Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Catching up:
on: October 01, 2008, 07:30:49 AM
I've been travelling a lot. I'm glad to be home and begin catching up:
"The greatest good we can do our country is to heal its party
divisions and make them one people."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Dickinson, 23 July 1801)
Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Ford Edition, vol. 8
“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” —Thomas Jefferson
"It is important also to consider, that the surest means of
avoiding war is to be prepared for it in peace."
-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)
Reference: Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 415.
"I am principled against this kind of traffic in the human
species...and to disperse the families I have an aversion."
-- George Washington (letter to Robert Lewis, 18 August 1799)
Reference: Washington's Maxims, 159.
“Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue; or in any manner affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change and can trace its consequences; a harvest reared not by themselves but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with some truth that laws are made for the few not for the many.” —James Madison
"Our own Country's Honor, all call upon us for a vigorous
and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail, we shall
become infamous to the whole world. Let us therefore rely upon
the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the supreme Being,
in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great
and noble Actions - The Eyes of all our Countrymen are now upon
us, and we shall have their blessings, and praises, if happily
we are the instruments of saving them from the Tyranny mediated
against them. Let us therefore animate and encourage each other,
and shew the whole world, that a Freeman contending for Liberty
on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth."
-- George Washington (General Orders, 2 July 1776)
Reference: Washington, General Orders, July 2, 1776.
“If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy.” —Thomas Jefferson
“I believe that the people you and I represent are ready to chart a new course. They look to us to meet the great challenge, to reach beyond the commonplace and not fall short for lack of creativity or courage... We can restore our economic strength and build opportunities like none we’ve ever had before. As Carl Sandburg said, all we need to begin with is a dream that we can do better than before. All we need to have is faith, and that dream will come true. All we need to do is act, and the time for action is now.” —Ronald Reagan
"I trust that the proposed Constitution afford a genuine specimen
of representative government and republican government; and that
it will answer, in an eminent degree, all the beneficial purposes
-- Alexander Hamilton (speech to the New York Ratifying Convention,
Reference: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Cabot Lodge,
ed., II, 30.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Quotes, quips, and sayings
on: October 01, 2008, 07:30:33 AM
“The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.” —Herbert Spencer
“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” —Barry Goldwater
“I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth.” —William F. Buckley
“So I became a newspaperman. I hated to do it but I couldn’t find honest employment.” —Mark Twain
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gay Rights= New Battles
on: October 01, 2008, 07:13:32 AM
"before GM as usual added his usual four posts with no comment or relevancy to the topic,"
Although his posted articles may not fit wtihin the logic of YOUR argument, the fit within the logic of HIS argument-- a logic the relevance of which I found easy to discern even with his tradition of not adding an explanatory sentence or three
Anyway, with the beginning of the Sharia thread nearby, I return to a subject which appears regularly in this thread:http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/same_sex_marriage_lessons_from_canada/
Same-sex marriage: lessons from Canada
Where gay rights triumph, new rights battles begin.
In May this year the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 22, which affirmed opposite-sex marriage, was unconstitutional. To date, only Massachusetts in the United States allows same-sex marriage. So what are the Canadian lessons for California and other states that will, in time, face a debate about the redefinition of marriage?
Firstly, where gay rights triumph, new rights battles begin. One example is over the rights of children. Another is over polygamy, which soon involves freedom of religion. A third battle is over freedom of speech -- the right to publicly advocate traditional marriage can be challenged as homophobic. Secondly, where marriage is not understood as an institution, it cannot be defended adequately in the public square. In short, if North Americans are not educated on what marriage is, they will not, in the long term, support an exclusive definition, one that will appear discriminatory even if this is not the case or the intention.
Marriage as an institution is meant to constrain human behaviour, not liberate or grant rights. Put differently, where individuals have both rights and responsibilities, marriage falls more in the latter category; it is a responsibility, not a right.
In his book, The Future of Marriage, American family scholar David Blankenhorn says that "a social institution creates and maintains rules, including rules for who is, and is not, a part of the institution… [A] social institution creates public meaning… [Such institutions] exist to solve basic problems and meet core needs.”
Blankenhorn goes on to say this: “In nearly all human societies marriage is socially approved sexual intercourse between a woman and a man, conceived both as a personal relationship and as an institution, primarily such that any children resulting from the union are—and are understood by the society to be—emotionally, morally, practically, and legally affiliated with both of the parents.”
Keeping this definition in mind, any culture which sanctions same-sex marriage will place children’s rights at odds with adult desires. The January 2007 Ontario court ruling that a child could have three parents was inevitable because with same-sex marriage the concept of biological parenthood is immediately displaced. Same-sex reproduction immediately involves a third party. The idea of a "legal parent" replaced the idea of a “natural parent.”
And from three parents to polygamy: to date, our legislators have ignored the fact, revealed in February, that polygamous Muslim families are living in Toronto and claiming multiple Canadian welfare benefits in many cases. The logical and legal grounds to resist polygamy have been removed, making it difficult to prosecute.
Canadians, we are told, are laid back. But mention polygamy, and precisely the same cultural elites who sanctioned same-sex marriage become a little anxious. Will they accept that? Or will they trample religious freedom to prosecute polygamous families?
The right to practice religion freely has not fared well against gay equality rights. We see this most clearly through the human rights tribunals. In British Columbia, the Catholic Knights of Columbus were fined for declining to host a lesbian couple’s wedding reception. Chris Kempling, a teacher, was disciplined by the teachers’ governing body for a letter to the editor about homosexuality and in Alberta, on May 30, 2008, a pastor, Stephen Boissoin, was fined for the same, and ordered never to speak “discriminatorily” on the topic of homosexuality again.
Certainly, this is not the result of legalizing same-sex marriage. Many factors have combined to create an atmosphere in which marriage looks to be amorphous -- the introduction of no-fault divorce and increasing rights for cohabiting couples changed how we view the institution. Marriage now looks to be strictly religious and strictly private. That it is not purely religious or private at all is lost as equality discourse prevails.
On August 16, 2008, presidential hopeful Barack Obama told a California church audience that marriage was between one man and one woman. California is not a conservative state, yet polls there show support for traditional marriage. But the law also acts as a kind of teacher, which means that, in time, Californians could vote differently, given the recent Supreme Court ruling.
Since same-sex marriage became law, Canadians have been quiet. This is largely self-censoring, led by the real possibility that speaking out will result in public maligning, or worse. California is at a crossroads that Canada has already passed. But both north and south of the border, we need to begin to learn about marriage as an institution, and let those lessons lead public policy in the future.
Andrea Mrozek and Peter Jon Mitchell are staff members of the Institute of Marriage and the Family Canada, a social policy think thank based in Ottawa. This article first appeared in the IMFC's bulletin eReview.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Ecuador
on: September 29, 2008, 06:45:07 PM
LOS ECUATORIANOS DAN UN VOTO MASIVO A LA CONSTITUCION DE CORREA
En Guayaquil el sí tan sólo obtuvo 41’80 %
QUITO (ENVIADO ESPECIAL)
Los ecuatorianos aprobaron en referéndum la nueva Constitución,
dando luz verde al presidente Rafael Correa para que ponga en
práctica los cambios políticos y económicos que, según sus
promesas, deben cambiar al país. Las encuestas a pie de urna
otorgaron al Gobierno una victoria más clara de lo que se había
anticipado. Según Cedatos-Gallup, el sí ganó con un 70%, el no
obtuvo 25 %, y el resto sufragios en blanco y nulos. El canal Uno-
Noticias otorga al sí el 62’8 %, y al no 30’10%. Teleamazonas sumó
66’4 para el sí y 25 % para el no.
El triunfo arrollador de Correa quedó en parte empañado por la
votación en Guayaquil, la ciudad costera que es el motor económico
del país. Según las encuestas a pie de urna, el sí no alcanzó el 50
%. Unos sondeos colocaban al no por encima del sí, y en otros el sí
por delante del no. En todas las encuetas, la suma de los votos por
el no, unido a los sufragios en blanco y nulo superaban las
papeletas por el sí. En el futuro habrá que analizar que supone que
la zona más próspera del país, en defensa de la autonomía, el
respaldo a la Constitución no haya llegado al 50 %..
Al conocer las encuestas que anticipaban su triunfo, Correa saludó
en primer lugar a los emigrantes ecuatorianos, “a los tres millones
de exiliados de la pobreza”. El presidente señaló que el país “vive
un momento histórico que trasciende las personas, es un proceso de
cambio de todo un pueblo.
“Ecuador ha decidido un nuevo país, las viejas estructuras han sido
derrotadas por los soldados de la revolución ciudadana”, dijo
Correa en Guayaquil, desde la gobernación de la provincia de Guaymas.
Con este cuarto triunfo electoral consecutivo Correa ya tiene las
manos libres para presentarse a la reelección y acelerar sus
polémicas reformas socialistas, que, entre otras cosas, otorga al
Estado un mayor control en sectores estratégicos. Sumak kawsay,
buen vivir en lengua quechua, será el eje del nuevo marco
institucional que prometió el presidente. Sin embargo, sumak
kawsay, una fórmula tan difusa como el Socialismo del Siglo XXI
que impulsa el joven mandatario ecuatoriano, parece ser el
envoltorio de un proyecto estatista y de concentración del poder.
Por tercera vez en este año y por quinta en los últimos 26 meses,
unos 9,7 millones de ecuatorianos (el voto es obligatorio) se
pronunciaron sobre el texto constitucional Aunque con
características propias, el modelo de Correa sigue la hoja de ruta
trazada por Hugo Chávez desde Caracas. El libreto del calendario es
el mismo: referéndum para convocar una Constituyente, comicios para
Asamblea Constituyente, nuevo referéndum para aprobar la Carta
Magna, y otras elecciones para renovar los poderes. Todo en un
tiempo muy rápido; las votaciones se suceden mientras el presidente
mantiene una alta popularidad y la economía todavía no se resiente
de una política populista que multiplica el gasto público.
Al aprobarse la Constitución, Ecuador deberá celebrar a principios
del próximo año nuevos comicios legislativos y presidenciales;
Correa podrá volver a ser candidato -y aspirar a la reelección
cuatro años después- sin que se le computen los 20 meses que lleva
en el poder. De esta manera, el actual mandatario podría continuar
en el palacio de Carondelet hasta 2017.
Muchos ecuatorianos fueron a votar con ilusión y
esperanza, confiando en que se cumplirán las promesas de Correa de
“un mejor vivir”.
“Tengo fe en Correa, me inspira confianza después de tantos
políticos ladrones”, nos comentó Luisa Valle tras votar en un
colegio del barrio quiteño Las Casas, en la falda del volcán
Jaime Costales, psicólogo y catedrático de la Universidad San
Francisco, dijo que el ecuatoriano vive en un "delirio colectivo"
por la manipulación de la conciencia con promesas mesiánicas de
Correa que jamás podrán llevar al país a una nueva democracia”. “Se
usan las mismas artimañas y vicios de los viejos partidos para
instaurar un régimen presidencialista que aspira a controlar todos
los poderes, silenciando las discrepancias e imponiendo su verdad",
señala el profesor.
Aunque Correa mantiene alta popularidad, en el mundo empresarial se
esperan con recelo los cambios. Algunos analistas los rechazan por
considerarlos "un listado de buenas intenciones irrealizables en la
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: September 29, 2008, 05:25:55 PM
October 6, 2008
U.S. Stops Spec Ops Raids Into Pakistani Tribal Areas
By Sean D. Naylor
U.S. special operations forces have paused ground operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas, but military and civilian government officials differ over why the cross-border raids have been halted.
The issue of U.S. raids into the tribal areas was thrust into the international spotlight by a Sept. 3 raid in Angor Adda, in the South Waziristan tribal agency, by Navy SEALs working for a Joint Special Operations Command task force.
“We have shown a willingness starting this year to pursue those kinds of missions,” a Pentagon official said. However, he said, after temporarily granting JSOC more latitude to do cross-border missions, U.S. leaders had decided to restrain the command, at least as far as cross-border missions with ground troops are concerned, to allow Pakistani forces to press attacks on militants in the tribal areas.
“We are now working with the Pakistanis to make sure that those types of ground-type insertions do not happen, at least for a period of time to give them an opportunity to do what they claim they are desiring to do,” the Pentagon official said. The pause did not apply to airstrikes from unmanned aerial vehicles at targets inside tribal areas.
Although JSOC is the organization tasked, along with the Central Intelligence Agency, with finding and killing or capturing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Sept. 3 raid was not aimed at “a huge type of target,” the Pentagon official said. “There were just consistent problems in that area that had come to a point where there was significant evidence that there was complicity on the part of the [Pakistani military’s] Frontier Corps and others in allowing repetitive raids and activities to go on. And there was a firm desire to, one, send a message, and two, also establish any intelligence audit that could be established that would be useful to respond to a frequent question that we get from the other side of the border, which is, ‘Well, show us and tell us where the problem is, then we’ll deal with it.’”
But a U.S. government official closely involved with policy in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region said the military had underestimated the Pakistani response and was reconsidering its options.
The official’s comments were echoed by a field grade special operations officer with Afghanistan experience.
The Sept. 3 raid “was an opportunity to see how the new Pakistani government reacted,” the officer said. “If they didn’t do anything, they were just kind of fairly passive, like [former Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf was, ... then we felt like, OK, we can slowly up the ante, we can do maybe some more of these ops. But the backlash that happened, and especially the backlash in the diplomatic channels, was pretty severe.”
The raid represented “a strategic miscalculation,” the U.S. government source said. “We did not fully appreciate the vehemence of the Pakistani response,” which included the Pakistan government’s implication that it was willing to cut the coalition’s supply lines through Pakistan.
The military’s comments about the Sept. 3 raid sending a message represented a smokescreen, said the government official, who added that the mission “was meant to be the beginning of a campaign.”
“Once the Pakistanis started talking about closing down our supply routes, and actually demonstrated they could do it, once they started talking about shooting American helicopters, we obviously had to take seriously that maybe this [approach] was not going to be good enough,” the government official said. “We can’t sustain ourselves in Afghanistan without the Pakistani supply routes. At the end of the day, we had to not let our tactics get in the way of our strategy.”
