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24851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The WSJ compares McC and BO on: September 16, 2008, 09:22:44 AM
Studies Detail Contrasts in Rivals' Health-Care Plans
Obama's Proposal Would Insure More but at Higher Cost
WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential candidate John McCain's health-care plan would make only a small dent in the ranks of the uninsured, at best covering about five million more people, two new reports conclude.

Democratic nominee Barack Obama would cover more people -- eventually adding about 34 million, according to one of those reports, by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Barack Obama
Sen. Obama's plan would be costly, the center concluded: $1.6 trillion over 10 years. Sen. McCain's would cost nearly as much: $1.3 trillion over the same span. The center doesn't give either campaign credit for initiatives to reduce the cost of health care.

The advantages of the McCain plan, according to the reports, are less government regulation, a more generous tax break and, for many, more flexibility and choice in where to buy coverage.

The Tax Policy Center called its estimates for both plans preliminary because neither campaign has put out enough information to provide a full evaluation.  Similarly, a pair of studies analyzing the candidates' plans, being published Tuesday in Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed policy journal, found many details lacking.  But the campaigns have made clear what direction they would take the health-care system. The differences provide a sharp contrast for voters.

Neither plan would offer universal coverage, though Sen. Obama regularly says his would. Critics of each plan suggest the other would erode the employer-based system that currently covers some 170 million people.

The reports shed new light on the potential and the problems of each plan.

Sen. Obama would give consumers more options, but he would increase federal regulations.

He would create a new government-run plan as well as an "exchange" in which private companies would offer insurance to compete with the government plan. New rules would require that insurance companies provide coverage to everyone, at consistent prices, even those with existing ailments. Parents would be required to cover their children, and large employers would be required to cover their workers or pay a fine.

It amounts to a significant amount of new regulation, health experts Joseph Antos, Gail Wilensky and Hanns Kuttner write in Health Affairs.

"Each of these [new rules] extends the control of government over health insurance, imposing new requirements that will drive up the cost of insurance," they write.

The government-run plan would set a minimum standard for benefits that private plans would have to meet, they explain. Politically, there will be pressure to include generous benefits, they say, and that will lead to high premiums, leaving few options for those who want cheaper, more basic coverage.

 It is likely that companies would be required to offer the same generous benefits to their workers, they say -- another increase in government regulation.  Still, the impact on the uninsured is significant. Overall, the Tax Policy Center predicts that the Obama plan would reduce the number of uninsured by 18 million people in the first year and by 34 million in 10 years.

Sen. McCain would reduce both state and federal regulations and give consumers more choices about where to buy health insurance.

Current law offers a tax break only to those who get insurance through their jobs. The McCain plan would give a refundable tax credit to all who find coverage: $2,500 per person or $5,000 per family. In trade, workers would pay income taxes on the value of health insurance as part of their compensation.

But, unlike a similar plan put forth by President George W. Bush last year, health benefits still would be exempt from the payroll tax paid by workers and employers, and that is why the McCain plan is more expensive than Mr. Bush's, said Len Burman, director of the Tax Policy Center.  Because people could buy insurance on their own, some would leave the employer-sponsored system, especially young and healthy people who can get a better deal on their own. Older, sicker people are likely to face problems buying coverage.

Overall, the Tax Policy Center and the four academics writing in Health Affairs project that about 20 million would leave employer-sponsored coverage, while about 21 million people would be newly covered on the open market. That is a net increase of about one million insured people.

"Many employers would be quick to drop health benefits in response to a major policy change, such as the McCain plan, that greatly altered the business case for offering benefits," the article concludes. The Tax Policy Center projects that the number of newly insured Americans could climb in future years and perhaps reach five million people before dropping again.

The Health Affairs article, whose lead author is Thomas Buchmueller of the University of Michigan, finds other problems with the McCain plan. Because administrative costs are higher on the open market, where insurers evaluate customers individually, he predicts that coverage would be more expensive but less generous.

The McCain plan would allow consumers to buy insurance across state lines. That would give people more choices, but it also would undermine state laws that mandate certain benefits and provide various consumer protections.

Write to Laura Meckler at

24852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: September 16, 2008, 08:28:30 AM
"The freedom and happiness of man...[are] the sole objects of
all legitimate government."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Thaddeus Kosciusko, 1810)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Lipscomb and Bergh,
eds., 12:369.
24853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO on: September 16, 2008, 08:17:08 AM
For those of us who have had quite enough of lipsticked pigs and the politics of personality, here is an effort at discussing the issues from BO's team posting at the WSJ

Why Obama's Health Plan Is Better
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The big threat to growth in the next decade is not oil or food prices, but the rising cost of health care. The doubling of health insurance premiums since 2000 makes employers choose between cutting benefits and hiring fewer workers.

Rising health costs push total employment costs up and wages and benefits down. The result is lost profits and lost wages, in addition to pointless risk, insecurity and a flood of personal bankruptcies.

APSustained growth thus requires successful health-care reform. Barack Obama and John McCain propose to lead us in opposite directions -- and the Obama direction is far superior.

Sen. Obama's proposal will modernize our current system of employer- and government-provided health care, keeping what works well, and making the investments now that will lead to a more efficient medical system. He does this in five ways:

- Learning. One-third of medical costs go for services at best ineffective and at worst harmful. Fifty billion dollars will jump-start the long-overdue information revolution in health care to identify the best providers, treatments and patient management strategies.

- Rewarding. Doctors and hospitals today are paid for performing procedures, not for helping patients. Insurers make money by dumping sick patients, not by keeping people healthy. Mr. Obama proposes to base Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals and doctors on patient outcomes (lower cholesterol readings, made and kept follow-up appointments) in a coordinated effort to focus the entire payment system around better health, not just more care.

- Pooling. The Obama plan would give individuals and small firms the option of joining large insurance pools. With large patient pools, a few people incurring high medical costs will not topple the entire system, so insurers would no longer need to waste time, money and resources weeding out the healthy from the sick, and businesses and individuals would no longer have to subject themselves to that costly and stressful process.

- Preventing. In today's health-care market, less than one dollar in 25 goes for prevention, even though preventive services -- regular screenings and healthy lifestyle information -- are among the most cost-effective medical services around. Guaranteeing access to preventive services will improve health and in many cases save money.

- Covering. Controlling long-run health-care costs requires removing the hidden expenses of the uninsured. The reforms described above will lower premiums by $2,500 for the typical family, allowing millions previously priced out of the market to afford insurance.

In addition, tax credits for those still unable to afford private coverage, and the option to buy in to the federal government's benefits system, will ensure that all individuals have access to an affordable, portable alternative at a price they can afford.

Given the current inefficiencies in our system, the impact of the Obama plan will be profound. Besides the $2,500 savings in medical costs for the typical family, according to our research annual business-sector costs will fall by about $140 billion. Our figures suggest that decreasing employer costs by this amount will result in the expansion of employer-provided health insurance to 10 million previously uninsured people.

We know these savings are attainable: other countries have them today. We spend 40% more than other countries such as Canada and Switzeraland on health care -- nearly $1 trillion -- but our health outcomes are no better.

The lower cost of benefits will allow employers to hire some 90,000 low-wage workers currently without jobs because they are currently priced out of the market. It also would pull one and a half million more workers out of low-wage low-benefit and into high-wage high-benefit jobs. Workers currently locked into jobs because they fear losing their health benefits would be able to move to entrepreneurial jobs, or simply work part time.

In contrast, Sen. McCain, who constantly repeats his no-new-taxes promise on the campaign trail, proposes a big tax hike as the solution to our health-care crisis. His plan would raise taxes on workers who receive health benefits, with the idea of encouraging their employers to drop coverage. A study conducted by University of Michigan economist Tom Buchmueller and colleagues published in the journal Health Affairs suggests that the McCain tax hike will lead employers to drop coverage for over 20 million Americans.

What would happen to these people? Mr. McCain will give them a small tax credit, $5,000 for a family and $2,500 for an individual, and tell them to navigate the individual insurance market on their own.

For middle- and lower-income people, the credits are way too small. They are less than half the cost of policies today ($12,000 on average for a family), and are far below the 75% that most employers offering coverage contribute. Further, their value would erode over time, as the credit increases less rapidly than average premiums.

Those already sick are completely out of luck, as individual insurers are free to deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Mr. McCain has proposed a high-risk pool for the very sick, but has not put forward the money to make it work.

Even for those healthy enough to gain coverage in the individual insurance market, the screening, marketing and individual underwriting that insurers do to separate healthy from sick boosts premiums by 17% relative to employer-provided insurance, well beyond the help offered by the McCain tax credit.

The immediate consequences of the McCain plan are even worse. The McCain plan is a big tax increase on employers and workers. With the economy in recession, that's the last thing America's businesses need.

Finally, Mr. McCain does nothing to bend the curve of rising health-care costs downward. He does not fund investments in learning, rewarding and preventing. Eliminating state coverage requirements will slash preventive service availability.

The high cost-sharing plans he envisions will similarly discourage preventive care. And as he does nothing about the hidden costs of the uncovered -- expensive ER visits, recurring conditions resulting from inadequate follow-up care.

Everyone agrees our health-care financing system must change. But only one candidate, Barack Obama, has real change we can believe in.

Mr. Cutler is professor of economics at Harvard and an adviser to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Mr. DeLong is professor of economics at University of California, Berkeley. Ms. Marciarille is adjunct law professor at McGeorge School of Law.
24854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 16, 2008, 07:51:25 AM
I postd the article in question without comment of my own.  JDN correctly summarizes the case for the sharia arbirtration panels/courts.  The logic is impeccable.  Unfortunately it is not clear that things are that simple and GM does a good job I think of fleshing out why. 

We live in interesting times.
24855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Reproductive issues on: September 15, 2008, 08:54:03 PM
"I would personally fell  terrible for a guy whose partner decided to have an abortion against their (sic) wishes but I don’t think the guy should have legal rights to control the women's  body." 

From which it follows that she shouldn't be able to impose upon him the obligation to pay for the child's upbringing?

FWIW, my own thoughts on the subject:

1) Roe vs. Wade was a terribly reasoned and wrongly decided decision.  Although I strongly agree that there is a Right to Privacy and a Right to Pursue Happiness, these do not give the right to kill.  The question presented is when human life begins.  No where does the Constitution declare that the SCt gets to determine the beginning of human life.

2) The proper place for the determination of the beginning of human life is:
a) in the States,
b) by the political branches: the legislature and the executive

3)  At the time of Roe, a growing minority of states allowed some form of abortion.  The Supremes simply decided to short circuit the political process to impose their personal predilictions.

4) If Roe is reversed (as it should be) the decision making process will revert to where it was before Roe-- to the State legislatures and Executives.  In that a a majority of American's favor some sort of abortion option, the Left's wail that Reversing Roe equals the end of abortion is a crock of excrement.  I suspect what will be worked out is a compromise-- with early abortions being OK and later ones not.

5) The slippery slope argument cuts both ways.  For example, at one end, we see BO voting for partial birth abortion and to allow living aborted fetuses to die.

6) Much of the issue is driven by the long and increasing interregunum between sexual maturity and being ready to have children.  Many people want to fcuk during this time and do so without the risk of children.  I think it can reasonably be pointed out that completely separating the sex act from reproduction has profound societal implications.
24856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Richard Wright of Pink Floyd on: September 15, 2008, 08:32:30 PM
Sax. 65 years old.  Cancer. cry
24857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russian Resurgence and the New-Old Front: Stratfor on: September 15, 2008, 06:18:32 PM
The Russian Resurgence and the New-Old Front
September 15, 2008

By Peter Zeihan

Related Special Topic Page
The Russian Resurgence
Russia is attempting to reforge its Cold War-era influence in its near abroad. This is not simply an issue of nostalgia, but a perfectly logical and predictable reaction to the Russian environment. Russia lacks easily definable, easily defendable borders. There is no redoubt to which the Russians can withdraw, and the only security they know comes from establishing buffers — buffers which tend to be lost in times of crisis. The alternative is for Russia to simply trust other states to leave it alone. Considering Russia’s history of occupations, from the Mongol horde to Napoleonic France to Hitler’s Germany, it is not difficult to surmise why the Russians tend to choose a more activist set of policies.

