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25901  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Seattle, Sept 11-12, 2010 on: September 08, 2010, 11:18:39 PM
Leaving tomorrow (Thursday).  Happy Birthday Duncan!
25902  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: RIP Guro Patrick Davis on: September 08, 2010, 04:53:36 PM
I liked Pat a lot  cry cry cry

"The wood is consumed, but the fire burns on."
25903  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: September 08, 2010, 04:31:56 PM
Intuitively that makes sense to me.
25904  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unverified on: September 08, 2010, 03:26:46 PM
This just came over the transom. I can not speak to its veracity nor have I ever heard of Wayne Madsen. At the same time the concept is quite believable.

August 27-29, 2010 -- Obama put on notice by Democratic money moguls

Informed sources in Washington, DC have told WMR that President Obama has been personally told by a delegation of top Democratic Party financiers that unless he radically changes his economic policies they will bolt from him for another Democratic candidate in 2012. The Democratic money moguls conveyed the warning to Obama in Martha's Vineyard, where the president and his family are spending their vacation.


There are various factions within the Democratic Party that see different scenarios to bail out what many Democrats see as an administration in deep trouble with the electorate. One would have Secretary of State Hillary Clinton move up to replace Vice President Joe Biden on the 2012 ticket with Senator John Kerry becoming Secretary of State. However, WMR has been told that Clinton personally loathes Obama and his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and may not want to be part of the 2012 president ticket playing second fiddle to Obama.

WMR has also learned that Obama's reported "severe narcissism" has a number of his cabinet officials and top Democratic fundraisers perplexed. Obama's refusal to change course because of his ego was discussed at the recent annual Bohemian Grove conclave in northern California, which brings together influential businessmen and politicians from both parties. Top U.S. business leaders openly complained about Obama's economic policies, with some stating that Obama is, for the business community, the worst president in anyone's lifetime.


They also complained about White House gatekeepers like Emanuel and policy advisers Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod who are preventing access to the Oval Office.

Although such complaints could be expected from Republican businessmen, we have learned that top Democratic businessmen at the Bohemian Grove have told Jarrett, Obama's chief liaison to them, that all she does is  shake them down" for campaign contributions and that the uncertainty on the costs for Obama programs on health care and taxes has prevented the hiring of workers.


WMR has also learned that rather than change course, the White House staff, who are keenly reading anything that is critical of the president, are more interested in exacting revenge for criticism than in changing course. "The White House staff are voracious readers who are obsessed with favorable coverage," one source said.

The Obama administration's interest in a favorable public image over all other interests has a number of Democrats running for re-election privately miffed. One change many Democratic politicians and fundraisers would like to see is the replacement of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner with someone with more gravitas and a better handle on fixes for the plummeting economy.


Some senior Democrats are also livid about Emanuel's constant selling out of Democratic Party interests for narrow political objectives. WMR has been told by a reliable source that Emanuel has privately conveyed to Florida independent Senate candidate Governor Charlie Crist that the White House will quietly support him if he caucuses with Senate Democrats. Crist has apparently cut a deal with the White House that would see lukewarm White House support for Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek, who recently won the Democratic nomination.


There are dark clouds on the horizon for Obama regardless of a sudden course correction, which some Democrats do not see coming. Certain Democrats see Obama as a liability and there has been a reported understanding reached with the U.S. Attorney for northern Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald, that in the second trial of ex-Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich, Obama and his aides, particularly Emanuel, Jarrett, and Axelrod, will no longer enjoy protection from being called as witnesses.


The sudden dropping of federal corruption charges against Rob Blagojevich, the brother of the former governor, may be part of a deal worked out that would focus the trial more keenly on Blagojevich's dealings with Obama and his top aides, including the appointment of Obama's successor in the Senate and financial deals involving Tony Rezko, Stuart Levine, dubious property development in the north Chicago Fifth Congressional District formerly represented by Emanuel, real estate ventures involving the proposed 2016 Summer Olympics in Chicago, and Obama's mortgage with the failed Broadway Bank and his relationship with Rezko and U.S. Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, who was the vice president for loans at the bank at the time the mortgage loan was made.


If the scope of the investigation of corruption in Chicago expands beyond Blagojevich to the White House, we are told the word "impeachment" would begin to be on the lips of a number of Washington politicos.
25905  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: September 08, 2010, 10:14:03 AM
But in one case, sexual role models modelled will be Darwinian errors and at variance with abouat 95% of the children in question.
25906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rauf speaks on: September 08, 2010, 07:26:43 AM
Building on Faith
Published: September 7, 2010

AS my flight approached America last weekend, my mind circled back to the furor that has broken out over plans to build Cordoba House, a community center in Lower Manhattan.I have been away from home for two months, speaking abroad about cooperation among people from different religions. Every day, including the past two weeks spent representing my country on a State Department tour in the Middle East, I have been struck by how the controversy has riveted the attention of Americans, as well as nearly everyone I met in my travels.

We have all been awed by how inflamed and emotional the issue of the proposed community center has become. The level of attention reflects the degree to which people care about the very American values under debate: recognition of the rights of others, tolerance and freedom of worship.

Many people wondered why I did not speak out more, and sooner, about this project. I felt that it would not be right to comment from abroad. It would be better if I addressed these issues once I returned home to America, and after I could confer with leaders of other faiths who have been deliberating with us over this project. My life’s work has been focused on building bridges between religious groups and never has that been as important as it is now.

We are proceeding with the community center, Cordoba House. More important, we are doing so with the support of the downtown community, government at all levels and leaders from across the religious spectrum, who will be our partners. I am convinced that it is the right thing to do for many reasons.

Above all, the project will amplify the multifaith approach that the Cordoba Initiative has deployed in concrete ways for years. Our name, Cordoba, was inspired by the city in Spain where Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed in the Middle Ages during a period of great cultural enrichment created by Muslims. Our initiative is intended to cultivate understanding among all religions and cultures.

Our broader mission — to strengthen relations between the Western and Muslim worlds and to help counter radical ideology — lies not in skirting the margins of issues that have polarized relations within the Muslim world and between non-Muslims and Muslims. It lies in confronting them as a joint multifaith, multinational effort.

From the political conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians to the building of a community center in Lower Manhattan, Muslims and members of all faiths must work together if we are ever going to succeed in fostering understanding and peace.

At Cordoba House, we envision shared space for community activities, like a swimming pool, classrooms and a play space for children. There will be separate prayer spaces for Muslims, Christians, Jews and men and women of other faiths. The center will also include a multifaith memorial dedicated to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

I am very sensitive to the feelings of the families of victims of 9/11, as are my fellow leaders of many faiths. We will accordingly seek the support of those families, and the support of our vibrant neighborhood, as we consider the ultimate plans for the community center. Our objective has always been to make this a center for unification and healing.

Cordoba House will be built on the two fundamental commandments common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam: to love the Lord our creator with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength; and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We want to foster a culture of worship authentic to each religious tradition, and also a culture of forging personal bonds across religious traditions.

I do not underestimate the challenges that will be involved in bringing our work to completion. (Construction has not even begun yet.) I know there will be interest in our financing, and so we will clearly identify all of our financial backers.

Lost amid the commotion is the good that has come out of the recent discussion. I want to draw attention, specifically, to the open, law-based and tolerant actions that have taken place, and that are particularly striking for Muslims.

President Obama and Mayor Michael Bloomberg both spoke out in support of our project. As I traveled overseas, I saw firsthand how their words and actions made a tremendous impact on the Muslim street and on Muslim leaders. It was striking: a Christian president and a Jewish mayor of New York supporting the rights of Muslims. Their statements sent a powerful message about what America stands for, and will be remembered as a milestone in improving American-Muslim relations.

The wonderful outpouring of support for our right to build this community center from across the social, religious and political spectrum seriously undermines the ability of anti-American radicals to recruit young, impressionable Muslims by falsely claiming that America persecutes Muslims for their faith. These efforts by radicals at distortion endanger our national security and the personal security of Americans worldwide. This is why Americans must not back away from completion of this project. If we do, we cede the discourse and, essentially, our future to radicals on both sides. The paradigm of a clash between the West and the Muslim world will continue, as it has in recent decades at terrible cost. It is a paradigm we must shift.

From those who recognize our rights, from grassroots organizers to heads of state, I sense a global desire to build on this positive momentum and to be part of a global movement to heal relations and bring peace. This is an opportunity we must grasp.

I therefore call upon all Americans to rise to this challenge. Let us commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 by pausing to reflect and meditate and tone down the vitriol and rhetoric that serves only to strengthen the radicals and weaken our friends’ belief in our values.

The very word “islam” comes from a word cognate to shalom, which means peace in Hebrew. The Koran declares in its 36th chapter, regarded by the Prophet Muhammad as the heart of the Koran, in a verse deemed the heart of this chapter, “Peace is a word spoken from a merciful Lord.”

How better to commemorate 9/11 than to urge our fellow Muslims, fellow Christians and fellow Jews to follow the fundamental common impulse of our great faith traditions?

Feisal Abdul Rauf is the chairman of the Cordoba Initiative and the imam of the Farah mosque in Lower Manhattan.
25907  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Forget what you know about good study habits on: September 08, 2010, 07:06:07 AM
Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits
Published: September 6, 2010

Every September, millions of parents try a kind of psychological witchcraft, to transform their summer-glazed campers into fall students, their video-bugs into bookworms. Advice is cheap and all too familiar: Clear a quiet work space. Stick to a homework schedule. Set goals. Set boundaries. Do not bribe (except in emergencies).

And check out the classroom. Does Junior’s learning style match the new teacher’s approach? Or the school’s philosophy? Maybe the child isn’t “a good fit” for the school.

Such theories have developed in part because of sketchy education research that doesn’t offer clear guidance. Student traits and teaching styles surely interact; so do personalities and at-home rules. The trouble is, no one can predict how.

Yet there are effective approaches to learning, at least for those who are motivated. In recent years, cognitive scientists have shown that a few simple techniques can reliably improve what matters most: how much a student learns from studying.

The findings can help anyone, from a fourth grader doing long division to a retiree taking on a new language. But they directly contradict much of the common wisdom about good study habits, and they have not caught on.

For instance, instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. So does studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single thing.

“We have known these principles for some time, and it’s intriguing that schools don’t pick them up, or that people don’t learn them by trial and error,” said Robert A. Bjork, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Instead, we walk around with all sorts of unexamined beliefs about what works that are mistaken.”

Take the notion that children have specific learning styles, that some are “visual learners” and others are auditory; some are “left-brain” students, others “right-brain.” In a recent review of the relevant research, published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a team of psychologists found almost zero support for such ideas. “The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing,” the researchers concluded.

Ditto for teaching styles, researchers say. Some excellent instructors caper in front of the blackboard like summer-theater Falstaffs; others are reserved to the point of shyness. “We have yet to identify the common threads between teachers who create a constructive learning atmosphere,” said Daniel T. Willingham, a psychologist at the University of Virginia and author of the book “Why Don’t Students Like School?”

But individual learning is another matter, and psychologists have discovered that some of the most hallowed advice on study habits is flat wrong. For instance, many study skills courses insist that students find a specific place, a study room or a quiet corner of the library, to take their work. The research finds just the opposite. In one classic 1978 experiment, psychologists found that college students who studied a list of 40 vocabulary words in two different rooms — one windowless and cluttered, the other modern, with a view on a courtyard — did far better on a test than students who studied the words twice, in the same room. Later studies have confirmed the finding, for a variety of topics.

The brain makes subtle associations between what it is studying and the background sensations it has at the time, the authors say, regardless of whether those perceptions are conscious. It colors the terms of the Versailles Treaty with the wasted fluorescent glow of the dorm study room, say; or the elements of the Marshall Plan with the jade-curtain shade of the willow tree in the backyard. Forcing the brain to make multiple associations with the same material may, in effect, give that information more neural scaffolding.

“What we think is happening here is that, when the outside context is varied, the information is enriched, and this slows down forgetting,” said Dr. Bjork, the senior author of the two-room experiment.

Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting — alternating, for example, among vocabulary, reading and speaking in a new language — seems to leave a deeper impression on the brain than does concentrating on just one skill at a time. Musicians have known this for years, and their practice sessions often include a mix of scales, musical pieces and rhythmic work. Many athletes, too, routinely mix their workouts with strength, speed and skill drills.

The advantages of this approach to studying can be striking, in some topic areas. In a study recently posted online by the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, Doug Rohrer and Kelli Taylor of the University of South Florida taught a group of fourth graders four equations, each to calculate a different dimension of a prism. Half of the children learned by studying repeated examples of one equation, say, calculating the number of prism faces when given the number of sides at the base, then moving on to the next type of calculation, studying repeated examples of that. The other half studied mixed problem sets, which included examples all four types of calculations grouped together. Both groups solved sample problems along the way, as they studied.


(Page 2 of 2)

A day later, the researchers gave all of the students a test on the material, presenting new problems of the same type. The children who had studied mixed sets did twice as well as the others, outscoring them 77 percent to 38 percent. The researchers have found the same in experiments involving adults and younger children.

“When students see a list of problems, all of the same kind, they know the strategy to use before they even read the problem,” said Dr. Rohrer. “That’s like riding a bike with training wheels.” With mixed practice, he added, “each problem is different from the last one, which means kids must learn how to choose the appropriate procedure — just like they had to do on the test.”

These findings extend well beyond math, even to aesthetic intuitive learning. In an experiment published last month in the journal Psychology and Aging, researchers found that college students and adults of retirement age were better able to distinguish the painting styles of 12 unfamiliar artists after viewing mixed collections (assortments, including works from all 12) than after viewing a dozen works from one artist, all together, then moving on to the next painter.

The finding undermines the common assumption that intensive immersion is the best way to really master a particular genre, or type of creative work, said Nate Kornell, a psychologist at Williams College and the lead author of the study. “What seems to be happening in this case is that the brain is picking up deeper patterns when seeing assortments of paintings; it’s picking up what’s similar and what’s different about them,” often subconsciously.

Cognitive scientists do not deny that honest-to-goodness cramming can lead to a better grade on a given exam. But hurriedly jam-packing a brain is akin to speed-packing a cheap suitcase, as most students quickly learn — it holds its new load for a while, then most everything falls out.

“With many students, it’s not like they can’t remember the material” when they move to a more advanced class, said Henry L. Roediger III, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s like they’ve never seen it before.”

When the neural suitcase is packed carefully and gradually, it holds its contents for far, far longer. An hour of study tonight, an hour on the weekend, another session a week from now: such so-called spacing improves later recall, without requiring students to put in more overall study effort or pay more attention, dozens of studies have found.

No one knows for sure why. It may be that the brain, when it revisits material at a later time, has to relearn some of what it has absorbed before adding new stuff — and that that process is itself self-reinforcing.

“The idea is that forgetting is the friend of learning,” said Dr. Kornell. “When you forget something, it allows you to relearn, and do so effectively, the next time you see it.”

That’s one reason cognitive scientists see testing itself — or practice tests and quizzes — as a powerful tool of learning, rather than merely assessment. The process of retrieving an idea is not like pulling a book from a shelf; it seems to fundamentally alter the way the information is subsequently stored, making it far more accessible in the future.

Dr. Roediger uses the analogy of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in physics, which holds that the act of measuring a property of a particle (position, for example) reduces the accuracy with which you can know another property (momentum, for example): “Testing not only measures knowledge but changes it,” he says — and, happily, in the direction of more certainty, not less.

In one of his own experiments, Dr. Roediger and Jeffrey Karpicke, also of Washington University, had college students study science passages from a reading comprehension test, in short study periods. When students studied the same material twice, in back-to-back sessions, they did very well on a test given immediately afterward, then began to forget the material.

But if they studied the passage just once and did a practice test in the second session, they did very well on one test two days later, and another given a week later.

“Testing has such bad connotation; people think of standardized testing or teaching to the test,” Dr. Roediger said. “Maybe we need to call it something else, but this is one of the most powerful learning tools we have.”

Of course, one reason the thought of testing tightens people’s stomachs is that tests are so often hard. Paradoxically, it is just this difficulty that makes them such effective study tools, research suggests. The harder it is to remember something, the harder it is to later forget. This effect, which researchers call “desirable difficulty,” is evident in daily life. The name of the actor who played Linc in “The Mod Squad”? Francie’s brother in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”? The name of the co-discoverer, with Newton, of calculus?

The more mental sweat it takes to dig it out, the more securely it will be subsequently anchored.

None of which is to suggest that these techniques — alternating study environments, mixing content, spacing study sessions, self-testing or all the above — will turn a grade-A slacker into a grade-A student. Motivation matters. So do impressing friends, making the hockey team and finding the nerve to text the cute student in social studies.

“In lab experiments, you’re able to control for all factors except the one you’re studying,” said Dr. Willingham. “Not true in the classroom, in real life. All of these things are interacting at the same time.”