However, a Washington source in government said, “I don’t think there’s been another strategic decision to back off.” Instead, JSOC would “go about it a different way.”
U.S. Central Command spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith declined to comment for this story.
Under questioning on Capitol Hill Sept. 23, Defense Secretary Robert Gates did not deny that U.S. forces had made cross-border strikes. “We will do what is necessary to protect our troops,” he said, acknowledging the Pentagon had been granted “authorities” for such action.
Past FATA raids
The Sept. 3 raid was not the first time JSOC forces, the Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta and the Navy’s Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DevGru, also known as SEAL Team 6, have launched into the tribal areas.
In the past, small JSOC elements have operated with the Pakistani Special Services Group in the tribal areas, and the special operations officer with Afghanistan experience said he was aware of “two or three” cross-border operations similar to the Angor Adda raid. “They have happened, but it was by no means a common occurrence,” he said.
However, the government official closely involved with Afghanistan-Pakistan policy said, JSOC “has been pushing hard for several years” to step up their raids into the tribal areas. JSOC’s argument has been “Give us greater latitude; we’ve got to hit where their sanctuaries are,” the official said.
“In the wake of the increased Taliban attacks we’ve seen over the last several months and the sense of frustration that we haven’t been more successful, their point of view has finally gained traction,” the government official said.
Two government sources identified the Taliban’s July 13 attack on a U.S. outpost in the Korengal valley as a turning point in the debate.
“Clearly, we saw what happened in the Korengal valley as a watershed moment,” said the government official closely involved with policy in the region.
The Sept. 3 raid into Pakistan is part of a heightened operational tempo for JSOC forces based in Afghanistan, several sources said.
JSOC has expanded its target list from the original so-called “big three” of bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Omar to a broader list that includes figures in the Taliban-allied network of Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami group (sometimes referred to as HiG by the U.S. military).
The U.S. government official involved with policy in the area described JSOC’s targets as fitting into two categories: the “big guys” with whom the U.S. has “unfinished business,” and “those people that threaten us operationally and tactically on the ground right now.”
Several sources said the Sept. 3 raid appeared to have been aimed at the Haqqani network, along with some of its Uzbek allies.
JSOC is “targeting a range of actors, but one of the big ones is Haqqani,” said a civilian expert on Afghanistan, adding that targeting the Haqqani network represented “payback” for its alleged involvement in attacks on the Indian embassy, the Serena hotel in Kabul and an assassination attempt against Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The U.S. government official closely involved with the region’s policy agreed that U.S. forces were targeting Haqqani as “payback,” but also because the network — mostly controlled by Haqqani’s son, Sirajuddin — “is seen as ... the low-hanging fruit,” because its bases in Waziristan are more easily accessible than the terrain of the Bajaur tribal agency, where Hekmatyar’s fighters operate.
“None of the JSOC activity has been going on in the areas around the sanctuary for Mullah Omar’s Taliban,” which is located in and around the Pakistani city of Quetta, the civilian expert on Afghanistan said. “It’s all happening in the tribal areas.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread
on: September 29, 2008, 01:54:32 AM
No one is challenging the idea that education for women is a very good thing and is a very good way out of ignorance and poverty.
I simply challenged your assertion that Islam has nothing to do with women (and men) being held in ignorance.
Are you asserting some sort of parity when you speak of Zambia? Are you saying that Christianity in Zambia is used to hold women down?
What communicates here is that you find it difficult to acknowledge what is simple fact-- that there are schools of Islam which kill those whom educate women.
And when you speak of the murdered woman policeman in Afg ("this woman was chosen and able
to be a policewomen in Afghanistan, an Islamic country") it seems to me that the thought is not complete without noting that she was chosen and became able precisely because of American (and a handful of allies) force of arms against the Taliban form of Islam and that she died because she was an educated woman because of the Taliban form of Islam.
Of course there are also the matters of women being lesser witnesses in Islam, and being beaten for not covering head to toe in 120 degree weather, being prohibited to drive, etc etc.
Islam in Iran, and elsewhere, is used to issue death sentences for those who write "offensive" books, and world wide riots kill and burn embassies because of cartoons. As is noted in the thread nearby on Islam vs. Free Speech, there are many expressions of Islam which are quite hostile to freedom of thought and expression which are the essence of education.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Afg a narco-terrorist state
on: September 28, 2008, 08:07:53 PM
Is Afghanistan becoming a narco-terrorist state?
By Amitai Etzioni - September 25, 2008, 9:32AM
In his response to my original post in this series, Stephen Schwartz objects to my application of the term "narco-terrorism state" to Afghanistan. He claims that I either "misuse the term" or else "libel the government of Hamid Karzai." I let the facts speak for themselves.
Afghanistan now supplies 93% of the world's heroin. The drug trade now amounts to about one half of Afghanistan's GDP--some $4 billion a year. This, after dramatic increases in production in 2006 and 2007.
A considerable chunk of this drug money is being funneled into the very groups that continue to wage an insurgency against the U.S. and Afghan national forces. In a July 2008 report, former U.S. Drug Czar and Retired Four-Star General Barry McCaffrey finds that drug production and export in Afghanistan has become the main source of funding for Taliban and al Qaeda. McCaffrey refers to Afghanistan as a "narco-state" in the report and calls on the international community to either eradicate the drug crop or risk losing the battle against insurgents.
Thomas Schewich, who served as the State Department's top counternarcotics official, shows that the lack of an effective drug-eradication policy which has allowed production and profits to soar over the last several years is not a sign of incompetence, but rather the product of a corrupt Afghani government with close ties to the drug trade. In his July 27, 2008 New York Times Magazine article, Schewich shows how the influence of the drug trade has infiltrated all levels of the Afghani government, all the way up to President Hamid Karzai.
Karzai's "roots and power base" are in wealthier areas of the Pashtun south, Schewich explains, where much of the opium is produced. A September 2007 Kabul Weekly article emphasizes this point: "More than 95 percent of the residents of...the poppy growing provinces--voted for President Karzai." As a result, Karzai is bound to serve the interests of the drug-trade, or else risk getting voted out of power.
As Schewich shows, Karzai has been "playing us like a fiddle" by preaching anti-drug messages on the one hand, but winking and serving the interests of his drug-dependent constituency. For instance, Schewich explains Karzai's successful opposition to a proposed comprehensive aerial crop-eradication program in a September 2007 speech:
"[Karzai] made antidrug statements at the beginning of the speech, but then lashed out at the international community for wanting to spray his people's crops...He got a wild ovation. Not surprising since so many in the room were closely tied to the narcotics trade. Sure, Karzai had Taliban enemies who profited from drugs, but he had even more supporters who did."
Karzai's loyalty to the drug-world is also on display in his record of selecting numerous known drug traffickers for government positions. To head his anticorruption commission, for instance, Karzai appointed a convicted heroin dealer, Izzatulla Wasifi.
The drug trade in Afghanistan is both fuelling the insurgency and corrupting the government--both on a very large scale. If that's not a "narco-terrorist state," what is?
(More to come about the other, equally fallacious, arguments Mr. Schwartz casts about. As to other comments I received, I will answer all those who will own up to their statements and stop hiding behind their aliases.)
I am indebted to Alex Platt for helping to prepare this statement.
Amitai Etzioni is Professor of International Relations at The George Washington University and author of Security First (Yale 2007) www.securityfirstbook.com
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law
on: September 28, 2008, 07:47:24 PM
A rare piece of good news for our British friends:http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdis...2-7199e598314b
You have the right to
shoot dead a burglar
Wed, 16 Jul 2008
HOME OWNERS and others acting in self-defence were yesterday given the legal right for the first time to fight back against burglars and muggers free from fear of prosecution.
They will be able to use force against criminals who break into their homes or attack them in the street without worrying that “heat of the moment” misjudgments could land them in court.
Under the new laws, police and prosecutors will have to assess a person’s actions based on their situation “as they saw it at the time” even if in hindsight it might be seen as unreasonable.
For example, home owners would be able to stab or shoot a burglar if confronted or to tackle them and use force to detain them until police arrived. Muggers could be legally punched and beaten in the street or have their own weapons used against them.
However, attacking a fleeing criminal with a weapon is not permitted nor is lying in wait to ambush them.
The law change follows a public campaign for people to be given the right to defend themselves and their homes after a number of high-profile cases.
In 2000, Tony Martin, a Norfolk farmer, was sent to prison for manslaughter after shooting an intruder in his home.
Tony Singh, a shopkeeper, found himself facing a murder charge this year after he defended himself against an armed robber who tried to steal his takings. During the struggle the robber received a single fatal stab wound to the heart with his own knife.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) eventually decided that Mr Singh should not be charged.
Until now people had to prove in court that they acted in self-defence but the changes mean police and the CPS will make a ruling before that stage.
Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, said that people would be protected legally if they defended themselves “instinctively”; if they feared for their own safety or that of others and the level of force used was not excessive or disproportionate.
He said the changes in the law were designed to ensure the criminal justice system was weighted in favour of the victim.
Mr Straw — and other Labour ministers — had repeatedly blocked attempts by opposition MPs to give greater protection to householders.
In 2004 Tony Blair promised to review legislation after admitting there was “genuine public concern” about the issue.
But his pledge was dropped weeks later after Charles Clarke, the then home secretary, concluded that the existing law was “sound”.
Two private member’s Bills on the issue were tabled by the Tories around the time of the 2005 general election, but both were sunk by the Government.
In 2004, a Tory Bill designed to give the public the right to tackle burglars forcibly was also rejected.
The new self-defence law, which came into force yesterday, is contained in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 and was announced by Mr Straw last September.
He is understood to have decided that changes were necessary after he was involved in four “havea go’’ incidents, which included chasing and restraining muggers near his south London home. Opposition leaders said that the changes offered nothing new and were merely the latest policy designed to appeal to core Tory voters.
In practice, householders are seldom prosecuted if they harm or even kill an intruder but the Act will give them greater legal protection.
Nick Herbert, the shadow justice secretary, said: “This is a typical Labour con — it will give no greater protection to householders confronted by burglars because it’s nothing more than a re-statement of the existing case law.”
Mr Straw said: “The justice system must not only work on the side of people who do the right thing as good citizens, but also be seen to work on their side.
“The Government strongly supports the right of law-abiding people to defend themselves, their families and their property with reasonable force.
“This law will help to make sure that that right is upheld and that the criminal justice system is firmly weighted in favour of the victim. Dealing with crime is not just the responsibility of the police, courts and prisons; it’s the responsibility of all of us.
“Communities with the lowest crime and the greatest safety are the ones with the most active citizens with a greater sense of shared values, inspired by a sense of belonging and duty to others, who are empowered by the state and are also supported by it — in other words, making a reality of justice.
“These changes in the law will make clear — victims of crime, and those who intervene to prevent crime, should be treated with respect by the justice system.
“We do not want to encourage vigilantism, but there can be no justice in a system which makes the victim the criminal.”
The announcement came as it emerged in a leaked draft of the Policing Green Paper that home owners may have to wait up to three days after reporting a crime before they see a police officer.
The Home Office would not comment on the plans.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread
on: September 28, 2008, 07:22:52 PM
Interesting points. I would quibble with this though:
"Religion is not the issue, note, it is not an "Islamic" problem, but one of poverty and ignorance."
If the religion decapitates and otherwise kills those who teach the girls (as is the case in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere) those schools of Islam are very much the problem.
Were she still alive to speak for herself, I'm guessing this woman would disagree with you as well:
Taliban assassins kill ranking Afghan policewoman
By RAHIM FAIEZ
The Associated Press
Sunday, September 28, 2008; 2:50 PM
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Two Taliban assassins on a motorbike shot and killed a senior policewoman as she left for work in Afghanistan's largest southern city Sunday and gravely wounded her son.
Malalai Kakar, 41, who led Kandahar city's department of crimes against women, was leaving home Sunday when she was killed, said Zalmai Ayubi, spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor. Her 18-year-old son was wounded, he said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility.
Militants frequently attack projects, schools and businesses run by women. The hard-line Taliban regime, which was ousted in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, did not allow women outside the home without a male escort.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the assassination, as did the European Union, which said it was "appalled by the brutal targeting" of Kakar.
"Any murder of a police officer is to be condemned, but the killing of a female officer whose service was not only to her country, but to Afghan women, to whom Ms. Kakar served as an example, is particularly abhorrent," the EU said in a statement.http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...=moreheadlines
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: September 28, 2008, 03:55:06 AM
Obama, McCain and Israel’s National Security
By Yoram Ettinger
Sept. 26, 2008
The policy of US presidents, toward Israel, is a derivative of their worldview, and not of their campaign statements and position papers.
A worldview shapes presidential attitude toward Israel as a strategic asset or a liability and toward Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria and the Golan Heights. A presidential worldview determines the scope of the US posture of deterrence in face of Middle East and global threats, which directly impacts Israel’s national security.
For example, President Nixon was not a friend of the US Jewish community and was not a leader of pro-Israeli legislation in the US Senate. In 1968, he received only about 15% of the Jewish vote. However, his worldview recognized Israel’s importance to US national security, as was demonstrated in 1970, when Israel rolled back a Syrian invasion of Jordan, preventing a pro-Soviet domino scenario into the Persian Gulf. It was Nixon’s worldview which led him to approve critical military shipments to Israel - during the 1973 War - in defiance of the Arab oil embargo and brutal pressure by the Saudi lobby in Washington, and in spite of the Democratic pattern of the Jewish voters.
On the other hand, President Clinton displayed an affinity toward Judaism, the Jewish People and the Jewish State. However, his worldview accepted Arafat as a national liberation leader, elevated him to the most frequent guest at the White House, underestimated the threat of Islamic terrorism, unintentionally facilitated its expansion from 1993 (first “Twin Tower” attack) to the 9/11 terrorist tsunami, adding fuel to the fire of Middle East and global turbulence.
How would the worldview of Obama, McCain and their advisors shape US policy toward Israel?