As such, the country tends to expand and contract like a beating heart — gobbling up nearby territories in times of strength, and then contracting and losing those territories in times of weakness. Rather than what Westerners think of as a traditional nation-state, Russia has always been a multiethnic empire, heavily stocked with non-Russian (and even non-Orthodox) minorities. Keeping those minorities from damaging central control requires a strong internal security and intelligence arm, and hence we get the Cheka, the KGB, and now the FSB.

Nature of the Budding Conflict
Combine a security policy thoroughly wedded to expansion with an internal stabilization policy that institutionalizes terror, and it is understandable why most of Russia’s neighbors do not like Moscow very much. A fair portion of Western history revolves around the formation and shifting of coalitions to manage Russian insecurities.

In the American case specifically, the issue is one of continental control. The United States is the only country in the world that effectively controls an entire continent. Mexico and Canada have been sufficiently intimidated so that they can operate independently only in a very limited sense. (Technically, Australia controls a continent, but with the some 85 percent of its territory unusable, it is more accurate in geopolitical terms to think of it as a small archipelago with some very long bridges.) This grants the United States not only a potentially massive internal market, but also the ability to project power without the fear of facing rearguard security threats. U.S. forces can be focused almost entirely on offensive operations, whereas potential competitors in Eurasia must constantly be on their guard about the neighbors.

The only thing that could threaten U.S. security would be the rise of a Eurasian continental hegemon. For the past 60 years, Russia (or the Soviet Union) has been the only entity that has had a chance of achieving that, largely due to its geographic reach. U.S. strategy for coping with this is simple: containment, or the creation of a network of allies to hedge in Russian political, economic and military expansion. NATO is the most obvious manifestation of this policy imperative, while the Sino-Soviet split is the most dramatic one.

Containment requires that United States counter Russian expansionism at every turn, crafting a new coalition wherever Russia attempts to break out of the strategic ring, and if necessary committing direct U.S. forces to the effort. The Korean and Vietnam wars — both traumatic periods in American history — were manifestations of this effort, as were the Berlin airlift and the backing of Islamist militants in Afghanistan (who incidentally went on to form al Qaeda).

The Georgian war in August was simply the first effort by a resurging Russia to pulse out, expand its security buffer and, ideally, in the Kremlin’s plans, break out of the post-Cold War noose that other powers have tied. The Americans (and others) will react as they did during the Cold War: by building coalitions to constrain Russian expansion. In Europe, the challenges will be to keep the Germans on board and to keep NATO cohesive. In the Caucasus, the United States will need to deftly manage its Turkish alliance and find a means of engaging Iran. In China and Japan, economic conflicts will undoubtedly take a backseat to security cooperation.

Russia and the United States will struggle in all of these areas, consisting as they do the Russian borderlands. Most of the locations will feel familiar, as Russia’s near abroad has been Russia’s near abroad for nearly 300 years. Those locations — the Baltics, Austria, Ukraine, Serbia, Turkey, Central Asia and Mongolia — that defined Russia’s conflicts in times gone by will surface again. Such is the tapestry of history: the major powers seeking advantage in the same places over and over again.

The New Old-Front
But not all of those fronts are in Eurasia. So long as U.S. power projection puts the Russians on the defensive, it is only a matter of time before something along the cordon cracks and the Russians are either fighting a land war or facing a local insurrection. Russia must keep U.S. efforts dispersed and captured by events as far away from the Russian periphery as possible — preferably where Russian strengths can exploit American weakness.

So where is that?

Geography dictates that U.S. strength involves coalition building based on mutual interest and long-range force projection, and internal U.S. harmony is such that America’s intelligence and security agencies have no need to shine. Unlike Russia, the United States does not have large, unruly, resentful, conquered populations to keep in line. In contrast, recall that the multiethnic nature of the Russian state requires a powerful security and intelligence apparatus. No place better reflects Russia’s intelligence strengths and America’s intelligence weakness than Latin America.

The United States faces no traditional security threats in its backyard. South America is in essence a hollow continent, populated only on the edges and thus lacking a deep enough hinterland to ever coalesce into a single hegemonic power. Central America and southern Mexico are similarly fractured, primarily due to rugged terrain. Northern Mexico (like Canada) is too economically dependent upon the United States to seriously consider anything more vibrant than ideological hostility toward Washington. Faced with this kind of local competition, the United States simply does not worry too much about the rest of the Western Hemisphere — except when someone comes to visit.

Stretching back to the time of the Monroe Doctrine, Washington’s Latin American policy has been very simple. The United States does not feel threatened by any local power, but it feels inordinately threatened by any Eastern Hemispheric power that could ally with a local entity. Latin American entities cannot greatly harm American interests themselves, but they can be used as fulcrums by hostile states further abroad to strike at the core of the United States’ power: its undisputed command of North America.

It is a fairly straightforward exercise to predict where Russian activity will reach its deepest. One only needs to revisit Cold War history. Future Russian efforts can be broken down into three broad categories: naval interdiction, drug facilitation and direct territorial challenge.

Naval Interdiction

Naval interdiction represents the longest sustained fear of American policymakers. Among the earliest U.S. foreign efforts after securing the mainland was asserting control over the various waterways used for approaching North America. Key in this American geopolitical imperative is the neutralization of Cuba. All the naval power-projection capabilities in the world mean very little if Cuba is both hostile and serving as a basing ground for an extra-hemispheric power.

The U.S. Gulf Coast is not only the heart of the country’s energy industry, but the body of water that allows the United States to function as a unified polity and economy. The Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi river basins all drain to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. The economic strength of these basins depends upon access to oceanic shipping. A hostile power in Cuba could fairly easily seal both the Straits of Florida and the Yucatan Channel, reducing the Gulf of Mexico to little more than a lake.

Building on the idea of naval interdiction, there is another key asset the Soviets targeted at which the Russians are sure to attempt a reprise: the Panama Canal. For both economic and military reasons, it is enormously convenient to not have to sail around the Americas, especially because U.S. economic and military power is based on maritime power and access. In the Cold War, the Soviets established friendly relations with Nicaragua and arranged for a favorable political evolution on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Like Cuba, these two locations are of dubious importance by themselves. But take them together — and add in a Soviet air base at each location as well as in Cuba — and there is a triangle of Soviet airpower that can threaten access to the Panama Canal.

Drug Facilitation

The next stage — drug facilitation — is somewhat trickier. South America is a wide and varying land with very little to offer Russian interests. Most of the states are commodity providers, much like the Soviet Union was and Russia is today, so they are seen as economic competitors. Politically, they are useful as anti-American bastions, so the Kremlin encourages such behavior whenever possible. But even if every country in South America were run by anti-American governments, it would not overly concern Washington; these states, alone or en masse, lack the ability to threaten American interests … in all ways but one.

The drug trade undermines American society from within, generating massive costs for social stability, law enforcement, the health system and trade. During the Cold War, the Soviets dabbled with narcotics producers and smugglers, from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to the highland coca farmers of Bolivia. It is not so much that the Soviets encouraged the drug trade directly, but that they encouraged any group they saw as ideologically useful.

Stratfor expects future Russian involvement in such activities to eclipse those of the past. After the Soviet fall, many FSB agents were forced to find new means to financially support themselves. (Remember it was not until 1999 that Vladimir Putin took over the Russian government and began treating Russian intelligence like a bona fide state asset again.) The Soviet fall led many FSB agents, who already possessed more than a passing familiarity with things such as smuggling and organized crime, directly into the heart of such activities. Most of those agents are — formally or not — back in the service of the Russian government, now with a decade of gritty experience on the less savory side of intelligence under their belts. And they now have a deeply personal financial interest in the outcome of future operations.

Drug groups do not need cash from the Russians, but they do need weaponry and a touch of training — needs which dovetail perfectly with the Russians’ strengths. Obviously, Russian state involvement in such areas will be far from overt; it just does not do to ship weapons to the FARC or to one side of the brewing Bolivian civil war with CNN watching. But this is a challenge the Russians are good at meeting. One of Russia’s current deputy prime ministers, Igor Sechin, was the USSR’s point man for weapons smuggling to much of Latin America and the Middle East. This really is old hat for them.

U.S. Stability

Finally, there is the issue of direct threats to U.S. stability, and this point rests solely on Mexico. With more than 100 million people, a growing economy and Atlantic and Pacific ports, Mexico is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that could theoretically (which is hardly to say inevitably) threaten U.S. dominance in North America. During the Cold War, Russian intelligence gave Mexico more than its share of jolts in efforts to cause chronic problems for the United States. In fact, the Mexico City KGB station was, and remains today, the biggest in the world. The Mexico City riots of 1968 were in part Soviet-inspired, and while ultimately unsuccessful at overthrowing the Mexican government, they remain a testament to the reach of Soviet intelligence. The security problems that would be created by the presence of a hostile state the size of Mexico on the southern U.S. border are as obvious as they would be dangerous.

As with involvement in drug activities, which incidentally are likely to overlap in Mexico, Stratfor expects Russia to be particularly active in destabilizing Mexico in the years ahead. But while an anti-American state is still a Russian goal, it is not their only option. The Mexican drug cartels have reached such strength that the Mexican government’s control over large portions of the country is an open question. Failure of the Mexican state is something that must be considered even before the Russians get involved. And simply doing with the Mexican cartels what the Soviets once did with anti-American militant groups the world over could suffice to tip the balance.

In many regards, Mexico as a failed state would be a worse result for Washington than a hostile united Mexico. A hostile Mexico could be intimidated, sanctioned or even invaded, effectively browbeaten into submission. But a failed Mexico would not restrict the drug trade at all. The border would be chaos, and the implications of that go well beyond drugs. One of the United States’ largest trading partners could well devolve into a seething anarchy that could not help but leak into the U.S. proper.

Whether Mexico becomes staunchly anti-American or devolves into the violent chaos of a failed state does not matter much to the Russians. Either one would threaten the United States with a staggering problem that no amount of resources could quickly or easily fix. And the Russians right now are shopping around for staggering problems with which to threaten the United States.

In terms of cost-benefit analysis, all of these options are no-brainers. Threatening naval interdiction simply requires a few jets. Encouraging the drug trade can be done with a few weapons shipments. Destabilizing a country just requires some creativity. However, countering such activities requires a massive outlay of intelligence and military assets — often into areas that are politically and militarily hostile, if not outright inaccessible. In many ways, this is containment in reverse.

Old Opportunities, New Twists
In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega has proven so enthusiastic in his nostalgia for Cold War alignments that Nicaragua has already recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the two territories in the former Soviet state (and U.S. ally) of Georgia that Russia went to war to protect. That makes Nicaragua the only country in the world other than Russia to recognize the breakaway regions. Moscow is quite obviously pleased — and was undoubtedly working the system behind the scenes.

In Bolivia, President Evo Morales is attempting to rewrite the laws that govern his country’s wealth distribution in favor of his poor supporters in the indigenous highlands. Now, a belt of conflict separates those highlands, which are roughly centered at the pro-Morales city of Cochabamba, from the wealthier, more Europeanized lowlands. A civil war is brewing — a conflict that is just screaming for outside interference, as similar fights did during the Cold War. It is likely only a matter of time before the headlines become splattered with pictures of Kalashnikov-wielding Cochabambinos decrying American imperialism.

Yet while the winds of history are blowing in the same old channels, there certainly are variations on the theme. The Mexican cartels, for one, were radically weaker beasts the last time around, and their current strength and disruptive capabilities present the Russians with new options.

So does Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a man so anti-American he seems to be even a few steps ahead of Kremlin propagandists. In recent days, Chavez has already hosted long-range Russian strategic bombers and evicted the U.S. ambassador. A glance at a map indicates that Venezuela is a far superior basing point than Grenada for threatening the Panama Canal. Additionally, Chavez’s Venezuela has already indicated both its willingness to get militarily involved in the Bolivian conflict and its willingness to act as a weapons smuggler via links to the FARC — and that without any heretofore detected Russian involvement. The opportunities for smuggling networks — both old and new — using Venezuela as a base are robust.

Not all changes since the Cold War are good for Russia, however. Cuba is not as blindly pro-Russian as it once was. While Russian hurricane aid to Cuba is a bid to reopen old doors, the Cubans are noticeably hesitant. Between the ailing of Fidel Castro and the presence of the world’s largest market within spitting distance, the emerging Cuban regime is not going to reflexively side with the Russians for peanuts. In Soviet times, Cuba traded massive Soviet subsidies in exchange for its allegiance. A few planeloads of hurricane aid simply won’t pay the bills in Havana, and it is still unclear how much money the Russians are willing to come up with.

