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27551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: March 28, 2010, 06:19:24 PM
I will need to think more about Will's analysis here-- it is intriguing.

Even if it is correct, the political problem remains: demographics.  Without Latino birthrates, US population would decline; Latinos are an ever increasing % of US citizenry.  They tend to vote strongly Democrat.  Groups that tend to vote Republican tend to be aging and in decline, both in absolute numbers and as a % of the population.  The Republican party is already fairly irrelevant in the northeast of the US and with demographic trends in place will become a shrinking minority.  THIS was Bush-Rove-McCain's impetus in supporting amnesty-- to remain competitive for the Latino vote.

27552  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 28, 2010, 06:11:34 PM
Grateful for a fine weekend with a fine group here in Toronto. The Adventure continues!
27553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: U.S. Census 2010 on: March 28, 2010, 07:40:04 AM
Ten years ago, for race I answered "human" for my family and me.  When that "friendly stranger" showed up at my door, I sent her packing.

This time around, again I have answered "human".
27554  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 28, 2010, 07:35:58 AM
Wating for the fight I thought Mir too relaxed, and Carsen perhaps too worried cheesy  I thought Carsen showed excellent knees to the thighs up against the fence.

Who was that a-hole who kepty applying the heel hook after his opponent tapped and the ref starting pulling him off!? angry  VERY wrong  angry angry angry  I want to know his name so I can cheer when karma bites him in the ass. evil

PS:  Good times watching the crowd at the bar here in Toronto cheer its man on.

27555  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Conditioning on: March 27, 2010, 07:11:38 PM
Woof Rarick:

Tail wags for the kind words of encouragement.

Since I last posted on this thread I have done 6.16 miles with 40 lbs at 3 MPH and a 5 trip day at Bluff Cove with 40 lbs plus some lesser workouts.  Although I may be losing a bit by doing a seminar this weekend (I am in Toronto as I type) this week I will seek to test myself a bit for level ground distance with 40 lbs.
27556  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Toronto: March 27-28, 2010 on: March 27, 2010, 07:18:22 AM
Woof from Toronto:

Looking forward to good times!
27557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 26, 2010, 12:00:18 PM
Yon is reader supported.  Best thing is to set up a monthly payment so that he can budget accordingly.
27558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Toronto on: March 26, 2010, 11:56:54 AM
Off to Toronto until Monday night.
27559  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dogs Best Friend: on: March 26, 2010, 08:42:34 AM
Woof Kaju:

I leave in a few hours for Toronto and rreturn Monday night and will try to figure out next week how to post some pictures of Zapata and/or Moro.

27560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / M. Yon: The Scent of Weakness on: March 25, 2010, 10:41:16 AM

Yon's track record in this is quite strong.

Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
25 March 2010

Dogs have been trained to carry bombs to attack enemies for decades.  The Soviets and others have used dogs as low-tech smart bombs.  Yet canine platoons likely would rebel if they caught scent they were being duped to die.

Today, more sophisticated people employ men (mostly) to deliver bombs in Afghanistan.  Gullible souls are selected, conditioned, trained and deployed.  Malleable minds are identified then loaded with psychic software that uses their minds to create a vision.  Evil persons of superior intellect identify the raw material—that raw material might be an engineer from a stable family—and trains them to fetch myths.

Suicide attackers have murdered countless thousands of people around the world.  They go by various names, such as Kamikaze, Black Tiger, and Martyr.

The attackers are not all men.  Some are Tigresses.  My friend Alex Perry met a wannabe Black Tigress in Sri Lanka.  She was 18.  Alex described the girl in Time Magazine:

“But asked when she hoped to achieve her dream of being a suicide bomber, she grinned, squirmed and buried her face in her arms. "She's already written her application," said her commander, Lt. Col. Dewarsara Banu, smiling at her charge's shyness. "But there's still no reply." "Why hasn't there been a reply?" whined Samandi, looking up with the one eye, her left, that survived a shot to the head and fiddling with the capsule of cyanide powder around her neck. "I want this. I want to be a Black Tiger. I want to blast myself for freedom."

How Sri Lanka's Rebels Build a Suicide Bomber.

Many people are persuaded by cult artifices into any sort of behavior, including ritual suicide and murder.  It’s crucial to understand that many suicide-murders are part of a religious ceremony.  The attack is the climax of the ceremony.  This is neither complicated, nor subtle.

Suicide murders are merely a small fraction of cult behaviors.  Cults often do not revolve around religions.  Communist cadres once fanned across the globe, teaching that capitalism must die on a global scale for communism to reach its imagined grandeur.  Yet even as communist countries have failed across the world, true believers intoned the conviction that “real communism” had never been tried, and if it were, it would fulfill its promises.  This “willing suspension of disbelief” demonstrates an important aspect often organic to cults: when cult prophecies are proven wrong, we might expect the cult to disintegrate in face of the evidence.  Yet instead of disintegrating, powerful cults often refortify, strengthen, and redouble recruitment.  Failure can cause them to grow.

Some cult leaders are true believers while others are true deceivers.  From the outside, cults often can be easy to spot, though the hardest cult to see is the one you are in.

We face an increasing number of suicide murders here in the “Muslim world”—in places where suicide attacks were previously unheard of.  Some people are coerced into suicide, such as the unfortunate women who were raped and defiled in Iraq, then shamed and coerced into suicide for the sake of  “honor.”  Or the case of a young Libyan, captured by soldiers from a unit I was with in Iraq.  The Libyan was thankful for his capture: Iraqis were trying to force him to wear a suicide bomb.

Others are “brainwashed” and reloaded with brainware whose program creates suicide murderers.

A few weeks ago, on the morning of March 1st, just close by Kandahar Airfield, a suicide murderer waited in ambush.  An American convoy from the 82nd Airborne was crossing the Tarnak River Bridge when the man detonated his car bomb, sending a heavily armored American MRAP off the bridge.  At 0735, the boom thundered across Kandahar Airfield.  I felt the explosion and turned around to look for a mushroom.  The sound was vigorous enough that I thought we may have been hit on base.  There it was: the orange mushroom cloud of dust gathered and could be seen floating away.  It was off base in the direction of Highway 4 to Kandahar.

American Soldier Ian Gelig and several Afghans were killed.  It’s difficult to know how many locals are killed and wounded in attacks; often they die later or are never taken to hospitals.

Soldiers from 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat team were planning to conduct a mission that morning that required crossing the now badly damaged bridge.  Our mission was cancelled, as were many other missions for the next couple days.  In addition to killing Ian Gelig, the single attacker impacted the flow of the war in this crucial battle space.

Nearly two weeks later, on Saturday 13 March, I was preparing to go on another mission with 5/2 SBCT soldiers.  Shortly before our departure, just up the road in Kandahar City, a serious attack unfolded at night, including three or four suicide attackers.  About 35 people were killed and roughly another 50 wounded.  Again, our mission was cancelled because the roads were closed, though by morning we took helicopters and bypassed the incident.  Turns out, the enemy was disappointed with their attack.  About half the attacks apparently did not go off, while American and Afghan forces responded more quickly than the enemy had expected and limited the damage.  According to intelligence, the Taliban are extremely paranoid.  Taliban leadership suspected there had been an inside informant.  They planned to conduct a purge.  Meanwhile, I got one report from the ground that Afghans believed most of the casualties were caused by Afghan police who are said to have fired wildly during the attack.  One man told me that an Afghan position randomly fired his 12.7mm DsHK machine gun across the city.  (These guns are so large they can rip a man in two.)  Whether the allegation is true or false is not known by me, though it stands alone as a bullet in the information war.

Ground Sign

On 8 April 2006, I was driving with a friend from Lashkar Gah to Camp Bastion when shortly after we left the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) at Lash, a suicide attacker struck.  We escaped entirely, hearing about the attack later.  Some days later, we drove back to Lash.  On 13 April, a second suicide attack happened at the same place, shaking the building while I was writing a dispatch about how the war was going sour.

These were the first two suicide attacks in Lashkar Gah.

(A couple more suicide attackers were killed in that same close area in Lash while I was writing this dispatch in neighboring Kandahar.)

Lone Wolf suicide murders occur, but the context of these first two bombings in Lashkar Gah indicated that a system was in place, and the suicide bombers were not terribly expensive to buy.  If those suicide bombers were expensive or hard to come by, the commander likely would have saved them for special missions of high specific significance.  Yet the targets of the two attacks were small and tactical, of little specific significance.  Why would a commander waste “smart ammo” on tactical targets?   Perhaps the “price” of the ammo—whether through coercion or bribery—must be reasonable, and he can buy more.

One intelligence report indicates that a certain Mullah paid cash and wheat seed to the father of Shafiqullah Rahman and Mohammed Hashim who detonated suicide car bombs on 11 November and 19 November 2009.

Suicide attackers come in different “grades.”  Some are illiterate, unsophisticated people, unsuited for complex targeting.  A plotter could not expect to select an illiterate village boy from the hinterlands of Zabul Province to move to Florida, obtain a place to live and begin flight training to crash airplanes into buildings.

