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30151  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: toronto dbma training camp featuring Crafty Dog, Top Dog and Sled Dog Aug 21-23 on: June 06, 2009, 08:09:55 AM
Things that make you go hmmmm.  smiley
30152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Education on: June 06, 2009, 08:08:44 AM
Well said.
30153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The stictch in time that saved the nine on: June 06, 2009, 08:03:42 AM
I wish he had mentioned the role of FDR's court-packing scheme in all of this:


The growing dispute between conservatives and liberals over the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor obscures a more troubling point of agreement: The government should almost always win.

Many conservatives who think of themselves as proponents of limited government would be surprised to discover that conservative judges begin their constitutional analyses in almost every context by placing a thumb firmly on the government side of the scale. It's called "judicial deference." Many liberals, who take pride in being "empathetic," would be surprised to learn that liberal judges also subscribe to judicial deference.

The practical result is that judges of both persuasions almost never enforce any constitutional limit on the power of government to regulate property and the economy. Given that the vast majority of law concerns these two areas, the real crisis in constitutional law is not judicial "activism" but judicial passivism.

It all began in the late 1930s, when the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for New Deal economic regulation. In essence, conservatives have adopted the big-government agenda of that era. The liberal-conservative consensus explains why nomination fights focus on a few "culture war" issues such as gay marriage or guns. Liberals and conservatives squabble over these esoteric questions because there is such harmonious accord on everything else.

The time-honored justification for judicial deference is that when courts refuse to enforce property rights and allow economic liberties to be trampled by legislatures they are showing respect for the democratic process. But this notion is not faithful to the duty of the judiciary. The Constitution's framers understood that legislatures are as much nests of vice as of virtue. That is why they went to such lengths to define the limits of government, set forth our rights broadly, and create an independent, co-equal branch of government to protect those rights.

The absence of meaningful constitutional limits on the power of government over property and the economy has had consequences that should cause both liberals and conservatives to rethink the wisdom of sweeping judicial deference. For example, last fall Congress enacted the Troubled Asset Relief Program, putting hundreds of billions of dollars at the personal discretion of the secretary of the Treasury. This grant of authority -- which violates the basic constitutional duty of Congress to control the purse laid out in Article I, Section 8 -- transformed the secretary into the most powerful unelected official in American history. Such power, once acquired, is rarely relinquished.

None of this would have been thinkable, much less possible, without the longstanding refusal of the Supreme Court to enforce clear constitutional boundaries on the elected branches.

In another example, America has become a patchwork quilt of laws serving special interests because courts refuse to protect economic liberty. In 1950, only one in 20 trades required a license. Now it is more than one in four (according to recent research of Morris Kleiner published by the National Bureau of Economic Research), and the clamor by industry groups for more licensing grows unabated.

Special interests love licensing because it restricts competition and thus drives up the prices they can charge. None of this would be possible if judges simply struck down licensing laws as an insult to the constitutional right to earn an honest living secured by the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment and the "privileges or immunities" clause of the 14th Amendment.

Bad government is usually the result of runaway government. And runaway government is usually the result of government exceeding its constitutional prerogatives. Because they have a far stronger stake in the integrity of checks and balances on government power than in the culture war, conservatives and liberals should declare a truce over "activism" and reflect on the need to take the whole Constitution seriously.

Judges should be neither active nor passive, neither aggressive nor deferential. In a word, they should be engaged -- engaged in protecting constitutional rights to property and economic liberty, because these areas of the law have the most impact on our daily lives.

Mr. Rowes is an attorney at the Institute for Justice in Arlington, Va.

30154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: June 05, 2009, 10:52:34 PM
Me neither  cry  I went for the big bucks in stickfighting , , ,  cheesy
30155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: June 05, 2009, 10:28:48 PM
What does Schiff suggest to profit from the coming crash?
30156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / President Reagan at Normandy 6/6/84 on: June 05, 2009, 09:27:21 PM
Through Sunday night only, President Reagan at Normandy for the 40th Anniversary of D-Day.
30157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Horsetrading? Schocked, absolutely schocked! on: June 05, 2009, 06:54:18 PM
Sotomayor speech undercuts Obama claims
Credits Democratic Senator for her initial nomination
By Tom LoBianco (Contact) | Friday, June 5, 2009

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor said in a 1998 speech that she owed her first federal judicial nomination almost entirely to New York Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, undercutting the spirit of President Obama's claim that it was Republican President George H.W. Bush who was responsible for her first appointment to the federal bench.

Mr. Obama and fellow Democrats have repeatedly pointed to her initial nomination to a federal district court in 1991 by then-President Bush, and her later elevation to an appeals court by then-President Clinton seven years later, as evidence she is a nonpartisan selection for the high court.

But in her own account of her nomination, delivered in a speech to a Hispanic legal association, Judge Sotomayor recalled that she was only nominated, and only received a Senate floor vote, because of political horse-trading by Mr. Moynihan, the senior senator from New York, where Judge Sotomayor lived. President Bush, Judge Sotomayor added, was far from an enthusiastic advocate for her nomination.

"Over the next twenty months, Senator Moynihan cajoled and pushed the Republican White House to nominate me. He traded other nominees in other states some circuit and other district court with the [White House] to get me ultimately nominated by President Bush," Judge Sotomayor said, according to the text of the speech to the Cervantes Society.

The address was included in a voluminous record of the judge's speeches, opinions and personal data delivered to the Senate Thursday ahead of her confirmation hearings this summer.

Judge Sotomayor's blunt account of the backroom politicking involved in her nomination appears to undercut a refrain used by her supporters -- including President Obama -- that she is the product of bipartisan presidential approvals.

"It is her experience in life and her achievements in the legal profession that have earned Judge Sotomayor respect across party lines and ideological divides," Mr. Obama said in a weekly radio address last month. "She was originally named to the U.S. District Court by the first President Bush, a Republican. She was appointed to the federal Court of Appeals by President Clinton, a Democrat."

Republicans and conservative activists have made the same argument about Mr. Moynihan's role, but Judge Sotomayor's words will likely give them much more ammunition.

Mr. Moynihan used an arrangement that New York's two senators had with the Bush White House in which the senator whose party controlled the White House nominated three judges for every one judge the other senator recommended, she wrote in the 1998 speech. New York's other senator at the time was Republican Alfonse D'Amato.

Mr. Moynihan used his one nomination for Judge Sotomayor and spent the next two years battling the Bush administration to secure her formal nomination.

