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24801  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sentenced to death for drinking on: February 06, 2008, 10:36:49 AM
LA Times

Man Sentenced to Death for Drinking

An Iranian court has sentenced a 22 year old man to death for violating the Islamic Republic's ban on drinking alchohol several times, a news agency said.

Under Iran's Islamic Sharia law, a person who is caught drinking for a fourth time and confesses faces possible capital punishment, even though legal experts say executions for the offense are very rare.

The man, identified only by his first name, Mohsen, can appeal
24802  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: February 06, 2008, 10:32:07 AM
Lebanon cleric advises 'modern Shiites'
Dalia Khamissy / Associated Press
The cleric Fadlallah has issued edicts that shocked conservative Muslims around the world.
Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah's liberal fatwas, or edicts, have shocked conservative Muslims around the world.
By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 6, 2008
BEIRUT -- The ayatollah has a simple piece of advice for any Muslim woman being abused by her husband: Hit him back.

"A woman can respond to physical violence inflicted on her by a man with counter- violence as a self-defense measure," Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanon's senior-most Shiite cleric, wrote in a fatwa late last year that shocked conservative Muslims around the world.

Fadlallah long has been considered a leader of the most radical faction of Shiite Muslims in Lebanon. He endorsed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic Revolution in Iran and was accused of ordering, or at least encouraging, the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Marine barracks here, a charge he and his supporters have denied. He issued fatwas, or religious edicts, calling on the faithful to resist the United States, and urged Muslims to boycott American products.

But the 72-year-old cleric, who agreed to an interview recently in his South Beirut compound, has toned down his rhetoric in recent years. Instead, he espouses a more modest vision for the faithful than the ambitious agenda set forth by Iran, which considers itself the patron of Shiites worldwide and has been trying to increase its influence throughout the Muslim world.

"I don't see there is a unity in the situation of Shiites in the world," he said.

He leaned forward, his piercing brown eyes becoming animated as he discussed religion, politics and international affairs. "I think the current Iranian president lacks diplomatic skills, and I think he creates problems for Iran," he said of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Fadlallah, whose black turban identifies him as a descendant of the prophet Muhammad, focuses on daily bread-and-butter issues of concern to his followers. Such as parenting.

"One of the general principles in raising children is that parents should not consider their child as part of their possessions," he wrote in a ruling translated and placed on the English section of his website, english.bayynat.org.lb. "Instead, they should consider him God's trust that Allah . . . has put in their hands. This is done by loving the child, listening to him and respecting his mind."

Grand ayatollahs, the highest-ranked clerics in the Shiite hierarchy, have the right to interpret primary religious texts and serve as marja, or source of emulation, for their millions of followers in countries with large Shiite populations such as Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India and Bahrain. Most search for a niche. Khomeini espoused a highly politicized version of Islam; Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq advocates piety, modesty and good deeds.

Fadlallah's fatwas and statements seem more like daytime talk show fodder.

"Sistani is very popular in the Shiite world, but he's not involved in the daily lives of Shiites," said Fadlallah's aide, Hani Abdullah. "This is why Fadlallah is more of a reference for modern Shiites."

On gender issues in particular, he takes positions that raise eyebrows among his conservative counterparts, such as questioning the conventional Islamic prohibition on female judges and challenging the traditional view that a woman's place is in the house and the man's in the workplace.

"The belief that it is disgraceful for the man to manage household tasks is derived from the social culture and not from Islam," he says in a statement on his website. "Personally, I think that no woman would be obliged to bring her social life to a standstill just because she is being occupied with her children."

Also from his website: "Knowledge is a merit for man and woman equally, and the importance of acquiring it is identical to both of them."

A statement from Fadlallah's office said he opposed a man "using any sort of violence against a woman, even in the form of insults and harsh words."

He also has addressed issues such as cloning and plastic surgery.

"Mostly his fatwas are on the side of modernity and progress," said Fawwaz Traboulsi, a Lebanese historian and journalist. "He's very influential, and he's got a lot of money."

His most liberal rulings and attempts to distance Lebanese Shiites from Iran's policies have angered some Shiite clerics close to the Islamic militant group Hezbollah and its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Fadlallah was once Hezbollah's spiritual leader, but now the two camps compete for donations from wealthy Shiites, who traditionally have given more money to him.

"There's a real rivalry with Nasrallah, who has become both a military and religious leader," Traboulsi said. "Many conservative Hezbollah clerics are reacting against Fadlallah's rulings."

Fadlallah appears to have eased his anti-American stances, even though he and others suspect U.S. operatives were behind an attempt on his life in 1985, apparently as retaliation in the belief that he had ordered the Marine barracks attack. The massive car bomb near his home killed more than 80 people in an apartment block, but he was unhurt.

He is critical of the Bush administration but takes pains to underscore that he's not anti-American. He recently answered a question about astronomy and Ramadan posed by a U.S. Marine, a decision criticized by other clerics. He was among the first religious leaders in the Middle East to condemn the Sept. 11 attacks.

But Fadlallah remains a staunch critic of Israel, once describing the Jewish state as "a conglomerate of people who come from all parts of the world to live in Palestine on the ruins of another people."
24803  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 06, 2008, 10:24:29 AM
Canadians need help fighting the resurgent Taliban in Kandahar. A top provincial official says only Americans can do the job.
By Bruce Wallace, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 6, 2008
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- As the most powerful Afghan official in the troubled southern province of Kandahar, Ahmed Wali Karzai says he knows just how to tame the shadowy Taliban campaign of suicide bombs and assassinations that have raised the specter of a country sliding toward anarchy.

He wants more American soldiers on the ground.

"The Canadians are fine, but Americans are Americans -- the mentality is different," said Karzai, chairman of the provincial council in Kandahar where the Canadian-led military mission has struggled to contain the regrouped Taliban.

Amid the recent deluge of discouraging reports citing declining security in swaths of southern Afghanistan, Karzai's is a rare voice of optimism, claiming that U.S. special forces already have begun to turn the tide in Kandahar with targeted strikes against individual commanders of the fundamentalist group, which was ousted from power six years ago.

"These operations are extremely quiet. They cause no civilian casualties and no damage to the villages," said Karzai, whose power derives in part from being the younger brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"The Americans are very professional," he said. "They go in; they get out. It's just like you see in the movies."

Karzai is about to get his wish for a greater American presence. About 3,200 U.S. Marines are set to deploy to Afghanistan in coming weeks, most of them ticketed for a seven-month stay in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban's traditional heartland and home of its revived insurgency.

Beleaguered Canadians in Kandahar can't wait for the Americans to arrive either. They acknowledge that their 2,500 troops have not been enough to create much of a footprint across the province. And they say they are not able to undertake regular patrols of the dangerous back roads in the fertile farming region outside the city of Kandahar, with the result that the Taliban now operates with impunity in some villages not far from the provincial capital.

The implications of a Taliban comeback are being felt far beyond Kandahar, placing a major stress on the 41,000-strong international alliance, led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, that was supposed to secure and rebuild all of Afghanistan. The jump in insurgent violence over the last two years has led to recriminations within NATO, with the U.S. military leaders questioning whether their partners have the stomach for the fight against the Taliban, and the Canadians, British and Dutch complaining that risks are not being evenly shared across the alliance.

The Canadian government recently warned that it would end its mission in Kandahar by early 2009 unless NATO sends an additional 1,000 soldiers into the fray. The British are also appealing for help containing an equally violent insurgency in neighboring Helmand province.

And the violence has opened up wide disagreements over strategy, mostly over how much force to direct against the Taliban.

In Kandahar, the Canadians are particularly bitter over U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' widely quoted comments last month that some of America's allies "don't know how to do counterinsurgency operations."

His unusually pointed criticism was part of a wider whispering campaign by American officials that accuses Canadian and European forces of being locked in a peacekeeping mind-set, of playing fanciful diplomatic games trying to woo less extreme elements of the Taliban away from the hard core, and of not pushing Afghan soldiers into the forefront of counterinsurgency missions.

"I frankly don't know where Gates gets that," said Brig. Gen. Guy Laroche, who commands the Canadian contingent in Kandahar. Laroche contends that training the Afghan army and police to take over the sharp end of the fighting is actually now the centerpiece of the Canadian approach in Kandahar.

And suggestions that the Canadians might be trying to avoid casualties enrages soldiers who have been taking a pounding from roadside bombs. With 78 soldiers and one diplomat killed since 2002, Canada has the highest casualty percentage among all nations in the NATO forces, and Canadian officers say attacks against troops in Kandahar rose by 50% last year from 2006.

Laroche said there is no friction between Canadian and American troops on the ground. Yet Canadian soldiers and diplomats also say they do not share what some see as an American obsession with tracking down the Taliban.

"We're not hunting Taliban," Laroche said. "We're not going to win by killing every Taliban. We're going to win by getting the Afghan population to say 'enough' to the Taliban."

Canadian troops did initially find themselves engaged in ferocious fighting with the Taliban when they took over command of the NATO forces in the province in 2006. But the Taliban has mostly avoided direct engagements since then, and Laroche says he is happiest avoiding the kinds of clashes that can kill civilians.

Instead, the Canadians say their counterinsurgency strategy is based on securing areas where productive reconstruction and development can occur: supervising the recent completion of a bridge across the Arghandab River north of the city of Kandahar using well-paid local labor, and a road-paving project that will employ 400 Afghans.

Yet the Canadians say their attempt to build trust among the people of Kandahar is undermined by confusion surrounding the future of the mission.

"The Afghans have to make a decision about where to put their loyalties," said one Canadian officer who deals with the people in Kandahar on a regular basis. "They say, 'You're here during the day, a couple of times a week, but the Taliban are here all the time.' I tell them not to worry, that we're staying, that the rest is just politics.

"But they worry that they are going to be stuck with the Taliban."
24804  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: YEAR OF THE RAT! on: February 06, 2008, 09:21:39 AM
Woof C-Bad Dog:

Does this mean that the Hillbillary Clintons are going to win? tongue cheesy

PS:  I am a Dragon, Water Dragon to be precise.
24805  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Father sodomizes stepson in revenge for rape of daughter on: February 06, 2008, 09:19:46 AM
http://www.breitbart.tv/?p=39614

"Blind rage just consumed everything - all the anger, the fury. When I calmed down, the police were here, and I was in cuffs.”

Former boxer who killed pedophile wins prosecutors’ hearts
30.01.2008 Source: Pravda.Ru
URL: http://english.pravda.ru/societ...53-pedophile-0

Law-enforcement agencies of St.Petersburg investigate a murder case filed against former boxer Alexander Kuznetsov who murdered a pedophile rapist. The jury will decide the man’s fate in the next several days. It is not ruled out that Kuznetsov can be fully acquitted, Vesti.ru reports.

The former athlete committed the crime in a state of temporary insanity on New Year’s night, January 1, 2008. Alexander Kuznetsov entered the apartment building where he lived with his family and saw an unidentified adult male abusing a little boy. The boy was Kuznetsov’s eight-year-old adopted son.

The defendant said that the boy was unconscious, beaten and stripped. The boy’s step-father, formerly a professional boxer, killed the pedophile with a few blows. The latter was subsequently identified as a 20-year-old native of Uzbekistan (a former republic of the Soviet Union), a student at one of Russian universities.

“I wanted to detain him. I don’t know how it happened. I could not control myself,” Kuznetsov said at court.

There are no eyewitnesses in the case, but all facts testify to Kuznetsov’s honesty. Prosecutors tend to believe the defendant too. The state of affairs will be cleared out completely when investigators are granted a decision to interrogate the boy, the victim of attempted rape. Psychologists do not allow to conduct the procedure at the moment yet not to harm the child.

For the time being, Alexander Kuznetsov has been charged with causing grievous severe bodily harm entailing a lethal outcome. The defendant can be jailed for up to ten years.

Alexander Kuznetsov’s case is reminiscent of that of Alexandra Ivannikova, a female resident of Moscow. The young woman was charged with murder in 2003. Ivannikova, was returning home late at night on 8 December 2003. On her way home, the woman decided to flag down a car. The first driver was able to take the woman home only halfway. Alexandra Ivannikova had to stop another car. Instead of taking the woman to her address, the young driver, named only as Sergei B., stopped the car in a dark side street and asked the woman to perform oral sex on him.

The driver was trying to force the girl to oral sex, but she was fighting. When Alexandra said “Wait” and reached out to her purse, Sergei loosened the grip: the young man apparently thought that the girl wanted to take a condom. The girl pulled out a small kitchen knife and stabbed the man in his leg. The blade went into the femoral artery and caused profuse bleeding. Alexandra opened the door of the car and escaped. Sergei B. died from loss of blood.

Ivannikova was fully acquitted on November 25, 2005.

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
Pravda.ru
24806  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 06, 2008, 09:12:17 AM
Good find!
==============
Obama claims delegate lead

By: Mike Allen
Feb 6, 2008 08:24 AM EST
Updated: February 6, 2008 09:47 AM EST
 
 
   
 
 
In a surprise twist after a chaotic Super Tuesday, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) passed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in network tallies of the number of delegates the candidates racked up last night.

The Obama camp projects topping Clinton by nine delegates, 845 to 836.

NBC News, which is projecting delegates based on the Democratic Party's complex formula, figures Obama will wind up with 840 to 849 delegates, versus 829 to 838 for Clinton.

Clinton was portrayed in many news accounts as the night’s big winner, but Obama’s campaign says he wound up with a higher total where it really counts — the delegates who will choose the party’s nominee at this summer’s Democratic convention.

With the delegate count still under way, NBC News said Obama appears to have won around 840 delegates in yesterday’s contests, while Clinton earned about 830 — “give or take a few,” Tim Russert, the network’s Washington bureau chief, said on the “Today” show.

The running totals for the two, which includes previous contests and the party officials known as “superdelegates,” are only about 70 delegates apart, Russert said.

The bottom line is that the two are virtually tied.



Obama won 13 states, some of them smaller, and Clinton won eight.

On Wednesday morning, the battle was on to shape public perceptions about Tuesday.

The Clinton campaign said it was crunching its delegate numbers but was not sure it was correct that Obama got more.

The Obama campaign sent an e-mailed statement titled: “Obama wins Super Tuesday by winning more states and more delegates.”

Campaign Manager David Plouffe said: “By winning a majority of delegates and a majority of the states, Barack Obama won an important Super Tuesday victory over Sen. Clinton in the closest thing we have to a national primary.”

“From Colorado and Utah in the West to Georgia and Alabama in the South to Sen. Clinton’s backyard in Connecticut, Obama showed that he can win the support of Americans of every race, gender and political party in every region of the country,” Plouffe said. “That’s why he’s on track to win Democratic nomination, and that’s why he’s the best candidate to defeat John McCain in November.”

The Obama campaign attached an Excel spreadsheet containing “state-by-state estimates of the pledged delegates we won last night, which total 845 for Obama and 836 for Clinton — bringing the to-date total of delegates to 908 for Obama, 884 for Clinton.”

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0208/8358.html



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



Dems head for messy nomination process
By: Roger Simon
February 6, 2008 12:54 AM EST
 
 
   
 
 
The Democrats may be heading for a fine mess.

Because of party reforms in the past and a close race for delegates this year, a nightmare scenario is building for the Democratic National Convention in August: It is easy to imagine that Barack Obama could get to Denver with more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton, but that she could get the nomination based on the votes of the superdelegates.

“And that,” a senior Obama aide told me Tuesday night, “would create havoc.”

Pledged delegates are those won in primaries and cacucuses. Superdelegates are party big-shots.

The Associated Press, CNN, CBS and a website called 2008 Democratic Convention Watch all disagree on exactly how the superdelegates are currently split.

But they all agree that Clinton has more of them than Obama, with hundreds still up for grabs.

Being a superdelegate is usually just a way of getting to go to the convention, cast a meaningless vote and have a good time.

But that could change this year.

And that’s because superdelegates make up one-fifth of all the delegates at the convention, and this year they could determine the nominee.

Why?

As Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson puts it: “The process is designed really to avoid picking a nominee rather than pick one.”

In other words, by banning winner-take-all contests and by awarding delegates on a proportional basis, the Democrats draw out the process.

They do this to be “fair” and to protect underdog candidates.

Usually it doesn’t matter. But this time it could because the pledged delegate race could be so close.

“We have a 15 pledged delegate lead going into tonight,” David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, said on Super Tuesday evening.

(The number, with California still being counted, would grow to 43 according to the Obama campaign.)

“And with the superdelegates, we have made real progress. Before Iowa, Sen. Clinton had a lead over 100 to 120 and we have whittled that down to 55 by our count. A lot of [superdelegates] who chose Sen. Clinton, chose her last year. We think we will continue to do well.”

The system of superdelegates was invented not just to reward party fatcats, but to make sure “fairness” did not get out of hand.

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



 
   
 
 
Page 2


Superdelegates are designed to protect front-runners and make sure dark horses don’t run away with things.  Superdelegates grow in number as the party gets more successful: They include all Democratic members of Congress, members of the Democratic National Committee, Democratic governors.  They also are the party warhorses and include “all former Democratic presidents, all former Democratic vice presidents, all former Democratic leaders of the U.S. Senate, all former Democratic speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic minority leaders, as applicable, and all former chairs of the Democratic National Committee.”

This means that not only Bill Clinton, but Terry McAuliffe, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, are superdelegates. And their votes count just as much as the delegates chosen by actual primary voters.

But what happens if the margin of victory at the convention is the superdelegates. Is that the the way the party really will choose a nominee? By letting the big-shots pick the winner?

Instead, there could be a huge floor flight. The convention can make whatever rules it wants, and I am guessing there would be a fight to bar the superdelegates and accept the votes of only the pledged delegates.

And then there is the problem of Florida and Michigan, whose delegates, both pledged and superdelegates, are currently banned.

The Clinton campaign has announced it wants them to count.

“There is a role for superdelegates as per the rules of our party, and they are not rules that we set,” Wolfson of the Clinton campaign said. “We will play under rules we are given. [But] we believe the delegates from Michigan and Florida ought to be seated.

But how do you really do that? In Michigan, Hillary Clinton was the only name on the Democratic ballot. In Florida, Democratic candidates were banned from campaigning.   Are the Democrats really going to seat them if they could make the difference in who wins and who loses?

As I said, a fine mess. Which, quite possibly, could lead to something we are not used to: a convention that is more than just a TV show whose ending we know in advance.


http://www.politico.com/rogersimon/
 



 
24807  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Stimulus Markets on: February 06, 2008, 08:58:31 AM
The 'Stimulus' Markets
February 6, 2008
WSJ
President Bush and Congress are marching arm in arm to pass their economic "stimulus," but it's clear that at least one group of observers isn't impressed: investors. They blew right through all the Beltway happy talk yesterday, selling off the major stock indexes by some 3% or so on an ugly day.

