in cutting the Medicare program and enforcing rationing needed to be addressed."

Morris, a onetime advisor to former President Bill Clinton, said he was particularly troubled by ABC's decision not to air the spot.

"It's the ultimate act of chutzpah because ABC is the network that turned itself over completely to Obama for a daylong propaganda fest about health care reform," he said. "For them to be pious and say they will not accept advertising on health care shuts their viewers out from any possible understanding of both sides of this issue."
24088  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 28, 2009, 08:41:03 AM
Iraq: The Shifting Balance Between Iran and the U.S.
IRAQ’S MOST INFLUENTIAL, pro-Iranian Shiite leader, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, died Wednesday after a two-year battle with lung cancer. Al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) — a group created in and with the backing of Iran in 1982 — was also very close to Washington, particularly during the move to topple the Baathist regime in early 2003 and the ensuing years of effort to establish a stable coalition government in Baghdad. His death, interestingly, came two days after the formation of a new Tehran-leaning Shiite coalition was announced, with the ISCI as its main driver.

The ISCI is Tehran’s main proxy — an instrument of Iranian foreign policy objectives – in Iraq. But it is not the only proxy: Iran wields a great degree of influence over other Shiite factions as well as maintaining leverage with the Kurds and, to a lesser degree, the Sunnis. This relationship is not a new phenomenon.

The Persians have a long history of venturing beyond their mountainous fortress core into the outside world via influence in Mesopotamia. Iraq has always been a buffer securing the Iranian core from threats on its western flank, which is where the Persians historically have faced external aggression. But the land of the two rivers — the Tigris and Euphrates — is also a potential launch pad for Persian power projection, into the heart of the Middle East and beyond.

“Al-Hakim’s death and the creation of a new pro-Iranian Shiite coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance, have re-ignited the U.S.-Iranian struggle over Iraq.”
It is for this very reason that in the imperial age, Iraq was the battleground between the Safavids and the Ottomans, and in early medieval times (before the advent of Islam) between the Sasanids and the Byzantines — a geopolitical condition that dates back to Persia of antiquity. In each of these epochs, the Iranians relied on peoples and groups in what is modern-day Iraq to facilitate the security of the Persian homeland, which is enclosed by mountains from the west, north and east and bordered by the Persian Gulf on the south. The Iranians have relied greatly on non-Persian people to their west to deal with foreign powers that amassed forces in Iraq and had alliances of their own with the locals.

In recent times, al-Hakim and the ISCI have been unique in that they existed at the intersection of U.S. and Iranian interests. Al-Hakim’s death and the creation of a new pro-Iranian Shiite coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), have re-ignited the U.S.-Iranian struggle over Iraq.

Though a staunch ally of Iran, al-Hakim was always careful to strike a balance between Washington and Tehran. His son Ammar, who is expected to take over as ISCI chief, is likely to be more beholden to Iran, given that the ISCI is trying to emerge from its recent defeat in the January provincial elections at the hands of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s faction — which has been used by the United States as a counter against Iranian influence in Iraq.

The Americans also harbor suspicions about Ammar. In February 2007, he was arrested and detained for several hours by U.S. forces at an Iranian/Iraqi checkpoint while returning home. Some two and a half years later, as Washington tries to draw down forces and increasingly relies on al-Maliki, Ammar likely will lead a new constellation of Shiite forces more closely aligned with Iran.

Meanwhile, Tehran — which is dealing with domestic political problems and is nearing a critical U.S. deadline to commence negotiations over its controversial nuclear program — is relying all the more on the INA to remind Washington that it can upset the American calculus for Iraq. Consequently, Iraq is re-emerging as an arena for a U.S.-Iranian geopolitical struggle.

24089  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Happy Birthday Marc! on: August 28, 2009, 08:34:54 AM
Thank you.

Our time together has been a great pleasure for me.

Where are you now?
24090  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: August 28, 2009, 08:33:38 AM

"It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution." --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia Query 19, 1781

Ain't that the Truth!
24091  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Shabbat on: August 28, 2009, 08:26:12 AM
Thank you Rachel.

For some time now my attention has focused on The Ten Commandments.  This little "thought for the day" piece addresses one of them.


The Autograph

By Tzvi Freeman
When He had finished His world, complete and whole, each thing in its place, the earth below and the heavens beyond,

…it was then that the Artist signed His holy name, with a stillness within the busy painting, a vacuum in time, so that the Infinite Light could kiss the finite world and enter within. And He called it Shabbat.

