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29551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An so it goes , , , on: October 04, 2009, 12:25:41 AM
Because the effort failed these details are likely to slip down the memory hole rather quickly.  Note them now before they do.

All the president’s Olympic cronies
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2009

When government officials play the Olympic lottery, taxpayers lose. That has been the disastrous experience of host cities around the world (Forbes magazine even dubbed the post-Olympic financial burden the “Host City Curse”). So, why are President Obama and his White House entourage headed to Copenhagen, Denmark this week to push a fiscally doomed Chicago 2016 bid? Political payback.

Bringing the games to the Windy City is Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s “vision.” The entrenched Democratic power-broker – in office since 1989 – would like to cap off his graft-tainted career with a glorious, $4 billion bread and circuses production. The influential Daley machine backed Barack Obama for the presidential primary. Obama lavished praise on Daley’s stewardship of the city. Longtime Daley cronies helped pave Obama’s path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Now, they’re returning the favor for their hometown boss.

Senior White House adviser and Obama consigliere Valerie Jarrett is a Daley loyalist who worked as his deputy chief of staff, deputy corporation counsel, and planning commissioner. She hired the future First Lady of the United States, then-Michelle Robinson, as a mayoral assistant. Jarrett went on to serve as president and CEO of The Habitat Company, a real estate firm with a massive stake in federally-funded Chicago public housing projects.

One of those public-private partnerships, the Grove Parc Plaza Apartments, was run into the ground under Jarrett’s watch. Federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex a bottom-of-the-barrel 11 on a 100-point scale. “They are rapidly displacing poor people, and these companies are profiting from this displacement,” Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle of Southside Together Organizing for Power, a community group that seeks to help tenants stay in the same neighborhoods, told the Boston Globe last year. “The same exact people who ran these places into the ground,” the private companies paid to build and manage the city’s affordable housing, “now are profiting by redeveloping them.”

Coincidentally enough, Grove Parc — now targeted for demolition as a result of years of neglect by Obama’s developer friends—sits in the shadows of the proposed site of the city’s 2016 Olympics Stadium

Jarrett served as vice chair of Chicago’s 2016 Summer Olympics bid committee before moving to the White House, where she has helmed a new “White House Office on Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport” with an undisclosed budget and staff. It’s not just taxpayers in cash-strapped Chicago who should be worried about this field of schemes. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Jarrett and Chicago 2016 committee member Lori Healey met this month with federal officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development “to discuss financing options” for the estimated $1 billion Olympic Village.

The door is open and the administration is “willing to meet and listen” to any federal subsidy proposals, Jarrett said. Hey, what happened to Obama’s tough rules on interest-conflicted lobbying by his administration officials?

A majority of Chicagoans who live in pay-for-play-plagued Cook County oppose public funding for the Olympic party. The city has more than a half-billion-dollar deficit – and just received word that its Olympic insurance policy will cover only about $1.1 billion of the $3.8-billion operating budget drawn up by Daley. Cost overruns, fraud, and union-inflated contracts are inevitable. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs defended President Obama’s all-out campaign for Chicago’s 2016 Olympics bid by claiming America will see a “tangible economic benefit.”

But as is always the case with sports corporate welfare disguised as “economic development,” an elite few will benefit far more than others.

Take senior White House adviser and Obama campaign guru David Axelrod. He’s been a Daley loyalist since 1989, when he signed up as a political consultant for the mayor’s first run. Axelrod’s public relations firm, Chicago-based AKPD Message and Media, has pitched in work for the Chicago 2016 committee. It is unknown how much AKPD has received for its services – or how much they’ll make in future income if the bid is successful. AKPD currently owes Axelrod $2 million.

The head of the Chicago 2016 bid committee is Patrick Ryan, chairman of the Aon Corporation and a co-chair of Obama’s deep-pocketed presidential inaugural committee. (Under Ryan’s watch at Aon, the company settled a massive corruption probe with 3 states for $190 million. More here on Ryan/Aon/Daley dealings More on corruptocrat Chicago Republicans like Ryan and others here.)

Also on both of those committees: Obama confidante Penny Pritzker, who in addition chairs the Olympic Village Subcommittee and is president of Pritzker Realty Group – a mega-developer in Illinois that could reap untold millions in project work if the Daley Machine/White House campaign succeeds.

Former Pritzker executive and Obama campaign treasurer Martin Nesbitt is also on the bid committee – and serves as Mayor Daley’s chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority.

Another bid committee member, Michael Scott Jr., is “trying to develop a for-profit real estate project that would sit within feet of the cycling venue if Chicago wins the 2016 Summer Games,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

It takes a crony-filled White House to raise a Chicago Olympic village. Daley and Obama will get the glory. America will get stuck with the bill.
29552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq, currently in Jordan on: October 03, 2009, 01:27:49 PM

So as you know I am at the Dead Sea.  The Jordanian side.  While I would like to visit the Israeli side the reality is that it is much easier for me to travel to/from Jordan.  It's a no hassle arrangement getting there to/from Baghdad.
So my initial limo driver is Palestinian.  Been in Jordan since 1967.  He believes that Obama will bring peace to the region.  That Obama is different than Bush.  And of course he is, however, when I pointed out that under Obama the USA is sending more soldiers to Afghanistan and effecting more Predator strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan, he seemed stunned.  He was simply unaware of this reality.  But then he quickly says to me, words to the effect of, "Well good.  That's where all those crazy Muslims are...the ones that need to be killed."
A little while ago I spent time chatting with the Palestinian service manager at one of the outside bars at the hotel I am at.  The very fly, 5 star Kempinski Dead Sea I might add.  He spent time pointing out Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Hebron, etc. across the water.  He said he is from Bethlehem.  He also said that he believed Obama would bring peace to the region.  When I asked him why specifically, like what hasd Obama done to make him believe that, he said that the efforts of the last week by Obama made him believe so.  I asked him whether he was aware that Clinton and Carter and who knows else had spent a lot of time on the same subject, and he said generally yes.  So I asked him what was different about this time.  Specifically different minus the same old words we have heard for decades.  He could not provide anything specific.  Just his feeling.
He said the Intifadah was dead.  I asked why.  He said because of the wall.  You know, the wall that the world has condemned Israel for building?  Yup, he said that has pretty much ended the Intifadah.
During the conversation he told me that he knows from watching TV that there were no Jews killed on 9/11 in the World Trade Center.  That they had been warned in advance, by Israel of course,  not to go to work that day (we have all heard that lunatic conspiracy theory).  I told him that was utter bullshit.  That all sorts of people were killed that day.  Muslims, Jews, and Christians.  Blacks, whites and browns.  He seemed stunned to hear that.  Despite the fact that he is in Jordan and his English is okay, he gets all his news from Arabic TV.  And that's what they are handing out on Arabic TV.
29553  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / El Fire Hydrant: (Noticias) on: October 03, 2009, 01:25:23 PM

Mientras Mauricio estaba aqui filmabos unas cosas que van a aparecer aqui' en estilo "youtube".

La Aventura continua,
Guro Crafty

PD:  ?Como se dice "fire hydrant"?
29554  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: GRAPPLING Y CUCHILLOS... on: October 03, 2009, 01:22:58 PM
Dog Mauricio:
He aqui este hilo para comentar sobre lo que ocurrio al respeto en el Gathering.
29555  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: LA EXPERIENCIA DEL GATHERING OF THE PACK on: October 03, 2009, 01:21:45 PM
En unos dias espero tener tiempo para comentar mas detalladamente, pero por el momento digo que estoy muy contento con las peleas de Mauricio.
29556  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: October 03, 2009, 01:19:51 PM
The Ego has landed , , ,
29557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Marek Edelman on: October 03, 2009, 10:16:47 AM
Marek Edelman dies at 90; last surviving leader of doomed Warsaw ghetto revolt
He called for tolerance on each anniversary of the 1943 uprising, the first big Jewish revolt against the Nazis. After World War II, he became a cardiologist and fought communism in Poland.
Marek Edelman stands by the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes monument in Poland. His heroism in fighting the Nazis and communism in Poland earned him membership in the French Legion of Honor and Poland's highest civilian distinction, the Order of the White Eagle. (Alik Keplicz / Associated Press / April 19, 2007)


Associated Press
October 3, 2009


Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the ill-fated 1943 Warsaw ghetto revolt against the Nazis, died Friday in Warsaw. He was 90.

Edelman died of old age at the family home of his friend Paula Sawicka, where he had lived for the last two years. "He died at home, among friends, among his close people," Sawicka said.

Most of Edelman's adult life was dedicated to the defense of human life, dignity and freedom. He fought the Nazis in the doomed Warsaw ghetto revolt and later in the Warsaw Uprising. And then for decades he fought communism in Poland.

His heroism earned him membership in the French Legion of Honor and Poland's highest civilian distinction, the Order of the White Eagle.

One of the few survivors of three weeks of uneven struggle in the Warsaw ghetto, he felt obliged to preserve the memory of the fallen heroes of that first large-scale Jewish revolt against the Nazis. Each year, on the anniversary of the revolt, he called for tolerance.

"Man is evil; by nature, man is a beast," he said, and therefore people "have to be educated from childhood, from kindergarten, that there should be no hatred."

He also felt obliged to appeal repeatedly to the world for freedom and peace -- even when it had to be won in a fight.

"When you cannot defend freedom through peaceful means, you have to use arms to fight Nazism, dictatorship, chauvinism," Edelman said last year.

Edelman was born Jan. 1, 1919, in Homel, which was then in eastern Poland and is now in Belarus. His family soon moved to Warsaw.

When the Nazis invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Edelman was member of Bund, a Jewish socialist organization that later masterminded plans for resistance against the occupying Germans.

The Germans set up the Warsaw ghetto in November 1940, cramming more than 400,000 Jews from the city and from across Poland in inhuman conditions. After a year, almost half of the people there had died of disease and starvation.

The resistance plans were implemented April 19, 1943, when the Nazis moved to liquidate the ghetto by killing or sending the remaining 60,000 residents to the death camps of Treblinka, Majdanek and Sobibor, all in Poland.

But that April, the well-trained German troops encountered unexpectedly fierce resistance from a few hundred young, poorly armed Jewish civilians, determined to die fighting rather than in gas chambers.

"No one believed they would be saved," Edelman said. "We knew the struggle was doomed, but it showed the world there was resistance against the Nazis, that you could fight the Nazis."

The ghetto fighters inflicted heavy losses on the Germans, but eventually succumbed. More than 55,000 people were killed or deported to Nazi concentration camps when the uprising failed.

The uprising's leaders were rounded up in a bunker and, seeing no chance of escape, committed suicide on May 8, 1943.

The Nazis razed the ghetto street by street as part of their "final solution," in which they killed 6 million people in their effort to wipe out European Jewry.

Edelman was not in the bunker. With a small group of survivors, he left through the sewers to the Aryan side of Warsaw, where he found places to hide and helped coordinate Jewish partisan groups in nearby forests.

The deadly struggle was "worth it . . . even at the price of the fighters' lives," he said later. "They could not be saved, anyway."

In August and September of 1944, Edelman fought in the Warsaw Uprising, another ill-fated revolt meant to free the capital from Germans ahead of the advancing Red Army.

After the war, Edelman became a cardiologist in the central city of Lodz. He joined the democratic opposition and the Solidarity freedom movement, and was interned under the Dec. 13, 1981, martial law aimed against Solidarity.

In the end, the Solidarity movement led to the ouster of communists from power in Poland in 1989.

Edelman's wife, Alina Margolis-Edelman, worked as a nurse in the Warsaw ghetto, and after the war became a pediatrician. With their son, Aleksander, and daughter, Anna, she left Poland for France after the communist-sponsored anti-Jewish purges of 1968. She died in Paris on March 23, 2008.

But Edelman never wanted to leave Poland. "When you were responsible for the life of some 60,000 people, you don't leave and abandon the memory of them," he said.

He is survived by his son and daughter and two grandchildren.
29558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Unsecret on: October 03, 2009, 09:39:45 AM
Oy vey.

EXCLUSIVE: Obama agrees to keep Israel's nukes secret Rate this story

By Eli Lake

President Obama has reaffirmed a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections, three officials familiar with the understanding said.

The officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they were discussing private conversations, said Mr. Obama pledged to maintain the agreement when he first hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in May.

Under the understanding, the U.S. has not pressured Israel to disclose its nuclear weapons or to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which could require Israel to give up its estimated several hundred nuclear bombs.

Israel had been nervous that Mr. Obama would not continue the 1969 understanding because of his strong support for nonproliferation and priority on preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The U.S. and five other world powers made progress during talks with Iran in Geneva on Thursday as Iran agreed in principle to transfer some potential bomb fuel out of the country and to open a recently disclosed facility to international inspection.

Mr. Netanyahu let the news of the continued U.S.-Israeli accord slip last week in a remark that attracted little notice. He was asked by Israel's Channel 2 whether he was worried that Mr. Obama's speech at the U.N. General Assembly, calling for a world without nuclear weapons, would apply to Israel.

"It was utterly clear from the context of the speech that he was speaking about North Korea and Iran," the Israeli leader said. "But I want to remind you that in my first meeting with President Obama in Washington I received from him, and I asked to receive from him, an itemized list of the strategic understandings that have existed for many years between Israel and the United States on that issue. It was not for naught that I requested, and it was not for naught that I received [that document]."

The chief nuclear understanding was reached at a summit between President Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that began on Sept. 25, 1969. Avner Cohen, author of "Israel and the Bomb" and the leading authority outside the Israeli government on the history of Israel's nuclear program, said the accord amounts to "the United States passively accepting Israel's nuclear weapons status as long as Israel does not unveil publicly its capability or test a weapon."

There is no formal record of the agreement nor have Israeli nor American governments ever publicly acknowledged it. In 2007, however, the Nixon library declassified a July 19, 1969, memo from national security adviser Henry Kissinger that comes closest to articulating U.S. policy on the issue. That memo says, "While we might ideally like to halt actual Israeli possession, what we really want at a minimum may be just to keep Israeli possession from becoming an established international fact."

Mr. Cohen has said the resulting policy was the equivalent of "don't ask, don't tell."

The Netanyahu government sought to reaffirm the understanding in part out of concern that Iran would seek Israeli disclosures of its nuclear program in negotiations with the United States and other world powers. Iran has frequently accused the U.S. of having a double standard by not objecting to Israel's arsenal.

Mr. Cohen said the reaffirmation and the fact that Mr. Netanyahu sought and received a written record of the deal suggest that "it appears not only that there was no joint understanding of what had been agreed in September 1969 but it is also apparent that even the notes of the two leaders may no longer exist. It means that Netanyahu wanted to have something in writing that implies that understanding. It also affirms the view that the United States is in fact a partner in Israel's policy of nuclear opacity."

Jonathan Peled, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, declined to comment, as did the White House National Security Council.

The secret understanding could undermine the Obama administration's goal of a world without nuclear weapons. In particular, it could impinge on U.S. efforts to bring into force the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, two agreements that U.S. administrations have argued should apply to Israel in the past. They would ban nuclear tests and the production of material for weapons.

A Senate staffer familiar with the May reaffirmation, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said, "What this means is that the president gave commitments that politically he had no choice but to give regarding Israel's nuclear program. However, it calls into question virtually every part of the president's nonproliferation agenda.The president gave Israel an NPT treaty get out of jail free card."

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the step was less injurious to U.S. policy.

"I think it is par for the course that the two incoming leaders of the United States and Israel would want to clarify previous understandings between their governments on this issue," he said.

However Mr. Kimball added, "I would respectfully disagree with Mr. Netanyahu. President Obama's speech and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1887 apply to all countries irrespective of secret understandings between the U.S. and Israel. A world without nuclear weapons is consistent with Israel's stated goal of achieving a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. Obama's message is that the same nonproliferation and disarmament responsibilities should apply to all states and not just a few."

Israeli nuclear doctrine is known as "the long corridor." Under it, Israel would begin to consider nuclear disarmament only after all countries officially at war with it signed peace treaties and all neighboring countries relinquished not only nuclear programs but also chemical and biological arsenals. Israel sees nuclear weapons as an existential guarantee in a hostile environment.

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said he hoped the Obama administration did not concede too much to Israel.