There is also the question of Brazil. Long gone is the dysfunctional state; Brazil is now an emerging industrial powerhouse with an energy company, Petroleo Brasileiro, of skill levels that outshine anything the Russians have yet conquered in that sphere. While Brazilian rhetoric has always claimed that Brazil was just about to come of age, it now happens to be true. A rising Brazil is feeling its strength and tentatively pushing its influence into the border states of Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia, as well as into regional rivals Venezuela and Argentina. Russian intervention tends to appeal to those who do not feel they have meaningful control over their own neighborhoods. Brazil no longer fits into that category, and it will not appreciate Russia’s mucking around in its neighborhood.

A few weeks ago, Stratfor published a piece detailing how U.S. involvement in the Iraq war was winding to a close. We received many comments from readers applauding our optimism. We are afraid that we were misinterpreted. “New” does not mean “bright” or “better,” but simply different. And the dawning struggle in Latin America is an example of the sort of “different” that the United States can look forward to in the years ahead. Buckle up.
24858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: September 15, 2008, 02:41:36 PM
Government Intelligence
Is Way Behind
September 15, 2008; Page A21
As we mark the anniversary of 9/11, it's worth reviewing how quickly the U.S. has closed intelligence gaps in the past and how far we have to go today. In a similar period after the Nazis started World War II, the U.S. broke the German communications code, invented radar, and developed and dropped the nuclear bomb. The war to gain the information upper hand over terrorists is taking longer -- perhaps too long.

Ironically, the government's last great innovation in information technology was the network that became the Internet. The Web has revolutionized civilian life, but not so for the intelligence agencies. Still plagued by old-fashioned giant IT projects, government intelligence agencies stockpile silos of unshared data in a large bureaucratic structure more suited to a predigital era.

National security should benefit more than it does from the country's technological genius, but Silicon Valley and Washington are opposite cultures. In one, the creative destruction of competition is the norm. In 2001, for example, digital leaders included Netscape, Excite and AltaVista where now Google and others dominate. In Washington, permanent bureaucracies are the rule, with new layers added in the name of reform. Venture capitalists back innovations through small technology teams. Washington has built a massive, unwieldy intelligence structure.

This is dangerous because successful intelligence requires great craft in gathering accurate information, then smartly connecting the dots. Recall that law-enforcement authorities had information that would have stopped most of the 9/11 hijackers if only known information about them -- their flight schools, travel documents and dubious wire payments from the Mideast -- had been shared and analyzed. Imagination needed to be applied to these facts, including that civilian airplanes could be turned into weapons.

We do know that many plots have been uncovered and stopped. What we don't know remains a huge risk. London and Madrid have had their versions of 9/11, and other plots have come close. Britain stopped a plot to blow up passenger airplanes flying to the U.S.; the FBI arrested al Qaeda supporters planning to attack soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J.; and German authorities arrested suspected Islamic Jihad Union members planning to attack U.S. military facilities in Germany.

The New York City Police Department alone cites a dozen serious plots against the city since 9/11. Publicized ones include a planned cyanide attack on the subway by al Qaeda operatives; a separate al Qaeda plot to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge; a plan to blow up the midtown subway station at Herald Square; and a plot to bomb underwater train tunnels to flood lower Manhattan.

The good news is that dots are being identified better than before 9/11. Attorney General Michael Mukasey plans to issue new guidelines next month so FBI agents can use the same investigative tools to stop terror plots that they use for criminal probes. A $90 million project is under way for massive surveillance of New York City's financial district, with closed-circuit cameras throughout the area and license-plate monitors to tag suspicious vehicles.

How well these dots are being connected is less clear. Post-9/11 legal reforms now permit FBI agents to search Google and other commercial sites. Yet less than one-third of the FBI's national security branch agents and analysts have Internet access at their desks. A $500 million technology project to update the software to access the terrorist watch list of some one million names doesn't reliably track Arabic names when translated into English. It also doesn't allow basic search terms such as "and" and "or."

Government intelligence has been reorganized into the massive bureaucracy at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. In contrast, countries such as Britain and Israel have structures that encourage information sharing while also ensuring competitive analysis of what the gathered intelligence really means.

Given how commercial innovation is outpacing government, it's likelier that you'll see a targeted, online advertisement for a flight to Orlando just when you're ready to go, long before smart algorithms mining classified data will alert intelligence authorities to connections among suspicious characters. The intelligence community should be challenged at least to become a fast follower of innovation.

Remembering 9/11 means remembering the losses of that day, but it also means remembering what went wrong to allow it to happen. No intelligence system can work all the time, but the government still has a lot to learn from Silicon Valley about how information flows best and how technology can help turn facts into knowledge. A war based on information should be a war fought on our terms, if we can become more intelligent about intelligence.
24859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: September 15, 2008, 02:31:32 PM
Ain't this priceless?  No doubt the MSM will be all over this , , ,

WHILE campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.

Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops - and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its "state of weakness and political confusion."

"However, as an Iraqi, I prefer to have a security agreement that regulates the activities of foreign troops, rather than keeping the matter open." Zebari says.

Though Obama claims the US presence is "illegal," he suddenly remembered that Americans troops were in Iraq within the legal framework of a UN mandate. His advice was that, rather than reach an accord with the "weakened Bush administration," Iraq should seek an extension of the UN mandate.

While in Iraq, Obama also tried to persuade the US commanders, including Gen. David Petraeus, to suggest a "realistic withdrawal date." They declined.

Obama has made many contradictory statements with regard to Iraq. His latest position is that US combat troops should be out by 2010. Yet his effort to delay an agreement would make that withdrawal deadline impossible to meet.

Supposing he wins, Obama's administration wouldn't be fully operational before February - and naming a new ambassador to Baghdad and forming a new negotiation team might take longer still.

By then, Iraq will be in the throes of its own campaign season. Judging by the past two elections, forming a new coalition government may then take three months. So the Iraqi negotiating team might not be in place until next June.

Then, judging by how long the current talks have taken, restarting the process from scratch would leave the two sides needing at least six months to come up with a draft accord. That puts us at May 2010 for when the draft might be submitted to the Iraqi parliament - which might well need another six months to pass it into law.

Thus, the 2010 deadline fixed by Obama is a meaningless concept, thrown in as a sop to his anti-war base.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Bush administration have a more flexible timetable in mind.

According to Zebari, the envisaged time span is two or three years - departure in 2011 or 2012. That would let Iraq hold its next general election, the third since liberation, and resolve a number of domestic political issues.

Even then, the dates mentioned are only "notional," making the timing and the cadence of withdrawal conditional on realities on the ground as appreciated by both sides.

Iraqi leaders are divided over the US election. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (whose party is a member of the Socialist International) sees Obama as "a man of the Left" - who, once elected, might change his opposition to Iraq's liberation. Indeed, say Talabani's advisers, a President Obama might be tempted to appropriate the victory that America has already won in Iraq by claiming that his intervention transformed failure into success.

Maliki's advisers have persuaded him that Obama will win - but the prime minister worries about the senator's "political debt to the anti-war lobby" - which is determined to transform Iraq into a disaster to prove that toppling Saddam Hussein was "the biggest strategic blunder in US history."

Other prominent Iraqi leaders, such as Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi and Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani, believe that Sen. John McCain would show "a more realistic approach to Iraqi issues."

Obama has given Iraqis the impression that he doesn't want Iraq to appear anything like a success, let alone a victory, for America. The reason? He fears that the perception of US victory there might revive the Bush Doctrine of "pre-emptive" war - that is, removing a threat before it strikes at America.

Despite some usual equivocations on the subject, Obama rejects pre-emption as a legitimate form of self -defense. To be credible, his foreign-policy philosophy requires Iraq to be seen as a failure, a disaster, a quagmire, a pig with lipstick or any of the other apocalyptic adjectives used by the American defeat industry in the past five years.

Yet Iraq is doing much better than its friends hoped and its enemies feared. The UN mandate will be extended in December, and we may yet get an agreement on the status of forces before President Bush leaves the White House in January.

Source NY Post
24860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bush's Lonely Decision on: September 15, 2008, 02:10:59 PM
Bush's Lonely Decision
September 15, 2008; Page A22
Now that even Barack Obama has acknowledged that President Bush's surge in Iraq has "succeeded beyond our wildest dreams," maybe it's time the Democratic nominee gives some thought to how that success actually came about -- not just in Ramadi and Baghdad, but in the bureaucratic Beltway infighting out of which the decision to surge emerged.

That's one reason to welcome "The War Within," the fourth installment in Bob Woodward's account of the Bush Presidency. As is often the case with the Washington Post stalwart, the reporting is better than the analysis, which reflects the Beltway conventional wisdom of a dogmatic and incurious President. But even as a (very) rough draft of history, we read Mr. Woodward's book as an instructive profile in Presidential decision-making.

Consider what confronted Mr. Bush in 2006. Following a February attack on a Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra, Iraq's sectarian violence began a steep upward spiral. The U.S. helped engineer the ouster of one Iraqi prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, in favor of Nouri al-Maliki, an untested leader about whom the U.S. knew next to nothing. The "Sunni Awakening" of tribal sheiks against al Qaeda was nowhere in sight. An attempt at a minisurge of U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad failed dismally. George Casey, the American commander in Iraq, believed the only way the U.S. could "win" was to "draw down" -- a view shared up the chain of command, including Centcom Commander John Abizaid and then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Politically, the war had become deeply unpopular in an election year that would wipe out Republican majorities in Congress. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group, run by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, was gearing up to offer the President the option of a politically graceful defeat, dressed up as a regional "diplomatic offensive." Democrats united in their demands for immediate withdrawal, while skittish Republicans who had initially supported the war, including Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith of Oregon, abandoned the Administration.

From the State Department, Condoleezza Rice opposed the surge, arguing, according to Mr. Woodward, that "the U.S. should minimize its role in punishing sectarian violence." Senior brass at the Pentagon were also against it, on the theory that it was more important to ease the stress on the military and be prepared for any conceivable military contingency than to win the war they were fighting.

Handed this menu of defeat, Mr. Bush played opposite to stereotype by firing Mr. Rumsfeld and seeking advice from a wider cast of advisers, particularly retired Army General Jack Keane and scholar Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute. The President also pressed the fundamental question of how the war could actually be won, a consideration that seemed to elude most senior members of his government. "God, what is he talking about?" Mr. Woodward quotes a (typically anonymous) senior aide to Ms. Rice as wondering when Mr. Bush raised the question at one meeting of foreign service officers. "Was the President out of touch?"

No less remarkably, the surge continued to face entrenched Pentagon opposition even after the President had decided on it. Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went out of his way to prevent General Keane from visiting Iraq in order to limit his influence with the White House.

The Pentagon also sought to hamstring General David Petraeus in ways both petty and large, even as it became increasingly apparent that the surge was working. Following the general's first report to Congress last September, Mr. Bush dictated a personal message to assure General Petraeus of his complete support: "I do not want to change the strategy until the strategy has succeeded," Mr. Woodward reports the President as saying. In this respect, Mr. Bush would have been better advised to dictate that message directly to Admiral Mullen.

The success of the surge in pacifying Iraq has been so swift and decisive that it's easy to forget how difficult it was to find the right general, choose the right strategy, and muster the political will to implement it. It is also easy to forget how many obstacles the State and Pentagon bureaucracies threw in Mr. Bush's way, and how much of their bad advice he had to ignore, especially now that their reputations are also benefiting from Iraq's dramatic turn for the better.

Then again, American history offers plenty of examples of wartime Presidents who faced similar challenges: Ulysses Grant became Lincoln's general-in-chief in 1864, barely a year before the surrender at Appomattox. What matters most is that the President had the fortitude to insist on winning. That's a test President Bush passed -- something history, if not Bob Woodward, will recognize.
24861  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: September 15, 2008, 01:06:09 PM
Hi adrenaline skateboard
24862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 15, 2008, 01:04:05 PM
I appreciate your points, but apart for Rev. Wright this is a church that had a particularly warm relationship with Louis Farrakhan and featured him prominently.  There's plenty of black churches with community programs that don't promote such virulent bigots.
24863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / pd wsj on: September 15, 2008, 12:59:23 PM
Lost amid last week's controversy over whether Barack Obama had insulted Sarah Palin with his "lipstick on a pig" reference was his inspiration for the dig. Once again the issue was whether he was borrowing material without citation.

What landed Mr. Obama in hot water was this statement: "John McCain says he's about change, too -- except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy, and Karl Rove-style politics. That's just calling the same thing something different. You can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change; it's still going to stink after eight years."

