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28401  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 02, 2009, 08:12:09 AM
Its the NY Times, so caveat lector:


QASIM PULA, Pakistan — Islamist charities and the United States are competing for the allegiance of the two million people displaced by the fight against the Taliban in Swat and other parts of Pakistan — and so far, the Islamists are in the lead.

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Times Topics: Pakistan
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Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Mehmood Hassa, president of Al-Khidmat Foundation, gave a speech to displaced people living with host families in Yar Hussain in Swabi District in June.

The New York Times
Two million people have been displaced by the fight against the Taliban in Swat and other parts of Pakistan.
Although the United States is the largest contributor to a United Nations relief effort, Pakistani authorities have refused to allow American officials or planes to deliver the aid in the camps for displaced people. The Pakistanis do not want to be associated with their unpopular ally.

Meanwhile, in the absence of effective aid from the government, hard-line Islamist charities are using the refugee crisis to push their anti-Western agenda and to sour public opinion against the war and the United States.

Last week, a crowd of men, the heads of households uprooted from Swat, gathered here in this village in northwestern Pakistan for handouts for their desperate families. But before they could even get a can of cooking oil, the aid director for a staunchly anti-Western Islamic charity took full advantage of having a captive audience, exhorting the men to jihad.

“The Western organizations have spent millions and billions on family planning to destroy the Muslim family system,” said the aid director, Mehmood ul-Hassan, who represented Al Khidmat, a powerful charity of the strongly anti-American political party Jamaat-e-Islami.

The Western effort had failed, he said, but Pakistanis should show their strength by joining the fight against the infidels.

The authorities’ insistence that the Americans remain nearly invisible reveals the deep strains that continue to underlie the American-Pakistani relationship, even as cooperation improves in the fight against the Taliban, and public support for the war grows in Pakistan.

Yet Islamist and jihadist groups openly work the camps.

“Because of the lack of international agencies, there is a vacuum filled by actors that are Islamist and more than that, jihadist,” said Kristele Younes, a senior advocate with Refugees International, a Washington group established in 1979.

One of the most prominent jihadist charity groups, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, had been barred from the camps, according to Lt. Gen. Nadeem Ahmad, the head of the Pakistani Army’s disaster management group. The group was designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council in December.

Nonetheless, it set up operations in Mardan under a new name, Falah-e-Insaniyat, according to Himayatullah Mayar, the mayor of Mardan. After the order to leave the area, Falah-e-Insaniyat went underground but still appeared to be operating to some extent, Mr. Mayar said.

Signs of the organizational strength and robust coffers of Islamist charities were easy to see around the camps, often in contrast to the lack of services offered by the government.

For example, Al Khidmat, Mr. Hassan’s group, arranged to bring in eye surgeons from Punjab to staff a free eye clinic for the displaced, offering cataract operations and eyeglasses.

“Government hospitals are nonexistent here, and we are able to treat not only the displaced but the whole community,” said one of the surgeons, Dr. Khalid Jamal.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hassan was busy checking new temporary schools, health clinics and four ambulances on 24-hour service that Al Khidmat had set up.

Every day, he said, he personally supervised the distribution of food at three different places — sometimes at a home, sometimes in a camp. So far, he said, he had covered 400 of 450 villages near the city of Swabi. Always, he said, before the food is distributed, he delivers his exhortation to jihad.

By contrast, although a substantial amount of American aid is getting through, it is not branded as American, and Pakistani authorities have insisted that it be delivered in a “subtle” manner, General Ahmad said.

The general said he had told American officials that there would be an “extremely negative” reaction if Americans were seen to be distributing aid, particularly if it was delivered by American military aircraft.

“I said they couldn’t fly in Chinooks, no way,” General Ahmad said, referring to American military helicopters. The United States, he said, was seen as “part of the problem.”

That is not what American officials had hoped for. At first, the exodus of people from Swat, many of whom had suffered from the brutality of the Taliban, seemed to present a chance for Washington to improve its image in Pakistan.

“There is an opportunity actually to provide services, much as we did with the earthquake relief, which had a profound impact on the perception of America,” Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who serves as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said at a hearing attended by the Obama administration’s special envoy, Richard C. Holbrooke, at the start of the exodus.

In an effort to highlight American concern for the refugees, Mr. Holbrooke visited the camps in June, sitting on the floor of a sweltering tent and talking to people about their plight. “President Obama has sent us to see how we can help you,” he said. One result of the trip was an effort to send Pakistani-American female doctors to assist women in the camps.

According to the State Department, the United States has pledged $110 million for food and logistical support. In late May, the Defense Department sent several flights to Islamabad carrying ready-to-eat meals, environmentally controlled tents and water trucks. But ideas of winning back popularity with a big show of airlifts of American assistance on the scale of American earthquake relief to Kashmir in 2005 were rebuffed, and not only by the Pakistanis.

American nongovernmental organizations in Pakistan discouraged high-profile deliveries of United States government aid because anti-American sentiment was too widespread and the security risk to Americans in the camps was too high, said the head of one of the groups, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. There were many Taliban in the displaced camps, and they believed the Pakistani military was fighting against them in Swat on orders from Washington, the official said.

The restrictions on American assistance are clear in the camps and in villages like this one deep in the countryside around Mardan and Swabi, where Pakistani families have opened their homes to large numbers of displaced people.

American officials and their consultants were barely able to move beyond the highly visible refugee camps set up along the main highway between Islamabad and Peshawar, said Mahboob Mahmood, a Pakistani-American businessman who has visited the area to help find ways to bring additional aid.

“They have been almost completely neutered,” he said.
28402  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 02, 2009, 07:46:15 AM
Grateful for time with my children.
28403  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Paine; Jefferson and music on: July 02, 2009, 07:17:31 AM
"The Sun never shined on a cause of greater worth."

--Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776
July 4, 1826, was a significant anniversary in America's history. On that 50th jubilee of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Stephen Foster, who would widely be regarded as the nation's first popular songwriter, was born in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, in Quincy, Mass., one of the pre-eminent signatories to the Declaration, John Adams, died at age 90. According to tradition, the last words he spoke were "Thomas Jefferson still survives." But his old friend -- and former political rival -- had actually passed away that morning, at 83. And with Jefferson's death the nation lost not just one of its greatest statesmen but one of its cultural leaders.

Jefferson was a true Renaissance man. Law, diplomacy and politics were his profession, but his activities embraced virtually all the liberal arts and sciences: from mathematics and philosophy to economics, archaeology, ornithology, ichthyology, horticulture, architecture, art and music.

Music, however, was Jefferson's particular delight, "an enjoyment, the deprivation of which . . . cannot be calculated," he declared in 1785. From early boyhood, he pursued this "passion of my soul," studying the violin with a teacher in Williamsburg, Va. By the time he matriculated at the College of William and Mary in 1760, his playing was so fluent that he was invited for weekly chamber music gatherings with the royal governor of Virginia. Jefferson even purchased a "kit" -- a slender dance-master's pocket fiddle -- and had a case for it fashioned for his saddle so he could play and practice while traveling.

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Randy Jones
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Cryptologist Cracks Presidential Code Not surprisingly, music played an important role in his courtship of the charming young widow Martha Skelton, another Colonial music lover, who played keyboard instruments and guitar. According to Jefferson family lore, two of Jefferson's amatory rivals encountered one another on Mrs. Skelton's doorstep. While waiting to be received by her, they heard her singing a touching song to her own harpsichord accompaniment in an adjoining room. Then they heard a gentleman sing with her and play a violin obbligato. Knowing that Jefferson was the only violinist in the neighborhood, one suitor said to the other, "We are wasting our time," and they quietly left in defeat. Jefferson married Skelton on new year's day, 1772.

The future president's musical tastes -- which he imparted to his children -- were sophisticated and broadly rooted in popular composers from the 17th through the middle-18th centuries. He deemed Arcangelo Corelli his favorite composer, deeply admired Haydn and had a great love for French and Italian opera. Not surprisingly, violin, chamber and keyboard music formed a major part of his extensive music library, which he cataloged in 1783 and is now housed at the University of Virginia.

Among the volumes and music sheets are sonatas, concertos (with accompanying parts), overtures and other works by Corelli, Haydn, Gluck, Handel, Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Boccherini, Stamitz, Clementi and J.C. Bach (J.S. Bach's youngest son). There are also many works by contemporaneous names less familiar today, among them Padre Martini, Gaetano Pugnani, Ignaz Pleyel and the Italianized German Giovanni Adolfo Hasse. Vocal music abounds, including scores of Handel's "Messiah" and "Alexander's Feast," Handel's Coronation and Funeral Anthems, Haydn's solo cantatas, John Gay's "The Beggar's Opera," Purcell's song collection "Orpheus Brittanicus," and Thomas Arne's operas "Artaxerxes" and "Alfred" (with its finale, "Rule Britannia").

Surprisingly, however, there is scant Mozart. And while there are many solos, duos and trios for violin, cello and keyboard, there are no string quartets.

Jefferson also collected American music, both folk songs and those of emerging composers. To his fellow Declaration signer Francis Hopkinson, who ranks as the first American-born composer of art songs, he wrote in 1789: "Accept my thanks . . . and my daughter's . . . for the book of songs [Hopkinson's "Seven Songs" of c. 1784]. I will not tell you how much they have pleased us, nor how well the last of them merits praise for its pathos, but relate . . . that while my elder daughter was playing it on the harpsichord, I happened to the younger one all in tears. I asked her if she was sick. She said, 'no; but the tune was so mournful.'"

According to Jefferson's granddaughter Ellen Coolidge, whose bedroom at Monticello was above his, the former president could often be heard "humming old tunes, generally Scotch songs but sometimes Italian airs or hymns."

In old age, Jefferson wrote with typical insight that "music is invaluable where a person has an ear," continuing that "it furnishes a delightful recreation for the hours of respite from the cares of the day, and lasts us through life." Certainly, music helped the "Philosopher of Democracy" to bear exceptional responsibilities throughout a career in which he was successively a colonial revolutionary, our ambassador to France, our first secretary of state, our second vice president and one of our greatest chief executives.

Mr. Scherer writes about music and the fine arts for The Journal. He is the author of the award-winning book "A History of American Classical Music" (Sourcebooks, 2007).
28404  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq-8 on: July 02, 2009, 07:09:54 AM
The huge difference I see between June 29th and today is the much greater Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police presence inside the IZ.  There is some sort of machine gun plus armed military or police vehicle every 200 meters or so.  Occasionally you will see a convoy sized line of military or police vehicles pulled off to the side of the road.  There are more Iraqi Army guys walking around the vicinity of what is called "the GRD" (which stands for Gulf Regional Development) compound.
What you almost don't see any more is much in the way of U.S. military vehicles moving around.  They are not completely gone but you just don't see them like you used to.  The sense is that there is no more cavalry to come to the rescue anytime quickly.
Some of the Iraqi Army soldiers and Iraqi Police officers are their usual, typical, reasonably friendly selves.  They will wave and smile as they always have.  But others have that feeling their oats look in their eyes.
We live in interesting times here in the IZ...
28405  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AZ and Fed LEO units merging on: July 01, 2009, 08:20:53 PM
Posted here because of its implication for erasing federal-state boundaries.  Hard to argue with its logic though:

The state police and federal marshals are merging their special units that track Arizona fugitives in a move to save money while dealing with the growing number of arrest warrants waiting to be served.

"Basically, it's getting everyone in one room in one building working together instead of occasionally discussing cases of mutual interest. It's a great force multiplier," U.S. Marshal David Gonzales said.

The aggregation of acronyms brings together the state Department of Public Safety's Violent Criminal Apprehension Team, called VCAT, and the Arizona Wanted task force of the U.S. Marshals Service. The merger formalizes a relationship among agencies to share information and manpower to track the 60,000 wanted fugitives in the state.
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and a long list of other police agencies are also involved. The Sheriff's Office is the repository of all of the warrants in the county, but individual agencies execute them.

DPS' Violent Criminal Apprehension Team was formed in 2008 in the midst of the ongoing argument over illegal immigration in the state on the order of then-Gov. Janet Napolitano. DPS set up the unit, and $1.6 million was pulled from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office that was being used to fight human smuggling. The Legislature later gave the money back to the Sheriff's Office.

But the apprehension team remained and says that since its formation, it has made 730 arrests, clearing 920 felony warrants. DPS says that near the end of March, there were 54,872 felony warrants in Arizona with a little more than 40,000 of them in Maricopa County and 450 to 500 new ones issued every week. The new setup deputizes DPS officers assigned to the combined unit as federal marshals, extending their enforcement range.

Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff said another goal of the new system is to minimize politics and maximize results. "What this means to the cop on the street is they come to work every day with precise information about individuals who have committed crimes in our community," he said.

Everyone pays their own way. Gonzales acknowledged that in tough financial times, everyone has "taken major hits to their budgets." More could be on the way as governments work out their spending plans in the slumping economy.

Gonzales said combining the units should have happened earlier in view of the number of new warrants pouring out of the courts.

"We cannot arrest our way out of this problem."
28406  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / If you think health care on: July 01, 2009, 06:19:11 PM
is expensive now, just wait until the govt makes it free.
28407  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A recommended site on: July 01, 2009, 05:54:06 PM
28408  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Rest in Peace on: July 01, 2009, 05:51:43 PM
Hall of Fame boxer found dead; reports cite suicide

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) - Alexis Arguello, who fought in one of boxing's most classic brawls and reigned supreme at 130 pounds, was found dead at his home early Wednesday.

Coroners were conducting an autopsy to determine the cause of death. Sandanista Party's Radio Ya and other local media were reporting it appeared to be a suicide.

The La Prensa newspaper reported that Arguello — elected mayor of Nicaragua's capital last year — was found with a gunshot wound to the chest.

The 57-year-old Arguello retired in 1995 with a record of 82-8 with 65 knockouts and was a champion in three weight divisions. He was perhaps best known for two thrilling battles with Aaron Pryor and fights with Ray Mancini, Bobby Chacon and Ruben Olivares.

"I'm kind of in a daze right now. I can't believe what I'm hearing," Pryor told The Associated Press. "Those were great fights we had. This was a great champion."

Nicknamed "The Explosive Thin Man," Arguello was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992, where flags were flying at half-staff in his honor Wednesday.

