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24951  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why CA is broke on: January 23, 2010, 09:14:52 AM
Second post:

Why Is California Broke?

Posted: 22 Jan 2010 09:52 PM PST

Inquiring minds are asking "Why Is California Broke?" It's a good question. Please consider ...


California has the 3rd highest state income tax in the nation: 9.55% tax bracket at $47,055 and 10.55% at $1,000,000 - Tax Foundation 2010 State Business Tax Climate Table 2
California has the highest state sales tax rate in the nation by far at 8.25%. Indiana is next highest at 7%. Table 15
California corporate income tax rate is 3rd worst in the nation with a rate of 8.84%. - Table 2 and Table 8
California ranks 13th in property taxes. Table 2

California has the fourth highest capital gains tax 9.55%. - Capital Gains Tax Rates By State
California has the highest gasoline tax as of January 2010, averaging 65 cents/gallon. The national average is 47.4% - API Motor Fuel Taxes
California has one of the highest state vehicle license car taxes, 1.15% per year on value of vehicle, up from 0.65% in 2008. [expired link]

So where's the money going?


1 in 5 in LA County receiving public aid, nearly 2.2 million people as of February 2009. 20% in Los Angeles County receive public aid
California has 12% of the nation’s population, but 36% of the country’s TANF (“Temporary” Assistance for Needy Families) welfare recipients – more than the next 8 states combined. Unlike other states, this “temporary” assistance becomes much more permanent in CA. July, 2009 California has more recipients in key welfare category than next eight states combined.
California prison guards highest paid in the nation. The maximum pay of California's prison guards is nearly 40 percent higher than that of the highest-paid guards in 10 other states and the federal government, according to a study by the California Department of Personnel Administration. Cal-Taxletter
California teachers easily the highest paid in the nation. National Education Association
California now has the lowest bond ratings of any state, two steps above junk. The new rating affects about $72 billion of general obligation and lease-supported bonds. July 15 California bond rating cut again
California ranks 44th worst in “2008 lawsuit climate.” Institute For Legal Reform
California, a destitute state, still gives away college education at fire sale prices. California community college tuition is by far the lowest in the nation. Nationwide, the average community college tuition is 4.5 times higher than California CC’s. This ridiculously low tuition devalues education to students – resulting in a 30+% drop rate for class completion. Moreover, 2/3 of California CC students pay no tuition at all – filling out a simple unverified “hardship” form that exempts them from any tuition payment, or receiving grants and tax credits for their full tuition. [Expired Link]
California offers thousands of absolutely free adult continuing education classes. In San Diego, over 1,400 classes for everything from baking pastries to ballroom dancing are offered totally at taxpayer expense. San Diego Continuing Education
California residential electricity costs 13.81 cents per kilowatthour. The national average is 6.99-8.49. US Department of Energy
It costs 38% more to build solar panels in California than in Tennessee – which is why European corporations have invested $2.3 billion in two Tennessee manufacturing plants to build solar panels for our state. March 5, 2009 More Solar Companies Producing Elsewhere to Sell to California

The above lists reformatted and reordered from a list compiled by Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters.
24952  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Package deal on KT stuff on: January 23, 2010, 08:48:53 AM
Package deal on KT stuff:

http://dogbrothers.com/store/product_info.php?cPath=35&products_id=153
24953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Public Unions on: January 23, 2010, 08:34:16 AM
By STEVEN GREENHUT
Sacramento

An old friend of mine has a saying, "Even the worm learns." Prod one several hundred times, he says, and it will learn to avoid the prodder. As California enters its annual budget drama, I can't help but wonder if the wisdom of the elected politicians here in the state capital equals that of the earthworm.

The state is in a precarious position, with a 12.3% unemployment rate (more than two points higher than the national average) and a budget $20 billion in the red (only months after the last budget fix closed a large deficit). Productive Californians are leaving for states with less-punishing regulatory and tax regimes. Yet so far there isn't a broad consensus to do much about those who have prodded the state into its current position: public employee unions that drive costs up and fight to block spending cuts.

Earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a budget that calls for a $6.9 billion handout from Washington (unlikely to be forthcoming) and vows to protect current education funding, 40% of the state's budget. He does want to eliminate the Calworks welfare-to-work program and enact a 5% pay cut for state employees. These are reasonable ideas, but also politically unlikely.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Los Angeles County employees rally for a new contract.
.As the Sacramento Bee's veteran columnist Dan Walters recently put it, the governor's budget is "disconnected from economic and political reality." Mr. Walters suspects what will happen next: "Most likely, [the governor] and lawmakers will, to use his own phrase, 'kick the can down the road' with some more accounting tricks and other gimmicks, and dump the mess on whoever is ill-fated to become governor a year hence."

Mr. Walters' Jan. 10 column was fittingly titled, "Schwarzenegger Reverts to Fantasy with Budget Proposal." Shortly before releasing his budget, the governor and Democratic state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg held a self-congratulatory news conference. Mr. Steinberg used the spotlight to bemoan what he deemed to be unfair attacks on California. Mr. Schwarzenegger told a hokey story about his pet pig and pony working together to break into the dog's food. It was an example, he said, of how "last year, we here in this room did some great things working together."

Meanwhile, activists are fast at work. For example, the Bay Area Council, a moderate business organization, is pushing for a constitutional convention to reshape California's textbook-sized constitution. The council's aim is to ditch a constitutional provision that requires a two-thirds vote in the legislature to pass budgets. Other reforms being proposed include a plan to institute a part-time legislature and another plan to require legislators to pass drug tests. None of these ideas will ratchet down state spending.

To do that California needs to take on its public employee unions.

Approximately 85% of the state's 235,000 employees (not including higher education employees) are unionized. As the governor noted during his $83 billion budget roll-out, over the past decade pension costs for public employees increased 2,000%. State revenues increased only 24% over the same period. A Schwarzenegger adviser wrote in the San Jose Mercury News in the past few days that, "This year alone, $3 billion was diverted to pension costs from other programs." There are now more than 15,000 government retirees statewide who receive pensions that exceed $100,000 a year, according to the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility.

Many of these retirees are former police officers, firefighters, and prison guards who can retire at age 50 with a pension that equals 90% of their final year's pay. The pensions for these (and all other retirees) increase each year with inflation and are guaranteed by taxpayers forever—regardless of what happens in the economy or whether the state's pensions funds have been fully funded (which they haven't been).

A 2008 state commission pegged California's unfunded pension liability at $63.5 billion, which will be amortized over several decades. That liability, released before the precipitous drop in stock-market and real-estate values, certainly will soar.

One idea gaining traction is to create a two-tier pension system to offer lesser benefits to new employees. That's a good start, but it would still leave tens of thousands of state employees in line to receive lucrative benefits that the state must find future revenues to pay for. Another is to enact paycheck protections that require union officials to get permission from their members before spending union dues on politics (something that would undercut union power).

My hope is that these and other reforms find support in unlikely places. Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, a well-known liberal voice, recently wrote this in the San Francisco Chronicle: "The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life. But we politicians—pushed by our friends in labor—gradually expanded pay and benefits . . . while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages. . . . [A]t some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact."

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, another prominent liberal Democrat, told a legislative hearing in October that public employee pensions would "bankrupt" the state. And the chief actuary for the California Public Employees Retirement System has called the current pension situation "unsustainable."

As the state careens toward insolvency, these remarks are the first sign that some people are learning the lesson of the earthworm.

Mr. Greenhut is director of the Pacific Research Institute's journalism center and author of the new book "Plunder! How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation" (The Forum Press).

24954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / National Enquirer and John Edwards on: January 23, 2010, 08:30:11 AM
By DAVID PEREL
It took John Edwards two years to tell the truth. I was surprised; I thought it would take longer.

The man who risked the fate of the Democratic Party to satisfy his political narcissism released a statement Thursday finally admitting paternity of Rielle Hunter's daughter. In part, he said: "To all those I have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry."

His sincerity was as egocentrically superficial as his infamous $1,250 haircut during the 2004 presidential race.

If this seems harsh, it's an analysis borne of two and a half years uncovering the former North Carolina senator's affair while I was editor in chief of the National Enquirer. Throughout the 2008 Democratic primary, I watched him lie, use associates to help him lie, and perniciously abuse public trust while campaigning on restoring a moral core to fill the void of America's diminishing greatness.

In October 2007, after invoking Martin Luther King Jr. in a campaign speech, Mr. Edwards said: "There are much more important things in life than winning elections at the cost of selling your soul. Especially right now, when our country . . . needs to hear the truth from its leaders."

Cut to Aug. 8, 2008, when Mr. Edwards, after being caught visiting his mistress and their baby in the middle of the night by the National Enquirer, admits his affair on ABC's "Nightline" only because he can no longer credibly deny or evade the issue.

In his mea culpa about the affair, when confronted with the issue of paternity and an Enquirer photo of him holding the baby, Mr. Edwards told a national TV audience: "I don't know who that baby is" and insisted that "timing" made it impossible for him to be the father.

Mr. Edwards's admission of paternity is the final vindication for the National Enquirer, which broke the news of his affair with Ms. Hunter in 2007 and continues to pursue the story. A December 2007 Enquirer report featured a photograph of a clearly pregnant Ms. Hunter and detailed information that she was being hidden in a North Carolina gated community by Mr. Edwards's friend and aide Andrew Young.

At the time, as editor in chief of the Enquirer, I directed a several-month operation with reporters and photographers on stakeout in North Carolina to nail down this scoop. We believed the photograph of Ms. Hunter, the checkable facts about her relationship with Mr. Edwards, and the in-process coverup would cause an instant public uproar as the mainstream press verified the article and demanded answers from Mr. Edwards.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Former Sen. John Edwards
.But the photograph of Ms. Hunter pregnant and a slew of well-documented facts in the Enquirer article did nothing to enervate Mr. Edwards's brazen quest for power or budge the mainstream press from its comfortable seat on the campaign bus. A cursory question about the affair was eventually asked, to which a smug Mr. Edwards responded: "tabloid trash."

And then there was silence. While Mr. Edwards went on to lose the Democratic primary, he still tried to position himself for an important role in the new administration, attempting to barter his way into being named attorney general. He might have made it that far if the Enquirer had given up after its initial exclusive was dismissed by the candidate, the press and the public.

Faced with public and press indifference to a major political exclusive on a leading presidential candidate, many at the Enquirer assumed we were finished with a story that had consumed tremendous resources for little payoff. The investigative team was buoyed when we decided to continue.

Was the decision to stay after Mr. Edwards made out of anger over his lies and their acceptance by the press and public? Was it a high-minded attempt to force the public to acknowledge the dangerous character flaws of a man who was headed for some type of high office? Or was it simply a tabloid instinct to illuminate the crepuscular hiding places where the rich and famous store their secrets? Draw your own conclusions, but ultimately the public good was served in a way that was undeniable.

Months passed. The Enquirer had several after-the-fact confirmations of meetings between Mr. Edwards and Ms. Hunter. We abandoned our normal methodology and did not run articles on these. The breakthrough came early summer of 2008, with information that Ms. Hunter and Mr. Edwards would secretly meet at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Two separate teams of Enquirer reporters and photographers checked into the hotel and were deployed at various points on the property.

Ms. Hunter and Mr. Edwards met on July 21, 2008. Enquirer cameras captured it all on videotape, including early the next morning when Mr. Edwards, confronted by an Enquirer reporter as he left Ms. Hunter's room, ran into the men's room.

Hours later, I posted our new exclusive on the Enquirer's Web site and shortly thereafter published in the Enquirer the photo of Mr. Edwards holding his baby. Still, the mainstream media was reluctant to run the story. Numerous reporters and editors from other outlets called and asked me to release the video footage of that night. I refused. Some were angry. I owed and offered them no explanation about our strategy—until now.

Mr. Edwards had already shown us his willingness to lie in the face of overwhelming evidence. In July 2008, Mr. Edwards knew the Enquirer had him on video and he waited. Behind the scenes we sent him a message—deny the affair and we will release the video and prove you a liar. At the same time an ABC News investigative team pounded him.

When Mr. Edwards realized there was no way out, he tried to control the damage and decided to confess to the affair. He appeared on "Nightline" on Aug. 8, 2008, and admitted only to the affair, knowing the Enquirer had his meeting with Ms. Hunter on video. At points in the interview he offered ridiculous denials about paternity and the photo of him with his child.

It had taken 10 months for the Enquirer to prove Mr. Edwards affair, and once he confessed we knew it still wasn't over. Paternity was the next issue. But again, Mr. Edwards would admit the truth only when it was absolutely necessary.

In late 2008, the Enquirer, confident in our sources, reported definitively that Mr. Edwards was the father of the baby. Again he evaded the question even while our sources told us he was privately arguing over child support with Ms. Hunter, the terms of which he now says have been agreed upon.

Some journalists asked me if the Enquirer had a DNA match of Mr. Edwards and the child. I never answered that question. But the possibility that we had obtained a DNA match may explain why Mr. Edwards never followed through with his plan—according to recent statements by his aide Mr. Young—to fake a DNA test. He knew the possibility of a real one proving his paternity would be produced.

Two years and three months after the Enquirer first reported on his affair with Rielle Hunter, John Edwards released a statement acknowledging paternity of her baby.

