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26951  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: November 19, 2009, 02:29:32 PM
A bit kitchy cute here and there, but some interesting factoids scattered along the way:
26952  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Video clip, Dog Brothers open Gathering 2009 on: November 19, 2009, 01:02:54 PM
Cabe mencionar que Mauricio aparece de vez en cuando en el clip.
26953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: November 19, 2009, 11:47:58 AM
Alexander's Essay – November 19, 2009

"It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth -- and listen to the song of that siren, till she transforms us into beasts. ... For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it might cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it." --Patrick Henry
Sometimes the biggest lies come under cover of a truth.

Such was the case this week, when Barack Hussein Obama proffered this observation about deficits: "I think it is important, though, to recognize if we keep on adding to the debt, even in the midst of this recovery, that at some point, people could lose confidence in the U.S. economy in a way that could actually lead to a double-dip recession."

"Keep on adding to the debt"? From this, one might conclude that Obama has never suggested such a thing, and is truly concerned about deficits.

His revelation came amid discussion of tax reductions engineered to increase employment, as if our Constitution has a provision for that, anymore than for Obama's other proposals.

Obama is feigning concern about deficits now that there is discussion of tax cuts, which he concludes would increase deficits.

"At some point, people could lose confidence in the U.S. economy"? Like the Red Chinese, who hold more U.S. government debt than any other nation ($800 billion), and upon whom we are depending to fund more of our debt. No coincidence that Obama's remarks were made while on his most recent appeasement tour in Beijing.

"Even in the midst of this recovery"? What recovery?

Oh, the one that his $787 billion "hope-n-change" big-government payout package was supposed to ensure?

At the time of that proposal, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office offered this summary: "In the longer run, the [Obama] legislation would result in a slight decrease in gross domestic product compared with CBO's baseline economic forecast." Put another way, the CBO static scoring projected that Obama's big government pork giveaway would hinder economic recovery. Dynamic scoring by economists shows a much worse destiny.

But Obama warned, "If nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse."

Now, after a quick assessment of the Obama Recovery through October, one is stuck with the conclusion that his spending spree has resulted in 10.2 percent unemployment -- except, of course, in such places as Washington, DC, where government jobs are immune to recession.

That would be double-digit unemployment -- so now you know why Obama cleverly framed his recovery program in terms of jobs "created or saved." His administration announced that through October, the American Recovery Act had "created" or "saved" 640,329 jobs. However, a growing number of skeptics, even among his once-adoring media, found some very questionable accounting methods used to come up with that figure.

Asked about some of the discrepancies, Obama's Recovery Czar, Ed Pound, responded, "Who knows, man, who really knows?"

Recovery reality check: Remember when Obama claimed, "This is our moment, this is our time to turn the page on the policies of the past, to offer a new direction"?

That is a reference to Obama's v Reagan's policies, big government solutions v. free enterprise solutions.

Ronald Reagan's economic policies unleashed an unprecedented period of growth, which continued right up until the financial sector collapse in '08, a calamity resulting from policies implemented during the Clinton years, which undermined the values of derivatives used as collateral due. Those policies, as we now know, gave license for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to back high-risk loans to unqualified buyers, thereby setting the stage for the subprime mortgage meltdown and the crash of 2008.

Recall that in 2005, Sen. John McCain sponsored the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act, saying, "For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ... and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. ... If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole."

McCain noted that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac regulators concluded that profits were "illusions deliberately and systematically created by the company's senior management."

McCain was right, but Democrats, including Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, ensured that nothing would be done to alter current practices at Fannie and Freddie. "These two entities ... are not facing any kind of financial crisis," Frank said at the time.

The net result of the derivative dilution was a crisis of confidence in the U.S. economy, second only to that which led to the Great Depression.

Remember when Obama claimed, "We are fundamentally transforming the United States of America"? Well, we're in mid-transformation, and how are things looking now?

Obama also said, "Generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was our time."

Indeed, his time to saddle them and their children with unprecedented debt, not only from his "stimulus" folly, but next up, ObamaCare, and then his job-killing cap-and-tax scheme.

If you think you can count on the administration's estimates of the true cost of ObamaCare, think again. The Washington Times recently reminded us of the estimated cost of Medicare shortly after Democrats implemented it in 1965. Then, it was predicted to cost $12 billion by 1990. In actuality, it cost $98 billion, which is to say the original estimate was short by more than a factor of seven.

In my home state of Tennessee, we've already been there and done that. Our state's version of ObamaCare, known as TennCare, implemented by Democrats in 1994 ostensibly to contain healthcare expenses, has quickly grown to consume more than a third of state revenues.

The CBO now says that the $1 trillion estimated cost of ObamaCare is "subject to substantial uncertainty." How's that for qualifying understatement?

As for the big picture, U.S. National Debt topped the $12 trillion mark this week, or approximately $39,000 for every man, woman and child in America, and the federal deficit that Obama now pretends to be concerned about hit a record high $1.42 trillion for fiscal year 2009.

Obama's administration projects that the national debt will top $14 trillion by this time next year, and my sense is that they're being modest. At the current pace, within 10 years our national debt will exceed our Gross Domestic Product.

Of these staggering debt figures, Obama now claims, "I intend to take serious steps to reduce America's long-term deficit because debt-driven growth cannot fuel America's long-term prosperity."

But, what's his real endgame?

We can be certain that Obama's solution to deficits will not be less government. Instead, it will be unprecedented tax increases, a.k.a., socialist redistribution of wealth, a.k.a., "the fundamental transformation of America."

The Tax Foundation now estimates that to offset deficits, "Federal income tax rates would have to be nearly tripled across the income spectrum," with the lowest bracket at 27 percent and the highest at 95. Even the CBO estimates that rates would have to exceed 80 percent, and that's before state and local taxes.

Do you get the picture, folks?

Obama will succeed in his effort to socialize the U.S. economy, using the tax code as his hammer and sickle, unless growing ranks of Americans object to the fact that he has no constitutional authority to do so.

In the meantime, Patriots, keep your powder dry.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, PatriotPost.US

26954  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Leopard Seal on: November 19, 2009, 10:57:49 AM
26955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: on: November 19, 2009, 10:05:40 AM
"[T]he great Searcher of human hearts is my witness, that I have no wish, which aspires beyond the humble and happy lot of living and dying a private citizen on my own farm." --George Washington, letter to Charles Pettit, 1788
26956  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: November 19, 2009, 03:27:23 AM
Interesting theory Maxx.
26957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Former Islamo Fascists? on: November 19, 2009, 03:26:03 AM
Haven't read the whole thing yet, but the starting premise seems interesting:
26958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: November 18, 2009, 10:20:57 PM
The name Vincent Foster ring a bell?

Anyone have any intel on the recent strange suicide of Michael Scott in Chicago?  Apparently he was part of the BO circle and bought RE that would have been valuable had the Olympics chosen Chicago , , ,
26959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: November 18, 2009, 10:08:45 PM
"However, the downside of a strategy based entirely on fear is that even if it succeeds now, it won't help to define the proper terms for a genuine solution in the future. For that, Republicans have to offer a principled critique of ObamaCare that delineates the sharp moral choices that Americans face. The current health care battle is the domestic policy equivalent of the Cold War. Democrats are on the side of command-and-control mandates that deprive individuals of choice. Republicans should position themselves on the side of market-based solutions that empower--not enchain--patients."

26960  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: November 18, 2009, 09:24:18 PM
The mystery surrounding Brock Lesnar's illness has been cleared up a bit. The UFC heavyweight champion is suffering from a bacterial infection in his intestinal tract, though it looks like he may be released from the hospital soon.

"He's in stable condition and should be released soon," UFC president Dana White said.

White said he spoke with Lesnar on Monday, but he wouldn't reveal which hospital Lesnar was currently being treated at because he wanted to protect his privacy.

White also said he is encouraging Lesnar to check into the renowned Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for further treatment, but still doesn't know if Lesnar will fight again.

"It depends on how serious this is," White said.
26961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PatriotPost on: November 18, 2009, 03:54:27 PM
The Chronicle · Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Foundation
"The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite." --Alexander Hamilton

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Editorial Exegesis

"[Attorney General] Eric Holder's move to try the 9/11 masterminds in Manhattan makes it official: This administration has reverted to pre-9/11 'crime' fighting. Amid all the talk during the attorney general's surreal press conference of the 'crime' committed eight years ago, the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon wasn't even mentioned. Lest anyone forget, the military headquarters of the United States was attacked that day along with the Twin Towers. An entire wedge of the Ring was gutted when the Saudi hijackers slammed American Airlines Flight 77 into it. Nearly 200 military personnel were killed, along with the passengers and crew of the hijacked jet. The jet was a weapon used to attack the very center of our military. That was not a 'crime,' as some say. It was an act of war. And 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, along with the four other al-Qa'ida terrorist co-conspirators Holder wants to try, are no mere criminals. They are enemy combatants -- and should be treated as such. ... Holder clucked that the 'trials will be open to the public and the world.' And they will turn into circuses, playing right into the hands of the enemy. These trials will drag on for years, perhaps even decades, as defense lawyers file endless motions and appeals. Meanwhile, valuable intelligence about interrogation techniques and other methods we've used against al-Qa'ida will be revealed to the enemy during trial discovery. This move to a civilian court makes no sense at all, except viewed through a political prism. ... It will only remind people how much America has shrunk in the last nine months." --Investor's Business Daily

"The malice of the wicked is reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous" --British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

"We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst." --Irish novelist C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)

"If you are afraid to speak against tyranny, then you are already a slave." --author John "Birdman" Bryant (1943-2009)

"Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it." --American author Mark Twain (1835-1910)

"From indictment to trial, the civilian case against the 9/11 terrorists will be a years-long seminar, enabling al-Qaeda and its jihadist allies to learn much of what we know and, more important, the methods and sources by which we come to know it. But that is not the half of it. By moving the case to civilian court, the president and his attorney general have laid the groundwork for an unprecedented surrender of our national-defense secrets directly to our most committed enemies." --columnist Andrew McCarthy

"In the string of amazing decisions made during the first year of the Obama administration, nothing seems more like sheer insanity than the decision to try foreign terrorists, who have committed acts of war against the United States, in federal court, as if they were American citizens accused of crimes." --economist Thomas Sowell

"After 9/11, we fought back, hit hard, rolled up the Afghan camps; after the [Danish] cartoons, we weaseled and equivocated and appeased and signaled that we were willing to trade core western values for a quiet life. Watching the decadence and denial on display this last week, I think in years to come Fort Hood will be seen in a similar light. What happened is not a 'tragedy' but a national scandal, already fading from view." --columnist Mark Steyn

"President Obama traveled all the way to China to praise the free flow of information. It's the only safe place he could do so without getting heckled. With a straight face, Obama lauded political dissent and told Chinese students he welcomed unfettered criticism in America. Fierce opposition, he said, made him 'a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don't want to hear.' How do you say 'You lie!' in Mandarin?" --columnist Michelle Malkin

"In the U.S., the call is for government control, through regulations, as opposed to ownership. Unfortunately, it matters little whether there is a Democratically or Republican-controlled Congress and White House; the march toward greater government control continues. It just happens at a quicker pace with Democrats in charge." --economist Walter E. Williams
26962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: November 18, 2009, 03:24:04 PM
Ahem , , ,
26963  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: November 18, 2009, 12:26:21 PM
Well, I saw it as a continuation of the conversation in the larger sense of things-- but you are right, there is some topic drift here cheesy
26964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT on: November 18, 2009, 08:22:31 AM
One of the notions that I have held throughout the War with Islamic Fascism is the importance of defining it as a matter of civilization vs barbarism.   Seen through this filter, the true turning point of Iraq was not only the Surge, but the fact that the excessess of AQ Iraq provoked a situation in which both Sunni and Shia Muslims were able to work with the Surge. 

Now that the Islamo Fascists of the Whackostans have frontally taken on the Pakistani State, we now "coincidentally" see the Pak State having at it with them on their home turf.

Of course our President now sees this as a moment to be shocked, absolutely shocked, that there is corruption in Afghanistan and apparently prepares the way to "Run Away!" -- just as he called for us to do in Iraq during the pivotal moments of decision making on the Surge.

