Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: January 31, 2008, 07:42:27 AM
"He was too New York, too Italian, and he had too many wives."
DOROTHY KALIADES, of Queens, on the problems with Rudolph W. Giuliani’s presidential quest.
Looks like McCain is going to be endorsed by our Dem in Rep clothing governor too , , ,
Hillary's Smear Campaign
By MICHAEL ZELDIN
January 31, 2008; Page A17
Beginning with the South Carolina debate, and continuing as an applause line in many stump speeches thereafter, Hillary Clinton has accused Barack Obama of representing an inner-city slum lord while practicing law in Chicago. Of all people, Sen. Clinton should know better.
During the Whitewater investigation, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr investigated the legal work performed by Mrs. Clinton, then a partner in the Rose law firm, on behalf of Jim McDougal and his bank, Madison Guaranty. Mr. Starr believed that Mrs. Clinton helped orchestrate the fraudulent land deal known as Castle Grande. He subpoenaed her billing records, hauled her before a grand jury, and relentlessly pursued her.
In her defense, Mrs. Clinton and her attorneys asserted that her involvement in the matter was de minimus. As one of independent counsels who preceded Mr. Starr, I was interviewed repeatedly on the subject. I wholeheartedly defended Mrs. Clinton.
I believed that the evidence revealed that Mrs. Clinton, who spent a total of only 60 hours of work on the case over a 15-month period, was not substantially involved in the matter and did nothing improper in her work on behalf of Madison Guaranty. In the end, no charges were brought against Mrs. Clinton because there was insufficient evidence to prove that she knowingly assisted anyone in the perpetration of a fraud.
Yet, when an opportunity presented itself in the debate, Mrs. Clinton, without so much as a blink of an eye or the slightest blush, denounced Sen. Obama for representing "Tony Rezko in his slum landlord business in inner-city Chicago." Her accusation invites scrutiny. Not so much for the truth of the accusation (the facts are quite straightforward and completely benign) but as a window into Mrs. Clinton's character and as a lens with which to see whether a Clinton presidency will be a vehicle for change.
The facts are well documented: Upon graduation from Harvard Law School in 1991, Mr. Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law review, could have named his job at any law firm or corporate legal department in America. Instead, he selected a boutique civil rights law firm, Miner Barnhill & Galland, where he represented community organizers, discrimination victims and black voters trying to force a redrawing of city ward boundaries.
During his tenure at Miner Barnhill, the firm accepted the representation of the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp., a nonprofit group that redeveloped a run-down property on Chicago's South Side. Mr. Rezko, not the client of the firm, was assisting Woodland with City housing redevelopment projects. As a junior associate, Mr. Obama was asked by his supervising attorney, William Miceli, to do about five hours of basic due diligence and document review. That began and ended his involvement in the case.
No one who has ever practiced law, let alone Mrs. Clinton, could argue, with a clear conscience, that these five hours on behalf of a church group that partnered with a man who at a later point in time would be alleged to be a scoundrel equated to knowingly representing a Chicago slumlord. Yet she could not resist leveling the accusation.
I suggest that this provides a window into Mrs. Clinton's character because notwithstanding the enormous suffering she had to endure when accused of wrongful conduct in her representation of Madison Guaranty -- a representation that appears to have been no more than a routine business transaction -- she is willing to behave no differently than did her Whitewater accusers if she can gain politically. She appears to have learned no lessons from the Starr investigation.
Mrs. Clinton's willingness to ignore the truth for short-term political advantage is exactly what breeds the partisanship that's paralyzed Washington for too many years, and the cynicism felt by so many Americans, especially the young. Getting ahead by any means possible is the strategy. Once elected, the candidate falsely believes that he or she will be able to set things right and govern differently. All that was said in the campaign is rationalized -- it will be forgiven and forgotten as part of the hyperbole of the election process.
Sadly, it just isn't so. No one forgets and no one forgives in Washington. (Ask John Kerry if he has gotten over the Swift boat smear campaign.) How you get elected defines who you will be once in power. Mrs. Clinton has shown us with this one simple, baseless accusation why it will be hard for her candidacy to represent a change. She appears too comfortable with the politics of personal destruction if she can gain a political advantage.
Mr. Zeldin is a former independent counsel and federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C. He has volunteered for Barack Obama in the Democratic primary campaign.
What McCain's Got
January 31, 2008; Page A16
In a time of Republican confusion, Sen. John McCain, reviled as an unreliable maverick, has won three GOP primaries. Florida showed why he's winning.
In the age of modern media, it is possible for anyone with access to Google to learn almost everything there is to know about a presidential campaign -- polls, strategies, stump speeches, background papers, bottomless punditry. What more does one need to know? If the day comes that campaigns are run only with Web videos, that is indeed all you'll need to know. But they're not. They are still worked town by town, from diners to bagel shops and in places like Sun City, Fla., where several hundred retirees gathered Saturday to hear John McCain.
John McCain beat Mitt Romney by 5.5 points in New Hampshire and by five again in Florida. Three months ago, Mr. McCain was a 10% cipher in Florida, with no organization and no donors. This week one saw why John McCain is basically five points better than Mitt Romney, or Rudy Giuliani, at the most fundamental job in politics -- connecting.
When Mr. McCain took the stage in Sun City, the applause was polite. When he finished, he got a standing ovation. He has been at this game a long time, and his ability to sense and ride the emotional flow of an audience is astonishing.
It discomfits some, including me, that Mr. McCain seems like a live, capped volcano. But in front of an audience like this, and before a younger group two days later at the Tampa Convention Center, he stood with that tight, little upper body of coiled electricity and plugged his message of honor, commitment and threat straight into the guts of his listeners.
Rudy Giuliani's antiterror message has been strong and credible, but it was almost an abstraction compared to the meat and potatoes of the McCain presentation.
He asks veterans to stand. About 70 men rise, to great applause. He's talking about the "transcendent threat of radical Islamic extremism" and from there to homicidal doctors in Scotland and arrests in Germany. "Al Qaeda is on the run, but they're not defeated!" He wraps himself, justifiably, in the "Petraeus" surge. And then, "My friends, doesn't the president deserve credit that there hasn't been another attack on the U.S.?" They are going nuts. It wasn't demagogic. He does it with tone and timing. You can almost see his eyes calibrating.
Retail politics still matter, and in an era of terror, war and loss of national self-esteem, John McCain is a retail politics powerhouse.
Some strengths and weaknesses emerged in the Sun City Q&A. The first question was about "our borders," and Mr. McCain brought down the house with, "Thank you, sir, and this meeting is over." The volcano then gets into a gratuitously testy exchange with an anti-immigrant speaker who was already being hooted by the audience. On Social Security, he reverted to the Greenspan Commission. That was back in 1982, and it produced a tax increase.
Mr. McCain is hapless on economics. The answer to why he nonetheless beat Mr. Romney by eight points with economic voters is in large part his effective denunciations of the Bush-GOP spending surge in the first veto-less term. There's nothing "maverick" about that. That spending is the main thing that drove the GOP base into its famous funk.
If Mitt Romney were capable of sadness, he should be depressed. He's very good. That famous, equivocal stiff on the debate stage isn't the same person who pitched himself to about 150 people Monday on the tarmac at the Fort Myers airport. This was an almost nothing stop, but he acted as if it were the first week of the campaign. He came across as energetic, alive, young, smart, informed and ready to work his tail off to "fix Washington." (His remark that Mr. McCain "will say anything to get elected" did have a few reporters exchanging glances.) He spent a long time after the speech immersed in the audience, chatting. He didn't have to do that. He may be unnaturally smooth, but Mitt's a heavy-hitter.
So why is he losing? McCain endorsements by Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez mattered in Florida. But an aide explained after the speech that in New Hampshire and Michigan they watched Mr. McCain rise almost in sync with Rudy's sudden decline. Indeed, the Romney candidacy may ultimately fall victim to the catastrophic Giuliani all-Florida decision.
Tuesday night, at the Giuliani wake in the Portofino Hotel in Orlando, a high official with the campaign said their internal polls had Rudy as the "preferred" candidate for many voters. But naturally, he said, most voters don't want to cast a likely losing vote. It is enraging some conservatives that marginally more of these Giuliani votes are migrating to John McCain. Mitt needed Rudy in the race.
Rudy just doesn't have McCain's national campaign skills, or desire. He arrived at the Fort Myers tarmac in the afternoon after Mitt Romney (Mitt was early, Rudy late). Gave a terrific stump speech -- terror, tax cuts, even threw in the Everglades. Rudy Giuliani didn't have supporters; he had fans. This clutch of fans was separated from him by a red felt rope, as you would see outside clubs in New York.
After the speech, he stepped off the small stage, took off his suit jacket, folded it for an aide and then, staying on his side of the rope with Judith, attached to him like Cling Wrap, he autographed "Rudy Country" signs. And never said a single word. Not a word, save one guy who forced a conversation. All they got from Rudy was an autograph and a grin, which never fell from his face. It was weird.
This will ever be a mysterious candidacy. You can say there was Rudy baggage yet to fall, that the success of the Iraq surge flowed to John McCain, that the half-baked Driving Miss Judy stories hurt, that he was low on money.
Still. He could have competed for a second or third in New Hampshire. Instead he decamped and settled for humiliation, finishing behind a Mike Huckabee whose public life is a dot compared to the Giuliani legacy in New York City. Rudy ran on that legacy, and one suspects came to realize New York was the peak. Running for president requires fire in the belly. But you have to show it on both sides of the velvet rope.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Big catch up post
on: January 31, 2008, 07:16:37 AM
Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among
the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of
their rights and liberties, and as these depend on spreading the
opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of
the country, and among the different orders of people, it shall be
the duty of legislators and magistrates... to cherish the interest
of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them."
-- John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776)
Reference: The Works of John Adams, Charles Adams, ed., 259.
“To judge from the history of mankind, we shall be compelled to conclude that... to model our political systems upon speculations of lasting tranquility would be to calculate on the weaker springs of human character.” —Alexander Hamilton
“In politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.” —Alexander Hamilton
"The prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by
all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the
most productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly
become a primary object of its political cares."
-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 12, 27 November 1787)
Reference: Hamilton, Federalist No. 12.
Would it not be better to simplify the system of taxation rather than to spread it over such a variety of subjects and pass through so many new hands.” —Thomas Jefferson
"The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of
all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form
of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of
power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human
heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position."
-- George Washington (Farewell Address, 19 September 1796)
Reference: George Washington: A Collection, W.B. Allen, ed. (521)
"The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time;
the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them."
-- Thomas Jefferson (Summary View of the Rights of British America,
Reference: Jefferson: Writings, Peterson ed., Library of America
"No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible
hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People
of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced
to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been
distinguished by some token of providential agency."
-- George Washington (First Inaugural Address, 30 April 1789)
Reference: resp. quoted
“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” —George Washington
"It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have
refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the
object, is only a trick of war; the cunning of the fox is as
murderous as the violence of the wolf."
-- Thomas Paine (The American Crisis, No. 1, 19 December 1776)
Reference: Thomas Paine: Collected Writings , Foner ed., Library
of America (97)
"There is no part of the administration of government that requires
extensive information and a thorough knowledge of the principles
of political economy, so much as the business of taxation. The
man who understands those principles best will be least likely
to resort to oppressive expedients, or sacrifice any particular
class of citizens to the procurement of revenue. It might be
demonstrated that the most productive system of finance will
always be the least burdensome."
-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 35, 1788)
Reference: The Federalist
- ur Commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand: neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of Commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with Powers so disposed; in order to give trade a stable course.” —George Washington
"It is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities
which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the
history of our country."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Hugh P. Taylor, 4 October 1823)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: January 31, 2008, 12:19:08 AM
Muslim opening prayer at Iowa Statehouse raises concerns
By: Erin Ballou, Pilot Tribune Staff January 24, 2008
The Iowa Legislature started just over a week ago and some people were upset before the first issue was every addressed.
When the session began, a Muslim Imam began the prayer in the Iowa Legislature. This is where the controversy begins.
The prayer asked of "Victory over those who disbelieve," and "Protection from the great Satan" among other things.
Pastor Steve Smith of the Evangelical Free Church in Albert City is among those concerned about the Muslim prayer. Rev. Smith admits that he doesn't know about all the levels of Muslim but knows that the Jihadists believe those in the U.S. are the great Satan.
Rev. Smith also wants to point out the mention of "victory over those who disbelieve." He feels "this is a request in the Iowa Legislature for God to grant the Muslims victory over every non-muslim. Not a request for salvation." Smith takes it as a gesture not of prayer but more as a political statement, especially with the wars that have been going on in the Middle East.
"I'm not concerned about a Muslim Imam opening the Legislature in prayer but it concerns me with the statements that were made. He interpreted this prayer from his understanding of Islam."
Here is the text of the opening prayer, as transcribed by Radio Iowa:
Imam Muhammad Khan of the Islamic Center of Des Moines spoke first in Arabic.
"I seek refuge in God against the accursed Satan in the name of God, most gracious, most merciful," Khan said in English. Khan made no specific mention of the war in Iraq or foreign affairs, but he called God the "master of the day of judgment" and asked for "victory over those who disbelieve."
"As we begin this new year...in a world with trials and tribulations, we ask you to open the hearts of our legislators and policy makers to make the right decisions for the people of Iowa," Khan said. "...We ask that you guide our legislators and give them the wisdom and knowledge to tackle the difficult problems that face us today in order to eliminate the senseless crimes on humanity. Help them, Lord, to solve the complicated problems in the State of Iowa so that we can be a model to the world."
Khan's prayer lasted about four minutes and he closed with a few words for legislators.
"On behalf of the Muslim community of Des Moines and Iowa, I wish you all the success in this year for making the right decisions for us," Khan said. Khan was the guest of State Representative Ako Abdul Samad of Des Moines, who is also a local Muslim leader.
Rev. Smith has urged others who may be concerned to contact their representative.
When asked about the prayer, Senator Steve Kettering replied in an e-mail that he had not heard the prayer, which did not take place in the Senate chambers.
"I cannot tell you what was said. I have received e-mail regarding this, but since it did not occur on the Senate side I do not have much information," Kettering said. " I should point out that the senate had a Catholic priest for their opening."
Representative Gary Worthan of Storm Lake said that he agrees with the concern being shown over the Muslim prayer.
He said that he has registered his concerns with the proper authorities.
As the father of two sons who have fought terrorism in the military, Worthan said the phrases mentioned earlier also jumped out at him and he said he shares concern for the same reasons as the constituents he is hearing from.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Gay & Straight
on: January 31, 2008, 12:11:47 AM
UK - Teachers not to assume children have hetero parents
Don't say mum and dad... teachers told not to assume pupils have heterosexual parents
By LAURA CLARK - More by this author » Last updated at 10:48am on 30th January 2008
Teachers should not assume that their pupils have a "mum and dad" under guidance aimed at tackling anti-gay bullying in schools.
It says primary pupils as young as four should be familiarised with the idea of same-sex couples to help combat homophobic attitudes.
Teachers should attempt to avoid assumptions that pupils will have a conventional family background, it urges.
It goes on to suggest the word "parents" may be more appropriate than "mum and dad", particularly in letters and emails to the child's home.
When discussing marriage with secondary pupils, teachers should also educate pupils about civil partnerships and gay adoption rights.
The guidance - produced for the Government by gay rights group Stonewall - will be formally launched today by Schools Secretary Ed Balls.
It states that children who call classmates "gay" should be treated the same as racists as part of a "zero tolerance" crackdown on the use of the word as an insult.
Teachers should avoid telling boys to "be a man" or accuse them of behaving like a "bunch of women".
This sort of rebuke "leads to bullying of those who do not conform to fixed ideas about gender", the guidance states.
At the same time, schools should encourage gay role models among staff, parents and governors. Homosexual staff should be able to discuss their private lives after the consultation with the head teacher.
In advice to gay staff, it states: "School culture and ethos determines how open staff are about their private lives, and you should therefore seek advice and guidance from your head."
The Department for Children, Schools and Families commissioned Stonewall to write the guidance jointly with lobby group Education Action Challenging Homophobia.
It says that pupils aged four to seven should "understand that not all pupils have a mum and a dad" and learn about different family structures. Advice to teachers of 11 to 14-year-olds states: "Schools should make efforts to talk inclusively about same-sex parents, for example, avoid assuming all pupils will have a "mum and dad". "When schools discuss marriage, they may also discuss civil partnership and adoption rights for gay people."
In a section on engaging with parents, it asks schools: "Do you talk about 'parents' instead of assuming all pupils have 'mum or a dad'?" The advice goes on to urge teachers to challenge every derogatory use of the word gay to avert homophobic attitudes. Examples include "those trainers are so gay", "that pencil case is so gay" or "you're such a gay boy".
One primary teacher quoted in the guidance said: "We hear 'gay' as a term of abuse every single day. The children may not know exactly what it means, but they know they are using it as an insult. That's why we need to tackle it at this stage."
Controversy over the semantics of the word erupted two years ago when the BBC ruled that Radio One DJ Chris Moyles was not being offensive to homosexuals by using the word "gay" to mean "rubbish". The advice says: "It is important for all staff to challenge pupils, explaining the consequences of using 'gay' in a derogatory way.
"It might be time-consuming at first, but a consistent 'zero-tolerance' approach to such language is central to achieving progress and an environment in which being gay is not thought of as being inferior."
It adds: "Schools need to make it clear to pupils that homophobic comments are as serious as racist comments, and homophobic incidents are as serious as other forms of bullying."
Teachers should use every curriculum subject to nip discriminatory attitudes in the bud. English lessons for teenagers, for example, could focus on the emotions of the gay Italian soldier Carlo in Captain Corelli's Mandolin. The guidance is being published five years after the repeal of Section 28 - the law which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools.
Ministers promised the move would make no difference to the teaching of homosexual matters but some critics have claimed the gay lobby is having a growing influence on pupils. Next month is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month, where pupils learn about apparently gay figures from history including Leonardo da Vinci, Oscar Wilde and James Dean.
Mr Balls, who will launch the anti-bullying guidance at a Stonewall conference today, said: "I am proud the Government and the department are being robust about this. "It is our view that every school should have a clear policy on tackling all forms of bullying, including homophobic bullying."http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...n_page_id=1770
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: January 30, 2008, 08:08:00 AM
This from the NY Slimes, which often butted heads with Rudy when he was mayor. Definitely caveat lector!
Perhaps he was living an illusion all along.
Rudolph W. Giuliani’s campaign for the Republican nomination for president took impressive wing last year, as the former mayor wove the pain experienced by his city on Sept. 11, 2001, and his leadership that followed into national celebrity. Like a best-selling author, he basked in praise for his narrative and issued ominous and often-repeated warnings about the terrorist strike next time.
Voters seemed to embrace a man so comfortable wielding power, and his poll numbers edged higher to where he held a broad lead over his opponents last summer. Just three months ago, Anthony V. Carbonetti, Mr. Giuliani’s affable senior policy adviser, surveyed that field and told The New York Observer: “I don’t believe this can be taken from us. Now that I have that locked up, I can go do battle elsewhere.”
In fact, Mr. Giuliani’s campaign was about to begin a free fall so precipitous as to be breathtaking. Mr. Giuliani finished third in the Florida primary on Tuesday night; only a few months earlier, he had talked about the state as his leaping-off point to winning the nomination.
As Mr. Giuliani ponders his political mortality, many advisers and political observers point to the hubris and strategic miscalculations that plagued his campaign. He allowed a tight coterie of New York aides, none with national political experience, to run much of his campaign.
He accumulated a fat war chest — he had $16.6 million on hand at the end of September, more than Mitt Romney ($9.5 million) or Senator John McCain ($3.2 million) — but spent vast sums on direct mail instead of building strong organizations on the ground in South Carolina and New Hampshire.
