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27651  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Greg Mortenson on Bill Moyers on: January 26, 2010, 12:12:49 AM
Bill Moyers?  I know, I know shocked rolleyes

OTOH Greg Mortenson has been places and done things in Afpakia that merit deep respect and give his words weight.

I haven't viewed this yet, having read GM's first book "Three Cups of Tea" I do not hesitate to post it here:
27652  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: January 25, 2010, 11:59:57 PM
Awesome day today.  Kenny Johnson came by today and we prepared the outline for the Camp.  Those there were treated to some first rate stuff  cool
27653  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm) Training Camp Feb 6-7 on: January 25, 2010, 05:31:57 PM
Woof All:

Kenny came by today and we worked on things in preparation for the Camp.  Each of us is fired up!
27654  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Federalist 62 on: January 25, 2010, 11:45:32 AM
"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be to-morrow." --Federalist No. 62
27655  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Secret agents of DOJ on: January 25, 2010, 11:27:52 AM
Paid secret agents of DOJ at work with your tax dollars


Jan Chen of Seattle writes to the Northwest Asian Weekly (a small Asian paper serving the Seattle area):
As one listens to the Republican anger over health care reform, one can imagine an anti-government protester cheerfully paying premiums on insurance policies that drop you after you make a claim, or happily sauntering out of an emergency room that denied them treatment because of a coverage problem. One can imagine a town hall sign-waver enthusiastically forking over most of their pay to bill collectors after suffering a catastrophic injury, thinking, “Wow, the free market system is great.”

Meanwhile, Gloria Elle writes to the Baltimore Chronicle — on the same page as Mark Spivey and Ellie Light:
As one listens to the Republican anger over health care reform, one can imagine an anti-government protester cheerfully paying premiums on insurance policies that cancel you for making a claim, or happily sauntering out of an emergency room that denied them treatment because of a coverage problem. One can imagine a town-hall sign-waver enthusiastically forking over most of their pay to bill collectors after suffering a catastrophic injury, thinking, “Wow, the free market system is great.”
27656  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WaPo: Hezbollah's rocket relocations on: January 25, 2010, 11:13:12 AM
Hezbollah's relocation of rocket sites to Lebanon's interior poses wider threat
By Howard Schneider
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, January 23, 2010
BEIRUT -- Hezbollah has dispersed its long-range-rocket sites deep into northern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley, a move that analysts say threatens to broaden any future conflict between the Islamist movement and Israel into a war between the two countries.

More than 10,000 U.N. troops now patrol traditional Hezbollah territory in southern Lebanon along the Israeli border, and several thousand Lebanese armed forces personnel also have moved into the area. A cross-border raid by Hezbollah guerrillas in summer 2006 triggered a month-long war that prompted the United Nations to deploy its force as part of a cease-fire.
The United Nations is confident that the dense presence of its troops in the comparatively small area is helping lower the risk of conflict and minimizing Hezbollah's ability to move weapons across southern Lebanon, but analysts in Lebanon and Israel say the U.N. mission is almost beside the point.

Hezbollah's redeployment and rearmament indicate that its next clash with Israel is unlikely to focus on the border, instead moving farther into Lebanon and challenging both the military and the government. The situation is important for U.S. efforts in the region, whether aimed at curbing the influence of Hezbollah's patrons in Iran or at persuading Syria to moderate its stance toward Israel and its neighbors.

Hezbollah "learned their lesson" in 2006, when vital intelligence enabled the Israel Defense Forces to destroy the group's long-range launch sites in the first days of the conflict, said reserve Gen. Aharon Zeevi Farkash, a former head of IDF intelligence. In effect, he said, "the 'border' is now the Litani River," with Hezbollah's rocket sites possibly extending north of Beirut.

In a December briefing, Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the IDF head of operations, said some Hezbollah rockets now have a range of more than 150 miles -- making Tel Aviv reachable from as far away as Beirut. The Islamist group has talked openly of its efforts to rebuild, and Israel estimates that Hezbollah has about 40,000 projectiles, most of them shorter-range rockets and mortar shells.

The group "has been fortifying lots of different areas," said Judith Palmer Harik, a Hezbollah scholar in Beirut. With U.N. and Lebanese forces "packed along the border," she said, "we are looking at a much more expanded battle in all senses of the word."

Just a matter of time?

The border has been relatively quiet since the 2006 war, a fact that officials with the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon attribute at least partly to the 400 or so patrols they send out each day to search for weapons stores and prevent border violations.

Armored U.N. vehicles sit at the entrance to southern Lebanon, alongside Lebanese army and intelligence checkpoints; blue-flagged U.N. troops occupy mountaintop posts that Hezbollah used as firing sites in 2006.

"We are covering every square inch," said Maj. S.K. Misra, a spokesman for the battalion of India's 3/11 Gurkha Rifles corps that patrols southeastern Lebanon. "It's impossible for anything to move."

At the same time, debate is raging in political and military circles between those who argue that the damage to each side in 2006 has created a sort of respectful deterrence between Israel and Hezbollah and those who say it is only a matter of time before violence erupts again.

Hezbollah lost hundreds of fighters in the conflict and was put on the defensive in Lebanon, where some questioned whether the group's vow to continue "resistance" against Israel was worth letting an unregulated paramilitary organization effectively make decisions about war and peace.


With Iran backing and supplying Hezbollah and the United States backing and supplying Israel, "the battlefield is Lebanon," said Marwan Hamadeh, a Lebanese member of parliament and supporter of a government coalition that is trying to curb Hezbollah's arms and limit Syrian and Iranian influence in the country. "This is where the Iranian missiles sit, and this is where the Israeli air force can reach."

Israel, meanwhile, lost more than 100 troops and uncharacteristically large numbers of tanks, helicopters and other equipment -- prompting it to rewrite its war doctrine and adjust its perception of Hezbollah's militia. Military analysts now see Hezbollah not as primarily a guerrilla force but as an organization that practices "hybrid war," mixing classic guerrilla tactics with the strategy, equipment and capability of a standing army.

In a 2008 report for the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, analysts Stephen D. Biddle and Jeffrey A. Friedman concluded that Hezbollah had performed more effectively in 2006 than any of the Arab armies from Egypt, Syria or Jordan that had fought conventional wars with Israel over the years, and better in some ways than the Iraqi army in its two wars with the United States.

In Beirut, politicians and analysts agree that the group has only grown stronger since 2006. As they hear Hezbollah's secretary general, Hasan Nasrallah, speak of a conflict that will "change the face of the region," many assume that the IDF will not allow the organization to rearm, recruit and train much longer before striking.

In Israel, Hezbollah is seen as part of a wider struggle for regional influence between Iran and U.S.-allied moderate Arab states, given the group's ties to Iran and Syria and arms supplies assumed to run through both countries.

There is no reason the current calm cannot continue, said retired Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser who is now a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies. But if a conflict does break out, "Israel will not contain that war against Hezbollah," Eiland said. "We cannot."  Given Hezbollah's capabilities, he said, "the only way to deter the other side and prevent the next round -- or if it happens, to win -- is to have a military confrontation with the state of Lebanon."
27657  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck on: January 24, 2010, 08:58:29 PM
Having read Goldberg's book (Liberal Fascism) I think the piece would have been well served by bringing in the shared intellectual analysis of Mussolini and FDR.  Indeed not doing so was a real missed opportunity.  Also I found some of the editing graphics weird and distracting.
27658  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: International Issues on: January 24, 2010, 08:54:38 PM

Please post this at and then I will delete here.

Thank you.
27659  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hitler, Stalin, Che, Mao documentary on: January 24, 2010, 07:19:45 PM
Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:
27660  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Gates in Pakistan on: January 24, 2010, 11:43:40 AM
With the US announced to begin leaving this "essential war of self-defense" to the Afghan Army in 16 months or so, is it really surprising that Pakistan plans for what happens after we leave?

Here's POTH's spin:

Gates Sees Fallout From Troubled Ties With Pakistan

Published: January 23, 2010
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Nobody else in the Obama administration has been mired in Pakistan for as long as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. So on a trip here this past week to try to soothe the country’s growing rancor toward the United States, he served as a punching bag tested over a quarter-century.

“Are you with us or against us?” a senior military officer demanded of Mr. Gates at Pakistan’s National Defense University, according to a Pentagon official who recounted the remark made during a closed-door session after Mr. Gates gave a speech at the school on Friday. Mr. Gates, who could hardly miss that the officer was mimicking former President George W. Bush’s warning to nations harboring militants, simply replied, “Of course we’re with you.”

That was the essence of Mr. Gates’s message over two days to the Pakistanis, who are angry about the Central Intelligence Agency’s surge in missile strikes from drone aircraft on militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, among other grievances, and showed no signs of feeling any love.

The trip, Mr. Gates’s first to Pakistan in three years, proved that dysfunctional relationships span multiple administrations and that the history of American foreign policy is full of unintended consequences.

As the No. 2 official at the C.I.A. in the 1980s, Mr. Gates helped channel Reagan-era covert aid and weapons through Pakistan’s spy agency to the American allies at the time: Islamic fundamentalists fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. Many of those fundamentalists regrouped as the Taliban, who gave sanctuary to Al Qaeda before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and now threaten Pakistan.

In meetings on Thursday, Pakistani leaders repeatedly asked Mr. Gates to give them their own armed drones to go after the militants, not just a dozen smaller, unarmed ones that Mr. Gates announced as gifts meant to placate Pakistan and induce its cooperation.

Pakistani journalists asked Mr. Gates if the United States had plans to take over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons (Mr. Gates said no) and whether the United States would expand the drone strikes farther south into Baluchistan, as is under discussion. Mr. Gates did not answer.

