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27101  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: October 16, 2008, 10:34:30 AM
Woof All:

Those of us in the Hermosa Clan will remember Dog Tim Nelson, a.k.a. "The Hobbit".    Dog Tim lives an unusually close to nature life-- even when he was here in LA he was an , , , "urban camper" whose only transportation was his bicycle-- which he rode barefoot.  In LA this is quite a trick.  To come train in the backyard group or at the Inosanto Academy, he would bicycle all the way from his , , , campsite somewhere around Koreatown, train, go to the Dune with us and smoke us on the Dune, then bicycle home.  Dog Tim had the most amazing feet-- kind of like you would imagine a Cro-magnon man to have, hence his nickname "the Hobbit".

Tim's life took him elsewhere, but the guys continue to ask me from time to time if I have heard from him.  I just got an email with him and take the liberty of sharing it here with the Tribe.


Hi Marc:

This Tim Nelson, the pony tailed big footed bearded guy of several years back who trained with you.

Well, just dropping a line; I am living in southern Oregon in the mountains with other people, living under tarps or tipis, baby on the way, girlfriend has a 5 yearold, live with other parents and mothers, we freerange goats in the forest, milk them and pack them. Moving more and more towards a nomadic life foraging and hunting and 'pastoraling'.

I was recently at a barter fair and was watching a 4 year old playing with a stick with an older man and the boys movement looked so natural and perfect to my eye, perfect in slow 4 year old form. and I wondered if you got some of your simple but profound ideas of movement from children that were naturals.

Health is good, bout with lyme, a doosy, rockin now. That's a whole world with info, trapping, hunting, tracking, are my main areas of passion other than the thousand things that go into parenthood, woods life, community life, spouse, they put bread/meat on the table and satisfy a similiar need the fighting may have, I pretty much wrestle who I can, and sport knife spar anyone I can too. using the video clips of the knife stuff I played with a large framed friend with an unusual fast and slow twitch muscle combo with hi coordination and I found it very neat stuff.

Well thats enuf, I bet you get lotsa emails, I wish you the best,
27102  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO's 95% Illusion on: October 16, 2008, 10:13:30 AM
Obama's 95% Illusion
It depends on what the meaning of 'tax cut' is.Article
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One of Barack Obama's most potent campaign claims is that he'll cut taxes for no less than 95% of "working families." He's even promising to cut taxes enough that the government's tax share of GDP will be no more than 18.2% -- which is lower than it is today.

APIt's a clever pitch, because it lets him pose as a middle-class tax cutter while disguising that he's also proposing one of the largest tax increases ever on the other 5%. But how does he conjure this miracle, especially since more than a third of all Americans already pay no income taxes at all? There are several sleights of hand, but the most creative is to redefine the meaning of "tax cut."

For the Obama Democrats, a tax cut is no longer letting you keep more of what you earn. In their lexicon, a tax cut includes tens of billions of dollars in government handouts that are disguised by the phrase "tax credit." Mr. Obama is proposing to create or expand no fewer than seven such credits for individuals:

 - A $500 tax credit ($1,000 a couple) to "make work pay" that phases out at income of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 per couple.

- A $4,000 tax credit for college tuition.

- A 10% mortgage interest tax credit (on top of the existing mortgage interest deduction and other housing subsidies).

- A "savings" tax credit of 50% up to $1,000.

- An expansion of the earned-income tax credit that would allow single workers to receive as much as $555 a year, up from $175 now, and give these workers up to $1,110 if they are paying child support.

- A child care credit of 50% up to $6,000 of expenses a year.

- A "clean car" tax credit of up to $7,000 on the purchase of certain vehicles.

Here's the political catch. All but the clean car credit would be "refundable," which is Washington-speak for the fact that you can receive these checks even if you have no income-tax liability. In other words, they are an income transfer -- a federal check -- from taxpayers to nontaxpayers. Once upon a time we called this "welfare," or in George McGovern's 1972 campaign a "Demogrant." Mr. Obama's genius is to call it a tax cut.

The Tax Foundation estimates that under the Obama plan 63 million Americans, or 44% of all tax filers, would have no income tax liability and most of those would get a check from the IRS each year. The Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis estimates that by 2011, under the Obama plan, an additional 10 million filers would pay zero taxes while cashing checks from the IRS.

The total annual expenditures on refundable "tax credits" would rise over the next 10 years by $647 billion to $1.054 trillion, according to the Tax Policy Center. This means that the tax-credit welfare state would soon cost four times actual cash welfare. By redefining such income payments as "tax credits," the Obama campaign also redefines them away as a tax share of GDP. Presto, the federal tax burden looks much smaller than it really is.

The political left defends "refundability" on grounds that these payments help to offset the payroll tax. And that was at least plausible when the only major refundable credit was the earned-income tax credit. Taken together, however, these tax credit payments would exceed payroll levies for most low-income workers.

It is also true that John McCain proposes a refundable tax credit -- his $5,000 to help individuals buy health insurance. We've written before that we prefer a tax deduction for individual health care, rather than a credit. But the big difference with Mr. Obama is that Mr. McCain's proposal replaces the tax subsidy for employer-sponsored health insurance that individuals don't now receive if they buy on their own. It merely changes the nature of the tax subsidy; it doesn't create a new one.

There's another catch: Because Mr. Obama's tax credits are phased out as incomes rise, they impose a huge "marginal" tax rate increase on low-income workers. The marginal tax rate refers to the rate on the next dollar of income earned. As the nearby chart illustrates, the marginal rate for millions of low- and middle-income workers would spike as they earn more income.

Some families with an income of $40,000 could lose up to 40 cents in vanishing credits for every additional dollar earned from working overtime or taking a new job. As public policy, this is contradictory. The tax credits are sold in the name of "making work pay," but in practice they can be a disincentive to working harder, especially if you're a lower-income couple getting raises of $1,000 or $2,000 a year. One mystery -- among many -- of the McCain campaign is why it has allowed Mr. Obama's 95% illusion to go unanswered.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
27103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 16, 2008, 09:01:10 AM
It's been a while since German military officers attended rallies that feature threats to Jews. Last month Berlin's defense attaché in Tehran resumed that tradition at Iran's annual military parade.

The German envoy had the privilege of hearing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promise to "break the hands" of invaders amid banners that read "Israel should be eradicated from the universe" and shouts of "Down with Israel" and "We will crush America under our feet."

Iran's parades are notorious for their "Death to Israel and America" slogans, which is why the European Union shuns these hate-filled spectacles. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was "very annoyed" about the attaché's faux pas, according to a report in Der Spiegel, and summoned Herbert Honsowitz, the ambassador to the Islamic Republic, to Berlin. Mr. Honsowitz, who is known for pushing trade between the two nations, has since returned to his post and is expected to serve out his term.

This episode illustrates the fundamental problem with Germany's attitude toward Iran: the disconnect between what Berlin says is its official policy goal -- stopping the mullahs' quest for nuclear arms -- and what Berlin actually does. Germany remains Iran's key Western trading partner. The German-Iranian Chamber of Industry and Trade counts about 2,000 members, including such big names as Siemens and BASF. In the first seven months of this year, Germany's Federal Office of Economics and Export Control approved 1,926 business deals with Iran -- an increase of 63% over last year. During that same period, German exports to Iran rose 14.1%.

For the record, French exports went up 21% during the first six months of the year, but they are still worth less than half of Germany's €2.2 billion of exports. Britain's exports to Tehran, only a fraction of Germany's trade with Iran, fell 20%. And while France and the U.K. are both pushing for tougher EU sanctions against Iran, Germany is reluctant to join their cause.

Given this reality, it's not surprising that Berlin's ambassador in Tehran apparently thought nothing of sending a military envoy to Iran's "Down with Israel" rally. He simply put Germany's mouth where its money already is.

27104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Somali influx on: October 16, 2008, 08:49:11 AM
This could have gone in the Immigration thread as well.  As with most things from the NYT, caveat lector:

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Like many workers at the meatpacking plant here, Raul A. Garcia, a Mexican-American, has watched with some discomfort as hundreds of Somali immigrants have moved to town in the past couple of years, many of them to fill jobs once held by Latino workers taken away in immigration raids.

Immigrant vs. Immigrant
This is the fourth article in a series that explores efforts by government and others to compel illegal immigrants to leave the United States.

Mr. Garcia has been particularly troubled by the Somalis’ demand that they be allowed special breaks for prayers that are obligatory for devout Muslims. The breaks, he said, would inconvenience everyone else.

“The Latino is very humble,” said Mr. Garcia, 73, who has worked at the plant, owned by JBS U.S.A. Inc., since 1994. “But they are arrogant,” he said of the Somali workers. “They act like the United States owes them.”

Mr. Garcia was among more than 1,000 Latino and other workers who protested a decision last month by the plant’s management to cut their work day — and their pay — by 15 minutes to give scores of Somali workers time for evening prayers.

After several days of strikes and disruptions, the plant’s management abandoned the plan.

But the dispute peeled back a layer of civility in this southern Nebraska city of 47,000, revealing slow-burning racial and ethnic tensions that have been an unexpected aftermath of the enforcement raids at workplaces by federal immigration authorities.

Grand Island is among a half dozen or so cities where discord has arisen with the arrival of Somali workers, many of whom were recruited by employers from elsewhere in the United States after immigration raids sharply reduced their Latino work forces.

The Somalis are by and large in this country legally as political refugees and therefore are not singled out by immigration authorities.

In some of these places, including Grand Island, this newest wave of immigrant workers has had the effect of unifying the other ethnic populations against the Somalis and has also diverted some of the longstanding hostility toward Latino immigrants among some native-born residents.

“Every wave of immigrants has had to struggle to get assimilated,” said Margaret Hornady, the mayor of Grand Island and a longtime resident of Nebraska. “Right now, it’s so volatile.”

The federal immigration crackdown has hit meat- and poultry-packing plants particularly hard, with more than 2,000 immigrant workers in at least nine places detained since 2006 in major raids, most on immigration violations.

Struggling to fill the grueling low-wage jobs that attract few American workers, the plants have placed advertisements in immigrant newspapers and circulated fliers in immigrant neighborhoods.

Some companies, like Swift & Company, which owned the plant in Grand Island until being bought up by the Brazilian conglomerate JBS last year, have made a particular pitch for Somalis because of their legal status. Tens of thousands of Somali refugees fleeing civil war have settled in the United States since the 1990s, with the largest concentration in Minnesota.

But the companies are learning that in trying to solve one problem they have created another.

Early last month, about 220 Somali Muslims walked off the job at a JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley, Colo., saying the company had prevented them from observing their prayer schedule. (More than 100 of the workers were later fired.)

Days later, a poultry company in Minnesota agreed to allow Muslim workers prayer breaks and the right to refuse handling pork products, settling a lawsuit filed by nine Somali workers.

In August, the management of a Tyson chicken plant in Shelbyville, Tenn., designated a Muslim holy day as a paid holiday, acceding to a demand by Somali workers. The plant had originally agreed to substitute the Muslim holy day for Labor Day, but reinstated Labor Day after a barrage of criticism from non-Muslims.

In some workplaces, newly arrived Somali Muslims have not protested their working conditions. That has been the case at Agriprocessors, a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. About 150 Somali Muslims have found jobs there, most of them recruited by a staffing company after the plant lost about half its work force in an immigration raid in May.

Jack Shandley, a senior vice president for JBS U.S.A., said in an e-mail message that “integrating persons of diverse backgrounds regularly presents new and different issues.”

“Religious accommodation is only one workplace diversity issue that has been addressed,” Mr. Shandley said.

Nationwide, employment discrimination complaints by Muslim workers have more than doubled in the past decade, to 607 in the 2007 fiscal year, from 285 in the 1998 fiscal year, according to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has sent representatives to Grand Island to interview Somali workers.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employers to discriminate based on religion and says that employers must “reasonably accommodate” religious practices. But the act offers some exceptions, including instances when adjustments would cause “undue hardship” on the company’s business interests.


(Page 2 of 3)

The new tensions here extend well beyond the walls of the plant. Scratch beneath Grand Island’s surface and there is resentment, discomfort and mistrust everywhere, some residents say — between the white community and the various immigrant communities; between the older immigrant communities, like the Latinos, and the newer ones, namely the Somalis and the Sudanese, another refugee community that has grown here in recent years; and between the Somalis, who are largely Muslim, and the Sudanese, who are largely Christian.

In dozens of interviews here, white, Latino and other residents seemed mostly bewildered, if not downright suspicious, of the Somalis, very few of whom speak English.

“I kind of admire all the effort they make to follow that religion, but sometimes you have to adapt to the workplace,” said Fidencio Sandoval, a plant worker born in Mexico who has become an American citizen. “A new culture comes in with their demands and says, ‘This is what we want.’ This is kind of new for me.”

Ms. Hornady, the mayor, suggested somewhat apologetically that she had been having difficulty adjusting to the presence of Somalis. She said she found the sight of Somali women, many of whom wear Muslim headdresses, or hijabs, “startling.”

“I’m sorry, but after 9/11, it gives some of us a turn,” she said.

Not only do the hijabs suggest female subjugation, Ms. Hornady said, but the sight of Muslims in town made her think of Osama bin Laden and the attacks on the United States.

“I know that that’s horrible and that’s prejudice,” she said. “I’m working very hard on it.”

She added, “Aren’t a lot of thoughtful Americans struggling with this?”

For their part, the Somalis say they feel aggrieved and not particularly welcome.

“A lot of people look at you weird — they judge you,” said Abdisamad Jama, 22, a Somali who moved to Grand Island two years ago to work as an interpreter at the plant and now freelances. “Or sometimes they will say, ‘Go back to your country.’ ”

Founded in the mid-19th century by German immigrants, Grand Island gradually became more diverse in the mid- and late-20th century with the arrival of Latino workers, mainly Mexicans.

The Latinos came at first to work in the agricultural fields; later arrivals found employment in the meatpacking plant. Refugees from Laos and, in the past few years, Sudan followed, and many of them also found work in the plant, which is now the city’s largest employer, with about 2,700 workers.

In December 2006, in an event that would deeply affect the city and alter its uneasy balance of ethnicities, immigration authorities raided the plant and took away more than 200 illegal Latino workers. Another 200 or so workers quit soon afterward.

The raid was one of six sweeps by federal agents at plants owned by Swift, gutting the company of about 1,200 workers in one day and forcing the plants to slow their operations.

Many of the Somalis who eventually arrived to fill those jobs were practicing Muslims and their faith obliges them to pray at five fixed times every day. In Grand Island, the workers would grab prayer time whenever they could, during scheduled rest periods or on restroom breaks. But during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast in daylight hours and break their fast in a ritualistic ceremony at sundown. A more formal accommodation of their needs was necessary, the Somali workers said.

Last year, the Somalis here demanded time off for the Ramadan ceremony. The company refused, saying it could not afford to let so many workers step away from the production line at one time. Dozens of Somalis quit, though they eventually returned to work.