In 1999, a panel of experts assembled by The AP voted Arguello the best junior lightweight and sixth-best lightweight of the 20th century. He never lost at 130 pounds, and his popularity in his own country was so great that he carried the flag for Nicaragua at the Beijing Olympics.

"Not only was he one of the greatest fighters I've ever seen, he was the most intelligent fighter," Bob Arum, who promoted some of his biggest fights, told The Associated Press. "He was a ring tactician. Every move was thought out. And he was a wonderful, wonderful person."

Arguello turned pro in 1968 and promptly lost his first bout. He didn't lose much more, and six years later knocked out Olivares in the 13th round to win the featherweight title.

Arguello went on to win the super featherweight and lightweight titles, his 5-foot-10 frame allowing him to move up in weight without losing his tremendous punching power. At the time, he was only the sixth boxer to win championships in three weight classes, and was considered for a while the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

He moved up in weight again in November 1982 to challenge Pryor for the 140-pound belt, a match billed as "Battle of the Champions." More than 23,000 fans packed the Orange Bowl in Miami, and the two waged an epic battle before Pryor knocked out Arguello in the 14th round.

"It was a brutal, brutal fight," Arum said. "That was something I will never, ever forget as long as I live. That was one of the most memorable fights I ever did."

The bout was named "Fight of the Year" and "Fight of the Decade" by Ring Magazine, but was shrouded by controversy. Pryor's trainer, Panama Lewis, gave him a water bottle after the 13th round that many believe contained an illegal substance — an accusation Pryor denied.

A rematch was ordered and they met again a year later at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. This time, Pryor knocked out Arguello in the 10th round.

"We always talk to each other about that first fight," Pryor said. "I never went into the fight knowing I could beat Alexis, I just went into the fight to beat Alexis."

Arguello announced after the fight that he would retire from boxing, but as so often happens in the sport, Arguello couldn't stay away from the ring.

He returned to win two fights in 1985 and 1986, then didn't step in the ring until 1994, when he made a brief comeback. He retired for good the following year.

"Alexis Arguello was a first-class fighter and a first-class gentleman," said Hall of Fame executive director Edward Brophy. "The Hall of Fame joins the boxing community in mourning the loss of a great champion and friend."

Arguello fought against the Sandinista government in the 1980s after it seized his property and bank account, but later joined the party and ran for mayor of the capital last November. He defeated Eduardo Montealegre, though opponents alleged the vote was fraudulent.

Arguello had returned Sunday from Puerto Rico, where he honored the late baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente. His death prompted Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega to announced he was canceling a trip to Panama for the inauguration of President-elect Ricardo Martinelli.

"We are upset," presidential spokeswoman Rosario Murillo said. "This is a heartbreaking announcement. He was the champion of the poor, an example of forgiveness and reconciliation."
28409  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: July 01, 2009, 05:42:19 PM
Pre-packaged questions for His Glibness:
28410  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Big Brother is watching on: July 01, 2009, 02:04:27 PM
As part of Cap & Trade , , ,


 The federal government wants to install GPS units in cars that can upload data for the purpose of eliminating a gas tax.

I’m no conspiracy theorist, but unless they are wanting logs on exactly where we’ve been, it would be much cheaper, and easier, to use the existing OBD-II interface on cars to track total mileage.  I guess GPS jammers are going to become very popular soon.
28411  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: July 01, 2009, 01:47:43 PM
See entry #256 cheesy
28412  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Board the Kang Nam on: July 01, 2009, 09:29:51 AM
At this moment the Kang Nam, a North Korean tramp freighter, is on the high seas tailed by a team of American destroyers and submarines and watched by reconnaissance satellites and aircraft. The vessel had cleared the Taiwan Strait at the end of last week as it headed south. Yesterday, it was reported to have turned back north toward the Chinese coast. On board, its cargo could contain plutonium pellets, missile parts or semi-ripe melons. In any event, Washington wants to know what is in the rusty ship's hold.

Why the interest in this particular vessel? The Kang Nam is a "repeat offender" and known to carry "proliferation materials." As an unnamed American official told Fox News this month, "This ship is presumed to be carrying something illicit given its past history." United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874, unanimously passed on June 12, broadened the concept of illicit cargoes as far as North Korea is concerned. It prohibits Pyongyang from selling arms, even handguns. The Kang Nam's U-turn is a sure sign that it is carrying contraband and is now seeking a safe port.

The Security Council, while banning Pyongyang's export of weapons, has not given U.N. member states the means of enforcing the new restrictions. Resolution 1874 calls upon countries to inspect North Korean cargoes on the high seas -- but only "with the consent of the flag State," in this case North Korea. Should Pyongyang refuse -- as it most certainly would -- a member state can, within the terms of the resolution, direct a vessel to "an appropriate and convenient port" for inspection by local officials. Should Pyongyang refuse to divert the ship, the resolution contemplates the filing of a report to a U.N. committee.

It looks as if Washington will file such a report soon. Last week, the U.S. promised China it would abide by the restraints imposed by Resolution 1874. This means, in all probability, that the U.S. will be reduced to watching the Kang Nam unload illegal cargo items at some port.

Yet Washington does not have to adopt such a feeble approach. The North Koreans have, inadvertently, given the U.S. a way to escape from the restrictions of the new Security Council measure. On May 27, the Korean People's Army issued a statement declaring that it "will not be bound" by the armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War. This was at least the third time Pyongyang has disavowed the interim agreement that halted hostilities in 1953. Previous renunciations were announced in 2003 and 2006.

The U.N. Command, a signatory to the armistice, shrugged off Pyongyang's belligerent statement. "The armistice remains in force and is binding on all signatories, including North Korea," it said immediately after the renunciation, referring to the document's termination provisions. That may be the politically correct thing to say, but an armistice as a legal matter cannot remain in existence after one of its parties, a sovereign state, announces its end. Today, whether we like it or not, there is no armistice.

Furthermore, there has never been a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War. This means the U.S., a combatant in the conflict, as leader of the U.N. Command, is free to use force against Pyongyang. On legal grounds, the U.S. Navy therefore has every right to seize the Kang Nam, treat the crew as prisoners of war, and confiscate its cargo, even if the ship is carrying nothing more dangerous than melons. Because the Navy has the right to torpedo the vessel, which proudly flies the flag of another combatant in the war, it of course has the right to board her.

But does America have the will to do so? "Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something," President Barack Obama said in the first week of April, reacting to North Korea's test of a long-range missile. Unfortunately, the president's words have apparently meant little because Kim Jong Il's belligerent state has, since that time, detonated a nuclear device, handed out harsh sentences to two American reporters, and announced the resumption of plutonium production. North Korea has threatened nuclear war several times in recent days and this month sent one of its patrol boats into South Korean waters. American envoys, in response, have issued stern warnings, participated in meetings in the region, and engaged in high-level diplomacy in the corridors of the U.N. None of these measures, however, has led to the enforcement of rules or the punishment of the North Korean regime.

North Korea's words, in contrast, have meant something. It has, as noted, ended the armistice. Of course, no one is arguing that the nations participating in the U.N. Command resume a full-scale land war in Asia. Yet recognizing the end of the temporary truce would allow the U.S. to use more effective measures to stop the North Korean proliferation of missile and nuclear technologies. The Bush administration sometimes got around to warning Kim Jong Il about selling dangerous technologies but never did anything about it.

Instead, President George W. Bush outsourced the problem to the U.N. In October 2006, in response to the North's first nuclear detonation, the Security Council passed a resolution aimed at halting North Korean proliferation. Unfortunately, Beijing refused to implement the new rules, calling the measures unacceptable, even after voting in favor of them. Since then, more evidence has come to light of North Korea's transfer of nuclear weapons technologies to Iran and Syria.

The lesson of the last few years is that the U.N. is not capable of stopping North Korean proliferation. No nation can stop it except the U.S. Of course, ending North Korea's sales of dangerous technologies to hostile regimes will anger Pyongyang. This month, for instance, the North said that interception of the Kang Nam would constitute an "act of war."

Yet, as much as the international community would like to avoid a confrontation, the world cannot let Kim Jong Il continue to proliferate weapons. Moreover, it is unlikely that he will carry through on his blustery threats. The North Koreans did not in fact start a war when, at America's request, Spain's special forces intercepted an unflagged North Korean freighter carrying Scud missiles bound for Yemen in December 2002. Even though the Spanish risked lives to board the vessel, Washington soon asked Madrid to release it. At the time, the Bush administration explained there was no legal justification to seize the missiles.

Now, the Obama administration has no such excuse. There is definitely a legal justification to seize the Kang Nam. North Korea, after all, has resumed the Korean War.

Mr. Chang is the author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World" (Random House, 2006).
28413  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Parsing the arguments on: July 01, 2009, 09:26:01 AM
The health-care debate continues. We have now heard from nearly all the politicians, experts and interested parties: doctors, drug makers, hospitals, insurance companies, even constitutional lawyers (though not, significantly, from trial lawyers, who know full well "change" is not coming to their practices). Here is how one humble economist sees some of the main arguments, which I have paraphrased below:

- "The American people overwhelmingly favor reform."

If you ask whether people would be happier if somebody else paid their medical bills, they generally say yes. But surveys on consumers' satisfaction with their quality of care show overwhelming support for the continuation of the present arrangement. The best proof of this is the belated recognition by the proponents of health-care reform that they need to promise people that they can keep what they have now.

- "The cost of health care rises two to three times as fast as inflation."

That's like comparing the price of hamburger 30 years ago with the price of filet mignon today and calling the difference inflation. Or the price of a 19-inch, black-and-white TV 30 years ago with the price of a 50-inch HDTV today. The improvements in medical care are even more dramatic, leading to longer life, less pain, fewer exploratory surgeries and miracle drugs. Of course the research, the equipment and the training that produce these improvements don't come cheap.

 - "Health care represents a rising proportion of our income."

That's not only true but perfectly natural. Quality health care is a discretionary, income-elastic expense -- i.e. the richer a society, the larger the proportion of income that is spent on it. (Poor societies have to spend income gains on food and other necessities.) Consider the alternatives. Would we feel better about ourselves if we skimped on our family's health care and spent the money on liquor, gambling, night clubs or a third television set?

- "Shifting funds from health care to education would make for a better society."

These two services have a lot in common, including steadily rising cost. What is curious is that this rise in education costs is deemed by the liberal establishment smart and farsighted while the rise in health-care costs is a curse to be stopped at any cost. What is curiouser still is that in education, where they always advocate more "investment," past increases have gone hand-in-hand with demonstrably deteriorating outcomes. The rising cost in health care has been accompanied by clearly superior results. Thus we would shift dollars from where they do a lot of good to an area where they don't.

- "Forty-five million people in the U.S. are uninsured."

Even if this were true (many dispute it) should we risk destroying a system that works for the vast majority to help 15% of our population?

- "The cost of treating the 45 million uninsured is shifted to the rest of us."

So on Monday, Wednesday and Friday we are harangued about the 45 million people lacking medical care, and on Tuesday and Thursday we are told we already pay for that care. Left-wing reformers think that if they split the two arguments we are too stupid to notice the contradiction. Furthermore, if cost shifting is bad, wait for the Mother of all Cost Shifting when suppliers have to overcharge the private plans to compensate for the depressed prices forced on them by the public plan.

- "A universal plan will reduce the cost of health care."

Think a moment. Suppose you are in an apple market with 100 buyers and 100 sellers every day and apples sell for $1 a pound. Suddenly one day 120 buyers show up. Will the price of the apples go up or down?

- "U.S. companies are at a disadvantage against foreign competitors who don't have to pay their employees' health insurance."

This would be true if the funds for health care in those countries fell from the sky. As it is, employees in those countries pay for their health care in much higher income taxes, sales or value-added taxes, gasoline taxes (think $8 a gallon at the pump) and in many other ways, effectively reducing their take-home pay and living standards. And isn't it odd that the same people who want to lift this burden from businesses that provide health benefits also (again, on alternate days) want to impose this burden on the other firms that do not offer this benefit. What about the international competitiveness of these companies?

- "If you like your current plan you can keep it."

In other words, you can keep your current plan if it (and the company offering it) is still around. This is not a trivial qualification. Proponents have clearly learned from the HillaryCare debacle in the 1990s that radical transformation does not sell. What we have instead is what came to be dubbed "salami tactics" in postwar Eastern Europe where Communist leaders took away freedoms one at a time to minimize resistance and obscure the ultimate goal. If nothing else, a century of vain attempts to break the Post Office monopoly should teach us how welcoming Congress is to competition to one of its high-cost, inefficient wards.

- "Congress will be strictly neutral between the public and private plans."

Nonsense. Congress has a hundred ways to help its creation hide costs, from squeezing suppliers to hidden subsidies (think Amtrak). And it has even more ways to bankrupt private plans. One way is to mandate ever more exotic and expensive coverage (think hair transplants or sex-change operations). Another is by limiting and averaging premiums and outlawing advertising. And if all else fails Congress can always resort to tax audits and public harassment of executives -- all in the name of "leveling the playing field." Then, in the end, the triumphal announcement: "The private system has failed."

- "Decisions will still be made by doctors and patients and the system won't be politicized."

Fat chance. Funding conflicts between mental health and gynecology will be based on which pressure group offers the richer bribe or appears more politically correct. The closing (or opening) of a hospital will be based not on need but which subcommittee chairman's district the hospital is in. Imagine the centralization of all medical research in the country in the brand new Robert Byrd Medical Center in Morgantown, W.Va. You get the idea.

- "We need a public plan to keep the private plans honest."

The 1,500 or so private plans don't produce enough competition? Making it 1,501 will do the trick? But then why stop there? Eating is even more important than health care, so shouldn't we have government-run supermarkets "to keep the private ones honest"? After all, supermarkets clearly put profits ahead of feeding people. And we can't run around naked, so we should have government-run clothing stores to keep the private ones honest. And shelter is just as important, so we should start public housing to keep private builders honest. Oops, we already have that. And that is exactly the point. Think of everything you know about public housing, the image the term conjures up in your mind. If you like public housing you will love public health care.

Mr. Newman is an economist and retired business executive.
28414  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Honduras on: July 01, 2009, 09:12:27 AM
As military "coups" go, the one this weekend in Honduras was strangely, well, democratic. The military didn't oust President Manuel Zelaya on its own but instead followed an order of the Supreme Court. It also quickly turned power over to the president of the Honduran Congress, a man from the same party as Mr. Zelaya. The legislature and legal authorities all remain intact.

