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24551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea on: June 28, 2008, 11:04:07 AM
The NK situation continues to befuddle me.  I lack confidence in Bush's judgment and fear Bolton is right.
24552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: June 27, 2008, 09:52:56 AM
Indeed.

I've noted that whenever he says "As I have always said , , ," he is about to lie about what he previously said.  Most recent example, his comments yesterday on Heller.  How on earth can someone say the Second is an individual right AND have supported the DC law?  And what about all his previous statements of arch-liberal nature?  Oh, barf.  angry

Anyway, here's this:

Monsieur Obama's Tax Rates
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE
June 27, 2008

Celebrity chef Alain Ducasse insists that his change of citizenship this week from high-tax France to no-income-tax Monaco wasn't a financial decision but an "affair of the heart." Right. But even if he's being sincere, plenty of other Frenchmen have moved abroad to escape their country's confiscatory taxes.

Americans should be so lucky: Theirs is the only industrialized country that taxes its people even if they live overseas. That hasn't been a big problem as long as U.S. tax rates have been relatively low. But with Barack Obama promising to lift rates to French-like levels, this taxman-cometh policy could turn Americans into the world's foremost fiscal prisoners.

And make no mistake, taxes under a President Obama could be truly à la française. The top marginal tax rate, including federal, state and local levies, could approach 60% for self-employed New Yorkers and Californians. Not even France's taxes are that high now that President Nicolas Sarkozy has capped the total that high-earning Frenchmen like Mr. Ducasse can pay in income, social and wealth taxes at 50% of earnings.

Mr. Sarkozy set this "fiscal shield" because he knows that tax rates affect behavior. When he visited London this year, he observed that the British capital is now home to so many French bankers and other professionals seeking tax relief that it's the seventh-largest French city. Those expatriates choose not to use their creativity and investment capital to benefit France and its economy.

Senator Obama's plans to raise income, Social Security and capital-gains taxes amount to a belief that people don't react to punitive tax rates. If so, he needn't worry about people leaving the country and could let them pay taxes in whichever part of the globe they choose to live in. Once Americans are paying French-style tax rates, they ought to have the same freedom to move as Alain Ducasse.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video
WSJ

24553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Heller on: June 27, 2008, 09:36:24 AM
News Flash: The Constitution Means What It Says
By RANDY E. BARNETT
June 27, 2008; Page A13
WSJ

Justice Antonin Scalia's majority opinion in yesterday's Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller is historic in its implications and exemplary in its reasoning.

A federal ban on an entire class of guns in ordinary use for self-defense – such as the handgun ban adopted by the District of Columbia – is now off the table. Every gun controller's fondest desire has become a constitutional pipe dream.

 
Getty Images 
Two important practical issues remain. First, will this ruling also apply to states and municipalities? That will depend on whether the Supreme Court decides to "incorporate" the right to keep and bear arms into the 14th Amendment. But in the middle of his opinion Justice Scalia acknowledges that the 39th Congress that enacted the 14th Amendment did so, in part, to protect the individual right to arms of freedmen and Southern Republicans so they might defend themselves from violence.

My prediction: This ruling will eventually be extended to the states.

Second, how will the court deal with firearms regulations that fall short of a ban? The majority opinion strongly suggests that such regulations must now be subjected to meaningful judicial scrutiny. The exact nature of this scrutiny is not clear, but Justice Scalia explicitly rejects the extremely deferential "rationality" review advocated by Justice Stephen Breyer.

Most likely, gun laws will receive the same sort of judicial scrutiny that is now used to evaluate "time, place and manner" regulations of speech and assembly. Such regulations of First Amendment freedoms are today upheld if they are narrowly tailored to achieve a truly important government purpose, but not if they are really a pretext for undermining protected liberties.

My prediction? Because gun-rights groups like the NRA have so successfully prevented enactment of unreasonable gun laws, most existing gun regulations falling short of a ban will eventually be upheld. But more extreme or merely symbolic laws that are sometimes proposed – whose aim is to impose an "undue burden" by raising the cost of gun production, ownership and sale – would likely be found unconstitutional. All gun regulations – for example, safe storage laws and licensing – will have to be shown to be consistent with an effective right of self-defense by law-abiding citizens.

Justice Scalia's opinion is exemplary for the way it was reasoned. It will be studied by law professors and students for years to come. It is the clearest, most careful interpretation of the meaning of the Constitution ever to be adopted by a majority of the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia begins with the text, and carefully parses the grammatical relationship of the "operative clause" identifying "the right to keep and bear arms" to the "prefatory clause" about the importance of a "well-regulated militia." Only then does he consider the extensive evidence of original meaning that has been uncovered by scholars over the past 20 years – evidence that was presented to the Court in numerous "friends of the court" briefs.

Justice Scalia's opinion is the finest example of what is now called "original public meaning" jurisprudence ever adopted by the Supreme Court. This approach stands in sharp contrast to Justice John Paul Stevens's dissenting opinion that largely focused on "original intent" – the method that many historians employ to explain away the text of the Second Amendment by placing its words in what they call a "larger context." Although original-intent jurisprudence was discredited years ago among constitutional law professors, that has not stopped nonoriginalists from using "original intent" – or the original principles "underlying" the text – to negate its original public meaning.

Of course, the originalism of both Justices Scalia's and Stevens's opinions are in stark contrast with Justice Breyer's dissenting opinion, in which he advocates balancing an enumerated constitutional right against what some consider a pressing need to prohibit its exercise. Guess which wins out in the balancing? As Justice Scalia notes, this is not how we normally protect individual rights, and was certainly not how Justice Breyer protected the individual right of habeas corpus in the military tribunals case decided just two weeks ago.

So what larger lessons does Heller teach? First, the differing methods of interpretation employed by the majority and the dissent demonstrate why appointments to the Supreme Court are so important. In the future, we should be vetting Supreme Court nominees to see if they understand how Justice Scalia reasoned in Heller and if they are committed to doing the same.

We should also seek to get a majority of the Supreme Court to reconsider its previous decisions or "precedents" that are inconsistent with the original public meaning of the text. This shows why elections matter – especially presidential elections – and why we should vet our politicians to see if they appreciate how the Constitution ought to be interpreted.

Good legal scholarship was absolutely crucial to this outcome. No justice is capable of producing the historical research and analysis upon which Justice Scalia relied. Brilliant as it was in its execution, his opinion rested on the work of many scholars of the Second Amendment, as I am sure he would be the first to acknowledge. (Disclosure: I joined a brief by Academics for the Second Amendment supporting the individual rights interpretation; one of my articles was cited by Justice Scalia and another by Justice Breyer in his dissent.)

Due to the political orthodoxy among most constitutional law professors, some of the most important and earliest of this scholarship was produced by nonacademics like Don Kates, Stephen Halbrook, David Kopel, Clayton Cramer and others. Believe it or not, Heller was a case of nearly first impression, uninhibited by any prior decisions misinterpreting the Second Amendment.

Last but not least, tribute must be paid to the plaintiffs – Shelly Parker, Dick Anthony Heller, Tom Palmer, Gillian St. Lawrence, Tracey Ambeau, and George Lyon – who went where the National Rifle Association feared to tread, and to their lawyers Robert Levy, Clark Neily, and lead counsel Alan Gura. I was privileged to witness Mr. Gura argue the case – his first Supreme Court argument ever – and he was outstanding. Heller provides yet another reminder of the crucial role that private lawyers play in the preservation of our liberties.

Mr. Barnett, a professor at Georgetown Law, is the author of "Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty" (Princeton, 2004).
24554  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Silver Bullet on: June 27, 2008, 09:02:43 AM
Silver Bullet
June 27, 2008; Page A12
The 2008 Supreme Court term ended with a bang yesterday as the Justices issued their most important ruling ever in upholding an individual right to bear arms. The dismaying surprise is that the Second Amendment came within a single vote of becoming a dead Constitutional letter.

That's the larger meaning of yesterday's landmark 5-4 ruling in D.C. v. Heller, the first gun control case to come before the Court in 70 years. Richard Heller brought his case after the Washington, D.C. government refused to grant him a permit to keep a handgun in his home. The District has some of the most restrictive handgun laws in the country – essentially a total ban. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision by Judge Laurence Silberman, overturned the ban in an opinion that set up yesterday's ruling by taking a panoramic view of gun rights and American legal history.
===========

In a First, High Court
Affirms Gun Rights
By JESS BRAVIN and SUSAN DAVIS
June 27, 2008; Page A1

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees individuals the right to keep handguns in the home, ending a debate about the Second Amendment's 18th-century language while opening new battles over the politically charged issues of guns, crime and violence.

 
See how justices have split in cases this term
In a 5-4 opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court struck down perhaps the nation's toughest gun law, a 1976 District of Columbia ordinance that effectively bans handguns and required that rifles be disassembled or disabled by trigger locks in the home.

The decision stopped short of invalidating other local, state and federal gun regulations. The court also declined to hand legislators a blueprint for permissible gun regulations, acknowledging that the contours of the Second Amendment right, like other constitutional rights, will have to be mapped in litigation over the years to come.

Gun-rights advocates said their efforts will now swing toward challenging handgun bans in other cities, licensing laws and other statutes, such as zoning laws that ban gun stores. Among the issues that the court left to future litigation: whether the government can restrict other kinds of firearms besides handguns, specifically assault weapons, which have been the focus of numerous legislative battles at the state and federal level.

 
The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down one of the nation's strictest gun bans, ruling that individuals have the right to own guns for personal use. Video courtesy of Reuters. (June 26)
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence, one of the NRA's chief opponents, said there could be a silver lining. Because the decision eliminates the specter of gun confiscation, advocates will be more willing to come to the table and discuss other gun-control issues.

Reflecting the passion and political importance of gun owners in an election that could be decided by independent voters, both presidential candidates immediately embraced the opinion -- while shading their comments to emphasize different portions of the decision that appealed to their varying bases.

Candidates React

"Unlike the elitist view that believes Americans cling to guns out of bitterness, today's ruling recognizes that gun ownership is a fundamental right -- sacred, just as the right to free speech and assembly," said Republican John McCain, seeking to join the gun enthusiasts' celebration while warning that the decision still left open the chance that lawmakers could enact firearms regulations that stopped short of an outright ban. "This ruling does not mark the end of our struggle."

His Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, was more restrained, saying that he "always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms." He emphasized that while the ruling protects a core right and "the D.C. gun ban went too far," the protection "is not absolute and subject to reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe."

 
Getty Images 
Three activists from Virginia cheered the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the District of Columbia's gun ban Thursday.
The Bush administration sought simultaneously to endorse the decision while assuring the public that existing federal gun regulations would remain intact.

"As a longstanding advocate of the rights of gun owners in America, I applaud the Supreme Court's historic decision today confirming what has always been clear in the Constitution: the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear firearms," the president said in a statement. He urged the District of Columbia to "swiftly move" to protect residents' Second Amendment rights.

In its own statement, however, the Justice Department noted that the court said some restrictions on gun possession were permissible. The Justice Department said it "will continue to defend vigorously the constitutionality, under the Second Amendment, of all existing federal firearms laws."

The court's decision appears to strike a balance on gun ownership that reflects the views of the general public. A majority of Americans, 59%, said they oppose laws that ban the sale of handguns, according to an April poll conducted by the Pew Research Center. Yet a similar number, 58%, said it is more important to place controls on gun ownership versus the 37% that said it is more important to protect the right to own a gun.

Despite the opinion's broad language, it was unclear if it would apply beyond the District of Columbia, the federal enclave whose unique status as the seat of government makes it part of no state. Although the district's elected City Council operates autonomously under home-rule legislation approved by Congress, Washington's municipal government is, as a constitutional matter, part of the federal government.

In a footnote, Justice Scalia noted that the issue known as "incorporation" -- whether federal rights also are binding on state governments -- wasn't before the court, and observed that prior cases "reaffirmed that the Second Amendment applies only to the Federal Government." In a 1997 book, he suggested views even more ominous for gun enthusiasts, writing that "properly understood, [the amendment] is no limitation upon arms control by the states."

For Dick Heller, the security officer who challenged the ordinance, the court's 5-4 ruling means district officials must issue him a license to keep a handgun in his Washington home. But it doesn't necessarily allow him to buy another one in the district -- or require the city to allow gun stores to operate within its boundaries. District officials, noting that the decades-old gun ban was widely popular within their city, pledged to do all they can to limit firearms in their jurisdiction.

Elsewhere, cities with tough gun laws seized on the decision's focus on Washington. Because it only concerns the District of Columbia, the ruling "does not apply to state and local governments," said Benna Solomon, a deputy corporation counsel for Chicago. Chicago has one of the strictest gun regulations. City officials said they are expecting a challenge but would continue to enforce its handgun ban until ordered by a court to cease.

 
Associated Press 
Pro-gun advocates and supporters of the District of Columbia's firearms ban demonstrated outside the Supreme Court in March.
States with assault-weapons bans or licensing requirements for gun owners said that they felt confident their laws wouldn't have to change as a result of the ruling. "The decision affirms the right of states to regulate gun ownership in order to preserve public safety," said David Wald, a spokesman for New Jersey's attorney general.

The village president of Morton Grove, Richard Krier, said that lawyers were reviewing the community's ordinance following the decision and that he had "every intention" of complying with it.

Morton Grove has banned the possession of handguns in the homes of its 22,000 residents since 1981, as well as other dangerous weapons.

Delivered on the last day of the Supreme Court's term, the 5-4 decision underscored the central place the court plays in the nation's politics and culture as well as its law. For the third time this month, a major constitutional issue was decided by a single vote -- that of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the maverick conservative who earlier sided with the court's liberals to extend habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo detainees and bar the execution of child rapists. Today, he lined up on the right to hold that each household in Washington may arm itself with deadly weapons to fend off intruders.

