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26801  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud (ACORN et al), corruption etc. on: October 23, 2009, 11:14:53 AM
From the Left: ACORN Lies Exposed Again

Just when you thought it was safe to visit an ACORN office again, yet another video was released this week at James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, the young conservative activists who posed as a pimp and prostitute in order to get ACORN's advice on tax evasion and other illegal activities, released a sixth video putting the lie to the organization's claim to have "thrown out" the pair from its Philadelphia office. The same employee who claimed she showed them the door is on camera in the newest video giving them the same advice on illegal activities that they received at five other ACORN offices -- and the conversation lasted for 32 minutes.

The audio is frequently muted because of ACORN's legal action against O'Keefe and Giles, but Andrew Breitbart, whose Web site first aired the videos, has challenged ACORN to allow him to play the full audio. O'Keefe said, "We call upon ACORN to state publicly now that it has no objection to the public release of any of its employees' oral statements to us. If they are interested in the truth, why wouldn't they do so?" Furthermore, O'Keefe asks, "Why did the Philadelphia press report that we were kicked out? Will those reporters now print corrections? [Will the] Washington Post print a second correction?" Don't hold your breath.
26802  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Where in the C. is the power to , , ,? on: October 23, 2009, 11:10:12 AM
second post of the AM

Patriot Post
Digest · Friday, October 23, 2009

The Foundation
"[T]he present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political foes -- rejecting all changes but through the channel itself provides for amendments." --Alexander Hamilton

Pelosi: "Are you serious?"Government & Politics
A Serious Question
We have known for many years that Democrats view the Constitution as an obstacle to their goals, not as something to be revered or upheld -- despite their repeated oaths to do just that. And as Mark Alexander warned last week, our Constitution is on life support.

More evidence of the trauma inflicted by our elected "representatives" surfaced this week when asked the only truly relevant question in the health care debate: Where in the Constitution is the authority to mandate that Americans buy health insurance?

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was befuddled and deflected: Where, in your opinion, does the Constitution give specific authority for Congress to give an individual mandate for health insurance?

Leahy: We have plenty of authority. Are you saying there is no authority? I'm asking-

Leahy: Why would you say there is no authority? I mean, there's no question there's authority, nobody questions that.

While Leahy's answer is both defensive and outrageously arrogant, in a sense, he's right: Not enough voters question the constitutional authority for anything Congress does. Even Republicans too often simply declare, "Me too, only a little less," instead of abiding by the Constitution.

The interviewer persisted, however, and again asked the question. Leahy dodged, saying, "Where do we have the authority to set speed limits on an interstate highway? The federal government does that on federal highways." He then walked away.

So to get this straight, Leahy defended Congress' unconstitutional attempt to take over one sixth of the U.S. economy by citing another unconstitutional law that was justly repealed 14 years ago.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) answered the question by saying, "Well, in promoting the general welfare the Constitution obviously gives broad authority to Congress to effect [a mandate that individuals must buy health insurance]. The end that we're trying to effect is to make health care affordable, so I think clearly this is within our constitutional responsibility."

On the contrary, in 1994, the Congressional Budget Office reported that a mandate forcing Americans to buy insurance would be an "unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States."

According to Hoyer and his accomplices, however, the General Welfare Clause in the Constitution empowers Congress not only to "promote the general Welfare," but to provide it, demand it and enforce it.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was the worst offender. "Madam Speaker," asked, "where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?" Her brief reply spoke volumes about the Left's contempt for the Constitution and the Rule of Law: "Are you serious? Are you serious?" She then ignored the question and moved on to the next one. Her spokesman later added, "You can put this on the record: That is not a serious question. That is not a serious question."

Even in light of the current recession, we live in a day of unprecedented prosperity and, as a result, we have become complacent. Unfortunately, the likes of Leahy, Hoyer and Pelosi, who mock the Constitution instead of keeping their oaths, have almost completely robbed us of the "Blessings of Liberty" which our Founding Fathers pledged "our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor" to defend.

Though questions concerning constitutional authority are finally being asked inside the Beltway, they have been asked with ever-louder voices across the nation since Ronald Reagan reinvigorated that debate. Of course, since the last election, the national debate chorus has become much more unified.

For example, in The Patriot's home state of Tennessee (which Al Gore claims as "home" but which gave its electoral votes to Bush, twice, and then to McCain), there is a 10th Amendment battle underway, and not a minute too soon.

State Republicans are organizing a state sovereignty campaign in opposition to the federal government's abuse of states' rights. This week, a legislative committee approved a motion to invite representatives from the legislatures of the other 49 states to join a "working group ... to enumerate the abuses of authority by the federal government and to seek repeal of its assumption of powers."

Can you say, "Constitutional Convention"?

Predictably, Obama's state cadre of Democrat sycophants are huffing and puffing. State Democrat Chairman Chip Forrester says, "It's unfortunate that Republican members of the state Legislature have jumped on this crazy train. This is nothing short of lunacy. The Tea Party organizers and their ultra-right wing cronies began this ridiculous issue to disrupt civil debate about how to move this state and nation forward. I hope they are not suggesting we fight another Civil War."

No, we should give the Convention a chance before taking up arms. And if it comes to the latter, I suggest Mr. Forrester say goodbye to the sun and slither down a very deep hole.
26803  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kremlin Wars, part 2 on: October 23, 2009, 11:05:26 AM
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series), Part 2: The Combatants
October 23, 2009 | 1507 GMT
Former Russian president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the indisputable executive power in Russia. His strength comes largely from his ability to control Russia's opposing political clans. Those two clans, which have been fighting for influence for most of the past eight years, are about to see fresh conflict as a new force, the civiliki, attempt to use Russia's economic crisis as an opportunity to reshape the country.

Editor's Note: This is part two in a five-part series examining the Russian political clans and the coming conflict between them.


Executive power in Russia indisputably rests with former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Putin emerged as the supreme political force in Russia following the chaos that defined the 1990s precisely because he stepped outside of the fray and acted effectively as an arbiter for the disparate power structures. Although Putin's background is in the KGB (now called the Federal Security Service, or FSB) and he used these links in intelligence and security services to initially consolidate his reign, his power does not rest on those foundations alone. Putin's power comes from his ability to control Russia's opposing clans through favors and fear that he will give one clan the tools and authority to destroy the other.

The two main clans within the Kremlin are the Sechin clan led by Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin and the Surkov clan led by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev's First Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov. These clans have been involved in almost continual competition for power for the past eight years. The group that may tip the balance in the coming clan wars is a newly defined class that is part of the Surkov clan: the civiliki. Putin's balance of power is intertwined with economic reform, and the civiliki -- a group of lawyers and economic technocrats -- want to use the economic crisis to reform Russia.

Sechin and the FSB and Siloviki
Sechin has deep roots within the FSB and the siloviki (a term which translates as "the strongmen") who are either directly linked to the FSB or are former security officers who have tried their hand at business or politics or both during their "retirement." Sechin and his group generally have a comparatively Soviet frame of mind, but without any ideological nostalgia for communism. They do, however, long for the powerful Soviet Union, which acted forcefully on the world stage, was respected by its foes and allies, was suspicious of the West and was led by a firm (bordering on brutal) hand at home. The economic system Sechin favors is one that harnesses Russia's plentiful natural resources to fund champions of industry and military technology, and essentially depends on high commodity prices to sustain itself.

Sechin's main source of power is undoubtedly the FSB. Although the FSB is fully loyal to Putin, this does not mean that it would not side with Sechin in a showdown against its opponents. Sechin uses the FSB as a talent pool from which to fill various positions under his command, including the chairmanships of various state-owned companies. This naturally irks the civiliki, who abhor the thought of intelligence operatives running Russian companies.

Aside from the FSB, Sechin's other pillars of power are the state-owned oil giant Rosneft and the interior, energy and defense ministries. The distribution of assets between the Sechin and Surkov clans is not random; Putin coordinated it precisely so that neither clan becomes too powerful. Sechin's control of Rosneft is therefore balanced by Surkov's control of Gazprom, the state-owned natural gas company. While Sechin gets control of the energy ministry, Surkov is in charge of the natural resources ministry and so on.

Surkov and the GRU
Surkov rose through the ranks by proving himself invaluable in two key episodes of Russian state consolidation: the Chechen insurgency and the collapse of the largest Russian private energy firm, Yukos. Originally from Chechnya, Surkov played a role in eliminating a major thorn in the Kremlin's side: Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev. He also helped mastermind Moscow's win in the Second Chechen War by creating a strategy that divided the insurgency between the nationalist Chechens and the Islamists. His role in bringing down Yukos oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky began the all-important consolidation of those economic resources pillaged during the 1990s by disparate business interests.

Surkov's power base is the Russian Foreign Military Intelligence Directorate (GRU). The GRU represents both military intelligence and the military. Throughout Soviet and post-Soviet history, it has been the counterbalance to the KGB/FSB. The GRU is larger than the FSB and has a longer reach abroad, although it its accomplishments are not as well known as those of the FSB.

Also under Surkov's control are Gazprom; the ministries of finance, economics and natural resources; and the Russian prosecutor general. However, Surkov's rival Sechin controls the interior and defense ministries -- which have most of Russia's armed forces under their command. This limits the GRU's ability to control the military.

Surkov has sought to weaken Sechin and the FSB's position by constantly looking for potential allies to add to his group. In 2003, he formed an alliance with the heads of the reformist camp -- previously known as the St. Petersburgers -- that has proven to be invaluable in the context of the financial crisis. It is this group, the civiliki, that will help Surkov in his attempt to defeat Sechin, possibly for the last time.

The Civiliki
The civiliki are rooted in two camps. The first is the St. Petersburgers group of legal experts and economists that coalesced around Anatoly Sobchak, mayor of St. Petersburg from 1991-1996. Many of Russia's power players -- from Putin to Medvedev to key civiliki figures like Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and German Gref, the former trade and economics minister and current head of Sberbank -- either worked directly under Sobchak or were somehow related to his administration. The second is the somewhat younger group of Western-leaning businessmen and economists that eventually joined the reformists from St. Petersburg.

The civiliki primarily want economic stability and believe Russia has to reform its economic system and move past state intervention in the economy that depends largely on natural resources for output. They try to be non-ideological and are for the most part uninterested in political intrigue. In their mind, economic stability is to be founded on a strong business relationship with the West that would provide Russia with access to capital with which to fund economic reforms. From their perspective, funding from the West has to go to rational and efficient companies that seek to maximize profit, not political power.

The first grouping of economic experts and Western leaning businessmen was led by Anatoly Chubais, who led the St. Petersburg group and was essentially in charge of various privatization efforts in the 1990s under former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. However, most of the St. Petersburg group was sidelined by the general failure of economic reforms enacted during this period. They were then almost snuffed out by the siloviki during the commodities boom from 2005 onward, leaving only Kudrin in a position of some power.

However, Surkov rescued the civiliki and incorporated them, giving them the powerful protector they lacked. Part of Surkov's plan was to turn one of the more prominent civiliki -- Medvedev -- into a superstar at the Kremlin. In Surkov's mind Medvedev was the correct choice since he was neither FSB nor GRU, though Surkov still felt he could influence him. This move helped Medvedev become president. Since Medvedev's ascendance to the presidency, and with Surkov's support, the other civiliki leaders -- Kudrin and Gref -- have been given even greater liberty to run the economy without fear of being replaced. Kudrin is handling the economy while Gref essentially is masterminding the banking system reform. The two of them work very well together, and with their allies Economic Minister Elvira Nabiullina and Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev.

There is a rapidly brewing Surkov-backed conflict between the civiliki and Sechin. The strife is rooted in the simple issue of efficiency: The civiliki argument is that the Sechin clan wasted the good years of high commodity prices, crashed the Russian economy and weakened the state. This forces Putin to look at the conflict differently from previous clan battles. The Surkov-Sechin arguments typically are "just" about power, and thus about maintaining a balance. But the civiliki see Sechin's group not so much as a threat to them but as a threat to Russia. This is an argument that Putin has been able to ignore, but the latest economic crisis could have changed this.

The civiliki have a ready-made solution for the inherent problems in the Russian economy. Surkov's support for the civiliki, along with the financial crisis, has given Putin pause and he is giving their proposals consideration. However, the implementation of such reforms could reignite the feud between the clans and thus completely destabilize the delicate balance Putin has attempted to keep in the Kremlin.

26804  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Coast Guard and the 4th Amendment on: October 23, 2009, 10:53:52 AM
Interesting explanation of the basis for the Coast guard's search and seizure authority vs our 4th Amendment rights.....

A warning. If you have no interest in civil liberties, constitutional law, or the unmitigated growth of federal power... don't read the next several paragraphs.

 About six weeks ago, I purchased a 35-foot fishing boat – an Everglades 35CC. I store the boat on a dock behind my house in Miami, where it is properly registered with the state of Florida. It takes me about 30 minutes to reach the ocean through canals maintained by the city of Miami. I've been out ocean fishing three times since I got the boat. On two of those three occasions, I've been threatened, detained, searched, and/or boarded by agents of the federal government without any probable cause of wrongdoing... or even any reasonable suspicion.

These actions were taken against me and my guests with considerable force: The stops involved high-speed boats, helicopters, large caliber automatic weapons, and black-booted officers decked out in SWAT-team like apparel. In the second instance, my boat was boarded and searched. IDs were taken from all eight passengers. We were ordered to stay on the far side of the boat – in the sun – for nearly two hours and treated like suspected drug smugglers while two Coast Guard officers searched every compartment of my boat – including the small tackle box drawers and our personal belongings.

They called the boarding a "safety inspection." And let me tell you... it is scary when heavily armed men are telling you not to make any sudden movements, to get on the far side of the boat. Their hands are sitting on top of their holsters... and you are 30 miles out at sea.


 A safety inspection is supposed to consist of checking life jackets, fire extinguishers, the structural integrity of the boat, the registration, and a few other minor documents, like an oil discharge placard. How could doing this require two hours? Why would doing this require a stop 30 miles out to sea, involving a helicopter, a Coast Guard cutter, and a four-man boarding party? What's reasonable about a "safety" inspection that features black-soled boots marking up nearly every topside surface of a white, brand-new fiberglass boat? Why should our driver licenses have been taken from us?

 You might recall the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution forbids unreasonable searches and seizures:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Obviously, boats are not specifically named as a protected class of property... but papers and effects seem to be protected. And there's plenty of case law that has extended Fourth Amendment protections – to some degree – to places other than your home. For example, you can't be pulled over on the highway without some probable cause or some traffic violation. But... we had done nothing wrong. We received no citations whatsoever. We were in a brand new boat, running at 40 knots... clearly, there was no problem with the safety of our vessel.

Our new "friends" on USCGC 87318 Bluefin

 So the question I had when I was eventually able to return home, after dark, following our two-hour "safety inspection" was: How in the hell do these guys get away with these actions?

Well, it turns out the Coast Guard and other customs agents have more power to search and seize than any other kind of law enforcement. The reason why dates back to 1790, when the Coast Guard was part of the Treasury Department. Back then, the inspections had nothing to do with safety – they were revenue cutters. The Coast Guard was looking for smugglers because, at the time, the main sources of revenue for the federal government were tariffs. Congress passed a law that would seem to violate the Fourth Amendment directly because it had to ensure its ability to collect tariffs:
That it shall be lawful for all collectors, naval officers, surveyors, inspectors, and the officers of the revenue cutters herein after mentioned, to go on board of ships or vessels in any part of the United States, or within four leagues of the coast thereof, if bound to the United States, whether in or out of their respective districts, for the purposes of demanding the manifests aforesaid, and of examining and searching the said ships or vessels...
 Here's the fascinating part... The Coast Guard's role as revenue cutters was abandoned in 1915 with the advent of income taxes. The Coast Guard finally left the Department of the Treasury in 1967. It is now a part of the Department of Homeland Security. And yet, despite the obvious and well-documented changes in the role of the Coast Guard and the nature of its mission, the Supreme Court continues to deny U.S. citizens their Fourth Amendment rights, out of deference to the Coast Guard's former unique duties (see United States v. Villamonte-Marquez, 1983).

The government, which wouldn't ordinarily be able to stop, search, and seize any American-flagged vessel anywhere in the world at any time, is now empowered to do so simply because, 100 years ago, this power was necessary for tax revenues. So guess who is now routinely assigned to duty aboard Coast Guard cutters? DEA agents.

And yet... the Supreme Court continues to pretend these random searches are merely for "safety inspections." It is yet another case of the Constitution simply being ignored.

 Now... you might say, so what? We like the Coast Guard catching drug smugglers. OK, fine. Just change the Constitution. There is a legal process for doing so. But you're fooling yourself if you think the Coast Guard is actually doing any good. The price of drugs has been falling ever since the "War on Drugs" was announced. We keep spending more money trying to stop drug smuggling... but what actually happens out there?