A White House spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

In the Cervantes Society speech, Judge Sotomayor detailed a 1991 phone call she received from an attorney in the George H.W. Bush White House informing her that the president was unlikely to nominate her to the bench "because my senator was not cooperating."

"As they guessed, I called Sen. Moynihan's office and I learned that the White House wanted his cooperation in getting the Judicial Committee, chaired then by Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, to push out of the committee two Republican circuit court nominees," Judge Sotomayor wrote.

"You would not be drawing a wrong conclusion in presuming that two circuit court judges owe their positions to my nomination and [to] Sen. Moynihan's dedication to making it happen," she said.

Her grueling 28-month confirmation battle did not end there. A "disgruntled senator" blocked the nomination of four women nominees, including Judge Sotomayor, until the Senate Judiciary Committee removed a hold on another nominee, according to her speech.

Athough Judge Sotomayor did not identify the "disgruntled" lawmaker in the speech, news reports from the time say Alabama Sen. Richard C. Shelby, then a Democrat, had blocked the nominations because of a separate hold placed on an Alabama prosecutor who supported the death penalty. Mr. Shelby later switched parties and is now a Republican.
30158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: June 05, 2009, 06:35:03 PM
I shared your post with economist Scott Grannis HUSS and here are his comments:

The establishment survey data is always subject to the whims of 
seasonal adjustment and fudge factors (birth-death model). That's why 
I always look at the household survey, which has no fudge factors. 
Sometimes the two diverge. This time they are both telling the same 
story: job losses are slowing down. Coupled with the unemployment 
claims and all the green shoots out there, I think it is clear that 
the recession has ended.

On Jun 5, 2009, at 9:46 AM, Marc Denny wrote:
30159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: June 05, 2009, 06:32:26 PM
I just tried emailing him but it bounced back.   I will have to give him a call.
30160  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty 8/1-2 Fort Hood, TX on: June 05, 2009, 01:05:45 PM
Well, that about covers it smiley

I'm really looking forward to this.  Gus did a fine job leading a DBMA Training Group in Iraq and it will be a pleasure seeing him again.  I gather he will be posting later today or tomorrow about what he would like me to cover.
30161  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty 8/1-2 Fort Hood, TX on: June 05, 2009, 11:50:30 AM
Thank you.  And if I may push my luck a bit, how far are

a) Ft Worth/Dallas?
b) San Antonio?
c) Houston?


I just spoke with Gus a few minutes ago.  He is working on the flyer and the specifics of the seminar today/over the weekend and we anticipate haveing more precise news here in the next few days.
30162  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: June 05, 2009, 11:48:05 AM
A Pulitzer prize winning writer has approached me about covering the Gathering.
30163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What a fcuking #$%^!!! on: June 05, 2009, 08:51:28 AM

On his way to the 65th D-Day commemorations in France, President Obama plans a curious stop-over in Germany, my home country. He will travel to Buchenwald, the concentration camp his great uncle helped liberate, a visit that makes personal and historical sense. It is his other German destination, Dresden, that seems out of place. Will the president, who likes to apologize for America's alleged sins, now also apologize for World War II?

For many Germans, the destruction of Dresden in February 1945 has become a symbol of Allied "bombing terror." Many still believe the true number of deaths is closer to the Nazi propaganda of 200,000 than the 20,000 to 35,000 historians believe is correct.

Google "Dresden" and "Kriegsverbrechen," the German word for "war crimes," and you'll get almost 26,000 results. Neo-Nazis marched through the streets of Dresden this February commemorating the "Bombing Holocaust." A flood of recent books, articles and documentaries has shifted Germany's historical debate from its war crimes to its own war victims. As part of this trend, in 2006 public TV station ZDF broadcast "Dresden: The Inferno," the most expensive German television production at the time. Its graphic display of carnage and burning people is at odds with German movie tradition. Films about the Holocaust tend to be more subtle and less emotional.

Mr. Obama's visit to Dresden is an unfortunate gesture. Even if the president were not to make an outright apology for the allied bombings, he could hardly not mention them in this city so preoccupied with its wartime history. And even if he were not to give any speech at all and just toured the city, he'd inevitably be led to the many landmarks that were once reduced to rubble.

His mere presence in Dresden -- on the heels of a visit to Buchenwald and just before attending the Normandy commemorations -- would boost the revisionist cause. It would suggest a sort of moral equivalence between industrialized genocide and the bombings of German cities -- bombings, remember, that were designed to bring an end to the genocidal regime.

Mr. Obama's encounter with the reality of governing does not seem to have tempered his appetite for second-guessing past U.S. presidents. Having already come close to a mea culpa for America's use of atomic bombs against Japan, he may now add Dresden to the revisionist charges against the U.S. Even if the president doesn't say that America lost its moral bearings by bombing Dresden, people will read between the lines of his visit.

Mr. Schwammenthal is an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe.

30164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 05, 2009, 08:26:59 AM
An additional point to consider on the benefits and merits of Israel as an ally:

History Question:

How did it happen that Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, all of which were once Soviet client states, ceased being such?
30165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Water Technology on: June 05, 2009, 08:04:23 AM

Water Tech Firm Rankings:

More info:
30166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: on: June 05, 2009, 07:31:06 AM
Third post of the morning

Pakistani forces are continuing to take out Taliban strongholds June 1 in the Swat region of northwestern Pakistan. With the Swat district headquarters, the city of Mingora, under control, the military is beginning to expand operations to other Taliban strongholds. The main question is whether the military will be able to consolidate the gains it has made against the militant Islamist fighters while carrying out increasingly difficult operations.


Pakistani forces continued rooting out Taliban strongholds in the Swat region June 1, a day after the military announced it had successfully wrested control of Mingora, the district headquarters of Swat in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), from Taliban hands.

A relatively small number of Taliban forces had settled in inside Mingora to fight Pakistani forces. STRATFOR received reports early in the offensive that these militants were planting mines and explosives, digging trenches and stockpiling weapons and ammunition in preparation for the onslaught. But the militants who remained in Mingora were outnumbered and unable to withstand the military’s concerted conventional assault. The Taliban fighters who had fled Mingora were unable to rejoin, supply or otherwise support the militants still in Mingora, who ultimately were defeated by Pakistani forces.

When it became clear that Taliban reinforcements were cut off from Mingora, Taliban commanders began calling on their compatriots to focus their attention on attacks in other parts of Pakistan, particularly in urban areas of Punjab province. The May 27 bombing directed at the Inter-Services Intelligence agency headquarters in Lahore was partly indicative of this call to action, though local Taliban forces have long been attempting to escalate attacks in this critical province.

