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27551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: March 23, 2009, 07:09:10 AM
When does a single policy blunder herald much larger economic damage? Sometimes it's hard to know ahead of time. Few in Congress thought the Smoot-Hawley tariff was a disaster in 1930, but it led to retaliation and a collapse of world trade. The question amid Washington's AIG bonus panic is whether Congress's war on private contracts and the financial system is a similarly destructive moment.

It is certainly one of the more amazing and senseless acts of political retribution in American history. In its bipartisan rage, the House saw fit last week not merely to punish the employees of AIG's Financial Products unit that the company still needs to safely unwind credit default swaps. The Members voted, 328-93, to slap a 90% tax on the bonuses of anyone at every bank receiving $5 billion in TARP money who earns more than $250,000 a year. A draft Senate version is even broader. Never mind if the bonus was earned last year or earlier, or under a legally binding employment contract. The confiscatory tax will apply ex post facto.

Never mind, too, that such punitive laws were expressly deplored by America's Founders. In Federalist 44, James Madison warned that "Bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation."

In 1827 in Ogden v. Saunders, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a similar warning about legislative limits under Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution: "The states are forbidden to pass any bill of attainder or ex post facto law, by which a man shall be punished criminally or penally by loss of life of his liberty, property, or reputation for an act which, at the time of its commission, violated no existing law of the land," wrote Justice Bushrod Washington.

"Why did the authors of the Constitution turn their attention to this subject, which, at the first blush, would appear to be peculiarly fit to be left to the discretion of those who have the police and good government of the state under their management and control? The only answer to be given is because laws of this character are oppressive, unjust, and tyrannical, and as such are condemned by the universal sentence of civilized man."

Yes, Article I, Section 10 applies to the states, and this is a federal law. Congress may also figure it avoids the "bill of attainder" objection by applying the law to individuals at several companies receiving TARP money. But Congress's willingness to wreak such vengeance against a specific class of Americans is still as offensive as a matter of principle as Justice Washington and the Federalist Papers noted. The Founders feared the punitive whim of the legislative mob as much as they did the tyranny of a King.

The House legislation may also be unconstitutional on equal protection grounds given that it treats a homogeneous group of individuals differently depending on which companies they work for. It is one thing to treat the companies that receive federal funds differently from those that don't. But the individuals receiving bonuses may have nothing to do with the decision to receive TARP money. The House's 90% tax on some bankers but not others is only a step away from deciding to impose a higher tax rate on employees of any company out of political favor -- say, tobacco companies, or in the next Republican Congress, the New York Times Co.

Which brings us to the Smoot-Hawley analogy. With such a sweeping assault on contracts and punitive taxation, Congress is introducing an element of political risk to economic decisions that is typical of Argentina or Russia. The sanctity of U.S. contracts has long been one of America's competitive advantages in luring capital, a counterpoint to our lottery tort system and costly regulation. Meanwhile, the 90% tax rate marks a return to the pre-Reagan era when Congress and the political class behaved as if taxes didn't matter to growth or incentives. It is a revival of the philosophy of redistributionist "justice" of the 1930s, when capital went on strike for an entire decade.

The financial system will suffer in particular, just when the Obama Administration is desperately seeking more private capital to ride out future losses. Facing such limits on the ability to reward talent, every bank CEO will try to pay off the TARP as soon as possible, whether or not this leaves the bank with a weaker capital base. Hedge funds and other investors that Treasury needs for its new Public-Private Investment Program, or for the Federal Reserve's TALF, will also be warier, if they'll play at all. Treasury may promise nothing punitive for these programs, but that's also what it said about the TARP.

The other Smoot-Hawley comparison relates to our new President. Herbert Hoover sent mixed signals about the tariff until he finally bent to a panicked GOP Congress. President Obama has behaved in the past week as if he can appease and "channel" Congressional anger without being run over himself. So not only did he incite the Members last Monday, he welcomed the House bill on Thursday. By the weekend, cooler White House heads were whispering that the mob had gone too far, but it will take more than words to kill this terrible legislation. Mr. Obama will have to fire a gun in the air -- which means threatening a veto.

On Inauguration Day, we wrote that our young President has a first-class intellect and temperament. Our question was whether he is tough enough. So far the answer is no. He has failed to stand up to a Congress of his own party on anything difficult -- from stimulus priorities, to earmarks, to protectionism against Mexican trucks. Mr. Obama needs to face down the AIG mob, or his Presidency may be its next victim.
27552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Federalist 48; Patrick Henry; Reagan on: March 23, 2009, 06:53:29 AM
"It will not be denied that power is of an encroaching nature and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it. After discriminating, therefore, in theory, the several classes of power, as they may in their nature be legislative, executive, or judiciary, the next and most difficult task is to provide some practical security for each, against the invasion of the others."

--James Madison, Federalist No. 48

"The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them." --Patrick Henry

"The most dangerous myth is the demagoguery that business can be made to pay a larger share, thus relieving the individual. Politicians preaching this are either deliberately dishonest, or economically illiterate, and either one should scare us. Business doesn't pay taxes.... Only people pay taxes, and people pay as consumers every tax that is assessed against a business. Begin with the food and fiber raised in the farm, to the ore drilled in a mine, to the oil and gas from out of the ground, whatever it may be -- through the processing, through the manufacturing, on out to the retailer's license. If the tax cannot be included in the price of the product, no one along that line can stay in business." --Ronald Reagan
27553  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / C-Kaju Dog (Dean Webster) honored on: March 23, 2009, 12:36:12 AM

In Fridays Fresno Bee:

Red Cross to honor 17 Tulare-Kings heroes

The Tulare-Kings American Red Cross chapter will honor 17 "real
heroes" at a breakfast this month.

Those selected displayed determination, selflessness and courage in
their work in their communities, said Marie Davis, the chapter's
acting chief executive officer.

Those who will be honored and their categories are: Jacob Cabrera,
Good Samaritan-Youth (Tulare); Jeremy Cabrera, Good Samaritan-Youth
(Tulare); Steven Steward, Good Samaritan-Youth (Tulare); Sally Ortiz,
Good Samaritan-Adult (Lemoore); Dean Webster, Medical Hero (Lemoore);
Teresa Lovero, Fire Rescue (Visalia Fire); Tony Colbert, Fire Rescue
(Visalia Fire); Nicholas Branch, Fire Rescue (Visalia Fire); Eric
Sparshott, Fire Rescue (American Ambulance); Robbie Bowers, Fire
Rescue (American Ambulance); Rodnie Roberts, Spirit of the Red Cross
(Reedley); Jerri Corona, Educator Hero (Visalia); Glenn Fabros,
Military Hero (Lemoore); Staci Brock-Wood, Animal Rescue (Visalia);
Clay Stevens, Water Rescue (Tulare); and Aaron Jacobson, Wilderness
Rescue (Lemoore).  The recipients will be honored at the chapter's
Real Heroes Breakfast on March 25 at the Marriott Hotel in Visalia.

27554  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Team Dog Brothers MMA? on: March 23, 2009, 12:32:30 AM
"I see an opening for someone who thinks outside the Box to begin training a dynasty of fighters That can move differently and strike more effectively both from the standing and the ground position."

What a coincidence!  Me too!!!  cheesy

"one Thing i have always wondered about is  trapping hands, why aren't fighters in MMA using more Trapping hands, the gloves are designed to allow such attachments?"

I offer a part of my approach to trapping in the Running Dog DVD. wink

27555  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Chris Poznik speaks: on: March 22, 2009, 09:09:08 PM
Hello all:

Chris Poznik here.  I'm over at Marc's house and he just showed me the almost final promo clip and asked me to post here some things that I said to him:

I thought a lot of information was conveyed for a promo clip.  I really liked the footage of Marc with the old Filipino master.  In my opinion, the strikes he shows are very practical.  I like the angles he uses a lot and think they show a good understanding of how the human body works.  I think some of the strikes can do a good job of breaking a collarbone.  I like Marc's blending of these strikes with the grappling.  I really like the naturalness of these strikes instead of being constricted by some form.

The Tree that Walks,
Chris Poznik
27556  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Two stabbed in knife fight on: March 22, 2009, 08:40:01 PM
Police: Two stabbed in knife fight

Last Edited: Saturday, 21 Mar 2009, 10:20 PM EDT
Created On: Saturday, 21 Mar 2009, 5:03 PM EDT

ARLINGTON, Mass. (myfoxboston) - Two men stabbed each other multiple times in a fight on the front lawn of an Arlington home early Friday morning, police said.

Michael O'Donnell, 35, of Somerville, Mass., told police an unknown man knocked on the door of his girlfriend's Homer Road home at about 2 a.m., and punched him multiple times and dragged him onto the front lawn.

The suspect was later identified as David Nagle, 33, of Arlington, Mass. Police said Nagle then proceeded to stab O'Donnell with a knife.   O'Donnell says his girlfriend ran back inside the house and brought out a pocketknife, which O'Donnell then used to stab Nagle several times in the midsection, according to police.

Nagle was taken to Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass., where he was in fair condition Saturday night. O'Donnell had stab wounds on his arms and hands. O'Donnell was arrested and charged with assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon. Nagle was arrested and charged with attempted murder and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon.
27557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: General to General on: March 22, 2009, 11:42:21 AM
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN in Washington and MATTHEW ROSENBERG in Islamabad
The Obama administration's hopes of stabilizing Pakistan increasingly rest on the strong bond between military chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen and Gen. Ashfaq Kayani.

The two men spoke daily during the recent political crisis, in which growing opposition protests threatened to undermine the government until Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari -- also under pressure from Gen. Kayani and senior U.S. officials -- made significant concessions.

During the crisis. Gen. Kayani assured Adm. Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, that he wasn't contemplating a military coup, according to U.S. officials. These officials said Adm. Mullen trusted the assurances -- but they acknowledged that some senior U.S. military officials harbor doubts about Gen. Kayani's capabilities and intentions.

View Full Image

Associated Press
Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, right, greets a troop. He and Adm. Mike Mullen have developed a bond that U.S. officials say aids efforts to ensure Pakistan's stability and its support in fighting militants along the border with Afghanistan.
Gen. Kayani ultimately helped resolve the crisis by mediating between Mr. Zardari and his chief rival, Nawaz Sharif, U.S. and Pakistani officials said.

The relationship offers potential dividends for both countries. American officials want Islamabad to take stronger steps against the militants working to destabilize Pakistan and Afghanistan, and need Gen. Kayani's help as an ally in the fight, which they say he supports. Pakistan wants to continue receiving American financial aid and military assistance, which requires maintaining close ties with Adm. Mullen's Pentagon.

It is a relationship born of necessity. Mr. Zardari is also seen as committed to battling militants, but his government is fragile. Many Pentagon officials believe the government will fall within the next few months, although civilian U.S. officials say the president could hold on.

View Full Image

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
U.S. military chief Adm. Mike Mullen with troops.
As an ally, Gen. Kayani is "seen as the safer bet, because he'll probably be the last one standing," a senior U.S. military official said.

But the U.S. reliance on Gen. Kayani carries risks. During the Bush years, U.S. officials had a similarly warm relationship with Gen. Kayani's predecessor as army chief, Pervez Musharraf, and sent him more than $10 billion in American aid. In the end, Mr. Musharraf, who was also president, disappointed the U.S. by failing to order a broad crackdown on the Islamic extremists in his country.

"It's a complete replay of what took place with Musharraf," said C. Christine Fair, a senior political scientist with Rand Corp. and former United Nations political officer in Kabul. "We have a love affair with whichever chief of army staff is in office at any one time until they thoroughly disappoint."

In their public and private comments, U.S. and Pakistani officials say such concerns are unfounded.