Just days before 9/11, in Afghanistan, attackers passed themselves off as international journalists and managed to kill Ahmad Shah Massoud.  A couple days later, on 9/11, hijackers attacked the United States.  The killers were polyglots who combined savvy with international experience to wage complex attacks, such as was seen in Mumbai, India.  Another sophisticated international suicide attack occurred in Afghanistan in December 2009, killing seven CIA agents.

More locally, within a short distance of this keyboard, suicide attackers who are spent on random convoys or “common targets” probably tend to be simple folk.  Many suicide attackers in Afghanistan are believed to be street children or young people from dirt-poor villages, for instance from Zabul Province.  Most are thought to be young, uneducated and impoverished.  These unfortunates are believed to be conditioned in madrassas in Pakistan, and in fact our intelligence people believe that there might be three madrassas in one particular town, where suicide bombers are conditioned and shipped straight into Kandahar Province.

IEDs are by far our biggest threat here, yet suicide attacks are also deadly while generating more press.  Also, IEDs generally only affect people who go where the IEDs are, while suicide murderers are known to hijack “random” airplanes far away from the perceived battlefield.  Most victims of the suicide murderers we face are other Muslims.  This was also true in Iraq where murderers would attack mosques or funeral processions, as an example.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan, civilian casualties cause the people to turn against the side perpetrating the casualties.  This photo was taken after a suicide bombing in Mosul, Iraq, in May 2005.  The neighborhood had been pro-insurgent.  After this bomb in the midst of children, the neighborhood turned against the terrorists.  The little girl’s name was Farah.  She died shortly after this moment.

There was a time when Americans seemed to view suicide attacks as a sign of the complete conviction of the enemy, an immutable dedication to their cause that many people found terrifying and cause for soul-searching.  “What could we have done to provoke such anger?” Yet with time, American views of suicide attacks have matured and become more grounded.  Firstly, Americans in particular are far less afraid of suicide attackers and extremely unlikely to capitulate with anyone who attacks on American soil.  Suicide attackers hit American soil.  In Iraq and Afghanistan, they have become commonplace.  Secondly, most importantly, wild use of suicide attackers is seen not as evidence that we are attacking the “wrong people” whose dedication to their cause is unstoppable, but as concrete evidence that we are attacking the right people and that they should be destroyed.  Japanese Kamikaze attacks are ingrained in the psyche of generations of Americans born post-World War II.  Despite enemy demonstrations of absolute conviction, our military is today stationed peacefully in Japan.

Overuse of suicide attackers does not appear to cause Americans to cower, but to evoke Americans to want to kill the perpetrator.

Al Qaeda in Iraq was partially but significantly undone by overuse of suicide attackers.  The Taliban is marching down the same path, but top-tier Taliban are smarter than al Qaeda and are trying to avert backlash.

Savage behavior continues to turn people against the Taliban.  Realizing this, Mullah Omar and his Taliban issued a code of conduct in 2009: “Rules and Regulations for Mujahidin.”

Item 41:

Make sure you meet these 4 conditions in conducting suicide attacks:

A-Before he goes for the mission, he should be very educated in his mission.
B-Suicide attacks should be done always against high ranking people.
C-Try your best to avoid killing local people.
D-Unless they have special permission from higher authority, every suicide attack must be approved by higher authority.

In 2009, one report indicated there were 148 suicide bombings or attempts in Afghanistan.  Suicide murders continue to occur a short drive from here that are not meeting the above requirements.  Taliban continue to hit all manner of targets, and regularly slaughter non-combatant men, women and children.

Within a week subsequent to the publication of this dispatch, suicide murderers will likely kill innocent people here.  The Taliban’s efforts at repackaging themselves as kinder, gentler mass-murderers is failing.  Their suicide bombing campaign is backfiring.  The Taliban are losing their cool.  Something is in the air.  The enemy remains very deadly, yet the scent of their weakness is growing stronger while our people close the in.
27561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: March 25, 2010, 10:34:37 AM
Now apparently the Obama team is planning to go for amnesty for the 11-20 million illegal aliens and future Democrat voters and the 30-50 million family members now in their home countries that they will be able to anchor in the coming decades angry

Oh, and by the way, these 11-20 million illegal and soon to be amnestied new Democratic voters, a goodly % of whom will wind up on Medicaid, are not part of the budgetary calculations of the new Health Law , , ,
27562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: california on: March 25, 2010, 10:25:23 AM
See the clip in my entry of March 21 as to a reason I have stayed this long.
27563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton, 1788 to NY Ratifying Convention on: March 25, 2010, 10:23:27 AM
"I trust that the proposed Constitution afford a genuine specimen of representative government and republican government; and that it will  answer, in an eminent degree, all the beneficial purposes of society." --Alexander Hamilton, speech to the New York Ratifying Convention, 1788
27564  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why California is doomed on: March 24, 2010, 10:21:44 PM
March 9, 2010

Why California Is Doomed
By Charles Hugh Smith   

California is doomed for two simple but profound reasons: the cost structure is too high for most businesses to survive, and a boom-dependent economy.
The dysfunctions crippling California would easily fill a volume: a dysfunctional Legislature that has been gerrymandered to protect virtually every seat; a dysfunctional proposition system which enables special interests to craft Protected Fiefdoms via the ballot box; recalcitrant public unions who don't see anything wrong with public servants getting 90% of top-pay in pensions while still earning big bucks as "contract employees," an enormous population of undocumented workers who pay only sales taxes, and whose employers pay no payroll taxes, either-- and that just scratches the surface.
I want to highlight two systemic, structural causes for California's impending bankruptcy as a state and as an "economy": a crushingly high costs structure and an economy entirely dependent on the next boom.
I know this sounds too simplistic to be meaningful, but I think there is much truth in this statement: Costs are too high because the guy before you paid too much.
In other words, you can't afford the $500,000 mortgage on the $625,000 house you bought in 2008 because the guy before you paid $550,000 for a house which sold for $140,000 in 1997.
These numbers are drawn from reality: our friends bought a small home in a desirable suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area for $140,000 in 1997. Yes, it was a fixer-upper and yes, our friends completely remodeled it. The fair value of the house after renovation was probably in the $175,000 to $190,000 range, tops.
They sold the house in 2005 for $550,000, and that buyer unloaded the house in 2008 for $625,000.
This represents approximately $235,000 of actual value (the $175,000 adjusted for inflation from 1997 to 2010 as per the BLS inflation calculator) and $390,000 of "credit-bubble" excess.
Yet that "bubble valuation" is an actual cost now that somebody borrowed money to pay that grossly inflated price. This mechanism is absolutely key to understanding the California economy's fundamental insolvency: the apartment rent is high because the landlord overpaid, the office rent is high because the landlord overpaid, the house is too high because the previous owner overpaid and his/her lender ponied up the mortgage based on bubble valuations.
You can see the bubble in this chart of median home prices in California:

It even explains why Napa Valley is going bust, as a story submitted by frequent contributor U. Doran called "Vineyard Defaults Surge as Bargain Wines Hurt Napa Valley" reveals.
Wine costs are partly driven by the fact that the last guy grossly overpaid for vineyard land. Now the lenders are scrambling, but it's all too late; bubbles burst, and sadly for the lenders and those who bought at the top of the bubble, there will be no boom to save them.
Hunkering down and awaiting the next boom is a strategy as old as the state itself. When the easily plucked gold in the Sierra Nevada ran out, the economy based on supplying distant mining camps died right along with hundreds of those camps.
But then the Comstock Lode of silver was discovered in Nevada, and California--especially San Francisco--was bailed out by a veritable flood of fresh wealth pouring out of the mines.
More recently, the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 90s gutted the defense industry which had been a mainstay of the California economy since World War II. That "depression" lowered real estate values and caused many bankruptcies, personal and business alike.
But then the biotech and personal computer/software revolution took hold (the Macintosh took off as the laser printer revolutionized desktop publishing, etc.) and the next boom was under way. Tax revenues skyrocketed and Silicon Valley was the envy of the world, sparking wannabe "incubators of wealth" from New York (Silicon Alley) to Malaysia and beyond.
While no boom runs white-hot forever, the residents of California have come to expect a new bubble/boom to arise to fuel rising tax revenues and real estate valuations. Just as the PC revolution peaked (1995's "Start Me Up" Windows launch (as the bumper sticker had it, "Mac 1985, Windows 1995"), then the Internet boom started, triggering a frenzy of overinvestment and bubblicious valuations.
After that bubble burst in 2001, hot-spots in San Francisco and the valley lost some luster, and about 120,000 workers lost their jobs and left Northern California. But once again, a new wave of web-enabled businesses arose: Netflix, the Google juggernaut, Apple reclaimed the crown of global device/software integration innovation, Twitter, etc. etc.
But the current Web 2.0 boom is not generating a flood of new wealth which spreads over the landscape. Twitter has about 100 employees and might double to 200. Apple employs a few thousand people in Cupertino but all its manufacturing is done elsewhere.
What nobody seems to notice is that Web 2.0 is all about leveraging automated software. You don't need 10,000 people to run Twitter or Facebook.
And as I noted yesterday, these Web 2.0 businesses based on advertising revenues are inherently limited to the pool of available advertisers whose adverts are actually generating revenues. You can't reinflate a trillion dollars of real estate with 200 employees.
California is now the world capital of Denial. Everyone from the State legislature to union officials to realtors to small business owners are hanging on, refusing to face the fact that there will be no boom to save them and the state. To survive one more year, they're borrowing money, hiding debts and real valuations, monkeying with the books and playing accounting tricks, borrowing from next year's revenues, selling bonds--anything to maintain the artifice of solvency for 2010 so the next boom (conveniently scheduled for 2011) will lift real estate values, create hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs and launch entire new industries.
Welcome to the Golden State of Denial. Without another global bubble--for California is a global economy--then California is doomed to insolvency at every level, public and private.
A return to historical levels of real estate valuations will bankrupt every lender and every owner with debts based on bubble valuations. State and local governments are thus doubly doomed, as their property tax revenues dry up and payroll taxes dwindle along with the job count.
California's entire cost structure is based on bubble/boom valuations and the vast tax revenues generated by those bubbles/booms.
The problem in California is everything costs too much: auto insurance costs more, gasoline costs more, taxes are near the top, especially on those households who make more than $100,000 a year, sales taxes are basically 10%, workers compensation insurance, business licenses, vehicle taxes, State Park admission/parking fees, rent, housing, and on and on.
The state and all its local governments have grown fat on endless bubbles and booms, and are now refusing to face the long lean years ahead. California is like the pilgrim who gets saved by a miracle at every turn. The economic miracles can't run out, because we've always been saved before.
As the disclaimer puts it: past performance is not a guide to future performance.
In some ways, California's dependence on bubbles and booms mirrors the nation as a whole; as with so many things, California has just extended the fantasy further.