The McCain campaign shamelessly claimed that because Ms. Palin had used a lipstick reference in her acceptance speech at the GOP convention, Mr. Obama was issuing a porcine insult of her. That was a stretch. A better riposte might have been to note that Mr. Obama seemed to be channeling a hard-left newspaper cartoonist named Tom Toles. Only four days earlier, Mr. Toles drew a picture of Mr. McCain and his running mate standing outside the White House. The punch line: "Watch out, Mr. Bush! With the exception of economic policy and energy policy and social issues and tax policy and foreign policy and Supreme Court appointments and Rove-style politics, we're coming in there to shake things up!"

Mr. Obama has had previous problems with appropriating the words of others -- such as channeling a speech on civil rights previously delivered by Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. Michael Miner of the Chicago Reader even proposed a McCain TV ad showing Mr. Obama making his "change" argument against the background of the Toles cartoon. An announcer would quizzically ask: "Change? Or the same thing?" Then Mr. McCain would say: "I'm John McCain and I approve this message."

Such an ad, puncturing the media myth of Mr. Obama's vaunted eloquence, might have been devastating.

-- John Fund

I Was Raised in a Small Town Too

I had to chuckle at the charge in the New York Times that Sarah Palin had hired "cronies" from her high school when she was governor -- in a small state, that's hard not to do, and even harder in Alaska where recruiting from out of state is a special challenge.

I had to smile too at the alleged claim from a campaign contributor that he'd used his "influence" with Mrs. Palin to get the head of the town museum fired. Not only does the contributor deny the story, but any veteran of small town politics will tell you it's rife with colorful characters who sometimes think they wield more influence than they actually do.

A lot about the New York Times' front-page dissection of Sarah Palin's Alaska record on Sunday brought back memories of my own experiences growing up in a small town in a rural state. My erstwhile hometown, Rutland, Vt. (pop. 17,000), itself recently went through similar personnel upheaval following the election of a mayor and city treasurer determined to run the city more efficiently. And who knows what the Times would have made of a controversy in the 1990s about whether the town library should shelf "Daddy's Roommate," a children's book about same-sex couples?

The point being, the kind of small-town politics the Times describes would only come as news to, well, the New York Times. There may yet be undiscovered dirt in Mrs. Palin's Wasilla record, but on the evidence so far, her experiences will be pretty recognizable to many Americans. Contrast that with Barack Obama's mysterious record as a "community organizer" -- I don't remember many of those in Rutland.

-- Joseph Sternberg

Quote of the Day

"Until now, the crisis seemed like a confusing Wall Street story. That all ended with the fast-moving events of Sunday. . . . The candidates had hoped to put off their detailed prescriptions until they were in office, unrolling an economic agenda in conjunction with an address to the new Congress. Now, there's no way to duck it. . . . 'This is the financial equivalent of Russia invading Georgia -- an unexpected event that calls for leadership and direction,' said James Rickards, senior managing director for market intelligence at Omnis Inc., a research and analysis firm" --'s Mike Allen on the political repercussions of Wall Street's crisis.

Your Wallet Still Isn't Safe

In the Fed's and Treasury's game of whack a mole, the moles are winning. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson didn't bail out Lehman, correctly judging that a bailout would be no real solution. But don't think this marks the end of government attempts to relieve the financial crisis.

If there has been one uninterrupted trend of the past century, it has been the steady socialization of risk -- especially financial risk. Deposit insurance was created and then expanded. In the S&L meltdown, even uninsured depositors were saved. Subsidy after subsidy was piled up to encourage mortgage debt. All the fiscal and monetary powers were mounted to rescue banks from their Third World lending misadventures. The "system" was protected from the failures of Penn Central, Continental Illinois, Long Term Capital, the crashing dotcoms and telecoms, etc.

And when even massive liquidity provided by a government lender of last resort proves insufficient? Today’s confidence hemorrhage probably won't stop until government supplies what the financial markets have failed to supply (except in small instances) -- a buyer of last resort for unwanted mortgage-related assets.

It was careless, of course, to hold a financial crisis in the middle of a presidential election. And neither ticket this year is especially confidence inspiring when it comes to economics -- more likely to one-up each other in denouncing "bailouts" and "greed" than to contribute anything constructive. Note the rich irony of Barack Obama and John McCain's sudden, after-the-fact recriminations over the severance packages of Fannie's and Freddie's departed chiefs -- for, if there ever was a case where two U.S. Senators had a duty to be on the ball before-the-fact, it was in overseeing these two "government sponsored enterprises."

For all that, a taxpayer bailout of the financial system is inevitable. The political calendar only means it likely won't arrive until next year.

What did Merrill get for its mortgage-related holdings, unloaded on a single hedge-fund buyer in late July? 22 cents on the dollar was surely a lowball value. In London, a competitive auction of the remains of Cheyne Finance's structured mortgage portfolio fetched 44 cents.

Let's say a flat price of 25 cents on the dollar, no questions asked. A new Resolution Trust Corporation, instead of taking over failed banks, would stand ready to buy any mortgage-related assets that any financial institution cares to bring it. We already have the makings of such an institution in place, in the form of the quasi-nationalized Fannie and Freddie (who already own about half the nation's foreclosed homes). No, not every down-on-its-luck firm would be saved, but banks would have a pawnshop willing to inject new capital into them by taking soggy assets off their hands at a price fair to the taxpayer. Even if such an offer tempted few takers, a floor on mortgage-debt prices might do a lot more to restore confidence (especially given the role of misguided government accounting rules for financial institutions) than the endless mole-whacking of Washington's first responders so far.

-- Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

Red Ink in the Golden State

After a stalemate that lasted two and a half months, California lawmakers reached a tentative deal to end the state's budget impasse.

Last week, Democrats dropped their insistence on new taxes to resolve a $16.3 billion deficit problem. Republicans then promptly signed on to a series of accounting gimmicks and one-time fixes, many involving accelerated tax payments so they count in the current fiscal year rather than the next one.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who angered his fellow Republicans earlier this month by proposing a "temporary" sales tax, is keeping mum on whether he will sign off on the deal. His office professes to be worried about insufficient reform of the budget process. But everyone in Sacramento wants to cut a short-term deal and "get out of town." Elections involving 100 of the state's 120 legislators are only six weeks away and politicians are antsy to hit the campaign trail.

Regardless of any deal, California faces another budget crisis next year. "Both parties are papering over the problems," a longtime state budget analyst told me. "They've agreed not to raise taxes or make real spending reforms this year when the voters can pass judgment on their work in November. Next year, with everyone safely re-elected, they will then mete out the real pain."

This gamesmanship cries out for real budgetary reform. During the 1980s, California operated under the Gann Limit, a voter-approved constitutional restriction that prevented spending from growing faster than population growth and inflation. Unfortunately, Gann was cleverly watered down to the point of meaninglessness as part of a bait-and-switch transportation bond measure narrowly approved by voters in 1990. Ever since, California's legislators have pigged out on spending sprees during good economic times and then muddled through in downturns.

It's time for a new Gann Limit to be placed before voters, because state legislators and Governor Schwarzenegger have shown themselves of steering the state's fiscal vehicle without some budgetary guardrails installed.

24864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 15, 2008, 11:07:05 AM

ISLAMIC law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.
The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence.
Rulings issued by a network of five sharia courts are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court.
Previously, the rulings of sharia courts in Britain could not be enforced, and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.
It has now emerged that sharia courts with these powers have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester with the network’s headquarters in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi, whose Muslim Arbitration Tribunal runs the courts, said he had taken advantage of a clause in the Arbitration Act 1996.
Under the act, the sharia courts are classified as arbitration tribunals. The rulings of arbitration tribunals are binding in law, provided that both parties in the dispute agree to give it the power to rule on their case.
Siddiqi said: “We realised that under the Arbitration Act we can make rulings which can be enforced by county and high courts. The act allows disputes to be resolved using alternatives like tribunals. This method is called alternative dispute resolution, which for Muslims is what the sharia courts are.”
The disclosure that Muslim courts have legal powers in Britain comes seven months after Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was pilloried for suggesting that the establishment of sharia in the future “seems unavoidable” in Britain.
In July, the head of the judiciary, the lord chief justice, Lord Phillips, further stoked controversy when he said that sharia could be used to settle marital and financial disputes.
In fact, Muslim tribunal courts started passing sharia judgments in August 2007. They have dealt with more than 100 cases that range from Muslim divorce and inheritance to nuisance neighbours.
It has also emerged that tribunal courts have settled six cases of domestic violence between married couples, working in tandem with the police investigations.
Siddiqi said he expected the courts to handle a greater number of “smaller” criminal cases in coming years as more Muslim clients approach them. “All we are doing is regulating community affairs in these cases,” said Siddiqi, chairman of the governing council of the tribunal.
Jewish Beth Din courts operate under the same provision in the Arbitration Act and resolve civil cases, ranging from divorce to business disputes. They have existed in Britain for more than 100 years, and previously operated under a precursor to the act.
Politicians and church leaders expressed concerns that this could mark the beginnings of a “parallel legal system” based on sharia for some British Muslims.
Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: “If it is true that these tribunals are passing binding decisions in the areas of family and criminal law, I would like to know which courts are enforcing them because I would consider such action unlawful. British law is absolute and must remain so.”
Douglas Murray, the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, said: “I think it’s appalling. I don’t think arbitration that is done by sharia should ever be endorsed or enforced by the British state.”
There are concerns that women who agree to go to tribunal courts are getting worse deals because Islamic law favours men.
Siddiqi said that in a recent inheritance dispute handled by the court in Nuneaton, the estate of a Midlands man was divided between three daughters and two sons.
The judges on the panel gave the sons twice as much as the daughters, in accordance with sharia. Had the family gone to a normal British court, the daughters would have got equal amounts.
In the six cases of domestic violence, Siddiqi said the judges ordered the husbands to take anger management classes and mentoring from community elders. There was no further punishment.
In each case, the women subsequently withdrew the complaints they had lodged with the police and the police stopped their investigations.
Siddiqi said that in the domestic violence cases, the advantage was that marriages were saved and couples given a second chance.
Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “The MCB supports these tribunals. If the Jewish courts are allowed to flourish, so must the sharia ones.”
24865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on: September 15, 2008, 11:06:04 AM

"Conscience is the most sacred of all property. "

-- James Madison (essay on Property, 29 March 1792)

Reference: Madison: Writings, Rakove, ed., Library of America (516)
24866  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 15, 2008, 10:34:36 AM
Grateful for a confusion clarified.
24867  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Woof from a FMA noob on: September 15, 2008, 10:33:40 AM
Woof Chad:

Welcome aboard and glad to see your first post.

Both Greg and Rick are outstanding teachers and any time with them will be well spent.  I look forward to hearing from you when you are ready to work with me.

Guro C.

24868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: September 14, 2008, 06:27:46 PM
Concerning "the Bradley Effect" and the accuracy of polls.  I've read ttat pollsters call land lines, which tends to miss younger voters-- who tend to be pro BO.
24869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: September 14, 2008, 04:46:58 PM
Sounds like I should have read it first  embarassed  The source from whom I received the recommendation has been downgraded from "relaible source" to "usually reliable source"  cheesy
24870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fred Barnes on SP on: September 14, 2008, 04:44:21 PM
Fred Barnes fleshes out Barracuda's history:

 Palin the Pragmatic
Doctrinaire conservatives beware.
by Fred Barnes
09/22/2008, Volume 014, Issue 02

Conservatives are rushing to crown Alaska governor Sarah Palin as the new Ronald Reagan. And indeed there are similarities. Like Reagan, Palin has a dazzling star quality and an appeal to voters outside the conservative orbit. But there's another likeness to Reagan that conservatives may find a bit off-putting. She governs as a pragmatic conservative--with heavy emphasis on the pragmatic.

Palin, John McCain's vice presidential running mate, is a strong social and religious conservative. She opposes abortion and gay rights and, as an evangelical Christian, believes in a God-centered universe. But these matters are neither her top priorities as governor nor even her second-tier concerns. Her social conservatism has been muted.

Instead, her agenda since being elected governor in 2006 consists of oil and gas, taxes, and ethics reform. "Just look at the bills she put her name on," says John Bitney, her policy director during her first year as governor. "They speak for themselves." The bills involved a new arrangement for building a natural gas pipeline, higher taxes on oil companies, and new ethics rules covering the governor's administration and the legislature.