Mr. Perel, the editor in chief of the National Enquirer from 2006 to January 2009, directed its coverage of the John Edwards affair.
24955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Killer in AK claims AQ ties on: January 23, 2010, 07:56:27 AM
Suspect in Recruit Shooting Claims Al Qaeda Ties

Friday , January 22, 2010

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. —
The man accused of killing one soldier and wounding another outside an Arkansas military recruiting center has asked a judge to change his plea to guilty, claiming ties to Al Qaeda.


Abdulhakim Muhammad's attorney, Claiborne Ferguson, said Thursday night that his client sent a letter earlier this month to the judge in his case asking to change his plea to capital murder and attempted capital murder charges.

Click here for photos.
Ferguson said he hadn't discussed the request with his client before the letter was sent. Under Arkansas law prosecutors would have to agree and waive the death penalty before the judge could consider it, Ferguson said.
Pvt. William Long of Conway was killed in the June 1 attack, and Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula was wounded.

Muhammad has called the shootings justified retaliation for U.S. military action in the Middle East. He told The Associated Press in a telephone interview last year that he doesn't believe he's guilty.
The New York Times, which first reported the letter on its Web site Thursday, said Muhammad described himself in the letter as a soldier in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and called the shooting "a Jihadi Attack." The group has claimed responsibility for the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound American airliner.

"I wasn't insane or post traumatic, nor was I forced to do this act," Muhammad claimed in the handwritten letter, the newspaper reported.
Ferguson said he didn't know how seriously to take Muhammad's claims of terror ties and expressed frustration with his client sending the letter without consulting him beforehand.

"He's said lots of things. None of them seem to be real consistent with each other," Ferguson said. "I'm a little irritated with it."

Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley did not immediately return a message left on his cell phone Thursday night, but prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty in the case.

Muhammad was arrested about eight miles from the recruiting center, on Interstate 630, shortly after the shootings. Police said they recovered Molotov cocktails, three guns and ammunition from his pickup truck. An internal law enforcement memo said Muhammad may have considered other targets, including military sites and Jewish organizations in the Southeast.

A law enforcement official told the AP in June that Muhammad had been under investigation by an FBI-led terrorism task force since he returned to the United States from Yemen in 2008. Muhammad, who was born Carlos Bledsoe, had moved to Little Rock to work in his father's Memphis-based tour bus company as it branched out.

Muhammad, who has called the AP twice since his arrest, has claimed responsibility for the shooting and said it was justified because of what he called American-directed hostilities toward the Muslim world.

Last week, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herbert Wright Jr. ordered the state public defenders commission to pay some of the legal bills for Muhammad's trial, which is scheduled to begin in June. Ferguson was hired by Muhammad's family to represent him.
24956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: January 23, 2010, 07:54:37 AM
Well, there is that little matter of the entire House of Representatives and one third of the US Senate being up for election in ten months , , ,
24957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: January 23, 2010, 07:52:58 AM
As the saying goes "I carry a gun because a policeman is too heavy" though as a subject of the PR of CA, that is not true in my case.
24958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt Gingrich on: January 23, 2010, 07:51:23 AM


http://newt.org/MediaArchives/tabid/217/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/4746/Default.aspx

PS:  Saw on FOX that Newt did not deny considering run for Presidency , , ,
24959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Gathering Clusterfcuk , , , on: January 22, 2010, 11:51:30 PM
What Europe and Pakistan's Self-Preservation Means for Afghanistan
DIRE ECONOMIC NEWS continues streaming from Europe, with the latest figures released on Thursday showing a slowdown in the expansion of Europe’s service and manufacturing industries. The composite index based on a purchasing managers’ survey conducted by Merkit Economics, fell to 53.6 points in January from 54.2 points in December 2009.

Europe’s problems are far more serious than those of the United States. The recession actually began about six months earlier in parts of Europe than in the United States. Furthermore, Europe has yet to seriously address the problems triggered by the U.S. recession — namely, several European banks are still worried about write-downs due to toxic assets on their balance sheets. Banks are wary of lending while governments are using any means necessary, including threats of regulation, to persuade them to lend.

“The Europeans’ concern about the growing economic crisis at home will have geopolitical implications for the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.”
The problem would be less serious if it were limited to the economies on Europe’s periphery, but it is the main economic powerhouses that are hurting. The euro’s strength against the U.S. dollar is hurting Europe’s competitiveness. Under particular strain is Europe’s economic engine, Germany, whose exports account for 47 percent of its gross domestic product. Unemployment is also inching above 10 percent, with only government stimulus programs — which are expiring or largely expired — holding it back.

Finally, the peripheral economies — starting with Greece, Portugal and Ireland, but also including Spain — are not looking good. Greece in particular has been rocked by investor uncertainty over Athens’ ability to cut its budget deficit. As investors become more spooked by the Greek macroeconomic outlook, the demand for the country’s debt decreases, raising the costs Athens needs to pay to service its already enormous debt.

The question for Europe is what happens if Greece can no longer pay for its budget deficit or debt servicing. At that point, the story would no longer be about Greece, but about Germany and the eurozone as a whole. If Greece and some other Mediterranean countries were the extent of the problem, Germany probably could intervene and save the day. But how can Germany have the economic and — much more importantly — the political capability to bail out peripheral economies when it is facing a potential double dip recession? In such economic uncertainty — with the potential for rising unemployment and more dire banking news in store for 2010 — it would be political suicide for Berlin to try to rescue Athens or Lisbon.

Therefore, it seems that peripheral Europe and core Europe are growing further apart as Europe devolves into an “every man for himself” situation. The Europeans’ concern about the growing economic crisis at home will have geopolitical implications for the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Namely, it places significant limitations on the commitment Washington’s NATO allies can offer to Afghanistan.

This means the U.S. military surge — already fraught with limitations — is unlikely to produce the kind of results Washington wants in terms of undermining the momentum of the Afghan Taliban insurgency. This is where the battle in Afghanistan becomes even more of an intelligence war. Pakistan is the one reservoir of intelligence that could help the United States, but Washington and Islamabad are having numerous serious problems, as evidenced by U.S. Secretary Robert Gates’ trip to the country on Thursday.

For starters, Gates — leading a 125-member delegation — flew into Islamabad from Pakistan’s arch rival India, where he made statements that fueled Pakistan’s fears. Gates said India is unlikely to use restraint if Pakistan-based militants should stage another attack like those seen in Mumbai in November 2008. Then, in a rare move, the top U.S. defense official authored an opinion piece in a leading Pakistani daily (published before his arrival in Islamabad) saying there is no difference between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. Gates also said he would ask Islamabad to expand its counterjihadist military offensive to North Waziristan, an area in the tribal belt that contains the largest concentration of Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda elements and is not being targeted by the Pakistanis.

The Pakistanis quickly responded by saying they had no plans for any operations beyond their current engagements in the next six to 12 months. The country’s military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said it would take that much time to stabilize South Waziristan before Pakistani forces moved on to new fronts. There is no doubt that Pakistan cannot fight all types of Islamist militants in different areas at the same time. The Pentagon’s press secretary, Geoff Morrell, acknowledged that much when he told reporters that Pakistan’s military is “operating at a higher operational tempo than it has in recent memory and they are being stretched very thin, as our military is for that matter.”

But the issue is not just one of capability. It is also about intent and Islamabad’s strategic imperatives. The Pakistanis realize that the United States and its Western allies aren’t looking at a long-term military commitment to Afghanistan. Therefore, from Islamabad’s point of view, it makes no sense to go after those militants fighting in Afghanistan. Doing so would not only exacerbate the insurgency within its own borders in the short term, it would also create a much larger cross-border mess for Islamabad to deal with long after Western forces leave the region. Furthermore, Taliban fighting in Afghanistan are tools Pakistan can use to roll back Indian influence in Afghanistan, which has increased significantly in the last eight years. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Pakistan will undertake the kind of action that the United States wants, because it would be tantamount to national suicide.

Essentially, strategic interests are preventing full support from the two key allies — Europe and Pakistan — that the Obama administration has been counting on to fight the war in Afghanistan.
24960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Social Networks and Privacy on: January 22, 2010, 11:32:25 PM
Creditworthy? Lenders delve into your social networks

January 21, 2010 - 6:00am


Lenders are using social graphs to determine how creditworthy you are. (Getty Images)

UNDATED - Your social networking chit-chat could have an impact on your credit - specifically on whether banks think you are worthy of a loan.
Creditors are checking out what you post to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. They're checking out who your friends are and who the people are in your networks.

The presumption is that if your friends are responsible credit cardholders and pay their bills on time, you could be a good credit customer, according to CreditCards.com.

A company called San Francisco-based company Rapleaf monitors what people tweet or post on Facebook and compiles what it calls social graphs of your likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.

Lenders say having a wide network of friends can expedite getting a loan, while discrepancies between your loan application and your Facebook wall information can raise red flags. Negative comments about your business also can impact your creditworthiness.

Joel Jewitt, vice president of business development of Rapleaf, says creditors aren't accessing the credit reports of your online friends and aren't using the data to find reasons to reject customers.

While lenders say they are using the information for marketing purposes -- to find out what you may like based on what your friends like, the idea of data mining beyond your credit score raises privacy concerns. Some consumer advocates say people may not realize how important their privacy settings are.

You may want to check out the profiles of the folks you friend and delete people you think could potentially damage your credit or employment reputation.

And, of course, you want to remember that what you post is public.
(Copyright 2010 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
24961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck on: January 22, 2010, 11:13:41 PM
My son and I watched today.  Very interesting piece (though I thought it could have been done a bit better) and I hope there will be discussion here.
24962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: January 22, 2010, 11:10:33 PM
Rum Int today that there were 22 FBI arrests on Day One of people who accepted an undercover FBI agent's offer to greae the palms of the decision maker in a certain African govt  shocked

Naturally the coolest toys were in the military area and rather than mistakenly speak of something best left unsaid in a public forum I will wait until we next speak directly.
24963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Price of Tyranny on: January 22, 2010, 11:05:33 PM
I'd love to see discussion of this in the Glenn Beck thread.
24964  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: January 22, 2010, 11:01:36 PM
I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you , , , wink
24965  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: January 22, 2010, 11:00:44 PM
Let the Howl go forth!
24966  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: January 20, 2010, 09:34:37 AM
 grin

Some extraordinary toys here  cool
24967  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Info Czar Sunstein on: January 20, 2010, 12:58:18 AM
The Left and Right are all over this.


http://stossel.blogs.foxbusiness.com...est=latestnews



An obscure 2008 academic article gained traction with bloggers over the weekend. The article was written by the head of Obama's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein. He’s a good friend of the president and the promoter the contradictory idea: "libertarian paternalism". In the article, he muses about what government can do to combat "conspiracy" theories:


...we suggest a distinctive tactic for breaking up the hard core of extremists who supply conspiracy theories: cognitive infiltration of extremist groups, whereby government agents or their allies ... will undermine the crippled epistemology of those who subscribe to such theories. They do so by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups, thereby introducing beneficial cognitive diversity.


That's right. Obama's Regulation Czar is so concerned about citizens thinking the wrong way that he proposed sending government agents to "infiltrate" these groups and manipulate them. This reads like an Onion article: Powerful government official proposes to combat paranoid conspiracy groups that believe the government is out to get them...by proving that they really are out to get them. Did nothing of what Sunstein was writing strike him as...I don't know...crazy? "Cognitive infiltration" of extremist groups by government agents? "Stylized facts"? Was "truthiness" too pedantic?


Salon.com's Glenn Greenwald explains why this you should be disturbed by this:
This was written 18 months ago, at a time when the ascendancy of Sunstein's close friend to the Presidency looked likely, in exactly the area he now oversees. Additionally, the government-controlled messaging that Sunstein desires has been a prominent feature of U.S. Government actions over the last decade, including in some recently revealed practices of the current administration, and the mindset in which it is grounded explains a great deal about our political class.


... What is most odious and revealing about Sunstein's worldview is his condescending, self-loving belief that "false conspiracy theories" are largely the province of fringe, ignorant Internet masses and the Muslim world.
It's certainly true that one can easily find irrational conspiracy theories in those venues, but some of the most destructive "false conspiracy theories" have emanated from the very entity Sunstein wants to endow with covert propaganda power: namely, the U.S. Government itself, along with its elite media defenders. Moreover, "crazy conspiracy theorist" has long been the favorite epithet of those same parties to discredit people trying to expose elite wrongdoing and corruption.


It is this history of government deceit and wrongdoing that renders Sunstein's desire to use covert propaganda to "undermine" anti-government speech so repugnant. The reason conspiracy theories resonate so much is precisely that people have learned -- rationally -- to distrust government actions and statements. Sunstein's proposed covert propaganda scheme is a perfect illustration of why that is. In other words, people don't trust the Government and "conspiracy theories" are so pervasive precisely because government is typically filled with people like Cass Sunstein, who think that systematic deceit and government-sponsored manipulation are justified by their own Goodness and Superior Wisdom.
==============

From Salon.com:

Key para from Salon article:

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/gl...ein/index.html

"Sunstein advocates that the Government's stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into "chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups." He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called "independent" credible voices to bolster the Government's messaging (on the ground that those who don't believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government). This program would target those advocating false "conspiracy theories," which they define to mean: "an attempt to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role." Sunstein's 2008 paper was flagged by this blogger, and then amplified in an excellent report by Raw Story's Daniel Tencer.


