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27301  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain on: December 18, 2007, 04:08:31 PM
A busy day on this thread!

Here's today's WSJ on McCain:

McCain's Surge
Why he's making a primary comeback.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Endorsing John McCain for President yesterday, Joseph Lieberman stressed that his Senate colleague would always elevate his country above his party. Coming from a man who was excommunicated by Democrats for his views on Iraq, this was a fitting sentiment--and it may also explain why Mr. McCain seems to be staging something of a primary resurgence.

As recently as January, Mr. McCain was the putative Republican favorite, but his support collapsed amid his campaign mismanagement and the GOP's immigration meltdown. Now primary voters seem prepared to give him a second look in an unstable race. Mike Huckabee has galloped to a lead in Iowa, bruising Mitt Romney, though without much scrutiny of the former Arkansas Governor's record. Fred Thompson has yet to offer a compelling rationale for his candidacy. Rudy Giuliani for a time defied political gravity based on his New York reform leadership, but he has been hurt by questions about his judgment and ethics.

Re-enter Mr. McCain, who is nothing if not a known GOP commodity. One of his problems has been that to some Republicans he is too well known. This is the John McCain who was adored by the media for opposing tax cuts, favoring limits on free speech as part of "campaign finance reform," and embracing a cap and trade regime for global warming. This is the John McCain who was also endorsed this weekend by the Des Moines Register and Boston Globe, two liberal papers that are sure to endorse a Democrat next year.

Our own differences with Mr. McCain have mainly been over economics, and especially taxes. Despite record surpluses in 2000, the Senator refused to propose tax cuts as part of his Presidential bid--one reason he lost to George W. Bush. He also opposed the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, often using the language of the left.
Mr. McCain paid a visit to our offices last Friday, and he now says he supports extending the Bush tax rates, even admitting they helped the economy emerge from recession. "Without a doubt. Without the slightest doubt," he told us. "Absolutely."

In a spirited exchange, Mr. McCain justified his previous opposition by arguing that there was no discipline on spending. "To the everlasting shame and embarrassment of the Republican Party and this Administration," he noted, "we went on a spending spree and we didn't pay for it." That's true enough, and in an ideal world tax cuts would be offset dollar-for-dollar by spending cuts.

But in practice Congress will never do so, which means Republicans are left to be tax collectors for the welfare state. The experience of the Reagan and Bush years is that tax cutting has its own economic benefits, and that revenues will rebound far more quickly than the critics claim. We asked Mr. McCain what he'd do when faced with a Democratic Congress that insists he raise taxes in 2009, and he replied that he'd say "No" and cite JFK's successful tax-cutting in the 1960s. This is intellectual progress, and we trust such McCain advisers as Phil Gramm and Tim Muris will conduct further tutorials.

More than economics, Mr. McCain has two main strengths in this GOP race: His record on national security, and the belief that he can reach enough non-Republicans to assemble a viable center-right coalition and defeat Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in what could be a difficult GOP year. Mr. Lieberman's endorsement is notable because it reinforces both of those claims. Mr. Lieberman had to win GOP and independent voters to keep his Connecticut Senate seat after he lost the Democratic primary, and Mr. McCain won in New Hampshire in 2000 with the help of independents who could vote in the GOP primary. He'll need their support again this year.

The two men have also been stalwarts on Iraq, even when it became unpopular, and despite paying a political price for it. Mr. McCain also argued persuasively for the changes in strategy now known as the surge. In his Friday visit with us, the Senator spoke with authority on all manner of foreign policy. He is a hawk in the Reagan mold on Iran, the larger Middle East and overall defense spending.
Our guess is that this national security record is the main reason for his own political surge. With the success of General David Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, even some conservatives have taken to arguing that foreign and military policy will become less important in 2008. We doubt it. This is still a post-9/11 country, and voters know they will be electing a Commander in Chief in a world that is as dangerous as it was during the height of the Cold War. In an election against any Democrat next year, Mr. McCain would have little trouble winning the security debate.

27302  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 18, 2007, 01:30:09 PM
Geopolitical Diary: The U.S.-Iranian Dance

The Russians said on Monday they have delivered their first fuel shipment to the Iranian power plant at Bushehr. This fulfills a long-standing Russian agreement with Iran, which was reaffirmed at the meeting of Caspian Sea nations held in Tehran in October. The same day, U.S. President George W. Bush said at a press conference, without prompting, "If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there's no need for them to learn how to enrich." A White House spokesman later said, "There is no doubt that Russia and the rest of the world want to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon." Monday's announcement provides one more avenue for the Iranians to make a strategic choice to suspend enrichment.

The Iranians also have said they will continue to enrich their own uranium. The Israelis have pointed to the uranium enrichment program as proof that the Iranians are developing a nuclear weapon, saying enriched uranium constitutes the essence of a nuclear weapons program; Bush also focused on uranium enrichment.

If the intelligence community imposed the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Bush against his will, this would be the perfect time for him to reverse it. That the Iranians are continuing to enrich uranium in spite of Russia's decision could easily be construed as part of an Iranian weapons program. Bush so far has not done that. In fact, aside from assertions by others that the NIE blindsided him, there is no evidence whatever of it. Both Bush and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney publicly endorsed the NIE and no steps have been taken to reverse it. If the president had wanted to reverse it, this was the time to do so. He has not, at least not yet.

Apart from everything else, there is the basic assumption that enriching uranium constitutes a weapons program. Enriched uranium is a necessary condition for building one sort of device, but it is far from being a sufficient condition. As we have said before, there are multiple, non-nuclear technologies needed to build a weapon that can be mounted on a missile, attached to an aircraft or stowed in the hull of a ship. First the weapon must be miniaturized, which is far from easy to do. It then must be ruggedized to withstand the extraordinary stresses of delivery. For example, a nuclear weapon must be small enough to fit on a missile but rugged enough to withstand the high Gs of launch, vibration, vacuum and extreme temperatures -- not to mention moisture. These are not trivial technologies. It is the difference between having a device that can be exploded under special conditions, and one that can take out a city.

But the technology is not the key -- it simply is the analytic justification for Bush to support the NIE as he has, and to be much calmer with the Russian action and Iranian response than he would have been a few months ago. The key is to be found in a scheduled Dec. 18 meeting the Iranians postponed. The Iranians and Americans were supposed to meet in Baghdad to discuss security in Iraq. The United States is looking for reciprocity from the Iranians. So far it has not gotten it; on the contrary, the Iranians have been publicly uncooperative and truculent.

Bush has certain room to run with this strategy. But the more truculent the Iranians, the more he will be under pressure to revert to his prior position, which is that Iran has a nuclear program and is a danger to the world. The same rationale that allows the NIE to state that there is no nuclear program in spite of an enrichment program allows a reversal of a finding. The definition of a nuclear program is more than a little complex, and, as the NIE proves, is subject to reinterpretations depending on political necessity. Bush went with the redefinition expecting reciprocity on other issues from Iran. If it does not happen, he can again change course.
27303  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: December 18, 2007, 12:43:52 PM
This could fit on any of a number of threads, but because the discs in question were being sold in the UK, I post it here:
27304  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: December 18, 2007, 12:29:18 PM
Although I disagree with RP on War with Islamic Fascism (and that is a REALLY important disagreement) there is quite a bit I agree with him on-- and those too are REALLY important things.  (Trivia-- I voted for him when he ran for President on the Libertarian ticket)  Even though I won't be voting for him, I am very glad he is in the race and doing well.  He reminds us of our Founding Fathers and our Constitution.

Here's an endorsement he picked up yesterday.

"At one end of the character scale, you have the sickening sight of Mitt Romney, a hollow shell of cynicism and salesmanship, recrafted to appeal to a base he studied the way Bain consultants assess a company. [Ron] Paul and [John] McCain are at the other end. They have both said things to GOP audiences that they knew would offend. They have stuck with their positions despite unpopularity. They're not saints, but they believe what they say. Both have also taken a stand against the cancerous and deeply un-American torture and detention regime constructed by Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld. In my book, that counts.... [Ron Paul] is the real thing in a world of fakes and frauds. And in a primary campaign where the very future of conservatism is at stake, that cannot be ignored. In fact, it demands support" -- blogger Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic, on why he is endorsing Ron Paul for the GOP presidential nomination.
27305  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton; John Adams on: December 18, 2007, 11:50:31 AM
"As riches increase and accumulate in few hands, as luxury prevails
in society, virtue will be in a greater degree considered as
only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things
will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real
disposition of human nature; it is what neither the honorable
member nor myself can correct. It is a common misfortunate that
awaits our State constitution, as well as all others."

-- Alexander Hamilton (speech to the New York Ratifying Convention,
June 1788)

Reference: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Cabot Lodge,
ed., II, 26.


This one by John Adams I think particularly profound:

"We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other." John Adams
27306  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: December 18, 2007, 11:36:58 AM
Don't Have a Cow, Man
With her aura of inevitability diminishing, Hillary Clinton is resorting to ever more degrading campaign methods, the Associated Press reports from Dunlap, Iowa:

Standing atop a stage in a livestock auction barn, [Mrs.] Clinton likened the experience to her quest to woo undecided voters in the closing days before Iowa's pivotal caucuses.

"I've been to cattle barns before and sales before, in Arkansas, but I've never felt like I was the one that was being bid on,'' Clinton told a crowd in western Iowa. ''I know you're going to inspect me. You can look inside my mouth if you want. I hope by the end of my time with you I can make the case for my candidacy and to ask you to consider caucusing for me.''
27307  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: December 18, 2007, 11:27:25 AM
Pretty good!
27308  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Bolivia on: December 17, 2007, 10:33:55 PM
Bolivia: Unrest and the Threat to Exports
December 17, 2007 15 58  GMT


Bolivia is locked in a struggle for its future between its largely indigenous western highlands and the more Europeanized lowlands. The turmoil threatens all three of its main export sectors in varying degrees.


The struggle between Bolivia's highlands and lowlands threatens to disrupt all three of its main export sectors -- some more than others.

President Evo Morales' center of power lies in the eastern highlands, which are populated by indigenous people who make up roughly two-thirds of the country's population. The opposition's power base lies in the western lowlands. The lowlanders, who are largely of European descent, generate more than two-thirds of the Bolivia's wealth, although they only make up about one-third of the population.

Nearly all of the country's exports are generated in the lowlands; the exports fall into three categories. First are Bolivia's natural gas exports, which are transported via two pipelines. One pipeline supplies Brazil exclusively, while the second supplies Argentina and Chile. Second are various minerals, largely zinc, iron ore and tin. Third are agricultural products -- mostly soybeans -- that are sent to the nations of South America's southern cone. Most of the highland population practices subsistence farming, and Bolivia is actually a net importer of foodstuffs despite the lowland soybean exports.

The ongoing instability in Bolivia's political system could disrupt all of these export sectors. The least vulnerable of the three categories, ironically, is the mines. While most of the mines are located in the highlands, where various indigenous protests regularly interrupt shipments, the mines are not the subject of the political dispute. Operations there might not be ideal, but there is no change on the horizon, no matter how far things degrade in the highland-lowland equation.

Natural gas falls in the middle in terms of risk. Morales' constitutional reforms aim to harness most natural gas export income for the central government -- something that would disenfranchise the lowlands economically. While no one in Bolivia wants to see the natural gas flows stop, nearly all of the country's natural gas fields are precisely where the highlands slope down into the lowlands -- exactly where the two sides would clash if the situation degrades into fighting. Such a shift would threaten exports to all three of the southern cone states equally. Bolivia exports 2.4 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year to Argentina -- with some of that flowing on to Chile -- and has the capacity to ship 10 billion cubic meters annually to Brazil, although Brazil typically imports only about half of that amount.

In the long term, however, while disruption is a looming probability, whoever ends up on top will still have an interest in exporting the natural gas. The real question for Bolivian energy is, will anyone still want it? All three southern cone states are making efforts to eliminate their need for Bolivian natural gas -- not only because of the political chaos, but also because of Morales' recent nationalization of the energy sector. Of the three, Argentina is the furthest from success.

Bolivia's political instability threatens its agricultural exports the most. These exports are generated almost exclusively in the lowlands. One part of Morales' constitutional changes would launch a land reform. That would break up the large farms of the lowlands and redistribute the land to the indigenous population in small plots, a process that would likely eliminate most exports.

27309  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Coming Dhimmitude on: December 17, 2007, 10:30:19 PM
Katherine Kersten: Normandale's 'meditation room' is home to a single faith

By Katherine Kersten, Star Tribune
Last update: December 16, 2007 - 8:53 PM

Last week, I visited a Muslim place of worship. A schedule for Islam's five daily prayers was posted at the entrance, near a sign requesting that shoes be removed. Inside, a barrier divided men's and women's prayer space, an arrow informed worshippers of the direction of Mecca, and literature urged women to cover their faces.
Sound like a mosque?
The place I'm describing is the "meditation room" at Normandale Community College, a 9,200-student public institution in Bloomington.

Until recently, the room was the school's only usable racquetball court. College administrators converted the court into a meditation room when construction forced closure of the previous meditation room.
A row of chest-high barriers splits the room into sex-segregated sections. In the smaller, enclosed area for women sits a pile of shawls and head-coverings. Literature titled "Hijaab [covering] and Modesty" was prominently placed there, instructing women on proper Islamic behavior.
They should cover their faces and stay at home, it said, and their speech should not "be such that it is heard."
"Enter into Islaam completely and accept all the rulings of Islaam," the tract read in part. "It should not be that you accept what entertains your desires and leave what opposes your desires; this is from the manners of the Jews."
"[T]he Jews and the Christians" are described as "the enemies of Allaah's religion." The document adds: "Remember that you will never succeed while you follow these people."
A poster on the room's door advertised a local lecture on "marriage from an Islamic perspective," with "useful tips for marital harmony from the Prophet's ... life." Other fliers invited students to join the Normandale Islamic Forum, or participate in Ramadan celebrations.
One thing was missing from the meditation room: evidence of any faith but Islam. No Bible, no crucifix, no Torah.

Normandale's administration is facilitating the room's Islamization. The college's building crew erected the barrier separating men's and women's sections, according to Ralph Anderson, dean of student affairs. College officials also posted signs at the room's entrance asking students to remove shoes -- a Muslim custom before prayers. This was "basically a courtesy to Muslim students," Anderson said.

Despite the room's Islamic atmosphere, Anderson says it "is open to everyone."

Why is the meditation room segregated by sex? "Muslim students prefer that areas be divided into male and female," he said. "Other students don't care."
Doesn't sex-segregation present a constitutional problem in a public educational institution? "I don't want to comment on that," he said.
And the literature regarding Jews and Christians? "I would probably take it out if I knew it was in there," said Anderson.
Normandale's zealous effort to accommodate Muslim students is not new. Chad Lunaas, a former student who works at the college part time, cites examples.
Last year on Fridays, he says, he often entered the bathroom to find that "every sink and toilet stall had someone washing his feet." Other students couldn't use the bathroom at these times, and those who tried felt awkward.
Lunaas finally expressed his concerns to a Muslim student who "seemed to be in charge."
"His attitude was, 'We don't have to listen to you, we can do whatever we want,' " he said.
Confrontations also erupted in the sex-segregated meditation room, according to Lunaas. "Muslim students just took it over. They made people who were not of the Muslim religion feel very uncomfortable, especially if they were female."
One female student tried to use the room when Muslim students were in it, said Lunaas. "She believed she should be treated equally. They were telling her to leave, to take off her shoes, to go to the other side of the divider."
Anderson says he met several times with concerned students. But "the whole thing was just basically swept aside," according to Lunaas.
Anderson said that in the incident involving the young woman, "both sides were probably out of line."
Howard Odor, who advises the college's Somali Student Association, said he has not been aware of "any issues" since the meditation room has been in the racquetball court. "I can guarantee that college policy is that anyone who wants to go in there and pray or meditate can do so."
But many at the college see a bigger issue.
"For all practical purposes, this meditation room is essentially a Muslim prayer room," said Chuck Chalberg of Normandale's history faculty. "Something this unprecedented goes beyond religious toleration."