"One hopes that the price for such concessions is Israeli agreement to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty and an acceptance of the long-term goal of a Middle East weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone," he said. "Otherwise, the Obama administration paid too much, given its focus on a world free of nuclear weapons."
29559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Even here BO appeases on: October 03, 2009, 09:31:54 AM
second post of the day

There's a lot of concern out there right now about America's world leadership—facing down Iran's nuclear program, bracing NATO's commitment in Afghanistan, maintaining free trade. Here's something else to worry about: Has the Obama administration just given up U.S. responsibility for protecting the Internet?

What makes it possible for users to connect with all the different Web sites on the Internet is the system that allocates a unique electronic address to each site. The addresses are organized within larger entities called top-level domains—".com," ".edu," ".gov" and so on. Overseeing this arrangement is a relatively obscure entity, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Without the effective oversight of ICANN, the Internet as we know it would not exist, billions of dollars of online commerce and intellectual property would be at risk, and various forms of mass censorship could become the norm.

Since its establishment in 1998, ICANN has operated under a formal contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce, which stipulated the duties and limits that the U.S. government expected ICANN to respect. The Commerce Department did not provide much active oversight, although the need to renew this contract, called the Joint Project Agreement (JPA), helped keep ICANN policies within reasonable bounds. That's why last spring, when the Commerce Department asked for comment on ending the JPA, the U.S. business community opposed the idea.

But the U.S. government's role in ICANN has long been a source of complaint from foreign nations. United Nations conferences have repeatedly voiced concerns about "domination of the Internet by one power" and suggested that management of the system should be handed off to the International Telecommunications Union—a U.N. agency dominated by developing countries. The European Union has urged a different scheme in which a G-12 of advanced countries would manage the Internet.

The Obama administration has declined to endorse such alternatives. Instead it has replaced the latest JPA, which expired Sept. 30, with a vaguely worded "Affirmation of Commitments." In it, ICANN promises to be a good manager of the Internet, and the Commerce Department promises—well, not much of anything. The U.S. will participate in a Governmental Advisory Committee along with some three dozen other nations but claims no greater authority than any other country on the committee, whose recommendations are not binding on ICANN in any case.

An ICANN cut loose from U.S. government oversight will not, for that reason, be free from political pressures. One source of pressure will come from disputes about expanding top-level domain names. For example, would a ".xxx" domain help to isolate pornographic sites in a unique (and blockable) special area, or would it encourage censorship in other domains by suggesting that offensive images only appear there? Should we have ".food" or ".toys" along with ".com" domains? If we do, as the Justice Department warned last year in a letter to Commerce, companies that have invested huge sums to protect their trademarks under ".com" will have to fight for protection of their names in the new domains. Yet strangely, there is not a word in the new plan about protecting trademark rights or other intellectual property interests that might be threatened by new ICANN policies.

Even more disturbing is the prospect that foreign countries will pressure ICANN to impose Internet controls that facilitate their own censorship schemes. Countries like China and Iran already block Web sites they regard as politically objectionable. Islamic nations insist that the proper understanding of international human-rights treaties requires suppression of "Islamophobic" content on the Internet. Will ICANN be better situated to resist such pressures now that it no longer has a formal contract with the U.S. government?

It may be that the Obama administration expects to exert a steadying hand on ICANN in indirect or covert ways. Or here too it may have calculated that winning applause from other nations now is worth taking serious risks in the long run.

Mr. Rabkin is professor of law at George Mason University. Mr. Eisenach is an adjunct law professor at George Mason and chairman of Empiris LLC, which does consulting work for Verisign, an Internet registry.
29560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Voters not to blame on: October 03, 2009, 09:24:15 AM
With the Golden State still struggling to balance its books, politicians from both sides of the aisle have come up with a nifty way to avoid responsibility for the mess: Blame the voters.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, summed it up for his fellow pols recently by telling a reporter: "All of those propositions tell us how we must spend our money. . . . This is no way, of course, to run a state." State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat, has made similar comments in denouncing "ballot-box budgeting."

Their indictment is false. Voters aren't tying lawmakers' hands too much, but too little. Here's the background:

For decades, state officials have habitually proposed deep cuts to the most popular programs unless voters agree to higher taxes. Tired of being manipulated, voters have used the ballot initiative to put some programs off-limits.

Nevertheless, a 2003 analysis by John G. Matsusaka, president of the Initiatives and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California, found that no more than a third of California's appropriations that year were locked in by voter initiatives so stringent that legislators couldn't override them. Most of the appropriations—about $30 billion in 2003—were for Proposition 98, which passed in 1988 and mandates funding for K-12 education.

Even this overstates the case against ballot-box budgeting. K-12 spending has remained remarkably stable at around 40% of the budget pre- and post-Prop. 98. Today, California is 24th among the 50 states in terms of the percentage of its general funds it devotes to K-12. This suggests that education spending is not grossly out of line. Prop. 98 aside, Mr. Matsusaka found that only about 2% or 3% of California's budget is frozen as a result of ballot initiatives.

Mr. Matsusaka's analysis was affirmed last month by the Legislative Analyst's Office, a nonpartisan outfit that advises the legislature. It looked at all the restrictions on the state's budget—not just those imposed by ballot initiatives—and concluded that: "Despite these restrictions, the legislature maintains considerable control over the state budget—particularly over the longer term."

So what happened this year that got the politicians and others so upset with ballot-box budgeting? California faced a $42 billion budget deficit. After a round of spending cuts and $12 billion in new taxes, the governor and the legislature called for a special election and placed a number of propositions on the ballot that would have increased taxes an additional $16 billion and allowed for billions more in borrowing and fund shifts. Voters shot those measures down in May.

After much bickering, lawmakers nearly closed the deficit with severe cuts, but left the governor with a $1 billion deficit to close on his own. He did so by using his line-item veto to strike, among other things, $500 million for in-home care, transportation assistance and other social services.

Now the governor is being sued by a whole host of special-interest groups, including a coalition of organizations representing the disabled. Those organizations (along with Mr. Steinberg, who has filed a separate suit), claim that the governor cannot constitutionally cut spending beyond what the legislature has already cut. The suits ignore that the governor is bound by a constitutional requirement that the state's budget be balanced—but in any case have nothing to do with spending that is mandated by ballot initiatives.

In looking for the causes of the state's budget mess, a good place to start is with the unionized public employees, who have filed their own lawsuit against the budget. Public union ranks have grown a whopping 37% since 1990 and consume about one-third of the $85 billion budget in wages and benefits. California also faces a total unfunded future liability of about $110 billion for pensions and health-care benefits. Still, the state's chapter of the Service Employees International Union and other unions are suing the state because their members are being asked to take a few days of furlough to save the state about $1.5 billion. The unions say this is an illegal pay cut. Regardless of whether it is, ballot initiatives are not the issue.

True enough, some lawsuits are driven by ballot initiatives. The California Redevelopment Association is attempting to stop the state from raiding $2 billion in local redevelopment funds. Sixty years ago voters passed a constitutional amendment to prevent such raids, but the state government has found ways around that prohibition. But restoring the will of the voters in this case is essential for sound budgeting, because local development funds are used to pay for bonded contracts for roads and other infrastructure projects. If the state is allowed to grab these funds, the credit ratings of cities and counties will plunge and their borrowing costs will rise.

Whatever the wisdom of ballot initiatives that protect some programs from cuts, they are not the root cause of California's fiscal disaster. That cause is the government's spending addiction. From 1990 to 2008, California's revenues increased 167%, but total spending soared 181%.

This problem won't be tamed by letting lawmakers get their hands on more tax dollars by scrapping Proposition 13, which limits property taxes, as Mr. Steinberg and other lawmakers have suggested. Rather the solution is to restore the Gann Spending Limit that restricted state spending increases to population growth and inflation and required that anything left over be returned to taxpayers.

Such restrictions kept the state from slipping into a cycle of fiscal chaos in the 1980s by checking government expenditures and forced lawmakers to rebate $1.1 billion in excess revenue in 1987. But voters diluted Gann in 1990, when they passed Proposition 111, exempting infrastructure projects, disaster spending and a number of other state expenditures from the spending limit.

Prop. 111 freed politicians in Sacramento to use the revenues that gushed in during the dot-com boom and housing bubble to grow the state budget to unsustainable levels. If Gann hadn't been neutered, a Reason Foundation study found in February, California would have been rolling in a $15 billion surplus this year.

The Golden State's problem is not overly controlling voters—but out-of-control politicians.

Ms. Dalmia is a senior analyst, Mr. Summers a policy analyst, and Mr. Moore a vice president at the Reason Foundation.
29561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ on: October 03, 2009, 09:21:29 AM
So it turns out that Google's enthusiasm for government-imposed "net neutrality" is qualified. The Internet giant wants cumbersome network management rules applied to everyone—except Google.

Google is one of the industry's most vocal advocates of regulating Internet service providers. It wants to prevent companies like Verizon and AT&T from managing their broadband networks in a way that is optimal for most users, but perhaps not for Google. In order to protect its business model, which involves the use of Internet pipes owned by these other companies (and potential competitors), Google wants broadband networks open to all content without restrictions, even if that means a relatively small number of video streamers and other bandwidth hogs could cause congestion for everyone else.

"Just as telephone companies are not permitted to tell consumers who they can call or what they can say," explains Google on its Web site, "broadband carriers should not be allowed to use their market power to control activity online."

Of late, however, Google is flouting its own net neutrality principles. According to recent media reports, Google Voice, the company's new phone service, is systematically blocking calls to phone numbers in some rural areas. Under so-called intercarrier compensation regulations, phone companies pay high fees to rural operators to connect phone calls. By blocking calls that its competitors are forced by law to connect, Google is saving money. It's also violating the nondiscrimination principle that underlies its net neutrality lobbying.

Citing these news reports, AT&T engaged in a little payback late last week by sending a letter to the Federal Communications Commission calling on regulators to force Google to "play by the same rules as its competitors." Google says that Google Voice is not a traditional phone company and should not be regulated as such. The reality is that Google wants to gain a competitive advantage by providing phone service without having to adhere to the same rules as its rivals.

Our own view is that the rules requiring traditional phone companies to connect these calls should be scrapped for everyone rather than extended to Google. In today's telecom marketplace, where the overwhelming majority of phone customers have multiple carriers to choose from, these regulations are obsolete. But Google has set itself up for this political blowback.

Last week FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed new rules for regulating Internet operators and gave assurances that "this is not about government regulation of the Internet." But this dispute highlights the regulatory creep that net neutrality mandates make inevitable. Content providers like Google want to dabble in the phone business, while the phone companies want to sell services and applications.

The coming convergence will make it increasingly difficult to distinguish among providers of broadband pipes, network services and applications. Once net neutrality is unleashed, it's hard to see how anything connected with the Internet will be safe from regulation
29562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Review of disaster battle on: October 03, 2009, 09:07:16 AM
This is from Pravda on the Hudson and is about precisely the sort of thing where the NYT is most suspect as a reporting source.  That said the subject matter seems very important-- but caveat lector:

U.S. Review of Battle Disaster Sways Strategy on Afghanistan

Published: October 2, 2009
WASHINGTON — The paratroopers of Chosen Company had plenty to worry about as they began digging in at their new outpost on the fringe of a hostile frontier village in eastern Afghanistan.

Intelligence reports were warning of militants massing in the area. As the paratroopers looked around, the only villagers they could see were men of fighting age idling in the bazaar. There were no women and children, and some houses looked abandoned. Through their night scopes they could see furtive figures on the surrounding mountainsides.

A few days later, they were almost overrun by 200 insurgents.

That firefight, a debacle that cost nine American lives in July 2008, has become the new template for how not to win in Afghanistan. The calamity and its roots have been described in bitter, painstaking detail in an unreleased Army history, a devastating narrative that has begun to circulate in an initial form even as the military opened a formal review this week of decisions made up and down the chain of command.

The 248-page draft history, obtained by The New York Times, helps explain why the new commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, is pressing so hard for a full-fledged commitment to a style of counterinsurgency that rests on winning over the people of Afghanistan even more than killing militants. The military has already incorporated lessons from the battle in the new doctrine for war in Afghanistan.

The history offers stark examples of shortcomings in the unit’s preparation, the style of combat it adopted, its access to intelligence, its disdain for the locals — in short, plenty of blame to go around.

Before the soldiers arrived, commanders negotiated for months with Afghan officials of dubious loyalty over where they could dig in, giving militants plenty of time to prepare for an assault.

Despite the suspicion that the militants were nearby, there were not enough surveillance aircraft over the lonely outpost — a chronic shortage in Afghanistan that frustrated Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at the time. Commanders may have been distracted from the risky operation by the bureaucratic complexities of handing over responsibility at the brigade level to replacements — and by their urgent investigation of an episode that had enraged the local population, the killing a week earlier in an airstrike of a local medical clinic’s staff as it fled nearby fighting in two pickup trucks.

Above all, the unit and its commanders had an increasingly tense and untrusting relationship with the Afghan people.

The history cited the “absence of cultural awareness and understanding of the specific tribal and governance situation” and the emphasis on combat operations over the development of the local economy and other civil affairs, a reversal of the practices of the unit that had just left the area.

The battle of Wanat is being described as the “Black Hawk Down” of Afghanistan, with the 48 American soldiers and 24 Afghan soldiers outnumbered three to one in a four-hour firefight that left nine Americans dead and 27 wounded in one of the bloodiest days of the eight-year war.

Soldiers who survived the battle described how their automatic weapons turned white hot and jammed from nonstop firing. Mortally wounded troops continued to hand bullet belts to those still able to fire.

The ammunition stockpile was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, igniting a stack of 120-millimeter mortar rounds — and the resulting fireball flung the unit’s antitank missiles into the command post. One insurgent got inside the concertina wire and is believed to have killed three soldiers at close range, including the platoon commander, Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom.

The description of the battle at Wanat — the heroism, the violence and the missteps that may have contributed to the deaths — ends with a judgment that the fight was “as remarkable as any small-unit action in American military history.”

The author, the military historian Douglas R. Cubbison, also included a series of criticisms in his review, sponsored by the Army’s Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., that laid blame on a series of decisions made before the battle.

The draft report criticized the “lack of adequate preparation time” before arriving in Afghanistan, which meant there was little training geared specifically for Afghanistan, and not even a detailed operational plan for the year of combat that lay ahead.

Pentagon and military officials say those initial criticisms are being revised to reflect subsequent interviews with other soldiers and officers who were at Wanat or who served in higher-level command positions. After a round of revisions, the study will go through a formal peer-review process and be published.

The battle stands as proof that the United States is facing off against a far more sophisticated adversary in Afghanistan today, one that can fight anonymously with roadside bombs or stealthily with kidnappings — but also can operate like a disciplined armed force using well-rehearsed small-unit tactics to challenge the American military for dominance on the conventional battlefield.

Official judgment on whether errors were made by the unit on the ground or by any leaders up the chain of command will be determined by a new investigation opened this week by Gen. David H. Petraeus of United States Central Command at the urging of Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The call for such an independent review came from family members of the fallen, including David P. Brostrom, father of the slain platoon commander and himself a retired Army colonel, as well as from a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia.

The history is replete with wrong turns at every point of the unit’s mission, starting with the day it was reassigned to Afghanistan from training for Iraq.


Page 2 of 2)

After having served for more than a year in other hot zones of eastern Afghanistan, the platoon arrived in the village at dark on July 8, 2008, just two weeks from the day it was supposed to go home to its base in Italy.

The men wore their adopted unit emblem — skull patches fashioned after Marvel Comics’ antihero, the Punisher. They unloaded their Humvees, packed with weapons, water and the single rucksack each had kept when the rest of his kit was shipped home. They had plenty of ammunition.

But at the end of an intense tour of combat, they had run out of good relations with an increasingly distrustful population.

They named it Outpost Kahler, after a popular sergeant who had been killed by one of their own Afghan guards early that year. His last words as he moved ahead of his comrades to check whether their Afghan partners were asleep while on duty had been, “This might be dangerous.” (The shooting was ruled an accident, but relations between skeptical American troops and Afghan forces deteriorated.)

Although the 173rd Airborne Brigade had been scheduled to return to Iraq from its base in Italy, the need for forces to counter a resurgence of militant violence in eastern Afghanistan prompted new orders for the brigade to switch immediately to preparations for mountain warfare — many of the outposts were linked only by narrow, rutted trails, and some could be reached only be helicopter — and a wholly different culture and language. “Unfortunately, the comparatively late change of mission for the 173rd Airborne B.C.T. from Iraq to Afghanistan did not permit the brigade sufficient time to prepare any form of campaign plan,” the history reports.

