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25551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Long term flux on: April 28, 2011, 06:42:35 AM
The Middle East in Long-Term Flux

There are days when disparate events in multiple countries offer key insights into the trajectory of the wider region. Tuesday was one of them. A number of significant developments took place in the Middle East – a region that in the past four months has become far more turbulent than it has been in the last decade. Let us start with Egypt, where the provisional military authority appears to be considering a radical foreign policy move in re-establishing ties with Iran. It is too early to say whether such a rapprochement will materialize, but the country’s interim premier, Essam Sharaf, who is on a tour of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), sought to reassure his Persian Gulf Arab hosts that revived Egyptian-Iranian ties would not undermine their security. Having successfully dealt with popular unrest at home, the military of Egypt appears to be on a path to reassert Cairo onto the regional scene, and revitalizing relations with an emergent Iran is likely a key aspect of this strategy.

Egypt, being far removed from the Persian Gulf region, does not have the same concerns about Iran that its fellow Sunni Arab states on the Arabian Peninsula do. It can therefore afford to have ties with the clerical regime. The Egyptians are also watching how the GCC states are unable to effectively deal with a rising Tehran and are thus seeing the need to become involved in the issue. However, unlike the Khaleeji Arabs, they do not think confrontation is the way forward. Establishing ties with Iran also allows Egypt to undercut Syria, which thus far is the only Arab state to have close relations with the Persian Islamist state.

“Iran wants to dispense with the unfinished business of Iraq, allowing it to focus on the other side of the Persian Gulf where turmoil in places like Bahrain offers potential opportunities of historic proportions.”
Meanwhile, Syria faces growing public agitation and its future looks uncertain. Damascus is caught in a dilemma — its use of force to quell the popular demonstrations has only aggravated matters. Placating the masses through reforms is also risky for the future well-being of the regime. Faced with bad options, it has largely focused on using force to try and neutralize the opposition — a move that has its northern neighbor, Turkey, concerned about turmoil on its southern borders (turmoil that could easily spread to Lebanon). This is why on Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he will send a delegation to the Syrian capital to try to help defuse the situation.

Growing instability in Syria, however, is beginning to be an issue for the Turks. In Iraq, the Turks have long been caught in the middle of an intensifying U.S.-Iranian struggle. And on Tuesday, that struggle took an interesting turn with reports that the Iraqi prime minister is considering ways in which his government could allow American troops to remain in his country while not upsetting his patrons in Iran. It will be difficult to strike such a compromise given that Iran is anxiously waiting for the withdrawal of American forces from its western neighbor so it can move to consolidate its influence there unencumbered.

Iran wants to dispense with the unfinished business of Iraq, allowing it to focus on the other side of the Persian Gulf, where turmoil in places like Bahrain offers potential opportunities of historic proportions. While its arch regional nemesis, Saudi Arabia, seems to have things under control in the Shiite-majority Arab island kingdom for now, the situation there is not tenable given that the demographics work in favor of Iran. A more immediate concern for the Saudis in relation to the Arabian Peninsula is the serious potential for a meltdown of the Yemeni state.

Riyadh and its GCC allies have been working overtime trying to broker a deal in Yemen whereby beleaguered President Ali Abdullah Saleh can step down and hand over power to a transitional coalition government. On Tuesday, it was announced that the deal is supposed to be signed next Monday in the Saudi capital. Given the complex fault lines separating the various players in the largely tribal country, the chances of Yemen undergoing an orderly transfer of power remain low. In fact, because of the complexity and number of actors involved in the process, the likelihood of civil war remains high.

Ultimately, the prospects of turmoil on the Arabian Peninsula and Levant remain high. Egypt, Turkey and Iran – to varying degrees – could benefit in the long term. In the short term, we are looking at a slow but steady spread of instability throughout the region, rendering it precarious for years to come.

25552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Poltical Privacy under attack by BO. on: April 27, 2011, 02:27:51 PM
Suppose that during the civil rights movement segregationist governors ordered all state contractors to disclose their political donations in an attempt to expose civil rights supporters to harassment and retaliation. The Supreme Court would have had none of it.

In NAACP v. Alabama (1958), the court barred Alabama from forcing the NAACP to disclose its members. Those justices would have struck down a similar effort to force the release of the NAACP's financial supporters. They would have rightly viewed it as an infringement of the constitutional right to free association and free speech.

Today President Obama is ignoring the lessons of the civil rights era he claims to revere. According to a draft executive order leaked last week, Mr. Obama plans to require any company seeking a federal contract to disclose its executives' political contributions over $5,000—not just to candidates, but to any group that might make "independent expenditure" or "electioneering communication" advertisements.

If a small businesswoman wants to sell paper clips to the Defense Department, Mr. Obama would force her to reveal contributions to groups such as Planned Parenthood or the National Rifle Association. These donations are obviously irrelevant to whether she made the most reliable bid at the lowest price. The only purpose of the executive order is to dangle the specter of retaliation (by losing her contracts) and harassment (from political opponents).

It would be comforting if this order had been some aberration produced from somewhere deep in the bowels of the federal bureaucracy. Unfortunately, it was not. This order represents the latest salvo in the Obama administration's war on the First Amendment rights of its political opponents.

The conflict goes back to January 2010, with the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The court held as unconstitutional the McCain-Feingold Act's limits on the political spending of corporations, unions and other groups. Mr. Obama struck back, claiming that the decision "strikes at our democracy itself." He trotted out the usual suspects—"big oil, Wall Street banks, health-insurance companies and other powerful interests"—as the winners. He promised that the White House would "talk with bipartisan congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision."

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Getty Images
 .There was no bipartisanship, but there was certainly a forceful response. Democrats proposed the Disclose Act, which would have muzzled political speech by prohibiting federal contractors from making contributions to federal candidates or parties. Though the act failed to overcome a filibuster last year in the Senate, its supporters remain undeterred.

Having failed to undo Citizens United by legislation, Mr. Obama apparently believes that he can veto the Supreme Court by naked presidential fiat. But before the administration barrels through with this attempt to suppress corporate political activity, it would do well to revisit NAACP v. Alabama.

The court declared that the privacy of group membership and political activity were critical to the "effective advocacy of both public and private points of view, particularly controversial ones." Privacy can be critical for free speech. "Inviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs," Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote for a unanimous court.

The court went on to recite a litany of potential retaliation—"economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercion, and other manifestations of public hostility"—that could deter people from publicly supporting the NAACP. It did not matter, the justices observed, that the harassment would likely come from "private community pressures." What mattered is that such pressure would be prompted by "the initial exertion of state power."

Our era of instant mass communication exponentially multiplies this threat. Supporters of California's Proposition 8, which bars gay marriage, have faced relentless harassment after a federal court refused to bar the disclosure of their identities in 2009. Opponents promptly created a website that used the Prop 8 list to create a map of donors' homes. Widespread intimidation followed: Some Prop 8 supporters were fired from their jobs, and several of their businesses were boycotted.

Mr. Obama's executive order threatens to replicate the Prop 8 experience on a nationwide scale. In fact, it requires the release of contractors' political contributions in a publicly available electronic database to be posted online as soon as possible. It shouldn't matter here that disclosure would be the price for doing business with the government. In B oy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000), the Supreme Court made it clear that a group did not have to give up its right to associate in exchange for some government benefit.

Civil libertarians and liberals have so far been mum in the face of Mr. Obama's executive order. They're likely justifying their silence on the basis that businesses—not unions—will suffer. But if the president succeeds in reducing the free-speech rights of business today, it will be far easier to limit the same rights of other Americans tomorrow.

Imagine the outcry we'll hear from self-described First Amendment supporters when every professor applying for a government research grant has to disclose his political donations.

Mr. Marston is a lawyer and former U.S. attorney in Philadelphia. Mr. Yoo, a law professor at the University of California Berkeley and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, served in the George W. Bush Justice Department.

25553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ/Joffe: In case Andraz does not have enough to which to respond :-) on: April 27, 2011, 02:06:17 PM

In politics, shoddy theories never die. In the Middle East, one of the oldest is that Palestine is the "core" regional issue. This zombie should have been interred at the beginning of the Arab Spring, which has highlighted the real core conflict: the oppressed vs. their oppressors. But the dead keep walking.

"The plight of the Palestinians has been a root cause of unrest and conflict in the region," insisted Turkish President Abdullah Gul in the New York Times last week. "Whether these [recent] uprisings lead to democracy and peace or to tyranny and conflict will depend on forging a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace." Naturally, "the U.S. has a long overdue responsibility" to forge that peace.

Writing in the Financial Times, former U.S. National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft intoned: "The nature of the new Middle East cannot be known until the festering sore of the occupied territories is removed." Read: The fate of democracy hinges on Palestine.

So do "Iran's hegemonic ambitions," he insinuated. This is why Tehran reaches for the bomb? Syria, too, will remain a threat "as long as there is no regional peace agreement." The Assad regime is slaughtering its own people for the sake of Palestine? And unless Riyadh "saw the U.S. as moving in a serious manner" on Palestine, Mr. Scowcroft warned, the Saudis might really sour on their great protector from across the sea. So when they sent troops into Bahrain, were they heading for Jerusalem by way of Manama?

Shoddy political theories—ideologies, really—never die because they are immune to the facts. The most glaring is this: These revolutions have unfolded without the usual anti-American and anti-Israeli screaming. It's not that the demonstrators had run out of Stars and Stripes to trample, or were too concerned about the environment to burn Benjamin Netanyahu in effigy. It's that their targets were Hosni Mubarak, Zine el Abidine Ben-Ali, Moammar Gadhafi and the others—no stooges of Zionism they. In Benghazi, the slogan was: "America is our friend!"

The men and women of the Arab Spring are not risking their lives for a "core" issue, but for the freedom of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria. And of Iran, as the Green revolutionaries did in Tehran in 2009.

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Associated Press
Syrian anti-government protesters march during a demonstration in Banias, Syria, on April 17.
.Every "Palestine-first" doctrine in the end comes down to that fiendish "Arab Street": The restless monster must be fed with Israeli concessions lest he rise and sweep away our good friends—all those dictators and despots who pretended to stand between us and Armageddon. Free Palestine, the dogma goes, and even Iran and Syria will turn from rabid to responsible. The truth is that the American and Israeli flags were handed out for burning by those regimes themselves.

This is how our good friends have stayed in power: Divert attention and energy from oppression and misery at home by rousing the masses against the enemy abroad. How can we have free elections, runs a classic line, as long as they despoil our sacred Islamic lands? This is why anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism are as rampant among our Saudi and Egyptian allies as among the hostile leaders of Iran and Syria.

The Palestinians do deserve their own state. But the Palestine-first strategy reverses cause and effect. It is not the core conflict that feeds the despotism; it is the despots who fan the conflict, even as they fondle their U.S.-made F-16s and quietly work with Israel. Their peoples are the victims of this power ploy, not its drivers. This is what the demonstrators of Tahrir Square and the rebels of Benghazi have told us with their silence on the Palestine issue.

So Palestine has nothing to do with it? It does, though not in the ways insisted by Messrs. Gul and Scowcroft. The sounds of silence carry a different message: "It's democracy, stupid!" Freedom does not need the enemy at the gate. Despots do, which is why they happily let the Palestinian sore fester for generations.

Israel, which has reacted in utter confusion to the fall of Mubarak, might listen up as well. If democracies don't have to "busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels," as Shakespeare has it in Henry IV, then Israel's reformed neighbors might at last be ready for real, not just cold peace. Mr. Mubarak was not. Nor is Mr. Assad of Syria, who has refused every Israeli offer to hand back the Golan Heights. If you rule at the head of a tiny Alawite minority, why take the Heights and give away a conflict that keeps you in power? Peace at home—justice, jobs and consent—makes for peace abroad.

Still, don't hold your breath. Yes, democracy is where history is going, but it is a long, perilous journey even from Tunis to Tripoli, let alone all the way to Tehran.

Mr. Joffe is senior fellow at the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies and a fellow at the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford.

25554  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / RH Lee 1786 ; James Madison 1824 on: April 27, 2011, 10:47:32 AM

"It is certainly true that a popular government cannot flourish without virtue in the people." --Richard Henry Lee, letter to Colonel Martin Pickett, 1786

"I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that is not the guide in expounding it, there may be no security." --James Madison, letter to Henry Lee, 1824
25555  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: April 27, 2011, 10:22:54 AM
Trump is an alpha male, Obama , , , what's this phrase his people have been using recently?  Obama "leads from (or is it "with his") behind."

Trump has what it takes temperamentally to spank a Meredith Veira and the rest of the Pravda press and to speak up FOR the United States.  Its just that he stands for himself more than anything else and as expression thereof has a long history of positions whose only principle seems to be his own self-interest.

I saw Pawlenty interviewed last night on Bret Baier Report.  Good job.
25556  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / At long last long form revealed on: April 27, 2011, 10:17:57 AM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Wed, April 27, 2011 -- 9:24 AM ET

White House Releases Long Form of President Obama's Hawaii Birth Certificate

President Obama posted a copy of his "long form" birth
certificate, hoping to finally end a long-simmering
conspiracy theory among some conservatives that he was not
born in the United States and was not a legitimate president.

The birth certificate, which is posted online at the White
House website, shows conclusively that Mr. Obama was born in
Honolulu, Hawaii, and is signed by state officials and his

Read More:

25557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The conversation continues , , , on: April 27, 2011, 10:16:36 AM
AB said: "In the Modern era, apart from a few natural disasters, the only reason for Jews immigrating (emmigrating?) from "Arab countries“ is because of the Ottoman restrictions on Zionist land acquisition and immigration. Settler numbers prior to that are marginal, compared to the Aliyah migrations from Europe."