Charles Hugh Smith is a novelist, commentator, and author of Of Two Minds, Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation, and Survival+ The Primer
27565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: March 24, 2010, 08:16:54 PM
This most certainly is true.  We have seen many fraudulent claims of hateful behavior, and have seen complete silence when hateful or violent behavior comes from the Left e.g. the SEIU thugs beating up that black man who was a Tea Partier.
27566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: March 24, 2010, 03:03:52 PM
This most certainly is not the way forward.

 angry angry angry
27567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our Man formerly in Iraq on: March 24, 2010, 07:41:13 AM
forwards this to me:

Link to a decent article about how the Sadrists did pretty well in the recent Iraqi election, at the expense of the Kurds.  To the point that, because of the relative neck and neck tie between the two major parties, the Sadrists may well be the bloc that tips the scales in favor of a coalition that can prevail.
There is mention several times about how the Sadrists essentially game the system quite effectively with the people in order to achieve their political goals, yet certainly haven't surrendered their military arm. 
27568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Patrick Henry, 1775 on: March 24, 2010, 06:47:11 AM
"Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" --Patrick Henry, Speech to the Virginia Convention, March 23, 1775
27569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams 1776; Jefferson resource on: March 24, 2010, 06:31:44 AM
"A constitution founded on these principles introduces knowledge among the people, and inspires them with a conscious dignity becoming  freemen; a general emulation takes place, which causes good humor, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general. That elevation of sentiment inspired by such a government, makes the common people brave and enterprising. That ambition which is inspired by it makes them sober, industrious, and frugal." --John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

All things Thomas Jefferson
27570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prager: Civil War on: March 24, 2010, 12:51:54 AM

It's a Civil War: What We Do Now
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
A terrible thing happened to America on Sunday, March 21, 2010.

The country took its biggest step ever down a road diametrically opposed to its original intent of keeping the state small so that the individual can be free and great.

Therefore, in this unprecedented crisis of values, this is what needs to be done:

1. Know and teach America's core values.

We got to this point solely because over the past few generations, Americans have forgotten the values that have made America distinctive and great. Even the "Greatest Generation" failed to communicate them.

In a nutshell, they are what I call the American Trinity: "In God we trust," "Liberty" and "E Pluribus Unum." The left has successfully made war on all three -- substituting secularism for God and religion in as much of American life as possible; substituting equality (of result) for liberty; and multiculturalism is the opposite of "E Pluribus Unum."

People who do not understand American ideals -- especially small government -- now dominate our schools, our entertainment media and our news media.

(My own contribution here is a video titled, "The American Trinity" at Please view it and forward it.)

2. Recognize that we are fighting the left, not liberals.

Conservatives and centrists are no longer fighting liberals. We are fighting the left.

Liberalism believed in American exceptionalism; the left not only does not believe in it, the left opposes it. President Obama, when asked if he believes in American exceptionalism, replied, "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."

Liberalism believed in creating wealth; the left is interested in redistributing it.

Liberalism believed in a strong defense. The left believes in cutting defense and a strong United Nations.

3. Democrats should be referred to as Social Democrats. This is not meant to be cute, let alone as a slur. But calling Democrats Social Democrats is an effective way of reminding Americans that there is no longer any difference between what is now known as the Democratic Party and the Social Democratic parties of Europe. When the Democratic Party returns to its roots as a liberal, not a left-wing, party, we will happily resume calling the party by its original name. However, since no Democrat can cite a significant difference between the Democratic Party and the SD parties, there is no good reason not to use the more accurate nomenclature.

4. Work tirelessly to repeal the bill.

We must single-mindedly work to repeal the government health plan. We all know that it is difficult to repeal entitlements because they are like drugs and it is very difficult to wean people off drugs. But it is not impossible. We need to warn our fellow Americans that entitlements will do to America what drugs eventually do to addicts.

All Republicans must run for office on the "repeal" issue. Even when they lose, the difference between right and left, between Republicans and Social Democrats will have been made clear; and clarity is our best friend.

5. Our motto: "The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen."

I used this phrase in addressing the Republican members of Congress. It has become widely used, including by Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., on the House floor during the Congressional debate on Sunday. It encapsulates this epic battle of American values versus leftist values. Every movement needs a motto. I nominate this.

6. Do not let other matters distract.

Neither Republicans nor conservatives are united on every issue facing America. Immigration is one example. But we are united on the big government vs. free individual issue, which, more than anything else, has defined America. If we allow any other domestic issue to divide us, we will lose.

And here's why: If Americans forget what America stands for, it won't help us if there is not one illegal immigrant here. And if we do remember what it means to be American, we can handle anything.

7. Acknowledge that we are in a non-violent civil war.

I write the words "civil war" with an ache in my heart. But we are in one.

Thank God this civil war is non-violent. But the fact is that the left and the rest of the country share almost no values. The American value system and the leftist value system are irreconcilable. If the left wins, America's values lose. If American values prevail, the left loses.

After Sunday's vote, for the first time in American history, one could no longer confidently believe that the American system will prevail. And if we don't fight for it, we don't deserve it.
27571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Britain's National Health Service on: March 24, 2010, 12:02:35 AM
The Fix Is In
Why Britain’s National Health Service spends so much and does so little
22 March 2010

Americans would do well to ponder a recent admission by a former British minister in the Blair government. On March 2, the Guardianreported that the ex-minister, now Lord Warner, said that while spending on Britain’s National Health Service had increased by 60 percent under the Labour government, its output had decreased by 4 percent. No doubt the spending of a Soviet-style organization like the NHS is more easily measurable than its output, but the former minister’s remark certainly accords with the experiences of many citizens, who see no dramatic improvement in the service as a result of such vastly increased outlays. On the contrary, while the service has taken on 400,000 new staff members—that is to say, one-fifth of all new jobs created in Britain during the period—continuity of medical care has been all but extinguished. Nobody now expects to see the same doctor on successive occasions, in the hospital or anywhere else.

The ex-minister admitted that most of the extra money—which by now must equal a decent proportion of the total national debt—had been simply wasted. (The same might be said, of course, of the increased outlays put toward state education.) But his explanation for this state of affairs was superficial and self-exculpating, to say the least: he said that the NHS received more money than it knew what to do with because of managerial inexperience. “It was like giving a starving man foie gras and caviar,” he said.

As it happens, the NHS knew exactly what to do with the money: give it to its staff, new and old. British doctors, for example, are now the second-highest-paid in the world, though not necessarily the happiest. They have accepted the money on condition that they also accept—as quietly as mice—increasing government interference in their work. When you go to a family doctor in Britain, he is more likely to do what the government thinks he ought to do and will pay him a bonus for doing than what he thinks is right. This is sinister, even when what the government thinks is right happens to be right.

There is a possible explanation other than managerial inexperience for the waste, namely that the waste was intended and desired: indeed, that it was the principal object of the spending. Experience has long shown that further spending by state-monopoly suppliers of services (if services is quite the word I seek) benefits not the consumers but the providers. And they—ever more numerous—naturally vote for their own providers, the politicians. Thus the NHS has become an enormously expensive method of ballot-stuffing. Personally, I would rather have outright electoral fraud. It would be less expensive and slightly more honest.