But at the very least, the cognitive techniques give parents and students, young and old, something many did not have before: a study plan based on evidence, not schoolyard folk wisdom, or empty theorizing.
25908  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pat Cadell on GZM on: September 08, 2010, 06:54:45 AM
25909  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: 911 and the 9 year war on: September 08, 2010, 06:43:07 AM
9/11 and the 9-Year War
September 8, 2010

By George Friedman

It has now been nine years since al Qaeda attacked the United States. It has been nine years in which the primary focus of the United States has been on the Islamic world. In addition to a massive investment in homeland security, the United States has engaged in two multi-year, multi-divisional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, inserted forces in other countries in smaller operations and conducted a global covert campaign against al Qaeda and other radical jihadist groups.

In order to understand the last nine years you must understand the first 24 hours of the war — and recall your own feelings in those 24 hours. First, the attack was a shock, its audaciousness frightening. Second, we did not know what was coming next. The attack had destroyed the right to complacent assumptions. Were there other cells standing by in the United States? Did they have capabilities even more substantial than what they showed on Sept. 11? Could they be detected and stopped? Any American not frightened on Sept. 12 was not in touch with reality. Many who are now claiming that the United States overreacted are forgetting their own sense of panic. We are all calm and collected nine years after.

At the root of all of this was a profound lack of understanding of al Qaeda, particularly its capabilities and intentions. Since we did not know what was possible, our only prudent course was to prepare for the worst. That is what the Bush administration did. Nothing symbolized this more than the fear that al Qaeda had acquired nuclear weapons and that they would use them against the United States. The evidence was minimal, but the consequences would be overwhelming. Bush crafted a strategy based on the worst-case scenario.

Bush was the victim of a decade of failure in the intelligence community to understand what al Qaeda was and wasn’t. I am not merely talking about the failure to predict the 9/11 attack. Regardless of assertions afterwards, the intelligence community provided only vague warnings that lacked the kind of specificity that makes for actionable intelligence. To a certain degree, this is understandable. Al Qaeda learned from Soviet, Saudi, Pakistani and American intelligence during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and knew how to launch attacks without tipping off the target. The greatest failure of American intelligence was not the lack of a clear warning about 9/11 but the lack, on Sept. 12, of a clear picture of al Qaeda’s global structure, capabilities, weaknesses and intentions. Without such information, implementing U.S. policy was like piloting an airplane with faulty instruments in a snowstorm at night.

The president had to do three things: First, he had to assure the public that he knew what he was doing. Second, he had to do something that appeared decisive. Third, he had to gear up an intelligence and security apparatus to tell him what the threats actually were and what he ought to do. American policy became ready, fire, aim.

In looking back at the past nine years, two conclusions can be drawn: There were no more large-scale attacks on the United States by militant Islamists, and the United States was left with the legacy of responses that took place in the first two years after 9/11. This legacy is no longer useful, if it ever was, to the primary mission of defeating al Qaeda, and it represents an effort that is retrospectively out of proportion to the threat.

If I had been told on Sept.12, 2001, that the attack the day before would be the last major attack for at least nine years, I would not have believed it. In looking at the complexity of the security and execution of the 9/11 attack, I would have assumed that an organization capable of acting once in such a way could act again even more effectively. My assumption was wrong. Al Qaeda did not have the resources to mount other operations, and the U.S. response, in many ways clumsy and misguided and in other ways clever and targeted, disrupted any preparations in which al Qaeda might have been engaged to conduct follow-on attacks.

Knowing that about al Qaeda in 2001 was impossible. Knowing which operations were helpful in the effort to block them was impossible, in the context of what Americans knew in the first years after the war began. Therefore, Washington wound up in the contradictory situation in which American military and covert operations surged while new attacks failed to materialize. This created a massive political problem. Rather than appearing to be the cause for the lack of attacks, U.S. military operations were perceived by many as being unnecessary or actually increasing the threat of attack. Even in hindsight, aligning U.S. actions with the apparent outcome is difficult and controversial. But still we know two things: It has been nine years since Sept. 11, 2001, and the war goes on.

What happened was that an act of terrorism was allowed to redefine U.S. grand strategy. The United States operates with a grand strategy derived from the British strategy in Europe — maintaining the balance of power. For the United Kingdom, maintaining the balance of power in Europe protected any one power from emerging that could unite Europe and build a fleet to invade the United Kingdom or block its access to its empire. British strategy was to help create coalitions to block emerging hegemons such as Spain, France or Germany. Using overt and covert means, the United Kingdom aimed to ensure that no hegemonic power could emerge.

The Americans inherited that grand strategy from the British but elevated it to a global rather than regional level. Having blocked the Soviet Union from hegemony over Europe and Asia, the United States proceeded with a strategy whose goal, like that of the United Kingdom, was to nip potential regional hegemons in the bud. The U.S. war with Iraq in 1990-91 and the war with Serbia/Yugoslavia in 1999 were examples of this strategy. It involved coalition warfare, shifting America’s weight from side to side and using minimal force to disrupt the plans of regional aspirants to gain power. This U.S. strategy also was cloaked in the ideology of global liberalism and human rights.

The key to this strategy was its global nature. The emergence of a hegemonic contender that could challenge the United States globally, as the Soviet Union had done, was the worst-case scenario. Therefore, the containment of emerging powers wherever they might emerge was the centerpiece of American balance-of-power strategy.

The most significant effect of 9/11 was that it knocked the United States off its strategy. Rather than adapting its standing global strategy to better address the counterterrorism issue, the United States became obsessed with a single region, the area between the Mediterranean and the Hindu Kush. Within that region, the United States operated with a balance-of-power strategy. It played off all of the nations in the region against each other. It did the same with ethnic and religious groups throughout the region and particularly within Iraq and Afghanistan, the main theaters of the war. In both cases, the United States sought to take advantage of internal divisions, shifting its support in various directions to create a balance of power. That, in the end, was what the surge strategy was all about.

The American obsession with this region in the wake of 9/11 is understandable. Nine years later, with no clear end in sight, the question is whether this continued focus is strategically rational for the United States. Given the uncertainties of the first few years, obsession and uncertainty are understandable, but as a long-term U.S. strategy — the long war that the U.S. Department of Defense is preparing for — it leaves the rest of the world uncovered.

Consider that the Russians have used the American absorption in this region as a window of opportunity to work to reconstruct their geopolitical position. When Russia went to war with Georgia in 2008, an American ally, the United States did not have the forces with which to make a prudent intervention. Similarly, the Chinese have had a degree of freedom of action they could not have expected to enjoy prior to 9/11. The single most important result of 9/11 was that it shifted the United States from a global stance to a regional one, allowing other powers to take advantage of this focus to create significant potential challenges to the United States.

One can make the case, as I have, that whatever the origin of the Iraq war, remaining in Iraq to contain Iran is necessary. It is difficult to make a similar case for Afghanistan. Its strategic interest to the United States is minimal. The only justification for the war is that al Qaeda launched its attacks on the United States from Afghanistan. But that justification is no longer valid. Al Qaeda can launch attacks from Yemen or other countries. The fact that Afghanistan was the base from which the attacks were launched does not mean that al Qaeda depends on Afghanistan to launch attacks. And given that the apex leadership of al Qaeda has not launched attacks in a while, the question is whether al Qaeda is capable of launching such attacks any longer. In any case, managing al Qaeda today does not require nation building in Afghanistan.

But let me state a more radical thesis: The threat of terrorism cannot become the singular focus of the United States. Let me push it further: The United States cannot subordinate its grand strategy to simply fighting terrorism even if there will be occasional terrorist attacks on the United States. Three thousand people died in the 9/11 attack. That is a tragedy, but in a nation of over 300 million, 3,000 deaths cannot be permitted to define the totality of national strategy. Certainly, resources must be devoted to combating the threat and, to the extent possible, disrupting it. But it must also be recognized that terrorism cannot always be blocked, that terrorist attacks will occur and that the world’s only global power cannot be captive to this single threat.

The initial response was understandable and necessary. The United States must continue its intelligence gathering and covert operations against militant Islamists throughout the world. The intelligence failures of the 1990s must not be repeated. But waging a multi-divisional war in Afghanistan makes no strategic sense. The balance-of-power strategy must be used. Pakistan will intervene and discover the Russians and Iranians. The great game will continue. As for Iran, regional counters must be supported at limited cost to the United States. The United States should not be patrolling the far reaches of the region. It should be supporting a balance of power among the native powers of the region.

The United States is a global power and, as such, it must have a global view. It has interests and challenges beyond this region and certainly beyond Afghanistan. The issue there is not whether the United States can or can’t win, however that is defined. The issue is whether it is worth the effort considering what is going on in the rest of the world. Gen. David Petraeus cast the war in terms of whether the United States can win it. That’s reasonable; he’s the commander. But American strategy has to ask another question: What does the United States lose elsewhere while it focuses on the future of Kandahar?

The 9/11 attack shocked the United States and made counterterrorism the centerpiece of American foreign policy. That is too narrow a basis on which to base U.S. foreign policy. It is certainly an important strand of that policy, and it must be addressed, but it should be addressed through the regional balance of power. It is the good fortune of the United States that the Islamic world is torn by internal rivalries.

This is not dismissing the threat of terror. It is recognizing that the United States has done well in suppressing it over the past nine years but at a cost in other regions, a cost that can’t be sustained indefinitely and a cost that could well result in challenges more threatening than a rising Islamist militancy. The United States must now settle into a long-term strategy of managing terrorism as best as it can while not neglecting the rest of its interests.

After nine years, the issue is not what to do in Afghanistan but how the global power can return to managing all of its global interests, along with the war on al Qaeda.

25910  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 08, 2010, 06:30:27 AM
Take a look at the topography of the narrow strip of China through which they would have to build a road sufficient to support that level of economic endeavor.  Then add in the dangers of operating in Afganistan.  The expense in money and the military effort IMHO are quite unappealing, even for the Chinese.
25911  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Our spontaneous universe on: September 07, 2010, 11:14:44 PM
Although recently I have been connecting more with spiritual things, this article seems worthy of posting here:

Physicist Stephen Hawking has done it again. This time he's sent shock waves around the world by arguing that God didn't create the universe; it was created spontaneously. Shocking or not, he actually understated the case.

For over 2,000 years the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" has captured theologians and philosophers. While usually framed as a religious or philosophical question, it is equally a question about the natural world. So an appropriate place to try and resolve it is with science.

As a scientist, I have never quite understood the conviction, at the basis of essentially all the world's religions, that creation requires a creator. Every day beautiful and miraculous objects suddenly appear, from snowflakes on a cold winter morning to rainbows after a late afternoon summer shower.

Yet no one but the most ardent fundamentalists would suggest that every such object is painstakingly and purposefully created by divine intelligence. In fact, we revel in our ability to explain how snowflakes and rainbows can spontaneously appear based on the simple, elegant laws of physics.

So if we can explain a raindrop, why can't we explain a universe? Mr. Hawking based his argument on the possible existence of extra dimensions—and perhaps an infinite number of universes, which would indeed make the spontaneous appearance of a universe like ours seem almost trivial.

Yet there are remarkable, testable arguments that provide firmer empirical evidence of the possibility that our universe arose from nothing.

One of the greatest sagas in physics over the past century has been the effort to "weigh the universe." Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity explained that space is curved and therefore our universe can exist in one of three different geometries: open, closed or flat. A closed universe is like a three-dimensional sphere, which may be impossible to imagine, but is easy to describe. If you looked far enough in one direction in such a universe you would see the back of your head.

While these exotic geometries are fun to talk about, operationally there is a much more important consequence of their existence. A closed universe whose energy density is dominated by matter will one day recollapse. An open universe will continue to expand forever at a finite rate, and a flat universe is just at the boundary—slowing down, but never quite stopping.

Some of us have spent our careers trying to figure out what kind of universe we live in so we could be the first ones to know how the universe would end. After 80 years of trying we have actually determined the answer. Observations of the cosmic microwave background from the Big Bang have unambiguously confirmed that we live in a precisely flat universe.

It appears that the dominant energy in our universe doesn't reside in normal matter, or even mysterious dark matter. Rather, it is located in a much more mysterious form of energy in empty space. Figuring out why empty space has energy is perhaps the biggest mystery in physics and cosmology today.

The existence of this energy, called dark energy, has another consequence: It changes the picture so that knowing the geometry of the universe is no longer enough to determine its future. While this may be a disappointment, the existence of dark energy and a flat universe has profound implications for those of us who suspected the universe might arise from nothing.

Why? Because if you add up the total energy of a flat universe, the result is precisely zero. How can this be? When you include the effects of gravity, energy comes in two forms. Mass corresponds to positive energy, but the gravitational attraction between massive objects can correspond to negative energy. If the positive energy and the negative gravitational energy of the universe cancel out, we end up in a flat universe.

Think about it: If our universe arose spontaneously from nothing at all, one might predict that its total energy should be zero. And when we measure the total energy of the universe, which could have been anything, the answer turns out to be the only one consistent with this possibility.

Coincidence? Maybe. But data like this coming in from our revolutionary new tools promise to turn much of what is now metaphysics into physics. Whether God survives is anyone's guess.

Mr. Krauss, a cosmologist, is director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. His newest book, "A Universe From Nothing" will be published by Free Press in 2011.
25912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: September 07, 2010, 08:01:57 PM
Beck is on vacation this week and Judge Napolitano is hosting a week dedicated to reviewing "the world according to Beck"-- a good week for new comers to get a sense of things and for regular viewers to get a good broad review.

Changing subjects, here's this from the WSJ:

The tea party movement has largely been a boon for the country, reviving the case for limited government and a properly understood Constitution. Now that the general election campaign is near, however, we'll see how well the movement and its favored candidates can close the sale and pragmatically advance their goals.

We say this in particular about their relationship to the Republican Party, and vice versa. The GOP is a more natural ideological home for most tea partiers than is the other major party, but they also suspect many Republicans of committing pragmatism, if not selling out too easily to Beltway mores. They have a point.

On the other hand, sometimes you need a few "wets" to gain a majority and advance your own ideas. Ask Nancy Pelosi, who rode the victories of Rahm Emanuel's hand-picked Blue Dog Democrats to the House Speakership in 2006 and then used them to pass 40 years of liberal dreams in this Congress.

This political dilemma is coming to a head in next week's Senate primary in Delaware to determine the GOP nominee for Joe Biden's former seat. Congressman and former Governor Mike Castle is running and is thought to be an easy general election winner. This would be a net GOP gain in a blue state that gave President Obama 62% of the vote in 2008. Such pickups aren't easy to come by.

Mr. Castle will never be mistaken for South Carolina's Jim DeMint, however, and he has a moderate voting record across his 18 years in Congress. His (still unapologetic) support for cap and tax last year is especially radioactive for many GOP primary voters, whether or not they are tea party fellow-travelers. That voting record has drawn a primary challenge from Christine O'Donnell, an itinerant conservative commentator and activist who is supported by some in the tea party movement and national talk radio. She is close in the polls and could pull an upset.

View Full Image

Associated Press
Christine O'Donnell, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, addresses supporters during a Tea Party Express news conference.
.If she does defeat Mr. Castle, however, she has little chance to win in November. A two-time loser statewide, Ms. O'Donnell has a history of financial troubles and recently told the Weekly Standard her home and office were vandalized, though she hadn't reported it to police. She recently accused a conservative local talk radio host that he had been "paid off" by Mr. Castle's supporters after he asked her tough questions.

So GOP primary voters must decide if they want to vote for Mr. Castle, a moderate who would help Republicans organize the Senate and who opposed ObamaCare but who will give them heartburn on some issue in the future. Or they can vote their heart even if it means giving up a Senate seat.

A similar case is the race for the GOP nomination in upstate New York's 23rd Congressional District. Doug Hoffman ran on the Conservative line in a special election last year after being shut out by GOP bosses, and a Democrat ended up victorious in a three-candidate race. Mr. Hoffman is threatening another third-party run if he loses the GOP primary next Tuesday, even though this time voters are deciding, not party insiders. At some point, voters will wonder if Mr. Hoffman's candidacy is about his principles, or his personal ambition.

Politics in our two-party system is about coalition building, and any successful party must stretch across many groups. Republicans will have to accommodate much of the tea party agenda if they hope to assemble a new majority and avoid third-party challenges. But tea partiers who want to restore proper Constitutional limits, rather than merely pad the ratings of talk radio, might recall William F. Buckley Jr.'s counsel that his policy was to vote for the most conservative candidate who could win.
25913  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010 on: September 07, 2010, 05:49:30 PM
Dog Mauricio of Mexico City just sent in his registration.  Is there someone who can offer him a place to stay?  Please email me at

Thank you.
25914  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GZM: $18m rejected, $4.7m accepted? on: September 07, 2010, 03:04:59 PM
25915  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / OTOH, here's this: on: September 07, 2010, 03:02:17 PM
25916  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pay-back time on: September 07, 2010, 02:57:10 PM
I have not had a chance to snopes these yet, so caveat lector.