Those were her major initiatives. Next on Palin's list of priorities were maintaining the solvency of the pension program for teachers, cutting spending in the state's capital budget, and assuring that parents who home school their children aren't discriminated against by state regulations.

Palin has frequently voiced her support for anti-abortion bills requiring parental consent for girls under 17 and outlawing partial-birth abortions. "Alaskans know I am pro-life and have never wavered in my belief in the sanctity of every human life," she declared in April.

But she refused to introduce the pro-life measures in a special legislative session last spring devoted to the gas pipeline. "These issues are so important they shouldn't be diluted with oil and gas deliberations," she said.

Later, she declined to call a separate special session to take up the abortion bills. Her reasoning: Pro-lifers had failed to persuade her the bills could pass the state senate. Nor would she intervene to pressure two Republican senators who opposed the legislation to change their minds. Palin isn't willing "to jump out in front of the bus on things that aren't moveable" in the legislature, says state Republican chairman Randy Ruedrich.

Palin's conservatism, like Reagan's, has never been in doubt. When I talked to her last year, she described herself as "pro-business and pro-development." TheAnchorage Daily News said the spending cuts she imposed in 2007 "may be the biggest single-year line-item veto total in state history." Of course, Palin is also pro-gun.

When she attended a governor's conference in Washington last February and was interviewed on C-SPAN by Steve Scully, she endorsed "across the board" tax cuts because Americans "know best" how to spend their own money. Palin said she's "committed" to making Alaska "more of a contributing state .  .  . and less reliant on the federal government."

Her biggest task as governor has been to start construction of the gas pipeline to the lower 48 states. She tossed out the sweetheart contract her predecessor, Republican Frank Murkowski, had reached with three oil companies and negotiated a new deal with a Canadian company. The goal, she said, is "to feed hungry markets in our state, reduce energy costs, help secure the nation, [and] flow that energy into hungry markets across the nation. That's my mission."

Her record as governor hardly qualifies her as a doctrinaire conservative. She proposed a graduated tax on oil as the price soared, then signed a bill passed by the legislature that set the new tax rate even higher. Reagan, by the way, cut taxes in 1981 and raised them the next year.

Why did Palin push a pipeline and favor a tax hike? Bitney says the answer is simple: Alaska needs more energy as older oil fields become depleted, and the pipeline will generate jobs and revenue. As for raising taxes, Palin follows the command of the state constitution to get the maximum benefit from the state's natural resources.

Bitney says Palin never instructed her gubernatorial staff to "go after abortion" or any other issues of concern to social conservatives. In a campaign debate in 2006, she said that both evolution and creationism should be taught in public schools. "You know, don't be afraid of education," she said. "Healthy debate is so important and so valuable in our schools."

The next day she thought better of her comment. "I would not push the state board of education to add creation-based alternatives to the state's required curriculum," she said. But there shouldn't be "a prohibition against debate if [creationism] comes up in class."

As governor, Palin has appointed a commissioner of education and nine members of the state board--without applying a litmus test on creationism or evolution. And there's been no effort, either by Palin or her appointees, to add creationism to the curriculum.

Palin's most celebrated act of practical conservatism was killing the notorious Bridge to Nowhere in Ketchikan. She had endorsed it in a gubernatorial campaign debate, but changed her mind after being elected. By then, the project had become a symbol of wasteful spending, and the congressional earmark with money for it had been rescinded.

But the three members of Alaska's congressional delegation--Ted Stevens, Lisa Murkowski, and Don Young--still favored the project. Their expectation was that Palin would keep it alive with federal highway funds and state money. She refused.

The anointing of Palin as the new Reagan is surely premature. Let's say she's a potential Reagan. Like him, Palin has focused on a few big issues, while allowing others popular with conservatives to fall by the wayside. This brand of pragmatic conservatism worked for Reagan. It's worked for Palin too.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
24871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: September 14, 2008, 08:04:03 AM
This site comes recommended to me:

24872  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knife Clips on: September 14, 2008, 07:59:30 AM
Thank you. 

Please keep them coming folks!
24873  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Rules of Engagement on: September 14, 2008, 07:55:13 AM
Woof Peregrine:

I agree that moral and legal standards may well not be the same.

I would add to the analytical mix is not only the provocation/intimidation/threat/attack but its context.  Is it "intra-tribal" i.e. within your social circles/networks/someone known to you/traceable by you or is it in some anonymous context? 

A month or so ago, at the hotel swimming pool where we have a membership, while sitting in the jacuzzi a heavily tattooed gangmember joined us with his woman and my then daughter (just turned 6) asked him about his tatoos and why he wasn't worried the water would wash his tattoos off.  There was some awkwardness as his women said that they could NEVER be washed off and that was why one should not get tattoos.  Without realizing it I was staring at his tatts (about 7 of them had naked women with great breasts) as well as devils, gang names and such and he aked me what I was looking at.  I said sorry, I had just been staring into space, and about 90 seconds later told my daughter it was time to go.

My son is still at the age where he thinks dad can kick the world's butt, so I made sure to tell him the story that night as I tucked him into bed and explain why I had left.
24874  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Rules of Engagement on: September 13, 2008, 07:18:30 PM
There wisdom in what you say.  Do note though that it was Durban South Africa and not Dublin Ireland.  cheesy
24875  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 13, 2008, 07:16:35 PM
Woof Craig:

Surf has been doing an excellent job with Tyler, who really seems to soak it up.


Grateful to be home with my family, grateful for a fun documentary shoot this AM with the G4 network, grateful to have started up again my class at the IAMA.
24876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: September 13, 2008, 06:49:04 PM
ABC cheap shots Palin.  Who'd have thought it could happen?
24877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 13, 2008, 06:28:03 PM
We are glad to have you with us once again. 
24878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: September 13, 2008, 06:13:25 PM
Woof Rachel:

In case it isn't yet clear, I am glad you are part of the mix here and I am sure I am not the only one.  BBG and GM have a relentless martian love of logic,  wink but I am sure you are up to the conversation.  Even if we may persuade each other rarely, I am sure that we will understand our own positions and the positions of others better for our interaction.

Thank you for the URL.  I will be posting this in a couple of hard core right wing forums-- it will be fun to see the reaction. cheesy

With regard to Hillary, my distinct impression is that she DID do a "all those men are picking on me routine" during the early primaires, similar in emotional content to her early days in her husband's White House when she did the "Pretty in Pink" press conference.  Also, in my unprovable opinion, her tears after losing some primaries were quite deliberate.  In short, I do distinguish her actions with those of Barracuda so far.

I respect the intellectual integrity of the piece you post immediately prior to this one of mine.

I suspect that Team McCain may be peaking on this issue by overplaying it and overplaying Barracuda.  I gather today that they had to backtrack on SP's record on earmarks, and may be backtracking on the Sex Ed clip they put out.  The utter cynicism of both sides-- see your Colbert clip for for really crisp examples from Rove and Bloviating Bill, and see any of several posts from GM and BBG for examples from the left or your post for that matter-- is going to leave McC a bit high and dry.

24879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: September 13, 2008, 08:38:10 AM

The Rebecaa Traister piece reveals the workings of a seriouly confused and neurotic mind doing its best to understand, but not getting very far.

OTOH the Colter bit is scathingly funny.  What is the URL for it?  BTW in the interests of martian logic, I would note that unlike Hillary's "They're picking on me", to my knowledge SP has said no such thing.  Its the McCain people and flunkies like Hannity who are doing so.

I'm delighted that all this seems to be helping McC, but its not anything I take seriously.  IMHO MC is running the risk of overplaying it and it may well come back to bite him in the butt.
24880  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The First Amendment on: September 12, 2008, 11:06:21 PM
"I really hope they loose (sic) their tax exempt status".

Although I can understand their emotion, I agree with you that tax money should not be used.
24881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: September 12, 2008, 10:51:39 PM
Excellent find Rachel!

" But then, maybe it was that allure of the mysterious other that kept Mars and Venus together so long on the savanna."

Flipping this around, perhaps the other side of the coin is when we seek to minimize differences we decrease reproduction  (see e.g. Europe) and increase homosexuality? evil cheesy

Seriously though, good piece.
24882  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 12, 2008, 09:58:23 PM
 cool cool cool

In a similar vein I just finished getting beaten up siniwali by my nine year old son.  Happy dad  cool
24883  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Bolivia on: September 12, 2008, 09:54:53 PM


El conflicto andino alcanza una nueva dimensión con la expulsión mutua de embajadores de Estados Unidos y Venezuela

Evo Morales envía tropas y blindados al Oriente para reforzar a los militares que no reprimen a los manifestantes


La rebelión cívica y social de cinco provincias autonomistas del oriente de Bolivia ha alcanzado un punto álgido de violencia, destrucción y muerte, que podría desembocar en guerra civil. El conflicto interno del país andino alcanzó dimensión internacional con la expulsión por los gobiernos de La Paz y Caracas del embajador de Estados Unidos en esas capitales. Washington reaccionó en forma fulminante al  ordenar en reciprocidad la salida de los representantes diplomáticos de Bolivia y Venezuela.

En forma enérgica, las Fuerzas Armadas bolivianas condenaron la afirmación de Hugo Chávez de que apoyará "cualquier movimiento armado" si Evo Morales es derrocado. En respuesta al presidente venezolano,  los militares rechazaron  "intromisiones externas de cualquier índole" en asuntos internos.

“Al presidente Chávez le decimos que las Fuerzas Armadas rechazan enfáticamente intromisiones externas de cualquier índole, vengan de donde vengan, y no permitirán que ningún militar o fuerza extranjera pise el territorio nacional", se afirma en  un comunicado de la institución castrense. Esta posición representa también un fuerte revés para Evo Morales, quien ha promovido la presencia de militares venezolanos en Bolivia. Su guardia personal es de oficiales del país andino.

Una vez más, Bolivia se acerca al abismo. Tras los enfrentamientos a tiros en varias poblaciones del departamento de Pando, que causó diez muertos y decenas de heridos, el presidente Evo Morales ha enviado fuerzas militares a las regiones rebeldes para someter a los manifestantes opositores. Las provincias de Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, Pando y Chuquisaca piden recuperar el impuesto a los hidrocarburos que les quitó el Gobierno y defienden el derecho a las autonomías regionales. El conflicto se recrudeció cuando Morales anunció un referéndum para ratificar una nueva Constitución de corte estatista e indigenista, que fue aprobada de noche en un cuartel sin presencia de la oposición.

Desde hace diez días, la violencia no cesa de aumentar. Los choques entre opositores y oficialistas, la ocupación de edificios del Estado y los saqueos en las regiones de la denominada media luna, marcan el fortalecimiento de una larga pugna política cargada de violencia social, de proporciones y consecuencias insospechadas.

 Luego de tres semanas de enfrentamientos en calles y carreteras, la tragedia se desató en Porvenir, población del departamento de Pando, en donde el tiroteo entre afines al Gobierno y autonomistas causó al menos diez muertos. Hay mucha confusión sobre el origen de la matanza, ya que cada parte acusa a la contraria. 

A diferencia de la violencia registrada en octubre del 2003 en el forzado final del mandato del presidente Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, cuando el enfrentamiento se dio entre el Ejército y la población, los actuales choques armados son entre grupos civiles, unos partidarios y otros detractores de Morales. Si en octubre del 2003 fueron los militares los que se dispararon a manifestantes en La Paz y el altiplano, hoy son grupos civiles contra grupos civiles los que disparan, tienden emboscadas, montan bloqueos y se preparan para nuevos choques.

En una peligrosa estrategia basada en el cálculo político, el Gobierno parece decidido a mandar al frente de batalla a los movimientos sociales; por su parte, los gobernadores opositores movilizan a enardecidos universitarios y a grupos cívicos para repartir golpes y balas. Esta situación sin precedentes hace que las consecuencias del conflicto sean imprevisibles.

Hasta ahora, militares y policías evitaron reprimir a los manifestantes que penetraron en los edificios públicos que custodiaban, como centros de telecomunicaciones, aeropuertos y oficinas fiscales. De hecho, los uniformados asistieron impasibles a la mayoría de las ocupaciones, sin actuar. Ante la pasividad de las tropas, Evo Morales envió por tierra varios regimientos con carros de combate para reforzar las guarniciones de las provincias autonomistas, desbloquear las carreteras y redoblar la seguridad de los yacimientos de gas, que ya fueron tomados por civiles. El cierre de válvulas obligó a suspender los envíos a Argentina y a reducir el suministro a Brasil. La llegada de los militares provocó nuevas protestas.

