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28651  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.
28652  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).
28653  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
28654  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) , , ,
28655  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
28656  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.
28657  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.
28658  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: October 14, 2009, 12:20:09 AM
That was DEVASTATING cheesy
28659  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.
28660  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.
28661  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!
28662  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.
28663  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.
28664  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…

 
28665  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.
28666  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.

View Full Image

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."
28667  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.”
28668  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.”
28669  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.”
28670  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?
28671  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.
28672  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.
28673  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.
28674  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 , , ,
28675  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?
28676  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.

28677  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.
28678  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.
28679  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.
28680  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.

28681  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Islamo-fascismo en Latino America on: October 11, 2009, 07:14:06 AM
 shocked shocked shocked
28682  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.
28683  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?
28684  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.
28685  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!
28686  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=
28687  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
28688  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
28689  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.
28690  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Free market fools Cassandras yet again on: October 10, 2009, 09:31:04 AM


New Way to Tap Gas May Expand Global Supplies Recommend
By CLIFFORD KRAUSS
NYT
Published: October 9, 2009
OKLAHOMA CITY — A new technique that tapped previously inaccessible supplies of natural gas in the United States is spreading to the rest of the world, raising hopes of a huge expansion in global reserves of the cleanest fossil fuel.

Italian and Norwegian oil engineers and geologists have arrived in Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania to learn how to extract gas from layers of a black rock called shale. Companies are leasing huge tracts of land across Europe for exploration. And oil executives are gathering rocks and scrutinizing Asian and North African geological maps in search of other fields.

The global drilling rush is still in its early stages. But energy analysts are already predicting that shale could reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas. They said they believed that gas reserves in many countries could increase over the next two decades, comparable with the 40 percent increase in the United States in recent years.

“It’s a breakout play that is going to identify gigantic resources around the world,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy expert at Rice University. “That will change the geopolitics of natural gas.”

More extensive use of natural gas could aid in reducing global warming, because gas produces fewer emissions of greenhouse gases than either oil or coal. China and India, which have growing economies that rely heavily on coal for electricity, appear to have large potential for production of shale gas. Larger gas reserves would encourage developing countries to convert more of their transportation fleets to use natural gas rather than gasoline.

Shale is a sedimentary rock rich in organic material that is found in many parts of the world. It was of little use as a source of gas until about a decade ago, when American companies developed new techniques to fracture the rock and drill horizontally.

Because so little drilling has been done in shale fields outside of the United States and Canada, gas analysts have made a wide array of estimates for how much shale gas could be tapped globally. Even the most conservative estimates are enormous, projecting at least a 20 percent increase in the world’s known reserves of natural gas.

One recent study by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consulting group, calculated that the recoverable shale gas outside of North America could turn out to be equivalent to 211 years’ worth of natural gas consumption in the United States at the present level of demand, and maybe as much as 690 years. The low figure would represent a 50 percent increase in the world’s known gas reserves, and the high figure, a 160 percent increase.

The projections suggest that the new method of producing gas “is the biggest energy innovation of the decade,” said Daniel Yergin, chairman of the Cambridge consulting group. “And the amazing thing is there was no grand opening ceremony for it. It just snuck up.”

Over the last five years, production of gas from shale has spread across wide swaths of Texas, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. All the new production has produced a glut of gas in the United States, helping to drive down gas prices and utility costs.

Now American companies are looking abroad for lucrative shale fields in countries hungry for more energy. They are focusing particularly on Europe, where gas prices are sometimes twice what they are in the United States, and large shale beds are located close to some cities.

Exxon Mobil has drilled a few exploratory wells in Germany in recent months. Devon Energy is teaming up with Total, the French oil company, seeking approval to drill in France. ConocoPhillips announced recently that it had signed an agreement with a subsidiary of a small British firm to explore a million acres in the Baltic Basin of Poland.

Early estimates of recoverable European shale gas resources range up to 400 trillion cubic feet, less than half the industry’s estimates of what is recoverable in the United States. But European energy executives say they are excited about the prospects because the Continent’s conventional gas reserves are too small to meet demand.

“It is obvious to everybody that it has huge potential,” said Oivind Reinertsen, president of StatoilHydro USA and Mexico, a Norwegian company with growing shale interests. “You see a lot of land-grabbing by different companies in Europe, potentially spreading to the Far East, China and India.”

