Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science
on: July 20, 2010, 07:25:33 AM
I did not see that one coming!
It will be very interesting to see if DOE will get slapped down by the White House for this , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Preventing the next Lebanon War
on: July 20, 2010, 07:14:08 AM
Second post of the morning:
By STEPHEN P. COHEN
Four years ago last week, Hezbollah launched a cross-border attack from Lebanon into Israel. Eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two reservists kidnapped. (They died sometime later, and their remains were subsequently returned to Israel in a prisoner exchange). This attack ignited a month-long war. Israel responded with an air, sea and ground campaign, while Hezbollah launched some 4,000 rockets and missiles into the Jewish state. Nearly 1,200 people in Lebanon and 160 in Israel died.
The summer 2006 war ended with United Nations resolution 1701, which imposed a blockade on weapons intended for Hezbollah and banned it from operating near the Israeli border. To implement its provisions, the resolution dispatched a U.N. peacekeeping force to Southern Lebanon which, as of April, numbers over 11,000 troops from 31 nations.
Israel recently embarked on an extraordinary form of deterrence against the possibility of a second Hezbollah war. Instead of engaging in a pre-emptive military strike, the Israeli military launched a public relations offensive. It broadcast and publicized highly detailed intelligence maps and aerial photographs depicting exactly where Hezbollah constructs and maintains missile and rocket caches, as well as command centers.
These maps show that Hezbollah's bases are located in villages in southern Lebanon near the Israeli border, in very close proximity to schools and hospitals. Its weapons are aimed at Israeli cities and civilian targets. If these missiles were to be launched, Israel would be required to defend its population by destroying the missile emplacements and depots.
"Hezbollah has worked to develop its readiness to rise to the challenge should it arise, and we can safely say that in the past four years we have prepared ourselves far more than Israel has," the group's second in command, Sheikh Naim Qassem, said in an interview published last week in the Arabic-language daily An-Nahar.
The Hezbollah plan of deployment means that any Israeli military response to a massive missile attack on its civilian population will involve civilian casualties in Lebanon. Because of its deliberate placement of these weapons, Hezbollah is condemning Shiite villages to destruction.
The U.N. now faces the test of whether it will do anything to assure the legitimacy of its 2006 resolution. If the U.N. does not act against Hezbollah's weapons caches, the resolution will be revealed as merely a stick with which to beat Israel and not the means to enforce the cease-fire the U.N. insisted Israel comply with to end the war.
Arab governments also face a critical test. By making its deterrence transparent, Israel is offering the governments of Syria, Lebanon and their Arab supporters, as well as world policy makers, an opportunity to protect Arab lives instead of blaming Israel after the fact for what can be prevented.
Now that Israel has taken the rare step of disclosing its valuable intelligence, will the U.N. enforce its own resolution to prevent war? Will the Arab governments in the region act?
Mr. Cohen is the author of "Beyond America's Grasp: A Century of Failed Diplomacy in the Middle East" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009) and president of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Why hasn't Israel hit Iran?
on: July 20, 2010, 07:10:20 AM
Why hasn't Israel bombed Iran yet? It's a question I often get from people who suppose I have a telepathic hotline to Benjamin Netanyahu's brain. I don't, but for a long time I was confident that an attack would happen in the first six months of this year. Since it didn't, it's worth thinking through why.
First, though, let me explain my previous thinking. In the spring of 2008, there was intense speculation that then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, fresh from ordering an attack on a covert Syrian reactor, was giving serious thought to an Israeli strike on Iran. President Bush—whom Israelis believed would give them the diplomatic cover and logistical support they would need for such a strike, especially if things went amiss—had only a few months left to go. The release of the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate claiming (erroneously, as we now know) that Iran had halted its nuclear weaponization effort meant it was highly unlikely that the U.S. would attack.
Finally, Israeli planners understood that the longer they delayed a strike, the harder it would be to achieve meaningful effects. Iran would have more time to harden its facilities, improve its defenses, and disperse its nuclear materials.
So why didn't Israel act then? A variety of reasons, the most plausible of which was that Mr. Olmert believed an Israeli strike on Iran was a huge gamble, and that it would be rash to attack before every diplomatic, political or covert means to stop Iran's nuclear bid had been explored. Then came Barack Obama with his time-limited offer to negotiate with Tehran, followed by Iran's post-election unrest, which briefly aroused hopes that the regime might be toppled from within.
By the end of last year, it was clear that both hopes were misplaced. It was clear that the limited sanctions being contemplated by the Obama administration were not of a kind to deter Iran from its nuclear bids. It was clear that those bids were moving steadily closer to fruition. And it was clear that the administration was ill-inclined to take military action of its own.
All of which persuaded me that, having duly given Mr. Obama's diplomacy the benefit of the doubt, Israel—under the more hawkish leadership of Mr. Netanyahu—would strike, sooner rather than later. Plainly I was wrong.
What gives? Here are four theories in ascending order of significance and plausibility.
The first is that Israeli military planners have concluded that any attack would be unlikely to succeed (or succeed at a reasonable price). Maybe. But this analysis fails to appreciate the depth of Israeli fears of a nuclear Iran, and the lengths they are prepared to go to stop it. A successful strike on Iran may be at the outer periphery of Israel's capabilities, but senior Israeli military and political leaders insist it is not completely beyond it.
India Sees Hurdle in U.S. Sanctions
.A second theory is that Israel is biding its time as it improves its military capabilities on both its offensive and defensive ends. Yesterday Israel completed tests of its "Iron Dome" missile defense shield, designed to guard against the kind of short-range rockets that Hamas and Hezbollah might use in retaliation against an Israeli strike on Iran. The system will begin coming on line in November. Israel is also mulling the purchase of a semi-stealthy variant of the F-15 as an alternative to the much more expensive F-35, delivery of which has been delayed till 2015. What Israel decides could be a telling indicator of what it intends.
The third theory concerns the internal dynamics of Israeli politics. Mr. Netanyahu may favor a strike, but he will not order one without the consent of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and perhaps also Mossad chief Meir Dagan. This inner cabinet is said to be uniformly against a strike, with the wavering exception of Mr. Barak. But Mr. Ashkenazi and Mr. Dagan are due to step down within a few months, and who Mr. Netanyahu chooses to replace them will have a material bearing on the government's attitude toward a strike.
Finally, Israeli leaders are mindful of history. Put aside the routine comparisons between a prospective military strike on Iran with Israel's quick and effective destruction of Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. As I'm reminded by Michael Doran, a Middle East scholar at NYU, Israel's leaders are probably no less alert to the lessons of the Suez War in 1956. Back then, a successful military operation by Britain, France and Israel to humiliate Egypt's Gamel Abdel Nasser (in many ways the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of his day) fell afoul of the determined political opposition of the Eisenhower administration, which mistakenly thought that it could curry favor with the Arabs by visibly distancing itself from Israel and its traditional European allies. Sound familiar?
There is now talk that the Obama administration may be reconsidering its military options toward Iran. Let's hope so. Israel may ultimately be willing to attack Iran once it reckons that it has run out of other options, as it did prior to the Six Day War. But its tactical margin for error will be slim, particularly since an effective strike will require days not hours. And the political risks it runs will be monumental. As Mr. Doran notes, in 1956 it could at least count on the diplomatic support of two members of the U.N. Security Council. Today, the U.S. is its last significant friend.
This is an unenviable position, and Israel's friends abroad would do well to spare it easy lectures. Iran is not Israel's problem alone. It should not be Israel's problem alone to solve, to its own frightful peril.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor thought piece
on: July 20, 2010, 06:37:47 AM
Geopolitics, Nationalism and Dual Citizenship
July 20, 2010
By George Friedman
Geopolitics is central to STRATFOR’s methodology, providing the framework upon which we study the world. The foundation of geopolitics in our time is the study of the nation-state, and fundamental to this is the question of the relationship of the individual to the nation-state. Changes in the relationship of the individual to the nation and to the state are fundamental issues in geopolitics, and thus worth discussing.
Many issues affect this complex relationship, notable among them the increasing global trend of multiple citizenship. This is obviously linked to the question of immigration, but it also raises a deeper question, namely, what is the meaning of citizenship in the 21st century?
Nation vs. State
It is difficult to make sense of the international system without making sense of the nation-state. The concept is complicated by a reality that includes multinational states like Belgium, where national identity plays a significant role, and Russia or China, where it can be both significant and at times violent. In looking at the nation-state, the idea of nation is more complex, and perhaps more interesting, than that of state.
The idea of nation is not always clear. At root, a nation is a group of people who share a fate, and with that fate, an identity. Nations can be consciously created, as the United States was. Nations can exist for hundreds or thousands of years, as seen in parts of Europe or Asia. However long a nation exists and whatever its origins, a nation is founded on what I’ve called elsewhere “love of one’s own,” a unique relationship with the community in which an individual is born or to which he chose to come. That affinity is the foundation of a nation.
If that dissolves, the nation dissolves, something that has happened on numerous occasions in history. If a nation disappears, the international system begins to behave differently. And if nations in general lose their identity and cohesion, massive shifts might take place. Some might say it would be for better and others for worse. It is sufficient to note here that either way would make a profound difference.
The state is much clearer: It is the political directorate of the nation. How the leaders are selected and how they govern varies widely. The relationship of the state to the nation also varies widely. All nations do not have states. Some are occupied by other nation-states. Some are divided between multiple states. Some are part of an entity that governs many nations. And some are communities that have developed systems of government that do not involve states, although this is increasingly rare.
The relation to the nation is personal. The relation to the state is legal. We can see this linguistically in the case of the United States. I can state my relation to my nation simply: I am an American. I cannot state my relationship to my state nearly as simply. Saying I am a “United Statian” makes no sense. I have to say that I am a citizen of the United States, to state my legal relationship, not personal affinity. The linguistic complexity of the United States doesn’t repeat itself everywhere, but a distinction does exist between nationality and citizenship. They may coincide easily, as when a person is born in a country and becomes a citizen simply through that, or they may develop, as when an individual is permitted to immigrate and become naturalized. Note the interesting formulation of that term, as it implies the creation of a natural relationship with the state.
In the United States, the following oath is administered when one is permitted to become a citizen, generally five years after being permitted to immigrate:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
I should say I took this oath at the age of 17. Although I became a citizen of the United States when my father was naturalized years earlier, receiving my own citizenship papers involved going to a courthouse and taking this oath personally. Being confronted with the obligations of citizenship was a sobering experience.
The American oath is one of the most rigorous; other nations have much simpler and less demanding oaths. Intriguingly, many countries with less explicitly demanding oaths are also countries where becoming a naturalized citizen is more difficult and less common. For the United States, a nation and a state that were consciously invented, the idea of immigration was inherent in the very idea of the nation, as was this oath. Immigration and naturalization required an oath of this magnitude, as naturalization meant taking on not only a new state identity but also a new national identity.
The American nation was built on immigrants from other nations. Unless they were prepared to “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen,” the American enterprise could fall into chaos as immigrants came to the United States to secure the benefits of full citizenship but refused to abandon prior obligations and refused to agree to the obligations and sacrifices the oath demanded. The United States therefore is in a position shared only with a few other immigration-based nations, and it has staked out the most demanding position on naturalization.
The Dual Citizenship Anomaly
It is therefore odd that the United States — along with many other nations — permits nationals to be citizens of other countries. The U.S. Constitution doesn’t bar this, but the oath of citizenship would seem to do so. The oath demands that the immigrant abandon all obligations to foreign states. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Afroyim v. Rusk in 1967 that revoking citizenship on grounds of voting in foreign elections was unconstitutional. The ruling involved a naturalized American who presumably had taken the oath. The Supreme Court left the oath in place, but if we are to understand the court correctly, it ruled that the oath did not preclude multiple citizenship.
It is impossible to know how many people in the United States or other countries currently hold multiple citizenship, but anecdotally it would appear that the practice is not uncommon. Not being required to renounce one’s foreign citizenship verifiably obviously facilitates the practice.
And this raises a fundamental question. Is citizenship a license to live and earn a living in a country, or is it equally or more so a set of legal and moral obligations? There are many ways legally to reside in a country without becoming a citizen. But the American oath, for example, makes it appear that the naturalized citizen (as opposed to just the legal resident) has an overriding obligation to the United States that can require substantial and onerous responsibilities within military and civilian life. An individual might be able to juggle multiple obligations until they came into conflict. Does the citizen choose his prime obligation at that time or when he becomes a citizen?
The reality is that in many cases, citizenship is seen less as a system of mutual obligations and rights than as a convenience. This creates an obvious tension between the citizen and his obligations under his oath. But it also creates a deep ambiguity between his multiple nationalities. The concept of immigration involves the idea of movement to a new place. It involves the assumption of legal and moral obligations. But it also involves a commitment to the nation, at least as far as citizenship goes. This has nothing to do with retaining ethnicity. It has to do with a definition of what it means to love one’s own — if you are a citizen of multiple nations, which nation is yours?
It is interesting to note that the United States has been equally ambiguous about serving in other countries’ militaries. John Paul Jones served as an admiral in the Russian navy. American pilots flew for Britain and China prior to American entry into World War II. They did not take the citizenship oath, having been born in the United States. While you could argue that there was an implicit oath, you could also argue that they did not compromise their nationality: They remained Americans even in fighting for other countries. The immigration issue is more complex, however. In electing to become American citizens, immigrants consciously take the citizenship oath. The explicit oath would seem to create a unique set of obligations for naturalized immigrants.
The Pull of the Old Country
Apart from acquiring convenient passports on obscure tropical islands, the dual citizenship phenomenon appears to operate by linking ancestral homelands with adopted countries. Immigrants, and frequently their children and grandchildren, retain their old citizenship alongside citizenship in the country they now live in. This seems a benign practice and remains so until there is conflict or disagreement between the two countries — or where, as in some cases, the original country demands military service as the price of retaining citizenship.
In immigrant countries in particular, the blurring of the line between nationalities becomes a potential threat in a way that it is not for the country of origin. The sense of national identity (if not willingness to sacrifice for it) is often stronger in countries whose nationhood is built on centuries of shared history and fates than it is in countries that must manage waves of immigration. These countries have less room for maneuver on these matters, unless they have the fortune to be secure and need not ask much of citizens. But in those countries that are built on immigrants and that do need to call for sacrifice, this evolution is potentially more troublesome.
There are those who regard nationalism as divisive and harmful, leading to conflict. I am of the view that nationalism has endured because it provides individuals with a sense of place, community, history and identity. It gives individuals something beyond themselves that is small enough to be comprehensible but far greater than they are. That nationalism can become monstrous is obviously true; anything that is useful can also become harmful. But nationalism has survived and flourished for a reason.
