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25201  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nyet, not yet? on: October 16, 2009, 11:47:20 AM
This from Statfor:  Who'd a thunk it?

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

Poland: Patriot Missiles From the U.S.
Stratfor Today » October 16, 2009 | 1450 GMT

KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images
A fire unit of a U.S. Patriot missile batteryPolish Deputy Defense Minister Stanislaw Komorowski said Oct. 16 that the United States will deploy a Patriot air defense battery to Poland and that the discussions with Washington about hosting part of a U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) system are ongoing. Komorowski made his remarks after talks with U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow. Although there is still no official U.S. response to the Polish announcement, the revelation tracks closely with STRATFOR’s forecast that the U.S. cancellation of the Bush-era BMD program in Poland and the Czech Republic does not constitute a serious break with Washington’s intention to maintain Poland as its key ally in Europe.

It is not yet clear what this deployment might actually entail. On one end of the spectrum is a long-term deployment of a Patriot battery. On the other end is a short joint exercise where a U.S. Patriot unit is in Poland only briefly — and perhaps with inert rather than live missiles. The former is a major step for Washington; the latter is merely a signal to Moscow. In any event, nothing irreversible has been done.

But the bottom line is that the potential of U.S. Patriot missiles in Poland will not please Russia, which is why the United States is floating the idea. Russia opposed the original BMD in Poland not because the system would have posed a direct threat, but because it symbolized increasing U.S. presence in a key Central European state near Russia. In a way, the Patriot missiles in Poland are an even greater threat to Russian interests in the region because they are actually operational and will constitute not only a high-tech operational defense for Poland, but also a deepening symbiotic relationship between Warsaw and Washington.

The United States had hoped that with its initial move to scrap BMD in Central Europe, Russia would reciprocate by toning down its support of Iran. Instead, Moscow stated it would continue its military-technical cooperation.

Washington has since made it clear to Moscow that it has the ability to play in Russia’s backyard. The announcement on Oct. 7 that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will visit Poland, Czech Republic and Romania from Oct. 20-24 was the opening salvo of the latest U.S. offensive. This was followed by Vershbow’s statement on Oct. 9 that the United States would consider adding Ukraine to its BMD network and that it would look to expand its military cooperation with Georgia and Ukraine.

The latest announcement from Poland suggests that the United States will use Vershbow — a former ambassador to Russia who is well versed on former Soviet Union matters and an important player in the U.S. defense establishment — as a prime tool to keep Russia on its toes in the ongoing confrontation over Iran. The Patriots in Poland, along with support of Ukraine and Georgia militarily, are U.S. proof to Russia that Washington has plenty of options to threaten Russia in its periphery.
25202  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chairman Mao in the house on: October 16, 2009, 07:37:36 AM


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXJjoruQs0Y
25203  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: October 16, 2009, 06:56:13 AM
I suppose I could put this in the Book Review thread, but I put it here:

By MATTHEW REES
It says something about the precarious state of the global economy that the world's most important economic relationship—between the U.S. and China—has been described by a leading economist as one of "codependency," akin, he has suggested, to that of a drug dealer and an addict.

According to this scenario, China (the dealer) exports low-priced goods to America (the addict), which can't stop consuming them. To keep the cycle going, China uses the dollars it accrues from its exports to buy billions of dollars in U.S. Treasurys. (As of September 2008, China became the largest holder of U.S. debt.) The infusion of foreign money helps to keep U.S. interest rates low, which in turn encourages more consumption. The arrangement worked for a while, but then (the scenario goes) the U.S. overdosed and suffered a breakdown. Now China is wondering about the wisdom of being a supplier. "We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S.," said China's premier, Wen Jiabao, earlier this year. "Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried."

The relationship sounds rather dysfunctional, when put that way. But is it? In "Superfusion," Zachary Karabell notes certain tensions, but his focus is really on how the two economies became so intertwined and on why it is important to strengthen the bonds between them. Mr. Karabell rightly identifies this as "the crucial issue for the 21st century."

China and America are two of the world's three largest economies (alongside Japan). They traded $410 billion worth of goods in 2007, up from just $5 billion in 1980. Together they can sometimes account for more than half of the world's economic growth in a given year. An economic slowdown in either country can affect the entire global economy.

Yet the relationship—something each country should manage with extra care—is fraught with conflicts and misunderstandings and is threatened by domestic pressures. Mr. Karabell is critical of what he sees as the U.S. determination to "contest the rise of China every step of the way." He insightfully shows how fears of China's growing economic might are used as a battering ram against companies like Walmart—China's low labor costs are held to blame for the success of big-box stores, with their low-price goods. And of course China is a perfect villain for any lobbyist or politician who is eager to protect a U.S. manufacturer by curtailing trade.

In the past 18 months, however, the terms of the relationship have shifted dramatically. While the U.S. economy has been in recession, and the U.S. financial sector on the brink of collapse, China has managed to keep its own economy relatively stable. Its growth rate, though lower than usual, still came in at a robust 8% in the second quarter of 2009. And China's banking sector has experienced little of the turmoil of America's.

View Full Image
.Superfusion
By Zachary Karabell
Simon & Schuster, 340 pages, $26
.So who is now the senior partner, so to speak? For years China has been on the receiving end of lectures from U.S. officials—its undervalued currency, inefficient banking system and high saving rate are perennial scolding points. But China is now the one doing the lecturing. Last year, the chairman of the country's banking regulatory commission asked in a speech: "Does money-making or doing business justify the regulators in ignoring their duty for prudential supervision and their job of preventing misbehavior?" Senior Chinese officials have also been chatting up the idea of displacing the dollar as the world's reserve currency. And China has been on a buying spree. Its acquisitions of foreign companies, or investments in them, totaled $56 billion last year. As recently as 2002, the annual total was just $140 million.

Alas, these developments get short shrift in "Superfusion." Instead, there are chapters rehashing how U.S. companies like Kentucky Fried Chicken, Avon and Federal Express made their inroads into China. There is an odd chapter on the shortcomings of Chinese data collection that only briefly touches on the U.S.-China relationship. Mr. Karabell gives China's banking sector a careful analysis, but he treats many other topics superficially. In a discussion of last year's U.S. market turmoil, he simply speculates about what was said in conversations between the U.S. Treasury secretary and China's premier. Most of the book's material seems to be drawn from secondary sources.

Still, the question at the heart of "Superfusion" is a pressing one: What will happen next? Mr. Karabell says that the U.S. must turn its thinking away from the military and security challenges of the 20th century and focus more on the economic challenges of the 21st. If it does so, one key "metric"—for the U.S. and the rest of the world—will be China's growth rate. Can it be sustained?

That depends. With a meager welfare state, Chinese consumers save and save. The consumption rate is only about 35% of gross domestic product—down from 49% in 1990—and the lowest of any major world economy (the U.S. rate is 70%). At some point China will have to consume more, if only to be less dependent on exports for its prosperity. Other changes are needed, too. A 2007 property-rights law may stimulate the economy, assuming that it is enforced, but China still needs to undo an array of obstacles that face foreign investors and domestic entrepreneurs. In the World Bank's most recent study on the ease of doing business in 183 countries, China scored only 89th—and 151st in the category of "launching a business."

But there is reason for optimism. On a visit to London earlier this year, Wen Jiabao, China's premier, claimed to have brought a copy of Adam Smith's "Theory of Moral Sentiments"—not quite "The Wealth of Nations" but still better than Mao's "Little Red Book."

Mr. Rees is the president of Geonomica, a speech-writing and consulting firm in McLean, Va., and has worked for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
25204  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton #71, 1788 on: October 16, 2009, 06:14:24 AM
"The republican principle demands that the deliberate sense of the community should govern the conduct of those to whom they intrust the management of their affairs; but it does not require an unqualified complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion or to every transient impulse which the people may receive from the arts of men, who flatter their prejudices to betray their interests." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 71, 1788
25205  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Israel's secret war on Hezbollah on: October 16, 2009, 06:04:20 AM
By RONEN BERGMAN
On Monday, a secret Hezbollah munitions bunker in South Lebanon blew up under mysterious circumstances, injuring a senior official in the organization. This is the second such incident in recent months. The first occurred on July 14, when an explosion destroyed a major Hezbollah munitions dump in the South Lebanese village of Hirbet Salim. Hezbollah immediately pointed fingers at the Mossad. Whether or not Israel was to blame, the explosion caused Hezbollah considerable discomfort by proving that it was in flagrant violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which forbids stockpiling weapons south of the Litani River.

The U.N. issued a strongly worded rebuke and sent representatives to investigate. But their efforts were thwarted by Hezbollah fighters, who, with the assistance of Lebanese troops, prevented the foreigners from examining the site. This caused further embarrassment to Lebanon, as it exposed the army's lack of neutrality and the active aid that it extends to Hezbollah.

The episode also led to heightened tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border. The specter of renewed fighting between Israel and Hezbollah looms as large today as it has at any time since the end of the Lebanon war in August 2006. Yet senior military officers in Israel's Northern Command are confident that the embarrassing outcome of the last round will not be repeated.

"By all means, let the Hezbollah try," one officer told me two weeks ago when I asked if he was concerned about the possibility of warfare. "The welcome party that we are preparing for them is one that they will remember for a very long time." That sentiment is shared by many of his colleagues.

The recent explosions have highlighted the weakened geopolitical status of Hezbollah, a diminishment which no one could have foreseen at the end of the last war. In 2006, on both sides of the border—and elsewhere in the Middle East—Hezbollah was seen as having triumphed. Not only was it able to withstand the vastly superior invading Israeli force, but it also inflicted heavy military casualties and brought civilian life in northern Israel to a standstill with its rockets. At the end of the war, a commission of inquiry was set up in Israel to investigate the military and political failure. A number of senior army officers resigned, and Israel's deterrence power was seen as having sustained a severe blow.

If the 2006 war underlined the military might of Hezbollah—a repeat, in a sense, of Hezbollah's success in driving out the Israeli occupying forces from South Lebanon in May 2000—it also forced Israel to include Hezbollah in any assessment of possible responses to an Israeli attack against Iranian nuclear installations.

As part of its combat doctrine, which eschews reliance on reinforcements and resupply, Hezbollah has stockpiled its weapons throughout Lebanon, but particularly near the Israeli border. According to current Israeli intelligence estimates, Hezbollah has an arsenal of 40,000 rockets, including Iranian-made Zelzal, Fajr-3, Fajr-5, and 122 mm rockets (some of which have cluster warheads) and Syrian-made 302 mm rockets. Some of its rockets can reach greater Tel Aviv. Hezbollah also has a number of highly advanced weapons systems, including antiaircraft missiles, that constitute a threat to Israeli combat aircraft.

But all is not rosy for Hezbollah. After the war, considerable dissatisfaction with the organization was voiced inside Lebanon. Many blamed its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, for Israel's retaliatory bombardments that caused widespread damage. Nasrallah stated that had he known Israel would respond as forcefully as it did, he would have thought twice before ordering the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers—the act that sparked the conflict.

Harsh criticism of Hezbollah also came from an unexpected source: Tehran. The Iranian strategy calls for Hezbollah to play two roles. One is to instigate minor border provocations. The other is to launch, on Tehran's command, a full-scale retaliatory attack should Israel target Iran's nuclear facilities. The 2006 war met neither criterion, and, as the Iranians complained, merely served to reveal the extent of Hezbollah's military capabilities.

Then, in February 2008, Imad Mughniyeh, the organization's military commander and Nasrallah's close associate, was killed in a car bomb in Damascus. The assassination of the man who topped the FBI's most-wanted list prior to Osama bin Laden was a severe blow to morale, as well as to Hezbollah's strategic capabilities. Nasrallah was convinced that the Mossad was responsible, and vowed to take revenge "outside of the Israel-Lebanon arena."

The Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, which is also responsible for protecting the country's legations abroad, has been on high alert ever since. But as of today, Hezbollah has not exacted its revenge. This fact was a topic of discussions at a high-level secret forum of Israel's intelligence services that took place from late July to early September.

Israeli officials raised four possible reasons for Hezbollah's failure to act, all of which reflect its current weakness.

First, no replacement has been found for Mughniyeh, whose strategic brilliance, originality and powers of execution are sorely missed by Hezbollah.

Second, Israel's intelligence coverage of Iran and Hezbollah is far superior today to what it was in the past. Planned attacks, including one targeting the Israeli Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, have all been foiled. The Israeli security services have warned Israeli businessmen abroad of possible abduction attempts by Hezbollah. They also shared information with Egyptian authorities that led to the arrest of members of a Hezbollah network who intended to kill Israeli tourists in Sinai. The arrest of these operatives resulted in sharp public exchanges between Egypt, Hezbollah and its Iranian masters, when Nasrallah admitted that these, in fact, were his men.