At the same time, the Pakistani Army’s chief spokesman told American reporters at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday that the military had no immediate plans to launch an offensive against extremists in the tribal region of North Waziristan, as American officials have repeatedly urged.

And the spokesman, Maj. Gen Athar Abbas, rejected Mr. Gates’s assertion that Al Qaeda had links to militant groups on Pakistan’s border. Asked why the United States would have such a view, the spokesman, General Abbas, curtly replied, “Ask the United States.”

General Abbas’s comments, made only hours after Mr. Gates arrived in Islamabad, were an affront to an American ally that gave Pakistan $3 billion in military aid last year. But American officials, trying to put a positive face on the general’s remarks and laying out what they described as military reality, said that the Pakistani Army was stretched thin from offensives against militants in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan and probably did not have the troops.

“They don’t have the ability to go into North Waziristan at the moment,” an American military official in Pakistan told reporters. “Now, they may be able to generate the ability. They could certainly accept risk in certain places and relocate some of their forces, but obviously that then creates a potential hole elsewhere that could suffer from Taliban re-encroachment.”

Mr. Gates’s advisers cast him as a good cop on a mission to encourage the Pakistanis rather than berate them. And he was characteristically low-key during most his visit here, including during a session with Pakistani journalists on Friday morning at the home of the American ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson.

But Mr. Gates perked up when he was brought some coffee, and he soon began to push back against General Abbas. American officials say that the real reason Pakistanis distinguish between the groups is that they are reluctant to go after those that they see as a future proxy against Indian interests in Afghanistan when the Americans leave. India is Pakistan’s archrival in the region.

“Dividing these individual extremist groups into individual pockets if you will is in my view a mistaken way to look at the challenge we all face,” Mr. Gates said, then ticked off the collection on the border.

“Al Qaeda, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Tariki Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Haqqani network — this is a syndicate of terrorists that work together,” he said. “And when one succeeds they all benefit, and they share ideas, they share planning. They don’t operationally coordinate their activities, as best I can tell. But they are in very close contact. They take inspiration from one another, they take ideas from one another.”

Mr. Gates, who repeatedly told the Pakistanis that he regretted their country’s “trust deficit” with the United States and that Americans had made a grave mistake in abandoning Pakistan after the Russians left Afghanistan, promised the military officers that the United States would do better.

His final message delivered, he relaxed on the 14-hour trip home by watching “Seven Days in May,” the cold war-era film about an attempted military coup in the United States.
27661  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Price of Tyranny on: January 24, 2010, 11:32:26 AM
These URLs are not working for me , , ,
27662  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm) Training Camp Feb 6-7 on: January 24, 2010, 11:30:55 AM
Thank you KD.
27663  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: January 24, 2010, 11:26:42 AM
That certainly is a plausible analysis, but IMHO also plausible is that he wanted to run last time but thought that the others were starting too soon.  While he waited for his moment, Fred Thompson stole the thunder.  That Fred then wasted it is another subject. 

You may be right, but I am not ready to write Newt off yet.  If he decides to really make a go of it he could be really formidable.
27664  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Foot on Bomb, Marine defies a trap on: January 24, 2010, 11:02:48 AM
January 24, 2010

Foot on Bomb, Marine Defies a Taliban Trap

SHOSHARAK, Afghanistan

If luck is the battlefield’s final arbiter — the wild card that can trump fitness, training, teamwork, equipment, character and skill — then Lance Cpl. Ryan T. Mathison experienced its purest and most welcome form.

On a Marine foot patrol here through the predawn chill of Friday morning, he stepped on a pressure-plate rigged to roughly 25 pounds of explosives. The device, enough to destroy a pickup truck or tear apart several men, was buried beneath him in the dusty soil.

It did not explode.

Lance Corporal Mathison’s weight triggered the detonation of one of the booby trap’s two blasting caps. But upon giving an audible pop and tossing small stones into the air, the device failed to ignite its fuller charge — a powerful mix of Eastern Bloc mortar rounds and homemade explosives spiked with motorcycle parts, rusty spark plugs and jagged chunks of steel.

Lance Corporal Mathison and several Marines near him were spared. So began a brief journey through the Taliban’s shifting tactics and the vagaries of war, where an experience at the edge of death became instead an affirmation of friendship, and in which a veteran Marine reluctantly assumed for a morning one of the infantry’s most coveted roles: that of the charmed man.

“Goddamn Matty, man,” said Cpl. Joshua D. Villegas, the patrol’s radio operator, allowing his eyes to roam over the intact Marine after the patrol had backed away from the dud. “Lucky son of a bitch.”

Homemade bombs, which the military calls improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, have become the insurgents’ killing tool of choice in the Afghan war, a complement to the Taliban’s assault rifles, machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. They serve as a battlefield leveler for elusive fighters who are wary of meeting Western forces head-on.

As their use has multiplied several-fold in the past two years, bomb-disposal specialists and American officers say, the Taliban’s bomb-making cells have sharpened their skills, moving away from smaller bombs in cooking pots to larger bombs encased in multigallon plastic water jugs, cooking-oil containers or ice coolers.

The bombs typically contain a slurry of fertilizer mixed with aluminum-based paint, and are triggered either via switches tripped by their victims or by a militant who detonates the weapon remotely when a victim moves near. Sometimes the insurgents use military-grade explosives from unexploded ordnance or conventional land mines.

No matter their determination or rising level of experience, those who manufacture or place the bombs still make mistakes, as evidenced by events on Friday morning on ground that the Marines call Cemetery Hill.

A foot patrol from Charlie Company, First Battalion, Third Marines left Patrol Base Brannon, a remote outpost in Helmand Province, at about 4:30 a.m., two hours ahead of the sun. The Marines said they were headed to a knoll to settle into an observation post beside a cemetery and watch over a road dubbed Blue Moon.

The cemetery, contained by mud walls and shaded by three tall trees, overlooks part of the small village of Shosharak, including a house from which the Taliban have often fired on Marine patrols. A Marine was killed here last year. It is bitterly contested ground.

The Marines reached the wall. About a half-hour before sunrise, Lance Cpl. Dario P. Quirumbay, 20, the assistant patrol leader, called softly to Lance Corporal Mathison, 21. He wanted to give him a thermal sight to scan the surrounding terrain.

Lance Corporal Mathison moved toward his friend. When he was a few feet away, the weight of his footfall depressed something hidden in the dirt. There was a muffled pop, a sound resembling a man stomping on a bottle. A small explosion — like that of firecracker — lifted his boot. Rocks peppered the two Marines.

“Don’t move!” Lance Corporal Quirumbay said.

Wary of stepping on another bomb, the patrol sat still until light glowed in the eastern horizon, when other Marines unfolded a metal detector and swept around their friend. The detector emitted a loud whine, signaling that a large bomb remained in the soil.

The Marines radioed for a team that specializes in dismantling explosives and backed off the knoll.

By the time the disposal team arrived, sweeping down Blue Moon with metal detectors, most of the Marines understood how lucky they had been. “We were what? Ten meters from it?” said Hospitalman Joseph R. Korte, 20, the patrol’s trauma medic.

“Five,” said Lance Corporal Hickson, 21.

Hospitalman Korte looked over at Lance Corporal Mathison, who was crouched against a wall. “That would have killed you and Q,” he said, using Lance Corporal Quirumbay’s nickname.

Lance Corporal Mathison is a big Marine, thick at the neck and light on his feet, and a veteran of a tour in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He seemed to be suspending belief. He listened to his friends in silence.

“I’m still calling it nothing,” he said at last. “I’m going with that it was nothing.”

He finished his thought. “Makes me feel better,” he said.

The rest of the patrol would not have it. “Well, Matty,” said Lance Corporal Hickson, his voice rising. “You might want to stop drinking, stop cussing.” Someone else mused about all the free beers Lance Corporal Mathison could expect.

Lance Cpl. Jacob M. Ohl, 19, interrupted. “Hickson was reading the Bible last night,” he said. “Been to church three times in his life, and last night he was reading the Bible.”

“I saved you,” Lance Corporal Hickson said.

He grinned. No one seemed sure what to think. They passed cigarettes, except for Lance Corporal Mathison: He pulled a lollipop from a plastic bag and popped it into his mouth.

He watched the two Marines in the disposal team working on the hill. They were busy, and moving cautiously. Lance Corporal Mathison had not wanted to accept that it was a bomb. He was beginning to shift his point of view.

“If this really was an I.E.D, then you ain’t drinking with me,” he said. “Because I’m done drinking. I’m going back to the way I was before I joined the Corps.”

An improvised bomb is a simple thing — a few batteries, a few wires, a blasting cap or two inserted into a stable explosive charge. A pressure plate serves as a switch. When depressed, the circuit is closed, the current from the batteries flows to the blasting cap, igniting the cap and setting off the full blast.

Ordnance specialists have a label for devices designed this way: victim-operated.

As simple as the system seems to be, there are many opportunities for malfunctions. But the Marines were puzzled. Up at the cemetery, a blasting cap had exploded, suggesting that the bomb maker had rigged a working circuit. Were it not for some unexplained fluke, these men knew, the bomb should have detonated, too.

Corporal Villegas, the radio operator, jogged over. “Matty, I love you,” he said as he ducked along the wall.

The arrival of the radio operator meant the Marines now had an infantryman’s oxygen: information. They could overhear radio traffic between the patrol leader and the disposal team.

Word began to reach them. The pressure plate had been connected to two 82-millimeter mortar rounds and a directional fragmentation charge weighing roughly 20 pounds. The meaning of that sunk in. If it had exploded, it would have killed more than the two nearest Marines.