1. According to McCain, World War 3 between Western democracies and Islamic terror/rogue regimes is already in process. According to Obama, the conflict is with a radical Islamic minority, which could be dealt with through diplomacy, foreign aid, cultural exchanges and a lower US military profile. Thus, McCain’s world view highlights – while Obama’s world view downplays – Israel’s role as a strategic ally. McCain recognizes that US-Israel relations have been shaped by shared values, mutual threats and joint interests and not by frequent disagreements over the Arab-Israeli conflict.
2. According to Obama, the US needs to adopt the world view of the Department of State bureaucracy (Israel’s staunchest critic in Washington), pacify the knee-jerk-anti-Israel-UN, move closer to the Peace-at-any-Price-Western Europe and appease the Third World, which blames the West and Israel for the predicament of the Third World and the Arabs. On the other hand, McCain contends that the US should persist – in defiance of global odds - in being the Free World’s Pillar of Fire, ideologically and militarily.
3. According to Obama, Islamic terrorism constitutes a challenge for international law enforcement agencies and that terrorists should be brought to justice. According to McCain, they are a military challenge and should be brought down to their knees. Obama’s passive approach adrenalizes the veins of terrorists and intensifies Israel’s predicament, while McCain’s approach bolsters the US’ and Israel’s war on terrorism.
4. Obama and his advisors assume that Islamic terrorism is driven by despair, poverty, erroneous US policy and US presence on Muslim soil in the Persian Gulf. On the other hand, McCain maintains that Islamic terrorism is driven by ideology, which considers US values (freedom of expression, religion, media, movement, market and Internet) and US power a most lethal threat that must be demolished. McCain’s worldview supports Israel’s battle against terrorism, demonstrating that the root cause of the Arab-Israel conflict is not the size – but the existence - of Israel.
5. Contrary to McCain, Obama is convinced – just like Tony Blair - that the Palestinian issue is the core cause of Middle East turbulence and anti-Western Islamic terrorism, and therefore requires a more assertive US involvement, exerting additional pressure on Israel. The intriguing assumption that a less-than-hundred year old Palestinian issue is the root cause of 1,400 year old inter-Arab Middle East conflicts and Islamic terrorism, would deepen US involvement in Israel-Palestinians negotiations and transform the US into more of a neutral broker and less of a special ally of Israel, which would drive Israel into sweeping concessions.
Obama’s worldview would be welcomed by supporters of an Israeli rollback to the 1949 ceasefire lines, including the repartitioning of Jerusalem and the opening of the “Pandora Refugees’ Box.” On the other hand, McCain’s worldview adheres to the assumption that an Israeli retreat would convert the Jewish State from a power of deterrence to a punching bag, from a producer – to a consumer – of national security and from a strategic asset to a strategic burden in the most violent, volatile and treacherous region in the world.http://www.israpundit.com/2008/?p=3235#more-3235
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / publisher set ablaze
on: September 28, 2008, 03:35:50 AM
Three held as Mohammed book publisher set ablaze
Police arrested three men on Saturday in connection with a fire at the offices of the publisher of a book about the Prophet Mohammed and his child bride.
The men, aged 22, 30 and 40, were arrested in north London under anti-terrorism legislation after the fire on Saturday morning at Gibson Square's offices. Police were also searching four addresses in east London.
Britain's domestic Press Association news agency said some residents, whom it did not identify, reported that the incident may have involved a petrol bomb being pushed through the firm's letterbox.
Gibson Square is responsible for the publication of "The Jewel of Medina" -- a fictional account of the Prophet's relationship with his youngest bride Aisha -- by American author Sherry Jones.
Random House announced last month it had cancelled publication of the book in the United States because of fears of violence.
"The Jewel of Medina" was re-released in Serbia earlier this month after being withdrawn in August under pressure from Islamic leaders.
Martin Rynja, publishing director at Gibson Square, earlier this month defended the decision to publish the book, saying that in "an open society there has to be open access to literary works, regardless of fear."
"As an independent publishing company, we feel strongly that we should not be afraid of the consequences of debate," he added.
Gibson Square could not be immediately contacted for comment on Saturday's fire and subsequent arrests.
The firm is known for having published other controversial books such as "Blowing Up Russia" by former KGB agent turned Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko.
Litvinenko died in a London hospital in 2006 from radiation poisoning which it is thought he ingested through a cup of tea. Russia has refused to extradite lawmaker and ex-KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi to face charges in Britain.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pitcher Perfect
on: September 27, 2008, 07:05:15 PM
Why can't anyone throw a baseball faster than 100 mph?
By Noam Scheiber
Posted Friday, April 8, 2005, at 11:38 AM PT
The physics of flamethrowing
When baseball's elders swap stories about fireballers, the name that ends the conversation isn't Nolan Ryan or Sandy Koufax. It's one that never appeared on the back of a major-league uniform: Steve Dalkowski. Legend has it that the 5-foot-11-inch, 170-pound lefty threw his fastball well in excess of 100 mph. We don't have an exact number for the same reason Dalkowski, who toiled in the minors in the late 1950s and early 1960s, never made the big leagues: He was too wild to time. When a scout tried to gauge Dalkowski's fastball with a primitive radar gun?a beam of light the width of home plate?the pitcher couldn't hit the target until after his arm got tired.
Steve Dalkowski sounds like a genetic freak, but so is anyone who can throw a baseball 90 mph. What he really represents is a blow to the basic notion of human progress. In almost every measurable physical activity, athletes show improvement over time. Jumpers jump higher and farther, and runners and swimmers go faster. Since the late 1950s, the high-jump world record has improved by more than 10 percent, the 100-meter-dash mark has improved by 5 percent, and swimming's best 100-meter freestyle has dipped 12 percent.
Pitchers, though, don't seem to be getting any faster. Pretty much every generation since the early 1900s has boasted a supposed 100-mph pitcher, from Walter Johnson and Smoky Joe Wood to Bob Feller to Dalkowski to Nolan Ryan. If we stick with speeds registered since modern radar guns became ubiquitous in the 1970s, peak velocity seems to be a shade north of 100. Major League Baseball doesn't keep official records on pitch speeds, but the Guinness Book of World Records credits Ryan with the fastest pitch ever, a 100.9-mph heater from 1974. This article disagrees, crowning Mark Wohlers the radar-gun champ with a 103-mph pitch. (For an explanation of why radar gun readings can be inconsistent, click here.)
Maybe it only looks like the outer limit for pitchers is stable at around 100 mph because we can't consistently and accurately measure minute improvements in speed. When it comes to flamethrowers, after all, it's hard to figure out what's the truth and what's a tall tale. Feller once sent a fastball zooming by a speeding motorcycle. Maybe the ball really was traveling at 104 mph, as the organizers of the stunt claimed. Or maybe not.
Still, according to experts in biomechanics, that 100-mph ceiling isn't an illusion?it's a basic property of human physiology. A pitcher generates momentum by rocking onto his back leg and thrusting forward. After that he rotates his pelvis and upper trunk, then his elbow, shoulder, and wrist. Intuitively, it seems like building up the muscles in the legs, upper body, arm, and shoulder would generate more force and make his arm move faster. The reality: There's a point when more torque doesn't yield a faster pitch. It simply causes tendons and ligaments to snap, detaching muscles from bones and bones from one another. (Tendons connect muscles to bones; ligaments connect bones to each other.)
Glenn Fleisig, a biomechanical engineer who studies pitching at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala., has calculated that about 80 Newton-meters of torque act on an elite pitcher's elbow when he throws a fastball. The ulnar collateral ligament connects the humerus and ulna?two of the bones that come together in the elbow. To test the outer limits of the ligament's strength, Fleisig subjected cadaver elbows to increasing amounts of rotational force. These experiments showed that an average person's UCL snaps at about 80 Newton-meters. Smoky Joe Wood said that he threw so fast he thought his arm was going to fly off. It turns out he wasn't far from the truth.
Another way to test the proposition that ligament fragility limits velocity is to see what happens when pitchers strengthen their muscles. Mike Axe, an orthopedic surgeon and prot?g? of Fleisig's partner James Andrews, advises pitchers to build up their shoulder muscles by practicing with a weighted glove on their throwing hand. According to Axe, a pitcher can add up 2 to 5 mph to his fastball with this regimen. The potential gains are lower for those who throw fast to begin with, though. Axe has seen pitchers increase their velocity from 84 to 88 mph and from 88 to 91 mph. He's never seen anyone improve from 98 to 100. The chief benefit for these hurlers is that they suffer fewer muscle tears.
Why do sprinters keep getting faster while baseball pitchers seem to have maxed out? Because track athletes don't approach the limits of what human tendons and ligaments can handle. When you run the 100-meter dash, no single stride represents as violent a motion as the arm makes during a single overhand pitch. Sprinters can build up their muscles without worrying that the extra force will rip their ligaments apart?that's why steroid use seems to make sprinters faster but won't help pitchers generate velocity beyond a certain point. (A better reason for a pitcher to take steroids would be to decrease the time it takes to recover between games.)
Ligaments and tendons can get stronger, but at a much slower rate than the muscles that surround them. There are rumors that pitchers who've undergone Tommy John surgery?that is, a replacement of the UCL with a tendon from the hamstring or wrist?can throw harder than they did before having surgery. But any increase in velocity probably has less to do with getting a new superligament than with the strict rehabilitation program Tommy John patients are supposed to follow. The reason pitchers get injured in the first place is that their muscles, tendons, and ligaments weren't as strong as they should have been.
What about growing taller, more massive pitchers? That doesn't necessarily make a difference, either. Small, slightly built pitchers like Dalkowski, the 5-foot-11 Pedro Martinez, and the 5-foot-10 Billy Wagner throw just as hard as giants such as Randy Johnson. The physical principle here is fairly simple. If two levers move at the same speed, the ball released from the longer lever will have more velocity. But as a lever becomes larger, it requires more torque to move. Randy's lever is larger; Wagner's moves more quickly. The trade-off makes their velocity roughly equal.
In the last two decades, baseball managers and GMs have focused less on speed and more on injury prevention. According to Fleisig, whose clinic has diagnosed mechanical problems in professional pitchers since 1990, "[Baseball executives] don't come to me and say make this guy a few miles per hour faster. They say, help this guy stay on the field." Steve Dalkowski should have been so lucky. He blew out his arm fielding a bunt in an exhibition game in 1963, on the eve of his first major-league start.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Somalis on KLM flight arrested
on: September 27, 2008, 05:09:49 PM
2 Terrorism Suspects Arrested on KLM Flight
By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, September 26, 2008; 6:10 AM
BERLIN, Sept. 26 -- Two Somali-born men who had left notes saying they were willing to sacrifice themselves for "jihad" were pulled off a flight at the Cologne airport this morning, moments before it was scheduled to depart for Amsterdam, German authorities said.
The pair had been under surveillance for months, the German newspaper Bild reported, citing unnamed police officials. Police officials said they moved to arrest the men after searching their apartments and finding notes suggesting that they intended to take part in a terrorist attack.
Authorities identified the men as a 23-year-old Somali national and a 24-year-old German citizen born in Mogadishu. Officials did not immediately release their names or give other details of where they had been living prior to their arrests.
"They are under suspicion of intending to participate in the jihad and in possible attacks," Frank Scheulen, a spokesman for police in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, told German television. "Farewell letters were written."
Police said they boarded KLM Flight 1804 at 06:55 am local time, 10 minutes before it was scheduled to depart for Amsterdam. A KLM spokesman said all passengers were removed from the plane until police could locate luggage belonging to the suspects. The flight was allowed to depart after an 80-minute delay, airport officials said.
German counterterrorism officials have warned of a heightened risk of terrorism in the country, citing threats by Islamist groups over the presence of German troops in Afghanistan. On Thursday, the federal prosecutor's office issued a public alert seeking information on the whereabouts of two terrorist suspects believed to have returned to Germany after attending militant training camps in Pakistan. The two suspects, Eric Breininger, 21, and Houssain al Malla, 23, are suspected of involvement with a group called the Islamic Jihad Union that was accused of planning attacks against U.S. targets in Germany a year ago.
German federal police officials said, however, that they did not believe the suspects named in the alert were connected with the men arrested at the Cologne airport on Friday.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: September 27, 2008, 05:03:38 PM
Army to Test Air Burst Weapon for Joes
September 26, 2008
Military.com|by Christian Lowe
For once it seems the Army is actually turning fiction into science.
After nearly a decade in the shadows -- with billions spent on earlier versions long since abandoned -- the Army is moving quickly to field a revolutionary new weapon to Joes a lot sooner than anyone had ever imagined.
It's a weapon that can take out a bad guy behind a wall, beyond a hill or below a trench, and do it more accurately and with less collateral damage than anything on the battlefield today, officials say. It's called the XM25 Individual Air Burst Weapon, and by next month the service will have three prototypes of the precision-guided 25mm rifle ready for testing.
A 'leap ahead' in lethality
"We've done a lot of testing with this, and what we're seeing is the estimated increase in effectiveness is six times what we'd be getting with a 5.56mm carbine or a grenade launcher," said Rich Audette, Army Deputy Project Manager for Soldier weapons.
"What we're talking about is a true 'leap ahead' in lethality, here. This is a huge step," Audette added during a phone interview with Military.com from his office at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.
Born of the much-maligned and highly-controversial Objective Individual Combat Weapon -- a 1990s program that sought a "leap ahead" battle rifle that combined a counter-defilade weapon with a carbine -- the XM25 only recently gained new momentum after the Army formalized a requirement and released a contract in June for a series of test weapons.
Infantry weapons to date have permitted fighters to shoot at or through an obstacle concealing enemy threats, but the Army for years has been trying to come up with a weapon to engage targets behind barriers without resorting to mortars, rockets or grenades -- all of which risk collateral damage. After fits and starts using a 20mm rifle housed in a bulky, overweight, complicated shell, technology finally caught up to shave the XM25 from 21 pounds to a little more than 12 pounds.
If the XM25 does what its developers hope, it will be able to fire an air-bursting round at a target from 16 meters away out to 600 meters with a highly accurate, 360-degree explosive radius.