The unit arrived at Wanat ill prepared for the hot work of building an outpost in the mountains in July; troops were thirsty from a lack of fresh water, and their one construction vehicle ran out of gas, so the unit was unable to complete basic fortifications. The soldiers had no local currency to buy favor by investing in the village economy, the history makes clear. The soldiers also said they complained up the chain of command about the lack of air surveillance over their dangerous corner of Afghanistan, but no more was provided.

Even as they settled into their spartan command post, the unit’s commanders were insulted to learn that local leaders were meeting together in a “shura,” or council, to which they were not invited — and which might even have been a session used to coordinate the assault on the Americans that began before dawn the very next morning.

The four-hour firefight finally ended when American warplanes and attack helicopters strafed insurgent positions. The paratroopers drove back the insurgents, but ended up abandoning the village 48 hours later.
29563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: October 03, 2009, 08:51:19 AM
I think I may disagree with Stratfor here.  I tend to go with Krauthammer that this is all a joke, that BO is getting played, and that the Iranians have just successfully picked up several months of delay.

To threaten a punishment of really mean sanctions is meaningless-- the Russians and the Chinese won't be part of it.

By the time the Iranians stall enough that BO begins to negotiate with the Russians, Chinese, Germans (who have voraciously been doing business with Iran all along btw) many months will have passed and all that will be produced with be a fart.

A Delay in the Iran Crisis Timeline
THE P-5+1 MEETING was held in Geneva on Thursday. At its conclusion, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a press conference in Washington. Of all the reactions, the U.S. reaction was the most important, since the U.S. reading of the situation determines the probability of sanctions and, more important, of military action against Iran. It is clear from Obama’s press conference that neither is going to happen at the moment. Therefore, the talks weren’t a disaster.

Iran seems to have agreed to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team coming in two weeks to inspect the recently disclosed uranium enrichment facility at Qom. Of course, whether Iran ends up admitting the team and what it will allow the team to see will be the issue. Iran has been a master at delaying and partially fulfilling agreements like this. Those countries that don’t want a confrontation have used this to argue that limited progress is better than no progress, and that at least some progress is being made. Iran previously has used the ambiguity of its cooperation to provide a plausible basis for those in the coalition against it that don’t want a confrontation to split from those coalition members who do. Given the high degree of unity among foreign powers that is needed for sanctions, IAEA inspections are a superb tool for Iran to use in managing the coalition arrayed against it.

Obama expressly said that delays wouldn’t work, adding that words need to be followed by actions. From the tenor of his speech, it appears that the United States has postponed the crisis but not cancelled it. At the same time, the basic framework of engagement and a long-term process of accommodation with Iran has not been violated. The United States can use ambiguities to justify pulling back from a confrontation.

” The crisis will come not from clear Iranian unwillingness to cooperate, but from ambiguity over whether Iran has cooperated.”
Obama deliberately adopted a resolute tone with a short timeline. Whatever room for maneuver he retained, his tone was extremely firm. Interestingly, his tone was sufficiently hard that how it will play in Iran is now in question. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not want to appear as weak or caving in. Domestically, he cannot afford to appear so easily browbeaten, having just emerged from a messy internal struggle whose losers would appreciate the opportunity to paint him as mishandling negotiations. Therefore, the tone of Obama’s statement might cause him to be more intransigent. The real issue is what happens in the next two weeks. We suspect events will be sufficiently ambiguous to allow any and all interpretations. The crisis will come not from clear Iranian unwillingness to cooperate, but from ambiguity over whether Iran has cooperated.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki’s decision to visit Washington on the eve of the Geneva talks and the willingness of the United States to give him a visa to do so have confused matters a bit. The visit offered a superb opportunity for high-level talks, but all sides are denying that such talks took place. According to Mottaki, he visited the Iranian interests section at the Pakistani Embassy on Sept. 30, had dinner with the staff, and left by 6 a.m. the next day. The itinerary is possible, but somehow doesn’t feel right. Perhaps it was just a symbolic concession on both sides, with Mottaki being willing to visit the capital of the Great Satan and the United States being willing to host a charter member of the Axis of Evil. It could be that simple. But given Obama’s interest in engagement, we can’t help but wonder who else Mottaki spoke to. In the end — or rather, now that the Geneva talks have gone reasonably well — it probably doesn’t matter.

There are two wild cards in this deck. The first is Israel. Israel has clearly chosen to allow this process to proceed without issuing threats. Obama is aware that he must keep the Israelis in check, and that excessive flexibility could create a loose cannon that disrupts the entire process. The other wild card is U.S. domestic politics. Congress has been obsessed with health care reform; it has had no bandwidth for foreign policy. Assuming that some resolution on health care takes place in the next couple of weeks, Congress will have that bandwidth and will start limiting Obama’s room for maneuver.

That, of course, affects Afghanistan as well as Iran. Obama’s trip to Copenhagen on Friday now appears no longer simply about getting Chicago named as a host city for the Olympics, but about meeting with some European officials — undoubtedly about the Afghanistan strategy review now under way. When Congress comes up for air, it will be raising questions on Afghanistan. The White House announced Thursday that Obama is taking another several weeks to review the strategy — and should he decide to increase forces and shift strategy, he will want to be able to demonstrate European cooperation. Going to Congress with a massive increase in U.S. forces and nothing from the Europeans would be difficult.

Therefore, we can expect intense diplomacy in the weeks leading up to the IAEA inspections at Qom, the subsequent report and the controversy that will result from the report. It is the controversy on the report that will shape the next phase of the Iran issue. The timeline has clearly slipped from September to later in the year, but the basic structure of the crisis, in our opinion, remains unchanged.
29564  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 02, 2009, 04:24:18 PM
Me too  cool

Grateful a for a wonderful night's sleep and one of the strongest workouts I've had in a while today.  Grateful its Friday afternoon and time to play with my children.

Life is good.
29565  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Hot Dog on: October 02, 2009, 04:22:39 PM
Woof All:

Hot Dog gets married to his long time fiance Carol tomorrow.  cool The Denny clan will be there.

The Adventure continues!
29566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gen. McChrystal slams Pentagon on: October 02, 2009, 04:12:25 PM
29567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Early Constitutional case law on: October 02, 2009, 11:58:16 AM
A friend writes:

ith the very first Congress consisting almost entirely of Federalist (nationalist), and George Washington as President appointing Federalist to all post within his administration, including the Supreme Court, with the first Chief Justice being John Jay, the power grab for the new government began with ease and the new court led the way. The decisions of the court on various cases didn't matter so much but their opinions written on those decisions set the stage for interpreting the Constitution based on their personal understanding and not as to how the Federalist presented it at the ratifying debates or on the understanding of the ratifiers that agreed to it on those terms, this, even though every judge on the first court helped write the Constitution and argued for ratification giving assurance on those same terms.

 An opinion on a relatively unimportant case regarding a grant to a probate hearing on the enforcement of a will in the Connecticut legislature, the 1798 case Calder vs Bull, would stand to set the majority opinion of high court justices till this day. It didn't seem to matter to them that it nullified the power of the Constitution to restrain the Federal government and its court. Justice Samuel Chase, in his opinion said that although the government powers were defined and that the states retain all powers granted them by the people and not denied by the Constitution; the state legislatures were not absolute and without control even if the state's Constitution did not limit their authority.

 Chase said, "There are certain vital principles in our free republican government which will determine and overrule an apparent and flagrant abuse of legislative power; as to authorize manifest injustice by positive law; or to take away that security for personal liberty, or private property, for the protection where of government was established. An act of the legislature (for I cannot call it law), contrary to the great first principles of the social compact cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority."
Chase had based his opinion on natural law, the principles of free republican government. Any state that violated these principles in passing statutes, according to this opinion, were going against the general principles of law and reason and as such would not be enforceable as law. So who gets to decide if a state violated these principles? The federal courts of course! But it's worse than just that as one justice points out even though he to is a federalist.
Justice James Iredell rightfully blasted Chase with an opinion of his own in which he  said that natural law or its principles were not regulated by any fixed standard and that if Congress or a state passed a statute consistent with the power it had been granted, that no court may declare it void merely because in their judgement it was contrary to natural law. Iredell insisted that the system of written constitutions was what guarded against legislative abuse and that the ultimate corrective was elections. Few judges have heeded this opinion.
During this period the federalist were going back on their assurances about the limited powers of the government. It became so bad that Jefferson and Madison teamed up to get the states to rebel against and resist federal policy that they saw as blatantly unconstitutional. They had to this in secret to avoid prosecution under the Sedition Act of 1798. The Constitution was in the hands of its enemies but the election of 1800 was the corrective.
29568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Score!!! on: October 02, 2009, 11:49:59 AM
Pakistan: The Death of an Uzbek Militant
Stratfor Today » October 2, 2009 | 1545 GMT

John Moore/Getty Images
A Pakistani army soldier in Pakistan’s South WaziristanSummary
A U.S. drone strike in Kanigram, Pakistan, killed Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) chief Tahir Yuldashev, Reuters reported Oct. 2. The air strike, which happened on Aug. 27, fatally wounded Yuldashev. Although it is unclear that the United States was targeting Yuldashev, his death will exacerbate tensions among Uzbek militants and other jihadist groups.


A suspected U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strike in northwestern Pakistan killed the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Tahir Yuldashev, Reuters reported Oct. 2, citing unnamed Pakistani security officials. The officials said that the top Uzbek jihadist leader was killed when a South Waziristan facility was struck on Aug 27. STRATFOR sources in Pakistan reported that Yuldashev, who was among a group of militants when the strike occurred at Kanigram, succumbed to injuries on Aug. 28 and was buried in Khasori Ladha. Allegedly, the airstrike was not explicitly designed to target him; it is unclear that the United States was aware of his presence at the location.

Yuldashev’s death is a blow to his movement, the Pakistani Taliban, Uighur/East Turkestani militants fighting in China, other Central Asian jihadist outfits and al Qaeda. He is the most significant militant leader to have died after top Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. While Yuldashev was alive, he was instrumental in cooperation between Uzbek and other central Asian militants with Arab and Pashtun fighters. Now that he is dead, the Uzbeks will become more mercenary-like and subservient to non-Uzbek militant forces. This could exacerbate tensions among the Uzbeks and between the Uzbeks and others (Pashtuns, Arabs, Uighurs, Caucasians, other Central Asian, etc.), especially as his successors deal with his death and suspicions of betrayal.

Yuldashev emerged as the top leader of the IMU after his predecessor Juma Namangiani was killed in late 2001 in Afghanistan during the U.S. military campaign that followed 9/11. Yuldashev was a major figure in the movement during the days when Namangiani headed the IMU; that facilitated the succession. But under Yuldashev, no noteworthy deputy has emerged, suggesting that finding a new leader could be an issue.

When the IMU was based in Afghanistan, it was unable to use the country as a launch pad for attacks in Uzbekistan. But hitting Uzbekistan became even more difficult for the IMU after relocating to Pakistan with al Qaeda Prime, when the transnational jihadist base in Afghanistan was destroyed. Yuldashev and thousands of Uzbek fighters moved to the South Waziristan agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where they already had extensive local connections.

The IMU had become more involved in transnational al Qaeda causes while in Afghanistan, and Pakistani Taliban causes after relocating. In March 2004, Yuldashev was reportedly wounded when Pakistani forces launched their first-ever offensive against jihadists in South Waziristan.

Yuldashev and his militants have become a key source of support for the Pakistani Taliban, especially the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) founded by Mehsud. That is because they live in the area controlled by the TTP and have engaged in several battles with Islamabad-allied Taliban factions.

The news of his death also follows the mid-September death of Islamic Jihad Union chief Najmiddin Kamolitdinovich Jalolov, an Uzbek native implicated in terrorist plots and attacks in Germany and Uzbekistan. Jalolov died in a U.S. UAV strike in North Waziristan. In July, two top Tajik militants — Mirzo Ziyoev and Nemat Azizov — were killed by security forces in Tajikistan soon after they had traveled back to Tajikistan from Afghanistan.

For Pakistan and the United States, Yuldashev’s death is a significant victory, as it will facilitate the efforts to root out foreign fighters from the local ones by potentially turning them against one another. It will also be a relief for Uzbekistan and the other Central Asian republics, which fear that the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan and their recent rise in Pakistan could undermine their security in the near future.
29569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: BO's friends and appointments on: October 02, 2009, 11:10:10 AM
Lt. Worf?  huh
29570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More Democrats coming to America on: October 02, 2009, 10:42:01 AM
second post of the AM

Immigration Front: Border Patrol to Move Agents North
The U.S. Border Patrol, part of the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection, is responsible for securing a total of 8,607 miles of border, including the U.S.-Mexico border, the U.S.-Canada border and some sectors of coastline. Each year, the Border Patrol sets a goal for "border miles under effective control (including certain coastal sectors)," defined as an area in which the Border Patrol detects an illegal border crosser and can be expected to succeed in apprehending that person.

In its May performance review, DHS said the Border Patrol's goal for fiscal 2009 was to have 815 of the 8,607 miles of border -- less than 10 percent -- under "effective control." The goal remains the same for fiscal 2010, meaning DHS does not plan to secure a single additional mile of border in the coming year. On Aug. 31, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report to Congress on the effectiveness of the Border Patrol. Its findings were not exactly encouraging.

For example, the Border Patrol established three performance measures to report the results of checkpoint operations, and while they provide some insight into checkpoint activity, they do not indicate if checkpoints are operating efficiently and effectively. Second, GAO found that a lack of management oversight and unclear checkpoint data-collection guidance resulted in the overstatement of checkpoint performance results in recent reports, as well as inconsistent data collection practices at checkpoints. Furthermore, individuals GAO contacted who live near checkpoints generally supported their operations but expressed concerns regarding property damage that occurs when illegal aliens and smugglers circumvent checkpoints to avoid apprehension.

Here's the kicker: The U.S.-Mexico border is 1,954 miles long, with only 697 miles under "effective control," but the Border Patrol plans to decrease the 17,399 Border Patrol agents on that border by 384 agents in Fiscal 2009. Some 414 will be added to the Canadian border for a total of 2,212. Maybe BO is concerned about the Canucks crossing the border for U.S. health care -- at least until ObamaCare ruins that option.
29571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: October 02, 2009, 10:39:49 AM
Warfront With Jihadistan: Terrorist Plots Foiled
An unsettling string of arrests for terrorist plots within the U.S. occurred last week. In Springfield, Illinois, Talib Islam was arrested for allegedly trying to detonate explosives in a van outside a federal courthouse; in North Carolina, Daniel Patrick Boyd and Hysen Sherifi were indicted for planning to attack the Quantico Marine Corps base; in Dallas, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was arrested in an FBI sting when he parked an SUV packed with what he thought were explosives outside a Dallas skyscraper and attempted to detonate it; and finally, in New York City, an Afghan immigrant, Najibullah Zazi, was arrested for planning to attack commuter trains on the anniversary of 9/11. Allegedly, at least three of his accomplices are still at large. All these arrests occurred soon after government officials issued a flurry of terrorism warnings for popular, crowded areas such as sports complexes, hotels and mass transit systems.

As troubling as this string of terrorism arrests is, even more disturbing is the reaction of the Obama regime and their minions in the Leftmedia. The federal government tried to play down the arrests, alleging there was absolutely no connection between the varied plots. (We're not sure, but the suspects' names seem to imply some sort of connection, if we could just lay our finger on it...) The Leftmedia also downplayed the arrests, with some even speculating that in spite of this increased terrorist activity, al-Qa'ida-type terrorism is actually in decline. Strangely, no one in the press noted that these kinds of incidents are not supposed to occur in the Era of Hope and Change™.

