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25851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: January 28, 2008, 10:43:33 AM
I bet Newt does too.  cheesy

The Clinton Race Gambit
January 28, 2008; Page A14
About Bill Clinton, what can you say? Even before the polls closed in South Carolina on Saturday, the former President was diminishing Barack Obama's victory and trying to boost his wife in the next primaries by playing the race card.

Asked by a reporter why it took "two" Clintons to beat Mr. Obama, Mr. Clinton replied that "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina" in 1984 and 1988. And he added that both Rev. Jackson and Mr. Obama had run "a good campaign here." Hmmm. The reporter hadn't mentioned Jesse Jackson, but Mr. Clinton somehow felt it apposite to refer to him anyway. He thus associated Mr. Obama's landslide victory with that of a black candidate who never did win the Democratic nomination, much less the Presidency, and who had run overtly as an African-American candidate in contrast to Mr. Obama's explicit campaign theme of transcending race.

Anyone who thinks this was accidental has spent too much time with Sid Blumenthal. While Mr. Obama won a respectable 24% of white voters, according to Saturday's exit polls, Mrs. Clinton still won 36% and John Edwards 39% of the white vote. Mr. Obama won 78% of the black vote.

The Clintons are now eager to make Mr. Obama into a Rev. Jackson-style "black candidate" as they contest primaries with a larger share of white and Hispanic voters than there were in South Carolina. The Clintons want to portray Mr. Obama as a candidate with a narrowly racial appeal, both to undermine his larger and inspirational message of "unity," and also to play to whatever doubts still exist about an African-American candidate among Democratic voters.

It's going to be fascinating to see if Democrats and the press let the Clintons get away with this. Imagine if Mitt Romney had made the Jesse Jackson comparison. Democrats would have immediately denounced the remarks as "racist," or as a part of some Republican "Southern strategy."

This primary contest has been a rolling revelation for many Democrats and the media, as they've been shocked to see the Clinton brand of divisive politics played against one of their own. Liberal columnists who long idolized the Clintons are even writing more-in-sorrow-than-anger pieces asking how Bill and Hillary could descend to such deceptive tactics. Allow us to answer that lament this way: Our readers aren't surprised.
25852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: January 27, 2008, 10:02:15 PM
I know the conventional wisdom is that the Reps will lose, but the Dems have a lot of weak chinks in their armor that the Reps will hit only after the candidates are nominated.  Until then, the Dems are flower in a hot house of Democrat activists,, George Soros $ and others of such ilk.

25853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Cleaning up skunk smell on: January 27, 2008, 04:40:06 PM
A dog's run-in with a skunk sends his owner scrambling for cleaning ideas. He ultimately finds an easy solution.
By David Colker,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
January 27, 2008
Work stinks.

I'm not talking about my job, which I love. Honest.

No, it was a certain emanation noticed by a colleague who innocently approached my desk and asked, "Has there been a skunk back here?"

Early that morning my ever-curious dog, Earl, had gotten sprayed by a skunk in the backyard. Before I could catch him, he sped back into the house through his doggy door, frantically rubbing against everything in sight, starting with the bed.

It was like a Pepe Le Pew cartoon with Smell-O-Vision.

As much as I tried to clean the smell, starting by giving Earl a bath, my olfactory nerves were so overcome that I missed items. Like my sweater, which I had brought into the office that morning. Even my hands carried the stench, though I had washed them repeatedly.

And so began my quest to eradicate skunk spray from dog, furniture, clothes and body. You'd think there'd be solid information on how this can be done, but the Internet and the friendly advice of friends -- all of whom stood at a distance -- were full of misconceptions.

There are remedies, however, based in science. One was even featured in a chemistry journal.

It would be wise to heed them. They probably will be needed more often as we continue to encroach on natural habitats.

Veterinarian Sylvia Domotor, whose office is in Monrovia in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, said skunks had found a highly agreeable habitat in suburbia.

"They're very adaptable to living in communities," said Domotor, who has practiced in San Gabriel Valley communities for more than 20 years. "They're small, nocturnal. They use sewers as highways, and bushy backyards are perfect for them."

Also, residential communities partly shield them from two of their natural enemies: coyotes and bears.

"In this area," Domotor said, "skunks are not even what I consider to be mountain animals anymore."

Earl and I just wanted our house back. And as for my career and social life, essence of Pepe wasn't likely to be a boon to either.

Luckily, an unassuming engineer in the Midwest hit upon the prime solution to skunk smell several years ago when he wasn't even trying.

"I was working on a project that produced hydrogen sulfide gas as a byproduct," said materials engineer Paul Krebaum in Lisle, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. "The gas vented up and then came back into the building through the air-conditioner intakes."

This didn't make him popular with others in the building.

"The gas," he said, "had your basic rotten-egg, sewer-gas odor."

Krebaum mixed a compound that neutralized the odor. It was placed in filters in the venting system, and the complaints stopped.

The project he was working on never made it to market. But in 1993, a colleague mentioned that the family pet had gotten sprayed by a skunk.


Page 2 of 2  << back     1 2     

The common wisdom was to use commercially available, often expensive, concoctions with marginal results or a home remedy such as tomato juice that merely masked the smell for a while.

"All you ended up with was a pink dog and a pink bathroom," Krebaum said.

He figured that a weakened version of the solution he used to deal with the gas, which was a cousin to the skunk smell, might work.

Not only did it work, but the ingredients also were available in most supermarkets.

Krebaum, 47, has modified the pet version over the years. Here's the current formula:

Mix together a quart of hydrogen peroxide (3% strength), a quarter cup of baking soda and 1 or 2 teaspoons of liquid soap. Many brands will do, but Krebaum said Softsoap and Ivory Liquid worked particularly well.

Wearing latex gloves to protect your hands, massage the solution into the fur, being careful not to let it drip into the pet's eyes. Let it sit for about five minutes and then rinse with warm water.

That's it. The skunk smell should be completely or almost gone. The process can be repeated if the smell is still prominent.

The process works by breaking down skunk spray, which is composed mostly of highly pungent compounds called thiols. Spoiled food and rotten eggs also contain the highly nose-sensitive thiols. The end product of that chemical process is a sodium salt.

Krebaum said the mixture was safe for dogs and cats if used carefully.

"The stuff that people put on their hair to bleach it is far stronger," he said. "The worst that could happen with a pet, I figured, is that it would come out a shade lighter."

He gave out the formula to those who needed it and considered making it as a commercial product. The main problem was that the solution, as formulated, had to be mixed just before being applied or it would lose its effectiveness. Worse, it produces a gas that could make a closed container explode on a shelf.

He figured out how to possibly get around these problems but still wasn't enthusiastic.

"The people I was working for at the time weren't interested in this kind of product," Krebaum said. "And I already get paid well as an engineer. So I thought, 'Why not just give it away?' "

He published the formula in Chemical and Engineering News in 1993 and later exposed it to a huge audience when he put it on the Web at

Earl is a smallish mutt of about 20 pounds, but I mixed up a double batch that evening to make sure I could get the solution deep into his fur.

I put him in the bathtub and the process began. Although Earl looked at me with those what-did-I-do-wrong eyes, he didn't squirm much as I applied the mixture. For the area near his eyes, I used an old washcloth.

I let a bit of the solution wash over my hands too, then rinsed us both with tepid tap water.

As I dried Earl and wrapped him in clean towels, there was none of the stench that had packed such a wallop.

Then came loads of laundry that included everything he had touched, including old sheets used to cover the furniture during the day.

I added to each load a scoop of OxiClean stain remover -- more of Krebaum's advice. "It basically uses a hydrogen peroxide-like compound," he said. Everything came out smelling fresh.

By 2:30 a.m., I got to bed, with a fluffy, sweet-smelling, slightly lighter-in-color Earl curled up beside me.

25854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Hariri Investigantion whithers on: January 27, 2008, 07:41:23 AM
Closely related to the preceding post:

Detlev Mehlis
Justice for Lebanon
January 26, 2008; Page A11


Detlev Mehlis speaks slowly. So when he says, "I haven't seen a word in his reports during the past two years confirming that he has moved forward," there is time for the meaning to sink in.

The person Mr. Mehlis is referring to is Serge Brammertz, a Belgian prosecutor who, until a few weeks ago, headed the United Nations investigation looking into the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. In December of that year, Mr. Brammertz succeeded Mr. Mehlis as commissioner of the investigating team, known as the International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC). Now, Mr. Mehlis is making the rather serious charge that Mr. Brammertz may not have done much while working on the Hariri case.

On Feb. 14 it will be exactly three years since Hariri was killed in a massive bomb explosion, with 21 others, in Beirut. The event sparked weeks of protests directed against Syria -- which most Lebanese blamed for the killing -- demanding an end to its 29-year military presence in Lebanon.

The so-called "Cedar Revolution" led to a transformation of the political system when Syria withdrew its army, and its adversaries won a majority of seats in Parliament in subsequent elections. Since then, Damascus has tried to reassert its power in Lebanon -- but the Hariri investigation, if it points an accusatory finger at Syria, is its Achilles heel.

The Security Council has established a Lebanese-international tribunal under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter to try the suspects. The tribunal, now being set up in The Hague, is an exceptional creation, much like UNIIIC was. This week a U.N. official revealed that judges had been selected. Never before has the Security Council overseen a political murder investigation.

With Mr. Brammertz having recently left Lebanon to take charge of a special tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Mr. Mehlis has decided to speak up. It is a rare occasion that he has agreed to do so on the record -- and one of the last, he insists. As a senior prosecutor at the Superior Prosecutor's Office in Berlin, he is keen to close his own personal file on the UNIIIC years, but also to warn that the vitality of the Hariri inquiry may be disappearing. "A new commissioner has been installed. So it's a good time for a very last summing up on my part," Mr. Mehlis says.

Whether UNIIIC was exceptional or not, Mr. Mehlis made it a point of appearing an unexceptional man while commissioner -- but one with pit-bull persistence. He'd shown that persistence before. It took him nine years to bring convictions for the 1986 bombing of the LaBelle discotheque in Berlin. He accused Libyan officials of being behind the attack. That experience, he says, left him with the view "that justice prevails, but you have to have patience."

But Mr. Mehlis is plainly worried that justice might not prevail in the Hariri investigation. It "appears to have lost the momentum it had until January 2006," he says. "When I left we were ready to name suspects, but it seems not to have progressed from that stage."

Indeed, Mr. Brammertz never named new suspects in his investigation, though he did mention he'd identified "persons of interest." Mr. Mehlis is dismissive: "If you have suspects you don't allow them to roam free for years to tamper with evidence."

Particularly odd to Mr. Mehlis is that his successor reopened analysis of the crime scene upon arriving in Lebanon. That not only cast doubt on the German's methods, it wasted valuable time. Mr. Brammertz's conclusions ended up confirming those of Mr. Mehlis, namely that Hariri had been killed by an above-ground explosion.

But Mr. Mehlis sees such behavior as emblematic of a broader problem -- namely that UNIIIC has told us little we didn't already know before Mr. Brammertz became its commissioner: that Hariri was killed for political reasons and that there were several layers of participation in the conspiracy. "We needed two years of investigative endeavor to discover this?" he laughs.

When Mr. Mehlis first arrived in Beirut, he visited the families of three of the victims in the Hariri blast and frequently talked to the media. Mr. Brammertz, in contrast, gave no interviews and never once addressed the Lebanese on what the case personally meant to him.

But what if Mr. Brammertz did not reveal his cards for tactical reasons? After all, he asked to maintain the secrecy of his investigation. Mr. Mehlis responds that to him, as a German, the notion of a secret investigation sounds ominous. "The Lebanese public has to be informed, even if there are setbacks in the investigation. In a democracy people have the right to know, particularly when a prime minister was murdered and people don't trust the authorities. This was an opportunity to restore credibility to the justice system."

Mr. Mehlis also sees a practical rationale for more openness by an investigator: "To have the support of the public, to encourage witnesses to come forward with information, and for governments to send specialized investigators, you need to give them an idea of what you are doing."

The Hariri investigation was always seen by its defenders as a lever to render political assassination in the Middle East more difficult. In Lebanon particularly, where dozens of leading politicians and officials have been killed since the 1970s (the latest a police intelligence officer on Friday, among whose duties was reportedly following the Hariri affair), this was the one crime, people felt, that international attention would not allow to go unpunished.

Lebanese optimism aside, the point was a valid one: Respect for the rule of law, so lacking in Arab societies, could only benefit from a successful legal process to punish the guilty. That rationale remains persuasive today, as more and more people in the West doubt that Arab societies can be democratic. The Hariri investigation was there to say that democracy without law is a chimera.

His actions as UNIIIC commissioner left few doubts as to who Mr. Mehlis thought was behind the crime. He asked the Lebanese authorities to arrest four prominent pro-Syrian generals from Lebanon's security services and Presidential Guard. He took affidavits from Syrian officials, including intelligence officers. He even sought to question Syria's president, Bashar Assad.

Mr. Mehlis departed before this could go through, and he doesn't know what later happened. Media reports suggested that Mr. Brammertz held "a meeting" with the Syrian leader, but that is legally different, Mr. Mehlis explains, than a formal judicial interview, which even Lebanon's former president submitted to.

I remind him that two of his key Syrian witnesses did not seem particularly reliable. One told a press conference in Damascus that his testimony was fraudulent; another, a former intelligence officer, later became a suspect in Hariri's murder at Mr. Mehlis's request, and has made contradictory statements.

Mr. Mehlis responds that in such crimes you cannot be choosy about who to deal with. "What do you expect, white angels? Those two gave us a lot of information, which we could sometimes corroborate with information received elsewhere. In the end, the tribunal will determine their credibility, and ask why they agreed to sign their statements." Mr. Mehlis adds: "Maybe the witnesses were there to discredit the investigation, but that can help us determine who wants to discredit the investigation."

I put it to Mr. Mehlis that, whatever the UNIIIC discovers, there is palpable international reluctance to carry the Hariri case to its conclusion. Few at the U.N., for example, are eager to destabilize Syria's regime, assuming its involvement is proven.

His answer is ambiguous: "As a prosecutor you can't prosecute governments and countries; you prosecute individuals. When I headed UNIIIC, there was a will to get to the bottom of the crime -- shown in all the Security Council resolutions on the matter. Why not now? One of the most helpful [member nations] was Russia, which persuaded Syria to comply with the resolutions. Even with states having different interests, common understandings can be reached."

So what about today? "Traditionally, there is tension between politics and justice and I accepted that [former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi] Annan did not want more problems because of the Hariri case. Yet he was always very supportive of my work and well-being. The U.N. did not interfere in my efforts and had no leverage over me, as I was not after a position in the organization. Even had the U.N. tried, there were investigators from 17 countries who might have thought differently, making this impossible."

Mr. Mehlis doesn't so much fear a cover-up as that the Hariri case will stall. The tribunal, he predicts, will be set up this summer, but "people should not expect a trial within the next two to three years, unless the investigation regains momentum." Otherwise, what might happen? "I fear that suspects will end up in a judicial no-man's land, with Lebanon claiming they are under the U.N.'s jurisdiction, and the U.N. saying that they must remain under Lebanese jurisdiction."

What Mr. Mehlis is saying, in so many words, is that a tribunal does not a trial make. The tribunal will be formed and judges nominated, but unless the prosecutor has something solid to take to court, the process may lead nowhere. Still, he is mildly optimistic: "Definitely, no one can abolish this tribunal. I may not be happy about the time frame, but am deeply convinced the case can be solved and will be solved."

Mr. Mehlis also cautions that the U.N. would suffer from failure in the Hariri affair. "The U.N.'s image is at stake, particularly in Lebanon, where people put high hopes, perhaps too high, in the Hariri investigation."

So, what is his advice to Daniel Bellemare, Mr. Brammertz's Canadian successor? "Concentrate on the Hariri case itself; don't try to write a history book. Focus on the whos, hows and whys of the crime. Analysis can never replace solid investigative police work."

Most important, Mr. Mehlis says the Hariri case must remain in the public's consciousness. "For years the LaBelle case dragged on with small successes and failures, but it was always kept alive on the prosecution's side by my working to inform the media; and on the victims' side because their families created pressure groups. I feel that in the Lebanese case, the families of the deceased can certainly play a much more active role."

That may be true, but victims or their families rarely have a voice in the Arab world. The fate of the Hariri tribunal will help determine if that changes. Beyond the assassination of a high-profile politician, the question is whether the international community finally agrees that things need to be different in the Middle East, or just goes back to accepting the old ways.

Mr. Young is opinion editor at the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut and a contributing editor at Reason magazine.
25855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ criticizes Fed/Bernanke on: January 27, 2008, 07:38:42 AM
A Global Fed
January 26, 2008; Page A10
This week the world learned that economic "decoupling" from America is a myth. The next lesson to re-learn is that the Federal Reserve's monetary mistakes have global consequences, and that one result of the Fed's great dollar miscalculation this decade has been a dangerous breakdown in world monetary cooperation.

Look no further than the European Central Bank, which was notably absent when the Fed made its emergency rate cut amid falling global stocks on Tuesday. In testimony Wednesday before the European Parliament, ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet came about as close as a member of the brotherhood ever will to calling out a fellow central banker: "In demanding times of significant market correction and turbulences, it is the responsibility of the central bank to solidly anchor inflation expectations to avoid additional volatility in already highly volatile markets."

If we can interpret Mr. Trichet further, he thinks the Fed helped to create the current financial mess by going on a bender in the late Alan Greenspan era, and is now once again running dangerous inflation risks by cutting rates too soon in the face of Wall Street pressure. He's also unhappy because the dollar's fall against the euro has increased political pressure on the ECB to ease as well. So now that the Fed wants his help to avoid a further dollar decline against the euro, he's in no mood to oblige.

Mr. Trichet has a point about American mistakes, and for that matter so do all the Davos-types chortling this week about U.S. credit woes. Europeans and many Asians love to see the Yanks humbled, and the sight of America's banking giants going hat in hand to Abu Dhabi, Singapore and China is too much Schadenfreude to pass up. One irony is that the cause of all this Yankee humiliation isn't the familiar Euro-gripe about the "trade deficit" or tax cuts. It is monetary policy. But they'll enjoy it whatever the cause.

They shouldn't get carried away, however, because their own stock markets were showing earlier this week what could happen to European and Asian economies if the U.S. heads into recession. The $7 billion fraud at Société Générale and the mess at Britain's Northern Rock mortgage lender also make clear that American bankers don't have a monopoly on bad judgment. The currency reserves and sovereign wealth funds that many countries have been piling up are in substantial part the result of that same Fed mistake. This means they can vanish as fast as they arose if commodity prices fall again and the dollar rises. Recall the Texas oil patch, circa 1983, as Paul Volcker's Fed corrected the inflation of the 1970s.

Mr. Trichet also has an advantage over Fed chairman Ben Bernanke in that his mandate under the ECB constitution is to focus solely on the price level. Under Humphrey-Hawkins, the Fed must target the price level and employment. Mr. Trichet is right to keep his own eye on a stable euro, but we also wish he and the Fed weren't so obvious about their mutual discord.

The other great casualty of the Fed's blunder has been the global dollar bloc. This had been building for years, as more nations adopted either formal (such as a currency board) or informal dollar links to their currencies. A stable exchange rate creates economic and trading efficiencies, while a formal dollar link means a country can reduce political uncertainty by delegating its own monetary policies to the Fed.

This made sense as long as the dollar's value was stable. But as the dollar has fallen, these countries have imported inflation and some are now severing their dollar links. The Gulf Cooperation Council is mulling a link to a euro-dominated basket of currencies, and even China is slowly revaluing the yuan against the dollar -- less because of U.S. political pressure than out of its own self-interest to control internal inflation.

This world of greater exchange-rate volatility is dangerous. The extreme movements of the euro versus the dollar across the last decade have created enormous uncertainty for business, while distorting trade and investment flows. They also contribute to economic anxiety and a populist trade backlash. The collapse of the dollar bloc, if it continues, will add to this exchange-rate volatility and in the worst case make it easier for beggar-thy-neighbor currency manipulation.

This week showed once again that the world needs more monetary cooperation, not less. As the world's most important central bank, the Fed must take the lead. And the way to start is by sending a message that its monetary decisions will be based on a renewed determination to protect the value of the dollar and its role as a reserve currency.
25856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shorting the Surge on: January 27, 2008, 07:35:01 AM
Don't Short-Circuit the Surge
January 26, 2008; Page A11

The Iraq debate in 2007 focused on whether the new strategy and troop increase could stem violence in Iraq. It did. The Iraq debate in 2008 will probably focus on how much the United States can reduce force levels in Iraq this year in the wake of its success.

Many in these discussions give troop numbers and brigade counts almost casually, without ever explaining how they derive the figures. That's a problem. Any realistic evaluation suggests that returning to pre-surge levels by July 2008, as some are suggesting, carries considerable risk.

Ethno-sectarian attacks and deaths in Baghdad security districts decreased more than 90% from January to December 2007. Iraqi civilian casualties have dropped 75% from their peak, and the number of IED attacks has fallen to the lowest level since October 2004. One brigade of U.S. troops returned home in December without replacement. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates believes that Gen. David Petraeus will recommend continuing the drawdown to 15 brigades.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, CENTCOM commander Adm. William Fallon, and Gen. Petraeus are now assessing whether to recommend in March a further reduction in troop levels later in 2008. Mr. Gates stated recently that he hopes conditions will permit the U.S. to reduce its combat forces in Iraq by a brigade a month from August to December 2008, leaving a footprint of 10 brigades at the end of the president's term -- the lowest American force level in the country since the 2003 invasion.

In contrast, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, who commands combat forces for Gen. Petraeus, has stated that he is uncomfortable committing to any further reductions below 15 brigades before commanders can assess the effect of the decrease to that force-size. Gen. Petraeus recently said that March 2008 might be too soon to make that determination. War critics have insisted on reductions to 100,000 troops or fewer.