I'm not sure I understand here.  Concerning "Ottoman restrictions on Zionist land acquistion":  Wouldn't it be more accurate here to say "Jewish" than to say "Zionist"?  Did the Ottoman Empire allow Jews who were not Zionists to acquire land? I find that doubtful.  What then is the point/purpose for saying "Zionist" instead of saying "Jewish"? Is it to avoid having to acknowledge an example of the oppressive nature of dhimmitude throughout much/most/all the Ottoman Empire especially in the Arab regions?

Anyway, the point is tangential to the one that I was seeking to make:  That upon the creation of the Jewish State of Israel by the United Nations there was massive Jewish emmigration from the oppressive nature of dhimmitude in Arab lands to Israel and that the numbers involved rival the numbers coming from Europe.  I apologize for not being the scholar that you are in these matters Andrew and so lack citations, but my intended underlying point is to undercut the assertion sometimes made that Israel's creation is due simply to Europe dumping its Jews on the Arabs.

AB said "About the killings, and terror attacks etc. I post this table from 2008, about the „effectiveness“ of the Palestinian war machine "

Although wikipedia is adequate for many kinds of citations, for others, particularly controversial issues such as the one we are discussing here, IMHO it is less than definitive.  Just as we have cited in this thread how youtube is systematically removing material supportive of the Israel and Jews (due to intimidation?) given what I understand to be the nature of how Wikipedia works, it seems to me that the same forces can be at work.  As one of GM's posts point out (accurately and fairly in my opinion) there are widely believed falsehoods against Israel out there about many things and and I am not ready to grant the accuracy of numbers skewed as heavily as these are.   Indeed in one of your citations, the ratio is more like 3-1 instead of the numbers here.

That said, I agree that more Palestinians have been killed by the IDF than Israelis have been killed by Palestinians, a datum which is cited by some as an indication of , , , I'm not sure what-- moral virtue (!) on the part of the Palestinians?   The logic eludes me.  Does Israel have to wait for the efficacy of rockets launched from Gaza and suicidal kills to rise to higher death levels before acting to abate these attacks from an entity led by a democratically elected group (Hamas) formally dedicated to the destruction of Israel?  Does not Israel have a right of self-defense?!?

I said: "Yet despite all their genocidal attacks on the Jews, good people such as yourself do not hold the Palestinians to blame for the natural consequences of their actions.  Indeed you speak of the Jews surrounding the Arabs/Palestinians!?!

AB responded:  "I will not comment on the video links, I do not consider this type of argumenting viable for such a seriously delicate topic. Likewise I can return the favor with the link to the Massada2000 website and the s.h.i.t. list, and give you a counter argument for the frightenly imbecilic zionistic groups, but where would that lead us ?"

I have heard of Zionist groups that Israeli friends tell me go too far, but they are stuff of the internet, not on official state TV of Israel as the Palestian clips I posted are on official West Bank TV-- so my reponse is that the comparison you seek to make is not valid.

Then there is the matter of "Who started it?"  If we were to look at WW2 post D-day, the Allies certainly were imposing more casualties than they were receiving-- yet no one (I hope!) would use that datum to suggest that they were the aggressors (Russia excepted!!!)  

The starting point needs to be that the the Arabs Surrounding Israel (hereinafter ASIs be they Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian, West Bankers, Gazans, Egyptians) have sought to wipe out Israel-- which was created by the United Nations.  Israel has defended itself-- righteously and effectively.  THAT IS A GOOD THING.  As is the case when aggressors lose wars, they sometimes lose land from which they launched their attacks. Those who accepted Israel's right to exist (Egypt) got their land back.  Those who persisted in trying to wipe out Israel didn't.  After years of murderous, indeed evil deliberate targeting of Jewish women and children, yes some Jewish groups have concluded that peace is not possible and that efforts at peace will be met with taquiya in preparation for the day when pretenses can be dropped and so hard-core, hard-line thought can be found, though the overwhelming majority of Israelis would be delighted to have genuine partners in peace.

AB said "You saw them purely as terrorists, I posted that, as a balance check to the other side, whereas in reality my personal opinions on the whole matter are very mixed, and quite frankly, not appropriate for this portion of the forum."

Well, that certainly is an intriguing dangle!  And as the host here, I give you the green light to say what your personal feelings are.

Next: Thank you for this citation

AB said "I'm writing my ass off here, thinking and argumenting my point, but for you linking articles and sources that support your view on things is a self suficient argument in a debate.Actually I would rather call shoving other peoples opinions down your collegues throats,  indoctrination."

Well, you are not the first person around here to have commented on GM's propensity to post articles without personal commentary of his own! smiley  Indeed, on occasion I have been amongst those so commenting smiley  That said, I can also see the point of not wanting to get in the way of the expression of a journalist or writer who addresses the questions raised in an authoritative manner and in the case at hand here I think the articles GM cites are quite on point and well-reasoned; indeed I invite you to address the points they make or to share quality pieces which do address the points in question.

I'd also like to remind all of us (ahem GM, AB, and , , , um , , , me  smiley ) that this is by its nature a subject subjected to intense emotions and that in some cases we come from different cultures which may or may not have subtly different understandings as to what constitutes good manners in communication.  Let us avoid making snarky comments please and let us avoid getting irked by snarky comments.  We have the raw material here for some really good conversation which can help each and everyone of us move forward in our understandings.

Concerning the discussion of Solway, from my point of view (and perhaps in search of simplicity I achieve merely the simplistic) about Palestine/Palestinians etc. I confess that on a certain level the significance of what I perceive to be the essence of AB's point eludes me; it seems to me on a par with arguing that the UN should have created not one but two Israels, one for Ashkenazi Jews and one for Sephardic.  Certainly, as GM points out, the Kurds have a far stronger claim to deserving a separate nation (instead of being divided amongst Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran) than the particular subset of Arabs currently residing in the West Bank (thanks to AB's interesting commentary I am no longer sure whether I should be calling them Palestinians or not smiley ) but there does not seem to be much interest in that , , ,

AB wrote: "When reading about Hitler and his ideology and propaganda et al. You have to be very careful, since he is an epitome of „picking what you like from all around and stuff it into one big neat pile of WTF“. At one point in his „career“ he became obsessed with finding the pure race, and traveled almost off world to find his agenda. From aryans in Iran to Tibet. Now as some may know he was obsessed with Nietzsche, although he read it in a completely oppurtunistic manner. Nietzche on the other hand had a thing (to put it bluntly ) for Zoroaster/Zarathustra the prophet. Through this prism he started to plow around Iran to find the „aryan“ he read so largely about in Zoroaster texts, sadly little did he know that this „aryan“ meant something totally other to what his version of „aryan“ was all about. The reason why alot of Iranians/Persians got excited about the book was, since it was promoted as a book that promotes the domination of the aryan race, the aryan ideology. Needless to say, the aryan race in that or any other context doesnt exist, and what they read about, and were so excited about was not their Aryan, but that of the NSDAP."

I'm not clear on the point here.  Perhaps GM and I are misled by propaganda.  In my case I have come into this conversation with the understanding that the analysis offered by GM's article is correct.  Are you saying that the government of Persia, which coincidentally was in bed at the time with the Nazis, changed its name to Iran for reasons not having to do with the Aryan racial theories of Hitler?  If so, what were those reasons?

AB said to GM "I find your oversimplifications of the matters in this case, strongly disconcerting."  

I confess to having a similar line of thought, though GM beat me to expressing it smiley  The explanation of our oversimplications may be rather , , , simple.  We are Americans and we are working with what we know! Certainly we would be in over our heads concerning the history of the various regions/republics/countries of what used to by Yugoslavia (oddly enough, I know a little bit due to a US legal decision about whether to grant political asylum to one "Artukovic" in the aftermath of WW2 due to his actions in Serbo-Croatia) but given the vicious Jew hatred of Iran's current regime (including its determination to completely wipe Israel out) and the connections of its prior government with the Nazis, it seems to me that it was not a strange leap of logic to infer Jew hatred from Iranian participation in the Waffen SS.

Next:  As I Jew of course I am quite aware of vast stretches of terrible Christian behavior towards Jews.  Indeed it was not until I was 8 years old that the Pope forgave me for killing Christ.  As a somewhat educated man I am aware of a historical period many centuries ago wherein Jews were treated decently in parts of the Muslim world, certainly far better than we were treated in the Christian world.  But what interests me in the world today is the reality of the world today.  In most of the Christian world as a Jew I am safe (questionable: Russia, parts of eastern Europe, and increasingly the rest of Europe-- but is Europe really Christian or Secular Humanist now? , , , but I digress).  Certainly, the issue is quite different in the Arab world!!!  I certainly hope I do not need to expound further on this point!!!

Which brings me back to the starting point-- your idea that the "Palestians"/Arabs surrounding Israel are surrounded by the Jews (!) (who, if they were wise would allow them a way out,?) instead of the other way around.  To the north is Hezbollah, armed by Iran (led by a man dedicated to the erradication of Israel) with some 50,000 plus rockets that cover a large % of Israel, to the northeast is Syria, which more than once in my lifetime has sought to invade and obliterate Israel but now is surprised that Israel holds and is reluctant to give back the Golan Heights before Syria recognizes Israel's right to exist, to the east is the West Bank, a land abandoned by Jordan rather than continue to deal with Arafat and the PLO and a land which continues to violate its promises in the Oslo Accords to recognize Israel's right to exist (yet its school books and military emblems continue to show "from river to sea") and to its south-west is Gaza, headed by democractically elected Hamas which is dedicated to the erradication of Israel.  Then there is Egypt, which got Sinai back after recognizing Israel-- though the durability of that peace is now in deep question.

AB, does Israel have a right to exist?  Does Israel have a right to self-defense?
25558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jon Stewart: Congress's final FU to 911 responders on: April 27, 2011, 07:52:37 AM
25559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: April 26, 2011, 03:56:30 PM
I think you are correct about 50% for stocks, but IIRC, oil futures are 5%. 

The mathematical implications need no expounding here from me.

This is why I keep raising this point in wonderment at its lack of mention elsewhere , , ,

25560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Monetary reform must be part of the package on: April 26, 2011, 12:51:43 PM
No man in America is a match for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan on the federal budget. No congressman in my lifetime has been more determined to cut government spending. No one is better informed for the task he has set himself. Nor has anyone developed a more comprehensive plan to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, the federal budget deficit than the House Budget Resolution submitted by Mr. Ryan on April 5.

But experience and the operations of the Federal Reserve system compel me to predict that Mr. Ryan's heroic efforts to balance the budget by 2015 without raising taxes will not end in success—even with a Republican majority in both Houses and a Republican president in 2012.

Why? Because the House Budget Resolution fails to reform the Federal Reserve system that supplies the new money and credit to finance both the budget deficit and the balance-of-payments deficit. So long as the Treasury deficit can be financed with discretionary money and credit—newly created by the Federal Reserve, by the banking system, and by foreign central banks—the federal budget deficit will persist.

It is true that federal deficits will rise more or less with the business cycle, leading previous deficit hawks such as Sens. Phil Gramm and Warren Rudman to believe that if we just reined in federal spending and increased economic growth we'd have a balanced budget. Indeed, for two generations, fiscal conservatives and Democratic and Republican presidents alike have pledged to balance the budget and bring an end to ever-rising government spending.

They, too, were informed, determined and sincere leaders. But they did not succeed because of institutional defects in the monetary system that have never been remedied.

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Chad Crowe
 .President Reagan was aware of the need to reform the monetary system in the 1980s, but circumstances and time permitted only tax-rate reform, deregulation efforts, and rebuilding a strong defense. And so the monetary problem remains.

The problem is simple. Because of the official reserve currency status of the dollar, combined with discretionary new Federal Reserve and foreign central bank credit, the federal government is always able to finance the Treasury deficit, even though net national savings are insufficient for the purpose.

What persistent debtor could resist permanent credit financing? For a government, an individual or an enterprise, "a deficit without tears" leads to the corrupt euphoria of limitless spending. For example, with new credit, the Fed will have bought $600 billion of U.S. Treasurys between November 2010 and June 2011, a rate of purchase that approximates the annualized budget deficit. Commodity, equity and emerging-market inflation are only a few of the volatile consequences of this Fed credit policy.

The solution to the problem is equally simple. First, in order to limit Fed discretion, the dollar must be made convertible to a weight unit of gold by congressional statute—at a price that preserves the level of nominal wages in order to avoid the threat of deflation. Second, the government must at the same time be prohibited from financing its deficit at the Fed or in the banks—both at home or abroad. Third, only in the free market for true savings—undisguised by inflationary new Federal Reserve money and banking system credit—will interest rates signal to voters the consequences of growing federal government deficits.

Unrestricted convertibility of the dollar to gold at the statutory price restricts Federal Reserve creation of excess dollars and the inflation caused by Fed financing of the deficit. This is so because excess dollars in the financial markets, at home or abroad, would lead to redemption of the undesired dollars into gold at the statutory parity price, thus requiring the Fed to reduce the expansion of credit in order to preserve the lawful convertibility parity of the dollar-gold relationship, thereby reducing the threat of inflation.

This monetary reform would provide an indispensable restraint, not only on the Federal Reserve, but also on the global banking system—based as the system now is on the dollar standard and foreign official dollar reserves. Establishing dollar convertibility to a weight unit of gold, and ending the dollar's reserve currency role, constitute the dual institutional mechanisms by which sustained, systemic inflation is ruled out of the integrated world trading system. It would also prevent access to unlimited Fed credit by which to finance ever-growing government.

By adding these monetary reforms to his House Budget Resolution, Mr. Ryan has a chance to succeed where previous deficit hawks have failed. As today's stalwart of a balanced budget, he must now become a monetary-reform statesman if he is to attain his admirable goal of balancing the federal budget by 2015 without raising taxes.

Mr. Lehrman is chairman of The Lehrman Institute.