"Gen. Kayani wants the system to work," Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in an interview, adding that the officer's outlook was "pro-democracy."

U.S. military and civilian policy makers say Gen. Kayani shares their belief that Islamic extremism poses a threat to Pakistan's survival and has taken steps that show he is serious about tackling the problem. In September, he replaced the head of Pakistan's intelligence service, which reports to him, and which U.S. officials say has long maintained ties to the Taliban. Pakistani officials say they only maintain contacts with some elements of the Taliban and no longer directly support the militants.

"He has done what he said he was going to do," Adm. Mullen told reporters earlier this year. "Gen. Kayani has not misled me at all."

In an interview, a senior Pentagon official praised Gen. Kayani for keeping tens of thousands of Pakistani troops deployed against Islamic militants in restive Bajaur province, instead of shifting them to the country's tense border with India.

Gen. Kayani is a chain smoker, while Adm. Mullen wakes up before 5 a.m. each day to work out before he arrives at the Pentagon. They also have professional differences: Gen. Kayani once ran Pakistan's main spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence  shocked shocked shocked while Adm. Mullen has spent his entire career in the regular military.

But they have forged strong ties since becoming their nations' top uniformed military officers in 2007.

"There's increasing confidence," said Talaat Masood, a Pakistani military analyst and retired general. "They trust each other in a way, even if they know are certain things that the Pakistan army will not do," he said -- specifically that Pakistan won't drastically reduce its troop strength along the border with India.

Since taking office, Gen. Kayani has cheered U.S. officials by putting experienced, nonideological officers in charge of two of Pakistan's most important security arms: the Inter-Services Intelligence and the 60,000-strong Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force that is taking the lead in battling the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas.

More recently, Gen. Kayani played a crucial role in defusing last week's political crisis, which centered on Mr. Zardari's refusal to reinstate the former chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court.

Pakistani officials said that Gen. Kayani repeatedly met with Mr. Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani.  "Initially, he confined himself to polite advice, but his tenor became firmer at the end. It was the Kayani model -- invisible, but around," said Jhangir Karamat, a retired chief of army staff.

—Zahid Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this article.
Write to Yochi J. Dreazen at and
27558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's regulatory czar on: March 22, 2009, 09:23:07 AM
Yet another czar!

Here's a taste of his thinking:

27559  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: March 22, 2009, 08:56:14 AM
A fine time yesterday.  We started with Triangle from the Third Dimension theory, illustrated it with Variation 5, and took the footwork learned to Zirconia based "Kali Tudo" (tm)
27560  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: March 22, 2009, 08:53:16 AM

A local couple came home from work last Saturday night to find not one but five people burglarizing their home. As News 3's Anita Roman reports, the husband and wife took matters into their own hands before they called the police. Emery Childress III and his wife Brenda knew right away that something was wrong.

"Saturday evening I picked my wife up from work. She was going to take the evening off. We pulled up to the garage, we opened the garage door. When the garage was half-way up, the dogs ran out to us. And normally, the dogs are inside the house.  He went in first so I opened the door and let him in," continues Brenda. "And then I shut the door only took about three seconds and I heard him say...Freeze. I use foul language - I say get on the ground, drop it. I walk these guys...and I have them at gun point."

Inside their Henderson home were four perpetrators, all holding valuable weapons: guns, knives, and even a sword that belonged to them.

"I then entered from the garage, came around the corner where he had two suspects laying down on the floor," says Brenda. "They had our .45 down there and I picked it up."

While Emery's wife held the two perpetrators at gun point, he ran outside with the other gun and tried to catch two more that were waiting outside in an SUV.

"We had two adults and two juvenile girls were arrested," confirms Keith Paul, Henderson Police Department. "There is one suspect that is outstanding."

27-year-old Billy Hicks was booked on conspiracy; 18-year-old Avion Wilkins was booked on burglary, home invasion, conspiracy, and grand larceny of a firearm; and a 17-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl were taken to the Clark County Juvenile Hall.

"It goes through my mind if, I did anything differently, maybe I would have got shot with my own gun when I entered my house," ponders Emery.

The Childresses know what they did was brave and Henderson Police agree. But if there is the possibility that someone is in your home, police ask that you call 911.  The fifth burglar, who is on the run, escaped with jewelry and money. If have any information on this case, please call the Henderson Police Department.
27561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Austrian economics called it; Gov. Sanford on: March 22, 2009, 03:20:34 AM


Gov. Sanford gets it right too on a different facet of the clusterfcuk.

Columbia, S.C.

America's states are laboratories of democracy. They are both affected by, and relevant to, the larger national debate. What we've found in our own corner of the country is that carrying a substantial debt load limits our options when it comes to running government.

A recent report by the American Legislative Exchange Council ranked us 47th worst in the nation for annual debt service as a percentage of tax revenue. Our state dedicates nearly 11% of its annual tax revenue to paying debt. On top of that, South Carolina has another $20 billion in unfunded, long-term political promises for pensions and other liabilities. The state budget has already been cut four times in recent months as the national economic downturn has impacted South Carolina and driven down tax revenue.

President Barack Obama recently signed a "stimulus" bill that will spend about $2 billion through "programmatic means" in South Carolina. In other words, the federal government will put this money directly into existing funding formulas and programs such as Medicaid. But there is an additional $700 million that I as governor have influence over, and it is the disposition of this money that has drawn the national spotlight to South Carolina.

Here's the background: Before the stimulus bill passed, I asked for states not to be bailed out. After it was signed into law, I said that a state bailout would create more problems than it solved, and that we shouldn't spend money we don't have. That debate was lost, so I looked for a reasonable middle ground. I asked the president for his support in using the $700 million to pay down state debt.

If we're going to spend money we don't have at the federal level, it becomes all the more important that our state balance sheet is in good order -- particularly if this is a protracted downturn. But many people do not realize that the stimulus money runs out in 24 months -- at which point South Carolina will be forced to find a new source of funding to sustain the new level of spending, or to make sharp cuts. Sure, I could kick the can down the road; in two years, I'll be safely out of office. But it would be irresponsible.

If South Carolina could use stimulus money to pay down debt, in two years we will be able to spend, cut taxes or invest even if the federal government can no longer provide more money -- not a remote possibility. In fact, paying debt related to education would free up over $162 million in debt service in the first two years and save roughly $125 million in interest payments over the next 13 years -- just as paying off a family's mortgage early frees up money for other uses.

When you're in a hole, the first order of business is stop digging. South Carolina is in a hole, and it's not a shallow one. Spending stimulus money on ongoing programs would mean 10% of our entire state budget would be paid for with one-time federal funds -- the largest recorded level in state history.

Also, spending stimulus money will delay needed state restructuring. General Motors recently found itself in a similar spot. It needs to be restructured if it is to prosper, but a federal bailout enabled it to put off hard decisions. Likewise, taking federal stimulus money will only postpone changes essential to South Carolina's prosperity. Though well-intended, it forestalls hard choices we must make.

One of Mr. Obama's central campaign themes was his pledge to do away with politics of the past. In his inaugural address, he proclaimed "an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

This idea connected with millions of voters, myself included. I've always believed ideas should rise and fall on their merits. In fact, I saw such historical significance in his candidacy and the change he spoke of that I published an op-ed on it before South Carolina's presidential primary last year. It was not an endorsement, but it did note the historic nature of his candidacy and the potential positive change in tone it represented. That potential may now be disappearing.

Last week I reached out to the president, asking for a federal waiver from restrictions on stimulus money. I got a most unusual response. Before I even received an acknowledgment of the request from the White House, I got word that the Democratic National Committee was launching campaign-style TV attack-ads against me for making it.

Is this the new brand of politics we were promised? Instead of engaging with me and other governors on the merits of our dissent, I am to be attacked in television ads? In the end, I just don't believe a problem created by too much debt will be solved by piling on more debt. This doesn't strike me as an unreasonable or extremist position.

Nevertheless, the White House declined my request for a waiver yesterday afternoon. That's unfortunate. But in coming months we'll continue advancing the debate at the state level about the merits of debt repayment. The fact remains that while we'd all like to spend unlimited dollars on the very real needs that exist in our state, we must spend in the context of what is sustainable.

Mr. Sanford, a Republican, is the governor of South Carolina.
27562  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: March 22, 2009, 03:07:43 AM
I just watched the master on this and am pleased to report another outstanding job from Ron "Night Owl" Gabriel.

In this case there was also the tech challenge of integrating footage shot in mini-DV and HD.

I liked the menu footage so much that I asked Ron to add it to the promo clip-- which should be up by Monday or Tuesday.
27563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Catch and release on: March 22, 2009, 03:05:11 AM


Excerpt from article:

One of those Mahmoud's men arrested was Salah Khdeir.

He spent seven months in Bucca after soldiers discovered four mines tucked in his truck. He returned to the prison in 2008 after he was caught burying bombs destined for a U.S. patrol. He was released this month. Five days later, he was arrested again, after a roadside bomb that police say resembled his handiwork detonated near Garma.

Innocent, Khdeir declared at the police station, shaking his head.
"I'm a peaceful man," the gaunt 22-year-old added.

"He's an expert at planting bombs," Mahmoud answered.

After Khdeir left, Mahmoud handed out a letter he said Khdeir had sent his brother.

"If you think I abandoned the jihad, I say that I have paid homage to God and with his will, I will do everything," he wrote in childish Arabic, the script barely legible.

He had signed the letter, "Salah, the roadside bomb."
27564  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Alignment on: March 21, 2009, 09:27:29 PM
Forgive me a moment of shamelss marketing here, but one of the Vid-lessons available to DBMAA member is based upon the Bando two man yoga with a stick for shoulder health. 

"the shoulder/scapula/thoracic chest wall system."

27565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Nobel Laureate Gary Becker on: March 21, 2009, 01:53:52 AM
"What can we do that would be beneficial? [One thing] is lower corporate taxes and businesses taxes and maybe taxes in general. Particularly, you want to lower the tax on capital so you raise the after-tax return to investing and get more investing going on."

Gary Becker, the winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, is in New York to speak to a special meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society on the global meltdown. He has agreed to sit down to chat with me on the subject of his lecture.

Ismael RoldanSlumped in a soft chair in a noisy hotel coffee lounge, the 78-year-old University of Chicago professor is relaxed and remarkably humble for a guy who has achieved so much. As I pepper him with the economic and financial riddles of our time, I am impressed by how many times his answers, delivered in a pronounced Brooklyn accent, include an "I think" and sometimes even an "I don't know the answer to that." It is a reminder of why he is so highly valued. In contrast to a number of other big-name practitioners of the dismal science, he is a solid empiricist genuinely in search of answers -- not the job as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. What he sees is what you get.

What Mr. Becker has seen over a career spanning more than five decades is that free markets are good for human progress. And at a time when increasing government intervention in the economy is all the rage, he insists that economic liberals must not withdraw from the debate simply because their cause, for now, appears quixotic.

As a young academic in 1956, Mr. Becker wrote an important paper against conscription. He was discouraged from publishing it because, at the time, the popular view was that the military draft could never be abolished. Of course it was, and looking back, he says, "that taught me a lesson." Today as Washington appears unstoppable in its quest for more power and lovers of liberty are accused of tilting at windmills, he says it is no time to concede.

Mr. Becker sees the finger prints of big government all over today's economic woes. When I ask him about the sources of the mania in housing prices, the first culprit he names is the Fed. Low interest rates, he says, were "partly, maybe mainly, due to the Fed's policy of keeping [its] interest rates very low during 2002-2004." A second reason rates were low was the "high savings rates primarily from Asia and also from the rest of the world."

"People debate the relative importance of the two and I don't think we know exactly," Mr. Becker admits. But what is clear is that "when you have low interest rates, any long-lived assets tend to go up in price because they are based upon returns accruing over many years. When interest rates are low you don't discount these returns very much and you get high asset prices."

