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25851  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA series VHS/DVD's on: July 16, 2009, 10:47:29 PM
25852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / LATimes: Congressman helping La Familia on: July 16, 2009, 04:44:24 PM
Congressman-elect Julio Cesar Godoy is suspected of helping protect La Familia, accused of killing 16 officers recently. That has brought pressure on his half-brother, Michoacan Gov. Leonel Godoy.
By Ken Ellingwood
July 16, 2009

Reporting from Mexico City -- Last week, Julio Cesar Godoy was a congressman-elect. This week, he is a fugitive.

Mexican authorities say Godoy, a half-brother of Michoacan state Gov. Leonel Godoy, helped provide protection for La Familia, the drug-trafficking gang that has waged war on federal police across the state in recent days, killing at least 16 officers.
Officials have an arrest warrant but apparently can't find the younger Godoy, an attorney who was elected to Congress on July 5 as a candidate of the left-leaning Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD.

Feeling political heat, Gov. Godoy on Wednesday called on his sibling to turn himself in and confront the accusations. Godoy said his half-brother lived in a modest house, drove a used Volkswagen and showed no signs of links to organized crime. The two last spoke weeks ago, the governor said.

"He has to present his evidence if he is innocent," Godoy said in a radio interview. "If he is guilty, let them punish him with the full weight of the law."

The younger Godoy has not been seen in public since the campaign closed July 1. He didn't show up to vote on election day nor, after his victory, to collect the official notification that he had been elected to Congress.

Authorities, who did not specify when the arrest order was granted, announced the allegations Tuesday as part of the investigation into a string of attacks in Michoacan against federal police officers since Saturday. The attacks, including the slayings of 12 federal officers whose bodies were dumped near a highway, appeared to be in retaliation for the arrest of Arnoldo Rueda Medina, described as one of the gang's top three figures.

Officials say Saul Solis, a failed Green Party candidate for Congress, is also being sought for his alleged role as liaison between the crime group and officials and businessmen in Michoacan.

The allegations add new force to concerns over how thoroughly drug traffickers have infiltrated Mexico's political system, especially in smuggling crossroads such as Michoacan.

"Cartels like La Familia are born, grow and reproduce thanks to narco-politics, thanks to the complicity of those in power and the cloak of impunity that protects them," columnist Ricardo Aleman wrote Wednesday in El Universal newspaper.

The charges against Julio Cesar Godoy brought fresh pressure on his half-brother. Gov. Godoy, a member of the same political party, already faced questions after the state's attorney general and other aides were among 30 local and state functionaries arrested in May over suspected ties to La Familia.

The governor has dismissed the arrests as an election-season stunt by the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, of the conservative National Action Party. And he rejected fresh calls to resign.

"I won't give them the pleasure," Godoy said Wednesday.

Monte Alejandro Rubido, a national security spokesman, said that a senior gunman arrested in the recent attacks revealed details about La Familia's structure. He said Julio Cesar Godoy and Solis worked for the group's alleged operations chief, Servando Gomez Martinez, who lives in Michoacan.

A man who said he was Gomez Martinez phoned a public affairs television show in Michoacan on Wednesday and called on Calderon to reach an accord with La Familia.

Hours later, Interior Minister Fernando Gomez Mont rejected the purported overture, saying Mexico would not negotiate with any criminal group.
25853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fallujah on: July 16, 2009, 01:03:09 PM;jsessionid=26F40AC4E0566E724DD335F4655D5BAB?displayContent=140289&page=1
25854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sotomayor on: July 16, 2009, 01:01:41 PM
I found S's refusal to agree that there is a right to Constitutional right to self-defense mind-boggling.
25855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: July 16, 2009, 12:41:41 PM
25856  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: July 16, 2009, 11:12:59 AM
My son Conrad, his friend Greg and Greg's two brothers have made a youtube clip that addresses the following matters:

1) What is worth fighting over?
2) Gun disarms, and
3) Gun safety

25857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "Optional"?!? Those lying SOBs on: July 16, 2009, 10:01:23 AM
A friend writes:

Here it is, Page 16 of the Health Care bill
"Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day" of the year the legislation becomes law."
You leave a company with health care and go to a different company with a different carrier,  you are screwed.  You must go into the government plan. 
Start up your own company, you are forced into the government plan.
Obamism is alive and well

Here it is, Page 16 of the Health Care bill
"Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day" of the year the legislation becomes law."
You leave a company with health care and go to a different company with a different carrier,  you are screwed.  You must go into the government plan. 
Start up your own company, you are forced into the government plan.
Obamism is alive and well


(a) Grandfathered Health Insurance Coverage Defined- Subject to the succeeding provisions of this section, for purposes of establishing acceptable coverage under this division, the term `grandfathered health insurance coverage' means individual health insurance coverage that is offered and in force and effect before the first day of Y1 if the following conditions are met:


(A) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day of Y1.

(B) DEPENDENT COVERAGE PERMITTED- Subparagraph (A) shall not affect the subsequent enrollment of a dependent of an individual who is covered as of such first day.

(2) LIMITATION ON CHANGES IN TERMS OR CONDITIONS- Subject to paragraph (3) and except as required by law, the issuer does not change any of its terms or conditions, including benefits and cost-sharing, from those in effect as of the day before the first day of Y1.

(3) RESTRICTIONS ON PREMIUM INCREASES- The issuer cannot vary the percentage increase in the premium for a risk group of enrollees in specific grandfathered health insurance coverage without changing the premium for all enrollees in the same risk group at the same rate, as specified by the Commissioner.

(b) Grace Period for Current Employment-based Health Plans-


(A) IN GENERAL- The Commissioner shall establish a grace period whereby, for plan years beginning after the end of the 5-year period beginning with Y1, an employment-based health plan in operation as of the day before the first day of Y1 must meet the same requirements as apply to a qualified health benefits plan under section 101, including the essential benefit package requirement under section 121.

(B) EXCEPTION FOR LIMITED BENEFITS PLANS- Subparagraph (A) shall not apply to an employment-based health plan in which the coverage consists only of one or more of the following:

(i) Any coverage described in section 3001(a)(1)(B)(ii)(IV) of division B of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).

(ii) Excepted benefits (as defined in section 733(c) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974), including coverage under a specified disease or illness policy described in paragraph (3)(A) of such section.

(iii) Such other limited benefits as the Commissioner may specify.

In no case shall an employment-based health plan in which the coverage consists only of one or more of the coverage or benefits described in clauses (i) through (iii) be treated as acceptable coverage under this division

(2) TRANSITIONAL TREATMENT AS ACCEPTABLE COVERAGE- During the grace period specified in paragraph (1)(A), an employment-based health plan that is described in such paragraph shall be treated as acceptable coverage under this division.

(c) Limitation on Individual Health Insurance Coverage-

(1) IN GENERAL- Individual health insurance coverage that is not grandfathered health insurance coverage under subsection (a) may only be offered on or after the first day of Y1 as an Exchange-participating health benefits plan.

(2) SEPARATE, EXCEPTED COVERAGE PERMITTED- Excepted benefits (as defined in section 2791(c) of the Public Health Service Act ) are not included within the definition of health insurance coverage. Nothing in paragraph (1) shall prevent the offering, other than through the Health Insurance Exchange, of excepted benefits so long as it is offered and priced separately from health insurance coverage.
25858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson, 1826 on: July 16, 2009, 08:16:03 AM
"All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride legitimately, by the grace of God."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826
25859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Uh oh , , , on: July 16, 2009, 08:09:02 AM

After 18 days with Lithuanians in Ghor Province, have made it back to Kabul.  We are very short on aircraft in Afghanistan; I was delayed by about a week just waiting for airplanes that never came.  Some U.S. soldiers in Ghor told me that a child who was badly wounded in one of our air strikes had to wait three days for a medevac aircraft.  Apparently the child's leg was badly mangled.

The Afghan war has become more deadly -- on a per capita basis -- than Iraq ever was.  This was predictable a long time ago and is presented in my dispatches starting in 2006.  We are losing the war.  At this rate we will lose the war.

A friend at Soldiers' Angels started a Twitter page and I have started with real time uploads.  Don't be surprised if I start Twittering during a boring Shura or an unfortunate firefight where I am pinned down and have nothing to do.  The Twitter page is Michael_Yon (not Michael Yon).  Please follow that for immediate news.

The latest photo dispatch is up.  Lots of pretty pictures.

Very Respectfully,

Michael Yon
25860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: July 15, 2009, 06:32:39 PM
A Jewish boy comes home from school and tells his mother he's been given a part in the school play.
"Wonderful. What part is it?"
The boy says,"I play the part of the Jewish husband."
The mother scowls and says, "Go back and tell the teacher you want a speaking part."
25861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Brits in Helmland on: July 15, 2009, 06:25:53 PM
'It was like Saving Private Ryan': British soldier recalls Helmand rocket grenade

Trooper Anthony Matthews describes being hit and having to apply tourniquet during Afghanistan offensive

Richard Norton-Taylor
Wednesday 15 July 2009 18.06 BST

A British soldier injured in fierce fighting in the biggest offensive against the Taliban since the start of the conflict in 2001 has given a first-hand account of his ordeal.

Trooper Anthony Matthews, 20, of the Light Dragoons, was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during Operation Panther's Claw in Helmand province last week. He described how he managed to apply a tourniquet to his leg wound and to that of an injured comrade as he returned gunfire.

On that day, 7 July, Matthews's close friend Christopher Whiteside, 22, was killed by an improvised bomb in a separate operation in Gereshk.

The number of British soldiers seriously wounded rose significantly last month, according to figures released todayby the Ministry of Defence. A total of 13 were "very seriously" or "seriously" wounded in action, with their lives being "imminently in danger" or their injuries a cause for "immediate concern".

A further 46 soldiers were admitted to field hospitals last month. However, the figures do not reveal the total number of soldiers with injuries conventionally regarded as serious, including the loss of limbs. The figures for July are likely to be worse, defence officials acknowledge.

Matthews, nicknamed "Bulletproof Tony", has returned home to Dunston, Gateshead, with a cricket ball-sized wound after a month of fighting that has claimed the lives of 17 British soldiers.

Recovering from surgery to the blast wound on his left leg, Matthews said he had feared for his own life.

He said: "There aren't many people can tell the tale of getting hit by a grenade. I've just been very lucky. We came out of the compound we had taken over, and there was a tree line that we used as cover. My mates were beside me at either side, and then all I remember is hearing a massive bang.

"There was dirt all over their faces and they were screaming. It was like a scene out of Saving Private Ryan. My ears had gone and I looked at my friend and I could see he had been hit badly. I turned and looked down at my leg and my pants were all broken. I put a tourniquet on while I was still shooting."

The Light Dragoons were based near Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital. During the early hours of 7 July, his platoon stepped into an ambush. A rocket-propelled grenade seriously wounded Matthews and his friend, Trooper Aaron Bradley.

"When the bullets are whizzing past it's terrifying," said Matthews. "They sound like bees flying past your ears, and then you hear them land and it sounds like someone clapping their hands."

After being hit, he said, "it was just adrenaline. I didn't feel anything. I stabbed myself with morphine and held on until the helicopters came. They got us back to Camp Bastion in four minutes."

After treatment there he was flown to Birmingham's Selly Oak hospital, where an operation sealed a deep wound across the back of his left leg. A few days before he was hit by the grenade, Matthews had been on a foot patrol behind a Scimitar tank which was blown up by a roadside bomb. His arms were hit by shrapnel.

He said: "No one was killed or even injured badly that time, amazingly. A team came out to clear the area and make sure it wasn't a 'daisy chain', where a number of bombs are linked to a single command and control wire.

"It's proper war out there. One time it took us from first light until last light just to move 800 metres. We were in constant contact with the enemy."

His house was decked out in Union flags to welcome him home, and he is now recuperating alongside his mother, Karine, brother Kallum, 13, and girlfriend Sam, 20.
25862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: July 15, 2009, 03:00:13 PM
Too bad they quote DEBKA, even as disparagingly as they do-- DEBKA IMHO is lunatic fringe.
25863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO-Panetta castrate US in yet another way on: July 15, 2009, 02:42:38 PM
U.S.: Reaction to the CIA Assassination Program
July 15, 2009

By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton

On June 23, 2009, Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta learned of a highly compartmentalized program to assassinate al Qaeda operatives that was launched by the CIA in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. When Panetta found out that the covert program had not been disclosed to Congress, he canceled it and then called an emergency meeting June 24 to brief congressional oversight committees on the program. Over the past week, many details of the program have been leaked to the press and the issue has received extensive media coverage.

That a program existed to assassinate al Qaeda leaders should certainly come as no surprise to anyone. It has been well-publicized that the Clinton administration had launched military operations and attempted to use covert programs to strike the al Qaeda leadership in the wake of the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings. In fact, the Clinton administration has come under strong criticism for not doing more to decapitate al Qaeda prior to 2001. Furthermore, since 2002, the CIA has conducted scores of strikes against al Qaeda targets in Pakistan using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) like the MQ-1 Predator and the larger MQ-9 Reaper.

These strikes have dramatically increased over the past two years and the pace did not slacken when the Obama administration came to power in January. So far in 2009 there have been more than two dozen UAV strikes in Pakistan alone. In November 2002, the CIA also employed a UAV to kill Abu Ali al-Harithi, a senior al Qaeda leader suspected of planning the October 2000 attack against the USS Cole. The U.S. government has also attacked al Qaeda leaders at other times and in other places, such as the May 1, 2008, attack against al Qaeda-linked figures in Somalia using an AC-130 gunship.

As early as Oct. 28, 2001, The Washington Post ran a story discussing the Clinton-era presidential finding authorizing operations to capture or kill al Qaeda targets. The Oct. 28 Washington Post story also provided details of a finding signed by President George W. Bush following the 9/11 attacks that reportedly provided authorization to strike a larger cross section of al Qaeda targets, including those who are not in the Afghan theater of operations. Such presidential findings are used to authorize covert actions, but in this case the finding would also provide permission to contravene Executive Order 12333, which prohibits assassinations.

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Bush and the members of his administration were very clear that they sought to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and the members of the al Qaeda organization. During the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections in the United States, every major candidate, including Barack Obama, stated that they would seek to kill bin Laden and destroy al Qaeda. Indeed, on the campaign trail, Obama was quite vocal in his criticism of the Bush administration for not doing more to go after al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan. This means that, regardless of who is in the White House, it is U.S. policy to go after individual al Qaeda members as well as the al Qaeda organization.

In light of these facts, it would appear that there was nothing particularly controversial about the covert assassination program itself, and the controversy that has arisen over it has more to do with the failure to report covert activities to Congress. The political uproar and the manner in which the program was canceled, however, will likely have a negative impact on CIA morale and U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

Program Details
As noted above, that the U.S. government has attempted to locate and kill al Qaeda members is not shocking. Bush’s signing of a classified finding authorizing the assassination of al Qaeda members has been a poorly kept secret for many years now, and the U.S. government has succeeded in killing al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

While Hellfire missiles are quite effective at hitting trucks in Yemen and AC-130 gunships are great for striking walled compounds in the Somali badlands, there are many places in the world where it is simply not possible to use such tools against militants. One cannot launch a hellfire from a UAV at a target in Milan or use an AC-130 to attack a target in Doha. Furthermore, there are certain parts of the world — including some countries considered to be U.S. allies — where it is very difficult for the United States to conduct counterterrorism operations at all. These difficulties have been seen in past cases where the governments have refused U.S. requests to detain terrorist suspects or have alerted the suspects to the U.S. interest in them, compromising U.S. intelligence efforts and allowing the suspects to flee.

A prime example of this occurred in 1996, when the United States asked the government of Qatar for assistance in capturing al Qaeda operational mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was living openly in Qatar and even working for the Qatari government as a project engineer. Mohammed was tipped off to American intentions by the Qatari authorities and fled to Pakistan. According to the 9/11 commission report, Mohammed was closely associated with Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid al-Thani, who was then the Qatari minister of religious affairs. After fleeing Doha, Mohammed went on to plan several al Qaeda attacks against the United States, including the 9/11 operation.

Given these realities, it appears that the recently disclosed assassination program was intended to provide the United States with a far more subtle and surgical tool to use in attacks against al Qaeda leaders in locations where Hellfire missiles are not appropriate and where host government assistance is unlikely to be provided. Some media reports indicate that the program was never fully developed and deployed; others indicate that it may have conducted a limited number of operations.