Katherine Kersten • Join the conversation at my blog, Think Again, which can be found at
27310  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Can we actually be up to something intelligent? on: December 17, 2007, 02:43:05 PM

IRAN: Russia's first shipment of fuel to Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant gives Iran one more reason to suspend its uranium enrichment program, a White House spokesman said. He added that if Iran is getting fuel from Russia, it does not need its own program.
27311  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Uh oh , , , on: December 17, 2007, 02:41:24 PM

LEBANON: A senior Iranian intelligence officer arrived in Lebanon the week of Dec. 9, and Imad Mughniyye, Hezbollah official in charge of foreign operations, is accompanying the officer to his meetings there, Stratfor sources said Dec. 16. The two have held continuous talks with Hezbollah foreign operations officers in meetings attended by Hezbollah security chief Wafiq Safa. They later traveled to the town of Nabi Sheit in the northern Biqaa, then met with Syrian intelligence officers led by Brig. Gen. Ali Diab in Hezbollah training grounds in Shara near the border village of Janta.
27312  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Don't know where this goes but "The Keysi Fighting Method" on: December 17, 2007, 01:46:27 PM
Andy and a couple of his English buddies while they were in town to train at the Inosanto Academy fought with Top Dog and me in the early 90s.  IIRC it was Andy (or Phil?) who became the UK champion in the TV show "The Gladiators" or something like that , , ,
27313  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Parenting Issues on: December 17, 2007, 12:13:52 PM
12 Ways to Make Your Kids Financially Savvy
December 17, 2007; Page R1

Ten years after I am dead and gone, I suspect only two people will give much thought to me, and their names are Henry and Hannah.

They're my legacy, so I hope they thrive -- and I sure hope they remember me fondly.

Henry and Hannah are, of course, my children, now ages 15 and 19, respectively. Like any parent, I spend a lot of time thinking about my kids, including how I can best help them financially.  This isn't simply about coughing up dollars and cents, though the sums involved have been frighteningly large. Rather, what it's really about is passing along values.  Yes, I want my kids to be financially successful. But mostly, I want them to be competent, contented managers of their own money, so they don't spend their lives agonizing over their finances and dogged by foolish mistakes.

I am not claiming to have the road map for every parent. We all have different values, different incomes and strong ideas about how best to raise children -- and you will likely scoff at some of the things I've done. With that caveat, here are a dozen ways I have endeavored to help my kids financially.


If children are to grow up to be successful savers and investors, they need to learn two key skills: How to delay gratification and how to take risks prudently. The first is easily the most important. Indeed, the self-control needed to delay gratification is associated not only with good saving habits, but also with things like succeeding in school and coping better with frustration and stress.  Yet this isn't an easy skill to teach. Henry and Hannah grew up spending their parents' cash, so they didn't have much incentive to curb their desires. My response? Make them feel like they're spending their own money.

One of my early tricks was the soda game, which I learned about from a reader. When my children   were young and we went to restaurants, I would give them a choice: They could have a soda or they could have $1.  Henry and Hannah ended up drinking a lot of water.


Emboldened by the soda game's success, I looked for other ways to apply the same notion. The breakthrough came when Hannah was 14 and Henry was 10. That was when I opened a savings account for each of them. The accounts came with a cash-machine card.  Every three months since then, I have deposited pocket money for them in their savings accounts and, as they have grown older, their clothing allowance as well. That way, they've had to learn to budget for a three-month period. More important, they no longer ask me for money.  Instead, if they want to buy something, they have to ask themselves. The effect has been startling. Henry and Hannah almost immediately became more careful spenders.

Sound manipulative? You'd better believe it. But I also think of it as financial self-defense. Suppose Henry and Hannah don't learn good money skills and grow up to be financial deadbeats. If they ended up deeply in debt, I can't imagine not helping -- at which point their financial problems would be mine.


I haven't just molded Henry and Hannah with financial incentives. I have also used family stories.

Values are passed down to our children in the stories we tell. My children may live in an affluent household in an affluent town. But I want them to know that their mother and I struggled financially, and that they will likely have their own struggles. So I talk about the mouse- and cockroach-infested Brooklyn apartment where we all lived while their mother worked on her Ph.D. and we squeaked by on a junior reporter's salary. I tell them about the beaten-up '76 Camaro that used to stall if the traffic light stayed red too long. I recount taking them as toddlers to the "toy museum," otherwise known as FAO Schwarz, where we would play with the dolls and the trains but never buy.

Instead of regaling my children with these tales, I could simply lecture them about the virtues of thrift. But the stories pack far more punch.


I have also encouraged my kids to be suspicious of displays of opulence, whether it's the big house, the fancy car or the designer clothes. The fact is, this sort of spending doesn't lead to lasting happiness, but it can create a heap of financial stress.

In belittling conspicuous consumption, I may be a little too strident, but there's a reason. Henry and Hannah may have grown up hearing about the dilapidated Brooklyn apartment. But I grew up hearing a far more powerful story, about my maternal grandfather and his four siblings, who in the 1940s each inherited what today would be millions of dollars. My grandfather's siblings quickly blew the money on fast cars and high living. My grandfather blew his money more slowly, on horses and cattle farming. Either way, the great family fortune was gone, and reckless spending was largely to blame.


When my children were young, I opened a variable annuity for each of them. This isn't a product I particularly like, because many have outrageously high annual expenses and charge back-end sales commissions if you sell within, say, the first seven years.

Still, there are a few no-load variable annuities with low annual expenses, notably the offerings from Fidelity Investments and Vanguard Group. Moreover, unlike with an individual retirement account, you don't need earned income to fund a variable annuity, so you can open an account for a toddler. Today, my kids' low-cost variable annuities are each worth some $37,000.

I have long been captivated by the idea of starting Henry and Hannah on the road to retirement. Think about it: The dollars I invested when they were youngsters might enjoy six decades of tax-deferred compounding. That's enough to turn $1 into over $100, assuming an 8% annual return. And thanks to the tax penalty on early withdrawals, my children will be discouraged from touching the money before they are 59½.


There are far better investment vehicles than a variable annuity, and my chance came a few years ago. Hannah got a job at a local restaurant, which meant she had earned income. That allowed me to open a Roth individual retirement account for her, which will give Hannah tax-free growth.

Instead, I could have funded a regular IRA, where withdrawals are taxable but you get an initial tax deduction. That tax deduction, however, wouldn't have been worth much, given Hannah's low tax rate, so the Roth seemed like a better bet.

The money I've stashed in my kids' variable annuities and in Hannah's Roth IRA won't be nearly enough to pay for their retirement, especially once you figure in inflation. But fully funding their retirement was never my aim. Rather, the accounts are intended to be a powerful example, showing my children how money will grow if they are willing to sit quietly with a diverse collection of low-cost funds.


When I bought my first home, my parents helped me financially, and I want to do the same for my kids. To that end, I have invested $15,000 for each of them.  Even with a decade or more of growth, that $15,000 probably won't be nearly enough for a 20% down payment. But it will give them something to build on.  I stashed Hannah's $15,000 in a target-date mutual fund that's geared toward 2010, while Henry's money is in a 2015 fund. I bought those funds knowing my kids probably won't buy homes until five or 10 years after those dates.

My thinking: Target-date funds typically have around half their money in stocks as of their target date, and then they continue to become more conservative in the years that follow. By the time my kids need their down-payment money, their target-date funds should be largely invested in bonds.


When my kids buy a house, they won't just need a down payment. They will also want to have a good credit score. 
With that in mind, I listed Hannah as a joint account holder on my Visa card earlier this year. That meant the card's credit history was added to her previously blank credit report.  Suddenly, she looked like a model financial citizen. That allowed her, a few months later, to apply for a Discover card on her own. I now have her on a strict regimen, where she charges a small sum each month and dutifully pays it off, thus slowly building up a good credit score.

When Henry reaches college age, I will go through the same nonsense with him. This, alas, is necessary nonsense. The reality is, a good credit score will help my kids get a lower mortgage rate, lower insurance premiums and a host of other financial benefits.


Full disclosure: I am divorced. But even before my marriage broke up, I was horrified by the way many families blow $20,000 or $30,000 on a single day of celebration for a wedding.  To put such spending in context, consider this: According to the Federal Reserve's 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances, more than 96% of households headed by someone 65 to 74 had some savings -- but the median value of these financial assets, including things like checking accounts, stocks and mutual funds, was just $36,100.
Spending $30,000 on a party is not one of my values, and I've made sure my kids know it. I have told them I will give them $5,000 toward a wedding or at age 30, whichever comes first. What if they want the $30,000 wedding? They can ask their mother.


While an expensive wedding is low on my list of priorities, a good education ranks near the top. My ex-wife and I long ago agreed that we would pay the full cost of our children's undergraduate education. Again, this was something my parents did for me, and we all tend to be heavily influenced by our parents' behavior.

There is, however, a limit to my generosity. I have told Henry and Hannah that, if they want to go on to graduate school, they will have to take out loans. I may relent somewhat when the time comes. But I think that there should be some cost to staying in school, so I am not inclined to continue footing the full tab.


As you might gather, I have talked to my kids a fair amount about money. They know they will graduate college debt-free, they will get some help toward a house down payment and they will receive just $5,000 toward a wedding. They know about the retirement accounts. I have also promised them $5,000 upon graduating college, to get them started in the world.

No doubt some folks will think I'm overly generous, while others might consider me cheap. Many will question my priorities. For instance, folks have told me that they would have skipped the retirement accounts and allocated more toward a house down payment.  But, frankly, the precise sums aren't that important. Instead, what I am striving to do is set expectations. By detailing everything to Henry and Hannah, I have made it clear where I think my financial responsibility ends and where theirs will begin.


Along the way, I have also endeavored to teach my kids about sensible investing. It's been a slow process.

For instance, earlier this decade, I tried a family investment contest. We all picked a mutual fund, I invested $50 a month in each and then we tracked who fared best. I thought the competition would grab their interest, but it wasn't a great success. Maybe Henry and Hannah were too young.  Indeed, I have continued to show them their mutual-fund statements as they arrive in the mail, and my kids have grown more interested as they have grown older. They have also become more curious about the financial markets, and I can now chat about investing for at least 30 seconds before they reach for their iPods.

I hope enough of this will stick, and they will grow up to be prudent managers of their own money. The potential savings are huge. A financial adviser might charge 1% of a portfolio's value each year, and then recommend mutual funds that cost another 1%. What if my children learn to build their own index-fund portfolios that cost a mere 0.2% a year? When their portfolios hit $1 million, they will pay just $2,000 a year in investment costs, instead of the $20,000 they would be paying if they used an adviser. And, with any luck, they will remember whom to thank.

--Mr. Clements, who is based in New York, writes the Getting Going column for The Wall Street Journal. He can be reached at

27314  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: December 17, 2007, 08:55:48 AM
Money Illusions
December 17, 2007; Page A20
Groucho Marx once asked, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?" Too bad Groucho doesn't work at either the Federal Reserve or on Wall Street, where economists have been predicting that slower economic growth would lead to a slowdown in inflation. They should have believed their own eyes.

As any American who has shopped for groceries or gasoline can tell you, prices are rising. That was confirmed last Friday in the official figures for November, with overall consumer prices jumping 0.8% from a month earlier. That was the largest monthly gain in two years, and 4.3% higher than a year ago. The report for producer prices was equally as alarming a day earlier, rising 3.2%. The producer price index is up 7.7% in the past 12 months, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Some analysts continue to ignore all this and focus on so-called "core" inflation, which excludes food and energy. That is cold comfort to Americans who devote increasingly larger chunks of their monthly budget to -- food and energy. One lesson of the past few years is that relying too much on core inflation data, as the Fed has done until recently, can be a dangerous mistake. We couldn't help but notice that former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, a longtime "core" watcher, was quoted last week as saying it is now a less reliable guide to monetary policy.

Not surprisingly, equity markets fell Friday on the inflation news -- the same markets that only a week earlier had been begging for easier money from the Fed. Anyone who recalls the 1970s understands that inflation is very bad for stocks in general, though of course price-sensitive shares like commodities can do very well for a while. If nothing else, the inflation figures should remind us that there is no free lunch for Wall Street in continuing its cheerleading for easier money.

It should also remind us once again that inflation doesn't rise or fall along with economic growth. Inflation is a monetary phenomenon and reflects the supply and demand for currency created by central banks. We learned in the 1970s that rising prices can co-exist with slower growth, and we learned in the 1980s, or should have, that rapid growth can co-exist with falling levels of inflation.

Those are lessons too many people seem to have forgotten this decade, which is why the Fed now has both less credibility and less leeway to ease money amid the housing recession and mortgage mess. If politicians want to help the economy, they'll stop relying on the monetary delusion and instead focus on fiscal policy -- specifically, a tax cut.

27315  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Islamismo radical y España on: December 17, 2007, 08:06:53 AM
Con la bajisima taza de nacimiento por Espanoles en Espana (tengo entendido que es alredor de 1.2  shocked shocked shocked ) es dificil ver como el pais puede sobrevivir como un pais del oeste.
27316  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America on: December 17, 2007, 08:03:02 AM
Stung in Miami
December 17, 2007; Page A20

Argentina isn't conscientious about paying its debts, but maybe that's about to change under freshly inaugurated President Cristina Kirchner. Two news items that broke last week suggest that her government may be running a hefty tab with President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and is earnestly trying to repay him.

The U.S. Justice Department alleged on Wednesday that Mrs. Kirchner's recent election campaign was the destination for $800,000 in cash shipped south in a suitcase from Mr. Chávez in August. If true, it would confirm what many Argentines have long suspected: that Argentina, under former President Nestor Kirchner and now his wife, has been leased out to the Venezuelan strongman in much the same way that Bolivia and Nicaragua have come under Mr. Chavez's influence.

This is grim not only for Argentine democracy. If members of the Organization of American States are indeed on Mr. Chávez's payroll, it would explain why the Washington-based multilateral organization, charged with defending democracy, has been so timid with the anti-democratic Venezuelan president.

It also raises questions about whether Mrs. Kirchner was acting in good faith last week when she met with Mr. Chávez's sworn enemy in South America, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, to discuss the plight of French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt and 44 others held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Mrs. Kirchner went on the offensive last week, charging that the U.S. sting operation was "garbage." But the feds may have the goods. Recall that the bagman carrying the $800,000 returned to his home in Florida after being released by the Argentine authorities. The U.S. attorney in Miami says that three Venezuelans and an Uruguayan acted as foreign agents when they traveled to the U.S. to try to silence him "in an effort to keep the lid on a burgeoning international scandal."

Given the nonchalance with which the smuggler approached his task, it is not hard to fathom that the transaction was considered routine by Venezuela and that he was only an unlucky one who got caught. The Argentine daily La Nación revealed last summer that Venezuelan aircraft and personnel regularly land and bypass customs inspections at Jorge Newberry Airport in Buenos Aires.

Mrs. Kirchner would owe Mr. Chávez a lot if he did indeed underwrite her campaign. So perhaps that explains the pro-Chávez attitude she took last Tuesday toward Colombia's hostage issue when she met with President Uribe in Buenos Aires. Rather than endorse the 1949 Geneva Convention and, as Chilean President Michelle Bachelet did recently, call for the FARC to immediately release its victims without conditions, Mrs. Kirchner pressured the Colombian head of state to be more forthcoming. In other words, she took the same line as Mr. Chávez and the FARC, insisting that Mr. Uribe is the barrier to progress.

Mrs. Kirchner may have domestic political reasons for avoiding the subject of the Geneva Convention. Her government -- and her husband's before her -- relies on allies, advisers and cabinet members who are former members of Argentine terror groups that made a living from kidnapping in the 1970s. If the FARC is guilty of violating the convention, so too are many kirchneristas.

If she has a debt with Mr. Chávez, she now has an additional motivation for trying to place blame on Mr. Uribe rather than the terrorists. Mr. Chávez makes no secret of his support for the FARC or his enmity for Mr. Uribe. The FARC leadership hangs out in Caracas and runs its drugs through Mr. Chávez's backyard. If he wanted to free the hostages for purely humanitarian reasons, he could have already done so. The guerrillas need passage through Venezuelan territory and could be brought to heel anytime Mr. Chávez wants.

Mr. Uribe may have made a big mistake by even considering a hostage negotiation with the FARC. The rebels have never suggested that they are interested in peace. They want to trade their "political" captives -- police, soldiers, politicians and three American contractors -- for a strategic gain that will enhance the efficiency of their narcotics and kidnapping businesses. In light of this reality, Mr. Uribe would have been better off sticking to a policy of no talks with terrorists.

But the Colombian government is under intense pressure from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and hostage family members, so he gambled on opening a dialogue. He took an even bigger risk by agreeing to allow Mr. Chávez to act as a negotiator. The Venezuelan president almost immediately violated the ground rules by attempting to talk directly with the military. His goal was to secure the guerrillas' No. 1 demand, a new rebel territory guaranteed free of Colombian forces. Mr. Uribe promptly and wisely fired the Venezuelan "negotiator," but now he finds himself under renewed pressure from Mrs. Kirchner to do more to satisfy the demands of the narcotraffickers.