"This should have the same impact as the incorporation of the machine gun" into infantry units, said Andy Cline, product director for the XM25.
The XM25 is about as long as a collapsed M4, weighs about as much as an M16 with an M203 grenade launcher attached and has about as much kick as a 12-gauge shotgun, said Barb Muldowney, Army deputy program manager for infantry combat weapons.
The semi-auto XM25 comes with a four-round magazine, though testers are looking at whether to increase the capacity to as much as 10 rounds.
A 'smart' weapon
Brains are what really makes this Buck Rogers gun work -- it has them. The weapon combines a thermal optic, day sight, laser range finder, compass and IR illuminator with a fire-control system that wirelessly transmits the exact range of the target into the 25mm round's fuse before firing.
A Soldier can aim the XM25 at a wall concealing a sniper, for example, but "dial in" or adjust the distance by an additional meter above the target. When fired, the Alliant Teksystems-built round will explode above the enemy's position, essentially going around the obstruction, Muldowney said.
"It's so accurate, that when I laze to that target I'm going to be able to explode that round close enough that I'm going to get it," Audette added.
The service hopes to field several other types of 25mm rounds for the XM25, including ones for breaching doors, piercing vehicle armor and non-lethal air-bursting and blunt-impact rounds.
Testers at Picatinny plan to put the XM25 through its paces over the next several months, certifying it as safe for a Soldier to operate and tinkering with the weapon's effectiveness and durability.
The weapon costs about $25,000 each, but experts were quick to point out that a fully-loaded M4 for optics and pointers costs pretty close to $30,000. Each ATK-made 25mm round costs about $25.
Testing next year
As Heckler and Koch, makers of the weapon itself, and L3 Communications -- which makes the fire control system -- crank out more weapons, the Army plans to push an initial batch of test weapons out to the field beginning in March 2009. That could include the first use of such a weapon in combat, Cline said.
If all goes according to plan, the first fully-equipped infantry units could have their first XM25s in hand by 2014, far sooner than the Army's small arms community had predicted even last year.
The program "came very close to ending," Audette explained. "But the Army took a look at all the work that was done -- and the testing that projected the kind of lethality increase that we could get -- and they said 'we've got to do this.' "
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Davy Crockett
on: September 27, 2008, 04:38:40 PM
Not Yours To Give
Col. David Crockett
US Representative from Tennessee
Originally published in "The Life of Colonel David Crockett,"
by Edward Sylvester Ellis.
One day in the House of Representatives a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose:
"Mr. Speaker--I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him.
"Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."
He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt, it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and, of course, was lost.
Later, when asked by a friend why he had opposed the appropriation, Crockett gave this explanation:
"Several years ago I was one evening standing on the steps of the Capitol with some other members of Congress, when our attention was attracted by a great light over in Georgetown. It was evidently a large fire. We jumped into a hack and drove over as fast as we could. In spite of all that could be done, many houses were burned and many families made houseless, and, besides, some of them had lost all but the clothes they had on. The weather was very cold, and when I saw so many women and children suffering, I felt that something ought to be done for them. The next morning a bill was introduced appropriating $20,000 for their relief. We put aside all other business and rushed it through as soon as it could be done.
"The next summer, when it began to be time to think about election, I concluded I would take a scout around among the boys of my district. I had no opposition there, but, as the election was some time off, I did not know what might turn up. When riding one day in a part of my district in which I was more of a stranger than any other, I saw a man in a field plowing and coming toward the road. I gauged my gait so that we should meet as he came to the fence. As he came up, I spoke to the man. He replied politely, but, as I thought, rather coldly.
"I began: 'Well, friend, I am one of those unfortunate beings called
"Yes I know you; you are Colonel Crockett. I have seen you once before, and voted for you the last time you were elected. I suppose you are out electioneering now, but you had better not waste your time or mine, I shall not vote for you again."
"This was a sockdolager...I begged him to tell me what was the matter.
" ’Well, Colonel, it is hardly worth-while to waste time or words upon it. I do not see how it can be mended, but you gave a vote last winter which shows that either you have not capacity to understand the Constitution, or that you are wanting in the honesty and firmness to be guided by it. In either case you are not the man to represent me. But I beg your pardon for expressing it in that way. I did not intend to avail myself of the privilege of the constituent to speak plainly to a candidate for the purpose of insulting or wounding you. I intend by it only to say that your understanding of the Constitution is very different from mine; and I will say to you what, but for my rudeness, I should not have said, that I believe you to be honest.
…But an understanding of the Constitution different from mine I cannot overlook, because the Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions. The man who wields power and misinterprets it is the more dangerous the more honest he is.'
" 'I admit the truth of all you say, but there must be some mistake about it, for I do not remember that I gave any vote last winter upon any constitutional question.’
“ ‘No, Colonel, there’s no mistake. Though I live in the backwoods and seldom go from home, I take the papers from Washington and read very carefully all the proceedings of Congress. My papers say that last winter you voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some sufferers by a fire in Georgetown. Is that true?’
" ‘Well, my friend; I may as well own up. You have got me there. But certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing Treasury, and I am sure, if you had been there, you would have done just as I did.'
" ‘It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by a tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means. What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how much he pays to the government. So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. 'No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose. If twice as many houses had been burned in this county as in Georgetown, neither you nor any other member of Congress would have thought of appropriating a dollar for our relief. There are about two hundred and forty members of Congress. If they had shown their sympathy for the sufferers by contributing each one week's pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of wealthy men in and around Washington who could have given $20,000 without depriving themselves of even a luxury of life.' "The congressmen chose to keep their own money, which, if reports be true, some of them spend not very creditably; and the people about Washington, no doubt, applauded you for relieving them from the necessity of giving by giving what was not yours to give. The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.'
" 'So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people. I have no doubt you acted honestly, but that does not make it any better, except as far as you are personally concerned, and you see that I cannot vote for you.'
"I tell you I felt streaked. I saw if I should have opposition, and this man should go to talking, he would set others to talking, and in that district I was a gone fawn-skin. I could not answer him, and the fact is, I was so fully convinced that he was right, I did not want to. But I must satisfy him, and I said to him:
" ‘Well, my friend, you hit the nail upon the head when you said I had not sense enough to understand the Constitution. I intended to be guided by it, and thought I had studied it fully. I have heard many speeches in Congress about the powers of Congress, but what you have said here at your plow has got more hard, sound sense in it than all the fine speeches I ever heard. If I had ever taken the view of it that you have, I would have put my head into the fire before I would have given that vote; and if you will forgive me and vote for me again, if I ever vote for another unconstitutional law I wish I may be shot.'
"He laughingly replied; 'Yes, Colonel, you have sworn to that once before, but I will trust you again upon one condition. You say that youare convinced that your vote was wrong. Your acknowledgment of it will do more good than beating you for it. If, as you go around the district, you will tell people about this vote, and that you are satisfied it was wrong, I will not only vote for you, but will do what I can to keep down opposition, and, perhaps, I may exert some little influence in that way.'
" ‘If I don't’, said I, 'I wish I may be shot; and to convince you that I am in earnest in what I say I will come back this way in a week or ten days, and if you will get up a gathering of the people, I will make a speech to them. Get up a barbecue, and I will pay for it.'
" ‘No, Colonel, we are not rich people in this section, but we have plenty of provisions to contribute for a barbecue, and some to spare for those who have none. The push of crops will be over in a few days, and we can then afford a day for a barbecue. This is Thursday; I will see to getting it up on Saturday week. Come to my house on Friday, and we will go together, and I promise you a very respectable crowd to see and hear you.’
" 'Well, I will be here. But one thing more before I say good-bye. I must know your name.’
" 'My name is Bunce.'
" 'Not Horatio Bunce?'
" 'Well, Mr. Bunce, I never saw you before, though you say you have seen me, but I know you very well. I am glad I have met you, and very proud that I may hope to have you for my friend.'
"It was one of the luckiest hits of my life that I met him. He mingled but little with the public, but was widely known for his remarkable intelligence and incorruptible integrity, and for a heart brimful and running over with kindness and benevolence, which showed themselves not only in words but in acts. He was the oracle of the whole country around him, and his fame had extended far beyond the circle of his immediate acquaintance. Though I had never met him, before, I had heard much of him, and but for this meeting it is very likely I should have had opposition, and had been beaten. One thing is very certain, no man could now stand up in that district under such a vote.
"At the appointed time I was at his house, having told our conversation to every crowd I had met, and to every man I stayed all night with, and I found that it gave the people an interest and a confidence in me stronger than I had ever seen manifested before.
"Though I was considerably fatigued when I reached his house, and, under ordinary circumstances, should have gone early to bed, I kept him up until midnight, talking about the principles and affairs of government, and got more real, true knowledge of them than I had got all my life before.
"I have known and seen much of him since, for I respect him - no, that is not the word - I reverence and love him more than any living man, and I go to see him two or three times every year; and I will tell you, sir, if every one who professes to be a Christian lived and acted and enjoyed it as he does, the religion of Christ would take the world by storm.
"But to return to my story. The next morning we went to the barbecue, and, to my surprise, found about a thousand men there. I met a good many whom I had not known before, and they and my friend introduced me around until I had got pretty well acquainted - at least, they all knew me.
"In due time notice was given that I would speak to them. They gathered up around a stand that had been erected. I opened my speech by saying:
" ‘Fellow-citizens - I present myself before you today feeling like a new man. My eyes have lately been opened to truths which ignorance or prejudice, or both, had heretofore hidden from my view. I feel that I can today offer you the ability to render you more valuable service than I have ever been able to render before. I am here today more for the purpose of acknowledging my error than to seek your votes. That I should make this acknowledgment is due to myself as well as to you. Whether you will vote for me is a matter for your consideration only.’"
"I went on to tell them about the fire and my vote for the appropriation and then told them why I was satisfied it was wrong. I closed by saying:
" ‘And now, fellow-citizens, it remains only for me to tell you that the most of the speech you have listened to with so much interest was simply a repetition of the arguments by which your neighbor, Mr. Bunce, convinced me of my error.
" ‘It is the best speech I ever made in my life, but he is entitled to the
credit for it. And now I hope he is satisfied with his convert and that he will get up here and tell you so.'
"He came upon the stand and said:
" ‘Fellow-citizens - It affords me great pleasure to comply with the request of Colonel Crockett. I have always considered him a thoroughly honest man, and I am satisfied that he will faithfully perform all that he has promised you today.'
"He went down, and there went up from that crowd such a shout for Davy Crockett as his name never called forth before.'
"I am not much given to tears, but I was taken with a choking then and felt some big drops rolling down my cheeks. And I tell you now that the remembrance of those few words spoken by such a man, and the honest, hearty shout they produced, is worth more to me than all the honors I have received and all the reputation I have ever made, or ever shall make, as a member of Congress.'
"Now, sir," concluded Crockett, "you know why I made that speech yesterday.
"There is one thing now to which I will call your attention. You remember that I proposed to give a week's pay. There are in that House many very wealthy men - men who think nothing of spending a week's pay, or a dozen of them, for a dinner or a wine party when they have something to accomplish by it. Some of those same men made beautiful speeches upon the great debt of gratitude which the country owed the deceased--a debt which could not be paid by money--and the insignificance and worthlessness of money, particularly so insignificant a sum as $10,000, when weighed against the honor of the nation. Yet not one of them responded to my proposition. Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people. But it is the one great thing for which most of them are striving, and many of them sacrifice honor, integrity, and justice to obtain it."
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Kali - Silat - Muay Thai
on: September 27, 2008, 06:41:27 AM
Excellent comments already. Either should be good for you, especially so given your description of the teachers in question.
I would ask how much sparring/fighting experience you have and how much you want to have. Bukti Negara and Serak have had an important and lasting influence on me, so it is with total respect that I say that the training I had there was rather devoid of testing. This is understandable given the damage that many of the techniques intend, but I tend to want to have aired things out a bit before assuming that I can apply them during a real time real world situation. If you are willing to work this out on your own, great. If not, AND you lack hard sparring/fighting experience on your own, that is a different dynamic.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / G4
on: September 27, 2008, 06:32:48 AM
G4, the gamer network, is going to be showing the Brad Pitt movie "Fight Club" and accompanying it with a one hour documentary which will feature Baltic Dog' Fight Club crew and Pappy Dog's NoHo crew as well as 1-2 other groups.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Swiss Gathering 26-27 of September
on: September 27, 2008, 06:22:06 AM
Yesterday was the Tribal Day.
I had many of the fights start on the rather steep hillside. Very exciting to begin to rediscover some of the wisdom of the Art in this regard! (see e.g. the teachings/writings of GM Leo Giron IIRC in "Memories ride the ebb of tide" wherein he discusses this very point).
Sometimes I had the fighters start at the same height on the hillside, and sometimes I had one above the other. A real highlight reel moment came in the latter context when the higher fighter did a flying cannonball (at 230 pounds, thats a lot of cannonball
) on the lower man and the fight went rolling down the hill!
There was a very good double stick vs oak bokken fight, a very good staff fight, a couple of fights stopped by hand hits, a double stick fight where Dos Triques was seen to very good effect (see the DT thread for a somewhat fuller discussion) and many,many good fights with wonderful Dog Brother spirit shown by all.
Afterwords we retired to the farmhouse and had a wonderful cajun style dinner and copious amounts of brew were quaffed. There was a grand piano, so I got to noodle around for a while and the evening finished with a quasi-metal band.
"Higher Consciousness through Harder Contact" (c)
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA DVD: "The Dos Triques Formula"
on: September 27, 2008, 06:13:15 AM
I am in Bern, Switzerland at the moment for the Swiss Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack. Yesterday was the Tribal Day and today is the Open Gathering.
Yesterday, I saw a German LEO who is a DBMAA Group Leader, apply Dos Triques with great success. In a fight of a little less than three minutes, I think he must have scored strongly and cleanly (i.e. without getting hit in return) 2 or 3 times and another couple of times where the DT combination did not score, but left him safe from counterattack-- in DBMA we call this "the Plan B Principle" i.e. you should not be worse off for trying a technique when it does not work.