 The Coast Guard has been turned into a weapon against the citizens of the United States. What's the Coast Guard actually doing? Why would they inspect a brand new boat? A boat that's obviously not involved in any large-scale drug smuggling and is loaded up with expensive fishing equipment and top-of-line Yamaha engines? Here's a possibility: If they find a single joint, they can seize the boat.

 What's happened to the job of actually defending and protecting the people of the United States? In January 1984, just as the Coast Guard's new role as the top drug hound was being expanded, it began refusing ALL requests to help stranded boaters. Taxpayers fund the Coast Guard... which now refuses to help boaters in trouble and instead preys on boat owners at every possible opportunity. Maybe we shouldn't just ignore the Constitution.
26805  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: October 23, 2009, 10:18:50 AM
"Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards." --Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1738
26806  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islamo Fascism gets bold in CA on: October 23, 2009, 09:16:32 AM
Yolo DA: Beating Victim Made Comments Supporting US Actions In Afghanistan

Anti-Taliban Remarks Cited In Attack - POSTED: 7:15 pm PDT October 22, 2009


Four Northern California men were indicted this month on charges of beating up four people after one of the victims talked about supporting the United States and the military's role in ousting Afghanistan's Taliban government.

Mohammed Qumar Ashraf, 29, of Sacramento; Khialluddin Niazi, 69, of West Sacramento; Sarajuddin Niazi, 31, of Union City; and Zafaruddin Niazi, 27, of Los Gatos, face multiple counts, including attempted murder.

The four suspects were released on their own recognizance after Judge Arvid Johnson ordered them to surrender their passports, the district attorney's office said.

The men are accused of going to one victim's residence in March 2004, armed with baseball bats. They beat up four people, prosecutors said; three victims needed medical attention.

Arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 20.
26807  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-- Europe on: October 23, 2009, 09:13:22 AM
Serbia: Russia's Eyes on the Balkans
SERBIAN INTERIOR MINISTER IVICA DACIC and Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu signed a deal on Wednesday to set up by 2012 a humanitarian center for emergencies in Nis, a city in southeastern Serbia. At a press conference, the ministers said the center would be a regional hub for emergency relief in southeastern Europe, and that it will include a mine-clearance center.

To those familiar with the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations and its longtime minister, this announcement should give pause. It has the potential to redefine how the world looks at the Balkans and Russia’s involvement in the region.

Given the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the independence of Kosovo, the entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the EU and NATO, and the general enlargement of NATO to the Balkans, the West has had the luxury of being able to forget about the Balkans, for the most part. This is historically anomalous, considering the region’s generally unstable past and its penchant for causing wide-ranging conflagrations. Certainly, trouble spots remain: Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo are still overt Western protectorates with potential for flaring up, and Serbia is generally dissatisfied with Kosovo’s independence. However, with Serbia practically surrounded by NATO members or candidates, the West has believed that it has the time to digest the remaining Balkan problems at a leisurely pace.

Enter the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations.

This is anything but a minor ministry in the Russian government. Shoigu has essentially run the ministry since 1994. He is a member of the powerful and selective Russian Security Council -- a key advisory body to the Russian executive on national security -- and has roots in the foreign military intelligence directorate, better known as the GRU, which is one of the most powerful and shadowy institutions in Russia. The ministry is an unofficial wing of the GRU and an outgrowth of its activities. It handles more than natural emergencies: It is involved in the suppression of militant activity in the Caucasus and is in charge of the Russian civil defense troops -- which basically gives the ministry its own paramilitary force, as well as access to the rest of the Russian military. In addition, it has considerable airlift capability due to Russia’s vast geography and often inhospitable climate, which means that in many situations the only means to deliver supplies to an area in need is by aircraft.

It is not clear what this arrangement with Serbia might entail in terms of logistical capability. The region is prone to a variety of natural disasters, especially forest fires, and the center could have a role in aiding their resolution. However, all neighboring countries are either member states of NATO or the EU, or on their way to joining one of the two organizations. And though Serbia's West-friendly neighbors can always use the extra help, they hardly need a regional logistical center manned by Moscow and Belgrade.

Therefore, if one considers the links to the GRU and the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations' experience with airlift and related logistics, it has to be considered that Moscow might lay logistical groundwork that -- intentionally or not -- has military value. This could range from nothing more than surveys of the airport’s capability to the prepositioning of logistical equipment, allowing the facility to be ramped up into a proper base in times of crisis. The United States has littered the Balkans with exactly such installations, referred to as lily pads -- most notably in neighboring Romania, where it has four. These are a threat to Russian interests in Moldova and Ukraine, and something Moscow has wanted to counter.

Nis is an interesting location for the new emergency center because it long has been a military hub – first for Yugoslavia and later for southern Serbia. It is located on a key north-south transportation link in southeastern Europe, has a major airport and is home of the Serbian special forces' 63rd Paratroopers’ Battalion, quite possibly Belgrade’s (if not the region’s) most effective fighting force.

There are some serious impediments to an effective Russian lily pad. First, Serbia is practically surrounded by NATO states, which means its airspace easily could be closed off during a crisis. Second, there is only so much equipment Russia can set up in Serbia before the “equipped logistical base” starts to look suspicious. Third, Russia is, ultimately, a land-based force, and despite the recent rhetoric about the need to establish expeditionary forces, there has not been much concrete movement in that direction.

Despite these limitations, which make the move largely symbolic for the near future, Moscow is on its way to setting up its first logistical center with potential military uses outside of the former Soviet Union. In addition, the center will be run by a ministry that serves as the wing of the Russian military intelligence unit. If one puts this in the context of the recent visit to Belgrade by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, with his pledge for a $1.5 billion loan for credit-starved Serbia, it must be concluded that Russia is moving into the Balkans with enthusiasm.

Belgrade likely hopes that Russia’s moves in the region will spur the West into action over Serbia’s long-delayed, but much-promised, integration into the EU. This strategy seemed to bear immediate fruit: The EU countered Russia’s lending with loans of its own, including a proposal for a $1.5 billion investment over five years.

However, there is danger in this strategy. It is one thing to play one loan off of another and quite another to be seen as a potential ally of Moscow. Serbia easily could find itself in the middle of a whirlwind, with the potential reopening of the Balkans as a major point of contestation between the West and Russia.
26808  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BBG on: October 22, 2009, 08:31:01 PM
Woof All:

I am very proud to announce that our own BBG is under consideration for a pundit job at a newspaper of international reknown.  Of course there are many, many other folks under consideration and the process is long.  Therefore we will not be seeing much of him around here for a number of weeks.

Remember us after you hit the big time!
26809  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Legal issues in MA instruction on: October 22, 2009, 08:14:56 PM
Martial arts school sued
Nelson Bennett
Richmond News
October 21, 2009

A Richmond Hapkido instructor is appealing a recent court decision 
that cleared the way for a lawsuit that, if successful, could have 
implications for a wide range of youth sports and extracurricular 

Victor Wong, 20, is suing Lok's Martial Arts Centre for negligence 
stemming from a broken arm he received while a student at the dojang 
in 2006.

Wong was sparring with a fellow student, Ramin Asgare Nik, who is also 
named in the lawsuit.

A lawsuit against Lok's Hapkido school could have implications for 
other martial arts schools, like this judo club, where sparring 
carries a risk of injury.

Wong's statement of claim alleges 26 incidents of negligence, ranging 
from failing to screen students for emotional or psychological 
problems, to failing to ban Nik from sparring when he had demonstrated 
"previous signs of inappropriate aggression and behaviour."

Wong's lawyer, Bonnie Lepin, said her client does not want to talk to 
the media, but said his injury was severe enough that it continues to 
affect his ability to work.

"He has a permanent partial disability," she said.

Michael Lok, the martial art's school's owner, filed to have Wong's 
suit -- filed in 2006 -- dismissed, based on the fact Wong's mother 
signed a waiver indemnifying his dojang from any responsibility for 
any injury students might receive while practicing martial arts.

But Justice Peter Willcock recently dismissed that application based 
on the B.C. Infant's Act. Willcock's ruling doesn't mean Wong will 
necessarily win his civil suit -- only that it can go ahead.

The civil trial is set for Nov. 23, although that date could be 
adjourned, as Lok is appealing the recent court decision to the B.C. 
Court of Appeal.

The ruling underscores just how vulnerable to lawsuits anyone in B.C. 
who deals with children may be, thanks to the B.C. Infant's Act, which 
essentially means waivers signed by parents on behalf of their 
children have no force in law.

Hapkido is a Korean martial art that employs kicks, punches, throws 
and a range of arm and wrist locks, as well as weapons training. In 
addition to doing drills, students put their skills to the test 
through sparring matches.

By their very nature, martial arts involve a risk of injury, which is 
why Lok requires all students or their parents to sign waivers.

The school's conditions for membership states: "all exercises, 
treatments and use of facilities are taken at the student's sole 
risk," and concludes in capital letters: 'YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL 

Wong's mother, Yen To, signed Wong and his two brothers up for Hapkido 
in 2001, when Victor Wong was 12 years old.

"Ms. To says she signed the Conditions of Membership and Release form 
but did not read it carefully or fully understand it," court documents 
state. "She knew if she did not sign it her sons would not be allowed 
to enrol in Hapkido classes. She says she had no intention of waiving 
her sons' rights to sue..."

Wong's lawsuit alleges the injury he received was not a result of 
ordinary martial arts training. The suit alleges Lok was negligent in 
allowing Nik, who was bigger and 25 years older, to spar with a 
student who was just 16.

Lok's lawyer, Michael Frost, argues that Wong was, in fact, the more 
advanced student.

"In fact, Mr. Wong had a higher belt than Mr. Nik," he said.

Wong'claims Nik became frustrated when Wong got the upper hand in a 
sparring match, grabbed him in a bear hug and threw him to the ground 
-- "a maneuver which was not in any way part of the recognized 
sparring match technique."

Lok's lawyer, Michael Frost, disputes that allegation, saying Wong fell.

"This was an accident," Frost said.
26810  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 22, 2009, 08:07:57 PM
Go Lyotto!!!
26811  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Current Events: Philippines on: October 22, 2009, 03:54:34 PM
Third post:

I have NO idea as to the implications of this and I suspect we have several knowledgeable lurkers here.  Anyone?
26812  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / second post on: October 22, 2009, 03:53:35 PM

Who’s sleeping with the enemy?
October 21st, 2009 at 2:40 am by Manuel Buencamino

Last weekend Leslie Bassett, the US Embassy’s charge d’affaires, met with the top officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The meeting raises several questions.

Did the American Embassy ask the Arroyo administration for permission to meet with the MILF leadership?

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Malacañang have not said anything. Military commanders in the area did not know that a meeting would take place.

Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the Americans simply requested him to provide security for their “routine familiarization visit.”

Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, spokesman for the Sixth Infantry Division that provided escorts for the Americans, was also clueless.

“We learned afterward from intelligence reports about the meeting. We learned that they discussed development projects and probably also the peace process.”

Now I don’t know about you but I think the US Embassy and, for that matter, all embassies, have an obligation to ask the host government for permission before sitting down with secessionists.

If the meeting was secret and held without the Arroyo administration’s permission, then the US Embassy not only breached diplomatic protocol—it also committed a subversive act.

Who initiated the meeting?

It’s not clear. The MILF was not forthcoming and the US Embassy downplayed it.

“Ms. Bassett met with various leaders and officials in Cotabato as part of a routine familiarization visit.”

What did the Americans and the secessionists discuss during their “warm and forthright” two-hour meeting?

Neither party provided details, but general statements coming from the US Embassy and the MILF make one wonder if indeed the US is taking the side of the secessionists.

The MILF web site posted Bassett’s statement and the profuse response of the MILF chieftain.

“The United States government greatly respects and supports the people’s struggle and aspiration to achieve peace in the region. Helping attain and sustain peace, security and development in Mindanao is a priority concern of our government,” said Bassett.

MILF chief Haji Murad responded, “We convey the utmost gratitude and felicitations of the MILF and the Bangsamoro people to the United States of America and His Excellency President Barack Obama for the unfaltering commitment to support the peace process and the peaceful conflict resolution between the government and MILF.”

Now, would Murad feel that way if he didn’t believe that Bassett’s statement is a message of support for the MILF’s goal of eventually seceding from the Republic?

The MILF is so confident of US support the vice chairman for MILF political affairs appealed for US intervention.

“The US government knows very well the background of the conflict both historically and legally, and we believe that the US can greatly help toward the peaceful resolution of the conflict,” said Ghazali Jaafar.

Jaafar’s statement seems innocuous enough until one sees where it’s coming from.

The MILF web site says, “Murad [the MILF chieftain] recalled that our Bangsamoro forefathers officially asked the United Sates as early as 1921 and followed up in 1924 and in 1935 to separate Bangsamoro homeland from the Filipinos of Luzon and Visayas once independence will be granted to the latter. The Moros wanted to remain under US rule rather than being annexed to the Philippine Republic.”

Is the US sleeping with the enemy?

Yes, but the US is not the only one in bed with the MILF.

Last year the Supreme Court had to step in to prevent the Arroyo administration from giving away Philippine territory to the MILF.

MILF: US is a superpower; more effective outside of the ICG or formal framework of peace talks
Tuesday, 20 October 2009 08:24 administrator

October 20, 2009 - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has confirmed reports that it sought the help of the United States in the current GRP-MILF Peace Process in Mindanao, saying as a superpower the US can do many things very effective outside the framework of the International Contact Group (ICG) and the formal framework of the peace talks.

No less than Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the MILF, made the request to Ms. Leslie Basset, US Embassy deputy chief of mission, during a meeting in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on October 16.

Madame Basset was accompanied by US Embassy Political Officer Michael Pignagtello, Elzaida Washington, Country Director of the United Sates Aid for International Development, and Anthony Senci, Embassy Defense Minister.

Joining Murad were Ghazali Jaafar, Vice Chairman for Political Affairs, Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Chief Negotiator, Muhammad Ameen, Secretary of the MILF Central Committee, Gordon Sayfullah, Senior Commander of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Force (BIAF), Atty. Datu Michael Mastura, Peace Negotiating Panel Member, Jun Mantawil, Head of Peace Panel Secretariat, and Toks Ebrahim, Chairman of the MILF Ceasefire Committee.

Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF Peace Panel Secretariat, told that current global conflict resolutions point to the fact that without the participation of the former colonizing power, in the case of the Philippines, the US, hastening the process of finding the solution to a given conflict is really difficult.

He said the US knows very well the root of the conflict in Mindanao, which he said was the annexation of Mindanao into the national territory of the Philippines during the grant of independence in 1946.

He recalled that the Moros were administered separately from the Filipinos by the creation of the Moro Province in 1903 and they vehemently opposed union with Filipinos once independence is granted to the Philippines.

“The Moros wanted to remain under US direct rule where they feel safer,” Mantawil added.

Asked what definitive role the US can play, Mantawil did not provide details except by saying it is too early to tell.

Meantime, in a separate interview, Seguis said that the MILF should clarify how it wants Washington to take part in the peace process, given that Malaysia has been brokering the peace talks between the government and the rebels.

“It is a welcome development that the MILF is seeking the help of the US government, but I still have to know in detail on how would they like the US to be of assistance since it would have an impact on the framework that we are working on,” Seguis told The Manila Times. “Will they want the US to be a facilitator together with Malaysia, or as a part of the ICG?”

The Manila Times quoted Seguis in an interview as saying, “When they (the US Embassy officials) told me that they are going on a meeting, I said go ahead,” the government negotiator told The Times. “It is OK for the senior diplomats, including the US, to meet with the MILF. That is part of their engagement in dialogue for peace, for the formal resumption of the peace process.”

“They are participating in a peaceful dialogue to convince the MILF to go back to the negotiating table with us, so that they won’t resort to violence,” Seguis said, adding that he and Bassett will meet this week about what transpired in the Mindanao meeting.
26813  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US meeting with MILF?!? on: October 22, 2009, 03:51:24 PM

US officials meet with MILF on peace talks

COTABATO CITY – Washington officials again held a secret meeting with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the jungles of Maguindanao, reaffirming their support to the peace talks between them and the Philippine government.

US Embassy Charge’ de Affairs Leslie Basset; political officer Michael Pignagtello; Elzaida Washington, Country Director of the United States Aid for International Development; and Anthony Senci, Embassy defense minister, met on Friday with MILF commanders led by their chief, Ebrahim Murad, at Camp Darapanan, the rebel’s main camp in Sultan Kudarat town.

In her message posted on the rebels’ website, Basset reiterated the US commitment to support the peace process in Mindanao by providing more assistance.

“The United States government greatly respect and support people’s struggle and aspiration to achieve peace in the region. Helping attain and sustain peace, security and development in Mindanao is a priority concern of our government,” she said.