“Oh God, dude,” one of the Marines said. Another strung together a profane phrase. The first word was dodged. The last was death.

“Oh Matty, get over here,” said Lance Corporal Hickson. The two men hugged. They slapped each other’s backs. They let go.

Lance Corporal Mathison was convinced. It really had been a bomb. “We’re all lucky, man,” he said. “That would have hurt us all.”

A few minutes later, Staff Sgt. Christopher J. Dreher, from the disposal team, called for the man who had stepped on the pressure plate. The staff sergeant had collected evidence from the bomb and rigged a small charge of plastic explosive to destroy what remained. He asked Lance Corporal Mathison to ignite the blast.

“If that I.E.D. had worked like it was supposed to?” the staff sergeant said. “Bye-bye, sweetheart.”

“Fire in the hole!” he shouted three times. Then the blast shook the earth. Dirt, stone and bits of metal showered the ground for several seconds — the end of a weapon that had nearly decimated a small patrol.
27665  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: January 23, 2010, 03:20:18 PM
FAR too much cognitive dissonance on foreign affairs, the War with Islamo-fascism etc.
27666  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm) Training Camp Feb 6-7 on: January 23, 2010, 03:17:52 PM
PM Kaju Dog please.
27667  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: January 23, 2010, 09:40:22 AM
"A penny saved is twopence clear." --Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1737

"He that goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing." --Benjamin Franklin, writings, 1758

"The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Shelton Gilliam, 1808

"I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Ludlow, 1824

"The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them." --Thomas Jefferson, Summary View of the Rights of British America, 1774
27668  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why CA is broke on: January 23, 2010, 09:14:52 AM
Second post:

Why Is California Broke?

Posted: 22 Jan 2010 09:52 PM PST

Inquiring minds are asking "Why Is California Broke?" It's a good question. Please consider ...

California has the 3rd highest state income tax in the nation: 9.55% tax bracket at $47,055 and 10.55% at $1,000,000 - Tax Foundation 2010 State Business Tax Climate Table 2
California has the highest state sales tax rate in the nation by far at 8.25%. Indiana is next highest at 7%. Table 15
California corporate income tax rate is 3rd worst in the nation with a rate of 8.84%. - Table 2 and Table 8
California ranks 13th in property taxes. Table 2

California has the fourth highest capital gains tax 9.55%. - Capital Gains Tax Rates By State
California has the highest gasoline tax as of January 2010, averaging 65 cents/gallon. The national average is 47.4% - API Motor Fuel Taxes
California has one of the highest state vehicle license car taxes, 1.15% per year on value of vehicle, up from 0.65% in 2008. [expired link]

So where's the money going?

1 in 5 in LA County receiving public aid, nearly 2.2 million people as of February 2009. 20% in Los Angeles County receive public aid
California has 12% of the nation’s population, but 36% of the country’s TANF (“Temporary” Assistance for Needy Families) welfare recipients – more than the next 8 states combined. Unlike other states, this “temporary” assistance becomes much more permanent in CA. July, 2009 California has more recipients in key welfare category than next eight states combined.
California prison guards highest paid in the nation. The maximum pay of California's prison guards is nearly 40 percent higher than that of the highest-paid guards in 10 other states and the federal government, according to a study by the California Department of Personnel Administration. Cal-Taxletter
California teachers easily the highest paid in the nation. National Education Association
California now has the lowest bond ratings of any state, two steps above junk. The new rating affects about $72 billion of general obligation and lease-supported bonds. July 15 California bond rating cut again
California ranks 44th worst in “2008 lawsuit climate.” Institute For Legal Reform
California, a destitute state, still gives away college education at fire sale prices. California community college tuition is by far the lowest in the nation. Nationwide, the average community college tuition is 4.5 times higher than California CC’s. This ridiculously low tuition devalues education to students – resulting in a 30+% drop rate for class completion. Moreover, 2/3 of California CC students pay no tuition at all – filling out a simple unverified “hardship” form that exempts them from any tuition payment, or receiving grants and tax credits for their full tuition. [Expired Link]
California offers thousands of absolutely free adult continuing education classes. In San Diego, over 1,400 classes for everything from baking pastries to ballroom dancing are offered totally at taxpayer expense. San Diego Continuing Education
California residential electricity costs 13.81 cents per kilowatthour. The national average is 6.99-8.49. US Department of Energy
It costs 38% more to build solar panels in California than in Tennessee – which is why European corporations have invested $2.3 billion in two Tennessee manufacturing plants to build solar panels for our state. March 5, 2009 More Solar Companies Producing Elsewhere to Sell to California

The above lists reformatted and reordered from a list compiled by Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters.
27669  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Package deal on KT stuff on: January 23, 2010, 08:48:53 AM
Package deal on KT stuff:
27670  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Public Unions on: January 23, 2010, 08:34:16 AM

An old friend of mine has a saying, "Even the worm learns." Prod one several hundred times, he says, and it will learn to avoid the prodder. As California enters its annual budget drama, I can't help but wonder if the wisdom of the elected politicians here in the state capital equals that of the earthworm.

The state is in a precarious position, with a 12.3% unemployment rate (more than two points higher than the national average) and a budget $20 billion in the red (only months after the last budget fix closed a large deficit). Productive Californians are leaving for states with less-punishing regulatory and tax regimes. Yet so far there isn't a broad consensus to do much about those who have prodded the state into its current position: public employee unions that drive costs up and fight to block spending cuts.

Earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a budget that calls for a $6.9 billion handout from Washington (unlikely to be forthcoming) and vows to protect current education funding, 40% of the state's budget. He does want to eliminate the Calworks welfare-to-work program and enact a 5% pay cut for state employees. These are reasonable ideas, but also politically unlikely.

View Full Image

Associated Press
Los Angeles County employees rally for a new contract.
.As the Sacramento Bee's veteran columnist Dan Walters recently put it, the governor's budget is "disconnected from economic and political reality." Mr. Walters suspects what will happen next: "Most likely, [the governor] and lawmakers will, to use his own phrase, 'kick the can down the road' with some more accounting tricks and other gimmicks, and dump the mess on whoever is ill-fated to become governor a year hence."

Mr. Walters' Jan. 10 column was fittingly titled, "Schwarzenegger Reverts to Fantasy with Budget Proposal." Shortly before releasing his budget, the governor and Democratic state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg held a self-congratulatory news conference. Mr. Steinberg used the spotlight to bemoan what he deemed to be unfair attacks on California. Mr. Schwarzenegger told a hokey story about his pet pig and pony working together to break into the dog's food. It was an example, he said, of how "last year, we here in this room did some great things working together."

Meanwhile, activists are fast at work. For example, the Bay Area Council, a moderate business organization, is pushing for a constitutional convention to reshape California's textbook-sized constitution. The council's aim is to ditch a constitutional provision that requires a two-thirds vote in the legislature to pass budgets. Other reforms being proposed include a plan to institute a part-time legislature and another plan to require legislators to pass drug tests. None of these ideas will ratchet down state spending.

To do that California needs to take on its public employee unions.

Approximately 85% of the state's 235,000 employees (not including higher education employees) are unionized. As the governor noted during his $83 billion budget roll-out, over the past decade pension costs for public employees increased 2,000%. State revenues increased only 24% over the same period. A Schwarzenegger adviser wrote in the San Jose Mercury News in the past few days that, "This year alone, $3 billion was diverted to pension costs from other programs." There are now more than 15,000 government retirees statewide who receive pensions that exceed $100,000 a year, according to the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility.

Many of these retirees are former police officers, firefighters, and prison guards who can retire at age 50 with a pension that equals 90% of their final year's pay. The pensions for these (and all other retirees) increase each year with inflation and are guaranteed by taxpayers forever—regardless of what happens in the economy or whether the state's pensions funds have been fully funded (which they haven't been).

A 2008 state commission pegged California's unfunded pension liability at $63.5 billion, which will be amortized over several decades. That liability, released before the precipitous drop in stock-market and real-estate values, certainly will soar.

One idea gaining traction is to create a two-tier pension system to offer lesser benefits to new employees. That's a good start, but it would still leave tens of thousands of state employees in line to receive lucrative benefits that the state must find future revenues to pay for. Another is to enact paycheck protections that require union officials to get permission from their members before spending union dues on politics (something that would undercut union power).

My hope is that these and other reforms find support in unlikely places. Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, a well-known liberal voice, recently wrote this in the San Francisco Chronicle: "The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life. But we politicians—pushed by our friends in labor—gradually expanded pay and benefits . . . while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages. . . . [A]t some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact."

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, another prominent liberal Democrat, told a legislative hearing in October that public employee pensions would "bankrupt" the state. And the chief actuary for the California Public Employees Retirement System has called the current pension situation "unsustainable."

As the state careens toward insolvency, these remarks are the first sign that some people are learning the lesson of the earthworm.

Mr. Greenhut is director of the Pacific Research Institute's journalism center and author of the new book "Plunder! How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation" (The Forum Press).

27671  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / National Enquirer and John Edwards on: January 23, 2010, 08:30:11 AM
It took John Edwards two years to tell the truth. I was surprised; I thought it would take longer.

The man who risked the fate of the Democratic Party to satisfy his political narcissism released a statement Thursday finally admitting paternity of Rielle Hunter's daughter. In part, he said: "To all those I have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry."

His sincerity was as egocentrically superficial as his infamous $1,250 haircut during the 2004 presidential race.

If this seems harsh, it's an analysis borne of two and a half years uncovering the former North Carolina senator's affair while I was editor in chief of the National Enquirer. Throughout the 2008 Democratic primary, I watched him lie, use associates to help him lie, and perniciously abuse public trust while campaigning on restoring a moral core to fill the void of America's diminishing greatness.