Unlike UAV strikes, where pilots fly the vehicles by satellite link and can actually be located a half a world away, or the very tough and resilient airframe of an AC-130, which can fly thousands of feet above a target, a surgical assassination capability means that the CIA would have to put boots on the ground in hostile territory where operatives, by their very presence, would be violating the laws of the sovereign country in which they were operating. Such operatives, under nonofficial cover by necessity, would be at risk of arrest if they were detected.

Also, because of the nature of such a program, a higher level of operational security is required than in the program to strike al Qaeda targets using UAVs. It is far more complex to move officers and weapons into hostile territory in a stealthy manner to strike a target without warning and with plausible deniability. Once a target is struck with a barrage of Hellfire missiles, it is fairly hard to deny what happened. There is ample physical evidence tying the attack to American UAVs. When a person is struck by a sniper’s bullet or a small IED, the perpetrator and sponsor have far more deniability. By its very nature, and by operational necessity, such a program must be extremely covert.

Even with the cooperation of the host government, conducting an extraordinary rendition in a friendly country like Italy has proved to be politically controversial and personally risky for CIA officers, who can be threatened with arrest and trial. Conducting assassination operations in a country that is not so friendly is a far riskier undertaking. As seen by the Russian officers arrested in Doha after the February 2004 assassination of former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, such operations can generate blowback. The Russian officers responsible for the Yandarbiyev hit were arrested, tortured, tried and sentenced to life in prison (though after several months they were released into Russian custody to serve the remainder of their sentences).

Because of the physical risk to the officers involved in such operations, and the political blowback such operations can cause, it is not surprising that the details of such a program would be strictly compartmentalized inside the CIA and not widely disseminated beyond the gates of Langley. In fact, it is highly doubtful that the details of such a program were even widely known inside the CIA’s counterterrorism center (CTC) — though almost certainly some of the CTC staff suspected that such a covert program existed somewhere. The details regarding such a program were undoubtedly guarded carefully within the clandestine service, with the officer in charge most likely reporting directly to the deputy director of operations, who reports personally to the director of the CIA.

Loose Lips Sink Ships
As trite as this old saying may sound, it is painfully true. In the counterterrorism realm, leaks destroy counterterrorism cases and often allow terrorist suspects to escape and kill again. There have been several leaks of “sources and methods” by congressional sources over the past decade that have disclosed details of sensitive U.S. government programs designed to do things such as intercept al Qaeda satellite phone signals and track al Qaeda financing. A classified appendix to the report of the 2005 Robb-Silberman Commission on Intelligence Capabilities (which incidentally was leaked to the press) discussed several such leaks, noted the costs they impose on the American taxpayers and highlighted the damage they do to intelligence programs.

The fear that details of a sensitive program designed to assassinate al Qaeda operatives in foreign countries could be leaked was probably the reason for the Bush administration’s decision to withhold knowledge of the program from the U.S. Congress, even though amendments to the National Security Act of 1947 mandate the reporting of most covert intelligence programs to Congress. Given the imaginative legal guidance provided by Bush administration lawyers regarding subjects such as enhanced interrogation, it would not be surprising to find that White House lawyers focused on loopholes in the National Security Act reporting requirements.

The validity of such legal opinions may soon be tested. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, recently said he was considering an investigation into the failure to report the program to Congress, and House Democrats have announced that they want to change the reporting requirements to make them even more inclusive.

Under the current version of the National Security Act, with very few exceptions, the administration is required to report the most sensitive covert activities to, at the very least, the so-called “gang of eight” that includes the chairmen and ranking minority members of the congressional intelligence committees, the speaker and minority leader of the House of Representatives and the majority and minority leaders of the Senate. In the wake of the program’s disclosure, some Democrats would like to expand this minimum reporting requirement to include the entire membership of the congressional intelligence committees, which would increase the absolute minimum number of people to be briefed from eight to 40. Some congressmen argue that presidents, prompted by the CIA, are too loose in their invocation of the “extraordinary circumstances” that allow them to report only to the gang of eight and not the full committees. Yet ironically, the existence of the covert CIA program stayed secret for over seven and a half years, and yet here we are writing about it less than a month after the congressional committees were briefed.

The addition of that many additional lips to briefings pertaining to covert actions is not the only thing that will cause great consternation at the CIA. While legally mandated, disclosing covert programs to Congress has been very problematic. The angst felt at Langley over potential increases in the number of people to be briefed will be compounded by the recent reports that Attorney General Eric Holder may appoint a special prosecutor to investigate CIA interrogations and ethics reporting.

In April we discussed how some of the early actions of the Obama administration were having a chilling effect on U.S. counterterrorism programs and personnel. Expanding the minimum reporting requirements under the National Security Act will serve to turn the thermostat down several additional notches, as did Panetta’s overt killing of the covert program. It is one thing to quietly kill a controversial program; it is quite another to repudiate the CIA in public. In addition to damaging the already low morale at the agency, Panetta has announced in a very public manner that the United States has taken one important tool entirely out of the counterterrorism toolbox: Al Qaeda no longer has to fear the possibility of clandestine American assassination teams.
25864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fixing Airport Security on: July 15, 2009, 07:32:51 AM
      Fixing Airport Security

It's been months since the Transportation Security Administration has
had a permanent director. If, during the job interview (no, I didn't get
one), President Obama asked me how I'd fix airport security in one
sentence, I would reply: "Get rid of the photo ID check, and return
passenger screening to pre-9/11 levels."

Okay, that's a joke. While showing ID, taking your shoes off and
throwing away your water bottles isn't making us much safer, I don't
expect the Obama administration to roll back those security measures
anytime soon. Airport security is more about CYA than anything else:
defending against what the terrorists did last time.

But the administration can't risk appearing as if it facilitated a
terrorist attack, no matter how remote the possibility, so those
annoyances are probably here to stay.

This would be my real answer: "Establish accountability and transparency
for airport screening." And if I had another sentence: "Airports are one
of the places where Americans, and visitors to America, are most likely
to interact with a law enforcement officer - and yet no one knows what
rights travelers have or how to exercise those rights."

Obama has repeatedly talked about increasing openness and transparency
in government, and it's time to bring transparency to the Transportation
Security Administration (TSA).

Let's start with the no-fly and watch lists. Right now, everything about
them is secret: You can't find out if you're on one, or who put you
there and why, and you can't clear your name if you're innocent. This
Kafkaesque scenario is so un-American it's embarrassing. Obama should
make the no-fly list subject to judicial review.

Then, move on to the checkpoints themselves. What are our rights? What
powers do the TSA officers have? If we're asked "friendly" questions by
behavioral detection officers, are we allowed not to answer? If we
object to the rough handling of ourselves or our belongings, can the TSA
official retaliate against us by putting us on a watch list? Obama
should make the rules clear and explicit, and allow people to bring
legal action against the TSA for violating those rules; otherwise,
airport checkpoints will remain a Constitution-free zone in our country.

Next, Obama should refuse to use unfunded mandates to sneak expensive
security measures past Congress. The Secure Flight program is the worst
offender. Airlines are being forced to spend billions of dollars
redesigning their reservations systems to accommodate the TSA's demands
to preapprove every passenger before he or she is allowed to board an
airplane. These costs are borne by us, in the form of higher ticket
prices, even though we never see them explicitly listed.

Maybe Secure Flight is a good use of our money; maybe it isn't. But
let's have debates like that in the open, as part of the budget process,
where it belongs.

And finally, Obama should mandate that airport security be solely about
terrorism, and not a general-purpose security checkpoint to catch
everyone from pot smokers to deadbeat dads.

The Constitution provides us, both Americans and visitors to America,
with strong protections against invasive police searches. Two exceptions
come into play at airport security checkpoints. The first is "implied
consent," which means that you cannot refuse to be searched; your
consent is implied when you purchased your ticket. And the second is
"plain view," which means that if the TSA officer happens to see
something unrelated to airport security while screening you, he is
allowed to act on that.

Both of these principles are well established and make sense, but it's
their combination that turns airport security checkpoints into
police-state-like checkpoints.

The TSA should limit its searches to bombs and weapons and leave general
policing to the police - where we know courts and the Constitution still

None of these changes will make airports any less safe, but they will go
a long way to de-ratcheting the culture of fear, restoring the
presumption of innocence and reassuring Americans, and the rest of the
world, that - as Obama said in his inauguration speech - "we reject as
false the choice between our safety and our ideals."

This essay originally appeared, without hyperlinks, in the New York
Daily News.
25865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 12 undercover feds killed on: July 15, 2009, 07:26:21 AM
MEXICO CITY -- Twelve undercover federal police agents were captured, tortured, and executed by a relatively new and dangerous Mexican cartel calling itself La Familia, or The Family, officials said Tuesday.

The killings are a major psychological blow to President Felipe Calderón's war on drugs. The bodies of 11 men and one woman were found by locals on the side of a highway in Mr. Calderón's home state of Michoacán on Monday. The victims had their hands and feet tied, showed signs of torture, and had all been shot in the head at close range.

The agents had been in Michoacán to gather intelligence on the cartel, said Monte Alejandro Rubido, the government's top spokesman on security issues. Officials said they believed the killings were connected to the weekend capture of Arnoldo Rueda Medina, one of the cartel's major operators. "We have reinforced our operations in several states and we will not retreat a single step in our fight against organized crime," Mr. Rubido said at a news conference.

Since the Saturday arrest, gunmen believed to be working for the cartel have gone on a rampage, attacking police stations, army patrols and hotels in several different cities in Michoacán with grenades, AK-47s and AR-15 semiautomatic rifles. The attacks killed two soldiers and six other federal police agents, and wounded a further 18 agents.

Together with the executions, the toll from three days of violence climbed to 18 federal police agents killed, as well as the two soldiers -- not including about a dozen other civilian victims, police said. That would mark one of the bloodiest single episodes against federal forces since Mr. Calderón launched a crackdown on drug cartels shortly after taking power in December 2006.

The violence highlights the increasing power, brazenness, and operational capability of Mexican cartels like La Familia. Within a day of Mr. Rueda's arrest, gunmen attacked a hotel where police were staying in Apatzingán, federal police barracks in the tourist town of Pátzcuaro, a police base in Huetamo, and a police convoy on a rural road -- all in different parts of the state.

Since Mr. Calderón took power, more than 12,000 people have died in Mexico in drug-related killings.

The killings could raise political pressure on Mr. Calderón to retreat in the battle against drug lords. While the war on drugs is popular, many opposition politicians say it is only stirring up trouble and causing more violence. On Monday, leftist senator Carlos Navarrete called on Mr. Calderón to scale back the war on drugs, partly because traffickers could target senior law-enforcement and government officials.

The killings are also a major blow to the Federal Police. Mr. Calderón's government has invested millions in training, technology and arms for the agency, a two-year-old institution being fashioned after the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. It has been part of a national effort to clean up police agencies that have traditionally been corrupted by drug cartels.

Federal police have been dispatched across Mexico in joint operations with the military to take on drug organizations in areas where the local and state police are suspect. The officers work in two- to three-month shifts before being sent to a new hot spot. The reasoning is that if they are there any longer, the risk that the officers might succumb to offers of money or threats by the drug gangs becomes too great.

Responding to the violence, Mr. Calderón said that the cartels were increasingly desperate due to the crackdown by the federal government, which has included sending 45,000 troops to patrol cities. "In these cowardly attacks, brave members of our federal forces have lost their lives," Mr. Calderón said Tuesday. "They have fallen thinking it is possible to construct a safer Mexico. They have fallen fighting for the safety of all of us." A new poll by Mexican pollster GCE, however, showed that 51% of Mexicans believe the cartels have the upper hand in the drug war, while only 29% think the government is winning.

Of Mexico's major drug cartels, perhaps none is as dangerous as La Familia, a relatively obscure trafficking organization that has gained notoriety in the past year. Founded in part by a charismatic leader who preaches family values, the cartel first gained attention in 2006 in grisly fashion: By rolling the severed heads of five men onto a dance floor at a Michoacán disco, along with a hand-scrawled note warning off rival traffickers.

La Familia has tried to cast itself as a Robin Hood-type cartel, a quasi-legitimate business that gives back money to the poor, abides by a code of ethics such as not selling certain drugs like methamphetamines in Michoacán, and metes out justice to its enemies only when it is double-crossed. Experts say it recruits heavily among recovering drug and alcohol addicts. It has published manifestoes in local newspapers. One golden rule: "family" members of traffickers should be off-limits to both other traffickers and the federal government.

"It's a bit like a cult, a mixture of evangelicals with new-age self-help that gives members a sense of belonging and creates a very disciplined organization," says Alberto Islas, a security consultant based in Mexico City.

Federal officials say the cartel has infiltrated the state government to a shocking degree. Soldiers arrested 10 mayors in Michoacán, as well as 17 police chiefs, in May.

—Paul Kiernan and John Lyons contributed to this article.
Write to David Luhnow at

25866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Water on: July 15, 2009, 06:54:08 AM
This seems like a good idea to me:


WASHINGTON—A bipartisan group of lawmakers is proposing to raise about $10 billion a year to fix aging water and sewer systems by taxing the biggest users.

The legislation, which has sparked significant opposition from industry, is expected to be unveiled Wednesday at a news conference on Capitol Hill.

The bill calls for a 0.15% tax on any corporation earning a profit of more than $4 million a year. Manufacturers of any water-based beverages, excluding alcohol, would see a four-cent tax per container. Soaps, detergents, toiletries, toilet tissue, water softeners and cooking oils would face a 3% tax on wholesale prices. Pharmaceuticals would be taxed at 0.5% of the wholesale price.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D., Ore.), the main sponsor of the Water Protection and Reinvestment Act, said he believed the bill was necessary to repair an aging system used by all Americans. The taxes, he said, would target some of the biggest users of water and companies that have the biggest stake in the efficiency of the system. He called the fees modest and fair.

The federal government has paid an average of $2.3 billion each year since 2000 to help maintain the water system. A spokeswoman for Mr. Blumenauer said the trust fund created under the bill would bring in about $10 billion a year.

Concerns about the safety and integrity of water systems is a perennial concern, particularly in older cities. Recent water-main breaks in New York City have disrupted traffic and transit.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce representative, Janet Kavinoky, said: "Anytime there's a broad base of general taxes being used to fund infrastructure, the chamber is going to take a close look at how that affects our members."

The chamber also has concerns that a federal subsidy for infrastructure repair could send a signal to local municipalities that they don't need to charge the real cost of providing water.

Representatives of the industries that would be hardest hit by the proposed fees said they feel unfairly targeted.

Joe Doss, president and chief executive of the International Bottled Water Association, said the proposal singled out one product category, while other water users wouldn't see tax increases.

Kevin Keane, senior vice president of the American Beverage Association, said beverage companies would almost certainly raise their prices to help compensate for the tax. This is just another example of "raising taxes on the middle class," Mr. Keane said. [It] would just add to the burden of taxpayers at a time they are already facing economic struggles," he said.

A representative from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said they have not yet developed an opinion on the legislation.

Mr. Blumenauer is set to testify on the legislation Wednesday in front of a panel of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Write to Jake Sherman at

25867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Texas curriculum on: July 15, 2009, 06:50:46 AM
The fight over school curriculum in Texas, recently focused on biology, has entered a new arena, with a brewing debate over how much faith belongs in American history classrooms.

The Texas Board of Education, which recently approved new science standards that made room for creationist critiques of evolution, is revising the state's social studies curriculum. In early recommendations from outside experts appointed by the board, a divide has opened over how central religious theology should be to the teaching of history.

Three reviewers, appointed by social conservatives, have recommended revamping the K-12 curriculum to emphasize the roles of the Bible, the Christian faith and the civic virtue of religion in the study of American history. Two of them want to remove or de-emphasize references to several historical figures who have become liberal icons, such as César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall.

Associated Press
Don McLeroy, a member of the Texas State Board of Education.
"We're in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it," said Rev. Peter Marshall, a Christian minister and one of the reviewers appointed by the conservative camp.

Three other reviewers, all selected by politically moderate or liberal members of the board, recommended less-sweeping changes to the existing curriculum. But one suggested including more diverse role models, especially Latinos, in teaching materials. "We have tended to exclude or marginalize the role of Hispanic and Native American participants in the state's history," said Jesús F. de la Teja, chairman of the history department at Texas State University.

Social studies teachers from Texas are meeting this summer to write new standards. They can accept, reject or modify the six reviewers' suggestions, all of which were made individually. The teachers' recommendations are sent to the 15-member board of education, a conservative-dominated body that has authority to revise standards.

The three reviewers appointed by the moderate and liberal board members are all professors of history or education at Texas universities, including Mr. de la Teja, a former state historian. The reviewers appointed by conservatives include two who run conservative Christian organizations: David Barton, founder of WallBuilders, a group that promotes America's Christian heritage; and Rev. Marshall, who preaches that Watergate, the Vietnam War and Hurricane Katrina were God's judgments on the nation's sexual immorality. The third is Daniel Dreisbach, a professor of public affairs at American University.