In each thing there is a Shabbat, an opening that allows life to enter, a desire to receive from Beyond. In each being there is a sense of wonder, of knowing that there is something greater. Of knowing something it will never truly know. And with that perception it receives life, for it allows entry to the Infinite.
24092  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: August 27, 2009, 05:56:01 PM

"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value." --Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, No. 1, 1776

"Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them." --Thomas Jefferson

"Can you then consent to be the only sufferers by this revolution, and retiring from the field, grow old in poverty, wretchedness and contempt? Can you consent to wade through the vile mire of dependency, and owe the miserable remnant of that life to charity, which has hitherto been spent in honor? If you can -- GO -- and carry with you the jest of Tories and scorn of Whigs -- the ridicule, and what is worse, the pity of the world. Go, starve, and be forgotten!" --George Washington

"No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency." --George Washington, First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789

"The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse." --James Madison

"The pyramid of government-and a republican government may well receive that beautiful and solid form-should be raised to a dignified altitude: but its foundations must, of consequence, be broad, and strong, and deep. The authority, the interests, and the affections of the people at large are the only foundation, on which a superstructure proposed to be at once durable and magnificent, can be rationally erected." --James Wilson, Legislative Department, 1804

24093  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Holder vs. OK English as official language on: August 27, 2009, 03:05:43 PM

Obama’s Imperial Decree: Target Oklahoma

Posted on 06 August 2009

by Bryce Shonka

Remember the good old days, when one only had to watch out for the Federal Government’s twisted interpretation of the commerce clause to justify tyranny?

Well those days seem to be long gone.  The Obama Administration has been employing an old tactic lately – what some might call an imperial threat – and they’re not doing it overseas, either.


The state of Oklahoma is now the target of a direct challenge from US Attorney General Eric Holder, who is using the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as justification to violate Oklahoma’s sovereignty as affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution.

In a letter written to the State Attorney General in April, the Federal government used aggressive language, bringing up the possibility of withholding Federal funds appropriated for Oklahoma.  The reason?  A proposed amendment to the State Constitution, which requires voter approval, that would make English the official language of the State.

“What it indicates is the Federal Government’s contempt for the states, in this case Oklahoma, and for the idea of federal — as opposed to national — government. AG Holder believes that Oklahoma is an administrative subdivision of the USA, and that it is perfectly right for him to coerce Oklahomans to do his will. Who cares whether he has ever been to Oklahoma, met an Oklahoman, or thought about Oklahoma?” said Kevin Gutzman, an American historian and New York Times bestselling author.

Oklahoma is not alone as a state challenged by central authority in recent months.  Recently, federal firearms licensees in Tennessee and Montana received a letter from another Federal agency, the ATF, who had also issued a decree wrought with hubris - claims by the Federal government of their legal supremacy across the land.


“Both of these letters, particularly this letter to the Attorney General of Oklahoma, are very officious,” observed Rob Natelson, professor of law at the University of Montana.  “It reminds one eerily of the kinds of communications that started to come out from the Emperor to the local cities of the Roman Empire, beginning the course of the ultimate destruction of local government.”

Professor Natelson is a widely-recognized expert on the framing and adoption of the United States Constitution, and on several occasions, he has been the first to uncover key background facts about the Constitution’s meaning.  I knew this before our conversation.  What I didn’t know, however, was that he’s also been studying Roman Law and history for the past 50 years, and is responsible for several works in that field.

“During the 2nd century AD, the Roman Emperors began increasingly to interfere with local government and they did this with…letters…letters that look something like this,” continued Natelson, indicating the letter from Holder to Oklahoma.  “They started out as almost advisory and they got increasingly peremptory.  By the end of the 2nd century, there was very little local government left.  You had very few people, therefore, willing to participate in local elections; very little patriotic spirit towards one’s own province or city.  And this was the harbinger for the ultimate centralization of the Roman Empire.”

He continued with a strong, decisive tone, “Almost everyone who’s studied in that area agrees that the effect was to sap the life out of the empire, so that everything flowed to the center.  All that counted was the Emperor and his bureaucrats…and his courtiers.  I look at this and I see this letter which gets close to looking like an order from the central government down to a sovereign state legislature, and I say…WOW.  This looks like something that Septimius Severus would have sent to the local officials.”

