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27401  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: April DB Tribal Gathering on: April 02, 2009, 03:01:11 PM
In dog time , , , 10 or 11 cheesy

Remember, Saturday is the day the TV folks will be here.
27402  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: April 01, 2009, 03:39:31 PM
I will be at the DB Tribal Gathering through Sunday.

27403  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: April 01, 2009, 02:36:11 PM
Due to the DB Tribal Gathering this weekend, my class at the IAMA will not be meeting this Saturday.
27404  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: What Russis will and won't trade on: April 01, 2009, 06:48:52 AM
Geopolitical Diary: What Russia Will and Won't Trade With Washington
March 31, 2009

The Russians have been projecting optimism about upcoming meetings with the Americans in Europe, reinforcing the “reset button” theme that the Obama administration had introduced. However, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev gave a speech Sunday night with a somewhat different sensibility. Regarding the U.S. proposal that Washington would make concessions on ballistic missile defense (BMD) in Europe in return for pressure against Iran by Moscow, Medvedev said, “I don’t think that any trade-offs are possible in this respect. Any information as to replace one issue with another one is not true; this is not a serious talk. But I have no doubt that we shall discuss both issues — that of ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense and of the situation around Iran’s nuclear program. I believe that President Obama thinks the same way.”

Medvedev went on to say, “As regards the ABM, as regards the deployment of the notorious capabilities in Europe, our position has always been clear: We should not create ABM elements — a comprehensive antimissile system is required. And Russia is ready to become engaged in this system, because we are also interested in securing our country and our citizens from threats posed by certain problematic states. But the point is that this should be done through common efforts rather than by deploying any missiles or radars along our borders when a real doubt arises as to what lies behind all this. Is it done to make us nervous or in order to really prevent some threats?”

In other words, there can be no quid pro quo on Iran. However, the Russians would entertain a comprehensive ABM system, jointly developed and presumably under some sort of international control, as opposed to American BMD installations along Russian borders, since the Russians have doubts about the real motives behind the deployment.

We translate the Russian position in this way. First, Russia’s relationship with Iran is too valuable to Moscow — and too painful for Washington — to be traded for a BMD installation in Poland. The price for Iran will be much higher than that. Second, the real issue is not the BMD system in Poland but the longer-range plans the United States might have on the Russian border. The Russians are far more concerned about other U.S. bases in Poland and other arms deliveries to the Polish military and to the Baltic states that are part of NATO. It is the unstated plans that make the Russians nervous, not the BMD system.

The solution Moscow proposes would eliminate the problem — for Russia. First, it either would eliminate the need for bases in Poland or at least place those facilities under international control. Second, it would represent a transfer of critical technology to Russia and to all participants. The United States is not going to internationalize its hard-won and costly BMD technologies entirely. Washington has offered to share some technology to enable the Russians to build their own system, but not to write a blank check, or to avoid placing installations in Poland that make Russia nervous.

This last is the critical point. The Russians don’t want the United States using Poland as a base for containing Russia, and they fear the BMD is simply the first of many military installations. Even less do they want U.S. and NATO forces deploying into the Baltic states. They might trade pressure against Iran in return for guarantees that Poland and the Baltics would serve as a neutral buffer zone, but not for anything less.

If the Americans concede on this point, then NATO — under internal pressure already — would be dead. It would mean that the guarantees built into NATO membership would not apply to Poland and the Baltics, given that NATO would have guaranteed the Russians not to deploy defensive forces there. Moreover, the Americans are not certain the Russians have all that much influence in Iran. They might trade BMD for a major Russian effort. The United States won’t neutralize part of NATO in exchange for a good try.

As with the rest of the meetings, there is a superficial collegiality in place. Beneath the surface, it is a very different meeting. Obama tabled his Afghanistan plan on Friday, setting up a discussion of European contributions to the effort. Medvedev rejected the American proposal on BMD-Iran last night, letting the Americans know — if they didn’t already — that there would be no deal. Everyone is putting their cards on the table. It is not clear whose cards are better at the moment, but it is clear the stakes are getting higher.
27405  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Arab MK calls for nuclear Iran on: April 01, 2009, 06:20:52 AM
second post

New Israeli Arab Parliamentarian Calls For Nuclear Iran

By David Bedein & Samuel Sokol, Middle East Correspondents
Monday, March 30, 2009
Jerusalem — Hanin Zoabi is the first woman to be elected to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, as a representative of an Arab party. Ms. Zoabi, former director of the I’lam: Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel, is a feminist and strong secularist.   She is now one of three representatives of the Balad (National Democratic Assembly) Party.

On one of her first days in the Knesset, the new parliamentarian asked for her thoughts regarding increased Iranian influence in Gaza. Ms. Zoabi replied that she welcomed it.

She said, “If this influence is supporting me, so I will not mind this influence. Even, I would ask for this influence ... The question is not whether there is an influence or not, the question whether this influence is supporting you, can support your demands or can go against your demands.”

Queried regarding Iran’s quest to manufacture nuclear weapons, she stated was that “It would [sic] be more supporting me to have a counter-power to Israel” and “I need something to balance its [Israel’s] power.”

She also spoke of Egypt and Jordan as being a threat to the Arabs of the Gaza Strip, intimating that they are scared of a free and democratic Palestinian state.

Ms. Zoabi was then asked if she felt worried due to the fact that Iran is getting close to acquiring a nuclear weapon and because she lives in close proximity to Jews. She replied, “No, I am not, I’m afraid from the nuclear Iran, I am more afraid from the Israeli nuclear [weapons].”

Israel does not officially admit to being a nuclear power, yet it is generally accepted that it has been a nuclear power since the 1960s.

When asked if she thought that Iran would use nuclear weapons, she deliberately misunderstood and replied, “The Israelis? I think yes. And I am afraid from real risk rather than from potential risk.” She said that everyone is asking about potential risk while “Every day the Israeli uses its violence, army violence.”

“The Iranian is a potential … but the real risk is the Israeli army.”

Ms. Zoabi said that Israel was an aggressor state, and that only a situation similar to that which existed between the Soviet Union and United States in the form of the doctrine of “Mutually Ensured Destruction” would restrain Israel.

“It’s the balance of power. This is the only idea. Our only idea that it is more dangerous to the world, more dangerous to everyone, more dangerous to the Palestinians, to Israelis to have Israel as the only powerful state. I need something to balance its power because this balance of power will restrict the Israeli using of power. The Israeli violence of the army is an outcome of the Israel’s convenient feeling that no one will restrict her, that no Arab country will really declare a war against [Israel].”

She continued by saying “and another thing … I need a power which can make contrast to the Israeli power and it’s not for myself. It is not supporting me the fact that Israel would be the only state with a nuclear weapon. It’s more supporting me to have counter power to Israel.”

“I believe that [Israel] would respect its use of power if she’s afraid from others. The fact that she is not afraid from Arab countries, the fact that she is not afraid from a potential  declaration of our Arab world to declare war against Israel, makes Israel more violent. You understand me. Sometimes I need power not in order to implement this power but in order to respect the other’s power. “

She was then asked if an Iranian bomb would lead to a nervous America and thus more U.S. pressure on Israel and if that would be good for her she replied “Exactly.”

Asked about Israel as a Jewish state, Ms. Zoabi declared that the very concept of a Jewish state is “inherently racist,” saying that Israel must be turned into a “state of all its citizens,” which would eliminate its Jewish or Zionist nature.

The Knesset Central Elections Committee disqualified the Balad party from running in the recent elections due to its members’ refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and reported calls for violence against it.  The party was allowed to run when the Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Elections Committee.

Party chairman Dr. Jamal Zahalka responded to MK Zoabi’s comments by saying “I think Ms. Zoabi tried to explain some analysis that’s what’s better if you have, but this is not a position it’s an analysis [of] what would be safer for the region, if there is a balance… this is not supporting a nuclear weapon in Iran.”

David Bedein can be reached at
27406  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wafaa Younis on: April 01, 2009, 06:16:35 AM

Posted: Monday, March 30, 2009 11:05 AM
Filed Under: Tel Aviv, Israel
By Martin Fletcher, NBC News Correspondent

TEL AVIV – Wafaa Younis is a woman whose heart is in the right place;
she is an Israeli Arab who has made a real effort to help Palestinian
children in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank.
She started with the boys; she wanted them to put down their stones and
learn the violin, in the hope that they would not grow up and pick up a
gun. I first met her three years ago when she finally persuaded the
Israelis to allow the Palestinian children to leave the West Bank and go
to her home in the Israeli town of Ara for violin lessons.

Tara Todras-Whitehall / AP file
Palestinian children from the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank play a
concert for Holocaust survivors in Holon, Israel on March 25.

She even took them on trips to the coast; even though they grew up 30
miles from the Mediterranean, they had never seen the sea. Her first
attempts to teach a few boys the violin grew into a small orchestra of
boys and girls. She even rented an apartment in Jenin so that she could
teach them there, because it was easier for her to cross into the West
Bank than it was for them to leave.

Then Younis had an idea; as part of Israel’s annual Good Deeds Week, she
would arrange a little concert in Holon, near Tel Aviv. Her young
musicians from the "Strings of Freedom" orchestra would entertain
Holocaust survivors. They would play their favorite classics, and also
some songs of peace; a way to bridge the divide between Palestinians and

Too volatile an issue
At the concert last Wednesday, the group of 13 young musicians from
Jenin played for about 30 Holocaust survivors and they even dedicated
one song to Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has been held prisoner
by Hamas in Gaza for three years.

Younis is not the first person to make such an effort – there are
literally hundreds of peace groups that have the same aim – bringing
together Arabs and Jews with similar interests and hopes.

Tara Todras-whitehall / AP file
Holocaust survivors listen as Palestinian children from the Jenin
refugee camp in the West Bank play music in Holon, Israel on March 25.

But playing for the Holocaust survivors turned out to be bridge too far.
Adnan Hindi, a Palestinian political leader in Jenin, was outraged by
the concert. He called the Holocaust a political issue and said that the
Palestinian children had been tricked.

He complained that Younis had not told the children they would be
playing before such a politically sensitive audience. She answered that
she tried to explain to them, but that they made too much noise on the
bus and didn't hear her. Other Palestinians said that was a bit late to
tell them.

Younis said she didn't realize anybody could possibly object to playing
a concert for those "poor old people" – and anyway, most of the
Palestinian children had never heard of the Holocaust.

The Holocaust is a particularly sensitive subject for Palestinians.
There is widespread ignorance of the details of the atrocities committed
by the Nazis against Jews during World War II and there is a sense among
many Palestinians that why should they care about Jewish suffering more
than 60 years ago when Israelis don’t seem to care about the suffering
they are causing Palestinians today.

No good deed goes unpunished
Younis is an Israeli Arab who tried to do a bit of good. For her pains,
her apartment in Jenin has been boarded up and she is not allowed into
the town anymore. Her orchestra has been disbanded. She said the
Palestinian officials just want to take the money that she had raised
for the children's orchestra.

I know Younis. After I met her several years ago she called me for
months, asking for donations, for a contribution for a new violin, or
even an old one, just so that she could teach music to her Palestinian

She wanted to introduce a bit of light into their lives and direct them
toward the violin bow, and away from the gun. She had many ideas to help
people, and she possessed in abundance that peculiar combination of
strength and naiveté that mark people who, against great odds, achieve
great things.

Today she didn't answer her phone.
27407  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton; Madison: Federalist 51; Reagan; Jefferson on: April 01, 2009, 06:04:52 AM
"Wise politicians will be cautious about fettering the government with restrictions that cannot be observed, because they know that every break of the fundamental laws, though dictated by necessity, impairs that sacred reverence which ought to be maintained in the breast of rulers towards the constitution of a country."

--Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 25, 21 December 1787

"In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself." --James Madison, Federalist No. 51
"When a business or an individual spends more than it makes, it goes bankrupt. When government does it, it sends you the bill. And when government does it for 40 years, the bill comes in two ways: higher taxes and inflation. Make no mistake about it, inflation is a tax and not by accident." --Ronald Reagan
"Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Martha Jefferson, 5 May 1787
27408  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Elevation on: April 01, 2009, 06:03:37 AM
second post of the day

Print this Page

By Tzvi Freeman
The entire cosmos climbs upward.

The elements move upward to grow as living things.

Those growing, living things rise upwards, consumed by creatures that swim, run, fly, love and fear.

Animals, too, may be elevated into the realm of a conscious being that acts with enlightened mindfulness.

And this intelligent being, to where can s/he rise?

To the ultimate fulfillment of intellect, a place that existed before Mind was born, a place without constriction or borders.

This is the act of doing good for the sake of good alone.
27409  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: April 01, 2009, 06:01:59 AM
I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell,


The character Howard Beale in the movie "Network"
27410  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Half a Redemption on: April 01, 2009, 05:54:30 AM
Half A Redemption
Appreciating the Process
Print this Page

by Shalvi Weissman
It takes me a while to get into preparing for Passover. It's not that I don't like cleaning. Sometimes I can be a little neurotic about cleanliness and order. I think that on Passover everyone else gets about as nuts as I am the whole year. So why is it that every year as Passover approaches I'm a bit reluctant to get caught up in it? Maybe because Passover is only half a redemption.

I'm not being a heretic. Moses himself felt the same way. When G‑d spoke to Moses at the burning bush and told him that he was to go and redeem the Jewish people, Moses didn't want to go. The Torah commentator, Rashi, says that they argued about it for a full week! 1

If he could not complete the job, why be the one to start it?G‑d told Moses that He would be with him and take care of all of the details, but it would seem that Moses was worried about something else. He responded, "Please my L-rd, send them through whomever you will send."

Moses saw that he wouldn't be the one to bring the Jews into the Promised Land. Not only that, but Moses saw that this would not be the final redemption. Why take them out of this exile just to send them into another? If he could not complete the job, why be the one to start it? Send the guy who can do the whole thing!

Passover is a celebration of what could be considered a moot point. What good does it do me to get out of one prison if I'm in a worse one now? Yes, at the time it was a wonderful thing, but what relevance does it have to me now?

Consider this: in the Holocaust memorial museum in Israel, Yad VaShem, there is a Passover Haggadah that was written on scraps of paper that concentration camp inmates had collected. A group of people sat together and tried to piece it together from memory. They succeeded in writing a complete Haggadah. Imagine the Seder that they had that year. Four cups of wine? Three matzas? Beautiful sparkling silver, china and crystal? Clearly not. Probably most of them would have died if they even attempted to refrain from eating the meager bread that they received for that week. Yet they went to great lengths to celebrate the Seder to the best of their ability. Why? What did they have to celebrate? Their freedom? Hardly. Then what?

The Haggadah itself addresses this. The narrative portion of the Haggadah opens with the statement, "This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt… This year we are slaves, next year we will be free."

What did they have to celebrate? Their freedom? Hardly.How's that for an opening line at the celebration of the festival of freedom? Jewish, eh? From there we go on to speak of our lowly, idol-worshipping roots as a nation. G‑d promised us great things, but first we would have to pay the price of being foreigners and slaves in Egypt. G‑d Himself promised Abraham exile at the same time that He promised he would become a "great nation". Couldn't He have come up with an easier, nicer way? We are told the details of how hard it really was in Egypt, until finally we cried out to G‑d and He redeemed us. The details of the plagues and miracles follow, and we end with praise to our Creator, our Redeemer.

One of these songs of praise is rather strange- Dayeinu:

"If G‑d had led us through the sea on dry land, and not drowned our tormentors, it would have been enough. If G‑d had brought us to Mt. Sinai and not given us the Torah, it would have been enough. If He had given us the Torah and not brought us into the Land of Israel, it would have been enough."

Really? Unusual for a people known to kvetch! What would have happened if we had gotten through the sea and the Egyptians had not been drowned? According to the Midrash,2 we came out of the sea on the same side where we had entered. Indeed, what would have happened if we had come out, only to find ourselves standing face to face with our enemies? Or if we had not received the Torah? We are told that had we not received the Torah, the whole world would have returned to tohu vavohu- void and nothingness.3 Would that really have been enough? If we had received the Torah, which is full of the commandments that can only be fulfilled in the land of Israel, yet had never gotten there, how can we possibly say that it would have been enough?

I like things that are complete, full, finished, accomplished. It is very hard for me to find satisfaction in a job not quite done. Process has always been an issue. As soon as I find out I'm pregnant I want the baby already. Of course, as soon as it's born, I want to see it grown up. Though I haven't gotten to that stage yet, I am sure that once the child grows up I will worry about who s/he will marry, and a few months after the wedding, I will wonder when children will come. Life is about process, and Passover is a celebration of process. Hence my issue with Passover.

