Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101
on: November 09, 2010, 05:18:18 PM
"2. The plaintiff also argues that he suffers a more tangible injury, because his will directs the executor of the estate to follow Islamic law in arranging the funeral, and directs his wife to contribute to charity in accordance with Islamic law. The constitutional amendment, the plaintiff argues, bars courts from effectively probating the will in accordance to the plaintiff’s wishes, and thus unconstitutionally discriminates against plaintiff."
IMHO this clearly is a justiciable claim with sufficient standing.
"It’s not clear to me whether plaintiff might lack standing on the grounds that the harm will only happen some time in the future, or whether he could in principle have standing in such a case because the prospect of the courts’ inability to apply Sharia law in the future might cause sufficient harm to plaintiff now. (All this would involve the legal requirement of “ripeness.”)"
IMHO this simply is profoundly stupid. The harm as the author defines it is such that when the harm it occurs, by definition the injured party, the plaintiff here, will already be dead! Cf. Roe v. Wade wherein the issue presented was one of mootness. By the time the case got heard, the woman would already be a mother and no case could ever be heard.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Networked Intelligence
on: November 09, 2010, 11:23:06 AM
Networked Intelligence | 9 November 2010
Mexico - 400 cities lacking operational police force
According to Mexican Minister of the Interior Francisco Blake Mora, there are at least 400 cities out of 2,449 without an operational police force. (October 2010)
Mexico - Public officials arrested for ties to La Familia Michoacana
On 31 October 2010, Jose Luis Avalos Rangel, Municipal President of Tzitzio from 2005 to 2007, and four other men were arrested in Charo, Michoacan, for alleged ties to La Familia Michoacana. In a separate incident, the Director of the Water Commission (CAPALAC) of Lazaro Cardenas, Roman Mendoza Valencia, was arrested for his alleged ties to La Familia Michoacana in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan.
Mexico - La Familia Michoacana improves access to California
La Familia Michoacana’s recently formed alliance with the Arellano Felix organization (AFO) gave them an entrance route into the United States by way of Tijuana. La Familia, which dominates the market of methamphetamines, initiated the alliance with the AFO, which would help move methamphetamine through Baja California into California. (November 2010)
Mexico - Six Americans killed within five days
The U.S. Department of State confirmed on 2 November 2010 that six US citizens from El Paso, Texas were killed in separate attacks in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico between 29 October 2010 and 2 November 2010. In total, 47 Americans were murdered in Mexico in the first half of 2010.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Indonesia
on: November 09, 2010, 11:17:54 AM
The president of the United States arrived in Indonesia on Nov. 9 as interest in strengthening commercial and military ties is increasing in both Washington and Jakarta. Constraints on this emergent relationship remain, however, on issues such as economic protectionism and human rights. Still, the relationship is set to grow, leaving Indonesia with the task of carefully balancing between the United States and China as it attempts to capitalize on its economic and strategic advantages and relative political stability.
U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Indonesia on Nov. 9 after visiting India in a tour that will later take him to South Korea and Japan for the G-20 and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summits. Obama has delayed his visit to Indonesia twice already, and volcanic ash in the air over Java from the recent eruptions of Mount Merapi may require him to cut this one short, but the trip was made as a sign of deepening interest in a relationship with bilateral, multilateral and strategic potential.
Washington wants to forge a closer relationship with Indonesia to boost bilateral trade and investment, use ties with Indonesia as a pathway to better relations with the region as a whole through multilateral groupings like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and generally maintain support for a Muslim ally in the conflict against radical jihadists. But the longer term and more important strategic goal is to develop Indonesia as one of several regional counterweights to China. Jakarta will welcome greater U.S. involvement, and ultimately may lean toward the United States and away from China. But it will try to avoid choosing sides and will seek to maintain good relations with China and the United States, and leverage its economic size and strategic location to its maximum advantage.
Toward a Comprehensive U.S.-Indonesian Partnership
On one level, Obama’s visit to Indonesia is about improving diplomatic relations to pave the way for more substantial economic, security and political agreements. Obama will emphasize that Indonesia is a model Muslim-majority country. He will highlight how its $631 billion economy, population of 237 million and fast economic growth (estimated at around 6 percent in 2010) hold promise for the U.S. economy, and that it has made strides in stabilizing its domestic political situation since the chaos of the late 1990s, when the Asian financial crisis struck and the collapse of the decades-old Suharto regime brought the country close to breaking apart. Obama will emphasize his willingness to engage the Muslim world, will call attention to his childhood years in Indonesia to show his connection to the country, and will express optimism about Indonesian and American relations going forward.
Obama and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono officially will launch a Comprehensive Partnership Agreement between the two states, which will serve as a framework for expanding bilateral ties. This partnership, announced in June, included an agreement on closer defense ties and science and technology cooperation and American investment in Indonesia. The latter included a renewed agreement with the Overseas Private Investment Corp. (which has provided $2.1 billion since the 1960s but is only engaged in $94 million worth of projects at the moment) and a $1 billion credit facility from the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The two sides have established a joint commission that met in September and will meet annually and several working groups in trade and investment, security and energy, and education and democracy; these groups are expected to develop more initiatives going forward, ranging from U.S. investment in Indonesia’s infrastructure construction and energy sector to expanded educational exchanges.
Simultaneously, U.S. companies will promote their products in Indonesia, as Washington attempts to give more momentum to its national export initiative. For its part, Indonesia is looking for high-tech and high-value added goods, especially in infrastructure, energy and transportation, inherently capital-intensive sectors difficult to develop in a sprawling archipelago like Indonesia.
Washington and Jakarta also will reaffirm their security relationship. The United States has agreed to restart training and exchanges with Kopassus, the Indonesian military’s special operations unit. Though that cooperation has not yet begun, it is on track to do so, and is only one aspect of U.S.-Indonesian security cooperation. Washington will continue to support Indonesia’s police efforts to fight terrorism, including through the elite Special Detachment 88, which has racked up a string of successes over the past year. The United States also is looking to expand arms exports after having seen Indonesia’s willingness to turn elsewhere (for instance, to Russia) for its military needs.
Constraints on the U.S.-Indonesian Relationship
Of course, there are inherent constraints on their cooperation. Indonesia is highly protective about its economy, which is dominated by state-owned and state-affiliated companies and has high barriers to foreign competition that threatens privileged sectors. The United States repeatedly has run into trouble accessing Indonesian markets for farm goods and medicine, for instance, and has a number of outstanding disputes over import and investment regulations and concerns of inadequate intellectual property rights protection. In sectors where Jakarta has opened up the economy, it already has attracted a number of foreign investors to provide the higher-end goods and services, including huge infrastructure contracts, that it needs to continue developing — which means the United States faces stiff competition from far more established players like Singapore, Japan, and South Korea (not to mention Western competitors like the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, which in 2009 were also bigger investors in Indonesia than the United States).
On the security front, although Indonesia can be expected to maintain strong relations with the United States, it does not want to be overly dependent on Washington or to appear like a proxy state. The Indonesian government must tread carefully since the United States is unpopular among those Indonesians who see Obama’s overtures to the Muslim world as mere rhetoric and who resent U.S. support for Israel (some of whom will stage demonstrations during Obama’s visit). Moreover, military ties will face political obstacles on the American side. This is because the Indonesian military always will struggle to maintain control over far-flung islands, especially in places like Aceh and West Papua where ethnic minorities have a tendency toward unrest or separatism — fairly frequently resulting in heavy-handed security measures and human rights violations. Despite officially re-opening relations, U.S. cooperation with the Indonesian military’s special operations forces must be approved by the U.S. State Department, which will vet the Indonesians’ progress on human rights.
Despite these hindrances, both states’ interests overlap significantly enough to point them toward deeper cooperation. Washington wants to tap into this massive and young consumer market and wants to take advantage of Indonesia’s fast growth rates and relative political stability. Meanwhile, the United States offers a massive consumer pool for Indonesian exports. Moreover, no one can offer better security guarantees for the strategically situated island chain than the United States, the world’s supreme naval power.
The Balancing Act with China
Crucially, the United States sees Indonesia as a counterweight in Southeast Asia to the rising influence of China. In recent years, Washington’s relations with China have become more tense as Beijing’s economic might has increased and it has expanded its influence in its periphery. China has built up its military and naval capabilities and has become more strident regarding its territorial claims in the South China Sea, a crucial waterway for the United States and its allies Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The United States has sought to re-energize its alliances and partnerships in the region not only for the sake of its own regional relations, but also as a means of hedging against China. Indonesia is especially suitable for this purpose. It straddles the Strait of Malacca, a global shipping choke point, as well as the Sunda and Lombok straits, making it critical for sea-lanes between the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the Pacific and Australia and China. These sea-lanes supply China with critical raw materials; any power controlling this area accordingly has enormous leverage over Beijing.
This process has alarmed Beijing, which views it as an encirclement policy. As Washington gradually extricates itself from conflicts in the Middle East and South Asia, Beijing fears U.S. attention will come to focus squarely on suppressing China’s rise. Indeed, the U.S. focus on Indonesia, a staunch Cold War ally under the U.S.-backed Suharto dictatorship, has reinforced this impression of an emerging Cold War-style containment policy.
In general, Indonesia’s trade relationships with the United States and China are comparable, though China has a slight edge. Indonesia exported $11.5 billion and imported $14 billion worth of goods from China in 2009, while the United States exported $5.1 billion worth of goods to Indonesia and imported $12.9 billion worth. Indonesian imports from China grew by nearly 56 percent in the first three quarters of 2010, as the China-ASEAN free trade agreement took full effect. Still, U.S. export growth to Indonesia was also strong, growing 37 percent during the first half of the year. The United States is a larger investor in Indonesia than China, but neither country has a very large role — the United States accounted for 1.6 percent of total foreign direct investment in Indonesia in 2009, as opposed to China’s 0.6 percent.
Of course, Beijing has a number of economic advantages at the moment, including its aggressive outward investment strategy. This is driven by state-owned enterprises and state banks with massive pools of cash that have been allowed to spread across the world looking to expand markets, employ their services and buy up resources, including in Indonesia. To emphasize its economic strength and cash reserves it is able to draw upon immediately, on Nov. 8, the day before Obama arrived in Indonesia, Beijing announced a $6.6 billion construction and trade deal with Jakarta.