In Columbus, Ohio last weekend, a rally in support of State Sovereignty drew around 7,000 people.  Judge Andrew Napolitano addressed the rally and made similar comments indicating the nature of our current point in US history.

“In the long history of the world, very few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its maximum hour of danger. This is that moment and you are that generation”


Are these men ‘crying wolf’?

“Some people might think that’s a far fetched analogy but I can’t emphasize enough how important this development is seen by historians.  When people think of the collapse of the Roman Empire they think of the fall of Rome in 476 AD.  The conversion of Rome from a relatively free state - almost a Federation - into a totalitarian state, really picked up speed and accelerated during the 2nd century [AD], with this increasing intermeddling by the central authorities in local state government.  That’s what it reminded me of,” recalled Natelson.

“[The DOJ] are not violating any law by sending these letters, but there’s a change in tone, there’s a new and disturbing tone in them.  At least the ATF letter was addressed to individuals.  This one is addressed to a state legislature - really, it’s a bit much. Besides the fact that there’s the tone, there’s the fact that they sent the letters at all.  Most of the letters that were sent out by the emperor were called rescripts, and that’s almost what [the letter from Holder] looks like.  The one difference is that a rescript was usually a reply to a request for advice.  In some ways this is worse than a rescript because this is unsolicited.  A better way to compare it would be to an imperial constitutio - an imperial decision or decree.” Natelson added.

His Roman analogy is worth considering, for several reasons.  Rome may have ended up a brutal dictatorship, but it began through a series of treaties between regions, and in some ways parallels present day America.

“When you draw comparisons between the U.S. and ancient Rome, you have to be very cautious, though Rome does have lessons to offer us and the history and results of the relentless centralization of the Empire is one of them,” Natelson continued.


If there’s a case to be made that the US is headed for the same sort of central plan that sucks the life out of a Republic, it would be difficult to imagine who in the United States could be encouraged by such a trend, outside of DC’s beltway.

“Certainly state legislators in Oklahoma and congressmen from Oklahoma should put the Federal Government on notice that they will support a substantial reduction in the budget for Holder’s portion of the federal bureaucracy so long as he is trying to coerce them in this way.” recommended Gutzman.

Worldwide trends in recent political elections do exhibit signs of a move away from central planner candidates, a trend the United States has been contrary to for nearly a decade, but perhaps the pendulum has reversed itself.

“As the economy grows increasingly complicated, increasingly interdependent and increasingly technological, centralized control (which never worked very well) works less and less, and people are less willing to stand for it.  This reflects a visceral gut reaction people have against centralized control, because they know from their own life it makes no sense, though it always takes time for those mega-trends to filter into the political class,” Natelson continued. “Eventually, when a mule gets hit over the head enough times it figures out what’s going on, and eventually the politicians will figure out what’s going on, too.”

People in the US are coming together by the thousands, demanding decentralization and nullification of Federal powers. Never before have the political elites had to contend with a non-partisan political force on such a massive scale.  A storm seems to be brewing; a maelstrom of everyday Americans rallying around the document designed to keep the government in fear of the people - instead of the other way around.


Bryce Shonka [send him email] is Media and Grassroots director for the TenthAmendmentCenter


24094  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 27, 2009, 03:03:01 PM
Grateful for the DBMA Camp in Toronto, grateful for the time visiting my mom with my family, and grateful to be home.
24095  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Hydroxycut and liver damage on: August 27, 2009, 03:02:11 PM

FDA WARNING:[Posted 05/01/2009] FDA warned consumers to immediately stop using Hydroxycut products by Iovate Health Sciences, Inc., because they are associated with serious liver injuries. Hydroxycut products are dietary supplements that are marketed for weight-loss, as fat burners, as energy-enhancers, as low carb diet aids, and for water loss under the Iovate and MuscleTech brand names. FDA has received 23 reports of serious health problems among Hydroxycut users, ranging from jaundice and elevated liver enzymes, an indicator of potential liver injury, to liver damage requiring liver transplants. One death due to liver failure has been reported to FDA. Other health problems reported include seizures; cardiovascular disorders; and rhabdomyolysis, a type of muscle damage that can lead to other serious health problems such as kidney failure. The agency has not yet determined which ingredients, dosages, or other health-related factors may be associated with risks related to these Hydroxycut products. FDA continues to investigate the potential relationship between Hydroxycut dietary supplements and liver injury or other potentially serious side effects.