The Pakistani Army recently took control in Sararogha, a town in the South Waziristan region that militants had claimed as their capital.

Published: November 17, 2009
SARAROGHA, Pakistan — This windswept, sand-colored town in the badlands of western Pakistan is empty now, cleared of the militants who once claimed it as their capital. But its main brick buildings, intact and thick with dust, tell not of an epic battle, but of sudden flight.

A month after the Pakistani military began its push into the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan, militants appear to have been dispersed, not eliminated, with most simply fleeing. That recurring pattern illustrated the problems facing the Obama administration as it enters its final days of a decision on its strategy for Afghanistan.

Success in this region, in the remote mountains near the Afghan border, could have a direct bearing on how many more American troops are ultimately sent to Afghanistan, and how long they must stay.

Pakistan has shown increased willingness to tackle the problem, launching sweeping operations in the north and west of the country this year, but American officials are still urging it to do more, most recently in a letter from President Obama to Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, over the weekend.

On Tuesday, the military escorted journalists on a tour of the area, where it closely restricts access, showing piles of things they had seized, including weapons, bombs, photos and even a long, curly wig. “It all started from here,” said Brig. Muhammed Shafiq, the commander here. “This is the most important town in South Waziristan.”

But lasting success has been elusive, tempered by an agile enemy that has moved easily from one part of the tribal areas to the next — and even deeper into Pakistan — virtually every time it has been challenged.

American analysts expressed surprise at the relatively light fighting and light Pakistani Army casualties — seven soldiers in five days in Sararogha — supporting their suspicions that the Taliban fighters from the local Mehsud tribe and the foreign fighters who are their allies, including a large contingent of Uzbeks, have headed north or deeper into the mountains. In comparison, 51 Americans were killed in eight days of fighting in Falluja, Iraq, in 2004.

“That’s what bothers me,” an American intelligence officer said. “Where are they?”

The Pakistani military says it has learned from past failures in a region where it lost hundreds in fighting before. It spent weeks bombing the area before its 30,000 troops entered. It struck alliances with neighboring tribes.

But the pending campaign was no secret, allowing time for local people and militants to escape, similar to what happens during American operations in Afghanistan.

“They are fleeing in all directions,” said a senior Pakistani security official, who did not want to be identified while discussing national security issues. “The Uzbeks are fleeing to Afghanistan and the north, and the Mehsuds are fleeing to any possible place they can think of.”

But there was some fighting, as destruction in Sararogha’s market area shows, and the fact that the military now occupies the area is something of a success, analysts say. American officials have expressed measured praise for the Pakistani operation so far.

“The Pakistani Army has done pretty well, and they have learned lessons from the Swat campaign, including the use of close-air support from their fighter jets,” said a senior American intelligence official, referring to the army’s first offensive this spring.

But big questions remain: How long will the military be able to hold the territory? And once they leave, will the militants simply come back?

“Are they really winning the people — this is the big question,” said Talat Masood, a military analyst and former general in Islamabad, the capital. “They have weakened the Taliban tactically, but have they really won the area if the people are not with them?”

Winning them over will not be easy. Waziristan’s largely Pashtun population has been abandoned by the military in the past, including in 2005, when, after a peace deal, a military commander called Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Taliban, a “soldier of peace.” People who are from this area are still deeply skeptical of the army’s intentions.

“People want to know: how serious is the military this time?” said a military official who asked not to be named in order not to undermine the official position publicly.

The military argues that it is, saying that it has lost 70 soldiers in this operation so far, on top of more than 1,000 killed in the last several years of conflict.

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, principal spokesman for the Pakistan military, said that about 50 percent of the Mehsud territory is now under army control, including most major towns and roads, and that the military would soon begin to press into villages where militants were hiding.

Finding a reliable local partner will be difficult. The Taliban and Al Qaeda have ruled the impoverished area for so long that they have altered its social structure, killing hundreds of tribal elders and making it hard for the military to negotiate.

The alliances that the military has struck with neighboring tribal leaders, including Hafiz Gul Bahadur, may also prove problematic. The senior Pakistani security official said Mr. Bahadur was hosting the families of two top Pakistani Taliban leaders.

Some American officials also voiced concern that if and when the Pakistani Army crushes the Mehsuds, it will declare victory and cut more permanent peace deals with other Pakistani militant factions, rather than fighting and defeating them.

But the Pakistani military argues that as long as the other groups are not attacking the Pakistani Army or state, it would be foolish to draw them into the war, particularly because Pakistan is not confident the United States will be around much longer.

Mr. Masood explained the thinking: “You are 10,000 miles away and we are going to live with them, so how can we take on every crook who is hostile to you?”

And there is history to overcome. One Pakistani intelligence official pointed to the American abandonment of the region in 1989, after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan. “If they leave in haste, like they left in the past, we will be back to the bad old days,” the official said. “Our jihadis would head back to Afghanistan, reopen training camps, and it will be business as usual.”

Sabrina Tavernise reported from Sararogha, Pakistan, and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Ismail Khan contributed reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan.
26965  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: November 18, 2009, 07:48:25 AM
Hat tip for this to Rachel:

« Reply #72 on: Today at 07:36:59 AM »     


Your Morning Commute is Unique: On the Anonymity of Home/Work Location Pairs

Philippe Golle and Kurt Partridge of PARC have a cute paper (pdf) on the anonymity of geo-location data. They analyze data from the U.S. Census and show that for the average person, knowing their approximate home and work locations — to a block level — identifies them uniquely.

Even if we look at the much coarser granularity of a census tract — tracts correspond roughly to ZIP codes; there are on average 1,500 people per census tract — for the average person, there are only around 20 other people who share the same home and work location. There’s more: 5% of people are uniquely identified by their home and work locations even if it is known only at the census tract level. One reason for this is that people who live and work in very different areas (say, different counties) are much more easily identifiable, as one might expect.

The paper is timely, because Location Based Services  are proliferating rapidly. To understand the privacy threats, we need to ask the two usual questions:

   1. who has access to anonymized location data?
   2. how can they get access to auxiliary data linking people to location pairs, which they can then use to carry out re-identification?

The authors don’t say much about these questions, but that’s probably because there are too many possibilities to list! In this post I will examine a few.

GPS navigation. This is the most obvious application that comes to mind, and probably the most privacy-sensitive: there have been many controversies around tracking of vehicle movements, such as NYC cab drivers threatening to strike. The privacy goal is to keep the location trail of the user/vehicle unknown even to the service provider — unlike in the context of social networks, people often don’t even trust the service provider. There are several papers on anonymizing GPS-related queries, but there doesn’t seem to be much you can do to hide the origin and destination except via charmingly unrealistic cryptographic protocols.

The accuracy of GPS is a few tens or few hundreds of feet, which is the same order of magnitude as a city block. So your daily commute is pretty much unique. If you took a (GPS-enabled) cab home from work at a certain time, there’s a good chance the trip can be tied to you. If you made a detour to stop somewhere, the location of your stop can probably be determined. This is true even if there is no record tying you to a specific vehicle.

ScreenshotLocation based social networking. Pretty soon, every smartphone will be capable of running applications that transmit location data to web services. Google Latitude and Loopt are two of the major players in this space, providing some very nifty social networking functionality on top of location awareness. It is quite tempting for service providers to outsource research/data-mining by sharing de-identified data. I don’t know if anything of the sort is being done yet, but I think it is clear that de-identification would offer very little privacy protection in this context. If a pair of locations is uniquely identifying, a trail is emphatically so.

The same threat also applies to data being subpoena’d, so data retention policies need to take into consideration the uselessness of anonymizing location data.

I don’t know if cellular carriers themselves collect a location trail from phones as a matter of course. Any idea?

Plain old web browsing. Every website worth the name identifies you with a cookie, whether you log in or not. So if you browse the web from a laptop or mobile phone from both home and work, your home and work IP addresses can be tied together based on the cookie. There are a number of free or paid databases for turning IP addresses into geographical locations. These are generally accurate up to the city level, but beyond that the accuracy is shaky.

A more accurate location fix can be obtained by IDing WiFi access points. This is a curious technological marvel that is not widely known. Skyhook, Inc. has spent years wardriving the country (and abroad) to map out the MAC addresses of wireless routers. Given the MAC address of an access point, their database can tell you where it is located. There are browser add-ons that query Skyhook’s database and determine the user’s current location. Note that you don’t have to be browsing wirelessly — all you need is at least one WiFi access point within range. This information can then be transmitted to websites which can provide location-based functionality; Opera, in particular, has teamed up with Skyhook and is “looking forward to a future where geolocation data is as assumed part of the browsing experience.” The protocol by which the browser communicates geolocation to the website is being standardized by the W3C.

The good news from the privacy standpoint is that the accurate geolocation technologies like the Skyhook plug-in (and a competing offering that is part of Google Gears) require user consent. However, I anticipate that once the plug-ins become common, websites will entice users to enable access by (correctly) pointing out that their location can only be determined to within a few hundred meters, and users will leave themselves vulnerable to inference attacks that make use of location pairs rather than individual locations.

Image metadata. An increasing number of cameras these days have (GPS-based) geotagging built-in and enabled by default. Even more awesome is the Eye-Fi card, which automatically uploads pictures you snap to Flickr (or any of dozens of other image sharing websites you can pick from) by connecting to available WiFi access points nearby. Some versions of the card do automatic geotagging in addition.

If you regularly post pseudonymously to (say) Flickr, then the geolocations of your pictures will probably reveal prominent clusters around the places you frequent, including your home and work. This can be combined with auxiliary data to tie the pictures to your identity.

Now let us turn to the other major question: what are the sources of auxiliary data that might link location pairs to identities? The easiest approach is probably to buy data from Acxiom, or another provider of direct-marketing address lists. Knowing approximate home and work locations, all that the attacker needs to do is to obtain data corresponding to both neighborhoods and do a “join,” i.e, find the (hopefully) unique common individual. This should be easy with Axciom, which lets you filter the list by  “DMA code, census tract, state, MSA code, congressional district, census block group, county, ZIP code, ZIP range, radius, multi-location radius, carrier route, CBSA (whatever that is), area code, and phone prefix.”

Google and Facebook also know my home and work addresses, because I gave them that information. I expect that other major social networking sites also have such information on tens of millions of users. When one of these sites is the adversary — such as when you’re trying to browse anonymously — the adversary already has access to the auxiliary data. Google’s power in this context is amplified by the fact that they own DoubleClick, which lets them tie together your browsing activity on any number of different websites that are tracked by DoubleClick cookies.

Finally, while I’ve talked about image data being the target of de-anonymization, it may equally well be used as the auxiliary information that links a location pair to an identity — a non-anonymous Flickr account with sufficiently many geotagged photos probably reveals an identifiable user’s home and work locations. (Some attack techniques that I describe on this blog, such as crawling image metadata from Flickr to reveal people’s home and work locations, are computationally expensive to carry out on a large scale but not algorithmically hard; such attacks, as can be expected, will rapidly become more feasible with time.)

devicesSummary. A number of devices in our daily lives transmit our physical location to service providers whom we don’t necessarily trust, and who keep might keep this data around or transmit it to third parties we don’t know about. The average user simply doesn’t have the patience to analyze and understand the privacy implications, making anonymity a misleadingly simple way to assuage their concerns. Unfortunately, anonymity breaks down very quickly when more than one location is associated with a person, as is usually the case.
26966  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: November 18, 2009, 07:44:23 AM
"Adore God. Reverence and cherish your parents. Love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself. Be just. Be true. Murmur not at the ways of Providence. So shall the life into which you have entered be the portal to one of eternal and ineffable bliss." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Jefferson Smith, 1825
26967  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA DVD: "The Bolo Game" on: November 18, 2009, 07:37:34 AM
Night Owl is finalizing the edit and working on the promo clip!
26968  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Vid-clip of 9/20/09 DB Open Gathering on: November 18, 2009, 07:36:21 AM
Dog Dan:  I'll tell you about Tennessee and Boo Dogs when you come down next week , , , and yes that is a very nice Brondo Buzzsaw in there (folks, Dog Dan was the first to uncork the BB in action-- as can be seen in the Nat Geo documentary).  Does anyone know who that is doing it?

As always, primo work from Night Owl.

I love the knifework by Linda "Bitch" Matsumi.