(click image to enlarge)
The Pakistani military’s focus on conventional warfare and severe inexperience in counterinsurgency have long contributed to its weakness against the jihadist insurgency. However, the military exhibited operational success when it cut off Taliban supply lines to Mingora by encircling the city from Lower Dir to the west, from Malakand district to the southwest, from Buner to the southeast and from Shangla to the east. This both narrowed the potential escape routes for the remaining fighters and prevented their compatriots from aiding the remaining resistance in the city. By isolating the remaining hard-line fighters, the military was able to bring overwhelming conventional firepower to bear. While the operation certainly was not without consequence, it was an important demonstration of strategy and might against entrenched Taliban forces in an urban area.

The Pakistani military has Mingora under control for now and is making efforts to clear surrounding towns, but the overall Swat offensive is clearly far from over. The operations under way aim to flush out remaining Taliban strongholds in Swat, while a number of Taliban are taking cover in the neighboring districts of Dir, Buner, Malakand and Shangla and have blended in with the refugees.

Pakistani forces have retained the initiative and are pushing outward into the more mountainous northern regions of Swat, where a number of Taliban are believed to be holed up. As of June 1, the military was conducting operations in the valley of Kalam, about 56 miles north of Mingora. The military also is moving into a Taliban stronghold called Charbagh, a town located about 12 miles north of Mingora. The military reportedly has set up checkpoints to surround Charbagh from the north and south in the towns of Khwazakhela and Manglawar, respectively. Military forces reportedly are also shelling Taliban positions in Kabal, west of Mingora, and lower Malam Jabba, located to Mingora’s east. However, it will become increasingly difficult for regular troops and special forces to move deeper into mountainous Taliban strongholds like Kalam, especially as they are also trying to hold their ground in villages that have already been cleared without increasing the number of deployments in the Swat region.

This is the largest military operation ever conducted in Swat, and public morale is high for now, but the Taliban are a patient, resilient force and are capable of regrouping and reclaiming lost territory. The Taliban have demonstrated this ability a number of times in Afghanistan, where they have drifted back into towns previously cleared by NATO troops. Moreover, while the Pakistani military has touted the killings of several midlevel commanders, the senior leadership of the Taliban in Swat remains at large.

There are no indications yet that Pakistan will divert more forces from its eastern border with India to reinforce operations in the northwest. This poses a considerable dilemma, as the military has a strategic interest in capitalizing on its current levels of public support to expand the offensive into far more challenging Taliban strongholds farther south in the tribal badlands of North and South Waziristan. Public support in the Swat area is indeed swinging toward the military for the time being. Locals say they are now able to speak openly against the Taliban, which they did not dare to do in previous months. The local populace also has renewed confidence in the military’s will and ability to stand up to the Taliban.

The big question that remains, then, is whether the military will be able to consolidate the security gains made thus far, develop efficient local security and governance to hold the territory against encroaching Taliban, and do the necessary developmental work to restore the livelihoods of some 3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) forced from their homes by the fighting. Many IDPs are living temporarily in schools and other government buildings or are staying with friends and relatives. Still, the lower-income families who have no choice but to live in very poorly equipped refugee camps that the military has set up are ideal targets for the Taliban’s recruitment efforts, which likely will intensify in the wake of the Swat offensive as the group attempts to replenish its ranks.

The military also knows it will become harder for its forces to remain in the Swat region in the long term. Public discontent over the military presence is likely to increase, and challenges elsewhere will demand the military’s attentions. Operations are under way to bring in local administrators and accelerate the training of local police forces to secure the villages that have been cleared of Taliban thus far, but these police units are already extremely demoralized, underequipped and underpaid, and they will continue to be the primary targets of Taliban forces seeking to retake the territory. Islamabad’s long-term commitment to fighting the deeper sources of public discontent will therefore be critical to Pakistan’s ability to halt the Talibanization process.

With much work to be done in Swat and surrounding areas in the near term, any talk of a similar large-scale offensive in South Waziristan should be met with skepticism. Military and government officials alike are issuing contradictory statements on how quickly the Swat offensive can be wrapped up so the military can shift its focus farther south to Waziristan. The Waziristan operation is still in the planning stages and, while some preliminary skirmishes are taking place in South Waziristan, no clear or unified decision appears to have been made on expanding the military offensive in a meaningful way beyond the Swat region.

Editor’s Note:This analysis originally said that Kabal is east of Mingora and Malam Jabba is west of Mingora. Kabal is west of Mingora, and Malam Jabba is to the east. The error has been corrected.

30167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon in the Philippines on: June 05, 2009, 07:20:16 AM
30168  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Hip problems on: June 05, 2009, 07:06:39 AM
Woof All:

Some of you may have heard me quote Sara Petitt, Guro Inosanto's yoga teacher (proud to say I introduced the two of them) to the effect that "Knees are escape valves for hips"; the idea being that when the hips are tight and/or misaligned that the stress is transfered to the knees.  This article seems to suggest there is a relationship in the other direction as well.

Crafty Dog

Hips Are Bringing More Athletes to Their Knees

Published: May 31, 2009
The quest to build ever more proficient athletes keeps hitting unexpected
snags, and perhaps nowhere is this more vivid than in Major League Baseball.
Several top players have been hampered by a hip ailment that was unheard of
in the sport a decade ago.

Knee injuries to countless recreational and professional athletes in recent
years made anterior cruciate ligament a household phrase and compelled
trainers to emphasize building leg strength. Sports medicine experts now say
that approach, while mitigating knee injuries, may be making hips

"No matter what we do, as complex as we try and make workouts and training
methods, we lose sight of other things," said Mackie Shilstone, a trainer
based in New Orleans, who works with baseball, football and hockey players
who are rehabilitating injuries. "We tend to concentrate on what is directly
in front of us.

"In all my years as a trainer, I have not seen anything like the increase in
hip injuries that I have seen over the past two years."

No studies have been published to confirm this phenomenon. But many trainers
and orthopedists say the anecdotal evidence is jarring, and medical staffs
for Major League Baseball teams and franchises in other sports are
scrambling to understand why athletes' hips suddenly seem so fragile.

Experts said other factors could be at work in addition to the overemphasis
on leg strength. Advances in magnetic imaging have enabled doctors to see
inside the hip and identify certain ailments, and the increasing number of
children playing sports at younger ages has led to more instances of
improper bone development.

Several of baseball's biggest stars - including Alex Rodriguez of the
Yankees, Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies and Carlos Delgado of the
Mets - have been forced to the sideline after having surgery to repair a
torn labrum, the cartilage that runs along the rim of the hip socket.
Rodriguez recently returned after missing two months, and Delgado has said
he may not return this season. On Thursday, one of Utley's teammates,
pitcher Brett Myers, was found to have a damaged labrum in his hip. He is
expected to have surgery this week.