We mention these not so small details because they are being overlooked as the world, including the U.S. President, denounces tiny Honduras in a way that it never has, say, Iran. President Obama is joining the U.N., Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez and other model democrats in demanding that Mr. Zelaya be allowed to return from exile and restored to power. Maybe it's time to sort the real from the phony Latin American democrats.

Associated Press
People against the return of ousted Honduras President Manuel Zelaya participate in a rally at the central park in Tegucigalpa, Tuesday, June 30, 2009.
The situation is messy, and we think the Hondurans would have been smarter -- and better off -- not sending Mr. Zelaya into exile at dawn. Mr. Zelaya was pressing ahead with a nonbinding referendum to demand a constitutional rewrite to let him seek a second four-year term. The attorney general and Honduran courts declared the vote illegal and warned he'd be prosecuted if he followed through. Mr. Zelaya persisted, even leading a violent mob last week to seize and distribute ballots imported from Venezuela. However, the proper constitutional route was to impeach Mr. Zelaya and then arrest him for violating the law.

Yet the events in Honduras also need to be understood in the context of Latin America's decade of chavismo. Venezuela's Hugo Chávez was democratically elected in 1998, but he has since used every lever of power, legal and extralegal, to subvert democracy. He first ordered a rewrite of the constitution that allowed his simple majority in the national assembly grant him the power to rule by decree for one year and to control the judiciary.

In 2004 he packed the Supreme Court with 32 justices from 20. Any judge who rules against his interests can be fired. He made the electoral tribunal that oversees elections his own political tool, denying opposition requests to inspect voter rolls and oversee vote counts. The once politically independent oil company now hires only Chávez allies, and independent television stations have had their licenses revoked.

Mr. Chávez has also exported this brand of one-man-one-vote-once democracy throughout the region. He's succeeded to varying degrees in Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and Nicaragua, where his allies have stretched the law and tried to dominate the media and the courts. Mexico escaped in 2006 when Felipe Calderón linked his leftwing opponent to chavismo and barely won the presidency.

In Honduras Mr. Chávez funneled Veneuzelan oil money to help Mr. Zelaya win in 2005, and Mr. Zelaya has veered increasingly left in his four-year term. The Honduran constitution limits presidents to a single term, which is scheduled to end in January. Mr. Zelaya was using the extralegal referendum as an act of political intimidation to force the Congress to allow a rewrite of the constitution so he could retain power. The opposition had pledged to boycott the vote, which meant that Mr. Zelaya would have won by a landslide.

Such populist intimidation has worked elsewhere in the region, and Hondurans are understandably afraid that, backed by Chávez agents and money, it could lead to similar antidemocratic subversion there. In Tegucigalpa yesterday, thousands demonstrated against Mr. Zelaya, and new deputy foreign minister Marta Lorena Casco told the crowd that "Chávez consumed Venezuela, then Bolivia, after that Ecuador and Nicaragua, but in Honduras that didn't happen."

It's no accident that Mr. Chávez is now leading the charge to have Mr. Zelaya reinstated, and on Monday the Honduran traveled to a leftwing summit in Managua in one of Mr. Chávez's planes. The U.N. and Organization of American States are also threatening the tiny nation with ostracism and other punishment if it doesn't readmit him. Meanwhile, the new Honduran government is saying it will arrest Mr. Zelaya if he returns. This may be the best legal outcome, but it also runs the risk of destabilizing the country. We recall when the Clinton Administration restored Bertrand Aristide to Haiti, only to have the country descend into anarchy.

As for the Obama Administration, it seems eager to "meddle" in Honduras in a way Mr. Obama claimed was counterproductive in Iran. Yet the stolen election in Iran was a far clearer subversion of democracy than the coup in Honduras. As a candidate, Mr. Obama often scored George W. Bush's foreign policy by saying democracy requires more than an election -- a free press, for example, civil society and the rule of law rather than rule by the mob. It's a point worth recalling before Mr. Obama hands a political victory to the forces of chavismo in Latin America
28415  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Franken manipulated absentee count on: July 01, 2009, 08:50:36 AM
The Minnesota Supreme Court yesterday declared Democrat Al Franken the winner of last year's disputed Senate race, and Republican incumbent Norm Coleman's gracious concession at least spares the state any further legal combat. The unfortunate lesson is that you don't need to win the vote on Election Day as long as your lawyers are creative enough to have enough new or disqualified ballots counted after the fact.

Mr. Franken trailed Mr. Coleman by 725 votes after the initial count on election night, and 215 after the first canvass. The Democrat's strategy from the start was to manipulate the recount in a way that would discover votes that could add to his total. The Franken legal team swarmed the recount, aggressively demanding that votes that had been disqualified be added to his count, while others be denied for Mr. Coleman.

But the team's real goldmine were absentee ballots, thousands of which the Franken team claimed had been mistakenly rejected. While Mr. Coleman's lawyers demanded a uniform standard for how counties should re-evaluate these rejected ballots, the Franken team ginned up an additional 1,350 absentees from Franken-leaning counties. By the time this treasure hunt ended, Mr. Franken was 312 votes up, and Mr. Coleman was left to file legal briefs.

What Mr. Franken understood was that courts would later be loathe to overrule decisions made by the canvassing board, however arbitrary those decisions were. He was right. The three-judge panel overseeing the Coleman legal challenge, and the Supreme Court that reviewed the panel's findings, in essence found that Mr. Coleman hadn't demonstrated a willful or malicious attempt on behalf of officials to deny him the election. And so they refused to reopen what had become a forbidding tangle of irregularities. Mr. Coleman didn't lose the election. He lost the fight to stop the state canvassing board from changing the vote-counting rules after the fact.

This is now the second time Republicans have been beaten in this kind of legal street fight. In 2004, Dino Rossi was ahead in the election-night count for Washington Governor against Democrat Christine Gregoire. Ms. Gregoire's team demanded the right to rifle through a list of provisional votes that hadn't been counted, setting off a hunt for "new" Gregoire votes. By the third recount, she'd discovered enough to win. This was the model for the Franken team.

Mr. Franken now goes to the Senate having effectively stolen an election. If the GOP hopes to avoid repeats, it should learn from Minnesota that modern elections don't end when voters cast their ballots. They only end after the lawyers count them.
28416  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lets see how the American Pravdas cover this one on: July 01, 2009, 08:25:04 AM
President Bush received considerable heat from the American Pravdas (my new name for the MSM) with its allegations of his politicizing science.

Lets see how this story is covered!

Suppressed EPA scientist breaks silence, speaks on Fox News
Editorial Page Editor
06/30/09 12:10 PM EDT
Alan Carlin, the senior EPA research analyst who authored a study critical of global warming that was suppressed by agency officials, has broken his silence and spoken on Fox News about his situation. Carlin told "Fox & Friends" Steve Ducy and Gretchen Carlson that his most important conclusion in the study was that the U.S. should not rely upon recommendations of the UN in making policy decisions regarding global warming.
"The most important conclusion, in my view, was that EPA needed to look at the science behind global warming and not depend upon reports issued by the United Nations, which is what they were thinking of doing and in fact have done," Carlin said.
Asked what happened to his study once it was completed, Carlin said "my supervisors decided not to forward it to the group within EPA who had the responsibility for preparing an overall report which would guide EPA on whether to find that the emission of global warming gases would be something that EPA should regulate."
You can watch entire interview with Carlin here.
Carlin has been at EPA for 38 years and until the Fox interview was telling reporters seeking interviews that he was instructed by EPA officials not to speak with them. He almost certainly risks retalitation by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and other Obama appointees within the agency.
There are federal laws designed to protect whistle blowers like Carlin from political retaliation. It will be fascinating to watch how an administration of the Left deals with a whistleblower who for whatever reason opposes their political agenda. Will they persecute him or protect him?
I've had occasion to deal with quite a few whistle blowers over the years and they generally fall into two categories: First are the sincere employees who see something they believe to be wrong, are rejected when they go through channels seeking change, and are then subjected to reprisals, big and small, which ultimately exact an incredibly high emotional, professional and financial toll. It is not uncommon for these folks to become obsessed with seeking vindication, to suffer nervous breakdowns or end up divorced.
Then there are the others who somehow manage to maintain an emotional and professional balance while maintaining the rightness of their cause and pursuing it to a conclusion. It often takes years, but eventually they sometimes win vindication, though by that time the original controversy is usually long past and the wrong they exposed has either been forgotten, papered over or, occasionally, addressed and remedied.
A great example of this second kind of whistle blower is William Clinkscales, a man I greatly admire who exposed hundreds of millions of dollars of waste and fraud at the General Services Administration (GSA) during the Carter years, and was put through hell as his reward. He was vindicated by President Reagan who honored his service and recognized the importance of what he had done.
Bill once told me of his being reassigned to a do-nothing job as his boss in effect saying to him: "Now Bill, in this extremely important new job I am giving you, your task is to watch that flagpole out in front of the GSA headquarters and if it moves, you come tell me immediately." I still chuckle when I think of Bill telling me that, but it was indicative of the lot that too often greets whistle blowers like Alan Carlin.
Carlin told Fox that "things are a little tense, but as of last night, I still had a job." Sounds like he is expecting the worst.
My prediction in this case is that Carlin will be stripped of duties, given an office that was previously used as a broom closet and transferred to a duty location as far from EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. as possible. Or he will soon opt for retirement, which will then free him to write and speak as he pleases, secure in his receipt of a pension from the federal government's old Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) broke the story about Carlin's study being suppressed last week and has posted extensive information about the situation. It appears the story has generated so much interest that CEI's web site is overwhelmed with traffic, as it is taking a loooonnnnnggggg time to load.
UPDATE: CEI demands EPA hear public comments on suppressed study
The good folks at CEI have issued astatement today demanding that EPA reopen the comment period on the proposed rule on the agency's plans to regulate global warming emissions - CO2, the same thing every human being breathes out during the normal course of living - and to which the Carlin study was addressed.
28417  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: on: July 01, 2009, 08:20:57 AM
"Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!"

--George Washington, letter to James Warren, March 31, 1779
28418  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Arizona case on self-defense law on: July 01, 2009, 08:20:11 AM
Rather long, but a good read.  This case presents many issues in self-defense.
28419  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US, Poland, Russia, and BMD on: July 01, 2009, 02:09:36 AM

Geopolitical Diary: The BMD Issue Comes to the Fore
June 30, 2009

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, told Polish military officials in Warsaw on Monday that Washington is still undecided on how to proceed with the ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. Speaking at a news conference with his Polish counterpart, Gen. Franciszek Gagor, Mullen said that the BMD deployment is still under review, but that “the United States is committed to the relationship with Poland and certainly supporting modernization of the Polish military.”

With U.S. President Barack Obama set to meet with his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev — as well as with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the man truly in charge at the Kremlin — between July 6 and 8, Moscow and Washington are accelerating their political exchanges. One issue will dominate the activity before Obama’s visit and the meetings: increased U.S. military involvement in Central Europe, encapsulated by the proposed BMD system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

From Moscow’s perspective, greater U.S. involvement in Central Europe illustrates a key shift in Washington’s posture in Europe. While the Cold War ultimately was about the disposition of Germany — and Germany therefore was torn apart by the geopolitical forces of the period — the “new” Cold War between resurgent Russia and the United States, the global hegemon, is about the disposition of Poland. A weak and insecure Poland isolated on the open North European plain, between Germany and Russia, poses no threat to Moscow, nor would it be able to counter Russia’s influence on its borders — particularly in the Baltic states, Belarus and Ukraine. However, a confident Poland bolstered and armed by an aggressive patron would not be simply a regional competitor, but a jumping-off point for a host of anti-Russian forces. Thus, it would pose a threat to Russia — one that could counter Moscow’s designs for the region.

Poland is hoping that the United States will be that patron. For Warsaw, the BMD system has little to do with potential nuclear threats emanating from the Middle East (or even from Moscow). It is about entrenching a U.S. presence in Poland for the long haul — committing Washington to defending the portion of the North European plain between the Oder and Bug rivers, in much the same way that Washington was committed to the defense of West Germany during the Cold War.

Thus, Obama’s visit to Moscow next week has prompted a flurry of diplomatic activity between Moscow, Washington and Warsaw. For its part, Moscow is trying the stick-and-carrot approach. The Russian military began a major military exercise in its North Caucasus region on Monday, likely to signal that NATO and its ally Georgia are powerless to prevent Russian dominance in the region.

However, Moscow also has nudged Kyrgyzstan to reverse its decision to end the U.S. lease of the Manas airbase, which is vital for NATO military operations in Afghanistan. And the Russians have signaled that they might agree to the transport of “lethal” military supplies through Russian territory (including its airspace) to Afghanistan, thus allowing Washington to avoid shipping supplies through turbulent Pakistan. Meanwhile, Washington has softened its stance on BMD: Mullen suggested that Washington is considering a Russian proposal about using Soviet-era radar facilities in Gabala, Azerbaijan — a statement that Russian media have given particular attention since Mullen’s visit. (STRATFOR has noted the marginal utility of this radar.)

Ultimately, even if the Russians and the Americans arrive at a mutually acceptable arrangement on the BMD program during talks next week, the question of Poland will remain. A deepening of Polish-U.S. military ties would not stop with a BMD system — even one in which Russia is involved. Washington already has completed delivery of nearly 50 F-16C/D fighter jets in the latest Block 52 configuration — among the most modern F-16s flown in the NATO alliance — to Poland. The Pentagon is quickly closing in on a deal to deploy U.S. Patriot missiles to Poland and/or sell them to Warsaw directly.

Therefore, even if the United States backs away from the BMD issue, the victory would be a Pyrrhic one for Moscow — for it is this arrangement that the Kremlin has truly feared all along. The BMD issue – which would put 10 ballistic missile interceptors near Poland’s Baltic coast – was one issue on which the Kremlin felt it could gain a lot of traction. But an aggressive, confident and U.S.-backed Poland perched on Russia’s borders would be a real geopolitical problem for Moscow.
28420  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: July 01, 2009, 01:45:21 AM
MY is back in Afghanistan, reporting as only he can:
28421  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Security issues on: June 30, 2009, 11:40:52 PM
Something that triggered awareness on my part was in the aftermath of a home invasion and robbery in my mom's place in southern Peru.   We had some suspects and I noted how our team set up a surveilance station and realized that my own practices would never have spotted it had I been the object of its attentions.  I also noted how the team spotted people watching us from a ridge overlooking the house and yard and that I had not. 

