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25351  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survival issues outside the home on: November 19, 2007, 12:51:38 PM


This site comes recommended:

http://www.wilderness-survival-skills.com/index.html
25352  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: November 19, 2007, 07:02:11 AM
I disagree with much that PB writes here.

Concerning the crash of '29 and the Great Depression that followed: Yes the Fed made things worse AFTER the market crashed, but this does not explain that there was a world-wide depression until WW2.  PB is wrong-- the Great Depression was exactly because of the fragmentation of the world-wide economy brought on by beggar they neighbor devaluations, and tariffs and duties such as the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act and its analogues in our trading partners.  FDR killed a nascent recovery of the stock market by increasing taxes in his first term.  Jude Wanniski's analysis in his brilliant "The Way the World Works" is in my opinion, the correct analysis of this history.

PB is right that Bernake is on the horns of a dilema.  What he misses is this is because monetary policy is only half the problem and solution.  Tax policy is also half the problem and solution.   Yes the Fed has been too loose and needs to stop it, but the real issue is tax rates.  While we have not been looking, the various Euros have simplified and lowered their taxes and investment capital flows, which dwarfy trade flows, now flow to Europe.  Despite this, the Dems, who look likely to win, are talking massive tax increases (Rangel's plan, various plans of the Dem candidates, the general nature of Dems).  These tax increases (including accepting the end of the Bush tax cuts) if enacted, will tip the US into a severe recession and stagflation.  THIS is the problem in my opinion.
25353  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams, Webster, Reagan on: November 19, 2007, 06:46:20 AM
"It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated
seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator
and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt,
molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for
worshipping GOD in the manner most agreeable to the dictates of
his own conscience; or for his religious profession or sentiments;
provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others
in their religious worship."

-- John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776)

Reference: The Works of John Adams, Charles Adams, ed., 221.
========

THE FOUNDATION: ARMS
“The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.” —Noah Webster

THE GIPPER
“The gun has been called the great equalizer, meaning that a small person with a gun is equal to a large person, but it is a great equalizer in another way, too. It insures that the people are the equal of their government whenever that government forgets that it is servant and not master of the governed. When the British forgot that they got a revolution. And, as a result, we Americans got a Constitution; a Constitution that, as those who wrote it were determined, would keep men free. If we give up part of that Constitution we give up part of our freedom and increase the chance that we will lose it all. I am not ready to take that risk. I believe that the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms must not be infringed if liberty in America is to survive.” —Ronald Reagan

25354  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: November 19, 2007, 06:40:33 AM
Let the howl go forth: 

Cat Linda Matsumi make  Candidate , , , well, what do we call a woman candidate for , , , Dog Brotherhood?  As we were sitting there with burgers and brews at the post Gathering shindig, Linda herself requested , , , drum roll please , , , "Bitch" cheesy  So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you "Linda Candidate Bitch Matsumi".

There were a couple of more ascensions, but will post later about them.  I want to check our records to make sure I get the names right.

The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog
Council of Elders

25355  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WMDs-- a new interpretation on: November 18, 2007, 08:27:17 AM
http://frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=F715A709-2614-4EA5-967C-F6151F94A364
Shattering Conventional Wisdom About Saddam's WMD's   
By John Loftus
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, November 16, 2007


Finally, there are some definitive answers to the mystery of the missing WMD. Civilian volunteers, mostly retired intelligence officers belonging to the non-partisan IntelligenceSummit.org, have been poring over the secret archives captured from Saddam Hussein. The inescapable conclusion is this: Saddam really did have WMD after all, but not in the way the Bush administration believed. A 9,000 word research paper with citations to each captured document has been posted online at LoftusReport.com, along with translations of the captured Iraqi documents, courtesy of Mr. Ryan Mauro and his friends.

This Iraqi document research has been supplemented with satellite photographs and dozens of interviews, among them David Gaubatz who risked radiation exposure to locate Saddam’s underwater WMD warehouses , and John Shaw, whose brilliant detective work solved the puzzle of where the WMD went. Both have contributed substantially to solving one of the most difficult mysteries of our decade.

The absolutists on either side of the WMD debate will be more than a bit chagrinned at these disclosures. The documents show a much more complex history than previously suspected. The "Bush lied, people died" chorus has insisted that Saddam had no WMD whatsoever after 1991 - and thus that WMD was no good reason for the war. The Neocon diehards insist that, as in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the treasure-trove is still out there somewhere, buried under the sand dunes of Iraq. Each side is more than a little bit wrong about Saddam's WMD, and each side is only a little bit right about what happened to it.



The gist of the new evidence is this: roughly one quarter of Saddam's WMD was destroyed under UN pressure during the early to mid 1990's. Saddam sold approximately another quarter of his weapons stockpile to his Arab neighbors during the mid to late 1990's. The Russians insisted on removing another quarter in the last few months before the war. The last remaining WMD, the contents of Saddam's nuclear weapons labs, were still inside Iraq on the day when the coalition forces arrived in 2003. His nuclear weapons equipment was hidden in enormous underwater warehouses beneath the Euphrates River. Saddam’s entire nuclear inventory was later stolen from these warehouses right out from under the Americans’ noses. The theft of the unguarded Iraqi nuclear stockpile is perhaps, the worst scandal of the war, suggesting a level of extreme incompetence and gross dereliction of duty that makes the Hurricane Katrina debacle look like a model of efficiency.


Without pointing fingers at the Americans, the Israeli government now believes that Saddam Hussein’s nuclear stockpiles have ended up in weapons dumps in Syria. Debkafile, a somewhat reliable private Israeli intelligence service, has recently published a report claiming that the Syrians were importing North Korean plutonium to be mixed with Saddam’s enriched uranium. Allegedly, the Syrians were close to completing a warhead factory next to Saddam’s WMD dump in Deir al Zour, Syria to produce hundreds, if not thousands, of super toxic “dirty bombs” that would pollute wherever they landed in Israel for the next several thousands of years. Debka alleged that it was this combination factory/WMD dump site which was the target of the recent Israeli air strike in Deir al Zour province..


Senior sources in the Israeli government have privately confirmed to me that the recent New York Times articles and satellite photographs about the Israeli raid on an alleged Syrian nuclear target in Al Tabitha, Syria were of the completely wrong location. Armed with this knowledge, I searched Google Earth satellite photos for the rest of the province of Deir al Zour for a site that would match the unofficial Israeli descriptions: camouflaged black factory building, next to a military ammunition dump, between an airport and an orchard. There is a clear match in only one location, Longitude 35 degrees, 16 minutes 49.31 seconds North, Latitude 40 degrees, 3 minutes, 29.97 seconds East. Analysts and members of the public are invited to determine for themselves whether this was indeed the weapons dump for Saddam’s WMD.


Photos of this complex taken after the Israel raid appear to show that all of the buildings, earthern blast berms, bunkers, roads, even the acres of blackened topsoil, have all been dug up and removed. All that remains are what appear to be smoothed over bomb craters. Of course, that is not of itself definitive proof, but it is extremely suspicious.


It should be noted that the American interrogators had accurate information about a possible Deir al Zour location shortly after the war, but ignored it:

"An Iraqi dissident going by the name of "Abu Abdallah" claims that on March 10, 2003, 50 trucks arrived in Deir Al-Zour, Syria after being loaded in Baghdad. …Abdallah approached his friend who was hesitant to confirm the WMD shipment, but did after Abdallah explained what his sources informed him of. The friend told him not to tell anyone about the shipment."


These interrogation reports should be re-evaluated in light of the recently opened Iraqi secret archives, which we submit are the best evidence. But the captured document evidence should not be overstated. It must be emphasized that there is no one captured Saddam document which mentions both the possession of WMD and the movement to Syria.


Moreover, many of Saddam's own tapes and documents concerning chemical and biological weapons are ambiguous. When read together as a mosaic whole, Saddam's secret files certainly make a persuasive case of massive WMD acquisition right up to a few months before the war. Not only was he buying banned precursors for nerve gas, he was ordering the chemicals to make Zyklon B, the Nazis favorite gas at Auschwitz. However odious and well documented his purchases in 2002, there is no direct evidence of any CW or BW actually remaining inside Iraq on the day the war started in 2003. As stated in more detail in my full report, the British, Ukrainian and American secret services all believed that the Russians had organized a last minute evacuation of CW and BW stockpiles from Baghdad to Syria.


We know from Saddam’s documents that huge quantities of CW and BW were in fact produced, and there is no record of their destruction. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Therefore, at least as to chemical and biological weapons, the evidence is compelling, but not conclusive. There is no one individual document or audiotape that contains a smoking gun.

There is no ambiguity, however, about captured tape ISGQ-2003-M0007379, in which Saddam is briefed on his secret nuclear weapons project. This meeting clearly took place in 2002 or afterwards: almost a decade after the State Department claimed that Saddam had abandoned his nuclear weapons research.

Moreover the tape describes a laser enrichment process for uranium that had never been known by the UN inspectors to even exist in Iraq, and Saddam's nuclear briefers on the tape were Iraqi scientists who had never been on any weapons inspector’s list. The tape explicitly discusses how civilian plasma research could be used as a cover for military plasma research necessary to build a hydrogen bomb.

When this tape came to the attention of the International Intelligence Summit, a non-profit, non-partisan educational forum focusing on global intelligence affairs, the organization asked the NSA to verify the voiceprints of Saddam and his cronies, invited a certified translator to present Saddam’s nuclear tapes to the public, and then invited leading intelligence analysts to comment.

At the direct request of the Summit, President Bush promptly overruled his national intelligence adviser, John Negroponte, a career State Department man, and ordered that the rest of the captured Saddam tapes and documents be reviewed as rapidly as possible. The Intelligence Summit asked that Saddam's tapes and documents be posted on a public website so that Arabic-speaking volunteers could help with the translation and analysis.

At first, the public website seemed like a good idea. Another document was quickly discovered, dated November 2002, describing an expensive plan to remove radioactive contamination from an isotope production building. The document cites the return of UNMOVIC inspectors as the reason for cleaning up the evidence of radioactivity. This is not far from a smoking gun: there were not supposed to be any nuclear production plants in Iraq in 2002.

Then a barrage of near-smoking guns opened up. Document after document from Saddam's files was posted unread on the public website, each one describing how to make a nuclear bomb in more detail than the last. These documents, dated just before the war, show that Saddam had accumulated just about every secret there was for the construction of nuclear weapons. The Iraqi intelligence files contain so much accurate information on the atom bomb that the translators’ public website had to be closed for reasons of national security.

If Saddam had nuclear weapons facilities, where was he hiding them? Iraqi informants showed US investigators where Saddam had constructed huge underwater storage facilities beneath the Euphrates River. The tunnel entrances were still sealed with tons of concrete. The US investigators who approached the sealed entrances were later determined to have been exposed to radiation. Incredibly, their reports were lost in the postwar confusion, and Saddam’s underground nuclear storage sites were left unguarded for the next three years. Still, the eyewitness testimony about the sealed underwater warehouses matched with radiation exposure is strong circumstantial evidence that some amount of radioactive material was still present in Iraq on the day the war began.

Our volunteer researchers discovered the actual movement order from the Iraqi high command ordering all the remaining special equipment to be moved into the underground sites only a few weeks before the onset of the war. The date of the movement order suggests that President Bush, who clearly knew nothing of the specifics of the underground nuclear sites, or even that a nuclear weapons program still existed in Iraq, may have been accidentally correct about the main point of the war: the discovery of Saddam’s secret nuclear program, even in hindsight, arguably provides sufficient legal justification for the previous use of force.

Saddam’s nuclear documents compel any reasonable person to the conclusion that, more probably than not, there were in fact nuclear WMD sites, components, and programs hidden inside Iraq at the time the Coalition forces invaded. In view of these newly discovered documents, it can be concluded, more probably than not, that Saddam did have a nuclear weapons program in 2001-2002, and that it is reasonably certain that he would have continued his efforts towards making a nuclear bomb in 2003 had he not been stopped by the Coalition forces. Four years after the war began, we still do not have all the answers, but we have many of them. Ninety percent of the Saddam files have never been read, let alone translated. It is time to utterly reject the conventional wisdom that there were no WMD in Iraq and look to the best evidence: Saddam’s own files on WMD. The truth is what it is, the documents speak for themselves.

John Loftus is President of IntelligenceSummit.org, which is entirely free of government funding, and depends solely upon private contributions for its support. The full research paper on Iraqi WMD, along with the supporting documents and photographs can be found at www.LoftusReport.com
25356  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: November 18, 2007, 08:02:17 AM
Op-Ed Contributors
Pakistan’s Collapse, Our Problem
NY Times
By FREDERICK W. KAGAN and MICHAEL O’HANLON
Published: November 18, 2007
Washington

AS the government of Pakistan totters, we must face a fact: the United States simply could not stand by as a nuclear-armed Pakistan descended into the abyss. Nor would it be strategically prudent to withdraw our forces from an improving situation in Iraq to cope with a deteriorating one in Pakistan. We need to think — now — about our feasible military options in Pakistan, should it really come to that.

We do not intend to be fear mongers. Pakistan’s officer corps and ruling elites remain largely moderate and more interested in building a strong, modern state than in exporting terrorism or nuclear weapons to the highest bidder. But then again, Americans felt similarly about the shah’s regime in Iran until it was too late.

Moreover, Pakistan’s intelligence services contain enough sympathizers and supporters of the Afghan Taliban, and enough nationalists bent on seizing the disputed province of Kashmir from India, that there are grounds for real worries.

The most likely possible dangers are these: a complete collapse of Pakistani government rule that allows an extreme Islamist movement to fill the vacuum; a total loss of federal control over outlying provinces, which splinter along ethnic and tribal lines; or a struggle within the Pakistani military in which the minority sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda try to establish Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.

All possible military initiatives to avoid those possibilities are daunting. With 160 million people, Pakistan is more than five times the size of Iraq. It would take a long time to move large numbers of American forces halfway across the world. And unless we had precise information about the location of all of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and materials, we could not rely on bombing or using Special Forces to destroy them.

The task of stabilizing a collapsed Pakistan is beyond the means of the United States and its allies. Rule-of-thumb estimates suggest that a force of more than a million troops would be required for a country of this size. Thus, if we have any hope of success, we would have to act before a complete government collapse, and we would need the cooperation of moderate Pakistani forces.

One possible plan would be a Special Forces operation with the limited goal of preventing Pakistan’s nuclear materials and warheads from getting into the wrong hands. Given the degree to which Pakistani nationalists cherish these assets, it is unlikely the United States would get permission to destroy them. Somehow, American forces would have to team with Pakistanis to secure critical sites and possibly to move the material to a safer place.

For the United States, the safest bet would be shipping the material to someplace like New Mexico; but even pro-American Pakistanis would be unlikely to cooperate. More likely, we would have to settle for establishing a remote redoubt within Pakistan, with the nuclear technology guarded by elite Pakistani forces backed up (and watched over) by crack international troops. It is realistic to think that such a mission might be undertaken within days of a decision to act. The price for rapid action and secrecy, however, would probably be a very small international coalition.

A second, broader option would involve supporting the core of the Pakistani armed forces as they sought to hold the country together in the face of an ineffective government, seceding border regions and Al Qaeda and Taliban assassination attempts against the leadership. This would require a sizable combat force — not only from the United States, but ideally also other Western powers and moderate Muslim nations.

Even if we were not so committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Western powers would need months to get the troops there. Fortunately, given the longstanding effectiveness of Pakistan’s security forces, any process of state decline probably would be gradual, giving us the time to act.

So, if we got a large number of troops into the country, what would they do? The most likely directive would be to help Pakistan’s military and security forces hold the country’s center — primarily the region around the capital, Islamabad, and the populous areas like Punjab Province to its south.

We would also have to be wary of internecine warfare within the Pakistani security forces. Pro-American moderates could well win a fight against extremist sympathizers on their own. But they might need help if splinter forces or radical Islamists took control of parts of the country containing crucial nuclear materials. The task of retaking any such regions and reclaiming custody of any nuclear weapons would be a priority for our troops.

If a holding operation in the nation’s center was successful, we would probably then seek to establish order in the parts of Pakistan where extremists operate. Beyond propping up the state, this would benefit American efforts in Afghanistan by depriving terrorists of the sanctuaries they have long enjoyed in Pakistan’s tribal and frontier regions.

The great paradox of the post-cold war world is that we are both safer, day to day, and in greater peril than before. There was a time when volatility in places like Pakistan was mostly a humanitarian worry; today it is as much a threat to our basic security as Soviet tanks once were. We must be militarily and diplomatically prepared to keep ourselves safe in such a world. Pakistan may be the next big test.

Frederick W. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
25357  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 18, 2007, 07:56:36 AM
Another one from today's NY Times-- this one by arch liberal Maureen Dowd:

Shake, Rattle and Roll
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By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: November 18, 2007
WASHINGTON

Skip to next paragraph
 
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Maureen Dowd

Go to Columnist Page » The debate dominatrix knows how to rattle Obambi.

Mistress Hillary started disciplining her fellow senator last winter, after he began exploring a presidential bid. When he winked at her, took her elbow and tried to say hello on the Senate floor, she did not melt, as many women do. She brushed him off, a move meant to remind him that he was an upstart who should not get in the way of her turn in the Oval Office.

He was so shook up, he called a friend to say: You would not believe what just happened with Hillary.

She has continued to flick the whip in debates. She usually ignores Obama and John Edwards backstage, preferring to chat with the so-called second-tier candidates. And she often looks so unapproachable while they’re setting up on stage that Obama seems hesitant to be the first to say hi.

With so much at stake, she had to do it again in Vegas, this time using her voice, gaze and body language to such punishing effect that Obama looked as if he had been brought to heel. It was a mesmerizing display, and at an event that drew the highest television ratings of any primary debate this year. The momentum Obama had gained from a vivid speech at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Iowa drained away by the end of the first half-hour.

Other guys, like Rudy, wouldn’t even be looking for a chance to greet Hillary, as Obama always does. Other guys, like Rudy, wouldn’t care if she iced them.

But she can tell that Obama does care, that he doesn’t want her to not like him or be mad at him, that he responds to the sort of belittling treatment that she sometimes dished out to her husband and his male aides at the White House, yelling at them and calling them wimps if they disappointed her.

Obama may be responsive to Hillary’s moods because he lives with another strong woman who knows how to keep him in line. Michelle said she let her husband run for president only when he agreed to give up smoking, and she’s a master at the art of the loving conjugal put-down.

When Hillary walked onstage Thursday, Obama stood to her left waiting to shake hands and say hi, as he and Edwards had done with Chris Dodd. She turned her body away, refused to meet his eyes and froze him out. Again. And he looked taken aback. Again.

For the rest of the night she owned him. He was so off his game that he duplicated her dithering performance from the last debate on the issue of whether illegal immigrants should get driver’s licenses. After a tortured exchange with Wolf Blitzer, he ended up saying he favored it — one more sign that the law professor is oblivious to the visceral nature of campaigns.

Hillary brazenly leapt away from that politically devastating position and said she didn’t support the licenses anymore. And Obama didn’t even call her out on her third reversal on the matter.

She was willing to absorb the flip-flop criticism to cut her losses on an issue that could have dragged her to defeat in the general election.

Obama and Edwards, who both seemed shaken by a few seconds of pro-Hillary booing, let the front-runner set a ludicrous standard: that any criticism of her shifts on issues is “mudslinging” and a character attack.

She is a control freak — that’s why her campaign tried to coach wonky Iowa voters to ask wonky questions — and her male rivals are letting her take control.

The Democrats should not be afraid to mix it up now, while they have a chance, and get all the doubts and disputes out on the table. Taking some flak clearly made Hillary stronger.

If Rudy’s the nominee, he will go with relish to all the vulnerable places in Hillary’s past. At the Federalist Society on Friday, he had barely spoken the word “she” before the audience began tittering appreciatively.

He went through a whole faux- bemused riff on Hillary’s driver’s license twists without ever uttering her name: “First, she was for the idea, and supported Governor Spitzer, who wanted to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Then she was against the idea. Then she was for and against the idea. And then finally she said it should be decided on a state-by-state basis. This is the only time in her career that she’s ever decided anything should be decided on a state-by-state basis. You know something? She picked out absolutely the wrong one. Right? I mean, this is one of the areas that is given to the federal government to deal with under our Constitution, the borders of the United States, immigration.”

Rudy laced his speech with faith references, including the assertion that America has “a divinely inspired role in the world” and a mission to “save a civilization from Islamic terrorism.”

Hillary has her work cut out for her. Rudy will not be so easy to spank.

25358  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 18, 2007, 07:52:19 AM
What ‘That Regan Woman’ Knows
New York Times     
By FRANK RICH
Published: November 18, 2007
NEW Yorkers who remember Rudy Giuliani as the bullying New York mayor, not as the terminally cheerful “America’s Mayor” cooing to babies in New Hampshire, have always banked on one certainty: his presidential candidacy was so preposterous it would implode before he got anywhere near the White House.

Surely, we reassured ourselves, the all-powerful Republican values enforcers were so highly principled that they would excommunicate him because of his liberal social views, three wives and estranged children. Or a firewall would be erected by the firefighters who are enraged by his self-aggrandizing rewrite of 9/11 history. Or Judith Giuliani, with her long-hidden first marriage and Louis Vuitton ’tude, would send red-state voters screaming into the night.

Wrong, wrong and wrong. But how quickly and stupidly we forgot about the other Judith in the Rudy orbit. That would be Judith Regan, who disappeared last December after she was unceremoniously fired from Rupert Murdoch’s publishing house, HarperCollins. Last week Ms. Regan came roaring back into the fray, a silver bullet aimed squarely at the heart of the Giuliani campaign.

Ms. Regan filed a $100 million lawsuit against her former employer, claiming she was unjustly made a scapegoat for the O. J. Simpson “If I Did It” fiasco that (briefly) embarrassed Mr. Murdoch and his News Corporation. But for those of us not caught up in the Simpson circus, what’s most riveting about the suit are two at best tangential sentences in its 70 pages: “In fact, a senior executive in the News Corporation organization told Regan that he believed she had information about Kerik that, if disclosed, would harm Giuliani’s presidential campaign. This executive advised Regan to lie to, and to withhold information from, investigators concerning Kerik.”

Kerik, of course, is Bernard Kerik, the former Giuliani chauffeur and police commissioner, as well as the candidate he pushed to be President Bush’s short-lived nominee to run the Department of Homeland Security. Having pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors last year, Mr. Kerik was indicted on 16 other counts by a federal grand jury 10 days ago, just before Ms. Regan let loose with her lawsuit. Whether Ms. Regan’s charge about that unnamed Murdoch “senior executive” is true or not — her lawyers have yet to reveal the evidence — her overall message is plain. She knows a lot about Mr. Kerik, Mr. Giuliani and the Murdoch empire. And she could talk.

Boy, could she! As New Yorkers who have crossed her path or followed her in the tabloids know, Ms. Regan has an epic temper. My first encounter with her came more than a decade ago when she left me a record-breaking (in vitriol and decibel level) voice mail message about a column I’d written on one of her authors. It was a relief to encounter a more mellow Regan at a Midtown restaurant some years later. She cordially introduced me to her dinner companion, Mr. Kerik, whose post-9/11 autobiography, “The Lost Son: A Life in Pursuit of Justice,” was under contract at her HarperCollins imprint, ReganBooks.