Have there been any curricula debates in your communities? Have you ever looked at your children's history texts? Discuss the issues with other readers in WSJ's Juggle blog.
The conservative reviewers say they believe that children must learn that America's founding principles are biblical. For instance, they say the separation of powers set forth in the Constitution stems from a scriptural understanding of man's fall and inherent sinfulness, or "radical depravity," which means he can be governed only by an intricate system of checks and balances.

The curriculum, they say, should clearly present Christianity as an overall force for good -- and a key reason for American exceptionalism, the notion that the country stands above and apart.

"America is a special place and we need to be sure we communicate that to our children," said Don McLeroy, a leading conservative on the board. "The foundational principles of our country are very biblical.... That needs to come out in the textbooks."

But the emphasis on Christianity as a driving force is disputed by some historians, who focus on the economic motivation of many colonists and the fractured views of religion among the Founding Fathers. "There appears to me too much politics in some of this," said Lybeth Hodges, a professor of history at Texas Woman's University and another of the curriculum reviewers.

Some outside observers argue that curriculum analysts should be trained academics. "It's important to have trained historians establishing the framework," said David Vigilante, associate director of the National Center for History in the Schools at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The conservative Christian reviewers, in turn, are skeptical of the professional historians' emphasis on multiculturalism, views stated most forcefully by Mr. de la Teja but echoed by Ms. Hodges. Reaching for examples of achievement by different racial and ethnic groups is divisive, Mr. Barton said, and distorts history.

The standards that the school board eventually settles on won't dictate day-to-day lesson plans; that is up to individual teachers. But they will offer clear guidelines for educators -- and also for publishers.

Nearly every state has its own curriculum standards, and there are scores of social studies texts to choose from at most grade levels, so what happens in Texas won't necessarily affect other states. But the Texas market is huge, so most big publishers aggressively seek approval from the board, in some cases adopting the majority's editing suggestions nearly verbatim.

While the battle in Texas is just heating up, the tug-of-war over how to present history dates back nearly 150 years, said Jonathan Zimmerman, a New York University professor of education. A single paragraph in a third-grade text might seem insignificant. But it is a powerful symbol, he said, "because schools remain the most important venue for teaching our kids who we are."
25868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / So? on: July 15, 2009, 06:31:27 AM
Here's a different POV:

      North Korean Cyberattacks

To hear the media tell it, the United States suffered a major
cyberattack last week.  Stories were everywhere. "Cyber Blitz hits U.S.,
Korea" was the headline in Thursday's Wall Street Journal. North Korea
was blamed.

Where were you when North Korea attacked America?  Did you feel the fury
of North Korea's armies?  Were you fearful for your country?  Or did
your resolve strengthen, knowing that we would defend our homeland
bravely and valiantly?

My guess is that you didn't even notice, that -- if you didn't open a
newspaper or read a news website -- you had no idea anything was
happening.  Sure, a few government websites were knocked out, but that's
not alarming or even uncommon. Other government websites were attacked
but defended themselves, the sort of thing that happens all the time. If
this is what an international cyberattack looks like, it hardly seems
worth worrying about at all.

Politically motivated cyber attacks are nothing new. We've seen UK vs.
Ireland. Israel vs. the Arab states. Russia vs. several former Soviet
Republics. India vs. Pakistan, especially after the nuclear bomb tests
in 1998. China vs. the United States, especially in 2001 when a U.S. spy
plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet. And so on and so on.

The big one happened in 2007, when the government of Estonia was
attacked in cyberspace following a diplomatic incident with Russia about
the relocation of a Soviet World War II memorial. The networks of many
Estonian organizations, including the Estonian parliament, banks,
ministries, newspapers and broadcasters, were attacked and -- in many
cases -- shut down.  Estonia was quick to blame Russia, which was
equally quick to deny any involvement.

It was hyped as the first cyberwar, but after two years there is still
no evidence that the Russian government was involved. Though Russian
hackers were indisputably the major instigators of the attack, the only
individuals positively identified have been young ethnic Russians living
inside Estonia, who were angry over the statue incident.

Poke at any of these international incidents, and what you find are kids
playing politics. Last Wednesday, South Korea's National Intelligence
Service admitted that it didn't actually know that North Korea was
behind the attacks: "North Korea or North Korean sympathizers in the
South" was what it said. Once again, it'll be kids playing politics.

This isn't to say that cyberattacks by governments aren't an issue, or
that cyberwar is something to be ignored. The constant attacks by
Chinese nationals against U.S. networks may not be government-sponsored,
but it's pretty clear that they're tacitly government-approved.
Criminals, from lone hackers to organized crime syndicates, attack
networks all the time. And war expands to fill every possible theater:
land, sea, air, space, and now cyberspace. But cyberterrorism is nothing
more than a media invention designed to scare people. And for there to
be a cyberwar, there first needs to be a war.

Israel is currently considering attacking Iran in cyberspace, for
example.  If it tries, it'll discover that attacking computer networks
is an inconvenience to the nuclear facilities it's targeting, but
doesn't begin to substitute for bombing them.

In May, President Obama gave a major speech on cybersecurity.  He was
right when he said that cybersecurity is a national security issue, and
that the government needs to step up and do more to prevent
cyberattacks. But he couldn't resist hyping the threat with scare
stories: "In one of the most serious cyber incidents to date against our
military networks, several thousand computers were infected last year by
malicious software -- malware," he said. What he didn't add was that
those infections occurred because the Air Force couldn't be bothered to
keep its patches up to date.

This is the face of cyberwar: easily preventable attacks that, even when
they succeed, only a few people notice.  Even this current incident is
turning out to be a sloppily modified five-year-old worm that no modern
network should still be vulnerable to.

Securing our networks doesn't require some secret advanced NSA
technology.  It's the boring network security administration stuff we
already know how to do: keep your patches up to date, install good
anti-malware software, correctly configure your firewalls and
intrusion-detection systems, monitor your networks. And while some
government and corporate networks do a pretty good job at this, others
fail again and again.

Enough of the hype and the bluster. The news isn't the attacks, but that
some networks had security lousy enough to be vulnerable to them.

This essay originally appeared on the Minnesota Public Radio website.

A copy of this essay, with all embedded links, is here:
25869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Security, Group Size, and the Human Brain on: July 15, 2009, 06:27:37 AM
      Security, Group Size, and the Human Brain

If the size of your company grows past 150 people, it's time to get name
badges. It's not that larger groups are somehow less secure, it's just
that 150 is the cognitive limit to the number of people a human brain
can maintain a coherent social relationship with.

Primatologist Robin Dunbar derived this number by comparing neocortex --
the "thinking" part of the mammalian brain -- volume with the size of
primate social groups. By analyzing data from 38 primate genera and
extrapolating to the human neocortex size, he predicted a human "mean
group size" of roughly 150.

This number appears regularly in human society; it's the estimated size
of a Neolithic farming village, the size at which Hittite settlements
split, and the basic unit in professional armies from Roman times to the
present day. Larger group sizes aren't as stable because their members
don't know each other well enough. Instead of thinking of the members as
people, we think of them as groups of people. For such groups to
function well, they need externally imposed structure, such as name badges.

Of course, badges aren't the only way to determine in-group/out-group
status. Other markers include insignia, uniforms, and secret handshakes.
They have different security properties and some make more sense than
others at different levels of technology, but once a group reaches 150
people, it has to do something.

More generally, there are several layers of natural human group size
that increase with a ratio of approximately three: 5, 15, 50, 150, 500,
and 1500 -- although, really, the numbers aren't as precise as all that,
and groups that are less focused on survival tend to be smaller. The
layers relate to both the intensity and intimacy of relationship and the
frequency of contact.

The smallest, three to five, is a "clique": the number of people from
whom you would seek help in times of severe emotional distress. The
twelve to 20 group is the "sympathy group": people with which you have
special ties. After that, 30 to 50 is the typical size of
hunter-gatherer overnight camps, generally drawn from the same pool of
150 people. No matter what size company you work for, there are only
about 150 people you consider to be "co-workers." (In small companies,
Alice and Bob handle accounting. In larger companies, it's the
accounting department -- and maybe you know someone there personally.)
The 500-person group is the "megaband," and the 1,500-person group is
the "tribe." Fifteen hundred is roughly the number of faces we can put
names to, and the typical size of a hunter-gatherer society.

These numbers are reflected in military organization throughout history:
squads of 10 to 15 organized into platoons of three to four squads,
organized into companies of three to four platoons, organized into
battalions of three to four companies, organized into regiments of three
to four battalions, organized into divisions of two to three regiments,
and organized into corps of two to three divisions.

Coherence can become a real problem once organizations get above about
150 in size.  So as group sizes grow across these boundaries, they have
more externally imposed infrastructure -- and more formalized security
systems. In intimate groups, pretty much all security is ad hoc.
Companies smaller than 150 don't bother with name badges; companies
greater than 500 hire a guard to sit in the lobby and check badges.  The
military have had centuries of experience with this under rather trying
circumstances, but even there the real commitment and bonding invariably
occurs at the company level. Above that you need to have rank imposed by

The whole brain-size comparison might be bunk, and a lot of evolutionary
psychologists disagree with it. But certainly security systems become
more formalized as groups grow larger and their members less known to
each other. When do more formal dispute resolution systems arise: town
elders, magistrates, judges? At what size boundary are formal
authentication schemes required? Small companies can get by without the
internal forms, memos, and procedures that large companies require; when
does what tend to appear? How does punishment formalize as group size
increase? And how do all these things affect group coherence? People act
differently on social networking sites like Facebook when their list of
"friends" grows larger and less intimate. Local merchants sometimes let
known regulars run up tabs. I lend books to friends with much less
formality than a public library. What examples have you seen?

An edited version of this essay, without links, appeared in the
July/August 2009 issue of IEEE Security & Privacy.

A copy of this essay, with all embedded links, is here:
25870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Persons and property on: July 15, 2009, 06:13:10 AM
"It is sufficiently obvious, that persons and property are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act; and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted. These rights cannot well be separated."

--James Madison, Speech at the Virginia Convention, December 2, 1829
25871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / How to die? on: July 15, 2009, 06:03:25 AM
Woof All:

Question presented:  How would you like to die?

The Adventure continues,

With Help, Conductor and Wife Ended Lives
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LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkBy JOHN F. BURNS
Published: July 14, 2009
LONDON — The controversy over the ethical and legal issues surrounding assisted suicide for the terminally ill was thrown into stark relief on Tuesday with the announcement that one of Britain’s most distinguished orchestra conductors, Sir Edward Downes, had flown to Switzerland last week with his wife and joined her in drinking a lethal cocktail of barbiturates provided by an assisted-suicide clinic.

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Sir Edward Downes conducting the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in 1999.

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Although friends who spoke to the British news media said Sir Edward was not known to have been terminally ill, they said he wanted to die with his ailing wife, who had been his partner for more than half a century.

The couple’s children said in an interview with the London Evening Standard that on Tuesday of last week they accompanied their father, 85, and their mother, Joan, 74, on the flight from London to Zurich, where the Swiss group Dignitas helped arrange the suicides. On Friday, the children said, they watched, weeping, as their parents drank “a small quantity of clear liquid” before lying down on adjacent beds, holding hands.

“Within a couple of minutes they were asleep, and died within 10 minutes,” Caractacus Downes, the couple’s 41-year-old son, said in the interview after his return to Britain. “They wanted to be next to each other when they died.” He added, “It is a very civilized way to end your life, and I don’t understand why the legal position in this country doesn’t allow it.”

Sir Edward, who was described in a statement issued earlier on Tuesday by Mr. Downes and his sister, Boudicca, 39, as “almost blind and increasingly deaf,” was principal conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra from 1980 to 1991. He was also a conductor of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in London, where he led 950 performances over more than 50 years.

Lady Downes, who British newspapers said was in the final stages of terminal cancer, was a former ballet dancer, choreographer and television producer who devoted her later years to working as her husband’s assistant.

“After 54 happy years together, they decided to end their own lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems,” the Downes children said in their statement.

Scotland Yard said in a statement on Tuesday that it had been informed on Monday “that a man and a woman” from London had died in Switzerland, and that it was “looking into the circumstances.” The information that prompted the police inquiry appeared to have been given voluntarily by the Downes family, which, Caractacus Downes said, “didn’t want to be untruthful about what had happened.”

“Even if they arrest us and send us to prison, it would have made no difference because it is what our parents wanted,” he said.

Attempting suicide is a criminal offense in Britain, as is assisting others in killing themselves. But since the Zurich clinic run by Dignitas was established in 1998 under Swiss laws that allow clinics to provide lethal drugs, British authorities have effectively turned a blind eye to Britons who go there to die.

None of the family members and friends who have accompanied the 117 people living in Britain who have traveled to the Zurich clinic for help in ending their lives have been charged with an offense. Legal experts said it was unlikely that that would change in the Downes case.

But British news reports about the Downes’ suicides noted one factor that appeared to set the case apart from most others involving the Dignitas clinic: Sir Edward appeared not to have been terminally ill. There have been at least three other cases similar to the Downes’, in which a spouse who was not terminally ill chose to die with the other.

Sir Edward was known for his support for British composers and his passion for Prokofiev and Verdi. After studying at the Royal College of Music in London, he joined the Royal Opera House in 1952. His first assignment was prompting the soprano Maria Callas. He traveled widely as a conductor and became music director of the Australian Opera in the 1970s.

Friends of Sir Edward said that his decision to die with his wife did not surprise them. “Ted was completely rational,” said Richard Wigley, the general manager of the BBC Philharmonic. “So I can well imagine him, being so rational, saying, ‘It’s been great, so let’s end our lives together.’ ”

Jonathan Groves, Sir Edward’s manager, called their decision “typically brave and courageous.”

But even among those who support decriminalizing assisted suicide, Sir Edward’s death raised troubling questions. Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said in a BBC interview that the growing numbers of Britons going abroad to die, and the manner of their deaths, made it more urgent to amend Britain’s laws. There are “no safeguards, no brakes on the process at all,” she said.

The British Medical Association voted this month against legalizing assisted suicide, or lifting the threat of prosecution from “friends and relatives who accompany loved ones to die abroad.” Last week, the House of Lords defeated a bill that would have allowed people, subject to safeguards, to travel abroad to help people choosing to die.
25872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: July 14, 2009, 10:55:42 PM
25873  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / More on our success on: July 14, 2009, 03:47:28 PM
Friday, July 10, 2009 Late Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed anamendment to the Federal Switchblade Act as part of the Homeland Security appropriations bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), changes the federal law under which one agency had tried to redefine many common knives as switchblades.

The measure would exempt assisted-opening knives that can only be opened with "exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist or arm" from a federal law that criminalizes commerce in switchblades. Assisted opening knives are highly desired by hunters, anglers, farmers, ranchers, firefighters, law enforcement and emergency personnel and others who may need to open a knife with only one hand.

"The Senate sent a strong message and made clear that the 35 million Americans who own pocketknives are free to continue using them without the threat of federal agency intrusion," Sen. Cornyn said in a statement today. "While U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) proposed changing that, my colleagues joined in a unanimous, bipartisan effort to ensure assisted-opening pocketknives are protected by the law. What's more, the CBP reversal would have inflicted serious economic harm to sporting goods manufacturers and retailers."

In the same statement, Sen. Hatch said, "Without this amendment, there is a real danger that 80 percent of the pocketknives sold in the U.S. could be classified as illegal switchblades, which would hurt knife and tool manufacturers across the nation. The unintended consequences of the CBP's definition could be that state and federal criminal courts could construe Leatherman-type multi-tools equipped with one-hand opening features, as well as folding utility knives with studs on the blunt portions of the blade to assist with opening, to be illegal. That is absurd."

Thursday's Senate action puts us one step closer to passing this common-sense measure into law. The measure now heads to a House-Senate Conference Committee.