A more rational analysis could easily conclude that the reason there was no known link between the plots is that these are acts of individual terrorist sleeper cells here in the U.S. It also would appear that the intelligence community knew something was up, which led to earlier warnings and allowed anti-terrorism officials to take action before any of the plots could be effectively executed. We hope (but aren't holding our breath) that Obama now sees how effective the anti-terrorist policies put into place by President George W. Bush really are. It's interesting that these arrests coincide with the administration's announcement last Friday that the January deadline for closing Guantanamo Bay might not be met.
29572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hsu sentenced to 24 years on: October 02, 2009, 10:38:28 AM
Hsu Sentenced for Ponzi Scheme
Norman Hsu, a prominent fundraiser for Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, was sentenced Tuesday to 24 years in prison for "illegally funneling money to U.S. political candidates and for defrauding investors in a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme," reports The Wall Street Journal. Clinton returned $850,000 in funds raised by Hsu, who had already been on the lam since 1992 after charges of grand theft. Knowing the Clintons, that was probably a résumé enhancement. Meanwhile, the operators of the Ponzi scheme known as Social Security remain at large.
29573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michelle on: October 02, 2009, 10:34:26 AM
"As much of a sacrifice as people say this is for me or Oprah or the president to come [to Copenhagen] for these few days, so many of you in this room have been working for years to bring this bid home, and you have put together a phenomenal set of ideas that, no matter what the outcome is, we should be proud of as a city." --Michelle Obama, "sacrificing" for Chicago to land the 2016 Olympic Games

To which Rush Limbaugh replied, "I'm thinking that Michelle Obama needs a little dictionary lesson. Let's not forget, this is the woman who is not proud of her country unless she's getting what she wants from it. She said during the campaign, the first time she'd been proud of her country was when Obama was nominated or done something. So she sacrificed herself to get in a big, luxurious jet -- a Boeing 757 -- to fly to Copenhagen, where she's pampered and treated like she were a goddess. Yes, this is a 'sacrifice.' Meanwhile, we have had at least four of our [volunteer] military men and women killed while living in tents in the most godforsaken spot on earth.... All the while she and her husband need a few more weeks to decide whether he can risk angering his base to send reinforcements to help them! So Michelle, you need to look at a Merriam-Webster Dictionary and study the word 'sacrifice' 'cause it's obviously a word you did not learn in your Ivy League education."
Is a Lack of Vetting What Obama Meant by 'Transparency'?
Back on the campaign trail, Barack Obama vowed his would be the most "transparent" administration in U.S. history. Perhaps what he meant was that the mainstream media would look past the foibles of those he selects for high positions under his watch.

The latest "for instance" comes in the person of "Safe School Czar" Kevin Jennings. Apparently, in the eyes of Jennings, a "safe school" is one where it's safe for an adult male to pursue a homosexual relationship with a student. Jennings denied condoning a relationship between a 15-year-old student and an adult male and threatened to sue a fellow teacher who called his refusal to report the incident "unethical." But since then, an audiotape has surfaced on which Jennings related to an Iowa homosexual advocacy group that he told the student to make sure to use a condom when seeing the older man. To most of us, allowing -- and even promoting -- statutory rape is grotesque, unquestionably illegal and grossly negligent, but to Obama, it appears to be qualification for the job.

Meanwhile, a recent GOP amendment prohibiting the creation of "czar" positions unless Congress confirms appointees was killed by a procedural move made by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Chicago).

29574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Elder on: October 02, 2009, 10:33:14 AM
"Close your eyes, and pretend it's still the George W. Bush administration," writes columnist Larry Elder. "In Afghanistan, more American service members died in August than in any month since the war began. His top military commander says that without more troops, we run the risk of losing the war. Iran admits operating a second previously undisclosed nuclear facility. Unemployment stands at 9.7 percent, with consumer confidence lower last month after a brief uptick. An important domestic initiative -- one he campaigned on -- faces a likely make-or-break month in Congress."

Elder continues, "What does the President do? He flies to Copenhagen to personally lobby the International Olympic Committee to bring the Olympics to Crawford, Texas."

Substitute Barack Obama for George W. Bush and Chicago for Crawford and you have the news this week: Obama flew to Copenhagen to lobby the IOC to award the 2016 Olympics to his "home town" of Chicago. The First Lady flew separately to make her own pitch. Just think of the carbon footprint that generated.

Aside from massaging his narcissistic ego, Obama is obviously looking to generate a huge financial windfall for his Chicago cronies, though as we went to press the decision had not yet been made. And anyway, as Elder concludes, "Iran and Afghanistan can wait."
29575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: October 02, 2009, 08:31:46 AM

As health reform legislation hurtles toward its finale, corporate America has rushed to the barricades to make sure that big business remains at the heart of the welfare state. The Business Roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers are united in their belief that Sen. Ron Wyden's (D., Ore.) "free choice amendment" must be stopped.

Mr. Wyden's measure, which is being offered as an amendment to the Baucus bill in the Senate Finance Committee, would come into play if employers failed to offer their workers meaningful choice of affordable plans. In that case, employees would be allowed to turn the cash employers currently spend on their health benefits into vouchers with which they could buy coverage from newly created insurance exchanges.

Big business thinks that giving employees this choice would be a calamity. To which one can only ask: Have these business lobbies lost their minds?

When the post-mortems on the health-care reform debate are written, the biggest mystery will be why big business fought so hard to stay in the health-care business even as soaring health costs surpassed corporate profits and diverted executive time better devoted to actually running companies.

America's employer-based health-care system may have made sense 50 years ago, when care was cheap, U.S. business faced little global competition, and fending off socialism was a Cold War priority. Circumstances have changed radically since that time. Yet corporate America—egged on by human resources executives threatened by change—remains caught in a time warp.

It's bad enough that business didn't do the smart thing up front and urge President Barack Obama to move the nation beyond employer-based care. That was major lost opportunity No. 1.

But on what possible theory does big business now assert that the 175 million Americans who get coverage on the job deserve no new choices? Most firms offer just one insurance plan, or narrow set of plans, to their workers. Why shouldn't these Americans also benefit from the myriad options that will become available from newly established competitive insurance exchanges?

The language used in a letter sent Tuesday to the Senate Finance Committee from something called the "National Coalition on Benefits"—a body controlled by corporate HR execs—reveals the confusion and paternalism still permeating the executive suite when it comes to the employer's role.

Mr. Wyden's proposal, the coalition asserts, would "fundamentally frustrate employers' attempts to administer integrated health improvement strategies." As a factual matter, this is incorrect. But why should "health improvement strategies" be the job of American businesses? Sounds more like a job for American doctors, in conjunction with their patients.

The status quo crowd also writes that Mr. Wyden's measure "would likely harm employer-employee relations because most employees have a longstanding expectation that their employer will be their primary source for health coverage." But employees already chafe at the shrinking coverage now available on the job. And who wouldn't want more options?

It's clear to anyone who looks that the edifice of employer-based coverage is crumbling. A recent survey sponsored by the Committee for Economic Development, a business-led think tank, showed that 62% of senior executives think the system is unsustainable. While the under-65 population has grown by 25 million since 1999, the number of people who get health care from their employers has declined. Numerous CEOs have told me privately that they'd just as soon get out of the benefits business altogether, which makes one wonder who the National Benefits Coalition really represents.

Mr. Wyden's measure would strike a modest but meaningful blow for modernity by making it possible, for the first time, for American workers to access group coverage outside their jobs. Once the infrastructure of these insurance exchanges is established, more firms will offer more people more choices over time. If business is smart, it will then strike a grand bargain in which government picks up the costs of the health-care voucher in exchange for business lending its support to the modest consumption tax needed to replace the corporate money being withdrawn from the system.

If this plays out as it should, the result will not be the single-payer system of Britain or Canada, but an American version of the Swiss or Dutch model of universal coverage in which private insurers and providers organize and deliver care. A decade or so from now, finally freed from this antiquated health-care system, everyone in corporate America should be happy.

Except for HR executives at big companies, who will have surrendered the commanding heights of the welfare state. So here's a thought, Sen. Wyden: Sweeten your amendment with a generous buyout plan for HR chiefs at the Fortune 500. And watch opposition to more freedom and choice for millions of Americans melt away.

Mr. Miller, a management consultant, is the author of "The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of The Old Ways of Thinking To Unleash a New Prosperity," (Times Books, 2009).
29576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Mukasey on: October 02, 2009, 08:23:17 AM
One would think that the arrests last week of Najibullah Zazi, charged with plotting to bomb New York City subways—and of two others charged with planning to blow up buildings in Dallas, Texas, and Springfield, Ill.—would generate support for the intelligence-gathering tools that protect this country from Muslim fanatics. In Mr. Zazi's case, the government has already confirmed the value of these tools: It has filed a notice of its intent to use information gathered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was specifically written to help combat terrorists and spies.

Nevertheless, there is a rear-guard action in Congress to make it more difficult to gather, use and protect intelligence—the only weapon that can prevent an attack rather than simply punish one after the fact. The USA Patriot Act, enacted in the aftermath of 9/11, is a case in point.

This law has a series of provisions that will expire unless Congress renews them. Up for renewal this year is a provision that permits investigators to maintain surveillance of sophisticated terrorists who change cell phones frequently to evade detection. This kind of surveillance is known as "roving wiretaps." Also up for renewal are authorizations to seek court orders to examine business records in national security investigations, and to conduct national security investigations even when investigators cannot prove a particular target is connected to a particular terrorist organization or foreign power—known as "lone wolf" authority.

View Full Image

AP Photo/New York City Police Department
Najibullah Zazi, center, faces charges in a plot to blow up commuter trains.
.Roving wiretaps have been used for decades by law enforcement in routine narcotics cases. They reportedly were used to help thwart a plot earlier this year to blow up synagogues in Riverdale, N.Y. Business records, including bank and telephone records, can provide important leads early in a national security investigation, and they have been used to obtain evidence in numerous cases.

The value of lone wolf authority is best demonstrated by its absence in the summer of 2001. That's when FBI agents might have obtained a warrant to search the computer of Zacharias Moussaoui, often referred to as the "20th hijacker," before the 9/11 attacks—although there was no proof at the time of his arrest on an immigration violation that he was acting for a terrorist organization. But a later search of his computer revealed just that.

Rather than simply renew these vital provisions, which expire at the end of this year, some congressional Democrats want to impose requirements that would diminish their effectiveness, or add burdens to existing authorizations that would retard rather than advance our ability to gather intelligence.

One bill would require the government to prove that the business records it seeks by court order pertain to an agent of a foreign power before investigators have seen those records. The current standard requires only that the records in question do not involve a person in the United States, or that they do relate to an investigation undertaken to protect the country against international terrorism or spying.

The section of the Patriot Act that confers the authority on investigators to seek these records was amended in 2006 to add civil liberties protections when sensitive personal information about a person in the U.S. is gathered. It passed the Senate overwhelmingly with support that included then-Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

The same proposed legislation would make it harder to obtain a real-time record of incoming and outgoing calls—known as a pen register—in national security cases. It does so by requiring that the government prove that the information sought in this record relates to a foreign power. Currently, the government can obtain a court order by certifying that the information sought either is foreign-intelligence information or relates to an investigation to protect against foreign terrorism or spying.

While the changes may sound benign, they turn the concept of an investigation on its head, requiring the government to submit proof at the outset of an investigation while facts are still being sought. In any event, a pen register shows only who called whom and nothing about the content of the call, and thus raises none of the privacy concerns that are at stake when a full-fledged wiretap is at issue. Moreover, the underlying information in a pen register is not private because telephone companies routinely have it.

Other proposals target national security letters, known as NSLs, which are administrative subpoenas like those issued routinely by the FBI and agencies as diverse as the Agriculture Department and the IRS to get information they need in order to enforce the statutes they administer. One Democratic bill would impose a four-year sunset on the FBI's authority to issue such letters where none exists now. Another, the "Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts Act of 2009," would bar their use entirely to get information about local or long-distance calls, financial transactions, or information from credit reports.

But this is precisely the kind of information that would be useful to an investigator trying to find out who a terrorist is calling or how much money he is receiving from overseas. The FBI already has the authority to obtain this kind of information in cases involving crimes against children. The Drug Enforcement Administration has it in drug cases. There is no sense in giving investigators in national security cases less authority than investigators in criminal cases, and in criticizing them for failing to connect the dots while denying them the authority to discover the dots.

Mr. Zazi's arrest is only the most recent case in which intelligence apparently has averted disaster. Cells have been broken up and individual defendants convicted in New York, Virginia, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Ohio.

But a disaster once averted is not permanently averted, as the writer Jonah Goldberg has noted. After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing killed six people and injured hundreds, Ramzi Youssef, the mastermind, was caught, convicted and put in the maximum security prison at Florence, Colo. Nonetheless, the World Trade Center towers are gone along with thousands of people.

Those who indulge paranoid fantasies of government investigators snooping on the books they take out of the library, and who would roll back current authorities in the name of protecting civil liberties, should consider what legislation will be proposed and passed if the next Najibullah Zazi is not detected.

Mr. Mukasey was attorney general of the United States from 2007 to 2009.
29577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glick on: October 02, 2009, 08:19:30 AM
Friday Feature /Can Syria Pass 'Israel Test'?
CAROLINE GLICK, (9/30/09): There has been much talk in
recent months about the prospect of Syria bolting the Iranian axis and
becoming magically transformed into an ally of the West.
Although Syria's President-for-life Bashar Assad's daily demonstrations of
fealty to his murderous friends has exposed this talk as nothing more than
fantasy, it continues to dominate the international discourse on Syria.

In the meantime, Syria's ongoing real transformation, from a more or less
functioning state into an impoverished wasteland, has been ignored.

Today, the country faces the greatest economic catastrophe in its history.
The crisis is causing massive malnutrition and displacement for hundreds
of thousands of Syrians. These Syrians - some 250,000 mainly Kurdish
farmers - have been forced off their farms over the past two years because
their lands were reclaimed by the desert.

Today shantytowns have sprung up around major cities such as Damascus.
They are filled with internally displaced refugees. Through a cataclysmic
combination of irrational agricultural policies embraced by the Ba'athist
Assad dynasty for the past 45 years that have eroded the soil, and massive
digging of some 420,000 unauthorized wells that have dried out the
groundwater aquifers (Reuters is reporting that half the wells were dug
illegally), Syria's regime has done everything in its power to dry up the
country. The effects of these demented policies have been exacerbated in
recent years by Turkey's diversion of Syria's main water source, the
Euphrates River, through the construction of dams upstream, and by two
years of unrelenting drought. Today, much of Syria's previously fertile
farmland has become wasteland. Former farmers are now destitute day
laborers with few prospects for economic recovery.

Imagine if in his country's moment of peril, instead of clinging to his
alliance with Iran, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and Hamas, Assad were to turn to
Israel to help him out of this crisis?

Israel is a world leader in water desalination and recycling. The largest
desalination plant in the world is located in Ashkelon. Israeli technology
and engineers could help Syria rebuild its water supply.

Israel could also help Syria use whatever water it still has, or is able
to produce through desalination and recycling more wisely through drip
irrigation - which was invented in Israel. Israel today supplies 50
percent of the international market for drip irrigation. In places like
Syria and southern Iraq that are now being dried out by the Turkish dams,
irrigation is primitive - often involving nothing more than water trucks
pumping water out of the Euphrates and driving it over to fields that are
often less than a kilometer away.

Then there are Syria's dwindling oil reserves. No doubt, Israeli engineers
and seismologists would be able to increase the efficiency and
productivity of existing wells and so increase their output. It is
certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that Israeli scientists and
engineers could even discover new, untapped oil reserves.

But, of course, Syria isn't interested in Israel's help. Syria wants to
have its enemy and eat it too. . . .

. . . . The Palestinians and the Syrians are not alone. From Egypt to
Saudi Arabia to Pakistan and Indonesia, the Arab and Muslim world has
preferred poverty and economic backwardness to the prosperity that would
come from engaging Israel. They prefer their staunch rejection of Israel
and hatred of Jews and the economic stagnation this involves to the
prosperity and political freedom and stability that would come from an
acceptance of Israel.

As American economic and technology guru George Gilder puts it in his new
book "The Israel Test," "The test of a culture is what it accomplishes in
advancing the human cause - what it creates rather than what it claims."

Gilder's book is a unique and necessary contribution to the current
international debate about the Middle East. Rather than concentrate solely
on Arab claims from Israel as most writers do, Gilder turns his attention
to what the nations of the region create. Specifically, he shows that only
Israel creates wealth through creativity and innovation and that today
Israel is contributing more to the human cause through its scientific,
technological and financial advances than any other country in the world
except the United States.