Investors were more impressed, or we should say depressed, by the plunge in the Institute for Supply Management's services index for January. The ISM survey took a header to 41.9, down from 54.4 for December, which suggests a decline in the service economy for the first time in nearly five years. Any reading below 50 indicates contraction, so January's reading is another talking point for those who think the economy is heading toward recession.

Heretofore, the recession evidence had been decidedly mixed. Friday's Labor Department jobs report for January was rotten with a decline of 17,000, but a private sector survey that's typically accurate found 130,000 new jobs. Durable goods were strong last week, and the ISM manufacturing survey also showed surprising strength above recession levels. But with services now such a dominant part of the U.S. economy, there's no sugar-coating yesterday's report.

Naturally, the ISM news encouraged predictions that the Federal Reserve will have to cut interest rates even more than it has in the past two weeks. The Fed's Open Market Committee next meets on March 18, but given its recent willingness to respond to Wall Street's demands, look for more voices to encourage another big "emergency" interest rate cut before then.

In case the Fed still cares, however, we'd note that yesterday's ISM report was hardly reassuring on prices. The prices paid index came in at 70.7, down only slightly from December's 71.5, which suggests considerable upward pricing pressure. In the 1970s, the word for this kind of predicament was "stagflation."

And, much like the 1970s, the political class is riding to the fiscal rescue with a "jobs program" designed mostly to preserve its own jobs. The House passed its $146 billion version of tax rebates and tax credits last week, while the Senate wants to raise the bidding to $157 billion. Republicans tried to resist this last week, but yesterday the White House signaled it will roll over again. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson said he'll "work something out" on expanding the tax rebates to include 20 million retirees.

These one-time federal checks will give Americans a little more ready cash in time for Election Day, but they aren't impressing investors worried about recession. Yesterday's selloff came despite the White House concession to the Senate, and perhaps even because of it. The real damage from this exercise in bipartisan self-delusion is the lost opportunity for a serious tax cut that would increase incentives for capital investment and risk-taking.

Meanwhile, Senator John Sununu (R., N.H.) is being attacked by Democrats for voting against the extra Senate "stimulus" last week. As one of the strongest pro-growth voices still left in the Senate, but facing a tough re-election battle, Mr. Sununu's prospects aren't helped by yesterday's White House retreat. Mark that down as another reason investors can be forgiven for looking at Washington, and then selling stocks.
24808  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: February 06, 2008, 08:55:44 AM
WSJ

Tall Torture Tales
February 6, 2008; Page A18
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri planned the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Abu Zubaydah was the mastermind of the foiled millennium terrorist attacks, which had Los Angeles airport as one of its targets. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed directed the September 11 attacks, and has claimed to have personally beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl.

 
All three men were captured by the CIA in 2002 and waterboarded in the course of their interrogations. They are also the only U.S. detainees to have been waterboarded. That fact, publicly confirmed yesterday by CIA Director Michael Hayden, shreds whatever is left to the so-called torture narrative, according to which the Bush Administration has engaged in widespread, needless and systematic torture of detainees.

Instead, we have sworn public testimony that the waterboarding was conducted against the three individuals best positioned to know about impending terrorist atrocities. The interrogations took place when a second major terrorist attack was widely seen as inevitable. And we know that the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah helped lead to the capture of KSM, and to the foiling of an active terrorist plot against the United States.

 
The waterboarding was conducted by intelligence professionals who understood they were operating not only with the approval of the Justice Department but also the informed consent of key Congressional leaders, including Democrat Jay Rockefeller, then the ranking minority Member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

In his own testimony yesterday, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell refused to rule out the use of waterboarding in the future, though he said it would have to be approved by the President and Attorney General. To the extent that his comments provide a measure of uncertainty to terrorist detainees who might otherwise think they have nothing to fear from their captors, this helps make us safer.
24809  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interesting Stratfor.com Read on: February 06, 2008, 08:34:15 AM
Foreign Policy and the President's Irrelevance
February 5, 2008 | 2051 GMT
By George Friedman

We are now a year away from the inauguration of a new president, and Super Tuesday has arrived, when it seems likely that the Democratic and Republican nominees will start to become obvious. At the moment, there is a toss-up between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton among the Democrats, while John McCain appears to be moving in front of Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee among the Republicans. It seems an opportune time to ask whether it matters who gets the nomination and who ultimately wins the November election, at least from the standpoint of foreign policy.

The candidates’ discussion of foreign policy has focused on one issue: Iraq. Virtually all other major foreign policy issues, from the future of U.S.-Russian relations to the function of NATO to the structure of the U.S. armed forces in the next generation, have been ignored in the public discussions.

The discussion of Iraq has been shaped and reshaped by events. The apparent improvement in the U.S. position in Iraq has quieted that debate as well. At one extreme, Obama has said he favors a rapid U.S. withdrawal, although he has been vague as to the timing. At the other extreme, McCain has endorsed the Bush administration’s handling of the war. This means that even though he has been quite pro-surge, he does not oppose withdrawal in principle but does insist on not setting a timeline for one. The others’ views are less clear.

The consensus on foreign policy is the most interesting feature of the election, especially regarding Iraq. We don’t mean the posturing or the shouting or the attempt to position one candidate against the others. We mean two things: first, what the candidates are saying after the passion is boiled away, and second, what they are likely to do if they become president.

There is, of course, a great deal of discussion about who supported or opposed what and when. That is not a trivial discussion, but it doesn’t really point to what anyone will do. On a second level, there is the discussion about whether the United States should withdraw from Iraq. Even here, there is actually little that divides the candidates. The real question is when that withdrawal should take place, over what period of time and whether the timeline should be announced.

There is no candidate arguing for the permanent stationing of more than 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. There are those who believe that political ends can and should be achieved in Iraq, and that the drawdown of forces should be keyed to achieving those ends. That is essentially the Bush policy. Then there are those who believe that the United States not only has failed to achieve its political goals but also, in fact, is not going to achieve them. Under this reasoning, the United States ought to be prepared to withdraw from Iraq on a timetable that is indifferent to the situation on the ground.

This has been Obama’s position to this point, and it distinguishes him from other candidates — including Clinton, who has been much less clear on what her policy going forward would be. But even Obama’s emphasis, if not his outright position, has shifted as a political resolution in Iraq has appeared more achievable. He remains committed to a withdrawal from Iraq, but he is not clear on the timeline. He calls for having all U.S. combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months, but qualifies his statement by saying that if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes against the group. Since al Qaeda is in fact building a base within Iraq, Obama’s commitment to having troops in Iraq is open-ended.

The shift in Obama’s emphasis — and this is the important point — means his position on Iraq is not really different from that of McCain, the most pro-Bush candidate. Events have bypassed the stance that the situation on the ground is hopeless, so even Obama’s position has tacked toward a phased withdrawal based on political evolutions.

It has long been said that presidential candidates make promises but do what they want if elected. In foreign policy, presidential candidates make promises and, if elected, do what they must to get re-elected. Assume that the situation in Iraq does not deteriorate dramatically, which is always a possibility, and assume a president is elected who would simply withdraw troops from Iraq. The withdrawal from Iraq obviously would increase Iranian power and presence in Iraq. That, in turn, would precipitate a crisis between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two powers with substantial differences dividing them. The United States would then face the question of whether to support the Saudis against Iran. Placing forces in Saudi Arabia is the last thing the Americans or the Saudis want. But there is one thing that the Americans want less: Iranian dominance of the Arabian Peninsula.

Any president who simply withdrew forces from Iraq without a political settlement would find himself or herself in an enormously difficult position. Indeed, such a president would find himself or herself in a politically untenable position. The consequences of a withdrawal are as substantial as the consequences of remaining. The decline in violence and the emergence of some semblance of a political process tilts the politics of decision-making toward a phased withdrawal based on improvements on the ground and away from a phased withdrawal based on the premise that the situation on the ground will not improve. Therefore, even assuming Obama wins the nomination and the presidency, the likelihood of a rapid, unilateral withdrawal is minimal. The political cost of the consequences would be too high, and he wouldn’t be able to afford it.

Though Obama is the one outrider from the general consensus on Iraq, we would argue that the relative rhetorical consensus among the candidates extends to a practical consensus. It is not that presidents simply lie. It is that presidents frequently find themselves in situations where the things they want to do and the things they can do — and must do — diverge. We have written previously about situations in which policymakers are not really free to make policy. The consequences of policy choices constrain the policymaker. A president could choose a range of policies. But most have unacceptable outcomes, so geopolitical realities herd presidents in certain directions.

At least at this point in its cycle, Iraq is such a situation. The debate over Iraq thus mostly has focused on whether a candidate supported the war in the beginning. The debate over what is to be done now was more a matter of perception than reality in the past, and it certainly is much more muted today. To the extent they ever existed, the policy choices have evaporated.

The candidates’ consensus is even more intense regarding the rest of the world. The major geopolitical evolutions — such as the re-emergence of an assertive Russia, Chinese power growing beyond the economic realm and the future of the European Union — are simply nonissues.

When you drill down into position papers that are written but not meant to be read — and which certainly are not devised by the candidates — you find some interesting thoughts. But for the most part, the positions are clear. The candidates are concerned about Russia’s growing internal authoritarianism and hope it ends. The candidates are concerned about the impact of China on American jobs but generally are committed to variations on free trade. They are also concerned about growing authoritarianism in China and hope it ends. On the unification of Europe, they have no objections.

This might appear vapid, but we would argue that it really isn’t. In spite of the constitutional power of the U.S. president in foreign policy, in most cases, the president really doesn’t have a choice. Policies have institutionalized themselves over the decades, and shifting those policies has costs that presidents can’t absorb. There is a reason the United States behaves as it does toward Russia, China and Europe, and these reasons usually are powerful. Presidents do not simply make policy. Rather, they align themselves with existing reality. For example, since the American public doesn’t care about European unification, there is no point in debating the subject. There are no decisions to be made on such issues. There is only the illusion of decisions.

There is a deeper reason as well. The United States does not simply decide on policies. It responds to a world that is setting America’s agenda. During the 2000 campaign, the most important issue that would dominate the American presidency regardless of who was elected never was discussed: 9/11. Whatever the presidential candidates thought would or wouldn’t be important, someone else was going to set the agenda.

The issue of policies versus character has been discussed many times. One school of thought holds that the foreign policies advocated by a presidential candidate are the things to look at. In fact, the candidate can advocate whatever he or she wants, but foreign policy is frequently defined by the world and not by the president. In many cases, it is impossible to know what the issue is going to be, meaning the candidates’ positions on various topics are irrelevant. The decisions that are going to matter are going to force the president’s hand, not the other way around.

The most important decisions made by Roosevelt before and during World War II were never anticipated by him or by the voters when he was first elected. Wilson didn’t know he would be judged by Versailles, Truman didn’t know he would be judged by Korea and Bush didn’t know he would be judged by 9/11 and its aftermath. None of them had position papers on these issues because none of them anticipated the events. They couldn’t.

That is why it is not disturbing that the candidates are drifting toward consensus on Iraq and have no clear and divergent positions elsewhere. This is not simply a consequence of the interest or lack of interest of the American public. It has to do with a hidden dimension of presidential power, and indeed, with the limits of power everywhere. History deals up the agenda, and the options in response are severely constrained. If Thomas Dewey had been elected in 1948, do we really believe the Korean War would have played out differently?

Presidents are not to be judged by how they make history. They are to be judged by how gracefully they submit to the rules that history lays down. The consensus or disinterest of candidates is not important. What is important is this: The dominant foreign policy issue facing the candidates is going to hit them out of the blue one day. Their options will be few, and how quickly they recognize what must be done as opposed to what they would like to do is about all they will be judged by.

We know that Johnson made a terrible hash of Vietnam, while Roosevelt did pretty well in World War II. We strongly suspect that if Johnson had been president during World War II he would be respected and admired today, while if Roosevelt had been president during Vietnam he would be reviled. It’s not that presidents don’t matter. It’s that they don’t matter nearly as much as we would like to think and they would have us believe. Mostly, they are trapped in realities not of their own making.


24810  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Restatement of NIE assessment ignored by NY Times; AQ stronger than ever on: February 06, 2008, 08:04:46 AM
NY Times

WASHINGTON — Al Qaeda is gaining in strength from its refuge in Pakistan and is steadily improving its ability to recruit, train and position operatives capable of carrying out attacks inside the United States, the director of national intelligence told a Senate panel on Tuesday.

Al QaedaThe director, Mike McConnell, told lawmakers that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, remained in control of the terrorist group and had promoted a new generation of lieutenants. He said Al Qaeda was also improving what he called “the last key aspect of its ability to attack the U.S.” — producing militants, including new Western recruits, capable of blending into American society and attacking domestic targets.

A senior intelligence official said Tuesday evening that the testimony was based in part on new evidence that Qaeda operatives in Pakistan were training Westerners, most likely including American citizens, to carry out attacks. The official said there was no indication as yet that Al Qaeda had succeeded in getting operatives into the United States.

The testimony, in an annual assessment of the threats facing the United States, was the latest indication that Al Qaeda appears to have significantly rebuilt a network battered by the American invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks.

It follows a National Intelligence Estimate last summer that described a resurgent Al Qaeda, and could add fuel to criticisms from Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates that the White House focus on Iraq since 2002 has diverted attention and resources from the battle against the Qaeda organization’s core.

In recent weeks, fresh concerns about the threat posed by Al Qaeda have prompted senior Bush administration officials to travel to Pakistan to seek approval for more aggressive American military action against militants based in the tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan.

As part of his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, also offered the government’s most extensive public defense for the use of waterboarding, saying that the C.I.A. had used the harsh interrogation technique against three Qaeda operatives in 2002 and 2003 in a belief that another terrorist attack on the United States was imminent. He identified the three as Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

General Hayden said the technique, which induces a feeling of drowning, had not been used since 2003. Mr. McConnell said that a future C.I.A. request to use waterboarding on a detainee would need to be approved both by Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and by President Bush.

The C.I.A. is the only agency permitted under law to use interrogation methods more aggressive than those used by the American military. Senate Democrats sought to use the hearing to exploit divisions about those techniques.

Both Robert S. Mueller III, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers that their agencies had successfully obtained valuable intelligence from terrorism suspects without using what Mr. Mueller called the “coercive” methods of the C.I.A.

But General Hayden bristled when asked about Congressional attempts to mandate that C.I.A. interrogators be required to use the more limited set of interrogation methods contained in the Army Field Manual, which is used by military interrogators.

“It would make no more sense to apply the Army’s field manual to C.I.A.,” General Hayden said, “than it would to take the Army Field Manual on grooming and apply it to my agency, or the Army Field Manual on recruiting and apply it to my agency. Or, for that matter, the Army Field Manual on sexual orientation and apply it to my agency.”

During the testimony, Mr. McConnell tried to recalibrate somewhat the intelligence agencies’ view of Iran’s nuclear program, telling senators that the public portion of a National Intelligence Estimate released in December placed too much significance on the fact that Iran had halted secret work on nuclear weapons design in 2003.

Mr. McConnell said that weapons design was “probably the least significant part of the program” and that Iran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment meant that it still posed a potential nuclear threat.

The fact that Iran was continuing its enrichment efforts was mentioned in that intelligence assessment, but Republican lawmakers and many conservative commentators have criticized the report as misleading.

Intelligence officials have defended the assessment on Iran as an example of the more rigorous analysis that American spy agencies have adopted in response to the prewar intelligence failures on Iraq. But while Mr. McConnell praised the assessment, he said his office had not been clear enough about its conclusions as it hurried to make it public.

“In retrospect, as I mentioned, I would do some things differently,” he said.

Among his litany of worldwide threats, Mr. McConnell also warned the Senate panel about the growing threat of “cyberattacks” by terror groups or homegrown militants. He said President Bush signed a classified directive in January outlining steps to protect American computer networks.

In his testimony on Al Qaeda, Mr. McConnell said Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri were precluded by “security concerns” from the day-to-day running of the organization. But he said both men “regularly pass inspirational messages and specific operational guidance to their followers through public statements.”

Mr. McConnell said the flow of foreign militants into Iraq slowed somewhat during the final months of 2007. At the same time, however, he warned that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the largely homegrown Sunni insurgent group in Iraq that American officials say is led by foreigners, could shift its focus to carrying out attacks outside Iraq.

Based on captured documents, Mr. McConnell said, fewer than 100 militants from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia to date have left Iraq to establish cells in other countries.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, blamed the Iraq war for undermining the campaign against Al Qaeda.

“The focus of America’s military forces and intelligence resources were mistakenly shifted,” he said, “from delivering a decisive blow against Al Qaeda, which is the enemy.”

24811  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / M. Dowd: Darkness and Light on: February 06, 2008, 07:52:17 AM
Maureen is my idea of , , , well, nevermind.  Regardless, although she usually is to be utterly ignored, I find her interesting to read in this moment to see how the other side sees its intramural contest.
================================================
NYTimes
Darkness and Light

Hillary Clinton denounced Dick Cheney as Darth Vader, but she did not absorb the ultimate lesson of the destructive vice president:

Don’t become so paranoid that you let yourself be overwhelmed by a dark vision.

I think Hillary truly believes that she and Bill are the only ones tough enough to get to the White House. Jack Nicholson endorsed her as “the best man for the job,” and she told David Letterman that “in my White House, we’ll know who wears the pantsuits.” But her pitch is the color of pitch: Because she has absorbed all the hate and body blows from nasty Republicans over the years, she is the best person to absorb more hate and body blows from nasty Republicans.

Darkness seeking darkness. It’s an exhausting specter, and the reason that Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy, Claire McCaskill and so many other Democrats are dashing for daylight and trying to break away from the pathological Clinton path.

“I think we should never be derisive about somebody who has the ability to inspire,” Senator McCaskill told David Gregory on MSNBC on Tuesday. “You know, we’ve had some dark days in this democracy over the last seven years, and today the sun is out. It is shining brightly. I watch these kids, these old and young, these black and white, 20,000 of them, pour into our dome in St. Louis Saturday night, and they feel good about being an American right now. And I think that’s something that we have to capture.”

Tuesday’s voting showed only that the voters, like moviegoers, don’t want a pat ending. Even though Hillary reasserted her strength, corraling New York, California and Kennedy country Massachusetts, she and Obama will battle on in chiaroscuro. Her argument to the Democratic base has gone from a subtext of “You owe me,” or more precisely, “Bill owes me and you owe him,” to a subtext of “Obambi will fold at the first punch from the right.”

Hillary’s strategist Mark Penn argued last week that because the voters have “very limited information” about Obama, the Republican attack machine would tear him down and he would lose the support of independents. Then Penn tried to point the way to negative information on Obama, just to show that Obama wouldn’t be able to survive Republicans pointing the way to negative information.