Not all doctors are convinced that training is the culprit.

"It's not like workouts have changed all of a sudden; it doesn't explain
 it," said Christopher Powers, an associate professor of biokinesiology at
the University of Southern California. "People and doctors are just more
aware of it diagnostically. We've always had hip problems; now we are just
finding it better."

The number of players on the disabled list because of hip and groin-muscle
injuries rose to 34 in 2008 from 20 in 2007. Through the first quarter of
this season, at least 13 players have gone on the disabled list with hip

"Delgado and A-Rod asked me about it," said Utley, who had hip surgery last
November after the Phillies won the World Series. "They both wanted to know
what I did to keep playing.

"Before, guys never had hip surgeries and never let them work on their hips.
But this was different."

No sports medicine experts pointed to performance-enhancing drugs in
explaining the rise in hip injuries. But dozens of major league baseball
players, including Rodriguez, have been linked to performance-enhancing
drugs in recent years, raising suspicions every time a new injury trend

"It's interesting to see what injuries increase as we come out of the
steroid era," said Stan Conte, the head trainer for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The sudden prominence of hip injuries comes a year after an unusual number
of baseball players sustained strained oblique muscles, which run from the
ribs to the abdomen.

The apparent rash of hip injuries extends beyond baseball, doctors and
trainers said. Athletes of all ages and skill levels and in varying sports
are having hip problems at higher rates and being found to have labral
tears, they said. Soccer and hockey players in particular have followed the
conventional training wisdom in recent years and bolstered their knees. Now
some of them, including Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro and midfielder
Freddie Ljungberg of Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders, who have both
had labrum surgery, are having hip trouble.

"In soccer, they train harder than they used to train 10 to 15 to 20 years
ago, when soccer had had a lot of A.C.L. tears," said Dr. Andreas H. Gomoll,
an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School and a
surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"They started worrying much more about knees; they now do special training
to protect the knee. And one belief is that this is why we have more of
these injuries because the strength is putting more pressure on the hips."

Dr. Bryan T. Kelly, a surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in
Manhattan, performed Utley's operation and is scheduled to operate on Myers.
He said he did not believe it was a coincidence that "I get 40 hockey
players in a six-week period at the end of the season all coming into my
office with the same-looking bone structure in their hips, all saying that
they have been skating since they were 3 years old."

Kelly added, "I believe we are seeing some consequences from having our kids
over the past few decades playing sports more at younger ages."

As magnetic imaging has become more sophisticated, doctors have gained the
ability to see inside the hip and identify labral tears.

"We are doing a much better job at imaging the injuries, and we are also
seeing athletes with bigger bodies that are working harder on strength and
conditioning, and the bigger, stronger muscles are allowing athletes to
torque faster and more pressure is being put on the hip," said Dr. Jordan
Metzl, a sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Problems with labral tears occur when the head of the femur does not fit
correctly in the hip socket. If it is not a good fit, the labrum is squeezed
between the ball and the socket when the hip is flexed. Over time, the
labrum can become irritated and tear.

The problem with an adolescent, doctors said, is that the head of the femur
is still growing. Stress on the hip can cause the bone to become misshapen.
As the athlete continues to play sports into adulthood, the improperly
shaped bone rubs against the labrum.

"I believe the situation with the hips is similar to Little League baseball,
where there is a high awareness to elbow injuries from pitching too much
because the joints are still developing," Kelly said. "But with the hips,
nothing is said. There is nothing done to try and prevent damage from being
30169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: WHTI on: June 05, 2009, 06:54:26 AM
The Practical Implications of the WHTI
May 28, 2009

By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton

External Link
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Web site
(STRATFOR is not responsible for the content of other Web sites.)
On June 1, 2009, the land and sea portion of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) will go into effect. The WHTI is a program launched as a result of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and intended to standardize the documents required to enter the United States. The stated goal of WHTI is to facilitate entry for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign visitors while reducing the possibility of people entering the country using fraudulent documents.

Prior to the WHTI, American travelers to Mexico, Canada and several countries in the Caribbean needed only a driver’s license and birth certificate to re-enter the United States, while American travelers to other regions of the world required U.S. passports to return. This meant that immigration officials had to examine driver’s licenses and birth certificates from every state, and since the driver’s licenses and birth certificates of all the states change over time, there were literally hundreds of different types of documents that could be used by travelers at points of entry. In practical terms, this meant there was no way immigration officers could be familiar with the security features of each identification document, thereby making it easier for foreigners to use counterfeit or fraudulently altered documents to enter the country by claiming to be returning U.S. citizens.

The air portion of the WHTI went into effect in January 2007 and required that all international air travelers use passports to enter the United States. However, the land and sea implementation of WHTI will be a little different from the air portion. In addition to passports, travelers can also use U.S. passport cards (a driver’s license-sized identification document), an enhanced driver’s license (which are currently being issued by Michigan, New York, Vermont and Washington) or “special trusted” traveler identification cards such as Nexus and Sentri to enter the country by land or sea.

The WHTI will greatly simplify the number of travel documents that immigration officials have to scrutinize. It will also mean that the documents needed to enter the United States will be far harder to counterfeit, alter or obtain by fraud than the documents previously required for entry. This will make it more difficult for criminals, illegal aliens and militants to enter the United States, but it will by no means make it impossible.

An Evolutionary Process
Identity document fraud has existed for as long as identity documents have. Like much sophisticated crime, document fraud has been an evolutionary process. Advancements in document security have been followed by advancements in fraud techniques, which in turn have forced governments to continue to advance their security efforts. In recent years, the advent of color copiers, powerful desktop computers with sophisticated graphics programs and laser printers has propelled this document-fraud arms race into overdrive.

In addition to sophisticated physical security features such as ultraviolet markings and holograms, perhaps the most significant security features of newer identification documents such as passports and visas are that they are machine-readable and linked to a database that can be cross-checked when the document is swiped through a reader at a point of entry. Since 2007, U.S. passports have also incorporated small contactless integrated circuits embedded in the back cover to securely store the information contained on the passport’s photo page. These added security measures have limited the utility of completely counterfeit U.S. passports, which (for the most part) cannot be used to pass through a point of entry equipped with a reader connected to the central database. Such documents are used mostly for traveling abroad rather than for entering the United States.