Just before the last election, the chief executive of one of the hospitals in which I once worked was overheard saying, “My job is to make sure that the government is reelected.” (The government’s job, in turn, was to make sure that she remained chief executive.) She also explained that the hospital could expect no increase in its government funding, unlike other hospitals—because it was located in an area in which most people voted for the government anyway.

Theodore Dalrymple's most recent book is The New Vichy Syndrome.
27572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 23, 2010, 05:34:09 PM
Some of these are petty, but plenty are not.

From IBD

20 Ways ObamaCare Will Take Away Our Freedoms
By David Hogberg Posted 03/21/2010 03:24 PM ET

If some reports are to be believed, the Democrats will pass the Senate health care bill with some reconciliation changes later today. Thus, it is worthwhile to take a comprehensive look at the freedoms we will lose.

Of course, the bill is supposed to provide us with security. But it will result in skyrocketing insurance costs and physicians leaving the field in droves, making it harder to afford and find medical care. We may be about to live Benjamin Franklin’s adage, “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.”

The sections described below are taken from HR 3590 as agreed to by the Senate and from the reconciliation bill as displayed by the Rules Committee.

1. You are young and don’t want health insurance? You are starting up a small business and need to minimize expenses, and one way to do that is to forego health insurance? Tough. You have to pay $750 annually for the “privilege.” (Section 1501)

2. You are young and healthy and want to pay for insurance that reflects that status? Tough. You’ll have to pay for premiums that cover not only you, but also the guy who smokes three packs a day, drink a gallon of whiskey and eats chicken fat off the floor. That’s because insurance companies will no longer be able to underwrite on the basis of a person’s health status. (Section 2701).

3. You would like to pay less in premiums by buying insurance with lifetime or annual limits on coverage? Tough. Health insurers will no longer be able to offer such policies, even if that is what customers prefer. (Section 2711).

4. Think you’d like a policy that is cheaper because it doesn’t cover preventive care or requires cost-sharing for such care? Tough. Health insurers will no longer be able to offer policies that do not cover preventive services or offer them with cost-sharing, even if that’s what the customer wants. (Section 2712).

5. You are an employer and you would like to offer coverage that doesn’t allow your employers’ slacker children to stay on the policy until age 26? Tough. (Section 2714).

6. You must buy a policy that covers ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment; prescription drugs; rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services; chronic disease management; and pediatric services, including oral and vision care.
You’re a single guy without children? Tough, your policy must cover pediatric services. You’re a woman who can’t have children? Tough, your policy must cover maternity services. You’re a teetotaler? Tough, your policy must cover substance abuse treatment. (Add your own violation of personal freedom here.) (Section 1302).

7. Do you want a plan with lots of cost-sharing and low premiums? Well, the best you can do is a “Bronze plan,” which has benefits that provide benefits that are actuarially equivalent to 60% of the full actuarial value of the benefits provided under the plan. Anything lower than that, tough. (Section 1302 (d)(1)(A))

8. You are an employer in the small-group insurance market and you’d like to offer policies with deductibles higher than $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families? Tough. (Section 1302 (c) (2) (A).

9. If you are a large employer (defined as at least 101 employees) and you do not want to provide health insurance to your employee, then you will pay a $750 fine per employee (It could be $2,000 to $3,000 under the reconciliation changes). Think you know how to better spend that money? Tough. (Section 1513).
10. You are an employer who offers health flexible spending arrangements and your employees want to deduct more than $2,500 from their salaries for it? Sorry, can’t do that. (Section 9005 (i)).

11. If you are a physician and you don’t want the government looking over your shoulder? Tough. The Secretary of Health and Human Services is authorized to use your claims data to issue you reports that measure the resources you use, provide information on the quality of care you provide, and compare the resources you use to those used by other physicians. Of course, this will all be just for informational purposes. It’s not like the government will ever use it to intervene in your practice and patients’ care. Of course not. (Section 3003 (i))

12. If you are a physician and you want to own your own hospital, you must be an owner and have a “Medicare provider agreement” by Feb. 1, 2010. (Dec. 31, 2010 in the reconciliation changes.) If you didn’t have those by then, you are out of luck. (Section 6001 (i) (1) (A)).

13. If you are a physician owner and you want to expand your hospital? Well, you can’t (Section 6001 (i) (1) (B). Unless, it is located in a country where, over the last five years, population growth has been 150% of what it has been in the state (Section 6601 (i) (3) ( E)). And then you cannot increase your capacity by more than 200% (Section 6001 (i) (3) (C)).

14. You are a health insurer and you want to raise premiums to meet costs? Well, if that increase is deemed “unreasonable” by the Secretary of Health and Human Services it will be subject to review and can be denied. (Section 1003)

15. The government will extract a fee of $2.3 billion annually from the pharmaceutical industry. If you are a pharmaceutical company what you will pay depends on the ratio of the number of brand-name drugs you sell to the total number of brand-name drugs sold in the U.S. So, if you sell 10% of the brand-name drugs in the U.S., what you pay will be 10% multiplied by $2.3 billion, or $230,000,000. (Under reconciliation, it starts at $2.55 billion, jumps to $3 billion in 2012, then to $3.5 billion in 2017 and $4.2 billion in 2018, before settling at $2.8 billion in 2019 (Section 1404)). Think you, as a pharmaceutical executive, know how to better use that money, say for research and development? Tough. (Section 9008 (b)).

16. The government will extract a fee of $2 billion annually from medical device makers. If you are a medical device maker what you will pay depends on your share of medical device sales in the U.S. So, if you sell 10% of the medical devices in the U.S., what you pay will be 10% multiplied by $2 billion, or $200,000,000. Think you, as a medical device maker, know how to better use that money, say for R&D? Tough. (Section 9009 (b)).
The reconciliation package turns that into a 2.9% excise tax for medical device makers. Think you, as a medical device maker, know how to better use that money, say for research and development? Tough. (Section 1405).

17. The government will extract a fee of $6.7 billion annually from insurance companies. If you are an insurer, what you will pay depends on your share of net premiums plus 200% of your administrative costs. So, if your net premiums and administrative costs are equal to 10% of the total, you will pay 10% of $6.7 billion, or $670,000,000. In the reconciliation bill, the fee will start at $8 billion in 2014, $11.3 billion in 2015, $1.9 billion in 2017, and $14.3 billion in 2018 (Section 1406).Think you, as an insurance executive, know how to better spend that money? Tough.(Section 9010 (b) (1) (A and B).)

18. If an insurance company board or its stockholders think the CEO is worth more than $500,000 in deferred compensation? Tough.(Section 9014).

19. You will have to pay an additional 0.5% payroll tax on any dollar you make over $250,000 if you file a joint return and $200,000 if you file an individual return. What? You think you know how to spend the money you earned better than the government? Tough. (Section 9015).
That amount will rise to a 3.8% tax if reconciliation passes. It will also apply to investment income, estates, and trusts. You think you know how to spend the money you earned better than the government? Like you need to ask. (Section 1402).

20. If you go for cosmetic surgery, you will pay an additional 5% tax on the cost of the procedure. Think you know how to spend that money you earned better than the government? Tough. (Section 9017).

27573  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Seattle, Sept 11-12, 2010 on: March 23, 2010, 05:33:32 PM
It now appears that there is some additional interest in the area and that I may be there longer.
27574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More on CAIR on: March 23, 2010, 05:25:22 PM
In Defense Of The Constitution
News & Analysis
March 23, 2010

     CAIR:  Legitimacy Questioned

     Several Oklahoma state lawmakers recently faced questions over their announced attendance at the Council on American-Islamic Relations Oklahoma chapter's annual banquet (CAIR-OK). CAIR sent an email touting the attendance of Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, Attorney General Drew Edmondson, Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones, two state senators and seven state representatives.  The email featured photos of several people including State Rep. Richard Morrissette and Attorney General Drew Edmondson.   

     Morrissette and Edmondson later said they would not attend the CAIR event after learning of CAIR's disreputable background.  While this was good news for those who support the marginalizing of Islamist hate groups generally, and CAIR in particular, there are questions that Oklahoma’s politicians should be called upon to answer.

• Did any state officials bother to do even a cursory check on CAIR’s background before accepting invitations from CAIR?  Considering the threat of terror present in the country today, it would appear that people on some official’s staff are dropped the ball.

• If a background check was done on CAIR before accepting an invitation, who did the check and what was the result(s)?  Was Oklahoma law enforcement consulted?  If so, what was its opinion(s)?

• State Rep. Richard Morrissette says he was not intending to attend CAIR’s event and that after learning more about the issue he informed CAIR he was disassociating himself from the group.  The question he should answer is if he was not intending to attend, why did CAIR feel free to use his photo and imply he would attend?  In addition, Morrissette should explain what was his opinion of CAIR before his attendance became public?  What specific information about CAIR made him change his mind?

• Attorney General Drew Edmondson, candidate for Governor, also opted out from attending. Why did CAIR feel empowered to use his photograph?  How does AG Edmondson feel knowing that a Muslim Brotherhood front group created to support Hamas was using him as a shill to feign legitimacy? Why isn’t the AG, the top lawman in Oklahoma, better informed about CAIR?  Shouldn’t Oklahoma's AG be better informed of the threat of radical Islam and Islamist supporting terrorist groups?  The AG has a lot of explaining to do if he wants to be Governor.