As she talked Sunday to George Stephanopoulos, a former director of the formidable Clinton war room, Hillary’s case boiled down to the fact that she can be Trouble, as they say about hard-boiled dames in film noir, when Republicans make trouble.

“I have been through these Republican attacks over and over and over again, and I believe that I’ve demonstrated that much to the dismay of the Republicans, I not only can survive, but thrive,” she said.

And on Tuesday night she told supporters, “Let me be clear: I won’t let anyone Swift-boat this country’s future.”

Better the devil you know than the diffident debutante you don’t. Better to go with the Clintons, with all their dysfunction and chaos — the same kind that fueled the Republican hate machine — than to risk the chance that Obama would be mauled like a chew toy in the general election. Better to blow off all the inspiration and the young voters, the independents and the Republicans that Obama is attracting than to take a chance on something as ephemeral as hope. Now that’s Cheney-level paranoia.

Bill is propelled by Cheneyesque paranoia, as well. His visceral reaction to Obama — from the “fairy tale” line to the inappropriate Jesse Jackson comparison — is rooted less in his need to see his wife elected than in his need to see Obama lose, so that Bill’s legacy is protected. If Obama wins, he’ll be seen as the closest thing to J. F. K. since J. F. K. And J. F. K. is Bill’s hero.

For much of the campaign, when matched against Hillary in debates, the Illinois senator seemed out of his weight class. But he has moved up to heavyweight, even while losing five pounds as he has raced around the country. The big question is: Can he go from laconic to iconic to bionic? Will he have the muscle to take on the opposition, from Billary to the Republican hate machine to the terrorists overseas?

“I try to explain to people, I may be skinny but I’m tough,” he told a crowd of more than 15,000 in Hartford the other night, with the Kennedys looking on. “I’m from Chicago.”

The relentless Hillary has been the reticent Obama’s tutor in the Political School for Scandal. He is learning how to take a punch and give one back. When she presents her mythic narrative, the dragon she has slain is the Republican attack machine. Obama told me he doesn’t think about mythic narratives, and Tuesday night in Chicago he was reaching up for “a hymn that will heal this nation and repair the world.”

But, if he wants to be president, he will still have to slay the dragon. And his dragon is the Clinton attack machine, which emerged Tuesday night, not invincible but breathing fire.
24812  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on George Washington on: February 06, 2008, 06:38:44 AM
"His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible
I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity,
of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision.
He was indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good,
and a great man."

-- Thomas Jefferson (on George Washington in a letter to Dr. Walter
Jones, 2 January 1814)

Reference: Jefferson: Writings, Peterson ed., Library of America
(1318-19)
24813  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Redneck and the Game Warden on: February 06, 2008, 12:17:10 AM
A redneck was stopped by a game warden in Tennessee with two ice chests
full of fish. He was leavin' a cove well-known for its fishing.

The game warden asked the man, "Do you have a license to catch those fish?"

"Naw, sir", replied the redneck. "I ain't got none of them there licenses.
You must understand, these here are my pet fish."

"Pet fish?"

"Yeah. Every night, I take these here fish down to the lake and let 'em
swim 'round for awhile. Then, when I whistle, they jump right back into
these here ice chests and I take 'em home."

"That's a bunch of hooey! Fish can't do that."

The redneck looked at the warden for a moment and then said, "It's the
truth Mr. Government Man. I'll show ya. It really works."

"O. K.", said the warden. "I've got to see this!"

The redneck poured the fish into the lake and stood and waited. After
several minutes, the warden says, "Well?"

"Well, what?", says the redneck.

The warden says, "When are you going to call them back?"

"Call who back?"

"The FISH", replied the warden!

"What fish?", replied the redneck.

Moral of the story: We may not be as smart as some city slickers, but we
ain't as dumb as most government employees.
You can say what you want about the South, but you never hear of anyone
retiring and moving north.
24814  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Natalie Halloway on: February 05, 2008, 10:50:21 AM


For me, I file it under the heading of "FOX News' latest cute young usually blrond damsel in distress soap opera".

Why does a case like this get so much attention?
24815  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin: Divine Providence on: February 05, 2008, 10:47:25 AM
"All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed
frequent instances of superintending providence in our favor. To
that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in
peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity.
And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine
that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a
long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs
I see of this truth-that God governs in the affairs of men.
And if a sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice,
is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?""

-- Benjamin Franklin (To Colleagues at the Constitutional
Convention)

Reference: Quoted by James Madison, Notes of Debates in the
Federal Convention of 1787. (New York: W.W. Norton and Company,
1987), pp. 209-
24816  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 05, 2008, 10:46:06 AM
I'm shocked, absolutely shocked!  cheesy

It is really beginning to look like BO could win.  Today is HUGE.
24817  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bolton: Our politicized intel on: February 05, 2008, 08:37:46 AM
Our Politicized Intelligence Services
By JOHN R. BOLTON
February 5, 2008; Page A17

Today, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee (and Thursday on the House side) to give the intelligence community's annual global threat analysis. These hearings are always significant, but the stakes are especially high now because of the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

Criticism of the NIE's politicized, policy-oriented "key judgments" has spanned the political spectrum and caused considerable turmoil in Congress. Few seriously doubt that the NIE gravely damaged the Bush administration's diplomatic strategy. With the intelligence community's credibility and impartiality on the line, Mr. McConnell has an excellent opportunity to correct the NIE's manifold flaws, and repair some of the damage done to international efforts to stop Iran from obtaining deliverable nuclear weapons.

 
There are (at least) three things he should do:

- Explain how the NIE was distorted, and rewrite it objectively to reflect the status of Iran's nuclear programs. The NIE's first key judgment is "we judge with high confidence that in fall, 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." Most of the world, predictably, never got beyond that opinion. Only inveterate footnote hunters noticed the extraordinary accompanying footnote which redefined Iran's "nuclear weapons program" to mean only its "nuclear weapon design and weaponization work," and undeclared uranium conversion and enrichment activities. Card sharks -- not intelligence professionals -- could be proud of this sleight of hand, which grossly mischaracterizes what Iran actually needs for a weapons program.

The NIE later makes clear that Iran's nuclear efforts and capabilities are continuing and growing, that many activities are "dual use" (i.e., for either civil or military purposes), and that Iran's real intentions are unknown. Substantively, therefore, the NIE is not far different from the 2005 NIE, but its first sentence gives a radically different impression.

Here is the first question for Congress: Was the NIE's opening salvo intended to produce policy consequences congenial to Mr. McConnell's own sentiments? If not, how did he miss the obvious consequences that flowed from the NIE within minutes of its public release?

This was a sin of either commission or omission. If the intelligence community intended the NIE's first judgment to have policy ramifications -- in particular to dissuade the Bush administration from a more forceful policy against Iran -- then it was out of line, a sin of commission.

If, on the other hand, Mr. McConnell and others missed the NIE's explosive nature, then this is at best a sin of omission, and perhaps far worse. Will Mr. McConnell say he saw nothing significant in how the NIE was written? Does he believe in fact that the first sentence is the NIE's single most important point? If not, why was it the first sentence?

Why not start by using the NIE's very last key judgment, "we assess with high confidence that Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so." Who decided which sentence should be first and which last? This is not an exercise in style, but a matter of critical importance for American national security.

- Commit that NIEs will abjure policy bias. Policy makers and intelligence community analysts agree that assessing hard capabilities is typically easier than judging the murkier world of intentions. The NIE's judgments on Iran's intentions and sensitivities, however, often sound as though they were written by Supreme Leader Khamenei's psychologist, albeit with precious little factual basis.

While acknowledging that the 2003 halt was due to "pressure," the NIE opines that a combination of pressures and "opportunities for Iran" might cause the halt to be extended, but only if those worthy mullahs in Tehran find the "opportunities" to be "credible." One can only guess where that conclusion comes from, but the NIE's next sentence says "it is difficult to specify what such a combination might be," thus rendering the earlier conclusions not only unsupported, but incomprehensible.

One key proof of the NIE's policy-driven nature is the number of dogs that don't bark. The 2003 halt could have been triggered by the invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein, acts which certainly awakened Moammar Gadhafi and led to Libya renouncing its nuclear-weapons program. But somehow the Iraq war never makes it into the NIE. The 2003 halt is attributed merely to the "exposure of Iran's previously undeclared work." Moreover, the NIE says nothing about Iran's aggressive ballistic missile development program, which bears directly on Iran's intentions: Was it expending large sums only to deliver conventional weapons?

Mr. McConnell should commit the intelligence community to stick to its knitting -- intelligence -- and return its policy enthusiasts to agencies where policy is made.

- Reaffirm the existing policy that NIE key judgments should not be made public. Then, stick to it and enforce discipline against leaks. Press reports say that the White House agreed to make the key judgments public, contrary to a policy adopted only weeks earlier, because the intelligence community warned that the document would otherwise surely leak. Some might see this as blackmail, but at best it represents a failure of both the intelligence community's leadership and rank and file. The only clear victor was Tehran, which might as well have received the NIE via e-mail directly from Mr. McConnell's office.

The intelligence community is not a think tank. It is a clandestine service to advise U.S. decision makers, proud and honorable work that its members once uniformly understood was to remain behind the scenes. This is where it should return.

Whatever the intentions of the drafters of the NIE, it mortally wounded the administration's diplomatic strategy, which was ineffective to begin with. Many applauded the outcome of this internecine bureaucratic warfare, but it is highly risky to allow such outcome-determinative opinions to prevail.

Iran is a critical challenge for the U.S. -- which Mr. McConnell should begin his testimony by stressing -- but the implications of how this NIE was written are also serious. Several members of Congress have suggested an independent analysis of the data underlying the NIE. Mr. McConnell should agree to this, to resolve the disagreements and restore the intelligence community's damaged credibility.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster/Threshold Editions, 2007).

WSJ
24818  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FBI gearing up new biometric database on: February 05, 2008, 08:11:45 AM
http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/02/04/f...ics/index.html

The Next generation of Identification:
I'd expect to see this kind on Alex Jones.
Anyone who is "OK" with this should consider the implications of more weapon bans and domestic spying in tandem with this kind of stuff.
Reads just like "1984".

CLARKSBURG, West Virginia (CNN) -- The FBI is gearing up to create a massive computer database of people's physical characteristics, all part of an effort the bureau says to better identify criminals and terrorists.

But it's an issue that raises major privacy concerns -- what one civil liberties expert says should concern all Americans.
The bureau is expected to announce in coming days the awarding of a $1 billion, 10-year contract to help create the database that will compile an array of biometric information -- from palm prints to eye scans.
Kimberly Del Greco, the FBI's Biometric Services section chief, said adding to the database is "important to protect the borders to keep the terrorists out, protect our citizens, our neighbors, our children so they can have good jobs, and have a safe country to live in."
But it's unnerving to privacy experts.

"It's the beginning of the surveillance society where you can be tracked anywhere, any time and all your movements, and eventually all your activities will be tracked and noted and correlated," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Technology and Liberty Project.

The FBI already has 55 million sets of fingerprints on file. In coming years, the bureau wants to compare palm prints, scars and tattoos, iris eye patterns, and facial shapes. The idea is to combine various pieces of biometric information to positively identify a potential suspect.

A lot will depend on how quickly technology is perfected, according to Thomas Bush, the FBI official in charge of the Clarksburg, West Virginia, facility where the FBI houses its current fingerprint database. Watch what the FBI hopes to gain »

"Fingerprints will still be the big player," Bush, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, told CNN.
But he added, "Whatever the biometric that comes down the road, we need to be able to plug that in and play."
First up, he said, are palm prints. The FBI has already begun collecting images and hopes to soon use these as an additional means of making identifications. Countries that are already using such images find 20 percent of their positive matches come from latent palm prints left at crime scenes, the FBI's Bush said.

The FBI has also started collecting mug shots and pictures of scars and tattoos. These images are being stored for now as the technology is fine-tuned. All of the FBI's biometric data is stored on computers 30-feet underground in the Clarksburg facility.

In addition, the FBI could soon start comparing people's eyes -- specifically the iris, or the colored part of an eye -- as part of its new biometrics program called Next Generation Identification.
Nearby, at West Virginia University's Center for Identification Technology Research, researchers are already testing some of these technologies that will ultimately be used by the FBI.

"The best increase in accuracy will come from fusing different biometrics together," said Bojan Cukic, the co-director of the center.
But while law enforcement officials are excited about the possibilities of these new technologies, privacy advocates are upset the FBI will be collecting so much personal information.

"People who don't think mistakes are going to be made I don't think fly enough," said Steinhardt.
He said thousands of mistakes have been made with the use of the so-called no-fly lists at airports -- and that giving law enforcement widespread data collection techniques should cause major privacy alarms.
"There are real consequences to people," Steinhardt said. Watch concerns over more data collection »
You don't have to be a criminal or a terrorist to be checked against the database. More than 55 percent of the checks the FBI runs involve criminal background checks for people applying for sensitive jobs in government or jobs working with vulnerable people such as children and the elderly, according to the FBI.
The FBI says it hasn't been saving the fingerprints for those checks, but that may change. The FBI plans a so-called "rap-back" service in which an employer could ask the FBI to keep the prints for an employee on file and let the employer know if the person ever has a brush with the law. The FBI says it will first have to clear hurdles with state privacy laws, and people would have to sign waivers allowing their information to be kept.
Critics say people are being forced to give up too much personal information. But Lawrence Hornak, the co-director of the research center at West Virginia University, said it could actually enhance people's privacy.
"It allows you to project your identity as being you," said Hornak. "And it allows people to avoid identity theft, things of that nature." Watch Hornak describe why he thinks it's a "privacy enhancer" »

There remains the question of how reliable these new biometric technologies will be. A 2006 German study looking at facial recognition in a crowded train station found successful matches could be made 60 percent of the time during the day. But when lighting conditions worsened at night, the results shrank to a success rate of 10 to 20 percent.
As work on these technologies continues, researchers are quick to admit what's proven to be the most accurate so far. "Iris technology is perceived today, together with fingerprints, to be the most accurate," said Cukic.

But in the future all kinds of methods may be employed. Some researchers are looking at the way people walk as a possible additional means of identification.

The FBI says it will protect all this personal data and only collect information on criminals and those seeking sensitive jobs.

The ACLU's Steinhardt doesn't believe it will stop there.
"This had started out being a program to track or identify criminals," he said. "Now we're talking about large swaths of the population -- workers, volunteers in youth programs. Eventually, it's going to be everybody."
24819  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pon Paul on illegal immigration on: February 05, 2008, 07:52:58 AM
Ron Paul’s Immigration Pledge

February 4th, 2008 by Dan McCarthy Ron Paul has signed the Numbers USA pledge to oppose amnesty for illegal aliens and protect America’s borders. Here’s the text of the pledge:
NUMBERS USA Pledge
I pledge to oppose amnesty or any other special path to citizenship for the millions of foreign nationals unlawfully present in the United States. As President, I will fully implement enforcement measures that, over time, will lead to the attrition of our illegal immigrant population. I also pledge to make security of our borders a top priority of my administration.
Numbers USA includes six points of understanding as to what the pledge means and what it entails:
1. The 12 million illegal aliens now here will have to go home.
2. They will not get any legal status while here that allows them to remain long-term.
3. Once in their home countries, they may apply for re-admittance to the U.S. as immigrants, visitors or temporary workers through normal channels.
4. But they will not receive any special privileges on the basis of their having been in the U.S. illegally, such as being put to the front of a line.
5. There will be no new categories or programs through which they may re-enter.
6. There will not be an expansion of green cards in any existing categories that will speed up their movement to the front of the line.
-------------

from RonPaul2008.com

The talk must stop. We must secure our borders now. A nation without secure borders is no nation at all. It makes no sense to fight terrorists abroad when our own front door is left unlocked. This is my six point plan:
Physically secure our borders and coastlines. We must do whatever it takes to control entry into our country before we undertake complicated immigration reform proposals.
Enforce visa rules. Immigration officials must track visa holders and deport anyone who overstays their visa or otherwise violates U.S. law. This is especially important when we recall that a number of 9/11 terrorists had expired visas.
No amnesty. Estimates suggest that 10 to 20 million people are in our country illegally. That’s a lot of people to reward for breaking our laws.
No welfare for illegal aliens. Americans have welcomed immigrants who seek opportunity, work hard, and play by the rules. But taxpayers should not pay for illegal immigrants who use hospitals, clinics, schools, roads, and social services.
End birthright citizenship. As long as illegal immigrants know their children born here will be citizens, the incentive to enter the U.S. illegally will remain strong.
Pass true immigration reform. The current system is incoherent and unfair. But current reform proposals would allow up to 60 million more immigrants into our country, according to the Heritage Foundation. This is insanity. Legal immigrants from all countries should face the same rules and waiting periods.
24820  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 04, 2008, 08:28:30 PM
More BO-- this one on his economics.  Its from a liberal website, so linear clarity of thought tends to be fleeting:

http://www.salon.com/tech/htww/index.html
-------------------

The economics of Barack Obama
Writing in the Guardian, Daniel Koffler offers a provocative analysis of the economics of Barack Obama, arguing that the senator and his chief economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee, have put together a platform that is "orthogonal to the traditional liberal-conservative axis." (Thanks to Trade Diversion for the link.)


If this approach needs a name, call it left-libertarianism. Advancements in behavioral economics, public and rational choice theory, and game theory provide us with an opportunity to attend to inequality without crippling the economy, enhancing the coercive power of the state, or infringing on personal liberty (at least not to any extent greater than the welfare state already does; and as much as my libertarian friends might wish otherwise, the welfare state isn't going anywhere). The cost -- higher marginal tax rates -- is real, but eminently justified by the benefits.


On healthcare and on trade, argues Koffler, Obama is "moving more and more in the direction of economic freedom, competition and individual choice." This reflects the influence of Goolsbee, "who agrees with the liberal consensus on the need to address concerns such as income inequality, disparate educational opportunities and, of course, disparate access to healthcare, but breaks sharply from liberal orthodoxy on both the causes of these social ills and the optimal strategy for ameliorating them."


Instead of recommending traditional welfare-state liberalism as a solvent for socioeconomic inequalities and dislocations, Goolsbee promotes programs to essentially democratize the market, protecting and where possible expanding freedom of choice, while simultaneously creating rational, self-interested incentives for individuals to participate in solving collective problems.


In a recent forum for candidate economic advisors sponsored by the New American Foundation, Goolsbee offered an example of what he called Obama's "sleek and easy to use iPod version of government." Suppose the goal is to get Americans to save more by diverting some portion of their income into investment accounts. "The research is very clear," said Goolsbee. The way to get people to start doing that is to "default them into automatic enrollment." So, a worker starts a new job, and 3 percent of his or her paycheck is automatically deposited into an investment account. But if the workers wanted to opt out of such a program, said Goolsbee, they could easily do so.