According to local news reports, in her meeting with Mr. Uribe, Mrs. Kirchner showed no appreciation of Colombia's latest concession to the FARC, to allow an internationally observed, demilitarized zone of 150 square kilometers for 30 days in order to exchange 500 FARC insurgents that the government holds for the hostages. The FARC has also ignored the offer.

Nor does the Argentine president seem interested in getting to the bottom of the "suitcase affair." Instead, an enraged Mrs. Kirchner went before television cameras last week and played the gender card. "This president may be a woman but she is not going to allow herself to be pressured," she said in reference to U.S. antipathy toward her friend, Mr. Chávez.

Her attitude can't be too comforting to Colombians, men or women, who live with the FARC terror that Mr. Chávez and now Mrs. Kirchner want to appease.

• Write to O'
27317  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: December 17, 2007, 07:58:37 AM
The NY Times covers the AP.  Caveat Lector!

Case Lays Bare the Media’s Reliance on Iraqi Journalists
Published: December 17, 2007
Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi photographer who had a hand in The Associated Press’s 2005 Pulitzer Prize for photography before being jailed without charges by the United States military, finally had a day in court last week. But his story, which highlights the unprecedented role that Iraqis are playing in news coverage of the war, is really just beginning.

He was held for around 20 months by the military — in Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere, with no right to contest his detention —before being turned over to an Iraqi magistrate, who will act as a one-man grand jury and decide if there is enough evidence to link him to the insurgency. He has not been formally charged with a crime.

The Associated Press has staunchly defended Mr. Hussein, pointing out that his role as a journalist involved getting close to the insurgency. Over the last three years, the American military has held at least eight other Iraqi journalists for periods of weeks or month without charges and released them all, apparently unable to find ties to the insurgency, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent nonprofit organization.

As for Mr. Hussein and his lawyers, “they were not given a copy of the materials that were presented and which they need to prepare a defense,” The Associated Press said in a statement last week, noting that Mr. Hussein was still being detained without formal charges. “The Associated Press continues to believe that claims Bilal is involved with insurgent activities are false.”

A spokesman for the military said that Mr. Hussein had been detained as “an imperative security threat” and that he has persistently been “treated fairly, humanely and in accordance with all applicable law.”

In a lengthy e-mail message, the spokesman said that Mr. Hussein had been named by “sources” as having “possessed foreknowledge of an improvised explosive device (I.E.D.) attack” on American and Iraqi forces, “that he was standing next to the I.E.D. triggerman at the time of the attempted attack, and that he conspired with the I.E.D. triggerman to synchronize his photograph with the explosion.”

The e-mail message did not say whether the photograph in question is the one that Mr. Hussein took in Falluja on Nov. 8, 2004, of Iraqi insurgents firing a mortar and small arms, which was among the 20 from The Associated Press that collectively won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography.

The military spokesman said further: “The Associated Press was informed that the sources had reported Mr. Hussein’s knowing and willing offer to provide a false Iraqi national identification card to an alleged sniper, whom Mr. Hussein knew was wanted” by the military, “in order to assist the sniper in eluding capture.”

For its part, The Associated Press hired a New York lawyer and former prosecutor, Paul Gardephe, to investigate the situation. He published a 46-page report that concluded “there is no evidence — in nearly a thousand photographs taken over the 20-month period — that his activities ever strayed from those of a legitimate journalist.” Mr. Gardephe was in Iraq last week defending Mr. Hussein.

The role of Iraqis as front-line reporters, and the dangers they face working for Western news organizations, is well known. In a few recent examples, in October a journalist for The Washington Post, Salih Saif Aldin, was shot dead in a Baghdad neighborhood rife with sectarian violence. That death occurred three months after a local journalist working for The New York Times was killed in the same area. Of the 124 journalists killed in Iraq since the war began, 102 have been Iraqi, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

And while Western journalists do depend on Iraqi freelancers, several news organizations, including The New York Times, continue to have resident correspondents who leave their compounds to report in Baghdad and beyond.

Several editors and reporters overseeing Iraqi coverage for Western news organizations said they worked hard to vet their local hires for sectarian and political ties that could slant their coverage, and offered extensive training in the rules of Western journalism. But there are no official background checks that can be conducted, as American and European companies routinely do when making domestic hires. Rather, news organizations try to get to know their prospective Iraqi hires in person and then judge them by the work they produce.

“A person is usually recommended by another journalist and brought in for an interview, and you sit down and have a long discussion with that person,” said John Daniszewski, The Associated Press’s international editor. “Like any job applicant in the states, people go through a probationary period. They are given lessons, it’s like an apprenticeship relationship.”

Mr. Daniszewski added, “When you are working side by side, you get to know the person, and if the person seems unreliable, or if you ever see someone not completely honest with you, he is out the door.”

Page 2 of 2)

The reporters and editors said that they often had to filter out obvious sectarian biases from news copy, and, as a matter of policy, would not run statistics like death counts from the field without official confirmation from the military. But, these journalists emphasized, there is a big difference between bias seeping into news copy and insurgents infiltrating news organizations.

According to The Associated Press, Mr. Hussein, a 36-year-old member of a prominent Falluja farming family, had a modest job history before the 2003 United States invasion of Iraq: he worked in a grocery store, an auto parts joint and handed out goods as part of a United Nations assistance program. Photography was his hobby, and an uncle had set up a darkroom for him.

When soldiers and journalists flooded into Falluja in April 2004, Mr. Hussein began working as a driver and helper for The Associated Press. “He said he always wanted to be a professional photographer,” Mr. Daniszewski said. “And we had a need there. We gave him training, equipment and he just did good work.” In April 2006, Mr. Hussein was detained in Ramadi by the United States military, which said it had evidence linking him to the insurgency, but did not press charges.

The situation has not dissuaded foreign news organizations from continuing to lean heavily on local stringers. “They’re essential,” said Marjorie Miller, the foreign editor of The Los Angeles Times. “We couldn’t do our job without them, more so than in any other war we’ve covered.”

David Schlesinger, the editor in chief of Reuters, said, “using local staff is something we do everywhere in the world. But it’s become so dangerous in Iraq, we’re even more dependent on local staff there than in other places.”

In any foreign outpost, Western news organizations rely on locals to get the job done, often as drivers or translators. “The reliance on local staff is nothing new, whether it be in the West Bank, or Gaza or other places,” said Joel Campagna, Middle East program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. “News organizations know how to vet and scrutinize information.”

However, he said, Iraq “is the most dangerous conflict we’ve seen at C.P.J. in our 26 years. In Iraq, the ubiquity and scale of danger has really hampered the ability of journalists to gather news.”

Mr. Hussein is one of more than 24,000 individuals held by the American military worldwide, most in Iraq, according to statistics cited by The Associated Press. But not even the nudging of a giant Western news organization was enough keep him from spending 20 months behind bars without being formally charged with a crime.

“The Iraqi courts seem to be completely overwhelmed,” said Linda A. Malone, a law professor at the College of William and Mary who advised the Justice Department during the trial of Saddam Hussein. “There’s a tremendous backlog. That’s not to say this one might not be a priority. Hopefully that would be the case given the issue of journalistic freedom versus national security.”

27318  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: December 17, 2007, 07:37:05 AM
"No government ought to be without censors & where the press is
free, no one ever will."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to George Washington, 9 September 1792)
27319  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: FDA vs. medical freedom on: December 17, 2007, 07:36:09 AM
Stop the War on Drugs
December 17, 2007; Page A21

In December 2005, Eli Lilly & Co. pled guilty to a criminal indictment from the Bush Justice Department and paid $36 million in fines and "disgorgement" of its ill-gotten gains. The company's crime was mounting a concerted effort to inform doctors that, according to leading medical authorities, the firm's estrogen-modulating drug Evista substantially reduced the risk of invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

The finding came from a series of landmark national studies, some eventually touted by government research. So why the criminal charge?

At the time Eli Lilly was conveying the cancer information to doctors, the Food and Drug Administration had approved Evista for treating osteoporosis, not preventing cancer. Only this past September -- eight years after the first significant cancer prevention results were published -- did the FDA approve Evista for use against breast cancer, turning Eli Lilly's speech "crime," by some measures, into a public service.

For patients and doctors who rely on the latest clinical information to make hard decisions, no relevant scientific discovery took place between the medical findings, the legal prosecution, and the FDA's approval of those same results. In fast moving fields like cancer, where doctors tailor treatments based on evidence that's constantly evolving, two years can be an eternity of waiting to learn about important science. For some patients, that interval can be fatal.

At issue is what's referred to as "off-label promotion" -- allegations that drug companies "encourage" doctors to use medicines for purposes not yet approved by FDA. These charges are applied even when the information drug firms are sharing is part of educational meetings, peer review journal articles or treatment guidelines issued by medical-specialty societies and government researchers.

The prosecutions are aimed at recouping federal money. The argument is that the medical community is goaded by the drug companies into filing "false claims" with the government, where hospitals and health plans charge Medicare and Medicaid for drugs used for unapproved indications.

Drug firms tend to settle these cases. Firms have good reason to cut a deal: If they fight and lose in court, they can be banned from doing any business with government programs like Medicare. At one time, prosecutions were aimed at a handful of bad actors who encouraged prescriptions for purposes far outside popular medical practice. But like a lot of government efforts, the scope of these prosecutions expanded to encompass a much broader slice of medical activity.

The Justice Department rarely alleges in these cases that the scientific information is false or misleading, only that a firm can be "ahead of the science" in sharing with doctors information about emerging uses of medicines, even when those new uses quickly become the mainstay of care. Underlying this, of course, is a nagging presumption that doctors can't be trusted to weigh for themselves this sort of medical information, and thus need the FDA's supervision.

This might be more tolerable in a world where the FDA rapidly adjudicates study results to decide what belongs in and out of drug labels. In reality, the FDA reserves 10 months to consider supplemental uses for marketed drugs, and the entire process usually is much longer. In many cases, doctors don't easily learn about these new drug uses, or get targeted education on prescribing, without the role of the drug firm that is the only deep-pocketed actor with an incentive to share this kind of information.

The Philadelphia U.S. Attorney's Office has waged a multiyear investigation into the biotech company Genentech. They are alleging that meetings the company sponsored for oncologists in the 1990s were illegal -- because Genentech shared information about unapproved uses for its drug Rituxan, used largely in the treatment of lymphoma. Never mind that the forms of lymphoma for which Rituxan was to be used were largely fatal, that some of those uses are now approved by the FDA, or that the education was based on findings from large studies, including one supported by the government. In fact, if you queried the National Cancer Institute's Web site -- even at the time when Genentech allegedly engaged in the illegal educational activity -- for advice on the best treatments for some of these same forms of lymphoma, the search returned "Rituxan."

"Off label" are now dirty words in conventional lexicon, made synonymous with lawbreaking as a result of these prosecutions, even though these words describe the way more than half of cancer medicine is practiced. It is true that some off-label drug use is based on very unsettled science and has more risks. But medicine -- and not just cancer care -- involves lots of hard choices. And the more serious the disorder, often the more likely it is that for every right and wrong treatment choice there are many other practical decisions painted in shades of gray. Efforts to confine patients and doctors to FDA-approved uses have their own health consequences, raising the question: Just who is in the best position to make these hard choices?

The travails of another Genentech drug, the breast-cancer medicine Herceptin, demonstrate the health consequences of these prosecutions. Herceptin was widely used in advanced breast cancers for years, and recently it was found to cut recurrence by about half in some patients with earlier-stage tumors. The results were first published early in 2005, and the new use was approved by the FDA in late 2006. The wider use of Herceptin will save lives, but doctors didn't embrace it right away.

Herceptin prescriptions spiked when the study was first published in the New England Journal of Medicine, only to tail off before spiking again at the time of FDA approval. Those early adopters were probably familiar with the drug and the findings, perhaps through practicing in busy academic centers. Some of the late adopters might have been reluctant to take up the new use without the benefit of targeted education. You can bet that folks at Genentech, living under the thumb of the Philadelphia U.S. attorney, weren't about to talk up the landmark findings.

The use of Herceptin in early-stage breast cancers was roughly half what you'd expect for the almost two years between publication of the study's findings and the FDA nod. It's hard to deny that some of those Herceptin-eligible women who didn't get the drug are now unnecessarily doomed.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey could add to the staff manual for his attorneys a requirement that they merely check with a public health authority like the National Institutes of Health to see if a certain "off-label" use falls within the scope of appropriate medical care before waging a legal war. Even that may be a hard sell in Washington, where prosecutions are pursued on the basis of how much money they can recoup.

This month Rep. Henry Waxman took umbrage at a copy of a draft FDA guidance (he leaked it himself) saying that, as a public health matter, the FDA found it appropriate for drug firms to share study reprints from peer reviewed medical journals. Drug firms are persona non grata in Washington, a result of the industry's own excesses, but also of a lot of political targeting. The result is an anything-that-bashes-pharma goes mentality in policy making.

Politicians wage broad wars on medicine to claim thin strips of ideological terrain. This would be good political theater if there weren't so many human victims.

Dr. Gottlieb, a practicing physician and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was deputy commissioner of the FDA from 2005 to 2007.

27320  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: December 17, 2007, 07:30:15 AM
U.N. Budget Boom
December 17, 2007; Page A20
Most of our readers probably wouldn't mind working for an outfit whose budget is slated to expand by 25% next year. But then again, most of our readers don't work for the United Nations.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's proposed "initial" budget for 2008-09 is $4.2 billion, a mere 15% increase over the Secretariat's current budget. Oops, make that $4.8 billion, which includes the "add ons" the Secretary General has already identified. But even that's not the final final figure. The U.N. budget is released piece by piece -- how convenient -- and the U.S. estimates that the full budget will end up being in excess of $5.2 billion, a 25% increase over the last two-year budget cycle of 2006-07.

Yes, the U.N. has a lot on its plate and the world is full of challenges. But Mr. Ban's proposed increases aren't going for humanitarian assistance in Darfur or development aid to Africa. Roughly 75% is for salaries and other staff costs -- in other words, toward boosting the size of the U.N. bureaucracy. Peacekeeping goes on a separate budget, which is anticipated to grow 40%, to $7 billion from $5 billion.

The U.S. is the largest donor to the U.N., paying roughly one-quarter of its budget. With the support of Japan, the second-largest donor, the U.S. is making the entirely reasonable demand that the U.N. set budget priorities. If it wants more money for X, it should be required to identify spending cuts for Y or Z.

Mr. Ban's proposed budget is the "largest increase in the history of the U.N.," said Ambassador Mark Wallace of the U.S. mission to the U.N. in a statement last week. For a body that still hasn't implemented many of the reforms proposed by Paul Volcker's Oil for Food report, this should be unacceptable to every major donor.

27321  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: December 17, 2007, 07:15:03 AM
Al Qaeda No. 2 blasts 'traitors'

(CNN) -- Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant warned in a video statement released Sunday that Iraqi tribal leaders who side with U.S. troops against al Qaeda fighters would face reprisals when Americans leave Iraq.
 An image of al-Zawahiri taken from an earlier videotape.

"I warn those individuals from among the armed factions who have been involved in cooperation against the Mujahedeen that history is recording everything, and that they will lose both their religion and life," Ayman al-Zawahiri said.

"The Americans will soon be departing, God permitting, and won't keep defending them forever. And let them look at the fate of America's agents in Vietnam and the fate of the Shah of Iran. Intelligent is he who learns from other's mistakes," he added.

Al Qaeda's No. 2 called such Iraqi leaders "traitors" and "scum."


So what happened to the mighty Iraqi army standing on its own?

Iraq sees need for foreign troops for 10 years
1 hour, 28 minutes ago

Iraq will need foreign troops to help defend it for another 10 years, but will not accept U.S. bases indefinitely, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

"Of course we need international support. We have security problems. For 10 years our army will not be able to defend Iraq," Dabbagh told the state-run al-Iraqiya television in an interview broadcast late on Sunday.
"I do not think that there is a threat of an invasion of Iraq, or getting involved in a war. (But) to protect Iraqi sovereignty there must be an army to defend Iraq for the next 10 years," he said.

"But on the other hand, does Iraq accept the permanent existence of U.S. bases, for instance? Absolutely no. There is no Iraqi who would accept the existence of a foreign army in this country," he said. "America is America and Iraq is Iraq."