But Beijing’s growing economic sway has little impact on the immense U.S. advantage in security matters. The U.S. re-engagement therefore leaves Jakarta in a tricky position not unlike that of its fellow ASEAN states. It stands to benefit from competition between the United States and China (as well as competition among Singapore, Japan, the European Union and others) as it seeks to attract the highest bidder and to draw in foreign investment, however if relations between the United States and China take a turn for the worse, Indonesia could find itself caught in the middle of a strategic confrontation.
But Indonesia is in a more advantageous position than its fellow ASEAN states in managing this tricky situation. With the largest economy and population in ASEAN, and a strategic location in the crossroads of global maritime trade, Jakarta has a unique ability to leverage its relationships with the United States, China and other players. Domestic stability and national unity — maintaining the stabilization over the past near-decade — remain at the top of its strategic priorities. This means that economic growth and foreign capital are necessary, but also that it must move carefully on domestic reforms allowing foreign competition. Hence Jakarta will seek a careful balance in its relations, and will avoid having to choose sides. It will welcome improved ties with Washington and U.S. re-engagement with the region, while allowing Beijing to gain further traction in the economic sphere. In the final analysis, however, Indonesia has far more to fear from a militarily ascendant China close to home than it does from an outside power like the United States, which shares Indonesia’s interest in stability in its surrounding waters.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate
on: November 09, 2010, 10:46:58 AM
Forgive me my sarcasm but , , , drum roll please , , , Duh. OF COURSE Wall Street is greedy. It is precisely why the Government should not lead them into temptation by guaranteeing mortgages (the FMs) or make them invest in people who can't pay (the Community Reinvestment Act) or create a bubble with unnaturally low interest rates or bail theirs asses out when things go south.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101
on: November 09, 2010, 10:14:25 AM
I skimmed the first 2-3 of the 27 pages. Regardless of the ultimate determination on the merits, it is not clear to me that the standard for a TRO has been met (immediate and irreparable); the logic with regard to this point seems a bit circular to me.
Also, why not limit the TRO to the part about Islam and leave in place the part about international law?
Concerning the part about Islam, as best as I can tell this is a matter of first impression and both sides have yet to make their arguments and have them tested.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Reps and Latinos
on: November 09, 2010, 06:50:39 AM
By JOHN FUND
When it comes to Hispanic voters, last week's elections were a tale of two results for Republicans. On one level, the GOP can take pride in the fact that 31% of all Hispanic members of Congress are now in their party. But on another level, the overwhelming Democratic advantage among Hispanics helped cost the GOP key Senate seats in Nevada, Colorado and California.
The next Congress will feature an unprecedented five new Hispanic Republicans. Two are from Texas and defeated Democratic incumbents - Bill Flores of Bryan and Quico Conseco from San Antonio. Jaime Herrera was elected to an open seat in Washington state. Raul Labrador defeated a Democratic incumbent in Idaho. David Rivera won an open House seat in Florida, just as Marco Rubio won that state's vacant U.S. Senate seat. In addition, Republicans elected two Hispanic governors -- prosecutor Susan Martinez in New Mexico and Brian Sandoval, a judge, in Nevada.
But Hispanic voters also powered the come-from-behind victories of two Democratic Senators. Hispanics accounted for 14% of the electorate in Nevada, up from 12% in the last midterm election of 2006. The two-to-one advantage they gave Majority Leader Harry Reid allowed him to win by a surprising 50% to 45% margin. In Colorado, Hispanic voters made up 13% of the vote, up from only 9% four years ago. Their big margin in favor of Democratic Senator Michael Bennet helped him pull off a come-from-behind victory.
Finally, in California exit polls show Hispanics made up 22% of all those voting, up from 19% in 2006. Republican Carly Fiorina won Anglo voters over Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer by nine points, but her 65% to 28% loss among Hispanics doomed her chances for an upset.
There are some lessons here. Clearly, Sharron Angle's ad depicting dark-skinned figures violating U.S. immigration laws angered many Hispanic voters in Nevada, especially after she clumsily tried to claim they might have been Asian. Similarly, the presence of anti-immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo on Colorado's ballot as the de facto Republican candidate for governor helped fuel Hispanic turnout.
On the other hand, there were Republican success stories. Texas Governor Rick Perry won 38% of the Hispanic vote in his re-election bid this year. He credits his showing to his advocacy of economic opportunity even while he vowed to tighten border controls. Marco Rubio won 40% of the non-Cuban Hispanic vote in Florida (and 55% of the overall Hispanic vote) and ran effective Spanish-language ads describing what the American dream means for immigrants. Columnist Luisita Lopez Torregrosa writes in PoliticsDaily.com that both men "appeal to the growing Latino middle- and upper-classes in states like Florida and Texas who oppose illegal immigration (because the negative image of illegal immigrants affects the image of all Latinos) and who believe in assimilation in the American mainstream."
Going forward, Republicans know that hardline immigration positions seen as insensitive to Hispanics can cost them votes among a growing share of the electorate. On the other hand, candidates can talk tough on immigration and still do well with Hispanic voters if they can convincingly promote a message of economic opportunity.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: November 09, 2010, 06:39:36 AM
Uhhh , , , what's "lipolysis"?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Palin on the Fed
on: November 09, 2010, 06:18:49 AM
By SUDEEP REDDY
Sarah Palin, delving into a major policy issue a week after the mid-term elections, took aim Monday at the Federal Reserve and called on Fed chairman Ben Bernanke to "cease and desist" with a bond-buying program designed to boost the economy.
Speaking at a trade association conference in Phoenix, the potential 2012 presidential candidate and tea-party favorite said she's "deeply concerned" about the central bank creating new money to buy government bonds. Ms. Palin said "it's far from certain this will even work" and suggested the move would create an inflation problem.
Sarah Palin says she's deeply concerned about the Federal Reserve's plan to buy $600 billion of U.S. bonds to boost the economy. Alan Murray, Jerry Seib and Jon Hilsenrath discuss why the Federal Reserve has been drawn into the political fray.
.Monday's remarks, in which Ms. Palin staked out a firm stance on a complex topic, follow criticism from GOP strategist Karl Rove, who questioned her "gravitas" based on her appearance in a cable-television reality show about the Alaskan wilderness. Other Republicans have said she would have to answer for quitting her job as Alaska governor partway through her term.
Ms. Palin has made clear she intends to forge a policy profile apart from her celebrity image. She used her Facebook page over the summer to begin laying out foreign policy views, and used a National Review essay last week to caution newly empowered conservatives that compromising with Mr. Obama on spending would result in the GOP "going the way of the Whigs."
The Fed last week said it would buy $600 billion in Treasury securities over the next eight months in an effort to lower the 9.6% unemployment rate and ensure that inflation, which is running below the central bank's informal target, does not morph into outright deflation. Foreign officials have criticized the move for weakening the dollar and threatening speculative capital inflows that could hurt their own economies.
Sarah Palin's QE2 Criticism Includes Inflation Hyperbole
Palin Takes On Bernanke, QE2
."When Germany, a country that knows a thing or two about the dangers of inflation, warns us to think again, maybe it's time for Chairman Bernanke to cease and desist," according to Ms. Palin's remarks, obtained in advance by National Review magazine, before the Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distributors Association. "We don't want temporary, artificial economic growth bought at the expense of permanently higher inflation which will erode the value of our incomes and our savings."
U.S. politicians generally avoid criticizing the Fed, especially its monetary policy, to maintain the central bank's traditional independence from politics. But several Republican lawmakers last week assailed the Fed's decision to engage in another round of bond-buying, known as quantitative easing.
Ms. Palin's remarks Monday were the sharpest yet by a political figure about the Fed announcement. They echoed economists from the left and right who have questioned the policy's effectiveness and potential drawbacks.
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Sarah Palin campaigns in October, 2008.
.Ms. Palin's latest speech came within a week of the mid-term elections in which many candidates she backed won key races and helped Republicans take the House, though several of her high-profile picks were defeated. The Phoenix speech Monday appeared to mark a pivot toward a weighty and divisive policy issue—the strength of the dollar and how to boost the U.S. economy.
Other countries have attacked the Fed move just days before a big international summit in South Korea. President Barack Obama Monday effectively defended the U.S. central bank at a press conference in New Delhi, noting that U.S. economic growth is "good for the world as a whole."
—Peter Wallsten contributed reporting to this article.
Write to Sudeep Reddy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Palin and Zoellick on the Fed's QE2
on: November 09, 2010, 06:17:57 AM
While I place great importance on demographics (indeed, we have a thread here on exactly that) and recognize the role baby boomers in the US economy, I would ascribe the over-supply of large lot family homes to government intervention into the market place. We may not yet fully realize just how heavy the misallocation of resources due to this intervention has been.
It would be hard to find two more unlikely intellectual comrades than Robert Zoellick, the World Bank technocrat, and Sarah Palin, the populist conservative politician. But in separate interventions yesterday, the pair roiled the global monetary debate in complementary and timely fashion.
The former Alaskan Governor showed sound political and economic instincts by inveighing forcefully against the Federal Reserve's latest round of quantitative easing. According to the prepared text of remarks that she released to National Review online, Mrs. Palin also exhibited a more sophisticated knowledge of monetary policy than any major Republican this side of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan.
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Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin
.Stressing the risks of Fed "pump priming," Mrs. Palin zeroed in on the connection between a "weak dollar—a direct result of the Fed's decision to dump more dollars onto the market"—and rising oil and food prices. She also noted the rising world alarm about the Fed's actions, which by now includes blunt comments by Germany, Brazil, China and most of Asia, among many others.
"We don't want temporary, artificial economic growth brought at the expense of permanently higher inflation which will erode the value of our incomes and our savings," the former GOP Vice Presidential nominee said. "We want a stable dollar combined with real economic reform. It's the only way we can get our economy back on the right track."
Mrs. Palin's remarks may have the beneficial effect of bringing the dollar back to the center of the American political debate, not to mention of the GOP economic platform. Republican economic reformers of the 1970s and 1980s—especially Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp—understood the importance of stable money to U.S. prosperity.