On top of that, Mr. Becker says, there were government policies aimed at "extending the scope of homeownership in the United States to low-credit, low-income families." This was done through "the Community Reinvestment Act in the '70s and then Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac later on" and it put many unqualified borrowers into the mix.

The third effect, Mr. Becker says, was the "bubble mentality." By this "I mean that much of the additional lending and borrowing was based on expectations that prices would continue to rise at rates we now recognize, and should have recognized then, were unsustainable."

Could this behavior be considered rational? "There is a lot of debate in economics about whether we can understand bubbles within a rational framework. There are models where you can do it, but it's not easy," he says. What he does seem sure about is that "the lending would not have continued unless there was this expectation that prices would continue to rise and therefore one could refinance these assets through the higher prices." That mentality was at least partly related to Fed action, he says, because the low interest rates "generated an increase in prices and I think that helped generate some of this excess of optimism."

Mr. Becker says that the market-clearing process, so important to recovery, is well underway. "Construction in new residential housing is way down and prices are way down. Maybe 25% down. Lower prices stimulate demand, reduced construction reduces supply."

That's the good news. But he complains about "counterproductive" government policies "designed to lower mortgage rates to stimulate demand." He says he was against the Bush Treasury's idea of capping mortgage rates (which was only floated) and he has "opposed the mortgage plan of President Obama." "It goes against both these adjustments . . . it would hold up prices and increase construction. I think that's a bad idea at this time."

Yet the professor is no laissez-faire ideologue. He says we have to think about what the government can do to "moderate the hit to the real economy," and he says it should start with "the first law of medicine: Do no harm." Instead it has done harmful things, and chief among them has been the "inconsistent policies with the large institutions . . . We let some big banks fail, like Lehman Brothers. We let less-good banks, big [ones] like Bear Stearns, sort of get bailed out and now we bailed out AIG, an insurance company."

Mr. Becker says that he opposed the "implicit protection" that the government gave to Bear Stearns bondholders to the tune of "$30 billion or so." So I wonder if letting Lehman Brothers go belly up was a good idea. "I'm not sure it was a bad idea, aside from the inconsistency." He points out that "the good assets were bought by Nomura and a number of other banks," and he refers to a paper by Stanford economics professor John Taylor showing that the market initially digested the Lehman failure with calm. It was only days later, Mr. Taylor maintains, that the market panicked when it saw more uncertainty from the Treasury. Mr. Becker says Mr. Taylor's work is "not 100% persuasive but it sort of suggest that maybe the Lehman collapse wasn't the cause of the eventual collapse" of the credit markets.

He returns to the perniciousness of Treasury's inconsistency. "I do believe that in a risky environment which is what we are in now, with the market pricing risk very high, to add additional risk is a big problem, and I think this is what we are doing when we don't have consistent policies. We add to the risk."

On the subject of recovery, Mr. Becker repeats his call for lower taxes, applauds the Fed's action to "raise reserves," (meaning money creation, though he said this before the Fed's action a few days ago), and he says "I do believe one has to try to do something more directly to help with the toxic assets of the banks."

How about getting rid of the mark-to-market pricing of bank assets [that is, pricing assets at the current market price] that some say has destroyed bank capital? Mr. Becker says he prefers mark-to-market over "pricing by cost because costs are often completely out of whack with what the real prices are." Then he adds this qualifier: "But when you have a very thin market, you have to be very careful about what it means to mark-to-market. . . . It's a big problem if you literally take mark-to-market in terms of prices continuously based on transactions when there are very few transactions in that market. I am a mark-to-market person but I think you have to do it in a sensible way."

However that issue is resolved in the short run, there will remain the problem of institutions growing so big that a collapse risks taking down the whole system. To deal with the "too big to fail" problem in the long run, Mr. Becker suggests increasing capital requirements for financial institutions, as the size of the institution increases, "so they can't have [so] much leverage." This, he says, "will discourage banks from getting so big" and "that's fine. That's what we want to do."

Mr. Becker is underwhelmed by the stimulus package: "Much of it doesn't have any short-term stimulus. If you raise research and development, I don't see how it's going to short-run stimulate the economy. You don't have excess unemployed labor in the scientific community, in the research community, or in the wind power creation community, or in the health sector. So I don't see that this will stimulate the economy, but it will raise the debt and lead to inefficient spending and a lot of problems."

There is also the more fundamental question of whether one dollar of government spending can produce one and a half dollars of economic output, as the administration claims. Mr. Becker is more than skeptical. "Keynesianism was out of fashion for so long that we stopped investigating variables the Keynesians would look at such as the multiplier, and there is almost no evidence on what the multiplier would be." He thinks that the paper by Christina Romer, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, "saying that the multiplier is about one and a half [is] based on very weak, even nonexistent evidence." His guess? "I think it is a lot less than one. It gets higher in recessions and depressions so it's above zero now but significantly below one. I don't have a number, I haven't estimated it, but I think it would be well below one, let me put it that way."

As the interview winds down, I'm thinking more about how people can make pretty crazy decisions with the right incentives from government. Does this explain what seems to be a decreasing amount of personal responsibility in our culture? "When you get a larger government, when you have the government taking over Social Security, government taking over health care and with further proposals now for the government to take over more activities, more entitlements, the rational response is to have less responsibility. You don't have to worry about things and plan on your own as much."

That suggests that there is a risk to the U.S. system with more people relying on entitlements. "Well, they become an interest group," Mr. Becker says. "The more you have dependence on the government, the stronger the interest group of people who want to maintain it. That's one reason why it is so hard to get any major reform in reducing government spending in Scandinavia and it is increasingly so in the United States. The government is spending -- at the federal, state and local level -- a third of GDP, and that share will go up now. The higher it is the more people who are directly or indirectly dependent on the government. I am worried about that. The basic theory of interest-group politics says that they will have more influence and their influence will be to try to maintain this, and it will be hard to go back."

Still, there remain many good reasons to continue the struggle against the current trend, Mr. Becker says. "When the market economy is compared to alternatives, nothing is better at raising productivity, reducing poverty, improving health and integrating the people of the world."

Ms. O'Grady writes the Journal's Americas column.
27566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bolton on: March 21, 2009, 01:36:22 AM

While President Obama's unanticipated Nowruz holiday greeting to Iran generated considerable press attention, his video wasn't really this week's big news related to the Islamic Republic. Far more important was that a senior defector -- Iran's former Deputy Minister of Defense Ali Reza Asghari -- disclosed Tehran's financing of Syria's nuclear weapons program. That program's centerpiece was a North Korean nuclear reactor in Syria. Israel destroyed it in September 2007.

At this point, it is impossible to ignore Iran's active efforts to expand, improve and conceal its nuclear weapons program in Syria while it pretends to "negotiate" with Britain, France and Germany (the "EU-3"). No amount of video messages will change this reality. The question is whether this new information about Iran will sink in, or if Washington will continue to turn a blind eye toward Iran's nuclear deceptions.

That the Pyongyang-Damascus-Tehran nuclear axis went undetected and unacknowledged for so long is an intelligence failure of the highest magnitude. It represents a plain unwillingness to allow hard truths to overcome well-entrenched policy views disguised as intelligence findings.

Key elements of our intelligence community (IC) fought against the idea of a Syrian nuclear program for years. In mid-2003, I had a bitter struggle with several IC agencies -- news of which was leaked to the press -- concerning my testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the Syrian program. Then Sen. Joe Biden made the Syria testimony an issue in my 2005 confirmation battle to become ambassador to the United Nations, alleging that I had tried to hype concern about Syria's nuclear intentions. (In fact, my testimony, in both its classified and unclassified versions, was far more anodyne than the facts warranted.)

Key IC agencies made two arguments in 2003 against the possibility of a clandestine Syrian nuclear weapons program. First, they argued that Syria lacked the scientific and technological capabilities to sustain such a program. Second, they said that Syria did not have the necessary economic resources to fund a program.

These assertions were not based on highly classified intelligence. Instead, they were personal views that some IC members developed based on public information. The intelligence that did exist -- which I thought warranted close observation of Syria, at a minimum -- the IC discounted as inconsistent with its fixed opinions. In short, theirs was not an intelligence conclusion, but a policy view presented under the guise of intelligence.

How wrong they were.

As for Syria's technical expertise, North Korea obviously had the scientific and technological ability to construct the reactor, which was essentially a clone of the North's own at Yongbyon. Moreover, it is entirely possible that Syria's nuclear program -- undertaken with Pyongyang's assistance -- is even more extensive. We will certainly never know from Syria directly, since Damascus continues to deny it has any nuclear program whatever. It's also stonewalling investigation efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As for Syria's ability to finance a nuclear program, Iran could easily supply whatever Syria might need -- even in a time of fluctuating oil prices. Moreover, given Iran's hegemony over Syria, it is impossible to believe Syria would ever undertake extensive nuclear cooperation with North Korea without Iran's acquiescence. Iran was likely an active partner in a three-way joint venture on the reactor, supplying key financial support and its own share of scientific knowledge. Cooperation on ballistic missile programs between Pyongyang and Tehran is longstanding and well-advanced, and thereby forms a basis of trust for nuclear cooperation. Moreover, both Iran and North Korea share a common incentive: to conceal illicit nuclear weapons programs from international scrutiny. What better way to hide such programs than to conduct them in a third country where no one is looking?

Uncovering the North Korean reactor in Syria was a grave inconvenience for the Bush administration. It enormously complicated both the failing six-party talks on North Korea and the EU-3's diplomatic efforts with Iran, which Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice so actively supported.

Mr. Asghari's revelations about Iranian financing of Syria's nuclear program -- if borne out -- will have precisely the same negative impact on Obama administration policies, since they track Mr. Bush's so closely. In fact, the two administrations' approaches differ only to the extent that Mr. Obama is poised to pursue policies, like face-to-face negotiations with Iran, that the second term Bush State Department wanted to do, but faced too much internal dissonance to implement.

The Nowruz video reflects the dominant view within the Obama administration that its "open hand" will be reciprocated. It's likely Iran will respond affirmatively to the near-plaintive administration request to "engage."

And why not? Such dialogue allows Iran to conceal its true intentions and activities under the camouflage of negotiations, just as it has done for the past six years with the EU-3. What's more, Iran will see it as confirmation of U.S. weakness and evidence that its policies are succeeding.

There is very little time for Mr. Obama to change course before he is committed to negotiations. He could start by following Iran's money trail.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

27567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Quotes of note: on: March 21, 2009, 01:10:09 AM
"Separation of economics and State"  Ayn Rand
27568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Haqqani Network on: March 21, 2009, 01:07:24 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Haqqani Network and Negotiations With Afghan Jihadists
March 20, 2009

A report in the Christian Science Monitor on Thursday said that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government has begun preliminary negotiations with a key jihadist faction, the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network. According to the report, Kabul’s emissaries met with representatives of Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani, who have agreed in principle to steps toward an ultimate political settlement. The first stage of the roadmap entails a halt to U.S. military raids on the group’s facilities and the release of its prisoners — provided the group stops burning schools and targeting reconstruction teams. If these initial conditions are met, the next stages involve working on a new system of government for Afghanistan and the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces.

Though this development is in line with U.S. efforts to explore options for a political settlement in Afghanistan, it is strange in that the last time the Haqqani network made headlines, it was in September 2008 — when U.S. drones launched missiles at Haqqani’s residential compound in Pakistan’s tribal belt. Some two dozen members of his family were killed, although Haqqani and his sons survived the attack. The air strike occurred a little over two months after the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, which senior U.S. military and intelligence officials believed was the work of the Haqqani network acting in concert with officials from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

Therefore, before examining the pros and cons of negotiating with the Haqqani network, it is important to understand the network’s place in the jihadist landscape and its relationship with Pakistan’s security establishment. Although it is part of the Afghan Taliban movement, the Haqqani network has maintained distinct autonomy. It is closely allied with al Qaeda and is responsible for the bulk of suicide bombings in Afghanistan.