To view the amendment, please click here:
25874  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACTION items on: July 14, 2009, 03:46:43 PM
More on the success of our ACTION:

Friday, July 10, 2009 Late Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed anamendment to the Federal Switchblade Act as part of the Homeland Security appropriations bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), changes the federal law under which one agency had tried to redefine many common knives as switchblades.
The measure would exempt assisted-opening knives that can only be opened with "exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist or arm" from a federal law that criminalizes commerce in switchblades. Assisted opening knives are highly desired by hunters, anglers, farmers, ranchers, firefighters, law enforcement and emergency personnel and others who may need to open a knife with only one hand.
"The Senate sent a strong message and made clear that the 35 million Americans who own pocketknives are free to continue using them without the threat of federal agency intrusion," Sen. Cornyn said in a statement today. "While U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) proposed changing that, my colleagues joined in a unanimous, bipartisan effort to ensure assisted-opening pocketknives are protected by the law. What's more, the CBP reversal would have inflicted serious economic harm to sporting goods manufacturers and retailers."
In the same statement, Sen. Hatch said, "Without this amendment, there is a real danger that 80 percent of the pocketknives sold in the U.S. could be classified as illegal switchblades, which would hurt knife and tool manufacturers across the nation. The unintended consequences of the CBP's definition could be that state and federal criminal courts could construe Leatherman-type multi-tools equipped with one-hand opening features, as well as folding utility knives with studs on the blunt portions of the blade to assist with opening, to be illegal. That is absurd."
Thursday's Senate action puts us one step closer to passing this common-sense measure into law. The measure now heads to a House-Senate Conference Committee.
To view the amendment, please click here:
25875  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Good news? on: July 14, 2009, 01:20:35 PM

Late Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed anamendment to the Federal Switchblade Act as part of the Homeland Security appropriations bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), changes the federal law under which one agency had tried to redefine many common knives as switchblades.
25876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Success in preventing bad knife regulation? on: July 14, 2009, 01:11:17 PM
It appears our efforts (see knife law thread on martial arts forum) have succeeded  cool cool cool

Late Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed anamendment to the Federal Switchblade Act as part of the Homeland Security appropriations bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), changes the federal law under which one agency had tried to redefine many common knives as switchblades.
25877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Zero % Solution on: July 14, 2009, 01:05:20 PM
The federal income tax code is now so mangled that we can probably increase federal revenues with a 0% income tax rate for a majority of Americans.

Long before President Barack Obama took office, the bottom 40% of income earners paid no federal income taxes. Because of refundable income tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), in 2006 these bottom 40% as a group actually received net payments equal to 3.6% of total income tax revenues, according to the latest Congressional Budget Office data. The actual middle class, the middle 20% of income earners, pay only 4.4% of total federal income tax revenues. That means the bottom 60% together pay less than 1% of income tax revenues.

This actually resulted from Republican tax policy going all the way back to the EITC, which was first proposed by Ronald Reagan in his historic 1972 testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on the success of his welfare reforms as governor of California. Besides calling for workfare, Reagan proposed the EITC to offset the burden of Social Security payroll taxes on the poor. As president, Reagan cut and indexed income tax rates across the board and doubled the personal exemption. The Republican majority Congress, led by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, adopted a child tax credit that President George W. Bush later expanded and made refundable, while also reducing the bottom tax rate by 33% to 10%.

President Bill Clinton expanded the EITC in 1993. But it was primarily Republicans who abolished federal income taxes for the working class and almost abolished them for the middle class. Now Mr. Obama has led enactment of a refundable $400 per worker income tax credit and other refundable credits, which probably leaves the bottom 60% paying nothing as a group on net.

Many conservatives are deeply troubled by this, arguing that everyone should be contributing something to the tax burden. They worry that, not paying for any of the tab, this majority will see no reason not to vote for limitless spending burdens. But are conservatives now going to campaign on increasing taxes on the bottom 60%, arguing that is good tax and social policy? Steve Lonegan recently demonstrated in the New Jersey gubernatorial primary that this is not a viable political position. He proposed a 3% state flat tax which, while very good tax policy, would increase taxes slightly for the bottom half of income earners. His victorious opponent Chris Christie pounded away in advertising on that point.

But what if Republicans proposed a federal tax reform with a 0% income tax rate for the bottom 60% of income earners? With that explicit 0% tax rate framing the issue, abolishing the refundable tax credits that actually ship money to lower income earners through the tax code would become politically viable. Trading an explicit 0% tax rate for the bottom 60% in return for eliminating the refundable tax credits would likely be at least revenue neutral, and probably result in a net increase in revenue.

Such tax reform can and should be combined with overall welfare reform based on work that would ensure an adequate safety net for the poor. Considering the success of the 1996 reform to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, further reform could result in huge overall savings. Besides AFDC, there are 85 more federally administered welfare programs that could benefit from reform.

Moreover, we should then be free to adopt sound tax policy for the top 40% of earners who make 75% of total income. Suppose we tax all of the income of those top 40% once with a 15% flat tax? That would be close to revenue neutral on a dynamic basis (i.e. counting work incentive effects).

The usual distribution arguments against such a flat rate would not apply because the bottom 60% would bear a 0% rate. All flat tax proposals effectively try to do the same through generous personal exemptions that are tax neutral for low- and moderate-income workers. But the explicit 0% rate would make the reform more easily understood.

This -- rather than adopting still more refundable tax credits as some conservatives are advocating -- is also the way to eliminate the distorting tax preference for employer-provided health insurance. For the bottom 60%, there would no longer be any health insurance tax preference, and for the rest the favoritism would be reduced to a minimal 15%. Or the tax exclusion for employer provided health benefits could be eliminated altogether, affecting only the top 40%. The economic distortions caused by every other tax preference in the code would be minimized or eliminated entirely in this same way.

Contrary to the fears of conservatives, this tax system would sharply limit the size of government. No politician would dare suggest imposing income taxes anew on the bottom 60%. While the last two Democratic presidents won by running on a tax cut for the middle class, that game would be over. Instead conservatives can argue for middle-income and working-class votes to protect the 0% tax rate from big government liberals. As the Obama administration will soon learn, higher income earners have flexibility in their taxable income and increasing revenues by raising taxes on them is not easy.

Mr. Ferrara is director of entitlement and budget policy for the Institute for Policy Innovation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan.
25878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sotomayor seeks to undermine US sovereignty on: July 14, 2009, 01:01:40 PM

Sonia Sotomayor will parry a wide range of questions about her judicial philosophy during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings in the Senate this week. The most revealing line of inquiry may be about her views on the use of foreign and international law when judging cases.

Like several of the judges on the left branch of the court, Judge Sotomayor has said she favors a broader consideration of foreign and international law in U.S. judicial opinions. While she rarely had occasion to dip into foreign sources during her time on the Second Circuit, she recently went out of her way to embrace the concept and its applications by the high court.

In a speech to the American Civil Liberties Union of Puerto Rico in April, Judge Sotomayor explained that "ideas have no boundaries," and that "international law and foreign law will be very important in the discussion of how to think about the unsettled issues in our own legal system." To discourage the use of foreign or international law, she added, would "be asking American judges to close their minds to good ideas."

That's political quicksand for a judge Democrats are eager to portray as a moderate inclined to narrow reading of text and precedent.

Of particular interest to the confirmation hearings will be Judge Sotomayor's favorable reference in the ACLU speech to the Supreme Court's reasoning in two recent cases citing foreign and international law: Roper v. Simmons and Lawrence v. Texas. In Roper, the Court drew on international criticism of the death penalty to buttress the argument that it should be prohibited for juveniles under the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

In Lawrence v. Texas, the court overturned a Texas statute against sodomy on the grounds that it violated due process. In his opinion for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy cited the European Court of Human Rights to show that the court's earlier decision in Bowers v. Hardwick was incorrect. In both those cases, Judge Sotomayor said, the court was using the foreign or international law to "help us understand what the concepts meant to other countries and . . . whether our understanding of our own constitutional rights fell into the mainstream of human thinking."

Cases like Roper and Lawrence fit squarely into that area of overseas law most sought after for borrowing by the more liberal justices of the court -- that is, the realms of moral or social policy. The problem with such inspiration is that it is inherently subjective and arbitrary. The laws of the world are infinitely diverse, and praising one necessarily condemns another. Cherry-picking desirable law introduces the very kind of legal chaos our Constitution was designed to prevent. If one judge may look to the courts of Western Europe for expansion of liberal thoughts on human rights, why may another not look to decidedly less liberal ideas?

Iran allows women who appear without a hijab on the streets to be lashed 74 times. China limits families to bearing one child. Even the democracies of Western Europe have laws that differ broadly from ours. Few countries, for instance, share our rules protecting the rights of the accused, or have the U.S.'s constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

In his dissent from the court's reliance on foreign law in Roper v. Simmons, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that "The Court should either profess its willingness to reconsider all these matters in light of the views of foreigners, or else it should cease putting forth foreigners' views as part of the reasoned basis of its decisions. To invoke alien law when it agrees with one's own thinking and ignore it otherwise is not reasoned decision making, but sophistry."

There are plenty of ways to use foreign law appropriately -- most obviously in comparing standards for implementation in the case of treaties. Some judges have also looked to Constitutional antecedents like English jurist William Blackstone to help better understand the context and thinking of the Founders and their foundations in English common law.

Outside of that, using foreign law as a guidepost or inspiration raises issues of both sovereignty and democracy by permitting jurists outside the U.S. system to guide the trajectory of our democracy. The proper place for the consideration of whatever "good ideas" may be found in foreign law is not the courts but the Congress.

Judge Sotomayor insists in the ACLU speech that the brouhaha about foreign and international law is due to a misunderstanding about how she and others like Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg would propose to use it. The point, she says, isn't that judges actually use foreign decisions as precedent (er, well, of course they don't), but that they open their minds to the intellectual force of their foreign counterparts.

But either foreign ideas carry weight by butressing judicial arguments, or they don't. Judicial opinions are written with great precision and care because they matter, and each strand of argument becomes a part of the grit and texture of American law.

No one is suggesting that judges stop reading or learning in ways that help expand their understanding of the law and the cases they are hearing. But that is an altogether different matter than official citation in a decision.

Our system of government has stood the test of time not in spite of but because it is uniquely drawn from the priorities of our own citizens, and them alone. The responsibility of the Supreme Court is neither to win an international beauty pageant, nor to encourage the export of our ideas. It is to extend principles of the Founders and the words of the Constitution into a world that still needs their wisdom.

Ms. Levy is a senior editorial writer for the Journal, based in Washington.
25879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / N Y Times: Water crisis: Euphrates at record lows on: July 14, 2009, 10:42:34 AM

July 14, 2009

Iraq Suffers as the Euphrates River Dwindles


JUBAISH, Iraq — Throughout the marshes, the reed gatherers, standing on land they once floated over, cry out to visitors in a passing boat.

“Maaku mai!” they shout, holding up their rusty sickles. “There is no water!”

The Euphrates is drying up. Strangled by the water policies of Iraq’s neighbors, Turkey and Syria; a two-year drought; and years of misuse by Iraq and its farmers, the river is significantly smaller than it was just a few years ago. Some officials worry that it could soon be half of what it is now.

The shrinking of the Euphrates, a river so crucial to the birth of civilization that the Book of Revelation prophesied its drying up as a sign of the end times, has decimated farms along its banks, has left fishermen impoverished and has depleted riverside towns as farmers flee to the cities looking for work.

( Added by Lightfighter, Revelation 16:12 NIV / Verse 12: The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. )

The poor suffer more acutely, but all strata of society are feeling the effects: sheiks, diplomats and even members of Parliament who retreat to their farms after weeks in Baghdad.

Along the river, rice and wheat fields have turned to baked dirt. Canals have dwindled to shallow streams, and fishing boats sit on dry land. Pumps meant to feed water treatment plants dangle pointlessly over brown puddles.

“The old men say it’s the worst they remember,” said Sayid Diyia, 34, a fisherman in Hindiya, sitting in a riverside cafe full of his idle colleagues. “I’m depending on God’s blessings.”

The drought is widespread in Iraq. The area sown with wheat and barley in the rain-fed north is down roughly 95 percent from the usual, and the date palm and citrus orchards of the east are parched. For two years rainfall has been far below normal, leaving the reservoirs dry, and American officials predict that wheat and barley output will be a little over half of what it was two years ago.

It is a crisis that threatens the roots of Iraq’s identity, not only as the land between two rivers but as a nation that was once the largest exporter of dates in the world, that once supplied German beer with barley and that takes patriotic pride in its expensive Anbar rice.

Now Iraq is importing more and more grain. Farmers along the Euphrates say, with anger and despair, that they may have to abandon Anbar rice for cheaper varieties.

Droughts are not rare in Iraq, though officials say they have been more frequent in recent years. But drought is only part of what is choking the Euphrates and its larger, healthier twin, the Tigris.

The most frequently cited culprits are the Turkish and Syrian governments. Iraq has plenty of water, but it is a downstream country. There are at least seven dams on the Euphrates in Turkey and Syria, according to Iraqi water officials, and with no treaties or agreements, the Iraqi government is reduced to begging its neighbors for water.

At a conference in Baghdad — where participants drank bottled water from Saudi Arabia, a country with a fraction of Iraq’s fresh water — officials spoke of disaster.

“We have a real thirst in Iraq,” said Ali Baban, the minister of planning. “Our agriculture is going to die, our cities are going to wilt, and no state can keep quiet in such a situation.”

Recently, the Water Ministry announced that Turkey had doubled the water flow into the Euphrates, salvaging the planting phase of the rice season in some areas.

That move increased water flow to about 60 percent of its average, just enough to cover half of the irrigation requirements for the summer rice season. Though Turkey has agreed to keep this up and even increase it, there is no commitment binding the country to do so.

With the Euphrates showing few signs of increasing health, bitterness over Iraq’s water threatens to be a source of tension for months or even years to come between Iraq and its neighbors. Many American, Turkish and even Iraqi officials, disregarding the accusations as election-year posturing, say the real problem lies in Iraq’s own deplorable water management policies.

“There used to be water everywhere,” said Abduredha Joda, 40, sitting in his reed hut on a dry, rocky plot of land outside Karbala. Mr. Joda, who describes his dire circumstances with a tired smile, grew up near Basra but fled to Baghdad when Saddam Hussein drained the great marshes of southern Iraq in retaliation for the 1991 Shiite uprising. He came to Karbala in 2004 to fish and raise water buffaloes in the lush wetlands there that remind him of his home.

“This year it’s just a desert,” he said.

Along the river, there is no shortage of resentment at the Turks and Syrians. But there is also resentment at the Americans, Kurds, Iranians and the Iraqi government, all of whom are blamed. Scarcity makes foes of everyone.

The Sunni areas upriver seem to have enough water, Mr. Joda observed, a comment heavy with implication.

Officials say nothing will improve if Iraq does not seriously address its own water policies and its history of flawed water management. Leaky canals and wasteful irrigation practices squander the water, and poor drainage leaves fields so salty from evaporated water that women and children dredge huge white mounds from sitting pools of runoff.

On a scorching morning in Diwaniya, Bashia Mohammed, 60, was working in a drainage pool by the highway gathering salt, her family’s only source of income now that its rice farm has dried up. But the dead farm was not the real crisis.

“There’s no water in the river that we drink from,” she said, referring to a channel that flows from the Euphrates. “It’s now totally dry, and it contains sewage water. They dig wells but sometimes the water just cuts out and we have to drink from the river. All my kids are sick because of the water.”

In the southeast, where the Euphrates nears the end of its 1,730-mile journey and mingles with the less salty waters of the Tigris before emptying into the Persian Gulf, the situation is grave. The marshes there that were intentionally reflooded in 2003, rescuing the ancient culture of the marsh Arabs, are drying up again. Sheep graze on land in the middle of the river.

The farmers, reed gatherers and buffalo herders keep working, but they say they cannot continue if the water stays like this.

“Next winter will be the final chance,” said Hashem Hilead Shehi, a 73-year-old farmer who lives in a bone-dry village west of the marshes. “If we are not able to plant, then all of the families will leave.”
25880  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Chabad on: July 14, 2009, 05:14:30 AM

Once we ate from the tree of knowing good with evil, our world became a place of compounds and mixtures. You will not find beauty without ugliness, joy without sorrow, pleasure without pain. You cannot invent a thing that will provide benefit without threat of harm, or a man on this earth who does only good without fault.

Wherever you will find one form of good, you will find another sort of evil. And where that evil does not lie, another will take its place. Rare it is, so rare, to find pure and simple goodness in a single being.

Therefore, do not reject any thing for the harm it may render, nor despise any man for the ugliness within him. Rather, use each thing towards the purpose G-d conceived it for, and learn from each man all he has to offer.

25881  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / New SF manual on: July 13, 2009, 04:46:16 PM
From a post on the WT forum:


The Latest Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook

Among the books listed by the recent "favorite books" survey respondents was the US Army Special Forces Medical Handbook (ST31-91B). This book is obsolete and has been supplanted by the Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook.