Murad said they have remained committed and determined since the start of the peace negotiation in 1997.

“We convey the utmost gratitude and felicitation of the MILF and the Bangsamoro people to the United States of America and His Excellency President Barack Obama for the unfaltering commitment to support the peace process and the peaceful conflict resolution between the government and MILF,” Murad said in statement.

MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar urged the US government to help specifically in addressing the conflict’s root cause.

“The US government knows very well the background of the conflict both historically and legally, and we believe that US can greatly help toward the peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Jaafar said.

The MILF briefed US diplomats about the current peace negotiation situation that has been moving forward.

Recently, the government and the MILF forged the Framework Agreement on the formation of the International Contact Group (ICG), an international body composed of two member countries from European Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference that would ensure the full implementation of all agreements to be signed by two panels.

At the same time, the MILF strongly believed US presence in the region has not been for purely counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism missions.

“Peace-making and peace-building must go hand in hand in resolving the Bangsamoro problem and the conflict in Mindanao. The US government is providing indispensible contribution to these efforts,” he said.

In 2008, US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney also secretly met with Murad in Darapanan where she assured the rebel group of her country’s support to the peace talks.
26814  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Intro to the Kremlin Wars on: October 22, 2009, 03:47:00 PM
The Kremlin Wars (Special Series Introduction): The War Begins
October 22, 2009 | 1954 GMT
PDF Version
Click here to download a PDF of this report
Strange things are happening inside Russia these days. Pro-Kremlin political parties have boycotted the parliament, our sources say lawsuits are about to be filed against some of the state's favorite companies, and rumors are circulating high within the Kremlin that the Russian economy is destined to be liberalized.

When looked at separately, each of these currents can be rationalized, for Russia has just recently completed elections and the global financial crisis is still hammering its economy. But a deeper look reveals instability inside what is normally a consolidated, stable and politically-locked Russia. Something much bigger and more fundamental is afoot: a war among the most powerful men of the Kremlin is coming.

Though Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin undoubtedly rules the country, he does not rule it alone. Over the past decade he has carefully crafted a balanced structure of power. Beneath him on the Kremlin's organizational chart are two very ambitious men: Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin and Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov. Both of these men control vast swaths of the government bureaucracy, state companies and levers of power throughout the Russian system -- including the powerful Federal Security Service (FSB) and Military Intelligence Directorate (GRU).

It is the classic balance-of-power arrangement. So long as these two clans scheme against each other, Putin's position as the ultimate power is not threatened and the state itself remains strong -- and not in the hands of one power-hungry clan or another.

But having all major parts of Russia's government and economy fall under the two clans creates a certain structural weakness, a problem exacerbated over the past few years by the effects on the Russian economy of chronic mismanagement, falling oil prices and, most recently, the global financial crisis. All have weakened the state. Economic problems have become so acute that Putin, for the first time since his rise to power in Russia, has had to step back and reassess whether his system of balanced power is the best way to run the country.

The first to plant this seed of doubt were the liberal-leaning economists (known as the civiliki) within Surkov's clan, who went to Putin over the summer and told him the Russian economy had to be fixed and that they knew how to achieve that. As it happened, their plan called for excluding Sechin's clan -- especially those in the FSB -- from any involvement in economic matters. The plan presents, of course, a good opportunity for Surkov to grab hold of a critical issue in Russia and twist it to weaken his rival clan.

And it presents Putin with a pivotal dilemma. He likes the idea of fixing the Russian economy and making it work like a real economy, but it would mean throwing off the balance of power in the country -- the equilibrium he has worked all these years to achieve. And should this balance be thrown off, the effects could ripple throughout every part of Russia -- all levels of government, influential security institutions and even the country's powerful state-owned companies.

When these issues came to our attention some months ago, our first thought was that they were merely the machinations of just another high-level Russian source hoping we would promote his agenda. So we sought confirmation with a number of unrelated sources -- and we received it. The final convincing event in our minds was Putin's Sept. 29 declaration that some heavy economic reforms are indeed necessary. We cannot rule out that this could all be a disinformation campaign -- those are as Russian as vodka and purges -- but we cannot ignore our intelligence from such a broad array of sources, especially when it's combined with signs of political and economic instability now cropping up inside Russia.

So, herewith, STRATFOR presents The Kremlin Wars, a five-part series on the civiliki's ambitious plan to repair the Russian economy, the impact of that plan on the equilibrium of Russian power and the dilemma Putin now faces in trying to keep Russia politically stable as well as economically sound.
26815  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: October 22, 2009, 10:53:01 AM
IIRC on the DBMA Assn site there is a clip of me getting tased by Southnark  cheesy
26816  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The continuing creep of fascism on: October 22, 2009, 10:08:34 AM

Leonard Downie, who stepped down a year ago as executive editor of the Washington Post, was famous for declining to vote as a matter of journalistic principle.

"I decided to stop voting when I became the ultimate gatekeeper for what is published in the newspaper," he once explained. "I wanted to keep a completely open mind about everything we covered and not make a decision, even in my own mind or the privacy of the voting booth, about who should be president or mayor, for example."

This week Mr. Downie is in the news for declaring in favor of government subsidies for the press. He has written a report, commissioned by the Columbia Journalism School, called "The Reconstruction of American Journalism," which recommends legislation and regulatory changes to enable news organizations to operate as nonprofits or hybrids between limited liability companies and charities. The report also recommends that the government use money from various fees to subsidize the news business.

The report focuses on what it calls "accountability journalism." According to the dean of the Columbia Journalism School, Nicholas Lemann, in a note published on the CJR Web site, Messrs. Downie and co-author Michael Schudson make clear that the Internet "has brought the days when privately owned newspapers could be the main bearers of this reporting function to an end."

The authors insist they are not recommending "a government bailout of newspapers, nor any of the various direct subsidies that governments give newspapers in many European countries," even though, they reckon, "those subsidies have not had a noticeably chilling effect on newspapers' willingness to print criticism of those governments." They acknowledge that most Americans distrust government involvement in reporting and say they share it. But they write that this "should not preclude government support for news reporting any more than it has for the arts, the humanities, and sciences, all of which receive some government support."

They say there's been "a minimum of government pressure in those fields," though they note the exceptions, such as when the National Endowment for the Arts came under fire in the 1990s. The authors assert that "any use of government money to help support news reporting would require mechanisms, besides the protections of the First Amendment, to insulate the resulting journalism as much as possible from pressure, interference, or censorship." They propose that the government siphon money into the news business from the Federal Communications Commission's surcharge on phone bills. They suggest the revenues be tapped for a Fund for Local News, which could direct the money to "worthy initiatives in local news reporting."

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Martin Kozlowski
 .The report suggests they would fund "categories and methods" of reporting, rather than individual stories or reporting projects. It likened the way Local News Fund Councils would operate to the ways State Humanities Councils have been in business since the 1970s—nonprofits whose volunteer boards have, in some places, gubernatorial appointees, all serving limited terms. When I asked Mr. Downie for more detail on what he had in mind, he said he envisioned government money more for innovation than continuing operations, though he also suggested that grants could be renewable.

Mr. Downie has stepped onto an exceptionally slippery slope. It's a view I've reached after 20 years working almost constantly to raise private capital for independent, privately-owned newspapers. One was the Forward, the weekly newspaper covering the Jewish beat that was launched in the 1990s on the foundation of the famed Yiddish-language broadsheet known as the Jewish Daily Forward. The other was The New York Sun, which was launched in 2002 to try, among other things, to seize the local beat from which the New York Times was retreating as it sought to become a national newspaper.

Though those were joyous decades in a happy newspaper life, I don't mind saying there were often desperate days. There were weeks at the Forward when its chairman, Harold Ostroff, and I basically covered the payroll with an American Express card. At the Sun, I was once warned by a lawyer that if the investors didn't come through, officers of the company could be held personally liable for any unpaid payroll taxes. (There were no unpaid taxes, and the investors did come through.)

One thing that kept me going was the prospect that at least some of our competitors, who were also losing money, might crack before we did. The notion that any of them might be sustained by government subsidies strikes me as profoundly contrary to a free press. In the event, the Sun folded without government help.

I take no comfort from the analogy the authors of this report draw with government funding for the arts. In New York City, there came a time when the leaders the voters entrusted with their tax money concluded that what was being done with it in the arts was so abhorrent they tried to stop it. This happened in 1999, when Mayor Rudy Giuliani confronted the Brooklyn Museum over its display of a depiction of the Madonna that had been splattered with elephant dung. A federal court wouldn't let the city stop funding the museum.

What would happen today if some modern-day version of Jay Near's "Saturday Press," an anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, racist newspaper issued during the 1920s, were to look for innovative funding by one of these state councils today? Minnesota tried back then to suppress Near's paper as a nuisance. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Near v. Minnesota (1931), protected his freedom from prior restraint. It's one thing for the Supreme Court to say a Jay Near can't be stopped in advance from publishing on his own dime. It would be another to use state power to force the rest of us to pay for it whether we want to or not.

Even if one could get around this sort of thing, I've come to the view that the real protection of press freedom is in the idea of private property. Press freedom in Soviet Russia was lost precisely on this issue when, as American journalist John Reed told the story in his famous book, "Ten Days that Shook the World," a proposal was put on the table to restore the press freedom that had been suspended on the first day of the Bolshevik revolution. Lenin shouted it down with a diatribe about how that would mean restoring to capitalists privately owned printing equipment, paper supplies and ink.

I don't mean to suggest, in any way, that Mr. Downie is a Bolshevik. I do mean to suggest that the best strategy to strengthen the press would be to maximize protection of the right to private property—and the right to competition. Subsidies are the enemy of competition, and as the newspaper industry flails around for a solution, I can't help but think of the hapless Roscoe Filburn.

He was a farmer in Ohio who had the misfortune to be growing wheat during the 1930s, when subsidies were brought in for farmers. With subsidies came restrictions on how much wheat one could grow—even, Filburn learned in a landmark Supreme Court case, Wickard v. Filburn (1942), wheat grown on his modest farm. Years later we have fewer family farms and more industrial farms vying for vast federal subsidies.

Could such a thing happen in news? Speaking as one entrepreneur who has tasted failure in the news business, let me say that if government subsidies for news gathering ever come up for a voter referendum, I hope Mr. Downie, a great editor to be sure, stands on his original principles and stays home.

Mr. Lipsky, a member of the adjunct faculty at the Columbia Journalism School, is the author of "The Citizen's Constitution: An Annotated Guide," which will be published later this month by Basic Books.
26817  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / DBMA para Policia on: October 22, 2009, 09:03:06 AM

26818  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Taser on: October 22, 2009, 08:21:40 AM
Taser International is advising police agencies across the nation not to shoot its stun guns at a suspect's chest.

The Arizona-based company says such action poses a risk - albeit extremely low - of an "adverse cardiac event."

The advisory was issued in an Oct. 12 training bulletin. It marks the first time that Taser has suggested there is any risk of a cardiac arrest related to the use of its 50,000-volt stun guns.

Taser officials said Tuesday the bulletin does not state that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest. They said the advisory means only that law-enforcement agencies can avoid controversy if their officers aim at areas other than the chest.

Critics called it a stunning reversal for the company.
26819  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: October 22, 2009, 08:08:19 AM
"Twenty years ago this fall, the Iron Curtain was coming down in Europe. Across the Warsaw Pact, the jailers of the Communist prison states lost their nerve, and the cell walls crumbled. Matt Welch, the editor of Reason magazine, wonders why the anniversary is going all but unobserved: Why aren't we making more of the biggest mass liberation in history? Well, because to celebrate it would involve recognizing it as a victory over Communism. And, after the left's long march through the institutions of the west, most are not willing to do that. There's the bad totalitarianism (Nazism) and the good totalitarianism (Communism), whose apologists and, indeed, fetishists can still be found everywhere, even unto the White House." --columnist Mark Steyn
26820  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty on: October 22, 2009, 07:46:16 AM
U.S. Cedes Control of Internet
Global access to the Internet is poised to become global control of the Internet. With little fanfare, Washington has quietly ceded control over the technology the United States developed and shared with the rest of the world in the first place. According to the UK Guardian, the change came in the form of a contract negotiated between the U.S. Department of Commerce and ICANN, the California-based company that "ultimately controls the development of the internet thanks to its oversight of web addresses such as .com, .net and .org." In essence, the new agreement ended the old one between ICANN and the U.S. government, "opening the door for a virtual United Nations, where many officials gather to discuss potential changes to the internet."

This means that, while the United States previously held some sway over ICANN's actions, decision-making authority will now be expanded internationally, including to countries with histories of censorship and human rights abuse as well as to those with a penchant for global regulation and taxation.

Of course, the EU welcomed the cession, no doubt satisfied that its recent whining over too much American control was rewarded (surprise!) with appeasement from the Obama administration.
26821  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington; on: October 22, 2009, 07:45:48 AM
"The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people." --George Washington, First Inaugural Address, 1789

"It is a very great mistake to imagine that the object of loyalty is the authority and interest of one individual man, however dignified by the applause or enriched by the success of popular actions." --Samuel Adams

"You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream -- the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order -- or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, 'The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits.' The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing." --Ronald Reagan

"The regular distribution of power into distinct departments; the introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of courts composed of judges holding their offices during good behavior; the representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election... They are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 9, 1787

"More permanent and genuine happiness is to be found in the sequestered walks of connubial life than in the giddy rounds of promiscuous pleasure." --George Washington, letter to the Marquis de la Rourie, 1786

"I have always considered marriage as the most interesting event of one's life, the foundation of happiness or misery." --George Washington, letter to Burwell Bassett, 1785

"The happy State of Matrimony is, undoubtedly, the surest and most lasting Foundation of Comfort and Love; the Source of all that endearing Tenderness and Affection which arises from Relation and Affinity; the grand Point of Property; the Cause of all good Order in the World, and what alone preserves it from the utmost Confusion; and, to sum up all, the Appointment of infinite Wisdom for these great and good Purposes." --Benjamin Franklin, Rules and Maxims for Promoting Matrimonial Happiness, 1730

"[L]et them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." --Thomas Jefferson

"After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd." --French historian Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)

"[A]lthough a republican government is slow to move, yet when once in motion, its momentum becomes irresistible." --Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Francis C. Gray, 1815
26822  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: October 22, 2009, 07:27:39 AM
Political Futures
"This year's awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama can only hasten the decline in prestige of an award that has already gone to people like Yasser Arafat, UN General Secretary Kofi Annan (who presided over the Iraqi oil-for-food scam) and the fabulist Guatemalan activist Rigoberta Menchu. For this year's Nobel, the deadline was February 1, barely ten days after Mr. Obama had assumed the presidency. Though the Nobel committee of five Norwegian politicians presumably considered the evidence over the summer, it's fair to say their award represents little more than wishful thinking that Mr. Obama's diplomatic efforts will ultimately bear fruit. Other U.S. Presidents have won Nobels, but for actual accomplishments. Teddy Roosevelt helped broker a peace treaty between Russia and Japan. Woodrow Wilson worked to build a lasting peace after the end of World War I, however unsuccessful that effort later proved. Even Jimmy Carter won the Peace Prize in 2002 after more than two decades of humanitarian efforts as a former president. The Nobel Committee is said often to make its final decision at its last meeting just before the announcement. If so, President Obama has gotten a consolation prize for the failure of the U.S. to secure the 2016 Olympics. But that won't take away the sense that his award has more to do with political correctness than the realities of peace. Reading the Nobel Committee's explanation of its decision, President Obama appears to have won this year's prize because he's not his predecessor, George W. Bush." --Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund

"It is absurd and it is embarrassing. It would even be infuriating if it were not such a declaration of emptiness. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has embarrassed itself and cheapened a great award that had real meaning. It was a good thing, the Nobel Peace Prize. Every year the giving of it was a matter of note throughout the world, almost a matter of state. It was serious. It mattered that it was given to a woman like Mother Teresa in 1979. ... Her life was heroic, epic, and when she was given the Nobel Peace Prize, it was as if the world were saying, 'You are the best we have. You are living a life that should be emulated.' ... Some Peace Prizes have been more roughly political, or had a political edge, and were of course debatable. ... It was always absurd that Ronald Reagan, whose political project led to the end of the gulag and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and who gambled his personal standing in the world for a system that would protect the common man from annihilation in a nuclear missile attack, could not win it. But nobody wept over it, and for one reason: because everyone, every sentient adult who cared to know about such things, knew that the Nobel Peace Prize is, when awarded to a political figure, a great and prestigious award given by liberals to liberals. NCNA -- no conservatives need apply. This is the way of the world, and so what? Life isn't for prizes. Yet even within that context, the giving of the peace prize to President Obama is absurd. He doesn't have a body of work; he's a young man; he's been president less than nine months. He hopes to accomplish much, and so far -- nine months! -- has accomplished little. Is this a life of heroic self-denial, of the sacrifice of self for something greater, of huge and historic consequence, of sustained vision? No it's not. Is this a life marked by a vivid and calculable contribution to the peace of the world? No, it's not. This is an award for not being George W. Bush. This is an award for not making the world nervous. This is an award for sharing the basic political sentiments and assumptions of the members of the committee. It is for what Barack Obama may do, not what he has done. He hasn't done anything. In one mindless stroke, the committee has rendered the Nobel Peace Prize a laughingstock." --columnist Peggy Noonan