24968  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islamo lawfare case loses on: January 20, 2010, 12:55:20 AM
Islamic Groups Lose Lawfare Attempt in Texas Supreme Court

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

Islamic Groups Lose Lawfare Attempt in Texas Supreme Court— Free Speech Rights of Internet Journalists Upheld;

January 19, 2010

People - Joe Kaufman ANN ARBOR, MI – The Texas Supreme Court dealt another blow to Islamic organizations which use lawsuits as a form of “legal jihad” to silence public discussion of Islamic terrorist threats. On Friday, January 15, 2010, the Texas Supreme Court denied a petition for review of a Second District Court of Appeals opinion which dismissed the defamation lawsuit brought by seven Dallas-area Islamic organizations against internet journalist Joe Kaufman.

On his radio show, Mahdi Bray, head of the Muslim American Freedom Foundation, the political arm of Muslim American Society –Dallas, exhorted his radio audience of the need of Muslims to lawyer up and fund additional lawsuits. The case against Kaufman was used as the example. In fact, for the last several years, Muslim groups in the U.S. have engaged in the tactic referred to as Islamist Lawfare which uses our American laws and legal system to silence critics and promote the Islamic agenda in America.

The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan acted as lead counsel for Kaufman, at no charge. The Law Center was assisted by Texas attorney Thomas S. Brandon, Jr. who acted as local counsel, and Los Angeles, CA attorneys William Becker, Jr. and Manuel S. Klausner. The Law Center’s attorney, Brandon Bolling, later moved to a for-profit law firm.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented, “It is gratifying to see a courageous citizen like Joe Kaufman withstand the legal intimidation of a well-financed lawsuit aimed at shutting down his right to speak out against the threats of radical Islam.”

On July 25, 2009, the Texas Second District Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that as an internet journalist Kaufman had the same procedural protections under the Texas law given to traditional electronic and print media, including the right to a pretrial appeal. [Read opinion] Accordingly, Kaufman had the same right to appeal the lower court’s denial of his motion to dismiss the frivolous libel claim before a time-consuming and expensive trial. Most parties have to wait until after a trial before they can appeal an unfavorable lower court ruling.

As a full-time investigative reporter, Kaufman has written extensively on Radical Islamic terrorism in America. He was sued because of his September 28, 2007 article titled “Fanatic Muslim Family Day” published by Front Page Magazine, a major online news website. Kaufman’s article exposed the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Islamic Association of Northern Texas (IANT) ties to the radical terrorist group Hamas.

Kaufman’s article called ICNA a radical Muslim organization with ties to Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. According to Kaufman, ICNA is an umbrella organization for South Asian-oriented mosques and Islamic centers in the United States created as an American arm of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) of Pakistan.

Significantly, neither ICNA nor IANT, which were mentioned in Kaufman’s article, sued Kaufman. It is speculated they were afraid of being subjected to pretrial discovery depositions. On the other hand, none of the seven plaintiffs that sued Kaufman were even mentioned in his article.

The seven Islamic organizations that sued Kaufman are the Islamic Society of Arlington, Texas, Islamic Center of Irving, DFW Islamic Educational Center, Inc., Dar Elsalam Islamic Center, Al Hedayah Islamic Center, Islamic Association of Tarrant County, and Muslim American Society of Dallas. All are affiliated with CAIR, one of the unindicted co-conspirators in the successful federal prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation.

This is the third straight loss for the Islamic groups in this case. After the ruling in favor of Kaufman on June 25, 2009, they asked for a reconsideration of the decision through what is known as an en banc opinion (appeal to the whole court, not just a panel of the court). The court denied that request. Last week the Texas Supreme Court also denied their request for review. However, plaintiffs can still file a petition for review with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life. It supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America. The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities. It does not charge for its services. The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at www.thomasmore.org.

http://www.thomasmore.org/downloads/...asmore/pdf.pdf
24969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: January 20, 2010, 12:35:57 AM
I saw something this AM to the effect that the Fed is not going to be using the Fed Funds rate as its key tool and instead will be using , , , several things.  I did not fully comprehend the conversation, but it smelled highly significant.  Has this crossed anyone else's radar screen?
24970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: January 20, 2010, 12:33:17 AM
I saw a seemingly serious conversation on the CNN biz show this morning (including with Nobel laureate Stiglitz(sp?) that the Fed is scheduled to stop buying mortgages in March.  Not sure I got the details right, but it seems like gravity is about to assert itself , , , ?
24971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: January 20, 2010, 12:23:45 AM
Greetings from the SHOT show in Las Vegas.  Good times! cool
24972  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: January 20, 2010, 12:22:08 AM
Woof All:

Greetings from the SHOT Show in Las Vegas.  Good times cool
24973  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm) Training Camp Feb 6-7 on: January 18, 2010, 05:16:28 PM
I always thought of the Superbowl as late January, but apparently this year it has decided to conflict with the second day of our Camp.  The nerve!

Of course we think our Camp is more important (record the game and watch it when you get home) but if we lose you for Sunday, then the one day price is simply 50% of the full weekend.

I've had some people indicate a desire to catch a flight out on Sunday and therefore they hope for an earlier starting time on Sunday, so instead of starting at 10:00, we can start at 09:00 and finish an hour earlier than previously announced.
24974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / MLK: I have a dream; Reagan on: January 18, 2010, 10:46:17 AM
http://patriotpost.us/historic/documents/80/

Letter from jail:

http://patriotpost.us/historic/documents/81/

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

"In 1968 Martin Luther King was gunned down by a brutal assassin, his life cut short at the age of 39. But those 39 short years had changed America forever. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had guaranteed all Americans equal use of public accommodations, equal access to programs financed by federal funds, and the right to compete for employment on the sole basis of individual merit. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 had made certain that from then on black Americans would get to vote. But most important, there was not just a change of law; there was a change of heart. The conscience of America had been touched. Across the land, people had begun to treat each other not as blacks and whites, but as fellow Americans. ... Now our nation has decided to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by setting aside a day each year to remember him and the just cause he stood for. We've made historic strides since Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus. As a democratic people, we can take pride in the knowledge that we Americans recognized a grave injustice and took action to correct it. And we should remember that in far too many countries, people like Dr. King never have the opportunity to speak out at all." --Ronald Reagan
24975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Attack on Kabul on: January 18, 2010, 10:31:16 AM
second post of the AM

Red Alert Update: Taliban Assault on Kabul
January 18, 2010 | 0827 GMT
The Taliban attack in Kabul is reportedly winding down. The assault began around 9:35 a.m. local time Jan. 18 (the day the new cabinet was being sworn in) when reports of rocket fire and explosions were heard in the Afghan capital near several government buildings.

Just 23 minutes later, reports emerged that the Taliban had claimed the attack in a message to the Afghan Islamic Press. In the claim, Taliban spokesman Zabihollah Mojahed said 20 suicide assailants were attacking the Presidential Palace, the Central Bank and the Ministries of Finance, Justice and Mines and Industries. The Serena Hotel, the Defense Ministry and the Afghan Telecom had also reportedly come under attack.

A little after noon local time, militants began to lay siege on two major shopping centers, including a mall called the Grand Afghan Shopping Center near the Justice Ministry. Eyewitness reported militants carrying rocket-propelled grenades entered the second and third floors of the mall. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) reportedly detonated outside one of the shopping centers killing several security forces.

Around the same time, reports emerged that militants who had earlier breached the southern gate of the presidential palace had entered the building where a swearing-in ceremony for Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s Cabinet was scheduled to take place. The Afghan government denied any breach of the palace had taken place. Several minutes later, another blast was heard outside the Cinema Pamir in an area far from the other attacks, about 1 kilometer away from the Serena hotel.

The size of this attack (if it involved 20 assailants as the Taliban have claimed) is more than twice as large as the Feb. 11, 2009, attack in Kabul, which involved a team of eight attackers. While a complete and concise assessment of what has been struck is still being compiled, it does appear that the justice ministry (the main target of the February 2009 attack) was again hit hard and there are reports of a substantial fire burning inside the building. It is unclear if the fire was started by a rocket attack or assailants who had succeeded in penetrating the building’s security.

STRATFOR sources are reporting that the Taliban may have used suicide vehicle bombs and artillery rockets in addition to the suicide bombers on foot and armed gunmen. If so, this is a new wrinkle. We have seen VBIEDS and artillery rockets employed by the Taliban in Kabul, but not in coordination with an armed assault.
24976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 18, 2010, 10:11:39 AM
And here is the URL to Gant's piece itself:

http://blog.stevenpressfield.com/wp-..._at_a_time.pdf
24977  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Running Dog Game on: January 17, 2010, 04:48:44 PM
Woof All:

One of the strongest current fighters in the DBs is Boo Dog (DBMA Group Leader too).  Boo is a professional level MMA guy too (an instructor in Labell-Gokor submission too) who regularly spars with UFC fighters.

He and I have been getting together every week and I am very excited by some of the additions he brings to the Running Dog Game.

Stay tuned  wink

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty
24978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gant of Afghanistan on: January 17, 2010, 03:05:07 PM
Jim Gant, the Green Beret who could win the war in Afghanistan
Washington Post

By Ann Scott Tyson
Sunday, January 17, 2010; B01




It was the spring of 2003, and Capt. Jim Gant and his Special Forces team had just fought their way out of an insurgent ambush in Afghanistan's Konar province when they heard there was trouble in the nearby village of Mangwel. There, Gant had a conversation with a tribal chief -- a chance encounter that would redefine his mission in Afghanistan and that, more than six years later, could help salvage the faltering U.S. war effort.

Malik Noorafzhal, an 80-year-old tribal leader, told Gant that he had never spoken to an American before and asked why U.S. troops were in his country. Gant, whose only orders upon arriving in Afghanistan days earlier had been to "kill and capture anti-coalition members," responded by pulling out his laptop and showing Noorafzhal a video of the World Trade Center towers crumbling.

That sparked hours of conversation between the intense 35-year-old Green Beret and the elder in a tribe of 10,000. "I spent a lot of time just listening," Gant said. "I spoke only when I thought I understood what had been said."

In an unusual and unauthorized pact, Gant and his men were soon fighting alongside tribesmen in local disputes and against insurgents, at the same time learning ancient tribal codes of honor, loyalty and revenge -- codes that often conflicted with the sharia law that the insurgents sought to impose. But the U.S. military had no plans to leverage the Pashtun tribal networks against the insurgents, so Gant kept his alliances quiet.

No longer. In recent months, Gant, now a major, has won praise at the highest levels for his effort to radically deepen the U.S. military's involvement with Afghan tribes -- and is being sent back to Afghanistan to do just that. His 45-page paper, "One Tribe at a Time," published online last fall and circulating widely within the U.S. military, the Pentagon and Congress, lays out a strategy focused on empowering Afghanistan's ancient tribal system. Gant believes that with the central government still weak and corrupt, the tribes are the only enduring source of local authority and security in the country.

"We will be totally unable to protect the 'civilians' in the rural areas of Afghanistan until we partner with the tribes for the long haul," Gant wrote.

A decorated war veteran and Pashto speaker with multiple tours in Afghanistan, Gant had been assigned by the Army to deploy to Iraq in November. But with senior military and civilian leaders -- including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan; and Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command -- expressing support for Gant's views, he was ordered instead to return to Afghanistan later this year to work on tribal issues.

"Maj. Jim Gant's paper is very impressive -- so impressive, in fact, that I shared it widely," Petraeus said, while McChrystal distributed it to all commanders in Afghanistan. One senior military official went so far as to call Gant "Lawrence of Afghanistan."

The abrupt about-face surprised the blunt-spoken major. "I couldn't believe it," Gant said in a recent interview, recalling how his orders were canceled just days before he was set to deploy to Iraq. "How do I know they are serious? They contacted me. I am not a very nice guy. I lead men in combat. I am not a Harvard guy. You don't want me on your think tank."

Gant, who sports tattoos on his right arm featuring Achilles and the Chinese characters for "fear no man," is clearly comfortable with the raw violence that is part of his job. An aggressive officer, he is known to carry triple the ammunition required for his missions. (One fellow soldier referred to this habit as a "Gantism.") But he is equally at ease playing for hours with Afghan children or walking hand-in-hand with tribesmen, as is their custom.

As a teenager in Las Cruces, N.M., Gant was headed to college on a basketball scholarship and had no plans to join the military until he read Robin Moore's 1965 fictionalized account of Special Forces actions in Vietnam. Captivated by the unique type of soldier who waged war with indigenous fighters, Gant decided to become a Green Beret and scheduled an appointment with his father, a middle school principal, to break the news.

Enlisting in the Army soon after his high school graduation, Gant became a Special Forces communications sergeant and fought in the Persian Gulf War. Later, as a captain, he served combat tours in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, and one in Iraq during the height of the violence there in 2006 and 2007.

Intellectually, Gant is driven by a belief that Special Forces soldiers should immerse themselves in the culture of foreign fighters, as British officer T.E. Lawrence did during the 1916-1918 Arab revolt. In Iraq as well as in Afghanistan, Gant relied on his Special Forces training to build close bonds with local fighters, often trusting them with his life.