I grew up in Manhattan, NYC and compared to most I think I have above average environmental awareness-- but there are levels and there are levels.
28422  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Asherman Chest Seal? on: June 30, 2009, 11:35:46 PM
One of our DBMA Assn members posted the following on the DBMAA forum and I thought to ask the knowledgeable players here for feedback.


 I just recently heard about this device invented by a Navy Seal Team Doc, called the Asherman Chest Seal. This is a dressing for a sucking chest wound that has a oneway tube. A box of ten will set you back $150
28423  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: June 30, 2009, 04:45:07 PM
Grateful that this thread is here every day, reminding me , , ,
28424  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: June 30, 2009, 04:43:51 PM
Yesterday we got more physical with the same material.
28425  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Surveillance on: June 30, 2009, 04:40:49 PM
I question I ask myself:  How does a warrior live so that he naturally spots efforts to surveil his family or him?
28426  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gilder' on: June 30, 2009, 02:00:00 PM
"My friends, it would behoove you to study everything
you can get your hands on by George Gilder, a true
American genius." -- Rush Limbaugh

"Israel is the crucial battlefield for Capitalism and Freedom in our
time." -- George Gilder, author of The Israel Test

George Gilder's global best seller Wealth & Poverty made the moral case
for capitalism to millions of Americans, changing the national debate. Now
Gilder, in The Israel Test, makes the moral case for Israel as a bastion
of capitalism and freedom.

Have you ever wondered why, in our time, it is the Left that leads the
attack on Israel? After reading The Israel Test you will never wonder
again. Gilder brilliantly shows that Israel is the ultimate test dividing
those who really stand with Capitalist Democracy from those who always
blame America and Israel first.

Gilder's argument has even long-time defenders of Israel saying things
like "I never looked at Israel that way before. I never truly realized
what was at stake." The Jerusalem Post raves about the book's "unexpected
power." But that's the way it has always been with Gilder's work. He has
an astonishing knack for making his readers see fresh what should have
been obvious all along.

The official publication date of The Israel Test is not until July 22. But
we can show you a way to get your copy weeks before it shows up in

Click here to pre-order The Israel Test today at 25% off publisher's


What's so revolutionary about The Israel Test?  Well, for one thing,
Gilder portrays Israel not as a needy "poor relation" dependent on the
U.S. but as a leader of the hi-tech economy indispensable to continued
U.S. success. "The reason America should continue to 'prop up' Israel," he
writes, "is that Israel itself is a crucial prop of American wealth,
freedom, and power."

Obscured by the usual media coverage of the "war-torn" Middle East are
Israel's rarely celebrated feats of commercial, scientific, and
technological creativity. Today tiny Israel, with its population of 7.23
million, five and one-half million Jewish, stands behind only the United
States in technological contributions. In per-capita innovation, Israel
dwarfs all nations. The forces of civilization in the world continue to
feed upon the quintessential wealth of mind epitomized by Israel.

In The Israel Test Gilder documents Israel's transformation into a hi-tech
powerhouse, profiling the top companies and entrepreneurs that are making
Israel into Silicon Valley's greatest rival-and ally-and shows how the
world's leading-edge technologies increasingly feature "Israel Inside."

Obviously with the book still "embargoed" we can't quote The Israel Test
at length here. But here is a just a snippet to whet your appetite: From
The Israel Test , by George Gilder:

The central issue in international politics, dividing the world into two
fractious armies, is the tiny state of Israel.

The prime issue is not a global war of civilizations between the West and
Islam or a split between Arabs and Jews. These conflicts are real and
salient, but they obscure the deeper moral and ideological war. The real
issue is between the rule of law and the rule of leveler egalitarianism,
between creative excellence and covetous "fairness," between admiration of
achievement versus envy and resentment of it.

Israel defines a line of demarcation. On one side, marshaled at the United
Nations and in universities around the globe, are those who see capitalism
as a zero-sum game in which success comes at the expense of the poor and
the environment: every gain for one party comes at the cost of another. On
the other side are those who see the genius and the good fortune of some
as a source of wealth and opportunity for all.

The Israel test can be summarized by a few questions: What is your
attitude toward people who excel you in the creation of wealth or in other
accomplishment? Do you aspire to their excellence, or do you seethe at it?
Do you admire and celebrate exceptional achievement, or do you impugn it
and seek to tear it down? Caroline Glick, the dauntless deputy managing
editor of the Jerusalem Post, sums it up: "Some people admire success;
some people envy it. The enviers hate Israel."

. . . . Today in the Middle East, Israeli wealth looms palpably and
portentously over the mosques and middens of Palestinian poverty. But
dwarfing Israel's own wealth is Israel's contribution to the world
economy, stemming from Israeli creativity and entrepreneurial innovation.
Israel's technical and scientific gifts to global progress loom with
similar majesty over all others' contributions outside the United States.

Though Jews in Palestine had been the most powerful force for prosperity
in the region since long before the founding of Israel in 1948, more
remarkable still is the explosion of innovation attained through the
unleashing of Israeli capitalism and technology over the last two decades.
During the 1990s and early 2000s Israel sloughed off its manacles of
confiscatory taxes, oppressive regulations, government ownership, and
Socialist nostalgia and established itself in the global economy first as
a major independent player and then as a technological leader.

Contemplating this Israeli breakthrough, the minds of parochial intellects
around the globe, from Jerusalem to Los Angeles, are clouded with envy and
suspicion. Everywhere, from the smarmy diplomats of the United Nations to
the cerebral leftists at the Harvard Faculty Club, critics of Israel
assert that Israelis are responsible for Palestinian Arab poverty. . . .
Denying to Israel the moral fruits and affirmations that Jews have so
richly earned by their paramount contributions to our civilization, the
critics of Israel lash out at the foundations of civilization itself--at
the golden rule of capitalism, that the good fortune of others is also
one's own.

In simplest terms, amid the festering indigence of Palestine, the state of
Israel presents a test. Efflorescent in the desert, militarily powerful,
industrially preeminent, culturally cornucopian, technologically
paramount, it lately has become a spearhead of the global economy and
vanguard of human achievement. Believing that this position was somehow
captured, rather than created, many in the West still manifest a primitive
zero-sum vision of economics and life. . . .

Click here to pre-order The Israel Test today at 25% off publisher's
28427  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Clusterfcuk continues , , , on: June 30, 2009, 01:52:15 PM
Court Rules Franken Has Won Senate Seat

The Minnesota Supreme Court has just issued its long-awaited
judgment in the Senate race, declaring that Democrat Al
Franken is the winner.

Read More:
28428  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More Honduras on: June 30, 2009, 11:36:43 AM
Many foreign observers are condemning the ouster of Honduran President Mel Zelaya, a supporter of Hugo Chavez, as a "military coup." But can it be a coup when the Honduran military acted on the orders of the nation's Supreme Court, the step was backed by the nation's attorney general, and the man replacing Mr. Zelaya and elected in emergency session by that nation's Congress is a member of the former president's own political party?

Mr. Zelaya had sacked General Romeo Vasquez, head of the country's armed forces, after he refused to use his troops to provide logistical support for a referendum designed to let Mr. Zelaya escape the country's one-term limit on presidents. Both the referendum and the firing of the military chief have been declared illegal by the Honduran Supreme Court. Nonetheless, Mr. Zelaya intended yesterday to use ballots printed in Venezuela to conduct the vote anyway.

All this will be familiar to members of Honduras' legislature, who vividly recall how Mr. Chavez in Venezuela adopted similar means to hijack his country's democracy and economy. Elected a decade ago, Mr. Chavez held a Constituent Assembly and changed the constitution to enhance his power and subvert the country's governing institutions. Mr. Zelaya made it clear that he wished to do the same in Honduras and that the referendum was the first step in installing a new constitution that would enhance his powers and allow him to run for re-election.

No one likes to see a nation's military in the streets, especially in a continent with such painful memories of military rule. But Honduras is clearly a different situation. Members of Mr. Zelaya's own party in Congress voted last week to declare him unfit for his office. Given his refusal to leave, who else was going to enforce the orders of the nation's other branches of government?

--John Fund
28429  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Honduras on: June 30, 2009, 11:25:24 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Venezuela and the Honduran Coup
June 29, 2009
Military forces arrested Honduran President Manuel Zelaya at his home early Sunday morning, marking a sea change for the country. Prior to the coup, Zelaya had been attempting to call a national referendum on whether to change the constitution. Though Zelaya still had backing from many leftist organizations in the country, he lacked the support of the Congress, the Supreme Court and the military — all of which maintained that his actions were unconstitutional. His decision to go forward with the referendum in the face of such strong opposition pushed the situation to a climax, ending with his exile to Costa Rica.

The situation has prompted howls of objections, particularly from leftist leaders in Latin America — with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the forefront. Though Chavez’s promises of a military response following the arrest of Zelaya — a fellow leftist — have made headlines, his ability and will to intervene are both extremely constrained. Chavez himself has mentioned limits to his willingness to intervene in the situation, declaring that hostilities would be inevitable if the Honduran military violated the sanctity of the Venezuelan embassy or murdered the Venezuelan ambassador.

Chavez likes to link Venezuela to any and all leftist leaders in the region and to rattle sabers when any of those leaders are threatened. The Honduran coup, however, is deeply entrenched in domestic politics, and Chavez’s ability to take serious action is limited by uncertainties in the political situation he faces in Venezuela. Just as in a 2008 incident between Colombia and Ecuador (when Colombian forces crossed the border in pursuit of members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), Chavez can make statements but is not able to put substantial forces into play.

There have been isolated and unsubstantiated reports that Venezuelan and Nicaraguan personnel might have been supporting Zelaya in Honduras as hostilities were intensifying, but there is nothing to suggest that any kind of meaningful troop presence or interference was a factor in the day’s events. Indeed, sources in Venezuela have revealed that even Venezuelan military personnel lack confidence in the country’s ability to leverage the troop transport aircraft that would be required to establish a meaningful force in Honduras.

Because even Chavez is unable to intervene effectively, the situation in Honduras remains localized. The military immediately turned control of the country over to the Congress, which appointed its leader as the interim head of state. Therefore, it does not seem likely that this situation will turn into a military grab for power — a fact that should bring sighs of relief to a region where the destructive military dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s are remembered well.

This also should not be read as a symbolic or tide-turning failure of the Latin American left, which is far from being a united ideological bloc. With center-leftists leading successful regimes in Brazil and Chile, the myth of a rising, unified wave of extreme leftism in Latin America is just that. Though the coup in Honduras could invigorate opposition movements in leftist-led countries throughout the region — particularly in countries like Venezuela, which are experiencing serious economic difficulties due both to populist excesses and the troubled global economy — it should not be taken as a part of a larger trend. If other governments in Latin America fall, it will be a result of their own spiraling, domestic dramas rather than a domino effect from Sunday’s events in relatively isolated Honduras.

The fact is that regional cohesion in Latin America is very difficult to achieve. With massive geographic barriers separating Latin American countries and the economic challenges facing each leader, there are enormous obstacles to functional cooperation and pressing concerns to attend to at home. Ultimately, the challenges facing Latin American countries in 2009 might lead to military intervention, as in Honduras. But regime stability very often depends on domestic factors — and all the leftist alliances in the world cannot save a leader who rejects the authority of every other branch of his government.
28430  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ron Paul's bill for transparent thread has strong support on: June 30, 2009, 11:22:57 AM
Mr. Popular? Ron Paul Wins Supporters to Fed Sunshine Bill
Rep. Ron Paul so far has won 245 co-sponsors to a bill that would require a full-fledged audit of the Federal Reserve by the end of 2010. 
By Judson Berger

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rep. Ron Paul, shown here speaking to the American Conservative Union last February, is winning supporters to a new bill. (Reuters Photo)

All of a sudden, Congress is paying close attention to Ron Paul.

The feisty congressman from Texas, whose insurgent "Ron Paul Revolution" presidential campaign rankled Republican leaders last year, now has the GOP House leadership on his side -- backing a measure that generated paltry support when he first introduced it 26 years ago.

Paul, as of Tuesday, has won 245 co-sponsors to a bill that would require a full-fledged audit of the Federal Reserve by the end of 2010.

Paul attracted just 18 co-sponsors when he authored a similar bill, which died, in 1983. While the impact Fed policies have on inflation is once again a concern, fears about loose monetary policy and excessive federal spending appear even more widespread in 2009.

"In the past, I never got much support, but I think it's the financial crisis obviously that's drawing so much attention to it, and people want to know more about the Federal Reserve," Paul told

With the Federal Reserve holding interest rates at rock-bottom levels, pumping trillions into the economy and now poised to have new powers to oversee the financial system under President Obama's proposed regulatory overhaul, Paul said lawmakers want transparency.

"If they give them a lot more power and there's no more transparency, that'll be a disaster," he said.

The bill would call for the comptroller general in the Government Accountability Office to audit the Fed and report those findings to Congress. The GAO's ability to conduct such audits now is severely restricted.

A slew of top Republicans are backing the bill, as are many Democrats.

"Ron Paul has the right idea on this," said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who supports similar legislation in the Senate. "I'm just hoping we can get a clear audit. ... We need to know what they're up to."

House Republican Leader John Boehner, who signed on as a co-sponsor this month, wrote in a recent blog post that the "lack of transparency and accountability" regarding federal dollars committed by the Fed and Treasury Department raise "serious concerns" and make an audit critical.

"The Federal Reserve Transparency Act would remove all of these restrictions, and allow GAO to get real answers from the Federal Reserve to protect American taxpayers," Boehner wrote.

Unfortunately for Paul, the bill appears to be idling in the House Financial Services Committee, which is chaired by Barney Frank, D-Mass. The bill has been sitting there, gathering co-sponsors, since Paul introduced it in late February.

"You've kind of got to rely on the Democratic leadership (to move the bill along)," a Boehner aide said. "I haven't heard a lot of support from Chairman Frank."

Calls to Frank's office were not returned.

Paul acknowledged that his bill hasn't advanced but said Frank has "promised" him he will deal with his bill and is willing to give it a hearing. Paul said it's easily got the "momentum" to pass the full House.

A representative with the Federal Reserve could not be reached for comment.

Obama, though, voiced confidence in Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last Tuesday and defended the Fed's overall ability to regulate effectively as well as his proposal to give the body more power.