Indeed, his fourth-place finish in New Hampshire, a state where he was once considered competitive, provided an early indication of his vulnerability.
And, curiously, this man with the pugnacious past declined to toss more than light punches at his Republican opponents.
In interviews Tuesday, even before he gave a concession speech in which he spoke of his campaign in the past tense, Mr. Giuliani described his strategic mistakes, suggesting that his opponents had built up too much momentum in earlier primaries. But this is a rhetorical sleight of hand; he in fact competed hard in New Hampshire, to remarkably poor effect.
Perhaps a simpler dynamic was at work: The more that Republican voters saw of him, the less they wanted to vote for him.
Mr. Giuliani was a temple-throbbing Italian-American New Yorker who ruled a cacophonous city seen as the very definition of liberalism. He was somewhat liberal on social issues — notably immigration and abortion — where Republican candidates are invariably conservative. And he possessed a complicated family life: he has been thrice-married and has two adult children who rarely speak to him. At the beginning of his campaign last spring, he sat for a celebrity photo shoot smooching with his third wife, who snuggled in his lap.
“It bordered on science fiction to think that someone as liberal on as many issues as Rudy Giuliani could become the Republican nominee,” said Nelson Warfield, a Republican consultant who has been a longtime critic of the former mayor. “Rudy didn’t even care enough about conservatives to lie to us. The problem wasn’t the calendar; it was the candidate.”
Several of Mr. Giuliani’s campaign aides acknowledged as much Tuesday. They say he tried to tack right without ever really convincing voters that he had experienced a change of heart. And an adviser who has known Mr. Giuliani since the early 1990s and spoke on condition of anonymity said the mayor’s early poll numbers struck him as ephemeral.
“His numbers were built on name recognition and celebrity,” this adviser said. “He had so many of his old friends around him, sometimes it was like he was running for president of Staten Island.”
In his concession speech Mr. Giuliani acknowledged, jokingly, how out of place he often seemed among conservative Republicans. “We’re a big party and we’re getting bigger,” he said. “I’m even in this party.”
After his third-place finish, Republican officials said Mr. Giuliani was expected to drop out of the race and endorse Mr. McCain, possibly as early as Wednesday.
In the beginning, few cracks were evident in the Giuliani campaign machine. He led the Republican field in polls conducted by The New York Times and CBS News throughout the summer, as his support peaked in August at 38 percent nationally in a four-way fight with Mr. McCain, Mr. Romney and Fred D. Thompson. That put him 20 points ahead of his next closest competitor, Mr. Thompson, who has since dropped out of the race.
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Mr. Giuliani often played to large crowds in New Hampshire and through the Deep South; everyone seemed to love his tough talk on terrorism. When Mr. McCain’s campaign nearly flat-lined last summer, as he ran low on money, Mr. Giuliani seemed poised to take advantage.
No candidate last summer sent out as many direct-mail appeals in New Hampshire as Mr. Giuliani. Last fall, the campaign also broadcast its first television commercials there, ultimately spending more than $3 million on advertisements, and dispatched Mr. Giuliani there for lots of retail campaigning in a state where voters tend to worry more about taxes and the military than conservative social issues. And he seemed at peace with this choice.
“It is not inconceivable that you could, if you won Florida, turn the whole thing around,” Mr. Giuliani told The Washington Post in late November on a bus trip through New Hampshire. “I’d rather not do it that way. That would create ulcers for my entire staff and for me.”
But Mr. Giuliani’s campaign was stumbling, even if it was not immediately evident. He leaned on friendly executives who would let him speak to employees in company cafeterias. Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain, by contrast, compiled lists of undecided Republican voters and invited them — sometimes weeks in advance — to town-hall-style meetings.
“Rudy Giuliani had a tremendous opportunity in New Hampshire that his campaign never embraced,” said Fergus Cullen, the state Republican chairman. “They vacillated between being half committed and three-quarters committed, and that doesn’t work up here.”
Mr. Giuliani also relied on a New York-style approach to photo-friendly crowds. “Rudy went very heavy on Potemkin Village stops, working what I call ‘hostage audiences,’ “ Mr. Cullen said. “It looked like he was campaigning, but he didn’t know who he was talking to.”
A curious new vulnerability also arose. As mayor, Mr. Giuliani took much joy in crawling through the weeds of policy debate, flashing his issue mastery. But as a presidential candidate, he as often seemed ill at ease.
Mr. Giuliani once embraced gun control, gay rights and abortion rights; he knew that all of these issues would be a tough sell to Republicans. While he never shifted positions as sharply as Mr. Romney — who renounced his former support of abortion and gay rights — he as often occupied a muddled middle ground that pleased no one.
This became most evident in the first Republican debate. Asked about repealing Roe v. Wade, he was equivocal. “It would be O.K. to repeal,” he said. “Or it would be O.K. also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent, and I think a judge has to make that decision.”
Later, he said that the decision on abortion should be left to women — but that he would appoint strict constructionist judges of the type who had favored overturning Roe v. Wade.
“Give him credit — he sort of stuck to his positions,” Mr. Warfield said. “It made him a man of principle, but it won’t make him the Republican nominee.”
Storm clouds swept over the Giuliani campaign in October and November. A federal prosecutor indicted his friend and former police commissioner, Bernard B. Kerik. And a report indicated that Mr. Giuliani had spent city money to visit his girlfriend, now his wife, in the Hamptons; the police also provided some security for his new love.
Cause and effect is difficult to chart in a presidential campaign. Mr. Giuliani’s poll numbers did not fall off the table, but the news gave newly wary voters another reason to reconsider him.
By late fall, Mr. Giuliani’s poll numbers were fading in New Hampshire, and he trailed Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain. He began a curious two-step, saying he would compete in but probably not win in New Hampshire.
Weeks earlier, he had executed a similar tactical retreat in South Carolina — he and his campaign strategist, Mike DuHaime, said that they hoped voters would cast ballots for him, but that they did not necessarily expect to win the state.
That was a tough pitch in states where voters pride themselves on being taken seriously by candidates.
“DuHaime comes out and says it’s all about delegates, rather than winning the state,” Mr. Cullen said. “It was amazing. It was the talk of every Dunkin’ Donuts and rotary club.”
By late December, Mr. Giuliani made a fateful decision. He formally abandoned plans to run hard in and perhaps win New Hampshire or Michigan. Instead, he made sporadic appearances in those states and retreated to Florida, where he would make something of a final stand.
This was a deeply controversial move; no one had won an election by essentially skipping the first four or five caucuses and primaries. With this decision, he consigned himself to the media shadows during weeks of intensive coverage. But Mr. DuHaime, who had run President Bush’s effort in the Northeast in a past election, signed off on it, as did Mr. Giuliani’s other top campaign aides.
In the end, Mr. Giuliani and his advisers treated supporters as if they were so many serried lines of troops. If they tell a pollster in November that they are going to vote for you, this indicates they are forever in your camp, their thinking went.
But politics does not march to a military beat; it is a business of shifting loyalties. By Tuesday night, even those voters who rated terrorism as the most important issue were as likely to vote for Mr. Romney or Mr. McCain as for Mr. Giuliani. And those who had voted early for Mr. Giuliani now felt a sense of irrelevance.
“I’ve already voted; I voted for Mr. Giuliani,” David Brown, 70, said in Sun City Center, Fla. “I wish I’d voted for Mr. Romney.”
So Mr. Giuliani confronts the hardest of choices, as he finished far behind two other candidates in a state he had vowed to win. Some of his former aides, particularly those who hail from his days at City Hall, have urged him to slog on to New York, New Jersey and California on Feb. 5.
But there, too, the ground is shifting. Only weeks ago, Mr. DuHaime spoke in a call about the former mayor’s strong lead in those states. “Some of these leads are momentum-proof at this point,” he said.
Mr. Giuliani now trails or is at best tied in polls in all of those states. And soon after that phone call, reporters received a memorable e-mail rebuttal from Mr. Romney’s spokesman, Kevin Madden.
“Mayor Giuliani’s momentum-proof national polling lead, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny all walk into a bar,” it began. “You’re right. None of them exist.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters
on: January 29, 2008, 01:38:59 PM
GREAT post Doug!
In a closely related vein:
Iran to US and Europe: If you support Israel, we'll kill you
And seize your property.
But remember: their nuke program is peaceful!
"Kayhan Editor Close To Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei: 'America and Its European Supporters Must Know... That the Price of Supporting [Israel] Will Cost Them the Property and Lives of Their Citizens... If the Heads of Some Islamic States Prevent the Muslim Peoples from Attacking the Zionists... They Can Be Toppled,'" from MEMRI (thanks to Sr. Soph):
In a January 26 op-ed in the Iranian daily Kayhan, the paper's editor, Hossein Shariatmadari, who is close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, called on Muslims to unite in a retaliatory attack on American, European, and Israeli "sensitive centers" because of "the war crimes that these countries are committing in the Gaza Strip" and because of their support for Israel. In his op-ed, Shar'iatmadari stressed that American and European civilians must be harmed in these attacks, so as to make the U.S. and the European countries change their policy towards Israel. He further called for harming Israelis worldwide, and explained that Islamic regimes that prevent an Islamic attack on Israel must be toppled, because they are defending the enemy.
Following are excerpts from Sharatmadari's op-ed, which was titled "The Defenders of the Enemy"1)
"America and its European and Zionist supporters must know that their support for Israel's crimes will cost them very dearly. Once they discern that this support will cost them the property and lives of their citizens, they will doubtless reconsider their support for the savage Zionists... And didn't the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] teach that if every Muslim pours out one bucket of water, there will be a flood that will sweep away Israel, and destroy it?
"Every time a movement rises up against the Zionist occupier and acts to liberate its homeland, America and its allies accuse it of terrorism, and every state that supports these movements is punished. Why wouldn't the Muslims act the same way, and attack all the supporters of the Zionists everywhere in the world?
"The prevalent legal doctrine in both the Shi'ite school and the Sunni school is that it is permissible to attack anyone whom the enemy uses as a shield in the war against the enemies of Islam. Therefore, if some heads of Islamic states prevent the Muslim peoples from attacking the Zionists – thus constituting a shield that prevents support to the persecuted people of that region – it permissible to topple these defenders of the enemy."
Posted by Robert at January 28, 2008 6:03 AM
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF
on: January 28, 2008, 04:15:00 PM
While walking down the street one day a US senator is hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.
'Welcome to heaven,' says St. Peter. 'Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you.'
'No problem, just let me in,' says the man.
'Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.'
'Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,' says the senator.
'I'm sorry, but we have our rules.'
And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.
Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.
Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go.
Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises...
The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St Peter is waiting for him.
'Now it's time to visit heaven.'
So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.
'Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.'
The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: 'Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.'
So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.
Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above. The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.
'I don't understand,' stammers the senator. 'Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?'
The devil looks at him, smiles and says, 'Yesterday we were campaigning...... Today you voted.'
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers:
on: January 28, 2008, 01:40:36 PM
"No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible
hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People
of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced
to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been
distinguished by some token of providential agency."
-- George Washington (First Inaugural Address, 30 April 1789)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Listening to the Enemy
on: January 28, 2008, 12:39:00 PM
Listening to the Enemy
By ROGER PILON
January 28, 2008; Page A15
Today the Senate takes up a bipartisan surveillance authorization measure that's already passed the Intelligence Committee. The clock is ticking. This Friday a temporary law called the Protect America Act will expire. If Congress does not act before then, the president's statutory power to prevent terrorist attacks will be seriously compromised.
This dangerous situation should never have arisen. From the beginning, presidents have exercised their Article II executive power to gather foreign intelligence -- in war and peace alike, without congressional or judicial intrusion. As our principal agent in foreign affairs, the president is constitutionally bound to protect the nation. For that, intelligence is essential.
Intelligence is essential on the domestic side as well, where law enforcement is the president's main function. Yet not until 1967 did the Supreme Court require warrants for electronic surveillance. Congress codified that a year later. But both the court and Congress expressly exempted foreign-intelligence gathering from the warrant requirement.
Unfortunately, the exception was not to last. Following the Vietnam War, Congress increasingly inserted itself into foreign affairs, as with the 1973 War Powers Act. With the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, passed in 1978, Congress began micromanaging foreign intelligence gathering. That produced the "wall" between foreign and domestic intelligence gathering -- with foreign-intelligence agents focused on security, and domestic agents on prosecution and hence on obtaining "admissible" evidence. Neither side talked to the other. Many believe the resulting communications failures played a role in 9/11.
In the aftermath of 9/11, believing FISA to be hopelessly inadequate, President Bush instituted his terrorist surveillance program (TSP) -- but not before advising key members of Congress. Nevertheless, a firestorm ensued when the New York Times made the program public in December 2005. The controversy continued until January 2007, when the White House announced that henceforth it would gather intelligence under FISA's antiquated restrictions.
Cooler heads in Congress grew concerned after Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell testified in July that "we're actually missing a significant portion of [the intelligence] we should be getting." That led to last August's six-month fix, which expires this week.
Obviously, this is no way to conduct the serious business of foreign intelligence. The ever-changing rules -- criminalizing transgressions -- leave officials playing it safe in a world of risks.
The Senate bill would be an improvement, not least because it provides retroactive liability protection for telecom companies that allegedly assisted the government after 9/11. But the deeper problem is the very idea of congressional micromanagement.
The Senate bill would require showing probable cause before targeting even U.S. persons abroad, dramatically increasing the role of the FISA court. As Judge Richard Posner wrote on this page two years ago, FISA may be valuable for monitoring communications of known terrorists, "but it is hopeless as a framework for detecting terrorists. It requires that surveillance be conducted pursuant to warrants based on probable cause to believe that the target of surveillance is a terrorist, when the desperate need is to find out who is a terrorist."
The technical impediments to legislating are even greater. We're long past alligator clips on copper wires. Today, electronic communication is broken into discrete packets that travel along independent routes before being reassembled. As K.A. Taipale, executive director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology Policy, has written, "even targeting a specific message from a known sender requires intercepting (i.e., scanning and filtering) the entire communication flow." Yet the Senate bill requires that intelligence analysts count the people in the U.S. whose communications were "reviewed," an all but impossible distraction for analysts already stretched.
Privacy concerns are not trivial. The Constitution protects against "unreasonable" searches. But even with law enforcement, where the main function is ex post prosecution, not ex ante protection, there are numerous exceptions to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement. Yet Congress insists still on micromanaging the president -- and he, by failing to assert his authority early on, is now reduced to bargaining with Congress over minutia that will soon be as obsolete and dangerous as the underlying act is today.
John Locke, no sometime civil libertarian, put it well when he observed that the foreign affairs power "is much less capable to be directed by antecedent, standing, positive Laws, than [by] the Executive." The Federalist's authors, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, all agreed. The remedy for executive incompetence or recklessness in foreign affairs is political -- not legislative, much less legal. Congress, to say nothing of the courts, can no more manage such affairs than it can the economy. What better evidence than these surveillance fits and starts?
Mr. Pilon holds the Cato Institute's B. Kenneth Simon Chair in Constitutional Studies.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: The Sky is not falling
on: January 28, 2008, 10:58:54 AM
Brain Wesbury has an outstanding track record as an economist. His predictions have an unusually high degree of accuracy.
The Economy Is Fine (Really)
By BRIAN WESBURY
January 28, 2008; Page A15
It is hard to imagine any time in history when such rampant pessimism about the economy has existed with so little evidence of serious trouble.
True, retail sales fell 0.4% in December and fourth-quarter real GDP probably grew at only a 1.5% annual rate. It is also true that in the past six months manufacturing production has been flat, new orders for durable goods have fallen at a 0.8% annual rate, and unemployment blipped up to 5%. Soft data for sure, but nowhere near the end of the world.
It is most likely that this recent weakness is a payback for previous strength. Real GDP surged at a 4.9% annual rate in the third quarter, while retail sales jumped 1.1% in November. A one-month drop in retail sales is not unusual. In each of the past five years, retail sales have reported at least three negative months. These declines are part of the normal volatility of the data, caused by wild swings in oil prices, seasonal adjustments, or weather. Over-reacting is a mistake.
A year ago, most economic data looked much worse than they do today. Industrial production fell 1.1% during the six months ending February 2007, while new orders for durable goods fell 3.9% at an annual rate during the six months ending in November 2006. Real GDP grew just 0.6% in the first quarter of 2007 and retail sales fell in January and again in April. But the economy came back and roared in the middle of the year -- real GDP expanded 4.4% at an annual rate between April and September.
With housing so weak, the recent softness in production and durable goods orders is understandable. But housing is now a small share of GDP (4.5%). And it has fallen so much already that it is highly unlikely to drive the economy into recession all by itself. Exports are 12% of the economy, and are growing at a 13.6% rate. The boom in exports is overwhelming the loss from housing.
Personal income is up 6.1% during the year ending in November, while small-business income accelerated in October and November, during the height of the credit crisis. In fact, after subtracting income taxes, rent, mortgages, car leases and loans, debt service on credit cards and property taxes, incomes rose 3.9% faster than inflation in the year through September. Commercial paper issuance is rising again, as are mortgage applications.
Some large companies outside of finance and home building are reporting lower profits, but the over-reaction to very spotty negative news is astounding. For example, Intel's earnings disappointed, creating a great deal of fear about technology. Lost in the pessimism is the fact that 20 out of 24 S&P 500 technology companies that have reported earnings so far have beaten Wall Street estimates.
Models based on recent monetary and tax policy suggest real GDP will grow at a 3% to 3.5% rate in 2008, while the probability of recession this year is 10%. This was true before recent rate cuts and stimulus packages. Now that the Fed has cut interest rates by 175 basis points, the odds of a huge surge in growth later in 2008 have grown. The biggest threat to the economy is still inflation, not recession.
Yet many believe that a recession has already begun because credit markets have seized up. This pessimistic view argues that losses from the subprime arena are the tip of the iceberg. An economic downturn, combined with a weakened financial system, will result in a perfect storm for the multi-trillion dollar derivatives market. It is feared that cascading problems with inter-connected counterparty risk, swaps and excessive leverage will cause the entire "house of cards," otherwise known as the U.S. financial system, to collapse. At a minimum, they fear credit will contract, causing a major economic slowdown.
For many, this catastrophic outlook brings back memories of the Great Depression, when bank failures begot more bank failures, money was scarce, credit was impossible to obtain, and economic problems spread like wildfire.
This outlook is both perplexing and worrisome. Perplexing, because it is hard to see how a campfire of a problem can spread to burn down the entire forest. What Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently estimated as a $100 billion loss on subprime loans would represent only 0.1% of the $100 trillion in combined assets of all U.S. households and U.S. non-farm, non-financial corporations. Even if losses ballooned to $300 billion, it would represent less than 0.3% of total U.S. assets.
Beneath every dollar of counterparty risk, and every swap, derivative, or leveraged loan, is a real economic asset. The only way credit troubles could spread to take down the entire system is if the economy completely fell apart. And that only happens when government policy goes wildly off track.
In the Great Depression, the Federal Reserve allowed the money supply to collapse by 25%, which caused a dangerous deflation. In turn, this deflation caused massive bank failures. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, Herbert Hoover's tax hike passed in 1932, and then FDR's alphabet soup of new agencies, regulations and anticapitalist government activity provided the coup de grace. No wonder thousands of banks failed and unemployment ballooned to 20%.
But in the U.S. today, the Federal Reserve is extremely accommodative. Not only is the federal funds rate well below the trend in nominal GDP growth, but real interest rates are low and getting lower. In addition, gold prices have almost quadrupled during the past six years, while the consumer price index rose more than 4% last year.
These monetary conditions are not conducive to a collapse of credit markets and financial institutions. Any financial institution that goes under does so because of its own mistakes, not because money was too tight. Trade protectionism has not become a reality, and while tax hikes have been proposed, Congress has been unable to push one through.