"The Israel Test" describes in riveting detail both the massive
contributions of mainly Diaspora Jews to the U.S. victories in World War
II and the Cold War and to the scientific revolutions of the 20th century
that set the foundations for the computer age, and the massive
contributions of Israeli Jews to the digital revolution that defines and
shapes our economic realities today.

But before Gilder begins to describe these great Jewish contributions to
the global economy and the general well being of people around the world,
he asserts that the future of the world will be determined by its
treatment of Israel. As he puts it, "The central issue in international
politics, dividing the world into two fractious armies, is the tiny state
of Israel."

In his view, "Israel defines a line of demarcation," between those who
pass and those who fail what he refers to as "the Israel Test."

Gilder poses the test to his readers by asking them a few questions: "What
is your attitude toward people who excel you in the creation of wealth or
in other accomplishment? Do you aspire to their excellence, or do you
seethe at it? Do you admire and celebrate exceptional achievement, or do
you impugn it and seek to tear it down?"

By his telling, the future of civilization will be determined by how the
nations of the world - and particularly, how the American people - answer
these questions.

Gilder's book is valuable on its own accord. I personally learned an
enormous amount about Israel's pioneering role in the information economy.
Beyond that, it provides a stunning rebuttal to the central arguments of
the other major book that has been written about Israel and the Arabs in
the US in recent years.

Steve Walt and John Mearsheimer's "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign
Policy" (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2007) has two central arguments.
First, they argue that Israel has little value as an ally to the United
States. Second, they assert that given Israel's worthlessness to the
United States, the only reasonable explanation of why Americans
overwhelmingly support Israel is that they have been manipulated by a
conspiracy of Jewish organizations and Jewish-owned and controlled media
and financial outlets. In their view, the nefarious Jewish-controlled
forces have bamboozled the American people into believing that Israel is
important to them and even a kindred nation to the United States.

Gilder blows both arguments out of the water without even directly
engaging them or noting Israel's singular contributions to U.S.
intelligence and military prowess. Instead, he demonstrates that Israel is
an indispensable motor for the U.S. economy, which in turn is the
principal driver of U.S. power globally. Much of Silicon Valley's economic
prowess is founded on technologies made in Israel. Everything from the
microchip to the cellphone has either been made in Israel or by Israelis
in Silicon Valley.

It is Gilder's own admiration for Israel's exceptional achievements that
puts paid Walt and Mearsheimer's second argument. There is something
distinctively American in his enthusiasm for Israel's innovative genius.
From America's earliest beginnings, the American character has been imbued
with an admiration for achievement. As a nation, Americans have always
passed Gilder's Israel Test.

Taken together with the other reasons for American support for Israel -
particularly religious affinity for the people of the Bible - Gilder's
book shows that the American and Israeli people are indeed natural friends
and allies bound together by their exceptionalism that motivates them to
strive for excellence and progress to the benefit of all mankind.

Americans recently commemorated the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11
attacks. Those attacks were the greatest confrontation to date between
American exceptionalism and Islamist nihilism. Gilder's book serves as a
reminder of what makes the United States and its exceptional ally Israel
worth defending at all costs. "The Israel Test" also teaches us that so
long as we keep faith with ourselves, we will not be alone in our fight
against barbarism and hatred, and inevitably, we will emerge the victors
in this bitter fight.

Read on:
29578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: October 02, 2009, 08:11:56 AM
Obama's Moment of Reckoning

EVERY AMERICAN PRESIDENT, early in his term, discovers that vision and reality rarely meet. Some — Ronald Reagan comes to mind — are able to recover. Others — Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush, for example — do not. But the world is the way it is for a reason. States do not have as much room to maneuver in their policymaking as election campaign rhetoric would suggest. U.S. President Barack Obama’s mistake to date has been very similar to that made by every president before him: namely, basing his foreign policy on the assumption that he, unlike his predecessors, will be able to talk to “those people” in a way that solves problems — that if things are just handled in a different way, a different president can achieve a different end.

That particular bundle of optimism pretty much shorted out this week. American diplomats will be in Geneva on Thursday for talks with their counterparts from France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, China and Iran. The topic: how to force the Iranians to come clean about their nuclear program. From what we’ve been able to gather from intelligence efforts, Iran is challenging the very agenda of the meeting. Russia is indicating that it doesn’t care a whit about Iran, but is willing to exert pressure if the Americans will grant concessions in the former Soviet Union, specifically Ukraine and Georgia. The Chinese are livid at Obama for his decision to implement tire tariffs and are not appearing particularly helpful either. Germany isn’t even sending an Iran expert to the talks, and is distracted by internal politics anyway.

“It is too early to pass judgment on Obama’s first year in office, but things are getting dicey.”
Nor is Iran the only issue that has forced its way onto Obama’s agenda. Afghanistan is a war that is going nowhere, and even with a massive increase of forces, it is unlikely that anything more than a stalemate will be feasible. Many empires have disappeared into the maw that is Afghanistan. The Greeks left. The Huns left. The Mongols left. The British left. The Soviets left. The Taliban is pretty sure the Americans will leave too. Obama’s campaign promise to fight the “right war” of course makes for some interesting public relations acrobatics, whatever direction policy — or the war — should take. But the problem remains that this war has gone from bad to worse — and to worse still — since Obama took office.

Things could be better at home, too. On Tuesday, the White House lost two major votes on health care, the issue that has crowded out nearly everything else on the domestic agenda — and this despite the tire tariffs, which were pushed through explicitly to guarantee the loyalty of some domestic groups. Making a sacrifice of China — and thereby complicating the Iran issue — has not generated a victory, but instead a loss.

It is too early to pass judgment on Obama’s first year in office, but things are getting dicey. Obama is now facing two crises in the Islamic world — Afghanistan and Iran — and by all indications he doesn’t have a clear strategy on either. His advisers are good enough, and he is smart enough, to realize that simply continuing in the same direction on either issue will not be a recipe for success. Iran, Russia and the Taliban already view him as weak. Doubling down in Afghanistan in order to confront the Taliban would rob the United States of its ability to act elsewhere. Going to war with Iran would (at a minimum) remove 3 million barrels per day of crude from the market and reverse the nascent economic recovery — not to mention reigniting conflict in Iraq. Shifting the country’s military orientation to re-contain Russia would leave Iraq and Afghanistan in the hands of potentially (if not already outright) hostile forces. Not a nice menu from which to select.

Obama’s moment is shaping up to arrive very soon. It well might be Thursday.

But it is not all bad news. Iran’s foreign minister on Wednesday flew from U.N. meetings in New York City to Washington, to visit the Iranian interests section at the Pakistani Embassy. Because Iran and the United States do not have direct ties, they operate via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran and the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. And given that lack of direct ties, any such visit requires a special visa with a high-level clearance. Someone like Manouchehr Mottaki does not simply visit Washington without approval. It’s pretty obvious that he didn’t come — and that the White House didn’t allow him to come — to go sightseeing. And if Mottaki simply wanted to mock Obama, he could have done that from the United Nations building in New York. He came to talk directly to the Americans before the public talks in Geneva on Thursday.

We see really only one clean way out of Obama’s dilemma: a deal with Iran. Should the Iranians and the Americans find a way to live with each other, then a great many other issues would fall into place. The Russians would lose their lever in the Middle East. The Americans could smoothly (for the Middle East) withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan. American and Iranian intelligence and training in cooperation could limit any Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan.

Such a “happy” ending naturally faces some touchy obstacles. Israel would retain the ability to scrap any rapprochement, and would have strong incentives to do so if Iran’s nuclear program was not clearly and publicly defanged. Russia might have a thing or two to say (and do) to scuttle any warming in U.S.-Iran relations. And then there is that issue of a lack of trust between Tehran and Washington on just about everything.

But Mottaki visited Washington. And he did so with the full knowledge and permission of the White House. That’s a fact that cannot be ignored, and one that just might shine a light for an increasingly beleaguered president.

29579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO getting played on: October 02, 2009, 08:08:28 AM
From Geneva yesterday come all kinds of good diplomatic vibrations. Iran may allow U.N. inspectors into a recently unveiled uranium-enrichment plant "within two weeks." Another meeting will be held before month's end. A "freeze" on sanctions was bruited about. In an appearance at the White House, President Obama sounded sober but hopeful, calling the direct American talks with the Islamic Republic "a constructive beginning" toward "serious and meaningful engagement."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was presumably in even better spirits at his remarkable change of fortune. A month ago, Iran's president was struggling to cement his grip on power after stealing an election and repressing nationwide protests. A week ago, the disclosure of the secret facility near Qom highlighted Iran's chronic prevarication and raised calls for more sanctions.

By yesterday, all that had changed. At the 18th-century Villa Le Saugy, Iran's representative sat among the world's powers as a respected equal. Responding to an overture from the Obama Administration, the Iranians even talked about the future of the U.N. and other nonnuclear issues. Meanwhile, Washington was "buzzing" (as one newspaper put it) that a one-day visit by Iran's foreign minister might signal more detente to come. Back in Tehran, Mr. Ahmadinejad floated a tete-a-tete with the U.S. President. In short, this engagement conferred a respectability on his regime that Mr. Ahmadinejad could only have imagined amid his vicious post-election crackdown.

The price of entry is surprisingly modest, too. Though cautious, the P5+1 (the veto-wielding Security Council members, plus Germany) welcomed signs of Iranian concessions: Inspectors at Qom, an openness to send low-enriched uranium outside Iran for enrichment, possibly suspending its own enrichment program. Mr. Ahmadinejad said the Geneva talks were "a unique opportunity" for the West.

Consider the Iranian offers in turn. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency won't find anything incriminating at the Qom facility. Having lied about it for years, the Iranians now have plenty of time to clean the place out. Iran's experience with the IAEA goes back to the first inspections starting in 1992, which somehow prevented the world from learning about Iran's bomb program for a decade and then only from an Iranian dissident group. A freeze on enrichment used to be the U.S. precondition for talks with Iran. Now the U.S. and Europeans say that in exchange merely for this enrichment promise, they'll freeze any additional sanctions.

Iran has timed its olive branch well. The Europeans are more frustrated with past Iranian stalling than is Washington and have started to hanker for tougher measures. Those demands will now be muted. For years, Iran has talked with the Europeans, using the time and diplomatic cover to make nuclear progress. The Obama ascendency offers the mullahs another chance, with an even more eager partner, to repeat the exercise with a far bigger potential payoff. Expect Iran to follow the North Korean model, stringing the West along, lying and wheedling, striking deals only to reneg and start over. In the end, North Korea tested a nuclear device.

On long evidence, the regime has no intention of stopping a nuclear program that would give it new power in the region, and new leverage against America. The Qom news reveals a more extensive, sophisticated and covert nuclear complex than many people, including the CIA, were willing to recognize. The facility is located on a Revolutionary Guard base, partly hidden underground and protected by air-defense missiles. Its capacity of 3,000 centrifuges is too small for civilian use but not for a weapons program. It's a good bet an archipelago of such small covert facilities is scattered around Iran.

Meanwhile, news reports this week say German and British intelligence believe Iran never stopped clandestine efforts to design a nuclear warhead. Their assumptions contradict the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate in 2007 that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and kept it frozen.

The evidence is overwhelming that the window to stop the world's leading sponsor of terrorism from acquiring a bomb is closing fast. If we are serious about doing so, the proper model isn't North Korea, but Libya. The Gadhafi regime agreed to disarm after the fall of Saddam Hussein convinced its leaders that their survival was better assured without nuclear weapons. Mr. Ahmadinejad and Iran's mullahs will only concede if they see their future the same way.

This supposed fresh start in Geneva only gives them new legitimacy, and new hope that they can have their bomb and enhanced global standing too.
29580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy, Sedition, and Treason? on: October 02, 2009, 07:57:02 AM
Glen Beck has been doing an outstanding job of developing awareness of just how radical, seditious, and corrupt the President Obama's appointments and friends are.  This thread is for putting the spotlight on these people
SEIU's Andy Stern
29581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: October 02, 2009, 07:23:16 AM
Rachel et al:

For some reason  wink the Creator seems to be putting messages about happiness in my path.  From your post, to a Dennis Prager talk CD I just shared with my son, to this:

"The natural state of man, the way G-d created us, is to be happy. Look at children and you will see."
29582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: October 02, 2009, 07:19:04 AM
I understand that, but it is my understanding that in his interviews after his capture when asked why he had left the impression of having WMD when he didn't SH said that it was to bluff the Iranians.  My guess would be Syria would be a more likely place to stash nasty toys.
29583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Fisher Ames, 1789 on: October 02, 2009, 07:16:30 AM

"I am commonly opposed to those who modestly assume the rank of champions of liberty, and make a very patriotic noise about the people. It is the stale artifice which has duped the world a thousand times, and yet, though detected, it is still successful. I love liberty as well as anybody. I am proud of it, as the true title of our people to distinction above others; but ... I would guard it by making the laws strong enough to protect it." --Fisher Ames, letter to George Richard Minot, 1789
29584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 01, 2009, 09:39:01 PM
Well, the WSJ is a FAR lesser publication than it used to be before Murcdoch took over.

As for Pravda on the Hudson, maybe it didn't read the piece and just assumed if they were from Harvard it was OK.  cheesy
29585  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 01, 2009, 02:48:51 PM
I had previously sensed substantial substance to Kimbo (I saw a couple of interviews a couple of years ago wherein he wasn't simply being marketed as the ultimate scary ghetto negro) but last night was something else.

What a great soap opera this season is turning into!
29586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Swiss Option on: October 01, 2009, 12:02:59 PM
Its the NYT, so caveat lector.  That said, this seems interesting.

Swiss Health Care Thrives Without Public Option

Published: September 30, 2009
ZURICH — Like every other country in Europe, Switzerland guarantees health care for all its citizens. But the system here does not remotely resemble the model of bureaucratic, socialized medicine often cited by opponents of universal coverage in the United States.

Swiss private insurers are required to offer coverage to all citizens, regardless of age or medical history. And those people, in turn, are obligated to buy health insurance.

That is why many academics who have studied the Swiss health care system have pointed to this Alpine nation of about 7.5 million as a model that delivers much of what Washington is aiming to accomplish — without the contentious option of a government-run health insurance plan.

In Congress, the Senate Finance Committee is dealing with legislation proposed by its chairman, Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, which would require nearly all Americans to buy health insurance, but stops short of the government-run insurance option that is still strongly supported by liberal Democrats.

Two amendments that would have added a public option to the Baucus bill were voted down on Tuesday. But another Senate bill, like the House versions, calls for a public insurance option.

By many measures, the Swiss are healthier than Americans, and surveys indicate that Swiss people are generally happy with their system. Switzerland, moreover, provides high-quality care at costs well below what the United States spends per person. Swiss insurance companies offer the mandatory basic plan on a not-for-profit basis, although they are permitted to earn a profit on supplemental plans.

And yet, as a potential model for the United States, the Swiss health care system involves some important trade-offs that American consumers, insurers and health care providers might find hard to swallow.

The Swiss government does not “ration care” — that populist bogeyman in the American debate — but it does keep down overall spending by regulating drug prices and fees for lab tests and medical devices. It also requires patients to share some costs — at a higher level than in the United States — so they have an incentive to avoid unnecessary treatments. And some doctors grumble that cost controls are making it harder these days for a physician to make a franc.

The Swiss government also provides direct cash subsidies to people if health insurance equals more than 8 percent of personal income, and about 35 to 40 percent of households get some form of subsidy. In some cases, employers contribute part of the insurance premium, but, unlike in the United States, they do not receive a tax break for it. (All the health care proposals in Congress would provide a subsidy to moderate-income Americans.)

Unlike the United States, where the Medicare program for the elderly costs taxpayers about $500 billion a year, Switzerland has no special break for older Swiss people beyond the general subsidy.

“Switzerland’s health care system is different from virtually every other country in the world,” said Regina Herzlinger, a Harvard Business School professor who has studied the Swiss approach extensively.

“What I like about it is that it’s got universal coverage, it’s customer driven, and there are no intermediaries shopping on people’s behalf,” she added. “And there’s no waiting lists or rationing.”

Since being made mandatory in 1996, the Swiss system has become a popular model for experts seeking alternatives to government-run health care. Indeed, it has attracted some unlikely American admirers, like Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News talk show host. And it has lured some members of Congress on fact-finding trips here to seek ideas for overhauling the United States system.