Also, I have a sense of deep satisfaction that my years of pushing for IFWA (in fight weapon access) have finally taken root. 
26969  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Vid-clip of 9/20/09 DB Open Gathering on: November 17, 2009, 04:17:17 PM

Vid-clip of 9/20/09 DB Open Gathering
26970  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Vid-clip!!! on: November 17, 2009, 04:16:45 PM
26971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / McDonald vs. Chicago-2 on: November 17, 2009, 03:42:30 PM

This is quite remarkable.  I hope you will continue to monitor this case and its issues and share here.

Thank you.
26972  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Shocking! Inspectors fear Iran is hiding plants on: November 17, 2009, 11:45:25 AM
second post

Inspectors Fear Iran Is Hiding Nuclear Plants
Published: November 16, 2009
WASHINGTON — International inspectors who gained access to Iran’s newly revealed underground nuclear enrichment plant voiced strong suspicions in a report on Monday that the country was concealing other atomic facilities.

In a September 2007 photo, antiaircraft guns are seen, left center, at Iran's main plant for nuclear enrichment in Natanz.

The report was the first independent account of what was contained in the once secret plant, tunneled into the side of a mountain, and came as the Obama administration was expressing growing impatience with Iran’s slow response in nuclear negotiations.

In unusually tough language, the International Atomic Energy Agency appeared highly skeptical that Iran would have built the enrichment plant without also constructing a variety of other facilities that would give it an alternative way to produce nuclear fuel if its main centers were bombed. So far, Iran has denied that it built other hidden sites in addition to the one deep underground on a military base about 12 miles north of the holy city of Qum. The inspectors were given access to the plant late last month and reported that they had found it in “an advanced state” of construction, but that no centrifuges — the fast-spinning machines needed to make nuclear fuel — had yet been installed.

The inspectors said Iran had “provided access to all areas of the facility” and planned to complete it by 2011. They also said they had been unable to interview its director and designers.

The inspectors confirmed American and European intelligence reports that the site had been built to house about 3,000 centrifuges, enough to produce enough material for one or two nuclear weapons a year. But that is too small to be useful in the production of fuel for civilian nuclear power, which is what Iran insists is the intended purpose of the site.

The plant’s existence was revealed in September, as many as seven years after construction had begun.

The report comes just two days after President Obama, on a trip to Asia, said “we are running out of time” for Iran to sign on to a deal to ship part of its nuclear fuel out of the country. He said he would begin to plan for far more stringent economic sanctions against Tehran.

He was joined during that announcement by President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia, but Mr. Medvedev was vague about whether Russia was prepared to join in those sanctions. Mr. Obama was expected to take up the issue on Tuesday with President Hu Jintao of China, where Mr. Obama is on a state visit. China, like Russia, has historically resisted sanctions on Iran.

In its report, the agency said that Iran’s belated “declaration of the new facility reduces the level of confidence in the absence of other nuclear facilities under construction, and gives rise to questions about whether there were any other nuclear facilities in Iran which had not been declared to the agency.”

Ian C. Kelly, a spokesman for the State Department, said the report “underscores that Iran still refuses to comply fully with its international nuclear obligations.”

Both International Atomic Energy Agency officials and American and European diplomats and nuclear experts have argued that the existence of the hidden facility at Qum would make little sense unless there was a network of related covert facilities to feed it with raw nuclear fuel.

Iran denied that it had any other facilities it had failed to report to the agency. But in a letter to the nuclear inspectors, parts of which the report quoted, Iranian officials said they had been motivated to build the underground plant by “the threats of military attacks against Iran,” a reference to the belief that Israel, the United States or other Western powers might take military action against its main uranium enrichment plant at Natanz.

“The Natanz enrichment plant was among the targets threatened with military attacks,” the Iranian letter, dated Oct. 28, argued. It said that, as a result, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization went to a little-known military authority identified as the “Passive Defense Organization” and asked for a “contingency enrichment plant.”

The mountainous site was turned over to the nuclear authorities, they said, “in the second half of 2007,” or roughly two years before Iran made its existence known. The Obama administration has said that Iran made the news public only after it had determined that the secrecy around the facility was pierced.

The date of late 2007 is significant because earlier that year Iran had unilaterally renounced an agreement it had signed with the agency to report on any planned nuclear facilities. The agency says that, in the case of Qum, Iran has violated that agreement, which the agency contends is still in force.

In fact, it appears that the construction of the underground plant began years earlier, and the inspectors’ report noted that satellite imagery shows that tunneling work began “between 2002 and 2004,” or shortly after the revelations about the existence of Natanz, which was also built underground. That construction paused in 2004, after the Iraq war began, the report indicated, but was “resumed in 2006.”

Why Iran then resumed the construction work is unclear. But in 2006, the Bush administration indicated a greater willingness to negotiate with Iran if it first complied with three United Nations Security Council resolutions to halt enrichment activity at Natanz. Iran refused, and Monday’s report indicated it now produced about 3,900 pounds of low-enriched uranium, enough for one to two weapons if it was further enriched.

Iran does not appear to be producing fuel as quickly as it could, and there are reports that it has run into technical difficulties.

But the fact that it is continuing to add to its stockpile has, in the words of one Obama administration official, “made us increasingly less interested” in the deal to ship part of Iran’s fuel out of the country temporarily, for processing into a form that could be used in a medical reactor in Tehran. The more uranium Iran produces, the official said, the less time it would take the country to replenish enough of its supplies to build a weapon, if it decided to take that step.

Because Iran continued to produce fuel despite the United Nations resolutions, President George W. Bush also authorized a covert program, focused on the Natanz site, that was intended to disrupt its enrichment activity, by attacking both the computer and electrical infrastructure around the plant.

It is not clear that any of those actions have proven successful. But the construction of an alternative plant, protected by the adjacent Iranian Revolutionary Guards base, appeared to some Western nuclear experts to constitute an Iranian effort to have a backup plan in case it lost use of the Natanz facility.

David E. Sanger reported from Washington, and William J. Broad from New York.
26973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Montgomery Estate on: November 17, 2009, 11:40:46 AM
A Revolutionary War Widow's Estate Becomes a Preservation Battleground

Robert Stolarik for The New York Times
Montgomery Place, a house and a 434-acre estate held by one family for
generations, is now owned by Historic Hudson Valley, a nonprofit group.


Published: November 16, 2009
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. - In the mid-1980s J. Dennis Delafield and his
cousins faced a hard fact: They could no longer afford to maintain the
estate established in 1802 by their distant ancestor, Janet Livingston
Montgomery, widow of Gen. Richard Montgomery, a hero of the Revolutionary

A view of the Hudson and the Catskills from Montgomery Place, an estate
established by Janet Livingston Montgomery in 1802.

"It was eating us up alive," Mr. Delafield said of Montgomery Place, a
majestic house overlooking the Hudson River that is but one small part of
the 434-acre property here. "We had to let it go, though it broke our

They decided to turn the house and its grounds, with working orchards and
more than a dozen outbuildings, into a museum. So they sold it to what is
now Historic Hudson Valley, a nonprofit group founded by John D. Rockefeller
Jr. that owns Washington Irving's house, Sunnyside, in Tarrytown, N.Y., and
several other properties.

"We made a bargain sale in the belief that that way the house would be
protected," Mr. Delafield said.

Now, though, Mr. Delafield and others are worried about the fate of
Montgomery Place. The house was closed to the public in 2006 - though the
grounds were available for weddings, photo shoots and other events - until
August, when it was hastily reopened for four hours on Fridays after a state
official began inquiring about its status. Under the terms of a state
financing package, the house must be open at least 12 days a year.

Rumors have run rampant this fall that Historic Hudson Valley plans to sell
the house, vexing public officials who have sought definitive information
from the group's leader, Waddell W. Stillman. "I've dealt with him on a
number of occasions, and I've never felt we always got the full story," said
Marcus J. Molinaro, the New York state assemblyman who represents the area.

In a recent interview at Montgomery Place, Mr. Stillman denied that the
organization's board planned to sell all or any part of the property. "We
have not discussed a sale," he said.

However, minutes of board meetings obtained by The New York Times make it
clear that the board discussed just that on several occasions. "Mr. Herbert
E. Nass asked whether we could sell Montgomery Place in parts, and whether
doing so could yield a better price over time," the minutes of a March 10
meeting state.

At the same meeting the board chairman, Michael Hegarty, raised concerns
about rebuilding the organization's endowment, which like many others was
hard hit by the economic downturn. "To do this, Mr. Hegarty believes we must
consider the sale of assets, such as the president's house adjacent to the
Philipsburg Manor" - another of the organization's historic houses - "and
some or perhaps all of the property at Montgomery Place," the minutes say.

The board even formed a committee to explore "existing conditions and
constraints" at Montgomery Place; at a June meeting its members described
several potential buyers, according to notes by board members.

Asked about the discrepancy, Mr. Stillman said the minutes represented "old
news." "The board's March meeting coincided exactly with the nadir in the
financial markets," he wrote in an e-mail message. "Everyone was distressed
about the decline in our endowment, and economic prospects were grim. A
wide-ranging discussion ensued about the sale of assets, including
Montgomery Place, and nothing was decided or acted upon, then or since."

"The topic is no longer on the board's agenda," he wrote.

A draft resolution to offer to sell some of the land to a state agency that
holds an easement on part of the estate had been floated for consideration
at a meeting on Wednesday.

Mr. Stillman said the resolution had not been considered by or proposed to
the board and would not be taken up on Wednesday. He also said the reopening
of the house on Fridays was unrelated to the state official's inquiries.

Mr. Stillman, who joined Historic Hudson Valley in 1992, said his group
could not afford the $500,000 in annual operating costs for Montgomery
Place, let alone pay for necessary renovations. Nor would it be possible to
reopen the house next year, as originally planned, he said. Indeed, he said,
the decision to buy the house in the first place had been a bad one. "We
broke some of the textbook rules for not getting ahead of yourself," he
said. "We didn't have the money to buy it, we didn't have the money to
maintain it, and we way underestimated how much it would take to restore


Page 2 of 2)

But several former board members, led by the Wall Street financier Richard
Jenrette, said they had proposed ways to support Montgomery Place, including
offers to help Historic Hudson Valley cover some costs.

Because of its continuous ownership by descendants of Mrs. Montgomery,
Montgomery Place is a rare example of an intact Hudson Valley estate.
Alexander Jackson Davis, the influential 19th-century architect who designed
many of the area's prominent houses, redesigned Montgomery and designed
several other structures on the property. The landscape architect Andrew
Jackson Downing provided advice on the design of the grounds and designed
one garden himself.

The house plays an important role in the community, too, Mr. Molinaro said,
attracting tourists and helping to educate students in the area's history.

Mr. Jenrette has proposed that Historic Hudson Valley donate the property to
the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust, a foundation to which he
has donated six historic houses. He and others have offered to create a
friends group to raise money to support Montgomery Place. Most recently, he
and John S. Dyson, another former board member and a venture capitalist,
offered to put up $100,000 a year for five years to keep it open. "We think
we can get at least another $100,000 to match that, and if we could create a
friends group, we could raise a lot more money," Mr. Jenrette said.

In a meeting earlier this month, however, Mr. Stillman and Mr. Hegarty
rejected that offer. Mr. Stillman said in the interview that he did not want
to create another nonprofit group that would do the same thing as Historic
Hudson Valley.

In addition to owning three other historic houses and a church in the
region, Historic Hudson Valley recently broke ground on a regional history
center in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., on nine acres donated by Laurance

The center will provide offices for the organization, as well as space for
scholars and researchers seeking access to its extensive archives and

Mr. Stillman envisions creating a digital archive of the contents of
Historic Hudson Valley's houses to provide virtual tours and other
activities to attract a new breed of tourists.

Although the group does not yet have the $15 million it needs to build the
center, it began construction last month because it would otherwise lose a
$6 million grant from a state financing agency.

In their meetings, according to the minutes obtained by The Times, Historic
Hudson Valley board members discussed their concerns that public officials
and others would assume they were using proceeds from the sale of Montgomery
Place to finance the construction of the center.

"They will deny that, but money is fungible," said John H. Dobkin, a
preservation expert who was the organization's executive director from 1984
to 2000. "They'll say it's to replenish the endowment, but you don't sell a
unique asset like Montgomery Place to do that."