"If you look at what we've proposed, we are not so much expanding the Fed's power as we are focusing what the Fed needs to do to prevent the kinds of crises that are happening again," Obama said. "We want that power to be available so that taxpayers aren't on the hook."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced a bill similar to Paul's in the Senate in March, which so far has attracted just three co-sponsors -- DeMint and Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Mike Crapo of Idaho.

But DeMint told FOX News last week that the measure would have a good chance of passing the Senate if supporters can push Paul's to a vote, which he said would be successful, in the House.

"I think if we can get that much attention on this bill, I don't believe senators could vote against it, if people knew what they were voting for because everyone is suspicious of the Federal Reserve," DeMint said.

Paul's underlying goal is to abolish the Federal Reserve, which he finds contemptible.

"I blame almost everything on the Fed because they create the bubbles, they create the credit," Paul said.

But the move to require an audit, which Paul described as "neutral," puts him a bit more in the congressional mainstream.

That's a change of pace. The long-time congressman's GOP primary bid was decidedly outside the mainstream. His campaign drew enthusiastic support last year, and though it wasn't enough to pose an electoral threat to the top candidates, he even staged his own September counter-convention in Minneapolis -- down the road from the official Republican National Convention in St. Paul. His "Rally for the Republic" drew more than 10,000 supporters and was complete with a rock band and a slew of faux-delegates wielding signs for their states.

Paul frequently plays the role of party and congressional outsider. Most recently, he was the lone "no" vote on last Friday's resolution to condemn the Iranian government's crackdown on protesters.

He cited constitutional concerns in that vote, as he has in his criticism of the Fed and a slew of other issues.

"The whole process is unconstitutional. There is no legal authority to operate such a monetary system," Paul said in February, in a statement calling for Washington to "end the Fed." He introduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act the following day.
28431  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The costs of Barack's bug-out on: June 30, 2009, 10:01:15 AM

Today is a milestone in Iraq. Under the terms of the Strategic Framework Agreement, U.S. troops will withdraw from Iraqi cities. In retrospect, however, June 30 will likely mark another milestone: the end of the surge and the relative peace it brought to Iraq. In the past week, bombings in Baghdad, Mosul and near Kirkuk have killed almost 200 people. The worst is yet to come.

While the Strategic Framework Agreement was negotiated in the twilight of the Bush administration, President Barack Obama shaped the final deal. He campaigned on a time line to withdraw combat troops from Iraq, and his words impacted the negotiation.

Iraq has shown us time and again that military strength is the key to influence in other matters. Just look at the behavior of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric.

Under Saddam, Mr. Sistani was an independent religious mind, but he was hardly a bold voice. Like so many other Iraqis, he stayed alive by remaining silent. Only after Saddam's fall did he speak up. Though he is today a world-famous figure, the New York Times made its first mention of the ayatollah on April 4, 2003, five days before the fall of Baghdad.

Mr. Sistani is as much of a threat to Iran as he was to Saddam. In November 2003, he contradicted Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei when asked what night the holy month of Ramadan would end, a determination made by sighting the moon. Mr. Sistani said Tuesday, Mr. Khamenei said Wednesday.

To the West, this might be trivial, but it sent shock waves through Iran. How could the supreme leader claim ultimate political and religious authority over not only the Islamic Republic but all Shiites and be contradicted?

Perhaps this is why Iran bolstered its support for militias. When I visited Najaf in January 2004, I saw dark-clad militiamen on the streets outside Mr. Sistani's house. Mr. Sistani quieted until the following year, when U.S. forces retook the city.

Militias are not simply reactions to sectarian violence, nor are they spontaneous creations. They are tools used by political leaders to impose through force what is not in hearts and minds.

Because of both ham-fisted postwar reconstruction and neighboring state interference, militia and insurgent violence soared from 2004 through 2006. The fight became as much psychological as military.

Iranian and insurgent media declared the United States to be a paper tiger lacking staying power. The Baker-Hamilton Commission report underscored such perceptions. Al-Jazeera broadcast congressional lamentations of defeat throughout the region. Iranian intelligence told Iraqi officials that they might like the Americans better, but Iran would always be their neighbor and they best make an accommodation. Al Qaeda sounded similar themes in al-Anbar.

Then came President Bush's announcement that he would augment the U.S. presence. The surge was as much a psychological strategy as it was a military one. It proved our adversaries' propaganda wrong. Violence dropped. Iraq received a new chance to emerge as a stable, secure democracy.

By telegraphing a desire to leave, Mr. Obama reverses the dynamic. In effect, his strategy is an anti-surge. Troop numbers are not the issue. It is the projection of weakness. Not only Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki but Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani have also reached out to the Islamic Republic in recent weeks.

In Cairo, Mr. Obama said the U.S. had no permanent designs on Iraq and declared, "We will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron." Indeed. But until the Iraqi government is strong enough to monopolize independently the use of force, a vacuum will exist and the most violent factions will fill it.

Power and prestige matter. Withdrawal from Iraq's cities is good politics in Washington, but when premature and done under fire it may very well condemn Iraqis to repeat their past.

Mr. Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School.

28432  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams on: June 30, 2009, 09:54:32 AM
"Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood."

--John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765
28433  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Spengler on: June 29, 2009, 10:30:24 PM
Middle East
Jun 30, 2009
Obama creates a deadly power vacuum
By Spengler

There's a joke about a man who tells a psychiatrist, "Everybody hates me," to which the psychiatrist responds, "That's ridiculous - everyone doesn't know you, yet." Which brings me to Barack Obama: one of the best-informed people in the American security establishment told me the other day that the president is a "Manchurian Candidate".

That can't be true - Manchuria isn't in the business of brainwashing prospective presidential candidates any more. There's no one left to betray America to. Obama is creating a

strategic void in which no major power will dominate, and every minor power must fend for itself. The outcome is incalculably hard to analyze and terrifying to consider.

Obama doesn't want to betray the United States; he only wants to empower America's enemies. Forcing Israel to abandon its strategic buffer (the so-called settlements) was supposed to placate Iran, so that Iran would help America stabilize Iraq, where its influence looms large over the Shi'ite majority.

America also sought Iran's help in suppressing the Taliban in Afghanistan. In Obama's imagination, a Sunni Arab coalition - empowered by Washington's turn against Israel - would encircle Iran and dissuade it from acquiring nuclear weapons, while an entirely separate Shi'ite coalition with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would suppress the radical Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This was the worst-designed scheme concocted by a Western strategist since Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery attacked the bridges at Arnhem in 1944, and it has blown up in Obama's face.

Iran already has made clear that casting America's enemies in the leading role of an American operation has a defect, namely that America's enemies rather would lose on their own terms than win on America's terms. Iran's verbal war with the American president over the violent suppression of election-fraud protests leaves Washington with no policy at all. The premise of Obama's policy was that progress on the Palestinian issue would empower a Sunni coalition. As the president said May 18:
If there is a linkage between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, I personally believe it actually runs the other way. To the extent that we can make peace with the Palestinians - between the Palestinians and the Israelis, then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with the potential Iranian threat.
Israel's supporters remonstrated in vain. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a prominent Obama supporter, wrote, "If there is to be any linkage - and I do not believe there should be - it goes the other way: it will be much easier for Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank if Iran does not have a nuclear umbrella under which it can continue to encourage Hamas and Hezbollah to fire rockets at Israeli civilians."

No matter: America made clear that it had annulled the George W Bush administration's promise that a final settlement would allow most of Israel's 500,000 "settlers" to keep their homes, in order to launch the fantasy ship of Iranian cooperation with America.

That policy now is in ruins, and Washington has no plan B. David Axelrod, Obama's top political advisor, told television interviewers on January 28 that Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who spent the last week denouncing the United States, "Did not have final say" over Iran's foreign policy and that America still wanted to negotiate with Iran. This sounds idiotic, but the White House really has painted itself into a corner. The trouble is that Obama has promised to withdraw American forces from Iraq, and Iran has sufficient influence in Shi'ite-majority Iraq to cause continuous upheaval, perhaps even to eventually win control of the country.

By a fateful coincidence, American troops are scheduled to leave Iraq's urban centers on June 30. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein left Iraq open to Iranian destabilization; that is why the elder George Bush left the Iraqi dictator in power in 1990.

Offering Iran a seat at the table in exchange for setting a limit to its foreign ambitions - in Lebanon and Gaza as well as Iraq - seemed to make sense on paper. But the entity that calls itself revolutionary Islam is not made of paper, but of flesh and blood. It is in danger of internal collapse and can only assert its authority by expanding its influence as aggressively as it can.

After the election disaster, Iran's revolutionary leadership urgently needs to demonstrate its credibility. Israel now can say, "A country that murders its own citizens will have no compunction about massacring its enemies," and attack Iran's nuclear capacity with fewer consequences than would have been imaginable in May. And if an Israeli strike were to succeed, or appear successful to the world, the resulting humiliation might be fatal to the regime.

Israel may not be Tehran's worst nightmare. Iraq's Sunnis are testing the resolve of the weakened mullahs. The suicide bombing that killed 73 people at a Shi'ite mosque in Kirkuk on June 20 and a second bombing that killed another 72 Shi'ites in Baghdad's Sadr City slum most likely reflect Sunni perceptions that a weakened Tehran will provide less support for Iraqi Shi'ites. Although Shi'ites comprise more than three-fifths of Iraq's population, Sunnis provided the entire military leadership and are better organized on the ground. America's hopes of enlisting Iran to provide cover for its withdrawal from the cities of Iraq seem delusional.

What move on the chessboard might Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei venture to pre-empt an Israeli air raid against the nuclear facilities? Iran has the rocket launchers of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and terrorist sleeper cells throughout the world. Iran might seek to pre-empt what it anticipates to be the next move from Israel by demonstrating its capacity to inflict injury on Israel or on Jewish targets elsewhere. That would require careful judgment, for a heavy handed action could provide a pretext for even more serious action by the Israelis and others. The same sort of consideration applies to Iranian support for Pakistan Shi'ites, for Hezbollah, and other vehicles of Iran's program of imperial expansion.

The Obama administration has put itself in a peculiar bind. It has demanded that the Pakistani army suppress the Taliban, after Islamabad attempted a power-sharing agreement that left the Taliban in control of the Swat Valley. To root out the largely Pashtun Taliban, Pakistan's largely Punjabi army has driven a million people into refugee camps and leveled entire towns in the Swat Valley. Tens of thousands of refugees are now fleeing the Pakistani army in the South Waziristan tribal area. Punjabis killing Pashtuns is nothing new in the region, but the ferocity of the present effort does not augur well for an early end to the conflict.

While the Pakistan army holds nothing back in attacking the Taliban, American troops in Afghanistan have been told that they no longer can call in air strikes if civilians are likely to suffer. That will put American forces in the unfortunate position of the Pirates of Penzance, who exempted orphans. Once this became generally known, everyone they attempted to rob turned out to be an orphan.

The Taliban need only take a page from Hamas' book, and ensure that civilians are present wherever they operate. The US has made clear that it will not deal in civilian blood, the currency of warfare in that region since before the dawn of history. It will not be taken seriously in consequence.

What will the administration do now? As all its initiatives splatter against the hard realities of the region, it will probably do less and less, turning the less appetizing aspects of the fighting over to local allies and auxiliaries who do not share its squeamishness about shedding civilian blood. That is the most dangerous outcome of all, for America is the main stabilizing force in the region.

The prospect of civil wars raging simultaneously in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq is no longer improbable. The Israel-Palestine issue is linked to all of these through Iran, whose credibility depends on its ability to sustain such puppies of war as Hezbollah and Hamas. Whether or not the Israelis take the opportunity to strike Iran, the prospect of an Israeli strike will weigh on Iran's proxies in the region, and keep Israel's borders in condition of potential violence for the interim.

America's great good fortune is that no hostile superpower stands ready to benefit from its paralysis and confusion. When Soviet troops landed in Afghanistan in December 1979, America was in the grip of an economic crisis comparable to the present depression. American diplomats at the Tehran Embassy were still hostages to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. The price of gold doubled from around $400 to $800 after the Russian invasion because most of the world thought that Russia would win the Cold War. If America lost its dominant superpower status in the West, the dollar no longer could serve as a global reserve currency. To the superpower goes the seigniorage, the state's premium for providing a currency.

By contrast, the gold price barely fluttered all through the present crisis. America remains the undisputed global superpower for the time being. America's creditors express consternation about its $1.8 trillion budget deficit and many trillions more of guarantees for the banking system, but there is nothing they can do about it for the time being but talk. That is how one should interpret a June 25 Reuters report that a "senior researcher with the ruling Communist Party" had urged China to shift some of its $2 trillion in reserves out of dollars and into gold.
Li Lianzhong, who heads the economic department of the Party's policy research office, said China should use more of its $1.95 trillion in foreign exchange reserves to buy energy and natural resource assets. Speaking at a foreign exchange and gold forum, Li also said that buying land in the United States was a better option for China than buying US Treasury securities.

"Should we buy gold or US Treasuries?" Li asked. "The US is printing dollars on a massive scale, and in view of that trend, according to the laws of economics, there is no doubt that the dollar will fall. So gold should be a better choice."
There is no suggestion that Li, even though he is a senior researcher, was enunciating an agreed party line.

The last thing China wants at the moment is to undercut the US dollar, for three reasons. First, as America's largest creditor, China has the most to lose from a dollar collapse. Second, Americans would buy fewer Chinese imports. And third, the collapse of the dollar would further erode America's will to fulfill its superpower function, and that is what China wants least of all.

America remains the indispensable outsider in Asia. No one likes the United States, but everyone dislikes the United States less than they dislike their neighbors. India need not worry about China's role in Pakistan, for example, because America mediates Indian-Pakistani relations, and America has no interest in a radical change to the status quo. Neither does China, for that matter, but India is less sure of that. China does not trust Japan for historical reasons that will not quickly fade, but need not worry about it because America is the guarantor of Japan's security. The Seventh Fleet is the most disliked - and nonetheless the most welcome - entity in Asia.

All of this may change drastically, quickly, and for the worse. Obama's policy reduces to empowering America's enemies in the hope that they will conform to American interests out of gratitude. Just the opposite result is likely to ensure: Iran, Pakistan and other regional powers are likely to take radical measures. Iran is threatened with a collapse of its Shi'ite program from Lebanon to Afghanistan, and Pakistan is threatened with a breakup into three or more states.