     Kevin Calvey, a former state representative and candidate for U.S. Congress says it is inappropriate for elected officials to attend any CAIR event.  He notes court action and FBI evidence exposing CAIR's ties to Hamas.  Calvey has personally attended protests denouncing CAIR and turned down meeting with Razi Hashmi, the executive director of CAIR Oklahoma’s chapter unless Hashmi denounced CAIR.  In a bleating response to Calvey's challenge, Hashmi insisted that CAIR is all about "building bridges" and "defending civil rights" of Muslims. “Having me denounce CAIR, that’s out of the question,” ... “I’d never do that.”

     If it weren’t such a tragedy it’d be comedic that CAIR claims to be “building bridges” when their brothers in Hamas are working so hard to come up with new ways to kill Jews, Americans, and anyone else who disagrees with their perverted religious ideology.

     Razi Hashmi and his fellow Islamofascists at CAIR should never have legitimacy conferred on them or any group they associate with.  Doing so gives aid and comfort to the very people that are working so hard to destroy our country from within.

     CAIR and their fellow travelers must be shunned and exposed. The evidence against them is overwhelming and clear. Our political leadership, regardless of party, should be standing in the vanguard setting the example for the rest of us.

     Or they should get out of the way of those who will.

Andrew Whitehead

Story Links
27575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH article on legal challenges to Health measure on: March 23, 2010, 08:03:12 AM
Health Measure’s Opponents Plan Legal Challenges
Published: March 22, 2010

Officials in a dozen states who oppose the health care bill say they hope to block it in court by arguing that requiring people to buy health insurance is an unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into people’s lives — the equivalent of going a step beyond simply regulating automobiles to requiring people to buy a car. They add that the bill would rewrite the relationship between federal and state government, and they plan to make their argument in court as soon as the legislation becomes law.

“We plan to file the moment Obama signs the bill,” Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general, wrote on his Facebook page.

But constitutional scholars suggest that such cases would likely amount to no more than a speed bump for health care legislation. The reason, they say, is that Congress has framed the mandate as a tax, which it has well-established powers to create. And Congress’s sweeping authority to regulate the nation’s economy, they add, has been clear since the 1930s.

“The attack on this bill,” said Jack M. Balkin, a professor of constitutional law at Yale University, “is not merely an attack on the substance of this particular measure. It’s also a challenge to understandings that come with the New Deal.”

Florida’s attorney general, Bill McCollum, is leading the effort to block the new bill, saying that it “violates the U.S. Constitution and infringes on each state’s sovereignty.”

Mr. McCollum pledged to fight alongside attorneys general from Alabama, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington. Louisiana announced it would join the suit as well, and Virginia, which has passed a law barring government mandates to buy health insurance, has said it will also file suit.

Their arguments in court are likely to focus on the scope of the mandate and the intrusion of the federal government into state affairs, said David B. Rivkin Jr., a lawyer advising Florida who served in the Justice Department under President Ronald Reagan and the first President George Bush.

“This really goes to the heart of the constitutional architecture that the framers have devised” between the government and its citizens, Mr. Rivkin said. He also said that it would represent “a qualitatively unprecedented expansion of federal authority at the expense of the states.”

Whatever people feel about the worthiness of the bill’s goals, “the Constitution does matter,” he added.

Prof. Randy E. Barnett, who teaches constitutional law at Georgetown University Law Center and has been critical of the bill, said a constitutional challenge to the individual requirement to purchase insurance is a “a serious argument that might have success.”

Still, Professor Barnett was careful not to predict that the opponents of the bill would block the legislation completely. He said that even if a court were to strike down the requirement to buy insurance, such a ruling would still be likely to leave other elements of the law in place. Professor Balkin of Yale said the mandate did not run afoul of the Constitution because Congress had carefully structured it as a tax — and taxes are fully within its power.

“People have to pay taxes all the time,” he said. “This is not new.”

Courts generally defer to Congress’s taxation decisions and definitions so long as they constitute a “genuine revenue-raising device,” Professor Balkin said, and so the health insurance mandate is likely to pass muster.

The broad extent of the government’s power to regulate interstate commerce has been recognized since the Roosevelt administration. In fact, courts have backed Congress’s ability to regulate under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, even when the issues might not seem, at first blush, to even involve interstate commerce at all. That is why Roscoe Filburn, a small farmer in Ohio, had to destroy wheat that exceeded production quotas in a 1942 case, even though he was growing the wheat for his own use and had no intention to sell it.  And in 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress could prohibit medical marijuana, despite some state laws that allow it. The people who had filed suit argued that they had not bought the marijuana, but the Supreme Court said the Commerce Clause still applied.

“In both cases, the Supreme Court said the cumulative effect of your attempt not to participate in the market has an effect on markets — and we can regulate it,” Professor Balkin said.

Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar and dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, said the argument that people should have the right not to buy health care was “rhetorically appealing” because of its paean to personal freedom. But “individual freedom not to purchase health care, I think, has no basis in Constitutional law.”

In fact, Professor Chemerinsky added, “there is no case law, post 1937, that would support an individual’s right not to buy health care if the government wants to mandate it.”

Congress has often taken actions that impinge on personal freedom for a national purpose, he noted, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which required hotels and restaurants to serve minorities.

“If the court stays true to its Commerce Clause jurisprudence of the last 15 years,” Professor Chemerinsky said, “I think this will be upheld.”
27576  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 23, 2010, 06:15:55 AM
I now realize who Carwin is.  Whoa!  shocked
27577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Did Thomas Jefferson get stoned? on: March 23, 2010, 06:10:50 AM

Did Thomas Jefferson get stoned?

"1806 July "I remember seeing in your greenhouse a plant of a couple of feet
height in a pot the fragrance of which (from its gummy bud if I recollect
rightly) was peculiarly agreeable to me..." (Jefferson to W.Hamilton,
Betts, Garden Book, 323)"
27578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: March 23, 2010, 06:10:10 AM
Obama and Clinton both want to use the firepower of the Mexican cartels to justify sabotaging American gun rights through international treaties-- as if the kinds of guns they use were available to US citizens!  No automatics at my store!  No grenade launchers either!  And who originally created and trained the Zetas?  The US government!  But I digress , , ,

They also want to use the drug wars in Mexico to justify enabling more immigration and work visas for Mexicans; the better to have more amnesty to create tens of millions of new voters for the Progressive agenda.

On a lighter note, here's this.  Did Thomas Jefferson get stoned?

"1806 July "I remember seeing in your greenhouse a plant of a couple of feet
height in a pot the fragrance of which (from its gummy bud if I recollect
rightly) was peculiarly agreeable to me..." (Jefferson to W.Hamilton,
Betts, Garden Book, 323)"
27579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: March 22, 2010, 08:32:41 PM
Do you know why gorillas have such big nostrils?

They have big fingers.
How many flies does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Two, but nobody knows how they got in there in the first place
27580  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: How long does it take various knife wounds to incapacitate? on: March 22, 2010, 06:57:32 PM
Good teaching question Kaju:

To kick things off, this grasshopper will assay an answer.  The precision of my anatomical knowledge is de minimis, so please forgive me if I am wide of the mark.

I once heard someone say that a tennis ball, baseball, grenade? (pin still in, duh) could be put in the armpit and then the arm belted around the waist.  Drivel or practical?  huh


Are you saying there are tourniquets built into that shirt and those pants?
27581  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Head Count for the Tribal Gathering on: March 22, 2010, 06:49:22 PM
Woof All:

Even if you have already posted already in the other thread, please post here if you are coming:

1: Crafty Dog: Ringmaster

2: Lonely Dog

3: Guide Dog

4: Doc Kaju as EMT

"HCTHC" (c)
27582  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spring 2010 DB Tribal Gathering on: March 22, 2010, 06:15:38 PM
A Howl to the Tribe:

Please post here and/or in the DBMAA forum if you are coming. 

Woof Kaju:

It would be my pleasure. cool  Please email me and we will get things rolling.
27583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 22, 2010, 04:12:13 PM
"If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until the government makes it free."

PJ O'Rourke
27584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: March 22, 2010, 11:09:31 AM
The Foundation
"Human beings will generally exercise power when they can get it, and they will exercise it most undoubtedly in popular governments under pretense of public safety." --Daniel Webster

Toward the Nationalization of Health Care

The Pied PiperWith Senate and House passage of Barack Hussein Obama's so-called "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," liberals have now sealed the deal to nationalize the American health care system -- almost 17 percent of the U.S. economy. Passage of this measure completes the "triple crown" of the Left's Socialist agenda: Social Security, Medicare and now health care. One may conclude that nationalized health care, like Social Security and Medicare before it, will soon be bankrupt. (See how your Senator and Representative voted.)

There is no provision in the United States Constitution giving the central government the authority to nationalize health care, but liberals have never let the Constitution stand in the way of their incremental efforts to socialize the U.S. economy.