The proposal manages to include elements of the "nanny-state" approach (we'll pass a law that automatically forces citizens to save more) and yet at the same time tells people that they don't have to participate if they don't want to. Technocratic: yes. Inspiring: maybe not.

Buzzwords like "economic freedom" and "individual choice" make it easy for strategists for other campaigns to attempt to portray Obama as Republican-lite, not to mention open up room for attacks from the left such as those relentlessly delivered by Paul Krugman. But when Goolsbee spoke at the NAF forum, he noted that the critical problem at the heart of the American economy is the growing disparity in income distribution between the richest Americans and the poor and middle class. Over the last six years, said Goolsbee, "the typical worker had not seen income grow hardly at all, while the cost of education, health care and energy have all gone up."

It hardly needs stressing that concerns about income inequality do not generally fall into the category "Republican-lite." But it is also true that Obama appears to be pushing a relatively market-friendly agenda that does not map neatly onto liberal Democratic traditions.

Of course, no one on the left ever accused Bill or Hillary Clinton of being raving liberals. It is one of the many peculiarities of this campaign season that Hillary Clinton's campaign strategists have decided that there is an advantage to be gained in attempting to position her as the progressive candidate, in comparison to Obama. Both candidates are much closer to the center than they are to, say, Ralph Nader. So as California and 20-odd other states get ready for, as Keith Olbermann likes to say, the biggest day of primaries in the history of the universe, should the decisive factor in choosing one or the other be the differences in the tactics they espouse, or how one estimates their chances of winning a general election, and getting the opportunity to execute their plans.

-- Andrew Leonard

24821  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: February 04, 2008, 07:33:17 PM
“The truth is, we are supposed to be taking in individuals from other cultures, not other cultures in their wholeness. That is what American openness is supposed to represent. But we are so far gone that the men who lead us... are not even aware of this. But once again we see the continuum between universal values and multiculturalism. Since human beings can’t live without culture, multiculturalism—that is, to be taken over by other cultures—is the fate of any country unwilling to assert its own culture. Some people are wary of talking of an American culture because they associate it with race. This is erroneous. Culture transcends race. It unites people of different backgrounds. Whether it be Louis Armstrong or Aaron Copland, they are both part of American culture.”—Carol Iannone
24822  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: February 04, 2008, 07:07:16 PM
Nothing serious in this one, just an extended street fight, a woman who intervenes gets hit, more fighting, then a cop drops the winner:

http://www.break.com/index/long-street-fight-ends-with-cop-knockout.html
24823  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Plane vs. Conveyer Belt on: February 04, 2008, 12:08:54 PM
Plane vs. Conveyer Belt: Hell Yeah the Plane Takes Off
by Higgins - January 31, 2008 - 4:20 PM

Last night the Discovery show Mythbusters settled a longstanding debate: whether an airplane on a conveyer belt (running at the same speed, but in the opposite direction as the plane) can take off. The short answer, as liveblogged by Jason Kottke:

HELL YEAH THE PLANE TAKES OFF

It’s a curious problem. As a thought experiment, it seems (at least to me) like the plane shouldn’t take off, since it’s not gaining takeoff velocity relative to the ground. But according to, you know, SCIENCE, the plane doesn’t need to reach takeoff velocity relative to the ground — it just needs lift an appropriate amount of lift. It’s the velocity of the air relative to the wings that counts, which is generated by the action of the engines.

 

Despite explanations of this sort of physicists, the issue wasn’t really settled until last night’s Mythbusters episode — they replicated the experiment on a small scale, then with a real airplane (albeit an ultralight), using a huge tarp dragged by a truck as the “conveyer belt.” Even the plane’s pilot thought the plane wouldn’t take off. When Jason Kottke first blogged about the issue last February, his comment thread was hot with controversy. So Kottke tuned in to Mythbusters last night and liveblogged the event, with results visible above. His exuberance over the plane’s liftoff has resulted in a “HELL YEAH THE PLANE TAKES OFF” tee-shirt available starting at $18. Wow.

 

Watch the Mythbusters clip in question below…. (Note: if this clip is pulled down, I’ll try to dig up another.)

 

See <http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/11750> for the Mythbusters clip...
24824  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: February 04, 2008, 09:01:09 AM
continuacion
================

"Seg�n informes de inteligencia (DEA y Conacuid) los capos eran protegidos por autoridades venezolanas"
Entrevista // Mildred Camero, ex presidenta de la CONACUID
"Jab�n ten�a protecci�n en Venezuela"
http://noticias.eluniversal.com/2008/02/03/pol_art_jabon-tenia-protecc_698735.shtml

ROBERTO GIUSTI
EL UNIVERSAL, domingo 03-02-08

No se anda con rodeos Mildred Camero a la hora de denunciar que funcionarios del Gobierno han protegido y extorsionado a capos colombianos del narcotr�fico, incluyendo a Wilber Varela, alias Jab�n, asesinado el pasado jueves en M�rida. Considerado como el responsable del env�o a EEUU de 70% de la droga que ingresa a ese pa�s, Varela, advierte la ex presidenta de la Conacuid, viv�a en Venezuela desde hace por lo menos cinco a�os.

-�A qu� y a qui�nes se podr�a atribuir el asesinato, en Venezuela, del capo colombiano del narcotr�fico, Wilber Varela (alias Jab�n)?

-El hecho parece extra�o. Durante muchos a�os se se�al� que Wilber Varela operaba en territorio venezolano, movi�ndose entre Apure, Barinas, Portuguesa y Anzo�tegui. Algunos informes daban cuenta de que ten�a una finca en territorio nacional e incluso lleg� a vincul�rsele con la droga decomisada en el aeropuerto de Porlamar, el a�o pasado.

-�Cu�l es la fuente de esos informes?

-Informes confidenciales de inteligencia se�alaron que estaba siendo protegido por autoridades venezolanas y que se mov�a de un lado para otro. �l fue aliado de las FARC pero luego de un tiempo se separ� de �sas para trabajar con el ELN.

-Esa informaci�n, �la obtuvo usted siendo presidenta de la Conacuid (Comisi�n Nacional contra el Uso Il�cito de las Drogas)?

-S�. Esa informaci�n la obtuvimos gracias a las investigaciones sobre las operaciones del Negro Acacio (Tom�s Medina Caracas, acusado de dirigir las operaciones de narcotr�fico de las FARC, muerto por el Ej�rcito colombiano en septiembre del a�o pasado). Luego las investigaciones nos llevaron hasta Jab�n y a Farid Dom�nguez (narcotraficante que habr�a sido protegido por autoridades venezolanas, ahora preso en Colombia). Nosotros trabaj�bamos con la DEA y con el grupo de inteligencia que formamos en la Conacuid.

-Es decir, el Gobierno venezolano ten�a informaci�n de que esos se�ores estaban operando en Venezuela.

-Yo elaboraba informes mensuales para el presidente y el vicepresidente de la Rep�blica.

-�Por qu� afirma que Jab�n y los otros estaban siendo protegidos por autoridades venezolanas?

-Los informes de inteligencia dan cuenta de que estaban siendo protegidos por autoridades venezolanas y que actuaban con absoluta libertad. Ten�an pasaporte y c�dula de identidad venezolanos, adem�s de reunirse con funcionarios gubernamentales de alto rango.

-�Civiles o militares?

-Civiles y militares. Los informes de inteligencia est�n ah�.

-Esos informes, �son de la DEA?

-De la DEA.

-Volvemos a la pregunta inicial: �qui�n y por qu� matan a Jab�n?

Pareciera que el Gobierno est� interesado en demostrar que est� luchando contra el tr�fico de drogas.

-Pero ninguna autoridad venezolana se ha atribuido el hecho.

-Hay informaciones, no confirmadas, seg�n las cuales esos delincuentes son protegidos y extorsionados por autoridades del pa�s y que posteriormente, cuando ya no les interesan, aparecen muertos o son capturados y entregados a los gobiernos de sus pa�ses de origen, como ocurri� con Farid Dom�nguez, quien fue detenido en una quinta de la urbanizaci�n La Lagunita durante una operaci�n conjunta de las autoridades colombo venezolanas.

-�Qu� otra hip�tesis puede manejarse tomando en cuenta que se trata del jefe del cartel del norte del Valle, solicitado por las autoridades de EEUU, por cuya cabeza ofrec�an una recompensa de 5 millones de d�lares, vinculado, seg�n usted dice, primero a las FARC y luego al ELN?

-Los traficantes, las FARC. Eso debe determinarlo, en todo caso, la investigaci�n.

-�Por qu� se separ� de las FARC?

-Por un problema de drogas.

-Una cosa es proteger a alguien que permanece pasivo y otra proteger a alguien que usa el territorio para exportar droga.

-�l trabajaba con el ELN e incluso, de acuerdo con los informes, habr�a participado en algunos intentos por negociar la liberaci�n de rehenes en manos de esa guerrilla.

-Seg�n lo que usted dice, Jab�n permaneci� en Venezuela por lo menos durante cinco a�os, estando las autoridades venezolanas al tanto de esta situaci�n.

-�l se mov�a entre los dos pa�ses, pero permanec�a m�s tiempo aqu� porque estaba sentenciado por las FARC, que lo quer�an liquidar.

-Mientras todo esto ocurr�a, en Italia es recapturado el venezolano Alex del Nogal. �Hay una relaci�n entre las situaciones y los personajes?

-Alex del Nogal siempre ha estado vinculado al tema de las drogas, lavado de dinero y explosivos. �l ha mantenido relaciones con personajes de la sociedad. Pero no creo que se pueda establecer una conexi�n con lo ocurrido en M�rida. Ahora, Del Nogal tiene un prontuario y estuvo detenido en Pa- nam�.

-�Sus relaciones incluyen funcionarios del Gobierno?

-Personas que est�n en el lavado de dinero, incluso funcionarios del Gobierno, pero esta es una informaci�n que no puedo confirmar.

-Usted denuncia complicidades, omisiones, protecciones, relaciones de funcionarios con narcotraficantes y grupos guerrilleros. Implica eso que el Gobierno...

-No puedo hablar del Gobierno como tal. Es obvio que hay mucha gente que hace todo tipo de negocios il�citos y se aprovecha de esta coyuntura. Pero no incluir�a al presidente Ch�vez ni a muchos funcionarios honestos, tanto militares como policiales, que trabajan con gran esp�ritu de servicio.

-Si el Presidente apoya la producci�n de coca en Bo- livia, si se ordena la salida del pa�s de la DEA, si existen v�nculos de funcionarios del Gobierno con la narcoguerrilla, como usted lo se�ala, �qu� conclusiones podemos extraer de todo esto?

-No quisiera llegar a ninguna conclusi�n, pero s� puedo afirmar que el Presidente tiene una gran confusi�n sobre lo que es la coca, la pasta de coca y la coca�na. Evidentemente no ha sido bien asesorado y por eso afirma que la hoja de coca no s�lo es inofensiva sino que resulta beneficiosa. Quiz�s esto obedezca a la campa�a internacional que adelanta el presidente Evo Morales, bajo el nombre de "Soberan�a y coca". El objetivo es legitimar ese producto para que la ONU lo saque de la lista 1 de estupefacientes. El a�o pasado fracas� en su intento de convencer al se�or Antonio Mar�a Costa, director ejecutivo de la Oficina de Naciones Unidas contra las Drogas y el Delito (Onudd), pero sigue buscando apoyos, como el del presidente Ch�vez, para lograr su prop�sito y �ste ha querido ayudar a su amigo.

-�No consiste ese prop�sito en convertir la coca en materia prima con usos diferentes o hay otros fines?

-La ministra boliviana de Desarrollo Rural anunci� el a�o pasado el decomiso de m�s de tres millones de libras de hoja de coca "ilegal, destinada al tr�fico de drogas". Eso quiere decir que la coca boliviana, sembrada en una extensi�n de 20 mil hect�reas, est� destinada, en m�s de 90%, a su procesamiento para la elaboraci�n de coca�na. La misma ministra lo reconoce al informar que en el a�o 2007 se allanaron 6 laboratorios de refinamiento y cuatro de reciclaje, mientras se detuvo a m�s de 4 mil personas dedicadas a estas actividades y se incautaron grandes cantidades de pasta de coca y sacos de maceraci�n.

-�Pero la coca no puede ser utilizada, tambi�n, con fines m�dicos e incluso alimenticios en otros pa�ses?

-Primero se debe decir que las leyes proh�ben a Bolivia exportar coca, pero Morales se empe�a en su objetivo, aduciendo que se puede procesar harina, t� y otros productos.

-Entonces el anuncio del presidente Ch�vez, de construir una planta para el procesamiento de hoja de coca no es factible.

-No lo es. La coca es la materia prima de la coca�na y resulta insustituible. Sin coca no hay coca�na y la mayor parte de la producci�n de coca se procesa para refinar coca�na. La hoja de coca, en su estado original, se mastica con cal, eso activa los alcaloides que contiene la planta y produce un estado de euforia, al tiempo que alivia el cansancio, mitiga el hambre y la sed. Y hasta ah� porque las dem�s propiedades, como las anest�sicas, ya han sido superadas por otros f�rmacos que, a la postre, resultan m�s eficaces y mucho menos adictivos.

24825  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: February 04, 2008, 08:59:30 AM
Recibi' lo siguiente ayer:
----------------------------------------------

Marc:


These two items seem quite incredible. It seems quite obvious that Colombia and possibly the USA have declared an undeclared war on Hugo Chavez. I find it hard to believee that this kind of information would make it to the press without official sanction...






�SENSACIONAL ARTICULO DE LA REVISTA SEMANA DE COLOMBIA (largo pero muy interesante)


La revista colombiana Semana revela hoy un esc�ndalo que va a sacudir al pa�s en los pr�ximos d�as. El General Hugo Carvajal, Director de la DIM,� a quien el reportaje� de esta revista llama "el Montesinos venezolano", estar�a involucrado en la protecci�n de narcotraficantes y terroristas de las FARC. Tambi�n se le acusa de varios asesinatos, entre ellos el de 2 agentes de inteligencia de Colombia despu�s de torturarlos brutalmente.
Se transcribe a continuaci�n el reportaje en el cual SEMANA revela los nexos del General venezolano Hugo Carvajal con las Farc y los narcos:
La gente que le habla al o�do al presidente de Venezuela, Hugo Ch�vez, se cuenta con los dedos de las manos. Y de ese grupo selecto, uno de los m�s cercanos, leales y a quien m�s confianza le tiene es al general Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios: el cerebro de la inteligencia venezolana. El asunto no tendr�a mayor importancia para Colombia de no ser porque desde hace varios a�os, y especialmente en 2007, el nombre del general Carvajal se ha visto salpicado por casos de extrema gravedad que atentan contra la seguridad nacional de Colombia.
Dos agencias de inteligencia de pa�ses con gran experiencia en materia de espionaje tienen informaci�n que consideran altamente confiable de que Carvajal ha facilitado protecci�n y documentos de identificaci�n a guerrilleros y narcotraficantes de Colombia en territorio venezolano �incluido el reci�n asesinado capo W�lber Varela, 'Jab�n'. Y como si fuera poco, el general est� en la mira de estas agencias por su supuesta participaci�n en la tortura y el asesinato de dos miembros del Ej�rcito colombiano que, seg�n informaci�n de Bogot�, persegu�an a guerrilleros que estaban refugiados en Venezuela.
LLo m�s parad�jico es que Hugo Carvajal es un hombre pr�cticamente desconocido en Colombia, a pesar de ser el jefe de la Direcci�n General de Inteligencia Militar (DGIM), un organismo de car�cter militar que est� a la misma altura del Ministerio de Defensa y del Ministerio del Interior y recibe instrucciones, responde y rinde cuentas s�lo al Presidente de la Rep�blica, Hugo Ch�vez. "Hoy en d�a la DGIM es un monstruo de siete cabezas que tiene un perfil relativamente bajo pero su poder es inmenso. Ser�a como si en Colombia existiera una entidad, bajo el mando de un solo hombre, que manejara la Inteligencia de las Fuerzas Militares, la Polic�a, el DAS y el CTI", dijo a SEMANA un oficial de la DGIM que pidi� el anonimato.

�Por qu� se viene a conocer esto ahora? �Qu� se est� moviendo detr�s de todo esto? SEMANA habl� con cuatro oficiales activos de diferentes organismos de inteligencia y de la fuerza p�blica venezolana y ellos explican que la informaci�n comenz� a filtrarse en la medida en que el general Carvajal, con acciones irregulares, se fue granjeando la animadversi�n de sectores de la Fuerza Armada Nacional (FAN) y otros organismos de seguridad.

Dicen los testigos que aparte de sus relaciones con la guerrilla, Carvajal le ha dado gran importancia a la contra inteligencia y ha cometido excesos que van desde cacer�as de brujas injustificadas hasta torturas de miembros de las propias FAN por simples sospechas de deslealtad. Muchos uniformados en el interior de las Fuerzas Militares inconformes con esta situaci�n han decidido denunciar o entregar informaci�n a cambio de recompensas.

Por eso no es extra�o que diarios como El Pa�s, de Espa�a y The Washington Post de Estados Unidos hayan publicado en los �ltimos meses informes sobre los nexos entre uniformados de Venezuela y guerrilleros de las Farc. Ya en octubre de 2005 SEMANA revel� las relaciones de dos generales de la Guardia Nacional (GN) con la mafia colombiana, publicaci�n que dio lugar a que la Vicepresidencia del vecino pa�s anunciara una investigaci�n formal.



Pero ninguna de las revelaciones hasta ahora conocidas es tan grave y preocupante como la informaci�n a la que tuvo acceso esta revista sobre el general Carvajal. SEMANA intent� infructuosamente tener alguna reacci�n por parte de miembros de la�DIM en Caracas. Tambi�n habl� con el encargado de negocios de la Embajada de Venezuela en Bogot� para conocer alguna reacci�n oficial del gobierno venezolano a las denuncias, pero al cierre de esta edici�n no hab�a sido posible.

Habla con 'Grannobles'

Hugo Carvajal naci� el primero de abril de 1960 en Puerto La Cruz, en el occidente de Venezuela. Desde hace ocho a�os est� vinculado a la Direcci�n General de Inteligencia y en julio de 2004 fue nombrado por Ch�vez como director de esa entidad. Pese a su gran poder, es un hombre de un perfil muy bajo. Conocido con el sobrenombre de "El Pollo" por su apariencia f�sica, algunas de las actividades en las que se ha visto involucrado hablan por s� solas.