I'm not writing this just to kvetch or to procrastinate cleaning my kitchen cabinets. I guess I'm trying to process my issue with process.

Life is about cycles, growth, and change. As much as we constantly try, who can claim to have gotten "there," wherever "there" is? Even when we reach the end of the life cycle, we are in a process. When a soul reaches the next world, it wishes to continue to ascend, either on its own merits, or the merits of students and children left behind. 4

Even after Mashiach comes, even in the next world, we will continue to grow and progress in ways that we can't even imagine in our current state.

Every stage of the game is important, not because it is getting us to completion in the usual sense, but because each step is an opportunity to find completion by connecting to our Creator in that moment.

Passover is a big celebration. We could say that upon leaving Egypt, a nation was born. Without being born one can't grow up, but is the whole goal of birth to grow up? Birth itself, even the birth of a life that will be as filled with pain and struggle as that of the Jewish people, is something to celebrate. It is a huge accomplishment! It is a moment of joy, of coming from constriction to expansiveness. It is an awesome opportunity to connect to G‑d. As long as we see birth only as a means to get to some other goal, we can go through life always wanting to be somewhere else, never feeling gratitude and connection in the present.

Each moment is a success if it is used to build on our past successes in order to reach higher, so that we can connect spiritually in a higher and greater way than we ever have before.

Reb Nosson of Breslov understood this idea well when he explained one of the reasons we say a blessing on two loaves of challah on Shabbat. We have something whole. In order to eat it, we must make it no longer whole. The fact that we cut the challah in order for it to fulfill its purpose does not mean that it is no longer whole in terms of its purpose in creation. So we cut one challah while leaving the other whole before us as a reminder that we haven't lost anything – the wholeness still exists.

Life is about process, and Passover is a celebration of processMany people are disappointed to find that when they try to bring themselves closer to G‑d, their lives get harder. In the physical world, when you graduate from one level to the next you get pomp and circumstance. No one frets too much that it's harder in college than it was in high school. It's a challenge, and it means that you have progressed. In the spiritual world, when a person goes up to the next level, there is no graduation ceremony – not even a pat on the back. So how do you know that you've reached the next level? It's harder! When this happens we often think that we have failed in some way, but when you fail a grade you repeat it. When you succeed spiritually it is bit like the game Tetris- the obstacles start flying at you faster and more furiously, but it's a good sign. Just take it as a spiritual pat on the back.

It seems that we had something whole, and now it's broken, but the lesson is that really now it's just different. What needed to be done was done, and you have moved on.

If G‑d had brought us to Mt. Sinai and not given us the Torah, we would still have been amazing. We stood before the mountain as one person with one heart. What an amazing experience. Three million people were completely united in their desire to come close to each other and to G‑d! The experience was precious! Same thing with the splitting of the sea. When we walked through the water on dry land, it was clear to each and every one of us on a personal level that our Creator was with us, that He could do anything, and wanted to use His power to invest in our relationship. That in and of itself is really something, no matter what comes next.

So this is why we spend so much time talking on Seder night. It's possible to look at all the miracles and still say, "Very nice, but where does this get me now?"

We need to personalize all that happened. G‑d did miracles for me. I was in trouble. I called out. G‑d answered.

After having experienced redemption from Egypt, no matter what our circumstances may be, we know that we are redeemable and that we have a Redeemer who is unstoppable- when He deems the time right. Nothing is keeping Him from taking us out of all of the dark and narrow places of our lives. Until that happens, we know that all of the exile that we are experiencing is just a springboard for the redemption that is to come.

If we come to that realization on Seder night, then we can see that there is no difference between the bread of affliction and the bread of freedom. They are one and the same. It's all part of the process.

So I guess I'll go start my kitchen cabinets now. After all, that too is part of the process.

1.  Rashi on Exodus 4:10.
2.  Me'am Loez, on the Torah portion Beshalach.
3.  Rashi on Genesis 1:31
4.  Likkutei Moharan II 7
27411  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / part two on: April 01, 2009, 05:47:38 AM

There is no reason to fear this new knowledge. Differences among groups will cut in many different directions, and everybody will be able to weight the differences so that their group's advantages turn out to be the most important to them. Liberals will not be obliged to give up their concerns about systemic unfairnesses. But groups of people will turn out to be different from each other, on average, and those differences will also produce group differences in outcomes in life, on average, that everyone knows are not the product of discrimination and inadequate government regulation.

And a void will have developed in the moral universe of the left. If social policy cannot be built on the premise that group differences must be eliminated, what can it be built upon? It can be built upon the restoration of the premise that used to be part of the warp and woof of American idealism: People must be treated as individuals. The success of social policy is to be measured not by equality of outcomes for groups, but by open, abundant opportunity for individuals. It is to be measured by the freedom of individuals, acting upon their personal abilities, aspirations and values, to seek the kind of life that best suits them.

The second bedrock premise of the social democratic agenda is what I call the New Man premise, borrowing the old Communist claim that it would create a "New Man" by remaking human nature. This premise says that human beings are malleable through the right government interventions.

The second tendency of the new findings of biology will be to show that the New Man premise is nonsense. Human nature tightly constrains what is politically or culturally possible. More than that, the new findings will broadly confirm that human beings are pretty much the way that wise human observers have thought for thousands of years, and that is going to be wonderful news for those of us who are already basing our policy analyses on that assumption.

The effects on the policy debate are going to be sweeping. Let me give you a specific example. For many years, I have been among those who argue that the growth in births to unmarried women has been a social catastrophe--the single most important driving force behind the growth of the underclass. But while I and other scholars have been able to prove that other family structures have not worked as well as the traditional family, I cannot prove that alternatives could not work as well, and so the social democrats keep coming up with the next new ingenious program that will compensate for the absence of fathers.

Over the next few decades, advances in evolutionary psychology are going to be conjoined with advances in genetic understanding and they will lead to a scientific consensus that goes something like this: There are genetic reasons, rooted in the mechanisms of human evolution, that little boys who grow up in neighborhoods without married fathers tend to reach adolescence unsocialized to norms of behavior that they will need to stay out of prison and hold jobs. These same reasons explain why child abuse is, and always will be, concentrated among family structures in which the live-in male is not the married biological father. And these same reasons explain why society's attempts to compensate for the lack of married biological fathers don't work and will never work.

Once again, there's no reason to be frightened of this new knowledge. We will still be able to acknowledge that many single women do a wonderful job of raising their children. Social democrats will simply have to stop making glib claims that the traditional family is just one of many equally valid alternatives. They will have to acknowledge that the traditional family plays a special, indispensable role in human flourishing and that social policy must be based on that truth. The same concrete effects of the new knowledge will make us rethink every domain in which the central government has imposed its judgment on how people ought to live their lives--in schools, workplaces, the courts, social services, as well as the family. And that will make the job of people like me much easier.

But the real effect is going to be much more profound than making my job easier. The 20th century was a very strange century, riddled from beginning to end with toxic political movements and nutty ideas. For some years a metaphor has been stuck in my mind: the twentieth century was the adolescence of Homo sapiens. Nineteenth-century science, from Darwin to Freud, offered a series of body blows to ways of thinking about human beings and human lives that had prevailed since the dawn of civilization. Humans, just like adolescents, were deprived of some of the comforting simplicities of childhood and exposed to more complex knowledge about the world. And 20th-century intellectuals reacted precisely the way that adolescents react when they think they have discovered Mom and Dad are hopelessly out of date. They think that the grown-ups are wrong about everything. In the case of 20th-century intellectuals, it was as if they thought that if Darwin was right about evolution, then Aquinas is no longer worth reading; that if Freud was right about the unconscious mind, the "Nicomachean Ethics" had nothing to teach us.

The nice thing about adolescence is that it is temporary, and, when it passes, people discover that their parents were smarter than they thought. I think that may be happening with the advent of the new century, as postmodernist answers to solemn questions about human existence start to wear thin--we're growing out of adolescence. The kinds of scientific advances in understanding human nature are going to accelerate that process. All of us who deal in social policy will be thinking less like adolescents, entranced with the most titillating new idea, and thinking more like grown-ups.

That will not get rid of the slippery slope that America is sliding down toward the European model. For that, this new raw material for reform--namely, a lot more people thinking like grown-ups--must be translated into a kind of political Great Awakening among America's elites.

I use the phrase "Great Awakening" to evoke a particular kind of event. American history has seen three religious revivals known as Great Awakenings--some say four. They were not dispassionate, polite reconsiderations of opinions. They were renewals of faith, felt in the gut.

I use the word "elites" to talk about the small minority of the population that has disproportionate influence over the culture, economy and governance of the country. I realize that to use that word makes many Americans uncomfortable. But every society since the advent of agriculture has had elites. So does the United States. Broadly defined, America's elites comprise several million people; narrowly defined, they amount to a few tens of thousands. We have a lot of examples of both kinds in this room tonight.

When I say that something akin to a political Great Awakening is required among America's elites, what I mean is that America's elites have to ask themselves how much they really do value what has made America exceptional, and what they are willing to do to preserve it. Let me close with a few remarks about what that will entail.

American exceptionalism is not just something that Americans claim for themselves. Historically, Americans have been different as a people, even peculiar, and everyone around the world has recognized it. I'm thinking of qualities such as American optimism even when there doesn't seem to be any good reason for it. That's quite uncommon among the peoples of the world. There is the striking lack of class envy in America--by and large, Americans celebrate others' success instead of resenting it. That's just about unique, certainly compared to European countries, and something that drives European intellectuals crazy. And then there is perhaps the most important symptom of all, the signature of American exceptionalism--the assumption by most Americans that they are in control of their own destinies. It is hard to think of a more inspiriting quality for a population to possess, and the American population still possesses it to an astonishing degree. No other country comes close.

Underlying these symptoms of American exceptionalism are the underlying exceptional dynamics of American life. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote a famous book describing the nature of that more fundamental exceptionalism back in the 1830s. He found American life characterized by two apparently conflicting themes. The first was the passion with which Americans pursued their individual interests, and made no bones about it--that's what America was all about, they kept telling Tocqueville. But at the same time, Tocqueville kept coming up against this phenomenal American passion for forming associations to deal with every conceivable problem, voluntarily taking up public affairs, and tending to the needs of their communities. How could this be? Because, Americans told Tocqueville, there's no conflict. "In the United States," Tocqueville writes, "hardly anybody talks of the beauty of virtue. . . . They do not deny that every man may follow his own interest; but they endeavor to prove that it is the interest of every man to be virtuous." And then he concludes, "I shall not here enter into the reasons they allege. . . . Suffice it to say, they have convinced their fellow countrymen."

The exceptionalism has not been a figment of anyone's imagination, and it has been wonderful. But it isn't something in the water that has made us that way. It comes from the cultural capital generated by the system that the Founders laid down, a system that says people must be free to live life as they see fit and to be responsible for the consequences of their actions; that it is not the government's job to protect people from themselves; that it is not the government's job to stage-manage how people interact with each other. Discard the system that created the cultural capital, and the qualities we love about Americans can go away. In some circles, they are going away.

Why do I focus on the elites in urging a Great Awakening? Because my sense is that the instincts of middle America remain distinctively American. When I visit the small Iowa town where I grew up in the 1950s, I don't get a sense that community life has changed all that much since then, and I wonder if it has changed all that much in the working-class neighborhoods of Brooklyn or Queens. When I examine the polling data about the values that most Americans prize, not a lot has changed. And while I worry about uncontrolled illegal immigration, I've got to say that every immigrant I actually encounter seems as American as apple pie.

The center still holds. It's the bottom and top of American society where we have a problem. And since it's the top that has such decisive influence on American culture, economy, and governance, I focus on it. The fact is that American elites have increasingly been withdrawing from American life. It's not a partisan phenomenon. The elites of all political stripes have increasingly withdrawn to gated communities--"gated" literally or figuratively--where they never interact at an intimate level with people not of their own socioeconomic class.

Haven't the elites always done this? Not like today. A hundred years ago, the wealth necessary to withdraw was confined to a much smaller percentage of the elites than now. Workplaces where the elites made their livings were much more variegated a hundred years ago than today's highly specialized workplaces.

Perhaps the most important difference is that, not so long ago, the overwhelming majority of the elites in each generation were drawn from the children of farmers, shopkeepers and factory workers--and could still remember those worlds after they left them. Over the last half century, it can be demonstrated empirically that the new generation of elites have increasingly spent their entire lives in the upper-middle-class bubble, never even having seen a factory floor, let alone worked on one, never having gone to a grocery store and bought the cheap ketchup instead of the expensive ketchup to meet a budget, never having had a boring job where their feet hurt at the end of the day, and never having had a close friend who hadn't gotten at least 600 on her SAT verbal. There's nobody to blame for any of this. These are the natural consequences of successful people looking for pleasant places to live and trying to do the best thing for their children.

But the fact remains: It is the elites who are increasingly separated from the America over which they have so much influence. That is not the America that Tocqueville saw. It is not an America that can remain America.

I am not suggesting that America's elites sacrifice their own self-interest for everybody else. That would be really un-American. I just want to accelerate a rediscovery of what that self-interest is. Age-old human wisdom has understood that a life well-lived requires engagement with those around us. That is reality, not idealism. It is appropriate to think that a political Great Awakening among the elites can arise in part from the renewed understanding that it can be pleasant to lead a glossy life, but it is ultimately more fun to lead a textured life, and to be in the midst of others who are leading textured lives. Perhaps events will help us out here--remember what Irving Kristol has been saying for years: "There's nothing wrong with this country that couldn't be cured by a long, hard depression."

What it comes down to is that America's elites must once again fall in love with what makes America different. I am not being theoretical. Not everybody in this room shares the beliefs I have been expressing, but a lot of us do. To those of you who do, I say soberly and without hyperbole, that this is the hour. The possibility that irreversible damage will be done to the American project over the next few years is real. And so it is our job to make the case for that reawakening. It won't happen by appealing to people on the basis of lower marginal tax rates or keeping a health care system that lets them choose their own doctor. The drift toward the European model can be slowed by piecemeal victories on specific items of legislation, but only slowed. It is going to be stopped only when we are all talking again about why America is exceptional, and why it is so important that America remain exceptional. That requires once again seeing the American project for what it is: a different way for people to live together, unique among the nations of the earth, and immeasurably precious.

Mr. Murray is the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the recipient of AEI's 2009 Irving Kristol Award. He delivered this lecture at the award dinner earlier this month.

27412  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Charles Murray: (The American Creed) on: April 01, 2009, 05:47:07 AM
When I began to work on this lecture a few months ago, I was feeling abashed because I knew I couldn't talk about either of the topics that were of the gravest national importance. Regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, I have not publicly said a word on foreign policy since I wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times in 1973. Regarding the economic crisis, I am not an economist. In fact, I am so naive about economics that I continue to think that we have a financial meltdown because the federal government, in its infinite wisdom, has for the last two administrations aggressively pushed policies that made it possible for clever people to get rich by lending money to people who were unlikely to pay it back.

 The topic I wanted to talk about was one that has been at the center of my own concerns for more than 20 years, but I was afraid it would seem remote from these urgent immediate issues. How times change. As of the morning of Feb. 24, this is the text I had written to introduce the topic: "It isn't usually put this way, but the advent of the Obama administration brings this question before the nation: Do we want the United States to be like Europe?" And then on the evening of the 24th, President Obama unveiled his domestic agenda to Congress, and now everybody is putting it that way. As Charles Krauthammer observed a few days later, "We've been trying to figure out who Barack Obama is, where he's really from. From Hawaii? Indonesia? The Ivy League? Chicago? Now we know: he's a Swede."

In short, the question has suddenly become urgently relevant because President Obama and his leading intellectual heroes are the American equivalent of Europe's social democrats. There's nothing sinister about that. They share an intellectually respectable view that Europe's regulatory and social welfare systems are more progressive than America's and advocate reforms that would make the American system more like the European system.

Not only are social democrats intellectually respectable, the European model has worked in many ways. I am delighted when I get a chance to go to Stockholm or Amsterdam, not to mention Rome or Paris. When I get there, the people don't seem to be groaning under the yoke of an evil system. Quite the contrary. There's a lot to like--a lot to love--about day-to-day life in Europe, something that should be kept in mind when I get to some less complimentary observations.

The European model can't continue to work much longer. Europe's catastrophically low birthrates and soaring immigration from cultures with alien values will see to that. So let me rephrase the question. If we could avoid Europe's demographic problems, do we want the United States to be like Europe?

Tonight I will argue for the answer "no," but not for economic reasons. The European model has indeed created sclerotic economies, and it would be a bad idea to imitate them. But I want to focus on another problem.