What I didn’t know then was that this married author and single editor were in pursuit of not just justice, but sex, too. Their love nest, we’d later learn, was an apartment adjacent to ground zero that had been initially set aside for rescue workers. Mr. Kerik believed his lover had every moral right to be there. As he tenderly explained in his acknowledgments in “The Lost Son” — published before the revelation of their relationship — there was “one hero who is missing” from his book’s tribute to “courage and honor” and “her name is Judith Regan.”

Few know more about Rudy than his perennial boon companion, Mr. Kerik. Perhaps during his romance with Ms. Regan he talked only of the finer points of memoir writing or about his theories of crime prevention or about his ideas for training the police in the Muslim world (an assignment he later received in Iraq and botched). But it is also plausible that this couple discussed everything Mr. Kerik witnessed at Mr. Giuliani’s side before, during and after 9/11. Perhaps he even explained to her why the mayor insisted, disastrously, that his city’s $61 million emergency command center be located in the World Trade Center despite the terrorist attack on the towers in 1993.

Perhaps, too, they talked about the business ventures the mayor established after leaving office. Mr. Kerik worked at Giuliani Partners and used its address as a mail drop for some $75,000 that turns up in the tax-fraud charges in his federal indictment. That money was Mr. Kerik’s pay for an 11-sentence introduction to another Regan-published book about 9/11, “In the Line of Duty.” Though that project’s profits were otherwise donated to the families of dead rescue workers, Mr. Kerik’s royalties were mailed to Giuliani Partners in the name of a corporate entity Mr. Kerik set up in Delaware. He would later claim that he made comparable donations to charity, but the federal indictment charges that $80,000 he took in charitable deductions were bogus.

Amazingly, given that he seeks the highest office in the land, Mr. Giuliani will not reveal the clients of Giuliani Partners. Perhaps he has trouble remembering them all. He testified in court last year that he has no memory of a mayoral briefing in which he was told of Mr. Kerik’s association with a company suspected of ties to organized crime.

Ms. Regan’s knowledge of Mr. Giuliani isn’t limited to whatever she learned from Mr. Kerik. She used to work for another longtime Giuliani pal, Roger Ailes, the media consultant for the first Giuliani campaign in 1989 and the impresario who created Fox News for Mr. Murdoch in 1996. A full-service mayor to his cronies, Mr. Giuliani lobbied hard to get the Fox News Channel on the city’s cable boxes and presided over Mr. Ailes’s wedding. Enter Ms. Regan, who was given her own program on Fox’s early lineup. Mr. Ailes came up with its rather inspired first title, “That Regan Woman.”

Who at the News Corporation supposedly asked Ms. Regan to lie to protect Rudy’s secrets? Her complaint does not say. But thanks to the political journal The Hotline, we do know that as of the summer Mr. Giuliani had received more air time from Fox News than any other G.O.P. candidate, much of it on the high-rated “Hannity & Colmes.” That show’s co-host, Sean Hannity, appeared at a Giuliani campaign fund-raiser this year.

Fox News coverage of Ms. Regan’s lawsuit last week was minimal. After all, Mr. Giuliani dismissed the whole episode as “a gossip column story,” and we know Fox would never stoop so low as to trade in gossip. The coverage was scarcely more intense at The Wall Street Journal, whose print edition included no mention of the suit’s reference to that “senior executive” at the News Corporation. (After bloggers noticed, the article was amended online.) The Journal is not quite yet a Murdoch property, but its editorial board has had its own show on Fox News since 2006.

During the 1990s, the Journal editorial board published so much dirt about the Clintons that it put the paper’s brand on an encyclopedic six-volume anthology titled “A Journal Briefing — Whitewater.” You’d think the controversies surrounding “America’s Mayor” are at least as sexy as the carnal scandals and alleged drug deals The Journal investigated back then. This month a Journal reporter not on its editorial board added the government of Qatar to the small list of known Giuliani Partners clients, among them the manufacturer of OxyContin. We’ll see if such journalism flourishes in the paper’s Murdoch era.

But beyond New York’s dailies and The Village Voice, the national news media, conspicuously the big three television networks, have rarely covered Mr. Giuliani much more aggressively than Mr. Murdoch’s Fox News has. They are more likely to focus on Mr. Giuliani’s checkered family history than the questions raised by his record in government and business. It’s astounding how many are willing to look the other way while recycling those old 9/11 videos.

One exception is The Chicago Tribune, which last month on its front page revisited the story of how, after Mr. Giuliani left office, his mayoral papers were temporarily transferred to a private, tax-exempt foundation run by his supporters and financed with $1.5 million from mostly undisclosed donors. The foundation, which shares the same address as Giuliani Partners, copied and archived the records before sending them back to New York’s municipal archives. Historians told The Tribune there’s no way to verify that the papers were returned to government custody intact. Mayor Bloomberg has since signed a law that will prevent this unprecedented deal from being repeated.

Journalists, like generals, love to refight the last war, so the unavailability of millions of Hillary Clinton’s papers has received all the coverage the Giuliani campaign has been spared. But while the release of those first lady records should indeed be accelerated, it’s hard to imagine many more scandals will turn up after six volumes of “Whitewater,” an impeachment trial and the avalanche of other investigative reportage on the Clintons then and now.

The Giuliani story, by contrast, is relatively virgin territory. And with the filing of a lawsuit by a vengeful eyewitness who was fired from her job, it may just have gained its own reincarnation of Linda Tripp.
25359  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Deterrent effect of Capital Punishment? on: November 18, 2007, 07:31:47 AM
NY Times:



By ADAM LIPTAK
Published: November 18, 2007


For the first time in a generation, the question of whether the death penalty deters murders has captured the attention of scholars in law and economics, setting off an intense new debate about one of the central justifications for capital punishment.

Related
Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate, by John J. Donohue and Justin Wolfers (Stanford Law Review, December 2005)
Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? Acts, Omissions and Life-Life Trade-offs, by Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermuele (Stanford Law Review, December 2005)
Does Capital Punishment Have a Deterrent Effect? New Evidence From Post-moratorium Panel Data, by Hashem Dezhbaksh, Paul H. Rubin and Joanna M. Shepherd (American Law and Economics Review 2003)
Deterrence Versus Brutalization: Capital Punsishment's Differing Impacts Among States, by Joanna Shepherd (Michigan Law Review, November 2005)
Prison Conditions, Capital Punishment and Deterrence, by Lawrence Katz, Steven D. Levitt and Ellen Shustorovich (American Law and Economics Review 2003)
Getting Off Death Row: Commuted Sentences and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment, by H. Naci Mocan and R. Kaj Gittings (Journal of Law and Economics, October 2003)
Capital Punishment and Capital Murder: Market Share and the Deterrent Effects of the Death Penalty, by Jeffrey Fagan, Franklin E. Zimring and Amanda Geller (Texas Law Review, June 2006)
According to roughly a dozen recent studies, executions save lives. For each inmate put to death, the studies say, 3 to 18 murders are prevented.



The effect is most pronounced, according to some studies, in Texas and other states that execute condemned inmates relatively often and relatively quickly.



The studies, performed by economists in the past decade, compare the number of executions in different jurisdictions with homicide rates over time — while trying to eliminate the effects of crime rates, conviction rates and other factors — and say that murder rates tend to fall as executions rise. One influential study looked at 3,054 counties over two decades.



“I personally am opposed to the death penalty,” said H. Naci Mocan, an economist at Louisiana State University and an author of a study finding that each execution saves five lives. “But my research shows that there is a deterrent effect.”



The studies have been the subject of sharp criticism, much of it from legal scholars who say that the theories of economists do not apply to the violent world of crime and punishment. Critics of the studies say they are based on faulty premises, insufficient data and flawed methodologies.

The death penalty “is applied so rarely that the number of homicides it can plausibly have caused or deterred cannot reliably be disentangled from the large year-to-year changes in the homicide rate caused by other factors,” John J. Donohue III, a law professor at Yale with a doctorate in economics, and Justin Wolfers, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in the Stanford Law Review in 2005. “The existing evidence for deterrence,” they concluded, “is surprisingly fragile.”

Gary Becker, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1992 and has followed the debate, said the current empirical evidence was “certainly not decisive” because “we just don’t get enough variation to be confident we have isolated a deterrent effect.”



But, Mr. Becker added, “the evidence of a variety of types — not simply the quantitative evidence — has been enough to convince me that capital punishment does deter and is worth using for the worst sorts of offenses.”

The debate, which first gained significant academic attention two years ago, reprises one from the 1970’s, when early and since largely discredited studies on the deterrent effect of capital punishment were discussed in the Supreme Court’s decision to reinstitute capital punishment in 1976 after a four-year moratorium.



The early studies were inconclusive, Justice Potter Stewart wrote for three justices in the majority in that decision. But he nonetheless concluded that “the death penalty undoubtedly is a significant deterrent.”



The Supreme Court now appears to have once again imposed a moratorium on executions as it considers how to assess the constitutionality of lethal injections. The decision in that case, which is expected next year, will be much narrower than the one in 1976, and the new studies will probably not play any direct role in it.



But the studies have started to reshape the debate over capital punishment and to influence prominent legal scholars.



“The evidence on whether it has a significant deterrent effect seems sufficiently plausible that the moral issue becomes a difficult one,” said Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago who has frequently taken liberal positions. “I did shift from being against the death penalty to thinking that if it has a significant deterrent effect it’s probably justified.”



Professor Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, a law professor at Harvard, wrote in their own Stanford Law Review article that “the recent evidence of a deterrent effect from capital punishment seems impressive, especially in light of its ‘apparent power and unanimity,’ ” quoting a conclusion of a separate overview of the evidence in 2005 by Robert Weisberg, a law professor at Stanford, in the Annual Review of Law and Social Science.

“Capital punishment may well save lives,” the two professors continued. “Those who object to capital punishment, and who do so in the name of protecting life, must come to terms with the possibility that the failure to inflict capital punishment will fail to protect life.”



To a large extent, the participants in the debate talk past one another because they work in different disciplines.



“You have two parallel universes — economists and others,” said Franklin E. Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of “The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment.” Responding to the new studies, he said, “is like learning to waltz with a cloud.”



To economists, it is obvious that if the cost of an activity rises, the amount of the activity will drop.



“To say anything else is to brand yourself an imbecile,” said Professor Wolfers, an author of the Stanford Law Review article criticizing the death penalty studies.



To many economists, then, it follows inexorably that there will be fewer murders as the likelihood of execution rises.



“I am definitely against the death penalty on lots of different grounds,” said Joanna M. Shepherd, a law professor at Emory with a doctorate in economics who wrote or contributed to several studies. “But I do believe that people respond to incentives.”

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But not everyone agrees that potential murderers know enough or can think clearly enough to make rational calculations. And the chances of being caught, convicted, sentenced to death and executed are in any event quite remote. Only about one in 300 homicides results in an execution.


“I honestly think it’s a distraction,” Professor Wolfers said. “The debate here is over whether we kill 60 guys or not. The food stamps program is much more important.”


The studies try to explain changes in the murder rate over time, asking whether the use of the death penalty made a difference. They look at the experiences of states or counties, gauging whether executions at a given time seemed to affect the murder rate that year, the year after or at some other later time. And they try to remove the influence of broader social trends like the crime rate generally, the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, economic conditions and demographic changes.



Critics say the larger factors are impossible to disentangle from whatever effects executions may have. They add that the new studies’ conclusions are skewed by data from a few anomalous jurisdictions, notably Texas, and by a failure to distinguish among various kinds of homicide.

There is also a classic economics question lurking in the background, Professor Wolfers said. “Capital punishment is very expensive,” he said, “so if you choose to spend money on capital punishment you are choosing not to spend it somewhere else, like policing.”



A single capital litigation can cost more than $1 million. It is at least possible that devoting that money to crime prevention would prevent more murders than whatever number, if any, an execution would deter.

The recent studies are, some independent observers say, of good quality, given the limitations of the available data.



“These are sophisticated econometricians who know how to do multiple regression analysis at a pretty high level,” Professor Weisberg of Stanford said.



The economics studies are, moreover, typically published in peer-reviewed journals, while critiques tend to appear in law reviews edited by students.

The available data is nevertheless thin, mostly because there are so few executions.



In 2003, for instance, there were more than 16,000 homicides but only 153 death sentences and 65 executions.



“It seems unlikely,” Professor Donohue and Professor Wolfers concluded in their Stanford article, “that any study based only on recent U.S. data can find a reliable link between homicide and execution rates.”



The two professors offered one particularly compelling comparison. Canada has executed no one since 1962. Yet the murder rates in the United States and Canada have moved in close parallel since then, including before, during and after the four-year death penalty moratorium in the United States in the 1970s.



If criminals do not clearly respond to the slim possibility of an execution, another study suggested, they are affected by the kind of existence they will face in their state prison system.



A 2003 paper by Lawrence Katz, Steven D. Levitt and Ellen Shustorovich published in The American Law and Economics Review found a “a strong and robust negative relationship” between prison conditions, as measured by the number of deaths in prison from any cause, and the crime rate. The effect is, the authors say, “quite large: 30-100 violent crimes and a similar number or property crimes” were deterred per prison death.



On the other hand, the authors found, “there simply does not appear to be enough information in the data on capital punishment to reliably estimate a deterrent effect.”



There is a lesson here, according to some scholars.



“Deterrence cannot be achieved with a half-hearted execution program,” Professor Shepherd of Emory wrote in the Michigan Law Review in 2005. She found a deterrent effect in only those states that executed at least nine people between 1977 and 1996.



Professor Wolfers said the answer to the question of whether the death penalty deterred was “not unknowable in the abstract,” given enough data.



“If I was allowed 1,000 executions and 1,000 exonerations, and I was allowed to do it in a random, focused way,” he said, “I could probably give you an answer.”
25360  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sleep-Industrial Complex Part Three on: November 18, 2007, 07:14:02 AM
(Page 7 of 9)

Charles Morin, the Laval University psychologist, told me that it’s not uncommon to discover that a particularly implacable case of insomnia snowballed out of a single stretch of poor sleep — even one with a clear, unavoidable cause, like stress over a new job. While most people eventually shrug off their trouble, the insomniac “forgets what brought about the sleeping problem in the first place,” Morin said. “They worry about not sleeping and how it will impact their daytime functioning, and they start to do things that make sleep more difficult.”

They take naps, throwing their schedule out of whack. Or they become too determined — Morin described patients taking a bath or getting into their pajamas at 7 o’clock, “just to get ready” — and that anticipation turns into performance anxiety. Lying there, they may monitor their progress too vigilantly or worry about the ramifications the next day of not falling asleep right away. This can produce a physiological reaction. Body temperature and blood pressure rise. Metabolism speeds up. Heart rate and brain waves quicken. In other words, the body can respond to the threat of not getting a good night’s sleep the same way it does to most threats: by becoming hyperaroused. “It’s a vicious cycle,” Morin said.

Those who get snared in it may share an unknown, physiological predisposition to insomnia. But whatever its cause, this feedback loop of agony, effort and failure plays out like an escalation of the kind of self-sabotage we’ve all probably experienced when we felt pressure to sleep well and be sharp the next day. “Most of the beliefs these people develop and strategies they employ are very logical and sensible,” Jack Edinger, a psychologist at Duke University and the V.A. Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, told me. But “unlike most things in life where, the harder you try, the better you do, with sleep the harder you try the worse you do.”

Edinger and Morin have been influential in the use of cognitive behavioral therapy, or C.B.T., to treat chronic insomnia. Studies have arguably shown it to be the most successful treatment for the problem and an astonishingly effective method of weaning insomniacs from sleeping pills — even those who have taken them every night for decades. C.B.T. Therapists work to establish good sleep habits but also to rewrite an insomniac’s unhelpful beliefs about sleep. One of the most typical and debilitating ones, Morin explained, is “that eight hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep is a must every night — and otherwise, without it, you can’t function during the day.” Fixating on that as a requirement only undoes a person. Besides, Morin added, a universal need for eight hours is simply “untrue.”

This is exactly the kind of admission other sleep experts I spoke with seemed not to want to make. They may worry that they’ll cause people to take sleep even less seriously than they already do. But C.B.T. seems to succeed by stripping away a crippling sense of urgency with respect to sleep. How powerless one feels over the quality of his sleep; how realistic his expectations; and whether he exaggerates the consequences of sleeping poorly — these have all been shown to correlate with the severity of an insomniac’s complaints. Morin has developed a scale to measure these beliefs. In a study utilizing this scale and led by Edinger, a person’s score emerged, with other measures of anxiety and mood, as a better predictor of his satisfaction with a night’s sleep than objective measures made in the lab — including how long he slept and how quickly he fell asleep. In fact, these objective measures didn’t seem to correlate to people’s sense of how well they slept at all.

Because sleep deprivation may exact a host of severe tolls on the body over time — which is to say nothing of exhaustion-related car accidents and other dangers — Edinger warns that there are people with appallingly disturbed sleep who “roll with the punches a little better and don’t seem to mind or complain — but maybe they should.” Still, C.B.T. suggests that, in certain cases, creating a purely subjective satisfaction with your sleep can have actual value, even if the sleep itself hasn’t yet objectively improved. While undermining the appeal of sleeping pills by positing the self-evident seeming role of amnesia, Morin noted that C.B.T. tries to foster a kind of amnesia, too. “After a poor night of sleep we’re asking people to forget about it and go about their business as usual,” he says. “Because if you wake up and think, Wow, what a terrible night of sleep, I’m going to have a lousy day, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”



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This is not to say that a person who is more tolerant and less threatened by sleep’s inherent imperfections will suddenly get eight uninterrupted hours. But he might be less likely to start down that long, miserable road of perfectly sensible but damaging efforts to control sleep. And that could trigger a quantifiable improvement. If he establishes good habits and puts sufficient faith in his body to get the job done, he might stop trying, stop scrutinizing his progress and thereby stop perpetuating his own hyperarousal. He’d just lie there and wait. “The placebo effect may actually not just be a placebo,” Morin said. “It may produce a physiological predisposition to better sleeping.”

With that in mind, I decided to go see some more mattresses.

Twice a year, at the Las Vegas Market, furniture and mattress manufacturers fill 3.8 million square feet of showrooms in two titanic towers so that 50,000 retailers from around the world can see their wares. The mattress people I met there in August were affable, relaxed and, as always, frank about their industry’s challenges. At a seminar on creating “SleepSperiences” at the retail level, the speaker kicked things off by asking the room full of mattress salespeople what they thought shoppers most often compare them to. Everyone groaned, “Used-car salesman” at once, except the woman seated in front of me. She said, “Like going to the dentist.”

Pete Bils did not attend. He was getting ready to introduce the Sleep Number 9000 at a media event in New York, an upbeat counterpunch to the company’s recent announcement that same-store sales and net earnings had dropped in the previous quarter. There was significant buzz about Tempur-Pedic, though, specifically its new television commercials. The spots, which explained the beds’ even pressure distribution over montages of all things tranquil — tide pools, redwoods, yoga — were emerging as early masterworks of the new, selling-better-sleep genre. They ended with an invitation to “learn more about our science and experience our soul.” “I mean, what an awesome combination of words,” Furniture Today’s David Perry told me.

When I visited Serta’s Las Vegas showroom, an executive named Andrew Gross was eager to show me that a traditional innerspring company like his was just as capable of selling better sleep. Right off the bat, he pointed me to the Serta Perfect Day mattress, noting its emphasis on the mattress as a facilitator of perfect days. Eventually, he led me to an all-foam bed conceived with the participation of the clothing designer Vera Wang and sold under the Vera Wang by Serta label. Gross reached down and picked an almost invisible black speck of something off the top of the bed, then began describing its specifications. In conclusion, he told me that, like all of Serta’s products, this particular mattress was designed to “relieve stress.” I asked him how it did that. We stood there for a second, side by side. Then he said, “Well, it’s a combination of the sleep surface materials and the peace of mind that comes from it being a Vera Wang.”

I looked around the showroom. A man painted white, wearing a toga, stood on a podium, changing statuesque positions every few minutes. In the corner, a harpist played “Desperado.” I began to wonder if much of the hyperrational mattress talk I’d been hearing also provided this kind of emotional, Vera Wang benefit. The hard-to-follow, layer-by-layer tours of each bed’s many patented technologies; the scientific studies and pressure maps; the frequent invocations of NASA engineers; and even the outsize, sleep-obsessed persona of Pete Bils, senior director of sleep innovation and clinical research, himself — they reassure us that a mattress maker is serious and capable; that, given how precarious a thing we’ve turned sleep into, their bed will give us the best shot of succeeding when we climb into it. Even our relationship with the mattress, then, appears muddled up in the same mysterious space between a subjectively good night’s sleep and an objectively good one — how we feel and whether or not we can prove it. And whether the industry realizes it or not, its fledgling campaign to sell better sleep is grappling with the question of which is actually more important to us and which we’re willing to pay for.



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If ramping up messages about sleep science and technology while bombarding us with medical incentives helps sell more beds, it will be because it speaks to our view that better sleep is primarily a requirement for better wakefulness — that we “sleep to succeed,” as a recent industry-financed release puts it. (This same report notes that “sleep deprivation currently costs U.S. businesses nearly $150 billion annually in absenteeism and lost productivity.”) And yet it’s this very view — that sleep is a bothersome means to an end, like eating enough Omega-3’s — that problematized sleep in the first place. It encouraged us to power through sleep as efficiently as possible or look for shortcuts.

We all might be better off if the industry sold sleep as something to be savored for its own sake, if it just sold sanctuaries and not sanctuaries that are also clinically proven “sleep systems.” That might help us shed an anxiety about sleeping correctly for a more tolerant love of sleeping well, in whatever form sleeping well might take. Oddly, in some cases, that may be the most efficient way of getting empirical results anyway. That is, the industry may only be able to truly offer the kind of life-changing mattresses it sometimes claims to if it fixes the people sleeping in them first.

But that may be just too big a job. When I carried on about this to David Perry in Las Vegas, he told me that enjoying sleep is wonderful but it, by itself, is a hopeless way to move mattresses given how results-oriented the American consumer is. “Remember,” he said, “the key benefit is what happens the next morning.” To make sure I understood, he tossed off a few slogans in the direction he thought the business ought to be heading: “Sleep better, lose weight.” “Sleep better and live longer.” “Sleep better and be more productive the next day.”

Ultimately the Las Vegas Market wore me out. Everywhere I went people were selling me mattresses — if not a particular mattress, then the mystique of mattresses in general. I left exhausted, making my way down the tower’s endless segments of escalators. When I got halfway, I started to find, on each of the landings, a man strumming a ukulele and a woman in a grass skirt and coconut bikini, hula dancing.

The “Polynesian Dreams” luau was getting under way. Below, in the atrium, the staff was rolling thatched-roofed tiki bars into place and stocking them with ice and mugs with totemic faces painted on them. A massive sea horse rose from an hors d’oeuvres table. The same salesmen I’d been seeing around the showrooms turned up wearing leis, loosening up for what looked like a late night. I caught a shuttle back to my hotel, set two alarms for seven the next morning and eventually drifted off watching “Knocked Up” on pay-per-view. As far as I know, I slept well enough.