With its zone of operations in the eastern Afghan provinces along the border with Pakistan, Haqqani’s group wields disproportionate influence among Taliban forces on both sides of the Durand Line. Haqqani’s eldest son, Sirajuddin — who now runs the group because of his father’s advanced age — has been involved in persuading Pakistani Taliban forces to end their attacks inside Pakistan and focus on fighting Western forces in Afghanistan. At a time when Pakistan faces a growing Pashtun jihadist insurgency, the Haqqani network is one of the Taliban factions with which Islamabad retains considerable influence.

In other words, the Haqqani network is well positioned between al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Pakistan. This has implications for any move to negotiate with jihadist insurgents, especially since the U.S. objective is to drive a wedge between Afghan jihadists (the Taliban) and the transnational jihadists of al Qaeda. Haqqani is a critical player in the insurgency, and engaging him in negotiations could help to achieve that objective and undercut the insurgencies in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Conversely, al Qaeda’s leadership also could use its relationship with the Haqqani network, which dates back approximately 20 years, to counter the campaign against the transnational jihadists.

The case of the Haqqani network underscores the excruciatingly complex and difficult task that the Obama administration faces in its efforts to seek a negotiated settlement of the insurgency in Afghanistan.

27569  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: March 21, 2009, 01:05:08 AM
Please keep us informed on development's in your ex-BiL's case Dog Tom.
27570  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 21, 2009, 01:04:10 AM
Thank you for the inspiration Scurvy Dog!  cool
27571  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: March 21, 2009, 01:03:04 AM
Nice find.  No I haven't.  I note that there is something quite similar in Peru.
27572  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Arte marcial en Mexico y cosas semajantes on: March 21, 2009, 01:00:40 AM
27573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Posse Comitatus Act on: March 21, 2009, 12:49:49 AM

Thank you for a serious piece on this important subject.

27574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: March 20, 2009, 10:45:04 PM
A tragically plausible hypothesis.  Safe us buying/reading the book.  What does it say?
27575  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: March 20, 2009, 03:50:59 PM
Thanks to Frankfurter and to Stephen Cho for filling in for me the last two weeks.

Looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow.
27576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Posse Comitatus Act on: March 20, 2009, 03:33:30 PM

Army Investigating How and Why Troops Were Sent Into Alabama Town After Murder Spree
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
By Pete Winn, Senior Writer/Editor

( - The U.S. Army has launched an inquiry into how and why active duty troops from Fort Rucker, Ala., came to be placed on the streets of Samson, Ala., during last week's murder spree in that tiny South Alabama community. The use of the troops was a possible violation of federal law.

“On March 10, after a report of an apparent mass murder in Samson, Ala., 22 military police soldiers from Fort Rucker, Ala., along with the provost marshal, were sent to the city of Samson,” Harvey Perritt, spokesman for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at Fort Monroe, Va., told on Monday.

“The purpose for sending the military police, the authority for doing so, and what duties they performed is the subject of an ongoing commander’s inquiry--directed by the commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Gen. Martin Dempsey.”

TRADOC is the headquarters command for Ft. Rucker.

“In addition to determining the facts, this inquiry will also determine whether law, regulation and policy were followed,” Perritt added. “Until those facts are determined, it would be inappropriate to speculate or comment further.”

Jim Stromenger, a dispatcher at the Samson Police Department, confirmed the MP’s presence in the town, telling that the troops “came in to help with traffic control and to secure the crime scene”--and the department was glad for the help.

“We’ve been getting a lot of calls,” Stromenger said. “They weren’t here to police, let me make that clear. They were here to help with traffic and to control the crime scene--so people wouldn’t trample all over (it).”

Stromenger said the town needed help--calls had gone out to all police departments in the area.

“We only have a five-man police department,” he told “We had officers from all surrounding areas helping out. There were a lot of streets to be blocked off and there had to be someone physically there to block them off. That’s what these MPs were doing. I don’t think they were even armed. The troops helped keep nosy people away.”

But Stromenger said it wasn’t the Samson Police Department that called for the troops.

“I don’t know who called Fort Rucker. But someone did. They wouldn’t have been able to come if someone hadn’t,” he added.

Under Whose Authority?

The troops were apparently not deployed by the request of Alabama Gov. Bob Riley -- or by the request of President Obama, as required by law.

When contacted by, the governor’s office could not confirm that the governor had requested help from the Army, and Gov. Riley's spokesman, Todd Stacy, expressed surprise when he was told that troops had been sent to the town.

No request from President Obama, meanwhile, was issued by the White House--or the Defense Department.

Wrongful use of federal troops inside U.S. borders is a violation of several federal laws, including one known as the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, Title 18, Section 1385 of the U.S. Code.

“Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both,” the law states.

David Rittgers, legal policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said there are other laws barring use of federal troops outside of federal property, as well.

“Title 18, Section 375 of the U.S. Code is a direct restriction on military personnel, and it basically precludes any member of the army in participating in a ‘search, seizure, arrest or other similar activity, unless participation is otherwise authorized by law,’  The security of a crime scene is something I think that would roll up in the category of a ‘search, seizure or other activity,’” Rittgers added.

In addition, there is the Insurrection Act of 1808, as amended in 2007, (Title 10, Section 331 of the U.S. Code) under which the president can authorize troops “to restore order and enforce the laws of the United States” in an insurrection.

“Whenever there is an insurrection in any State against its government, the President may, upon the request of its legislature or of its governor if the legislature cannot be convened, call into federal service such of the militia of the other States, in the number requested by that State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to suppress the insurrection,” the law states.

In 2007, Congress expanded the list to include “natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition” as situations for which the president can authorize troops, provided that “domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the state or possession are incapable of maintaining public order.”

Congress has been clear that the use of U.S. troops for civilian police purposes is forbidden.

“One of the statutes explicitly says that military brigs can’t even be used to detain domestic criminals,” Rittgers said. “It really is supposed to be a black and white line.”

The U.S. Department of Justice, meanwhile, would have prosecuting authority, if any violation is deemed to have occurred. The Justice Department did not comment for this story.

Ft. Rucker, located in Southern Alabama, is the home of Army Aviation.
27577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: March 20, 2009, 03:32:09 PM
And the solution is , , ,
27578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Posse Comitatus Act on: March 20, 2009, 03:27:04 PM
A new thread for an issue likely to become quite important:


U.S. Army Puts Soldiers on the Street in Alabama in Response to Shootings


U.S. Army Puts Soldiers on the Street in Alabama in Response to Shootings

March 11, 2009

The U.S. Army dispatched soldiers to patrol the streets of Samson, Alabama, a small southern town where a rampaging gunman killed 10 people on Tuesday. This obvious violation of the Posse Comitatus Act prohibiting the federal uniformed services from exercising state and local law enforcement was completely ignored by the corporate media with the exception of Reuters and the London Telegraph (see photo and video).

From Reuters: “U.S. Army soldiers from Ft. Rucker patrol the downtown area of Samson, Alabama after a shooting spree March 10, 2009.”

On September 30, 2008, the Army Times reported the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, a component of Northern Command, would be “on-call” in response to “natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.” The Army Times article reported the military would be used for “crowd and traffic control” and be issued “nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.” According to the article, “expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one..” (Emphasis added.)

In early 2006, the 109th Congress passed a bill containing controversial provisions granting the president the ability to use federal troops inside the United States in emergency situations. These changes (in Section 1076) were included in the John Warner Defense Appropriation Act for Fiscal Year 2007.

In 2008, Congress restored many of the earlier limitations on the president’s ability to deploy troops within the United States, but Bush issued a signing statement indicating he was not bound by the changes.

“The story of how Section 1076 became law vivifies how expanding government power is almost always the correct answer in Washington,” James Bovard wrote for the American Conservative on April 23, 2007. “Some people have claimed the provision was slipped into the bill in the middle of the night. In reality, the administration clearly signaled its intent and almost no one in the media or Congress tried to stop it.”

The dispatch of troops to Alabama in response to a local law enforcement situation represents a further erosion of Posse Comitatus and the continued federalization of state and local law enforcement.

A Telegraph video on the shootings in Alabama propagandizes against the right to own
firearms in the United States and the Second Amendment.

Finally, the corporate media in Britain has exploited the situation in an effort to denigrate the Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights. In a transparent propaganda piece (see video above), the Telegraph states that “mass shootings have become a feature of life in the U.S. in recent years. Guns are widely available for purchase in a country that prides itself on the right to own weapons for self defense and hunting.” Britain has some of the most restrictive gun legislation in the world.

After Britain’s government banned guns in 1997, the rate of violent crime more than doubled. “A recent study of all the countries of western Europe has found that in 2001 Britain had the worst record for killings, violence and burglary, and its citizens had one of the highest risks in the industrialized world of becoming victims of crime,” historian Joyce Lee Malcolm wrote for the fall 2004 issue of Journal on Firearms & Public Policy.
27579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran financed Syrian nuke plans on: March 20, 2009, 03:16:14 PM
Report: Iran financed Syrian nuke plans
Tip from defector said to lead to Israeli strike on suspected reactor in '07
The Associated Press
updated 12:29 p.m. PT, Thurs., March. 19, 2009
GENEVA - A top-ranked Iranian defector told the United States that Iran was financing North Korean moves to make Syria into a nuclear weapons power, leading to the Israeli air strike that destroyed a suspected secret reactor, a report said Thursday.

The article in the daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung goes into detail about an Iranian connection and fills in gaps about Israel's Sept. 6, 2007, raid that knocked out Syria's nearly completed Al Kabir reactor in the country's eastern desert.

Ali Reza Asghari, a retired general in Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards and a former deputy defense minister, "changed sides" in February 2007 and provided considerable information to the West on Iran's own nuclear program, said the article, written by Hans Ruehle, former chief of the planning staff of the German Defense Ministry.

"The biggest surprise, however, was his assertion that Iran was financing a secret nuclear project of Syria and North Korea," he said. "No one in the American intelligence scene had heard anything of it. And the Israelis who were immediately informed also were completely unaware."

Ruehle, who did not identify the sources of his information, publishes and comments on security and nuclear proliferation in different European newspapers and broadcasts and has held prominent roles in German and NATO institutions.

U.S. intelligence had detected North Korean ship deliveries of construction supplies to Syria that started in 2002, and American satellites spotted the construction as early as 2003, but regarded the work as nothing unusual, in part because the Syrians had banned radio and telephones from the site and handled communications solely by messengers — "medieval but effective," Ruehle said.

Ship intercepted
Intensive investigation followed by U.S. and Israeli intelligence services until Israel sent a 12-man commando unit in two helicopters to the site in August 2007 to take photographs and soil samples, he said.

"The analysis was conclusive that it was a North Korean-type reactor," a gas graphite model, Ruehle said.

Other sources have suggested that the reactor might have been large enough to make about one nuclear weapon's worth of plutonium a year.

Just before the Israeli commando raid, a North Korean ship was intercepted en route to Syria with nuclear fuel rods, underscoring the need for fast action, he said.

"On the morning of Sept. 6, 2007, seven Israeli F-15 fighter bombers took off to the north. They flew along the Mediterranean coast, brushed past Turkey and pressed on into Syria. Fifty kilometers from their target they fired 22 rockets at the three identified objects inside the Kibar complex.