In October 2007, after invoking Martin Luther King Jr. in a campaign speech, Mr. Edwards said: "There are much more important things in life than winning elections at the cost of selling your soul. Especially right now, when our country . . . needs to hear the truth from its leaders."

Cut to Aug. 8, 2008, when Mr. Edwards, after being caught visiting his mistress and their baby in the middle of the night by the National Enquirer, admits his affair on ABC's "Nightline" only because he can no longer credibly deny or evade the issue.

In his mea culpa about the affair, when confronted with the issue of paternity and an Enquirer photo of him holding the baby, Mr. Edwards told a national TV audience: "I don't know who that baby is" and insisted that "timing" made it impossible for him to be the father.

Mr. Edwards's admission of paternity is the final vindication for the National Enquirer, which broke the news of his affair with Ms. Hunter in 2007 and continues to pursue the story. A December 2007 Enquirer report featured a photograph of a clearly pregnant Ms. Hunter and detailed information that she was being hidden in a North Carolina gated community by Mr. Edwards's friend and aide Andrew Young.

At the time, as editor in chief of the Enquirer, I directed a several-month operation with reporters and photographers on stakeout in North Carolina to nail down this scoop. We believed the photograph of Ms. Hunter, the checkable facts about her relationship with Mr. Edwards, and the in-process coverup would cause an instant public uproar as the mainstream press verified the article and demanded answers from Mr. Edwards.

View Full Image

Associated Press
Former Sen. John Edwards
.But the photograph of Ms. Hunter pregnant and a slew of well-documented facts in the Enquirer article did nothing to enervate Mr. Edwards's brazen quest for power or budge the mainstream press from its comfortable seat on the campaign bus. A cursory question about the affair was eventually asked, to which a smug Mr. Edwards responded: "tabloid trash."

And then there was silence. While Mr. Edwards went on to lose the Democratic primary, he still tried to position himself for an important role in the new administration, attempting to barter his way into being named attorney general. He might have made it that far if the Enquirer had given up after its initial exclusive was dismissed by the candidate, the press and the public.

Faced with public and press indifference to a major political exclusive on a leading presidential candidate, many at the Enquirer assumed we were finished with a story that had consumed tremendous resources for little payoff. The investigative team was buoyed when we decided to continue.

Was the decision to stay after Mr. Edwards made out of anger over his lies and their acceptance by the press and public? Was it a high-minded attempt to force the public to acknowledge the dangerous character flaws of a man who was headed for some type of high office? Or was it simply a tabloid instinct to illuminate the crepuscular hiding places where the rich and famous store their secrets? Draw your own conclusions, but ultimately the public good was served in a way that was undeniable.

Months passed. The Enquirer had several after-the-fact confirmations of meetings between Mr. Edwards and Ms. Hunter. We abandoned our normal methodology and did not run articles on these. The breakthrough came early summer of 2008, with information that Ms. Hunter and Mr. Edwards would secretly meet at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Two separate teams of Enquirer reporters and photographers checked into the hotel and were deployed at various points on the property.

Ms. Hunter and Mr. Edwards met on July 21, 2008. Enquirer cameras captured it all on videotape, including early the next morning when Mr. Edwards, confronted by an Enquirer reporter as he left Ms. Hunter's room, ran into the men's room.

Hours later, I posted our new exclusive on the Enquirer's Web site and shortly thereafter published in the Enquirer the photo of Mr. Edwards holding his baby. Still, the mainstream media was reluctant to run the story. Numerous reporters and editors from other outlets called and asked me to release the video footage of that night. I refused. Some were angry. I owed and offered them no explanation about our strategy—until now.

Mr. Edwards had already shown us his willingness to lie in the face of overwhelming evidence. In July 2008, Mr. Edwards knew the Enquirer had him on video and he waited. Behind the scenes we sent him a message—deny the affair and we will release the video and prove you a liar. At the same time an ABC News investigative team pounded him.

When Mr. Edwards realized there was no way out, he tried to control the damage and decided to confess to the affair. He appeared on "Nightline" on Aug. 8, 2008, and admitted only to the affair, knowing the Enquirer had his meeting with Ms. Hunter on video. At points in the interview he offered ridiculous denials about paternity and the photo of him with his child.

It had taken 10 months for the Enquirer to prove Mr. Edwards affair, and once he confessed we knew it still wasn't over. Paternity was the next issue. But again, Mr. Edwards would admit the truth only when it was absolutely necessary.

In late 2008, the Enquirer, confident in our sources, reported definitively that Mr. Edwards was the father of the baby. Again he evaded the question even while our sources told us he was privately arguing over child support with Ms. Hunter, the terms of which he now says have been agreed upon.

Some journalists asked me if the Enquirer had a DNA match of Mr. Edwards and the child. I never answered that question. But the possibility that we had obtained a DNA match may explain why Mr. Edwards never followed through with his plan—according to recent statements by his aide Mr. Young—to fake a DNA test. He knew the possibility of a real one proving his paternity would be produced.

Two years and three months after the Enquirer first reported on his affair with Rielle Hunter, John Edwards released a statement acknowledging paternity of her baby.

Mr. Perel, the editor in chief of the National Enquirer from 2006 to January 2009, directed its coverage of the John Edwards affair.
27672  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Killer in AK claims AQ ties on: January 23, 2010, 07:56:27 AM
Suspect in Recruit Shooting Claims Al Qaeda Ties

Friday , January 22, 2010

The man accused of killing one soldier and wounding another outside an Arkansas military recruiting center has asked a judge to change his plea to guilty, claiming ties to Al Qaeda.

Abdulhakim Muhammad's attorney, Claiborne Ferguson, said Thursday night that his client sent a letter earlier this month to the judge in his case asking to change his plea to capital murder and attempted capital murder charges.

Click here for photos.
Ferguson said he hadn't discussed the request with his client before the letter was sent. Under Arkansas law prosecutors would have to agree and waive the death penalty before the judge could consider it, Ferguson said.
Pvt. William Long of Conway was killed in the June 1 attack, and Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula was wounded.

Muhammad has called the shootings justified retaliation for U.S. military action in the Middle East. He told The Associated Press in a telephone interview last year that he doesn't believe he's guilty.
The New York Times, which first reported the letter on its Web site Thursday, said Muhammad described himself in the letter as a soldier in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and called the shooting "a Jihadi Attack." The group has claimed responsibility for the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound American airliner.

"I wasn't insane or post traumatic, nor was I forced to do this act," Muhammad claimed in the handwritten letter, the newspaper reported.
Ferguson said he didn't know how seriously to take Muhammad's claims of terror ties and expressed frustration with his client sending the letter without consulting him beforehand.

"He's said lots of things. None of them seem to be real consistent with each other," Ferguson said. "I'm a little irritated with it."

Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley did not immediately return a message left on his cell phone Thursday night, but prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty in the case.

Muhammad was arrested about eight miles from the recruiting center, on Interstate 630, shortly after the shootings. Police said they recovered Molotov cocktails, three guns and ammunition from his pickup truck. An internal law enforcement memo said Muhammad may have considered other targets, including military sites and Jewish organizations in the Southeast.

A law enforcement official told the AP in June that Muhammad had been under investigation by an FBI-led terrorism task force since he returned to the United States from Yemen in 2008. Muhammad, who was born Carlos Bledsoe, had moved to Little Rock to work in his father's Memphis-based tour bus company as it branched out.

Muhammad, who has called the AP twice since his arrest, has claimed responsibility for the shooting and said it was justified because of what he called American-directed hostilities toward the Muslim world.

Last week, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herbert Wright Jr. ordered the state public defenders commission to pay some of the legal bills for Muhammad's trial, which is scheduled to begin in June. Ferguson was hired by Muhammad's family to represent him.
27673  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: January 23, 2010, 07:54:37 AM
Well, there is that little matter of the entire House of Representatives and one third of the US Senate being up for election in ten months , , ,
27674  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: January 23, 2010, 07:52:58 AM
As the saying goes "I carry a gun because a policeman is too heavy" though as a subject of the PR of CA, that is not true in my case.
27675  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt Gingrich on: January 23, 2010, 07:51:23 AM

PS:  Saw on FOX that Newt did not deny considering run for Presidency , , ,
27676  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Gathering Clusterfcuk , , , on: January 22, 2010, 11:51:30 PM
What Europe and Pakistan's Self-Preservation Means for Afghanistan
DIRE ECONOMIC NEWS continues streaming from Europe, with the latest figures released on Thursday showing a slowdown in the expansion of Europe’s service and manufacturing industries. The composite index based on a purchasing managers’ survey conducted by Merkit Economics, fell to 53.6 points in January from 54.2 points in December 2009.

Europe’s problems are far more serious than those of the United States. The recession actually began about six months earlier in parts of Europe than in the United States. Furthermore, Europe has yet to seriously address the problems triggered by the U.S. recession — namely, several European banks are still worried about write-downs due to toxic assets on their balance sheets. Banks are wary of lending while governments are using any means necessary, including threats of regulation, to persuade them to lend.

“The Europeans’ concern about the growing economic crisis at home will have geopolitical implications for the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.”
The problem would be less serious if it were limited to the economies on Europe’s periphery, but it is the main economic powerhouses that are hurting. The euro’s strength against the U.S. dollar is hurting Europe’s competitiveness. Under particular strain is Europe’s economic engine, Germany, whose exports account for 47 percent of its gross domestic product. Unemployment is also inching above 10 percent, with only government stimulus programs — which are expiring or largely expired — holding it back.