Which brings up an interesting thought: If the U.S. financial system is really as fragile as many people say, why should we go to such lengths to save it? If a $100 billion, or even $300 billion, loss in the subprime loan world can cause the entire system to collapse, maybe we should be working hard to build a better system that is stronger and more reliable.
Pumping massive amounts of liquidity into the economy and pumping up government spending by giving money away through rebates may create more problems than it helps to solve. Kicking the can down the road is not a positive policy.
The irony is almost too much to take. Yesterday everyone was worried about excessive consumer spending, a lack of saving, exploding debt levels, and federal budget deficits. Today, our government is doing just about everything in its power to help consumers borrow more at low rates, while it is running up the budget deficit to get people to spend more. This is the tyranny of the urgent in an election year and it's the development that investors should really worry about. It reads just like the 1970s.
The good news is that the U.S. financial system is not as fragile as many pundits suggest. Nor is the economy showing anything other than normal signs of stress. Assuming a 1.5% annualized growth rate in the fourth quarter, real GDP will have grown by 2.8% in the year ending in December 2007 and 3.2% in the second half during the height of the so-called credit crunch. Initial unemployment claims, a very consistent canary in the coal mine for recessions, are nowhere near a level of concern.
Because all debt rests on a foundation of real economic activity, and the real economy is still resilient, the current red alert about a crashing house of cards looks like another false alarm. Warren Buffett, Wilbur Ross and Bank of America are buying, and there is still $1.1 trillion in corporate cash on the books. The bench of potential buyers on the sidelines is deep and strong. Dow 15,000 looks much more likely than Dow 10,000. Keep the faith and stay invested. It's a wonderful buying opportunity.
Mr. Wesbury is chief economist for First Trust Portfolios, L.P.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: January 28, 2008, 10:43:33 AM
I bet Newt does too.
The Clinton Race Gambit
January 28, 2008; Page A14
About Bill Clinton, what can you say? Even before the polls closed in South Carolina on Saturday, the former President was diminishing Barack Obama's victory and trying to boost his wife in the next primaries by playing the race card.
Asked by a reporter why it took "two" Clintons to beat Mr. Obama, Mr. Clinton replied that "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina" in 1984 and 1988. And he added that both Rev. Jackson and Mr. Obama had run "a good campaign here." Hmmm. The reporter hadn't mentioned Jesse Jackson, but Mr. Clinton somehow felt it apposite to refer to him anyway. He thus associated Mr. Obama's landslide victory with that of a black candidate who never did win the Democratic nomination, much less the Presidency, and who had run overtly as an African-American candidate in contrast to Mr. Obama's explicit campaign theme of transcending race.
Anyone who thinks this was accidental has spent too much time with Sid Blumenthal. While Mr. Obama won a respectable 24% of white voters, according to Saturday's exit polls, Mrs. Clinton still won 36% and John Edwards 39% of the white vote. Mr. Obama won 78% of the black vote.
The Clintons are now eager to make Mr. Obama into a Rev. Jackson-style "black candidate" as they contest primaries with a larger share of white and Hispanic voters than there were in South Carolina. The Clintons want to portray Mr. Obama as a candidate with a narrowly racial appeal, both to undermine his larger and inspirational message of "unity," and also to play to whatever doubts still exist about an African-American candidate among Democratic voters.
It's going to be fascinating to see if Democrats and the press let the Clintons get away with this. Imagine if Mitt Romney had made the Jesse Jackson comparison. Democrats would have immediately denounced the remarks as "racist," or as a part of some Republican "Southern strategy."
This primary contest has been a rolling revelation for many Democrats and the media, as they've been shocked to see the Clinton brand of divisive politics played against one of their own. Liberal columnists who long idolized the Clintons are even writing more-in-sorrow-than-anger pieces asking how Bill and Hillary could descend to such deceptive tactics. Allow us to answer that lament this way: Our readers aren't surprised.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Cleaning up skunk smell
on: January 27, 2008, 04:40:06 PM
A dog's run-in with a skunk sends his owner scrambling for cleaning ideas. He ultimately finds an easy solution.
By David Colker,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
January 27, 2008
I'm not talking about my job, which I love. Honest.
No, it was a certain emanation noticed by a colleague who innocently approached my desk and asked, "Has there been a skunk back here?"
Early that morning my ever-curious dog, Earl, had gotten sprayed by a skunk in the backyard. Before I could catch him, he sped back into the house through his doggy door, frantically rubbing against everything in sight, starting with the bed.
It was like a Pepe Le Pew cartoon with Smell-O-Vision.
As much as I tried to clean the smell, starting by giving Earl a bath, my olfactory nerves were so overcome that I missed items. Like my sweater, which I had brought into the office that morning. Even my hands carried the stench, though I had washed them repeatedly.
And so began my quest to eradicate skunk spray from dog, furniture, clothes and body. You'd think there'd be solid information on how this can be done, but the Internet and the friendly advice of friends -- all of whom stood at a distance -- were full of misconceptions.
There are remedies, however, based in science. One was even featured in a chemistry journal.
It would be wise to heed them. They probably will be needed more often as we continue to encroach on natural habitats.
Veterinarian Sylvia Domotor, whose office is in Monrovia in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, said skunks had found a highly agreeable habitat in suburbia.
"They're very adaptable to living in communities," said Domotor, who has practiced in San Gabriel Valley communities for more than 20 years. "They're small, nocturnal. They use sewers as highways, and bushy backyards are perfect for them."
Also, residential communities partly shield them from two of their natural enemies: coyotes and bears.
"In this area," Domotor said, "skunks are not even what I consider to be mountain animals anymore."
Earl and I just wanted our house back. And as for my career and social life, essence of Pepe wasn't likely to be a boon to either.
Luckily, an unassuming engineer in the Midwest hit upon the prime solution to skunk smell several years ago when he wasn't even trying.
"I was working on a project that produced hydrogen sulfide gas as a byproduct," said materials engineer Paul Krebaum in Lisle, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. "The gas vented up and then came back into the building through the air-conditioner intakes."
This didn't make him popular with others in the building.
"The gas," he said, "had your basic rotten-egg, sewer-gas odor."
Krebaum mixed a compound that neutralized the odor. It was placed in filters in the venting system, and the complaints stopped.
The project he was working on never made it to market. But in 1993, a colleague mentioned that the family pet had gotten sprayed by a skunk.
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The common wisdom was to use commercially available, often expensive, concoctions with marginal results or a home remedy such as tomato juice that merely masked the smell for a while.
"All you ended up with was a pink dog and a pink bathroom," Krebaum said.
He figured that a weakened version of the solution he used to deal with the gas, which was a cousin to the skunk smell, might work.
Not only did it work, but the ingredients also were available in most supermarkets.
Krebaum, 47, has modified the pet version over the years. Here's the current formula:
Mix together a quart of hydrogen peroxide (3% strength), a quarter cup of baking soda and 1 or 2 teaspoons of liquid soap. Many brands will do, but Krebaum said Softsoap and Ivory Liquid worked particularly well.
Wearing latex gloves to protect your hands, massage the solution into the fur, being careful not to let it drip into the pet's eyes. Let it sit for about five minutes and then rinse with warm water.
That's it. The skunk smell should be completely or almost gone. The process can be repeated if the smell is still prominent.
The process works by breaking down skunk spray, which is composed mostly of highly pungent compounds called thiols. Spoiled food and rotten eggs also contain the highly nose-sensitive thiols. The end product of that chemical process is a sodium salt.
Krebaum said the mixture was safe for dogs and cats if used carefully.
"The stuff that people put on their hair to bleach it is far stronger," he said. "The worst that could happen with a pet, I figured, is that it would come out a shade lighter."
He gave out the formula to those who needed it and considered making it as a commercial product. The main problem was that the solution, as formulated, had to be mixed just before being applied or it would lose its effectiveness. Worse, it produces a gas that could make a closed container explode on a shelf.
He figured out how to possibly get around these problems but still wasn't enthusiastic.
"The people I was working for at the time weren't interested in this kind of product," Krebaum said. "And I already get paid well as an engineer. So I thought, 'Why not just give it away?' "
He published the formula in Chemical and Engineering News in 1993 and later exposed it to a huge audience when he put it on the Web at home.earthlink.net/~skunkremedy/home.
Earl is a smallish mutt of about 20 pounds, but I mixed up a double batch that evening to make sure I could get the solution deep into his fur.
I put him in the bathtub and the process began. Although Earl looked at me with those what-did-I-do-wrong eyes, he didn't squirm much as I applied the mixture. For the area near his eyes, I used an old washcloth.
I let a bit of the solution wash over my hands too, then rinsed us both with tepid tap water.
As I dried Earl and wrapped him in clean towels, there was none of the stench that had packed such a wallop.
Then came loads of laundry that included everything he had touched, including old sheets used to cover the furniture during the day.
I added to each load a scoop of OxiClean stain remover -- more of Krebaum's advice. "It basically uses a hydrogen peroxide-like compound," he said. Everything came out smelling fresh.
By 2:30 a.m., I got to bed, with a fluffy, sweet-smelling, slightly lighter-in-color Earl curled up beside me.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Hariri Investigantion whithers
on: January 27, 2008, 07:41:23 AM
Closely related to the preceding post:
Justice for Lebanon
By MICHAEL YOUNG
January 26, 2008; Page A11
Detlev Mehlis speaks slowly. So when he says, "I haven't seen a word in his reports during the past two years confirming that he has moved forward," there is time for the meaning to sink in.
The person Mr. Mehlis is referring to is Serge Brammertz, a Belgian prosecutor who, until a few weeks ago, headed the United Nations investigation looking into the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. In December of that year, Mr. Brammertz succeeded Mr. Mehlis as commissioner of the investigating team, known as the International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC). Now, Mr. Mehlis is making the rather serious charge that Mr. Brammertz may not have done much while working on the Hariri case.
On Feb. 14 it will be exactly three years since Hariri was killed in a massive bomb explosion, with 21 others, in Beirut. The event sparked weeks of protests directed against Syria -- which most Lebanese blamed for the killing -- demanding an end to its 29-year military presence in Lebanon.
The so-called "Cedar Revolution" led to a transformation of the political system when Syria withdrew its army, and its adversaries won a majority of seats in Parliament in subsequent elections. Since then, Damascus has tried to reassert its power in Lebanon -- but the Hariri investigation, if it points an accusatory finger at Syria, is its Achilles heel.
The Security Council has established a Lebanese-international tribunal under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter to try the suspects. The tribunal, now being set up in The Hague, is an exceptional creation, much like UNIIIC was. This week a U.N. official revealed that judges had been selected. Never before has the Security Council overseen a political murder investigation.
With Mr. Brammertz having recently left Lebanon to take charge of a special tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Mr. Mehlis has decided to speak up. It is a rare occasion that he has agreed to do so on the record -- and one of the last, he insists. As a senior prosecutor at the Superior Prosecutor's Office in Berlin, he is keen to close his own personal file on the UNIIIC years, but also to warn that the vitality of the Hariri inquiry may be disappearing. "A new commissioner has been installed. So it's a good time for a very last summing up on my part," Mr. Mehlis says.
Whether UNIIIC was exceptional or not, Mr. Mehlis made it a point of appearing an unexceptional man while commissioner -- but one with pit-bull persistence. He'd shown that persistence before. It took him nine years to bring convictions for the 1986 bombing of the LaBelle discotheque in Berlin. He accused Libyan officials of being behind the attack. That experience, he says, left him with the view "that justice prevails, but you have to have patience."
But Mr. Mehlis is plainly worried that justice might not prevail in the Hariri investigation. It "appears to have lost the momentum it had until January 2006," he says. "When I left we were ready to name suspects, but it seems not to have progressed from that stage."
Indeed, Mr. Brammertz never named new suspects in his investigation, though he did mention he'd identified "persons of interest." Mr. Mehlis is dismissive: "If you have suspects you don't allow them to roam free for years to tamper with evidence."
Particularly odd to Mr. Mehlis is that his successor reopened analysis of the crime scene upon arriving in Lebanon. That not only cast doubt on the German's methods, it wasted valuable time. Mr. Brammertz's conclusions ended up confirming those of Mr. Mehlis, namely that Hariri had been killed by an above-ground explosion.
But Mr. Mehlis sees such behavior as emblematic of a broader problem -- namely that UNIIIC has told us little we didn't already know before Mr. Brammertz became its commissioner: that Hariri was killed for political reasons and that there were several layers of participation in the conspiracy. "We needed two years of investigative endeavor to discover this?" he laughs.
When Mr. Mehlis first arrived in Beirut, he visited the families of three of the victims in the Hariri blast and frequently talked to the media. Mr. Brammertz, in contrast, gave no interviews and never once addressed the Lebanese on what the case personally meant to him.
But what if Mr. Brammertz did not reveal his cards for tactical reasons? After all, he asked to maintain the secrecy of his investigation. Mr. Mehlis responds that to him, as a German, the notion of a secret investigation sounds ominous. "The Lebanese public has to be informed, even if there are setbacks in the investigation. In a democracy people have the right to know, particularly when a prime minister was murdered and people don't trust the authorities. This was an opportunity to restore credibility to the justice system."
Mr. Mehlis also sees a practical rationale for more openness by an investigator: "To have the support of the public, to encourage witnesses to come forward with information, and for governments to send specialized investigators, you need to give them an idea of what you are doing."
The Hariri investigation was always seen by its defenders as a lever to render political assassination in the Middle East more difficult. In Lebanon particularly, where dozens of leading politicians and officials have been killed since the 1970s (the latest a police intelligence officer on Friday, among whose duties was reportedly following the Hariri affair), this was the one crime, people felt, that international attention would not allow to go unpunished.
Lebanese optimism aside, the point was a valid one: Respect for the rule of law, so lacking in Arab societies, could only benefit from a successful legal process to punish the guilty. That rationale remains persuasive today, as more and more people in the West doubt that Arab societies can be democratic. The Hariri investigation was there to say that democracy without law is a chimera.
His actions as UNIIIC commissioner left few doubts as to who Mr. Mehlis thought was behind the crime. He asked the Lebanese authorities to arrest four prominent pro-Syrian generals from Lebanon's security services and Presidential Guard. He took affidavits from Syrian officials, including intelligence officers. He even sought to question Syria's president, Bashar Assad.
Mr. Mehlis departed before this could go through, and he doesn't know what later happened. Media reports suggested that Mr. Brammertz held "a meeting" with the Syrian leader, but that is legally different, Mr. Mehlis explains, than a formal judicial interview, which even Lebanon's former president submitted to.
I remind him that two of his key Syrian witnesses did not seem particularly reliable. One told a press conference in Damascus that his testimony was fraudulent; another, a former intelligence officer, later became a suspect in Hariri's murder at Mr. Mehlis's request, and has made contradictory statements.
Mr. Mehlis responds that in such crimes you cannot be choosy about who to deal with. "What do you expect, white angels? Those two gave us a lot of information, which we could sometimes corroborate with information received elsewhere. In the end, the tribunal will determine their credibility, and ask why they agreed to sign their statements." Mr. Mehlis adds: "Maybe the witnesses were there to discredit the investigation, but that can help us determine who wants to discredit the investigation."
I put it to Mr. Mehlis that, whatever the UNIIIC discovers, there is palpable international reluctance to carry the Hariri case to its conclusion. Few at the U.N., for example, are eager to destabilize Syria's regime, assuming its involvement is proven.
His answer is ambiguous: "As a prosecutor you can't prosecute governments and countries; you prosecute individuals. When I headed UNIIIC, there was a will to get to the bottom of the crime -- shown in all the Security Council resolutions on the matter. Why not now? One of the most helpful [member nations] was Russia, which persuaded Syria to comply with the resolutions. Even with states having different interests, common understandings can be reached."
So what about today? "Traditionally, there is tension between politics and justice and I accepted that [former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi] Annan did not want more problems because of the Hariri case. Yet he was always very supportive of my work and well-being. The U.N. did not interfere in my efforts and had no leverage over me, as I was not after a position in the organization. Even had the U.N. tried, there were investigators from 17 countries who might have thought differently, making this impossible."
Mr. Mehlis doesn't so much fear a cover-up as that the Hariri case will stall. The tribunal, he predicts, will be set up this summer, but "people should not expect a trial within the next two to three years, unless the investigation regains momentum." Otherwise, what might happen? "I fear that suspects will end up in a judicial no-man's land, with Lebanon claiming they are under the U.N.'s jurisdiction, and the U.N. saying that they must remain under Lebanese jurisdiction."
What Mr. Mehlis is saying, in so many words, is that a tribunal does not a trial make. The tribunal will be formed and judges nominated, but unless the prosecutor has something solid to take to court, the process may lead nowhere. Still, he is mildly optimistic: "Definitely, no one can abolish this tribunal. I may not be happy about the time frame, but am deeply convinced the case can be solved and will be solved."
Mr. Mehlis also cautions that the U.N. would suffer from failure in the Hariri affair. "The U.N.'s image is at stake, particularly in Lebanon, where people put high hopes, perhaps too high, in the Hariri investigation."
So, what is his advice to Daniel Bellemare, Mr. Brammertz's Canadian successor? "Concentrate on the Hariri case itself; don't try to write a history book. Focus on the whos, hows and whys of the crime. Analysis can never replace solid investigative police work."
Most important, Mr. Mehlis says the Hariri case must remain in the public's consciousness. "For years the LaBelle case dragged on with small successes and failures, but it was always kept alive on the prosecution's side by my working to inform the media; and on the victims' side because their families created pressure groups. I feel that in the Lebanese case, the families of the deceased can certainly play a much more active role."
That may be true, but victims or their families rarely have a voice in the Arab world. The fate of the Hariri tribunal will help determine if that changes. Beyond the assassination of a high-profile politician, the question is whether the international community finally agrees that things need to be different in the Middle East, or just goes back to accepting the old ways.
Mr. Young is opinion editor at the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut and a contributing editor at Reason magazine.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ criticizes Fed/Bernanke
on: January 27, 2008, 07:38:42 AM
A Global Fed
January 26, 2008; Page A10
This week the world learned that economic "decoupling" from America is a myth. The next lesson to re-learn is that the Federal Reserve's monetary mistakes have global consequences, and that one result of the Fed's great dollar miscalculation this decade has been a dangerous breakdown in world monetary cooperation.
Look no further than the European Central Bank, which was notably absent when the Fed made its emergency rate cut amid falling global stocks on Tuesday. In testimony Wednesday before the European Parliament, ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet came about as close as a member of the brotherhood ever will to calling out a fellow central banker: "In demanding times of significant market correction and turbulences, it is the responsibility of the central bank to solidly anchor inflation expectations to avoid additional volatility in already highly volatile markets."
If we can interpret Mr. Trichet further, he thinks the Fed helped to create the current financial mess by going on a bender in the late Alan Greenspan era, and is now once again running dangerous inflation risks by cutting rates too soon in the face of Wall Street pressure. He's also unhappy because the dollar's fall against the euro has increased political pressure on the ECB to ease as well. So now that the Fed wants his help to avoid a further dollar decline against the euro, he's in no mood to oblige.
Mr. Trichet has a point about American mistakes, and for that matter so do all the Davos-types chortling this week about U.S. credit woes. Europeans and many Asians love to see the Yanks humbled, and the sight of America's banking giants going hat in hand to Abu Dhabi, Singapore and China is too much Schadenfreude to pass up. One irony is that the cause of all this Yankee humiliation isn't the familiar Euro-gripe about the "trade deficit" or tax cuts. It is monetary policy. But they'll enjoy it whatever the cause.