Likewise, advancements in security features have also made it far more difficult to alter genuine documents by doing things like changing the photo affixed to it (referred to as a photo substitution or “photo sub”). Certainly, there are some very high-end document forgers who can still accomplish this — such as those employed by intelligence agencies — but such operations are very difficult and the documents produced are very expensive.

One of the benefits of the WHTI is that it will now force those wishing to obtain genuine documents by fraud to travel to a higher level — it has, in effect, upped the ante. As STRATFOR has long noted, driver’s licenses pose serious national security vulnerability. Driver’s licenses are, in fact, the closet thing to a U.S. national identity card. However, driver’s licenses are issued by each state, and the process of getting one differs greatly from state to state. Criminals clearly have figured out how to work the system to get fraudulent driver’s licenses. Some states make it easier to get licenses than others and people looking for fraudulent identification flock to those states. Within the states, there are also some department of motor vehicles (DMV) offices — and specific workers — known to be more lenient, and those seeking fraudulent licenses will intentionally visit those offices. In addition to corrupt DMV employees and states that issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, an illegal industry has arisen devoted entirely to producing counterfeit identification documents, compounding the problem.

Birth certificates are also relatively easy to obtain illegally. The relative ease of fraudulently obtaining birth certificates as well as driver’s licenses is seen in federal document-fraud cases (both documents are required to apply for a U.S. passport). In a large majority of the passport-fraud cases worked by Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) special agents, the suspects have successfully obtained fraudulent driver’s licenses and birth certificates, which are submitted in support of a passport application. It is not uncommon for DSS special agents to arrest suspects who possess multiple driver’s licenses in different identities from the same state or even from different states. Such documents could have been used to travel across the U.S. border via land prior to the implementation of the WHTI.

For those able to afford the fees of high-end alien smugglers, who can charge up to $30,000 for a package of identification documents that contains a genuine U.S. passport with genuine supporting documents (birth certificate, social security card and driver’s license), or $10,000 to $15,000 for a genuine U.S. visa (tied to a database, the newer machine-readable visas are very difficult to counterfeit), the WHTI will not make much difference. These high-end document vendors obtain legitimate identification documents by paying corrupt officials who have been carefully cultivated.

That said, the WHTI should succeed in causing the vast majority of criminal aliens, illegal economic immigrants and even militants — people who have not traditionally patronized high-end document vendors — to change the way they enter the United States. Of course, perhaps the simplest way is to take the low road. That is, get to Canada or Mexico and then simply sneak across the border as an undocumented alien — something that hundreds of thousands of people do every year. Once inside the country, such aliens can link up with lower-level document vendors to obtain the driver’s licenses, social security cards and other identity documents they need in order to live, work and travel around the country.

But there are other ways that the WHTI measures can be circumvented. For example, the crush of passport applications the WHTI is now causing will create a distinct vulnerability in the short term. Although the U.S. Department of State has hired a large number of new examiners to process the flood of passport applications it is receiving (and also a number of new DSS special agents to investigate fraud cases), the system is currently overwhelmed by the volume of passport applications.

Historically, passport examiners have had their performance evaluations based on the number of passport applications they process rather than on the number of fraudulent applications they catch (which has long been a source of friction between the DSS and the Bureau of Consular Affairs). This emphasis on numerical quotas has been documented in U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that have noted that the quotas essentially force examiners to take shortcuts in their fraud-detection efforts. As a result, many genuine passports have been issued to people who did not have a legitimate right to them. The current overwhelming flood of passport applications as a result of WHTI, when combined with a batch of new examiners who are rated on numerical quotas, will further enhance this vulnerability. Unless a passport application has an obvious fraud indicator, it will likely slip through the cracks and a fraudulent applicant will receive a genuine U.S. passport.

Stolen passports are another area to consider. In addition to being photo-subbed, which has become more difficult, stolen passports can also be used as travel documents by people who resemble the owner of the document. All the holograms, microprinting and other security features that have been placed on the laminates of passport photo pages tend to make it difficult to clearly see the photo of the passport holder. Also, people change over time, so a person who was issued a passport eight years ago can look substantially different from their passport photo today. The passport process and the laminate can also make it especially difficult to see the facial features of dark-skinned people. This means it is not at all uncommon for a person to be able to impersonate someone and use his or her passport without altering it. This problem persists, even with digital photos being included with the information embedded electronically in the memory chips of newer electronic passports.

Because of these possibilities, stolen passports are worth a tidy sum on the black market. Indeed, shortly after U.S. passports with green covers were issued, they were found to be extremely easy to photo-sub and were soon fetching $7,000 apiece on the black market in places like Jamaica and Haiti. In fact, criminal gangs quickly began offering tourists cash or drugs in exchange for the documents, and the criminal gangs would then turn around and sell them for a profit to document vendors. The problem of U.S. citizens selling their passports also persists today.

On the flip side, many Americans are unaware of the monetary value of their passport — which is several times the $100 they paid to have it issued. They do not realize that when they carry their passport it is like toting around a wad of $100 bills. Tour guides who collect the passports of all the people in their tour group and then keep them in a bag or backpack can end up carrying around tens of thousands of dollars in identification documents — which would make a really nice haul for a petty criminal in the Third World.

But U.S. passports are not the only ones at risk of being stolen. The changes in travel documents required to enter the United States will also place a premium on passports from countries that are included in the U.S. “visa waiver” program — that is, those countries whose citizens can travel to and remain in the United States for up to 90 days without a visa. There are currently 35 countries in the visa waiver program, including EU member states, Australia, Japan and a few others. The risk of theft is especially acute for those countries on the visa waiver list that issue passports that are easier to photo-sub than a U.S. passport. In some visa waiver countries, it is also cheaper and easier to obtain a genuine passport from a corrupt government official than it is in the United States.

While there are efforts currently under way to create an international database to rapidly share data about lost and stolen blank and issued passports, there is generally a time lag before lost and stolen foreign passports are entered into U.S. lookout systems. This lag provides ample time for someone to enter the United States on a photo-subbed passport, and it is not clear if retroactive searches are made once the United States is notified of a stolen passport in order to determine if that passport was used to enter the United States during the lag period. Of course, once a person is inside the United States, it is fairly easy to obtain identification documents in another identity and simply disappear.

There have also been cases of jihadist groups using the passports of militants from visa waiver countries who have died in order to move other operatives into the United States. On Sept. 1, 1992, Ahmed Ajaj and Abdul Basit (also known as Ramzi Yousef) arrived at New York’s Kennedy Airport. The two men had boarded a flight in Karachi, Pakistan, using photo-subbed passports that had been acquired from deceased jihadists. Ajaj used a Swedish passport in the name Khurram Khan and Basit used a British passport in the name Mohamed Azan.