Both the Saudis and George Soros are supporting Barack Obama, it is 'payback-time'.
Barack Obama and George Soros Connection information. 
Barack Obama and Saudi Connection information.
As early as 1988, BEFORE he entered Harvard, Barack Obama was beholding the Saudi Royal Family and
has had his WAY made easy for him. Here is a Faustian Deal that is now being paid back. The Saudis have
 long wanted a Muslim in the White House and now they have it. Please share this widely.
Barack Obama and Bill Ayers Connection (SDS Weatherman Underground domestic terrorists)
caption from video:
*Update: Newest and most concerning connection: Hatem El-hady. Had his phony charity organization closed and assets
 frozen by the US government for raising money for Hamas in 2006. Under investigation by the FBI for connections to Al-Qaeda
 and terrorist attacks in London. He's been funding Obama's campaign lately and just recently had his page removed from
Barack Obama/Bill Ayers and Rashid Khalidi Connection
Through the Woods Fund, Obama funds the Islamist Terrorist Organization, the PLO
25917  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 07, 2010, 02:52:09 PM
Why would they be motivated to do that?
25918  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Criminal Justice system on: September 07, 2010, 02:50:47 PM
Scurvy posted:

"He prescribes life terms for violent offenders, but in prisons structured as work communities, where privileges are earned through work in expanded, productive industries that reduce the financial burden of incarceration on the public."

This resonates with me.  I will be thinking about it more.
25919  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 07, 2010, 02:47:35 PM
Whoa!  I just noticed your post Scurvy! We are very grateful you and yours are safe and sound and back here in America!!!

Turning now to the reason I came to this thread today, I am grateful for some inspiration DVDs which are reminding me of some things I used to know.

And a prayer for a friend who has made a big mistake , , ,

25920  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: September 07, 2010, 11:17:24 AM
Well, at least he is listed here!  embarassed
25921  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Adoption issues on: September 07, 2010, 10:58:55 AM
Heated debate and controversy swept across the Australian state of New South Wales last week when a bill granting same-sex couples the same rights under adoption laws as heterosexual couples was passed narrowly (45 votes to 43) in the Legislative Assembly (lower house) of its Parliament.

The message that permeated the media was this: that discrimination against same-sex couples has to stop, and that adoption is just one more frontier that needs to be conquered. Passionate letters condemning conservatives and religious beliefs reflected the same theme: one reader of the Sydney Morning Herald said that "[h]omosexuals are just as capable of, and entitled to, raising a child [sic]. The same-sex adoption bill goes some way towards the legitimate and continuing campaign to give same-sex couples the same legal and social rights... as enjoyed by mixed gender parents." While a campaign to stop discrimination against same-sex relationships clearly formed the underlying objective of this legislation and the undercurrent of debate, the justification for it was marketed by the slogan: "What matters is loving parents, not their sexuality."

Members of Parliament were allowed by their parties to have a conscience vote, and leaders of both parties voted in favour of the bill. The state premier and self-professed Catholic, Kristina Keneally, went so far as to attempt to reconcile her position to back the legislation with Catholic teaching. Keneally actually hails from Ohio where she attended the University of Dayton, a Catholic institution. Presumably she did not major in theology, judging from how she mixes snippets of Catholic doctrine on homosexuality and the morality of sex outside of marriage with quotes from scripture, mostly taken out of context, misunderstood and in any case, irrelevant. Needless to say, while Keneally may have convinced herself of the congruity between her faith and her stand on the placement of children with same-sex couples, she convinced neither those for nor those against the amendments.

In any event, what the NSW premier and the media have in common is this: they have missed the point. What should have been the crux of this debate -- the best interests of the child -- was lost in the strong tide of sentiment favouring the view that the rights of the prospective adopting parents are paramount and that discrimination against people of same-sex orientation must be eliminated in every way, shape and form.

The issue of whether same-sex adoption is in the best interests of the child is not, in fact, about homophobia or whether prospective same-sex parents have a "right" to adopt a child. One person who appears to have gotten this right is Mike Baird, the shadow treasurer of the Legislative Assembly, whose starting point was "the interests of children and their needs rather than adults and their rights". He went on to criticise the bill as one that puts "the rights of the adults at the centre... the interests of adults above those of children."

The central question to be addressed, said Baird, was not (as Keneally held) whether children needed a loving family; rather, the issue turned on whether it is in the child’s best interests to be "effectively barred" from having a mother and a father.

"f it is accepted that a child has a human right to a mother and a father," he said in the parliamentary debate, "this is a negative right in the sense that there is no claim that society or the state are obliged to provide this, but simply that they are obliged not to help deprive someone of them."

The question he raises is one that ought to make us pause: giving equal preference to same-sex parents and opposite-sex parents that wish to adopt means that the state has the arbitrary power to decide whether or not a child is going to have a father and a mother. Clothing the issue in questions of whether homosexual couples are capable of giving the child care, love and a stable environment, or whether homosexual couples could do it better than dysfunctional opposite-sex parents, and bringing in arguments about where religion stands on the debate -- all of this distracts from the main question.

What we need to ask ourselves is whether it is right that the state be allowed to deprive a child of the chance to have both a person who fulfils the function of a mother and a person who fulfils the function of a father, and all that the collaboration of two people of different genders potentially brings to the development of a human being. The opportunity to have a mother and a father is a very distinct and separate issue from discriminating against people of same-sex orientation, although admittedly and by its nature, it inevitably does.

While Baird acknowledged the complexity surrounding the debate and the need to abolish all unjust discrimination, he also pointed out that passing the bill would amount to a "deliberate decision... to negate one biological parent", which could only be justified if it is accepted that a child definitively does not need both a father and a mother.

Baird voted against the law change on the ground that there was insufficient depth of research to show that there was no long-term impact on children in same-sex families. Without such evidence he said he could not justify legislating against the "time-honoured practice of placing children with both a mother and a father".

"If we wish to make such a dramatic move," he said, "... we must be convinced that it is in the best interests of the child. From what I have read, we are not at this point. Going forward this should lead the debate, not the need to eradicate discrimination or address legal anomalies."

The Legislative Council, which is the upper house of the NSW Parliament and whose approval is required to make this bill law, is considering these issues this week. Let’s hope they get it right this time.

Susan Smithies is the pen name of a lawyer working in New South Wales.
25922  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 07, 2010, 01:48:47 AM
Well certainly we have no chance with the currently enunciated strategy.

I too have made the point about Pashtunistan in my offering of some outside the box strategy.  Although I admit to the vanity of thinking my ideas rather clever, no one else in enunciating anything that I respect and so amongst the currently offered choices my vote is for "none of the above."

We need to remember that people cheered the overthrow of the Taliban and appreciate that maybe they do terrorize those who know we are leaving.

25923  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: September 07, 2010, 01:38:55 AM
Woof All:

A mere 5 months later Tyler Morin has chosen his name.  A hearty woof to C-Dirty Dog!

Crafty Dog
25924  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010 on: September 06, 2010, 08:31:28 PM
How many is that?
25925  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010 on: September 06, 2010, 07:27:57 PM
The dinner will be held in the Hermosa Beach area.

As always, there will be a post Gathering get together at a beer and burger joint in the general vicinity of the Gathering-- details to be provided by Pappy Dog.
25926  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Ramadan fast by NFL player on: September 06, 2010, 01:05:19 PM
second post of the day:

In the Heat of Camp, the Hunger of Faith
Published: September 5, 2010

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — For Minnesota Vikings defensive back Husain Abdullah, the most important clock inside the Metrodome was not the one keeping time for his team’s recent preseason game with the Seattle Seahawks. Another, showing the time of day, held greater significance for him and for the Vikings’ training staff.

 Husain Abdullah in action against the San Francisco 49ers last month. In 2008, as a rookie, he fasted without telling anyone.
Abdullah, a third-year safety, is a Muslim who keeps the traditional fast during the holy month of Ramadan; he cannot eat or drink from sunup to sundown. So while his teammates slugged down water and sports drinks on the sideline during the first quarter, Abdullah had to abstain until sunset, at 7:57 p.m. Abdullah went by the clock because the game was indoors.

“So I told them, as soon as it’s 8 o’clock, remind me so I can pour some down,” Abdullah said. “We did a kickoff, had a long drive on defense, and then they scored a field goal. On the sideline they said: ‘It’s 8 o’clock. Start pounding.’ ”

The physical demands of an N.F.L. training camp, which entail two practices on some days, can tax even the best-hydrated and well-fed players. Yet Abdullah, 25, and his brother Hamza, a 27-year-old defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals, are committed to fasting throughout Ramadan, which ends at sundown Thursday — the night the Vikings open the season in New Orleans.

An N.F.L. spokesman was not aware of any other Muslim players who were fasting.

The fast is not required if a person is ill or it poses an undue hardship, according to Hamza Abdullah, who skipped several days in 2008 because of an injured hip and made them up later. Denver offensive tackle Ryan Harris, a converted Muslim and Hamza Abdullah’s former teammate, is not fasting, according to a Broncos spokesman.

“It’s hard to be a professional athlete, and it’s hard to fast,” Hamza Abdullah said in a telephone interview from the Cardinals’ complex in the Phoenix area.

But it means so much to Husain Abdullah that he has fasted every year since he was 7, even during football season while at Washington State and with Minnesota. That reflects the influence of his parents, who raised 12 children in the Muslim faith in Southern California. All are fasting, Hamza Abdullah said.

“A lot of people may look at things differently, but I feel it is required for us to fast,” Husain Abdullah said, basing his conviction on his reading of the Koran. “And we’ve been fasting my whole life, pretty much. I try to protect my fasting because it really means a lot to me.”

To do so, Abdullah needed help from the Vikings because Ramadan coincided with training camp. Abdullah fasted as a rookie in 2008, when Ramadan began and ended in September, but he never told anyone in the organization.

“I’m a quiet person,” said Abdullah, who led the Vikings in special teams tackles as an undrafted free agent.

Last year, Ramadan started Aug. 22, the day after the Vikings’ second preseason game. Abdullah told only Derek Mason, the assistant defensive backs coach, about his fasting. Coach Brad Childress learned about it in early September, when he wondered why Abdullah lacked energy and could not keep up his weight. The 6-foot Abdullah usually plays at 200 to 202 pounds, he said, but dropped to 194 during Ramadan.

So last April, the team’s nutrition consultant, Carrie Peterson, devised a Ramadan meal plan for Abdullah, based on a 3,800-calorie diet.

Every day, Abdullah wakes briefly at 2 a.m. to consume a protein and carbohydrate shake.

“I hate to make the guy get up at 2 a.m., but that’s about 400 calories he’s getting,” Peterson said. “That’s about a pound a week he’d lose if he didn’t get up to have that shake.”

He rises again at 5 with his wife, Zhavon, to pray and eat a predawn meal, known as suhoor. Dietary choices include scrambled eggs with vegetables, a nonpork breakfast meat (pork is forbidden in a Muslim diet), oatmeal with fruit and various liquids. Abdullah tops it off with another shake. Then nothing until the evening meal at sundown.

“My weight has always fluctuated, but of course during Ramadan, it fluctuates a little more,” he said after a recent practice. “When I come out here and work out, I probably lose two or three pounds during a practice. During Ramadan, it’s probably around four or so.

“Even if I tap out, drain myself, the next morning, after I’ve eaten at night and eaten in the morning, I’m right back to my normal weight. I weighed in today at 200.

“This year, I’m doing a whole lot better maintaining with the plan I put in place.”

The Vikings’ defensive backs coach, Joe Woods, said he never coached a fasting Muslim before Abdullah, a versatile athlete who fills in at both safety positions and at nickel back.

“It’s hard to imagine somebody being able to do that, out here practicing, 50 reps a day, and not have any water,” Woods said. “But he’s done it. He has a very good plan.”

Both Abdullahs say their teammates have been supportive and inquisitive. Muslims traditionally break the daily fast by eating a date, and Hamza Abdullah said a bag of dates he brought to a night practice this summer drew puzzled looks.

“Some of my teammates were looking at the bag, like, what is that weird-looking fruit?” he said. “It was pretty funny.”

To those who know Husain Abdullah, his commitment to fasting is nothing to joke about. “It’s really a testament to how important his religion is in his life,” Peterson said. “It’s amazing. He’s kind of an inspiration to me in a lot of ways.”
25927  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Muslims fear losing ground on: September 06, 2010, 12:57:19 PM
For nine years after the attacks of Sept. 11, many American Muslims made concerted efforts to build relationships with non-Muslims, to make it clear they abhor terrorism, to educate people about Islam and to participate in interfaith service projects. They took satisfaction in the observations by many scholars that Muslims in America were more successful and assimilated than Muslims in Europe.

Eboo Patel, the director of an interfaith youth group, said some politicians were whipping up fear and hatred of Muslims.
Now, many of those same Muslims say that all of those years of work are being rapidly undone by the fierce opposition to a Muslim cultural center near ground zero that has unleashed a torrent of anti-Muslim sentiments and a spate of vandalism. The knifing of a Muslim cab driver in New York City has also alarmed many American Muslims.

“We worry: Will we ever be really completely accepted in American society?” said Dr. Ferhan Asghar, an orthopedic spine surgeon in Cincinnati and the father of two young girls. “In no other country could we have such freedoms — that’s why so many Muslims choose to make this country their own. But we do wonder whether it will get to the point where people don’t want Muslims here anymore.”

Eboo Patel, a founder and director of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based community service program that tries to reduce religious conflict, said, “I am more scared than I’ve ever been — more scared than I was after Sept. 11.”

That was a refrain echoed by many American Muslims in interviews last week. They said they were scared not as much for their safety as to learn that the suspicion, ignorance and even hatred of Muslims is so widespread. This is not the trajectory toward integration and acceptance that Muslims thought they were on.

Some American Muslims said they were especially on edge as the anniversary of 9/11 approaches. The pastor of a small church in Florida has promised to burn a pile of Korans that day. Muslim leaders are telling their followers that the stunt has been widely condemned by Christian and other religious groups and should be ignored. But they said some young American Muslims were questioning how they could simply sit by and watch the promised desecration.

They liken their situation to that of other scapegoats in American history: Irish Roman Catholics before the nativist riots in the 1800s, the Japanese before they were put in internment camps during World War II.

Muslims sit in their living rooms, aghast as pundits assert over and over that Islam is not a religion at all but a political cult, that Muslims cannot be good Americans and that mosques are fronts for extremist jihadis. To address what it calls a “growing tide of fear and intolerance,” the Islamic Society of North America plans to convene a summit of Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders in Washington on Tuesday.

Young American Muslims who are trying to figure out their place and their goals in life are particularly troubled, said Imam Abdullah T. Antepli, the Muslim chaplain at Duke University.

“People are discussing what is the alternative if we don’t belong here,” he said. “There are jokes: When are we moving to Canada, when are we moving to Sydney? Nobody will go anywhere, but there is hopelessness, there is helplessness, there is real grief.”

Mr. Antepli just returned from a trip last month with a rabbi and other American Muslim leaders to Poland and Germany, where they studied the Holocaust and the events that led up to it (the group issued a denunciation of Holocaust denial on its return).

“Some of what people are saying in this mosque controversy is very similar to what German media was saying about Jews in the 1920s and 1930s,” he said. “It’s really scary.”

American Muslims were anticipating a particularly joyful Ramadan this year. For the first time in decades, the monthlong holiday fell mostly during summer vacation, allowing children to stay up late each night for the celebratory iftar dinner, breaking the fast, with family and friends.

But the season turned sour.

The great mosque debate seems to have unleashed a flurry of vandalism and harassment directed at mosques: construction equipment set afire at a mosque site in Murfreesboro, Tenn; a plastic pig with graffiti thrown into a mosque in Madera, Calif.; teenagers shooting outside a mosque in upstate New York during Ramadan prayers. It is too soon to tell whether hate crimes against Muslims are rising or are on pace with previous years, experts said. But it is possible that other episodes are going unreported right now.

“Victims are reluctant to go public with these kinds of hate incidents because they fear further harassment or attack,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “They’re hoping all this will just blow over.”

Some Muslims said their situation felt more precarious now — under a president who is perceived as not only friendly to Muslims but is wrongly believed by many Americans to be Muslim himself — than it was under President George W. Bush.

Mr. Patel explained, “After Sept. 11, we had a Republican president who had the confidence and trust of red America, who went to a mosque and said, ‘Islam means peace,’ and who said ‘Muslims are our neighbors and friends,’ and who distinguished between terrorism and Islam.”

Now, unlike Mr. Bush then, the politicians with sway in red state America are the ones whipping up fear and hatred of Muslims, Mr. Patel said.

“There is simply the desire to paint an entire religion as the enemy,” he said. Referring to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the founder of the proposed Muslim center near ground zero, “What they did to Imam Feisal was highly strategic. The signal was, we can Swift Boat your most moderate leaders.”

Several American Muslims said in interviews that they were stunned that what provoked the anti-Muslim backlash was not even another terrorist attack but a plan by an imam known for his work with leaders of other faiths to build a Muslim community center.

This year, Sept. 11 coincides with the celebration of Eid, the finale to Ramadan, which usually lasts three days (most Muslims will begin observing Eid this year on Sept. 10). But Muslim leaders, in this climate, said they wanted to avoid appearing to be celebrating on the anniversary of 9/11. Several major Muslim organizations have urged mosques to use the day to participate in commemoration events and community service.