Iovate Health Sciences of Oakville, Ontario, Canada is the manufacturer. It has agreed to recall all Hydroxycut products. The company reports that more than 9 million units of Hydroxycut products were sold in 2008 in health food stores, grocery stores and pharmacies.
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24096  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anti-American Amigos on: August 25, 2009, 07:57:17 AM
Hugo Chávez took a break last week from lobbying Washington on behalf of deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to travel to Quito, Ecuador, for a meeting of South American heads of state.

There he launched a virulent assault on the U.S. military, reiterated his commitment to spreading revolution in the region, and threatened the continent with war. Mr. Zelaya was by his side.

The Venezuelan's tirade against the U.S. and its ally Colombia raised the question yet again of what the U.S. could possibly be thinking in pushing Honduras to reinstate Mr. Zelaya. He was removed from office by the Honduran Congress in June because he violated the country's constitution and willfully incited mob violence.

But that's not the only thing that made him unpopular at home. He also had become an important ally of Mr. Chávez and was quite obviously being coached to copy the Chávez power grab in Venezuela by undermining Honduras's institutional checks and balances.

If Honduras has been able to neutralize Mr. Chávez, it's something to celebrate. A Chávez-style takeover of institutions in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua has quashed political pluralism, free speech and minority rights in those countries. There is now a heavy presence of Cuban state intelligence throughout the Venezuelan empire. Mr. Zelaya literally has become a fellow traveler of Mr. Chávez, leaving no doubts about the course he would put Honduras on if given the chance.

Among the theories making the rounds about Mr. Obama's motivations in trying to force Honduras to take Mr. Zelaya back, there is the hypothesis that this administration is tacking hard to the left. Mr. Obama has expressed the same views on Honduras as Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), who holds that the interim government must be forced to reinstate Mr. Zelaya and who has, over more than two decades in office, consistently allied himself with socialist causes in Latin America.

As a U.S. senator, Mr. Kerry has the luxury of treating Latin America like his playground, as Democrats have done for decades, foisting on it ideas that Americans reject. Venezuelans still recall how Connecticut's Chris Dodd played the role of chief Chávez cheerleader in the Senate while the strongman was consolidating power.

But Mr. Obama is the president and commander in chief, and millions of people in this hemisphere are counting on the U.S. to stand up to Venezuelan aggression. Playing footsie under the table with Mr. Chávez on Honduras while the Venezuelan is threatening the peace isn't going to fly in a hemisphere that prefers liberty over tyranny.

Both Colombian and U.S. officials allege that the Venezuelan National Guard and high-ranking members of Mr. Chávez's government are in cahoots with criminal enterprises that run drugs in South America. The evidence suggests an alliance between the terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)—the largest exporter of cocaine from that country—and members of Mr. Chávez's cabinet. There is also evidence in documents and video captured from the FARC that the rebels have influence at high levels of the Ecuadoran government.

The cocaine business is a big revenue raiser for the terrorist organization and for its business partners on the continent. This is why Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has agreed to allow U.S. drug-surveillance planes to use Colombian military bases.

In Quito, Mr. Chávez flew into a rage about that agreement. "The U.S. is the most warlike government in the world," he told his South American peers and Mr. Zelaya. "The Yankee military pays no mind to its president," he said, artfully exempting Barack Obama from blame. "In Colombia [the U.S. military] has immunity. They can rape women, they can kill and they can destroy in every direction. You can't do anything to them. It's horrible."

The military-bases agreement is far more limited than what Mr. Chávez claimed, but he wasn't about to miss an opportunity to ratchet up the tension. "The winds of war are starting to blow," he warned.

His counterparts didn't buy it. Colombia was not condemned in Quito, largely because key members of the group didn't want their own sovereign decisions subject to continental review. But Mr. Chávez is not going away. He has pledged to continue with efforts to destabilize surviving democracies.

Honduras remains a target. Argentina is also in his sights. In an interview with the Argentine daily La Nación, he spoke of his alliance with Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner. "We are going to work to reinforce the Caracas-Buenos Aires axis, which is a central axis," Mr. Chávez said. "Like the Caracas-Quito axis, the Caracas-Buenos Aires axis is fundamental for the integration."