The United States now has about 155,000 troops in Iraq, formally operating under a U.N. Security Council mandate enacted after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Iraq has asked the Security Council to extend the mandate for what it says will be a final year to the end of 2008, and conditions for U.S. troops to stay on beyond that date are to be negotiated in the next few months.
Violence has subsided after the United States dispatched 30,000 additional troops to Iraq this year, and Washington now says it will bring about 20,000 home by mid-2008. Troop levels for the second half of the year are to be decided in March.

(Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
27322  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: December 17, 2007, 07:08:08 AM
0640 GMT -- SINGAPORE, UNITED STATES -- Under the new Secure Freight Initiative signed by Singaporean and U.S. officials, cargo leaving Singapore for the United States will be scanned for nuclear and radiological materials, the U.S. Embassy and Singapore's Ministry of Transport said in a joint statement Dec. 17, Channel News Asia reported. The scans will be conducted during a six-month trial of the new system. Singapore is one of seven global ports participating in the trial, the report said.
27323  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: December 17, 2007, 07:03:27 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Reading Turkey's Airstrike in Iraq

Turkey announced on Sunday that it had bombed Kurdish targets in northern Iraq in a predawn raid. According to Turkish media, the attacks involved more than 50 planes, began at 1 a.m. local time on Sunday, continued for three hours and were followed by artillery attacks. They reportedly focused on the areas of Zap, Avasin and Hakurk, but went as deep as Qandil, where senior leaders of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the targeted group, reportedly were based. This is a much more substantial strike than the last notable one, which occurred in mid-November.

Notably, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit said that the United States cleared the attack, opening Iraqi airspace and also providing intelligence. According to Reuters, a U.S. Embassy official in Ankara said in response, "We have not approved any decision. It is not for us to approve. However, we were informed before the event." We interpret this statement to mean that the United States did in fact approve the attacks, since "it is not for us to approve" is not Washington's position on foreign powers launching airstrikes on Iraq.

Most interesting is the Turkish claim that the United States provided intelligence to the Turks for the airstrikes. This makes sense. The Americans definitely do not want a major Turkish invasion into Iraq at this time. Washington is trying to stabilize the country, and a Turkish invasion is the last thing the United States needs. At the same time, the Turkish government is under intense domestic political pressure to do something about PKK actions inside Turkey. It is politically impossible for Ankara to remain passive.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with U.S. President George W. Bush earlier in the month, and the two sides undoubtedly laid out their concerns: The United States didn't want an invasion, but Turkey had to do something effective. Non-PKK Kurds were loath to provide intelligence on PKK facilities and personnel that would benefit the Turks, regardless of intra-Kurdish political differences. The solution was for the United States to provide intelligence to the Turks, and for Turkey to warn the Americans so that the airspace would be clear and no U.S. personnel would be in the strike zone.

That was the price the United States had to pay to avoid a Turkish ground invasion. The decision might strain U.S.-Kurdish relations, but that is the price Iraqi Kurds have to pay to keep Turkey out. For the Turks, it was the most effective measure they could take without having a confrontation with the United States. All the players are looking for the lowest cost possible. But it's not clear that they bought the outcome they were hoping for.

It is difficult to strike a guerrilla group from the air and be successful. Airstrikes alone are unlikely to stop the PKK -- the militants would have to be engaged on the ground in order to be defeated. Therefore, if all that took place Sunday morning was an airstrike, the PKK will be back striking Turkish targets in no time. If, on the other hand, the airstrikes were cover for covert ground action against the PKK -- either by Turkish special forces or by those of another country -- then it might be that the PKK was in fact hurt badly enough to interrupt, if not end, the cycle of violence. In that case, the crisis might subside.

Over the next few weeks we will get a better sense of what happened before dawn on Sunday, based on whether the PKK hits back.

Situation Reports

0922 GMT -- IRAQ, TURKEY -- The Iraqi government has demanded that Turkey stop conducting airstrikes in northern Iraq, saying the Dec. 16 strikes destroyed hospitals, schools and bridges, Press TV reported Dec. 17, citing the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. "We demand that Turkish authorities stop such actions against innocent people," the statement said. Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan denied the strikes hit civilian areas. To protest the strikes, Baghdad has summoned Turkey's ambassador to Iraq.

27324  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Don't know where this goes but "The Keysi Fighting Method" on: December 16, 2007, 11:54:54 PM
Where did the system come from?
27325  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Don't know where this goes but "The Keysi Fighting Method" on: December 16, 2007, 11:42:30 AM
Any URLs?
27326  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: December 16, 2007, 09:42:25 AM
The LA Times reaches Orwellian levels of PC cowardice by refusing to identify the religion/ideology of the guilty here:

Try to Find "Islam" or "Muslim" in this Article on Terror Guilty Pleas


Plot posed a real, immediate threat, experts say

The case illustrates how quickly authorities must be prepared to move once they learn of terrorists' plans.

By Greg Krikorian, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

December 15, 2007

It was not the most spectacular domestic terrorism plot since the Sept. 11 attacks, and certainly not the best-known.

But no other case posed such a real and immediate threat as the audacious scheme to attack more than a dozen military centers, synagogues and other sites in Southern California, experts said Thursday.

"If you look at the roster of defendants in terrorism cases, it often seems like a casting call. They all have aspirations, but most lack real talent and helpful connections," said Brian Levin, an attorney and director of Cal State San Bernardino's Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

"But here you actually had a case where defendants had a radicalized ideology, a list of targets and they had already gone from planning to operations," Levin said. "This was beyond merely a threat. In this instance, they were operational."

The guilty pleas announced Friday in what is known as the JIS case represented an important win for the Justice Department, after a string of high-profile courtroom defeats in terrorism-related prosecutions. Just Thursday, a jury in Miami acquitted one man charged with plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and deadlocked on charges against his six alleged accomplices.

The courtroom ending mirrored a mistrial declared earlier this year in a Dallas prosecution against five Islamic men accused in the largest terrorism-financing case brought by the U.S. government.

"The bottom line is that when you look at a lot of these prosecutions, many people are accused of lying to investigators or [other crimes] rather than terrorist acts or threats to national security," Levin said. "And that is why you have seen a bit of prosecutorial fatigue set in with the public. . . . There is a lot of talk about what could have happened in a case" rather than evidence of a pressing threat.

By contrast, the JIS plot was within 60 days of launching, according to sources close to the investigation.

The case illustrated how quickly authorities must be prepared to move in the event of an actual terrorist threat, they said. In a matter of weeks, the FBI, Los Angeles and Torrance police departments and two dozen other agencies conducted 19 searches, seized two dozen computer hard drives and examined about 53,000 documents, all without the normal luxury of moving at their own pace with undercover informants, surveillance and wiretaps.

The plotters "were flying dangerously below the radar," said the FBI's John Miller, who was the LAPD's counter-terrorism head at the time the case broke. He added that the defendants had robbed gas stations for the money to buy rifles, had picked their targets and had set a date.

"The clock was ticking. All they needed to do was to start killing," he said.

The prison-hatched scheme raised another fear in U.S. counter-terrorism circles, particularly within California, which has the nation's largest inmate population: Were there other members of the conspiracy, spawned in cellblocks and prison libraries, preparing to carry on the plan?

"We were confident that we could make a case against the people we had in custody," said Randy Parsons, the retired former head of counter-terrorism for the FBI in Los Angeles. "Our greatest concern was: Did we miss somebody? Is there somebody who has been released from prison or radicalized on the street that we might have missed who might be about to go operational?"

More than 350 federal agents, state investigators and local police worked five weeks, around the clock, to determine if others had escaped their dragnet. In the end, they did not find additional accomplices, but their investigation led to new intelligence coordination between prison officials and outside law enforcement.

For all its urgency, however, the case never drew the attention of lesser threats. One reason was that news of the JIS investigation trickled out over the course of weeks.

In addition, the federal indictment of the four defendants, though announced by top Justice Department officials in Los Angeles and Washington, was unsealed as the nation's attention was riveted on Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans.

Too, the men charged with terrorism did not fit the stereotype of the foreign-born menace that had been drilled into the American psyche after Sept. 11.

For professor Levin, that may be the long-term lesson of the case.

"I think this case shows you cannot racially or religiously profile an ideology. It is fanaticism, not faith, that drives this extremism," Levin said. "And disenfranchised people will craft their hatred into an ideology of their choice. That is why religious converts are so good for this radicalization . . . because those who have been raised in a faith know better."
27327  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Malaysia on: December 15, 2007, 10:29:38 PM
This piece is from the once venerable name of Reuters, now often a source that is less than honest in its shadings:


Indonesia cleric warns of big disaster if bombers executed
Sat Dec 15, 2007 12:42am EST

CILACAP, Indonesia, Dec 15 (Reuters) - A controversial Indonesian Muslim cleric warned on Saturday that the country would suffer a big disaster if three Bali bombers on death row were executed.

Abu Bakar Bashir, accused by some foreign governments of once heading the Jemaah Islamiah militant group, spoke before visiting the three Islamic militants awaiting execution for their role in the 2002 nightclub bombings on the resort island.

"I'm worried if they were executed there would be a big disaster," Bashir told reporters on the way to Nusakambangan, an island prison complex off the southern coast of Java where the three are being held. Bashir said he wanted to advise the convicts -- Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Mukhlas -- to be patient and to seek God's forgiveness for their wrongdoing.

"It is true they were defending Muslims but their methods were wrong. That is why they are now fasting to pay for the loss of innocent lives," Bashir said. He did not say if the innocent lives included those of foreign holidaymakers, the majority of 202 people who died in the attack.

In an interview with Reuters in October, the three militants said they had no regrets, except for the fact that some Muslims had died in the blasts.

No date for the execution of the three Bali bombers has been set although the Supreme Court has rejected their final appeal.

The Bali bombings and several other deadly attacks have been blamed on militants from Jemaah Islamiah, of which Bashir was alleged to have been the spiritual leader and co-founder. Bashir was jailed for 30 months for conspiracy over the Bali bombings but was later cleared.

Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country, with about 85 percent of its more than 220 million population following Islam.

While the vast majority of Indonesia's Muslims are moderate, the country has seen the emergence of an increasingly vocal militant minority.

Although there has been no major bomb attack since 2005, police say Indonesia still faces a considerable threat from Islamic militants. (Writing by Ahmad Pathoni; editing by Roger Crabb)
27328  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Ryan Gracie dead! on: December 15, 2007, 01:35:25 PM
According to news carried by Globo TV, the black belt Ryan Gracie was found dead in the cell where he was being held at a police station in Sao Paulo after having been accused of car theft yesterday in the city of Sao Paulo. According to the Sao Paulo State Secretariat of Public Security, Ryan was alone in the cell."

More info in the article:
27329  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: December 15, 2007, 01:17:04 PM
Israel: US report on Iran may spark war

By LAURIE COPANS, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 27 minutes ago

JERUSALEM - Israel's public security minister warned Saturday that a U.S. intelligence report that said Iran is no longer developing nuclear arms could lead to a regional war that would threaten the Jewish state.

In his remarks — Israel's harshest criticism yet of the U.S. report — Avi Dichter said the assessment also cast doubt on American intelligence in general, including information about Palestinian security forces' crackdown on militant groups. The Palestinian action is required as part of a U.S.-backed renewal of peace talks with Israel this month.

Dichter cautioned that a refusal to recognize Iran's intentions to build weapons of mass destruction could lead to armed conflict in the Middle East.

He compared the possibility of such fighting to a surprise attack on Israel in 1973 by its Arab neighbors, which came to be known in Israel for the Yom Kippur Jewish holy day on which it began.

"The American misconception concerning Iran's nuclear weapons is liable to lead to a regional Yom Kippur where Israel will be among the countries that are threatened," Dichter said in a speech in a suburb south of Tel Aviv, according to his spokesman, Mati Gil. "Something went wrong in the American blueprint for analyzing the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat."

Dichter didn't elaborate on the potential scenario but seemed to imply that a world that let its guard down regarding Iran would be more vulnerable to attack by the Islamic regime.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had disputed the U.S. intelligence assessment this month, saying that Iran continues its efforts to obtain components necessary to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran still poses a major threat to the West and the world must stop it, Olmert said.

Israel has for years been warning that Iran is working on nuclear weapons and backed the United States in its international efforts to exert pressure on Iran to stop the program. Israel considers Iran a significant threat because of its nuclear ambitions, its long-range missile program and repeated calls by its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for the disappearance of Israel.

Iran says its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.

Israel will work to change the American intelligence agencies' view of Iran, said Dichter, a former chief of Israel's Shin Bet secret service agency.

"A misconception by the world's leading superpower is not just an internal American occurrence," Dichter said.

Any future faulty U.S. intelligence on the actions of Palestinian security forces could damage peace efforts, Dichter said.

"Those same (intelligence) arms in the U.S. are apt to make a mistake and declare that the Palestinians have fulfilled their commitments, which would carry with it very serious consequences from Israel's vantage point," Dichter said.
27330  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: December 15, 2007, 09:32:51 AM
A moment on the lighter side of things:
27331  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain at the WSJ on: December 15, 2007, 09:24:30 AM
Of Pork and Patriotism
John McCain doesn't mince words when it comes to Iraq, the State Department and spending.

Saturday, December 15, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

John McCain sits across the table from the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, fielding questions on everything from taxes to torture to terror. He's asked what surprised him the most about the behavior House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with regard to Iraq. His answer--"their lack of patriotism"--is of the characteristically impolitic kind that often defines his personality. Over the course of a 75-minute conversation, it's on display time and again.

For a candidate who was mostly written off by the media only six months ago, the senior senator from Arizona seems remarkably confident of his primary chances.

Mr. McCain is 71. But the tired, sluggish, former front-runner you may have read about was nowhere in evidence when the senator came to the Journal's offices yesterday. In his place was a combative and--yes--straight-talking candidate with no qualms about rising to a challenge or speaking his mind. In short, he looks once again like the spry 63-year-old who nearly knocked off front-runner George W. Bush eight years ago.

When asked whether he would tag Hillary Clinton as well with a "lack of patriotism," Mr. McCain does dial it down a notch. "Maybe 'lack of patriotism' is too harsh," he allows. "'Putting political ambitions ahead of the national interest' may be a more subtle way" of putting it. He then adds, with a chuckle, "And we all know how subtle I am."
Just how subtle comes across in expanding on Mrs. Clinton's stance on the war and on the surge. "She had that very clever line--I don't know who wrote it for her--that you'd have to suspend disbelief in order to believe that the surge is working. Well, you'd have to suspend disbelief that it's not now." And then, as if confronting her in a presidential debate, he addresses the absent senator from New York directly: "Do you still stand by that statement, Senator Clinton? Do you still believe you'd have to suspend disbelief to believe that this surge is working?"

Mr. McCain is almost as scathing about his own party's behavior in power as he is about Congress's current leaders. Of the Republican congressional majority that was voted out in 2006, he says: "We let spending get out of control. . . . And we would have won the 2006 elections if we had restrained spending. Our base didn't desert us because of the war in Iraq. Our base deserted us because of the Bridge to Nowhere. I'll take you to a town hall tomorrow and I'll say 'Bridge to Nowhere' and everyone in that room will know what I'm talking about. That bridge is more famous than the Brooklyn Bridge."

That version of the events of November 2006 is not universally shared, even within the GOP, but it does serve Mr. McCain's interests pretty well. He has been one of the most prominent and unapologetic supporters of the war in Iraq, even though he at times disagreed with the administration about tactics and strategy.

And he voted against the Bush tax cuts--even though he admits that they helped the economy in the midst of a recession. "We all know that [they helped]. Without a doubt. Without the slightest doubt. Absolutely."

Even so, he defends his opposition to them on the grounds, he told us, that Congress couldn't get spending under control. "I opposed the tax cuts because there was no spending restraint. . . . If we'd enacted spending restraints, we'd be talking about more tax cuts today. And to the everlasting shame and embarrassment of the Republican Party and this administration, we went on a spending spree and we didn't pay for it. . . . And every time I called over to the White House and said, look, you've got to veto these bills, the answer was, 'We'll lose the majority, we'll lose this election, we'll lose the speaker.' Well, you know what happened."

The words "I told you so" don't quite pass his lips, but his sense of vindication is plain enough.

As for the tax cuts themselves, he now pledges that he would fight to make them permanent. "I will not agree to any tax increase," he says. And then once more for emphasis: "I will not agree to any tax increase."

His combativeness is on display again when the subject of interrogation techniques is raised. It's a subject on which the Journal's editorial board has been critical of Mr. McCain in the past. Does he assert, he is asked, that techniques such as waterboarding never produce reliable information?
He turns it back on the questioner: "I do assert that America's moral image in the world is badly damaged when it comes out that we torture people. . . . I do assert that we're going to win this battle against al Qaeda on ideological grounds."