Obama has not betrayed the interests of the United States to any foreign power, but he has done the next worst thing, namely to create a void in the region by withdrawing American power. The result is likely to be a species of pandemonium that will prompt the leading players in the region to learn to live without the United States.

In his heart of hearts, Obama sees America as a force for evil in the world, apologizing for past American actions that did more good than harm. An example is America's sponsorship of the 1953 coup in Iran that overthrew the left-leaning government of Mohammed Mossadegh.

"In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government," the president offered in his Cairo address to Muslims on June 5. Although Iran's theocracy despises Mossadegh - official Iranian textbooks call him the "son of a feudal family of exploiters who worked for the cursed Shah, and betrayed Islam" - Iran's government continues to reproach America for its role in the coup. "With a coup they toppled the national government of Iran and replaced it with a harsh, unpopular and despotic regime," Ahmadinejad complained in a January 28 speech.

It is s a bit late to offer advice to Obama, but the worst thing America can do is to apologize. Instead, it should ask for the gratitude of the developing world. Weak countries become punching-bags in the proxy wars of empires. This was from the dawn of history until the fall of the last empire - the "evil" empire of Soviet communism.

The Soviets exploited anti-colonial movements from the 1917 Bolshevik coup until the collapse of the Afghanistan adventure in the late 1980s. Nationalists who tried to ride the Russian tiger ended up in its belly more often than on its back. Iran, Chile, Nicaragua, Angola and numerous other weak countries became the hapless battleground for the contest of covert operations between the Soviet Union and America - not to mention Vietnam and Korea.

The use of developing countries as proxy battlefields and their people as cannon fodder came to an end with the Cold War. As a result, the past 20 years have seen the fastest improvement in living standards ever in the global south, and a vast shift in wealth towards so-called developing countries.

By defeating Russia in the Cold War, America made it possible for governments in the global south to pursue their own interests free from the specter of Soviet subversion. And by countering Soviet subversion, America often averted much worse consequences.

Many deficiencies can be ascribed to the Shah of Iran, but a communist regime in the wake of a Mossadegh administration would have been indescribably worse. The septuagenarian Mossadegh had his own agenda, but he relied on the support of the communist Tudeh party. The US feared a Soviet invasion of Iran, and "the [Harry S] Truman administration was willing to consider a Soviet invasion of Iran as a casus belli, or the start of a global war", according to Francis J Gavin's 1999 article in The Journal of Cold War Studies.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with help from British intelligence helped the shah overthrow the left-leaning regime. But this was no minor colonial adventure, but a flashpoint with the potential to start a world war.

It is painful and humiliating for Iranians to recall the overthrow of a democratically elected government with American help. It would have been infinitely more humiliating to live under Soviet rule, like the soon-to-be-extinct victims of Soviet barbarism in Eastern Europe.

The same is true of Chile, where the brutal regime of General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973, with help from the CIA. Allende was surrounded by Cuban intelligence operations. As Wikipedia reports:
Shortly after the election of Salvador Allende in November 1970, the [Cuban Directorate of Intelligence - DI] worked extremely closely to strengthen Allende's increasingly precarious position. The Cuban DI station chief Luis Fernandez Ona even married Salvador Allende's daughter Beatrice, who later committed suicide in Cuba. The DI organized an international brigade that would organize and coordinate the actions of the thousands of the foreign leftists that had moved into Chile shortly after Allende's election. These individuals ranged from Cuban DI agents, Soviet, Czech and North Korean military instructors and arms suppliers, to hardline Spanish and Portuguese Communist Party members.
My Latin American friends who still mourn the victims of Pinochet's "night and fog" state terror will not like to hear this, but the several thousand people killed or tortured by the military government were collateral damage in the Cold War. Like Iran, Chile became the battleground of a Soviet-American proxy war. The same is true in Nicaragua. (Full disclosure: I advised Nicaragua's president Violeta Chamorro after she defeated the Cuban-backed Sandinistas in the 1990 elections; I did so with no tie to any government agency.)

Obama's continuing obsession with America's supposed misdeeds - deplorable but necessary actions in time of war - is consistent with his determination to erode America's influence in the most troubled parts of the world. By removing America as a referee, he will provoke more violence than the United States ever did. We are entering a very, very dangerous period as a result.
28434  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: Honduras on: June 29, 2009, 04:20:00 PM
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was detained by military forces in the early hours of June 28, transported to a military base just outside Tegucigalpa and flown to Costa Rica on a military aircraft.

In a media interview from Costa Rica, where he is reportedly seeking asylum, Zelaya called his ouster a “kidnapping” and called on his supporters to resist the action peacefully. Zelaya supporters burned tires in front of the presidential palace to protest his ouster, and there were reports of security forces using tear gas to dispel protesters.

In a brief radio announcement, the Honduran Supreme Court said it ordered the army to remove the president to “defend the rule of law.” The Honduran Congress is expected to approve the president of Congress, Roberto Micheletti, to serve as interim president, and presidential elections slated for Nov. 29 will proceed on schedule, according to the country’s electoral court.

The details of Zelaya’s expulsion to Costa Rica are unclear, but Zelaya’s comments and his transportation on a military aircraft suggest he was forced to go there. It isn’t clear if the terms of his expulsion require him to stay in Costa Rica and not seek refuge with allies in Nicaragua, El Salvador or Venezuela. In response to the military action, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced he would take steps to “defeat” the coup against Zelaya, while the government of Ecuador announced it would not recognize the interim government of Honduras.

Zelaya’s ouster is not, in and of itself, necessarily a significant event. While there hasn’t been a coup in Latin America for some time, such an event is not exactly unheard of. There have been initial protests, and the next several days should show the extent to which Zelaya is supported by the populace. There could be marches and unrest among his supporters, particularly rural laborers and unions. One early flash point could be the military’s seizing materials for a referendum on possible constitutional reforms scheduled for June 28 — it was this referendum that triggered the army’s move against Zelaya, after the Supreme Court declared the reforms unconstitutional.

The question is whether Venezuela or other allies of the left-leaning Zelaya act on their pledges to resist the coup, and how those actions manifest themselves. While there were rumors (from possibly biased sources) of the movement of Venezuelans and Nicaraguans into Honduras in recent days, at the moment there does not appear to be any physical action being taken by Zelaya’s allies. This situation, however, will need to be closely monitored in the coming days and weeks.
28435  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Bromas, humor on: June 29, 2009, 09:13:39 AM
La frase del año: del ganador del Nobel en Literatura 'En el mundo actual, se está invirtiendo cinco veces más en medicamentos para la virilidad masculina y silicona para mujeres, que en la cura del Alzheimer. De aquí algunos años, tendremos viejas de tetas grandes y viejos con pene duro, pero ninguno de ellos se acordará para que sirven'.
28436  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: June 29, 2009, 09:03:37 AM
"Where liberty dwells, there is my country."

--Benjamin Franklin (attributed), letter to Benjamin Vaughn, March 14, 1783
28437  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: June 29, 2009, 09:03:21 AM
Good contribution!  I have been reading about this with concern for some time now.  The question remains though concerning genital deformations in fish, etc.
28438  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: June 29, 2009, 08:59:32 AM
Very interesting Rachel.  Looking forward to Part Two:


Lasting Peace

By Tzvi Freeman
Lasting peace is not created by intellectuals, for their minds are easily bribed from within and from without. Nor by those who follow their faith blindly, for at times their blindness wreaks havoc.

Lasting peace is the achievement of those who have made peace between the rigor of their mind and the simplicity of their faith. Their faith is firmly anchored beyond the whims of this world, and their mind sees clearly that proper results are achieved.
28439  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / American History on: June 29, 2009, 01:42:03 AM
From the WSJ, some book reviews:


1.The Journals of Lewis and Clark

There are hundreds of books on the Lewis and Clark expedition— scholarly treatises, narratives, biographies, collections of maps. Engrossing reading, sure, but why choose them when the original journals by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark exist? Even if the prose is rough, the journals are an American treasure, a first-hand account of the discovery of a nation. There is a hypnotic, galvanizing power in the daily descriptions of rivers forged, buffaloes seen, Indians met, meals eaten, illnesses suffered, plants examined, rainstorms weathered and dangers overcome. No matter the hardship experienced over the more than two years they spent in the wilds, the two explorers always managed to update their journals, as Lewis did one winter day: “The ink f[r]iezes in my pen,” he complained, before continuing with his account. When Clark writes on Nov. 7, 1805, “Ocian in view! O! the joy,” your heart, too, will leap.

2. The Great Bridge
By David McCullough
Simon & Schuster, 1972

No other structure better represents American industriousness and ingenuity than the Brooklyn Bridge. In this magisterial account, David McCullough describes its design and construction with all the drama of an epic battle. John A. Roebling, the original engineer of what would be the longest suspension bridge in the world upon its opening in 1883, dies after being injured in a dockside accident as he scouted the construction site. His eldest son, ­Washington Roebling, takes up the cause, but frequent journeys below the murky East River waters to set the foundations of the bridge’s two massive stone towers leave him crippled with decompression sickness, or “the bends.” His wife, Emily, all but assumes command of the ­endeavor and sees the project through to its glorious completion.

3. Paul Revere’s Ride
By David Hackett Fischer
Oxford, 1994

David Hackett Fischer offers a bracing corrective to the ­traditional view of the lone silversmith named Revere on horseback alerting Massachusetts ­patriots with the cry: “The British are coming!” Paul Revere, the author ­observes, would never have warned of the “British” approach; the colonists still considered themselves British, even if on the cusp of revolution. A minor point, perhaps, but evidence of how legend becomes accepted fact. More important, Fischer shows that though Revere—a “gregarious man, a great joiner”—might have led the alarm-sounding effort, he was far from alone. Dozens of other brave riders set about the countryside on the night of April 18, 1775.

4. The Right Stuff
By Tom Wolfe
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979

In Tom Wolfe’s chronicle of Project Mercury and America’s first manned space flight in the early 1960s, we have the perfect marriage of writer and story. With his unblinking eye, Wolfe reveals what constituted the “right stuff”—for test pilots like Chuck Yeager, and, despite the skepticism of some of those flyboys, the seven Mercury ­astronauts who vied for the chance to perch atop a rocket filled with liquid ­oxygen and go where no man had gone before. “It was not bravery in the simple sense of being willing to risk your life,” Wolfe writes, because “any fool could do that.” No, “a man should have the ability to go up in a hurtling piece of machinery and put his hide on the line and then have the moxie, the reflexes, the ­experience, the coolness, to pull it back in the last yawning moment—and then to go up again the next day, and the next day, and every next day.”

5. The Children
By David Halberstam
Random House, 1998

In a Montgomery bus station on May 20, 1961, a young man got down on his knees and prayed for the strength to love the racist mob closing in on him. “When he tried to get up, someone kicked him violently in the back, so viciously that three vertebrae on his spine were cracked.” This is one ­visceral scene among scores of others in David Halberstam’s “The Children,” a sweeping portrait of Nashville activists, most of them students, who brought courageous nonviolent protest to the civil-rights struggle in the Deep South. Halberstam covered the movement as a young reporter for the ­Tennessean, and when he wrote this book four decades later, the memory of those students clearly still burned in his heart.

—Mr. Bascomb’s latest book is ­“Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most ­Notorious Nazi” (Houghton Mifflin).

By Michael B. Ballard
The idea is beguiling: a ­region in the South during the Civil War where the inhabitants, disgusted by slavery and unwilling to support the Confederate cause, take up arms as Union loyalists. Better still, for storytelling purposes, would be a charismatic leader who organizes the resistance.

Such is the legend of what became known as the “Free State of Jones,” a county deep in Mississippi’s piney woods. The area was one of many pockets in the state where dissatisfaction with the Confederacy boiled for much of the war, but only Jones County was elevated by folklore, ­especially in the decades after the war, into a scene of noble rebellion. It helped that the anti-Confederate ­faction there was led by a tall, stern backwoodsman named Newton Knight.

View Full Image

The New York Public Library/Art Resource NY
The Tishomingo Hotel in Corinth, Miss., was used at different times as a hospital by both Union and Rebel troops.
Book Details
The State of Jones
By Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer
Doubleday, 402 pages, $27.50
The operative words here are ­“legend” and “folklore.” Although Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer labor mightily in “The State of Jones” to make the case for Newt Knight and Jones County as emblems of ­enlightened “insurrection” within the Confederacy, the truth, alas, is hardly as inspiring as the authors suppose. Far from being a haven for the ­high-minded, Jones County was a magnet for Confederate deserters. Their hostility to being executed, ­imprisoned or pressed back into the service of a lost cause was the men’s animating principle.

Even among Jones County ­residents who were noncombatants, an antipathy for the Confederate ­government did not automatically translate into pro-Union feelings: The Confederacy was so preoccupied with prosecuting the war, and its finances were so precarious, that the government was scarcely able to protect ordinary citizens, much less provide basic ­services. Anger at one’s own bureaucracy does not mean embracing the enemy’s.

Still, Ms. Jenkins, a journalist, and Mr. Stauffer, a historian, have brought fresh attention to a little-known and interesting sidebar of Civil War ­history. They freely acknowledge their debt to Victoria Bynum’s “The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War” (2001), which is the most scholarly treatment of the subject to date—though, as the subtitle ­indicates, Ms. Bynum was also rather taken with the romantic notion of the troubles in Jones County.

Early on, Ms. Jenkins and Mr. Stauffer posit that Newt Knight and his neighbors were unusual ­Mississippians in that few of them owned slaves—and therefore had no reason to support the South’s ­secession. Jones County, though, was not in a cotton-producing part of the state and, like other areas of ­Mississippi where plantations were rare and the economy not dependent on slave labor, the lack of robust ­interest in the Confederate war effort hardly signaled anti-slavery ­sentiment; slavery simply wasn’t vital to life in these remote areas and didn’t seem worth fighting for.

Collection of Herman Welborn
Newton Knight, a Confederate medic and deserter.
Even if Newt Knight was ­unenthused about fighting for the South, he still enlisted in May 1862 at age 24 rather than face conscription. It helped, the authors note, that he was joined by “twenty-two of his ­closest relatives and friends, young men who hunted together, worshipped together, drank together, helped build one another’s homes, and even ­married one another’s sisters.” The men of Jones County were an insular lot—and it is this insularity that Ms. Jenkins and Mr. Stauffer seem to ­underappreciate in their portrait. The clannishness of Knight, his family and neighbors made them prefer an ­isolated life, and the war had ­disturbed their seclusion. They blamed the Confederacy and readily abandoned the army when Union forces marched across the South.