"The Syrians were completely surprised. By the time their air defense systems were ready, the Israeli planes were well out of range. The mission was successful, the reactor destroyed," Ruehle said.

No comment from Israel
Israel estimates that Iran had paid North Korea between $1 billion and $2 billion for the project, Ruehle said.

Israel has refused from the beginning to comment on, confirm or deny the strike, but after a delay of several months Washington presented intelligence purporting to show the target was a reactor being built with North Korean help.

Iranian officials were not available for comment because of a national holiday. In general, Iran has been silent about the Syrian facility bombed by Israel. Syrian officials could not be reached for comment. But Syria has denied the facility was a nuclear plant, saying it was an unused military building. It has also denied any nuclear cooperation with North Korea or Iran.

The International Atomic Energy Agency earlier this year said U.N. inspectors had found processed uranium traces in samples taken from the site.

Syria has suggested the traces came from Israel ordnance used to hit the site, but the IAEA said the composition of the uranium made that unlikely. Israel has denied it was the source of the uranium.

Syria has told diplomats that it built a missile facility over the ruins of the site.
27580  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Curtescine Lloyd takes matters in hand on: March 20, 2009, 01:12:45 PM
Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Matters in Hand

News article by Mike Royko for the Chicago Tribune

We've had the year of the woman and it is still going on, with females being elected to high office and named to the Cabinet posts, and the power of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But what about Curtescine Lloyd? You never heard of her? Well, she is my choice as one of the most amazing and heroic women of recent years. Ms. Lloyd is a middle-aged nurse who lives with an elderly aunt in the rural hamlet of Edwards, Miss., near Jackson This is her story, most of it taken from the court transcript.

One night, Ms. Lloyd was awakened by a sound. She thought it was her aunt going to the bathroom. Suddenly a man stepped into her bedroom. Terrified, she sat up. He shoved her back down and said: "Bitch, you better not turn on a light. You holler, you're dead. You better not breathe loud." He declared his intentions, which were to rob her and to commit sexual assault. Of course, he phrased it far more luridly. He then took off most of his clothing and jumped into bed.

Here is what happened next, according to court records: Ms. Lloyd: "I got it. I grabbed it by my right hand. And then I grabbed it, I gave it a yank. And when I yanked it, I twisted all at the same time." (Need I explain what Ms. Lloyd meant by "it"? I think not.) "He hit me with his right hand a hard blow beside the head, and when he hit me I grabbed hold of his scrotum with my left hand and I was twisting it the opposite way. He started to yell and we fell to the floor and he hit me a couple more licks, but they were light licks. He was weakening some then." With Ms. Lloyd still hanging on with both hands, squeezing and twisting the fellow's pride and joy, they somehow struggled into the hallway.
"He was trying to get out, and I'm hanging onto him; and he was throwing me from one side of the hall wall to the other. I was afraid if I let him go, he was going go kill me" "So I was determined I was not going to turn it loose. So we were going down the hallway, falling form one side to the other, and we got into the living room and we both fell. He brought me down in front of the couch and he leaned back against the couch, pleading with me." "I said, 'Do you think I'm stupid enough to turn you loose and call the police?' He said, 'Well, what am I gonna do?' I said, 'You're gonna get the hell out of my house.' He said, 'How can I get out of your house if you won't let me go? How can I get out? I can't get out.' "
Ms. Lloyd, still twisting and squeezing, dragged the lout to the front door, which had two locks, and told him to unbolt them. It was a difficult process because he kept collapsing to the floor and she kept hauling him back to his feet. Ms. Lloyd, now confident that she had the upper hand (or should I say the lower hands?) and a full grasp of the situation, said: "When I turn you loose, I'm going to get my gun and I'm going to blow your (obscenity) brains out, you nasty stinking, low-down dirty piece of (obscenity), you."
"And when I did that, I gave it a twist, and I turned him loose. And he took a couple of steps and fell off the steps and he jumped up and grabbed his private parts and made a couple of jumps across the back of my aunt's car." "And I ran into my aunt's room, got her pistol from underneath the nightstand, ran back to the screen door and I fired two shots down the hill the way I saw him go. And then I ran back into the house and dialed 911."

The police came and examined the man's clothing. Inside the trousers was written the name Dwight Coverson. They found Coversion, 29, at home, in considerable pain and wondering if he could ever be a daddy. A one-day jury trial was held. As coverson's court-appointed lawyer put it: "The jury was out 10 minutes. Long enough or two of them to go to the bathroom." And the judge gave him 25 years in prison.
27581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain-Lieberman call for victory on: March 20, 2009, 12:43:15 PM
Our Must-Win War
The 'Minimalist' Path Is Wrong for Afghanistan

U.S. soldiers on patrol this month outside Bagram, Afghanistan. (By Rafiq Maqbool -- Associated Press)
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Who's Blogging» Links to this article 
By John McCain and Joseph Lieberman
Thursday, March 19, 2009; Page A15

Later this month, the Obama administration will unveil a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. This comes as most important indicators in Afghanistan are pointing in the wrong direction. President Obama's decision last month to deploy an additional 17,000 U.S. troops was an important step in the right direction, but a comprehensive overhaul of our war plan is needed, and quickly.

This Story
Our Must-Win War
Civilians to Join Afghan Buildup
Getting It Right in Afghanistan
As the administration finalizes its policy review, we are troubled by calls in some quarters for the president to adopt a "minimalist" approach toward Afghanistan. Supporters of this course caution that the American people are tired of war and that an ambitious, long-term commitment to Afghanistan may be politically unfeasible. They warn that Afghanistan has always been a "graveyard of empires" and has never been governable. Instead, they suggest, we can protect our vital national interests in Afghanistan even while lowering our objectives and accepting more "realistic" goals there -- for instance, by scaling back our long-term commitment to helping the Afghan people build a better future in favor of a short-term focus on fighting terrorists.

The political allure of such a reductionist approach is obvious. But it is also dangerously and fundamentally wrong, and the president should unambiguously reject it. Let there be no doubt: The war in Afghanistan can be won. Success -- a stable, secure, self-governing Afghanistan that is not a terrorist sanctuary -- can be achieved. Just as in Iraq, there is no shortcut to success, no clever "middle way" that allows us to achieve more by doing less. A minimalist approach in Afghanistan is a recipe not for winning smarter but for losing slowly at tremendous cost in American lives, treasure and security.

Yes, our vital national interest in Afghanistan is to prevent it from once again becoming a haven for terrorists to plan attacks against America and U.S. allies. But achieving this narrow counterterrorism objective requires us to carry out a far broader set of tasks, the foremost of which are protecting the population, nurturing legitimate and effective governance, and fostering development. In short, we need a comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency approach backed by greatly increased resources and an unambiguous U.S. political commitment to success in Afghanistan over the long haul.

A narrow, short-term focus on counterterrorism, by contrast, would repeat the mistakes made for years in Iraq before the troop surge, with the same catastrophic consequences. Before 2007 in Iraq, U.S. Special Forces had complete freedom of action to strike at terrorist leaders, backed by more than 120,000 conventional American forces and overwhelming air power. Although we succeeded in killing countless terrorists -- including the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- the insurgency continued to grow in strength and violence. It was not until we changed course and applied a new approach -- a counterinsurgency strategy focused on providing basic security for the people and improving their lives -- that the cycle of violence was at last broken.

Those who argue for simply conducting targeted counterterrorist strikes in Afghanistan also fail to grasp that by far the best way to generate the intelligence necessary for such strikes is from Afghan civilians, who will risk their lives to help us only if they believe we are committed to staying and protecting them from the insurgents and helping to improve their lives.

Loose rhetoric about a minimal commitment in Afghanistan is counterproductive for another reason: It exacerbates suspicions, already widespread in South Asia, that the United States will tire of this war and retreat. These doubts about our staying power deter ordinary Afghans from siding with our coalition against the insurgency. Also important is that these suspicions are a major reason some in Pakistan are reluctant to break decisively with insurgent groups, which, in a hedging strategy, they view as integral to positioning Pakistan for influence "the day after" the United States gives up and leaves Afghanistan. That is why it is so important for the president to reject the temptations of minimalism in Afghanistan and instead adopt a fully resourced, comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy, backed by an unambiguous American commitment to success over the long term. In doing so, he must invest the political capital to remind Americans why this fight is necessary for our national security, speak openly and frankly to our nation about the difficult path ahead, and -- most of all -- explain clearly to our fellow citizens why he is confident that we can prevail.

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama called Afghanistan "the war we must win." He was absolutely right. Now it is time to win it -- and we and many other members of both political parties stand ready to give him our full support in this crucial fight.

John McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, was the 2008 Republican nominee for president. Joe Lieberman, an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut, was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000.
27582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: March 20, 2009, 12:38:45 PM
Turkey, U.S.: Strengthening Ties as Ankara Rises
STRATFOR Today » March 19, 2009 | 1837 GMT

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoganSummary
U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Turkey on April 6-7 and meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The United States and Turkey have many areas of mutual interest, including Iraq, Middle Eastern diplomatic efforts, Iran and Central Asia. Obama’s visit indicates that his administration recognizes Turkey’s growing prominence, and it gives the United States a chance to coordinate policy with a rising power.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed late March 18 that U.S. President Barack Obama will be visiting Turkey on April 6-7. In an interview with Turkish news channel Kanal 7, Erdogan said he had invited Obama to attend a meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations initiative in Istanbul on April 7, but “did not expect” Obama to arrive a day early for an official state visit to Ankara. “Combining the two occasions is very meaningful for us,” he added. Obama’s trip to Turkey will follow a visit to London for the G-20 summit on the global financial crisis, a NATO summit in Strasbourg, France, and a trip to Prague to meet with EU leaders.

Obama’s decision to visit Turkey this early in the game highlights his administration’s recognition of Turkey’s growing prominence in the region. The Turks have woken up after 90 years of post-Ottoman hibernation and are in the process of rediscovering a sphere of influence extending far beyond the Anatolian Peninsula. The Americans, on the other hand, are in the process of drawing down their presence in the Middle East in order to free up U.S. military capabilities to address pressing needs in Afghanistan. With the Turks stepping forward and the Americans stepping back, there are a number of issues of common interest that Obama and Erdogan will need to discuss.

The first order of business is Iraq. The United States is putting its exit strategy into motion and is looking to Turkey to serve as an exit route for U.S. troops and equipment from Iraq. The Turks would not have a problem with granting the United States such access, but they also want to make sure that U.S. withdrawal plans will not interfere with Turkey’s intentions of keeping Iraqi Kurdistan in check. With key Kurdish leader and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani retiring soon and Kurdish demands over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk intensifying, the Turks want to make clear to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq that Ankara promptly will shut down any attempts to expand Kurdish autonomy. Turkey will not hesitate to use the issue of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters hiding out in northern Iraq as a pretext for future military incursions should the need arise to pressure the KRG in a more forceful way, but such tactics could run into complications if the United States intends to withdraw the bulk of its forces through northern Iraq. Therefore, the decision on where to base U.S. troops during the withdrawal process will be a political one, and one that will have to address Turkish concerns over the Kurds. Washington likely will see this as a reasonable price to pay, as it has other problems to handle.

Related Special Topic Page
Turkey’s Re-Emergence
Beyond Iraq, the United States is looking to Turkey as the Muslim regional heavyweight to take the lead in handling some of the knottier issues in the Middle East. The Israeli-Syrian peace talks that went public in 2008 were a Turkish initiative. These negotiations are now in limbo, with the Israelis still working to form a new government, but the Turks are looking to revive them in the near future. Turkey, Israel, the United States and the Arab states all share an interest in bringing Syria into a Western alliance structure, with the aim of depriving Iran of its leverage in the Levant. However, the Syrians are setting an equally high price for their cooperation: Syrian domination over Lebanon. These negotiations are packed with potential deal breakers, but Turkey intends to take on the challenge in the interest of securing its southern flank.