Then he adds: "So my assertion is that it's fascinating, it's fascinating, that those who have served in the military--particularly in positions of responsibility--almost all of them say, 'Don't do it.' Those who have never served, those who have never heard a shot fired in anger and never will, say, 'Let's torture the hell out of them. Let's take them to the rack. Let's do what the Spanish Inquisition invented.' "

That last is a caricature, and given the jab at "those who have never served," it might even come across as a mean-spirited one, but Mr. McCain manages to put it across without any evident derision in his demeanor or voice. On the contrary, it is said almost amiably.

Likewise, when he's asked what he thinks about the State Department, he delivers the jab with a smile: "Sometimes you have a little personal bias when you find out that they nearly rebelled when the secretary of state said all of them had to go serve in Iraq. I mean, please. Please." He continues: "I think we ought to have a State Department that understands that service to the country is what they're all about. And if that means going into countries where there may be some danger in serving, then by God that's the place they should want to go first." It helps to have volunteered for service in Vietnam if one wants to say that kind of thing.

He doesn't pull any punches with the CIA, either, asking whether it has become a "rogue agency" when queried about the intelligence community's handling of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. On the NIE, he adds: "I want to know why in the world we should have any relaxation with regards to Iran just because they have had a pause in the quickest part of the program to build a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile the enrichment goes on. And they're still exporting the explosive devices. They're still supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. They're still dedicated to the extinction of Israel. What's the change?"

As for direct talks between President Bush and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mr. McCain is once again scathing: "That is the most overrated thing in the world. We know who's going to profit from that. . . . Who gains in stature from face-to-face meetings? That is the ultimate question. . . . If they want to negotiate"--an open question, it would seem, in Mr. McCain's eyes--"we can find lots of ways to negotiate. But say we have to have face-to-face? Come on. Come on. That's just foolishness. And I would not do one thing that would enhance the prestige of the president of Iran."

In Iraq, meantime, Mr. McCain sees events at long last moving in the right direction. "I think this is a seminal moment in American history. I really do. Because we've got a long way to go. Al Qaeda is on the run but they're not defeated, OK?

"And we've got really a long way to go. But I'm telling you, if we could keep going like this for another nine months to a year or so, and get the Maliki government to start functioning effectively--and a lot of things are happening by the way that are not at the highest level--I think you're going to see things happen in the rest of the Middle East.

"The Syrians sent someone to Annapolis [for the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks]. That's good news. The Iranians may be cutting back on the explosive devices. Pakistan: Musharraf is acting as we wanted him to."

In his view, these are all connected, and all related in turn to the reversal of fortunes in Iraq since the surge began. "And I'm convinced that if we can continue this success, you're going to see a change in the Middle East. Plus, some progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. If we fail, we're not going to be in the neighborhood and it's every nation and every group for themselves."

Of course, Mr. McCain will have to resign himself to being right but ignored unless he can actually win. And while he may once have been seen as what he calls "the designated successor" to the Republican nomination, he's now a distinct underdog. So he places a lot of emphasis on what he calls the "volatility" of the current race.
"We all know that if I sat here two weeks ago and I said, 'By the way, Huckabee is ahead in Iowa and South Carolina,' you'd just have said, 'Yeah, right.' " He goes on: "I think you're going to see a lot of ups and downs. Sixty percent, 70%, 80% say they're undecided."

He also sees hope, ironically, in the despondency of the GOP faithful. "Our base is dispirited. I'm telling you, our base is dispirited. We're going to have to rev up our base. We're going to have to promise them we're going to stop this spending. We're going to have to promise them that we'll get trust and confidence back with them."

The senator says he doesn't worry too much about the electoral tactics, but he does know what lies ahead. "We've got to win New Hampshire," he says, or at least exceed expectations there. "And then I think we can do well in South Carolina. In South Carolina we've got the base this time. The Attorney General, the Speaker of the House, Lindsay Graham, most of the base."

Whether that's true or not, Mr. McCain still trails by 15 points on average in South Carolina. But assuming he can do well there, "then I think we're obviously very much in the game. What happens to Huckabee, what happens to Rudy, what happens to Romney--all this stuff is in such flux now that it's very difficult to predict and so we're not paying a lot of attention, obviously." Still, he's paying some attention, apparently.

Overall, the impression Mr. McCain gives is that he is enjoying this campaign tremendously. Asked whether he thinks he's running a better campaign since his financing fell off a cliff along with his poll ratings, he shoots back with a laugh, "Do you think I could have run a worse campaign before my finances went south?"

He blames his fall from front-runner status on his leadership on immigration reform, and says, "If I lose this election, it will be on the immigration issue. There's no question in my mind." But as with the other issues he discussed in our meeting, he doesn't give the impression that he regrets his stand for one minute.

Mr. Carney is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
27332  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: December 15, 2007, 12:50:08 AM
What I was trying to ask, apparently too laconically, is that why does one need drugs to lose weight?

Anyway, what do you think of this?

The Dangers of High Fructose Corn Syrup
By John Mericle M.D.

High Fructose Corn Syrup
Before we get to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), we will take a look at two other frequently used sweeteners, dextrose and maltodextrin.

Dextrose is more or less an industry term for glucose. Glucose isthe most prevalent sugar in the human and the only molecule that the brain can metabolize. Dextrose is refined from corn starch. It has a very high glycemic index (no surprise since it is glucose) and while it contains no fructose, it is still a simple sugar that is very readily absorbed. It is not as dangerous as sucrose but it still is a highly processed product that should be avoided.

Maltodextrin is also a refined product usually made from either corn or potatoes. It is multiple glucose units somewhat loosely hooked together (a polymer). Because the bonds between the glucose units are very weak, it is also very readily absorbed and has a very high glycemic index. Like dextrose it should be avoided as much as possible. It has been called a "sugar substitute"but that is based on a rather strict definition of sugar as "sucrose." It is a very common additive and I have found it in many packaged foods, including potato chips.

High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup is made by treating corn (which is usually genetically modified corn) with a variety of enzymes, some of which are also genetically modified, to first extract the sugar glucose and then convert some of it into fructose, since fructose tastes sweeter than glucose. The end result is a mixture of 55% fructose and 45% glucose, that is called "high fructose corn syrup." Improvements in production occurred in the 1980's making it cheaper than most other sweeteners. I remember in the 1980's when the price of Pepsi dropped from about $3 for a sixpack to about $1.50. In 1966 refined sugar such as sucrose was the was the leading sweetener / additive. In 2001 corn sweeteners accounted for 55% of the sweetener market. Consumption of high fructose corn syrup went from zero in 1966 to 62.6 pounds per person in 2001. A 12 ounce soda can contain as much as 13 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup.
Once again, the dangerous combination: fructose and glucose.
When high fructose corn syrup breaks down in the intestine, we once again find near equal amounts of glucose and fructose entering the bloodstream. As covered in recent newsletters, the fructose short-circuits the glycolytic pathway for glucose. This leads to all the problems associated with sucrose. In addition, HFCS seems to be generating a few of its own problems, epidemic obesity being one of them. Fructose does not stimulate insulin production and also fails to increase "leptin" production, a hormone produced by the body's fat cells. Both of these act to turn off the appetite and control body weight. Also, fructose does not suppress ghrelin, a hormone that works to increase hunger. This interesting work is being done by Peter Havel at UC Davis.

Some of the problems associated with high fructose corn syrup:
Increased LDL's (the bad lipoprotein) leading to increased risk of heart disease.
Altered Magnesium balance leading to increased osteoporosis.
Increased risk of Adult Onset Diabetes Mellitus.
Fructose has no enzymes or vitamins thus robbing the body of precious micro-nutrients.
Fructose interacts with birth control pills and can elevate insulin levels in women on the pill.
Accelerated aging.
Fructose inhibits copper metabolism leading to a deficiency of copper, which can cause increased bone fragility, anemia, ischemic heart disease and defective connective tissue formation among others.

The list below is from The San Francisco Chronicle February 18, 2004

"How much is too much?

The list below shows how much sugar, mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup, is in each of these single servings.

Sunkist soda: 10 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
Berkeley Farms low-fat yogurt with fruit: 10 teaspoons of sugar
Mott's applesauce: 5 teaspoons of sugar
Slim-Fast chocolate cookie dough meal bar: 5 teaspoons of sugar
1 tablespoon ketchup: 1 teaspoon of sugar
Hansen's Super Vita orange-carrot Smoothie: 10 teaspoons of sugar"

Today's health tip:

Cut down or stop any food or drink with high fructose corn syrup.

High fructose corn syrup is made from genetically modified corn treated with genetically modified enzymes.

Stop or limit all foods with either dextrose or maltodextrin.

Once again, read all your food labels carefully.

Consumption of the limited amounts of fructose that occur in fresh whole organic fruit is not a problem.

Stryer Biochemistry Fourth Edition
"Sugar coated We're drowning in high fructose corn syrup. Do the risks go beyond our waistline?"
Kim Severson, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Kick the "sugar habit" with the only diet that is 100% Sugar-Free, the MericleDiet. Make the transition away from dangerous sugar additives to healty "organic" complex carbhydrates easy. To visit the MericleDiet follow the link below:
Thanks for your attention.
Copyright © John Mericle M.D. 2005 All Rights Reserved
27333  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 14, 2007, 08:22:08 PM
So much for that modesty campaign , , ,
27334  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin on: December 14, 2007, 06:13:02 PM
In response to the preceding post elsewhere, someone responded with this piece:


Gregory Cochran

There is a good chance that an odd cluster of hereditary neurological diseases among the Ashkenazi Jews is a side-effect of strong selection for increased intelligence. The idea is not really new, but the evidence has gotten stronger with time, and I have recently found some intriguing supporting data.. Four of these syndromes - Tay-Sachs, Niemann-Pick, Gaucher's, and mucolipidosis type IV - are recessive lysosomal storage diseases. The first three of these are caused by deficient variants of enzymes that break down sphingolipids, which play a role in neuron membrane structure and also as signaling molecules. Homozygotes, who have no working copy of the breakdown enzymes, become ill. Tay-Sachs and Niemann-Pick cause retardation and death in childhood, but Gaucher's disease is milder and more variable. The form common in Ashkenazi Jews does not cause brain damage, although there can be other problems with the spleen and bones. . Mucolipidosis type IV probably involves a defect in endocytosis. It causes retardation and death in early life.

Canavan disease is caused by mutations in the aspartoacylase gene. It is the only known genetic disorder caused by a defect in the metabolism of a small metabolite, N-acetyl-L-aspartic acid, synthesized exclusively in the brain in a cell-specific manner. It too is fatal in early life.

Familial dysautonomia is a recessive disease that results in abnormalities of the sensory and autonomic nervous systems. It does not cause retardation, but greatly shortens life.

Torsion dystonia is caused by a dominant gene with low penetrance.. The symptoms involve inappropriate contractions of muscles. In a mild case, that might mean a tendency to writer's cramp: in a severe case, it means uncontrollable contractions that leave your limbs twisted and useless. About 30% of the individuals with this gene have some noticeable symptoms, about 10% have very serious symptoms that can leave them in a wheel chair. The problem is not in the muscles, but in areas of the brain that control muscles. Torsion dystonia does not cause retardation... not hardly.

Each of these hereditary neurological diseases is more common among the Ashkenazi than in any other group, and in several of these syndromes, the great majority of all cases are found among the Ashkenazi, who make up less than 0.2% of the human race. ~4% of the Ashkenazi are carriers for Tay-Sachs, about 1% are carriers for Niemann-Pick, ~5% carry a Gaucher mutation, ~1% carry a mutation for mucolipidosis type IV, ~2% carry a Canavan mutation, ~3% carry the familial dysautonomia gene, and about 0.03% have the dominant torsion dystonia mutation. Altogether about 16% of Ashkenazi Jews carry one of these mutations.

Rare genetic diseases can become common in a group by chance, especially if that group does not mix much with others and if it has recently expanded from a small founding population.. Both of those conditions existed among the Ashkenazi, but that explanation probably does not work in this case, because for most of these diseases, more than one mutation of the same gene has become common in this population. That is the case for Tay-Sachs, Niemann-Pick, Gaucher's disease, mucolipidosis type IV, and Canavan disease. Only torsion dystonia and familial dysautonomia are caused by lone mutations. It would be incredibly unlikely for chance to greatly elevate the frequency of two or more mutations of the same gene. It would be even less likely to do this repeatedly in genes involved in closely related metabolic pathways. So somehow, natural selection, rather than chance, must have favored these mutations. If mutations that affect a particular organ or function give a reproductive edge in some environment, they can become common, even if they cause disease in double dose. The most famous example of this is the sickle cell mutation, which gives heterozygotes good protection against falciparum malaria and causes very serious problems in homozygotes. We know of a number of other malaria-protective mutations besides sickle-cell affecting red cells; Hemoglobin C, Hemoglobin E, G6PD deficiency, alpha- and beta- thalassemia, and Melanesian ovalocytosis. The malaria resistance mutations involve multiple common mutations of the same gene, and multiple mutations of closely related genes that affect the same physiological system - in this case the red cell. Among the Ashkenazi we find the same pattern, only the system affected is the central nervous system. Jared Diamond and others have suggested that these Ashkenazi hereditary neurological diseases might have given protection against tuberculosis, but this seems unlikely. These mutations are not common in other adjacent ethnic groups, and they modify molecules whose primary function is in the central nervous system. In some cases, such as Canavan disease, they are only found in the brain.

So a change in brain function, as the source of the fitness advantage in heterozygotes carrying these mutations, is the way to bet. That notion is not just based on this genetic and biochemical evidence: we start out already knowing that Ashkenazi Jews have a higher average IQ than any other group, something like 110-115. What, other than natural selection, could cause this? We also know that for a long time they lived under very unusual conditions, conditions very favorable to this kind of evolutionary change. They had a very different job mix from their neighbors: none of them were farmers ('Scribe, banker, jeweler, shopkeeper'), and they almost never intermarried.

Some new evidence - new to me, anyhow - strengthens the case. It turns out that GM2-ganglioside, which accumulates in Tay-Sachs and Niemann-Pick patients, is a signal for dendrite growth. In homozygotes it causes inappropriate dendrite growth neurons. In heterozygotes, GM2-ganglioside levels would only be slightly elevated and might favor moderately increased dendrite growth - which might increase IQ. The build-up product in Gaucher's disease seems to caused increased axonal growth.

The story in torsion dystonia is more obvious Unlike most genetic diseases, it is dominant. You only need one copy of the mutant gene to have problems. That also means that any benefit must be large. When a recessive mutation is rare, there are many more carriers than homozygotes, and even a small advantage among heterozygotes can balance serious bad effects in the rare homozygtes. A dominant has to give a hefty advantage, even more so if it has any costs, which the torsion dystonia gene surely does. So if torsion dystonia is part of this Ashkenazi pattern of hereditary neurological disease and pays off in IQ, it must make a big difference, and that difference will probably show up in patients. ( Note that in diseases like Tay-Sachs, nobody even studies carriers. Doctors are not geneticists.) Apparently it does. I found several reports of materially increased IQ among Ashkenazi torsion dystonia patients. . The difference is apparently so striking that it is mentioned in the very first scientific article on the disease, by Flatau back in 1911. Many other physicians made the same observation. And if you think that plenty that being crippled makes you smarter, think again: nobody every said that about polio victims. Roswell Eldridge, in a small group of patients, found that the average IQ was 122, 10 points higher than their controls matched for age, sex, ethnic background, and school. . The same mutation has been seen elsewhere, but is very rare. In this group the payoff outweighed the trouble, while in every other human group it did not. We have found the gene (in 1997), which codes for an ATP-binding protein, but as yet I don't believe that we know exactly how it causes trouble or what it does normally. But I'll hazard a guess: the change accelerates some brain system tied to cognitive functioning - nearly redlines it, leaves it vulnerable to common insults in a way that can cause spectacular trouble. You might compare to overclocking a chip. Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don't.

More generally, if this is what I think it is, all these Ashkenazi neurological diseases are hints of ways in which one could supercharge intelligence. One, by increasing dendrite growth: two, by fooling with myelin: three, something else, whatever is happening in torsion dystonia. In some cases the difference is probably an aspect of development, not something you can turn on and off. In other cases, the effect might exist when the chemical influence is acting and disappear when the influence does. In either case, it seems likely that we could - if we wanted to - developed pharmaceutical agents that had similar effects. The first kind, those affecting development, would be something that might have to be administered early in life, maybe before birth. while the second kind would be 'smart pills' that one could pop as desired or as needed. Of course, we have to hope that we can find ways of improving safety. Would you take a pill that increased your IQ by 10 or 15 points that also had a 10% chance of putting you in a wheel chair?