On the other hand, the Bush Administration was clueless. Its succession of Treasury Secretaries promoted dollar devaluation little different from that of the current Administration, while the White House ignored or applauded an over-easy Fed policy that created the credit boom and housing bubble that led to financial panic.
Misguided monetary policy can ruin an Administration as thoroughly as higher taxes and destructive regulation, and the new GOP majority in the House and especially the next GOP President need to be alert to the dangers. Mrs. Palin is way ahead of her potential Presidential competitors on this policy point, and she shows a talent for putting a technical subject in language that average Americans can understand.
Which brings us to Mr. Zoellick, who exceeded even Mrs. Palin's daring yesterday by mentioning the word "gold" in the orthodox Keynesian company of the Financial Times. This is like mentioning the name "Palin" in the Princeton faculty lounge.
Mr. Zoellick, who worked at the Treasury under James Baker in the 1980s, laid out an agenda for a new global monetary regime to reduce currency turmoil and spur growth: "This new system is likely to need to involve the dollar, the euro, the yen, the pound and a renminbi that moves toward internalization and then an open capital account," he wrote, in an echo of what we've been saying for some time.
And here's Mr. Zoellick's sound-money kicker: "The system should also consider employing gold as an international reference point of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency values. Although textbooks may view gold as the old money, markets are using gold as an alternative monetary asset today." Mr. Zoellick's last observation will not be news to investors, who have traded gold up to $1,400 an ounce, its highest level in real terms since the 1970s, as a hedge against the risk of future inflation.
However, his point will shock many of the world's financial policy makers, who still think of gold as a barbarous relic rather than as an important price signal. Lest they faint in the halls of the International Monetary Fund, we don't think Mr. Zoellick is calling for a return to a full-fledged gold standard. His nonetheless useful point is that a system of global monetary cooperation needs a North Star to judge when it is running off course. The Bretton Woods accord used gold as such a reference until the U.S. failed to heed its discipline in the late 1960s and in 1971 revoked the pledge to sell other central banks gold at $35 an ounce.
One big problem in the world economy today is the frequent and sharp movement in exchange rates, especially between the euro and dollar. This distorts trade and investment flows and leads to a misallocation of capital and trade tensions. A second and related problem is the desire of the Obama Administration and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to devalue the dollar to boost exports as a way to compensate for the failed spending stimulus.
As recently as this week in India, Mr. Obama said that "We can't continue situations where some countries maintain massive [trade] surpluses, other countries have massive deficits and never is there an adjustment with respect to currency that would lead to a more balanced growth pattern."
If this isn't a plea for a weaker dollar in the name of balancing trade flows, what is it? The world knows the Fed can always win such a currency race to the bottom in the short run because it can print an unlimited supply of dollars. But the risks of currency war and economic instability are enormous.
In their different ways, Mrs. Palin and Mr. Zoellick are offering a better policy path: More careful monetary policy in the U.S., and more U.S. leadership abroad with a goal of greater monetary cooperation and less volatile exchange rates. If Mr. Obama is looking for advice on this beyond Mr. Zoellick, he might consult Paul Volcker or Nobel laureate Robert Mundell. A chance for monetary reform is a terrible thing to waste.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs
on: November 08, 2010, 12:11:22 PM
A plausible point, but many other variables are present too. For example, Taiwan (I have been there btw) has a coherent family culture and is a country of economic growth.
As for the Mexican law,
a) the US market and its huge profits remain,
b) honest coverage of drug issues in Mexico often leads to people getting shot/decapitated etc, all we have here is an author opining
c) there do not seem to be many Americans practicing narco-tourism
d) not much data yet, the law is quite new
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Comentarios por favor
on: November 08, 2010, 12:05:03 PM
Drug law changes little for life in Mexico
by Dennis Wagner - Jan. 10, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
AGUA PRIETA, Sonora - A few blocks from the municipal police station, on the morning after a cartel gunfight took four more lives in Sonora, drug dealers cruise the streets of La Zona Roja with cellphones in their hands.
Addicts in a local treatment center say these "carros alegres," or happy cars, bring crack cocaine to consumers with all the speed and reliability of a pizza delivery.
The happy cars are one more sign of Mexico's growing drug-abuse problem and serve as a backdrop to the government's decision in August to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of narcotics. When the measure was adopted, President Felipe Calderón and Mexico's Congress said they wanted to concentrate law-enforcement efforts on the ruthless cartels that are blamed for an estimated 13,000 deaths since Calderón declared a war on drugs in December 2006. Calderón also said decriminalization of personal-use quantities would thwart corrupt Mexican cops who sometimes shake down drug users for bribes.
The measure incited controversy from Mexico City to Washington, D.C. Legalization advocates suggested that America's closest neighbor and ally in the drug war had finally recognized the waste of filling prisons with non-violent addicts who need treatment rather than punishment. Drug-enforcement hard-liners warned that eliminating criminal charges for drug abuse would lead to increased public consumption and addiction, perhaps even spawning narco-tourism by Americans looking to get high legally in Mexico.
That the happy cars still cruise about Agua Prieta suggests that critics and supporters overestimated the law's possible effects, both on drug violence and the scourge of addiction.
The reform seems to have had more impact in the rhetorical war over drug decriminalization than it has on Mexican streets. Rather than claiming victory, legalization advocates say the new law may even make things worse because of the way it's written. Conversely, anti-legalization groups condemn the measure because it appears to legitimize drug abuse.
Beneath the lofty debate, cops, treatment counselors, government officials, researchers and addicts interviewed last month said there have been no discernible changes related to the new law.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: November 08, 2010, 10:58:49 AM
There is a reason that one of God's TEN BIG RULES is "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's stuff"-- it is precisely because of how easy it is to feel envy and how pernicious the consequences of that envy are. Our Founding Fathers knew this. It is, in essence, why we are a Constitutional Republic and not a democracy.
When I ran for Congress I would tell a parable as a story: "My friend an I were eating at a restaurant. Three people at a neighboring table finished and received their bill. They got up to leave and handed it to us and said "This is a democracy. There are three of us and two of you. We had a vote. You're paying."
Separate point: As the Reagan tax rate cuts kicked in, the chattering classes began blathering about a massive increase in the concentration of wealth. What these economic illiterates did not comprehend was that under the 70% top rate regime, wealth hid in tax shelters. At the 30% rate most of the the shelters ceased making sense and the rich folks who invested in them decided to allow their income/profits/gains to be exposed to taxation. Result? Data showing a huge spike in the number of the rich and a dramatic increase in the concentration of wealth.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq returns-10
on: November 08, 2010, 10:43:01 AM
At about 0800 today my partner and I came upon one of the "gauntlet" operations I have mentioned several times. Basically the Iraqi Army will have about 30 soldiers split on both sides of the travel lane. They stop cars in such a way that they can search about five of them at a time.
The search consists of them going through the entire vehicle. Open trunks, hoods, glove boxes, bags, etc. And not just open and look, but rummage around. Get you out of the car. Talk to you and ask questions. Personally I think this works quite well for them. By doing what they do they eliminate a vast amount of space within a vehicle as being able to carry an explosives payload. So it's a practice I think has substantive value and certainly makes the adversary's job a lot more difficult.
The two soldiers that searched our particular vehicle were quite pleasant. Mine, a young lad, asked me if I was American. Then asked me (in very poor, one word "sentences") if I was from New York, which I was able to honestly answer yes. He then asked me if I liked Iraq, to which I, of course, said yes. Which made him smile. I then said "America likes Iraq", which seemed to make him smile wider.
All in all a very pleasant transaction. So far, knock on wood, I have found the Iraqi Army guys to be professional, respectful, considerate and pleasant. I never quite got that level of positive note vibes from many of the Iraqi Police. We don't have to interact with them a whole lot this time around.
Last week, I was going the other way past one of these gauntlet operations. I suddenly observed one PSD vehicle pull out of the line and start to drive around the gauntlet. An Iraqi soldier motioned for him to stop. He didn't, and kept going. The soldier had to step out into the middle of the road in front of the vehicle with clenched fist (the stop sign that you do not want to drive through no matter who is giving it to you). I could see the PSD driver at that point very animatedly being all pissed off inside his vehicle. I certainly could not help but think to myself that if he got himself dragged out of that car and whupped up on, he would have nobody to blame but himself. Anybody who lives in the IZ for more than a week knows these gauntlet checkpoints are not uncommon, and you just better give yourself plenty of time to get where you need to be. The gauntlet checkpoints usually translate to activity at the Iraqi Parliament building, so the soldiers (and by the way they mostly seem pretty sharp and squared away at these gauntlets), are taking their business seriously. I had interaction with one of their officers a few weeks back, and although he was pleasant and respectful, he clearly was very intense about his business of running that gauntlet. The type of leadership that, in my humble opinion, the Iraqis desperately need more of.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: california
on: November 07, 2010, 07:16:45 AM
Tangentially I note that Prop 19, (for which I voted) garnered more votes than either Whitman or Fiorina.
The City-Journal article cited by GM notes the , , , changing demographics of CA. The simple political fact is that the strong Republican support (especially Gov. Pete Wilson) several years ago of Prop 187 (for which I voted, which passed, and which was voided by the Federal Courts) has made the Latino vote a lock for the Democrats.
As we are currently discussing in "The Way Forward" thread, we of the American Creed persuasion need to find a way to connect with the natural aspirations of the hard-working entrepeneurial Latino American people.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Anti-bullying
on: November 07, 2010, 06:56:47 AM
With exactly the political shadings that one would expect from the NY Times
In School Efforts to End Bullying, Some See Agenda
By ERIK ECKHOLM
HELENA, Mont. — Alarmed by evidence that gay and lesbian students are common
victims of schoolyard bullies, many school districts are bolstering their
antiharassment rules with early lessons in tolerance, explaining that some
children have “two moms” or will grow up to love members of the same sex.