My text is drawn from Federalist 62, probably written by James Madison: "A good government implies two things: first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained." Note the word: happiness. Not prosperity. Not security. Not equality. Happiness, which the Founders used in its Aristotelian sense of lasting and justified satisfaction with life as a whole.

I have two points to make. First, I will argue that the European model is fundamentally flawed because, despite its material successes, it is not suited to the way that human beings flourish--it does not conduce to Aristotelian happiness. Second, I will argue that 21st-century science will prove me right.

First, the problem with the European model, namely: It drains too much of the life from life. And that statement applies as much to the lives of janitors--even more to the lives of janitors--as it does to the lives of CEOs.

I start from this premise: A human life can have transcendent meaning, with transcendence defined either by one of the world's great religions or one of the world's great secular philosophies. If transcendence is too big a word, let me put it another way: I suspect that almost all of you agree that the phrase "a life well-lived" has meaning. That's the phrase I'll use from now on.

And since happiness is a word that gets thrown around too casually, the phrase I'll use from now on is "deep satisfactions." I'm talking about the kinds of things that we look back upon when we reach old age and let us decide that we can be proud of who we have been and what we have done. Or not.

To become a source of deep satisfaction, a human activity has to meet some stringent requirements. It has to have been important (we don't get deep satisfaction from trivial things). You have to have put a lot of effort into it (hence the cliché "nothing worth having comes easily"). And you have to have been responsible for the consequences.

There aren't many activities in life that can satisfy those three requirements. Having been a good parent. That qualifies. A good marriage. That qualifies. Having been a good neighbor and good friend to those whose lives intersected with yours. That qualifies. And having been really good at something--good at something that drew the most from your abilities. That qualifies. Let me put it formally: If we ask what are the institutions through which human beings achieve deep satisfactions in life, the answer is that there are just four: family, community, vocation and faith. Two clarifications: "Community" can embrace people who are scattered geographically. "Vocation" can include avocations or causes.

It is not necessary for any individual to make use of all four institutions, nor do I array them in a hierarchy. I merely assert that these four are all there are. The stuff of life--the elemental events surrounding birth, death, raising children, fulfilling one's personal potential, dealing with adversity, intimate relationships--coping with life as it exists around us in all its richness--occurs within those four institutions.

Seen in this light, the goal of social policy is to ensure that those institutions are robust and vital. And that's what's wrong with the European model. It doesn't do that. It enfeebles every single one of them.

Put aside all the sophisticated ways of conceptualizing governmental functions and think of it in this simplistic way: Almost anything that government does in social policy can be characterized as taking some of the trouble out of things. Sometimes, taking the trouble out of things is a good idea. Having an effective police force takes some of the trouble out of walking home safely at night, and I'm glad it does.

The problem is this: Every time the government takes some of the trouble out of performing the functions of family, community, vocation and faith, it also strips those institutions of some of their vitality--it drains some of the life from them. It's inevitable. Families are not vital because the day-to-day tasks of raising children and being a good spouse are so much fun, but because the family has responsibility for doing important things that won't get done unless the family does them. Communities are not vital because it's so much fun to respond to our neighbors' needs, but because the community has the responsibility for doing important things that won't get done unless the community does them. Once that imperative has been met--family and community really do have the action--then an elaborate web of social norms, expectations, rewards and punishments evolves over time that supports families and communities in performing their functions. When the government says it will take some of the trouble out of doing the things that families and communities evolved to do, it inevitably takes some of the action away from families and communities, and the web frays, and eventually disintegrates.

If we knew that leaving these functions in the hands of families and communities led to legions of neglected children and neglected neighbors, and taking them away from families and communities led to happy children and happy neighbors, then it would be possible to say that the cost is worth it. But that's not what happened when the U.S. welfare state expanded. We have seen growing legions of children raised in unimaginably awful circumstances, not because of material poverty but because of dysfunctional families, and the collapse of functioning neighborhoods into Hobbesian all-against-all free-fire zones.

Meanwhile, we have exacted costs that are seldom considered but are hugely important. Earlier, I said that the sources of deep satisfactions are the same for janitors as for CEOs, and I also said that people needed to do important things with their lives. When the government takes the trouble out of being a spouse and parent, it doesn't affect the sources of deep satisfaction for the CEO. Rather, it makes life difficult for the janitor. A man who is holding down a menial job and thereby supporting a wife and children is doing something authentically important with his life. He should take deep satisfaction from that, and be praised by his community for doing so. Think of all the phrases we used to have for it: "He is a man who pulls his own weight." "He's a good provider." If that same man lives under a system that says that the children of the woman he sleeps with will be taken care of whether or not he contributes, then that status goes away. I am not describing some theoretical outcome. I am describing American neighborhoods where, once, working at a menial job to provide for his family made a man proud and gave him status in his community, and where now it doesn't. I could give a half dozen other examples. Taking the trouble out of the stuff of life strips people--already has stripped people--of major ways in which human beings look back on their lives and say, "I made a difference."

I have been making a number of claims with no data. The data exist. I could document the role of the welfare state in destroying the family in low-income communities. I could cite extensive quantitative evidence of decline in civic engagement and document the displacement effect that government intervention has had on civic engagement. But such evidence focuses on those near the bottom of society where the American welfare state has been most intrusive. If we want to know where America as a whole is headed--its destination--we should look to Europe.

Drive through rural Sweden, as I did a few years ago. In every town was a beautiful Lutheran church, freshly painted, on meticulously tended grounds, all subsidized by the Swedish government. And the churches are empty. Including on Sundays. Scandinavia and Western Europe pride themselves on their "child-friendly" policies, providing generous child allowances, free day-care centers and long maternity leaves. Those same countries have fertility rates far below replacement and plunging marriage rates. Those same countries are ones in which jobs are most carefully protected by government regulation and mandated benefits are most lavish. And they, with only a few exceptions, are countries where work is most often seen as a necessary evil, least often seen as a vocation, and where the proportions of people who say they love their jobs are the lowest.

What's happening? Call it the Europe Syndrome. Last April I had occasion to speak in Zurich, where I made some of these same points. After the speech, a few of the 20-something members of the audience approached and said plainly that the phrase "a life well-lived" did not have meaning for them. They were having a great time with their current sex partner and new BMW and the vacation home in Majorca, and saw no voids in their lives that needed filling.

It was fascinating to hear it said to my face, but not surprising. It conformed to both journalistic and scholarly accounts of a spreading European mentality. Let me emphasize "spreading." I'm not talking about all Europeans, by any means. That mentality goes something like this: Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.

If that's the purpose of life, then work is not a vocation, but something that interferes with the higher good of leisure. If that's the purpose of life, why have a child, when children are so much trouble--and, after all, what good are they, really? If that's the purpose of life, why spend it worrying about neighbors? If that's the purpose of life, what could possibly be the attraction of a religion that says otherwise?

The same self-absorption in whiling away life as pleasantly as possible explains why Europe has become a continent that no longer celebrates greatness. When life is a matter of whiling away the time, the concept of greatness is irritating and threatening. What explains Europe's military impotence? I am surely simplifying, but this has to be part of it: If the purpose of life is to while away the time as pleasantly as possible, what can be worth dying for?

I stand in awe of Europe's past. Which makes Europe's present all the more dispiriting. And should make its present something that concentrates our minds wonderfully, for every element of the Europe Syndrome is infiltrating American life as well.

We are seeing that infiltration appear most obviously among those who are most openly attached to the European model--namely, America's social democrats, heavily represented in university faculties and the most fashionable neighborhoods of our great cities. There are a whole lot of them within a couple of Metro stops from this hotel. We know from databases such as the General Social Survey that among those who self-identify as liberal or extremely liberal, secularism is close to European levels. Birthrates are close to European levels. Charitable giving is close to European levels. (That's material that Arthur Brooks has put together.) There is every reason to believe that when Americans embrace the European model, they begin to behave like Europeans.

This is all pretty depressing for people who do not embrace the European model, because it looks like the train has left the station. The European model provides the intellectual framework for the social policies of the triumphant Democratic Party, and it faces no credible opposition from Republican politicians. (If that seems too harsh, I am sure that the Republican politicians in the audience will understand when I say that the last dozen years do raise a credibility problem when we now hear you say nice things about fiscal restraint and limited government.)

And yet there is reason for strategic optimism, and that leads to the second point I want to make tonight: Critics of the European model are about to get a lot of new firepower. Not only is the European model inimical to human flourishing, 21st-century science is going to explain why. We who think that the Founders were right about the relationship of government to human happiness will have an opening over the course of the next few decades to make our case.

The reason is a tidal change in our scientific understanding of what makes human beings tick. It will spill over into every crevice of political and cultural life. Harvard's Edward O. Wilson anticipated what is to come in a book entitled "Consilience." As the 21st century progresses, he argued, the social sciences are increasingly going to be shaped by the findings of biology; specifically, the findings of the neuroscientists and the geneticists.

What are they finding? I'm afraid that I don't have anything to report that you will find shocking. For example, science is proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that males and females respond differently to babies. You heard it here first. The specific findings aren't so important at this point--we are just at the beginning of a very steep learning curve. Rather, it is the tendency of the findings that lets us predict with some confidence the broad outlines of what the future will bring, and they offer nothing but bad news for social democrats.

Two premises about human beings are at the heart of the social democratic agenda: what I will label "the equality premise" and "the New Man premise."

The equality premise says that, in a fair society, different groups of people--men and women, blacks and whites, straights and gays, the children of poor people and the children of rich people--will naturally have the same distributions of outcomes in life--the same mean income, the same mean educational attainment, the same proportions who become janitors and CEOs. When that doesn't happen, it is because of bad human behavior and an unfair society. For the last 40 years, this premise has justified thousands of pages of government regulations and legislation that has reached into everything from the paperwork required to fire someone to the funding of high school wrestling teams. Everything that we associate with the phrase "politically correct" eventually comes back to the equality premise. Every form of affirmative action derives from it. Much of the Democratic Party's proposed domestic legislation assumes that it is true.

Within a decade, no one will try to defend the equality premise. All sorts of groups will be known to differ in qualities that affect what professions they choose, how much money they make, and how they live their lives in all sorts of ways. Gender differences will be first, because the growth in knowledge about the ways that men and women are different is growing by far the most rapidly. I'm betting that the Harvard faculty of the year 2020 will look back on the Larry Summers affair in the same way that they think about the Scopes trial--the enlightened versus the benighted--and will have achieved complete amnesia about their own formerly benighted opinions.
27413  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Paul on: April 01, 2009, 12:25:42 AM
Today, the House of Representatives will consider two budget plans that represent dramatically different visions for our nation's future.

We will first consider President Barack Obama's plan. To be clear, this is no ordinary budget. In a nutshell, the president and Democratic leaders in Congress are attempting to bring about the third and final great wave of progressivism, building on top of the New Deal and the Great Society. So America is placed in a special moment in our history -- brought about by the deep recession, Mr. Obama's ambitious agenda, and the pending fiscal tidal-wave of red ink brought forward by the looming insolvency of our entitlement programs. If this agenda comes to pass, it will mark this period in history as the moment America turned European.

House Republicans will offer an alternative plan. This too is no ordinary budget. As the opposition party, we believe this moment must be met by offering the American people a different way forward -- one based on our belief that America is an exceptional nation, and we want to keep it that way. Our budget applies our country's enduring first principles to the problems of our day. Rather than attempting to equalize the results of peoples' lives and micromanaging their affairs, we seek to preserve our system of protecting our natural rights and equalizing opportunity for all. The plan works to accomplish four main goals: 1) fulfill the mission of health and retirement security; 2) control our nation's debts; 3) put the economy on a path of growth and leadership in the global economy; and 4) preserve the American legacy of leaving the next generation better off.

Under the president's plan, spending will top $4 trillion this year alone, and consume 28.5% of our nation's economy. His plan would mean a $1 trillion increase to the already unsustainable spending growth of our nation's entitlement programs -- including a "down payment" toward government-controlled health care and education; a $1.5 trillion tax increase to further shackle the small businesses and investors we rely on to create jobs; a massive increase in energy costs for families via cap and trade. Moreover, the Obama plan would result in an exploding deficit, a doubling of the nation's debt in five years, and an increase of that debt to more than 82% of our nation's GDP by the last year of the budget. This approach will ultimately debase our currency and reduce the living standards of the American people.

 Instead of doubling the debt in five years, and tripling it in 10, the Republican budget curbs the explosion in spending called for by the president and his party. Our plan halts the borrow-and-spend philosophy that brought about today's economic problems, and puts a stop to heaping ever-growing debt on future generations -- and it does so by controlling spending, not by raising taxes. The greatest difference lies in the size of government our budgets achieve over time (see nearby chart).

While our approach ensures a sturdy safety net for those facing chronic or temporary difficulties, it understands that the reliability of this protection and the other functions of government depend on a vibrant, free and growing private sector to generate the resources necessary for it.

Here's an outline of what we propose:

- Deficits/Debt. The Republican budget achieves lower deficits than the Democratic plan in every year, and by 2019 yields half the deficit proposed by the president. By doing so, we control government debt: Under our plan, debt held by the public is $3.6 trillion less during the budget period.

- Spending. Our budget gives priority to national defense and veterans' health care. We freeze all other discretionary spending for five years, allowing it to grow modestly after that. We also place all spending under a statutory spending cap backed up by tough budget enforcement.

- Energy. Our budget lays a firm foundation to position the U.S. to meet three important strategic energy goals: reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, deploying more clean and renewable energy sources free of greenhouse gas, and supporting economic growth. We do these things by rejecting the president's cap-and-trade scheme, by opening exploration on our nation's oil and gas fields, and by investing the proceeds in a new clean energy trust fund, infrastructure and further deficit reduction.

- Entitlements. Our budget also takes steps toward fulfilling the mission of health and retirement security, in part by making these programs fiscally sustainable. The budget moves toward making quality health care affordable and accessible to all Americans by strengthening the relationship between patients and their doctors, not the dictates of government bureaucrats. We preserve the existing Medicare program for all those 55 or older; and then, to make the program sustainable and dependable, those 54 and younger will enter a Medicare program reformed to work like the health plan members of Congress and federal employees now enjoy. Starting in 2021, seniors would receive a premium support payment equal to 100% of the Medicare benefit on average. This would be income related, so low-income seniors receive extra support, and high-income seniors receive support relative to their incomes -- along the same lines as the president's Medicare Part D proposal.

We strengthen the Medicaid safety net by converting the federal share of Medicaid payments into an allotment tailored for each state's low-income population. This will enhance state flexibility and sensitivity to spending growth.

In one of the most valued government programs -- Social Security -- our budget begins to develop a bipartisan solution to the program's pending bankruptcy by incorporating some of the reforms advocated by the president's budget director. Specifically, we provide for a trigger that would make small adjustments in the benefits for higher-income beneficiaries if the Social Security Administration determines the Social Security Trust Fund cannot meet its obligations. This is a modest but serious proposal which would not affect those in or near retirement, but is aimed at helping develop a consensus, across party lines, toward saving this important retirement program. We also assure that benefits for lower-income recipients are large enough to keep them out of poverty.

- Tax Reform. Our budget does not raise taxes, and makes permanent the 2001 and 2003 tax laws. In fact, we cut taxes and reform the tax system. Individuals can choose to pay their federal taxes under the existing code, or move to a highly simplified system that fits on a post card, with few deductions and two rates. Specifically, couples pay 10% on their first $100,000 in income (singles on $50,000) and 25% above that. Capital gains and dividends are taxed at 15%, and the death tax is repealed. The proposal includes generous standard and personal exemptions such that a family of four earning $39,000 would not pay tax on that amount. In an effort to revive peoples' lost savings, and to create an incentive for risk-taking and investment, the budget repeals the capital gains tax through 2010 for all taxpayers.

On the business side, the budget permanently cuts the uncompetitive corporate income tax rate -- currently the second highest in the industrialized world -- to 25%. This puts American companies in a better position to lead in the global economy, promotes jobs here at home, and strengthens worker paychecks.

We hope the administration and Democratic leaders in Congress do not distort and preach fear about our Republican plan. Some may be tempted to appeal to the darker emotions of envy and insecurity that surely run high in times like these. Yet we know Americans are stronger, smarter and prouder than this ploy assumes.

In the recent past, the Republican Party failed to offer the nation an inspiring vision and a concrete plan to tackle our problems with innovative and principled solutions. We do not intend to repeat that mistake. America is not the greatest nation on earth by chance. We earned this greatness by rewarding individual achievement, by advancing and protecting natural rights, and by embracing freedom. We intend to continue this uniquely American tradition.

Mr. Ryan, from Wisconsin, is the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee.
27414  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / God's question on: April 01, 2009, 12:14:21 AM
G-d's Question
Print this Page

By Tzvi Freeman
Before He brought forth the cosmos out of nothingness, He structured in His thought how all things would be. Even then, He struggled with it, pondering, "Should it be? Or should it not?"

