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28601  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 16, 2009, 05:55:44 AM
Grateful that my children have the day off from school today and that I get to spend it with them.  Grateful to see my good friend and djembe teacher today too.
28602  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 16, 2009, 05:44:41 AM
Barney Frank, Predatory Lender
Almost two-thirds of all bad mortgages in our financial system were bought by government agencies or required by government regulations.

By PETER J. WALLISON
Recent reports that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will suffer default rates of more than 20% on the 2007 and 2008 loans it guaranteed has raised questions once again about the government's role in the financial crisis and its efforts to achieve social purposes by distorting the financial system.

The FHA's function is to guarantee mortgages of low-income borrowers (the mortgages are then sold through securitizations by Ginnie Mae) and thus to take reasonable credit risks in the interests of making mortgage credit available to the nation's low-income citizens. Accordingly, the larger than normal losses that will result from the 2007 and 2008 cohort could be justified by Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, as "policy"—an effort to ease the housing downturn through the application of government credit. The FHA, he argued, is buying more weak mortgages in order to help put a floor under the housing market. Eventually, the taxpayers will have to judge whether this policy was justified.

Far more interesting than the FHA's prospective losses on its 2007 and 2008 book are the agency's losses on its 2005 and 2006 guarantees, when the housing bubble was inflating at its fastest rate and there was no need for government support. FHA-backed loans during those years also have delinquency rates between 20% and 30%. These adverse results—not the result of a "policy" effort to shore up markets—pose a significant challenge to those who are trying to absolve the U.S. government of responsibility for the financial crisis.



When the crisis first arose, the left's explanation was that it was caused by corporate greed, primarily on Wall Street, and by deregulation of the financial system during the Bush administration. The implicit charge was that the financial system was flawed and required broader regulation to keep it out of trouble. As it became clear that there was no financial deregulation during the Bush administration and that the financial crisis was caused by the meltdown of almost 25 million subprime and other nonprime mortgages—almost half of all U.S. mortgages—the narrative changed. The new villains were the unregulated mortgage brokers who allegedly earned enormous fees through a new form of "predatory" lending—by putting unsuspecting home buyers into subprime mortgages when they could have afforded prime mortgages. This idea underlies the Obama administration's proposal for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. The link to the financial crisis—recently emphasized by President Obama—is that these mortgages would not have been made if regulators had been watching those fly-by-night mortgage brokers.

There was always a problem with this theory. Mortgage brokers had to be able to sell their mortgages to someone. They could only produce what those above them in the distribution chain wanted to buy. In other words, they could only respond to demand, not create it themselves. Who wanted these dicey loans? The data shows that the principal buyers were insured banks, government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the FHA—all government agencies or private companies forced to comply with government mandates about mortgage lending. When Fannie and Freddie were finally taken over by the government in 2008, more than 10 million subprime and other weak loans were either on their books or were in mortgage-backed securities they had guaranteed. An additional 4.5 million were guaranteed by the FHA and sold through Ginnie Mae before 2008, and a further 2.5 million loans were made under the rubric of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which required insured banks to provide mortgage credit to home buyers who were at or below 80% of median income. Thus, almost two-thirds of all the bad mortgages in our financial system, many of which are now defaulting at unprecedented rates, were bought by government agencies or required by government regulations.

The role of the FHA is particularly difficult to fit into the narrative that the left has been selling. While it might be argued that Fannie and Freddie and insured banks were profit-seekers because they were shareholder-owned, what can explain the fact that the FHA—a government agency—was guaranteeing the same bad mortgages that the unregulated mortgage brokers were supposedly creating through predatory lending?

The answer, of course, is that it was government policy for these poor quality loans to be made. Since the early 1990s, the government has been attempting to expand home ownership in full disregard of the prudent lending principles that had previously governed the U.S. mortgage market. Now the motives of the GSEs fall into place. Fannie and Freddie were subject to "affordable housing" regulations, issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which required them to buy mortgages made to home buyers who were at or below the median income. This quota began at 30% of all purchases in the early 1990s, and was gradually ratcheted up until it called for 55% of all mortgage purchases to be "affordable" in 2007, including 25% that had to be made to low-income home buyers.

It was not easy to find candidates for traditional mortgages—loans to people with good credit records or the resources for a substantial downpayment—among home buyers who qualified under HUD's guidelines. To meet their affordable housing requirements, therefore, Fannie and Freddie reduced their lending standards and reached into the FHA's turf. The FHA, although it lost market share, continued to guarantee what it could, adding to the demand that the unregulated mortgage brokers filled. If they were engaged in predatory lending, it was ultimately driven by the government's own requirements. The mortgages that resulted are now problem loans for the GSEs, the FHA and the big banks that were required to make them in order to burnish their CRA credentials.

The significance of the FHA's troubles is that this agency had no profit motive. Yet it dipped into the same pool of subprime and other nontraditional mortgages that the GSEs and Wall Street were fishing in. The left cannot have it both ways, blaming the private sector for subprime lending while absolving the government policies that created the demand for subprime loans. If the financial crisis was caused by subprime mortgages and predatory lending, the government's own policies made it happen.

Mr. Walllison is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
28603  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia reshpaing nuclear doctrine on: October 16, 2009, 04:09:50 AM
Russia's Message on Reshaping Its Nuclear Doctrine
RUSSIA IS EXPANDING THE SCOPE OF ITS NUCLEAR DOCTRINE to include pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons, Russian Presidential Security Council Chief Nikolai Patrushev said in an interview published Wednesday by Moscow daily Izvestia. The former director of the Federal Security Service (the successor agency to the KGB) emphasized that nuclear weapons might be used in a preventive manner to repel conventional aggression in regional and even local wars. He was talking about the pre-emptive use of tactical nuclear weapons — which is, incidentally, an option the United States retains.

Russia considers its nuclear arsenal to be the pillar of its defensive military capabilities, and tactical nuclear weapons increasingly have taken a central role in its defensive scenarios since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“It is unlikely that the Russians would employ nuclear weapons in any given scenario, but whatever they say publicly has next to no bearing on what they actually would do in an unknowable, future situation.”
The potentially frightful speed of a modern nuclear exchange means there is little time for deliberation: To whatever extent possible, national command authorities seek to explore, understand and balance ahead of time the complexities and options of any given scenario. These scenarios are among the most closely guarded state secrets in the world. When and how they are updated is not generally a matter for public consumption.

And in any event, the fundamental reality remains: A nation’s senior leadership retains exclusive control over the use of nuclear weapons. Such a decision would be taken in a time of crisis, under a specific set of ultimately unknowable circumstances. Paper scenarios might inform that decision, but at the end of the day, the leader is not bound by them any more than he is bound by his country’s public nuclear doctrine.

Indeed, the manner in which a war is fought depends on any number of things — who struck first, who has the initiative, one’s strengths and weaknesses as well as the enemy’s, and so forth. But the first thing that goes out the window is the official, public statement about what that doctrine is or should be.

It is still unlikely that the Russians would employ nuclear weapons in any given scenario, but whatever they say publicly has next to no bearing on what they actually would do in an unknowable, future situation.

In other words, Patrushev’s interview was not an announcement to the Russian military that it is going to fight differently; such an announcement would come through different channels. Rather, Patrushev was telling the world that the Russian military is going to fight differently — whether that is the case or not. What is significant is not the public shift in nuclear doctrine, but the political decision to publicize it, and the timing of that decision.

It was no accident that the interview was published while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting Moscow. Patrushev was speaking to the West, and to the United States. He was attempting to shape Western thinking with three implicit points:

Russia is prepared to think in terms of the Cold War — with all the unpleasantness that could entail for the United States.
Russia has tactical nuclear weapons and a doctrine for using them — pre-emptively, if necessary.
Nuclear weapons are potentially on the table if fundamental Russian national interests are attacked, or even if Russia is threatened.
28604  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 15, 2009, 08:17:05 PM
Secretary Halfbright seriously bobbled this (which was widely reported in the Arab world btw) by accepting the number.  IIRC Reason Magazine did an analysis that showed the actual number was far less-- about 125,000.   This is still an outrageous number of people to die so that the French, the UN et al could make their skim off the UN embargo.

One point to draw from this little trip down the memory hole is that the UN embargo had a VERY heavy human cost.
28605  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton, Federalist #9, 1787 on: October 15, 2009, 03:09:40 PM
"The regular distribution of power into distinct departments; the introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of courts composed of judges holding their offices during good behavior; the representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election... They are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 9, 1787
28606  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: October 15, 2009, 03:05:06 PM
Eh GM, the clusterfcuk continues , , ,

Here's this:

GOP Lawmakers Accuse CAIR of Planting Spies on Capitol Hill

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Quote:
GOP Lawmakers Accuse Muslim Advocacy Group CAIR of Planting Spies on Capitol Hill

Four congressmen are asking for an investigation into the Council on American Islamic Relations after discovering an internal memo noting the group's strategy.

FOXNews.com
Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Four House Republicans on Wednesday accused the nation's largest Muslim advocacy group of trying to "infiltrate" Capitol Hill by placing interns in the offices of lawmakers who handle national security issues.

The four lawmakers, members of the anti-terror caucus, asked for an investigation into the Council on American Islamic Relations after discovering an internal memo noting the group's strategy. They also highlighted a new book by Paul Sperry titled "Muslim Mafia," scheduled for release on Thursday, which claims the group has been actively infiltrating Congress.

Reps. Sue Myrick of North Carolina, Trent Franks of Arizona, Paul Broun of Georgia and John Shadegg of Arizona asked the Internal Revenue Service to determine whether CAIR deserves its nonprofit status. They also are asking their colleagues to review a summary of findings that led the Justice Department to name CAIR as a co-conspirator in a terrorism case.

The internal memo, provided to FOXNews.com, stated that CAIR would "focus on influencing congressmen responsible for policy that directly impacts the American Muslim community."

The memo cited three House committees -- Homeland Security, Intelligence and the Judiciary -- as panels on which lawmakers preside over policy affecting American Muslims.

"We will develop national initiatives such as a lobby day and placing Muslim interns in Congressional offices," the memo read.

Earlier this year the FBI severed its once-close ties with CAIR as evidence mounted of the group's links to a support network for Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization.

"It's frightening to think that an organization with clear-cut ties to terrorism could have a hand in influencing policy -- especially national security policy -- within our government," Myrick said. "The investigations that we're asking for are simple, and I'm hopeful that they will bring to light any and all information regarding the goals of CAIR."

Franks called on CAIR to renounce its ties to terrorist groups and state publicly that it does not support Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood.
"I take the charges levied against CAIR and laid out in this book very seriously because they affect our national security," Franks said in a statement. "This Congress must be deliberate in taking a strong stance against those groups and organizations that align themselves with terrorists."

"We live in a post-9/11 world where the coincidence of nuclear proliferation and Islamic terrorism pose a very dangerous combination and real threat to America's national security," he said. "That is why it is critical, in light of the well supported documents and information, that the U.S. Congress take this issue seriously."

CAIR decried the call as a "racist" and "insidious" attack on Muslims and mocked the allegations.

"If it wasn't so insidious, it would be laughable," CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told FOXNews.com. "What are their charges? CAIR seeks political participation of Muslims. I'm shocked."

Hooper said the evidence proves only that the group is trying, like every other minority group, to engage Muslims in the political process.
"Why is it evil when Muslims seek political participation?" he asked.
In the book "Muslim Mafia," a six-month sting appears to link CAIR to an organized crime network made up of more than 100 other Muslim front groups that make up the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. The book claims the group is bent on destroying Western civilization.

Hooper said Sperry's efforts only proved the group's good intentions.
"The guy spied on us for months, stole documents -- and the most they came up with is CAIR seeks to work with policymakers on Capitol Hill?" Hooper said.

"I see it as a stamp of approval."
 

Quoted from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009...-capitol-hill/
28607  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Robert Reich said it first. There will be death panels. on: October 15, 2009, 02:27:40 PM
 Meanwhile, if you're not part of a special interest but just a regular American who hopes one day to grow old (because it beats the alternative), NewsBusters.org has a timely reminder that proponents of "health-care reform" don't necessarily sympathize with that aspiration. NewsBusters links to another Morgen Richmond YouTube clip, this one of a speech that Robert Reich, who served as President Clinton's labor secretary, delivered on the subject in 2007:

I will actually give you a speech made up entirely--almost at the spur of the moment, of what a candidate for president would say if that candidate did not care about becoming president. In other words, this is what the truth is, and a candidate will never say, but what candidates should say if we were in a kind of democracy where citizens were honored in terms of their practice of citizenship, and they were educated in terms of what the issues were, and they could separate myth from reality in terms of what candidates would tell them:

"Thank you so much for coming this afternoon. I'm so glad to see you, and I would like to be president. Let me tell you a few things on health care. Look, we have the only health-care system in the world that is designed to avoid sick people. [laughter] That's true, and what I'm going to do is I am going to try to reorganize it to be more amenable to treating sick people. But that means you--particularly you young people, particularly you young, healthy people--you're going to have to pay more. [applause] Thank you.
"And by the way, we are going to have to--if you're very old, we're not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life to keep you maybe going for another couple of months. It's too expensive, so we're going to let you die. [applause]
"Also, I'm going to use the bargaining leverage of the federal government in terms of Medicare, Medicaid--we already have a lot of bargaining leverage--to force drug companies and insurance companies and medical suppliers to reduce their costs. But that means less innovation, and that means less new products and less new drugs on the market, which means you are probably not going to live that much longer than your parents. [applause] Thank you."
As noted in our transcription, Reich's Berkeley, Calif., audience applauded the idea of taxing the young, killing the old, and stifling lifesaving innovations. One suspects that these ideas would not be greeted as warmly in most other American locales, which is why elected politicians who are actually trying to sell such ideas cloak them in euphemisms about "universal care," "reform," "cost cutting" and so forth.