The situation repeated itself last month. Dennis Sydow, the plant’s vice president and general manager, said a delegation of Somali workers approached him on Sept. 10 about allowing them to take their dinner break at 7:30 p.m., near sundown, rather than at the normal time of 8 to 8:30.

Mr. Sydow rejected the request, saying the production line would slow to a crawl and the Somalis’ co-workers would unfairly have to take up the slack.

The Somalis said their co-workers did not offer a lot of support. “Latinos were sometimes saying, ‘Don’t pray, don’t pray,’ ” said Abdifatah Warsame, 21.


e 3 of 3)

After the Somalis went out on strike on Sept. 15, the plant’s management and the union brokered a deal the next day that would have shifted the dinner break to 7:45 p.m., close enough to sundown to satisfy the Somalis. Because of the plant’s complex scheduling rules, the new dinner break would have also required an earlier end to the shift, potentially cutting the work day by 15 minutes.

Word of the accord spread quickly throughout the non-Somali work force, though the reports were infected with false rumors of pay raises for the Somalis and more severe cuts in the work day for everyone.

In a counterprotest on Sept. 17, more than 1,000 Latino and Sudanese workers lined up alongside white workers in opposition to the concessions to the Somalis.

“We had complaints from the whites, Hispanics and Sudanese,” said Abdalla Omar, 26, one of the Somali strikers.

The union and the plant management backed down, reverting to the original dinner schedule. More than 70 Somalis, including Mr. Omar and Mr. Warsame, stormed out of the plant and did not return; they either quit or were fired.

Since then, Ramadan has ended and work has returned to normal at the plant, but most everyone — management, the union and the employees — says the root causes of the disturbances have not been fully addressed. A sizeable Somali contingent remains employed at the factory — Somali leaders say the number is about 100; the union puts the figure at more than 300, making similar disruptions possible next year.

“Right now, this is a real kindling box,” said Daniel O. Hoppes, president of the local chapter of the union, the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Xawa Ahmed, 48, a Somali, moved to Grand Island from Minnesota last month to help organize the Somali community. A big part of her work, Ms. Ahmed said, will be to help demystify the Somalis who remain.

“We’re trying to make people understand why we do these things, why we practice this religion, why we live in America,” she said. “There’s a lot of misunderstanding.”
27105  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Brain damage in boxing, kickboxing, football, etc: on: October 16, 2008, 08:34:10 AM
Hat tip to Dog Ryan for this intereseting article:

Fix A Glass Jaw??!!!

Amir Khan searching for remedy after refusing to take defeat on the chin

The Times, October 9, 2008

A boxer can do a hundred abdominal crunches, a thousand press-ups and dance with a skipping rope all day. He can learn the art of attack and defence. But one question, particularly pertinent to Amir Khan, continues to vex even the wisest boxing brains (and that is not an oxymoron) - can anything be done about a glass chin?

“If we knew the answer, that would be like solving the biggest mystery in the history of all boxing,” Emanuel Steward, one of the sport's premier trainers, once said. Angelo Dundee, who guided the great Muhammad Ali, sees no great mystery. “You can't train a chin,” he said, simply.

Yet that is what Khan, 21, will be attempting under the tutelage of Freddie Roach at his Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles when the young Briton heads west next week to rebuild his career.  The trainer is devising a series of exercises, based on martial arts techniques, to “deaden the nerves on the jaw”, or at least try to condition them so that one big blow does not again leave Khan resembling a puppet cut loose from its strings. “Is it sound? I'm not sure,” Roach said. “But we've learnt some Thai techniques working with Manny Pacquiao [the Filipino world lightweight champion]. He was suffering with blows to his body, so, using martial arts, he got us to hit him with a stick.
“I'm not saying we are going to be hitting Amir Khan with a stick, but there is a belief you can deaden the nerves using pressure, tension, wrestling exercises with the chin on the ground. We'll try and deaden, or toughen, those nerves on the tip of his jaw.”

Most of the time will be spent trying to alter Khan's style so that he is not hit so often and does not suffer the sort of knockout blow that cost him a surprise 54-second defeat by Breidis Prescott in Manchester last month. It was his third knockdown in 19 professional bouts.

But the gym work on Khan's suspect jaw does raise, again, the question of whether a boxer can physically alter his ability to withstand a heavy blow or whether, for better or worse, he is stuck with his chin. “Not every great boxer has a great chin,” Roach said. “It is like a big puncher. They can be improved, but you generally get what you are born with.”

That has not stopped Roach embracing those martial arts techniques, usually employed to toughen up shins and feet for kickboxing and similar disciplines. There have long been theories, their effectiveness unproven, about strengthening the jaw muscles or conditioning the neck.

According to Dr Barry Jordan, a neurologist who was once chief medical officer for the New York State Athletic Commission and has researched boxing's effects on the brain, there are several factors to consider when weighing up why some boxers collapse while others, from George Chuvalo to Antonio Margarito, seem capable of withstanding sledgehammer blows.

Jordan believes that anticipating the punch and possessing strong neck muscles assist a boxer. There is little doubt that Khan not only has a suspect chin but sticks it out, too. “I think he's made mistakes looking for the big knockout because then you put yourself in harm's way,” Roach said. “He started out knocking people down with one punch, but the higher you climb, you need to protect yourself.”

Yet Jordan believes that, while training can make a boxer better able to roll with the punches, the glass chin is a weakness that is handed out at birth. “We know that there is a gene that makes certain boxers liable to neurological impairment over the long term and, while no one has ever conducted detailed research on the effects of one punch, a good chin is about a fighter's genetic predisposition to tolerate punishment,” he said. “In layman's terms, the blow, the sudden acceleration and rotation of the head, causes a disconnection. The ability to withstand that may alter during the career of a boxer.”

But, as far as he can tell, a boxer's tolerance cannot be greatly affected in the gym. If Khan is stuck with this weakness, his best hope is to not get hit, which is why he is spending the next six weeks with Roach. “They say Willie Pep didn't have a great chin, so he changed his style,” Roach said. “And we are talking about one of the greatest boxers of all time. We will be talking to Amir about the way he stands, holds his hands, everything.”

Khan will spar with Pacquiao, the world champion who faces Oscar De La Hoya in December, which should help him to become accustomed to heavy punches and please those who believe that a glass jaw is a matter of heart as much as chin.

No amount of work, though, may solve the abiding mystery of the porcelain jaw. “After that sort of knockdown, some guys roll over and die,” Roach said. “Some get better. Amir seems pretty positive to me, but I really won't know - no one will - until he's back in the ring.”
27106  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 16, 2008, 08:09:11 AM
Grateful to be back home with my family and to have a nice big long slow but intense workout at my favorite neighborhood gym to clean all the airplane seats out of my hips and waist.
27107  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 16, 2008, 08:07:13 AM

There were oddslike that on a last minute (literally!) fill in fight like that one was?

With regard to the Sharmrocks:  I never thought that much of Ken-- I'm hard pressed to think of a single impressive fight.  Frank OTOH has a number of really good fights to his credit.  I thought he fought well in his recent loss to Cung Le.  Given the size differential and converse fighting rep differential and the well known dislike between the adopted brthers, I suppose they could market an audience for a fight, , ,
27108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: Immigration; Hamilton on: October 16, 2008, 07:55:26 AM
"[T]he policy or advantage of [immigration] taking place in
a body (I mean the settling of them in a body) may be much
questioned; for, by so doing, they retain the Language, habits
and principles (good or bad) which they bring with them. Whereas
by an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendants,
get assimilated to our customs, measures and laws: in a word,
soon become one people."

-- George Washington (letter to John Adams, 15 November 1794)

Reference: The Writings of George Washington from the Original
Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, Fitzpatrick, Ed., vol. 34 (American
Memory Co
"States, like individuals, who observe their engagements, are
respected and trusted: while the reverse is the fate of those
who pursue an opposite conduct."

-- Alexander Hamilton (Report on Public Credit, 9 January 1790)

Reference: The Reports of Alexander Hamilton, Cooke, ed. (3)
27109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove on: October 16, 2008, 12:12:10 AM
Well, running on Hillary's solution to the Wall Street meltdown of buying up the bad mortgages certainly wasn't a great way to start out the evening , , ,  tongue


Obama Hasn't Closed the Sale
Both candidates continue to tinker with their strategies.By KARL ROVEArticle
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In the campaign's final two weeks, voters will take a last serious look at both presidential candidates. The outcome of the race isn't cast in stone yet.

Barack Obama holds a 7.3% lead in the Real Clear Politics average of all polls, but the latest Gallup tracking poll reveals that there are nearly twice as many undecided voters this year than there were in the last presidential election. The Investor's Business Daily/TIPP poll (which was closest to the mark in predicting the 2004 outcome -- 0.4% off the actual result) now says this is a three-point race.

APThis week also brought a reminder that Sen. Obama hasn't closed the sale. The Washington Post/ABC poll found 45% of voters still don't think he's qualified to be president, about the same number who doubted his qualifications in March.

This is seven points more than George W. Bush's highest reading in 2000 and the worst since Michael Dukakis's 56% unqualified rating in 1988. It explains why Mr. Obama has ignored Democratic giddiness and done two things to keep victory from slipping away.

First, he is using his money to try to keep John McCain from gaining traction. The Obama campaign raised $67 million in September and may be on track to raise $100 million in October. Sen. McCain opted last month for roughly $85 million in public financing, giving him less than half of Mr. Obama's funds for the campaign's final two months. Even with robust Republican National Committee fund raising to augment his spending, Mr. McCain is at a severe financial disadvantage.

So Mr. Obama is spending $35 million on TV this week versus the McCain/RNC total of $17 million. Mr. Obama is outspending Mr. McCain on TV in Virginia by a ratio of 4 to 1, in Florida by 3 to 1, and in Missouri and Nevada by better than 2 to 1. The disparity is likely to grow in the campaign's final weeks.

Money alone, however, won't decide the contest. John Kerry and the Democrats outspent Mr. Bush and the GOP in 2004 by $121 million and still lost.

Mr. Obama's other strategy is to do all he can to look presidential, including buying very expensive half-hour slots to address the country next week. He wants to give a serious, Oval-Office type address. This is smart. People appreciate Mr. Obama's empathy on the economy, but as they take a long look at what he wants to do about it, they will be less impressed, especially if Mr. McCain draws sharp contrasts with clear policy proposals.

Mr. Obama is trying to make the case that his lack of experience or record should not disqualify him. But in doing so, he seems to recognize that the U.S. is still a center-right country. His TV ads promise tax cuts and his radio ads savage Mr. McCain's health-care plan as a tax increase. It's a startling campaign conversion for the most liberal member of the Senate. We'll know on Election Day if he is able to get away with it.

About Karl Rove
Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy making process.

Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.

Karl writes a weekly op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, is a Newsweek columnist and is now writing a book to be published by Simon & Schuster. Email the author at or visit him on the web at
Similarly, Mr. McCain appears to be making three important course corrections. First, he and Gov. Sarah Palin are sharpening their stump speeches so their sound bites come off well on TV. Gone are offhand remarks and awkward comments read from notes perched on a podium. In are teleprompters and carefully crafted arguments. Mr. McCain is also more at ease than before and has an ebullient, come-from-behind underdog optimism that will serve him well in the final weeks.

Second, Mr. McCain is shaping a story line that draws on well-founded concerns about Mr. Obama's lack of record or experience. Mr. McCain is also bowing to reality and devoting most of his time to the economy. His narrative is he's the conservative reformer who'll lead and work hard to get things done, while Mr. Obama is the tax-and-spend liberal who's unprepared to lead and unwilling to act.

Mr. McCain is hitting Mr. Obama for wanting to raise taxes in difficult economic times, especially on small business and for the purpose of redistributing income, and for having lavish spending plans at a time when the economy is faltering. He's criticizing Mr. Obama for lingering on the sidelines while Mr. McCain dove in to help pass a rescue plan, necessary no matter how distasteful. And he's attacking Mr. Obama for not joining the fight in 2005 when reformers like Mr. McCain tried to rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Mr. McCain's other adjustment is his schedule. His campaign understands the dire circumstances it faces and is narrowing his travels almost exclusively to Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, Colorado and Nevada. If he carries those states, while losing only Iowa and New Mexico from the GOP's 2004 total, Mr. McCain will carry 274 Electoral College votes and the White House. It's threading the needle, but it's come to that.

This task, while not impossible, will be difficult. By mid-September, the McCain camp was slightly ahead in the polls. Then came the financial crisis. The past month has taken an enormous toll on the McCain campaign.

Whether it can find the right formula in the next 19 days to dig out is a question. If Mr. McCain succeeds, he will have engineered the most impressive and improbable political comeback since Harry Truman in 1948. But having to reach back more than a half-century for inspiration is not the place campaign managers want to be now.

Mr. Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
27110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: October 15, 2008, 12:46:05 PM
See my entry today in the Iraq thread-- it mentions that recent attacks on Christians may have been the work of AQ.
27111  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: October 15, 2008, 12:44:42 PM
Then use something other than Wikipedia.  There's plenty out there on him and his influence on BO bodes quite ill for America.
27112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: October 15, 2008, 12:40:48 PM

The Chaos Strategy

A federal appeals court ruled last night that Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner must provide county election boards with state voter registration information so they can check the validity of some 666,000 new voter registrations submitted to Ohio officials in recent months.

The order, which Ms. Brunner vigorously resisted, will mean county boards will be able to stop counting absentee ballots if the registration linked to them doesn't match the name of a real person listed in government databases.

Ms. Brunner's office had argued that the federal Help America Vote Act did not require any such matching, and that delays in processing absentee votes could mean some valid votes wouldn't be counted.

Meanwhile, thousands of additional suspect registrations turned in by activist groups like Acorn have surfaced in Ohio. Local election officials tell me the volume of possibly fraudulent registrations will make it difficult for them to process those that are valid. "It's almost as if groups like Acorn want deliberate chaos in the election system, which they can then exploit on Election Day to demand that suspect votes be given the benefit of the doubt and counted," one county official told me.

-- John Fund
27113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: October 15, 2008, 12:37:51 PM
Can McCain 'Mondale' Obama?

In tonight's debate look for John McCain to tie Barack Obama to liberal positions that are essential to elements of the Democratic nominee's coalition.

Chief among them is so-called "card check" legislation that passed the House in 2007 only to be bogged down in the Senate. The bill is the No. 1 priority of Mr. Obama's union supporters and would provide a way to bypass the requirement for secret-ballot elections to unionize a company. Instead, employees would be deemed to have selected a union when a majority of workers sign a card stating support for such a move -- often in the presence of union organizers.

Mr. McCain briefly raised card check in a previous debate with Mr. Obama, but he now has an iconic liberal he can cite as a prominent opponent of the idea. Former Sen. George McGovern calls secret ballots in union elections a "basic right." He has even agreed to appear in an ad sponsored by a pro-business group that is running in seven states holding Senate elections.