The brigade combat team, commanded by a colonel and consisting of around 3,500 soldiers (5,000 or so counting the support elements that normally deploy with it) is the building block of the U. S. Army (its equivalent, the Regimental Combat Team, is the building block of the Marine Corps). There are currently 42 BCTs in the active force. Those who speak of an absolute number of troops that they desire in Iraq show their ignorance of the military planning process.

American brigades in Iraq oversee combat, training, and governance missions in their sector, whether a quadrant of Baghdad or an entire outlying province. Each brigade oversees an area with hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. Brigades plan and execute military operations that prevent extremists from returning to cleared areas. They also gather intelligence about enemy groups in their areas of operations, and thus determine where new threats are emerging.

Since the end of 2006, brigades have overseen the Military Transition Teams that train and advise the Iraqi security forces operating in their area, dramatically improving the coordination of Iraqi and American forces. Now, most American brigade headquarters are partnered with an Iraqi division headquarters, helping the Iraqis to plan and sustain increasingly complex operations.

Since spring 2007, the brigades have housed the Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams that have jumpstarted local and provincial Iraqi government. The brigade helps these teams move through the area. The brigades have been instrumental in the Iraqi population's rejection of al Qaeda. Brigade commanders and their staffs and subordinates have negotiated ceasefires with leaders of tribes, villages and urban neighborhoods; identified Concerned Local Citizens; and integrated these Iraqi civilians with the Iraqi Security Forces. Brigade commanders in 2008 may distribute their own troops between combat and training missions, rather than relying on a centrally-directed policy untailored to local circumstances.

The brigade has thus become much more than a fighting unit. The development of the Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi civilian institutions, which has been a hallmark of Gen. Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy and a pillar of its success in 2007, rests upon the American brigade headquarters. Maintaining security essential to drawing down the American force levels requires the presence in Iraq of enough brigade headquarters to conduct the combat, training and governance missions essential to success.

The way to determine the number of brigade headquarters suitable for Iraq is by determining the number of brigade-sized missions in the country. This is a challenging but not insuperable task.

There were too few brigades in 2006 to monitor the enemy and oversee the new government institutions in poor security situations. There were enough brigades by mid- 2007 to perform those tasks, although not equally in all areas. The "surge" was never intended to secure all of Iraq -- only to stabilize Baghdad and Anbar. Its unexpected success has also placed unanticipated strains on U.S. forces. We won more than we had hoped, and now we may need to defend it more than we had planned.

The "surge" posture from June through December 2007 included five BCTs in Baghdad; four in the southern "belt" (from Mahmudiyah on the Euphrates to Nahrawan east of the capital); three in Anbar (including 2 Marine Regiments); four in the northern belt (Taji; Tarmiyah; and Diyala, where a Quick Reaction Force spent much of the summer along with the dedicated brigade); and one each in Salah-ad-Din, Kirkuk, Ninevah, and on convoy protection duty.

Gen. Odierno recently shifted two brigades within Iraq to conduct his third major offensive against al Qaeda, Operation Phantom Phoenix, to disrupt and pursue the enemy in northern Iraq. The December reduction to 19 BCTs has left only one brigade headquarters in Diyala. General Odierno intends to thin the headquarters and the troops on the ground in Anbar and Baghdad in order to achieve the remaining four-brigade reduction back to pre-surge levels by July.

The decision to draw down the surge is predicated not only on current security gains, but on the assumption that security will continue to improve in areas where the reductions are programmed to occur. Gen. Petraeus, testifying before Congress in September, attributed the downturn in violence, then 12 weeks old, to three factors: the summer offensives against al Qaeda and militias, the Iraqi population's rejection of extremists, and the slowly increasing capabilities of the Iraqi security forces.

"Based on all this and the further progress we believe we can achieve over the next few months, I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level of brigade combat teams by next summer, withdrawing one quarter of our combat brigades by that time without jeopardizing the security gains that we have fought so hard to achieve." Gen. Odierno confirmed in a November press conference that he had recommended that Gen. Petraeus reduce the force to 15 brigades by July, "because I believe that we will be able to continue to move forward with the progress."

Achieving the complement of 15 brigades by summer rests upon Gen. Odierno's judgment that he can withdraw not only the headquarters from Diyala, but also others from Anbar and parts of Baghdad this spring. His assumption is that security will continue to improve at about the rate our commanders think is feasible between now and July, and that the Iraqi Army will grow as predicted.

There is considerable risk in this assumption. Coalition and Iraqi forces have not finished clearing Ninevah province, Salah ad-Din and parts of Babil. Major operations continue against al Qaeda remnants in Ninevah, Salah-ad-Din, Diyala, Kirkuk and Wasit provinces. Fighting between Iraqi Security Forces (aided by coalition special forces and our Georgian, Polish and British allies) and Mahdi Army militias continues in the south.

The withdrawal to 15 brigades already assumes that these operations will be successful. It provides no cushion for unexpected developments or unforeseen enemy responses. There is thus no military basis at all at the present time to recommend additional reductions in 2008.

One year ago, Gen. Petraeus testified before Congress: "I was assured . . . by the secretary of Defense . . . that if we need additional assets, my job is to ask for them. If they're not provided in some case, my job is to tell my boss the risk involved in accomplishing the mission without the assets that are required. And at some point, of course, you may have to go back and say that you cannot accomplish the mission because of the assets that have not been provided."

By the best estimates now available, 15 brigades is the absolute minimum force required to accomplish the mission that has brought us success in 2007. Any further reductions -- even by a single brigade -- may make that mission impossible.

Ms. Kagan is an affiliate of Harvard's John M. Olin Institute of Strategic Studies and the president of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.
25857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: January 27, 2008, 07:32:25 AM
Assassination Central
January 26, 2008; Page A10
There's a fearsome consistency to the assassinations that have bedeviled Lebanon for the past three years. The victims are invariably killed by remotely controlled car bombs. Invariably, too, they are opponents, or obstacles, to Syria's designs in the colony it supposedly surrendered nearly three years ago.

Yesterday marked another such murder, this time of Captain Wissam Mahmoud Eid, a terrorism investigator who had already survived one assassination attempt in 2006. Eid had been involved in the forensic investigation following the February 2005 assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri, and later in the Lebanese government's battle with Fatah al-Islam, a Sunni terrorist group based in a refugee camp north of Beirut. Neither role could have endeared him to Damascus, which is generally believed to have played the main part both in Hariri's death and Fatah al-Islam's uprising.

Eid's murder ought to be a powerful reminder that Syria's purposes in the region remain intractable and malign. Yet as Detlev Mehlis, the German investigator who formerly led the U.N. inquiry into Hariri's murder, makes clear in the "Weekend Interview," the willingness to prosecute the case to a just conclusion seems to be petering out.

Much of the blame here lies with Washington. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put to rest whatever lingering fears Damascus might have had about U.S. intentions with her visit in April. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice followed up by inviting Syria to November's Mideast conference in Annapolis, and Hillary Clinton promises to offer diplomatic carrots to Damascus if she is elected. The killings will continue in Beirut, as long as nobody save the Lebanese seem to care.

25858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 27, 2008, 07:24:56 AM
A well-informed friend in India sends the following:

These 2 items are related. Apparently about 40 % of NATO supplies to Afghan go via Pak. Now the Taliban is starting to hijack the military trucks/tunnels. This may in part explain the US offer to "help" in ferreting out Talib from NWFP. Interesting times ahead ... X.
Pakistan troops pound militants holding key tunnel PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan 27 (AFP) - Pakistan artillery backed by gunship helicopters pounded militant positions in an attempt to take back control of a key road tunnel, blocking traffic between the main city of Peshawar in North West Frontier Province and the city of Kohat. As the operation entered a third day Sunday, troops were using artillery, long-range weapons and helicopters to dislodge militants from their bunkers on hills overlooking the tunnel, a military spokesman said. Residents said hundreds of vehicles were stranded on both sides of the tunnel, with the militants having erected barricades on the road to the tunnel. "Fighting is going on near Kohat tunnel and troops have purged militants from a large area," chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP. Troops had made good progress in their advance, he said, expressing hope that the rebels would be flushed out from the area by Monday and the tunnel freed. "They are holding key positions on mountain tops; that is why it is taking time," the spokesman said, adding security forces suffered no casualties and there were no details of militant losses in the latest clash. He said 25 militants were killed late Saturday. On Friday the troops said they had killed 30 rebels and lost two soldiers in Darra Adam Khel, which is known for its weapons bazaar and illegal arms manufacturing factories.(Posted @ 11:21 PST, Updated @ 17:09 PST)

Top U.S. intelligence officials made secret trip to Pakistan WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (AP): The top two U.S. intelligence officials made a secret visit to Pakistan in early January to seek permission from President Musharraf for greater involvement of American forces in trying to ferret out Al-Qaeda and other militant groups active in the tribal regions along the Afghanistan border, a senior U.S. official said. The official wishing to remain anonymous, declined to disclose what was said, but Musharraf was quoted two days after the Jan. 9 meeting as saying U.S. troops would be regarded as invaders if they crossed into Pakistan to hunt Al-Qaeda militants. The New York Times which first reported the secret visit by CIA Director Michael Hayden and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, said Musharraf rebuffed an expansion of an American presence in Pakistan at the meeting, either through overt CIA missions or by joint operations with Pakistani security forces. In a Jan. 11 interview, Musharraf told The Straits Times of Singapore that U.S. troops would be considered invaders if they set foot in the tribal regions. "If they come without our permission, that's against the sovereignty of Pakistan," he said. "I challenge anybody coming into our mountains. They would regret that day." (Posted @ 10:00 PST)
25859  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Bromas, humor on: January 26, 2008, 11:11:30 PM
La Asociación Hispano-Americana de Mujeres se queja porque, según
ellas, la semántica castellana es machista...

Algunos ejemplos:

Zorro: Espadachín Justiciero.
Zorra: Puta

Perro: Mejor amigo del hombre.
Perra: Puta
Cualquier: Fulano, Mengano, Zutano,
Perengano, etc.
Cualquiera: Puta

Regalado: Participio del verbo regalar.
Regalada: Puta

Callejero: De la calle, urbano.
Callejera: Puta

Hombrezuelo: Hombrecillo, mínimo, pequeño.
Mujerzuela: Puta

Hombre público: Personaje prominente. Funcionario público.
Mujer pública:Puta

Hombre de la vida: Hombre de gran experiencia.
Mujer de la vida: Puta

Rápido: Inteligente, despierto.
Rápida: Puta

Puto: Mujeriego
Puta: Puta

y hay mas...!

DIOS: Creador del universo y cuya divinidad se transmitió a su hijo
varón por línea paterna.
DIOSA: Ser mitológico de culturas supersticiosas, obsoletas y

PATRIMONIO: Conjunto de bienes.
MATRIMONIO: Conjunto de males.

HEROE: Ídolo.

ATREVIDO: Osado, valiente.
ATREVIDA: Insolente, mal educada.

SOLTERO: Codiciado, inteligente, hábil.
SOLTERA: Quedada, lenta, ya se le fue el tren.

SUEGRO: Padre político.
SUEGRA: Bruja, metiche, etc.

MACHISTA: Hombre macho.
FEMINISTA: Lesbiana.

DON JUAN: Hombre en todo su sentido.
DOÑA JUANA: La mujer de la limpieza.
25860  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Nat Geo Documentary on the Dog Brothers: Fight Club on: January 26, 2008, 10:14:09 AM

I like your friend.

25861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We need a new GI Bill on: January 25, 2008, 12:13:08 PM
We Need a New GI Bill
January 25, 2008; Page A15

New York State Gov. Eliot Spitzer deserves the highest praise for his powerful commitment to the thousands of New York citizen soldiers fighting in the Iraq and Afghanistan war theaters. In his State of the State address this month, he proposed guaranteeing a full-tuition scholarship to these heroic men and women, so that they may attend any State University of New York or City University of New York college or university upon their return.

Mr. Spitzer's initiative should serve as a paradigm for what our nation must do for this new generation of veterans. They have sacrificed so much for us. We owe them honor, respect and the opportunity for a brighter future. We owe them a new GI Bill assuring them a college education.

When my service in the U.S. Navy ended after World War II, America welcomed me home with just such an opportunity: the G.I. Bill of 1944. In those days, veterans' benefits were generous -- the old saying was that if you got into Harvard, the G.I. Bill would pay for Harvard. This legislation allowed me to earn a bachelor's degree from Swarthmore College, a business degree from Harvard, and a law degree from Columbia.

I was among the almost eight million veterans -- more than half of us who returned home safely -- who were suddenly able to pay for the college or university of our choice. Many had never dreamed of going to college before the war.

This unprecedented educational opportunity transformed American society, as a whole generation of blue collar workers became engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers and entrepreneurs. The economy boomed as we entered the workforce with new skills and training that increased productivity and stimulated innovation.

Sixty years after Pearl Harbor, a new generation of young men and women has now enlisted in the service of our nation. Regardless of our political differences about the war, we must be united in deep appreciation of the exceptional sacrifices made by our brave troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. This includes thousands of members of the Reserve and National Guard, most of whom have also served multiple tours of duty half a world away from their homes and families.

Unfortunately, the educational benefits that were available to WWII-era veterans are no longer afforded to today's returning troops. The sad reality is that while the cost of an education has increased, the benefits available to veterans have not kept up. Today, the GI Bill pays just a fraction of the cost of getting a degree.

Consider, for example, that the maximum educational benefit available to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is just $1,101 per month, or $39,636 over four years. Those veterans who served combat tours with the National Guard or Reserves are eligible for even less -- typically just $440 per month. The College Board reports that the average four-year public college costs more than $65,000 for an in-state student, while a private university costs upwards of $133,000.

Moreover, once National Guard and Reserve members leave the military, they are no longer eligible for any benefits. And if service members are discharged because of a disability, their GI Bill benefits are limited to only the equivalent number of months they served, even if their discharge was the result of injuries suffered in combat.

This is as unbelievable as it is unjust.

The severe restrictions of the current GI Bill extend beyond the educational benefit. There is an initial, non-refundable buy-in cost of $1,200 just to be eligible. That is essentially a "combat tax" on 19- and 20-year-olds who are getting ready to put their lives on the line for our country.

Hard as it is to imagine, if they don't use their GI Bill benefits when they return, they never see that money again. Some 30% of veterans don't use any of their GI Bill funds, which translates into more than $230 million going directly into the U.S. Treasury, rather than back to these young men and women.

War veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan must pay tuition, room and board and other college costs upfront out of their own pockets, and then are reimbursed up to their eligible benefit. In addition, benefits used under the GI Bill count against eligibility for federal student aid, with such support reduced if veterans receive any GI Bill funds. And there is a 10-year limit on assistance for current educational benefits.

All these restrictions effectively put the dream of higher education out of reach for far too many of the 1.6 million who have served our nation in the current wars.

I deeply believe that we have a moral responsibility to provide today's returning veterans with the same educational opportunities that my generation received. Mindful of that responsibility, many of us who benefited greatly from the original G.I. Bill have now established a private scholarship fund -- the Fund for Veterans' Education -- to offer the same "full boat" educational opportunities to returning veterans from all 50 states over the next 12 months.

To be sure, this is a limited effort that will only serve a relatively small number of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. However, we view our program as a direct challenge to our elected officials in Washington. Just as President Roosevelt and the Congress did in 1944, they must now choose to commit the resources necessary to fund a comprehensive G.I. Bill for another generation of America's brave soldiers.

Sens. Jim Webb of Virginia, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas have introduced legislation that would again make that sacred promise to our returning veterans: A promise that says, if you've put your life on the line to help secure America's future, your own educational future will never be in doubt.

Their legislation is good public policy and it is fiscally prudent. In the long run, a new G.I. Bill will more than pay for itself. As our experience proved after World War II, better educated veterans have higher income levels which, over the long run, will inevitably increase tax revenues. A congressionally mandated cost-benefit analysis concluded that for every $1 invested in education under the original G.I. Bill of 1944, the nation received between $5 and $12 in economic benefits, such as increased tax revenue and heightened productivity.

In my lifetime, the original G.I. Bill was one of this nation's proudest accomplishments and one of its most solemn commitments. We must now renew that commitment to a new generation of men and women who have served our country with extraordinary courage and distinction. In so doing, they will achieve the better lives they so richly deserve. And we will secure a better America.

Mr. Kohlberg, a founding partner of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and a limited partner of the private equity firm Kohlberg & Co., is chairman of the Fund For Veterans' Education.

25862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: January 25, 2008, 11:47:44 AM
The Tax Threat to Prosperity
January 25, 2008; Page A15

Over the past 30 years, the U.S. has seen large changes in income tax rates as well as other tax rates. And, as would be expected, the budgetary implications of these tax changes have once again become a hotly debated partisan issue.

But missing from the discussion are the huge differences in how the top 1% of income earners respond to changes in tax rates versus, say, the bottom 75% or 80% of taxpayers -- the so-called middle class and lowest income groups. The "rich" quite simply are not like the rest of us.

From the standpoint of logic, the supply of their taxable income should be far more sensitive to changes in tax rates than the supply of taxable income of the middle class and poor. In the highest tax bracket, 100% of all taxpayers have the highest tax rate as their marginal tax rate. And it's the marginal tax rate that elicits supply-side responses.

Of course, if you look at a tax schedule, it's obvious that people with the highest taxable income also pay taxes in every other tax bracket. These lower tax rates are "inframarginal" and don't affect behavior. From the standpoint of the rich alone, a cut in these lower tax rates reduces tax revenues.

Some 99% of all taxpayers paid taxes at the 10% rate in 2005, for example. Yet only 25% of all taxpayers had 10% as their marginal tax rate. Thus a cut in the 10% tax rate would have a supply-side impact on a relatively small portion of all those who pay the 10% rate -- while for the rest who pay the 10% rate, a tax cut would result in a deadweight revenue loss.

On these grounds alone one should expect a greater supply-side response with a change in the highest tax rate than any other tax rate.

In addition, low-income earners have a lot less flexibility to change the form, timing and location of their income -- and the avenues open to them to reduce their tax liabilities are far fewer. The avenues open to higher-income and highest-income earners include 401(k)s, IRAs, Keogh plans, itemized deductions, lifetime gifts, charitable gifts, all sorts of deferred income compensation plans, trusts, tax free bonds, etc.

Moreover, the culture surrounding low income earners is not nearly as focused on tax avoidance as it is in higher income earners; fewer lower-income earners, therefore, even avail themselves of the limited programs, laws and other opportunities to reduce their tax liabilities. This means that the supply of taxable income in the highest tax bracket should be far more responsive to incentives than it is in the lower tax brackets, all other things being equal.

Many tax-avoidance methods require expert advice and counsel from people such as tax accountants, lawyers, deferred compensation experts and, yes, even economists. Higher-income people find tax accountants and lawyers and other financial professionals far more cost-effective than do people with lower incomes, not only because the costs are spread over larger sums, but because the pursuit of tax avoidance is, dollar of income for dollar of income, more profitable at higher tax rates. This makes the taxable incomes of those who earn more, more variable, and the taxable incomes of those who earn less, less variable.

Academicians and politicians have finally come to understand that it's the after-tax rate of return that determines people's behavior. Even though statutory tax rates are far lower today than they were when, say, Kennedy or Reagan took office, it is still very true that for every dollar of static revenue change there is a much larger incentive affect in the highest tax bracket than in the lowest tax bracket.

But what actually happens to tax receipts by income tax bracket when tax rates change?

Since 1980, statutory marginal tax rates have fallen dramatically. The highest marginal income tax rate in 1980 was 70%. Today it is 35%. In the year Ronald Reagan took office (1981) the top 1% of income earners paid 17.58% of all federal income taxes. Twenty-five years later, in 2005, the top 1% paid 39.38% of all income taxes.

There are other ways of looking at tax receipts by income bracket. From 1981 to 2005, the income taxes paid by the top 1% rose to 2.96% of GDP, from 1.59% of GDP. There was also a huge absolute increase in real tax dollars paid by this group. In 1981, the total taxes paid in 2005 dollars by the top 1% of income earners was $94.84 billion. In 2005 it was $368.13 billion.

In 2000 this teeny, tiny group -- 1% of all taxpayers -- actually paid income taxes equal to 3.75% of GDP, which is why President Clinton had a budget surplus. Much of this huge surge in tax payments by the top 1% of tax filers resulted from the huge increase in realized capital gains resulting from President Clinton's capital gains tax rate cut to 20% from 28% in 1997.

Let's take a look at the bottom 75% of taxpayers over this same time period -- the group current Democrats refer to as middle- and lower-income earners. From 1981 through 2005, the share of all income taxes paid by the bottom 75% of all income earners (as reported on the individual income tax returns) declined to 14.01% from 27.71%. As a share of GDP, total taxes paid by the bottom 75% fell to 1.05% from 2.50%. The bottom 75% of all taxpayers today pay less than 35% of all the taxes paid by the top 1% of all income earners.

Over the last 25 years, the bottom 75% of all taxpayers' tax payments fell and their tax rates fell. This is the group the Democrats are targeting for tax cuts.

The important point here is that, over the last 25-plus years, the only group that experienced an increase in income taxes paid as a share of GDP was the top 1% of income earners. Even the top 2%-5% of income earners saw a decline in the GDP share of their income taxes paid.

But now we get to the secret sauce, and the essence of what really happens in the realm of tax rates, incomes and tax payments by the rich.

We have accurate data on both the total taxes paid by the top 1% of income earners, and on their comprehensive household income as measured by the Congressional Budget Office. From these two data series we can calculate the effective average tax rate for the top 1% of all income earners.

Surprise, surprise: The effective average tax rate for the top 1% of income earners barely wiggles as Congress changes tax codes after tax codes, and as the economy goes from boom to bust and back again (see chart).