The Swiss approach is also popular with patients like Frieda Burgstaller, 72, who says she likes the freedom of choice and access that the private system provides. “If the doctor says it has to be done, it’s done,” said Mrs. Burgstaller. “You don’t wait. And it’s covered.”

While many patients seem content, the burdens fall more heavily on doctors, especially general practitioners and pediatricians.

Dr. Gerlinde Schurter, Mrs. Burgstaller’s physician, says she feels squeezed by government regulators and insurance companies that have fought to hold down costs — most recently with a 15 percent cut in lab fees that forced her five-member group to lay off its principal technician.

Dr. Schurter also fears a so-called blue letter, a warning from an insurance company that she is prescribing too many drugs or expensive procedures.

If doctors cannot justify their treatments, they can be forced to repay insurers for a portion of the medical services prescribed. And while prescriptions are covered, the government has insisted that consumers fork over a 20 percent co-payment if they want brand-name drugs, rather than 10 percent for generics.

Similarly, the government health office also lowered reimbursements across the board for medical devices in 2006.

These are among the reasons health care costs consume 10.8 percent of gross domestic product in Switzerland, compared with 16 percent in the United States, the highest level of spending among industrial countries, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.


Page 2 of 2)

Still, along with lower costs and the freedom to choose doctors come bigger bills for individual patients. On average, out-of-pocket payments come to $1,350 annually. That is the highest among the 30 countries tracked by the O.E.C.D. and well above the $890 average for the United States, which comes in second.

Then there are the hefty prices of the insurance policies themselves, which can top 14,000 Swiss francs a year for a family of four in Zurich, or about $13,600. That is roughly comparable to the national average annual premium for a family policy under employer-sponsored group plans in the United States, but in high-cost American cities the figure can be much higher.
Direct comparisons are hard to make, however, because in the American system, employers and employees share the cost of premiums, which are also exempt from individual and corporate income taxes.

Nevertheless, Swiss citizens relish the lack of bureaucracy, especially compared with systems in Britain and Germany, even if their doctors grumble.

As in the United States, practitioners typically are paid on a fee-for-service basis, rather than on salary. But they make less than their American counterparts. According to the O.E.C.D., specialists in Switzerland earn three times more than the nation’s average wage, compared with 5.6 times for American specialists. General practitioners in Switzerland make 2.7 times more than the average wage, versus 3.7 in the United States.

That is partly because the Swiss health insurers are not shy about using their muscle with physicians.

Pius Gyger, director of health economics and health policy at Helsana, the country’s biggest insurer, cannot suppress a smile when asked about the effectiveness of the so-called blue letters.

“If there’s something strange, we knock at the doctor’s door,” he said. “For doctors, it’s an incentive to treat economically, but often perceived as a threat.”

He estimates that only about 3 percent of doctors get the letters and that fewer than 1 percent actually have to return money. Still, Mr. Gyger said, “it’s an easy exercise for us and it has an effect.”

Despite pressure on general practitioners, hospital physicians like Edouard Battegay at the University of Zurich say universal coverage also lowers costs by reducing emergency room visits.

Indeed, his E.R. is as quiet and efficient as a Swiss watch, and he still expresses amazement at what he saw when he worked briefly in Seattle.

“I’ve seen things in the U.S. that I’ve never seen here; it was a state of disaster,” he said. “Chronic disease management is better here. If you don’t treat hypertension, you treat strokes. Not treating patients is expensive.”

And even Dr. Schurter — who says her income has been flat for the last five years — praises the virtues of the Swiss system for patients struck by catastrophe.

When her daughter was found to have leukemia seven years ago, “I never worried for a second how and if she’d get treatment and if it would be paid for,” she said. “All was granted as naturally as the air we breathe.”
29587  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 01, 2009, 11:58:43 AM
Comments on this season of TUF?

I admit to being engrossed in last night's episode.
29588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / stratfor on: October 01, 2009, 11:40:32 AM
second entry

October 1, 2009 | 1350 GMT
Negotiations have begun in Geneva between the P-5+1 and Iran over the Iranian nuclear program. The most important statement to emerge so far is from a U.S. assistant secretary of defense, who told a Russian news agency that Washington plans to give Iran until the end of the year to verify that its nuclear program is only civilian in nature.

Related Special Series
Special Series: Iran Sanctions
Related Special Topic Page
Special Coverage: The Iran Crisis
Talks between Iran and the P-5+1 nations — the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France and Germany — began Oct. 1 in the village of Genthoud, a municipality of Geneva. The morning kicked off with several plenary meetings, with time allowed for intermittent breaks that presented opportunities for more private sideline discussions with Iranian representatives.

So far it appears that Iran is providing the P-5+1 powers with plenty of fodder for discussing its nuclear program. The meetings are now expected to extend into the early evening and on into the next day. The United States has been careful to clarify that this is not the meeting where sanctions would be threatened against Iran. The Geneva meeting was designed to engage the Iranians; should that fail, subsequent meetings of the P-5+1 (without Iran) would be organized to discuss the sanctions option.

The most important statement that has come out of the summit so far is from U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Alexander Vershbow, who told Russia’s Interfax news agency that Washington plans to give Iran until the end of the year to prove that its nuclear program is only civilian in nature. “Now this process may last more than one day, but it cannot go on indefinitely,” Vershbow said. “We have agreed with our main partners that we need to see progress before the end of the year, or else we will have to shift toward tougher measures, including stronger sanctions.”

This is a slight shift from earlier U.S. (and particularly Israeli) warnings indicating that the Geneva meeting was a chance for Iran to come clean or face “crippling” sanctions. And Vershbow, in particular, is a technocrat whose word carries more weight. He has served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia, NATO and South Korea and is not prone to grandstanding.

Iran had plans all along to lengthen the negotiating track and buy more time for dialogue, but the fact that Washington is agreeing to extend the deadline could indicate one of two things: Either the United States is buying time to sort this issue out and attempt a compromise with the Russians to increase pressure on Tehran, or Iran has made a concrete offer behind the scenes that has caught the White House’s attention.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki’s visit to Washington, which began Sept. 30, is key to this latter scenario. The U.S. State Department so far is downplaying the entire visit and claiming ignorance on whether Mottaki has met with U.S. officials, but Mottaki certainly did not visit the nation’s capital for a tour of the monuments. At the same time, Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA is claiming that Mottaki discussed his country’s nuclear program with two U.S. Congressmen on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, though this report has not yet been confirmed. An unnamed U.S. official also announced Oct. 1 that Washington may even be open to one-on-one talks with the Iranians.

So far it appears that the United States has found a new reason to be optimistic about the Geneva talks, but there is much more to uncover as the summit plays out. And, as always, Israel is the critical player to watch.
29589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Davy Crockett on: October 01, 2009, 10:44:37 AM
Alexander's Essay – October 1, 2009

Not Yours To Give

"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents..." --James Madison

David CrockettMy paternal ancestors settled in East Tennessee about 10 years before it was admitted to the Union (1796). Not far from where they settled lived a fellow who was the region's most famous frontiersman.

David Crockett was his name.

He has been immortalized as a folk hero, known for his battles with the Red Stick Creek Indians under Andrew Jackson, and his last stand at the Alamo with fellow Patriots James Bowie from Kentucky and William Travis from South Carolina.

Crockett battled the Creek side-by-side with fellow Tennessean Sam Houston, but both men were friends to the Cherokee clans, which were composed of highly civilized native peoples living in the border regions between Tennessee and North Carolina.

At the end of his formal service as a soldier, he was elected Lieutenant Colonel of the Tennessee Militia.

Crockett is less known for the several terms he served in Congress between 1827 and 1835 during the presidency of his old commander, Andrew Jackson. Crockett's friend, Sam Houston, had been elected governor of Tennessee. (Houston, who would later become governor of Texas, is the only American in history to serve as governor of two states.)

Though he had little formal education, Crockett exuded a commanding presence and was feared, if not loathed, by his more refined congressional colleagues for his backwoods rhetoric.

In one of his more legendary orations, Crockett proclaimed: "Mr. Speaker ... the gentleman from Massachusetts [Mr. Everett] talks of summing up the merits of the question, but I'll sum up my own. In one word I'm a screamer, and have got the roughest racking horse, the prettiest sister, the surest rifle and the ugliest dog in the district. I'm a leetle the savagest crittur you ever did see. My father can whip any man in Kentucky, and I can lick my father. I can out-speak any man on this floor, and give him two hours start. I can run faster, dive deeper, stay longer under, and come out drier, than any chap this side the big Swamp. I can outlook a panther and outstare a flash of lightning, tote a steamboat on my back and play at rough and tumble with a lion, and an occasional kick from a zebra."

Crockett continued, "I can take the rag off -- frighten the old folks -- astonish the natives -- and beat the Dutch all to smash, make nothing of sleeping under a blanket of snow and don't mind being frozen more than a rotten apple. I can walk like an ox, run like a fox, swim like an eel, yell like an Indian, fight like a devil, spout like an earthquake, make love like a mad bull, and swallow a Mexican whole without choking if you butter his head and pin his ears back."

What I wouldn't give to hear a tad more of that on the floor of the House these days!

Though his rhetoric may have been unorthodox, Crockett was a man of principle.

His fervent opposition to Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830 (forcing removal of the peaceful Cherokee tribes along the infamous "Trail of Tears") cost Crockett his congressional seat, but he declared, "I bark at no man's bid. I will never come and go, and fetch and carry, at the whistle of the great man in the White House no matter who he is."

But it was Crockett's stalwart opposition to unconstitutional spending that is most worth noting given today's congressional penchant for such spending in the trillions.

According to the Register of Debates for the House of Representatives, 20th Congress, 1st Session on April 2, 1828, Crocket stood to challenge the constitutionality of one of the earliest welfare spending bills.

While the exact text of his speech was not recorded in full (as that was not the practice of the time), the spirit of his words was captured years later under the heading "Not yours to give" in the book "The Life of Colonel David Crockett" by Edward Ellis.

Ellis wrote, "One day in the House of Representatives a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose..."

According to Ellis, Crockett said, "Mr. Speaker; I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him.

"Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."

Though the measure was expected to receive unanimous support, after Crockett's objection, it did not pass.

Be sure you are right...Ellis recounts that Crocket was later asked by a friend why he had opposed the appropriation, and he replied: "Several years ago I was one evening standing on the steps of the Capitol with some other members of Congress, when our attention was attracted by a great light over in Georgetown. It was evidently a large fire. We jumped into a hack and drove over as fast as we could. In spite of all that could be done, many houses were burned and many families made houseless, and, besides, some of them had lost all but the clothes they had on. The weather was very cold, and when I saw so many women and children suffering, I felt that something ought to be done for them. The next morning a bill was introduced appropriating $20,000 for their relief. We put aside all other business and rushed it through as soon as it could be done."

Crocket explained, "The next summer, when it began to be time to think about election, I concluded I would take a scout around among the boys of my district. I had no opposition there, but, as the election was some time off, I did not know what might turn up. When riding one day in a part of my district in which I was more of a stranger than any other, I saw a man in a field plowing and coming toward the road. I gauged my gait so that we should meet as he came to the fence. As he came up, I spoke to the man. He replied politely, but, as I thought, rather coldly.

"I began: 'Well, friend, I am one of those unfortunate beings called candidates, and..."

His constituent interrupted, "Yes I know you; you are Colonel Crockett. I have seen you once before, and voted for you the last time you were elected. I suppose you are out electioneering now, but you had better not waste your time or mine, I shall not vote for you again."

Crockett replied, "This was a sockdolager ... I begged him to tell me what was the matter."

The farmer said, "Well, Colonel, it is hardly worth-while to waste time or words upon it. I do not see how it can be mended, but you gave a vote last winter which shows that either you have not capacity to understand the Constitution, or that you are wanting in the honesty and firmness to be guided by it. In either case you are not the man to represent me. But I beg your pardon for expressing it in that way. I did not intend to avail myself of the privilege of the constituent to speak plainly to a candidate for the purpose of insulting or wounding you. I intend by it only to say that your understanding of the Constitution is very different from mine; and I will say to you what, but for my rudeness, I should not have said, that I believe you to be honest. But an understanding of the Constitution different from mine I cannot overlook, because the Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions. The man who wields power and misinterprets it is the more dangerous the more honest he is."

Crocket responded, "Well, my friend; I may as well own up. You have got me there. But certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing Treasury, and I am sure, if you had been there, you would have done just as I did."

But the farmer fired back, "It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man. ... So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people."

Thus, Crockett explained of his opposition to support the widow of that distinguished naval officer: "Now, sir, you know why I made that speech yesterday."

Today, there are but a handful of Senate and House incumbents who dare support and defend the Constitution as Crockett did. But there are candidates emerging around the nation who, with our support, will deliver orations as brazen and eloquent, and stand firm behind those words.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, PatriotPost.US

(To submit reader comments
29590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Secret Editor Man , , , on: October 01, 2009, 10:28:02 AM
(Editor's note: This is an abbreviated edition of Best of the Web Today. We're on assignment, returning Thursday.)

Clark Hoyt, "public editor" of the New York Times, has weighed in on his paper's coverage of the Acorn scandal--or rather its lack thereof. Right off the bat, he delivers a half-truth:

On Sept. 12, an Associated Press article inside The Times reported that the Census Bureau had severed its ties to Acorn, the community organizing group. Robert Groves, the census director, was quoted as saying that Acorn, one of thousands of unpaid organizations promoting the 2010 census, had become "a distraction."

What the article didn't say--but what followers of Fox News and conservative commentators already knew--was that a video sting had caught Acorn workers counseling a bogus prostitute and pimp on how to set up a brothel staffed by under-age girls, avoid detection and cheat on taxes.

It is true, as we noted Sept. 14, that the AP article as published in the Times didn't mention that Acorn had been caught in a sex-slavery sting. But that's because the paper cut the latter half of the original dispatch, which did mention it. And there were other AP dispatches on the evening of Sept. 11, such as this one, that led with the sting. Somehow the Times managed to miss those.

Hoyt acknowledges that the Times continued missing the story:

For days, as more videos were posted and government authorities rushed to distance themselves from Acorn, The Times stood still. Its slow reflexes--closely following its slow response to a controversy that forced the resignation of Van Jones, a White House adviser--suggested that it has trouble dealing with stories arising from the polemical world of talk radio, cable television and partisan blogs. Some stories, lacking facts, never catch fire. But others do, and a newspaper like The Times needs to be alert to them or wind up looking clueless or, worse, partisan itself.

It's hard to disagree with that. But Hoyt could have strengthened his argument by noting, as we did Friday, that the Times has followed exactly this pattern with the National Endowment for the Arts scandal: ignoring it altogether until the Obama administration took some remedial action, then reporting it only on an inside page. Oh well, maybe he'll get around to it in a few more weeks.

When the Times waddled in with a report on the sex-slavery sting, it covered it as a political story. Hoyt rightly faults the paper for this:

Finally, on Sept. 16, nearly a week after the first video was posted, The Times took note of the controversy, under the headline, "Conservatives Draw Blood From Acorn, Favored Foe." The article said that conservatives hoped to weaken the Obama administration by attacking its allies and appointees they viewed as leftist. The conservatives thought they had a "winning formula," the article said, mobilizing people "to dig up dirt," then trumpeting it on talk radio and television. . . .
I thought politics was emphasized too much, at the expense of questions about an organization whose employees in city after city participated in outlandish conversations about illegal and immoral activities.

Scrupulously fair, Hoyt did seek the other side of the story--the Times editors' side:

Dean Baquet, the Washington bureau chief, said, "We did not ignore the Acorn story, so I don't think it's fair for people to say we blew it off." . . .
Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, agreed with me that the paper was "slow off the mark," and blamed "insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio." . . .
Despite what the critics think, Abramson said the problem was not liberal bias.

This seems totally predictable--but wait. On Sept. 10, we wrote (with respect to the Van Jones story) that we thought Hoyt would write something along the lines of: "The Times was a beat behind on this story. To some readers, this suggests liberal bias. I see no evidence of this." We added: "We'll buy Times public editor Clark Hoyt a drink if he doesn't say something to that effect when he weighs in on the Jones story."

But he didn't say he doesn't think the problem was liberal bias. In fact, given Hoyt's history of pooh-poohing liberal bias in his own voice, we'd say he pointedly did not say so in this case. He said Jill Abramson (who, as co-author of "Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas," doesn't have a liberally biased bone in her body--ha ha) didn't think the problem was liberal bias. This is a huge difference.