Lo que comenzó con una crisis interna de Bolivia, por la rebelión de las regiones autonomistas contra  Evo Morales, tomó una nueva dimensión con la expulsión del embajador de Estados Unidos en La Paz y Caracas. Al final de una jornada llena de denuncias de magnicidios, golpes de Estado y el anuncio de un eventual apoyo militar a Evo Morales, el presidente Hugo Chávez ordenó la salida en un plazo de 72 horas del embajador norteamericano Patrick Duddy de 72 horas y ordenó el regreso del representante venezolano en Washington, "antes de que lo echen".

Aunque los insultos de Chávez contra Estados Unidos han sido elevados de tono, en medios diplomáticos sorprendió el fuerte lenguaje que utilizó al ordenar la expulsión del diplomático: "¡Yanquis de mierda, váyanse al carajo cien veces. Ya basta de tanta mierda de ustedes, yanquis de mierda".

         Washington, que durante años ha aguantado sin chistar la interminable retahíla de duros improperios contra Estados Unidos y su presidente, en esta ocasión reaccionó en forma contundente. Como había hecho horas antes al expulsar al embajador boliviano, decretó la salida del representante venezolano.




En Bolivia se abrió una vía de esperanza al conocerse que Mario Cossío, gobernador de Tarija –una de las regiones opositoras- aceptó una invitación del Gobierno para abrir un diálogo sin condiciones ni imposiciones. Consciente de que tal vez sea la última oportunidad para la reconciliación, Cossío debía reunirse anoche en La Paz con  las altas autoridades del Estado, llevando la representación de las provincias autonomistas.


24884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: September 12, 2008, 07:20:59 PM
Reliability of this site unknown to me.  Any other sightings of the infomation herein?

Obama Had Close Ties to Top Saudi Adviser at Early Age
 By Online  Thursday, September 4, 2008

New evidence has emerged that Democratic presidential candidateBarack Obama was closely associated as early as age 25 to a key adviser to a Saudi billionaire who had mentored the founding members of the Black Panthers. 

By: Kenneth R. Timmerman 9-3-8

In a videotaped interview this year on New York’s all news cable channel NY1, a prominent African-American businessman and political figure made the curious disclosures about Obama. (See Video Clip Below)

Percy Sutton, the former borough president of Manhattan, off-handedly revealed the unusual circumstances about his first encounter with the young Obama.

“I was introduced to (Obama) by a friend who was raising money for him,” Sutton told NY1 city hall reporter Dominic Carter.

“The friend’s name is Dr. Khalid al-Mansour, from Texas,” Sutton said. “He is the principal adviser to one of the world’s richest men. He told me about Obama.”

Sutton, the founder of Inner City Broadcasting, said al-Mansour contacted him to ask a favor: Would Sutton write a letter in support of Obama’s application to Harvard Law School?

“He wrote to me about him,” Sutton recalled. “And his introduction was there is a young man that has applied to Harvard. I know that you have a few friends up there because you used to go up there to speak. Would you please write a letter in support of him?”

Sutton said he acted on his friend al-Mansour’s advice.

“I wrote a letter of support of him to my friends at Harvard, saying to them I thought there was a genius that was going to be available and I certainly hoped they would treat him kindly,” Sutton told NY1.

Sutton did not say why al-Mansour was helping Obama, how he discovered him, or from whom he was raising money on Obama’s behalf.

A Sutton aide told Newsmax that Sutton, 88, is ailing and is unlikely to do additional TV interviews in the near future. The aide could not provide additional comment for this story.

As it turned out, Obama did attend Harvard Law School after graduating from Columbia University inNew York and doing a stint as a community organizer in Chicago.

The New York Times described how transformative his Harvard experience became for the youngObama: “He arrived there as an unknown, Afro-wearing community organizer who had spent years searching for his identity; by the time he left, he had his first national news media exposure, a book contract and a shot of confidence from running the most powerful legal journal in the country.”

The details of Obama’s academic performance are well known: At Harvard, Obama rose to academic distinction becoming the editor of the Harvard Law Review and graduating magna cum laude.

Less known are the reasons al-Mansour, an activist African-American Muslim, would be a key backer for a young man from Hawaii seeking to attend the most Ivy of the Ivy League law schools.

Khalid al-Mansour a.k.a. Don Warden
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax from his home in San Antonio, Texas, al-Mansour said he would not comment specifically on the statement by Percy Sutton because he was afraid anything he said would get “distorted.”

“I was determined I was never going to be in that situation,” he said. “Bloggers are saying this is the new Rev. Wright — in drag! — and he is a nationalist, racist, and worse than Rev. Wright. So any statement that I made would only further this activity which is not in the interest of Barack.”

But in the lengthy interview, al-Mansour confirmed that he frequently spoke on university campuses, including Columbia, where Percy Sutton suggested he met Obama in the late 1980s, and confirmed his close relationship with Prince Alwaleed.

“I am not surprised to learn about this,” said Niger Innis, spokesman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). “It is clear that Barack Obama’s ties to the left are familial, generational, and have lasted for several years.”

Although many Americans have never heard of Khalid Abdullah Tariq al-Mansour (his full name), he is well known within the black community as a lawyer, an orthodox Muslim, a black nationalist, an author, an international deal-maker, an educator, and an outspoken enemy of Israel.

A graduate of Howard University with a law degree from the University of California, al-Mansour sits on numerous corporate boards, including the Saudi African Bank and Chicago-based LaGray Chemical Co. LaGray, which was formed to do business in Africa, counts former Nigerian President GeneralAbdusalam Abubakar on its advisory board.

He also sits on the board of the non-profit African Leadership Academy, along with top McCain for President adviser Carly Fiorina, and organized a tribute to the President of Ghana at the Clinton White House in 1995, along with pop star Michael Jackson.

But his writings and books are packed with anti-American rhetoric reminiscent of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s disgraced former pastor.

In a 1995 book, “The Lost Books of Africa Rediscovered,” he alleged that the United States was plotting genocide against black Americans.

The first “genocide against the black man began 300 years ago,” he told an audience in Harlem at a book-signing, while a second “genocide” was on the way “to remove 15 million Black people, considered disposable, of no relevance, value or benefit to the American society.”

In the 1960s, when he founded the African American Association in the San Francisco Bay area, he was known as Donald Warden.

According to the Social Activism Project at the University of California at Berkley, Warden, a.k.a.Khalid al-Mansour, was the mentor of Black Panther Party founder Huey Newton and his cohort, Bobby Seale.

Newton later had a falling out with Warden, who was described in a 1994 book as “the most articulate spokesperson for black nationalism” at the time.

The falling out wasn’t purely political, according to author Hugh Pearson.

“Sometimes Newton and the other members of (Warden’s) security detail got into fights with young whites who didn’t like what Warden had to say about whites. Rather than ‘throw down’ along with the security detail, Warden refused to fight,” Pearson wrote in “Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America.”

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee of California entered an official statement of appreciation of Warden and his Black Panther colleagues in the African-American Association in the Congressional Record on April 23, 2007.

“Among the founding members (of the Association) were community leaders such as Khalid Al-Mansour(known then as Don Warden); future Judges Henry Ramsey and Thelton Henderson; future Congressman and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, and future Black Panthers Huey Newton and Bobby Seale,” the Democratic representative’s statement said.

Al-Mansour’s more recent videotaped speeches focus on Muslim themes, and abound with anti-Semitic theories and anti-Israel vitriol.

“Today, the Palestinians are being brutalized like savages,” he told an audience in South Africa. “If you protest you will go to jail, and you may be killed. And they say they are the only democratic country in the Middle East. ... They are lying on God.”

He accused the Jews of “stealing the land the same way the Christians stole the land from the Indians in America.”

The Saudi Connection
But al-Mansour’s sponsorship of Obama as a prospective Harvard law student is important for another reason beyond his Islamic and anti-American rhetoric and early Black Panther ties.

At the time Percy Sutton, a former lawyer for Malcolm X and a former business partner of al-Mansour, says he was raising money for Obama’s graduate school education, al-Mansour was representing top members of the Saudi Royal family seeking to do business and exert influence in the United States.

In 1989, for example — just one year after Obama entered Harvard Law School — The Los Angeles Times revealed that al-Mansour had been advising Saudi billionaires Abdul Aziz and Khalid al-Ibrahimin their secret effort to acquire a major stake in prime oceanfront property in Marina del Rey, Calif., through “an elaborate network of corporate shells in California, the Caribbean and Europe.”

At the same time, he was also advising Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in his U.S. investments, and sits on the board of his premier investment vehicle, Kingdom Holdings.

Prince Alwaleed, 53, is the nephew if King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia. Forbes magazine ranked him this year as the 19th richest person on the planet, with a fortune in excess of $23 billion. He owns large chunks of Citigroup and News Corp., the holding company that controls Fox News.

He is best known in the United States for his offer to donate $10 million to help rebuild downtownManhattan after the 9/11 attacks. But after the prince made a public comment suggesting that U.S.policies had contributed to causing the attacks, Mayor Rudy Giuliani handed back his check.

“I entirely reject that statement,” Giuliani said. “There is no moral equivalent for this (terrorist) act. There is no justification for it. The people who did it lost any right to ask for justification for it when they slaughtered 4,000 or 5,000 innocent people.”

Since then, Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Foundation has given millions of dollars to Muslim charities in the United States, including several whose leaders have been indicted on terrorism-related charges in federal courts.

He also has given tens of millions of dollars to Harvard and other major U.S. universities, to establish programs in Islamic studies.

The casual statement by Percy Sutton to NY1 is the first time anyone has hinted at a relationship between Obama and the Saudi royal family.

Although al-Mansour glosses over his ties to the Saudi mega-billionaire in some of his public talks, he has represented the Saudi’s interests in the United States, in Britain, and in Africa for more than a quarter century, according to public records.

He told Newsmax that he has personally introduced Prince Alwaleed to “51 of the 53 leaders of Africa,” traveling from country to country on the Saudi prince’s private jet.

He knows virtually every black leader in America, from the business community, to community activists, to the worlds of politics and entertainment.

When Michael Jackson was on the ropes in the mid-1990s following a series of lawsuits by the parents of children accusing him of sexual abuse, al-Mansour introduced him to Prince Alwaleed, whose Kingdom Entertainment signed a joint venture with Jackson in 1996.

“Jackson and Alwaleed became pals in 1994, when a mutual friend from Alwaleed’s college days inCalifornia arranged a lunch meeting aboard the prince’s yacht in Cannes,” Time magazine reported about the new partnership in 1997.

The mutual friend was al-Mansour.

“As a black American, I am exceedingly proud at the American people’s response to Barack Obama’scandidacy,” said CORE’s Niger Innis. “But to deny that he has long-standing ties to left-wing elements in our polity is to deny reality. If you want to be president of the United States, it is not racism if you ask these kind of questions, and he has to come up with an answer, hopefully the truth.”

Sutton gives no clues as to why al-Mansour would be raising money to help Obama go to law school.Obama has said during his campaign that he paid his way through Harvard with student loans.

For Jesse Lee Peterson, founder of the Los Angeles-based Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND), these latest revelations about Obama’s ties to Saudi financiers were an important wake-up call.

“To me, this opened up more questions about Barack Obama and his relationship to the Muslim world,” Peterson told Newsmax.

“A lot of people are caught up with the emotional aspect of Barack Obama, the movie star aspect, the false promises that he’s going to take care of everyone and their Mama.”

But when the full story of Obama’s ties to radical preachers such as Wright and to black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan comes out, Peterson believes that Obama’s star power will fade.

“I think there’s more to this story and to Barack Obama than we realize,” Peterson said. “As all the truth comes out before the election, I don’t think he has a chance. I can’t see American’s taking that kind of risk.”

The Obama campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Percy Sutton Reveals Association Between Khalid al-Mansour and Obama at Age 25
24885  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: September 12, 2008, 07:09:20 PM

China vs. the environment/the planet
24886  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Just hold me on: September 12, 2008, 06:40:59 PM

One evening last week, my girlfriend and I were getting into bed.

Well, the passion starts to heat up, and she eventually says, "I don`t feel
like it, I just want you to hold me."

I said, "WHAT??!! What was that?!"

So she says the words that every boyfriend on the planet dreads to
hear..."You`re just not in touch with my emotional needs as a woman enough
for me to satisfy your physical needs as a man."