25361  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Part Two on: November 18, 2007, 07:12:57 AM
Page 4 of 9)

The 9000 was engineered with heat in mind. Bils explained that, as you fall asleep, your body temperature drops. A mattress should disperse the heat you’re expelling. Otherwise the bed “sleeps hot,” cooking you in your own trapped body heat. Sleeping hot is a growing complaint about many beds and may be a consequence of the industry’s manic emphasis on comfort: the shift toward using less-breathable, synthetic materials that conform more snugly to the body, and then stacking them to greater thicknesses. Memory foam especially has a reputation for sleeping hot, though Tempur-Pedic, which sells only foam beds, disputes it as “largely urban myth.” For the 9000, Select Comfort claims to have used a memory foam porous enough to provide air flow but not porous enough to tear apart over time. Yet as they detailed these meticulous solutions to the heat issue, the half-dozen Select Comfort executives in the room insisted that sleeping hot had never been a problem with their beds to begin with.

Soon the engineers turned the program over to Kris Willardson, the company’s accessories maven. Willardson had set up a makeshift display on top of a cabinet and, now and again, had been interjecting to show me whichever of her pillows or sheets dovetailed on the subject at hand. “What we also did,” she now said, “was build Outlast into a pillow protector.” I didn’t know what that was. “Pillow protectors are used on top of your pillow but under your pillow case,” she explained, holding one up. There were phase-changing microcapsules in there as well.

Too many sleepers flip their pillows all night long, looking for the cool side, only to heat it up again, Willardson said. “To the extent that it disturbs your sleep, that is one less thing you’ll be doing. So complementary products keep reinforcing those messages.”

The message, I suppose, behind so many of the mattress industry’s claims is that all of a bed’s high-tech features should combine to create nothing at all — a space free of any impediments to sleep whatsoever. Even the message of the Sleep Number Bed itself, with its two independently inflatable halves, was that your sleep should not be compromised by the adversarial preferences for firmness of the person you love. Now the mattress would shield you from your own body heat, free you from rolling over and end the Sisyphean cycle of flipping and reflipping your sizzling pillow. The industry was clearing the decks for that big, long nothingness to take hold.

Even the most comfortable mattress can only create a place for sleep, not manufacture it directly. But a sleeping pill puts us down — and under circumstances when we’re unable to do it ourselves. Bils told me: “The sleeping pill is an easy path. It promotes sleep over all the rules you break.” In trying to deride his competition, he spelled out its greatest advantage.

Pharmaceutical companies realize they are selling a reassuring guarantee. “Does your restless mind keep you from sleeping?” asks one Lunesta commercial, while the green moth floats in front of a tossing man. Suddenly, like a hypnotist’s watch, it dispatches him into a deep slumber and flies on to lull even the stern, stone visages of Mount Rushmore to sleep. A couple in a commercial for Ambien CR, meanwhile, lie absolutely motionless all night until the darkness around them fades to daylight.

Last year the industry spent more than $600 million on advertising, helping the newest generation of pills, the so-called “Z drugs,” destigmatize sleeping-pill use. The nation’s most popular, Ambien and its extended-release counterpart Ambien CR, accounted for 60 percent of all sleep-aid prescriptions last year according to IMS Health, for $2.8 billion in sales. Surely great numbers of Americans are experiencing the kind of satisfying knockouts depicted in the commercials.

Yet, as a very infrequent but contented user of both Lunesta and Ambien myself, I was startled to read efficacy trials for those drugs submitted to the F.D.A. In one six-week trial, for example, people taking Ambien every night fell asleep, on average, only 23 minutes faster than those taking the placebo. They spent 88 percent of their time in bed asleep, as opposed to 82 percent. Given that their objectively measured improvements are frequently this meager, why do sleeping pills create incommensurate feelings of having slept so well?



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A popular theory is that one of the pill’s side-effects is actually contributing to their success. Most sleeping pills are known to block the formation of memories during their use, creating amnesia. This is why people who endure freaky side-effects — so-called “complex sleep-related behaviors” like getting into a car and driving or ravenously eating, all while asleep — don’t remember those events. Yet this amnesia could be quite beneficial, suggests Michael Bonnet, a professor of neurology at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio. “How do you know you slept last night?” Bonnet asked me. A night of lousy, interrupted sleep, he points out, is easy to remember. “It’s full of memories, noise and pain, and heat and rolling around and obtrusive thoughts and worries — all of these various stimuli.” And we may continue to register such things even while asleep, making sleep vaguely unrefreshing. But a good night of sleep, Bonnet went on to say, “is always the antithesis to all those things, which is oblivion.” A sleeping pill, Bonnet speculates, in addition to encouraging sleep chemically in the brain, also “erases all of these thoughts that we use to define ourselves as being awake. The pill knocks them all out, and the patient says, ‘Hey, I must have been asleep because I don’t remember anything.’ ”

Drug-company representatives and consultants I spoke to confirm that their pills can create this mild form of amnesia but disagree that it contributes any significant benefit. “That is not my understanding of how Ambien works,” Dario Mirski, a psychiatrist and spokesman for Ambien’s manufacturer, Sanofi-Aventis, told me. It is difficult to find a clinical trial in which Z-drug takers drastically overestimated how long they slept.

Andrew Krystal, a Duke University psychiatrist and consultant to pharmaceutical companies like Sepracor, Lunesta’s manufacturer, acknowledges an apparent discrepancy in studies between small, objectively recorded improvements and the large percentage of subjects who end up feeling that a pill alleviated their insomnia. But because insomnia is complaint-based, he explained to me, an insomniac is cured when he stops complaining. Who’s to say how many more minutes of sleep or fewer awakenings during the night it should take to relieve each individual’s highly subjective dissatisfaction? Many insomniacs don’t show impaired sleep by any objective measure to begin with — but presumably they benefit from sleeping pills, too. So, Krystal asked, what would you expect to see improve? (A 1990 study presents a jarring example: it focused on a group of insomniacs who, when woken up, swore they hadn’t been sleeping. But if given a sleeping pill first, then woken up, they knew they’d been asleep.) He added, “I’m not a person who shares the view that the reason the drugs work is because they’re amnestic.”

Another prevalent theory is that sleeping pills produce a beneficial physiological effect that clinicians don’t realize they should be measuring. The standard battery of brain-wave and other measurements used in sleep labs provide only a “limited picture,” Krystal said. Nevertheless, several researchers suggested why the amnesia factor isn’t likely to be explained to patients, even as a theory. We tend to see sleep problems as physiological. A treatment that works, even in part, by altering our perception of that problem would seem like “more of a fake,” says Charles Morin, director of the Sleep Research Center at Laval University in Quebec City. Imagine, Morin said, if doctors told their patients: “You keep waking up at night but you just don’t remember it.”

Sleep doctors have criticized sleeping-pill ads for setting up an unattainable expectation of how blissful and easy sleep should be. But the mattress industry operates under that expectation, too, trying vigorously to build a state-of-the-art, NASA-engineered arena on which that idealized, paralytic oblivion can occur. But how did we come to need so much help sleeping in the first place, and how did we come to want, much less expect, the sleep these people are selling?

The story of our ruined sleep, in virtually every telling I’ve heard, begins with Thomas Edison: electric light destroyed the sanctity of night. Given more to do and more opportunity to do it, we gave sleep shorter and shorter shrift. But the sleep that we’re now trying to reclaim may never have been ours to begin with. “It’s a myth,” A. Roger Ekirch, a professor of history at Virginia Tech, told me. “And it’s a myth that even some sleep experts today have bought into.”

Ekirch’s 2005 book, “At Day’s Close,” described just how frenetic night in preindustrial times was. People slept, or tried to, in poorly insulated buildings that let in the weather and noise. Livestock huffed and mewled and stank just outside — if not inside. Generally, you slept beside a chamber pot of your own excrement, staggering across the room every few hours to keep your fire alive. With physical health comparatively poor, night was when people simmered most acutely in their discomfort. In 1750, one writer described London between the hours of 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. as a ghastly encampment of “sick and lame people meditating and languishing on their several disorders, and praying for daylight.”



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Because there was inadequate bedding, if there were beds at all, three family members and the odd houseguest might sleep on a single mattress — sharing in all the usual annoyances of tossing, blanket-hogging and snoring. Beds were not always, or even often, seen as having much impact on sleep. Another book, “Warm and Snug: The History of the Bed,” by a scholar named Lawrence Wright, suggests that they were valued primarily as furniture, settings for public rituals around birth, death and courtship. Beds did raise you up off the floor, away from the bugs and vermin, and kept you warm. But warmer bedding also created a new vector for mites. And when comfort was a consideration, preferences were just as idiosyncratic as today. Mattresses were stuffed with hair, moss, feathers, wood shavings, seaweed or straw. Louis XI had an uncannily Sleep Number-esque mattress, filled with air and inflated to his liking with a royal bellows.

More surprising still, Ekirch reports that for many centuries, and perhaps back to Homer, Western society slept in two shifts. People went to sleep, got up in the middle of the night for an hour or so, and then went to sleep again. Thus night — divided into a “first sleep” and “second sleep” — also included a curious intermission. “There was an extraordinary level of activity,” Ekirch told me. People got up and tended to their animals or did housekeeping. Others had sex or just lay in bed thinking, smoking a pipe, or gossiping with bedfellows. Benjamin Franklin took “cold-air baths,” reading naked in a chair.

Our conception of sleep as an unbroken block is so innate that it can seem inconceivable that people only two centuries ago should have experienced it so differently. Yet in an experiment at the National Institutes of Health a decade ago, men kept on a schedule of 10 hours of light and 14 hours of darkness — mimicking the duration of day and night during winter — fell into the same, segmented pattern. They began sleeping in two distinct, roughly four-hour stretches, with one to three hours of somnolence — just calmly lying there — in between. Some sleep disorders, namely waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall asleep again, “may simply be this traditional pattern, this normal pattern, reasserting itself,” Ekirch told me. “It’s the seamless sleep that we aspire to that’s the anomaly, the creation of the modern world.”

In fact, many contemporary, nonindustrialized cultures contentedly pass portions of the night in the same state of somnolence, says Carol Worthman, an anthropologist at Emory University who is one of the first to look at how other societies sleep. Sleep and wakefulness are rarely seen as an either/or, but rather as two ends of a wide spectrum, and people are far more at peace with the fluidity in between. Among the Efe in Zaire, and the !Kung in Botswana, for example, someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and cannot sleep “may begin to hum, or go out and play the thumb piano,” Worthman and a colleague have written. Others might wake up and join in. “Music or even a dance may get going.”

Worthman says, “In our culture, quality sleep is going into a dark room that is totally quiet, lying down, falling asleep, doing that for eight hours, and then getting up again.” She calls it the “lie down and die” model. “But that is not how much of the world has slept in the past or even sleeps today.” In some cultures sleep is more social, with crowds crammed together on little or no bedding, limbs entangled, while a steady traffic comes and goes. And while it all sounds unbearable, Worthman notes that science has never looked empirically at whether our more sophisticated arrangements actually benefit us. For children, learning to sleep amid all that stimulation may actually have developmental advantages.

Still, we can’t afford the same equanimity about not sleeping through the night as the Efe and !Kung; the flipside is that men and women in those cultures are content to pull a cloth over their faces and doze off during the day if necessary. Our peculiar preference for one well-organized hunk of sleep likely evolved as a corollary to our expectation of uninterrupted wakefulness during the day — as our lives came to be governed by a single, stringent clock. Eluned Summers-Bremner, author of the forthcoming “Insomnia: A Cultural History,” explains that in the 18th century, “we start overvaluing our waking time, and come to see our sleeping time only as a way to support our waking time.” Consequently, we begin trying to streamline sleep, to get it done more economically: “We should lie down and go out right away so we can get up and get to the day right away.” She describes insomniacs as having a ruthless ambition to do just this, wanting to administer sleep as an efficiency expert normalizes the action in a factory. Certainly all of us, after a protracted failure to fall asleep for whatever reason, have turned solemnly to our alarm clocks and performed that desperate arithmetic: If I fall asleep right now, I can still get four hours.

Nevertheless, while it may be at odds with our history and even our biology, lie-down-and-die is the only practical model for our lifestyle. Unless we overhaul society to tolerate all schedules and degrees of sleepiness and attentiveness, we are stuck with that ideal. Perhaps the real problem is that we still haven’t come to terms with the unavoidable imperfection of this state of affairs.

Electric light didn’t obliterate nighttime so much as reinvent it. Our power to toggle between light and dark encouraged us to see night as an empty antithesis to day — an unbroken nothing-time that begins the instant we flip off the switch. And this significantly reshaped and rigidified our expectations of how we ought to be spending it. All of this leaves us — regardless of the circumstances or how poor our sleep hygiene is — insisting that we go out, and stay out, like a light.

Our expectation of perfect sleep may not always be biologically feasible. But it is indisputably reasonable, and thus a failure to fulfill it can be maddening. Difficulty sleeping, it turns out, is often inseparable from and heightened by anxiety about sleep itself.
25362  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Sleep-Industiral Complex on: November 18, 2007, 07:11:14 AM
By JON MOOALLEM
Published: November 18, 2007
Pete Bils’s background is in sales — or, as he puts it, “retail concepts.” He joined Select Comfort 12 years ago to teach its salespeople how to better sell the company’s Sleep Number Bed. The Sleep Number Bed is an air-filled mattress. Each side can be inflated with a little remote control to the ideal level of firmness for the person sleeping on it — his or her “sleep number,” zero to 100 — thus accommodating a husband who prefers his side firm and a wife who likes hers softer. You may recognize the Sleep Number Bed from its television commercials featuring the original Bionic Woman, Lindsay Wagner. Or you may have seen Bils himself explicating its many features and benefits in the loneliest hours of the night on the QVC shopping network.

Off-camera, Bils spends much of his time reading scientific research. He mingles at medical conferences and is chairman of the company’s “Sleep Advisory Board,” a consortium of doctors. He “sleep tinkers,” coordinating pilot studies in sleep labs to understand how to build the mattress of the future. His goal at Select Comfort is to educate Americans about the science and benefits of healthful sleep, and this, plus his title — senior director of sleep innovation and clinical research — makes him seem deliberately more man-of-science than mattress-salesman. The distinction is less clear-cut when it comes to the man himself.
“How’d you sleep last night?” Bils asked, strolling into a conference room to meet me at the company’s headquarters outside Minneapolis one morning last summer. He blared it, the way certain men blare, “Darn glad to meet you.” Later, sitting down to lunch, he noted that the weather had not been “muggy” or “unbearable” but “bad sleeping weather.” Then raising a smile from behind his menu, he issued another electrifying “How’d you sleep last night?”— this time at the waiter who’d come to take his order. The waiter, it turned out, hadn’t slept so well. After some chitchat, Bils ordered the risotto.

Bils, who is 48, is olive-skinned, handsome and, like virtually everyone else Select Comfort arranged for me to meet, relentlessly upbeat. At lunch, I let several minutes pass just listening to the table of executives tell one another how awesome their own Sleep Number Beds are. (Employees have their individual sleep numbers printed on their business cards.) One woman described having to take Tylenol PM to make it through a recent night away from home. Bils said he ships out a Sleep Number Bed when he travels to do QVC tapings. His daughters have slept on Sleep Numbers since they left the crib, and he even jury-rigged something similar for his bulldog. “I’ve learned a lot about sleep from my dogs,” he said. For starters, all bulldogs appear to have sleep apnea. One of the two public relations officers supervising my visit jumped in: her dog’s sleep number is 10, she said; she sets her bed for him at night. “Do whales have REM sleep?” another colleague asked Bils. “Yes, a form of it,” Bils said. Eventually, he turned to me and summed up with a groaner: “We firmly believe — no pun intended — that a mattress can make significant changes in sleep quality.” This turns out to be a very radical idea.

For years, doctors have been discouraged by Americans’ disregard for and mismanagement of their sleep. (“I might as well have been running a chain of beauty parlors for the last four decades” is how one described his advocacy.) But bragging about how little you sleep, a hallmark of the ’80s power broker, is starting in certain circles to come off as masochistic buffoonery. The sleep docs we once ignored appear on morning shows to offer tips. Health professionals and marketers are hopeful that a new seriousness about sleep will continue moving out of a luxury-minded vanguard and into the mainstream. Sleep may finally be claiming its place beside diet and exercise as both a critical health issue and a niche for profitable consumer products.

A sleep boom, or as Forbes put it last year, “a sleep racket,” is under way. Business 2.0 estimates American “sleeponomics” to be worth $20 billion a year, which includes everything from the more than 1,000 accredited sleep clinics (some of them at spas) conducting overnight tests for disorders like apnea, to countless over-the-counter and herbal sleep aids, to how-to books and sleep-encouraging gadgets and talismans. Zia Sleep Sanctuary, a first of its kind luxury sleep store that I visited in Eden Prairie, Minn., carries “light-therapy” visors, the Zen Alarm Clock, the Mombasa Majesty mosquito net and a $600 pair of noise-canceling earplugs as well as 16 varieties of mattresses and 30 different pillows.

Prescription sleeping pills have been the most obvious beneficiary. Forty-nine million prescriptions were written last year, up 53 percent from five years ago, according to IMS Health, a health-care information company. It is now a $3.7 billion business, more than doubling since 2003. At $3 or $4 per pill, their success indicates not only that we have an increasingly urgent craving for sleep but also that many of us have apparently forgotten how to do it altogether — quite a feat for any mammal.

To hear the mattress industry tell it, we’re skipping them over. A few companies have tried to cash in with ultra-high-end novelties. A video promoting Hastens’s $60,000 Vividus bed shows the horsehair it’s stuffed with being sensuously detangled and fluffed by shapely Nordic women. But more down-to-earth mattresses have not conjured any of that allure. Despite long and influential success in the industry, for instance, Select Comfort’s stock was struggling around the time of my visit. And so America’s mattress men, traditionally a band of fast-talking, price-busting commodities brokers, are now trying to figure out how to transform their anonymous white rectangles into holistic health and wellness machines.

More than once, I heard mattress executives invoke the spectral characters of sleeping-pill commercials — the Day-Glo green moth; Abe Lincoln and the talking beaver — as chastening mascots of everything they’re missing out on. Some point to the quick-fix mentality sleeping pills represent as a sign of how thoroughly confused about sleep society has become. “The good news is, there’s more and more awareness about the power of a good night’s sleep,” says David Perry, bedding editor of the trade magazine Furniture Today. The bad news: “What we’re doing in America is, we’re drugging people to make it through the night on, in many cases, a lousy bed.”



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Our misunderstandings about sleep have been centuries in the making. As has already happened in the food and nutrition businesses, some sectors of our new sleep-industrial complex will surely find it profitable to clear up our confusion, while others will simply exploit it. But as mattress companies and sleeping-pill makers both barrel into the marketplace to sell us a good night’s sleep, it’s tough to know where in the jumble of science and storytelling the truth about sleep lies.

All good nights of sleep are alike. Each miserable night of sleep is miserable in its own way. You either close your eyes and, many hours later, open them, or you endure an idiosyncratic epic of waiting, trying, failing, irritation, self-sabotage and despair, then stand up at sunrise racked with war stories you don’t have the energy to tell.

Sleep research is a young field and still doesn’t have a definitive picture of what “normal” sleep is, making discussions of abnormal sleep imprecise. The National Institutes of Health can define insomnia only very broadly, as “complaints of disturbed sleep in the presence of adequate opportunity and circumstance for sleep.” Insomnia can be transient — a few off nights — or horrifically chronic. Complaints may be about difficulty falling asleep or about waking up during the night. But it’s hard to know exactly what those complaints should be judged against. Nor has research determined which objective measures — total time slept, percentage of time spent in the various stages of sleep, etc. — correlate to a person’s subjective feeling of having slept well or poorly. Some people whose sleep looks normal in the lab complain bitterly; some whose sleep looks terrible never do.

Even something as empirical-seeming as how long we sleep becomes problematic. In studies, insomniacs almost invariably overestimate how long it took them to fall asleep and underestimate how long they slept; in one, more than a third of the participants consistently thought they’d slept at least an hour less than their brain-wave activity indicated. Yet in a way, this hardly matters. Wallace Mendelson, past president of the Sleep Research Society, explained to me, “When a patient comes to a doctor, he doesn’t say, ‘I’m here to see you because my EEG shows an insufficient number of minutes of sleep.’ He comes to you saying: ‘I don’t feel like I’m getting enough. I’m tired.’ ” Thus, while insomnia is frequently linked to another, distinct physiological disease or disorder, its diagnosis and treatment often remain, much like pain, locked in the realm of our own inscrutable reports.

Fewer than half of Americans say they get a good night’s sleep every night or almost every night, according to a 2005 poll by the National Sleep Foundation. The N.S.F. is a nonprofit largely financed by the pharmaceutical industry and one of many groups — including the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Better Sleep Council, a nonprofit supported by the mattress industry — that have pushed the value of sleep, and the perils of sleep deprivation and disorders, into public view. (You can mark the change in seasons with their press releases. End of summer: “From Zzzs to A’s: Healthy Sleep Is Key for Back-to-School Success.” Daylight Savings Time: “Fall Back Into Bed and Catch Up on Your Sleep.”)

Some of America’s dissatisfaction likely boils down to poor “sleep hygiene” — basic bad habits like not keeping a regular bedtime; overconsumption of alcohol or coffee; or winding ourselves up with work or television before bed. There is a sometimes-stunning failure to see sleep’s cause-and-effect relationship to what we do while awake. One therapist told me he cured a man’s insomnia by suggesting he stop eating spicy Indian curry late at night. Bils says, “Most sleep problems are self-inflicted by sleepers not knowing how to sleep.” Moreover, doctors have long warned that Americans are suffering from self-caused sleep deprivation without even realizing it. The most damaging and persistent delusion we’ve acquired about sleep is that the vital human function is optional. As one psychologist puts it, “You don’t have people walking around figuring out how to get by on less air.”

Getting Americans to come to bed is therefore still the mattress industry’s first challenge. Recently it has been gathering behind the idea of “selling better sleep,” promoting a fuller understanding of sleep and its health benefits. Bils’s research and advocacy at Select Comfort exemplifies the approach, as does a recent series of appearances by doctors at mattress stores around the country, sponsored by Leggett & Platt, the leading supplier of steel springs. Mark Quinn, a Leggett & Platt vice president, told me, “I think nutrition and fitness have done a great job, and I look at them as example industries.” They’ve taught the public: “If you don’t eat right, you’ll die. If you don’t exercise, you’ll die.”



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Quinn delivered a galvanizing pep talk on selling better sleep to an industry convention in April. He cited new research linking insufficient sleep to poorer metabolism and appetite control. “Are you telling me that we can say, as an industry, ‘If you sleep better you might be able to lose weight?’ ” he said as a slide reading “Chronic sleep deprivation could be making you fat!” filled the wall behind him. Plus, he continued, a bad night of sleep makes you look worn out. “We have a product that can make you look good, and we never talk about it to anybody!” Quinn later told me, “Create the pain, then give them the solution.”