Then He created all things according to that thought, and out of all things of that creation He formed Adam. And within Adam He placed this struggle, and Adam became a living being.

Since then, it is in our hands: Should there be a world? Or a desolate chaos? Is G-d's creation worth His making it?
27415  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Wheel chaired woman shoots mugger on: March 31, 2009, 11:33:26 PM

NEW YORK (AP) -- Margaret Johnson might have looked like an easy target.

But when a mugger tried to grab a chain off her neck Friday, the wheelchair-bound 56-year-old pulled out her licensed .357 pistol and shot him, police said.

Johnson said she was in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood on her way to a shooting range when the man, identified by police as 45-year-old Deron Johnson, came up from behind and went for the chain.

"There's not much to it," she said in a brief interview. "Somebody tried to mug me, and I shot him."

Deron Johnson was taken to Harlem Hospital with a single bullet wound in the elbow, police said. He faces a robbery charge, said Lt. John Grimpel, a police spokesman.

Margaret Johnson, who lives in Harlem, has a permit for the weapon and does not face charges, Grimpel said. She also was taken to the hospital with minor injuries and later released.
27416  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Uh oh , , , on: March 31, 2009, 11:27:57 PM
Big Banks' Recent Profitability Due to AIG Scam?

Zero Hedge is rarely speechless, but after receiving this email from a correlation desk trader, we simply had to hold a moment of silence for the phenomenal scam that continues unabated in the financial markets, and now has the full oversight and blessing of the U.S. government, which in turn keeps on duping U.S. taxpayers into believing everything is good.

I present the insider perspective of trader Lou (who wishes to remain anonymous) in its entirety:

AIG-FP accumulated thousands of trades over the years, all essentially consisted of selling default protection. This was done via a number of structures with really only one criteria - rated at least AA- (if it fit these criteria all OK - as far as I could tell credit assessment was completely outsourced to the rating agencies).

Main products they took on were always levered credit risk, credit-linked notes (collateral and CDS both had to be at least AA-, no joint probability stuff) and AAA or super senior portfolio swaps. Portfolio swaps were either corporate synthetic CDO or asset backed, effectively sub-prime wraps (as per news stories regarding GS and DB).

Credit linked notes are done through single-name CDS desks and a cash desk (for the note collateral) and the portfolio swaps are done through the correlation desk. These trades were done is almost every jurisdiction - wherever AIG had an office they had IB salespeople covering them.

Correlation desks just back their risk out via the single names desks - the correlation desk manages the delta/gamma according to their correlation model. So correlation desks carry model risk but very little market risk.

I was mostly involved in the corporate synthetic CDO side.

During Jan/Feb AIG would call up and just ask for complete unwind prices from the credit desk in the relevant jurisdiction. These were not single deal unwinds as are typically more price transparent - these were whole portfolio unwinds. The size of these unwinds were enormous, the quotes I have heard were "we have never done as big or as profitable trades - ever."

As these trades are unwound, the correlation desk needs to unwind the single name risk through the single name desks - effectively the AIG-FP unwinds caused massive single name protection buying. This caused single name credit to massively underperform equities - run a chart from say last September to current of say S&P 500 and Itraxx - credit has underperformed massively. This is largely due to AIG-FP unwinds.

I can only guess/extrapolate what sort of PnL this put into the major global banks (both correlation and single names desks) during this period. Allowing for significant reserve release and trade PnL, I think for the big correlation players this could have easily been US$1-2bn per bank in this period.

For those to whom this is merely a lot of mumbo-jumbo, let me explain in layman's terms:

AIG, knowing it would need to ask for much more capital from the Treasury imminently, decided to throw in the towel, and gifted major bank counter-parties with trades which were egregiously profitable to the banks, and even more egregiously money-losing to the U.S. taxpayers, who had to dump more and more cash into AIG, without having the U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner disclose the real extent of this, for lack of a better word, fraudulent scam.

In simple terms think of it as an auto dealer who knows that U.S. taxpayers will provide for an infinite amount of money to fund its ongoing sales of horrendous vehicles (think Pontiac Azteks): the company decides to sell all the cars currently in contract, to lessors at far below the amortized market value, thereby generating huge profits for these lessors, as these turn around and sell the cars at a major profit, funded exclusively by U.S. taxpayers (readers should feel free to provide more gripping allegories).

What this all means is that the statements by major banks, i.e. JP Morgan Chase (JPM), Citi (C), and BofA (BAC), regarding abnormal profitability in January and February were true, however these profits were a) one-time in nature due to wholesale unwinds of AIG portfolios, b) entirely at the expense of AIG, and thus taxpayers, c) executed with Tim Geithner's (and thus the administration's) full knowledge and intent, d) were basically a transfer of money from taxpayers to banks (in yet another form) using AIG as an intermediary.

For banks to proclaim their profitability in January and February is about as close to criminal hypocrisy as is possible. And again, the taxpayers fund this "one time profit", which causes a market rally, thus allowing the banks to promptly turn around and start selling more expensive equity (soon coming to a prospectus near you), also funded by taxpayers' money flows into the market. If the administration is truly aware of all these events (and if Zero Hedge knows about it, it is safe to say Tim Geithner also got the memo), then the potential fallout would be staggering once this information makes the light of day.

And the conspiracy thickens.

Thanks to an intrepid reader who pointed this out, a month ago ISDA published an amended close out protocol. This protocol would allow non-market close outs, i.e. CDS trade crosses that were not alligned with market bid/offers

The purpose of the Protocol is to permit parties to agree upfront that in the event of a counterparty default, they will use Close-Out Amount valuation methodology to value trades. Close-Out Amount valuation, which was introduced in the 2002 ISDA Master Agreement, differs from the Market Quotation approach in that it allows participants more flexibility in valuation where market quotations may be difficult to obtain.

Of course ISDA made it seems that it was doing a favor to industry participants, very likely dictating under the gun:

Industry participants observed the significant benefits of the Close-Out Amount approach following the default of Lehman Brothers. In launching the Close-Out Amount Protocol, ISDA is facilitating amendment of existing 1992 ISDA Master Agreements by replacing Market Quotation and, if elected, Loss with the Close-Out Amount approach.

"This is yet another example of ISDA helping the industry to coalesce around more efficient and effective practices, while maintaining flexibility," said Robert Pickel, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, ISDA. "The Protocol permits parties to value trades in the way that is most appropriate, which greatly enhances smooth functioning of the market in testing circumstances."

And, lo and behold, on the list of adhering parties, AIG takes front and center stage (together with several other parties that probably deserve the microscope treatment).

So - in simple terms, ISDA, which is the only effective supervisor of the Over The Counter CDS market, is giving its blessing for trades to occur (cross) below where there is a realistic market bid, or higher than the offer. In traditional equity markets this is a highly illegal practice. ISDA is allowing retrospective arbitrary trades to have occurred at whatever price any two parties agree on, so long as the very vague necessary and sufficient condition of "market quotations may be difficult to obtain" is met. As anyone who follows CDS trading knows, this can be extrapolated to virtually any specific single-name, index or structured product easily. In essence ISDA gave its blessing for below the radar fund transfers of questionable legality. The curious timing of this decision and the alleged abuse of CDS transaction marks by and among AIG and the big banks, is striking to say the least.

This wholesale manipulation of markets, investors and taxpayers, has gone on long enough.
27417  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 31, 2009, 11:09:53 PM
I am grateful to be in a very nasty ill-humored mood, ready to rip anyone's head off.
27418  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turkey's president on: March 31, 2009, 06:05:26 PM
My head spins.

Good piece.


International efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and improve the lives of the Afghan people have fallen short of their targets. There is daily violence in the country and expectations continue to outpace achieved results. It is time for a policy shift. It is time for increased involvement.

We must first accept that so far the international community has not achieved results that match the significant sum of funds it has spent. We must also realize that Afghanistan and its surrounding region cannot be a secondary source of concern. We need to understand that this region is the new "powder keg" of the world and that the stakes are as high as they can be.

Therefore, it is encouraging to know that President Barack Obama understands these facts and has reviewed the United States' Afghanistan policy.

Not everything has gone awry. This year, Afghanistan will hold presidential elections. Next year, it will hold parliamentary elections, completing a transition to democracy. The Afghan people now have a right to universal suffrage.

However, more must be done. The Afghan National Army is composed of tough fighters, but it needs better equipment and training. I saw this first hand on a visit to the country. I saw two units. One was composed of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops; the other was composed of Afghans. What struck me was that the international soldiers had much better equipment.

One Afghan commander summed it up for me this way: "If anyone has to die for Afghanistan, it must not be the children of foreign nations. It must be our sons, and they are ready to do so. But they must be given a fair chance to be able to fight for their country. They must be properly armed and trained."

But more troops and more money alone will not be enough. The Afghan government needs military force to operate from a position of strength. But real improvement requires embracing every Afghan ready to work through peaceful means for the good of their country.

Political, diplomatic, economic, and social efforts must be increased and focused on consolidating national unity to bring about tangible improvement to people's lives. To have peace, we must win over the people.

There is a role here for the international community in enabling Afghan officials working to meet the basic needs of their people. Health care and education must both be top priorities. The country's civil service needs work. Its judiciary and police forces need to be strengthened. The people must come to believe that change is underway that will create a sense of normalcy for them.

We are doing our part. One thing I noticed in Kabul was unpaved roads. Where cars and trucks should have been able to drive unimpeded, people slogged through knee-deep mud. To fix this, Turkey is paving more than 60 miles of roads inside Kabul.

There is one more area of struggle, and it is the most difficult one. Extremist ideology in the region must be confronted. Education is the long-term remedy. The Afghans' desire for education is strong. What's needed is an international fund to support education in Afghanistan.

Turkey, which has cultural bonds with Afghanistan, could take the lead in creating such a fund. We have seen firsthand how much can be achieved with perseverance and hard work that does not alienate the people. Today, Turkey is involved in building and operating girls' schools where once girls could not walk on the streets.

Turkey, with its limited resources, is doing what it can to support Afghanistan. Since 2002, Turkey has assumed command of the ISAF twice. Turkey has also provided training, equipment and support to the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. To support Afghanistan, Turkey has launched its most comprehensive long-term assistance program in its history. And our commitment to reconstruction in Afghanistan is ongoing.

The international community cannot abandon the Afghan people at their time of difficulty. Rather than being mired in subjective discussions of hopelessness, we should draw the necessary lessons from the past and focus on helping the Afghan people build necessary institutions and find their own solutions to the problems they face.

Mr. Gül is the president of the Republic of Turkey.
27419  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ayn Rand on: March 31, 2009, 05:50:23 PM
"When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion -- when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing -- when you see money flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors -- when you see that men get richer by graft and pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you -- when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice -- you may know that your society is doomed."
- Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, page 413
27420  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 31, 2009, 05:20:11 PM

And I acknowledge that An Na'lm's statement is lined up correctly. 

My concern is fourfold: 

a) lying-- e.g. one can find similar statements from seditious organizations such as CAIR
b) even when such statements are genuinely American (i.e. the speaker would stand with America against Islamic fascism) I wonder if there are even more who say similar things but who ultimately are unwilling to act against the fascists in their midst
c) such statements and beliefs may become less common as Muslim numbers increase
d) political correctness/political cowardice will use statement's such as An Na'lm's to avoid the hard questions and hard answers, and harder yet actions necessary to deal with the fascist element.
27421  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The return of the Death Tax on: March 31, 2009, 04:20:34 PM
Lawrence Summers, President Obama's chief economic adviser, declared recently that "Let's be very clear: There are no, no tax increases this year. There are no, no tax increases next year." Oh yes, yes, there are. The President's budget calls for the largest increase in the death tax in U.S. history in 2010.

The announcement of this tax increase is buried in footnote 1 on page 127 of the President's budget. That note reads: "The estate tax is maintained at its 2009 parameters." This means the death tax won't fall to zero next year as scheduled under current law, but estates will be taxed instead at up to 45%, with an exemption level of $3.5 million (or $7 million for a couple). Better not plan on dying next year after all.

This controversy dates back to George W. Bush's first tax cut in 2001 that phased down the estate tax from 55% to 45% this year and then to zero next year. Although that 10-year tax law was to expire in 2011, meaning that the death tax rate would go all the way back to 55%, the political expectation was that once the estate tax was gone for even one year, it would never return.

And that is no doubt why the Obama Administration wants to make sure it never hits zero. It doesn't seem to matter that the vast majority of the money in an estate was already taxed when the money was earned. Liberals counter that the estate tax is "fair" because it is only paid by the richest 2% of American families. This ignores that much of the long-term saving and small business investment in America is motivated by the ability to pass on wealth to the next generation.

The importance of intergenerational wealth transfers was first measured in a National Bureau of Economic Research study in 1980. That study looked at wealth and savings over the first three-quarters of the 20th century and found that "intergenerational transfers account for the vast majority of aggregate U.S. capital formation." The co-author of that study was . . . Lawrence Summers.

Many economists had previously believed in "the life-cycle theory" of savings, which postulates that workers are motivated to save with a goal of spending it down to zero in retirement. Mr. Summers and coauthor Laurence Kotlikoff showed that patterns of savings don't validate that model; they found that between 41% and 66% of capital stock was transferred either by bequests at death or through trusts and lifetime gifts. A major motivation for saving and building businesses is to pass assets on so children and grandchildren have a better life.

What all this means is that the higher the estate tax, the lower the incentive to reinvest in family businesses. Former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin recently used the Summers study as a springboard to compare the economic cost of a 45% estate tax versus a zero rate. He finds that the long-term impact of eliminating the death tax would be to increase small business capital investment by $1.6 trillion. This additional investment would create 1.5 million new jobs.

In other words, by raising the estate tax in the name of fairness, Mr. Obama won't merely bring back from the dead one of the most despised of all federal taxes, and not merely splinter many family-owned enterprises. He will also forfeit half the jobs he hopes to gain from his $787 billion stimulus bill. Maybe that's why the news of this unwise tax increase was hidden in a footnote
27422  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 31, 2009, 11:39:02 AM
There is also the matter of those parts of Islam that are a fascist political ideology:  It seeks superiority of Islam and submission of others to it.  It opposes freedom of choice, freedom of speech, and seeks to merge church and state.  I too wish it were as easy as you do JDN, but denial is denial.
27423  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Fisher Ames on: March 31, 2009, 11:36:02 AM
"I am commonly opposed to those who modestly assume the rank of champions of liberty, and make a very patriotic noise about the people. It is the stale artifice which has duped the world a thousand times, and yet, though detected, it is still successful."

--Fisher Ames, letter to George Richard Minot, 23 June 1789
27424  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The reliability question on: March 31, 2009, 11:26:58 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Obama's Afghanistan Strategy and the Reliability Question
March 30, 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama has revealed his new Afghanistan policy. Having already announced his plans to increase troop levels in Afghanistan by 17,000, he decided to send another 4,000 troops with the primary purpose of training Afghan forces. More interesting was the explicit recognition that success in Afghanistan requires success in Pakistan, and the decision to provide Pakistan with $1.5 billion per year for five years in non-military development aid in order to bolster its war effort.

Obviously, the two countries constitute a single theater of operations. And this is the fundamental problem. The troops now allocated to Afghanistan are insufficient by themselves to pacify Afghanistan against a determined and capable enemy like the Taliban. Pakistan is a country of more than 170 million people — the sixth most populous country in the world. There is no military solution to the Pakistani problem. And so long as Pakistan is the source of both supplies and sanctuary for the Taliban, there is no possible way for available forces to defeat the Taliban.

The root issue is reliability. The United States is going to help train Afghanistan’s military and police forces. There are two strategies here: train only forces from ethnic groups hostile to the predominantly Pashtun Taliban, or train an all-Afghan force. If you do the latter, the probability is that many of the recruits will be Taliban sympathizers. As we saw in Vietnam and many other wars, the construction of a military force is an opportunity for the enemy to infiltrate it. If, on the other hand, you recruit only forces hostile to Taliban, you are reaching into a minority pool that the Taliban already defeated in a civil war. Therefore, the key question is how reliable the force will be if you go for an inclusive force, or how capable it is of functioning without you if you do not.

The situation is compounded in Pakistan. It is not clear that the Pakistanis are incapable of shutting the Taliban down, but there is ample evidence that the Pakistanis do not want to shut them down. It is clear that elements in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and in the military in general are ideologically sympathetic to the Taliban. Those who are not sympathetic are not eager for a civil war between the Pakistani Taliban and the Pakistani military.