Gun-Right Origins

Justice Scalia's opinion was a 64-page tour from the obscure origins of gun rights in the fratricidal wars of 17th-century England through the violent struggles that defined America in its colonial revolt against the British crown, its division over slavery and the subsequent repression of freed blacks. It continued through to the modern era, where battles against foreign invasion and between internal factions have given way to urban crime.

"By the time of the founding, the right to have arms had become fundamental for English subjects," Justice Scalia wrote, in an opinion joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. "The Second Amendment, like the First and Fourth Amendments, codified a pre-existing right."

The Second Amendment, in its entirety, reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

That phrasing has led to countless debates over what precisely is being protected -- a right of states and their citizens to organize militias, obviating the need for a standing army; a right of individuals to arm themselves, in case they may someday need to form a militia; or some other construction involving either or both personal and collective rights.

The Supreme Court last heard a Second Amendment case in 1939, when it upheld a federal ban on interstate transport of short-barreled shotguns. Since sawed-off shotguns had no "reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument," the court found then. Ever since, most courts have seen the amendment as providing for weapons possession in connection with service in a militia, or its modern descendant, the state-run National Guard.

Justice Scalia, however, wrote that his opinion was consistent with the 1939 ruling, which he saw as holding only that not all guns were covered by the Second Amendment. Otherwise, he wrote, why would the court focus on "the character of the weapon rather than simply note that the two crooks were not militiamen?"

Gamut of Restrictions

The court's liberal wing strenuously disagreed, offering its own historical construction that emphasized a gamut of restrictions on firearms over the same swath of time and asserting that the 1939 case, which itself examined precedents on weapons possession dating to colonial times, had settled the matter.

Yet the lead dissent, by Justice John Paul Stevens, did not dispute that the Second Amendment protects an individual right. Rather, he wrote, the question was the "scope of that right," which protected militia service but left additional regulation to the judgment of the legislature. The Second Amendment's drafting history revealed the founders' "concern about the potential threat to state sovereignty that a federal standing army would pose," something that could be checked by state militias, he wrote, joined by Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

--Gary Fields and Louise Radnofsky contributed to this article.

Write to Jess Bravin at jess.bravin@wsj.com and Susan Davis at susan.davis@wsj.com


In writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia follows the Silberman Constitutional roadmap in finding that the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" is an individual right. The alternative view – argued by the District of Columbia – is that the Second Amendment is merely a collective right for individuals who belong to a government militia.

Justice Scalia shreds the collective interpretation as a matter of both common law and Constitutional history. He writes that the Founders, as well as nearly all Constitutional scholars over the decades, believed in the individual right. Many Supreme Court opinions invoke the Founders, but this one is refreshing in its resort to first American principles and its affirmation of a basic liberty. It's not too much to say that Heller is every bit as important to the Second Amendment as Near v. Minnesota (prior restraint) or N.Y. Times v. Sullivan (libel) are to the First Amendment.

Which makes it all the more troubling that no less than four Justices were willing to explain this right away. These are the same four liberal Justices who routinely invoke the "right to privacy" – which is nowhere in the text of the Constitution – as a justification for asserting various social rights. Yet in his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens argues that a right to bear arms that is plainly in the text adheres to an individual only if he is sanctioned by government.

Justice Breyer, who wrote a companion dissent, takes a more devious tack. He wants to establish an "interest-balancing test" to weigh the Constitutionality of particular restrictions on gun ownership. This balancing test is best understood as a roadmap for vitiating the practical effects of Heller going forward.

Using Justice Breyer's "test," judges could accept the existence of an individual right to bear arms in theory, while whittling it down to nothing by weighing that right against the interests of the government in preventing gun-related violence. Having set forth this supposedly neutral standard, Justice Breyer shows his policy hand by arguing that under this standard the interests of the District of Columbia would outweigh Mr. Heller's interest in defending himself, and the ban should thus be upheld.

But as Justice Scalia writes, no other Constitutional right is subjected to this sort of interest-balancing. "The very enumeration of the right takes [it] out of the hands of government" – even the hands of Olympian judges like Stephen Breyer. "Like the First, [the Second Amendment] is the very product of an interest-balancing by the people – which Justice Breyer would now conduct for them anew."

In that one sentence, Justice Scalia illuminates a main fault line on this current Supreme Court. The four liberals are far more willing to empower the government and judges to restrict individual liberty, save on matters of personal lifestyle (abortion, gay rights) or perhaps crime. The four conservatives are far more willing to defend individuals against government power – for example, in owning firearms, or private property (the 2005 Kelo case on eminent domain). Justice Anthony Kennedy swings both ways, and in Heller he sided with the people.

Heller leaves many questions unanswered. Contrary to the worries expressed by the Bush Administration in its embarrassing amicus brief, the ruling does not bar the government from regulating machine guns or other heavy weapons; or from limiting gun ownership by felons or the mentally ill. Any broad restriction on handguns or hunting rifles will be Constitutionally suspect, but legislatures will still have room to protect public safety.

Heller reveals the High Court at its best, upholding individual liberty as the Founders intended. Yet it is also precarious because the switch of a single Justice would have rendered the Second Amendment a nullity. With the next President likely to appoint as many as three Justices, the right to bear arms has been affirmed but still isn't safe.
24555  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Change of mind on: June 27, 2008, 08:42:46 AM
"Nothing more than a change of mind, my dear."

-- James Madison (responding to his niece asking what was wrong,
28 June 1836)

Reference: James Madison: Commander in Chief, Brandt, vol. 6 (520)
24556  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: States' sovereignty on: June 26, 2008, 09:12:47 AM
"But as the plan of the convention aims only at a partial union or
consolidation, the State governments would clearly retain all the
rights of sovereignty which they before had, and which were not,
by that act, EXCLUSIVELY delegated to the United States."

-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 32, 3 January 1788)

Reference: The Federalist
24557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: June 26, 2008, 09:06:54 AM
Exactly.
24558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: June 26, 2008, 09:06:07 AM
Fight Terror With YouTube
By DANIEL KIMMAGE
Published: June 26, 2008
Baku, Azerbaijan
NY Times

AL QAEDA made its name in blood and pixels, with deadly attacks and an avalanche of electronic news media. Recent news articles depict an online terrorist juggernaut that has defied the best efforts by the United States government to counter it. While these articles are themselves a testimony to Al Qaeda’s media savvy, they don’t tell the whole story.

When it comes to user-generated content and interactivity, Al Qaeda is now behind the curve. And the United States can help to keep it there by encouraging the growth of freer, more empowered online communities, especially in the Arab-Islamic world.

The genius of Al Qaeda was to combine real-world mayhem with virtual marketing. The group’s guerrilla media network supports a family of brands, from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (in Algeria and Morocco) to the Islamic State of Iraq, through a daily stream of online media products that would make any corporation jealous.

A recent report I wrote for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty details this flow. In July 2007, for example, Al Qaeda released more than 450 statements, books, articles, magazines, audio recordings, short videos of attacks and longer films. These products reach the world through a network of quasi-official online production and distribution entities, like Al Sahab, which releases statements by Osama bin Laden.

But the Qaeda media nexus, as advanced as it is, is old hat. If Web 1.0 was about creating the snazziest official Web resources and Web 2.0 is about letting users run wild with self-created content and interactivity, Al Qaeda and its affiliates are stuck in 1.0.

In late 2006, with YouTube and Facebook growing rapidly, a position paper by a Qaeda-affiliated institute discouraged media jihadists from overly “exuberant” efforts on behalf of the group for fear of diluting its message.

This is probably sound advice, considering how Al Qaeda fares on YouTube. A recent list of the most viewed YouTube videos in Arabic about Al Qaeda included a rehash of an Islamic State of Iraq clip with sardonic commentary added and satirical verses about Al Qaeda by an Iraqi poet.

Statements by Mr. bin Laden and his chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, that are posted to YouTube do draw comments aplenty. But the reactions, which range from praise to blanket condemnation, are a far cry from the invariably positive feedback Al Qaeda gets on moderated jihadist forums. And even Al Qaeda’s biggest YouTube hits attract at most a small fraction of the millions of views that clips of Arab pop stars rack up routinely.

Other Qaeda ventures into interactivity are equally unimpressive. Mr. Zawahri solicited online questions last December, but his answers didn’t appear until early April. That’s eons in Web time.

Even if security concerns dictated the delay, as Mr. Zawahri claimed, this is further evidence of the online obstacles facing the world’s most-wanted fugitives. Try to imagine Osama bin Laden managing his Facebook account, and you can see why full-scale social networking might not be Al Qaeda’s next frontier.

It’s also an indication of how a more interactive, empowered online community, particularly in the Arab-Islamic world, may prove to be Al Qaeda’s Achilles’ heel. Anonymity and accessibility, the hallmarks of Web 1.0, provided an ideal platform for Al Qaeda’s radical demagoguery. Social networking, the emerging hallmark of Web 2.0, can unite a fragmented silent majority and help it to find its voice in the face of thuggish opponents, whether they are repressive rulers or extremist Islamic movements.

Unfortunately, the authoritarian governments of the Middle East are doing their best to hobble Web 2.0. By blocking the Internet, they are leaving the field open to Al Qaeda and its recruiters. The American military’s statistics and jihadists’ own online postings show that among the most common countries of origin for foreign fighters in Iraq are Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen. It’s no coincidence that Reporters Without Borders lists Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria as “Internet enemies,” and Libya and Yemen as countries where the Web is “under surveillance.” There is a simple lesson here: unfettered access to a free Internet is not merely a goal to which we should aspire on principle, but also a very practical means of countering Al Qaeda. As users increasingly make themselves heard, the ensuing chaos will not be to everyone’s liking, but it may shake the online edifice of Al Qaeda’s totalitarian ideology.

It would be premature to declare Al Qaeda’s marketing strategy hopelessly anachronistic. The group has shown remarkable resilience and will find ways to adapt to new trends.

But Al Qaeda’s online media network is also vulnerable to disruption. Technology-literate intelligence services that understand how the Qaeda media nexus works will do some of the job. The most damaging disruptions to the nexus, however, will come from millions of ordinary users in the communities that Al Qaeda aims for with its propaganda. We should do everything we can to empower them.

Daniel Kimmage is a senior analyst at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
24559  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: June 26, 2008, 08:40:53 AM
Woof Dog Dean:

I am glad to see that GM Estalilla is well.  Please give him my regards.

yip!
CD
24560  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: First Post, a Few Questions. on: June 26, 2008, 08:30:33 AM
Woof John:

Welcome aboard.  I hope others will chime in to answer your questions as well.

1) Yes  cheesy

2) Vid-lessons are part of the Dog Brothers Martial Arts Association (DBMAA).  Click on the appropriate page on the website here, and fill out the application.

3) Groin protectors and mouth guards are allowed.

The Adventure continues!
Crafty Dog
24561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: June 26, 2008, 08:22:54 AM
CRAFTY DOG:
Rachel, forgive my martian linearity  wink but this is not the question presented.  The question presented is whether
a) the Consitution compels the State to make it a crime or civil offense
 
RACHEL:
A. I'm sorry -- I  don't feel capable of answering that question.

MARC  /CD:

But you HAVE answered it- in the affirmative- when you supported the CA SCT's decision!


CRAFTY DOG
Rachel, forgive my martian linearity but this is not the question presented.  The question presented is whether
, , ,
b) the State should make it a crime or civil offense
 
RACHEL.  The short answer is yes for actions not thoughts ( sexual orientation should have the  same protections for that we do for  gender, age, disabilities, etc) but the long answer there would be exceptions.  For example religious organizations should be able to discriminate.    ( I didn't think that was a question I was avoiding -- I thought I had answered it)

MARC/CD:
Yes you have begun to "answer" it, but my point was to define the question presented.  So, lets explore a bit further.  You now say that religious organizations should have the right to follow their beliefs and discriminate.  What about religious individuals?  And, why should atheists have lesser rights?

Which brings us to the next question presented:

Since  when called upon the point you are unwilling to say that the Constitution compels redefining marriage, and you say that discrimination should be illegal, how can you argue that the judiciary is the branch to carry this out over the expressly voted wishes of the people of California?  Why is this not a matter for the political process? (Executive and Legislative, plebecite (sp?) )

=====

Regarding the Albanian story, the point seems to be as thoroughly glossed over as possible, but this can be described a Muslim custom too, yes?
24562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: June 25, 2008, 11:22:26 PM
http://www.warriorsthefilm.com/Movie.html
24563  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: June 25, 2008, 10:47:18 PM
 cheesy
24564  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: June 25, 2008, 04:27:56 PM
A response to the preceding article from another forum:
======================================
Great article Crafty Dog. This is all pretty real for me, I will celebrate one year since the day I left Anbar on July 14th, in Camden no less.

there have been great gains in Anbar. I had the privelige of spending 16 1/2 months there in 2006 and 2007. When we got there, we were told Anbar is lost, don't try to save it, just try to keep it from getting any worse. I am most familiar with the Fallujah, Lake Habbiniyah, Habbiniyah, RTE Lyman/Michigan AO. So I can't speak for Ramadi or along the border. But 3 months before we left, SECDEF came and gave a speech and Camp Fallujah and praised Anbar for the gains the province had made. I didn't get to see it, somebody had to keep Abdullah and Achmed from dropping a mortar on him from down by the river.