The question is, how can that effective average tax rate be so stable? The answer is simply that the very highest income earners are and have always been able to vary their reported income and thus control the amount of taxes they pay. Whether through tax shelters, deferrals, gifts, write-offs, cross income mobility or any of a number of other measures, the effective average tax rate barely budges. But this group's total tax payments are incredibly volatile.

For the low- and middle-income earners, the effective average tax rate has tumbled over the past 25 years, and so have tax revenues no matter how they're measured.

Using recent data, in other words, it would appear on its face that the Democratic proposal to raise taxes on the upper-income earners, and lower taxes on the middle- and lower- income earners, will result in huge revenue losses on both accounts. But some academic advisers to Democratic candidates have a hard time understanding the obvious, devising outlandish theories as to why things are different now. Well they aren't!

In the 1920s, the highest federal marginal income tax rate fell to 24% from 78%. Those people who earned over $100,000 had their share of total taxes paid rise -- from 29.9% in 1920 to 48.8% in 1925, and then to 62.2% in 1929. There was no inflation over this period.

With the Kennedy tax cuts of the 1960s, when the highest tax rate fell from to 70% from 91%, the story was the same. When you cut the highest tax rates on the highest-income earners, government gets more money from them, and when you cut tax rates on the middle and lower income earners, the government gets less money from them.

Even these data grossly understate the total supply-side response. A cut in the highest tax rates will increase lots of other tax receipts. It will lower government spending as a consequence of a stronger economy with less unemployment and less welfare. It will have a material, positive impact on state and local governments. And these effects will only grow with time.

Mark my words: If the Democrats succeed in implementing their plan to tax the rich and cut taxes on the middle and lower income earners, this country will experience a fiscal crisis of serious proportions that will last for years and years until a new Harding, Kennedy or Reagan comes along.

Trained economists know all of this is true, but they try to rebut the facts nonetheless because they believe it will curry favor with their political benefactors.

Mr. Laffer is president of Laffer Associates.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on The Editorial Page.

25863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: January 25, 2008, 11:22:43 AM
Bush's Economic Surrender
January 25, 2008; Page A14
Here's one group that isn't much stimulated by the White House's economic pact: Republican presidential hopefuls. The general sentiment among most of the campaigns? Thanks for nothing.

The Bush administration unveiled its $150 billion feel-good stimulus package yesterday, with President Bush praising the "good will on all sides." The package, with its "middle-class" tax rebates and minor assortment of business benefits, isn't likely to help the economy. But it did allow the political class to provide itself some cover if things continue to go south. After all, Washington "did something."

Left holding the bag have been Republican presidential candidates as they struggle to explain why their party should again be trusted with the Oval Office. The White House provided no real outreach to let the campaigns know what was coming down the stimulus pipe, forcing them to instead cobble together plans they hoped wouldn't conflict with the president's. With the administration jumping on the Keynesian bandwagon, it was left to the candidates to make the case for conservative ideals and supply-side economics. And since nobody wants to pick a fight with Mr. Bush during a primary, the aspirants were also stuck saying nice things about this no-growth plan. Many inside the campaigns are privately miffed, and with good cause.

Talk about the ultimate missed opportunity. One of the few advantages the GOP starts with in this election is a president who can use his perch to frame the national debate. This was Mr. Bush's chance to explain to voters the stark economic choice they will face this November. They can choose another Republican who is committed to preserving the Bush tax cuts that have done so much over the past five years for economic growth -- plus more. Or they can vote for a Democrat who will raise their taxes at a time of economic uncertainty, causing untold harm.

Instead, the administration abandoned the economic high ground before even a popgun was fired. A year into nonstop investigations and confrontation, Democratic leaders decreed "bipartisanship" the order of the day, and Mr. Bush offered up his other cheek. The administration quickly deserted any principled demands for pro-growth policies, say extending the Bush tax cuts or cutting capital gains. The White House and Republican congressional leaders were left yesterday spinning conservative victory out of the fact that "most" of the non-stimulating rebates would go to people who currently pay income taxes (ooh!), and that businesses will get a depreciation break (ahh!). Imagine what we'd have got if they'd been negotiating against a Democratic Congress with something more than an 18% approval rating.

What didn't appear to factor into the administration's approach was any consideration that the GOP is in the middle of a crucial election. This is odd, given the Bush team's own experience and success in running campaigns, and given that Mr. Bush's best shot at cementing his tax legacy is to see another Republican in the White House.

The president instead seemed more anxious to avoid a repeat of accusations hurled against his father -- that he's indifferent to the struggles of working families. The White House political team also seemed to approach all this from a position of fear, with a view that Mr. Bush needed to take quick action to deflect blame for any further economic fallout. As if Democrats won't blame them whatever the outcome.

It's been left to John McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani to remind voters that Republicans win economic debates when they promote smart policy. And one good piece of news to come out of these economic jitters is that it has spurred the candidates to engage in a more ambitious tax discussion. Mr. McCain rolled out a strong plan that would eliminate the hated Alternative Minimum Tax, cut corporate rates and reform the R&D tax credit. Mr. Romney wants to cut the lowest tax bracket and has offered a proposal to expand tax-free savings accounts. Mr. Giuliani proposes slashing the tax on capital gains and index it for inflation, and is also pushing a flatter tax code. This is all good stuff, and all aimed at long-term economic growth.

Yet the White House's stimulus plan has overshadowed and confused this discussion, in the process giving the candidates headaches they don't need. Case in point: For several weeks, Mr. Romney has been patiently explaining to voters why it's bad policy to provide tax rebates to people who don't currently pay income taxes. Now comes the White House's stimulus plan, which does just that. Mr. Romney will undoubtedly be asked about this discrepancy. He'll have to diss the president, or come up with some way of squaring a circle. Either way, not fun for him -- and not productive for the broader Republican debate.

The candidates have at least been getting some intellectual cover from conservative Republicans in Congress. Missouri Sen. Kit Bond and California Rep. David Dreier, both Giuliani supporters, this week introduced tax legislation that mirrors Hizzoner's economic plan. The Republican Study Group in the House has also been trying to force the debate back toward forward-looking economic policy, introducing legislation that primarily focuses on freeing up capital for businesses.

"I'm not so nervous about the [stimulus package] as I am nervous about the debate," the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, Jeb Hensarling, admits. If Republicans want to reclaim their economic "brand," they have to make the case for supply-side economics. "I'm happy when the president says he is not giving up the quest to make tax relief permanent, but . . . that should be the centerpoint of this debate." He agrees that "at the moment, it is principally being left up to other folks" to make the case.

Meanwhile, this whole unstimulating exercise is still far from a sure thing. Democrats are already eyeing any legislation as a vehicle for other pet projects. If the bill gets larded up with too many offensive goodies or policies, presumably even the White House would balk.

Maybe that wouldn't be so bad. It would at least give the Bush administration time to remember there's an election going on. And that its party is, in fact, trying to win it.

Write to
25864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea on: January 25, 2008, 11:13:09 AM
Foggy Bottom Apostate
January 25, 2008; Page A14
Jay Lefkowitz, President Bush's special envoy for human rights in North Korea, has recently pointed out that our current approach to Pyongyang is failing. Lord help a diplomat who tells the truth.

Mr. Lefkowitz, growled Condoleezza Rice at a Tuesday press conference in Europe, "doesn't work on the six-party talks [on North Korea], he doesn't know what's going on in the six-party talks and he certainly has no say in what American policy will be in the six-party talks." For good measure, the Secretary added that she "would doubt very seriously that [the Chinese and Russians] would recognize" Mr. Lefkowitz's name.

In this Foggy Bottom version of the vanishing commissar, Mr. Lefkowitz is being written out of the Administration's North Korea policy for a speech he gave last week at the American Enterprise Institute. Noting that it has been more than two years since Pyongyang pledged to abandon its nuclear weapons program, and more than two weeks since it violated the latest deadline to disclose the full extent of that program, Mr. Lefkowitz observed that "it is increasingly clear that North Korea will remain in its present nuclear status when the Administration leaves office in one year."

Mr. Lefkowitz also noted that the rationale for the six-party talks (which include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea in addition to the U.S. and North Korea) has largely evaporated since it's become clear that neither China nor South Korea were prepared to exert any meaningful leverage on Pyongyang to abandon its weapons. "What we had hoped would be a process in which Beijing and Seoul would simultaneously withhold carrots and use their considerable influence over Pyongyang to end its nuclear activities has evolved into a process that provides new carrots without a corresponding cost to Pyongyang." Instead, he added all too accurately, the talks have deteriorated into the North Korean-U.S. bilateral negotiation that Kim Jong Il always wanted.

It wasn't long ago that Mr. Lefkowitz's comments, which also recommended linking human-rights to security issues with the North, would have been a fair reflection of President Bush's own views. But apparently not any more, as Mr. Bush has accepted Ms. Rice's judgment that one more "Dear Mr. Chairman" letter, or one more aid shipment, or one more diplomatic concession will cause Kim to change his ways.

State is even claiming that North Korea has fulfilled the requirements necessary to get itself off the list of state sponsors of terrorism, one of Pyongyang's key demands. A contrary assessment is provided by the Congressional Research Service, which recently noted "reports from reputable sources that North Korea has provided arms and possibly training to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka." State also seems to be ignoring, or suppressing, evidence of Pyongyang's nuclear proliferation, which was brought to light after Israel destroyed an apparent North Korean nuclear facility in September.

We understand why Ms. Rice would be unhappy to hear her policy contradicted by Mr. Lefkowitz. We would be more understanding if that policy had any record of success. Kim Jong Il has now had nearly a year and two deadlines to fulfill his nuclear promises and shows no intention of doing so. Chances are he now figures he can wait out this Administration and hope for better terms from President Clinton.

On present course, Ms. Rice is setting President Bush up to spend his final year begging Kim to cooperate by offering an ever growing and more embarrassing list of carrots. Mr. Bush would do better to listen to Mr. Lefkowitz, while ordering Ms. Rice to introduce him to the Chinese and Russians.

25865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: January 25, 2008, 11:05:20 AM
Profiles of valor: USAF Staff Sgt. Kimberling
In August 2006, Staff Sgt. Jason Kimberling was one of three members of a security force assisting a convoy of 35 Afghan personnel from the National Police (ANP) and the Afghan National Army (ANA). The convoy was sent to aid at a highway checkpoint in Qalat Province that had come under attack. More than 100 Taliban fighters suddenly attacked Kimberling’s convoy with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. The driver of the security force’s Humvee positioned the vehicle to provide cover. Kimberling returned fire from outside the vehicle until nearly being hit by an RPG. He quickly recovered from the blast to kill two Taliban fighters headed his way, which further enabled his Afghan allies to kill other jihadis. After more fighting, the convoy was able to move to higher ground, where, still under fire, Kimberling used a satellite phone to call in air support to end the battle. An estimated 20 jihadis were killed in the firefight, while not a single casualty occurred among the good guys. Kimberling was awarded the Bronze Star with combat “V” for valor and the Army Commendation Medal for his actions.
25866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: January 25, 2008, 10:57:54 AM
I have a dream!
25867  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Estudio en atacque a un coche on: January 25, 2008, 03:16:53 AM
Comienza con musica estilo "gangsta rap" y luego el rapper muestra la verdad de lo que se proclamaba.  ?En tu coche en esta situacion que harias?
25868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: January 25, 2008, 01:08:06 AM
Exactly so Doug!

I would add that the French/Chirac were telling him that they would keep us muzzled and leashed in the UN and that this too explains his behavior.
25869  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Nat Geo Documentary on the Dog Brothers: Fight Club on: January 25, 2008, 12:38:12 AM
Sled Dog!

Awesome to have you with us Brother!

The Adventure continues!
25870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Open Letter to Muslims, Liberals, Democrats, et al on: January 25, 2008, 12:24:57 AM
I dunno about that.  I always found it quite special when a girl chose me to be her first.
25871  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Rambling Rumination: In Search of the Totality of Ritual & Reality (c) on: January 24, 2008, 05:37:10 PM
Whoops! Here is version 1.1

Totality of Ritual & Reality

What I have come to appreciate is that because Dog Brothers Martial Arts is a diverse system, people come to us for diverse reasons.  Stated thus, the point is blindingly obvious, but that has not stopped me from not appreciating it as much as I could and should have-- and sometimes this has led to confusion.

Now that I have begun thinking about it, it seems to me that there is a continuum, which in order to have a manner of talking, I divide into three sections.

Some people come to us due to their interest in the Ritual Space, e.g. a Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack and/or the health, fun, artistic and philosophical aspects of our system.   At the other end of the spectrum are people who are intensely interested in developing real world skills for the challenges of Reality. Typically these people are the Protectors.  In between the two are people who may not have pressing immediate real world concerns, but like the idea of using the Ritual Space of a DB Gathering as a moral venue to explore and prepare their adrenal state skills should in Reality the flying fickle finger of fate ever reach out and touch them to say "You are on, right here, right now."  In short, they seek to Totality of the Tao of the Dog.

What I have come to appreciate is that many members of the first group explicitly prefer to have their experience free of what Carl Jung might call "the shadow issues" of real world applications. 

Similarly, many members of the second group seek precisely to deal effectively with the shadow of those serve or are in the thrall of the Dark.  Typically these people prefer to have their experience devoid of what might playfully be called "martial arts & crafts", "dead patterns and tippy tap drills" and the like. 

And there is a third group  --those who prefer a blend and a balance of the preceding two archetypes.  Personally, this is where I find myself-- in search of the totality of ritual and reality.

Because it contains unique questions, let us turn to matters that pertain specifically to the Reality end of the spectrum and its denizens--  the Protectors.  As I get older I have come to appreciate with greater depth than before the moral complexities of teaching the reality dimension of a weapons oriented martial art that originated in jungle warfare.  I sometimes joke about how I used to be a lawyer, but decided to go for the big bucks in Real Contact Stickfighting-- the meaning of course being that there really is not very much money in this path.  Although it is my profession, I am not a mercenary.  I do it because I believe in it as part of my path in walking with our Creator. 

And because I believe in it I respect the power of its shadow.  There ARE people for whom this Art is not intended.  The reality dimension of this Art is for those who serve the various paths of the Heart-- those who seek to Protect. 
The people for whom this Art is not intended I organize into three basic categories:
1)   The emotionally unsound and/or immature;
2)   Criminals;
3)   Enemies of Respect, Reason, and Reciprocity e.g. Islamo-fascists and others of this meme.

First, concerning the emotionally unsound it is my belief that teaching applied knife awakens some very dark energy, perhaps much more so than a gun.  In a sound Protector awareness of this energy and be able to tap into it is a good and necessary thing, but in the emotionally unsound or immature the consequences can be tragic.  For a fuller discussion of this point, see the clip titled “Rambling Ruminations: Knife” at

Second, obviously criminals (In defining criminality, I do distinguish malum per se from malum en prohibitum in this regard) also should not receive this training. 

Turning to the third category, I’d like to share a little story.  In the year 2000 I received an email that in a simple sentence of imperfect English asked me to teach knife to his group.  I responded by asking who he was.  “a syrian kickboxing club” he replied.  I did not respond further.  In the aftermath of 911 I remember reading that some of the hijackers had received close quarter combat training from a American martial arts instructor (in Florida if I remember correctly) and wondered if the group that had approached me was part of the same conspiracy.  Since then I have had a couple of other incidents wherein I was left wondering if someone had been pinging me.

I mention these things to give a sense of where I’m coming from with regard to security issues.  Yes, I know that with a knife what matters most is the will and the understanding of how to use it.  Yes, I know that plenty of people out there are teaching really deadly knife technique.  Yes, I know that most people have access to guns and that again, and again, that what matters most is the will and understanding of how to use it.  I know this!  I know this!

To the extent that what we offer is generic, I suppose it is relevant to note that “everyone else is doing it”—although even that doesn’t really suffice morally or spiritually.  And to the extent that what we offer is not commonly found, and I think it is, we need to look to ourselves to determine right action, not to others.

The criterion I use when teaching our Reality material (known variously as “DLO: Die Less Often” and “IGKEH Interface of Gun, Knife and EH”) to the general public be it through our DVDs or personal instruction is to avoid teaching things that will improve the level of the bad guys—the thugs.  For example, in DLO 1 we show the good guys something that thugs typically do— the “prison sewing machine” and what we think is a good way to solve both it and empty handed attacks on the same lines.  In the DVD we most certainly sought to provoke awareness of the dangers of this kind of attack, but by so doing we did not raise the level of thugs—they already know how to do this after all —but sought to raise the awareness of good people to what we believe to be a primal reality of knife attacks. 

Still this leaves the question of how to teach the things which are not for everyone.  As I have discussed previously (see e.g. our clip “Rambling Ruminations on Knife) training knife for application, as versus the Artistic/Ritual flow drills, disarm patterns, etc., can call to something very dark that sleeps within us and that once awakened in unsound people it can lead to tragic choices in pivotal moments.  Indeed it seems to me quite likely that this is why many FMA teachers go the artistic route—the physical knowledge is transmitted, but cannot be readily activated without certain keys of understanding.

One option certainly is simply not to go into these things-- but is this really a solution?  In today’s world even on "youtube" and its like we see an ever accelerating rate of dissemination of knowledge and information which proceeds with or without Dog Brothers Martial Arts and the Protectors whom we seek to serve. 

The first step as I see it is to filter whom we teach.  The second I think is to anchor the physical training with morality.  This latter point is an important discussion in its own right, but I do not enter into it now. 

Concerning the filtering, first and foremost the main line of defense is the traditional responsibility of the instructor to "smell" his (her) students.  Of course filtering out those of bad intention or unsound emotions can be a good trick.  After all, many people come to martial arts for some sort of emotional healing and we would like to be able to help them if we can.  And people of bad intention have been known to dissemble about their true intentions.

With the Dog Brothers Martial Arts Association the question presented becomes complicated by the absence of face-to-face relationship with many of our members.  To a limited extent we already have been doing filtering for some time with the application for our Association, and the rigor of this process will be increased to the extent reasonably feasible.  For those within the Association we will be developing a separate category dedicated to more complete study of these things for which the filtering process will be even more thorough. 

This filtering process is very much a work in progress.  For example we would love to be able to simply run a criminal and immigrations records check on all applicants, but apparently this is not possible.  We are looking into what it will take for applicants to provide it themselves.  It is also important to understand that we are humble about what this work-in-progress for filtering can accomplish.  To state the matter plainly, given the limitations of what we can bring to bear we know that we may not catch everyone who should be excluded.   Similarly, there will be cases where we turn someone down unfairly because we cannot bring enough to bear to make a fair determination.  By definition those who are unfairly turned down will not be offended or angry because they truly get who we are, what we are about, and what we are trying to accomplish.

The Adventure continues,
Guro Crafty
25872  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Rambling Rumination: In Search of the Totality of Ritual & Reality (c) on: January 24, 2008, 05:24:19 PM
Some of you may have noticed in our catalog that we have begun organizing our DVDs into two basic categories:  Ritual and Reality and this thread serves to introduce a new chapter in the DBMA mission of "Walk as a warrior for all your days". 

We call it "The totality of Ritual & Reality" (c).

What I have come to appreciate is that because we are a diverse system, people come to us for diverse reasons.  Stated thus, the point is blindingly obvious, but that did not stop me from not appreciating it as much as I could and should have.   And it is because of these diverse reasons that we are now entering a period of reorganization.

What are these diverse reasons?

Some people come to us due to their interest in the ritual space, e.g. a Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack and/or the health, fun, artistic and philosophical aspects of our system.   At the other end of the spectrum are people who are intensely interested in developing real world skills for real world problems.  In between the two are people who may not have pressing immediate real world concerns, but like the idea of using the ritual space of a DB Gathering as a moral venue to explore and prepare their adrenal state skills should the flying fickle finger of fate ever reach out and touch them to say "You are on, right here, right now." 

What I have come to appreciate is that many members of the first group explicitly prefer to have their experience with us free of what Carl Jung might call "the shadow issues" of real world applications.  Similarly, many members of the third group seek precisely to deal effectively with the shadow of those serve or are in the thrall of the Dark.  Typically these people prefer to have their experience devoid of what might playfully be called "martial arts & crafts", "dead patterns and tippy tap drills" and the like.  And there is a third group  --those who prefer a blend and a balance of the preceding two archetypes.  Personally, this is where I find myself-- in search of the totality of ritual and reality.

Concerning the matters of the Reality dimension, as I get older I have come to appreciate with greater depth than before the moral complexities of teaching the reality dimension of a weapons oriented martial art that originated in jungle warfare.  I sometimes joke about how I used to be a lawyer, but decided to go for the big bucks in Real Contact Stickfighting-- the meaning of course being that there really is not very much money in this path.  Although it is my profession, I am not a mercenary.  I do it because I believe in it as part of my path in walking with our Creator.  And because I believe in it I respect the power of its shadow.  There ARE people for whom this Art is not intended.  The reality dimension of this Art is for those who serve the various paths of the Heart-- those who seek to Protect.  In a complementary fashion, in some cases the Ritual side of the Art can be a place of healing, forgiveness and transcendence for those who have spiritual wounds to heal, perhaps due to previous engagements with the Dark.

The Adventure continues,
Guro Crafty
25873  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: January 24, 2008, 03:56:43 PM
The Giuliani Tax Cut
January 24, 2008; Page A16

There is a lot of talk about change in this year's presidential race. But if Washington is truly broken, as many Americans think it is, then it doesn't merely need to be changed. It needs to be fixed. And the man who fixed up New York is ready to fix up Washington.

Rudy Giuliani has proposed the largest tax cut in modern American history and a dramatic simplification of the tax code. His proposal has received broad support from fiscal conservatives in Washington; yesterday it was introduced as legislation by Reps. David Dreier and Roy Blunt, and by Sen. Christopher Bond. Since Fred Thompson has dropped out of the race, there's no question which candidate offers the best tax plan, or is the best spokesman for advancing the tax-reform cause.