Donald I. Hertzmark, a consultant who advises multinational oil companies on gas projects, said that in a decade or so, the new shale gas resources would improve Europe’s ability to withstand any future reduction in Russian pipeline shipments. In 2006 and again last winter, Russia cut off natural gas deliveries shipped through Ukraine because of disputes between the two countries, causing shortages around Europe.

European companies are buying large interests in shale fields in the United States, partly to supply the American market, but also to learn the specialized mapping and drilling techniques required for shale gas.

Several of the European companies have entered into partnerships with smaller American companies. ENI of Italy paid $280 million in May for a stake in a 13,000-acre gas field north of Fort Worth operated by Quicksilver Resources. ENI has a crew of four engineers, a geologist and a geophysicist in Texas to learn from Quicksilver personnel.

One of the biggest marriages is between Chesapeake Energy of Oklahoma City and its strategic partner StatoilHydro.

Seeking cash, Chesapeake agreed to sell Statoil a large stake in its Marcellus shale holdings, centered in Pennsylvania, for $3.9 billion last November. The two companies are looking at shale fields in China, India, Australia and other countries. Seven Statoil employees are working in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania learning to map and fracture shale, and calculate shale gas pressures, and more are coming.

“We know the shale is out there,” said Lars Erik Oino, a Statoil geologist working at Chesapeake headquarters here, as he rubbed hydrochloric acid on a shale sample to test its mineral makeup. “This could have a huge impact on the European
28691  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: October 10, 2009, 09:02:37 AM
If you were to take the time (because I am not going to) I am sure you could find that we have sold to egregious actors many, many times.   I am quite confident of this.

BTW IIRC we sold the raw materials to SH for his WMD attacks on Iran (and the Kurds?)

28692  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: October 09, 2009, 09:42:19 PM
Fox reported this evening that the name of whomever made the application is held secret for 50 years  rolleyes

Here's a few more worthy candidates:

General Petraeus
Greg Mortenson (opening schools, especially for girls, in Afg and Pak)
28693  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: October 09, 2009, 03:47:45 PM
Who actually fills in the application?  Must if be made with the knowledge of the nominee?
28694  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: October 09, 2009, 02:31:17 PM
International Media Reactions to Obama Prize

Editorials and news stories from around the world on President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize

FOXNews.com
Friday, October 09, 2009

UK:
Financial Times: What Did Obama Do to Win the Nobel Peace Prize?
I am a genuine admirer of Obama. And I am very pleased that George W Bush is no longer president. But I doubt that I am alone in wondering whether this award is slightly premature. It is hard to point to a single place where Obama's efforts have actually brought about peace - Gaza, Iran, Sri Lanka? The peace prize committee say that he is being rewarded for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy." But while it is OK to give school children prizes for "effort" - my kids get them all the time - I think international statesmen should probably be held to a higher standard.

London Times: Absurd Decision on Obama Makes a Mockery of the Nobel Peace Prize

Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent. It was clearly seen by the Norwegian Nobel committee as a way of expressing European gratitude for an end to the Bush Administration, approval for the election of America's first black president and hope that Washington will honour its promise to re-engage with the world.

Instead, the prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronising in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace.

The Guardian: Barack Obama's Nobel Prize: Why Now?
Indeed, the reasoning behind the awarding of the prize to previous American presidents has been easier to discern. Teddy Roosevelt opened the court of arbitration in the Hague and helped mediate a peace treaty between Russia and Japan; Woodrow Wilson was the founder of the League of Nations. Jimmy Carter won his prize for his "untiring efforts to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts".
Which is what makes the awarding of this year's prize to a president who has been in office for a mere nine months an odd departure. It is as if the prize committee had been persuaded to give the award on the future delivery of promises.

The Guardian: Should Obama Accept the Nobel Peace Prize
If I were in the boiler room over there, I would begin by suggesting to the president that he demur altogether. That he tell the committee that while he's deeply touched, he does not in fact feel that he has yet done the work to earn this award. He should then recommend to the committee that it give the prize to Hu Jia, the Chinese dissident who was considered a frontrunner, or someone else whose life's cause could actually benefit from winning the prize (and the hefty cash award that comes with it, which Obama also doesn't need).