I recognized the first combination and then began to watch the fight specifcally for DT. I could literally see him apply the formula. "If he is in a X lead, I need to be in a Y lead, (here he changes leads) chambered thus (here he loads the combination). Look for his two sticks to be lined up in one of basic positions and GO."
The DT mathemaniacal formula WORKS. "Its Dog Brother Martial Arts. If you see it taught, you see it fought."(c)
"Smuggling concepts across the frontiers of style" (c)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iowa
on: September 27, 2008, 02:37:46 AM
I'm in Switzerland for the DB Swiss Gathering at the moment and missed the debate. Does anyone have a URL where I can see it?
Des Moines, Iowa
One lingering fear for Democrats has been that the prolonged primary fight might have weakened Barack Obama for the general election. That fear seemed to be realized when Hillary Clinton's supporters initially appeared slow to rally behind him before the party's national convention in Denver last month.
APBut here in Iowa, one of the most tightly contested states in the country, the drawn-out campaign season is proving to be a boon for the Democratic candidate. Sen. Obama has enjoyed an average nine-point lead in state polls over the past three weeks, according to RealClearPolitics.com, which aggregates poll data.
One reason is that for much of 2006 and most of 2007, Mr. Obama and the other Democratic presidential candidates crisscrossed the state, organizing precincts, personally meeting voters and buying ad time -- all in record amounts and at levels far greater than anything John McCain and the other Republicans did.
According to Washington, D.C., political analyst Eric M. Appleman, who tracks such things, Mr. Obama made 44 visits and spent all or part of 89 days in Iowa during the two-year period leading up to the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3 of this year. Mr. McCain, by contrast, clocked half that -- 22 visits over 43 days during the same period.
More Iowans have had the chance to see Mr. Obama in their hometowns, watch him speak in forums, and view his advertising than those who've met or seen Mr. McCain. Mr. Obama's rallies routinely produced huge crowds, and his campaign organization did a superior effort at locating, registering and turning out supporters on caucus night, when he won a plurality of the vote. That organizational infrastructure remains in place, and is now augmented with the supporters of other Democratic presidential candidates.
One benefit of all the Democratic attention on Iowa has been increased voter registration. Four years ago, Republicans had a 9,026 edge in registered voters. Today, there are over 100,000 more Democrats registered to vote than Republicans.
Iowa has just seven electoral votes, making it a smaller prize than Florida or Ohio. But both parties fight hard to win here, because it is a closely divided state that could tip the balance in a closely divided election. In 2000, Al Gore carried Iowa by a mere 4,144 votes, less than 1% of the vote. In 2004, George W. Bush put the state back in the Republican column, carrying it by a margin of 10,059 votes.
For Mr. McCain, however, the state is a steeper climb than it has been for other Republicans. He doesn't profit much from his military background here. Iowa has some of the lowest levels of per capita spending on the military, there are no large military bases in the state, and no large communities of military retirees. The Almanac of American Politics calls Iowa "one of the most dovish, isolationist-prone states" in the nation.
According to the Des Moines Register's Iowa Poll, 74% of the state's voters say the country is on the wrong track. And it found that voters think Mr. Obama "best understands people like you" by a margin of 55% to 37% over Mr. McCain. Mr. Obama is also seen as best able to fix the economy, bring down gas prices, win the respect of world leaders, and inspire the country. Mr. McCain is seen by more voters as having the experience to lead and being best able to keep America secure.
Iowa has also been trending Democratic. In the 2006 elections, Democrats picked up two congressional seats, the governorship and control of both houses of the state legislature.
One thing to watch in all of these battleground states is what the rural vote is doing. In past elections, Republicans have carried small towns and farm and ranch country by hefty margins. If Democrats can limit those margins, they can win close states by piling up votes in urban areas.
According to a Center for Rural Strategies poll of rural voters in 13 battleground states, Mr. McCain holds a 10-point lead with rural voters, slightly less than the 13-point lead Mr. Bush had at a similar point in the 2004 elections.
That shows that all is not lost for Mr. McCain in Iowa. He and his running mate Sarah Palin staged a rally recently in Cedar Rapids that attracted an impressive crowd of 6,000. She is energizing social conservatives, and those activists are one reason why Iowa flipped to Mr. Bush four years ago.
The GOP has also shown the ability to close fast in the final days of presidential elections. In 2000, Mr. Gore led by seven points in early September. Yet Mr. Bush nearly won the state. In 2004, John Kerry held a seven-point lead and lost by a point.
A big unknown is how independents will break. Voters who declined to affiliate with a political party when they registered to vote make up 35.1% of the state's electorate, which is a larger percentage than registered Democrats (34.6%) or Republicans (30%).
When you consider how rapidly GOP voters "come home," and how their organizers turn out Republican voters in the last few days of a campaign in Iowa, Mr. Obama's nine-point lead may not be much of a firewall. And if there is any hidden racial prejudice in a state that is 96% white, his lead could evaporate quickly.
Mr. Yepsen is the Des Moines Register's political columnist.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Part Two
on: September 26, 2008, 07:57:40 PM
Understanding Obama’s Foreign Policy
It is in light of this distinction that we can begin to understand Obama’s foreign policy. On Aug. 1, Obama said the following: “It is time to turn the page. When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world’s most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland.”
Obama’s view of the Iraq war is that it should not have been fought in the first place, and that the current success in the war does not justify it or its cost. In this part, he speaks to the anti-war tradition in the party. He adds that Afghanistan and Pakistan are the correct battlefields, since this is where the attack emanated from. It should be noted that on several occasions Obama has pointed to Pakistan as part of the Afghan problem, and has indicated a willingness to intervene there if needed while demanding Pakistani cooperation. Moreover, Obama emphasizes the need for partnerships — for example, coalition partners — rather than unilateral action in Afghanistan and globally.
Responding to attack rather than pre-emptive attack, coalition warfare and multinational postwar solutions are central to Obama’s policy in the Islamic world. He therefore straddles the divide within the Democratic Party. He opposes the war in Iraq as pre-emptive, unilateral and outside the bounds of international organizations while endorsing the Afghan war and promising to expand it.
Obama’s problem would be applying these principles to the emerging landscape. He shaped his foreign policy preferences when the essential choices remained within the Islamic world — between dealing with Iraq and Afghanistan simultaneously versus focusing on Afghanistan primarily. After the Russian invasion of Georgia, Obama would face a more complex set of choices between the Islamic world and dealing with the Russian challenge.
Obama’s position on Georgia tracked with traditional Democratic approaches:
“Georgia’s economic recovery is an urgent strategic priority that demands the focused attention of the United States and our allies. That is why Senator Biden and I have called for $1 billion in reconstruction assistance to help the people of Georgia in this time of great trial. I also welcome NATO’s decision to establish a NATO-Georgia Commission and applaud the new French and German initiatives to continue work on these issues within the EU. The Bush administration should call for a U.S.-EU-Georgia summit in September that focuses on strategies for preserving Georgia’s territorial integrity and advancing its economic recovery.”
Obama avoided militaristic rhetoric and focused on multinational approaches to dealing with the problem, particularly via NATO and the European Union. In this and in Afghanistan, he has returned to a Democratic fundamental: the centrality of the U.S.-European relationship. In this sense, it is not accidental that he took a preconvention trip to Europe. It was both natural and a signal to the Democratic foreign policy establishment that he understands the pivotal position of Europe.
This view on multilateralism and NATO is summed up in a critical statement by Obama in a position paper:
“Today it’s become fashionable to disparage the United Nations, the World Bank, and other international organizations. In fact, reform of these bodies is urgently needed if they are to keep pace with the fast-moving threats we face. Such real reform will not come, however, by dismissing the value of these institutions, or by bullying other countries to ratify changes we have drafted in isolation. Real reform will come because we convince others that they too have a stake in change — that such reforms will make their world, and not just ours, more secure.
“Our alliances also require constant management and revision if they are to remain effective and relevant. For example, over the last 15 years, NATO has made tremendous strides in transforming from a Cold War security structure to a dynamic partnership for peace.
“Today, NATO’s challenge in Afghanistan has become a test case, in the words of Dick Lugar, of whether the alliance can ‘overcome the growing discrepancy between NATO’s expanding missions and its lagging capabilities.’”
Obama’s European Problem
The last paragraph represents the key challenge to Obama’s foreign policy, and where his first challenge would come from. Obama wants a coalition with Europe and wants Europe to strengthen itself. But Europe is deeply divided, and averse to increasing its defense spending or substantially increasing its military participation in coalition warfare. Obama’s multilateralism and Europeanism will quickly encounter the realities of Europe.
This would immediately affect his jihadist policy. At this point, Obama’s plan for a 16-month drawdown from Iraq is quite moderate, and the idea of focusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan is a continuation of Bush administration policy. But his challenge would be to increase NATO involvement. There is neither the will nor the capability to substantially increase Europe’s NATO participation in Afghanistan.
This problem would be even more difficult in dealing with Russia. Europe has no objection in principle to the Afghan war; it merely lacks the resources to substantially increase its presence there. But in the case of Russia, there is no European consensus. The Germans are dependent on the Russians for energy and do not want to risk that relationship; the French are more vocal but lack military capability, though they have made efforts to increase their commitment to Afghanistan. Obama says he wants to rely on multilateral agencies to address the Russian situation. That is possible diplomatically, but if the Russians press the issue further, as we expect, a stronger response will be needed. NATO will be unlikely to provide that response.
Obama would therefore face the problem of shifting the focus to Afghanistan and the added problem of balancing between an Islamic focus and a Russian focus. This will be a general problem of U.S. diplomacy. But Obama as a Democrat would have a more complex problem. Averse to unilateral actions and focused on Europe, Obama would face his first crisis in dealing with the limited support Europe can provide.
That will pose serious problems in both Afghanistan and Russia, which Obama would have to deal with. There is a hint in his thoughts on this when he says, “And as we strengthen NATO, we should also seek to build new alliances and relationships in other regions important to our interests in the 21st century.” The test would be whether these new coalitions will differ from, and be more effective than, the coalition of the willing.
Obama would face similar issues in dealing with the Iranians. His approach is to create a coalition to confront the Iranians and force them to abandon their nuclear program. He has been clear that he opposes that program, although less clear on other aspects of Iranian foreign policy. But again, his solution is to use a coalition to control Iran. That coalition disintegrated to a large extent after Russia and China both indicated that they had no interest in sanctions.
But the coalition Obama plans to rely on will have to be dramatically revived by unknown means, or an alternative coalition must be created, or the United States will have to deal with Afghanistan and Pakistan unilaterally. This reality places a tremendous strain on the core principles of Democratic foreign policy. To reconcile the tensions, he would have to rapidly come to an understanding with the Europeans in NATO on expanding their military forces. Since reaching out to the Europeans would be among his first steps, his first test would come early.
The Europeans would probably balk, and, if not, they would demand that the United States expand its defense spending as well. Obama has shown no inclination toward doing this. In October 2007, he said the following on defense: “I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems, and I will institute an independent defense priorities board to ensure that the quadrennial defense review is not used to justify unnecessary spending.”
Russia, Afghanistan and Defense Spending
In this, Obama is reaching toward the anti-war faction in his party, which regards military expenditures with distrust. He focused on advanced war-fighting systems, but did not propose cutting spending on counterinsurgency. But the dilemma is that in dealing with both insurgency and the Russians, Obama would come under pressure to do what he doesn’t want to do — namely, increase U.S. defense spending on advanced systems.
Obama has been portrayed as radical. That is far from the case. He is well within a century-long tradition of the Democratic Party, with an element of loyalty to the anti-war faction. But that element is an undertone to his policy, not its core. The core of his policy would be coalition building and a focus on European allies, as well as the use of multilateral institutions and the avoidance of pre-emptive war. There is nothing radical or even new in these principles. His discomfort with military spending is the only thing that might link him to the party’s left wing.
The problem he would face is the shifting international landscape, which would make it difficult to implement some of his policies. First, the tremendous diversity of international challenges would make holding the defense budget in check difficult. Second, and more important, is the difficulty of coalition building and multilateral action with the Europeans. Obama thus lacks both the force and the coalition to carry out his missions. He therefore would have no choice but to deal with the Russians while confronting the Afghan/Pakistani question even if he withdrew more quickly than he says he would from Iraq.
The make-or-break moment for Obama will come early, when he confronts the Europeans. If he can persuade them to take concerted action, including increased defense spending, then much of his foreign policy rapidly falls into place, even if it is at the price of increasing U.S. defense spending. If the Europeans cannot come together (or be brought together) decisively, however, then he will have to improvise.
Obama would be the first Democrat in this century to take office inheriting a major war. Inheriting an ongoing war is perhaps the most difficult thing for a president to deal with. Its realities are already fixed and the penalties for defeat or compromise already defined. The war in Afghanistan has already been defined by U.S. President George W. Bush’s approach. Rewriting it will be enormously difficult, particularly when rewriting it depends on ending unilateralism and moving toward full coalition warfare when coalition partners are wary.
Obama’s problems are compounded by the fact that he does not only have to deal with an inherited war, but also a resurgent Russia. And he wants to depend on the same coalition for both. That will be enormously challenging for him, testing his diplomatic skills as well as geopolitical realities. As with all presidents, what he plans to do and what he would do are two different things. But it seems to us that his presidency would be defined by whether he can change the course of U.S.-European relations not by accepting European terms but by persuading them to accommodate U.S. interests.
An Obama presidency would not turn on this. There is no evidence that he lacks the ability to shift with reality — that he lacks Machiavellian virtue. But it still will be the first and critical test, one handed to him by the complex tensions of Democratic traditions and by a war he did not start.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: BO's Foreign Policy Stance
on: September 26, 2008, 07:56:53 PM
Obama's Foreign Policy Stance (Open Access)
Stratfor Today » September 24, 2008 | 1013 GMT
Editor’s Note: This is part two of a four-part report by Stratfor founder and Chief Intelligence Officer George Friedman on the U.S. presidential debate on foreign policy, to be held Sept. 26. Stratfor is a private, nonpartisan intelligence service with no preference for one candidate over the other. We are interested in analyzing and forecasting the geopolitical impact of the election and, with this series, seek to answer two questions: What is the geopolitical landscape that will confront the next president, and what foreign policy proposals would a President McCain or a President Obama bring to bear? For media interviews, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 512-744-4309.