Ultimately, the WHTI will help close some significant loopholes — especially regarding the use of fraud-prone driver’s licenses and birth certificates for international travel — but the program will not end all document fraud. Document vendors will continue to shift and adjust their efforts to adapt to the WHTI and exploit other vulnerabilities in the system.

30170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Several on: June 05, 2009, 06:15:21 AM
"[T]here is not a syllable in the plan under consideration which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution."

--Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 81, 1788
"The Constitution ... is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please." --Thomas Jefferson
"As on the one hand, the necessity for borrowing in particular emergencies cannot be doubted, so on the other, it is equally evident that to be able to borrow upon good terms, it is essential that the credit of a nation should be well established." --Alexander Hamilton
"If a nation expects to be ignorant -- and free -- in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." --Thomas Jefferson
"The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virture to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust."

--Federalist No. 57 (Alexander Hamilton or James Madison), 1788
"His Example is now complete, and it will teach wisdom and virtue to magistrates, citizens, and men, not only in the present age, but in future generations, as long as our history shall be read."

--John Adams, message to the U.S. Senate on George Washington's death, December 19, 1799

"The Supreme Court of the United States is the custodian of our Constitution. Justices of the Supreme Court must not only be jurists of the highest competence; they must be attentive to the specific rights guaranteed in our Constitution and proper role of the courts in our democratic system. ...[J]udges' personal preferences and values should not be part of their constitutional interpretations. The guiding principle of judicial restraint recognizes that under the Constitution it is the exclusive province of the legislatures to enact laws and the role of the courts to interpret them." --Ronald Reagan
30171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Aquaoponics on: June 05, 2009, 05:48:39 AM
Shaggy Dog does something quite like this too in his backyard in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles.  For the fish, he uses Tilapia, which are an excellent clean protein source as well.
30172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: June 05, 2009, 05:34:05 AM
second post of morning:

June 4, 2009
Al Jazeera on Wednesday broadcast an audio message from Osama bin Laden, in which he focused on the state of affairs in Pakistan. Although messages from bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders frequently have mentioned Pakistan, none has devoted so much attention as this one to events there. This is somewhat surprising, considering that jihadists have reached their highest levels of success over the past two years in Pakistan.

Bin Laden’s message arrives amid a serious campaign by Pakistani military forces to root out jihadist fighters in the northern Swat district. The fact that such military force is being applied shows how successfully Taliban fighters have entrenched themselves in Pakistan’s northwest — and also how serious the threat has become for Islamabad. Bin Laden’s message attempted to highlight that success in order to bolster support among Pakistanis for al Qaeda Prime’s message.

In the recording, bin Laden continued to criticize the intrusion of foreign forces, the blocking of the spread of Sharia and the plight of 3 million residents who have been affected by anti-jihadist military operations in the Swat region. He accused the United States, Israel and India of conspiring against Pakistan, and he claimed that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani are fighting against Islam instead of against Pakistan’s true enemies — namely, India. This statement plays on the fears of many Pakistanis, who view India as a much greater strategic threat than militant Islamists fighting from within the state — the same argument the Pakistani military makes to Washington about its reluctance to redeploying troops from the eastern border to deal more effectively with the jihadist threat in the west. By playing on this fear, bin Laden is trying to undermine the Pakistani government’s judgment and prevent greater military pressure from being applied against jihadists.

Bin Laden also compared the refugees affected by the Swat conflict to the Palestinian refugees and 9/11 operatives, who he said had been pushed into action by their oppression at the hands of Western forces and under Western-friendly regimes. This discussion underscored worries that some of the 3 million Swat refugees might go on to join jihadist groups and wage more attacks against the state. Finally, bin Laden portrayed the military operation in Swat as an effort to stamp out of Sharia law — a contentious issue for many conservative Pakistanis — and appeal to a broader audience of Muslim listeners who are not necessarily sympathetic to jihadist tactics.

The utility of bin Laden’s media campaign goes only so far. Bin Laden and the rest of al Qaeda’s apex leadership have been constrained chiefly to the role of an ideological force, relying on others to operate on the actual battlefield. This shift, from the physical to the ideological battlefield, came about mainly because al Qaeda was forced onto the defensive by ground and aerial strikes in Pakistan that have killed dozens of its operatives. Al Qaeda’s financial and communication networks have been severely affected during the U.S.-led war against jihadists, which in turn has greatly undermined the organization’s ability to operate effectively. Al Qaeda Prime has not demonstrated an ability to carry out attacks successfully beyond the South Asia region — and even there, it must depend on affiliates, such as the Pakistani Taliban faction led by Baitullah Mehsud and groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, to conduct operations.

The ability of the Pakistani Taliban and their jihadist allies to undermine the authority of the Pakistani state and foster anarchy in many parts of the country certainly works in al Qaeda’s favor, which benefits from Pakistan’s inability to control large swathes of territory. But while Pakistan has become the poster child for jihadist success, al Qaeda Prime’s role in that success has declined in recent years, as other groups have assumed the mantle of leadership in the jihadist movement.

Domestic groups that enjoy more local support than the largely foreign-born al Qaeda members have adopted the tactics and ideology of al Qaeda,. This has been a significant factor in their success. But bin Laden and al Qaeda Prime also have extremely limited capabilities: Many Pakistanis doubt the organization’s very existence, viewing it as a Western fabrication designed to undermine Islam in the region.

So, while bin Laden has released a message that attempts to cash in on the jihadist advances made in Pakistan in recent years, his group’s significance has declined significantly as other organizations have gained prominence. These other jihadist groups pose a significant threat to Pakistan — a country that is attractive in their eyes at least partly because of its nuclear arsenal. But al Qaeda must work through its local allies to undermine the Pakistani state, as it attempts to create anarchy on a regional level. The success of al Qaeda’s allies will be linked to the effectiveness of Pakistani security forces in maintaining security, while waging an offensive against Taliban forces in the Swat district and other areas that are largely under jihadist control.
30173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Taliban stir rising anger in Pak on: June 05, 2009, 05:21:34 AM
When the NYT reports good news, it is a man bites dog story cheesy

ABAD, Pakistan — A year ago, the Pakistani public was deeply divided over what to do about its spreading insurgency. Some saw the Taliban militants as fellow Muslims and native sons who simply wanted Islamic law, and many opposed direct military action against them.