Mary Decker, left, Michael Gengler and Tess Dufrechou are members of the
Helena High School Gay-Straight Alliance, which supported revisions to the
sex education and antibullying curriculum in the school district in Helena,
The school district in Helena, Mont., revised its new teaching guidelines on
sex education and tolerance, after parents criticized them as being too
explicit and an endorsement of homosexuality.
Among the original goals:
Grade 1: “Understand human beings can love people of the same gender and
people of another gender.”
Grade 5: “Understand that sexual intercourse includes but is not limited to
vaginal, oral or anal penetration.”
The final version eliminated those goals and added a vaguer one:
Grades K to 5: “Recognize that family structures differ.”
The final version also added language emphasizing that same-sex marriage is
Grade 6: “In Montana, marriage is between a man and woman. Other states
allow marriage between adults of the same gender.”
A goal in the original and final plans:
Grade 6: “Recognize that acceptance of gender role stereotypes can limit a
But such efforts to teach acceptance of homosexuality, which have gained
urgency after several well-publicized suicides by gay teenagers, are
provoking new culture wars in some communities.
Many educators and rights advocates say that official prohibitions of slurs
and taunts are most effective when combined with frank discussions, from
kindergarten on, about diverse families and sexuality.
Angry parents and religious critics, while agreeing that schoolyard
harassment should be stopped, charge that liberals and gay rights groups are
using the antibullying banner to pursue a hidden “homosexual agenda,”
implicitly endorsing, for example, same-sex marriage.
Last summer, school officials here in Montana’s capital unveiled new
guidelines for teaching about sexuality and tolerance. They proposed
teaching first graders that “human beings can love people of the same
gender,” and fifth graders that sexual intercourse can involve “vaginal,
oral or anal penetration.”
A local pastor, Rick DeMato, carried his shock straight to the pulpit.
“We do not want the minds of our children to be polluted with the things of
a carnal-minded society,” Mr. DeMato, 69, told his flock at Liberty Baptist
In tense community hearings, some parents made familiar arguments that
innocent youngsters were not ready for explicit language. Other parents and
pastors, along with leaders of the Big Sky Tea Party, saw a darker purpose.
“Anyone who reads this document can see that it promotes acceptance of the
homosexual lifestyle,” one mother said at a six-hour school board meeting in
Barely heard was the plea of Harlan Reidmohr, 18, who graduated last spring
and said he was relentlessly tormented and slammed against lockers after
coming out during his freshman year. Through his years in the Helena
schools, he said at another school board meeting, sexual orientation was
never once discussed in the classroom, and “I believe this led to a lot of
the sexual harassment I faced.”
Last month, the federal Department of Education told schools they were
obligated, under civil rights laws, to try to prevent harassment, including
that based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But the agency did not
address the controversy over more explicit classroom materials in grade
Some districts, especially in larger cities, have adopted tolerance lessons
with minimal dissent. But in suburban districts in California, Illinois and
Minnesota, as well as here in Helena, the programs have unleashed fierce
“Of course we’re all against bullying,” Mr. DeMato, one of numerous pastors
who opposed the plan, said in an interview. “But the Bible says very clearly
that homosexuality is wrong, and Christians don’t want the schools to teach
subjects that are repulsive to their values.”
The divided Helena school board, after four months of turmoil, recently
adopted a revised plan for teaching about health, sex and diversity. Much of
the explicit language about sexuality and gay families was removed or
replaced with vague phrases, like a call for young children to “understand
that family structures differ.” The superintendent who has ardently pushed
the new curriculum, Bruce K. Messinger, agreed to let parents remove their
children from lessons they find objectionable.
In Alameda, Calif., officials started to introduce new tolerance lessons
after teachers noticed grade-schoolers using gay slurs and teasing children
with gay or lesbian parents. A group of parents went to court seeking the
right to remove their children from lessons that included reading “And Tango
Makes Three,” a book in which two male penguins bond and raise a child.
The parents lost the suit, and the school superintendent, Kirsten Vital,
said the district was not giving ground. “Everyone in our community needs to
feel safe and visible and included,” Ms. Vital said.
Some of the Alameda parents have taken their children out of public schools,
while others now hope to unseat members of the school board.
After at least two suicides by gay students last year, a Minnesota school
district recently clarified its antibullying rules to explicitly protect gay
and lesbian students along with other target groups. But to placate
religious conservatives, the district, Anoka-Hennepin County, also stated
that teachers must be absolutely neutral on questions of sexual orientation
and refrain from endorsing gay parenting.
Rights advocates worry that teachers will avoid any discussion of
gay-related topics, missing a chance to fight prejudice.
While nearly all states require schools to have rules against harassment,
only 10 require them to explicitly outlaw bullying related to sexual
orientation. Rights groups including the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education
Network, based in New York, are promoting a federal “safe schools” act to
make this a universal requirement, although passage is not likely any time
In School Efforts to End Bullying, Some See Agenda
Published: November 6, 2010
(Page 2 of 2)
Candi Cushman, an educational analyst with Focus on the Family, a Christian
group, said that early lessons about sexuality and gay parents reflected a
political agenda, including legitimizing same-sex marriage. “We need to
protect all children from bullying,” Ms. Cushman said. “But the advocacy
groups are promoting homosexual lessons in the name of antibullying.”
The school district in Helena, Mont., revised its new teaching guidelines on
sex education and tolerance, after parents criticized them as being too
explicit and an endorsement of homosexuality.
Among the original goals:
Grade 1: “Understand human beings can love people of the same gender and
people of another gender.”
Grade 5: “Understand that sexual intercourse includes but is not limited to
vaginal, oral or anal penetration.”
The final version eliminated those goals and added a vaguer one:
Grades K to 5: “Recognize that family structures differ.”
The final version also added language emphasizing that same-sex marriage is
Grade 6: “In Montana, marriage is between a man and woman. Other states
allow marriage between adults of the same gender.”
A goal in the original and final plans:
Grade 6: “Recognize that acceptance of gender role stereotypes can limit a
Ellen Kahn of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, which offers a
“welcoming schools” curriculum for grade schools, denied such motives.
“When you talk about two moms or two dads, the idea is to validate the
families, not to push a debate about gay marriage,” Ms. Kahn said. The
program involves what she described as age-appropriate materials on family
and sexual diversity and is used in dozens of districts, though it has
sometime stirred dissent.
The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, which runs teacher-training programs and
recommends videos and books depicting gay parents in a positive light, has
met opposition in several districts, including the Chicago suburb of Oak
Julie Justicz, a 47-year-old lawyer, and her partner live in Oak Park with
two sons ages 6 and 11. Ms. Justicz saw the need for early tolerance
training, she said, when their older son was upset by pejorative terms about
gays in the schoolyard.
Frank classroom discussions about diverse families and hurtful phrases had
greatly reduced the problem, she said.
But one of the objecting parents, Tammi Shulz, who describes herself as a
traditional Christian, said, “I just don’t think it’s great to talk about
homosexuality with 5-year-olds.”
Tess Dufrechou, president of Helena High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance, a
club that promotes tolerance, counters that, “By the time kids get to high
school, it’s too late.”
Only a handful of students in Helena high schools are openly gay, with
others keeping the secret because they fear the reactions of parents and
peers, students said.
Michael Gengler, one of the few to have come out, said, “You learn from an
early age that it’s not acceptable to be gay,” adding that he was
disappointed that the teaching guidelines had been watered down.
But Mr. Messinger, the superintendent, said he still hoped to achieve the
original goals without using the explicit language that offended many
“This is not about advocating a lifestyle, but making sure our children
understand it and, I hope, accept it,” he said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Taoism in China today-2
on: November 07, 2010, 06:53:11 AM
Third post of the morning
Page 4 of 5)
Last year, Zhu invited several dozen European and North American scholars of
Chinese religion on an all-expenses-paid trip to participate in a conference
in Beijing. The group stayed in the luxurious China World Hotel and were
bused to Henan province to visit Taoist sites. Demonstrating his political
and financial muscle, Zhu arranged for the conference’s opening session to
be held in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, the Stalinesque conference
center on Tiananmen Square. It is usually reserved for state events, but
with the right connections and for the right price, it can be rented for
private galas. In a taped address to participants, Zhu boasted that “I’ll
spend any amount of money” on Taoism.
Zhu’s chief adviser, Li Jinkang, says the goal is to keep Taoism vital in an
era when indigenous Chinese ideas are on the defensive. “Churches are
everywhere. But traditional things are less so. So Chairman Zhu said: ‘What
about our Taoism? Our Taoism is a really deep thing. If we don’t protect it,
then what?’ ”
Balancing this desire with the imperatives of China’s political system is
tricky. While the Communist Party has allowed religious groups to rebuild
temples and proselytize, its own members are supposed to be good Marxists
and shun religion. Like many big-business people, Zhu is also a party
member. Two years ago, he became one of the first private business owners to
set up a party branch in his company, earning him praise in the pages of the
Communist Party’s official organ, People’s Daily. He has also established a
party “school” — an indoctrination center for employees. His company’s Web
site has a section extolling his party-building efforts and has a meeting
room with a picture of Mao Zedong looking down from the wall. Although it
might seem like an odd way to mix religion and politics, Taoism often
deifies famous people; at least three Taoist temples in one part of China
are dedicated to Chairman Mao.
Until recently, Zhu mostly ignored the contradiction, but he has become more
cautious, emphasizing how he loved Taoist philosophy and playing down the
religion. Still, Zhu continues to support conventional Taoism. His staff
takes courses in a Taoist form of meditation called neigong, and he has sent
staff members to document religious sites, like the supposed birthplace of
Laotzu, who is worshiped as a god in Taoism. He also has close relations
with folk-religious figures and plans to establish a “Taoist base” in the
countryside to propagate Taoism. “The ancients were amazing,” Zhu says.
“Taoism can save the world.”
WHEN ABBESS YIN started to rebuild her nunnery in 1991, she faced serious
challenges. Her temple was located on Mount Mao, among low mountains and
hills outside the eastern metropolis of Nanjing. It had been a center of
Taoism from the fourth century until 1938, when Japanese troops burned some
of the temple complex. As on Mount Yi, communist zealots completed the
destruction in the 1960s. Her temple was so badly damaged that the forest
reclaimed the land and only a few stones from the foundation could be found
in the underbrush.