Knight told an interviewer in the 1920s: “I felt like if they had the right to conscript me when I didn’t want to fight the Union, I had the right to quit when I got ready.” It didn’t take long: Six months after enlisting and ­becoming a medic, Knight joined the thousands of Confederate soldiers who fled the war in Mississippi in the aftermath of the bloody fight at the important railroad-crossroads town of Corinth. He was captured and put back into action; Knight deserted again after the battle of Vicksburg in the summer of 1863. The Mississippi woods by then were teeming with Confederate deserters, and the roads were alive with soldiers sent to round them up. Knight made his way back to Jones County and vowed not to be forced back into service. He and fellow deserters organized to resist any such effort—and were soon fighting ­skirmishes with Confederate soldiers. It is here, with such fighting, that the legend of a “free state” was born.
28440  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO and Cyberdefense on: June 29, 2009, 01:38:00 AM

In a Monty Python skit from 1970, the Vercotti brothers, wearing Mafia suits and dark glasses, approach a colonel in a British military barracks. "You've got a nice army base here, Colonel," says Luigi Vercotti. "We wouldn't want anything to happen to it." Dino explains, "My brother and I have got a little proposition for you, Colonel," and Luigi elaborates, "We can guarantee you that not a single armored division will get done over for 15 bob a week."

If the idea of the military having to pay protection money to the mob seems silly, imagine what Monty Python could do with last week's White House decision on security. It announced a new "Cyber Command" to protect information infrastructure, but stipulated that the military is allowed to protect only itself, not the civilian Internet or other key communications networks. When President Barack Obama announced the plan, he stressed that it "will not -- I repeat -- will not -- include monitoring private-sector networks or Internet traffic." It's like telling the military if there's another 9/11 to protect the Pentagon but not the World Trade Center.

The announcement shows that our political system is still ambivalent about how to defend communications networks such as the Internet. We expect privacy, but we know that intrusive techniques are required to protect the system from cyber attacks. How to balance privacy with preventing attacks that would undermine the system altogether?

It's an open secret that the National Security Agency (NSA) must operate through civilian networks inside the U.S. in order to prevent millions of cyber attacks every year by foreign governments, terror groups and hackers. Likewise, the NSA must follow leads through computer networks that run through innocent countries. "How do you understand sovereignty in the cyber domain?" asked James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a recent speech. "It doesn't tend to pay a lot of attention to geographic borders."

The risks are real. Cyber attacks on Estonia and Georgia by Russia in recent years forced government, banking, media and other Web sites offline. In the U.S., the public Web, air-traffic control systems and telecommunications services have all been attacked. Congressional offices have been told that China has broken into their computers. Both China and Russia were caught having infiltrated the U.S. electric-power grid, leaving behind software code to be used to disrupt the system. The risk of attacks to create massive power outages is so serious that the best option could be unplugging the U.S. power grid from the Internet.

The military is far ahead of civilian agencies such as Homeland Security and is now focused on cyber offense as well as defense. Cyberspace, says Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, is the new "domain," joining the traditional domains of air, land and sea. Each is a focus for both defense and attack. The U.S., a decade behind China, is now officially focused on using cyber warfare offensively as well as defensively.

The U.S. is an inventive nation, so we'll get to the right answer on security if we ask the right questions. What if the only way the military can block a cyber attack is to monitor domestic use of the Web, since foreigners use the Web to launch cyber attacks? What is a "reasonable" search in a virtual world such as a global communication network? What's the proper response to cyber attacks?

If cyber war is a new form of war, wouldn't most Americans adjust their expectations of reasonable privacy to permit the Pentagon to intrude to some degree on their communications, if this is necessary to prevent great harm and if rules protecting anonymity can be established? Finally, wouldn't it be better for politicians to encourage a frank discussion about these issues before a significant attack occurs instead of pretending there are no trade-offs?

Only the NSA, which operates within the Defense Department, has the expertise to protect all U.S. networks. It has somehow found ways to mine needed data despite pre-Web rules that restrict its activities domestically. But the question remains: How can the military get enough access to private, domestic networks to protect them while still ensuring as much privacy as possible? One logical approach is for Homeland Security to delegate domestic defense to the NSA, but for the domestic agency to maintain enough responsibility to have political accountability if privacy rights get violated in the process.

We'll look back on the current era, with the military constrained from defending vital domestic interests, as an artifact of an era when it was easy to point to what was foreign and what was domestic. In the digital world, as the cyber threat shows, physical distinctions such as political borders are unhelpful and can be dangerously confusing.
28441  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: June 29, 2009, 01:25:56 AM
second post

A bipartisan congressional commission, headed by some of our most experienced national security practitioners, recently concluded that a nuclear deterrent is essential to our defense for the foreseeable future. It also recommended that urgent measures be taken to keep that deterrent safe and effective.

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama has adopted an agenda that runs counter to the commission's recommendations.

Consider the president's declaration, in a major speech this spring in Prague, of "America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." Will such a world be peaceful and secure? It is far from self-evident.

David Klein
 In the nuclear-free world that ended in 1945 there was neither peace nor security. Since then there have indeed been many wars but none has come close to the carnage that occurred regularly before the development of nuclear weapons, and none has pitted nuclear powers against each other.

Consider also that while the administration accepts the urgency of halting the spread of nuclear weapons, the policies it has embraced to reach that goal are likely to make matters worse.

Thus, in his Prague speech, Mr. Obama announced that the U.S. would "immediately and aggressively" pursue ratification of the comprehensive ban on the testing of nuclear weapons. The administration believes, without evidence, that ratification of the test-ban treaty will discourage other countries from developing nuclear weapons.

Which countries does it have in mind? Iran? North Korea? Syria? Countries alarmed by the nuclear ambitions of their enemies? Allies who may one day lose confidence in our nuclear umbrella?

There are good reasons why the test-ban treaty has not been ratified. The attempt to do so in 1999 failed in the Senate, mostly out of concerns about verification -- it simply is not verifiable. It also failed because of an understandable reluctance on the part of the U.S. Senate to forgo forever a test program that could in the future be of critical importance for our defense and the defense of our allies.

Robert Gates, who is now Mr. Obama's own secretary of defense, warned in a speech last October that in the absence of a nuclear modernization program, even the most modest of which Congress has repeatedly declined to fund, "[a]t a certain point, it will become impossible to keep extending the life of our arsenal, especially in light of our testing moratorium." Suppose future problems in our nuclear arsenal emerge that cannot be solved without testing? Would our predicament discourage nuclear proliferation -- or stimulate it?

For the foreseeable future, the U.S. and many of our allies rely on our nuclear deterrent. And as long as the U.S. possesses nuclear weapons, they must be -- as Mr. Obama recognized in Prague -- "safe, secure and effective." Yet his proposed 2010 budget fails to take the necessary steps to do that.

Those steps have been studied extensively by the Perry-Schlesinger Commission (named for co-chairmen William Perry, secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, and James R. Schlesinger, secretary of defense under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford). Its consensus report, released in May, makes numerous recommendations to increase the funding for, and improve the effectiveness of, the deteriorating nuclear weapons laboratory complex (e.g., the Los Alamos facility in New Mexico, the Pantex plant in Texas, and the dangerously neglected Y-12 plant in Tennessee) that has become the soft underbelly of our deterrent force.

The commission also assessed the nuclear weapons infrastructure that is essential to a safe, secure and effective deterrent and declared it "in serious need of transformation." It looked at our laboratory-based scientific and technical expertise and concluded that "the intellectual infrastructure" is in "serious trouble." A major cause is woefully inadequate funding. The commission rightly argued that we must "exercise the full range of laboratory skills, including nuclear weapon design skills . . . Skills that are not exercised will atrophy." The president and the Congress must heed these recommendations.

There are some who believe that failing to invest adequately in our nuclear deterrent will move us closer to a nuclear free world. In fact, blocking crucial modernization means unilateral disarmament by unilateral obsolescence. This unilateral disarmament will only encourage nuclear proliferation, since our allies will see the danger and our adversaries the opportunity.

By neglecting -- and in some cases even opposing -- essential modernization programs, arms-control proponents are actually undermining the prospect for further reductions of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. As our nuclear weapons stockpile ages and concern about its reliability increases, we will have to compensate by retaining more nuclear weapons than would otherwise be the case. This reality will necessarily influence future arms-control negotiations, beginning with the upcoming Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty follow-on.

For these negotiations, the Russians are insisting on a false linkage between nuclear weapons and missile defenses. They are demanding that we abandon defenses against North Korean or Iranian missiles as a condition for mutual reductions in American and Russian strategic forces. As the president cuts the budget for missile defense and cedes ground to the Russians on our planned defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, we may end up abandoning a needed defense of the U.S. and our European allies from the looming Iranian threat.

There is a fashionable notion that if only we and the Russians reduced our nuclear forces, other nations would reduce their existing arsenals or abandon plans to acquire nuclear weapons altogether. This idea, an article of faith of the "soft power" approach to halting nuclear proliferation, assumes that the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong Il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be curtailed or abandoned in response to reductions in the American and Russian deterrent forces -- or that India, Pakistan or China would respond with reductions of their own.

This is dangerous, wishful thinking. If we were to approach zero nuclear weapons today, others would almost certainly try even harder to catapult to superpower status by acquiring a bomb or two. A robust American nuclear force is an essential discouragement to nuclear proliferators; a weak or uncertain force just the opposite.

George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn have, on this page, endorsed the distant goal -- about which we remain skeptical -- of a nuclear-free world. But none of them argues for getting there by neglecting our present nuclear deterrent. The Perry-Schlesinger Commission has provided a path for protecting that deterrent. Congress and the president should follow it, without delay.

Mr. Kyl is a Republican senator from Arizona. Mr. Perle, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration.
28442  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Honduras on: June 29, 2009, 01:22:46 AM
Hugo Chávez's coalition-building efforts suffered a setback yesterday when the Honduran military sent its president packing for abusing the nation's constitution.

It seems that President Mel Zelaya miscalculated when he tried to emulate the success of his good friend Hugo in reshaping the Honduran Constitution to his liking.

But Honduras is not out of the Venezuelan woods yet. Yesterday the Central American country was being pressured to restore the authoritarian Mr. Zelaya by the likes of Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Hillary Clinton and, of course, Hugo himself. The Organization of American States, having ignored Mr. Zelaya's abuses, also wants him back in power. It will be a miracle if Honduran patriots can hold their ground.

Associated Press
 That Mr. Zelaya acted as if he were above the law, there is no doubt. While Honduran law allows for a constitutional rewrite, the power to open that door does not lie with the president. A constituent assembly can only be called through a national referendum approved by its Congress.

But Mr. Zelaya declared the vote on his own and had Mr. Chávez ship him the necessary ballots from Venezuela. The Supreme Court ruled his referendum unconstitutional, and it instructed the military not to carry out the logistics of the vote as it normally would do.

The top military commander, Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, told the president that he would have to comply. Mr. Zelaya promptly fired him. The Supreme Court ordered him reinstated. Mr. Zelaya refused.

Calculating that some critical mass of Hondurans would take his side, the president decided he would run the referendum himself. So on Thursday he led a mob that broke into the military installation where the ballots from Venezuela were being stored and then had his supporters distribute them in defiance of the Supreme Court's order.

The attorney general had already made clear that the referendum was illegal, and he further announced that he would prosecute anyone involved in carrying it out. Yesterday, Mr. Zelaya was arrested by the military and is now in exile in Costa Rica.

It remains to be seen what Mr. Zelaya's next move will be. It's not surprising that chavistas throughout the region are claiming that he was victim of a military coup. They want to hide the fact that the military was acting on a court order to defend the rule of law and the constitution, and that the Congress asserted itself for that purpose, too.

Mrs. Clinton has piled on as well. Yesterday she accused Honduras of violating "the precepts of the Interamerican Democratic Charter" and said it "should be condemned by all." Fidel Castro did just that. Mr. Chávez pledged to overthrow the new government.

Honduras is fighting back by strictly following the constitution. The Honduran Congress met in emergency session yesterday and designated its president as the interim executive as stipulated in Honduran law. It also said that presidential elections set for November will go forward. The Supreme Court later said that the military acted on its orders. It also said that when Mr. Zelaya realized that he was going to be prosecuted for his illegal behavior, he agreed to an offer to resign in exchange for safe passage out of the country. Mr. Zelaya denies it.

Many Hondurans are going to be celebrating Mr. Zelaya's foreign excursion. Street protests against his heavy-handed tactics had already begun last week. On Friday a large number of military reservists took their turn. "We won't go backwards," one sign said. "We want to live in peace, freedom and development."

Besides opposition from the Congress, the Supreme Court, the electoral tribunal and the attorney general, the president had also become persona non grata with the Catholic Church and numerous evangelical church leaders. On Thursday evening his own party in Congress sponsored a resolution to investigate whether he is mentally unfit to remain in office.

For Hondurans who still remember military dictatorship, Mr. Zelaya also has another strike against him: He keeps rotten company. Earlier this month he hosted an OAS general assembly and led the effort, along side OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, to bring Cuba back into the supposedly democratic organization.

The OAS response is no surprise. Former Argentine Ambassador to the U.N. Emilio Cárdenas told me on Saturday that he was concerned that "the OAS under Insulza has not taken seriously the so-called 'democratic charter.' It seems to believe that only military 'coups' can challenge democracy. The truth is that democracy can be challenged from within, as the experiences of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and now Honduras, prove." A less-kind interpretation of Mr. Insulza's judgment is that he doesn't mind the Chávez-style coup.

The struggle against chavismo has never been about left-right politics. It is about defending the independence of institutions that keep presidents from becoming dictators. This crisis clearly delineates the problem. In failing to come to the aid of checks and balances, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Insulza expose their true colors.
28443  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Target Hawaii on: June 29, 2009, 01:20:17 AM
The Pentagon recently announced that it is repositioning ground-to-air radar and missile defenses near Hawaii in case North Korea decides to launch another long-range missile, this time toward the Aloha State. So at least 1.3 million Hawaiians will benefit from defenses that many officials in the current Administration didn't even want to build.