Opinion in Brief
"The whole business of a bunch of Scandinavian worthies doling out the profits of a long-gone dynamite maker's fortune has always smacked of the worst sort of self-satisfied plutocratic worthiness. But this takes the biscuit. President Obama remains the barely man of world politics, barely a senator now barely a president, yet in the land of the Euro-weenies (copyright PJ O'Rourke) the great and the good remain in his thrall. To reward him for a blank results sheet, to inflate him when he has no achievements to his name, makes a mockery of what, let's face it, is an already fairly discredited process (remember Rigoberta Menchu in 1992? Ha!). That's not the point. What this does is accelerate the elevation of President Obama to a comedy confection, which he does not deserve, and gives his critics yet another bat to whack him with. Shame on the Norwegians." --London's Daily Telegraph chief political commentator Benedict Brogan

"After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd." --French historian Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)

"A pattern has emerged. Liberal citizens and politicians during the Bush years were permitted to speak out against the Iraq war, root for an American defeat, and cheer with the news of each dead American, and they were labeled patriots. An American speaks out against Obama's socialist policies and he is labeled anti-American. A liberal is able to chant anti-Bush slogans and compare him to Hitler and he is exercising his right to free speech. An American questions Obama's judgment both domestically and on the international stage and he is called a racist. I have attempted to point out to liberal friends and family that if they simply took the vast majority of offensive statements, policies, or actions of Obama over the past nine months and imagined them emanating from Bush, they would see the hypocrisy in their stance -- to no avail. They are content to sit back and watch this administration gut the Constitution, usurp power wherever it can find it, ignore the intent of the founders of this country and the successes of the free market economy which helped lead us to the position of the only world's superpower. But they will wake up in a few years to find that their children are not safe from harm's way, their grandchildren will be working off the enormous debt incurred by this government and will never achieve the economic success of their grandparents, and when they need medical care, they will be waiting in line like the Europeans and Canadians who used to turn to the US in times of emergency. Yet they will have their civil rights, for as long as Bush is not the one authorizing the wiretapping of their cell phones, all is good. Another bottle of champagne anyone?" --columnist Lauri Regan

Re: The Left
"[Liberals lie that] America's lower life expectancy compared to countries with socialist health care proves that their medical systems are superior. President Obama has too much intellectual pride to make such a specious argument, so instead we have to keep hearing it from his half-wit supporters. These Democrats are all over the map on where precisely Americans place in the life-expectancy rankings. We're 24th, according to Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Barbara Boxer; 42nd, according to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell; 35th, according to Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson; and 47th, according to Rep. Dennis Kucinich. So the U.S. may have less of a 'life expectancy' problem than a 'Democratic math competency' problem." --columnist Ann Coulter

The Gipper
"This democracy of ours which sometimes we've treated so lightly, is more than ever a comfortable cloak, so let us not tear it asunder, for no man knows once it is destroyed where or when he will find its protective warmth again." --Ronald Reagan

"The White House insists that the president is hard at work on what to do about Afghanistan, and whether to send more troops to fuel a 'surge' like the surge that prevented a collapse of the West's attempt to rescue Iraq from barbarism and restore a fragile semblance of civilization. The brave young Americans put in harm's way in that godforsaken corner of the world often feel abandoned in a hopeless cause, so the president should feel the pressure to act, and quickly. But the problem is 'multilayered,' his spokesman says. Translated into real English, that means 'he hasn't yet figured out which layer of public opinion to appease, and which layer to disappoint.' He'll do something as soon as he figures out which disappointed layer would squeak loudest and scream longest." --Washington Times editor emeritus Wesley Pruden

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For the Record
"On March 27, flanked by his secretaries of defense and state, the president said this: 'Today I'm announcing a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.' He then outlined a civilian-military counterinsurgency campaign to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. ... The general in charge was then relieved and replaced with Obama's own choice, Stanley McChrystal. And it's McChrystal who submitted the request for the 40,000 troops, a request upon which the commander in chief promptly gagged. The White House began leaking an alternate strategy, apparently proposed (invented?) by Vice President Biden, for achieving immaculate victory with arm's-length use of cruise missiles, Predator drones and special ops. The irony is that no one knows more about this kind of warfare than Gen. McChrystal. He was in charge of exactly this kind of 'counterterrorism' in Iraq for nearly five years, killing thousands of bad guys in hugely successful under-the-radar operations. When the world's expert on this type of counterterrorism warfare recommends precisely the opposite strategy -- 'counterinsurgency,' meaning a heavy-footprint, population-protecting troop surge -- you have the most convincing of cases against counterterrorism by the man who most knows its potential and its limits. And McChrystal was emphatic in his recommendation: To go any other way than counterinsurgency would lose the war. Yet his commander in chief, young Hamlet, frets, demurs, agonizes. His domestic advisers, led by Rahm Emanuel, tell him if he goes for victory, he'll become LBJ, the domestic visionary destroyed by a foreign war. His vice president holds out the chimera of painless counterterrorism success. Against Emanuel and Biden stand Gen. David Petraeus, the world's foremost expert on counterinsurgency (he saved Iraq with it), and Stanley McChrystal, the world's foremost expert on counterterrorism. Whose recommendation on how to fight would you rely on?" --columnist Charles Krauthammer

26823  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Hudson: on: October 22, 2009, 07:12:24 AM

Iran Deal Would Slow Making of Nuclear Bombs Sign in to Recommend
Published: October 21, 2009
VIENNA — Iranian negotiators have agreed to a draft deal that would delay the country’s ability to build a nuclear weapon for about a year, buying more time for President Obama to search for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear standoff.

Under the tentative accord hammered out in international talks here, Iran agreed to ship about three-quarters of its known stockpile of nuclear fuel to Russia for conversion into a form it could use only in a peaceful nuclear reactor, participants in the negotiations said Wednesday. But the arrangement would still have to be approved by Friday in Tehran and Washington.

If Tehran’s divided leadership agrees to the accord, which Iran’s negotiators indicated was not assured, it will remove enough nuclear fuel from Iran to delay any work on a nuclear weapon until the country can replenish its stockpile of fuel, estimated to require about one year. As such, it would buy more time for Mr. Obama to try to negotiate a more comprehensive and more difficult agreement to end Iran’s production of new nuclear material.

Obama administration officials expressed cautious optimism that the agreement could increase the chances of striking a broader diplomatic accord and put off any decision about whether to address the Iranian nuclear threat by other means, including military action. In particular, the United States is seeking to convince Israel that negotiations have reduced the risk that Iran could throw out nuclear inspectors and quickly turn its reactor fuel into bomb fuel.

“There’s a part of this that’s about getting our diplomacy with Iran started, and a part that’s about convincing the Israelis that there’s no reason to drop hints that they are going to reach for a military solution,” one senior administration official said from Washington.

The Friday deadline for Iran to respond also poses a major test for its embattled leadership, one that is “intended to explore the proposition of whether Iran really wants to negotiate its way out of this problem,” in the words of one White House official.

“We want it to make it clear we’ve made bona fide offers to the Iranians,” the official said.

The agreement was conceived as a test of Iran’s intentions. Iran claims that it needs the uranium fuel it has produced — in violation of several United Nations Security Council resolutions — for peaceful purposes, citing, among other uses, the Tehran Research Reactor, which makes medical isotopes. Iran said it needed to further enrich 2,600 pounds of uranium, which amounts to three-quarters of its claimed stockpile of the fuel, for that purpose.

Under the draft agreement, Iran would ship that fuel to Russia for further enrichment, and Russia would return it to Iran in the form of metal fuel rods. Those could be used in a reactor but not a nuclear weapon. The deal would take away enough of Iran’s existing stockpile of uranium to make it difficult to produce a nuclear weapon until it has time to produce more raw fuel.

Some White House officials argue that the Bush administration, by refusing to talk to Iran, never forced its leadership to make such a choice. If Iran rejects the accord, administration officials believe, that could make it easier to get Security Council approval for harsher financial sanctions, a step that Russia and China have steadfastly resisted so far.

The same theory applies to Iran’s behavior on Sunday, when a team of atomic energy agency inspectors is to arrive for a first look at a newly revealed nuclear enrichment plant buried deep inside a mountain near the holy city of Qum. Inspectors have already asked Iran for far more than just a visit. They say they want engineering drawings, permission to interview scientists and others involved in planning the long-hidden nuclear site, and explanations about whether there are other hidden plants to feed the one at Qum with nuclear material. So far the Iranians have not responded.

Even if approved, the deal will represent only one small step toward resolving what has become one of the most complex foreign policy challenges facing Mr. Obama and the Middle East. Because Iran continues to produce nuclear fuel at a rapid clip, this accord would be only a temporary fix, though a symbolically important one.

American officials, including the head of the negotiating delegation here, Daniel B. Poneman, dodged reporters on Wednesday and declined to discuss the contents of the agreement drafted by the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. He set the deadline of Friday for all sides “to give, I hope, affirmative action” to the accord, which he said was “a balanced agreement.”

Dr. ElBaradei, who is leaving his job at the end of next month, said he hoped that leaders in the West and in Tehran would “see the big picture” and approve the agreement. But his voice was tinged with doubt.

While the amount of uranium that would be exported is significant, a critical part of the agreement is the timing of the shipments. Mr. Poneman, the deputy secretary of energy, and other American officials have so far refused to discuss such issues.

“We are not going to get into the details,” said Mike Hammer, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

The energy agency’s experts said Iran would have too little fuel on hand to build a nuclear weapon for roughly a year after a shipment to Russia. But if the 2,600 pounds of fuel was shipped out of Iran in small batches instead of all at once, the experts warn, Iran would be able to replace it with new fuel almost as quickly as it leaves the country.

Also of concern is the possibility that Iran might have more nuclear fuel in its stockpile than it is letting on. The agency’s estimate that it has 3,500 pounds of low-enriched uranium “assumes that Iran has accurately declared how much fuel it possesses, and does not have a secret supply,” as one senior European diplomat put it on the sidelines of negotiations in Vienna.

Ultimately, Mr. Obama would have to get Iran to agree to give up the enrichment process as well. Otherwise, the fuel taken out of circulation in the draft accord would soon be replaced.

It was not immediately clear why a draft agreement could not be declared final. But it appeared that the Iranian delegation lacked that authority as it navigated an Iranian leadership that is clearly divided on the question of whether, and how quickly, to pursue the nuclear program.
26824  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: October 21, 2009, 10:43:07 PM
Indications of anti-Jewish tendencies by Buchanan go well beyond his thoughts on US-Israeli policy. 
26825  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: October 21, 2009, 09:22:47 PM
Well, by all means consider hosting a seminar smiley but one of the points of the Camp is that I don't have to travel  grin

"The recent Ultimate Fighter fight Episode has Justin Wren using the 'running dog' to get out of Wes Sims' guard and get an arm-in choke for a win."

Is there a clip of this somewhere?
26826  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WTF? on: October 21, 2009, 04:49:23 PM
U.N. Report Demands Repeal of Counterterrorism Laws to Promote 'Gender Equality'


In case you weren't sure, human gender is "changeable over time and contexts," sex slaves must not be "stigmatized" for their work, and it's important to recognize the role of "transgender and intersex individuals as stakeholders" in counterterrorism policy.

Those are some of the conclusions of a United Nations report on counterterrorism that is intended to promote human rights — but that critics say is designed to redefine gender and hamstring actual counterterror efforts.

Martin Scheinin, a special rapporteur for the U.N.'s Human Rights Council, filed his report in August after six months of studying the "complex relationship between gender equality and countering terrorism."

Scheinin recommends a radical reworking of counterterrorism policies, insisting that the U.N.'s member nations "abandon the 'war paradigm'" and "enshrine the principles of gender-equality and non-discrimination in the design and implementation of all counter-terrorism measures."

Among his proposals:

• "Repeal all counter-terrorism measures" that sanction the ill-treatment of women and children as a way to put pressure on terror suspects within their families.

• Loosen terror financing laws to ensure "safe and effective channels for funding ... of organizations devoted to gender equality"

• "Repeal restrictive immigration controls" that violate human rights by "unduly penalizing transgender persons whose personal appearance and data are subject to change" as their "self-defined gender identity" changes.

Critics say the suggestions are part of an "absolutely insane" agenda at the U.N. that too often seems intent on undermining efforts to blot out terrorism across the globe.

"I would be surprised and disturbed if the U.S. took any of these recommendations seriously," said Steven Groves, a fellow and international law expert at the Heritage Foundation.

"It seems an inescapable conclusion that their desire is to greatly weaken any effective counterterrorism measure that is made by the U.S. or its allies."

The report criticized enhanced security checks "that focus attention on male bombers who may be dressing as females to avoid scrutiny [and] make transgender persons" — who might also be crossdressing — "susceptible to increased harassment and suspicion."

"Once you put them into a form of an overall policy what you do is undermine the nature of counterterrorism," said Herb London, president of the Hudson Institute. "You're trying to thwart the ability of those to counter terrorist activity."

Scheinin is set to present his findings Monday morning to the U.N.'s 3rd Committee, which helps set policy on social and cultural issues and oversees the Human Rights Council for the world body.

The Finnish law professor has been a special rapporteur since 2005. This year he visited Egypt as part of his mandate for the 47-member Council, and criticized countries like Somalia and Pakistan for selling out women's rights to arrange a tenuous peace with Islamic militants.

Legal experts said it was important to consider the effects of security measures on human rights, including the question of gender.

"It does not strike me as ridiculous ... to look at policies through the lens of gender," said Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Wittes noted that gender issues — including the Taliban's vicious treatment of women — have made it virtually impossible for Western nations and Pakistan to have normal relations with the Taliban.

"That's not an inconsiderable criticism — it's a valid criticism," he said. But Wittes added that to place "gender rights at the center of (counterterrorism policy) is kind of an absurd proposition" that he said made the report ridiculous.

Schienen did not return requests for comment.

Past reports from the special rapporteur have focused on many issues relating to women — including the challenges faced by pregnant Palestinians trying to cross border checkpoints and the effects of counterterror measures on Chechnyan women.

But U.N. watchers say the new report is a confused amalgamation of important issues like women's rights and tangential ones that have very little real application, including Scheinin's demand that invasions like the U.S.'s "war on terror" in Afghanistan be "actually responsive to the concerns of women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals in local contexts."

London, of the Hudson Institute, said that it was hopeless to look for moral guidance from a body composed of some of the world's most brutal and repressive regimes, including Saudi Arabia and China.

"The Human Rights Council and the nations that are represented on it, they're clearly involved in human rights violations," London told "They're going to be the arbiters of human rights?"

The Third Committee will hear reports from a number of its 36 special rapporteurs and pass on some of their recommendations to the General Assembly.

The committee hearings do not provide the force of law for Schienen's proposals, but some critics of the report say it represents a "stealth effort" to change international law and the meaning of gender by fiat.

"There might have been value in a report that addressed how counterterrorism efforts interact with the rights of women," said Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.

"But by burdening this report with these extreme forms of social engineering, it makes the report kind of laughable."

26827  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: October 21, 2009, 04:44:37 PM
Alright folks, lets start taking a look at this.  We already have some interest from within the DBMAA but lets start counting heads here and sizing up dates.  IIRC we are thinking of February.
26828  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: CINC AWOL on: October 21, 2009, 10:16:42 AM
"The United States cannot wait for problems surrounding the legitimacy of the Afghan government to be resolved before making a decision on troops, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said," Reuters reports from aboard a U.S. military aircraft:

Gates did not say when he expected U.S. President Barack Obama to decide on whether to increase troops, a decision complicated by rising casualties and fading public support for the stalled, eight-year-old war.
But he pointed out that further high-level deliberations would need to wait for the return of cabinet members from foreign travels through part of next week.
"It's just a matter now of getting the time with the president when we can sort through these options and then tee them up for him to make a decision," Gates said.
But Agence France-Presse reports the president hasn't yet chosen whether to choose not to decide:

President Barack Obama has not yet determined whether he will make a decision on sending more troops to Afghanistan before the November 7 election runoff, a US official said Tuesday.
"The UN, NATO, the US stand ready to assist the Afghans in conducting the second round," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.
"Whether or not the president makes a decision before that I don't think has been determined.
"I have continued to say a decision will be made in the coming weeks as the president goes through an examination of our policy," he added.
It really bolsters your confidence in the president's ability to achieve victory in what he used to call a war of necessity, doesn't it?