Telegraph: Obama's Won the Nobel Peace Prize -- WTF?!
Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace prize and I'm still reeling at the shock. Most of us are, I should think. Here are my theories as to how it might have come about:
1. Unlike in most of the rest of the world Obama Kool Aid (TM) remains Oslo's most popular beverage.
2. The Norwegian prize committee's sense of irony is growing ever more sophisticated, as it hinted when it gave the prize in 2002 to comedy ex-president Jimmy Carter, and hinted more strongly when it gave the prize in 2007 to climate-fear-promoting comedy failed-president Al Gore.
3. The other candidates on the shortlist were Robert Mugabe; Osama Bin Laden; Ahmed Jibril; and the late Pol Pot.

Australia:
Sydney Morning Herald: They Think He Can: Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize
YES, surprisingly, he could. Barack Obama, is the shock choice for the Nobel Peace Prize, less than a year after his election as U.S. President.

Italy:
Il Giornale: A Preposterous Choice
Let me be clear: the discourse on Islam in Cairo was beautiful, tall, and it opens up new horizons, but did not lead to anything. And on the other matter, as pointed out repeatedly in this blog, Obama has been evasive or inconclusive, starting with Iran and Afghanistan. Nor can he boast the merits of rapprochement with North Korea, which was brought about by Bill Clinton. He kept only one real promise: the gradual withdrawal from Iraq. Enough to deserve the Nobel Prize?

Germany:
Der Spiegel: Obama's Nobel Prize Is More of a Burden Than an Honor
The Nobel Peace Prize has come too early for Barack Obama. The US president cannot point to any real diplomatic successes to date and there are few prospects of any to come.

Bild: "Wow!" Barack Obama Receives Nobel Peace Prize
It is the most important award in the world. And she goes to U.S. President Barack Obama (48) - he gets this year's Nobel Peace Prize. What a sensation!

Poland:
Krakow Post: "Too Fast" for Obama Nobel, Says Walesa
The former president, himself a Peace Prize winner in 1983, told the press in Warsaw "Who, Obama? So fast? Too fast - he hasn't had the time to do anything yet." This sentiment was reflected by current Prime Minister Donald Tusk: "Shock - absolutely. It's interesting, but shocking."

Canada:
The Globe and Mail: Obama's Premature Prize
The simple explanation for the Committee's decision to cite Mr. Obama at this stage of his presidency is that he is not George W. Bush.
The more generous interpretation is that the decision is hortatory; that is, it is designed to encourage the President to follow a path in U.S. foreign policy that is preferred by Committee members.

Toronto Star: Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize
Once you catch your breath - Obama has been on the world stage for less than a year “ the decision makes perfect sense. More than other Nobel categories, the Nobel for peace goes to a cause, and only ostensibly to an individual or group.
With Lester Pearson, the award was for diplomatic resolutions of conflict. With Martin Luther King, it was for non-violent pursuit of justice. Two relatively obscure Irish women were honoured for spearheading a non-violent resolution to the Troubles. Jimmy Carter, in 1992, was honoured for diplomatic outside interventions in regions of escalating or potential violence.

National Post: Shiny Prize Went to the Nice Man Who Gave the Best Speech
Obama is being given his award for mere words -- for striking fashionable poses in favour of multilateralism, for making a nice speech in Cairo, for offering "hope." Months after Americans learned to dismiss Obama's 2008 presidential campaign slogans as the meaningless bromides they were, Scandinavians are still drinking his Kool-aid.

China:
China Daily: Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize to Mixed Reviews
US President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for giving the world "hope for a better future" and striving for nuclear disarmament, in a surprise award that drew criticism as well as praise.

Middle East:
Al-Jazeera: Doubts Voiced Over Obama Peace Win
A surprised world has greeted the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama, the US president, with a mixture of praise and skepticism.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban mocked the award, saying it was absurd to give it to Obama when he had ordered 21,000 extra troops to Afghanistan this year.
"The Nobel prize for peace? Obama should have won the 'Nobel prize for escalating violence and killing civilians'," Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told the Reuters news agency.

Israel:
Jerusalem Post: Peres, Barak Congratulate Barack Obama
President Shimon Peres on Friday sent a letter of congratulations to US President Barack Obama for winning the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for Peace, telling the American leader that under his leadership, peace became a "real and original agenda."
"Very few leaders if at all were able to change the mood of the entire world in such a short while with such profound impact. You provided the entire humanity with fresh hope, with intellectual determination, and a feeling that there is a Lord in heaven and believers on earth," Peres, himself a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, wrote to Obama.