Iran is another critical area where the United States and Turkey see eye to eye. The fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of the Shia in Iraq have given Iran a platform for projecting influence in the Arab world. But the Turks far outpace the Iranians in a geopolitical contest and will be instrumental in keeping Iranian expansionist goals in check. Erdogan’s outburst over Israel’s Gaza offensive was just one of many ways Turkey has been working to assert its regional leadership, build up its credibility among Sunnis in the Arab world and override Iranian attempts to reach beyond its borders. At the same time, the Turks carry weight with the Iranians, who view Turkey as a fellow great empire of the past and non-Arab partner in the Middle East. Washington may not necessarily need the Turks to mediate in its rocky negotiations with Iran, but it will rely heavily on Turkish clout in the region to help put the Iranians in their place.

Some problems may arise, however, when U.S.-Turkish talks venture beyond the Middle East and enter areas where the Turkish and Russian spheres of influence overlap. Turkey’s influence extends into Central Asia and deep into the Caucasus, where the Turks have a strong foothold in Azerbaijan and ties to Georgia, and are in the process of patching things up with the Armenians. As the land bridge between Europe and Asia, Turkey is also the key non-Russian energy transit hub for the European market, and through its control of the Bosporus, it is the gatekeeper to the Black Sea. In each of these areas, the Turks bump into the Russians, another resurgent power that is on a tight timetable for extracting key concessions from the United States on a range of issues that revolve around Russia’s core imperative of protecting its former Soviet periphery from Western meddling.

The U.S. administration and the Kremlin have been involved in intense negotiations over these demands. Washington is still sorting out which concessions it can make in return for Russian cooperation in allowing the United States access to Central Asia for supply routes to Afghanistan, and in applying pressure on Iran. As part of these negotiations, Obama will be meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev at the G-20 summit and later in the summer in Moscow. Though it is still unclear just how much the United States is willing to give the Russians at this juncture — and how flexible the Turks will be in challenging Russia — Washington wants to make sure its allies, like Turkey, are on the same page.

But as STRATFOR has discussed in depth, Russia and Turkey now have more reason to cooperate than collide, and recent diplomatic traffic between Moscow and Ankara certainly reflects this reality. In areas where the United States will want to apply pressure on Russia, such as on energy security for the Europeans, the Turks likely will resist rocking the boat with Moscow. The last thing Turkey wants at this point is to give Russia a reason to politicize its trade relationship with Ankara, cause trouble for the Turks in the Caucasus or meddle in Turkey’s Middle Eastern backyard. In short, there are real limits to what the United States can expect from Turkey in its strategy against Russia.

Obama and Erdogan evidently will have plenty to talk about when they meet in Ankara. Though the United States and Turkey have much to sort out regarding Iraq, Syria, Iran and Russia, this visit will give Obama the stage to formally recognize Turkey’s regional prowess and demonstrate a U.S. understanding of Turkey’s growing independence. Washington can see that the Turks are already brimming with confidence in conducting their regional affairs, and can expect some bumps down the road when interests collide. But the sooner the Americans can start coordinating policy with a resurgent power like Turkey, the better equipped Washington will be for conducting negotiations in other parts of the globe.
27583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: March 20, 2009, 12:26:31 PM
Three civilians — including one Norwegian tourist — were wounded March 19 in Taxco, Mexico, as two men armed with assault rifles abducted an unidentified man near the city’s main plaza. During the kidnapping, which occurred near a Red Cross fundraising event, the gunmen fired indiscriminately into the air and in the direction of the crowd, presumably to force them to scatter so the gunmen could drive away. Two of the three wounded civilians apparently had been struck directly by bullets or ricochets, while the third appeared to have injured her leg while escaping from the kidnappers’ vehicle as it drove off. Such scenes have become commonplace in Mexico over the last few years, and collateral damage is really nothing new. This incident in Taxco, however, highlights the risks associated with foreign tourists visiting Mexico as it experiences a deteriorating security situation.

STRATFOR has warned of the violent situation in Mexico and the risk of foreign tourists getting caught in the crossfire. The perpetrators behind the March 19 incident certainly were not targeting foreigners specifically; their target appears to have been a local man outside a nearby silver retailer, possibly an employee. While there is always the chance that the man was somehow involved in drug trafficking and was targeted for failure to pay a debt or for working for a rival cartel, it is also possible that he was simply one of the thousands of victims picked up annually by Mexico’s many kidnapping gangs.

But the rampant violence carried out by gangs of all professional levels is exactly the kind of threat foreigners can fall victim to. The incident on March 19 is reminiscent of a similar one in that occurred in February 2007, when a Canadian couple was injured in Acapulco as gunmen opened fire on a man walking near the hotel where the couple was staying. Injuring foreign tourists raises the international profile of Mexico’s violent drug war and rampant kidnapping problem, as the problem rises above the level of just gang-on-gang violence or “those who had it coming to them.” The negative publicity is bad for both the government and the country’s organized crime groups. This incident, however, underscores the potential for foreigners to unintentionally get caught in the crossfire during the daily violence that occurs throughout the entire country.
27584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sgt Malone on: March 20, 2009, 12:20:35 PM
Profiles of Valor: U.S. Army Sgt. Malone
United States Army Sergeant First Class Ed Malone was serving with the 3rd Platoon, Grim Troop, 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in 2005 and was conducting a joint combat patrol with the Iraqi Army in the extremely hostile Surai district of Tal'Afar, when the unit was attacked. Without immediate direct fire support from his Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Malone ordered his men to take a defensive position and return fire. He directed his grenadier to eliminate several enemy targets firing from a rooftop. Malone also repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire -- once to retrieve important equipment, another time to evacuate women and children caught in the crossfire, and finally to drag a wounded soldier out of the line of fire. His actions sped medical treatment and evacuation, saving the soldier's life. Malone refused to give ground until reinforcements arrived, and he and his unit held their position for more than an hour. He led a three-man team to clear a courtyard of enemy fighters, relieving pressure on his unit. There, while administering aid to an enemy combatant, Malone was shot in the foot. For his brave actions that day, Malone was awarded the Bronze Star with combat "V" for valor.
27585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / S. Adams; Hamilton on: March 20, 2009, 11:59:38 AM
"Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a State than that all persons employed in places of power and trust must be men of unexceptionable characters." --Samuel Adams

"A fondness for power is implanted, in most men, and it is natural to abuse it, when acquired."

--Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted, 23 February 1775
27586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Case dismissed on: March 20, 2009, 11:58:05 AM
An Arizona court on Wednesday dismissed the case against a gun-store owner accused of looking the other way while front men purchased weapons to deliver to Mexico's drug cartels.

The trial, which began earlier this month, had been heralded as an example of U.S. authorities working to stanch the flow of weapons to Mexico, where a recent war among drug gangs is believed to have killed more than 6,000 people.

At the heart of the case was the X-Caliber gun store, where prosecutors alleged more than 700 high-powered rifles were sold to purchasers whom the owner, 47-year-old George Iknadosian, should have known were acting as so-called straw buyers for Mexican customers. Sales of most weapons to non-U.S. citizens north of the border are severely constrained, as is gun possession by civilians in Mexico.

To get around those restrictions, Arizona officials alleged, Mr. Iknadosian allowed Arizonans with clean criminal records to buy weapons they would resell in Mexico, first by falsifying forms attesting that the firearms were for the purchasers' personal use. Witnesses in the case included several of these alleged straw buyers, who have pleaded guilty to charges that bring a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.

Yet in dismissing the 21 counts against Mr. Iknadosian, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Gottsfield ruled that the evidence prosecutors presented wasn't "material," and therefore didn't support charges against the defendant.

"The state's case is based upon testimony of individuals who [alleged]...that they were the actual purchaser of the firearms when they were not," Judge Gottsfield wrote. He then indicated that such testimony, by itself, failed to establish that any additional unlawful conduct transpired.

"There is no proof whatsoever that any prohibited possessor ended up with the firearm," the judge said.

To be considered "material," he explained, testimony about falsifying government forms must further demonstrate that the act "resulted in an unlawful person ending up with the guns, which has not been proven."

View Full Image

Associated Press
George Iknadosian's closed shop, X-Caliber Guns in Phoenix, was deserted in January.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, briefing reporters at the agency's Washington headquarters Wednesday, declined to comment on the ruling.

State and federal authorities, including a task force supervised by the Phoenix office of the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, worked for 11 months with local police building a case against X-Caliber. According to law-enforcement officials in Phoenix, the investigation included sending undercover agents posing as buyers to Mr. Iknadosian's shop, where agents not only purchased weapons, but boasted of plans to resell them in Mexico.

Authorities also relentlessly publicized the link between X-Caliber and Mexican drug cartels by claiming weapons purchased in Mr. Iknadosian's store had been recovered at Mexican crime scenes. One special weapon -- a handgun inlaid with $35,000 worth of diamonds -- purportedly was captured late last year after the assassination of a top Mexican policeman.

"We are all taking this pretty hard," said Anne Hilby, spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard. Mr. Goddard released a statement disagreeing with Judge Gottsfield's analysis of the case, adding, "We are reviewing the ruling to determine how best to respond."

Messages left for Mr. Iknadosian's attorney and at the defendant's home weren't returned.

Write to Joel Millman at
27587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / States' Rights on: March 20, 2009, 11:57:21 AM
BTW I would like to note my approval of the BO Administration's decision to respect States' right to decriminalize pot.
27588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: March 20, 2009, 11:49:36 AM
We face today the oddest and most unexpected of spectacles: On its sixth anniversary, the Iraq war has been vindicated, while the war in Afghanistan looks like a hopeless undertaking in an impossible land.

This is not what the opponents of the Iraq war had foreseen. After all, Afghanistan was the good war of necessity whereas Iraq was the war of "choice" in the wrong place.

The Afghan struggle was in truth a rod to be held up in the face of the Bush administration's quest in Iraq. Some months ago, Democratic Party strategist Robert Shrum owned up to this fact. "I was part of the 2004 Kerry campaign which elevated the idea of Afghanistan as the 'right war' to conventional Democratic wisdom. This was accurate as criticism, but also reflexive and perhaps by now even misleading as policy."

Getty ImagesThe opponents of the American project in Iraq did not know much about Afghanistan. They despaired of Iraq's sectarianism and ethnic fragmentation, but those pale in comparison with the tribalism and ethnic complications of Afghanistan. If you had your fill with the Kurds and the Sunnis and the Shiites of Iraq, welcome to the warring histories of the Pashtuns, the Uzbeks, the Tajiks, and the Hazara Shiites of Afghanistan.

In their disdain for that Iraq project, the Democrats and the liberal left had insisted that Iraq was an artificial state put together by colonial fiat, and that it was a fool's errand to try to make it whole and intact. Now in Afghanistan, we are in the quintessential world of banditry and tribalism, a political culture that has abhorred and resisted central authority.

Speak of colonial fiat: It was the Pax Britannica that drew the Durand Line of 1892 across the lands of the Pashtuns and marked out a meaningless border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It should have taken no great literacy in the theories and the history of "state-building" to foresee the favorable endowments of Iraq and the built-in disadvantages of Afghanistan.

Man battled the elements in Mesopotamia, and the desert and its ways of plunder and raiding pushed against urban life, but the land gave rise to powerful kingdoms: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Sumerians, the Abbasids. In more modern times, oil and the central treasury knit the place together, often in terror, but kept it together nonetheless.