Ingrid Mattson, the president of the Islamic Society of North America, said many American Muslims were still hoping to salvage the spirit of Ramadan.

“In Ramadan, you’re really not supposed to be focused on yourself,” she said. “It’s about looking out for the suffering of other people. Somehow it feels bad to be so worried about our own situation and our own security, when it should be about empathy towards others.”
25928  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: When all else fails on: September 06, 2010, 12:30:36 PM
September 5, 2010
Housing Woes Bring New Cry: Let Market Fall

The unexpectedly deep plunge in home sales this summer is likely to force the Obama administration to choose between future homeowners and current ones, a predicament officials had been eager to avoid.

Over the last 18 months, the administration has rolled out just about every program it could think of to prop up the ailing housing market, using tax credits, mortgage modification programs, low interest rates, government-backed loans and other assistance intended to keep values up and delinquent borrowers out of foreclosure. The goal was to stabilize the market until a resurgent economy created new households that demanded places to live.

As the economy again sputters and potential buyers flee — July housing sales sank 26 percent from July 2009 — there is a growing sense of exhaustion with government intervention. Some economists and analysts are now urging a dose of shock therapy that would greatly shift the benefits to future homeowners: Let the housing market crash. When prices are lower, these experts argue, buyers will pour in, creating the elusive stability the government has spent billions upon billions trying to achieve.

“Housing needs to go back to reasonable levels,” said Anthony B. Sanders, a professor of real estate finance at George Mason University. “If we keep trying to stimulate the market, that’s the definition of insanity.”

The further the market descends, however, the more miserable one group — important both politically and economically — will be: the tens of millions of homeowners who have already seen their home values drop an average of 30 percent.
The poorer these owners feel, the less likely they will indulge in the sort of consumer spending the economy needs to recover. If they see an identical house down the street going for half what they owe, the temptation to default might be irresistible. That could make the market’s current malaise seem minor.

Caught in the middle is an administration that gambled on a recovery that is not happening.

“The administration made a bet that a rising economy would solve the housing problem and now they are out of chips,” said Howard Glaser, a former Clinton administration housing official with close ties to policy makers in the administration. “They are deeply worried and don’t really know what to do.”

That was clear last week, when the secretary of housing and urban development, Shaun Donovan, appeared to side with current homeowners, telling CNN the administration would “go everywhere we can” to make sure the slumping market recovers.  Mr. Donovan even opened the door to another housing tax credit like the one that expired last spring, which paid first-time buyers as much as $8,000 and buyers who were moving up $6,500. The cost to taxpayers was in the neighborhood of $30 billion, much of which went to people who would have bought anyway.   Administration press officers quickly backpedaled from Mr. Donovan’s comment, saying a revived credit was either highly unlikely or flat-out impossible. Mr. Donovan declined to be interviewed for this article. In a statement, a White House spokeswoman responded to questions about possible new stimulus measures by pointing to those already in the works.

“In the weeks ahead, we will focus on successfully getting off the ground programs we have recently announced,” the spokeswoman, Amy Brundage, said.

Among those initiatives are $3 billion to keep the unemployed from losing their homes and a refinancing program that will try to cut the mortgage balances of owners who owe more than their property is worth. A previous program with similar goals had limited success. If last year’s tax credit was supposed to be a bridge over a rough patch, it ended with a glimpse of the abyss. The average home now takes more than a year to sell. Add in the homes that are foreclosed but not yet for sale and the total is greater still.  Builders are in even worse shape. Sales of new homes are lower than in the depths of the recession of the early 1980s, when mortgage rates were double what they are now, unemployment was pervasive and the gloom was at least as thick.

The deteriorating circumstances have given a new voice to the “do nothing” chorus, whose members think the era of trying to buy stability while hoping the market will catch fire — called “extend and pretend” or “delay and pray” — has run its course.

“We have had enough artificial support and need to let the free market do its thing,” said the housing analyst Ivy Zelman.

Michael L. Moskowitz, president of Equity Now, a direct mortgage lender that operates in New York and seven other states, also advocates letting the market fall. “Prices are still artificially high,” he said. “The government is discriminating against the renters who are able to buy at $200,000 but can’t at $250,000.”

A small decline in home prices might not make too much of a difference to a slack economy. But an unchecked drop of 10 percent or more might prove entirely discouraging to the millions of owners just hanging on, especially those who bought in the last few years under the impression that a turnaround had already begun.

The government is on the hook for many of these mortgages, another reason policy makers have been aggressively seeking stability. What helped support the market last year could now cause it to crumble.  Since 2006, the Federal Housing Administration has insured millions of low down payment loans. During the first two years, officials concede, the credit quality of the borrowers was too low.

With little at stake and a queasy economy, buyers bailed: nearly 12 percent were delinquent after a year. Last fall, F.H.A. cash reserves fell below the Congressionally mandated minimum, and the agency had to shore up its finances.  Government-backed loans in 2009 went to buyers with higher credit scores. Yet the percentage of first-year defaults was still 5 percent, according to data from the research firm CoreLogic.

“These are at-risk buyers,” said Sam Khater, a CoreLogic economist. “They have very little equity, and that’s the largest predictor of default.”

This is the risk policy makers face. “If home prices begin to fall again with any serious velocity, borrowers may stay away in such numbers that the market never recovers,” said Mr. Glaser, a consultant whose clients include the National Association of Realtors.  Those sorts of worries have a few people from the world of finance suggesting that the administration should do much more, not less.

William H. Gross, managing director at Pimco, a giant manager of bond funds, has proposed the government refinance at lower rates millions of mortgages it owns or insures. Such a bold action, Mr. Gross said in a recent speech, would “provide a crucial stimulus of $50 to $60 billion in consumption,” as well as increase housing prices.

The idea has gained little traction. Instead, there is a sense that, even with much more modest notions, government intervention is not the answer. The National Association of Realtors, the driving force behind the credit last year, is not calling for a new round of stimulus.  Some members of the National Association of Home Builders say a new credit of $25,000 would raise demand but their chances of getting this through Congress are nonexistent.

“Our members are saying that if we can’t get a very large tax credit — one that really brings people off the bench — why use our political capital at all?” said David Crowe, the chief economist for the home builders.

That might give the Obama administration permission to take the risk of doing nothing.
25929  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACTION items on: September 06, 2010, 08:19:57 AM
ACTION ALERT: It's Time for Truth!
Take action today to protect medical cannabis patients from federal prosecution!

Recently, U.S. Representatives Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) sent a letter to Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) requesting that the Committee on the Judiciary hold a hearing to consider adopting the "Truth in Trials Act" (H.R. 3939).

This important legislation would provide an affirmative defense for authorized medical cannabis users and caregivers who are facing federal prosecution in medical cannabis states. The growing divide between federal and state marijuana laws requires the leadership of Congress. "Truth" is a common-sense, reasonable solution.

Tell Chairman Conyers that it's time for hearings on the "Truth in Trials Act!" Call his office in D.C. at 202-225-5126 send him a fax at 202-225-0072;
or write to him at:

Rep. John Conyers, Jr.
2426 Rayburn H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515

Please send one or both letters at the links. Please do this at least once a week. HR 3939 is to amend title 18, United States Code, to provide an affirmative defense for the medical use of marijuana in Federal court in accordance with the laws of the various States, and for other purpose.

ASA Letter
NORML letter
25930  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Zakaria: What America has lost on: September 06, 2010, 08:12:10 AM
Some points worth keeping in mind here:

by Fareed Zakaria

September 04, 2010


What America Has Lost

It’s clear we overreacted to 9/11


Nine years after 9/11, can anyone doubt that Al Qaeda is simply not that deadly a threat? Since that gruesome day in 2001, once governments everywhere began serious countermeasures, Osama bin Laden’s terror network has been unable to launch a single major attack on high-value targets in the United States and Europe. While it has inspired a few much smaller attacks by local jihadis, it has been unable to execute a single one itself. Today, Al Qaeda’s best hope is to find a troubled young man who has been radicalized over the Internet, and teach him to stuff his underwear with explosives.


I do not minimize Al Qaeda’s intentions, which are barbaric. I question its capabilities. In every recent conflict, the United States has been right about the evil intentions of its adversaries but massively exaggerated their strength. In the 1980s, we thought the Soviet Union was expanding its power and influence when it was on the verge of economic and political bankruptcy. In the 1990s, we were certain that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear arsenal. In fact, his factories could barely make soap.


The error this time is more damaging. September 11 was a shock to the American psyche and the American system. As a result, we overreacted. In a crucially important Washington Post reporting project, “Top Secret America,” Dana Priest and William Arkin spent two years gathering information on how 9/11 has really changed America.


Here are some of the highlights. Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has created or reconfigured at least 263 organizations to tackle some aspect of the war on terror. The amount of money spent on intelligence has risen by 250 percent, to $75 billion (and that’s the public number, which is a gross underestimate). That’s more than the rest of the world spends put together. Thirty-three new building complexes have been built for intelligence bureaucracies alone, occupying 17 million square feet—the equivalent of 22 U.S. Capitols or three Pentagons. Five miles southeast of the White House, the largest government site in 50 years is being built—at a cost of $3.4 billion—to house the largest bureaucracy after the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs: the Department of Homeland Security, which has a workforce of 230,000 people.


This new system produces 50,000 reports a year—136 a day!—which of course means few ever get read. Those senior officials who have read them describe most as banal; one tells me, “Many could be produced in an hour using Google.” Fifty-one separate bureaucracies operating in 15 states track the flow of money to and from terrorist organizations, with little information-sharing.


Some 30,000 people are now employed exclusively to listen in on phone conversations and other communications in the United States. And yet no one in Army intelligence noticed that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had been making a series of strange threats at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he trained. The father of the Nigerian “Christmas bomber” reported his son’s radicalism to the U.S. Embassy. But that message never made its way to the right people in this vast security apparatus. The plot was foiled only by the bomber’s own incompetence and some alert passengers.


Such mistakes might be excusable. But the rise of this national-security state has entailed a vast expansion in the government’s powers that now touches every aspect of American life, even when seemingly unrelated to terrorism. The most chilling aspect of Dave Eggers’s heartbreaking book, Zeitoun, is that the federal government’s fastest and most efficient response to Hurricane Katrina was the creation of a Guantánamo-like prison facility (in days!) in which 1,200 American citizens were summarily detained and denied any of their constitutional rights for months, a suspension of habeas corpus that reads like something out of a Kafka novel.


In the past, the U.S. government has built up for wars, assumed emergency authority, and sometimes abused that power, yet always demobilized after the war. But this is a war without end. When do we declare victory? When do the emergency powers cease?


Conservatives are worried about the growing power of the state. Surely this usurpation is more worrisome than a few federal stimulus programs. When James Madison pondered this issue, he came to a simple conclusion: “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germs of every other … In war, too, the discretionary power of the executive is extended... and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.


“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual war,” Madison concluded.
25931  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: September 05, 2010, 08:36:20 PM
Gracias por tus palabras Hector.

"A veces parece que nuestro gobierno aprueba la emigración."

En mi opinion es asi', hasta que Presidente Calderon tuvo el _________ para dar un discurso en nuestro Congreso criticando a la gente y el estado de Arizona por haber tenido la voluntad de insistir en respeto por sus leyes (!y nuestro @$%*! de un Presidente y los Democratas lo aplaudieron por haberlo dicho!) y entidades federales del gobierno mexicano publican lirbritos sobre como cruzar la frontera.

Hace muchos anos desde que yo estudiaba los numeros al fondo, pero en los anos 70s (!hijole 30 anos!  shocked ) 700,000 nuevas personas entraban al mercado de mano de obra en Mexico cada ano, pero aun cuando la economia crecia en 7% al ano (un numero poco visto hoy en dia si no me equivoco) solo aumentaba trabajos en la mitad de eso, osea cada ano habian 350,000 miles nuevas personas, jovenes principlamente, sin trabajo.  Sin la valvula de escape de ir a los EEUU no hubiera existado eso se lleva a la conclusion que graves problemas sociales en Mexico se hubiera occurido mucho antes.

25932  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Afg and the War Legend on: September 05, 2010, 12:20:55 PM
Afghanistan and the War Legend
September 3, 2010


As many of you know, Robert Merry joined STRATFOR as publisher in January. While primarily focused on our business (bless him) he is also a noted reporter (years with The Wall Street Journal as Washington correspondent and head of Congressional Quarterly). Bob knows Washington well, while STRATFOR has always been an outsider there. Since Bob brings a new perspective to STRATFOR, we’d be foolish not to take advantage of it. This analysis marks the first of what will be regular contributions to STRATFOR’s work. His commentary will be titled “Washington Looks at the World” and will focus on the international system through the eyes of official Washington and its unofficial outriders. In this first analysis, Bob focuses on the thinking that went into President Barack Obama’s Aug. 31 speech on the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq. As with all of STRATFOR’s pieces, it treats political leaders as rational actors and avoids ideology and advocacy. Both are in ample supply in this country, and there is no need to add to it. Bob is not trying to persuade, praise or condemn. Nor is he simply providing facts. He is trying to understand and explain what is happening. I hope you find this of value. I learned something from it. By all means let us know what you think, especially if you like it. Criticisms will also be read but will not be enjoyed nearly as much.
— George Friedman, STRATFOR CEO

By Robert W. Merry

U.S. President Barack Obama’s Aug. 31 Oval Office speech on the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq had many purposes: to claim a measure of credit for largely fulfilling one of his major campaign promises; to thank those who have served and sacrificed in the cause; to spread the balm of unity over any lingering domestic wounds; to assure Americans that it has all been worth it and that no dishonor was attached to this foreign adventure, which was opposed by many in Obama’s own party and by him from the beginning.

Of all those purposes, and any others that might have been conceived, the need to express assurance of the war’s validity — and honor in its outcome — is by far the most important. Any national leader must protect and nurture the legend of any war over which he presides, even those — actually, particularly those — he has brought to a close. The people need to feel that the sacrifice in blood and treasure was worth it, that the mission’s rationale still makes sense, that the nation’s standing and prestige remain intact.

In terms of America, nothing illustrates this more starkly than the Vietnam experience. This was a war that emerged quite naturally out of a foreign policy outlook, “containment,” that had shaped American behavior in the world for nearly two decades and would continue to shape it for another two decades. Hence, one could argue that the Vietnam War was a noble effort entirely consistent with a policy that eventually proved brilliantly successful. But the national pain of defeat in that war spawned an entirely different legend — that it was a huge mistake and a tragic loss of life for no defensible purpose. The impact of that legend upon the national consciousness could be seen for decades — in war-powers battles between the president and Congress, in a halting defense posture often attributed to what was called the “Vietnam Syndrome,” in the lingering civic hostility engendered when the subject emerged among fellow citizens, in the flow of tears shed daily at Washington’s Vietnam Memorial.

So the presidential responsibility for the legend of war is no trivial matter when young Americans begin returning home in body bags. A wise president will keep it well established in his mind in selling a war, in prosecuting it and eventually in explaining it at its conclusion.

This important presidential function posed two particular challenges for Obama during his Oval Office speech: First, his past opposition to the war in Iraq created a danger that he might appear insincere or artificial in his expressions, and second, it isn’t entirely clear that the legend can hold up, that the stated rationale for the war really withstands serious scrutiny. Yes, America did depose Saddam Hussein and his regime. But the broader aims of the war — to establish a stable, pro-Western regime in the country and thus maintain a geopolitical counterweight to the regional ambitions of Iran — remain unfulfilled. The president handled the first challenge with aplomb, hailing the war’s outcome (so far) while avoiding the political schisms that it bred and delivering expressions of appreciation and respect for his erstwhile adversaries on the issue. Whether he succeeds in the second challenge likely will depend upon events in Iraq, where 50,000 American troops remain to support Iraqi security forces and help maintain stability.

But Obama’s effort to preserve the war’s legend, which was ribboned throughout his speech, raises the specter of an even greater challenge of preserving the legend of a different war — the war in Afghanistan, which Obama says will begin to wind down for America in July of next year. It remains a very open question whether events will unfold in that nettlesome conflict in such a way as to allow for a reassuring legend when the troops come home. That open question is particularly stark given the fundamental reality that America is not going to bring about a victory in Afghanistan in any conventional sense. The Taliban insurgency that the United States is trying to subdue with its counterinsurgency effort is not going to go away and, indeed, the Taliban will likely have to be part of any accommodation that can precede America’s withdrawal.

Thus, the Obama administration has become increasingly focused on what some involved in war planning call “the endgame.” By that, they mean essentially a strategy for extricating the country from Afghanistan while preserving a reasonable level of stability in that troubled land; minimizing damage to American interests; and maintaining a credible legend of the war that is reassuring to the American people. That’s a tall order, and it isn’t clear whether the nearly 150,000 U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan, under U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, can affect the magnitude of the challenge one way or another.

Very quietly, top officials of the Obama administration have initiated a number of reviews inspecting every aspect of this endgame challenge. Some involve influential outside experts with extensive governmental experience in past administrations, and they are working with officials at the highest levels of the government, including the Pentagon. One review group has sent members to Russia for extensive conversations with officials who were involved in the Soviet Union’s ill-fated invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Others have traveled to Pakistan and other lands, including the United Kingdom, Germany and France, to master the diplomatic implications of any Afghan exit strategy.