Liz Hunt of London's Daily Telegraph reports on an even more chilling euphemism used in a country that long ago instituted "health-care reform":

"Mrs ------- has breathing difficulties," the night manager told her. "She needs oxygen. Shall we call an ambulance?"
"What do you mean?" my friend responded. "What's the matter with her?"
"She needs to go to hospital. Do you want that? Or would you prefer that we make her comfortable?"
"Make her comfortable." Here's what that meant:

Befuddled by sleep, she didn't immediately grasp what was being asked of her. Her grandmother is immobilised by a calcified knee joint, which is why she is in the home. She's a little deaf and frail, but otherwise perky. She reads a newspaper every day (without glasses), and is a fan of the darling of daytime television, David Dickinson. Why wouldn't she get medical treatment if she needed it?
Then, the chilling implication of the phone call filtered through--she was being asked whether her grandmother should be allowed to die.
"Call an ambulance now," my friend demanded.
The person at the other end persisted. "Are you sure that's what you want? For her to go to hospital."
"Yes, absolutely. Get her to hospital."
Three hours later, her grandmother was sitting up in A&E [the accident-and-emergency ward], smiling. She had a mild chest infection, was extremely dehydrated, but was responding to oxygen treatment.
As Hunt notes, "Withdrawal of fluids (and drugs) is one of the steps on the controversial palliative care programme known as the Liverpool Care Pathway, which has been adopted by 900 hospitals, hospices and care homes in England."

Former Enron adviser Paul Krugman disagrees: "In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We've all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false." But is it possible that Reich is right and Krugman is wrong?
28608  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Craig Becker of NLRB on: October 15, 2009, 11:02:15 AM
One of Big Labor's priorities in Washington is to place allies in key government jobs where they can overturn existing labor policy without battles in Congress. This is a very good reason for the Senate to hold a hearing on the nomination of Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Mr. Becker is associate general counsel at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is most recently in the news for its close ties to Acorn, the disgraced housing shakedown operation. President Obama nominated Mr. Becker in April to the five-member NLRB, which has the critical job of supervising union elections, investigating labor practices, and interpreting the National Labor Relations Act. In a 1993 Minnesota Law Review article, written when he was a UCLA professor, Mr. Becker argued for rewriting current union-election rules in favor of labor. And he suggested the NLRB could do this by regulatory fiat, without a vote of Congress.

Yet now that he could soon have the power to act on this conviction, Mr. Becker won't tell Congress if this is what he still believes. In written responses to questions from Republican Orrin Hatch, Mr. Becker promised only to "maintain an open mind about whether [his] suggestions should be implemented in any manner." That sounds like his mind is made up but he won't admit it lest it hurt his confirmation.

Mr. Becker also won't give a clear answer about his role in preparing several pro-labor executive orders issued by President Obama shortly after inauguration. Mr. Becker's name was found in at least one of the documents, suggesting that he had written it.

When asked by Sen. Hatch if he was "involved or responsible in any way" for these executive orders, Mr. Becker responded: "I was not responsible for [the specific executive orders] except as described below. As a member of the Presidential Transition Team, I was asked to provide advice and information concerning a possible executive order of the sort described. I was involved in researching, analyzing, preliminary drafting, and consulting with other members of the Transition team." In other words, Mr. Becker was the main author but would rather not say so explicitly.

Why not? Well, perhaps because Mr. Becker seems to have been on the SEIU payroll at the time he did his "drafting." Many people take leaves of absence from their private jobs when serving on a transition team, but Mr. Becker says he was on "vacation." And his "vacation" seems to have been sporadic. "My work on the Transition Team was not full time or continuous . . . When I was not on vacation in order to work on the Transition Team, I continued to perform my regular work for both SEIU and the AFL-CIO." The White House has made a public show of banning paid lobbyists from certain Administration jobs, but it let a paid union operative draft government documents benefiting unions.

There's more. One of the many accusations leveled against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is that he accepted money from the SEIU in return for taking actions giving collective bargaining rights to Illinois home health-care workers. While Mr. Becker denies any knowledge of, or role in, contributions to the former Governor, he does admit that he provided "advice and counsel to SEIU relating to proposed executive orders and proposed legislation giving homecare workers a right to organize and engage in collective bargaining under state law."

Mr. Becker says he "worked with and provided advice" to SEIU Local 880 in Chicago, a beneficiary of the newly unionized health workers, and one of two SEIU locals currently in the national spotlight for its deep ties with Acorn. Mr. Becker denies working for Acorn or its affiliates, but as recently as April Acorn co-founder Wade Rathke praised Mr. Becker by name, noting "For my money, Craig's signal contribution has been his work in crafting and executing the legal strategies and protections which have allowed the effective organization of informal workers, and by this I mean home health-care workers."

The NLRB has both GOP and Democratic members, and nominees are typically packaged together to avoid hearings. In this case, the GOP nominee is Brian Hayes, an aide to Senator Mike Enzi (R., Wyo.), who is eager to see Mr. Hayes confirmed with Mr. Becker and another Democrat, Mark Pearce. But Mr. Becker would sit with the majority, with the ability to dictate labor policy, and the stakes are too high to let him pass without more Senate and public scrutiny.
28609  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: October 15, 2009, 10:40:12 AM
Alexander's Essay – October 15, 2009

Our Constitution is on Life Support
"Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." --Benjamin Franklin
That wise old sage, Ben Franklin, was prescient back in 1748, when he issued his simple Rx for success. Unfortunately, the wealth and wisdom of generations of Americans have been progressively supplanted by our central government's exercise of unconstitutional authority.

In regard to wealth, I refer most directly to our government's colossal spending and debt accumulation, and unlawful taxation.

As to wisdom, well, there's not much of that emerging from government-run school systems.

Having already depleted the wealth and wisdom of our great nation, the Obama juggernaut is determined to do likewise to health, that third prong of Franklin's trident. If successful, then we may rightly fear it as a deathblow to the greatest experiment in human history.

Where is Doctor Franklin when we really need him?

Simpletons across the United States and, indeed, the world, are beguiled by the Democrat health scare cacophony. While so much has been said, so too has so little. And, as we approach the seemingly inevitable passage of some such diabolical legislation, almost to a citizen everyone is screaming, "Stop the world, I want to get off!" Indeed, only elitist Democrats are charging full-steam ahead, constituents be damned.

Intentionally lost in all this noise is the Leftist tactic of drowning its opposition in waves of excessive and ever-changing health care minutia. With the devil being so well hidden in the details, this ensures that we remain distracted while Rule of Law is further usurped by the rule of man.

As Patriots, we are summoned to slice through this diversionary blather. And, to obtain proper analysis of this overarching objective, we must seek guidance from our founding documents, the Constitution of the United States of America and its superordinate document, the Declaration of Independence.

In a search of the Constitution, we find that the words "health," "medicine" or "medical" are mentioned -- drum roll please -- not even once: not within the original text, nor within 220 years of amendments. (A search of the Articles of Confederation yields similar results.)

To some, this exclusion indicates that the Founding Fathers were unconcerned about the health of their countrymen. But, supporters of this argument expose their condescension, and it is here mentioned to disabuse them of their disdain. For our Founding Fathers sacrificed so greatly for the birth of our nation -- in both blood and treasure -- that to posit such indifference does a great and grotesque disservice to their honor and their memory.

To others, this exclusion indicates that health care was mercifully omitted since medical care of the 1700s was so "primitive" that the cure often caused more harm than the ailment. They further argue that, given the foresight of modern medicine, our Founders would have surely incorporated universal health care within the Constitution. But, supporters of this argument expose their arrogance, and it is here mentioned to disabuse them of their haughtiness. For the medicine of our Founding Fathers was actually advanced in its day, just as the U.S. medicine of today is advanced, and just as tomorrow it will be thought primitive. This, of course, assumes that we successfully restore Rule of Law.

Alas, we discern seemingly little counsel from the Constitution.

And, as we turn to the Declaration, a search for the words "health," "medicine" or "medical" once more yields exactly zero results. Furthermore, the itemized grievances therein make nary a hint concerning health, even considering the "primitive" conditions discussed above.

Alack, we also discern seemingly little counsel from the Declaration.

However, neither do the Constitution nor the Declaration counsel us with direct verbiage concerning agriculture, textiles, construction and the whole raft of goods and services upon which those everyday necessities of food, clothing and shelter are stationed.

But, the Declaration does aver that all men are created equal, not of outcome but of opportunity; that they are endowed with the right to Life, not a guaranteed good life, not a guaranteed healthy life, but life with all of its miraculous potential; that they are endowed with a right to Liberty, the fusion of freedom and personal responsibility; and that they are endowed with a right to the pursuit of Happiness, the eclectic amalgamation of hopes and dreams and desires and necessities as defined by each individual -- not by faceless, nameless bureaucrats.

Furthermore, the Constitution's Preamble declares that its purpose is to establish Justice, the even-handed application of law to all citizens; to insure domestic Tranquility, the exclusion of class warfare; to promote (not provide) the general Welfare; and to secure the blessings of Liberty, there again, the fusion of freedom with personal responsibility.

So, our founding documents do guide us to proper health care legislation: for it is that which encompasses equality and liberty for consumers and providers alike; that which promotes life above death panels; that which encourages the medical hopes and dreams as defined by each individual; that which constrains, not magnifies, class warfare; and that which secures "the blessings of Liberty, to ourselves and our Posterity."

Anything more than this is an affront to constitutional order and Rule of Law. As Thomas Jefferson so keenly observed: "Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread." And, it takes little thought, or even imagination, to extend his estimation to the current health care debate.

The bottom line is that Article 1, Section 8 of our Constitution, which addresses powers of the legislature, never endowed Congress with authority to regulate or collect taxes for banking, mortgage or automaker bailouts. Neither does it present authority for them to subsidize production or service sectors such as health care. Indeed, James Madison wrote, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents..."

Sadly, not one Democrat bill addresses "health care" so much as it seeks omnipotent centralized government power and control, the currency of the Left. However, the proposals certainly betray the Left's condescension and contempt for Rule of Law, along with their frontal assault upon our Essential Liberty.

Patriot Readers, the U.S. Constitution is on life support. To prevent it from flat-lining, we must exude high dudgeon, we must slice through the Left's onslaught of minutia, and we must surgically endeavor with our every thought and deed to restore a healthy Rule of Law.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, PatriotPost.US, with J. Adams Clymer
28610  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Video-Clips y Entrevistas de DBMA en Espanol on: October 15, 2009, 01:51:20 AM
Guau a todos:

Muy pronto (manana?) estare'mos ofreciendo aqui clips de DBMA en espanol.

La Aventura continua,
Guro Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny

Video Clip
28611  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Expired Visas not tracked on: October 14, 2009, 08:04:48 AM


U.S. Can’t Trace Foreign Visitors on Expired Visas

By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr. and JULIA PRESTON
Published: October 11, 2009
DALLAS — Eight years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and despite repeated mandates from Congress, the United States still has no reliable system for verifying that foreign visitors have left the country.

Hosam Maher Husein Smadi entered the United States legally, but then overstayed his visa. In Italy, Tex., Mr. Smadi was able to work at a restaurant.
New concern was focused on that security loophole last week, when Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year-old Jordanian who had overstayed his tourist visa, was accused in court of plotting to blow up a Dallas skyscraper.

Last year alone, 2.9 million foreign visitors on temporary visas like Mr. Smadi’s checked in to the country but never officially checked out, immigration officials said. While officials say they have no way to confirm it, they suspect that several hundred thousand of them overstayed their visas.

Over all, the officials said, about 40 percent of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States came on legal visas and overstayed.

Mr. Smadi’s case has brought renewed calls from both parties in Congress for Department of Homeland Security officials to complete a universal electronic exit monitoring system.

Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said the Smadi case “points to a real need for an entry and exit system if we are serious about reducing illegal immigration.”

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration, said he would try to steer money from the economic stimulus program to build an exit monitoring system.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, immigration authorities, with more than $1 billion from Congress, have greatly improved and expanded their systems to monitor foreigners when they arrive. But despite several Congressional authorizations, there are no biometric inspections or a systematic follow-up to confirm that foreign visitors have departed.

Homeland security officials caution that universal exit monitoring is a daunting and costly goal, mainly because of the nation’s long and busy land borders, with more than one million crossings every day. The wrong exit plan, they said, could clog trade, disrupt border cities and overwhelm immigration agencies with information they could not effectively use.

Since 2004, homeland security officials have put systems in place to check all foreigners as they arrive, whether by air, sea or land. Customs officers now take fingerprints and digital photographs of visitors from most countries, instantly comparing them against law enforcement watch list databases. (Canadians and Mexicans with special border-crossing cards are exempt from those checks.)

But homeland security officials said that a series of pilot programs since 2004 had failed to yield an exit monitoring system that would work for the whole nation. They have not yet found technology to support speedy exit inspections at land borders. And airlines balked at an effort last year by the Bush administration to make them responsible for taking fingerprints and photographs of departing foreigners.

The current system relies on departing foreigners to turn in a paper stub when they leave.