Gregory Cochran
27335  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 4 Elements query to Marc Denny on: December 14, 2007, 01:10:38 PM

For those who missed it at

here is the piece upon which Skinny Devil's question is based:


The Days Before A Fight by Guro Crafty
The days before the fight are always a powerful crucible. I have a non-martial art teacher who when someone seeks to leave a situation that makes them uncomfortable says, "Whatever you do, keep on being here in this moment." I may not have the quote exactly right, but I hope I have the gist of it.

Scientist Konrad Lorenz's book "Behind the Mirror" addresses the evolutionary biology of consciousness. There is a passage in the book wherein he describes how a cat at play will seamlessly string together unrelated behaviors/movements from stalking prey, fighting a rival, bluffing a predator, courtship, killing prey etc. He then points out that the instant that the cat is stressed (e.g. the appearance of a rival) this ability disappears.

Many martial arts discuss how there are different mindsets/qualities with which one can defend/fight. Often the names are a bit poetic; Fire, Water, Wind, Rock, Earth, etc. but the point is made that the more realized the fighter is, the better his ability to fluidly shift between them. In the intense adrenal state of a fight, this can be a very good trick to actually do, yet as Lorenz's point about the cat makes clear, the state of Play is the state where this happens best. ("What Is Play?" in evolutionary biological terms is an interesting question in its own right.) Thus, the best fight is where the fight is play. Thus in Dog Brothers Martial Arts we say

"Do not have a Way as you Play. Fight the Way you Play. Let your Fight be Play" (c)

The Learning that takes place in the adrenal state is some of the deepest and highest that there is. (The adrenal state of course can be triggered by many things, not only immediate physical danger; criticism by loved ones, humiliation, etc etc.) The greater the adrenal state, the profounder the Learning. The greater the state of Play, the better the result. The more that one can move in both directions simultaneously, the better. "The greater the dichotomy, the profounder the transformation. Higher consciousness through harder contact." (c)

Guro Crafty
27336  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Global Money Machine on: December 14, 2007, 11:51:53 AM
The Global Money Machine
December 14, 2007; Page A21

Robert Graves defined hell as "words repeated endlessly until they all but lose their meaning." "Liquidity" is one such word from the financial lexicon. Yet, properly defined, it is the clue to the potentially disastrous outlook for the global economy and financial markets.

It is a no-brainer to say that the credit crunch is making liquidity scarce. It is less clear why central banks are powerless to do anything to stop it contracting, and why this shrinkage will sabotage economic growth as economies fall prey to the credit drought in places as far-flung as the Baltic states to China, as well in the OECD countries.

But to back up for a minute, what is liquidity? Two years ago, when confronted with financial-sector balance sheets and asset prices that were growing at a multiple of GDP and money supply that wasn't, we at Independent Strategy found our answer. At the time, there was precious little correlation between money and financial-asset prices. That seemed strange. Unless return on assets, measured by corporate return on capital, was rising exponentially, there was no justification for asset prices to be doing so.

Further research indicated that what was driving asset prices was the supply of copious and cheap credit with which to buy them. This type of asset money or credit was not counted in the traditional definition of liquidity, which is simply broad money, made up of central-bank money and bank lending.

The reason for the exponential growth in credit, but not in broad money, was simply that banks didn't keep their loans on their books any more -- and only loans on bank balance sheets get counted as money. Now, as soon as banks made a loan, they "securitized" it and moved it off their balance sheet.

There were two ways of doing this. One was to sell the securitized loan as a bond. The other was "synthetic" securitization: for example, using derivatives to get rid of the default risk (with credit default swaps) and lock in the interest rate due on the loan (with interest-rate swaps). Both forms of securitization meant that the lending bank was free to make new loans without using up any of its lending capacity once its existing loans had been "securitized."

So, to redefine liquidity under what I call New Monetarism, one must add, to the traditional definition of broad money, all the credit being created and moved off banks' balance sheets and onto the balance sheets of nonbank financial intermediaries. This new form of liquidity changed the very nature of the credit beast. What now determined credit growth was risk appetite: the readiness of companies and individuals to run their businesses with higher levels of debt.

No longer could central banks determine how much debt was created. They used to do that by limiting the amount of central-bank money they supplied, which formed the base of all loans, and then obliging commercial banks to make reserves for every loan. This made lending capacity finite. Now that the loans didn't stay on banks' balance sheets, this control mechanism was ineffective. Lending capacity became almost infinite -- for a while. Indeed, central banks didn't even control the price of money very well any more; again; risk appetite set how risk was priced and central-bank rates held very little sway over the outcome. Yield curves, which were inverting at the time, had the effect that when central banks raised rates, long-term credit markets reduced them.

The credit tide is now ebbing. Since August, the credit system has been frozen solid. Debt issuance for all sectors of the economy has plummeted. Banks don't trust each other's balance sheets (and they alone know how bad their assets are). The rates at which they lend to each other show the same levels of risk premium as at the outbreak of the crisis, despite central banks' efforts to inject liquidity into markets.

For these reasons the Federal Reserve this week announced joint actions with central banks around the world to ease liquidity conditions. The Fed said it will initiate a series of auctions under the Term Auction Facility (TAF) that will inject funds to a broader range of participant depositary institutions against a broader range of collateral. The minimum rate of interest charged will be the expected fed-funds rate over the term of the loan. The auctions start on Dec. 17 for an amount of $20 billion to be lent for 20 days. Other auctions are planned for Dec. 20, Jan. 14 and Jan. 28. At the same time, the Fed set up bilateral swap agreements with the Swiss National Bank and the European Central Bank, so that these central banks could also borrow U.S. currency to fund dollar liquidity needs among their own banks.

These measures are an extension of what central banks were doing anyway: substituting central-bank money for funds normally lent and borrowed between banks in the interbank market. The funds themselves are not a "net" addition to liquidity, because they are paid back when the loan becomes due. The Fed's additional TAF auctions will help fulfill the responsibility of the central bank to ensure the proper functioning of financial markets by providing temporary liquidity. But they are not an additional easing of monetary policy or a bailout of banks' bad assets.

Therein lies the problem: The auctions address a liquidity shortage -- caused by the banks' refusal to lend and borrow from each other due to mistrust of each other's balance sheets -- but cannot address the solvency problem inherent in the balance sheets themselves.

Moreover, much of the leverage that fuels the economy is downstream from the banks, and on the balance sheets of nonbank financial intermediaries (such as brokers, hedge funds and investment banks) in the form of securitized debt and derivatives. Neither these entities nor many of the assets they own are eligible for central bank loans.

It was excessively optimistic risk appetite and consequent mispricing of risk that created this leverage problem. The reversal of risk appetite is now driving the deleveraging process. Just as the central banks were powerless to control the expansion of liquidity in the expansionary phase, it is unlikely that they can control its contraction and its economic consequences.

The deleveraging process will be ugly. First, the junk assets that the banks moved off balance sheet will have to be financed by the banks, and a lot of them will have to be moved back onto banks' balance sheets. As this happens, bank lending capacity gets used up. Second, re-intermediated junk assets will have to be written down. This destroys bank capital and further reduces lending capacity.

Finally, future bank lending practice is going to be changed. Much more lending will be kept on banks' balance sheets. When loans are securitized, banks will remain responsible for the quality of the credit and have to make prudent reserves against it. All this means lower liquidity expansion, particularly of asset money, and lower economic growth.

In a globalized system, no one is immune. The big shock of 2008 will be that the China bubble pops. After all, where would China be without excessive global liquidity flooding into its domestic markets over a quasi-fixed exchange rate and excessive household borrowing stoking U.S. consumer demand for China's goods? We are about to find out.

Mr. Roche, president of Independent Strategy, a global investment consultancy based in London, is the author of "New Monetarism" (Independent Strategy, 2007).

27337  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: December 14, 2007, 11:48:10 AM
U.S.: Targeted Officer Killings Crossing the Border?
Police in Arizona were still searching Dec. 14 for two suspects involved in a recent home invasion targeting a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Tucson. The agent told police that he woke early Dec. 9 as four armed men forcibly entered his home. At least one suspect fired at the agent, at which point he retrieved his service weapon and returned fire as the suspects retreated in a sport utility vehicle (SUV). His shots apparently struck at least one of the suspects, who was found shot to death several hours later in a rural area. Another suspect was later detained after police discovered the SUV in flames, apparently set ablaze by the attackers in order to destroy evidence.

Home invasions can have a variety of motives. In this case, the incident very likely involved a failed assassination attempt -- an idea that raises concerns about new forms of violence associated with Mexican organized crime crossing the border.

There are several reasons to believe this home invasion was not a random occurrence but rather an intentional attempt to kill the agent. First, the agent reportedly drove a Border Patrol vehicle that he parked at home every night -- and criminals looking for an easy burglary target are unlikely to pick the home of an armed law enforcement officer. Second, though police have officially said that no motive has been determined, one blog reporting on this incident has described police sources as saying it involved an assassination attempt gone wrong.

This attack, then, was almost certainly associated with some element of Mexican organized crime. Drug trafficking organizations and smuggling groups certainly would have had an interest in targeting the agent, and Mexico's drug cartels are notorious for violent killings targeting police officers and army personnel across Mexico, carried out by highly trained and heavily armed former military members employed by the cartels. For instance, at least seven Mexican police officers were killed and five wounded last week alone in incidents involving grenades, assault rifles, assassinations, and one kidnapping and fatal beating.

Though cartels' hit men have ample resources and there is evidence they have operated cells inside the United States, the suspects in the Tucson case more likely belonged to a U.S.-based gang working on behalf of a Mexican criminal organization.
The fact that the two suspects who have been identified are 19 and 20 years old suggests that they are not the experienced military-trained operatives employed by Mexico's drug cartels. Also, experienced and trained operatives would not have retreated after being fired at by one person -- and, frankly, an attack by more seasoned operatives most likely would not have failed. Even if the attackers had experience targeting poorly-trained police officers in Mexico, it is much more difficult to successfully attack a well-trained U.S. federal law enforcement officer.

Though there is currently no evidence that the agent in this case was involved in illegal activity, it is important to note that many police and government officials targeted for assassination in Mexico have been paid off by a rival criminal organization. Corruption has not been limited to the Mexican side of the border; many low-paid agents in the United States have found themselves facing the dilemma of "plata o plomo" -- "silver or lead" -- which means take a bribe or take a bullet.

Police also are often targeted simply for doing their job. For example, after Mexican police in the border city of Tecate shut down a smuggling tunnel running under the border last week, a group of gunmen entered the home of a Tecate police commander -- who had been on the job less than a week -- and shot him more than 50 times while he lay in bed. His family was unharmed, though this was not the case when a former police officer in Mexico's Sinaloa state was shot to death, along with his wife and three young daughters, at his home several weeks ago.

While targeted killings of police are common in Mexico, they have yet to reach similar levels in the United States. Over the last few years, though, there has been an increasing trend of criminal activity commonplace in Mexico spreading north across the border, including kidnapping, threats against journalists and extortion. This latest incident raises concerns that targeted killings of police officers could be the next form of violence exported across the border.

27338  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anatomy of a hit job: The Wolfowitz Affair (formerly Paul's Girl) on: December 14, 2007, 11:33:00 AM

Epitaph to a Smear
December 14, 2007; Page A20
Given the campaign of vilification endured earlier this year by the World Bank's Shaha Riza, we thought readers might like to know the results of an investigation into a concocted scandal about her. Don't expect to read about this in the media that was once so eager to trash her.

Ms. Riza is the bank employee whose personal relationship with then-bank President Paul Wolfowitz created the bogus conflict of interest that ultimately led to his resignation in June. The principal charge concerned the details of her allegedly excessive pay raise, which brought her salary in line with roughly 1,400 other employees of the bank. But a subplot about a trip she took to Iraq in the spring of 2003 was conveniently trotted out at the height of the controversy to help force Mr. Wolfowitz out.

Here are the facts. In early 2003, Ms. Riza was invited by the State Department to go to Iraq and advise on ways to set up a democratic government, with a particular focus on civil society and women's issues. The trip got the enthusiastic go-ahead from then-bank President James Wolfensohn.

To comply with bank rules concerning outside work, Ms. Riza agreed to take a month-long unpaid leave from her job, amounting to a loss in salary of about $10,000. To avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, she also declined any pay (except travel and other expenses) from the Science Applications International Corp., the Pentagon contractor that organized the trip.

Thus did matters stand until the phony Wolfowitz scandal blew up this spring. On April 18, the Washington Post ran a story under the headline, "Defense Eyes Wolfowitz Friend's Contract." The same day, National Public Radio followed up with "Wolfowitz Faces New Allegations of Favoritism," quoting Ms. Riza's former supervisor, Jean-Louis Sarbib, saying the trip was "unusual and not terribly above board." Graeme Wheeler, a bank managing director, also included the trip among the reasons for his widely publicized demand at the time that Mr. Wolfowitz resign.

The very next day, however, Reuters reported that in 2005 the Pentagon's Inspector General had looked into Ms. Riza's trip and found there was "insufficient basis to warrant further investigation." The IG noted that Ms. Riza, who has long experience working with Arab reformers and is fluent in Arabic and Turkish, among other languages, was uniquely well qualified for the position. The New York Times confirmed the substance of the Reuters story on April 20, adding that the IG had found that then-Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz had "not exerted improper influence in Ms. Riza's hiring." Oddly, the Times chose to run this news under the misleading headline "Wolfowitz Backed Friend for Iraq Contract in '03."

Despite this finding, in late June of this year Xavier Coll, then the bank's vice president for human resources, hired Canadian law firm Goodmans LLP to investigate Ms. Riza's trip, supposedly because of questions related to the approval process for the trip. Mr. Coll is known to readers of this page for the dishonest account he gave of his role in authorizing Ms. Riza's raise.

Fast forward six months. Following a call from us, a bank spokesman says the investigation has been completed, and that the report finds "no basis to conclude misconduct occurred." The tab for this fishing expedition? The bank won't say, and Goodmans didn't return our calls. But a source estimates the cost to the bank runs north of $500,000.

That figure may be pocket change at the bank, though it is hardly so for the poor people whom the bank ostensibly exists to serve. But the episode is also a revealing example of the lengths to which the bank's bureaucrats were prepared to go to destroy the career of one of their own colleagues, for no greater sin than her connection to Mr. Wolfowitz. And it says something about the media, which in its efforts to "get Wolfowitz" didn't scruple to trash her reputation. In a better world, Ms. Riza's accusers, in the bank and the media, would publicly acknowledge her vindication.

27339  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: December 14, 2007, 11:14:21 AM
On an airplane, citizens restrain man shouting "Allah Akbar" and "Shoot me!"
27340  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Gospel of Ron Paul on: December 14, 2007, 11:03:47 AM
The Gospel of Paul
He has some kooky ideas, but he also has lessons for the GOP contenders.

Friday, December 14, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Ron Paul is no compassionate conservative. His supporters love him for it.

If there's been a phenomenon in this Republican presidential race, it's been the strength of a fiery doctor from Texas and his message of limited government. As the GOP front-runners address crowds of dispirited primary voters, Mr. Paul has been tearing across the country, leaving a trail of passionate devotees in his wake.

Paul rallies heave with voters waving placards and shouting "Liberty! Liberty!" Money is pouring in from tens of thousands of individual donors--so much cash that the 10-term congressman recently admitted he wasn't sure he could spend it all. A fund-raising event on Guy Fawkes Day (in tribute to Mr. Paul's rebel persona) netted his campaign $4 million, the biggest one-day haul of any GOP candidate, ever. He continues to inch up in the early primary polls, and even bests Fred Thompson in New Hampshire.

Mr. Paul isn't going to be president. He trails in national polls, in no small part because his lack of a proactive foreign policy makes him an unserious candidate in today's terror world. But his success still holds lessons for the leading Republican candidates, as well as those pundits falling for the argument that the future of the GOP rests in a "heroic conservatism" that embraces big government. Mr. Paul shows that the way to many Republican voters' hearts is still through a spirited belief in lower taxes and smaller government, with more state and individual rights.

It helps, too, if voters know you mean it. In nearly 20 years in the House, Mr. Paul can boast he never voted for a tax hike. Nicknamed "Dr. No," he spent much of the time Republicans held a majority voting against his own party, on the grounds that the legislation his colleagues were trying to pass--Sarbanes-Oxley, new auto mileage standards, a ban on Internet gambling--wasn't expressly authorized by the Constitution. He returns a portion of his annual congressional budget to the U.S. Treasury--on principle.