In Iraq in December 2006, a roadside bomb flipped over Gant's Humvee twice and left it engulfed in flames, with him pinned inside. Members of the Iraqi National Police battalion that Gant was advising pulled him out. Soon afterward, Gant led those same police in fighting their way out of a complex insurgent ambush near the city of Balad, saving the lives of two policemen and an Iraqi girl while under heavy fire, and deliberately driving his Humvee over two roadside bombs to protect the police riding in unarmored trucks behind him.

Gant earned a Silver Star for his bravery, but he remembers most the goat sacrifice the police held for him that day. "We had just won a great battle. We had several [police] commandos there, with several goats, and they were putting their hands in the blood, and putting their handprints all over us and on the vehicles," Gant recalled in a 2007 interview. He felt both strange and honored. "It's something I will never forget," he said.

Under Gant's plan, small "tribal engagement teams," each made up of six culturally astute and battle-tested Special Forces soldiers, would essentially go native, moving into villages with rifles, ammunition and money to empower tribal leaders to improve security in their area and fight insurgents. The teams would always operate with the tribes, reducing the risk of roadside bombs and civilian casualties from airstrikes.

The U.S. military would have to grant the teams the leeway to grow beards and wear local garb, and enough autonomy in the chain of command to make rapid decisions. Most important, to build relationships, the military would have to commit one or two teams to working with the same tribe for three to five years, Gant said.

Such a strategy, he argues, would bolster McChrystal's counterinsurgency campaign by tapping thousands of tribal fighters to secure rural populations, allowing international troops and official Afghan forces to focus on large towns and cities. Building strong partnerships with the tribes, whose domains straddle Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, could also prove critical to defeating insurgents entrenched in Pakistan's western tribal areas, he contends.

Adm. Eric Olson, who leads the 57,000-strong Special Operations Command, said in the latest issue of Joint Force Quarterly that Gant's proposal is "innovative and bold" and likely to have "strategic effects." And in recent congressional testimony, Gates agreed that the U.S. military should step up cooperation with Afghan tribes, saying many security responsibilities are likely to fall on them rather than the Afghan army or police force.

Thorough intelligence analysis should drive the selection of the tribes, Gant said, noting that the U.S. military has already gathered much of the intelligence. "There are 500-page documents breaking these tribes down. You would be shocked how much we know about who is who," he said.

Gant's proposals go well beyond the more cautious tribal-outreach efforts underway in Afghanistan, where the U.S. military is experimenting with neighborhood-watch-type programs such as the Community Defense Initiative, in which Special Forces teams partner with tribes selected by an Afghan minister. With time running out, Gant believes tribal engagement must be bolder. "We are trying not to lose, not trying to win," he said. (Gant's experiences helped shape the CDI effort, and he is currently preparing to return to Afghanistan to implement his vision, according to a senior military official.)

Still, Gant acknowledges that his strategy has risks. The teams would depend on the tribes for their safety. "American soldiers would die. Some of them alone, with no support. Some may simply disappear," he wrote in his paper on the strategy. Another possibility is that intertribal conflict would break out between two or more U.S.-backed tribes. "Could it happen? Yes. Could it cause mission failure? Yes. Could we have to pick sides for our own safety? Yes," Gant said. But he believes that if American advisers forge strong ties with the tribes, the chances of such conflicts can be minimized.

Gant's greatest fear is that the United States will lack the fortitude to back the tribes for the long haul, eventually abandoning them. He, for one, plans to stick with his tribe in Afghanistan, at least to fulfill a personal promise to return to Konar province to see elder Malik Noorafzhal, now 86.

"I am not here to imply that I think I could win the war in Afghanistan if put in charge," Gant wrote in his paper. ". . . I just know what I have done and what I could do again, if given the chance."

Ann Scott Tyson, a staff writer for The Washington Post, has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.
24979  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Get outta my way! on: January 17, 2010, 03:04:17 PM
Police: Minor sidewalk squabble leads to stabbing

January 17, 2010 - 1:31pm

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) - Police in St. Cloud said an argument over sidewalk etiquette led to a man being stabbed because he wouldn't move out of another man's way. The 31-year-old victim told police he and the other man were walking toward each other on a sidewalk early Friday morning. Each man refused to make way for the other.

The St. Cloud Times reported that the argument escalated into a physical fight. When it was over, the victim noticed he'd been stabbed several times in the stomach.

Authorities said the victim's injuries were minor.
___
Information from: St. Cloud Times, http://www.sctimes.com
24980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: January 17, 2010, 08:32:01 AM
A bit of rabble rousing to fire up your day!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nEoW-P81-0
24981  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Volunteering, Giving, Charity, Tithing on: January 17, 2010, 07:55:07 AM
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: January 16, 2010
Want to be happier in 2010? Then try this simple experiment, inspired by recent scholarship in psychology and neurology. Which person would you rather be:

Richard is an ambitious 36-year-old white commodities trader in Florida. He’s healthy and drop-dead handsome, lives alone in a house with a pool, and has worked his way through a series of gorgeous women. Richard’s job is stressful, but he spent Christmas in Tahiti. Unencumbered, he also has time to indulge such passions as reading (right now he’s finishing a book called “Half the Sky”), marathon running and writing poetry. In the last few days, he has been composing an elegy about the Haiti earthquake.

Lorna is a 64-year-old black woman in Boston. She’s overweight and unattractive, even after a recent nose job. Lorna is on regular dialysis, but that doesn’t impede her active social life or babysitting her grandchildren. A retired school assistant, she is close to her 67-year-old husband and is much respected in her church for directing the music committee and the semiannual blood drive. Lorna believes in tithing (giving 10 percent of her income to charity or the church) and in the last few days has organized a church drive to raise $10,000 for earthquake relief in Haiti.

I adapted those examples from ones that Jonathan Haidt, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, develops in his fascinating book, “The Happiness Hypothesis.” His point is that while most of us might prefer to trade places with Richard, Lorna is probably happier.

Men are no happier than women, and people in sunny areas no happier than people in chillier climates. The evidence on health is complex, but even chronic health problems (like those requiring dialysis) may have surprisingly little long-term effect on happiness, because we adjust to them. Beautiful people aren’t happier than ugly people, although cosmetic surgery does seem to leave patients feeling brighter. Whites are happier than blacks, but only very slightly. And young people are actually a bit less happy than older folks, at least up to age 65.

Lorna has a few advantages over Richard. She has less stress and is respected by her peers — factors that make us feel good. Happiness is tied to volunteering and to giving blood, and people with religious faith tend to be happier than those without. A solid marriage is linked to happiness, as is participation in social networks. And one study found that people who focus on achieving wealth and career advancement are less happy than those who focus on good works, religion or spirituality, or friends and family.

“Human beings are in some ways like bees,” Professor Haidt said. “We evolved to live in intensely social groups, and we don’t do as well when freed from hives.”

Happiness is, of course, a complex concept and difficult to measure, and John Stuart Mill had a point when he suggested: “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.”

But in any case, nobility can lead to happiness. Professor Haidt notes that one thing that can make a lasting difference to your contentment is to work with others on a cause larger than yourself.

I see that all the time. I interview people who were busy but reluctantly undertook some good cause because (sigh!) it was the right thing to do. Then they found that this “sacrifice” became a huge source of fulfillment and satisfaction.

Brain scans by neuroscientists confirm that altruism carries its own rewards. A team including Dr. Jorge Moll of the National Institutes of Health found that when a research subject was encouraged to think of giving money to a charity, parts of the brain lit up that are normally associated with selfish pleasures like eating or sex.

The implication is that we are hard-wired to be altruistic. To put it another way, it’s difficult for humans to be truly selfless, for generosity feels so good.

“The most selfish thing you can do is to help other people,” says Brian Mullaney, co-founder of Smile Train, which helps tens of thousands of children each year who are born with cleft lips and cleft palates. Mr. Mullaney was a successful advertising executive, driving a Porsche and taking dates to the Four Seasons, when he felt something was missing and began volunteering for good causes. He ended up leaving the business world to help kids smile again — and all that makes him smile, too.

So at a time of vast needs, from Haiti to our own cities, here’s a nice opportunity for symbiosis: so many afflicted people, and so much benefit to us if we try to help them. Let’s remember that while charity has a mixed record helping others, it has an almost perfect record of helping ourselves. Helping others may be as primal a human pleasure as food or sex.
24982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: January 17, 2010, 06:37:08 AM
Good question CCP.  Anyone here care to take a stab at answering it?

Separately:

The White House has spent months imploring banks to lend more money, so will President Obama's new proposal to extract $117 billion from bank capital encourage new bank lending?

Just asking. Welcome to one more installment in Washington's year-long crusade to revive private business by assailing and soaking it.

Mr. Obama's new "Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee"—please don't call it a tax—is being sold as a way to cover expected losses in the Troubled Asset Relief Program. That sounds reasonable, except that the banks designated to pay the fee aren't those responsible for the losses. With the exception of Citigroup, those banks have repaid their TARP money with interest.

The real TARP losers—General Motors, Chrysler and delinquent mortgage borrowers—are exempt from the new tax. Why the auto companies? An Administration official told the Journal that the banks caused the crisis that doomed the auto companies, which apparently were innocent bystanders to their own bankruptcy. The fact that the auto companies remain wards of Washington no doubt has nothing to do with their free tax pass.

Also exempt are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which operate outside of TARP but also surely did more than any other company to cause the housing boom and bust. The key to understanding their free tax pass is that on Christmas Eve Treasury lifted the $400 billion cap on their potential taxpayer losses expressly so they can rewrite more underwater mortgages at a loss.

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Reuters
 .In other words, the White House wants to tax more capital away from profit-making banks to offset the intentional losses that the politicians have ordered up at Fan and Fred. The bank tax revenue will flow directly into the Treasury to be spent on whatever immediate cause Congress favors. Come the next "systemic risk" bailout, taxpayers will still be on the hook. "Responsibility" is not the word that comes to mind here.

The tax will apply to liabilities that are not already insured by government, so the White House is saying it will deter excessive risk-taking. And it does at least tilt at the role of excessive debt in creating systemic risk. But the heart of the moral hazard for the biggest banks is the implicit government guarantee that they will never be allowed to fail, and the tax does nothing about this.

The tax will be levied on financial companies with more than $50 billion in assets. However, as a too-big-to-fail litmus test, $50 billion can't possibly be the right answer. America has just run the experiment by putting a company bigger than $50 billion—CIT Group—through bankruptcy. By any objective reckoning, there were no systemic consequences. The new $50 billion tax threshold thus increases the scope of future bailouts by drawing a wider circle around firms that can gamble with implicit federal backing.

A better idea is to do the hard policy work of creating a plan that allows failure or else separates traditional banking from hedge-fund trading, as Bank of England Governor Mervyn King and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker have suggested.

There's encouraging news that bank failure may still be an option. A bipartisan Senate effort led by Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and Mark Warner (D., Va.) is considering the creation of a special bankruptcy court to decide whether an institution should go through bankruptcy or be subjected to an FDIC resolution process.

The first route sounds better than the second. Although FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair has been an outspoken advocate for a resolution process with certain punishment for failure, the provisions recently passed by the House would yield the opposite. The FDIC could choose among a number of ways to assist a company, and could decide how hard a bargain to drive with the firm's various creditors as well as discriminate within the same class of creditors. Not even the New York Federal Reserve of AIG fame has been willing to do the latter.

Another idea to reduce the moral hazard of too-big-to-fail would be to restore long-ago limits on leverage. For example, abolish the corporate income tax for financial companies and replace it with a tax on assets that rises with the bank's leverage ratio. There could be a tax-free zone at leverage levels below current regulatory standards. Washington could also reform margin requirements.

These ideas should all be thoughtfully considered, but of course that is hard political work and the biggest banks would oppose them because they secretly like too-big-to-fail. As for the politicians, it's so much easier to blame bankers, deplore their bonuses, tax them, regulate them, accept their campaign contributions and then bail them out while you talk about "change" and "responsibility."
24983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The backlash is coming! The backlash is coming! on: January 17, 2010, 06:33:57 AM
By JON KELLER Boston

With characteristic hubris, people in this state like to think they've been at the leading edge of American politics since the "shot heard 'round the world" in 1775. And in the past few years, we've given the nation a preview of Barack Obama's presidential campaign with Deval Patrick's successful 2006 bid for governor; provided a critical boost for Mr. Obama's candidacy in the form of an endorsement by Edward Kennedy; and enacted a health-care law that is a template for ObamaCare.

But hubris has yielded to shock here at the possibility that the next political trend the Bay State might foreshadow is a voter backlash against the Democratic Party.

After Kennedy's death in August, few imagined there would be any problem replacing him with another Democrat in the U.S. Senate. It's been 16 years since Massachusetts elected a Republican to a congressional seat, 31 years since the last Republican senator left office. Gov. Patrick appointed a former Kennedy aide as the interim senator, and Democratic primary voters chose the well-regarded state Attorney General Martha Coakley as their nominee for the special election.

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Associated Press
 
Martha Coakley
.That election, which will be held on Tuesday, was widely seen as a formality. Ms. Coakley coasted through the holiday season while the GOP challenger, little-known state Sen. Scott Brown, scrambled for traction.

The new year, however, brought polls showing the race tightening. This week a Rasmussen Reports poll gave Ms. Coakley a slim 49% to 47% advantage; a Suffolk University survey has Mr. Brown with a narrow lead. Independents are breaking for Mr. Brown by a three-to-one margin, Rasmussen finds. And many people do not realize that independents outnumber Democrats—51% of registered voters in the state are not affiliated with a party, while 37% are registered as Democrats and 11% as Republicans.