Still, says Furniture Today’s David Perry: “the mattress is not nearly as sexy a part of the equation as drugs or sleep-disorder centers. It just kind of lies there.” For generations many consumers perceived the innerspring beds of the three dominant “S-brands” — Sealy, Serta and Simmons — to be interchangeable. A Gallup poll 10 years ago found that nearly half of Americans didn’t know what brand of mattress they slept on. The industry blamed itself, often ruthlessly.

“The sleep industry has cheapened the mattress,” says Rick Anderson, North American president for Tempur-Pedic. (Tempur-Pedic is the leader in visco-elastic foam, sometimes called “memory foam,” mattresses, made from spongy polyurethane.) Retailers know they are selling a product bought only grudgingly and only once every 12 or 15 years. So they’ve emphasized low prices, shouting about limited-time-only sales that never actually end. “It’s ‘Buy it cheap, buy it now,’ ” Anderson says. “You turn the mattress into a low-priced commodity and, lo and behold, you shouldn’t be surprised when the consumer tells you the mattress isn’t that important.”+

Both Select Comfort and Tempur-Pedic began trying to change that perception when they introduced their beds in the late ’80s and ’90s. As noninnerspring or “alternative bedding” companies, they were burdened with proving that what they had — air and foam respectively — was not only better than the grid of steel springs we’d employed for a century but worth prices as high as $7,000. Unfortunately, the scant published scientific literature on mattresses offered little help. (There had been few real developments since the ’50s, when one of the first studies exploring the effects of different sleep surfaces found that the differences between sleeping on a new mattress and on a piece of plywood with some carpet slung over it were “not large and not always statistically significant.”) So Select Comfort financed its own mattress research and now shows in its marketing how people’s sleep improved on the Sleep Number Bed in labs at Stanford and Duke.

Select Comfort also began using pressure mapping in its stores. Pressure mapping is a digital diagnostic that shows on a computer screen how the mattress is evenly distributing a customer’s weight and conforming around his body. It illustrates “that you’re wearing the mattress versus lying on top of it,” Bils says. Points of high pressure are uncomfortable, the thinking goes. They force a sleeper to shift or roll over, and that movement disturbs sleep. There doesn’t appear to be solid scientific validation of this theory; typical sleepers have been shown to change positions 20 to 60 times a night. But when I mentioned that to Anderson at Tempur-Pedic, which promotes its beds for the same reason, he shot back: “They don’t need to.”

By 2005, noninnerspring beds accounted for nearly a quarter of the

$4.6 billion spent on mattresses. Their staying power and overt sciencey-ness had colossal ripple effects on the entire industry. Jim Gabbert, the second-generation mattress retailer behind Zia Sleep Sanctuary, explains: “At first everyone saw air and visco as a fad, like water beds. ‘It won’t amount to much.’ Now all the mainstream innerspring manufacturers are scrambling to compete with those guys. Those specialty manufacturers taught the mainline brand names that you can price things higher, add more features, have a better story.”

The big question became, what else might Americans sleep on — and what combinations of things? The S-brands rolled out their own memory foam beds. Latex foams, modestly successful for decades, also came into vogue — as did various gels. Meanwhile, the industry was finally breaking down the wives’ tale that firm mattresses are always better. “Comfort” became the new buzzword, freeing manufacturers to combine all their new, high-tech materials in infinite iterations on a single bed. Pillowtops, distinct slabs of cushy material stitched on the tops of mattresses, gradually thickened, and beds ascended skyward, layer by layer, in towers of trademarked babble. Serta offers KoolComfort foam. Simmons makes Natural Care Latex and, via its brand ComforPedic, NxG Advanced Memory Foam. Having muscled their way into a virtual stalemate of technology inside the mattress, manufacturers seem to have merely started their arms race all over again on top of it. The end result may not be much better; rather than seeing beds as all the same, consumers are often totally incapable of understanding their countless differences. “It does get confusing,” says Brandon Jackson, bedding director at Houston’s Gallery Furniture store. “After a while, those layers are really only there to add to the cost.” When Jackson started six and a half years ago, selling a $1,000 mattress was “a home run.” Now his average ticket is $3,300.

Standing in Select Comfort’s R. and D. building, among the new, retooled Sleep Number Beds just released, it was clear that the company couldn’t disagree more with Jackson’s view. Two engineers knelt and unzipped the covering of the Sleep Number 9000, the top of the line, to show me its layers. Stacked above the two inflatable air chambers were a blue memory foam, another proprietary foam called Intralux and a thin white scrim with a honeycomb pattern on it. This was called Outlast Adaptive Comfort, which, like Tempur-Pedic’s foam, was originally developed for NASA. Outlast’s tiny, “encapsulated phase change materials” actually switch back and forth from liquid to solid, absorbing heat and producing a pronounced cooling sensation.

25363  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam in UK: Wants to go home for free on: November 18, 2007, 06:41:48 AM
Illegal immigrant demands to be flown home
Illegal immigrant demands to be flown home because Britons are 'rude and unfriendly'
Last updated at 11:13am on 16th November 2007



An illegal immigrant has demanded to be flown home after saying he was fed up with British people - because they are "rude and unfriendly".

Speaking today, Mokhtar Tabet, 30 - who has been given a home, food and free travel around London - claims his local council has breached his human rights by moving him to a place he does not like.
He was refused asylum in 2004 and is set to be deported.

He said: "The council evicted me from my home in September and moved me to Streatham, which I don't like.

"The new place is small, and the kitchen closes at 9pm, so I can't have anything to eat late at night. They have taken away my human rights."

Croydon Council says it has bent over backwards to help Tabet, who fled Algeria in 2002.



A spokesman said: "Mr Tabet was accommodated in Norbury Crescent, with Croydon Council paying his rent, council tax and utility bills.

"In July, his landlord gave him two months' notice to quit the premises, and the council offered him a flat in Anerley Road, which he refused citing its poor state of repair.

"The necessary repairs were carried out and he again refused it.

"He was told that refusal would amount to him making himself intentionally homeless and he would be placed in hostel-style accommodation. He agreed to this."

Mr Tabet is entitled to return to Algeria at his own expense and admits that he "does not like it here".

But he refuses to do so and says Britain will have to pay for his travel if it wants him to leave.

He moaned: "I miss Algeria. The English people are not helpful, they are so unfriendly and rude.
"I thought I had made friends in Croydon, but when I ask them for money they don't give me it, so I know they can't be my friends."

Mr Tabet fled Algeria in 2002 after being arrested for refusing to give up his home so the army could monitor terrorist activity in his town.

Released after 30 days' solitary confinement he fled to Britain, illegally entering the country on a flight from Tunisia, and sought asylum.

He now receives £32 a week in vouchers from Croydon Council to buy food with while he awaits deportation.

Unsatisfied at this, he griped: "Croydon Council only gives me food vouchers, they won't give me cash. I want the money.
"I have nothing to buy new clothes with, I have to go to a refugee centre. But if there's not anything nice there, you leave with nothing.

"I want the council to give me a bigger flat and money instead of vouchers."

Mr Tabet suffers from diabetes, a retina disease and kidney failure and believes he should be allowed to stay in the country so he can continue to get free NHS care.

He said: "The Home Office said I could afford the medicine back home, but I can't, I don't have a job."

The council insists he has no grounds for complaint. The spokesman explained: "He is supported by the council by way of vouchers, in accordance with the law."

Mr Tabet admits that since he was refused asylum he has "stayed and no one has said anything about it".

But a spokesman from the Border and Immigration Agency insisted he can expect to be deported. He said: "The period between an individual being refused asylum and their removal will vary from case to case depending on individual circumstances. He is being processed through our returning scheme.
"Individuals are free to apply for a new passport and return voluntarily at any time. It's a case of if he wants to return on his own dollar or ours."

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...n_page_id=1770
25364  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: November 17, 2007, 08:00:31 PM
hotair.com

NYT: U.S. has highly classified program to help safeguard Pakistani nukesposted at 3:35 pm on November 17, 2007 by Allahpundit
Send to a Friend | printer-friendly The least surprising surprise since Ehud Olmert accidentally let slip that Israel has nukes. To its credit, the Times evidently sat on the story for three years in the interests of security; only after the Pakistanis themselves started talking about it and the administration dropped its objection to publishing details are they moving forward.
As with all other forms of military aid to Pakistan, we’re getting very little bang for our buck.

==========

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/18/washington/18nuke.htm...WAY&pagewanted=print

November 18, 2007
U.S. Secretly Aids Pakistan in Guarding Nuclear Arms

By DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM J. BROAD
WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 — Over the past six years, the Bush administration has spent almost $100 million so far on a highly classified program to help Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, secure his country’s nuclear weapons, according to current and former senior administration officials.

But with the future of that country’s leadership in doubt, debate is intensifying about whether Washington has done enough to help protect the warheads and laboratories, and whether Pakistan’s reluctance to reveal critical details about its arsenal has undercut the effectiveness of the continuing security effort.

The aid, buried in secret portions of the federal budget, paid for the training of Pakistani personnel in the United States and the construction of a nuclear security training center in Pakistan, a facility that American officials say is nowhere near completion, even though it was supposed to be in operation this year.

A raft of equipment — from helicopters to night-vision goggles to nuclear detection equipment — was given to Pakistan to help secure its nuclear material, its warheads, and the laboratories that were the site of the worst known case of nuclear proliferation in the atomic age.

While American officials say that they believe the arsenal is safe at the moment, and that they take at face value Pakistani assurances that security is vastly improved, in many cases the Pakistani government has been reluctant to show American officials how or where the gear is actually used.

That is because the Pakistanis do not want to reveal the locations of their weapons or the amount or type of new bomb-grade fuel the country is now producing.

The American program was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when the Bush administration debated whether to share with Pakistan one of the crown jewels of American nuclear protection technology, known as “permissive action links,” or PALS, a system used to keep a weapon from detonating without proper codes and authorizations.

In the end, despite past federal aid to France and Russia on delicate points of nuclear security, the administration decided that it could not share the system with the Pakistanis because of legal restrictions.

In addition, the Pakistanis were suspicious that any American-made technology in their warheads could include a secret “kill switch,” enabling the Americans to turn off their weapons.

While many nuclear experts in the federal government favored offering the PALS system because they considered Pakistan’s arsenal among the world’s most vulnerable to terrorist groups, some administration officials feared that sharing the technology would teach Pakistan too much about American weaponry. The same concern kept the Clinton administration from sharing the technology with China in the early 1990s.

The New York Times has known details of the secret program for more than three years, based on interviews with a range of American officials and nuclear experts, some of whom were concerned that Pakistan’s arsenal remained vulnerable. The newspaper agreed to delay publication of the article after considering a request from the Bush administration, which argued that premature disclosure could hurt the effort to secure the weapons.

Since then, some elements of the program have been discussed in the Pakistani news media and in a presentation late last year by the leader of Pakistan’s nuclear safety effort, Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai, who acknowledged receiving “international” help as he sought to assure Washington that all of the holes in Pakistan’s nuclear security infrastructure had been sealed.

The Times told the administration last week that it was reopening its examination of the program in light of those disclosures and the current instability in Pakistan. Early this week, the White House withdrew its request that publication be withheld, though it was unwilling to discuss details of the program.

The secret program was designed by the Energy Department and the State Department, and it drew heavily from the effort over the past decade to secure nuclear weapons, stockpiles and materials in Russia and other former Soviet states. Much of the money for Pakistan was spent on physical security, like fencing and surveillance systems, and equipment for tracking nuclear material if it left secure areas.

But while Pakistan is formally considered a “major non-NATO ally,” the program has been hindered by a deep suspicion among Pakistan’s military that the secret goal of the United States was to gather intelligence about how to locate and, if necessary, disable Pakistan’s arsenal, which is the pride of the country.

“Everything has taken far longer than it should,” a former official involved in the program said in a recent interview, “and you are never sure what you really accomplished.”

In recent days, American officials have expressed confidence that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is well secured. “I don’t see any indication right now that security of those weapons is in jeopardy, but clearly we are very watchful, as we should be,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon news conference on Thursday.

Admiral Mullen’s carefully chosen words, a senior administration official said, were based on two separate intelligence assessments issued this month that had been summarized in briefings to Mr. Bush. Both concluded that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was safe under current conditions, and one also looked at laboratories and came to the same conclusion.

Still, the Pakistani government’s reluctance to release information has limited efforts to assess the situation. In particular, some American experts say they have less ability to look into the nuclear laboratories where highly enriched uranium is produced — including the laboratory named for Abdul Qadeer Khan, the man who sold Pakistan’s nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

So far, the amount the United States has spent on the classified nuclear security program, less than $100 million, amounts to slightly less than one percent of the roughly $10 billion in known American aid to Pakistan since the Sept. 11 attacks. Most of that money has gone for assistance in counterterrorism activities against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The debate over sharing nuclear security technology began just before then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was sent to Islamabad after the Sept. 11 attacks, as the United States was preparing to invade Afghanistan.

“There were a lot of people who feared that once we headed into Afghanistan, the Taliban would be looking for these weapons,” said a senior official who was involved. But a legal analysis found that aiding Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program — even if it was just with protective gear — would violate both international and American law.

General Musharraf, in his memoir, “In the Line of Fire,” published last year, did not discuss any equipment, training or technology offered then, but wrote: “We were put under immense pressure by the United States regarding our nuclear and missile arsenal. The Americans’ concerns were based on two grounds. First, at this time they were not very sure of my job security, and they dreaded the possibility that an extremist successor government might get its hands on our strategic nuclear arsenal. Second, they doubted our ability to safeguard our assets.”

General Musharraf was more specific in an interview two years ago for a Times documentary, “Nuclear Jihad: Can Terrorists Get the Bomb?” Asked about the equipment and training provided by Washington, he said, “Frankly, I really don’t know the details.” But he added: “This is an extremely sensitive matter in Pakistan. We don’t allow any foreign intrusion in our facilities. But, at the same time, we guarantee that the custodial arrangements that we brought about and implemented are already the best in the world.”

Now that concern about General Musharraf’s ability to remain in power has been rekindled, so has the debate inside and outside the Bush administration about how much the program accomplished, and what it left unaccomplished. A second phase of the program, which would provide more equipment, helicopters and safety devices, is already being discussed in the administration, but its dimensions have not been determined.

Harold M. Agnew, a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory, which designed most of the United States’ nuclear arms, argued that recent federal reluctance to share warhead security technology was making the world more dangerous.

“Lawyers say it’s classified,” Dr. Agnew said in an interview. “That’s nonsense. We should share this technology. Anybody who joins the club should be helped to get this.”

“Whether it’s India or Pakistan or China or Iran,” he added, “the most important thing is that you want to make sure there is no unauthorized use. You want to make sure that the guys who have their hands on the weapons can’t use them without proper authorization.”

In the past, officials say, the United States has shared ideas — but not technologies — about how to make the safeguards that lie at the heart of American weapons security. The system hinges on what is essentially a switch in the firing circuit that requires the would-be user to enter a numeric code that starts a timer for the weapon’s arming and detonation.

Most switches disable themselves if the sequence of numbers entered turns out to be incorrect in a fixed number of tries, much like a bank ATM does. In some cases, the disabled link sets off a small explosion in the warhead to render it useless. Delicate design details involve how to bury the link deep inside a weapon to keep terrorists or enemies from disabling the safeguard.

The most famous case of nuclear idea sharing involves France. Starting in the early 1970s, the United States government began a series of highly secretive discussions with French scientists to help them improve the country’s warheads.

A potential impediment to such sharing was the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which bars cooperation between nations on weapons technology.

To get around such legal prohibitions, Washington came up with a system of “negative guidance,” sometimes called “20 questions,” as detailed in a 1989 article in Foreign Policy. The system let United States scientists listen to French descriptions of warhead approaches and give guidance about whether the French were on the right track.

Nuclear experts say sharing also took place after the cold war when the United States worried about the security of Russian nuclear arms and facilities. In that case, both countries declassified warhead information to expedite the transfer of safety and security information, according to federal nuclear scientists.

But in the case of China, which has possessed nuclear weapons since the 1960s and is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Clinton administration decided that sharing PALS would be too risky. Experts inside the administration feared the technology would improve the Chinese warheads, and could give the Chinese insights into how American systems worked.

Officials said Washington debated sharing security techniques with Pakistan on at least two occasions — right after it detonated its first nuclear arms in 1998, and after the terrorist attack on the United States in 2001.

The debates pitted atomic scientists who favored technical sharing against federal officials at such places as the State Department who ruled that the transfers were illegal under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and under United States law.

In the 1998 case, the Clinton administration still hoped it could roll back Pakistan’s nuclear program, forcing it to give up the weapons it had developed. That hope, never seen as very realistic, has been entirely given up by the Bush administration.

The nuclear proliferation conducted by Mr. Khan, the Pakistani metallurgist who built a huge network to spread Pakistani technology, convinced the Pakistanis that they needed better protections.

“Among the places in the world that we have to make sure we have done the maximum we can do, Pakistan is at the top of the list,” said John E. McLaughlin, who served as deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time, and played a crucial role in the intelligence collection that led to Mr. Khan’s downfall.

“I am confident of two things,” he added. “That the Pakistanis are very serious about securing this material, but also that someone in Pakistan is very intent on getting their hands on it.”
25365  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans on: November 17, 2007, 06:45:43 PM
By JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY McClatchy Newspapers

Over the last 12 months, 1,042 soldiers, Marines,
sailors and Air Force personnel have given their
lives in the terrible duty that is war. Thousands
more have come home on stretchers, horribly wounded
and facing months or years in military hospitals.

This week, I'm turning my space over to a good
friend and former roommate, Army Lt. Col. Robert
Bateman , who recently completed a yearlong tour of
duty in Iraq and is now back at the Pentagon.

Here's Lt. Col. Bateman's account of a little-known
ceremony that fills the halls of the Army corridor
of the Pentagon with cheers, applause and many tears
every Friday morning. It first appeared on May 17 on
the Weblog of media critic and pundit Eric Alterman
at the Media Matters for America Website.

"It is 110 yards from the "E" ring to the "A" ring
of the Pentagon. This section of the Pentagon is
newly renovated; the floors shine, the hallway is
broad, and the lighting is bright. At this instant
the entire length of the corridor is packed with
officers, a few sergeants and some civilians, all
crammed tightly three and four deep against the
walls. There are thousands here.

This hallway, more than any other, is the `Army'
hallway. The G3 offices line one side, G2 the other,
G8 is around the corner. All Army. Moderate
conversations flow in a low buzz. Friends who may
not have seen each other for a few weeks, or a few
years, spot each other, cross the way and renew.

Everyone shifts to ensure an open path remains down
the center. The air conditioning system was not
designed for this press of bodies in this area.

The temperature is rising already. Nobody cares.
"10:36 hours: The clapping starts at the E-Ring.
That is the outermost of the five rings of the
Pentagon and it is closest to the entrance to the
building. This clapping is low, sustained, hearty.
It is applause with a deep emotion behind it as it
moves forward in a wave down the length of the
hallway.

"A steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving at the
pace of the soldier in the wheelchair who marks the
forward edge with his presence. He is the first. He
is missing the greater part of one leg, and some of
his wounds are still suppurating. By his age I
expect that he is a private, or perhaps a private
first class.

"Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels
meet his gaze and nod as they applaud, soldier to
soldier. Three years ago when I described one of
these events, those lining the hallways were
somewhat different. The applause a little wilder,
perhaps in private guilt for not having shared in
the burden,  yet.

"Now almost everyone lining the hallway is, like the
man in the wheelchair, also a combat veteran. This
steadies the applause, but I think deepens the
sentiment. We have all been there now. The soldier's
chair is pushed by, I believe, a full colonel.

"Behind him, and stretching the length from Rings E
to A, come more of his peers, each private,
corporal, or sergeant assisted as need be by a field
grade officer.

"11:00 hours: Twenty-four minutes of steady
applause. My hands hurt, and I laugh to myself at
how stupid that sounds in my own head. My hands
hurt. Please! Shut up and clap. For twenty-four
minutes, soldier after soldier has come down this
hallway - 20, 25, 30. Fifty-three legs come with
them, and perhaps only 52 hands or arms, but down
this hall came 30 solid hearts.

They pass down this corridor of officers and
applause, and then meet for a private lunch, at
which they are the guests of honor, hosted by the
generals. Some are wheeled along. Some insist upon
getting out of their chairs, to march as best they
can with their chin held up, down this hallway,
through this most unique audience. Some are catching
handshakes and smiling like a politician at a Fourth
of July parade. More than a couple of them seem
amazed and are smiling shyly.

"There are families with them as well: the
18-year-old war-bride pushing her 19-year-old
husband's wheelchair and not quite understanding why
her husband is so affected by this, the boy she grew
up with, now a man, who had never shed a tear is
crying; the older immigrant Latino parents who have,
perhaps more than their wounded mid-20s son, an
appreciation for the emotion given on their son's
behalf. No man in that hallway, walking or clapping,
is ashamed by the silent tears on more than a few
cheeks. An Airborne Ranger wipes his eyes only to
better see. A couple of the officers in this crowd
have themselves been a part of this parade in the
past.

These are our men, broken in body they may be, but
they are our brothers, and we welcome them home.
This parade has gone on, every single Friday, all
year long, for more than four years.

"Did you know that?
25366  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Balkans on: November 17, 2007, 07:49:08 AM
All:

Unfortunately it looks like yet another excrement storm is coming.  I use this piece from Stratfor to start this thread because it seems to give a good yet quick initial sense of the clusterfcuk that apparently is coming down the pike.

Marc
================

Kosovo: The Fuse on the Balkan Powder Keg
Summary

Kosovo's expected Dec. 10 declaration of independence from Serbia is already inspiring minor violent incidents throughout the Balkans. If tensions erupt over the issue, the fighting is almost certain to spread beyond Kosovo and Serbia.

Analysis

Kosovo is set to hold parliamentary and local elections Nov. 17 amid tensions surrounding talks on the region's status and the boycott of the elections called by the Serbs. Leading up to Kosovo's expected Dec. 10 declaration of independence from Serbia, small sparks of violence are surfacing not only in Kosovo and Serbia, but also in other Balkan states -- illustrating that if this powder keg blows, the explosion will not be limited to Kosovo and Serbia.

Though the international community is completely split on the issue of Kosovar independence -- and has been since the region's 1999 provisional break from Serbia -- the small secessionist government has said it will not wait any longer. Serbs consider Kosovo the birthplace of their national identity and view Kosovar Albanians as little more than a recent infestation, though the province's population is now more than 90 percent Albanian and less than 5 percent Serbian. The Kosovars want nothing less than independence, and the Serbs want to give them anything but.





Kosovo had expected the West to continue supporting what it called the inevitability of Kosovar independence. However, that inevitability is now lost in the shuffle of a larger political battle between global power players such as Russia, the European Union and the United States, and Serbia and Kosovo are left with only uncertainty.

All sides fear this uncertainty will turn volatile -- and possibly bloody. If an explosion of violence does occur, it will not be contained within Serbia and Kosovo's borders; it could destabilize the entire Balkan region. Minor incidents of violence and instability have already been seen in Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Serbia and Kosovo

Serbia and Kosovo seem to have avoided violence on the scale of that seen in the late 1990s, mainly because the Radicals did not come to power during Serbian elections and because Kosovar independence was continually put on the back burner this year. This does not mean, however, that such violence can be avoided altogether, especially as each side gets more fed up with the situation. Small-scale violence has been seen and is not unexpected. Tensions are high between Kosovars and Serbs and within each ethnic faction as well.