Anywhoo, when we got there we hadn't even seen IA or IP, not even recruiting posters, some of the people hadn't heard of them. When We left they were directing traffic on Michigan on the other side of the bridge in Fallujah. They were running their own COPs on Lyman doing checkpoints over the bridge(the bridge blew up a months after they took over, but baby steps). That tribal shit was just starting when we left as well.

I don't miss Anbar in particular, it is a cruel unforgiving place. I miss certain things about war a bit, but I am glad to hear that things are still improving there.
24565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: Weakness and Liberty on: June 25, 2008, 09:39:03 AM
"[H]owever weak our country may be, I hope we shall never sacrifice
our liberties."

-- Alexander Hamilton (Report on a National Bank, 13 December 1790)

Reference: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Cabot Lodge,
ed. (4)
24566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Indonesia on: June 25, 2008, 03:57:37 AM
Jakarta's Slippery Slope
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL ASIA
June 25, 2008

With the World Peace Forum under way in Jakarta today, Indonesia is happy to boast of its commitment to interfaith dialogue. The 200,000 members of the Ahmadiyah sect would disagree.

On Thursday, Islamic radicals sealed off more than 10 Ahmadiyah mosques in Indonesia. This was the predictable outcome of a June 9 government ruling barring the Ahmadiyah from "dissemination activities," whatever that means. Their crime? Peacefully worshipping a liberal form of Islam.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sold the ruling as a way to forbid a "deviant" Islamic group from propagating their ideas but not banning them outright. But it was really a cave-in to radicals such as the Islamic Defenders Front, who advocate strict interpretations of Islam and have made their views known by beating up people in the streets.

Now, a coalition of Islamic fanatics, the Forum Umat Islam, has taken the ruling as a pretext to shut down Ahmadiyah mosques. In response, Mr. Yudhoyono has ignored the Indonesian constitution's freedom of religion clause and done nothing.

Perhaps he is worried about sparking wider violence if he opposes the well-funded and well-organized Forum Umat Islam. Or perhaps he wishes to court what he perceives as the "Muslim vote." But short-term gain could have serious long-term consequences.

If radical thugs are allowed to target Ahmadiyah houses of worship today with impunity, what prevents them from targeting other kinds of Muslims tomorrow? Or Christians? Or Sikhs? The government's refusal to protect the Ahmadiyah threatens the underpinnings of Indonesia's tolerant society. It's a familiar theme in history, and one that has not boded well for liberal democracies.

WSJ
24567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO on social Security on: June 25, 2008, 03:39:20 AM
Obama's Social Security Fine Print
By DONALD L. LUSKIN
June 25, 2008; Page A15

Last week, Barack Obama revealed his plan to shore up Social Security's shaky finances by raising the income level on which the payroll tax is applied. Currently, incomes above $102,000 are exempt, with that threshold rising every year indexed to wage inflation. Mr. Obama would keep that limit in place, but then assess payroll taxes on incomes above $250,000, which his campaign claims would apply to only the richest 3% of Americans.

Mr. Obama angered liberals last year when he admitted that there was a "Social Security crisis." But at least Mr. Obama's base should be appeased now that his solution to the "crisis" is to soak the rich. One liberal columnist actually noted with glee the fact that this would take us back to top tax rates not seen since the 1970s.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Mr. Obama's new tax would siphon off 0.4% of gross domestic product annually. Combined with Mr. Obama's other tax-hike initiatives, "the total tax on labor would be close to 60 percent. In high-tax states like California and New York, the top rate would be even higher."

Would it help Social Security's financing problems? Mr. Obama has no idea. One of his senior economic advisers admitted to me that no one on the campaign has run any detailed models or performed any rigorous analysis. When one proposes an enormous tax increase, shouldn't there at least be a spreadsheet somewhere?

But the most alarming thing about Mr. Obama's proposal is that the $250,000 threshold, above which the payroll tax would be applied, refers to household income, not individual income. So it's quite deceptive when he claims that the $250,000 threshold will "ensure that lifting the payroll tax cap does not ensnare any middle class Americans."

Suppose your household consists of you and your spouse, each earning wages of $150,000 per year. Currently, you are each subject to the payroll tax up to $102,000 of wages, so together you are taxed on $204,000. Under the Obama plan, you'd be taxed again on another $50,000 of wages.

At the current payroll tax rate of 12.4% – 6.2% from wage-earners and 6.2% from their employers – your household would be looking at a tax hike of $6,200 per year. You probably didn't consider yourself rich before, and you certainly won't after paying that tax bill.

But that tax bill could be higher still. While the payroll tax has always been calculated just on wages from labor, Mr. Obama hasn't decided yet what forms of income will be included in the $250,000 threshold. It's an open question whether it might include interest on savings and capital gains income.

And neither has Mr. Obama said whether the rich – and, truth be told, the middle class – paying his new higher taxes will get correspondingly higher Social Security benefits when they retire. Throughout the history of the Social Security program, there has always been a connection between what you contribute in taxes and what you get back in benefits. If Mr. Obama uncaps the wages subject to tax, but doesn't uncap benefits, then he has severed the link between them. Social Security would stand revealed not as a work-related contributory retirement system, but simply as a tax-funded welfare and income-redistribution program.

And for all that, Mr. Obama's proposal won't help Social Security's long-run solvency problems.

According to the Social Security Administration actuaries, uncapping all wages subject to the payroll tax (not just those above $250,000) doesn't make much difference to the system's long-run solvency. If the increased payroll tax payments earn increased benefits, then only about one third of the system's 75-year shortfall is addressed. Even if there is no corresponding benefit increase, only about half the shortfall is addressed.

Remember, that inadequate result is what you get when all wages are subject to payroll taxes. Mr. Obama's plan – even with his household definition of $250,000 income – would collect far less than that. No wonder Mr. Obama's economic advisers aren't interested in doing any detailed analysis.

Worst of all, even the small contribution to Social Security solvency that Mr. Obama's plan might make is entirely illusory. In fact, the more taxes his plan collects, the worse Social Security's long-term situation gets. That's because all plans based on collecting taxes and saving them in the Social Security Trust Fund for future benefit payments rely on the U.S. government being able to redeem the Treasury bonds that trust fund holds.

There's only one place that the money to redeem those bonds can come from: taxes. So ironically, any tax dollars collected today will have to be collected all over again – plus interest. You like the idea of paying more taxes today for Mr. Obama's Social Security plan? Then just wait 20 years or so, because you'll get to pay more taxes all over again.

Mr. Luskin is chief investment officer of Trend Macrolytics LLC.
24568  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Before dashcams on: June 24, 2008, 05:14:47 PM
An older lady gets pulled over for speeding...
 
Older Woman: Is there a problem, Officer?
Officer: Ma'am, you were speeding.
 
Older Woman: Oh, I see.
Officer: Can I see your license please?
Older Woman: I'd give it to you but I don't have one.
 
Officer: Don't have one?
Older Woman: Lost it, 4 years ago for drunk driving.
Officer: I see..Can I see your vehicle registration papers please.
Older Woman: I can't do that.
Officer: Why not?
Older Woman: I stole this car.
Officer: Stole it?
 
 
Older Woman: Yes, and I killed and hacked up the owner.
Officer: You what?
Older Woman: His body parts are in plastic bags in the trunk if you
want to see.
The Officer looks at the woman and slowly backs away to his car and
calls for back up. Within minutes 5 police cars circle the car. A senior
officer slowly approaches the car, clasping his half drawn gun.
 
 
Officer 2: Ma'am, could you step out of your vehicle please! The woman
steps out of her vehicle.
Older woman: Is there a problem sir?
Officer 2: One of my officers told me that you have stolen this car
and murdered the owner.
Older Woman: Murdered the owner?
Officer 2: Yes, could you please open the trunk of your car, please.
The woman opens the trunk, revealing nothing but an empty trunk.
Officer 2: Is this your car, ma'am?
Older Woman: Yes, here are the registration papers.
The officer is quite stunned.
 
Officer 2: One of my officers claims that you do not have a driving
license.
The woman digs into her handbag and pulls out a clutch purse and hands
it to the officer. The officer examines the license. He looks quite
puzzled.
Officer 2: Thank you ma'am, one of my officers told me you didn't have
a license, that you stole this car, and that you murdered and hacked up
the owner.
 
Older Woman: Bet the liar told you I was speeding, too.
24569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Handing over Anbar on: June 24, 2008, 05:05:05 PM
Summary
U.S. troops will formally hand over security responsibility for Iraq’s largest Sunni province, Anbar, to Iraqi security forces June 28, according to a June 23 Reuters report. Despite real and impressive security gains in the last year because of sectarian conflict and strong intra-Sunni contentions in Anbar, the move is problematic at best. How the security handover plays out in Anbar could prove the most critical indicator of the future position of Sunnis in a Shiite-dominated Baghdad, which in turn is the key element in the U.S.-Iranian struggle for Iraq.

Analysis
Related Special Topic Page
Iraq, Iran and the Shia
Gov. Mamun Sami Rasheed of Anbar province, Iraq’s largest Sunni province, said the U.S. military will transfer control of the province’s security to Iraqi forces June 28, Reuters reported June 23. U.S.-led coalition forces have so far transferred security control for three Kurdish provinces in the north and six Shiite provinces in the south. Though Anbar will be the 10th of Iraq’s 18 provinces returned to Iraqi security control since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, it will thus be the first predominantly Sunni region handed back to Iraqi government control.

While the performance of Iraqi government security forces has been mixed, they have begun to demonstrate a limited capability to stand on their own. In Anbar, these forces will meet Sunni forces known as the Awakening Council that have imposed a tribal-controlled peace on the province. The meeting of these Sunni elements and government forces will serve as a key litmus test for Iraq’s emerging post-Baathist security establishment.

As late as 2006, chronic tensions between local Sunni police forces and Shiite-dominated national police and army units in Anbar province were palpable, occasionally even breaking out into isolated gunbattles.

These tensions arose because Iraq’s police and army are dominated by Shia while Anbar — the country’s largest province in terms of land area — until late 2006 was a major insurgent theater for both Sunni nationalist and jihadist groups. Intra-Sunni rivalries in the western province will play a key role in assisting the Shia to take control. This could lead to a resumption of violence in Anbar as various groups seek to take advantage of the new security environment.

Anbar’s size makes it key to the future Sunni entry into a Shiite-dominated political system, explaining why the United States has given the province a disproportionate amount of attention. Much of this attention was spent on assisting in the formation of an 80,000-strong tribal force known as the Awakening Councils. Not only were these groups instrumental in controlling the Sunni nationalist insurgency, they turned their guns against al Qaeda-led jihadists. It is these fighters, currently on the Pentagon’s payroll and backed by Saudi Arabia, that have both the Iraqi Shia as well as their Iranian patrons extremely concerned. Under the Awakening Councils’ tenure, Anbar has gone from one of the deadliest provinces in Iraq to one of the safest.

Tehran already has warned of a major uprising if the ongoing talks between the al-Maliki and Bush administrations on a future U.S. military presence in Iraq lead to a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq, especially one conferring significant security powers on the United States. Meanwhile, the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government has been blocking any progress on the re-Baathification process, which is supposed to oversee the return of Sunnis in the country’s civil and military bureaucracy, even when the Shia agree to it in principal. Therefore, the Iranians and their Iraqi Shiite allies view the transfer of Anbar’s security as an opportunity to check the Sunni resurgence in the new Iraqi republic.

Coalition and Iraqi commanders want to transition about 20 percent of the Awakening Councils fighters — or about 15,000 out of the total of 80,000 Sunni tribal militiamen — to the Iraqi Security Forces, which comprises the army, national police and Iraqi police. Most of these fighters would be inducted into the national police, which is recruited and deployed locally, giving the Awakening Councils some degree of official influence at the local level. Shiite-dominated Baghdad sees the 15 percent figure as sufficient, but it falls far below the expectations of the Anbar’s Sunnis.

Awakening Councils also are in the process of transitioning from a militia into a political movement, and hope to take advantage of provincial elections slated in the fall to consolidate their de facto gains into formal political power. The Iraqi Sunnis know that a demographic-based constitution severely limits their share of power in the central government, so the Sunni’s best bet is to entrench themselves in their region (comprising Anbar, Salah ad Din, At Tamim, and Ninawa provinces, and to lesser degree, Baghdad, Diyala and Babil provinces) as much as possible.

But at the local level, intra-Sunni rivalries between those Sunnis who are already part of the state (such as Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi’s Tawafoq Iraqi Front, the largest Sunni bloc in parliament) and those who initially shunned the post-2003 political system (e.g., Awakening Councils, the Sunni religious establishment, various tribal elements, Islamist insurgents, and Baathists) will prevent the Sunnis from consolidating their power. The internal problems of the Sunnis could thus give the Shiite-dominated security forces a tactical advantage in establishing their control in Anbar.

Sectarian and intra-Sunni dynamics have the potential to recreate security problems in Anbar as Iraqi forces assume responsibility for security. Ultimately, an Iraqi state imposing its writ on its territory will require a U.S.-Iranian understanding establishing an ethno-sectarian balance of power in Iraq. But before that can happen, a balance of power has to be achieved within both Shiite and Sunni communities. The outcome of the coming provincial polls will to a great degree settle the internal balance within Iraq’s Shia and Sunnis, thereby preparing the two sides for and ultimate face off.

Back to top
24570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: June 24, 2008, 04:35:38 PM
http://wcbstv.com/national/israel.iran.attack.2.755478.html

IAEA Chief: Iran Could Make Nuke In 6 Months
CBS News Interactive: About Iran
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CBS) ― The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Iran could create a nuclear weapon in six months.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei spoke on Al-Arabiya television on June 20, discussing Iran's nuclear program, and the potential for the Middle Eastern country to produce a nuclear weapon.