25561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: April 26, 2011, 12:32:33 PM
A fair question and one I am unable to answer.  I have no idea what % of oil futures trading is done on margin or how large a % is necessary for it to affect volatility. 

25562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: April 26, 2011, 12:30:36 PM

I note that CAIR has supported the reinstatement of an MTA (Metro Transit Authority) worker in the NYC/NJ area who lost his job for burning three pages of the Koran.

For most of us here, this is likely to be suspected of theologically blessed deception (taquiya- sp?) but nonetheless it should be noted-- at the very least so we are not thrown off guard when someone uses it as a debating point.
25563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Hulbert on Dollar vs. Gold on: April 26, 2011, 12:23:44 PM

By Mark Hulbert, MarketWatch
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (MarketWatch) — The dollar’s revenge?

That possibility has many gold bugs worried, since recent strength in gold’s dollar-denominated price appears to have come at the expense of the U.S. dollar. In fact, the correlation has been particularly striking this year: The U.S. Dollar Index /quotes/comstock/11j!i:dxy0 DXY -0.23%   has fallen 6.3% since the end of last year, for example, while gold bullion /quotes/comstock/21e!f:gc\j11 GCJ11 -0.50%   has risen 6.1%.

The gold bugs’ concern isn’t just theoretical, either. Many expect the dollar to stage a comeback as the U.S. Federal Reserve brings its monetary-stimulus program — its second round of quantitative easing, or QE2 — to an end June 30. Indeed, some are anticipating that the rally could begin as soon as later this week, depending on the outcome of the Fed’s meeting. Read more on Fed.

Gold at record highPaul Vigna discusses why gold prices are at a fresh record and silver is flirting with $50 an ounce for the first time since 1980.
But are the gold bugs right to worry about a stronger dollar? That’s what I set out to discover for this column.

I fed into my PC’s statistical package five years’ worth of data for gold bullion and the Dow Jones FXCM Dollar Index (which represents the dollar’s value against a basket of the currencies of the U.S.’ largest trading partners). I was specifically interested in the extent to which changes in the dollar’s value led to changes in gold’s price.

As expected, I found an inverse correlation: Increases in the dollar’s value tended to correspond to decreases in gold’s U.S. dollar price, and vice versa. Crucially, however, I found that the ups and downs of the dollar were only able to explain about a quarter of gold’s gyrations.

(For the statistically minded among you: The r-squared for the correlation was never higher than 0.26, regardless of whether I focused on daily, weekly or monthly changes in the dollar index and gold.)

What this means: Assuming the future is like the past, other factors besides the dollar’s value against other currencies will explain the bulk of what happens to gold in coming sessions.

This somewhat surprising finding is confirmed by another study recently conducted by Ned Davis Research, the quantitative research firm. In that study, the firm focused on commodities generally, not just gold. Joseph Kalish, senior macro strategist for the firm, and John LaForge, Ned Davis’s commodity strategist, found that only about one-third of the S&P GSCI Commodity index’s gain over the past couple of years is due to the weak dollar.

Note carefully that my results, as well as those of Ned Davis Research, don’t mean that currency devaluations generally account for only a quarter (or a third) of the increase in the dollar-denominated price of gold. That conclusion only applies to the U.S. dollar’s value relative to other currencies.

Indeed, it is possible to imagine a hypothetical scenario in which all currencies are debased at precisely the same rate over time. In that case, gold’s U.S. dollar price would still rise, even though the U.S. dollar’s value relative to other currencies would remain more or less constant. (Marc:  My understanding is that this is not a hypothetical, indeed it is precisely what is happening-- other countries debase their currencies so as to maintain some semblance of stability in the exchange rate with the dollar; bottom line is that the Fed exports inflation/currency debasement)

The bottom line? Only a minority of gold’s recent rally can be attributed to weakness in the dollar. That means that, while unexpected dollar strength will likely cause some weakness in gold, such strength is not likely, by itself, to cause gold’s bull market to come to an end.

Mark Hulbert is the founder of Hulbert Financial Digest in Annandale, Va. He has been tracking the advice of more than 160 financial newsletters since 1980. (Marc: My impression is that this is a well regarded newsletter for tracking the comparative results of other newsletters)

25564  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Force Science Exhaustion study on: April 26, 2011, 10:41:18 AM
This study seems relevant in reminding us of the physical fitness component in sudden attack situations:
Just in: Final findings from Force Science exhaustion study

The Force Science research team that explored officer exhaustion through a unique set of experiments in Canada last September has now issued its official findings--first presented in detail in the Force Science Certification Course conducted in Wisconsin this past week (4/18-4/22) and scheduled for integration into future courses--with these significant conclusions:

• Less than 60 seconds of all-out exertion, such as an officer might expend in trying to control a combative offender, can deplete the average LEO's physical reserves and put his life in peril;

• Environmental awareness and memory are also affected adversely, hampering an involved officer's ability to deliver accurate, detailed statements and testimony once a desperate fight is over;

• Even officers in top condition are not immune to the rapid drain of physical prowess and cognitive faculties resulting from sustained hand-to-hand combat.

"The bottom line," says Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute who headed up the research team, "is this: If an officer can't resolve a struggle very quickly, a tactical withdrawal or swift escalation to a higher level of force may be necessary and justified for personal survival. And investigators and courts need to understand that an officer who doesn't provide details surrounding a major physical conflict is not necessarily being deceptive, malicious, or uncooperative."

TEST DESIGN. Force Science News explained the testing sequence of this research in Transmission #159 [9/24/10] soon after the project launched (click here to read it.) To recap:

Researchers recruited 52 officer volunteers (42 males, 10 females), ranging in age from 23 to 51, with an average of 8 years on the job. All were "familiar with officer safety training involving high aerobic physical engagement," according to Dave Blocksidge, a Force Science Analyst from the London (England) Metropolitan Police, and one of the research team.

"During an initial briefing, all the subjects were told to remain alert and try to absorb and remember as much as they could about what took place," Lewinski says.

First they were given a crime report to read, which included details about the m.o. and descriptions of an armed robbery crew that had attacked 3 locations. Then in a gym used for training by the Winnipeg (Manitoba) Police Service, the officers were paired, with one-half instructed one at a time to launch a full-force physical attack on a 300-lb. hanging water bag and the others (a control group) assigned as "partners" to observe as the action took place. All were fitted with heart-rate monitors and the "physical exerters" also donned VO2 masks to measure oxygen consumption and gas exchange.

The exerters were told to attack the bag with as much ferocity as they could muster, selecting their own "assault movements"--punches, kicks, and/or palm, elbow, and knee strikes. During the attack, a researcher shouted "encouragement" ("Harder! Faster!") on 3 occasions. Once the name of a familiar intersection in Winnipeg was yelled out and another time a random 3-digit number was hollered. Unknown to the participants, all this would prove relevant later in a memory test.

The exerters were to sustain assailing the bag until they no longer had strength to keep going or until they were visibly maxed out ("breathless and struggling to continue") and were told to stop by exercise physiologist Justin Dixon of the London Police, who supervised this part of the experiment.

"In terms of upper-body involvement and energy expended, the bag drill realistically replicated a full-force fight by a moderately trained officer to control a strong, dynamically resisting suspect," Lewinski explains. "Two officers actually collapsed, and the rest were severely taxed as they moved on to the next phase of the test."

That required the exerter to run upstairs and outside to a trailer that a "known felon" was suspected of occupying, a distance of 145 feet. En route, the officer passed a gaudily dressed role-player holding an electric drill, who stared at the exerter intently but said nothing and made no aggressive moves.

Inside the trailer, the officer found a "living room" mocked up with furniture and a variety of visible weapons, including an M16 carbine, a revolver, a sawed-off shotgun, and a large kitchen knife. After a 5-second delay, a "critical target" emerged from another room--"a large, black, middle-aged male," wearing a black t-shirt, blue jeans, and a black bandana. He screamed profanities at the officer, commanding him/her to get out. He was not armed, although several of the weapons were within his easy reach.

The trailer scenario lasted about 15 seconds. After that, the exerter was permitted some "recovery time" while his observer partner ran through the same trailer exercise.

After 3 minutes' rest, Dixon drew a blood sample from each participant to measure lactic acid levels. The officers were also given informational "updates" about the robbery crew.

Then all completed a battery of memory tests administered by Dr. Lorraine Hope, a cognitive psychologist from England's University of Portsmouth. This testing included a review of what exerters and observers could remember about what had happened and a photo lineup in which the officers were asked to pick out the suspect they'd confronted in the trailer.

PHYSICAL DECLINE. The heart monitors, face masks, and blood tests all confirmed that exerters reached an intense level of energy output during the bag blitz. Heart rates, for example, leaped from an average resting rate of 73 bpm to an average maximum of 179 for the bag beaters, significantly higher than the modest average rise to 104 bpm for the observers. The exerters' blood lactate levels, reflecting the amount of exertion and affecting muscle function, skyrocketed up to 13 times the normal resting concentration. "It was impressive how committed these officers were to going flat out," Lewinski remarks.

Most dramatic--and alarming--was the speed at which exerters depleted their physical resources. On average, the officers spent 56 seconds hitting the bag, although some either quit or were called out as thoroughly exhausted after as little as 25 seconds. The blows they were able to deliver ranged from a low of 73 to a high of 274. The average was 183. The overwhelming majority of hits were fist punches.

Reviewing time-coded video of the action, researchers were able to count second by second the number of times each participant struck the bag. The average officer peaked at 15 seconds. After that, the frequency of strikes fell in a sharp and steady decline.

"The officers started out strong, driving hard with penetrating hits that visibly moved the heavy bag," Lewinski reports. "But by 30 to 40 seconds, most were significantly weakened. They were not able to breathe properly, their cadence dropped, their strikes scarcely moved the bag if at all, and they were resorting largely to very weak, slowly paced blows that would have had little impact on a combative assailant."

In effect, Blocksidge states in a paper he has written about the research, the exerters "delivering a concerted and sustained physical assault...'punched themselves out' " in a matter of seconds.

Perhaps surprisingly, this seemed true even of officers with a high level of personal fitness and fighting skill. Blocksidge offers this explanation: "Fitter officers delivered faster and more powerful strikes," expending greater effort and thus exhausting their presumably greater reserves in "roughly the same time" as those less fit and skilled.

MEMORY DEFICIT. The officers' exertion proved, for the most part, closely associated with incomplete and faulty memories of what they experienced. The exerters remembered "less visual and auditory information" and made "greater errors in recall" compared to the observing control group, Blocksidge reports.

Exerters and observers were asked to estimate within 90% the number of each type of blow delivered against the heavy bag. Exerters scored significantly better than observers in recalling the number of elbow, knee, and palm strikes they'd made. 89% of exerters, for example, estimated within the accepted accuracy range the number of elbow hits, compared to only 45% of observers.

"However, there were very few elbow, knee, and palm strikes made overall, so they tended to stand out in the exerters' memory," Lewinski explains. "But with the most common hits--punches--it was a far different story." 25% fewer exerters than observers were able to estimate accurately the number of fist blows. "The more exhausted officers were, the less accurate their estimates tended to be," notes researcher Hope.

Observers also were able to recall more by wide margins than exerters about the information that was shouted out during the bag blitz. Likewise, they were more accurate and more detailed in remembering information about the robbery crew.

As to the man with the drill who was encountered en route to the trailer, more than 90% of observers were able to recall at least one descriptive item about him, whereas nearly one-third of exerters did not remember seeing him at all.

Everyone remembered seeing the angry male in the trailer, but observers were able to correctly describe significantly more things about him, while making an average of half as many errors. And during the photo lineup, 54% of the observers correctly identified the suspect, compared to only 27% of the exerters. Typically, the tired officers expressed little certainty about the identifications they did make.

"As exhaustion takes over, cognitive resources tend to diminish," Lewinski explains. "The ability to fully shift attention is inhibited, so even some potentially relevant information tends to get screened out. Ultimately, memory is determined by where the focus of attention was during an event. The exerters were zeroed in on delivering blows during the bag blitz. Afterward, they typically had little cognitive resources left."

During the trailer encounter, however, the exerters were able to register threat cues. Here, in fact, their responses were virtually identical to those of observers. Six observers and 5 exerters remembered seeing no weapons at all. The most weapons noticed were 2, recalled by 4 observers and 5 exerters. However, 16 officers in each category remembered seeing one weapon, usually the largest (the carbine). (After noticing one, the researchers speculate, most officers may simply have quit scanning for more, having confirmed a potential life threat.)

"Fear conditioning through training," Blocksidge writes, apparently "enables simple processing" of threat and danger cues to continue on some level "despite the impact of exhaustion and anxiety." The ability to respond effectively to such cues, however, would be gravely degraded in an exhausted state, Lewinski points out.

IMPLICATIONS. As Lorraine Hope notes, "The legal system puts a great deal of emphasis on witness accounts, particularly those of professional witnesses like police officers." After a violent confrontation, Blocksidge states, "it is commonly believed" that officers are capable of recalling relevant particulars, "such as subject position, number of blows, time sequences, verbal comments, and the position of colleagues.... Policing is quite unique within the cognitive field, since officers are [expected] to operate in a dual-task mode of...taking action whilst remembering...information."

The gap documented by the study between what exerters and observers were able to remember means that in real-world conflicts "substantial aspects of visual details may remain [unnoticed] by active or involved witnesses while being noticed and attended by passive witnesses," Blocksidge writes.

"If investigators and force reviewers don't understand the implications of this study," Lewinski cautions, "an officer's memory errors or omissions after an intense physical struggle may unjustly affect his or her credibility. We think we have a lot of attentional resources working for us at all times, but in reality we don't."