The Serbs within Kosovo do not make up enough of the population to attempt any meaningful military operations, but there are other threats. The most obvious -- but not the most likely -- is that Serbia could do what it did in 1999 when it wanted to reassert full control over Kosovo: send in the army. But the military is not in the shape it was in then. Moreover, the Serbs within Serbia proper are too fractured; some are willing to forgo Kosovo to gain EU membership, while others are willing to fight to the end for the small province. That is enough to cause trouble, since only a few radicals are needed to form paramilitary groups like those seen during the war.

There are also small Serbian terrorist groups that have been operating periodically in Serbia and Kosovo. The best known is Tsar Lazar's Guard, which was a joke when it first formed but has been gaining support -- and reportedly weapons -- as Dec. 10 approaches. Serbs are not the only group reported to have militants working for their cause; the Albanian National Army militant group reportedly has been recruiting new members and equipment recently.

Kosovar Albanians also have been stirring unrest inside the recently independent Montenegro. The small Albanian population in Montenegro on the Kosovar border has already been stirred up, however; a handful of Albanians were arrested in Ulcinj, Montenegro, and Kosovar Albanians began flooding over the border and stormed the police station in protest.

Montenegro understands what it is like to push for independence from Serbia, but unlike Kosovo the country is still very divided over whether it is content with its new independence. Approximately 40 percent still consider themselves ethnically Serbian -- especially since they share the same church and same language -- and are thus loyal to Belgrade. Some Montenegrin Serbians have already pledged to help fight if Kosovo gets its independence.

Macedonia

The militants in Kosovo have also been linked to Albanians crossing the border from Macedonia. Albanians are the ethnic minority within Macedonia but hold the majority of the northwestern part of the country. The Macedonian-Kosovar border is mountainous and incredibly porous, leading to large border crossings that the already weak Macedonian military cannot prevent. These Albanians and Kosovar Albanians have been seen actively engaging in violence on both sides of the border, proving that the wounds from the 2001 Macedonia conflict -- in which the Albanians within the country began attacking Macedonian forces -- are still fresh.

Internally, Macedonia has been politically unstable because of the main Albanian party actively pushing against the government as it keeps its eyes on Kosovo. Macedonia is trying to keep a lid on any large-scale violence because of its aspirations to join the EU, but hostilities have broken out within Macedonia's borders. On Nov. 7, Macedonian police killed four Albanians in an operation called Mountain Storm on Mount Sar Planina. Macedonian police said the Albanians were planning a major terrorist act that would destabilize both Kosovo and Macedonia.

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia-Herzegovina could be a flashpoint in the struggle over Kosovo. Bosnia-Herzegovina is split between two autonomous regions -- the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Republika Srpska (the Serb Republic) -- and three ethnic groups: Muslim Bosniaks, Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs. In short, the country does not have a comfortable ethnic, social, historic or political mixture. The U.N. administrative presence is the only thing keeping relative peace and general unity in the country.

However, control is being transferred from the United Nations to the European Union -- something many radical Serbs within the country are not happy with because it means the loss of Russia's voice in Bosnia's future (Russia is on the U.N. Security Council and supports the Orthodox Serbs). The Muslims within the country do not want EU supervision, claiming the Union is not friendly to Muslims. Republika Srpska has criticized the transfer, since they pledge their loyalty to their brother Serbs next door and to their more numerous Orthodox brothers in Russia.

The Muslim Bosniaks and Serbs -- with the Croats in flux -- are keeping the country from moving toward any political unity or a real constitution. But with Kosovo in play, the Serbs from Republika Srpska are threatening to declare their own independence. It is no secret that the majority of Serbs within Republika Srpska want Serbia proper to annex their region, though many Serbs in Serbia proper look upon them as radicals or country bumpkins. Serbs in Republika Srpska could become very problematic if they either split from Bosnia-Herzegovina or decide to flood across the border to fight with their fellow Serbs. NATO -- which commands the European forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina -- is rumored to have a contingency plan to sweep into Republika Srpska if either of these events happens, taking the government buildings and media outlets and blocking the main roads into Serbia.

The Threat of Greater -- and Spreading -- Violence

Contagion effects of Balkan violence are well known; they were seen both in the early 20th century and in the 1990s, and the recent outbursts are following the same pattern. Since EU and NATO forces are present, there have been no large wars declared by the states themselves. But if the region does ignite, Western forces could face many problems. First, those forces are a mere shadow of what they were during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s -- during which it took four years to get the region generally under control. European and U.S. forces are deployed only in the non-Serbian section of Bosnia-Herzegovina and within Kosovo, not throughout the region. Furthermore, NATO and the United States are bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq and trying to juggle threats larger than the Balkans -- namely Iran and Russia.

To put it plainly, the West is not paying much attention to the Balkans other than as a bargaining chip with other global players such as Russia. But with or without the world watching, the actors in the Balkans are ready to move.
25367  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Gathering! Fighters thread on: November 17, 2007, 07:17:31 AM
Posted on behalf of Dean:
========================

Very much looking forward to being there on Sunday. Someone please, let David C. (Paramedic) know that I am bringing a couple skin staplers and some other goodies (just in case).

I will also be bringing one of my new students as a designated driver. 

I hope to make the best of this trip, unfortunately our time will be limited to driving up Sunday Early and driving back Sunday night.  (Gotta work Monday 0700) "Living the Dream" 

I hope to be there by around 10AM or so... 

Dean
25368  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Gathering! Fighters thread on: November 16, 2007, 11:45:15 PM
1) Pappy Dog is organizing the After Gathering Time at either the same establishment as last time or another one.  He should be posting here with the details.

2)  We have a Wall!  Thank you OP!
 
25369  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: November 16, 2007, 09:28:28 PM
Thank you.

What is Thiago's game like?  What is his record?  Against what level of opponent.
25370  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: November 16, 2007, 03:54:49 PM
Technology Wants To Be Free

 

Kevin Kelly, The Technium (11/14/07):  Last February during a break at the most recent TED conference I was speaking to Chris Anderson, current editor in chief at Wired about his planned next book, called FREE. Nearly 10 years ago I had written a chapter in my thin New Rules for the New Economy book that focused on the role of the free and the economics of plentitude. I called that chapter “Follow the Free.” Almost nothing I’ve written has been as misunderstood as this short chapter. I’ve not had a Q+A session since then without this question coming up: “You say we should embrace the free. How can everything be free?”

The truth is that the concept of the free is easily misunderstood. Thus I applaud Chris’ brilliance in devoting a whole book to unraveling the mess. There’s much to be said about it, and even then we’ll just be at the beginning of understanding what free means. I originally thought I was done with the subject 10 years ago, but the continual questions, as well as the continual evolution of the commons, new social dynamics, new technological disruptions, and further research in the decade since have surfaced some new ideas. In particular I’ve concluded the free is deeply entwined into the very foundation of technology. I was sharing some of those emerging half-baked thoughts with Chris in the lobby of TED. Since that conversation I’ve discovered that the tie between technology and the free goes even further than I thought. My current conclusion can be summarized simply: Technology wants to be free…

 

George Gilder once noted there was a self-reinforcing positive feedback loop in miniaturization of technology. Smaller chips ran cooler, which allowed them to run faster, which allowed them to run cooler, which allowed them to be made smaller. And so on. There is a similar self-reinforcing positive feedback loop in the free-ization of technology. Nearly-free goods permit waste and experimentation, which breed new options for that good, which increase its abundance and lower its price, which generate more new options, which permit further novelty. And so on. These loops work on each other, compounding the effects between techniques and goods, and supercharging the  entire ecology of technologies with an unstoppable momentum towards the free and  towards unleashing new capabilities and possibilities.

The odd thing about free technology is that the “free as in beer” part is actually a distraction. As I have argued elsewhere (see my 2002 New York Times Magazine article on the future of music for example) the great attraction of “free” music is only partially that it does not cost anything. The chief importance of free music (and other free things) is held in the second English meaning of the word: free as in “freedom.” Free music is more than piracy because the freedom in the free digital downloads suddenly allowed music lovers to do all kinds of things with this music that they had longed to do but were unable to do before things were “free.” The “free” in digital music meant the audience could unbundled it from albums, sample it, create their own playlists, embed it, share it with love, bend it, graph it in colors, twist it, mash it, carry it, squeeze it, and enliven it with new ideas. The free-ization made it liquid and ‘free” to interact with other media. In the context of this freedom, the questionable legality of its free-ness was secondary. It didn’t really matter because music had been liberated by the free, almost made into a new media.

Technology wants to be free, as in free beer, because as it become free it also increases freedom. The inherent talents, capabilities and benefits of a technology cannot be released until it is almost free. The drive toward the free unleashes the constraints on each species in the technium, allowing it to interact with as many other species of technology as is possible, engendering new hybrids and deeper ecologies of tools, and permitting human users more choices and freedoms of use. As a technology grows in abundance and cheapness, it is more likely to find its appropriate niche which it can sustain itself and support other technologies in commodity mode. As technology heads toward the free it unleashes the only lasting thing it can: options and possibilities.

Read on:
http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2007/11/technology_want.php
25371  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 16, 2007, 03:52:22 PM
I notice they didn't endorse him, they applauded him for a particular stand  smiley  I happen to think he is quite right on a number of issues (not 911 or the War with Islamic Fascism) and the second amendment is one of them.
25372  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: November 16, 2007, 12:22:55 PM
Hola Omar:

Que bueno verte aqui de nuevo.  Tenemos nuestro "DB Gathering of the Pack" este domingo-- por lo cual no tendre tiempo para responder hasta la semana que viene.

25373  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Argentina on: November 16, 2007, 12:21:16 PM
Argentina's First Lady
By ALVARO VARGAS LLOSA
November 16, 2007

Just before Cristina Fernandez's victory in Argentina's recent 
presidential elections, author Marcos Aguinis told me in Buenos Aires, 
"Some people think she might be a bit better than her husband because 
she likes haute couture and meeting the rich and famous -- but who 
knows." He was referring to the hope that her well-known penchant for 
all things glamorous will keep the president-elect, who is also a 
former senator, from being an anti-American and globaphobic populist 
like her husband, outgoing president Nestor Kirchner.

Glamour, however, will not prevent the crisis that will hit Argentina 
if she does not reverse her husband's policies. In classic Peronista 
form, the Kirchner couple has engaged in political patronage, 
manipulated the country's institutions, and encouraged radical left-
wing groups to take center stage while presiding over a serendipitous 
economic boom.

What the Kirchners think is their "new model" for Latin America is 
essentially the short-term reward resulting from the massive 
devaluation of the currency a year and a half before Nestor Kirchner 
took office, the skyrocketing prices of the country's commodities, and 
the president's decision to pay back barely one-third of the face 
value of $140 billion worth of government debt paper.

The prices of Argentina's cereals, fuels and minerals have experienced 
a double-digit rise this year, continuing a trend that, together with 
cheap tourism, has helped generate GDP growth rates of between 7% and 
9% in the last four years. As the world's fifth largest exporter of 
foodstuffs, Argentina is having a field day with the voracious demand 
coming from China and other nations. At times, Argentineans seem to be 
reliving their golden 19th century days when their abundant meat and 
cereal exports attracted millions of Europeans to Buenos Aires in 
search of the cornucopia.

But these blessings conceal two fundamental problems. The first is a 
dysfunctional institutional environment. It did not start with the 
current administration but the presidential couple has made it worse. 
The second problem is a byproduct of the first: An economy riddled 
with political bottlenecks that are consuming the capital accumulated 
in the previous decade, and fueling inflation.

The Kirchner presidency has systematically undermined checks and 
balances. Thanks to a law that was passed with the support of his wife 
in the Senate, Mr. Kirchner changed the structure of the Magistrate 
Council and placed the judiciary under Peronista control. He also 
brought into the fold the crushing political machinery of the Buenos 
Aires province, which accounts for almost 40% of the national vote and 
used to be in the hands of former president Eduardo Duhalde, a 
Peronista rival. That was achieved by having Cristina Fernandez run 
for the Senate seat of the Buenos Aires province as opposed to the 
seat representing Santa Cruz.

Mr. Kirchner has also used his majority in Congress -- now expanded by 
his wife's victory in the presidential elections -- to obtain 
"emergency powers" that have given him personal discretion over the 
entire budget. In traditional corporatist fashion, Cristina is now 
speaking of a "social pact" by which the government will negotiate 
laws and policies with groups supposedly representing civil society 
but in reality working to keep the Peronista clientele happy.

Then there is the economy. On the surface, things couldn't be better. 
After a crisis that turned a middle-class country into a Third World 
nation, Argentina has seen about 11 million people pull out of poverty 
-- i.e. go back to their living conditions of the 1990s. By raising 
public spending by 50% annually and wages by 40% in the last four 
years, keeping interest rates low, controlling half the prices that 
make up the consumer price index, and nationalizing or creating state 
enterprises in eight major sectors of the economy, the government has 
achieved a populist artifice. As the results of the presidential 
elections show, Argentineans are not buying this illusion of 
prosperity in the main urban centers (the nation's capital, Cordoba, 
Santa Fe, and others), but the rest of the nation is.

The real story is that investment is very low and inflation very high 
-- and the social demands of a population that has been promised a 
paradise are infinite. Although Mr. Kirchner has tried to conceal 
inflation figures by replacing the head of the national statistics 
institute, no one I talked to in Argentina thinks inflation is below 
20%. The energy crisis, a consequence of Mr. Kirchner's decision to 
continue to freeze prices at one-third of market value and therefore 
discourage investment at a time of rising demand due to the economic 
bounce, is causing havoc. Foreign direct investment has dropped by 
about 30% in the last three years, whereas in Chile, Argentina's next-
door neighbor, it has risen by almost 50%.

This amounts to the squandering of a marvelous opportunity for a 
country whose past prosperity, relatively educated population and 
political gravitas in the region should have granted it a leading role 
in Latin America in this new millennium. The fact that a sophisticated 
woman will be the next president should have been a reason to rejoice 
in a part of the world where politics has been a notoriously 
"machista" enterprise. But it will take a miracle, i.e. an act of 
political treason by Cristina against her husband's legacy, to avoid 
the iceberg for which Argentina's Titanic is headed.

Jorge Luis Borges, Argentina's late poet, used to say, "Peronismo is 
neither good nor bad -- it is incorrigible." Will Cristina's love of 
the good life serve as an antidote to Peron-style populist socialism? 
Although the chances are extremely slim -- she has announced that nine 
of her husband's ministers will stay on to serve in her cabinet -- let 
us pray that Cristina proves Borges wrong.

Mr. Vargas Llosa is the director of the Center on Global Prosperity at 
the Independent Institute and the editor of the upcoming book "Lessons 
 From the Poor," to be published in March by the Independent Institute.
WSJ
25374  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Did Filipino Martial Arts Revolutionize Boxing? on: November 16, 2007, 12:15:23 PM
Woof All:

I'd like to put a question out to the collective braintrust here.

I recently saw a clip of the early days of Mike Tyson wherein Kevin Rooney claimed that he developed the head/slip bag a.k.a. the maize bag http://www.ringside.com/DETAIL.ASPX?ID=24621 and used it to develop Mike Tyson's phenomenol head movement  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnwLEbFoBFs

I am under the impression the the maize bag has been around much longer than that and possibly has its origins in the Philippines.  If Cus D'Amato/Kevin Rooney developed it, why is it called a maize bag-- a spanish word for corn?  Could it have come from the Philippines (e.g. a bag filled with kernels of corn)

Can anyone confirm, deny, or add to this?
Crafty Dog

Thank you,
Crafty Dog
25375  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt and John Kerry together! on: November 16, 2007, 11:12:11 AM
WSJ

E-Prescriptions
By JOHN KERRY AND NEWT GINGRICH
November 16, 2007; Page A20

In 1799, doctors likely hastened the death of George Washington by draining a third of his blood to treat a bacterial infection. Bleeding was a common practice in those days, it dates back to the Greeks and Romans.

But nowadays, if a doctor used bloodletting he would be barred from practicing medicine. In the age of the Internet, is it any less inexcusable that we have yet to modernize and transform our health-care system?

We have talked long enough about using technology to cut costs and improve the quality of care. Now is the time to act -- and the place to start is preventable medication errors.

According to the Institute of Medicine, Americans average one medication mistake for every day spent in a hospital, accounting for more than 1.5 million injuries each year. Medication errors will kill at least 7,000 Americans this year. Of the more than three billion prescriptions written each year, doctors report nearly one billion require a follow-up between providers and pharmacies for clarification. The cost to our health-care system is in the billions.

One reason for this mess is that 95% of prescriptions are transmitted using 5,000-year-old technology: pen and paper.

That is unacceptable. The deaths and inefficiencies of paper prescriptions can be nearly entirely eliminated if we use the same technology we that use in other aspects of our lives. Electronic prescriptions can replace handwritten, misread and mismatched prescriptions with online, automated and expert technology.

The benefits are clear and compelling. When a doctor "writes" an electronic prescription, a computer can warn of potentially dangerous interactions with other medications or allergies and thereby prevent thousands of unnecessary hospitalizations each year. E-prescribing can also let a physician know whether a drug is covered by a patient's insurance or whether an alternative generic is available at a fraction of the cost. One initiative led by Chrysler, General Motors and Ford to encourage doctors to write e-prescriptions in the Detroit region has generated more than one million prescription alerts that have saved lives and money.

The benefits of e-prescribing are so important that the Institute of Medicine has called for every doctor and nurse to prescribe electronically by the year 2010. Business and labor leaders, health insurers and consumer advocates are unanimous in their support of this common-sense initiative.

Doctors also know that e-prescribing is vital for our health-care system. One recent study of 400 physicians found that 85% of physicians think e-prescribing is a good idea; 81% say it would reduce medication errors; and 65% say it would save time. They like a system that reduces their liability and allows them to focus on providing care, not filling out paperwork.

The problem is that very few doctors use the technology. Of those 400 physicians polled, only 7% actually transmit prescriptions electronically. And 63% say implementing the technology is not a priority. Why? It's not always in their immediate financial interest to do so.

That must change.

The federal government can lead by requiring that doctors who do business with Medicare convert to e-prescribing. This can be done by using market forces and the federal government's purchasing power to align financial incentives.

First, offer bonus payments to Medicare doctors who already prescribe electronically or who adopt the technology. Such payments will help doctors, especially those with small practices without many patients, to pay for startup costs. Private insurers, like WellPoint, are already using this strategy to drive adoption of e-prescribing.

If a majority of doctors don't e-prescribe a few years down the road, the government should require all doctors to adopt e-prescribing or face financial penalties. E-prescribing should become a condition of doing business with Medicare. This is no different than the requirements other suppliers expect to see when they negotiate with customers.

A new study by the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that if 18% of doctors in Medicare adopt e-prescribing, the government will save $4 billion and nearly three million adverse drug events can be prevented over five years.

This is something Republicans and Democrats can agree on. While we continue to debate how to cover the uninsured, improve quality, and lower costs, there is too little being done to modernize health care. E-prescribing for Medicare is just the beginning of the modernization and digitization our ailing health-care system urgently needs. A high-tech, healthier future is within our grasp. We just need creative leadership bold enough to reach for it.

Mr. Kerry, a Democrat, is a senator from Massachusetts. Mr. Gingrich, a Republican, is former speaker of the House and founder of the Center for Health Transformation. Chrysler, GM, Ford and WellPoint are members of the center.

25376  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 16, 2007, 11:03:28 AM
Rudy's Gamble
Giuliani's audacious strategy for the nomination.

BY KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
Friday, November 16, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Give Rudy Giuliani this: He's living his campaign slogans. The flinty ex-mayor keeps telling America he's fearless, a risk-taker, the guy who can accomplish the impossible (say, cleaning up Sin City). As if to prove it, he's betting the shop on a high-stakes path to the Republican nomination.

Ever since a relatively unknown Georgia peanut farmer used the early primary states to garner the national spotlight, the track to the presidential nomination has run square through Iowa, New Hampshire and (more recently) South Carolina. Go to Des Moines, get famous. Yet there was Giuliani campaign manager Mike DuHaime this week telling reporters that times have changed. His boss is doing it His Way.

It's been clear for some time that Mr. Giuliani was putting his chips on bigger, if later, primary states such as Florida, California and New York--where a less ideological Republican electorate might prove more open to his social record. Still, there was something about Mr. DuHaime confirming this approach--and by extension dissing the usual three-state slingshot--that had a national press corps blinking. It also earned the Giuliani camp a scoffing dismissal from rival Mitt Romney, himself running a textbook, and so far winning, campaign in every early race.





Some scoff is in order. There's a reason presidential hopefuls have for so long genuflected at the Davenport and Concord and Columbia altars: It works. The momentum that accompanies those early wins is often unstoppable, and it makes the Giuliani plan an audacious gamble. Then again, there's a pragmatism to Hizzoner's approach, one that has wisely recognized that times have indeed changed. If there were ever a chance of shattering the old primary mold, this is the year, and Mr. Giuliani is the man, to do it.
Let's be clear, some of this is simple necessity. You might even say Mr. Giuliani didn't have a choice. Iowa's caucus system, dominated by social conservatives, was never going to blow kisses at the pro-choice, antigun New Yorker--Pat Robertson notwithstanding. Especially so if presented with a true-blue social conservative like Mike Huckabee, who in the latest polls is nipping Mr. Romney's shoes. South Carolina's southern conservatives present a similar challenge. Add to this that if Mr. Giuliani had vowed to conquer those citadels, and failed, his campaign would've taken a blow. You can't lose what you never said you'd win.

At the same time, this year's primary fight, and in particular the Republican race, are unique. The Giuliani wisdom, if that's what it proves to be, has been in recognizing those differences early on and toiling ever since to ply them to the mayor's advantage.

Changed circumstance No. 1 is this year's hypercompressed primary season. Whereas winners once got to bask in the glow of their early victories--and rake in the cash--for many weeks before Super Tuesday, this year they'll get to bask a few hours. Mr. Giuliani's Florida, his "firewall" where he has spent his biggest chunk of cash and currently holds a 17-point lead over Mr. Romney, will take place on Jan. 29, just 10 days after South Carolina.

Meanwhile the races on Giga Tuesday (Feb. 5) alone, which include other big Giuliani prospects such as California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, represent nearly half the delegates necessary to secure the nomination. The Giuliani bet is that the time frame has collapsed enough that he can check any rival "momentum" by cleaning up big in the mega-states.

Changed circumstance No. 2 is the unusual nature of the Republican field itself, in which there is no clear front-runner and voter confusion. Evangelical endorsements are scattered. Terrorism is also making its debut in a Republican primary, and has splintered the usual cohesion of social conservatives and single-issue voters. No one candidate has been able to break away, which means no one is likely to emerge with early landslide victories. Mr. Giuliani is counting that this muddle will deny a Mr. Romney or Fred Thompson the decisive victories they'd need to later challenge in bigger states. It might also allow the mayor some respectable finishes in the early races.