Third, Nasrallah cannot afford to be viewed domestically as the cause of yet another retaliation against Lebanon. Any act of revenge that he contemplates needs to be carefully calibrated. On the one hand, it needs to hurt the enemy and be spectacular enough to stoke Hezbollah pride. On the other hand, it cannot be so murderous as to cause Israel to respond with force. To complicate matters further, Israel has made it clear that because Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government, despite the fact that the party that it backed lost in the recent election, any Hezbollah action against Israel would be viewed as an action taken by the Lebanese government. Thus Israel would regard Lebanese infrastructure as a legitimate target for a military response.

Finally, there are the Iranians. Their primary focus is on proceeding with their nuclear program without unnecessary distractions. Tehran's main concern is that a terror attack that can be linked to Iran would result in the arrest of its agents overseas, who are currently procuring equipment for its uranium-enrichment centrifuges.

Tehran has avoided direct involvement in foreign terrorism ever since 1996, when a group of Iranians were convicted in Germany of murdering political opponents of the Iranian regime. And unlike in the past (as, for instance, in the case of the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in retaliation for the assassination of Nasrallah's predecessor), it is now reluctant to place intelligence resources at Hezbollah's disposal. This is a serious blow to Hezbollah, which is not yet able to function as a full-fledged independent operational organization internationally.

Hezbollah is also clearly aware of the severe blow in terms of power and prestige that the Iranian mullahs suffered as a result of the massive protests following June's presidential election. Automatic support from Tehran is no longer a certainty. For now, at least, the Iranian hardliners have troubles of their own.

In short, despite the fact that Hezbollah today is substantially stronger in purely military terms than it was three years ago, its political stature and its autonomy have been significantly reduced. It is clear that Nasrallah is cautious and he will weigh his options very carefully before embarking on any course of action that might lead to all-out war with Israel. There are some experts in Israel who believe that even Hezbollah's retaliatory role in the Iranian game plan is currently in question.

Whether or not this is the case, all of this is being considered in Jerusalem as part of Israel's calculations about whether to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.

Mr. Bergman, a correspondent for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, is the author of the "The Secret War With Iran" (Free Press, 2008).
25206  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 16, 2009, 05:55:44 AM
Grateful that my children have the day off from school today and that I get to spend it with them.  Grateful to see my good friend and djembe teacher today too.
25207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 16, 2009, 05:44:41 AM
Barney Frank, Predatory Lender
Almost two-thirds of all bad mortgages in our financial system were bought by government agencies or required by government regulations.

By PETER J. WALLISON
Recent reports that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will suffer default rates of more than 20% on the 2007 and 2008 loans it guaranteed has raised questions once again about the government's role in the financial crisis and its efforts to achieve social purposes by distorting the financial system.

The FHA's function is to guarantee mortgages of low-income borrowers (the mortgages are then sold through securitizations by Ginnie Mae) and thus to take reasonable credit risks in the interests of making mortgage credit available to the nation's low-income citizens. Accordingly, the larger than normal losses that will result from the 2007 and 2008 cohort could be justified by Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, as "policy"—an effort to ease the housing downturn through the application of government credit. The FHA, he argued, is buying more weak mortgages in order to help put a floor under the housing market. Eventually, the taxpayers will have to judge whether this policy was justified.

Far more interesting than the FHA's prospective losses on its 2007 and 2008 book are the agency's losses on its 2005 and 2006 guarantees, when the housing bubble was inflating at its fastest rate and there was no need for government support. FHA-backed loans during those years also have delinquency rates between 20% and 30%. These adverse results—not the result of a "policy" effort to shore up markets—pose a significant challenge to those who are trying to absolve the U.S. government of responsibility for the financial crisis.



When the crisis first arose, the left's explanation was that it was caused by corporate greed, primarily on Wall Street, and by deregulation of the financial system during the Bush administration. The implicit charge was that the financial system was flawed and required broader regulation to keep it out of trouble. As it became clear that there was no financial deregulation during the Bush administration and that the financial crisis was caused by the meltdown of almost 25 million subprime and other nonprime mortgages—almost half of all U.S. mortgages—the narrative changed. The new villains were the unregulated mortgage brokers who allegedly earned enormous fees through a new form of "predatory" lending—by putting unsuspecting home buyers into subprime mortgages when they could have afforded prime mortgages. This idea underlies the Obama administration's proposal for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. The link to the financial crisis—recently emphasized by President Obama—is that these mortgages would not have been made if regulators had been watching those fly-by-night mortgage brokers.

There was always a problem with this theory. Mortgage brokers had to be able to sell their mortgages to someone. They could only produce what those above them in the distribution chain wanted to buy. In other words, they could only respond to demand, not create it themselves. Who wanted these dicey loans? The data shows that the principal buyers were insured banks, government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the FHA—all government agencies or private companies forced to comply with government mandates about mortgage lending. When Fannie and Freddie were finally taken over by the government in 2008, more than 10 million subprime and other weak loans were either on their books or were in mortgage-backed securities they had guaranteed. An additional 4.5 million were guaranteed by the FHA and sold through Ginnie Mae before 2008, and a further 2.5 million loans were made under the rubric of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which required insured banks to provide mortgage credit to home buyers who were at or below 80% of median income. Thus, almost two-thirds of all the bad mortgages in our financial system, many of which are now defaulting at unprecedented rates, were bought by government agencies or required by government regulations.

The role of the FHA is particularly difficult to fit into the narrative that the left has been selling. While it might be argued that Fannie and Freddie and insured banks were profit-seekers because they were shareholder-owned, what can explain the fact that the FHA—a government agency—was guaranteeing the same bad mortgages that the unregulated mortgage brokers were supposedly creating through predatory lending?

The answer, of course, is that it was government policy for these poor quality loans to be made. Since the early 1990s, the government has been attempting to expand home ownership in full disregard of the prudent lending principles that had previously governed the U.S. mortgage market. Now the motives of the GSEs fall into place. Fannie and Freddie were subject to "affordable housing" regulations, issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which required them to buy mortgages made to home buyers who were at or below the median income. This quota began at 30% of all purchases in the early 1990s, and was gradually ratcheted up until it called for 55% of all mortgage purchases to be "affordable" in 2007, including 25% that had to be made to low-income home buyers.

It was not easy to find candidates for traditional mortgages—loans to people with good credit records or the resources for a substantial downpayment—among home buyers who qualified under HUD's guidelines. To meet their affordable housing requirements, therefore, Fannie and Freddie reduced their lending standards and reached into the FHA's turf. The FHA, although it lost market share, continued to guarantee what it could, adding to the demand that the unregulated mortgage brokers filled. If they were engaged in predatory lending, it was ultimately driven by the government's own requirements. The mortgages that resulted are now problem loans for the GSEs, the FHA and the big banks that were required to make them in order to burnish their CRA credentials.

The significance of the FHA's troubles is that this agency had no profit motive. Yet it dipped into the same pool of subprime and other nontraditional mortgages that the GSEs and Wall Street were fishing in. The left cannot have it both ways, blaming the private sector for subprime lending while absolving the government policies that created the demand for subprime loans. If the financial crisis was caused by subprime mortgages and predatory lending, the government's own policies made it happen.

Mr. Walllison is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
25208  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia reshpaing nuclear doctrine on: October 16, 2009, 04:09:50 AM
Russia's Message on Reshaping Its Nuclear Doctrine
RUSSIA IS EXPANDING THE SCOPE OF ITS NUCLEAR DOCTRINE to include pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons, Russian Presidential Security Council Chief Nikolai Patrushev said in an interview published Wednesday by Moscow daily Izvestia. The former director of the Federal Security Service (the successor agency to the KGB) emphasized that nuclear weapons might be used in a preventive manner to repel conventional aggression in regional and even local wars. He was talking about the pre-emptive use of tactical nuclear weapons — which is, incidentally, an option the United States retains.

Russia considers its nuclear arsenal to be the pillar of its defensive military capabilities, and tactical nuclear weapons increasingly have taken a central role in its defensive scenarios since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“It is unlikely that the Russians would employ nuclear weapons in any given scenario, but whatever they say publicly has next to no bearing on what they actually would do in an unknowable, future situation.”
The potentially frightful speed of a modern nuclear exchange means there is little time for deliberation: To whatever extent possible, national command authorities seek to explore, understand and balance ahead of time the complexities and options of any given scenario. These scenarios are among the most closely guarded state secrets in the world. When and how they are updated is not generally a matter for public consumption.

And in any event, the fundamental reality remains: A nation’s senior leadership retains exclusive control over the use of nuclear weapons. Such a decision would be taken in a time of crisis, under a specific set of ultimately unknowable circumstances. Paper scenarios might inform that decision, but at the end of the day, the leader is not bound by them any more than he is bound by his country’s public nuclear doctrine.

Indeed, the manner in which a war is fought depends on any number of things — who struck first, who has the initiative, one’s strengths and weaknesses as well as the enemy’s, and so forth. But the first thing that goes out the window is the official, public statement about what that doctrine is or should be.

It is still unlikely that the Russians would employ nuclear weapons in any given scenario, but whatever they say publicly has next to no bearing on what they actually would do in an unknowable, future situation.

In other words, Patrushev’s interview was not an announcement to the Russian military that it is going to fight differently; such an announcement would come through different channels. Rather, Patrushev was telling the world that the Russian military is going to fight differently — whether that is the case or not. What is significant is not the public shift in nuclear doctrine, but the political decision to publicize it, and the timing of that decision.

It was no accident that the interview was published while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting Moscow. Patrushev was speaking to the West, and to the United States. He was attempting to shape Western thinking with three implicit points:

Russia is prepared to think in terms of the Cold War — with all the unpleasantness that could entail for the United States.
Russia has tactical nuclear weapons and a doctrine for using them — pre-emptively, if necessary.
Nuclear weapons are potentially on the table if fundamental Russian national interests are attacked, or even if Russia is threatened.
25209  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 15, 2009, 08:17:05 PM
Secretary Halfbright seriously bobbled this (which was widely reported in the Arab world btw) by accepting the number.  IIRC Reason Magazine did an analysis that showed the actual number was far less-- about 125,000.   This is still an outrageous number of people to die so that the French, the UN et al could make their skim off the UN embargo.

One point to draw from this little trip down the memory hole is that the UN embargo had a VERY heavy human cost.
25210  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton, Federalist #9, 1787 on: October 15, 2009, 03:09:40 PM
"The regular distribution of power into distinct departments; the introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of courts composed of judges holding their offices during good behavior; the representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election... They are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 9, 1787
25211  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: October 15, 2009, 03:05:06 PM
Eh GM, the clusterfcuk continues , , ,

Here's this:

GOP Lawmakers Accuse CAIR of Planting Spies on Capitol Hill

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Quote:
GOP Lawmakers Accuse Muslim Advocacy Group CAIR of Planting Spies on Capitol Hill

Four congressmen are asking for an investigation into the Council on American Islamic Relations after discovering an internal memo noting the group's strategy.

FOXNews.com
Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Four House Republicans on Wednesday accused the nation's largest Muslim advocacy group of trying to "infiltrate" Capitol Hill by placing interns in the offices of lawmakers who handle national security issues.

The four lawmakers, members of the anti-terror caucus, asked for an investigation into the Council on American Islamic Relations after discovering an internal memo noting the group's strategy. They also highlighted a new book by Paul Sperry titled "Muslim Mafia," scheduled for release on Thursday, which claims the group has been actively infiltrating Congress.

Reps. Sue Myrick of North Carolina, Trent Franks of Arizona, Paul Broun of Georgia and John Shadegg of Arizona asked the Internal Revenue Service to determine whether CAIR deserves its nonprofit status. They also are asking their colleagues to review a summary of findings that led the Justice Department to name CAIR as a co-conspirator in a terrorism case.

The internal memo, provided to FOXNews.com, stated that CAIR would "focus on influencing congressmen responsible for policy that directly impacts the American Muslim community."

The memo cited three House committees -- Homeland Security, Intelligence and the Judiciary -- as panels on which lawmakers preside over policy affecting American Muslims.

"We will develop national initiatives such as a lobby day and placing Muslim interns in Congressional offices," the memo read.

Earlier this year the FBI severed its once-close ties with CAIR as evidence mounted of the group's links to a support network for Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization.

"It's frightening to think that an organization with clear-cut ties to terrorism could have a hand in influencing policy -- especially national security policy -- within our government," Myrick said. "The investigations that we're asking for are simple, and I'm hopeful that they will bring to light any and all information regarding the goals of CAIR."