James Taranto on Obama's Afghan dither.
.But we suppose it's easy to sit on the sidelines and snark. Barack Obama is president of the United States, and he is juggling all kinds of urgent responsibilities. Such as this one, reported by the New York Times:

Mr. Obama will fly to New York on Tuesday for a lavish Democratic Party fund-raising dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for about 200 big donors. Each donor is paying the legal maximum of $30,400 and is allowed to take a date.
And hey, if you don't like it, grab a damn mop! As Obama said just last week at . . . uh, another lavish Democratic Party fund-raiser.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports from Washington that "frustrations and anxiety are on the rise within the military" as the president dithers over Afghanistan:

A retired general who served in Iraq said that the military had listened, "perhaps naïvely," to Mr. Obama's campaign promises that the Afghan war was critical. "What's changed, and are we having the rug pulled out from under us?" he asked. Like many of those interviewed for this article, he spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals from the military's civilian leadership and the White House.
Shouldn't it be the enemy that fears reprisals?

During the presidential campaign, Obama's opponents mocked him for frequently voting "present" on difficult questions that came before the Illinois Senate. This is even worse. The commander in chief is absent without leave.
26829  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mortage Mod Program "HAMP" on: October 21, 2009, 10:12:00 AM
Mortgage Mod Program Causing Havoc on Citi Delinquencies
Posted by JJ Hornblass on October 20, 2009 at 9:30am
View JJ Hornblass's blog
The home mortgage modification program espoused by President Obama and affectionately called HAMP is wreaking havoc on loss mitigation at banks. The most glaring example: Citigroup.

Citigroup officials have effectively acknowledged that an outsider cannot get a sense for the bank's mortgage performance because it has so many loan modifications in the works. Citi's 90-to-179-day delinquency bucket is growing in size because of all the loan mods underway, yet the bank said it does not know what the results of these modifications will be. Citi's CFO:

Under HAMP, borrowers make reduced mortgage payments for a trial period, during which they continue to age through our delinquency buckets even if they are current under the new payment terms. This serves to increase our delinquencies. Virtually all of the increase in the 90 to 179 bucket and half of the increase in the 180 plus day bucket are loans in HAMP trial modifications. The rest of the increase in the 180 plus day bucket is attributable to a backlog of foreclosure inventory driven by a slowdown in the foreclosure process in many states. ... The HAMP program right now has got a rather significant impact on our delinquency statistics and really makes it difficult for anyone from the outside to actually have a good view as to the inherent credit profile in our delinquency buckets.

Here's a look at the current state of Citi's mortgage portfolio:

The HAMP dynamic is repeating itself at banks nationwide. BB&T Corp., a Top 20 bank in the US, also said yesterday that loan modifications were skewing its credit-performance metrics.

The upshot of all this is that modifications -- as opposed to collections or foreclosure -- injects a big question mark into mortgage performance and returns. Even beyond the immediate loss allocations for holders of mortgages, subsequent buyers of mortgage paper that has been modified must confront the fact that even the post-charged-off performance of the loans may not perform as expected. HAMP has thrown a big question mark into the mortgage market, and I expect that the collection industry is going to have to figure it out -- eventually.
26830  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / part two on: October 21, 2009, 08:34:57 AM
Obviously, if McChrystal drives the Taliban out of secured areas and into uninhabited areas, the United States will have a tremendous opportunity to engage in strategic bombardment both against Taliban militants themselves and against supply lines no longer plugged into populated areas. But this assumes that the Taliban would not reduce its operations from company-level and higher assaults down to guerrilla-level operations in response to being driven out of population centers. If the Taliban did make such a reduction, it would become indistinguishable from the population. This would allow it to engage in attritional warfare against coalition forces and against the protected population to demonstrate that coalition forces can’t protect them. The Taliban already has demonstrated the ability to thrive in both populated and rural areas of Afghanistan, where the terrain favors the insurgent far more than the counterinsurgent.

The strategy of training Afghan soldiers and police to take up the battle and persuading insurgents to change sides faces several realities. The Taliban has an excellent intelligence service built up during the period of its rule and afterward, allowing it to populate the new security forces with its agents and loyalists. And while persuading insurgents to change sides certainly can happen, whether it can happen to the extent of leaving the Taliban materially weakened remains in doubt. In Iraq, this happened not because of individual changes, but because regional ethnic leadership — with their own excellent intelligence capabilities — changed sides and drove out opposing factions. Individual defections were frequently liquidated.

But Taliban leaders have not shown any inclination for changing sides. They do not believe the United States is in Afghanistan to stay. Getting individual Taliban militants to change sides creates an intelligence-security battle. But McChrystal is betting that his forces will form bonds with the local population so deep that the locals will provide intelligence against Taliban forces operating in the region. The coalition must thus demonstrate that the risks of defection are dwarfed by the advantages. To do this, the coalition security and counterintelligence must consistently and effectively block the Taliban’s ability to identify, locate and liquidate defectors. If McChrystal cannot do that, large-scale defection will be impossible, because well before such defection becomes large scale, the first defectors will be dead, as will anyone seen by the Taliban as a collaborator.

Ultimately, the entire strategy depends on how you read Iraq. In Iraq, a political decision was made by an intact Sunni leadership able to enforce its will among its followers. Squeezed between the foreign jihadists who wanted to usurp their position and the Shia, provided with political and financial incentives, and possessing their own forces able to provide a degree of security themselves, the Sunni leadership came to the see the Americans as the lesser evil. They controlled a critical mass, and they shifted. McChrystal has made it clear that the defections he expects are not a Taliban faction whose leadership decides to shift, but Taliban soldiers as individuals or small groups. That isn’t ultimately what turned the Iraq war but something very different — and quite elusive in counterinsurgency. He is looking for retail defections to turn into a strategic event.

Moreover, it seems much too early to speak of the successful strategy in Iraq. First, there is increasing intracommunal violence in anticipation of coming elections early next year. Second, some 120,000 U.S. forces remain in Iraq to guarantee the political and security agreements of 2007-2008, and it is far from clear what would happen if those troops left. Finally, where in Afghanistan there is the Pakistan question, in Iraq there remains the Iran question. Instability thus becomes a cross-border issue beyond the scope of existing forces.

The Pakistan situation is particularly problematic. If the strategic objective of the war in Afghanistan is to cut the legs out from under al Qaeda and deny these foreign jihadists sanctuary, then what of the sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal belt where high-value al Qaeda targets are believed to be located? Pakistan is fighting its share of jihadists according to its own rules; the United States cannot realistically expect Islamabad to fulfill its end of the bargain in containing al Qaeda. The primary U.S. targets in this war are on the wrong side of the border, and in areas where U.S. forces are not free to operate. The American interest in Afghanistan is to defeat al Qaeda and prevent the emergence of follow-on jihadist forces. The problem is that regardless of how secure Afghanistan is, jihadist forces can (to varying degrees) train and plan in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia — or even Cleveland for that matter. Securing Afghanistan is thus not necessarily a precondition for defeating al Qaeda.

Iraq is used as the argument in favor of the new strategy in Afghanistan. What happened in Iraq was that a situation that was completely out of hand became substantially less unstable because of a set of political accommodations initially rejected by the Americans and the Sunnis from 2003-2006. Once accepted, a disastrous situation became an unstable situation with many unknowns still in place.

If the goal of Afghanistan is to forge the kind of tenuous political accords that govern Iraq, the factional conflicts that tore Iraq apart are needed. Afghanistan certainly has factional conflicts, but the Taliban, the main adversary, does not seem to be torn by them. It is possible that under sufficient pressure such splits might occur, but the Taliban has been a cohesive force for a generation. When it has experienced divisions, it hasn’t split decisively.

On the other hand, it is not clear that Western forces in Afghanistan can sustain long-term infantry conflict in which the offensive is deliberately ceded to a capable enemy and where airpower’s use is severely circumscribed to avoid civilian casualties, overturning half a century of military doctrine of combined arms operations.

The Bigger Picture

The best argument for fighting in Afghanistan is powerful and similar to the one for fighting in Iraq: credibility. The abandonment of either country will create a powerful tool in the Islamic world for jihadists to argue that the United States is a weak power. Withdrawal from either place without a degree of political success could destabilize other regimes that cooperate with the United States. Given that, staying in either country has little to do with strategy and everything to do with the perception of simply being there.

The best argument against fighting in either country is equally persuasive. The jihadists are right: The United States has neither the interest nor forces for long-term engagements in these countries. American interests go far beyond the Islamic world, and there are many present (to say nothing of future) threats from outside the region that require forces. Overcommitment in any one area of interest at the expense of others could be even more disastrous than the consequences of withdrawal.

In our view, Obama’s decision depends not on choosing between McChrystal’s strategy and others, but on a careful consideration of how to manage the consequences of withdrawal. An excellent case can be made that now is not the time to leave Afghanistan, and we expect Obama to be influenced by that thinking far more than by the details of McChrystal’s strategy. As McChrystal himself points out, there are many unknowns and many risks in his own strategy; he is guaranteeing nothing.

Reducing American national strategy to the Islamic world, or worse, Afghanistan, is the greater threat. Nations find their balance, and the heavy pressures on Obama in this decision basically represent those impersonal forces battering him. The question he must ask himself is simple: In what way is the future of Afghanistan of importance to the United States? The answer that securing it will hobble al Qaeda is simply wrong. U.S. Afghan policy will not stop a global terrorist organization; terrorists will just go elsewhere. The answer that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is important in shaping the Islamic world’s sense of American power is better, but even that must be taken in context of other global interests.

Obama does not want this to be his war. He does not want to be remembered for Afghanistan the way George W. Bush is remembered for Iraq or Lyndon Johnson is for Vietnam. Right now, we suspect Obama plans to demonstrate commitment, and to disengage at a more politically opportune time. Johnson and Bush showed that disengagement after commitment is nice in theory. For our part, we do not think there is an effective strategy for winning in Afghanistan, but that McChrystal has proposed a good one for “hold until relieved.” We suspect that Obama will hold to show that he gave the strategy a chance, but that the decision to leave won’t be too far off.
26831  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Serious thought piece on: October 21, 2009, 08:33:33 AM
The Afghanistan challenge
Expecting infantry to bring victory is a radical departure from US fighting doctrine since World War II.
The decision over whether to send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan may wait until the contested Afghan election is resolved, U.S. officials said Oct. 18. The announcement comes as U.S. President Barack Obama is approaching a decision on the war in Afghanistan. During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, Obama argued that Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time, but Afghanistan was a necessary war. His reasoning went that the threat to the United States came from al Qaeda, Afghanistan had been al Qaeda’s sanctuary, and if the United States were to abandon Afghanistan, al Qaeda would re-establish itself and once again threaten the U.S. homeland. Withdrawal from Afghanistan would hence be dangerous, and prosecution of the war was therefore necessary.

After Obama took office, it became necessary to define a war-fighting strategy in Afghanistan. The most likely model was based on the one used in Iraq by Gen. David Petraeus, now head of U.S. Central Command, whose area of responsibility covers both Afghanistan and Iraq. Paradoxically, the tactical and strategic framework for fighting the so-called “right war” derived from U.S. military successes in executing the so-called “wrong war.” But grand strategy, or selecting the right wars to fight, and war strategy, or how to fight the right wars, are not necessarily linked.

Afghanistan, Iraq and the McChrystal Plan

Making sense of the arguments over Afghanistan requires an understanding of how the Iraq war is read by the strategists fighting it, since a great deal of proposed Afghan strategy involves transferring lessons learned from Iraq. Those strategists see the Iraq war as having had three phases. The first was the short conventional war that saw the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s military. The second was the period from 2003-2006 during which the United States faced a Sunni insurgency and resistance from the Shiite population, as well as a civil war between those two communities. During this phase, the United States sought to destroy the insurgency primarily by military means while simultaneously working to scrape a national unity government together and hold elections. The third phase, which began in late 2006, was primarily a political phase. It consisted of enticing Iraqi Sunni leaders to desert the foreign jihadists in Iraq, splitting the Shiite community among its various factions, and reaching political — and financial — accommodations among the various factions. Military operations focused on supporting political processes, such as pressuring recalcitrant factions and protecting those who aligned with the United States. The troop increase — aka the surge — was designed to facilitate this strategy. Even more, it was meant to convince Iraqi factions (not to mention Iran) that the United States was not going to pull out of Iraq, and that therefore a continuing American presence would back up guarantees made to Iraqis.

It is important to understand this last bit and its effect on Afghanistan. As in Iraq, the idea that the United States will not abandon local allies by withdrawing until Afghan security forces could guarantee the allies’ security lies at the heart of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. The premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, e.g., before local allies’ security could be guaranteed, would undermine U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. To a great extent, the process of U.S. security guarantees in Afghanistan depends on the credibility of those guarantees: Withdrawal from Iraq followed by retribution against U.S. allies in Iraq would undermine the core of the Afghan strategy.

U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategy in Afghanistan ultimately is built around the principle that the United States and its NATO allies are capable of protecting Afghans prepared to cooperate with Western forces. This explains why the heart of McChrystal’s strategy involves putting U.S. troops as close to the Afghan people as possible. Doing so will entail closing many smaller bases in remote valleys — like the isolated outpost recently attacked in Nuristan province — and opening bases in more densely populated areas.

McChrystal’s strategy therefore has three basic phases. In phase one, his forces would fight their way into regions where a large portion of the population lives and where the Taliban currently operates, namely Kabul, Khost, Helmand and Kandahar provinces. The United States would assume a strategic defensive posture in these populated areas. Because these areas are essential to the Taliban, phase two would see a Taliban counterattack in a bid to drive McChrystal’s forces out, or at least to demonstrate that the U.S. forces cannot provide security for the local population. Paralleling the first two phases, phase three would see McChrystal using his military successes to forge alliances with indigenous leaders and their followers.

It should be noted that while McChrystal’s traditional counterinsurgency strategy would be employed in populated areas, U.S. forces would also rely on traditional counterterrorism tactics in more remote areas where the Taliban have a heavy presence and can be pursued through drone strikes. The hope is that down the road, the strategy would allow the United States to use its military successes to fracture the Taliban, thereby encouraging defections and facilitating political reconciliation with Taliban elements driven more by political power than ideology.

There is a fundamental difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, however. In Iraq, resistance forces rarely operated in sufficient concentrations to block access to the population. By contrast, the Taliban on several occasions have struck with concentrations of forces numbering in the hundreds, essentially at company-size strength. If Iraq was a level one conflict, with irregular forces generally refusing conventional engagement with coalition forces, Afghanistan is beginning to bridge the gap from a level one to a level two conflict, with the Taliban holding territory with forces both able to provide conventional resistance and to mount some offensives at the company level (and perhaps at the battalion level in the future). This means that occupying, securing and defending areas such that the inhabitants see the coalition forces as defenders rather than as magnets for conflict is the key challenge.

Adding to the challenge, elements of McChrystal’s strategy are in tension. First, local inhabitants will experience multilevel conflict as coalition forces move into a given region. Second, McChrystal is hoping that the Taliban goes on the offensive in response. And this means that the first and second steps will collide with the third, which is demonstrating to locals that the presence of coalition forces makes them more secure as conflict increases (which McChrystal acknowledges will happen). To convince locals that Western forces enhance their security, the coalition will thus have to be stunningly successful both at defeating Taliban defenders when they first move in and in repulsing subsequent Taliban attacks.

In its conflict with the Taliban, the coalition’s main advantage is firepower, both in terms of artillery and airpower. The Taliban must concentrate its forces to attack the coalition; to counter such attacks, the weapons of choice are airstrikes and artillery. The problem with both of these weapons is first, a certain degree of inaccuracy is built into their use, and second, the attackers will be moving through population centers (the area held by both sides is important precisely because it has population). This means that air- and ground-fire missions, both important in a defensive strategy, run counter to the doctrine of protecting population.

McChrystal is fully aware of this dilemma, and he has therefore changed the rules of engagement to sharply curtail airstrikes in areas of concentrated population, even in areas where U.S. troops are in danger of being overrun. As McChrystal said in a recent interview, these rules of engagement will hold “Even if it means we are going to step away from a firefight and fight them another day.”

This strategy poses two main challenges. First, it shifts the burden of the fighting onto U.S. infantry forces. Second, by declining combat in populated areas, the strategy runs the risk of making the populated areas where political arrangements might already be in place more vulnerable. In avoiding air and missile strikes, McChrystal avoids alienating the population through civilian casualties. But by declining combat, McChrystal risks alienating populations subject to Taliban offensives. Simply put, while airstrikes can devastate a civilian population, avoiding airstrikes could also devastate Western efforts, as local populations could see declining combat as a betrayal. McChrystal is thus stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place on this one.