It’s too early to determine just what impact these review groups will have on administration thinking, which appears to remain in a state of development. But it can be said that at least some of these outside experts are pressing hard for an endgame approach that moves beyond some earlier thinking about the war and its rationale. For example:

The need to involve Afghanistan’s neighbors in any accommodation that would allow for at least a reasonably graceful American exit. In addition to next-door Pakistan, these likely would include Russia, India and perhaps even Iran. All have a stake in Afghan stability, and all have their own particular interests there. Hence, the diplomatic game will be extremely difficult. But it is worth noting that during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Russia served as a facilitator of U.S. cooperation with the northern ethnic tribes, and Russians even provided personnel and vehicles to America’s Northern Alliance allies. Iran also helped facilitate the invasion by suggesting security for American pilots faced with ditching over Iranian territory.
The necessity of working with local power centers and finding a way of developing a productive discussion with the different ethnic groups that need to be part of the Afghan endgame. How to do that reportedly was one question posed to Russian officials who were involved in the Soviet Union’s Afghan experience and who had to deal with insurgent leaders on the way out.
A probable requirement that the United States relinquish any hope that a strong central government in Kabul will form and bring about stability in the country. Afghanistan has never had a strong central government, and the various ethnic and religious groups, local warlords, tribes and khans aren’t going to submit to any broad national authority. Their mountainous homeland for centuries has afforded them plenty of protection from any invading force, and that isn’t going to change.
A probable need to explore a national system with a traditionally weak central government and strong provincial actors with considerable sway over their particular territories.
Underlying all this is a strong view that the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force cannot impose an endgame. The Taliban are not going to submit to U.S. blandishments for negotiation as a result of any fear of what will happen to them if they don’t. That’s because they are winning and possess the arms, wiles, knowledge of terrain and people and insurgency skills to keep on winning, irrespective of what Petraeus does to thwart them. Besides, the tribes of Afghanistan have demonstrated through the centuries that they have the patience to outlast any invader.

If the Taliban won’t negotiate out of fear of what the U.S. military can do to them, the question becomes whether they will negotiate out of a sense of opportunity — as a means of bringing about the U.S. exit that American government officials increasingly seem to want as well. There are indications the Taliban might be interested in participating in such a negotiated American exit, perhaps in exchange for some kind of international recognition. At this point, however, there is no firm evidence that such an approach could prove fruitful, and hence this question remains one of the great imponderables hovering over America’s presence in Afghanistan.

But, if that does prove possible, the question of America’s war legend will loom very large indeed. Those involved in the review groups reportedly are well aware that the nature of the U.S. departure will inform the legend, and they are intent on crafting an outcome that will honor America’s Afghanistan war dead and U.S. war veterans. In other words, in this view, there must remain a narrative that explains why America was there, what was accomplished, and why the departure was undertaken when it was. It must resonate throughout the nation and must be credible.

This poses another fundamental question: Is there an inherent inconsistency between the outlook emerging from these governmental review groups and the recent pronouncements of Petraeus? Many of the review-group participants seem to be working toward what might be called a “graceful exit” from Afghanistan. Yet Petraeus told The New York Times on Aug. 15 that he does not see his mission in such small terms as a “graceful exit.” Rather, he said his marching orders were to do “all that is humanly possible to help us achieve our objectives.” By “our objectives,” he seemed to mean establishing, through military force, a sufficient degree of stability in the country to allow a negotiated exit on American terms, with his Iraq record serving as the model. Even if that is possible, it certainly will take considerable time. The general made clear in the Times interview and in others that he fully intended to press Obama hard to delay any serious troop withdrawal from Afghanistan until well beyond the July 2011 time frame put forth by the president.

Thus, the nature and pace of withdrawal becomes another big question hovering over the president’s war strategy. Many high-ranking administration officials, including the president, have said the pace of withdrawal will depend upon “conditions on the ground” when July 2011 arrives. Obama repeated that conditional expression in his Iraq speech the other night. But that leaves a lot of room for maneuver — and a lot of room for debate within the administration. The reason for delaying a full withdrawal would be to try to apply further military pressure to force the Taliban to become less resistant. That goal seems to be what’s animating Petraeus. But others, including some involved in the review groups, don’t see much prospect of that actually happening. Thus, they see no reason for much of a withdrawal delay beyond the president’s July deadline — particularly given the need to preserve the country’s war legend. The danger, as some see it, is that an effort to force an outcome through military action, given the unlikely prospect of that, could increase the chances of a traditional military defeat, much like the one suffered by the Soviets in the 1980s and by the British in two brutal military debacles during the 19th century.

Many of the experts involved in the Afghanistan review effort see a link between the departure of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, as described by Obama in his Oval Office speech, and the imperative to fashion an Afghanistan exit that offers a war legend at least as comforting to the American people. Certainly, the importance of the war legend was manifest in Obama’s Iraq speech. First, he repeatedly praised the valor and commitment of America’s men and women in uniform. Even in turning to the need to fix the country’s economic difficulties, he invoked these U.S. military personnel again by saying “we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad.” He expressed a resolve to honor their commitment by serving “our veterans as well as they have served us” through the Department of Veterans Affairs, emphasizing medical care and the G.I. Bill. And he drew an evocative word picture of America’s final combat brigade in Iraq — the Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade — journeying toward Kuwait on their way home in the predawn darkness. Many Americans will recall some of these young men, extending themselves from the backs of convoy trucks and yelling into television cameras and lights, “We won! We’re going home! We won the war!”

But, as Obama noted in his speech, this is “an age without surrender ceremonies.” It’s also an age without victory parades. As he said, “we must earn victory through the success of our partners and the strength of our own nation.” That’s a bit vague, though, and that’s why Obama’s speech laid out the elements of the Iraq success in terms that seemed pretty much identical to what George W. Bush would have said. We succeeded in toppling Saddam Hussein. We nurtured an Iraqi effort to craft a democratic structure. After considerable bloodshed, we managed to foster a reasonable amount of civic stability in the country so the Iraqi people can continue their halting pursuit of their own destiny. Thus, said the president, “This completes a transition to Iraqi responsibility for their own security.” He added, “Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it’s time to turn the page.”

That’s probably enough of a legend to fortify the good feelings of those young men yelling of victory from the backs of Stryker Brigade vehicles on the way out of Iraq. But getting to even that degree of a war legend in Afghanistan will be far more difficult. And, as the endgame looms in that distant land, the administration will have to grapple not only with how to prosecute the war and foster a safe exit but also with how to preserve a suitable legend for that war once the shooting stops.
25933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH moves "Beyond the Facts" on: September 05, 2010, 08:10:44 AM
In an Age of Voices, Moving Beyond the Facts
Published: September 4, 2010
WHAT some call opinion, others call interpretive journalism — a label as opaque as the practice. Call it what you will, nothing has generated more reader indignation in the past few weeks than when it has appeared on a news page.


Phone: (212) 556-7652
Address: Public Editor
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018

The morphing of news has stuck in some readers’ craw for a long time, and all three of The Times’s previous public editors dealt with the issue. But I believe the phenomenon is accelerating and has the potential to redefine the newspaper.

It’s not that editors have decided to abandon the traditional virtues of objective journalism. But the Times news pages increasingly are home to “voices,” not merely reportage, as editors commission work bearing the author’s distinctive point of view. And it is happening during the clamor of the Internet age, when such voices are the only ones that seem to rise above the din.

“How could anyone possibly think this piece belonged in a news section?” asked one reader, Donald Johnson, about a “Political Times” column by Matt Bai.

Another reader, Vicky Bollenbacher of Boulder, Colo., had the same concern about a news-page column in Business Day. “You should move such pieces clearly to your opinion section, or exercise a great deal more editorial muscle to clean pieces like his up from being advocacy pieces,” she said.

And David Hooper, a San Francisco reader responding to a column in the A section by Jonathan Weber, said, “In my opinion, your article was, in fact, an Op-Ed piece.”

Unhappy readers, all — reacting to a change that is unsettling to readers and journalists alike, according to Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. “These norms are shifting almost invisibly beneath the seat of journalists,” Mr. Rosenstiel said. “It is even harder for audiences ... to recognize the cues and the hand gestures that indicate whether a story is one kind of story or another.”

The trend has been decades in the making, but Mr. Rosenstiel believes the online medium is an accelerant in the process: “I think we are seeing the beginning ... of a new hybrid style of writing which is a blend of opinion and news.”

When I asked Matt Bai about his Aug. 12 “Political Times” column on Representative Paul Ryan — the one Mr. Johnson criticized — he said: “I guess my column is part of a broader effort to take some chances in the paper and explore different formats for a new era. I think that represents a great and exciting trend for the paper; none of us can afford to think in old rubrics for new generations of readers.”

Bai’s editor, Richard Stevenson, the deputy Washington bureau chief, elaborated on how The Times is navigating the new norms. “We are still exploring how much of a voice you can have ... what kinds of conclusions you can draw when it comes to politics,” he said.

A news-page column like “Political Times” carries the “freedom to reach a reported conclusion,” he said. Not to “throw opinion around,” but to “express in a restrained and fact-bound way a conclusion about something.”

Mr. Stevenson’s careful language draws a line between a Times news-page column and the kind of material one looks for on the Op-Ed page. I acknowledge the distinction in theory but think it is a very fine line, one that is easy to miss and easy to transgress. And one that readers often can’t see.

To Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University, the whole effort to demonstrate impartiality is wrong-headed to begin with. American newspapers, once home to unfettered political agendas, have labored in the modern period to cull point-of-view out of reporting with the result that “newspaper writing turned into some of the dullest prose on the planet,” in his view. He sees no conflict between “having a worldview and doing great journalism,” and points to British papers like The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph as examples.

The Times is having none of that. Instead, it chooses to play in the mosh pit under the old rules, refining them as needed. The challenge is compounded because The Times, to its credit, has taken the “innovation” bit into its mouth and run with it. New features, functions and capabilities come on stream all the time, requiring close monitoring.

The Jonathan Weber column that drew criticism, for example, appears on recently added “regional pages” that run in San Francisco. The pages are produced by The Bay Citizen, an independent nonprofit news organization, of which Mr. Weber is the lead editor.

Mr. Hooper and a second reader, Michael Rowe, were concerned about Mr. Weber’s strong point of view in an Aug. 15 column, and about the unusual provenance of the pages themselves. As Mr. Rowe put it, the pages “appear to have been outsourced with little ongoing explanation.”

It’s easy to see why these readers reacted as they did. The Weber column, which concerned union opposition to pension reform in San Francisco, stood at the very precipice of political opinion writing — analyzing union opposition while noting “vituperative” union attacks and “scorched-earth” tactics.

Times editors said they carefully edited the piece and that Weber simply analyzed the political conflict without weighing in personally on pension reform. Still, it strikes me as risky to bring on an outside entity — even one like The Bay Citizen that the Times has fully vetted — and empower it with a mandate to produce such work.

Mr. Weber’s view: “I think The Times is engaging in a number of experiments and trying to do new kinds of things. They are approaching that process with a lot of rigor. ... It is nowhere near the case that they turned these pages over to us and allowed us to do our thing.”

Indeed, it is evident that The Times sees the rise of interpretive material as desirable and manageable. To help readers with this, it offers the online “Readers’ Guide.”

“In its news pages,” the guide says, “The Times presents both straightforward news coverage and other journalistic forms that provide additional perspective on events.”

The “Man in the News” form, it says, is “not primarily analytical but highlights aspects of the subject’s background and career that shed light ... ”

While the “Reporter’s Notebook” is busy “supplementing coverage.” And the “Memo” is a “reflective article.”

The “Journal,” by contrast, is a “sharply drawn feature ... closely observed and stylishly written.” (Where do I look for the grossly observed and unfashionably written stuff?)

The “News Analysis” form “draws heavily on the expertise of the writer.”

And the “News-Page Column,” the form that Mr. Bai and Mr. Weber deploy, calls for a “distinctive point of view.”

These narrow distinctions reflect the struggle to remain impartial while publishing more and more interpretive material. How to resolve this tension?

One path is to do a much better job of labeling the work — and please don’t bother with the fine distinctions. Call it commentary or call it opinion, but call it something that people can understand.

That, or abandon the sacred cloak of impartiality.

I vote for the former but concede that the latter may offer better traction in the opinion-gorged landscape of the future.

25934  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A POTH writer tries to understand on: September 05, 2010, 08:04:22 AM
Op-Ed Contributor
Dr. King’s Newest Marcher
Published: September 4, 2010

LIKE the historic original in 1963, Glenn Beck’s commemorative march on Washington has produced a clash of perception. Marchers celebrated rather than besieged the capital, and sweet piety floated above tribal antagonisms. Responses of disbelief have mingled once again with giddy, puzzled surprise. This time, by embracing the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stridently conservative speakers revived hard questions about symbolic fusion in politics. Did their words invite a rare shift in the landscape? Or did they merely paint a mirage?

A week ago Saturday, from the Lincoln Memorial steps, Mr. Beck himself described undergoing a stark conversion as he organized the rally. “When I put this together, in my head,” he told the crowd, “I felt it was supposed to be political.” His promotional announcement had put him “into a cold sweat” of doubt, however, until personal crisis made him grab an assistant by the lapels, Mr. Beck declared, “and I pulled him in close, and I screamed in his ear, ‘I don’t know how, but we’re wrong!’” He said an inner voice had told him to drop his slashing polemics, then politics entirely, for an unspecified new theme grounded in spiritual values. “I don’t understand it,” he said he had told his flabbergasted staff, “but this is where we’re going.”

A skilled dramatist, given to surging displays of emotion, Mr. Beck announced that paralysis had gripped him until last spring, when “we were still kind of lost, and we didn’t know what we were going to do when we got here.” He offered his audience no further clues to a mysterious transformation, but my cringing search of his program archives turned up — amid diatribes on Dr. King as a dangerous socialist, and on President Obama as an alien Muslim — a novel encounter with Dr. King’s niece, Alveda. Her first invitation to appear on Mr. Beck’s show suited his political mold, because she is a defiant crusader against abortion rights and gay marriage.

In their interview, Mr. Beck focused instead on a souvenir from the civil rights movement that Alveda King brought with her. The 10-point “pledge of nonviolence,” a copy of the form signed by demonstrators preparing to face persecution and jail, seemed to strike him with the force of revelation. “These people were serious about nonviolence,” Mr. Beck told his cable audience.

He posted the commandments on his Web site, then analyzed them over several broadcasts on the Fox network last April: “No. 3 is ‘walk and talk in the manner of love.’ This one’s going to be hard.” Sacrifice personal wishes, he recited, that all may be free. Observe with friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy. Remember the nonviolent movement seeks justice and reconciliation, not victory.

Mr. Beck extolled disciplined sacrifice by marginal, misunderstood people, noting that most newspapers had branded Dr. King a troublemaker stirring up violence. He added his own saucy twist to the final pledge: As you prepare to march, meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus. “If it’s Buddha, it’s Buddha. If it’s Moses, it’s Moses. But meditate,” Mr. Beck exhorted his viewers. “Jesus, he’s my guy. Your guy might be different.”

Glenn Beck did not adopt nonviolence explicitly for the “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington. That would have been too wrenching a leap for his followers and opponents alike. After all, nonviolent doctrines have been submerged, ignored or forgotten across decades of ethnic assertion and perpetual warfare, even by many heirs of the nonviolent movement themselves.

Mr. Beck obtained a simpler, tamer version from Alveda King last spring, when she recalled her childhood counsel from “Uncle Martin” that nonviolence boiled down to St. Paul’s three abiding guides in the Bible: faith, hope and charity. Mr. Beck told viewers back then that he walked dazed from the studio, gripped by a new theme. “I love this woman!” he announced on April 21. His crisis was ending. “I see the landing strip after last night,” he declared. He would apply organizing techniques from the civil rights movement. On the 47th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, he would bestow citizenship medals for faith, hope and charity.

Only Mr. Beck knows the alternative. Perhaps he would have mocked the 1963 march on its sacrosanct turf, remaining the daredevil ideologue who has posed in a Nazi-like uniform to spice his torment of liberals. The actual rally befuddled and bored many viewers, especially sophisticated ones. A huge crowd swayed to a three-hour tent revival of prayer and patriotism. “God is the answer!” cried Mr. Beck. Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” echoed above the vast National Mall for tributes to the bravery of American soldiers.


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Mr. Beck’s history was sloppy at times. He said Moses led the Hebrew people out of slavery “5,000 years ago,” centuries too early, and somehow he had the Pilgrims landing “with malice toward none,” anticipating Lincoln. He said Alveda King’s father, like her uncle, was “killed for standing for what is right,” when in fact A. D. King drowned at home after a long bout with alcohol and depression. His interpretation of the 1963 march diminished the prior mass movement to portray Dr. King as the lone spark in dark national despair. “Every great achievement in human history,” intoned the rally’s announcer, “has started with one person, one crazy idea.”