As chairman of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, Mr.
Stillman put through a plan ending that organization's membership structure,
selling its historic home and handing over its archives to the New York
Public Library, keeping only a digitized version of them. "Historic house
museums are in the same place as classical music orchestras," he said.

Historic Hudson Valley's endowment fell to $45 million last spring from
about $70 million and now stands at roughly $49 million, according to Rob
Schweitzer, spokesman for the organization.

By the standards of organizations supporting historic homes, that is a
handsome sum even at its depleted level. The Classical American Homes trust,
for example, operates six houses with $9 million in liquid assets.

"There's a pact between nonprofits and the people because we extend to them
certain tax benefits and, in the case of Historic Hudson Valley, millions of
dollars in public grants," Mr. Molinaro, the assemblyman, said.

"If they have a desire to divest of this asset, they certainly shouldn't
benefit financially from all that public investment."
26974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: November 17, 2009, 10:14:25 AM
"This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest of ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties." --John Jay, Federalist No. 2
26975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Malkin: Shamnesty on: November 17, 2009, 09:10:46 AM
Obama’s shamnesty distraction
By Michelle Malkin  •  April 9, 2009 12:13 AM I’m not sure why Drudge is hyping the New York Times’ stenography piece on Obama’s plans to carry through on his promise to pitch a shamnesty bill. It’s not news. It’s a White House-planted distraction sourced mainly to La Raza/The Race lobbyist-turned-White House open borders czar Cecilia Munoz.

I pointed a few weeks ago to Obama’s meeting with Latino groups pushing for faster action on paving the pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal aliens. You know that the DREAM Act has been reintroduced in Congress. You know about the Obama Census plan to Leave No Illegal Alien Behind. And you know that Nancy Pelosi has been banging the “stop the unpatriotic raids” drum.

You also know that there is already a de facto shamnesty plan already in place — overseen by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, who is eroding interior immigration enforcement. A West Coast source tells me that customs and border patrol agents have been ordered not to confiscate Washington state IDs from illegal aliens. ICE agents are feeling pressure to curtail workplace investigations. And illegal alien deportation fugitive Zeituni Onyango, aunt of the president, is going nowhere.

What is more newsworthy is the rising tide of voices standing up against lax immigration enforcement and its costs.

It’s not just conservative immigration enforcement activists.

It’s politicians who have to answer to their law-abiding constituents demanding to know why scarce resources should be allocated to illegal aliens over citizens. Like the five Democrats in Colorado who helped kill the state version of the DREAM Act. And the local health officials in northern California who are finally ending taxpayer subsidies for non-emergency illegal alien care.

It’s citizens who have suffered the loss of loved ones as a result of bloody sanctuary policies. Like Ray Tranchant, who testified on Capitol Hill last week on how failure of local and federal immigration officials to cooperate contributed to the death of his daughter and her best friend at the hands of a revolving door illegal alien drunk driver. Or like Daniella Bologna, who filed suit against the open-borders government of San Francisco on Tuesday:

The family of a father and his two sons who were gunned down last year have filed a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco, claiming its sanctuary policy contributed to their deaths.
Anthony Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, were gunned down in the Excelsior District on June 16 after possibly being mistaken for rival gang members, according to police.

Edwin Ramos, 22, a suspected member of the MS-13 gang, has been charged with their murders.

The Bologna family lawsuit alleges that the city’s sanctuary policy shielding illegal immigrants – even those charged with a crime – allowed Ramos to stay in this country illegally. Ramos had a history of violence and several prior contacts with San Francisco police as a minor. But city policy prevented officers from turning him over to federal immigration authorities for deportation.

“What we’re saying is that the city adopted and enforced a policy that was actually inconsistent with and prohibited by federal law,” Michael Kelly, an attorney for the Bologna family, said Tuesday.
Since the last immigration battle, more and more citizens and local and state officials have begun to recognize the ravages of lax enforcement. When Obama moves forward with his official shamnesty legislation, he better be prepared. We’ve been there. Done that. And the White House should know that we are ready to stop the Open-Borders Express again.

Stick that on your front page, Fishwrap of Record.
26976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia's pivot? on: November 17, 2009, 12:07:39 AM
The Russian Pivot in the Iranian Nuclear Issue
FROM A CRITICAL MEETING between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, to an escalating proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia on the Saudi-Yemeni border, this was a loaded weekend by STRATFOR’s geopolitical standards.

We’ll begin with the pivot of this story: U.S.-Russian relations. Obama and Medvedev sat down in Singapore for their fourth one-on-one meeting, seeking an understanding on issues deemed vital to their national security interests. The Russians, in a nutshell, want the Americans to keep out of the former Soviet periphery, which Moscow sees as its proper sphere of influence. But Moscow now has an additional favor to ask of the West.

Fundamental shifts are taking place in the Kremlin that have revealed Russia’s desire for Western investment in strategic economic sectors. A number of European and U.S. investors eagerly await Washington’s cue to re-enter the Russian market, but Washington first has to determine the geopolitical price Russia is willing to pay for this investment.

“There are a lot of moving parts to this conflict, but all appear to pivot on what actually transpires between the United States and Russia.”
A big portion of the cost will be tied to Iran. If the United States can coax Russia into abandoning support for Tehran, the Obama administration will gain valuable room to maneuver with the Israelis, and the door will open for a wider understanding between Moscow and Washington. Of course, any potential U.S.-Russia understanding will be loaded with sticking points. Medvedev has hinted at possible cooperation against Iran — saying Russia was open to exploring stronger options in dealing with Tehran, including further sanctions. But there is still much more to be discussed, and we see no clear sign that Russia is willing to fundamentally shift its position on Iran just yet.

Still, Iran has plenty to be worried about. Tehran and Moscow are perfectly capable of having a constructive relationship so long as they both face a greater threat (in this case, the United States). Should Russia and the United States come to terms, however, the strategic underpinnings of the Russian-Iranian alliance would collapse and Iran’s vulnerability would soar. With Iran’s anxiety over a Russian betrayal rising, high-level officials in Tehran are adopting a more aggressive tone against Russia.

For instance, the Joint Armed Forces chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi and the head of the parliament’s Foreign Policy and National Security Commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, have lambasted Russia in the past week for failing to supply Iran with the promised S-300 strategic air defense system. Boroujerdi even issued a veiled threat against Russia when he said, “Iran is not a country which would stop short of action in dealing with countries who fail to deliver on their promises.” It remains unclear to us what Iran actually could do to legitimately threaten Russian security and to sabotage a potential U.S.-Russian understanding, but the shift in tone is unmistakable.

Meanwhile, the Iranians hope to distract U.S. attention from Russia with a proxy war in the border region between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is exploiting an internal Yemeni conflict by supporting Shiite al-Houthi rebels, seeking to undermine neighboring Saudi Arabia’s security. In a sign that Iran is attempting to escalate tensions with the United States, Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani on Sunday accused Washington of supporting Saudi air strikes targeting the al-Houthi rebels. But Washington is taking great care to avoid acknowledging its role in this proxy battle (a role that so far involves advising the Saudi and Yemeni militaries and supplying satellite imagery of al-Houthi targets for air strikes). The Obama administration would prefer to avoid getting drawn into a crisis with Iran and would rather give the impression that the nuclear negotiations with Tehran are continuing, while it tries to reach a compromise with Russia.

The Israelis don’t appear to be completely on board with this U.S. plan. On the one hand, Israel has a common strategic interest with the United States in keeping as much distance as possible between Russia and Iran. On the other hand, Israel doesn’t want a U.S.-Russian understanding on Iran to defuse the nuclear crisis so long as Israel’s national security is not genuinely preserved. If Washington manages to secure Russian cooperation against Iran, the Obama administration would gain time and space to talk Israel down from taking more aggressive action against Iran. Israel is operating on a different timeline: It wants to lock Washington into a situation that requires more decisive U.S. action against Iran, whether that means stringent sanctions or potential military strikes.

A report by Israel Radio this weekend appears to support this hypothesis. The report quoted an unnamed Western official as saying that Iran has completely rejected a U.N.-brokered nuclear proposal, but that Obama has postponed an official announcement on the failure of the talks for internal political reasons. To the contrary, Iran has been playing a careful game with the nuclear proposal — protesting the offer publicly but also hinting at the regime’s acceptance of the deal — in order to add confusion to the negotiations and drag out the talks. Neither the United States nor Iran has confirmed or denied the Israel Radio report, which leads us to believe this is Israel’s way of trying to wrap up (what the Israelis view as) the aimless diplomatic phase of the negotiations and push the United States into more aggressive action against Iran.

There are a lot of moving parts to this conflict, but all appear to pivot on what actually transpires between the United States and Russia. The Obama-Medvedev meeting revealed a change in atmospherics toward Iran, but we — like the Iranians — are watching for signs of a real shift in Russian policy.
26977  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: November 16, 2009, 10:20:20 PM

26978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: November 16, 2009, 09:46:00 PM
Actually Volcker has said that he was used for his credibility and that none of the BO people listen to him.  Complete agreement on the risk and severity of a dollar crisis.
26979  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: November 16, 2009, 06:00:35 PM
"Sorry G. Crafty, but lawyers and lobbyists "

26980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: November 16, 2009, 05:33:46 PM
As far as cost benefit analysis goes GM how does one value the cost to freedom of continuously being under scrutiny?  Or is the cost of which you speak merely that of the technology itself-- which in that the cost of a given level of technology tends to decline rapidly over time, tends to mean no protection at all.

You're a bright guy and you do a good job of building seamless webs of logic, but on this one there is something here that cannot be evaded or avoided.
26981  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: November 16, 2009, 05:26:14 PM
second post:

Am I the only one repulsed by the "you pussy" pressures being brought to bear on the fighter concerned about having taken some brain damage?

Also, pretty excremental level of conditioning-- particularly this far into the seaon.

Go Big Baby!

Go Kimbo!
26982  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Lesnar ill on: November 16, 2009, 05:24:19 PM
UFC Heavyweight Champ Brock Lesnar Facing Serious Health Crisis

Posted Nov 14, 2009 8:35PM By Michael David Smith (RSS feed)

Shortly after Saturday's UFC 105 card in Manchester, England, concluded, UFC
President Dana White revealed that his promotion's heavyweight champion, Brock
Lesnar, is suffering from serious health problems and will not be able to
fight any time soon.

 tweetmeme_source = 'FanHouse';

"He's in rough shape, he's in really bad shape," White said, according to the
Canadian Press. "He is not well and he is not getting any better. ... He's
very, very sick and he's going to be out for a while. He's got a lot of
problems. ... He's got mono and he's got something else wrong with him.
I know what's wrong with him, he just doesn't want me talking about it."

White didn't say exactly what is wrong with Lesnar, although he did specify
that it is not cancer or AIDS. The UFC had previously said Lesnar was
suffering from mononucleosis, but his illness is apparently more serious than

Lesnar had been scheduled to defend his title against Shane Carwin on Nov. 21.
When he first started to feel sick, the UFC tentatively re-scheduled the
Carwin bout for Jan. 2. But it will likely be long after Jan. 2 before Lesnar,
who won the undisputed heavyweight title by defeating Frank Mir at UFC 100, is
ready to fight again.

White made room for the possibility of putting together a fight for an interim
heavyweight title while Lesnar is sidelined, although it's not clear who would
participate in that fight. Carwin is reportedly sidelined with a knee injury,
while another top UFC heavyweight, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, is reportedly
battling a staph infection.