Franks called on CAIR to renounce its ties to terrorist groups and state publicly that it does not support Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood.
"I take the charges levied against CAIR and laid out in this book very seriously because they affect our national security," Franks said in a statement. "This Congress must be deliberate in taking a strong stance against those groups and organizations that align themselves with terrorists."

"We live in a post-9/11 world where the coincidence of nuclear proliferation and Islamic terrorism pose a very dangerous combination and real threat to America's national security," he said. "That is why it is critical, in light of the well supported documents and information, that the U.S. Congress take this issue seriously."

CAIR decried the call as a "racist" and "insidious" attack on Muslims and mocked the allegations.

"If it wasn't so insidious, it would be laughable," CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told FOXNews.com. "What are their charges? CAIR seeks political participation of Muslims. I'm shocked."

Hooper said the evidence proves only that the group is trying, like every other minority group, to engage Muslims in the political process.
"Why is it evil when Muslims seek political participation?" he asked.
In the book "Muslim Mafia," a six-month sting appears to link CAIR to an organized crime network made up of more than 100 other Muslim front groups that make up the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. The book claims the group is bent on destroying Western civilization.

Hooper said Sperry's efforts only proved the group's good intentions.
"The guy spied on us for months, stole documents -- and the most they came up with is CAIR seeks to work with policymakers on Capitol Hill?" Hooper said.

"I see it as a stamp of approval."
 

Quoted from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009...-capitol-hill/
25212  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Robert Reich said it first. There will be death panels. on: October 15, 2009, 02:27:40 PM
 Meanwhile, if you're not part of a special interest but just a regular American who hopes one day to grow old (because it beats the alternative), NewsBusters.org has a timely reminder that proponents of "health-care reform" don't necessarily sympathize with that aspiration. NewsBusters links to another Morgen Richmond YouTube clip, this one of a speech that Robert Reich, who served as President Clinton's labor secretary, delivered on the subject in 2007:

I will actually give you a speech made up entirely--almost at the spur of the moment, of what a candidate for president would say if that candidate did not care about becoming president. In other words, this is what the truth is, and a candidate will never say, but what candidates should say if we were in a kind of democracy where citizens were honored in terms of their practice of citizenship, and they were educated in terms of what the issues were, and they could separate myth from reality in terms of what candidates would tell them:

"Thank you so much for coming this afternoon. I'm so glad to see you, and I would like to be president. Let me tell you a few things on health care. Look, we have the only health-care system in the world that is designed to avoid sick people. [laughter] That's true, and what I'm going to do is I am going to try to reorganize it to be more amenable to treating sick people. But that means you--particularly you young people, particularly you young, healthy people--you're going to have to pay more. [applause] Thank you.
"And by the way, we are going to have to--if you're very old, we're not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life to keep you maybe going for another couple of months. It's too expensive, so we're going to let you die. [applause]
"Also, I'm going to use the bargaining leverage of the federal government in terms of Medicare, Medicaid--we already have a lot of bargaining leverage--to force drug companies and insurance companies and medical suppliers to reduce their costs. But that means less innovation, and that means less new products and less new drugs on the market, which means you are probably not going to live that much longer than your parents. [applause] Thank you."
As noted in our transcription, Reich's Berkeley, Calif., audience applauded the idea of taxing the young, killing the old, and stifling lifesaving innovations. One suspects that these ideas would not be greeted as warmly in most other American locales, which is why elected politicians who are actually trying to sell such ideas cloak them in euphemisms about "universal care," "reform," "cost cutting" and so forth.

Liz Hunt of London's Daily Telegraph reports on an even more chilling euphemism used in a country that long ago instituted "health-care reform":

"Mrs ------- has breathing difficulties," the night manager told her. "She needs oxygen. Shall we call an ambulance?"
"What do you mean?" my friend responded. "What's the matter with her?"
"She needs to go to hospital. Do you want that? Or would you prefer that we make her comfortable?"
"Make her comfortable." Here's what that meant:

Befuddled by sleep, she didn't immediately grasp what was being asked of her. Her grandmother is immobilised by a calcified knee joint, which is why she is in the home. She's a little deaf and frail, but otherwise perky. She reads a newspaper every day (without glasses), and is a fan of the darling of daytime television, David Dickinson. Why wouldn't she get medical treatment if she needed it?
Then, the chilling implication of the phone call filtered through--she was being asked whether her grandmother should be allowed to die.
"Call an ambulance now," my friend demanded.
The person at the other end persisted. "Are you sure that's what you want? For her to go to hospital."
"Yes, absolutely. Get her to hospital."
Three hours later, her grandmother was sitting up in A&E [the accident-and-emergency ward], smiling. She had a mild chest infection, was extremely dehydrated, but was responding to oxygen treatment.
As Hunt notes, "Withdrawal of fluids (and drugs) is one of the steps on the controversial palliative care programme known as the Liverpool Care Pathway, which has been adopted by 900 hospitals, hospices and care homes in England."

Former Enron adviser Paul Krugman disagrees: "In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We've all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false." But is it possible that Reich is right and Krugman is wrong?
25213  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Craig Becker of NLRB on: October 15, 2009, 11:02:15 AM
One of Big Labor's priorities in Washington is to place allies in key government jobs where they can overturn existing labor policy without battles in Congress. This is a very good reason for the Senate to hold a hearing on the nomination of Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Mr. Becker is associate general counsel at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is most recently in the news for its close ties to Acorn, the disgraced housing shakedown operation. President Obama nominated Mr. Becker in April to the five-member NLRB, which has the critical job of supervising union elections, investigating labor practices, and interpreting the National Labor Relations Act. In a 1993 Minnesota Law Review article, written when he was a UCLA professor, Mr. Becker argued for rewriting current union-election rules in favor of labor. And he suggested the NLRB could do this by regulatory fiat, without a vote of Congress.

Yet now that he could soon have the power to act on this conviction, Mr. Becker won't tell Congress if this is what he still believes. In written responses to questions from Republican Orrin Hatch, Mr. Becker promised only to "maintain an open mind about whether [his] suggestions should be implemented in any manner." That sounds like his mind is made up but he won't admit it lest it hurt his confirmation.

Mr. Becker also won't give a clear answer about his role in preparing several pro-labor executive orders issued by President Obama shortly after inauguration. Mr. Becker's name was found in at least one of the documents, suggesting that he had written it.

When asked by Sen. Hatch if he was "involved or responsible in any way" for these executive orders, Mr. Becker responded: "I was not responsible for [the specific executive orders] except as described below. As a member of the Presidential Transition Team, I was asked to provide advice and information concerning a possible executive order of the sort described. I was involved in researching, analyzing, preliminary drafting, and consulting with other members of the Transition team." In other words, Mr. Becker was the main author but would rather not say so explicitly.

Why not? Well, perhaps because Mr. Becker seems to have been on the SEIU payroll at the time he did his "drafting." Many people take leaves of absence from their private jobs when serving on a transition team, but Mr. Becker says he was on "vacation." And his "vacation" seems to have been sporadic. "My work on the Transition Team was not full time or continuous . . . When I was not on vacation in order to work on the Transition Team, I continued to perform my regular work for both SEIU and the AFL-CIO." The White House has made a public show of banning paid lobbyists from certain Administration jobs, but it let a paid union operative draft government documents benefiting unions.

There's more. One of the many accusations leveled against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is that he accepted money from the SEIU in return for taking actions giving collective bargaining rights to Illinois home health-care workers. While Mr. Becker denies any knowledge of, or role in, contributions to the former Governor, he does admit that he provided "advice and counsel to SEIU relating to proposed executive orders and proposed legislation giving homecare workers a right to organize and engage in collective bargaining under state law."

Mr. Becker says he "worked with and provided advice" to SEIU Local 880 in Chicago, a beneficiary of the newly unionized health workers, and one of two SEIU locals currently in the national spotlight for its deep ties with Acorn. Mr. Becker denies working for Acorn or its affiliates, but as recently as April Acorn co-founder Wade Rathke praised Mr. Becker by name, noting "For my money, Craig's signal contribution has been his work in crafting and executing the legal strategies and protections which have allowed the effective organization of informal workers, and by this I mean home health-care workers."

The NLRB has both GOP and Democratic members, and nominees are typically packaged together to avoid hearings. In this case, the GOP nominee is Brian Hayes, an aide to Senator Mike Enzi (R., Wyo.), who is eager to see Mr. Hayes confirmed with Mr. Becker and another Democrat, Mark Pearce. But Mr. Becker would sit with the majority, with the ability to dictate labor policy, and the stakes are too high to let him pass without more Senate and public scrutiny.
25214  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: October 15, 2009, 10:40:12 AM
Alexander's Essay – October 15, 2009

Our Constitution is on Life Support
"Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." --Benjamin Franklin
That wise old sage, Ben Franklin, was prescient back in 1748, when he issued his simple Rx for success. Unfortunately, the wealth and wisdom of generations of Americans have been progressively supplanted by our central government's exercise of unconstitutional authority.

In regard to wealth, I refer most directly to our government's colossal spending and debt accumulation, and unlawful taxation.

As to wisdom, well, there's not much of that emerging from government-run school systems.

Having already depleted the wealth and wisdom of our great nation, the Obama juggernaut is determined to do likewise to health, that third prong of Franklin's trident. If successful, then we may rightly fear it as a deathblow to the greatest experiment in human history.

Where is Doctor Franklin when we really need him?

Simpletons across the United States and, indeed, the world, are beguiled by the Democrat health scare cacophony. While so much has been said, so too has so little. And, as we approach the seemingly inevitable passage of some such diabolical legislation, almost to a citizen everyone is screaming, "Stop the world, I want to get off!" Indeed, only elitist Democrats are charging full-steam ahead, constituents be damned.

Intentionally lost in all this noise is the Leftist tactic of drowning its opposition in waves of excessive and ever-changing health care minutia. With the devil being so well hidden in the details, this ensures that we remain distracted while Rule of Law is further usurped by the rule of man.

As Patriots, we are summoned to slice through this diversionary blather. And, to obtain proper analysis of this overarching objective, we must seek guidance from our founding documents, the Constitution of the United States of America and its superordinate document, the Declaration of Independence.

In a search of the Constitution, we find that the words "health," "medicine" or "medical" are mentioned -- drum roll please -- not even once: not within the original text, nor within 220 years of amendments. (A search of the Articles of Confederation yields similar results.)

To some, this exclusion indicates that the Founding Fathers were unconcerned about the health of their countrymen. But, supporters of this argument expose their condescension, and it is here mentioned to disabuse them of their disdain. For our Founding Fathers sacrificed so greatly for the birth of our nation -- in both blood and treasure -- that to posit such indifference does a great and grotesque disservice to their honor and their memory.

To others, this exclusion indicates that health care was mercifully omitted since medical care of the 1700s was so "primitive" that the cure often caused more harm than the ailment. They further argue that, given the foresight of modern medicine, our Founders would have surely incorporated universal health care within the Constitution. But, supporters of this argument expose their arrogance, and it is here mentioned to disabuse them of their haughtiness. For the medicine of our Founding Fathers was actually advanced in its day, just as the U.S. medicine of today is advanced, and just as tomorrow it will be thought primitive. This, of course, assumes that we successfully restore Rule of Law.

Alas, we discern seemingly little counsel from the Constitution.

And, as we turn to the Declaration, a search for the words "health," "medicine" or "medical" once more yields exactly zero results. Furthermore, the itemized grievances therein make nary a hint concerning health, even considering the "primitive" conditions discussed above.

Alack, we also discern seemingly little counsel from the Declaration.

However, neither do the Constitution nor the Declaration counsel us with direct verbiage concerning agriculture, textiles, construction and the whole raft of goods and services upon which those everyday necessities of food, clothing and shelter are stationed.

But, the Declaration does aver that all men are created equal, not of outcome but of opportunity; that they are endowed with the right to Life, not a guaranteed good life, not a guaranteed healthy life, but life with all of its miraculous potential; that they are endowed with a right to Liberty, the fusion of freedom and personal responsibility; and that they are endowed with a right to the pursuit of Happiness, the eclectic amalgamation of hopes and dreams and desires and necessities as defined by each individual -- not by faceless, nameless bureaucrats.

Furthermore, the Constitution's Preamble declares that its purpose is to establish Justice, the even-handed application of law to all citizens; to insure domestic Tranquility, the exclusion of class warfare; to promote (not provide) the general Welfare; and to secure the blessings of Liberty, there again, the fusion of freedom with personal responsibility.

So, our founding documents do guide us to proper health care legislation: for it is that which encompasses equality and liberty for consumers and providers alike; that which promotes life above death panels; that which encourages the medical hopes and dreams as defined by each individual; that which constrains, not magnifies, class warfare; and that which secures "the blessings of Liberty, to ourselves and our Posterity."