Last year, official figures show, 39 million foreign travelers were admitted on temporary visas like Mr. Smadi’s. Based on the paper stubs, homeland security officials said, they confirmed the departure of 92.5 percent of them. Most of the remaining visitors did depart, officials said, but failed to check out because they did not know how to do so. But more than 200,000 of them are believed to have overstayed intentionally.

Immigration authorities have put in place a separate system for keeping track of foreigners who, unlike Mr. Smadi, come on student visas. That system has proved effective at confirming that the students have stayed in school and do not overstay their visas, officials said.

Immigration analysts said that given the difficulties of enforcing the United States’ vast borders, it remains primarily up to law enforcement officials to thwart terrorism suspects who do not have records that would draw scrutiny before they enter the United States.

“You can’t ask the immigration system to do everything,” said Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a research center in Washington, and a former commissioner of the immigration service. “This is an example of how changes in law enforcement priorities and techniques since Sept. 11 actually got to where they should be.”

================

Page 2 of 2)



Mr. Smadi, like many tourists who overstay visas, was able to fade easily into society and encountered few barriers to starting a life here, according to court documents and people who know him. He enrolled in high school, obtained a California identification card, landed jobs in two states and rented a string of apartments and houses. He bought at least two used cars, and even procured a handgun and ammunition.

Mr. Smadi rented an apartment even though his visa expired.

Mr. Smadi’s arrest on Sept. 24 for the attempted bombing was not his first encounter with American law enforcement. Two weeks earlier, a sheriff’s deputy in Ellis County, Tex., pulled him over for a broken tail light just north of the town of Italy, then arrested him for driving without a license or insurance.
When the deputy checked his identity, Mr. Smadi’s name showed up on a watch list by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was already investigating him. But the background check turned up no immigration record. The deputy called the F.B.I. and was told there was no outstanding arrest warrant for Mr. Smadi. So on the evening of Sept. 11, Mr. Smadi paid a $550 fine and walked out of the county jail.

“There was nothing to indicate to us that this person was currently in the States illegally,” said Chief Deputy Dennis Brearley.

Mr. Smadi had come to the United States from Jordan in early 2007 on a six-month tourist visa, immigration officials say.

For a few weeks he stayed in San Jose, Calif., with Hana Elrabodi, a retired Jordanian businessman who knew his family, according to Mr. Elrabodi’s wife, Temina. Though Mr. Smadi was not authorized to work, he found a job at a local restaurant. In late March, Mr. Smadi obtained a California identification card using Mr. Elrabodi’s address.

In October 2007, Mr. Smadi moved into an apartment in Santa Clara with his younger brother, Hussein Smadi, and another man he identified as his cousin, according to the manager of the apartment complex, Joe Redzovic. Mr. Smadi took another job, in a falafel restaurant, and in the winter he briefly enrolled in the Santa Clara High School.

After a fire gutted his Santa Clara apartment, Mr. Smadi moved to Dallas. Though his visa had expired by April 2008, he landed a job working behind the counter at Texas Best Smokehouse in Italy, Tex., about 45 miles from Dallas. He rented a bungalow nearby, using his California identification and passing a criminal background check, said his former landlord, David South.

Three months later, Mr. Smadi married one of his co-workers, Rosalinda Duron. They separated in the fall of 2008 after only three months, Ms. Duron said.

Investigators have found no evidence that Mr. Smadi, during his first year in the United States, openly espoused Islamic fundamentalism. Neither have they found any evidence that he received terrorist training abroad or came to the United States intending to commit a terrorist act, said Mark White, a spokesman for the F.B.I. in Dallas.

But by the spring of 2008, he caught the attention of the F.B.I. by posting incendiary remarks about wanting to kill Americans on Jihadist Web sites. Over the summer, he met with agents posing as members of Al Qaeda and planned to bomb the Fountain Place office building in downtown Dallas, according to an indictment unsealed on Thursday.

His arrest on terrorism charges came after he parked a truck that he had been told was carrying explosives in the building’s underground garage, according to court documents.

When the F.B.I. later searched his residence, they found a Beretta 9 millimeter pistol and a box of ammunition, along with his passport and the expired visa, the court documents show.
28612  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 14, 2009, 06:29:53 AM
The $1.7 trillion mortgage securitization market is still a mess, despite (or in part because of) the Federal Reserve's $700 billion splurge into the market. But another reason may be Treasury's decision to undermine private mortgage-backed securities (MBS) contracts.

BlackRock Inc. Chairman Laurence Fink went so far recently as to call this "one of the biggest issues facing American capitalism." He's worried that to protect banks from billions of dollars more in writedowns on bad second liens (a.k.a., home-equity loans), Treasury is trashing private contracts. "There is modification going on protecting our banks, protecting their balance sheets" and "I'm just very worried about it." Until that issue is cleared up, he says, we won't "get a vibrant securitization market back."

One reason the MBS market blossomed in the first place is because investors who bought a mortgage security believed that first mortgages were senior to second liens. In the event of a foreclosure, second liens would be extinguished first and holders of the first mortgage would get what was left because that's what the contract said.

This changed in April when Treasury announced that instead of foreclosing on delinquent borrowers and wiping out second liens, mortgage servicers (mainly the biggest banks) would be given incentives to modify both loans, thereby spreading the losses. In mid-August, Treasury announced the details of its "Second Lien Modification Program," or 2MP, calling it "a comprehensive solution to help borrowers achieve greater affordability by lowering payments on both first lien and second lien mortgage loans."

Treasury says it is merely trying to help borrowers stay in their homes. But there's little evidence that modifications are stabilizing the market. Treasury's recent release of second-quarter mortgage loan data showed that redefault rates are stubbornly high, even though most new modifications now provide for lower monthly payments of interest and principal.

Nearly 30% of loans modified in the first quarter of this year are now 60 or more days delinquent, up from less than 23% in the first quarter of 2008 and about the same percentage as in the second quarter of 2008. "The percentage of loans that were 60 or more days delinquent or in the process of foreclosure was high and rose steadily in the months subsequent to modification for all quarterly vintages," the report said.

Treasury's other political goal, as Mr. Fink points out, is to help the banks avoid more losses. U.S. financial institutions hold almost $1.1 trillion in second liens, also known as home equity loans or "helocs." Some 42% of all helocs are held by four banks—Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo. Since in a traditional mortgage foreclosure the second loan is usually wiped out, these big four banks have an exposure in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Mortgage-finance consultant Edward Pinto points out that these same lenders have about $800 billion of first mortgage loans on their books, representing 8% of the total outstanding first mortgage loans in the U.S. But they also act as the servicers on almost 60% of total first mortgages, which means they handle negotiations on loan modifications. Thus when a home owner asks one of the big four banks to redo a loan, the banker may have a greater interest in saving the home-equity loan than in protecting the creditors of the first mortgage.

A vibrant MBS market depends on the sanctity of U.S. contracts. If the world's investors see that the Treasury is willing to reward banks at their expense, there will be fewer such investors in U.S. securities. There will also be less capital for housing. Treasury needs to revisit its foreclosure rules to protect the U.S. reputation of honoring contracts, and the faster the better.
28613  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Money, the Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Dollar & other currencies, Gold/Silver on: October 14, 2009, 06:22:43 AM
My doggy nose tells me it is time for the US dollar to have its own thread:

This from today's WSJ

y JUDY SHELTON
Unprecedented spending, unending fiscal deficits, unconscionable accumulations of government debt: These are the trends that are shaping America's financial future. And since loose monetary policy and a weak U.S. dollar are part of the mix, apparently, it's no wonder people around the world are searching for an alternative form of money in which to calculate and preserve their own wealth.

It may be too soon to dismiss the dollar as an utterly debauched currency. It still is the most used for international transactions and constitutes over 60% of other countries' official foreign-exchange reserves. But the reputation of our nation's money is being severely compromised.

Funny how words normally used to address issues of morality come to the fore when judging the qualities of the dollar. Perhaps it's because the U.S. has long represented the virtues of democratic capitalism. To be "sound as a dollar" is to be deemed trustworthy, dependable, and in good working condition.

It used to mean all that, anyway. But as the dollar is increasingly perceived as the default mechanism for out-of-control government spending, its role as a reliable standard of value is destined to fade. Who wants to accumulate assets denominated in a shrinking unit of account? Excess government spending leads to inflation, and inflation plays dollar savers for patsies—both at home and abroad.

A return to sound financial principles in Washington, D.C., would signal that America still believes it can restore the integrity of the dollar and provide leadership for the global economy. But for all the talk from the Obama administration about the need to exert fiscal discipline—the president's 10-year federal budget is subtitled "A New Era of Responsibility: Renewing America's Promise"—the projected budget numbers anticipate a permanent pattern of deficit spending and vastly higher levels of outstanding federal debt.

Even with the optimistic economic assumptions implicit in the Obama administration's budget, it's a mathematical impossibility to reduce debt if you continue to spend more than you take in. Mr. Obama promises to lower the deficit from its current 9.9% of gross domestic product to an average 4.8% of GDP for the years 2010-2014, and an average 4% of GDP for the years 2015-2019. All of this presupposes no unforeseen expenditures such as a second "stimulus" package or additional costs related to health-care reform. But even if the deficit shrinks as a percentage of GDP, it's still a deficit. It adds to the amount of our nation's outstanding indebtedness, which reflects the cumulative total of annual budget deficits.

By the end of 2019, according to the administration's budget numbers, our federal debt will reach $23.3 trillion—as compared to $11.9 trillion today. To put it in perspective: U.S. federal debt was equal to 61.4% of GDP in 1999; it grew to 70.2% of GDP in 2008 (under the Bush administration); it will climb to an estimated 90.4% this year and touch the 100% mark in 2011, after which the projected federal debt will continue to equal or exceed our nation's entire annual economic output through 2019.

The U.S. is thus slated to enter the ranks of those countries—Zimbabwe, Japan, Lebanon, Singapore, Jamaica, Italy—with the highest government debt-to-GDP ratio (which measures the debt burden against a nation's capacity to generate sufficient wealth to repay its creditors). In 2008, the U.S. ranked 23rd on the list—crossing the 100% threshold vaults our nation into seventh place.

If you were a foreign government, would you want to increase your holdings of Treasury securities knowing the U.S. government has no plans to balance its budget during the next decade, let alone achieve a surplus?

In the European Union, countries wishing to adopt the euro must first limit government debt to 60% of GDP. It's the reference criterion for demonstrating "soundness and sustainability of public finances." Politicians find it all too tempting to print money—something the Europeans have understood since the days of the Weimar Republic—and excessive government borrowing poses a threat to monetary stability.

Valuable lessons can also be drawn from Japan's unsuccessful experiment with quantitative easing in the aftermath of its ruptured 1980s bubble economy. The Bank of Japan's desperate efforts to fight deflation through a zero-interest rate policy aimed at bailing out zombie companies, along with massive budget deficit spending, only contributed to a lost decade of stagnant growth. Japan's government debt-to-GDP ratio escalated to more than 170% now from 65% in 1990. Over the same period, the yen's use as an international reserve currency—it clings to fourth place behind the dollar, euro and pound sterling—declined from comprising 10.2% of official foreign-exchange reserves to 3.3% today.

The U.S. has long served as the world's "indispensable nation" and the dollar's primary role in the global economy has likewise seemed to testify to American exceptionalism. But the passivity in Washington toward our dismal fiscal future, and its inevitable toll on U.S. economic influence, suggests that American global leadership is no longer a priority and that America's money cannot be trusted.

If money is a moral contract between government and its citizens, we are being violated. The rest of the world, meanwhile, simply wants to avoid being duped. That is why China and Russia—large holders of dollars—are angling to invent some new kind of global currency for denominating reserve assets. It's why oil-producing Gulf States are fretting over whether to continue pricing energy exports in depreciated dollars. It's why central banks around the world are dumping dollars in favor of alternative currencies, even as reduced global demand exacerbates the dollar's decline. Until the U.S. sends convincing signals that it believes in a strong dollar—mere rhetorical assertions ring hollow—the world has little reason to hold dollar-denominated securities.

Sadly, due to our fiscal quagmire, the Federal Reserve may be forced to raise interest rates as a sop to attract foreign capital even if it hurts our domestic economy. Unfortunately, that's the price of having already succumbed to symbiotic fiscal and monetary policy. If we could forge a genuine commitment to private-sector economic growth by reducing taxes, and at the same time significantly cut future spending, it might be possible to turn things around. Under President Reagan in the 1980s, Fed Chairman Paul Volcker slashed inflation and strengthened the dollar by dramatically tightening credit. Though it was a painful process, the economy ultimately boomed.

Whether the U.S. can once more summon the resolve to address its problems is an open question. But the world's growing dollar disdain conveys a message: Issuing more promissory notes is not the way to renew America's promise.

Ms. Shelton, an economist, is author of "Money Meltdown: Restoring Order to the Global Currency System" (Free Press, 1994).
28614  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 90 arrested after clashes on: October 14, 2009, 06:04:05 AM

Pravda on the Hudson
September 6, 2009

British Police Arrest 90 After Birmingham Clashes

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 7:18 a.m. ET

LONDON (AP) -- Authorities arrested 90 people after racially charged violence erupted between a group protesting Islamic extremism and counter-demonstrators in the central English city of Birmingham, police said Sunday.

The clashes erupted Saturday when a rally by the English Defense League ran into counter-demonstrators including anti-fascists and youths of South Asian descent, West Midlands Police said.

About 200 people were involved in the clashes in downtown Birmingham, police said.

Television footage showed masked or hooded youths throwing projectiles and running from riot police through the diverse city's downtown area.