The Lesnar illness is the worst piece of news yet in an autumn that has been
full of bad news for the UFC. Champions Lyoto Machida, Anderson Silva and
Georges St. Pierre have all battled injuries, and one of the promotion's most
marketable stars, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, says he is quitting the UFC to
pursue an acting career. Even on a day when it had a successful show in
England, the UFC is going through a rough patch.
26983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: November 16, 2009, 12:06:16 PM
Is there or is there not a slippery slope that ends with us like the UK, being surveilled by the state wherever we go?
26984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bushehr on: November 16, 2009, 10:49:38 AM
Russia has always followed its interests in the building of the Iranian Bushehr power plant and it will never complete the project, said a parliamentary spokesman, DPA reported Nov. 16. Moscow has used the project as a tool in its dealings with the West, and Tehran will have to complete the plant itself, he said.
26985  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Taliban targetting ISI on: November 16, 2009, 10:48:29 AM
Pakistan: The Taliban Strategy Behind Targeting the ISI
Stratfor Today » November 13, 2009 | 2252 GMT

An injured Pakistani man after the Nov. 13 Inter-Services Intelligence building bombing in PeshawarSummary
The Taliban’s suicide-bombing attack on the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate’s headquarters in Peshawar Nov. 13 was intended to send a clear message: that a government offensive against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in South Waziristan is having little effect on the TTP’s ability to wage war. For now, even if the TTP is limited to operating only within the North-West Frontier Province, the group continues to have the upper hand in the insurgency.


The vehicle-borne suicide bombing of the headquarters of Pakistan’s premier spy service in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) Nov. 13 killed relatively few people (16 at last count). However, the blast was so powerful that a significant portion of the provincial headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate in Peshawar was demolished. This is the second time an ISI provincial headquarters has been targeted by Taliban rebels since the much larger May 27 attack on the intelligence agency’s Punjab headquarters in Lahore.

The Nov. 13 attack was against a major ISI facility focused on fighting the jihadist insurgency in the region at a time when Pakistani troops are trying to dismantle the headquarters of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in South Waziristan. The attack is intended to send a clear message: that the government offensive is not having much of an effect on the TTP’s ability to operate. There is also much PR mileage to be gained from striking a facility of the country’s most powerful security organization. Yet another message the jihadists are trying to send — this time to an already rattled Pakistani public — is that the state is unable to protect itself, let alone its citizens.

But a careful examination of the series of Taliban attacks since the beginning of the ground offensive in South Waziristan on Oct. 17 shows that the TTP has not been able to pull off any major attacks beyond the NWFP. The last major attack was on Oct. 10, when militants were able to penetrate the main headquarters of the military in Rawalpindi (the twin city of the capital, Islamabad) and take control of the Military Intelligence directorate building along with 30 hostages. Since then, however, the attacks that have taken place in Lahore and Islamabad have proved to be relatively small-scale strikes.

For the time being, law enforcement and intelligence operations in Punjab and Karachi, coupled with the offensive in South Waziristan and operations elsewhere in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, appear to have limited the effective radius of TTP attacks to the NWFP. And there has been a sustained focus on Peshawar, with several large-scale bombings in the NWFP provincial capital. There have also been attacks that have targeted civilians, for which TTP and al Qaeda leaders have denied responsibility. One of these attacks, on Oct. 28, killed more than150 people — mostly women and children.

In fact, TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud and al Qaeda prime leader for Afghanistan/Pakistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, have said the bombings targeting civilians were the work of the U.S. private security contractor Blackwater (which has been renamed Xe). By accusing the security firm, the jihadists are trying to exploit perceptions in Pakistan that the firm is engaged in suspicious activity in the country and may be trying to destabilize it or even remove or dismantle its nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, attacking the ISI headquarters in Peshawar is a way for the TTP to conduct damage control in the wake of the civilian bombings. Even if the TTP is limited, at least for now, to a meaningful striking capability only within NWFP, the group continues to have the upper hand in the insurgency. The question is whether the government’s Waziristan offensive can put a significant dent in its overall war-making capability.
26986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: November 16, 2009, 10:44:59 AM
Do you think the court decided correctly in Kyllo?

As for your mockery of "Oh my god, the police have a camera!"-- yes you bring lucid rejoinders, but IMHO we also need to address the profound implications of CAMERAS EVERYWHERE, RECORDING MOST EVERYTHING.
26987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon on: November 16, 2009, 10:16:14 AM
  Next Article > 

Michael Yon
16 November 2009

When New York Times journalist David Rohde was kidnapped last year in Afghanistan, the company engaged in a painstaking effort to squash the story. They succeeded in persuading major media who learned of the kidnapping to keep quiet. The cover-up was so good that a New York Times reporter I spoke with in December 2008, while she and I joined Secretary Gates on a trip through Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq and back to the United States, had not heard about the David Rohde kidnapping.

The New York Times openly agrees that publishing such articles increases the peril to the lives of hostages, yet it published details about a British couple being held hostage in Somalia, and thus increased the value of the hostages to the kidnappers.

Some months after Mr. Rohde’s kidnapping started leaking, I published a generic blurb about the case, but made sure none of the information was new.

I knew more than was included in the vignette, but chose not to release it. I did not share what sources had told me: that Taliban members were being paid large sums of money (and that money was being wasted) and that some of the efforts flowed through Dubai. I have not published any other additional information from sources. Shortly after publication, March 13, 2009, I received an e-mail that included this request from a person close to Rohde:

“The NYT has asked for a news blackout while they do what they can for David Rohde's release. All the wires and the big papers are following it. Therefore, while I'm sure you don't mean any harm, I'm not sure your post about him is helpful.”

The person who e-mailed was not from the New York Times.  I removed the blub I had posted to my site. Though no new information was released, I had offered the kidnappers more coverage.

Sources continued sending reports about attempts to repatriate Rohde. I had not sought out this information. It had fallen as it usually does, like rain.

After Rohde returned to the United States and details became public, the Washington Post and others contacted me about my decisions to publish and then remove the vignette. My thoughts were that if the words risked the life of Mr. Rohde, they should not be publicized.

While reading the New York Times’ article about the British couple, I became upset, and wondered why they would implement a black-out for one hostage, but not another.

I shifted my Blackberry over to Twitter and punched out some blurbs, one of which said the following:

“Numerous very well placed sources have told me New York Times/associates paid millions to get Rohde release.”


“NYT is endangering the hostages in Somalia.”

It is important to know that while tweeting those words, I was sitting on an airplane, on a research trip, for an article for the New York Times. An editor had asked for something about Afghanistan, and I chose the topic of biogas, which included trips to Cambodia, Laos, Nepal (twice), Vietnam (this week), and Afghanistan.

The New York Times is one of the best sources on Iraq and Afghanistan. Their war correspondents are the “A-Team” and that included David Rohde. I was happy to write a piece for the New York Times.

The flurry of follow-on stories that picked up on my tweets, such as those by the Huffington Post, focused on ransom for Mr. Rohde, rather than the point about the harm the New York Times’ detailed coverage could cause the hostages.

On November 2, the New York Times posted a public response:

“Several Web sites repeated Monday erroneous allegations that The New York Times had paid a ransom in the case of its reporter David Rohde, held by the Taliban for seven months.”

The New York Times didn’t mention me by name, but the story continued spreading, with people reporting that I accused the New York Times of lying. Nowhere in the “tweets” was ransom mentioned, or anything about lying. I have no evidence that the New York Times misled the public, nor did I say or imply such. The tweet about money was based on what I had been told by reliable sources. Again, this is the tweet:

“Numerous very well placed sources have told me New York Times/associates paid millions to get Rohde release.”

The New York Times rebuttal statement goes on to quote David Rohde:

“American government officials worked to free us, but they maintained their longstanding policy of not negotiating with kidnappers. They paid no ransom and exchanged no prisoners. Pakistani and Afghan officials said they also freed no prisoners and provided no money.

“Security consultants who worked on our case said cash was paid to Taliban members who said they knew our whereabouts. But the consultants said they were never able to identify or establish contact with the guards who were living with us.”

Though it didn’t address the exact amount of money, the New York Times confirmed my tweet about money by acknowledging that “cash was paid to Taliban members.” My sources have said that large sums of money went through Dubai to Pakistan, not to mention the costs paid to consultants and other expenses.

Though my statements were in line with the New York Times’ statements, other outlets continued to state that I was accusing the New York Times of “lying.”  Not the case.

Chris Rovzar, who blogs at New York Magazine, was off mark when he ran this headline: Freelance War Reporter Accuses Times of Lying about Taliban Bribes.

My words said nothing about lying or bribes, and I am not a “freelance” or a “reporter,” though some of the work involves reporting. I contacted Mr. Rovzar and was pleasantly rewarded by his goodwill, candor and willingness to reexamine the words.

Moving on, the New York Times picked up on points about its coverage of the Somalia story when it published:

“Bloggers also accused The Times of hypocrisy in reporting on a British couple kidnapped by Somali pirates while keeping quiet Mr. Rohde’s kidnapping. . .

“The New York Times did not break the story of the kidnapping of Paul and Rachel Chandler, and during our reporting of it The Times consulted Christine Collett, Ms. Chandler’s sister-in-law, to ask her if the family objected to the publication of any information regarding the case. Ms. Collett, who was quoted in the story, said the family had no objection to The Times reporting on the case.”

Reporting with permission from a sister-in-law hardly makes it right. How many everyday people have experiences dealing with kidnappers? In fact, the Rohde case was the first time I realized how sensitive negotiators are to even passing acknowledgment.  How many of us know that even acknowledgment of the kidnapping can lead to harm?  Most people are unaware, but the New York Times knows. Did the New York Times share advice on its recent experiences when it asked Ms. Collett’s permission?

This incident aside, my respect for the New York Times’ reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan is undiminished. It offers world-class coverage, and continues to be on the reading list.

The New York Times and I simply have a difference of opinion on the hostage topic.

I believe that they have been truthful, while understandably guarded on the abduction of David Rohde. It would be wrong to bash a paper that has fielded such an outstanding team in Iraq and Afghanistan. The hostage issue is just one important issue, and all points by all parties seem to have been made and noted.

Finally, it’s time to move on from this distraction to a much larger topic: Afghanistan. Bad signals are coming from the White House.
26988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: November 16, 2009, 09:00:52 AM
No , , , because it is not a law enforcement practice  grin
26989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson, 1791 on: November 16, 2009, 08:59:16 AM
"In planning, forming, and arranging laws, deliberation is always becoming, and always useful." --James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791
26990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: November 16, 2009, 08:56:02 AM
Why on earth would we be discussing that pussified weenie in the context of The Way Forward for the American Creed?!?
The Foundation
"They are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare.... [G]iving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please which may be good for the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and as they sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please." --Thomas Jefferson

PelosiCare is not about compassion -- it's about controlFor the Record
"Last Saturday [Nov. 7], at 11 o'clock in the evening, the House of Representatives voted by a five vote margin to have the federal government manage the health care of every American at a cost of $1 trillion dollars over the next ten years. For the first time in American history, if this bill becomes law, the Feds will force you to buy insurance you might not want, or may not need, or cannot afford. If you don't purchase what the government tells you to buy, if you don't do so when they tell you to do it, and if you don't buy just what they say is right for you, the government may fine you, prosecute you, and even put you in jail. Freedom of choice and control over your own body will be lost. The privacy of your communications and medical decision making with your physician will be gone. More of your hard earned dollars will be at the disposal of federal bureaucrats. It was not supposed to be this way. We elect the government. It works for us. How did it get so removed, so unbridled, so arrogant that it can tell us how to live our personal lives? Evil rarely comes upon us all at once, and liberty is rarely lost in one stroke. It happens gradually, over the years and decades and even centuries. A little stretch here, a cave in there, powers are slowly taken from the states and the people and before you know it, we have one big monster government that recognizes no restraint on its ability to tell us how to live." --Judge Andrew Napolitano

"Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi's constitutional contempt, perhaps ignorance, is representative of the majority of members of both the House and the Senate. Their comfort in that ignorance and constitutional contempt, and how readily they articulate it, should be worrisome for every single American. It's not a matter of whether you are for or against Congress' health care proposals. It's not a matter of whether you're liberal or conservative, black or white, male or female, Democrat or Republican or member of any other group. It's a matter of whether we are going to remain a relatively free people or permit the insidious encroachment on our liberties to continue. ... In each new session of Congress since 1995, John Shadegg, R-Ariz.,) has introduced the Enumerated Powers Act, a measure 'To require Congress to specify the source of authority under the United States Constitution for the enactment of laws, and for other purposes.' The highest number of co-sponsors it has ever had in the House of Representatives is 54 and it has never had co-sponsors in the Senate until this year, when 22 senators signed up. The fact that less than 15 percent of the Congress supports such a measure demonstrates the kind of contempt our elected representatives have for the rules of the game -- our Constitution. If you asked the questions: Which way is our nation heading, tiny steps at a time? Are we headed toward more liberty, or are we headed toward greater government control over our lives? I think the answer is unambiguously the latter -- more government control over our lives." --economist Walter E. Williams