Anything more than this is an affront to constitutional order and Rule of Law. As Thomas Jefferson so keenly observed: "Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread." And, it takes little thought, or even imagination, to extend his estimation to the current health care debate.

The bottom line is that Article 1, Section 8 of our Constitution, which addresses powers of the legislature, never endowed Congress with authority to regulate or collect taxes for banking, mortgage or automaker bailouts. Neither does it present authority for them to subsidize production or service sectors such as health care. Indeed, James Madison wrote, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents..."

Sadly, not one Democrat bill addresses "health care" so much as it seeks omnipotent centralized government power and control, the currency of the Left. However, the proposals certainly betray the Left's condescension and contempt for Rule of Law, along with their frontal assault upon our Essential Liberty.

Patriot Readers, the U.S. Constitution is on life support. To prevent it from flat-lining, we must exude high dudgeon, we must slice through the Left's onslaught of minutia, and we must surgically endeavor with our every thought and deed to restore a healthy Rule of Law.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, PatriotPost.US, with J. Adams Clymer
25215  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Video-Clips de DBMA en espanol on: October 15, 2009, 01:51:20 AM
Guau a todos:

Muy pronto (manana?) estare'mos ofreciendo aqui clips de DBMA en espanol.

La Aventura continua,
Guro Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny

Video Clip
25216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Expired Visas not tracked on: October 14, 2009, 08:04:48 AM


U.S. Can’t Trace Foreign Visitors on Expired Visas

By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr. and JULIA PRESTON
Published: October 11, 2009
DALLAS — Eight years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and despite repeated mandates from Congress, the United States still has no reliable system for verifying that foreign visitors have left the country.

Hosam Maher Husein Smadi entered the United States legally, but then overstayed his visa. In Italy, Tex., Mr. Smadi was able to work at a restaurant.
New concern was focused on that security loophole last week, when Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year-old Jordanian who had overstayed his tourist visa, was accused in court of plotting to blow up a Dallas skyscraper.

Last year alone, 2.9 million foreign visitors on temporary visas like Mr. Smadi’s checked in to the country but never officially checked out, immigration officials said. While officials say they have no way to confirm it, they suspect that several hundred thousand of them overstayed their visas.

Over all, the officials said, about 40 percent of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States came on legal visas and overstayed.

Mr. Smadi’s case has brought renewed calls from both parties in Congress for Department of Homeland Security officials to complete a universal electronic exit monitoring system.

Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said the Smadi case “points to a real need for an entry and exit system if we are serious about reducing illegal immigration.”

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration, said he would try to steer money from the economic stimulus program to build an exit monitoring system.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, immigration authorities, with more than $1 billion from Congress, have greatly improved and expanded their systems to monitor foreigners when they arrive. But despite several Congressional authorizations, there are no biometric inspections or a systematic follow-up to confirm that foreign visitors have departed.

Homeland security officials caution that universal exit monitoring is a daunting and costly goal, mainly because of the nation’s long and busy land borders, with more than one million crossings every day. The wrong exit plan, they said, could clog trade, disrupt border cities and overwhelm immigration agencies with information they could not effectively use.

Since 2004, homeland security officials have put systems in place to check all foreigners as they arrive, whether by air, sea or land. Customs officers now take fingerprints and digital photographs of visitors from most countries, instantly comparing them against law enforcement watch list databases. (Canadians and Mexicans with special border-crossing cards are exempt from those checks.)

But homeland security officials said that a series of pilot programs since 2004 had failed to yield an exit monitoring system that would work for the whole nation. They have not yet found technology to support speedy exit inspections at land borders. And airlines balked at an effort last year by the Bush administration to make them responsible for taking fingerprints and photographs of departing foreigners.

The current system relies on departing foreigners to turn in a paper stub when they leave.

Last year, official figures show, 39 million foreign travelers were admitted on temporary visas like Mr. Smadi’s. Based on the paper stubs, homeland security officials said, they confirmed the departure of 92.5 percent of them. Most of the remaining visitors did depart, officials said, but failed to check out because they did not know how to do so. But more than 200,000 of them are believed to have overstayed intentionally.

Immigration authorities have put in place a separate system for keeping track of foreigners who, unlike Mr. Smadi, come on student visas. That system has proved effective at confirming that the students have stayed in school and do not overstay their visas, officials said.

Immigration analysts said that given the difficulties of enforcing the United States’ vast borders, it remains primarily up to law enforcement officials to thwart terrorism suspects who do not have records that would draw scrutiny before they enter the United States.

“You can’t ask the immigration system to do everything,” said Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a research center in Washington, and a former commissioner of the immigration service. “This is an example of how changes in law enforcement priorities and techniques since Sept. 11 actually got to where they should be.”

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

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Mr. Smadi, like many tourists who overstay visas, was able to fade easily into society and encountered few barriers to starting a life here, according to court documents and people who know him. He enrolled in high school, obtained a California identification card, landed jobs in two states and rented a string of apartments and houses. He bought at least two used cars, and even procured a handgun and ammunition.

Mr. Smadi rented an apartment even though his visa expired.

Mr. Smadi’s arrest on Sept. 24 for the attempted bombing was not his first encounter with American law enforcement. Two weeks earlier, a sheriff’s deputy in Ellis County, Tex., pulled him over for a broken tail light just north of the town of Italy, then arrested him for driving without a license or insurance.
When the deputy checked his identity, Mr. Smadi’s name showed up on a watch list by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was already investigating him. But the background check turned up no immigration record. The deputy called the F.B.I. and was told there was no outstanding arrest warrant for Mr. Smadi. So on the evening of Sept. 11, Mr. Smadi paid a $550 fine and walked out of the county jail.

“There was nothing to indicate to us that this person was currently in the States illegally,” said Chief Deputy Dennis Brearley.

Mr. Smadi had come to the United States from Jordan in early 2007 on a six-month tourist visa, immigration officials say.

For a few weeks he stayed in San Jose, Calif., with Hana Elrabodi, a retired Jordanian businessman who knew his family, according to Mr. Elrabodi’s wife, Temina. Though Mr. Smadi was not authorized to work, he found a job at a local restaurant. In late March, Mr. Smadi obtained a California identification card using Mr. Elrabodi’s address.

In October 2007, Mr. Smadi moved into an apartment in Santa Clara with his younger brother, Hussein Smadi, and another man he identified as his cousin, according to the manager of the apartment complex, Joe Redzovic. Mr. Smadi took another job, in a falafel restaurant, and in the winter he briefly enrolled in the Santa Clara High School.

After a fire gutted his Santa Clara apartment, Mr. Smadi moved to Dallas. Though his visa had expired by April 2008, he landed a job working behind the counter at Texas Best Smokehouse in Italy, Tex., about 45 miles from Dallas. He rented a bungalow nearby, using his California identification and passing a criminal background check, said his former landlord, David South.

Three months later, Mr. Smadi married one of his co-workers, Rosalinda Duron. They separated in the fall of 2008 after only three months, Ms. Duron said.

Investigators have found no evidence that Mr. Smadi, during his first year in the United States, openly espoused Islamic fundamentalism. Neither have they found any evidence that he received terrorist training abroad or came to the United States intending to commit a terrorist act, said Mark White, a spokesman for the F.B.I. in Dallas.

But by the spring of 2008, he caught the attention of the F.B.I. by posting incendiary remarks about wanting to kill Americans on Jihadist Web sites. Over the summer, he met with agents posing as members of Al Qaeda and planned to bomb the Fountain Place office building in downtown Dallas, according to an indictment unsealed on Thursday.

His arrest on terrorism charges came after he parked a truck that he had been told was carrying explosives in the building’s underground garage, according to court documents.

When the F.B.I. later searched his residence, they found a Beretta 9 millimeter pistol and a box of ammunition, along with his passport and the expired visa, the court documents show.
25217  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 14, 2009, 06:29:53 AM
The $1.7 trillion mortgage securitization market is still a mess, despite (or in part because of) the Federal Reserve's $700 billion splurge into the market. But another reason may be Treasury's decision to undermine private mortgage-backed securities (MBS) contracts.

BlackRock Inc. Chairman Laurence Fink went so far recently as to call this "one of the biggest issues facing American capitalism." He's worried that to protect banks from billions of dollars more in writedowns on bad second liens (a.k.a., home-equity loans), Treasury is trashing private contracts. "There is modification going on protecting our banks, protecting their balance sheets" and "I'm just very worried about it." Until that issue is cleared up, he says, we won't "get a vibrant securitization market back."

One reason the MBS market blossomed in the first place is because investors who bought a mortgage security believed that first mortgages were senior to second liens. In the event of a foreclosure, second liens would be extinguished first and holders of the first mortgage would get what was left because that's what the contract said.

This changed in April when Treasury announced that instead of foreclosing on delinquent borrowers and wiping out second liens, mortgage servicers (mainly the biggest banks) would be given incentives to modify both loans, thereby spreading the losses. In mid-August, Treasury announced the details of its "Second Lien Modification Program," or 2MP, calling it "a comprehensive solution to help borrowers achieve greater affordability by lowering payments on both first lien and second lien mortgage loans."

Treasury says it is merely trying to help borrowers stay in their homes. But there's little evidence that modifications are stabilizing the market. Treasury's recent release of second-quarter mortgage loan data showed that redefault rates are stubbornly high, even though most new modifications now provide for lower monthly payments of interest and principal.

Nearly 30% of loans modified in the first quarter of this year are now 60 or more days delinquent, up from less than 23% in the first quarter of 2008 and about the same percentage as in the second quarter of 2008. "The percentage of loans that were 60 or more days delinquent or in the process of foreclosure was high and rose steadily in the months subsequent to modification for all quarterly vintages," the report said.

Treasury's other political goal, as Mr. Fink points out, is to help the banks avoid more losses. U.S. financial institutions hold almost $1.1 trillion in second liens, also known as home equity loans or "helocs." Some 42% of all helocs are held by four banks—Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo. Since in a traditional mortgage foreclosure the second loan is usually wiped out, these big four banks have an exposure in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Mortgage-finance consultant Edward Pinto points out that these same lenders have about $800 billion of first mortgage loans on their books, representing 8% of the total outstanding first mortgage loans in the U.S. But they also act as the servicers on almost 60% of total first mortgages, which means they handle negotiations on loan modifications. Thus when a home owner asks one of the big four banks to redo a loan, the banker may have a greater interest in saving the home-equity loan than in protecting the creditors of the first mortgage.

A vibrant MBS market depends on the sanctity of U.S. contracts. If the world's investors see that the Treasury is willing to reward banks at their expense, there will be fewer such investors in U.S. securities. There will also be less capital for housing. Treasury needs to revisit its foreclosure rules to protect the U.S. reputation of honoring contracts, and the faster the better.
25218  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Money, the Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Dollar & other currencies, Gold/Silver on: October 14, 2009, 06:22:43 AM
My doggy nose tells me it is time for the US dollar to have its own thread:

This from today's WSJ

y JUDY SHELTON
Unprecedented spending, unending fiscal deficits, unconscionable accumulations of government debt: These are the trends that are shaping America's financial future. And since loose monetary policy and a weak U.S. dollar are part of the mix, apparently, it's no wonder people around the world are searching for an alternative form of money in which to calculate and preserve their own wealth.

It may be too soon to dismiss the dollar as an utterly debauched currency. It still is the most used for international transactions and constitutes over 60% of other countries' official foreign-exchange reserves. But the reputation of our nation's money is being severely compromised.

Funny how words normally used to address issues of morality come to the fore when judging the qualities of the dollar. Perhaps it's because the U.S. has long represented the virtues of democratic capitalism. To be "sound as a dollar" is to be deemed trustworthy, dependable, and in good working condition.

It used to mean all that, anyway. But as the dollar is increasingly perceived as the default mechanism for out-of-control government spending, its role as a reliable standard of value is destined to fade. Who wants to accumulate assets denominated in a shrinking unit of account? Excess government spending leads to inflation, and inflation plays dollar savers for patsies—both at home and abroad.

A return to sound financial principles in Washington, D.C., would signal that America still believes it can restore the integrity of the dollar and provide leadership for the global economy. But for all the talk from the Obama administration about the need to exert fiscal discipline—the president's 10-year federal budget is subtitled "A New Era of Responsibility: Renewing America's Promise"—the projected budget numbers anticipate a permanent pattern of deficit spending and vastly higher levels of outstanding federal debt.