They shouldn't get carried away, however, because their own stock markets were showing earlier this week what could happen to European and Asian economies if the U.S. heads into recession. The $7 billion fraud at Société Générale and the mess at Britain's Northern Rock mortgage lender also make clear that American bankers don't have a monopoly on bad judgment. The currency reserves and sovereign wealth funds that many countries have been piling up are in substantial part the result of that same Fed mistake. This means they can vanish as fast as they arose if commodity prices fall again and the dollar rises. Recall the Texas oil patch, circa 1983, as Paul Volcker's Fed corrected the inflation of the 1970s.
Mr. Trichet also has an advantage over Fed chairman Ben Bernanke in that his mandate under the ECB constitution is to focus solely on the price level. Under Humphrey-Hawkins, the Fed must target the price level and employment. Mr. Trichet is right to keep his own eye on a stable euro, but we also wish he and the Fed weren't so obvious about their mutual discord.
The other great casualty of the Fed's blunder has been the global dollar bloc. This had been building for years, as more nations adopted either formal (such as a currency board) or informal dollar links to their currencies. A stable exchange rate creates economic and trading efficiencies, while a formal dollar link means a country can reduce political uncertainty by delegating its own monetary policies to the Fed.
This made sense as long as the dollar's value was stable. But as the dollar has fallen, these countries have imported inflation and some are now severing their dollar links. The Gulf Cooperation Council is mulling a link to a euro-dominated basket of currencies, and even China is slowly revaluing the yuan against the dollar -- less because of U.S. political pressure than out of its own self-interest to control internal inflation.
This world of greater exchange-rate volatility is dangerous. The extreme movements of the euro versus the dollar across the last decade have created enormous uncertainty for business, while distorting trade and investment flows. They also contribute to economic anxiety and a populist trade backlash. The collapse of the dollar bloc, if it continues, will add to this exchange-rate volatility and in the worst case make it easier for beggar-thy-neighbor currency manipulation.
This week showed once again that the world needs more monetary cooperation, not less. As the world's most important central bank, the Fed must take the lead. And the way to start is by sending a message that its monetary decisions will be based on a renewed determination to protect the value of the dollar and its role as a reserve currency.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shorting the Surge
on: January 27, 2008, 07:35:01 AM
Don't Short-Circuit the Surge
By KIMBERLY KAGAN
January 26, 2008; Page A11
The Iraq debate in 2007 focused on whether the new strategy and troop increase could stem violence in Iraq. It did. The Iraq debate in 2008 will probably focus on how much the United States can reduce force levels in Iraq this year in the wake of its success.
Many in these discussions give troop numbers and brigade counts almost casually, without ever explaining how they derive the figures. That's a problem. Any realistic evaluation suggests that returning to pre-surge levels by July 2008, as some are suggesting, carries considerable risk.
Ethno-sectarian attacks and deaths in Baghdad security districts decreased more than 90% from January to December 2007. Iraqi civilian casualties have dropped 75% from their peak, and the number of IED attacks has fallen to the lowest level since October 2004. One brigade of U.S. troops returned home in December without replacement. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates believes that Gen. David Petraeus will recommend continuing the drawdown to 15 brigades.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff, CENTCOM commander Adm. William Fallon, and Gen. Petraeus are now assessing whether to recommend in March a further reduction in troop levels later in 2008. Mr. Gates stated recently that he hopes conditions will permit the U.S. to reduce its combat forces in Iraq by a brigade a month from August to December 2008, leaving a footprint of 10 brigades at the end of the president's term -- the lowest American force level in the country since the 2003 invasion.
In contrast, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, who commands combat forces for Gen. Petraeus, has stated that he is uncomfortable committing to any further reductions below 15 brigades before commanders can assess the effect of the decrease to that force-size. Gen. Petraeus recently said that March 2008 might be too soon to make that determination. War critics have insisted on reductions to 100,000 troops or fewer.
The brigade combat team, commanded by a colonel and consisting of around 3,500 soldiers (5,000 or so counting the support elements that normally deploy with it) is the building block of the U. S. Army (its equivalent, the Regimental Combat Team, is the building block of the Marine Corps). There are currently 42 BCTs in the active force. Those who speak of an absolute number of troops that they desire in Iraq show their ignorance of the military planning process.
American brigades in Iraq oversee combat, training, and governance missions in their sector, whether a quadrant of Baghdad or an entire outlying province. Each brigade oversees an area with hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. Brigades plan and execute military operations that prevent extremists from returning to cleared areas. They also gather intelligence about enemy groups in their areas of operations, and thus determine where new threats are emerging.
Since the end of 2006, brigades have overseen the Military Transition Teams that train and advise the Iraqi security forces operating in their area, dramatically improving the coordination of Iraqi and American forces. Now, most American brigade headquarters are partnered with an Iraqi division headquarters, helping the Iraqis to plan and sustain increasingly complex operations.
Since spring 2007, the brigades have housed the Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams that have jumpstarted local and provincial Iraqi government. The brigade helps these teams move through the area. The brigades have been instrumental in the Iraqi population's rejection of al Qaeda. Brigade commanders and their staffs and subordinates have negotiated ceasefires with leaders of tribes, villages and urban neighborhoods; identified Concerned Local Citizens; and integrated these Iraqi civilians with the Iraqi Security Forces. Brigade commanders in 2008 may distribute their own troops between combat and training missions, rather than relying on a centrally-directed policy untailored to local circumstances.
The brigade has thus become much more than a fighting unit. The development of the Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi civilian institutions, which has been a hallmark of Gen. Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy and a pillar of its success in 2007, rests upon the American brigade headquarters. Maintaining security essential to drawing down the American force levels requires the presence in Iraq of enough brigade headquarters to conduct the combat, training and governance missions essential to success.
The way to determine the number of brigade headquarters suitable for Iraq is by determining the number of brigade-sized missions in the country. This is a challenging but not insuperable task.
There were too few brigades in 2006 to monitor the enemy and oversee the new government institutions in poor security situations. There were enough brigades by mid- 2007 to perform those tasks, although not equally in all areas. The "surge" was never intended to secure all of Iraq -- only to stabilize Baghdad and Anbar. Its unexpected success has also placed unanticipated strains on U.S. forces. We won more than we had hoped, and now we may need to defend it more than we had planned.
The "surge" posture from June through December 2007 included five BCTs in Baghdad; four in the southern "belt" (from Mahmudiyah on the Euphrates to Nahrawan east of the capital); three in Anbar (including 2 Marine Regiments); four in the northern belt (Taji; Tarmiyah; and Diyala, where a Quick Reaction Force spent much of the summer along with the dedicated brigade); and one each in Salah-ad-Din, Kirkuk, Ninevah, and on convoy protection duty.
Gen. Odierno recently shifted two brigades within Iraq to conduct his third major offensive against al Qaeda, Operation Phantom Phoenix, to disrupt and pursue the enemy in northern Iraq. The December reduction to 19 BCTs has left only one brigade headquarters in Diyala. General Odierno intends to thin the headquarters and the troops on the ground in Anbar and Baghdad in order to achieve the remaining four-brigade reduction back to pre-surge levels by July.
The decision to draw down the surge is predicated not only on current security gains, but on the assumption that security will continue to improve in areas where the reductions are programmed to occur. Gen. Petraeus, testifying before Congress in September, attributed the downturn in violence, then 12 weeks old, to three factors: the summer offensives against al Qaeda and militias, the Iraqi population's rejection of extremists, and the slowly increasing capabilities of the Iraqi security forces.
"Based on all this and the further progress we believe we can achieve over the next few months, I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level of brigade combat teams by next summer, withdrawing one quarter of our combat brigades by that time without jeopardizing the security gains that we have fought so hard to achieve." Gen. Odierno confirmed in a November press conference that he had recommended that Gen. Petraeus reduce the force to 15 brigades by July, "because I believe that we will be able to continue to move forward with the progress."
Achieving the complement of 15 brigades by summer rests upon Gen. Odierno's judgment that he can withdraw not only the headquarters from Diyala, but also others from Anbar and parts of Baghdad this spring. His assumption is that security will continue to improve at about the rate our commanders think is feasible between now and July, and that the Iraqi Army will grow as predicted.
There is considerable risk in this assumption. Coalition and Iraqi forces have not finished clearing Ninevah province, Salah ad-Din and parts of Babil. Major operations continue against al Qaeda remnants in Ninevah, Salah-ad-Din, Diyala, Kirkuk and Wasit provinces. Fighting between Iraqi Security Forces (aided by coalition special forces and our Georgian, Polish and British allies) and Mahdi Army militias continues in the south.
The withdrawal to 15 brigades already assumes that these operations will be successful. It provides no cushion for unexpected developments or unforeseen enemy responses. There is thus no military basis at all at the present time to recommend additional reductions in 2008.
One year ago, Gen. Petraeus testified before Congress: "I was assured . . . by the secretary of Defense . . . that if we need additional assets, my job is to ask for them. If they're not provided in some case, my job is to tell my boss the risk involved in accomplishing the mission without the assets that are required. And at some point, of course, you may have to go back and say that you cannot accomplish the mission because of the assets that have not been provided."
By the best estimates now available, 15 brigades is the absolute minimum force required to accomplish the mission that has brought us success in 2007. Any further reductions -- even by a single brigade -- may make that mission impossible.
Ms. Kagan is an affiliate of Harvard's John M. Olin Institute of Strategic Studies and the president of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War
on: January 27, 2008, 07:32:25 AM
January 26, 2008; Page A10
There's a fearsome consistency to the assassinations that have bedeviled Lebanon for the past three years. The victims are invariably killed by remotely controlled car bombs. Invariably, too, they are opponents, or obstacles, to Syria's designs in the colony it supposedly surrendered nearly three years ago.
Yesterday marked another such murder, this time of Captain Wissam Mahmoud Eid, a terrorism investigator who had already survived one assassination attempt in 2006. Eid had been involved in the forensic investigation following the February 2005 assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri, and later in the Lebanese government's battle with Fatah al-Islam, a Sunni terrorist group based in a refugee camp north of Beirut. Neither role could have endeared him to Damascus, which is generally believed to have played the main part both in Hariri's death and Fatah al-Islam's uprising.
Eid's murder ought to be a powerful reminder that Syria's purposes in the region remain intractable and malign. Yet as Detlev Mehlis, the German investigator who formerly led the U.N. inquiry into Hariri's murder, makes clear in the "Weekend Interview," the willingness to prosecute the case to a just conclusion seems to be petering out.
Much of the blame here lies with Washington. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put to rest whatever lingering fears Damascus might have had about U.S. intentions with her visit in April. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice followed up by inviting Syria to November's Mideast conference in Annapolis, and Hillary Clinton promises to offer diplomatic carrots to Damascus if she is elected. The killings will continue in Beirut, as long as nobody save the Lebanese seem to care.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: January 27, 2008, 07:24:56 AM
A well-informed friend in India sends the following:
These 2 items are related. Apparently about 40 % of NATO supplies to Afghan go via Pak. Now the Taliban is starting to hijack the military trucks/tunnels. This may in part explain the US offer to "help" in ferreting out Talib from NWFP. Interesting times ahead ... X.
Pakistan troops pound militants holding key tunnel PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan 27 (AFP) - Pakistan artillery backed by gunship helicopters pounded militant positions in an attempt to take back control of a key road tunnel, blocking traffic between the main city of Peshawar in North West Frontier Province and the city of Kohat. As the operation entered a third day Sunday, troops were using artillery, long-range weapons and helicopters to dislodge militants from their bunkers on hills overlooking the tunnel, a military spokesman said. Residents said hundreds of vehicles were stranded on both sides of the tunnel, with the militants having erected barricades on the road to the tunnel. "Fighting is going on near Kohat tunnel and troops have purged militants from a large area," chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP. Troops had made good progress in their advance, he said, expressing hope that the rebels would be flushed out from the area by Monday and the tunnel freed. "They are holding key positions on mountain tops; that is why it is taking time," the spokesman said, adding security forces suffered no casualties and there were no details of militant losses in the latest clash. He said 25 militants were killed late Saturday. On Friday the troops said they had killed 30 rebels and lost two soldiers in Darra Adam Khel, which is known for its weapons bazaar and illegal arms manufacturing factories.(Posted @ 11:21 PST, Updated @ 17:09 PST)
Top U.S. intelligence officials made secret trip to Pakistan WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (AP): The top two U.S. intelligence officials made a secret visit to Pakistan in early January to seek permission from President Musharraf for greater involvement of American forces in trying to ferret out Al-Qaeda and other militant groups active in the tribal regions along the Afghanistan border, a senior U.S. official said. The official wishing to remain anonymous, declined to disclose what was said, but Musharraf was quoted two days after the Jan. 9 meeting as saying U.S. troops would be regarded as invaders if they crossed into Pakistan to hunt Al-Qaeda militants. The New York Times which first reported the secret visit by CIA Director Michael Hayden and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, said Musharraf rebuffed an expansion of an American presence in Pakistan at the meeting, either through overt CIA missions or by joint operations with Pakistani security forces. In a Jan. 11 interview, Musharraf told The Straits Times of Singapore that U.S. troops would be considered invaders if they set foot in the tribal regions. "If they come without our permission, that's against the sovereignty of Pakistan," he said. "I challenge anybody coming into our mountains. They would regret that day." (Posted @ 10:00 PST)
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Bromas, humor
on: January 26, 2008, 11:11:30 PM
La Asociación Hispano-Americana de Mujeres se queja porque, según
ellas, la semántica castellana es machista...
Zorro: Espadachín Justiciero.
Perro: Mejor amigo del hombre.
Cualquier: Fulano, Mengano, Zutano,
Regalado: Participio del verbo regalar.
Callejero: De la calle, urbano.
Hombrezuelo: Hombrecillo, mínimo, pequeño.
Hombre público: Personaje prominente. Funcionario público.
Hombre de la vida: Hombre de gran experiencia.
Mujer de la vida: Puta
Rápido: Inteligente, despierto.
y hay mas...!
DIOS: Creador del universo y cuya divinidad se transmitió a su hijo
varón por línea paterna.
DIOSA: Ser mitológico de culturas supersticiosas, obsoletas y
PATRIMONIO: Conjunto de bienes.
MATRIMONIO: Conjunto de males.
ATREVIDO: Osado, valiente.
ATREVIDA: Insolente, mal educada.
SOLTERO: Codiciado, inteligente, hábil.
SOLTERA: Quedada, lenta, ya se le fue el tren.
SUEGRO: Padre político.
SUEGRA: Bruja, metiche, etc.
MACHISTA: Hombre macho.
DON JUAN: Hombre en todo su sentido.
DOÑA JUANA: La mujer de la limpieza.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We need a new GI Bill
on: January 25, 2008, 12:13:08 PM
We Need a New GI Bill
By JEROME KOHLBERG
January 25, 2008; Page A15
New York State Gov. Eliot Spitzer deserves the highest praise for his powerful commitment to the thousands of New York citizen soldiers fighting in the Iraq and Afghanistan war theaters. In his State of the State address this month, he proposed guaranteeing a full-tuition scholarship to these heroic men and women, so that they may attend any State University of New York or City University of New York college or university upon their return.
Mr. Spitzer's initiative should serve as a paradigm for what our nation must do for this new generation of veterans. They have sacrificed so much for us. We owe them honor, respect and the opportunity for a brighter future. We owe them a new GI Bill assuring them a college education.
When my service in the U.S. Navy ended after World War II, America welcomed me home with just such an opportunity: the G.I. Bill of 1944. In those days, veterans' benefits were generous -- the old saying was that if you got into Harvard, the G.I. Bill would pay for Harvard. This legislation allowed me to earn a bachelor's degree from Swarthmore College, a business degree from Harvard, and a law degree from Columbia.
I was among the almost eight million veterans -- more than half of us who returned home safely -- who were suddenly able to pay for the college or university of our choice. Many had never dreamed of going to college before the war.
This unprecedented educational opportunity transformed American society, as a whole generation of blue collar workers became engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers and entrepreneurs. The economy boomed as we entered the workforce with new skills and training that increased productivity and stimulated innovation.
Sixty years after Pearl Harbor, a new generation of young men and women has now enlisted in the service of our nation. Regardless of our political differences about the war, we must be united in deep appreciation of the exceptional sacrifices made by our brave troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. This includes thousands of members of the Reserve and National Guard, most of whom have also served multiple tours of duty half a world away from their homes and families.
Unfortunately, the educational benefits that were available to WWII-era veterans are no longer afforded to today's returning troops. The sad reality is that while the cost of an education has increased, the benefits available to veterans have not kept up. Today, the GI Bill pays just a fraction of the cost of getting a degree.
Consider, for example, that the maximum educational benefit available to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is just $1,101 per month, or $39,636 over four years. Those veterans who served combat tours with the National Guard or Reserves are eligible for even less -- typically just $440 per month. The College Board reports that the average four-year public college costs more than $65,000 for an in-state student, while a private university costs upwards of $133,000.
Moreover, once National Guard and Reserve members leave the military, they are no longer eligible for any benefits. And if service members are discharged because of a disability, their GI Bill benefits are limited to only the equivalent number of months they served, even if their discharge was the result of injuries suffered in combat.
This is as unbelievable as it is unjust.
The severe restrictions of the current GI Bill extend beyond the educational benefit. There is an initial, non-refundable buy-in cost of $1,200 just to be eligible. That is essentially a "combat tax" on 19- and 20-year-olds who are getting ready to put their lives on the line for our country.
Hard as it is to imagine, if they don't use their GI Bill benefits when they return, they never see that money again. Some 30% of veterans don't use any of their GI Bill funds, which translates into more than $230 million going directly into the U.S. Treasury, rather than back to these young men and women.
War veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan must pay tuition, room and board and other college costs upfront out of their own pockets, and then are reimbursed up to their eligible benefit. In addition, benefits used under the GI Bill count against eligibility for federal student aid, with such support reduced if veterans receive any GI Bill funds. And there is a 10-year limit on assistance for current educational benefits.
All these restrictions effectively put the dream of higher education out of reach for far too many of the 1.6 million who have served our nation in the current wars.
I deeply believe that we have a moral responsibility to provide today's returning veterans with the same educational opportunities that my generation received. Mindful of that responsibility, many of us who benefited greatly from the original G.I. Bill have now established a private scholarship fund -- the Fund for Veterans' Education -- to offer the same "full boat" educational opportunities to returning veterans from all 50 states over the next 12 months.
To be sure, this is a limited effort that will only serve a relatively small number of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. However, we view our program as a direct challenge to our elected officials in Washington. Just as President Roosevelt and the Congress did in 1944, they must now choose to commit the resources necessary to fund a comprehensive G.I. Bill for another generation of America's brave soldiers.
Sens. Jim Webb of Virginia, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas have introduced legislation that would again make that sacred promise to our returning veterans: A promise that says, if you've put your life on the line to help secure America's future, your own educational future will never be in doubt.
Their legislation is good public policy and it is fiscally prudent. In the long run, a new G.I. Bill will more than pay for itself. As our experience proved after World War II, better educated veterans have higher income levels which, over the long run, will inevitably increase tax revenues. A congressionally mandated cost-benefit analysis concluded that for every $1 invested in education under the original G.I. Bill of 1944, the nation received between $5 and $12 in economic benefits, such as increased tax revenue and heightened productivity.
In my lifetime, the original G.I. Bill was one of this nation's proudest accomplishments and one of its most solemn commitments. We must now renew that commitment to a new generation of men and women who have served our country with extraordinary courage and distinction. In so doing, they will achieve the better lives they so richly deserve. And we will secure a better America.
Mr. Kohlberg, a founding partner of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and a limited partner of the private equity firm Kohlberg & Co., is chairman of the Fund For Veterans' Education.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy
on: January 25, 2008, 11:47:44 AM
The Tax Threat to Prosperity
By ARTHUR B. LAFFER
January 25, 2008; Page A15
Over the past 30 years, the U.S. has seen large changes in income tax rates as well as other tax rates. And, as would be expected, the budgetary implications of these tax changes have once again become a hotly debated partisan issue.