Unlike Mount Yi, Mount Mao is an extensive complex: six large temples with,
altogether, about 100 priests and nuns. Just a 45-minute drive from Nanjing
and two hours from Shanghai, it is a popular destination for day-trippers
wanting to get out of the city. Even 20 years ago, when Abbess Yin arrived,
tourism-fueled reconstruction was in full swing on Mount Mao. Two temples
had escaped complete destruction, and priests began repairing them in the
1980s. The local government started charging admission, taking half the gate
receipts. But the Taoists still got their share and plowed money back into
reconstruction. More buildings meant higher ticket prices and more
construction, a cycle typical of many religious sites. Although pilgrims
began to avoid the temples because of the overt commercialism, tourists
started to arrive in droves, bused in by tour companies that also got a cut
of gate receipts. Last year, ticket sales topped $2.7 million.
Abbess Yin opted for another model. Trained in Taoist music, she set up a
Taoist music troupe that toured the Yangtze River delta in a rickety old
bus, stopping at communities that hired them to perform religious rituals.
When I first met her in 1998, she used the money to rebuild one prayer hall
on Mount Mao but refused to charge admission. Word of her seriousness began
to spread around the region and abroad. Soon, her band of nuns were
performing in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
More nuns began to join. In the Quanzhen school of Taoism, which Abbess Yi
follows, Taoist clergy members live celibate lives in monasteries and
nunneries, often in the mountains. (In the other school, known as Zhengyi,
they may marry and tend to live at home, making house calls to perform
ceremonies.) For Abbess Yin’s young nuns, her temple provided security and
calm in a world that is increasingly complicated. “Here, I can participate
in something profound,” said one nun who asked to be identified only as
Taoist Huang. “The outside world has nothing like this.” For Abbess Yin, the
young people are a chance to mold Taoists in the image of her master. “The
only people who are worth having are older than 80 or younger than 20.”
Page 5 of 5)
Even now, Abbess Yin’s temple is low-key. There are no tourist attractions
like cable cars, gift shops, teahouses or floodlit caves — and, unlike at
most temples, still no admission fee. The atmosphere is also different.
While in some temples, priests seem to spend most of their time hawking
incense sticks or offering to tell people’s fortunes, her nuns are quiet and
demure. Maybe this is why even in the 1990s, when her temple was reachable
only by a dirt road, locals said it was ling — that it had spirit and was
effective. In 1998, I saw a group of Taiwanese visitors abandon their bus
and walk two miles to the temple so they could pray. “This is authentic,”
one told me. “The nuns are real nuns, and it’s not just for show.”
With a growing reputation came donations. One reason that city people often
underestimate Taoism is that its temples are mostly in the mountains, and
its supporters rarely want to discuss their gifts. But one way to gauge its
support is to look at the lists of benefactors, which are carved on stone
tablets and set up in the back of the temple. In Abbess Yin’s temple, some
tablets record 100,000 yuan ($15,000) donations, while others show 10,000
yuan gifts. But even those making just 100 yuan contributions get their
names in stone. With the donations came the current plan to build the $1.5
million Jade Emperor Hall halfway up the mountain, making the Mount Mao
complex visible for miles around. It is due to open on this weekend, with
Taoists from Southeast Asia and across China expected to participate.
Abbess Yin’s success led the China Taoist Association to invite her to
Beijing for training. She learned accounting, modern management methods and
the government’s religious policy. Earlier this year she was placed on one
of the association’s senior leadership councils. She has also begun speaking
out on abuses on the religious scene, urging greater strictness inside
Taoist temples and less emphasis on commerce. Many Taoists, she wrote in an
essay reprinted in an influential volume, have become obsessed with making
money and aren’t performing real religious services but just selling
incense. Too many traveled around China, using temples as youth hostels
instead of as places to study the Tao or to worship.
“Taoism is a great tradition, but our problem is we’ve had very fast growth,
and the quality of priests is too low,” she told me. “Some people don’t even
know the basics of Taoism but treat it like a business. This isn’t good in
THE DAY AFTER Abbess Yin’s standoff with the official, the big event on
Mount Yi was due to start. She arrived early, making sure her nuns were
ready at 7. The muddy path was now covered with stones that farmers had just
hosed down, making them glisten in the early-morning sun. Workers scraped
paint off the floor, inflated balloons and hung banners, while a television
crew set up its equipment to film the politicians.
Inside the Jade Emperor Pavilion, the nuns milled around, checking one
another’s clothes and hair. All, including the abbess, were wearing their
white tunics and black knee breeches. They pulled on fresh blue robes and
pink capes, while the abbess donned a brilliant red gown with a blue and
white dragon embroidered on the back. She and her top two lieutenants
affixed small golden crowns to their topknots. She was now transformed into
a fashi, or ritual master. Something was about to happen.
Abbess Yin walked over to a drum about two feet in diameter and picked up
two wooden sticks lying on top. She began pounding in alternating rhythms.
The nuns knew their roles by heart and lined up in two rows, flanking the
statue of the Jade Emperor, golden and beautiful, the god’s eyes beatific
slits and his mouth slightly parted as if speaking to the people below.
Still, for now the statue was just a block of wood. The ceremony would
change that. It is called kai guang or “opening the eyes” — literally,
opening brightness. Abbess Yin could open them, but it would take time.
Five minutes passed and sweat glistened on her forehead. Then, six of the
nuns quietly took their places and started to play their instruments. A
young woman plucked the zither, while another strummed the Chinese lute, or
pipa. Another picked up small chimes that she began tinkling, while a nun
next to her wielded a cymbal that she would use to punctuate the ceremony
with crashes and hisses. Abbess Yin stopped drumming and began to sing in a
high-pitched voice that sounded like something out of Peking Opera. Later
during the ceremony she read and sang, sometimes alone and at other times
with the nuns backing her. Always she was in motion: kneeling, standing,
moving backward, turning and twirling, the dragon on her back seeming to
come alive. It was physically grueling, requiring stamina and concentration.
During the occasional lull, a young nun would hand her a cup of tea that she
delicately shielded behind the sleeve of her robe and drank quickly.
Gradually, people began to pay attention. The wives of several officials
stood next to the altar and gawked, first in astonishment and then with
growing respect for the intensity of the performance. When a police officer
suggested they move back, they said: “No, no, we won’t be a bother. Please,
we have to see it.” Workers, their jobs finished, sat at the back. Within an
hour, about 50 onlookers had filled the prayer hall.
On cue, at 10:30, she stopped. A group of local leaders had assembled
outside the hall. They announced the importance of the project and how they
were promoting traditional culture. A ribbon was cut, applause sounded and
television cameras whirred. Then the group piled into minibuses and rolled
down to the valley for the hotel lunch.
The speeches were barely over when Abbess Yin picked up again. As the
ceremony reached its climax, more and more people began to appear, seemingly
out of nowhere, on the barren mountain face. Four policemen tried to keep
order, linking arms to barricade the door so the nuns would have space for
the ceremony. “Back, back, give the nuns room,” one officer said as the
crowd pressed forward. People peered through windows or waited outside,
holding cameras up high to snap pictures. “The Jade Emperor,” an old woman
said, laying down a basket of apples as an offering. “Our temple is back.”
Abbess Yin moved in front of the statue, praying, singing and kowtowing.
This is the essence of the ritual — to create a holy space and summon the
gods to the here and now, to this place at this moment.
Shortly after noon, when it seemed she had little strength left, Abbess Yin
stopped singing. She held a writing brush in one hand and wrote a talismanic
symbol in the air. Then she looked up: the sun was at the right point,
slanting down into the prayer room. This was the time. She held out a small
square mirror and deflected a sunbeam, which danced on the Jade Emperor’s
forehead. The abbess adjusted the mirror slightly and the light hit the god’s
eyes. Kai guang, opening brightness. The god’s eyes were open to the world
below: the abbess, the worshipers and the vast expanse of the North China
Plain, with its millions of people racing toward modern China’s elusive
goals — prosperity, wealth, happiness.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Taoism in China today
on: November 07, 2010, 06:52:21 AM
YIN XINHUI reached the peak of Mount Yi and surveyed the chaos. The
47-year-old Taoist abbess was on a sacred mission: to consecrate a newly
rebuilt temple to one of her religion’s most important deities, the Jade
Emperor. But there were as yet no stairs, just a muddy path up to the
pavilion, which sat on a rock outcropping 3,400 feet above a valley. A team
of workers was busy laying stone steps, while others planted sod, trees and
flowers. Inside the temple, a breeze blew through windows that were still
without glass, while red paint flecked the stone floor.
The revival of ancient religious practices in China is partly about belief —
and partly about money.
“Tomorrow,” she said slowly, calculating the logistics. “They don’t have
much ready. . . .” Fortunately, a dozen of her nuns had followed her up the
path. Dressed in white tunics and black trousers, their hair in topknots,
the nuns enthusiastically began unpacking everything they would need for the
next day’s ceremony: 15 sacred scriptures, three golden crowns, three bells,
two cordless microphones, two lutes, a zither, a drum, a cymbal and a sword.
Soon the nuns were plucking and strumming with the confidence of veteran
performers. Others set up the altar and hung their temple’s banner outside,
announcing that for the next few days, Abbess Yin’s exacting religious
standards would hold sway on this mountain.
The temple she was to consecrate was born of more worldly concerns. Mount Yi
is in a poor part of China, and Communist Party officials had hit upon
tourism as a way to move forward. They fenced in the main mountain, built a
road to the summit and declared it a scenic park. But few tourists were
willing to pay for a chance to hike up a rocky mountain. Enter religion.
China is in the midst of a religious revival, and people will pay to visit
holy sites. So the local government set out to rebuild the temple, which was
wrecked by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, modestly rebuilt then
torn down when the park was first constructed. Officials commissioned a
30-foot statue of the Jade Emperor, had it hauled to the peak and encased in
the brilliant red pavilion. They then built a bell and a drum tower, as well
as another set of halls devoted to minor deities.
All that was missing was a soul. For that, the temple had to be properly
consecrated. The officials got in touch with Abbess Yin, widely regarded as
a leading expert in Taoist ritual, and soon she was driving the 350 miles
from her nunnery to Mount Yi.