The rise of multiple citizenship undoubtedly provides freedom. But as is frequently the case, the freedom raises the question of what an individual is committed to beyond himself. In blurring the lines between nations, it does not seem that it has reduced conflict. Quite the contrary, it raises the question of where the true loyalties of citizens lie, something unhealthy for the citizen and the nation-state.
In the United States, it is difficult to reconcile the oath of citizenship with the Supreme Court’s ruling affirming the right of dual citizenship. That ambiguity over time could give rise to serious problems. This is not just an American problem, although it might be more intense and noticeable here. It is a more general question, namely, what does it mean to be a citizen?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Recon Team Kansas
on: July 19, 2010, 08:54:06 PM
THE LAST STAND OF RECON TEAM KANSAS
Outnumbered worse than the Alamo defenders, here's the story of a SOG team's
desperate last stand.
By Maj. John L. Plaster, USAR (Ret.)
The once bustling Khe Sanh Marine Base in South Vietnam’s
extreme northwest had been a ghost town more than three years
by the summer of 1971. Though used briefly that February to
support the South Vietnamese Army’s invasion of Laos, after that
bloody debacle the South Vietnamese abandoned not just Khe
Sanh but the entire region, yielding immense areas to the NVA,
who almost overnight began extending their Ho Chi Minh Trail
highways into South Vietnam.
In late July 1971, U.S. intelligence began tracking a large enemy
force shifting across the DMZ a dozen miles east of Khe Sanh,
threatening the coastal cities of Hue, Danang and Phu Bai where
the last sizeable American ground units were based.
It was essential to learn what was happening near Khe Sanh, a mission assigned to a
shadowy organization called "SOG." Created to conduct covert missions deep behind
enemy lines in Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam, the top secret Studies and
Observations Group had shifted most of its operations in-country by 1971 to cover the
continuing U.S. withdrawal. From among its clandestine assembly of Army Green
Berets, Navy SEALs and USAF Air Commandos, the Khe Sanh mission eventually
became a prisoner snatch assigned to Recon Team Kansas, an 11-man, Special
Forces-led element, which included eight Montagnard tribesmen.
But how do you grab a prisoner in the midst of 10,000 or more
NVA? Headed by an easygoing, lanky Midwesterner, First
Lieutenant Loren Hagen, along with Sergeants Tony Andersen and
Bruce Berg, the RT Kansas men had brainstormed through several
scenarios until settling upon the best option: They would land
conspicuously on an abandoned firebase -- which obviously would
draw some sort of NVA reaction -- put up a short fight, then extract
by helicopter. Except half of Hagen’s men would stay hidden on
the hill. When the NVA sent a squad up to see if the Americans
had left behind sensors or bombing beacons -- as SOG teams
often did -- the hidden men would ambush the NVA, seize a
prisoner and come out.
In case a serious fight developed, Lt. Hagen reinforced his team
with three more Green Beret volunteers, Staff Sergeant Oran
Bingham and Sergeants Bill Queen and William Rimondi, for eight Montagnard
tribesmen and six U.S. Special Forces, a total of 14 men.
"Recon Team Leader Loren
Hagen shortly before his final
mission." (Photo by Tony
Landing at last light on 6 August 1971, Lt. Hagen surveyed the scrub brush and bomb
craters below them and split his defense into three elements to cover the hilltop’s three
slopes. Immediately they went to work restoring the old firebase’s two dilapidated
bunkers and shallow trenches. The enemy must have seen them land, and Hagen
reckoned to be ready.
A Foreboding Night
It was well after dark when the SOG
men noticed campfires on two facing
ridgelines, unusual because the NVA
normally masked itself. By midnight
enemy probers were at the base of the
hill, firing provocatively from the north,
south, east and west.
At 1 a.m. a USAF AC-130 Spectre
gunship arrived, walking 40mm and
20mm fire around the hill nearly all night.
Never once did the team fire their
weapons, staying blanketed in darkness.
Then at 3 a.m. the SOG men heard
trucks and tailgates dropping. This was odd, very odd.
Beneath the hill, dismounting NVA soldiers formed up into platoons and companies,
which their leaders marched through the darkness to their assigned attack positions, to
wait for dawn.
Just before sunrise it became forebodingly quiet. Then Lt. Hagen heard more trucks
arriving. Fifty miles away at a coastal airbase, a USAF Forward Air Controller (FAC) and a flight
of helicopters was lifting away for the false extraction; they would be above RT Kansas
in 30 minutes.
As darkness gave way to light, Lt. Hagen detected glimpses of NVA on one slope; then
on another slope pithe helmets appeared, bobbing in the fog. When his men reported
NVA on the third slope, too, Hagen realized the hill was completely encircled by NVA --
but that would require a whole regiment, at least a thousand men!
The NVA regimental commander understood he had to
dispatch the Americans quickly. They'd inadvertently
landed almost within sight of the Hanoi High Command's
most critical new venture, the first six-inch fuel pipeline
laid across the DMZ, absolutely essential in a few
months when entire tank battalions rolled through here
for the war's largest offensive. Already the 304th NVA
Division was massing here, plus a regiment of the 308th
Division, preparing for the 1972 Easter Offensive.
A fourth battalion moved into place; then, concealed in
the ground fog, a fifth battalion arrived. Later, SOG’s
commander, Colonel John Sadler, would learn an entire
regiment had stormed the hill, supported by a second regiment, a mass assault by
approximately 2000 enemy infantry.
A Human Wave
As the clearing ground fog disclosed that terrible truth, Lt. Hagen had no time for
inspiring words, just serious soldier work; in those final moments he repositioned
weapons while his men readied grenades and stacked magazines. The Catholic
Montagnards made the Sign of the Cross.
Then they came.
A well-aimed RPG rocket smashed into Bruce Berg's bunker, collapsing it and signaling
the attack -- fire went from nothing to ten thousand rounds per second! Andersen could
see dozens of NVA rushing in lines up his slope, meeting them with his M-60
machinegun. Hagen hollered that he was going to check Berg, and ran directly into a
ferocious maelstrom, with bullets ricocheting and slamming the earth in front of, behind,
and beneath his dashing feet. He made it a dozen yards when fire from the other slope
cut him down, killing him.
Then Klaus Bingham left a bunker to reposition a claymore and a bullet struck him in the
head, apparently killing him. One Montagnard in a trench below Tony Andersen fired
several bursts then jumped up to pull back and fell into Andersen's lap, dead.
Four men had died in less than four minutes. It was up to Andersen now, the senior
The Last Stand
Small arms fire rattled closer on all sides and grenades lobbed up from below the
hillcrest where waves of NVA were scurrying behind small rises and rolling from bomb
crater to bomb crater. Andersen dashed over the hill to look for Hagen but couldn't see
him anywhere -- just 100 khaki-clad NVA almost at the top! He fired one M-60 belt at
"The NVA were laying a Soviet-made tactical
fuel pipeline, like this one, near RT Kansas'
hilltop, the first ever extended into South
Vietnam. It would be of strategic value a few
months later during the Easter 1972 Offensive."
(Def. Intell. Agency)
NVA advancing up his own slope, then sped to the other approach and ran belt after
belt on the 100 assaulting enemy. By then grenades started coming from behind him as
NVA closed in from his rear. Just a dozen yards away, beyond the curvature of the hill,
enemy heads popped up, cracked a few shots, then dropped back down.
Still a dozen minutes away, the approaching Cobra gunships went to full throttle, leaving
the slower Hueys behind.
Meanwhile RT Kansas had just run out of hand grenades when a North Vietnamese
grenade exploded beside Andersen's M-60, rendering it useless; he spun his CAR-15
off his back and kept shooting, then he tossed back another grenade but it went off in
front of him, nearly blinding him, yet he kept shooting. More shrapnel tore into him, then
an AK round slammed through his webgear and lodged in his elbow, knocking him
down. He stumbled back to his knees and kept firing.
The perimeter was pinched almost in half when Andersen grabbed his last two living
Montagnards, circled below the nearest NVA and somehow managed to reach the
survivors on the opposite side. He found Bingham, started to lift him, and saw he, too,
was dead from a head wound. All around him he heard, "zzzsss, zzssss, zzssss," as
bullets flashed past his ears.
He dragged Bingham back to where Bill Queen lay, wounded. Only Rimondi wasn't yet
hit and still fired furiously. Andersen put them in a back-to-back circle just off the hilltop
where they would make their last stand. AK bullets had destroyed their team radio,
another slug had shot Andersen's little survival radio out of his hand so Rimondi tossed
him another survival radio, their last.
Now the NVA were streaming, rolling over the crest like a tidal wave, their rattling AKs
blending together into one never-ending burst. Andersen's men were firing not at NVA
but at hands wielding AKs over parapets and around bunkers. There was no place left
to fall back. Andersen was shooting NVA little further than the length of his CAR-15
muzzle, and the time it took to speed-change a magazine meant life or death.
From the air it looked like an ant mound, with moving figures everywhere. Cobra lead
rolled in and sparkled 20mm cannon shells around the surviving SOG men, and at last
fighters arrived, adding napalm and Vulcan cannons to the melee. Then at last the
assault ebbed, turned, and the NVA fled for cover, just as the Hueys arrived.
Though wounded repeatedly, Andersen crawled out to fire his CAR-15 to cover the
landing Hueys. With Rimondi's help, Andersen dragged as many teammates’ bodies as
he could to the first Huey, then helped the wounded Queen and others aboard the
"3 months before RT Kansas fought the most one-sided fight in American history, the
USAF already had plotted three enemy pipelines running out of North Vietnam but these
extended into Laos. The most critical pipeline was secretly being laid across the DMZ
into South Vietnam." (USAF)
A Terrible Toll
In one hellacious half-hour, nine of Recon Team Kansas’ fourteen men had been lost.
Lt. Hagen had died, along with Bingham, Berg was presumed dead, six Montagnards
had died, Rimondi and Queen both suffered multiple frag wounds, Andersen had been
struck by both smallarms fire and shrapnel, and their other two Montagnards, too, all
had been wounded
"It’s amazing that any of us came through it with the amount of incoming that we were
getting," Tony Andersen says today, 25 years later. He attributes their survival to his
deceased team leader, Lt. Loren Hagen. "He epitomized what a Special Forces officer
should be -- attentive to detail, a lot of rehearsals, followed through on things," he
explains. "We were ready. I think that was probably the only thing that kept us from
being totally overrun. Everybody was alert and knew what was happening and was
As for Hagen’s bravery, dashing into a wall of AK fire to try to save Bruce Berg, that
didn’t surprise Andersen, either. "Lt. Hagen was that kind of officer. He was a good
Against the lost of most of his teammates, Andersen learned, the USAF counted 185
NVA dead on that hill little RT Kansas had killed half a battalion and probably wounded
twice that many NVA. But that gives Andersen sparse satisfaction compared to the loss
of most of his team.
"Lt. Loren Hagen (right, rear) and Bruce Berg
pose with five indigenous teammates. Both
Hagen and Berg would die on the small hilltop,
along with six of their Montagnard soldiers."
(Photo by Tony Andersen)
Perhaps Andersen’s most difficult duty was carrying the bodies of his six Montagnard
teammates -- his "family" he called them -- to their home village. "As soon as they saw
us driving up in the truck, they knew. Wailing and moaning started, and all the grieving."
The villagers gathered in a circle around the headman’s stilted longhouse. "Through one
of the interpreters I tried to explain how proud we were of them, what good fighters they
were, that they had died for a good cause."
That would be borne out a few months later when the intelligence generated by RT
Kansas’ spirited defense helped U.S. analysts read enemy intentions, enabling
American airpower to counter the NVA’s Easter Offensive.
And though details of this incredible fight would remain classified for decades, enough
was disclosed that First Lieutenant Loren Hagen's family was presented the U.S. Army's
final Vietnam War Medal of Honor; Tony Andersen, who held together what remained of
RT Kansas through those final mass assaults, received the Distinguished Service
Cross, while Queen, Rimondi, Berg and Bingham were awarded Silver Stars.
And now, today, with full disclosure, we can appreciate the significance of their fight:
At the Alamo, 188 Americans had stood against 3000 Mexicans, a ratio of 16-to-1; at
Custer's Last Stand, 211 cavalrymen succumbed to 3,500 Sioux warriors, or 16.5-to-1;
at the 1877 Battle of Rorke's Drift, the most heralded action in British military history
resulting in -- 11 Victoria Crosses -- 140 British troops withstood assaults by 4000
Zulus, or 28-to-1. Lt. Hagen’s 14 men had held on despite being outnumbered 107-toone,
four times as disadvantagous as Rorke's Drift and seven times worse than the
Alamo, one of the most remarkable feats of arms in American history.
(This article is derived from Maj. Plaster’s book, SOG: The Secret Wars of America’s
Commandos in Vietnam, published by Simon & Schuster.)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Still Scrambling
on: July 19, 2010, 10:25:19 AM
After Training, Still Scrambling for Employment
By PETER S. GOODMAN
Published: July 18, 2010
In what was beginning to feel like a previous life, Israel Valle had earned $18 an hour as an executive assistant to a designer at a prominent fashion label. Now, he was jobless and struggling to find work. He decided to invest in upgrading his skills.
Mr. Valle, left, is living with his parents in New York as he looks for work. “Training was fruitless,” he said. “I’m not seeing the benefits. Training for what? No one’s hiring.”
It was February 2009, and the city work force center in Downtown Brooklyn was jammed with hundreds of people hungry for paychecks. His caseworker urged him to take advantage of classes financed by the federal government, which had increased money for job training. Upgrade your skills, she counseled. Then she could arrange job interviews.
For six weeks, Mr. Valle, 49, absorbed instruction in spreadsheets and word processing. He tinkered with his résumé. But the interviews his caseworker eventually arranged were for low-wage jobs, and they were mobbed by desperate applicants. More than a year later, Mr. Valle remains among the record 6.8 million Americans who have been officially jobless for six months or longer. He recently applied for welfare benefits.
“Training was fruitless,” he said. “I’m not seeing the benefits. Training for what? No one’s hiring.”
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have enrolled in federally financed training programs in recent years, only to remain out of work. That has intensified skepticism about training as a cure for unemployment.
Even before the recession created the bleakest job market in more than a quarter-century, job training was already producing disappointing results. A study conducted for the Labor Department tracking the experience of 160,000 laid-off workers in 12 states from mid-2003 to mid-2005 — a time of economic expansion — found that those who went through training wound up earning little more than those who did not, even three and four years later. “Over all, it appears possible that ultimate gains from participation are small or nonexistent,” the study concluded.
In the last 18 months, the Obama administration has embraced more promising approaches to training focused on faster-growing areas like renewable energy and health care. But most money has been directed at the same sorts of programs that in past years have largely failed to steer laid-off workers toward new careers, say experts, and now the number of job openings is vastly outnumbered by people out of work.