"If Iran wants to turn to the production of nuclear weapons, it must leave the NPT, expel the IAEA inspectors, and then it would need at least, considering the number of centrifuges and the quantity of uranium Iran has...It would need at least six months to one year," ElBaradei said.

"Therefore, Iran will not be able to reach the point where we would wake up one morning to an Iran with a nuclear weapon," he said.

His interviewer then asked "If Iran decides today to expel the IAEA from the country, it will need six months to produce [nuclear] weapons?"

The IAEA chief answered, "It would need this period to produce a weapon, and to obtain highly-enriched uranium in sufficient quantities for a single nuclear weapon."

The ElBaradei interview was conducted one day after reports emerged of a large-scale military exercise by Israel.

U.S. officials said they thought the Israeli exercises were meant to warn Iran of Israel's abilities to hit its nuclear sites.

ElBaradei also warned that he will resign as chief of the UN nuclear agency if Iran is attacked by any country.

"I always think of resigning in the event of a military strike...If military force is used, I would conclude that there is no mechanism left for me to defend," he said.

"The reports this week of Israeli military maneuvers, which took place in early June, provoked the IAEA warning," said CBS News Foreign Affairs Pamela Falk, who is based at the U.N., "because atomic energy chief ElBaradei has been pleading with Iran to accept a new package of incentives before another round of sanctions would be imposed."

"The problem in the region is that, as time passes and the clock is ticking on Iran's uranium enrichment program, there is a fear that Israel will act, as it did in Syria last year, to attack at least one of Iran's nuclear facilities," said Falk, who was in Saudi Arabia earlier this week.

"Israel is evidently the most threatened by the last IAEA report, which concluded that there are unanswered questions about Iran's ability to eventually develop nuclear weapons," said Falk, "so it is elBaradei himself who produced the report that is making Israel nervous."

Meanwhile, Iran is reiterating its decision to continue enriching uranium, calling Western pressure to suspend the work "illogical."

The statement by a government spokesman came as Europe waits for Iran's formal answer to an international package of incentives designed to rein in its nuclear program.

Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted Iranian spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham on Saturday as saying that his country will respond to the package at a convenient time.

The package would give Tehran economic incentives, and the chance to develop alternate light-water reactors, in return for dropping the uranium enrichment.

(© 2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
24571  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: A Father's Question on: June 24, 2008, 10:35:40 AM
Scottish schools ban Father’s Day cards
Fear of embarrassing children of single mothers or lesbians prompts move
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article4188170.ece
Kathleen Nutt
Christian references have been removed from Christmas cards and school sports days excised of competitiveness. Now Father's Day has become the latest event to fall victim to the forces of political correctness.

Last week thousands of children were prevented from making Father’s Day cards at school to avoid causing embarrassment to classmates who live with single mothers and lesbian couples.

The politically correct policy in the interests of “sensitivity” over the growing number of lone-parent and same-sex households, has been quietly adopted by schools across Scotland.

It only emerged this year after a large number of fathers failed to receive their traditional cards and gifts last Sunday.

While primary children are banned from making cards for their fathers, few schools impose similar restrictions in the run up to Mothering Sunday.

The ban has been introduced by schools in Glasgow, Edinburgh, East Renfrewshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Clackmannanshire.

Currently, some 280,000 children in Scotland live in single parent households, accounting for just 7% of the total.

Tina Woolnough, 45, from Edinburgh, whose son Felix attends Blackhall primary, said a number of teachers at the school had not allowed children to make Father’s Day cards this year.

“This is something I know they do on a class-by-class basis at my son Felix’s school,” said Woolnough, who is a member of the school’s parent-teacher council. Some classes send Father’s Day cards and some do not.

“The teachers are aware of the family circumstances of the children in each class and if a child hasn’t got a father living at home, the teacher will avoid getting the children to make a card.”

Family rights campaigners have condemned the policy as “absurd” and claimed it is marginalising fathers.

“I’m astonished at this, it totally undermines the role and significance of fathers whether they are still with the child’s mother or not,” said Matt O’Connor, founder of Fathers For Justice. “It also sends out a troubling message to young boys that fathers aren’t important.”

Alastair Noble, education officer with the charity Christian Action, Research and Education, added: “This seems to be an extreme and somewhat absurd reaction. I would have thought that the traditional family and marriage are still the majority lifestyles of people in Scotland. To deny the experience of the majority just does not seem sensible.”

Victoria Gillick, the family values campaigner, accused schools of politicising a traditional fun activity for children.

“Children like making things, and making things for someone is great fun. I wouldn’t call it politically correct, I’d just call it stupid,” she said.

“It seems quite unfair to deny those children whose parents are together and who want to make cards from enjoying the experience. Stopping children from making Father’s Day cards is reinforcing the fact that some fathers are not there, it’s actually drawing attention to the issue.”

Local authorities defended the move, saying teachers needed to act sensitively at a time when many children were experiencing family breakdown and divorce.

“Increasingly, it is the case that there are children who haven’t got fathers or haven’t got fathers living with them and teachers are having to be sensitive about this,” said a spokesman for East Renfrewshire council. “Teachers have always had to deal with some pupils not having fathers or mothers, but with marital breakdown it is accelerating.”

Jim Goodall, head of education at Clackmannanshire council, said: “We expect teachers and headteachers to apply their professional skills and behave in a common sense manner. They have to be sensitive to the appropriate use of class time and the changing pattern of family life. We trust our staff to act sensibly and sensitively.”

A spokesman for South Ayrshire council said: “We are aware of the sensitivities of the issue and wouldn’t do anything that would make any child feel left out or unwanted in any way.”

Edinburgh city council said the practice on Father’s Day cards was a matter for individual schools.



24572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Father's Day cards banned on: June 24, 2008, 10:34:48 AM
Scottish schools ban Father’s Day cards
Fear of embarrassing children of single mothers or lesbians prompts move
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article4188170.ece
Kathleen Nutt
Christian references have been removed from Christmas cards and school sports days excised of competitiveness. Now Father's Day has become the latest event to fall victim to the forces of political correctness.

Last week thousands of children were prevented from making Father’s Day cards at school to avoid causing embarrassment to classmates who live with single mothers and lesbian couples.

The politically correct policy in the interests of “sensitivity” over the growing number of lone-parent and same-sex households, has been quietly adopted by schools across Scotland.

It only emerged this year after a large number of fathers failed to receive their traditional cards and gifts last Sunday.

While primary children are banned from making cards for their fathers, few schools impose similar restrictions in the run up to Mothering Sunday.

The ban has been introduced by schools in Glasgow, Edinburgh, East Renfrewshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Clackmannanshire.

Currently, some 280,000 children in Scotland live in single parent households, accounting for just 7% of the total.

Tina Woolnough, 45, from Edinburgh, whose son Felix attends Blackhall primary, said a number of teachers at the school had not allowed children to make Father’s Day cards this year.

“This is something I know they do on a class-by-class basis at my son Felix’s school,” said Woolnough, who is a member of the school’s parent-teacher council. Some classes send Father’s Day cards and some do not.

“The teachers are aware of the family circumstances of the children in each class and if a child hasn’t got a father living at home, the teacher will avoid getting the children to make a card.”

Family rights campaigners have condemned the policy as “absurd” and claimed it is marginalising fathers.

“I’m astonished at this, it totally undermines the role and significance of fathers whether they are still with the child’s mother or not,” said Matt O’Connor, founder of Fathers For Justice. “It also sends out a troubling message to young boys that fathers aren’t important.”

Alastair Noble, education officer with the charity Christian Action, Research and Education, added: “This seems to be an extreme and somewhat absurd reaction. I would have thought that the traditional family and marriage are still the majority lifestyles of people in Scotland. To deny the experience of the majority just does not seem sensible.”

Victoria Gillick, the family values campaigner, accused schools of politicising a traditional fun activity for children.

“Children like making things, and making things for someone is great fun. I wouldn’t call it politically correct, I’d just call it stupid,” she said.

“It seems quite unfair to deny those children whose parents are together and who want to make cards from enjoying the experience. Stopping children from making Father’s Day cards is reinforcing the fact that some fathers are not there, it’s actually drawing attention to the issue.”

Local authorities defended the move, saying teachers needed to act sensitively at a time when many children were experiencing family breakdown and divorce.

“Increasingly, it is the case that there are children who haven’t got fathers or haven’t got fathers living with them and teachers are having to be sensitive about this,” said a spokesman for East Renfrewshire council. “Teachers have always had to deal with some pupils not having fathers or mothers, but with marital breakdown it is accelerating.”

Jim Goodall, head of education at Clackmannanshire council, said: “We expect teachers and headteachers to apply their professional skills and behave in a common sense manner. They have to be sensitive to the appropriate use of class time and the changing pattern of family life. We trust our staff to act sensibly and sensitively.”

A spokesman for South Ayrshire council said: “We are aware of the sensitivities of the issue and wouldn’t do anything that would make any child feel left out or unwanted in any way.”

Edinburgh city council said the practice on Father’s Day cards was a matter for individual schools.



24573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: June 24, 2008, 10:17:12 AM
That helps understand the rationale, although I am still not persuaded.  And the question remains "Were a significant number of bad loans made by ex-convicts?"
24574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: June 24, 2008, 09:44:08 AM
"The rationale for this new fingerprint registry is thin. Were a significant number of bad loans made by ex-convicts? And how would the targeting of lower-level employees – rather than executives like Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo – stem the creation of problematic mortgages?"
24575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: June 24, 2008, 09:38:29 AM
"But a campaign based on Barack Obama's shortcomings may not be enough on Election Day."

EXACTLY so.  Part of BOs appeal so far I believe to be grounded in the fact that people are tired of the Hatfield vs. McCoys squabbling of Washington and BO speaks in positives.
24576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: June 24, 2008, 09:11:52 AM
Nor by me , , ,
24577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on: June 24, 2008, 09:08:17 AM

"A local spirit will infallibly prevail much more in the members
of Congress than a national spirit will prevail in the legislatures
of the particular States."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 46, 29 January 1788)

Reference: Madison, Federalist, No. 46.

24578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYTimes Columnist: Bush was right?!? on: June 24, 2008, 04:23:52 AM
The Bush Paradox
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By DAVID BROOKS
Published: June 24, 2008
Let’s go back and consider how the world looked in the winter of 2006-2007. Iraq was in free fall, with horrific massacres and ethnic cleansing that sent a steady stream of bad news across the world media. The American public delivered a stunning electoral judgment against the Iraq war, the Republican Party and President Bush.

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David Brooks

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The Conversation
Times columnists David Brooks and Gail Collins discuss the 2008 presidential race.

All Conversations » Expert and elite opinion swung behind the Baker-Hamilton report, which called for handing more of the problems off to the Iraqi military and wooing Iran and Syria. Republicans on Capitol Hill were quietly contemptuous of the president while Democrats were loudly so.

Democratic leaders like Senator Harry Reid considered the war lost. Barack Obama called for a U.S. withdrawal starting in the spring of 2007, while Senator Reid offered legislation calling for a complete U.S. pullback by March 2008.

The arguments floating around the op-ed pages and seminar rooms were overwhelmingly against the idea of a surge — a mere 20,000 additional troops would not make a difference. The U.S. presence provoked violence, rather than diminishing it. The more the U.S. did, the less the Iraqis would step up to do. Iraq was in the middle of a civil war, and it was insanity to put American troops in the middle of it.

When President Bush consulted his own generals, the story was much the same. Almost every top general, including Abizaid, Schoomaker and Casey, were against the surge. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was against it, according to recent reports. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki called for a smaller U.S. presence, not a bigger one.

In these circumstances, it’s amazing that George Bush decided on the surge. And looking back, one thing is clear: Every personal trait that led Bush to make a hash of the first years of the war led him to make a successful decision when it came to this crucial call.

Bush is a stubborn man. Well, without that stubbornness, that unwillingness to accept defeat on his watch, he never would have bucked the opposition to the surge.

Bush is an outrageously self-confident man. Well, without that self-confidence he never would have overruled his generals.

In fact, when it comes to Iraq, Bush was at his worst when he was humbly deferring to the generals and at his best when he was arrogantly overruling them. During that period in 2006 and 2007, Bush stiffed the brass and sided with a band of dissidents: military officers like David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno, senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and outside strategists like Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and Jack Keane, a retired general.

Bush is also a secretive man who listens too much to Dick Cheney. Well, the uncomfortable fact is that Cheney played an essential role in promoting the surge. Many of the people who are dubbed bad guys actually got this one right.

The additional fact is that Bush, who made such bad calls early in the war, made a courageous and astute decision in 2006. More than a year on, the surge has produced large, if tenuous, gains. Violence is down sharply. Daily life has improved. Iraqi security forces have been given time to become a more effective fighting force. The Iraqi government is showing signs of strength and even glimmers of impartiality. Iraq has moved from being a failed state to, as Vali Nasr of the Council on Foreign Relations has put it, merely a fragile one.

The whole episode is a reminder that history is a complicated thing. The traits that lead to disaster in certain circumstances are the very ones that come in handy in others. The people who seem so smart at some moments seem incredibly foolish in others.

The cocksure war supporters learned this humbling lesson during the dark days of 2006. And now the cocksure surge opponents, drunk on their own vindication, will get to enjoy their season of humility. They have already gone through the stages of intellectual denial. First, they simply disbelieved that the surge and the Petraeus strategy was doing any good. Then they accused people who noticed progress in Iraq of duplicity and derangement. Then they acknowledged military, but not political, progress. Lately they have skipped over to the argument that Iraq is progressing so well that the U.S. forces can quickly come home.