Finally, there's Mr. Giuliani, superstar. The big seduction of the early primaries is that they allow candidates who aren't well known to catapult into the news, thereby becoming household names. Thanks to September 11, Mr. Giuliani is right up there in household names with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. While a onetime Southern governor like Mr. Huckabee has to get a ticket out of Iowa if he wants a shot, Mr. Giuliani may have more flexibility.

The caveats? The New Yorker's ability to pull this off hinges on his ability to truly clean up in the mega-states. His campaign is already boasting that his leads in some of those places are "momentum-proof." But that's the sort of bold statement that borders on hubris. Even with a sped-up primary schedule, five hard-fought contests (the usual three, plus Nevada and Michigan) will still go down before the nation ever bats an eye at Florida. Allowing a campaign to go 0 for 5 in the run-up to that big day gives a new meaning to the word "risk."





The very idea is apparently giving even the Giuliani campaign the cold sweats. So much so that now that the mayor has built up his position in the bigger states, he's working backward. Yesterday the campaign unveiled its first television ad, and its home will be . . . New Hampshire. It's even hinting it hopes to take the state.
This is itself risky. Of all the early plays, New Hampshire's the best bet for Mr. Giuliani, and his TV spot about his economic and crime success in New York is designed to appeal to state Republicans looking for a fiscally sound tough guy. Think of it, too, as a potential death blow to one or more competitors. Mr. Giuliani sure is. Mr. Romney needs to show he can win in his own backyard (and he currently holds a double-digit lead), while John McCain continues to count on the state he won by 19 points in 2000. The downside is that the Giuliani campaign is now playing the expectations game, and losing will only give a boost to the winner.

Primaries are inherently unpredictable, and Mr. Giuliani's foes have no intention of letting the mayor set the rules. But win or lose, Mr. Giuliani deserves marks for daring to play big.

Ms. Strassel is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, based in Washington. Her column appears Fridays.
WSJ
25377  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: November 16, 2007, 10:56:44 AM
“The Constitution shall never be construed... to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” —Samuel Adams

PATRIOT PERSPECTIVE
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms”
By Mark Alexander

There is yet another ideological contest brewing in our nation’s capitol, this one between two distinctively different groups in the federal judiciary: constitutional constructionists, who render decisions based on the “original intent” of our nation’s founding document, and judicial despots, who endorse the dangerously errant notion of a “Living Constitution.”

This is no trivial contest, however, and the outcome will have significant consequences across the nation.

The subject of this dispute is Washington, DC’s “Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975,” which prohibits residents from owning handguns, ostensibly to deter so-called “gun violence.”

Of course, suggesting that violence is a “gun problem” ignores the real problem—that of socio-pathology and the culture which nurtures it. (See the Congressional Testimony of Darrell Scott, father of Rachel Scott, one of the children murdered at Columbine High School in 1999.)

In 1960 the frequency of violent crime in the District was 554/100,000 residents, and the murder rate was 10/100,000. In 2006, the frequency of violent crime in the District was 1,512/100,000 residents, and the murder rate was 29/100,000. That is a 200 percent increase, and according to the latest data from Washington Metro Police, violent crime is up 12 percent thus far this year.

Fact is, firearm restrictions on law-abiding citizens in Washington, and other urban centers, have created more victims while protecting offenders. There is nothing new about this correlation. As Thomas Jefferson noted in his Commonplace Book (quoting Cesare Beccaria), “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

Simply put, violent predators prefer victims who have no means of self defense.

Most pro and con arguments about firearms are constructed around the crime debate, including excellent research by John Lott, whose book More Guns, Less Crime, clearly establishes that restrictive gun policies lead to higher crime rates.

The arguments from both sides in the current case in Washington are also constructed around the crime issue. However, the Second Amendment debate is not about crime, but about the rule of law—constitutional law. Fortunately, the appellate court for DC is making this distinction.

In March of this year, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down that federal jurisdiction’s restrictions on gun ownership, finding that the District is violating the Second Amendment’s prohibition on government infringement of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court, and should the High Court accept the case, its ruling would be the first substantial decision on the scope of the Second Amendment since 1939.

At issue: Does the Second Amendment prohibit the government from infringing on the individual rights of citizens to keep and bear arms, or does it restrict the central government from infringing on the rights of the several states to maintain well-armed militias?

The intent of the Second Amendment, however, was abundantly clear to our Founders.

Indeed, in the most authoritative explication of our Constitution, The Federalist Papers, its principal author, James Madison, wrote in No. 46, “The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation... forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any...”

Alexander Hamilton was equally unambiguous on the importance of arms to a republic, writing in Federalist No. 28, “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense...”

Justice Joseph Story, appointed to the Supreme Court by James Madison, wrote, “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”

In other words, the right of the people to bear arms is the most essential of the rights enumerated in our Constitution, because it ensures the preservation of all other rights.

Accordingly, the appellate court, in a 2-1 decision, ruled, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. That right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution and was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government... The individual right facilitated militia service by ensuring that citizens would not be barred from keeping the arms they would need when called forth for militia duty.”

Additionally, the majority opinion notes, “The activities [the amendment] protects are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual’s enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued or intermittent enrollment in the militia.”

The dissenting judge’s conclusion did not dispute the plain language of the Second Amendment’s prohibition on government, but he insists that the District is not a state, and is, thus, not subject to the prohibition.

This is ridiculous, of course, since such a conclusion would imply, by extension, that District residents are not subject to any protection under the Constitution.

The real contest here is one between activist judges, those who amend the Constitution by judicial diktat rather than its clearly prescribed method stipulated in Article V, and constructionist judges, those who properly render legal interpretation based on the Constitution’s “original intent.”

As Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 81, “[T]here is not a syllable in the [Constitution] under consideration which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution...” In other words, nothing in the Constitution gives judges the right to declare the Constitution means anything beyond the scope of its plain language.

However, activist judges, including those among generations of High Court justices, have historically construed the Second Amendment through a pinhole, while viewing the First Amendment through a wide-angle lens.

For example, though the First Amendment plainly says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” judicial activists interpret this plain language to mean a public school coach can’t offer a simple prayer before a game.

Equally absurd, they argue that the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” clause means burning the American flag, exploiting women for “adult entertainment,” or using taxpayer dollars to fund works of “art” such as a crucifix immersed in a glass of human waste.

If these same judicial despots misconstrued the Second Amendment as broadly as they do the first, Americans would have nukes to defend themselves from noisy neighbors.

The appeals case regarding the constitutionality of DC’s Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 is not about crime prevention, or whether the District is subject to prohibitions in the Bill of Rights. It is about the essence of our Constitution’s most important assurance that all Americans have the right to defend themselves against both predatory criminals and tyrannical governments. It is about the need for the High Court to reaffirm this right and stop the incremental encroachment of said right by infringements like that in the District, or more egregious encroachments like those found within the Feinstein-Schumer gun-control act.

Of self-government’s “important principles,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “It is [the peoples’] right and duty to be at all times armed.” Indeed, the right of the people to keep and bear arms should not be infringed.
25378  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: November 16, 2007, 10:41:45 AM
A church re-opens in Baghdad

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/wp/come-home.htm
25379  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: November 16, 2007, 10:22:15 AM
THE FOUNDATION
“The Constitution shall never be construed... to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” —Samuel Adams

PATRIOT PERSPECTIVE
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms”
By Mark Alexander

There is yet another ideological contest brewing in our nation’s capitol, this one between two distinctively different groups in the federal judiciary: constitutional constructionists, who render decisions based on the “original intent” of our nation’s founding document, and judicial despots, who endorse the dangerously errant notion of a “Living Constitution.”

This is no trivial contest, however, and the outcome will have significant consequences across the nation.

The subject of this dispute is Washington, DC’s “Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975,” which prohibits residents from owning handguns, ostensibly to deter so-called “gun violence.”

Of course, suggesting that violence is a “gun problem” ignores the real problem—that of socio-pathology and the culture which nurtures it. (See the Congressional Testimony of Darrell Scott, father of Rachel Scott, one of the children murdered at Columbine High School in 1999.)

In 1960 the frequency of violent crime in the District was 554/100,000 residents, and the murder rate was 10/100,000. In 2006, the frequency of violent crime in the District was 1,512/100,000 residents, and the murder rate was 29/100,000. That is a 200 percent increase, and according to the latest data from Washington Metro Police, violent crime is up 12 percent thus far this year.

Fact is, firearm restrictions on law-abiding citizens in Washington, and other urban centers, have created more victims while protecting offenders. There is nothing new about this correlation. As Thomas Jefferson noted in his Commonplace Book (quoting Cesare Beccaria), “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

Simply put, violent predators prefer victims who have no means of self defense.

Most pro and con arguments about firearms are constructed around the crime debate, including excellent research by John Lott, whose book More Guns, Less Crime, clearly establishes that restrictive gun policies lead to higher crime rates.

The arguments from both sides in the current case in Washington are also constructed around the crime issue. However, the Second Amendment debate is not about crime, but about the rule of law—constitutional law. Fortunately, the appellate court for DC is making this distinction.

In March of this year, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down that federal jurisdiction’s restrictions on gun ownership, finding that the District is violating the Second Amendment’s prohibition on government infringement of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court, and should the High Court accept the case, its ruling would be the first substantial decision on the scope of the Second Amendment since 1939.

At issue: Does the Second Amendment prohibit the government from infringing on the individual rights of citizens to keep and bear arms, or does it restrict the central government from infringing on the rights of the several states to maintain well-armed militias?

The intent of the Second Amendment, however, was abundantly clear to our Founders.

Indeed, in the most authoritative explication of our Constitution, The Federalist Papers, its principal author, James Madison, wrote in No. 46, “The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation... forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any...”

Alexander Hamilton was equally unambiguous on the importance of arms to a republic, writing in Federalist No. 28, “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense...”

Justice Joseph Story, appointed to the Supreme Court by James Madison, wrote, “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”

In other words, the right of the people to bear arms is the most essential of the rights enumerated in our Constitution, because it ensures the preservation of all other rights.

Accordingly, the appellate court, in a 2-1 decision, ruled, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. That right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution and was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government... The individual right facilitated militia service by ensuring that citizens would not be barred from keeping the arms they would need when called forth for militia duty.”

Additionally, the majority opinion notes, “The activities [the amendment] protects are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual’s enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued or intermittent enrollment in the militia.”

The dissenting judge’s conclusion did not dispute the plain language of the Second Amendment’s prohibition on government, but he insists that the District is not a state, and is, thus, not subject to the prohibition.

This is ridiculous, of course, since such a conclusion would imply, by extension, that District residents are not subject to any protection under the Constitution.

The real contest here is one between activist judges, those who amend the Constitution by judicial diktat rather than its clearly prescribed method stipulated in Article V, and constructionist judges, those who properly render legal interpretation based on the Constitution’s “original intent.”

As Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 81, “[T]here is not a syllable in the [Constitution] under consideration which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution...” In other words, nothing in the Constitution gives judges the right to declare the Constitution means anything beyond the scope of its plain language.

However, activist judges, including those among generations of High Court justices, have historically construed the Second Amendment through a pinhole, while viewing the First Amendment through a wide-angle lens.

For example, though the First Amendment plainly says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” judicial activists interpret this plain language to mean a public school coach can’t offer a simple prayer before a game.

Equally absurd, they argue that the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” clause means burning the American flag, exploiting women for “adult entertainment,” or using taxpayer dollars to fund works of “art” such as a crucifix immersed in a glass of human waste.

If these same judicial despots misconstrued the Second Amendment as broadly as they do the first, Americans would have nukes to defend themselves from noisy neighbors.

The appeals case regarding the constitutionality of DC’s Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 is not about crime prevention, or whether the District is subject to prohibitions in the Bill of Rights. It is about the essence of our Constitution’s most important assurance that all Americans have the right to defend themselves against both predatory criminals and tyrannical governments. It is about the need for the High Court to reaffirm this right and stop the incremental encroachment of said right by infringements like that in the District, or more egregious encroachments like those found within the Feinstein-Schumer gun-control act.

Of self-government’s “important principles,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “It is [the peoples’] right and duty to be at all times armed.” Indeed, the right of the people to keep and bear arms should not be infringed.

25380  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Men & Women on: November 16, 2007, 09:04:41 AM
West: The Fatherless Civilization
By Fjordman
The decade from the first half of the 1960s to the first half of the 1970s was clearly a major watershed in Western history, with the start of non-Western mass immigration in the USA, the birth of Eurabia in Western Europe and the rise of Multiculturalism and radical Feminism. American columnist Diana West recently released her book The Death of the Grown-up, where she traces the decline of Western civilization to the permanent youth rebellions of the past two generations. The paradox is that the people who viciously attacked their own civilization had enjoyed uninterrupted economic growth for decades, yet embraced Marxist-inspired ideologies and decided to undermine the very society which had allowed them to live privileged lives. Maybe this isn't as strange as it seems. Karl Marx himself was aided by the wealth of Friedrich Engels, the son of a successful industrialist.

This was also the age of decolonization in Western Europe and desegregation in the USA, which created an atmosphere where Western civilization was seen as evil. Whatever the cause, we have since been stuck in a pattern of eternal opposition to our own civilization. Some of these problems may well have older roots, but they became institutionalized to an unprecedented degree during the 1960s.

According to Diana West, the organizing thesis of her book "is that the unprecedented transfer of cultural authority from adults to adolescents over the past half century or so has dire implications for the survival of the Western world." Having redirected our natural development away from adulthood and maturity in order to strike the pop-influenced pose of eternally cool youth – ever-open, non-judgmental, self-absorbed, searching for (or just plain lacking) identity – we have fostered a society marked by these same traits. In short: Westerners live in a state of perpetual adolescence, but also with a corresponding perpetual identity crisis. West thinks maturity went out of style in the rebellious 1960s, "the biggest temper tantrum in the history of the world," which flouted authority figures of any kind.

She also believes that although the most radical break with the past took place during the 60s and 70s, the roots of Western youth culture are to be found in the 1950s with the birth of rock and roll music, Elvis Presley and actors such as James Dean. Pop group The Beatles embodied this in the early 60s, but changed radically in favor of drugs and the rejection of established wisdom as they approached 1970, a shift which was reflected in the entire culture.

Personally, one of my favorite movies from the 1980s was Back to the Future. In one of the scenes, actor Michael J. Fox travels in time from 1985 to 1955. Before he leaves 1985, he hears the slogan "Re-elect Mayor....Progress is his middle name." The same slogan is repeated in 1955, only with a different name. Politics is politics in any age. Writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale have stated that they chose the year 1955 as the setting of the movie because this was the age of the birth of teen culture: This was when the teenager started to rule, and he has ruled ever since.

As West says, many things changed in the economic boom in the decades following the Second World War: "When you talk about the postwar period, the vast new affluence is a big factor in reorienting the culture to adolescent desire. You see a shift in cultural authority going to the young. Instead of kids who might take a job to be able to help with household expenses, all of a sudden that pocket money was going into the manufacture of a massive new culture. That conferred such importance to a period of adolescence that had never been there before." After generations of this celebration of youth, the adults have no confidence left: "Kids are planning expensive trips, going out unchaperoned, they are drinking, debauching, absolutely running amok, yet the parents say, 'I can't do anything about it.' Parents have abdicated responsibilities to give in to adolescent desire."



She believes that "Where womanhood stands today is deeply affected by the death of grown-up. I would say the sexualized female is part of the phenomenon I'm talking about, so I don't think they're immune to the death of the grown-up. Women are still emulating young fashion. Where sex is more available, there are no longer the same incentives building toward married life, which once was a big motivation toward the maturing process."

Is she right? Have we become a civilization of Peter Pans refusing to grow up? Have we been cut off from the past by disparaging everything old as outmoded? I know blogger Conservative Swede, who likes Friedrich Nietzsche, thinks we suffer from "slave morality," but I sometimes wonder whether we suffer from child morality rather than slave morality. However, there are other forces at work here as well.

The welfare state encourages an infantilization of society where people return to childhood by being provided for by others. This creates not just a culture obsessed with youth but with adolescent irresponsibility. Many people live in a constant state of rebellion against not just their parents but their nation, their culture and their civilization.

Writer Theodore Dalrymple thinks one reason for the epidemic of self-destructiveness in Western societies is the avoidance of boredom: "For people who have no transcendent purpose to their lives and cannot invent one through contributing to a cultural tradition (for example), in other words who have no religious belief and no intellectual interests to stimulate them, self-destruction and the creation of crises in their life is one way of warding off meaninglessness."

According to him, what we are seeing now is "a society in which people demand to behave more or less as they wish, that is to say whimsically, in accordance with their kaleidoscopically changing desires, at the same time as being protected from the natural consequences of their own behaviour by agencies of the state. The result is a combination of Sodom and Gomorrah and a vast and impersonal bureaucracy of welfare."

The welfare state deprives you of the possibility of deriving self-respect from your work. This can hurt a person's self-respect, but more so for men than for women because masculine identity is closely tied to providing for others. Stripped of this, male self-respect declines and society with it. Dalrymple also worries about the end of fatherhood, and believes that the worst child abusers are governments promoting the very circumstances in which child abuse and neglect are most likely to take place: "He who promotes single parenthood is indifferent to the fate of children." Fatherhood scarcely exists, except in the merest biological sense:

"I worked in a hospital in which had it not been for the children of Indian immigrants, the illegitimacy rate of children born there would have approached one hundred per cent. It became an almost indelicate question to ask of a young person who his or her father was; to me, it was still an astounding thing to be asked, 'Do you mean my father now, at the moment?' as if it could change at any time and had in fact changed several times before."

This is because "women are to have children merely because they want them, as is their government-given right, irrespective of their ability to bring them up, or who has to pay for them, or the consequences to the children themselves. Men are to be permanently infantilised, their income being in essence pocket money for them to spend on their enjoyments, having no serious responsibilities at all (beyond paying tax). Henceforth, the state will be father to the child, and the father will be child of the state."

As Swedish writer Per Bylund explains: "Most of us were not raised by our parents at all. We were raised by the authorities in state daycare centers from the time of infancy; then pushed on to public schools, public high schools, and public universities; and later to employment in the public sector and more education via the powerful labor unions and their educational associations. The state is ever-present and is to many the only means of survival – and its welfare benefits the only possible way to gain independence."

Though Sweden is arguably an extreme case, author Melanie Phillips notices the same trends in Britain, too: "Our culture is now deep into uncharted territory. Generations of family disintegration in turn are unravelling the fundamentals of civilised human behaviour. Committed fathers are crucial to their children's emotional development. As a result of the incalculable irresponsibility of our elites, however, fathers have been seen for the past three decades as expendable and disposable. Lone parenthood stopped being a source of shame and turned instead into a woman's inalienable right. The state has provided more and more inducements to women – through child benefit, council flats and other welfare provision – to have children without committed fathers. This has produced generations of women-only households, where emotionally needy girls so often become hopelessly inadequate mothers who abuse and neglect their own children – who, in turn, perpetuate the destructive pattern. This is culturally nothing less than suicidal."

I sometimes wonder whether the modern West, and Western Europe in particular, should be dubbed the Fatherless Civilization. Fathers have been turned into a caricature and there is a striking demonization of traditional male values. Any person attempting to enforce rules and authority, a traditional male preserve, is seen as a Fascist and ridiculed, starting with God the Father. We end up with a society of vague fathers who can be replaced at the whim of the mothers at any given moment. Even the mothers have largely abdicated, leaving the upbringing of children to schools, kindergartens and television. In fashion and lifestyle, mothers imitate their daughters, not vice versa.



The elaborate welfare state model in Western Europe is frequently labelled "the nanny state," but perhaps it could also be named "the husband state." Why? Well, in a traditional society, the role of men was to physically protect and financially provide for their women. In our modern society, part of this task has been "outsourced" to the state, which helps explain why women in general give disproportionate support to high taxation and pro-welfare state parties. According to anthropologist Lionel Tiger, the ancient unit of a mother, a child and a father has morphed from monogamy into "bureaugamy," a mother, a child and a bureaucrat. The state has become a substitute husband. In fact, it doesn't replace just the husband, it replaces the entire nuclear and extended family, raises the children and cares for the elderly.

Øystein Djupedal, Minister of Education and Research from the Socialist Left Party and responsible for Norwegian education from kindergartens via high schools to PhD level, has stated: "I think that it's simply a mistaken view of child-rearing to believe that parents are the best to raise children. 'Children need a village,' said Hillary Clinton. But we don't have that. The village of our time is the kindergarten." He later retracted this statement, saying that parents have the main responsibility for raising children, but that "kindergartens are a fantastic device for children, and it is good for children to spend time in kindergarten before [they] start school."

The problem is that some of his colleagues use the kindergarten as the blueprint for society as a whole, even for adults. In the fall of 2007, Norway's center-left government issued a warning to 140 companies that still hadn't fulfilled the state-mandated quota of 40 percent women on their boards of directors. Equality minister Karita Bekkemellem stated that companies failing to meet the quota will face involuntary dissolution, despite the fact that many are within traditionally male-oriented branches like the offshore oil industry, shipping and finance. She called the law "historic and radical" and said it will be enforced.

Bekkemellem is thus punishing the naughty children who refuse to do as Mother State tells them to, even if these children happen to be private corporations. The state replaces the father in the sense that it provides for you financially, but it acts more like a mother in removing risks and turning society into a cozy, regulated kindergarten with ice cream and speech codes.

Blog reader Tim W. thinks women tend to be more selfish than men vis-a-vis the opposite sex: "Men show concern for women and children while women.... well, they show concern for themselves and children. I'm not saying that individual women don't show concern for husbands or brothers, but as a group (or voting bloc) they have no particular interest in men's well-being. Women's problems are always a major concern but men's problems aren't. Every political candidate is expected to address women's concerns, but a candidate even acknowledging that men might have concerns worth addressing would be ostracized." What if men lived an average of five years and eight months longer than women? Well, if that were the case, we'd never hear the end of it: "Feminists and women candidates would walk around wearing buttons with 'five years, eight months' written on them to constantly remind themselves and the world about this horrendous inequity. That this would happen, and surely it would, says something about the differing natures of male and female voters."

Bernard Chapin interviewed Dr. John Lott at Frontpage Magazine. According to Lott, "I think that women are generally more risk averse then men are and they see government as one way of providing insurance against life's vagaries. I also think that divorced women with kids particularly turn towards government for protection. Simply giving women the right to vote explained at least a third of the growth in government for about 45 years."

He thinks this "explains a lot of the government's growth in the US but also the rest of the world over the last century. When states gave women the right to vote, government spending and tax revenue, even after adjusting for inflation and population, went from not growing at all to more than doubling in ten years. As women gradually made up a greater and greater share of the electorate, the size of government kept on increasing. This continued for 45 years as a lot of older women who hadn't been used to voting when suffrage first passed were gradually replaced by younger women. After you get to the 1960s, the continued growth in government is driven by higher divorce rates. Divorce causes women with children to turn much more to government programs." The liberalization of abortion also led to more single parent families.