One of his efforts at a solution has been to ask for more troops. The point of these troops is not to occupy Afghanistan and impose a new reality through military force, which is impossible (especially given the limited number of troops the United States is willing to dedicate to the problem). Instead, it is to provide infantry forces not only to hold larger areas, but to serve as reinforcements during Taliban attacks so the use of airpower can be avoided. Putting the onus of this counterinsurgency on the infantry, and having the infantry operate without airpower, is a radical departure from U.S. fighting doctrine since World War II.

Seismic Shift in War Doctrine

Geopolitically, the United States fights at the end of a long supply line. Moreover, U.S. forces operate at a demographic disadvantage. Once in Eurasia, U.S. forces are always outnumbered. Infantry-on-infantry warfare is attritional, and the United States runs out of troops before the other side does. Infantry warfare does not provide the United States any advantage, and in fact, it places the United States at a disadvantage. Opponents of the United States thus have larger numbers of fighters; greater familiarity and acclimation to the terrain; and typically, better intelligence from countrymen behind U.S. lines. The U.S. counter always has been force multipliers — normally artillery and airpower — capable of destroying enemy concentrations before they close with U.S. troops. McChrystal’s strategy, if applied rigorously, shifts doctrine toward infantry-on-infantry combat. His plan assumes that superior U.S. training will be the force multiplier in Afghanistan (as it may). But that assumes that the Taliban, a light infantry force with numerous battle-hardened formations optimized for fighting in Afghanistan, is an inferior infantry force. And it assumes that U.S. infantry fighting larger concentrations of Taliban forces will consistently defeat them.
26832  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 21, 2009, 08:11:44 AM
America's political class has developed a habit of talking itself into defeat. Yet the predictions of doom in Afghanistan and Pakistan are as misplaced there as they were in Iraq, as events in the last week show. Afghanistan yesterday demonstrated political maturity by moving to resolve a dispute over a fraudulent election. On Sunday, Pakistan's military launched an offensive against the Islamist sanctuary in the mountainous tribal region of South Waziristan.

Since the August 20 poll, the independent Electoral Complaints Commission has reviewed and disqualified fraudulent votes. Enough ballots were thrown out to put President Hamid Karzai's final tally below the 50% threshold required to win. A second round must now be held to determine a winner, which will take place November 7. Mr. Karzai was reluctant, but he did the right thing and accepted a runoff, earning praise as a "statesman" from the U.S.

To Afghanistan's credit, the election tensions never degenerated into violence, which could have pitted the Pashtuns against Tajiks, who back challenger Abdullah Abdullah. Mr. Karzai didn't declare victory when the state-run Independent Electoral Commission initially gave him 54% of the vote. Nor did Mr. Abdullah rile up his supporters to fight outside the system. Few emerging democracies would have shown such restraint.

The runoff won't come off without security or logistical risks, and the resurgent Taliban want to disrupt the poll. But in the first round, the bigger threat to the election's integrity came from Mr. Karzai's supporters in the southern provinces who inflated his tally. Mr. Karzai is still favored to win, but a more successful second round will help with his popular legitimacy—as much in the U.S. as in Afghanistan.

As for Pakistan, this week's offensive goes into tribal areas that Islamabad has never managed to control. About 30,000 Pakistani troops are taking on 10,000 or so Islamist fighters associated with the Mehsud clan. Leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed by a U.S. drone strike this summer, but his men remain a formidable fighting force.

Pakistani public opinion now backs this costly fight because the Pashtun insurgents in the tribal areas are increasingly viewed as a threat to Pakistan itself. At the same time, anti-Americanism runs deep, Obamamania or not. Many in the military and intelligence service support Islamist terror groups fighting more in Kashmir or Afghanistan. If Pakistan's rulers finally decide to end their role as a leading sanctuary for Islamist terror, the outlook for Afghanistan will brighten as well. The battle in Waziristan is an early litmus test.

All of this progress is being made despite President Obama's all too public second thoughts over the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan. His advisers and generals deserve credit for helping to turn events around in the Afpak theater, but our allies are still waiting to find out what kind of "statesman" the U.S. President will be.
26833  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / T. Friedman on: October 21, 2009, 08:02:24 AM

The New Untouchables Sign in to Recommend
Published: October 20, 2009

Last summer I attended a talk by Michelle Rhee, the dynamic chancellor of public schools in Washington. Just before the session began, a man came up, introduced himself as Todd Martin and whispered to me that what Rhee was about to speak about — our struggling public schools — was actually a critical, but unspoken, reason for the Great Recession.

There’s something to that. While the subprime mortgage mess involved a huge ethical breakdown on Wall Street, it coincided with an education breakdown on Main Street — precisely when technology and open borders were enabling so many more people to compete with Americans for middle-class jobs.

In our subprime era, we thought we could have the American dream — a house and yard — with nothing down. This version of the American dream was delivered not by improving education, productivity and savings, but by Wall Street alchemy and borrowed money from Asia.

A year ago, it all exploded. Now that we are picking up the pieces, we need to understand that it is not only our financial system that needs a reboot and an upgrade, but also our public school system. Otherwise, the jobless recovery won’t be just a passing phase, but our future.

“Our education failure is the largest contributing factor to the decline of the American worker’s global competitiveness, particularly at the middle and bottom ranges,” argued Martin, a former global executive with PepsiCo and Kraft Europe and now an international investor. “This loss of competitiveness has weakened the American worker’s production of wealth, precisely when technology brought global competition much closer to home. So over a decade, American workers have maintained their standard of living by borrowing and overconsuming vis-à-vis their real income. When the Great Recession wiped out all the credit and asset bubbles that made that overconsumption possible, it left too many American workers not only deeper in debt than ever, but out of a job and lacking the skills to compete globally.”

This problem will be reversed only when the decline in worker competitiveness reverses — when we create enough new jobs and educated workers that are worth, say, $40-an-hour compared with the global alternatives. If we don’t, there’s no telling how “jobless” this recovery will be.

A Washington lawyer friend recently told me about layoffs at his firm. I asked him who was getting axed. He said it was interesting: lawyers who were used to just showing up and having work handed to them were the first to go because with the bursting of the credit bubble, that flow of work just isn’t there. But those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained. They are the new untouchables.

That is the key to understanding our full education challenge today. Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive. Therefore, we not only need a higher percentage of our kids graduating from high school and college — more education — but we need more of them with the right education.

As the Harvard University labor expert Lawrence Katz explains it: “If you think about the labor market today, the top half of the college market, those with the high-end analytical and problem-solving skills who can compete on the world market or game the financial system or deal with new government regulations, have done great. But the bottom half of the top, those engineers and programmers working on more routine tasks and not actively engaged in developing new ideas or recombining existing technologies or thinking about what new customers want, have done poorly. They’ve been much more exposed to global competitors that make them easily substitutable.”

Those at the high end of the bottom half — high school grads in construction or manufacturing — have been clobbered by global competition and immigration, added Katz. “But those who have some interpersonal skills — the salesperson who can deal with customers face to face or the home contractor who can help you redesign your kitchen without going to an architect — have done well.”

Just being an average accountant, lawyer, contractor or assembly-line worker is not the ticket it used to be. As Daniel Pink, the author of “A Whole New Mind,” puts it: In a world in which more and more average work can be done by a computer, robot or talented foreigner faster, cheaper “and just as well,” vanilla doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s all about what chocolate sauce, whipped cream and cherry you can put on top. So our schools have a doubly hard task now — not just improving reading, writing and arithmetic but entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.

Bottom line: We’re not going back to the good old days without fixing our schools as well as our banks.
26834  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO: Lets do what the Japanese did! on: October 21, 2009, 07:50:27 AM
second post

Rising Debt a Threat to Japanese Economy
Published: October 20, 2009
TOKYO — How much debt can an industrialized country carry before the nation’s economy and its currency bow, then break?

A construction site near the Yamba dam project in Naganohara, Japan. Stimulus spending on dams and roads have helped inflate Japan's gross public debt to twice the $5 trillion economy.
The question looms large in the United States, as a surging budget deficit pushes government debt to nearly 98 percent of the gross domestic product. But it looms even larger in Japan.

Here, years of stimulus spending on expensive dams and roads have inflated the country’s gross public debt to twice the size of its $5 trillion economy — by far the highest debt-to-G.D.P. ratio in recent memory.

Just paying the interest on its debt consumed a fifth of Japan’s budget for 2008, compared with debt payments that compose about a tenth of the United States budget.

Yet, the finance minister, Hirohisa Fujii, suggested Tuesday that the government would sell 50 trillion yen, about $550 billion, in new bonds — or more.

“There’s no mistaking the budget deficit stems from the past year’s global recession. Now is the time to be bold and issue more deficit bonds,” Mr. Fujii told reporters at the National Press Club in Tokyo. “Those who may call this pork-barrel spending — that’s a total lie.”

For jittery investors, Japan’s rising sea of debt is the stuff of nightmares: the possibility of an eventual sovereign debt crisis, where the country would be unable to pay some holders of its bonds, or a destabilizing collapse in the value of the yen.

In the immediate term, Mr. Fujii’s remarks prompted concerns of a supply glut in bond markets, sending prices on 10-year Japanese government bonds down 0.087 yen, to 99.56 yen, and yields to their highest point in six weeks.

The Obama administration insists that it understands the risks posed by deficits and ever-increasing debt. Its critics are doubtful. But as Washington runs up a trillion-dollar deficit this year, with trillions in debt for years to come, it need look no farther than Tokyo to see how overspending can ravage an economy.

Tokyo’s new government, which won a landslide victory on an ambitious (and expensive) social agenda, is set to issue a record amount of debt, borrowing more in government bonds than it will receive in tax receipts for the first time since the years after World War II.

“Public sector finances are spinning out of control — fast,” said Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics in a recent note to clients. “We believe a fiscal crisis is imminent.”

One of the lessons of Japan’s experience is that a government saddled with debt can quickly run out of room to maneuver.

“Japan will keep on selling more bonds this year and next, but that won’t work in three to five years,” said Akito Fukunaga, a Tokyo-based fixed-income strategist at Credit Suisse. “If you ask me what Japan can resort to after that, my answer would be ‘not very much.’ ”

How Japan got into such a deep hole, and kept digging, is a tale of reckless spending.

The country poured hundreds of billions of dollars into civil engineering projects in the postwar era, marbling Japan with highways, dams and ports.

The spending initially fueled Japan’s rapid postwar growth and kept the Liberal Democratic Party in power for most of the last half-century. But after a spectacular asset and stock market boom collapsed in 1990, the country fell into a long economic malaise.

The Democratic Party, which swept to victory in August, promises to rein in public works spending. But the party’s generous welfare agenda — like cash support to families with children and free high schools — could ultimately enlarge budget deficits.

“It’s dangerous for the Democrats to push on with all of their policies when tax revenues are so low,” said Chotaro Morita, head of fixed-income strategy at Barclays Capital Japan. “From a global perspective, Japan’s debt ratio is way off the charts,” he said.

Still, officials insist that Japan is better off than the United States by some measures.

One hugely important difference is that Japan is rich in personal savings and assets, and owes less than 10 percent of its debt to foreigners. By comparison, about 46 percent of America’s debt is held overseas by countries such as China and Japan.

Moreover, half of Japan’s government bonds are held by the public sector, while government regulations encourage long-term investors like banks, pension funds and insurance companies to buy up the rest.

All of this makes a sudden sell-off of government bonds unlikely, officials argue.

“The government is just borrowing from one pocket and putting it in the other,” said Toyoo Gyohten, a former top finance ministry official and a special currency adviser to Mr. Fujii. “Although the numbers appear very fearsome, we have some leeway.”

Many analysts agree that during a recession, Japan, like the United States, should worry less about trying to cut debt. But they say Tokyo should at least concentrate on making sure that spending does not get out of hand.

“The government needs to stabilize the debt, first and foremost. Only then can it start setting other targets,” said Randall Jones, chief economist for Japan and Korea at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

A credible plan to pare down spending is important “to maintain public confidence in Japan’s fiscal sustainability,” said the O.E.C.D.’s economic survey of Japan for 2009.


Rising Debt a Threat to Japanese Economy

Published: October 20, 2009
(Page 2 of 2)

In the long run, even Japan’s sizable assets could fall and eventually turn negative. Japan’s rapidly aging population means retirees are starting to dip into their nest eggs — just as government spending increases to cover their rising medical bills and pension payments.

The fall in public and private savings could eventually reverse Japan’s current account surplus, possibly driving up interest rates as the public and private sectors compete for funds. Higher interest rates would increase the cost of servicing the debt, and raise Japan’s risk of default.

In a worst case, Japan’s currency could suffer as more investors switch away from Japan to other assets. And if Japan were to print more money and set off inflation to reduce its debt burden, the supply of yen would shoot up, lowering the currency’s value further.

In recent months, the yen’s surge on major markets as the dollar weakened has sent a false sense of security. The currency recently touched a seven-month high of about 89 yen to the dollar before easing slightly, as near-zero interest rates in the United States prompted investors to take their money elsewhere. Many strategists expect the yen to strengthen further, at least in the short term.

“In 10 or 20 years, Japan’s current-account surplus will fall into deficit, and that will lead to a weaker yen,” said Mr. Morita at Barclays Capital. “But if investors become pessimistic about Japan before that, the yen will weaken earlier than that.”

For all the recent talk of a shift away from the dollar as the reserve currency of choice, it is the yen that is becoming increasingly irrelevant, analysts say. The yen made up 3.08 percent of foreign currency reserves in mid-2009, down from 3.29 percent the same time last year and down from 6.4 percent in 1999. In mid-2009, the dollar still accounted for almost 63 percent of global foreign reserves.

“The yen is set to enter a long decline” in both stature and value as investors lose confidence in Japan, said Hideo Kumano, chief economist at the Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo.

Considering the state of Japan’s finances and economy, Mr. Kumano said, the yen’s recent strength against the dollar “isn’t an affirmation of Japan — it’s the yen’s last hurrah.”
26835  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: BO blows off Volcker on: October 21, 2009, 07:40:58 AM
When McCain challenged BO about the radicals around him, BO cited Volcker and Warren Buffett as the people to whom he listened on economics.  We're shocked, absolutely shocked, to discover that this may have been a misdirection!


Volcker Fails to Sell a Bank Strategy

Published: October 20, 2009
Listen to a top economist in the Obama administration describe Paul A. Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman who endorsed Mr. Obama early in his election campaign and who stood by his side during the financial crisis.

“The guy’s a giant, he’s a genius, he is a great human being,” said Austan D. Goolsbee, counselor to Mr. Obama since their Chicago days. “Whenever he has advice, the administration is very interested.”
Well, not lately. The aging Mr. Volcker (he is 82) has some advice, deeply felt. He has been offering it in speeches and Congressional testimony, and repeating it to those around the president, most of them young enough to be his children.

He wants the nation’s banks to be prohibited from owning and trading risky securities, the very practice that got the biggest ones into deep trouble in 2008. And the administration is saying no, it will not separate commercial banking from investment operations.

“I am not pounding the desk all the time, but I am making my point,” Mr. Volcker said in one of his infrequent on-the-record interviews. “I have talked to some senators who asked me to talk to them, and if people want to talk to me, I talk to them. But I am not going around knocking on doors.”

Still, he does head the president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which makes him the administration’s most prominent outside economic adviser. As Fed chairman from 1979 to 1987, he helped the country weather more than one crisis. And in the campaign last year, he appeared occasionally with Mr. Obama, including a town hall meeting in Florida last fall. His towering presence (he is 6-foot-8) offered reassurance that the candidate’s economic policies, in the midst of a crisis, were trustworthy.

More subtly, Mr. Obama has in Mr. Volcker an adviser perceived as standing apart from Wall Street, and critical of its ways, some administration officials say, while Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary, and Lawrence H. Summers, chief of the National Economic Council, are seen, rightly or wrongly, as more sympathetic to the concerns of investment bankers.

For all these reasons, Mr. Volcker’s approach to financial regulation cannot be just brushed off — and Mr. Goolsbee, speaking for the administration, is careful not to do so. “We have discussed these issues with Paul Volcker extensively,” he said.

Mr. Volcker’s proposal would roll back the nation’s commercial banks to an earlier era, when they were restricted to commercial banking and prohibited from engaging in risky Wall Street activities.

The Obama team, in contrast, would let the giants survive, but would regulate them extensively, so they could not get themselves and the nation into trouble again. While the administration’s proposal languishes, giants like Goldman Sachs have re-engaged in old trading practices, once again earning big profits and planning big bonuses.

Mr. Volcker argues that regulation by itself will not work. Sooner or later, the giants, in pursuit of profits, will get into trouble. The administration should accept this and shield commercial banking from Wall Street’s wild ways.