But before long, the more honest among the surge opponents will concede that Bush, that supposed dolt, actually got one right. Some brave souls might even concede that if the U.S. had withdrawn in the depths of the chaos, the world would be in worse shape today.

Life is complicated. The reason we have democracy is that no one side is right all the time. The only people who are dangerous are those who can’t admit, even to themselves, that obvious fact.

24579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: June 24, 2008, 04:19:42 AM
Capt. Ford's Drive To Victory In Afghanistan
By SEAN HIGGINS | Posted Friday, January 18, 2008 4:30 PM PT

Capt. Sheffield F. Ford III's mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan, sounded simple enough. It just wasn't easy.

"The specific goal was to re-establish order to a certain area," Ford, 36, said matter-of-factly during a phone interview from Fort Bragg, N.C., last month.

"Re-establish order" meant "drive out the Taliban." His forces would push them out of three villages.

Sheffield Ford poses near Afghanistan's Kajaki Dam in May 2006, a month before the bloody battle against terrorists led to his receiving a Silver Star.
The Taliban weren't going anywhere without a fight.

On June 23, 2006, Ford led his Army Special Forces unit and a contingent of Afghan soldiers in what was dubbed Operation Kaika.

It turned out to be a pitched, 2 1/2-day battle against a group of Islamist radicals vastly larger than the Americans had expected.

The coalition forces totaled 72 men. The Taliban had more than 200. At times Ford's men were surrounded on four sides. At other times the fight was so close, the enemy was yards away. "We were expecting some resistance, but not of that nature," Ford recalled. "They basically laid siege to us."

Despite the danger, chaos, exhaustion and fear, Ford led the coalition forces to a lopsided victory.

The battle claimed the lives of an estimated 125 terrorists and just five coalition soldiers: two Americans and three Afghan interpreters.

It was one of the largest battles in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion of 2001. Last fall, Ford was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry.

"Capt. Ford's courageous actions and determined leadership in the face of an overwhelming attack by a well-armed and determined enemy force prevented the destruction of his circled detachment," reads the narrative accompanying the award.

It concludes: "His gallantry, dedication to duty and selfless sacrifice exemplified the warrior ethos."

Ford is a native of Dixon, Calif., a farming community near Sacramento. He joined the Army at age 17, eventually becoming a member of the elite Special Forces.

That took him to Afghanistan's Panjawi district in 2006. It's among the country's remotest places — where people live in mud huts and drive on nearly impassible roads.

It is also one of the most contested regions in that country. "It's just a constant battle there," Ford said.

Operation Kaika began because the Taliban were moving into farming villages. The terrorists gave villagers an ultimatum: Leave or support us. It was the middle of harvest season, and the locals couldn't afford to lose their grape crops.

Coalition troops intended to sweep in and roust the Taliban with a show of superior force. Afghan policemen would later guard against the Taliban's return.

The first part of the plan hit a firewall. The Taliban hit back hard against Ford's men. The terrorists had heavy weapons and sophisticated communications. Ford later learned that a senior Taliban commander was leading the attack.

It was like nothing the 18-year Army veteran had encountered. The Taliban in that region rarely attacked in that way.

The battle over the three days included three firefights totaling 17 hours of hard fighting.

The valor award's narrative reports that during the first fight, Ford led the attack from an exposed vehicle's turret gun: "Under an extraordinary volume of small arms, machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire, he remained in the exposed turret, ignoring the strikes of bullets and grenade fragments around him, accurately and calmly firing into the Taliban assault."

He did this while coordinating the rest of the defense and reporting its status to headquarters.

Ford fired from the exposed turret again the second day after the Taliban targeted a follow-up assault.

When the Taliban realized it outnumbered the coalition forces, other jihadists entered the fray. They were convinced they had the Americans cornered. "They were yelling and cursing at us, saying this time they were going to capture us," Ford recalled. "They told the Afghan soldiers to give up and leave."

He could call in air support, but the Taliban pressed in too closely. Ford and his men ran the risk of having themselves bombed.

An immediate risk was the perimeter. At one point only a three-foot-high wall separated some allied forces from the Taliban.

Coalitions troops were so desperate, they called in Afghan police for backup. The terrorists countered by ambushing the cops, who never made it to the coalition's position.

"That was how we knew we were surrounded," Ford said.

Again he maintained calm, coordinating the counterattack and ensuring that the defenders held the perimeter. Instead of hunkering down, they attacked the enemy. That helped them regain the initiative and push the Taliban back.

Through it all, said Ford, he was "most definitely" scared but refused to get rattled. He focused on protecting his men. He mostly succeeded, yet his master sergeant, Thomas Maholic, didn't make it.

"Anybody who would say they don't feel fear or get scared during such a battle, well, I couldn't believe them," Ford said. "With all emotions, it is how you control it and how you focus on what you are going through so you can have a positive outcome."

Ford says a major part of the mission's success was his team's communications. Yes, firepower, high-tech equipment, bravery and the air support that eventually came were crucial. But they would've been wasted if his forces couldn't coordinate counterattacks.

Communications involved more than making sure everybody received orders. The troops had to know what those orders were.

Confusion could have reigned, since only a dozen of Ford's men were American. The rest were Afghans, most of whom didn't speak English. The language barrier posed a serious danger.

That's why three of the coalition forces killed were interpreters. They had to be right there in the thick of the battle.

"Each one of the personnel on the (Special Forces) team has to be able to have those leadership capabilities in order to command their element of the indigenous (Afghan) forces," Ford explained. "So really it was the whole team coming together that made it successful and allowed us to survive."

Also key was bonding with the Afghan troops. The Americans trained with them constantly. They ate with them and struck up friendships to help build mutual respect.

"There's a term we use for soldiers who do a really good job: He's a fire-and-forget kind of guy," Ford said. "That means I can tell the guy the end state of what I want to be done and turn around and attend to other things because I know that it is going to get done."

That is the way the Afghan force was, he says. Despite the Taliban's threats, the local troops stuck by the Americans throughout the battle.

In addition to Ford, two other Americans, including Maholic, received the Silver Star for their actions in the battle. Three more received the Bronze Star.

The Special Forces commander, Maj. Gen. Thomas Csrnko, during the medal ceremony lauded Ford and others who stood up to the Taliban by staying that "each one of these men would simply say that they were doing their job and taking care of their fellow teammates."

24580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / My friend the fanatic on: June 24, 2008, 03:05:15 AM
The following cuts against the aspirations of the preceding post:
================


Bookshelf
Unfriendly Fanatics
By C. HOLLAND TAYLOR
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL ASIA
June 24, 2008

My Friend the Fanatic
By Sadanand Dhume
(Text Publishing, 271 pp., A$34.95)

 
Terrorist acts perpetrated in the name of Islam have dominated news headlines for years, yet Western readers are often left wondering what motivates such radicalism, and how it spreads. Few nations are more strategically vital to the struggle for the "soul" of Islam than Indonesia. Home of the world's largest Muslim population and democracy, Indonesia's ancient traditions of pluralism and tolerance are under siege by a well-organized and heavily financed extremist movement.

The current radical trends in Indonesia are inextricably linked to Islam's 700-year history in the East Indies. Sunni Islam arrived peacefully in what is now Indonesia, brought by Arab, Indian and Chinese merchants active in the fabled spice trade. Once they acquired sufficient economic power, such merchants established Islamic city-states that rebelled against, and ultimately destroyed, the pre-existing Hindu-Buddhist kingdom of Majapahit. It was only the subsequent military and political triumph of indigenous Javanese in 1586 – following a bloody, century-long struggle – that preserved the region's pluralistic and tolerant traditions, in the form of a deeply spiritual understanding of Islam that did not conflict with pre-existing faiths.

In "My Friend the Fanatic," journalist Sadanand Dhume guides the reader deftly through the whirlpool these currents have created. Descriptions of a young, charismatic author titillating avant-garde audiences in the nation's capital – with her sexually provocative short stories and performance art – alternate with on-the-scene reportage of Muslim radicals' success at mobilizing grassroots support throughout the vast archipelago. Mr. Dhume took an unusual trek through Indonesia's lush, tropical landscape with Herry Nurdi, the "fanatic" of the book's title and editor of Sabili, a mass-circulation extremist magazine whose explicit goal is to undo radical Islam's history of failure in Indonesia and assure its final triumph.

By some counts at least, Mr. Nurdi and his ilk are winning. In recent years, extremists have taken advantage of regional autonomy to impose Shariah-based regulations in nearly 70 of Indonesia's 364 local regencies. These laws, among other things, compel women and girls to wear so-called "Muslim" clothing that reveals only the face, hands and feet, even if they are Christian; require students, civil servants and even couples applying for marriage to demonstrate an ability to read the Quran; and effectively restrict women from going out at night without a male relative.

Mr. Dhume's description of the extremists' rise will be dispiriting to those who view democracy as an antidote to radicalism. Indeed, one of the most striking facts he reports is the extent to which those leading the charge to institutionalize radicalism in Indonesia today are directly linked to postindependence rebellions and failed extremist movements from the past. Whereas their ideological forebears (and literally, in many cases, their fathers or grandfathers) were crushed by Indonesian nationalists committed to upholding Indonesia's secular constitution and pluralist state ideology, the new generation of radicals use democracy and the symbols of Islam to erode and ultimately destroy Indonesia's heritage of religious pluralism and tolerance. This phenomenon is rendered possible and dramatically accelerated by the tendency of opportunistic politicians and political parties – often corrupt and lacking in Islamic legitimacy – to engage in a "chase to the lowest common denominator" of Islam, in a cynical attempt to prove their Muslim bona fides.

Unfortunately, the current government in Jakarta – led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – has done little to retard the rapidly metastasizing phenomenon of political Islam. This threatens not only religious minorities such as the Muslim Ahmadiyah sect and Christians, but also the safety and security of the Indonesian nation-state itself. Just this month, in fact, religious extremists beat a group of moderates marching for religious freedom on the grounds of the national monument, in full view of onlooking police and the nearby state palace.

While Mr. Dhume argues convincingly about the radicals' current strength and momentum, he is strangely silent about their most vocal and effective opponents, who represent the world's best hope for a truly democratic and tolerant Islam. Virtually absent from Mr. Dhume's book are the valiant efforts of Indonesian Muslim leaders to stem the Arab petrodollar-funded tide of radical Islam, and thereby uphold the secular foundations of the Indonesian nation-state. Former President Abdurrahman Wahid, a member of the LibForAll Foundation which I head, has vigorously opposed the Islamist agenda and succeeded at blocking many of their initiatives. So, too, have other key leaders of the Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, the world's biggest Muslims organizations, which are based in Indonesia and boast 70 million followers.

Islam's future – as a religion of peace and tolerance, or of hatred, violence and supremacy – may well hinge upon Indonesia's destiny, as Middle East financial backers and their indigenous allies well know. Mr. Dhume is pessimistic, sensing that the "totalitarian cast" of the extremist movement will "grind what remained of a once proud culture to a hollow imitation of Arabness." Yet while the situation is undoubtedly grave, it is far from hopeless. Indonesia boasts a moderate public and self-confident Muslim leaders who do not conflate Islam with arrogance, extremism, supremacy or violence. Mr. Dhume's book shows that the battle is raging, but its conclusion is far from preordained.

Mr. Taylor is the chairman & CEO of the LibForAll Foundation, a nonprofit that works to reduce religious extremism worldwide and discredit the use of terrorism.
24581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Free to choose wrongly on: June 24, 2008, 03:00:45 AM
Bookshelf
Free to Choose, But Often Wrong
By DAVID A. SHAYWITZ
June 24, 2008; Page A17

Sway
By Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman
(Doubleday, 206 pages, $21.95)

 
Flirting With Disaster
By Marc Gerstein, with Michael Ellsberg
(Union Square, 340 pages, $24.95)

Consider Linda, a 31-year-old woman, single and bright. As a student, she was deeply concerned with discrimination and social justice and also participated in antinuclear protests. Which is more probable? (a) Linda is today a bank teller; (b) Linda is a bank teller and active in the feminist movement.

When psychologists Daniel Kahneman and the late Amos Tversky conducted an experimental survey in the early 1980s asking people to answer this simple question, they discovered, to their surprise, that most respondents picked "b," even though this was the narrower choice and hence the less likely one. It seems that saliency – in this case, Linda's passionate political profile – trumps logic.

Over the past quarter-century, Mr. Kahneman and his colleagues have gone on to identify a range of flaws in our critical faculties, reshaping the study of economics by challenging the assumption that a person, when faced with a choice, can be counted on to make a rational decision.

While Mr. Kahneman (who received the Nobel Prize in economics in 2002) has confined most of his writing to academic journals, his ideas have found their way into popular culture through books such as Barry Schwartz's "The Paradox of Choice" and Nassim Taleb's "The Black Swan." "Sway," by brothers Ori and Rom Brafman, is the latest addition to this literature. It offers a breezy introduction to the science of decision-making and shows the many ways in which logical thought can be subverted or "swayed."

 
Loss aversion, for example, may explain why car rental companies persuade us to purchase gratuitous insurance or why flat-rate telephone plans are so popular even when they end up costing us more. Value attribution – transferring "value" signals from one thing to another – may explain why hot-dog sales at the Coney Island food stand of "Famous Nathan" Handwerker shot up when he recruited local doctors to shop there while wearing their white coats and stethoscopes. Procedural justice may be the reason why venture capitalists favor the entrepreneurs who communicate with them most; a willingness to observe the dictates of process is taken as a proxy for quality.