Diana West thinks what we saw in the counterculture of the 1960s was a leveling of all sorts of hierarchies, both of learning and of authority. From that emerged the leveling of culture and by extension Multiculturalism. She also links this trend to the nanny state:

"In considering the strong links between an increasingly paternalistic nanny state and the death of the grown-up, I found that Tocqueville (of course) had long ago made the connections. He tried to imagine under what conditions despotism could come to the United States. He came up with a vision of the nation characterized, on the one hand, by an 'innumerable multitude of men, alike and equal, constantly circling around in pursuit of the petty and banal pleasures with which they glut their souls,' and, on the other, by the 'immense protective power' of the state. 'Banal pleasures' and 'immense state power' might have sounded downright science-fictional in the middle of the 19th century; by the start of the 21st century, it begins to sound all too familiar. Indeed, speaking of the all-powerful state, he wrote: 'It would resemble parental authority if, fatherlike, it tried to prepare its charges for a man's life, but, on the contrary, it only tries to keep them in perpetual childhood.' Perhaps the extent to which we, liberals and conservatives alike, have acquiesced to our state's parental authority shows how far along we, as a culture, have reached Tocqueville's state of 'perpetual childhood.'"

This problem is even worse in Western Europe, a region with more elaborate welfare states than the USA and which has lived under the American military umbrella for generations, thus further enhancing the tendency for adolescent behavior.

The question, which was indirectly raised by Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1830s in his book Democracy in America, is this: If democracy of universal suffrage means that everybody's opinion is as good as everybody else's, will this sooner or later turn into a society where everybody's choices are also as good as everybody else's, which leads to cultural relativism? Tocqueville wrote at a time when only men had the vote. Will universal suffrage also lead to a situation where women vote themselves into possession of men's finances while reducing their authority and creating powerful state regulation of everything?

I don't know the answer to that. What I do know is that the current situation isn't sustainable. The absence of fatherhood has created a society full of social pathologies, and the lack of male self-confidence has made us easy prey for our enemies. If the West is to survive, we need to reassert a healthy dose of male authority. In order to do so we need to roll back the welfare state. Perhaps we need to roll back some of the excesses of Western Feminism, too.

Fjordman is a noted Norwegian blogger who has written for many conservative web sites. He used to have his own Fjordman Blog in the past, but it is no longer active.

25381  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on fighting government expansion on: November 16, 2007, 08:34:49 AM
"The multiplication of public offices, increase of expense beyond
income, growth and entailment of a public debt, are indications
soliciting the employment of the pruning knife."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Spencer Roane, 9 March 1821)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition,
Lipscomb and Bergh, eds., vol. 15 (325)
25382  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: November 16, 2007, 08:32:18 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iranian Nuclear Questions

A lot of discussion is circulating about just how cooperative the Iranians are when it gets down to coming clean on their nuclear program. Earlier this week, it is significant to note that Iran decided to hand over a set of blueprints to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that detail how to shape weapons-grade uranium into a form usable in a nuclear warhead. After all, there has been a lot of talk about the Americans and the Iranians getting together for another round of negotiations over Iraq. And these Iraq negotiations are intrinsically linked to the Iranian nuclear program. If Tehran expects to negotiate effectively over Iraq, it makes sense to throw out such confidence-building measures in order to set the mood.

But this is still not enough for the IAEA, much less the European Union and United States. In fact, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei -- under heavy pressure from the Europeans and Americans -- admitted on Thursday that Iran has only offered selective cooperation in providing access to its program. He said the agency's knowledge about Iran's current nuclear program is diminishing since it has not received the type of information that Iran had been providing since early 2006. Not coincidentally, the first part of 2006 was an extremely heated period of assassinations, defections and abductions in the ongoing covert intelligence war involving the United States, Israel and Iran.

So, was this latest concession from Iran to the IAEA simply a failed attempt to sweeten ElBaradei into putting out a report lauding Tehran for its cooperation (and thereby give Iran more bandwidth to skirt sanctions)? Or is Iran seriously trying to pursue talks with the United States over Iraq by putting the nuclear issue on the negotiating table? The two possibilities are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but it is important to see through the blustery rhetoric on all sides to make sense of what these nuclear negotiations are all about.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, according to a Reuter's source close to him, has instructed his Cabinet to draft proposals on how Israel will cope with a nuclear Iran. The prime minister's office denies the report. But it makes perfect sense for Israel to be drafting such contingency plans. Nonetheless, Israel does not want to give the impression that it sees a nuclear Iran as inevitable.

Quite to the contrary, the United States and Israel could even be ramping up efforts to sabotage the Iranian nuclear experiment. A report cropped up earlier this week on a "series of explosions" that took place in southern Iran at the Parchin military complex, about 19 miles southeast of Tehran, where Iran is suspected of housing a nuclear weapons research and development facility. Though Iran's semi-official Fars news agency is reporting in an almost defensive tone that the site where the explosion took place is a "nonmilitary area at a tire and wastes storage place," Iran's principal exiled opposition organization, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is going to great lengths to suggest the incident was a covert attack that the Iranian regime and its media outlets are covering up. Though allegations from this organization can often be dubious, it would not be beyond the pale of certain intelligence organizations to shake up the Iranians in this fashion. The Israeli Mossad has been conducting a covert campaign to take out key Iranian nuclear scientists for some time, and these operations, according to our sources, are continuing.

That said, we do not yet have any evidence to back up this claim. And if the Iranians were actually being sincere about their cooperation on the nuclear issue, the United States and its allies would likely be taking some care to not rock the boat too much. In any case, the Fars report should not be taken for granted; this is one "accident" worth investigating.
25383  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan on: November 16, 2007, 08:29:49 AM
On Setting an Example
Being a "beacon to the world" is more challenging than it sounds.

Friday, November 16, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

I thought I'd say a word for the Beaconists.

This election year we will, sooner or later, be asked to think about, and concentrate on, what American foreign policy should be in the future. We will have to consider, or reconsider, what challenges we face, what the world really is now after the Cold War and after 9/11, what is needed from America, and for her.

In some rough and perhaps tentative way we will have to decide what philosophical understanding of our national purpose rightly guides us.

Part of the debate will be shaped by the tugging back and forth of two schools of thought. There are those whose impulses are essentially interventionist--we live in the world and must take part in the world, sometimes, perhaps even often, militarily. We are the great activist nation, the spreader of political liberty, the superpower whose meaning is made clear in action.

The other school holds profound reservations about all this. It is more modest in its ambitions, more cool-eyed about human nature. It feels more bound by the old advice attributed to one of the Founding Generation, that we be the friend of liberty everywhere but the guarantor only of our own.

Much has changed in the more than two centuries since he said that: many wars fought, treaties made, alliances forged. And yet as simple human wisdom, it packs a wallop still.

Those who feel tugged toward the old Founding wisdom often use the word "beacon." It is our place in the scheme of things, it is our fate and duty, to be a beacon of liberty. To stand tall and hold high the light. To be an example, to be an inspiration, to encourage. We do not invent constitutions and impose them on other countries; instead they, in their restlessness, in their human desire to achieve a greater portion of freedom, will rise up in time and create their own constitution. And because they created it, and because it reflects their conception of justice, they will hold it more dearly.

So we are best, in the world as it is now, the beacon, not the bringer, of freedom. We are its friend, not its enforcer.

As a foreign policy this sounds, or has been made to sound, unduly passive. We'll sit around being a good example and the rest of them can take a hike. But if you want to be a beacon, it's actually a hard job. It involves activism. You can't be a beacon unless as a nation you're in pretty good shape. You can't be a beacon unless you send forth real light. You can't be a beacon unless you really do inspire.

Do we always? No. We're not always a good example for the world. And so, for the coming holiday, a few baseline areas, some only stylistic, in which we could make our light glow brighter in--and for--the world.





It would be good to have the most visible symbols of our country, the president and the Congress, be clean. So often they seem not to be. They are scandal-ridden, or an embarrassment, or seem in the eyes of the world to be bought and paid for by special interests or unions or industries or professions. Whether you are liberal or conservative, you agree it is important that the world be impressed by America's leaders, by their high-mindedness and integrity. Leaders who are not dragged through the mud because they actually don't bring much mud with them. There is room for improvement here.
To be a beacon is to speak softly to the world, with dignity, with elegance if you can manage it, or simple good-natured courtesy if you can't. A superpower should never shout, never bray "We're No. 1!" If you're No. 1, you don't have to.

To be a beacon is to have a democracy in which issues of actual import are regularly debated. Instead our political coverage consists of daily disquisitions on "targeted ads," "narratives," "positioning" and "talking points." We really do make politicians crazy. If a politician cares only about his ads and his rehearsed answers, the pundits call him inauthentic. But if a politician ignores these things to speak of great issues we say he lacks "fire in the belly" and is incompetent. So many criticisms of politicians boil down to: He's not manipulating us well enough! We need more actual adults who are actually serious about the business of the nation.

To be a beacon is to keep the economic dream alive. We're still good at this. The downside is the rise in piggishness that tends to accompany prosperity. It is not good to embarrass your nation with your greed. It disheartens those who are doing their best but are limited, or unlucky, or just haven't made it work yet. It is good when you have it not to keep it all but to help the limited, and unlucky, and those who just haven't made it work yet. Keep it going, Porky.

To be a beacon is to continue another thing we're good at, making the kind of citizens who go into the world and help it: the doctors, the scientists, the nurses. They choose to go and help. The world notices, and says, "These are some kind of people, these Americans."

To be a beacon is to support the creation of a culture that is not dark, or sulfurous, or obviously unwell. We introduce our culture to our new immigrants each day through television. Just for a moment, imagine you are a young person from Africa or South America, a new American. You come here and put on the TV, for even the most innocent know that TV is America and America is TV, and you want to learn quickly. What you see is an obvious and embarrassing obsession with sex, with violence, with sexual dysfunction. You see the routine debasement of women parading as the liberation of women.





Conservatives have wrung their hands over this for a generation. But really, if you are a new immigrant to our country, full of hope, animated in part by some sense of mystery about this country that has lived in your imagination for 20 years, you have got to think: This is it? This ad for erectile dysfunction? Oh, I have joined something that is not healthy.
Sad to think this. They want to have joined a healthy and vibrant and well-balanced nation, not a sick circus.

I haven't even touched upon poverty, the material kind and the spiritual kind. I haven't touched on a lot. But if we were to try harder to be better, if we were to try harder to be and seem as great as we are, we wouldn't have to bray so much about the superiority of our system. It would be obvious to all, as obvious as a big light in the darkness.

To be a brighter beacon is not to choose passivity, or follow a path of selfishness. It would take energy and commitment and thought. We've always had a lot of that.

A happy Thanksgiving to all who love the great and fabled nation that is still, this day, the hope of the world.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on OpinionJournal.com.

25384  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: November 16, 2007, 12:05:47 AM
Which Silva is Houston fighting?
25385  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: November 15, 2007, 10:21:42 PM
An example of the profoundly anti-semitic bigotry affecting so much of the coverage of Israel

rticle in The Spectator.co.uk by Melanie Phillips
The al Durah blood libel
Wednesday, 14th November 2007

 

I am in Paris where I have attended the Court of Appeal special session called to witness the 27 minutes of hitherto unseen footage of the ‘killing’ of Mohammed al Durah which the court had required France 2 to produce. For readers who are unfamiliar with this scandal, I wrote about it here, here and here.

Suffice it to say here that the iconic image of the child Mohammed al Durah, pictured crouching with his father behind a barrel next to a concrete wall in an apparently vain attempt to shelter from the gun-battle between Israel and the Palestinians that was raging around them before he was allegedly shot dead by the Israelis, served to incite terrorist violence and atrocities around the world after it was transmitted by France 2 at the beginning of the second intifada. Yet it is clear to anyone looking at this in detail that the whole thing was staged, not least from the devastating evidence here which shows the boy raising his arm and peeping through his fingers seconds after the France 2 correspondent Charles Enderlin said he! had be en shot dead.

After Philippe Karsenty, founder of the French online media watchdog, Media Ratings, accused France 2 of staging the al Durah ‘killing’ and called for the resignation of both Charles Enderlin and France 2’s News Director, Arlette Chabot, France 2 and Enderlin sued Karsenty for defamation, and won. In a disgraceful piece of judicial cronyism after the gratuitous intervention of the then French President Jacques Chirac, the court decided against Karsenty and in favour of France 2 and Enderlin. Karsenty appealed; the judge ordered France 2 to produce the unscreened footage of this incident; today it did so.

Well, sort of. What it actually produced was 18 minutes out of the 27 it was required to bring forward. From this footage, which according to France 2’s Palestinian cameraman was filmed during an implausible 45 minutes of continuous shooting by Israeli soldiers, there is no evidence that anyone at all was killed or injured -- including Mohammed al Durah who by the end of the frames in which he figured seemed to be still very much alive and unmarked by any wound whatsoever.

The drama of today’s hearing was enhanced by the appearance of Enderlin himself, who until today had not graced this case with his presence. As the film was shown to a packed and overheated (in every sense) courtroom, Enderlin and Karsenty offered rival interpretations of the images on the screen. If Enderlin thought he would thus demonstrate the inadequacy of Karsenty’s case, he was very much mistaken. On the contrary, parts of his commentary were so absurd that the courtroom several times burst into incredulous laughter.

Enderlin offered only a vague, rambling and unconvincing explanation of why he had only produced 18 minutes of footage rather than the 27 he claimed to have received from his cameraman in Gaza (Enderlin himself was not in Gaza when these events occurred). After the hearing Professor Richard Landes, one of the people who had already seen the contested footage, said that two scenes had been cut out which clearly showed that the violence had been staged -- including one in which a Palestinian preparing to throw a missile is suddenly picked up and carried into an ambulance despite showing no signs of injury. This scene, said Landes, was filmed by Reuters, who actually filmed the France 2 cameraman filming it. Yet there was no sign of it today.

What struck me very forcibly about the 18 minutes overall was that, although this was supposed to have been filmed during continuous firing by the Israelis for 45 minutes, much of the footage consisted merely of a violent demonstration by stone throwing youths, many of whom who appeared to be enjoying the exercise. One child was pictured riding a bicycle through the melee. There was no evidence of any of them being killed or injured. From time to time, to be sure, youths were dragged onto stretchers and into ambulances – but there was no sign of anyone actually being shot, no-one falling under fire, no sign of any blood or injuries whatever. The nearest it got to an injury was a sequence in which a young man coyly pulled his shirt open a little to provide a glimpse of a neat red circle on his stomach, which he claimed was a (rubber?) bullet wound. But since he appeared to be in no pain whatever and was grinning throughout his turn for the camera, this seemed an eminently ! implaus ible way for someone who had just been hit by gunfire to behave.

There were many very strange things about this footage which just didn’t add up. When it came to the footage of the ‘killing’ of Mohammed al Durah, the following stood out:

* This sequence was not a continuous narrative but was repeatedly broken up and spliced onto footage of other scenes from the demonstration

* Although the France 2 cameraman had told a German film-maker, Esther Shapira, that he had filmed six minutes of the al Durah father and son under continuous Israeli fire, the footage of them lasted for less than one minute

* There was a camera tripod next to them

* There was no evidence of the boy actually being hit

* At one point, people in the crowd cried out that the boy was dead, while he was sitting up large as life clinging onto his father with his mouth wide open

 


* After he was said to be dead, he moved his arm (the sequence I have already reported which has been available on the web for years).

The Appeal Court is not due to give its verdict in this case until next February. As of today, such are the fresh contradictions and questions thrown up by the showing of this footage it would seem that France 2 has painted itself into a corner from which it will find it increasingly hard to escape.

But this scandal goes far beyond France 2. Soon after it transmitted the 55 seconds which showed the ‘killing’ of Mohammed al Durah, it helpfully sent various news agencies three minutes of the footage of this incident – including the frames in which the ‘dead’ child is seen moving, but which of course it had not broadcast. For reasons which invite speculation, not one of these agencies broadcast it either. Had they done so, there would have been no ‘killing’ of Mohammed al Durah and untold numbers of subsequent deaths would have been avoided.

It is therefore not surprising, but no less shocking, that with a couple of heroic exceptions the mainstream media has until very recently ignored the evidence suggesting that a monumental and deadly fraud was perpetrated here, indicators which have been around for years. As of today, the Karsenty case has been totally ignored by the mainstream French media. It is also deeply troubling that the Israel government ignored this evidence for seven years, that it is only very recently that its press spokesman Danny Seaman said the incident was staged, and that even now certain representatives of the Israel government are playing a most ambiguous role in defending their country against this modern blood libel.

The ‘killing’ of Mohammed al Durah was swallowed uncritically by the western media, despite the manifold unlikeliness and contradictions which were apparent from the start, because it accorded with the murderous prejudice against Israel which is the prism through which the Middle East conflict is habitually refracted. This scandal has the most profound implications not just for the media, not just for the Middle East conflict but for the western world’s relationship to reason, which seems to grow more tenuous by the day.
25386  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran's Revolutionary Guards on: November 15, 2007, 09:52:28 PM
Who Are Iran's Revolutionary Guards?
By AMIR TAHERI
November 15, 2007; Page A25

The scene is a board meeting of Bank Sepah, Iran's second-largest financial institution, in Tehran. The directors are waiting for the sardar (literally "head-owner") to arrive. But the sardar is in a changing room, shedding his uniform for a civilian suit. The man in question is Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the new commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which owns and controls the bank.

Most Americans already know more about the IRGC than they'd like to. In September the Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a nonbinding resolution urging President Bush to label the IRGC a terrorist group. He did so a month later and has since implemented harsh new sanctions targeting the business interests of the IRGC. As Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told the press recently, "It is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran you are doing business with the IRGC."

Still, there is much about this organization that is misunderstood. The IRGC is a unique beast. It is an army answerable to no one but the "Supreme Leader" of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It is also a business conglomerate that controls over 500 companies active in a wide range of industries -- from nuclear power to banking, life insurance to holiday resorts and shopping centers. By most estimates, the IRGC is Iran's third-largest corporation -- after the National Iranian Oil Company and the Imam Reza Endowment in the "holy" city of Mashhad, northeast of Tehran.

The Islamic Republic established by the Ayatollah Khomeini after the ouster of the Shah in 1979, is often labeled a "mullahrchy" -- a theocracy dominated by the Shiite clergy. The truth, however, is that a majority of Shiite clerics never converted to Khomeinism and did not endorse the Islamic Republic. In the past few years, especially since the election of President Ahmadinejad in 2005, those mullahs who converted to Khomeinism have lost some of their power and privileges. Today, the IRGC is the dominant force within the ruling establishment in Tehran. It is not a monolith, and to label all of it a "terrorist" organization as the Bush administration has done, may make it difficult to strike deals with parts of it when, and if, the opportunity arises.

A thorough analysis of the IRGC must take into account a number of facts. First, the IRGC is not a revolutionary army in the sense that the ALN was in Algeria or the Vietcong in Vietnam. Those were born during revolutionary wars in which they became key players.

The IRGC was created after the Khomeinist revolution had succeeded. This fact is of crucial importance. Those who joined the IRGC came from all sorts of backgrounds. The majority were opportunists. By joining the IRGC, they could not only obtain revolutionary credentials, often on fictitious grounds, but would also secure well-paying jobs, at a time that economic collapse made jobs rare.

Joining the IRGC enabled many who had cooperated with the ancien regime to rewrite their CVs and obtain "revolutionary virginity." Membership of the IRGC ensured access to rare goods and services, from color TVs to more decent housing. As the years went by, IRGC membership provided a fast track to social, political and economic success. Today, half of President Ahmadinejad's cabinet ministers are members of the IRGC, as is the president himself. IRGC members hold nearly a third of seats in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis), the ersatz parliament created in 1979. Twenty of Iran's 30 provinces have governors from the IRGC. IRGC members have also started capturing key posts in the diplomatic service. Today, for the first time, the Islamic Republic's ambassadors in such important places as the United Nations in New York and embassies in a dozen Western capitals are members of the IRGC.

But it is as an economic power that the IRGC weighs so heavily on Iranian politics. In 2004, a Tehran University study estimated the annual turnover of IRGC businesses at $12 billion with total net profits of $1.9 billion. The privatization package prepared by President Ahmadinejad is likely to increase the IRGC's economic clout. Almost all of the public-sector companies marked for privatization -- at a total value of $18 billion -- are likely to end up in the hands of the IRGC and its individual commanders.

The crown jewel of the IRGC's business empire is the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, which has cost the nation over $10 billion so far. This is part of a broader scheme of arms purchases and manufacture, which in total accounts for almost 11% of the annual national budget.

The IRGC also controls the lucrative business of "exporting the revolution" estimated to be worth $1.2 billion a year. It finances branches of the Hezbollah movement in at least 20 countries, including some in Europe, and provides money, arms and training for radical groups with leftist backgrounds. In recent years, it has emerged as a major backer of the armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas and both Shiite and Sunni armed groups in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The vehicle through which the IRGC "exports" revolution is a special unit known as The Quds (Jerusalem) Force. This consists of 15,000 highly trained men and women specializing in "martyrdom operations," a code word for guerrilla war, armed insurgency and terrorism. The Islamic Republic has invested some $20 billion in Lebanon since 1983. In most cases, the Lebanese branch of the Hezbollah is nominally in control. However, a closer examination reveals that in most cases the Lebanese companies are fronts for Iranian concerns controlled by the IRGC.

The IRGC is divided into five commands, each of which has a direct line to the Ayatollah Khamenei. To minimize the risk of coup d'etat, IRGC's senior officers are not allowed to engage in "sustained communication" with one another on "sensitive subjects." Of the five commands in question, two could be regarded as "terrorist" according to the U.S. State Department's definition that, needless to say, is rejected by the Islamic Republic.

One command is in charge of the already mentioned Quds Corps, which is waging indirect war against U.S. and allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apart from Hezbollah and Hamas, it also runs a number of radical groups across the globe.

The second command ensures internal repression. It operates through several auxiliary forces, including the notorious Karbala, Ashura and Al Zahra (an all female unit) brigades, which are charged with crushing popular revolt. Many Iranians see these as instruments of terror.

As a parallel to the regular army, the IRGC has its ground forces, navy and air force. It also controls the so-called Basij Mustadafin (mobilization of the dispossessed), a fanatical, semi-voluntary force of 90,000 full-time fighters that could be built up to 11 million according to its commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hejazi. The IRGC's own strength stands at 125,000 men. Its officers' corps, including those in retirement, numbers around 55,000 and is as divided on domestic and foreign policies as the rest of society.

Some IRGC former commanders who did not share the Islamic Republic's goals have already defected to the U.S. Hundreds of others have gone into low-profile exile, mostly as businessmen in the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Turkey. An unknown number were purged because they refused to kill anti-regime demonstrators in Iranian cities.

Many prominent IRGC commanders may be regarded as businessmen first and military leaders second. Usually, they have a brother or a cousin in Europe or Canada to look after their business interests and keep a channel open to small and big "satans" in case the regime falls.

A few IRGC commanders, including some at the top, do not relish a conflict with the U.S. that could destroy their business empires without offering Iran victory on the battlefield. Indeed, there is no guarantee that, in case of a major war, all parts of the IRGC would show the same degree of commitment to the system. IRGC commanders may be prepared to kill unarmed Iranians or hire Lebanese, Palestinian and Iraqi radicals to kill others. However, it is not certain they would be prepared to die for President Ahmadinejad's glory. These concerns persuaded Ayatollah Khamenei to announce a Defense Planning Commission last year, controlled by his office.