Mardan, a town south of Swat, has absorbed many of the people churned up in the fighting. More Photos »
But history moves quickly in Pakistan, and after months of televised Taliban cruelties, broken promises and suicide attacks, there is a spreading sense — apparent in the news media, among politicians and the public — that many Pakistanis are finally turning against the Taliban.

The shift is still tentative and difficult to quantify. But it seems especially profound among the millions of Pakistanis directly threatened by the Taliban advance from the tribal areas into more settled parts of Pakistan, like the Swat Valley. Their anger at the Taliban now outweighs even their frustration with the military campaign that has crushed their houses and killed their relatives.

“It’s the Taliban that’s responsible for our misery,” said Fakir Muhammed, a refugee from Swat, who, like many who had experienced Taliban rule firsthand, welcomed the military campaign to push the insurgents out.

The growing support for the fight against the Taliban could be an important turning point for Pakistan, whose divisions about its Islamic militancy seemed at times to imperil the state itself.

But it is an opportunity that could just as quickly vanish, analysts and politicians warn, if Pakistan’s political leaders fail to kill or capture senior Taliban leaders, to help an estimated three million who have been displaced, or to create a functioning government in areas long ignored by the state. “This is a profound moment in our history,” said Javed Iqbal, the top bureaucrat in the North-West Frontier Province, the area of fighting. “My greatest fear is whether there is sufficient realization of this among people who make decisions.”

On Wednesday, in an audiotape, Osama bin Laden specifically cited the fighting in Swat and Pakistan’s tribal areas, blaming the Obama administration for the campaign and for sowing “new seeds to increase hatred and revenge on America.”

American officials are keenly aware of the potential of the refugee crisis to spawn militancy. Less than a quarter of the $543 million the United Nations has requested for refugees has arrived, according to Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.

On Thursday, Richard C. Holbrooke, the American special envoy, visited refugee tents as part of a three-day trip to spread the message that the United States was trying to help. The Obama administration had requested an additional $200 million, he said, noting that it was providing more aid than all other countries combined.

Even so, anti-American feelings still run high in Pakistan. Many Pakistanis blame the United States and the war in Afghanistan for their current troubles.

Pakistanis have long supported the Taliban as allies to exert influence in neighboring Afghanistan. Unlike Afghans, they have never lived under Taliban rule, and have been slow to absorb its dangers.

But that is changing, as the experience of those Pakistanis who have now lived under the Taliban has left many disillusioned.

Over more than a year of fighting, the militants moved into Swat, by killing or driving out the wealthy and promising to improve the lives of the poor. Finally, the military agreed to a truce in February that all but ceded Swat to the Taliban and allowed the insurgents to impose Islamic law, or Shariah.

The prospect of Shariah was alluring, said Iftikhar Ehmad, who owns a cellphone shop in Mingora, the most populous city in Swat, because the court system in Swat was so corrupt and ineffective. But the Taliban’s Shariah was not the benign change people had hoped for. Once the Taliban took power, the insurgents seemed interested only in amassing more, and in April they pushed into Buner, a neighboring district 60 miles from Islamabad.

“It was not Shariah, it was something else,” Mr. Ehmad said, jabbing angrily at the air with his finger in the scorching tent camp in the town of Swabi. “It was scoundrel behavior.”

Daily life became degrading. A woman was lashed in public, and a video of her writhing in pain and begging for mercy stirred wide outrage. Taliban bosses ordered people to donate money. Cosmetics shops and girls’ schools were burned.

By the time the military entered Swat last month, local people began leading soldiers to tunnels with weapons and Taliban hiding places in hotels, the military said. “These people, six months back, weren’t willing to share anything,” said a military official who was involved in planning the campaign. “Gradually they’ve been coming out more and more into the open.”

There has also been a change in other parts of Pakistan, like Punjab, the most populous province, where people used to see the problem of militancy as remote, said Rasul Baksh Rais, a professor of political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences. Now the province has become a target of suicide attacks, most recently last week in Lahore. Mr. Rais cited changes in news coverage of the military campaign and a strong stand by the political parties, even some of the religious ones, as evidence of the shift. “The tables are turned against the Taliban now,” he said. “They are marginalized.”

But the underlying causes that have allowed the Taliban to spread — poverty, barely functioning government, lack of upward mobility in society — remain. Mr. Iqbal is now working frantically to fill those gaps. New judges have recently been identified for Swat, he said, and about 3,000 new police officers will be selected this week.

The Pakistani military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss future operations, said troops would have to remain in Swat for at least six months. Support for the Taliban has not evaporated entirely.

Early this week, on a searing hot street in Mardan, a town south of Swat that has absorbed many of the people churned up in the fighting, a tall man with a long beard, Muhammed Tahir Ansari, grew angry when asked whether the refugees approved of the military operation. “It is illogical to think that people would be happy about this tense situation,” he said curtly.

He was from a charity run by Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the principal religious parties that tacitly support the Taliban, and was directing a frenzied effort to distribute water and hand-held fans.

The government, meanwhile, was nowhere in sight.

Irfan Ashraf contributed reporting from Swabi, Pakistan, and Mardan, Pakistan.
30174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The WSJ on BO's speech in Egypt on: June 05, 2009, 05:19:00 AM
One benefit of the Obama Presidency is that it is validating much of George W. Bush's security agenda and foreign policy merely by dint of autobiographical rebranding. That was clear enough yesterday in Cairo, where President Obama advertised "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world." But what he mostly offered were artfully repackaged versions of themes President Bush sounded with his freedom agenda. We mean that as a compliment, albeit with a couple of large caveats.

So there was Mr. Obama, noting that rights such as "freedom to live as you choose" and "the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed" were "not just American ideas, they are human rights." There he was insisting that "freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together," and citing Malaysia and Dubai as economic models for other Muslim countries while promising to host a summit on entrepreneurship.

There he was too, in Laura Bush-mode, talking about the need to expand opportunities for Muslim women, particularly in education. "I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles," he said. "But it should be their choice."

Mr. Obama also offered a robust defense of the war in Afghanistan, calling it "a war of necessity" and promising that "America's commitment will not weaken." That's an important note to sound when Mr. Obama's left flank and some Congressional Democrats are urging an exit strategy from that supposed quagmire. On Iraq, he acknowledged that "the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein" and pledged the U.S. to the "dual responsibility" of leaving Iraq while helping the country "forge a better future." The timeline he reiterated for U.S. withdrawal is the one Mr. Bush negotiated last year.