The best summaries as to why the one is obsolete I've found are:
“That manual is a relic of sentimental and historical interest only, advocating treatments that, if used by today’s medics, would result in disciplinary measures,” wrote Dr. Warner Anderson, a U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) and former associate dean of the Special Warfare Medical Group.
“The manual you reference is of great historical importance in illustrating the advances made in SOF medicine in the past 25 years. But it no more reflects current SOF practice than a 25 year-old Merck Manual reflects current Family Practice. In 2007, it is merely a curiosity.”

“Readers who use some of the tips and remedies could potentially cause harm to themselves or their patients.”

JWR Adds: The new manual is a massive 680 pages. Here is the table of contents:
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Zoonotic Diseases Chart
Infectious Diseases
Preventive Medicine
Veterinary Medicine
Nutritional Deficiencies
Mental Health
Dive Medicine
Aerospace Medicine
High Altitude Illnesses
Cold Illnesses and Injuries
Heat-Related Illnesses
Trauma Assessment
Human and Animal Bites
Burns, Blast, Lightning, & Electrical Injuries
Non-Lethal Weapons Injuries
Basic Medical Skills
Lab Procedures
Thanks, - Frankie

JWR Replies: Thanks for mentioning the new manual! I have updated both the survey results post and the SurvivalBlog Bookshelf page, accordingly. OBTW, I have had difficulty finding an original copy of the new manual at a reasonable price. The copies that are presently listed on Amazon are "secondary market", at grossly inflated prices. But the good news is that the GPO also publishes a paperback edition for $59. I would prefer the military 9.7" x 6.4" edition that is three-hole punched (and hence will lay flat when open--making it a better "working" reference), but the GPO paperback edition should suffice. There are also electronic editions available for PDAs and Windows for $73, and for Palm PDAs for $60. The Special online store sells a smaller 7.5" x 4.75" format edition (a bit harder to read), but they do sell it in combination with a CD-ROM.
25882  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: KALI TUDO (tm) Article on: July 13, 2009, 12:28:16 PM
The key of course is achieving the outside angle and having the ability to read that the front hand is a jab and not a hook  shocked cheesy  which is why I (and you?) prefer to have an engagement with the front hand.
25883  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Down the memory hole on: July 13, 2009, 07:38:11 AM
Obama Rewrites the Cold War
The President has a duty to stand up to the lies of our enemies.Article Comments (44) more in Opinion »Email Printer
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There are two different versions of the story of the end of the Cold War: the Russian version, and the truth. President Barack Obama endorsed the Russian version in Moscow last week.

Speaking to a group of students, our president explained it this way: "The American and Soviet armies were still massed in Europe, trained and ready to fight. The ideological trenches of the last century were roughly in place. Competition in everything from astrophysics to athletics was treated as a zero-sum game. If one person won, then the other person had to lose. And then within a few short years, the world as it was ceased to be. Make no mistake: This change did not come from any one nation. The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful."

The truth, of course, is that the Soviets ran a brutal, authoritarian regime. The KGB killed their opponents or dragged them off to the Gulag. There was no free press, no freedom of speech, no freedom of worship, no freedom of any kind. The basis of the Cold War was not "competition in astrophysics and athletics." It was a global battle between tyranny and freedom. The Soviet "sphere of influence" was delineated by walls and barbed wire and tanks and secret police to prevent people from escaping. America was an unmatched force for good in the world during the Cold War. The Soviets were not. The Cold War ended not because the Soviets decided it should but because they were no match for the forces of freedom and the commitment of free nations to defend liberty and defeat Communism.

It is irresponsible for an American president to go to Moscow and tell a room full of young Russians less than the truth about how the Cold War ended. One wonders whether this was just an attempt to push "reset" -- or maybe to curry favor. Perhaps, most concerning of all, Mr. Obama believes what he said.

Mr. Obama's method for pushing reset around the world is becoming clearer with each foreign trip. He proclaims moral equivalence between the U.S. and our adversaries, he readily accepts a false historical narrative, and he refuses to stand up against anti-American lies.

The approach was evident in his speech in Moscow and in his speech in Cairo last month. In Cairo, he asserted there was some sort of equivalence between American support for the 1953 coup in Iran and the evil that the Iranian mullahs have done in the world since 1979. On an earlier trip to Mexico City, the president listened to an extended anti-American screed by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and then let the lies stand by responding only with, "I'm grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for the things that occurred when I was 3 months old."

Asked at a NATO meeting in France in April whether he believed in American exceptionalism, the president said, "I believe in American Exceptionalism just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." In other words, not so much.

The Obama administration does seem to believe in another kind of exceptionalism -- Obama exceptionalism. "We have the best brand on Earth: the Obama brand," one Obama handler has said. What they don't seem to realize is that once you're president, your brand is America, and the American people expect you to defend us against lies, not embrace or ignore them. We also expect you to know your history.

Mr. Obama has become fond of saying, as he did in Russia again last week, that American nuclear disarmament will encourage the North Koreans and the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions. Does he really believe that the North Koreans and the Iranians are simply waiting for America to cut funds for missile defense and reduce our strategic nuclear stockpile before they halt their weapons programs?

The White House ought to take a lesson from President Harry Truman. In April, 1950, Truman signed National Security Council report 68 (NSC-68). One of the foundational documents of America's Cold War strategy, NSC-68 explains the danger of disarming America in the hope of appeasing our enemies. "No people in history," it reads, "have preserved their freedom who thought that by not being strong enough to protect themselves they might prove inoffensive to their enemies."

Perhaps Mr. Obama thinks he is making America inoffensive to our enemies. In reality, he is emboldening them and weakening us. America can be disarmed literally -- by cutting our weapons systems and our defensive capabilities -- as Mr. Obama has agreed to do. We can also be disarmed morally by a president who spreads false narratives about our history or who accepts, even if by his silence, our enemies' lies about us.

Ms. Cheney served as deputy assistant secretary of state and principal deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs from 2002-2004 and 2005-2006.
25884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: More Predator strikes on: July 13, 2009, 07:34:13 AM
Several Taliban training camps in the Pakistan hinterland were hit last week by missiles fired from American unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, reportedly killing some 20 terrorists. Remarkably, some people think these strikes are a bad idea.

To get a sense of what U.S. drone strikes have accomplished in the past two years, recall the political furor that followed a July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which found that al Qaeda had "protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland [i.e., U.S.] attack capability, including: a safehaven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership. . . . As a result, we judge that the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment." The media declared we were losing the war.

Less than a year later, then-CIA director Michael Hayden offered a far more upbeat assessment to the Washington Post.

Associated Press
Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamat-i-Islami rally in Lahore on July 3rd against reported U. S. drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas along the Afghanistan border.
What changed? At least part of the answer is that the U.S. went from carrying out only a handful of drone attacks in 2007 to more than 30 in 2008. According to U.S. intelligence, among the "high-value targets" killed in these new strikes were al Qaeda spokesman Abu Layth al-Libi, weapons expert Abu Sulayman al Jazairi, chemical and biological expert Abu Khabab al-Masri, commander and logistician Abu Wafa al-Saudi, al Qaeda "Emir" Abu al-Hasan al Rimi, and, in November, Rashid Rauf. Rauf, who had escaped from a Pakistan jail the previous year, was a coordinator of the summer 2007 plot to blow up passenger planes over the Atlantic.

Is the world better off with these people dead? We think so. Then again, Lord Bingham, until recently Britain's senior law lord, has recently said UAV strikes may be "beyond the pale" and potentially on a par with cluster bombs and landmines. Australian counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen says "the Predator [drone] strikes have an entirely negative effect on Pakistani stability." He adds, "We should be cutting strikes back pretty substantially."

In both cases, the argument against drones rests on the belief that the attacks cause wide-scale casualties among noncombatants, thereby embittering local populations and losing hearts and minds. If you glean your information from wire reports -- which depend on stringers who are rarely eyewitnesses -- the argument seems almost plausible.

Yet anyone familiar with Predator technology knows how misleading those reports can be. Unlike fighter jets or cruise missiles, Predators can loiter over their targets for more than 20 hours, take photos in which men, women and children can be clearly distinguished (burqas can be visible from 20,000 feet) and deliver laser-guided munitions with low explosive yields. This minimizes the risks of the "collateral damage" that often comes from 500-pound bombs. Far from being "beyond the pale," drones have made war-fighting more humane.

A U.S. intelligence summary we've seen corrects the record of various media reports claiming high casualties from the Predator strikes. For example, on April 1 the BBC reported that "a missile fired by a suspected U.S. drone has killed at least 10 people in Pakistan." But the intelligence report says that half that number were killed, among them Abdullah Hamas al-Filistini, a top al Qaeda trainer, and that no women and children were present.

In each of the strikes in 2009 that are described by the intelligence summary, the report says no women or children were killed. Moreover, we know of planned drone attacks that were aborted when Predator cameras spied their presence. And an April 19 strike on a compound in South Waziristan did destroy a truck loaded with what the report estimates were more explosives than the truck that took out Islamabad's Marriott Hotel last September. That Islamabad attack killed 54 people and injured more than 260 others, mostly Pakistan civilians but also Americans.

Critics of the drone strikes ought to ask whether, based on this information, the April 19 strike was worth the bad publicity. We'd say yes. We'd also say that the Obama Administration -- which, to its credit, has stepped up the use of Predators -- should make public the kind of information we've seen. We understand there will always be issues concerning sources and methods. But critics of the drone attacks, especially Pakistani critics, have become increasingly vocal in their opposition. They deserve to know about the terrorist calamities they've been spared thanks to these unmanned flights over their territory.

We're delighted to see that Pakistan's military is finally taking the fight to the Taliban and al Qaeda after ill-conceived truces that were a source of the country's recent instability. When Pakistan's government can exercise sovereignty over all its territory, there will be no need for Predator strikes. In the meantime, unmanned bombs away.
25885  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Seinfeld Hearings on: July 13, 2009, 07:30:29 AM
If you suspect this week's Senate confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor will be, like "Seinfeld," a show about nothing, you are probably right. To understand why, we need to revisit an era that remade how lawyers and the public think about law, and especially the Constitution.

In the 1930s, academics developed a philosophy they called "legal realism" to undercut judicial resistance to "progressive" statutes such as laws restricting the hours a baker or a woman could work. Legal realism elevated just results over the rule of law. It saw analysis of "the law" as an after-the-fact rationalization that allowed reactionary judges to conceal their empathy for the oppressed. Because legal realists believed judges inevitably made law when they ruled, they thought judges should decide cases with progressive ends in mind.

Getty Images
 At the same time, and somewhat inconsistently, realist progressives also condemned judges who declared progressive federal and state laws to be unconstitutional as judicial activists who were thwarting the will of the people. Never mind that the Supreme Court was only tepidly enforcing the original meaning of the Constitution and was upholding the vast majority of enlightened regulations. Any interference of the will of the people was deemed to be undemocratic.

Today we live in a legal world in which many progressives and conservatives share the legal realists' preoccupation with results. So justices must be chosen who will reach the politically correct results or opposed because they will reach the wrong results. Judicial confirmation hearings are thereby turned into a game of gotcha, with questioners trying to trip up the other side's nominees, and nominees quite properly refusing to reveal the only thing their inquisitors truly care about: how they would rule in particular cases that are likely to come before the Court.

But postures must be assumed and questions must be asked. So senators and nominees opine about two empty concepts. The first is "stare decisis" or precedent: Will the nominee follow the hallowed case of U.S. v. Whatchamacallit or not?

Of course, the legal realists detested precedent, which in their time stood in the way of their progressive agenda. Nothing has really changed. Both sides only want to respect the precedents that lead to the results they like. No one thinks justices should follow every precedent, so the crucial issue is picking and choosing which to follow and which to ignore. But how? Well, by the results, of course.

Now, when it comes to the meaning of the Constitution, I agree that precedent should not bind the Supreme Court. The written Constitution remains fixed, regardless of whether past decisions have gotten its meaning wrong. I am grateful that the Supreme Court reversed Plessy v. Ferguson -- the 1896 case that gave us "separate but equal" and an unconstitutional system of racial apartheid. Unfortunately, neither Democratic nor Republican senators will decry the post-New Deal rulings that transformed our constitutional order from what Princeton professor Stephen Macedo has called "islands of [government] powers in a sea of rights" to "islands of rights in a sea of [government] powers." Unless they can explain how we know which precedents to follow and which to reverse -- apart from liking the results -- all pontificating about "stare decisis" is really about nothing.

The second empty issue to be discussed is the bugaboo of "judicial activism" and its conjoined twin, "judicial restraint," which today's judicial conservatives have inherited from New Deal progressives. But what exactly is "activism"? Is it activism when any popularly enacted law is held unconstitutional? Neither Democrats or Republicans truly believe this, however, since they want judges to strike down laws as unconstitutional when doing so leads to the ["]right result["] (but not when it doesn't). So judicial activism means thwarting the "will of the people" when critics agree with the people, while they complain about the "tyranny of the majority" when they disagree.

We can do better.

Supreme Court confirmation hearings do not have to be about either results or nothing. They could be about clauses, not cases. Instead of asking nominees how they would decide particular cases, ask them to explain what they think the various clauses of the Constitution mean. Does the Second Amendment protect an individual right to arms? What was the original meaning of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment? (Hint: It included an individual right to arms.) Does the 14th Amendment "incorporate" the Bill of Rights and, if so, how and why? Does the Ninth Amendment protect judicially enforceable unenumerated rights? Does the Necessary and Proper Clause delegate unlimited discretion to Congress? Where in the text of the Constitution is the so-called Spending Power (by which Congress claims the power to spend tax revenue on anything it wants) and does it have any enforceable limits?

Don't ask how the meaning of these clauses should be applied in particular circumstances. Just ask about the meaning itself and how it should be ascertained. Do nominees think they are bound by the original public meaning of the text? Even those who deny this still typically claim that original meaning is a "factor" or starting point. If so, what other factors do they think a justice should rely on to "interpret" the meaning of the text? Even asking whether "We the People" in the U.S. Constitution originally included blacks and slaves -- as abolitionists like Lysander Spooner and Frederick Douglass contended, or not as Chief Justice Roger Taney claimed in Dred Scott v. Sandford -- will tell us much about a nominee's approach to constitutional interpretation. Given that this is hardly a case that will come before them, on what grounds could nominees refuse to answer such questions?

Of course, inquiring into clauses not cases would require senators to know something about the original meaning of the Constitution. Do they? It would be interesting to hear what Sen. Al Franken thinks about such matters, but no more so than any other member of the Judiciary Committee. Such a hearing would not only be entertaining, it would be informative and educational. After all, it would be about the meaning of the Constitution, which is to say it would be about something.

Mr. Barnett teaches at Georgetown Law and is the author of "Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty" (Princeton, 2005).
25886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams on: July 13, 2009, 07:27:59 AM
"If men through fear, fraud or mistake, should in terms renounce and give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the great end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave."

--John Adams, Rights of the Colonists, 1772
25887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Zelaya tried intimidation, would have used force on: July 13, 2009, 07:14:11 AM
"Let's also not forget that many Latin American Caudillos had the full backing of American administrations: Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, a.k.a. Chapita, was FDR's SOB. Fulgencio Batista of Cuba had the full backing of America. The CIA helped depose Allende and put Pinochet on the throne (rumors have it that Fidel Castro had Allende murdered when he showed a willingness to talk to the enemy).  Now Chavez and Zelaya seems to be Obama's SOBs even though they are not even pro-American."

Never in question.  As for Allende, he won with 36% of the vote and IIRC within 18 months created 1,000% inflation shocked shocked shocked in pursuit of his marxist goals.  A man like that tends to have LOTS of enemies.
  As for Chavez, to me it makes more sense to say that BO is his bitch than Chavez his SOB-- and that Zelaya's , , , gratitude runs towards Chavez, not BO.

In a perfect world former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya would be in jail in his own country right now, awaiting trial. The Honduran attorney general has charged him with deliberately violating Honduran law and the Supreme Court ordered his arrest in Tegucigalpa on June 28.

But the Honduran military whisked him out of the country, to Costa Rica, when it executed the court's order.

His expulsion has given his supporters ammunition to allege that he was treated unlawfully. Now he is an international hero of the left. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Cuban dictator Raúl Castro, and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez are all insisting that he be restored to power. This demand is baseless. Mr. Zelaya's detention was legal, as was his official removal from office by Congress.

If there is anything debatable about the crisis it is the question of whether the government can defend the expulsion of the president. In fact it had good reasons for that move and they are worth Mrs. Clinton's attention if she is interested in defending democracy.