"It's hard to believe that any politician would agree to a law denying millions of employees the right to a private vote," Mr. McGovern says in the ad. "I have always been a champion of labor unions. But I fear that today's union leaders are turning their backs on democratic workplace elections." In a follow-up interview with The Hill newspaper, Mr. McGovern said a secret ballot is fundamental to American understandings of democracy: "When we elect a president, sheriff or member of Congress, we walk into the voting booth and pull the curtain free of anyone trying to twist our arm."

Mr. Obama has been a staunch supporter of card check and will no doubt have to defend it if pressed in tonight's debate. As for the unions backing card check, they have done little to hide their displeasure with Mr. McGovern. "It is deeply, deeply disappointing that someone like Sen. McGovern, who got so much support from labor unions, has sided . . . against labor's top priority," AFL-CIO Organizing Director Stuart Acuff says. "It's shocking."

-- John Fund

Liddy Opens the Jar

How bad are things for Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina? One of the Senate GOP's headliners and stellar fundraisers has now been forced to reach into her own pocket to counter a Democratic spending onslaught.

Mrs. Dole has been battered by Democratic ads in support of State Senator Kay Hagan, who accuses Mrs. Dole of being a Washington show horse who doesn't deliver for North Carolina. One brutal ad sponsored by Chuck Schumer's Democratic Senate Campaign Committee shows two old-timers arguing about whether Mrs. Dole is "92 or 93." The ad clearly is meant to get voters thinking Mrs. Dole, 72, is older than she is -- though the real subject is a Roll Call ranking that found her the 93rd most effective Senator and another survey showing she voted 92% of the time with the Bush administration.

The DSCC spent $1.5 million against Mrs. Dole just in August, with Mr. Schumer personally defending the controversial ad, saying, "She's not the Elizabeth Dole that was elected when she first ran" in 2002.

Mrs. Dole told the Associated Press: "You get such a lot coming at you and spending a great deal of time raising money -- there just comes a point when you feel like you need to put some skin in the game."

Yet the decisive factor may be out of her control -- turnout in the McCain-Obama race. So far, Barack Obama has been outspending John McCain in the state, pouring money into voter mobilization. Pro-Democratic polling analyst Nate Silver calculates that the percentage of black registered voters has increased from 20.3% to 21.4%, while the number of white voters decreased from 76.7% to 75.2%.

A scheduled rally by Sarah Palin tomorrow near Greensboro may help Mrs. Dole and Senate Republicans more than it does Mr. McCain at this point. An ABC News analysis says the Dole-Hagan battle might determine whether Democrats storm to a filibuster-proof majority after November. Mrs. Palin will be joined by country singer Hank Williams Jr., performing his new song "The McCain-Palin Tradition."

-- Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

Quote of the Day

"Democratic politicians and activists are giddy over visions of a 60-seat majority in the Senate next year, but experts say they don't need quite that many to rewrite a wide range of national policies to reflect the priorities of their presidential nominee, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, if he is elected. Primarily, that's because Senate rules provide for expedited consideration of the budget bills, known as 'reconciliation' measures, that have become the favored legislative vehicles for the most ambitious spending and tax plans of recent presidents... [E]ven outside the reconciliation process, Democrats are likely to be able to attract crossover Republican votes on various domestic and foreign policy measures . . . and there is a strong possibility that a President Obama would be operating with more senators from his own party than any president since Jimmy Carter, even if Democrats do not make it to 60 seats" -- Congressional Quarterly's Jonathan Allen.

The Chaos Strategy

A federal appeals court ruled last night that Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner must provide county election boards with state voter registration information so they can check the validity of some 666,000 new voter registrations submitted to Ohio officials in recent months.

The order, which Ms. Brunner vigorously resisted, will mean county boards will be able to stop counting absentee ballots if the registration linked to them doesn't match the name of a real person listed in government databases.

Ms. Brunner's office had argued that the federal Help America Vote Act did not require any such matching, and that delays in processing absentee votes could mean some valid votes wouldn't be counted.

Meanwhile, thousands of additional suspect registrations turned in by activist groups like Acorn have surfaced in Ohio. Local election officials tell me the volume of possibly fraudulent registrations will make it difficult for them to process those that are valid. "It's almost as if groups like Acorn want deliberate chaos in the election system, which they can then exploit on Election Day to demand that suspect votes be given the benefit of the doubt and counted," one county official told me.

-- John Fund

27114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AQ #2 killed on: October 15, 2008, 09:38:11 AM
US troops kill No. 2 leader of al-Qaida in Iraq
By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer 57 minutes ago

American troops acting on a tip killed the No. 2 leader of al-Qaida in Iraq — a Moroccan known for his ability to recruit and motivate foreign fighters — in a raid in the northern city of Mosul, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

The military statement described the man, known as Abu Qaswarah, as a charismatic leader who had trained in Afghanistan and managed to rally al-Qaida followers in Iraq despite U.S. and Iraqi security gains.

Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, a U.S. spokesman in Baghdad, also said the military suspected that Iranian agents were trying to bribe Iraqi politicians to oppose negotiations over a security pact that would extend the presence of American troops in Iraq.

But, he said, the military had no reason to believe Iraqi politicians had taken the Iranians up on the offers.

"There are indicators that Iranian agents may come across the border and use money or other bribes to influence Iraqi politicians," Driscoll said. "It's a whole different matter whether Iraqi politicians would accept that."

U.S. troops killed Abu Qaswarah, also known as Abu Sara, on Oct. 5 after coming under fire during a raid on a building that served as an al-Qaida in Iraq "key command and control location for" in Mosul, the military said.

Abu Qaswarah — one of five insurgents killed — was later been positively identified, the military said, without elaborating.

The insurgent leader became the senior al-Qaida in Iraq emir of northern Iraq in June 2007 and had "historic ties to AQI founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and senior al-Qaida leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan," the military said.

It called him "al-Qaida in Iraq's second-in-command" as the senior operational leader for al-Zarqawi's successor, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.

Driscoll said Abu Qaswarah directed the smuggling of foreign terrorists into northern Iraq and reportedly killed those who tried to return to their homelands rather than carry out suicide bombings and other attacks against Iraqis.

The announcement would indicate that al-Qaida in Iraq's leadership has maintained a presence despite recent reports that many had fled to Afghanistan and Pakistan where fighting has been on the rise.

Abu Qaswarah was described by the military as a "charismatic AQI leader who rallied AQI's northern network in the wake of major setbacks to the terrorist organization across Iraq."

The death of the senior al-Qaida in Iraq leader will cause a major disruption to the terror network, particularly in northern Iraq, the military said.

Nationwide violence has declined drastically over the past year, particularly in Baghdad, but the U.S. military has consistently warned al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgents remain a serious threat.

A recent series of killings of Iraqi Christians in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, has highlighted the continued dangers in northern Iraq, where many insurgents fled intensive U.S. military operations in the capital and surrounding areas.

The number of Christian families fleeing violence in Mosul since last week has reached 1,390 — or more than 8,300 people, local migration official Jawdat Ismaeel said Wednesday.

Ismaeel said humanitarian teams are distributing food and aid materials to all displaced families, who are largely seeking refuge in nearby Christian-dominated towns and villages.

Islamic extremists have frequently targeted Christians and other religious minorities since the 2003 U.S. invasion, forcing tens of thousands to flee Iraq. However, attacks declined as areas became more secure following a U.S. troops buildup, a U.S.-funded Sunni revolt against al-Qaida and a Shiite militia cease-fire. Driscoll said the attacks against the Christians bore the hallmarks of a "typical al-Qaida in Iraq tactic" of trying to provoke retaliatory killings by pitting members of religious and ethnic groups against each other.
27115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J Adams: on: October 14, 2008, 05:45:12 PM
"Duty is ours, results are God's."
John Quincy Adams
27116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cover up on: October 14, 2008, 03:54:39 PM
London Sunday Times
October 12, 2008

Taliban Leader Killed By SAS Was Pakistan Officer

By Christina Lamb, in Kabul

British officials covered up evidence that a Taliban commander killed by special forces in Helmand last year was in fact a Pakistani military officer, according to highly placed Afghan officials.

The commander, targeted in a compound in the Sangin valley, was one of six killed in the past year by SAS and SBS forces. When the British soldiers entered the compound they discovered a Pakistani military ID on the body.

It was the first physical evidence of covert Pakistani military operations against British forces in Afghanistan even though Islamabad insists it is a close ally in the war against terror.

Britain’s refusal to make the incident public led to a row with the Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who has long accused London of viewing Afghanistan through the eyes of Pakistani military intelligence, which is widely believed to have been helping the Taliban.

“He feels he has been telling everyone about Pakistan for the past six years and here was the evidence, yet London refused to release it, because they care more about their relations with Islamabad than Kabul,” said a source close to the president. “He knows Britain is worried about inflaming its large Pakistani population, but that is no excuse.”

So furious was Karzai that he threatened to expel British diplomats. When some months later he was informed by the governor of Helmand that British officials were secretly negotiating with the Taliban, he expelled two men and accused Britain of wanting to set up a training camp for former Taliban fighters.

Karzai will visit London next month for talks with Gordon Brown in an attempt to repair the strained relations between the two countries.

“He is very sad about the breakdown of relations with Britain,” said the source. “He loves British culture and poetry, had a British education [at a school in India], likes tea in the afternoon and thinks Gordon Brown is a very decent man, not a cheat.”

British officials in Kabul refused to comment on the allegation that they had covered up the discovery of a Pakistani soldier. They insisted Karzai’s government had been informed of the negotiations with the Taliban, adding that “the camp was just a place for them to be reintegrated, learn about hygiene and things”.

During the war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, officers from Pakistani military intelligence regularly accompanied Afghan mujaheddin inside Afghanistan and directed operations.

The Afghan claims of Pakistani involvement in Helmand were backed by a senior United Nations official who said he had been told by his superiors to keep quiet after Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN apparently threatened to stop contributing forces to peacekeeping missions. Pakistan is the UN’s biggest supplier of peacekeeping troops.

The coalition’s refusal to confront Pakistan changed after the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul last July, when 41 people were killed. According to both British and US intelligence, phone intercepts led directly back to an Afghan cell of Pakistan’s military intelligence.

The past month has seen US forces carry out bombings and a ground raid on Pakistani territory. Claims of Pakistan’s involvement were rejected by Asif Durrani, the country’s chargé d’affaires in Kabul. “Afghanistan wants to blame someone else for its problems and Pakistan is just the whipping boy,” he said.

However, repeated accusations from Karzai about Pakistan’s active support for the Taliban have been backed by a senior US marine officer.

Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Nash, who commanded an embedded training team in eastern Afghanistan from June 2007 to March this year, told the Army Times that Pakistani forces flew repeated helicopter missions into Afghanistan to resupply a Taliban base camp during a fierce battle in June last year. Nash said: “We were on the receiving end of Pakistani military D-30 [a howitzer]. On numerous occasions Afghan border police checkpoints and observation posts were attacked by Pakistani military forces.”

Comments by Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith in The Sunday Times last week that a decisive military victory against the Taliban was not possible and negotiations should be opened have received widespread backing.

General Jean-Louis Georgelin, France’s military chief, said: “There is no military solution to the Afghan crisis and I totally share this feeling.”

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, who initially dismissed the brigadier’s comments as “defeatist”, said on Friday that the US was now prepared to back talks with the Taliban.
27117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: October 14, 2008, 03:46:31 PM
Acorn Feels Its Oats

The liberal anti-poverty group Acorn is fighting back against allegations by the McCain campaign that its habit of filing false voter registrations carries a danger of injecting voter fraud into the election.

Acorn announced today it will ask Senator McCain to call on Republican election officials in battleground states to guarantee that voters who have lost their homes to foreclosure will not lose their right to vote. Acorn also will mischievously release a video of a 2006 Acorn-sponsored event supporting immigration reform that Mr. McCain spoke at. "While in recent weeks your campaign has stooped to engaging in tactics that do not reflect the John McCain who proudly appeared at the 2006 Acorn event, we hold out hope that the 2008 John McCain will do the right thing," says a statement by the group.

Acorn will also ask for a meeting with what it calls Mr. McCain's "front men" who are chairing the campaign's voter integrity committee. It accuses former New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman, a co-chair of the committee, of having "a well documented opposition to civil rights issues." The only example it cites is Mr. Rudman's 1983 opposition to a national federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King.

But Acorn's counterattack may be blunted today by news out of Ohio showing that fraudulently registered voters are already influencing the election outcome. The New York Post reports that Darnell Nash, one of four people subpoenaed in a Cuyahoga County probe of Acorn's voter-registration activities, "breezed into Ohio election offices" on September 30 and cast an invalid ballot. Mr. Nash did not show up for a hearing scheduled in his case yesterday.

-- John Fund

27118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: October 14, 2008, 03:44:42 PM
If a respected journalist says something controversial at a media conference filled with reporters and bloggers but no one reports it, what is one to make of that?

Mark Halperin, an editor at large for Time magazine and coauthor of the campaign field guide "The Way to Win," was one of several speakers at yesterday's conference on the 2008 election sponsored by Time and CNN in New York. During his panel discussion, Mr. Halperin was asked if the media had been too soft on Mr. Obama. To the surprise of the largely liberal audience, his answer was yes. He went on to say that through the subtle choice of which stories to cover and where to deploy investigative resources, the national media had handed Mr. Obama "hundreds of millions in free publicity." He attributed the positive coverage in part to the historic nature of Mr. Obama's candidacy. But he also noted that only a few hands had gone up in the crowded room when the audience had been asked how many had voted for George W. Bush.

He quickly tempered his remarks by noting that John McCain had similarly been the beneficiary of positive media coverage in his 2000 campaign. "It is interesting that the media's favorite candidates in both parties both won their party's nominations this year," he observed. He called on reporters to look at their 2008 coverage of candidates after the election, in hopes that in the future "they do a better job treating people equally."

Mr. Halperin's comments were pithy, well argued and controversial. Yet, almost 24 hours after they were made, it appears none of the bloggers and reporters present for the event have chosen to report on them -- perhaps providing validation for his core statement about how bias is reflected in the choice of which stories to report and which to ignore.

-- John Fund
27119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Black Swan on: October 14, 2008, 03:39:42 PM
The 1% Panic Our financial models were only meant to work 99% of the time.By L. GORDON CROVITZ

The Panic of 2008 is a crisis of trust. Investors don't trust the value of bad debts enough to offer market-clearing prices. Banks don't trust one another to stay in business long enough to do business together. And there's definitely no trust that Washington can avoid creating costly new moral hazards as it attempts to bail out the system.

But the most paralyzing loss of trust may be in Wall Street's system itself: How did the smartest people at the best banks running the most sophisticated financial models fail to forecast the collapse of mortgage-related securities? How did this unpredicted collapse devastate the system? And most of all, can we ever again trust the financial models on which value is supposed to be determined?