In addition to illuminating memory issues, Lewinski is hopeful that the research findings will underscore the importance of tactical pre-assessment in deciding whether to engage or temporarily back off from potential physical conflict. "Officers need to read situations better before getting physically involved, knowing they have a limited capacity for all-out exertion," he says.

When a struggle does occur, he hopes the findings will help officers, trainers, investigators, and reviewers better appreciate the justification in desperate circumstances for escalating force in order to end a dangerous fight quickly. "The longer physical combat lasts," he explains, "the more at risk an officer is to the dire consequences of exhaustion. Very quickly an officer can reach the point of not having the energy or the ability to physically overcome resistance. Even a few seconds may make a difference between getting a suspect under control or the officer ending up badly hurt or killed."

Sgt. Jason Anderson of Winnipeg Police Service's Safety Unit, who assisted with the experiments, expresses gratitude for the study. He says it provides "data we can bring to court from a scientific organization using scientific methods and give the court the ability to properly assess these situations fairly."

Statistical details from the study, which was funded fully by the Force Science Institute, will be included in a report the research team is preparing for publication in a peer-reviewed professional journal.

Meanwhile, footage shot by a Canadian Discovery Channel film crew is available for viewing, if you want to see how the experiments were conducted. Click here to see that footage and to read additional news reports on the study.

25565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Syria on: April 26, 2011, 10:22:21 AM
The Syrian regime is obviously having a lot of trouble putting down unrest as crackdowns are intensifying and as protests are spreading. A number of regional stakeholders are meanwhile trying to exploit the regime’s current vulnerabilities in trying to promote their own agendas in the region, particularly as tensions are escalating between Iran and the GCC states in the Persian Gulf region.

The Syrian regime has been employing this me-or-chaos theory. It’s one that’s had a pretty good effect so far. The current regime has been in power since the ‘63 coup and there’s no real viable political alternative to the al Assad regime. At the same time, there are a lot of patronage networks tied to this regime that do not want to see the government go. And the main drivers to these protests have come from the majority Sunni conservative camp. There are a number of players in the region who just don’t know how a majority Sunni regime would conduct their foreign policy. That’s of great concern to a number of players in the region who are concerned by sectarianism spreading not only in Lebanon, where Syria is a major player, but also in Iraq. There is major Kurdish unrest in Syria’s northeast that could spill over into Turkey and also fuel unrest in northern Iraq where protests have also been significant.

Given all these factors, the Saudis, the Turks, the Israelis and the Americans - pretty much anyone with a major stake in Syria - have not been openly advocating for regime change in Syria. They have a lot of reason to worry about the fallout of a regime collapse. At the same time, certain players see an opportunity. The Saudis in particular have been trying long and hard to coerce Syria into joining the Arab consensus and into cutting its ties with Iran and Hezbollah. The urgency of this demand has intensified, especially as tensions have been on the rise between Iran and the GCC states in the Persian Gulf region. Syria has accused a number of the surrounding Sunni Arab states of supporting the protests in its country. The Saudis have responded by saying that Syrian compliance with its demands in cutting relations with Iran and Hezbollah could lead to an easing of domestic pressure.

And therein lies the paradox. Syria could always reject foreign pressure to end its relationship with Iran and Hezbollah, but then it would be giving a reason to these regimes to search for alternatives to the al Assad regime. On the other hand, Syria could comply with these demands and try to sever ties with Iran and Hezbollah. But Iran has built up an insurance policy to such a scenario. Remember Iran has a core interest in maintaining a strong stake in the Levant region with which to threaten Israel, and Syria’s crucial to that agenda.

Syria also derives a lot of leverage from its relationship with Iran. That’s the main reason why the Saudis and others have been throwing cash at the Syrian regime in an attempt to coerce the Syrians out of that relationship. Plus there’s a huge indigenous factor to these protests. There’s no guarantee that Syrian compliance with foreign demands will actually ease the pressure at home. Syria is undoubtedly in a tough spot on a number of fronts. Regime collapse may not be imminent nor assured in the near term especially as the army seems to be holding together, but the regime’s room to maneuver is definitely narrowing by the day.

25566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: April 26, 2011, 09:31:37 AM
A 5% margin rate (I believe I have this number correct) tends to magnify volatility too.  Why does it seem like I am the only one who notices this?

25567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No right to representation for the right on: April 26, 2011, 09:28:05 AM

A major law firm has caved to pressure from militant homosexual activists, and one of America’s top Supreme Court lawyers resigned from that firm rather than abandon principle. That lawyer is former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, and this is a story that everyone who values the rule of law needs to understand.

In 1996, a bipartisan majority of the Republican-controlled Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton. The law specifies that for purposes of federal law, marriage is the union of one man and one woman. The law also provides that if any state breaks with 2,000 years of Western civilization by redefining marriage to include homosexual couples, no other state need recognize those unions.

Then some people started redefining marriage. In 2003, Massachusetts became the first state to do the same through an egregious instance of judicial activism. Today, a total of five states out of fifty have same-sex marriage.

Predictably, some activists challenged DOMA in federal court.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has a duty to defend every federal law in court. The only exceptions are for laws that undermine the president’s power (and even then, DOJ sometimes defends it) or for laws where no reasonable argument can be made defending that law.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that DOJ would no longer defend DOMA because he and President Barack Obama believe that there is no rational basis for the law. This is shocking, because President Obama is speaking out of both sides of his mouth, saying that he still believes marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

Let’s make sure we have this right: Marriage is between a man and a woman, but any law saying that is so irrational that it cannot be defended in court. It seems President Obama is either schizophrenic or disingenuous.

Thankfully, the U.S. House of Representatives took up the defense of DOMA. To do so, they retained former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement—now a partner at King & Spalding—to defend the law in court.

In response, a militant homosexual-agenda group, the Human Rights Campaign, took the disgraceful action of organizing a nationwide boycott of King & Spalding and tried to discourage graduating law students from working there.

Everyone should have access to a lawyer. The U.S. Constitution empowers the courts to decide whether a law is unconstitutional, but also requires that a court only do so if arguments are presented on both sides. Our constitutional system of government calls for both parties putting their best arguments on the table, so that a judge has everything necessary to arrive at the correct decision.

But leftist zealots evidently don’t care about a court reaching the right decision, calling for punishing anyone who has enough faith in the American legal system to wage an honorable contest in court.

When Ted Olson decided to take a case arguing that the U.S. Constitution includes a right to same-sex marriage which mysteriously went unnoticed by anyone in the country for over 200 years, no reputable group called for boycotting his firm, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. Nor should they. Gibson Dunn argues for many causes and clients, many of them right.

Yet in an instance of craven cowardice, King & Spalding caved to pressure and has withdrawn from the case. Rather than stand by the principle that every issue—especially one unpopular to some—deserves fair consideration in court, the firm’s chairman, Robert Hays, said that the firm was quitting.

Clement—a top Supreme Court lawyer with over fifty cases before the Court—would not cave. Rather than abandon his client, he resigned from King & Spalding. He has now joined Bancroft PLLC, a law firm and policy organization featuring well-respected conservative lawyers and analysts.

And no one can lose sight of his client’s identity: the U.S. House of Representatives. This isn’t some traitor, or depraved serial murderer of children, or terrorist regime. This is the House representing the American people, chosen by We the People.

I don’t even know if Clement is personally pro-marriage. Maybe he’s not. But he took it as his duty to represent our Congress in court. He’s a patriot for answering that call.

People should remember this episode as showing the oppressive nature of some leftists. They scream about freedom when it suits their purpose, only to deny others freedom to even be heard. On this issue, pro-marriage advocates—especially churches and ministries faithful to biblical teaching on marriage—had better take heed. You will be next.

The truth is never afraid of a good debate. At the core of the First Amendment is the idea that people must be free to speak, because the best ideas should win in the end. The Federalist Society was founded upon that premise in hosting debates at law schools, reasoning that on a level playing field, the best ideas should prevail.

Those who oppose debate do so because they fear that they cannot overcome opposition. Those who try to prevent an opponent from having a good lawyer in court fears that the law may not be on their side.

A nation under the rule of law requires top lawyers to take up both sides of legal issues going to court. Solicitor General Paul Clement shows great courage by upholding that principle. Every solicitor general and deputy solicitor general alive today—both Republican and Democrat—should express their support for the brave stand taken by Paul Clement.
25568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who could have seen this coming? on: April 26, 2011, 07:38:33 AM
Iraq, Iran and the Next Move
April 26, 2011

By George Friedman

The United States told the Iraqi government last week that if it wants U.S. troops to remain in Iraq beyond the deadline of Dec. 31, 2011, as stipulated by the current Status of Forces Agreement between Washington and Baghdad, it would have to inform the United States quickly. Unless a new agreement is reached soon, the United States will be unable to remain. The implication in the U.S. position is that a complex planning process must be initiated to leave troops there and delays will not allow that process to take place.

What is actually going on is that the United States is urging the Iraqi government to change its mind on U.S. withdrawal, and it would like Iraq to change its mind right now in order to influence some of the events taking place in the Persian Gulf. The Shiite uprising in Bahrain and the Saudi intervention, along with events in Yemen, have created an extremely unstable situation in the region, and the United States is afraid that completing the withdrawal would increase the instability.

The Iranian Rise

The American concern, of course, has to do with Iran. The United States has been unable to block Iranian influence in Iraq’s post-Baathist government. Indeed, the degree to which the Iraqi government is a coherent entity is questionable, and its military and security forces have limited logistical and planning ability and are not capable of territorial defense. The issue is not the intent of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who himself is enigmatic. The problem is that the coalition that governs Iraq is fragmented and still not yet finalized, dominated by Iranian proxies such Muqtada al-Sadr — and it only intermittently controls the operations of the ministries under it, or the military and security forces.

As such, Iraq is vulnerable to the influence of any substantial power, and the most important substantial power following the withdrawal of the United States will be Iran. There has been much discussion of the historic tension between Iraqi Shia and Iranian Shia, all of which is true. But Iran has been systematically building its influence in Iraq among all factions using money, blackmail and ideology delivered by a sophisticated intelligence service. More important, as the United States withdraws, Iraqis, regardless of their feelings toward Iran (those Iraqis who haven’t always felt this way), are clearly sensing that resisting Iran is dangerous and accommodation with Iran is the only solution. They see Iran as the rising power in the region, and that perception is neither unreasonable nor something to which the United States or Saudi Arabia has an easy counter.

The Iraqi government’s response to the American offer has been predictable. While some quietly want the United States to remain, the general response has ranged from dismissal to threats if the United States did not leave. Given that the United States has reportedly offered to leave as many as 20,000 troops in a country that 170,000 American troops could not impose order on, the Iraqi perception is that this is merely a symbolic presence and that endorsing it would get Iraq into trouble with Iran, which has far more than 20,000 troops and ever-present intelligence services. It is not clear that the Iraqis were ever prepared to allow U.S. troops to remain, but 20,000 is enough to enrage Iran and not enough to deal with the consequences.

The American assumption in deciding to leave Iraq — and this goes back to George W. Bush as well as Barack Obama — was that over the course of four years, the United States would be able to leave because it would have created a coherent government and military. The United States underestimated the degree to which fragmentation in Iraq would prevent that outcome and the degree to which Iranian influence would undermine the effort. The United States made a pledge to the American public and a treaty with the Iraqi government to withdraw forces, but the conditions that were expected to develop simply did not.

Not coincidentally, the withdrawal of American forces has coincided with tremendous instability in the region, particularly on the Arabian Peninsula. All around the periphery of Saudi Arabia an arc of instability has emerged. It is not that the Iranians engineered it, but they have certainly taken advantage of it. As a result, Saudi Arabia is in a position where it has had to commit forces in Bahrain, is standing by in Yemen, and is even concerned about internal instability given the rise of both reform-minded and Shiite elements at a time of unprecedented transition given the geriatric state of the country’s top four leaders. Iran has certainly done whatever it could to exacerbate this instability, which fits neatly into the Iraqi situation.

As the United States leaves Iraq, Iran expects to increase its influence there. Iran normally acts cautiously even while engaged in extreme rhetoric. Therefore, it is unlikely to send conventional forces into Iraq. Indeed, it might not be necessary to do so in order to gain a dominant political position. Nor is it inconceivable that the Iranians could decide to act more aggressively. With the United States gone, the risks decline.

Saudi Arabia’s Problem

The country that could possibly counter Iran in Iraq is Saudi Arabia, which has been known to funnel money to Sunni groups there. Its military is no match for Iran’s in a battle for Iraq, and its influence there has been less than Iran’s among most groups. More important, as the Saudis face the crisis on their periphery they are diverted and preoccupied by events to the east and south. The unrest in the region, therefore, increases the sense of isolation of some Iraqis and increases their vulnerability to Iran. Thus, given that Iraq is Iran’s primary national security concern, the events in the Persian Gulf work to Iran’s advantage.

The United States previously had an Iraq question. That question is being answered, and not to the American advantage. Instead, what is emerging is a Saudi Arabian question. Saudi Arabia currently is clearly able to handle unrest within its borders. It has also been able to suppress the Shia in Bahrain — for now, at least. However, its ability to manage its southern periphery with Yemen is being tested, given that the regime in Sanaa was already weakened by multiple insurgencies and is now being forced from office after more than 30 years in power. If the combined pressure of internal unrest, turmoil throughout the region and Iranian manipulation continues, the stress on the Saudis could become substantial.

The basic problem the Saudis face is that they don’t know the limits of their ability (which is not much beyond their financial muscle) to manage the situation. If they miscalculate and overextend, they could find themselves in an untenable position. Therefore, the Saudis must be conservative. They cannot afford miscalculation. From the Saudi point of view, the critical element is a clear sign of long-term American commitment to the regime. American support for the Saudis in Bahrain has been limited, and the United States has not been aggressively trying to manage the situation in Yemen, given its limited ability to shape an outcome there. Coupled with the American position on Iraq, which is that it will remain only if asked — and then only with limited forces — the Saudis are clearly not getting the signals they want from the United States. In fact, what further worsens the Saudi position is that they cannot overtly align with the United States for their security needs. Nevertheless, they also have no other option. Exploiting this Saudi dilemma is a key part of the Iranian strategy.