Some examples in "Sway" are less forceful than others. It seems a bit much, for instance, to blame value attribution for the failure of morning commuters to applaud a virtuoso violinist performing in jeans and a baseball cap at the entrance to a subway station. A simpler explanation: People were in a hurry to get to work. But the pacing of "Sway" is so fast that even questionable examples are gone in seconds, and soon you're on to the next, perhaps more enlightening, vignette.

While the Brafmans are amused by our irrationality, Marc Gerstein is troubled by it and wants to understand why we have such difficulty recognizing our mistaken thinking before it is too late. In "Flirting With Disaster," Mr. Gerstein (assisted by Michael Ellsberg) explores the psychology underlying a series of disasters, including the Challenger explosion, the flooding of New Orleans, the collapse of Arthur Andersen and the fall of Long-Term Capital Management, a hedge fund run by supposed "geniuses." Mr. Gerstein believes that each disaster resulted from a series of bad decisions that could have easily been avoided. Why weren't they?

In some cases, such as the 1981 collapse of the skywalk of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency, the central problem was a design change that was not properly evaluated. In New Orleans, bureaucratic inertia stripped the intensity from a series of urgent warnings. Another source of danger is the conviction that sophisticated models will enable us to capture complexity and defeat uncertainty. Long Term Capital fell as a result of such hubris.

Mr. Gerstein is passionately interested in people and is profoundly disappointed when they behave badly; he is especially critical of bystanders – workers who know enough to speak out but who decide not to do so or who stop short of preventing a bad thing from happening. For Mr. Gerstein the question isn't just why NASA pushed for a Challenger launch over the objections of its engineers; he also wants to understand why the engineers relented despite their obvious concerns. Similarly, he is frustrated by employees at Arthur Andersen who reported gross irregularities to their managers but simply gave up when their complaints were ignored.

Mr. Gerstein concludes that there are too many disincentives to speaking up; he would like to see more whistleblowers. He would also like us to pay more attention to warnings from experts. An important question raised by "Flirting With Disaster," though, is whether unheeded expert warnings are either as significant or as potentially useful as he implies. It seems probable that there is an element of selection bias here: Such warnings may be extremely common, especially in high-risk activities such as space flight or options trading – we just notice them when they happen to be both ignored and right.

Moreover, the distinction between good ideas and dangerous ones – or between good leaders and bad – is seldom as clear as Mr. Gerstein would have it. Decisions must often be made with imperfect information. Clearly, a balancing act must be performed each time a rocket is set to launch, each time a new drug or medical device is introduced, and, for that matter, each time a decision is made. There is always a trade-off between action and reflection. Even if we could address every conceivable concern, disasters would still occur (after all, we can't think of everything) – only they would be accompanied, in the long run, by considerably less innovation and progress.

As Mr. Gerstein urges, though, we could all do more – in our personal and professional lives – to reduce error, learn from mistakes and resist the passive acceptance of a flawed status quo. The question is whether we're rational enough to respond to the challenge.

Dr. Shaywitz is a management consultant in New Jersey.
24582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: How to win the war of ideas on: June 24, 2008, 02:56:36 AM

How to Win the War of Ideas
By JAMES K. GLASSMAN
June 24, 2008

Military action against insurgents, terrorists and those who give them safe harbor is essential. It is working now in Iraq, and has helped keep Americans safe since 9/11. But as President Bush's National Strategy for Combating Terrorism put it two years ago, "In the long run, winning the War on Terror means winning the battle of ideas."

Many of the strongest supporters of ideological engagement can be found in the Department of Defense, starting with Secretary Robert Gates, who reminded senators earlier this year that the Cold War was "as much a war of ideas as it was of military power." Unfortunately, since the rise of Islamic terror, we haven't done enough on this front.

That's changing. Throughout the government and the private sector, the war of ideas is in early renaissance. The enthusiasm is bipartisan, and we have the opportunity to leave a robust legacy for the next administration.

But what kind of war of ideas will fit the terrorist threat today? First, we need to get the goal straight.

While educational exchanges and other such efforts seek over the long term to encourage foreigners to adopt more generally favorable views of the United States, the war of ideas today should have a different, specific focus. The aim must be to ensure that negative sentiments and day-to-day grievances toward the U.S. and its allies do not manifest themselves in violence. We want to create an environment hostile to violent extremism, especially by severing links between al Qaeda and like-minded groups and their target audiences.

For starters, we should confront the ideology of violent extremism directly. The most credible voices here are those of Muslims themselves – especially Islamists – who have publicly disavowed al Qaeda's methods and theology. Lately such apostates include Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, also known as Dr. Fadl, who laid the foundation for the movement's bloody ideology and has now repudiated it, and Noman Benotman, a Libyan close to Osama bin Laden who rebuked al Qaeda bluntly last year.

Our public diplomacy efforts should encourage Muslims, individuals and groups, to spread the denunciations of violence by these men and others far and wide. But non-Muslim Americans themselves should not shrink from confidently opposing poisonous ideas either.

A second approach to the war of ideas may, in the long run, be even more effective. Call it "diversion."

The ideology that motivates al Qaeda and similar groups is based on the notion that believers have a duty to carry out the excommunication (and execution) of unbelievers, or even of those who collaborate with unbelievers, or refuse to resist them. This ideology posits a Manichean world, divided into two camps: one practicing the terrorists' version of Islam, the other not.

This is a fantasy, but a distressingly powerful one. Our vision is a pluralistic world with many peaceful and productive choices on how to order one's life. The task is not to persuade potential recruits to become like Americans or Europeans, but to divert them from becoming terrorists.

We do that by helping to build networks (virtual and physical) and countermovements – not just political but cultural, social, athletic and more: mothers against violence, video gamers, soccer enthusiasts, young entrepreneurs, Islamic democrats. For example, there is an emerging global network of families of Islamic victims of terrorist attacks. While winning hearts and minds would be an admirable feat, the war of ideas needs to adopt the more immediate and realistic goal of diverting impressionable segments of the population from being recruited into violent extremism.

Unlike the containment policy of the Cold War, today's diversion policy may not primarily be the responsibility of government. My own job, as the interagency leader for the war of ideas, is to mobilize every possible American asset – public and private, human and technological – in the effort.

Where does Iran fit in? The pool of future suicide bombers and insurgents is sustained by people like the leadership of Iran. Both of the approaches I have outlined – ideological confrontation and diversion – should appeal to a proud and sophisticated Iranian population that is open to pluralistic ideas.

What we seek is a world in which the use of violence to achieve political, religious or social objectives is no longer considered acceptable, efforts to radicalize and recruit new members are no longer successful, and the perpetrators of violent extremism are condemned and isolated.

Military success is necessary, but it is not sufficient – for the simple reason that we face as an enemy not a single nation, or even a coalition, but a stateless global movement. Without a vigorous war of ideas, as we kill such adversaries others will take their place.

Mr. Glassman was sworn in on June 10 as under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
24583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gun Facts Primer on: June 24, 2008, 02:51:35 AM
Have only skimmed it, but this appears to be an excellent resource:

http://www.gunfacts.info/pdfs/gun-facts/5.0/GunFacts5-0-screen.pdf
24584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Back Back payments for Jihadi Bastard on: June 24, 2008, 02:49:06 AM
Muslim extremist Abu Qatada to receive £8,000 incapacity benefits a year - for his bad back

By Tom Kelly
Last updated at 9:20 AM on 23rd June 2008

Abu Qatada is to receive almost £8,000 a year in benefits because he has a bad back. The fanatical cleric, said to be Osama Bin Laden’s ambassador in Europe, will get £150 a week of taxpayer’s cash after being released from jail last week. He was granted the incapacity benefit because his condition makes him unfit to work – even though a curfew allows him out of his home for only two hours a day, meaning it would be almost impossible for him to get a job.


Qatada left Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire after the Appeal Court blocked his deportation to Jordan. He is now living in an £800,000 four-bedroom Edwardian semi in a tree-lined street in West London. His incapacity allowance will push the family’s total annual handouts to more than £50,000. His wife has been claiming £45,000 a year in child benefit, income support, housing benefit and council tax credit for the past four years.


Steve Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North, which borders Qatada’s West London home, said: ‘This is adding insult to injury. He abuses us and bleeds us dry at the same time.


‘The sooner he gets back to Jordan the better. I for one would put him in the boot of my car and drive him there myself.’


Taxpayers are also footing an estimated £500,000 a year bill to provide round-the-clock surveillance on Qatada, who has been described by a judges as a ‘truly dangerous individual’. He arrived in Britain 14 years ago on a forged passport and was granted asylum the following year. He was convicted in his absence in Jordan of involvement with terror attacks in 1998, and of plotting to plant bombs during the Millennium-celebrations. Last week a judge freed the cleric on bail after ruling he would face an unfair trial if deported to Jordan.


But the Special Immigration Appeals Commission imposed un-precedented conditions on his release, including a 22-hour curfew and wearing an electronic tag.


* Nearly a third of those claiming ‘sicknote’ benefits - some 800,000 people - have been doing so for more than a decade, figures revealed. In total 2.64million Britons live on incapacity benefit or related handouts.


Details of how hundreds of thousands appear to have backed away from returning to work throws light on the way incapacity benefit has replaced unemployment benefit as the real measure of worklessness.   Those who say they are unemployed and claim the Jobseekers’ Allowance get less money than those on sickness benefits - and come under pressure to find work. The cost of incapacity benefit to the taxpayer is now calculated to run at £16billion a year.  The figure includes the cost of housing benefit and council tax benefit that can be claimed by anyone receiving the incapacity payments.   Checks on the handout to be introduced this autumn will only affect new claimants


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...-bad-back.html
24585  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / What would you have done? on: June 24, 2008, 02:35:31 AM
Almost as reprehensible as the cowardice on display is the justification of it by the newspaper and "experts".  Surprise! Its a San Francisco CA newspaper!

Inaction in boy's killing called justified
Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/06/18/BA2G11ARO9.DTL
Wednesday, June 18, 2008

(06-17) 19:07 PDT TURLOCK (STANISLAUS COUNTY) -- The town of Turlock and much of the rest of the nation was shocked when a 27-year-old man beat and stomped his 2-year-old son to death on a rural road. But what was nearly as stunning for many people was that none of the motorists and their passengers who stopped and saw the attack tried to tackle the man.

Police officers and psychologists familiar with violent emergencies, however, said they weren't surprised at all.

A volunteer firefighter and at least five others saw Sergio Casian Aguiar assaulting his son Saturday night on the road west of Turlock (Stanislaus County), but it wasn't until a police officer arrived in a helicopter that the attack finally ended. Aguiar refused to halt the attack and raised his middle finger at the officer, who shot him to death, authorities said.

Bystanders are justifiably scared and confused in such situations, the experts said Wednesday, and they lack the experience needed to respond with force. They can also be mesmerized by shock.

John Conaty, a veteran homicide detective and former patrol officer in Pittsburg, said that in interviews of witnesses to violence, "the common thing you hear is, 'I was frozen in fear. I just couldn't take action.' "

Conaty questioned whether the witnesses had even been capable of stopping Aguiar. "If they were physically able, you have to take a look at whether they were psychologically prepared to intervene," he said.

"I would not condemn these people," said John Darley, a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University who has studied how bystanders react in emergency situations. "Ordinary people aren't going to tackle a psychotic.

"What we have here," Darley said, "is a group of family and friends who are not pre-organized to deal with this stuff. They don't know who should do what. ... If you had five volunteer firefighters pull up, you would expect them to have planned responses and a division of labor. But that's not what we had here."

Darley said he was also not surprised that people who weren't at the scene of the killing believe they would have been heroic Good Samaritans.

"It's an aspiration," he said. "They hope they would have done differently."

First on the scene
One of the witnesses, Deborah McKain of nearby Crows Landing, said she was the first to pull up to the beating scene with her boyfriend, a volunteer fire chief who is 52, as well as her 20-year-old son, her son's wife and her son's male friend. They called 911 at 10:13 p.m., police said.

Over the next seven minutes, McKain said, Aguiar kicked his son at least 100 times as he calmly stated that he needed to "get the demons out" of the boy.

"It was like I was on some type of drug or something," McKain recalled Tuesday. "I couldn't believe what was going on. It was like a dream."

She said her boyfriend, Dan Robinson, forcefully argued with Aguiar in an effort to get him to stop, but that he would not. At one point, another woman, 23-year-old Lisa Mota, pulled up in her car, but stayed inside.

"We were looking for rocks or boards on the ground, just to knock him out, get him under control. But we couldn't find anything," McKain said. "We didn't know if he had a knife or any kind of weapon on him."

McKain said she wondered whether Aguiar was on hallucinogenic drugs and whether fighting with him might lead him to hurt several of the witnesses.

She also said it appeared the child was "gone."

People who are second-guessing her and her family can "never know until they're in that situation," McKain said. "We would have loved to knock his head off, too, but we had nothing to knock it off with."

Deputy Royjindar Singh, a spokesman for the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, acknowledged there was some "Monday morning quarterbacking" taking place, but said his agency had no problem with the actions of the witnesses.

'Everybody acts differently'
"Your headlights are shining on a person taking the life out of an infant, and not just shaking and slapping but punching and kicking," Singh said. "Everybody reacts differently."

Sheriff's investigators are still trying to determine why Aguiar, a grocery store worker who recently split up from his schoolteacher wife, killed his son so savagely. The boy's name still has not been released.

Investigators have learned that Aguiar left his home near downtown Turlock before the beating, but they don't know why he drove about 10 miles into an area of cornfields and dairy ranches, Singh said. He said investigators had found no evidence of drug use at Aguiar's house or in his pickup, though results of toxicology tests have not yet come back.