But missing from the discussion are the huge differences in how the top 1% of income earners respond to changes in tax rates versus, say, the bottom 75% or 80% of taxpayers -- the so-called middle class and lowest income groups. The "rich" quite simply are not like the rest of us.
From the standpoint of logic, the supply of their taxable income should be far more sensitive to changes in tax rates than the supply of taxable income of the middle class and poor. In the highest tax bracket, 100% of all taxpayers have the highest tax rate as their marginal tax rate. And it's the marginal tax rate that elicits supply-side responses.
Of course, if you look at a tax schedule, it's obvious that people with the highest taxable income also pay taxes in every other tax bracket. These lower tax rates are "inframarginal" and don't affect behavior. From the standpoint of the rich alone, a cut in these lower tax rates reduces tax revenues.
Some 99% of all taxpayers paid taxes at the 10% rate in 2005, for example. Yet only 25% of all taxpayers had 10% as their marginal tax rate. Thus a cut in the 10% tax rate would have a supply-side impact on a relatively small portion of all those who pay the 10% rate -- while for the rest who pay the 10% rate, a tax cut would result in a deadweight revenue loss.
On these grounds alone one should expect a greater supply-side response with a change in the highest tax rate than any other tax rate.
In addition, low-income earners have a lot less flexibility to change the form, timing and location of their income -- and the avenues open to them to reduce their tax liabilities are far fewer. The avenues open to higher-income and highest-income earners include 401(k)s, IRAs, Keogh plans, itemized deductions, lifetime gifts, charitable gifts, all sorts of deferred income compensation plans, trusts, tax free bonds, etc.
Moreover, the culture surrounding low income earners is not nearly as focused on tax avoidance as it is in higher income earners; fewer lower-income earners, therefore, even avail themselves of the limited programs, laws and other opportunities to reduce their tax liabilities. This means that the supply of taxable income in the highest tax bracket should be far more responsive to incentives than it is in the lower tax brackets, all other things being equal.
Many tax-avoidance methods require expert advice and counsel from people such as tax accountants, lawyers, deferred compensation experts and, yes, even economists. Higher-income people find tax accountants and lawyers and other financial professionals far more cost-effective than do people with lower incomes, not only because the costs are spread over larger sums, but because the pursuit of tax avoidance is, dollar of income for dollar of income, more profitable at higher tax rates. This makes the taxable incomes of those who earn more, more variable, and the taxable incomes of those who earn less, less variable.
Academicians and politicians have finally come to understand that it's the after-tax rate of return that determines people's behavior. Even though statutory tax rates are far lower today than they were when, say, Kennedy or Reagan took office, it is still very true that for every dollar of static revenue change there is a much larger incentive affect in the highest tax bracket than in the lowest tax bracket.
But what actually happens to tax receipts by income tax bracket when tax rates change?
Since 1980, statutory marginal tax rates have fallen dramatically. The highest marginal income tax rate in 1980 was 70%. Today it is 35%. In the year Ronald Reagan took office (1981) the top 1% of income earners paid 17.58% of all federal income taxes. Twenty-five years later, in 2005, the top 1% paid 39.38% of all income taxes.
There are other ways of looking at tax receipts by income bracket. From 1981 to 2005, the income taxes paid by the top 1% rose to 2.96% of GDP, from 1.59% of GDP. There was also a huge absolute increase in real tax dollars paid by this group. In 1981, the total taxes paid in 2005 dollars by the top 1% of income earners was $94.84 billion. In 2005 it was $368.13 billion.
In 2000 this teeny, tiny group -- 1% of all taxpayers -- actually paid income taxes equal to 3.75% of GDP, which is why President Clinton had a budget surplus. Much of this huge surge in tax payments by the top 1% of tax filers resulted from the huge increase in realized capital gains resulting from President Clinton's capital gains tax rate cut to 20% from 28% in 1997.
Let's take a look at the bottom 75% of taxpayers over this same time period -- the group current Democrats refer to as middle- and lower-income earners. From 1981 through 2005, the share of all income taxes paid by the bottom 75% of all income earners (as reported on the individual income tax returns) declined to 14.01% from 27.71%. As a share of GDP, total taxes paid by the bottom 75% fell to 1.05% from 2.50%. The bottom 75% of all taxpayers today pay less than 35% of all the taxes paid by the top 1% of all income earners.
Over the last 25 years, the bottom 75% of all taxpayers' tax payments fell and their tax rates fell. This is the group the Democrats are targeting for tax cuts.
The important point here is that, over the last 25-plus years, the only group that experienced an increase in income taxes paid as a share of GDP was the top 1% of income earners. Even the top 2%-5% of income earners saw a decline in the GDP share of their income taxes paid.
But now we get to the secret sauce, and the essence of what really happens in the realm of tax rates, incomes and tax payments by the rich.
We have accurate data on both the total taxes paid by the top 1% of income earners, and on their comprehensive household income as measured by the Congressional Budget Office. From these two data series we can calculate the effective average tax rate for the top 1% of all income earners.
Surprise, surprise: The effective average tax rate for the top 1% of income earners barely wiggles as Congress changes tax codes after tax codes, and as the economy goes from boom to bust and back again (see chart).
The question is, how can that effective average tax rate be so stable? The answer is simply that the very highest income earners are and have always been able to vary their reported income and thus control the amount of taxes they pay. Whether through tax shelters, deferrals, gifts, write-offs, cross income mobility or any of a number of other measures, the effective average tax rate barely budges. But this group's total tax payments are incredibly volatile.
For the low- and middle-income earners, the effective average tax rate has tumbled over the past 25 years, and so have tax revenues no matter how they're measured.
Using recent data, in other words, it would appear on its face that the Democratic proposal to raise taxes on the upper-income earners, and lower taxes on the middle- and lower- income earners, will result in huge revenue losses on both accounts. But some academic advisers to Democratic candidates have a hard time understanding the obvious, devising outlandish theories as to why things are different now. Well they aren't!
In the 1920s, the highest federal marginal income tax rate fell to 24% from 78%. Those people who earned over $100,000 had their share of total taxes paid rise -- from 29.9% in 1920 to 48.8% in 1925, and then to 62.2% in 1929. There was no inflation over this period.
With the Kennedy tax cuts of the 1960s, when the highest tax rate fell from to 70% from 91%, the story was the same. When you cut the highest tax rates on the highest-income earners, government gets more money from them, and when you cut tax rates on the middle and lower income earners, the government gets less money from them.
Even these data grossly understate the total supply-side response. A cut in the highest tax rates will increase lots of other tax receipts. It will lower government spending as a consequence of a stronger economy with less unemployment and less welfare. It will have a material, positive impact on state and local governments. And these effects will only grow with time.
Mark my words: If the Democrats succeed in implementing their plan to tax the rich and cut taxes on the middle and lower income earners, this country will experience a fiscal crisis of serious proportions that will last for years and years until a new Harding, Kennedy or Reagan comes along.
Trained economists know all of this is true, but they try to rebut the facts nonetheless because they believe it will curry favor with their political benefactors.
Mr. Laffer is president of Laffer Associates.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on The Editorial Page.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: January 25, 2008, 11:22:43 AM
Bush's Economic Surrender
January 25, 2008; Page A14
Here's one group that isn't much stimulated by the White House's economic pact: Republican presidential hopefuls. The general sentiment among most of the campaigns? Thanks for nothing.
The Bush administration unveiled its $150 billion feel-good stimulus package yesterday, with President Bush praising the "good will on all sides." The package, with its "middle-class" tax rebates and minor assortment of business benefits, isn't likely to help the economy. But it did allow the political class to provide itself some cover if things continue to go south. After all, Washington "did something."
Left holding the bag have been Republican presidential candidates as they struggle to explain why their party should again be trusted with the Oval Office. The White House provided no real outreach to let the campaigns know what was coming down the stimulus pipe, forcing them to instead cobble together plans they hoped wouldn't conflict with the president's. With the administration jumping on the Keynesian bandwagon, it was left to the candidates to make the case for conservative ideals and supply-side economics. And since nobody wants to pick a fight with Mr. Bush during a primary, the aspirants were also stuck saying nice things about this no-growth plan. Many inside the campaigns are privately miffed, and with good cause.
Talk about the ultimate missed opportunity. One of the few advantages the GOP starts with in this election is a president who can use his perch to frame the national debate. This was Mr. Bush's chance to explain to voters the stark economic choice they will face this November. They can choose another Republican who is committed to preserving the Bush tax cuts that have done so much over the past five years for economic growth -- plus more. Or they can vote for a Democrat who will raise their taxes at a time of economic uncertainty, causing untold harm.
Instead, the administration abandoned the economic high ground before even a popgun was fired. A year into nonstop investigations and confrontation, Democratic leaders decreed "bipartisanship" the order of the day, and Mr. Bush offered up his other cheek. The administration quickly deserted any principled demands for pro-growth policies, say extending the Bush tax cuts or cutting capital gains. The White House and Republican congressional leaders were left yesterday spinning conservative victory out of the fact that "most" of the non-stimulating rebates would go to people who currently pay income taxes (ooh!), and that businesses will get a depreciation break (ahh!). Imagine what we'd have got if they'd been negotiating against a Democratic Congress with something more than an 18% approval rating.
What didn't appear to factor into the administration's approach was any consideration that the GOP is in the middle of a crucial election. This is odd, given the Bush team's own experience and success in running campaigns, and given that Mr. Bush's best shot at cementing his tax legacy is to see another Republican in the White House.
The president instead seemed more anxious to avoid a repeat of accusations hurled against his father -- that he's indifferent to the struggles of working families. The White House political team also seemed to approach all this from a position of fear, with a view that Mr. Bush needed to take quick action to deflect blame for any further economic fallout. As if Democrats won't blame them whatever the outcome.
It's been left to John McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani to remind voters that Republicans win economic debates when they promote smart policy. And one good piece of news to come out of these economic jitters is that it has spurred the candidates to engage in a more ambitious tax discussion. Mr. McCain rolled out a strong plan that would eliminate the hated Alternative Minimum Tax, cut corporate rates and reform the R&D tax credit. Mr. Romney wants to cut the lowest tax bracket and has offered a proposal to expand tax-free savings accounts. Mr. Giuliani proposes slashing the tax on capital gains and index it for inflation, and is also pushing a flatter tax code. This is all good stuff, and all aimed at long-term economic growth.
Yet the White House's stimulus plan has overshadowed and confused this discussion, in the process giving the candidates headaches they don't need. Case in point: For several weeks, Mr. Romney has been patiently explaining to voters why it's bad policy to provide tax rebates to people who don't currently pay income taxes. Now comes the White House's stimulus plan, which does just that. Mr. Romney will undoubtedly be asked about this discrepancy. He'll have to diss the president, or come up with some way of squaring a circle. Either way, not fun for him -- and not productive for the broader Republican debate.
The candidates have at least been getting some intellectual cover from conservative Republicans in Congress. Missouri Sen. Kit Bond and California Rep. David Dreier, both Giuliani supporters, this week introduced tax legislation that mirrors Hizzoner's economic plan. The Republican Study Group in the House has also been trying to force the debate back toward forward-looking economic policy, introducing legislation that primarily focuses on freeing up capital for businesses.
"I'm not so nervous about the [stimulus package] as I am nervous about the debate," the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, Jeb Hensarling, admits. If Republicans want to reclaim their economic "brand," they have to make the case for supply-side economics. "I'm happy when the president says he is not giving up the quest to make tax relief permanent, but . . . that should be the centerpoint of this debate." He agrees that "at the moment, it is principally being left up to other folks" to make the case.
Meanwhile, this whole unstimulating exercise is still far from a sure thing. Democrats are already eyeing any legislation as a vehicle for other pet projects. If the bill gets larded up with too many offensive goodies or policies, presumably even the White House would balk.
Maybe that wouldn't be so bad. It would at least give the Bush administration time to remember there's an election going on. And that its party is, in fact, trying to win it.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea
on: January 25, 2008, 11:13:09 AM
Foggy Bottom Apostate
January 25, 2008; Page A14
Jay Lefkowitz, President Bush's special envoy for human rights in North Korea, has recently pointed out that our current approach to Pyongyang is failing. Lord help a diplomat who tells the truth.
Mr. Lefkowitz, growled Condoleezza Rice at a Tuesday press conference in Europe, "doesn't work on the six-party talks [on North Korea], he doesn't know what's going on in the six-party talks and he certainly has no say in what American policy will be in the six-party talks." For good measure, the Secretary added that she "would doubt very seriously that [the Chinese and Russians] would recognize" Mr. Lefkowitz's name.
In this Foggy Bottom version of the vanishing commissar, Mr. Lefkowitz is being written out of the Administration's North Korea policy for a speech he gave last week at the American Enterprise Institute. Noting that it has been more than two years since Pyongyang pledged to abandon its nuclear weapons program, and more than two weeks since it violated the latest deadline to disclose the full extent of that program, Mr. Lefkowitz observed that "it is increasingly clear that North Korea will remain in its present nuclear status when the Administration leaves office in one year."
Mr. Lefkowitz also noted that the rationale for the six-party talks (which include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea in addition to the U.S. and North Korea) has largely evaporated since it's become clear that neither China nor South Korea were prepared to exert any meaningful leverage on Pyongyang to abandon its weapons. "What we had hoped would be a process in which Beijing and Seoul would simultaneously withhold carrots and use their considerable influence over Pyongyang to end its nuclear activities has evolved into a process that provides new carrots without a corresponding cost to Pyongyang." Instead, he added all too accurately, the talks have deteriorated into the North Korean-U.S. bilateral negotiation that Kim Jong Il always wanted.
It wasn't long ago that Mr. Lefkowitz's comments, which also recommended linking human-rights to security issues with the North, would have been a fair reflection of President Bush's own views. But apparently not any more, as Mr. Bush has accepted Ms. Rice's judgment that one more "Dear Mr. Chairman" letter, or one more aid shipment, or one more diplomatic concession will cause Kim to change his ways.
State is even claiming that North Korea has fulfilled the requirements necessary to get itself off the list of state sponsors of terrorism, one of Pyongyang's key demands. A contrary assessment is provided by the Congressional Research Service, which recently noted "reports from reputable sources that North Korea has provided arms and possibly training to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka." State also seems to be ignoring, or suppressing, evidence of Pyongyang's nuclear proliferation, which was brought to light after Israel destroyed an apparent North Korean nuclear facility in September.
We understand why Ms. Rice would be unhappy to hear her policy contradicted by Mr. Lefkowitz. We would be more understanding if that policy had any record of success. Kim Jong Il has now had nearly a year and two deadlines to fulfill his nuclear promises and shows no intention of doing so. Chances are he now figures he can wait out this Administration and hope for better terms from President Clinton.
On present course, Ms. Rice is setting President Bush up to spend his final year begging Kim to cooperate by offering an ever growing and more embarrassing list of carrots. Mr. Bush would do better to listen to Mr. Lefkowitz, while ordering Ms. Rice to introduce him to the Chinese and Russians.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action
on: January 25, 2008, 11:05:20 AM
Profiles of valor: USAF Staff Sgt. Kimberling
In August 2006, Staff Sgt. Jason Kimberling was one of three members of a security force assisting a convoy of 35 Afghan personnel from the National Police (ANP) and the Afghan National Army (ANA). The convoy was sent to aid at a highway checkpoint in Qalat Province that had come under attack. More than 100 Taliban fighters suddenly attacked Kimberling’s convoy with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. The driver of the security force’s Humvee positioned the vehicle to provide cover. Kimberling returned fire from outside the vehicle until nearly being hit by an RPG. He quickly recovered from the blast to kill two Taliban fighters headed his way, which further enabled his Afghan allies to kill other jihadis. After more fighting, the convoy was able to move to higher ground, where, still under fire, Kimberling used a satellite phone to call in air support to end the battle. An estimated 20 jihadis were killed in the firefight, while not a single casualty occurred among the good guys. Kimberling was awarded the Bronze Star with combat “V” for valor and the Army Commendation Medal for his actions.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Rambling Rumination: In Search of the Totality of Ritual & Reality (c)
on: January 24, 2008, 05:37:10 PM
Whoops! Here is version 1.1
Totality of Ritual & Reality
What I have come to appreciate is that because Dog Brothers Martial Arts is a diverse system, people come to us for diverse reasons. Stated thus, the point is blindingly obvious, but that has not stopped me from not appreciating it as much as I could and should have-- and sometimes this has led to confusion.
Now that I have begun thinking about it, it seems to me that there is a continuum, which in order to have a manner of talking, I divide into three sections.
Some people come to us due to their interest in the Ritual Space, e.g. a Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack and/or the health, fun, artistic and philosophical aspects of our system. At the other end of the spectrum are people who are intensely interested in developing real world skills for the challenges of Reality. Typically these people are the Protectors. In between the two are people who may not have pressing immediate real world concerns, but like the idea of using the Ritual Space of a DB Gathering as a moral venue to explore and prepare their adrenal state skills should in Reality the flying fickle finger of fate ever reach out and touch them to say "You are on, right here, right now." In short, they seek to Totality of the Tao of the Dog.
What I have come to appreciate is that many members of the first group explicitly prefer to have their experience free of what Carl Jung might call "the shadow issues" of real world applications.
Similarly, many members of the second group seek precisely to deal effectively with the shadow of those serve or are in the thrall of the Dark. Typically these people prefer to have their experience devoid of what might playfully be called "martial arts & crafts", "dead patterns and tippy tap drills" and the like.
And there is a third group --those who prefer a blend and a balance of the preceding two archetypes. Personally, this is where I find myself-- in search of the totality of ritual and reality.
Because it contains unique questions, let us turn to matters that pertain specifically to the Reality end of the spectrum and its denizens-- the Protectors. As I get older I have come to appreciate with greater depth than before the moral complexities of teaching the reality dimension of a weapons oriented martial art that originated in jungle warfare. I sometimes joke about how I used to be a lawyer, but decided to go for the big bucks in Real Contact Stickfighting-- the meaning of course being that there really is not very much money in this path. Although it is my profession, I am not a mercenary. I do it because I believe in it as part of my path in walking with our Creator.
And because I believe in it I respect the power of its shadow. There ARE people for whom this Art is not intended. The reality dimension of this Art is for those who serve the various paths of the Heart-- those who seek to Protect.
The people for whom this Art is not intended I organize into three basic categories:
1) The emotionally unsound and/or immature;
3) Enemies of Respect, Reason, and Reciprocity e.g. Islamo-fascists and others of this meme.
First, concerning the emotionally unsound it is my belief that teaching applied knife awakens some very dark energy, perhaps much more so than a gun. In a sound Protector awareness of this energy and be able to tap into it is a good and necessary thing, but in the emotionally unsound or immature the consequences can be tragic. For a fuller discussion of this point, see the clip titled “Rambling Ruminations: Knife” at www.dogbrothers.com
Second, obviously criminals (In defining criminality, I do distinguish malum per se from malum en prohibitum in this regard) also should not receive this training.
Turning to the third category, I’d like to share a little story. In the year 2000 I received an email that in a simple sentence of imperfect English asked me to teach knife to his group. I responded by asking who he was. “a syrian kickboxing club” he replied. I did not respond further. In the aftermath of 911 I remember reading that some of the hijackers had received close quarter combat training from a American martial arts instructor (in Florida if I remember correctly) and wondered if the group that had approached me was part of the same conspiracy. Since then I have had a couple of other incidents wherein I was left wondering if someone had been pinging me.