But what about the rest of us? It's an odd time to be cutting missile defense, as the Obama Administration is doing in its 2010 budget -- by $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion, depending on how you calculate it. Programs to defend the U.S. homeland are being pared, while those that protect our soldiers or allies are being expanded after the Pentagon decided that the near-term threat is from short-range missiles. But as North Korea and Iran show, rogue regimes aren't far from having missiles that could reach the U.S.

In case you're not convinced about the threat, consider this exchange between Arizona Republican Trent Franks and Lieutenant-General Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, in a hearing last month at the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces:

Rep. Franks: "Do you believe that the threat from long-range missiles has increased or decreased in the last six months as it relates to the homeland here?"

Gen. O'Reilly: "Sir, I believe it has increased significantly. . . . The demonstration of capability of the Iranian ability to put a sat[ellite] into orbit, albeit small, shows that they are progressing in that technology. Additionally, the Iranians yesterday demonstrated a solid rocket motor test which is . . . disconcerting. Third, the North Koreans demonstrated . . . that they are improving in their capacity and we are very concerned about that."

Associated Press
This 2006 image provided by the U.S. Navy shows the heavy lift vessel MV Blue Marlin entering Pearl Harbor, Hawaii with the Sea Based X-Band Radar (SBX) aboard.
Among the losers in the Administration's budget are the additional interceptors planned for the ground-based program in Alaska. The number will be limited to 30 interceptor missiles located at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Also on the chopping block is the Airborne Laser, which is designed to shoot down incoming missiles in the boost phase, before they can release decoys and at a point in the missile trajectory when it would fall back down on enemy territory. This highly promising technology will be starved.

The Administration may also kill the plan for a missile defense system in Europe. The proposed system, which would place interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, is intended to protect Europe against Iranian missiles. As is often forgotten, it would also protect the U.S., by providing an additional layer of defense for the Eastern seaboard, which is a long way from the Alaskan defenses.

The Administration is reconsidering the European site due to opposition from Moscow, which says -- though it knows it's false -- that the European system is intended to defeat Russian missiles. In advance of Barack Obama's visit to Russia next week, there's talk of "cooperation" on missile defense, possibly by adding radars in southern Russia and Azerbaijan. From a geographical perspective, neither location would add much as an Iranian missile headed for Western Europe or the U.S. would be on the periphery of the radars' vision, at best.

Meanwhile, Moscow says that unless the Administration backtracks on missile defense, it won't agree to mutual reductions in nuclear arsenals under the START Treaty, which expires this year. Mr. Obama is eager to negotiate arms cuts. But it would be a mistake to tie decisions on missile defense to anything except what is best for the security of the U.S. and its allies.

In Congress, bipartisan efforts are afoot to restore some of the funding for missile defense. But even if more money is forthcoming, the bigger problem is the new U.S. mindset. The Obama Administration is staffed with Cold War-era arms controllers who still believe missile defense is destabilizing -- except, apparently, now that they need it for Hawaii. They also reject the essential next phase, which is to make better use of space-based systems.

Missile defense is no techno-fantasy. The U.S. has made major strides since President Bush exercised the option to withdraw from the ABM Treaty in 2001. If North Korea launches a missile toward Hawaii, the best demonstration of that ability -- and of U.S. resolve -- would be to shoot it down.
28444  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 6 states want to opt-out Obamacare on: June 28, 2009, 06:57:42 PM
From the WT forum:

6 States Want to Nullify Obamacare With Opt Out Law

Interesting question, is Obamacare even Constitutional?

Posted by Warner Todd Huston

Sunday, June 28th at 7:12AM EDT

Six states are currently looking to add an “opt out” law to their books to protect citizens from the possibility of a national healthcare plan imposed by federal fiat.

Arizona started the ball rolling by introducing the Health Care Freedom Act, a voting initiative that will be put before voters on the 2010 ballot. If accepted by the majority of the voters, Arizona will be able to opt out of any federal healthcare laws passed by Washington. Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming are considering similar measures.
The arrogance of Congress and the president worries many of these state lawmakers, some even consider Obama’s healthcare policies a naked power grab.
Some state legislators say they worry that a government-mandated program will effectively eliminate their traditional role in regulating health insurers — an important power base. Others raise constitutional concerns. “The real goal of national health insurance exchange isn’t competition — it’s a federal power grab that flies in the face of the Tenth Amendment,” says Wisconsin state Rep. Leah Vukmir, a Republican.

Just for a point of reference, here is the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Now, I’ve read the Constitution several times and I don’t see a single place in it where it talks about hospitals, doctors, or healthcare, nor especially where it might say that the federal government should control all such activities from Congress and pay for it all out of the national treasury. Then again, the Constitution hasn’t mattered to any Democrat for decades, so why worry about that now?

In any case, this is an interesting movement on the part of six brave states. Let us hope that this idea spreads to others and Obamacare, should we be so unfortunate enough to have it pas
28445  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rogue Militia killings on: June 27, 2009, 02:46:38 PM
Its the NYT, so caveat lector.  That said, troubling questions are raised:


ARIVACA, Ariz. — “Somebody just came in and shot my daughter and my husband!” the woman shouted to the 911 dispatcher. “They’re coming back in! They’re coming back in!”

Arivaca finds itself a town both terrified and angered.
Multiple gunshots are then heard on a tape of the call.

The woman, Gina Gonzalez, survived the attack after arming herself with her husband’s handgun, but both he and their 10-year-old daughter died.

The killings, last month, have terrified this small town near the Mexican border, in part because the authorities have now tied them to what they describe as a rogue group engaged in citizen border patrols.

The three people arrested in the crime include the leader of Minutemen American Defense, a Washington State-based offshoot of the Minutemen movement, in which citizens roam the border looking for people crossing into the country illegally. Former members describe the group’s leader, Shawna Forde, 41, as having anti-immigrant sentiments that are extreme, at times frightening, even to people accustomed to hard-line views on border policing.

The authorities say that the three suspects were after money and drugs that they intended to use to finance vigilantism, and that members of the group may have been involved in at least one other home invasion, in California.

“There was an anticipation that there would be a considerable amount of cash at this location,” said Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, since, he said, Ms. Gonzalez’s husband, Raul J. Flores, had previously been involved in narcotics trafficking, an assertion the family denies.

A Pima County public defender representing Ms. Forde had no comment on the case. Nor did lawyers for the other suspects, Jason E. Bush, 34, and Albert R. Gaxiola, 42. All three remain in custody, charged with first-degree murder, assault and burglary.

Merrill Metzger, who worked for the group for six months just as it was getting started in 2007, said Ms. Forde had often traveled from Washington to Arizona with weapons. In March, while stopping over at his home in Redding, Calif., she presented a plan for the group to undertake, Mr. Metzger, her half-brother, said in a telephone interview.

“She was sitting here talking about how she was going to start an underground militia and rob drug dealers,” he said.

Mr. Metzger quit the group, alarmed, he said, by a number of things, including Ms. Forde’s demand for extreme loyalty, right down to the choice of cuisine.

“I had to take an oath, and part of the oath was that I couldn’t eat Mexican food,” he said. “That’s when red flags went up all over for me. That seemed like prejudice.”

Another former member, Chuck Stonex, a retired independent contractor, said Ms. Forde had talked about buying a ranch near Arivaca and building a compound. He said that in October, he took an excursion with her into the desert north of here, where, wearing camouflage and carrying handguns and rifles, they searched for illegal immigrants.

“It’s just like hunting,” Mr. Stonex said, describing the tracking skills the group used. “If you’re going out hunting deer, you want to scout around and get an idea what their pattern is, what trails they use.”

Mr. Stonex said he treated one of the suspects, Mr. Bush, for a flesh wound the day of the attack on Ms. Gonzalez’s family. Ms. Gonzalez had presumably shot Mr. Bush in warding off the attackers, but, Mr. Stonex said, the wound did not raise his suspicions, because, he said, Ms. Forde offered what seemed a plausible explanation: “They’d been jumped by border bandits.”

“They were very relaxed, having casual, normal chitchat,” he recalled.

Small numbers of Americans have always viewed border patrolling as a patriotic duty, but the most recent incarnation — the Minutemen movement, which takes its name from citizen militias formed during the Revolutionary War — gained steam in 2005, when hundreds of volunteers flocked to border locations.

Page 2 of 2)

Their patrols initially drew praise from some political leaders, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, but also raised concerns that the activities were thin veils for racism and xenophobia. Over time, the movement has also suffered from infighting, with some groups, like Ms. Forde’s, advocating increasingly confrontational tactics while others have simply monitored the border and reported illegal crossings to the authorities.

Shawna Forde, 41, a suspect, in an undated photograph.

Gilbert Mungaray, 80, says he “can’t imagine why” his grandson and great-granddaughter were killed.
Since the killings here, members of some better-known groups involved with the movement have scrambled to disassociate themselves from Minutemen American Defense. Others had begun doing so well beforehand. The 750-member San Diego Minutemen, for instance, started warning people on its Web site in January to avoid Ms. Forde.

According to Ms. Gonzalez’s 911 call, the killers arrived shortly after midnight on May 30, dressed in uniforms resembling those of law enforcement personnel. They told the family that they were looking for a fugitive. Actually, the authorities say, the three suspects believed that Ms. Gonzalez’s husband, Mr. Flores, 29, was holding both drugs and money at their remote home.

Sheriff Dupnik has said there is ample drug activity between here and the border. The suggestion has angered the residents of Arivaca, a town of retirees, artists and working people about 50 miles south of Tucson. “This is a good town,” said Fern Loveall, 76. “It’s a good place to live, and it’s a good place to raise kids. What they’re saying about it isn’t true.”

Members of Mr. Flores’s family also denied that he had had any connection to the drug trade.

“He was a good guy,” said Gilbert Mungaray, his 80-year-old grandfather. “I know what happened, but I can’t imagine why.”

The family’s house was silent this week. An American flag hung on the porch, and three pink roses adorned the front door. Down a dirt road, at the local community center, a picture of Brisenia, the slain daughter of Mr. Flores and Ms. Gonzalez, had been placed in a frame with a small black ribbon affixed to it.

For the regulars at La Gitana Cantina, a friendly establishment with a mixed clientele of Anglos and Mexican-Americans, emotions have ranged from abject sorrow to rage.

“I’ve had people come into the bar and just put their heads in their hands, and all the sudden they’ve got tears pouring down their face,” said Karen Lippert, a bartender. She added that while Mr. Gaxiola was a local, the two other suspects were not.

“This is not us guys,” she said. “It’s the not the way us guys operate.”

28446  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kidnapped NYT reporter on: June 27, 2009, 02:42:15 PM
Michael Yon on why he held back info on kidnapped NYT reporter
28447  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Interesting blog on Jefferson on: June 27, 2009, 01:41:29 PM
28448  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: June 27, 2009, 11:06:23 AM
Well, if we are not going to decriminalize/legalize opium/heroin here, the logic eludes me.

To repeat a point I have raised here various times for quite some time now, if we are unwilling/unable to go after a/the primary source of money to the enemy, WTF are we doing?  WTF is our strategy?!?  These crops are in plain site in an arid climate (i.e. no coverage by a jungle canopy), so as best as I can tell BO's "new" policy has been our policy all along.
28449  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knife Law on: June 27, 2009, 10:59:39 AM
It is my understanding that in my state of CA that carrying for defense is considered an admission of intent to carry a weapon.
28450  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Brit parachute operation on: June 26, 2009, 08:17:28 PM
4th post

SAS troopers have carried out the first major combat parachute operations since Suez more than 50 years ago, it can now be disclosed.

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
Published: 5:04PM BST 26 Jun 2009

Using advanced parachuting techniques Special Forces carried out a series of operational jumps onto the outskirts of Baghdad targeting insurgent leaders and bomb-making factories, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.
The airborne operations - which can only now be disclosed - played a significant role in removing so-called insurgent “high value targets” and reducing their ability to make roadside bombs.

On at least a dozen occasions SAS soldiers using BT80 parachutes jumped from the back of a Hercules aircraft at around 15,000ft. After steering for several miles, they landed silently close to insurgent strongholds on an area the size of a football pitch.

The troops of up 12 men then quietly made their way on foot either to begin an operation or set up a covert observation post where they would mount electronic devices linked to voice and facial recognition software to spy on insurgents.
Dressed in the SAS’s latest pixellated combat uniforms with some carrying the heavy-hitting Heckler and Koch 417 weapon mounted with silencers, the men either assisted other SAS helicopter-borne troops or mounted the raid themselves.

“It was the surprise factor that we were after,” said a special forces soldier involved in the operations. “You could have some time under canopy to travel a few kilometres from the point of opening onto the ground.”
Using a special chest rig mounted with satellite navigation, radios and altimeters and oxygen masks the soldiers at first gathered in the sky and then steered towards the ground as a group.

“These jumps took place all over city but particularly Sadr city on the eastern edge of Baghdad where it heads into countryside. You would land on the outskirts, on the right side of the Tigris, and then tab in.
“It gives you the ability of surprise for a hard knock or to get to that point where you have eyes on the target without anyone having a clue that you are in there. As soon as you put a helicopter up people know what’s going on.”
On some occasions a helicopter force in Pumas was called in to start an operation otherwise they were used to extract the soldiers.

“We had the means to get into a building and means to fight our way out,” the soldier said.
“We did arrests. We are not going in to neutralise everything but to try and capture targets. However, if you are in the course of apprehending somebody and your life is under threat, if somebody is pointing a gun at you then they will be very lucky to survive.”

News of combat jumps, which were made over the last two years, comes at a time when a shortage of RAF Hercules and pilots has meant that a third of the 2,400 paratroopers in 16 Air Assault Brigade are not qualified to jump.
Airborne officers argue that by keeping a parachute capability it maintains Britain’s ability to launch rapid reaction forces that could for instance take a hostile runway in Africa or at the very least “give the enemy something to think about”.
A few parachute jumps were used by the SAS and SBS in Afghanistan in 2001 and on two occasions the Parachute Regiment has come close to making drops in Afghanistan.

During the Suez operation in 1956 more than 700 paratroopers landed in Egypt to successful seize airfields, to enable transport of troops and supplies. The operation by Britain, France, and Israel followed Egypt’s decision to nationalize the strategically-important Suez Canal.
Currently Parachute Jump Instructors are in Afghanistan assessing the situation for parachuting that is made difficult by the high altitude and rough terrain.
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