"Around the country they look at Massachusetts and just write us off," longtime local activist Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government told me. "But people around here are really not happy with the extremes in the Democrat Party."

Those extremes are cropping up as issues in this race. One is giving civilian legal rights to terror suspects, which Ms. Coakley supports. Mr. Brown, a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts National Guard, hammered her for that even before Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day. That incident has tried the patience of an electorate normally known for its civil libertarianism. Rasmussen's most recent survey found that 65% of them want Abdulmutallab tried by the military.

Another issue is taxes. Mr. Brown has scolded Ms. Coakley for supporting a repeal of the Bush tax cuts, for entertaining the idea of passing a "war tax," and for proclaiming in a recent debate that "we need to get taxes up." Ms. Coakley says she meant that tax revenues, not rates, need to rebound. Nonetheless, Mr. Brown's critique resonates with voters who are smarting from a 25% hike in sales tax last year.

Gov. Patrick's approval ratings have also crashed, fertilizing the soil for Mr. Brown's claim in a radio ad that "our government in Washington is making the same mistakes as our government here in Massachusetts."

But nothing excites Mr. Brown's supporters more than his vow to stop ObamaCare by denying Democrats the 60th vote they would need in the U.S. Senate to shut off a GOP filibuster. The Rasmussen and Suffolk polls report that once-overwhelming statewide support for the federal health reform has fallen to a wafer-thin majority.

Support for the state's universal health-care law, close to 70% in 2008, is also in free fall; only 32% of state residents told Rasmussen earlier this month that they'd call it a success, with 36% labeling it a failure. The rest were unsure. Massachusetts families pay the country's highest health insurance premiums, with costs soaring at a rate 7% ahead of the national average, according to a recent report by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund.

Doubt about the Massachusetts health-care reform "does not necessarily translate into opposition to the federal bill," cautions veteran local Democratic strategist Stephen Crawford, who is not working for any candidate in the Senate race. "I don't think opposition to the plan is going to be a make-or-break issue." That's a far cry from the once widely-held belief here that the Democratic nominee would be hustled into office by voters eager to pass ObamaCare. But it reflects a conviction among local Democratic elites that antitax and anti-big-government politics are "a tired strategy, the same old Karl Rove playbook," as Mr. Crawford puts it.

On Tuesday, we'll have a reading on whether that complacency is justified. It may not be definitive; barely two in 10 voters voted in the primaries, and turnout, especially if it is short on independents, could render the outcome a road test for each party's get-out-the-vote machinery. Here that's akin to a drag race between a Democratic Cadillac fueled with high-octane labor support and a GOP go-kart driven by pedal power. But the long-range weather forecast for the Election Day is clear. There are anecdotal reports of brisk absentee voting, a practice often driven by the state's small but aggressive pro-life faction. And the polls show a sharp enthusiasm gap in Mr. Brown's favor.

Tellingly, the usually-demure Ms. Coakley has been scorching Mr. Brown with a tired strategy out of the Obama campaign playbook, linking him to "the failed policies of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney." Mr. Brown counters by linking Ms. Coakley to Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Deval Patrick—people actually in power.

Are we in for another shot heard 'round the world? Perhaps. More likely, listen for the sound of horse hooves on the pavement, and a modern-day version of Paul Revere's historic warning—the backlash is coming.

Mr. Keller is the political analyst for WBZ-TV and WBZ Radio in Boston.
24984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Nobody's watching Charlie Rose on: January 17, 2010, 06:26:27 AM


By JAMES TARANTO
New York

Glenn Beck didn't always believe in what he was doing. "When I was young, I used to hear people say, 'He's a golden boy. Look at that guy. Can you imagine what he's going to be like when he grows up?' Well, I unfortunately bought into that. And I hadn't even found myself. Quite honestly, I was running from myself. But I knew how to work Top 40 radio."

"Golden boy" was no exaggeration. "I was in Washington, D.C., on the morning show, by the time I was 18, programming a station by 19, No. 1 in the mornings. I think I was making, I don't know, a quarter of a million dollars by the time I was 25," he tells me in his midtown Manhattan office, a few blocks from the Fox News Channel studio where he now broadcasts his eponymous program every afternoon.

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Associated Press
 .A drinking problem helped plunge Mr. Beck into personal and professional crisis: "By the time I was 30," he says, "nobody would work with me. I was friendless, I was hopeless, I was suicidal, lost my family—I mean, it was bad. Bottomed out, didn't know what I was going to do. I actually thought I was going to be a chef—go to work in a kitchen someplace."

Instead he found a calling in talk radio. It was late in the 1990s: "I did one of my first shows at WABC [in New York]. I was filling in for somebody. . . . I used to have to write everything out and keep copious notes on everything. I overprepped everything. And I got to the end of my first hour, and I looked down at all the notes, and I hadn't touched the first piece of paper. It was all off the top of my head. It was me being me. That's when I knew: This is what I have to do."

Mr. Beck, 45, has many detractors, but there's no denying that he has made a success of himself. In addition to his Fox show, he hosts "The Glenn Beck Program," syndicated on radio, publishes a magazine and a Web site, and has written seven books. "Somebody told me that our footprint in a month"—the number of people he reaches in all media—"is about 30 million," he says.

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Randy Jones
 .His politics are libertarian. "I really kind of dig this whole freedom thing," he says. "I'd like to pass it on to the kids." But he is pessimistic about the prospects for doing so: "I'm a dad, and I no longer see a way for my kids to even inherit the money that I'm making, let alone go out there, have an idea, and create it in their own lifetime."

Mr. Beck blames a political system that he describes as corrupt and out of touch, a sentiment that is widely shared: "People in Washington . . . not all of them, but a lot of them, are not men and women of honor anymore," he says. "I just saw a poll today that said 25% of Americans now believe that their government officials will, for the most part, do the right thing. Only 25%. It's the lowest number ever recorded."

Mr. Beck appeals to a slice of the remaining 75% with a style that is earnest and emotional; he is known to cry on air. Although he has reported on some major news stories, including the scandals involving Acorn and former Obama aide Van Jones, he thinks of himself as a commentator and entertainer rather than a journalist. "I'm not interested in breaking news," he tells me. "I'm interested in telling the story of what's going on and then trying to figure it out."

In doing so, Mr. Beck draws strong negative reactions for both his right-of-center views and his populist style. "Right now, I'm getting hammered by the left and the right, and I get hammered for being an opportunist," he says.

He pleads innocent, arguing that he was as hard on George W. Bush—especially over spending and immigration—as he is on Barack Obama: "Nobody seems to recall the years . . . when I was saying the same thing and program directors were calling me saying, . . . 'Are you kidding me? You're on a conservative talk radio network. You can't come out against George W. Bush.' Well, here it goes.

"That's why I connect now with the American people, because the listeners that . . . have been with me for a long time know that I have said these things at my own peril, that I'm not in it for—I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm a capitalist. I dig money. But I'm not in it for the money."

Cheerful and affable, Mr. Beck responds good-naturedly, even eagerly, when I ask him to respond to his critics. It's a far cry from the liberal stereotype of an angry hater. But his worldview has a dark side: "I don't believe our government officials will do the right thing. They will do the right thing for special interests and for some sort of agenda that they're not bringing me in on."

When I ask him to respond to the charge that he is a conspiracy theorist, he answers, "I am the guy who debunked conspiracy theory."

Mr. Beck says he received death threats from "truthers"—crackpots of the far left and the far right who believe that the U.S. government was behind 9/11—after he denounced them on his old CNN Headline News show in 2007. (Mr. Beck's revelation that Van Jones had signed a truther petition helped force Mr. Jones to resign from the White House Council on Environmental Quality in September 2009.)

"I said those people were a gigantic danger from within, because we must trust each other," Mr. Beck says. "There are limits to debasement of this country, aren't there? I mean, it's one thing to believe that our politicians are capable of being Bernie Madoff. It's another to think that they are willing to kill 3,000 Americans. Once you cross that line, you're in a whole new territory."

Yet while this is all to Mr. Beck's credit, it is not quite responsive to the question. It is possible, after all, to reject one conspiracy theory while espousing others, and the claim that "our politicians are capable of being Bernie Madoff" is, to say the least, a rather sweeping indictment.

Mr. Beck's answer: "I believe the conspiracies, quote-unquote, that are happening now are happening all out in the open. All you have to do is track their actions. Their actions speak louder than their words. It's easy to throw out, 'Well, he's a conspiracy theorist.' Why do you say that? 'Well, because they say they're not doing that.' But their actions show that they are.

"TARP, stimulus—a stimulus package that makes no sense whatsoever. No sense whatsoever! TARP, stimulus, health care that is behind closed doors, where they're giving Medicaid free to states, where they're saying, 'We're going to pay for it by reducing the cost of Medicare while we expand Medicare.' When you look at all those things, and you know that the people who are in and around the planning of those things believe in [welfare activists Richard] Cloward and [Frances Fox] Piven, believe in ["Rules for Radicals'" author] Saul Alinksy—that's not a conspiracy. That's a pretty good educated guess."

As an example, Mr. Beck notes that Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, last month described the Senate health-care bill as a "starter home." Says Mr. Beck: "Sen. Harkin says to the progressive left, 'This is a starter home. Don't worry, we can add additions to this, and we'll grow it'"—a paraphrase of Mr. Harkin's remarks, but an accurate one. Mr. Beck continues: "Excuse me? That's everything that I've been saying you're going to do, and you've been denying it."

This fall, Mr. Beck drew friendly fire on an American Enterprise Institute blog from Charles Murray, a social scientist with strong libertarian political leanings, who conceded that "Beck is spectacularly right (translation: I agree with him) on about 95 percent of the substantive issues he talks about." But Mr. Murray does not care for Mr. Beck's manner: "Our job is to engage in a debate on great issues and make converts to our point of view. The key word is converts—referring to people who didn't start out agreeing with us. We shouldn't be civil and reasonable just because we want to be nice guys. It is the only option we've got if we want to succeed instead of just posture. The Glenn Becks of the world posture, and make our work harder."

Mr. Beck answers carefully: "I'm sorry he doesn't agree with me—doesn't agree with my approach." Then he notes the irony of a think-tank intellectual criticizing a populist media star for lacking broad appeal: "How many are reading his blog, and how many are listening to my radio show, television show, reading my books, going to conventions, seeing me on stage? I mean, I think, while I respect his position and his difference in opinion on presentation, I think one of us is probably reaching more people daily."

He continues: "Look, I know a lot of people will disagree with the way I present things. I am being myself—I am a guy who is a recovering alcoholic, who lived a pretty fast life, who works hard every day, quite honestly, not to use the F-word—it used to be an art for me. I am a work in progress. But I also am a businessman that looks to get the word out to the maximum number of people."

And he rejects the implication that his is a lowbrow appeal: "You name the conservative that can do a full hour—a full hour—on Woodrow Wilson and the roots of modern liberalism—for an hour—and have high ratings with it. . . . I had like three really big eggheads on the show, and people watched it. Now, you could be Charlie Rose all you want, but nobody's watching Charlie Rose."

Mr. Beck identifies with the Howard Beale character from the 1976 film "Network." Beale, played by Peter Finch, is a news anchor on a fictional broadcast network who has a nervous breakdown on air, becomes a raving populist, and is a big hit with viewers. Mr. Beck invokes the fictional anchorman's most famous line: "I am mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore. The part of Howard Beale that I liken myself to is the moment when he was in the raincoat, where he figures everything out, and he's like, 'Whoa, whoa, wait a minute! Why the hell aren't you up at the window shouting outside?'"

Mr. Beck adds, "What the media wants to make me is the Howard Beale at the end, the crazy showman that's doing anything for money. That I don't liken myself to."

Some of Mr. Beck's detractors on the left, including MSNBC ranter Keith Olbermann, draw a more sinister cinematic analogy. Mr. Olbermann calls Mr. Beck "Lonesome Rhodes," the cynical TV demagogue played by Andy Griffith in 1957's "A Face in the Crowd."

"I had never heard of Lonesome Rhodes," Mr. Beck says. "I had never seen the movie. . . . As soon as I heard that, I watched it. . . . Lonesome Rhodes and I, I guess, had a few things in common. He was a drunk. I'm in AA; he wasn't. He, at the very beginning, said things that he believed—I think. I'm not really even sure on that. I used to not say the things I believe. . . . Now I've made a vow to myself—it actually comes from Immanuel Kant, the philosopher: 'There are many things that I believe that I shall never say. But I shall never say the things that I do not believe.' . . . The minute I violate that, I'm back to the old drunk Glenn."

The source of the comparison points to another difference between Mr. Beck and Lonesome Rhodes. Mr. Olbermann is no closer to the old ideal of the straightforward, objective newsman than is Mr. Beck, and cable television has yielded up a multitude of other personalities who blend news, strong opinion and entertainment in varying degrees, including Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Jon Stewart and, until his recent departure from CNN, Lou Dobbs.

By contrast, the authors of "A Face in the Crowd" and "Network" imagined their protagonists as singular sensations who drew massive audiences at a time when viewing options were far fewer. At his peak, Lonesome Rhodes claims 65 million viewers, more than one-third of the entire U.S. population in 1957. Mr. Beck's Fox show, the third-highest-rated on the cable news channels, averaged 2.9 million viewers a day in 2009, according to Nielsen Media Research. Even his estimated monthly multimedia audience of 30 million amounts to less than 10% of all Americans.