I mention these things to give a sense of where I’m coming from with regard to security issues. Yes, I know that with a knife what matters most is the will and the understanding of how to use it. Yes, I know that plenty of people out there are teaching really deadly knife technique. Yes, I know that most people have access to guns and that again, and again, that what matters most is the will and understanding of how to use it. I know this! I know this!
To the extent that what we offer is generic, I suppose it is relevant to note that “everyone else is doing it”—although even that doesn’t really suffice morally or spiritually. And to the extent that what we offer is not commonly found, and I think it is, we need to look to ourselves to determine right action, not to others.
The criterion I use when teaching our Reality material (known variously as “DLO: Die Less Often” and “IGKEH Interface of Gun, Knife and EH”) to the general public be it through our DVDs or personal instruction is to avoid teaching things that will improve the level of the bad guys—the thugs. For example, in DLO 1 we show the good guys something that thugs typically do— the “prison sewing machine” and what we think is a good way to solve both it and empty handed attacks on the same lines. In the DVD we most certainly sought to provoke awareness of the dangers of this kind of attack, but by so doing we did not raise the level of thugs—they already know how to do this after all —but sought to raise the awareness of good people to what we believe to be a primal reality of knife attacks.
Still this leaves the question of how to teach the things which are not for everyone. As I have discussed previously (see e.g. our clip “Rambling Ruminations on Knife) training knife for application, as versus the Artistic/Ritual flow drills, disarm patterns, etc., can call to something very dark that sleeps within us and that once awakened in unsound people it can lead to tragic choices in pivotal moments. Indeed it seems to me quite likely that this is why many FMA teachers go the artistic route—the physical knowledge is transmitted, but cannot be readily activated without certain keys of understanding.
One option certainly is simply not to go into these things-- but is this really a solution? In today’s world even on "youtube" and its like we see an ever accelerating rate of dissemination of knowledge and information which proceeds with or without Dog Brothers Martial Arts and the Protectors whom we seek to serve.
The first step as I see it is to filter whom we teach. The second I think is to anchor the physical training with morality. This latter point is an important discussion in its own right, but I do not enter into it now.
Concerning the filtering, first and foremost the main line of defense is the traditional responsibility of the instructor to "smell" his (her) students. Of course filtering out those of bad intention or unsound emotions can be a good trick. After all, many people come to martial arts for some sort of emotional healing and we would like to be able to help them if we can. And people of bad intention have been known to dissemble about their true intentions.
With the Dog Brothers Martial Arts Association the question presented becomes complicated by the absence of face-to-face relationship with many of our members. To a limited extent we already have been doing filtering for some time with the application for our Association, and the rigor of this process will be increased to the extent reasonably feasible. For those within the Association we will be developing a separate category dedicated to more complete study of these things for which the filtering process will be even more thorough.
This filtering process is very much a work in progress. For example we would love to be able to simply run a criminal and immigrations records check on all applicants, but apparently this is not possible. We are looking into what it will take for applicants to provide it themselves. It is also important to understand that we are humble about what this work-in-progress for filtering can accomplish. To state the matter plainly, given the limitations of what we can bring to bear we know that we may not catch everyone who should be excluded. Similarly, there will be cases where we turn someone down unfairly because we cannot bring enough to bear to make a fair determination. By definition those who are unfairly turned down will not be offended or angry because they truly get who we are, what we are about, and what we are trying to accomplish.
The Adventure continues,
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Rambling Rumination: In Search of the Totality of Ritual & Reality (c)
on: January 24, 2008, 05:24:19 PM
Some of you may have noticed in our catalog that we have begun organizing our DVDs into two basic categories: Ritual and Reality and this thread serves to introduce a new chapter in the DBMA mission of "Walk as a warrior for all your days".
We call it "The totality of Ritual & Reality" (c).
What I have come to appreciate is that because we are a diverse system, people come to us for diverse reasons. Stated thus, the point is blindingly obvious, but that did not stop me from not appreciating it as much as I could and should have. And it is because of these diverse reasons that we are now entering a period of reorganization.
What are these diverse reasons?
Some people come to us due to their interest in the ritual space, e.g. a Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack and/or the health, fun, artistic and philosophical aspects of our system. At the other end of the spectrum are people who are intensely interested in developing real world skills for real world problems. In between the two are people who may not have pressing immediate real world concerns, but like the idea of using the ritual space of a DB Gathering as a moral venue to explore and prepare their adrenal state skills should the flying fickle finger of fate ever reach out and touch them to say "You are on, right here, right now."
What I have come to appreciate is that many members of the first group explicitly prefer to have their experience with us free of what Carl Jung might call "the shadow issues" of real world applications. Similarly, many members of the third group seek precisely to deal effectively with the shadow of those serve or are in the thrall of the Dark. Typically these people prefer to have their experience devoid of what might playfully be called "martial arts & crafts", "dead patterns and tippy tap drills" and the like. And there is a third group --those who prefer a blend and a balance of the preceding two archetypes. Personally, this is where I find myself-- in search of the totality of ritual and reality.
Concerning the matters of the Reality dimension, as I get older I have come to appreciate with greater depth than before the moral complexities of teaching the reality dimension of a weapons oriented martial art that originated in jungle warfare. I sometimes joke about how I used to be a lawyer, but decided to go for the big bucks in Real Contact Stickfighting-- the meaning of course being that there really is not very much money in this path. Although it is my profession, I am not a mercenary. I do it because I believe in it as part of my path in walking with our Creator. And because I believe in it I respect the power of its shadow. There ARE people for whom this Art is not intended. The reality dimension of this Art is for those who serve the various paths of the Heart-- those who seek to Protect. In a complementary fashion, in some cases the Ritual side of the Art can be a place of healing, forgiveness and transcendence for those who have spiritual wounds to heal, perhaps due to previous engagements with the Dark.
The Adventure continues,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy
on: January 24, 2008, 03:56:43 PM
THE CASE FOR THE CANDIDATE
The Giuliani Tax Cut
By STEVE FORBES
January 24, 2008; Page A16
There is a lot of talk about change in this year's presidential race. But if Washington is truly broken, as many Americans think it is, then it doesn't merely need to be changed. It needs to be fixed. And the man who fixed up New York is ready to fix up Washington.
Rudy Giuliani has proposed the largest tax cut in modern American history and a dramatic simplification of the tax code. His proposal has received broad support from fiscal conservatives in Washington; yesterday it was introduced as legislation by Reps. David Dreier and Roy Blunt, and by Sen. Christopher Bond. Since Fred Thompson has dropped out of the race, there's no question which candidate offers the best tax plan, or is the best spokesman for advancing the tax-reform cause.
Mr. Giuliani's proposal is a remedy for a quintessentially Washingtonian problem: bloated bureaucracy. When the income tax was introduced in 1913, Congress adopted a one-page filing form and a maximum rate of 7%. The Office of Management and Budget estimates Americans now spend 6.5 billion hours a year filling out tax forms.
Our Founders drafted the Constitution with fewer than 5,000 words; with later amendments it is about 8,000 words. The federal tax code is more than 9 million words. So the document that created the government is less than 0.1% as long as the tax code that funds it. Such is the state of Washington today.
Mr. Giuliani understands how the tax code frustrates and confuses many Americans, and that's why he will give every taxpayer the option of using a one-page "Fair and Simple Tax Form." Under the FAST Form, there will be only three rates: 10%, 15% and 30%. Taxpayers who prefer to use the existing forms will remain free to do so. Prized deductions for mortgage payments, state and local taxes, charitable contributions, and child tax credits will all be preserved on the FAST Form.
Moreover, taxpayers can choose each year which plan works best for them. For instance, a small business owner might take advantage of the deductions in the current tax code one year, but choose the FAST Form the next.
For many families, the FAST Form will be an easy choice. A family of four earning $80,000 per year could see their estimated federal income tax burden reduced by $2,207 -- 24%. A single person earning $35,000 -- who pays approximately 10% using the 1040 Form -- will save 13%.
The FAST form is the centerpiece of Mr. Giuliani's tax plan, but it contains many other advantageous features. He will make the Bush tax cuts permanent. He will cut the corporate tax rate, currently second-highest in the industrialized world, to 25% from 35%, helping American businesses compete while protecting and creating American jobs. He will reinstate the Research and Development Tax Credit, a spur to American innovation that Democrats recently let expire. He will repeal the death tax, which unfairly forces relatives of the recently deceased to sell small family farms or businesses to pay the tax collector. He will cut the capital gains tax to 10% from 15%, sparking private-sector investment and economic prosperity. And he will index the Alternative Minimum Tax for inflation and put in on the course to eventual elimination.
Mr. Giuliani's reforms also include a trio of tax-free savings vehicles to encourage middle-class saving: a retirement savings account; a general-purpose lifetime savings account; and a lifetime skills account (for training and education). All three would function as Roth-style accounts (funded with after tax income, but subject to no taxes upon withdrawal), and would be available to all Americans, regardless of income level.
The retirement savings account and the lifetime savings account would have $5,000 annual limits per individual, and the lifetime skills account would have a $1,000 annual limit, with an available employer match. Mr. Giuliani also champions a health-care tax exclusion of $15,000 annually for families ($7,500 for individuals) to increase Americans' access to affordable, portable, privately controlled health care.
Rudy Giuliani knows self-government, not centralized government, makes America great. His proposals demonstrate an opposition to centralized power and a commitment to a growth society. He'll have to work with congressional Democrats to make such proposals a reality, but he has done so before in New York, an overwhelmingly Democratic city.
In the presidential race, the Democrats' idea of "change" is in reality more of the same -- more power and more money for Washington. Mr. Giuliani has another idea. It begins by fixing the complicated mess of our tax code by offering something simpler, flatter and fairer.
Mr. Forbes is president and CEO of Forbes Inc. and editor in chief of Forbes Magazine.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Nat Geo Documentary on the Dog Brothers: Fight Club
on: January 24, 2008, 01:48:43 PM
Tail wags for the kind words everyone.
Here's this on Dr. Addis
Dr. Addis is currently interested in theory and research related to men's mental health. His recent work is focused on links between masculine gender socialization and responses to problems in living, including help-seeking behavior, substance abuse, and variations in the ways mental health problems are perceived and characterized. ....Dr. Addis teaches courses in the psychology of learning, men and masculinity, psychological ethics, and assessment.
He has his own webpagehttp://michaeladdisphd.com/
Cultural expectations for men
Our society creates expectations for men and women that affect how we think, feel, and behave. These expectations can have a powerful effect on how we experience, express, and respond to problems in life. For many men, the expectation that they be strong, stoic, successful, and self-reliant influences the way they cope with problems in life. This can also make it difficult for professionals and close others to recognize in men such problems as depression, anxiety, grief, substance abuse, and other significant life stresses.
Some common cultural expectations for men in the U.S. include:
- Not taking emotional problems too seriously
- Being financially successful
- Handling problems on your own
- Being physically strong
- Keeping control of emotions
Recent research indicates that:
Men who adhere more closely to these expectations may be at greater risk for substance abuse, depression, marital difficulties, and a range of other problems. Men who adhere more closely to these expectations may be less likely to seek help for a range of mental health problems when they experience them.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ Political Diary
on: January 24, 2008, 11:54:19 AM
Thompson Exit Is Bad News for Giuliani
Fred Thompson is headed back to Tennessee, or Hollywood. The question is: Where will his supporters go?
In the upcoming Florida primary, Mr. Thompson was competing with Ron Paul in the bottom half of the field, at just 7.3% in the most recent RCP Average (Mr. Paul is at 5.4%). Mr. Thompson's backers may have been few in numbers, but a few is all the top contenders need: The RCP Average has John McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani all within the margin of error.
To best understand where "Fredheads" might turn, look at the exit polls from South Carolina, where Mr. Thompson had his best day of the primary season. He did well among evangelicals, capturing 15% of their vote, third best behind Mr. McCain and Mike Huckabee (at 27% and 43%, respectively). So it's possible Mr. Thompson's departure might bring is a slight boost to Mr. Huckabee.
But it's also possible some of Mr. Thompson's supporters, who've described themselves in exit polls from earlier states as among the most conservative members of the party, may find themselves moving into Mr. Romney's camp as he grooms himself as Reagan's heir. Others, for whom national security is a top issue, may shift toward Mr. McCain -- a shift that could be enhanced if Mr. Thompson decides to endorse Mr. McCain in the next week, as some have speculated.
So while it's unclear who will benefit most from Mr. Thompson's exit, it's abundantly clear who is hurt: Rudy Giuliani. After failing to compete in the early states and watching his poll numbers slide, Mr. Giuliani has staked his entire campaign on a victory in Florida. That task is made all the more difficult with one less candidate in the field to help split the conservative vote.
-- Blake Dvorak, RealClearPolitics
Quote of the Day I
"Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are moving so far apart that they might have to run together to save their party's chances in November. In an ominous aside on Wednesday, Obama questioned what might happen if he loses the Democratic presidential nomination to the New York senator and former First Lady. 'I have no doubt that once the nomination contest is over, I will get the people who voted for her,' the Illinois senator told the Christian Broadcast Network. 'Now the question is can she get the people who voted for me?' If Obama is even remotely suggesting that he and his supporters will not support a Clinton-led general election bid, then Clinton might be forced to consider choosing him as her running mate.... Earlier in this campaign, observers assumed that a woman and an African-American on the same ticket would be too much ground-breaking diversity for the nation to handle. But that was before things got so heated between the Clinton and Obama camps. If the feuding get much worse, binding them together might be the only way for Democrats to heal the divide" -- Congressional Quarterly's Craig Crawford.
Quote of the Day II
"The Clintons play dirty when they feel threatened. But we knew that, didn't we? The recent roughing-up of Barack Obama was in the trademark style of the Clinton years in the White House. High-minded and self-important on the surface, smarmily duplicitous underneath, meanwhile jabbing hard to the groin area. They are a slippery pair and come as a package.... Evidently, many of the mainstream party faithful want the Clinton team as their presidential nominee. It's their choice, of course. But does the rest of the country really deserve this?" -- columnist William Greider, writing in the left-wing Nation magazine.
South Carolina 'Sleeper'?
With John Edwards trailing in the polls and reeling from losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, we put a call in to one of his staunchest supporters in South Carolina -- Rep. Leon Howard, chairman of the state legislature's Black Caucus. What he had to say was a little surprising and offered a hint as to why Mr. Edwards hopes the Palmetto State can yet revive his flagging campaign.
Mr. Howard was realistic about his assessment, stating matter-of-factly that Barack Obama is a "force to be reckoned with" who will likely drive to the polls "a lot of people who haven't voted before." He also said that the recent flap about Hillary Clinton's comments on Martin Luther King's legacy "didn't resonate much" in the black community and that he doesn't "want to spend a lot of time on that... it was really a slip of the lip." And yet he still believes that Mr. Edwards' focus on poverty could be the wildcard in the race, and end up capturing sizeable support among African-American voters, a bloc that could make up as much as 60% of the electorate in Saturday's primary.
He called Mr. Edwards "the sleeper candidate," adding that he's "the first candidate who started paying attention to rural South Carolina" with a message of "ending poverty." That message has been well-received in counties that lack trauma hospitals, public water systems and other infrastructure basics. Mr. Howard mentioned, in particular, Lee County, where 62% of the population is black and one resident in five lives below the poverty line; and Allendale County, where 71% of the residents are black and 34.5% of the population lives in poverty.
Across South Carolina, the poverty rate among African Americans is nearly 30%, and the 10 counties with the highest rates of poverty are all majority black counties. The latest polls may have Mr. Edwards running nearly 30 points behind Mr. Obama -- he won't be repeating his favorite-son victory of 2004. But if Mr. Howard is right, a strong showing in rural South Carolina might yet endanger Mr. Obama's expectations of carrying the state over Hillary Clinton. On the whole, any outcome that leaves the issue undecided between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton gives Mr. Edwards an excuse to stay in the game.
-- Brendan Miniter
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: January 24, 2008, 11:42:01 AM
More feminine musings from the NY Slimes:
Two Against One
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: January 23, 2008
Blogrunner: Reactions From Around the WebIf Bill Clinton has to trash his legacy to protect his legacy, so be it. If he has to put a dagger through the heart of hope to give Hillary hope, so be it.
If he has to preside in this state as the former first black president stopping the would-be first black president, so be it.
The Clintons — or “the 2-headed monster,” as the The New York Post dubbed the tag team that clawed out wins in New Hampshire and Nevada — always go where they need to go, no matter the collateral damage. Even if the damage is to themselves and their party.
Bill’s transition from elder statesman, leader of his party and bipartisan ambassador to ward heeler and hatchet man has been seamless — and seamy.
After Bill’s success trolling the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, Hillary handed off South Carolina and flew to California and other Super Tuesday states. The Big Dog relished playing the candidate again, wearing a Technicolor orange tie and sweeping across the state with the mute Chelsea.
He tried to convey the impression that they were running against The Man, and with classic Clintonian self-pity, grumbled that Barack Obama had all the advantages.
When he was asked yesterday if he would feel bad standing in the way of the first black president, he said no. “I’m not standing in his way,” he said. “I think Hillary would be a better president” who’s “ready to do the job on the first day.” He added: “No one has a right to be president, including Hillary. Keep in mind, in the last two primaries, we ran as an underdog.” He rewrote the facts, saying that “no one thought she could win” in New Hampshire, even though she originally had had a substantial lead.
He said of Obama: “I hope I get a chance to vote for him some day.” And that day, of course, would be after Hillary’s eight years; it’s her turn now because Bill owes her. “I think it would be just as much a change, and some people think more, to have the first woman president as to have the first African-American president,” he said.
Bad Bill had been roughing up Obama so much that Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina suggested that he might want to “chill.” On a conference call with reporters yesterday, the former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a national co-chairman of the Obama campaign, tut-tutted that the “incredible distortions” of the political beast were “not keeping with the image of a former president.”
Jonathan Alter reported in Newsweek that Senator Edward Kennedy and Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois congressman and former Clinton aide, have heatedly told Bill “that he needs to change his tone and stop attacking Senator Barack Obama.”
In the Myrtle Beach debate Monday night, Obama was fed up with being double-teamed by the Clintons. He finally used attack lines that his strategists had urged him to use against Hillary for months. “It was as though all the e-mails were backed up,” said one.
When Hillary tried once more to take Obama’s remarks about Ronald Reagan out of context, making it seem as though Obama had praised Reagan’s policies, he turned sarcastic about getting two distortionists for the price of one.
“I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes,” he snapped at Hillary, obviously entrapped and psyched-out by the Clinton duo.
On a conference call with reporters yesterday morning, Obama did not back off from his more aggressive, if defensive, stance. The Clintons, he said “spent the last month attacking me in ways that are not accurate. At some point, it’s important for me to answer.” Recalling that Hillary had called mixing it up the “fun” part of politics, he said: “I don’t think it’s the fun part to fudge the truth.”
Bill has merged with his wife totally now, talking about “we” and “us.” “I never did anything major without discussing it with her,” he told a crowd here. “We’ve been having this conversation since we first met in 1971, and I don’t think we’ll stop now.” He suggested as First Lad that “I can help to sell the domestic program.”
It’s odd that the first woman with a shot at becoming president is so openly dependent on her husband to drag her over the finish line. She handed over South Carolina to him, knowing that her support here is largely derivative.
At the Greenville event, Bill brought up Obama’s joking reference to him in the debate, about how Obama would have to see whether Bill was a good dancer before deciding whether he was the first black president.
Bill, naturally, turned it into a competition. “I would be willing to engage in a dancing competition with him, even though he’s much younger and thinner than I am,” he said. “If I’m going to get in one of these brother contests,” he added, “at least I should be entitled to an age allowance.”
He said, “I kind of like seeing Barack and Hillary fighting.”
“How great is this?” he said. “Neither of them has to be a little wind-up doll who’s supposed to behave in a certain way. They’re real people, flesh and blood people. They have differences.”