Mr. Giuliani's proposal is a remedy for a quintessentially Washingtonian problem: bloated bureaucracy. When the income tax was introduced in 1913, Congress adopted a one-page filing form and a maximum rate of 7%. The Office of Management and Budget estimates Americans now spend 6.5 billion hours a year filling out tax forms.

Our Founders drafted the Constitution with fewer than 5,000 words; with later amendments it is about 8,000 words. The federal tax code is more than 9 million words. So the document that created the government is less than 0.1% as long as the tax code that funds it. Such is the state of Washington today.

Mr. Giuliani understands how the tax code frustrates and confuses many Americans, and that's why he will give every taxpayer the option of using a one-page "Fair and Simple Tax Form." Under the FAST Form, there will be only three rates: 10%, 15% and 30%. Taxpayers who prefer to use the existing forms will remain free to do so. Prized deductions for mortgage payments, state and local taxes, charitable contributions, and child tax credits will all be preserved on the FAST Form.

Moreover, taxpayers can choose each year which plan works best for them. For instance, a small business owner might take advantage of the deductions in the current tax code one year, but choose the FAST Form the next.

For many families, the FAST Form will be an easy choice. A family of four earning $80,000 per year could see their estimated federal income tax burden reduced by $2,207 -- 24%. A single person earning $35,000 -- who pays approximately 10% using the 1040 Form -- will save 13%.

The FAST form is the centerpiece of Mr. Giuliani's tax plan, but it contains many other advantageous features. He will make the Bush tax cuts permanent. He will cut the corporate tax rate, currently second-highest in the industrialized world, to 25% from 35%, helping American businesses compete while protecting and creating American jobs. He will reinstate the Research and Development Tax Credit, a spur to American innovation that Democrats recently let expire. He will repeal the death tax, which unfairly forces relatives of the recently deceased to sell small family farms or businesses to pay the tax collector. He will cut the capital gains tax to 10% from 15%, sparking private-sector investment and economic prosperity. And he will index the Alternative Minimum Tax for inflation and put in on the course to eventual elimination.

Mr. Giuliani's reforms also include a trio of tax-free savings vehicles to encourage middle-class saving: a retirement savings account; a general-purpose lifetime savings account; and a lifetime skills account (for training and education). All three would function as Roth-style accounts (funded with after tax income, but subject to no taxes upon withdrawal), and would be available to all Americans, regardless of income level.

The retirement savings account and the lifetime savings account would have $5,000 annual limits per individual, and the lifetime skills account would have a $1,000 annual limit, with an available employer match. Mr. Giuliani also champions a health-care tax exclusion of $15,000 annually for families ($7,500 for individuals) to increase Americans' access to affordable, portable, privately controlled health care.

Rudy Giuliani knows self-government, not centralized government, makes America great. His proposals demonstrate an opposition to centralized power and a commitment to a growth society. He'll have to work with congressional Democrats to make such proposals a reality, but he has done so before in New York, an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

In the presidential race, the Democrats' idea of "change" is in reality more of the same -- more power and more money for Washington. Mr. Giuliani has another idea. It begins by fixing the complicated mess of our tax code by offering something simpler, flatter and fairer.

Mr. Forbes is president and CEO of Forbes Inc. and editor in chief of Forbes Magazine.
25874  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Nat Geo Documentary on the Dog Brothers: Fight Club on: January 24, 2008, 01:48:43 PM
Tail wags for the kind words everyone. 

Here's this on Dr. Addis cheesy rolleyes cheesy

Dr. Addis is currently interested in theory and research related to men's mental health. His recent work is focused on links between masculine gender socialization and responses to problems in living, including help-seeking behavior, substance abuse, and variations in the ways mental health problems are perceived and characterized. ....Dr. Addis teaches courses in the psychology of learning, men and masculinity, psychological ethics, and assessment. 

He has his own webpage

Cultural expectations for men

Our society creates expectations for men and women that affect how we think, feel, and behave. These expectations can have a powerful effect on how we experience, express, and respond to problems in life. For many men, the expectation that they be strong, stoic, successful, and self-reliant influences the way they cope with problems in life. This can also make it difficult for professionals and close others to recognize in men such problems as depression, anxiety, grief, substance abuse, and other significant life stresses.

Some common cultural expectations for men in the U.S. include:

- Not taking emotional problems too seriously
- Being financially successful
- Handling problems on your own
- Being physically strong
- Keeping control of emotions
-"Performing" sexually

Recent research indicates that:

Men who adhere more closely to these expectations may be at greater risk for substance abuse, depression, marital difficulties, and a range of other problems.  Men who adhere more closely to these expectations may be less likely to seek help for a range of mental health problems when they experience them.
25875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ Political Diary on: January 24, 2008, 11:54:19 AM

Thompson Exit Is Bad News for Giuliani

Fred Thompson is headed back to Tennessee, or Hollywood. The question is: Where will his supporters go?

In the upcoming Florida primary, Mr. Thompson was competing with Ron Paul in the bottom half of the field, at just 7.3% in the most recent RCP Average (Mr. Paul is at 5.4%). Mr. Thompson's backers may have been few in numbers, but a few is all the top contenders need: The RCP Average has John McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani all within the margin of error.

To best understand where "Fredheads" might turn, look at the exit polls from South Carolina, where Mr. Thompson had his best day of the primary season. He did well among evangelicals, capturing 15% of their vote, third best behind Mr. McCain and Mike Huckabee (at 27% and 43%, respectively). So it's possible Mr. Thompson's departure might bring is a slight boost to Mr. Huckabee.

But it's also possible some of Mr. Thompson's supporters, who've described themselves in exit polls from earlier states as among the most conservative members of the party, may find themselves moving into Mr. Romney's camp as he grooms himself as Reagan's heir. Others, for whom national security is a top issue, may shift toward Mr. McCain -- a shift that could be enhanced if Mr. Thompson decides to endorse Mr. McCain in the next week, as some have speculated.

So while it's unclear who will benefit most from Mr. Thompson's exit, it's abundantly clear who is hurt: Rudy Giuliani. After failing to compete in the early states and watching his poll numbers slide, Mr. Giuliani has staked his entire campaign on a victory in Florida. That task is made all the more difficult with one less candidate in the field to help split the conservative vote.

-- Blake Dvorak, RealClearPolitics

Quote of the Day I

"Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are moving so far apart that they might have to run together to save their party's chances in November. In an ominous aside on Wednesday, Obama questioned what might happen if he loses the Democratic presidential nomination to the New York senator and former First Lady. 'I have no doubt that once the nomination contest is over, I will get the people who voted for her,' the Illinois senator told the Christian Broadcast Network. 'Now the question is can she get the people who voted for me?' If Obama is even remotely suggesting that he and his supporters will not support a Clinton-led general election bid, then Clinton might be forced to consider choosing him as her running mate.... Earlier in this campaign, observers assumed that a woman and an African-American on the same ticket would be too much ground-breaking diversity for the nation to handle. But that was before things got so heated between the Clinton and Obama camps. If the feuding get much worse, binding them together might be the only way for Democrats to heal the divide" -- Congressional Quarterly's Craig Crawford.

Quote of the Day II

"The Clintons play dirty when they feel threatened. But we knew that, didn't we? The recent roughing-up of Barack Obama was in the trademark style of the Clinton years in the White House. High-minded and self-important on the surface, smarmily duplicitous underneath, meanwhile jabbing hard to the groin area. They are a slippery pair and come as a package.... Evidently, many of the mainstream party faithful want the Clinton team as their presidential nominee. It's their choice, of course. But does the rest of the country really deserve this?" -- columnist William Greider, writing in the left-wing Nation magazine.

South Carolina 'Sleeper'?

With John Edwards trailing in the polls and reeling from losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, we put a call in to one of his staunchest supporters in South Carolina -- Rep. Leon Howard, chairman of the state legislature's Black Caucus. What he had to say was a little surprising and offered a hint as to why Mr. Edwards hopes the Palmetto State can yet revive his flagging campaign.

Mr. Howard was realistic about his assessment, stating matter-of-factly that Barack Obama is a "force to be reckoned with" who will likely drive to the polls "a lot of people who haven't voted before." He also said that the recent flap about Hillary Clinton's comments on Martin Luther King's legacy "didn't resonate much" in the black community and that he doesn't "want to spend a lot of time on that... it was really a slip of the lip." And yet he still believes that Mr. Edwards' focus on poverty could be the wildcard in the race, and end up capturing sizeable support among African-American voters, a bloc that could make up as much as 60% of the electorate in Saturday's primary.

He called Mr. Edwards "the sleeper candidate," adding that he's "the first candidate who started paying attention to rural South Carolina" with a message of "ending poverty." That message has been well-received in counties that lack trauma hospitals, public water systems and other infrastructure basics. Mr. Howard mentioned, in particular, Lee County, where 62% of the population is black and one resident in five lives below the poverty line; and Allendale County, where 71% of the residents are black and 34.5% of the population lives in poverty.

Across South Carolina, the poverty rate among African Americans is nearly 30%, and the 10 counties with the highest rates of poverty are all majority black counties. The latest polls may have Mr. Edwards running nearly 30 points behind Mr. Obama -- he won't be repeating his favorite-son victory of 2004. But if Mr. Howard is right, a strong showing in rural South Carolina might yet endanger Mr. Obama's expectations of carrying the state over Hillary Clinton. On the whole, any outcome that leaves the issue undecided between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton gives Mr. Edwards an excuse to stay in the game.


-- Brendan Miniter

25876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: January 24, 2008, 11:42:01 AM
More feminine musings from the NY Slimes:

Two Against One
             By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: January 23, 2008

Blogrunner: Reactions From Around the WebIf Bill Clinton has to trash his legacy to protect his legacy, so be it. If he has to put a dagger through the heart of hope to give Hillary hope, so be it.

If he has to preside in this state as the former first black president stopping the would-be first black president, so be it.

The Clintons — or “the 2-headed monster,” as the The New York Post dubbed the tag team that clawed out wins in New Hampshire and Nevada — always go where they need to go, no matter the collateral damage. Even if the damage is to themselves and their party.

Bill’s transition from elder statesman, leader of his party and bipartisan ambassador to ward heeler and hatchet man has been seamless — and seamy.

After Bill’s success trolling the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, Hillary handed off South Carolina and flew to California and other Super Tuesday states. The Big Dog relished playing the candidate again, wearing a Technicolor orange tie and sweeping across the state with the mute Chelsea.

He tried to convey the impression that they were running against The Man, and with classic Clintonian self-pity, grumbled that Barack Obama had all the advantages.

When he was asked yesterday if he would feel bad standing in the way of the first black president, he said no. “I’m not standing in his way,” he said. “I think Hillary would be a better president” who’s “ready to do the job on the first day.” He added: “No one has a right to be president, including Hillary. Keep in mind, in the last two primaries, we ran as an underdog.” He rewrote the facts, saying that “no one thought she could win” in New Hampshire, even though she originally had had a substantial lead.

He said of Obama: “I hope I get a chance to vote for him some day.” And that day, of course, would be after Hillary’s eight years; it’s her turn now because Bill owes her. “I think it would be just as much a change, and some people think more, to have the first woman president as to have the first African-American president,” he said.

Bad Bill had been roughing up Obama so much that Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina suggested that he might want to “chill.” On a conference call with reporters yesterday, the former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a national co-chairman of the Obama campaign, tut-tutted that the “incredible distortions” of the political beast were “not keeping with the image of a former president.”

Jonathan Alter reported in Newsweek that Senator Edward Kennedy and Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois congressman and former Clinton aide, have heatedly told Bill “that he needs to change his tone and stop attacking Senator Barack Obama.”

In the Myrtle Beach debate Monday night, Obama was fed up with being double-teamed by the Clintons. He finally used attack lines that his strategists had urged him to use against Hillary for months. “It was as though all the e-mails were backed up,” said one.

When Hillary tried once more to take Obama’s remarks about Ronald Reagan out of context, making it seem as though Obama had praised Reagan’s policies, he turned sarcastic about getting two distortionists for the price of one.

“I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes,” he snapped at Hillary, obviously entrapped and psyched-out by the Clinton duo.

On a conference call with reporters yesterday morning, Obama did not back off from his more aggressive, if defensive, stance. The Clintons, he said “spent the last month attacking me in ways that are not accurate. At some point, it’s important for me to answer.” Recalling that Hillary had called mixing it up the “fun” part of politics, he said: “I don’t think it’s the fun part to fudge the truth.”

Bill has merged with his wife totally now, talking about “we” and “us.” “I never did anything major without discussing it with her,” he told a crowd here. “We’ve been having this conversation since we first met in 1971, and I don’t think we’ll stop now.” He suggested as First Lad that “I can help to sell the domestic program.”

It’s odd that the first woman with a shot at becoming president is so openly dependent on her husband to drag her over the finish line. She handed over South Carolina to him, knowing that her support here is largely derivative.

At the Greenville event, Bill brought up Obama’s joking reference to him in the debate, about how Obama would have to see whether Bill was a good dancer before deciding whether he was the first black president.

Bill, naturally, turned it into a competition. “I would be willing to engage in a dancing competition with him, even though he’s much younger and thinner than I am,” he said. “If I’m going to get in one of these brother contests,” he added, “at least I should be entitled to an age allowance.”

He said, “I kind of like seeing Barack and Hillary fighting.”

“How great is this?” he said. “Neither of them has to be a little wind-up doll who’s supposed to behave in a certain way. They’re real people, flesh and blood people. They have differences.”

And if he has anything to say about it, and he will, they’ll be fighting till the last dog dies.

25877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who is in charge? on: January 24, 2008, 11:33:22 AM
This columnist for the NY Slimes may be onto something  cheesy

Editing Hillary’s Story
Published: January 24, 2008
Last summer, I asked Hillary Clinton if she had any reservations about using her husband in her campaign. She said no, that having Bill on the team was “a great gift. I have always believed you should get the very best people to advise you.”

I never really made use of the interview. At the time, it was hard to complain about the former president’s role. Publicly, he was limited to the occasional stump speech, telling crowds what a good senator his wife was, and how she had helped a small businessman market his fishing poles to Scandinavia. He had a peculiar line about how he had told her back at Yale Law School that he’d met all the great minds of their generation and hers was the finest. Even if that seemed a tad over the top, supportive spouse is a role that provides latitude for excessive enthusiasm. After all, Laura Bush always used to assure people that her George was up to the job.

But now Bill is all over the place — campaign guru, surrogate candidate, one-man first response team. By next week, he’ll be designing the bumper stickers.

The Democratic elders are wringing their hands about the ex-president’s rants at Barack Obama, worrying that he’ll alienate black voters. That doesn’t seem all that likely. African-Americans have stuck with the Democrats through a lot worse than a fight over who said what about Ronald Reagan’s legacy.

And you can’t deny the Clintons’ double-teaming is throwing Barack off his game. “I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes,” he complained during Monday’s debate.

But in the process, they’re ruining the central selling point of her campaign, the story that explains why she’s the one a dispirited country should trust to make things better.

Every candidacy has one. Barack’s is about the child of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya whose very lineage makes him the vehicle for a transcendent national unity. Hillary’s isn’t how the smart girl from Illinois who overcame every obstacle fate could throw at her to become the first woman president. Instead, it’s a version of the story we love best of all, about second chances and the American capacity to turn failure into redemption.

She admits she messed up during her early first lady years. The health care plan was a disaster. Travelgate is still too embarrassing to go near. “Oh, we made so many mistakes,” she said last summer, waving away the woes of 1993 and 1994 in one fell swoop, all the while referring to the first Clinton presidency in the first person plural.

Her biggest error was taking a major policy role in her husband’s administration. During the 1992 campaign many people, including me, were offended when the public seemed to want to limit Hillary to the adoring gaze and cookie-baking role. But the public was onto something. It wasn’t Hillary’s gender that was the problem, it was her status as spouse.

It’s almost never a good idea for the boss to bring a husband/wife into management. It muddies up the lines of authority, and it lets personal relationships contaminate the professional ones. As every sentient being on the planet knows, the Clintons have an extremely complicated marriage, and sticking it smack in the middle of the chain of command caused chaos.

The implicit promise of Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy was that she had learned from Clinton I. In her, Americans would have a candidate who had been in the very center of White House decision-making. And the very fact that so much had gone wrong was added value. She is nothing if not a good learner, and — the story went — she had discovered at great price where all the landmines lay, both in the presidency and her own character. And she had forged a separate political identity in seven years in the Senate. During an era when the challenges to a new president could be sudden and overwhelming — and here Hillary isn’t ashamed to play the terror card — she was uniquely prepared to hit the ground running and achieve the greatest do-over in American history.

Now, Bill’s role as Chief Attack Dog undermines all that. If he’s all over her campaign, he’s going to be all over her administration. Instead of the original promise of the thoroughly educated Hillary, we’re being offered the worst-case scenario — that the pair of them are going to return to Pennsylvania Avenue and recreate the old Clinton chaos.

A lot of people are O.K. with that. (After all, we’ve lived for seven years with a disciplined Oval Office that runs like clockwork while it spreads chaos everywhere else.) Only it’s not change, it’s not a breakthrough moment in American history. It’s just a nervous decision that we’d rather go back than risk going forward.

It’s a story, all right, with Bill at the center. If Hillary expects anybody to get misty-eyed about the first woman president at the inauguration, she’s got to send him home and go back to the original plotline.
25878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: January 24, 2008, 10:20:52 AM

No worries, your post is fine.

25879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: January 24, 2008, 10:14:10 AM
A federal police officer escorts a man from one of two mansions in Mexico City where 11 suspected hit men allegedly linked to a seized suspected drug cartel leader were arrested.

January 23, 2008

MEXICO CITY -- Local police were relieved of duty Tuesday in the border cities of Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros and Reynosa as army troops disarmed the officers and searched for evidence that might link them to drug traffickers.

In Nuevo Laredo, soldiers surrounded police headquarters at 8 a.m. and ordered officers to remain inside. Federal troops conducted a similar operation in Tijuana last January, at the beginning of an offensive against Mexico's drug cartels and their allies in the police.

During the first 14 months of his rule, President Felipe Calderon has sent federal troops to at least half a dozen states, including Michoacan in the south and Veracruz on the Gulf. Calderon has vowed to break the power of the traffickers, who wield wide influence over local authorities and intimidate local news media.

At least two drug-trafficking organizations are fighting for control of Nuevo Laredo and its border crossings, a lucrative source of income for smugglers. President Vicente Fox, Calderon's predecessor, sent army troops there in 2005.

But the violence has continued unabated. Several observers in Nuevo Laredo say it is an open secret that many police officers cooperate with traffickers.

In an interview this month with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, Atty. Gen. Eduardo Medina Mora acknowledged that the Calderon government's purges of federal, state and local police were only the beginning.

"There are municipal police forces that have collapsed and that function more as support staff to organized crime rather than as guardians of public safety," Medina Mora said.

Last week, federal police arrested 11 men in Nuevo Laredo, including four police officers, who were said to be operatives for the so-called Gulf cartel.

On Tuesday, all on-duty police officers were confined to their stations and none patrolled the city, according to news reports. About 300 troops of the army's elite Airborne Special Forces Group established checkpoints throughout the city.

"This is an action that is taking place with the full cooperation of the mayor," said Alberto Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Nuevo Laredo city government.

Mexican military officials said the army would patrol the city with the assistance of state and federal police but declined to comment further.

In Matamoros, 600 police officers were confined to stations and were being questioned by federal authorities, according to media reports.

The similar operation last year in Tijuana lasted three weeks, with more than 3,500 soldiers and federal agents sent into the city. Many police patrolled unarmed, and a few were seen with slingshots until their weapons were returned.

In the months since, violence there related to drug trafficking and organized crime has continued unabated.

At least 17 people were killed in the border city last week, including three senior police officials, one of whom was shot in his home alongside his wife and two daughters.

Federal officials have said privately that many of their most recent shootouts have been with operatives of the Gulf cartel, based in the state of Tamaulipas, which includes Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros. The cartel has been the most aggressive in efforts to conquer territory from rivals, officials say.

Army special forces troops Tuesday confiscated two dozen assault rifles in a Reynosa "safe house" said to belong to the Gulf cartel and its band of hit men, the Zetas.

A day earlier, federal agents arrested Alfredo Beltran Leyva, allegedly a leader in the so-called Sinaloa cartel, also known as the cartel of the Pacific. And 11 suspected hit men allegedly linked to Beltran Leyva were arrested Tuesday in two mansions on the southern edge of Mexico City.

The suspected cartel operatives were lined up in the living rooms of the two homes. Federal drug officials presented the men to local reporters alongside a small arsenal of seized weapons, including machine guns and grenades.
25880  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: January 24, 2008, 12:06:08 AM
Like the rest of you in the market, I've had much adventure-- and not much time to report here.

Following David Gordon I have taken a position in VMW at 82 and doubled it the other day at 74.

Nice day from CREE and PCL.

 Rick N has kept me apprised of LNOP, which is now EZCH.  I added strongly to my position at 11.80  Here is the latest on its technology being used:


Press Release Source: Juniper Networks, Inc.

Independent Test Validates Simplicity of Juniper Networks MPLS Plug-and-Play Solution
Tuesday January 22, 9:00 am ET 
Isocore's Comprehensive Testing Confirms Effectiveness of Juniper's Automated, Cost-effective Solution for Deploying Large Carrier Ethernet Networks

SUNNYVALE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Juniper Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:JNPR - News), the leader in high-performance networking, today announced the completion of an independent, comprehensive test that validates the effectiveness of its MPLS Plug-and-Play solution designed to simplify network operations of Carrier Ethernet networks. Isocore, a leading technology validation and certification laboratory, evaluated Juniper Networks MPLS Plug-and-Play solution and verified a significant simplification in the provisioning of large-scale Ethernet networks and services, including the ease of managing and troubleshooting of Metro Ethernet networks.
“The ability to dynamically provision and deploy Carrier Ethernet networks and services expeditiously and cost-effectively — in a true ‘plug-and-play’ fashion — is very important to service providers,” said Dr. Bijan Jabbari, president of Isocore. “In our evaluation of Juniper’s MPLS Plug-and-Play solution, it demonstrated its capabilities in fulfilling the promises of automated provisioning and configuration, which helps save time and eliminate configuration errors.”