“The banks are there to serve the public,” Mr. Volcker said, “and that is what they should concentrate on. These other activities create conflicts of interest. They create risks, and if you try to control the risks with supervision, that just creates friction and difficulties” and ultimately fails.

The only viable solution, in the Volcker view, is to break up the giants. JPMorgan Chase would have to give up the trading operations acquired from Bear Stearns. Bank of America and Merrill Lynch would go back to being separate companies. Goldman Sachs could no longer be a bank holding company. It’s a tall order, and to achieve it Congress would have to enact a modern-day version of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which mandated separation.

Glass-Steagall was watered down over the years and finally revoked in 1999. In the Volcker resurrection, commercial banks would take deposits, manage the nation’s payments system, make standard loans and even trade securities for their customers — just not for themselves. The government, in return, would rescue banks that fail.

On the other side of the wall, investment houses would be free to buy and sell securities for their own accounts, borrowing to leverage these trades and thus multiplying the profits, and the risks.

Being separated from banks, the investment houses would no longer have access to federally insured deposits to finance this trading. If one failed, the government would supervise an orderly liquidation. None would be too big to fail — a designation that could arise for a handful of institutions under the administration’s proposal.

“People say I’m old-fashioned and banks can no longer be separated from nonbank activity,” Mr. Volcker said, acknowledging criticism that he is nostalgic for an earlier era. “That argument,” he added ruefully, “brought us to where we are today.”

He may not be alone in his proposal, but he is nearly so. Most economists and policy makers argue that a global economy requires that America have big financial institutions to compete against others in Europe and Asia. An administration spokesman says the Obama proposal for reform would result in financial institutions that could fail without damaging the system.

Still, a handful side with Mr. Volcker, among them Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics at Columbia and a former official in the Clinton administration. “We would have a cleaner, safer banking system,” Mr. Stiglitz said, adding that while he endorses Mr. Volcker’s proposal, the former Fed chairman is nevertheless embarked on a quixotic journey.

Alan Greenspan, the only other former Fed chairman still living, favored the repeal of Glass-Steagall a decade ago and, unlike Mr. Volcker, would not bring it back now. He declined to be interviewed for this article, but in response to e-mailed questions he cited two recent public statements in which he suggested that the nation’s largest financial institutions become smaller, so that none would be too big to fail, requiring a federal rescue.

Taking issue implicitly with the Volcker proposal to split commercial and investment banking, he has said: “No form of economic organization can fully contain bouts of destructive speculative euphoria.”

For his part, Mr. Volcker is careful to explain that he supports 80 percent of the administration’s detailed plan for financial regulation, including much higher capital requirements and “guidelines” on pay. Wall Street compensation, he said in a recent television interview, “has gotten grotesquely large.”

Before the credit crisis, the big institutions earned most of their profits from proprietary trading, and those profits led to giant bonuses. Mr. Volcker argues that splitting commercial and investment banking would put a damper on both pay and risky trading practices.

His disagreement with the Obama people on whether to restore some version of Glass-Steagall appears to have contributed to published reports that his influence in the administration is fading and that he is rarely if ever in the small Washington office assigned to him.

He operates from his own offices in New York, communicating with administration officials and other members of the advisory board mainly by telephone. (He does not use e-mail, although his support staff does.) He travels infrequently to Washington, he says, and when he does, the visits are too short to bother with the office. The advisory board has been asked to study, amid other issues, the tax law on corporate profits earned overseas, hardly a headline concern.

So Mr. Volcker scoffs at the reports that he is losing clout. “I did not have influence to start with,” he said.
26836  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty on: October 21, 2009, 07:15:28 AM
From the NRA-ILA:

Friday, October 16, 2009
On October 13, the Associated Press reported that the so-called Bi-National Task Force on Rethinking the United States-Mexico Border has produced a report, which, among other things, calls for re-imposition of the federal “assault weapon” ban of 1994-2004, saying it would improve security in both countries.

The “border-rethinking” group has been put together by the Pacific Council on International Policy and the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations. The group consists mostly of former U.S. and Mexican officials and journalists, none of them currently elected by the people of the U.S. or Mexico to make policy on these issues.

According to the Pacific Council, the report is being released under the auspices of the Mexican CFR on November 13th and is absolutely unavailable until that time. The Brady Campaign, naturally, has a copy of the report anyway, and quotes its executive summary as saying “The United States should intensify efforts to curtail the smuggling of firearms, ammunition, and bulk cash into Mexico by aggressively investigating gun sellers, regulating gun shows, [and] reinstituting the Clinton-era ban on assault weapons.”

Congress finished its hearings on the Mexico situation several months ago, and many members of Congress have declared their line-in-the-sand opposition to re-imposition of the ban. So given that Brady Campaign seems to be the only outfit that has a copy of the embargoed report, it’s safe to conclude that the “task force” is trying to keep the public primed for the next attack on the ownership of firearms like the AR-15 and Remington 11-87, and ammunition magazines designed for defensive purposes.

Whatever the opinions of those who sip tea and nibble biscuits while musing about how to restrict the rest of us, re-imposing the ban would have no effect on Mexico’s historic problem of crime and corruption, for at least three reasons.

First, as has been amply demonstrated, the cartels are not limited to semi-automatic AR-15s and AK-47s. They have hand-held and tripod-mounted, belt-fed machine guns; grenade launchers and grenades; and a variety of other high-end firearms, explosives, and special-purpose optics and communication gear acquired from countries other than the United States. Thanks to some Americans’ insatiable appetite for mind-altering drugs, they have enough money to buy the “task force” 10 times over, along with any weapon that can be found among any infantry platoon on Earth, no matter what kind of gun law gets imposed.

Second, most of the firearms seized from the cartels do not come from the United States. The claim that “90 percent” of Mexican "crime guns" originate in the U.S. is false. It does not relate to all firearms the Mexicans have seized from the cartels, but only to guns that the Mexicans have asked the BATFE to trace. As the Government Accountability Office has explained, “In 2008, of the almost 30,000 firearms that the Mexican Attorney General’s office said were seized, only around 7,200, or approximately a quarter, were submitted to [BATFE] for tracing.” The 6,700 guns that BATFE traced to the U.S. accounted for about 90 percent of the 7,200 guns that BATFE traced, but only 22 percent of all firearms seized by the Mexican government

Third, the ban did not stop the production and sale of any guns, it merely put a one-attachment limit on new guns. For example, before the ban, AR-15s had a pistol-type grip, flash suppressor and bayonet mount. The 750,000 AR-15s made during the ban had only the grip. If the “task force” thinks the fate of Mexico hinges on whether a relatively small number of semi-automatic rifles have flash suppressors and bayonet mounts, its members ought to switch to decaffeinated tea and sugar-free cookies during their get-togethers.

Make no mistake, however. Even if the “task force” doesn’t understand the finer details of the old “assault weapon” ban, leading gun ban advocates like Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, the Brady Campaign, the Violence Policy Center, the Joyce Foundation, and the Legal Community Against Violence do. If they have their way, they will eventually drag us into a much larger battle over the right to keep and bear semi-automatic shotguns, M1 Garands, M1 Carbines, and Ruger Mini-14s, in addition to the AR-15s, semi-automatic AK-47s, and other commonly owned firearms that were at issue during the 1994-2004 ban.
26837  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sweden on: October 21, 2009, 07:09:10 AM
Sweden Democrat leader reported for 'hate speech'

Published: 20 Oct 09 11:50 CET

An opinion piece by Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson in which he labels Muslims a major threat has been reported to Sweden's highest legal official by the Centre Against Racism (Centrum Mot Rasism). The anti-racism organization called on the Chancellor of Justice (Justitiekanslern - JK) to examine whether claims made by the head of the far-right party were tantamount to agitation against an ethnic group (hets mot folkgrup).

Åkesson's article, published in Aftonbladet on Monday, has provoked a furious reaction following the Sweden Democrat chief's assertion that the spread of Islam represents the country's "greatest external threat since World War II".

"We are of the view that the article agitates against Muslims when it points at Islam as the greatest threat to Sweden," said Mariam Osman Sherifay, head of the organization and Social Democrat politician, to the TT news agency.

Osman Sherifay was also highly critical of Aftonbladet's decision to print the article, a move she said was out of step with established journalistic standards.

"The newspaper is giving the Sweden Democrats space that they don't deserve. The fact that they're racists is not news. Aftonbladet could instead have examined the party's views," she said.

Osman Sherifay's political rivals, the conservative Christian Democrats -- currently the smallest of the four parties in the governing centre-right coalition -- were also quick to shoot down Åkesson's comments.

"My understanding of media reports from the weekend's Sweden Democrat conference was that they wanted to broaden the party and show that they have more strings to their bow than just xenophobia," said party leader Göran Hägglund in a written comment to The Local.

"But when they formulate this opinion piece all we get once again are sweeping accusations portraying an ethnic group as a threat, all of which is based on facts that are dubious to say the very least."

Tempers have flared between the two parties in recent months as the battle heats up for the conservative vote. A number of opinion polls have indicated that the Sweden Democrats are closing in on the four percent threshold necessary for representation in the Riksdag as the Christian Democrats struggle to keep their heads above water.

Relations between the two reached perhaps their lowest ebb during the summer when the Christian Democrat leader accused the Sweden Democrats of failing to shake off their Nazi past. But this didn't stop Åkesson from weighing in recently on Hägglund's side as the latter slammed Sweden's "cultural elite" for their purported antipathy towards "regular people".

But Hägglund, who has called on the established parties to tackle the Sweden Democrats head on, was keen to reiterate his view that the Christian Democrats have little in common with their challengers from the far-right.

"Theirs is a viewpoint that places the value of human life on a scale. Some are worth more than others. The way their party views human life is light years away from both my own view and that of my party," he said.
26838  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Study: Double killing on Mexico City subway on: October 21, 2009, 06:43:52 AM
Woof Howie:

Such questions and reflections belong well in this thread.

I would offer for your consideration that animals tend NOT to do the sort of thing we see here.  Several years ago I read "The Manufacture of Evil" by Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox who are a team of evolutionary pyschology/biology professor types.  Not their strongest piece of work ("Men in Groups" I thought outstanding) because I thought it would have been better served by being shorter, but the basic premise I thought quite intruguing:  that evil results from the stresses of man being placed in an environment other than the one in which he was evolved.   
   Konrad Lorenz explored similar notions (deeper IMHO, but then he was deeper than just about anyone) of the Darwinian implications of when the darwinian selection process no longer involves interspecies criteria (e.g. hunting, getting hunted) or environmental criteria (out running the forest fire, surviving droughts) but instead the only selection processes are intra-species (man vs. man) , , , but I digress.
   Anyway, seen through the particular filter of Fox and Tiger, it is no surprise that this incident would occur in what Lorenz would call "the Anonymous Horde" of a Mexico City subway.
26839  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Crafty's momentary ruminations on: October 21, 2009, 06:29:16 AM
Woof All: 

Just a thread for my momentary ruminations.  Feel free to jump in.

Guro Crafty

   Every so often (roughly once a year) I go through a squat cycle.  For me I agree with the notion that there is something fundamental and primal about the squat.  My back and hips do better when I am sound from squatting.

   My routine is simple.  First day back I start with a few 10 rep sets at 135 (roughly 60 kilos).  The next couple of weeks I add 20 pounds each week, then I add 10 pounds a week.  Sets above 135 are done at 5 reps.  As long as I can comfortably do 5 reps at the peak weight of the week, the next week I continue to add 10 pounds.

  Essential for me is that I have another day during the week where I challenge the legs vigorously in something athletic modality e.g. 100 yard dashes at at the football field with some basic agility work (e.g. cairocas) or better yet, a day at "The Dune" in Manhattan Beach-- which is close now for several months :*-(

  I never use a weight belt, and prefer to go barefoot.  If the gym doesn't allow that, in the past I used wrestling shoes, but now I have the VFFs.  Fortunately my current place, Boxing Works, is very beach casual and I simply can go barefoot, and take off my shirt (during the day there's hardly anyone there) and work on my tan.

   After squats are done, I do "Running Dog Rows" and put the "hanging ab straps" up one of the the chin bars and do certain waist exercises (both of which can be seen in the "Running Dog Game" DVD).

  The pace is extremely leisurely-- between sets I might do some staff, double stick or knife, or some Kali Tudo punching on this weird looking thing mounted to the wall that is great for hooks and uppercuts.
26840  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Cash for Clubbers on: October 20, 2009, 07:58:13 PM
Cash for Clubbers
Congress's fabulous golf cart stimulus.
We thought cash for clunkers was the ultimate waste of taxpayer money, but as usual we were too optimistic. Thanks to the federal tax credit to buy high-mileage cars that was part of President Obama's stimulus plan, Uncle Sam is now paying Americans to buy that great necessity of modern life, the golf cart.

The federal credit provides from $4,200 to $5,500 for the purchase of an electric vehicle, and when it is combined with similar incentive plans in many states the tax credits can pay for nearly the entire cost of a golf cart. Even in states that don't have their own tax rebate plans, the federal credit is generous enough to pay for half or even two-thirds of the average sticker price of a cart, which is typically in the range of $8,000 to $10,000. "The purchase of some models could be absolutely free," Roger Gaddis of Ada Electric Cars in Oklahoma said earlier this year. "Is that about the coolest thing you've ever heard?"

The golf-cart boom has followed an IRS ruling that golf carts qualify for the electric-car credit as long as they are also road worthy. These qualifying golf carts are essentially the same as normal golf carts save for adding some safety features, such as side and rearview mirrors and three-point seat belts. They typically can go 15 to 25 miles per hour.

In South Carolina, sales of these carts have been soaring as dealerships alert customers to Uncle Sam's giveaway. "The Golf Cart Man" in the Villages of Lady Lake, Florida is running a banner online ad that declares: "GET A FREE GOLF CART. Or make $2,000 doing absolutely nothing!"

Golf Cart Man is referring to his offer in which you can buy the cart for $8,000, get a $5,300 tax credit off your 2009 income tax, lease it back for $100 a month for 27 months, at which point Golf Cart Man will buy back the cart for $2,000. "This means you own a free Golf Cart or made $2,000 cash doing absolutely nothing!!!" You can't blame a guy for exploiting loopholes that Congress offers.

The IRS has also ruled that there's no limit to how many electric cars an individual can buy, so some enterprising profiteers are stocking up on multiple carts while the federal credit lasts, in order to resell them at a profit later. We should note that some states, such as Oklahoma, have caught on to the giveaway and are debating whether to cancel or limit their state credits. But in Congress they're still on the driving range.

This golf-cart fiasco perfectly illustrates tax policy in the age of Obama, when politicians dole out credits and loopholes for everything from plug-in cars to fuel efficient appliances, home insulation and vitamins. Democrats then insist that to pay for these absurdities they have no choice but to raise tax rates on other things—like work and investment—that aren't politically in vogue. If this keeps up, it'll soon make more sense to retire and play golf than work for living.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A12
26841  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Six Imans on: October 20, 2009, 06:44:02 PM
 6 imams removed from Phoenix-bound flight reach settlement


6 imams removed from Phoenix-bound flight reach settlement

By Steve Karnowski
The Associated Press
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 10.20.2009
MINNEAPOLIS — Six imams who were removed from a US Airways flight in 2006 after passengers reported what they considered suspicious behavior have reached a tentative settlement of their discrimination lawsuit, one of their attorneys said Tuesday.

A one-page court form filed Tuesday said a settlement had been reached at a conference Monday in St. Paul with U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan. The form said the conference lasted seven hours and 20 minutes, and that the terms of the settlement were confidential. It gave few other details.

“It is true,” attorney Omar Mohammedi told The Associated Press. “We’re still trying to finalize the details, but a settlement has been reached.”
Mohammedi declined to give the terms of the settlement, which he said will require approval from the federal judge handling the case, Ann Montgomery. He estimated that might take two weeks or so.

One of the imams, Marwan Sadeddin of Phoenix, said the settlement does not include an apology but he considers it an acknowledgment that a mistake was made. He said he couldn’t divulge the terms because both sides had agreed not to discuss them publicly.

“It’s fine for all parties. It’s been solved. ... There is no need for a trial,” Sadeddin said.

An attorney for US Airways Group Inc., Michael Lindberg, declined to comment.

Authorities in Minneapolis removed the imams from the Phoenix-bound flight in November 2006 while they were returning home from a conference of the North American Imams Federation clerics. Passengers had reported that the imams were saying their evening prayers in Arabic in the airport concourse before boarding the plane and that some of the men made critical comments about the Iraq war while aboard.

The imans were questioned for several hours before they were released. They ultimately returned home via another airline.

Another of the imams, Omar Shahin, who is head of the North American Imams Federation, said the settlement sends “a strong message to the community” that the country values justice.