Clark, we owe you a drink. Just email us to collect.

Here, though, is the most priceless bit of the Hoyt column:

[Abramson] and Bill Keller, the executive editor, said last week that they would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies. Keller declined to identify the editor, saying he wanted to spare that person "a bombardment of e-mails and excoriation in the blogosphere."

The Obama administration, as we noted Wednesday, was supposed to usher in a new era of transparency in government. Instead we find ourselves in a new era of opacity, not only in government but in the media. The New York Times now employs secret agent editors.

Hoyt writes, of the sex-slavery sting, that "most news organizations consider such tactics unethical--The Times specifically prohibits reporters from misrepresenting themselves or making secret recordings." True enough. But even James O'Keefe told the Acorn employees his name. At least in that sense, he was more honest with his targets than the Times now is with its readers.
29591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO can't outsource this one on: October 01, 2009, 10:21:21 AM
So our top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has told CBS's "60 Minutes" that he has spoken with President Barack Obama only once since June.

This is a troubling revelation. Right now, our commander in chief is preparing to make one of the most important decisions of his presidency—whether to commit additional troops to win the war in Afghanistan. Being detached or incurious about what our commanders are experiencing makes it hard to craft a winning strategy.

Mr. Obama's predecessor faced a similar situation: a war that was grinding on, pressure to withdraw troops, and conflicting advice—including from some who saw the war as unwinnable. But George W. Bush talked to generals on the ground every week or two, which gave him a window into what was happening and insights into how his commanders thought. That helped him judge their recommendations on strategy.

Mr. Obama's hands-off approach to the war seems to fit his governing style. Over the past year, he outsourced writing the stimulus package to House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, washed his hands of Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to reinvestigate CIA interrogators, and hasn't offered a detailed health-care plan.

Mr. Obama's aloofness on the war will be a problem if the recent airing of Joe Biden's views on Afghanistan is a tipoff that Mr. Obama will rely on his vice president's guidance. According to reports in the New York Times and other publications, Mr. Biden supports reducing troop levels in favor of surgical attacks—mostly launched from offshore—and missile strikes against al Qaeda, especially in Pakistan.

Such an approach would almost certainly lose the war. Actionable intelligence—key to defeating an insurgency—would dry up. Tribal chieftains would cut deals with the Taliban and al Qaeda. The Afghan government would probably collapse, and the Afghan people would have little choice but to swing their support to the Taliban. Pakistan would likely come to see us as a fair-weather friend and increasingly resist U.S. attacks against al Qaeda on its soil. American credibility would be shattered. And militant Islamists would gain a victory.

Mr. Biden has a record rare in its consistency and duration of being wrong about big national security questions.

In his first U.S. Senate campaign in 1972, he called for cutting and running from Vietnam. He later voted to cut off funding for South Vietnam and spoke out against the war. After we did withdraw, communist forces conquered South Vietnam as well as Cambodia, where Pol Pot carried out a campaign of genocide.

In the 1980s, Mr. Biden opposed President Ronald Reagan's national security approach on almost every front, including funding for the Contras in Nicaragua, building missile defenses, and increasing military spending. In the 1990s, apparently willing to cede Kuwait to Saddam Hussein, he voted against the first Gulf War. Over the past decade, Mr. Biden opposed the surge that put us on the path to victory in Iraq. Instead called for a "soft partition" that would have divided Iraq into three countries.

Mr. Biden has been right about Afghanistan at least once. In 2002, he said, "Security is the basic issue in Afghanistan. Whatever it takes, we should do it. History will judge us harshly if we allow the hope of a liberated Afghanistan to evaporate because we failed to stay the course."

The responsibility for the outcome of the war in Afghanistan rests squarely with Mr. Obama. Until now, he seems to have treated the conflict as a distraction from his efforts to nationalize our health-care system. But the war is now front and center. He has been told by Gen. McChrystal that America needs more boots on the ground to win.

About Karl Rove
Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy making process.

Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.

Karl writes a weekly op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, is a Newsweek columnist and is now writing a book to be published by Simon Schuster. Email the author at or visit him on the web at

Or, you can send him a Tweet@karlrove.
.In the past, when Mr. Obama has moved left, he moved fast and far to the left—witness his willingness to push health-care legislation even if it only has Democratic support. But when he has played to the center—as on Afghanistan, when he decided in last year's campaign that he needed to be tough on at least one of the wars America was engaged in—he has looked for appealing half-measures that ultimately prove unworkable.

It was easy in 2008 to criticize Mr. Bush's war leadership. But winning a shooting war requires a commander in chief's constant, direct and deep involvement. Mr. Obama could show he understands this if he uses his trip to Denmark this week (where he will serve as pitchman for Chicago to get the 2016 Olympics) to make a surprise visit to Afghanistan.

Refusing to provide all the troops and strategic support that his commanders are requesting will be to concede defeat. We'll soon know whether Mr. Obama has the judgment and the courage to win this war.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
29592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Stimulus Spending does not work on: October 01, 2009, 10:19:44 AM
The global recession and financial crisis have refocused attention on government stimulus packages. These packages typically emphasize spending, predicated on the view that the expenditure "multipliers" are greater than one—so that gross domestic product expands by more than government spending itself. Stimulus packages typically also feature tax reductions, designed partly to boost consumer demand (by raising disposable income) and partly to stimulate work effort, production and investment (by lowering rates).

World War II defense spending offers a good measure of stimulus effects.

The existing empirical evidence on the response of real gross domestic product to added government spending and tax changes is thin. In ongoing research, we use long-term U.S. macroeconomic data to contribute to the evidence. The results mostly favor tax rate reductions over increases in government spending as a means to increase GDP.

For defense spending, the principal long-run variations reflect the buildups and aftermaths of major wars—World War I, World War II, the Korean War and, to a much lesser extent, the Vietnam War. World War II tends to dominate, with the ratio of added defense spending to GDP reaching 26% in 1942 and 17% in 1943, and then falling to -26% in 1946.

Wartime spending is helpful for estimating spending multipliers for three key reasons. First, the variations in spending are large and include positive and negative values. Second, since the main changes in military spending are independent of economic developments, it is straightforward to isolate the direction of causation between government spending and GDP. Third, unlike many other countries during the world wars, the U.S. suffered only moderate loss of life and did not experience massive destruction of physical capital. In addition, because the unemployment rate in 1940 exceeded 9% but then fell to 1% in 1944, there is some information on how the multiplier depends on the strength of the economy.

For annual data that start in 1939 or earlier (and, thereby, include World War II), the defense-spending multiplier that applies at the average unemployment rate of 5.6% is in a range of 0.6-0.7. A multiplier less than one means that, overall, other components of GDP fell when defense spending rose. Empirically, our research shows that most of the fall was in private investment, with personal consumer expenditure changing little.

Our research also shows that greater weakness in the economy raises the estimated multiplier: It increases by around 0.1 for each two percentage points by which the unemployment rate exceeds its long-run median of 5.6%. Thus the estimated multiplier reaches 1.0 when the unemployment rate gets to about 12%.

To evaluate typical fiscal-stimulus packages, however, nondefense government spending multipliers are more important. Estimating these multipliers convincingly from U.S. time series is problematical, however, because the movements in nondefense government purchases (dominated since the 1960s by state and local outlays) are closely intertwined with the business cycle. Thus the explanation for much of the positive association between nondefense spending and GDP is that government spending increased in response to growing GDP, rather than the reverse.

The effects of tax rates on GDP growth can be analyzed from a time series we've constructed on average marginal income-tax rates from federal and state income taxes and the Social Security payroll tax. Since 1950, the largest declines in the average marginal rate from the federal individual income tax occurred under Ronald Reagan (to 21.8% in 1988 from 25.9% in 1986 and to 25.6% in 1983 from 29.4% in 1981), George W. Bush (to 21.1% in 2003 from 24.7% in 2000), and Kennedy-Johnson (to 21.2% in 1965 from 24.7% in 1963). Tax rates rose particularly during the Korean War, the 1970s and the 1990s. The average marginal tax rate from Social Security (including payments from employees, employers and the self-employed) expanded to 10.8% in 1991 from 2.2% in 1971 and then remained reasonably stable.

For data that start in 1950, we estimate that a one-percentage-point cut in the average marginal tax rate raises the following year's GDP growth rate by around 0.6% per year. However, this effect is harder to pin down over longer periods that include the world wars and the Great Depression.

It would be useful to apply our U.S. analysis to long-term macroeconomic time series for other countries, but many of them experienced massive contractions of real GDP during the world wars, driven by the destruction of capital stocks and institutions and large losses of life. It is also unclear whether other countries have the necessary underlying information to construct measures of average marginal income-tax rates—the key variable for our analysis of tax effects in the U.S. data.

The bottom line is this: The available empirical evidence does not support the idea that spending multipliers typically exceed one, and thus spending stimulus programs will likely raise GDP by less than the increase in government spending. Defense-spending multipliers exceeding one likely apply only at very high unemployment rates, and nondefense multipliers are probably smaller. However, there is empirical support for the proposition that tax rate reductions will increase real GDP.

Mr. Barro is a professor of economics at Harvard. Mr. Redlick is a recent Harvard graduate. This op-ed is based on a working paper issued by the National Bureau of Economic Research in September.
29593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: October 01, 2009, 08:59:51 AM
Why Iraqi trademarks?

I would suspect the North Koreans first and foremost.

Intelligence Guidance (Special Edition): Oct. 1, 2009 - Iranian Crisis on Hold
Stratfor Today » October 1, 2009 | 1406 GMT
Editor’s Note: The following is an internal STRATFOR document produced to provide high-level guidance to our analysts. This document is not a forecast, but rather a series of guidelines for understanding and evaluating events, as well as suggestions on areas for focus.

Both the United States and Iran are attempting to avoid a deterioration to war. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki’s Sept. 30 visit to Washington did not involve meeting with members of Congress, or if it did, it was only to use them as a conduit to someone more important; the wording of his spokesman makes that clear. The spokesman denied knowledge of any meeting with administration officials, not that meetings took place. At the very least, Mottaki made a major gesture in coming to Washington, and now the United States is making one in return. The reports out of Geneva are noncommittal, but no one has walked, and now the conventional wisdom is that the talks will continue into Oct. 2 and that Iran has until the end of the year to verify the non-military nature of its nuclear program. The Israelis have made it clear that they are prepared to withhold action and criticism until this phase is concluded.

Related Special Series
Special Series: Iran Sanctions
Related Special Topic Page
Special Coverage: The Iran Crisis
Logically, the Iranian goal is to initiate a set of extended negotiations in which nuclear weapons are not the only issue on the table. The more complex the negotiations, the longer they go on, the more international credibility Iran gains, and the less likely Iran is going to be forced to capitulate on the nuclear question.

For the United States, this strategy puts off the day of reckoning, and does not force a crisis this week. It also allows U.S. President Barack Obama to maintain his doctrine of engagement. There does not seem any great pressure politically on Obama to act. There is not a critical mass in Congress wanting to press the issue to the max right now. One may emerge, but if the Obama administration is skillful in shaping an apparent negotiating process, it will not emerge for a while. The key here is Israel. When Israel decides it has gone on long enough, it will pull in enough chips on Capitol Hill to create that pressure. But for right now, the people who would like to see a crisis aren’t strong enough to create one. So there is talk about disappointment, but they aren’t going to be introducing resolutions. Obama has bought time.

Diplomatically, the Israelis have backed off. This does not necessarily indicate that Israel thinks there is any chance of this working, but they do not want to be accused of sabotaging the process. If military action is taken, this also allows the United States to say it did its very best to prevent that action. Action now or down the road, the outcome today (and for some parties the very goal) is extensive talks, not a crisis.

If Iranians simply stonewall the nuclear issue, a crisis will break out. Tehran knows this, so it will raise ambiguities, such as an extended negotiation over when International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors might be permitted in, and under what circumstances. All of this comes directly from the North Korean rulebook.

The question is what might upset the applecart here. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is playing statesman, and his enemies might be motivated to destabilize the talks by leaking more information on his program. New information on the program might leak from CIA or elsewhere, increasing the pressure. Or the Israelis might do some sophisticated and deniable leaking.

For the moment, we need to watch the nuances of the talks. The participants want them to continue indefinitely in hopes of taking the issue out of crisis mode. Two things to watch for are, one, if Ahmadinejad feels compelled to gloat, and two, if the Israelis appear to feel that fruitless talks are going to go on forever. At any point, a number of players can abort the process.

The most concerned party should be Russia. Real talks are not the path the Russians wanted, even if this is the path they said they wanted. The Russians were anticipating a breakdown in the talks that they would then blame on the Americans. The Russians want the Iranians and Americans at each others’ throats, but they also need to be perceived in Europe as a reasonable player. Russian’s grand strategy is to split Europe from the United States, and particularly Germany. Part of that includes painting the Americans as warmongers. That’s hard to do if you are seen as the one that submarines talks that could have succeeded in dialing back a crisis. But this is not the same as saying they are out of the game. Their options are plentiful, they just cannot be used today.

We need to listen very carefully to the comments, leaks, and off-the-record spin of the talks when they end today, and look to see whether they go on another day. And we need to know if Mottaki has left Washington.

For the moment, this has not gone as we expected. Obama has defused the immediate crisis. He has not ended it by any means, but we are in a different timeframe, probably one running to the end of the year based on what has been said. He now has one crisis, not two (at least for now) — unless the present process blows apart in the next few hours. It seems to us that the most likely outcome at present is everyone to continuing to talk about talking.
29594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams, 1775 on: October 01, 2009, 08:53:15 AM
"They define a republic to be a government of laws, and not of men." --John Adams, Novanglus No. 7, 1775
29595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: October 01, 2009, 08:29:36 AM
Putin's Plans for the Russian Economy
RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER VLADIMIR PUTIN spoke at a Moscow banking forum on Tuesday about plans to liberalize the Russian economy. Specifically, he noted that a fresh round of government privatizations could soon begin, and that much of what was on offer would involve the government disposing of shares in companies that had been gained in exchange for bailouts during the global recession.

Nice words, but as Winston Churchill famously opined, “I cannot forecast you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma: but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” There is more to Putin’s speech than meets the eye.

“Putin is many things, but he is a Russian leader at heart — and Russian leaders tend not to rule with a particularly light touch or with generous forgiveness.”
Let’s shine a light on where most of these shares came from. The Russian development model of the past six years focused on tapping international capital markets. Russia refused to give up actual managerial control or meaningful ownership, so its companies — and particularly its state companies — issued bonds or took out loans with foreign banks rather than issuing stock. The process flooded the Russian financial sector with lots of someone else’s money. For most Russian corporations — and doubly so for most Russian state corporations — this amounted to a financial free-for-all. From 2004 to 2008, some $500 billion flowed into Russia through this practice.

When the global economic crisis emerged, all of those funding sources dried up in a matter of weeks. With the collapse of commodity prices, the ruble shed a third of its value. But those loans and bonds still required repayment — and not in rubles, since they were foreign borrowings after all. As a consequence, the Russian economy suffered a contraction worse than that of any other major state in the world. The Kremlin was forced to bail out many firms, particularly government firms, to prevent a broad collapse. To accomplish this, the Kremlin had to reach into its sizable purse — not something that its leadership does easily, or without a plan.

It has always struck us as a touch odd that no one has yet been called on the carpet for this financial mismanagement. Putin is many things, but he is a Russian leader at heart — and Russian leaders tend not to rule with a particularly light touch or with generous forgiveness. A few well-placed people screwed up and negated five years of economic stability in a single, catastrophic season. Even in the United States, where rule of law is robust and pockets are deep, people are going to prison for the things they pulled in the sub-prime real estate market.

We find it hard to believe that Putin’s speech is the end of the story. In fact, we think it is just the beginning.

29596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / SCT takes incorporation case on: September 30, 2009, 10:51:08 AM
Court to rule on gun rights, terrorism law

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 10:04 am | Lyle Denniston |

Taking on a major new constitutional dispute over gun rights, the Supreme Court agreed on Wednesday to decide whether to apply the Second Amendment to state, county and city government laws. In another major case among ten new grants, the Court said it will rule on the constitutionality of one of the government’s most-used legal weapons in the “war on terrorism” — a law that outlaws “material support” to terrorist groups.