Police said the 90 people detained -- all males aged 16 to 39 -- were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and violent disorder.

It was not immediately clear how many were protesters and how many were counter-demonstrators.

Clashes also erupted last month at a similar demonstration in Birmingham, a diverse city of about 1 million where nearly a third of the population is nonwhite.

The English Defense League blames counter-demonstrators for inciting violence at its rallies. It has planned protest marches in other cities, including one next month in Manchester.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009...ef=global-home
28615  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: October 14, 2009, 05:53:11 AM
The guys on the DBMA Assn have been asking me to put together a camp this winter:  Perhaps the camp should be dedicated to Kali Tudo (tm) , , ,
28616  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison, 1790 on: October 14, 2009, 05:50:46 AM
"A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking." --James Madison, letter to William Hunter, 1790
28617  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: October 14, 2009, 12:44:59 AM
We are not quite at that point yet.

Night Owl needs to do the promo clip, and my wife needs to get the box cover done-- then it will be time for pre-orders.
28618  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 14, 2009, 12:20:51 AM
An Independent Israeli Foreign Policy?
ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER EHUD BARAK was set to travel to Poland and the Czech Republic on the evening of Oct. 12 for meetings with the Polish and Czech prime ministers and defense ministers, as well as with other high-level officials. Barak was scheduled to attend events on human rights and the Holocaust, but his trip comes at a time of enormous international tension over Iran — an issue deeply interwoven with U.S.-Russian relations involving Central Europe. An Israeli media report stated that Barak would discuss “Iran’s nuclear program as well as military industries” with his Polish and Czech counterparts.

The United States has begun negotiations with Iran over its compliance with international nuclear laws. For the U.S. position to have any bite, Washington has held up the threat of severe sanctions against Iran. But the American position is compromised by Russia’s ability to blast a hole through the prospective sanctions regime. The United States therefore must make promises to Russia that it will back away from the former Soviet sphere of influence, or face Russian intransigence in dealing with Tehran. So far, the United States has not offered much for the Russians to sink their teeth into (backing down on ballistic missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic was not enough — and regardless, the Russians question U.S. sincerity). Discussions with Iran are under way, yet without a resolution to the U.S.-Russian situation there can be no enforcement against Iran.

This leaves Israel in a highly uncomfortable position, at a time when its patience is already running thin.

“Yet the fact that Israel has depended so heavily upon the United States in the past sixty years does not mean it is without leverage of its own.”
To understand this, we look to Israel’s geopolitics. The Israeli core is situated on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, in the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River and Jordanian desert to the east, the Sinai and Negev deserts to the south, and the hilly areas of Galilee in the north. Throughout history, this area has been relatively advantageous to defend — assuming Israel is internally unified. Attackers from the west, south or east would need to stretch their forces across the sea or inhospitable deserts.

Historically, Israel has faced only two serious threats. The first is Syria, to the northeast, which in times of strength potentially can penetrate Israeli territory north of the Sea of Galilee. But the Israelis are generally well prepared to defeat today’s Syrians alone.

The second threat is the graver of the two. This is when a great foreign empire from farther away attempts to grab Israel’s advantageous coastal strip, whether through Syria or by harnessing the resources to overcome Israel’s natural buffers. The Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans and Ottomans at various points in history staked a claim to this land, forcing the Israelis to accommodate them or bear their yoke.

Under the reign of the Persian Empire, the Israelites were able to arrive at a compromise that left them subordinate but intact. This is their preferred stance during eras in which they cannot enjoy their ideal isolation. Similarly, in its modern incarnation since 1948, Israel has rendered itself inoffensive to American interests. It recognized the United States as the global hegemon and, during the Cold War, the guarantor of Israel’s security against another potential invading empire, the Soviet Union, which had proxies in Syria (as mentioned, Israel’s most threatening neighbors) and Iraq (the modern version of ancient Israel’s Babylonian conquerors).

Yet the fact that Israel has depended so heavily upon the United States in the past sixty years does not mean it is without leverage of its own. Israeli leaders long have entertained the possibility that the country could develop a more self-determining foreign policy — with Israel acting as a power in its own right. This would be necessary in the event that the United States abandons Israel to the winds — which is deemed possible should American interests shift. In the post-Cold War period, the United States has remained close to the Israelis because of U.S. interests in the Middle East, especially since the Sept. 11 attacks. But both the Americans and the Israelis can at least conceive of a time when their paths begin to diverge, necessitating contingency plans for Israel.

This is why the timing of Barak’s trip to Central Europe is important. By visiting Poland and the Czech Republic to discuss “military industries” — perhaps arms deals — the Israelis have taken Moscow by surprise, and the Kremlin will not be happy. Israel acting boldly in a region outside its own is an anomaly. There are two possible explanations.

First, the move might have been coordinated along with the United States, in order to stick it to the Russians at a time when they are threatening to destroy a united international front against Iran. The Russians long have seen U.S. and Israeli meddling in their periphery as one and the same, and the United States is needling the Russians in similar ways at present (for instance, with plans for Vice President Joe Biden to visit Warsaw, Prague and Bucharest later this month).

The other possibility is that the Israelis have acted alone, directly reminding the Russians that they have leverage in Central Europe — such as the ability to provide intelligence or military assistance to the Poles or the Czechs. This could be a way of directly warning the Russians to back away from supporting Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

If this was the case — and the Americans were not consulted about Barak’s visit — it follows that Israel has begun to view America as an unreliable ally. The current U.S. administration has irked the Israelis by letting deadline after deadline on Iran slip by. And the Israelis are not willing to tolerate a reincarnation of the Persian Empire, or a Persian proxy of a revived Russian Empire, armed with a nuclear-tipped missiles. Therefore, Monday’s move might be Israel’s first step in developing a foreign policy for itself — in a world where the Israelis believe they must act alone to distract and encumber great powers beyond its region.

After all, such powers traditionally have posed the greatest strategic threat to Israel.
28619  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: October 14, 2009, 12:20:09 AM
That was DEVASTATING cheesy
28620  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: October 13, 2009, 07:08:32 PM
We finished today.  Night Owl should have the finished master for me next week, as well as the promo clip, and will send suitable fotos to Pretty Kitty for her to prepare the box cover.
28621  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA DVD: "The Bolo Game" on: October 13, 2009, 07:08:18 PM
We finished today.  Night Owl should have the finished master for me next week, as well as the promo clip, and will send suitable fotos to Pretty Kitty for her to prepare the box cover.
28622  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Legal issues in MA instruction on: October 13, 2009, 09:29:46 AM
Judicial acitivism/imperialism?  No! It can't be!
28623  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 12, 2009, 07:28:33 PM
Robert D. Kaplan writing in the Atlantic:


Even if Obama does end up making the correct decision on Afghanistan strategy (by which I mean adding troops, since counterinsurgency is manpower-intensive), the public agony over his deliberations may already have done incalculable damage. The Afghan people have survived three decades of war by hedging their bets. Now, watching a young and inexperienced American president appear to waiver on his commitment to their country, they are deciding, at the level of both the individual and the mass, whether to make their peace with the Taliban—even as the Taliban itself can only take solace and encouragement from Obama's public agonizing. Meanwhile, fundamentalist elements of the Pakistani military, opposed to the recent crackdown against local Taliban, are also taking heart from developments in Washington. . . .This is how coups and revolutions get started, by the middle ranks sensing weakness in foreign support for their superiors.

Obama's wobbliness also has a corrosive effect on the Indians and the Iranians. India desperately needs a relatively secular Afghan regime in place to bolster Hindu India's geopolitical position against radical Islamdom, and while the country enjoyed an excellent relationship with Bush, Obama's dithering is making it nervous. And Iran, in observing Washington's indecision, can only feel more secure in its creeping economic annexation of western Afghanistan.
28624  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: October 12, 2009, 04:59:54 PM
That's rather subtle.  I like it.
28625  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Support our troops on: October 12, 2009, 04:58:50 PM
A friend of mine wrote me today:

=================

I had a wonderful experience Sat night.  Got to the hotel about 1030 after an evening on the riverfront in Wilmington. 
At the lobby entrance there was a squad (about 15 men) of what was obviously marines (LaJune just up the road a piece).
I approached and asked if they were on leave. “Yes sir we got back fro Iraq last night”. I thanked them for their service and bid them a good evening.

As we checked in I started thinking. Hell I didn’t have the college soccer thing until noon Sunday and the wife, while she thought I was totally crazy, did not mind if I bought the lads a couple of libations.  So back down to the lobby I go and floated the idea to the young Marines. “No sir you don’t have to do that”. After a bit of conversation they relented so we all pile in the cabs and down to the riverfront we go.

They pick the Rhinoceros Club that has an outdoor patio. We go to the bar for a beer. “Thank you sir this is really nice of you.”  I stood back and watched from a distance. There were a group of 20 year old girls shaking and slapping each others butt… ah the men were REAL into that.  One of the girls asked me, in a NC version of a Valley girl affected accent, “Who ARE you?  You look like a cop from my home town”. One of the men asked me, in what I took as a real compliment, was I a Marine. Ya’ll know in that branch of the service, once a Marine always a Marine. I thanked him but the answer was the same as the young lady got, “I am just a guy who appreciates the service to the country.”


As they drained  beer I signaled them over for another. More thank you sir. Time went by and the men would linger at the bar for more thanks and small talk. Always the subject was of their choice. Home, family, training, officers, Afghan casualties, EOD and motor T danger, girlfriends, wives kids, motor T as room clearers, the poor bastards in the turret after an IED detonation, Afghan history, snipers, Navy customs and so forth  and so on.

 

To make a long story short for the next three hours none of those fellas had an empty hand or a dry mouth.  To a man each thanked me and expressed that this had never happened to them and they were often not treated well in Jacksonville. That surprised me. One of the old timers (a 26 year old) in his sixth year in the Marines said he had had a meal bought in an airport once.

 

Owing to my advanced age, the penalty paid for over indulgence in seniors and the hour being well beyond the witching it was time for me to take leave. Their genuine appreciation and gratitude of my simple gesture of respect was heartwarming. Undoubtedly some of the best money I have ever spent. If you have never done this I would highly recommend it.

 

Those men deploy to Afghanistan in January…

 
28626  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Legal issues in MA instruction on: October 12, 2009, 02:04:10 PM
The facts are not the point here.  The point here is that waivers signed by parents  against negligence are a nullity as a matter of law.
28627  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: George Schultz on: October 12, 2009, 01:50:44 PM
Ottawa

When George P. Shultz took office as Ronald Reagan's secretary of state in 1982, his first trip out of the country was to Canada. His second was to Mexico.

"Foreign policy starts with your neighborhood," he told me in an interview here in the Canadian capital last week. "I have always believed that and Ronald Reagan believed that very firmly. In many ways he had [the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement] in his mind. He paid a lot of attention to both Mexico and Canada, as I did."

Mr. Shultz, now a co-chair of the North American Forum—which pulls together members of the business and government community for an annual pow-wow—is still paying a lot of attention to the American neighborhood.

These days that means taking seriously the problem of drug-trafficking violence on the Mexican border. "It's gotten to the point that . . . you've got to be worried about what's happening to Mexico, and you've got to realize that the money that's financing all that comes from the United States in terms of the profits from the illegal drugs. It's not healthy for us, let alone Mexico, to have this violence taking place."

Mr. Shultz carries weight on this issue, in part because he has been thinking about it critically for decades and listening to our neighbors' viewpoints. He has long harbored skepticism about interdiction as a solution to drug abuse in the U.S. Those doubts were prescient.

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Getty Images
 
Members of the Mexican Federal Police inspect an unmarked grave in Ciudad Juarez, a major distribution center for drugs bound for the United States.
.In 1988, Mr. Shultz recalls, he traveled to Mexico for the inauguration of President Carlos Salinas. After the ceremony they had a private conversation. "He said to me that he understood it was important for Mexico to do what it could to stop the flow of drugs into the United States. But he wanted me to know that the funds to support all that traffic came from the United States to Mexico." Mr. Shultz says that around the same time he heard a very similar refrain from the president of Colombia, Virgilio Barco.

Mr. Salinas also warned the secretary that Americans should realize they are not immune: "This problem will spill across. Drug gangs will eventually be in the United States."

In recent years, Mr. Shultz says, "There has come to be more and more of a realization of the nature of the problem. I thought it was interesting six or eight months ago, that three former presidents of Latin American countries, President Zedillo from Mexico, President Cardoso from Brazil and President Gaviria from Colombia made a report basically saying that we have to look at this problem in all of its dimensions if we are going to get anywhere with it. And we have to realize what its origins are."

Yet it is also true that those presidents spoke up only after they left office. I asked him if there is any hope of policy leadership from those in office. "There is a certain amount of evidence that people are realizing the nature of the problem and have more of a willingness to try to deal with it."

But, he says, we still have not created the "political space" necessary to raise the issue in public. "Right now if you are in politics you can't discuss the problem. It's just poison. The result is that we have this giant problem that is tearing Mexico apart . . . and we have plenty of problems here too and we're really not having a debate about it."

Mr. Shultz is a strong proponent of education to reduce demand. "If we want to get serious about this issue, we should start with a gigantic campaign to persuade people that drugs are bad for them. And it has to be based on solid factual material. You can't try to mislead people."

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.Yet that's been difficult because of the taboo. Mr. Shultz recalls what happened shortly after he left government, when his view that interdiction is not the solution came up after a speech to a Stanford alumni group.