Finally, the peripheral economies — starting with Greece, Portugal and Ireland, but also including Spain — are not looking good. Greece in particular has been rocked by investor uncertainty over Athens’ ability to cut its budget deficit. As investors become more spooked by the Greek macroeconomic outlook, the demand for the country’s debt decreases, raising the costs Athens needs to pay to service its already enormous debt.

The question for Europe is what happens if Greece can no longer pay for its budget deficit or debt servicing. At that point, the story would no longer be about Greece, but about Germany and the eurozone as a whole. If Greece and some other Mediterranean countries were the extent of the problem, Germany probably could intervene and save the day. But how can Germany have the economic and — much more importantly — the political capability to bail out peripheral economies when it is facing a potential double dip recession? In such economic uncertainty — with the potential for rising unemployment and more dire banking news in store for 2010 — it would be political suicide for Berlin to try to rescue Athens or Lisbon.

Therefore, it seems that peripheral Europe and core Europe are growing further apart as Europe devolves into an “every man for himself” situation. The Europeans’ concern about the growing economic crisis at home will have geopolitical implications for the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Namely, it places significant limitations on the commitment Washington’s NATO allies can offer to Afghanistan.

This means the U.S. military surge — already fraught with limitations — is unlikely to produce the kind of results Washington wants in terms of undermining the momentum of the Afghan Taliban insurgency. This is where the battle in Afghanistan becomes even more of an intelligence war. Pakistan is the one reservoir of intelligence that could help the United States, but Washington and Islamabad are having numerous serious problems, as evidenced by U.S. Secretary Robert Gates’ trip to the country on Thursday.

For starters, Gates — leading a 125-member delegation — flew into Islamabad from Pakistan’s arch rival India, where he made statements that fueled Pakistan’s fears. Gates said India is unlikely to use restraint if Pakistan-based militants should stage another attack like those seen in Mumbai in November 2008. Then, in a rare move, the top U.S. defense official authored an opinion piece in a leading Pakistani daily (published before his arrival in Islamabad) saying there is no difference between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. Gates also said he would ask Islamabad to expand its counterjihadist military offensive to North Waziristan, an area in the tribal belt that contains the largest concentration of Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda elements and is not being targeted by the Pakistanis.

The Pakistanis quickly responded by saying they had no plans for any operations beyond their current engagements in the next six to 12 months. The country’s military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said it would take that much time to stabilize South Waziristan before Pakistani forces moved on to new fronts. There is no doubt that Pakistan cannot fight all types of Islamist militants in different areas at the same time. The Pentagon’s press secretary, Geoff Morrell, acknowledged that much when he told reporters that Pakistan’s military is “operating at a higher operational tempo than it has in recent memory and they are being stretched very thin, as our military is for that matter.”

But the issue is not just one of capability. It is also about intent and Islamabad’s strategic imperatives. The Pakistanis realize that the United States and its Western allies aren’t looking at a long-term military commitment to Afghanistan. Therefore, from Islamabad’s point of view, it makes no sense to go after those militants fighting in Afghanistan. Doing so would not only exacerbate the insurgency within its own borders in the short term, it would also create a much larger cross-border mess for Islamabad to deal with long after Western forces leave the region. Furthermore, Taliban fighting in Afghanistan are tools Pakistan can use to roll back Indian influence in Afghanistan, which has increased significantly in the last eight years. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Pakistan will undertake the kind of action that the United States wants, because it would be tantamount to national suicide.

Essentially, strategic interests are preventing full support from the two key allies — Europe and Pakistan — that the Obama administration has been counting on to fight the war in Afghanistan.
27677  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Social Networks and Privacy on: January 22, 2010, 11:32:25 PM
Creditworthy? Lenders delve into your social networks

January 21, 2010 - 6:00am

Lenders are using social graphs to determine how creditworthy you are. (Getty Images)

UNDATED - Your social networking chit-chat could have an impact on your credit - specifically on whether banks think you are worthy of a loan.
Creditors are checking out what you post to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. They're checking out who your friends are and who the people are in your networks.

The presumption is that if your friends are responsible credit cardholders and pay their bills on time, you could be a good credit customer, according to

A company called San Francisco-based company Rapleaf monitors what people tweet or post on Facebook and compiles what it calls social graphs of your likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.

Lenders say having a wide network of friends can expedite getting a loan, while discrepancies between your loan application and your Facebook wall information can raise red flags. Negative comments about your business also can impact your creditworthiness.

Joel Jewitt, vice president of business development of Rapleaf, says creditors aren't accessing the credit reports of your online friends and aren't using the data to find reasons to reject customers.

While lenders say they are using the information for marketing purposes -- to find out what you may like based on what your friends like, the idea of data mining beyond your credit score raises privacy concerns. Some consumer advocates say people may not realize how important their privacy settings are.

You may want to check out the profiles of the folks you friend and delete people you think could potentially damage your credit or employment reputation.

And, of course, you want to remember that what you post is public.
(Copyright 2010 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
27678  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck on: January 22, 2010, 11:13:41 PM
My son and I watched today.  Very interesting piece (though I thought it could have been done a bit better) and I hope there will be discussion here.
27679  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: January 22, 2010, 11:10:33 PM
Rum Int today that there were 22 FBI arrests on Day One of people who accepted an undercover FBI agent's offer to greae the palms of the decision maker in a certain African govt  shocked

Naturally the coolest toys were in the military area and rather than mistakenly speak of something best left unsaid in a public forum I will wait until we next speak directly.
27680  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Price of Tyranny on: January 22, 2010, 11:05:33 PM
I'd love to see discussion of this in the Glenn Beck thread.
27681  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: January 22, 2010, 11:01:36 PM
I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you , , , wink
27682  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: January 22, 2010, 11:00:44 PM
Let the Howl go forth!
27683  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: January 20, 2010, 09:34:37 AM

Some extraordinary toys here  cool
27684  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Info Czar Sunstein on: January 20, 2010, 12:58:18 AM
The Left and Right are all over this.

An obscure 2008 academic article gained traction with bloggers over the weekend. The article was written by the head of Obama's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein. He’s a good friend of the president and the promoter the contradictory idea: "libertarian paternalism". In the article, he muses about what government can do to combat "conspiracy" theories:

...we suggest a distinctive tactic for breaking up the hard core of extremists who supply conspiracy theories: cognitive infiltration of extremist groups, whereby government agents or their allies ... will undermine the crippled epistemology of those who subscribe to such theories. They do so by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups, thereby introducing beneficial cognitive diversity.

That's right. Obama's Regulation Czar is so concerned about citizens thinking the wrong way that he proposed sending government agents to "infiltrate" these groups and manipulate them. This reads like an Onion article: Powerful government official proposes to combat paranoid conspiracy groups that believe the government is out to get proving that they really are out to get them. Did nothing of what Sunstein was writing strike him as...I don't know...crazy? "Cognitive infiltration" of extremist groups by government agents? "Stylized facts"? Was "truthiness" too pedantic?'s Glenn Greenwald explains why this you should be disturbed by this:
This was written 18 months ago, at a time when the ascendancy of Sunstein's close friend to the Presidency looked likely, in exactly the area he now oversees. Additionally, the government-controlled messaging that Sunstein desires has been a prominent feature of U.S. Government actions over the last decade, including in some recently revealed practices of the current administration, and the mindset in which it is grounded explains a great deal about our political class.

... What is most odious and revealing about Sunstein's worldview is his condescending, self-loving belief that "false conspiracy theories" are largely the province of fringe, ignorant Internet masses and the Muslim world.
It's certainly true that one can easily find irrational conspiracy theories in those venues, but some of the most destructive "false conspiracy theories" have emanated from the very entity Sunstein wants to endow with covert propaganda power: namely, the U.S. Government itself, along with its elite media defenders. Moreover, "crazy conspiracy theorist" has long been the favorite epithet of those same parties to discredit people trying to expose elite wrongdoing and corruption.

It is this history of government deceit and wrongdoing that renders Sunstein's desire to use covert propaganda to "undermine" anti-government speech so repugnant. The reason conspiracy theories resonate so much is precisely that people have learned -- rationally -- to distrust government actions and statements. Sunstein's proposed covert propaganda scheme is a perfect illustration of why that is. In other words, people don't trust the Government and "conspiracy theories" are so pervasive precisely because government is typically filled with people like Cass Sunstein, who think that systematic deceit and government-sponsored manipulation are justified by their own Goodness and Superior Wisdom.


Key para from Salon article:

"Sunstein advocates that the Government's stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into "chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups." He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called "independent" credible voices to bolster the Government's messaging (on the ground that those who don't believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government). This program would target those advocating false "conspiracy theories," which they define to mean: "an attempt to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role." Sunstein's 2008 paper was flagged by this blogger, and then amplified in an excellent report by Raw Story's Daniel Tencer.

27685  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islamo lawfare case loses on: January 20, 2010, 12:55:20 AM
Islamic Groups Lose Lawfare Attempt in Texas Supreme Court


Islamic Groups Lose Lawfare Attempt in Texas Supreme Court— Free Speech Rights of Internet Journalists Upheld;

January 19, 2010

People - Joe Kaufman ANN ARBOR, MI – The Texas Supreme Court dealt another blow to Islamic organizations which use lawsuits as a form of “legal jihad” to silence public discussion of Islamic terrorist threats. On Friday, January 15, 2010, the Texas Supreme Court denied a petition for review of a Second District Court of Appeals opinion which dismissed the defamation lawsuit brought by seven Dallas-area Islamic organizations against internet journalist Joe Kaufman.