Un oficial activo de la Guardia Nacional venezolana, que habl� con SEMANA bajo la condici�n de mantener el anonimato, revel� que a mediados de mayo de 2006 el general Carvajal sostuvo una reuni�n con Germ�n Brice�o Su�rez, alias 'Grannobles', un importante jefe de las Farc y hermano del 'Mono Jojoy'. "La reuni�n tuvo lugar en la finca llamada Corocito, ubicada en San Silvestre, estado Barinas. En el lugar hab�a efectivos de la Guardia, la Disip y la DGIM. Era un grupo de aproximadamente 20 personas, aunque hab�a m�s en la seguridad perimetral a cargo de la GN. De la guerrilla estaba Brice�o ('Grannobles') acompa�ado por un peque�o grupo de cinco a siete irregulares. Despu�s, en dos helic�pteros de las FAN llegaron otros 21 guerrilleros", afirma el oficial que dice haber estado presente en el encuentro.



Seg�n �l, el general Carvajal y el guerrillero Brice�o hablaron sobre estrategias de coordinaci�n pol�tica, militar y econ�mica. Carvajal se habr�a comprometido a suministrar apoyo log�stico y comida a los frentes que act�an a lo largo de la frontera. "Brice�o le pidi� a Carvajal protecci�n por parte de la Disip para un grupo de 21 guerrilleros que llegaron en los helic�pteros, ya que operan en diferentes lugares de Venezuela. Le pidi� al general suministrarles a esas personas documentos de identidad as� como credenciales que los acreditaran como miembros de la Disip o de la Dgim para poder moverse mucho m�s tranquilamente en territorio venezolano", dijo el oficial a SEMANA.

Uno de los guerrilleros que gozan de estos privilegios es Yeison Armando Escobar, alias 'Cocorinche', miembro del frente 45 de las Farc. "En octubre del a�o pasado 'Cocorinche' fue uno de los designados por las Farc para coordinar personalmente con el general Carvajal los temas de seguridad y la log�stica para el desplazamiento de Iv�n M�rquez a Miraflores para el encuentro con el presidente Ch�vez", afirm� a SEMANA el oficial de la GN, quien dice adem�s que el subversivo cuenta con carnet de la Disip y de la DGIM, as� como permiso para porte de armas.

Otro de los oficiales que se destap� con SEMANA, un comisario de la Direcci�n de los Servicios de Inteligencia y Prevenci�n, o Polic�a pol�tica (Disip), a�adi� que tambi�n les dieron ese tipo de documentos oficiales a Didier y a�Yesid R�os. "Desde octubre de 2007 ellos est�n viviendo en Isla Margarita y all� cuentan con seguridad permanente por parte de miembros de la DIM, asignados por el general Carvajal". Conocidos en Colombia como 'el clan de los R�os', Didier y Yesid hacen parte de una familia que trabaj� durante a�os para el comandante del Frente 16 de las Farc, Tom�s Medina Caracas, alias el 'Negro Acacio', en env�o de droga y lavado de activos.

Didier, Yesid y otros seis miembros del clan escaparon hacia Venezuela en 2001 despu�s de la ofensiva que lanz� el Ej�rcito contra el 'Negro Acacio' y que fue conocida como Operaci�n Gato Negro. En noviembre de 2005 el DAS y la Fiscal�a colombiana incautaron propiedades que el 'clan de los R�os' administraba para las Farc valoradas en 30.000 millones de pesos.

No es la primera vez que el nombre del general Carvajal aparece vinculado a la protecci�n y suministro de credenciales oficiales de organismos de inteligencia venezolanos a guerrilleros y narcotraficantes. SEMANA tuvo acceso a los carn�s que le fueron suministrados a Herm�goras Gonz�lez, un narco colombiano solicitado en extradici�n por Estados Unidos, quien desde hace varios a�os se refugi� y trafica en el estado Barinas.

El nombre de este narcotraficante colombiano sali� a la luz p�blica en octubre del a�o pasado en un reportaje de The Washington Post como uno de los mayores exportadores de coca hacia Norteam�rica y Europa. Herm�goras, que es enlace de traficantes colombianos, entre ellos el asesinado Varela, se mueve libremente por Venezuela con dos identificaciones oficiales. Una lo acredita como comisario de la Disip y otra, como agente de inteligencia de la GN. Un informe elaborado por la propia GN, al que tuvo acceso esta revista, relata la irregularidad "La orden de suministrar los documentos oficiales a Herm�goras Gonz�lez as� como a otros narcos y guerrilleros se la dio el general Carvajal a Pedro Lu�s Mart�n, que era el director de inteligencia de la Disip y ahora es uno de los hombres de confianza del general", afirm� el funcionario de la Disip que habl� con SEMANA.







A estos indicios se suma tambi�n una grabaci�n en manos de agencias extranjeras que demostrar�a que el general Carvajal les dio la voz de alerta a narcotraficantes para que evadieran una importante operaci�n antidrogas. "El 5 de septiembre de 2007 se iba a realizar una operaci�n para incautar 2.900 kilos de coca�na que estaban escondidos en un almac�n en la ciudad de Puerto La Cruz y que iban a ser exportados a Europa. La droga pertenec�a a varios narcotraficantes colombianos y un porcentaje del cargamento era del frente 10 de las Farc. Se detect� una llamada del general Carvajal a miembros de la GN y la DGIM que custodiaban el cargamento alertando sobre el inminente operativo. La droga fue cambiada de lugar y la operaci�n se frustr�", dijo a SEMANA un miembro de un servicio de inteligencia extranjero que estaba coordinando la operaci�n.

�Orden de asesinatos?



El nombre del general Carvajal ha estado relacionado con asuntos aun m�s complejos. En julio del a�o pasado, el general fue alertado por uno de sus hombres de confianza de la Disip sobre la efectiva colaboraci�n que ven�a suministrando un informante de apellido Rodr�guez a la DEA, en la cual quedaba muy mal parado por nexos con narcos un importante industrial venezolano cercano al gobierno de Caracas. "En Estados Unidos se estaba adelantando una causa judicial contra el empresario que permitir�a atacar una red de traficantes y lavadores que act�a en Colombia y Venezuela. Rodr�guez era clave en el caso. Despu�s de ser alertado de que �l estaba colabor�ndonos, Carvajal dio la orden a un equipo de hombres del Cuerpo de Investigaciones Cient�ficas, Penales y Criminal�sticas(Cicpc) quienes secuestraron, torturaron y asesinaron a Rodr�guez", dijo a SEMANA un agente de la DEA asignado en Venezuela. El caso es conocido, seg�n �l, por el coronel N�stor Reverol, presidente de la Oficina Nacional Antidrogas de Venezuela (ONA).

Aunque todos los hechos anteriores dejan ver muy graves actuaciones del general Carvajal, quiz�s el se�alamiento m�s grave tiene que ver con el papel que el jefe de la DGIM habr�a jugado en la tortura y el asesinato de dos miembros del Ej�rcito colombiano en territorio venezolano. En abril del a�o pasado SEMANA revel� la historia del homicidio del capit�n Camilo Gonz�lez y del cabo Gregorio Mart�nez. Los uniformados se infiltraron en territorio venezolano para dar con guerrilleros colombianos que actuaban en ese pa�s. Pero fueron descubiertos y brutalmente torturados y asesinados en la sede de la GN localizada en Santa B�rbara, estado Zulia. "Los que descubren a los militares colombianos y se dan cuenta de que est�n haciendo inteligencia son oficiales de la Polic�a de Santa B�rbara. Ellos los capturan y los llevan a la sede del Destacamento de Apoyo A�reo N�mero 1 de la Guardia Nacional. Desde all� se le comunica la captura al general Carvajal, quien env�a a un coronel de la Dim. �l es quien se encarga de torturar a los colombianos durante varios d�as. En algunos de los interrogatorios estuvo presente un guerrillero que nos dijeron era del ELN. Despu�s de sacarles toda la informaci�n, el coronel llam� al general Carvajal para ver qu� hac�a con ellos. Carvajal le da la orden de ejecutarlos. Lo hizo porque sab�a que, como estaban en una actividad de espionaje, el gobierno de Colombia no pod�a protestar y, adem�s, era un claro mensaje a los militares colombianos de lo que les espera a los que descubran ac� (en Venezuela)".

Este escabroso relato fue narrado a SEMANA por un oficial de la GN que prestaba su servicio en la guarnici�n en donde fueron asesinados los militares.

El oficial afirm� que el coronel al que le encargaron la tortura es un hombre de toda la confianza del general Carvajal. "�l (el coronel) trabaj� en San Crist�bal en el a�o 2005 y all� se convirti� en un contacto clave de la�DIM con la guerrilla colombiana", dice el oficial de la GN. "Siempre fue m�s cercano del ELN que de las Farc, tanto que la gente del ELN se refer�a a �l como 'comandante Ra�l'".

El general Carvajal est�, pues, en la mira de las agencias de inteligencia como lo estuvo en su momento Vladimiro Montesinos: el hombre que concentr� todo el poder de la inteligencia en Per� mientras les vend�a armas a las Farc. Sin duda, los se�alamientos contra el general Hugo Carvajal son de tal gravedad, que el gobierno de Venezuela tendr� que aclarar.



(Important links to follow)
http://www.noticias24.com/actualidad/?p=6178
http://www.semana.com/wf_InfoArticulo.aspx?idArt=109168

Tambi�n hoy, en "El Universal", Mildred Camero, ex-Presidenta de CONACUID, efect�a una serie de revelaciones sobre la protecci�n con que narcotraficantes cuentan en Venezuela. Cuenta igualmente como alias "Jab�n" estaba protegido en el pa�s. Puedes leer la entrevista completa pulsando aqu�.

24826  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior on: February 04, 2008, 07:02:41 AM
Staying a Step Ahead of Aging

By GINA KOLATA
NY Times
Published: January 31, 2008
YOU know what is supposed to happen when you grow old. You will slow down, you will grow weak, your steps will become short and mincing, and you will lose your sense of balance. That’s what aging researchers consistently find, and it’s no surprise to most of us.


But it is worth remembering that the people in those studies were sedentary, said Dr. Vonda Wright, a professor of orthopedics at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Wright, a 40-year-old runner, decided to study people who kept training as they got older or began competing in middle age. She wanted to know what happens to them and at what age does performance start to decline.

Their results are surprising, even to many of the researchers themselves. The investigators find that while you will slow down as you age, you may be able to stave off more of the deterioration than you thought. Researchers also report that people can start later in life — one man took up running at 62 and ran his first marathon, a year later, in 3 hours 25 minutes.

It’s a testament to how adaptable the human body is, researchers said, that people can start serious training at an older age and become highly competitive. It also is testament to their findings that some physiological factors needed for a good performance are not much affected by age.

Researchers say that you should be able to maintain your muscles as you age, including the muscle enzymes needed for good athletic performance, and you should be able to maintain your ability to exercise for long periods near your so-called lactic threshold, meaning you are near maximum effort.

But you have to know how to train, doing the right sort of exercise, and you must keep it up.

“Train hard and train often,” said Hirofumi Tanaka, a 41-year-old soccer player and exercise physiologist at the University of Texas.

Dr. Tanaka said he means doing things like regular interval training, repeatedly going all out, easing up, then going all out again. These workouts train your body to increase its oxygen consumption by allowing you to maintain an intense effort.

“One of the major determinants of endurance performance is oxygen consumption,” Dr. Tanaka said. “You have to make training as intense as you can.”

When you have to choose between hard and often, choose hard, said Steven Hawkins, an exercise physiologist at the University of Southern California.

“High performance is really determined more by intensity than volume,” he added. “Sometimes, when you’re older, something has to give. You can’t have both so you have to cut back on the volume. You need more rest days.”

Dr. Hawkins, who says he no longer runs competitively, adds that he tries to put his findings into practice. “I run a couple of times a week and I try to make it as fast as I can,” he said. “I’m not plodding along.”

He also has been amazed by some people who seem to defy the rules of aging, people he describes as “those rare birds who get faster.” Some subjects in Dr. Hawkins’s research study, which followed runners for nearly two decades, actually had better times when they were 60 than when they were 50.

“We really don’t know why,” Dr. Hawkins confessed. “Maybe they were training harder.”

Then there are people like the 62-year-old man who suddenly took up running and began running fast marathons. That man’s inspiration to become a runner, said James Hagberg, an exercise physiologist at the University of Maryland, was watching a lakefront marathon in Milwaukee. “He got all fired up,” Dr. Hagberg recalled.

And there are people like Imme Dyson, a 71-year-old runner who lives in Princeton, N.J. She took up running when she was 48 and loved it, she says, from the moment she put on a pair of running shoes. Her daughter, who had been a college triathlete, told her how to train.

“She said, ‘Mom, if your workout didn’t hurt, you didn’t work hard enough,’ ” Ms. Dyson said.

“Working consistently really is the recipe,” she said. And it has made a difference for her, allowing her to run races, from 5K to marathons, so fast that she is consistently among the best in the nation in her age group. She has run a 15K cross-country race in 1:19:08, a pace of 8:29 a mile. And she ran a 10K race in 51 minutes 50 seconds, a pace of 8:20 a mile.

Not every aging athlete does so well. But Dr. Hagberg found that studies of aging athletes sometimes were distorted because they included people who had cut back on or stopped training. That’s understandable; there is no reason, researchers say, to exhort everyone to maintain an intense effort decade after decade.

 
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Athletes would tell Dr. Hagberg that they had just lost their motivation. “Some of them would say: ‘Competition just doesn’t motivate me as much at 75. I’ve been doing it for 50 years,’ ” he said. “Others would say, ‘I just can’t keep it up any more.’ ”

But for those who still have the drive, the news that muscle mass and lactic threshold can be maintained is encouraging.
The reason people become slower, though, is that oxygen consumption declines with age.

In large part that is because, as has long been known, the maximum heart rate steadily falls by about seven to eight beats per minute per decade. It happens with or without training, in sedentary and in active people, Dr. Tanaka said, and no one knows why. But as a result, the heart cannot pump as much blood at maximum effort.

Dr. Michael Joyner, a 49-year-old exercise researcher at the Mayo Clinic who also is a competitive swimmer and a runner, added another factor: the lungs of older athletes cannot take in quite as much air.

With a slower heart rate and less oxygen in the lungs, less oxygen-rich blood gets to the muscles. In one study, Dr. Joyner found that highly trained athletes age 55 to 68 had 10 to 20 percent less blood flow to their legs than athletes in their 20s.

The older athletes in his group, though, were edging toward an age that often is a transition time in athletic performances, researchers are finding. For example, Dr. Wright and her colleague Dr. Brett Perricelli found that the performances of track athletes declined almost imperceptibly from year to year until their mid-60s, when the rate of decline picked up. At age 75, though, the athletes’ times fell, on average, by 7 percent.

The study, the results of which will appear in the March issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine, involved track and field athletes age 50 to 85 who were participants in the 2001 Senior Olympics and also examined the times for American record holders in track events.

But older athletes still can have spectacular performances, Dr. Tanaka notes.

For example, the world best marathon time for men 70 or older (2:54:05) was set by a 74-year-old. That is more than four minutes faster than the winning marathon time at the first modern Olympics, the 1896 Games in Athens.

Of course, such statistics are of little comfort to athletes who do not want to slow down at all. Dr. Hawkins said he and Robert A. Wiswell, the senior author on his nearly 20-year study of athletes, used to joke that they needed a sports psychologist rather than a sports physiologist on their study. The athletes, he explained, could not bear to think that they would stop setting personal records.

That’s an issue for Don Truex, a 70-year-old dentist in Santa Barbara, Calif, who can’t understand why he has slowed down in the last year. He just ran a 5K race in 23:45. It was an average pace of 7:38 a mile, 90 seconds slower than he wanted to run.

“I’ve consulted with my doctor and we think I may be overtraining,” Dr. Truex said. He’s going to continue running five days a week but cut back on his five days a week of cycling.

Slower times are even more of a concern for Dr. Truex’s friend Barry Erbsen, a 67-year-old dentist in Los Angeles.

Dr. Erbsen started running seriously around 40. His best time in a 10K race was 38 minutes, a pace of 6 minutes a mile. Next he started running marathons, going faster each time until he had completed several, including the Boston Marathon, in 3:07:00.

Then, Dr. Erbsen started to slow down. He ran a marathon a few years ago in 3:45:00. He completed his next one in 3:58:00.

That nearly four-hour marathon was his last, he said. Instead, Dr. Erbsen took up mountain biking. So far so good, he said. He’s having a lot of fun. And, he added, “I’m not getting too much slower.”
24827  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 04, 2008, 06:39:28 AM
Second post of the AM on BO-- here some pro BO Dems say why they are for him:
24828  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: February 04, 2008, 06:30:01 AM
Desperado
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
February 4, 2008; Page A14

In 1981, Argentine inflation topped 130%, and by the early months of 1982 the situation was rapidly deteriorating. A web of price controls designed to compensate for monetary mischief at the central bank only made things worse. Confidence had collapsed and civil unrest was growing.

The military government's decision to lay claim to Britain's South Georgia Island on March 19, 1982, and later the Falklands, was dictator Leopoldo Galtieri's last-ditch effort to boost the nation's sense of strength, and to distract it from the reality that it was caught in an economic maelstrom.

 
Fast forward to 2008 and Venezuela, where the parallels cannot be ignored. The military government of President Hugo Chávez is engaging in provocations against a foreign power that would seem to have little purpose other than getting news of the crumbling economy off the front pages and ginning up nationalism.

In a speech before the national assembly last month, Mr. Chávez dropped a bombshell, proclaiming that Venezuela now recognizes the Colombian rebel group known as the FARC as a legitimate political actor. He went on to ask that European and South American governments remove the group from their terrorist lists. A day earlier his special envoy for FARC relations went public with his own fondness for the Colombian rebels, and with the news that the Venezuelan government stands ready to help them.

This was more than Mr. Chávez playing footsie with the FARC, which he has long been doing. This was a statement of official support for a band of outlaws who seek the destruction of the Colombian democracy. The news shook both nations. It suggested that Colombia is not only at war with the rebels, but also with a neighboring state.

Mr. Chávez probably doesn't really want war with the militarily superior Colombia anymore than Galtieri wanted to battle it out with Britain. But by poking his neighbor in the eye, he was undoubtedly hoping for some kind of a reaction, to which Venezuela naturally would be obliged to respond. Amid an escalation of tensions between the two countries, a nationalist outcry to defend Venezuelan honor might dwarf the many troubles at home.