She responded to my puzzled look by saying, "Can`t you just love me for who
I am and not what I do for you in the bedroom?"

Realizing that nothing was going to happen that night, I went to sleep.

The very next day I opted to take the day off of work to spend time with
her. We went out to a nice lunch and then went shopping at a big, big
unnamed department store. I walked around with her while she tried on
several different very expensive outfits. She couldn`t decide which one to
take, so I told her we`d just buy them all. She wanted new shoes to
compliment her new clothes, so I said, "Lets get a pair for each outfit."

We went on to the jewelry department where she picked out a pair of diamond
earrings. Let me tell you... she was so excited. She must have thought I was
one wave short of a shipwreck. I started to think she was testing me because
she asked for a tennis bracelet when she doesn`t even know how to play

I think I threw her for a loop when I said, "That`s fine, honey." She was
almost nearing sexual satisfaction from all of the excitement. Smiling with
excited anticipation, she finally said, "I think this is all dear, let`s go
to the cashier."

I could hardly contain myself when I blurted out, "No honey, I don`t feel
like it."

Her face just went completely blank as her jaw dropped with a baffled,

I then said, "Honey! I just want you to HOLD this stuff for a while. You`re
just not in touch with my financial needs as a man enough for me to satisfy
your shopping needs as a woman."

And just when she had this look like she was going to kill me, I added, "Why
can`t you just love me for who I am and not for the things I buy you?"

Apparently I`m not having sex tonight either....but at least she knows I`m
smarter than her.
24887  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Case Study: Bystanders doing nothing... on: September 12, 2008, 06:27:09 PM
Perhaps it is as simple as shouting "Lets Go!  Lets work together to take him down!  Help me stop him!"  TAKE CHARGE!  e.g. "You in the red shirt distract him from in front! (unspoken "While I attack from behind")  or "You, tackle low while I tackle high."   Simple SPECIFIC COMMANDs e.g. "I have the weapon arm-- you in the blue shirt grab his other arm, you in the red shirt kick him in the balls"
24888  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Rules of Engagement on: September 12, 2008, 06:20:05 PM
What is worth fighting for?  What are our ROE? (Rules Of Engagement)


Last night (Wed 10 Sep), in a small pub near Durban, two groups of men were watching the 2010 Fifa World Cup qualifying game between England and Croatia. By the end of the evening, three men had been shot dead and two others critically wounded. The whole sorry argument started over the size of one man's dick.

The shooting took place at the Merseyside Restaurant and Bar at the Queensmead Mall in Durban's Umbilo suburb. According to online reports on News24 and a police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "The white man went to the toilet and an Indian guy followed him. While in the urinal, the Indian man told the white man that his [the Indian guy's] penis was bigger than his. The white man left the urinal and told his friends about what had happened and this is when the argument started. At some stage, some of the men went outside and there was a scuffle. One group returned to the tavern to watch the game and the other group remained outside," the source said.

"The men outside then went to their cars, opened their boots and returned to the tavern where they opened fire on the five men." A police spokesperson said the armed men had entered the pub and picked out the five men they'd argued with in a "precision style".

The policeman also said the shooters casually exited the tavern, jumped into their vehicles and left. The three victims, aged between 30 and 55, died on the spot. Another two were rushed to a local hospital in a critical condition.

Comment: Whoever said "Size doesn't matter" was wrong.
24889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-- Europe on: September 12, 2008, 06:14:50 PM
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, during a press conference Sept. 12, said that Ukraine has no plans to dissolve its agreement allowing Russia to keep its Black Sea fleet base in Sevastopol, but he wants to resolve issues with Russia over its military presence in Ukrainian territory.

24890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Venezuela plot on: September 12, 2008, 06:13:15 PM
The Venezuelan daily newspaper El Universal is reporting that a tape played on a Venezuelan state television show allegedly depicts the voice of a former Venezuelan admiral plotting to overthrow President Hugo Chavez. It is possible the allegations are true — the military has reasons to be worried about Chavez. In any case, the president will try to use the alleged plot to his benefit.

A possible plot to oust Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been uncovered, El Universal reported Sept. 11. The alleged coup was revealed in a voice recording said to be that of former Venezuelan Vice Adm. Carlos Millán and played by Chavez ally Mario Silva on his television show the evening of Sept. 10. Whether or not the accusations are true, they serve to create a sense of embattlement for the Chavez government and will be used as a rallying cry for Venezuelan nationalism.

Citing an unnamed source, Silva played the tape on which a man’s voice said: “Here there is only one objective: We will take the Miraflores Palace…. The objective can only be one thing, that is to say, all of the forces must be where [Chavez] is. If he is in Miraflores, that is where all the forces will be.” In addition to Millán, Chavez has named former army Gen. Wilfredo Barroso Herrera and former air force Gen. Eduardo Báez Torrealba as co-conspirators. In response, Chavez supporters have issued a call to march Sept. 15 in protest of the conspiracy, and Chavez has announced that unnamed individuals have been detained. In addition, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro accused the United States of sponsoring the plan.

The accusation adds to the list of former military officials whom Chavez has accused of various misdeeds or who have spoken out against the president. One of the most prominent of the officials is former Venezuelan Defense Minister Gen. Raul Isaias Baduel, who is embroiled in a legal battle with the Venezuelan government, and recently survived a half-baked assassination attempt.

It is quite possible that the coup allegations are true. It would not be the first time the military has been involved in undermining Chavez — indeed, portions of the military became involved in a 2002 coup attempt that briefly removed Chavez from power.

At this point, given the deteriorating security situation in the country, skyrocketing inflation and the slow downward spiral of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, the military has a great number of reasons to be concerned about Chavez’s rule. Indeed, Baduel and other military leaders have been especially opposed to Chavez’s policies that have attempted to alter or challenge the structure of the military. This includes a controversial plan to create pro-Chavez civilian militias as a new branch of the military.

Regardless of whether the coup allegations are true, they serve an important purpose for Chavez by increasing the public’s sense that the government is embattled. With municipal and state-level elections approaching in November, Chavez has been fighting a domestic battle for support as he attempts to undermine the opposition and strengthen his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Chavez, like former Cuban President Fidel Castro before him, holds power through constant brinksmanship behavior. (An excellent example of this phenomenon are the recent tensions with Colombia; Venezuela moved troops to the border and threatened war — despite the relative weakness of his military and Colombia’s refusal to engage.)

In fostering a sense of impending doom from the outside — be it from the United States or scheming oligarchs — Chavez (usually successfully) attempts to rile up nationalistic support for his sagging regime.
24891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Southern Iraq and Iran on: September 12, 2008, 06:10:29 PM
Iraqi forces will soon be taking control of the last of the two provinces in the Shiite south that remain under U.S. military control. The handover will mark a key development in the Iraqi Shia’s bid to consolidate their power base. In turn, this will facilitate Iranian national security policy regarding Iraq, where the Shiite south can act as a buffer between Iran and Iraq’s Sunni population.

Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qader Jassim said Sept. 10 that Iraqi security forces would soon take control of Babil and Wasit — two key Shiite provinces — from the U.S. military.

Babil and Wasit are the only two provinces in Iraq’s Shiite south where security is still in the hands of U.S. forces. Iraqi security forces have already taken over security responsibility for the seven other provinces in the region — Maysin, Basra, Dhi Qar, Al Qadasiya, Al Muthanna, An Najaf and Karbala. Together, these nine provinces constitute the envisioned Shiite southern federal autonomous zone — a proposal being championed by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, leader of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite (and most pro-Iranian) party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI).

While the notion of federalism is part of the Iraqi Constitution and is already manifested in the Kurdistan Regional Government in the north, several hurdles remain in the path toward this objective, especially intense intra-Shiite power struggles and disagreements over the idea. Whether or not an autonomous southern Shiite zone takes shape, the reality is that the handover of these two provinces will be a major step in the consolidation of Shiite power in the south. A key reason for this is that control over the security forces — police and army — in the south will be in Shiite hands through both the central government in Baghdad and the provincial authorities in each of the nine provinces.

Most of the governors in the Shiite south are affiliated with ISCI, including the governors of Babil and Wasit. Babil, which has a significant Sunni population, is a strategic province in that it is the only direct land link between Baghdad and the Shiite south. Together, the nine Shiite provinces in southern Iraq allow Tehran to keep its historic enemies — Iraq’s Sunnis — far from its borders.

(click map to enlarge)
The Zagros Mountains, which serve as a natural bulwark protecting Iran against an attack from the west, extend from the northern Kurdish areas down to Diyala, a province contested by each of the country’s three principal sectarian groups. Put differently, the Iranian-Iraqi border that runs south of Wasit all the way to Basra is more or less flat territory vulnerable to an attack and a gateway to Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, which is also home to ethnic Arabs opposed to Tehran. This is why the Iraqi Shiite south is of critical strategic importance to Iranian national security.

Iran would like to use the Shiite domination of Iraq as a launch pad for projecting power into the region, but there are significant obstacles — namely, the natural competition that characterizes the various Shiite factions — that will prevent that from happening in any meaningful way. But, at the bare minimum, the pro-Iranian Shia dominating southern Iraq and Baghdad should serve as sufficient assurance for Tehran that Iraq will not attack Iran, as many Persian regimes over the millennia have feared.

Of course, the Iraqi Shia do not want their dominion to become Western Persia, but they are new to the game of governance in their country and they want to ensure that the Sunnis (who have the backing of the region’s wealthy Arab states) do not pose a threat to their hold on power. This is why the Iraqi Shia are likely to remain closely aligned with Iran — the only state actor patron at their disposal — for the foreseeable future.

This alignment is the single most important reason behind the mostly backchannel dealings between the United States and Iran over the past several years, which have yet to culminate in the form of an understanding on the final makeup of Iraq. A U.S.-Iranian settlement has become all the more critical in the wake of last month’s Russian intervention in Georgia, because Washington is now desperate to free up its military capability to more directly confront and deter Moscow. But the situation remains complex, and a deal remains elusive.

Tehran, however, can take comfort from the fact that its plans for Iraq, for which it has been laying the groundwork for years, seem to be taking shape in the form of the consolidation of Shiite power in the south.
24892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US-Pakistan: The crisis on: September 12, 2008, 05:42:13 PM
Tensions between the United States and Pakistan continue to mount. Although the U.S. Special Operations Command clearly has been conducting operations in Pakistan for years, the White House chose to make it known that the United States was prepared to conduct such operations without Pakistani permission. The head of the Pakistani military, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, responded by saying, “No external force is allowed to conduct operations inside of Pakistan.” He said that he had told this directly to U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen. And, on Thursday, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas took it a step further by saying that the army had been ordered to hit back in the face of any action by foreign forces on Pakistani territory.

The crisis with the United States comes at the worst time for the Pakistani military. The external crisis is unfolding amid a deteriorating political, economic and security situation. While Kayani and his generals appear to be willing to work with the new president, Asif Ali Zardari, and his governing Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the crisis with Washington can lead to civil-military tensions because of potential disagreements between the military and the government over how to deal with overt unilateral U.S. military action on Pakistani soil. Already there is a perception that Zardari and his PPP are more flexible on the issue. However, since the United States’ violation of Pakistani sovereignty is a politically sensitive issue, Kayani has moved to take the hard-line position. But this response should not be dismissed as merely internal Pakistani politics. There is a serious crisis going on in U.S.-Pakistani relations.

The United States has long been suspicious of the commitment of the Pakistani military, and particularly its Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), to the fight against al Qaeda. In fact, there were elements in the ISI who did not want to see former President Pervez Musharraf align with the Americans after 9/11. And there has long been suspicion among the Americans that not only wasn’t the Pakistani army doing all it could, but that some elements might be passing information about U.S. operations to al Qaeda, allowing the militants to escape.

When he spoke of unilateral action in Pakistan, U.S. President George W. Bush was saying that he was not comfortable with joint operations under these circumstances. From the point of view of the U.S. military, this has been a long time coming. Indeed, there undoubtedly have been operations in Pakistan against al Qaeda that were unilateral, but this is extending it from operations against al Qaeda to the Taliban.

The Taliban are a military organization, operating as guerrillas. They maintain base camps in Pakistan that are not detected and destroyed by the Pakistanis. In the past, their level of activity was insufficient to warrant destabilizing American relations with Pakistan. That is no longer the case. The Taliban have grown much stronger, and U.S. and NATO forces are under pressure from them. Reinforcements are being sent to them. But the base camps and the lines of supply that go into Pakistan are the center of gravity of the Taliban. The United States is no longer in a position to ignore this. The Taliban are too strong.