Still, Mr. Beck’s rally extended respect to the civil rights movement. The giant screen played well-chosen quotations over historic images. The platform mustered far more diversity than the crowd. The program featured a refrain from “Lift Every Voice and Sing” along with remarks by Ms. King, who acknowledged “the great evil divide of racism.” A narrator saluted the fight for racial freedom and an “even harder” fight for equality. “The dream is not completed,” he went on. “It’s an ongoing struggle, one that all Americans should always be willing to undertake.”

Most important, all the speakers placed Dr. King’s cause squarely among the peaks of American history. They sounded a litany from the founders to Frederick Douglass, from slavery to space flight. “Would you have crossed the mountains?” Mr. Beck asked. “I think I would have been stuck at the first river.” He read the Gettysburg Address, and observed that Dr. King had stood beneath the statue of Abraham Lincoln for good reason. “The words are alive,” he told the crowd. “Our most famous speeches are American scripture.”

He explained why the “sacred honor” conclusion to the Declaration of Independence is his cherished favorite despite the religious skepticism of its author, Thomas Jefferson. “Blindfolded fear does not lead to an awakening,” said Mr. Beck, paraphrasing Jefferson. “Questioning with boldness does.” For a nation in crisis, and indeed for a looming “global storm,” he prescribed the nonviolent regimen that had inspired him. “We must get the poison of hatred out of us,” he said. “Go to your churches, your synagogues, your mosques, anyone that is not preaching hate and division, anyone that is not teaching to kill another man.”

Mr. Beck claimed that his urgent call for restoration “has nothing to do with politics” — and pundits, true enough, discerned almost none of the usual partisan propaganda. The rally was considered right-wing mostly by presumption. Mr. Beck wandered into deeper waters elsewhere. He said Dr. King and other patriots whom we honor on the Mall had risked everything for the American experiment in self-government. “It’s not just a country, it’s an idea,” he asserted, and citizens today must renew that affirmation or admit that “the experiment cannot work, that man must be ruled by someone.”

This appeal is thoroughly and inherently political. “I have been looking for the next George Washington,” Mr. Beck said. “I can’t find him.”

When it came to politics at the rally, Mr. Beck always stopped short, perhaps because his new framework points directly away from anti-government orthodoxy. Washington and the founders established freedom by upholding experimental government against those who would tear it down. Lincoln saved the Union from deconstructionist zealots. Dr. King’s dream speech, from patriotic and spiritual ground, appealed unreservedly for the nation to “rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed” by passing a civil rights bill to end segregation.

FEAR is a hazard of great endeavors to bridge political differences. In 1963, racial apprehension before Dr. King’s rally drove the federal government to furlough its workers for the day. The Pentagon deployed 20,000 paratroopers. Hospitals stockpiled plasma. Washington banned sales of alcohol, and Major League Baseball canceled not one but two days of Senators baseball, just to be safe. When the march of benign inspiration embarrassed these measures, opponents still insisted that the civil rights bill would enslave white people.

In the years since, the search for common ground has not gotten any easier. Americans are at an impasse over the capacity of national government, torn between hope and resentment, tyranny and liberation, fettered by checks without balance.

Glenn Beck calls himself a damaged product of family tragedy, failed education and past addiction — mercurial and unsure, like many of his hard-pressed audience. He may never follow through from his “new starting point” into constructive politics. Even so, he made peace for one day with the liberal half of the American heritage. That is a good thing. Our political health, in the spirit of Dr. King’s march, requires thoughtful and bold initiatives from all quarters.
25935  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: September 05, 2010, 07:28:36 AM
"he spent months seeking attention for persistent throat and ear pain only to be told nothing was wrong until August."

I can understand CZJ's emotions.
25936  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Science on: September 05, 2010, 07:26:09 AM
A catch all thread for matters not covered by existing threads:

THE scientific rebel J. Craig Venter created headlines — and drew comparisons to Dr. Frankenstein — when he announced in May that his team had created what, with a bit of stretching, could be called the first synthetic living creature.

Two months later, only a smattering of reporters and local dignitaries bothered to show up at a news conference to hear Dr. Venter talk about a new greenhouse that his company, Synthetic Genomics, had built outside its headquarters here to conduct research.

The contrast in the fanfare reflects the enormous gap between Dr. Venter’s stunning scientific achievements and his business aspirations.

Dr. Venter, now 63, made his name as a gene hunter. He was co-founder of a company, Celera Genomics, that nearly left the federally funded Human Genome Project in the dust in the race to determine the complete sequence of DNA in human chromosomes. He garnered admiration for some path-breaking ideas but also the enmity of some scientific rivals who viewed him as a publicity seeker who was polluting a scientific endeavor with commercialism.

Now Dr. Venter is turning from reading the genetic code to an even more audacious goal: writing it. At Synthetic Genomics, he wants to create living creatures — bacteria, algae or even plants — that are designed from the DNA up to carry out industrial tasks and displace the fuels and chemicals that are now made from fossil fuels.

“Designing and building synthetic cells will be the basis of a new industrial revolution,” Dr. Venter says. “The goal is to replace the entire petrochemical industry.”

His star power has attracted $110 million in investment so far, in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars in research financing, making Synthetic Genomics among the wealthiest companies in the new field known as synthetic biology. “If you think of an iconic, Steve Jobs character in the life sciences field, he comes to mind,” says Steve Jurvetson of the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, which invested in Synthetic Genomics.

But the path is long, with no guarantee of success. And as with DNA sequencing, Dr. Venter is stirring some unease in the synthetic biology field. Some competitors say designing entire cells is too far-fetched and that less flashy companies are ahead of Synthetic Genomics.

“I don’t know how many decades his funders have given him,” says Jay Keasling, co-founder of Amyris Inc., which is trying to produce biofuels and a malaria drug by modifying existing organisms, not by creating entirely new ones.

Moreover, Dr. Venter’s track record as a businessman is mixed. While Celera succeeded in sequencing the human genome, it failed to make a business of selling the genomic data, and Dr. Venter was fired by the president of Celera’s parent company, with whom he had had many disagreements.

What really drives him, Dr. Venter and those close to him say, is the desire for scientific accomplishments, publications and recognition, and for the Nobel Prize that still eludes him. Business is just a means to a scientific end.

“Craig is just a hopeless businessman,” Alan G. Walton, a venture capitalist and a friend of Dr. Venter, says only half-jokingly.

Yet Dr. Venter has a history of defying skeptics, and many people are betting that he will succeed this time as well. Dr. Walton, in fact, invested personally in Synthetic Genomics, and his venture firm, Oxford Bioscience Partners, recently wanted to sink a hefty sum into the company but was turned down when Dr. Venter found other investors offering better terms.

Exxon Mobil is giving Synthetic Genomics $300 million in research financing to design algae that could be used to produce gasoline and diesel fuel. (The new greenhouse will be used for that research.)

BP has invested in the company itself, turning to Synthetic Genomics to study microbes that might help turn coal deposits into cleaner-burning natural gas. Another investor, the Malaysian conglomerate Genting, wants to improve oil output from its palm tree plantations, working toward what its chief executive calls a “gasoline tree.”

And in a deal expected to be announced this week, the pharmaceutical giant Novartis will work with Dr. Venter to synthesize influenza virus strains as a potentially faster way to make flu vaccines.

Synthetic Genomics is also exploring the use of algae to produce food oils and, possibly, other edible products.

Dr. Venter muses, “What if we can make algae taste like beef?”

SCIENTISTS have long been able to insert foreign genes into organisms. Human insulin is manufactured for diabetics by bacteria containing the human insulin gene. Bacterial genes are put into corn plants to give them resistance to herbicides and insects.

But until now, genetic engineering has been mainly a process of cutting and pasting a gene from one organism to another. Only one or a few genes are spliced into a cell, and considerable trial and error is required before a gene functions properly in its new host.

Synthetic biology aims to allow more extensive changes, and in a more efficient and predictable way. That would make engineering a cell more like designing a bridge or a computer chip, enabling biologists to put prefabricated components together in different combinations.


(Page 2 of 3)

In the approach toward which Dr. Venter is driving, engineers would specify the entire genetic code of a cell — essentially the software that runs the cell — on computers, making design changes as if on a word processor. They would then press the “print” button, so to speak, and the DNA would be manufactured from its chemical components. The synthetic DNA would then be transplanted into an existing cell, where it would “boot up” and take control of the cell’s operations.

This is essentially what Dr. Venter’s team announced in May. It synthesized the million-letter genome of a simple bacterium, the longest synthetic piece of DNA produced so far, and transplanted it into a slightly different type of bacterium, which then began to replicate. A critic called the synthetic creature Synthia, a name that has started to stick.

Reaction was swift. “We heard from the pope and the president the same day,” Dr. Venter said.

President Obama immediately asked his bioethics commission to examine the potential benefits and risks of synthetic biology. The main concerns are bio-terror and bio-error — the deliberate or inadvertent creation of organisms that are toxic or ecologically harmful. The president’s action seemed to confirm concerns in the field that Dr. Venter’s bold claims would stir public fear and lead to burdensome regulation. “The only regulation we need is of my colleague’s mouth,” says Dr. Keasling of Amyris.

The Vatican, somewhat surprisingly, cautiously praised the work as a potential way of treating diseases, saying it did not regard the synthesis of DNA as the creation of life.

Dr. Venter concedes that he was not creating life from scratch, because an existing cell was used to house the synthetic DNA. But he argues that it was still accurate to call this a synthetic cell. Because the synthetic DNA took control of producing the cell’s components, replicated cells would gradually lose characteristics of the original host cell.   Dr. Venter says that he has long supported and paid for research into the ethics and regulation of the field and that there should be restrictions on letting synthetic cells loose in the environment.

Regardless of the work’s ethical implications, some experts say it will have limited industrial use. Synthia’s creation took 15 years and cost $40 million. The synthetic bacterium is not robust enough for industrial production of chemicals. Most important, the synthetic genome was nearly a replica of the genome from an existing bacterium. The truth is, scientists do not yet know enough to design a genome from scratch.

Even if they could, it would be overkill, says George Church, a Harvard genetics researcher who has helped start two companies that are modifying organisms to produce fuel. He says that only a few genetic changes are needed.

“One of the things that is missing,” he says of Dr. Venter’s work, “is a clear articulation of why you would want to change the whole genome.”

Dr. Venter says his company will use more limited genetic engineering for its first algae-based biofuels. But he says the ability to synthesize DNA is improving rapidly. And while the first synthetic genome had “plagiarized nature,” he says scientists will eventually learn how to design genomes.

Exxon is also hopeful the technique will be useful.

“It can be applied to Synthia or it can be applied to biofuels,” says Emil Jacobs, a top research executive at Exxon, who says that it will nonetheless take years and billions of dollars before algae will be producing meaningful amounts of fuel.

AN indifferent student in his youth, Dr. Venter spent his time surfing and skirt-chasing, according to his 2007 autobiography, “A Life Decoded.” But harrowing experiences as a medic in the Vietnam War instilled in him a sense of purpose. After returning from Vietnam, he progressed rapidly from community college to a doctorate in physiology and pharmacology from the University of California, San Diego. Eventually, he joined the National Institutes of Health, where he developed a way to find genes without waiting for the genome to be sequenced. In 1992, venture capitalists set up a new company, Human Genome Sciences, to commercialize the technology. But Dr. Venter, reluctant to give up academic freedom, did not join the business, instead starting a nonprofit research institute that supplied data to the company. The arrangement fell apart after a few years.

Then came his up-and-down experience with Celera. It was later revealed that the genome it had sequenced was mainly Dr. Venter’s own.

He came away from the experience wealthy. He estimates that his net worth is in the tens of millions of dollars, even after giving more than $100 million in Human Genome Sciences and Celera stock to endow his research organization, which is now called the J. Craig Venter Institute.

He has a 5,000-square-foot house overlooking the Pacific, a 95-foot yacht, a Tesla electric car, fancy motorcycles and other toys to satisfy a lust for adventure that is as outsize as his lust for science.

Dr. Venter said he started Synthetic Genomics in 2005 mainly to fund the research on the synthetic cell.

“I think it’s comical that I keep being referred to as a businessman,” he said. “What I’ve been successful in is finding alternate ways to fund research.”


Page 3 of 3)

Hamilton Smith, his longtime research partner and a Nobel laureate, co-founded Synthetic Genomics with Mr. Venter. Also involved were two friends who are now directors of the company: David Kiernan, a Washington lawyer whom Dr. Venter met through sailing, and Juan Enriquez, who was an international affairs researcher at Harvard until meeting Dr. Venter at a New Year’s gathering 15 years ago.

“I saw this guy sitting off in a corner by himself,” Mr. Enriquez says. “I went and talked to him and disappeared on my wife for the rest of the evening.”
Mr. Enriquez changed the focus of his research to life sciences and started a venture capital firm that participated in the first $30 million round of investment in Synthetic Genomics. Half of that $30 million came from Alfonso Romo Garza, a Mexican industrialist.

Two other rounds followed. As part of the most recent round, Life Technologies, a leading manufacturer of laboratory equipment and chemicals, invested $15 million for a 2.9 percent stake, giving Synthetic Genomics an imputed valuation of over $500 million.

Dr. Venter says he now owns about 15 percent of the company. The Malaysian conglomerate and its chief executive, K. T. Lim, together own nearly 20 percent, making them the largest holders, Dr. Venter says.

Synthetic Genomics has about 130 employees. But much of its research, including the development of the synthetic cell, is done at the J. Craig Venter Institute. Synthetic Genomics pays for about 25 of the institute’s roughly 300 researchers, and has rights to their results. The rest of the institute’s funding comes mainly from federal grants and its endowment.  Dr. Venter, who turns 64 in October, has not worked directly with test tubes or gene sequencers for decades. He only charts the course and steers.

“He knows exactly what we’re doing every day,” says Dr. Smith, who still does work in the lab. “Craig tends to come in when things get stalled and points us in the right direction.”

Mr. Romo, who is on the board of Synthetic Genomics, says the number of deals the company has negotiated “is proof that he is a good manager.”

Still, there have been efforts to install a No. 2 person to handle day-to-day business. That has not proved easy. Joel McComb, a General Electric veteran, served as chief operating officer for only a few months this year. Aristides Patrinos, a former Department of Energy official who is president of Synthetic Genomics, works mostly on government affairs.

FOR now, Dr. Venter is where he wants to be. With most of the company’s money coming from corporate partners rather than from impatient venture capitalists, he says he is under less pressure to deliver in the short term.  And he says he is in greater control of his own destiny than in previous business ventures.

“Science is the business right now,” he said. “If the science works, the business works, and vice versa.”
25937  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: September 05, 2010, 06:37:52 AM
Yo tambien me preocupo mucho por el pano'rama por Mexico. 

Aqui' siempre ha habido un gran respeto por el deseo de trabajar honestamente de la gente de Mexico, aun cuando vengan aqui illegalmente.  Eso respeto sigue en pie, pero los numeros crecieron a un nivel asombrante, a ahora con lo que podemose llamar un estado casi de guerra, la gente quieren que nuestro gobierno controla y defiende la frontera para que las guerras narcos y su corrupcion de las instuciones de la sociedad civil no lleguen aqui.  Tengo entendido que los intereses potentes, hablando a traves del canal nacional de Mexico traten de pintar lo que esta' pasando en nuestro politica, por ejemplo en Arizona, como odio a los Mexicanos, pero no es asi.

25938  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / So, you think you can dance? on: September 04, 2010, 01:22:55 PM
25939  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: New Old World Order on: September 04, 2010, 01:07:49 PM

Victor Davis Hanson

September 2, 2010 12:00 A.M.

The New Old World Order
A global shift to past politics also signals a return to past solutions like free markets and strong borders.

The post–Cold War New World Order is rapidly breaking apart. Nations are returning to the ancient passions, rivalries, and differences of past centuries.

Take Europe. The decades-old vision of a united pan-continental Europe without borders is dissolving. The cradle-to-grave welfare dream proved too expensive for Europe’s shrinking and aging population.

Cultural, linguistic, and economic divides between Germany and Greece, or Holland and Bulgaria, remain too wide to be bridged by fumbling bureaucrats in Brussels. NATO has devolved into a euphemism for American expeditionary forces.

Nationalism is returning, based on stronger common ties of language, history, religion, and culture. We are even seeing the return of a two-century-old European “problem”: a powerful Germany that logically seeks greater political influence commensurate with its undeniable economic superiority.

The tired Israeli-Palestinian fight over the future of the West Bank is no longer the nexus of Middle East tensions. The Muslim Arab world is now more terrified by the re-emergence of a bloc of old familiar non-Arabic, Islamic fundamentalist rivals.

With nuclear weapons, theocratic Iran wants to offer strategic protection to radical allies such as Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas, and at the same time restore Persian glory. While diverse, this rogue bunch shares contempt for the squabbling Sunni Arab world of rich but defenseless Gulf petro-sheikdoms and geriatric state authoritarians.

Turkey is flipping back to its pre-20th-century past. Its departure from NATO is not a question of if, but when. The European Union used to not want Turkey; now Turkey does not want the shaky EU.