Colombia's president didn't take the bait. Instead of getting in a spitting match with Venezuela, Álavaro Uribe went to Europe shortly after Mr. Chávez's FARC speech to shore up support for his anti-terrorist agenda. He came home with backing from E.U. foreign policy chief Javier Solana, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and even Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, who is notorious for his admiration of Latin American leftists. Mr. Chávez thus suffered yet another humiliation, only six weeks after he lost his bid to rewrite the country's constitution.

Hubris aside, Mr. Chávez had to know that his defense of the FARC was a long shot. But desperate times call for desperate measures. As the deterioration of the Venezuelan economy accelerates, Mr. Chávez is fast becoming a desperado with no better idea of how to get out of his jam than did Galtieri.

Central to his troubling circumstances is inflation. With Venezuelan crude oil around $80 per barrel, the local currency known as the bolivar ought to be strong. But the central bank has lost its independence and now acts as an arm of the Chávez government. As such it has shown little interest in defending the value of the currency.

Instead, it uses the gusher of oil dollars coming into the country as a reason to print up new bolivars to be put into circulation through government spending. This has pushed up demand and sent prices skyrocketing.

Just what Venezuelan inflation is now is anybody's guess. The government figure for 2007 is 22.5% but that number is derived from a basket of goods that includes price-controlled items, which are difficult to actually buy. In real life, when Venezuelans go shopping they have to pay market prices if they want to come home with the goods. This means that the cost of living is higher than the official rate.

Price controls haven't held down inflation but they have produced shortages of the goods they cover. Milk, rice, cooking oil, chicken, beef, pork, sugar, black beans and eggs are all hard to find and Venezuelans say that grocery shopping now requires stops at five or six stores. The most reliable sources of price-controlled items are street vendors, who charge two and three times the legal limit but tend to have stock.

Even Mr. Chávez recognizes that the shortages are real and not about to go away. And despite what appears to be a primitive understanding of economics, he may even have figured out the connection between prices and supply. This would explain why, as dire milk shortages became undeniable in recent months, he finally decreed an increase in the regulated price.

But don't hold your breath for further signs of enlightenment. Control of the oil industry has been the main reason Mr. Chávez has been able to squelch democracy. His own warped logic suggests that he needs to control other key sectors if he wants to keep his grip on power. If he can strangle the private sector, he can starve his adversaries.

This is why he is promoting government-owned food processors and has put a full-court press on private-sector agribusiness. Price controls now apply not only to the retail market but also to business transactions. This is designed to stop, for example, dairy farms from diverting raw milk to the production of cheese and yogurt, which have no price controls. Anyone caught violating price controls or selling products across the border in Colombia risks expropriation.

All of this is being policed by the army. With its monopoly on the use of force, the government can indeed destroy the private sector. But as Galtieri found out, it cannot decree that supply meets demand. As shortages become more acute, don't be surprised to see the Venezuelan desperado picking more fights.

WSJ
24829  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Color of Charity on: February 04, 2008, 06:26:03 AM
The Color of Charity
February 4, 2008; Page A14
Just when we thought we'd heard everything from the diversity police, here they come trying to prescribe even the color of charity. The California Assembly last week passed a bill sponsored by state Representative Joe Coto to require foundations with assets of more than $250 million to disclose the race, gender and sexual orientation of their trustees, staff, and even grantees. Look for this to arrive in a legislature near you.

A Berkeley-based advocacy group called the Greenlining Institute hatched this idea because, allegedly, racial minorities aren't well enough represented in California policy debates. John Gamboa, Greenlining's executive director, blames foundations for failing to donate enough money to "minority-led" think tanks and community groups and businesses, and he hopes this legislation will "shame" them into giving more. What counts as a minority-led organization? According to Greenlining, the board and staff should both be more than 50% minority.

This certainly takes the spoils system of racial preferences to a whole new level. Heretofore the government has tried to enforce a pigmentation principle in government jobs and contracts, and in private employment through the threat of lawsuits. But this is about telling private citizens how to give their own money away.

Mr. Gamboa says these philanthropies have tax-exempt status, so the public has a right to this information. "Minorities are paying a little more in taxes but are not receiving their fair share of benefits," he says. This seems an odd claim, since so much private charity is targeted explicitly at minorities. But it makes sense once you understand that what he means is that not enough of this cash is channelled through certain minority-run activist groups, such as, well, his own. It's no accident that such ethnic lobbies as the Black Business Association and the Centro Legal de la Raza also love this idea.

There's also the little problem of accountability and donor intent. Private citizens typically establish foundations with specific charitable goals in mind -- such as wetlands conservation, or medical research, or even promoting free market ideas. If donors are suddenly supposed to allocate grants by the color or sexual lifestyle of the grantee, that donor intent will be distorted at the very least. Presumably we want money for cancer research to support the most promising research ideas, not to be based on whether the labs have a rainbow coalition of Ph.Ds. The goal is to cure cancer.

Paul Brest is a former NAACP attorney and president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, California's largest foundation. And in a letter to the state Assembly on Mr. Coto's proposal, he put it this way: "[Our] fundamental operating principle is to direct our resources to organizations that have the promise of making the greatest difference in achieving [our philanthropic] goals. Thus, we do not focus on the racial composition of our grantees, but rather on how to achieve measurable impact in improving the lives of the communities that our grant recipients serve."

Lest you think this idea is too wacky to go anywhere, it is also expected to pass the California Senate and could soon land on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk. The Greenlining staff is already lobbying House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel for Congressional hearings. Foundations and charities that don't want to start apportioning their donations by skin color, or between gays and heterosexuals, had better start describing this idea as the political shakedown it is.

WSJ
24830  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: February 04, 2008, 06:22:48 AM
Equity and Health Care
February 4, 2008; Page A14
Democrats, and even a few Republicans, are in a populist mood, and fair enough. But if they really want the tax code to be more "progressive" -- i.e., from each according to his means -- they ought to forget the Bush tax cuts and address the way the government subsidizes health insurance. On the advice of our doctors, we're not holding our breath.

According to the Democratic consensus, too many people lack health insurance, and the liberal remedy is to protect the status quo while expanding public programs for the uninsured. That's the opposite of a rational health policy: Not only does the current system cause unnecessary problems for the insured, but many of the gaps in coverage owe to the way tax subsidies shortchange the uninsured, particularly working-class and middle-income families.

If such inequality and unfairness existed anywhere other than health care, the Democrats would be raising hell. Instead, they're silent -- which is politically telling.

The core problem is that people who get insurance through their employers pay no income or payroll taxes on the value of the benefit. The Treasury defines this as a "tax expenditure," meaning it's revenue the government forgoes to encourage certain behavior. If these losses were converted to the equivalent of direct spending, the tax exemption would have cost more than $208 billion in 2006. The only federal programs that cost more are Social Security, Medicare and national defense. But all that money props up only employer-provided insurance. Individuals who buy policies don't get any tax breaks and pay with after-tax dollars.

If the purpose of health-care reform is to decrease the ranks of the uninsured, these job-related tax breaks are poorly targeted, even regressive. The more generous the employer health plan, the more the subsidies increase. On average, lower-wage workers have more limited coverage as part of their compensation, usually from small- or medium-sized businesses. Estimates show that the subsidy is worth more than $3,000 for upper-income families (with higher marginal tax rates), and less than $1,000 for those on the lower income rungs.

These aren't new insights, and economists have recommended changing these incentives for decades. What's hard to believe are the convenient blind spots of the Democratic Presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton, queen of the wonks, includes in her health-care proposal an undefined cap on the deduction for "high-income Americans," but all of her emphasis is on larger spending subsidies. Barack Obama doesn't even mention it. Neither did John Edwards.

They're uncharacteristically missing a chance to effectively raise taxes on "the rich." Curbing these subsidies could generate billions for their elaborate "universal" health programs. More to the point, this is a simple matter of equity, usually Democratic terrain. If the government is going to support health insurance, then those subsidies ought to apply regardless of a person's income, where they work, or how they purchase their insurance.

So why the Democratic silence? Perhaps it's because they think such a change would interfere with their main policy goal, which is slow but steady progress toward government control of the health-care market. Or possibly it's because many of the most generous tax-subsidized health plans come from union-negotiated contracts. Or maybe Democrats simply don't want to concede that President Bush has a point.

In his 2007 State of the Union address, Mr. Bush suggested redistributing the government's health subsidies. His proposal would sever the link between insurance and employment, shifting the deduction to individuals and capping it at $15,000 a year for a typical family. About four-fifths of the country would do better than they do now, while the rest currently have the most gold-plated employer coverage and would still have plenty of options.

Not only would this be a relatively cost-effective way to increase coverage. It would also address the major market distortions that the employer-exclusive deduction causes, with individuals essentially prepaying for routine costs through third-party insurance companies. If Republican candidates came to their senses, they'd recognize an opportunity to poach a traditionally Democratic issue -- as well as an opening to address middle-class anxiety without demagoguing business or "the rich." Individual policies would also be portable when workers are between jobs, reducing risk and uncertainty.

But the big questions are for the Democrats, who claim to believe that health-care reform is as much a moral as an economic issue. Whatever their other ambitions, how can they stand by a system that offers the least assistance to the working class and nothing at all to the uninsured?

WSJ
24831  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO on: February 04, 2008, 06:15:35 AM
Sorry, I don't have a URL for this, but it seems legit.


When residents in Illinois voiced outrage two years ago upon learning that the Exelon Corporation had not disclosed radioactive leaks at one of its nuclear plants, the state’s freshman senator, Barack Obama, took up their cause.


John W. Rowe, chairman of Exelon and also of the Nuclear Energy Institute, a lobbying group, has been an Obama donor.


Mr. Obama scolded Exelon and federal regulators for inaction and introduced a bill to require all plant owners to notify state and local authorities immediately of even small leaks. He has boasted of it on the campaign trail, telling a crowd in Iowa in December that it was “the only nuclear legislation that I’ve passed.”

“I just did that last year,” he said, to murmurs of approval.

A close look at the path his legislation took tells a very different story. While he initially fought to advance his bill, even holding up a presidential nomination to try to force a hearing on it, Mr. Obama eventually rewrote it to reflect changes sought by Senate Republicans, Exelon and nuclear regulators. The new bill removed language mandating prompt reporting and simply offered guidance to regulators, whom it charged with addressing the issue of unreported leaks.

Those revisions propelled the bill through a crucial committee. But, contrary to Mr. Obama’s comments in Iowa, it ultimately died amid parliamentary wrangling in the full Senate.

“Senator Obama’s staff was sending us copies of the bill to review, and we could see it weakening with each successive draft,” said Joe Cosgrove, a park district director in Will County, Ill., where low-level radioactive runoff had turned up in groundwater. “The teeth were just taken out of it.”

The history of the bill shows Mr. Obama navigating a home-state controversy that pitted two important constituencies against each other and tested his skills as a legislative infighter. On one side were neighbors of several nuclear plants upset that low-level radioactive leaks had gone unreported for years; on the other was Exelon, the country’s largest nuclear plant operator and one of Mr. Obama’s largest sources of campaign money.

Since 2003, executives and employees of Exelon, which is based in Illinois, have contributed at least $227,000 to Mr. Obama’s campaigns for the United States Senate and for president. Two top Exelon officials, Frank M. Clark, executive vice president, and John W. Rogers Jr., a director, are among his largest fund-raisers.

Another Obama donor, John W. Rowe, chairman of Exelon, is also chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear power industry’s lobbying group, based in Washington. Exelon’s support for Mr. Obama far exceeds its support for any other presidential candidate.

In addition, Mr. Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod, has worked as a consultant to Exelon. A spokeswoman for Exelon said Mr. Axelrod’s company had helped an Exelon subsidiary, Commonwealth Edison, with communications strategy periodically since 2002, but had no involvement in the leak controversy or other nuclear issues.

The Obama campaign said in written responses to questions that Mr. Obama “never discussed this issue or this bill” with Mr. Axelrod. The campaign acknowledged that Exelon executives had met with Mr. Obama’s staff about the bill, as had concerned residents, environmentalists and regulators. It said the revisions resulted not from any influence by Exelon, but as a necessary response to a legislative roadblock put up by Republicans, who controlled the Senate at the time.

“If Senator Obama had listened to industry demands, he wouldn’t have repeatedly criticized Exelon in the press, introduced the bill and then fought for months to get action on it,” the campaign said. “Since he has over a decade of legislative experience, Senator Obama knows that it’s very difficult to pass a perfect bill.”

Asked why Mr. Obama had cited it as an accomplishment while campaigning for president, the campaign noted that after the senator introduced his bill, nuclear plants started making such reports on a voluntary basis. The campaign did not directly address the question of why Mr. Obama had told Iowa voters that the legislation had passed.

Nuclear safety advocates are divided on whether Mr. Obama’s efforts yielded any lasting benefits. David A. Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists agreed that “it took the introduction of the bill in the first place to get a reaction from the industry.”

“But of course because it is all voluntary,” Mr. Lochbaum said, “who’s to say where things will be a few years from now?”

Page 2 of 2)


Others say that turning the whole matter over to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as Mr. Obama’s revised bill would have done, played into the hands of the nuclear power industry, which they say has little to fear from the regulators. Mr. Obama seemed to share those concerns when he told a New Hampshire newspaper last year that the commission “is a moribund agency that needs to be revamped and has become a captive of the industry it regulates.”

Paul Gunter, an activist based in Maryland who assisted neighbors of the Exelon plants, said he was “disappointed in Senator Obama’s lack of follow-through,” which he said weakened the original bill. “The new legislation falls short” by failing to provide for mandatory reporting, said Mr. Gunter, whose group, Beyond Nuclear, opposes nuclear energy.
The episode that prompted Mr. Obama’s legislation began on Dec. 1, 2005, when Exelon issued a news release saying it had discovered tritium, a radioactive byproduct of nuclear power, in monitoring wells at its Braidwood plant, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago. A few days later, tritium was detected in a drinking water well at a home near the plant, although the levels did not exceed federal safety standards.

At least as disturbing for local residents was the revelation that Exelon believed the tritium came from millions of gallons of water that had leaked from the plant years earlier but went unreported at the time. Under nuclear commission rules, plants are required to tell state and local authorities only about radioactive discharges that rise to the level of an emergency.

On March 1, Mr. Obama introduced a bill known as the Nuclear Release Notice Act of 2006. It stated flatly that nuclear plants “shall immediately” notify federal, state and local officials of any accidental release of radioactive material that exceeded “allowable limits for normal operation.”

To flag systematic problems, it would also have required reporting of repeated accidental leaks that fell below those limits. Illinois’ senior senator, Richard J. Durbin, a fellow Democrat, was a co-sponsor, and three other senators, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, later signed on. But Mr. Obama remained its primary champion.

In public statements, Mr. Obama dismissed the nuclear lobby’s arguments that the tritium leaks posed no health threat.

“This legislation is not about whether tritium is safe, or at what concentration or level it poses a threat,” he said. “This legislation is about ensuring that nearby residents know whether they may have been exposed to any level of radiation generated at a nuclear power plant as a result of an unplanned, accidental or unintentional incident.”

Almost immediately, the nuclear power industry and federal regulators raised objections to the bill.

The Nuclear Energy Institute jumped out in front by announcing its voluntary initiative for plant operators to report even small leaks. An Exelon representative told an industry newsletter, Inside N.R.C., that Exelon was “working with Senator Obama’s office to address some technical issues that will allow us to support the legislation.”

Last week, an Exelon spokesman, Craig Nesbit, said the company sought, among other things, new language to specify what types of leaks should be reported, and assurance that enforcement authority remained with the nuclear commission and not state or local governments.

“We were looking for technical clarity,” Mr. Nesbit said.

Meanwhile, the nuclear commission told Mr. Obama’s staff that the bill would have forced the unnecessary disclosure of leaks that were not serious. “Unplanned releases below the level of an emergency present a substantially smaller risk to the public,” the agency said in a memorandum to senators, which ticked off about a half-dozen specific concerns about the bill.

Senate correspondence shows that the environment committee chairman at the time, Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma who is a strong supporter of industry in battles over energy and environmental legislation, agreed with many of those points and held up the bill. Mr. Obama pushed back, at one point temporarily blocking approval of President Bush’s nominee to the nuclear commission, Dale E. Klein, who met with Mr. Obama to discuss the leaks.

But eventually, Mr. Obama agreed to rewrite the bill, and when the environment committee approved it in September 2006, he and his co-sponsors hailed it as a victory.

In interviews over the past two weeks, Obama aides insisted that the revisions did not substantively alter the bill. In fact, it was left drastically different.

In place of the straightforward reporting requirements was new language giving the nuclear commission two years to come up with its own regulations. The bill said that the commission “shall consider” — not require — immediate public notification, and also take into account the findings of a task force it set up to study the tritium leaks.

By then, the task force had already concluded that “existing reporting requirements for abnormal spills and leaks are at a level that is risk-informed and appropriate.”

The rewritten bill also contained the new wording sought by Exelon making it clear that state and local authorities would have no regulatory oversight of nuclear power plants.

In interviews last week, representatives of Exelon and the nuclear commission said they were satisfied with the revised bill. The Nuclear Energy Institute said it no longer opposed it but wanted additional changes.

The revised bill was never taken up in the full Senate, where partisan parliamentary maneuvering resulted in a number of bills being shelved before the 2006 session ended.

Still, the legislation has come in handy on the campaign trail. Last May, in response to questions about his ties to Exelon, Mr. Obama wrote a letter to a Nevada newspaper citing the bill as evidence that he stands up to powerful interests.

“When I learned that radioactive tritium had leaked out of an Exelon nuclear plant in Illinois,” he wrote, “I led an effort in the Senate to require utilities to notify the public of any unplanned release of radioactive substances.”

Last October, Mr. Obama reintroduced the bill, in its rewritten form.
24832  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: February 04, 2008, 05:37:19 AM
Here is his blog:

http://eutrapelia.blogspot.com/

24833  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on: February 04, 2008, 05:34:08 AM
"As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires
a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are
other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion
of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the
existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other
form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political
jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human
character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient
virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than
the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and
devouring one another."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 55, 15 February 1788)

Reference: Madison, Federalist No. 55.
24834  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO for movement towards unilateral disarmament on: February 03, 2008, 09:44:22 PM
Excerpt from article: http://www.icadp.org/page236.html from Chicago Tribune writer published in 2004:


"Obama, however, called for a host of new gun-control measures: strengthening the assault-weapons ban to include high-capacity clips made prior to 1994; holding parents criminally responsible for children who injure someone with a gun found in the home; placing trigger locks on all guns; and allowing gun buyers to purchase only one weapon per month.

Hynes advocated increasing penalties for crimes committed with a gun, and Hull would increase funding to update technology that provides instant background checks on gun buyers.

All of the candidates, except Hynes, said they opposed allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons. Hynes and Chico said states, not the federal government, should regulate the matter.

"I consider this an issue for the states to decide, not the federal government," Chico said.