Haaretz: Obama Administration Official: President "Humbled" by Award
While the decision won praise from statesmen like Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev, both former Nobel laureates, it was also attacked in some quarters as hasty and undeserved.
The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and opposes a peace treaty with Israel, said the award was premature at best.
"Obama has a long way to go still and lots of work to do before he can deserve a reward," said Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri. "Obama only made promises and did not contribute any substance to world peace. And he has not done anything to ensure justice for the sake of Arab and Muslim causes."

Pakistan:
The International News: Iranians Call Obama Nobel Award a Mistake
Iranians joined criticism of the surprise award of the Nobel Peace Prize to U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday.
One Tehran resident regarded the award as inappropriate, given U.S. policy in the Middle East.
"In my opinion, when a person cooperates with and supports the Israeli regime, he does not deserve to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. It is a mistake," said Massoud Savoji.
Another resident of the Iranian capital, Maryam Afrouz, praised the U.S. president as a man "who loves to have peace and calm prevail all over the whole world.

Dawn: Wartime President Wins Nobel Peace Prize
Obama's name had been mentioned in speculation before the award but many Nobel watchers believed it was too early to award the president.
The committee said it attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.
28695  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: BO's friends and appointments on: October 09, 2009, 11:30:08 AM
pasting here as well GM's post from the Sharia thread:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/6274387/Obama-adviser-says-Sharia-Law-is-misunderstood.html

Barack Obama adviser says Sharia Law is misunderstood

President Barack Obama's adviser on Muslim affairs, Dalia Mogahed, has provoked controversy by appearing on a British television show hosted by a member of an extremist group to talk about Sharia Law.
 
By Andrew Gilligan and Alex Spillius in Washington
Published: 8:00PM BST 08 Oct 2009

Miss Mogahed, appointed to the President's Council on Faith-Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships, said the Western view of Sharia was "oversimplified" and the majority of women around the world associate it with "gender justice".

The White House adviser made the remarks on a London-based TV discussion programme hosted by Ibtihal Bsis, a member of the extremist Hizb ut Tahrir party.

The group believes in the non-violent destruction of Western democracy and the creation of an Islamic state under Sharia Law across the world.

Miss Mogahed appeared alongside Hizb ut Tahrir's national women's officer, Nazreen Nawaz.

During the 45-minute discussion, on the Islam Channel programme Muslimah Dilemma earlier this week, the two members of the group made repeated attacks on secular "man-made law" and the West's "lethal cocktail of liberty and capitalism".

They called for Sharia Law to be "the source of legislation" and said that women should not be "permitted to hold a position of leadership in government".

Miss Mogahed made no challenge to these demands and said that "promiscuity" and the "breakdown of traditional values" were what Muslims admired least about the West.

She said: "I think the reason so many women support Sharia is because they have a very different understanding of sharia than the common perception in Western media.

"The majority of women around the world associate gender justice, or justice for women, with sharia compliance.

"The portrayal of Sharia has been oversimplified in many cases."

Sharia in its broadest sense is a religious code for living, which decrees such matters as fasting and dressing modestly. However, it has also been interpreted as requiring the separation of men and women.

It also includes the controversial "Hadd offences", crimes with specific penalties set by the Koran and the sayings of the prophet Mohammed. These include death by stoning for adultery and homosexuality and the removal of a hand for theft.

Miss Mogahed admitted that even many Muslims associated Sharia with "maximum criminal punishments" and "laws that... to many people seem unequal to women," but added: "Part of the reason that there is this perception of Sharia is because Sharia is not well understood and Islam as a faith is not well understood."

The video of the broadcast has now been prominently posted on the front page of Hizb ut Tahrir's website.

Miss Mogahed, who was born in Egypt and moved to America at the age of five, is the first veiled Muslim woman to serve in the White House. Her appointment was seen as a sign of the Obama administration's determination to reach out to the Muslim world.

She is also the executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, a project which aims to scientifically sample public opinion in the Muslim world.

During this week's broadcast, she described her White House role as "to convey... to the President and other public officials what it is Muslims want."

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said Miss Mogahed was “downplaying” Sharia Law.