Therefore, the issue is whether the billions being offered the Pakistani government will buy the United States what it wants: cooperation against the Taliban. The Pakistanis might not reject the money, but it is not clear that they will act, or at least act effectively.

Put simply, the United States wants to create forces in both Afghanistan and Pakistan that are willing and able to engage the Taliban in both countries and shut them down. In both countries, the problem with the strategy is the reliability of the forces being generated, as well as their effectiveness. The United States is sending advisers to Afghanistan and money to Pakistan to influence the situation. Each might work, but it is far from certain that it will.

Even if the forces work, the conflict will not end. According to the Iraq model — and that is the model being attempted in Afghanistan — the end game is negotiation with the enemy and getting the enemy to join the coalition. The Sunni insurgents in Iraq were willing to negotiate and cooperate with the United States because they were on the ropes militarily, trapped between foreign jihadists and the Americans, and with dangerous Shiite militias — some of whom were backed by Iran — in the background. The Sunnis were in trouble and needed a friend, and the Americans presented themselves.

What the Americans are trying to do is to put at least some of the Taliban in the same box they put the Sunnis. For that to work, the Afghan-Pakistani strategy must be able to trap the Taliban and force them to the table. The question is whether the forces available and the money given to Pakistan are sufficient to trap the Taliban, or whether the Taliban’s ability to subvert the Afghan army and undermine the effectiveness of the Pakistani army will cause the plan to fail.
27425  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: March 31, 2009, 11:14:13 AM
Thank you.  embarassed  smiley  Nice to see it transmitted and expressed well.
27426  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 31, 2009, 11:11:13 AM
Because of concerns of which as a reader of this thread you know well.  cheesy
27427  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: April DB Tribal Gathering on: March 31, 2009, 12:37:20 AM
We will already be on site.  There will be some ground preparation work going on on Friday.
27428  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: April DB Tribal Gathering on: March 31, 2009, 12:33:22 AM
Sheep Dog may be able to come for one day!

Dog Ryan, are you in town yet?

Cyborg, Lonely, Dog Matt, C-Scotty Dog and Dominique arrived this afternoon.
27429  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: March 31, 2009, 12:28:56 AM
Very nice.  Some smooth lead changes in there amongst many good things.
27430  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's Harold Koh wants to submit US law to , , , on: March 30, 2009, 10:00:08 PM

JUDGES should interpret the Constitution according to other nations' legal "norms." Sharia law could apply to disputes in US courts. The United States constitutes an "axis of disobedience" along with North Korea and Saddam-era Iraq.

Those are the views of the man on track to become one of the US government's top lawyers: Harold Koh.

President Obama has nominated Koh -- until last week the dean of Yale Law School -- to be the State Department's legal adviser. In that job, Koh would forge a wide range of international agreements on issues from trade to arms control, and help represent our country in such places as the United Nations and the International Court of Justice.

It's a job where you want a strong defender of America's sovereignty. But that's not Koh. He's a fan of "transnational legal process," arguing that the distinctions between US and international law should vanish.

What would this look like in a practical sense? Well, California voters have overruled their courts, which had imposed same-sex marriage on the state. Koh would like to see such matters go up the chain through federal courts -- which, in turn, should look to the rest of the world. If Canada, the European Human Rights Commission and the United Nations all say gay marriage should be legal -- well, then, it should be legal in California too, regardless of what the state's voters and elected representatives might say.

He even believes judges should use this "logic" to strike down the death penalty, which is clearly permitted in the US Constitution.

The primacy of international legal "norms" applies even to treaties we reject. For example, Koh believes that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child -- a problematic document that we haven't ratified -- should dictate the age at which individual US states can execute criminals. Got that? On issues ranging from affirmative action to the interrogation of terrorists, what the rest of the world says, goes.

Including, apparently, the world of radical imams. A New York lawyer, Steven Stein, says that, in addressing the Yale Club of Greenwich in 2007, Koh claimed that "in an appropriate case, he didn't see any reason why sharia law would not be applied to govern a case in the United States."

Think about this: the State Dept. job might be a launching pad for a Supreme Court nomination. (He’s on many liberals’ short lists for the high court.) Since this job requires Senate confirmation, it’s certainly a useful trial run.

What happens to Koh in the Senate will send an important signal. If he sails through to State, he’s a far better bet to make it onto the Supreme Court. So Senate Republicans have a duty to expose and confront his radical views.

Even though he’s up for a State Department job, Koh is a key test case in the “judicial wars.” If he makes it through (which he will if he gets even a single GOP vote) the message to the Obama team will be: You can pick ‘em as radical as you like.
27431  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: April DB Tribal Gathering on: March 30, 2009, 09:49:25 PM
Lonely Dog
Cyborg Dog
Guide Dog
Pappy Dog

C-Kaju Dog (aka) "Doc"
C-Lefty Dog
C-Scotty Dog
C-Spider Dog
C-Tahiti Dog
C-Tennessee Dog
C-Boo Dog

Dog Matt
Dog Randall
Dog Ryan
Dog Tom Stillman

Terry Crutcher
Will Dixon (Lone Wolf)
Dominic Ischer (Lonely Den Clan)
Mike Norrell (MikeGPK)
Rene Cocolo
27432  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / sharia's growing influence in US on: March 30, 2009, 10:48:13 AM,2933,511361,00.html

Islamic Law's Influence in America a Growing Concern
Sunday, March 29, 2009 
By David Lewkowict

Print ShareThisAs America's Muslim population grows, so too does the influence of Islamic law, or Shariah, in daily life in the U.S.

"Shariah Law is the totality of the Muslim's obligation," said Abdullahi An-Na'im, a professor of law at Emory University in Atlanta. According to An-Na'im, Shariah is similar to Jewish Talmudic Law or Catholic Canon Law in that it guides an adherent's moral conduct.

"As a citizen, I am a subject of the United States," An-Na'im said. "I owe allegiance to the United States, to the Constitution of the United States. That is not inconsistent with observing a religious code in terms of my own personal behavior."

While many view this as a testament to the "great American melting pot," others see Islamic law's growing influence as a threat. Shariah's critics point to cases such as the airport in Minneapolis, where some Shariah-adherent taxi drivers made headlines in 2006 for refusing to pick up passengers they suspected of carrying liquor. The drivers' aversion to alcohol stemmed from a verse in the Qur'an that describes "intoxicants and gambling" as "an abomination of Satan's handiwork."

Last year, a Tyson Foods plant in Shelbyville, Tenn. replaced its traditional Labor Day holiday with paid time off on Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival — marking the end of fasting during Ramadan. A labor union had requested the change on behalf of hundreds of Muslim employees— many of them were immigrants from Somalia.

But public outcry over the decision to dismiss Labor Day quickly prompted the company and union to negotiate a new contract that makes accommodations for both holidays.

In 2007, the University of Michigan installed ritual foot baths to accommodate Islamic tradition. "These things are beginning to percolate up as Shariah-adherent Muslims insist that their preferences and practices be accommodated by the rest of the population," said Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy — a Washington think tank.

Gaffney predicted the U.S. could soon face problems similar to some Western European countries, where the religious values of Muslim immigrants sometimes clash with their highly secular host cultures.

But Professor An-Na'im believes it will be different in America. "The variety of American secularism — which is much more receptive of public displays of religion and a public role for religion — is, in fact, more conducive for Muslims to be citizens and to be comfortable with their religious values and citizenship than European countries," An-Na'im said.
27433  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / lacrosse on: March 30, 2009, 09:41:15 AM

Lacrosse player dies in `tragic accident'
Jamieson Kuhlmann, shown in a Facebook photo, was taken off life support on the afternoon of May 21, 2008.  Email story
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15-year-old's death after Monday game leaves sport community reeling in shock

May 22, 2008 04:30 AM
Emily Mathieu
Staff Reporter

Note: Jamieson Kuhlmann's team was playing Newmarket, not Mississauga, when the fatal injury occurred. Incorrect information was provided to the Star.

An on-field collision during a lacrosse game has resulted in the death of a promising 15-year-old Toronto athlete and devastated his family, friends and members of the city's sporting community.

Jamieson Kuhlmann was fatally injured during a field lacrosse game in Newmarket late Monday afternoon. His Toronto Beaches team was playing against a Mississauga team when the incident happened around 5:30 p.m. It was about five minutes into the first quarter of the game.

Kuhlmann, a left-hander, had just passed the ball up field when a Mississauga player hit him. The player's shoulder and head connected with Jamieson's shoulder and head.

Peter Gibson, a long-time family friend and team trainer, ran onto the field.

"I was the trainer on the team ... his dad asked me to go on the field, so I did," said Gibson.

"He indicated that he felt sick and then he went unconscious. He never regained consciousness from the moment he left the field."

Kuhlmann was transferred to a hospital in Newmarket, then to the Hospital for Sick Children. The decision was made to take him off life support yesterday.

The death of the teen has left the lacrosse community reeling.

"This is unheard of for lacrosse," said John Steele, vice-president of Toronto Beaches Lacrosse Club. "Lacrosse is a very safe sport, very few injuries and admissions to hospital.

"It was a tragic accident."

Steele said the club plans to offer whatever support they can to his family and the community, and plans to offer grief counselling to Kuhlmann's team. "The whole club is shaken by this.

"It's a very sad time."

During a phone interview from the hospital yesterday, Gibson had the sad task of speaking on behalf of a family in mourning.

He has known Kuhlmann's parents Michelle Weber and Mark Kuhlmann since Kuhlmann was a child. His son played on the same lacrosse team; "he's devastated" over the sudden death of his friend, said Gibson.

Kuhlmann was an incredibly passionate, powerful player, said Gibson. Standing at about 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, he took pride in being in peak condition, something reflected on the field, he said.

Kuhlmann was his parents' only child. They are divorced, his father had remarried and he had two stepsisters. Both his mother and father live in the Beach and presented a united message through Gibson about the nature of their son's death.

"They want the message to be clear that Jamieson died as the result of an accident. The boy that hit him, it wasn't his fault. They really believe it's an accident and there is nothing else than a tragedy."


Gibson went on to describe a charming young man, possessed with a "wry sense of humour," flourishing in school. His family recently made the decision to transfer their son from Malvern Collegiate to The Hill Academy in Kleinburg, a private school with a special focus on sports.

"His mother and father realized he needed that attention and it worked for him ... You could see he was in love with his school work this year."

They invested heavily in their son with whatever emotional and financial support was required to give him an edge in life, he said.

"When you have a child in sports, you are completely involved ... but you do it gladly," he said.

"You go to something like that and your child dies. It's hard to make sense out of any of that. They can't make any sense of that."

His family will be donating his organs. Gibson said the decision is a perfect fit for someone who was so generous and got so much out of life.

"He was a very considerate kid."

The family will hold a private funeral on Monday.

On Tuesday, there will be a celebration of Jamieson's life at the Balmy Beach Club.
27434  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Cap and Trade War on: March 29, 2009, 11:56:13 PM
One of President Obama's applause lines is that his climate tax policies will create new green jobs "that can't be outsourced." But if that's true, why is his main energy adviser floating a new carbon tariff on imports? Welcome to the coming cap and trade war.

APEnergy Secretary Steven Chu made the protectionist point during an underreported House hearing this month, when he said tariffs and other trade barriers could be used as a "weapon" to force countries like China and India into cutting their own CO2 emissions. "If other countries don't impose a cost on carbon, then we will be at a disadvantage," he said. So a cap-and-trade policy won't be cost-free after all. Apparently Mr. Chu did not get the White House memo about obfuscating the impact of the Administration's anticarbon policies.

The Chinese certainly heard Mr. Chu, with Xie Zhenhua, a top economic minister, immediately responding that such a policy would be a "disaster" and "an excuse to impose trade restrictions." Beijing's reaction shows that as a means of coercing international cooperation, climate tariffs are worse than pointless. China and India are never going to endanger their own economic growth -- and the chance to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty -- merely to placate the climate neuroses of affluent Americans in Silicon Valley or Cambridge, Massachusetts. And they certainly won't do it under the threat of a tariff ultimatum.

But give Mr. Chu credit for candor. He had previously told the New York Times that "The concern about cap and trade in today's economic climate is that a lot of money might flow to developing countries in a way that might not be completely politically sellable." He is admitting that one byproduct of cap and trade is "leakage," by which investment and jobs are driven to nations that have looser or nonexistent climate regimes and therefore lower costs. At greatest risk are carbon-heavy industries such as steel, aluminum, paper, cement and chemicals that are sensitive to trade and where business is won and lost on the basis of pennies per unit of product. But the damage could strike almost any industry when energy prices "necessarily skyrocket," as Mr. Obama put it last year.

So in addition to all the other economic harm, a cap-and-trade tax will make foreign companies more competitive while eroding market share for U.S. businesses. The most harm will accrue to the very U.S. manufacturing and heavy-industry jobs that Democrats and unions claim to want to keep inside the U.S. A cap-and-tax plan would be the greatest outsourcing boon in history. And it may even increase CO2 emissions overall, because the developing nations where businesses are likely to relocate -- if they don't simply close -- tend to use energy less efficiently than does the U.S.

Meanwhile, carbon trade barriers would almost certainly violate U.S. obligations in the World Trade Organization. Since carbon energy cuts across so many industries, a tariff would presumably have to hit tens of thousands of products. Any restriction the U.S. imposes on imports can also just as easily be turned around and imposed on U.S. exports, whatever their carbon content.

Run-of-the-mill protectionism is already adopting a deeper shade of green. In January, the president of the European Commission said he may slap tariffs on goods from the U.S. and other non-Kyoto Protocol nations to protect European business. After Mr. Chu's comments, the U.S. steel lobby began calling for sanctions against Chinese steelmakers if Beijing doesn't commit to its own carbon limits, knowing full well that it won't. Look for more businesses to claim green virtue to justify special-interest pleading, a la the 54-cent U.S. tariff on foreign ethanol.

Democrats are already careless about trade -- i.e., the Mexican trucking spat, the "Buy America" provisions in the stimulus, and blocking the Colombia and South Korea free-trade pacts. Now cap and nontrade may lead to a retreat from the open global markets that have done so much to boost economic growth and innovation. The closer we get to the cap-and-trade dreams of Mr. Obama and Congress, the more dangerous they look.
27435  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH on: March 29, 2009, 11:52:10 PM
March 28, 2009
The Ugly — Part Two
by Victor Davis Hanson
Pajamas Media

After outlining some “bad” trends — the conservative abandonment of budgetary restraint, the new liberal-Wall-Street nexus, the rise of therapeutic excuse-making for substandard behavior — I now offer three “ugly” trends. These are not merely bad, but sort of creepy as well. Don’t despair — I’ll end with some good developments on the next posting.

I) The Corruption of the Press. We have no media — at least as we once knew it. Somewhere in late 2007, it disappeared entirely, and became something akin to the old Pravda, or the livelier Baghdad Bob’s broadcasts, or the rants of Lord Haw-Haw. (We got everything from Judith Warner about the dreams of women having sex with Obama to “I felt this thrill going up my leg” Chris Matthews).

For the short-term thrill of ensuring the coronation of Barack Obama, it gave up all hard-won standards of journalistic objectivity — so much so that it is hard to adjudicate whether the rise of the Internet alone, or the clear bias of the print media, has nearly destroyed the newspaper industry.

Few any longer connect with a Newsweek editorial, a Time essay, a riff from NPR, or commentary on PBS. The front pages of the New York Times or Washington Post are op-eds in thin disguise. The faculty of the Columbia School of Journalism is not objective. We live in an age of affluent, rather inbred ironists who punch in at the Ministry of Truth, and the result is that about half of the population still wakes up every morning and sighs when they turn on the television, listen to the radio news, or read the newspaper, “He’s lying” or “She’s biased”. The utopian ends of social egalitarianism for the new media lords justified the tawdry means of distorting reality.

Now we have those in Congress talking about saving the newspapers by making them “non-profit,” tax-free entities that will drop political endorsements! That rather insane notion would have three deleterious effects:

1) The papers would become even harder one-sided and Left, once market forces were eliminated and the now soon to be unemployed could find federal media tenure doing, at best, what NPR does, and, at worst, having a sinecure at something public, but analogous to Air America. Oh yes, crede mihi, tax-free newspapers will be very biased.

2) A quasi-public print media will become even more incompetent. Think a very big DMV newsletter. Or perhaps a sort of tax-free sinecure for high-paid federal employees who make more at less stress than their private counterparts. Imagine a tax-exempt, quasi-public New York Times, running telethons, praising their public service investigatory work, begging for donations as they sell cups, plates, hats, etc., with scads of G-15 employees manning the phone banks on money-raising day, a Bill Moyers or senior journalist like Marvin Kalb extolling the courage of the new Times.