Aguiar's wife, who was in Southern California at the time of the slaying, and others have told investigators that Aguiar "wasn't acting differently than how he normally acts," Singh said. Aguiar's family members, who live in Mexico, were traveling to Stanislaus County to talk to deputies, Singh said.

"As of right now," Singh said, "nobody's saying he was having problems at all. It's baffling. It sounds like there was nothing anyone could have done."

E-mail Demian Bulwa at dbulwa@sfchronicle.com.
24586  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: June 24, 2008, 02:06:14 AM
Excellent.  Do you know what year that was?
24587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: June 23, 2008, 03:06:07 PM
Smearing Judge Kozinski
June 23, 2008; Page A15
Even scandals now operate at Internet speed. Ten days ago, it looked as if an investigative reporter had uncovered a pornographic Web site operated by a federal judge. By last week, the case instead showed how easily privacy is breached online, how mainstream media botch a story, and how bloggers can redeem journalism by reporting facts.

It's not every day that a judge's wife uses a blog to defend her husband as not a pornographer. The Los Angeles Times scoop charged that the chief judge of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Alex Kozinski, had posted sexually explicit material online. His wife, lawyer Marcy Tiffany, then wrote a lengthy letter defending her husband that was published on the L.A.-based blog Patterico.com. "The fact is, Alex is not into porn – he is into funny – and sometimes funny has a sexual character." She complained that the L.A. Times article used "graphic descriptions that make the material sound like hard-core porn when, in fact, it is more accurately described as raunchy humor."

Indeed, Judge Kozinski is well known for taking the law very seriously, but himself not at all seriously. He was born in Romania, came to California when he was 12, and at 18 went on "The Dating Game" and won. At 35, he was the nation's youngest federal appeals court judge. More recently, he applied to and won a gossip blog's "judicial hottie" contest ("I have it on very good authority that discerning females and gay men find graying, pudgy, middle-aged men with an accent close to Gov. Schwarzenegger's almost totally irresistible," he wrote in his application.)

There's even a law review article entitled "Humor, the Law, and Judge Kozinski's Greatest Hits." In his spare time, Judge Kozinski once served as the videogame reviewer for The Wall Street Journal. He sends an occasional blast email of slapstick jokes to friends. Full disclosure: I have been known to laugh out loud at them.

The L.A. Times claimed that Judge Kozinski posted the images and videos in question onto a Web site. Instead, this content – almost all emailed to him by others – existed on a file server never meant to be accessible by the public. You can now find the images online through a Google search, and you will know pornography when you see it, or when you don't see it, but in any case you can judge. For example, what the L.A. Times described as a "video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal" (which got upgraded to a "bestiality" video by the San Francisco Chronicle), was in fact a big hit on YouTube, watched some 500,000 times. It shows a rancher urinating in a field, then being surprised by a donkey chasing him around. Silly, but not pornography. The Wonkette blog dismissed the pictures and video as "the sort of naughtiness you'd find in the dirty birthday cards section at Spencer Gifts."

Still, Judge Kozinski felt compelled to recuse himself from hearing an obscenity case just getting under way in Los Angeles, and also requested an ethics investigation. "Those of us who know him know that he could have tried this case fairly, but the public would have thought the court system had lost its marbles if Kozinski had stayed on the case," said law professor Stephen Gillers. That's true, given the misleading coverage in the mainstream media around the world. The New York Daily News headline was "Trial (& Titillations) End for Kinky Judge."

A subplot was how the L.A. Times got its bad scoop. The source was Cyrus Sanai, a Beverly Hills lawyer whose hyperlitigious antics drew the wrath of several judicial opinions, which Judge Kozinski supported. Mr. Sanai figured out that by adding "/stuff" to the address of Judge Kozinski's Web site, he could access a subdirectory that contained the cartoons and videos. Mr. Sanai admits he shopped the story for months, to several news organizations (including The Wall Street Journal, he says), before the L.A. Times ran with it – timed to wreak havoc with the obscenity trial. For Mr. Sanai, dipping into Judge Kozinski's files and hoping to embarrass him was "part of a litigation strategy."

Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig in his blog objected that "the real story here is how easily we let such a baseless smear travel – and our need is for a better developed immunity (in the sense of immunity from a virus) from this sort of garbage." He compared Mr. Sanai's accessing of the Kozinski family home computer to breaking and entering: "Some disgruntled litigant jiggers the lock, climbs into the window, and starts going through the family's stuff."

All's well that ends well. Within a week of citizen-journalist bloggers establishing this as a nonscandal, it was left to the humor site The Onion to put a fine point on the absurdity of the accusations. It published a fake person-on-the-street interview, soliciting this quote responding to Judge Kozinski having to recuse himself from the obscenity trial: "Well, good luck finding a judge that doesn't run a bestiality site." In this case, the Onion earned its tongue-in-cheek tagline as "America's Finest News Source."

Write to informationage@wsj.com
24588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Fingerprints to save housing? on: June 23, 2008, 02:56:57 PM
Congress's Fingerprint Fine Print
By JOHN BERLAU
June 23, 2008; Page A17

Fingerprints have long been considered to be among the most personal of information. Proposals for creating fingerprint databases are usually controversial and often lead to a spirited public debate. Even when a fingerprint registry will likely help fight terrorism or crime, many still fear it will lead to a surveillance state.

Yet this week a measure creating a federal fingerprint registry totally unrelated to national security or violent crime may clear the Senate with little debate. The legislation would require thousands of individuals not suspected of any wrongdoing to send their prints to the feds.

What issue is so important that it warrants creating a fingerprint database without public debate? Believe it or not, the housing slowdown. The database and fingerprint mandates are contained in the housing bailout bill that will likely come to a vote on Tuesday.

Tucked into a broad, 537-page bill (not counting tax provisions yet to be added) mostly concerned with government backing of mortgage modifications is a requirement for a registration of "loan originators." The provision says that "an individual may not engage in the business of a loan originator without first . . . obtaining a unique identifier." To obtain this "identifier," an individual is required to "furnish" to the newly created Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry "information concerning the applicant's identity, including fingerprints," that will be sent to the FBI and other government agencies.

The bill's definition of "loan originator" could cover a broad swath of employees working for mortgage lenders and brokers and real estate firms, including clerical employees, part-time and seasonal workers. An "originator" is defined as anyone who "takes a residential loan application; and offers or negotiates terms of a residential mortgage loan for compensation or gain." Real estate agents are also covered if they receive any type of compensation from "originators."

The rationale for this new fingerprint registry is thin. Were a significant number of bad loans made by ex-convicts? And how would the targeting of lower-level employees – rather than executives like Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo – stem the creation of problematic mortgages?

But one searches the Congressional Record in vain for any justification. As tech-policy columnist Declan McCullagh recently wrote in CNET.com, "What's a little odd is the lack of public discussion about this new fingerprint database." The fingerprinting requirements are not mentioned in bill summaries and press releases, or even in the table of contents of the Senate bill. Queries to the Senate Banking Committee and various senators haven't been answered.

What is clear is that many senators who fancy themselves champions of civil liberties on national security aren't as troubled in this case. The fingerprint provisions were originally contained in the Senate's S.A.F.E. Mortgage Licensing Act introduced in February. Among the 14 sponsors are two Republicans – Mel Martinez of Florida and Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina – and 12 Democrats. Among the Democratic co-sponsors are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

There were also few objections when Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D., Conn.) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R., Ala.) folded this legislation into the bill that cleared the committee in May. That bill, with the fingerprint provisions, was voted out 19-2, without a single Democrat voting "nay." Perhaps most of the senators haven't read the fingerprint provisions. But if so, what kind of example is that for the lenders and borrowers they are supposedly trying to encourage to use due diligence?

Meanwhile, the free-market activist group FreedomWorks points to a provision of the Senate's housing tax package that would require payment settlement entities, such as eBay and Amazon, to report customer transactions over a certain threshold to the IRS. This would be done as an offset to pay for the housing tax breaks. The Center for Democracy and Technology, a liberal policy group, has testified that a similar proposal "raises serious privacy and data security concerns that are especially significant in the small business context."

As word about these provisions has spread, so has bipartisan outrage. When I wrote on the fingerprint mandate for the Competitive Enterprise Institute-affiliated blog site OpenMarket.org in late May, the post received almost 400 comments. Thom Hartmann, one of the premiere talk radio hosts of the left, has also blasted the database proposal.

But will this outrage be heard by members of Congress hell-bent on "doing something" – anything – on housing? The perverse lesson of these provisions may be that the more trivial the justification for legislation compromising privacy, the easier it is to get through.

Mr. Berlau is director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.

And add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
24589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / EU approves tougher sanctions on: June 23, 2008, 02:05:05 PM
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,370164,00.html

EU Approves Sanctions Against Iran's Largest Bank
Monday, June 23, 2008



BRUSSELS, Belgium —  European Union nations approved new sanctions against Iran on Monday, including an assets freeze of the country's biggest bank.

The Bank of Melli is suspected of providing services to Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs and, in a similar move, was blacklisted by the United States last year.

The EU said it will also announce Tuesday additional financial and travel sanctions — effective immediately — on several Iranian companies and "senior experts" linked to Tehran's nuclear program.

The 27-nation bloc is also studying sanctions against Iran's oil and gas sector — but such a step would probably take several months to implement, diplomats say.

Monday's sanctions were formally adopted without debate at the beginning of EU talks in Luxembourg. EU leaders agreed on the measure at talks in Brussels on Friday.

Western nations fear Iran's uranium enrichment program could be used to make a nuclear bomb. Iran insists its enrichment work is intended to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity and has vowed to push ahead with uranium enrichment.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, held unsuccessful talks with Iranian officials in Tehran last week in the latest diplomatic overture aimed at convincing them to accept an offer of economic incentives in return for an end to its uranium enrichment program.
In Tehran, independent analyst Saeed Laylaz said the freezing of Bank Melli's assets would lead to the Iranian economy becoming more isolated and more dependent on Chinese products.

But he suggested President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might stand to benefit. Targeting Iran "drives inflation up," Laylaz said, "but it helps Ahmadinejad's government hide its failures behind the sanction."
24590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Water on: June 23, 2008, 02:03:37 PM

Cal Am agrees to sell Felton water system for $10.5M
By J.M. BROWN - Sentinel Staff Writer
Article Launched: 05/30/2008 02:54:07 PM PDT


FELTON - California American Water has tentatively agreed to sell the Felton water system to the San Lorenzo Valley Water District for $10.5 million, signalling the likely end of a six-year David-and-Goliath fight between a grass-roots citizens group and the former multinational corporation over local control.

On the eve of what was expected to be a two-week jury trial beginning Monday to set a price for the system serving 1,330 customers, Cal Am and the water district made the deal public in Santa Cruz County Superior Court on Friday after a private mediation hearing this week. Cal Am had chosen months ago to forgo a preliminary trial to determine if there was public interest in the water district buying the system.

"I'm elated," said Jim Graham, spokesman for Felton Friends of Locally Owned Water, adding that he had long hoped that the combined efforts of FLOW and the water district to gain control of the waterworks would pay off. "We were going to keep at them until something happened."

According to terms of the deal, the water district will pay cash for Cal Am's operating assets in Felton, and assume responsibility for a $2.9 million debt for the Kirby Street water treatment plant for which Cal Am secured state loans that taxpayers must repay. As part of the deal, Cal Am donated 250 acres of forested watershed land with the agreement it would not be developed - a move that Cal Am said may mean a tax break for the company.

The district will draw on what's left from an $11 million bond Felton voters approved in 2005 to buy the waterworks, the balance having been spent on legal fees and other costs to get control of the system and fight rate hikes. Jim Mueller, the district's director, said the latest estimate of the bond balance is about $9 million.


"Overall, I would say the water district considers this settlement a victory for the community of Felton," said Mueller, who helped negotiate the deal.

The district's board must approve the purchase, which will involve dipping into the district's reserves as deeply as $1.5 million to come up with the rest of the money necessary to make the transfer. The board is set to vote Thursday, and if the deal is OK'd, the transfer is slated to occur within 60 days.

Mueller said it's unclear whether there would be a rate hike to pay back the reserves. But if the board approved a measure to have customers pay back the reserves, it would increase the average district customer's bill about $2 per month for about 20 years. The district provides service to about 5,900 metered connections in the valley.

Cal Am, which became a publicly traded company last month after Germany-based RWE Aqua Holdings off-loaded it, had long argued that the district could not afford the waterworks. Cal Am mostly recently said the Felton water system was valued around $20 million, which is far short of the most recent offer the district made for the operational assets before this week, which Mueller said was $7.6 million.

Cal Am spokesman Kevin Tilden said, "The settlement package was very substantial and comes at a very high cost to Felton customers." But, he added, the company agreed to accept the district's latest offer because "we had an expectation of where we might end up in court.

"We've fought this for five or six years," he said, adding that FLOW represented "a vocal minority" who "wanted government ownership at any cost."

FLOW began trying to wrest control from Cal Am after the company bought it in 2001.

FLOW has long claimed the district could provide cheaper rates than Cal Am, which this spring was asking for a 57 percent increase for residential customers, to about $200 every two months. The average bimonthly bill for district customers is about $85, Mueller said.

Connie Barr, a longtime FLOW member, said Friday's announcement was gratifying, though she wishes the battle hadn't gone on so long. "Wouldn't it have been nice if it happened the first time we said, 'We would really like to do this ourselves, thank you.'"

Contact J.M. Brown at 429-2410 or jbrown@santacruzsentinel.com.

=================
Cal Am employees sometimes bear brunt of water acrimony
Gwen Mickelson - Sentinel staff writer
Article Launched: 11/05/2006 3:00:00 AM PST
FELTON — Speaking above the soft rush of Fall Creek, Mark Sawran gazed down into a crystal-clear eddy and said, "We're lucky."