And if he has anything to say about it, and he will, they’ll be fighting till the last dog dies.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who is in charge?
on: January 24, 2008, 11:33:22 AM
This columnist for the NY Slimes may be onto something
Editing Hillary’s Story
By GAIL COLLINS
Published: January 24, 2008
Last summer, I asked Hillary Clinton if she had any reservations about using her husband in her campaign. She said no, that having Bill on the team was “a great gift. I have always believed you should get the very best people to advise you.”
I never really made use of the interview. At the time, it was hard to complain about the former president’s role. Publicly, he was limited to the occasional stump speech, telling crowds what a good senator his wife was, and how she had helped a small businessman market his fishing poles to Scandinavia. He had a peculiar line about how he had told her back at Yale Law School that he’d met all the great minds of their generation and hers was the finest. Even if that seemed a tad over the top, supportive spouse is a role that provides latitude for excessive enthusiasm. After all, Laura Bush always used to assure people that her George was up to the job.
But now Bill is all over the place — campaign guru, surrogate candidate, one-man first response team. By next week, he’ll be designing the bumper stickers.
The Democratic elders are wringing their hands about the ex-president’s rants at Barack Obama, worrying that he’ll alienate black voters. That doesn’t seem all that likely. African-Americans have stuck with the Democrats through a lot worse than a fight over who said what about Ronald Reagan’s legacy.
And you can’t deny the Clintons’ double-teaming is throwing Barack off his game. “I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes,” he complained during Monday’s debate.
But in the process, they’re ruining the central selling point of her campaign, the story that explains why she’s the one a dispirited country should trust to make things better.
Every candidacy has one. Barack’s is about the child of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya whose very lineage makes him the vehicle for a transcendent national unity. Hillary’s isn’t how the smart girl from Illinois who overcame every obstacle fate could throw at her to become the first woman president. Instead, it’s a version of the story we love best of all, about second chances and the American capacity to turn failure into redemption.
She admits she messed up during her early first lady years. The health care plan was a disaster. Travelgate is still too embarrassing to go near. “Oh, we made so many mistakes,” she said last summer, waving away the woes of 1993 and 1994 in one fell swoop, all the while referring to the first Clinton presidency in the first person plural.
Her biggest error was taking a major policy role in her husband’s administration. During the 1992 campaign many people, including me, were offended when the public seemed to want to limit Hillary to the adoring gaze and cookie-baking role. But the public was onto something. It wasn’t Hillary’s gender that was the problem, it was her status as spouse.
It’s almost never a good idea for the boss to bring a husband/wife into management. It muddies up the lines of authority, and it lets personal relationships contaminate the professional ones. As every sentient being on the planet knows, the Clintons have an extremely complicated marriage, and sticking it smack in the middle of the chain of command caused chaos.
The implicit promise of Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy was that she had learned from Clinton I. In her, Americans would have a candidate who had been in the very center of White House decision-making. And the very fact that so much had gone wrong was added value. She is nothing if not a good learner, and — the story went — she had discovered at great price where all the landmines lay, both in the presidency and her own character. And she had forged a separate political identity in seven years in the Senate. During an era when the challenges to a new president could be sudden and overwhelming — and here Hillary isn’t ashamed to play the terror card — she was uniquely prepared to hit the ground running and achieve the greatest do-over in American history.
Now, Bill’s role as Chief Attack Dog undermines all that. If he’s all over her campaign, he’s going to be all over her administration. Instead of the original promise of the thoroughly educated Hillary, we’re being offered the worst-case scenario — that the pair of them are going to return to Pennsylvania Avenue and recreate the old Clinton chaos.
A lot of people are O.K. with that. (After all, we’ve lived for seven years with a disciplined Oval Office that runs like clockwork while it spreads chaos everywhere else.) Only it’s not change, it’s not a breakthrough moment in American history. It’s just a nervous decision that we’d rather go back than risk going forward.
It’s a story, all right, with Bill at the center. If Hillary expects anybody to get misty-eyed about the first woman president at the inauguration, she’s got to send him home and go back to the original plotline.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters
on: January 24, 2008, 10:14:10 AM
A federal police officer escorts a man from one of two mansions in Mexico City where 11 suspected hit men allegedly linked to a seized suspected drug cartel leader were arrested.
January 23, 2008
MEXICO CITY -- Local police were relieved of duty Tuesday in the border cities of Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros and Reynosa as army troops disarmed the officers and searched for evidence that might link them to drug traffickers.
In Nuevo Laredo, soldiers surrounded police headquarters at 8 a.m. and ordered officers to remain inside. Federal troops conducted a similar operation in Tijuana last January, at the beginning of an offensive against Mexico's drug cartels and their allies in the police.
During the first 14 months of his rule, President Felipe Calderon has sent federal troops to at least half a dozen states, including Michoacan in the south and Veracruz on the Gulf. Calderon has vowed to break the power of the traffickers, who wield wide influence over local authorities and intimidate local news media.
At least two drug-trafficking organizations are fighting for control of Nuevo Laredo and its border crossings, a lucrative source of income for smugglers. President Vicente Fox, Calderon's predecessor, sent army troops there in 2005.
But the violence has continued unabated. Several observers in Nuevo Laredo say it is an open secret that many police officers cooperate with traffickers.
In an interview this month with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, Atty. Gen. Eduardo Medina Mora acknowledged that the Calderon government's purges of federal, state and local police were only the beginning.
"There are municipal police forces that have collapsed and that function more as support staff to organized crime rather than as guardians of public safety," Medina Mora said.
Last week, federal police arrested 11 men in Nuevo Laredo, including four police officers, who were said to be operatives for the so-called Gulf cartel.
On Tuesday, all on-duty police officers were confined to their stations and none patrolled the city, according to news reports. About 300 troops of the army's elite Airborne Special Forces Group established checkpoints throughout the city.
"This is an action that is taking place with the full cooperation of the mayor," said Alberto Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Nuevo Laredo city government.
Mexican military officials said the army would patrol the city with the assistance of state and federal police but declined to comment further.
In Matamoros, 600 police officers were confined to stations and were being questioned by federal authorities, according to media reports.
The similar operation last year in Tijuana lasted three weeks, with more than 3,500 soldiers and federal agents sent into the city. Many police patrolled unarmed, and a few were seen with slingshots until their weapons were returned.
In the months since, violence there related to drug trafficking and organized crime has continued unabated.
At least 17 people were killed in the border city last week, including three senior police officials, one of whom was shot in his home alongside his wife and two daughters.
Federal officials have said privately that many of their most recent shootouts have been with operatives of the Gulf cartel, based in the state of Tamaulipas, which includes Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros. The cartel has been the most aggressive in efforts to conquer territory from rivals, officials say.
Army special forces troops Tuesday confiscated two dozen assault rifles in a Reynosa "safe house" said to belong to the Gulf cartel and its band of hit men, the Zetas.
A day earlier, federal agents arrested Alfredo Beltran Leyva, allegedly a leader in the so-called Sinaloa cartel, also known as the cartel of the Pacific. And 11 suspected hit men allegedly linked to Beltran Leyva were arrested Tuesday in two mansions on the southern edge of Mexico City.
The suspected cartel operatives were lined up in the living rooms of the two homes. Federal drug officials presented the men to local reporters alongside a small arsenal of seized weapons, including machine guns and grenades.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market
on: January 24, 2008, 12:06:08 AM
Like the rest of you in the market, I've had much adventure-- and not much time to report here.
Following David Gordon I have taken a position in VMW at 82 and doubled it the other day at 74.
Nice day from CREE and PCL.
Rick N has kept me apprised of LNOP, which is now EZCH. I added strongly to my position at 11.80 Here is the latest on its technology being used:
Press Release Source: Juniper Networks, Inc.
Independent Test Validates Simplicity of Juniper Networks MPLS Plug-and-Play Solution
Tuesday January 22, 9:00 am ET
Isocore's Comprehensive Testing Confirms Effectiveness of Juniper's Automated, Cost-effective Solution for Deploying Large Carrier Ethernet Networks
SUNNYVALE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Juniper Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:JNPR - News), the leader in high-performance networking, today announced the completion of an independent, comprehensive test that validates the effectiveness of its MPLS Plug-and-Play solution designed to simplify network operations of Carrier Ethernet networks. Isocore, a leading technology validation and certification laboratory, evaluated Juniper Networks MPLS Plug-and-Play solution and verified a significant simplification in the provisioning of large-scale Ethernet networks and services, including the ease of managing and troubleshooting of Metro Ethernet networks.
“The ability to dynamically provision and deploy Carrier Ethernet networks and services expeditiously and cost-effectively — in a true ‘plug-and-play’ fashion — is very important to service providers,” said Dr. Bijan Jabbari, president of Isocore. “In our evaluation of Juniper’s MPLS Plug-and-Play solution, it demonstrated its capabilities in fulfilling the promises of automated provisioning and configuration, which helps save time and eliminate configuration errors.”
Juniper Networks MPLS Plug-and-Play is a unique solution based on JUNOS software, which is designed to streamline and simplify network operations by automating time-consuming provisioning, configuration and troubleshooting tasks. MPLS Plug-and-Play from Juniper Networks can reduce service providers’ operating expenses and improves the overall efficiency of Carrier Ethernet networks, while retaining the full feature set of MPLS. MPLS Plug-and-Play leverages error resilient configuration, scripting, auto-discovery and other innovative technologies to simplify the installation and maintenance of Carrier Ethernet networks. In addition, MPLS Plug-and-Play enables customers to accelerate the deployment of new revenue-generating services based on Carrier Ethernet technology.
During the independent Isocore analysis, testing was conducted on a large test bed — representative of a true carrier class network — comprised of Juniper Networks MX-series Ethernet Service Routers (ESRs) and M-series multiservice edge routers. A few of the key findings of the independent test include:
MPLS Plug-and-Play successfully established the support of error-resilient configurations on both edge and core routers used in the test;
Successful demonstration of commit and operation scripts to automate configurations and diagnose failures in the network;
Faultless discovery and operation of Ethernet Unnumbered Interfaces within IGP, BGP and MPLS networks.
The M- and MX-series also demonstrated successful auto-provisioning of Layer 2 Point-to-Point BGP-based VPNs and VPLS services with four sites, and met Isocore’s stringent specifications for a plug-and-play environment. Customers can download Isocore’s complete report on Juniper’s website: www.juniper.net/ce
“Ethernet’s ubiquitous success has been in large part due to its simplicity and ease-of-deployment,” said Manoj Leelanivas, senior vice president of the Edge and Aggregation Business Unit, Infrastructure Products Group, Juniper Networks. “As service providers adopt Ethernet-based networks, Juniper’s MPLS Plug-and-Play solution extends this simplicity to carrier networks — without requiring customers to give up any of their MPLS features or have their networks be a test-bed for unproven technologies.”
Webinar: Removing the Complexity in IP/MPLS Networks Using MPLS Plug-and-Play
In conjunction with Isocore, Telecommunications Magazine and Synergy Research Group, Juniper Networks will host an informative, no-cost webinar on the subject of MPLS Plug-and-Play. Entitled “Removing the Complexity in IP/MPLS Networks Using MPLS Plug-and-Play,” the webinar will take place on January 23 at 11:30 ET, and will be moderated by Sean Buckley, editor-in-chief of Telecommunications. The session will include expert perspectives from:
Kireeti Kompella, PhD, Juniper Fellow, former co-chair of the IETF CCAMP Working Group and author of several Internet Drafts and RFCs in the areas of CCAMP, IS-IS, L2VPN, MPLS, OSPF and TE;
Ray Mota, PhD, Chief Research Officer, Synergy Research Group;
Bijan Jabbari, PhD, president of Isocore.
For more information, and to register, please visit: www.telecommagazine.com/PlugandPlayJuniper
Isocore provides technology validation, certification and product evaluation services in emerging and next generation Internet and wireless technologies. Isocore is leading validation and interoperability of novel technologies including Carrier Ethernet, IPv6, IP Optical Integration, wireless backhauling and Layer 2/3 Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and currently focuses on IPTV service deployment architecture validation and design. Major router and switch vendors, service providers, and test equipment suppliers participate in Isocore activities. Isocore has major offices in the USA (the Washington DC area), Europe (Paris, France) and Asia (Tokyo, Japan).
About Juniper Networks
Juniper Networks, Inc. is the leader in high-performance networking. Juniper offers a high-performance network infrastructure that creates a responsive and trusted environment for accelerating the deployment of services and applications over a single network. This fuels high-performance businesses. Additional information can be found at www.juniper.net
Juniper Networks and the Juniper Networks logo are registered trademarks of Juniper Networks, Inc. in the United States and other countries. JUNOS is a trademark of Juniper Networks, Inc. All other trademarks, service marks, registered trademarks, or registered service marks are the property of their respective owners.
Juniper Networks, Inc.
Susan Ursch, 978-589-0124 (Media)firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathleen Bela, 408-936-7804 (Investor Relations)email@example.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt Speaks
on: January 23, 2008, 02:10:42 PM
There is something ironic about having Congress -- which is holding hearings on steroid use in baseball -- trying to solve our current economic challenges with the economic equivalent of fiscal steroids.
The maneuvering and posturing in Washington has assumed all of its normal pre-failure patterns.
The fact is, there could be no greater contrast between the approach I outlined in my new book, Real Change, and the traditional insider politics of Washington.
A Washington Insider Economic Package That Is Too Small and Too Temporary
Republican staff advisers are developing an economic package within the timid boundaries allowed by the Washington establishment. The package they are working on is too small, too temporary and clearly inadequate for the scale of the economic problems we face.
To make matters worse, the Democrats who control Congress will begin demanding even less-useful and more-destructive economic proposals that will spend a lot more money with even less hope of helping the economy.
The Federal Reserve chairman will forget that his primary job is protecting the stability and strength of the dollar and will become a complicit political player in trying to develop an insider package that will only weaken the dollar still further. We saw evidence of this yesterday, when Chairman Bernanke and his colleagues reduced the Federal Reserve's federal funds rate three-quarters of a percentage point. As a result, the dollar dropped in global markets almost immediately.
In short, the normal patterns of Washington, D.C., are likely to lead to temporary, marginal tinkering when what America really needs is long-term, fundamental reform to protect the dollar, increase productivity and create jobs.
A Familiar Pattern of Failure
We are witnessing the same destructive pattern that led to "stagflation" in the 1970s -- the economic disaster that ultimately led Gov. Ronald Reagan to win the presidency on the dual pledges of anti-inflationary monetary policy and a fiscal policy of cuts in non-defense spending, regulation and taxes in order to revive the economy.
This same destructive pattern led the first Bush Administration to break its "no new taxes pledge," which set the stage for the Democratic victory of 1992.
And it was this same pattern that led the Clinton Administration to adopt the largest tax increase in history in 1993 and set the stage for the Contract with America and the first Republican House majority in 40 years.
Why a Washington Insider Stimulus Package Is Doomed to Fail Politically
This pattern of Washington insider negotiating and posturing is doomed to fail politically because of the power of the world financial news system and because this gimmicky approach goes against the fundamental desires of the American people.
Just open the financial pages from yesterday: The world markets have already condemned the initial administration proposals.
If the stimulus package was designed to be a confidence builder, it is clearly failing.
On Monday, London fell 5.48%, Germany 7.16%, China 5.14%, Hong Kong 5.49% and India 7.41%. This was the world's investors' way of making clear they were not reassured.
Furthermore, to make the situation even more intense, the power of the markets is amplified by the global financial news system. Market reactions are transmitted instantly, 24 hours a day, by cable news and other news outlets.
I was on the new Fox Business Channel as a guest on Neil Cavuto's show Monday evening (read a transcript here). By then, it was clear that the on-air analysts were joining the investors in condemning the stimulus package as inadequate and ineffective.
Americans Want Long-Term Solutions
The American people will ultimately reject the stimulus package, because it violates one of their deepest beliefs. Americans believe in long-term solutions, not short-term fixes. This Washington insider maneuvering is politics as usual at a time when the American people are crying out for a change of course.
In our American Solutions polling last summer, the American people told us by a margin of 92% to 5% that our goal should be to provide long-term solutions instead of short-term fixes. You can find this and other economic data in the Platform of the American People in Real Change and at AmericanSolutions.com.
Overwhelmingly, the American people told us that they are prepared to be told the truth and for large, fundamental changes.
Short-term fixes are going to be rejected by the American people, and the politicians who endorse them are going to find their reputations suffering as a result.
Why a Washington Insider Stimulus Package Will Fail Economically
The stimulus packages being discussed won't just fail politically, they'll also fail economically. The size of the challenge is much bigger than the size of the current solutions being offered by Washington.
Consider these economic indicators:
Gold has been hitting record highs ($914.30 an ounce a week ago). Gold was up 32% in 2007.
U.S. Treasury notes, historically the best store of currency value, have lost 20% compared to gold since August 2007.
Silver has hit a 24-year high ($16.60 an ounce last week).
Platinum has skyrocketed to $1,592 an ounce (and if platinum is a primary metal in the next generation of cars, the world's supply will run out in 15 years, according to some estimates).
Oil hit $100 a barrel but has slid to about $90 a barrel on recession news. (A weak economy means declining oil prices, a strong economy means rising oil prices.)
Harbingers of Inflation
High commodity prices like these are usually harbingers of inflation.
The declining dollar has been a similar indicator of inflationary pressures coming.
The producer price index was up 7.7% through November 2007. That is the biggest jump in 34 years.
The consumer price index was up 4.2% through November 2007. That is the biggest jump in 17 years.
The Role of the Federal Reserve: To Protect the Value of the Dollar
In this setting, it is important for Chairman Ben Bernanke and the Fed to remember their primary mission: protecting the value of the dollar.
People want their government to keep the value of its currency. We won't save and invest if we think politicians are going to steal our earnings and savings by inflating the currency.
The Fed should focus its eye firmly on strengthening the dollar and driving inflation down to 2%.
If the world came to believe the Fed was serious about protecting the dollar, the price of oil would decline substantially, the price of gold would decline substantially, the world's capital flows would return to the United States and the economy would be inherently healthier.
Creating Jobs and Productivity While Stabilizing the Dollar
If the Federal Reserve should focus on creating a stable dollar, the President and Congress should focus on increasing productivity and creating jobs.
Our political leaders should concentrate on making the American worker more successful in competing with China, India, Japan and Europe. They should also ensure that long-term productivity gains in the United States result in real prosperity that would enable Americans to pay off their debts and increase their savings for their retirement years.
Recognizing the Reality of Democratic Control of Congress
Any economic plan has to start with the recognition that Democrats control Congress. That means they get to have a large say in a successful package.
The difficulty here is compounded by the fact that the Democrats have a lot less to lose by allowing nothing to happen, because they will blame any economic problems on President Bush and the Republicans.
The key is to give the Democrats substantial influence over half the economic growth package -- the half aimed at increasing consumer spending -- but insist that the President and Republicans control the other half of the package aimed at increasing productivity and creating jobs.
Give Democrats Control Over Half the Stimulus Package. . .
If Republicans were proposing consumer stimulus plans, an ideal change would be to offset the payroll tax for both individuals and employers. Almost nothing would increase take-home pay for working Americans as fast or enable businesses to hire more people.
A second good option would be a significant increase in the tax allowance for children. This would help working families and single working mothers and could have a very positive impact.
For their part, the Democrats will almost certainly want some kind of direct giveaway program of rebates or some other payment.
As long as the amount is capped at half of a very robust package (say $150 billion of a $300 billion package), it should be the price Republicans pay to get a productivity-increasing bill through a Democratic Congress.
Here's the bottom line trade-off: Republicans should offer relative freedom to the Democrats to design the consumer stimulus part of the bill but then insist on similar freedom to design the productivity increasing portions of the bill.
. . .With a Big 'If'
There is a big "if" involved in this approach.