The Gipper
"The difference between the path toward greater freedom or bigger government is the difference between success and failure; between opportunity and coercion; between faith in a glorious future and fear of mediocrity and despair; between respecting people as adults, each with a spark of greatness, and treating them as helpless children to be forever dependent; between a drab, materialistic world where Big Brother rules by promises to special interest groups, and a world of adventure where everyday people set their sights on impossible dreams, distant stars, and the Kingdom of God. We have the true message of hope for America." --Ronald Reagan

Political Futures
"Barack Obama told the House Democratic Caucus before the roll call vote on health care on Nov. 7 that they would be better off politically if they passed the bill than if they let it fail. Bill Clinton speaking to the Senate Democrats' lunch on Nov. 10 cited his party's big losses in 1994 after Congress failed to pass his health care legislation as evidence that Democrats would suffer more from failure to pass a bill than from disaffection with a bill that was signed into law. These were closed meetings, but we can safely assume that the two Democratic presidents also assured their fellow partisans that health care legislation would do all sorts of good things for the American people. We know Obama did say that Democrats should 'answer the call of history,' even though America has gotten along pretty well without government-run health insurance for some 220 years. But political calculations are always on politicians' minds. The two presidents were urging passage of legislation that has become increasingly unpopular as its provisions become more widely known. They were speaking at a time when Gallup tells us that only 47 percent of Americans think providing health insurance is a government responsibility, down from 69 percent just two years ago. So despite their assurances, it's unclear whether Democrats will be better off passing a bill or seeing one fail. In political discourse, it's often assumed that there is some clear path to a favorable outcome. But sometimes both paths lead down." --political analyst Michael Barone

"As an American, I am embarrassed that the U.S. House of Representatives has 220 members who actually believe the government can successfully centrally plan the medical and insurance industries. I'm embarrassed that my representatives think that government can subsidize the consumption of medical care without increasing the budget deficit or interfering with free choice. It's a triumph of mindless wishful thinking over logic and experience. The 1,990-page bill is breathtaking in its bone-headed audacity. The notion that a small group of politicians can know enough to design something so complex and so personal is astounding. That they were advised by 'experts' means nothing since no one is expert enough to do that. There are too many tradeoffs faced by unique individuals with infinitely varying needs. Government cannot do simple things efficiently. The bureaucrats struggle to count votes correctly. They give subsidized loans to 'homeowners' who turn out to be 4-year-olds. Yet congressmen want government to manage our medicine and insurance." --columnist John Stossel


Re: The Left
"In the late 1930s, the noted economist Friedrich Von Hayek wrote his landmark pamphlet 'Road to Serfdom,' laying bare the diseased skeleton of socialist/utopian thought that had permeated academia and the salons of his day. With an economy of words that showcased the significance of his conclusion, he pointed out the Achilles heel of collectivist dogma: for a planned economy to succeed, there must be central planners, who by necessity will insist on universal commitment to their plan. How do you attain total commitment to a goal from a free people? Well, you don't. Some percentage will always disagree, even if only for the sake of being contrary or out of a desire to be left alone. When considering a program as comprehensive as a government-planned economy, there are undoubtedly countless points of contention, such as how we will choose the planners, how we will order our priorities when assigning them importance within the plan, how we will allocate resources when competing interests have legitimate claims, who will make these decisions, and perhaps more pertinent to our discussion, how those decisions will be enforced. A rift forming on even one of these issues is enough to bring the gears of this progressive endeavor grinding to a halt. This fatal flaw in the collectivist design cannot be reengineered. It is an error so critical that the entire ideology must be scrapped." --columnist Joe Herring

We Depend on You
26991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: November 16, 2009, 08:52:04 AM

Fascinatin post on the rapidity with which an ice age can hit!

Your post this morning raises good and difficult questions about the idea I propose.  As I reread it I see that I failed to mention that all revenues raised thereunder need to be offset by tax reductions elsewhere (income, cap gains, death, etc)--otherwise it becomes , , , drum roll , , , cap and trade  angry cry
26992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: November 16, 2009, 08:44:03 AM
I think we have a first!  GM siding against a law enforcement practice! cheesy

Anyway, I am in complete agreement.  Our forfeiture laws, and the SCOTUS's affirmation of them, are an outrage.
26993  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: November 16, 2009, 08:40:32 AM

More than once I have had GM present lucid questions/counter-arguments to my libertarian instincts that I have not been able to answer.  It can be quite infuriating.  Intuitively the point you make here makes complete sense to me, but OTOH I haven't a clue as to how to answer the specific counterpoint that GM makes.  Do you?

No doubt his communication technique could benefit on occasion from a tad more sugar-coating   cheesy but if you put that aside and simply stay with the merits, I suspect you will find it worth your time.

26994  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / John Yoo on: November 15, 2009, 08:02:25 PM
The author of this piece was an attorney for Bush and is held many to have written some really shoddy briefs in favor of harsh interrogation.

That said, this piece seems to make a lot of sense to me.
'This is a prosecutorial decision as well as a national security decision," President Barack Obama said last week about the attorney general's announcement that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al Qaeda operatives will be put on trial in New York City federal court.

No, it is not. It is a presidential decision—one about the hard, ever-present trade-off between civil liberties and national security.

Trying KSM in civilian court will be an intelligence bonanza for al Qaeda and the hostile nations that will view the U.S. intelligence methods and sources that such a trial will reveal. The proceedings will tie up judges for years on issues best left to the president and Congress.

Whether a jury ultimately convicts KSM and his fellows, or sentences them to death, is beside the point. The treatment of the 9/11 attacks as a criminal matter rather than as an act of war will cripple American efforts to fight terrorism. It is in effect a declaration that this nation is no longer at war.

KSM is the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon—and a "terrorist entrepreneur," according to the 9/11 Commission report. He was the brains behind a succession of operations against the U.S., including the 1996 "Bojinka plot" to crash jetliners into American cities. Together with Osama bin Laden, he selected the 9/11 terrorists, arranged their financing and training, and ran the whole operation from abroad.

After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan KSM eventually became bin Laden's operations chief. American and Pakistani intelligence forces captured him on March 1, 2003, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Now, however, KSM and his co-defendants will enjoy the benefits and rights that the Constitution accords to citizens and resident aliens—including the right to demand that the government produce in open court all of the information that it has on them, and how it got it.

Prosecutors will be forced to reveal U.S. intelligence on KSM, the methods and sources for acquiring its information, and his relationships to fellow al Qaeda operatives. The information will enable al Qaeda to drop plans and personnel whose cover is blown. It will enable it to detect our means of intelligence-gathering, and to push forward into areas we know nothing about.

This is not hypothetical, as former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has explained. During the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman (aka the "blind Sheikh"), standard criminal trial rules required the government to turn over to the defendants a list of 200 possible co-conspirators.

In essence, this list was a sketch of American intelligence on al Qaeda. According to Mr. McCarthy, who tried the case, it was delivered to bin Laden in Sudan on a silver platter within days of its production as a court exhibit.

Bin Laden, who was on the list, could immediately see who was compromised. He also could start figuring out how American intelligence had learned its information and anticipate what our future moves were likely to be.

Even more harmful to our national security will be the effect a civilian trial of KSM will have on the future conduct of intelligence officers and military personnel. Will they have to read al Qaeda terrorists their Miranda rights? Will they have to secure the "crime scene" under battlefield conditions? Will they have to take statements from nearby "witnesses"? Will they have to gather evidence and secure its chain of custody for transport all the way back to New York? All of this while intelligence officers and soldiers operate in a war zone, trying to stay alive, and working to complete their mission and get out without casualties.

The Obama administration has rejected the tool designed to solve this tension between civilian trials and the demands of intelligence and military operations. In 2001, President George W. Bush established military commissions, which have a long history that includes World War II, the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. The lawyers in the Bush administration—I was one—understood that military commissions could guarantee a fair trial while protecting national security secrets from excessive exposure.

The Supreme Court has upheld the use of commissions for war crimes. The procedures for these commissions received the approval of Congress in 2006 and 2009.

Stranger yet, the Obama administration declared last week that it would use these military commissions to try five other al Qaeda operatives held at Guantanamo Bay, including Abu Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged planner of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. It should make no difference that this second group attacked a military target overseas. If anything, the deliberate attack on purely civilian targets in New York City represents the greater war crime.

For a preview of the KSM trial, look at what happened in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker who was arrested in the U.S. just before 9/11. His trial never made it to a jury. Moussaoui's lawyers tied the court up in knots.

All they had to do was demand that the government hand over all its intelligence on him. The case became a four-year circus, giving Moussaoui a platform to air his anti-American tirades. The only reason the trial ended was because, at the last minute, Moussaoui decided to plead guilty. That plea relieved the government of the choice between allowing a fishing expedition into its intelligence files or dismissing the charges.

KSM's lawyers will not save the government from itself. Instead they will press hard to reveal intelligence secrets in open court. Our intelligence agents and soldiers will be the ones to suffer.

Mr. Yoo is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He was an official in the Justice Department from 2001-03 and is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
26995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: November 15, 2009, 06:36:14 AM
Coming soon to a civilian courtroom blocks from Ground Zero: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other al Qaeda planners of 9/11. Be sure to get your tickets early, and don't forget to watch out for the truck-bomb barricades and rooftop snipers.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who dropped this legal bomb on New York yesterday, called his decision to move their trial on war crimes from a military courtroom at Guantanamo Bay to American soil "the toughest" he has had to make. Other words come to mind. For starters, intellectually and morally confused, dangerous and political to a fault.

This decision befits President Obama's rushed and misguided announcement on his second day in office that he would close Gitmo within a year. This was before the Administration had thought through what to do with the 215 prisoners there, though it did win him applause in Europe and on the American left. Yesterday's decision rids Gitmo of these meddlesome detainee cases in order to speed up this entirely political shutdown.

View Full Image

Associated Press
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
.Please spare us talk of the "rule of law." If that was the primary consideration, the U.S. already has a judicial process in place. The current special military tribunals were created by the 2006 Military Commissions Act, which was adopted with bipartisan Congressional support after the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision obliged the executive and legislative branches to approve a detailed plan to prosecute the illegal "enemy combatants" captured since 9/11.

Contrary to liberal myth, military tribunals aren't a break with 200-plus years of American jurisprudence. Eight Nazis who snuck into the U.S. in June 1942 were tried by a similar court and most were hanged within two months. Before the Obama Administration stopped all proceedings earlier this year pending yesterday's decision, the tribunals at Gitmo had earned a reputation for fairness and independence.

As it happens, Mr. Holder acknowledged their worth himself by announcing that the Guantanamo detainee who allegedly planned the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole off Yemen and four others would face military commission trials. (The Pentagon must now find a locale other than the multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art facility at Gitmo for its tribunal.)

Why the difference? Mr. Holder seemed to suggest that the Cole bombers struck a military target overseas and thus are a good fit for a military trial, while KSM and comrades hit the U.S. and murdered civilians and thus deserve a U.S. civilian trial. But this entirely misunderstands that both groups are unlawful enemy combatants who are accused of war crimes, whatever their targets. Mr. Holder's justification betrays not a legal consistency but a fundamentally political judgment that he can make as he sees fit.

The Military Commissions Act, by contrast, devised a careful, consistent legal process for every detainee. Remember when critics blamed President Bush for exercising too much executive discretion?

Mr. Holder expressed confidence that KSM and the rest will be convicted, but it is telling that he also delayed filing formal charges. Will KSM be formally charged with the 9/11 murders, or merely with "material support" for terrorism or some lesser offense? The specific charges may depend on how much evidence is admissable in a civilian courtroom. The MCA allowed for the reality that much of the evidence against enemy combatants may be classified, and it allowed for some hearsay evidence on grounds that they have been picked up on a battlefield, not in Brooklyn. There is no CSI: Kandahar. A civilian court has far tighter rules of evidence.