Juniper Networks MPLS Plug-and-Play is a unique solution based on JUNOS software, which is designed to streamline and simplify network operations by automating time-consuming provisioning, configuration and troubleshooting tasks. MPLS Plug-and-Play from Juniper Networks can reduce service providers’ operating expenses and improves the overall efficiency of Carrier Ethernet networks, while retaining the full feature set of MPLS. MPLS Plug-and-Play leverages error resilient configuration, scripting, auto-discovery and other innovative technologies to simplify the installation and maintenance of Carrier Ethernet networks. In addition, MPLS Plug-and-Play enables customers to accelerate the deployment of new revenue-generating services based on Carrier Ethernet technology.

During the independent Isocore analysis, testing was conducted on a large test bed — representative of a true carrier class network — comprised of Juniper Networks MX-series Ethernet Service Routers (ESRs) and M-series multiservice edge routers. A few of the key findings of the independent test include:

MPLS Plug-and-Play successfully established the support of error-resilient configurations on both edge and core routers used in the test;
Successful demonstration of commit and operation scripts to automate configurations and diagnose failures in the network;
Faultless discovery and operation of Ethernet Unnumbered Interfaces within IGP, BGP and MPLS networks.
The M- and MX-series also demonstrated successful auto-provisioning of Layer 2 Point-to-Point BGP-based VPNs and VPLS services with four sites, and met Isocore’s stringent specifications for a plug-and-play environment. Customers can download Isocore’s complete report on Juniper’s website:

“Ethernet’s ubiquitous success has been in large part due to its simplicity and ease-of-deployment,” said Manoj Leelanivas, senior vice president of the Edge and Aggregation Business Unit, Infrastructure Products Group, Juniper Networks. “As service providers adopt Ethernet-based networks, Juniper’s MPLS Plug-and-Play solution extends this simplicity to carrier networks — without requiring customers to give up any of their MPLS features or have their networks be a test-bed for unproven technologies.”

Webinar: Removing the Complexity in IP/MPLS Networks Using MPLS Plug-and-Play

In conjunction with Isocore, Telecommunications Magazine and Synergy Research Group, Juniper Networks will host an informative, no-cost webinar on the subject of MPLS Plug-and-Play. Entitled “Removing the Complexity in IP/MPLS Networks Using MPLS Plug-and-Play,” the webinar will take place on January 23 at 11:30 ET, and will be moderated by Sean Buckley, editor-in-chief of Telecommunications. The session will include expert perspectives from:

Kireeti Kompella, PhD, Juniper Fellow, former co-chair of the IETF CCAMP Working Group and author of several Internet Drafts and RFCs in the areas of CCAMP, IS-IS, L2VPN, MPLS, OSPF and TE;
Ray Mota, PhD, Chief Research Officer, Synergy Research Group;
Bijan Jabbari, PhD, president of Isocore.
For more information, and to register, please visit:

About Isocore

Isocore provides technology validation, certification and product evaluation services in emerging and next generation Internet and wireless technologies. Isocore is leading validation and interoperability of novel technologies including Carrier Ethernet, IPv6, IP Optical Integration, wireless backhauling and Layer 2/3 Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and currently focuses on IPTV service deployment architecture validation and design. Major router and switch vendors, service providers, and test equipment suppliers participate in Isocore activities. Isocore has major offices in the USA (the Washington DC area), Europe (Paris, France) and Asia (Tokyo, Japan).

About Juniper Networks

Juniper Networks, Inc. is the leader in high-performance networking. Juniper offers a high-performance network infrastructure that creates a responsive and trusted environment for accelerating the deployment of services and applications over a single network. This fuels high-performance businesses. Additional information can be found at

Juniper Networks and the Juniper Networks logo are registered trademarks of Juniper Networks, Inc. in the United States and other countries. JUNOS is a trademark of Juniper Networks, Inc. All other trademarks, service marks, registered trademarks, or registered service marks are the property of their respective owners.

Juniper Networks, Inc.
Susan Ursch, 978-589-0124 (Media)
Kathleen Bela, 408-936-7804 (Investor Relations)
25881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt Speaks on: January 23, 2008, 02:10:42 PM
There is something ironic about having Congress -- which is holding hearings on steroid use in baseball -- trying to solve our current economic challenges with the economic equivalent of fiscal steroids.

The maneuvering and posturing in Washington has assumed all of its normal pre-failure patterns.

The fact is, there could be no greater contrast between the approach I outlined in my new book, Real Change, and the traditional insider politics of Washington.

A Washington Insider Economic Package That Is Too Small and Too Temporary

Republican staff advisers are developing an economic package within the timid boundaries allowed by the Washington establishment. The package they are working on is too small, too temporary and clearly inadequate for the scale of the economic problems we face.

To make matters worse, the Democrats who control Congress will begin demanding even less-useful and more-destructive economic proposals that will spend a lot more money with even less hope of helping the economy.

The Federal Reserve chairman will forget that his primary job is protecting the stability and strength of the dollar and will become a complicit political player in trying to develop an insider package that will only weaken the dollar still further. We saw evidence of this yesterday, when Chairman Bernanke and his colleagues reduced the Federal Reserve's federal funds rate three-quarters of a percentage point. As a result, the dollar dropped in global markets almost immediately.

In short, the normal patterns of Washington, D.C., are likely to lead to temporary, marginal tinkering when what America really needs is long-term, fundamental reform to protect the dollar, increase productivity and create jobs.

A Familiar Pattern of Failure

We are witnessing the same destructive pattern that led to "stagflation" in the 1970s -- the economic disaster that ultimately led Gov. Ronald Reagan to win the presidency on the dual pledges of anti-inflationary monetary policy and a fiscal policy of cuts in non-defense spending, regulation and taxes in order to revive the economy.

This same destructive pattern led the first Bush Administration to break its "no new taxes pledge," which set the stage for the Democratic victory of 1992.

And it was this same pattern that led the Clinton Administration to adopt the largest tax increase in history in 1993 and set the stage for the Contract with America and the first Republican House majority in 40 years.

Why a Washington Insider Stimulus Package Is Doomed to Fail Politically

This pattern of Washington insider negotiating and posturing is doomed to fail politically because of the power of the world financial news system and because this gimmicky approach goes against the fundamental desires of the American people.

Just open the financial pages from yesterday: The world markets have already condemned the initial administration proposals.

If the stimulus package was designed to be a confidence builder, it is clearly failing.

On Monday, London fell 5.48%, Germany 7.16%, China 5.14%, Hong Kong 5.49% and India 7.41%. This was the world's investors' way of making clear they were not reassured.

Furthermore, to make the situation even more intense, the power of the markets is amplified by the global financial news system. Market reactions are transmitted instantly, 24 hours a day, by cable news and other news outlets.

I was on the new Fox Business Channel as a guest on Neil Cavuto's show Monday evening (read a transcript here). By then, it was clear that the on-air analysts were joining the investors in condemning the stimulus package as inadequate and ineffective.

Americans Want Long-Term Solutions

The American people will ultimately reject the stimulus package, because it violates one of their deepest beliefs. Americans believe in long-term solutions, not short-term fixes. This Washington insider maneuvering is politics as usual at a time when the American people are crying out for a change of course.

In our American Solutions polling last summer, the American people told us by a margin of 92% to 5% that our goal should be to provide long-term solutions instead of short-term fixes. You can find this and other economic data in the Platform of the American People in Real Change and at

Overwhelmingly, the American people told us that they are prepared to be told the truth and for large, fundamental changes.

Short-term fixes are going to be rejected by the American people, and the politicians who endorse them are going to find their reputations suffering as a result.

Why a Washington Insider Stimulus Package Will Fail Economically

The stimulus packages being discussed won't just fail politically, they'll also fail economically. The size of the challenge is much bigger than the size of the current solutions being offered by Washington.

Consider these economic indicators:

Gold has been hitting record highs ($914.30 an ounce a week ago). Gold was up 32% in 2007.

U.S. Treasury notes, historically the best store of currency value, have lost 20% compared to gold since August 2007.

Silver has hit a 24-year high ($16.60 an ounce last week).

Platinum has skyrocketed to $1,592 an ounce (and if platinum is a primary metal in the next generation of cars, the world's supply will run out in 15 years, according to some estimates).

Oil hit $100 a barrel but has slid to about $90 a barrel on recession news. (A weak economy means declining oil prices, a strong economy means rising oil prices.)

Harbingers of Inflation

High commodity prices like these are usually harbingers of inflation.

The declining dollar has been a similar indicator of inflationary pressures coming.

The producer price index was up 7.7% through November 2007. That is the biggest jump in 34 years.

The consumer price index was up 4.2% through November 2007. That is the biggest jump in 17 years.

The Role of the Federal Reserve: To Protect the Value of the Dollar

In this setting, it is important for Chairman Ben Bernanke and the Fed to remember their primary mission: protecting the value of the dollar.

People want their government to keep the value of its currency. We won't save and invest if we think politicians are going to steal our earnings and savings by inflating the currency.

The Fed should focus its eye firmly on strengthening the dollar and driving inflation down to 2%.

If the world came to believe the Fed was serious about protecting the dollar, the price of oil would decline substantially, the price of gold would decline substantially, the world's capital flows would return to the United States and the economy would be inherently healthier.

Creating Jobs and Productivity While Stabilizing the Dollar

If the Federal Reserve should focus on creating a stable dollar, the President and Congress should focus on increasing productivity and creating jobs.

Our political leaders should concentrate on making the American worker more successful in competing with China, India, Japan and Europe. They should also ensure that long-term productivity gains in the United States result in real prosperity that would enable Americans to pay off their debts and increase their savings for their retirement years.

Recognizing the Reality of Democratic Control of Congress

Any economic plan has to start with the recognition that Democrats control Congress. That means they get to have a large say in a successful package.

The difficulty here is compounded by the fact that the Democrats have a lot less to lose by allowing nothing to happen, because they will blame any economic problems on President Bush and the Republicans.

The key is to give the Democrats substantial influence over half the economic growth package -- the half aimed at increasing consumer spending -- but insist that the President and Republicans control the other half of the package aimed at increasing productivity and creating jobs.

Give Democrats Control Over Half the Stimulus Package. . .

If Republicans were proposing consumer stimulus plans, an ideal change would be to offset the payroll tax for both individuals and employers. Almost nothing would increase take-home pay for working Americans as fast or enable businesses to hire more people.

A second good option would be a significant increase in the tax allowance for children. This would help working families and single working mothers and could have a very positive impact.

For their part, the Democrats will almost certainly want some kind of direct giveaway program of rebates or some other payment.

As long as the amount is capped at half of a very robust package (say $150 billion of a $300 billion package), it should be the price Republicans pay to get a productivity-increasing bill through a Democratic Congress.

Here's the bottom line trade-off: Republicans should offer relative freedom to the Democrats to design the consumer stimulus part of the bill but then insist on similar freedom to design the productivity increasing portions of the bill.

. . .With a Big 'If'

There is a big "if" involved in this approach.

The Republicans have to be prepared to play hardball. They have to stand firm for a powerful productivity- and growth-oriented component or be prepared to accept the failure of the package.

The Democrats will attempt to panic the Republicans into giving up all their principles just to get "something" passed quickly.

It is very important for the President and House and Senate Republicans to stand firm for a sophisticated package that would actually increase productivity.

The first key to productivity improvements is that they have to be permanent so people can rely on them.

A Bold Plan for Economic Growth

What America needs is deep, fundamental reform to make American businesses more competitive so American workers have better paying jobs with greater job security.

The change from the current situation to a powerfully competitive American future is a much bigger change than anyone in Washington is contemplating.

Here are a few proposals that would begin to move us in the right direction:

1. Adopt the Rangel proposal for a corporate income tax cut.

When even liberal Democrats such as Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) recognize that the United States is killing jobs at home by having the second-highest corporate income tax in the world, there is a possibility of getting something done. In Rangel's generally bad bill of massive tax increases there is a provision for a corporate income tax rate cut. Republicans should simply lift that section from his bill and propose it in his name.

2. Abolish or index the capital gains tax.

A plurality of Americans favor abolishing the capital gains tax (American Solutions polling found a margin of 49% to 41%). This number will go up as Americans look at the disastrous impact of the financial meltdown on their planned retirement funds and their children's college education funds.

Abolishing the capital gains tax would lead to an immediate jump in the value of the stock market, leading to an immediate jump in the value of every retiree's 401(k). More importantly, it would lead to a burst of new investments in the United States, creating a foundation for long-term economic growth.

If abolishing capital gains is politically impossible for Democrats (who tend to be anti-capital in between high-dollar fundraisers) to accept, then the fallback position should be to index the capital gains tax so inflation does not erode capital gains. As Richard Rahn has pointed out, this would have a big effect on increasing investment in America.

3. Allow 100% expensing of all investments in new equipment.

If American businesses could write off 100% of their new equipment within one year of its purchase, there would be a boom in equipping American workers with the best and most modern equipment so they can compete with any economy in the world.

These kinds of real, permanent changes would begin to make America more competitive and more productive. They will allow the dollar to increase in value as investors start to buy up dollars to invest in the low-tax U.S. economy. In turn, this will give the Fed more room to keep interest rates low. These changes would be a step toward permanent, long-term, improved economic health.

And Don't Forget About Scoring

It is essential to remember that anything good for the American economy will be scored badly by the bureaucrats at the Joint Tax Committee and the Office of Management and Budget. Both bureaucracies have a history of being anti-capitalist, anti-market and anti-growth in predicting how economic policy changes will effect economic growth and government revenue.

The answer, however, is simple.

Establish a margin of error equal to how wrong they were in scoring revenue from the last cycle of tax cuts. Then declare that anything within that margin of error is scored as acceptable.

The fact is that it is impossible to establish sound policy for economic growth with Socialist scoring. However, in the short run, it is impossible to change these two entrenched bureaucracies.

Therefore, the answer is simply to publish the degree to which the bureaucrats were wrong in the last two or three tax-cutting cycles and write the bill within that margin of historically provable inaccuracy.

Good News From Innovative Governors: Sanford Proposes an Optional Flat Tax

In the Platform of the American People, there is overwhelming support for an optional flat tax with a one page tax form. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) has picked up on this overwhelming desire for real change in how we pay taxes.

Here's what Gov. Sanford had to say about the optional flat tax in his State of the State address:

"A flat tax alternative that would allow someone the option of forgoing exemptions and instead pay a 3.4% flat tax in this state. We continue to believe finding ways to lower the marginal tax rate is vital to our economy, vital to competitiveness and in this case vital to the taxpayer's pocket. It is worth noting that a recent report from the Federal Reserve documented the connection between lower income tax rates and higher economic and employment growth. This is something we can do to better the economy of our state, and I'd thank Rep. Merrill for introducing a bill toward this end."

Louisiana's Jindal Starts With Accountability and Transparency

Newly elected Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), one of the brightest and most creative people in public life, began his governorship with an executive order making state spending transparent and ordering it to be posted on the Internet so every citizen could see how their tax money is being spent.

For a Louisiana governor, this was an enormous step toward reform.

Transparency in government spending is a growing movement among the states and, like so much of the innovation on the state level in America, it's an idea the President would do well to make his own.

Publishing all non-classified federal spending on the Internet would put the power to unearth fraud and abuse in the hands of the American people.

It would be a step toward real accountability in government.

In other words, it would be real change, just what we need in Washington right now.
25882  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Estudio en tactica policial on: January 23, 2008, 01:19:01 PM
Estupida musica, pero un estudio en varias cosas, incluyendo falta de control de distancia, angulo, falla de atencion y otras cosas.
25883  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Body Cracks to much on: January 23, 2008, 12:46:59 PM
I am guessing that your hip flexors are tight and your glute-hamstring nexus not firing 100% leading to the hips tilting forward and that the extenal rotators of your femurs are dominating the internal rotators, possibly unevenly-- thus setting up a hint of scoliosis.

Solution: Level out your hips.
25884  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Nat Geo Documentary on the Dog Brothers: Fight Club on: January 23, 2008, 12:44:32 PM
Some comments from the Nat Geo blog  grin

Comments (6)
Nice article and looking forward to the program.

Posted by aardvark | January 19, 2008 2:08 PM

Sounds like a bunch of fun, great stuff!

Posted by PizDoff | January 19, 2008 4:14 PM

Hey- I'm a hot (not so anonymous) groupie!

Posted by Tiffini | January 20, 2008 7:00 PM

OMG this sounds horrible. I can't believe National Geographic feels the need to promote such brutality! I'm very disappointed.

Posted by Beth | January 21, 2008 4:01 AM

A ritual of severe consequence, but one that seems to have enlighted you. Can't wait to watch.

Posted by Vanessa | January 21, 2008 12:27 PM

You're crazy for real!! But I guess us girls will NEVER understand!
25885  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Nat Geo Documentary on the Dog Brothers: Fight Club on: January 23, 2008, 12:01:27 PM
After serving as a platoon commander in close urban combat, I understand the severity of a fight to the death - in which life or death of you and the ones you love are on the line. But still, I never had to use any of my hand to hand skills specifically. Full contact is good, but I needed some answers about full contact against another weapon with me using my secondary/tertiary weapon. The sensation at the beginning of the fight at Dog Brothers was very much like the sensation before advancing into the face of the enemy with tracers coming back at you. The key is in the possibility of actual bodily harm. Obviously there is control - which makes it what it is. I trust the man in front of me to take it to the limit but no farther; he trusts the same of me. I regret that I cannot do it more, but my priority is on leading our young war fighters in battle and bringing them home.

- Bryan, Infantry Officer, United States Marine Corps

Two fighters grapple for position. 
When I first heard about Dog brothers full contact stick fighting, I thought they were just some no name guys trying to get attention. I bought some of their tapes and found out that they really deserved some attention. As I learned their techniques and philosophy I started seeing my previous martial skills in a new light. The experience of fighting all out with a weapon and not stopping even when taken down to the ground, added a realism that caused everything that I had learned in the past to take on a practical, real world dimension. This made all my past training ten times more valuable because now I truly understood how to apply the techniques more effectively and to recognized the situations when certain fighting methods could or would not work. There are many aspects of Dog Brothers that brings one to this understanding but the Dog brothers motto sums it all up, "Higher Consciousness, Through Harder Contact."

- P.C., Line Supervisor
25886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ Political Diary on: January 23, 2008, 11:49:11 AM
In Today's Political Diary:

Vice President Voinovich?
Virtual Slur
Temper, Temper
Too Courtly for His Own Good (Quote of the Day I)
A Voice from the Big Tent (Quote of the Day II)
Fred Thompson Hit the Ground Sauntering
Dotting the 'i' in Ohio

Ohio figures again to be a pivotal battleground state in the general election and as we reported several weeks ago, Democrats are eyeing popular new Governor Ted Strickland as a potential Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama running mate.

But now Republicans are also coveting an Ohio Veep candidate. Republican National Committee insiders tell me that one name surfacing a lot is George Voinovich, the former Cleveland mayor and liberal Republican Senator. Mr. Voinovich is the only Republican who has been elected state-wide for governor or senator in Ohio for years.

But Mr. Voinovich would almost certainly infuriate grassroots conservatives as the pick -- especially if the GOP nominee were John McCain, who would likely need a staunch conservative on the ticket for ideological balance. Mr. Voinovich has voted consistently against tax cuts, and even was one of the few Republicans in the Senate to oppose death tax repeal, a bread-and-butter GOP issue. In the '80s, when he was Mayor of Cleveland, he opposed many of the Reagan tax cut policies. Mr. Voinovich calls himself a deficit hawk, as is Mr. McCain, but the Ohio Senator has a middle-of-the-road voting record with the National Taxpayers Union.

If an Ohio favorite son is a must-have on the Republican ticket, another choice might be John Kasich, the former congressman and budget committee chairman from Columbus. Mr. Kasich was on Fox News this past Sunday singing the praises of Mr. McCain, vouching that he is "conservative enough for Republican voters." Mr. Kasich is an anti-Big Government crusader who called for the elimination of some 300 federal programs as part of the GOP's Contract with America. He was also one of the first prominent Republicans to take his colleagues in Congress to task for "not being serious about cutting the budget."

Mr. Kasich is also a dangling live-wire of snap, crackle and pop energy. He is a Type A personality, bordering on ADD -- and a nonstop crusader for tax and spending reform in Washington. He recently told me: "I hate that town. I don't miss it a bit." RNC sources say Mr. Kasich would be a Veep candidate who could neutralize the attacks that liberal Democrats are already launching at John McCain for being too old and tired to serve as president and for being a candidate who can't reach the generation X and Y voters. As one GOP source tells me, Mr. Kasich is, in a lot of ways, a "Republican version of Barack Obama."

-- Stephen Moore
The Spam Campaign

Hillary Clinton held a news conference yesterday in which she explained that Barack Obama's aggressive posture in responding to attacks by Team Clinton during Monday's debate was an example of his "frustration."

Well, Mr. Obama is indeed frustrated by the attacks on his character, as he made clear to David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. What peeves him most are mysterious emails circulating among voters that claim he is actually a Muslim and has sympathy with the ideas of the radical Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam. Mr. Obama says the charges are preposterous.

"We have no way of tracing where these emails come from, but what I know is they come in waves, and they somehow appear magically wherever the next primary or caucus is, although they're also being distributed all across the country," he told Mr. Brody. "But the volume increases as we get closer to particular elections. That indicates to me that this is something that is being used to try to raise doubts or suspicions about my candidacy."

The Internet is a powerful political tool for disseminating information, but also a sinister transmission belt for character assassination. We will probably never know who is behind the shadowy emails attacking Mr. Obama, but it's clear from my "in" box that the slanders are having an effect. Some voters are so suspicious of the mainstream media's generally laudatory coverage of Mr. Obama that they are easy prey for specious reports that purport to tell the "hidden" story behind him.