Then, as now, he believed that we need to look at the problem from an economic perspective and understand what happens when there is high demand for a prohibited substance. When his comment hit the press, he says he "was inundated with letters. Ninety-eight percent of them agreed with me and over half of those people said I'm glad you said it, but I wouldn't dare say it. The most poignant comment was from [a former member of the House of Representatives] who wrote and said I was glad to see your statement. I said that a few years ago and that's why I'm no longer a congressman!"

I asked Mr. Shultz if he thinks a more sensible approach might come from the states. He says "people can express themselves a little better at the state level." And, with respect to some liberalization of the drug-possession laws at the state level, "I regard these developments as a distinctive statement by people that the present system is not working very well and they want to change it."
28628  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Hudson: BO team goes after FOX on: October 12, 2009, 09:58:02 AM
By BRIAN STELTER
Published: October 11, 2009
Attacking the news media is a time-honored White House tactic but to an unusual degree, the Obama administration has narrowed its sights to one specific organization, the Fox News Channel, calling it, in essence, part of the political opposition.


Glenn Beck was credited with forcing a White House adviser to resign.

“We’re going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent,” said Anita Dunn, the White House communications director, in a telephone interview on Sunday. “As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”

Her comments are only the latest in the volatile exchange between the administration and the top-rated network, which is owned by the News Corporation, controlled by Rupert Murdoch. Last month, Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News, and David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Obama, met for coffee in New York, in what Politico, which last week broke that news, labeled a “Fox summit.”

While neither party has said what was discussed, some have speculated that a truce, or at least an adjustment in tone, was at issue. (Mr. Ailes and Mr. Obama reportedly reached a temporary accord after a meeting in mid-2008.) But shots are still being fired, which animates the idea that both sides see benefits in the feud.

Fox seems to relish the controversy.

“Instead of governing, the White House continues to be in campaign mode, and Fox News is the target of their attack mentality,” Michael Clemente, the channel’s senior vice president for news, said in a statement on Sunday. “Perhaps the energy would be better spent on the critical issues that voters are worried about.”

Fox’s senior vice president for programming, Bill Shine, says of the criticism from the White House, “Every time they do it, our ratings go up.” Mr. Obama’s first year is on track to be the Fox News Channel’s highest rated.

One Fox executive said that the jabs by the White House could solidify the network’s audience base and recalled that Mr. Ailes had remarked internally: “Don’t pick a fight with people who like to fight.” The executive asked not to be named while discussing internal conversations.

Certainly, Fox continues to aggressively bolster its on-air talent, most recently with the hiring of John Stossel, the libertarian investigative journalist from ABC News, for its spin-off channel, Fox Business. The business channel is also keen on another administration critic, Lou Dobbs, who met for dinner with Mr. Ailes last month, according to two people with direct knowledge of the meeting.

The shift for Fox News — the favorite network of the Bush administration, now the least favored one of the Obama administration — has financial implications for the News Corporation, especially given the network’s status as a growth engine in a perilous time for media companies.

Fox’s programs have drawn record numbers of viewers this year. Through last week, Fox averaged 1.2 million viewers at any given time this year, up from one million viewers through the same time last year. Previously, the channel peaked in 2003, the year the Iraq war started, with nearly 1.1 million viewers.

But controversial comments by the host Glenn Beck have also prompted an ad boycott. And the perception of Fox News as an opposition party has also affected its news correspondents, including Major Garrett, its chief White House correspondent, who Ms. Dunn says is a fair reporter. Mr. Garrett and other Fox correspondents have been directed by Mr. Clemente not to appear on the channel’s most opinionated programs.

Still, Paul Rittenberg, who oversees ad sales for Fox, said the channel existed in a climate where viewers choose cable news channels based on affinity. His channel, he said, stresses in its pitch to advertisers that “people who watch Fox News believe it’s the home team.”

To many Democrats, of course, the “home team” is conservative, a view only compounded by Fox’s at times skeptical coverage of Mr. Obama this year.

“I’ve got one television station that is entirely devoted to attacking my administration,” he said in June, though he did not mention Fox by name. He added, “You’d be hard pressed if you watched the entire day to find a positive story about me on that front.”

The White House has limited administration members’ appearances on the network in recent weeks. In mid-September, when the White House booked Mr. Obama on a round robin of Sunday morning talk shows, it skipped Fox and called it an “ideological outlet,” leading the “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace to appear on Bill O’Reilly’s prime-time show and call the administration “the biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington.”

Ms. Dunn called that remark juvenile and stressed that administration officials would still talk to Fox, and that Mr. Obama was likely to be interviewed on the network in the future. But, she added, “we’re not going to legitimize them as a news organization.”

===========

Page 2 of 2)



In an interview, Mr. Clemente suggested that there was an element of “shoot the messenger” in the back and forth. “Sometimes it’s actually helpful to have an organization or a person that you can go up against for whatever reason,” he said.


Fox argues that its news hours — 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays — are objective. The channel has taken pains recently to highlight its news programs, including the two hours led by Shepard Smith, its chief news anchor. And its daytime newscasts draw more viewers than CNN or MSNBC’s prime-time programs.

“The average consumer certainly knows the difference between the A section of the newspaper and the editorial page,” Mr. Clemente said.

The White House rejects the news and editorial page comparison, and officials there can rattle off any number of perceived offenses. They date to the month before Mr. Obama formally started his presidential campaign, when one of the network’s morning hosts falsely claimed that he had attended a madrassa, an Islamic school. (The incident happened on what Fox calls an entertainment show, “Fox and Friends”; the mistake was corrected on the air later.)

More recently, Fox hosts have promoted tea party rallies against big government and steered attention toward a number of White House czar appointments. Mr. Beck, in particular, was credited with forcing Van Jones, a low-level White House adviser for environmental jobs, to resign last month. Mr. Beck devoted numerous segments to Mr. Jones and called him a “communist-anarchist radical.”

“If it wasn’t for Fox or talk radio, we’d be done as a republic,” Mr. Beck said in the wake of the resignation.

Mr. Beck, whose 5 p.m. program consistently draws three million viewers, is a “cultural phenomenon now,” Mr. Shine said. But this success has come at a price: he is the source of considerable discomfort for Fox’s journalists, especially for false statements on his program. In August, for instance, Mr. Beck claimed that Mr. Garrett was “never called on” at White House press briefings, but Mr. Garrett had asked a question that day.

Weeks earlier, Mr. Beck labeled Mr. Obama a racist, leading to an advertising boycott by ColorOfChange.org, an advocacy group that Mr. Jones helped found. Dozens of advertisers have distanced themselves from Mr. Beck’s show, causing headaches for Mr. Rittenberg’s advertising team, although he said Fox “hasn’t lost a dime” because the ads were moved to different hours.

Fox has made the channel’s tensions with the White House a story. In August, the network’s top-rated host, Mr. O’Reilly, dispatched one of his opinion program’s producers to ask why the administration seemed “so thin-skinned” at a White House briefing. The deputy press secretary disagreed, and said that Mr. O’Reilly had interviewed Mr. Obama during his candidacy last year. The administration’s aggressive stance suggests that it does not view Fox’s audience as one that can be persuaded. During the presidential campaign, Ms. Dunn said, it booked campaign representatives on Fox to try to reach undecided voters, but by mid-October, the campaign had mostly withdrawn them from the channel’s programs.

“It was beyond diminishing returns,” she said. “It was no returns.”
28629  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Spork gets six year old in trouble. on: October 12, 2009, 09:14:35 AM
NYT
NEWARK, Del. — Finding character witnesses when you are 6 years old is not easy. But there was Zachary Christie last week at a school disciplinary committee hearing with his karate instructor and his mother’s fiancé by his side to vouch for him.


Zachary’s offense? Taking a camping utensil that can serve as a knife, fork and spoon to school. He was so excited about recently joining the Cub Scouts that he wanted to use it at lunch. School officials concluded that he had violated their zero-tolerance policy on weapons, and Zachary now faces 45 days in the district’s reform school.

“It just seems unfair,” Zachary said, pausing as he practiced writing lower-case letters with his mother, who is home-schooling him while the family tries to overturn his punishment.

Spurred in part by the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, many school districts around the country adopted zero-tolerance policies on the possession of weapons on school grounds. More recently, there has been growing debate over whether the policies have gone too far.

But, based on the code of conduct for the Christina School District, where Zachary is a first grader, school officials had no choice. They had to suspend him because, “regardless of possessor’s intent,” knives are banned.

But the question on the minds of residents here is: Why do school officials not have more discretion in such cases?

“Zachary wears a suit and tie some days to school by his own choice because he takes school so seriously,” said Debbie Christie, Zachary’s mother, who started a Web site, helpzachary.com, in hopes of recruiting supporters to pressure the local school board at its next open meeting on Tuesday. “He is not some sort of threat to his classmates.”

Still, some school administrators argue that it is difficult to distinguish innocent pranks and mistakes from more serious threats, and that the policies must be strict to protect students.

“There is no parent who wants to get a phone call where they hear that their child no longer has two good seeing eyes because there was a scuffle and someone pulled out a knife,” said George Evans, the president of the Christina district’s school board. He defended the decision, but added that the board might adjust the rules when it comes to younger children like Zachary.

Critics contend that zero-tolerance policies like those in the Christina district have led to sharp increases in suspensions and expulsions, often putting children on the streets or in other places where their behavior only worsens, and that the policies undermine the ability of school officials to use common sense in handling minor infractions.

For Delaware, Zachary’s case is especially frustrating because last year state lawmakers tried to make disciplinary rules more flexible by giving local boards authority to, “on a case-by-case basis, modify the terms of the expulsion.”

The law was introduced after a third-grade girl was expelled for a year because her grandmother had sent a birthday cake to school, along with a knife to cut it. The teacher called the principal — but not before using the knife to cut and serve the cake.

In Zachary’s case, the state’s new law did not help because it mentions only expulsion and does not explicitly address suspensions. A revised law is being drafted to include suspensions.

“We didn’t want our son becoming the poster child for this,” Ms. Christie said, “but this is out of control.”

In a letter to the district’s disciplinary committee, State Representative Teresa L. Schooley, Democrat of Newark, wrote, “I am asking each of you to consider the situation, get all the facts, find out about Zach and his family and then act with common sense for the well-being of this child.”

Education experts say that zero-tolerance policies initially allowed authorities more leeway in punishing students, but were applied in a discriminatory fashion. Many studies indicate that African-Americans were several times more likely to be suspended or expelled than other students for the same offenses.

“The result of those studies is that more school districts have removed discretion in applying the disciplinary policies to avoid criticism of being biased,” said Ronnie Casella, an associate professor of education at Central Connecticut State University who has written about school violence. He added that there is no evidence that zero-tolerance policies make schools safer.

Other school districts are also trying to address problems they say have stemmed in part from overly strict zero-tolerance policies.

In Baltimore, around 10,000 students, about 12 percent of the city’s enrollment, were suspended during the 2006-7 school year, mostly for disruption and insubordination, according to a report by the Open Society Institute-Baltimore. School officials there are rewriting the disciplinary code, to route students to counseling rather than suspension.

In Milwaukee, where school officials reported that 40 percent of ninth graders had been suspended at least once in the 2006-7 school year, the superintendent has encouraged teachers not to overreact to student misconduct.

“Something has to change,” said Dodi Herbert, whose 13-year old son, Kyle, was suspended in May and ordered to attend the Christina district’s reform school for 45 days after another student dropped a pocket knife in his lap. School officials declined to comment on the case for reasons of privacy.

Ms. Herbert, who said her son was a straight-A student, has since been home-schooling him instead of sending him to the reform school.

The Christina school district attracted similar controversy in 2007 when it expelled a seventh-grade girl who had used a utility knife to cut windows out of a paper house for a class project.

Charles P. Ewing, a professor of law and psychology at the University at Buffalo Law School who has written about school safety issues, said he favored a strict zero-tolerance approach.

“There are still serious threats every day in schools,” Dr. Ewing said, adding that giving school officials discretion holds the potential for discrimination and requires the kind of threat assessments that only law enforcement is equipped to make.

In the 2005-6 school year, 86 percent of public schools reported at least one violent crime, theft or other crime, according to the most recent federal survey.

And yet, federal studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and another by the Department of Justice show that the rate of school-related homicides and nonfatal violence has fallen over most of the past decade.

Educational experts say the decline is less a result of zero-tolerance policies than of other programs like peer mediation, student support groups and adult mentorships, as well as an overall decrease in all forms of crime.

For Zachary, it is not school violence that has left him reluctant to return to classes.

“I just think the other kids may tease me for being in trouble,” he said, pausing before adding, “but I think the rules are what is wrong, not me.”
28630  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Spork gets six year old in trouble. on: October 12, 2009, 09:09:53 AM
NYT

NEWARK, Del. — Finding character witnesses when you are 6 years old is not easy. But there was Zachary Christie last week at a school disciplinary committee hearing with his karate instructor and his mother’s fiancé by his side to vouch for him.

Zachary’s offense? Taking a camping utensil that can serve as a knife, fork and spoon to school. He was so excited about recently joining the Cub Scouts that he wanted to use it at lunch. School officials concluded that he had violated their zero-tolerance policy on weapons, and Zachary now faces 45 days in the district’s reform school.

“It just seems unfair,” Zachary said, pausing as he practiced writing lower-case letters with his mother, who is home-schooling him while the family tries to overturn his punishment.

Spurred in part by the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, many school districts around the country adopted zero-tolerance policies on the possession of weapons on school grounds. More recently, there has been growing debate over whether the policies have gone too far.