These questions matter because despite the current crisis, modern finance has delivered enormous benefits, from explaining to investors why they should diversify their investments to the creation of mutual and index funds. Related innovations helped financial institutions speed capital to its best use, fund new businesses and accelerate global prosperity. In other words, financial engineering worked beautifully -- until suddenly it didn't.

So what happened? Financial models take logic and historical data into account, but it's now clear that these elegant models have a serious weakness: They can't cope with illogical and uneconomic factors. Washington's insistence for years on artificial subsidies for mortgages through Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and other programs led to a loud "Does not compute!" that is still rocking the financial system.

 Here's how ill-conceived regulation poisoned the system. Until recently, bank CEOs and regulators slept well at night thanks to a financial model developed in the 1990s called "value at risk" or VaR. It assesses historical variances and covariances among different securities, informing financial institutions of the risks they're taking. By assessing risk factors across all securities, VaR can compare historical levels of risk for given portfolios, usually up to a 99% probability that banks would not lose more than a certain amount of money. In normal times, banks compare the VaR worst case with their capital to make sure their reserves can cover losses.

But VaR can't account for extreme unprecedented events -- the collapse of Barings in 1995 due to a rogue trader in Singapore, or today's government-mandated bad mortgages bundled into securities that are hard to value and unwind. The "1% likely" happened. And because the 1% literally didn't compute, there was no estimate of the stunning losses that have occurred.

Yale mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot pointed out the shortcomings of the VaR model in his "The (Mis)behavior of Markets," published in 2004. He noted that bell curves work for, say, disparities in the height of people. In markets, instead of flat tails of rare events at either end of the bell curve, there are "fat tails" of huge upsides and huge downsides. Markets are more complex than the neat shape of bell curves.

Last year's bestselling nonfiction book had a similar theme. In "The Black Swan," former trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb pointed out that extreme outcomes are actually common, warning that financial engineers -- "scientists," as he calls them -- ignore these unlikely outcomes at their peril. But today's credit panic was not entirely unpredictable. Mr. Taleb was prescient in writing, "The government-sponsored institution Fannie Mae, when I look at their risks, seems to be sitting on a barrel of dynamite, vulnerable to the slightest hiccup. But not to worry: Their large staffs of scientists deemed these events 'unlikely.'"

Likewise, the financial engineers at once high-flying hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management thought they had taken all risks into account, but the Russian financial crisis of 1998 blew their model. Last week the former general counsel of LTCM, James Rickards, reflected on how an incomplete VaR model undermined his firm. "Since we have scaled the system to unprecedented size, we should expect catastrophes of unprecedented size as well," he wrote in the Washington Post. "We're in the middle of one such catastrophe, and complexity theory says it will get much worse."

Global markets and new financial instruments are indeed complex. This complexity led to a fragility that made government meddling in markets more dangerous than ever before -- creating the 1% likely disaster. The good news for VaR and similar models is that the free market alone would not have allowed the bubble of subsidized mortgages, but the bad news is that it's far from clear that Congress has learned from the current crisis to pursue policy goals in ways that don't distort the fundamentals of markets.

Now the regulators trying to fix the damage in the financial system must also try to avoid more 1% likely crises. Transparent steps that restore market efficiency are better than complex, ad hoc policies that postpone market solutions. These programs should be judged on whether they make the financial models function better or function not at all. As we've learned, there's not much room in between.

Write to
27120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Spiritual Matters on: October 14, 2008, 03:08:09 PM
My wife found this and was greatly moved by it-- one of these days I will have both the courage and the time to watch it at the same time:
27121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survialist issues: Hunkering down at home on: October 14, 2008, 03:03:36 PM
Sent by a friend:

Subject: Disaster Preparedness Begins at home
 September is National Preparedness month.  Please read and/or print
 out the following checklists to get your family ready at home.
 Compliments of the Dept of Homeland Security.
 Generic Checklist for home:
 Older citizens:
 People with disabilities:
 Pet Owners:
 Some other things to consider that you won't find on these lists:
 1.  You can never have enough water and food - try to get enough for 2
 2.  Get a crowbar, hammer, wrenches.  Remember that you do have a jack
 in the truck of your car.  You may need them to get someone out of the
 rubble when we have an earthquake.
 3.  Rope.  You can get 50' of nylon rope at Big Lots for $3 a bundle.
 4.  Get leather gloves.  Broken glass will be everywhere.
 5.  Have extra tennis shoes, socks, and clothes where you can get to
 them - how about a backpack in the trunk of your car?  You may be
 stuck wearing the same clothes for a week, so take that into
 6.  Make sure everyone in your family knows a designated relative's
 phone number out of state so you can all call in and leave message for
 each other.  In many cases it may be the only way you'll have peace of
 mind knowing that they are ok.
 7.  How will you protect your family from thugs and looters?  You
 won't find this on any list.  Take a lesson from Hurricanes Katrina
 and Wilma.
 Remember, we have plans in place to take care of children and
 dependent adults on site in the event of an earthquake.  If your
 children aren't able to go to school, bring them with you when you
27122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACORN on: October 14, 2008, 02:26:29 PM
I disagree strongly with McC on shamnesty and wanna puke when I think about how either candidate will handle this once elected.

That said, BO is deliberately cheating by messing with the integrity of the electoral process itself and McC is not.
27123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 14, 2008, 02:15:58 PM

It leads me to reflect a moment , , , perhaps at it core this IS the problem-- I don't WANT government to be TOO efficient.  There's a lot of foolishness that literally is on the books but as a practical matter, AT LEAST BEFORE TECHNOLOGIES SUCH AS THOSE WE SEE HERE, wasn't really enforced. 

Also, there were a lot of liberal fascist nanny do-gooder ideas that simply weren't practical that might become practical now or in the not-so-distant future.

Does this help?
27124  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Cub Scout fundraising for Conrad Denny on: October 14, 2008, 02:09:36 PM
Well, this was a big success , , ,
27125  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Seminar: 10/11-12 Guro Crafty in Bloomington IL on: October 14, 2008, 02:08:12 PM
I had an awesome time Terry.  I am pleased to see what you and Scott have been doing and congratulations on making DBMAA Instructor!  (Likewise to Robin and Will of Memphis on making Group Leader!)  There were lots of great people there-- a fine, fine weekend.
27126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: October 14, 2008, 12:00:37 PM
Actually GM that is Rachel taking me to task for my comments on Buddhism.  cheesy

Very good Rachel!  cheesy

But let us be clear, If I read correctly the terrorist Tamils are not the Buddhists here:

"Ethnic Sinhalese Buddhists make up about three-quarters of the island's population; Tamils, both Indian and Sri Lankan, are the next largest ethnic group. Most are Hindu. Tamil terrorism is rooted in conflict between the Tamils and the Sinhalese, who predominate in government."

i.e.the Buddhists are the government/majority population, NOT the terrorist Tamils.

"The Tamil population began to agitate for secession in the early 1970s, following Sinhalese measures to establish their cultural and political dominance. For example, Sinhalese was made the only official language and Buddhism was decreed the official religion. In the 1970s, student groups and others turned to armed protest to press their case with the government."

Armed resistance to English being the official language of the US would certainly tick me off more than a little.  As for ANY religion being an official religion, that strikes me as a really bad idea-- which is a fundamental problem I have with Sharia by the way.  That said, from this article we do not know what practical consequences resulted from this declaration.

"The conflict escalated in 1983, when anti-Tamil riots in the capital, Colomo, killed thousands and displaced almost 100,000 residents. The moment was decisive for many Tamils, who lent large scale support to independence movements." 

Coincidentally enough the DBMA Ass'n has a representative in Sri Lanka named Prasad and I will ask him about this.  He is Christian, which may put him in a good position to comment from a relatively impartial point of view.

That said, I think my larger point remains valid and essentially uncontested by this piece.  So far it appears that we have an ethnic conflict.  There's nothing here about Buddha saying that the Sinhalese must submit cut off the heads of the Tamils if they do not submit to Buddha.

I look forward to Prasad's input.

27127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: October 14, 2008, 11:40:33 AM
Actually I found some of the typed in commentary to be a bit over the top but overall a good piece of guerrila theater.  Wish I had been back there-- this is where I grew up  grin
27128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Indonesia on: October 14, 2008, 11:01:48 AM
Second post of the AM

LA Times

The Mujahedin Council wants to put an end to what it sees as Western depravity, including racy ads and beauty contests. But opponents say the bill threatens free expression.
By Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 14, 2008
JAKARTA, INDONESIA -- A beauty queen in a full-length evening gown is enough to make Abu Mohammed Jibril's blood boil.

Those bare arms and uncovered head. That cleavage. And don't get him started on the bikini portion of the show.

 Abu Mohammed JibrilMiss Universe is disgusting pornography to the deputy head of Indonesia's Mujahedin Council.

"It's destructive," he said of the contest that airs here. "Miss Universe is very famous, so Muslim mothers want their daughters to be like Miss Universe and copy what they've seen.

"So all of these things, like Miss Universe, fashion shows, are degrading morality. They're all porn. A Muslim woman should not let her hair be seen by other people."

Jibril's council hopes a proposed anti-pornography law will put an end to what it sees as Western depravity. But religious and cultural minorities, artists, teachers and other opponents warn that the bill, which supporters hope will come up for a vote in parliament this week, threatens free expression in Indonesia.

The Muslim council is headed by Abu Bakar Bashir, who has been widely accused of being the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, Al Qaeda's affiliate in Southeast Asia, a claim he denies. Still, his council shares Al Qaeda's sharp disdain for what Bashir and his followers consider Western moral pollution.

When worshipers answered the call to prayer at Jibril's Jakarta mosque on a recent afternoon, one young man arrived wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a portrait of Osama bin Laden.

Jibril sat for an interview on a green prayer rug, behind the wooden lectern he uses for sermons. Vilifying immoral dress, loose sex and other social trends he sees as signs of social decay, he paused only for an occasional question -- and to answer the male voice reciting a verse from the Koran, which is his cellphone's ring tone.

To punctuate each point, he flashed his palms, fingers stretched wide in little starbursts around his white turban.

"It's not only drugs and criminals that are at the root of all the devastation of our younger generation, but also the culture of pornography," said Jibril. "That is why we find many husbands cheating on their wives, and many wives cheating on their husbands."

Indonesia's long debate over the anti-porn bill, which has gone through many revisions, is dividing a nation founded on principles that include "Unity in Diversity." The Muslim majority has long been known for respecting the rights of religious minorities. Although this is the most populous Muslim nation, women more commonly wear Western fashions than head scarves.

The proposed law casts a broad net for purveyors of smut. It defines porn as sexual material that includes photographs, cartoons, films, poems, vocalization, conversations and body gestures in the media, or in public shows, exhibits or performances.

Those that "arouse sexual propensity, desires or longings" or "contravene community ethics, decency or morality" would be criminal acts if the bill becomes law.

Producers of obscene material, which would include depictions of sexual intercourse, child pornography, sexual violence, masturbation and what is described as "allusions to nudity," would face up to 15 years in prison or a maximum fine equivalent to $1.5 million.

Distributors of porn, which also would include what the bill's drafters call racy advertising, could be sentenced to a maximum three-year prison term or a $500,000 fine.

Backers of the bill's provisions against the sexual exploitation of children, Internet porn and other, more conventional measures against indecency decry what they consider the overkill of the measure's more aggressive elements. The loudest opposition comes from the resort island of Bali, where Hindus are a majority and Western tourists exposing skin are part of the scenery.

On Saturday, thousands of protesters from around the country came to Bali to rally against the bill, which opponents say is a threat to minority cultures. To make their point, Papuan tribesmen danced wearing only traditional penis sheaths and body paint.

Bali Gov. Made Mangku Pastika raised objections to the bill in a letter this month to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the speaker of the House of Representatives.

Jibril discounts the governor's objections, which he says are to be expected from the leader of a province where "they gain income from allowing foreigners to shows their breasts, to get naked by the beach, to kiss on the lips in public." Jibril said he doubts the bill will pass because the government is a cabal of liars intent on prolonging the debate to manipulate voters. In the end, the politicians will side with minorities and Muslims will give up on peaceful protest, he said in what sounded like a veiled threat.

"There will be a time when Muslims are tired of holding these [mass protests] and then something unwanted can happen," he warned.

27129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: October 14, 2008, 10:56:30 AM
ISTANBUL — High school hurt for Havva Yilmaz. She tried out several selves. She ran away. Nothing felt right.

Havva Yilmaz, center, with friends at a cafe in Istanbul. Ms. Yilmaz has embraced her religious identity, and has campaigned for tolerance of those who, like her, choose to express their beliefs.

“There was no sincerity,” she said. “It was shallow.”

So at 16, she did something none of her friends had done: She put on an Islamic head scarf.

In most Muslim countries, that would be a nonevent. In Turkey, it was a rebellion. Turkey has built its modern identity on secularism. Women on billboards do not wear scarves. The scarves are banned in schools and universities. So Ms. Yilmaz dropped out of school. Her parents were angry. Her classmates stopped calling her.

Like many young people at a time of religious revival across the Muslim world, Ms. Yilmaz, now 21, is more observant than her parents. Her mother wears a scarf, but cannot read the Koran in Arabic. They do not pray five times a day. The habits were typical for their generation — Turks who moved from the countryside during industrialization.

“Before I decided to cover, I knew who I was not,” Ms. Yilmaz said, sitting in a leafy Ottoman-era courtyard. “After I covered, I finally knew who I was.”

While her decision was in some ways a recognizable act of youthful rebellion, in Turkey her personal choices are part of a paradox at the heart of the country’s modern identity.

Turkey is now run by a party of observant Muslims, but its reigning ideology and law are strictly secular, dating from the authoritarian rule in the 1920s of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a former army general who pushed Turkey toward the West and cut its roots with the Ottoman East. For some young people today, freedom means the right to practice Islam, and self-expression means covering their hair.

They are redrawing lines between freedom and devotion, modernization and tradition, and blurring some prevailing distinctions between East and West.

Ms. Yilmaz’s embrace of her religious identity has thrust her into politics. She campaigned to allow women to wear scarves on college campuses, a movement that prompted emotional, often agonized, debates across Turkey about where Islam fit into an open society. That question has paralyzed politics twice in the past year and a half, and has drawn hundreds of thousands into the streets to protest what they call a growing religiosity in society and in government.

By dropping out of the education system, she found her way into Turkey’s growing, lively culture of young activists.

She attended a political philosophy reading group, studying Hegel, St. Augustine and Machiavelli. She took sociology classes from a free learning center. She met other activists, many of them students trying to redefine words like “modern,” which has meant secular and Western-looking for decades. She made new friends, like Hilal Kaplan, whose scarf sometimes had a map of the world on it.

Their fight is not solely about Islam. Turkey is in ferment, and Ms. Yilmaz and her young peers are demanding equal rights for all groups in Turkey. They are far less bothered by the religious and ethnic differences that divide older generations. “Turkey is not just secular people versus religious people,” Ms. Kaplan said. “We were a very segregated society, but that segregation is breaking up.”