The U.S. war on drugs has been a colossal failure because of the large cocaine market in the U.S. The tragedy—beyond the violence it creates—is that criminal enterprises, flourishing because of U.S. customers, wreak havoc on frail institutions. That's bad enough. But the Obama administration pours salt in that gaping wound by refusing to support the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement our ally has asked for, and now by backing Mr. Chávez's Honduran pawn.
24097  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BOHICA on: August 25, 2009, 07:45:25 AM
Congress is in recess and many Americans are on vacation, but all that will end when Labor Day has passed and the House and Senate are back at work.

And that means the Europeanization of America will again be in full gear, from expanding government control and regulation of as many things as possible, to raising taxes, expanding the size of government, and reducing the choices individuals are allowed.

The Treasury reports that our country's federal debt has doubled in nine years, rising steadily, year by year, to $10.72 trillion from $5.67 trillion in 2000. Our deficit for the current year fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, is expected to total $1.8 trillion, four times last year's figure, leaving us with a federal debt of $38,500 for every U.S. resident. Our economy is doing poorly; it will shrink about 2.6% this year. Unemployment in July reached 9.4% and will likely further increase, and tax revenues are down $353 billion over the first 10 months of this fiscal year.

So we can easily see what is just around the corner. Earlier this month Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, director of the National Economic Council, opened the door, suggesting that taxes on all taxpayers will have to go up. As Stephen Moore noted in The Wall Street Journal, "it would take almost $16,000 more from every household in America to balance the budget this year." We certainly won't get to balanced budgets for decades, but substantially higher taxation seems inevitable.

All of which leads to the essential economic question: Which tax increases do the current administration and Congress intend to enact? There are more than a dozen, all of which would negatively affect our economy.

One has already been signed into law by President Obama: an increase in the tax on tobacco, to $1.01 a pack of cigarettes from 39 cents, and to as much as 40 cents a cigar from a nickel--increases of 159% and 700%, respectively. This is expected to bring in $8 billion a year. Next up is a possible increase in alcohol, beer and wine taxes, raising about another $6 billion annually, and perhaps another $5 billion a year on sugary drinks will be enacted.

Then come a series of substantial tax increases that are on the Washington agenda that, if enacted, will create real problems for our country's economy.

First, allowing the expiration of the previous Bush administration tax cuts at the end of 2010. These reductions increased government tax receipts by $785 billion (just as the Kennedy and Reagan tax cuts increased tax revenues) and gave us eight million new jobs over a 52-month period. The cuts go away if Congress does nothing, raising tax rates on the top earners will to 39.6% from 35%, and on the next-highest bracket to 36% from 33%. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that 55% of these tax increases will come from small-business income.

Next comes Rep. Charles Rangel's additional tax increases, a part of the House health-care bill. The House Ways and Means chairman calls for a 1% surtax on couples with more than $350,000 in income, 1.5% on incomes more than $500,000, and 5.4% on incomes more than $1 million. The extra tax would kick in at lower levels for unmarried taxpayers. And if promised health-care cost savings don't materialize, the surtaxes would automatically double.

The House health-care bill contains several tax increases that would hit couples earning under $250,000 a year, contrary to President Obama's promises: $8.2 billion of tax increases for people using health savings accounts or other tax-free savings to purchase over-the-counter drugs; a "Comparative Effectiveness Research Tax" of $2 billion on all private and "public option" insurance, plus up to 8% paid by employers--mostly small businesses--that don't offer health insurance. There is even a proposed tax on individuals who do not have health insurance.

Then come some other tax increases the administration has favored:

• An increased tax on American companies doing business in other countries.

• Raising or abolishing the wage cap on Social Security taxes, which would effectively convert Social Security into a welfare program.

• Reducing the tax benefit for itemized deductions like charitable contributions, which would reduce philanthropy.

And then there's the Waxman-Markey "cap and trade" bill that has passed the House and will be taken up in the Senate this fall. It would give the government total control of the production, prices, availability and use of energy and add a global energy tax to imported goods--serious American protectionism. It would shrink America's economy by $400 billion each year and cause the loss of some 2.5 million jobs. For a household of four it would cost an average of about $3,000 a year. By 2035 the total family annual increased cost would be $4,600 for power, food, supplies, gasoline and transportation.

All told, the administration and Congress are pushing massive tax increases. Without a specific proposal we don't know how much taxes would go up if the Social Security ceiling is raised, but add the others up and we see up to $200 billion--and it could well be much more--in annual tax increases on businesses, individuals and the overall economy, which is already in recession.