Besides eagerly trampling the constitution, Mr. Zelaya had demonstrated that he was ready to employ the violent tactics of chavismo to hang onto power. The decision to pack him off immediately was taken in the interest of protecting both constitutional order and human life.

Associated Press
 Two incidents earlier this year make the case. The first occurred in January when the country was preparing to name a new 15-seat Supreme Court, as it does every seven years. An independent board made up of members of civil society had nominated 45 candidates. From that list, Congress was to choose the new judges.

Mr. Zelaya had his own nominees in mind, including the wife of a minister, and their names were not on the list. So he set about to pressure the legislature. On the day of the vote he militarized the area around the Congress and press reports say a group of the president's men, including the minister of defense, went to the Congress uninvited to turn up the heat. The head of the legislature had to call security to have the defense minister removed.

In the end Congress held its ground and Mr. Zelaya retreated. But the message had been sent: The president was willing to use force against other institutions.

In May there was an equally scary threat to peace issued by the Zelaya camp as the president illegally pushed for a plebiscite on rewriting the constitution. Since the executive branch is not permitted to call for such a vote, the attorney general had announced that he intended to enforce the law against Mr. Zelaya.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
A week later some 100 agitators, wielding machetes, descended on the attorney general's office. "We have come to defend this country's second founding," the group's leader reportedly said. "If we are denied it, we will resort to national insurrection."

These experiences frightened Hondurans because they strongly suggested that Mr. Zelaya, who had already aligned himself with Mr. Chávez, was now emulating the Venezuelan's power-grab. Other Chávez protégés -- in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua -- have done the same, refusing to accept checks on their power, making use of mobs and seeking to undermine institutions.

It was this fondness for intimidation that prompted Mr. Zelaya's exile. Honduras was worried that if he stayed in the country after his arrest his supporters would foment violence to try to bring down the interim government and restore him to power.

It wouldn't be a first. Bolivia's President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada was removed in 2003 using just such tactics. Antigovernment militants, trained by Peruvian terrorists and financed by Venezuela and by drug money from the Colombian rebel group FARC, had laid siege to La Paz. As the city ran short on supplies, Mr. Sánchez de Lozada issued a decree to have armed guards accompany food and fuel trucks. The rebels, who had dynamite and weapons, clashed with the guards. Sixty people died. The president was pressured to step down.

Mr. Sánchez de Lozada told me by telephone last week that he only presented a letter of resignation to the Bolivian Congress when the U.S. threatened to cut off aid if he left the country without doing so. He signed under duress but the letter was then used by the international community to endorse what was in effect a brutal Venezuelan-directed overthrow of the democracy.

The fact that the Organization of American States and the U.S. never defended the Bolivian democracy cannot be lost on the Hondurans or the chavistas. You can bet that Venezuela will try to orchestrate similar troubles in an attempt to bring condemnation to the new Honduran government. Honduran patriots have better odds against that strategy with Mr. Zelaya out of the country, even if Washington and the OAS don't approve.

Write to O'
25888  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: July 12, 2009, 08:45:52 PM
Respects to our Brit Brothers.

UK hospital in Afghanistan copes with bloodiest day

Sun Jul 12, 2009 9:23pm IS
* Camp hospital deals with 30 casualties
* Wounded taken to Kabul and Britain

By Peter Graff
CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan, July 12 (Reuters) - More than 30 wounded British soldiers were flown into Camp Bastion off the battlefield in Afghanistan and the operating theatre went through more than 100 pints of blood products over the weekend.
In the bloodiest day in the history of the British war effort in Afghanistan, eight soldiers were killed on Friday.
Doctors, nurses and staff at the field hospital at Britain's Camp Bastion worked round the clock, sometimes 15-16 staff tending to a single badly injured patient.
The 33-bed hospital was already almost full when the carnage began, but never overflowed. Almost as quickly as helicopters arrived from the battlefield, planes and other aircraft took stabilised casualties to Kabul or Birmingham in Britain.
"We've had some very badly injured young people go back to Birmingham, and go back to Birmingham in very good shape. And I think there's no question that the hospital system has saved lives," said Colonel Peter Mahoney, the hospital's director, a professor of anaesthesiology and airborne soldier.
The battlefield casualties -- the most a British military hospital has coped with in a single day since the 1982 Falklands War -- has led to questions back home about a war that has had lukewarm public support.
But commanders say they expected a surge of casualties this summer, part of what they aim to be a decisive push to take advantage of U.S. reinforcements and seize Taliban-held territory ahead of an Afghan presidential election next month.
Taliban casualty figures were not immediately available.
Britain and the United States have launched simultaneous operations this month in Afghanistan's most violent province, Helmand, nearly half of which was under Taliban control until this month.
The British "Operation Panther's Claw" has met tough resistance from Taliban home-made bombs and sniper positions. Fighters have also struck back elsewhere in the province.

A Taliban homemade bomb struck a British foot patrol before dawn on Friday, killing one soldier instantly and wounding several others. When troops attempted to evacuate, they were hit by another bomb, killing a stretcher bearer and one of the wounded casualties.
Another bomb planted in a field prevented a medivac helicopter from landing, so troops had to bring the wounded back to base to fly them out. Two more soldiers later died of wounds. Five others and an interpreter were injured.
Two other roadside bombs killed another three soldiers in other parts of the province.
Captain Jac Solghan, a nurse from the U.S. Air Force working at the British hospital, said he worked 32 hours straight from 2:00 a.m. on Saturday, looking after patient arrivals from the battlefield and their evacuations to hospitals further on.
"We'd just stay and keep working and working," he said. "That morning the hospital had not quite full capacity. By the time we ended the day, the hospital was still full and we were still pushing patients out."
Mahoney said the hospital had been warned in advance that a big operation was being planned, and had mobilised additional staff in expectation of a surge in casualties.
"There's no doubt it has been wearing. But none of the staff have ever complained and said they hadn't wanted to do it. Everybody's risen up to the occasion," Mahoney said.
25889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: July 12, 2009, 06:52:08 PM
Intriguing , , ,
25890  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Crafty Saturday class on: July 12, 2009, 02:27:20 PM
Let the Howl go Forth:

I would like to announce the beginning of a Saturday class at 11:00 on Saturday July 25th in Dog Brothers Martial Arts.  The class will be held either in Hermosa Beach or Redondo Beach.

In DBMA we look for our training to be three things:  fun, fit, and functional.

1) FUN:   For us to continue our training over time and to grow in the Art and to grow into whom we are meant to be, the training should be Fun-- or perhaps that which once upon a time was called "the pursuit of happiness".   (For those interested see the discussion at for the Aristotlean origin of the phrase "the pursuit of happiness" in our Declaration of Independence , , , but I digress , , , how rare)

2) FITNESS:  Our life-long path as a warrior should produce good health, not batter us into crippling later years.  The better one's health and animal vitality, the better the results-- in everday Life itself and in defense of Life.  Although we are known for our "Dog Brothers Real Contact Stickfighting", in DBMA we are proud of both the efficacy and the safety of our training methods.

3) FUNCTIONAL:  The training should produce results in the real world.  If thanks to our training we see clearer into other people and if we see problems developing sooner, then we may be able to prevent things from coming to a head.  Similarly, if we know who we are and what we can do, we should be less susceptible to allowing others to draw us into foolish incidents.  And should it be necessary to act, we should have a good sense of how to operate effectively and to act with Consciousness in the adrenal state.

In closing I want to make it clear that ALL LEVELS ARE WELCOME.  Certainly those inclined to "Dog Brothers Real Contact Stickfighting" will feel quite at home wink but I wish to make it perfectly clear that NO ONE WILL BE PRESSURED INTO DOING MORE THAN HE WANTS TO DO.  This is a class for students and practitioners of all ages as well as competitive fighters-- in short, anyone looking to walk as a warrior for all his days. 

If you are interested, please contact me at and tell me a bit about yourself, including your goals, age, height, weight, fitness level, experience, training (what systems, which teachers, for how long, etc).

The Adventure continues,
Guro Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny
Dog Brothers Inc. (this is here as part of protecting me personally from law suits)
Head Instructor
Dog Brothers Martial Arts
310-543-7521 (a 24 hour number)
25891  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: KALI TUDO (tm) Article on: July 12, 2009, 10:44:33 AM
Indeed it is within the KT framework, see e.g. the snaggletooth metronome training in KT 1.
25892  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB in the media on: July 12, 2009, 09:02:03 AM
No, it is night.  Our UK people think it will probably be the Nat Geo documentary.
25893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The American Creed/Limited Government on: July 11, 2009, 03:12:18 PM
June 2009

The state despotic

by Mark Steyn

A review of Soft Despotism, Democracy's Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect by Paul Anthony Rahe

On our gradual slide into servitude.

Driving north out of New York the other day, I heard a caller to Mark Levin’s show discuss his excellent book Liberty and Tyranny. The word she kept using was “inevitable”: The republic felt exhausted, and there was an “inevitability” to what was happening. A quarter-millennium of liberty seemed to be about the best you could expect, and its waning was—again—“inevitable.” As she spoke, the rich farmland of Columbia County rolled past my window. To many of its residents, the caller would have sounded slightly kooky. Were any of the county’s first families suddenly to rematerialize from their centuries of slumber, they would recognize the general landscape, the settlements, the principal roads, and indeed many of the weathered farmhouses. And they would be struck by the comfort and prosperity of their successors in this land. So what’s all this talk about decay and decline?

Ah, but I wonder if those early settlers would recognize the people, and their assumptions about the role of government. Mr. Levin’s listener was trying to articulate something profound but elusive. It’s not something you can sell the film rights for —there are no aliens vaporizing the White House, as in Independence Day; no God- zilla rampaging down Fifth Avenue and hurling the Empire State Building into the East River. No bangs, just the whimper of the same old same old civilizational ennui, as it gradually dawns that Admiral Yamamoto’s sleeping giant may be merely a supersized version of Monty Python’s dead parrot.

Paul A. Rahe’s new book on the subject is called Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift, which nicely captures how soothing and beguiling the process is.[1] Today, the animating principles of the American idea are entirely absent from public discourse. To the new Administration, American exceptionalism means an exceptional effort to harness an exceptionally big government in the cause of exceptionally massive spending. The can-do spirit means Ty’Sheoma Bethea can do with some government money: A high-school student in Dillon, South Carolina, Miss Bethea wrote to the President to ask him to do something about the peeling paint in her classroom. He read the letter out approvingly in a televised address to Congress. Imagine if Miss Bethea gets her way, and the national bureaucracy in Washington becomes responsible for grade- school paint jobs from Maine to Hawaii. What size of government would be required for such a project? And is it compatible with a constitutional republic?

Professor Rahe knows the answer to that. The first three-quarters of his book are about Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Tocqueville, which is to say they’re really about us. Montesquieu’s prediction that “in Europe the last sigh of liberty will be heaved by an Englishman” seemed self-evident after the totalitarian enthusiasms of the Continent in the twentieth century. Today? The last sigh will be heaved by England’s progeny, in the United States, or perhaps, given the galloping ambition of twenty-first-century American statism, in Australia. Is “the last sigh of liberty” inevitable? A progressivist would scoff at the utter codswallop of such a fancy. Why, modern man would not tolerate for a moment the encroachments his forebears took for granted! And so in the face of the careless assumption that social progress is like the internal combustion engine—once invented, it can never be uninvented—it is left to a trio of dead French blokes to anticipate the long-term temptations of a republic none had ever lived in, and which at that point was technologically all but impossible.

The professor opens his study with a famous passage from M. de Tocqueville. Or, rather, it would be famous were he still widely read. For he knows us far better than we know him: “I would like to imagine with what new traits despotism could be produced in the world,” he wrote the best part of two centuries ago. He and his family had been on the sharp end of France’s violent convulsions, but he considered that, to a democratic republic, there were slyer seductions:

I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls.
He didn’t foresee “Dancing with the Stars” or “American Idol” but, details aside, that’s pretty much on the money. He continues:

Over these is elevated an immense, tutelary power, which takes sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate. It is absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident, and gentle. It would resemble the paternal power if, like that power, it had as its object to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks, to the contrary, to keep them irrevocably fixed in childhood … it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their needs, guides them in their principal affairs…
The sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of petty regulations—complicated, minute, and uniform—through which even the most original minds and the most vigorous souls know not how to make their way… it does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting on one’s own … it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way: it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Welcome to the twenty-first century.

“It does not tyrannize, it gets in the way.” The all-pervasive micro-regulatory state “enervates,” but nicely, gradually, so after a while you don’t even notice. And in exchange for liberty it offers security: the “right” to health care; the “right” to housing; the “right” to a job—although who needs that once you’ve got all the others? The proposed European Constitution extends the laundry list: the constitutional right to clean water and environmental protection. Every right you could ever want, except the right to be free from undue intrusions by the state. M. Giscard d’Estaing, the former French president and chairman of the European constitutional convention, told me at the time that he had bought a copy of the U.S. Constitution at a bookstore in Washington and carried it around with him in his pocket. Try doing that with his Euro-constitution, and you’ll be walking with a limp after ten minutes and calling for a sedan chair after twenty: As Professor Rahe notes, it’s 450 pages long. And, when your “constitution” is that big, imagine how swollen the attendant bureaucracy and regulation is. The author points out that, in France, “80 per cent of the legislation passed by the National Assembly in Paris originates in Brussels”—that is, at the European Union’s civil service. Who drafts it? Who approves it? Who do you call to complain? Who do you run against and in what election? And where do you go to escape it? Not to the next town, not to the next county, not to the next country.

In The Spirit of the Laws (1748), “the celebrated Montesquieu” (as both Madison and Hamilton called him) concluded that England had developed, in Professor Rahe’s summation, “a new form of government more conducive to liberty and graced with greater staying power than any polity theretofore even imagined.” The key words here, and the theme of Professor Rahe’s book, are “staying power.” Anyone can start a republic. The challenge that remains was posed by Ben Franklin: Can you “keep it”?

Examining England’s “crowned republic” in the wake of Montesquieu and Rousseau, Tocqueville wrote that, from the seventeenth century on, you could find “the classes mixed up with one another … wealth become power, equality before the law, equality in taxation, freedom of the press, public debate—all new principles that the society of the Middle Ages did not know. But these are precisely the new things which, introduced little by little and with art into the old body, reanimated it without risking its dissolution.” Monarchies do not always evolve, and republics seek to put their theoretical perfection into practice too instantly. If you abolish, wrote Montesquieu, “the prerogatives of the lords, the clergy, the nobility & the towns,” you’re on a fast track to “a state popular—or, indeed, a state despotic.”

Thus, Tocqueville’s great insight—that what prevents the “state popular” from declining into a “state despotic” is the strength of the intermediary institutions between the sovereign and the individual. The French revolution abolished everything and subordinated all institutions to the rule of central authority. The New World was more fortunate: “The principle and lifeblood of American liberty” was, according to Tocqueville, municipal independence. “With the state government, they had limited contact; with the national government, they had almost none,” writes Professor Rahe:

In New England, their world was the township; in the South, it was the county; and elsewhere it was one or the other or both… . Self-government was the liberty that they had fought the War of Independence to retain, and this was a liberty that in considerable measure Americans in the age of Andrew Jackson still enjoyed.
For Tocqueville, this is a critical distinction between America and the faux republics of his own continent. “It is in the township that the strengths of free peoples resides,” he wrote. “Municipal institutions are for liberty what primary schools are for science; they place it within reach of the people.” In America, democracy is supposed to be a participatory sport not a spectator one: In Europe, every five years you put an X on a piece of paper and subsequently discover which of the party candidates on the list at central office has been delegated to represent you in fast-tracking all those E.U. micro-regulations through the rubber-stamp legislature. By contrast, American democracy is a game to be played, not watched: You go to Town Meeting, you denounce the School Board budget, you vote to close a road, you run for cemetery commissioner.

Does that distinction still hold? As Professor Rahe argues, in the twentieth century the intermediary institutions were belatedly hacked away—not just self-government at town, county, and state level, but other independent outposts: church, family, civic associations. Today, very little stands between the individual and the sovereign, which is why schoolgirls in Dillon, South Carolina think it entirely normal to beseech Good King Barack the Hopeychanger to do something about classroom maintenance.

I say “Good King Barack,” but truly that does an injustice to ye medieval tyrants of yore. As Tocqueville wrote: “There was a time in Europe in which the law, as well as the consent of the people, clothed kings with a power almost without limits. But almost never did it happen that they made use of it.” His Majesty was an absolute tyrant—in theory. But in practice he was in his palace hundreds of miles away. A pantalooned emissary might come prancing into your dooryard once every half-decade and give you a hard time, but for the most part you got on with your life relatively undisturbed. “The details of social life and of individual existence ordinarily escaped his control,” wrote Tocqueville. But what would happen if administrative capability were to evolve to make it possible “to subject all of his subjects to the details of a uniform set of regulations”?