Obama disagreed. He backed federal legislation that would ban citizens from carrying weapons, except for law enforcement. He cited Texas as an example of a place where a law allowing people to carry weapons has "malfunctioned" because hundreds of people granted licenses had prior convictions.

"National legislation will prevent other states' flawed concealed-weapons laws from threatening the safety of Illinois residents," Obama said."
24835  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: February 03, 2008, 09:23:36 PM
Second post on this.  The quality and accuracy of this source is unknown to me, but the subject matter seems important.
================

http://galliawatch.blogspot.com/2008/01/great-fear.html

Dalil Boubakeur's proposal to suspend the 1905 law separating Church and State has incensed the advocates of "laïcité" who see in his words a predictable maneuver, welcomed by the State and Churches alike, for the purpose of restoring the power of religion to all spheres of French life.

The following excerpts are taken from a long text posted at Riposte Laïque, a website of militants of "laïcité". Essentially, a coalition of left-leaning groups and individuals, they have the virtue of wanting to preserve intact the 1905 law separating Church and State. It isn't clear if they understand the true nature of Islam and its refusal of such a separation. What is clear is their intense hostility towards religion, and their firm belief that Nicolas Sarkozy intends, through modifications to the existing law, to impose his view of the equality of all religions onto the French people, instead of maintaining the strict separation that has been enforced until recently when Islam came into the picture.

(...) Why should Boubakeur have any qualms (about suspending the law)? Sarkozy, through his speeches in Rome and then in Ryadh rolled out the red carpet to the Churches, and someone had to go into the breach. This role fell to the freedom-destroying mufti of the Paris mosque, since Islam is the spear-head of this offensive.

(...) The ministers visit him (Boubakeur) during Ramadan, an obscurantist practice if ever there was one, to break the fast. They invite him to the television studios where, all the while claiming to favor "laïcité", he whimpers about discrimination towards Muslims. Sarkozy takes him along in his baggage when he goes to Algiers. There, Boubakeur listens enthralled to the French president who, in an incredible speech, denounces Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the same breath.

As thanks for these good and loyal favors, Boubakeur plays the game expected of him by the powers-that-be and the Churches: he demands the end of the law of 1905.

Note: They come close to saying that it is a conspiracy by the government and the religions - i.e. a pre-planned plot to pave the way for the abolition of the law.

Their fear, despite what they say about Islam, is of the return of Christianity, especially Catholicism, to the decision-making process of the government, as the following statements attest:

In Europe through Article 15-1 of the new Treaty of Lisbon, which replaces the former Article 1-52, they want to render unavoidable the consultation of the Catholic Church before any political policy is adopted.

Furthermore, in Europe, 20 countries out of 25 are signatories of concordats with the Catholic Church. Now they want all of France to be aligned with those countries.

Note: I cannot comment on the above. I have not read the Treaty, nor am I familiar with the concordats.

But Catholicism is not their only fear:

(...) The Turkish Islamists who still intend to enter Europe feel that the moment has come. They are trying to end the ban on the Islamic veil, instituted by Mustapha Kemal, at the University.

The Protestants, among whom the Evangelicals are today in the majority, are patiently waiting for the French State to "tinker" with the law of 1905 that forbids the construction of houses of worship, in order to benefit from these derogations.

Movements such as the Church of Scientology, Jehovah's Witnesses, Raelians, and others are eager for these revisions so that they may be recognized fully as religions, and take advantage of the subsidies, fiscal exemptions and other privileges which are today forbidden by Article 2 of this accursed law.

In short, the stage is set, the scenario is soon to be played out.

Note: I know nothing about Raelians. I doubt that they pose a threat comparable to Islam.

The article goes on to call for a massive protest, first at the local level, then a march towards Paris. Among the organizations cited as participants in this protest are the Grand Orient of France (Freemasons) and the Ligue de l'Enseignement (League of Teachers):

Today is not the time to be timorous with those who prepared the way for Sarkozy and the concept of "open laïcité." Nor must we be divided in our ranks, whatever divergences may exist,

(...) We are convinced that the potential for mobilization by the French people around the concept of "laïcité" is intact. The citizens of this country are much more attached to the separation of the religious from the political than the elite is willing to believe.

Note: Sarkozy has (knowingly?) opened a can of worms with his initiatives on religion. But the essential problem remains Islam. The advocates of "laïcité" seem to forget that there can be no separation of Church and State in Islam and that if Islam is going to be given privileges, it automatically means the end of the law of 1905. Sarkozy, the Great Egalitarian, is banking on the fallacious notion of "equality" of religions and is throwing all religions together in the same arena to find a way of co-existing. His specific plans to modify the 1905 law will be the topic of future posts.

The image is of Liberty Leading the People, a famous painting from 1830 by Eugène Delacroix.




Labels: Christianity, Dalil Boubakeur, Islam, Laïcité, Religion
24836  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: February 03, 2008, 10:31:23 AM
Does anyone have any other info on the subject of this piece?  I'd like to have more than one source/one point of view on this:
=================

Can of Worms: Mufti Wants Moratorium on French Law Separating Church and State

From the desk of Tiberge on Fri, 2008-02-01 13:06
The mufti of the Paris mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, has dropped what amounts to a political and religious bomb. He proposes a moratorium on the French law of 1905 separating Church and State, because not enough mosques are being built in France.
Besides his position as mufti, he is the president of the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith), an association officially established in 2003 thanks to the efforts of Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy.

Questioned by Le Monde, Mr. Boubakeur set forth the idea of a “moratorium of 10 to 20 years” on the 1905 law, which forbids all public funding of places of worship, so that Islam can “catch up” on its needs. “The associations that administer houses of worship need to be given air to breathe,” he says.
This has to be one of the most daring statements made yet by a Muslim leader in France. There are at least 1500 mosques and prayer rooms in France, 75 in Paris alone.
Dalil Boubakeur’s proposal to suspend the 1905 law has incensed France’s radical secularists, the advocates of “laïcité,” who see in his words a predictable maneuver, welcomed by the State and Churches alike, for the purpose of restoring the power of religion to all spheres of French life.

Militants of “laïcité” are convinced that Nicolas Sarkozy intends, through modifications to the existing law, to impose his view of the equality of all religions onto the French people, instead of maintaining the strict separation that has been enforced until recently when Islam came into the picture.

The blog Riposte Laïque writes:
Sarkozy, through his speeches in Rome and then in Ryadh rolled out the red carpet to the Churches, and someone had to go into the breach. This role fell to the freedom-destroying mufti of the Paris mosque, since Islam is the spear-head of this offensive.

Their fear, despite what they say about Islam, is of the return of Christianity, especially Catholicism, to the decision-making process of the government, as the following statements attest:
Furthermore, in Europe, 20 countries out of 25 are signatories of concordats with the Catholic Church. Now they want all of France to be aligned with those countries.

Riposte Laïque calls for a massive protest, first at the local level, then a march towards Paris. Among the organizations cited as participants in this protest are the Grand Orient of France (Freemasons) and the Ligue de l'Enseignement (League of Teachers).

Sarkozy has (knowingly?) opened a can of worms with his initiatives on religion. But the essential problem remains Islam. The advocates of “laïcité” seem to forget that there can be no separation of Church and State in Islam and that if Islam is going to be given privileges, it automatically means the end of the law of 1905. Sarkozy is banking on the fallacious notion of “equality” of religions and is throwing all religions together in the same arena to find a way of co-existing.

http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/2927
24837  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Chess on: February 02, 2008, 08:59:51 PM
Notation tutorial

http://www.chesscentral.com/novice/chess_notation.htm
24838  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Quotes, quips, and sayings on: February 02, 2008, 07:45:21 PM
Woof All:

Kicking it off with some from a thread of this name on the DBMA Association forum.

Yip!
Crafty Dog
======================

 I'm tired of politicians peeing on me  then saying, it's just raining" P.C.
                 " Wakey wakey, eggs and bacey!" Bud, from the movie Kill Bill.

--------------------

"The fighter that is in condition can always beat the best fighter in the world that is out of condition" ~ Don F.

"Small stick, small stars. Big stick, big stars!" ~ GM Ramiro Estalilla (Kabaroan Arnis)

----------

"In our zest for rationality, we irrationally give greater weight to those variables we can identify, as opposed to those we cannot, which unfortunately represent the bulk."

Jack Crooks, currency exchange rate analyst

-----------

"Let us not hear of Generals who conquer without bloodshed. If a bloody slaughter is a horrible sight, then that is a ground for paying more respect to War, but nor for making the sword we wear blunter and blunter by degrees from feelings of humanity, until some one steps in with one that is sharp and lops off the arm from our body" Carl Von Clausewitz

--------------

In regards to carrying weapons:

"Don't carrying anything that does not fit comfortably up your @$$"

(This one triggered some humorous banter on the DBMAA forum  cheesy )

------------

Famous Last Words:
         Let them eat cake!
         Woops!
         Sh@##@!
         Damn!
         I've almost got it.
         Honey, was that your wedding ring laying on the sink?
         Nobody will ever know.
         It's not loaded.
         Just one more for the road.
         I'm not sure about this.
         I'm a dead man.
         
-----------------------

 These are for Guro C., since he likes heady ones.
     "Blessed is the man that expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed."
                                                           Alexander Pope, (poet)

     "A good knock on the head with a tobacco stick will scatter their chickens!"
                                   James Crawford, (a farmer and my grandfather)

-----------------------

All of this could have been avoided if your mother didn't fuck your father.

-----------------------


The best part of you ran down your mama's leg.

I'll be on you like flies on garbage.

Don't run you will only die tired. (sniper quote)

The only easy day was yesterday.

I'll hit you with so many rights, you will beg for a left.

Walk as a warrior not as a worrier.

--------------------

" At present, in many of the martial arts,... there is too much concern about appearance, and not much substance. That kind of martial art is useless in critical moments. "
                                              Miyamoto Musashi, 1645
  I guess finding a reality based martial art isn't a new problem.

---------------------

From Terry Dobson's "It's A Lot Like Dancing":

"The secret of focus is virtuous intention. Nothing else. Any fool can concentrate; the real life, and deathness, comes in why you are focusing. If you set out to hurt, you will be cut down. If you set out with virtuous intention, you will go right through the opponent."

-------------------

"Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened."
Winston Churchill 

----------------

 It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
                                    Theodore Roosevelt  1910

----------------------

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."
                            Albert Einstein

-------------------

"A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity." -- Sigmund Freud, General Introduction to Psychoanlysis (1952).

------------------


Men are not worried by things, but by their ideas about things. - Epictetus

-----------

It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.

Emiliano Zapata
----------------------

"I work in a prison. I see Evil every day. My last prison was a lockdown supermax, where Evil was naked and violent, right out in front. Now I work in a sex offender yard, where Evil wears a polite face, and warm smile.....
And people wonder why I carry a gun. Evil gets out on parole next Tuesday..."

A State Corrections Officer answering the question on another forum, "Does evil exist?"

-------------------

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
                                    Helen Keller
------------------

" The problem with modern culture is that a man can live his entire lifetime without ever knowing if he is or isn't a coward." unknown

---------------

"Whoso would be a man, must be a non conformist." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"When you doubt yourself, it is like joining your enemy's army." - Alexandre Dumas

"To become strong, one must first need to become strong." - Friedrich Nietzsche

"Evolution does not happen unless there is conflict that spurs change in order to compete.  Continually go without challenging yourself and one day you'll wake up to find yourself extinct." - Anonymous

-------------------

 My grandfather taught me how to hunt when I was very young. On my first bear hunt I told him I was afraid the bear might catch us. He told me not to worry about out running the bear. He said "All you need to do is out run me". This didn't calm my fear.

--------------------

"A man is a man only when he can be himself wherever he is."

-Coralie in House of D 

--------------------

 "When the eagles are silent the parrots begin to jabber."

                                       Winston Churchill

-----------------------

Be it remembered that liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker.
  Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people who have a right from the frame of their nature to knowledge, as their great Creator who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings and a desire to know of the characters and conduct or their rulers.
 The point is now determined, I shall have the liberty to think for myself. Government is a plain, simple, intelligent thing, founded in nature and in reason, quite comprehensible by common sense. The true source of our suffering has been timidity. We have been afraid to think. Let us dare to read, think , speak, write. Let it be known that British liberties are not the grants of princes or parliaments, that many of our rights are inherent and essential, agreed on as maxims and established as preliminaries, even before Parliament existed.
  Recollect the civil and religious principles and hopes and expectations which constantly supported and carried our more immediate forefathers, in exchanging their native country for a dreary, inhospitable wilderness.
  The preservation of liberty depends upon the intellectual and moral character of the people. As long as knowledge and virtue are diffused generally among the body of a nation, it is impossible they should be enslaved.
                                         John Adams 1765

------------------

"Out of every One Hundered men, Ten should not be here, Eighty are nothing but targets, Nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they the battle make."

"Ah, but the one, one of them is a warrior, and he will bring the others back."

Heraclitus 500 b.c.

------------------

"We must be willing, individually and as a Nation, to accept whatever sacrifices may be required of us. A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."
                           Dwight D. Eisenhower
           
-----------------------

Young men know the rules, but old men know the exceptions. 
--Oliver Wendell Holmes

-----------------------

 It is time for us to realize that we are too great a Nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We are not, as some would have us to believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.
                              Ronald Reagan 1981
24839  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: February 02, 2008, 07:22:02 PM
My guess is that the UFC sees Mir as the goldfish.  Much $$$ to be made with Lesner and Mir still has name, but sans roids and post accident he may not be what he was.
24840  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Gurkhas and their Kukris on: February 02, 2008, 07:19:30 PM
I too heard this story.  The variation I heard had it as a LALO jump, 800 feet.  Surprised at the limited response, the officer berated them.  The Gurkhas countered by asking for 400 feet.  It was only then that the officer realized they thought the jump was to be without parachutes. cheesy shocked

BTW, in the early days of the current war against Afghanistan I saw a report in the newspapers of a squad of Gurkhas marching in formation through a firefight between a couple of Afghani factions into the British compound to rescue some diplomats , , , and no one fcuked with them.
24841  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sacked for uncovering crucifix on: February 02, 2008, 06:25:41 PM
Porter sacked by hospital after he asks for 'multi-faith' prayer room crucifix be made visible

A hospital porter has been sacked after a row over a crucifix being covered up in a prayer room used by Muslims.

Joseph Protano, 54, was suspended four days after the incident last month at a children's hospital - and has since been dismissed.

The row centres on a prayer room available to staff and visitors of all faiths, which contains a statue of the Virgin Mary and a crucifix.

Mr Protano, a Roman Catholic who has worked two years at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, Pendlebury, entered the room when three Muslims were using it - two patients and a doctor.

An argument broke out after he asked them to remove a cloth covering the crucifix and statue and to turn a picture of the Virgin Mary face up.

He has now been dismissed for gross misconduct but he intends to appeal.

Police quizzed him for four hours last month, on suspicion of religiously aggravated assault, but he was released without charge.

He denies the allegations and must wait to see if police take any action.

He said he was unable to comment on his sacking as the police probe and his plans to appeal were ongoing.

But a friend said: "He was very shocked at the decision. He thinks he has been treated terribly.

"He loves his job and doesn't do it for the money - until recently, his employers were paying just £5.88 an hour.

"They are saying he should not have gone into the prayer room and it is alleged he used racist language, which he totally refutes.

"His pay has been stopped, even though he intends to appeal, and he has had to sign on for benefits."

The friend said Mr Protano went into the prayer room about six times a day to check that the statue and crucifix were not left covered because he felt could be upsetting for visiting Christian parents to find them covered up.

The case has angered many hospital staff, who think he has been treated unfairly.

Police said a file had been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision over any further action.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...n_page_id=1770
24842  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: February 02, 2008, 10:04:47 AM
"Steven Seagal"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d82j_Qfp_VA&feature=related
24843  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Gurkhas and their Kukris on: February 02, 2008, 08:35:22 AM
http://www.m4040.com/Survival/Ghurka/History%20of%20the%20Ghurka%20Kukri.htm
24844  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin: Virtue; on: February 02, 2008, 07:57:55 AM

"I pronounce it as certain that there was never yet a truly great
man that was not at the same time truly virtuous."

-- Benjamin Franklin (The Busy-body, No. 3, 18 February 1728)

Reference: The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Bigelow, ed., vol. 1
(350)

------------
24845  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Mai Sok vs... on: February 02, 2008, 12:57:21 AM
The closest to a Mai Sowk fight was the double tonfa vs stick fight seen on SCSFg #6.  The tonfas were often used in a MS manner and helmets were used instead of masks.

Salty one invited me to fight against his Mai Sowks (he had made a pair to his dimensions that were quite scary), but being fond of my ribs I declined.  For a stick to have equal capability, I wonder if a hardwood stick would be necessary.

Our goal is for no one to spend the night in the hospital, our goal is for everyone to leave with the IQ with which he came.
24846  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 01, 2008, 08:36:59 PM
Two post copied from another forum:
==========================================

John McCain: The Democrats' Favorite Republican I got this email today and thought that I'd share the info with you guy's. I haven't had a chance to read all of the links, but I thought that some of you might be interested anyway.


John McCain: The Democrats' Favorite Republican (Video) (1min)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGrWt-XICHc

John McCain is a Liberal


"I believe my party has gone astray. I think the Democratic Party is a fine party, and I have no problems with it, in their views and their philosophy." - John McCain

McCain Calls Conservative Leaders 'Agents of Intolerance' (The Wall Street Journal)
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB9517...?mod=googlewsj

"Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether ... on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right." - John McCain

McCain's Age (Townhall)
http://www.townhall.com/Columnists/T...24/mccains_age

Age: 71

- McCain graduated 894th out of 899 in his class at the United States Naval Academy

Betrayal, deceit, corruption and John McCain (The U.S. Veteran Dispatch)
http://www.usvetdsp.com/nov07/mccain_deceit.htm

"While still married to Carol, McCain began an adulterous relationship with

Cindy. He married Cindy in May 1980 - just a month after dumping his

crippled wife and securing a divorce."