The smaller countries of the Arabian Peninsula, grouped with Saudi Arabia in the Gulf Cooperation Council, have played the role of mediator in Yemen, but ultimately they lack the force needed by a credible mediator — a potential military option to concentrate the minds of the negotiating parties. For that, they need the United States.

It is in this context that the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, will be visiting Washington on April 26. The UAE is one of the few countries on the Arabian Peninsula that has not experienced significant unrest. As such, it has emerged as one of the politically powerful entities in the region. We obviously cannot know what the UAE is going to ask the United States for, but we would be surprised if it wasn’t for a definitive sign that the United States was prepared to challenge the Iranian rise in the region.

The Saudis will be watching the American response very carefully. Their national strategy has been to uncomfortably rely on the United States. If the United States is seen as unreliable, the Saudis have only two options. One is to hold their position and hope for the best. The other is to reach out and see if some accommodation can be made with Iran. The tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia — religious, cultural, economic and political — are profound. But in the end, the Iranians want to be the dominant power in the Persian Gulf, defining economic, political and military patterns.

On April 18, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s adviser for military affairs, Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, warned Saudi Arabia that it, too, could be invaded on the same pretext that the kingdom sent forces into Bahrain to suppress a largely Shiite rising there. Then, on April 23, the commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jaafari, remarked that Iran’s military might was stronger than that of Saudi Arabia and reminded the United States that its forces in the region were within range of Tehran’s weapons. Again, the Iranians are not about to make any aggressive moves, and such statements are intended to shape perception and force the Saudis to capitulate on the negotiating table.

The Saudis want regime survival above all else. Deciding between facing Iran alone or reaching an unpleasant accommodation, the Saudis have little choice. We would guess that one of the reasons the UAE is reaching out to Obama is to try to convince him of the dire consequences of inaction and to move the United States into a more active role.

A Strategy of Neglect

The Obama administration appears to have adopted an increasingly obvious foreign policy. Rather than simply attempt to control events around the world, the administration appears to have selected a policy of careful neglect. This is not, in itself, a bad strategy. Neglect means that allies and regional powers directly affected by the problem will take responsibility for the problem. Most problems resolve themselves without the need of American intervention. If they don’t, the United States can consider its posture later. Given that the world has become accustomed to the United States as first responder, other countries have simply waited for the American response. We have seen this in Libya, where the United States has tried to play a marginal role. Conceptually, this is not unsound.

The problem is that this will work only when regional powers have the weight to deal with the problem and where the outcome is not crucial to American interests. Again, Libya is an almost perfect example of this. However, the Persian Gulf is an area of enormous interest to the United States because of oil. Absent the United States, the regional forces will not be able to contain Iran. Therefore, applying this strategy to the Persian Gulf creates a situation of extreme risk for the United States.

Re-engagement in Iraq on a level that would deter Iran is not a likely option, not only because of the Iraqi position but also because the United States lacks the force needed to create a substantial deterrence that would not be attacked and worn down by guerrillas. Intruding in the Arabian Peninsula itself is dangerous for a number reasons, ranging from the military challenge to the hostility an American presence could generate. A pure naval and air solution lacks the ability to threaten Iran’s center of gravity, its large ground force.

Therefore, the United States is in a difficult position. It cannot simply decline engagement nor does it have the ability to engage at this moment — and it is this moment that matters. Nor does it have allies outside the region with the resources and appetite for involvement. That leaves the United States with the Saudi option — negotiate with Iran, a subject I’ve written on before. This is not an easy course, nor a recommended one, but when all other options are gone, you go with what you have.

The pressure from Iran is becoming palpable. All of the Arab countries feel it, and whatever their feelings about the Persians, the realities of power are what they are. The UAE has been sent to ask the United States for a solution. It is not clear the United States has one. When we ask why the price of oil is surging, the idea of geopolitical risk does come to mind. It is not a foolish speculation.

25569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Noah Webster 1788 on: April 26, 2011, 07:35:15 AM
"The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities; and for this reason, the heart should be cultivated with more assiduity than the head." --Noah Webster, On the Education of Youth in America, 1788
25570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: April 26, 2011, 07:32:44 AM
I saw fomer Senator Rick Santorum interviewed by Bret Baier the other night and must admit I liked what I saw heard I don't think he has what it takes to win.
25571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chinese sign deal on: April 26, 2011, 07:28:48 AM
Americans fight, liberate, and die.  Chinese kick back and collect all the bennies:

Iraq: Power Plant Expansion With Chinese Company Signed
April 25, 2011 2030 GMT
The Iraqi Electricity Ministry signed a $1 billion deal with China's Shanghai Electric on April 25 to double the size of the power plant located in Zubaidiya, south of Baghdad, Reuters reported. The plant was originally slated to have four 330 megawatt generators for a 1,320 megawatt capacity, but the new deal will add two more 610 megawatt units for a total capacity of 2,540 megawatts.
25572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: california on: April 25, 2011, 06:07:22 PM
Alrighty Mr. Smartypants cheesy Meg Whateverthefhernamewas.
25573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: April 25, 2011, 05:37:04 PM
The "Survival" thread would seem like a good choice smiley
25574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson 1791 on: April 25, 2011, 05:36:09 PM
"In observations on this subject, we hear the legislature mentioned as the people's representatives. The distinction, intimated by concealed implication, through probably, not avowed upon reflection, is, that the executive and judicial powers are not connected with the people by a relation so strong or near or dear. But is high time that we should chastise our prejudices; and that we should look upon the different parts of government with a just and impartial eye." --James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791

25575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: california on: April 25, 2011, 05:20:45 PM
Meg Ryan was an absolutely terrible and completely unprincipled candidate and lot of people simply wanted to bitch slap her for her attitude that she could buy the election.  This is not entirely a bad thing.

There are other laws which we here in CA need to learn.  For example, just as you cannot repeal the law of gravity, you cannot repeal the law of supply and demand.  Nor is there such a thing as a free lunch.
25576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: April 25, 2011, 05:16:57 PM

As important as this theme is, it is an example of Islam vs. Free Speech and there is a thread for exactly that.  As I understand it, this thread is for what Sharia says or does not say e.g. can women drive cars, must they cover themselves, that sort of thing.

If a woman believes Allah does not want her to drive (e.g. as Sharia is interpreted in Saudi Arabia) that for her to decide and a subject for this thread so that we may become more educated about Sharia.  OTOH if Christian missionaries are being denied their First Amendment rights because of PC pre-emptive dhimmitude or because of intimations of intimidation on the part of certain Muslim groups, that is a matter of Islam vs. Free Speech.
25577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No elections and no erections for AQ on: April 25, 2011, 10:33:36 AM
That would be better in the Free Speech vs. Islam thread.  Also not exactly related to the subject of this thread but I don't know where else to put it is this which comes to me from a source I believe to be reliable, but without citation:

Excerpt from a Wash Post article:

It was an unusual complaint for someone who was so committed to al-Qaeda. According to documents, to avoid the distraction of women, he “reportedly received injections to promote impotence and recommended the injections to others so more time could be spent on the jihad.”
25578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 25, 2011, 10:29:19 AM
I have a particularly busy day today, so again I must beg off a most extensive reply.

I note that Rachel's post today at tells a story that if the roles were reversed and it were Israel were doing it to Palestinian Arabs would have received quite a bit more coverage, both in Europe and here.
25579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man formerly in Iraq reports on: April 25, 2011, 10:15:09 AM
Ali Wazzan has once again given me an excellent summary of Laith’s current condition and treatments.   

Ali also told me that there seems to be a chance that Laith will leave the hospital in the next day or two.  If so, he will remain under a doctor’s care at home.  He still needs attention for his diabetes and for several pieces of shrapnel remaining in his face and chest.  Contrary to what I reported earlier, the removal of shrapnel yesterday required quite a bit of exploratory cutting and probing.  As a consequence Laith now has numerous small incisions closed with stiches.  Also, I was wrong in reporting that his jaw was broken.  It seems that there is only a minor fracture of his jaw.  Most of the force was absorbed by his teeth, which is why he lost them. 

Every day provides new encouragement.

25580  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Burpees - The World's Best Anaerobic Conditioning Exercise? on: April 24, 2011, 08:19:06 PM
Coincidentally enough, we were discussing a closely related question on the DBMA Ass'n forum this week:  "What is the best single exercise?"

My nominee was Sex:

*Testosterone production
*Hips and glutes-- range of motion, coordination, and strength
*other muscles depend on which position(s) used
*reduces blood pressure
*promotes restful sleep
*highly motivating
25581  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law on: April 24, 2011, 03:26:10 PM
For the record, I am not clear that the article is accurate.  I could be wrong, but the way I remember it is that it was not carotid chokes that were the problem but windpipe attacks.

Question for all:

We all get the point stated by JDN here.  Question presented:  What of the feeling that something is not right with letting someone keep trying until they get it right?  What of the feeling that society is safer when there are those amongst us willing to step forward? (The Unorganized Militia)  Certainly doing nothing is a viable, respectable, and often correct option, but does that mean we should criticize those who have things go sideways (this is different that a study of what happened) when they do step forward?  Do we not praise those who step forward when things go well?
25582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Who could have seen that coming? on: April 24, 2011, 12:43:00 PM

Stimulus by Fed Is Disappointing, Economists SayBy BINYAMIN APPELBAUM
Published: April 24, 2011

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve’s experimental effort to spur a recovery by purchasing vast quantities of federal debt has pumped up the stock market, reduced the cost of American exports and allowed companies to borrow money at lower interest rates.

But most Americans are not feeling the difference, in part because those benefits have been surprisingly small. The latest estimates from economists, in fact, suggest that the pace of recovery from the global financial crisis has flagged since November, when the Fed started buying $600 billion in Treasury securities to push private dollars into investments that create jobs.

As the Fed’s policy-making board prepares to meet Tuesday and Wednesday — after which the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, will hold a news conference for the first time to explain its decisions to the public — a broad range of economists say that the disappointing results show the limits of the central bank’s ability to lift the nation from its economic malaise.

“It’s good for stopping the fall, but for actually turning things around and driving the recovery, I just don’t think monetary policy has that power,” said Mark Thoma, a professor of economics at the University of Oregon, referring specifically to the bond-buying program.

Mr. Bernanke and his supporters say that the purchases have improved economic conditions, all but erasing fears of deflation, a pattern of falling prices that can delay purchases and stall growth. Inflation, which is beneficial in moderation, has climbed closer to healthy levels since the Fed started buying bonds.

“These actions had the expected effects on markets and are thereby providing significant support to job creation and the economy,” Mr. Bernanke said in a February speech, an argument he has repeated frequently.

But growth remains slow, jobs remain scarce, and with the debt purchases scheduled to end in June, the Fed must now decide what comes next.

The Fed generally encourages growth by pushing down interest rates. In normal times, it reduces short-term interest rates, and the effects spread to other kinds of borrowing like corporate bonds and mortgage loans. But with short-term rates hovering near zero since December 2008, the Fed has tried to attack long-term rates directly by entering the market and offering to accept lower returns.

The Fed limited the program to $600 billion under considerable political pressure. While that sounds like a lot of money, the purchases have not even kept pace with the government’s issuance of new debt, so in a sense the effort has amounted to treading water. And a growing body of research suggests that the Fed could have had a larger impact by spending more money on a broader range of debt, like mortgage bonds, as it did initially. (MARC:  Oy vey!)

A vocal group of critics, meanwhile, argues that the Fed has already done far too much, amassing a portfolio of more than $2 trillion that may impede the central bank’s ability to raise interest rates to curb inflation. Some of these critics view the rising price of oil and other commodities as harbingers of broader price increases.

“I wasn’t a big fan of it in the first place,” said Charles I. Plosser, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and one of the 10 members of the Fed’s policy-making board. “I didn’t think it was going to have much of an impact, and it complicated the exit strategy. And what we’ve seen has not changed my mind.”

The Fed’s decision to buy bonds, known as quantitative easing, emulated Japan’s central bank, which started buying bonds in 2001 to break a deflationary cycle.

The American version worked well at first. From November 2008 to March 2010, the Fed bought more than $1.7 trillion in mortgage and Treasury bonds, holding down mortgage rates and reducing borrowing costs for well-regarded companies by about half a percentage point, according to several studies. That is an annual savings of $5 million on every $1 billion borrowed.

As the economy sputtered last summer, Mr. Bernanke indicated in an August speech that the Fed would start a second round of quantitative easing, soon nicknamed QE 2. The initial response was the same: Asset prices rose, interest rates fell, and the dollar declined in value.

But in addition to being smaller, and solely focused on Treasuries, there also was a problem of diminishing returns. The first round of purchases reduced the cost of borrowing by persuading skittish investors to accept lower risk premiums. With markets closer to normalcy, Mr. Bernanke warned in his August speech that it was not clear that the Fed would have comparable success in persuading investors to accept even lower rates of return.

“Such purchases seem likely to have their largest effects during periods of economic and financial stress,” he said.

The Fed says that its expectations were tempered by these realities, but that the program nonetheless has lowered yields on long-term Treasury bonds by about 0.2 percentage point relative to the rates investors would have demanded in the Fed’s absence. That is about the same impact the central bank might have achieved by lowering its benchmark rate 0.75 percentage point, which in normal times would be an aggressive move.

But some economists say the new program has had a more limited impact on the broader economy than would a traditional cut in short-term interest rates. The Fed predicted that investors would be forced to buy other kinds of debt, reducing rates for other borrowers. But the supply of Treasuries available to investors has grown since November, as issuance of new government debt outpaced the Fed’s purchases.