By George Friedman
Barack Obama is the Democratic candidate for president. His advisers in foreign policy are generally Democrats. Together they carry with them an institutional memory of the Democratic Party’s approach to foreign policy, and are an expression of the complexity and divisions of that approach. Like their Republican counterparts, in many ways they are going to be severely constrained as to what they can do both by the nature of the global landscape and American resources. But to some extent, they will also be constrained and defined by the tradition they come from. Understanding that tradition and Obama’s place is useful in understanding what an Obama presidency would look like in foreign affairs.
For a PDF version of this piece, click here.
U.S. Foreign Policy — The Presidential Debate
Part One: The New President and the Foreign Policy Landscape
Part Three: McCain’s Foreign Policy Stance
Related Special Topic Pages
U.S. Foreign Policy: The Presidential Debate
The 2008 U.S. Presidential Race
The most striking thing about the Democratic tradition is that it presided over the beginnings of the three great conflicts that defined the 20th century: Woodrow Wilson and World War I, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and World War II, and Harry S. Truman and the Cold War. (At this level of analysis, we will treat the episodes of the Cold War such as Korea, Vietnam or Grenada as simply subsets of one conflict.) This is most emphatically not to say that had Republicans won the presidency in 1916, 1940 or 1948, U.S. involvement in those wars could have been avoided.
Patterns in Democratic Foreign Policy
But it does give us a framework for considering persistent patterns of Democratic foreign policy. When we look at the conflicts, four things become apparent.
First, in all three conflicts, Democrats postponed the initiation of direct combat as long as possible. In only one, World War I, did Wilson decide to join the war without prior direct attack. Roosevelt maneuvered near war but did not enter the war until after Pearl Harbor. Truman also maneuvered near war but did not get into direct combat until after the North Korean invasion of South Korea. Indeed, even Wilson chose to go to war to protect free passage on the Atlantic. More important, he sought to prevent Germany from defeating the Russians and the Anglo-French alliance and to stop the subsequent German domination of Europe, which appeared possible. In other words, the Democratic approach to war was reactive. All three presidents reacted to events on the surface, while trying to shape them underneath the surface.
Second, all three wars were built around coalitions. The foundation of the three wars was that other nations were at risk and that the United States used a predisposition to resist (Germany in the first two wars, the Soviet Union in the last) as a framework for involvement. The United States under Democrats did not involve itself in war unilaterally. At the same time, the United States under Democrats made certain that the major burdens were shared by allies. Millions died in World War I, but the United States suffered 100,000 dead. In World War II, the United States suffered 500,000 dead in a war where perhaps 50 million soldiers and civilians died. In the Cold War, U.S. losses in direct combat were less than 100,000 while the losses to Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans and others towered over that toll. The allies had a complex appreciation of the United States. On the one hand, they were grateful for the U.S. presence. On the other hand, they resented the disproportionate amounts of blood and effort shed. Some of the roots of anti-Americanism are to be found in this strategy.
Third, each of these wars ended with a Democratic president attempting to create a system of international institutions designed to limit the recurrence of war without directly transferring sovereignty to those institutions. Wilson championed the League of Nations. Roosevelt the United Nations. Bill Clinton, who presided over most of the post-Cold War world, constantly sought international institutions to validate U.S. actions. Thus, when the United Nations refused to sanction the Kosovo War, he designated NATO as an alternative international organization with the right to approve conflict. Indeed, Clinton championed a range of multilateral organizations during the 1990s, including everything from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and later the World Trade Organization. All these presidents were deeply committed to multinational organizations to define permissible and impermissible actions.
And fourth, there is a focus on Europe in the Democratic view of the world. Roosevelt regarded Germany as the primary threat instead of the Pacific theater in World War II. And in spite of two land wars in Asia during the Cold War, the centerpiece of strategy remained NATO and Europe. The specific details have evolved over the last century, but the Democratic Party — and particularly the Democratic foreign policy establishment — historically has viewed Europe as a permanent interest and partner for the United States.
Thus, the main thrust of the Democratic tradition is deeply steeped in fighting wars, but approaches this task with four things in mind:
Wars should not begin until the last possible moment and ideally should be initiated by the enemy.
Wars must be fought in a coalition with much of the burden borne by partners.
The outcome of wars should be an institutional legal framework to manage the peace, with the United States being the most influential force within this multilateral framework.
Any such framework must be built on a trans-Atlantic relationship.
Democratic Party Fractures
That is one strand of Democratic foreign policy. A second strand emerged in the context of the Vietnam War. That war began under the Kennedy administration and was intensified by Lyndon Baines Johnson, particularly after 1964. The war did not go as expected. As the war progressed, the Democratic Party began to fragment. There were three factions involved in this.
The first faction consisted of foreign policy professionals and politicians who were involved in the early stages of war planning but turned against the war after 1967 when it clearly diverged from plans. The leading political figure of this faction was Robert F. Kennedy, who initially supported the war but eventually turned against it.
The second faction was more definitive. It consisted of people on the left wing of the Democratic Party — and many who went far to the left of the Democrats. This latter group not only turned against the war, it developed a theory of the U.S. role in the war that as a mass movement was unprecedented in the century. The view (it can only be sketched here) maintained that the United States was an inherently imperialist power. Rather than the benign image that Wilson, Roosevelt and Truman had of their actions, this faction reinterpreted American history going back into the 19th century as violent, racist and imperialist (in the most extreme faction’s view). Just as the United States annihilated the Native Americans, the United States was now annihilating the Vietnamese.
A third, more nuanced, faction argued that rather than an attempt to contain Soviet aggression, the Cold War was actually initiated by the United States out of irrational fear of the Soviets and out of imperialist ambitions. They saw the bombing of Hiroshima as a bid to intimidate the Soviet Union rather than an effort to end World War II, and the creation of NATO as having triggered the Cold War.
These three factions thus broke down into Democratic politicians such as RFK and George McGovern (who won the presidential nomination in 1972), radicals in the street who were not really Democrats, and revisionist scholars who for the most part were on the party’s left wing.
Ultimately, the Democratic Party split into two camps. Hubert Humphrey led the first along with Henry Jackson, who rejected the left’s interpretation of the U.S. role in Vietnam and claimed to speak for the Wilson-FDR-Truman strand in Democratic politics. McGovern led the second. His camp largely comprised the party’s left wing, which did not necessarily go as far as the most extreme critics of that tradition but was extremely suspicious of anti-communist ideology, the military and intelligence communities, and increased defense spending. The two camps conducted extended political warfare throughout the 1970s.
The presidency of Jimmy Carter symbolized the tensions. He came to power wanting to move beyond Vietnam, slashing and changing the CIA, controlling defense spending and warning the country of “an excessive fear of Communism.” But following the fall of the Shah of Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he allowed Zbigniew Brzezinski, his national security adviser and now an adviser to Obama, to launch a guerrilla war against the Soviets using Islamist insurgents from across the Muslim world in Afghanistan. Carter moved from concern with anti-Communism to coalition warfare against the Soviets by working with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghan resistance fighters.
Carter was dealing with the realities of U.S. geopolitics, but the tensions within the Democratic tradition shaped his responses. During the Clinton administration, these internal tensions subsided to a great degree. In large part this was because there was no major war, and the military action that did occur — as in Haiti and Kosovo — was framed as humanitarian actions rather than as the pursuit of national power. That soothed the anti-war Democrats to a great deal, since their perspective was less pacifistic than suspicious of using war to enhance national power.
The Democrats Since 9/11
Since the Democrats have not held the presidency during the last eight years, judging how they might have responded to events is speculative. Statements made while in opposition are not necessarily predictive of what an administration might do. Nevertheless, Obama’s foreign policy outlook was shaped by the last eight years of Democrats struggling with the U.S.-jihadist war.
The Democrats responded to events of the last eight years as they traditionally do when the United States is attacked directly: The party’s anti-war faction contracted and the old Democratic tradition reasserted itself. This was particularly true of the decision to go to war in Afghanistan. Obviously, the war was a response to an attack and, given the mood of the country after 9/11, was an unassailable decision. But it had another set of characteristics that made it attractive to the Democrats. The military action in Afghanistan was taking place in the context of broad international support and within a coalition forming at all levels, from on the ground in Afghanistan to NATO and the United Nations. Second, U.S. motives did not appear to involve national self-interest, like increasing power or getting oil. It was not a war for national advantage, but a war of national self-defense.
The Democrats were much less comfortable with the Iraq war than they were with Afghanistan. The old splits reappeared, with many Democrats voting for the invasion and others against. There were complex and mixed reasons why each Democrat voted the way they did — some strategic, some purely political, some moral. Under the pressure of voting on the war, the historically fragile Democratic consensus broke apart, not so much in conflict as in disarray. One of the most important reasons for this was the sense of isolation from major European powers — particularly the French and Germans, whom the Democrats regarded as fundamental elements of any coalition. Without those countries, the Democrats regarded the United States as diplomatically isolated.
The intraparty conflict came later. As the war went badly, the anti-war movement in the party re-energized itself. They were joined later by many who had formerly voted for the war but were upset by the human and material cost and by the apparent isolation of the United States and so on. Both factions of the Democratic Party had reasons to oppose the Iraq war even while they supported the Afghan war.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pakistan s Ambassador
on: September 26, 2008, 02:05:33 AM
Pakistan and Afghanistan
Unite Against Terrorism
By HUSAIN HAQQANI and SAID T. JAWAD
President Hamid Karzai and the new democratically elected president of Pakistan, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, are firmly committed to fighting terrorism in a united front, as common allies of the United States and victims of terrorism. As part of this struggle, we need to find new ways to deny terrorists the opportunity to capitalize on abject poverty that engulfs the tribal regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This is crucial: People who are well fed are not desperate. People who have confidence in public education do not turn toward political madrassas to educate their children. People who have good jobs do not shelter terrorists. In other words, prosperity is one of the most important predictors of political stability, which in turn is the single most critical element in the containment of fanaticism and terrorism.
One innovative idea now before the U.S. Congress does exactly that -- the creation of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ) in Afghanistan and Pakistan's border region with Afghanistan, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The legislation, introduced on a bipartisan basis by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) would allow the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan to produce and export a wide range of textiles, handicrafts, carpets, gemstones and other products to the U.S. duty free. This concept is consistent with similar, successful programs for Jordan, Egypt and some other countries.
The list of duty-free goods has been crafted to be attractive to investors but tightly defined to avoid impact on U.S. domestic production. The rights of laborers will be protected; and the zones will offer legitimate, sustained income to local populations, providing alternatives to joining and supporting terrorists and extremists.
These zones would also draw Pakistan and Afghanistan's economies closer together, increasing cooperation and integration. Trade between our two countries has increased dramatically in recent years, with Pakistani exports to Afghanistan jumping from $25 million to $1.2 billion in the last six years. Further cooperation would only increase trade and expand joint efforts on matters of mutual concern -- terrorism chief among them.
The ROZ concept is enthusiastically supported by the Bush administration. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said that "these programs will boost sustainable economic development for citizens in impoverished areas at the epicenter of the war on terror and drugs."
Sens. Joe Biden (D., Del.) and Richard Lugar (R., Ind.), the chairman and the Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have made enhanced trade and economic development a priority for building a prosperous, stable and democratic Central and South Asia. This is an idea whose time truly has come.
We, the ambassadors of Pakistan and Afghanistan, urge Congress to move expeditiously to enact ROZ legislation. It will constitute a much-needed affirmation to the people of both our countries that America is a dependable ally, and that it understands that more than military action alone is needed in the war against terrorists.
Reconstruction Opportunity Zones are an essential part of a broader, realistic, multifaceted policy that will choke off the oxygen of terrorism. As a brave leader committed to fighting terrorism, the late Benazir Bhutto wrote at the end of her posthumously published book, "Reconciliation": "Extremism thrives under dictatorship and is fueled by poverty, ignorance and hopelessness. The extremist threat within the Islamic world and between the Islamic world and the West can be solved, but it will require addressing all the factors that breed it."
For the United States, this is a critical moment -- a moment that could very well determine the long-term success of the civilized world's containment of fanaticism and terrorism. Creative policies such as ROZ now and in the future can solve it.
Mr. Haqqani is Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. Mr. Jawad is Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Public deserves better plan
on: September 26, 2008, 01:52:21 AM
Another piece raising questions , , ,
The Public Deserves a Better Deal
By JOHN PAULSON
The Treasury plan to buy illiquid financial assets has been widely criticized as being unfair to taxpayers, who will have to bear losses ahead of shareholders of the institutions that will be bailed out.
[The Public Deserves a Better Deal] Corbis
There is a better alternative to stabilize the markets: Invest the $700 billion of taxpayer money in senior preferred stock of the troubled financial institutions that pose systemic risks. Let's call this the "Preferred plan." In fact, it is the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac model -- which the Treasury Department has already endorsed and used in practice. It is also the approach Warren Buffett used for his investment in Goldman Sachs.
There are major problems with the Treasury plan. First, by buying banks' worst assets at above-market prices, taxpayers take an immediate economic loss -- while transferring wealth to shareholders and executives of the very institutions that brought on the financial crisis.
Second, this plan puts too much discretionary power in the hands of Treasury officials. Who determines what financial assets are purchased and at what prices? Who determines which bank gets to benefit from these taxpayer subsidies? Will bank shareholders continue to receive dividends, and executives continue to get paid huge bonuses?
When financial institutions borrow massive amounts of money to invest in assets that are now found to be illiquid and poorly performing, it is not the responsibility of taxpayers to bear the resulting losses. These losses should be borne by the shareholders.