“There is a reason sharia has got a bad name and it is how it has been exercised. Regrettably in the US there have been acts of injustice perpetrated against women that are driven by the Sharia-type mindset that women are objects not human beings,” she said.

She cited the example of Muzzammil Hassan, a Buffalo man who ran a cable channel aimed at countering Muslim stereotypes and was charged earlier this year with beheading his wife after she filed for divorce.

“Americans understand by example, it’s not as if we are an ignorant mass of people. Just as we don’t broad brush all Muslims, so should Dalia not downplay the serious nature of sharia law.”
28696  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: BO's friends and appointments on: October 09, 2009, 11:27:31 AM
What's this business I'm hearing about a NAMBLA pedophile being part of the BO team?
28697  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ukraine to get US BMD?!? on: October 09, 2009, 11:20:30 AM
U.S.: Broadening the BMD Network
Stratfor Today » October 9, 2009 | 1347 GMT

CHOI WON-SUK/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow in April 2008U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow said Ukraine has been added to the list of countries that could be included in the United States’ developing ballistic missile defense (BMD) network. The statement, given in an interview to Defense News magazine, which published Oct. 9, surprised the Russians for several reasons.

In and of itself, the Russians do not care much about the BMD program. Russia sees its long-term security guaranteed mostly by its nuclear deterrent. The U.S. BMD program in its current incarnation is expressly designed only to protect the United States from a handful of missiles from a rogue country such as Iran or North Korea; but the Russians fear that, with time and experience, the BMD program could grow into something more capable. And since Moscow, during the Cold War, was far from confident in its ability to counter American BMD (then called Star Wars), modern Russia — with fewer financial and technological resources — is doubly concerned.

But the more immediate Russian concern is not so much BMD, but Ukraine. Ukraine is integrated fully into the Russian industrial and agricultural heartland and is critical for the operation of the Russia’s transport and energy networks. Ukraine also happens to hold the populations and transport links that allow Russia to control the Caucasus, as well as lying within 300 miles of Moscow and Volgograd. With Ukraine, Russia can make a serious effort to become a major power again. Without Ukraine, it is feasible to start thinking about Russia’s (permanent) decline. Such thinking is precisely the sort of activity the Russians do not want anyone spending time on.

In fact, the Kremlin is on a bit of a roll, having recently managed to surge their influence into Germany, Azerbaijan, Turkey and even Poland. STRATFOR sees Russia’s influence growing with every passing day. In particular, Moscow believes it has Ukraine not simply locked down, but on the final path toward excising all elements of the 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution.

So, Vershbow’s statement has really grabbed Russia’s attention. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted, “The statement by Alexander Vershbow was rather unexpected. In principle, he is a person who is prone to extravagancies. We would like to receive full clarification.”

Which brings us back to Vershbow himself: Former U.S. ambassador to both NATO and Russia, he knows the Russian mind as well as is possible for an American. In his new job at the Defense Department, his primary task is to try to keep Ukraine and Georgia — another sore spot with the Russians — independent.

At present, STRATFOR cannot confirm the core of Vershbow’s interview — whether Ukraine is a serious candidate for a BMD station. What we can say is that the Americans have been reaching for a means of not simply halting Russia’s rise, but eliciting Russian cooperation on containing the Iranian nuclear program. The first part of that is forcing Russia’s attention onto topics the Americans want to discuss.

“Extravagancies” or not, Vershbow is certainly a person who knows how to capture Russia’s attention.
28698  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: October 09, 2009, 10:19:24 AM
"f the public are bound to yield obedience to laws to which they cannot give their approbation, they are slaves to those who make such laws and enforce them." --Candidus in the Boston Gazette, 1772
28699  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: BO's friends and appointments on: October 08, 2009, 07:48:54 PM
In my opinion WND is often a careless source-- anyone have something on this matter from a more definitive source?

Sunstein: Americans too racist for socialism
Defends communism, welfare state but says 'white majority' oppose programs aiding blacks, Hispanics

Posted: October 07, 2009
10:35 pm Eastern

By Aaron Klein
© 2009 WorldNetDaily
JERUSALEM – The U.S. should move in the direction of socialism but the country's "white majority" opposes welfare since such programs largely would benefit minorities, especially blacks and Hispanics, argued President Obama's newly confirmed regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein.