“It’s a settlement that’s satisfactory for all of us,” Shahin said. Shahin is the former imam of the Islamic Center of Tucson. He was the imam of Tucson's largest mosque from 2000 to June 2003, when he left abruptly.
Their lawsuit named Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways; the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which runs the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and its police department; and the airport police officers and an FBI agent who were involved in the case.

Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, said he had no immediate information on the settlement.

A spokesman for US Airways did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment, nor did attorneys for the airports commission or the FBI agent named in the lawsuit.


a poster on another forum writes:

Some background on Shahin.

He was the iman in Tucson, AZ from 2000-2003. The mosque ("Islamic Center") was the one attended by Hani Hanjour as he bummed around the US, taking flying lessons. That was in the late '90s, and no, Shahin wasn't there at the time. The board which selected him, however, was the same board that selected his predecessor.

Shahin's other activities include serving as director for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. That fund was a front for Hamas, and had its funds frozen by the .gov shortly after 9/11. Shahin apparently didn't learn his lesson, since he morphed over into representing "Kind Hearts", another Hamas charity that was shut down. To the best of my knowledge, he was never charged in any of those schemes.

There's more....
26842  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iranians yank President Chamberlin's chain again on: October 20, 2009, 05:10:30 PM
Iran demanded Oct. 20 that France not participate in the talks on Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, claiming that Paris has not honored past agreements with the Islamic republic. The delay is just one of several that Iran has been storing up to use during the negotiations, but comes at a time when Western patience with Iranian obfuscation is wearing thin.

Related Special Topic Page
The Iranian Nuclear Game
Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program stalled yet again Oct. 20 in Vienna. This time, the Iranians have demanded that France, one of the parties attending the talks, now be barred because Paris has failed to honor past agreements with Tehran on delivering nuclear material. Though it comes as no surprise that the Iranians are delaying these talks again, such tactics are likely to come at a cost for Tehran this time around.

Tehran had agreed Oct. 1 to meet with France, Russia and the United States at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna from Oct. 19 to Oct. 20 and work toward a compromise on Iran’s uranium enrichment needs.

The deal on the table going into these talks was for Iran to ship most, if not all, of its low-enriched fuel to Russia for further enrichment. From Russia, the additionally enriched fuel would be sent to France for conversion into metal fuel rods and medical isotopes and then shipped back to Tehran for either medical use or installment in a small research reactor in Tehran. The medical isotopes would provide Iran with more highly enriched fuel, but would not be in a volume or form that Iran could exploit easily for weapons use. According to this plan, the bulk of enriched fuel would essentially be taken out of Tehran’s hands, thus assuaging widespread fears that Iran would build up its stockpiles, continue to enrich and potentially achieve high levels of enrichment sufficient for use in a bomb within a year.

However, Tehran is now kicking France out of the talks, claiming that Paris has not fulfilled its commitment in delivering nuclear materials to Iran in the past. Tehran is referring to its 10 percent share in a Eurodif nuclear facility in France that has refrained from delivering enriched uranium to Iran. France, quite reasonably, has withheld the enriched uranium out of its desire to avoid an array of U.N. sanctions that bar countries and companies from trading any material, equipment or technology that could be diverted to an Iranian weapons program.

The complaint against France is part of a large volume of delaying tactics that the Iranians have held in reserve for these negotiations. Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Akbar Salehi, played good cop representing Iran on Oct. 1 in Geneva, where he struck a conciliatory tone and gave the P-5+1 group a glimmer of hope in the negotiations. Salehi then decided to stay home Oct. 19 and instead sent Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, who was apparently playing bad cop in stunting the talks.

Iran is now refusing to send its enriched uranium abroad and insisting on continuing uranium enrichment at home. Moreover, Tehran is turning the original deal on its head, saying that even as Iran has the right to hold onto its low-enriched uranium, it also has the right to buy nuclear fuel (for “peaceful purposes”) from countries that have signed the Nonproliferation Treaty.

This is not exactly what the United States and its allies had in mind. Iran allegedly has about 1,400 kilograms of low-enriched uranium in its possession, and the P-5+1 was aiming to have at least 1,200 kilograms shipped abroad to get as much enriched uranium as possible out of Iran. Iran is believed to have been able to enrich its uranium only to about 5 percent — enough for civil nuclear power generation, but below the 20 percent needed to produce medical isotopes and well below the 80-90 percent required for use in a nuclear device.

The 1,400 kilograms of low-enriched uranium Iran is believed to have currently is theoretically more than enough raw material for the country to develop a nuclear device or two within a one-year time frame. However, that estimate assumes that Iran has enough technical centrifuge expertise –- and that is a big assumption -– to enrich its low-enriched uranium to the 80-90 percent threshold. It is no secret that Iran faces significant qualitative challenges in its centrifuge operations, but this is still not a risk that many countries — particularly, Israel — are willing to take. If Iran holds onto to its low-enriched uranium, it will be able to continue building stockpiles and furthering its work on centrifuge enrichment.

Iran evidently is feeling confident enough to blow off the nuclear talks for now, but it also will not be able to disregard Israel’s military maneuvers in the region. Operation Juniper Cobra — the largest-ever U.S.-Israeli biennial military exercise — is scheduled to kick off Oct. 21. The exercise, which will focus on joint ballistic missile defense capabilities, is a clear warning to Tehran that neither the Israelis nor the Americans are going to put their military preparations on hold while Iran performs its nuclear dance in Europe.

Israel will become more aggressive in demanding decisive action against Iran in the weeks ahead. The United States, meanwhile, is still struggling to keep a positive face while the diplomatic phase plays out with Iran. Rumors are circulating in Washington that a revised National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear program based on new intelligence gleaned from Iranian defectors will be put together and will reverse the judgment from the 2007 NIE that claimed Iran had halted its work on a nuclear weapons program as early as 2003. Though a reassessment is likely in order, politics in Washington currently dictate that the United States refrain from making any move that would provide Tehran with an excuse to walk away from the negotiating table. If, however, it appears as though Iran is walking anyway, the time may be approaching for the United States to ratchet things up again.
26843  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Birthers right? on: October 20, 2009, 04:48:50 PM
Sent to me by a friend.  Any merit to this?


Google’s archive shows Obama’s birth story has changed

October 15, 2009 by John Charlton

FIRST ONE STORY, THEN ANOTHER — Has Google scrubbed its own News Archive?

by John Charlton
(Oct. 15, 2009) — It’s the world’s largest online repository of Newspaper information, spanning the globe and more than a century of history: the Google News Archive. The Post & Email can attest to its utility and depth of coverage, which enabled it to research the biography of Judge Jerome B. Simandle and publically identify him as an ex-Naider’s Raider. This archive containes scanned images and or digitized text of printed newspapers and electronically available news reports for more than 100 years from papers and news agencies around the globe.

However, its results are skewed when you attempt to search for “Kenyan-born Obama”; results are missing; years prior to 2004 seem scrubbed; and when you click a link to an article in 2000, you get an article in 2004.
Deliberate sabotage of their own news archive?
This article will document what Google has done, for posterity’s sake.

This seems a simply enough query: an attempt to verify the AP story which appeared in the East African Standard, Sunday Edition of June 27, 2004: “Kenyan-born U.S. Senator Obama hopeful….”

The results are not so simple:

The first result is for April 28, 1981: The New York Times — The results say the word Obama should appear: it does not; “Kenyan-born” is found with Leaky.

There is no mention of Obama from 1981 to 2000; despite all his “work with the poor” in Chicago.

Next, the Google Newspaper Archive, the most extensive in the world omits the article in the East African Standard for June 27, 2004, in which Obama is identified as “Kenyan-born”.

The fourth result is supposed to be to a PBS story from July 27, 2000, entitled, “Illinois Candidate for the Senate Barack Obama addresses the DNCC”, but the link leads to a report by Elizabeth Brackett, discussing Obama’s Senatorial race victory on July 27, 2004: in which she says many things about Obama, except where he was born.

The fifth link is to a July 28, 2004 story by Bill Nichols, USA Today; which it states that Obama’s father is Kenyan-born; but says nothing about the son’s birth place.

The sixth likewise, on July 27, 2004, fails to mention birth place; and just says “Kenyan-born father”.

The seventh is to the Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), for Nov. 8, 2004, but which seemingly has nothing to do with Obama.

Then, you would not believe it; but all the newspapers in the world, during the period from Jan. 1, 2005 to April 12, 2006, don’t make one mention of Obama! Not even one.

In April of 2006, all three articles have the same verbiage: “a Kenyan-born father and an American mother”.

In a report from the Kansas City Infozine, on Dec. 17, 2007, a Kenyan student in Washington D.C., says that Obama is not a Kenyan, and has no legal bonds to Kenya.
Analysis: An Administration of Mendacity

It seems that following the AP story on June 27, 2004, Obama’s Campaign went mum about the birth place; and only began speaking about a “Kenyan-born” father. The Google Newspaper Archive has been scrubbed for all of 2005 and the first quarter of 2006. However, The Honolulu Advertiser was aware enough still on Jan. 8, 2006 that he had claimed a foreign birth; but by the summer of 2006 stories begin to appear claiming a Hawaiian birth. The reporter for the Honolulu Advertiser admitted in an email to Phil, the publisher of The Right Side of Life news site, that he had obtained his information from the web. Yet this same paper remained so convinced of Obama’s non-Hawaiian birth, that on Nov. 8, 2008, in a long piece ostensibly covering for Obama, it avoided all mention of the place of the birth. How is it that a newspaper in Hawaii after the election can’t bring itself to name the place of birth? — What did they know, that we don’t?*

What appears to have happened is what the American public has already noticed with Obama: he lies as he goes, and he makes up lies to suit his purpose; so many lies, you don’t know what the truth is; and frankly he does not seem to care.

However, if Obama cannot show documents which prove he is born in the USA; the mere fact that he has claimed to be born overseas and in the U.S.A.; first at one hospital in Hawaii and then at another; means that nothing he says in Court, and no document presented by his campaign could be taken as prima facie evidence of anything.


The moral of this story is that scrub history as much as you might try; you will always be found out; because the very act of scrubbing leaves holes; holes which will remain as silent witnesses to your crime and indicate indirectly what kind of information you wanted to suppress.
26844  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: El Fire Hydrant: (Noticias) on: October 20, 2009, 11:19:20 AM

Y se me olvido' mencionar que Mauricio esta' autorizado a presentar seminarior en Mexico.  Los interesados deben ponerse en contacto conmigo en

La Aventura continua,
Guro Crafty/Marc
26845  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Barron' on: October 20, 2009, 10:33:09 AM

C'mon, Ben!


We make our case for the Fed to increase short-term interest rates to a more normal 2% -- or risk fostering another financial bubble.

IT'S TIME FOR THE FEDERAL RESERVE TO STOP talking about an "exit strategy" and to start implementing one.

There's no need for short-term rates to remain near zero now that the economy is recovering. The call to action is clear: Gold, oil and other commodities are rising, the dollar is falling and the stock market is surging. The move in the Dow Jones industrial average above 10,000 last week underscores the renewed health of the markets. Super-low short rates are fueling financial speculation, angering our economic partners and foreign creditors, and potentially stoking inflation.

The Fed doesn't seem to be distinguishing between normal accommodative monetary policy and crisis accommodative policy. There's a huge difference.

With the crisis clearly past, the Fed ought to boost short-term rates to a more normal 2% -- still low by historical standards -- to send a signal to the markets that the U.S. is serious about supporting its beleaguered currency and that the worst is over for the global economy. Years of low short rates helped create the housing bubble, and the Fed risks fostering another financial bubble with its current policies.

The Fed also ought to consider scaling back its massive bond purchases, which have totaled more than $1 trillion this year and have artificially depressed mortgage and Treasury interest rates. The Fed has virtually cornered the mortgage-backed market, buying about 75% of newly created government-backed securities this year, and that has forced the usual institutional buyers of mortgage securities into other markets, like corporate and municipal bonds. This has contributed to the sharp rally in munis and corporates.

Better to stop the Fed's bond-buying program sooner rather than later, and end artificially low, sub-5% mortgage rates. The more securities the Fed purchases, the greater the ultimate losses on its holdings when rates do rise. Banks also have bulked up on low-yielding Treasuries, buying over $200 billion in the past year.

It's also time for the Fed to consider the plight of the country's savers, who now are getting less than 1% yields on money market funds and who are being forced to take substantial interest-rate or credit risk if they want higher yields. "The Fed is punishing prudent people and rewarding profligate people," one veteran investor tells Barron's. Many unemployed and underemployed Americans may be deserving of some mortgage relief, but there also are millions of Americans -- most of them elderly -- who diligently saved and now have little income to show for a lifetime of effort.

WHILE SAVERS ARE SUFFERING AND MAIN STREET is hurting from still-tight bank lending policies, Wall Street is having one of its best years ever -- and rock-bottom short-term rates are a key reason. Goldman Sachs (GS) and JP Morgan (JPM) last week reported strong third-quarter profits, stemming in large part from trading activities. A flush Goldman is on course to pay $20 billion to its employees in 2009 -- or nearly $700,000 per person -- just a year after the wobbling firm got a critical government financial safety net. Goldman generated over 80% of its revenues from trading in the third quarter.

A quick move up to 2% -- or even 1% -- in the key Federal funds rate, now at just 0.15%, might shock global markets, where big investors have come to see the dollar, commodities and stocks as one-way bets. Major global equity indexes probably would fall, while commodities likely would fall and the dollar would rally.

Ultimately, higher short-term rates could help by suppressing incipient inflation while doing little to dampen a mending U.S. economy. Real GDP growth could top 3% in the second half of this year.

Our view unquestionably is an outlier. With unemployment near 10%, few see a need for higher rates. And Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, while acknowledging that the Fed will need to pursue an "exit strategy" and tighten monetary policy, clearly wants to act later rather than sooner.

"My colleagues at the Federal Reserve and I believe that accommodative policies will likely be warranted for an extended period," he said recently. Financial markets expect the pace of Fed tightening to be very slow, with short-term rates not hitting 1% until October of 2010.

But some central-bank officials, such as St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, have been warning about inflation. And they have a point: Inflation is back, with prices rising 0.2% in September after increasing 0.4% in August. The CPI index could be up 2% in the next year, versus a 1.3% decline in the 12 months through September.

THE STOCK MARKET HAS BECOME A WEAK-DOLLAR constituency because a declining greenback boosts profits of multinational companies like Coca-Cola (KO) and Intel (INTC). Overall, companies in the S&P 500 get 30% of their revenues from abroad.

But maintaining the status quo could be short-sighted, since overseas investors are likely critical to the long-term health of the U.S. stock market. They've been burned by U.S. stocks in the past decade; the market's decline and a weaker dollar have meant 50% losses for European holders. If the U.S. wants to continue to attract overseas capital, it's going to need to support its currency.

Speculators, meanwhile, have been borrowing in dollars to buy a range of financial assets because of near-zero borrowing costs and the prospect of repaying those loans with a depreciated currency.

Low U.S. interest rates aren't the only problem for the dollar. Many foreign investors have been spooked by the record budget deficit and a perception that the Obama administration wants a lower dollar to boost exports and the economy.

The chances of the Fed moving away soon from a crisis-accommodative stance and near-zero short-term rates probably are small, because doves like Bernanke have the upper hand. There isn't apt to be any political pressure to raise rates.

That's a shame. The Fed and the administration are playing a dangerous financial and fiscal game because ours is a debtor nation that depends on the confidence of overseas creditors. If a resilient U.S. economy can't tolerate 1% or 2% short rates, this country really is in bad shape.


26846  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Video-Clips de DBMA en espanol on: October 20, 2009, 09:00:12 AM
!Ya esta'!

Vea el primer post de este hilo.
26847  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: October 20, 2009, 07:45:50 AM
Hi Rachel:

As always, a good post.

I would quibble however with the translation "Thou shalt not kill".  The Torah is full of approved killing-- perhaps the better translation is "Thou shalt not murder"?
26848  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Samuel Williams of Vermont on Marriage on: October 20, 2009, 07:42:06 AM

"Every thing useful and beneficial to man, seems to be connected with obedience to the laws of his nature, the inclinations, the duties, and the happiness of individuals, resolve themselves into customs and habits, favourable, in the highest degree, to society. In no case is this more apparent, than in the customs of nations respecting marriage." --Samuel Williams, The Natural and Civil History of Vermont, 1794
26849  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues on: October 19, 2009, 11:51:30 PM
This particular piece makes sense, but sometimes Pat gives a pretty good impression of having anti-Jewish tendencies.
26850  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives/the American Creed on: October 19, 2009, 11:32:43 AM
"Elected Republicans have had no real, observable tie to limited government for as long as any voter can remember, and no one is out front right now making a persuasive case for common sense conservatism."

Exactly why I don't take them seriously.
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