The Court had three cases from which to choose on the Second Amendment issue — two cases involving a Chicago gun ban, and one case on a New York ban on a martial-arts weapon. It chose one of the Chicago cases — McDonald v. Chicago (08-1521) — a case brought to it by Alan Gura, the Alexandria, VA. lawyer who won the 2008 decision for the first time recognizing a constitutional right to have a gun for personal use, at least in self-defense in the home (District of Columbia v. Heller). A second appeal on the Chicago dispute had been filed by the National Rifle Association (NRA v. Chicago, 08-1497). Presumably, the Court will hold onto that case until it decides McDonald; the same is likely for the New York case, Maloney v. Rice (08-1592) — a case in which Justice Sonia Sotomayor had participated when she was a judge on the Second Circuit Court.
29597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: going rogue on: September 30, 2009, 09:23:02 AM
Sarah Palin may no longer be governor of Alaska, but she's certainly destined to become a best-selling author. HarperCollins, her publisher, has announced the print-run of her memoir will be a staggering 1.5 million copies -- equal to the print-run of Senator Ted Kennedy's posthumous autobiography published this month. Publishing sources tell me that such a giant run is only ordered up when there is clear evidence from booksellers and surveys of massive interest in a book.

The book, which will be published on November 17, was a crash project. Ms. Palin actually moved temporarily to San Diego after she resigned the governorship in July so she could be close to her collaborator, Lynn Vincent. I bumped into Ms. Vincent, a former editor at the Christian-oriented World magazine, in New York a few weeks ago, where she had parked herself in a hotel close to the offices of HarperCollins while working on the book's final edits.

Ms. Vincent didn't reveal any details about the book, but did acknowledge it will describe Ms. Palin's frustration over her treatment by the staffers she inherited from the McCain campaign after her surprise pick as the GOP vice presidential nominee last year. Ms. Palin was booked on grueling interviews with hostile reporters while talk-show hosts such as Glenn Beck couldn't even get through to her aides. Mr. Beck tells me he was stunned when he picked up the phone one day just before the election to discover Sarah Palin was on the other end of the line. "She explained that she had been blocked from reaching her audience, so she was now 'going rogue' and booking her own interviews," Mr. Beck told me. "I was thrilled she had burst out of the cage they'd built for her and we were finally talking."

That incident was the only time Ms. Palin declared her independence from her keepers, and it's fitting that the title of her upcoming book will be "Going Rogue: An American Life."
29598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: September 30, 2009, 09:18:52 AM
second entry of the morning

For many decades California residents enjoyed a rising standard of living, an outstanding education system, and unprecedented upward mobility. Yet now, despite state leadership in technology, agriculture and entertainment, California's economy radically underperforms. The unemployment rate, 12.2%, is the nation's third highest. Residents are leaving the state—144,000 more than entered last year—for better opportunities elsewhere. And the state's bond rating is dead last.

While uncontrolled spending, excessive regulation and litigation have helped create a dismal business environment, the tax system is central to the state's economic woes. The top personal income tax rate (also levied on capital gains), the sales tax rate, the corporate tax rate, and the gas tax are all at or near the highest of any state. And the top 1% of the state's income earners pay almost half the income taxes: Thus the state experiences boom-bust cycles of exploding revenues and spending in the good times, followed by a collapse in revenues and emergency retrenchment in recessions. Ironically, California's progressive tax and spending policies now threaten the state's ability to fund everything from parks to prisons, education to health.

The excess spending during booms is never entirely cut back during the busts. Instead, the state also raises taxes and borrows temporarily. If spending had increased at the rate of population and inflation since 1996, recession-level revenues plus reserves would now be more than sufficient to balance the state budget, which is now back in the red, despite temporary tax hikes and spending cuts.

Recognizing the problem, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislative leaders Darrell Steinberg and Karen Bass appointed a bipartisan Commission on the 21st Century Economy in December 2008 to provide recommendations for a reformed tax code that would be far less volatile and substantially more competitive and pro-growth. While the two of us believe California needs to control and reform state spending, and to reduce as well as reform state taxes, we and the commission's other appointees were limited by the executive order creating the commission to changes on the tax side of the state budget that would neither raise nor lower the state's revenues on average over the business cycle.

The commission's majority report recommendations were made public yesterday. They include a sweeping overhaul of the personal income tax code that reduces tax brackets to two from six; eliminates all deductions and credits other than for charity, mortgage interest and property taxes; and cuts the top statutory income tax rate to 6.5% from 9.3%. Most taxpayers would receive a 25%-30% tax cut and all would pay less. The commission also recommends abolition of the state's corporate income tax and the elimination of most of the state sales tax that finances the state's general revenue fund (as opposed to special funds for transportation, etc.). Finally, to replace the lost revenue, the commission recommends a broad-based, low-rate state value-added tax (VAT), collected on business net receipts (revenues less purchases from other businesses, including immediate expensing of capital), that is capped at 4%.

These reforms will reduce the volatility of state revenues by 40% (using commonly accepted measures) mostly by reducing the reliance on personal and corporate income taxes, and moderate the current tax code's extreme progressivity. They also will result in a $7 billion net tax cut per year for Californians without raising taxes on any income group, as some of the new VAT would be borne outside the state and more of Californians' taxes would be deducted against federal taxes.

Proposals to scale-down existing taxes and replace revenues with a new tax raise legitimate concerns. The same political process that erodes the base and raises rates for income taxes might be repeated for a VAT. Such taxes have been used to grow government (for example, in Western Europe) with new taxes added without reducing others.

Some protection against this outcome is provided by California's wise constitutional requirement for a two-thirds vote for the budget and tax increases, and by the commission's recommendation of immediate abolition of the entire corporate income tax as the new business tax begins phasing in. A hard spending cap would be still better.

California can once again lead the nation, this time in moving away from ever-higher personal and corporate tax rates and excessive roller-coaster spending. If not, California and then the nation will lose the dynamism, growth and opportunities for rising living standards that once were the state's hallmark and crowning achievement.

Mr. Boskin is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor of economics at Stanford University. Mr. Cogan is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor of public policy at Stanford University. The commission's report is available online at
29599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Twilight of Pax Americana on: September 30, 2009, 08:42:34 AM
Twilight of Pax Americana
Since the end of WWII, the world has depended on the United States for stability. But with American military and economic dominance waning, capitalism and global security are threatened.

The international order that emerged after World War II has rightly been termed the Pax Americana; it's a Washington-led arrangement that has maintained political stability and promoted an open global economic system. Today, however, the Pax Americana is withering, thanks to what the National Intelligence Council in a recent report described as a "global shift in relative wealth and economic power without precedent in modern history" -- a shift that has accelerated enormously as a result of the economic crisis of 2007-2009.

At the heart of this geopolitical sea change is China's robust economic growth. Not because Beijing will necessarily threaten American interests but because a newly powerful China by necessity means a relative decline in American power, the very foundation of the postwar international order. These developments remind us that changes in the global balance of power can be sudden and discontinuous rather than gradual and evolutionary.

The Great Recession isn't the cause of Washington's ebbing relative power. But it has quickened trends that already had been eating away at the edifice of U.S. economic supremacy. Looking ahead, the health of the U.S. economy is threatened by a gathering fiscal storm: exploding federal deficits that could ignite runaway inflation and undermine the dollar. To avoid these perils, the U.S. will face wrenching choices.

The Obama administration and the Federal Reserve have adopted policies that have dramatically increased both the supply of dollars circulating in the U.S. economy and the federal budget deficit, which both the Brookings Institution and the Congressional Budget Office estimate will exceed $1 trillion every year for at least the next decade. In the short run, these policies were no doubt necessary; nevertheless, in the long term, they will almost certainly boomerang. Add that to the persistent U.S. current account deficit, the enormous unfunded liabilities for entitlement programs and the cost of two ongoing wars, and you can see that America's long-term fiscal stability is in jeopardy. As the CBO says: "Even if the recovery occurs as projected and stimulus bill is allowed to expire, the country will face the highest debt/GDP ratio in 50 years and an increasingly unsustainable and urgent fiscal problem." This spells trouble ahead for the dollar.

The financial privileges conferred on the U.S. by the dollar's unchallenged reserve currency status -- its role as the primary form of payment for international trade and financial transactions -- have underpinned the preeminent geopolitical role of the United States in international politics since the end of World War II. But already the shadow of the coming fiscal crisis has prompted its main creditors, China and Japan, to worry that in coming years the dollar will depreciate in value. China has been increasingly vocal in calling for the dollar's replacement by a new reserve currency. And Yukio Hatoyama, Japan's new prime minister, favors Asian economic integration and a single Asian currency as substitutes for eroding U.S. financial and economic power.

Going forward, to defend the dollar, Washington will need to control inflation through some combination of budget cuts, tax increases and interest rate hikes. Given that the last two options would choke off renewed growth, the least unpalatable choice is to reduce federal spending. This will mean radically scaling back defense expenditures, because discretionary nondefense spending accounts for only about 20% of annual federal outlays. This in turn will mean a radical diminution of America's overseas military commitments, transforming both geopolitics and the international economy.

Since 1945, the Pax Americana has made international economic interdependence and globalization possible. Whereas all states benefit absolutely in an open international economy, some states benefit more than others. In the normal course of world politics, the relative distribution of power, not the pursuit of absolute economic gains, is a country's principal concern, and this discourages economic interdependence. In their efforts to ensure a distribution of power in their favor and at the expense of their actual or potential rivals, states pursue autarkic policies -- those designed to maximize national self-sufficiency -- practicing capitalism only within their borders or among countries in a trading bloc.

Thus a truly global economy is extraordinarily difficult to achieve. Historically, the only way to secure international integration and interdependence has been for a dominant power to guarantee the security of other states so that they need not pursue autarkic policies or form trading blocs to improve their relative positions. This suspension of international politics through hegemony has been the fundamental aim of U.S. foreign policy since the 1940s. The U.S. has assumed the responsibility for maintaining geopolitical stability in Europe, East Asia and the Persian Gulf, and for keeping open the lines of communication through which world trade moves. Since the Cold War's end, the U.S. has sought to preserve its hegemony by possessing a margin of military superiority so vast that it can keep any would-be great power pliant and protected.

Financially, the U.S. has been responsible for managing the global economy by acting as the market and lender of last resort. But as President Obama acknowledged at the London G-20 meeting in April, the U.S. is no longer able to play this role, and the world increasingly is looking to China (and India and other emerging market states) to be the locomotives of global recovery.

Going forward, the fiscal crisis will mean that Washington cannot discharge its military functions as a hegemon either, because it can no longer maintain the power edge that has allowed it to keep the ambitions of the emerging great powers in check. The entire fabric of world order that the United States established after 1945 -- the Pax Americana -- rested on the foundation of U.S. military and economic preponderance. Remove the foundation and the structure crumbles. The decline of American power means the end of U.S. dominance in world politics and the beginning of the transition to a new constellation of world powers.

The result will be profound changes in world politics. Emerging powers will seek to establish spheres of influence, control lines of communication, engage in arms races and compete for control over key natural resources. As America's decline results in the retraction of the U.S. military role in key regions, rivalries among emerging powers are bound to heat up. Already, China and India are competing for influence in Central and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean. Even today, when the United States is still acting as East Asia's regional pacifier, the smoldering security competition between China and Japan is pushing Japan cautiously to engage in the very kind of "re-nationalization" of its security policy that the U.S. regional presence is supposed to prevent. While still wedded to its alliance with the U.S., in recent years Tokyo has become increasingly anxious that, as a Rand Corp. study put it, eventually it "might face a threat against which the United States would not prove a reliable ally." Consequently, Japan is moving toward dropping Article 9 of its American-imposed Constitution (which imposes severe constraints on Japan's military), building up its forces and quietly pondering the possibility of becoming a nuclear power.

Although the weakening of the Pax Americana will not cause international trade and capital flows to come to a grinding halt, in coming years we can expect states to adopt openly competitive economic policies as they are forced to jockey for power and advantage in an increasingly competitive security and economic environment. The world economy will thereby more closely resemble that of the 1930s than the free-trade system of the post-1945 Pax Americana. The coming end of the Pax Americana heralds a crisis for capitalism.

The coming era of de-globalization will be defined by rising nationalism and mercantilism, geopolitical instability and great power competition. In other words, having enjoyed a long holiday from history under the Pax Americana, international politics will be headed back to the future.

Christopher Layne is a professor of government at Texas A&M and a consultant to the National Intelligence Council. Benjamin Schwarz is literary and national editor of the Atlantic.
29600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: New Tax Plan? on: September 30, 2009, 08:33:16 AM
No state's economy, with the exception of Michigan, has careened into a deeper ditch than California in this recession. The state now has the fourth-highest unemployment rate (12.2%), the third-highest rate of mortgage foreclosures, and for two years has had the biggest budget deficit in the history of the 50 states. So it is very good news that yesterday Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's bipartisan tax commission recommended a road out of this mess.

 .The heart of the new plan is to broaden the tax base and slash tax rates on personal income, business and sales. California currently ranks at or near the top in all three categories. This has, paradoxically, contributed to the state's inability to pay its bills by driving men and women from the state and leading to revenue boom and bust. We don't agree with everything in this report, but there's no question it would be a huge improvement over the current tax code in its economic incentives, simplicity, revenue stability and fairness.

The commission hasn't recommended a pure flat tax, but something much closer to it. As shown in the nearby table, the income tax rate, which currently tops out at 10.55%, would be chopped to a more reasonable (but still high) 7.5%. (The plan doesn't eliminate the one-percentage-point millionaire income tax surcharge, alas.) Because about 70% of small businesses pay the personal California income tax, the commission found that California's high rate is driving enterprises to the likes of Nevada, Texas and Idaho. The number of tax rates is reduced to three from seven (we prefer one), and thanks to the elimination of credits and loopholes, the new California tax form would fit on a postcard.

Even more impressive is the recommendation to eliminate the corporate income tax and the 5% of the sales tax that contributes to the general fund. These would be replaced by a broad-based Business Net Receipts Tax of no higher than 4%. This taxes businesses on what they produce, minus their costs of purchases from other firms. This is similar to a value added tax.

One benefit of this new levy is that it creates a level playing field among industries and reduces tax favoritism based on the power of lobbyists in Sacramento. The greater virtue is that this tax would exempt all California investment and capital income from taxation. (Michael Boskin and John Cogan offer more details nearby.)

The commission—chaired by California businessman and former U.S. Treasury official Gerald Parsky—also calls for a rainy day fund by requiring annual revenues above a 10-year rolling average to be put into a reserve fund rather than being spent.

One danger is that the revenue-generating efficiency of the Business Net Receipts Tax would eventually increase the overall tax burden in California. To protect against this, the commission calls for a permanent cap on the BNRT at 4%. Some business groups don't like the new business tax because it means they'd have to pay tax even if they don't make money. But a sales tax has that same feature.

A higher rate would defeat the purpose of this corporate tax reform, which by eliminating the corporate income tax would go far to restore the state's competitiveness with other states, as well as Japan, China and Europe. Conservatives should insist that the current two-thirds vote requirement in the legislature to raise taxes applies to this new business tax to protect against jacking up the rate to grow the state government.

Part of Mr. Parsky's achievement here is political, because he managed to convince a bipartisan majority of nine of the commission's 14 members to endorse its proposals. This includes notable liberal Christopher Edley, while Democrats like Senator Dianne Feinstein and former Governor Gray Davis have also praised much of the plan.

They may be motivated by the reality that California's steeply progressive tax rates are defeating the purposes of progressive government. To wit, only a growing economy can create opportunity for the middle class and enough state revenues to finance schools and health care for the poor. A tax code that depends on 1% of taxpayers, 144,000 filers, to finance 50% of state income tax revenues has proven to be unsustainable, notwithstanding the liberal dogma that says tax rates don't matter.

Mr. Schwarzenegger will call for a special session of the legislature to approve this plan later in October, so let the debate begin. The only painless way to rebalance the Golden State's $150 billion annual budget is to expand the tax base by luring capital and jobs back to the West Coast. That's what happened when California passed Proposition 13 to cap its property taxes in 1978. If the legislature fails to act, as it probably will, then the Parsky plan should become central to next year's election debate over how to revive this once dynamic state.
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