“It’s such an ugly situation that job training can’t solve it,” said Ross Eisenbrey, a job training expert at the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research institution in Washington, and a former commissioner of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. “When you have five people unemployed for every vacancy, you can train all the people you want and unfortunately only one-fifth of the people will get hired. Training doesn’t create jobs.”
Labor economists and work force development experts say the frustration that frequently results from job training reflects the dubious quality of many programs. Most last only a few months, providing general skills without conferring useful credentials in specialized fields. Programs rarely involve potential employers and are typically too modest to enable cast-off workers to begin new careers.
Most job training is financed through the federal Workforce Investment Act, which was written in 1998 — a time when hiring was extraordinarily robust. Then, simply teaching jobless people how to use computers and write résumés put them on a path to paychecks. Today, even highly skilled people with job experience of two decades or more languish among the unemployed. Whole industries are being scaled down by automation, the shifting of work overseas and the recession.
“A lot of the training programs that we have in this country were designed for a kind of quick turnaround economy, as opposed to the entrenched structural challenges of today,” said Carl E. Van Horn, a labor economist and director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. “It’s like attacking a mountain with a toothpick. You take a policy that was designed for the best economy that we had since World War II and you lay it up against the economy that is the worst since World War II. It can’t work.”
The Obama administration argues that expanded job training has already delivered success. As part of the nearly $800 billion stimulus package begun last year, the administration increased grants sent to states for training programs devoted to laid-off workers by $1.4 billion for 2009 and 2010. Those funds came on top of $2.9 billion allocated through normal budget channels for grants in those two years.
Last year, the number of laid-off workers in job training reached 241,000, up from about 124,000 the year before, according to the Labor Department.
(Marc: Lets do a little math here: $1.4B+2.9B=$4.3B. With the peak number of 241,000 (which was the number for only one of the two years) that comes out to 18,000 per person trained. With only one out of five hired, that comes out to $90,000 a job?!? Am I missing something here?)
“These programs are really working,” said the assistant secretary of labor, Jane Oates. “These are folks who clearly want to go back to work and we’re able to help them get back to work. The investment in job training is one that’s not only going to pay off in the short term, it’s going to help us be more competitive in the long term.”
(There's more, but you get the gist of it.)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Evangelical support for Amnesty
on: July 19, 2010, 10:02:36 AM
This is exactly the sort of subject wherein the NYT becomes POTH the most:
At a time when the prospects for immigration overhaul seem most dim, supporters have unleashed a secret weapon: a group of influential evangelical Christian leaders.
Normally on the opposite side of political issues backed by the Obama White House, these leaders are aligning with the president to support an overhaul that would include some path to legalization for illegal immigrants already here. They are preaching from pulpits, conducting conference calls with pastors and testifying in Washington — as they did last Wednesday.
“I am a Christian and I am a conservative and I am a Republican, in that order,” said Matthew D. Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a conservative religious law firm. “There is very little I agree with regarding President Barack Obama. On the other hand, I’m not going to let politicized rhetoric or party affiliation trump my values, and if he’s right on this issue, I will support him on this issue.”
When President Obama gave a major address pushing immigration overhaul this month, he was introduced by a prominent evangelical, the Rev. Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois. Three other evangelical pastors were in the audience, front and center.
Their presence was a testament, in part, to the work of politically active Hispanic evangelical pastors, who have forged friendships with non-Hispanic pastors in recent years while working in coalitions to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage. The Hispanics made a concerted effort to convince their brethren that immigration reform should be a moral and practical priority.
Hispanic storefront churches are popping up in strip malls, and Spanish-speaking congregations are renting space in other churches. Some pastors, like Mr. Hybels, lead churches that include growing numbers of Hispanics. Several evangelical leaders said they were convinced that Hispanics are the key to growth not only for the evangelical movement, but also for the social conservative movement.
“Hispanics are religious, family-oriented, pro-life, entrepreneurial,” said the Rev. Richard D. Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm. “They are hard-wired social conservatives, unless they’re driven away.
“I’ve had some older conservative leaders say: ‘Richard, stop this. You’re going to split the conservative coalition,’ ” Dr. Land continued. “I say it might split the old conservative coalition, but it won’t split the new one. And if the new one is going to be a governing coalition, it’s going to have to have a lot of Hispanics in it. And you don’t get a lot of Hispanics in your coalition by engaging in anti-Hispanic anti-immigration rhetoric.”
Congress is unlikely to pass an immigration law this year. Republicans and Democrats who face re-election in November are skittish about the issue, given the broad public support for Arizona’s new law aiming to crack down on illegal immigration.
The support of evangelical leaders is not yet enough to change the equation. But they could mobilize a potentially large constituency of religious conservatives, an important part of the Republican base better known for lobbying against abortion and same-sex marriage. They already threaten the party’s near unity on immigration.
“These cross-cutting clusters are just splinter groups, so far,” said Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “Support for the Arizona law is so strong within the G.O.P. that it will be difficult for the comprehensive-immigration-reform evangelicals to have much short-term impact.”
But some evangelical leaders said their latest strategy was to push a handful of lame-duck Republicans to join Democrats — probably after the midterms — to pass an immigration bill on the ground that it is morally right.
Although other religious leaders have long favored immigration overhaul — including Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants, Jews and Muslims — the evangelicals are crucial because they have the relationships and the pull with Republicans.
“My message to Republican leaders,” said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the evangelical National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and one of the leaders who engaged his non-Hispanic peers, “is if you’re anti-immigration reform, you’re anti-Latino, and if you’re anti-Latino, you are anti-Christian church in America, and you are anti-evangelical.”
About 70 percent of Hispanics in the United States are Catholic, but some 15 percent are evangelicals, and they are far more likely than the Catholics to identify themselves as conservative and Republican.
Evangelicals at the grass-roots level are divided on immigration, just as the nation is. But among the leaders, recent interviews suggest that those in favor of an immigration overhaul are far more vocal and more organized than those who oppose it.
(There is more but you get the gist of it.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gurkha logic seems sound to me
on: July 18, 2010, 04:55:21 PM
Gurkha ordered back to UK after beheading dead Taliban fighter
By Christopher Leake
Last updated at 11:26 AM on 18th July 2010
A Gurkha soldier has been flown back to the UK after hacking the head off a dead Taliban commander with his ceremonial knife to prove the dead man’s identity.
The private, from 1st Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles, was involved in a fierce firefight with insurgents in the Babaji area of central Helmand Province when the incident took place earlier this month.
His unit had been told that they were seeking a ‘high value target,’ a Taliban commander, and that they must prove they had killed the right man. The Gurkhas had intended to remove the Taliban leader’s body from the battlefield for identification purposes but they came under heavy fire as their tried to do so. Military sources said that in the heat of battle, the Gurkha took out his curved kukri knife and beheaded the dead insurgent.
He is understood to have removed the man’s head from the area, leaving the rest of his body on the battlefield. This is considered a gross insult to the Muslims of Afghanistan, who bury the entire body of their dead even if parts have to be retrieved. British soldiers often return missing body parts once a battle has ended so the dead can be buried in one piece.
A source said: ‘Removing the head in this way was totally inappropriate.’
Army sources said that the soldier, who is in his early 20s, initially told investigators that he unsheathed his kukri – the symbolic weapon of the Gurkhas – after running out of ammunition but later the Taliban fighter was mutilated so his identity could be verified through DNA tests.
The source said: ‘The soldier has been removed from duty and flown home. There is no sense of glory involved here, more a sense of shame. He should not have done what he did.’
The incident, which is being investigated by senior commanders, is hugely embarrassing to the British Army, which is trying to build bridges with local Afghan communities who have spent decades under *Taliban rule.
It comes just days after a rogue Afghan soldier murdered three British troops from the same Gurkha regiment.
If the Gurkha being investigated by the Army is found guilty of beheading the dead enemy soldier, he will have contravened the Geneva Conventions which dictate the rules of war. Soldiers are banned from demeaning their enemies. The Gurkha now faces disciplinary action and a possible court martial. If found guilty, he could be jailed. He is now confined to barracks at the Shorncliffe garrison, near Folkestone, Kent.
The incident happened as the Gurkha troop was advancing towards a hostile area before engaging the enemy in battle.
Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said: ‘In this case, it appears that the *soldier was not acting maliciously, but his actions were clearly ill-judged. The Gurkhas are a very fine regiment with a proud tradition of service in the British forces and have fought very bravely in Afghanistan. I have no doubt that this behaviour would be as strongly condemned by the other members of that regiment, as it would by all soldiers in the British forces.’
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘We are aware of an incident and have informed the Afghan authorities. An investigation is underway and it would not be appropriate to comment further until this is concluded.’
The Ministry also revealed yesterday that four British servicemen had been killed in Afghanistan in 24 hours. An airman from the RAF Regiment died in a road accident near Camp Bastion in Helmand and a marine from 40 Commando Royal Marines was killed in an explosion in Sangin on Friday. A Royal Dragoon Guard died in a blast in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province yesterday. The fourth serviceman also died in an explosion. The British death toll in the Afghan campaign since 2001 is now 322.
Afghan troops trained by the British Army recently led a major operation into a Taliban stronghold. It was one of the first operations organised by the Afghan National Army.
Regiment’s proud symbol of valour
The iconic kukri knife used by the Gurkhas can be a weapon or a tool. It is the traditional utility knife of the Nepalese people, but is mainly known as a symbolic weapon for Gurkha regiments all over the world. The kukri signifies courage and valour on the battlefield and is sometimes worn by bridegrooms during their wedding ceremony. The kukri’s heavy blade enables the user to inflict deep wounds and to cut muscle and bone with one stroke. It can also be used in stealth operations to slash an enemy’s throat, killing him instantly and silently.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...n-fighter.html
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / So, what's the problem? Sounds like a solution to me , , ,
on: July 18, 2010, 04:51:33 PM
Gurkha ordered back to UK after beheading dead Taliban fighter
By Christopher Leake
Last updated at 11:26 AM on 18th July 2010
A Gurkha soldier has been flown back to the UK after hacking the head off a dead Taliban commander with his ceremonial knife to prove the dead man’s identity.
The private, from 1st Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles, was involved in a fierce firefight with insurgents in the Babaji area of central Helmand Province when the incident took place earlier this month. His unit had been told that they were seeking a ‘high value target,’ a Taliban commander, and that they must prove they had killed the right man. The Gurkhas had intended to remove the Taliban leader’s body from the battlefield for identification purposes but they came under heavy fire as their tried to do so. Military sources said that in the heat of battle, the Gurkha took out his curved kukri knife and beheaded the dead insurgent.
He is understood to have removed the man’s head from the area, leaving the rest of his body on the battlefield.
This is considered a gross insult to the Muslims of Afghanistan, who bury the entire body of their dead even if parts have to be retrieved.
British soldiers often return missing body parts once a battle has ended so the dead can be buried in one piece.
A source said: ‘Removing the head in this way was totally inappropriate.’
Army sources said that the soldier, who is in his early 20s, initially told investigators that he unsheathed his kukri – the symbolic weapon of the Gurkhas – after running out of ammunition. But later the Taliban fighter was mutilated so his identity could be verified through DNA tests.
The source said: ‘The soldier has been removed from duty and flown home. There is no sense of glory involved here, more a sense of shame. He should not have done what he did.’
The incident, which is being investigated by senior commanders, is hugely embarrassing to the British Army, which is trying to build bridges with local Afghan communities who have spent decades under *Taliban rule.
It comes just days after a rogue Afghan soldier murdered three British troops from the same Gurkha regiment.
If the Gurkha being investigated by the Army is found guilty of beheading the dead enemy soldier, he will have contravened the Geneva Conventions which dictate the rules of war. Soldiers are banned from demeaning their enemies.
The Gurkha now faces disciplinary action and a possible court martial. If found guilty, he could be jailed. He is now confined to barracks at the Shorncliffe garrison, near Folkestone, Kent.
The incident happened as the Gurkha troop was advancing towards a hostile area before engaging the enemy in battle.
Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said: ‘In this case, it appears that the *soldier was not acting maliciously, but his actions were clearly ill-judged. ‘The Gurkhas are a very fine regiment with a proud tradition of service in the British forces and have fought very bravely in Afghanistan. 'I have no doubt that this behaviour would be as strongly condemned by the other members of that regiment, as it would by all soldiers in the British forces.’
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘We are aware of an incident and have informed the Afghan authorities. An inves-t*igation is underway and it would not be appropriate to comment further until this is concluded.’
The Ministry also revealed yesterday that four British servicemen had been killed in Afghanistan in 24 hours. An airman from the RAF Regiment died in a road accident near Camp Bastion in Helmand and a marine from 40 Commando Royal Marines was killed in an explosion in Sangin on Friday.
A Royal Dragoon Guard died in a blast in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province yesterday. The fourth serviceman also died in an explosion.
The British death toll in the Afghan campaign since 2001 is now 322.
Afghan troops trained by the British Army recently led a major operation into a Taliban stronghold.
It was one of the first operations organised by the Afghan National Army.
Regiment’s proud symbol of valour
The iconic kukri knife used by the Gurkhas can be a weapon or a tool. It is the traditional utility knife of the Nepalese people, but is mainly known as a symbolic weapon for Gurkha regiments all over the world.
The kukri signifies courage and valour on the battlefield and is sometimes worn by bridegrooms during their wedding ceremony.
The kukri’s heavy blade enables the user to inflict deep wounds and to cut muscle and bone with one stroke.
It can also be used in stealth operations to slash an enemy’s throat, killing him instantly and silently.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...n-fighter.html
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / A question
on: July 18, 2010, 04:42:23 PM
This question was asked on another forum:
"Whoa, I look forward to taking a look at this one!
"At the seminar in Slovenia, I was thoroughly impressed with the developments of the Dracula game, and this will come as an excellent elaboration in that area. I am wondering, however, whether coach Johnson's stuff in the DVD is somehow "integrated" with the Kali-Tudo approach, or taught as a separate set of skills?"
Although I accept the challenge of the cage on its own terms with our Kali Tudo, for us the cage is simply an adrenal laboratory for our empty handed street skills. Thus we need to solve the questions presented by the cage with structures and idioms of movement that are solve the questions of street reality.
One of the risks of the Kali Tudo striking game is to get so entranced by its potentialities that we sometimes tunnel vision in a way that we forget that it can be solved with a good elevation drop and shoot.
To innoculate ourselves against this we must be training partners who can keep our training partners honest by attacking and counterattacking with good shots and we must have good solutions to this.
This is where Coach Kenny's contributions come in.