John McCain: The Geraldo Rivera Republican (Human Events)
http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=24621

McCain: I'll Respect Hillary (NewsMax)
http://www.newsmax.com/insidecover/m.../18/50422.html

"I Have No Doubt That Senator Clinton Would Make A Good President." - John McCain

The Real McCain Record (National Review Online)
http://article.nationalreview.com/?q...Y5NTZiOGNhOGQ=

Abortion:

John McCain Supports Embryonic Stem Cell Research (Audio)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvl3sDW8T9c

McCain Softens Abortion Stand (The Washington Post)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv...cain082499.htm

"But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations." - John McCain

Anger Issues:

Andy Card: I Have Seen John McCain's Anger (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...1/110824.shtml

John McCain: I Have Anger Issues (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...8/113442.shtml

John McCain's Temper Preceded Vietnam (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...0/123006.shtml

McCain Goes Nuts Near Senate Floor (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...9/210233.shtml

McCain's Out-of-Control Anger: Does He Have the Temperament to Be President? (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/.../5/00548.shtml

Vanity Fair Tiptoes Around McCain's Explosive Temper (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...0/182118.shtml

Endorsements:

Juan Hernandez, Open borders Advocate Endorses McCain (HotAir)
http://hotair.com/archives/2008/01/2...cain-campaign/

Republicans for Al Gore (Environmental Protection) Endorses McCain (Press Release)http://www.rep.org/opinions/press_re...ase08-1-8.html

The New York Times Endorses John McCain and Clinton (Reuters)
http://www.reuters.com/article/vcCan...29487020080125

Foreign Policy:

McCain considers setting benchmarks for Iraqis (Arizona Daily Star)
http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/byauthor/166271

McCain falls asleep during the State of the Union Address (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkkTFVIxMQs

McCain: No 'Torture' for 9/11 Mastermind (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...6/113204.shtml

McCain to Close Gitmo: "The first day I am President" (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5Co7x3A12s

McCain: Torture Worked on Me (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...9/100012.shtml

Global Warming:

McCain and Lieberman Push for New Anti-Global Warming Legislation (The National Center for Public Policy Research)
http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR1803.html

Senators McCain and Lieberman Propose Energy Tax (The National Center for Public Policy Research)http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR102103.html

"No drilling in ANWR, nor in the Everglades, nor off the coast of Florida ... To think that drilling in ANWR is the solution to our incredible energy needs is frankly, is not keeping in the reality of what's there, and what it would take to get it out." - John McCain

"I always have a glass of ethanol before breakfast every morning" - John McCain

Illegal Immigration:

McCain Would Sign Amnesty Bill as President (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLWRW4GoGHY

John McCain gets a 'D' on his Immigration Voting Report Card (Americans for Better Immigration)http://grades.betterimmigration.com/...ct=AZ&VIPID=33

- McCain favors business lobbyists’ desires for foreign workers vs. protecting American workers’ wages and jobs

- McCain’s hopes of giving millions amnesty will saddle American taxpayers with huge costs of $20,000 per illegal per year

- McCain has taken the pro-amnesty position in nearly two dozen votes

- McCain only promises to make 2 million of the 12-20 million illegal aliens go home

John McCain Praises Pro-illegal Protests (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...2/120003.shtml

McCain aide touts 'Mexico first' policy (WorldNetDaily)
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/ar...TICLE_ID=59890

McCain: "Americans Will Not Pick Lettuce for $50 an Hour" (AFL-CIO)
http://blog.aflcio.org/2006/04/05/50...ttuce-you-bet/

McCain called plan 'amnesty' in 2003 (WorldNetDaily)
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/ar...TICLE_ID=59567

"I think we can set up a program where amnesty is extended to a certain number of people, Amnesty has to be an important part..." - John McCain, 2003

McCain: U.S. Should Welcome Illegal Immigrants (FOXNews)
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,123844,00.html

Michigan Crowd Boos McCain On Illegal Immigration (Video) (1min)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-nVJGsTdKU
 

------------------------

Endorsements:

Juan Hernandez, Open borders Advocate Endorses McCain (HotAir)
http://hotair.com/archives/2008/01/2...cain-campaign/

Republicans for Al Gore (Environmental Protection) Endorses McCain (Press Release)http://www.rep.org/opinions/press_re...ase08-1-8.html

The New York Times Endorses John McCain and Clinton (Reuters)
http://www.reuters.com/article/vcCan...29487020080125

Foreign Policy:

McCain considers setting benchmarks for Iraqis (Arizona Daily Star)
http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/byauthor/166271

McCain falls asleep during the State of the Union Address (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkkTFVIxMQs

McCain: No 'Torture' for 9/11 Mastermind (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...6/113204.shtml

McCain to Close Gitmo: "The first day I am President" (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5Co7x3A12s

McCain: Torture Worked on Me (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...9/100012.shtml

Global Warming:

McCain and Lieberman Push for New Anti-Global Warming Legislation (The National Center for Public Policy Research)
http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR1803.html

Senators McCain and Lieberman Propose Energy Tax (The National Center for Public Policy Research)http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR102103.html

"No drilling in ANWR, nor in the Everglades, nor off the coast of Florida ... To think that drilling in ANWR is the solution to our incredible energy needs is frankly, is not keeping in the reality of what's there, and what it would take to get it out." - John McCain

"I always have a glass of ethanol before breakfast every morning" - John McCain

Illegal Immigration:

McCain Would Sign Amnesty Bill as President (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLWRW4GoGHY

John McCain gets a 'D' on his Immigration Voting Report Card (Americans for Better Immigration)http://grades.betterimmigration.com/...ct=AZ&VIPID=33

- McCain favors business lobbyists’ desires for foreign workers vs. protecting American workers’ wages and jobs

- McCain’s hopes of giving millions amnesty will saddle American taxpayers with huge costs of $20,000 per illegal per year

- McCain has taken the pro-amnesty position in nearly two dozen votes

- McCain only promises to make 2 million of the 12-20 million illegal aliens go home

John McCain Praises Pro-illegal Protests (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...2/120003.shtml

McCain aide touts 'Mexico first' policy (WorldNetDaily)
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/ar...TICLE_ID=59890

McCain: "Americans Will Not Pick Lettuce for $50 an Hour" (AFL-CIO)
http://blog.aflcio.org/2006/04/05/50...ttuce-you-bet/

McCain called plan 'amnesty' in 2003 (WorldNetDaily)
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/ar...TICLE_ID=59567

"I think we can set up a program where amnesty is extended to a certain number of people, Amnesty has to be an important part..." - John McCain, 2003

McCain: U.S. Should Welcome Illegal Immigrants (FOXNews)
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,123844,00.html

Michigan Crowd Boos McCain On Illegal Immigration (Video) (1min)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-nVJGsTdKU

Open borders advocate Juan Hernandez has joined the McCain campaign (HotAir)http://hotair.com/archives/2008/01/2...cain-campaign/

- Juan Hernandez, McCain Advisor: Mexico First! (Video) (4min)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i7dyp_nK_Q

U.S. Border Patrol Agents Angry with McCain (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...902.shtml?s=et

Marriage:

Christian Leader James Dobson says 'no way' to McCain candidacy (WorldNetDaily)http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/ar...TICLE_ID=53743

"I think that gay marriage should be allowed if there's a ceremony kind of thing, if you wanna call it that. I don't have any problem with that." - John McCain

McCain: Same-sex marriage ban is un-Republican (CNN)
http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/...cain.marriage/

Taxes:

"I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated." - John McCain

McCain: For and Against Tax Cuts (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StZcJWpmKwk

McCain Boasts That He Voted Against The Bush Tax Cuts (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUDBV6RhQho

McCain Would Vote Against Tax Cuts Again (The Club for Growth)
http://www.clubforgrowth.org/2007/12...gainst_tax.php

- McCain sponsored and voted for an enormous 282% tax increase on cigarettes in 1998

- McCain was one of only two Republican to vote against the $1.35 trillion tax cut in 2001

- McCain was one of only two Republicans to twice vote against permanent repeal of the death tax in 2002

- McCain was one of only three Republican to twice vote against the $350 billion tax cut in 2003

McCain’s Costly Tax on Energy (National Review Online)
http://article.nationalreview.com/?q...FhNTRlZTM5YzU=

- The EPA Estimates Sen. McCain's Plan Would Hike Gas Taxes By 68 Cents Per Gallon

- The EPA Estimates Sen. McCain's Plan Would Reduce United States GDP By As Much As $5.2 Trillion

McCain Rejects Anti-Tax Pledge (CNSNews)
http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewPolitics....20080107b.html

Veterans:

McCain Can't Buy His Way Out of Votes Against Funding for Veterans
http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/alerts/226

- McCain Voted Against $19 Billion for Military Hospitals

- McCain Voted Against Amendment to Provide $2.8 Billion For Veterans' Medical Care

- McCain Voted Against 2005 Amendment to Provide Guaranteed Funding Stream for Veterans' Health Care

- McCain Voted Against Establishing $1 Billion Trust Fund to Provide Improvements to Military and Veterans' Health Facilities

- McCain Voted Against Adding $1.5 billion to Veterans' Medical Services in FY 2007 by Closing Corporate Tax Loopholes

- McCain Voted Against Mandatory Funding of $6.9 Billion in FY 2007 and $104 Billion Over Five Years for Veterans' Health Care
 
24847  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 01, 2008, 05:26:09 PM
Kerry:  "McCain approached me in 2004 about being my VP candidate"
http://mydd.com/story/2007/4/3/11936/97033
24848  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 01, 2008, 10:20:24 AM
A nicely made point on another forum:
=======

I was intrigued by the reason the Witch gave last night for being against driving licenses for illegal immigrants.

From the transcript

"I do not think that it is either appropriate to give a driver's license to someone who is here undocumented, putting them, frankly, at risk, because that is clear evidence that they are not here legally"

"If you want to round up into four (million) people, how many tens of thousands of federal law enforcement officials would that take ... And how much authority would they have to be given to knock on every door of every business and every home? I don't think Americans would stand for that."

Lets read between the lines. Registration is bad for illegal immigrants as Republicans would use it as a database to round them up.

Now lets go back to 2000 where The Witch said:

"We license drivers before they get behind the wheel to make sure they can drive safely. We register cars to make sure someone is responsible for every vehicle on the road. But we don't do the same for deadly weapons,"

So we need to register guns but don't worry registration will not lead to confiscation. We should not register illegal immigrants as that will lead to deportation... Now how can someone be prepared to swear to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" when they have no regard for the 2nd amendment but will twist the rules to keep illegals here?
__________________
24849  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 31, 2008, 04:49:09 PM
Obama Comes to Earth?

Republicans may be on the verge of selecting a nominee, but Democrats are making plans for some long trench warfare.

Mark Penn, a pollster and key strategist for Hillary Clinton, told reporters on a conference call yesterday that he thinks "the search for delegates is going to continue... straight through to the convention."

Mr. Penn also told reporters that while Barack Obama has been basking in his endorsement by Ted Kennedy, there are signs that voters are starting to see Mr. Obama as just another politician: "I think there's a growing perception that Sen. Obama is on the attack."

Logistics also favor the Clinton campaign in the Super Tuesday primaries to be held next week. Mr. Penn noted that unions with six million members are backing the New York Senator and will be on the ground providing get-out-the-vote muscle and resources to deliver her supporters to the polls.

-- John Fund
Mitt Closes His Wallet

Nothing in yesterday's GOP presidential debate from the Reagan Library in California changed John McCain's front-runner status. Mr. McCain was clearly not particularly likeable or at the top of his game but he swatted away the criticisms hurled at him with ease. Mitt Romney was dragged into a lengthy defense on an alleged statement he made about a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq. As the old adage goes: if you are explaining, you are not gaining.

Mr. Romney has only a few days left to change the dynamic of the race before 21 states vote next Tuesday. As of yesterday afternoon, his campaign had purchased no television ad time in any of the Super Tuesday states. "If Thursday goes by without an ad buy, it will be a sign the Romney campaign is only going through the motions," says one TV advertising expert with ties to no candidate. "After all, we know he can write a check if he has to."

-- John Fund
The Candidate Who Memorized 'In Search of Excellence'

At last night's (blessedly) final Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney had the look, and sound, of someone who knows it's over. While predictions in this political season have become a fool's game, I am going to venture that no matter how many states he competes in, Gov. Romney knows he will never close the five-point gap that separated him from John McCain in New Hampshire and now Florida.

Last night the famous Matinee Mitt smile of self-confidence seemed to have been replaced by a more relaxed, wistful glance over at the Arizona Senator seated next to him. That resigned, tight smile said something: I am smarter than you are, Senator, on virtually every issue other than who ran Pakistan 10 years ago, but I am still losing. Why?

Here's why. As was clear again in last night's debate, Gov. Romney's message on the campaign trail or on TV was a perpetual data-dump. Yes, Mitt was smarter than the other guys, but he had the smartest-kid-in-the-class malady of compulsively trying to show off his brain with what in the end merely amounted to a lot of policy details, a lot of "stuff." Did anyone ever understand his explanation of his Massachusetts health care reform?

Result: His message was disorganized. The bumper sticker was "Let Mitt Fix Washington," but the Mitt fix itself came across to audiences as a grab-bag of analysis, nostrums and pieces of supporting data pulled randomly from some folder in his brain. As Mike Huckabee might put it, the bane of the Romney candidacy was Bain & Company. Bain is the consulting firm where by his own admission Mr. Romney learned how to think about the world -- through the eyes of a management consultant. As any CEO who has ever hired one of these firms will tell you, they are fascinating guys to talk to but you wouldn't want them actually running your company.

The Romney candidacy never quite came into focus. Yeah, fix Washington, but beyond that a blizzard of technocratic data at every whistlestop. One can see why he'd be maddened losing to the almost stolid McCain candidacy. But no one could miss the McCain message: national honor, a duty to fulfill the nation's responsibilities and the real and present danger of an external threat. It's a mindset they teach in the military but not in consulting: Keep it simple, stupid.

Mitt couldn't. He's done.

-- Daniel Henninger
Quote of the Day

"One reality is likely to emerge for voters who care most about national security: John McCain enthusiastically supported the surge, the key course correction in a battle that all Republicans call the 'central front' in the war on terror -- and he did so at great political risk. Still, McCain had several moments [in last night's debate] that will anger conservatives. His line that he worked 'for patriotism, not for profit' is bad. Romney rightly suggested that small business owners will be offended at the implication that profits are somehow ignoble. McCain earns a lot of support because of his service -- military and political. But people know it without him touting his own patriotism. McCain threw a sharp elbow at Romney for laying people off during his time as a venture capitalist. It was unwise and undignified. I imagine his advisers all cringed at the substance and timing of it" -- Stephen Hayes, writing on last night's GOP debate at weeklystandard.com.

Class of '94

The recent retirement announcements by Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) means that 28 Republicans in the House of Representatives will not be returning in 2009, and scratches two more members of the historic 1994 Republican freshman class from the House roster. Out with the tide is slowly going the Republican commando force that, led by Newt Gingrich and campaigning on the "contract with America," ended 40 years of Democratic control in the House.

In 2006, eight members of the 1994 class were either defeated or resigned in scandal. And the attrition continues. Along with Mr. Davis and Mr. Weldon, fellow 1994 classmates Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.), Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) and Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) are retiring this year. Among the five, only Mr. LaHood was not likely to be seriously challenged. With their retirements, plus the recent appointment of Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) to the Senate, the 73-member Republican Revolution class will have dwindled to 17 by next year.

The only remaining 1994 class member who is likely to face serious re-election competition this year is Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), whose toughest race may be in the Republican primary. In 2007, Mr. Jones was one of only two Republicans to join Democrats in co-sponsoring the non-binding resolution opposing President Bush's troop surge in Iraq. The same congressman who in 2003 pushed the House cafeteria to rename French fries "freedom fries" is now facing a challenge from the right for his stance on the Iraq war.


-- Kyle Trygstad, RealClearPolitics.com


WSJ
24850  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survival issues outside the home on: January 31, 2008, 04:30:03 PM
Biggs's Tips for Rich: Expect War, Study Blitz, Mind Markets

Review by James Pressley

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Barton Biggs has some offbeat advice for the rich: Insure yourself against war and disaster by buying a remote farm or ranch and stocking it with ``seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc.''

The ``etc.'' must mean guns.

``A few rounds over the approaching brigands' heads would probably be a compelling persuader that there are easier farms to pillage,'' he writes in his new book, ``Wealth, War and Wisdom.''

Biggs is no paranoid survivalist. He was chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley before leaving in 2003 to form hedge fund Traxis Partners. He doesn't lock and load until the last page of this smart look at how World War II warped share prices, gutted wealth and remains a warning to investors. His message: Listen to markets, learn from history and prepare for the worst.

``Wealth, War and Wisdom'' fills a void. Library shelves are packed with volumes on World War II. The history of stock markets also has been ably recorded, notably in Robert Sobel's ``The Big Board.'' Yet how many books track the intersection of the two?

The ``wisdom'' in the alliterative title refers to the spooky way markets can foreshadow the future. Biggs became fascinated with this phenomenon after discovering by chance that equity markets sensed major turning points in the war.

The British stock market bottomed out in late June 1940 and started rising again before the truly grim days of the Battle of Britain in July to October, when the Germans were splintering London with bombs and preparing to invade the U.K.

`Epic Bottom'

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plumbed ``an epic bottom'' in late April and early May of 1942, then began climbing well before the U.S. victory in the Battle of Midway in June turned the tide against the Japanese.

Berlin shares ``peaked at the high-water mark of the German attack on Russia just before the advance German patrols actually saw the spires of Moscow in early December of 1941.''

``Those were the three great momentum changes of World War II -- although at the time, no one except the stock markets recognized them as such.''

Biggs isn't suggesting that Mr. Market is infallible: He can get ``panicky and crazy in the heat of the moment,'' he says. Over the long haul, though, markets display what James Surowiecki calls ``the wisdom of crowds.''

Like giant voting machines, they aggregate the judgments of individuals acting independently into a collective assessment. Biggs stress-tests this theory against events that shook nations from the Depression through the Korean War, which he calls ``the last battle of World War II.''

Refresher Course

Biggs has read widely and thought deeply. He has a pleasing conversational style, an eye for memorable anecdotes and a weakness for Winston Churchill's quips. His book works as a brisk refresher course.

What really packs a wallop, though, is his combination of military history, market action, maps and charts. It's one thing to say that the London market scraped bottom before the Battle of Britain. It's another to show it.

In May and June 1940, some 338,000 British and French troops had been evacuated from Dunkirk by a flotilla of fishing boats, tugs, barges, yachts and river steamers. The French and Belgian armies had collapsed; the Dutch had surrendered. Britain stood alone, as bombs shattered London and the Nazis prepared to invade. Yet stocks rallied.

Mankind endures “an episode of great wealth destruction” at least once every century, Biggs reminds us. So the wealthy should prepare to ride out a disaster, be it a tsunami, a market meltdown or Islamic terrorists with a dirty bomb.

The rich get complacent, assuming they will have time ``to extricate themselves and their wealth'' when trouble comes, Biggs says. The rich are mistaken, as the Holocaust proves.

``Events move much faster than anyone expects,'' he says, ``and the barbarians are on top of you before you can escape.''

Wealth, War and Wisdom is from Wiley (358 pages, $29.95).

(James Pressley writes for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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