-- John Fund
Angry White Female

What a treat for viewers who tuned into the South Carolina debate on Monday night and caught a glimpse of the real Hillary Clinton. Whether it was calculated or not, the senator cleared up any doubts that, for her, winning the presidency is about revenge. Forget about veiled threats. She's already taking names.

It's not always clear who Hillary thinks she owes a kick in the pants to. But it's very clear that, should she get into the White House, baby, it's payback time. "They've been after me for 16 years, and much to their dismay, I am still here. And I intend to be still here when that election comes around and we win in November 2008," she declaimed.

Whoever "they" are, you certainly don't want to be one of "them" come January 20, 2009. For instance, apparently men and/or employers can expect the boom to be lowered for numerous injustices they have wrought. "We obviously still have problems of gender equality. You know, equal pay is not yet equal," she warned her audience.

Also in line for punishment are those who humiliated Mrs. Clinton during her first attempt to administer a heavy dose of government-run health care whether Americans wanted it or not. "I think that the whole idea of universal health care is such a core Democratic principle that I am willing to go to the mat for it. I've been there before. I will be there again. I am not giving in; I am not giving up.... I am not running for president to put Band- Aids on our problems. I want to get to universal health care for every single American." Get in her way and you're toast.

At least she made no effort to hide her hostility, which apparently emerges from being a victim for so long. "I'm used to taking the incoming fire. I've taken it for 16 years." And now, she let us know on Monday, the tables are about to turn. Be afraid.

-- Mary Anastasia O'Grady
Quote of the Day I

"I was surprised by the sniping from our side at Fred based on his sincere and gentlemanly Southern manners. Several important conservative bloggers, including some here at Pajamas, made repeated jokes about his language and style as if they are affectations. They are not. The problem, though, is larger and there is a Northern prejudice that interprets the slower, deliberative Southern style as just dim" -- writer Patrick Cox, who was Fred Thompson's first hire during his exploratory presidential effort, commenting at on the failure of the Thompson candidacy.

Quote of the Day II

"There are people out there who want to strap bombs onto babies and blow up as many men and women as they can. For me, given those circumstances, the candidate you have to support is the candidate that is going to do the best job of protecting this country, her interests, and her people. I don't think I have the luxury of being a single-issue voter on the issue of gay rights. I have made very clear publicly my differences of opinion with certain people in the [Bush] administration on the issue of gay rights" -- Mary Cheney, daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, on being a Republican in a Q&A with the National Journal.

Thompson Bows Out

Fred Thompson spotted an opening in the field of Republicans candidates last spring: a yearning for an uncomplicated Reaganite who would unite all wings of the party and take the fight to the Democrats with brio. Until late September, Mr. Thompson actually led national polls among GOP voters. But the seeds of his downfall had already been planted.

His first mistake was not fully realizing that in entering the race so late, he would have trouble building the infrastructure necessary for a modern campaign. The best talent had already been snapped up by other candidates. Mr. Thompson ended up hiring a corporate manager to run his campaign. While a good organizer, the man had never run a political effort of any size, and the resulting confusion cost the campaign precious momentum and money. New leadership wasn't installed until just before Mr. Thompson formally entered the race after Labor Day.

The former Tennessee Senator's second mistake was making it too easy for reporters to paint him as a lazy, disinterested candidate. His campaign committed enough unnecessary gaffes to feed that story line (such as speaking for only five minutes before an enthusiastic crowd of Florida Republicans last October) and the perception set in among many supporters that they were backing a walking horse, not a warhorse.

Lastly, the candidate's theme that he was the "Consistent Conservative" in the race was developed too late and could not be sufficiently exploited because of a lack of money. When Mr. Thompson finally did hit his stride in December, he became a good candidate who performed memorably in recent debates. But, by then, his potential audience had already drifted away to other candidates who looked like they had a better chance of winning.

Mr. Thompson intends to remain active in politics and public affairs, although he has flatly ruled out any plans to serve in someone else's administration. Don't be surprised to find him returning to the airwaves he left just a few months ago -- but this time with much higher name-recognition as a political figure.

-- John Fund

25887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain on gun rights on: January 23, 2008, 10:00:49 AM
John McCain's Gun Control Problem
by John Velleco
Director of Federal Affairs

In 2000, Andrew McKelvey, the billionaire founder of, threw a sizable chunk of his fortune into the gun control debate.

It was shortly after the Columbine school shooting. Bill Clinton was in the White House and gun control was daily front-page news. McKelvey wanted in.

He started out contributing to Handgun Control Inc., which had since been renamed the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. But while he agreed with their gun banning goals, McKelvey thought the way they packaged their message was too polarizing.

"I told them that Handgun Control was the wrong name. I thought what they were doing was great but I thought it could be done differently," McKelvey said.

So McKelvey struck out on his own and formed Americans for Gun Safety. Although AGS shared almost identical public policy goals as other anti-gun groups, McKelvey portrayed the group as in the 'middle' on the issue and attempted to lure pro-gun advocates into his fold.

To pull it off, he needed a bipartisan coalition with credibility on both sides of the gun debate. On the anti-gun side, the task was easy. Most of the Democrats and a small but vocal minority of Republicans supported President Clinton's gun control agenda.

Finding someone who could stake a claim as a pro-gunner and yet be willing to join McKelvey was not so easy. Enter Senator John McCain.

McCain's star was already falling with conservatives. He had carved out a niche as a 'maverick' as the author of so-called Campaign Finance Reform (more aptly named the incumbent protection act), which was anathema to conservatives but made him a darling of the mainstream media.

Gun owners were outraged over CFR, but McCain still maintained some credibility on the gun issue.

Earlier in his career, McCain had voted against the Clinton crime bill (which contained a ban on so-called assault weapons), and he did not join the 16 Senate Republicans who voted for the Brady bill, which required a five-day waiting period for the purchase of a handgun.

But as he ramped up for his presidential run in 2000, McCain, expanding on the 'maverick' theme, staked out a position on guns far to the left of his primary opponent, George W. Bush.

McCain began speaking out against small, inexpensive handguns and he entertained the idea of supporting the 'assault weapons' ban. His flirtation with anti-Second Amendment legislation quickly led to a political marriage of convenience with McKelvey.

Within months of the formation of AGS, McCain was featured in radio and television ads in Colorado and Oregon supporting initiatives to severely regulate gun shows and register gun buyers. Anti-gunners were ecstatic to get McCain on board.

Political consultant Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole's presidential campaign in 1996, hoped McCain would "bring a conservative perspective to the gun debate."

The ads not only pushed the anti-gun show measure in those two states, they also served to undermine the efforts of gun rights activists who were furiously lobbying against the same type of bill in Congress.

"I think that if the Congress won't act, the least I can do is support the initiative in states where it's on the ballot," McCain said in an interview.

At the time still a newcomer to the gun control debate, McCain said, "I do believe my view has evolved."

McCain continued to pursue his anti-gun agenda even after his presidential run ended, and the next year he and McKelvey made it to the big screen.

As moviegoers flocked to see Pearl Harbor, they were treated to an anti-gun trailer ad featuring McCain. This time the Senator was pushing legislation to force people to keep firearms locked up in the home.

"We owe it to our children to be responsible by keeping our guns locked up," McCain told viewers.

Economist and author John Lott, Jr., noted, "No mention was ever made by McCain about using guns for self-defense or that gunlocks might make it difficult to stop intruders who break into your home. And research indicates that McCain's push for gunlocks is far more likely to lead to more deaths than it saves."

Also in 2001, McCain went from being a supporter of anti-gun bills to being a lead sponsor.

Pro-gun allies in Congress who were holding off gun show legislation -- which would at best register gun owners and at worst close down the shows entirely -- were angered when McCain teamed up with Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and introduced a "compromise" bill to give the issue momentum.

"There is a lot of frustration. He has got his own agenda," one Republican Senator told Roll Call.

After September 11, 2001, McKelvey and McCain, now joined by Lieberman, had a new angle to push gun control.

"Terrorists are exploiting the gun show loophole," AGS ads hyped. McCain and Lieberman hit the airwaves again in a series of radio and TV spots, thanks to McKelvey's multi-million dollar investment.

A Cox News Service article noted that, "The ads first focused on gun safety but switched to terrorism after Sept. 11. Americans for Gun Safety said the switch is legitimate."

However, Second Amendment expert Dave Kopel pointed out that, "the McCain-Lieberman bill is loaded with poison pills which would allow a single appointed official to prevent any gun show, anywhere in the United States from operating."

Ultimately, the anti-gun legislation was killed in the Congress and AGS fizzled out and disappeared altogether. The issues for which McKelvey spent over $10 million are still in play, however, and John McCain remains a supporter of those causes. In fact, as recently as 2004, McCain was able to force a vote on a gun show amendment.

In the post-Columbine and post-9/11 environments, the Second Amendment was under attack as never before. Pro-gun patriotic Americans who stood as a bulwark to keep the Congress from eviscerating the Constitution were dismayed to look across the battle lines only to see Senator McCain working with the enemy.

John McCain tried running for president in 2000 as an anti-gunner. This year it appears he is seeking to "come home" to the pro-gun community, but the wounds are deep and memories long.

25888  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jan 20 on: January 22, 2008, 08:25:45 PM
Iran 1981: Remaining 52 US Embassy hostages seized in 11/79 released.  Thank you President Reagan.
25889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Grannis & Rahn on: January 22, 2008, 08:22:55 PM

Global stock markets are down in large part because the world is concerned that the US economy is in a recession and our politicians and policymakers are clueless in the face of this predicament. The Bush administration and the presidential hopefuls are all talking about fiscal stimulus plans that mostly involve taking money from one person's pocket and putting it in another (e.g., tax rebates). You can't make an economy stronger by funding one man's extra spending with money taken by taxing or borrowing from another man. Policies oriented to increasing consumer demand have no ability to expand the economy, otherwise (as Jude Wanniski used to say) we could spend ourselves to prosperity. Meaningful stimulus has to involve a permanent change in the incentives to work and invest, since that expands the output/supply side of the economy; ultimately, only rising incomes can fuel rising spending. In the below article Richard Rahn talks about a simple fix to the tax code which could make a world of difference: indexing capital gains for inflation. What politician, even the die-hard Democrats who hate it that the rich are getting richer, would want to argue in an election year against tax reform that is fundamentally fair, would help everyone, and would boost the economy? Word is that the Bush administration is considering precisely this as part of a fiscal stimulus package. The idea first cropped up in the early 1990s, but was abandoned. Now would be a great time to revive it. With all the pessimism out there it's about time somebody did something positive.

This is especially timely because with the Fed's latest effort to boost the economy by lowering interest rates, inflation risk is rising. We've already seen inflation rise from a low of 1% in 2003 to 3-4% currently, thanks to Alan Greenspan's misguided decision to push interest rates down to 1% in 2003. That not only contributed to the housing price bubble, but also drove the dollar down and boosted commodity and gold prices. Since it became obvious last summer that the Fed would be forced to lower rates to stem the losses from subprime lending, the dollar is down over 5% and is now at an all-time low, and gold is up 35% to almost $900/oz. Lower interest rates may help fix the subprime crisis by slowing and limiting the decline in home prices, but only at the cost of higher inflation in the years to come. Without this inflation-adjustment fix, the effective rate on capital gains will be rising significantly, and that would place a big burden on the stock market and the economy. Let's keep our fingers crossed that someone back in Washington can figure this out before it's too late.

Inflation and the Tax Man
WSJ, January 17, 2008; Page A17

Rudy Giuliani's tax-reform proposal includes indexing capital-gains taxes for inflation -- that is, putting the original price of the asset in today's dollars. All of the Republican candidates have called for low or lower taxes on capital gains, while the Democrats favor higher capital-gains taxes. But inflation-indexing of capital gains should be part of every candidate's "economic stimulus" package, regardless of party affiliation.

Accounting for inflation in this way has the advantages of producing more short-term revenue to the Treasury as long-term gains are "unlocked." Furthermore, lowering the cost of capital would stimulate investment and the stock markets, and would increase the fairness of the tax system by not taxing phantom gains for people at all income levels. It would also square capital-gains taxation with the U.S. Constitution.

Assume you purchased a common stock in a company in 1984 for $100 a share and sold it in 2007 for $200 a share. Have you received any "income" from the sale of the shares of stock? The IRS would say "yes," but this is clearly wrong. The IRS will claim that you had a $100 per share capital gain on the stock in the above example, yet actually the increase was solely a result of inflation. Because you cannot buy more goods and services with $200 now than you could have with $100 in 1984, you have had no "income" or wealth accretion.

Over the years numerous economists, lawyers and others have tried to fix this problem and have gotten nowhere with Congress. But now, due to increased concerns about inflation, economic growth and judicial salaries, the time may be right to move forward.

Chief Justice John Roberts has just renewed his call for an increase in pay for federal judges. He, his predecessor William Rehnquist and other judges have complained about the "steady erosion" of judicial salaries over the past 20 years. According to Article III, Section I of the U.S. Constitution, compensation of federal judges "shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office."

As inflation has outstripped the increase in judicial salaries, the judges have clearly had "diminished compensation" in real terms. Chief Justice Roberts currently makes $212,000 per year, yet all but five of his predecessors in the past 200 years made more in inflation-adjusted dollars (Warren Burger's 1969-1986 income averaged about $250,000 per year in 2006 dollars).

The debate centers on the definition of income. The 16th Amendment to the Constitution states, "The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes," and the Fifth Amendment clearly states, "No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."

If the portion of a capital gain due solely to inflation is not income, then taxation without inflation-indexing is an unconstitutional taking of property. Income is commonly defined as, "the amount of money or its equivalent received during a period of time in exchange for labor or services from the sale of goods or property, or as profit from financial investments."

To be money or its equivalent, the payment must have the power to command goods or services produced in the economy. Thus, if the money received from the sale of an asset cannot command more goods and services than the original capital invested, there clearly has been no income.

Too few judges and members of Congress have a basic understanding of economics. As a result, they do not readily see how small but steady losses in value over long periods (except when it comes to their own salaries) is damaging. Inflation of 2%, 3% or 4% per year may seem trivial, but over time it causes great distortions -- the U.S. dollar is now worth less than 1/20th of what it was worth in 1913 when the Fed was established. If the 12% inflation the U.S. experienced in 1979 had continued, the price level would have doubled every six years.

Congress, in order to prevent unlegislated tax-rate increases, has indexed the tax brackets and some other parts of the income-tax code for inflation, which recognizes that a dollar of income in 1998 is not the same as one in 2008. Yet they have failed to do this for capital gains or the AMT, which is now creating great heartache for them as well as for taxpayers. For the code to be logically consistent and to avoid an unconstitutional taking of property -- and for the word "income" to have the same meaning throughout the code -- any capital gain necessarily needs to be indexed for inflation.

The reasons capital gains have not been indexed for inflation (in addition to some members of Congress and judges who do not understand the proper definition of income) are that some argue it would be too complex, and that, since capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than regular income, the problem has already been addressed. Some claim it would result in a big revenue loss. But in the age of advanced tax software, indexing of capital gains is no more complex than many other provisions of the tax code. (The whole code needs to be simplified, but that is another issue.)

Taxing capital gains at a lower rate is done for a number of good economic reasons, and only offsets inflation for assets that have appreciated rapidly in a short time period. Adjusting capital gains for inflation would clearly increase revenues in the short run because of the "unlocking" effect, and probably over the long run because of the higher levels of investment it would stimulate. Over the past 30 years, the Joint Tax Committee, using largely static models, has consistently erred grossly -- at times even getting the direction of the plus or minus sign wrong -- in forecasting capital-gains tax revenues as a result of tax-rate changes.

The Bush administration ought to make inflation indexing part of its "stimulus package." If properly explained, considerable bipartisan congressional and judicial support should be obtained. A number of legal scholars have argued that the executive branch could unilaterally make the change by requiring the IRS to correctly define the words "cost" and "income," given that it was the IRS that originally incorrectly defined them.

It is not likely that many judges or members of Congress would find it in their personal, political, or the national interest to argue that phantom gains are "income." After all, most Americans do understand the meaning of income, even if some in Washington do not.

Mr. Rahn is the chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.

25890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Podhoretz 3 on: January 22, 2008, 08:01:55 PM

But I could not for the life of me believe that Mr. Bush intended to fly in the face of the solemn promise he had made in his 2002 State of the Union address:

We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.
To which he had added shortly afterward in a speech at West Point: "If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long."

How, I wondered, could Mr. Bush not know that in the case of Iran he was running a very great risk of waiting too long? And if he was truly ready to run that risk, why, in a press conference the day after the new NIE came out, did he put himself in the historical dock yet again by repeating what he had said several times before about the judgment that would be passed on this generation in the future if Iran were to acquire a nuclear weapon?

If Iran shows up with a nuclear weapon at some point in time, the world is going to say, what happened to them in 2007? How come they couldn't see the impending danger? What caused them not to understand that a country that once had a weapons program could reconstitute the weapons program? How come they couldn't see that the important first step in developing a weapon is the capacity to be able to enrich uranium? How come they didn't know that with that capacity, that knowledge could be passed on to a covert program? What blinded them to the realities of the world? And it's not going to happen on my watch.
* * *

"It's not going to happen on my watch." What else could this mean if not that Mr. Bush was preparing to meet "the impending danger" in what he must by now have concluded was the only way it could be averted?

The only alternative that seemed even remotely plausible to me was that he might be fixing to outsource the job to the Israelis. After all, even if, by now, it might have become politically impossible for us to take military action, the Israelis could not afford to sit by while a regime pledged to wipe them off the map was equipping itself with nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. For unless Iran could be stopped before acquiring a nuclear capability, the Israelis would be faced with only two choices: either strike first, or pray that the fear of retaliation would deter the Iranians from beating them to the punch. Yet a former president of Iran, Hashemi Rafsanjani, had served notice that his country would not be deterred by the fear of retaliation:

If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in its possession, . . . application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.
If this was the view of even a supposed moderate like Mr. Rafsanjani, how could the Israelis depend upon the mullahs to refrain from launching a first strike? The answer was that they could not. Bernard Lewis, the leading contemporary authority on the culture of the Islamic world, has explained why:

MAD, mutual assured destruction, [was effective] right through the cold war. Both sides had nuclear weapons. Neither side used them, because both sides knew the other would retaliate in kind. This will not work with a religious fanatic [like Mr. Ahmadinejad]. For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement. We know already that [the mullahs ruling Iran] do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers. We have seen it again and again. In the final scenario, and this applies all the more strongly if they kill large numbers of their own people, they are doing them a favor. They are giving them a quick free pass to heaven and all its delights.
Under the aegis of such an attitude, even in the less extreme variant that may have been held by some of Mr. Ahmadinejad's colleagues among the regime's rulers, mutual assured destruction would turn into a very weak reed. Understanding that, the Israelis would be presented with an irresistible incentive to preempt--and so, too, would the Iranians. Either way, a nuclear exchange would become inevitable.

What would happen then? In a recently released study, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies argues that Mr. Rafsanjani had it wrong. In the grisly scenario Mr. Cordesman draws, tens of millions would indeed die, but Israel--despite the decimation of its civilian population and the destruction of its major cities--would survive, even if just barely, as a functioning society. Not so Iran, and not its "key Arab neighbors," particularly Egypt and Syria, which Mr. Cordesman thinks Israel would also have to target in order "to ensure that no other power can capitalize on an Iranian strike." Furthermore, Israel might be driven in desperation to go after the oil wells, refineries, and ports in the Gulf.

"Being contained within the region," writes Martin Walker of UPI in his summary of Mr. Cordesman's study, "such a nuclear exchange might not be Armageddon for the human race." To me it seems doubtful that it could be confined to the Middle East. But even if it were, the resulting horrors would still be far greater than even the direst consequences that might follow from bombing Iran before it reaches the point of no return.

In the worst case of this latter scenario, Iran would retaliate by increasing the trouble it is already making for us in Iraq and by attacking Israel with missiles armed with non-nuclear warheads but possibly containing biological and/or chemical weapons. There would also be a vast increase in the price of oil, with catastrophic consequences for every economy in the world, very much including our own. And there would be a deafening outcry from one end of the earth to the other against the inescapable civilian casualties. Yet, bad as all this would be, it does not begin to compare with the gruesome consequences of a nuclear exchange between Israel and Iran, even if those consequences were to be far less extensive than Mr. Cordesman anticipates.

Which is to say that, as between bombing Iran to prevent it from getting the bomb and letting Iran get the bomb, there is simply no contest.

* * *

But this still does not answer the question of who should do the bombing. Tempting as it must be for George Bush to sit back and let the Israelis do the job, there are considerations that should give him pause. One is that no matter what he would say, the whole world would regard the Israelis as a surrogate for the United States, and we would become as much the target of the ensuing recriminations both at home and abroad as we would if we had done the job ourselves.

To make matters worse, the indications are that it would be very hard for the Israeli air force, superb though it is, to pull the mission off. Thus, an analysis by two members of the Security Studies Program at MIT concluded that while "the Israeli air force now possesses the capability to destroy even well-hardened targets in Iran with some degree of confidence," the problem is that for the mission to succeed, all of the many contingencies involved would have to go right. Hence an Israeli attempt could end with the worst of all possible outcomes: retaliatory measures by the Iranians even as their nuclear program remained unscathed. We, on the other hand, would have a much bigger margin of error and a much better chance of setting their program back by a minimum of five or 10 years and at best wiping it out altogether.

The upshot is that if Iran is to be prevented from becoming a nuclear power, it is the United States that will have to do the preventing, to do it by means of a bombing campaign, and (because "if we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long") to do it soon.