"The absence of a European-style social welfare state is certainly connected with the widespread perception among the white majority that the relevant programs would disproportionately benefit African Americans (and more recently Hispanics)," wrote Sunstein.

The .czar's controversial comments were made in his 2004 book "The Second Bill of Rights," which was obtained and
reviewed by WND.

In the book, Sunstein openly argues for bringing socialism to the U.S. and even lends support to communism.
"During the Cold War, the debate about [social welfare] guarantees took the form of pervasive disagreement between the United States and its communist adversaries. Americans emphasized the importance of civil and political liberties, above all free speech and freedom of religion, while communist nations stressed the right to a job, and a social minimum."
Continued Sunstein: "I think this debate was unhelpful; it is most plausible to see the two sets of rights as mutually reinforcing, not antagonistic."

 
Sunstein claims the "socialist movement" did not take hold in the U.S. in part because of a "smaller and weaker political left or lack of enthusiasm for redistributive programs."
He laments, "In a variety of ways, subtle and less subtle, public and private actions have made it most difficult for socialism to have any traction in the United States."

Sunstein wants to spread America's wealth

WND first reported Sunstein penned a 2007 University of Chicago Law in which he debated whether America should pay "justice" to the world by entering into a agreement that would be a net financial loss for the U.S. He argues it is "desirable" to redistribute America's wealth to poorer nations.

A prominent theme throughout Sunstein's 39-page paper, entitled " Justice" and reviewed by WND, maintains U.S. wealth should be redistributed to poorer nations. He uses terms such as "distributive justice" several times. The paper was written with fellow Eric A. Posner.

"It is even possible that desirable redistribution is more likely to occur through climate change policy than otherwise, or to be accomplished more effectively through climate policy than through direct foreign aid," wrote Sunstein.
He posited: "We agree that if the United States does spend a great deal on emissions reductions as part of an international agreement, and if the agreement does give particular help to disadvantaged people, considerations of distributive justice support its action, even if better redistributive mechanisms are imaginable.

"If the United States agrees to participate in a climate change agreement on terms that are not in the nation's interest, but that help the world as a whole, there would be no reason for complaint, certainly if such participation is more helpful to poor nations than conventional foreign-aid alternatives," he wrote.

Sunstein maintains: "If we care about social welfare, we should approve of a situation in which a wealthy nation is willing to engage in a of self-sacrifice when the world benefits more than that nation loses."

Sunstein proposed 'socialist' bill of rights
In "The Second Bill of Rights," WND also reported, Sunstein proposed a new "bill of rights" in which he advanced the radical notion that welfare rights, including some controversial inceptions, be granted by the state. Among his mandates:
 The right to a useful and remunerative job in the or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

 The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

 The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

 The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

 The right of every family to a decent home;

 The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy

 The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

 The right to a good education.

On one page in his book, Sunstein claims he is "not seriously arguing" his bill of rights be "encompassed by anything in the Constitution," but on the next page he states that "if the nation becomes committed to certain rights, they may migrate into the Constitution itself."
Later in the book, Sunstein argues that "at a minimum, the second bill should be seen as part and parcel of America's constitutive commitments."
WND has learned that in April 2005, Sunstein opened up a conference at Yale Law School entitled "The Constitution in 2020," which sought to change the nature and interpretation of the Constitution by that year.
Sunstein has been a main participant in the movement, which openly seeks to create a "progressive" consensus as to what the U.S. Constitution should provide for by the year 2020. It also suggests strategy for how liberal lawyers and judges might bring such a constitutional regime into being.
Just before his appearance at the conference, Sunstein wrote a blog entry in which he explained he "will be urging that it is important to resist, on democratic grounds, the idea that the document should be interpreted to reflect the view of the extreme right-wing of the Republican Party." 
28700  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: October 08, 2009, 04:52:36 PM
Usually I agree with Stratfor on most things, but I agree with you about the estrogen orientation of this President.

In fairness it must be said that
a) I don't sense our military chomping at the bit
b) Bush left us seriously overextended viz the Russians.  For the strategy he was following IMHO it was really poor judgment to not expand our bandwith

OTOH maybe if candidate BO hadn't been such a vigorous advocate of running away from Iraq, and as President maybe if he hadn't demonstrated so much weakness and poor judgement, then maybe the Iranians, the Russians et al would be taking us more seriously.
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