Even with the optimistic economic assumptions implicit in the Obama administration's budget, it's a mathematical impossibility to reduce debt if you continue to spend more than you take in. Mr. Obama promises to lower the deficit from its current 9.9% of gross domestic product to an average 4.8% of GDP for the years 2010-2014, and an average 4% of GDP for the years 2015-2019. All of this presupposes no unforeseen expenditures such as a second "stimulus" package or additional costs related to health-care reform. But even if the deficit shrinks as a percentage of GDP, it's still a deficit. It adds to the amount of our nation's outstanding indebtedness, which reflects the cumulative total of annual budget deficits.

By the end of 2019, according to the administration's budget numbers, our federal debt will reach $23.3 trillion—as compared to $11.9 trillion today. To put it in perspective: U.S. federal debt was equal to 61.4% of GDP in 1999; it grew to 70.2% of GDP in 2008 (under the Bush administration); it will climb to an estimated 90.4% this year and touch the 100% mark in 2011, after which the projected federal debt will continue to equal or exceed our nation's entire annual economic output through 2019.

The U.S. is thus slated to enter the ranks of those countries—Zimbabwe, Japan, Lebanon, Singapore, Jamaica, Italy—with the highest government debt-to-GDP ratio (which measures the debt burden against a nation's capacity to generate sufficient wealth to repay its creditors). In 2008, the U.S. ranked 23rd on the list—crossing the 100% threshold vaults our nation into seventh place.

If you were a foreign government, would you want to increase your holdings of Treasury securities knowing the U.S. government has no plans to balance its budget during the next decade, let alone achieve a surplus?

In the European Union, countries wishing to adopt the euro must first limit government debt to 60% of GDP. It's the reference criterion for demonstrating "soundness and sustainability of public finances." Politicians find it all too tempting to print money—something the Europeans have understood since the days of the Weimar Republic—and excessive government borrowing poses a threat to monetary stability.

Valuable lessons can also be drawn from Japan's unsuccessful experiment with quantitative easing in the aftermath of its ruptured 1980s bubble economy. The Bank of Japan's desperate efforts to fight deflation through a zero-interest rate policy aimed at bailing out zombie companies, along with massive budget deficit spending, only contributed to a lost decade of stagnant growth. Japan's government debt-to-GDP ratio escalated to more than 170% now from 65% in 1990. Over the same period, the yen's use as an international reserve currency—it clings to fourth place behind the dollar, euro and pound sterling—declined from comprising 10.2% of official foreign-exchange reserves to 3.3% today.

The U.S. has long served as the world's "indispensable nation" and the dollar's primary role in the global economy has likewise seemed to testify to American exceptionalism. But the passivity in Washington toward our dismal fiscal future, and its inevitable toll on U.S. economic influence, suggests that American global leadership is no longer a priority and that America's money cannot be trusted.

If money is a moral contract between government and its citizens, we are being violated. The rest of the world, meanwhile, simply wants to avoid being duped. That is why China and Russia—large holders of dollars—are angling to invent some new kind of global currency for denominating reserve assets. It's why oil-producing Gulf States are fretting over whether to continue pricing energy exports in depreciated dollars. It's why central banks around the world are dumping dollars in favor of alternative currencies, even as reduced global demand exacerbates the dollar's decline. Until the U.S. sends convincing signals that it believes in a strong dollar—mere rhetorical assertions ring hollow—the world has little reason to hold dollar-denominated securities.

Sadly, due to our fiscal quagmire, the Federal Reserve may be forced to raise interest rates as a sop to attract foreign capital even if it hurts our domestic economy. Unfortunately, that's the price of having already succumbed to symbiotic fiscal and monetary policy. If we could forge a genuine commitment to private-sector economic growth by reducing taxes, and at the same time significantly cut future spending, it might be possible to turn things around. Under President Reagan in the 1980s, Fed Chairman Paul Volcker slashed inflation and strengthened the dollar by dramatically tightening credit. Though it was a painful process, the economy ultimately boomed.

Whether the U.S. can once more summon the resolve to address its problems is an open question. But the world's growing dollar disdain conveys a message: Issuing more promissory notes is not the way to renew America's promise.

Ms. Shelton, an economist, is author of "Money Meltdown: Restoring Order to the Global Currency System" (Free Press, 1994).
25219  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 90 arrested after clashes on: October 14, 2009, 06:04:05 AM

Pravda on the Hudson
September 6, 2009

British Police Arrest 90 After Birmingham Clashes

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 7:18 a.m. ET

LONDON (AP) -- Authorities arrested 90 people after racially charged violence erupted between a group protesting Islamic extremism and counter-demonstrators in the central English city of Birmingham, police said Sunday.

The clashes erupted Saturday when a rally by the English Defense League ran into counter-demonstrators including anti-fascists and youths of South Asian descent, West Midlands Police said.

About 200 people were involved in the clashes in downtown Birmingham, police said.

Television footage showed masked or hooded youths throwing projectiles and running from riot police through the diverse city's downtown area.

Police said the 90 people detained -- all males aged 16 to 39 -- were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and violent disorder.

It was not immediately clear how many were protesters and how many were counter-demonstrators.

Clashes also erupted last month at a similar demonstration in Birmingham, a diverse city of about 1 million where nearly a third of the population is nonwhite.

The English Defense League blames counter-demonstrators for inciting violence at its rallies. It has planned protest marches in other cities, including one next month in Manchester.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009...ef=global-home
25220  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: October 14, 2009, 05:53:11 AM
The guys on the DBMA Assn have been asking me to put together a camp this winter:  Perhaps the camp should be dedicated to Kali Tudo (tm) , , ,
25221  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison, 1790 on: October 14, 2009, 05:50:46 AM
"A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking." --James Madison, letter to William Hunter, 1790
25222  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: October 14, 2009, 12:44:59 AM
We are not quite at that point yet.

Night Owl needs to do the promo clip, and my wife needs to get the box cover done-- then it will be time for pre-orders.
25223  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 14, 2009, 12:20:51 AM
An Independent Israeli Foreign Policy?
ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER EHUD BARAK was set to travel to Poland and the Czech Republic on the evening of Oct. 12 for meetings with the Polish and Czech prime ministers and defense ministers, as well as with other high-level officials. Barak was scheduled to attend events on human rights and the Holocaust, but his trip comes at a time of enormous international tension over Iran — an issue deeply interwoven with U.S.-Russian relations involving Central Europe. An Israeli media report stated that Barak would discuss “Iran’s nuclear program as well as military industries” with his Polish and Czech counterparts.

The United States has begun negotiations with Iran over its compliance with international nuclear laws. For the U.S. position to have any bite, Washington has held up the threat of severe sanctions against Iran. But the American position is compromised by Russia’s ability to blast a hole through the prospective sanctions regime. The United States therefore must make promises to Russia that it will back away from the former Soviet sphere of influence, or face Russian intransigence in dealing with Tehran. So far, the United States has not offered much for the Russians to sink their teeth into (backing down on ballistic missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic was not enough — and regardless, the Russians question U.S. sincerity). Discussions with Iran are under way, yet without a resolution to the U.S.-Russian situation there can be no enforcement against Iran.

This leaves Israel in a highly uncomfortable position, at a time when its patience is already running thin.

“Yet the fact that Israel has depended so heavily upon the United States in the past sixty years does not mean it is without leverage of its own.”
To understand this, we look to Israel’s geopolitics. The Israeli core is situated on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, in the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River and Jordanian desert to the east, the Sinai and Negev deserts to the south, and the hilly areas of Galilee in the north. Throughout history, this area has been relatively advantageous to defend — assuming Israel is internally unified. Attackers from the west, south or east would need to stretch their forces across the sea or inhospitable deserts.

Historically, Israel has faced only two serious threats. The first is Syria, to the northeast, which in times of strength potentially can penetrate Israeli territory north of the Sea of Galilee. But the Israelis are generally well prepared to defeat today’s Syrians alone.

The second threat is the graver of the two. This is when a great foreign empire from farther away attempts to grab Israel’s advantageous coastal strip, whether through Syria or by harnessing the resources to overcome Israel’s natural buffers. The Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans and Ottomans at various points in history staked a claim to this land, forcing the Israelis to accommodate them or bear their yoke.

Under the reign of the Persian Empire, the Israelites were able to arrive at a compromise that left them subordinate but intact. This is their preferred stance during eras in which they cannot enjoy their ideal isolation. Similarly, in its modern incarnation since 1948, Israel has rendered itself inoffensive to American interests. It recognized the United States as the global hegemon and, during the Cold War, the guarantor of Israel’s security against another potential invading empire, the Soviet Union, which had proxies in Syria (as mentioned, Israel’s most threatening neighbors) and Iraq (the modern version of ancient Israel’s Babylonian conquerors).

Yet the fact that Israel has depended so heavily upon the United States in the past sixty years does not mean it is without leverage of its own. Israeli leaders long have entertained the possibility that the country could develop a more self-determining foreign policy — with Israel acting as a power in its own right. This would be necessary in the event that the United States abandons Israel to the winds — which is deemed possible should American interests shift. In the post-Cold War period, the United States has remained close to the Israelis because of U.S. interests in the Middle East, especially since the Sept. 11 attacks. But both the Americans and the Israelis can at least conceive of a time when their paths begin to diverge, necessitating contingency plans for Israel.

This is why the timing of Barak’s trip to Central Europe is important. By visiting Poland and the Czech Republic to discuss “military industries” — perhaps arms deals — the Israelis have taken Moscow by surprise, and the Kremlin will not be happy. Israel acting boldly in a region outside its own is an anomaly. There are two possible explanations.

First, the move might have been coordinated along with the United States, in order to stick it to the Russians at a time when they are threatening to destroy a united international front against Iran. The Russians long have seen U.S. and Israeli meddling in their periphery as one and the same, and the United States is needling the Russians in similar ways at present (for instance, with plans for Vice President Joe Biden to visit Warsaw, Prague and Bucharest later this month).

The other possibility is that the Israelis have acted alone, directly reminding the Russians that they have leverage in Central Europe — such as the ability to provide intelligence or military assistance to the Poles or the Czechs. This could be a way of directly warning the Russians to back away from supporting Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

If this was the case — and the Americans were not consulted about Barak’s visit — it follows that Israel has begun to view America as an unreliable ally. The current U.S. administration has irked the Israelis by letting deadline after deadline on Iran slip by. And the Israelis are not willing to tolerate a reincarnation of the Persian Empire, or a Persian proxy of a revived Russian Empire, armed with a nuclear-tipped missiles. Therefore, Monday’s move might be Israel’s first step in developing a foreign policy for itself — in a world where the Israelis believe they must act alone to distract and encumber great powers beyond its region.

After all, such powers traditionally have posed the greatest strategic threat to Israel.
25224  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: October 14, 2009, 12:20:09 AM
That was DEVASTATING cheesy
25225  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: October 13, 2009, 07:08:32 PM
We finished today.  Night Owl should have the finished master for me next week, as well as the promo clip, and will send suitable fotos to Pretty Kitty for her to prepare the box cover.
25226  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA DVD: "The Bolo Game" on: October 13, 2009, 07:08:18 PM
We finished today.  Night Owl should have the finished master for me next week, as well as the promo clip, and will send suitable fotos to Pretty Kitty for her to prepare the box cover.
25227  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Legal issues in MA instruction on: October 13, 2009, 09:29:46 AM
Judicial acitivism/imperialism?  No! It can't be!
25228  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 12, 2009, 07:28:33 PM
Robert D. Kaplan writing in the Atlantic:


Even if Obama does end up making the correct decision on Afghanistan strategy (by which I mean adding troops, since counterinsurgency is manpower-intensive), the public agony over his deliberations may already have done incalculable damage. The Afghan people have survived three decades of war by hedging their bets. Now, watching a young and inexperienced American president appear to waiver on his commitment to their country, they are deciding, at the level of both the individual and the mass, whether to make their peace with the Taliban—even as the Taliban itself can only take solace and encouragement from Obama's public agonizing. Meanwhile, fundamentalist elements of the Pakistani military, opposed to the recent crackdown against local Taliban, are also taking heart from developments in Washington. . . .This is how coups and revolutions get started, by the middle ranks sensing weakness in foreign support for their superiors.

Obama's wobbliness also has a corrosive effect on the Indians and the Iranians. India desperately needs a relatively secular Afghan regime in place to bolster Hindu India's geopolitical position against radical Islamdom, and while the country enjoyed an excellent relationship with Bush, Obama's dithering is making it nervous. And Iran, in observing Washington's indecision, can only feel more secure in its creeping economic annexation of western Afghanistan.
25229  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: October 12, 2009, 04:59:54 PM
That's rather subtle.  I like it.
25230  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Support our troops on: October 12, 2009, 04:58:50 PM
A friend of mine wrote me today:

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

I had a wonderful experience Sat night.  Got to the hotel about 1030 after an evening on the riverfront in Wilmington. 
At the lobby entrance there was a squad (about 15 men) of what was obviously marines (LaJune just up the road a piece).
I approached and asked if they were on leave. “Yes sir we got back fro Iraq last night”. I thanked them for their service and bid them a good evening.