When I first predicted a year or so ago that Mr. Bush would bomb Iran's nuclear facilities once he had played out the futile diplomatic string, the obstacles that stood in his way were great but they did not strike me as insurmountable. Now, thanks in large part to the new NIE, they have grown so formidable that I can only stick by my prediction with what the NIE itself would describe as "low-to-moderate confidence." For Mr. Bush is right about the resemblance between 2008 and 1938. In 1938, as Winston Churchill later said, Hitler could still have been stopped at a relatively low price and many millions of lives could have been saved if England and France had not deceived themselves about the realities of their situation. Mutatis mutandis, it is the same in 2008, when Iran can still be stopped from getting the bomb and even more millions of lives can be saved--but only provided that we summon up the courage to see what is staring us in the face and then act on what we see.

Unless we do, the forces that are blindly working to ensure that Iran will get the bomb are likely to prevail even against the clear-sighted determination of George W. Bush, just as the forces of appeasement did against Churchill in 1938. In which case, we had all better pray that there will be enough time for the next President to discharge the responsibility that Mr. Bush will have been forced to pass on, and that this successor will also have the clarity and the courage to discharge it. If not--God help us all--the stage will have been set for the outbreak of a nuclear war that will become as inescapable then as it is avoidable now.

Mr. Podhoretz is the editor-at-large of Commentary and author of "World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism" (Doubleday, 2007).
25891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Podhoretz-2 on: January 22, 2008, 08:00:51 PM
Two other experts, Valerie Lincy, the editor of, and Gary Milhollin, the director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, followed up with an explanation of why the halt of 2003 was much less significant than a layman would inevitably be led to think:

The new report defines "nuclear-weapons program" in a ludicrously narrow way: it confines it to enriching uranium at secret sites or working on a nuclear-weapon design. But the halting of its secret enrichment and weapon-design efforts in 2003 proves only that Iran made a tactical move. It suspended work that, if discovered, would unambiguously reveal intent to build a weapon. It has continued other work, crucial to the ability to make a bomb, that it can pass off as having civilian applications.
Thus, as Ms. Lincy and Mr. Milhollin went on to write, the main point obfuscated by the footnote was that once Iran accumulated a stockpile of the kind of uranium fit for civilian use, it would "in a matter of months" be able "to convert that uranium . . . to weapons grade."

* * *

Yet, in spite of these efforts to demonstrate that the new NIE did not prove that Iran had given up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, just about everyone in the world immediately concluded otherwise, and further concluded that this meant the military option was off the table. George Bush may or may not have been planning to order air strikes before leaving office, but now that the justification for doing so had been discredited by his own intelligence agencies, it would be politically impossible for him to go on threatening military action, let alone to take it.

But what about sanctions? In the weeks and months before the new NIE was made public, Mr. Bush had been working very hard to get a third and tougher round of sanctions approved by the Security Council. In trying to persuade the Russians and the Chinese to sign on, Mr. Bush argued that the failure to enact such sanctions would leave war as the only alternative. Yet if war was now out of the question, and if in any case Iran had for all practical purposes given up its pursuit of nuclear weapons for the foreseeable future, what need was there of sanctions?

Anticipating that this objection would be raised, the White House desperately set out to interpret the new NIE as, precisely, offering "grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically--without the use of force." These words by Stephen Hadley, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, represented the very first comment on the new NIE to emanate from the White House, and some version of them would be endlessly repeated in the days to come.

Joining this campaign of damage control, Messrs. Sarkozy and Brown issued similar statements, and even Ms. Merkel (who had been very reluctant to go along with Mr. Bush's push for another round of sanctions) now declared that it was "dangerous and still grounds for great concern that Iran, in the face of the UN Security Council's resolutions, continues to refuse to suspend uranium enrichment. . . . The Iranian president's intolerable agitation against Israel also speaks volumes. . . . It remains a vital interest of the whole world community to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. "

As it happened, Mr. Hadley was right about the new NIE, which executed another 180-degree turn--this one, away from the judgment of the 2005 NIE concerning the ineffectiveness of international pressure. Flatly contradicting its "high confidence" in 2005 that Iran was forging ahead "despite its international obligations and international pressure," the new NIE concluded that the nuclear-weapons program had been halted in 2003 "primarily in response to international pressure." This indicated that "Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs."

Never mind that no international pressure to speak of was being exerted on Iran in 2003, and that at that point the mullahs were more likely acting out of fear that the Americans, having just invaded Iraq, might come after them next. Never mind, too, that religious and/or ideological passions, which the new NIE pointedly neglected to mention, have over and over again throughout history proved themselves a more powerful driving force than any "cost-benefit approach." Blithely sweeping aside such considerations, the new NIE was confident that just as the carrot-and-stick approach had allegedly sufficed in the past, so it would suffice in the future to "prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear-weapons program."

The worldview implicit here has been described by Mr. Richelson (mainly with North Korea in mind) as the idea that "moral suasion and sustained bargaining are the proven mechanisms of nuclear restraint." Such a worldview "may be ill-equipped," he observes delicately, "to accept the idea that certain regimes are incorrigible and negotiate only as a stalling tactic until they have attained a nuclear capability against the United States and other nations that might act against their nuclear programs."

True, the new NIE did at least acknowledge that it would not be easy to induce Iran to extend the halt, "given the linkage many within the leadership probably see between nuclear-weapons development and Iran's key national-security and foreign-policy objectives." But it still put its money on a "combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways."

It was this pronouncement, and a few others like it, that gave Stephen Hadley "grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically." But that it was a false hope was demonstrated by the NIE itself. For if Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons in order to achieve its "key national-security and foreign-policy objectives," and if those objectives explicitly included (for a start) hegemony in the Middle East and the destruction of the state of Israel, what possible "opportunities" could Tehran be offered to achieve them "in other ways"?

* * *

So much for the carrot. As for the stick, it was no longer big enough to matter, what with the threat of military action ruled out, and what with the case for a third round of sanctions undermined by the impression stemming from the NIE's main finding that there was nothing left to worry about. Why worry when it was four years since Iran had done any work toward developing the bomb, when the moratorium remained in effect, and when there was no reason to believe that the program would be resumed in the near future?

What is more, in continuing to insist that the Iranians must be stopped from developing the bomb and that this could be done by nonmilitary means, the Bush administration and its European allies were lagging behind a new consensus within the American foreign-policy establishment that had already been forming even before the publication of the new NIE. Whereas the old consensus was based on the proposition that (in Sen. John McCain's pungent formulation) "the only thing worse than bombing Iran was letting Iran get the bomb," the emerging new consensus held the opposite--that the only thing worse than letting Iran get the bomb was bombing Iran.

What led to this reversal was a gradual loss of faith in the carrot-and-stick approach. As one who had long since rejected this faith and who had been excoriated for my apostasy by more than one member of the foreign-policy elites, I never thought I would live to see the day when these very elites would come to admit that diplomacy and sanctions had been given a fair chance and that they had accomplished nothing but to buy Iran more time. The lesson drawn from this new revelation was, however, a different matter.

It was in the course of a public debate with one of the younger members of the foreign-policy establishment that I first chanced upon the change in view. Knowing that he never deviated by so much as an inch from the conventional wisdom of the moment within places like the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution, I had expected him to defend the carrot-and-stick approach and to attack me as a warmonger for contending that bombing was the only way to stop the mullahs from getting the bomb. Instead, to my great surprise, he took the position that there was really no need to stop them in the first place, since even if they had the bomb they could be deterred from using it, just as effectively as the Soviets and the Chinese had been deterred during the cold war.

Without saying so in so many words, then, my opponent was acknowledging that diplomacy and sanctions had proved to be a failure, and that there was no point in pursuing them any further. But so as to avoid drawing the logical conclusion--namely, that military action had now become necessary--he simply abandoned the old establishment assumption that Iran must at all costs be prevented from developing nuclear weapons, adopting in its place the complacent idea that we could learn to live with an Iranian bomb.

In response, I argued that deterrence could not be relied upon with a regime ruled by Islamo-fascist revolutionaries who not only were ready to die for their beliefs but cared less about protecting their people than about the spread of their ideology and their power. If the mullahs got the bomb, I said, it was not they who would be deterred, but we.

So little did any of this shake my opponent that I came away from our debate with the grim realization that the president's continued insistence on the dangers posed by an Iranian bomb would more and more fall on deaf ears--ears that would soon be made even deafer by the new NIE's assurance that Iran was no longer hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons after all. There might be two different ideas competing here--one, that we could live with an Iranian bomb; the other, that there would be no Iranian bomb to live with--but the widespread acceptance of either would not only preclude the military option but would sooner or later put an end even to the effort to stop the mullahs by nonmilitary means.

* * *

And yet there remained something else, or rather someone else, to factor into the equation: the perennially "misunderestimated" George W. Bush, a man who knew evil when he saw it and who had the courage and the determination to do battle against it. This was also a man who, far more than most politicians, said what he meant and meant what he said. And what he had said at least twice before was that if we permitted Iran to build a nuclear arsenal, people 50 years from now would look back and wonder how we of this generation could have allowed such a thing to happen, and they would rightly judge us as harshly as we today judge the British and the French for what they did at Munich in 1938. It was because I had found it hard to understand why Mr. Bush would put himself so squarely in the dock of history on this issue if he were resigned to an Iran in possession of nuclear weapons, or even of the ability to build them, that I predicted in the pages of Commentary, and went on predicting elsewhere, that he would not retire from office before resorting to the military option.
25892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Podhoretz: Stopping Iran on: January 22, 2008, 07:57:05 PM
The political will here in the US for this would seem to be near zero, and if I read the tea leaves correctly, not a lot more than that in the US military , , ,  Still, what to do?

Stopping Iran
Why the case for military action still stands.
January 23, 2008

Up until a fairly short time ago, scarcely anyone dissented from the assessment offered with "high confidence" by the National Intelligence Estimate of 2005 that Iran was "determined to develop nuclear weapons." Correlatively, no one believed the protestations of the mullahs ruling Iran that their nuclear program was designed strictly for peaceful uses.

The reason for this near-universal consensus was that Iran, with its vast reserves of oil and natural gas, had no need for nuclear energy, and that in any case, the very nature of its program contradicted the protestations.

Here is how Time magazine put it as early as March 2003--long before, be it noted, the radical Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had replaced the putatively moderate Mohamed Khatami as president:

On a visit last month to Tehran, International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohamed ElBaradei announced he had discovered that Iran was constructing a facility to enrich uranium--a key component of advanced nuclear weapons--near Natanz. But diplomatic sources tell Time the plant is much further along than previously revealed. The sources say work on the plant is "extremely advanced" and involves "hundreds" of gas centrifuges ready to produce enriched uranium and "the parts for a thousand others ready to be assembled."
So, too, the Federation of American Scientists about a year later:

It is generally believed that Iran's efforts are focused on uranium enrichment, though there are some indications of work on a parallel plutonium effort. Iran claims it is trying to establish a complete nuclear-fuel cycle to support a civilian energy program, but this same fuel cycle would be applicable to a nuclear-weapons development program. Iran appears to have spread their nuclear activities around a number of sites to reduce the risk of detection or attack.
And just as everyone agreed with the American intelligence community that Iran was "determined to develop nuclear weapons," everyone also agreed with President Bush that it must not be permitted to succeed. Here, the reasons were many and various.

To begin with, Iran was (as certified even by the doves of the State Department) the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world, and it was therefore reasonable to fear that it would transfer nuclear technology to terrorists who would be only too happy to use it against us. Moreover, since Iran evidently aspired to become the hegemon of the Middle East, its drive for a nuclear capability could result (as, according to the New York Times, no fewer than 21 governments in and around the region were warning) in "a grave and destructive nuclear-arms race." This meant a nightmarish increase in the chances of a nuclear war. An even greater increase in those chances would result from the power that nuclear weapons--and the missiles capable of delivering them, which Iran was also developing and/or buying--would give the mullahs to realize their evil dream of (in the words of Mr. Ahmadinejad) "wiping Israel off the map."

Nor, as almost everyone also agreed, were the dangers of a nuclear Iran confined to the Middle East. Dedicated as the mullahs clearly were to furthering the transformation of Europe into a continent where Muslim law and practice would more and more prevail, they were bound to use nuclear intimidation and blackmail in pursuit of this goal as well. Beyond that, nuclear weapons would even serve the purposes of a far more ambitious aim: the creation of what Mr. Ahmadinejad called "a world without America." Although, to be sure, no one imagined that Iran would acquire the capability to destroy the United States, it was easy to imagine that the United States would be deterred from standing in Iran's way by the fear of triggering a nuclear war.

Running alongside the near-universal consensus on Iran's nuclear intentions was a commensurately broad agreement that the regime could be stopped from realizing those intentions by a judicious combination of carrots and sticks. The carrots, offered through diplomacy, consisted of promises that if Iran were (in the words of the Security Council) to "suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the IAEA," it would find itself on the receiving end of many benefits. If, however, Iran remained obdurate in refusing to comply with these demands, sticks would come into play in the form of sanctions.

And indeed, in response to continued Iranian defiance, a round of sanctions was approved by the Security Council in December 2006. When these (watered down to buy the support of the Russians and the Chinese) predictably failed to bite, a tougher round was unanimously authorized three months later, in March 2007. When these in turn failed, the United States, realizing that the Russians and the Chinese would veto stronger medicine, unilaterally imposed a new series of economic sanctions--which fared no better than the multilateral measures that had preceded them.

* * *

What then to do? President Bush kept declaring that Iran must not be permitted to get the bomb, and he kept warning that the "military option"--by which he meant air strikes, not an invasion on the ground--was still on the table as a last resort. On this issue our Western European allies were divided. To the surprise of many who had ceased thinking of France as an ally because of Jacques Chirac's relentless opposition to the policies of the Bush administration, Nicholas Sarkozy, Mr. Chirac's successor as president, echoed Mr. Bush's warning in equally unequivocal terms. If, Mr. Sarkozy announced, the Iranians pressed on with their nuclear program, the world would be left with a choice between "an Iranian bomb and bombing Iran"--and he left no doubt as to where his own choice would fall. On the other hand, Gordon Brown, who had followed Tony Blair as prime minister of the U.K., seemed less willing than Mr. Sarkozy to contemplate military action against Iran's nuclear installations, even as a last resort. Like the new chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, Mr. Brown remained--or professed to remain--persuaded that more diplomacy and tougher sanctions would eventually work.

This left a great question hanging in the air: when, if ever, would Mr. Bush (and/or Mr. Sarkozy) conclude that the time had come to resort to the last resort?

Obviously the answer to that question depended on how long it would take for Iran itself to reach the point of no return. According to the NIE of 2005, it was "unlikely . . . that Iran would be able to make a nuclear weapon . . . before early-to-mid next decade"--that is, between 2010 and 2015. If that assessment, offered with "moderate confidence," was correct, Mr. Bush would be off the hook, since he would be out of office for two years at the very least by the time the decision on whether or not to order air strikes would have to be made. That being the case, for the remainder of his term he could continue along the carrot-and-stick path, while striving to ratchet up the pressure on Iran with stronger and stronger measures that he could hope against hope might finally do the trick. If he could get these through the Security Council, so much the better; if not, the United States could try to assemble a coalition outside the U.N. that would be willing to impose really tough sanctions.

Under these circumstances, there would also be enough time to add another arrow to this nonmilitary quiver: a serious program of covert aid to dissident Iranians who dreamed of overthrowing the mullocracy and replacing it with a democratic regime. Those who had been urging Mr. Bush to launch such a program, and who were confident that it would succeed, pointed to polls showing great dissatisfaction with the mullocracy among the Iranian young, and to the demonstrations against it that kept breaking out all over the country. They also contended that even if a new democratic regime were to be as intent as the old one on developing nuclear weapons, neither it nor they would pose anything like the same kind of threat.

All well and good. The trouble was this: only by relying on the accuracy of the 2005 NIE would Mr. Bush be able in all good conscience to pass on to his successor the decision of whether or when to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities. But that estimate, as he could hardly help knowing from the CIA's not exactly brilliant track record, might easily be too optimistic.

To start with the most spectacular recent instance, the CIA had failed to anticipate 9/11. It then turned out to be wrong in 2002 about Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction, very likely because it was bending over backward to compensate for having been wrong in exactly the opposite direction in 1991, when at the end of the first Gulf war the IAEA discovered that the Iraqi nuclear program was far more advanced than the CIA had estimated. Regarding that by now notorious lapse, Jeffrey T. Richelson, a leading (and devoutly nonpartisan) authority on the American intelligence community, writes in "Spying on the Bomb":

The extent that the United States and its allies underestimated and misunderstood the Iraqi program [before 1991] constituted a "colossal international intelligence failure," according to one Israeli expert. [IAEA's chief weapons inspector] Hans Blix acknowledged "that there was suspicion certainly," but "to see the enormity of it is a shock."
And these were only the most recent cases. Gabriel Schoenfeld, a close student of the intelligence community, offers a partial list of earlier mistakes and failures:

The CIA was established in 1947 in large measure to avoid another surprise attack like the one the U.S. had suffered on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. But only three years after its founding, the fledgling agency missed the outbreak of the Korean war. It then failed to understand that the Chinese would come to the aid of the North Koreans if American forces crossed the Yalu river. It missed the outbreak of the Suez war in 1956. In September 1962, the CIA issued an NIE which stated that the "Soviets would not introduce offensive missiles in Cuba"; in short order, the USSR did precisely that. In 1968 it failed to foresee the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. . . . It did not inform Jimmy Carter that the Soviet Union would invade Afghanistan in 1979.
Mr. Richelson adds a few more examples of hotly debated issues during the cold war that were wrongly resolved, including "the existence of a missile gap, the capabilities of the Soviet SS-9 intercontinental ballistic missile, [and] Soviet compliance with the test-ban and antiballistic missile treaties." This is not to mention perhaps the most notorious case of all: the fiasco, known as the Bay of Pigs, produced by the CIA's wildly misplaced confidence that an invasion of Cuba by the army of exiles it had assembled and trained would set off a popular uprising against the Castro regime.

On Mr. Bush's part, then, deep skepticism was warranted concerning the CIA's estimate of how much time we had before Iran reached the point of no return. As we have seen, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, had "discovered" in 2003 that the Iranians were constructing facilities to enrich uranium. Still, as late as April 2007 the same Mr. ElBaradei was pooh-poohing the claims made by Mr. Ahmadinejad that Iran already had 3,000 centrifuges in operation. A month later, we learn from Mr. Richelson, Mr. ElBaradei changed his mind after a few spot inspections. "We believe," Mr. ElBaradei now said, that the Iranians "pretty much have the knowledge about how to enrich. From now on, it is simply a question of perfecting that knowledge."

We also learn from Mr. Richelson that another expert, Matthew Bunn of Harvard's Center for Science and International Affairs, interpreted the new information the IAEA came up with in April 2007 as meaning that "whether they're six months or a year away, one can debate. But it's not 10 years." This chilling estimate of how little time we had to prevent Iran from getting the bomb was similar to the conclusion reached by several Israeli experts (though the official Israeli estimate put the point of no return in 2009).

* * *

Then, in a trice, everything changed. Even as Mr. Bush must surely have been wrestling with the question of whether it would be on his watch that the decision on bombing the Iranian nuclear facilities would have to be made, the world was hit with a different kind of bomb. This took the form of an unclassified summary of a new NIE, published early last December. Entitled "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities," this new document was obviously designed to blow up the near-universal consensus that had flowed from the conclusions reached by the intelligence community in its 2005 NIE. In brief, whereas the NIE of 2005 had assessed "with high confidence that Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons," the new NIE of 2007 did "not know whether [Iran] currently intends to develop nuclear weapons."

This startling 180-degree turn was arrived at from new intelligence, offered by the new NIE with "high confidence": namely, that "in fall 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear-weapons program." The new NIE was also confident--though only moderately so--that "Tehran had not restarted its nuclear-weapons program as of mid-2007." And in the most sweeping of its new conclusions, it was even "moderately confident" that "the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear-weapons program."

Whatever else one might say about the new NIE, one point can be made with "high confidence": that by leading with the sensational news that Iran had suspended its nuclear-weapons program in 2003, its authors ensured that their entire document would be interpreted as meaning that there was no longer anything to worry about. Of course, being experienced bureaucrats, they took care to protect themselves from this very accusation. For example, after dropping their own bomb on the fear that Iran was hell-bent on getting the bomb, they immediately added "with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons." But as they must have expected, scarcely anyone paid attention to this caveat. And as they must also have expected, even less attention was paid to another self-protective caveat, which--making doubly sure it would pass unnoticed--they relegated to a footnote appended to the lead sentence about the halt:

For the purposes of this Estimate, by "nuclear-weapons program" we mean Iran's nuclear-weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work; we do not mean Iran's declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.
Since only an expert could grasp the significance of this cunning little masterpiece of incomprehensible jargon, the damage had been done by the time its dishonesty was exposed.

The first such exposure came from John Bolton, who before becoming our ambassador to the U.N. had served as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, with a special responsibility for preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Donning this hat once again, Mr. Bolton charged that the dishonesty of the footnote lay most egregiously in the sharp distinction it drew between military and civilian programs. For, he said, "the enrichment of uranium, which all agree Iran is continuing, is critical to civilian and military uses. Indeed, it has always been Iran's 'civilian' program that posed the main risk of a nuclear 'breakout.' "

Two other experts, Valerie Lincy, the editor of, and Gary Milhollin, the director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, followed up with an explanation of why the halt of 2003 was much less significant than a layman would inevitably be led to think:

25893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ needles NY Slimes on: January 22, 2008, 06:22:59 PM
Underwhelmingly Iraqi
One of our favorite sports is mocking the New York Times for the roundabout way in which it tries to avoid acknowledging that al Qaeda in Iraq is connected with al Qaeda everywhere else. Here's a particularly inviting example, from yesterday's paper:

Some critics contend that estimates of insurgents who actually belong to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which American officials say is overwhelmingly Iraqi but has foreign leadership, tend to be overstated. Many insurgents who are lumped into the group, they say, are Sunnis who simply need money or who are angered by the sectarian bias of Iraqi security forces, but who have no wider allegiance to al Qaeda.
If "many" insurgents who are Iraqi are wrongly "lumped into this group," isn't the obvious conclusion that al Qaeda in Meso-whatever is underwhelmingly Iraqi? The Washington Post adds this:

U.S. military officials in Iraq said they now think that nine out of 10 suicide bombers have been foreigners, compared with earlier estimates of 75 percent.
This is further evidence that the New York Times is right, inasmuch as the New York Times is saying the New York Times is wrong.
25894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tough Calls, Good Calls on: January 22, 2008, 05:21:27 PM
Tough Calls, Good Calls
January 22, 2008; Page A19

One of the most difficult and consequential decisions of the Bush presidency took place in January of last year: the decision to fundamentally change our strategy by "surging" more U.S. forces to Iraq.