The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger observes that "to an independent voter or moderate Democrat, President Everyman is starting to look like a salesman for the superstate." These many proposed tax increases reinforce the point. They not only would be economically damaging, but chart a very scary course for our country.
24098  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Defense Umbrella on: August 25, 2009, 07:39:11 AM
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently in Thailand that if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, the U.S. will offer allies in the Middle East a "defense umbrella" to prevent Iranian intimidation. That's a fine sentiment, but it raises the question: Are we capable of doing so?

The answer is more complicated than most people think.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and associated delivery systems since the collapse of the Soviet Union means that any "defense umbrella" will require the deployment of missile defense technologies capable of neutralizing a potential salvo of nuclear-tipped missiles—whether from Iran or another rogue such as North Korea.

Yet America's missile-defense efforts are being scaled back. Congress is contemplating a $1.4 billion reduction to the Pentagon's budget for antimissile capabilities.

Advocates of missile defense are seriously concerned that this is just the beginning, and that the Obama administration seeks to kill the system with a thousand cuts. During the presidential campaign last year, Barack Obama promised to strip $10 billion from the Pentagon's budget for missile defense. (Actually, the U.S. currently spends only $9 billion in this area.)

The Bush administration began work on a linked network of individual missile-defense systems capable of intercepting ballistic missiles in all stages of flight. But it built only the capabilities necessary to counter simple rogue-state threats, such as a single missile launched from North Korea and aimed at the West Coast. The administration's efforts stopped short of a comprehensive architecture that would include antimissile systems on land, on the seas, and in space.

The Obama administration wants to scale back from Bush's modest beginnings. In addition to slashing the overall budget for missile defense, it has terminated promising projects such as the multiple-kill vehicle (MKV) program—in which multiple interceptors on a carrier vehicle (essentially a satellite) would improve our chances of hitting enemy missiles. Another project terminated is the airborne laser (ABL), an aircraft-based high energy laser that could be flown near potential enemy ballistic-missile hotspots.

Mr. Obama has also targeted the Bush administration's premier missile-defense venture, the deployment of ground-based interceptors and radars in Poland and the Czech Republic to defend against the growing ballistic missile threat from Iran. Instead, because of the Kremlin's objections, the Obama team is preparing to sacrifice this planned deployment as part of a "reset" of U.S. relations with Russia.

Space-based missile defense likewise has been met with a cold shoulder from the Obama administration. Opponents of missile defense charge that a space layer would somehow "militarize" space. This is dead wrong. A space-based missile defense capability would instead block and destroy weapons that enter the Earth's orbit on their way to their targets.

The most promising idea would be to develop a program for the deployment of space-based kinetic interceptors capable of targeting intercontinental ballistic missiles in their boost, midcourse and terminal phases of flight. In other words, let's revive the useful idea of building a system that gives us multiple chances to knock out every enemy missile.

Sadly, in the current political atmosphere, missile defense has become an ideological football. Republicans and Democrats alike ought to be united in the effort to develop a serious system capable of protecting the American people, our armed forces and our allies abroad from ballistic missile attack. A half-hearted missile defense effort only encourages investments in missile technologies on the part of our adversaries, making them believe that with additional resources they will be capable of overwhelming American defenses.

U.S. missile-defense policy should be designed to elicit the opposite response. Our enemies and competitors should be forced to conclude that energy and funds spent developing nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them will be wasted because Americans have the know-how and hardware to prevent them from reaching their intended targets.

During the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, the U.S. government made major investments in the types of technologies (space-based sensors, interceptors and propulsion) necessary to field a robust defense against foreign ballistic missile arsenals, irrespective of origin. The capability to make Iranian, North Korean and other foreign missiles useless has already been developed and field-tested. Only America has it, and we should deploy it.

Mrs. Clinton has the right idea. The U.S. should offer a comprehensive and impenetrable "defense umbrella" to protect itself and its allies. But first we need to match rhetoric with concrete action and get the job done.

Mr. Berman is vice president for policy of the American Foreign Policy Council. Mr. May is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
24099  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: August 25, 2009, 12:54:13 AM
Woof Seeing Eye Dog:

That's good news!  cool

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24100  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Happy Birthday Marc! on: August 24, 2009, 06:46:50 AM
From a hotel lobby in Toronto:

I was hoping no one would notice cheesy
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