On his radio show, Mahdi Bray, head of the Muslim American Freedom Foundation, the political arm of Muslim American Society –Dallas, exhorted his radio audience of the need of Muslims to lawyer up and fund additional lawsuits. The case against Kaufman was used as the example. In fact, for the last several years, Muslim groups in the U.S. have engaged in the tactic referred to as Islamist Lawfare which uses our American laws and legal system to silence critics and promote the Islamic agenda in America.

The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan acted as lead counsel for Kaufman, at no charge. The Law Center was assisted by Texas attorney Thomas S. Brandon, Jr. who acted as local counsel, and Los Angeles, CA attorneys William Becker, Jr. and Manuel S. Klausner. The Law Center’s attorney, Brandon Bolling, later moved to a for-profit law firm.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented, “It is gratifying to see a courageous citizen like Joe Kaufman withstand the legal intimidation of a well-financed lawsuit aimed at shutting down his right to speak out against the threats of radical Islam.”

On July 25, 2009, the Texas Second District Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that as an internet journalist Kaufman had the same procedural protections under the Texas law given to traditional electronic and print media, including the right to a pretrial appeal. [Read opinion] Accordingly, Kaufman had the same right to appeal the lower court’s denial of his motion to dismiss the frivolous libel claim before a time-consuming and expensive trial. Most parties have to wait until after a trial before they can appeal an unfavorable lower court ruling.

As a full-time investigative reporter, Kaufman has written extensively on Radical Islamic terrorism in America. He was sued because of his September 28, 2007 article titled “Fanatic Muslim Family Day” published by Front Page Magazine, a major online news website. Kaufman’s article exposed the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Islamic Association of Northern Texas (IANT) ties to the radical terrorist group Hamas.

Kaufman’s article called ICNA a radical Muslim organization with ties to Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. According to Kaufman, ICNA is an umbrella organization for South Asian-oriented mosques and Islamic centers in the United States created as an American arm of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) of Pakistan.

Significantly, neither ICNA nor IANT, which were mentioned in Kaufman’s article, sued Kaufman. It is speculated they were afraid of being subjected to pretrial discovery depositions. On the other hand, none of the seven plaintiffs that sued Kaufman were even mentioned in his article.

The seven Islamic organizations that sued Kaufman are the Islamic Society of Arlington, Texas, Islamic Center of Irving, DFW Islamic Educational Center, Inc., Dar Elsalam Islamic Center, Al Hedayah Islamic Center, Islamic Association of Tarrant County, and Muslim American Society of Dallas. All are affiliated with CAIR, one of the unindicted co-conspirators in the successful federal prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation.

This is the third straight loss for the Islamic groups in this case. After the ruling in favor of Kaufman on June 25, 2009, they asked for a reconsideration of the decision through what is known as an en banc opinion (appeal to the whole court, not just a panel of the court). The court denied that request. Last week the Texas Supreme Court also denied their request for review. However, plaintiffs can still file a petition for review with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life. It supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America. The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities. It does not charge for its services. The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at
27686  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: January 20, 2010, 12:35:57 AM
I saw something this AM to the effect that the Fed is not going to be using the Fed Funds rate as its key tool and instead will be using , , , several things.  I did not fully comprehend the conversation, but it smelled highly significant.  Has this crossed anyone else's radar screen?
27687  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: January 20, 2010, 12:33:17 AM
I saw a seemingly serious conversation on the CNN biz show this morning (including with Nobel laureate Stiglitz(sp?) that the Fed is scheduled to stop buying mortgages in March.  Not sure I got the details right, but it seems like gravity is about to assert itself , , , ?
27688  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: January 20, 2010, 12:23:45 AM
Greetings from the SHOT show in Las Vegas.  Good times! cool
27689  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: January 20, 2010, 12:22:08 AM
Woof All:

Greetings from the SHOT Show in Las Vegas.  Good times cool
27690  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm) Training Camp Feb 6-7 on: January 18, 2010, 05:16:28 PM
I always thought of the Superbowl as late January, but apparently this year it has decided to conflict with the second day of our Camp.  The nerve!

Of course we think our Camp is more important (record the game and watch it when you get home) but if we lose you for Sunday, then the one day price is simply 50% of the full weekend.

I've had some people indicate a desire to catch a flight out on Sunday and therefore they hope for an earlier starting time on Sunday, so instead of starting at 10:00, we can start at 09:00 and finish an hour earlier than previously announced.
27691  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / MLK: I have a dream; Reagan on: January 18, 2010, 10:46:17 AM

Letter from jail:


"In 1968 Martin Luther King was gunned down by a brutal assassin, his life cut short at the age of 39. But those 39 short years had changed America forever. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had guaranteed all Americans equal use of public accommodations, equal access to programs financed by federal funds, and the right to compete for employment on the sole basis of individual merit. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 had made certain that from then on black Americans would get to vote. But most important, there was not just a change of law; there was a change of heart. The conscience of America had been touched. Across the land, people had begun to treat each other not as blacks and whites, but as fellow Americans. ... Now our nation has decided to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by setting aside a day each year to remember him and the just cause he stood for. We've made historic strides since Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus. As a democratic people, we can take pride in the knowledge that we Americans recognized a grave injustice and took action to correct it. And we should remember that in far too many countries, people like Dr. King never have the opportunity to speak out at all." --Ronald Reagan
27692  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Attack on Kabul on: January 18, 2010, 10:31:16 AM
second post of the AM

Red Alert Update: Taliban Assault on Kabul
January 18, 2010 | 0827 GMT
The Taliban attack in Kabul is reportedly winding down. The assault began around 9:35 a.m. local time Jan. 18 (the day the new cabinet was being sworn in) when reports of rocket fire and explosions were heard in the Afghan capital near several government buildings.

Just 23 minutes later, reports emerged that the Taliban had claimed the attack in a message to the Afghan Islamic Press. In the claim, Taliban spokesman Zabihollah Mojahed said 20 suicide assailants were attacking the Presidential Palace, the Central Bank and the Ministries of Finance, Justice and Mines and Industries. The Serena Hotel, the Defense Ministry and the Afghan Telecom had also reportedly come under attack.

A little after noon local time, militants began to lay siege on two major shopping centers, including a mall called the Grand Afghan Shopping Center near the Justice Ministry. Eyewitness reported militants carrying rocket-propelled grenades entered the second and third floors of the mall. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) reportedly detonated outside one of the shopping centers killing several security forces.

Around the same time, reports emerged that militants who had earlier breached the southern gate of the presidential palace had entered the building where a swearing-in ceremony for Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s Cabinet was scheduled to take place. The Afghan government denied any breach of the palace had taken place. Several minutes later, another blast was heard outside the Cinema Pamir in an area far from the other attacks, about 1 kilometer away from the Serena hotel.

The size of this attack (if it involved 20 assailants as the Taliban have claimed) is more than twice as large as the Feb. 11, 2009, attack in Kabul, which involved a team of eight attackers. While a complete and concise assessment of what has been struck is still being compiled, it does appear that the justice ministry (the main target of the February 2009 attack) was again hit hard and there are reports of a substantial fire burning inside the building. It is unclear if the fire was started by a rocket attack or assailants who had succeeded in penetrating the building’s security.

STRATFOR sources are reporting that the Taliban may have used suicide vehicle bombs and artillery rockets in addition to the suicide bombers on foot and armed gunmen. If so, this is a new wrinkle. We have seen VBIEDS and artillery rockets employed by the Taliban in Kabul, but not in coordination with an armed assault.
27693  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 18, 2010, 10:11:39 AM
And here is the URL to Gant's piece itself:
27694  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Running Dog Game on: January 17, 2010, 04:48:44 PM
Woof All:

One of the strongest current fighters in the DBs is Boo Dog (DBMA Group Leader too).  Boo is a professional level MMA guy too (an instructor in Labell-Gokor submission too) who regularly spars with UFC fighters.

He and I have been getting together every week and I am very excited by some of the additions he brings to the Running Dog Game.

Stay tuned  wink

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty
27695  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gant of Afghanistan on: January 17, 2010, 03:05:07 PM
Jim Gant, the Green Beret who could win the war in Afghanistan
Washington Post

By Ann Scott Tyson
Sunday, January 17, 2010; B01

It was the spring of 2003, and Capt. Jim Gant and his Special Forces team had just fought their way out of an insurgent ambush in Afghanistan's Konar province when they heard there was trouble in the nearby village of Mangwel. There, Gant had a conversation with a tribal chief -- a chance encounter that would redefine his mission in Afghanistan and that, more than six years later, could help salvage the faltering U.S. war effort.

Malik Noorafzhal, an 80-year-old tribal leader, told Gant that he had never spoken to an American before and asked why U.S. troops were in his country. Gant, whose only orders upon arriving in Afghanistan days earlier had been to "kill and capture anti-coalition members," responded by pulling out his laptop and showing Noorafzhal a video of the World Trade Center towers crumbling.

That sparked hours of conversation between the intense 35-year-old Green Beret and the elder in a tribe of 10,000. "I spent a lot of time just listening," Gant said. "I spoke only when I thought I understood what had been said."

In an unusual and unauthorized pact, Gant and his men were soon fighting alongside tribesmen in local disputes and against insurgents, at the same time learning ancient tribal codes of honor, loyalty and revenge -- codes that often conflicted with the sharia law that the insurgents sought to impose. But the U.S. military had no plans to leverage the Pashtun tribal networks against the insurgents, so Gant kept his alliances quiet.

No longer. In recent months, Gant, now a major, has won praise at the highest levels for his effort to radically deepen the U.S. military's involvement with Afghan tribes -- and is being sent back to Afghanistan to do just that. His 45-page paper, "One Tribe at a Time," published online last fall and circulating widely within the U.S. military, the Pentagon and Congress, lays out a strategy focused on empowering Afghanistan's ancient tribal system. Gant believes that with the central government still weak and corrupt, the tribes are the only enduring source of local authority and security in the country.