In a slushy week in the middle of January, the head scarf became the focus of a heated national outpouring, and Ms. Yilmaz one of its most eloquent defenders.

The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to pass a law letting women who wear them into college. Staunchly secular Turks opposed broader freedoms for Islam, in part because they did not trust Mr. Erdogan, a popular politician who began his career championing a greater role for Islam in politics and who has since moderated his stance.

Turkey remains a democratic experiment unique in the Muslim world. The Ottomans dabbled in democracy as early as 1876, creating a Constitution and a Parliament. The country was never colonized by Western powers, as Arabs were. It gradually developed into a vibrant democracy. The fact that young people like Ms. Yilmaz are protesting at all is one of its distinguishing features.

In many ways, Ms. Yilmaz’s scarf freed her, but for many other women, it is the opposite. In poor, religiously conservative areas in rural Turkey, girls wear scarves from young ages, and many Turks feel strongly that without state regulation, young women would come under more pressure to cover up.

The head scarf bill, in that respect, could lead to less freedom for women, they argued. But for Ms. Yilmaz, the anger against the bill was hard to understand.

So one day, armed with a microphone and a strong sense of justice, Ms. Yilmaz marched into a hotel in central Istanbul and, with two friends, both in scarves, made her best case


Page 2 of 3)

“The pain that we’ve been through as university doors were harshly shut in our faces taught us one thing,” she said, speaking to reporters. “Our real problem is with the mentality of prohibition that thinks it has the right to interfere with people’s lives.”

Generation Faithful

Ms. Yilmaz’s heartfelt speech, written with her friends, drew national attention. They were invited on television talk shows. They gave radio and newspaper interviews. Part of their appeal came from their attempt to go beyond religion to include all groups in Turkish society, like ethnic and sectarian minorities.

After Ms. Yilmaz left high school, she joined a group called the Young Civilians, a diverse band of young people who used dark humor and occasional references to the philosopher Michel Foucault to criticize everything from the state’s repression of Kurds, the biggest ethnic minority, to its day of “Youth and Sport,” a series of Soviet-style rallies of students in stadiums every spring.

Their symbol was a Converse sneaker. Their members were funny and irreverent. One once joked that if you mentioned the name Marx, young women without head scarves assumed you were talking about the British department store Marks & Spencer, while ones in scarves understood the reference to the philosopher.

In a tongue-in-cheek effort to change perceptions of Kurds, the group ran a discussion program called “Let’s Get a Little Kurdish,” which featured sessions on Kurdish music, history and — in a particularly rebellious twist — even language.

By March, the month after Parliament passed the final version of the head scarf proposal, the debate had reached a frenzied pitch. Ms. Yilmaz and some friends — some in scarves, some not — agreed to go on a popular television talk show. The audience’s questions were angry.

One young woman stood up and, looking directly at another in a scarf, said that she did not want her on campus, said Neslihan Akbulut, a friend of Ms. Yilmaz, who had helped to compose the head scarf statement. Another said she felt sorry for them because they were oppressed by men. A third fretted that allowing them into universities would lead to further demands about jobs, resulting in an “invasion.”

Ms. Yilmaz said later: “I thought, are we living in the same country? No, it’s impossible.”

They did not give up. They spent the day in a drafty cafe in central Istanbul, wearing boots and coats and going over their position with journalists, one by one.

“If women are ever forced to wear head scarves, we should be equally sensitive and stand against it,” Ms. Akbulut said.

One of the journalists said, “You don’t support gays.”

Ms. Kaplan countered: “Islam tells us to fight this urge,” but she said that did not affect a homosexual’s rights as a citizen. “I am against police oppression of homosexuals. I am against a worldview that diminishes us to our scarves and homosexuals to the bedroom.”

Ms. Yilmaz agreed. “When you wear a scarf,” she said, “you are expected to act and think in a certain way, and support a certain political party. You’re stripped of your personality.”

The young women say that the scarf, contrary to popular belief, was not forced on them by their families. Some women wear it because their mothers did. For others, like Ms. Yilmaz, it was a carefully considered choice.

Though it is not among the five pillars of Islam — the duties required for every Muslim, including daily prayer — Ms. Yilmaz sees it as a command in the Koran.

“Physical contact is something special, something private,” she said, describing the thinking behind her covering. “Constant contact takes away from the specialness, the privacy of the thing you share.”

Still, in Turkey, traditional rules are often bent to accommodate modern life. Handshaking, for example, is a widespread Turkish custom, and most women follow it. Turkey is culturally very different from Arab societies, and for that reason interprets Islam differently. Islam here is heavily influenced by Sufism, an introspective strain that tends to be more flexible.

“You can’t reject an extended hand,” Ms. Kaplan said. “You don’t want to break a person’s heart.”


(Page 3 of 3)

Young activists like Ms. Yilmaz are driving change in Turkish society against a backdrop of growing materialism and consumerism. Most young Turks care little for politics and are instead occupied with the daily task of paying the bills.

This is the seventh in a series of articles examining the lives of the young across the Muslim world at a time of religious revival.

That is an easier task in Turkey than in a number of Middle Eastern countries, because Turkey is relatively affluent. After three decades of intense development, its economy is five times bigger than Egypt’s — a country with roughly the same population.

The wealth has profoundly shaped young lives. In cities, young people no longer have to live with their parents after marriage. They take mortgages. They buy furniture on credit. They compete for jobs in new fields like marketing, finance and public relations.

In past generations, women lived with their husband’s families, doubling their work.

“When you don’t have time to do anything for yourself, you don’t have time to question anything, even religion,” Ms. Kaplan said.

The economic changes that have swept Turkish society, bringing cellphones, iPods and the Internet, are transforming the younger generation. Young people are more connected to the Western world than ever before. A quick visit to a bookstore or a movie theater offers proof.

Observant Turks are grappling with questions like: Where does praying fit in a busy life of e-mail messages and 60-hour weeks? How do you hold on to Eastern tradition in a rising tide of Western culture?

The head scarf debate ended abruptly in June, when Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that the new law allowing women attending universities to wear scarves was unconstitutional, because it violated the nation’s principles of secularism.

Ms. Yilmaz got the news in a text message from her friend. In her bitter disappointment, she realized how much hope she had held out. “How can I be a part of a country that does not accept me?” she said.

Still, she has no regrets and is not giving up. “What we did was worth something,” she said. “People heard our voices. One day the prohibition is imposed on us. The next day, it could be someone else. If we work together, we can fight it.”
27130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACORN on: October 14, 2008, 10:36:56 AM
copied from the 2008 thread:

Vote drives defended, despite fake names
By Richard Danielson, Times Staff Writer
In print: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mickey Mouse tried to register to vote in Florida this summer, but Orange County elections officials rejected his application, which had an ACORN stamp on it. 
 Mickey Mouse tried to register to vote in Florida this summer.

Orange County elections officials rejected his application, which was stamped with the logo of the nonprofit group ACORN.

Tow truck driver Newton Bell did register to vote in Orange County this summer. In the hands of ACORN, his paperwork went through without a hitch.

Two cases, two outcomes, each with a connection to ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

Nationwide, ACORN is a favorite GOP target for allegations of voter registration fraud this year.

That's not new. Similar complaints followed the 2004 elections. A criminal investigation in Florida found no evidence of fraud. ACORN even has a cameo role in the scandal over the 2006 firings of several U.S. attorneys by the Bush Justice Department.

Under attack again, ACORN leaders defend their work. Often, they say, things are as not simple as they're portrayed.

Take Mickey Mouse.

Yes, that's their logo. But they say their workers routinely scanned all suspicious applications.

"We don't think this card came through our system," said Brian Kettenring, ACORN's head organizer in Florida.

With more than 450,000 member families nationwide — 14,000 in Florida — ACORN is a grass roots advocacy group focused on health care, wages, affordable housing and foreclosure.  Bell, the truck driver, certainly, is more representative of ACORN's work in Florida than the cartoon mouse is.

This year, ACORN signed up 1.3-million voters nationwide and about 152,000 in Florida, mostly in Orange, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. ACORN estimates it flagged 2 percent of its Florida registrations as problematic because they were incomplete, duplicates or just plain bogus.

That's enough to give headaches to election officials and to provide ammunition to Republican activists.

Brevard County elections officials have turned over 23 suspect registrations from ACORN to prosecutors. The state Division of Elections has received two ACORN-related complaints, in Orange and Broward counties.  ACORN wasn't active in the Tampa Bay area. Last week, however, Pinellas County elections officials gave local prosecutors 35 questionable registrations from another group, Work for Progress. 

The GOP accuses ACORN of registration fraud all over the country. In Las Vegas, authorities said the group's petitions included the names of the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys.

"This is part of a widespread and systemic effort … to undermine the election process," says Republican National Committee chief counsel Sean Cairncross, who describes ACORN as a "quasicriminal organization."

No, Kettenring said, it's more like Wal-Mart.

"Some percentage of Wal-Mart workers try to get paid without doing their work or steal from their employer," he said.

Some ACORN workers, he said, have simply made up names.

Maybe, elections officials say, but it's still annoying.

"We did experience a significant amount of problems, enough that we did contact the group to express some of our frustration with their work," said Linda Tanko, Orange County's senior deputy supervisor for voter services.

ACORN's problems included applications with unreadable handwriting, missing information, signatures that didn't match those on file, altered dates of birth or Social Security numbers, applications for people already registered to vote and names that appeared repeatedly, often with different addresses.

ACORN said it terminates canvassers who forge applications. In Broward County, it fired one worker after he turned in applications with similar handwriting and brought the matter to the attention of the Supervisor of Elections Office.

Pay to gather registrations started at $8 an hour, and the goal was 20 signups per day. The organization did not pay by the signature or pay bonuses for volume. The organization also tried to follow up on each registration, calling the person listed to confirm that the form is accurate.

In most states, ACORN must turn in every form that is filled out. "We must turn in every voter registration card by Florida law, even Mickey Mouse," Kettenring said.

Well, not yet, said Jennifer Krell Davis, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State.

Florida does have a law saying third-party voter registration groups must turn in every form without regard to things like party affiliation, race, ethnicity or gender. So far, however, the state has not written the rules to implement it.

In Florida, ACORN is best known for its 2004 effort to lead a petition drive to raise the minimum wage. The FDLE looked into voter fraud allegations then and found no laws were broken.  ACORN also played a role in the firing of one of nine U.S. attorneys dismissed in 2006.  In New Mexico, U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was fired "because of complaints by elected officials who had a political interest in the outcome" of, among other things, a Republican voter fraud complaint against ACORN, according to an internal Justice Department report last month.  This year, 39 members of the House of Representatives have asked Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate ACORN.  One of those, Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, also has written to supervisor of elections offices in Central Florida seeking "all ACORN-related registration of voters within the last two years."

Republicans also accuse Sen. Barack Obama of trying to distance himself from ACORN, which he represented in a federal lawsuit in 1995.

ACORN's political action committee has endorsed Obama, but the group says its voter registration efforts are nonpartisan.

And the McCain campaign's complaints now are puzzling, ACORN says, because two years ago McCain was the keynote speaker at an immigration reform rally ACORN co-sponsored in Miami. "In 2006," Kettenring said, "we were working together."

Richard Danielson can be reached at or (813)269-5311.

27131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: October 14, 2008, 10:33:57 AM
JDN wrote:

"Not sure where to post this, but on this Subject and many others on this forum Islam in general has been badly maligned. 
Yes, we are are war.  And yes, there are some very bad Muslims as there are bad Christians, Jews, and Buddhists although
bad Muslims seem to rank near the top.  Yet, we seem to paint all Muslims as being bad; I don't think it's true.  I think we
need to stop being racists and simply be human and try a little tolerance and understanding."

Ummm , , , I invite you to name us some "bad Buddhists".  Any terrorist bombings?  Any fatwas?  Any beheadings? Any beatings of women by purity police?  Any destruction of the symbols of other religions?  Any thing at all?  rolleyes

I challenge you to show where this forum is about maligning Muslims and Islam.  This forum is about TRUTH.  To speak the Truth is not to malign- and to conflate the two is , , , a malignment of its own.

Where do we "paint all Muslims as being bad"? 

For example, I have repeatedly made the point here that we need to define this war with Islamic Fascism as being between Civilization and Barbarism, not against Islam when Islam respects "Pursuit of Happiness enabled by Freedom of Choice, informed by Freedom of Speech, and guaranteed by Separation of Church and State".    The very purpose of this formulation is to leave it up to Muslims to decide what their religion is to be!

There was a time (one thousand years ago) when Islam led the world in science and shone in many ways.  Then it decided to freeze itself in its understandings (I forget the name for this decision) and with this decision, things began to go downhill and now we have a situatiaon where intellectually brave and honest people are left to fairly wonder if they can respect "Pursuit of Happiness enabled by Freedom of Choice, informed by Freedom of Speech, and guaranteed by Separation of Church and State". 

If they cannot, then there is a fundamental problem unique to Islam and Islam is fundamentally seditious to the American creed in a way that has nothing to do with freedom of religion and everything to do with self-defense.   If they DO respect and support "Pursuit of Happiness enabled by Freedom of Choice, informed by Freedom of Speech, and guaranteed by Separation of Church and State", then we will see it in support from American Muslims (e.g. with language skills, as well as politically) for efforts to deal with Islamic Fascism. 

As for Muslims outside of America, for them too it is for them to decide what their religion is to be.  If the relgion is about fatwas for books and cartoons, then there is a fundamental problem.  If the religion is about death to apostates (see e.g. yesterday's post about Iran in Islam in Islamic Countries) then it is silliness incarnate to blather about racism.  (Indeed, in that Islam is not a race, it IS silliness, but that is a separate point.)

In this forum we are ALL about understanding-- WE SEEK TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS TRUE, not to find ways to believe that avoid the search for Truth.    As for "tolerance", tolerance begets tolerance.  OTOH tolerance of that which seeks to destroy one's tolerance is simply , , , the path of those who fear to speak truth to religious fascism.

"Tere are more than 1.2 million Arab-Americans and about 7 million Muslim-Americans, former Cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, successful business people, normal average Americans from all walks of life."

I have seen articles suggesting that these numbers have been puffed up, but putting that point aside I will agree.  There ARE many American Muslims who are fine people and good Americans. (I'm not wild about that Muslim congressman from MI though).  Indeed we do not see here in America analogs of the Paristinian Revolt that we see in Paris and elsewhere in France.  America has been good to them, and many of them seek to be good to America.  There are some (far too few in my opinion) who help OUR country with their language skills.  There are some (far too few in my opinion) who sign up to serve our Armed Forces.  I have a doctor who is a Muslim.

JDN, I have complete confidence that you are a good person of a good heart and I am sorry that I feel the need for such vigorous words in this post-- but I utterly reject your charge that this forum is about racism and intolerance.