Therefore, the United States and Pakistan are on a collision course. The Taliban have roots in Pakistan and sympathizers in the military. Attacking the Taliban’s bases and cutting off the flow of supplies is difficult politically for Pakistan. The United States, on the other hand, is not doing well in Afghanistan. It needs the Taliban in Pakistan to be destroyed, and it is saying that if the Pakistanis don’t do it, the United States will have to — and this will take more than Special Operations forces to achieve.

This moment was bound to come. The United States could not manage Afghanistan so long as the Taliban had sanctuary in Pakistan. The Pakistanis were not going to fight a war in Pakistan to solve the American problem. So we are now down to the final crisis of the war that began seven years ago. Iraq is under control. Afghanistan is coming apart. The key to Afghanistan is Pakistan. Pakistan is unable, by itself, to deal with the Taliban. The United States has little choice but to abandon Afghanistan or go into Pakistan.

Thus the crisis.
24893  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB in the media on: September 12, 2008, 12:10:13 PM
Woof All:

This from the reporter for the Reuters piece.

Hi Marc,
Just a quick updater on the story we did. Aside from China, a quick search shows it caem out in Brunei, Zaire, Ireland, New Zealand and, jus today, in a photo spread in El Universal in Mexico.
It was also picked up by ABC and the International Herald Tribune.
I don't think I can remember a story that go such attention, at least not in a long while.

Tim Gaynor
24894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 2 Franklin, 1 Madison on: September 12, 2008, 10:50:43 AM
"Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance
that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said
to be certain, except death and taxes."

-- Benjamin Franklin (letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 13 November

Reference: The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Begelow, ed., vol. 12

"Finally, there seem to be but three Ways for a Nation to acquire
Wealth. The first is by War as the Romans did in plundering their
conquered Neighbours. This is Robbery. The second by Commerce
which is generally Cheating. The third by Agriculture the only
honest Way; wherein Man receives a real Increase of the Seed
thrown into the Ground, in a kind of continual Miracle wrought by
the Hand of God in his favour, as a Reward for his innocent Life,
and virtuous Industry."

-- Benjamin Franklin (Positions to be Examined, 4 April 1769)

Reference: Franklin Collected Works, Lemay, ed., 645.

"In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can
readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be
said to reign as in a state of nature."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 52, 8 February 1788)

Reference: Madison, Federalist No. 52.
24895  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Case Study: Bystanders doing nothing... on: September 12, 2008, 10:24:04 AM
"if I, or other people willing to get involved in a critical situation need to enlist the help of others, what's the best way to do it? Do any of the LEO or military guys have any insight?"

A very good question from Maija.  Although LEOs and military may be much more likely to have such experience(s), ANYONE with any experience is encouraged to speak up.
24896  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knife Clips on: September 12, 2008, 10:20:57 AM
The Pentecost book is a must read.  I had a two hour conversation with him once that changed how I see certain things.

I would love to see the machete clips here too- thank you.
24897  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 12, 2008, 12:26:37 AM
The side by side comparison is pretty special:

A spontaneous endorsement of McCain
24898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: September 11, 2008, 10:25:42 AM
Full Header | View Printable Version  | Download this as a file

September 10, 2008

In today's Political Diary:

- House of the Living
- See No Rangel, Hear No Rangel
- Reversal of Fortune (Quote of the Day I)
- Paglia in Love (Quote of the Day II)
- Juneau Soap Opera

Back From the Dead

Most political analysts still predict GOP House losses in November and a wider
Democratic majority in 2009, but gone is talk of landslide casualties. House
Republicans returned to Washington this week positively overjoyed that they've not
only caught up with Democrats in generic congressional polls, but pulled into the
lead. The latest USA Today poll has Republicans up by four points on the question:
Who do you support, the Republican or the Democrat for Congress in your district?

This is an amazing turnaround in the polls and even more pronounced turnaround in
the mood of Congressional Republicans. When House GOP members convened on Monday,
there was little talk of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout package, but lots of
celebration of the new poll numbers. "Not too long ago, the feeling in our caucus
was near suicidal," one House Republican tells me. "It was every man for himself.
And there was no campaign money to spread around."

Now, says Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey, "Republicans actually think we can gain
seats in the House."

One reason the polls have shifted is that Democrats have become even more unpopular
than Republicans. Says Mr. Garrett: "Voters are finally aware that it's the
Democrats, not us, who control Congress." The public has begun directing its angst
and anger at Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, rather than the
long-gone Tom DeLay.

Another coup for Republicans was the pro-drilling campaign launched by conservative
House GOPers while Democrats went home for summer vacation. Each day, House
Republicans held a vigil for a pro-exploration energy policy even though Democrats
turned out the House lights and shut off the microphones. Mike Pence of Indiana was
one of the ringleaders who gave the Pelosi Democrats heartburn. In his district, he
says, voters paid attention. Nancy Pelosi's decision to take what he called a
"five-week paid vacation" backfired because it "angered voters when gas prices are
so high."

Finally, Republicans in the House also are celebrating the Sarah Palin effect.
"She's helping big-time with fundraising," says one conservative House member. "We
saw the effect immediately after she was chosen by McCain." Earlier this year, GOP
money woes had given Democrats a multitude of GOP incumbents to shoot at without
fear of retaliation. Not any more.

"I actually think we can win back the majority in the house," says Rep. Garrett,
ever the optimist. "But I'm probably the only one who thinks that." Yes, well, in
1994 Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich were the only ones who foresaw a GOP sweep in
that election.

-- Stephen Moore

Charlie's Angel

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is standing by her chairman.

Charles Rangel, the embattled head of the House Ways and Means Committee, has asked
for three separate House Ethics Committee investigations of himself in recent weeks.
That has led House Republicans to demand he step down as chairman until the issues
are resolved. Speaker Pelosi, who ran her 2006 campaign to take back the House from
"a culture of corruption," is having none of it.

"Charlie Rangel is a very distinguished member of the House of Representatives," Ms.
Pelosi told on Monday. "Whatever the leaders on their side say, he is
very well-respected by members on both sides of the aisle."

Still, it is embarrassing that Mr. Rangel has had to announce this week that he must
pay overdue state, local and city taxes on $75,0000 in unreported rental income from
a vacation property in the Dominican Republic. That follows a controversy over how
he was able to obtain several rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem, one of which he
used improperly as a campaign office. Then there's the matter of his use of
Congressional stationery and influence to raise money for a public affairs institute
in New York that bears his name. "Since this is the man who writes the tax laws of
the United States, we need new leadership until we get all the facts," Rep. Eric
Cantor, a member of the House Republican leadership, told me.

Of course, Republicans can't afford to parade around on too high a horse. Two of
their Appropriations Committee members, Reps. Jerry Lewis of California and Don
Young of Alaska, have come under federal investigation over earmarks secured for
supporters. Neither Republican has been charged with wrongdoing, but the probes have
tarnished the ability of Republicans to carry on crusades against Mr. Rangel and
other errant Democrats.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day I

"First [Barack Obama's] startling and lofty rhetoric grew stale from overuse. And
now his once engaging (for some) ideas are being overtaken by events. His call for
quick retreat from Iraq, overtaken by the surge and the smell of victory, has forced
him to reverse field and admit the surge has been an unexpected (by him) success.
Then the declining economy forced him this week to back away from his soak-the-rich
tax increases for fear of further damaging the economy. Of course, the perils of
Pauline still may threaten Gov. Palin, and two months is time enough for many more
strange twists. But one week on from the Republican convention, it is fair to say
that never in modern history has a presidential ticket benefited so much from its
convention. And never have the hopes and energy of a moribund party risen so quickly
or so high" -- Washington Times columnist Tony Blankley, on how Sarah Palin and the
reemergence of John McCain "maverick" persona have lifted the GOP.

Quote of the Day II

"Pow! Wham! The Republicans unleashed a doozy -- one of the most stunning surprises
that I have ever witnessed in my adult life. By lunchtime, Obama's triumph of the
night before had been wiped right off the national radar screen. In a bold move I
would never have thought him capable of, McCain introduced Gov. Sarah Palin of
Alaska as his pick for vice president. I had heard vaguely about Palin but had never
heard her speak. I nearly fell out of my chair. . . . This woman turned out to be a
tough, scrappy fighter with a mischievous sense of humor. . . . In terms of
redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the
biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of
high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats
of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment" -- feminist
critic Camille Paglia, writing at

Trooper Stupor

Half the Washington press corps is now winging its way to Alaska to scour the record
for something embarrassing on Gov. Sarah Palin. Luring them is a seeming scandal
already called Troopergate that broke in July, when Mrs. Palin fired Department of
Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan. In recent weeks the state legislature has
opened an investigation into the dismissal and hired an independent counsel to
determine if laws were broken.

Her critics accuse Mrs. Palin of firing Mr. Monegan because he had refused to fire
State Trooper Michael Wooten, who had gone through a messy divorce with the
governor's sister. If the charge is true, it would certainly hurt Mrs. Palin's
reformist credentials -- although her powers of office entitled her to fire
Commissioner Monegan for any reason or no reason at all.

Still, there is reason to suspect the scandal is little more than a political smear
attempt. The investigation is being run by a Democrat in the state Senate (the
Republican who would have been in charge recently stepped down to fight allegations
of his own corruption). Mr. Monegan is a disgruntled former employee who never told
anyone about the alleged pressure to fire Trooper Wooten before his own firing. And
Mr. Monegan broke his allegations on a blog run by an also-ran gubernatorial
candidate who was crushed by Mrs. Palin in the 2006 elections. What's more, Trooper
Wooten's record would hardly seem to make him ideal state trooper material. He's a
four-time divorcee whom Mrs. Palin says threatened to kill her father. He admitted
to using a Taser on his 11-year-old stepson and to killing a moose out of season.
He's also had to fight allegations of drunk driving and other infractions.

The scandal also seems trumped up in light of legitimate reasons Mrs. Palin had for
firing Commissioner Monegan. The two disagreed over cuts in the public safety
department's budget as well as her insistence that he focus state trooper attention
on rural drug use. Mr. Monegan had been forced out of his previous job running the
police force of Anchorage. The man who fired him then was Mayor Mark Begich, the
Democrat now running for U.S. Senate against embattled Republican Ted Stevens.

In Alaska, politics always seems a little inbred. Mrs. Palin has remained mum since
she was tapped to be John McCain's running mate nearly two weeks ago, but seven
members of her administration have declined requests by investigators to be
interviewed. The state legislature is now weighing whether to hand down subpoenas --
though it's unlikely that the governor herself would be subpoenaed. With so much
fodder, however, any reporter with an eye for detail will be able to come back from
an Alaska trip with attention-getting tidbits. You don't become a change agent by
making friends, so there will be plenty of pols on both sides of the aisle eager to
fill a reporter's notebook with their criticisms of Mrs. Palin. To beat this story,
the McCain/Palin campaign may need to start filling a few of those pages itself.

-- Brendan Miniter

24899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 11, 2008, 10:23:01 AM

"Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations,
entangling alliances with none."

-- Thomas Jefferson (First Inaugural Address, 4 March 1801)

Reference: Inauguration Addresses of the Presidents
"How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely
prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the
preparations and establishments of every hostile nation?"

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 41, 1788)

Reference: The Federalist
24900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Holland on: September 11, 2008, 10:11:09 AM
his religion prohibited him from rising for other people


Amsterdam - All Dutch attorneys, including Muslims, should rise when a judge enters a court room, Dutch Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin told Dutch parliament on Tuesday. Hirsch Ballin said the Dutch Council for Jurisprudence felt that rising for a judge is "the common way to show respect for the court and legal authority."
The minister was responding to a question posed by legislator Henk Kamp (Liberals), who inquired about a news report which said a Rotterdam court had made an agreement with a Muslim attorney that he could remain seated when a judge enters the courtroom.
Mohammed Enait, who was sworn in as an attorney last month, said his religion prohibited him from rising for other people. Enait has remained seated as the judge entered.
Last week the Rotterdam court decided that although the : behavioral code requires attorneys to rise when a judge enters the court, exceptions could be made "in extraordinary situations" such as that of Enait.
Hirsch Ballin told parliament that the Dutch Council for Jurisprudence would inform all involved parties of its position that no exceptions could be made.
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