A study published in February found that interest rates decreased, but only for companies with top credit ratings. “Rates that are highly relevant for households and many corporations — mortgage rates and rates on lower-grade corporate bonds — were largely unaffected by the policy,” wrote Arvind Krishnamurthy and Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, both finance professors at Northwestern University.

Another indication of its limited success: Borrowing has not grown significantly, suggesting that corporations — which are sitting on record piles of cash — are not yet seeing opportunities for new investments. (Marc: Duh!) Until they do, some economists argue that the Fed is pushing on a string.

“What has it done? It has eased credit conditions, it has pumped up the stock market, it has suppressed the dollar,” said Mickey Levy, Bank of America’s chief economist. “But does the Fed think that buying Treasuries and bloating its balance sheet is really going to create permanent job increases?”

25583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Christopher Hitchens: When the King saved God on: April 24, 2011, 12:34:20 PM

When the King Saved God
An unbeliever argues that our language and culture are incomplete without a 400-year-old book—the King James translation of the Bible. Spurned by the Establishment, it really represents a triumph for rebellion and dissent. Accept no substitutes!
MAY 2011
BIBLICAL PROPORTION The title page of the New Testament in the first edition of the King James Bible, published by Robert Barker (“Printer to the King’s most Excellent Maiestie”) in 1611.

After she was elected the first female governor of Texas, in 1924, and got herself promptly embroiled in an argument about whether Spanish should be used in Lone Star schools, it is possible that Miriam A. “Ma” Ferguson did not say, “If the King’s English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for the children of Texas.” I still rather hope that she did. But then, verification of quotations and sources is a tricky and sensitive thing. Abraham Lincoln lay dying in a room full of educated and literate men, in the age of the wireless telegraph, and not far from the offices of several newspapers, and we still do not know for sure, at the moment when his great pulse ceased to beat, whether his secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, said, “Now he belongs to the ages” or “Now he belongs to the angels.”

Such questions of authenticity become even more fraught when they involve the word itself becoming flesh; the fulfillment of prophecy; the witnessing of miracles; the detection of the finger of God. Guesswork and approximation will not do: the resurrection cannot be half true or questionably attested. For the first 1,500 years of the Christian epoch, this problem of “authority,” in both senses of that term, was solved by having the divine mandate wrapped up in languages that the majority of the congregation could not understand, and by having it presented to them by a special caste or class who alone possessed the mystery of celestial decoding.

Four hundred years ago, just as William Shakespeare was reaching the height of his powers and showing the new scope and variety of the English language, and just as “England” itself was becoming more of a nation-state and less an offshore dependency of Europe, an extraordinary committee of clergymen and scholars completed the task of rendering the Old and New Testaments into English, and claimed that the result was the “Authorized” or “King James” version. This was a fairly conservative attempt to stabilize the Crown and the kingdom, heal the breach between competing English and Scottish Christian sects, and bind the majesty of the King to his devout people. “The powers that be,” it had Saint Paul saying in his Epistle to the Romans, “are ordained of God.” This and other phrasings, not all of them so authoritarian and conformist, continue to echo in our language: “When I was a child, I spake as a child”; “Eat, drink, and be merry”; “From strength to strength”; “Grind the faces of the poor”; “salt of the earth”; “Our Father, which art in heaven.” It’s near impossible to imagine our idiom and vernacular, let alone our liturgy, without them. Not many committees in history have come up with such crystalline prose.

King James I, who brought the throne of Scotland along with him, was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and knew that his predecessor, Queen Elizabeth I, had been his mother’s executioner. In Scotland, he had had to contend with extreme Puritans who were suspicious of monarchy and hated all Catholics. In England, he was faced with worldly bishops who were hostile to Puritans and jealous of their own privileges. Optimism, prosperity, and culture struck one note—Henry Hudson was setting off to the Northwest Passage, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theater was drawing thoughtful crowds to see those dramas of power and legitimacy Othello, King Lear, and The Tempest—but terror and insecurity kept pace. Guy Fawkes and his fellow plotters, believed to be in league with the Pope, nearly succeeded in blowing up Parliament in 1605. Much of London was stricken with visitations of the bubonic plague, which, as Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (head of the committee of translators) noted with unease, appeared to strike the godly quite as often as it smote the sinner. The need was for a tempered version of God’s word that engendered compromise and a sense of protection.

Bishop Andrewes and his colleagues, a mixture of clergymen and classicists, were charged with revisiting the original Hebrew and Greek editions of the Old and New Testaments, along with the fragments of Aramaic that had found their way into the text. Understanding that their task was a patriotic and “nation-building” one (and impressed by the nascent idea of English Manifest Destiny, whereby the English people had replaced the Hebrews as God’s chosen), whenever they could translate any ancient word for “people” or “tribe” as “nation,” they elected to do so. The term appears 454 times in this confident form of “the King’s English.” Meeting in Oxford and Cambridge college libraries for the most part, they often kept their notes in Latin. Their conservative and consensual project was politically short-lived: in a few years the land was to be convulsed with civil war, and the Puritan and parliamentary forces under Oliver Cromwell would sweep the head of King Charles I from his shoulders. But the translators’ legacy remains, and it is paradoxically a revolutionary one, as well as a giant step in the maturing of English literature.

Imagining the most extreme form of totalitarianism in his Nineteen Eighty-Four dystopia, George Orwell depicted a secret class of occult power holders (the Inner Party clustered around Big Brother) that would cement its eternal authority by recasting the entire language. In the tongue of “Newspeak,” certain concepts of liberty and conscience would be literally impossible to formulate. And only within the most restricted circles of the regime would certain heretical texts, like Emmanuel Goldstein’s manifesto, still be legible and available. I believe that Orwell, a strong admirer of the Protestant Reformation and the poetry of its hero John Milton, was using as his original allegory the long struggle of English dissenters to have the Bible made available in a language that the people could read.

Until the early middle years of the 16th century, when King Henry VIII began to quarrel with Rome about the dialectics of divorce and decapitation, a short and swift route to torture and death was the attempt to print the Bible in English. It’s a long and stirring story, and its crux is the head-to-head battle between Sir Thomas More and William Tyndale (whose name in early life, I am proud to say, was William Hychyns). Their combat fully merits the term “fundamental.” Infuriating More, Tyndale whenever possible was loyal to the Protestant spirit by correctly translating the word ecclesia to mean “the congregation” as an autonomous body, rather than “the church” as a sacrosanct institution above human law. In English churches, state-selected priests would merely incant the liturgy. Upon hearing the words “Hoc” and “corpus” (in the “For this is my body” passage), newly literate and impatient artisans in the pews would mockingly whisper, “Hocus-pocus,” finding a tough slang term for the religious obfuscation at which they were beginning to chafe. The cold and righteous More, backed by his “Big Brother” the Pope and leading an inner party of spies and inquisitors, watched the Channel ports for smugglers risking everything to import sheets produced by Tyndale, who was forced to do his translating and printing from exile. The rack and the rope were not stinted with dissenters, and eventually Tyndale himself was tracked down, strangled, and publicly burned. (Hilary Mantel’s masterpiece historical novel, Wolf Hall, tells this exciting and gruesome story in such a way as to revise the shining image of “Saint” Thomas More, the “man for all seasons,” almost out of existence. High time, in my view. The martyrdoms he inflicted upon others were more cruel and irrational than the one he sought and found for himself.)

Other translations into other languages, by Martin Luther himself, among others, slowly entered circulation. One of them, the so-called Geneva Bible, was a more Calvinist and Puritan English version than the book that King James commissioned, and was the edition which the Pilgrim Fathers, fleeing the cultural and religious war altogether, took with them to Plymouth Rock. Thus Governor Ma Ferguson was right in one respect: America was the first and only Christian society that could take an English Bible for granted, and never had to struggle for a popular translation of “the good book.” The question, rather, became that of exactly which English version was to be accepted as the correct one. After many false starts and unsatisfactory printings, back in England, the Anglican conclave in 1611 adopted William Tyndale’s beautiful rendering almost wholesale, and out of their zeal for compromise and stability ironically made a posthumous hero out of one of the greatest literary dissidents and subversives who ever lived.

Writing about his own fascination with cadence and rhythm in Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin said, “I hazard that the King James Bible, the rhetoric of the store-front church, something ironic and violent and perpetually understated in Negro speech … have something to do with me today; but I wouldn’t stake my life on it.” As a child of the black pulpit and chronicler of the Bible’s huge role in the American oral tradition, Baldwin probably was “understating” at that very moment. And, as he very well knew, there had been times when biblical verses did involve, quite literally, the staking of one’s life. This is why the nuances and details of translation were (and still are) of such huge moment. For example, in Isaiah 7:14 it is stated that, “behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” This is the scriptural warrant and prophecy for the impregnation of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Ghost. But the original Hebrew wording refers only to the pregnancy of an almah, or young woman. If the Hebrew language wants to identify virginity, it has other terms in which to do so. The implications are not merely textual. To translate is also to interpret; or, indeed, to lay down the law. (Incidentally, the American “Revised Standard Version” of 1952 replaced the word “virgin” with “young woman.” It took the Fundamentalists until 1978 to restore the original misreading, in the now dominant “New International Version.”)

Take an even more momentous example, cited by Adam Nicolson in his very fine book on the process, God’s Secretaries. In the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Saint Paul reminds his readers of the fate that befell many backsliding pre-Christian Jews. He describes their dreadful punishments as having “happened unto them for ensamples,” which in 1611 was a plain way of conveying the word “example” or “illustrative instance,” or perhaps “lesson.” However, the original Greek term was typoi, which by contrast may be rendered as “types” or “archetypes” and suggests that Jews were to be eternally punished for their special traits. This had been Saint Augustine’s harsh reading, followed by successive Roman Catholic editions. At least one of King James’s translators wanted to impose that same collective punishment on the people of Moses, but was overruled. In the main existing text, the lenient word “ensamples” is given, with a marginal note in the original editions saying that “types” may also be meant. The English spirit of compromise at its best.

Then there are seemingly small but vital matters of emphasis, in which Tyndale did not win every round. Here is a famous verse which one might say was central to Christian teaching: “This is my Commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. / Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” That’s the King James version, which has echoed in the heads of many churchgoers until their last hour. Here is how the verse read when first translated by Tyndale: “This is my Commandment, that you love together as I have loved you. / Greater love than this hath no man, than that a man bestow his life for his friends.”

I do not find that the “King’s English” team improved much on the lovely simplicity of what they found. Tyndale has Jesus groping rather appealingly to make a general precept or principle out of a common bond, whereas the bishops and scholars are aiming to make an iron law out of love. In doing so they suggest strenuous martyrdom (“lay down,” as if Jesus had been a sacrifice to his immediate circle only). Far more human and attractive, surely, is Tyndale’s warm “bestow,” which suggests that a life devoted to friendship is a noble thing in itself.

Tyndale, incidentally, was generally good on the love question. Take that same Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, a few chapters later. For years, I would listen to it in chapel and wonder how an insipid, neuter word like “charity” could have gained such moral prestige. The King James version enjoins us that “now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Tyndale had put “love” throughout, and even if your Greek is as poor as mine you will have to admit that it is a greatly superior capture of the meaning of that all-important original word agape. It was actually the frigid clerical bureaucrat Thomas More who had made this into one of the many disputations between himself and Tyndale, and in opting to accept his ruling it seems as if King James’s committee also hoped to damp down the risky, ardent spontaneity of unconditional love and replace it with an idea of stern duty. Does not the notion of compulsory love, in any form, have something grotesque and fanatical about it?

Most recent English translations have finally dropped More and the King and gone with Tyndale on this central question, but often at the cost of making “love” appear too husky and sentimental. Thus the “Good News Bible” for American churches, first published in 1966: “Love never gives up; and its faith, hope and patience never fail.” This doesn’t read at all like the outcome of a struggle to discern the essential meaning of what is perhaps our most numinous word. It more resembles a smiley-face Dale Carnegie reassurance. And, as with everything else that’s designed to be instant, modern, and “accessible,” it goes out of date (and out of time) faster than Wisconsin cheddar.

Though I am sometimes reluctant to admit it, there really is something “timeless” in the Tyndale/King James synthesis. For generations, it provided a common stock of references and allusions, rivaled only by Shakespeare in this respect. It resounded in the minds and memories of literate people, as well as of those who acquired it only by listening. From the stricken beach of Dunkirk in 1940, faced with a devil’s choice between annihilation and surrender, a British officer sent a cable back home. It contained the three words “but if not … ” All of those who received it were at once aware of what it signified. In the Book of Daniel, the Babylonian tyrant Nebuchadnezzar tells the three Jewish heretics Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that if they refuse to bow to his sacred idol they will be flung into a “burning fiery furnace.” They made him an answer: “If it be so, our god whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thy hand, o King. / But if not, be it known unto thee, o king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”

A culture that does not possess this common store of image and allegory will be a perilously thin one. To seek restlessly to update it or make it “relevant” is to miss the point, like yearning for a hip-hop Shakespeare. “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward,” says the Book of Job. Want to try to improve that for Twitter? And so bleak and spare and fatalistic—almost non-religious—are the closing verses of Ecclesiastes that they were read at the Church of England funeral service the unbeliever George Orwell had requested in his will: “Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home. … Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. / Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was.”

At my father’s funeral I chose to read a similarly non-sermonizing part of the New Testament, this time an injunction from Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

As much philosophical as spiritual, with its conditional and speculative “ifs” and its closing advice—always italicized in my mind since first I heard it—to think and reflect on such matters: this passage was the labor of men who had wrought deeply with ideas and concepts. I now pluck down from my shelf the American Bible Society’s “Contemporary English Version,” which I picked up at an evangelical “Promise Keepers” rally on the Mall in Washington in 1997. Claiming to be faithful to the spirit of the King James translation, it keeps its promise in this way: “Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.”