3) More fossilization of the economy. Not all the harness-fabricators morphed into tractor producers, but in our new wisdom all newspapers will become — what? I simply don’t know. We are trying to ossify American society at about 1965 in the age of LBJ, as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid prove to be the most reactionary politicians in a half-century.

In the meantime, we are beginning to see that the media is about to add humiliation to its moral failure, as it grasps that once you worship a Messiah, you cannot leave the cult. Mr. Obama tolerates no dissent among the believers. The recent Obama press conference showed what happens to the shunned New York Times or Washington Post once you even consider climbing over the fence of the compound. What were these sycophants thinking as they watched Obama produce all sorts of bogus figures in assuring that tripling the deficit, then halving it will translate into lessening the present red-ink? Again, imagine a sequel to the Wizard of Oz, where everyone goes on thinking that the floating image on the screen with the smoke really is Oz, despite seeing the tiny man behind the curtain with his hands busy with the levers. The media knows what they’ve become, and already have seen the flip side of their one-eye Jack — and is now trapped in culthood.

II) Universities. Uglier still is what is going on in universities. Higher education in the humanities has devolved into a sort of indoctrination/reeducation camp, on the following apologia: the corporation, the family, the church, the military, the government are illiberal. So in our precious, rare chance to have the nation’s youth for a brief four years, we the professoriate have to offset, balance, offer an antithesis to these dominant conservative cultures. So, presto, we cannot be biased since we the anointed are the corrective to the bias.

Science and math hold out (it’s hard to suggest a postmodern Pythagorean theory would pass muster, or houses could rest on ideological constructs of phallocentric power machinations), and still ensure America’s universities are world-class as the partisan, ossified humanities departments piggy-bank on the reputation established by others.

We sadly assume that the higher one’s office in the university — full professor to dean to provost to president — the more likely one has mastered doublespeak. There are no longer real contentious issues, there is only one correct all-encompassing ideology — America’s history is largely race/class/gender exploitation; gay marriage and abortion on demand are civil rights issues of our times; diversity and affirmative action trump disinterested examination of merit; greedy capitalists have smoked the planet for their limos and private jets; improving student “profile,” not demonstration of character and competence, ensures promotion.

The odd thing is that those who excel at all this don’t even seem happy about it. They are empty suits, proverbial ‘hollow men’ without belief who have about as much self-respect for their habitual falsity as the Wall Street guy at AIG who assures his investors his company’s liability is manageable. After all, you cannot make $100,000 a year for 9 months work, with lifelong ensured employment, full benefits, and no daily audit — and seriously believe that you are perennially manning the barricades at the tip of the revolutionary spear.

What might yet restore the university? Transparency would be a small start. Release the test scores, grades, etc. of those who are admitted (we can do that without the individual names). Suggest, in this new age of AIG-accountability, that those institutions that take public funds release full budgetary figures, not percentages, but real detailed expenditures. Cut public funding off for students after four years. Replace tenure with five-year renewable contracts. Have exit exams for graduating seniors (half might well flunk basic benchmarks for math and fundamental English).

As it is now, most colleges expect alumni to give blindly — assuming that they are to remain unaware of the nature of the faculty profile, the content of the curriculum, or the activities of the universities — on the premise that any would-be donor, had he known what his alma mater was up to, would not like to subsidize classes like “The poetics of the low-rider,” or faculty like Ward Churchill (most colleges have a few), or $50,000 and up paid out for a 45-minute “I hate Bush” rant by Michael Moore at the student union, or 139-5 faculty senate votes (like Saddam’s plebiscites) on extraneous issues like gay marriage. Yes, there is humor in higher education. Nothing is weirder to see a provost head-nod among a wacked-out faculty meeting, then put on a suit and rush off to a five-star restaurant to reassure an aging capitalist that the university is a steward of American values. It reminds me of Petronius’s description of Croton.

III) Europeanization. I don’t know quite what the allure of Europe is for the American Left. But it seems to be that more of us will soon all be working for the government, habitually striking, hunting out that rare capitalist in hiding for a shake-down, and bitching over our weary 35 hr. work week.

Yet without hardship, challenge, and hope, the individual dies daily. Once the government ensures that all your needs will be taken care of, from your teeth and joints to job and retirement, ennui sets in, and with it the cargo we see in Europe — pacifism, cynicism, the loss of transcendence marked by atheism and childlessness, and worry about what others have rather than what you aspire to.

A Dutch friend once asked me why we Americans work 2-3 jobs. I replied to leave something better for our children than what we inherited. He answered, “But why? They will be taken care of by the state.” But if one does not have a vision of building something big, a thing that will last, endure, or at least appreciating such audacity in others, then we will be sentenced to live crummy, little lives of punching in at the government clock, perennially worried that someone else has something marginally better in our view than what we were allotted. It’s like running a race in which the goal is that all the runners cross the finish line at the same time, corner-eyes fixed on each other, scared to death that some trouble-maker might bolt out ahead.

So strange (or not so strange, after all?) that the liberal impulse in postwar Europe led to millions living in nearly identical houses and apartments, driving the same sort of cars, thinking about the same (their parties are like the feuds and squabbles among the Democratic Party here at home), and exuding the identical teen-age petulance when events belie the gospel.

We can see what Europeanization leads to: you worship at the altar of the goddess Pax, but hate the United States for still having a military that saves postmodern you from premodern others. You praise diversity, but are terrified of unassimilated Middle East Muslims thriving in your midst, who unlike you, really do believe in something and it’s not Western liberalism. You praise openness and tolerance, but demonize anyone who questions orthodoxy, whether it be global warming or the efficacy of state redistribution. You rant about class and privilege, but live private lives of secret values predicated on status, aristocratic pedigree, and rank.

Europeanization is so at odds with human nature that it bifurcates it — a false public face, a cynical private one. (I used to love living in Greece, going to the beach in the summer as a student and seeing all these socialist public power, phone, water, bank, etc., vans parked as their left-wing employees “got away” for some downtime around 2 PM — or being told I could hire a public worker after hours for cash for a phone installation rather than wait 9 months on “the list”.) Marxist at the day-job, conniving entrepreneur in the night hours.

It seems that in just 60 days we are heading that way — fast. These gargantuan deficits will require the most insidious taxes (on everything, as in the age of Augustus) we have yet witnessed, to make up the soon to be $20 trillion national debt. Universal health care, college for everyone, government jobs will mean a vast array of technocrati and less-skilled overseers and guardians. Less defense, higher taxes, more social spending, bigger government will expand the public sector to such a degree that to dismantle it will result in the sort of European mass protests and strikes we see daily in Greece or France when a poor fool like Sarkozy thinks it could be 1950 again, and wants to head-off pension insolvency, or bring back a 40 hour work week to the subway drivers.

The one positive? Have any of you met a disenchanted European who emigrated to the States, or lives a life of near isolation in Europe? They are almost hyper-American in their free market and democratic zeal. So full of anger at what their nation under the E.U. has become, they appear nearly fanatical in their allegiance to the free market, merit, free-thinking, liberty, and Western traditions. I have met dozens and they are the most remarkably competent individuals that I have come across in my lifetime — sort of the last few with unsnatched bodies dodging the zombies of Europe. I only wish we would offer instant citizenship status for these highly educated, highly trained, highly motivated but disconnected Europeans. We could lure 20 million in one fell swoop if we offered fast-track legal American citizenship — and reap the technological and entrepreneurial dividends for a half century to come.

Next posting. The good — and there are lots of good developments. So don’t despair.
27436  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Card Check is unconstitutional on: March 29, 2009, 11:44:54 PM
The Employee Free Choice Act of 2009 -- otherwise known as "card check" -- is organized labor's dream. As a practical matter, this legislation, pursued by both the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress, would do away with the secret ballot in the unionization process. Although card check's advocates and critics have spilled much ink arguing about the bill's fundamental fairness to labor and management, so far the debate has not focused on the other compelling interest at stake: the constitutionally protected right of employees to keep their opinions on controversial issues like unionization to themselves. This is card check's Achilles' heel.

David G. KleinThe Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech, along with the Fifth and 14th Amendment due process clauses, to protect a variety of expressive and associational rights. The right to speak and associate anonymously is among those rights. Indeed, anonymous speech has a long and honored tradition in American politics. Much of the political agitation leading up to the American Revolution was necessarily anonymous in order to avoid British sedition charges. And three of the Constitution's Framers -- James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay -- wrote the Federalist Papers supporting its ratification under the anonymous pen name "Publius."

The Supreme Court has consistently recognized the importance of this type of political discourse. The reason is obvious: Public speech on contentious issues often inflames passions, prompting intimidation and retaliation. Outing speakers who prefer anonymity chills speech, and has the potential to suppress it entirely.

In an early and important case, NAACP v. Patterson, 1958, the state of Alabama attempted to obtain a listing of the NAACP's membership, although the organization had "made an uncontroverted showing" that revealing the identities of its members had, in the past, exposed them to "economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercions and other manifestations of public hostility." The Supreme Court affirmed the NAACP's right to associate freely and privately.

The Court similarly vindicated the right to anonymous speech in political campaigns in the 1995 case McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission. It struck down a law forbidding distribution of unsigned campaign literature, reasoning that the state had shown no interest compelling enough (such as the integrity of the campaign financing process) to justify restrictions on this core First Amendment right. "Identification of the author against her will," the Court explained, "is particularly intrusive; it reveals unmistakably the content of her thoughts on a controversial issue."

When courts have upheld restrictions on anonymous speech, they have required that such provisions be narrowly tailored to serve an overriding governmental interest. Moreover, they have been most comfortable in upholding these provisions when the competing interest itself also involved the protection of First Amendment values.

Thus, for example, campaign contribution limits and disclosures have been defended as necessary anticorruption measures, balancing the abridgement of individual speech against the integrity of the political process, and protecting the marketplace of ideas. Whatever one thinks about the legal strength of these rationales -- and they have many detractors -- it's clear that the judiciary has used them when balancing competing First Amendment interests.

There can be little doubt that the act of voting on important issues is a form of symbolic speech, residing at the very core of the interests protected by the Constitution. The secret ballot has not only been adopted in federal and state elections, it is recognized as a fundamental human right in a number of international instruments. This includes the U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a party, that requires secret ballot voting as "guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors."

Labor organizing has been one of the most contentious exercises in modern American history, often leading to violence and employee intimidation on both the management and union side. Demanding that workers state publicly (by checking "yes" or "no" on a card) whether they support unionization would involve real and immediate dangers of intimidation, and would deprive workers of their right to anonymous expression. The fact that individuals could refuse to sign a card is unavailing, since a refusal to choose, in this instance, is an effective no.

Card-check supporters may argue that the activities of labor organizers, no matter how intimidating, involve purely private actions to which the Constitution's protections of free speech and association do not apply. However, the Supreme Court has recognized that certain government-sanctioned regulatory schemes can give associated private conduct the character of state or federal action, making the Constitution applicable.

In one early case, Public Utilities Commission v. Pollack (1952), the Court ruled that a private, Washington, D.C., bus company, which operated a radio news and music service in its vehicles that prompted customer complaints of unwanted political indoctrination, was subject to First and Fifth Amendment requirements. The Court reasoned that the Constitution applied since the local public utility commission had permitted the challenged service. In another important case, Railway Employees' Department v. Hanson (1956), the Court concluded that federal authorization of "union shop" agreements (under the Railway Labor Act) meant that governmental action was present because "the federal statute is the source of the power and authority by which any private rights are lost or sacrificed."

The same would be true of card check, which would endow a successful authorization-card drive by labor organizers with immediate consequences under federal law. The National Labor Relations Board would, under the new law, have to "certify" a collective bargaining unit based upon the completed cards. And the new law would effectively subject employer and employees to binding arbitration.

The presence of sufficient governmental action to require constitutional scrutiny can often be a fact-intensive inquiry. But when such mandatory legal consequences result from ostensibly private conduct, the courts would certainly be justified in concluding that the Constitution's requirements apply.

Sanctioning -- and thereby promoting -- demands that employees publicly disclose how they feel about unionization clearly violates their First Amendment entitlement to vote and practice their speech privately. Significantly, unlike other cases in which such restrictions have been upheld, union organizers cannot articulate even a semblance of an offsetting First Amendment value. While they may complain that the current system does not favor unionization and hence inhibits their associational rights, the problem, if any, arises from possible employer intimidation -- not from the secret ballot as such.

In this context, the new law would entitle organized labor to the government's imprimatur of its card-check choice. With the government thus supporting demands that employees publicly state their opinions on a controversial matter, the courts should view card-check's provisions as being ill-tailored to meet the problem of employer intimidation, and thus, unconstitutional.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey are Washington, D.C., lawyers who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
27437  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The PRI busts a move on: March 29, 2009, 11:39:18 PM
So top bankers smoked a peace pipe with President Barack Obama on Friday and agreed, however vaguely, to go along with his bailout plan. It is unlikely the powwow ended banker-baiting in Washington.

Why? Because our political leaders see the public's angst as an opening for a government takeover of key elements of the economy, finance in particular. In this way, they are not unlike Latin America's 20th century populists who railed against economic liberty, recklessly grew the state's power, and left a trail of want and misery in their wake. Modern day Mexico is a cautionary tale.

There the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) ruled a corporatist state for 70 years and finally got voted out in 2000. Now, the old guard of the party is trying to launch a comeback. While most Mexicans see the economic contraction as a crisis, PRI "dinosaurs" (not unlike White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel) view it as an opportunity. It offers them a chance to regain power and again practice the potent politics of economic nationalism.

A made-to-order issue has presented itself with the U.S. government's new 36% ownership of Citigroup. Since Citi owns Mexico's Banamex, the U.S. is now part owner of the second-largest Mexican bank. Mexico's banking law forbids this: "Foreign entities that exercise governmental functions may not, in any manner, invest in or participate in the capital stock in commercial banks."

Mary O'Grady discusses the consequences of Mexico's opportunism during the current crisis. (March 30)
President Felipe Calderón's government has taken the position that, rather than being an intended purchaser of Banamex, the U.S. is an accidental owner as a result of a rescue. Such "exceptional" circumstances have to be expected if Mexico's banking system is to be open to international investors. The forced unloading of Banamex at a fire-sale price would be the same as announcing to the world that the country's banking system is no longer open to non-Mexicans. This would reduce competition, consumer choice and needed foreign investment.

To keep governments out of the banks in the long run but also keep the banking system attractive to foreign investment, the ministry of finance (Hacienda) has proposed a change in the law that would give governments three years to divest stock acquired in a rescue. After three years the holding company (in this case Citi) would have to publicly offer at least 25% of the Mexican bank (Banamex) on the Mexican bolsa. At the end of six years, if the U.S. were still a Citigroup owner, the number would move to more than 50%.

A good solution to an unforeseen problem? Not if you agree with the PRI that Mexico was a better place when it was closed to foreign competition. Writing in Mexico's El Universal under the headline "Hacienda: Flunked in Law and Nationalism" on March 23, diehard priístas Jesús Silva Herzog (secretary of Hacienda 1982-1986) and Francisco Suárez Dávila (a former undersecretary of Hacienda) tore into the government's proposal. Congress, they wrote, must defend the banking law and promote "the Mexicanization and sale of Banamex."

The champion of this idea in Congress is the leader of the PRI in the Senate, Manlio Fabio Beltrones, who also has grand presidential ambitions. His strategy, which is as old as the PRI itself, is to play on public fears about the U.S. as a powerful northern neighbor that threatens Mexican sovereignty. With the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo still fresh in the national psyche, atavistic politicians like Mr. Beltrones seem to think they can generate a popular backlash against the U.S. Doing it just months before midterm elections doesn't hurt either.

Or so the PRI may think. But this is a dangerous game given the economic importance of the bilateral relationship. What is more, there are suspicions that the party's motivations may go well beyond love of the flag. The Mexican press has been speculating that there are domestic interests, close to the PRI, who might like to buy Banamex in a close-out sale. If that's what's going on, it won't be kept a secret. The revelation will inflict great harm on Mexico's investment profile.

The PRI may feel it has some support from Mexico's Central Bank Gov. Guillermo Ortiz, who has worried aloud about foreign-owned banks restricting credit to Mexicans. But Mexican business columnist Enrique Quintana, writing in the daily Reforma, reported last week that in January, except for Spanish-owned Santander, foreign-owned banks did not cut credit. Instead, Banamex and Bancomer (also Spanish-owned) had increased credit while a number of domestically owned banks cut back. Perhaps Mr. Ortiz would make better use of his bully pulpit by advocating policies that would attract capital to Mexico, not frighten it away.