"We will be totally unable to protect the 'civilians' in the rural areas of Afghanistan until we partner with the tribes for the long haul," Gant wrote.

A decorated war veteran and Pashto speaker with multiple tours in Afghanistan, Gant had been assigned by the Army to deploy to Iraq in November. But with senior military and civilian leaders -- including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan; and Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command -- expressing support for Gant's views, he was ordered instead to return to Afghanistan later this year to work on tribal issues.

"Maj. Jim Gant's paper is very impressive -- so impressive, in fact, that I shared it widely," Petraeus said, while McChrystal distributed it to all commanders in Afghanistan. One senior military official went so far as to call Gant "Lawrence of Afghanistan."

The abrupt about-face surprised the blunt-spoken major. "I couldn't believe it," Gant said in a recent interview, recalling how his orders were canceled just days before he was set to deploy to Iraq. "How do I know they are serious? They contacted me. I am not a very nice guy. I lead men in combat. I am not a Harvard guy. You don't want me on your think tank."

Gant, who sports tattoos on his right arm featuring Achilles and the Chinese characters for "fear no man," is clearly comfortable with the raw violence that is part of his job. An aggressive officer, he is known to carry triple the ammunition required for his missions. (One fellow soldier referred to this habit as a "Gantism.") But he is equally at ease playing for hours with Afghan children or walking hand-in-hand with tribesmen, as is their custom.

As a teenager in Las Cruces, N.M., Gant was headed to college on a basketball scholarship and had no plans to join the military until he read Robin Moore's 1965 fictionalized account of Special Forces actions in Vietnam. Captivated by the unique type of soldier who waged war with indigenous fighters, Gant decided to become a Green Beret and scheduled an appointment with his father, a middle school principal, to break the news.

Enlisting in the Army soon after his high school graduation, Gant became a Special Forces communications sergeant and fought in the Persian Gulf War. Later, as a captain, he served combat tours in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, and one in Iraq during the height of the violence there in 2006 and 2007.

Intellectually, Gant is driven by a belief that Special Forces soldiers should immerse themselves in the culture of foreign fighters, as British officer T.E. Lawrence did during the 1916-1918 Arab revolt. In Iraq as well as in Afghanistan, Gant relied on his Special Forces training to build close bonds with local fighters, often trusting them with his life.

In Iraq in December 2006, a roadside bomb flipped over Gant's Humvee twice and left it engulfed in flames, with him pinned inside. Members of the Iraqi National Police battalion that Gant was advising pulled him out. Soon afterward, Gant led those same police in fighting their way out of a complex insurgent ambush near the city of Balad, saving the lives of two policemen and an Iraqi girl while under heavy fire, and deliberately driving his Humvee over two roadside bombs to protect the police riding in unarmored trucks behind him.

Gant earned a Silver Star for his bravery, but he remembers most the goat sacrifice the police held for him that day. "We had just won a great battle. We had several [police] commandos there, with several goats, and they were putting their hands in the blood, and putting their handprints all over us and on the vehicles," Gant recalled in a 2007 interview. He felt both strange and honored. "It's something I will never forget," he said.

Under Gant's plan, small "tribal engagement teams," each made up of six culturally astute and battle-tested Special Forces soldiers, would essentially go native, moving into villages with rifles, ammunition and money to empower tribal leaders to improve security in their area and fight insurgents. The teams would always operate with the tribes, reducing the risk of roadside bombs and civilian casualties from airstrikes.

The U.S. military would have to grant the teams the leeway to grow beards and wear local garb, and enough autonomy in the chain of command to make rapid decisions. Most important, to build relationships, the military would have to commit one or two teams to working with the same tribe for three to five years, Gant said.

Such a strategy, he argues, would bolster McChrystal's counterinsurgency campaign by tapping thousands of tribal fighters to secure rural populations, allowing international troops and official Afghan forces to focus on large towns and cities. Building strong partnerships with the tribes, whose domains straddle Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, could also prove critical to defeating insurgents entrenched in Pakistan's western tribal areas, he contends.

Adm. Eric Olson, who leads the 57,000-strong Special Operations Command, said in the latest issue of Joint Force Quarterly that Gant's proposal is "innovative and bold" and likely to have "strategic effects." And in recent congressional testimony, Gates agreed that the U.S. military should step up cooperation with Afghan tribes, saying many security responsibilities are likely to fall on them rather than the Afghan army or police force.

Thorough intelligence analysis should drive the selection of the tribes, Gant said, noting that the U.S. military has already gathered much of the intelligence. "There are 500-page documents breaking these tribes down. You would be shocked how much we know about who is who," he said.

Gant's proposals go well beyond the more cautious tribal-outreach efforts underway in Afghanistan, where the U.S. military is experimenting with neighborhood-watch-type programs such as the Community Defense Initiative, in which Special Forces teams partner with tribes selected by an Afghan minister. With time running out, Gant believes tribal engagement must be bolder. "We are trying not to lose, not trying to win," he said. (Gant's experiences helped shape the CDI effort, and he is currently preparing to return to Afghanistan to implement his vision, according to a senior military official.)

Still, Gant acknowledges that his strategy has risks. The teams would depend on the tribes for their safety. "American soldiers would die. Some of them alone, with no support. Some may simply disappear," he wrote in his paper on the strategy. Another possibility is that intertribal conflict would break out between two or more U.S.-backed tribes. "Could it happen? Yes. Could it cause mission failure? Yes. Could we have to pick sides for our own safety? Yes," Gant said. But he believes that if American advisers forge strong ties with the tribes, the chances of such conflicts can be minimized.

Gant's greatest fear is that the United States will lack the fortitude to back the tribes for the long haul, eventually abandoning them. He, for one, plans to stick with his tribe in Afghanistan, at least to fulfill a personal promise to return to Konar province to see elder Malik Noorafzhal, now 86.

"I am not here to imply that I think I could win the war in Afghanistan if put in charge," Gant wrote in his paper. ". . . I just know what I have done and what I could do again, if given the chance."

Ann Scott Tyson, a staff writer for The Washington Post, has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.
27696  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Get outta my way! on: January 17, 2010, 03:04:17 PM
Police: Minor sidewalk squabble leads to stabbing

January 17, 2010 - 1:31pm

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) - Police in St. Cloud said an argument over sidewalk etiquette led to a man being stabbed because he wouldn't move out of another man's way. The 31-year-old victim told police he and the other man were walking toward each other on a sidewalk early Friday morning. Each man refused to make way for the other.

The St. Cloud Times reported that the argument escalated into a physical fight. When it was over, the victim noticed he'd been stabbed several times in the stomach.

Authorities said the victim's injuries were minor.
Information from: St. Cloud Times,
27697  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: January 17, 2010, 08:32:01 AM
A bit of rabble rousing to fire up your day!
27698  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Volunteering, Giving, Charity, Tithing on: January 17, 2010, 07:55:07 AM
Published: January 16, 2010
Want to be happier in 2010? Then try this simple experiment, inspired by recent scholarship in psychology and neurology. Which person would you rather be:

Richard is an ambitious 36-year-old white commodities trader in Florida. He’s healthy and drop-dead handsome, lives alone in a house with a pool, and has worked his way through a series of gorgeous women. Richard’s job is stressful, but he spent Christmas in Tahiti. Unencumbered, he also has time to indulge such passions as reading (right now he’s finishing a book called “Half the Sky”), marathon running and writing poetry. In the last few days, he has been composing an elegy about the Haiti earthquake.

Lorna is a 64-year-old black woman in Boston. She’s overweight and unattractive, even after a recent nose job. Lorna is on regular dialysis, but that doesn’t impede her active social life or babysitting her grandchildren. A retired school assistant, she is close to her 67-year-old husband and is much respected in her church for directing the music committee and the semiannual blood drive. Lorna believes in tithing (giving 10 percent of her income to charity or the church) and in the last few days has organized a church drive to raise $10,000 for earthquake relief in Haiti.

I adapted those examples from ones that Jonathan Haidt, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, develops in his fascinating book, “The Happiness Hypothesis.” His point is that while most of us might prefer to trade places with Richard, Lorna is probably happier.

Men are no happier than women, and people in sunny areas no happier than people in chillier climates. The evidence on health is complex, but even chronic health problems (like those requiring dialysis) may have surprisingly little long-term effect on happiness, because we adjust to them. Beautiful people aren’t happier than ugly people, although cosmetic surgery does seem to leave patients feeling brighter. Whites are happier than blacks, but only very slightly. And young people are actually a bit less happy than older folks, at least up to age 65.

Lorna has a few advantages over Richard. She has less stress and is respected by her peers — factors that make us feel good. Happiness is tied to volunteering and to giving blood, and people with religious faith tend to be happier than those without. A solid marriage is linked to happiness, as is participation in social networks. And one study found that people who focus on achieving wealth and career advancement are less happy than those who focus on good works, religion or spirituality, or friends and family.

“Human beings are in some ways like bees,” Professor Haidt said. “We evolved to live in intensely social groups, and we don’t do as well when freed from hives.”

Happiness is, of course, a complex concept and difficult to measure, and John Stuart Mill had a point when he suggested: “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.”

But in any case, nobility can lead to happiness. Professor Haidt notes that one thing that can make a lasting difference to your contentment is to work with others on a cause larger than yourself.

I see that all the time. I interview people who were busy but reluctantly undertook some good cause because (sigh!) it was the right thing to do. Then they found that this “sacrifice” became a huge source of fulfillment and satisfaction.