As her rehearsals drew to a close, the abbess went over the next day’s
schedule with a local official. All was in good shape, he said, except for
one detail. Government officials were due to give speeches at 10:30 a.m. She
would have to be finished by then, he said.
“No,” she replied. “Then it won’t be authentic. It takes four hours.” Could
she start earlier and wrap up by then? No, the sun won’t be in the right
position, she replied. The official peered up from the schedule and took a
good look at her — who was this?
Abbess Yin smiled good-naturedly. At a little over five feet tall, she was
solidly built, with a full, smooth face tanned from spending much of her
life outdoors in the mountains. Her dress was always the same plain blue
robe, and she did not wear jewelry or display other signs of wealth. She
shunned electronics; her temple did not have a phone or Internet access. But
over the past 20 years she had accomplished a remarkable feat, rebuilding
her own nunnery on one of Taoism’s most important mountains. Unlike the
temple here on Mount Yi — and hundreds of others across China — she had
rejected tourism as a way to pay for the reconstruction of her nunnery,
relying instead on donors who were drawn to her aura of earnest religiosity.
She knew the real value of an authentic consecration ceremony and wasn’t
about to back down.
The official tried again, emphasizing the government’s own rituals: “But
they have planned to be here at 10:30. The speeches last 45 minutes, and
then they have lunch. It is a banquet. It cannot be changed.”
Page 2 of 5)
She smiled again and nodded her head: no. An hour later the official
returned with a proposal: the four-hour ceremony was long and tiring; what
if the abbess took a break at 10:30 and let the officials give their
speeches? They would cut ribbons for the photographers and leave for lunch,
but the real ceremony wouldn’t end until Abbess Yin said so. She thought for
a moment and then nodded: yes.
The construction of holy sites (like the Taoist complex on Mount Mao) is
seen by officials as a boon for the tourism industry.
RELIGION HAS LONG played a central role in Chinese life, but for much of the
20th century, reformers and revolutionaries saw it as a hindrance holding
the country back and a key reason for China’s “century of humiliation.” Now,
with three decades of prosperity under their belt — the first significant
period of relative stability in more than a century — the Chinese are in the
midst of a great awakening of religious belief. In cities, yuppies are
turning to Christianity. Buddhism attracts the middle class, while Taoism
has rebounded in small towns and the countryside. Islam is also on the rise,
not only in troubled minority areas but also among tens of millions
elsewhere in China.
It is impossible to miss the religious building boom, with churches, temples
and mosques dotting areas where none existed a few years ago. How many
Chinese reject the state’s official atheism is hard to quantify, but numbers
suggest a return to widespread religious belief. In contrast to earlier
surveys that showed just 100 million believers, or less than 10 percent of
the population, a new survey shows that an estimated 300 million people
claim a faith. A broader question in another poll showed that 85 percent of
the population believes in religion or the supernatural.
Officially, religious life is closely regulated. The country has five
recognized religions: Buddhism, Islam, Taoism and Christianity, which in
China is treated as two faiths, Catholicism and Protestantism. Each of the
five has a central organization headquartered in Beijing and staffed with
officials loyal to the Communist Party. All report to the State
Administration for Religious Affairs, which in turn is under the central
government’s State Council, or cabinet. This sort of religious control has a
long history in China. For hundreds of years, emperors sought to define
orthodox belief and appointed many senior religious leaders.
Beneath this veneer of order lies a more freewheeling and sometimes chaotic
reality. In recent months, the country has been scandalized by a Taoist
priest who performed staged miracles — even though he was a top leader in
the government-run China Taoist Association. His loose interpretation of the
religion was hardly a secret: on his Web site he used to boast that he could
stay underwater for two hours without breathing. Meanwhile, the government
has made a conscious effort to open up. When technocratic Communists took
control of China in the late 1970s, they allowed temples, churches and
mosques to reopen after decades of forced closures, but Communist suspicion
about religion persisted. That has slowly been replaced by a more
laissez-faire attitude as authorities realize that most religious activity
does not threaten Communist Party rule and may in fact be something of a
buttress. In 2007, President Hu Jintao endorsed religious charities and
their usefulness in solving social problems. The central government has also
recently sponsored international conferences on Buddhism and Taoism. And
local governments have welcomed temples — like the one on Mount Yi — as ways
to raise money from tourism.
This does not mean that crackdowns do not take place. In 1999, the
quasi-religious sect Falun Gong was banned after it staged a 10,000-person
sit-down strike in front of the compound housing the government’s leadership
in Beijing. That set off a year of protests that ended in scores of Falun
Gong practitioners dying in police custody and the introduction of an
overseas protest movement that continues today. In addition, where religion
and ethnicity mix, like Tibet and Xinjiang, control is tight. Unsupervised
churches continue to be closed. And for all the building and rebuilding,
there are still far fewer places of worship than when the Communists took
power in 1949 and the country had less than half the population, according
to Yang Fenggang, a Purdue University professor who studies Chinese
religion. “The ratio is still radically imbalanced,” Yang says. “But there’s
now a large social space that makes it possible to believe in religion.
There’s less problem believing.”
Taoism has closely reflected this history of decline and rebirth. The
religion is loosely based on the writings of a mythical person named Laotzu
and calls for returning to the Dao, or Tao, the mystical way that unites all
of creation. Like many religions, it encompasses a broad swath of practice,
from Laotzu’s high philosophy to a riotous pantheon of deities: emperors,
officials, thunder gods, wealth gods and terrifying demons that punish the
wicked in ways that make Dante seem unimaginative. Although scholars once
distinguished between “philosophical Taoism” and “religious Taoism,” today
most see the two strains as closely related. Taoist worshipers will often go
to services on important holy days; they might also go to a temple, or hire
a clergy member to come to their home, to find help for a specific problem:
illness and death or even school exams and business meetings. Usually the
supplicant will pray to a deity, and the priest or nun will stage ceremonies
to summon the god’s assistance. Many Taoists also engage in physical
cultivation aimed at wellness and contemplation, like qigong breathing
exercises or tai chi shadowboxing.
As China’s only indigenous religion, Taoism’s influence is found in
everything from calligraphy and politics to medicine and poetry. In the
sixth century, for example, Abbess Yin’s temple was home to Tao Hongjing,
one of the founders of traditional Chinese medicine. For much of the past
two millenniums, Taoism’s opposite has been Confucianism, the ideology of
China’s ruling elite and the closest China has to a second homegrown
religion. Where Confucianism emphasizes moderation, harmony and social
structure, Taoism offers a refuge from society and the trap of material
success. Some rulers have tried to govern according to Taoism’s principle of
wuwei, or nonaction, but by and large it is not strongly political and today
exhibits none of the nationalism found among, say, India’s Hindu
Page 3 of 5)
During China’s decline in the 19th and 20th centuries, Taoism also weakened.
Bombarded by foreign ideas, Chinese began to look askance at Taoism’s
unstructured beliefs. Unlike other major world religions, it lacks a Ten
Commandments, Nicene Creed or Shahada, the Muslim statement of faith. There
is no narrative comparable to Buddhism’s story of a prince who discovered
that desire is suffering and sets out an eightfold path to enlightenment.
And while religions like Christianity acquired cachet for their association
with lands that became rich, Taoism was pegged as a relic of China’s
But like other elements of traditional Chinese culture, Taoism has been
making a comeback, especially in the countryside, where its roots are
deepest and Western influence is weaker. The number of temples has risen
significantly: there are 5,000 today, up from 1,500 in 1997, according to
government officials. Beijing, which had just one functioning Taoist temple
in 2000, now has 10. The revival is not entirely an expression of piety; as
on Mount Yi, the government is much more likely to tolerate temples that
also fulfill a commercial role. For Taoists like Abbess Yin, the temptation
is to turn their temples into adjuncts of the local tourism bureau. And
private donors who have helped make the revival possible may also face a
difficult choice: support religion or support the state.
Zhengzhou is one of China’s grittiest cities. An urban sprawl of 4.5
million, it owes its existence to the intersection of two railway lines and
is now one of the country’s most important transport hubs. The south side is
given over to furniture warehouses and markets for home furnishings and
construction materials. One of the biggest markets is the five-story Phoenix
City, with more than four million square feet of showrooms featuring real
and knockoff Italian marble countertops, German faucets and American lawn
furniture. Living in splendor on the roof of this mall like a hermit atop a
mountain is one of China’s most dynamic and reclusive Taoist patrons, Zhu
Zhu is a short, wiry man of 50 who says he once threw a man off a bridge for
the equivalent of five cents. “He owed me the money,” he recalled during a
nighttime walk on the roof of Phoenix City. “And I did anything for money:
bought anything, sold anything, dared to do anything.” But as he got older,
he began to think more about growing up in the countryside and the rules
that people lived by there. His mother, he said, deeply influenced him. She
was uneducated but tried to follow Taoist precepts. “Taoist culture is
noncompetitive and nonhurting of other people,” he says. “It teaches
following the rules of nature.”
Once he started to pattern his life on Taoism, he says, he began to rise
quickly in the business world. He says that by following his instincts and
not forcing things — by knowing how to be patient and bide his time — he was
able to excel. Besides Phoenix City, he now owns large tracts of land where
he is developing office towers and apartment blocks. Although he is reticent
to discuss his wealth or business operations, local news media say his
company is worth more than $100 million and have crowned him “the king of
building materials.” Articles almost invariably emphasize another aspect of
Zhu: his eccentric behavior.
That comes from how he chooses to spend his wealth. Instead of buying
imported German luxury cars or rare French wines, he has spent a large chunk
of his fortune on Taoism. The roof of Phoenix City is now a
200,000-square-foot Taoist retreat, a complex of pine wood cabins, potted
fruit trees and vine-covered trellises. It boasts a library, guesthouses and
offices for a dozen full-time scholars, researchers and staff. His Henan
Xinshan Taoist Culture Propagation Company has organized forums to discuss
Taoism and backed efforts at rebuilding the religion’s philosophical side.