Pancake-flat: suited perhaps to a basement meeting of A.A., these words could not hope to penetrate the torpid, resistant fog in the mind of a 16-year-old boy, as their original had done for me. There’s perhaps a slightly ingratiating obeisance to gender neutrality in the substitution of “my friends” for “brethren,” but to suggest that Saint Paul, of all people, was gender-neutral is to re-write the history as well as to rinse out the prose. When the Church of England effectively dropped King James, in the 1960s, and issued what would become the “New English Bible,” T. S. Eliot commented that the result was astonishing “in its combination of the vulgar, the trivial and the pedantic.” (Not surprising from the author of For Lancelot Andrewes.) This has been true of every other stilted, patronizing, literal-minded attempt to shift the translation’s emphasis from plangent poetry to utilitarian prose.

T. S. Eliot left America (and his annoyingly colorless Unitarian family) to seek the traditionalist roots of liturgical and literary tradition in England. Coming in the opposite direction across the broad Atlantic, the King James Bible slowly overhauled and overtook the Geneva version, and, as the Pilgrim-type mini-theocracies of New England withered away, became one of the very few books from which almost any American could quote something. Paradoxically, this made it easy to counterfeit. When Joseph Smith began to fabricate his Book of Mormon, in the late 1820s, “translating” it from no known language, his copy of King James was never far from his side. He plagiarized 27,000 words more or less straight from the original, including several biblical stories lifted almost in their entirety, and the throat-clearing but vaguely impressive phrase “and it came to pass” is used at least 2,000 times. Such “borrowing” was a way of lending much-needed “tone” to the racket. Not long afterward, William Miller excited gigantic crowds with the news that the Second Coming of Jesus would occur in 1843. An associate followed up with an 1844 due date. These disappointed prophecies were worked out from marginal notes in Miller’s copy of the King James edition, which he quarried for apocalyptic evidence. (There had always been those, from the earliest days, when it was being decided which parts of the Bible were divinely inspired and which were not, who had striven to leave out the Book of Revelation. Martin Luther himself declined to believe that it was the work of the Holy Spirit. But there Christianity still is, well and truly stuck with it.) So, of the many Christian heresies which were born in the New World and not imported from Europe, at least three—the Mormons, or Latter-Day Saints; the Millerites, or Seventh-Day Adventists; and their schismatic product the Jehovah’s Witnesses—are indirectly mutated from a pious attempt to bring religious consensus to Jacobean England.

Not to over-prize consensus, it does possess certain advantages over randomness and chaos. Since the appearance of the so-called “Good News Bible,” there have been no fewer than 48 English translations published in the United States. And the rate shows no sign of slackening. Indeed, the trend today is toward what the trade calls “niche Bibles.” These include the “Couples Bible,” “One Year New Testament for Busy Moms,” “Extreme Teen Study Bible,” “Policeman’s Bible,” and—somehow unavoidably—the “Celebrate Recovery Bible.” (Give them credit for one thing: the biblical sales force knows how to “be fruitful and multiply.”) In this cut-price spiritual cafeteria, interest groups and even individuals can have their own customized version of God’s word. But there will no longer be a culture of the kind which instantly recognized what Lincoln meant when he spoke of “a house divided.” The gradual eclipse of a single structure has led, not to a new clarity, but to a new Babel.

Those who opposed the translation of the Bible into the vernacular—rather like those Catholics who wish the Mass were still recited in Latin, or those Muslims who regard it as profane to render the Koran out of Arabic—were afraid that the mystic potency of incantation and ritual would be lost, and that daylight would be let in upon magic. They also feared that if God’s word became too everyday and commonplace it would become less impressive, or less able to inspire awe. But the reverse turns out to have been the case, at least in this instance. The Tyndale/King James translation, even if all its copies were to be burned, would still live on in our language through its transmission by way of Shakespeare and Milton and Bunyan and Coleridge, and also by way of beloved popular idioms such as “fatted calf” and “pearls before swine.” It turned out to be rather more than the sum of its ancient predecessors, as well as a repository and edifice of language which towers above its successors. Its abandonment by the Church of England establishment, which hoped to refill its churches and ended up denuding them, is yet another demonstration that religion is man-made, with inky human fingerprints all over its supposedly inspired and unalterable texts. Ma Ferguson was right in her way. She just didn’t know how many Englishmen and how many Englishes, and how many Jesus stories and Jesuses, there were to choose from.
25584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Custody battle: former lesbian mother vs lesbian former partner on: April 24, 2011, 10:39:52 AM

Federal authorities last week arrested and charged a Tennessee pastor with aiding in the “international parental kidnapping” of a girl who has been missing since late 2009 and is at the center of a lengthy custody battle between her two mothers — a onetime lesbian couple who were in a civil union.

Lisa Miller and the child disappeared in 2009.

The two had a bitter falling-out after one became an evangelical Christian and denounced the other’s continued “homosexual lifestyle.”

Their legal battle over visitation rights and custody, carried out over the last seven years in Vermont and Virginia courts, received wide publicity because of the clashes over sexual orientation and religion, and because it raised questions about the rights of nonbiological parents in same-sex unions that are not recognized in many states.

Lisa Miller, the girl’s biological mother and a newly fervent Baptist, was championed by conservatives for her efforts to shield her daughter from homosexuality. A Vermont court had granted her primary custody of the daughter, Isabella Ruth Miller-Jenkins, after Ms. Miller split with her partner, Janet Jenkins, in 2003. But the court also declared Ms. Jenkins to be a legal parent with liberal visiting rights, and Ms. Miller, who had moved with the girl to Virginia, defied repeated orders to permit the visits.

The case took a turn in late 2009, as the Vermont family court, citing Ms. Miller’s noncompliance, shifted primary custody to Ms. Jenkins. Ms. Miller and Isabella, who is now 9, disappeared. A warrant was issued for Ms. Miller’s arrest, and they have not been heard from since.

According to an F.B.I. affidavit unsealed in Vermont on Thursday, the pastor, Timothy David Miller of Crossville, Tenn., helped arrange in September 2009 for Ms. Miller and Isabella to fly from Canada to Mexico and travel on to Nicaragua, where he worked as a missionary for Christian Aid Ministries. (The F.B.I. said it had no evidence that Mr. Miller and Lisa Miller were related.)

Ms. Miller and Isabella stayed in a beach house in Nicaragua that is owned by a conservative businessman with close ties to Liberty University, an evangelical school in Lynchburg, Va., and whose daughter works at the university’s law school, according to the affidavit.

Lawyers from Liberty, including the dean of the law school, Mathew D. Staver, represented Ms. Miller in court appeals on the custody issues. They argued without success that Ms. Jenkins had no parental rights and that laws in Virginia, which ban same-sex unions, should prevail over those in Vermont.

On Friday, Mr. Staver said the legal team has had no contact with Ms. Miller since the fall of 2009 and had always advised her to obey the law. He said he knew nothing about the accusations involving a law school office assistant, Victoria Hyden, and her father Philip Zodhiates, the beach house’s owner.

Mr. Zodhiates runs Response Unlimited, a Christian direct-mail company in Waynesboro, Va. He did not respond to requests for comment, but on Friday he told The Advocate magazine that the pair were not living at his house in Nicaragua and called the accusations “absurd.”

Ms. Miller and Ms. Jenkins were joined in a civil union in Vermont in 2000 and planned to raise a child together. Isabella was conceived by artificial insemination and born to Ms. Miller in 2002, with Ms. Jenkins present at the birth. But the parents’ relations soured over the following year. Ms. Miller moved with Isabella to Virginia, became deeply involved with a Baptist church and renounced homosexuality. A Vermont court dissolved the civil union but treated Ms. Jenkins as a full parent with visitation rights.

Over time, Ms. Miller began refusing to allow the required visits, among other things objecting that Ms. Jenkins’s “homosexual lifestyle” would offend Isabella’s religious beliefs. At one point, a court in Virginia, which does not recognize same-sex unions, agreed with Ms. Miller’s claim to be the sole legal parent, but the Virginia Supreme Court eventually confirmed that the Vermont rulings should prevail.

Last June, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit, an unnamed person called one of Ms. Jenkins’s lawyers, Sarah Star, and told Ms. Star that the mother and daughter were hiding in Mr. Zodhiates’s Nicaraguan house. Much of the evidence in support of the criminal charges and other accusations, the affidavit said, was obtained through court-approved, covert searches of e-mail accounts, uncovering messages from Mr. Miller that appear to arrange the mother and daughter’s 2009 flight to Nicaragua and from Mr. Zodhiates arranging to send them supplies.

On Friday, Ms. Jenkins issued a statement through Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, a rights group in Boston that has also represented her in court.

“I know very little at this point, but I really hope that this means that Isabella is safe and well,” it said. “I am looking forward to having my daughter home safe with me very soon.”

The United States attorney for Vermont, Tristram Coffin, told the Rutland Herald newspaper that Mr. Miller had been arrested on Monday night in Virginia and was scheduled to appear in Federal District Court in Burlington on Monday. Officials declined to say whether others may be arrested or what measures they are taking to find Ms. Miller, who faces criminal charges, and Isabella, who under current rulings should be in the primary custody of Ms. Jenkins, with visitation rights for Ms. Miller.

25585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 24, 2011, 10:22:25 AM
Off to do some Easter Egg Hunt stuff with the family (my wife is Catholic btw), but a quick addition to the comments in my previous post:

If I am not mistaken, Persia changed its name to Iran (i.e. a form of the word "Aryan") due to Nazi influence in the 1930s.  Can anyone find a citation for or against this?  Assuming it to be true for the moment, again we see virulent Jew hatred prior to the existence of Israel-- so the problem is not the existence of Israel, the problem is religious hatred fomented within the ranks of Islam.
25586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chinese Ministry of Truth on: April 24, 2011, 10:17:35 AM
Pasting here BBG's post from the China thread:
25587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Debra Saunders: Three Cups of Salt on: April 24, 2011, 10:13:36 AM
I'm more interested in finding a way forward for America.   What are the implications of what YA just posted?

As the search function here will reveal, I read and was impressed by the "Three Cups of Tea" book a few years ago, and so I have followed its recent fall from grace with a certain amount of personal interest.  Here is a column that gives a sense of what was involved:

The first tip-off that Greg Mortenson's memoir "Three Cups of Tea" has some credibility issues comes in the book's introduction. Co-author David Oliver Relin writes that as Mortenson is flying over Pakistan, the helicopter pilot marvels to Mortenson, "I've been flying in northern Pakistan for 40 years. How is it you know the terrain better than me?"

The pilot also confides, "Flying with President Musharraf, I've become acquainted with many world leaders, many outstanding gentlemen and ladies. But I think Greg Mortenson is the most remarkable person I've ever met."

People don't talk like that. Books don't lead with that level of self-aggrandizement. Unless they want to induct you into a cult.

Last Sunday, "60 Minutes" reporter Steve Kroft ripped into Mortenson's claim of stumbling years ago into a Pakistani village as he descended from a K2 climb and meeting a young girl who asked him to build a school. While he refused Kroft's request for an on-camera interview, in a statement, Mortenson admitted his version of events was "condensed."

It seems Mortenson also fabricated a story of being kidnapped by the Taliban. Kroft interviewed Mansur Khan Mahsud, the research director of an Islamabad think tank, who was surprised to see himself in a photo that Mortenson had claimed showed his 1996 captors.

In the statement, Mortenson explained that "Talib" means student of Arabic. And Khan wants to sue him for defamation.

The worst part: "60 Minutes" checked out 30 of the 141 schools that Mortenson's charity, Central Asia Institute, claimed to have built in Afghanistan and Pakistan "mostly for girls." Kroft reported, "Roughly half were empty, built by someone else or not receiving any support at all."

American Institute of Philanthropy President Daniel Borochoff found that in 2009, CAI spent more on "domestic outreach" -- largely advertising and travel promoting Mortenson's books, "like a book tour" -- than it spent overseas.

"Into Thin Air" author Jon Krakauer, who is mentioned in "Three Cups" as a CAI supporter, charged that Mortenson, who has made millions in book sales, used the charity "as his private ATM."

That revelation must have hit "Three Cups" fans in the gut. The memoir asserts that Mortenson made repeated sacrifices -- such as living in his car rather than pay rent -- because "every wasted dollar stole bricks or books from the school."

But there were so many other signals that the book was problematic.

In "Three Cups," Mortenson charmed his Taliban kidnappers by asking for a Quran and showing his devotion -- and so they let him go. Which is amazing.

More amazing was the claim that they gave him money, saying, "For your schools. So, Inshallah, you'll build many more." (It helps if you forget how bad the Taliban take on education for girls is.)

There were other signals. Writer Ann Marlowe questioned some of the "anti-military nonsense" in a 2008 Forbes commentary. Mortenson claimed that during his stint as an Army medic in Germany, Vietnam veterans were hooked on heroin and died "in their bunks and we'd have to go and collect their bodies." Marlowe suggested that readers take his tales with "three grains of salt."

Instead, he sold 3 million books. Why? Through the pouring of "Three Cups," Mortenson came to personify every liberal conceit. He pushed books, not bombs. He had a nuanced take on Islamic extremism. He's not afraid of terrorism; for him, "the enemy is ignorance."

Marlowe observed, "The implication is that this solitary do-gooder's work is a better model for helping the rural poor in areas that are a breeding ground for Islamic extremism." While to the contrary, the U.S. Army built more schools in just one Afghan province in 15 months than CAI built in a decade.

Listeners of KQED-FM's "Forum" last week were outraged and perplexed. On the one hand, Mortenson has done a lot of good for a lot of children. On the other hand, the "60 Minutes" story makes his fans look gullible.