I would add that our curriculum has additional responses to the sprawl material shown by Coach Kenny, for example a move I call the "Silat Gator Roll".
The SGR has its genesis in a move that I learned from UFC middle weight challenger (3x IIRC) Frank Trigg while I was at the RAW Gym. Frank's foundation was wrestling and the move included what wrestling people often call "a gator roll". He introduced it by saying it was a good move for when one's sprawl was late. Being the slow old fart that I am I naturally perked up and paid extra attention.
Try as I might, I could not get the move to finish the same way he did. I suspect the reason was that my silat training caused me to wind up in a different place than he did- but it seemed quite valid to me nonetheless. So I named it the Silat Gator Roll to acknowledge the two sources of knowledge that contributed to the move.
There are also responses to the shot based around Lameco's use of the Ilustrissimo cross step with certain non-boxing striking techniques that are delivered on unexpected angles and beats
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH's Maureen Dowd?
on: July 18, 2010, 10:19:20 AM
On the whole I hold Dowd in utter contempt, but it seems to me that here she makes many telling points.
Rome Fiddles, We BurnBy MAUREEN DOWD
Published: July 16, 2010
If the Vatican is trying to restore the impression that its moral sense is intact, issuing a document that equates pedophilia with the ordination of women doesn’t really do that. The Catholic Church continued to heap insult upon injury when it revealed its long-awaited new rules on clergy sex abuse, rules that the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said signaled a commitment to grasp the nettle with “rigor and transparency.”
The church still believes in its own intrinsic holiness despite all evidence to the contrary. It thinks it’s making huge concessions on the unstoppable abuse scandal when it’s taking baby steps.
The casuistic document did not issue a zero-tolerance policy to defrock priests after they are found guilty of pedophilia; it did not order bishops to report every instance of abuse to the police; it did not set up sanctions on bishops who sweep abuse under the rectory rug; it did not eliminate the statute of limitations for abused children; it did not tell bishops to stop lobbying legislatures to prevent child-abuse laws from being toughened.
There is no moral awakening here. The cruelty and indecency of child abuse once more inspires tactical contrition. All the penitence of the church is grudging and reactive. Church leaders are merely as penitent as they need to be to protect the institution.
Can you imagine such a scene in the confessional?
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I am as sorry as my job or school requires me to be.”
“But my daughter, that is not true penitence. That’s situational penitence.”
After the Belgian police bracingly conducted raids on the church hierarchy, inspired in part by the horrifying case of a boy molested for years by his uncle, the bishop of Bruges, a case that the church ignored and covered up for 25 years, the pope did not applaud the more aggressive tack. He condemned it.
In a remarkable Times story recently, Laurie Goodstein and David Halbfinger debunked the spin that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had been one of the more alert officials on the issue of sexual abuse:
“The future pope, it is now clear, was also part of a culture of nonresponsibility, denial, legalistic foot-dragging and outright obstruction. More than any top Vatican official other than John Paul, it was Cardinal Ratzinger who might have taken decisive action in the 1990s to prevent the scandal from metastasizing in country after country, growing to such proportions that it now threatens to consume his own papacy.”
If Roman Polanski were a priest, he’d still be working here.
Stupefyingly, the new Vatican document also links raping children with ordaining women as priests, deeming both “graviora delicta,” or grave offenses. Clerics who attempt to ordain women can now be defrocked.
On Beliefnet, Mark Silk, a professor of religion at Connecticut’s Trinity College, suggested that the stronger threat against women’s ordination is not “a maladroit add-on” but the medieval Vatican’s “main business.”
After the Vatican launched two inquisitions of American nuns, it didn’t seem possible that the archconservative Il Papa and his paternalistic redoubt could get more unenlightened, but they have somehow managed it.
Letting women be priests — which should be seen as a way to help cleanse the church and move it beyond its infantilized and defensive state — is now on the list of awful sins right next to pedophilia, heresy, apostasy and schism.
Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, the chairman of the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, asserted, “The Catholic Church, through its long and constant teaching, holds that ordination has been, from the beginning, reserved to men, a fact which cannot be changed despite changing times.”
But if it was reserved to celibate men centuries ago simply as a way for the church to keep land, why can’t it be changed? If a society makes strides in not subordinating women, why can’t the church reflect that? If men prove that all-male hierarchies can get shamefully warped, why can’t they embrace the normality of equality? The Vatican’s insistence on male prerogative is misogynistic poppycock — enhancing American Catholics’ disenchantment with Rome.
In The New Republic, Garry Wills wrote about his struggle to come to terms with the sins of his church: Jesus “is the one who said, ‘Whatever you did to any of my brothers, even the lowliest, you did to me.’ That means that the priests abusing the vulnerable young were doing that to Jesus, raping Jesus. Any clerical functionary who shows more sympathy for the predator priests than for their victims instantly disqualified himself as a follower of Jesus. The cardinals said they must care for their own, going to jail if necessary to protect a priest. We say the same thing, but the ‘our own’ we care for are the victimized, the poor, the violated. They are Jesus.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times
on: July 18, 2010, 10:00:45 AM
On the rocky beaches of Alaska, scientists plunged shovels and picks into the ground and dug 6,775 holes, repeatedly striking oil — still pungent and dangerous a dozen years after the Exxon Valdez infamously spilled its cargo.
More than an ocean away, on the Breton coast of France, scientists surveying the damage after another huge oil spill found that disturbances in the food chain persisted for more than a decade.
And on the southern gulf coast in Mexico, an American researcher peering into a mangrove swamp spotted lingering damage 30 years after that shore was struck by an enormous spill.
These far-flung shorelines hit by oil in the past offer clues to what people living along the Gulf Coast can expect now that the great oil calamity of 2010 may be nearing an end.
Every oil spill is different, but the thread that unites these disparate scenes is a growing scientific awareness of the persistent damage that spills can do — and of just how long oil can linger in the environment, hidden in out-of-the-way spots.
At the same time, scientists who have worked to survey and counteract the damage from spills say the picture in the gulf is far from hopeless.
“Thoughts that this is going to kill the Gulf of Mexico are just wild overreactions,” said Jeffrey W. Short, a scientist who led some of the most important research after the Exxon Valdez spill and now works for an environmental advocacy group called Oceana. “It’s going to go away, the oil is. It’s not going to last forever.”
But how long will it last?
Only 20 years ago, the conventional wisdom was that oil spills did almost all their damage in the first weeks, as fresh oil loaded with toxic substances hit wildlife and marsh grasses, washed onto beaches and killed fish and turtles in the deep sea.
But disasters like the Valdez in 1989, the Ixtoc 1 in Mexico in 1979, the Amoco Cadiz in France in 1978 and two Cape Cod spills, including the Bouchard 65 barge in 1974 — all studied over decades with the improved techniques of modern chemistry and biology — have allowed scientists to paint a more complex portrait of what happens after a spill.
It is still clear that the bulk of the damage happens quickly, and that nature then begins to recuperate. After a few years, a casual observer visiting a hard-hit location might see nothing amiss. Birds and fish are likely to have rebounded, and the oil will seem to be gone.
But often, as Dr. Short and his team found in Alaska, some of it has merely gone underground, hiding in pockets where it can still do low-level damage to wildlife over many years. And the human response to a spill can mitigate — or intensify — its long-term effects. Oddly enough, some of the worst damage to occur from spills in recent decades has come from people trying too hard to clean them up.
It is hard for scientists to offer predictions about the present spill, for two reasons.
The ecology of the Gulf of Mexico is specially adapted to break down oil, more so than any other body of water in the world — though how rapidly and completely it can break down an amount this size is essentially unknown.
And because this spill is emerging a mile under the surface and many of the toxic components of the oil are dissolving into deep water and spreading far and wide, scientists simply do not know what the effects in the deep ocean are likely to be.
Still, many aspects of the spill resemble spills past, especially at the shoreline, and that gives researchers some confidence in predicting how events will unfold.
In 1969, a barge hit the rocks off the coast of West Falmouth, Mass., spilling 189,000 gallons of fuel oil into Buzzards Bay. Today, the fiddler crabs at nearby Wild Harbor still act drunk, moving erratically and reacting slowly to predators.
The odd behavior is consistent with a growing body of research showing how oil spills of many types have remarkably persistent effects, often at levels low enough to escape routine notice.
Jennifer Culbertson was a graduate student at Boston University in 2005 when she made plaster casts of crab burrows. She discovered that instead of drilling straight down, like normal crabs, the ones at Wild Harbor were going only a few inches deep and then turning sideways, repelled by an oily layer still lingering below the surface.
Other researchers established that the crabs were suffering from a kind of narcosis induced by hydrocarbon poisoning. Their troubles had serious implications for the marsh.
“Fiddler crabs normally play a crucial role in tilling the salt marsh, which helps provide oxygen to the roots of salt marsh grasses,” Dr. Culbertson said about her study.
Page 2 of 4)
In Alaska, the Exxon Valdez spill dumped nearly 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound, and it spread down the Alaska coast, ultimately oiling 1,200 miles of shoreline. By the late 1990s, the oil seemed to be largely gone, but liver tests on ducks and sea otters showed that they were still being exposed to hydrocarbons, chemical compounds contained in crude.
Dr. Short, then working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, mounted a series of excavations to figure out what had happened, with his team ultimately digging thousands of holes in Alaska’s beaches. Oil was found in about 8 percent of them, usually in places with too little oxygen for microbes to break it down.
Exactly how much damage continues from the oil is a matter of dispute, with Exxon commissioning its own studies that challenge the government’s findings on the extent of the impact. But it is clear that otters dig for food in areas containing oil, and that they, like nearly a dozen other species of animals, have still not entirely recovered from the 1989 spill.
At the rate the oil is breaking down, Dr. Short estimates that some of it could still be there a century from now.
Increasing the Stress
Perhaps the greatest single hazard from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the gulf is the long-term erosion of delicate coastal wetlands it could cause. At another spill site on the Massachusetts coast, not far from the West Falmouth spill, the legacy of oil contamination is evident in the difference between two marshes on either side of a pebbly shoreline road.
On one side, where the marshes were suffused in 1974 when the grounded Bouchard 65 barge dumped 11,000 to 37,000 gallons of fuel oil into the sea, the grasses are stunted and sparse. They cling tentatively to the edge of the sandy beach. But the grasses on the other side, untouched by oil, rise tall and thick.
Louisiana’s coastline contains some of the most productive marshes in the world, delivering an abundance of shrimp and oysters and providing critical habitat and breeding ground for birds and fish.
But even before the spill, the land was under enormous environmental stress, largely due to human activity. Dams on the Mississippi River and its tributaries have slowed the flow of sediment to the marshes, and global warming has caused sea level to rise.
The Louisiana marshes are eroding at an extraordinary rate — a football field’s worth sinks into the Gulf of Mexico every 38 minutes, according to the Louisiana Office of Coastal Management — and the worry now is that the oil spill will accelerate that erosion.
The Bouchard shows how that could happen. When the barge ran aground, thousands of gallons of a particularly toxic fuel oil spilled into the icy water and were swept to shore by the strong tides.
The oil made landfall just two miles north of where the West Falmouth oil spill had washed up only five years earlier. Winsor Cove, a classic New England bay surrounded by bluffs and stately homes, bore the brunt. Razor clams suffocated and rose to the surface by the hundreds to die.
But the lasting damage of the spill, severe erosion of the shoreline, took months longer to unfold.
George Hampson, now retired, was on the scientific team at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution that studied a series of spills in the area. He recalled that after the 1974 spill the beach grasses, called spartina, which had grown like luxuriant matting along the shore, died.
“The first year it was just like a moonscape,” Mr. Hampson said.
Spartina, a common beach grass that fills the marshes along the North Atlantic and in the Gulf of Mexico, is a crucial factor in keeping marshlands from eroding into the sea. Its roots act as a vast net keeping soil in place.
But the oil in Winsor Cove set off a vicious downward spiral. “It was a race between how much peat was eroding and how quickly the grass was coming back,” Mr. Hampson said.
Over the course of the next several winters, six feet of shore eroded, including a sand berm that stood above the rest of the beach. And as the view from the pebbled road indicates, the vegetation still struggles for a foothold today.
“It’s been 35 years, and I’d say the grasses are just beginning to grow back,” Mr. Hampson said.
It is certain that some of the heavily oiled spartina in Louisiana will die. For now, heavy oiling is limited to just the marsh fringes, but a strong surge in front of a hurricane could change that.
Oil spills produce a powerful impulse to clean up the oil and restore as much of the environment as possible. But that impulse can itself be a source of destruction.
Page 3 of 4)
No case illustrates that point more starkly than the 1978 spill of the Amoco Cadiz tanker. Caught in a gale, it was propelled against rocks near the shore of northwestern France, spilling 67 million gallons of crude oil that washed over 200 miles of the coast of Brittany.
The immediate damage was bad enough: at least 20,000 seabirds found dead, thousands of tons of oysters lost and fish ridden with ulcers and tumors. But then the French authorities made it worse.
The area had marshes, and they were hit hard by oil that sank deep into the sediments. The authorities felt they needed to act aggressively.
Using bulldozers and tractors, they scraped close to 20 inches of oiled sediment from the top in the most polluted marshes and also straightened and deepened some natural tidal channels, to improve flushing.
Over time, these proved to have been disastrous judgments.
In areas that were not bulldozed, nature ultimately broke down most of the oil and the vegetation came back. But marsh plants turned out to be highly sensitive to the depth of the sediment, and more than a decade after the spill, the bulldozed marshes are still missing as much as 40 percent of their vegetation.
“In the case of Amoco Cadiz, the cleanup operations were more deadly than the pollution itself,” said Jean-Claude Dauvin, a professor of marine biology and ecosystems at the University of Lille in northern France.
Much the same dynamic played out in Alaska after the Exxon Valdez spill. In some areas, Exxon power-washed oiled beaches with high-pressure, hot-water sprayers. It made for dramatic television images, with the company seemingly working hard against the spill. But scientists ultimately determined that it was a disaster for the tidal ecology, with clams and other organisms showing greatly delayed recovery on the laundered beaches, compared with oiled beaches that were not cleaned.
The lesson, scientists say, is not that people should never try to clean up an oil spill. It is possible to do too little as well as too much. But the calculation of how much to do is tricky, demanding deep scientific understanding of an area’s ecology. Applying supposed common sense has repeatedly led to mistakes.
Already in Louisiana, battles have erupted between the Army Corps of Engineers and local residents, led by Gov. Bobby Jindal, over proposals to build sand and rock barriers to block the oil from coming into the marshes. The corps has been cautious on approval permits and recently rejected a plan to build a rock barrier outside Barataria Bay, arguing that such structures would change water-flow patterns to the possible detriment of the marsh ecology.