The development of cable television, with its diversity and audience segmentation, seems to have been a necessary condition for the emergence of such programming. Charles Murray may be right that Mr. Beck mostly preaches to the choir, but the observation applies equally to Mr. Beck's competitors and their respective choirs.

Mr. Taranto, a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, writes the Best of the Web Today column for OpinionJournal.com.
24985  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm) Training Camp Feb 6-7 on: January 17, 2010, 05:56:07 AM
If you have them, please bring boxing gloves as well.  If not, not a big deal.  There are some there at the gym, but they are , , , gym gloves.
24986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: January 17, 2010, 05:53:11 AM
Seeding Miracles
By Tzvi Freeman

When our universe as we know it first emerged, the soil of the earth was imbued with a wondrous power—the power to generate life.  Place a tiny seed in the ground and it converts the carbon of the air into a mighty redwood— a decomposing seed awakens the power of the infinite.

Yet another miracle, even more wondrous: A quiet act of kindness buried in humility ignites an explosion of G‑dly light.

Infinite power is hidden in the humblest of places.
24987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Goldman Sachs on: January 17, 2010, 05:37:16 AM

http://readingthemarkets.blogspot.com/2010/01/what-could-goldman-sachs-do-for-you.html
24988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "I like guns" on: January 16, 2010, 12:44:33 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TC2xTCb_GU&feature=player_embedded
24989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WaPo: CIA got dangled on: January 16, 2010, 12:31:12 PM
While we were dangling, al-Qa'ida was roping:


In Afghanistan attack, CIA fell victim to series of miscalculations about informant
By Peter Finn and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, January 16, 2010; A01



AMMAN, JORDAN -- He was an ambitious young doctor from a large family who had a foreign wife and two children -- details that officers of Jordan's intelligence service viewed as exploitable vulnerabilities, not biography.
Early last year, the General Intelligence Department picked up Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi after his pseudonymous postings on extremist Web sites had become increasingly strident. During three days of questioning, GID officers threatened to have Balawi jailed and end his medical career, and they hinted they could cause problems for his family, according to a former U.S. official and a Jordanian official, both of whom have knowledge of Balawi's detention.

Balawi was told that if he traveled to Pakistan and infiltrated radical groups there, his slate would be wiped clean and his family left alone, said the former U.S. official, whose more detailed account of the GID's handling of Balawi was generally corroborated by the Jordanian official, as well as by two former Jordanian intelligence officers.

Balawi agreed, and as the relationship developed, GID officers began to think that he was indeed willing to work against al-Qaeda.

This belief was the first in a series of miscalculations that culminated Dec. 30 when Balawi stepped out of a car at a CIA facility in Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan. CIA officers allowed Balawi, who was wearing a vest packed with explosives and metal, to enter the base without a search. Then he detonated his load, killing seven CIA officers and contractors, a Jordanian intelligence officer and a driver.

Jordanian and U.S. officials have since concluded that Balawi was a committed extremist whose beliefs had deep intellectual and religious roots and who had never intended to cooperate with them. In hindsight, they said, the excitement generated by his ability to produce verifiable intelligence should have been tempered by the recognition that his penetration of al-Qaeda's top echelon was too rapid to be true.

Senior CIA and GID officials were so beguiled by the prospect of a strike against al-Qaeda's inner sanctum that they discounted concerns raised by case officers in both services that Balawi might be a fraud, according to the former U.S. official and the Jordanian government official, who has an intelligence background.

The Americans took over the management of Balawi from the Jordanians sometime in the second half of 2009, dictating how and when the informant would meet his handlers, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officers. Agency field officers faced unusual pressures from top CIA and administration officials in Washington keyed up by Balawi's promise to deliver al-Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current and former officers said.

But a U.S. intelligence official, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity, rejected assertions that the CIA had abandoned caution. "No one -- not in Washington, not in the field -- let excitement or anticipation run the show," the official said. The GID's approach was more subtle than simple blackmail, the official added. "Persuasion works better than coercion, and that's something the Jordanians understand completely," the official said. "The caricatures of clumsy, heavy-handed approaches just don't fit."

'A Salafi jihadi since birth'

Balawi, 32, trained as a physician at Istanbul University in Turkey and worked at a clinic in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan. He was married to a Turkish journalist, who has written admiringly of al-Qaeda's leader in a book titled "Osama bin Laden: Che Guevara of the East."
In the past four years, using the pseudonym Abu Dujana al-Khorasani, Balawi wrote on extremist Web sites and gained renown. He trumpeted calls for martyrdom.

"My words will drink of my blood," he wrote, one of a number of statements suggesting an ambition to move beyond rhetoric.
"If you read his articles, you understand he is a Salafi jihadi since birth," said Hasan Hanieh, an author and former Islamic radical, referring to a purist strain of Islam known as Salafism. "They go to the core of his beliefs. Over years, I could see this type of person moderate, but such a person does not become an agent. Never."

The Jordanian official with an intelligence background, who has studied Balawi's writings since the attack, reached the same conclusion.
"If you read him in Arabic, there is a texture and a spirit that says he is a true believer," the official said. "I would have tested this man 20 times to believe him once."

After his arrest and interrogation last January, family members said, Balawi appeared sullen and preoccupied. He stopped using the computer -- to which he had seemed so tied.

"He came out a changed person," his father said in an interview. "They should have left him alone. They should not have played with his mind." He said his son would never have moved beyond rhetoric had he not been forced to leave Jordan.

Balawi left Jordan soon after his release, telling his family that he wanted to pursue further medical studies in Pakistan.

He began to produce credible and compelling information about extremists, and the GID turned over the operation's management and the resulting intelligence to the CIA while allowing its officer, Capt. Sharif Ali bin Zeid, to remain as a conduit to Balawi, officials said.

As the information continued to flow, the agency was able to exploit it for operations in Pakistan, officials said. Belief in Balawi grew.

"First, the guy had extremist credentials, including proven access to senior figures," the U.S. intelligence official said. "Second, you had a sound liaison service that believed they'd turned him and that had been working with him since. And third, the asset supplied intelligence that was independently verified. You don't ignore those kinds of things, but you don't trust the guy, either."

In September, six months after Balawi's arrival in Pakistan, U.S. and international intelligence officials described what they said was their growing success in penetrating al-Qaeda's senior ranks, which allowed improved targeting of insurgent locations in Pakistan.

"Human sources have begun to produce results," said Richard Barrett, head of the United Nations' al-Qaeda and Taliban monitoring group and the former chief of Britain's overseas counterterrorism operations. At the time, a senior Obama administration official with firsthand knowledge of the U.S. operations attributed the killings of more than a dozen senior al-Qaeda officials to the CIA's increasing ability "to locate and identify individuals."
Asked last week whether his reference to greater intelligence penetration included reports from Balawi, the official said he was "not referring to any one individual," but he declined to clarify whether he knew about Balawi's reports. "Maybe. Maybe not," he said.

Balawi appears to have been what in espionage terms is called a "dangle" held out by al-Qaeda.

"This is a very well-thought-out al-Qaeda operation," said a former senior U.S. intelligence officer. "Every dangle operation is a judgment call. It has to be significant enough so that the Jordanians and, in this case, the CIA knows it's real. . . . That's always the key in running a dangle operation: How much do you give to establish bona fides without giving up the family jewels?"

Indeed, tactical successes made possible by Balawi's information appear in retrospect to have been sacrifices by al-Qaeda to get closer to its ultimate target: the CIA.

"They would give up a lot to get at the CIA," said a former Jordanian intelligence officer.

After the attack, the Pakistani Taliban released a video of Balawi accompanied by its leader, but officials suspect al-Qaeda directed the bombing.

Case officers' qualms

Both American and Jordanian case officers raised questions last year about the speed with which Balawi appeared to have inserted himself into a position where he could obtain such intelligence, according to the former U.S. official familiar with Balawi's detention.

Al-Qaeda is deeply suspicious of new volunteers, and especially so of Jordanians because of repeated attempts by GID to penetrate the organization, according to former Jordanian intelligence officials. There are no Jordanians in bin Laden's inner circle, and some who have risen to prominence, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the slain leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, were given assignments far from the leadership.

Al-Qaeda security and intelligence officers rigorously vet new arrivals and subject them to a host of tests before they reach "even the third circle around the leadership," as a former Jordanian intelligence official put it.
"Their first instinct is to suspect," this former official said. "They check and double-check his background. They watch him eat and sleep and pray, for signs. They analyze everything. That's how they have survived since 9/11. And after all that, if they believe him, he won't get near the inner circle."

Balawi, however, appeared to have done just that, offering information on Zawahiri. The Jordanian provided "irrefutable proof," including "photograph-type evidence," that he had been in the presence of al-Qaeda's leaders, according to a senior intelligence official. Some Jordanian and U.S. officials now question whether such an encounter ever occurred. But they say that if it did, it was an elaborate piece of staging by Balawi's true handler.
"It was briefed to the White House and to Centcom," a U.S. official said, referring to U.S. Central Command. "This was a high profile. The Bush and Obama White Houses had vowed to kill him [bin Laden]. What a political victory it would be."

The U.S. intelligence official said the case was handled methodically: "This case didn't grow up overnight. None of them do. It developed step by step. And, at some point, especially if you're going to send somebody against one of the toughest targets in the world, you have to meet them face to face."

After several years of internal purges in which senior officers were pushed out, the GID had lost some of its "wisdom and caution," according to a Jordanian government official. A new leadership, installed slightly more than a year ago, relished the prospect of participating in such an extraordinary coup.

"There was desperation to get the fruit," the official said.

A former senior Jordanian intelligence official said he rues any possibility of mistrust between the two intelligence agencies in the wake of the Afghanistan bombing, asserting that the CIA-GID partnership has "saved hundreds of lives, including American lives" over the years.

"This relationship is in the interests of the United States," he said.

Warrick reported from Washington. Staff writers Karen DeYoung and Ellen Nakashima in Washington and special correspondent Ranya Kadri in Amman contributed to this report.
24990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam in Britain on: January 16, 2010, 12:28:25 PM
Al-Qaeda threat: Britain worst in western world

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Al-Qaeda threat: Britain worst in western world

Al-Qaeda has successfully restructured its global network and now has the capability to carry out a wide range of terror attacks against Western targets, according to a detailed U.S. intelligence assessment that has been conducted in the wake of the failed Christmas Day Detroit bomb plot.

By Con Coughlin
Published: 9:00AM GMT 15 Jan 2010

And the growing strength of al-Qaeda’s support in Britain has emerged as a major concern for U.S. intelligence agencies as they attempt to prevent further attacks after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian student who studied at London’s University College, nearly succeeded in detonating an explosive device that he had concealed in his underpants as Northwest airlines flight 253 made its final approach to Detroit airport.
American intelligence officials are still investigating claims that Abdulmutallab was radicalised while he was a student between 2005 and 2008, although British security officials insist that he was radicalised in Yemen after he left London.

But the failure of British security officials to alert their American counterparts to Abdulmuttalab’s radical activities while president of UCL’s Islamic Society has led to increased tensions between Washington and London.

Earlier this week Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, confirmed that the UK had not passed any information to the U.S. prior to the attempted December 25 bombing that would have led American officials to believe that Abdulmutallab was a potential terrorist.

But while in London Abdulmutallab regularly presided over debates that denounced Britain’s involvement in the war on terror and America’s Guantanamo detention facility.

American officials now believe Britain poses a major threat to Western security because of the large number of al-Qaeda supporters that are active in the country. Two years ago Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, estimated that there were 2,000 al-Qaeda sympathisers based in Britain – the largest concentration of al-Qaeda activists in any Western country. But American officials, who regularly refer to “Londonistan” because of the high concentration of Islamic radicals in the capital, believe the figure is growing all the time. They point out that recent al-Qaeda terror attacks planned in Britain have been the work of British-based Muslims, many of whom have been trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

With al-Qaeda’s leadership under intense pressure from Nato and Pakistani security forces, there are reports that scores of British activists are now travelling to Yemen and Somalia to attend al-Qaeda training camps and receive instructions for carrying out terror attacks against Western targets.

“The level of al-Qaeda activity in Britain is becoming a major source of concern,” said a senior State Department official. “The organisation’s ability to use Britain as a base to plot terror attacks constitutes a serious threat to the security of Britain and other Western countries.”

American officials have been shocked by the resurgence of al-Qaeda’s terrorist operations in recent weeks which have seen it mount a series of attacks on U.S. targets. Last November a U.S. Army major with links to al-Qaeda in Yemen killed thirteen soldiers and injured another thirty at the Fort Hood military base in Texas. And a week after Abdulmutallab’s failed bomb attack in Detroit an al-Qaeda double agent managed to kill seven CIA officials in a suicide bomb attack at their headquarters in Afghanistan. The recent surge in al-Qaeda terror attacks has led U.S. officials to conclude that al-Qaeda is planning a series of new attacks later in the year, some of them in Britain. Abdulmutallab is reported to have told his American interrogators that there were another 25 fully-trained al-Qaeda terrorists ready to carry out similar terror attacks against Western targets.