Surely kicking out foreigners during a crisis has a feel-good component to it, just as piling on bankers in Washington does. But in today's global economy, the cost of such behavior goes straight to the bottom line. Let's hope the PRI figures that out before it does real damage to Mexico.
27438  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Music on: March 29, 2009, 08:17:19 PM
I saw Hendrix twice-- including the New Year's Eve concert at the Fillmore East that become the record/CD "Band of Gypsies".
27439  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO seeks Muslims for WH posts on: March 29, 2009, 08:11:25 PM
Obama seeks Muslims for Whtie House posts


WASHINGTON – Barack Obama is conducting his own affirmative action program to get more Muslims in the White House.
The move began with Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn, who took his oath of office with a hand on the Quran, to solicit the resume of what he considered to be the nation’s most qualified adherents of Islam.

According to the Denver Post, when White House officials heard about the program, it was put on overdrive.
So far, 45 Ivy League grads, Fortune 500 executives and government officials have been submitted for consideration.
J. Saleh Williams, program coordinator for the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association, sifted through more than 300 names as part of the search.
“It was mostly under the radar,” Williams said. “We thought it would put (the president) in a precarious position. We didn’t know how closely he wanted to appear to be working with the Muslim American community.”
Ellison is serious about his faith. He made the pilgrimage to Mecca with the sponsorship of the Muslim American Society, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In 1991, Mohamed Akram wrote a memo for the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood that explained its work in America as “a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ’sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”
27440  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Petition to Congress on: March 29, 2009, 12:17:16 PM
Petition to Congress
27441  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Art in its Homeland on: March 29, 2009, 12:11:38 PM
27442  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Germany on: March 29, 2009, 11:49:05 AM

‘100 dangerous Islamists in Germany’


Germany is home to several hundred “potentially dangerous Islamists” including a hard core of around 100 people classed as dangerous, a senior interior ministry official said yesterday.  Between 60 and 80 “Jihadists” have returned to Germany out of some 140 who have undergone training in camps in the tribal areas of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area, state secretary August Hanning said.

“The danger should not be underestimated. The 60 to 80 who have returned make up the overwhelming majority of up to around 100 people whom we class as dangerous,” Hanning told the Tagesspiegel daily’s Saturday edition.  “On top of that there are about another 300 potentially dangerous Islamists. All in all we are talking about a circle of around 1,000 people,” said Hanning, who used to head Germany foreign intelligence agency, the BND.

He added that he is worried about the possibility of attacks in the run up to this September’s general election.
“We remember that the attacks in Madrid in 2004 were carried out a few days before elections in Spain,” he said, referring to the train bombings that left 191 people dead in Europe’s worst terror attack. “That really did affect the outcome of the elections ... Al Qaeda sees this as a model for success.”

A number of videos - sometimes in German or with German subtitles - have emerged in recent months warning of future attacks on German soil because of the presence of 3,500 of the country’s troops in Afghanistan.

The closest Germany came to an attack was in July 2006 when suitcases containing homemade bombs were placed on two regional trains passing through Cologne’s busy main train station. They failed to detonate.
27443  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 29, 2009, 08:43:33 AM
Woof Krenz et al:

My concern is two fold:

1) Can we do it?  For the answer here, I look first and foremost to those there.  In a closely related vein, do we have the will to do what it will take?  Given that the CiC is giving less than half of what his generals are asking for, there is goodly reason to wonder.

2) Will we at home backstab the efforts in the field -- as we did with our efforts in Iraq?  My doubts here begin with our Commander in Chief.  Yes he said some right things the other day, but , , , what will he do when his supporters, who voted for him to bug out of Iraq NOW, abandon him over the hard times his announced path is sure to bring?  Will he throw away the investment our troops make in blood, sweat, and tears as he would have done in Iraq?


WSJ:  Pakistan is the main issue

In announcing his new Afghanistan and Pakistan policy, President Barack Obama articulated "a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future."

This is a sound conception of both the threat and U.S. interests in the region. Mr. Obama took a giant step beyond the Bush administration's "Afghanistan policy" when he named the issue "AfPak" -- Afghanistan, Pakistan and their shared, Pashtun-populated border. But this is inverted. We suggest renaming the policy "PakAf," to emphasize that, from the perspective of U.S. interests and regional stability, the heart of the problem lies in Pakistan.

The fundamental question about Afghanistan is this: What vital national interest does the U.S. have there? President George W. Bush offered an ever-expanding answer to this question. As he once put it, America's goal is "a free and peaceful Afghanistan," where "reform and democracy" would serve as "the alternatives to fanaticism, resentment and terror."

In sharp contrast, during the presidential campaign Mr. Obama declared that America has one and only one vital national interest in Afghanistan: to ensure that it "cannot be used as a base to launch attacks against the United States." To which we would add the corollary: that developments in Afghanistan not undermine Pakistan's stability and assistance in eliminating al Qaeda.

Consider a hypothetical. Had the terrorist attacks of 9/11 been planned by al Qaeda from its current headquarters in ungoverned areas of Pakistan, is it conceivable that today the U.S. would find itself with 54,000 troops and $180 billion committed to transforming medieval Afghanistan into a stable, modern nation?

For Afghanistan to become a unitary state ruled from Kabul, and to develop into a modern, prosperous, poppy-free and democratic country would be a worthy and desirable outcome. But it is not vital for American interests.

After the U.S. and NATO exit Afghanistan and reduce their presence and financial assistance to levels comparable to current efforts in the Sudan, Somalia or Bangladesh, one should expect Afghanistan to return to conditions similar to those regions. Such conditions are miserable. They are deserving of American and international development and security assistance. But, as in those countries, it is unrealistic to expect anything more than a slow, difficult evolution towards modernity.

The problem in Pakistan is more pressing and direct. There, the U.S. does have larger vital national interests. Top among these is preventing Pakistan's arsenal of nuclear weapons and materials from falling into the hands of terrorists such as Osama bin Laden. This danger is not hypothetical -- the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, A.Q. Khan, is now known to have been the world's first nuclear black marketer, providing nuclear weapons technology and materials to Libya, North Korea and Iran.

Protecting Pakistan's nuclear arsenal requires preventing radical Islamic extremists from taking control of the country.

Furthermore, the U.S. rightly remains committed to preventing the next 9/11 attack by eliminating global terrorist threats such as al Qaeda. This means destroying their operating headquarters and training camps, from which they can plan more deadly 9/11s.

The counterterrorism strategy in Pakistan that has emerged since last summer offers our best hope for regional stability and success in dealing a decisive blow against al Qaeda and what Vice President Joe Biden calls "incorrigible" Taliban adherents. But implementing these operations requires light U.S. footprints backed by drones and other technology that allows missile attacks on identified targets. The problem is that the U.S. government no longer seems to be capable of conducting covert operations without having them reported in the press.

This will only turn Pakistani public opinion against the U.S. Many Pakistanis see covert actions carried out inside their country as America "invading an ally." This makes it difficult for Pakistani officials to support U.S. operations while sustaining widespread popular support.

As Mr. Biden has warned: "It is hard to imagine a greater nightmare for America than the world's second-largest Muslim nation becoming a failed state in fundamentalists' hands, with an arsenal of nuclear weapons and a population larger than Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea combined."

Avoiding this nightmare will require concentration on the essence of the challenge: Pakistan. On the peripheries, specifically Afghanistan, Mr. Obama should borrow a line from Andrew Jackson from the battle of New Orleans and order his administration to "elevate them guns a little lower."

Mr. Allison is director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and author of "Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe" (Holt Paperbacks, 2005). Mr. Deutch is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Bill Clinton.

27444  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia plans new military force on: March 29, 2009, 08:03:40 AM
Russia plans military force to patrol Arctic as 'cold rush' intensifies


Russia plans military force to patrol Arctic as 'cold rush' intensifies

Tom Parfitt in Moscow
The Guardian
Saturday 28 March 2009

Russia has released plans to create a dedicated military force to patrol the Arctic, where it is laying claim to billions of tonnes of hydrocarbons.

Countries in the northern hemisphere are vying for control of the polar region, which is thought to contain up to a quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas. The presidential security council issued a strategy document which outlined Russia's plans for defending its vast swath of polar territory up until 2020.

A major component of the strategy was the creation of a group of general-purpose units of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and other military units and agencies, primarily border guard agencies to ensure security.

The Kremlin has engaged in sporadic tub-thumping over its right to the Arctic's resources ever since two mini subs planted a titanium Russian tricolour on the seabed under the North Pole in 2007. President Dmitry Medvedev said in September that the region must become Russia's strategic resource base for the 21st century.

Moscow's bold assertion that it will militarise the region comes as Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland) lobby UN bodies to decide jurisdiction over the region.

The five countries with an Arctic coastline have exploitation rights over a 200 mile zone extending north of their borders, but the Kremlin is claiming a much bigger territory on grounds that an underwater ridge running towards the North Pole is connected to Russia's continental shelf.

The "cold rush" for the Arctic's resources has intensified as global warming opens up new shipping routes and eases the difficulty of offshore exploitation and drilling.

Artur Chilingarov, the polar explorer who is Russia's envoy on international co-operation in the Arctic and Antarctic, said this month that the country was justified in laying claim to waters off its Arctic coast. "We are not squeezing anyone out," he said.

However, other states have said they are unnerved by the Kremlin's "aggressive" stance. Earlier this month the Canadian government demanded an explanation after Russian bombers and a submarine were recorded entering its Arctic zone.

In turn, Moscow has reacted angrily to suggestions by Nato that it could enter the fray in the far north. The Nato secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said in January that the security alliance needed a military presence in the region to defuse tensions. "I would be the last one to expect military conflict - but there will be a [Nato] military presence," he said, adding: "It should be a military presence that is not overdone, and there is a need for political and economic co-operation."

Russia's envoy to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, said yesterday he would not discuss military co-operation with Nato in the Arctic because it was "totally absurd" for countries not abutting the region to get involved.

The security council sought to play down its strategy document later on Friday, saying its emphasis was on improving the border guard service and its co-operation with other states in "combating terrorism in the sea, seeking to prevent illicit trade and illegal migration, and in seeking to protect aquatic biological resources."
27445  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Govt troops arrest Son of Iraq, setting off fighting on: March 29, 2009, 07:41:43 AM
Is this the result of Is BO's bugout?

Or , , ,?

Troops Arrest an Awakening Council Leader in Iraq, Setting Off Fighting
Published: March 28, 2009

BAGHDAD — American and Iraqi troops arrested the leader of a crucial Awakening Council in Baghdad on Saturday, setting off a rare spasm of street fighting and raising fresh concerns about the troubled Awakening program, which has brought many Sunni extremists over to the government’s side.

A combined force of American and Iraqi Army troops and National Police descended on Fadhil, a Sunni neighborhood and former insurgent stronghold in central Baghdad, and arrested the head of Fadhil’s Awakening Council, Adil al-Mashhadani, on terrorism charges, according to Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, spokesman for the Iraqi security forces in Baghdad. He said firefights broke out afterward.

The Awakening Councils, the Iraqi name for what the Americans call the Sons of Iraq, are neighborhood-based groups of Sunnis, many of them former insurgents, who are now paid by the Iraqi government. They are credited, along with the increase in American troops, with helping to diminish violence in Iraq.

Many of the Awakening groups recently have complained about mistreatment and warned that some of their followers might switch back to supporting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown extremist group believed by American intelligence to have foreign leadership. Mr. Mashhadani has been a strong critic of the failure of the Iraqi authorities to incorporate Awakening Council fighters into Iraqi security agencies, as had been promised.

“There’s a 50-50 chance that Awakening guys who are not very loyal to Iraq or who need to support their families may decide to join Al Qaeda again,” Mr. Mashhadani said in an interview a week ago.

Abu Mirna, the media coordinator for the Fadhil Awakening Council, said: “American forces have broken the alliance with us by arresting our leader. Now there are clashes in the area between the Americans and Awakening fighters and you can hear shooting. It’s chaos.” Heavy gunfire could be heard over the telephone while he was speaking.

Fifteen Iraqis were wounded in the fighting, according to a high-ranking police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. American officials did not respond to requests for information.

Five Iraqi Army soldiers were also taken hostage, according to two officials in the Ministry of Interior, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were also not authorized to speak to reporters. The officials said the Iraqi Army called off the fighting to negotiate for the soldiers’ release. Awakening Council members demanded Mr. Mashhadani’s release in exchange for the soldiers’ freedom, the officials said.

It was the first time that disputes between the Sons of Iraq and the authorities have erupted into armed clashes in Baghdad. There have been arrests of some other Sons of Iraq members suspected of still working for insurgents, but not of anyone so prominent.

There were immediate expressions of concern from other Awakening Councils in Baghdad. “Members of the Iraqi Army are trying to pick a fight between them and the Awakening,” said Ahmed al-Rubaie, one of the leaders of the council in the nearby Abu Safain neighborhood. “Do they want the sectarianism to come back, like in 2006?”

Fadhil is a densely populated area of narrow alleyways and congested streets, where some of the city’s most bitter street fighting took place. It was one of the last neighborhoods in the city to join the Awakening movement.

In Adhamiya, another important Sunni area in downtown Baghdad, the local Awakening leader, Abu Sejad, said news of the arrest was received with concern. “All of our guys are asking, ‘What about us? Are they going to arrest us next?’ ” he said.

Mr. Rubaie accused the Iraqi security forces of ignoring Awakening Council members and treating them with disrespect. He also said council leaders’ pay had also been cut recently.

He said Mr. Mashhadani and his followers were particularly volatile about their grievances.

In December, disputes broke out between the Iraqi police and the Fadhil Awakening members, and Mr. Mashhadani ordered his men to abandon some joint checkpoints with the Iraqi police, complaining they had branded the Sons of Iraq as insurgents and Qaeda followers.

The government had pledged to enlist a fifth of the 94,000 Awakening members nationwide in the police and other security forces, and find government jobs for the rest. So far, however, only 5,000 have gotten jobs.

Atheer Kakan and Tareq Maher contributed reporting.
27446  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Spanish Court weighs inquiry on: March 29, 2009, 07:37:58 AM
Spanish Court Weighs Inquiry on Torture for 6 Bush-Era Officials

Published: March 28, 2009

LONDON — A Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an official close to the case said.

The case, against former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and others, was sent to the prosecutor’s office for review by Baltasar Garzón, the crusading investigative judge who ordered the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The official said that it was “highly probable” that the case would go forward and that it could lead to arrest warrants.

The move represents a step toward ascertaining the legal accountability of top Bush administration officials for allegations of torture and mistreatment of prisoners in the campaign against terrorism. But some American experts said that even if warrants were issued their significance could be more symbolic than practical, and that it was a near certainty that the warrants would not lead to arrests if the officials did not leave the United States.

The complaint under review also names John C. Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who wrote secret legal opinions saying the president had the authority to circumvent the Geneva Conventions, and Douglas J. Feith, the former under secretary of defense for policy.

Most of the officials cited in the complaint declined to comment on the allegations or could not be reached on Saturday. However their defenders have said their legal analyses and policy work on interrogation practices, conducted under great pressure after the 2001 terrorist attacks, are now being unfairly second-guessed after many years without a terrorist attack on the United States.

The court case was not entirely unexpected, as several human rights groups have been asking judges in different countries to indict Bush administration officials. One group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, had asked a German prosecutor for such an indictment, but the prosecutor declined.

Judge Garzón, however, has built an international reputation by bringing high-profile cases against human rights violators as well as international terrorist networks like Al Qaeda. The arrest warrant for General Pinochet led to his detention in Britain, although he never faced a trial. The judge has also been outspoken about the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

Spain can claim jurisdiction in the case because five citizens or residents of Spain who were prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have said they were tortured there. The five had been indicted in Spain, but their cases were dismissed after the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained under torture was not admissible.

The 98-page complaint, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, is based on the Geneva Conventions and the 1984 Convention Against Torture, which is binding on 145 countries, including Spain and the United States. Countries that are party to the torture convention have the authority to investigate torture cases, especially when a citizen has been abused.

The complaint was prepared by Spanish lawyers, with help from experts in the United States and Europe, and filed by a Spanish human rights group, the Association for the Dignity of Prisoners.

The National Court in Madrid, which specializes in international crimes, assigned the case to Judge Garzón. His acceptance of the case and referral of it to the prosecutor made it likely that a criminal investigation would follow, the official said.

Even so, arrest warrants, if they are issued, would still be months away.

Gonzalo Boye, the Madrid lawyer who filed the complaint, said that the six Americans cited had had well-documented roles in approving illegal interrogation techniques, redefining torture and abandoning the definition set by the 1984 Torture Convention.

Secret memorandums by Mr. Yoo and other top administration lawyers helped clear the way for aggressive policies like waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques, which the C.I.A. director, the attorney general and other American officials have said amount to torture.