No matter how that battle plays out, a tough and potentially contentious issue in Louisiana in coming months may be the question of whether the marshes should be burned.
If the top layer of grasses and the clinging oil are burned off, the roots should survive and allow healthier grasses to sprout back. But scientists say that can be done only if there is no chance of new oil coming in, since burning might expose the roots buried in the sediment, making them vulnerable to absorbing the oil. Given the immensity of the spill, it is not clear when that hazard will have passed.
“If you consider the volume,” said Ronald J. Kendall, chairman of environmental toxicology at Texas Tech University, “we could see re-oiling for years to come.”
The other day, a Mexican fishing boat threaded its way deep into a coastal mangrove swamp on the Bay of Campeche. It carried two scientists, an American, Wes Tunnell, and a Mexican, Julio Sánchez.
They were looking for remnants of an oil spill that happened 30 years earlier, when the Ixtoc 1 well in the bay exploded and gushed oil for 10 months. It has stood for decades as the worst accidental release of oil in any ocean. (It may or may not have been surpassed by the BP spill; estimates vary.)
Mangroves are vital coastal plants, providing rich habitat for many types of creatures and serving as a nursery for many marine species. To the untrained eye, the ones in Mexico appeared healthy, billowing up from the shoreline in shades of green, balanced on a gray carpet of roots that protruded from the water.
Page 4 of 4)
But Dr. Tunnell pointed out subtle signs of damage. There were clearings in the foliage, instead of an unbroken tangle of roots and mangrove trees. The branches of the outer layer of red mangroves seemed stunted.
“For a mangrove swamp, this should be much denser,” Dr. Tunnell said. “We shouldn’t even be able to see in here.”
The scientists scrambled out of the boats to a small clearing. Dr. Sanchez bent down, sliced out a layer of sediment and broke it to reveal gooey tar in the middle.
Dr. Tunnell sniffed. “It smells like a newly paved road,” he said.
They could not be sure it was oil from the Ixtoc well, since smaller spills have hit the area too, but the scientists agree with local fishermen that much of the damage to the mangroves goes back to Ixtoc.
They sent the sample to a laboratory. The fishermen also said that oysters that used to be found clinging to the mangrove roots seemed to have vanished after the spill and never returned.
The Ixtoc blowout of 1979-80 is the closest analogy to the BP spill, even though it happened in much shallower water. Ixtoc soiled hundreds of miles of beaches, all the way to Texas.
Dr. Tunnell, of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M, Corpus Christi, was early in his career then. He was dismayed to see the oil kill 50 percent to 80 percent of the bottom-dwelling creatures in some areas near the Texas shore.
“As a young scientist, I thought, ‘Oh, no, this is wiping out our beaches,’ ” Dr. Tunnell said.
But then he watched in amazement as the recuperative powers of the gulf kicked in.
Because oil constantly seeps into the gulf from natural fissures, the water is teeming with microbes adapted to break oil down and use it as food. The breakdown happens faster there than in colder bodies of water, and the warm water helps some species recover faster, too.
Along the Texas coast, within a few years after the Ixtoc spill ended in 1980, it was hard to tell that anything had gone wrong. Creatures repopulated the areas that had been wiped out.
No one can be sure that the recovery from the BP spill will be a replay of Ixtoc. But the greatest reason for optimism is nature’s demonstrated capacity to handle the assaults on it.
“Thirty years ago, that 140 million gallons of oil went somewhere,” Dr. Tunnell said. “The gulf recovered and became very productive again. My concern is: Is it as resilient today as it was 30 years ago?”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The beer bill
on: July 18, 2010, 09:38:04 AM
And here is a less technical explanation of last night's post:
THE TAX SYSTEM EXPLAINED IN BEER
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100...
If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this...
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7..
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that's what they decided to do..
The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20". Drinks for the ten men would now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men? The paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?
They realised that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.
So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by a higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay.
And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% saving).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% saving).
The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% saving).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% saving).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% saving).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% saving).
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.
"I only got a dollar out of the $20 saving," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,"but he got $10!"
"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar too. It's unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!"
"That's true!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back, when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!"
"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison, "we didn't get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!"
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works. The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics.
For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Reps offer balanced budget
on: July 17, 2010, 07:43:58 PM
By STEPHEN MOORE
In one of the most fiscally inept stunts in many years on Capitol Hill, Congressional Democrats have taken a pass on enacting a budget this year. Legislators will just wing it and let the $3.6 trillion fall where it may and hope the public doesn't notice a $1.5 trillion dollar deficit. But the minority Republicans have just presented their own budget plan and it's a remarkably bold and honest document that involves big cuts in government spending over the next decade and a balanced budget by 2019. The GOP budget would be a Tea Partier's dream come true if it ever were enacted.
The plan, fashioned by Tom Price of Georgia, head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, reduces federal borrowing from the Obama baseline by a gargantuan $6.4 trillion over the next decade. Not bad considering that it also lowers taxes by $1.7 trillion more than the Obama budget by making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Spending reductions start with what Mr. Price calls a "reset" on spending for discretionary programs back to 2008 levels. That insures that "temporary" stimulus funding doesn't get continued year after year. The plan also instructs the President and Congress to dedicate every penny of bailout money repaid to the federal government by the banks to debt retirement.
"We think it's essential to show the American people we can cut spending enough to balance the budget even with the big hole Barack Obama has put us in," Mr. Price tells me. His budget is a Reaganite budget, calling for tax cuts, asset sales, repeal of hundreds of wasteful programs, and across-the-board cuts in virtually every program except Social Security. "Even some Republicans will flinch from the spending cuts required to get to a balanced budget," Mr. Price concedes.
Mr. Price and his RSC colleagues show that you can get from here ($1.5 trillion annual deficits) to there (a balanced budget) through spending discipline and economic growth. Can it be done the Democratic way, with higher taxes and lower growth? Not likely.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Lost in taxation
on: July 17, 2010, 07:37:16 PM
If it seems as if the tax code was conceived by graphic artist M.C. Escher, wait until you meet the new and not improved Internal Revenue Service created by ObamaCare. What, you're not already on a first-name basis with your local IRS agent?
National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who operates inside the IRS, highlighted the agency's new mission in her annual report to Congress last week. Look out below. She notes that the IRS is already "greatly taxed"—pun intended?—"by the additional role it is playing in delivering social benefits and programs to the American public," like tax credits for first-time homebuyers or purchasing electric cars. Yet with ObamaCare, the agency is now responsible for "the most extensive social benefit program the IRS has been asked to implement in recent history." And without "sufficient funding" it won't be able to discharge these new duties.
That wouldn't be tragic, given that those new duties include audits to determine who has the insurance "as required by law" and collecting penalties from Americans who don't. Companies that don't sponsor health plans will also be punished. This crackdown will "involve nearly every division and function of the IRS," Ms. Olson reports.
Well, well. Republicans argued during the health debate that the IRS would have to hire hundreds of new agents and staff to enforce ObamaCare. They were brushed off by Democrats and the press corps as if they believed the President was born on the moon. The IRS says it hasn't figured out how much extra money and manpower it will need but admits that both numbers are greater than zero.
Ms. Olson also exposed a damaging provision that she estimates will hit some 30 million sole proprietorships and subchapter S corporations, two million farms and one million charities and other tax-exempt organizations. Prior to ObamaCare, businesses only had to tell the IRS the value of services they purchase. But starting in 2013 they will also have to report the value of goods they buy from a single vendor that total more than $600 annually—including office supplies and the like.
Democrats snuck in this obligation to narrow the mythical "tax gap" of unreported business income, but Ms. Olson says that the tracking costs for small businesses will be "disproportionate as compared with any resulting improvement in tax compliance." Job creation, here we come . . . at least for the accountants who will attempt to comply with a vast new 1099 reporting burden.
Meanwhile, the IRS will be inundated with useless information, because without a huge upgrade its information systems won't be able to manage and track the nanodetails.
In a Monday letter, even Democratic Senators Mark Begich (Alaska), Ben Nelson (Nebraska), Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire) and Evan Bayh (Indiana) denounce this new "burden" on small businesses and insist that the IRS use its discretion to find "better ways to structure this reporting requirement." In other words, they want regulators to fix one problem among many that all four Senators created by voting for ObamaCare.
We never thought anyone would be nostalgic for the tax system of a few months ago, but post-ObamaCare, here we are.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nevada Senate race
on: July 17, 2010, 07:26:22 PM
By STEPHEN MOORE
Sharron Angle first realized the extent of the brewing revolt against Washington in late March, at a tea party protest in Searchlight, Nev. A "Woodstock of the West," she calls it. "More than 30,000 people sojourned to this tiny rural town of 900 people," Mrs. Angle says. "The highways were jammed up and became parking lots."
To get to the stage, this 60-year-old grandmother of 10 says she "climbed on the back of a Harley Davidson Road King bike and rode through the immense crowds." Once there, she reminded the throng that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid must be replaced.
Now, after sprinting past two better-known and better-funded opponents in the June Republican primary, the party has chosen Mrs. Angle to go up against him. "I knew that if we were going to actually defeat Harry Reid," Mrs. Angle says, "we had to have a candidate who would offer a sharp policy contrast. Someone who would not just pay lip service to limited government principles, but had a solid record of voting that way time and again. I'm that candidate."
Thus has Sharron Angle—a former teacher, business owner, state legislator and political rabble-rouser—emerged as one of the three most prominent figures in the tea party movement. Sarah Palin and Rand Paul of Kentucky are the other two. Her campaign to become the next U.S. Senator from Nevada figures to be among the most closely watched, and surely among the most colorful, contests this November.
Liberal groups and Mr. Reid are gleeful that a "right wing extremist" has won the GOP nomination. At a recent fund raising dinner for the majority leader in Las Vegas, President Barack Obama labeled her "extreme, even for a Republican." Some Republicans privately grumble that she may be unelectable because of her staunchly conservative stands. And to be sure, some of her positions, such as banning fluoridated water or providing massages to rehabilitate convicts, seem a bit, well, odd.
But is she the kook Mr. Reid portrays her as in his TV ads?
I met with Mrs. Angle twice, first in Washington, D.C., late last month, then again during the Freedomfest conference last week in Las Vegas. In person, she seems anything but a threat to the American way of life. She is petite, has Irish red hair with and a pretty round face. She's friendly, but businesslike, and unlike most politicians, comes across as sincere in her convictions. Her husband, Ted, a 35 year veteran of the Bureau of Land Management (he explains that he's a conservative who worked to protect property rights, not violate them), stands constantly by her side as a confidant and de facto campaign manager.
When I ask whether it is really possible to knock off a Senate majority leader, she laughs and replies, "only Reid thinks he's too big to fail." Her strategy against the Reid attack machine is to link him to the lousy economy in Nevada. When I ask her if Nevadans want to give up Mr. Reid's clout in Washington, she replies: "When Harry Reid got to be majority leader, the unemployment rate was 4.4%. Now it is 14%, higher than even in Michigan. . . . What has Harry Reid's power done for our state?" Her new TV ad, unrolled this week, hammers this message. "We know he is going to attack me constantly," she says, because "he can't possibly run on his record."
Despite the deep recession, Mrs. Angle is not impressed by Mr. Reid's desire to extend unemployment benefits. "This only incentivizes folks that could work," Mrs. Angle says, "but can't, because they're making more on unemployment than they can by going back to work. The longer they're out of the work force, their skills become less marketable." Not too many Republicans even in safe seats are willing to speak that truth.
Regarding jobs, she points to Mr. Reid's role in killing three clean coal-fired plants in rural Ely, where she and her husband have lived since 1971. After years of opposition by Mr. Reid in league with various environmental groups, NV Energy halted development of a $5 billion plant in February 2009.
That meant the loss of 5,000 jobs, Mrs. Angle says. "That's really when we realized Harry Reid doesn't care about jobs or people losing their homes. And it's also when 'Anybody but Harry Reid' signs first began to sprout up all over the state."
Sharron Angle's first foray into activism was when her son was held back in kindergarten in 1983 and "the poor little guy was made to feel like a failure. He hated school." She wanted to home school him, but the school system and the courts said no. Her response was to open a one-room school with a Christian-based curriculum. It soon had 24 students.
"I didn't realize how many other parents were angry with the school system," she recalls. She charged $125 a month to cover the cost of supplies but taught for free. (Mrs. Angle has a degree in education from the University of Nevada, Reno.)
In 1985 she rallied hundreds of parents behind her successful effort to pass a bill through the Nevada legislature allowing parents to home school anywhere in the state. The result of her effort is that in Nevada home schooling has become a popular alternative to the public schools, and Mrs. Angle is referred to as the "home school heroine."
"I was just a mother, and the government had gotten between me and my child, and that's like getting between a mother bear and her cubs," she says. "I think that's what activates the tea party movement. What they see is the government interfering with their lives, and with the inheritance of their children. Are we going to pass down liberty or deficits? And that's really what this movement is about." The cub—her 6-year-old son—now has a masters degree and teaches high school history in Yerrington, Nevada.
Mrs. Angle was later elected to the county school board, and in 1998 she ran for state legislature, where she served for eight tumultuous years. She gained a reputation as a crusader who wouldn't flinch in a battle with the leaders of either party. Critics lampoon the times she cast the lone "no" vote for spending bills. They began to call these votes "62 to Angle," she tells me, smiling.
Mrs. Angle's most legendary fight was within her own party. In 2003, then Gov. Kenny Guinn, a Republican, schemed to raise the sales tax by half a billion dollars. Mr. Guinn declared that anybody who opposed his tax was "irrelevant, irresponsible and cowardly." The governor seemed to be pointing directly at her, says Mrs. Angle. "He knew from the start I would be against it."
The frustrated governor couldn't get the constitutionally required two-thirds vote of approval without her. As she tells the story, "at one critical point, the minority leader asked me: 'So, Sharron, what's your number?' That meant how big a tax increase could I tolerate? And I told them my number was zero."
When the bullying failed, the Nevada Supreme Court, in a spectacular abuse of the constitution, allowed the tax hike to go through without the two-thirds vote. The justices decreed that the money was needed for the schools and that the right to an adequate education took precedence over a procedural safeguard.
The next day, Ms. Angle recalls, "I went into the conference room and was told there's nothing you can do, Sharron. It's all over. The Supreme Court has the last word. And I said, 'No, it's not over.'"
She spearheaded a movement to get the Supreme Court replaced. In the next election in 2006, voters threw out five of the seven members of the Nevada Supreme Court; the other two had retired. "It was a referendum on that tax increase vote," she argues. "And the new court came in and reversed that decision and made our constitution whole."