On the stump, Mr. Paul whips up crowds with his libertarian talk of "less taxation, less regulation, a better economic system." While Mitt Romney explains his support of No Child Left Behind, Mr. Paul gets standing ovations by promising to eliminate the Department of Education. Rudy Giuliani toys with reducing marginal rates; Mr. Paul gets whoops with his dream to ax the income tax (and by extension the IRS). Mike Huckabee lectures on the need for more government-subsidized clean energy; Mr. Paul brings cheers with his motto that environmental problems are best solved with stronger property rights. His rhetoric is based on first principles--carefully connecting his policies to the goals of liberty and freedom--and it fires up the base.
Yes, the Paul campaign--with its call to bring the troops home--is also profiting as the one landing pad in the GOP race for those Republicans and independents unhappy with the Iraq war. Mr. Paul's insistence that he isn't an "isolationist" so much as a "non-interventionist" who rejects nation-building has also won him voters who might otherwise have been wary of his passive foreign policy.

Still, it's Mr. Paul's small-government message that has defined him over the years, winning him election after election in Texas--well before Iraq was a question. His appeal has only grown, too, over seven years of a Bush presidency that has moved the party away from its limited-government roots.

"Compassionate conservatism" was a smart move on George W. Bush's part, maybe even necessary to win. The GOP was dogged by a reputation as the heartless party, amplified by the 1995 government shutdown and the clunky Dole campaign. And it had learned from the success of welfare reform that message matters. Many Republican voters believed Mr. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" was just that: a way of selling conservative reforms. Tax cuts would help the working poor. Vouchers would help minority kids. Charities would fare better getting people off drugs than government bureaucrats.

Mr. Bush got his tax cuts, but voters found out too late that he was no small-government believer. School vouchers were traded away for more education dollars. A new Medicare drug entitlement has added trillions to the burden on future taxpayers. Government-directed energy policy is larded with handouts to political patrons in the corn and ethanol lobbies. A lack of budget discipline encouraged a Republican Congress to go spend-crazy, stuffing bills with porky earmarks. Much of this was simply a Republican majority that had lost its way. But at least some of it was promoted by Bush advisers who specifically argued that "compassionate conservatism" was in fact a license to embrace government--so long as government was promoting Republican ideals.

That idea has become even more vogue, with a wing of the party now arguing that the small-government libertarianism that has defined the Republican Party since Goldwater is not only immoral, but an election-loser. Former Bush speechwriter Michael's Gerson's new book, "Heroic Conservatism," calls on Republicans to give in to big government and co-opt the tools of state for their own purposes. "If Republicans run in future elections with a simplistic, anti-government message, ignoring the poor, the addicted, and children at risk, they will lose, and they will deserve to lose," he writes. Then again, Republicans have already been losing, and losing big, in no small part because they've taken Mr. Gerson's advice.

The men vying to lead the Republican Party might instead make a study of Mr. Paul. One shame of this race is that for all the enthusiasm the Texan has generated among voters, he hasn't managed to pressure the front-runners toward his positions. His more kooky views (say, his belief in a conspiracy to create a "North American Union") and his violent antiwar talk have allowed the other aspirants to dismiss him.
They shouldn't dismiss the passion he's tapped. If Mr. Paul has shown anything, it's that many conservative voters continue to doubt there's anything "heroic" or "compassionate" in a ballooning government that sucks up their dollars to aid a dysfunctional state. When Mr. Paul gracefully exits this race, his followers will be looking for an alternative to take up that cause. Any takers?

Ms. Strassel is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, based in Washington. Her column appears Fridays.
27341  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: December 14, 2007, 10:58:28 AM
The Pulpit and the Potemkin Village
Would Reagan survive in today's GOP? And is Mrs. Clinton in for a fall this winter?

Friday, December 14, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

What is happening in Iowa is no longer boring but big, and may prove huge.

The Republican race looks--at the moment--to be determined primarily by one thing, the question of religious faith. In my lifetime faith has been a significant issue in presidential politics, but not the sole determinative one. Is that changing? If it is, it is not progress.

Mike Huckabee is in the lead due, it appears, to voter approval of the depth and sincerity of his religious beliefs as lived out in his ministry as an ordained Southern Baptist. He flashes "Christian leader" over his picture in commercials; he asserts his faith is "mainstream"; his surrogates speak of Mormonism as "strange" and "definitely a factor." Mr. Huckabee said this summer that a candidate's faith is "subject to question," "part of the game."

He tells the New York Times that he doesn't know a lot about Mitt Romney's faith, but isn't it the one in which Jesus and the devil are brothers? This made me miss the old days of Gore Vidal's "The Best Man," in which a candidate started a whispering campaign that his opponent's wife was a thespian.

Mr. Huckabee has of course announced that he apologizes to Mr. Romney, which allowed him to elaborate on his graciousness and keep the story alive. He should have looked abashed. Instead he betrayed the purring pleasure of "a Christian with four aces," in Mark Twain's words.

Christian conservatives have been rising, most recently, for 30 years in national politics, since they helped elect Jimmy Carter. They care about the religious faith of their leaders, and their interest is legitimate. Faith is a shaping force. Lincoln got grilled on it. But there is a sense in Iowa now that faith has been heightened as a determining factor in how to vote, that such things as executive ability, professional history, temperament, character, political philosophy and professed stands are secondary, tertiary.

But they are not, and cannot be. They are central. Things seem to be getting out of kilter, with the emphasis shifting too far.

The great question: Does it make Mr. Huckabee, does it seal his rise, that he has acted in such a manner? Or does it damage him? Republicans on the ground in Iowa and elsewhere will decide that. And in the deciding they may be deciding more than one man's future. They may be deciding if Republicans are becoming a different kind of party.

I wonder if our old friend Ronald Reagan could rise in this party, this environment. Not a regular churchgoer, said he experienced God riding his horse at the ranch, divorced, relaxed about the faiths of his friends and aides, or about its absence. He was a believing Christian, but he spent his adulthood in relativist Hollywood, and had a father who belonged to what some saw, and even see, as the Catholic cult. I'm just not sure he'd be pure enough to make it in this party. I'm not sure he'd be considered good enough.

This thought occurs that Hillary Clinton's entire campaign is, and always was, a Potemkin village, a giant head fake, a haughty facade hollow at the core. That she is disorganized on the ground in Iowa, taken aback by a challenge to her invincibility, that she doesn't actually have an A team, that her advisers have always been chosen more for proven loyalty than talent, that her supporters don't feel deep affection for her. That she's scrambling chaotically to catch up, with surrogates saying scuzzy things about Barack Obama and drug use, and her following up with apologies that will, as always, keep the story alive. That her guru-pollster, the almost universally disliked Mark Penn, has, according to Newsday, become the focus of charges that he has "mistakenly run Clinton as a de facto incumbent" and that the top officials on the campaign have never had a real understanding of Iowa.
This is true of Mrs. Clinton and her Iowa campaign: They thought it was a queenly procession, not a brawl. Now they're reduced to spinning the idea that expectations are on Mr. Obama, that he'd better win big or it's a loss. They've been reduced too to worrying about the weather. If there's a blizzard on caucus day, her supporters, who skew old, may not turn out. The defining picture of the caucuses may be a 78-year-old woman being dragged from her home by young volunteers in a tinted-window SUV.

This is, still, an amazing thing to see. It is a delight of democracy that now and then assumptions are confounded, that all the conventional wisdom of the past year is compressed and about to blow. It takes a Potemkin village.

A thought on the presence of Bill Clinton. He is showing up all over in Iowa and New Hampshire, speaking, shaking hands, drawing crowds. But when he speaks, he has a tendency to speak about himself. It's all, always, me-me-me in his gigantic bullying neediness. Still, he's there, and he's a draw, and the plan was that his presence would boost his wife's fortunes. The way it was supposed to work, the logic, was this: People miss Bill. They miss the '90s. They miss the pre-9/11 world. So they'll love seeing him back in the White House. So they'll vote for Hillary. Because she'll bring him. "Two for the price of one."

It appears not to be working. Might it be that they don't miss Bill as much as everyone thought? That they don't actually want Bill back in the White House?

Maybe. But maybe it's this. Maybe they'd love to have him back in the White House. Maybe they just don't want him to bring her. Maybe they miss the Cuckoo's Nest and they'd love having Jack Nicholson's McMurphy running through the halls. Maybe they just don't miss Nurse Ratched. Does she have to come?

It is clear in Iowa that immigration is the great issue that won't go away. Members of the American elite, including U.S. senators, continue to do damage to the public debate on immigration. They do not view it as a crucial question of America's continuance. They view it as an onerous issue that might upset their personal plans, an issue dominated by pro-immigration groups and power centers on the one hand, and the pesky American people, with their limited and quasi-racist concerns, on the other.
Because politicians see immigration as just another issue in "the game," they feel compelled to speak of it not with honest indifference but with hot words and images. With a lack of sympathy. This is in contrast to normal Americans, who do not use hot words, and just want the problem handled and the rule of law returned to the borders.

Politicians, that is, distort the debate, not because they care so much but because they care so little.

Hillary Clinton is not up at night worrying about the national-security implications of open borders in the age of terror. She's up at night worrying about whether to use Mr. Obama's position on driver's licenses for illegals against him in ads or push polls.

A real and felt concern among the candidates about immigration is a rare thing. And people can tell. They can tell with both parties. This is the real source of bitterness in this debate. It's not regnant racism. It's knowing the political class is incapable of caring, and so repairing.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on
27342  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: Rights of Man; Washington's last words on: December 14, 2007, 10:20:26 AM
“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” —Alexander Hamilton

"Tis well."

-- George Washington (Last Words, 14 December 1799)

Reference: The First of Men, Ferling (507)


“To secure these rights...”
By Mark Alexander

Saturday, 15 December, is the 216th anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights, the first Ten Amendments to our Constitution, as ratified in 1791.

The Bill of Rights was inspired by three remarkable documents: John Locke’s 1689 thesis, Two Treatises of Government, regarding the protection of “property” (in the Latin context, proprius, or one’s own “life, liberty and estate”); in part from the Virginia Declaration of Rights authored by George Mason in 1776 as part of that state’s Constitution; and, of course, in part from our Declaration of Independence authored by Thomas Jefferson.

James Madison proposed the Bill of Rights as amendments to our Constitution in 1789, but many of our Founders objected to listing the Bill of Rights at all, much less as “amendments.” Their rationale was that such rights might then be construed as malleable rather than unalienable, as amendable rather than “endowed by our Creator” as noted in the Constitution’s supreme guidance, the Declaration of Independence.

Alexander Hamilton argued this point in The Federalist Papers, the most comprehensive explication of our Constitution: “I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous... For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?” (Federalist No. 84)

George Mason was one of 55 who authored the U.S. Constitution, but one of 16 who refused to sign it because it did not adequately address limitations on what the central government had “no power to do.” He worked with Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams against the Constitution’s ratification for that reason.

As a result of Mason’s insistence, ten limitations were put on the Federal Government by the first session of Congress, for the reasons outlined by the Bill of Rights Preamble: “The Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution...”

Read in context, the Bill of Rights is both an affirmation of innate individual rights (as noted by Thomas Jefferson: “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time...”), and a clear delineation on constraints upon the central government.

However, as Jefferson warned repeatedly, the greatest threat to such limitations on the central government was an unbridled judiciary: “Over the Judiciary department, the Constitution [has] deprived [the people] of their control... The original error [was in] establishing a judiciary independent of the nation, and which, from the citadel of the law, can turn its guns on those they were meant to defend, and control and fashion their proceedings to its own will... It is a misnomer to call a government republican in which a branch of the supreme power [the judiciary] is independent of the nation... The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.”

In Federalist No. 81 Alexander Hamilton wrote, “[T]here is not a syllable in the [Constitution] which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution, or which gives them any greater latitude in this respect than may be claimed by the courts of every State.”

That admonition notwithstanding, the federal judiciary has become “a despotic branch.”

Indeed, since the middle of the last century, judicial despots have grossly devitalized the Bill of Rights, asserting errantly that our Founders created a “Living Constitution” amendable by judicial diktat.

For example, the Leftjudiciary has “interpreted” the First Amendment as placing all manner of constraint upon the exercise of religion by way of the so-called “establishment clause” and based on the phony “Wall of Separation” argument. At the same time, the courts have asserted that all manner of expression constitutes “speech.”

The judiciary and legislatures have undermined the strength of the Second Amendment, a right of which James Madison’s appointee, Justice Joseph Story, referred to as “...the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers...”

Equally derelict is the manner in which the Tenth Amendment has been eroded by judicial interpretation.

In Federalist No. 45, Madison outlines the clear limits on central government power established in the Constitution: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

Alexander Hamilton added in Federalist No. 81 “...the plan of the [Constitutional] convention aims only at a partial union or consolidation, the State governments would clearly retain all the rights of sovereignty which they before had, and which were not, by that act, exclusively delegated to the United States.”

There was a very bloody War Between the States fought over offense to the Constitution’s assurance of States’ Rights.

All is not lost, however.

Sunday, 16 December, is the 234th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party (1773). The “radicals” from Marlborough, Massachusetts, who threw 342 chests of tea from a British East India Company ship into the Boston Harbor in protest of tyrannical rule, did so noting, “Death is more eligible than slavery. A free-born people are not required by the religion of Christ to submit to tyranny, but may make use of such power as God has given them to recover and support their... liberties.”

Three years later, this rebellion had grown to such extent that our Founders were willing to give up their fortunes and lives, attaching their signatures to a document that declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Judicial and political despots, take note.
27343  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: December 13, 2007, 10:11:54 PM

Iran: Toward a Regional Realignment
December 13, 2007 17 40  GMT


Iran's president will soon perform the Hajj at Saudi Arabia's invitation. Meanwhile, Iran and Egypt have made reciprocal high-level diplomatic visits for the first time since 1979. The moves are part of a major geopolitical realignment in the region, one that serves both U.S. and Iranian interests.


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to perform the Hajj in Saudi Arabia on invitation from King Abdullah, Ahmadinejad's senior adviser Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, said Dec. 13. Meanwhile, high-level Egyptian and Iranian diplomats have made visits to each other’s countries for the first time since the Iranian Revolution.

These moves are part of a wider geopolitical realignment. They also are occurring with U.S. approval as Washington and Tehran pursue their respective interests.

Ali Akbar Javanfekr, media adviser of the Iranian president, Dec. 12 described Ahmadinejad's trip to Saudi Arabia as an important event in the relations between the two countries because it marks the first time a Saudi monarch has invited an Iranian head of state to perform the Hajj. The Dec. 18 visit will be Ahmadinejad's third to the kingdom since taking office in 2005.

Given the ethnic, sectarian and geopolitical tensions between the two nations, a Saudi monarch inviting an Iranian head of state to make the Hajj is a major development. The current context of the Iraq conflict, in which moves toward an international settlement are being made, increases the invitation's significance. Since the Saudis are conferring an honor upon the Iranians that would not have happened unless the two sides had reached -- or are close to reaching -- a modus vivendi on Iraq and other issues, Ahmadinejad's trip represents a sort of political Hajj.

Elsewhere in the region, the Egyptians are warming up to the Iranians. Egyptian Deputy Foreign Minister for Asian Affairs Hussein Derar visited Iran in the first such trip since diplomatic ties between Egypt and Iran were severed in 1979. Iranian Majlis Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel also will be going to Cairo, in late January 2008. In an unprecedented development earlier in December, Ahmadinejad attended the Gulf Cooperation Council summit meeting in the Qatari capital, Doha.

Neither the Saudis nor the Egyptians can engage in such diplomacy with the Iranians without taking the United States into confidence. The Arab states have wanted to reach a diplomatic arrangement with the Iranians, but have not wanted to do so without U.S. involvement, which they see as a security guarantee. For its part, the United States is engaged in gestures to Iran, the most obvious example of which is the release of the National Intelligence Estimate stating that the Iranians halted their pursuit of nuclear weapons in 2003. Progress on the U.S.-Iranian track has allowed the Arabs to conduct their own negotiations with the Iranians.

A major geopolitical realignment is in the works, under which Iran is being integrated into the regional security system. This is because leaving Iran out of any such arrangement in post-Baathist Iraq is dangerous for the security of the Arab states and damaging to U.S. interests. Realignment with Iran is the only way Washington can balance its need to deal with Iran on the Iraq question while preventing Tehran from threatening the Arabs. By working with the Arab states to have them seek closer relations with Iran, the United States has found a way to get around criticism from its Arab allies that Washington has not involved them in the Iraq talks.