Contrast this with Afghanistan's impassable mountains and anarchic ways, and with the poppy cultivation and its culture of warlords and bandits. A Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad can dispense of oil largess and draw the provinces toward the capital; a Hamid Karzai in Kabul is what foreign donors and benefactors make of him and enable him to do.

The flattering cliché that Afghanistan is the "graveyard of empires" is a hollow boast. Empires that wandered there did so by default, for there never was anything in Afghanistan -- save for geography -- that outsiders coveted. It was the primitiveness of the place -- the landscape that evoked the imagined early centuries of Islam's beginnings -- and its age-old way of extracting booty from outsiders that had drawn the Arab jihadists, and their financiers and handlers, to Afghanistan.

Now the Democrats own this Afghan struggle. They have to explain and defend it in the midst of a mood of introversion in our national life. It is hard to sound the trumpet at a time of economic distress. Plainly, our country has been living on its nerves since 9/11. It had not willed an Islamic imperium, but it had gotten one. It was bequeathed this terrible duty by the upheaval in the lands of the Arab-Islamic world, and by the guile and cunning of a generation of jihadists and their enablers, who deflected the wrath of their people onto distant American power.

George W. Bush answered history's call -- as he saw fit. The country gave him its warrant and acceptance, and then withdrew it in the latter years of his presidency. Say what you will about his call to vigilance, he had a coherent worldview. He held the line when the world of Islam was truly in the wind and played upon by ruinous temptations. He took the war on terror into the heart of the Arab world. It was Arabs -- with oil money, and with the prestige that comes with their mastery of Arabic, the language of the Quran, among impressionable Pakistanis and Afghans -- who had made Afghanistan the menace it had become. Without Arab money and Arab doctrines of political Islam, the Taliban would have remained a breed of reactionary seminarians, a terror to their own people but of no concern beyond. It thus made perfect strategic sense to take the fight to the Arab heartland of Islam. Saddam Hussein had drawn the short straw.

President Barack Obama -- another "decider" with an expanded view of the presidency's power -- faces a wholly different challenge. It was the economic distress that delivered the state into his stewardship. A cerebral man, he has presented himself as a "realist" in foreign affairs. Not for him is the Bush "heat" about liberty in distant lands.

By the appearance of things, Mr. Obama is undecided about Afghanistan. He has neither embraced this war, nor ditched it. In a perfect world, that AfPak theater (Afghanistan/Pakistan) would hold still as the administration struggles with AIG, the crisis in Detroit, and the selling of the budget. But the world rarely obliges, and sooner or later the administration will have used up the luxury of indecision. It will not be easy for this president to summon this nation to a bigger endeavor in Afghanistan. Set aside his fear that his domestic agenda could be compromised by a bold undertaking far from home. The foreign world simply does not beckon this president.

In fairness to him, his hesitancy in the face of foreign challenges is a fair reflection of the country's fatigue with causes beyond its borders. He could link Afghanistan with 9/11 and with the wider war on terror, but he put forth the word that the vigilance and zeal of that struggle is best forgotten. By his admonition, we are not to speak of the global war on terror. The world is full of reconcilables and deal-makers, bazaaris one and all in Damascus and Tehran and Palestine. In the Obama worldview, it is now time for diplomatic accommodations.

The president is on the horns of a dilemma of his own making. In his determination to be the "un-Bush," he has declared his intention to repair what some have called "Brand America" and to pursue a nonideological foreign policy of multilateralism and moderation. His aloofness from what played out in Iraq is a hindrance to him when it comes to issuing any call to arms in Afghanistan.

He can't build on the Iraq victory, because he has never really embraced it. The occasional statement that we can win over the reconcilables and the tribes in Afghanistan the way we did in the Anbar is lame and unconvincing. The Anbar turned only when the Sunni insurgents had grown convinced that the Americans were there to stay, and that the alternative to accommodation with the Americans, and with the Baghdad government, is a sure and widespread Sunni defeat. The Taliban are nowhere near this reckoning. If anything, the uncertain mood in Washington counsels patience on their part, with the promise of waiting out the American presence.

Mr. Obama does not have to offer the Iraq campaign post facto vindication. But as he does battle in the same wider theatre of that Greater Middle East, he will have to draw the proper lessons of the Iraq campaign. This Afghan war can't be waged in stealth, and in silence. Half-measures will not do. This war will have to be explained -- or explained away. For it to have any chance, it will have to be claimed and owned up to even in the midst of our economic distress. It's odd that so articulate a president has not yet found the language with which to describe this war, and the American stakes in it.

Mr. Ajami is professor of Middle East Studies at The Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies and an adjunct senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
27589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Affirmative action in action? on: March 20, 2009, 11:43:03 AM
27590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fed becomes Treasury's b*tch on: March 20, 2009, 11:11:11 AM

In case there was any residual doubt, the Bernanke Fed threw itself all in this week to unlock financial markets and spur the economy. With its announced plan to make a mammoth purchase of Treasury securities, the Fed essentially said that the considerable risks of future inflation and permanent damage to the Fed's political independence are details that can be put off, or cleaned up, at a later date. Whatever else people will say about his chairmanship, Ben Bernanke does not want deflation or Depression on his resume.

It's important to understand the historic nature of what the Fed is doing. In buying $300 billion worth of long-end Treasurys, it is directly monetizing U.S. government debt. This is what the Federal Reserve did during World War II to finance U.S. government borrowing, before the Fed broke the pattern in a very public spat with the Truman Administration during the Korean War. Now the Bernanke Fed is once again making itself a debt agent of the Treasury, using its balance sheet to finance Congressional spending.

William McChesney Martin Jr.
It is also monetizing U.S. debt indirectly with the huge expansion of its direct purchase program of mortgage-backed securities (MBS). It was $500 billion, and now it will add $750 billion more "this year." Foreign governments have been getting out of Fannie and Freddie MBSs in recent months and going into Treasurys. Thus the Fed is essentially substituting as these foreign governments finance U.S. debt by buying presumably safer Treasurys.

The purpose of these actions is to keep rates low on both Treasurys and MBSs, and to keep the cost of funds low for banks and especially for home buyers. It worked on Tuesday; long bond and mortgage rates fell.

The case for doing all this is that the Fed needs to supply dollars at a time when money velocity is low and the world demand for dollars is high amid the global recession. As long as the world keeps demanding dollars, the Fed can get away with this extraordinary credit creation. That said, bear in mind that the Fed's balance sheet has more than doubled since September -- to $1.9 trillion from $900 billion. These latest commitments mean it may more than double again, close to $4 trillion. That would be about 30% of GDP, up from about 7%.

The market reaction clearly showed the implied risks, with gold leaping and the dollar taking a dive the past two days. As the economy improves, and thus as the velocity of money increases, the risk of inflation will soar. Mr. Bernanke says the Fed can remove the money fast, but central bankers always say that and rarely do. The Fed statement isn't reassuring on that point. It says, "the Committee sees some risk that inflation could persist for a time below rates that best foster economic growth and price stability in the longer term." The Fed seems to be saying it wants a little inflation, which we know from history can easily become a big inflation or another asset bubble. The last time the Fed cut rates to very low levels to fight "deflation," we ended up with the housing bubble and mortgage mania.

The other great, and less appreciated, danger is political. The Bernanke Fed has now dropped even the pretense of independence and has made itself an agent of the Treasury, which means of politicians. With its many new credit facilities -- the TALF and the others -- it is making credit allocation decisions across the economy. If a business borrower qualifies for one of these facilities, it gets cheaper money. If it doesn't, it's out of luck. Thus the scramble by so many nonbanks to become bank holding companies, so they can tap the Fed's well of cheap credit.

The question is how the Fed will withdraw from all of this unchartered territory now that it has moved into it. How will it wean companies off easy credit, especially since some companies may need it to survive? What happens when Members of Congress lobby the Fed to keep credit loose for auto loans to help Detroit, or credit cards to help Amex? House Speaker Pelosi yesterday gave a taste, saying the AIG bailout was the Fed's idea "without any prior notification to us." Mr. Bernanke, meet your new partners.

Above all, the Treasury and Congress won't be happy if the Fed decides to stop buying Treasurys and the result is a big increase in government borrowing costs. This was the source of the dispute between the Federal Reserve and the Truman Treasury. The Fed wanted to raise rates amid rising inflation, while the Truman Treasury wanted cheap financing for Korea and its domestic priorities. The Fed prevailed in the famous "Accord" of 1951, thanks to a young assistant secretary of the Treasury named William McChesney Martin. He would go on to become Fed Chairman and create the modern era of Fed independence. The U.S. and the Fed are going to need another Martin, sooner rather than later.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
27591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon on: March 20, 2009, 11:09:47 AM

20 March 2009

Before I lived in Germany and Poland for about six years, the Army taught me German and some Polish.  And so there were countless conversations with older Germans and Poles, and I heard earfuls of stories.  The older Germans were very respectful toward our "Greatest Generation," but pretty much hated the Russians because of their brutality.  The theme nearly always drifted to the very humane treatment we afforded German prisoners, while the Russians killed them off.  We even had German prisoners working on farms, and after the war, many Germans returned and married American women!  But the Poles didn't like the Germans or the Russians because of the very same reasons.  They had been mistreated, but the Poles have great respect for America because we treated them well.  Americans are extremely welcome in Poland, but that place sure is cold.

It is extremely heartening that so many soldiers have reached out to me privately about the torture issue.  Most do not seem to want to enter the fray publicly, but most also seem to share my the same aversion to maltreatment of prisoners.  Not because any of us are softhearted about the enemy; I'll likely see dozens more enemy killed this year and I never feel bad for al Qaeda or Taliban.  They chose to fight.  They chose to attack us or help attack us on 9/11 and at other times.

Please see this article from a military professional from our Greatest Generation. He dealt with a fanatical country that sneak attacked us at Pearl Harbor, and who used suicide attackers.  And we won.

Very interesting read
27592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The River Up on: March 20, 2009, 09:57:25 AM
The River Up
By Tzvi Freeman

When the Divine Light began its epic descent—a journey that conceived worlds lower and lower for endless worlds, condensing its unbounded state again and again into innumerable finite packages until focused to a fine, crystallized resolution—it did so with purpose: to bring forth a world of continuous ascent. Since that beginning, not a day has passed that does not transcend its yesterday.

Like a mighty river rushing to reach its ocean, no dam can hold it back, no creature can struggle against its current. Even we, its voyageurs, cannot turn back. We must only move on with the river, on in its relentless ascent to the sea.

We may appear to take a wrong turn, to lose a day in failure—it is our delusion, for we have no map to know the river's way. We see from within, but the river knows its path from Above. And to that place Above it is drawn.

We are not masters of that river— not of our ultimate destiny, not of the stops along the way, not even of the direction of our travel. We did not create the river—its flow creates us. It is the blood and soul of our world, its pulse and its very fibers.

Yet of one thing we have been granted mastery: Not of the journey, but of our role within it. How soon will we arrive? How complete? How fulfilled? Will we be the spectators? The props? Or will we be the heroes?

That is all. And that is all that counts.
27593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 19, 2009, 11:51:16 PM
Fascinating.  Perhaps it would be better in the North Korea thread?
27594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: March 19, 2009, 07:38:27 PM
Headmistress accused of 'Islamophobia' wins £400,000


Head accused of 'Islamophobia' wins £400,000 after being forced out by Muslim governors

By Andy Dolan, Matt Sandy and Nick Mcdermott
Last updated at 11:20 PM on 19th March 2009

A headmistress who was hounded out of her job after being falsely accused of racism was yesterday awarded more than £400,000 in compensation.

Erica Connor had run a 'happy and successful' primary school but was driven to a breakdown by the allegations.
The Daily Mail can reveal the school's troubles started when a local mosque decided to pack the governing body with Muslims.
Paul Martin - a Muslim convert - and Mumtaz Saleem began monopolising meetings with the aim of turning New Monument in Woking into an Islamic faith school.