Brain scans by neuroscientists confirm that altruism carries its own rewards. A team including Dr. Jorge Moll of the National Institutes of Health found that when a research subject was encouraged to think of giving money to a charity, parts of the brain lit up that are normally associated with selfish pleasures like eating or sex.

The implication is that we are hard-wired to be altruistic. To put it another way, it’s difficult for humans to be truly selfless, for generosity feels so good.

“The most selfish thing you can do is to help other people,” says Brian Mullaney, co-founder of Smile Train, which helps tens of thousands of children each year who are born with cleft lips and cleft palates. Mr. Mullaney was a successful advertising executive, driving a Porsche and taking dates to the Four Seasons, when he felt something was missing and began volunteering for good causes. He ended up leaving the business world to help kids smile again — and all that makes him smile, too.

So at a time of vast needs, from Haiti to our own cities, here’s a nice opportunity for symbiosis: so many afflicted people, and so much benefit to us if we try to help them. Let’s remember that while charity has a mixed record helping others, it has an almost perfect record of helping ourselves. Helping others may be as primal a human pleasure as food or sex.
27699  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: January 17, 2010, 06:37:08 AM
Good question CCP.  Anyone here care to take a stab at answering it?


The White House has spent months imploring banks to lend more money, so will President Obama's new proposal to extract $117 billion from bank capital encourage new bank lending?

Just asking. Welcome to one more installment in Washington's year-long crusade to revive private business by assailing and soaking it.

Mr. Obama's new "Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee"—please don't call it a tax—is being sold as a way to cover expected losses in the Troubled Asset Relief Program. That sounds reasonable, except that the banks designated to pay the fee aren't those responsible for the losses. With the exception of Citigroup, those banks have repaid their TARP money with interest.

The real TARP losers—General Motors, Chrysler and delinquent mortgage borrowers—are exempt from the new tax. Why the auto companies? An Administration official told the Journal that the banks caused the crisis that doomed the auto companies, which apparently were innocent bystanders to their own bankruptcy. The fact that the auto companies remain wards of Washington no doubt has nothing to do with their free tax pass.

Also exempt are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which operate outside of TARP but also surely did more than any other company to cause the housing boom and bust. The key to understanding their free tax pass is that on Christmas Eve Treasury lifted the $400 billion cap on their potential taxpayer losses expressly so they can rewrite more underwater mortgages at a loss.

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 .In other words, the White House wants to tax more capital away from profit-making banks to offset the intentional losses that the politicians have ordered up at Fan and Fred. The bank tax revenue will flow directly into the Treasury to be spent on whatever immediate cause Congress favors. Come the next "systemic risk" bailout, taxpayers will still be on the hook. "Responsibility" is not the word that comes to mind here.

The tax will apply to liabilities that are not already insured by government, so the White House is saying it will deter excessive risk-taking. And it does at least tilt at the role of excessive debt in creating systemic risk. But the heart of the moral hazard for the biggest banks is the implicit government guarantee that they will never be allowed to fail, and the tax does nothing about this.

The tax will be levied on financial companies with more than $50 billion in assets. However, as a too-big-to-fail litmus test, $50 billion can't possibly be the right answer. America has just run the experiment by putting a company bigger than $50 billion—CIT Group—through bankruptcy. By any objective reckoning, there were no systemic consequences. The new $50 billion tax threshold thus increases the scope of future bailouts by drawing a wider circle around firms that can gamble with implicit federal backing.

A better idea is to do the hard policy work of creating a plan that allows failure or else separates traditional banking from hedge-fund trading, as Bank of England Governor Mervyn King and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker have suggested.

There's encouraging news that bank failure may still be an option. A bipartisan Senate effort led by Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and Mark Warner (D., Va.) is considering the creation of a special bankruptcy court to decide whether an institution should go through bankruptcy or be subjected to an FDIC resolution process.

The first route sounds better than the second. Although FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair has been an outspoken advocate for a resolution process with certain punishment for failure, the provisions recently passed by the House would yield the opposite. The FDIC could choose among a number of ways to assist a company, and could decide how hard a bargain to drive with the firm's various creditors as well as discriminate within the same class of creditors. Not even the New York Federal Reserve of AIG fame has been willing to do the latter.

Another idea to reduce the moral hazard of too-big-to-fail would be to restore long-ago limits on leverage. For example, abolish the corporate income tax for financial companies and replace it with a tax on assets that rises with the bank's leverage ratio. There could be a tax-free zone at leverage levels below current regulatory standards. Washington could also reform margin requirements.

These ideas should all be thoughtfully considered, but of course that is hard political work and the biggest banks would oppose them because they secretly like too-big-to-fail. As for the politicians, it's so much easier to blame bankers, deplore their bonuses, tax them, regulate them, accept their campaign contributions and then bail them out while you talk about "change" and "responsibility."
27700  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The backlash is coming! The backlash is coming! on: January 17, 2010, 06:33:57 AM

With characteristic hubris, people in this state like to think they've been at the leading edge of American politics since the "shot heard 'round the world" in 1775. And in the past few years, we've given the nation a preview of Barack Obama's presidential campaign with Deval Patrick's successful 2006 bid for governor; provided a critical boost for Mr. Obama's candidacy in the form of an endorsement by Edward Kennedy; and enacted a health-care law that is a template for ObamaCare.

But hubris has yielded to shock here at the possibility that the next political trend the Bay State might foreshadow is a voter backlash against the Democratic Party.

After Kennedy's death in August, few imagined there would be any problem replacing him with another Democrat in the U.S. Senate. It's been 16 years since Massachusetts elected a Republican to a congressional seat, 31 years since the last Republican senator left office. Gov. Patrick appointed a former Kennedy aide as the interim senator, and Democratic primary voters chose the well-regarded state Attorney General Martha Coakley as their nominee for the special election.

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Associated Press
Martha Coakley
.That election, which will be held on Tuesday, was widely seen as a formality. Ms. Coakley coasted through the holiday season while the GOP challenger, little-known state Sen. Scott Brown, scrambled for traction.

The new year, however, brought polls showing the race tightening. This week a Rasmussen Reports poll gave Ms. Coakley a slim 49% to 47% advantage; a Suffolk University survey has Mr. Brown with a narrow lead. Independents are breaking for Mr. Brown by a three-to-one margin, Rasmussen finds. And many people do not realize that independents outnumber Democrats—51% of registered voters in the state are not affiliated with a party, while 37% are registered as Democrats and 11% as Republicans.

"Around the country they look at Massachusetts and just write us off," longtime local activist Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government told me. "But people around here are really not happy with the extremes in the Democrat Party."

Those extremes are cropping up as issues in this race. One is giving civilian legal rights to terror suspects, which Ms. Coakley supports. Mr. Brown, a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts National Guard, hammered her for that even before Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day. That incident has tried the patience of an electorate normally known for its civil libertarianism. Rasmussen's most recent survey found that 65% of them want Abdulmutallab tried by the military.

Another issue is taxes. Mr. Brown has scolded Ms. Coakley for supporting a repeal of the Bush tax cuts, for entertaining the idea of passing a "war tax," and for proclaiming in a recent debate that "we need to get taxes up." Ms. Coakley says she meant that tax revenues, not rates, need to rebound. Nonetheless, Mr. Brown's critique resonates with voters who are smarting from a 25% hike in sales tax last year.

Gov. Patrick's approval ratings have also crashed, fertilizing the soil for Mr. Brown's claim in a radio ad that "our government in Washington is making the same mistakes as our government here in Massachusetts."

But nothing excites Mr. Brown's supporters more than his vow to stop ObamaCare by denying Democrats the 60th vote they would need in the U.S. Senate to shut off a GOP filibuster. The Rasmussen and Suffolk polls report that once-overwhelming statewide support for the federal health reform has fallen to a wafer-thin majority.

Support for the state's universal health-care law, close to 70% in 2008, is also in free fall; only 32% of state residents told Rasmussen earlier this month that they'd call it a success, with 36% labeling it a failure. The rest were unsure. Massachusetts families pay the country's highest health insurance premiums, with costs soaring at a rate 7% ahead of the national average, according to a recent report by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund.

Doubt about the Massachusetts health-care reform "does not necessarily translate into opposition to the federal bill," cautions veteran local Democratic strategist Stephen Crawford, who is not working for any candidate in the Senate race. "I don't think opposition to the plan is going to be a make-or-break issue." That's a far cry from the once widely-held belief here that the Democratic nominee would be hustled into office by voters eager to pass ObamaCare. But it reflects a conviction among local Democratic elites that antitax and anti-big-government politics are "a tired strategy, the same old Karl Rove playbook," as Mr. Crawford puts it.

On Tuesday, we'll have a reading on whether that complacency is justified. It may not be definitive; barely two in 10 voters voted in the primaries, and turnout, especially if it is short on independents, could render the outcome a road test for each party's get-out-the-vote machinery. Here that's akin to a drag race between a Democratic Cadillac fueled with high-octane labor support and a GOP go-kart driven by pedal power. But the long-range weather forecast for the Election Day is clear. There are anecdotal reports of brisk absentee voting, a practice often driven by the state's small but aggressive pro-life faction. And the polls show a sharp enthusiasm gap in Mr. Brown's favor.

Tellingly, the usually-demure Ms. Coakley has been scorching Mr. Brown with a tired strategy out of the Obama campaign playbook, linking him to "the failed policies of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney." Mr. Brown counters by linking Ms. Coakley to Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Deval Patrick—people actually in power.

Are we in for another shot heard 'round the world? Perhaps. More likely, listen for the sound of horse hooves on the pavement, and a modern-day version of Paul Revere's historic warning—the backlash is coming.

Mr. Keller is the political analyst for WBZ-TV and WBZ Radio in Boston.
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