Democrats think Ms. Angle is a piñata they easily defeat. The attacks run the gamut from her antifluoridation views ("my constituents all opposed" fluoridation), to her desire to abolish the Education Department, to favoring private Social Security accounts.
Mrs. Angle stands her ground: "I support voluntary personal retirement accounts for Social Security," she says. "It should be people's free choice." But she also notes that her 83-year-old mother and 84-year-old mother-in-law are on Social Security and Medicare. "I certainly will work to protect their benefits," she says.
Mrs. Angle is not bashful about wanting to take a knife to what she labels "C-priority programs," including federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency. She thinks such bodies should be funded "by the states under the 10th Amendment." As for federal education funding, Mrs. Angle believes it's a drain because control of the schools "should stay as close to the local level as possible, where the child, the teacher, and the parent are the main stakeholders, and make the majority of the decisions.
"If we did that," Mrs. Angle contends, "we would see a lot more money actually spent in the classroom."
The explosion of federal debt under President Obama and Mr. Reid, according to Mrs. Angle, is a moral and economic calamity. "We simply have to stop the Obama-Reid spending and bailouts—now," she says. It's a simple message that resonates with the tea party faithful and Republican voters.
But the key in this Senate race are swing voters—the 20% of Nevada independents who went for Mr. Obama in 2008. The political pros I talked to in the state are skeptical she can win those voters because of their liberal-leaning social views.
Mrs. Angle takes exception to my suggestion that her pro-life and antigay rights positions could hurt her. "This is a state that twice has voted to ban same sex marriages," she reminds me.
Still, the attack ads seem to be hurting her. A Las Vegas Review-Journal poll this week has the majority leader pulling into the lead for the first time by 44% to 37%. But his approval rating remains well below 50%, which always spells trouble for any incumbent, especially in this agitated political environment.
To win, Sharron Angle is going to need a major money influx from the conservative groups that pushed her over the top in the primary to counter the $25 million Mr. Reid is expected to spend. What Mrs. Angle has going for her is a contagious optimism that Nevadans would never send Mr. Reid back to the Senate given the fiscal carnage in Washington.
Nevada voters, she says, "are disillusioned, disappointed and disgusted with what had happened since the 2008 election. They are tired of this establishment machine that doesn't understand that we—the people— are in control. They are saying 'We don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat. We don't believe either one of you.'"
She is banking on the depth of this discontent to help her topple the most powerful man in the United States Senate.
Mr. Moore is senior economics writer for the Wall Street Journal editorial page.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rusty Gold
on: July 17, 2010, 07:24:07 PM
Rust Discovered On Bank Of Russia Issued 999 Gold Coins
Here's a head scratcher: as everyone knows from elementary chemistry courses, gold is the most inert metal in the world - it does not rust, nor corrode. Yet this is precisely what Russian commercial precious metal trading company, International Reserve Payment System, discovered on thousands of (allegedly) 999 gold coins "St George" (pictured insert) issued by the Central Russian Bank. The serendipitous discovery occurred after various clients of the company had requested that their gold be stored not in a safe, but in a far more secure place: "buried under an oak tree." As the website of IRPS president German Sterligoff notes: once buried, "the coins began to oxidize under the influence of moisture." And hence the headscratcher: nowhere in history (that we know of) does 999, and even 925 gold, oxidize, rust, stain, spot or form patinas, under any conditions. Furthermore, as IRPS discovered, Sberbank of Russia released an internal memorandum ordering the purchase of the defective coins with the spotted appearance. Sterligoff concludes: "It should be noted that the weight and density of the rusty coins coincide with the characteristics of gold that would be expected after after conventional testing methods would reveal. We think that the experts will be interesting to determine the nature of this phenomenon." So just how "real" is 999 gold after all, either in Russia or anywhere else?
As a consequence of this discovery, IRPS decided to "rid itself of all stocks, bought up earlier from the Central Bank on behalf of investors. Investment coins "St. George The Conqueror", as well as other gold coins of the Bank of Russia, are now excluded from the company's operations until all circumstances in the case are determined." Additional, as disclosed in the interview below for Here and Now show on TVRainRu, the Russian Central Bank would buy back the coins at a price of 9,300 rubles, despite prevailing prices for the bullion at well over 10,000.
As Zero Hedge has pointed out previously, the Central Bank of Russia has been one of the biggest purchasers of gold in 2010, having bought gold every single month. It would be embarrassing if it were discovered that not only is the bank diluting the gold content once received with oxidizable materials, but subsequently passing it off for 999 proof precious metal.
And if this is happening in Russia, one wonder what trickery other Central Banks, with a far lower amount of gold in their vaults, resort to...http://www.zerohedge.com/article/rust-discovered-bank-russia-issued-999-gold-coins?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+zerohedge/feed+(zero+hedge+-+on+a+long+enough+timeline,+the+survival+rate+for+everyone+drops+to+zero
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Ciudad Juarez, two Americans arrested
on: July 17, 2010, 07:20:45 PM
CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico—Two Americans were driving back to El Paso, Texas, last December after an afternoon across the border in Ciudad Juárez. A few blocks from the border, they were surrounded by Mexican army trucks and pulled from their Dodge Ram.
Mexico's military says it found two suitcases full of marijuana in the cab of the pickup truck. Two soldiers later testified that they drove the two Americans to a military compound on the outskirts of town, questioned them briefly, then turned them over to civilian authorities. The Americans were charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell.
Those two men—Shohn Huckabee, 23 years old, and Carlos Quijas, 36—are being held in a Ciudad Juárez jail. They tell a different story about what happened that night. They say Mexican soldiers planted the marijuana in their truck. When they arrived at the military base, they say, they were blindfolded, tied up, hit with rifle butts, shocked with electricity and threatened with death.
Shohn Huckabee in jail in Ciudad Juárez, where he faces drug charges after an encounter with soldiers.
Mexico's military is leading President Felipe Calderón's war against the nation's drug cartels, and Ciudad Juárez has emerged as one of the bloodiest battlegrounds. Nationwide, drug violence has claimed more than 25,000 lives since 2006—with government security forces accounting for an estimated 7% of the dead. In June alone, 103 police and soldiers were killed.
As the death toll rises, however, so have complaints about the military's tactics in trying to break the drug cartels' stranglehold on Mexican society. The human-rights office of the state of Chihuahua, where Ciudad Juárez is located, is investigating some 465 cases of alleged abuse and torture of Mexican citizens by soldiers. Gustavo de la Rosa, the office's ombudsman in Ciudad Juárez, says he knows of about 70 cases in which soldiers are alleged to have planted evidence, including some involving suitcases packed with marijuana.
Allegations of mistreatment of suspects have caught the eye of the U.S. Senate committee that oversees financial aid to Mexico for its war on drugs. In an internal report, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says it received allegations of serious human-rights violations in Ciudad Juárez last year. The report cites an unidentified young man picked up in El Paso who said he was arrested by the Mexican military in Ciudad Juárez and beaten and shocked. The man said he was released after the military concluded he had no useful information about trafficking, the report says.
Mr. Huckabee says he was subjected to similar tactics. "I believe what was done to me was torture," he said in an interview. "When I did not answer their questions, they shocked me with a wire that was in my hands. My whole body froze up. The pain went from bearable to a point where I couldn't even talk."
Mexican prosecutors say the two men were caught red-handed. Two soldiers involved in their arrest testified at their trial that they counted 99 packages of marijuana in the suitcases, weighing more than 100 pounds.
Messrs. Huckabee and Quijas say they've never been involved with drugs and would never have tried to cross the border with two suitcases of marijuana. During their trial, they produced three witnesses who testified that they saw soldiers put suitcases into Mr. Huckabee's truck. A verdict is expected this month. Each man faces up to 25 years in prison.
Representatives of Mexico's military and of President Calderón turned down requests for interviews. In a written response to questions from The Wall Street Journal, the army said it briefly took the Americans to the military compound but didn't torture them. "We categorically deny that soldiers use these methods, and say their actions are in total adherence to the law," the statement said.
The army previously has dismissed complaints of abuse as the work of people allied with drug traffickers who want to drive soldiers out of Ciudad Juárez. "Many times they make human-rights complaints because they want to limit our capacity for action and besmirch the institution," said Brigadier Gen. Jesús Hernández Pérez, commander of the 4th Artillery Regiment, in an interview late last year.
The Wall Street Journal interviewed nine residents of Ciudad Juárez—some of whom had been convicted of crimes—who said they were tortured by soldiers at the main army camp on the outskirts of the city.
A 33-year-old forklift operator said he had a firearm pointed to his head and was told he would be killed during a 48-hour interrogation. Two brothers, ages 53 and 56, said the military put plastic bags over their heads, shocked them and staged mock executions. A 25-year-old construction worker said soldiers used a Taser to shock his testicles. A 54-year-old diabetic rancher said he was blindfolded, beaten and shocked on his testicles, elbows and hands. He showed a reporter scars.
Between 2006 to 2009, complaints to Mexico's National Human Rights Commission about the military grew tenfold, to about 4,000, including allegations of robbery, rape, torture and killing. The allegations threaten to undermine public support for President Calderón's military campaign against traffickers. Some 50,000 soldiers now patrol the country.
In its statement, the military said it doesn't use torture under any circumstance. In Mexico, soldiers answer to their own military court system and not to civilian authorities, which means states can't prosecute them for abuse.
The case of the two Americans comes as political tensions along the U.S.-Mexico border have risen over issues such as illegal immigration and the trafficking of U.S. firearms into Mexico. Under the 2007 Merida Initiative, the U.S. agreed to provide Mexico with $1.3 billion to fight drug traffickers, including more than $420 million for the Mexican military. U.S. lawmakers have threatened to withhold 15%—nearly $200 million—if there are human-rights violations or other problems.
Mr. Huckabee grew up in El Paso. Friends recall he didn't have much taste for Ciudad Juárez, which before the escalating violence was known locally for teenage partying. On weekends, he was likely to be found hunting with his father or riding his dirt bike in the desert.
When he was 18, he borrowed money to start a small construction company, Site Solutions, a business that consumed much of his time. In 2008, he got married.
Records searches in El Paso County and in New Mexico reveal that Mr. Huckabee had been charged with speeding and illegal dumping, but contain no indication of involvement with drugs. The records showed no criminal trouble for his close friend Mr. Quijas, whom Mr. Huckabee had gotten to know on construction jobs.
On Dec. 18, Mr. Huckabee finished work midday and prepared to head to Ciudad Juárez to take his father's pickup truck for some inexpensive repair work, he and his father say. With him was Mr. Quijas, who says he had asked for a ride across the border to visit an ill grandfather.
Mr. Huckabee says he dropped Mr. Quijas off around 1 p.m., then drove to a repair shop and waited there. The repairs were finished around sunset, close to 5 p.m., according to the mechanic who did the work.
Mr. Huckabee says he made his way through rush-hour traffic and found Mr. Quijas at Abraham Lincoln Street, not far from the Bridge of the Americas leading into Texas. Around 6:40 p.m., the two say, they were passing Los Caballos, a well-known monument of running horses, when their car was surrounded by three Mexican military trucks.
"They grabbed us and threw us under a bench" in the back of a truck, says Mr. Huckabee. Their shirts were pulled over their heads as blindfolds, they say. The soldiers drove about a half hour to a military compound.
The two Americans were ordered out. Mr. Huckabee says a soldier pulled his wedding ring off his finger. (Neither the ring nor a cellphone taken earlier have been returned, he says.) The two men were separated. Each was examined by a doctor.
Mr. Quijas, who speaks both Spanish and English, says his eyes were wrapped with medical gauze. An interrogator, he says, asked him about the whereabouts of various people, using nicknames he didn't recognize. He says his interrogator threatened that some other men would force him to talk.
Mr. Quijas was moved to another room, he says, where his hands and feet were tied. He was wetted down with water, and he could hear the hum of a machine, he says.
Then someone shocked him with a metal rod on his testicles, neck, legs, back and anus, he says. He was taken back to the interrogator, questioned, then shocked again, he says.
Elsewhere, Mr. Huckabee, who speaks little Spanish, was being questioned, too. He was still blindfolded. His interrogator, he says, put objects in his hand, including what seemed to him to be drug paraphernalia, and asked him, in broken English, where they came from. He says he replied that he didn't know. Soldiers struck him repeatedly with the butt of a rifle, he says. Someone put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger, he says, but it wasn't loaded.
Briefly, the two Americans were put together in a cold room. Then, Mr. Huckabee, still blindfolded, was taken away again, he says. He says he heard a voice telling him, in fluent English, that he had been caught with marijuana, cocaine and guns. He says he was told to put a wire into his hand.
When he denied knowing about the marijuana, he says, he was shocked. He was shocked repeatedly during the questioning, he says. "They said they could electrocute me if I didn't answer the truth," he says.
Court documents say the two men were booked between midnight and 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 19—roughly five or six hours after the time they say they were arrested. They were charged with drug possession and transferred to the municipal prison.
The following day, in a statement entered into the court record, Mr. Huckabee said he had been hit by soldiers and given "electric shocks." He says he discussed his treatment when visited by a U.S. consular officer on Dec. 19. A U.S. official says Mr. Huckabee didn't mention mistreatment until Dec. 28.
American officials say U.S. consulates see numerous cases every year of Americans arrested in Mexico, and the consulates don't get involved in defending them. Consular officials informed Mr. Huckabee's family that they couldn't represent their son or offer legal advice.
Neither Mr. Huckabee nor Mr. Quijas made a formal complaint with U.S. or Mexican authorities, saying they feared retaliation by soldiers then working at the jail. In the trial, they accused their captors of torture. The soldiers denied doing so.
Two medical examinations describe the condition of the Americans following their arrest. The first, conducted by a military doctor the night they were detained, found "no apparent harm" on either man. The military said the exam took place at 10:45 p.m.
Another doctor, Dr. Hugo Tabares, examined the men at 2:50 the following afternoon, after they were handed over to civilian authorities. He found bruising on both men, according to a report he filed that day. He reported a reddish-brown bruise on Mr. Huckabee's chest and several bruises on Mr. Quijas's right arm and left leg.
In a brief interview in his office, Dr. Tabares said there were "various bruises" on Mr. Huckabee's body that "could have been caused the previous day." He declined to speculate on the cause of the injuries. In a statement to the court, on Feb. 3, Dr. Tabares said the bruising had been "caused by a blunt instrument or object."
The military said in its statement to the Journal that it didn't know of Dr. Tabares's exam and had no comment on it.
In the Mexican judicial system, testimony isn't given in an open courtroom before a jury, but in office cubicles in front of lawyers. Typically, neither the judge nor the defendant is present. The judge rules based on the transcript and case file.