A blanket labeling of the IRGC as "terrorist," as opposed to targeting elements of it that terrorize the Iranian people and others in the region and beyond, could prove counterproductive. It may, in fact, unite a fractious force that could splinter into more manageable parts given the right incentives.

Inside Iran, the IRGC is known as pasdaran (vigilantes) and inspires a mixture of intense hatred and grudging admiration. While many Iranians see it as a monster protecting an evil regime, others believe that, when the crunch comes, it will side with the people against an increasingly repressive and unpopular regime.

Mr. Taheri is author of "L'Irak: Le Dessous Des Cartes" (Editions Complexe, 2002).

25387  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: November 15, 2007, 09:40:06 PM
Any comments or predictions on the UFC this weekend?

I'm curious to see if Houston "Nitrous" Alexander can keep his explosive run going.
25388  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jews on first? on: November 15, 2007, 09:37:18 PM
Jews on first?

http://www.veoh.com/videoDetails.html?v=e107067WHhNhRh4

and one more:

From: "Marc Denny" <craftydog@dogbrothers.com>
To: "Marc Denny" <craftydog@dogbrothers.com>
Subject: Fw: Great Jewish Parrot Joke
Date: Thursday, November 15, 2007 7:34 PM



Sent: Thursday, November 15, 2007 7:06 PM
Subject: Fw: Great Jewish Parrot Joke


The Jewish Parrot


Meyer, a lonely widower, was walking home along Delancy Street one day
wishing something wonderful would happen in his life, when he passed a
pet store and heard a squawking voice shouting out in Yiddish,
"Quawwwwk...vus machts du?"

Meyer rubbed his eyes and ears. Couldn't believe it.
Perfect Yiddish.

The proprietor urged him, "Come in here, fella, and check out this parrot..."

Meyer did. An African Grey cocked his little head and said: "Vus?
Kenst sprechen Yiddish?"

In a matter of moments, Meyer had placed five hundred dollars on the
counter and carried the parrot in his cage away with him. All night he
talked with the parrot. In Yiddish. He told the parrot about his
father's adventures coming to America. About how beautiful his late
wife, Sarah, was when she was a young bride. About his family. About
his years of working in the garment district. About Florida.

The parrot listened and commented.

They shared some walnuts.

The parrot told him of living in the pet store, how lonely he would
get on the weekends. They both went to sleep.

Next morning, Meyer began to put on his Tfillin, all the while saying
his prayers. The parrot demanded to know what he was doing and when
Meyer explained, the parrot wanted to do the same. Meyer went out and
had a miniature set of tfillin hand made for the parrot.

The parrot wanted to learn to daven and learned every prayer. He even
wanted to learn to read Hebrew.

So Meyer spent weeks and months, sitting and teaching the parrot,
teaching him Torah. In time, Meyer came to love and count on the
parrot as a friend and fellow Jew.

One morning, on Rosh Hashanah, Meyer rose and got dressed and was
about to leave when the parrot demanded to go with him. Meyer
explained that Shul was not a place for a bird, but the parrot made a
terrific argument, so Meyer relented and carried the bird to Shul on
his shoulder.

Needless to say, they made quite a spectacle, and Meyer was questioned
by everyone, including the Rabbi and the Cantor. They refused to allow
a bird into the building on the High Holy Days, but Meyer persuaded
them to let him in this one time, swearing that the parrot could
daven. Wagers were made with Meyer.


Thousands of dollars were bet that the parrot could NOT daven, could
not speak Yiddish or Hebrew, etc.

All eyes were on the African Grey during services. The parrot perched
on Meyer's shoulder as one prayer and song passed - Meyer heard not a
peep from the bird. He began to become annoyed, slapping at his
shoulder and mumbling under his breath, "Daven!"

Nothing.

"Daven...parrot, you can daven, so daven...come on, everyone is looking at you!"

Nothing.

After Rosh Hashanah services were concluded, Meyer found that he owed
his Shul buddies and the Rabbi over four thousand dollars..


He marched home, so upset he said nothing to the parrot.

Finally several blocks from the Temple the Parrot began to sing an old
Yiddish song, as happy as a lark.


Meyer stopped and looked at him.

"Why? After I had tfillin made for you and taught you the morning
prayers, and taught you to read Hebrew and the Torah. And after you
begged me to bring you to Shul on Rosh Hashana, why? WHY?!? Why did
you do this to me?"

"Meyer, don't be a schmuck," the parrot replied. "Think of the odds
we'll get on Yom Kippur!"

25389  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ron Paul recieves police support on: November 15, 2007, 07:56:19 PM
NATION'S COPS APPLAUD PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE RON PAUL




By Jim Kouri
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
November 14, 2007
NewsWithViews.com
While most of the politicians vying for their party's nomination for President of the United States pay lip service to the nation's law enforcement officers, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) is actually doing something to earn the respect and gratitude of America's cops, according to many police officers and organizations.
For example, the American Federation of Police -- with well over 100,000 members -- recently praised Ron Paul for introducing a bill that would help cops obtain topnotch body armor that would withstand rounds fired from most firearms. Rep. Paul's bill -- HR 3304 -- would amend the Internal Revenue Code to provide for a tax credit to law enforcement officers who purchase their own body armor.
"I urge all police officers and concerned citizens to contact their congressmen and ask them to support Rep. Paul's bill," said Deputy Sheriff Dennis Wise, president of the American Federation of Police.
"I would also like to applaud Congressman Ron Paul for his support and forward thinking in trying to help make law enforcement officers across our nation safer each day," said Wise.
Rep. Ron Paul appears to be popular with many US cops. "He's never found it necessary to force police officers to stand with him for photo opportunities the way other presidential candidates such as Hillary Clinton do," said New York Police Officer Edna Aguayo.
One police officer claims cops in New York and other states are forced to pose with the likes of Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain. If an officer refuses, he or she is charged with insubordination by their superiors.
"It's a joke how these cops are used as props during election campaigns. But Ron Paul doesn't pay cops lip service -- he actually works to help them enforce the law," said another cop forced to pose with Sen. Clinton during one of her staged "rallies."
Public opinion service Rasmussen Reports recently released data from its October 12-14 polling that indicates that Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul leads his GOP opponents against Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton among likely voters ages 30-49. He is the leading White House contender for the key demographic, polling higher than Clinton among baby boomers. Congressman Paul polls in at 47%, compared with Clinton's 44%, among likely voters aged 40-49.

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The 30-49 demographic has been a key indicator in recent elections, and one in which Republicans tend to fare well in hotly-contested elections. In 2004, exit polls reveal that George Bush beat John Kerry 53% to 46% among 30-44 year olds, and all accounts indicate that this will be the most instrumental demographic in the 2008 presidential election as well.
"Ron Paul is the only Republican candidate who can beat Hillary Clinton," claims political strategist Kent Snyder.
More than 3,000 police officers' lives have been saved by body armor since the mid-1970s when the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) began testing and developing body armor and performance standards for ballistic and stab resistance. Recognition and acceptance of the NIJ standard has grown worldwide, making it the performance benchmark for ballistic-resistant body armor.
Body armor can provide protection against a significant number of types of handgun ammunition, but law enforcement personnel must keep in mind that armor is categorized and rated for different threat levels. Additional protection should be worn for SWAT team operations, hostage rescues, or Special Operations assignments, when officers may be exposed to a weapon threat greater than the protection provided by regular duty armor, according to the National Institute of Justice.
Rank-and-file police officers also applaud Rep. Paul for his pro-sovereignty stance. "The talk must stop. We must secure our borders now. A nation without secure borders is no nation at all. It makes no sense to fight terrorists abroad when our own front door is left unlocked," said the Texas congressman during a campaign rally.

In addition, Congressman Ron Paul believes that the Second Amendment is "not about duck hunting." It is an individual right that is guaranteed. He stated that he believes it is about the citizenry having the ability to restrain tyrannical governments and would be dictators.
He believes the Second Amendment is about self-defense from criminal attack and from governments that break away from the chains of the Constitution. According to a poll conducted by the National Association of Chiefs of Police, more than 75% of the nation's police officers agree with Rep. Paul's stance on gun ownership including private citizens carrying concealed weapons for personal protection.
 
Just recently Congressman Paul opposed the reauthorization of the Clinton-Feinstein semi-auto gun ban. He opposes gun and gunowner registration. And Paul opposes government permission systems that force law-abiding citizens "prove" their innocence before buying or owning firearms.
AFP president Dennis Wise agrees with Rep. Paul's stance on gun control. "When our founding fathers assembled to write one of the greatest papers ever written -- our Constitution -- they put down the amendments ... in the order of their importance," said Wise.

25390  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Washington protects the Terror Masters on: November 15, 2007, 05:49:40 PM
Washington Protects the Terror Masters
by Daniel Pipes
Jerusalem Post
November 15, 2007
http://www.danielpipes.org/article/5124

[JP title: Washington's conflicting signals]

The Bush administration's counterterrorism policies appear tough, but inside the courtroom, they evaporate, consistently favoring not American terror victims, but foreign terrorists.

Consider a civil lawsuit arising from a September 1997 suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Hamas claimed credit for five dead and 192 wounded, including several Americans. On the grounds that the Islamic Republic of Iran had financed Hamas, five injured Americans students sued it for damages.

Expert testimony established the regime's culpability during a four-day trial, leading Judge Ricardo M. Urbina, under the Flatow Amendment of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, to fine the Iranian government and its Revolutionary Guard Corps US$251 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

The plaintiffs looked for Iranian government assets in the United States to seize, in accord with the little-known section, 201a of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, which states that "Notwithstanding any other provision of law … in every case in which a person has obtained a judgment against a terrorist party on a claim based upon an act of terrorism … the blocked assets of that terrorist party … shall be subject to execution."

 
An ancient Iranian fragment similar to the ones in legal dispute in a terrorism case.
 
 
Finding Iranian assets, however, proved no easy task, as most of them had been withdrawn by the Iranian authorities after the embassy hostage crisis of 1979-81. Therefore, the victims' lead lawyer, David Strachman of Providence, R.I., devised some creative approaches, such as intercepting the imminent return of ancient Iranian clay tablets on loan to the University of Chicago for up to seventy years.

Strachman found just one significant cache of Iranian government money: approximately $150,000 at the Bank of New York, in an account belonging to Bank Melli, Iran's largest bank and a fully-owned subsidiary of the regime. However, when the plaintiffs sued for these funds, BoNY filed a federal lawsuit asking for a legal determination what to do with its Bank Melli assets.

The victims' task in this case may have appeared easy, given that the U.S. government (1) views Bank Melli as an "wholly-owned instrumentality" of the Iranian government and it (2) considers that government a "terrorist party."

But no, the U.S. Department of Justice "entered this case as amicus curiae in support of Bank Melli." It did so, explained a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, "to vindicate a correct reading" of the U.S. regulation. Its amicus brief appears decisively to have influenced the trial judge, Denise Cote, who adopted the joint Bank Melli-Justice Department position in toto and ruled in March 2006 against the funds being awarded to the victims. The latter appealed to the Second Circuit Court, but it too sided with the Justice Department, dismissing the suit in April 2007.

Its funds then in the clear, Bank Melli immediately removed them all from BoNY and transferred them beyond U.S. jurisdiction.

The story does not end there. On October 25, the State Department announced that Bank Melli would henceforth be cut off from the U.S. financial system because it "provides banking services to entities involved in Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs" by facilitating "numerous purchases of sensitive materials." Further, it found that Bank Melli "was used to send at least $100 million" to Iran's terrorist fronts, including those which had trained the Hamas members who perpetrated the 1997 Jerusalem bombing.

This incompetent outrage – Washington first helping Bank Melli, then sanctioning it – fits a larger pattern of federal agencies advocating in court on behalf of terrorists.

Justice tried to shield Tehran from victims' claims in the University of Chicago case.
It opposed the attachment of a mere $10,000 of Iranian funds to one 1997 victim family; and, when the family won in district court, it appealed the verdict.
It interceded in Ungar v. Hamas to prevent the orphaned victims' attachment of $5 million belonging to the Holy Land Foundation, a Texas organization prosecuted as a Hamas front.
In Ungar v. PLO and PA, the State Department rescued the Palestine Liberation Organization when the Ungars tried to enforce their $116 million judgment against a PLO-owned office building in Manhattan.
Is there not something deeply flawed about the U.S. government consistently siding with terrorists and, according to Strachman, "never once supporting terrorism victims to collect their judgments in court"? One hopes it will not require a new terrorist catastrophe to fix these misguided policies.

Other items in category Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy
Other items in category Counter-terrorism
Other items in category Terrorism
Other items in category US policy
25391  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: November 15, 2007, 04:43:36 PM
Justice for Sale
How special-interest money threatens the integrity of our courts.

BY SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR
Thursday, November 15, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Voters generally don't express much interest in the election of judges. This year, as in years past, voter turnout in elections for judges was very low. But judicial elections, which occur in some form in 39 states, are receiving growing attention from those who seek to influence them. In fact, motivated interest groups are pouring money into judicial elections in record amounts. Whether or not they succeed in their attempts to sway the voters, these efforts threaten the integrity of judicial selection and compromise public perception of judicial decisions.

The final four candidates running for open seats on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania raised more than $5.4 million combined in 2007, shattering fund-raising records in Pennsylvania judicial elections. Since 2006, high court campaigns in Georgia, Kentucky, Oregon and Washington also set fund-raising records. Since 2004, nine other states broke records for high court election spending.

Most of this money comes from special interest groups who believe that their contributions can help elect judges likely to rule in a manner favorable to their causes. As interest-group spending rises, public confidence in the judiciary declines. Nine out of 10 Pennsylvanians regard judicial fund raising as evidence that justice is for sale, and many judges agree. According to a nationwide survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Institute, partisan judicial elections decrease public confidence that courts are fair, impartial and operating in the best interest of the American people.

The first step that a state like Pennsylvania can take to reverse this trend is replace the partisan election of its judges with a merit-selection system, or at least with a nonpartisan system in which the candidates do not affiliate with political parties. In a typical merit-based system, an independent commission of knowledgeable citizens recommends several qualified candidates suitable for appointment by the governor of the state. After several years of service, the appointed judge's name is then submitted to the voters for an up or down vote known as a retention election.
The second step a state can take is set up campaign-conduct committees to educate voters and the media about the criteria people should use to select judges. These committees can also publicize accurate information about the sources of big contributions, providing the kind of transparency that allows voters to decide whether a judicial candidate's impartiality may be compromised by her contributors. Finally, the committees can flag inappropriate campaign conduct and provide information to help voters interpret charges made in campaign advertising sound bites.

The boundary of decency was certainly crossed in Pennsylvania this year when a candidate for the Supreme Court was called "the drug dealer's choice" by the opposing political party because of a decision that she had made to overturn a conviction based on an illegal search. Campaign-conduct committees can help restore a little perspective when the going gets too rough in judicial races.

The third step a state can take is distribute voter education pamphlets to provide accurate and unbiased information about the qualifications of a judicial candidate. Voter education guides can provide information about relevant qualifications that are often left out of campaign ads and meager media coverage.

These three reforms will help, but will not solve the problem of direct interest-group attacks on judicial candidates. Pennsylvania's experience demonstrates this problem. In addition to the contested Supreme Court seats, 67 state judges were up for retention election in Pennsylvania this year. Retention elections are historically very low profile, but they became contentious in 2007 when a small but organized grass-roots campaign sought to oust all but one of the judges whose names were before the voters because the judges had accepted a legislatively enacted pay raise rather than returning the money to the state treasury. They attacked the judges as "pigs in robes," conjuring images of greedy out-of-control politicians.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania voters were not swayed by the spurious attack, but that doesn't mean that the attacks weren't harmful, as they were essentially all anyone heard about Pennsylvania's 2007 retention elections. One of the dangers of low media coverage and high interest-group spending is that voters hear only from activists who have targeted a particular judicial race. The Pennsylvania retention races show how easily the issues in judicial elections can be controlled by special interests.

Special interest appeals to emotion and policy preferences tempt voters to join efforts to control the decisions of judges. Voters are less likely to devote themselves to the core value of judicial independence, because when judges apply the law fairly and impartially they cannot guarantee the outcome any particular voter might want. But fair and impartial judging is an essential part of our government, and must be preserved.

In the long term, a commitment to judicial independence will only come from robust civics education, starting at a very young age. Today, only a little more than one-third of Americans can name the three branches of government--much less explain the balance of power among them. If we lose appreciation for our government's structure and the role of the judiciary within it, it is only a matter of time before the judicial branch becomes just another political arm of the government. With the stakes so high, we cannot wait until the election cycle to educate the citizenry. We must start with civics education in our nation's schools.
Perhaps children can understand the role of a fair and impartial judiciary better than any of us. Children depend on their teachers, their parents and their sports referees to know the rules and to apply them fairly. Thus schools are the ideal place for the life-long process of civics education to begin. In the meantime, we need to look at practical short-term reforms that will restore public confidence in the selection of state judges.

Justice O'Connor is a retired associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

25392  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: November 15, 2007, 04:33:22 PM
A court in the ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia is punishing a female victim of gang rape with 200 lashes and six months in jail, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

The 19-year-old woman -- whose six armed attackers have been sentenced to jail terms -- was initially ordered to undergo 90 lashes for "being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the rape," the Arab News reported.

But in a new verdict issued after Saudi Arabia's Higher Judicial Council ordered a retrial, the court in the eastern town of Al-Qatif more than doubled the number of lashes to 200.

A court source told the English-language Arab News that the judges had decided to punish the woman further for "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media."

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict Islamic doctrine known as Wahhabism and forbids unrelated men and women from associating with each other, bans women from driving and forces them to cover head-to-toe in public.

Last year, the court sentenced six Saudi men to between one and five years in jail for the rape as well as ordering lashes for the victim, a member of the minority Shiite community.

But the woman's lawyer Abdul Rahman al-Lahem appealed, arguing that the punishments were too lenient in a country where the offence can carry the death penalty.

In the new verdict issued on Wednesday, the Al-Qatif court also toughened the sentences against the six men to between two and nine years in prison.

The case has angered members of Saudi Arabia's Shiite community. The convicted men are Sunni Muslims, the dominant community in the oil-rich Gulf state.

Lahem, also a human rights activist, told AFP on Wednesday that the court had banned him from handling the rape case and withdrew his licence to practise law because he challenged the verdict.

He said he has also been summoned by the ministry of justice to appear before a disciplinary committee in December.

Lahem said the move might be due to his criticism of some judicial institutions, and "contradicts King Abdullah's quest to introduce reform, especially in the justice system."

King Abdullah last month approved a new body of laws regulating the judicial system in Saudi Arabia, which rules on the basis of sharia, or Islamic law.


Copyright AFP 2007, AFP stories and photos shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium
25393  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: November 18, 2007 Dog Bros Gathering of the Pack on: November 15, 2007, 04:18:17 PM
Woof All:

An eagle-eyed reader has noted that we failed to mention in the invitation the admission of $15 and the starting time of 11:00 AM.

TAC,
CD
25394  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Gathering! Fighters thread on: November 15, 2007, 04:08:29 PM
Speaking of that JCVD fight scene in Lionheart-- his opponent in that fight was Stuart , , , Wilson (?) who was a buddy in my days in the mid 80s with Paul Vunak.  His dad was Mr. Whipple in the Charmin toilet paper ads ("Don't squeeze the Charmin").

But I digress , , ,

I'm playing phone tag with Nigel over at OP about the wall , , ,
25395  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The ping goes on , , , on: November 15, 2007, 10:44:01 AM
http://www.theaviationnation.com/200...d-with-mirror/

(U//FOUO) Suspicious Activity Onboard Flight to Milwaukee
(U//FOUO) On 24 October 2007, crewmembers aboard a Reagan-Washington National to Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport flight reported to a Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) flying in non-mission status that they noticed suspicious behavior by four passengers.
One of the subjects entered and exited the rear aircraft lavatory three times and failed to comply with crewmembers' verbal instructions. The FFDO seated himself near this subject to observe his behavior. Shortly afterward, two more of the subjects moved into the aisles and entered both lavatories. After one of the subjects vacated the rear left lavatory, the FFDO searched it, noting that the mirror above the sink was not properly latched.
He exited the lavatory and a fourth subject was waiting second in line with a passenger in front of him. The FFDO offered the fourth subject access to the right lavatory, but the subject declined, claiming the right lavatory was dirty.The FFDO noted the right lavatory was clean, and the subject reluctantly entered the right lavatory and remained there for an extended period of time. (TSA/SD-10-3849-07)
(U//FOUO) TSA Office of Intelligence Comment: Although there is no information that the aircraft was being specifically targeted for a future terrorist attack, the actions of the four passengers are highly suspicious. FFDO confirmation of possible tampering of the lavatory mirror in one of the lavatories could be indicative of an attempt to locate concealment areas for smuggling criminal contraband or terrorist materials. In this case, it appears the left lavatory was the sole area of interest for the passengers. One subject's excuse that the right lavatory was dirty when it was confirmed to be clean shows the four passengers had a specific, operational objective. Although unconfirmed at this time, this incident has many of the elements of pre-operational terrorist planning.
Source: TSA Suspicious Incidents Report #177
25396  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on taxation on: November 15, 2007, 08:33:11 AM
"Excessive taxation...will carry reason and reflection to every
man's door, and particularly in the hour of election."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Taylor, 1798)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Memorial Edition),
Lipscomb and Bergh, eds., 10:64.
25397  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Gathering! Fighters thread on: November 14, 2007, 03:27:33 PM
Folks:

OP is wanting out of setting up a wall again.  I liked having it, but want to ask everyone: Is this something that matters to us? 

TAC,
CD
25398  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Gathering! Fighters thread on: November 14, 2007, 12:49:28 PM
One of the EMTs who will be there suggests bringing "Crazy Glue" for temp repair of any severe cuts.

Also, Tricky Dog sends his regrets.  He mentions he plans to be at the Summer Gathering with shield and spear, shield and stick.
25399  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: November 14, 2007, 12:44:33 PM
The birth rate numbers stated in the article are quite extraordinary-- working from memory here of my reading of Mark Steyn's "America Alone", Germany is a disaster at 1.3 and Spain is in a virtual spiral down the drain at 1.1 (2.1 is the level at which a population maintains), but .66?!?  After 6.5?!?  If I calculate correctly, at 6.5 rate means that there was a population growth rate of 4.4%!!!  Still working from memory, when I studied Mexico in the seventies its pop growth rate was 3.6 or so (which was considered off the charts, and 4.4% is roughly 4/3 of that rate!!!)  and that the numbers cranked out to half its population being 16 years of age or less. 

I must say that I find both numbers highly unusual and would like to see some sort of confirmation elsewhere.
25400  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson , Franklin on: November 14, 2007, 11:03:21 AM
“Newspapers... serve as chimnies to carry off noxious vapors and smoke.” —Thomas Jefferson

"Be in general virtuous, and you will be happy."

-- Benjamin Franklin (letter to John Alleyne, 9 August 1768)

Reference: The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Sparks, ed., vol. 7
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