The Republicans have to be prepared to play hardball. They have to stand firm for a powerful productivity- and growth-oriented component or be prepared to accept the failure of the package.
The Democrats will attempt to panic the Republicans into giving up all their principles just to get "something" passed quickly.
It is very important for the President and House and Senate Republicans to stand firm for a sophisticated package that would actually increase productivity.
The first key to productivity improvements is that they have to be permanent so people can rely on them.
A Bold Plan for Economic Growth
What America needs is deep, fundamental reform to make American businesses more competitive so American workers have better paying jobs with greater job security.
The change from the current situation to a powerfully competitive American future is a much bigger change than anyone in Washington is contemplating.
Here are a few proposals that would begin to move us in the right direction:
1. Adopt the Rangel proposal for a corporate income tax cut.
When even liberal Democrats such as Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) recognize that the United States is killing jobs at home by having the second-highest corporate income tax in the world, there is a possibility of getting something done. In Rangel's generally bad bill of massive tax increases there is a provision for a corporate income tax rate cut. Republicans should simply lift that section from his bill and propose it in his name.
2. Abolish or index the capital gains tax.
A plurality of Americans favor abolishing the capital gains tax (American Solutions polling found a margin of 49% to 41%). This number will go up as Americans look at the disastrous impact of the financial meltdown on their planned retirement funds and their children's college education funds.
Abolishing the capital gains tax would lead to an immediate jump in the value of the stock market, leading to an immediate jump in the value of every retiree's 401(k). More importantly, it would lead to a burst of new investments in the United States, creating a foundation for long-term economic growth.
If abolishing capital gains is politically impossible for Democrats (who tend to be anti-capital in between high-dollar fundraisers) to accept, then the fallback position should be to index the capital gains tax so inflation does not erode capital gains. As Richard Rahn has pointed out, this would have a big effect on increasing investment in America.
3. Allow 100% expensing of all investments in new equipment.
If American businesses could write off 100% of their new equipment within one year of its purchase, there would be a boom in equipping American workers with the best and most modern equipment so they can compete with any economy in the world.
These kinds of real, permanent changes would begin to make America more competitive and more productive. They will allow the dollar to increase in value as investors start to buy up dollars to invest in the low-tax U.S. economy. In turn, this will give the Fed more room to keep interest rates low. These changes would be a step toward permanent, long-term, improved economic health.
And Don't Forget About Scoring
It is essential to remember that anything good for the American economy will be scored badly by the bureaucrats at the Joint Tax Committee and the Office of Management and Budget. Both bureaucracies have a history of being anti-capitalist, anti-market and anti-growth in predicting how economic policy changes will effect economic growth and government revenue.
The answer, however, is simple.
Establish a margin of error equal to how wrong they were in scoring revenue from the last cycle of tax cuts. Then declare that anything within that margin of error is scored as acceptable.
The fact is that it is impossible to establish sound policy for economic growth with Socialist scoring. However, in the short run, it is impossible to change these two entrenched bureaucracies.
Therefore, the answer is simply to publish the degree to which the bureaucrats were wrong in the last two or three tax-cutting cycles and write the bill within that margin of historically provable inaccuracy.
Good News From Innovative Governors: Sanford Proposes an Optional Flat Tax
In the Platform of the American People, there is overwhelming support for an optional flat tax with a one page tax form. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) has picked up on this overwhelming desire for real change in how we pay taxes.
Here's what Gov. Sanford had to say about the optional flat tax in his State of the State address:
"A flat tax alternative that would allow someone the option of forgoing exemptions and instead pay a 3.4% flat tax in this state. We continue to believe finding ways to lower the marginal tax rate is vital to our economy, vital to competitiveness and in this case vital to the taxpayer's pocket. It is worth noting that a recent report from the Federal Reserve documented the connection between lower income tax rates and higher economic and employment growth. This is something we can do to better the economy of our state, and I'd thank Rep. Merrill for introducing a bill toward this end."
Louisiana's Jindal Starts With Accountability and Transparency
Newly elected Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), one of the brightest and most creative people in public life, began his governorship with an executive order making state spending transparent and ordering it to be posted on the Internet so every citizen could see how their tax money is being spent.
For a Louisiana governor, this was an enormous step toward reform.
Transparency in government spending is a growing movement among the states and, like so much of the innovation on the state level in America, it's an idea the President would do well to make his own.
Publishing all non-classified federal spending on the Internet would put the power to unearth fraud and abuse in the hands of the American people.
It would be a step toward real accountability in government.
In other words, it would be real change, just what we need in Washington right now.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Body Cracks to much
on: January 23, 2008, 12:46:59 PM
I am guessing that your hip flexors are tight and your glute-hamstring nexus not firing 100% leading to the hips tilting forward and that the extenal rotators of your femurs are dominating the internal rotators, possibly unevenly-- thus setting up a hint of scoliosis.
Solution: Level out your hips.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Nat Geo Documentary on the Dog Brothers: Fight Club
on: January 23, 2008, 12:44:32 PM
Some comments from the Nat Geo blog
Nice article and looking forward to the program.
Posted by aardvark | January 19, 2008 2:08 PM
Sounds like a bunch of fun, great stuff!
Posted by PizDoff | January 19, 2008 4:14 PM
Hey- I'm a hot (not so anonymous) groupie!
Posted by Tiffini | January 20, 2008 7:00 PM
OMG this sounds horrible. I can't believe National Geographic feels the need to promote such brutality! I'm very disappointed.
Posted by Beth | January 21, 2008 4:01 AM
A ritual of severe consequence, but one that seems to have enlighted you. Can't wait to watch.
Posted by Vanessa | January 21, 2008 12:27 PM
You're crazy for real!! But I guess us girls will NEVER understand!
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Nat Geo Documentary on the Dog Brothers: Fight Club
on: January 23, 2008, 12:01:27 PM
After serving as a platoon commander in close urban combat, I understand the severity of a fight to the death - in which life or death of you and the ones you love are on the line. But still, I never had to use any of my hand to hand skills specifically. Full contact is good, but I needed some answers about full contact against another weapon with me using my secondary/tertiary weapon. The sensation at the beginning of the fight at Dog Brothers was very much like the sensation before advancing into the face of the enemy with tracers coming back at you. The key is in the possibility of actual bodily harm. Obviously there is control - which makes it what it is. I trust the man in front of me to take it to the limit but no farther; he trusts the same of me. I regret that I cannot do it more, but my priority is on leading our young war fighters in battle and bringing them home.
- Bryan, Infantry Officer, United States Marine Corps
Two fighters grapple for position.
When I first heard about Dog brothers full contact stick fighting, I thought they were just some no name guys trying to get attention. I bought some of their tapes and found out that they really deserved some attention. As I learned their techniques and philosophy I started seeing my previous martial skills in a new light. The experience of fighting all out with a weapon and not stopping even when taken down to the ground, added a realism that caused everything that I had learned in the past to take on a practical, real world dimension. This made all my past training ten times more valuable because now I truly understood how to apply the techniques more effectively and to recognized the situations when certain fighting methods could or would not work. There are many aspects of Dog Brothers that brings one to this understanding but the Dog brothers motto sums it all up, "Higher Consciousness, Through Harder Contact."
- P.C., Line Supervisor
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ Political Diary
on: January 23, 2008, 11:49:11 AM
In Today's Political Diary:
Vice President Voinovich?
Too Courtly for His Own Good (Quote of the Day I)
A Voice from the Big Tent (Quote of the Day II)
Fred Thompson Hit the Ground Sauntering
Dotting the 'i' in Ohio
Ohio figures again to be a pivotal battleground state in the general election and as we reported several weeks ago, Democrats are eyeing popular new Governor Ted Strickland as a potential Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama running mate.
But now Republicans are also coveting an Ohio Veep candidate. Republican National Committee insiders tell me that one name surfacing a lot is George Voinovich, the former Cleveland mayor and liberal Republican Senator. Mr. Voinovich is the only Republican who has been elected state-wide for governor or senator in Ohio for years.
But Mr. Voinovich would almost certainly infuriate grassroots conservatives as the pick -- especially if the GOP nominee were John McCain, who would likely need a staunch conservative on the ticket for ideological balance. Mr. Voinovich has voted consistently against tax cuts, and even was one of the few Republicans in the Senate to oppose death tax repeal, a bread-and-butter GOP issue. In the '80s, when he was Mayor of Cleveland, he opposed many of the Reagan tax cut policies. Mr. Voinovich calls himself a deficit hawk, as is Mr. McCain, but the Ohio Senator has a middle-of-the-road voting record with the National Taxpayers Union.
If an Ohio favorite son is a must-have on the Republican ticket, another choice might be John Kasich, the former congressman and budget committee chairman from Columbus. Mr. Kasich was on Fox News this past Sunday singing the praises of Mr. McCain, vouching that he is "conservative enough for Republican voters." Mr. Kasich is an anti-Big Government crusader who called for the elimination of some 300 federal programs as part of the GOP's Contract with America. He was also one of the first prominent Republicans to take his colleagues in Congress to task for "not being serious about cutting the budget."
Mr. Kasich is also a dangling live-wire of snap, crackle and pop energy. He is a Type A personality, bordering on ADD -- and a nonstop crusader for tax and spending reform in Washington. He recently told me: "I hate that town. I don't miss it a bit." RNC sources say Mr. Kasich would be a Veep candidate who could neutralize the attacks that liberal Democrats are already launching at John McCain for being too old and tired to serve as president and for being a candidate who can't reach the generation X and Y voters. As one GOP source tells me, Mr. Kasich is, in a lot of ways, a "Republican version of Barack Obama."
-- Stephen Moore
The Spam Campaign
Hillary Clinton held a news conference yesterday in which she explained that Barack Obama's aggressive posture in responding to attacks by Team Clinton during Monday's debate was an example of his "frustration."
Well, Mr. Obama is indeed frustrated by the attacks on his character, as he made clear to David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. What peeves him most are mysterious emails circulating among voters that claim he is actually a Muslim and has sympathy with the ideas of the radical Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam. Mr. Obama says the charges are preposterous.
"We have no way of tracing where these emails come from, but what I know is they come in waves, and they somehow appear magically wherever the next primary or caucus is, although they're also being distributed all across the country," he told Mr. Brody. "But the volume increases as we get closer to particular elections. That indicates to me that this is something that is being used to try to raise doubts or suspicions about my candidacy."
The Internet is a powerful political tool for disseminating information, but also a sinister transmission belt for character assassination. We will probably never know who is behind the shadowy emails attacking Mr. Obama, but it's clear from my "in" box that the slanders are having an effect. Some voters are so suspicious of the mainstream media's generally laudatory coverage of Mr. Obama that they are easy prey for specious reports that purport to tell the "hidden" story behind him.
-- John Fund
Angry White Female
What a treat for viewers who tuned into the South Carolina debate on Monday night and caught a glimpse of the real Hillary Clinton. Whether it was calculated or not, the senator cleared up any doubts that, for her, winning the presidency is about revenge. Forget about veiled threats. She's already taking names.
It's not always clear who Hillary thinks she owes a kick in the pants to. But it's very clear that, should she get into the White House, baby, it's payback time. "They've been after me for 16 years, and much to their dismay, I am still here. And I intend to be still here when that election comes around and we win in November 2008," she declaimed.
Whoever "they" are, you certainly don't want to be one of "them" come January 20, 2009. For instance, apparently men and/or employers can expect the boom to be lowered for numerous injustices they have wrought. "We obviously still have problems of gender equality. You know, equal pay is not yet equal," she warned her audience.
Also in line for punishment are those who humiliated Mrs. Clinton during her first attempt to administer a heavy dose of government-run health care whether Americans wanted it or not. "I think that the whole idea of universal health care is such a core Democratic principle that I am willing to go to the mat for it. I've been there before. I will be there again. I am not giving in; I am not giving up.... I am not running for president to put Band- Aids on our problems. I want to get to universal health care for every single American." Get in her way and you're toast.
At least she made no effort to hide her hostility, which apparently emerges from being a victim for so long. "I'm used to taking the incoming fire. I've taken it for 16 years." And now, she let us know on Monday, the tables are about to turn. Be afraid.
-- Mary Anastasia O'Grady
Quote of the Day I
"I was surprised by the sniping from our side at Fred based on his sincere and gentlemanly Southern manners. Several important conservative bloggers, including some here at Pajamas, made repeated jokes about his language and style as if they are affectations. They are not. The problem, though, is larger and there is a Northern prejudice that interprets the slower, deliberative Southern style as just dim" -- writer Patrick Cox, who was Fred Thompson's first hire during his exploratory presidential effort, commenting at pajamasmedia.com on the failure of the Thompson candidacy.
Quote of the Day II
"There are people out there who want to strap bombs onto babies and blow up as many men and women as they can. For me, given those circumstances, the candidate you have to support is the candidate that is going to do the best job of protecting this country, her interests, and her people. I don't think I have the luxury of being a single-issue voter on the issue of gay rights. I have made very clear publicly my differences of opinion with certain people in the [Bush] administration on the issue of gay rights" -- Mary Cheney, daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, on being a Republican in a Q&A with the National Journal.
Thompson Bows Out
Fred Thompson spotted an opening in the field of Republicans candidates last spring: a yearning for an uncomplicated Reaganite who would unite all wings of the party and take the fight to the Democrats with brio. Until late September, Mr. Thompson actually led national polls among GOP voters. But the seeds of his downfall had already been planted.
His first mistake was not fully realizing that in entering the race so late, he would have trouble building the infrastructure necessary for a modern campaign. The best talent had already been snapped up by other candidates. Mr. Thompson ended up hiring a corporate manager to run his campaign. While a good organizer, the man had never run a political effort of any size, and the resulting confusion cost the campaign precious momentum and money. New leadership wasn't installed until just before Mr. Thompson formally entered the race after Labor Day.
The former Tennessee Senator's second mistake was making it too easy for reporters to paint him as a lazy, disinterested candidate. His campaign committed enough unnecessary gaffes to feed that story line (such as speaking for only five minutes before an enthusiastic crowd of Florida Republicans last October) and the perception set in among many supporters that they were backing a walking horse, not a warhorse.
Lastly, the candidate's theme that he was the "Consistent Conservative" in the race was developed too late and could not be sufficiently exploited because of a lack of money. When Mr. Thompson finally did hit his stride in December, he became a good candidate who performed memorably in recent debates. But, by then, his potential audience had already drifted away to other candidates who looked like they had a better chance of winning.
Mr. Thompson intends to remain active in politics and public affairs, although he has flatly ruled out any plans to serve in someone else's administration. Don't be surprised to find him returning to the airwaves he left just a few months ago -- but this time with much higher name-recognition as a political figure.
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain on gun rights
on: January 23, 2008, 10:00:49 AM
John McCain's Gun Control Problem
by John Velleco
Director of Federal Affairs
In 2000, Andrew McKelvey, the billionaire founder of monster.com, threw a sizable chunk of his fortune into the gun control debate.
It was shortly after the Columbine school shooting. Bill Clinton was in the White House and gun control was daily front-page news. McKelvey wanted in.
He started out contributing to Handgun Control Inc., which had since been renamed the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. But while he agreed with their gun banning goals, McKelvey thought the way they packaged their message was too polarizing.
"I told them that Handgun Control was the wrong name. I thought what they were doing was great but I thought it could be done differently," McKelvey said.
So McKelvey struck out on his own and formed Americans for Gun Safety. Although AGS shared almost identical public policy goals as other anti-gun groups, McKelvey portrayed the group as in the 'middle' on the issue and attempted to lure pro-gun advocates into his fold.
To pull it off, he needed a bipartisan coalition with credibility on both sides of the gun debate. On the anti-gun side, the task was easy. Most of the Democrats and a small but vocal minority of Republicans supported President Clinton's gun control agenda.
Finding someone who could stake a claim as a pro-gunner and yet be willing to join McKelvey was not so easy. Enter Senator John McCain.
McCain's star was already falling with conservatives. He had carved out a niche as a 'maverick' as the author of so-called Campaign Finance Reform (more aptly named the incumbent protection act), which was anathema to conservatives but made him a darling of the mainstream media.
Gun owners were outraged over CFR, but McCain still maintained some credibility on the gun issue.
Earlier in his career, McCain had voted against the Clinton crime bill (which contained a ban on so-called assault weapons), and he did not join the 16 Senate Republicans who voted for the Brady bill, which required a five-day waiting period for the purchase of a handgun.
But as he ramped up for his presidential run in 2000, McCain, expanding on the 'maverick' theme, staked out a position on guns far to the left of his primary opponent, George W. Bush.
McCain began speaking out against small, inexpensive handguns and he entertained the idea of supporting the 'assault weapons' ban. His flirtation with anti-Second Amendment legislation quickly led to a political marriage of convenience with McKelvey.
Within months of the formation of AGS, McCain was featured in radio and television ads in Colorado and Oregon supporting initiatives to severely regulate gun shows and register gun buyers. Anti-gunners were ecstatic to get McCain on board.
Political consultant Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole's presidential campaign in 1996, hoped McCain would "bring a conservative perspective to the gun debate."
The ads not only pushed the anti-gun show measure in those two states, they also served to undermine the efforts of gun rights activists who were furiously lobbying against the same type of bill in Congress.
"I think that if the Congress won't act, the least I can do is support the initiative in states where it's on the ballot," McCain said in an interview.
At the time still a newcomer to the gun control debate, McCain said, "I do believe my view has evolved."
McCain continued to pursue his anti-gun agenda even after his presidential run ended, and the next year he and McKelvey made it to the big screen.
As moviegoers flocked to see Pearl Harbor, they were treated to an anti-gun trailer ad featuring McCain. This time the Senator was pushing legislation to force people to keep firearms locked up in the home.
"We owe it to our children to be responsible by keeping our guns locked up," McCain told viewers.
Economist and author John Lott, Jr., noted, "No mention was ever made by McCain about using guns for self-defense or that gunlocks might make it difficult to stop intruders who break into your home. And research indicates that McCain's push for gunlocks is far more likely to lead to more deaths than it saves."
Also in 2001, McCain went from being a supporter of anti-gun bills to being a lead sponsor.
Pro-gun allies in Congress who were holding off gun show legislation -- which would at best register gun owners and at worst close down the shows entirely -- were angered when McCain teamed up with Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and introduced a "compromise" bill to give the issue momentum.
"There is a lot of frustration. He has got his own agenda," one Republican Senator told Roll Call.
After September 11, 2001, McKelvey and McCain, now joined by Lieberman, had a new angle to push gun control.
"Terrorists are exploiting the gun show loophole," AGS ads hyped. McCain and Lieberman hit the airwaves again in a series of radio and TV spots, thanks to McKelvey's multi-million dollar investment.
A Cox News Service article noted that, "The ads first focused on gun safety but switched to terrorism after Sept. 11. Americans for Gun Safety said the switch is legitimate."
However, Second Amendment expert Dave Kopel pointed out that, "the McCain-Lieberman bill is loaded with poison pills which would allow a single appointed official to prevent any gun show, anywhere in the United States from operating."
Ultimately, the anti-gun legislation was killed in the Congress and AGS fizzled out and disappeared altogether. The issues for which McKelvey spent over $10 million are still in play, however, and John McCain remains a supporter of those causes. In fact, as recently as 2004, McCain was able to force a vote on a gun show amendment.
In the post-Columbine and post-9/11 environments, the Second Amendment was under attack as never before. Pro-gun patriotic Americans who stood as a bulwark to keep the Congress from eviscerating the Constitution were dismayed to look across the battle lines only to see Senator McCain working with the enemy.
John McCain tried running for president in 2000 as an anti-gunner. This year it appears he is seeking to "come home" to the pro-gun community, but the wounds are deep and memories long.http://gunowners.org/pres08/mccain.htm