The Surrey town is home to the first purpose-built mosque in the country - the Shah Jahan Mosque - which dates from 1889.
Mr Martin, a businessman, yesterday confirmed there had been a 'conscious effort' to increase the number of Muslims on the board.
But when Mrs Connor resisted the new governors' plans - such as the introduction of Islamic worship into the school - she became the target of a smear campaign.

An anonymous petition was circulated among parents, stating that those signing 'no longer have confidence in Erica Connor to educate our children in a way that respects and values our faith, culture and heritage'.
An accompanying document accused the headmistress of 'racism and Islamophobia'.

The accusations drove her to suffer from depression.

She eventually retired from the 300-pupil school because of illhealth in December 2006.
She is unlikely ever to return to teaching and now does voluntary work for a cancer charity.
A judge at the Royal Courts of Justice in London yesterday ordered Surrey County Council to pay Mrs Connor £407,781 in compensation.

He ruled that the local education authority had failed to support her properly against the unfounded accusations.
Deputy Judge John Leighton Williams said the council disregarded the 'health and welfare' of Mrs Connor because it was more concerned about being reported to the Commission for Racial Equality.

Erica Connor was headteacher of New Monument School in Woking (pictured) where 80 per cent of pupils are Muslim. She claimed she was forced to retire through ill health after a campaign of harrassment

After the case, Mrs Connor said the allegations 'attacked the core of my being and my values'.   She accused the council of cownorardice for failing to stand by her while the non-demoninational primary school - where around 80 per cent of the pupils are Muslim - was torn apart by the split in the governing body.

She had told the court earlier: 'I felt the LEA, because of the political sensitivity of the issue, were not addressing it.
'I felt - I will be honest - that this was racism towards me, because I felt that, had I been a Muslim head, things would have been conducted in a different way. I felt that they didn't have the courage to stand by me in this.'

The divorced mother of one was made headmistress in 1998 after joining the school four years earlier as the deputy head. In 2001 she was invited to a Downing Street reception after the school was named the second most improved in the country for SATs results.  Her problems started in 2003 when four Muslim governors, including Mr Martin, joined the board. He was appointed as a parent-governor, despite having no children at the school.

'It was tense': Paul Martin at home in Woking, Surrey

Shortly afterwards, Mr Saleem joined as one of two LEA-appointed Muslim governors.  Mr Martin also nominated another Muslim as parent-governor - Sofia Syed, who also had no prior connection to the school. Over the next two years Mrs Connor believed the governing body became 'dysfunctional' because of the conduct of Mr Martin and Mr Saleem, the court heard. In her witness statement, Mrs Connor said they 'effectively railroaded' meetings, repeatedly raising issues of religious education, content of assemblies and religious worship. They wanted more formal Islamic worship in the school and closer links with the local mosque.
From late 2003, Mr Martin, now 58, repeatedly complained about the school's policies and its stance towards Islam, as well as its links with the Muslim community and Mrs Connor's management.

His complaints resulted in an investigation. Its report acquitted the school of racism, Islamophobia and religious bias. Mr Martin was finally voted off the governing body in June 2005. He complained that he had been 'removed for blowing the whistle on institutional racism'.

The council wrote to parents saying it had no evidence that the allegations were true and reiterated the results of the investigation.
But at the start of the following school term in September, a second investigation - this time at the instigation of the council - concluded the school 'had not been responsive to the needs of the faith community'.

Mrs Connor went on sick leave suffering from stress and depression soon afterwards.

By then, the entire governing body had been disbanded. The following year the school was put in special measures by Ofsted.
Mrs Connor did not sue Mr Martin or Mr Saleem, but claimed that Mr Saleem had harassed her. Judge Williams cleared him of harassment, but ruled that he had been guilty of 'offensive verbal attacks' towards Mrs Connor.

The judge said of the two governors: 'I am satisfied that they sought to monopolise governing body meetings with a view to imposing their own agenda, and were prepared to do so regardless of the interests of the school and anyone who resisted that agenda. What was that agenda? It was at the very least to introduce an increasing role for the Muslim religion in New Monument School.'

The judge added that it was also 'not unreasonable' for Mrs Connor and the school's staff 'to consider that there was an agenda to convert New Monument to an Islamic faith school'.

The judge said the council's 'excessive tolerance' of the Muslim governors' behaviour, its 'misplaced sympathy' for Mr Martin - and its failure to provide Mrs Connor with proper support were the reasons for her depression. Last night, Mr Martin said that he and other governors had simply lobbied for an increase in the number of Islamic assemblies.
He said: 'There were many Muslims in the school and they should be properly represented. It is only fair and democratic.'
Mr Martin, who converted to Islam 28 years ago and was treasurer of the mosque, said he thought Mrs Connor 'became very defensive and it got very tense'.

Mrs Connor, who is believed to live with her partner Neil in Skenfrith, near Abergavenny in South Wales, said after the ruling she was 'thrilled that justice has prevailed'.

She added: 'I finally feel vindicated. I was subjected to dreadful pressures from a small group of individuals, unrepresentative of the local community, without the support I would have expected from Surrey County Council.'

Her damages claim covered sums for her pain and suffering and loss of income and pension.
A Surrey County Council spokesman said the authority was 'disappointed' with the decision
The council was refused permission to appeal, but could take the case to the Court of Appeal.
27595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The vortex beckons , , , on: March 19, 2009, 06:43:07 PM

IMF poised to print billions of dollars in 'global quantitative easing'

The International Monetary Fund is poised to embark on what analysts have described as "global quantitative easing" by printing billions of dollars worth of a global "super-currency" in an unprecedented new effort to address the economic crisis.
27596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 19, 2009, 06:36:22 PM
As a layman trying to think about a highly technical subject I look for things that seem to encapsulate a larger truth.  In my case I remember that the Diablo Canyon Reactor was built on an earthquake fault here in CA.

Have you ever lived through any earthquakes?  I have and that experts would build a reactor on a fault destroys my faith in them and their process.
27597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: March 19, 2009, 02:41:00 PM
And so the spiral into economic fascism continues, , , ,

BTW, how much is the $180+billion we given to AIG?  Well, if I have my numbers right, total take on Capital Gains is somewhere around $225B.  Imagine what would have happened to the market if we had simply abolished the cap gains tax!
27598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Home, ranging here at home, where the Islamo fascists will play, , , on: March 19, 2009, 01:56:48 PM
Guantanamo Detainees May Be Released in U.S.



WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Eric Holder said some detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may end up being released in the U.S. as the Obama administration works with foreign allies to resettle some of the prisoners.

Mr. Holder, in a briefing with reporters, said administration officials are still reviewing individual cases of the approximately 250 detainees to determine which will be put on trial and which may be released to comply with plans to close the detention facility by next year.

Six weeks into his tenure, Mr. Holder is still trying to assemble much of the Justice senior leadership, with several nominees awaiting Senate confirmation. He said he has reviewed the department's handling of white-collar criminal cases in response to the financial crisis and is considering ways to increase coordination on financial fraud among federal prosecutors and state officials. He said he is trying to increase the budget dedicated to white-collar crime, while maintaining funding for national security.

European justice ministers met with Mr. Holder earlier this week and pressed for details on how many Guantanamo prisoners the U.S. planned to release domestically, as part of any agreement for allies to accept detainees. Mr. Holder said U.S. officials would work to respond to the questions European officials have over U.S. Guantanamo plans.

For "people who can be released there are a variety of options that we have and among them is the possibility is that we would release them into this country," Mr. Holder said. "That process is ongoing and we've not made any determinations or made any requests of anybody at this point."

Among the detainees whose fate remains undetermined are 17 ethnic Uighurs, from the Central Asian region of China, who have been ordered released by a judge. The U.S. has refused to turn the men over to China, which considers them part of an separatist group.

Mr. Holder is planning to visit Mexico next month to meet with his counterparts and discuss efforts to fight the trafficking of guns from the U.S. into Mexico and the drug trade from Mexico into the U.S.

"The Mexican government has been courageous in the way it has confronted the problems that now challenge it," Mr. Holder said, noting the violence that has resulted from battles against the drug cartels in Mexico.

Source The Wall St. Journal
27599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: March 19, 2009, 12:38:37 PM
Dems opposed to BO-Holder's AWB!!!
27600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO backs down! on: March 19, 2009, 12:20:53 PM
Obama backs down on vets insurance billing

Marine Corps Times
By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Mar 18, 2009 19:35:13 EDT
The Obama administration waved a white flag of surrender Wednesday, dropping a budget proposal that would have billed private insurance companies for treatment of service-connected medical problems at Veterans Affairs Department hospitals and clinics.

“It was total capitulation,” one participant said at a meeting Wednesday with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in which 11 veterans groups vowed they would fight to the end to kill the proposal.

AmVets Executive Director Jim King said he was glad the White House promised to kill the idea, which was distracting from the good news of the Obama administration’s proposed $4.9 billion increase in the VA budget, and which would have hurt disabled veterans, their families and maybe even employees at the same companies.

Billing private insurance to pay for veterans’ health care would make disabled veterans less desirable employees for companies worried about holding down health care costs, and could have led to veterans and their families paying higher premiums — even raising premiums for everyone working for the same company, King said.

Veterans groups met Monday with President Barack Obama to discuss the controversial proposal, but Obama promised only to look at the issue.
On Wednesday, Emanuel “said he was wrong” in his earlier support of the proposal, King said. “The 11 groups spoke with one voice, and he accepted that.”

The announcement of the reversal came from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., not from the White House.

“I feel something good happened for veterans,” King said, adding that the White House deserved criticism for proposing the idea in the first place but also credit for quickly dropping it.

Disabled American Veterans also commended the reversal. “The president was very open and candid when he met with veterans groups earlier this week, and we are pleased that he has heard our concerns and taken them to heart,” said David Gorman, executive director of DAV’s Washington office.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed the White House had changed its position.

“In considering the third party billing issue, the administration was seeking to maximize the resources available for veterans,” Gibbs said in a statement. However, the president “listened to concerns raised by the VSOs that this might, under certain circumstances, affect veterans and their families’ ability to access health care” and agreed with them. “The president has instructed that its consideration be dropped.”

In an effort that could be viewed as making up for some of the political damage caused by the controversy, Gibbs said that President Barack Obama “wants to continue a constructive partnership” with military and veterans groups and is “grateful” to the groups that worked with him on the proposal, even in opposition.

The White House is not talking about reversing current policy, which does bill the private insurers of some veterans for treatment not directly related to a service-connected injury, illness or disease. If anything, billing for nonservice-connected care could become even more aggressive in an effort to generate money for health care, which is what Emanuel told veterans groups was the whole reason for even considering expanding insurance billing.

The White House idea was not getting support in Congress. On Wednesday morning, before the change was announced, Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman, issued a statement saying he would not even consider such legislation.

“The Obama administration’s proposal to charge third-party insurance companies for service-connected medical treatment will not be taken up by the Veterans Affairs Committee,” Filner said. “Our budget cannot be balanced on the backs, or legs, or kidneys or hearts of our nation’s combat-wounded heroes,” he said.

The proposal gave Republicans an opening to question whether the Obama administration really wants to help veterans. Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, a decorated Air Force veteran and former prisoner of war in Vietnam, called the insurance billing idea “sad and shameful.”

“As a combat-wounded fighter pilot who served in two wars, I find the White House idea of charging wounded war heroes for care absurd, abhorrent and unconscionable,” he said in a speech on the House floor.

A forum comment: ""Seems to me it's kind of hard for him to push socialized medicine on all of us and at the same time admit that socialized medicine isn't up to the task of taking care of our troops."

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