This decision was taken against the backdrop of escalating violence in Iraq, calls for immediate or "phased" withdrawal, prognostications of imminent defeat, and an abundance of political blame directed at the White House. The president's move was met with skepticism and outright vilification, except for a few principled politicians like John McCain and Joe Lieberman. Today, people are getting in line to claim credit for the "surge."

Mr. Bush's decision was guided by a clear strategic principle. The president wanted the U.S. to win, and refashioning our strategy was the best opportunity to succeed in this goal, as well as to leave Iraq policy on a sounder basis for his successor. Whoever wins the presidency in 2008 will be pleased that he did. What a difference a year makes.

The surge may turn out to be Mr. Bush's most important decision. But he has made other such decisions since 9/11, including to commit ground forces to Afghanistan, to eradicate the regime of Saddam Hussein, to use the CIA to conduct strategic interrogation of high-level terrorists, and to conduct strategic surveillance of terrorists communications.

Mr. Bush has faced so many tough choices over the last seven years that his decision to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty has been at least partially forgotten. Yet this decision, announced in December 2001, was no less consequential. It also defied the critics who argued that it would lead to a new arms race, increase nuclear proliferation and ruin cooperation with Russia on nuclear arms control and terrorism.

None of these things have happened as a result of the ABM Treaty withdrawal. But the decision will enable us to counter a still-growing 21st century threat.

In the summer of 2006, when Kim Jong Il was again seeking to intimidate America and its allies with medium and long-range missiles, the president had no real options short of pre-emptive attack or retaliation. And yet here, as with the surge, our next president will have tools at his or her disposal because Mr. Bush did not hesitate to do what was necessary for U.S. security.

Mr. Bush has assigned direction of our missile-defense capabilities and their integration into our overall defense strategy to the United States Strategic Command, part of whose mission is the responsibility for defending the nation from strategic missile attack. A global command and control system is being built, and is already functioning, to network our existing sensors and weapons. This can exercise real forces against current and emerging threats.

Meanwhile, a test bed has been built in the Pacific that includes operational assets -- sensors and shooters -- from California to Alaska, from the Aleutian Islands to Hawaii. Despite critics' claims to the contrary, test after test of kinetic kill interceptors has demonstrated the effectiveness of our defenses.

The first strategic missile interceptors since 1975 are deployed in Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg AFB, Calif. They stand guard against an attack on the entire country. Sea-based interceptors that have far greater capability than the Patriots of Iraq are being deployed, using the SM-3 missile and Aegis radars.

Cooperation with key allies on missile defense is at an all-time high, and we are finally able to cooperate in ways that protect both American and allied territory. In Japan, we have deployed a radar capable of providing data for protecting both Japanese and U.S. territory. We are also co-developing a new version of the SM-3 that will have greater capability against long-range threats.

None of this could have happened if President Bush had not decided to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. What are the next steps that the country should take to capitalize fully on this strategic choice?

First, the president's call for a third strategic missile defense site in Europe must be carried out. This site provides additional capability to protect the U.S., and to protect as well our European allies from a growing Iranian missile threat. The site would further cement the development of a global sensor-and-interceptor network necessary for effective missile defense. Failure to follow through would have implications for our alliances both inside and out of Europe.

Second, we can expect that rogue states such as North Korea and Iran are already looking at ways to counter our existing defenses. One way they might do this is to deploy decoys or other countermeasures on their existing offensive missiles that must be attacked, and could thus exhaust our limited supply of interceptors. Fortunately, we can now explore cost-effective solutions to this threat.

One solution is to develop interceptors with multiple kill vehicles -- something that was explicitly banned by the ABM Treaty. Another solution is to develop advanced discrimination techniques to tell the decoys from the real threats. These techniques include using radars, space-based sensors, or a new concept that uses dozens of miniature interceptors that can literally sweep away an entire threat cloud of decoys, allowing the missile interceptor to hone in on the real warhead.

None of these techniques is fully proven, but neither was the hit-to-kill technology begun by President Reagan and later successfully deployed by President Bush. We must focus investment in the discrimination problem and improve our existing systems with these new capabilities.

Third, we can do more to increase the capabilities of existing assets. We can, for example, improve our sea-based capabilities -- both our performance against long-range missiles and the number of assets deployed. Under the ABM Treaty, we had to "dumb down" our so-called theater systems to ensure that they could not be used to defend the U.S. from attack. Free from this restraint, as well as from the Treaty's prohibition on mobile-launch platforms, we can now do much more to integrate our defense with that of our allies and make the most of the assets we have deployed.

Finally, we must look again at space as a place to deploy interceptors.

There is no question that space provides the highest leverage against the missile threat: Targets are more visible, more accessible and more vulnerable when attacked from space. While there are concerns about "weaponizing space," these pale in comparison to the increasing vulnerability of U.S. space-based satellites by weapons from the ground traversing space. The recent Chinese anti-satellite test was a wake-up call.

Space-based interceptors, like those proposed by former President George H. W. Bush in 1991, have the potential to strengthen missile defense, and to provide protection for key intelligence and communications assets in space that are now vulnerable from ground-based attack.

The progress of the past six years stems from one tough decision. That very same decision will allow us to stay ahead of the 21st century ballistic-missile threat.

Messrs. Crouch and Joseph are senior scholars at the National Institute for Public Policy. Mr. Crouch was formerly deputy national security adviser and Mr. Joseph was formerly undersecretary of State in the George W. Bush administration.

25895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: January 22, 2008, 05:11:19 PM
Not that I agree, but Fred Barnes makes the case for McCain.  I am intrigued though that he has gotten Jack Kemp and Phil Gramm on board.  Both of these men have my respect.

Now McCain Must Convince The Right
January 22, 2008; Page A19

John McCain has a problem. After winning South Carolina's primary last Saturday, he should be the overwhelming favorite to capture the Republican presidential nomination. He's not, at least not yet, and the reason is that he's alienated so many conservatives over the past eight years.

Mr. McCain may become the Republican nominee anyway -- in spite of thunderous opposition by conservatives including radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and American Conservative Union (ACU) head David Keene. Even then, to win the general election, he must find a way to reconcile with conservatives and unify the Republican Party.

Mr. McCain will have to take the initiative to repair the relationship, and he appears ready to do just that.

His victory speech in South Carolina marked a new step. Rather than dwell on the hardy perennials of his campaign message, national security and patriotism, Mr. McCain spoke more broadly about his conservative goals. "We want government to do its job, not your job," he said, "and to do it with less of your money." He praised "free markets, low taxes and small government."

Moreover, Mr. McCain intends to go beyond conservative boilerplate and actually campaign as a conservative. His congressional voting record is predominantly conservative (ACU rating 82.3%), qualifying him to do so. He's already stepped outside his comfort zone on taxes, endorsing a cut in the corporate tax rate to 25% from 35%.

If he echoes the talking points dispatched to his surrogates over the weekend, he'll be fine. Besides touting Mr. McCain's ability to step in as "commander in chief on Day One," they were urged to emphasize what an ally calls a "Kemp-Gramm mishmash" of tax and spending cuts. Another point to stress: "Winning in November" is crucial to putting conservative judges on the Supreme Court.

It's worth noting the presence of supply-sider Jack Kemp and spending foe Phil Gramm on the McCain team. In fact, the Arizona senator has attracted an impressive array of conservative supporters, including Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Trent Lott of Mississippi, former Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma, and ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Still, Mr. McCain's ties to liberal Democratic senators, and his difficulty suppressing his maverick streak, are a problem. In a televised debate two weeks ago, he said pharmaceutical companies are "bad guys" and called for importing drugs from Canada. Mr. McCain also endorsed a bipartisan commission to reform Social Security, which many conservatives see as a scheme for raising taxes.

When Mr. McCain strays from conservative orthodoxy, it's often the result of impulse. Before running for president in 2000, he rarely jumped ship. But in his campaign against George W. Bush, he enthralled the media with his "straight talk," which consisted mostly of tweaking conservatives and Republicans.

Since then, he's joined with Democrats to enact campaign-finance reform, push for bills allowing illegal immigrants to stay in this country, and impose a national cap on greenhouse gas emissions. All this has estranged many conservatives. Mr. Limbaugh declared last week that the nomination of John McCain or Mike Huckabee would "destroy the Republican Party . . . change it forever, be the end of it." Former Sen. Santorum and ex-House majority leader Tom DeLay insist they won't vote for Mr. McCain, even if his Democratic opponent is Hillary Clinton.

The McCain campaign claims that it's only a handful of conservative luminaries who oppose him. Not true. Complaints about him are rife among grassroots Republicans, and exit polls from the two primaries he won provide unmistakable evidence. He split self-identified Republicans with Mr. Huckabee in South Carolina and Mitt Romney in New Hampshire. But he barely won "somewhat conservative" voters in those states, and lost lopsidedly with "very conservative" voters.

Mr. McCain won both primaries because of his appeal to moderates and independents, indicating that he'd be a strong general election candidate. But he's got to take the Republican nomination first. That means winning without independents in more states with Republican-only primaries.

Spotlighting his conservative positions is a start. A few gestures bound to gain national attention would help. Appearing at today's March for Life demonstration in Washington would underscore his anti-abortion voting record. As Mr. McCain campaigns in Florida before next Tuesday's primary, a visit to Rush Limbaugh's home in Palm Beach to discuss conservative issues makes sense.

Ultimately, Mr. McCain doesn't have to make conservatives adore him. But he'll never be president unless he persuades them he's the most conservative candidate available with a credible chance of winning the White House. That shouldn't be too hard a sell.

Mr. Barnes is executive editor of the Weekly Standard and co-host of "The Beltway Boys" on Fox News Channel.
25896  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Nat Geo Documentary on the Dog Brothers: Fight Club on: January 22, 2008, 04:46:50 PM

Here's another blog post.

Corey "C-Dog Pound" Davis


I keep getting older!  As a child, I looked forward to every birthday.
About the time I hit 40, I started fighting it every step of the way.  At
45, I decided I wanted to be stronger with every successive year.  That
goal was severely interrupted in 2005, when I blow a disc in my neck and
underwent spinal fusion (C5-C7).

Today, I?m a cheeseburger away from 300 lbs and my 50th year is getting
close, but I am stronger today than I was before my injury.  Last year, I
rode a bicycle 360 miles in six days.  Last October, I rode a century (100
miles in one day) and I am training for another century this May.  I've
had eight Dog Fights at the Gatherings last year.  I can hit harder, lift
more weight, and my cardio is better than a lot of younger (and lighter)

Am I bragging?  Sure, but I'm also very grateful.  I was blessed with a
supportive wife and kids, and some very good physical therapists and
conditioning coaches who have helped me met my goals.
25897  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Nat Geo Documentary on the Dog Brothers: Fight Club on: January 22, 2008, 01:33:43 PM

I am a Martialist Christian.
My understanding of what Christ expects of me as a Christian is found in
His words to love God with my whole being and love others as I love
myself.  There is nothing passive or small about practicing this kind of

I practice martial arts for many of the same reasons as other people - to
stay in shape and to hang out with friends.  However, I ride with a
bicycle club for those reasons.  If exercise and friends was all I am
after, I would stick to riding (less bruises).  I practice martial arts to
learn how to hurt people.  And yet I am unconflicted.

The Christian Warrior is not only allowed in my ethic, but it thrives.
What if I were being hurt?  What if it was my wife or my kid who was in
trouble?  I would want someone to help - to fight - and not just standby
and watch.  Christian love requires us to imagine ourselves in another's
place and to act.  On the other hand, bystanders keep their hands in their
pockets because they live in a fantasy where trouble always happens to
someone else.  In the New Testament parable of the Good Samaritan, the
Samaritan was good because upon finding the man after he was beaten and
robbed, he cared for him.  Would he have still been the hero of the story,
if he had stood by and watched while the man was beat down and then care
for him?  No!

Happily my life is not filled with bad guys who are constantly attacking
my family and friends.  However, it is satisfying to know that I can do a
lot as a Christian to help the people around me - including defend them.

25898  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Nat Geo Documentary on the Dog Brothers: Fight Club on: January 22, 2008, 01:04:24 PM
25899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: January 22, 2008, 01:00:43 PM
English mosques are so extremist they'd be closed down in Baghdad, says IRAQ'S deputy prime minister

Certain English mosques are more radical than those found in Iraq and would be "illegal" in the war-torn country according to the Iraqi deputy prime minister.  The shocking remarks, made by Dr Barham Salih, related to mosques he visited in Blackburn and have angered Muslim leaders.  Dr Salih visited the east Lancashire town in 2005 as a guest of Jack Straw and made his remarks at a dinner party in Baghdad in November.

Shadow culture minister Tobias Ellwood, who attended the dinner, claimed the Iraqi politician said: "I am not surprised that you British are facing so many problems with extremists after what I saw in those mosques in Blackburn.  What I saw would not be allowed here in Iraq - it would be illegal."

The 41-year-old MP made the claims during a Westminster debate on terrorism.

He said: "I know Jack Straw well, but my eyebrows raise when you have a very senior Iraqi leader make comments like that.  I do not believe these comments can be dismissed out of hand. I was absolutely shocked.  He went inside the mosques, and said literature he saw would be illegal. He was quite clear.  The comments are only directed at a very small proportion of mosques in the UK - the vast majority of Muslims wouldn't want to be labelled."

Salim Mulla, chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, reacted furiously to the comments. He said Dr Salih spoke positively about what he had seen in the town when they spoke during his visit.

He said: "We are going out of our way to bring the community together. Nobody is working harder than us at breaking down barriers.  For Dr Salih to make these sort of comments is not very helpful at all.  I don't know where he's coming from. He was very co-operative when he visited, and took lots of photographs. How many incidents have we had in Blackburn? He is talking a load of rubbish."

Dr Salih, a Sunni Muslim, was elected in January 2005 to Iraq's first democratically held elections in 50 years.  During his visit, in the run-up to the 2005 general election, he told voters to support Jack Straw, then Foreign Secretary, and not to turn against him because of the war in Iraq.  Salim Mulla said he could not recall which mosques, Dr Salih visited.
25900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology on: January 22, 2008, 09:16:22 AM
NY Times

As the candidates have shown us in the succulent telenovela that is the 2008 presidential race, there are many ways to parry for political power. You can go tough and steely in an orange hunter’s jacket, or touchy-feely with a Kleenex packet. You can ally yourself with an alpha male like Chuck Norris, befriend an alpha female like Oprah Winfrey or split the difference and campaign with your mother. You can seek the measured endorsement of the town elders or the restless energy of the young, showily handle strange infants or furtively slam your opponents.

Just as there are myriad strategies open to the human political animal with White House ambitions, so there are a number of nonhuman animals that behave like textbook politicians. Researchers who study highly gregarious and relatively brainy species like rhesus monkeys, baboons, dolphins, sperm whales, elephants and wolves have lately uncovered evidence that the creatures engage in extraordinarily sophisticated forms of politicking, often across large and far-flung social networks.

Male dolphins, for example, organize themselves into at least three nested tiers of friends and accomplices, said Richard C. Connor of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, rather like the way human societies are constructed of small kin groups allied into larger tribes allied into still larger nation-states. The dolphins maintain their alliances through elaborately synchronized twists, leaps and spins like Blue Angel pilots blazing their acrobatic fraternity on high.

Among elephants, it is the females who are the born politicians, cultivating robust and lifelong social ties with at least 100 other elephants, a task made easier by their power to communicate infrasonically across miles of savanna floor. Wolves, it seems, leaven their otherwise strongly hierarchical society with occasional displays of populist umbrage, and if a pack leader proves a too-snappish tyrant, subordinate wolves will collude to overthrow the top cur.

Wherever animals must pool their talents and numbers into cohesive social groups, scientists said, the better to protect against predators, defend or enlarge choice real estate or acquire mates, the stage will be set for the appearance of political skills — the ability to please and placate, manipulate and intimidate, trade favors and scratch backs or, better yet, pluck those backs free of botflies and ticks.

Over time, the demands of a social animal’s social life may come to swamp all other selective pressures in the environment, possibly serving as the dominant spur for the evolution of ever-bigger vote-tracking brains. And though we humans may vaguely disapprove of our political impulses and harbor “Fountainhead” fantasies of pulling free in full glory from the nattering tribe, in fact for us and other highly social species there is no turning back. A lone wolf is a weak wolf, a failure, with no chance it will thrive.

Dario Maestripieri, a primatologist at the University of Chicago, has observed a similar dilemma in humans and the rhesus monkeys he studies.

“The paradox of a highly social species like rhesus monkeys and humans is that our complex sociality is the reason for our success, but it’s also the source of our greatest troubles,” he said. “Throughout human history, you see that the worst problems for people almost always come from other people, and it’s the same for the monkeys. You can put them anywhere, but their main problem is always going to be other rhesus monkeys.”

As Dr. Maestripieri sees it, rhesus monkeys embody the concept “Machiavellian” (and he accordingly named his recent popular book about the macaques “Macachiavellian Intelligence”).

“Individuals don’t fight for food, space or resources,” Dr. Maestripieri explained. “They fight for power.” With power and status, he added, “they’ll have control over everything else.”

Rhesus monkeys, midsize omnivores with ruddy brown fur, long bearded faces and disturbingly humanlike ears, are found throughout Asia, including in many cities, where they, like everybody else, enjoy harassing the tourists. The monkeys typically live in groups of 30 or so, a majority of them genetically related females and their dependent offspring.

A female monkey’s status is usually determined by her mother’s status. Male adults, as the ones who enter the group from the outside, must establish their social positions from scratch, bite, baring of canines and, most importantly, rallying their bases.
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“Fighting is never something that occurs between two individuals,” Dr. Maestripieri said. “Others get involved all the time, and your chances of success depend on how many allies you have, how wide is your network of support.”

Monkeys cultivate relationships by sitting close to their friends, grooming them at every possible opportunity and going to their aid — at least, when the photo op is right. “Rhesus males are quintessential opportunists,” Dr. Maestripieri said. “They pretend they’re helping others, but they only help adults, not infants. They only help those who are higher in rank than they are, not lower. They intervene in fights where they know they’re going to win anyway and where the risk of being injured is small.”

In sum, he said, “they try to gain maximal benefits at minimal cost, and that’s a strategy that seems to work” in advancing status.

Not all male primates pursue power by appealing to the gents. Among olive baboons, for example, a young male adult who has left his natal home and seeks to be elected into a new baboon group begins by making friendly overtures toward a resident female who is not in estrous at the moment and hence not being contested by other males of the troop.

“If the male is successful in forming a friendship with a female, that gives him an opening with her relatives and allows him to work his way into the whole female network,” said Barbara Smuts, a biologist at the University of Michigan. “In olive baboons, friendships with females can be much more important than political alliances with other males.”

Because males are often the so-called dispersing sex, while females stay behind in the support network of their female kin, females form the political backbone among many social mammals; the longer-lived the species, the denser and more richly articulated that backbone is likely to be.

With life spans rivaling ours, elephants are proving to possess some of the most elaborate social networks yet observed, and their memories for far-flung friends and relations are well in line with the species’ reputation. Elephant society is organized as a matriarchy, said George Wittemyer, an elephant expert at the University of California, Berkeley, with a given core group of maybe 10 elephants led by the eldest resident female. That core group is together virtually all the time, traveling over considerable distances, stopping to dig water holes, looking for fresh foliage to uproot and devour.

“They’re constantly making decisions, debating among themselves, over food, water and security,” Dr. Wittemyer said. “You can see it in the field. You can hear them vocally disagree.” Typically, the matriarch has the final say, and the others abide by her decision. If a faction disagrees strongly enough and wants to try a different approach, “the group will split up and meet back again later,” said Dr. Wittemyer.

Age has its privileges, he said, and the older females, even if they are not the biggest, will often get the best spots to sleep and the best food to eat. But it also has its responsibilities, and a matriarch is often the one to lead the charge in the face of conflicts with other elephants or predatory threats, sometimes to lethal effect.

Hal Whitehead of Dalhousie University and his colleagues have found surprising parallels between the elephant and another mammoth mammal, the sperm whale, possessor of the largest brain, in absolute terms, that the world has ever known. As with elephants, sperm whale society is sexually segregated, the females clustering in oceanic neighborhoods 40 degrees north or south of the Equator, and the males preferring waters around the poles.

As with elephants, the core social unit is a clan of some 10 or 12 females and their offspring. Sperm whales also are highly vocal. They communicate with one another using a Morse code-like pattern of clicks. Each clan, Dr. Whitehead said, has a distinctive click dialect that the members use to identify one another and that adults pass to the young. In other words, he said, “It looks like they have a form of culture.”

Nobody knows what the whales may have to click and clack about, but it could be a form of voting — time to stop here and synchronously dive down in search of deep water squid, now time to resurface, move on, dive again. Clans also seem to caucus on which males they like and will mate with more or less as a group and which ones they will collectively spurn. By all appearances, female sperm whales are terrible size queens. Over the generations, they have consistently voted in favor of enhanced male mass. Their dream candidate nowadays is some fellow named Moby, and he’s three times their size.

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