27132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 14, 2008, 09:38:50 AM

As always you paste interesting and pertinent pieces , , , without personal commentary.  Would you care to personally answer BBG's reasoned personal response to you?

27133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 14, 2008, 08:21:00 AM
As a Noble winner, Stiglitz is certainly a big name, but I find this piece singularly unimpressive.

For example, lets look at his list of woe:

"Virtually all the indicators look grim. Inflation is running at an annual rate of nearly 6 percent, its highest level in 17 years. Unemployment stands at 6 percent; there has been no net job growth in the private sector for almost a year. Housing prices have fallen faster than at any time in memory—in Florida and California, by 30 percent or more. Banks are reporting record losses, only months after their executives walked off with record bonuses as their reward. President Bush inherited a $128 billion budget surplus from Bill Clinton; this year the federal government announced the second-largest budget deficit ever reported. During the eight years of the Bush administration, the national debt has increased by more than 65 percent, to nearly $10 trillion (to which the debts of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae should now be added, according to the Congressional Budget Office). Meanwhile, we are saddled with the cost of two wars. The price tag for the one in Iraq alone will, by my estimate, ultimately exceed $3 trillion."

a) inflation is a function of too much money being printed.  Gold has gone from $250 to over $900 during the Bush years and interest rates are negative.   The govt, via the Fed, prints money and as such this is 100% a government caused problem. 
b) the 6% number he quotes for inflation, is that of one month at the peak of peak oil prices, which have declined dramatically since then.  I don't know the time lag for new data, but it will be intereting to see.  I comment that making the point as he does based upon one month, a month which I am sure a bright fellow likes him to know to be a typical, is the sort of type of persuasion that I would expect from a chattering class piece, not a Nobel laureate.
c) Again, the government deficit is a function of , , , drum roll please , , , the government!!!  Duh!!!  The deficit has increased despite an increase in revenues (until this year at any rate!) because , , , shocking development here  , , , government spending has increased dramatically.
d) FM and FM, and their debt, are the creations of , , , the government!!!
e) war is waged by , , , the government!!!

Yet somehow from this tale of woe he concludes the cause was the free market and the solution is , , , the government!!!

I find it remarkably unserious for a lengthy piece (lengthy enough to require two entries in our forum here) by a serious economist to not address that the government has pushed private behavior towards the reckless due to causing inflation, due to negative interest rates, due to a dramatically fallling currency, due to the force of law of the CRA (Community Reinvestment Act or something like that) which forced lenders to lend to mass numbers of unqualified people-- people who numbers now swell the data of foreclosures--and particulary due to the FMs and all that they have spawned.  Add in the unintended consequences of the "mark to market" regulations too!  For him not to address these points in a piece that blames the free market and proposes MORE GOVERNMENT is simply extraordinary.

I am unable to comprehend the derivatives thing enough to comment there, but until I do understand better, it seems to me that what transpired would not have transpired or would have transpired to a significantly lesser degree but for the underlying impetus of unsound money and negative interest rates.
27134  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / VA Ratifying Convention on: October 14, 2008, 07:57:45 AM
"That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a
well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people trained
to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state;
that standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty,
and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances
and protection of the community will admit; and that, in all
cases, the military should be under strict subordination to,
and governed by, the civil power."

Recommended Bill of Rights from the Virginia Ratifying Convention,
27 June 1778

Reference: The Debates of the Several State..., Elliot, vol. 3
27135  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Water at Gulliver' on: October 13, 2008, 10:17:25 PM
America Will Remain the Superpower When the tide laps at Gulliver's waistline, it usually means the Lilliputians are already 10 feet under.By BRET STEPHENS
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Constantinople fell to the Ottomans after two centuries of retreat and decline. It took two world wars, a global depression and the onset of the Cold War to lay the British Empire low.

APSo it's a safe bet that the era of American dominance will not be brought to a close by credit default swaps, mark-to-market accounting or (even) Barney Frank.

Not that there's a shortage of invitations to believe otherwise. Almost in unison, Germany's finance minister, Russia's prime minister and Iran's president predict the end of U.S. "hegemony," financial and/or otherwise. The New York Times weighs in with meditations on "A Power That May Not Stay So Super." Der Spiegel gives us "The End of Hubris." Guardian columnist John Gray sees "A Shattering Moment in America's Fall From Power."

Much of this is said, or written, with ill-disguised glee. But when the tide laps at Gulliver's waistline, it usually means the Lilliputians are already 10 feet under. Before yesterday's surge, the Dow had dropped 25% in three months. But that only means it had outperformed nearly every single major foreign stock exchange, including Germany's XETRADAX (down 28%) China's Shanghai exchange (down 30%), Japan's NIKK225 (down 37%), Brazil's BOVESPA (down 41%) and Russia RTSI (down 61%). These contrasts are a useful demonstration that America's financial woes are nobody else's gain.

On the other hand, global economic distress doesn't invariably work at cross-purposes with American interests. Hugo Chávez's nosedive toward bankruptcy begins when oil dips below $80 a barrel, the price where it hovers now. An identical logic, if perhaps at a different price, applies to the petrodictatorships in Moscow and Tehran, which already are heavily saddled with inflationary and investor-confidence concerns. Russia will also likely burn through its $550 billion in foreign-currency reserves faster than anticipated -- a pleasing if roundabout comeuppance for last summer's Georgian adventure.

Nor does the U.S. seem all that badly off, comparatively speaking, when it comes to its ability to finance a bailout. Last month's $700 billion bailout package seems staggeringly large, but it amounts to a little more than 5% of U.S. gross domestic product. Compare that to Germany's $400 billion to $536 billion rescue package (between 12% and 16% of its GDP), or Britain's $835 billion plan (30%).

Of course it may require considerably more than $700 billion to clean out our Augean Stables. But here it helps that the ratio of government debt to GDP in the U.S. runs to about 62%. For the eurozone, it's 75%; for Japan, 180%.

It also helps that the U.S. continues to have the world's largest inflows of foreign direct investment; that it ranks third in the world (after Singapore and New Zealand) for ease of doing business, according to the World Bank; and that its demographic trends aren't headed toward a tall and steep cliff -- as they are in the EU, Russia, Japan and China.

Above all, the U.S. remains biased toward financial transparency. I am agnostic as to whether mark-to-market accounting is a good idea; last month's temporary ban on short-selling financials seemed a bad one.

But a system that demands timely and accurate financial disclosure and doesn't interfere with price discovery will invariably prove more resilient over time than a system that does not make such demands. If Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were financial time bombs of one kind, then surely China's state-owned enterprises are time bombs of another. Can anyone determine with even approximate confidence the extent of their liabilities?

This isn't to say that the abrupt failure of the SOEs would be in anyone's interests, including the U.S.'s. But one of the unremarked ironies of the present crisis is that America's financial vulnerabilities came fully into view months before Europe's (or the rest of the world's) did. That's one reason the dollar has rallied in recent months. It's also why the U.S. is likely to come through the crisis much more quickly than, say, Japan, which spent the better part of the 1990s hiding its own banking crisis from itself.

Exactly how -- and how quickly -- the U.S. does come through is anyone's guess. Recessions are periodic facts of economic life that tend to last anywhere between six and 16 months. Severe recessions or depressions are fundamentally political events that can last a decade or longer -- however long economic policy remains bad.

If the next administration is wise, it will do what it can to help the markets clear, let the recession take its course, and do what it can to preserve intact a financial system that has served us splendidly. If it is unwise, it will embark on several years of grandiose social experimentation. Either way, the United States will eventually regain its economic footing and maintain its place.

Write to
27136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 13, 2008, 10:03:33 PM
At the recent Emmy Awards, historian Laura Linney averred that America's Founders had been "community organizers" -- like Barack Obama. Too bad they aren't like that any more. Mr. Obama's kind of organizers work at Acorn, the militant advocacy group that is turning up in reports about voter fraud across the country.

APAcorn -- the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- has been around since 1970 and boasts 350,000 members. We've written about them for years, but Acorn is now getting more attention as John McCain's campaign makes an issue of the fraud reports and Acorn's ties to Mr. Obama. It's about time someone exposed this shady outfit that uses government dollars to lobby for larger government.

Acorn uses various affiliated groups to agitate for "a living wage," for "affordable housing," for "tax justice" and union and environmental goals, as well as against school choice and welfare reform. It was a major contributor to the subprime meltdown by pushing lenders to make home loans on easy terms, conducting "strikes" against banks so they'd lower credit standards.

But the organization's real genius is getting American taxpayers to foot the bill. According to a 2006 report from the Employment Policies Institute (EPI), Acorn has been on the federal take since 1977. For instance, Acorn's American Institute for Social Justice claimed $240,000 in tax money between fiscal years 2002 and 2003. Its American Environmental Justice Project received 100% of its revenue from government grants in the same years. EPI estimates the Acorn Housing Corporation alone received some $16 million in federal dollars from 1997-2007. Only recently, Democrats tried and failed to stuff an "affordable housing" provision into the $700 billion bank rescue package that would have let politicians give even more to Acorn.

All this money gives Acorn the ability to pursue its other great hobby: electing liberals. Acorn is spending $16 million this year to register new Democrats and is already boasting it has put 1.3 million new voters on the rolls. The big question is how many of these registrations are real.

The Michigan Secretary of State told the press in September that Acorn had submitted "a sizeable number of duplicate and fraudulent applications." Earlier this month, Nevada's Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller requested a raid on Acorn's offices, following complaints of false names and fictional addresses (including the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys). Nevada's Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said he saw rampant fraud in 2,000 to 3,000 applications Acorn submitted weekly.

Officials in Ohio are investigating voter fraud connected with Acorn, and Florida's Seminole County is withholding Acorn registrations that appear fraudulent. New Mexico, North Carolina and Missouri are looking into hundreds of dubious Acorn registrations. Wisconsin is investigating Acorn employees for, according to an election official, "making people up or registering people that were still in prison."

Then there's Lake County, Indiana, which has already found more than 2,100 bogus applications among the 5,000 Acorn dumped right before the deadline. "All the signatures looked exactly the same," said Ruthann Hoagland, of the county election board. Bridgeport, Connecticut estimates about 20% of Acorn's registrations were faulty. As of July, the city of Houston had rejected or put on hold about 40% of the 27,000 registration cards submitted by Acorn.

That's just this year. In 2004, four Acorn employees were indicted in Ohio for submitting false voter registrations. In 2005, two Colorado Acorn workers were found to have submitted false registrations. Four Acorn Missouri employees were indicted in 2006; five were found guilty in Washington state in 2007 for filling out registration forms with names from a phone book.

Which brings us to Mr. Obama, who got his start as a Chicago "community organizer" at Acorn's side. In 1992 he led voter registration efforts as the director of Project Vote, which included Acorn. This past November, he lauded Acorn's leaders for being "smack dab in the middle" of that effort. Mr. Obama also served as a lawyer for Acorn in 1995, in a case against Illinois to increase access to the polls.

During his tenure on the board of Chicago's Woods Fund, that body funneled more than $200,000 to Acorn. More recently, the Obama campaign paid $832,000 to an Acorn affiliate. The campaign initially told the Federal Election Commission this money was for "staging, sound, lighting." It later admitted the cash was to get out the vote.


The Obama campaign is now distancing itself from Acorn, claiming Mr. Obama never organized with it and has nothing to do with illegal voter registration. Yet it's disingenuous to channel cash into an operation with a history of fraud and then claim you're shocked to discover reports of fraud. As with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, Mr. Obama was happy to associate with Acorn when it suited his purposes. But now that he's on the brink of the Presidency, he wants to disavow his ties.

The Justice Department needs to treat these fraud reports as something larger than a few local violators. The question is whether Acorn is systematically subverting U.S. election law -- on the taxpayer's dime.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.

27137  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hanged for being a Christian in Iran on: October 13, 2008, 07:41:30 PM
Hanged for being a Christian in Iran

Eighteen years ago, Rashin Soodmand's father was hanged in Iran for converting to Christianity. Now her brother is in a Mashad jail, and expects to be executed under new religious laws brought in this summer. Alasdair Palmer reports.


A month ago, the Iranian parliament voted in favour of a draft bill, entitled "Islamic Penal Code", which would codify the death penalty for any male Iranian who leaves his Islamic faith. Women would get life imprisonment. The majority in favour of the new law was overwhelming: 196 votes for, with just seven against.

Imposing the death penalty for changing religion blatantly violates one of the most fundamental of all human rights. The right to freedom of religion is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in the European Convention of Human Rights. It is even enshrined as Article 23 of Iran's own constitution, which states that no one may be molested simply for his beliefs.

And yet few politicians or clerics in Iran see any contradiction between a law mandating the death penalty for changing religion and Iran's constitution. There has been no public protest in Iran against it.

David Miliband, Britain's Foreign Secretary, stands out as one of the few politicians from any Western country who has put on record his opposition to making apostasy a crime punishable by death. The protest from the EU has been distinctly muted; meanwhile, Germany, Iran's largest foreign trading partner, has just increased its business deals with Iran by more than half. Characteristically, the United Nations has said nothing.

It is a sign of how little interest there is in Iran's intention to launch a campaign of religious persecution that its parliamentary vote has still not been reported in the mainstream media. (Guess at this point any criticism of that "tiny country that does not pose a threat" might be bad for the Obamination and his campaign, so it's better to pretend shit like that isn't happening.)

For one woman living in London, however, the Iranian parliamentary vote cannot be brushed aside. Rashin Soodmand is a 29-year-old Iranian Christian. Her father, Hossein Soodmand, was the last man to be executed in Iran for apostasy, the "crime" of abandoning one's religion. He had converted from Islam to Christianity in 1960, when he was 13 years old. Thirty years later, he was hanged by the Iranian authorities for that decision.

Today, Rashin's brother, Ramtin, is also held in a prison cell in Mashad, Iran's holiest city. He was arrested on August 21. He has not been charged but he is a Christian. And Rashin fears that, just as her father was the last man to be executed for apostasy in Iran, her brother may become one of the first to be killed under Iran's new law.

Not surprisingly, Rashin is desperately worried. "I am terribly anxious about him," she explains. "Even though my brother is not an apostate, because he has never been a Muslim – my father raised us all as Christians – I don't think he is safe. They assume that if you are Iranian, you must be Muslim."

Her brother's situation has ominous echoes of her father's fate. Rashin was 14 when her father was arrested. "He was held in prison for one month," she remembers. "Then the religious police released him without explanation and without apology. We were overjoyed. We thought his ordeal was over."

But six months later, the police came back and took her father away again. This time, they offered him a choice: he could denounce his Christian faith, and the church in which he was a pastor – or he would be killed. "Of course, my father refused to give up his faith," Rashid recalls proudly. "He could not renounce his God. His belief in Christ was his life – it was his deepest conviction." So two weeks later, Hossein Soodmand was taken by guards to the prison gallows and hanged.