If taxpayers have to step in and provide capital to keep operating enterprises that the government decides are key to the functioning of the economy as a whole, taxpayers must receive protection.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said at the Senate Banking Committee hearing this week, "[the] Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac [interventions] worked the way they were supposed to." These enterprises continued to function, maintaining homeowner access to and lowering the cost of mortgage financing. However, managements of these companies had to leave and forfeit the compensation packages they had negotiated.
Shareholders had their dividends blocked and remain first in line to bear losses, as they should have been. Taxpayers came both first and last -- first to get paid back, as the new preferred stock is senior to all shareholders; and last in realizing losses, as common and other preferred equity would be extinguished before the taxpayers would be at risk.
This mechanism -- purchases of senior preferred stock with warrants in troubled institutions -- addresses the problems with the Treasury plan. The financial market is stabilized, companies get recapitalized, failures are avoided, debt securities are supported, and time is gained for illiquid assets to mature.
The institutions continue to function, their cost of funding will decline as equity capital increases, and innocent third parties like bank depositors, broker/dealer clients and insurance-policy holders are all protected. The only difference is that potential losses are kept with the shareholders where they belong.
The Treasury plan would also entail larger outlays than the Preferred plan. By allowing all banks to sell their worst assets to Treasury at inflated prices, taxpayers would be subsidizing healthy banks which have access to private capital (Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America, for example) as well as banks that don't have a private alternative. But under a Preferred plan, only banks that don't have a private alternative will be given federal assistance. This would reduce the outlay otherwise required to solve the crisis.
Few people familiar with the issues deny that Treasury action is needed to stabilize the financial markets. However, the question is who should bear the cost?
Under the Treasury plan the taxpayer pays the price. Under a Preferred plan, the shareholders of the firms who created the problems bear the first loss. Who do you think should pay?
Before committing $700 billion of our money, we should encourage Congress to take a few extra days to get this legislation right.
Mr. Paulson is president and portfolio manager of Paulson & Co. Inc., a New York-based investment management firm.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iraq Progress
on: September 26, 2008, 01:28:18 AM
Iraq Political Progress
For some better news this week, turn the channel to Iraq. The Parliament in Baghdad just undid the biggest political knot in the country. Wednesday's deal to hold provincial elections opens the way for former insurgents and their supporters, mainly Sunni Arabs, to join the democratic process in Iraq. That in turn should help consolidate the stunning security gains of the past year.
[Iraq Political Process] AP
An American soldier stands guard as an Iraqi soldier hands out leaflets of wanted men in Baghdad, Sept. 24, 2008.
We used to hear from Joe Biden, the Pentagon and others on both sides of the aisle in Washington that only political reconciliation and a U.S. force pullout could stem the violence. They got it backwards. The "surge" and General David Petraeus's new counterinsurgency strategy, in a matter of months, turned or neutralized Sunni and Shiite militias and all but defeated al Qaeda in Iraq. Only now that it's calmer do Iraqis feel secure enough to make political progress.
Under the compromise, elections are to be held by January in 14 provinces. Expect Sunnis to win a large chunk of seats in Anbar, Diyala and other regions; most Sunnis sat out the previous polls in 2005 and won't make that mistake again. The notable exception is Tamim, home to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk disputed by Kurds and Sunnis. Iraqi parliamentarians agreed to kick this problem down the road. Elections there will be put off into the spring once disputes over voter rolls and other questions are resolved. This was the necessary compromise to break the deadlock in Baghdad.
Less noticed but also critical is the manner of voting. In the coming provincial elections, Iraqis will choose from a slate of candidates nominated by political parties. Three years ago, they got to vote only for a "closed slate" of parties without knowing which particular politician would end up representing them in the regional or national assemblies.
The change to a so-called open slate is a step forward. It makes politicians more directly accountable to their constituents and reduces the power of party bosses. The national elections, which are expected by 2010 but were also held up by the dispute over the provincial vote, are expected to be open slate, as well.
Unfortunately Iraq remains stuck with "proportional representation," a 2005 gift from U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi that helped exacerbate sectarian tensions and bring weak coalition governments. Under this system, Iraqis don't vote for individual candidates in set constituencies. Instead they choose among party slates that are then awarded a share of seats based on their showing. This gives a strong incentive for Iraq to have only ethnic-based parties.
Iraqi party bosses are attached to this system, and fought behind the scenes even against an open slate. No surprise there: What politician wants to risk losing power? A move from proportional representation to constituency voting would be hard and time consuming. A U.S. official in Baghdad tells us that Washington "won't take a position" on a preferable system for Iraq. Maybe it should. A constitutional reform that further blunts sectarianism in politics and strengthens this young democracy would seem to be in the American -- and Iraqi -- interest.
For all the remarkable progress, the war in Iraq isn't over. An ambush on Iraqi police in the volatile Diyala province, also Wednesday, left 35 policemen dead. Whoever wins the White House next year would imperil the recent gains by drawing down American forces before Iraq holds provincial and national elections. They're needed to ensure security and guard against sectarian backsliding. As importantly, the U.S. is a trusted neutral observer whose robust presence will reassure various Iraqi communities that the elections are fair.
The election compromise is a major breakthrough and shows that political reconciliation is happening in Iraq. It is also further proof that the sacrifice of American soldiers has not been in vain.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / WSJ: Mayorga
on: September 26, 2008, 01:20:23 AM
At the age of 35, Ricardo "El Matador" Mayorga is making the most unlikely comeback in boxing. But don't tell the Surgeon General. He's doing it while smoking a pack a day.
In one of the planet's most physically demanding sports, Mr. Mayorga has managed to win a world championship and stay in the top ranks for a decade. Tomorrow night, he's scheduled to fight former world champion Shane Mosley in a bout that could rekindle his title hopes or send him into retirement. But the most remarkable thing about this boxer from Nicaragua is that he has risen to the top of his sport while sucking down enough cigarette smoke to kill a rhinoceros. He has little interest in nutrition or scientific training. He's never been hooked up to a Vo2 Max machine and he turns down the vitamin B12 shots offered by his coach, Rigoberto Garibaldi. "No scientist would be able to figure out what makes him work," says Mr. Garibaldi.
In a sports world dominated by athletes obsessed with calibrating their bodies to a precise degree, Mr. Mayorga has spent his entire career doing the opposite -- pumping himself full of stuff that should be slowing him down. While training in Florida for tomorrow's fight at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., Mr. Mayorga woke up at dawn every morning and ran three miles at speeds that, according to his trainer, would make any other boxer pass out -- let alone one who smoked. "It doesn't affect him at all," Mr. Garibaldi says.
After lunch, Mr. Mayorga would drive to a small gym at an office park in the Miami suburb of Coconut Creek to work on shadowboxing, punching mitts and working the heavy bag. In the late afternoons, he sometimes added another workout of weights or more running. At the end of the day, he's so tired he can barely move. But this grueling ritual is frequently punctuated by an astonishing sight: Mr. Mayorga, still dressed in his sweaty workout clothes, lighting up a cigarette.
WSJ's Reed Albergotti visits "El Matador." (Sept. 26)
After one grueling workout last month in Florida, he toweled off and walked outside the gym. His coach handed him some fresh fruit to eat for recovery and an assistant produced a lighter. Soon Mr. Mayorga was taking a deep drag from a Marlboro, looking relieved and relaxed. "I've been smoking since I was 13," he said. "It seems to be working for me, so why stop?"
Mr. Mayorga's assistant, Anthony Gonzalez, says that when the boxer isn't training, he smokes as many as three packs, or 60 cigarettes, a day.
High-level trainers say that despite what you might think, an occasional cigarette is relatively normal for pro athletes, especially in Europe, where athletes smoke the way NFL linemen might sneak Big Macs into training camp. French soccer superstar Zinedine Zidane was photographed sneaking a cigarette during the 2006 World Cup. One of the greatest cyclists of all time, Belgian Eddy Merckx, smoked occasionally. And a 2003 survey showed about 10% of Major League Baseball players admitted using cigarettes.
Mark Verstegen, the founder of the Arizona-based sports-training facility Athletes Performance, says there is no question that smoking hurts athletic performance. When some of the elite athletes he's worked with have quit smoking, he says, they've seen immediate gains in physiological markers like oxygen uptake, muscle fatigue and overall speed. The act of smoking, he says, "mucks up the whole system."
[Ricardo Mayorga] John Loomis for The Wall Street Journal
Several studies performed on athletes back up these observations. In 1985, researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles ran nine male subjects to the point of exhaustion -- some after smoking three cigarettes and some without smoking at all. They found the smokers were less able to get oxygen to their muscles and had higher heart rates. A study concluded last year at Denmark's Copenhagen Muscle Research Center found that muscle protein synthesis, which is essential for athletes, was substantially lower in a group of smokers than a group of nonsmokers.
Terry Conway, a public-health researcher at San Diego State University, says that while tobacco smoke does not do elite athletes any favors, it may not slow them down enough to make a big difference. "They can tolerate assaults to their body because they are genetically gifted," she says.
Mr. Mayorga says his first taste of boxing came as a boy on the streets of Managua. As a junior boxer, he won Nicaragua's national championship and a Central American Golden Gloves title before turning pro in 1993. His heyday in the ring came in 2002 and 2003 when he won three welterweight title matches -- beating the top-ranked and heavily favored Andrew Lewis by technical knockout and winning both the WBA and WBC welterweight titles by beating reigning-champion Vernon Forrest twice. He fell just short of winning the undisputed welterweight title in 2003, but collected the super welterweight crown in 2005.
The low point of Mr. Mayorga's career came in 2006 when Oscar De La Hoya pummeled him so badly the official stopped the fight in the sixth round. Though he never officially retired, he didn't fight again for almost two years.
As he ascended in boxing, Mr. Mayorga says he originally tried to hide his smoking habit for fear that promoters would scold him. After beating Mr. Lewis in 2002, Mr. Mayorga was sitting in the training room with his coach and smoking a cigarette when Alan Hopper, a publicist for promoter Don King, walked in. His coach frantically grabbed the cigarette and attempted to put it out, but instead of lecturing the fighter, Mr. Hopper told him to light up another one and found him a bottle of beer to take to the press conference. When Mr. Mayorga started taking questions from the media while drinking and smoking, an image was born.
Mr. Mayorga's punching power and his unrestrained bravado quickly made him a cult figure in boxing. Earlier in his career, his signature move was to allow his opponent to take a free punch at his head. He once offered an opponent a job sweeping his floors and threatened to send another opponent to heaven to meet his deceased mother. In 2003, he posed on the cover of the boxing magazine The Ring in his gloves and trunks with a cigarette dangling from his lips.
Mr. Mayorga's current comeback began in November when he upset Fernando Vargas in 12 rounds, bringing his career record to 28-6-1 and earning him a fight with Mr. Mosley, 37, who is also looking to rekindle his title hopes. Mr. Mosley, 44-5, is best known for giving Mr. De La Hoya two of his five career losses. At press time, he was the clear favorite. The fight will be televised on HBO.
When asked if he would ever smoke, Mr. Mosley laughed and said no. He has been training at his high-altitude home in Big Bear, Calif., running up and down hills, lifting weights and carefully monitoring his diet. He said he even makes his mother go outside when she smokes. Mr. Mayorga says training at altitude won't help his opponent in the ring. "He can go to the North Pole or the Amazon, the result's going to be the same. I'm going to win the fight."
At the prefight press conference in Los Angeles, Mr. Mayorga, dressed in a suit, lit a cigarette and even offered one to Mr. Mosley. "He can smoke a cigarette when he loses," Mr. Mosley says. "I'm going to destroy him in five rounds or less."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / RTC Chairman
on: September 26, 2008, 12:46:41 AM
What We Learned
From Resolution Trust
By L. WILLIAM SEIDMAN and DAVID C. COOKE
As individuals who were intimately involved in the resolution of this country's last financial crisis, we follow with great interest Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's proposal to acquire distressed real-estate assets from financial institutions.
The current situation threatens our economy more than the savings and loan and banking crisis of the 1980s and early 1990s. The Treasury secretary should be congratulated for moving quickly and decisively.
We would like to offer some thoughts based on our experiences in starting up and operating the government-owned Resolution Trust Corporation, as well as a similar type of operation undertaken by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for dealing with failed banks.
The RTC was charged with resolving nearly 750 failing savings and loan institutions holding $400 billion in assets, and the FDIC had an additional $200 billion from failed banks. Most of these assets were loans to homeowners, builders and developers. Many of the assets, especially construction and development loans, had no established market or "fair value."
The major difference between then and now is that the RTC was, with only a couple of exceptions, dealing with S&Ls closed by their chartering agency. This meant the RTC took over the assets after the institution failed, not before. So the RTC did not have to first negotiate a "fair value purchase price" with a troubled seller. Our experience with past U.S. bank and S&L assistance efforts, as well as those of other countries, leads us to believe that deciding what price to pay -- and which institution to "assist" by buying their assets -- will not be easy.
Guidelines should be established regarding which institutions will be assisted, and how the government will minimize losses, should "fair value" prices prove too high. One option is to not pay all cash upfront. Another method of protecting the taxpayer against overpayment would be for the government to have the right to recover some part of losses suffered on the later sale of assets. Other countries with asset-acquisition programs found themselves conflicted between paying too much to help the bank and trying to avoid losses eventually realized.
Clear guidelines for the management process should be established as promptly as possible for the real-estate loans and/or mortgage-backed securities acquired by Treasury. Like those owned by the RTC, all will require some level of active management.
Buying and managing home mortgages acquired by Treasury will be very challenging. Valuation will be heavily influenced by local real-estate markets and the actions available to the lenders. Restrictions on lender actions or sale prices should be avoided to help maximize recoveries and minimize taxpayers' losses. Restructuring loans often provides an attractive option that avoids foreclosure and keeps families in their homes. But it is important that the lender be allowed to pursue other options when determined to be in the best interest of the taxpayer.
The most difficult loans for the RTC to manage were loans to developers and builders. Our guess is such loans are a looming problem that has not yet been fully recognized. While it is not clear if the proposal currently addresses such loans, it should. Their treatment will impact the property values underlying loans acquired by Treasury.