The other Americans named in the complaint were William J. Haynes II, former general counsel for the Department of Defense; Jay S. Bybee, Mr. Yoo’s former boss at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and David S. Addington, who was the chief of staff and legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Mr. Yoo declined to comment on Saturday, saying that he had not seen or heard of the petition.

Mr. Feith, who was the top policy official at the Pentagon when the prison at Guantánamo was established, said he did not make the decision on interrogation methods and was baffled by the allegations. “I didn’t even argue for the thing I understand they’re objecting to,” he said.

But Mr. Boye said that lawyers should be held accountable for the effects of their work. Noting that the association he represents includes many lawyers, he said: “This is a case from lawyers against lawyers. Our profession does not allow us to misuse our legal knowledge to create a pseudo-legal frame to justify, stimulate and cover up torture.”

Prosecutions and convictions under the Torture Convention have been rare.

Reed Brody, a lawyer at Human Rights Watch who has specialized in this issue, said that even though torture was widely practiced, there were numerous obstacles, including “a lack of political will, the problem of gathering evidence in a foreign country and the failure of countries to pass the necessary laws.”

This year for the first time, the United States used a law that allows it to prosecute torture in other countries. On Jan. 10, a federal court in Miami sentenced Chuckie Taylor, the son of the former Liberian president, to 97 years in a federal prison for torture, even though the crimes were committed in Liberia.

Last October, when the Miami court handed down the conviction, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey applauded the ruling and said: “This is the first case in the United States to charge an individual with criminal torture. I hope this case will serve as a model to future prosecutions of this type.”

The United States, however, would be expected to ignore an extradition request for former officials, although other investigations within the United States have been proposed. Calls for the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation have so far been resisted by the Obama administration, but for more than four years, the Justice Department ethics office has been conducting its own investigation into the work of Mr. Yoo and some of his colleagues.

While the officials named in the complaint have not addressed these specific accusations, Mr. Yoo defended his work in an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal on March 7, warning that the Obama administration risked harming national security if it punished lawyers like himself.

“If the administration chooses to seriously pursue those officials who were charged with preparing for the unthinkable, today’s intelligence and military officials will no doubt hesitate to fully prepare for those contingencies in the future,” Mr. Yoo wrote.

Scott Shane and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.
27447  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Chinese internet computer spying operation on: March 29, 2009, 07:33:14 AM
TORONTO — A vast electronic spying operation has infiltrated computers and has stolen documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, Canadian researchers have concluded.

In a report to be issued this weekend, the researchers said that the system was being controlled from computers based almost exclusively in China, but that they could not say conclusively that the Chinese government was involved.

The researchers, who are based at the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto, had been asked by the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader whom China regularly denounces, to examine its computers for signs of malicious software, or malware.

Their sleuthing opened a window into a broader operation that, in less than two years, has infiltrated at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices, as well as the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London and New York.

The researchers, who have a record of detecting computer espionage, said they believed that in addition to the spying on the Dalai Lama, the system, which they called GhostNet, was focused on the governments of South Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

Intelligence analysts say many governments, including those of China, Russia and the United States, and other parties use sophisticated computer programs to covertly gather information.

The newly reported spying operation is by far the largest to come to light in terms of countries affected.

This is also believed to be the first time researchers have been able to expose the workings of a computer system used in an intrusion of this magnitude.

Still going strong, the operation continues to invade and monitor more than a dozen new computers a week, the researchers said in their report, “Tracking ‘GhostNet’: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network.” They said they had found no evidence that United States government offices had been infiltrated, although a NATO computer was monitored by the spies for half a day and computers of the Indian Embassy in Washington were infiltrated.

The malware is remarkable both for its sweep — in computer jargon, it has not been merely “phishing” for random consumers’ information, but “whaling” for particular important targets — and for its Big Brother-style capacities. It can, for example, turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of an infected computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room. The investigators say they do not know if this facet has been employed.

The researchers were able to monitor the commands given to infected computers and to see the names of documents retrieved by the spies, but in most cases the contents of the stolen files have not been determined. Working with the Tibetans, however, the researchers found that specific correspondence had been stolen and that the intruders had gained control of the electronic mail server computers of the Dalai Lama’s organization.

The electronic spy game has had at least some real-world impact, they said. For example, they said, after an e-mail invitation was sent by the Dalai Lama’s office to a foreign diplomat, the Chinese government made a call to the diplomat discouraging a visit. And a woman working for a group making Internet contacts between Tibetan exiles and Chinese citizens was stopped by Chinese intelligence officers on her way back to Tibet, shown transcripts of her online conversations and warned to stop her political activities.

The Toronto researchers said they had notified international law enforcement agencies of the spying operation, which in their view exposed basic shortcomings in the legal structure of cyberspace. The F.B.I. declined to comment on the operation.

Although the Canadian researchers said that most of the computers behind the spying were in China, they cautioned against concluding that China’s government was involved. The spying could be a nonstate, for-profit operation, for example, or one run by private citizens in China known as “patriotic hackers.”

“We’re a bit more careful about it, knowing the nuance of what happens in the subterranean realms,” said Ronald J. Deibert, a member of the research group and an associate professor of political science at Munk. “This could well be the C.I.A. or the Russians. It’s a murky realm that we’re lifting the lid on.”

A spokesman for the Chinese Consulate in New York dismissed the idea that China was involved. “These are old stories and they are nonsense,” the spokesman, Wenqi Gao, said. “The Chinese government is opposed to and strictly forbids any cybercrime.”

The Toronto researchers, who allowed a reporter for The New York Times to review the spies’ digital tracks, are publishing their findings in Information Warfare Monitor, an online publication associated with the Munk Center.

At the same time, two computer researchers at Cambridge University in Britain who worked on the part of the investigation related to the Tibetans, are releasing an independent report. They do fault China, and they warned that other hackers could adopt the tactics used in the malware operation.


Page 2 of 2)

“What Chinese spooks did in 2008, Russian crooks will do in 2010 and even low-budget criminals from less developed countries will follow in due course,” the Cambridge researchers, Shishir Nagaraja and Ross Anderson, wrote in their report, “The Snooping Dragon: Social Malware Surveillance of the Tibetan Movement.”

In any case, it was suspicions of Chinese interference that led to the discovery of the spy operation. Last summer, the office of the Dalai Lama invited two specialists to India to audit computers used by the Dalai Lama’s organization. The specialists, Greg Walton, the editor of Information Warfare Monitor, and Mr. Nagaraja, a network security expert, found that the computers had indeed been infected and that intruders had stolen files from personal computers serving several Tibetan exile groups.

Back in Toronto, Mr. Walton shared data with colleagues at the Munk Center’s computer lab.

One of them was Nart Villeneuve, 34, a graduate student and self-taught “white hat” hacker with dazzling technical skills. Last year, Mr. Villeneuve linked the Chinese version of the Skype communications service to a Chinese government operation that was systematically eavesdropping on users’ instant-messaging sessions.

Early this month, Mr. Villeneuve noticed an odd string of 22 characters embedded in files created by the malicious software and searched for it with Google. It led him to a group of computers on Hainan Island, off China, and to a Web site that would prove to be critically important.

In a puzzling security lapse, the Web page that Mr. Villeneuve found was not protected by a password, while much of the rest of the system uses encryption.

Mr. Villeneuve and his colleagues figured out how the operation worked by commanding it to infect a system in their computer lab in Toronto. On March 12, the spies took their own bait. Mr. Villeneuve watched a brief series of commands flicker on his computer screen as someone — presumably in China — rummaged through the files. Finding nothing of interest, the intruder soon disappeared.

Through trial and error, the researchers learned to use the system’s Chinese-language “dashboard” — a control panel reachable with a standard Web browser — by which one could manipulate the more than 1,200 computers worldwide that had by then been infected.

Infection happens two ways. In one method, a user’s clicking on a document attached to an e-mail message lets the system covertly install software deep in the target operating system. Alternatively, a user clicks on a Web link in an e-mail message and is taken directly to a “poisoned” Web site.

The researchers said they avoided breaking any laws during three weeks of monitoring and extensively experimenting with the system’s unprotected software control panel. They provided, among other information, a log of compromised computers dating to May 22, 2007.

They found that three of the four control servers were in different provinces in China — Hainan, Guangdong and Sichuan — while the fourth was discovered to be at a Web-hosting company based in Southern California.

Beyond that, said Rafal A. Rohozinski, one of the investigators, “attribution is difficult because there is no agreed upon international legal framework for being able to pursue investigations down to their logical conclusion, which is highly local.”
27448  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tiger Woods speaks on: March 29, 2009, 07:26:02 AM
27449  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 29, 2009, 07:18:02 AM
Normally this thread is not for articles, but the reference to gratitude and its role in Life leads me to post this one here:

Margaret Somerville | Friday, 27 March 2009
The last great act of living

Legalising euthanasia would deny the full potential of the human spirit.

An extraordinary public exchange of letters between two Canadians over the past six months has illuminated in a very personal way the profound issues posed by death and all that leads to it. Ian Brown, who writes for the Globe and Mail, has a disabled son, Walker. Jean Vanier is the founder of L’Arche, a world-wide organization that provides a refuge and life-long home for intellectually disabled people. In their latest exchange of letters Brown asked Vanier, “Are you fearful of death?” Vanier replied, “No, I cannot say I am”.

This letter brought to mind many issues that I struggled with in a speech I gave recently in Ottawa called, “Dying as the Last Great Act of Living”. In it I explored the impact that legalizing euthanasia might have on the possibility of our experiencing death as such an act.

Some of the issues I examined were our fear of mystery and uncertainty, the nature of the “human spirit”, what an ethics of respect for human potentiality and its fulfillment would require in our treatment of old or dying people, and the role of hope in our lives and death.

Fear of mystery and uncertainty

Traditionally, as Jean Vanier’s writings show is still true for him, we have dealt with mystery of death, through religion or spirituality. But, now, many of us are not religious.

Mystery always involves uncertainty, which makes us feel we don’t have control and, in the case of death, that causes intense fear and free floating anxiety. One way to deal with that fear is to try to take control by converting the mystery of death to the problem of death and seeking a technological solution. Euthanasia can be seen as such a response: death is viewed as a problem, not a mystery, and the proposed solution to that problem is a lethal injection.

Euthanasia allows people to feel that although they can’t avoid death, they can control its manner, time and place. It’s a terror reduction or terror control mechanism that operates at both the individual and societal level. So if we believe legalizing euthanasia would be a very bad idea, we need to develop and communicate other ways to deal with our fear of death.

The human spirit

One such way is to enrich our experience of the “human spirit”. In both his actions and words Jean Vanier movingly and beautifully manifests and describes his experience of the “human spirit”. It’s a term I use in a religiously neutral sense, in that it can be accepted by people who are not religious and those who are, and, if religious, no matter what their religion. By it I mean the intangible, immeasurable, numinous reality that all of us need access to in order to find meaning in life and to make life worth living; that deeply intuitive sense of relatedness or connectedness to all life, especially other people, to the world, and to the universe in which we live; the metaphysical – but not necessarily supernatural - reality which we need to experience to live fully human lives.

Vanier speaks repeatedly of the deep suffering caused by loneliness, which can be especially acute for old or terminally ill people – the latter often encounter “intense pre-mortem loneliness”. Loneliness is the opposite experience to that of the human spirit – it’s the feeling of disconnection from others and our world, a sense of profound isolation.

The human spirit is the means through which we can generate the feeling of belonging to something larger than ourselves, that is, transcendence - an experience values’ surveys show people are increasingly longing to encounter – and perhaps transformation. Vanier is a powerful example of living a life based on values that are the opposite of intense individualism and narcissism – both dominant features of our societies and entities that make the human spirit harder to find and experience.

A narcissist sees other people only in terms of how they can benefit him – that is, as instruments or objects. That approach leads to positions such as that taken by an Australian politician arguing for legalizing euthanasia. He justifies it in this way: “When you are past your 'best before' or 'use by' date, you should be checked out as quickly, cheaply and efficiently as possible”.

One could not imagine Vanier speaking of people as products to be checked out of the supermarket of life.

An ethics of human potentiality

The profound wisdom, humanity and humanness of Jean Vanier’s approach to disability show us the opportunities that disability provides to “become more human”, to experience the essence of our humanness and to share it with others. We need to learn from him how to approach old age and the disability that can entail, and death.

As is true for romanticizing disability, there is a grave danger in romanticizing death, which is not the same as respecting its mystery – the latter requires looking tough realities in the face and struggling to live with them and finding meaning in doing so. Vanier does not romanticize disability, but shows us how one can find hope, joy and love despite – or perhaps in part – because of it.

Vanier’s approach to disabled people epitomizes respect for the mystery of life. In contrast, some people are using reprogenetic technoscience to convert the mystery of the passing on of life to our children to a controlled technological process, including by identifying and eliminating those who would be disabled. This approach causes not only a loss of respect for the mystery of life, but also, for the mystery of death.

In his life and work at L’Arche, Vanier shows the extraordinary flourishing of the human spirit that can occur when a certain kind of love – a truly unselfish, non-self-centred love – is made central to ordinary daily life. His radical, counter-contemporary-culture message is that we “non-disabled” people are the losers in refusing to accept disabled people and rejecting the unique gifts they have to offer us as individuals and societies.

Vanier’s writings gently show that among the many gifts disabled people can offer us are lessons in hope, optimism, kindness, empathy, compassion, generosity and hospitality, a sense of humour (balance), trust and courage. But, as he recognizes, to do that they must be treated justly; given every person’s right to the freedom to be themselves; and respected as members of our community. That requires us to accept the suffering, weakness and fragility we see in them, which means, as Vanier emphasizes, we must first accept those realities in relation to ourselves. Most of us find that an enormous challenge and flee.

The ethical tone of a society is not set by how it treats its strongest, most powerful members, but by how it treats those who are weakest, most vulnerable and in need. Jean Vanier’s life and work is testament to an amazing example in the latter respect.

His remarkable, uncommon “common humanity” shines through his words and deeds. We can learn from him how to enrich ourselves, others and our world through developing, experiencing and celebrating, to quote him, the “gifts of the heart” and putting into practice a “little sign of love in the world”.

So we must ask ourselves what are the “gifts of the heart” and what does putting into practice a “little sign of love in the world” require of us in how we treat people who are old and disabled or dying.


Hope is the oxygen of the human spirit; without it our spirit dies, with it we can overcome even seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Hope is generated by a sense of connection to the future. Ian Brown quotes “a still-lively 80-year-old [who] gave [him]… his formula for enthusiastically living in the world as you get older: 'Active engagement with the future,' he said. 'That's the secret.'” This old man is describing hope.

Even terminally ill people can have hope – what we can call “mini-hopes” – for instance, to stay alive long enough to see a grandchild born, to attend a daughter’s wedding, to see an old friend the next day or to see the sun rise and hear the birds’ dawn chorus.

Like hope, leaving a legacy also connects us to the future, one we will not see. Palliative care professionals try to help people to identify their legacy, their gifts to those who remain, because they know that can help them to die more peacefully. But those gifts must be accepted and valued by the receiver.

We must accept old or dying people’s gifts, especially those gifts that are of the essence of themselves, recognizing that they and the person who gives them are unique and precious, as are their lives or last days on earth. In confirming the worth of these gifts we confirm the worth of the giver, and the old or dying person needs that confirmation. But often we refuse and for same reason that we reject disabled persons’ gifts. We are frightened: This person is not me and could not be me – that is, dis-identification is the way we deal with our fear. It seems that all of us have a deep fear of dying alone. Might that be, in part, because, then, there is no one to receive our gifts and affirm the worth of our contribution to life?

And might we be able to deal with old age and death with greater equanimity, if we can experience a sense of gratitude for life and might the gifts we can leave help us to feel that? Another way to experience such gratitude is captured by one of my close friends, who talks about “saving up beautiful memories for when you are dying”. I think that’s a “gratitude in practice” response.

The challenge is to maintain death as the last great act of human life, a final human act through which we can still find meaning and, I suggest most importantly, pass meaning on to others.

In other words, in our dying, we need to be given the opportunity to leave a legacy of meaning. We are meaning seeking beings – that seeking is of the essence of our humanness. Euthanasia is a predictable response to a loss of meaning in relation to death and its practice would augment that loss. Even if we believe that doesn’t matter, we should be concerned, because our capacity to find meaning in life may well depend on our being able to find meaning in death.

Margaret Somerville is director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University, and author of The Ethical Imagination: Journeys of the Human Spirit.
27450  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: March 28, 2009, 11:37:05 PM
Today's class:

Kali Tudo:

a) Dodger Dracula variations
b) Low Zirconia variations
c) Four Headed Snake

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