KSM and his co-conspirators so far have refused legal counsel and at one point tried to plead guilty. They may again. But an army of self-declared defenders of human rights from Yale Law and Shearman & Sterling will clamor to represent them. Those lawyers are certain to challenge all evidence obtained after KSM's March 2003 capture on grounds that it was produced by "torture," if you call waterboarding torture.

As he said at a hearing in 2007, "I was responsible for the 9/11 operation from A to Z." But even that admission will probably be challenged on grounds that the trauma of his "torture" means he wasn't capable of "informed consent." Oh, and once he got to Gitmo in 2006, he may not have been read his Miranda rights in full. The possibility exists that one or more of these detainees could be acquitted on procedural grounds, which would be a travesty of justice.

One certain outcome is that an open civilian trial will provide valuable information to terrorists across the world about American methods and intelligence. Precisely because so much other evidence may not be admissable, prosecutors may have to reveal genuine secrets to get a conviction. Osama bin Laden learned a lot from the 1995 prosecution in New York of the "blind cleric" Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman for the first World Trade Center attack. His main tip was that the U.S. considered bin Laden a terrorist co-conspirator, leading him to abandon his hideout in Sudan for Afghanistan.

Terrorists also love a big stage, and none come bigger than New York. Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, made his civilian trial a spectacle. Not even the best judge can entirely stop KSM and others from doing the same. And Mr. Holder has invited grave and needless security risks by tempting jihadists the world over to strike Manhattan while the trial is in session.

Most Americans, we suspect, can overlook the legal niceties and see this episode through the lens of common sense. Foreign terrorists who wage war on America and everything it stands for have no place sitting in a court of law born of the values they so detest. Mr. Holder has honored mass murder by treating it like any other crime.

26996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: The Missing Link on: November 15, 2009, 06:31:46 AM
Anyone want to take a stab at assessing the hypothesis here?

The Missing Link From Killeen to Kabul
Published: November 14, 2009
THE dead at Fort Hood had not even been laid to rest when their massacre became yet another political battle cry for the self-proclaimed patriots of the American right.

Their verdict was unambiguous: Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-born psychiatrist of Palestinian parentage who sent e-mail to a radical imam, was a terrorist. And he did not act alone. His co-conspirators included our military brass, the Defense Department, the F.B.I., the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and, of course, the liberal media and the Obama administration. All these institutions had failed to heed the warning signs raised by Hasan’s behavior and activities because they are blinded by political correctness toward Muslims, too eager to portray criminals as sympathetic victims of social injustice, and too cowardly to call out evil when it strikes 42 innocents in cold blood.
The invective aimed at these heinous P.C. pantywaists nearly matched that aimed at Hasan. Joe Lieberman announced hearings to investigate the Army for its dereliction of duty on homeland security. Peter Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, vowed to unmask cover-ups in the White House and at the C.I.A. The Weekly Standard blog published a broadside damning the F.B.I. for neglecting the “broader terrorist plot” of which Hasan was only one of the connected dots. Jerome Corsi, the major-domo of the successful Swift-boating of John Kerry, unearthed what he said was proof that Hasan had advised President Obama during the transition.

William Bennett excoriated soft military leaders like Gen. George Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, who had stood up for diversity and fretted openly about a backlash against Muslim soldiers in his ranks. “Blind diversity” that embraces Islam “equals death,” wrote Michelle Malkin. “There is a powerful case to be made that Islamic extremism is not some fringe phenomenon but part of the mainstream of Islamic life around the world,” wrote the columnist Jonah Goldberg. Islam is “not a religion,” declared the irrepressible Pat Robertson, but “a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world.”

As a snapshot of where a chunk of the country stands right now, these reactions to the Fort Hood bloodbath could not be more definitive. And it’s quite possible that some of what this crowd says is right — not about Islam in general, but about the systemic failure to stop a homicidal maniac like Hasan in particular. Whether he was an actual terrorist or an unfathomable mass murderer merely dabbling in jihadist ideas, the repeated red flags during his Army career illuminate a pattern of lapses in America’s national security. Whether those indicators were ignored because of political correctness, bureaucratic dysfunction, sheer incompetence or some hybrid thereof is still unclear, but, whichever, the system failed.

Yet the mass murder at Fort Hood didn’t happen in isolation. It unfolded against the backdrop of Obama’s final lap of decision-making about Afghanistan. For all the right’s jeremiads, its own brand of political correctness kept it from connecting two crucial dots: how our failing war against terrorists in Afghanistan might relate to our failure to stop a supposed terrorist attack at home. Most of those who decried the Army’s blindness to Hasan’s threat are strong proponents of sending more troops into our longest war. That they didn’t mention Afghanistan while attacking the entire American intelligence and defense apparatus in charge of that war may be the most telling revelation of this whole debate.

The reason they didn’t is obvious enough. Their screeds about the Hasan case are completely at odds with both the Afghanistan policy they endorse and the leadership that must execute that policy, including Gen. Stanley McChrystal. These hawks, all demanding that Obama act on McChrystal’s proposals immediately, do not seem to have read his strategy assessment for Afghanistan or the many press interviews he gave as it leaked out. If they had, they’d discover that the whole thrust of his counterinsurgency pitch is to befriend and win the support of the Afghan population — i.e., Muslims. The “key to success,” the general wrote in his brief to the president, will be “strong personal relationships forged between security forces and local populations.”

McChrystal thinks we might even jolly up those Muslims who historically and openly hate America. “I don’t think much of the Taliban are ideologically driven,” he told Dexter Filkins of The Times. “In my view their past is not important. Some people say, ‘Well, they have blood on their hands.’ I’d say, ‘So do a lot of people.’ I think we focus on future behavior.”

Whether we could win those hearts and minds is, arguably, an open question — though it’s an objective that would require a partner other than Hamid Karzai and many more troops than even McChrystal is asking for (or America presently has). But to say that McChrystal’s optimistic — dare one say politically correct? — view of Muslim pliability doesn’t square with that of America’s hawks is the understatement of the decade.

As their Fort Hood rhetoric made clear, McChrystal’s most vehement partisans don’t trust American Muslims, let alone those of the Taliban, no matter how earnestly the general may argue that they can be won over by our troops’ friendliness (or bribes). If, as the right has it, our Army cannot be trusted to recognize a Hasan in its own ranks, then how will it figure out who the “good” Muslims will be as we try to build a “stable” state (whatever “stable” means) in a country that has never had a functioning central government? If our troops can’t be protected from seemingly friendly Muslim American brethren in Killeen, Tex., what are the odds of survival for the 40,000 more troops the hawks want to deploy to Kabul and sinkholes beyond?

About the only prominent voice among the liberal-bashing, Obama-loathing right who has noted this gaping contradiction is Mark Steyn of National Review. “Members of the best trained, best equipped fighting force on the planet” were “gunned down by a guy who said a few goofy things no one took seriously,” he wrote. “And that’s the problem: America has the best troops and fiercest firepower, but no strategy for throttling the ideology that drives the enemy — in Afghanistan and in Texas.” You have to applaud Steyn’s rare intellectual consistency within his camp. One imagines that he does not buy the notion that our Army, however brilliant, has a shot at building “strong personal relationships” with a population that often regards us as occupiers and infidels.

In a week of horrific news, it was good to hear at the end of it that Obama is dissatisfied with the four Afghanistan options he has been weighing so far. The more time he deliberates, the more he is learning that he’s on a fool’s errand with no exit. After Karzai was spared a runoff last month and declared the winner of the fraud-infested August “election,” Obama demanded that he address his government’s corruption as a price for American support. Only days later the Afghan president mocked the American president by parading his most tainted cronies on camera and granting an interview to PBS’s “NewsHour” devoted to spewing his contempt for his American benefactors.

Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and, until recently, a State Department official in Afghanistan, could be found on MSNBC on Thursday once again asking the question no war advocate can answer, “Do you want Americans fighting and dying for the Karzai regime?” Hoh quit his post on principle in September despite the urging of colleagues, including our ambassador there, Karl W. Eikenberry, that he stay and fight over war policy from the inside. But Hoh had lost confidence in our strategy and would not retract his resignation. Now he has been implicitly seconded by Eikenberry himself. Last week we learned that the ambassador, a retired general who had been the top American military commander in Afghanistan as recently as 2007, had sent two cables to Obama urging caution about sending more troops.

We don’t know everything in those cables. What we do know is that American intelligence continues to say that fewer than 100 Qaeda operatives can still be found in Afghanistan. We also know that the Taliban, which are currently estimated to number in the tens of thousands, can’t be eliminated. As McChrystal put it to Filkins, there is no “finite number” of Taliban, so there’s no way to vanquish them. Hence his counterinsurgency alternative, which could take decades, costing untold billions and countless lives.

Perhaps those on the right are correct about Hasan, and he is just one cog in an apocalyptic jihadist plot that has infiltrated our armed forces. If so, then they have an obligation to explain how pouring more troops into Afghanistan would have stopped Hasan from plotting in Killeen. Don’t hold your breath. If we have learned anything concrete so far from the massacre at Fort Hood, it’s that our hawks, for all their certitude, are as utterly confused as the rest of us about who it is we’re fighting in Afghanistan and to what end.
26997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH on her book on: November 15, 2009, 06:20:57 AM
Memoir Is Palin’s Payback to McCain Campaign Recommend
Published: November 14, 2009

“Going Rogue,” the title of Sarah Palin’s erratic new memoir, comes from a phrase used by a disgruntled McCain aide to describe her going off-message during the campaign: among other things, for breaking with the campaign over its media strategy and its decision to pull out of Michigan, and for speaking out about reports that the Republican Party had spent more than $150,000 on fancy designer duds for her and her family. In fact, the most sustained and vehement barbs in this book are directed not at Democrats or liberals or the press, but at the McCain campaign. The very campaign that plucked her out of Alaska, anointed her the Republican vice-presidential nominee and made her one of the most talked about women on the planet — someone who could command a reported $5 million for writing this book.

In what reads like payback for McCain aides’ disparaging comments about her in the wake of the ticket’s loss to Barack Obama, Ms. Palin depicts the McCain campaign as overscripted, defeatist, disorganized and dunder-headed — slow to shift focus from the Iraq war to the cratering economy, insufficiently tough on Mr. Obama and contradictory in its media strategy. She also claims that the campaign billed her nearly $50,000 for “having been vetted.” The vetting, which was widely criticized in the press as being cursory and rushed, was, she insists, “thorough”: they knew “exactly what they’re getting.”

Some of Ms. Palin’s loudest complaints in this volume are directed at the McCain campaign’s chief strategist, Steve Schmidt. Mr. Schmidt, ironically enough, was one of the aides to most forcefully make the case for putting her on the ticket in the first place, arguing to his boss, as Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson reported in their recent book “The Battle for America,” that she would shake up the race and help him get his “reform mojo back.” Robert Draper reported in The New York Times Magazine that neither Mr. Schmidt nor Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, apparently saw Ms. Palin’s “lack of familiarity with major national or international issues as a serious liability,” and that Mr. McCain, a former Navy pilot, saw the idea of upending the chessboard as a maverick kind of move.

All in all, Ms. Palin emerges from “Going Rogue” as an eager player in the blame game, thoroughly ungrateful toward the McCain campaign for putting her on the national stage. As for the McCain campaign, it often feels like a desperate and cynical operation, willing to make a risky Hail Mary pass in order to try to score a tactical win, instead of making a considered judgment as to who might be genuinely qualified to sit a heartbeat away from the Oval Office.

In “Going Rogue,” Ms. Palin talks perfunctorily about fiscal responsibility and a muscular foreign policy, and more passionately about the importance of energy independence, but she is quite up front about the fact that much of her appeal lies in her just-folks, “hockey Mom” ordinariness. She pretends no particular familiarity with the Middle East, the Iraq war or Islamic politics — “I knew the history of the conflict,” she writes, “to the extent that most Americans did.” And she argues that “there’s no better training ground for politics than motherhood.”

A CNN poll taken last month indicates that 7 out of 10 Americans now think Ms. Palin is not qualified to be president, and even as ardent a conservative as Charles Krauthammer lamented in September 2008 “the paucity of any Palin record or expressed conviction on the major issues of our time.”