Remarks by the leaders of both House Republicans and Democrats demonstrate that neither Party's leadership has sufficient regard for First Principles, for Constitutional Rule of Law.

Most Republicans give it scant lip service, while virtually all Democrats reject Rule of Law outright.

In his remarks about the legislation, Republican Leader John Boehner did mention the Constitution, but repeated the same worn refrains about what the American people want.

"Today, this body, this institution, enshrined in the first article of the Constitution by our Founding Fathers as a sign of the importance they placed on this House, should be looking with pride on this legislation and our work. But it is not so. ... When we came here, we each swore an oath to uphold and abide by the Constitution as representatives of the people. But the process here is broken. The institution is broken. And as a result, this bill is not what the American people need, nor what our constituents want. ... We have failed to listen to America. And we have failed to reflect the will of our constituents."

No, Mr. Boehner. You did not take an oath to support and defend the "will of our constituents."

In her remarks about the legislation, Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not, of course, mention the Constitution, but she did offer this adulterated view of First Principles, an outright prevarication: "In [passing this legislation], we will honor the vows of our Founders, who in the Declaration of Independence said that we are 'endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' This legislation will lead to healthier lives, more liberty to pursue hopes and dreams and happiness for the American people."

This assertion is an affront to everything our Founders embodied in our national documents of incorporation, and Pelosi, et al., know that.

Pelosi added, "You will be joining those who established Medicare and Social Security... This is an American proposal that honors the tradition of our country."

Nails in the coffin!

For his part, Obama remarked, "At a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics. We proved that this government, a government of the people and by the people, still works for the people. ... This isn't radical reform, but it is major reform. This is what change looks like. ... This represents another stone firmly laid at the foundation of the American Dream."

That would be a tombstone, a grave marker for American liberty.

The Gipper
"For many years now, you and I have been shushed like children and told there are no simple answers to the complex problems which are beyond our comprehension. Well, the truth is, there are simple answers, they just are not easy ones. The time has come for us to decide whether collectively we can afford everything and anything we think of simply because we think of it. The time has come to run a check to see if all the services government provides were in answer to demands or were just goodies dreamed up for our supposed betterment. The time has come to match outgo to income, instead of always doing it the other way around." --Ronald Reagan

Political Futures
"House Democrats last night passed President Obama's federal takeover of the U.S. health-care system, and the ticker tape media parade is already underway. So this hour of liberal political victory is a good time to adapt the 'Pottery Barn' rule that Colin Powell once invoked on Iraq: You break it, you own it. This week's votes don't end our health-care debates. By making medical care a subsidiary of Washington, they guarantee such debates will never end. And by ramming the vote through Congress on a narrow partisan majority, and against so much popular opposition, Democrats have taken responsibility for what comes next -- to insurance premiums, government spending, doctor shortages and the quality of care. They are now the rulers of American medicine. ... While the passage of ObamaCare marks a liberal triumph, its impact will play out over many years. We fought this bill so vigorously because we have studied government health care in other countries, and the results include much higher taxes, slower economic growth and worse medical care. As for the politics, the first verdict arrives in November." --The Wall Street Journal

For the Record
"Never before has the average American been treated to such a live-action view of the sordid politics necessary to push a deeply flawed bill to completion. It was dirty deals, open threats, broken promises and disregard for democracy that pulled ObamaCare to this point, and yesterday the same machinations pushed it across the finish line. ... By the weekend, all the pressure and threats and bribes had left the speaker three to five votes short. Her remaining roadblock was those pro-life members who'd boxed themselves in on abortion, saying they would vote against the Senate bill unless it barred public funding of abortion. Mrs. Pelosi's first instinct was to go around this bloc, getting the votes elsewhere. She couldn't. Into Saturday night, Michigan's Bart Stupak and Mrs. Pelosi wrangled over options. The stalemate? Any change that gave Mr. Stupak what he wanted in law would lose votes from pro-choice members. The solution? Remove it from Congress altogether, having the president instead sign a meaningless executive order affirming that no public money should go to pay for abortions. The order won't change the Senate legal language -- as pro-choice Democrats publicly crowed within minutes of the Stupak deal. Executive orders can be changed or eliminated on a whim. Pro-life groups condemned the order as the vote-getting ruse it was. Nevertheless, Mr. Stupak and several of his colleagues voted yes, paving the way to Mrs. Pelosi's final vote tally of 219." --columnist Kimberley Strassel

"[Barack Obama's] primary goal has always been to gobble up the health care system. The most troubling aspect of the Obamacare debate, however, is not the measure's sweeping and radical aims -- the transformation of one-sixth of the U.S. economy, crippling tax increases, higher premiums, state-sanctioned rationing, longer waiting lines, the erosion of the quality of medical care and the creation of a huge, permanent administrative bureaucracy. Rather, the most alarming aspect is the lengths to which the Democrats are willing to go to achieve their progressive, anti-capitalist agenda. Obamacare is opposed by nearly two-thirds of the public, more than 60 percent of independents and almost all Republicans and conservatives. It has badly fractured the country, dangerously polarizing it along ideological and racial lines. Even a majority of Democrats in the House are deeply reluctant to support it. Numerous states -- from Idaho to Virginia to Texas -- have said they will sue the federal government should Obamacare become law. They will declare themselves exempt from its provisions, tying up the legislation in the courts for years to come. ... Obama is willing to devour his presidency, his party's congressional majority and - most disturbing - our democratic institutional safeguards to enact it. He is a reckless ideologue who is willing to sacrifice the country's stability in pursuit of a socialist utopia." --columnist Jeffrey Kuhner

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Re: The Left
"Democrats consider election losses a small price to pay for health care 'reform.' Predictions range from moderate fall election losses to a bloodbath resulting in a Republican takeover of the House and possibly even the Senate. To this Democrats say, 'So what?' Once health care reform becomes law, that's that. Only a Republican charge with a filibuster-proof Republican supermajority in the Senate could undo it. Besides, President Bill Clinton got re-elected when the Republicans took over the House. ... Some people refuse to see what's best. That's why God created Democrats. Democrats ultimately want a Canadian-style single-payer system. ObamaCare will result in cost overruns, caregivers driven out of business, declining quality, rationing, reduced innovation and bureaucrats determining who gets what, how and when. What then? When the complaints grow loud enough, Democrats will be ready -- with a plan to 'reform' the 'reform.'" --columnist Larry Elder

Reader Comments
"The Constitution requires that Members of Congress take an oath 'to support this Constitution.' The oath is not specified in detail, but the oath currently used says the member will 'support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign or domestic.' The President's oath is specified in the Constitution. He must swear to 'preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.' In my view, the President's oath is more sweeping. He has the highest obligation in the land to defend the Constitution and our Liberty. Our current President seems intent on destroying, not preserving, the Constitution, and as quickly as possible." --Robert

"Health is not a right. It is a personal responsibility. Health care is not a right. It is a commodity. Health insurance is not a right. It is a financial risk management tool. Those who try to equate the Constitutional right of 'life' with health, heath care, health insurance have got it completely wrong. The Constitution does not guarantee that the federal government will provide you with life. Instead it guarantees that the federal government will not take life away from you. Unless the government has done something to your health that resulted in the loss of your life, then you have no claim against the government, or a right to its monies (which come from taxes). If you fail to take personal responsibility for your health (proper diet, exercise, life style, etc.), that ain't the government's fault. Its your fault and you should bear the burden. If, for some bizarre reason, you can find a Constitutional requirement for providing health insurance to every citizen of this nation, then haven't we been violating the Constitution for nearly the first 130+ years of it's existence?" --Mike

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This high quality vinyl "Cracked Obama" square sticker is self-explanatory. Get some to share with like-minded Patriots! Measures 4".

The Last Word
"Liberals keep complaining that Republicans don't have a plan for reforming health care in America. I have a plan! It's a one-page bill creating a free market in health insurance. Let's all pause here for a moment so liberals can Google the term 'free market.' Nearly every problem with health care in this country -- apart from trial lawyers and out-of-date magazines in doctors' waiting rooms -- would be solved by my plan. In the first sentence, Congress will amend the McCarran-Ferguson Act to allow interstate competition in health insurance. We can't have a free market in health insurance until Congress eliminates the antitrust exemption protecting health insurance companies from competition. ... The very next sentence of my bill provides that the exclusive regulator of insurance companies will be the state where the company's home office is. Every insurance company in the country would incorporate in the state with the fewest government mandates.... The third sentence of my bill would prohibit the federal government from regulating insurance companies, except for normal laws and regulations that apply to all companies. Freed from onerous state and federal mandates turning insurance companies into public utilities, insurers would be allowed to offer a whole smorgasbord of insurance plans, finally giving consumers a choice. Instead of Harry Reid deciding whether your insurance plan covers Viagra, this decision would be made by you, the consumer. (I apologize for using the terms 'Harry Reid' and 'Viagra' in the same sentence. I promise that won't happen again.) Instead of insurance companies jumping to the tune of politicians bought by health-care lobbyists, they would jump to tune of hundreds of millions of Americans buying health insurance on the free market. Hypochondriac liberals could still buy the aromatherapy plan and normal people would be able to buy plans that only cover things such as major illness, accidents and disease. ... This would, in effect, transform medical insurance into ... a form of insurance! My bill will solve nearly every problem allegedly addressed by ObamaCare -- and mine entails zero cost to the taxpayer. Indeed, a free market in health insurance would produce major tax savings as layers of government bureaucrats, unnecessary to medical service in America, get fired. ... In addition to saving taxpayer money and providing better health insurance, my plan also saves trees by being 2,199 pages shorter than the Democrats' plan. Feel free to steal it, Republicans!" --columnist Ann Coulter
27585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton 1802 on: March 22, 2010, 08:57:36 AM
"[T]he present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political foes -- rejecting all changes but through the channel itself provides for amendments." --Alexander Hamilton, letter to James Bayard, 1802
27586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: March 22, 2010, 08:56:54 AM

I just posted that on the American History thread of our SCH forum.