That moment has now arrived. And administrative despotism turns out to be very popular: Why, we need more standardized rules, from coast to coast—and on to the next coast. After all, if Europe can harmonize every trivial imposition on the citizen, why can’t the world?

Would it even be possible to hold the American revolution today? The Boston Tea Party? Imagine if George III had been able to sit in his palace across the ocean, look at the security-camera footage, press a button, and freeze the bank accounts of everyone there. Oh, well, we won’t be needing another revolt, will we? But the consequence of funding the metastasization of government through the confiscation of the fruits of the citizen’s labor is the remorseless shriveling of liberty.

Is it, as Mark Levin’s caller said, “inevitable”? No, not quite. But it seems like the way to bet. When President Bush used to promote the notion of democracy in the Muslim world, there was a line he liked to fall back on: “Freedom is the desire of every human heart.” Are you quite sure? It’s doubtful whether that’s actually the case in Gaza and Waziristan, but we know for absolute certain that it’s not in Paris and Stockholm, London and Toronto, Buffalo and New Orleans. The story of the Western world since 1945 is that, invited to choose between freedom and government “security,” large numbers of people vote to dump freedom every time—the freedom to make their own decisions about health care, education, property rights, and eventually (as we already see in Europe, Canada, American campuses, and the disgusting U.N. Human Rights Council) what you’re permitted to say and think.

I’m often struck by how much of our language has become metaphorical: A few years ago, a Fleet Street colleague accidentally booked himself into a conference on “building bridges” assuming it would be some multiculti community outreach yakfest. It turned out to be a panel of engineers discussing bridge construction. Yet in an important sense the ability to build real bridges is indeed an attribute of community. A friend of mine is a New Hampshire “selectman,” one of those municipal offices Tocqueville found so admirable. In 2003, a state highway inspector rode through and condemned one of the town’s bridges, on a dirt road that serves maybe a dozen houses.

That’s the bad news. The good news was the 80/20 state/town funding plan, under which, if you applied to Concord for a new bridge, the state would pay 80 percent of the cost, the town 20. So they did. The state estimated the cost at $320,000, so the town’s share would be $64,000. Great. So the town threw up a temporary bridge just down river from the condemned one, and waited for the state to get going. Six years later, the temporary bridge has worn out, and the latest revised estimate is $655,000, such that the town’s share would be $131,000.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that, under the “stimulus” bill, they can put in for the 60/40 federal/state bridge funding plan, under which the feds pay 60 percent, and the state pays 40, and thus the town would be on the hook for 20 percent of the 40 percent, if you follow. If they applied for the program now, the bridge might be built by, oh, 2015, 2020, and it’ll only be $1.2 million, or $4 million, or $12 million, or whatever the estimate’ll be by then.

But who knows? By 2015, there might be some 70/30 UN/federal bridge plan, under which the UN pays 70 percent, and the feds pay 30, and thus the town would only be liable for 20 percent of the state’s 40 percent of the feds’ 30 percent. And the estimate for the bridge will be a mere $2.7 billion.

While the Select Board was pondering this, another bridge was condemned. The state’s estimate was $415,000, and, given that the previous bridge had been on the to-do list for six years, they weren’t ready to pencil this second one in on the schedule just yet. So instead the town put in a new bridge from a local contractor. Cost: $30,000. Don’t worry; it’s all up to code—and a lot safer than the worn-out temporary bridge still waiting for the 80/20/60/40/70/30 deal to kick in. As my friend said at the meet- ing: “Screw the state. Let’s do it ourselves.”

“Screw the state” is not a Tocquevillian formulation, but he would have certainly agreed with the latter sentiment. When something goes wrong, a European demands to know what the government’s going to do about it. An American does it himself. Or he used to—in the Jacksonian America a farsighted Frenchman understood so well. “Human dignity,” writes Professor Rahe, “is bound up with taking responsibility for conducting one’s own affairs.” When the state annexes that responsibility, the citizenry are indeed mere sheep to the government shepherd. Paul Rahe concludes his brisk and trenchant examination of republican “staying power” with specific proposals to reclaim state and local power from Washington, and with a choice: “We can be what once we were, or we can settle for a gradual, gentle descent into servitude.” I wish I were more sanguine about how that vote would go.
25894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Articulating our cause/strategy against Islamic Fascism on: July 11, 2009, 11:56:21 AM
OK, I am persuaded smiley
25895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Caudillo on: July 11, 2009, 09:08:54 AM
Tegucigalpa, Honduras

In the tile-roofed presidential palace near downtown Tegucigalpa, a man sits behind a long wooden desk claiming to be the country’s president. But in the eyes of the international community, Roberto Micheletti took charge through an old-fashioned coup.

Nearly two weeks ago, on June 28, his predecessor, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, was rousted from bed by soldiers and sent out of the country in his pajamas. Mr. Micheletti, next in line for the presidency as head of congress, was sworn in later that day.
Tied to wealthy business interests and brought to power by the military, the provisional government brings back memories of the coup in which Chilean Augusto Pinochet tore down the Socialist project of Salvador Allende in 1973. On the streets of Tegucigalpa nowadays, some protesters have scrawled graffiti that merges the names of Mr. Pinochet and their new, unelected leader: “Pinocheletti.”

In Mr. Micheletti’s take on events, it was his government who avoided another, slow-motion coup—by Mr. Zelaya himself. Mr. Micheletti’s supporters say Mr. Zelaya was a dictator in the making, a modern-day caudillo, or strongman, who wanted to rewrite Honduran law to stay in power, perhaps indefinitely.

To understand what is happening in Honduras today, it helps to know a bit more about Latin America’s long love affair with caudillos, how these larger-than-life but power-hungry men damaged their countries, and why so many people are terrified that they are making a comeback.

Some argue that Latin America’s single most important—and colorful—contribution to political science is the caudillo. A Spanish word, caudillo is derived from the Latin capitellum or small head, and refers to a military or political leader. Spain’s Gen. Francisco Franco, adopted the title Caudillo de España por la Gracia de Dios (by the Grace of God) and ruled the nation from the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 until his death in 1975.
Caudillismo is so deeply rooted it has spawned its own literary genre. Discerning readers see Fidel Castro as the model for the aging, cow-obsessed strongman in Gabriel García Márquez’s “The Autumn of the Patriarch,” who wanders alone dragging his outsize testicles over the floors of his presidential palace. Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, in his novel “The Feast of the Goat,” portrayed the precariousness of life in the Dominican Republic under the rule of the predatory and brutal right-wing caudillo, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.

The cast of caudillos in Latin American history includes such characters as Antonio López de Santa Anna, who was Mexico’s president on seven separate occasions in the mid-1800s. He signed away Texas’ independence from Mexico after being captured the day after the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836, and once buried a leg he lost in battle with full military honors.

Caudillos come in all ideological stripes. Mr. Pinochet, whose famous photograph in sinister dark glasses was taken soon after his coup, became the iconic image of the right-wing Latin American military dictator. These days, most caudillos are leftist. Mr. Castro, el Comandante or el Caballo (the Horse), has the dubious distinction of being the longest-lived caudillo in Latin American history, owing his record-breaking stretch in power more to caudillismo than Marxismo. He’s passed on the torch to Hugo Chávez, the populist caudillo from Caracas, Venezuela.

Caudillos first arose in the difficult birth of Latin American republics from Spanish colonies. Most were landowners or military men who had their own private armies. Because the wars of independence in the early 19th century destroyed most institutions of Spanish colonial rule, the governments in these new states were too weak to resist takeover. In some cases, young states couldn’t raise enough money for a standing army.

Many of Latin America’s most famous caudillos became dictators. But as Latin American societies evolved and political arenas became more important than military battlegrounds in the mid- to late-1800s, caudillos became politicians. While a dictator usually relies on brute force to keep power, modern caudillos use a combination of personal magnetism, patronage—and sometimes, selective brute force.

In Latin America, the strength of the caudillo weakened the region’s institutions. Political parties centered on caudillos often collapsed after the caudillo’s death and never professionalized. As a result, Latin Americans seem perennially ready to trust their fate to a providential “man on horseback” who comes to their nation’s rescue, rather than on the ability of the nation’s institutions to provide security and prosperity.

Outsize personality—and outright megalomania—is a common characteristic of caudillos. In the 18th century, José Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, who ruled Paraguay for a quarter-century, shut the country off from the outside world, appointing himself head of the country’s Catholic Church and taking the title of El Supremo, providing material for yet another great Latin American novel, Augusto Roa Bastos’s “Yo, el Supremo.”

In the 20th century, few had bigger egos than Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961. Known as El Jefe, Mr. Trujillo took power at age 38, wearing a sash with the motto Dios y Trujillo, or “God and Trujillo.” Even churches were forced to emblazon the motto. A few years later, the capital, Santo Domingo, was renamed Ciudad Trujillo. Fond of wearing comic-opera military uniforms with 18th-century-style plumed hats, Mr. Trujillo was as brutal as he was outlandish, murdering thousands of Haitian immigrants as well as torturing and killing political opponents; he fed some of them to the sharks.

While arms made the man in the 19th century, in the 20th, most caudillos have been careful to present themselves as champions of the people, wrapped either in the mantle of revolution—like Fidel Castro—or in that of democracy. Argentina’s Juan Domingo Perón used populism to endear himself to the nation’s poor, known as descamisados, or “shirtless ones.”

Even today, Perónismo, the movement created by Mr. Perón and his wife Eva—who combined glamour and handouts to the poor to become a secular saint venerated by Argentines—is still the dominant political current in Argentina. The legacy of Mr. Perón’s free-spending populist philosophy has led Argentina into periodic economic crises. When prices for Argentine exports like beef are high, for instance, Perónist governments have spent the windfall like a drunken sailor, leading to a cash crunch when prices eventually head south.
Mr. Perón, like many other caudillos, sought additional legitimacy by preserving the forms of democracy, if only on paper. He won presidential elections, but his regime was hardly democratic: Perónists controlled the legislature, the courts, the bureaucracy, labor unions and the media. Anyone who got too far out of line faced arbitrary arrest.

Even the Dominican Republic’s brutal Mr. Trujillo made a big show of not running for re-election in 1938 to observe democratic principles, although he continued to be the country’s de facto leader and later returned to win two more elections, in 1942 and 1947. In 1952, he stepped aside in favor of his brother and again continued to call the shots until his assassination in 1961.

On June 28, the Honduran president was forced out of the country in his pajamas, after he pushed for a referendum that would amend the constitution to allow him to run for re-election.

The Honduran head of congress was sworn in as Mr. Zelaya’s replacement immediately after Mr. Zelaya’s ouster. He has vowed to hold already scheduled elections in November and to hand over power in January.

The Bolivian president, a former leader of a militant coca leaf growers’ union, won a referendum that allowed him to rewrite the constitution, overturning a ban on re-election.

As far as the U.S. was concerned, the cause of democracy in Latin America often took a back seat to fighting Communism during the Cold War. For years, the U.S. either looked the other way or supported coups with the aim of preventing the spread of Communism in the hemisphere. Military coups became almost ritual. In the 1970s, Honduras endured so many coups that the capital was jokingly called Tegucigolpe, for the Spanish word golpe, or coup.

The end of the Cold War radically changed politics in Latin America. As civil wars and guerrilla insurrections in Central America ran out of steam, pampered military establishments suffered deep budget cuts. The U.S. and the rest of the world made it clear that coups would not be tolerated anymore. The Organization of American States, which represents 34 countries throughout the hemisphere, adopted a democracy clause in its charter in 2001. By that point, Cuba remained as the only non-democracy.

While democracy has spread throughout Latin America, caudillos never vanish, they just adapt to changing times. Gone is the old-fashioned military coup, replaced with a new strategy for power that could be called “coup by stealth,” or “coup by democratic means.”

The primary architect of this new blueprint is Mr. Chávez, a strongman with one foot grounded in the past and the other firmly placed in the future of caudillismo. In 1992, Mr. Chávez, then a lieutenant colonel with a mish-mash of leftist, nationalist and fascist ideas, led an old-fashioned coup in an attempt to overthrow the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez. It failed, and Mr. Chávez was jailed.

Upon release, he was persuaded to forgo the bullet for the ballot box. In 1998, he was elected president, riding a wave of popular disgust against the deep corruption of the country’s existing political parties and institutions. In a nation where institutions never developed because of caudillos, another “man on horseback” had come to save the country. Once in power, he moved to insure he would never leave.
Using the tools of democracy—referendums and elections—Mr. Chávez has subverted democracy and become a new, modern caudillo. He has won referendums over the years that have allowed him to rewrite the constitution, twice, to his specifications, including ending constitutional restrictions on term limits, thus allowing him to run for re-election indefinitely. He has gutted the courts, shut down and gagged the media and purged the army; he exercises total control over the congress. Venezuela still holds elections, but it is far from a full democracy.

Mr. Chávez shares with old caudillos a military background, a populist bent and a cult of personality. He is a mixture of messianic preacher, traditional authoritarian Latin American military man and utopian dreamer with notions of “21st-Century Socialism.” Even after a decade in power marked by rampant spending, corruption and crime, Mr. Chávez maintains a strong, almost mystical bond with many of Venezuela’s poor, who see in him a reflection of themselves.

Mr. Chavez has publicly said he plans to stay in power until 2019, 2021 or 2030.

The Chávez blueprint for power is now being imitated by other caudillos in the making. Bolivian President Evo Morales, a former leader of a militant coca leaf growers’ union who led street riots that helped topple two Bolivian leaders, also won a referendum that allowed him to rewrite the constitution. One change: overturning a ban on re-election. Ecuador’s Rafael Correa has used a constitutional rewrite to get term limits lifted, too. Both men used populism and disappointment with existing political parties to cast themselves as their nation’s saviors.

When democracy took root in Latin America in the 1980s and ’90s, nearly every country opted to bar re-election as a way to ensure caudillos would never return. These restrictions have been chipped away, by right-wing leaders, too. In Colombia, conservative president Álvaro Uribe has already changed the constitution once to get re-elected and is mulling a third term now.

Honduras, weary of a parade of generals who overstayed their welcome, was among the Latin nations that barred re-election when it ended military dictatorships and became a democracy in 1981. Since then, nearly every sitting president has toyed with the idea of re-election. None has pushed the idea more openly than Mr. Zelaya.

The son of a conservative rancher, Mr. Zelaya took power four years ago as a centrist. In the past two years, the Stetson-hat-wearing, ballad-singing president has hewn increasingly to the left, finding a soulmate in Mr. Chávez. The Venezuelan president began shipping Honduras cut-rate oil, and Honduras responded by joining Mr. Chávez’s regional trade and political pact, which also includes Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua.

He then took another page from the Chávez blueprint, pushing for a referendum and constitutional rewrite on re-election. The country’s courts, congress and other institutions lined up against Mr. Zelaya, but he vowed to challenge them all, with the people at his back. Shortly before his ouster, when the army refused to take part in the election, the president led a mob to a nearby base to seize the ballots.

Did all this make Mr. Zelaya a caudillo in the making? The world may never know because the Honduran power brokers decided not to take any chances. In booting out Mr. Zelaya at gunpoint, they showed what little faith they had in the country’s institutions to check Mr. Zelaya’s ambitions.

Some argue they acted rashly. “The Pinochets of the world supported the type of people who sent Zelaya out in his pajamas,” says Peter Kornbluh, an analyst at the National Security Archive, a Washington nonprofit, and author of books on dictators including Messrs. Pinochet and Castro. In ousting a democratically elected leader, the Honduran establishment strayed further from democracy than Mr. Zelaya did in attempting to stay, he says.

While the provisional president, Mr. Micheletti, has taken power in an undemocratic fashion, few Hondurans worry that he will want to stay on. Mr. Micheletti has vowed to hold already-scheduled elections in November, hand over power in January and limit his own presidential aspirations to six months in power.

Angel Nuñez, a 30-year-old Tegucigalpa taxi driver, thinks Mr. Micheletti did the right thing. “Zelaya wanted this place to be Cuba, he wanted absolute power in this country,” he says. Pushing the ex-president aside was the only way to stop “a man who got to thinking he was above the law.”

Domingo Díaz, a 63-year-old social worker, says he’s lived through so many Central American takeovers he’s lost both his count and his interest in them. “No one respected the law,” he said on a recent rainy day. “History will repeat itself,” he says, “but this time I don’t fear it.”
25896  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO curbs arrests of illegals on: July 11, 2009, 09:02:42 AM
The Department of Homeland Security said Friday it was revising a program that authorized local police to enforce federal immigration law -- a controversial aspect of U.S. border policy.