Life for Rashin, her siblings and her mother became extremely difficult. Some Muslims are extremely hostile to people of any other religion, never mind to those who they consider apostates: Ayatollah Khomeini declared that "non-Muslims are impure", insisting that for Muslims to wash the clothes of non-Muslims, or to eat food with non-Muslims, or even to use utensils touched by non-Muslims, would spoil their purity.

The family was supported with financial and other help from a Christian church based in Iran. That support became even more critical as Rashin's mother began to lose her sight. Rashin herself was eventually able to leave Iran. She now lives in London, married to a fellow Christian from Iran who successfully applied for asylum in Germany.

It took years for Rashin to understand how her father could have been legally executed simply for becoming a Christian. In 1990, there was no parliamentary law mandating the death for apostates. What, then, was the legal basis for Hossein Soodmand's execution?

"After the revolution of 1979, Iran's rulers wanted to turn Iran into an Islamic state, and to abolish the secular laws of the Shah," explains Alexa Papadouris of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a human rights organisation that specialises in freedom of religion. "So the clerics instituted a mandate for judges presiding over criminal cases: if the existing penal code did not include legislation on whether a certain kind of behaviour is an offence, then the judges should refer to traditional Islamic jurisprudence." In other words: sharia law.

"That automatically created problems" says Mr Papadouris, "because Islamic jurisprudence is not codified law: it is a series of formulations developed across generations by scholars and clerics. Depending on the Islamic school or historical era, these formulations can differ and even contradict each other."

On one subject, however, sharia law is unequivocal: men who change their religion from Islam must be punished with death. So when the judge heard the case of Rashid's father, he could refer to sharia and reach a straightforward decision: the death penalty. There was no procedure for appeal.

Nevertheless, in the 18 years since Hossein Soodmand's execution, there have been no judicially sanctioned killings of apostates in Iran, although there have been many reports of disappearances and even murders. "As the number of converts from Islam grows," notes Ms Papadouris, "apostasy has again become a serious concern for the Iranian government." In addition to 10,000 Christian converts living in Iran, there are several hundred thousand Baha'is who are deemed apostates.

There is another factor: President Ahmadinejad. "The President didn't initiate the law mandating the death penalty for apostates," says Papadouris, "but he has been lobbying for it. It is an effective form of playing populist politics. The Iranian economy is doing very badly, and the country is in a mess: Ahmadinejad may be calculating that he can gain support, and deflect attention from Iran's problems, by persecuting apostates."

The new law is not yet in force in Iran: it requires another vote in parliament, and then the signature of the Ayatollah. But that could happen within a matter of weeks. "Or," says Papadouris, "it could conceivably be allowed to drop, were there a powerful enough international outcry".

Time may be running out for Rashin's brother. She believes that the new law will be applied in an arbitrary fashion, with individuals selected for death being chosen to frighten others into submission. That is why she fears for her brother. "We just don't know what will happen to him. We only know that if they want to kill him, they will."
27138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: October 13, 2008, 07:21:40 PM
I'm thinking today's move in the market should lessen the damage to McC.

Here's PD WSJ:

Like Nixon, Obama Won't Be Satisfied Unless He Wins Ugly
An Alaska Scandal That Wasn't
Just Pray the Election Doesn't Come Down to Ohio
Obama's Ghostwriter? (Quote of the Day)
Another Lehman Lesson


A PD item on Massachusetts politics should have made clear that no woman had been elected to its governorship or U.S. Senate seat. Lt. Gov. Jane Swift became Acting Governor in 2001 when Gov. Paul Cellucci resigned to become U.S. Ambassador to Canada. Sorry for the error.

-- The Mgmt.

If You Don't Have a Race Card, Invent One

Georgia Rep. John Lewis has decided that the McCain campaign is channeling Southern segregationist George Wallace. The civil rights icon issued a statement over the weekend saying, "What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history." He accused Team McCain of "hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse."

New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis followed up by accusing the McCain campaign of using Willie Horton tactics, referring to a 1988 ad by an independent group supporting George H. W. Bush against Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, involving rapist and murderer Willie Horton, who was released from prison on a furlough program supported by Mr. Dukakis. On one of his furloughs, Horton raped a woman in front of her husband. Even Mr. Louis acknowledges the incident was "fair game, to a point." But the use of Horton's image in a single commercial "became the worst kind of racial scare-mongering, a low point in modern politics," he says, before sliding into an unexplained parallel to the fact that "McCain has begun harping on Obama's tenuous connection to William Ayers, an ex-radical who served with Obama on the six-member board of a Chicago charity."

What is curious about these attacks is that there are almost no specific examples. Congressman Lewis cites no examples and Mr. Louis only refers to Mr. McCain's attacks on the Obama-Ayers connections without saying how they implicate racism. Mr. Ayers is white and investigations by both the New York Times and CNN have found that Mr. Obama appears to have obscured the extent of his relationship with the unrepentant Weather Underground bomber.

Last week, Mr. McCain responded to a woman at a rally who called Mr. Obama "an Arab" by saying she was wrong and that his opponent was a decent man whom he had disagreements with. To date, Mr. McCain has never used the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's 20-year association with Barack Obama against him -- a forbearance that was nonetheless rewarded with the kind of attacks that Rep. Lewis and Mr. Louis launched over the weekend. Just imagine the reaction from Obama supporters if Mr. McCain had even dipped his toe into the Rev. Wright controversy.

Claiming that race has been injected into a campaign when it clearly hasn't is cheap demagoguery and does nothing to improve race relations in this country.

-- John Fund

The Old-Boy Network Strikes Back

Gov. Sarah Palin has been asking reporters to actually read the Alaska state government report issued over the weekend that supposedly found she had abused her power in seeking the dismissal of Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten. And indeed, the report is more favorable to Mrs. Palin than much of the reporting has suggested. Mrs. Palin and her husband Todd did likely push for Mr. Wooten to be fired. But Special Prosecutor Stephen Branchflower was originally asked to look into whether Mrs. Palin violated state laws by firing her Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, who claimed that he was let go for refusing to oust Mr. Wooten. Mr. Branchflower determined that, in fact, the governor was within her rights to fire Mr. Monegan.

What's more, the recommendations Mr. Branchflower makes are largely favorable to Mrs. Palin. She had warned that Mr. Wooten, her ex-brother-in-law, was too unstable to be a police officer and had posed a threat the Palin family. Mr. Branchflower discounts the family's personal safety concerns, but recommends that the legislature create procedures so those who file complaints about police officers are informed about what steps are subsequently taken. Throughout the Wooten affair, the Palins had expressed frustration that no one could tell them what disciplinary action had been taken against Mr. Wooten (which likely led to the impression they were pressuring state officials). The report also notes that the original complaint filed against Mr. Wooten came from Chuck Heath, Mrs. Palin's father, who reported being concerned about an alleged threat by Mr. Wooten to kill him.

The report is a compilation of sordid details surrounding a messy episode in Alaska. Democrat Sen. Hollis French, who oversaw the special out-of-session legislative committee that ordered the investigation, insisted it be completed and released before Election Day. The report seems to rely on an assumption that Mrs. Palin wasn't really concerned about her personal safety, because she had reduced the size of her security detail -- never mind that she had campaigned partly on trimming back gubernatorial perks and pomp and had acted on those promises in other ways too. The report is available online ( It's hardly the smoking gun her opponents would like it to be.

-- Brendan Miniter

The War for Ohio

The seesaw court battle in Ohio over "Golden Week," a seven-day period earlier this month when state residents could register and immediately cast an absentee ballot, continues.

First, a federal judge slapped down Jennifer Brunner, Ohio's controversial Democratic Secretary of State, for failing to allow counties the information they need to verify the identity of hundreds of thousands of newly-registered voters signed up by outside groups such as the housing lobby ACORN. A lawsuit asking Ms. Brunner to follow the federal Help America Vote Act's provisions mandating that new registrations be matched with government databases to confirm their validity was brought by the Ohio Republican Party.

"Plaintiffs assert, and the court agrees, that it is hard to imagine a public interest more compelling than safeguarding the legitimacy of the election of the president of the United States," Federal District Judge George C. Smith, who was appointed to the bench by President Reagan, wrote in his ruling.

The Associated Press reports that Ms. Brunner claims HAVA "provides no requirements regarding what to do if a mismatch is discovered, and it is up to Ohio's counties to check the system for flagged registrations and investigate if warranted." But until the judge's order, Ohio's counties had not been allowed full access to the necessary records to do the job.

Ms. Brunner responded with an immediate appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Over the weekend, a divided three-judge panel vacated Judge Smith's order, siding with Secretary Brunner. Today, the full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is likely to take up the case and issue a final ruling.

Democrats, who had expressed keen interest in making the position of Secretary of State a non-partisan office when Republican Ken Blackwell held the post in 2004, have been largely silent on the issue since Ms. Brunner won election in 2006.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"Prior to 1990, when Barack Obama contracted to write 'Dreams From My Father,' he had written very close to nothing. Then, five years later, this untested 33 year-old produced what Time Magazine has called -- with a straight face -- 'the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.' The public is asked to believe Obama wrote 'Dreams From My Father' on his own, almost as though he were some sort of literary idiot savant. I do not buy this canard for a minute, not at all. . . . [T]here are only two real possibilities: one is that Obama experienced a near miraculous turnaround in his literary abilities; the second is that he had major editorial help, up to and including a ghostwriter. The weight of the evidence overwhelming favors the latter conclusion and strongly suggests who that ghostwriter is" -- author Jack Cashill, writing at on why he suspects former Weather Underground fugitive William Ayers ghostwrote Mr. Obama's memoirs.

Have We Found the Real 'Weapons of Mass Financial Destruction'?

Barack Obama and Joe Biden and just about anybody else with a "D" stumps on "restoring America's standing in the world," while generously throwing around the damnation "unilateral" in relation to George W. Bush's administration.

Whatever the errors of the Bush team, this critique mangles the real issue -- which was never "unilateral vs. multilateral" (a distinction that resolves into meaninglessness when you really think about it) but "isolationist vs. engaged." President Bush engaged the U.S. in the world in extraordinarily controversial ways -- but we're certainly engaged. The message of the Iraq and Afghanistan interventions: The march toward a more interdependent globalized economic society will not be stopped by chaos arising from lagging regions and failing nations.

This weekend's coordinated actions by First World governments to repair the financial system may be even more significant. Message: We're doubling down on interdependence, not throwing up our hands and running away from globalization.

What's more, Mr. Bush and his fellow world leaders got some good news with the successful netting out of $400 billion in Lehman default insurance trades on Friday. These unregulated instruments (known as credit default swaps) raised fears of potential domino-like consequences because no regulatory overseer was in a position to know whether 350 banks and hedge funds had used them responsibly or recklessly committed one-way bets on Lehman's solvency. Well, it turns out big financial players aren't crazy. In a new market created outside the established regulatory apparatus, it appears they didn't take suicidal, "unregulated" risks after all.

Keep this in mind as the post-mortems of the global panic start to come in. More and more the relevant question will be why firms took exactly such unhedged risks in the market for housing-related financial instruments -- a market created by government, dominated by government, and subject to never-ending solicitude and subsidies from Congress and the White House regardless of political party.

-- Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

27139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Old Boy Network Strikes Back on: October 13, 2008, 06:04:21 PM
The Old-Boy Network Strikes Back

Gov. Sarah Palin has been asking reporters to actually read the Alaska state government report issued over the weekend that supposedly found she had abused her power in seeking the dismissal of Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten. And indeed, the report is more favorable to Mrs. Palin than much of the reporting has suggested. Mrs. Palin and her husband Todd did likely push for Mr. Wooten to be fired. But Special Prosecutor Stephen Branchflower was originally asked to look into whether Mrs. Palin violated state laws by firing her Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, who claimed that he was let go for refusing to oust Mr. Wooten. Mr. Branchflower determined that, in fact, the governor was within her rights to fire Mr. Monegan.

What's more, the recommendations Mr. Branchflower makes are largely favorable to Mrs. Palin. She had warned that Mr. Wooten, her ex-brother-in-law, was too unstable to be a police officer and had posed a threat the Palin family. Mr. Branchflower discounts the family's personal safety concerns, but recommends that the legislature create procedures so those who file complaints about police officers are informed about what steps are subsequently taken. Throughout the Wooten affair, the Palins had expressed frustration that no one could tell them what disciplinary action had been taken against Mr. Wooten (which likely led to the impression they were pressuring state officials). The report also notes that the original complaint filed against Mr. Wooten came from Chuck Heath, Mrs. Palin's father, who reported being concerned about an alleged threat by Mr. Wooten to kill him.

The report is a compilation of sordid details surrounding a messy episode in Alaska. Democrat Sen. Hollis French, who oversaw the special out-of-session legislative committee that ordered the investigation, insisted it be completed and released before Election Day. The report seems to rely on an assumption that Mrs. Palin wasn't really concerned about her personal safety, because she had reduced the size of her security detail -- never mind that she had campaigned partly on trimming back gubernatorial perks and pomp and had acted on those promises in other ways too. The report is available online ( It's hardly the smoking gun her opponents would like it to be.

-- Brendan Miniter
27140  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: October 12, 2008, 09:05:29 PM
I will be putting the word to various people to come.
27141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 12, 2008, 06:06:30 PM
Smart ass cheesy

I'm on the road and do not have the time at this moment.  I fly to LA starting at 0600 tomorrow.
27142  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: October 12, 2008, 06:03:30 PM

I am in Bloomington IL at the moment, but will be teaching again next week.
27143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 100 Taliban killed on: October 12, 2008, 08:11:46 AM
Official: More Than 100 Taliban Militants Killed in Afghanistan Clashes

Sunday , October 12, 2008

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan —
Taliban militants launched a surprise attack on a key southern Afghan town, sparking a battle that killed some 60 insurgents, an Afghan official said Sunday. A second clash in the same region killed another 40 militants.

Taliban fighters used rockets and other heavy weapons to attack Afghan forces on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, said Daud Ahmadi, the spokesman for Helmand's governor.

Militants attacked the city from three sides starting just after midnight and were pushed back only after a battle that involved airstrikes, Ahmadi said. Rockets landed in different parts of the city but there were no civilian casualties, he said.

Authorities recovered the bodies of 41 Taliban fighters on the city's outskirts, from where the attack was launched, he said. He estimated the bodies of another 20 fighters were taken from the battle site by the militants, citing intelligence reports.

British forces are responsible for protecting the area around Lashkar Gah.
In a second battle in Helmand province, Afghan and international troops retook the Nad Ali district center — which had been held by militants — during a three-day fight, Ahmadi said. That battle, which also involved airstrikes, ended Saturday, Ahmadi said.

Afghan police and soldiers were now in control of the district center. There were no casualties among Afghan or NATO troops, Ahmadi said.
Ahmadi's death tolls could not be verified independently. Journalists are not able to travel to remote and dangerous battle sites. Afghan officials have been known to exaggerate death tolls in the past.

The NATO-led force said it was aware of fighting in Helmand but could not provide any information.