Following up on my previous post:

"[T]he present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political foes -- rejecting all changes but through the channel itself provides for amendments." --Alexander Hamilton, letter to James Bayard, 1802
27587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Stamp Act of 1765 on: March 22, 2010, 08:49:48 AM
With the passage of the Health Bill an apparent certainty, this is a tad ironic.  Hat tip to Freki.

On this day 1765

Great Britain Passes the Stamp Act (1765)
Intended to help pay British debts from the French and Indian War, the Stamp Act established the first direct tax levied on the American colonies. It required all newspapers, pamphlets, legal documents, commercial bills, advertisements, and other papers issued in the colonies to bear a tax stamp. The act was vehemently protested by the colonists, and the Stamp Act Congress—the first significant joint colonial response to any British measure—petitioned for its repeal.
27588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: March 21, 2010, 11:37:00 PM
Keep the government within the boundaries defined by the Constitution.

27589  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 21, 2010, 11:34:26 PM
I was very intrigued to see this fight.  The fight was shaping up nicely when that nasty elbow to the temple or occular socket brought it to an immediate close.

Also interesting was the response to the punch to the eye in an earlier fight.
27590  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Kali Tudo 4: The Dog Leg Game on: March 21, 2010, 11:32:14 PM
Amongst the DLO criteria:

a) As you mention, 360 degree awareness
b) Preventing his weapon access, and enabling yours
c) "consistency across categories" responses to empty hands and contact weapons are essentially the same
d) etc
27591  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: March 21, 2010, 11:29:30 PM
First shipment of orders went out on Saturday.   grin
27592  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Reality oriented training in Atlanta? on: March 21, 2010, 11:20:59 PM
An internet friend writes:
Okay - then here is my question.  I have no hand-to-hand combat training.  I live in Atlanta and want to get it.  I don't have lots of financial resources or time to be traveling to southern CA and plant myself there to train with you and the Dog Brothers as I would like to do.  What do you recommend? 

To the extent that you can recommend a specific school or instructor, I would greatly appreciate that. 

My goal is to be able to defend myself in a fight with armed attackers should that become necessary.  I think my gun skills are pretty decent, but all the grappling and other stuff you and Gabe talk about in the DLO series, while highly desirable skill sets, are of course impossible to learn just by watching.

Any suggestions?

27593  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spring 2010 DB Tribal Gathering on: March 21, 2010, 07:10:05 PM
Yes.  While out in Moreno Valley yesterday for my "Kali Tudo" seminar, I was able to check out the Temecula option.  It is a go.

I also have "The Tree that Walks" brainstorming his vast databank of memories for little hidey spots up in the hills of Palos Verdes (10-20 minutes south of my house in the South Bay-- which is 10 miles south of LAX.

As was always the case, the thing to do is fly in to LAX.
27594  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / My first hill workout on: March 21, 2010, 03:20:06 PM
This was of part of my first hill routine.

Today I did the same, but worked up to 35lbs.
27595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: March 20, 2010, 08:46:35 AM
CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico—This violent border city is turning into a ghost town.

Bloodshed from Mexico's warring drug cartels has sent those with means fleeing this former boomtown. Restaurants have moved north to Texas. The dentists who served Americans with their cheap procedures have taken their equipment south. Even the music is dying here.

Jerome Sessini for The Wall Street Journal
Some 400,000 residents have fled Juárez after two years of drug-related killings, bringing desolation to downtown, seen in December, and beyond.
."The musicians haven't left yet, but they do their shows in El Paso now," says Alfonso Quiñones, a Juárez concert promoter who is trying to organize a jazz festival in the city.

No solid number exists for the exodus, a matter of debate among Juárez's leaders. But the city's planning department estimates 116,000 homes are now abandoned. Measured against the average household size of the last census, the population who inhabited the empty homes alone could be as high as 400,000 people, representing one-third of the city before the violence began.

That would mark one of Mexico's largest single exoduses in decades.

"The problem is that we don't have the rule of law here," says Lucinda Vargas, an economist who runs a civic group called Plan Estratégico de Juárez.

Juárez finds itself in the crossfire between two rival drug gangs, the local Juárez cartel and the powerful Sinaloa cartel, both of whom want to control the city to smuggle drugs into the U.S., the world's biggest drug-consuming market, and capture a lucrative and growing local drug market.

In 2008, roughly 1,600 people were killed here, up from a few hundred annually in previous years. President Felipe Calderón decided to send federal police and some 7,000 troops to quell the dispute. The move hasn't worked: Last year, the death toll reached 2,600 people, making it Mexico's most violent city. There have been an estimated 500 homicides this year.

The latest high-profile blow to the city came on March 13, when three people associated with the U.S. Consulate in Juárez were gunned down in an incident that drew outrage from presidents on both side of the border.

Juárez isn't alone in its troubles with drug gangs, which operate with near complete impunity in much of northern and western Mexico. On Friday, residents of Mexico's northern business capital, Monterrey, awoke to nightmarish traffic after heavily armed men believed to be linked to drug gangs commandeered several trucks and buses and used them to block eight strategic traffic points around the city.

Juárez's gradual emptying has been hastened and deepened by a recession in a border economy that is hogtied to that of the U.S.

Just 2½ years ago, Juárez was one of Mexico's engines of growth, a magnet of manufacturing with an easy entry point into the U.S. The North American Free Trade Agreement had helped to expand Juárez into the base for assembly plants that accepted parts for everything from consumer electronics to plush toys, and shipped the finished products back to America tariff-free.

Since 2005, 10,600 businesses—roughly 40% of Juárez's businesses—have closed their doors, according to the country's group representing local chambers of commerce.

Ciudad Juárez's new reality is told on its empty streets. Along residential block in a subdivision called Villas de Salvarcar, hardly a home appears left occupied.

"I don't know when they left," said a woman selling clothes in a garage sale for her few remaining neighbors. She declined to give her name, simply pointing to the block behind her where 15 teenagers were killed on Jan. 31 while they watched a football game. The massacre was a case of mistaken identity: Drug gangs had been targeting another party, authorities later said.

Down the street, the bloodstained walls of the home had been washed clean a few days ago, residents said. But bullet holes remained in the walls and neighbors nervously kicked at the dirt as a police car, permanently stationed along the block, rolled by.

The rising towers of El Paso, visible from downtown Juárez, offer a stark contrast along with a promise of security just across the border bridge. Among those with a home in El Paso is Juárez's mayor, José Reyes Ferriz. Mr. Reyes uses the home only for his work as an attorney on the other side of the border, his spokesman said. But he added: "It's very common to have a [second] house in El Paso."

Guillermo Marcedo, 70 years old, keeps to one side of the border. Born in Juárez, he now drives a taxi in El Paso. Like many of his colleagues, he will rarely take clients to Mexico, fearing an attack.

Having arrived in the 1990s when the border had been quiet, Mr. Marcedo has moved as many relatives as he can into the U.S. "I had to think of my family," he says from behind the wheel on a recent day. Two weeks ago, the last member of his immediate circle, a son who works as a psychologist for the Juárez government, received permission from the U.S. to make the move.

Not all who want to leave, especially the poor, have been so lucky. With bank loans more difficult to get and mortgage interest rates high, the Texas town has fallen out of reach for even some well-heeled Mexicans.

"A lot of them do not have established credit [because] they had no intention of ever living here," says Sandie Leal, an El Paso real-estate agent who recently struggled to cobble together bank statements and other documents for a Mexican client. The client was offered an interest rate of 9%, Ms. Leal says, which he turned down, but has opted to rent in the city.

Whether they rent or buy across the border, much of the town's middle class has left it, says Oscar Cantú, publisher of the local newspaper El Norte. Two weeks ago he sent reporters knocking door-to-door in the town's wealthy neighborhoods, and says they turned up roughly 3,000 empty homes. "There was a lot of speculation about how many people had gone—we counted," he said.

In one such subdivision, residents had scrawled graffiti, pleading with the government for help. "Defend us, I want to live," says one. "We had been the hope, the light," reads another. "Don't lie to us, Calderón."