The trial of the two Americans unfolded in scattered hearings over the past six months. Two soldiers involved in the arrest testified that they searched the vehicle because the Americans were "acting nervously." The search, prosecutors said, turned up the two suitcases filled with a substance that later testing showed was marijuana. Prosecutors said it belonged to the two men.
Testimony from three Mexican witnesses at the scene—people who said they didn't know the Americans—contradicted the army's version of events.
José Antonio Bujanda, 21, told the court on Feb. 26 that he saw soldiers pull over Messrs. Huckabee and Quijas while he was washing windows of cars lined up to cross the bridge into Texas. He said he saw soldiers plant the suitcases in Mr. Huckabee's gray Dodge Ram.
"The two soldiers went to their own truck. I saw them take out two suitcases, then put them in the gray truck," he said.
Abraham Antero Torres, a 19-year-old candy seller, testified that he saw the same. "The military men that were behind took out two black traveler's suitcases and put them into the Ram, and that was it," he said.
A third witness, Fernando Monsiváis, another window washer, told the court: "The soldiers put the suitcases in the truck, the young men's truck."
Mr. Bujanda was shot and killed in front of his home by an unknown assailant on July 2. Attempts to reach Messrs. Torres and Monsiváis to comment were unsuccessful.
Alejandro Dominguez, a fingerprint expert hired by Mr. Huckabee's family, testified in March that the marijuana packages showed no signs of his fingerprints.
Court transcripts show a contradiction between when the Americans say they were arrested, at 6:40 p.m. on the road, and the official military account, which puts the time three hours later in a parking lot alongside the road. Under the military's timeline, the pair were arrested, taken to the base, then immediately taken to civil authorities, as Mexican law requires, leaving no time for lengthy interrogation.
A record of Mr. Huckabee's cellphone calls that evening, provided by his family, appears consistent with his account. The bill shows calls made throughout the day, ending at 6:38 p.m., minutes before he says he was arrested.
Mr. de la Rosa, the ombudsman of the state human-rights office in Ciudad Juárez, offers one theory about why the truck was stopped. A Mexican relative of Mr. Quijas whose name is similar, he says, is believed to be involved in the drug trade in town. Mr. de la Rosa speculates that the arrest may have been a case of mistaken identity. Mr. Quijas, who says he doesn't know his relative well, says that when he arrived at the jail, other inmates confused him with the relative.
Mr. de la Rosa says that if the soldiers confused Mr. Quijas with his relative, they wouldn't necessarily be inclined to turn him loose once they discovered his true identity. Winning a conviction, he says, would undermine potential complaints from the two men about abuse.
In its statement, the military said there was no confusion over the men's identities.
As they await a verdict, the two Americans share a cell with four other prisoners on the second floor of the Ciudad Juárez Center for Social Readaptation. The crowded facility houses some dangerous men. In June, three prison employees were shot by gang members.
Mr. Huckabee says defending himself in a foreign land hasn't been easy. A translator recruited for one hearing this spring, according to the transcript, said: "I don't speak English very well." The hearing continued.
Mr. Huckabee has been through five defense lawyers, none of whom speaks English. One lawyer who reviewed the case said recently he believed that crimes result from "demons entering the body and taking control, as Paul says in the Bible." One of his lawyers was shot and wounded in May, while exiting the prosecutor's offices.
—José de Córdoba contributed to this article.
Write to Nicholas Casey at email@example.com
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Kali Tudo 3
on: July 17, 2010, 09:55:49 AM
Well, it always seems to take longer than we thought
so keep that in mind when I guesstimate two weeks.
We still have to design the box then get it all to the duplication house, not to mention the promo clip.
As I see it "Kali Tudo(tm)" was mostly about getting people to see Kali/FMA triangles in the footwork and to see striking while moving in the "1 to 1"ratio (a triangular step for every strike) on these triangles.
Because the DVD was aimed both at the MMA audience and the Kali/FMA-JKD audience, for the hand strikes I mostly limited myself to the forehanded thrusting strikes commonly known as "boxing" though I did introduce the pakal knife based concept of "the Dracula".
In "Kali Tudo(tm) 2: The Running Dog Game" I introduced Kali strikes outside of the boxing paradigm and , , , drum roll please , , , trapping. Because one of the great challenges in applying trapping is the fact that our opponent moves when we try to hit him, I introduced it with the ground behind him (i.e. against the guard) so he couldn't move away.
Now in "Kali Tudo 3" it is time to bring full expression of kali weaponry movements to empty hand striking. With this we can test our weaponry movements empty handed in the adrenal laboratory of MMA and thus achieve "consistency across categories" in reality applications i.e. we use the same response whether the fight involves weapons or not for we will often not know in timely fashion whether a weapon is involved or not.
I have approved the final edit of "DBMA Kali Tudo(tm) 3".
It is a double disc and features MMA Wrestling Coach Kenny Johnson and me. Included is footage shot last year in Hawaii with the Hawaii clan of the Dog Brothers.
The focus is on standing striking combinations such as:
a) Dracula brings the Stake, Hammer, and Cross
b) Dracula evaded sets up the Dodger
e) the Flying Bong Sao/Rdeverse Dog Catcher
in the context of rhythm (quarter beats, double timing, and triplets). All of these are weaponry motions, either double stick, stick and pakal knife, or double pakal knife.
A potential area of weakness with this material is that we become so entranced with the efficacy on the high line that we leave ourselves open to a low-line MMA wrestling shoot. This is where Kenny comes in-- he shows how to do and how to counter these shots. It is a great pleasure to have Kenny, who is THE MMA wrestling coach in the MMA world today, share with us some of what he trains fighters such as Anderson Silva, BJ Penn, the Noguiera Brothers and other world champion fighters.
The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty Dog/Marc
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Marine receives Silver Star for Afg firefight
on: July 16, 2010, 11:36:45 AM
Camp Pendleton Marine receives Silver Star for Afghanistan firefight
July 16, 2010 | 9:20 am
A Marine from Camp Pendleton has received the Silver Star for bravery and leadership during a firefight in Afghanistan that began with an insurgent ambush and ended with Marines counterattacking and killing 13 insurgents.
Warrant Officer John W. Hermann, 32, of Tucson, Ariz., received the medal Thursday at a Marine base in Helmand province in Afghanistan where he is serving his second tour. The firefight occurred in 2008 during his first tour; he has also served in Iraq.
Hermann, then a staff sergeant, was on a reconnaissance patrol near the village of Dahaneh when his squad was attacked with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, small-arms fire and machine-gun fire. Hermann left his vehicle and with another Marine charged toward the enemy position, according to the Silver Star citation.
Hermann "single-handedly" killed insurgents in a trench line, then moved across open terrain and under machine gunfire to help a wounded Marine. He applied a tourniquet to the Marine's bleeding leg and despite shrapnel wounds in his own legs returned to assault an insurgent machine-gun position.
"His quick decision-making, technical competence and bravery saved the wounded Marine from enemy fire and enable the platoon to continue clearing the village, resulting in the destruction of 13 enemy fighters," according to the citation, signed by Commandant Gen. James Conway.
At the time, Hermann was an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion. He is now a platoon commander with the 1st Explosive Ordnance Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group.
-- Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: Warrant Officer John W. Hermann receives the Silver Star from Brig. Gen. Charles Hudson at a ceremony Thursday at Forward Operating Base Delaram II in Afghanistan. Credit: Marine Corps
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed
on: July 16, 2010, 04:07:56 AM
Mitt has two large strikes against him IMHO:
1) Like GW Bush, he was born into a presitigious and powerful political family and as such does not know how to respond to class warfare and race baiting because of feelings of patricianly guilt/noblesse oblige.
2) My understanding is that his health care program in MA bears substantial resemblance to Obamacare and therefore will not be able to fight Obamacare
Michele Bachman definitely bears watching but frankly I do not see her as having the preparation or gravitas for President at this point in time.
Christie of NJ is showing a lot of testicular fortitude of the sort we need for budget issues, but is unknown to me with regard to other matters.
FWIW the Bret Baier Report tonight showed polling that had each Huckabee and Romney beating Baraq by a point and Palin tying him.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Amazing grace
on: July 16, 2010, 03:39:22 AM
THE CONSIDERATE BAGPIPER
As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a
grave side service for a homeless man.
He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper's cemetery
in the Kentucky back-country.
As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost; and being a typical man
I didn't stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy
had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight.
There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt badly
and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked
down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play.
The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and
soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I've never played before for this homeless man.
And as I played 'Amazing Grace,' the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all
wept together. When I finished I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car.
Though my head hung low my heart was full.
As I was opening the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, "I never seen nothin'
like that before and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed
on: July 16, 2010, 03:35:48 AM
My understanding is that GH. Bush always thought Jeb would be the more likely to achieve the presidency and was surprised when it turned out to be GW. I don't know that much about Jeb, but the little I know does not suggest that he would be the forceful leader committed to rolling back of the Feds to traditional proportions that we need.
The Pawlenty piece is pretty good. The one time I caught him for a substantial piece of air time he struck me as , , , OK, lacking in fire-in-the-belly as so many Republicans are. Still, the construction of this piece suggests that he is getting "the storyline" for his campaign in order.
I gather Newt is once again making serious noises. Truly a tragedy IMHO that Fred Thompson muddied the waters in a way that kept him out last time. I'd love to see what he could bring at this point in time, or whether he has lost his edge with too much punditry.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 10 Ways We Are Being Tracked
on: July 15, 2010, 09:58:05 AM
Saturday, July 10, 2010
10 Ways We Are Being Tracked, Traced, and Databased
Are technological advances infringing on our right to privacy?
The war on terror is a worldwide endeavor that has spurred massive investment into the global surveillance industry - which now seems to be becoming a war on "liberty and privacy." Given all of the new monitoring technology being implemented, the uproar over warrantless wiretaps now seems moot. High-tech, first-world countries are being tracked, traced, and databased, literally around every corner. Governments, aided by private companies, are gathering a mountain of information on average citizens who so far seem willing to trade liberty for supposed security. Here are just some of the ways the matrix of data is being collected:
GPS -- Global positioning chips are now appearing in everything from U.S. passports, cell phones, to cars. More common uses include tracking employees, and for all forms of private investigation. Apple recently announced they are collecting the precise location of iPhone users via GPS for public viewing in addition to spying on users in other ways.
Internet -- Internet browsers are recording your every move forming detailed cookies on your activities. The NSA has been exposed as having cookies on their site that don't expire until 2035. Major search engines know where you surfed last summer, and online purchases are databased, supposedly for advertising and customer service uses. IP addresses are collected and even made public. Controversial websites can be flagged internally by government sites, as well as re-routing all traffic to block sites the government wants to censor. It has now been fully admitted that social networks provide NO privacy to users, while technologies for real-time social network monitoring are already being used. The Cybersecurity Act attempts to legalize the collection and exploitation of your personal information. Apple's iPhone also has browsing data recorded and stored. All of this despite the overwhelming opposition to cybersurveillance by citizens.
RFID -- Forget your credit cards which are meticulously tracked, or the membership cards for things so insignificant as movie rentals which require your SSN. Everyone has Costco, CVS, grocery-chain cards, and a wallet or purse full of many more. RFID "proximity cards" take tracking to a new level in uses ranging from loyalty cards, student ID, physical access, and computer network access. Latest developments include an RFID powder developed by Hitachi, for which the multitude of uses are endless -- perhaps including tracking hard currency so we can't even keep cash undetected. (Also see microchips below).
Traffic cameras -- License plate recognition has been used to remotely automate duties of the traffic police in the United States, but have been proven to have dual use in England such as to mark activists under the Terrorism Act. Perhaps the most common use will be to raise money and shore up budget deficits via traffic violations, but uses may descend to such "Big Brother" tactics as monitors telling pedestrians not to litter as talking cameras already do in the UK.
Computer cameras and microphones -- The fact that laptops -- contributed by taxpayers -- spied on public school children (at home) is outrageous. Years ago Google began officially to use computer "audio fingerprinting" for advertising uses. They have admitted to working with the NSA, the premier surveillance network in the world. Private communications companies already have been exposed routing communications to the NSA. Now, keyword tools -- typed and spoken -- link to the global security matrix.
Public sound surveillance -- This technology has come a long way from only being able to detect gunshots in public areas, to now listening in to whispers for dangerous "keywords." This technology has been launched in Europe to "monitor conversations" to detect "verbal aggression" in public places. Sound Intelligence is the manufacturer of technology to analyze speech, and their website touts how it can easily be integrated into other systems.
Biometrics -- The most popular biometric authentication scheme employed for the last few years has been Iris Recognition. The main applications are entry control, ATMs and Government programs. Recently, network companies and governments have utilized biometric authentication including fingerprint analysis, iris recognition, voice recognition, or combinations of these for use in National identification cards.
DNA -- Blood from babies has been taken for all people under the age of 38. In England, DNA was sent to secret databases from routine heel prick tests. Several reports have revealed covert Pentagon databases of DNA for "terrorists" and now DNA from all American citizens is databased. Digital DNA is now being used as well to combat hackers.
Microchips -- Microsoft's HealthVault and VeriMed partnership is to create RFID implantable microchips. Microchips for tracking our precious pets is becoming commonplace and serves to condition us to accept putting them in our children in the future. The FDA has already approved this technology for humans and is marketing it as a medical miracle, again for our safety.
Facial recognition -- Anonymity in public is over. Admittedly used at Obama's campaign events, sporting events, and most recently at the G8/G20 protests in Canada. This technology is also harvesting data from Facebook images and surely will be tied into the street "traffic" cameras.
All of this is leading to Predictive Behavior Technology -- It is not enough to have logged and charted where we have been; the surveillance state wants to know where we are going through psychological profiling. It's been marketed for such uses as blocking hackers. Things seem to have advanced to a point where a truly scientific Orwellian world is at hand. It is estimated that computers know to a 93% accuracy where you will be, before you make your first move. Nanotech is slated to play a big role in going even further as scientists are using nanoparticles to directly influence behavior and decision making.
Many of us are asking: What would someone do with all of this information to keep us tracked, traced, and databased? It seems the designers have no regard for the right to privacy and desire to become the Controllers of us all.
Posted by Activist at 6:45 AM Labels: biometrics, databased, facial recognition, GPS tracking, Internet freedom, RFID, right to privacy, tacked, traced
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Passport Fraud
on: July 15, 2010, 09:27:04 AM
Who knows? Certainly nothing we are getting on this is likely to be true
In another vein, here's this:
The Shifting Landscape of Passport Fraud
July 15, 2010
By Scott Stewart
The recent case involving the arrest and deportation of the Russian intelligence network in the United States has once again raised the subject of document fraud in general and passport fraud in particular. The FBI’s investigation into the group of Russian operatives discovered that several of the suspects had assumed fraudulent identities and had obtained genuine passports (and other identity documents) in their assumed names. One of the suspects assumed the identity of a Canadian by the name of Christopher Robert Mestos, who died in childhood. The suspect was arrested in Cyprus but fled after posting bail; his true identity remains unknown. Three other members of the group also assumed Canadian identities, with Andrey Bezrukov posing as Donald Heathfield, Elena Vavilova as Tracey Foley and Natalia Pereverzeva as Patricia Mills.