Turkish revisionism now glorifies the old Ottoman sultanate. Turkey wants to recharge that reactionary model as the unifier and protector of Islam — not the modern, vastly reduced secular state of Kemal Ataturk. Weak neighbors Armenia, Cyprus, Greece, and Kurdistan have historical reasons to tremble.

Japan’s economy is still stalled. Its affluent population is shrinking and aging. Elsewhere in the region, the Japanese see an expanding China and a lunatic nuclear North Korea. Yet Japan is not sure whether the inward-looking United States is still credible in its old promise of protection against any and all enemies.

One of two rather bleak Asian futures seems likely. Either an ascendant China will dictate the foreign policies of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, or lots of new freelancing nuclear powers will appear to deter China since it cannot count on an insolvent U.S. for protection.

Oil-rich Russia — deprived of its Communist-era empire — seems to find lost imperial prestige and influence by being for everything that the U.S. is against. That translates into selling nuclear expertise and material to Iran, providing weapons to provocative states such as Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, and bullying neighbors over energy supplies.

Closer to home, Mexico has become a strange sort of friend. It devolves daily into a more corrupt and violent place than Iraq or Pakistan. The fossilized leadership in Mexico City shows no interest in reforming, either by opening its economy or liberalizing its political institutions.

Instead, Mexico’s very survival for now rests on cynically exporting annually a million of its impoverished and unhappy citizens to America. More interested in money than in its own people, the Mexican government counts on the more than $20 billion in remittances that return to the country each year.

But American citizens are tired of picking up the tab to subsidize nearly 15 million poor illegal aliens. The growing hostility between the two countries is reminiscent of 19th-century tensions across the Rio Grande.

How is America reacting to these back-to-the-future changes?

Politically divided, committed to two wars, in a deep recession, insolvent, and still stunned by the financial meltdown of 2008, our government seems paralyzed. As European socialism implodes, for some reason a new statist U.S. government wants to copy failure by taking over ever more of the economy and borrowing trillions more to provide additional entitlements.

As panicky old allies look for American protection, we talk of slashing our defense budget. In apologetic fashion, we spend more time appeasing confident enemies than buttressing worried friends.

Instead of finishing our border fence and closing the southern border, we are suing a state that is trying to enforce immigration laws that the federal government will not apply. And as sectarianism spreads abroad, we at home still pursue the failed salad bowl and caricature the once-successful American melting pot.

But just as old problems return, so do equally old solutions. Once-stodgy ideas like a free-market economy, strong defense, secure borders, and national unity are suddenly appearing fresh and wise.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
25940  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTB (Pravda on the Beach- Left Angeles Times) No Green Cards needed on: September 04, 2010, 12:44:10 PM
Arizona colleges accused of immigrant discrimination

Before this year, Phoenix-area community colleges asked legal immigrants to show a green card before hiring them. The Justice Department calls the policy 'document abuse' and seeks damages.
David G. Savage, Tribune Washington Bureau
September 4, 2010

Employers who hire illegal immigrants can be fined, but the Obama administration warned this week that they also can be fined for asking legal immigrants to show their green cards before hiring them.

The Justice Department's civil rights division sued the Maricopa County Community Colleges in Arizona, seeking damages from schools for having "intentionally committed document abuse discrimination."

Prior to this year, the local colleges in the Phoenix area asked job applicants who were not U.S. citizens to show a driver's license, a Social Security card and their permanent resident card, commonly called a green card.

The Justice Department said a valid driver's license and a Social Security card are usually sufficient to show that a person is authorized to work. Requesting a green card amounts to "immigration-related employment discrimination," said Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Federal law forbids treating "authorized workers differently during the hiring process based on their citizenship status," Perez said. He said the department's Office of Special Counsel would bring legal actions against employers who impose "unnecessary and discriminatory hurdles to employment for work-authorized noncitizens."

Amid the fierce controversy over immigration, the Obama administration has launched three lawsuits this summer to protect the rights of Latinos and legal immigrants — all three targeting Arizona.

In July, the administration successfully blocked Arizona's law that authorized state and local police to check the immigration status of persons who were arrested. On Thursday, it sued Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio seeking documents that could show he has illegally targeted Latinos in the course of his immigration sweeps.

The suit against the Maricopa community colleges, announced Monday, and could affect employers across the nation.

"Employers are getting very mixed messages from the government," said Jessica Vaughan, a policy analyst with the Center for Immigration Studies.

On one hand, employers have been told they need to do more to verify that their workers are legal and authorized to work in the United States. Federal immigration law says hiring "an unauthorized alien" can result in fines of up to $3,000 per worker. However, another provision of the same law bars employers from requesting "more or different documents" than are needed to prove a noncitizen's legal status.

In the Maricopa college case, the Justice Department said it wanted "full remedial relief" for 247 noncitizens who applied for jobs with the community college district between August 2008 and January of this year, plus a civil penalty of $1,100 for each of them.

"We are extremely disappointed by the Justice Department's action. We had no intent to discriminate against any foreign national, and we feel we have been singled out for the maximum penalty under the law," said Charles Reinebold, a spokesman for the community colleges. "There was no actual harm here. This was a paperwork error, and we revised it after it was brought to our attention."

Vaughan said she was "very surprised the administration would resort to a lawsuit. In the past, the emphasis has been on mediation to resolve these issues."

But others applauded the administration's move to enforce the anti-discrimination parts of the immigration law.

Gening Liao, a lawyer for the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles, said the law itself is clear.

"If you bring in a driver's license and a Social Security card, those documents are sufficient. Employers are prohibited from asking for extra documents or different documents," she said. "This is blatant discrimination, and we get calls about it all the time. We hope to see more lawsuits like this."
25941  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: September 04, 2010, 12:37:12 PM
The impression I got was that he probably had been loudly commenting on the game (perhaps with vulgarities?) whereas tennis crowd etiquette tends to be rather quiet.  The fact that not one but two phone cameras were focused on the exchange indicates that things had been building for a while , , ,
25942  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Kali Tudo Working Examples on: September 04, 2010, 12:34:29 PM
Thank you C-HD.

Obviously as used in boxing the PS has some structural issues (e.g. not lined up for responding to leg kicks, shoots, exposing back, etc) but I have some ideas I am working on  wink

25943  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 04, 2010, 11:04:38 AM
I offer the following concept for consideration:

It seems to me that much of the conversation/debate makes health care an all or nothing proposition.  Why not have a certain base level that everyone gets whether they are covered or not (e.g. you are hit by a car and need emergency treatment) and other stuff (long, expensive treatment) that you don't, unless you provide for it yourself.
25944  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Syria reverses course on: September 04, 2010, 10:17:24 AM
DAMASCUS, Syria — This country, which had sought to show solidarity with Islamist groups and allow religious figures a greater role in public life, has recently reversed course, moving forcefully to curb the influence of Muslim conservatives in its mosques, public universities and charities.

Enlarge This Image
Bryan Denton for The New York Times
Young Syrians gathered in Damascus. A crackdown on Islamists is an effort to reassert Syria’s secularism, officials say.
The government has asked imams for recordings of their Friday sermons and started to strictly monitor religious schools. Members of an influential Muslim women’s group have now been told to scale back activities like preaching or teaching Islamic law. And this summer, more than 1,000 teachers who wear the niqab, or the face veil, were transferred to administrative duties.

The crackdown, which began in 2008 but has gathered steam this summer, is an effort by President Bashar al-Assad to reassert Syria’s traditional secularism in the face of rising threats from radical groups in the region, Syrian officials say.

The policy amounts to a sharp reversal for Syria, which for years tolerated the rise of the conservatives. And it sets the government on the seemingly contradictory path of moving against political Islamists at home, while supporting movements like Hamas and Hezbollah abroad.

Syrian officials are adamant that the shifts stem from alarming domestic trends, and do not affect support for those groups, allies in their struggle against Israel. At the same time, they have spoken proudly about their secularizing campaign, though they have been reluctant to reveal its details. Some Syrian analysts view that as an overture to the United States and European nations, which have been courting Syria as part of a strategy to isolate Iran and curb the influence of Hamas and Hezbollah.

Human rights advocates say the policy exacerbates pressing concerns: the arbitrary imprisonment of Islamists, as well as the continued failure to allow them any political space.

Pressure on Islamic conservatives in Syria began in earnest after a powerful car bomb exploded in the Syrian capital in September 2008, killing 17 people. The government blamed the radical group Fatah al-Islam.

“The bombing was the trigger, but the pressure had been building,” said Peter Harling, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. “After a period of accommodation with the Islamic groups, the regime entered this far more proactive and repressive mode. It realizes the challenge that the Islamization of Syrian society poses.”

The government’s campaign drew wider notice this summer, when a decision to bar students wearing the niqab from registering for university classes was compared to a similar ban in France. That move seemed to underscore a reduced tolerance for strict observance by Muslims in public life. Syrian officials have put it differently, saying the niqab is “alien” to Syrian society.

The campaign carries risks for a secular government that has fought repeated, violent battles with Islamists in the past, most notably in 1982, when Mr. Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, razed the city of Hama while confronting the Muslim Brotherhood, killing tens of thousands of people. For the moment there has been no visible domestic backlash, but one cleric, who said he was dismissed without being given a reason two years ago, suggested that could change.

“The Islamists now have a strong argument that the regime is antagonizing the Muslims,” he said.

The government courted religious conservatives as Western powers moved to isolate Syria amid accusations that it was behind the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, in 2005. The government appointed a sheik instead of a member of the ruling Baathist party to head the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and allowed, for the first time, religious activities in the stadium at Damascus University.

As the country emerged from that isolation, it focused on domestic challenges, including the fear that sectarian tensions in the region could spread — a recurring fear in Syria, a country with a Sunni majority ruled by Alawites, a religious minority.

The government also focused on conservatives. “What they had nourished and empowered, they felt the need to break,” said Hassan Abbas, a Syrian researcher.

The details of the campaign have remained murky, though Syrian officials have not been afraid to publicize its aims, including in foreign media outlets. In an interview with the American talk show host Charlie Rose in May, Mr. Assad was asked to name his biggest challenge.

“How we can keep our society as secular as it is today,” he said. “The challenge is the extremism in this region.”

Mr. Assad has in the past singled out northern Lebanon as a source of that extremism.

“We didn’t forget Nahr al-Bared,” said Mohammed al-Habash, a Syrian lawmaker, referring to battles in that region three years ago between Lebanese forces and Fatah al-Islam. “We have to take this seriously.”

Beginning in 2008, the government embarked on its new course when it fired administrators at several Islamic charities, according to the former cleric, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared reprisal by the government.

The clampdown has intensified in recent months. Last spring, the Qubaisiate, an underground women’s prayer group that was growing in prominence, was barred from meeting at mosques, according to members. Earlier this summer, top officials in Damascus Governorate were fired for their religious leanings, according to Syrian analysts.

Other moves underscore the delicacy of Mr. Assad’s campaign — or perhaps send mixed signals. A planned conference on secularism earlier this year, initially approved by the government, was abruptly canceled for no reason, according to Mr. Abbas.

“Secularism is their version of being secular,” Mr. Abbas said.

Another episode can be seen as a concession to Islamists, or a sign of just how comfortable the conservatives have become. A proposed rewrite of Syria’s personal status law, which governs civil matters, leaked last year, retained provisions that made it legal for men to marry girls as young as 13 years old. Under pressure, including from women’s groups, lawmakers abandoned the draft law.

“There are limits to what they can do,” Mr. Harling, the analyst, said of the Syrian government. “They will try things out and pedal back if things go too far. It says a lot about how difficult it is — even for a regime that is deeply secular itself and whose survival is tied to the secular nature of Syrian society.”
25945  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / In US uniforms?!? on: September 04, 2010, 10:08:58 AM
25946  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Wit on: September 03, 2010, 10:16:53 PM
A member of Parliament to British Prime Minister Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on

the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."

"That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."


"He had delusions of adequacy." - Walter Kerr


"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." - Winston Churchill


"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."  -

 Clarence Darrow


"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." - William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).


"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." -

Moses Hadas


"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." -

Mark Twain


"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend...

 if you have one." - George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one." - Winston Churchill, in response.


"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here." - Stephen Bishop


"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." - Irvin S. Cobb


"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily." - Charles, Count Talleyrand


"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." - Oscar Wilde


"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." - Groucho Marx

25947  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post part 2 on: September 03, 2010, 04:42:58 PM
Immigration Front: ICE Enforcement

Washington's elites are once again having it their way. On Aug. 20, Immigrant and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary John Morton wrote a memo to the agency's head of removal operations, telling him that being in the U.S. illegally is no longer grounds for deportation. Only illegals who pose a security threat or have violent records need now be deported. The memo represents Barack Obama's announcement of open borders to a waiting world. How much damage can one president create in a single term? Jimmy Carter was a piker compared to this guy.

The agency now has also begun an "outreach" program to illegals closest to eligibility for permanent status. It's coaching illegals on how to obtain the proper credentials to vote. ICE even sent a form letter to one illegal who had admitted to voting in a previous election, a felony. But ICE's priority is to get him his U.S. citizenship, not to enforce the law.

ICE workers themselves are so angry about Obama's dereliction of his duty that their union issued a membership consensus of "no confidence" in the agency's leaders, something a federal union has never done before. But the drug cartels, whose aim is to turn Mexico into a narco-state on our southern border, are thrilled with the new policy and have already stepped up the terrorizing of residents in Northern Mexico.

The recent massacre of 72 would-be illegals in Tamaulipas, Mexico, is the tip of an iceberg. Not only do the cartels smuggle and murder people, but they also enslave many for various reasons: some are forced into sex slavery and some into the ranks of the gangs' foot soldiers. This part of the president's "fundamental transformation" of America is getting ugly.

In other news, the Justice Department has followed through on their threat to sue Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for supposed "civil rights" violations in his efforts to round up illegal aliens. It's now the third federal suit against Arizona -- all because the state is picking up federal slack.

Business & Economy

10th Amendment Uprising Against ObamaCare

More than 20 states are suing the federal government over this year's Democrat-engineered hostile takeover of the nation's health care system. They argue (correctly) that Uncle Sam has no constitutional authority to mandate that individuals purchase health insurance. Continuing its pattern of constitutional reinventions, however, the Obama administration claims that the Commerce Clause gives Congress the authority. (It must be right next to the "federal government can do most anything" clause.) We would point to Article I, Section 8 and the 10th Amendment for evidence to the contrary.

The legal challenges notwithstanding, seven of the states involved in the lawsuit (Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska and Nevada) are accepting subsidies provided under ObamaCare to help employers cover early retirees. Jane Jankowski, press secretary for Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, explained, "Gov. Daniels does not agree with [ObamaCare], but Indiana will seek funds that help Hoosiers when there are no complicated strings or costs attached."

Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court, by a 5-2 vote, nixed a ballot initiative attempting to amend the state's constitution to say that Floridians have the right not to buy mandatory health care coverage. Citing "misleading and ambiguous language" in the ballot summary, the judges said their "only recourse is to strike the proposed constitutional amendment from the ballot." In 2004, however, the court resolved a ballot question by having state officials replace the summary with the full amendment text. Strange how recourse options have changed since then.

This Week's 'Braying Jenny' Award
"Unfortunately, there still is a great deal of confusion about what is in [the health care law] and what isn't. ... So, we have a lot of re-education to do." --Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Great idea. Maybe they can even set up some camps to help with the "re-education" effort, à la Chairman Mao's Little Red Playbook.

Income Redistribution: Record Number Receiving Federal Aid

A new survey shows the number of Americans on the government dole has reached a record high, with one in six now receiving some form of government aid. According to a USA Today survey, more than 50 million Americans are on Medicaid (up 17 percent since December 2007), more than 40 million receive food stamps (a 50 percent jump), nearly 10 million receive unemployment benefits (almost four times the 2007 number), and more than 4.4 million are on other welfare programs (up 18 percent). As numbers have risen, so have costs. Welfare, food stamps and unemployment benefits now carry respective price tags of $22 billion, $70 billion and $160 billion, with Medicaid claiming some $273 billion in federal tax dollars, spiking 36 percent in just two years.

LaDonna Pavetti of the left-wing Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argues the government "should be there to support people when the economy can't." But the Cato Institute's Michael Tanner points out that government programs are "much harder to unwind in the long term."

Speaking of government programs, Social Security snagged the spotlight last week, thanks to former Republican senator and current co-chair of Barack Obama's deficit committee Alan Simpson, who described the entitlement program as "a milk cow with 310 million tits." An unpleasant way to speak the truth.

Finally, wrapping up the "Recovery Summer" touted by the White House, the Labor Department announced that employers cut 54,000 jobs in August (mostly temporary census workers) and unemployment rose to 9.6 percent. But not to worry. As Joe Biden says, "No doubt we're moving in the right direction."