A caller asked: How are we supposed to know a book is a phony?

Hmmmm. If the cash-giving girls-school-loving Taliban tale doesn't ring a bell, if the constant reminders of Mortenson's greatness -- and modesty -- don't do the trick, maybe there is another warning sign. Global Fund for Women Vice President Shalini Nataraj warned about any memoir that hails "the white savior who's going to come in and save the local people."
25588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 23, 2011, 11:03:30 PM

While GM brings some citations to bear, I will merely offer two points

a) The purpose of my reference to the sales of Mein Kampf in the Arab world prior to WW2 was to establish the existence of vicious, virulent hatred of Jews well prior to the establishment of Israel i.e. the problem is not the existence of Israel, the problem is intolerance of Jews (and in the absence thereof of Coptic Christians and in the absence thereof any kind of Christian and in the absence thereof Muslims of other schools of thought that ones own etc etc etc)  I see GM is fleshing this point out.

b) Please do not confuse the vigor of the conversation for anger.  We do not seek here an echo chamber.  To the contrary we seek Truth.  Your presence and participation here are most welcome. 

c) I will seek to answer some of the particulars of your most recent post tomorrow.


PS:  Although I missed wishing Happy Passover a few days ago, I would like to take the occasion to wish Happy Easter to our Christian friends here.  The Christian message of forgiveness is a most worthy one.
25589  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / WSJ: Marines using accupuncture in Afpakia on: April 23, 2011, 07:39:49 PM
Marine Lance Cpl. Tristan Bell was injured in a jarring explosion that tore apart his armored vehicle, slammed a heavy radio into the back of his head and left him tortured by dizziness, insomnia, headaches and nightmares.

He is recovering on a padded table at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, beneath strings of soft, white Christmas lights, with the dulcet notes of "Tao of Healing" playing on an iPod and a forest of acupuncture needles sprouting from his head, ear, hands and feet.

In a bit of battlefield improvisation, the Navy is experimenting with acupuncture and soothing atmospherics to treat Marines suffering from mild cases of traumatic brain injury, commonly called concussions—the most prevalent wound of the Afghan war.

After hitting on the idea in late November, Cmdr. Keith Stuessi used acupuncture, along with the music and lights, to treat more than 20 patients suffering from mild brain injuries. All but two or three saw marked improvements, including easier sleep, reduced anxiety and fewer headaches, he says. Cmdr. Earl Frantz, who replaced Cmdr. Stuessi at Camp Leatherneck last month, has taken charge of the acupuncture project and treated 28 more concussion patients.

"I think a couple years down the road, this will be standard care," predicts Cmdr. Stuessi, a sports-medicine specialist turned acupuncture acolyte. "At some point you have to drink the Kool-Aid, and I have drunk the Kool-Aid."

While researchers are still investigating how exactly it works, studies have found that acupuncture can help relieve pain, stress and a range of other conditions. The newest Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs clinical guidelines recommend acupuncture as a supplementary therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, pain, anxiety and sleeplessness.

The VA is recruiting candidates for a study of acupuncture's effectiveness in treating PTSD and traumatic brain injury. Based on other studies of its benefits, "there is good reason to believe that acupuncture will induce recovery across a number of trauma spectrum dysfunctions in patients with TBI and PTSD, at low cost and with little risk," the VA wrote.

In 2008, the Navy put Cmdr. Stuessi, a 44-year-old from Wales, Wis., and a handful of other doctors through a 300-hour acupuncture course. When he came to Afghanistan in August to create a clinic to treat concussions and minor physical injuries, the commander brought his collapsible needling table. He expected to use it for the usual array of sprained ankles and sore backs.

Once at Camp Leatherneck, though, Cmdr. Stuessi stumbled across an article about using acupuncture to treat PTSD and realized many of the symptoms overlapped with those of mild traumatic brain injury: insomnia, headache, memory deficit, attention deficit, irritability and anxiety.

Lance Cpl. Bell, 22, from Billings, Mont., was patrolling a ridgeline in mid-January when the Marines in his vehicle spotted a half-buried bomb in the road ahead. They backed up onto a second booby-trap, leaving five of the seven crewmen, including Lance Cpl. Bell, unconscious. He took medicine, but the headaches and insomnia grew relentless as the days passed. "If I took a nap, I'd have nightmares and crazy dreams," he says. "I don't take naps."

He was waiting to see his regular doctor when Cmdr. Stuessi invited him to watch another Marine get acupuncture. The lance corporal hates needles, but he was getting desperate. The back of his head throbbed so hard it made his eyes hurt. "I thought, 'Something has to change here—I want to get back out there,' " he recalls.

The night after his first session, he slept eight hours, twice what he had managed before. Soon he was returning eagerly every three days, when the benefits began to fade. He made a recent visit after a bad night, in which he woke up disoriented, headed out for a smoke and hit his head on the bunk bed.

When Lance Cpl. Bell showed up at Cmdr. Stuessi's plywood office in a green Marine Corps sweatshirt and camouflage pants, the doctor turned off the overhead fluorescent light and switched on a string of Christmas lights his wife had shipped him. He shuffled his iPod from "Mack the Knife" to the flute notes of his healing music.

He slipped one needle into the top of the Marine's head, and more into his left ear and hands. As he worked, he spoke softly of "chi," which he described as the rush of numbness or warmth when the needle hits the spot, and "shen men," a point in the ear connected to anxiety and stress. "This is Liver Three," he said, sliding a needle into Lance Cpl. Bell's left foot and moving it until the Marine felt the desired effect.

"Right there," murmured Lance Cpl. Bell, letting his eyelids fall closed.

A 2008 RAND Corp. study found that one in five troops who serve in Iraq or Afghanistan suffers traumatic brain injury, ranging from severe head wounds to more common concussions. Standard treatment for the latter can involve painkillers, antianxiety medication, sleeping pills, counseling and group therapy.

Acupuncture immediately appeared to speed recovery, Cmdr. Stuessi says. His first patient, unable to sleep more than four hours a night despite two weeks of standard treatment, put in 10 hours the night after his initial needling. Most other patients have seen similar results.

Cmdr. Stuessi is unsure why acupuncture eases concussions. A few of Lance Cpl. Bell's buddies remain unconvinced.

Lance Cpl. Dominic Collins, who shared a vehicle with Lance Cpl. Bell, was plagued by headaches after the bombing. One night in February, he dreamed he was being mortared. He rolled out of his bunk to take cover.

He declined the clinic's offer of acupuncture. "It's kind of not my thing," he says. "I have tattoos, but it's the idea of getting stuck" that puts him off.

One Marine tried jokingly to discourage Cpl. Francisco Sanchez, who hit two mines in one day, from using acupuncture by making him sit through an action movie in which the hero stabs the villain with a needle in the back of the neck. The villain's eyes bleed. Then he dies.

But word has spread around camp, and Marines with everything from job stress to snuff addiction now plead for acupuncture.

"All we can say is we've learned from the Chinese on this," Cmdr. Stuessi says. "They've been doing this for a couple thousand years."

Write to Michael M. Phillips at

25590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 23, 2011, 07:16:49 PM
Worth noting is that much of the incoherence of our strategy has its origins in the Bush-Rumbo era , , ,
25591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: April 23, 2011, 07:15:48 PM
I like Dick Morris.  He's a very good pollster, and like me, he loathes the Clintons.  That does not mean however that he does not get outside of his lane from time to time and IMHO political economics is outside his lane.  While I am hostile to the IMF (see e.g. my pointing out that the bailouts of Greece and Ireland cost the US about $300B and that we should withdraw from the IMF) and DM makes some sound points regarding its make-up and distribution of power, after watching this twice I cannot tell wtf it is that has DM upset here.  That announced some standards.  So?  Without further explication, I'm not seeing the substance.
25592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: california on: April 23, 2011, 07:04:17 PM
Back in the 70s the Economist was a superior publication, but IMHO it now has deteriorated into smug elitism.  This article is the now usual mix of perceptive comments and pompous elitist commentary.

Amongst the many things missed are

a) the consequences of gerrymandering which have created a one party state-- the incumbent party.  I must give Schwarzenegger considerable credit for his part in bringing this to a close.  With the most recent census and the district lines no longer drawn by the incumbents, there may be hope for genuine democracy
b) the distinction between a republic and a democracy.  The United States is a republic, not a democracy, and for durn good reason-- unbridled democracy leads to demogoguery and tomfoolery of the sort we the idiots of CA have voted in via initiative. 

Life is tough, and it is tougher when you are stupid.  California has been stupid.
25593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 23, 2011, 06:57:36 PM
And/or it is intimidated by Islamic Fascism, just as Mussolini's Brown Shirts intimidated in the streets of Italy.

Andrew, you are a good person, but in my opinion your opinion is the result of being denied both sides.
25594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 23, 2011, 06:47:57 PM
I went searching for some clips to support my case, but it appears that youtube has deleted the following angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry
deleted as "schocking and disgusting"
violating terms of use
Concentration Camps #1
However this little gem from Palestinian TV year 2000 survives
Would you trust this congregation to keep and agreement with you?

And making sure to keep it alive with the next generation , , ,
25595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 23, 2011, 06:41:39 PM
Andrew, you are a bright, well-educated thoughtful guy with a good heart.  Like all of us, you are also the result of the air which you breathe, which in the case of Europe has reverted to its traditional anti-semitism, which is compounded in many areas by its pre-emptive dhimmitude towards the Muslims in its midst.   As you know, I have been to Europe and I have seen iaccuracies and attitudes in the press there that leave me looking like a Jewish Don King (the black American boxing promoter with the hair that goes straight up).

I'm not seeing a source for the maps you cite which I suspect draw things in a way that is subject to dispute, but the larger point is to expand the area in question.  Once we do this we see that it is, and I say this with love, wildly deranged to see the Palestinians as surrounded!  There IS a Palestinian homeland-- it is called Jordan.  The West Bank used to be part of Jordan, but because of Arafat and PLO perfidy, they fg abandoned it.

Mein Kampf was a best-seller throughout the Arab word (Under the name "My Jihad" if I am not mistaken) in the 1930s, well before WW2 and Hitler's final solution.  Jews have been the majority population of Jerusalem since 1500, and due to Islamic oppression (dhimmitude) nearly as many Jews emmigrated to Israel from Arab countries as did from Europe.

It is the Jews who are surrounded and who have had to fight for their very lives against Arab onslaught many times and who haved lived for decades with their women and children specifically targeted by suicidal killers (whose families were paid $25,000 a hit by Saddam Hussein by the way).  Despite this, Israeli Arabs are citizens who vote and can bring lawsuits (which they sometimes win) have their mosques and their religion.  Find me this in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, etc!

Yet despite all their genocidal attacks on the Jews, good people such as yourself do not hold the Palestinians to blame for the natural consequences of their actions.  Indeed you speak of the Jews surrounding the Arabs/Palestinians!?!

In Europe we allowed ourselves to be led to the gas chambers. 

Never again.
25596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 23, 2011, 06:21:45 PM
Whoa.  That's heavy.  shocked
25597  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law on: April 23, 2011, 06:20:11 PM

In honor of my Jewish heritage, allow me to point out

25598  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Dan Inosanto as a prison cook on: April 23, 2011, 06:17:42 PM
25599  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law on: April 23, 2011, 12:27:48 PM
"Uhler jumped on Montalvo, who put him in a submission hold, Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano said. The move blocked the teen's oxygen flow, causing a brain injury, Soriano said."

A submission hold blocks blood flow and does not attack the windpipe.  Not clear here whether the reporter grasps this distinction.  (Tangent: When I first moved to LA (1982) there was a political fuss over the disproportionate number of black people suffering drastic consequences from police holds that attacked the windpipe.  IIRC police chief Gates said something to the effect that that was because black people didn't have the same responses as "normal people", but I digress , , ,)

"Further, as pointed out, Montalvo was not in eminent danger (or any danger for that matter) when he initially saw Uhler. 
"The 42-year-old ran to the street, identified two suspects and chased them to the next block.""

Are you saying that Montalvo has to be in "eminent danger", or imminent danger for that matter  evil cheesy to try to catch the bad guy?

25600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Misean Economics on: April 23, 2011, 12:16:17 PM
An internet friend writes:

I have a couple of thoughts on the subject of books, and how to more quickly gain exposure to the Austrian ideas.

First of all, probably the most important thing to grasp is the fundamental difference between Misean thought and the currently dominant neo-classical economists. The mainstream has tried to turn economics into an empirical science like physics. They believe they can observe the economic world, craft hypotheses to explain the observed phenomena, and then test those hypotheses by measuring how well they can forecast future events. Many people seem to think Popper's ideas about "falsification" are relevant for economic science. For economics and other social sciences, however, Mises argued that empiricism is an impossible process. Controlled experimentation is impossible in this realm, but more importantly man's actions are not determined by invariant physical facts -- as are the actions and reactions of inanimate objects.

Mises offered a completely different method of constructing economic science, a method that was employed and articulated by a number of great economists before Mises' time -- but one that Mises himself developed more fully and explicitly than anybody before him. So here is my suggestion for getting this idea painlessly and quickly: read Robert P. Murphy's new book "Lessons for the Young Economist". Murphy wrote this book for high school and even younger people, but I have read it cover to cover and it is not a baby's book. He keeps the vocabulary at an appropriate level, but that is a good thing; when reading Mises I find myself looking up word definitions several times per page. This book can be read very quickly, and in my opinion, presents the key ideas faithfully and very well.

I will attach the ePub to this email, but you can also download it and several other formats from the link above. If this doesn't appeal to you, there are other options, but I sincerely feel that reading this simple work quickly might be the most painless way to get the most important and fundamental concepts. Economics is a much simpler discipline than the high priests in the Fed would have us believe.

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