The ease with which al-Qaeda has managed to launch attacks against American targets has taken many U.S. intelligence officials by surprise. Only two years ago Michael Hayden, the CIA director under former American President George W. Bush, boasted that the U.S. had al-Qaeda on the run. Its terrorist infrastructure in Iraq and Saudi Arabia had been destroyed, and its organisational network in other parts of the world was under intense pressure, especially in its presumed haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. “On balance we are doing pretty well,” said Mr Hayden at the time. There had been “significant setbacks for al-Qaeda globally.”

Since then al-Qaeda’s leadership, the majority of whom are still based in the lawless tribal regions along Pakistan’s North-West frontier, have worked to rebuild their global terror network. Recent analysis by the world’s leading intelligence agencies shows that al-Qaeda can call on operatives all over the world, although the various terror cells have different capabilities. For example, while terror cells in countries like Uraguay and Paraguay have what intelligence experts call a “watching brief”, others in Indonesia and the Philippines play a more active role in the planning and execution of terror plots.

“The threat from al-Qaeda and its affiliates remains high, though not on the scale of bringing off another 9/11 attack,” said Peter Bergen, the last Western journalist to interview al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden before the September 11 attacks, and a leading expert on al-Qaeda. “But al-Qaeda militants can still pull off attacks on commercial aircraft and other key elements of the global economy.”

While intelligence officials say it is impossible to estimate the total number of al-Qaeda activists worldwide, the emergence of Yemen as a major terrorist training and recruitment centre for al-Qaeda is now a major concern for American intelligence officials.

They have also been shocked to discover that many of those responsible for strengthening the terror capabilities of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are former inmates of the U.S. Guantanamo Detention Facility in Cuba.

Pentagon officials estimate that one in five released Guantanamo detainees have rejoined al-Qaeda terror cells after their release. But a recent study by BBC journalist Peter Taylor of a 15-strong batch of Guantanamo detainees who were returned to Saudi Arabia under President Bush in 2007 showed that six of them had rejoined al-Qaeda in Yemen, suggesting that the percentage of former Guantanamo inmates returning to terrorism is far higher than estimated by the Pentagon.

“Whichever way you look at it Yemen has now emerged as one of al-Qaeda’s top training grounds for its global terrorist network,” said a senior U.S. intelligence official. “And what really concerns us now is the number of British-based Muslims who are traveling there to take part in the training. This represents a serious escalation in the terror threat the West faces from Islamic militants.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...ern-world.html
24991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pak's Zardari says on: January 16, 2010, 11:51:51 AM
By Asif Ali Zardari
Friday, January 15, 2010
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/14/AR2010011403921.html
When I was elected president more than a year ago, Pakistan was in grave condition, strained by terrorism and a ravaged economy. Countering the effects of a decade of dictatorship requires bold actions, some of which are unpopular. I am working with Parliament to run a country, not a political campaign. The goal of our democratic government is to implement policies that will dramatically improve the lives of Pakistanis. In time, good policies will become good politics.

This Story
A Pakistan on the verge of greatness
Special Report: Combating Extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Our economic crisis demanded unprecedented response. On taxes, education, agriculture and energy, we have shown that we must adapt, reform and become self-sufficient. Terrorists do not want Pakistan to succeed. They want to distract us from preparing for a stable and prosperous future. After a suicide bomber killed 75 people in northwestern Pakistan this month, U.S. media reports noted that "the militants' objective is to sow terror among the general population in hopes of putting more political pressure on President Asif Ali Zardari's government to back down." But militants underestimate us. Just as our people refuse to be terrorized, our government refuses to be derailed from its course of fiscal responsibility, social accountability and financial transparency.


Restoring economic health has required raising fuel prices and taxes. These moves are understandably unpopular. Stringent terms had to be accepted to partner with the International Monetary Fund, but we understood the condition of our economy and the global economy and acted decisively.

The war against terrorism has cost Pakistan not just in lives but also in economic terms, freezing international investment and diverting priorities from social and other sectors. Despite constant challenges on multiple fronts, we took the political hits and stuck with reform. The IMF has even praised "the efforts being made by the authorities to further stabilize the economy, to advance structural reform and lay the foundations for high and sustainable growth. The early signs of recovery, declining inflation, and the improved external position are encouraging." Pakistan met IMF criteria last month to receive the "fourth tranche," or $1.2 billion, of its loan funding -- no easy feat during a global recession. Corrupt governments don't reach this level of IMF partnership. The World Bank, European Union and United States have all applauded our accomplishments. This praise may be little reported, but it's far more important than the chimera of polls.

Pakistan's economic resurrection has been the product, primarily, of our own sweat and blood. The return of democracy was negotiated and carried out by the intercession of the West. Pakistanis know that expediency has at times caused the world's extended democracies to support dictatorships, as happened after Sept. 11, 2001. The West has a moral responsibility to ensure that our democratic transition continues. Long-term moral values must prevail. If the community of developed democratic nations had, after our last democratic election, crafted an innovative development plan with the scope and vision of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II, much greater economic, political and military stability would already have been achieved. Some in my country disapprove of efforts to increase the power and fiscal responsibility of our provinces and the integrity of our institutions. Those who found comfort with dictators have resisted change. Pakistan tried it their way -- and endured catastrophe. We intend to build a new Pakistan using long-term solutions based on sound fiscal management.

Now, some Western reports suggest the Pakistani military does not support the policies of our democratic government. This is not true. Not only is our military courageously battling extremists in Swat and Waziristan, and succeeding, but our troops also are supporting the country's democratic transition and adherence to our Constitution. Some in Pakistan question our international alliances because they disapprove of our allies' actions, such as Thursday's unilateral U.S. drone attack against militants in Waziristan. We should all understand that concern. But we are fighting for our lives, and Pakistan's policies cannot be based solely on what is popular. When Franklin Roosevelt threw a lifeline to Britain with the Lend-Lease program, few Americans supported challenging the Nazis. Harry Truman had less than 15 percent support among Americans to rebuild Europe. They did what was right, not what was popular, and so will we.

History has shown the difference between expedient policies and the long-term goals of true statesmen. When the history of our time is written, Pakistan's decisions will be seen as a turning point in containing international terrorism. We are building a functioning society and economy. In the end, these sometime unpopular steps will create a Pakistan that sucks the oxygen from the fire of terrorism. Those who are counting on Pakistan to back off the fight -- militarily and economically -- underestimate my country and me.

The writer is president of Pakistan.
24992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Brown campaign in MA on: January 16, 2010, 10:49:37 AM
Donate to the Scott Brown campaign in MA via the Tea Party

https://secure.donationsafe.com/sb
24993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: January 16, 2010, 10:34:54 AM
Goodness no!

I was referring to the piece that I posted. 

Sorry for the confusion.
24994  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: January 15, 2010, 12:06:04 PM
Today a major Adventure concludes and new ones begin.

24995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PP-2 on: January 15, 2010, 11:03:06 AM
Obama's Magical Mystery Jobs Tour

Barack Obama and congressional Democrats promised the $787 billion stimulus package would spur 3.5 million new jobs over two years. Nearly one year later, the tally is approaching four million -- jobs lost, that is. December's report revealed 85,000 jobs lost and unemployment at 10 percent (though real unemployment -- including those who have simply stopped looking for a job -- is over 17 percent). The president's solution? Why, another stimulus, of course.

Philosophizing that "the road to recovery is never straight," Obama claims that the $75 billion "Jobs for Main Street Act" currently before the Senate will continue the smashing success of the first stimulus. Success? Oh yes, to manipulate the numbers in its favor, the administration has designed its own job-tracking formula that gives new meaning to the term "fuzzy math." The administration has dropped the ridiculous jobs "saved or created" mantra, opting instead for the stat of jobs "funded" by the stimulus. Under this convenient formula, Obama claims to have created two million jobs to date. Miracles never cease.

If you haven't seen these jobs in your town, though, you're not alone. For example, according to an Associated Press analysis, reviewed by independent economists from five universities, $20 billion-plus in transportation spending from the first stimulus has yielded virtually zip in local job growth. Even Thomas Smith, a pro-stimulus Emory University economist who reviewed the analysis, stated, "As a policy tool for creating jobs, this doesn't seem to have much bite."

Despite the Norman Rockwellian title of the Jobs for Main Street Act, Main Street isn't buying it. GDP growth and stock market improvements notwithstanding, small businesses, which propel real economic growth, simply aren't hiring. In the New York Post, Charles Gasparino explains why: "Having weathered the recession, they now fear the administration will choke off the nascent recovery and increase their costs through higher taxes to pay for the myriad of programs President Obama has in store for us, including the hyperexpensive health-care overhaul."

This "damn-the-torpedoes, full-speed-ahead" approach is no mistake. Regardless of recovery rhetoric, the president's aim has been clear from the start: "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody," he said during the campaign. Of course, the 15.3 million Americans who are unemployed might take issue with this.

Yet, as Christina Romer, Chairwoman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, stated, the stimulus "has done exactly what we have anticipated it would do." She was referring to the supposed job growth. But substitute the president's "redistribute the wealth" intent, and Romer's statement is disturbingly true.


Administration Announces New Bank Tax
A regional convenience store has an interesting placard at the cash register informing patrons that the store pays more in debit and credit card transaction charges than it makes in net profits. The placard further invites the customer to sign a petition to tell Congress to limit transaction fees charged by the "evil banks."

Perhaps Barack Obama has been sneaking out of the White House after hours for a slushee because he also has decided that the evil banks are a potential revenue source for the Treasury. It seems that his Treasury Department has looked at the $46 billion earned by the Federal Reserve Bank in 2009 and concluded that the banking industry could support a donation to offset the cost of the TARP spend-a-thon. The terms of the Troubled Asset Relief Program do require the beneficiary to pay interest to the Treasury, but Obama's proposed fee would be an addition to those interest charges.

The Wall Street Journal reports, "If approved by Congress, the new tax -- which the White House calls a 'financial crisis responsibility fee' -- would force about 50 banks, insurance companies and large broker-dealers to collectively pay the federal government roughly $90 billion over 10 years." Furthermore, "Banks that have repaid their TARP money wouldn't escape taxation." GM and Chrysler are exempt, however.

As a socialist, Obama has as much tolerance for profits as Superman does for Kryptonite (our apologies to Superman for the comparison) ... unless those profits are derived from a fictional autobiographical memoir of a 40-year-old man whose accomplishments couldn't fill a 3x5 index card. However, just in case he reads our humble publication, we would like to remind Mr. Obama that profits represent the return for risk. Profits beget retained earnings, beget capital formation, beget expansion -- the one sustainable source of job growth.

Don't get us wrong -- the federal government (read: taxpayers) never should have bailed out banks in the first place. But many of them have already paid back TARP money, or are working to pay it back (some never wanted it in the first place but were forced to take it), and another tax is not exactly the right remedy for a struggling economy. That $90 billion could cost the economy $1 trillion when the lost capital results in less lending. Alas, everything looks like a nail to someone with a hammer.




From the 'Non Compos Mentis' File
Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Haiti after the terrible and deadly earthquake there this week. The disaster, though, provided fodder for, of all things, the health care debate. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann asked how U.S. health care would withstand such a disaster: "[H]ow would survivors of something like this here fare in terms of getting on their own feet economically afterwards, with the health care system we have in place right now?"

In our estimation, we think our system would fare just fine. We're certainly the first to come to the aid of a nation such as Haiti, sending our own doctors and supplies, not to mention our military. Does Olbermann really think that once health care is rationed and doctors themselves are in short supply, America will be able to help itself, much less other nations? American generosity is possible because of our (mostly) capitalist system -- the system that Olbermann and other leftists want to replace with the graveyard of socialism.

Meanwhile, Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, also made regrettable remarks about Haiti's tragedy. On his show "The 700 Club," Robertson claimed that during the 18th century when Haitian slaves sought freedom from the French they made a "pact to the devil." He concluded, "Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other." Thus the earthquake. Robertson made similar comments after Hurricane Katrina. We would remind Pat that most Haitians are Catholic.

Actor Danny Glover had his own theory as to the cause of the earthquake: "All this hell because of global warming. ... When we did what we did at the climate summit in Copenhagen, this is the response, this is what happens, you know what I'm sayin'?" What Glover is sayin' is that because there wasn't an agreement at Copenhagen, climate change is causing earthquakes. Robertson says the Haitians offended God, Glover claims they angered Gaia.

Barack Obama has their back, though. Speaking to the Haitians, he said, "[A]fter suffering so much for so long, to face this new horror must cause some to look up and ask, 'Have we somehow been forsaken?' To the people of Haiti, we say clearly, and with conviction, you will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you." In other words, the Chosen One hasn't forgotten them.

Faith and Family: Bicoastal Fronts on the Same-Sex Marriage War
From sea to shining sea, Americans are being divided on the moral issue of whether two people of the same gender should have the right to declare themselves married. Californians thought they had settled the question (for the second time) when the ballot issue and constitutional amendment Proposition 8 narrowly passed in 2008. But their verdict was soon called into question and eventually landed in the courtroom of Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, with a trial to overturn the will of the voters starting this week.

In addition, Judge Walker has promised to turn this trial into a three-ring circus by posting delayed video of the proceedings on YouTube, citing a recently approved federal pilot program which allowed telecasting certain non-jury civil trials. Supporters of Proposition 8 objected to this, citing that ongoing harassment by opponents would have a chilling effect on the willingness of witnesses defending Proposition 8 to be filmed. The filming question went before the United States Supreme Court, which has blocked filming the trial indefinitely.