Lucky because Fall Creek and the Felton water system's other main sources — three local springs — are of such high quality that water drawn from them needs relatively little treatment before being sent to customers' taps.

But beyond Felton's redwood-shaded creeks and cold, clear artesian springs, a David-and-Goliath showdown over water has been developing over the past four years. Between the clashing factions, California American Water Co.'s local employees, many of whom have served San Lorenzo Valley residents for years, say they sometimes feel caught in the middle.

Unhappy over rate hikes and service, Felton residents have been pushing to buy their water system from the corporate owner, Cal Am. They passed an $11 million bond by a nearly 75 percent margin to purchase it and asked to be operated by neighboring San Lorenzo Valley Water District. Cal Am, however, has maintained throughout the heated debate that the system is not for sale.

"People ask if I'm going to buy a new Mercedes-Benz with the rate increase, and I've been called a Nazi," said Sawran, 50, a systems operator who lives in Scotts Valley.

On a typical day, Sawran, a two-year Cal Am employee, performs tasks including system rounds, meter checks and leak repairs. He likes his job and says he's learned "a tremendous amount" about water treatment and distribution.

The Nazi references come with some frequency, said Sawran, because Cal Am's parent company, American Water, is owned by German conglomerate RWE. RWE is in the process of spinning off its American holdings.

Emotions run high in Felton over the issue. The water treatment plant has had feces and dead animals left in its mailbox, and one employee was shot with a BB gun while reading a meter last year, according to Cal Am spokesman Evan Jacobs.  Complaints about poor service sting for the five employees of the water treatment plant, who are on call 24 hours a day. The employees are Tom Raffaelli, network operations supervisor; system operators Sawran, John Chapin and Brenda Chargin; and office manager Joyce Malone. The employees receive positive comments and treatment, as well, said Sawran. And while he lets most of the sour remarks roll off his back, one thing that is difficult for him to hear is that residents want a condemnation of the system because of bad service.

"I know that's not the truth," said Sawran, who said employees arrive at service calls within a half hour.

He's right, said Felton Friends of Locally Owned Water member Jim Graham. Felton FLOW is leading the charge to get the water system into private hands.

"The service issue in large part wasn't the stuff being done by the local employees," said Graham. "It's the outside contracting firm that Cal Am brings in that doesn't know the area. We're very happy with the local employees."

Also, said Graham, FLOW does not condone actions such as depositing dead animals in the plant's mailbox. "God, no," he said.

But with a number of ratepayers on edge about the water system issue, Sawran wishes some people would give the employees the benefit of the doubt.

"We're just the workers," he said. "We do no decision-making whatsoever, especially on rate increases. But we're the visible public face."

The tension doesn't make him want to leave the job, though.

"I know it's not personal," he said, "so I don't let it bother me."

Contact Gwen Mickelson at gmickelson@santacruzsentinel.com.
24591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ajami: Anti-Americanism is mostly hype on: June 23, 2008, 01:17:33 PM
WSJ

Anti-Americanism Is Mostly Hype
By FOUAD AJAMI
June 23, 2008; Page A17

So America is unloved in Istanbul and Cairo and Karachi: It is an annual ritual, the June release of the Pew global attitudes survey and the laments over the erosion of America's standing in foreign lands.

 
David Gothard 
We were once loved in Anatolia, but now a mere 12% of Turks have a "favorable view" of the U.S. Only 22% of Egyptians think well of us. Pakistan is crucial to the war on terror, but we can only count on the goodwill of 19% of Pakistanis.

American liberalism is heavily invested in this narrative of U.S. isolation. The Shiites have their annual ritual of 10 days of self-flagellation and penance, but this liberal narrative is ceaseless: The world once loved us, and all Parisians were Americans after 9/11, but thanks to President Bush we have squandered that sympathy.

It is an old trick, the use of foreign narrators and witnesses to speak of one's home. Montesquieu gave the genre its timeless rendition in his Persian Letters, published in 1721. No one was fooled, these were Parisian letters, and the Persian travelers, Rica and Usbek, mere stand-ins for an author taking stock of his homeland after the death of Louis XIV and the coming of an age of enlightenment and skepticism.

"This King is a great magician. He exerts authority even over the minds of his subjects; he makes them think what he wants," Rica writes from Paris. "You must not be amazed at what I tell you about this prince: there is another magician, stronger than he. This magician is called the Pope. He will make the King believe that three are only one, or else that the bread one eats is not bread, or that the wine one drinks is not wine, and a thousand other things of the same kind." Handy witnesses, these Persians.

The Pew survey tells us that some foreign precincts show a landslide victory for Barack Obama. France leads the pack; fully 84% of those following the American campaign are confident Mr. Obama will do the right thing in foreign policy, compared with 33% who say that about John McCain. There are similar results in Germany, and a closer margin in Britain. The populations of Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan have scant if any confidence in either candidate.

The deference of American liberal opinion to the coffeehouses of Istanbul and Amman and Karachi is nothing less than astounding. You would not know from these surveys, of course, that anti-Americanism runs deep in the French intellectual scene, and that French thought about the great power across the Atlantic has long been a jumble of envy and condescension. In the fabled years of the Clinton presidency, long before Guantanamo, the torture narrative and the war in Iraq, American pension funds were, in the French telling, raiding their assets, bringing to their homeland dreaded Anglo-Saxon economics, and the merciless winds of mondialisation (globalization).

I grew up in the Arab world in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and anti-Americanism was the standard political language – even for those pining for American visas and green cards. Precious few took this seriously. The attraction to the glamorous, distant society was too strong in the Beirut of my boyhood.

It is no different today in Egypt or Pakistan. And what people tell pollsters who turn up in their midst with their clipboards? In Hosni Mubarak's tyranny, anti-Americanism is the permissible safety valve for Egyptians unable to speak of their despot. We stand between Pharaoh and his frustrated people, and the Egyptians railing against America are giving voice to the disappointment that runs through their life and culture. Scapegoating and anti-Americanism are a substitute for a sober assessment of what ails that old, burdened country.

Nor should we listen too closely to the anti-American hysteria that now grips Turkey. That country was once a serious, earnest land. It knew its place in the world as a bridge between Europe and Islam. But of late it has become the "torn country" that the celebrated political scientist Samuel Huntington said it was, its very identity fought over between the old Kemalist elites and the new Islamists.

No Turkish malady is caused by America, and no cure can come courtesy of the Americans. The Turks giving vent to anti-Americanism are doing a parody of Europe: They were led to believe that the Europe spurning them, and turning down their membership in its club, is given to anti-Americanism, so they took to the same fad. Turkish anti-Americanism is no doubt fueled by the resentment within Turkey of the American war in Iraq that gave protection and liberty to the Kurds. No apology is owed the Turks; indeed, it is they who must reconsider their intolerance of minorities. If the Turks were comfortable with the abnormality of Iraq under Saddam Hussein, it is they who have a problem.

And if there is enthusiasm for Barack Obama on foreign shores, his rise to fame and power must be a tribute to the land that has made this possible. Where else would a boy of marginality and relative poverty find his way to the peak of political life? Certainly not in his father's Kenya, where the tribal origins of the Obamas would have determined young Barack's life-chances. In an Arab world hemmed in by pedigree, where rulers bequeath power to their sons and the lot of the sons is invariably that of the fathers, the tale of Obama is fantasy.

There are lines, and barriers, of race which bedevil Arab lands, and they will be there awaiting a President Obama should he prevail in November. Consider a recent speech by Libya's erratic ruler, Moammar Gadhafi, to his countrymen.

He said he feared that Mr. Obama, as a "black man," might succumb to an "inferiority complex" if he were to come to power. "This is a great menace because Obama might turn out to be more white than the whites, exaggerating his persecution and disdain of blacks. The statements of our Kenyan brother with an American nationality about Jerusalem, and his support for Israelis, and his slighting of the Palestinian people is either a measure of his ignorance of international politics or a lie perpetrated on the Jews in the course of an election campaign."

There is no need to roam distant lands in search of indictments of America's ways. Tales of our demise appear every day in our media. Yes, it is not perfect, this republic of ours. But the possibilities for emancipation and self-improvement it affords are unmatched in other lands.

Meanwhile, a maligned American president now returns from a Europe at peace with American leadership. In France, Germany and Italy, center-right governments are eager to proclaim their identification with American power. Jacques Chirac is gone. Now there is Nicolas Sarkozy, who offered a poetic tribute last November to the American soldiers who fell on French soil, before a joint session of the U.S. Congress. "The children of my generation," he said, "understood that those young Americans, 20 years old, were true heroes to whom they owed the fact that they were free people and not slaves. France will never forget the sacrifice of your children."

The great battle over the Iraq war has subsided, and Europeans who ponder the burning grounds of the Islamic world know the distinction between fashionable anti-Americanism and the international order underpinned by American power. George W. Bush may have been indifferent to political protocol, but he held the line when it truly mattered, and the Europeans have come to understand that appeasement of dictators and brigands begets its own troubles.

It is one thing to rail against the Pax Americana. But after the pollsters are gone, the truth of our contemporary order of states endures. We live in a world held by American power – and benevolence. Nothing prettier, or more just, looms over the horizon.

Mr. Ajami, a Bradley Prize recipient, teaches at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of "The Foreigner's Gift" (Free Press, 2006).
24592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: June 23, 2008, 11:34:45 AM
GM:

I always worry that the content of URLs disappear some day if someone would like to go back and check it out.  Would you mind posting the entire piece, and simply have the URL as a citiation?

TIA,
Marc
24593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: June 23, 2008, 11:28:57 AM
"I don't care whether homosexuality is a choice or not. I still don't think you should discriminate against people for it."

Rachel, forgive my martian linearity  wink but this is not the question presented.  The question presented is whether
a) the Consitution compels the State to make it a crime or civil offense
b) the State should make it a crime or civil offense


"If I honestly believed that baring Gay Boy Scout  troop leads would protect kids from sexual assault I wouldn't have a problem with it.  I think that kids are much more at risk from someone the adults around them trust and someone who has private access to them." 

Right.  And I am not going to give young somewhat older hetero males private access to my daughter as she gets older, and ditto gay males with my son.  It makes perfect sense to me that if I want to allow my son to go on a Cub Scout/Boy Scout camping trip (the epitome of private access-- while dependant upon for safety to boot!) that I don't want a gay man as part of it. 

There's other points you've made to which I would like to respond, but don't have the time at the moment.
24594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington on: June 23, 2008, 10:29:26 AM
"[T]he first transactions of a nation, like those of an individual
upon his first entrance into life make the deepest impression,
and are to form the leading traits in its character."

-- George Washington (letter to John Armstrong, 25 April 1788)

Reference: A Sacred Union of Citizens, Spalding and Garrity (10);
original The Writings of George Washington from the Original
Manuscript S
24595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 22, 2008, 07:16:59 PM
In the mix of all this is this:

"She escaped a poor upbringing in Philadelphia to become a successful model, married an Annapolis classmate of McCain’s and had two children -- Douglas and Andrew -- before renewing what one acquaintance calls “an old flirtation” with McCain."

If I read this correctly, she (and McC) cheated on her husband and broke up a family with two sons to get started with McC.
24596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: June 22, 2008, 04:04:56 PM
I saw that as part of reading their interrogation article-- which I hope to get around to posting later on the "Intel" or "Legal Issues" thread.  What $#%@#$% scum they are at the NYTimes!!! angry angry angry
24597  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: A Father's Question on: June 22, 2008, 10:21:06 AM
GD: 

Your posts have always been in search of Truth and to pull any of them would be a disservice to that search.

Nice post from Karsk.  I particularly liked this passage:

"if you set for yourself the goal of living life with character (as defined by yourself since by my reckoning your own assessment of what right is what counts) then expect challenge in your life. 

"Please forgive the heavy metaphor but the kinds of challenges that you will face are Knightly.  When you decide to live a life of high character, expect to feel alone.  There are not masses and groups of people doing this.  All along the way you will choose by definition a path that diverges from the norm.   Expect to be weary of seeing all manner of behavior that does not live up to your values.  By definition of the choice you make, thats going to be true.

"The bright side of this choice to live more nobly, is that despite the loneliness and the weariness you are not alone.   There are people all over who are shining...who are living according to values.  They  are separated from you by a sea of darkness (at least that is how it feels sometimes).  But to me that is the point and the relevance of those who choose a path of nobility.  If not for the darkness the knight would not be what he is.

"All the people who are trying to live with character are comrades.  So in reality you are not alone."

The only point I am not sure about is this one:

"Expect to be weary of seeing all manner of behavior that does not live up to your values." 

Choose carefully what you ask for, for you will get it.  Although one may fall into a feeling of weariness in reaction to what some others do, IMHO it is not necessary to do so, and I would avoid putting the power of my word to creating it.  Again, this is the only point I would quibble with in a very good post.

TAC!
CD
24598  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 6/22 Guro Crafty seminar at Surf Dog's in Hemet on: June 22, 2008, 10:13:38 AM
Woof All:

It seems that the hiccup in this thread about Father's Day confused Surf Dog into thinking that the seminar was off.  I discovered this late last night.   embarassed

He and I will be rescheduling.  embarassed

 embarassed embarassed embarassed
Guro Crafty
24599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: June 22, 2008, 10:09:26 AM
WOW!

"the fact that it’s a labor intensive treatment doesn’t make very attractive to commercial development"

 cry angry cry
24600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: June 21, 2008, 06:32:13 PM
SB Mig:

Great piece of history!  If you don't put it on the Race thread on the "Science etc" forum for posterity, I will.

Marc
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