The Iranians have two strategic aims in all this: First, they want to emerge from their status as a pariah state without having to follow the route of the Libyans. Second, Iran seeks to become a regional powerhouse.

The Saudi and Egyptian overtures facilitate Tehran's first goal, since Iran can be reintegrated into the international arena without appearing to have completely caved in to international pressure. As to the second objective, the Iranians know that without an acknowledgment from the Arabs and the United States, any Iranian attempt to behave as a regional player will be seen as a hostile act that could lead to war. By gaining space in the regional power configuration, Tehran has made progress toward international player status.

U.S.-Iranian dealings on Iraq have facilitated Arab-Iranian diplomatic engagement. Whether this process will lead toward normalization of U.S.-Iranian bilateral relations remains to be seen.
27344  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: December 13, 2007, 09:37:04 PM
RESPECT to the Muslim who stepped forward!!!

NEW YORK -- Ten subway riders, including two with prior bias crime busts, were charged with assaulting a group of four Jews wishing each other "Happy Hannukah" aboard a Q train in Brooklyn last week.

Authorities say the victims, two men and two women, were on a southbound Q train at Canal Street in Lower Manhattan when they were approached by the gang of 10 at around 11:15 p.m. Friday.

They were allegedly beaten up by the group in an attack now being investigated as a bias crime, because one is accused of shouting, "Hanukkah is when the Jews killed Jesus."

Two of the victims, Maria Parsheva and Walter Adler spoke to Eyewitness News reporter NJ Burkett.

"At first, I got hit, but I wasn't bleeding," Adler said. "It was one of those sucker punch, shock punches. But by the second time, there were like people stomping me."

But it was what the attackers said that will stay with Adler longer than the bruises.

"'You killed him, you killed Jesus, you killed him on Hanukkah, you dirty Jew, you [expletive] Jew,' Adler said the attackers said.

Adler said the incident was sparked by him wishing his friends a Happy Hannukah to his friends.

"And almost immediately, you see the look in this guy's face, like I've called his mother something," Adler said. "And I see the way this guy looks, and I see the way that this guy wants to fight me, and I look, and I see another guy right in front of me, another guy. And I see the crowd moving in."

"Attacking someone because they yell 'Happy Hanukkah' is obviously reason to believe this is an anti-Semitic," Parsheva said.

When Hassan Askari, another passenger on the train, tried to help, he was beaten up too.

"I don't understand," Askari said. "They just said 'Happy Hannukah.' That was it. There was nothing else."

Although hate crimes charges have not yet been brought, it is being investigated as a bias incident.

Police say the victims were treated for bruising and swelling to the head and face, but none required hospital treatment.

The 10 suspects, ages 19 and 20, were arrested at the DeKalb Avenue station in Brooklyn. They were charged with assault and unlawful assembly.

"No one else helped up, except Hassan," Parsheva said. "No one else on the train."

"A Muslim-American saved us, when our own people were on the train and didn't do anything," Adler said. "Someone who in the media often gets painted as the enemy of Israel and the Jews, this is a...Sunni Muslim, this is someone that jumped in, he knew we were Jews, to help us."

During the investigation, one of four victims revealed the comment made by one of the attackers, prompting the hate crimes task force investigation.

Two of the 10 suspects charged have prior hate crimes arrests.

Authorities say 19-year-old Joseph Jirovec was one of six charged in a June 2006 attack on four black youths in Brooklyn's mostly white Gerritsen Beach neighborhood.

Jirovec, the son of a firefighter serving in Iraq as an Army staff sergeant, claimed at the time that the motivation for the attack was his membership in a violent street gang, and not bias.

He said his street name was "Bloody Fitted" and that he held the rank of two-star general in the Bloods street gang.

Another of those arrested, 19-year-old Zachary Rogalski of Brooklyn, was charged in a May 2005 attack on several black youths in Marine Park, Brooklyn.

He was part of a group of nine white youths who beat up a group of three blacks looking for a $70 cigarette lighter they lost during a previous fight, according to police.
(Copyright ©2007 WABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

Source Drudge
27345  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: December 13, 2007, 04:50:18 PM

Democrats who supported a House resolution to honor Ramadan voted against a similar resolution to honor Christmas and Christianity last night.

18 Democrats voted “nay” or “present” on a resolution to “recognize the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.” An eagle-eyed Republican House staffer points out that those same members, with one exception, voted to “recognize the commencement of Ramadan,” a Muslim religious observance in October.

Nine Democrats voted against the Christmas resolution. They are: Rep. Gary Ackerman (N.Y.), Rep. Yvette Clarke (N.Y.), Rep. Diane DeGette (Colo.), Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fla.), Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.), Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.), Rep. Robert Scott (Va.), Rep. Pete Stark (Calif.) and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (Calif.).

Another nine Democrats chose to vote "present." They are: Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.), Rep. Rush Holt (N.J.), Rep. Donald Payne (N.J.), Rep. Allyson Schwartz (Pa.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Rep. Peter Welch (Vt.) and Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.).

Each of them supported the Ramadan resolution except for Rep. Lee, who did not vote
27346  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: December 13, 2007, 04:47:10 PM
American Intelligence
December 13, 2007

The citizens of the free world have nothing to worry any more -- America's spy masters have recovered their missing crystal ball. No fewer than 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have just told us that the Iranian nuclear program really is not so dangerous. According to the National Intelligence Estimate, Tehran has, for reasons yet to be explained, supposedly stopped the military plank of its atomic research.

Before rolling out the peace banners, though, it's worth looking at the agencies' track record in getting these sorts of "estimates" right. As a matter of fact, U.S. intelligence services have so far failed to predict the nuclearization of a single foreign nation. They failed to do so with regard to the Soviet Union in 1949, China in 1964, India and Pakistan in 1998, and North Korea in 2002. They also got Saddam's weapons program wrong -- twice. First by underestimating it in the 1980s and then by overplaying its progress before the 2003 invasion. But on the possible nuclearization of a regime that sounds fanatic enough to use this doomsday weapon, the NIE, contradicting everything we have heard so far about the issue, including from a previous NIE report, is suddenly to be trusted?

It's not just on the nuclear front where American intelligence services have failed their country. They foresaw neither the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 nor the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later. In Afghanistan, during the 1980s, while other friendly services, among them the French, urged the CIA to support more "moderate" tribal chiefs in the fight against the Red Army, the agency relied on the enlightened advice of its Saudi friends and supported the most extreme Islamists. U.S. troops are fighting and dying today for that blunder.

More recently, the CIA conducted those "extraordinary renditions" of terrorist suspects in such an amateurish manner that several American intelligence officers were exposed and are now being tried in absentia in Italy. Allied services in other countries were also compromised, souring future cooperation between the agencies.

I do not rehash this history with any kind of schadenfreude but to urge policy makers in the U.S. and here in Europe to read this report with more than just a grain of salt. Many Democrats in Washington and the international media welcomed the agencies' "independence" from the political leadership. But one must wonder whether, in a democracy, intelligence services are supposed to cultivate their "independence" to the point of opposing the elected political leadership.

And make no mistake, the NIE has little in common with intelligence as it is understood by professionals. Instead, Langley & Co. seem to have decided to carry out their own foreign policy. The report's most controversial conclusion -- that Iran ceased its covert nuclear program -- is based on the absurd distinction between military and civilian. Iran itself admits -- no, boasts -- that it continues enriching uranium as part of its "civilian" program. But such enrichment can have only a military purpose.

With this sleight of hand, though, the intelligence services effectively sabotaged the Bush administration's efforts to steer its allies toward a tougher position on Iran. Paris in particular won't be amused about what appears almost like a betrayal. President Nicolas Sarkozy took a great political risk when he turned around French foreign policy and became Europe's leading opponent of a nuclear Iran. He even warned of a possible armed conflict with Iran -- not the most popular thing to do in France.

The agencies say in the report that they don't "know" whether Tehran is considering equipping itself with nuclear arms. These super-spies in the suburbs of Washington do not seem to be the least embarrassed by this admission of incompetence. With their multibillion-dollar budget, one might certainly expect the agencies to "know" these sorts of things.

This admission also betrays a rather naive view of the nature of the Iranian regime. Are the mullahs' intentions really so hard to discern? What everybody "knows" -- and not only those in the intelligence community -- is that Tehran has made it pretty clear that it wants nuclear arms and that it has very concrete plans for their deployment: to erase Israel from the map. Everybody also "knows" that nuclear arms would make the Islamic Republic almost untouchable, turning it into a regional superpower that could dictate its will on the Gulf states -- the world's suppliers of oil and gas. And everybody "knows" that this is an unacceptable prospect for the Gulf countries, practically forcing them to get the bomb as well. Over time the Middle East, not a very stable region, would become completely nuclearized.

The CIA and its covert colleagues could have thought about these realities a bit longer before publishing a document that can only add confusion to an already complex crisis. But to do so would have meant concentrating on intelligence analysis rather than politics. This whole affair would be almost laughable if it weren't so disturbing and dangerous.

Mr. Moniquet, a former field operative for the French foreign intelligence service, heads the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center.
27347  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Step on: December 13, 2007, 04:01:06 PM
Forgive my glibness, and please educate me if I miss the point, but what about:

1) hormones and anti-biotics in the food supply?
2) high fructose corn syrup and its brethren?
3) eating less?

27348  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Education on: December 13, 2007, 02:51:39 PM
Harvard for Free
Higher education is about to change as elite universities decide what to do with their huge endowments.

Thursday, December 13, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

On Monday Harvard said that next year it will substantially increase its financial aid to middle-class students, bringing its actual tuition costs down to or even below that of some state universities. This is possible because of Harvard's--and other universities'--growing financial success, and it is a signal of far-reaching changes that will ripple throughout higher education.

Superb investment returns have been generated by managers of the endowments of some of the elite private universities, including Harvard, Yale, and even of small liberal arts colleges like Amherst and Williams. The endowments of these four institutions range from $1.7 billion at Amherst to $35 billion at Harvard, and the investment managers are getting annual returns well in excess of 20%. This is more than the alumni of any of those institutions could possibly contribute, and by an enormous margin.

In 1970, when I became a trustee of Williams, the endowment stood at about $35 million. Even using constant dollars, the growth in the endowment since then has been astonishing. At June 30, 2007 it had reached approximately $1.9 billion.

Much (but not all) of this growth is due to the major diversification in the investment mixture adopted by trustees of these schools, who realized some 30 years ago that sticking with the ancient formulae of stocks and bonds was no longer prudent. The change came about because the Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffett, persuaded Grinnell College in 1976 to invest some $13 million in a local TV station that he had identified as a golden opportunity.

Before then, boards at such places worried that nontraditional investments might raise legal issues, or subject them to criticism from alumni. But when the Buffett suggestion turned into a significant windfall of some $36 million for Grinnell in about five years, the rest of the endowment world got the point. I once asked Warren if he had planned to cause such a major switch in strategy. He assured me he had not. "I just saw it as a good buy," he said.

Now, however, these enormous endowments are beginning to raise some fascinating issues for all of higher education. The most obvious issue is whether these schools can seriously claim to have any further need for donations from alumni and friends.
And if, as seems likely, there is much less need for additional giving, does that not mean the administrations of these institutions can operate without the traditional checks and balances of informed alumni? The boards and administrations of the well-endowed schools can safely and proudly proclaim their independence.

In the past, it would have been impossible to ignore alumni. Perhaps an early indication of what I am raising is the recent tussle at Dartmouth over the number of trustees the alumni will be permitted to elect. There the administration has instituted a by-law change that will result in an increase in the number of trustees to be elected by the board, thereby decreasing the power of the alumni.

In the present circumstances, the administration and boards of these schools now control the money because the endowment is managed by internally controlled entities. Accordingly, the most important voice at Yale would have to be the estimable and much-respected David Swenson, who has managed the Yale endowment to astonishing annual returns of over 20% for 10 years. Yale's endowment is about $22.5 billion. What does this mean for the future of governance at Yale? I wonder.

Similarly, these powerful investment returns will change tuition pricing and financial aid--and not just at Harvard. A scholar who follows these matters closely recently told me that he anticipates that the elite private colleges and universities will, in the not-too-distant future, stop charging tuition to any student whose annual family income is below the top 5% of all American families--currently around $200,000.

We already have seen a competition among these schools as of late, with "Free to $30,000" replaced by "Free to $40,000" and now "Free to $60,000." In fact, a recent announcement at Phillips Exeter Academy, that they are offering a free boarding school education to admitted students whose families earn $75,000 or less, raised the stakes for higher education.

If a "Free to $200,000" policy were to be enacted at my alma mater, Williams College, it would cost them only something like $15 million in net tuition revenue out of an operating budget of $200 million. At Harvard, the percentage contribution would be even less. Given the endowment performance at places like Williams and Harvard, they could easily adjust to the loss in tuition revenue. But what about all the lesser-endowed schools that are much more heavily dependant on tuition to maintain their financial stability? How can Fairfield University--where I have served as a trustee--possibly forego tuition to that extent?

What this means is that the cost of the educational Mercedes will be less than the educational Ford. And when Harvard is cheaper than Fairfield, how can Fairfield increase tuition each year, when it will no longer have the umbrella of similar tuition increases being announced by places like Williams and Yale?

I suspect many of us have viewed a four-year college education as a commodity that is priced within a reasonably narrow range. In the past, the Fairfield cost was close to that at Williams. If, as is likely, the big guys drop tuition for all but the richest students, all this will change.

There is another aspect of the financial aid universe that will be affected by these changes in pricing. Currently, there are universities and colleges granting what are known as "merit scholarships." These are financial grants to students who have no demonstrated need.

The Ivies, and many well-endowed institutions, profess only to grant aid based on need. But in the present circumstances, merit grants are being used to tempt talented students away from the Ivies. Some students accept these grants, and decline admission offers at the very elite schools in order to save money for graduate school costs. Thus, Harvard and Williams may be losing attractive students for largely financial reasons. In those cases, the merit offers make money a solid reason to go to a school down the food chain.

If, as is likely, the big guys drop tuition, all this will change, too. And who can blame the elites for using what they have the most of--money and huge endowments.
Because there are so few of these super-rich schools, the effects of their changes in policies will be felt slowly. But like the change in investment strategy Warren Buffett innocently suggested some 30 years ago, the size and growth of their endowments will have significant and not easily anticipated consequences. The ripples of moves made in Cambridge and New Haven will be widely felt.

Mr. Vincent, a former commissioner of Major League Baseball, is the author of "The Only Game in Town: Baseball Stars of the 1930s and 1940s Talk About the Game They Loved" (Simon & Schuster, 2006), the first in a multivolume oral-history project.

27349  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: December 13, 2007, 10:42:40 AM

Fenerbahce To Ask Uefa For Three Points From Inter Match

A Turkish lawyer has filed a complaint to Uefa after Inter wore a shirt with an offensive symbol, at least to Islamic culture, in their recent match against Fenerbahce.

A Turkish lawyer who's an expert on European law, Baris Kaska, is asking Uefa to cancel the three points Inter earned in their win against Fenerbahce in the recent Champions League match.

The Nerazzurri had beaten the Turkish champions 3-0 at home to qualify for the next round of the Champions League.

The reason for the appeal is unusual: the celebratory shirt for Inter's centenary worn by the team that night, and on several other occasions this season, offended many people in Turkey.

The shirt's scheme saw a big red cross on a white background, a symbol of the city of Milan, and reminded many of an emblem of the order of the Templars, which is considered offensive in Islamic culture.

Inter consciously did not wear their 'centenary shirt' in their first match against Fenerbahce in Istanbul, but at home, they did not think it was necessary to do the same.

However, the very sensitive Turkish media reacted bitterly and that led to the official appeal filed by Kaska, who announced this decision during an interview to Barcelona daily La Vanguardia.
27350  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / James Wilson on: December 13, 2007, 10:28:17 AM
"In observations on this subject, we hear the legislature
mentioned as the people's representatives.  The distinction,
intimated by concealed implication, through probably, not avowed
upon reflection, is, that the executive and judicial powers are not
connected with the people by a relation so strong or near or dear.
But is high time that we should chastise our prejudices; and that
we should look upon the different parts of government with a just
and impartial eye."

-- James Wilson (Lectures on Law, 1791)

Reference: The Works of James Wilson, McCloskey, ed., vol. 1
(292-293); original Lectures on Law, Wilson,
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