Judicial Benchmarks: Judge Rules Against Gov't on Drilling Ban

"A federal judge on Wednesday rejected the U.S. government's request to dismiss an industry lawsuit challenging its deepwater oil and gas drilling moratorium, dealing another blow to the Obama administration," Reuters reports. After the administration issued its first drilling ban in June, Hornbeck Offshore Services, Inc., and other drilling companies sued. According to Reuters, "As a result of Louisiana-based Hornbeck's lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans blocked implementation of the drilling ban on June 22."

What did the administration do? Why, draw up another ban, of course. However, noting that the second moratorium made "no substantial changes" to the first one, Feldman denied the administration's efforts to dismiss the Hornbeck suit.

Meanwhile, an oil platform off the Louisiana coast caught fire Thursday, just 245 miles from BP's Deepwater Horizon. Thirteen people were aboard but no one was injured seriously, and the fire is reportedly out. It appears that little or no oil was spilled, but this will no doubt increase the resolve of those who oppose drilling and want even more regulation. After all, when regulations don't work, the answer is always more of them.

Regulatory Commissars: Report Cars

Fearing consumers aren't making the politically correct choices, the Obama administration has proposed grading new passenger vehicles with letter grades from A to D based on fuel efficiency and tailpipe emissions. Currently, the EPA rates a vehicle's city and highway mileage, along with estimating the annual fuel cost. Under the EPA's and Transportation Department's proposal, the only cars that can receive Big Brother's Official Seal of Approval with an A-plus, A or A-minus are electrics and plug-in hybrids. No word on whether all Chrysler or GM products are automatically granted an A while they're still owned by the federal government.

As can be expected, grade inflation is awarded in inverse proportion to how powerful the vehicle is, so small, weak-sister econoboxes dominate the top grades while larger family vehicles are at the other end of the spectrum. Not coincidentally, this inversion generally mirrors the sales numbers of the vehicles, with the biggest sellers typically being the would-be lower graded but larger and more powerful vehicles.

Due to the administration's unrivaled talent for creating unintended consequences, the proposed environmental rules may actually encourage more environmental pollution. Notably excluded are several important factors for evaluating a vehicle's efficiency, such as longevity and upstream energy usage, both of which are important in comprehensively evaluating Obama's A+ graded electric vehicles. When the government conveniently excludes non-tailpipe emissions, all the power plant emissions generated in charging the electric cars isn't counted even though such power plant emissions may exceed the tailpipe emissions of a gas vehicle. We wonder if a grade can be assigned when liars figure and figures are made to lie.

Culture & Policy

Second Amendment: EPA Doesn't Ban Lead Ammo
In early August, the Center for Biological Diversity and four other radical environmentalist groups filed a petition with the EPA to ban lead ammunition and fishing tackle. Claiming that lead ammunition and fishing tackle "have a devastating effect" on wildlife, they asked the EPA to enact the ban under the authority of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. Recognizing this petition for what it really was, a back-door attempt to restrict gun rights, the hunting, outdoor recreation and shooting community quickly mobilized.

There was one major problem with the radicals' petition: Ammunition is exempt from regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Undeterred, the radicals claimed that the EPA had the authority to regulate ammunition anyway. In an act unusual for the overreaching and power-hungry agency, the EPA denied the petition last Friday, admitting that it doesn't have jurisdiction to regulate ammunition under the Act. The agency is still considering the petition as it pertains to fishing tackle.

No one seriously expects this to be the end of the matter. The well funded and notoriously litigious Center for Biological Diversity and its radical cronies will almost certainly file a federal lawsuit. No doubt they will ask the courts to do to lead ammunition what they did to carbon dioxide: require the EPA to regulate something it should leave alone. Common sense has -- for a change -- prevailed at the EPA. We can only hope it also prevails in the courts.

Around the Nation: Treading on the Gadsden Flag

An Arizona homeowner is under pressure from his homeowners' association to remove the "debris" from his roof. The "debris" in question is a Gadsden flag flown from his house since earlier this year. Commonly known as the "Don't Tread on Me" flag, the yellow banner with a coiled rattlesnake originated in the Revolutionary War when it was flown above ships. It since has been adopted as a symbol of the Tea Party movement.

The homeowner, who was himself a member of the Avalon Village Community Association until July, says, "It's a patriotic gesture. It's a historic military flag. It represents the Founding Fathers. It shows this nation was born out of an idea." Shortly after resigning due to a dispute with the board's president, he received the first notice about the flag. Now, even the ACLU has come to his defense, saying that homeowners' associations don't have the right to "hijack" their members' First Amendment rights. Avalon Village, for their part, says they are following a state statute that allows residents to fly the U.S. flag, the state flag, the official flags of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, and various Indian nation flags. A similar threat was rescinded in Colorado, and some retired Marines are fighting to have the flag flown over the state Capitol in Connecticut.

And Last...

Everyone is okay at the Discovery Communications building in Silver Spring, Maryland. For nearly four hours on Wednesday afternoon, James J. Lee held three people hostage at gunpoint inside the building. He had what appeared to be explosives strapped to his body.

Lee was no right-wing lunatic with a gun, but a radical lefty environmentalist who had protested Discovery before. His rambling demands included changing programming to add more shows warning against "giving birth to more filthy human children since those new additions continue pollution and are pollution" and stopping shows that are "advertising weapons of mass-destruction." Lee also wanted Discovery Channel to "find solutions for unemployment and housing." He continued, "Saving the environment and the remaning [sic] species diversity of the planet is now your mindset. Nothing is more important than saving them. The Lions, Tigers, Giraffes, Elephants, Froggies, Turtles, Apes, Raccoons, Beetles, Ants, Sharks, Bears, and, of course, the Squirrels. The humans? The planet does not need humans." He experienced an "awakening" after watching Al Gore's environmental propaganda film, ''An Inconvenient Truth." Does that now qualify it as "hate speech"?

After negotiations failed to placate Lee, police shot and killed him, granting him his wish for fewer people on the planet. We just hope the cops didn't use lead bullets. That might be bad for the environment.
25948  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: September 03, 2010, 04:42:15 PM
Digest · September 3, 2010

The Foundation

"A universal peace, it is to be feared, is in the catalogue of events, which will never exist but in the imaginations of visionary philosophers, or in the breasts of benevolent enthusiasts." --James Madison

Government & Politics

Warfront With Jihadistan: Obama's Speech

Tuesday evening, the Whiner-in-Chief gave yet another prime time speech, this time about ending the war in Iraq. Or was it about the war in Afghanistan? Or the "Bush" economy and joblessness? Whatever the point, Obama declared that combat operations in Iraq are "over" and that it was time to "turn the page" on the war.

Obama did give a strong tribute to U.S. troops, saying that they had "completed every mission they were given. They defeated a regime that had terrorized its people." Indeed they did, no thanks to Obama. Of course, if removing a terrorist regime is a good thing, then why did Obama oppose doing so? Perhaps Obama could ask the Kuwaitis about how the old Iraqi regime had terrorized people outside of Iraq, as well.

Ignoring the surge that turned the war around, Obama said of his predecessor, "[N]o one could doubt President Bush's support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security." Too bad that can't be said of Obama himself. He continued, "As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it." While he's right that there are patriots who honestly opposed the war from the outset, Obama skipped over how the political talking points of congressional Leftists who opposed the war -- after initially supporting it -- undermined our mission and emboldened our enemies.

We suppose it's no wonder that he ignored the surge. After all, in 2007, he pontificated, "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse." Later that year, he said of the surge, "The president has simply tried to gain another six months to continue on the same course that he's been on for several years now. It is a course that will not succeed."

Now that it has succeeded, Obama naturally wouldn't be eager to remind everyone of his position then. The same can be said for his refusal to even mention Saddam Hussein in his speech. One can only wonder, therefore, whether Obama believes the world is a better place -- and the U.S. more secure -- without the brutal tyrant.

Moving on to Afghanistan, Obama seemed to hedge a bit on his July 2011 withdrawal timeline, saying, "The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground." He also spoke of his own Afghan troop surge, saying, "I have ordered the deployment of additional troops who ... are fighting to break the Taliban's momentum. As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time." Limited time being the goal, of course.

"Turning the page," then, Obama dispensed with national security in his speech about national security and moved into campaign mode on his economic agenda, though he tied it together with crocodile tears about the cost of the wars. Quite rich coming from someone whose one-year "stimulus" plan cost more than seven years of war in Iraq. If he wants us to "turn the page" to his economic policy, we'll have a chance to give a scathing review of that whole book on Nov. 2.

Quote of the Week
"While the speech may have helped him with Democratic voters, it is likely to undermine confidence in American leadership not only in Iraq and the broader Middle East, but in many other areas of the world. President Obama's proclamation of his 'central responsibility' for economic matters, shoe-horned into a major speech about Iraq -- one of the world's most important international security issues -- will only encourage foreign doubts about his Administration's commitment to finishing the job in Afghanistan, winning the struggle against Islamist extremism, and protecting U.S. allies around the world." --James Phillips of the Heritage Foundation

'Restoring Honor' Rally Draws Crowds, Critics

Author and Fox News Channel personality Glenn Beck held a "Restoring Honor" rally last weekend that filled most of the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Hundreds of thousands attended from around the country, eager to share the message of restoring hope and honor to America. Beck shared the stage with former Alaska Gov. and 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, but both speakers downplayed the political aspects of the gathering. Beck's words certainly did have more of a religious tone, encouraging attendees to pray with their families, and to "recognize your place to the Creator. Realize that He is our King. He is the one who guides and directs our life and protects us."

National media outlets and liberals couldn't stomach the fact that Beck held his rally on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's historic "I have a dream" speech during the 1963 March on Washington. The media, of course, tried to make it into a race issue, searching for black people in the audience only to ask them what they were doing there. The "Rev." Al Sharpton accused Beck of co-opting King's legacy, and he held a rather pathetic little counter-gathering of his own.

The message and tone of the two gatherings were quite different. Many of the attendees of Beck's peaceful and respectful "Restoring Honor" rally were motivated to seek a change in direction in America -- one that is less reliant on government. There were many Tea Party supporters in the crowd, as well as average citizens tired of the high taxation and government intrusion in their lives.

Sharpton's "Reclaim the Dream" rally was, on the surface, an opportunity to celebrate King, but underneath was Sharpton's eternal quest to find rampant racism among American whites. Thus, one rally was about the greatness of America, while the other was a gripe-fest about how terrible she allegedly is.

Barack Obama, true to his nature, downplayed the significance of the Beck gathering. First he claimed to have ignored it, but then he told NBC's Brian Williams, "It's not surprising that someone like a Mr. Beck is able to stir up a certain portion" of the American people. This is reminiscent of his various derisive comments about "angry mobs" who are "waving their little tea bags" while they "bitterly cling" to guns and religion. It's no wonder that Obama's poll numbers are tanking when he holds the majority of the American people in such contempt.

This Week's 'Alpha Jackass' Award

"It's a free country. I wish it weren't, but it's a free country, and you got to, you got to respect that freedom." --Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, objecting to the Glenn Beck rally and typifying the Left's attitude toward free speech -- it's great only if they agree with it

News From the Swamp: Obama Calls for More Spending

Barack Obama once again focused blame for the ailing economy on Republicans this week, claiming that the GOP was stonewalling a "jobs" bill for political reasons. The legislation in question is a bill that would set up a $30 billion Treasury Department fund to make loans to small business owners through small, healthy community banks. Legislation has already cleared the House, but Senate Republicans are opposed because the bill does not address the expiration of the Bush tax cuts or the undue paperwork and tax burden that the new health care law will place on small businesses.

Obama claimed, "This bill is fully paid for. It will not add to the deficit, and there is no reason to block it besides pure partisan politics." We've heard that one before, most notably when the president said that ObamaCare would not add one dime to the deficit. In a sense, he was correct. It will actually add hundreds of billions of dimes to the deficit.

Republicans have privately admitted that they don't have the votes to stop this latest liberal boondoggle when Congress goes back to work on Sept. 13. But its passage will provide yet more proof that Obama's so-called fixes for the economy have only sunk America deeper in debt, and just in time for the midterm elections.

From the Left: Demo Rep. Johnson in Ethics Trouble

Another member of the Congressional Black Caucus is in ethical hot water this week. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a nine-term Democrat from Dallas, violated a number of rules in the distribution of college scholarships set aside by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. The Foundation is a nonprofit funded by corporate and private donations, providing approximately $700,000 every year for the 42 members of the Caucus to distribute in the form of scholarships.

It's hard to run afoul of the Foundation's disbursement rules, which are liberal to say the least. Lawmakers have wide latitude in how they disburse the funds. For instance, they can give a lot of small scholarships to many students or even one large scholarship to a single student. There are no stipulations about the selection process either -- lawmakers can do it by committee or individually. Among the few requirements are that the student live or go to school in the district represented by the Caucus member awarding the money, maintain a 2.5 grade-point average and not be related to a Caucus member.

Even with all that room to maneuver, Johnson still managed to blow it. Of the 43 scholarships she awarded between 2005 and 2009, 23 are in violation of Foundation rules. These awards totaling $25,000 went to her grandsons, great-nephews and the children of aide Rod Givens. Not only did she violate the anti-nepotism clause, but also in some cases the recipients don't live or go to school in her district. Johnson predictably played dumb, claiming that she "recognized the names when I saw them," but that she was unaware that she was violating the rules. This might have been a believable excuse were it not for the fact that Johnson actually chaired the Caucus in 2002 and served on the Foundation board from 2002-2005. As with other scandals involving CBC members Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters, we're left to determine whether Johnson was incompetent then or lying now.

It's Miller Time

Incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) conceded her primary race against challenger Joe Miller Tuesday after failing to gain enough ground during the absentee ballot count. Despite having 20 times the campaign cash as her opponent, she is the third sitting senator this year to be fired before the general election. Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) was ousted in a state convention and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-R-D-PA) lost his Democrat primary. Murkowski trailed Miller by 1,668 votes before absentee counting began, and after 15,000 had been counted she remained behind by 1,630 votes. Miller, a West Point and Yale Law graduate who earned a Bronze Star in the first Gulf War, will face Democrat Scott McAdams in November.

There has been much speculation regarding Murkowski's next step, including that she might take the Libertarian Party nomination to keep a slot on November's ballot. It would be generous to call her a moderate, however, and we doubt she or the Libertarian Party would find that a good fit. Miller, meanwhile, won by running a conservative -- and unusual -- campaign for Alaska. The 49th state is heavily addicted to federal cash, and Murkowski and the late Ted Stevens were experts at bringing home the bacon. Miller ran against such government excess, advocating that we restore the Constitution to its rightful place. In a year that has seen growing protests of government overreach, it's encouraging that this approach resonated that far north.

National Security

A Decision Made in Cole Blood

The White House proved again that to them terrorist acts are simply domestic criminal acts committed by "foreigners" as the Obama administration just announced a halt to the prosecution of the suspected al-Qa'ida mastermind behind the attack on the USS Cole, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The Cole was attacked on Oct. 12, 2000, by suicide bombers who detonated more than 1,000 pounds of explosives in a small vessel that pulled alongside the ship while it was on a refueling stop in Yemen. The blast killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured 39 others.

Why the sudden change of prosecutorial heart? A military official speaking on condition of anonymity to The Washington Post explained that "the administration does not want a high-profile terrorist tried in a military tribunal before major figures held at Guantanamo Bay start having civilian trials." Let that sink in for a moment: The Chosen One, through his legal lackey, Attorney General Eric Holder, has decided not to try the terrorists who attacked the Cole on the basis that doing so would introduce even more uncertainty into the execution phase of a poorly contemplated decision. Never mind the evidence linking al-Nashiri to the bombing.

Never mind, too, the palpable link between the Cole bombing and 9/11. Notably, one of the 9/11 hijackers -- Khalid al-Mihdhar -- also helped plan the Cole bombing. Additionally, imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who was linked both to the Fort Hood shootings and the Christmas Day "Undie Bomber," is also tied to the Cole attack. No, apparently the key take-away from the administration's actions is that an attack on an American warship -- one that resulted in the deaths of 17 American Patriots -- doesn't count nearly as much as ensuring that the civil-trial-for-war-criminals agenda remains on track.

Of course, it's also very understandable why the ironically named (of late) Justice Department would want to shed cases right now, especially in light of its legal offensive against Arizona holding the federal government to task in enforcing U.S. law. But we digress. For its part, Team Chosen has apparently borrowed a line from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail": "Please! This is supposed to be a happy occasion! Let's not bicker and argue about who killed who."

As for us, our hearts are with the families of the victims of the attack on the USS Cole. We are truly heartbroken for these families that have now witnessed a full decade of justice denied, and our blood boils at the thought that this injustice will continue.

Middle East Peace Talks, Take 87

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this week for the latest round of peace talks, the first in nearly two years. The good news is that they had such a good time that they agreed to do it again sometime. Another round of talks will convene on Sept. 14 and 15. To quote the great diplomat Forrest Gump, "That's all we have to say about that."

25949  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: September 03, 2010, 03:14:02 PM
In the second clip at 00:090 she hits him with a right slap to the face.  I believe that is what he is referencing when he says "I can take 20 of those."
25950  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: September 03, 2010, 11:11:32 AM
An amusing study in human interaction.  Any analysis?
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