But, based on the code of conduct for the Christina School District, where Zachary is a first grader, school officials had no choice. They had to suspend him because, “regardless of possessor’s intent,” knives are banned.

But the question on the minds of residents here is: Why do school officials not have more discretion in such cases?

“Zachary wears a suit and tie some days to school by his own choice because he takes school so seriously,” said Debbie Christie, Zachary’s mother, who started a Web site, helpzachary.com, in hopes of recruiting supporters to pressure the local school board at its next open meeting on Tuesday. “He is not some sort of threat to his classmates.”

Still, some school administrators argue that it is difficult to distinguish innocent pranks and mistakes from more serious threats, and that the policies must be strict to protect students.

“There is no parent who wants to get a phone call where they hear that their child no longer has two good seeing eyes because there was a scuffle and someone pulled out a knife,” said George Evans, the president of the Christina district’s school board. He defended the decision, but added that the board might adjust the rules when it comes to younger children like Zachary.

Critics contend that zero-tolerance policies like those in the Christina district have led to sharp increases in suspensions and expulsions, often putting children on the streets or in other places where their behavior only worsens, and that the policies undermine the ability of school officials to use common sense in handling minor infractions.

For Delaware, Zachary’s case is especially frustrating because last year state lawmakers tried to make disciplinary rules more flexible by giving local boards authority to, “on a case-by-case basis, modify the terms of the expulsion.”

The law was introduced after a third-grade girl was expelled for a year because her grandmother had sent a birthday cake to school, along with a knife to cut it. The teacher called the principal — but not before using the knife to cut and serve the cake.

In Zachary’s case, the state’s new law did not help because it mentions only expulsion and does not explicitly address suspensions. A revised law is being drafted to include suspensions.

“We didn’t want our son becoming the poster child for this,” Ms. Christie said, “but this is out of control.”

In a letter to the district’s disciplinary committee, State Representative Teresa L. Schooley, Democrat of Newark, wrote, “I am asking each of you to consider the situation, get all the facts, find out about Zach and his family and then act with common sense for the well-being of this child.”

Education experts say that zero-tolerance policies initially allowed authorities more leeway in punishing students, but were applied in a discriminatory fashion. Many studies indicate that African-Americans were several times more likely to be suspended or expelled than other students for the same offenses.

“The result of those studies is that more school districts have removed discretion in applying the disciplinary policies to avoid criticism of being biased,” said Ronnie Casella, an associate professor of education at Central Connecticut State University who has written about school violence. He added that there is no evidence that zero-tolerance policies make schools safer.

Other school districts are also trying to address problems they say have stemmed in part from overly strict zero-tolerance policies.

In Baltimore, around 10,000 students, about 12 percent of the city’s enrollment, were suspended during the 2006-7 school year, mostly for disruption and insubordination, according to a report by the Open Society Institute-Baltimore. School officials there are rewriting the disciplinary code, to route students to counseling rather than suspension.

In Milwaukee, where school officials reported that 40 percent of ninth graders had been suspended at least once in the 2006-7 school year, the superintendent has encouraged teachers not to overreact to student misconduct.

“Something has to change,” said Dodi Herbert, whose 13-year old son, Kyle, was suspended in May and ordered to attend the Christina district’s reform school for 45 days after another student dropped a pocket knife in his lap. School officials declined to comment on the case for reasons of privacy.

Ms. Herbert, who said her son was a straight-A student, has since been home-schooling him instead of sending him to the reform school.

The Christina school district attracted similar controversy in 2007 when it expelled a seventh-grade girl who had used a utility knife to cut windows out of a paper house for a class project.

Charles P. Ewing, a professor of law and psychology at the University at Buffalo Law School who has written about school safety issues, said he favored a strict zero-tolerance approach.

“There are still serious threats every day in schools,” Dr. Ewing said, adding that giving school officials discretion holds the potential for discrimination and requires the kind of threat assessments that only law enforcement is equipped to make.

In the 2005-6 school year, 86 percent of public schools reported at least one violent crime, theft or other crime, according to the most recent federal survey.

And yet, federal studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and another by the Department of Justice show that the rate of school-related homicides and nonfatal violence has fallen over most of the past decade.

Educational experts say the decline is less a result of zero-tolerance policies than of other programs like peer mediation, student support groups and adult mentorships, as well as an overall decrease in all forms of crime.

For Zachary, it is not school violence that has left him reluctant to return to classes.

“I just think the other kids may tease me for being in trouble,” he said, pausing before adding, “but I think the rules are what is wrong, not me.”
28631  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: October 12, 2009, 02:02:40 AM
Not quite. May I suggest rereading this thread? and perhaps the US Foreign Affairs thread?
28632  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Legal issues in MA instruction on: October 12, 2009, 01:53:20 AM
My understanding is precisely that a minor's parents speak for it.    This case seems to me quite radical and quite unsound.  A Canadian martial arts instructor teaching children now must decide to either cease teaching children or castrate the training.
28633  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Legal issues in MA instruction on: October 11, 2009, 11:21:40 PM
Forgive my candor, and said with love, but , , , don't be silly-- of course you should be able to sign away rights.  That's what contracts are!

If the BC Supreme Court is what its name implies  (and sometimes court names are not, e.g. in NY State) then this would seem to be a serious decision of consequence.  Amongst the consequences are either an end to children's martial arts classes and/or their castration into meaningless drivel for the sheeple.

Crafty Dog, esq.
28634  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Legal issues in MA instruction on: October 11, 2009, 05:55:04 PM
This from Canada:


http://www.theprovince.com/sports/Parents+waive+child+right+negligence+Judgm
ent/2091198/story.html

Parents can't waive child's right to sue for negligence: Judgment

 

By Katie Mercer, The ProvinceOctober 9, 2009

 

Parents have no right to waive their children's right to sue, according to a
B.C. Supreme Court decision this week.

Victor Wong was 12 years old when his mother signed a liability waiver to
enroll him in a Hapkido school, a Korean martial art.

Wong was 16 when he was allegedly violently thrown to the ground during a
sparring match. At 20, he still suffers from his injuries.

Wong is suing Michael Lok, the owner of Lok's Martial Arts Centre in
Richmond, and his sparring partner for negligence.

He argues that Lok failed to provide preventative measures to screen
participants, instruct them, require protective gear and supervise matches.

However, Lok argues that the claim should be dismissed as Wong's mother
signed a waiver protecting him from litigation.

B.C. Justice Peter Willcock disagreed, ruling that, under the Infants Act of
B.C., a parent can not waive their child's rights to sue for negligence.

"The Act does not permit a parent or guardian to bind an infant to an
agreement waiving the infant's right to bring an action in damages in tort,"
Willcock found in his decision.

The case is scheduled to proceed in November.
28635  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: October 11, 2009, 11:01:20 AM
Pulling up chair and a bowl of popcorn , , ,
28636  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 11, 2009, 10:59:55 AM
PAAS is my investment in silver and it is doing VERY nicely, but I would hesitate to use the high of $50 in any evaluation-- wasn't that number generated by the Hunt brothers trying to corner the silver market?

Is a 20% decline in one year for the world's primary currency truly "orderly"?

Yes interest rate increases can/would dramatically increase the dollar's exchange rate, but with the deficits and debt already in the pipeline and seditious motivations in the White House to devalue our debt, how much do we want to rely upon that?
28637  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 11, 2009, 10:49:44 AM
Doug, GM:

Nice work gentlemen!

Please give me a soundbite response (plus more if you wish, but please do include a soundbite) to the argument that Bush took his eye off the ball in Iraq, that while we committed our bandwidth to Iraq, that Afghanistan was left to fester and degenerate into the clusterfcuk it currently is.

28638  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: October 11, 2009, 10:43:41 AM
"1. Japan crashed because it tried massive "stimulus" spending rather than take a legitimate economic downturn as a natural part of the business cycle. God help any country that tries that."

Agreed.  Question:  Is China/Will China be doing that?

"2. Know what that 13/10 ratio means? A big army that will readily engage in attrition warfare without hesitation. I just hope it's pointed towards the 'stans rather than the Pacific."

A valid point to add to the mix-- but still, what are the implications of age demographics heavily weighted towards the old?

"3. China could be managed if we had competent leadership. So much for that....."   And there is the matter of wondering whose best interests BO and the people around him have at heart.
28639  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 11, 2009, 08:26:14 AM
Normally I find Frank Rich to be a typical Pravda on the Hudson douche bag-- and indeed some of that is on full display here.  That said, mingled in with some historical innaccurracies are some questions posed that we need to be able to answer.

Anyone here up to it?

Two Wrongs Make Another Fiasco Sign in to Recommend
By FRANK RICH
Published: October 10, 2009
THOSE of us who love F. Scott Fitzgerald must acknowledge that he did get one big thing wrong. There are second acts in American lives. (Just ask Marion Barry, or William Shatner.) The real question is whether everyone deserves a second act. Perhaps the most surreal aspect of our great Afghanistan debate is the Beltway credence given to the ravings of the unrepentant blunderers who dug us into this hole in the first place.

Let’s be clear: Those who demanded that America divert its troops and treasure from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2002 and 2003 — when there was no Qaeda presence in Iraq — bear responsibility for the chaos in Afghanistan that ensued. Now they have the nerve to imperiously and tardily demand that America increase its 68,000-strong presence in Afghanistan to clean up their mess — even though the number of Qaeda insurgents there has dwindled to fewer than 100, according to the president’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones.

But why let facts get in the way? Just as these hawks insisted that Iraq was “the central front in the war on terror” when the central front was Afghanistan, so they insist that Afghanistan is the central front now that it has migrated to Pakistan. When the day comes for them to anoint Pakistan as the central front, it will be proof positive that Al Qaeda has consolidated its hold on Somalia and Yemen.

To appreciate this crowd’s spotless record of failure, consider its noisiest standard-bearer, John McCain. He made every wrong judgment call that could be made after 9/11. It’s not just that he echoed the Bush administration’s constant innuendos that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda’s attack on America. Or that he hyped the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war “easily.” Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would “probably get along” in post-Saddam Iraq because there was “not a history of clashes” between them.

What’s more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade in Iraq.

Two years after 9/11 he was claiming that we could “in the long term” somehow “muddle through” in Afghanistan. (He now has the chutzpah to accuse President Obama of wanting to “muddle through” there.) Even after the insurgency accelerated in Afghanistan in 2005, McCain was still bragging about the “remarkable success” of that prematurely abandoned war. In 2007, some 15 months after the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf signed a phony “truce” ceding territory on the Afghanistan border to terrorists, McCain gave Musharraf a thumb’s up. As a presidential candidate in the summer of 2008, McCain cared so little about Afghanistan it didn’t even merit a mention among the national security planks on his campaign Web site.

He takes no responsibility for any of this. Asked by Katie Couric last week about our failures in Afghanistan, McCain spoke as if he were an innocent bystander: “I think the reason why we didn’t do a better job on Afghanistan is our attention — either rightly or wrongly — was on Iraq.” As Tonto says to the Lone Ranger, “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?”

Along with his tribunes in Congress and the punditocracy, Wrong-Way McCain still presumes to give America its marching orders. With his Senate brethren in the Three Amigos, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, he took to The Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page to assert that “we have no choice” but to go all-in on Afghanistan — rightly or wrongly, presumably — just as we had in Iraq. Why? “The U.S. walked away from Afghanistan once before, following the Soviet collapse,” they wrote. “The result was 9/11. We must not make that mistake again.”

This shameless argument assumes — perhaps correctly — that no one in this country remembers anything. So let me provide a reminder: We already did make that mistake again when we walked away from Afghanistan to invade Iraq in 2003 — and we did so at the Three Amigos’ urging. Then, too, they promoted their strategy as a way of preventing another 9/11 — even though no one culpable for 9/11 was in Iraq. Now we’re being asked to pay for their mistake by squandering stretched American resources in yet another country where Al Qaeda has largely vanished.

To make the case, the Amigos and their fellow travelers conflate the Taliban with Al Qaeda much as they long conflated Saddam’s regime with Al Qaeda. But as Rajiv Chandrasekaran of The Washington Post reported on Thursday, American intelligence officials now say that “there are few, if any, links between Taliban commanders in Afghanistan today and senior Al Qaeda members” — a far cry from the tight Taliban-bin Laden alliance of 2001.

The rhetorical sleights of hand in the hawks’ arguments don’t end there. If you listen carefully to McCain and his neocon echo chamber, you’ll notice certain tics. President Obama better make his decision by tomorrow, or Armageddon (if not mushroom clouds) will arrive. We must “win” in Afghanistan — but victory is left vaguely defined. That’s because we will never build a functioning state in a country where there has never been one. Nor can we score a victory against the world’s dispersed, stateless terrorists by getting bogged down in a hellish landscape that contains few of them.

Most tellingly, perhaps, those clamoring for an escalation in Afghanistan avoid mentioning the name of the country’s president, Hamid Karzai, or the fraud-filled August election that conclusively delegitimized his government. To do so would require explaining why America should place its troops in alliance with a corrupt partner knee-deep in the narcotics trade. As long as Karzai and the election are airbrushed out of history, it can be disingenuously argued that nothing has changed on the ground since Obama’s inauguration and that he has no right to revise his earlier judgment that Afghanistan is a “war of necessity.”