Across the country, the New Jersey Senate denied the bid of activists to make the Garden State the fifth to allow same-sex marriage. While the state has allowed civil unions since 2006, the same-sex marriage bill was voted on hurriedly so outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine could sign it since incoming GOP Governor-elect Chris Christie opposes the bill.

The bill was rejected by a 20-14 vote, falling seven votes short of passage in the 40-member body and never making it to the Assembly. Same-sex marriage supporters vow to make their next move in court.
24996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: January 15, 2010, 11:02:07 AM
Digest · Friday, January 15, 2010

The Foundation
"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." --Thomas Jefferson

Government & Politics
The Modern-Day Plantation
The new book "Game Change" by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin has Washington buzzing. The book revealed some comments made by prominent Democrats that they probably wish had stayed in the smoke-filled room. The one receiving most attention is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's remark that Barack Obama would succeed as a presidential candidate because he is "light-skinned" and speaks "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."

Reactions on the Left were all too predictable: Reid groveled before Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and Democrats circled the wagons. It almost goes without saying that, were a Republican to have said the same thing, he would have been run out of town on a rail. But Republicans didn't have to say anything before Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, thundered, "Senator Reid's record provides a stark contrast to actions of Republicans to block legislation that would benefit poor and minority communities -- most recently reflected in Republican opposition to the health bill now under consideration." Reid also last month called opponents of health care racists in the vein of those who resisted civil rights legislation in the 1960s (i.e., Democrats).

More interesting, though, is that conservatives disagree on how to handle the revelation. RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who is black, called for Reid to resign his leadership post because that's what Sen. Trent Lott did in a similar situation in 2002. Steele is an attack dog; it's his job to say this. But what would Republicans gain by collecting Reid's scalp? Probably not much. Given his dismal poll numbers, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund doesn't believe Reid will even run for re-election, much less win it, so the GOP may pick up his seat anyway.

National Review's Jonah Goldberg took issue with Steele's premise as well, writing, "y demanding Reid's resignation, Steele is making an idiotic, nasty and entirely cynical game bipartisan. Yes, there's a double standard, but the point is that the standard used against conservatives is unfair, not that that unfair standard should be used against Democrats as well."

Thanks to Democrats, racism has been so broadly defined that practically anything Republicans do or say can be construed as such. As long as that doesn't change, the double standard will remain in effect.

Beyond the political chess match, however, the core of the matter is that Reid's observation isn't necessarily racist. He was partly correct, too. Besides the fact that no Republican was going to win the White House last year, Obama's race helped him.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once put it, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Democrats still have that reversed: "I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the content of their character but by the color of their skin." What's truly racist is that Democrats demand absolute allegiance and ideological purity from blacks, in effect keeping their prized constituency on the modern-day plantation.

News From the Swamp: Health Care Cost Shuffle
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the latest organization to analyze the health care fiasco currently being cooked up behind closed doors in Washington, and its assessment is not good. According to the report, the legislation will force health care spending to rise by $222 billion over the next 10 years. Conveniently, revenue for the legislation is spread out over a 10-year budget period, but most of the spending provisions are in effect for only six years.

The report also attacks the idea that cuts in Medicare will help fund the health care bill, pointing out that doctors and hospitals will bear the brunt of these reductions. It's obvious to anyone willing to admit it that this will lead to a lower quality of service and doctors turning away patients insured by the government in favor of those with private coverage and "relatively attractive payment rates." This report, and several like it from numerous nonpartisan groups, have pointed out repeatedly that the health care bill in its current form will do exactly the opposite of what Democrats claim it will do, yet our "representatives" in Congress continue the proverbial march off of the cliff.

Open Query
"We're looking at 37 Democrats who are in districts that are particularly upset and vulnerable to the provisions of this health care bill. Are they going to be with the people or are they going to be with Pelosi?" --House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), saying that "this health care bill can be defeated"


 

From the Left: Mass. Hysteria
While Massachusetts is one of the bluest states in the country, Republican Scott Brown has come within striking distance of beating Democrat Attorney General Martha Coakley in the special election to fill the state's empty U.S. Senate seat. The special election will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 19, and in recent days Brown has gone from also-ran to serious contender. His meteoric rise demonstrates that the public has serious issues with Democrats, and particularly the health care bill.

Brown made a strong showing in a debate against Coakley in which he fielded considerably tougher questions than she did. While Coakley was asked questions about her campaign style and strategy, Brown was grilled about global warming and health care legislation. He held his own and offered a nice zinger when moderator David Gergen asked him if he would be willing to "sit in Teddy Kennedy's seat" and vote against the health care bill. Brown responded, "Well, with all due respect, it's not the Kennedy seat, and it's not the Democrats' seat, it's the people's seat."

Absolutely true, but try telling that to Paul Kirk and the Massachusetts Democrat machine. Kirk was handpicked by Gov. Deval Patrick to hold the seat after Kennedy died, and he offers a crucial vote on health care should the vote come before the special election. Kirk has promised that he will vote for final passage, while Brown has indicated he will offer the 41st vote to prevent it. But now that it seems sure that the election will pass before the final vote, Kirk and the secretary of state's office, which oversees the special election, may be prepared to stall final certification of the results if Brown wins. They claim they will have to wait a minimum of 10 days for absentee and military ballots. This standard certainly wasn't in play when Kennedy himself was seated the day after the special election in 1962.

On Cross-Examination
"For some time now, leading Democrats have seemed to suffer from an ideological monomania vis-à-vis ObamaCare. No matter how unpopular the measure is, and thus how politically perilous for Democratic office-holders -- they are determined to push it through. But this reaches a new level of pathology. One can understand why they might want to play games with the certification of a Brown victory, but what in the world do they gain by saying so ahead of time? If Brown becomes the first Republican elected to the Senate from Massachusetts since 1972, it would be as clear a message of opposition to ObamaCare as one could hope to have.... For Democrats to announce pre-emptively that they will ignore such a message shows a stunning contempt for democracy." --Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto

Judicial Benchmarks: Washington's Felon Vote
In its ongoing war against sanity, the Ninth Circus Court of Appeals has once again decided it knows better than the people and their elected representatives. Why wouldn't it? After all, there are upwards of 30 of our most politically connected former lawyers on the Circuit. Why shouldn't they know more about what to do about 100-year-old provisions of the Washington State constitution than the 6.5 million citizens of Washington?

The Court is offended that prison inmates in Washington are disproportionately minorities (this is a painful fact across America). Thus, two members of the Circuit concluded that the provision in the state's constitution denying felons the right to vote was racial discrimination, violating the federal Voting Rights Act. Now, we always thought that convicted felons became convicted felons because a jury found them guilty of committing a felony. We find it hard to believe that Washington juries are motivated to convict by the race of the accused. We also find it difficult to believe that the citizens of Washington would tolerate such a racist judicial system. However, we find it all too believable that two members of the most reversed court in America would rule this way. After all, judges know best. Soon, however, the case may head to the U.S. Supreme Court, where sanity is more likely to prevail.



Around the World: Freedom Declines
Since 1972, Freedom House has done the world a service by the annual publication of its Freedom in the World, which monitors trends in democracy and tracks improvements and setbacks in freedom worldwide. This year's just-released edition has bad news for freedom lovers. For the fourth consecutive year, global declines in freedom outweighed gains in 2009, representing the longest continuous period of decline for global freedom in the nearly 40-year history of the report.

The survey analyzes developments that occurred in 2009 and assigns each country a freedom status -- Free, Partly Free or Not Free -- based on a scoring on key indicators. Five countries moved into "Not Free" status, and the number of electoral democracies declined to the lowest level since 1995. However, 16 countries made notable gains, with two countries improving their overall freedom status. The most significant improvements in 2009 occurred in Asia.

Freedom House found "declines for freedom were registered in 40 countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union, representing 20 percent of the world's total polities. Authoritarian states including Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Vietnam became more repressive. Freedom also declined in countries that had registered positive trends in previous years, including Bahrain, Jordan, Kenya, and Kyrgyzstan."

Commenting on the Freedom House report, The Wall Street Journal noted:

The recent reversals coincide, however, with America's own waning interest in democracy promotion. This didn't start with the Obama ascendancy. Chastened by the 2006 midterm election debacle and sinking public support for his Mideast policies, President Bush took rhetorical and practical emphasis off his own flagship foreign-policy agenda.

The current administration has changed the focus entirely. In its dealings with Russia and China, strategic issues trump any talk of democracy or human rights, which earlier this year in Beijing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton notably called a distraction to bilateral relations. Ditto in Iran.

Is this the change that we were promised during the presidential campaign? Has America changed from being "the shining city on the hill" to a country which disregards the inscription on the Liberty Bell to "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof" and considers the promotion of democracy a "distraction to bilateral relations"?

National Security
Department of Military Correctness: SEAL Trial Moved to Iraq
The Courts Martial of Navy SEAL Petty Officers Matthew McCabe, Jonathan Keefe and Julio Huertas continues apace with two of the three heroes being forced to move their trial to Iraq in order to avail themselves of their constitutional right to confront their accuser in open court. This rare, if not unprecedented, move should be viewed with extreme caution and we hope defense counsel has taken appropriate measures to protect fully the rights of the accused.

For them to enter the sovereign territory of Iraq, even under the auspices of a military court, may place them in peril both physically and legally. What's to prevent the Iraqi government from bringing additional trumped up criminal charges and ordering their arrest? How will the U.S. military protect them from such arrest should such action take place?

One possible alternative would be to insist they hold the trial aboard a U.S. naval vessel in international waters off the Iraqi coast. Failing that, the U.S. Embassy is a second logical alternative.

In a related question, there is an interesting legal position we may be forced to confront in light of the criminal trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City. If, as this administration insists, KSM (and others) are just "criminals," then under what legal authority has this administration justified the continued Predator attacks on these civilian "criminals"? We know this administration fully supports a double standard in tax cases and racism allegations, and we certainly don't expect anything different in this case.

This Week's 'Alpha Jackass' Award
"Most of the domestic groups that we pay attention to here are white supremacist groups. They're anti-government, in most cases anti-abortion, they are usually survivalist type in nature, identity oriented. ... Those groups are groups that claim to be extremely anti-government and Christian identity oriented." --TSA nominee Erroll Southers

Meanwhile, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the radical Muslim who actually tried to bomb a U.S. airliner, pleaded "not guilty" in federal court last Friday.

China's Successful Missile Interceptor Test
As China's economic might continues to grow, with its auto and banking industries overtaking the U.S. in world dominance, the Red Dragon's military might also is advancing ominously. This week, China's official Xinhua news agency reported that China tested "ground-based midcourse missile interception technology." Xinhua also said, "The test has achieved the expected objective. The test is defensive in nature and is not targeted at any country." The U.S. military confirmed the test did take place and apparently was successful. Pentagon spokeswoman Major Maureen Schumann said, "We detected two geographically separated missile launch events with an exo-atmospheric collision also being observed by space-based sensors."

China's successful anti-ballistic missile test comes just days after Beijing complained about U.S. weapon sales to Taiwan, including Patriot PAC-3 air defense missiles, which are themselves capable of intercepting short- and medium-range ballistic missiles and could be used against Red Chinese missiles deployed along China's coast and aimed at Taiwan. Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Pentagon said they did not consider China's test to be related to these Taiwanese arms sales. While that may be technically true, since it typically takes many days or weeks to prepare such a missile test, there is little doubt that Beijing intended to send Washington a message -- that message being, "Taiwan is ours, stay away. And if you don't stay away, you will have to contend with our rapidly growing military technology." Just one more rattling saber that our waffling Dear Leader will have to deal with, or ignore at our country's peril.
24997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on Interpol immunity on: January 15, 2010, 11:00:18 AM
Culture & Policy
Second Amendment: Interpol and the Executive Order
There have been disarming reports of late about an Executive Order by Barack Obama concerning the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol). According to the NRA-ILA, "President Obama's order amends a 1983 order by President Reagan, in which the U.S. recognized Interpol as an international organization that is entitled to certain legal immunities under the International Organizations Immunities Act (IOIA)." Interpol, founded in 1923 and composed of 188 countries that share information about international criminal investigations, has long been immune from civil lawsuits, so the claim that the immunity comes from Obama is incorrect. Many reports assert that Interpol personnel would be granted diplomatic immunity and would then have the ability to seize firearms, among other violations of U.S. citizens' rights. These fears are likely unfounded.

Diplomatic immunity applies only to diplomats, not agents. The immunity the agents do have is only "relating to acts performed by them in their official capacity." Furthermore, the NRA notes, "Law enforcement officers working with Interpol are detailed from agencies in various countries, such as the FBI or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They have no power of arrest outside their own countries. Therefore, a seizure of an American (or of an Americans' firearms) would likely not fall within the official duties for which Interpol officials would be immune from prosecution."

Granted, we are wary of Obama and other leftists around the world -- particularly when it comes to Second Amendment rights -- but this appears to be a false alarm.
24998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Artillery battery on: January 15, 2010, 09:57:12 AM

An awesome foto essay of an artillery battery:

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/spitting-cobra.htm
24999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: January 15, 2010, 08:48:21 AM
Any publicly traded stocks that are based on thorium reactors?
25000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson to Taylor, 1816 on: January 15, 2010, 08:46:08 AM
"The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Taylor, 1816
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