He says he has spent $30 million on Taoist causes, a number that is hard to
verify but plausible given the scope of his projects, including an office in
Beijing and sponsorship of international conferences. His goal, he says, is
to bring the philosophical grounding of his rural childhood into modern-day
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Doug Noland
on: November 06, 2010, 08:26:56 PM
The biggest economic problem we have today is that the US Federal Reserve is run by ideologues that will likely never back away from their erroneous recession-fighting ideas. This is a serious problem because QE2 isn't going to do anything positive for the real US economy, so the Fed will likely decide that yet more QE is necessary. As Noland says, below: "The dilemma for the Fed is that the financial and economic environment will dictate that their policies have minimal impact on both U.S. employment and growth, while providing a major impetus for additional global Monetary Disorder."
Even worse than that, most of the central banks in the world are operating according to the same principles. The Bank of Japan must be run by total lunatics (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTOE6A406520101105
). I now believe that putting an end to loose money policies is a political impossibility, because the bust side of the cycle will be so severe that politicians and the monetary cranks in central banks will reverse themselves whenever they get the first glimpse of reality. Continued insanity will seem comfortable to these fools until a crisis completely beyond their control intervenes.
The late-July arrival of St. Louis Federal Reserve President Bullard’s monetary policy white paper commenced serious discussion regarding “QE2.” From August lows, the S&P500 has gained almost 18%, the S&P400 Mid-Caps 21%, and the small cap Russell 2000 25%. Notably, many global market prices have enjoyed even more robust inflation. Gold is up 19% and silver has surged 50%. The Shanghai Composite has rallied 22%. India’s Sensex index rose 18% to a record high. Copper is up 23% from August lows. Cotton has surged 80%, sugar 82%, and corn 46%. The Goldman Sachs Commodities index has gained 21% from mid-August lows.
In Bill Gross’s latest, he posits that the Fed is “pushing on a string.” This is not the case. The current backdrop has little-to-no similarity to the 1930’s; the world is definitely not today stuck in a Credit collapse and deflationary quagmire. Instead, much of the globe is facing an unrelenting onslaught of financial inflows and heightened inflationary pressures. Faltering dollar confidence is the prevailing force behind troubling inflationary pressures and strengthening Bubble Dynamics.
Increasingly, “emerging” economy Credit systems have succumbed to overheating, while key developed economies are locked into a perilous cycle of massive non-productive government debt expansion. Our unsound debt, liquidity and currency dynamics ensure that excess flourishes throughout global Credit systems. Bubbles are today left to run uncontrolled and undisciplined by a market hopelessly distorted by liquidity overabundance. Fed policies seemingly ensure that global liquidity goes from extraordinary to extreme overabundance.
The Fed may today be alone in “quantitative easing” through the purchase of domestic government obligations. Our central bank, however, has considerable global company when it comes to monetization and liquidity creation. From Bloomberg’s tally we know that global central bank international reserve positions have inflated $1.5 TN over the past 12 months. That last thing the global financial system needs is an additional shot of liquidity and reason to believe that dollar devaluation will be accelerated.
In post-announcement analysis of the Fed’s commitment to another $600bn of Treasury purchases, Bill Gross commented on CNBC that “the biggest risk is inflation down the road.” I again disagree with Mr. Gross. The greatest risk is a destabilizing crisis of confidence for our nation’s debt obligations. Our system doubled total mortgage debt in just over six years during the mortgage/Wall Street finance Bubble. Washington is now on track to double the federal debt load in just over 4 years. Federal Reserve policy remains instrumental in accommodating a precarious Credit Bubble at the heart of our monetary system.
It seems again worth highlighting a couple key sentences from ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet’s July 22, 2010 op-ed piece in the Financial Times, “Stimulate no more – it is now time for all to tighten”: “…Given the magnitude of annual budget deficits and the ballooning of outstanding public debt, the standard linear economic models used to project the impact of fiscal restraint or fiscal stimuli may no longer be reliable. In extraordinary times, the economy may be close to non-linear phenomena such as a rapid deterioration of confidence among broad constituencies of households, enterprises, savers and investors.”
The Bernanke Fed is playing with fire here. QE1 was implemented in an environment of deleveraging, impaired global financial systems and acute economic contraction. And, importantly, the dollar was enjoying strong performance in the marketplace as global risk markets suffered from de-risking and general outflows. QE1 had a stabilizing influence, as it worked to accommodate financial sector de-leveraging.
The QE2 backdrop is altogether different. Global markets are these days demonstrating robust inflationary biases. Risk embracement is back in vogue – speculation is rife. The “emerging economies” and global risk markets have been on the receiving end of massive financial (“hot money”) flows. Meanwhile, the dollar has been under heavy selling pressure with heightened risk of a crisis of confidence. This week’s market activity supported my view that the environment would seem to dictate that QE2 will only exacerbate increasingly unwieldy financial flows and unstable global markets.
It has been critical to my analysis that current reflation dynamics are different in kind from those that for the past two decades provided the Federal Reserve the most potent mechanism for domestic monetary stimulus. In today’s post-mortgage finance Bubble and housing mania backdrop, the Fed has lost much of its capacity to inflate household net worth and spending. The robust inflationary biases – and fledgling Bubbles – are now in global markets and economies. The “Core to Periphery” financial flow dynamic has become deeply embedded.
The key dynamic today is one where deep structural U.S. impairment elicits an unprecedented monetary response from our central bank. Yet the markets anticipate that this liquidity will seek out the inflating asset classes and most robust global economies. This week, gold climbed to a record high, crude oil to a two-year high, and copper to a 28-month high. The Shanghai Composite jumped 5.1% this week and India’s Sensex was up 4.9%. So far, indications support the view that the Fed’s move will further stimulate unfolding global booms.
Whether it is Asia or the commodities/natural resources economies, QE2 will exacerbate the already powerful financial flows and Bubble fuel. The U.S. economy is poorly structured to benefit from these new global financial flows, inflation and growth dynamics. There may be some gain from inflating U.S. stock prices. Yet the struggling consumer sector is going to get smacked with higher food and energy prices.
In his Thursday op-ed in the Washington Post – “What the Fed did and why: supporting the recovery and sustaining price stability” – Chairman Bernanke argued that “the Federal Reserve has a particular obligation to help promote increased employment and sustain price stability.” The dilemma for the Fed is that the financial and economic environment will dictate that their policies have minimal impact on both U.S. employment and growth, while providing a major impetus for additional global Monetary Disorder. A strong case can be made that QE2 will only worsen already unprecedented global imbalances. Global policymakers must be at their wits’ end.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Rubbing chicken bones together as effective as antibiotics
on: November 06, 2010, 08:59:39 AM
Worried about an impending public health crisis, government officials are considering offering financial incentives to the pharmaceutical industry, like tax breaks and patent extensions, to spur the development of vitally needed antibiotics.
While the proposals are still nascent, they have taken on more urgency as bacteria steadily become resistant to virtually all existing drugs at the same time that a considerable number of pharmaceutical giants have abandoned this field in search of more lucrative medicines. The number of new antibiotics in development is “distressingly low,” Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said at a news conference last month. The world’s weakening arsenal against “superbugs” has prompted scientists to warn that everyday infections could again become a major cause of death just as they were before the advent of penicillin around 1940.
“For these infections, we’re back to dancing around a bubbling cauldron while rubbing two chicken bones together,” said Dr. Brad Spellberg, an infectious disease specialist at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center in Torrance, Calif.
For example, scientists have become alarmed by the spread from India of a newly discovered mutation called NDM-1, which renders certain germs like E. coli invulnerable to nearly all modern antibiotics. About 100,000 Americans a year are killed by infections acquired in hospitals, many resistant to multiple antibiotics. Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, the best known superbug, now kills more Americans each year than AIDS.
While the notion of directly subsidizing drug companies may be politically unpopular in many quarters, proponents say it is necessary to bridge the gap between the high value that new antibiotics have for society and the low returns they provide to drug companies.
“There is a market failure,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat and the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who said he was considering introducing legislation. “We need to look at ways to spur development of this market.”
Mr. Waxman will lose his committee chairmanship with the Republicans having won control of the House this week. But the idea of spurring antibiotic development appears to have some bipartisan support. Representative Phil Gingrey, a Georgia Republican and a physician, recently introduced the Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now bill, which would provide certain antibiotics with five extra years of protection from generic competition and speed the reviews of new antibiotics by the Food and Drug Administration.
Besides tax breaks and extra protection from competition, other ideas policy makers are considering include additional federal funding of research and guaranteed purchases by the government of new antibiotics. Measures like these are already used to encourage the development of drugs for rare diseases, through the Orphan Drug Act, and for illnesses like malaria that primarily afflict poor countries.
The Obama administration is also taking some steps. The federal agency that oversees development of treatments for bioterrorism agents like anthrax is broadening its scope to encompass more common infections. In August, the agency, known as the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, awarded its first such “multi-use” contract, giving an initial $27 million to a company called Achaogen to develop an antibiotic that could be used for plague and tularemia as well as antibiotic-resistant infections.
The Department of Health and Human Services is considering creating an independent fund that would invest in small bio-defense companies. Antibiotic-resistant germs would be one priority, according to a report that the department issued in August.
The European Union is also working on a plan, based on proposals from the London School of Economics. A year ago, the United States and the European Union formed a task force on antibiotic resistance.
Despite the activity, there is no consensus on what would work best and little discussion of how much such measures would cost.
A paper issued last month by the Office of Health Economics, a consulting firm owned by the British pharmaceutical industry’s trade group, suggested that incentives exceeding $1 billion per drug would be required.
Some critics say the case for incentives is not yet persuasive. There are signs that the drug industry is picking up its efforts on its own, in response to perceived need. The number of antibiotics in clinical trials has climbed sharply in the last three years, reversing a steady decline that began in the 1980s, according to figures from the F.D.A. The efforts are being led by small companies, which can be satisfied with smaller sales.
Ramanan Laxminarayan, who directs the Extending the Cure project on antibiotic resistance at Resources for the Future, a policy organization, said the government should focus on conserving the effectiveness of existing antibiotics. That could be done by preventing unnecessary use in people and farm animals and requiring better infection control measures in hospitals.