Those demanding more combat troops for Afghanistan also avoid defining the real costs. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the war was running $2.6 billion a month in Pentagon expenses alone even before Obama added 20,000 troops this year. Surely fiscal conservatives like McCain and Graham who rant about deficits being “generational theft” have an obligation to explain what the added bill will be on an Afghanistan escalation and where the additional money will come from. But that would require them to use the dread words “sacrifice” and “higher taxes” when they want us to believe that this war, like Iraq, would be cost-free.

The real troop numbers are similarly elusive. Pre-emptively railing against the prospect of “half measures” by Obama, Lieberman asked MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell rhetorically last week whether it would be “real counterinsurgency” or “counterinsurgency light.” But the measure Lieberman endorses — Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s reported recommendation of 40,000 additional troops — is itself counterinsurgency light. In his definitive recent field manual on the subject, Gen. David Petraeus stipulates that real counterinsurgency requires 20 to 25 troops for each thousand residents. That comes out, conservatively, to 640,000 troops for Afghanistan (population, 32 million). Some 535,000 American troops couldn’t achieve a successful counterinsurgency in South Vietnam, which had half Afghanistan’s population and just over a quarter of its land area.

Lieberman suggested to Mitchell that we could train an enhanced, centralized Afghan army to fill any gaps. In how many decades? The existing Afghan “army” is small, illiterate, impoverished and as factionalized as the government. For his part, McCain likes to justify McChrystal’s number of 40,000 by imbuing it with the supposedly magical powers of the “surge” in Iraq. But it’s rewriting history to say that the “surge” brought “victory” to Iraq. What it did was stanch the catastrophic bleeding in an unnecessary war McCain had helped gin up. Lest anyone forget, we still don’t know who has “won” in Iraq.

Afghanistan is not Iraq. It is poorer, even larger and more populous, more fragmented and less historically susceptible to foreign intervention. Even if the countries were interchangeable, the wars are not. No one-size surge fits all. President Bush sent the additional troops to Iraq only after Sunni leaders in Anbar Province soured on Al Qaeda and reached out for American support. There is no equivalent “Anbar Awakening” in Afghanistan. Most Afghans “don’t feel threatened by the Taliban in their daily lives” and “aren’t asking for American protection,” reported Richard Engel of NBC News last week. After eight years of war, many see Americans as occupiers.

Americans, meanwhile, want to see the fine print after eight years of fiasco with little accounting. While McCain and company remain frozen where they were in 2001, many of their fellow citizens have learned from the Iraq tragedy. Polls persistently find that the country is skeptical about what should and can be accomplished in Afghanistan. They voted for Obama not least because they wanted a new post-9/11 vision of national security, and they will not again be so easily bullied by the blustering hawks’ doomsday scenarios. That gives our deliberating president both the time and the political space to get this long war’s second act right.
28640  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unfgbelievable on: October 11, 2009, 07:48:15 AM
http://www.jihadwatch.org/2009/10/dhs-slashes-funds-for-nyc-counterterror-funding.html
DHS slashes funds for NYC counterterror funding
After all, the war on terror is over, right? Najibullah Zazi? Pah! "Stunning: Despite Plot, NYC's Terror Funds Slashed," by Marcia Kramer for CBS, October 10 (thanks to Pamela):

NEW YORK (CBS) ― After facing one of the most serious terror threats since the 9-11 attacks, Department of Homeland Security officials are slashing a big chunk of anti-terror funding to New York City.

Local lawmakers say the cut could put American lives at risk.

Just weeks after Najibullah Zazi was nabbed in an al-Qaida terror plot to explode dirty bombs here, the feds have inexplicably slashed Big Apple terror funding designed to build a network of sensors to uncover nuclear or radioactive devices in a 50 miles radius of the city.

"To me this is beyond comprehension that less than a month after al-Qaida attempted an attack against New York City that you would have the Congress cutting the money that New York City needs to defend itself from a dirty bomb attack. It's absolutely mind-boggling," Rep. Peter King, R-Long Island, told CBS 2 HD on Thursday afternoon.

The city wanted $40 million to build the network at bridges, tunnels and other locations in the metropolitan area. Congress only earmarked $20 million for the program and then slipped NYC a doubly whammy -- the money is in a pot that other city's can apply for, so we may not even get the $20 million.

"This $20 million can be spread around like political pork the way other homeland security funds have been spread around the country," King said.

"This is a bad day for New York."...

And for all of us.
28641  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: October 11, 2009, 07:26:06 AM
A serious ten minute discussion in Spanish of the growing Iranian-Venezuelan nuclear connection.  Is Chavez trying to go nuclear?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb9N5RrXpHA&feature=player_embedded

Hat tip to our man in Venezuela who first posted this on the Islamo Fascismo thread on the Spanish language forum.

28642  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Islamo-fascismo en Latino America on: October 11, 2009, 07:14:06 AM
 shocked shocked shocked
28643  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Estudio: Doble Matanza en DF metro on: October 11, 2009, 07:02:01 AM
Excelentes comentarios -- por ser honestos y por ser pensados.

Yo quisiera ofrecer un concepto mas a la platica aqui:  lo de la importancia de entrenarnos de siempre identificar si hay armos o no.  Se han hecho muchos estudios con policia y se ve en muchos clips de youtube que aun cuando el cuchillo (o la pistola) esta' en plena vista en la mano del Malo que El Bueno so se fija en ello.
28644  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: October 11, 2009, 06:52:39 AM
Do I see you in there Kaju Dog?
28645  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA DVD: "The Bolo Game" on: October 11, 2009, 06:47:50 AM
And I am proud of the good use to which you have put our time together.
28646  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: October 11, 2009, 06:46:24 AM
I note that Japan, which ran huge surpluses in the 1970 and 80s, similarly diversified off-shore-- and then it crashed and has not really recovered since then.

I'm not looking to be glib here, but I also think it important we not panic.  China's books are seriously cooked.  Due to its one child policy, it has a unique demographic profile where the old increasing outnumber the young-- and the disproportion between  male and female children is the highest in the world (due to abortions of girl babies because of the one child policy)-- if the TV piece I recently saw is true, the ratio is something like 13/10!
28647  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Llolyd, McChesney, Koh on: October 11, 2009, 06:36:14 AM
Names I'd like to see us keep track of:

Mark Llloyd:  Diversity Czar at the FCC
_ McChesney (?) Chairman of the FCC?  Has he appointed an admitted revolutionary marxist as spokesperson (working from memory here on something from the Glenn Beck show)

Harold Koh:  This man IMO has the potential to be one of the most pernicious and seditious of all BO's appointments.   Double check me on this, but IIRC he was a Harvard Law Prof who now is something like Assistant Secretary of International Law at the State Department.  I have read some of this guy's writings.  People, this is a man seriously dedicated to the subversion and submission of US sovereignty to the United Nations and similar international entities.  For his skills sets this man is uniquely well positioned to do great harm.

I past below a copy of a post from the Cognitivie Dissonance thread because his name appears in it.  This is a perfect example of the sort of damage that this man is determined to do.
==========
Saturday, October 10, 2009
More Stonewalling from the Most Transparent Administration in History   [Andy McCarthy]
So much for the "unprecedented level of openness in Government" promised by our Nobel Laureate in Chief. While Attorney General Eric Holder continues stonewalling the Civil Rights Commission on the Justice Department's stunning dismissal of the civil rights case against the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia, we now learn the State Department is stonewalling Congress on the legal reasoning behind the administration's support for Chavez-wannabe, Manuel Zelaya.

Senator Jim Demint writes in the Wall Street Journal about his factfinding visit to Honduras, where Zelaya — a thuggish would-be dictator who was trying to destroy the rule of law in his country — was ousted as president in a manner consistent with the Honduran constitution. The Obama administration — which couldn't roll over fast enough when Ahmadinejad had to steal the already-rigged Iranian "election" and the regime brutally jailed, tortured and killed dissenters — is playing hardball with Honduras (at least when it's not slapping Israel and the Dalai Lama around), demanding that the thug be restored to power. But, as Sen. Demint notes, "the only thorough examination of the facts to date—conducted by a senior analyst at the Law Library of Congress—confirms the legality and constitutionality of Mr. Zelaya's ouster. (It's on the Internet here .)"

So why is the administration bullying a poor, tiny, Western democracy?  Demint continues:

In a day packed with meetings, we met only one person in Honduras who opposed Mr. Zelaya's ouster, who wishes his return, and who mystifyingly rejects the legitimacy of the November elections: U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens. When I asked Ambassador Llorens why the U.S. government insists on labeling what appears to the entire country to be the constitutional removal of Mr. Zelaya a "coup," he urged me to read the legal opinion drafted by the State Department's top lawyer, Harold Koh. As it happens, I have asked to see Mr. Koh's report before and since my trip, but all requests to publicly disclose it have been denied. [Emphasis added.]

As Ed Whelan and I pointed out when Koh was up for confirmation, the former Yale Law School dean is the nation's leading transnationalist. He has zero respect for national constitutions (including ours), preferring a post-sovereign order in which international law profs, transnational organizations, and free-lancing judges will be our overlords. What is happening with Honduras is exactly what anyone who familiarized himself with Koh's record would have predicted. Yet, he was confirmed by a 62-35 margin, with support from the usual GOP suspects:  Lugar, Voinovich, Snowe, Collins, and Martinez.

Will these Republicans who helped foist Koh on us now join others demanding that President Transparency release Koh's legal opinion on Honduras? (I won't ask about the 19 Republican Senators who thought Holder would be a fabulous, non-political Attorney General ...)

http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MWNhMWYwZTZkNTc5MmU3MTFlODY1MjI3OTk2NGQwMzM=



Saturday, October 10, 2009
More Stonewalling from the Most Transparent Administration in History   [Andy McCarthy]
So much for the "unprecedented level of openness in Government" promised by our Nobel Laureate in Chief. While Attorney General Eric Holder continues stonewalling the Civil Rights Commission on the Justice Department's stunning dismissal of the civil rights case against the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia, we now learn the State Department is stonewalling Congress on the legal reasoning behind the administration's support for Chavez-wannabe, Manuel Zelaya.

Senator Jim Demint writes in the Wall Street Journal about his factfinding visit to Honduras, where Zelaya — a thuggish would-be dictator who was trying to destroy the rule of law in his country — was ousted as president in a manner consistent with the Honduran constitution. The Obama administration — which couldn't roll over fast enough when Ahmadinejad had to steal the already-rigged Iranian "election" and the regime brutally jailed, tortured and killed dissenters — is playing hardball with Honduras (at least when it's not slapping Israel and the Dalai Lama around), demanding that the thug be restored to power. But, as Sen. Demint notes, "the only thorough examination of the facts to date—conducted by a senior analyst at the Law Library of Congress—confirms the legality and constitutionality of Mr. Zelaya's ouster. (It's on the Internet here .)"

So why is the administration bullying a poor, tiny, Western democracy?  Demint continues:

In a day packed with meetings, we met only one person in Honduras who opposed Mr. Zelaya's ouster, who wishes his return, and who mystifyingly rejects the legitimacy of the November elections: U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens. When I asked Ambassador Llorens why the U.S. government insists on labeling what appears to the entire country to be the constitutional removal of Mr. Zelaya a "coup," he urged me to read the legal opinion drafted by the State Department's top lawyer, Harold Koh. As it happens, I have asked to see Mr. Koh's report before and since my trip, but all requests to publicly disclose it have been denied. [Emphasis added.]

As Ed Whelan and I pointed out when Koh was up for confirmation, the former Yale Law School dean is the nation's leading transnationalist. He has zero respect for national constitutions (including ours), preferring a post-sovereign order in which international law profs, transnational organizations, and free-lancing judges will be our overlords. What is happening with Honduras is exactly what anyone who familiarized himself with Koh's record would have predicted. Yet, he was confirmed by a 62-35 margin, with support from the usual GOP suspects:  Lugar, Voinovich, Snowe, Collins, and Martinez.

Will these Republicans who helped foist Koh on us now join others demanding that President Transparency release Koh's legal opinion on Honduras? (I won't ask about the 19 Republican Senators who thought Holder would be a fabulous, non-political Attorney General ...)

http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MWNhMWYwZTZkNTc5MmU3MTFlODY1MjI3OTk2NGQwMzM=
28648  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 10, 2009, 10:26:50 AM
By CHARLES LEVINSON
BET EL MILITARY BASE, West Bank -- Israel's military, taking a page from the Pentagon's counterinsurgency playbook, has changed tactics in the West Bank by emphasizing improvements in Palestinian living conditions, rather than focusing solely on killing and capturing militants.

The shift, however, is threatened by personnel changes: Three generals who were instrumental in planning it are on the way out.

Israeli soldiers take part in urban-warfare training in southern Israel. In the West Bank, Israeli commanders are shifting to a focus on surgical strikes.

Under their guidance, the Israeli Defense Force, which has occupied and administered the West Bank since its capture in 1967, has pulled back its soldiers from the enclave's cities, turned over security responsibilities to Palestinians, and lifted many of the checkpoints and roadblocks that had shackled the economy.

Israeli forces are refraining from airstrikes or shelling, tactics they once used frequently to attack suspected militants. Instead of daytime raids with large battalions, commanders have turned to more surgical strikes by commandoes, which are less disruptive to the civilian population.

"Part of our philosophy is to fight the terrorists with M-16 [rifles], not F-16 [jets]," said Brig. Gen. Noam Tivon, one of the leaders of the shift.

Gen. Tivon ended his tour as commander of Israeli forces in the West Bank this week. Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, head of Israel's Central Command, is changing jobs in the coming weeks, and the Department of Defense's Civil Administration commander Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai is due to finish up within the next year.