As we checked in I started thinking. Hell I didn’t have the college soccer thing until noon Sunday and the wife, while she thought I was totally crazy, did not mind if I bought the lads a couple of libations.  So back down to the lobby I go and floated the idea to the young Marines. “No sir you don’t have to do that”. After a bit of conversation they relented so we all pile in the cabs and down to the riverfront we go.

They pick the Rhinoceros Club that has an outdoor patio. We go to the bar for a beer. “Thank you sir this is really nice of you.”  I stood back and watched from a distance. There were a group of 20 year old girls shaking and slapping each others butt… ah the men were REAL into that.  One of the girls asked me, in a NC version of a Valley girl affected accent, “Who ARE you?  You look like a cop from my home town”. One of the men asked me, in what I took as a real compliment, was I a Marine. Ya’ll know in that branch of the service, once a Marine always a Marine. I thanked him but the answer was the same as the young lady got, “I am just a guy who appreciates the service to the country.”


As they drained  beer I signaled them over for another. More thank you sir. Time went by and the men would linger at the bar for more thanks and small talk. Always the subject was of their choice. Home, family, training, officers, Afghan casualties, EOD and motor T danger, girlfriends, wives kids, motor T as room clearers, the poor bastards in the turret after an IED detonation, Afghan history, snipers, Navy customs and so forth  and so on.

 

To make a long story short for the next three hours none of those fellas had an empty hand or a dry mouth.  To a man each thanked me and expressed that this had never happened to them and they were often not treated well in Jacksonville. That surprised me. One of the old timers (a 26 year old) in his sixth year in the Marines said he had had a meal bought in an airport once.

 

Owing to my advanced age, the penalty paid for over indulgence in seniors and the hour being well beyond the witching it was time for me to take leave. Their genuine appreciation and gratitude of my simple gesture of respect was heartwarming. Undoubtedly some of the best money I have ever spent. If you have never done this I would highly recommend it.

 

Those men deploy to Afghanistan in January…

 
25231  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Legal issues in MA instruction on: October 12, 2009, 02:04:10 PM
The facts are not the point here.  The point here is that waivers signed by parents  against negligence are a nullity as a matter of law.
25232  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: George Schultz on: October 12, 2009, 01:50:44 PM
Ottawa

When George P. Shultz took office as Ronald Reagan's secretary of state in 1982, his first trip out of the country was to Canada. His second was to Mexico.

"Foreign policy starts with your neighborhood," he told me in an interview here in the Canadian capital last week. "I have always believed that and Ronald Reagan believed that very firmly. In many ways he had [the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement] in his mind. He paid a lot of attention to both Mexico and Canada, as I did."

Mr. Shultz, now a co-chair of the North American Forum—which pulls together members of the business and government community for an annual pow-wow—is still paying a lot of attention to the American neighborhood.

These days that means taking seriously the problem of drug-trafficking violence on the Mexican border. "It's gotten to the point that . . . you've got to be worried about what's happening to Mexico, and you've got to realize that the money that's financing all that comes from the United States in terms of the profits from the illegal drugs. It's not healthy for us, let alone Mexico, to have this violence taking place."

Mr. Shultz carries weight on this issue, in part because he has been thinking about it critically for decades and listening to our neighbors' viewpoints. He has long harbored skepticism about interdiction as a solution to drug abuse in the U.S. Those doubts were prescient.

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Members of the Mexican Federal Police inspect an unmarked grave in Ciudad Juarez, a major distribution center for drugs bound for the United States.
.In 1988, Mr. Shultz recalls, he traveled to Mexico for the inauguration of President Carlos Salinas. After the ceremony they had a private conversation. "He said to me that he understood it was important for Mexico to do what it could to stop the flow of drugs into the United States. But he wanted me to know that the funds to support all that traffic came from the United States to Mexico." Mr. Shultz says that around the same time he heard a very similar refrain from the president of Colombia, Virgilio Barco.

Mr. Salinas also warned the secretary that Americans should realize they are not immune: "This problem will spill across. Drug gangs will eventually be in the United States."

In recent years, Mr. Shultz says, "There has come to be more and more of a realization of the nature of the problem. I thought it was interesting six or eight months ago, that three former presidents of Latin American countries, President Zedillo from Mexico, President Cardoso from Brazil and President Gaviria from Colombia made a report basically saying that we have to look at this problem in all of its dimensions if we are going to get anywhere with it. And we have to realize what its origins are."

Yet it is also true that those presidents spoke up only after they left office. I asked him if there is any hope of policy leadership from those in office. "There is a certain amount of evidence that people are realizing the nature of the problem and have more of a willingness to try to deal with it."

But, he says, we still have not created the "political space" necessary to raise the issue in public. "Right now if you are in politics you can't discuss the problem. It's just poison. The result is that we have this giant problem that is tearing Mexico apart . . . and we have plenty of problems here too and we're really not having a debate about it."

Mr. Shultz is a strong proponent of education to reduce demand. "If we want to get serious about this issue, we should start with a gigantic campaign to persuade people that drugs are bad for them. And it has to be based on solid factual material. You can't try to mislead people."

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.Yet that's been difficult because of the taboo. Mr. Shultz recalls what happened shortly after he left government, when his view that interdiction is not the solution came up after a speech to a Stanford alumni group.

Then, as now, he believed that we need to look at the problem from an economic perspective and understand what happens when there is high demand for a prohibited substance. When his comment hit the press, he says he "was inundated with letters. Ninety-eight percent of them agreed with me and over half of those people said I'm glad you said it, but I wouldn't dare say it. The most poignant comment was from [a former member of the House of Representatives] who wrote and said I was glad to see your statement. I said that a few years ago and that's why I'm no longer a congressman!"

I asked Mr. Shultz if he thinks a more sensible approach might come from the states. He says "people can express themselves a little better at the state level." And, with respect to some liberalization of the drug-possession laws at the state level, "I regard these developments as a distinctive statement by people that the present system is not working very well and they want to change it."
25233  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Hudson: BO team goes after FOX on: October 12, 2009, 09:58:02 AM
By BRIAN STELTER
Published: October 11, 2009
Attacking the news media is a time-honored White House tactic but to an unusual degree, the Obama administration has narrowed its sights to one specific organization, the Fox News Channel, calling it, in essence, part of the political opposition.


Glenn Beck was credited with forcing a White House adviser to resign.

“We’re going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent,” said Anita Dunn, the White House communications director, in a telephone interview on Sunday. “As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”

Her comments are only the latest in the volatile exchange between the administration and the top-rated network, which is owned by the News Corporation, controlled by Rupert Murdoch. Last month, Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News, and David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Obama, met for coffee in New York, in what Politico, which last week broke that news, labeled a “Fox summit.”

While neither party has said what was discussed, some have speculated that a truce, or at least an adjustment in tone, was at issue. (Mr. Ailes and Mr. Obama reportedly reached a temporary accord after a meeting in mid-2008.) But shots are still being fired, which animates the idea that both sides see benefits in the feud.

Fox seems to relish the controversy.

“Instead of governing, the White House continues to be in campaign mode, and Fox News is the target of their attack mentality,” Michael Clemente, the channel’s senior vice president for news, said in a statement on Sunday. “Perhaps the energy would be better spent on the critical issues that voters are worried about.”

Fox’s senior vice president for programming, Bill Shine, says of the criticism from the White House, “Every time they do it, our ratings go up.” Mr. Obama’s first year is on track to be the Fox News Channel’s highest rated.

One Fox executive said that the jabs by the White House could solidify the network’s audience base and recalled that Mr. Ailes had remarked internally: “Don’t pick a fight with people who like to fight.” The executive asked not to be named while discussing internal conversations.

Certainly, Fox continues to aggressively bolster its on-air talent, most recently with the hiring of John Stossel, the libertarian investigative journalist from ABC News, for its spin-off channel, Fox Business. The business channel is also keen on another administration critic, Lou Dobbs, who met for dinner with Mr. Ailes last month, according to two people with direct knowledge of the meeting.

The shift for Fox News — the favorite network of the Bush administration, now the least favored one of the Obama administration — has financial implications for the News Corporation, especially given the network’s status as a growth engine in a perilous time for media companies.

Fox’s programs have drawn record numbers of viewers this year. Through last week, Fox averaged 1.2 million viewers at any given time this year, up from one million viewers through the same time last year. Previously, the channel peaked in 2003, the year the Iraq war started, with nearly 1.1 million viewers.

But controversial comments by the host Glenn Beck have also prompted an ad boycott. And the perception of Fox News as an opposition party has also affected its news correspondents, including Major Garrett, its chief White House correspondent, who Ms. Dunn says is a fair reporter. Mr. Garrett and other Fox correspondents have been directed by Mr. Clemente not to appear on the channel’s most opinionated programs.

Still, Paul Rittenberg, who oversees ad sales for Fox, said the channel existed in a climate where viewers choose cable news channels based on affinity. His channel, he said, stresses in its pitch to advertisers that “people who watch Fox News believe it’s the home team.”

To many Democrats, of course, the “home team” is conservative, a view only compounded by Fox’s at times skeptical coverage of Mr. Obama this year.

“I’ve got one television station that is entirely devoted to attacking my administration,” he said in June, though he did not mention Fox by name. He added, “You’d be hard pressed if you watched the entire day to find a positive story about me on that front.”

The White House has limited administration members’ appearances on the network in recent weeks. In mid-September, when the White House booked Mr. Obama on a round robin of Sunday morning talk shows, it skipped Fox and called it an “ideological outlet,” leading the “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace to appear on Bill O’Reilly’s prime-time show and call the administration “the biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington.”

Ms. Dunn called that remark juvenile and stressed that administration officials would still talk to Fox, and that Mr. Obama was likely to be interviewed on the network in the future. But, she added, “we’re not going to legitimize them as a news organization.”

===========

Page 2 of 2)



In an interview, Mr. Clemente suggested that there was an element of “shoot the messenger” in the back and forth. “Sometimes it’s actually helpful to have an organization or a person that you can go up against for whatever reason,” he said.


Fox argues that its news hours — 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays — are objective. The channel has taken pains recently to highlight its news programs, including the two hours led by Shepard Smith, its chief news anchor. And its daytime newscasts draw more viewers than CNN or MSNBC’s prime-time programs.

“The average consumer certainly knows the difference between the A section of the newspaper and the editorial page,” Mr. Clemente said.

The White House rejects the news and editorial page comparison, and officials there can rattle off any number of perceived offenses. They date to the month before Mr. Obama formally started his presidential campaign, when one of the network’s morning hosts falsely claimed that he had attended a madrassa, an Islamic school. (The incident happened on what Fox calls an entertainment show, “Fox and Friends”; the mistake was corrected on the air later.)

More recently, Fox hosts have promoted tea party rallies against big government and steered attention toward a number of White House czar appointments. Mr. Beck, in particular, was credited with forcing Van Jones, a low-level White House adviser for environmental jobs, to resign last month. Mr. Beck devoted numerous segments to Mr. Jones and called him a “communist-anarchist radical.”

“If it wasn’t for Fox or talk radio, we’d be done as a republic,” Mr. Beck said in the wake of the resignation.

Mr. Beck, whose 5 p.m. program consistently draws three million viewers, is a “cultural phenomenon now,” Mr. Shine said. But this success has come at a price: he is the source of considerable discomfort for Fox’s journalists, especially for false statements on his program. In August, for instance, Mr. Beck claimed that Mr. Garrett was “never called on” at White House press briefings, but Mr. Garrett had asked a question that day.

Weeks earlier, Mr. Beck labeled Mr. Obama a racist, leading to an advertising boycott by ColorOfChange.org, an advocacy group that Mr. Jones helped found. Dozens of advertisers have distanced themselves from Mr. Beck’s show, causing headaches for Mr. Rittenberg’s advertising team, although he said Fox “hasn’t lost a dime” because the ads were moved to different hours.

Fox has made the channel’s tensions with the White House a story. In August, the network’s top-rated host, Mr. O’Reilly, dispatched one of his opinion program’s producers to ask why the administration seemed “so thin-skinned” at a White House briefing. The deputy press secretary disagreed, and said that Mr. O’Reilly had interviewed Mr. Obama during his candidacy last year. The administration’s aggressive stance suggests that it does not view Fox’s audience as one that can be persuaded. During the presidential campaign, Ms. Dunn said, it booked campaign representatives on Fox to try to reach undecided voters, but by mid-October, the campaign had mostly withdrawn them from the channel’s programs.