It remains to be seen when—if ever—Juárez's departed residents return. Ms. Vargas, the economist, expects many will cross back from El Paso when the drug situation calms and the economy picks up. "They're waiting it out," she says.

But for his part, Mr. Marcedo, the driver, says he intends to die in the United States.

Write to Nicholas Casey at
27596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 20, 2010, 07:52:17 AM
KABUL, Afghanistan — The tribal elders had traveled many hours to reach a windswept Afghan military base on the capital’s outskirts to sign their names to a piece of paper allowing them to bring their countrymen home from American detention.

As an Afghan general read the document aloud, Cmdr. Dawood Zazai, a towering Pashtun tribal leader from Paktia Province who fought the Soviets, thumped his crutch for attention. Along with other elders, he did not like a clause in the document that said the detainees had been reasonably held based on intelligence.

“I cannot sign this,” Commander Zazai said, thumping his crutch again. “I don’t know what that intelligence said; we did not see that intelligence. It is right that we are illiterate, but we are not blind.

“Who proved that these men were guilty?”

No one answered because Commander Zazai had just touched on the crux of the legal debate that has raged for nearly a decade in the United States: Does the United States have the legal right to hold, indefinitely without charge or trial, people captured on the battlefield? His question also exposed a fundamental disagreement between the Afghans and the American military about whether people had been fairly detained.

This is the latest chapter in America’s tortuous effort to repair the damage done over the last nine years by a troubled, overcrowded detention system that often produced more insurgents rather than reforming them. The problems were similar in the huge sweeps of suspected insurgents in Iraq.

Now, in Afghanistan, detainees who are deemed not to be a threat are handed over to local elders on the understanding that it is the community’s responsibility to ensure that they stay on the right side of the law.

The releases that took place at a recent ceremony at the 201st Afghan Army Corps headquarters, as well as the release or assignment to Afghan detention of 70 to 80 detainees earlier this year, are part of a new effort to free detainees who are no longer thought to be an imminent threat to the government of Afghanistan or the international forces.

Under the program, recently overhauled by Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward and Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins, a Harvard-trained lawyer with the army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, there is now an automatic administrative review devised to speed the release process, and for the first time it allows detainees to make a case for their release.

Once the review board has approved a release, the Afghan military, in conjunction with the Americans, asks the detainee to sign a pledge to stay away from the insurgency, from the Taliban and from Al Qaeda. The elders are asked to sign a similar pledge that they will help them. Similar programs have been used with considerable success in Iraq, and the new one in Afghanistan builds on that experience.

There are now about 800 detainees at the American-run Detention Facility in Parwan, the new detention center that opened at the end of 2009 to replace the notorious holding facility at Bagram Air Base, which is associated with abuses that resulted in the deaths of at least two detainees. The vast majority of detainees are Afghans, but about 32 are foreigners, according to a senior American officer.

The American plan is to hand control of the detention center to the Afghan Ministry of Defense by January 2011, but Americans will still be deeply involved in the detention operations. In the coming months, the Americans hope to use the review process to release as many detainees as possible if they are deemed no longer a threat and to transfer to Afghan custody those who can be tried for crimes under Afghan law.

But as the recent ceremony showed, beyond the cake and fruit and formal speeches lies a reservoir of resentment about how the United States has handled detentions since 2001.

In interviews, former detainees and their families said the Americans were routinely misled by informants who either had personal grudges against them or were paid by others to give information to the Americans that would put the person in jail.

In addition, many Afghans have experienced the detentions as humiliating, and found almost unbearable the depths of poverty borne by their families during their internment.

“The information you had about these men was wrong in the first place,” said Hajji Azizullah, 54, a leader of the Andar tribe in Ghazni, who had come to sign for two detainees. “We are confident they were not involved with insurgents. If they were, we wouldn’t be here to sign for them.”

One detainee, Pacha Khan, 29, an illiterate bread baker from Kunar Province, said he was still puzzled about why he had been detained in the first place, let alone held for three years. “I was innocent,” he insisted. “Spies took money and sold me to the Americans. The Americans treated us very well, but as you know, jail is a big thing — to be away from your family, your relatives.”

His brother, Gul Ahmed Dindar, was less forgiving. He had to support his brother’s family of eight children and a wife on the meager salary of a local police officer. “They were about to sell their children,” he said. “They had very little to live on. They sold their one goat, their one sheep and their cow. Then they sold the furniture — it was not much. They have had a very tough life.”

Admiral Harward insisted that the American intelligence was good and that these were insurgents, but on hearing the elders’ protests about signing a document that made it sound as if the tribal leaders agreed with the American view, he offered to change the language to say that in the eyes of American forces these detainees were insurgents. The elders nodded their assent. The new language will be used on future sponsor forms. “We learn something every time we do this,” Admiral Harward said.

The Afghan military made its own effort to solve the problem when it heard the elders’ protests, by simply writing in the word “no” in front of the phrase saying the detainee had a “link to the insurgency.” The version the elders signed said the detainee had “no link.”

In the shifting shadows of this often invisible war, where no one is sure who is lying and who is telling the truth, it seemed a reasonable way to resolve the day’s discord.
27597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: March 20, 2010, 07:32:32 AM
May I suggest that a discussion of these would fit better on "The Way Forward for the American Creed" thread?
27598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: March 20, 2010, 07:30:26 AM
Much remains to be seen with regard to Ryan on foreign affairs, social issues, and preparation to run the Executive branch of govt.
27599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: March 20, 2010, 07:28:52 AM

Interesting post Freki.

Please ask about this on our SCH forum threads "American History" and/or "Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional law etc)"

27600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Faceoff in Moscow on: March 20, 2010, 07:26:29 AM
A Russian-American Faceoff in Moscow
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON arrived in Moscow on Thursday for the latest session of the Middle East Quartet, which comprises Russia, the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations. The main topics for the meeting, which is scheduled to begin on Friday and last through the weekend, include Iran and reviving peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. In addition to this multilateral session, there will also be several bilateral meetings held on the sidelines. STRATFOR is particularly interested in one of these sideline meetings; it was announced at the last minute, and will be held between Clinton and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Clinton and Putin have plenty to talk about at the moment. As representatives of two of the world’s most powerful countries, it is only natural that Russia and the United States would brush up on each other and share competing goals and interests. But current geopolitical circumstances have put Moscow and Washington not only within each other’s field of vision, but also practically in each other’s face. And this goes beyond the oft-delayed Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) talks, and is only tangentially related to the Israelis and Palestinians.

“The United States, even with the many pressing issues it is dealing with, has not completely shied away from playing in Russia’s near abroad.”
With the United States embroiled in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and cautiously seeing its way through a shaky economic recovery, Washington’s attention has largely been focused on its immediate problems at hand. This has given Russia an opportunity to build up levers in its near abroad over the past few years, and allowed it to regain much of the influence it lost in the aftermath of the Cold War, particularly in the former Soviet states. Russia has not only resurged in places like Ukraine, Georgia and Kazakhstan, it has leveraged its strengthened position in its own neighborhood to support key players that are thorns in Washington’s side, and serve to distract the United States even further, especially when it comes to Iran.

This support comes in many forms, from threatening to sell missile defense systems to Iran, to hobbling the “crippling” sanctions that Israel has demanded the United States enact over Iran’s nuclear program. The support also includes the nuclear program itself, with Russia assisting Iran in the construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant. It has been publicly stated that the plant is meant only for peaceful purposes, but it is inherently provocative given Iran’s refusal to make its nuclear operations transparent.

But the United States, even with the many pressing issues it is dealing with, has not completely shied away from playing in Russia’s near abroad. Washington has adamantly refused to turn away support for pro-Western countries like Georgia, and is currently participating in NATO air exercises over the Baltic countries in a show of solidarity with these small countries who are growing increasingly nervous over Russia’s next move. These crucial countries are next on Moscow’s list of states it is attempting to pull back into its sphere of influence. And with these countries, Washington has simply refused to budge.

It is perhaps no coincidence that one day after these exercises began — and on the very day that Clinton landed in Moscow — Russia let loose a barrage of rhetoric in support for Iran. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin took the opportunity to call for strengthening ties with Iran in a meeting with his Iranian counterpart. Putin then upped the ante when he said that the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which has long been set for completion, but which never can seem to get finished due to technical (though really political) reasons, will be completed and become operational this summer. While many statements have been made about Bushehr finishing “soon” or “late this year,” previous such statements were not made by Putin himself, and the timetable was never this specific or early. Clinton immediately responded to Putin’s statement, urging that the launch of the plant be delayed until Tehran proves it is not pursuing nuclear weapons; in other words, indefinitely.

And this sets the stage for Clinton’s meeting with Putin. Clearly, the two will not be going into their meeting on friendly turf. Even if there is a breakthrough in the START talks, and the reset button is pushed a thousand times, Russia and the United States will remain in a tense standoff. Both countries are making demands on one another and not backing down, and both are acting as if they do not need to back down to achieve their goals. The latter, of course, is far from the truth. Whether and how they will budge, and on what issues, will help determine everything including START, the Israeli-Palestinian talks and really strategic issues like Iran.
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