The RTC started a number of sales initiatives. For the more difficult real-estate loans and properties, we started hiring contractors to manage and sell the assets. But aligning the interests of contractors with the RTC proved very difficult.
The RTC saw that the larger its inventory of distressed assets became, the more the overhang impeded the ability of the markets to determine value and function effectively. We concluded that the only way to stimulate markets as well as avoid conflicting mandates was to quickly move assets into private-sector ownership and expertise, by selling them in bulk in an open and competitive manner.
Here are the most important lessons we learned from our experiences in the late '80s and early '90s:
- Acquired assets require active management. Assets tend to lose value while in government hands, as the government seldom can duplicate a private owner's interest in enhancing value. The RTC employed over 10,000 people in the first year of operation.
- Holding large inventories of assets will lead to depressed prices. No one wants to buy when the market has a large overhang of assets just waiting to be dumped when prices improve.
- To get the market started, assets have to be sold at very low prices. Such sales will attract buyers, with a resulting increase in prices. At the same time, selling at low prices could trigger accusations that the agency is "depressing the market."
- Every government sale or purchase creates winners and losers. This results in intense political and economic pressures to influence the actions of the agency. The RTC's independent governance and operations protected against fraud and political influence.
The Treasury proposal will undoubtedly raise many conflicts similar to those seen by the RTC. In our experience, government ownership and management of assets rarely increases value. Moving assets openly, fairly and promptly to sound private-sector owners is the best way to minimize taxpayers' losses. If the RTC hadn't adopted this approach, it might still be around today.
Mr. Seidman is former FDIC and RTC chairman. Mr. Cooke is former deputy FDIC chairman and RTC executive director.
Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ Kessler: Paulson plan will make money
on: September 24, 2008, 11:41:14 PM
The Paulson Plan
Will Make Money
By ANDY KESSLER
In 1992, hedge-fund manager George Soros made $1 billion betting against the British pound. In 2007, John Paulson's Credit Opportunities fund correctly bet against subprime mortgages, clearing $15 billion for the year and $3.7 billion for him. Warren Buffett is now hoping to make big money on Goldman Sachs.
But these are small-time deals. My analysis suggests that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (a former investment banker, no less, not a trader) may pull off the mother of all trades, which could net a trillion dollars and maybe as much as $2.2 trillion -- yes, with a "t" -- for the United States Treasury.
[The Paulson Plan Will Make Money for Taxpayers] Chad Crowe
Here's what's happened so far. New technology like electronic trading meant that Wall Street's bread-and-butter business of investment banking and trading stocks stopped making much money years ago. So investment banks took their enormous capital and at first packaged yield-enhanced, subprime mortgage loans into complex derivatives such as collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). Eventually and stupidly, these institutions owned them for themselves -- lots of them, often at 30-to-1 leverage. The financial products were made "safe" by insurance products known as credit default swaps, a credit derivative from companies such as AIG. When housing turned down, the mortgages and derivatives were worth a lot less and no one would lend Wall Street money anymore.
Then the piling on started. Hedge funds could short financial stocks and then bid down the prices of CDOs stuck on Wall Street's balance sheets. This was pretty easy to do in an illiquid market. Because of the Federal Accounting Standards Board's mark-to-market 157 rule, Wall Street had to write off the lower value of these securities and raise more capital, diluting shareholders. So the stock prices would drop, which is what the shorts wanted in the first place. It was all legit.
There is a saying on Wall Street that goes, "The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent." Long Term Capital Management learned this lesson 10 years ago when it got its portfolio picked off by Wall Street as its short-term financing dried up. I had thought the opposite -- hedge funds picking off Wall Street -- would happen today. But in a weird twist, it's the government that is set up to win the prize.
Here's how: As short-term financing dried up, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's deteriorating financials threatened to trigger some $1.4 trillion in credit default swap payments that no one, including giant insurer AIG, had the capital to make good on. So Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson put Fannie and Freddie into conservatorship. This removed any short-term financing hassle. He also put up $85 billion in loan guarantees to AIG in exchange for 80% of the company.
Taxpayers will get their money back on AIG. My models suggest that Fannie and Freddie, on the other hand, are a gold mine. For $2 billion in cash up front and some $200 billion in loan guarantees so far, the U.S. government now controls $5.4 trillion in mortgages and mortgage guarantees.
Fannie and Freddie each own around $800 million in mortgage loans, some of them already at discounted values. They also guarantee the credit-worthiness of another $2.2 trillion and $1.6 trillion in mortgage-backed securities. Held to maturity, they may be worth a lot more than Mr. Paulson paid for them. They're called distressed securities for a reason.
Now Mr. Paulson is pitching Congress for $700 billion or more to buy distressed loans and CDOs from the rest of Wall Street, injecting needed cash onto balance sheets so that normal loans for economic activity can be restored. The trick is what price he will pay. Better mortgages and CDOs are selling for 70 cents on the dollar. But many are seriously distressed (15-25 cents on the dollar) because they are the last to be paid in foreclosures. These are what Wall Street wants to unload the quickest.
Firms will haggle, but eventually cave -- they need the cash. I am figuring Mr. Paulson could wind up buying more than $2 trillion in notional value loans and home equity and CDOs for his $700 billion.
So the U.S. will be stuck with a portfolio in the trillions of dollars in bad loans and last-to-be-paid derivatives. Where is the trade in that?
Well, unlike Mr. Buffett or any hedge fund, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve get to cheat. It's not without risk, but the Feds, with lots of levers, can and will pump capital into the U.S. economy to get it moving again. Future heads of Treasury and the Federal Reserve will be growth advocates -- in effect, "talking their book." While normally this creates a threat of inflation and a run on the dollar, and we may see dollar exchange rates turn south near term, don't expect it to last.
First, with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley now operating as low-leverage bank holding companies, a dollar injected into the economy will most likely turn into $10 in capital (instead of $30 when they were investment banks). This is a huge change. Plus, a stronger U.S. economy, with its financial players having clean balance sheets, will become a safe haven for capital.
Europe is threatened by an angry Russian bear. The Far East, especially China, has its own post-Olympic banking house of cards of non-performing loans to deal with. Interest rates will tick up as the economy expands -- a plus for the dollar. Finally, a stronger economy driven by industry instead of financials means more jobs, less foreclosures and higher held-to-maturity payouts on this Fed loan portfolio.
You can slice the numbers a lot of different ways. My calculations, which assume 50% impairment on subprime loans, suggest it is possible, all in, for this portfolio to generate between $1 trillion and $2.2 trillion -- the greatest trade ever. Every hedge-fund manager will be jealous. Mr. Buffett is buying a small piece of the trade via his Goldman Sachs investment.
Over 10 years this could change the budget scenario in D.C., which can also strengthen the dollar. The next president gets a heck of a windfall. In the spirit of Secretary of State William Seward's purchase of Alaska for $7 million in 1867, this week may be remembered as Paulson's Folly.
Mr. Kessler, a former hedge-fund manager, is the author of "How We Got Here" (Collins, 2005).
Please add your comments to the
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST
on: September 24, 2008, 11:15:28 PM
Thanks for the heads up. I found the URL and it looks like it is being posted by GM Pallens to whom I did give permission to use to promote himself on his website.
I would have preferred that he give us credit and mentioned the DVD from which it came , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: September 24, 2008, 10:37:52 PM
I am on a really crummy computer in Switzerland with no audio, but this clip comes recommended to me.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiEWCnpNnBQ
The WSJ rips McCain another butthole again:
The Candidates Vote 'Present'
Last we checked, the President of the United States was still George W. Bush, the Secretary of the Treasury was still Henry Paulson, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve was still Ben Bernanke, and Congress still had 533 members not running for President who are at least nominally competent to debate and pass legislation.
So count us as mystified by Senator John McCain's decision yesterday to suspend his campaign and call for a postponement in Friday's first Presidential debate so that he and Barack Obama can work out a consensus bill to stabilize the financial system. This is supposed to be evidence of leadership?
Mr. McCain's decision follows an equally odd suggestion from Mr. Obama yesterday morning that the two candidates issue a joint statement of principles and conditions for the financial rescue package. As a purely political matter, we understand why Mr. Obama would just as soon say "present" on a tricky Senate vote. He probably figures the current economic mess plays into his argument for "change," so why not minimize any differences with Mr. McCain on the Paulson plan as he heads to Election Day?
We also understand Mr. McCain's desire to further dress his campaign in "Country First" gilding, as if patriotism and consensus are one and the same, or that getting something done is more important than getting it right.
Whatever the motive, this is not what the country expects from its Presidential candidates. The Administration and the Congress have a responsibility to negotiate legislation, and we can only hope it isn't carbuncled to a point that makes it impossible for Treasury to hold a decent mortgage-backed securities auction, or allow markets to clear. As Senators, Messrs. Obama and McCain also have a responsibility to give us their up-or-down verdict on the bill as it emerges. If they have specific differences or suggestions, they certainly have a large megaphone to broadcast them.
As candidates, however, they are not serving the public by hiding behind a fog of faux bipartisanship that obscures their core economic principles and their approach to governance in times of crisis. Far from being an issue that is above electoral politics, the financial panic is too serious not to have a serious discussion about. President Bush gave both candidates a hand last night by inviting them to a White House meeting on the legislation today, but this looks more like political theater than it does actual governing. Both candidates are angling to get some credit for being in on the deal, whatever it might be.
Nor does it stanch a panic when Mr. McCain issues a statement warning that "I do not believe that the plan on the table will pass as it currently stands, and we are running out of time," or comparing the current situation to September 11. No plan passes without going through Congressional hazing, if not modification, and predicting doom does nothing to reassure Americans that our political system is able to manage amid turmoil.
Mr. Obama was right on the merits, and politically shrewd, to respond to Mr. McCain's suggestion to postpone Friday's debate by saying that "Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time. It's not necessary for us to think that we can only do one thing and suspend everything else." He added that he planned to be at the debate.
The behavior of both candidates has an air of running for political cover. Neither of them need master the subtleties of credit default swaps and mortgage-backed securities in time for their debates. But it would be reassuring to know that they are at least capable of holding, and sticking to, a coherent position on what is now the most important issue of the campaign. When one of them becomes President, he won't have the luxury of pressing the "pause" button at the next crisis.
The First Debate Could Be Decisive
By KARL ROVE
more in Opinion »
* Printer Friendly
o Yahoo Buzz more
* smaller Text Size larger
Presidential debates are important -- and the first debate is the most important of all, establishing an arc of opinion that persists unless jarred loose by big mistakes or dramatic events.
So whether this year's first presidential debate between Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain is Friday night or postponed a few days, it may be the fall's most critical event. In the nine first debates since 1960, the perceived winner of the debate averaged a 4.2 point net swing in the Gallup poll.
[The First Debate Could Be Decisive] Martin Kozlowski
Mr. Obama fought hard to have the first clash devoted to foreign policy and the last on the economy. It may be smart to end the series on his strongest turf. But that means the debates start on ground where Mr. McCain is more comfortable, having a sizable poll lead on who'd be a better commander in chief.
Here's the advice some experts I consulted offered the candidates:
First, do no harm. Persistent proficiency is better than big mistakes. Remember Al Gore's sighs in 2000? President George H.W. Bush glancing at his watch in 1992? Michael Dukakis's botched answer to Bernie Shaw's death-penalty question in 1988?
Know what you want to achieve and have that narrative down cold, for yourself and for your opponent. How do you want potential defectors and converts to see and feel about you and your opponent when it's over? How do you accentuate your strengths and his weaknesses?
Answer the questions. Voters don't like it when candidates are not responsive. Mr. McCain shone so much brighter at Rev. Rick Warren's Saddleback conversation because he answered with plain talk and simple declarative statements.
People want to see candidates operating without a script. They are clamoring for spontaneity. So avoid hyper-repetition. For example, Mr. Gore's repeated robotic invocation of the phrase "risky scheme" backfired.
Spend time describing problems. In the '92 debates, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot established personal links with voters as much from how they portrayed the nation's challenges as from their proposals to address them.
Humor is a powerful weapon, but only if it is not canned or forced. Ronald Reagan demolished Walter Mondale with this self-deprecating line: "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."
The counterpunch is better than the punch. The first person to attack generally suffers, especially if the attack comes across as exaggerated or unfair. Attack sparingly and then by inference and obliquely. Rather than a frontal assault on Mr. Obama's inexperience, Mr. McCain could say America's adversaries will test any new president, and only he has the skill and leadership the country will need in that crisis.
Mr. McCain needs to come across as optimistic, loose and likable. He must guard against revealing his lack of respect for Mr. Obama. And he must grab the "change" banner from Mr. Obama by describing a few things he'll do internationally that are new and different.
Mr. McCain should remind voters the surge in Iraq was the most vital decision in the War on Terror. Mr. Obama opposed it and even continued to oppose it after it was an undeniable success. And Mr. McCain should frame energy as a security issue with large implications for jobs and our economy.
Mr. Obama's task is to look like a credible commander in chief. Right now, too many people lack confidence that he's up to the most important of presidential responsibilities.
Mr. Obama must avoid the pervasive sense of nuance that weakened his performance at the Saddleback Forum. He should attack less. If Mr. McCain is condescending, Mr. Obama should call him on it. If Mr. McCain launches a full-out assault, Mr. Obama should rebut it. Otherwise, he should aim for firmness, seriousness of purpose and clarity in his views.
In criticizing President Bush's foreign policy, Mr. Obama must be careful not to sound like he's running down America. Breaking with someone in his party on a vital issue would show leadership and independence.
The story line of the coverage afterward can do almost as much to shape perception as much as the debate itself. Mr. Gore was on defense for weeks after his '00 sighing fit.
Mr. Obama has more recent debate experience, and he's wise to have spent three days in Florida resting. Mr. McCain, by contrast, has campaigned with little rest and rehearsal. This is dangerous. Mood and countenance matter as much as command of issues.
A debate tie goes to the frontrunner. With that now being Mr. Obama by a slim margin, Mr. McCain must emerge the clear winner, or his prospects of being the next president will dim.
Mr. Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.