Helmand province is the largest drug producing area in the world and the region alone accounts for more than half of Afghanistan's production of opium poppies. More than 90 percent of the world's opium is produced in Afghanistan and up to $100 million of the trade's profits are used to finance the Taliban insurgency.

Insurgency related violence has killed more than 4,700 people — mostly militants — this year, according to an Associated Press count of figures from Western and Afghan officials.

A roadside bomb, meanwhile, struck a civilian vehicle traveling in the Shamulzai district of Zabul province on Sunday, killing five people, said Ghulab Shah Alikheil, a provincial official.

Alikheil blamed Taliban militants for planting the bomb.
27144  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 12, 2008, 07:57:28 AM
I am grateful for a fine day yesterday working with a good group of people and having a good time. I do so like what I get to do.
27145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 12, 2008, 12:36:39 AM
"Yeah, I don't see how sorting through voluntarily supplied information violates any constitutional protection. I have yet to see anyone here explain how it does.****"

OK, let me take a stab at it.  The collection and sorting into patterns of tremendous amounts of data, as is increasingly being enabled by the geometric progressions in technological capabilities, gives a far clearer picture of a person's private life than if these various fragments of data are not mined.  There may be very rare examples, but for general purposes it seems to me that NO ONE lives a life wherein they wouldn't be embarrassed by something coming to light.  The inchoate concerns triggered when the private sector does it reify when it is The State (or nefarious actors within the State) who can purposely destroy the reputation of those who are perceived as posing a political risk.

Example:  If I were to run for US Congress again (I've run 3x for the Libertarian Party 1984,1988, 1992) there are youtube clips I've watched that I would not want to have to explain to my son or daughter.

27146  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Quotes of note: on: October 12, 2008, 12:21:31 AM
There comes a point when every society advances enough to eliminate natural selection.Then you get liberals.
27147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 11, 2008, 06:30:33 PM
"If you are really concerned about it, i'd suggest that you go "off the grid" as much as possible."

Mmmm, , , No thank you.  I am American and I don't shut up for fear of the government.  I simply would rather not to have to have courage to speak out or read about odd things.  Nor should people who wish to get involved a lot more than me have to worry about a State capable of playing a level of the politics of personal destruction for beyond anything we've seen.

PS:  I would like to offer for your consideration that overal I think Buz and I have a pretty good track record around here of lucid reasoning, so I am left wondering at the relevance of general references to wooly headed liberal thinking.
27148  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Street Weapons on: October 11, 2008, 06:21:32 PM
Where can I get one? cheesy
27149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Europe's Islamic Legacy challenged on: October 11, 2008, 08:07:04 AM
The West’s Islamic legacy challenged
A French scholar has sparked a controversy by challenging the conventional wisdom that we emerged from the Dark Ages guided by Muslim teachers.
Sylvain Gouguenheim | Aristote au Mont saint-Michel – Les Racines grecques de l’Europe chrétienne | Seuil, Paris | 2008 | 280 pages

In France, historians writing about the cultural formation of Christian Europe throughout the Middle Ages do so at their own peril, as Sylvain Gouguenheim, professor of Medieval History at the École normale supérieure de Lyon (ENS-L), recently discovered. Because his latest book argues that the contribution of Islam to the cultural and intellectual development of Europe has been largely overemphasized, a petition was drawn up last spring by faculty colleagues lamenting its “ideological positions [inconsistent with] the pedagogical serenity and the scientific reputation of the ENS-L”.

The controversy quickly spilled into the French press with various specialists of the Middle Ages debating the book’s merits and demerits for weeks on end. Although Le Figaro (moderate right) and Le Monde (left) both published positive reviews, other publications such as Libération (far left) and Télérama (Catholic progressive) accused Gouguenheim of pursuing a “repugnant objective, that of annihilating the very notion of Arabian identity”. This led some world known authorities on the Middle-Ages, notably Rémi Brague and Jacques Le Goff, to take Gouguenheim’s defense. The book was also hotly debated on French television.

To understand why the controversy arose in the first place, one must bear in mind that there are currently three schools of thought about the relationship between Greece, the Islamic world and Medieval Europe.

The first school is premised on the notion of the “Dark Ages”, a period allegedly running from about 400 AD to 1200 AD (or earlier, depending on various historians) during which almost any form of learning would have ceased to exist except in monasteries. It holds: a) that the works of Greek philosophers, doctors and mathematicians would have first been discovered by the Arab-Muslim world beginning in the 9th century, thus giving rise to an “Islamic Enlightenment” fostered by the Abbasid Dynasty; b) that, thanks to the translation of these works from Arabic into Latin, Greek knowledge would have then penetrated into Christian Europe beginning in the 12th century; and c) that the West grew out of its “darkness” largely as a result of this “Islamic Enlightenment” and is therefore culturally indebted to the Islamic World. (1)

While this school held sway until the early 1950s, it was gradually overtaken in recent decades by a second school, one that might be termed the “self-development” view, which holds that Western civilization essentially grew out of a synthesis of Greek philosophy, Roman law and the Christian faith. Although it admits of some limited cultural influence exerted by the Islamic world on the West, it emphasizes the autonomy of Western cultural development based on a self-directed assimilation of our Greek heritage.

The third school argues that the notion of a vital continuity, whether directly from Greece to Europe, or indirectly from Greece to Arabia to Europe, is highly debatable and that, indeed, the very concept of “cultural roots” on which historians have traditionally relied should be called into question.(2)

Because the relatively new “self-development” view of the Middle Ages has been increasingly challenged in recent years by upholders of the first and third schools mentioned above, Gouguenheim has undertaken to buttress it and to respond to the arguments of its challengers. His book is essentially a synthesis of scholarly works published in the last 40 years (the bibliography includes more than 250 books and articles) by well-known French, British, Italian and American historians who contributed to the “self-development” interpretation of the Middle Ages.

So what does Gougenheim’s synthesis tell us? Four things.

First, Greek thought never really impregnated the Islamic world because the latter carefully subjected all “foreign” knowledge to an “Islamic filter” designed to determine its consistency with Muslim beliefs. Consequently, what Islamic scholars retained from Greece was limited “to that which did not contradict the teaching of the Koran”. This created major problems, notably with respect to Aristotle’s Physics and Metaphysics. More specifically, the Greek concept of causality was deemed incompatible with the Koranic understanding of God’s omnipotence, which it seemed to limit. And although some scholars like Al-Farabi, Al-Andalusi, Avicenna and Averroes were genuinely receptive to Greek influences, they were unable to reconcile Aristotelian metaphysical concepts with the content of Islamic revelation.

Moreover, Islamic works that did reflect Greek influence were usually not well received. Averroes’ books were burnt (only Latin translations of his commentaries on Aristotle have survived, all of his commentaries in Arabic having been lost or destroyed) and his disciples were found only among Jews and Christians. While the Koran may well offer its adherents a rational view of the world, Muslim rationalism has very little in common with Western rationalism. The notion of kalâm, sometimes translated as “Islamic philosophy”, was understood by the famous Muslim theologian Al-Ghazali as a means of “protecting the faith against the disruptions of innovators” and was, therefore, alien to the Greek concept of philosophy.

Finally, Muslim scholars were quick to realize that Aristotle’s political theories were inapplicable in a Muslim state, where politics, law and religion are closely intertwined. This explains why the Greco-Roman legal system was never envisaged, even by Averroes, as a source of juridical thinking in the Islamic world.

Second, Greek knowledge became accessible to the Islamic world thanks to the work of Eastern Christian scholars who translated Greek works into their own Syriac language, and then from Syriac into Arabic. More importantly, however, Islamic civilization is itself culturally indebted to early Christian scholars. For example, because the translation of Greek documents into Arabic raised major problems occasioned by the total absence of scientific terms in that language, it became incumbent on Christian Melkite translators to develop most of the Arabic scientific vocabulary. They were responsible in particular for translating into Arabic 139 medical books by Galen and Hippocratus and 43 books by Rufus of Ephesis. Also of interest is the fact, attested by several Muslim writers, that the Arabic “coufic” writing was developed by Christian missionaries in the 6th Century.

Third, Islam did not pass on its intellectual heritage to the West. The knowledge acquired by the West is the product of its own discoveries. The West benefited from the translations done at the request of abbots and bishops by clerics familiar with the Greek language, like Jacques de Venise who, after studying several years in Byzantium, spent the rest of his life translating Aristotle and other Greek philosophers at the monastery of Mont Saint-Michel, in Brittany. The West also benefited from a constant relationship with Byzantium, where Greek was the everyday language and Byzantine scholars were quite familiar with the Greek heritage. Thus, most of the knowledge discovered or transmitted throughout the period extending from the 8th to the 12th centuries resulted, not from Islam, but from the intellectual appetite of European Church elites. This explains the first Western Renaissance, known as the Carolingian Renaissance, which took place at the turn of the 9th Century.

Fourth, far from having been a “dark” or “barbarian” age, the period from the 8th to the 12th century, from Charlemagne to Peter Abelard, was characterized by the gradual assimilation of Greek philosophy and science and by an exceptional intellectual dynamism. It is throughout this period that Europe acquired the frame of mind of Greek and Roman antiquity and developed an understanding of the world and of science which became a specific character of Western civilization. The period set the stage for the 13th century, which witnessed a new intellectual “take-off” that manifested itself in the philosophical and theological works of Bonaventure, Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, as well as in the scientific works of Roger Bacon, Campanus de Novare and Pierre de Marincourt.

Anyone interested in understanding the cultural roots of Western civilization will benefit greatly from reading Gouguenheim’s book. It provides overwhelming evidence in support of the notion that the Islamic world and the West reacted very differently to Greek knowledge, with the former remaining relatively impermeable to its influence and the latter making it very much its own. No one who reads Guggenheim can fail to realize how true remains the contention that Western civilization was built on the combined heritage of Athens, Rome and Jerusalem.

Finally, one is hard put to find any evidence in this book in support of the view that it is ideologically biased. The grievances against the author call to mind Matthew 7:3 – “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?”

Richard Bastien is director of the Catholic Civil Rights League for the National Capital Area in Canada and a contributor to Égards, a French language journal of ideas.


(1) This is the view held by historians such as R.-R. Menocal (The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History: A Forgotten Heritage), A. de Libera (Penser au Moyen Âge), A. Miquel (L’Islam et sa civilisation) and R. Mantran (L’Expansion musulmane).
27150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: NATO agrees to take aim at Drug Trade on: October 11, 2008, 06:45:12 AM
This also seems significant to me and seeks address a point I have been making-- of course its significance it could turn out to be that it is meaningless or counterproductive rolleyes :

NATO Agrees to Take Aim at Afghan Drug Trade
Published: October 10, 2008
NY Times

BUDAPEST — NATO defense ministers agreed Friday to allow troops operating in Afghanistan to attack drug lords and their networks supporting the escalating insurgency in the country.

The United States has identified opium trafficking in Afghanistan as a primary target in the battle against the Taliban, but many poor farmers who toil in the poppy fields, above, depend on it.

Times Topics: Afghanistan
 The agreement came after strong pressure from the United States, which has identified opium trafficking in Afghanistan — the source of more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin supplies — as a primary target in the stepped-up battle against the Taliban insurgency that American commanders have begun mapping out in recent weeks.

But the accord also accommodates objections from some of the 26 NATO nations that contribute troops to the 50,000-strong NATO force. Attacks on drug “facilities and facilitators supporting the insurgency” are to occur only if the NATO and Afghan troops involved have the authorization of their own governments, a provision that will allow dissenting nations to opt out of counternarcotics strikes.

The compromise appeared to satisfy the two American officials who pushed the case for the new policy at a meeting here, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Gen. John Craddock, the supreme NATO commander. Afterward, Mr. Gates said that the accord would allow “some to do things that others did not want to do,” and added, “It’s better than nothing.”

On the drug policy, the United States once again ran into a problem that has beset the Afghan war: the widely-differing levels of commitment by its NATO partners, some of whom have committed troops to the effort, but have insisted that they remain in areas of Afghanistan where insurgent threats are low. Reluctance to widening the NATO mandate to include attacks on drug networks has come from Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain, among other nations.

Their fear has been that attacks on drug lords, laboratories and supply networks will further alienate ordinary Afghans who have grown wary or hostile toward NATO troops, undercutting efforts to curb the insurgency and increasing threats to NATO troops.

The drug trade is estimated to account for about half of Afghanistan’s meager economy, and some of the nation’s poorest people, including farmers who toil in the poppy fields, are dependent on incomes that flow directly or indirectly from narcotics. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in a recent survey on the 2008 opium yield in Afghanistan, estimated that the average income for the 500,000 families involved in the opium harvest amounted to nearly $2,000.

There have also been concerns that attacks on drug networks will depend heavily on intelligence supplied by Afghans, which has often proved unreliable, contributing to the deaths of civilians in attacks. Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, under pressure from NATO members to rid his government of the corruption and incompetence they say are hampering the war effort, has been increasingly shrill in recent months in his criticism of the civilian toll taken by NATO military action, particularly American airstrikes.

Mr. Karzai has also opposed the forceful eradication of poppy crops, something that did not appear to be sanctioned by the new NATO mandate. Mr. Karzai has argued that other measures, including crop substitution and public education programs, along with foreign aid that provides jobs, are the most effective ways of cutting opium production without the violence likely to be provoked by crop eradication.

But American commanders have concluded that gaining the upper hand in the fight against the resurgent Taliban will require depriving the insurgents of income from the drug trade, which the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan, estimated at a Washington briefing last week to be a minimum of $100 million.

Despite the misgivings among some NATO allies, the American push for a NATO mandate that includes attacks on drug networks fueling the insurgency has been backed by the Afghan government, which reiterated the sentiment at the Budapest meeting.

The need for more aggressive action against the drug lords has also been pressed by the United Nations drug agency. In its August report, authored by its executive director, Antonio Maria Costa of Italy, it noted the “inextricable link between drugs and conflict,” and without referring to or sanctioning military action, said that something needed to be done.

Beyond that, the American commanders have been supported by Britain, whose 8,000 troops in Afghanistan are second only in numbers, among NATO nations, to the 33,000 American troops. British support is particularly significant, since most of the British troops are concentrated in Helmand Province in the southwest, the heartland of the opium trade and one of the most intensive battlefields of the insurgency. United Nations figures estimate that Helmand alone accounts for more than 50 percent of the country’s opium production.

According to the recent United Nations survey, 98 percent of Afghanistan’s opium comes from seven provinces in the southwest, with no opium at all produced in half of the country’s 34 provinces. The bulk of the NATO troops operating in the southwest come from the United States, Britain, Canada and Denmark, and it is those nations that are likely to be most affected by the new NATO mandate.

Together with the United States, Britain and Canada have already taken the heaviest casualties among the NATO nations fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda, with NATO troops who have died in the seven-year war now approaching 1,000, including more than 600 Americans.

Judy Dempsey reported from Budapest, and John F. Burns from Kabul, Afghanistan
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