In San Diego, illegal immigrants wait to be deported to Mexico at a gate next to the pedestrian border crossing into Tijuana last month. About 800 people are deported there every day.

Opponents said the program, known as 287g, was intended to identify criminal aliens but instead has led to racial profiling; it allowed local police to identify and arrest illegal immigrants for such minor infractions as a broken tail light. Program supporters said it has been an effective tool for combating illegal immigration.

The new guidelines sharply reduce the ability of local law enforcement to arrest and screen suspected illegal immigrants. They are intended to prevent sheriff and police departments from arresting people "for minor offenses as a guise to initiate removal proceedings," according to Homeland Security. The program will instead focus on more serious criminals.

"In a world of limited resources, our view is that we need to focus first and foremost on people committing crimes in our community who should not be here," said John Morton, Assistant Secretary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Mr. Morton said his agency would sign new contracts with local law enforcement that would bolster federal oversight.

In the past two years, more than 120,000 suspected illegal immigrants were identified through the program, and most ended up in deportation proceedings. By comparison, ICE removed 356,739 illegal immigrants from the U.S. during the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2008 -- a 23.5% increase over the 2007 total.

Lookback: Immigration
Journal articles on the debates over immigration in the early 1900s

Alien Immigration: Effect on Women and Consumers (March 18, 1905)Immigration in 1906: Special Attention Given Last Year to Examinations for Admission (Jan. 18, 1907)Views of Secretary Straus: 'We should not fail to recognize the enormous advantages we have drawn from immigration" (May 23, 1907)Immigration: Total for the Year 1,200,000, an Increase of 100,000 Over Last Year (June 29, 1907)To Improve Immigrant Distribution: Attempt Will Be Made to Distribute Immigrants to Meet Labor Demands (July 12, 1907)The most active local enforcer has been Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Arizona's Maricopa County. He said Friday he would continue pursuing illegal immigrants, arguing that state laws allow neighborhood crime sweeps and worksite raids.

"If I'm told not to enforce immigration law except if the alien is a violent criminal, my answer to that is we are still going to do the same thing, 287g or not," said Mr. Arpaio. His deputies have identified in jail or picked up on the streets more than 30,000 illegal immigrants in the Phoenix area. "We have been very successful," said the five-term sheriff.

The Department of Justice is investigating whether Mr. Arpaio's deputies have used skin color as a pretense to stop Latinos suspected of being illegal immigrants.

Mr. Obama's policy change is expected to bolster his standing with Latinos and some Democratic legislators. The administration is seeking to set the stage for a sweeping overhaul of immigration legislation that could put millions of illegal workers on the path to U.S. citizenship.

President George W. Bush pursued a similar goal. After the efforts failed in Congress, his administration stepped up enforcement with raids and the expansion of such programs as 287g.

The provision was created by Congress in 1996 and designed to train local police to help federal immigration authorities locate criminal aliens. It took six years for the first state, Florida, to sign on to the program.

The Bush administration promoted the program among sheriffs and police chiefs, turning it into a symbol of his crackdown on illegal immigration.

Since January 2006, more than 1,000 state and local law-enforcement officials have been certified. Many jurisdictions used those officers in jails, where they could sort through many inmates in a single shift.

Southern states account for more than 40 of the 66 existing participants. There are 42 applications pending, most of them in the South. Both Virginia and North Carolina, where the Latino immigrant population has grown, each have nine 287g agreements, more than other states.

"I think the program is working great," said Wake County, N.C., Sheriff Donnie Harrison. "If the highway patrol brings someone to our jail, and they say they are foreign born, then they are flagged for 287g. They have committed a violation of some sort to be brought to our jail...from broken tail lights to murder and rape."

Raleigh, N.C., resident Maria Hernandez was booked into a Wake County jail after failing to show up for her 6-year-old son's truancy hearing, according to her account and that of her attorney, Marty Rosenbluth.

Ms. Hernandez, a cleaning lady who came to the U.S. illegally nine years ago, is now in deportation court. "I don't understand why they come after people like me," she said.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ordered a comprehensive review of 287g shortly after taking her post earlier this year. Members of Congress and the Government Accountability Office had raised concerns the program was being used "to process individuals for minor crimes, such as speeding, contrary to the objective of the program."

The shift on 287g follows other recent modifications to immigration policy by the Obama administration, reflecting an effort to shift the burden of immigration enforcement to employers, while making it difficult for illegal immigrants to get hired.

In the past two weeks, Ms. Napolitano said federal contractors would be required to check the identity of new hires against a federal database. DHS also will audit hundreds of companies to verify whether their employees are eligible to work.

Write to Miriam Jordan at
25897  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Articulating our cause/strategy against Islamic Fascism on: July 11, 2009, 09:00:35 AM
Rachel's post is an important one, but I too am confused by its presence here.  Where would it better belong?
25898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Weaknesses in Wiretapping Program on: July 11, 2009, 08:56:30 AM
WASHINGTON -- Extensive secrecy limited the effectiveness of the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program, according to an internal review of the program completed Friday.

The review, the first comprehensive independent look at an unprecedented program that roused extensive debate during the Bush administration, also questioned the legal basis for the original program and cast doubt on some of the administration's justifications.

For the first month of its existence in October 2001, the program was running without a Justice Department legal opinion. The first legal memo for the program wasn't drafted until the following month, the report found.

See the Report
Unclassified Report on the President's Surveillance Program, July 10 (pdf)The report by the inspectors general of five government bodies involved in the program also recommended that the current version of the program, which Congress authorized last year, "should be carefully monitored."

In recent months, lawmakers in both parties have raised alarms that the program was collecting far more domestic data than intended. The Obama administration says it has added safeguards.

The report, mandated last year by Congress, assesses what it calls the "President's Surveillance Program" and says that the government's domestic spy activities extended beyond the activities acknowledged publicly by the Bush administration.

The more limited program the Bush administration publicly acknowledged, known as the Terrorist Surveillance Program, monitored without a warrant communications between the U.S. and abroad when one of the people communicating was believed to be linked to al Qaeda. The report says President George W. Bush also authorized "other intelligence activities," which it says remain highly classified.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that the NSA's domestic-surveillance activities were far broader than previously acknowledged, monitoring huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches, as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records.

Bush officials repeatedly described the warrantless-surveillance program as critical to U.S. national security. As recently as May, former Vice President Dick Cheney said that it "prevented attacks and saved lives." He made similar arguments when advocating internally for the program, saying that a failure to approve would risk "thousands" of lives, according to the report.

The report was more equivocal. There are several cases identified by intelligence officials and documentation where information from the program "may have contributed to a counterterrorism success," the report found.

CIA officials, for example, complained that much of the data from the program was "vague and out of context," so they turned to other information sources. Data from the program would have been better used if analysts understood its full capabilities, the report said. Some officers also said they lacked legal guidance for how they could use information from the program.

Most of the leads passed on to the Federal Bureau of Investigation didn't have any connection to terrorism. Still, many officials there said the "mere possibility" of the leads that could be useful made investigating them worthwhile. The report concluded that the program "generally played a limited role in the FBI's overall counterterrorism efforts."

Analysts at the National Counterterrorism Center said the program was a "useful tool" but it was "one tool in the toolbox."

Several agencies reported that while the program produced information "of value," they had difficulty defining its precise contribution because information from it was usually combined with many other sources.

Some lawmakers who received highly classified briefings about the program before it was publicly revealed were surprised by the report's findings. Rep. Jane Harman, who was the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee at the time, said that in briefings "this was described as an extremely secret, highly useful program with sound legal underpinnings." The report, she said, "blows through" that contention.

Former NSA Director Michael Hayden, who helped start the program, said in an interview Friday that he could "point to things being disrupted as a direct result of this program." But he added that as more intelligence programs produced terrorism tips, data from the NSA program was increasingly blended with information from other sources.

The NSA program established a system of "sensors" that served as a trip wire for potential al Qaeda activity. He said the system was useful, if only to confirm there may have been less of an al Qaeda presence in the country than was initially feared.

Mr. Hayden also noted that the inspector general report didn't find any evidence of wrongdoing by intelligence officers.

The report also chronicles the internal Bush administration battles over the legality of the program.

The Justice official who drafted the initial memos was Assistant Attorney General John Yoo. His factual discussion of the "other intelligence activities" was identified by his successors at Justice in late 2003 as "insufficient" and presented a "serious impediment" to the president's re-approval of the program. Mr. Yoo had concluded that the requirement for a warrant didn't apply to the whole surveillance program because of the president's constitutional wartime powers.

The report concluded that Mr. Yoo's role -- as the single Justice Department attorney developing legal opinions -- was "inappropriate."

The Justice Department lawyers who succeeded Mr. Yoo in late 2003 believed Mr. Yoo's assertion that wartime powers trumped surveillance laws ignored the provision of a key surveillance law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allowed for surveillance without a warrant for 15 days in an emergency.

In his 2005 book "War by Other Means," Mr. Yoo wrote about the NSA program, saying that the Clinton administration also concluded that the president could use his commander in chief powers to bypass that surveillance law under certain circumstances.

For months, Justice lawyers battled the White House over the legality of the program, which had to be re-approved by the president every 45 days. Mr. Bush signed off for the first time in March 2004 over the Justice Department's protest. The president later modified or discontinued certain "other intelligence activities" that Justice lawyers had protested.

Last year, Congress approved a new surveillance law that authorized an even broader set of "unprecedented collection activities" at NSA the report concluded.

Congress is required this year to reauthorize several key sections of the USA Patriot Act, which includes surveillance measures. American Civil Liberties Union legal counsel said Congress should use that legislation to narrow the scope of NSA's surveillance operations in light of the effectiveness issues the report raises.

In preparing the report, the inspectors general interviewed many of the senior administration officials involved with the program. However, former CIA Director George Tenet, Attorney General John Ashcroft, former counsel to the vice president David Addington, and Mr. Yoo were among those who refused to be interviewed.

The report was prepared by the inspectors general of the Defense and Justice departments, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Director of National Intelligence, and the NSA. The 38-page unclassified version was made public Friday, and a more extensive classified version, in the form of five separate agency reports and a 70-page summary remains under wraps.

NSA officials referred questions to the DNI office, which called the report "important and comprehensive." It said Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair is committed to seeing that all surveillance activities comply with U.S. law and the Constitution.

Write to Siobhan Gorman at
25899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GS's doomsday program on: July 10, 2009, 01:14:11 PM
Goldman Sachs Loses Grip on Its Doomsday Machine
Commentary by Jonathan Weil

July 9 (Bloomberg) -- Never let it be said that the Justice Department can’t move quickly when it gets a hot tip about an alleged crime at a Wall Street bank. It does help, though, if the party doing the complaining is the bank itself, and not merely an aggrieved customer.

Another plus is if the bank tells the feds the security of the U.S. financial markets is at stake. This brings us to the strange tale of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Sergey Aleynikov.

Aleynikov, 39, is the former Goldman computer programmer who was arrested on theft charges July 3 as he stepped off a flight at Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey. That was two days after Goldman told the government he had stolen its secret, rapid-fire, stock- and commodities-trading software in early June during his last week as a Goldman employee. Prosecutors say Aleynikov uploaded the program code to an unidentified Web site server in Germany.

It wasn’t just Goldman that faced imminent harm if Aleynikov were to be released, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Facciponti told a federal magistrate judge at his July 4 bail hearing in New York. The 34-year-old prosecutor also dropped this bombshell: “The bank has raised the possibility that there is a danger that somebody who knew how to use this program could use it to manipulate markets in unfair ways.”

How could somebody do this? The precise answer isn’t obvious -- we’re talking about a black-box trading system here. And Facciponti didn’t elaborate. You don’t need a Goldman Sachs doomsday machine to manipulate markets, of course. A false rumor expertly planted using an ordinary telephone often will do just fine. In any event, the judge rejected Facciponti’s argument that Aleynikov posed a danger to the community, and ruled he could go free on $750,000 bail. He was released July 6.

Market Manipulation

All this leaves us to wonder: Did Goldman really tell the government its high-speed, high-volume, algorithmic-trading program can be used to manipulate markets in unfair ways, as Facciponti said? And shouldn’t Goldman’s bosses be worried this revelation may cause lots of people to start hypothesizing aloud about whether Goldman itself might misuse this program?

Here’s some of what we do know. Aleynikov, a citizen of the U.S. and Russia, left his $400,000-a-year salary at Goldman for a chance to triple his pay at a start-up firm in Chicago co- founded by Misha Malyshev, a former Citadel Investment Group LLC trader. Malyshev, who oversaw high-frequency trading at Citadel, said his firm, Teza Technologies LLC, first learned about the alleged theft July 5 and suspended Aleynikov without pay.

‘Preposterous’ Charges

Aleynikov’s attorney, Sabrina Shroff, told the judge at the bail hearing that Aleynikov never intended to use the downloaded material “in any proprietary way” and that the government’s charges were “preposterous.”

Goldman isn’t commenting publicly about any of this, though it seems the bank’s bosses want us to believe there’s no need to worry. On July 6, Dow Jones Newswires quoted a “person familiar with the matter” saying this: “The theft has had no impact on our clients and no impact on our business.” Note that this person was so familiar with Goldman that he or she spoke of Goldman’s clients as “our clients” and Goldman’s business as “our business.”

By comparison, last Saturday, while most Americans were enjoying the Fourth of July holiday, Facciponti was in court warning of looming threats to Goldman and the financial markets.

“The copy in Germany is still out there,” the prosecutor said, according to an audio recording of the hearing. “And we at this time do not know who else has access to it and what’s going to happen to that software.”

Secret Software

“We believe that if the defendant is at liberty, there is a substantial danger that he will obtain access to that software and send it on to whoever may need it,” Facciponti said. “And keep in mind, this is worth millions of dollars.”

By “millions,” it’s unclear if that would be enough to match Goldman Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein’s $70.3 million compensation package for 2007. Or perhaps millions means thousands of millions, otherwise known as billions.

Facciponti said the bank told the government that “they do not believe that any steps they can take would mitigate the danger of this program being released.” He added: “Once it is out there, anybody will be able to use this, and their market share will be adversely affected.” All Aleynikov would need to get the code from the German server is maybe 10 minutes with a cell phone and an Internet connection, Facciponti said.

Judge’s Ruling

The hole in Facciponti’s argument was that the government offered no evidence that Aleynikov had tried to disseminate the software during the month prior to his arrest, after he downloaded it and had left his job at Goldman. That’s the main reason the judge, Kevin N. Fox, cited in ruling Aleynikov could be released on bail.

“We don’t deal with speculation when we come to court,” Fox said. “We deal with facts.”

Meantime, it would be nice to see someone at Goldman go on the record to explain what’s stopping the world’s most powerful investment bank from using its trading program in unfair ways, too. Oh yes, and could the bank be a bit more careful about safeguarding its trading programs from now on? Hopefully the government is asking the same questions already.

(Jonathan Weil is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)
25900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US Army PFC Moss on: July 10, 2009, 01:08:57 PM
Profiles of Valor: U.S. Army Pfc. Moss
Moss with family

Pfc. Channing Moss of the United States Army was serving in Afghanistan in March 2006 when disaster struck. His convoy was attacked by Taliban fighters with small arms and rocket propelled grenades. Moss, manning an MK 19 machine gun in the turret of his Humvee, was struck by an RPG -- and survived. Though Moss was impaled through the abdomen with live ordnance, his comrades didn't leave him to die. Army regulations dictate that MEDEVAC choppers should never carry a wounded soldier with a live round in him, yet the flight crew did just that. "[A]t the time, I really didn't think about it," said flight medic Sgt. John Collier, then a specialist. "I knew [the RPG] was there but I thought, if we didn't do it, if we didn't get him out of there, he was going to die." Protocol also dictates that soldiers in Moss's condition be placed in a sandbagged bunker and considered "expectant" -- expected to die. But Maj. John Oh, 759th Forward Surgical Team general surgeon and a naturalized Korean immigrant, performed the life-saving surgery while wearing body armor and a helmet and assisted by a member of the explosive ordnance disposal team and other brave volunteers.

The Military Times has more on this incredible story here and a moving video here (warning: graphic content).

Three months after surviving the attack, Moss witnessed the birth of his second daughter, Ariana. That would not have been possible without the heroic efforts of Maj. Oh, Sgt. Collier and the crew of the 159th Medical Company. "They saved my life," said Moss. "I hope God watches over them if they get deployed." Indeed.
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