Some officers have voiced concern about the continuity of the trio's policies. One incoming general has little experience in the West Bank and came up through the ranks as a tank commander; some military analysts say that background means he could be the wrong person to oversee a strategy that calls for using less force and keeping a lower profile.

 .The change in tactics in the West Bank came after these top Israeli generals took to heart lessons learned by American commanders in Iraq, officials from both sides said.

The strategy, coupled with recent success by U.S.-trained Palestinian security forces, is being credited with curbing West Bank violence and boosting the local economy. Israeli military operations last year, before the new strategy, led to 78 civilian casualties; 12 civilians were killed in the first six months of this year.

Previously, soldiers would shut down whole neighborhoods for days at a time while conducting less-discriminating sweeps when looking for suspected militants.

"Now they only arrest Palestinians during the night," said Sattar Kassem, a Palestinian political-science professor in Nablus who is a longtime resident of the West Bank. "The occupation continues and this is what matters most, but there is less friction for now."

After the Islamist group Hamas violently overran the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israeli generals decided they needed a strategic rethink if they wanted to keep Hamas at bay in the West Bank, which is governed by the more moderate Fatah party.

The re-evaluation coincided with the arrival to Israel of a handful of U.S. generals with the task of bolstering peace efforts.

"The Americans brought to this region a lot of new ideas," Gen. Tivon said.

At the time, America's top commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David Petraeus, was having success with a classic counterinsurgency strategy called the "ink blot." The strategy calls for focusing resources on a single neighborhood or village. As conditions improve, the efforts are slowly expanded, like an ink blot seeping across a sheet of paper.

"The U.S. military had just had its own bruising internal debate about how to fight an insurgency," said a former adviser to retired U.S. Marine Gen. James Jones, who at the time had the task of strengthening security for Israelis and Palestinians. "It was clear to us that Israel needed to have a similar debate of its own if there was any hope for making progress here," the adviser said.

Protests in Jerusalem
View Slideshow

Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images
 
An Israeli policeman ran after a Palestinian stone thrower in the Arab east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud Friday.
.More photos and interactive graphics
.Gen. Jones, now President Barack Obama's national security adviser, declined to comment for this article.

"The thing that Jones did was change the Israeli thinking from counterterrorism to counterinsurgency," said a U.S. official in Tel Aviv.

U.S. advisers preached that capturing and killing the bad guys -- counterterrorism's methods -- hadn't been enough in Iraq and probably wouldn't be enough in the West Bank, either, according to Israeli and U.S. officials. To instill lasting peace, they promoted economic engagement and reliance on local security forces.

At the time, militants and criminals controlled the West Bank's lawless cities. Some Israeli officials feared Hamas, fresh from seizing Gaza, was gaining strength and preparing a similar offensive in the West Bank.

The Israeli army had Palestinian cities and villages locked down with a rigorous checkpoint regime, part of a response to suicide-bomb attacks that followed the outbreak of the second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, in 2000. Frequent "cordon and sweep" operations shut down Palestinian cities for days at a time.

The northern West Bank city of Jenin became a test case. In 2002, at the height of the second Intifada, Jenin was a militant hub where suicide bombers plotted and launched attacks against Israel. It was the first town Israeli targeted in its military offensive to reoccupy West Bank towns.

But in 2008, Israel agreed to pull back its soldiers, turn over security responsibilities to Palestinians, and lift many of the checkpoints and roadblocks that surrounded the city.

"Jones brought the idea for the Jenin project, which came directly from Petraeus in Iraq," Gen. Tivon said.

Israeli generals had to overcome the skepticism of the country's political leadership and other officers who were reluctant to trust the Palestinians with handling security.

"For years officers had been told not to trust the Palestinians, and then suddenly we're being ordered to pull back and call them before we want to conduct a raid," said another Israeli army officer serving in the West Bank.

Today, Jenin's streets are quiet, militants have turned in their guns, and crime is down. Uniformed police hand out traffic fines. In June, a $5 million home store opened its doors, offering Palestinians imported espresso machines and plasma-screen TV sets.

"I think we can say today that the Jenin project is a success," Gen. Tivon said.

Write to Charles Levinson at charles.levinson@wsj.com
28649  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Strange Bedfellows on: October 10, 2009, 09:53:23 AM
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
SHARANA, Afghanistan -- U.S. commanders here are enlisting some unusual allies: former mujahedeen guerrillas who battled the Russians with tactics now used by the Taliban.

Gen. Dawlat Khan, who commands the 2,000 Afghan police in this town in eastern Paktika province, came of age during the war against the Soviets in the 1980s. His father was a leader of the local resistance efforts, and during his teenage years Gen. Khan helped to funnel American-donated machine guns and weaponry to the tribal fighters.

Capt. Suleimanjan, who fought the Soviets in the 1980s, this year arrested his province's No. 2 Taliban commander.

Today, American commanders say former Islamic militants like Gen. Khan make valuable partners because they are well-schooled in the insurgency's tactics.

"We used roadside bombs and ambushes, just like they do now," Capt. Suleimanjan, one of Gen. Khan's top commanders, said in his office at a crumbling old fort in Sharana. "It was the same kind of fight, but now we're on the other side."

The strategy carries risks. Former mujahedeen forged close ties to warlords during the long fight against the Soviets, and it is far from clear that they have shifted their loyalties to Kabul's fragile central government. U.S. officials also worry that some onetime militants who have since joined the police force have struck informal peace treaties with the Taliban.

"It's like the police in the States making a deal with the mob," said Capt. Mark Evans, who until recently ran the U.S. effort to train the Afghan police in Sharana. "The police aren't that well trained or well equipped, and I can understand why they'd want a quid pro quo."

The strategy of working with former mujahedeen has been tried with the Afghan National Army, and is part of an American push to overhaul the national police, a beleaguered force whose ineffectiveness is a threat to President Barack Obama's hopes of pacifying the country.

"The police are the first line of defense," said Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the U.S.'s top day-to-day commander in Afghanistan.

Gen. Khan, 45 years old, said that when he returned home to Paktika last October after a long exile he was stunned to discover how many of his officers were corrupt or addicted to hashish.

Gen. Khan and his aides ousted the department's chief of security and top administrative official. They also fired a trio of police chiefs who had turned a blind eye to lower-ranking policemen extorting money from truck drivers and motorists.

In rebuilding the department, he turned to other former mujahedeen. His top investigator, Capt. Suleimanjan, who like many Afghans goes by only one name, fought with Gen. Khan's father against the Soviets. Chief Nazerkhan, who commands the garrison in the nearby town of Motakhan, battled the Russians alongside Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is now one of the most-wanted militants in the world.

Gen. Khan was at school one afternoon in 1979 when he saw Russian tanks moving through the streets of his town, followed by columns of soldiers. His father, Haj Sultan Muhammed, led armed men from his tribe into the local mountains and joined the nascent religious war against the Soviets.

Afghan Interior Ministry officials in Kabul said Mr. Muhammed became a leader of the local mujahedeen, working closely with Mr. Haqqani, then a charismatic young fighter. Gen. Khan himself remembers playing soccer with the militant, today a key Taliban ally.

"We were friends once but if I saw him today I'd try to arrest or kill him," Gen. Khan said. "He would do the same if he saw me."

During the long war, Gen. Khan moved to Pakistan, where he says he worked to funnel U.S.-donated AK-47s and other weaponry to his father. Gen. Khan won't say how he got the guns. An Afghan official in Kabul who worked with Mr. Muhammed said the weapons were delivered by the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA declined to comment.

Paktika has deteriorated sharply in recent years. The Taliban control many towns and have littered the province's dirt roads with buried roadside bombs that have killed dozens of police officers. At night, cellphone service shuts down because the Taliban have threatened to destroy relay towers that remain operational.

Gen. Khan's biggest victory as police chief came earlier this year when Capt. Suleimanjan arrested the No. 2 Taliban commander in the province.

Capt. Suleimanjan said he identified the insurgent after an informant slipped him a promotional video the local Taliban command filmed to recruit new fighters. "I have shadows in every village," Capt. Suleimanjan said with a smile. "Sometimes they give me things."

He said that there are key differences between the two generations of Islamic fighters. Capt. Suleimanjan says that while the mujahedeen tried to avoid harming civilians, the Taliban have killed Afghan engineers working on roads and burned down several schools. "They use the name of Islam, but it's fake," he said.

The U.S. mentors worry that Chief Nazerkhan and some of Gen. Khan's other police commanders maintain secret ties to the insurgency.

In August, a group of American trainers prepared to leave the small police base at Motakhan after two days of training. Lt. Israel Darbe, a member of the mentor team, called over one of the Afghan translators.

"We're fixing to roll on out of here," Lt. Darbe told him. "Have the chief tell his Taliban buddies to leave us the hell alone."

Capt. Evans said he suspected Chief Nazerkhan had struck an informal peace treaty with the Taliban. Chief Nazerkhan dismissed the speculation. "It is all rumor and lies," he said.

Gen. Khan, for his part, is increasingly focused on staying alive. A few months ago, an elderly man walked to the gates of the police headquarters here, asked for Gen. Khan, and then blew himself up. Several police officers died in the blast.

The Afghan commander said he wasn't surprised by the failed assassination attempt.

"The mujahedeen used to assassinate Russian commanders all the time," he said, shrugging.

Write to Yochi J. Dreazen at yochi.dreazen@wsj.com
28650  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Honduras on: October 10, 2009, 09:37:55 AM
By JIM DEMINT
Tegucigalpa

In the last three months, much has been made of a supposed military "coup" that whisked former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya from power and the supposed chaos it has created.

After visiting Tegucigalpa last week and meeting with a cross section of leaders from Honduras's government, business community, and civil society, I can report there is no chaos there. There is, however, chaos to spare in the Obama administration's policy toward our poor and loyal allies in Honduras.

That policy was set in a snap decision the day Mr. Zelaya was removed from office, without a full assessment of either the facts or reliable legal analysis of the constitutional provisions at issue. Three months later, it remains in force, despite mounting evidence of its moral and legal incoherence.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Honduras's ousted President Manuel Zelaya
.While in Honduras, I spoke to dozens of Hondurans, from nonpartisan members of civil society to former Zelaya political allies, from Supreme Court judges to presidential candidates and even personal friends of Mr. Zelaya. Each relayed stories of a man changed and corrupted by power. The evidence of Mr. Zelaya's abuses of presidential power—and his illegal attempts to rewrite the Honduran Constitution, a la Hugo Chávez—is not only overwhelming but uncontroverted.

As all strong democracies do after cleansing themselves of usurpers, Honduras has moved on.

The presidential election is on schedule for Nov. 29. Under Honduras's one-term-limit, Mr. Zelaya could not have sought re-election anyway. Current President Roberto Micheletti—who was installed after Mr. Zelaya's removal, per the Honduran Constitution—is not on the ballot either. The presidential candidates were nominated in primary elections almost a year ago, and all of them—including Mr. Zelaya's former vice president—expect the elections to be free, fair and transparent, as has every Honduran election for a generation.

Indeed, the desire to move beyond the Zelaya era was almost universal in our meetings. Almost.

In a day packed with meetings, we met only one person in Honduras who opposed Mr. Zelaya's ouster, who wishes his return, and who mystifyingly rejects the legitimacy of the November elections: U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens.

When I asked Ambassador Llorens why the U.S. government insists on labeling what appears to the entire country to be the constitutional removal of Mr. Zelaya a "coup," he urged me to read the legal opinion drafted by the State Department's top lawyer, Harold Koh. As it happens, I have asked to see Mr. Koh's report before and since my trip, but all requests to publicly disclose it have been denied.

On the other hand, the only thorough examination of the facts to date—conducted by a senior analyst at the Law Library of Congress—confirms the legality and constitutionality of Mr. Zelaya's ouster. (It's on the Internet here .)

Unlike the Obama administration's snap decision after June 28, the Law Library report is grounded in the facts of the case and the intricacies of Honduran constitutional law. So persuasive is the report that after its release, the New Republic's James Kirchick concluded in an Oct. 3 article that President Obama's hastily decided Honduras policy is now "a mistake in search of a rationale."

The Hondurans I met agree. All everyone seemed to want was a chance to make their case, or at least an independent review of the facts.

So far, the Obama administration has ignored these requests and instead has repeatedly doubled down. It's revoked the U.S. travel visas of President Micheletti, his government and private citizens, and refuses to talk to the government in Tegucigalpa. It's frozen desperately needed financial assistance to one of the poorest and friendliest U.S. allies in the region. It won't release the legal basis for its insistence on Mr. Zelaya's restoration to power. Nor has it explained why it's setting aside America's longstanding policy of supporting free elections to settle these kinds of disputes.

But these elections are the only way out—a fact even the Obama administration must see. The Honduran constitution prohibits Zelaya's return to power. The election date is set by law for Nov. 29. The elections will be monitored by international observers and overseen by an apolitical body, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, whose impartiality and independence has been roundly praised, even by Ambassador Llorens.

America's Founding Fathers—like the framers of Honduras's own constitution—believed strong institutions were necessary to defend freedom and democracy from the ambitions of would-be tyrants and dictators. Faced by Mr. Zelaya's attempted usurpations, the institutions of Honduran democracy performed as designed, and as our own Founding Fathers would have hoped.

Hondurans are therefore left scratching their heads. They know why Hugo Chávez, Daniel Ortega and the Castro brothers oppose free elections and the removal of would-be dictators, but they can't understand why the Obama administration does.

They're not the only ones.

Mr. DeMint, a Republican senator from South Carolina, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
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