Passport fraud is a topic that surfaces with some frequency in relation to espionage cases. (The Israelis used passport fraud during the January 2010 operation to assassinate Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas militant commander.) Passport fraud is also frequently committed by individuals involved in crimes such as narcotics smuggling and arms trafficking, as well as by militants involved in terrorist plots. Because of the frequency with which passport fraud is used in these types of activities — and due to the importance that curtailing passport fraud can have in combating espionage, terrorism and crime — we thought it a topic worth discussing this week in greater detail.
Passports and Investigations
While the use of passports goes back centuries, the idea of a travel document that can be used to absolutely verify the identity of a traveler is a relatively new concept. Passports containing the photos of the bearer have only been widely used and mandated for international travel for about a century now, and in the United States, it was not until 1918 that Congress enacted laws mandating the use of U.S. passports for Americans returning from overseas and home country passports with visas for foreigners wishing to visit the United States. Passport fraud followed closely on the heels of these regulations. Following the American entry into World War I, special agents from the State Department’s Bureau of Secret Intelligence became very involved in hunting down German and Austrian intelligence officers who were then using forged documents to operate inside the United States.
In the decades after World War I, the Bureau of Secret Intelligence’s successor organization, the Office of the Chief Special Agent, became very involved in investigating Nazi and Communist agents who committed passport fraud to operate inside the United States. As the Office of the Chief Special Agent evolved into the State Department’s Office of Security and then finally the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), special agents from the organization continued to investigate passport and visa fraud. In addition to foreign intelligence officers, they have also investigated terrorists, fugitives and other criminals who have committed passport fraud. Since the State Department is the agency that issues U.S. passports and visas, it is also the primary agency charged with ensuring the integrity of those documents. Therefore, in much the same manner that U.S. Secret Service agents are charged with investigating counterfeit currency (and ensuring the integrity of currency for the Treasury Department), DS agents are charged with investigating passport fraud.
DS agents are not the only ones who investigate passport fraud, however. As the FBI matured organizationally and became the primary domestic counterintelligence agency, the bureau also began to work passport fraud investigations involving foreign intelligence officers. Soviet and other Communist “illegals” — intelligence officers operating without official cover — frequently assumed the identities of deceased infants, and because of this, the FBI developed a particular interest in passport fraud investigations involving infant death identity (IDI) cases. However, passport fraud is only one of the many criminal violations that the FBI investigates, and most FBI agents will not investigate a passport fraud case during their career.
As the agency primarily responsible for border and immigration enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also investigates identity-document fraud, including passport fraud, although many of the cases ICE agents work involve foreign passports. ICE also has a forensic document laboratory that is the best in the world when it comes to the technical investigation of fraudulent identity documents.
Another U.S. government agency that watches passport fraud with a great deal of interest is the CIA. Not only does it have an operational interest in the topic — the agency wants to be able to use fraud for its own purposes — but it is also very interested in being able to verify the true identities of walk-ins and other potential sources. Because of this, the CIA needs to have the ability to spot fraudulent documents. During the 1980s, the CIA produced an excellent series of unclassified guides on the terrorist use of passport and visa fraud called the “Redbook.” The Redbook was discontinued in 1992, just as the jihadist threat to the United States was beginning to emerge.
As in any area where there are overlapping jurisdictions and investigations, there is sometimes tension and bureaucratic jealously between the various agencies involved in investigating passport fraud. The level of tension is frequently lower in scenarios where the agencies work together (as on joint terrorism task forces) and where the agents and agencies have become accustomed to working together. In the forensic realm, the ICE laboratory generally has an excellent relationship with the State Department, the FBI (and the document section of the FBI laboratory) and the CIA’s document laboratory.
Types of Passport Fraud
There are several different types of passport fraud. The first is the intentional issuing of a genuine passport in a false identity by a government. Real passports are often issued in false identities to provide cover for intelligence officers, but this can also be done for other reasons. For example, in late 1990, during Operation Desert Shield, the Iraqi government provided a large group of Iraqi intelligence officers with Iraqi passports in false identities so that these officials could travel abroad and conduct terrorist attacks against U.S. interests. These Iraqi teams were dispatched all over the world and were provided direction (as well as weapons and IED components) by Iraqi intelligence officers stationed in embassies abroad. The explosives and firearms were sent around the world via diplomatic pouches (which are exempt from search). Following failed terrorist attacks in Manila and Jakarta in January 1991, DS agents investigating the case discovered that the Iraqi operatives were traveling on sequentially numbered Iraqi passports. This discovery allowed a worldwide alert to go out and governments in several different regions of the world were able to arrest or deport scores of Iraqi agents.
A second type of fraud involving genuine passports is where the government is not knowingly involved in the issuance of the passport for the fraudulent identity. In such cases, an applicant uses fraudulent identification documents to apply for a passport. The group of documents needed to obtain a passport — called “breeder” documents — normally includes a birth certificate, a Social Security card and a driver’s license. A set of fraudulent breeder documents can be counterfeit, genuine but altered (this can be done by changing the name or date of birth) or genuine documents obtained by fraud.
This is where the IDI cases come in. In these cases, someone applies for a replacement birth certificate of a deceased infant or child of their approximate age and then uses the birth certificate to obtain a Social Security card and driver’s license. The person applying for the replacement birth certificate usually claims their original birth certificate was lost or stolen.
Due to changes in procedure and technology, however, it has become more difficult in recent years to obtain a copy of the birth certificate of an infant or child who died in the United States. Birth-certificate registries are now tied electronically to death registries in every state, and if someone attempts to get the birth certificate of a dead person, it is quickly noticed and an investigation launched. Also, Social Security numbers are now issued at birth, so it is very difficult for a 25- or 30-year-old person to apply for a new Social Security number. Because of these factors, IDI cases have declined significantly in the United States.
Breeder documents are generally easier to counterfeit or obtain by fraud than a passport. However, as identity documents become more cross-referenced in databases, it is becoming more difficult to obtain a passport using a counterfeit birth certificate and Social Security number. Because of this, it has become more common for a person to buy a set of genuine breeder documents from a drug user or criminal looking for some quick cash. It is also possible to buy a genuine birth certificate and Social Security card from a corrupt official. While such documents are genuine, and can carry the applicant’s true or chosen name, such genuine documents are much more expensive than the other options. Of course, passport office employees can also be bribed to issue a genuine passport with fraudulent breeder documents, though there is a remote risk that such fraud will be caught in an audit.
At the present time, it is far easier and cheaper to obtain a genuine foreign passport by fraud than it is a U.S. passport, but corruption and plain old mistakes still allow a small number of fraudulent U.S. passports to get into the system. There are still some countries where a genuine passport in any identity can be obtained for just a few hundred dollars. Generally, it is more difficult to get passports from more developed nations (such as those that participate in the U.S. visa waiver program) than it is from less developed nations, where corruption is more prevalent. Still, corruption is a worldwide problem when it comes to passports and other identity documents.
Stolen blank passports have also been used over the years. For example, after Operation Desert Storm, an Iraqi passport office in Basra was sacked and thousands of blank Iraqi passports were stolen and then sold on the black market. One of those blanks was bought by a Pakistani jihadist operative named Abdul Basit, who had the blank passport filled out with his photograph and the name of a fictitious Iraqi citizen named Ramzi Yousef. After he entered the United States, Basit organized the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The problem with stolen blanks is that they are usually reported fairly quickly and their numbers are entered into international databases. Furthermore, like a counterfeit passport, a stolen blank passport will not correspond to information entered into passport databases, and it is therefore difficult to travel using one. In the case of Basit, he used a British passport altered to include his photo to leave Pakistan but then used the Iraqi passport to make an asylum claim once he arrived in the United States.
This highlights another category of genuine passports used in passport fraud, those that are real but have been altered, usually by replacing the photo appearing on the passport. Passport fraud investigators refer to this as a photo-subbed passport. In the 1970s, it was fairly easy to photo-sub passports from most countries, but in the past couple of decades, many countries have taken great efforts to make this process more difficult. The use of high-tech laminates and now, in current U.S. passports, RFID chips that contain a photo that must match the one appearing on the passport make it far harder to photo-sub passports today. Of course, efforts to increase passport security haven’t always worked as planned. In 1993, the State Department began issuing a new high-tech passport with a green cover that was supposed to be impossible to photo-sub. Within a few months of the first issuance of the passports, document vendors discovered that the laminate on the green passports could be easily removed by placing a block of dry ice on the passport, changing the photo and then pressing the laminate back down with an iron. Due to the ease of photo-subbing these passports, their value on the black market skyrocketed, and the “fraud proof” green passports had to be taken out of circulation after less than a year.
Finally, we have counterfeit passports, which are passports created from scratch by a document vendor. Like counterfeit currency, there is a vast range of quality when it comes to counterfeit passports, and as a rule of thumb, you get what you pay for. On the streets of places like Bangkok, Hong Kong or New York, one can buy counterfeit passports from a wide array of countries. There is, however, a vast difference between the passport one can purchase for $100 and the one that can be purchased for $10,000. Also, like currency, some passport counterfeiters will even attempt to use elements of genuine passports, like the optically “dead” paper with little or no fluorescence used for the pages and the holographic laminates used on the photo pages. However, like photo-subbed passports, it is far more difficult to create a functional counterfeit passport today than it was several years ago. Not only does the passport have to be of high quality, but the number needs to correspond to the database of legitimately issued passports. Therefore, most counterfeit passports are useful for traveling in the third world but would not withstand the scrutiny of authorities in the developed world.
In spite of these problems, there is still a market for counterfeit and photo-subbed passports. While they may not be useful for traveling to a country like the United States or France, they can be used to travel from a place like Pakistan or China to a gateway country in the Western Hemisphere like Venezuela or a gateway country in Europe like Albania. Because of this, American and European passports still fetch a decent price on the black market and are frequently stolen from or sold by Westerners. Citizens of Western countries who travel to terrorist training camps are also frequently encouraged to “donate” their passports and other documents to the group that trains them. There are also many reports that Mossad makes use of the passports of foreign Jews who move to Israel and give their passports to the intelligence agency. Stolen or deliberately lost passports not only can be altered or cloned but also can be used for travel by people who physically resemble the original bearer, although once they are reported stolen or lost and entered into lookout databases, their utility declines.
A Shifting Focus
The difficulty in obtaining functional travel documents has affected the way criminal and terrorist organizations operate. With increasing scrutiny of travel documents, groups like al Qaeda have found it progressively more difficult to travel to the West. This is one of the factors that has led to their increasing use of operatives who have the ability to travel to where the planned attack is to be conducted, rather than sending a more professional terrorist operative to conduct the attack.
This difficulty in counterfeiting passports has even affected intelligence agencies, which are the best passport counterfeiters in the world. This is why we see intelligence agencies like Mossad having to clone passports — that is, create a counterfeit passport that bears the same name and number of a legitimate passport — or even resort to other types of fraud to obtain genuine passports for operatives. It has become difficult to fabricate a usable passport using a fictitious name. Mossad operatives have gotten in trouble for attempting to fraudulently obtain genuine passports in places like New Zealand. And Mossad is certainly not the only intelligence service experiencing this difficulty in obtaining documents for its operatives.
Because of these difficulties, intelligence agencies and militant and criminal organizations have begun to place increasing importance on recruiting assets involved in the issuance of identity documents. At an embassy, a consular officer is viewed as almost as important a person to recruit as a code clerk. A corrupt consular officer can make a great deal of money selling documents. But the threat can extend far from an overseas embassy. If an organization like the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (or the Sinaloa cartel) can recruit an employee at the New Jersey Office of Vital Statistics, they can arrange to have their agent occasionally issue a genuine birth certificate (camouflaged in a large stack of legitimately issued documents) in a fraudulent identity for their use. Likewise, if they can recruit a clerk at the Social Security office in Jersey City, they can get that agent to occasionally issue a Social Security number and card that corresponds to the birth certificate. These primary documents can then be used to obtain a driver’s license (the key identity document for living in the United States) and eventually a passport for international travel.
Of course, recruiting an agent who works inside an agency is not the only way to obtain identification documents. Several years ago, a cleaning company owned by a group of Nigerians placed a low bid on the contract to provide cleaning services to Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in Florida. Shortly after the company began providing services to the DMV, the agency suffered a rash of thefts across the state that included not only blank driver’s licenses and laminates but an entire machine that took the photos and processed the blank licenses.
The advent of cross-referencing databases, machine-readable passports routinely checked against such databases, radio frequency identification technology and procedures intended to prevent fraud have helped curtail many types of passport fraud. That said, passports are still required to travel for nefarious purposes, and these security measures have caused resourceful criminals, terrorists and intelligence agencies to shift their focus from technical methods of fraud toward exploiting humans in the process. In many places, the effort made to vet and monitor employees issuing documents is far less extensive than the effort made to physically protect documents from counterfeiting. The end result is that humans have become the weakest link in the equation.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: July 14, 2010, 06:11:33 PM
Forgive me, but fcuk the Chamber of Commerce. Not only were Stimulus 1,2, & 3 not responsible for preventing a depression (a point on which some reasonable people disagree) but more pertinently here it is not the fg job of the government to CREATE jobs!!!
The CoC here is simply the corporate face of the same fascist economic model of which BO is the socialist face. BOTH are about the government directing the economy. I certainly don't remember hearing many complaints out of the CoC when Bush was getting the ball rolling.
It is the government's job to get out of the way!!!
PS: Regarding Willie, his presidency was a giant mess until Gingrich and the Reps took over Congress. Also relevant, but not due to Bill's doings, were the peace dividend from the collapse of the Soviet Empire; the rollback of welfare, and the cuts in the capital gains tax rate.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fairfax County Militia Plan
on: July 14, 2010, 05:09:14 PM
"A well regulated militia, composed of the gentlemen, freeholders, and other free men was necessary to protect our ancient laws and liberty from the standing army. And we do each of us, for ourselves respectively, promise and engage to keep a good fire lock in proper order and to furnish ourselves as soon as possible with and always keep by us, one pound of gunpowder, four pounds of lead, one dozen gun flints and a pair of bullet moulds, with a cartouch box or powderhorn and bag for balls."
Fairfax County Militia Plan, written by George Mason, co author with James Madison of the Second Amendment