“It was beyond diminishing returns,” she said. “It was no returns.”
25234  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Spork gets six year old in trouble. on: October 12, 2009, 09:14:35 AM
NYT
NEWARK, Del. — Finding character witnesses when you are 6 years old is not easy. But there was Zachary Christie last week at a school disciplinary committee hearing with his karate instructor and his mother’s fiancé by his side to vouch for him.


Zachary’s offense? Taking a camping utensil that can serve as a knife, fork and spoon to school. He was so excited about recently joining the Cub Scouts that he wanted to use it at lunch. School officials concluded that he had violated their zero-tolerance policy on weapons, and Zachary now faces 45 days in the district’s reform school.

“It just seems unfair,” Zachary said, pausing as he practiced writing lower-case letters with his mother, who is home-schooling him while the family tries to overturn his punishment.

Spurred in part by the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, many school districts around the country adopted zero-tolerance policies on the possession of weapons on school grounds. More recently, there has been growing debate over whether the policies have gone too far.

But, based on the code of conduct for the Christina School District, where Zachary is a first grader, school officials had no choice. They had to suspend him because, “regardless of possessor’s intent,” knives are banned.

But the question on the minds of residents here is: Why do school officials not have more discretion in such cases?

“Zachary wears a suit and tie some days to school by his own choice because he takes school so seriously,” said Debbie Christie, Zachary’s mother, who started a Web site, helpzachary.com, in hopes of recruiting supporters to pressure the local school board at its next open meeting on Tuesday. “He is not some sort of threat to his classmates.”

Still, some school administrators argue that it is difficult to distinguish innocent pranks and mistakes from more serious threats, and that the policies must be strict to protect students.

“There is no parent who wants to get a phone call where they hear that their child no longer has two good seeing eyes because there was a scuffle and someone pulled out a knife,” said George Evans, the president of the Christina district’s school board. He defended the decision, but added that the board might adjust the rules when it comes to younger children like Zachary.

Critics contend that zero-tolerance policies like those in the Christina district have led to sharp increases in suspensions and expulsions, often putting children on the streets or in other places where their behavior only worsens, and that the policies undermine the ability of school officials to use common sense in handling minor infractions.

For Delaware, Zachary’s case is especially frustrating because last year state lawmakers tried to make disciplinary rules more flexible by giving local boards authority to, “on a case-by-case basis, modify the terms of the expulsion.”

The law was introduced after a third-grade girl was expelled for a year because her grandmother had sent a birthday cake to school, along with a knife to cut it. The teacher called the principal — but not before using the knife to cut and serve the cake.

In Zachary’s case, the state’s new law did not help because it mentions only expulsion and does not explicitly address suspensions. A revised law is being drafted to include suspensions.

“We didn’t want our son becoming the poster child for this,” Ms. Christie said, “but this is out of control.”

In a letter to the district’s disciplinary committee, State Representative Teresa L. Schooley, Democrat of Newark, wrote, “I am asking each of you to consider the situation, get all the facts, find out about Zach and his family and then act with common sense for the well-being of this child.”

Education experts say that zero-tolerance policies initially allowed authorities more leeway in punishing students, but were applied in a discriminatory fashion. Many studies indicate that African-Americans were several times more likely to be suspended or expelled than other students for the same offenses.

“The result of those studies is that more school districts have removed discretion in applying the disciplinary policies to avoid criticism of being biased,” said Ronnie Casella, an associate professor of education at Central Connecticut State University who has written about school violence. He added that there is no evidence that zero-tolerance policies make schools safer.

Other school districts are also trying to address problems they say have stemmed in part from overly strict zero-tolerance policies.

In Baltimore, around 10,000 students, about 12 percent of the city’s enrollment, were suspended during the 2006-7 school year, mostly for disruption and insubordination, according to a report by the Open Society Institute-Baltimore. School officials there are rewriting the disciplinary code, to route students to counseling rather than suspension.

In Milwaukee, where school officials reported that 40 percent of ninth graders had been suspended at least once in the 2006-7 school year, the superintendent has encouraged teachers not to overreact to student misconduct.

“Something has to change,” said Dodi Herbert, whose 13-year old son, Kyle, was suspended in May and ordered to attend the Christina district’s reform school for 45 days after another student dropped a pocket knife in his lap. School officials declined to comment on the case for reasons of privacy.

Ms. Herbert, who said her son was a straight-A student, has since been home-schooling him instead of sending him to the reform school.

The Christina school district attracted similar controversy in 2007 when it expelled a seventh-grade girl who had used a utility knife to cut windows out of a paper house for a class project.

Charles P. Ewing, a professor of law and psychology at the University at Buffalo Law School who has written about school safety issues, said he favored a strict zero-tolerance approach.

“There are still serious threats every day in schools,” Dr. Ewing said, adding that giving school officials discretion holds the potential for discrimination and requires the kind of threat assessments that only law enforcement is equipped to make.

In the 2005-6 school year, 86 percent of public schools reported at least one violent crime, theft or other crime, according to the most recent federal survey.

And yet, federal studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and another by the Department of Justice show that the rate of school-related homicides and nonfatal violence has fallen over most of the past decade.

Educational experts say the decline is less a result of zero-tolerance policies than of other programs like peer mediation, student support groups and adult mentorships, as well as an overall decrease in all forms of crime.

For Zachary, it is not school violence that has left him reluctant to return to classes.

“I just think the other kids may tease me for being in trouble,” he said, pausing before adding, “but I think the rules are what is wrong, not me.”
25235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Spork gets six year old in trouble. on: October 12, 2009, 09:09:53 AM
NYT

NEWARK, Del. — Finding character witnesses when you are 6 years old is not easy. But there was Zachary Christie last week at a school disciplinary committee hearing with his karate instructor and his mother’s fiancé by his side to vouch for him.

Zachary’s offense? Taking a camping utensil that can serve as a knife, fork and spoon to school. He was so excited about recently joining the Cub Scouts that he wanted to use it at lunch. School officials concluded that he had violated their zero-tolerance policy on weapons, and Zachary now faces 45 days in the district’s reform school.

“It just seems unfair,” Zachary said, pausing as he practiced writing lower-case letters with his mother, who is home-schooling him while the family tries to overturn his punishment.

Spurred in part by the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, many school districts around the country adopted zero-tolerance policies on the possession of weapons on school grounds. More recently, there has been growing debate over whether the policies have gone too far.

But, based on the code of conduct for the Christina School District, where Zachary is a first grader, school officials had no choice. They had to suspend him because, “regardless of possessor’s intent,” knives are banned.

But the question on the minds of residents here is: Why do school officials not have more discretion in such cases?

“Zachary wears a suit and tie some days to school by his own choice because he takes school so seriously,” said Debbie Christie, Zachary’s mother, who started a Web site, helpzachary.com, in hopes of recruiting supporters to pressure the local school board at its next open meeting on Tuesday. “He is not some sort of threat to his classmates.”

Still, some school administrators argue that it is difficult to distinguish innocent pranks and mistakes from more serious threats, and that the policies must be strict to protect students.

“There is no parent who wants to get a phone call where they hear that their child no longer has two good seeing eyes because there was a scuffle and someone pulled out a knife,” said George Evans, the president of the Christina district’s school board. He defended the decision, but added that the board might adjust the rules when it comes to younger children like Zachary.

Critics contend that zero-tolerance policies like those in the Christina district have led to sharp increases in suspensions and expulsions, often putting children on the streets or in other places where their behavior only worsens, and that the policies undermine the ability of school officials to use common sense in handling minor infractions.

For Delaware, Zachary’s case is especially frustrating because last year state lawmakers tried to make disciplinary rules more flexible by giving local boards authority to, “on a case-by-case basis, modify the terms of the expulsion.”

The law was introduced after a third-grade girl was expelled for a year because her grandmother had sent a birthday cake to school, along with a knife to cut it. The teacher called the principal — but not before using the knife to cut and serve the cake.

In Zachary’s case, the state’s new law did not help because it mentions only expulsion and does not explicitly address suspensions. A revised law is being drafted to include suspensions.

“We didn’t want our son becoming the poster child for this,” Ms. Christie said, “but this is out of control.”

In a letter to the district’s disciplinary committee, State Representative Teresa L. Schooley, Democrat of Newark, wrote, “I am asking each of you to consider the situation, get all the facts, find out about Zach and his family and then act with common sense for the well-being of this child.”

Education experts say that zero-tolerance policies initially allowed authorities more leeway in punishing students, but were applied in a discriminatory fashion. Many studies indicate that African-Americans were several times more likely to be suspended or expelled than other students for the same offenses.

“The result of those studies is that more school districts have removed discretion in applying the disciplinary policies to avoid criticism of being biased,” said Ronnie Casella, an associate professor of education at Central Connecticut State University who has written about school violence. He added that there is no evidence that zero-tolerance policies make schools safer.

Other school districts are also trying to address problems they say have stemmed in part from overly strict zero-tolerance policies.

In Baltimore, around 10,000 students, about 12 percent of the city’s enrollment, were suspended during the 2006-7 school year, mostly for disruption and insubordination, according to a report by the Open Society Institute-Baltimore. School officials there are rewriting the disciplinary code, to route students to counseling rather than suspension.

In Milwaukee, where school officials reported that 40 percent of ninth graders had been suspended at least once in the 2006-7 school year, the superintendent has encouraged teachers not to overreact to student misconduct.

“Something has to change,” said Dodi Herbert, whose 13-year old son, Kyle, was suspended in May and ordered to attend the Christina district’s reform school for 45 days after another student dropped a pocket knife in his lap. School officials declined to comment on the case for reasons of privacy.

Ms. Herbert, who said her son was a straight-A student, has since been home-schooling him instead of sending him to the reform school.

The Christina school district attracted similar controversy in 2007 when it expelled a seventh-grade girl who had used a utility knife to cut windows out of a paper house for a class project.

Charles P. Ewing, a professor of law and psychology at the University at Buffalo Law School who has written about school safety issues, said he favored a strict zero-tolerance approach.

“There are still serious threats every day in schools,” Dr. Ewing said, adding that giving school officials discretion holds the potential for discrimination and requires the kind of threat assessments that only law enforcement is equipped to make.

In the 2005-6 school year, 86 percent of public schools reported at least one violent crime, theft or other crime, according to the most recent federal survey.

And yet, federal studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and another by the Department of Justice show that the rate of school-related homicides and nonfatal violence has fallen over most of the past decade.

Educational experts say the decline is less a result of zero-tolerance policies than of other programs like peer mediation, student support groups and adult mentorships, as well as an overall decrease in all forms of crime.

For Zachary, it is not school violence that has left him reluctant to return to classes.

“I just think the other kids may tease me for being in trouble,” he said, pausing before adding, “but I think the rules are what is wrong, not me.”
25236  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: October 12, 2009, 02:02:40 AM
Not quite. May I suggest rereading this thread? and perhaps the US Foreign Affairs thread?
25237  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Legal issues in MA instruction on: October 12, 2009, 01:53:20 AM
My understanding is precisely that a minor's parents speak for it.    This case seems to me quite radical and quite unsound.  A Canadian martial arts instructor teaching children now must decide to either cease teaching children or castrate the training.
25238  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Legal issues in MA instruction on: October 11, 2009, 11:21:40 PM
Forgive my candor, and said with love, but , , , don't be silly-- of course you should be able to sign away rights.  That's what contracts are!

If the BC Supreme Court is what its name implies  (and sometimes court names are not, e.g. in NY State) then this would seem to be a serious decision of consequence.  Amongst the consequences are either an end to children's martial arts classes and/or their castration into meaningless drivel for the sheeple.

Crafty Dog, esq.
25239  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Legal issues in MA instruction on: October 11, 2009, 05:55:04 PM
This from Canada:


http://www.theprovince.com/sports/Parents+waive+child+right+negligence+Judgm
ent/2091198/story.html

Parents can't waive child's right to sue for negligence: Judgment

 

By Katie Mercer, The ProvinceOctober 9, 2009

 

Parents have no right to waive their children's right to sue, according to a
B.C. Supreme Court decision this week.

Victor Wong was 12 years old when his mother signed a liability waiver to
enroll him in a Hapkido school, a Korean martial art.

Wong was 16 when he was allegedly violently thrown to the ground during a
sparring match. At 20, he still suffers from his injuries.

Wong is suing Michael Lok, the owner of Lok's Martial Arts Centre in
Richmond, and his sparring partner for negligence.

He argues that Lok failed to provide preventative measures to screen
participants, instruct them, require protective gear and supervise matches.