“There’s not a recognition yet that we should think about antibiotics as a natural resource and we should conserve them like we do fish,” Mr. Laxminarayan, an economist, said. Kevin Outterson, an associate professor of law at Boston University, said one way to encourage both new development and conservation would be to pay drug companies to develop new antibiotics but not to aggressively market them. Incentives, he said, “must be conditioned on the companies’ changing their behavior.”
Only five new antibiotics were approved by the F.D.A. from 2003 through 2007, down from 16 in the period from 1983 to 1987. A survey last year by European health authorities found only 15 antibiotics in clinical trials that offered some promise of going beyond what is available today.
Only five of the 13 biggest pharmaceutical companies still try to discover new antibiotics, said Dr. David M. Shlaes, a consultant to the industry and the author of a new book “Antibiotics: The Perfect Storm.”
One reason is that antibiotics are typically taken for a week or two and usually cure the patient. While that makes them cost-effective for the health system, it also makes them less lucrative to drug companies than medicines for diseases like cancer or diabetes, which might be taken for months, or even for life, because they do not cure the patient.
“There’s this perverse disincentive against antibiotics because they work so well,” said J. Kevin Judice, chief executive of Achaogen.
Another factor is that new antibiotics are likely to be used only sparingly at first, to stave off the emergence of resistance. While that might be medically appropriate, it reduces the ability of a drug company to recoup its investment, said Dr. Barry I. Eisenstein, a senior vice president at the antibiotic maker Cubist Pharmaceuticals. Another factor discouraging investment, some experts say, is that the F.D.A. recently made it harder for new antibacterial drugs to win approval.
Leading the call for incentives has been the Infectious Diseases Society of America, whose members are infectious disease specialists. It is calling for a “10 by ‘20” initiative to develop 10 new antibiotics by 2020. The initiative, which is more an aspiration than a plan, has been endorsed by numerous other medical societies.
But so far there is little consumer support. “We don’t have any patient groups for Acinetobacter,” said Robert J. Guidos, the society’s vice president for public policy and government relations, referring to a drug-resistant bacterium. Patient groups concerned about superbugs tend to focus on reducing the spread of infections in hospitals.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the main trade group for big drug companies, has not taken a position on incentives because not all members are in the antibiotic business, said David R. Brennan, the chief executive of AstraZeneca and former chairman of the trade group.
Mr. Brennan, whose company is still in the antibiotic business, said that at a minimum, new antibiotics should be given longer protection from generic competition to make up for the fact that they are used sparingly when they go on sale. “Give us more time at the back end,” he said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq returns-9
on: November 06, 2010, 08:17:35 AM
I just spent 5-minutes hiding under my desk while 2-4 mortars landed not too awful far away (echoes can make it hard to tell). They sure didn't seem too far off.....
It never ceases to amaze me how many security "experts" here don't even have the talent or skills that a switched on mall cop might have in the USA....
Well, several ________ (guys from the office) just came into my office because they heard I had a "complaint." (How does a serious question on matters of life and death become a "complaint?").
Anyway, the bottom line is that at this moment in time and space there is no procedure for ensuring that "convicts" (in other words cooperating witnesses no matter their custody status) are searched prior to entry onto the compound.
Despite the incident in Khost on 12/30/2009, I guess there are still those who believe such could never happen to them.
Urgent - Two Katyusha rockets hit Baghad’s fortified “Green Zone”
November 6, 2010 - 09:50:37
BAGHDAD / Aswat al-Iraq: Two Katyusha rockets fell Saturday on west Baghdad’s fortified “Green Zone,” where the main offices of the Iraqi government, U.S., British and other Western embassies exist, a security source said.
“The rockets fell on Baghdad’s Green Zone, but the human and material losses were not known,” he said, adding that police forces have managed to discover the area, where the rockets were fire from, on a building in Aqaba bin-Naf’i'e square in central Baghdad.
Apparently several more fell just outside the Green Zone, which since it's rather small would actually make sense as to why they all sounded so close.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Stpehen Field
on: November 05, 2010, 05:18:45 PM
Hat tip to BBG for this very nice little piece which I paste here:
Happy birthday, Stephen J. Field!
Today is the birthday of one of the great figures in the history of American liberty—Stephen Johnson Field, who was born on this day in 1816.
Field was born into an illustrious family; his brother, Cyrus, laid the first transatlantic telegraph cable (and is mentioned in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea), and his other brother, David Dudley Field, was perhaps the most famous and influential lawyer in his day. But unlike his brothers, Stephen came west to California in 1849, arriving in San Francisco, where he started a law firm. It failed quickly, and he moved to Marysville, where he was soon elected alcalde—something similar to mayor. After serving in the state legislature, Field was elected to the California Supreme Court in 1857, and soon achieved wide respect, although he clashed with his colleague, Chief Justice David S. Terry. When Terry shot and killed California Senator David Broderick in a duel two years later, Field replaced him as Chief Justice of California.
In 1863, needing a western Democrat for the Supreme Court, Abraham Lincoln appointed Stephen Field to the new 10th seat, making him the first Californian on the Supreme Court. Field soon distinguished himself as a defender of economic freedom and a friend to the Chinese immigrants who were so severely persecuted in California at the time. While riding circuit in the state, for instance, Field struck down the San Francisco “queue ordinance.” This was a law requiring any person who was thrown in jail to first have his head shaved. Although the government claimed this was a health measure intended to prevent lice infestation, Field recognized that it was really an attempt to allow the cutting off of the Chinese workers’ long hair braids, or queues, that they prized for traditional reasons: “we cannot shut our eyes to matters of public notoriety and general cognizance,” Field wrote. “When we take our seats on the bench we are not struck with blindness, and forbidden to know as judges what we see as men.” Ho Ah Kow v. Nunan, 12 F. Cas. 252, 255 (C.C.D. Cal. 1879).
Field was a champion of the individual’s right to earn a living without unreasonble interference by the government. (Which is why I dedicated my book to him.) In a persuasive dissenting opinion in Munn v. Illinois, 94 U.S. (4 Otto.) 113 (1877), Field argued that a law limiting how much the owners of grain silos could charge for storing grain was a violation of the due process clause, because it violated the owners’ right to do with their property as they pleased—not to protect the general public, but simply to benefit a group that managed to exercise greater political influence than their rivals. The Court majority devised a new test, saying that any business “affected with a public interest” could be regulated by the government in this way, but Field pointed out that the storage of grain was simply “a private business,” and if the legislature could dictate the prices owners could charge simply by declaring that the business is “affected with a public interest,” then “all property and all business in the State are held at the mercy of a majority of its legislature,” which might just as easily
fix the rent of all tenements used for residences, without reference to the cost...[or set prices for] cotton, woollen, and silken fabrics, in the construction of machinery, in the printing and publication of books and periodicals, and in the making of utensils of every variety, useful and ornamental; indeed, there is hardly an enterprise or business...in which the public has not an interest in the sense in which that term is used by the court...and the doctrine which allows the legislature to interfere with and regulate the charges which the owners of property thus employed shall make for its use...has never before been asserted, so far as I am aware, by any judicial tribunal in the United States.
Field rightly saw that Munn would open the door to a flood of government control over businesses, and in the decade that followed (virtually every state held a constitutional convention in the 1870s) legislatures declared industries willy-nilly to be affected with a public interest so that bureaucrats could control large segments of industry. Likewise, in what is probably his most famous opinion—his dissent in The Slaughterhouse Cases, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 36 (1873)—Field insisted that the privileges or immunities clause protected, among other rights, the right to engage in a business without unreasonable government interference—a right protected by the common law for more than two and a half centuries at that time.
It’s ironic that Progressive legal theorists like Roscoe Pound later accused the pro-free market judges like Field of being “formalists.” Field was anything but a formalist, as the quote from the queue case suggests. In Cummings v. Missouri, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 277 (1867), he struck down a Missouri law that required people to swear they’d never been a supporter of secession before they could take certain jobs. This scheme was just a clever attempt at double-punishment for the same offense, Field wrote, and
what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly. The Constitution deals with substance, not shadows. Its inhibition was levelled at the thing, not the name. It intended that the rights of the citizen should be secure against deprivation for past conduct by legislative enactment, under any form, however disguised. If the inhibition can be evaded by the form of the enactment, its insertion in the fundamental law was a vain and futile proceeding.
Field ended up serving on the Court longer than any other justice except John Marshall. (William O. Douglas later surpassed him.) During that time, his influence on American law was profound—far greater than is usually recognized by legal historians. Upon his retirement from the bench, Field explained that in his view, the Supreme Court was actually the most democratic of the branches of the government, because while the legislature represents the will of temporary majorities that change over time, the Supreme Court’s job is to preserve the Constitution—the true will of the people—and protect it from legislatures that often abuse their constituents and ignore their constitutional limits.
Field also had a very colorful personal life. He ran for President several times while serving on the Supreme Court, and he’s the only Supreme Court justice ever arrested for murder. David Terry—the Chief Justice of California who had resigned after killing Senator Broderick—threatened Field’s life after Field ruled against Terry’s girlfriend in a divorce case. Field was then assigned a bodyguard, a U.S. Marshal named David Neagle. Not long afterwards, when Field was traveling through Lathrop, California, on judicial business, he happened upon David Terry, who walked up to Field and slapped him in the face. Marshal Neagle immediately pulled out his revolver and shot Terry dead. Although the sheriff arrested both Field and Neagle on murder charges, Field was immediately released and never charged. Neagle, however, was charged, and appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that the Marshal could not be tried under state law.
For more on this remarkable figure, check out Paul Kens’ book Stephen Field: Shaping Liberty from The Gold Rush to The Gilded Age, or Carl Brent Swisher’s book Stephen Field: Craftsman of The Law. Field also wrote a memoir of his early days in California. And not long ago I visited his gravesite.http://sandefur.typepad.com/freespace/2010/11/happy-birthday-stephen-j-field.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy
on: November 05, 2010, 05:11:37 PM
So, if someone were to tap a phone line without permission, what would happen? Certainly any intel obtained or evidence derived therefrom would be inadmissable as evidence, but what else would actually happen?