Yet, Mr. McCain’s astonishing decision to pick someone with so little experience (less than two years as the governor of Alaska, and before that, two terms as mayor of Wasilla, a town with fewer than 7,000 residents) as his running mate and Ms. Palin’s own surprisingly nonchalant reaction to Mr. McCain’s initial phone call about the vice president’s slot (she writes that it felt “like a natural progression”) underscore just how alarmingly expertise is discounted — or equated with elitism — in our increasingly democratized era, and just how thoroughly colorful personal narratives overshadow policy arguments and actual knowledge.

Indeed Ms. Palin suggests that she and her husband, Todd, are ideally qualified to represent the Joe Six Packs of the world because they are Joe Six Packs themselves. “We know what it’s like to be on a tight budget and wonder how we’re going to pay for our own health care, let alone college tuition,” she writes in “Going Rogue.” “We know what it’s like to work union jobs, to be blue-collar, white-collar, to have our kids in public schools. We felt our very normalcy, our status as ordinary Americans, could be a much-needed fresh breeze blowing into Washington, D.C.”

“Going Rogue” (written with an assist from Lynn Vincent, the editor of World, an evangelical magazine) is part cagey spin job, part earnest autobiography, part payback hit job. And its most compelling sections deal not with politics, but with Ms. Palin’s life in Alaska and her family. Despite an annoying tendency to gratuitously drop the names of lots of writers and philosophers — in the course of this book, she quotes or alludes to Pascal, Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Paine, Pearl S. Buck, Mark Twain and Melville — she does a lively job of conveying the frontier feel of the 49th state, where television broadcasts were tape-delayed in her youth and they shopped for clothes “via mail order through the Sears catalog,” where “we don’t have big league professional sports teams or many celebrities (except famous dog mushers),” and so regard politics as a local sport.

Page 2 of 2)

The self-portrait created in these pages recalls the early profiles of Ms. Palin that appeared in the wake of her debut on the national stage: a frontierswoman who knows how to field dress a moose; a feisty gal with lots of moxie and pep; a former beauty queen with a George W. Bush-like aptitude for mangling the English language (the first paragraph of the book contains the phrase “I breathed in an autumn bouquet that combined everything small-town America with rugged splashes of the Last Frontier”). She talks about juggling motherhood with politics, and gives a moving account of learning that her son Trig would be born with Down syndrome.

She recalls her initial feeling — “I don’t think I could handle that” — and her “sudden understanding of why people would grasp at a quick ‘solution,’ a way to make the ‘problem’ just go away,” though her own pro-life stance would deny women the choice of having an abortion.
Elsewhere in this volume, she talks about creationism, saying she “didn’t believe in the theory that human beings — thinking, loving beings — originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea” or from “monkeys who eventually swung down from the trees.” In everything that happens to her, from meeting Todd to her selection by Mr. McCain for the Republican ticket, she sees the hand of God: “My life is in His hands. I encourage readers to do what I did many years ago, invite Him in to take over.”

Just as Ms. Palin’s planned book tour resembles a campaign rollout — complete with a bus tour and pit stops in battleground states — so the second half of this book often reads like a calculated attempt to position the author for 2012. She tries to compare herself to Ronald Reagan, by repeatedly invoking his name and record. She talks about being “a Commonsense Conservative” and worrying about the national deficit. And she attempts to explain, rationalize or refute controversial incidents and allegations that emerged during the 2008 race.

She says she “never sought to ban any books” as mayor of Wasilla, and in fact has always had a “special passion for reading.” She suggests that the $150,000-plus designer clothes were the campaign’s idea, that she and her family are actually frugal coupon clippers who shop at Costco. And she says she was manipulated into doing that famous series of Katie Couric interviews (which would do much to cement an image of her as an easily caricatured ignoramus) by Nicolle Wallace, a communications aide for the campaign, and that Ms. Couric just seemed to want “to frame a ‘gotcha’ moment.”

Along the way, Ms. Palin acknowledges that she is a busy, “got to go-go-go” sort of person — and for an average hockey mom, pretty ambitious. “As every Iditarod musher knows,” she writes of the famous Alaska dog-sled race, “if you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes.”
26998  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: November 15, 2009, 06:11:49 AM
Nice finds Maija  cool
26999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: November 14, 2009, 01:45:33 PM

You have raised a matter that I confess gets me quite hot.  I find this whole area of the law to be quite outrageous.
27000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who will default first? on: November 14, 2009, 12:27:04 PM

Nov 11, 2009

Which big country will default first?
By Martin Hutchinson

Of the world's six largest economies, three have budget and public debt positions that if allowed to fester will push those nations into bankruptcy (the seventh largest, Italy, also has a budget and debt position that is highly vulnerable, but its problems appear chronic rather than acute).

Given the proclivities of modern politicians for delaying pain and avoiding problems, it is likely that festering is just what those positions will do. So which major country, the United States, Japan or Britain, will default first on its foreign debt?

The other three of the six top economies, Germany, China and France, appear to have fewer problems but are not out of the woods entirely. Germany has substantial public debt because of the costs involved in integrating the former East Germany, but those costs are now mostly past and the current government is highly disciplined - thus Germany is now the most stable major economy. France is less disciplined; its debt level is similar to that of Germany but its budget deficit is much higher, at around 8% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009, according to The Economist forecasting panel. However, its problems pale in comparison to those of the deficit-ridden trio. China has huge amounts of hidden debt in its banking system, which could well collapse, but its direct public debt is small, as is its budget deficit, so it is unlikely to enter formal default.

The worst budget balance of the three deficit countries is in Britain, where the forecast budget deficit for calendar 2009 is a staggering 14.5% of GDP. Furthermore, the Bank of England has been slightly more irresponsible in its financing mechanisms than even the Federal Reserve, leaving interest rates above zero but funding fully one third of public spending through direct money creation. Governor Mervyn King has a reputation in the world's chancelleries as a conservative man of economic understanding. He doesn't really deserve it, having been one of the 364 lunatic economists who signed a round-robin to Margaret Thatcher in 1981 denouncing her economic policies just as they were on the point of magnificently working, pulling Britain back from what seemed inevitable catastrophic decline.

King's quiet manner may be more reassuring to skeptics than the arrogance of "Helicopter Ben" Bernanke, the US Federal Reservechairman, but the reality of his policies is little sounder and the economic situation facing him is distinctly worse.

Britain has two additional problems not shared by the United States and Japan. First, its economy is in distinctly worse shape. Growth was negative in the third quarter of 2009, unlike the modest positive growth in the US and the sharp uptick in Japan. Moreover, whereas US house prices are now at a reasonable level, in terms of incomes (albeit still perhaps 10% above their eventual bottom), Britain's house prices are still grossly inflated, possibly in London even double their appropriate level in terms of income.

The financial services business in Britain is a larger part of the overall economy than in the US and the absurd exemption from tax for foreigners has brought a huge disparity between the few foreigners at the top of the City of London and the unfortunate locals toiling for mere mortal rewards. A recent story that the housing market for London homes priced above 5 million British pounds (US$8.3 million) was being reflated by Goldman Sachs bonuses indicates the problem, and suggests that the further deflation needed in UK housing will have a major and unpleasant economic effect.

A second British problem not shared by the US is its excessive reliance on financial services. As detailed in previous columns, this sector has roughly doubled in the last 30 years as a share of both British and US GDP. In addition, the sector's vulnerability to a restoration of a properly tight monetary policy has been enormously increased through its addiction to trading revenue. The US has many other ways of making a living if its financial services sector shrinks, and New York is only a modest part of the overall economy. Britain is horribly over-dependent on financial services, and the painful if salutary effects of London costs being pushed down to national levels by a lengthy recession are less likely to be counterbalanced by exuberant growth elsewhere.

The other question to be answered for all three countries is that of political will. If, as is certainly the case in Britain, deficits at the current levels will lead to default (albeit not for some years since the country's public debt is still quite low), then to avoid default tough decisions must be taken. Britain is in poor shape in this respect. Its prime minister, Gordon Brown, is largely responsible for the underlying budget problem, having overspent when Chancellor of the Exchequer, or finance minister, during the boom years, largely on added bureaucracy rather than on anything productive or value-creating. However, the opposition Conservatives, likely to take power next spring, are led by a center-leftist with a background in public relations and no discernable backbone or principles.

Britain has a history of such leaders, which it has managed to survive - the ineffable Harold Macmillan, in particular, who wanted to abolish the stock exchange and contemplated nationalizing the banks when they raised interest rates, was a man of outlook and temperament very similar to David Cameron's. Macmillan was notoriously prone to soft options that postponed economic problems, firing his entire Treasury team in pursuit of soft options in 1958 and leaving behind an appalling legacy of inflationary bubble on his retirement in 1963. If Cameron is truly like Macmillan, his government's response to economic and financial disaster will be one of wriggle rather than confrontation.

With neither party providing solutions to an economic crisis, the British public is likely to discover that, unlike in the crisis of 1976, no solutions will be found. Default (doubtless disguised as with Argentina as "renegotiation") would in that case inevitably follow.

The United States is in somewhat better shape than Britain. Its deficit is somewhat lower, at 11.9% of GDP in calendar 2009, although its debt level is higher if you include the direct debt of mortgage guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as you should. It also has lower overall levels of public spending, although spending is rising rapidly. Furthermore, it has a much more diverse economy and a healthier real estate market, so that further likely downturns in California and Manhattan real estateand the financial services sector can be easily overcome.

US pundits like to whine about the impending deficits in social security and healthcare, but the former is easily overcome by adjusting the retirement age while the latter could be greatly mitigated by simple cost-containment measures, such as limiting trial lawyer depredations, making the state pay for the "emergency room" mandate to treat the indigent and allowing interstate competition for health insurance. All those changes would be politically difficult, but they are clearly visible and involve no damaging cuts in vital services, unlike the changes that would probably be necessary in Britain.

The other US advantage is political: it has an alternative to overspending. Last Tuesday's election results were a useful shot across the bows of the overspending consensus that had developed in both the George W Bush and Barack Obama administrations (as well as among the barons of Congress) since 2007. Whereas voter concern about spiraling deficits and public spending has no satisfactory outlet in Britain, it can now express itself clearly in the US, producing either a sharp change of policy by the current administration and Congress or a change of administration in 2012. Since the likelihood of a reversal of policy towards sound budgetary management is greater in the US than in Britain, the probability of eventual default is less.

Japan has already had its change of government, throwing out the faction of the Liberal Democrat Party (LDP) that regarded politics as the art of creating pointless infrastructure. Unfortunately, the Japanese electorate, faced in August with a no-good-choices problem similar to that of US voters last year and British voters next spring, replaced a long-serving overspending government with another committed to a different set of spending priorities rather than to ending the spending itself. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has cut back sharply on the infrastructure "stimulus" but is showing signs of replacing it with social spending. It is also committed to economically dozy policies such as reversing postal privatization, organized with such great political effort by prime minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2005.

Japan does however have a couple of advantages that may enable it to avoid default. First, its public debt carries very low interest rates, mostly below 2% per annum, and is owned almost entirely by its own citizens. What's more, state-owned entities such as the now un-privatized Postal Bank lend vast amounts of money to the government, acting as conduits to the less efficient bits of the public sector in the same way as do China's state-owned banks. This is appallingly bad for the efficiency of the economy and for living standards, but it postpones default and makes it less likely.

Second, it's not inevitable that the LDP's wasteful infrastructure spending will simply be replaced by wasteful social spending. Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii is reputed to be a budgetary hard-liner. Further, at least part of the DPJ's spending will take the form of handouts to families with children. That may increase domestic consumption compared with exports and thereby better balance the Japanese economy, increasing its growth potential marginally. Nevertheless, since Japan's public debt is currently around 200% of GDP, Japan is much closer to the default precipice than either the US or Britain. Thus, while the better structure of Japan's economy and its debt make Japan's probability of default lower than Britain's, it's likely that if both countries defaulted, Japan would do so first.

We have not experienced a debt default by a major economy since the 1930s. That three such defaults are currently conceivable indicates both the severity of the current downturn and the wrong-headedness of the policies taken to address it. If it happens, a major sovereign debt default of this kind will cause the seizure of global capital markets, prolonging downturn for a decade or more.

We'd all better hope the urge for fiscal responsibility hits London, Washington and Tokyo pretty damn soon.

Martin Hutchinson is the author of Great Conservatives (Academica Press, 2005).
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