However, Lok argues that the claim should be dismissed as Wong's mother
signed a waiver protecting him from litigation.

B.C. Justice Peter Willcock disagreed, ruling that, under the Infants Act of
B.C., a parent can not waive their child's rights to sue for negligence.

"The Act does not permit a parent or guardian to bind an infant to an
agreement waiving the infant's right to bring an action in damages in tort,"
Willcock found in his decision.

The case is scheduled to proceed in November.
25240  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: October 11, 2009, 11:01:20 AM
Pulling up chair and a bowl of popcorn , , ,
25241  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 11, 2009, 10:59:55 AM
PAAS is my investment in silver and it is doing VERY nicely, but I would hesitate to use the high of $50 in any evaluation-- wasn't that number generated by the Hunt brothers trying to corner the silver market?

Is a 20% decline in one year for the world's primary currency truly "orderly"?

Yes interest rate increases can/would dramatically increase the dollar's exchange rate, but with the deficits and debt already in the pipeline and seditious motivations in the White House to devalue our debt, how much do we want to rely upon that?
25242  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 11, 2009, 10:49:44 AM
Doug, GM:

Nice work gentlemen!

Please give me a soundbite response (plus more if you wish, but please do include a soundbite) to the argument that Bush took his eye off the ball in Iraq, that while we committed our bandwidth to Iraq, that Afghanistan was left to fester and degenerate into the clusterfcuk it currently is.

25243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: October 11, 2009, 10:43:41 AM
"1. Japan crashed because it tried massive "stimulus" spending rather than take a legitimate economic downturn as a natural part of the business cycle. God help any country that tries that."

Agreed.  Question:  Is China/Will China be doing that?

"2. Know what that 13/10 ratio means? A big army that will readily engage in attrition warfare without hesitation. I just hope it's pointed towards the 'stans rather than the Pacific."

A valid point to add to the mix-- but still, what are the implications of age demographics heavily weighted towards the old?

"3. China could be managed if we had competent leadership. So much for that....."   And there is the matter of wondering whose best interests BO and the people around him have at heart.
25244  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 11, 2009, 08:26:14 AM
Normally I find Frank Rich to be a typical Pravda on the Hudson douche bag-- and indeed some of that is on full display here.  That said, mingled in with some historical innaccurracies are some questions posed that we need to be able to answer.

Anyone here up to it?

Two Wrongs Make Another Fiasco Sign in to Recommend
By FRANK RICH
Published: October 10, 2009
THOSE of us who love F. Scott Fitzgerald must acknowledge that he did get one big thing wrong. There are second acts in American lives. (Just ask Marion Barry, or William Shatner.) The real question is whether everyone deserves a second act. Perhaps the most surreal aspect of our great Afghanistan debate is the Beltway credence given to the ravings of the unrepentant blunderers who dug us into this hole in the first place.

Let’s be clear: Those who demanded that America divert its troops and treasure from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2002 and 2003 — when there was no Qaeda presence in Iraq — bear responsibility for the chaos in Afghanistan that ensued. Now they have the nerve to imperiously and tardily demand that America increase its 68,000-strong presence in Afghanistan to clean up their mess — even though the number of Qaeda insurgents there has dwindled to fewer than 100, according to the president’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones.

But why let facts get in the way? Just as these hawks insisted that Iraq was “the central front in the war on terror” when the central front was Afghanistan, so they insist that Afghanistan is the central front now that it has migrated to Pakistan. When the day comes for them to anoint Pakistan as the central front, it will be proof positive that Al Qaeda has consolidated its hold on Somalia and Yemen.

To appreciate this crowd’s spotless record of failure, consider its noisiest standard-bearer, John McCain. He made every wrong judgment call that could be made after 9/11. It’s not just that he echoed the Bush administration’s constant innuendos that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda’s attack on America. Or that he hyped the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war “easily.” Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would “probably get along” in post-Saddam Iraq because there was “not a history of clashes” between them.

What’s more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade in Iraq.

Two years after 9/11 he was claiming that we could “in the long term” somehow “muddle through” in Afghanistan. (He now has the chutzpah to accuse President Obama of wanting to “muddle through” there.) Even after the insurgency accelerated in Afghanistan in 2005, McCain was still bragging about the “remarkable success” of that prematurely abandoned war. In 2007, some 15 months after the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf signed a phony “truce” ceding territory on the Afghanistan border to terrorists, McCain gave Musharraf a thumb’s up. As a presidential candidate in the summer of 2008, McCain cared so little about Afghanistan it didn’t even merit a mention among the national security planks on his campaign Web site.

He takes no responsibility for any of this. Asked by Katie Couric last week about our failures in Afghanistan, McCain spoke as if he were an innocent bystander: “I think the reason why we didn’t do a better job on Afghanistan is our attention — either rightly or wrongly — was on Iraq.” As Tonto says to the Lone Ranger, “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?”

Along with his tribunes in Congress and the punditocracy, Wrong-Way McCain still presumes to give America its marching orders. With his Senate brethren in the Three Amigos, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, he took to The Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page to assert that “we have no choice” but to go all-in on Afghanistan — rightly or wrongly, presumably — just as we had in Iraq. Why? “The U.S. walked away from Afghanistan once before, following the Soviet collapse,” they wrote. “The result was 9/11. We must not make that mistake again.”

This shameless argument assumes — perhaps correctly — that no one in this country remembers anything. So let me provide a reminder: We already did make that mistake again when we walked away from Afghanistan to invade Iraq in 2003 — and we did so at the Three Amigos’ urging. Then, too, they promoted their strategy as a way of preventing another 9/11 — even though no one culpable for 9/11 was in Iraq. Now we’re being asked to pay for their mistake by squandering stretched American resources in yet another country where Al Qaeda has largely vanished.

To make the case, the Amigos and their fellow travelers conflate the Taliban with Al Qaeda much as they long conflated Saddam’s regime with Al Qaeda. But as Rajiv Chandrasekaran of The Washington Post reported on Thursday, American intelligence officials now say that “there are few, if any, links between Taliban commanders in Afghanistan today and senior Al Qaeda members” — a far cry from the tight Taliban-bin Laden alliance of 2001.

The rhetorical sleights of hand in the hawks’ arguments don’t end there. If you listen carefully to McCain and his neocon echo chamber, you’ll notice certain tics. President Obama better make his decision by tomorrow, or Armageddon (if not mushroom clouds) will arrive. We must “win” in Afghanistan — but victory is left vaguely defined. That’s because we will never build a functioning state in a country where there has never been one. Nor can we score a victory against the world’s dispersed, stateless terrorists by getting bogged down in a hellish landscape that contains few of them.

Most tellingly, perhaps, those clamoring for an escalation in Afghanistan avoid mentioning the name of the country’s president, Hamid Karzai, or the fraud-filled August election that conclusively delegitimized his government. To do so would require explaining why America should place its troops in alliance with a corrupt partner knee-deep in the narcotics trade. As long as Karzai and the election are airbrushed out of history, it can be disingenuously argued that nothing has changed on the ground since Obama’s inauguration and that he has no right to revise his earlier judgment that Afghanistan is a “war of necessity.”

Those demanding more combat troops for Afghanistan also avoid defining the real costs. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the war was running $2.6 billion a month in Pentagon expenses alone even before Obama added 20,000 troops this year. Surely fiscal conservatives like McCain and Graham who rant about deficits being “generational theft” have an obligation to explain what the added bill will be on an Afghanistan escalation and where the additional money will come from. But that would require them to use the dread words “sacrifice” and “higher taxes” when they want us to believe that this war, like Iraq, would be cost-free.

The real troop numbers are similarly elusive. Pre-emptively railing against the prospect of “half measures” by Obama, Lieberman asked MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell rhetorically last week whether it would be “real counterinsurgency” or “counterinsurgency light.” But the measure Lieberman endorses — Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s reported recommendation of 40,000 additional troops — is itself counterinsurgency light. In his definitive recent field manual on the subject, Gen. David Petraeus stipulates that real counterinsurgency requires 20 to 25 troops for each thousand residents. That comes out, conservatively, to 640,000 troops for Afghanistan (population, 32 million). Some 535,000 American troops couldn’t achieve a successful counterinsurgency in South Vietnam, which had half Afghanistan’s population and just over a quarter of its land area.

Lieberman suggested to Mitchell that we could train an enhanced, centralized Afghan army to fill any gaps. In how many decades? The existing Afghan “army” is small, illiterate, impoverished and as factionalized as the government. For his part, McCain likes to justify McChrystal’s number of 40,000 by imbuing it with the supposedly magical powers of the “surge” in Iraq. But it’s rewriting history to say that the “surge” brought “victory” to Iraq. What it did was stanch the catastrophic bleeding in an unnecessary war McCain had helped gin up. Lest anyone forget, we still don’t know who has “won” in Iraq.

Afghanistan is not Iraq. It is poorer, even larger and more populous, more fragmented and less historically susceptible to foreign intervention. Even if the countries were interchangeable, the wars are not. No one-size surge fits all. President Bush sent the additional troops to Iraq only after Sunni leaders in Anbar Province soured on Al Qaeda and reached out for American support. There is no equivalent “Anbar Awakening” in Afghanistan. Most Afghans “don’t feel threatened by the Taliban in their daily lives” and “aren’t asking for American protection,” reported Richard Engel of NBC News last week. After eight years of war, many see Americans as occupiers.

Americans, meanwhile, want to see the fine print after eight years of fiasco with little accounting. While McCain and company remain frozen where they were in 2001, many of their fellow citizens have learned from the Iraq tragedy. Polls persistently find that the country is skeptical about what should and can be accomplished in Afghanistan. They voted for Obama not least because they wanted a new post-9/11 vision of national security, and they will not again be so easily bullied by the blustering hawks’ doomsday scenarios. That gives our deliberating president both the time and the political space to get this long war’s second act right.
25245  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unfgbelievable on: October 11, 2009, 07:48:15 AM
http://www.jihadwatch.org/2009/10/dhs-slashes-funds-for-nyc-counterterror-funding.html
DHS slashes funds for NYC counterterror funding
After all, the war on terror is over, right? Najibullah Zazi? Pah! "Stunning: Despite Plot, NYC's Terror Funds Slashed," by Marcia Kramer for CBS, October 10 (thanks to Pamela):

NEW YORK (CBS) ― After facing one of the most serious terror threats since the 9-11 attacks, Department of Homeland Security officials are slashing a big chunk of anti-terror funding to New York City.

Local lawmakers say the cut could put American lives at risk.

Just weeks after Najibullah Zazi was nabbed in an al-Qaida terror plot to explode dirty bombs here, the feds have inexplicably slashed Big Apple terror funding designed to build a network of sensors to uncover nuclear or radioactive devices in a 50 miles radius of the city.

"To me this is beyond comprehension that less than a month after al-Qaida attempted an attack against New York City that you would have the Congress cutting the money that New York City needs to defend itself from a dirty bomb attack. It's absolutely mind-boggling," Rep. Peter King, R-Long Island, told CBS 2 HD on Thursday afternoon.

The city wanted $40 million to build the network at bridges, tunnels and other locations in the metropolitan area. Congress only earmarked $20 million for the program and then slipped NYC a doubly whammy -- the money is in a pot that other city's can apply for, so we may not even get the $20 million.

"This $20 million can be spread around like political pork the way other homeland security funds have been spread around the country," King said.

"This is a bad day for New York."...

And for all of us.
25246  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: October 11, 2009, 07:26:06 AM
A serious ten minute discussion in Spanish of the growing Iranian-Venezuelan nuclear connection.  Is Chavez trying to go nuclear?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb9N5RrXpHA&feature=player_embedded

Hat tip to our man in Venezuela who first posted this on the Islamo Fascismo thread on the Spanish language forum.

25247  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Islamo-fascismo en Latino America on: October 11, 2009, 07:14:06 AM
 shocked shocked shocked
25248  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Estudio: Doble Matanza en DF metro on: October 11, 2009, 07:02:01 AM
Excelentes comentarios -- por ser honestos y por ser pensados.

Yo quisiera ofrecer un concepto mas a la platica aqui:  lo de la importancia de entrenarnos de siempre identificar si hay armos o no.  Se han hecho muchos estudios con policia y se ve en muchos clips de youtube que aun cuando el cuchillo (o la pistola) esta' en plena vista en la mano del Malo que El Bueno so se fija en ello.
25249  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: October 11, 2009, 06:52:39 AM
Do I see you in there Kaju Dog?
25250  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA DVD: "The Bolo Game" on: October 11, 2009, 06:47:50 AM
And I am proud of the good use to which you have put our time together.
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