The President even went one better than his predecessor, with a series of implicit rebukes to much of the Muslim world. There would have been no need for him to specify that six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis if Holocaust denial weren't rampant in the Middle East, including Egypt, just as there would have been no need to name al Qaeda as the perpetrator of 9/11 if that fact were not also commonly denied throughout the Muslim world. There also would have been no need to insist that "the Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems," if that were not the modus operandi of most Arab governments.

Mr. Obama also noted that "among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of another's," a recognition of the supremacist strain in Islamist thinking. He also included a pointed defense of democracy, including "the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed" and "confidence in the rule of law." We doubt the point was lost on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, now in his 29th year in office. All of this will do some good if it leads to broader acceptance among Muslims of the principles of Mr. Bush's freedom agenda without the taint of its author's name.

As for the caveats, Mr. Obama missed a chance to remind his audience that no country has done more than the U.S. to liberate Muslims from oppression -- in Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo and above all in Afghanistan and Iraq, where more than 50 million people were freed by American arms from two of the most extreme tyrannies in modern history. His insistence on calling Iraq a "war of choice" is a needless insult to Mr. Bush that diminishes the cause for which more than 4,000 Americans have died.

He also couldn't resist his by now familiar moral self-indulgence by asserting that he has "unequivocally prohibited the use of torture" and ordered Guantanamo closed. Aside from the fact that the U.S. wasn't torturing anyone before Mr. Obama came into office, his Arab hosts can see through his claims. They know the Obama Administration is "rendering" al Qaeda detainees to other countries, some of them Arab, where their rights and well-being are far less secure than at Gitmo.

The President also stooped to easy, but false, moral equivalence, most egregiously in comparing the U.S. role in an Iranian coup during the Cold War with revolutionary Iran's 30-year hostility toward the U.S. He also compared Israel's right to exist with Palestinian statehood. But while denouncing Israeli settlements was an easy applause line, removal of those settlements will do nothing to ease Israeli-Palestinian tensions if the result is similar to what happened when Israel withdrew its settlements from Gaza. We too favor a two-state solution -- as did President Bush -- but that solution depends on Palestinians showing the capacity to build domestic institutions that reject and punish terror against other Palestinians and their neighbors.

Hanging over all of this is the question of Iran. In his formal remarks, Mr. Obama promised only diplomacy without preconditions and warned about a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Yet surely Iran was at the top of his agenda in private with Mr. Mubarak and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, both of whom would quietly exult if the U.S. removed that regional threat. They were no doubt trying to assess if Mr. Obama is serious about stopping Tehran, or if he is the second coming of Jimmy Carter.

It is in those conversations, and in the hard calls the President will soon have to make, that his Middle East policy will stand or fall
30175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An Absolut outrage on: June 05, 2009, 05:18:02 AM
Pasted here from the Israel thread-- I also note that Tecate beer has an ad, the exact words of which slip my mind with a similar riff:

 angry angry angry


An Absolut Outrage
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Tuesday, April 08, 2008 4:20 PM PT

The Border: A vodka maker's ad campaign in Mexico is more than a marketing faux pas that offends many Americans. There's a real movement out there that feels our Southwest is really occupied Mexico.

The first rule of marketing is know your customer base. So when the makers of Absolut vodka began an ad campaign in Mexico featuring what a map of North America might look like "In An Absolut World," it was well aware it might appeal to many Mexicans there and here.

The ad by the Swedish Absolut Spirits Co. features an 1830s era map where Mexico includes California, Texas, Arizona and other southwest states. The U.S. border lies where it was before the Mexican-American war of 1848 and before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo saw the Mexican territories of Alta California and Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico ceded to the U.S.

The campaign taps into the national pride of Mexicans, according to Favio Ucedo, creative director of the leading Latino advertising agency in the U.S., Grupo Gallegos.

"Mexicans talk about how the Americans stole their land," the Argentine native said of the Absolut campaign, "so this is their way of reclaiming it. It's very relevant and the Mexicans will love the idea."

This isn't the first ad campaign targeted at what some Mexican activists call the "Reconquista" movement of those who dream and work toward the day when the American Southwest will be reconquered. To them, illegal aliens crossing the U.S. border are merely returning home.

In 2005, a Los Angeles billboard advertising a Spanish-language newscast showed the Angel of Independence, a well-known monument in Mexico City, in the center of the L.A. skyline, with "CA" crossed out after "Los Angeles" and the word "Mexico" in bold red letters put in its place.

The activists working for this cause actually see themselves as "America's Palestinians" and view the Southwest as their Palestine and Los Angeles as their lost Jerusalem.

An editorial in the newspaper La Voz de Aztlan in Los Angeles stated: "There are great similarities between the political and economic condition of the Palestinians in occupied Palestine and that of La Raza in the southwest United States."

The editorial went on to say: "The similarities are many. The primary one, of course, is the fact that both La Raza and the Palestinians have been displaced by invaders that have used military means to conquer and occupy our territories."
A key player in the "Reconquista" movement is the National Council of La Raza. Its motto: "For the Race, everything. For those outside the Race, nothing."

Few caught the significance of the warmly received words of then-Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo before the Council in Chicago on July 27, 1997:
"I have proudly affirmed that the Mexican nation extends beyond the territory enclosed by its borders." During a 2001 visit to the U.S., President Vincente Fox repeated this line, calling for open borders and endorsing Mexico's new dual-citizenship law.

A secondary group in the "Reconquista" movement is an Hispanic student activist group known as MEChA, for Movimento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan).

It has spent the last three decades indoctrinating Latino students on American campuses, claiming that the American Southwest was stolen and should be returned to its rightful owners, the people of Mexico, under the name "Nation of Aztlan."

Aztlan is the mythical place where the Aztecs are said to have originated.

Former MEChA members include Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was officially endorsed by La Raza for mayor and awarded La Raza's Graciela Olivarez award. Another MEChA member is former California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who delivered the keynote address at La Raza's 2002 annual convention.

We have an idea: Let's build the border fence and pay for it by selling ad space, even to an ideologically driven company such as the makers of Absolut vodka. We'll drink to that.
30176  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: June 05, 2009, 05:08:31 AM
Grateful for my son's season in lacrosse.  He has grown mightily from the experience.  There is no greater joy for a father.
30177  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty 8/1-2 Fort Hood, TX on: June 05, 2009, 05:07:04 AM
I sent Gus a shell for a seminar flyer yesterday and he is now filling in the details.

How far is Austin from Fort Hood?
30178  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The KT conspiracy continues to take root on: June 05, 2009, 05:05:22 AM
30179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: June 04, 2009, 04:31:45 PM

I am on my way out the door to pick up my son.

Anyone who wants to discuss things, please call me at 310-543-7521.  This is a 24 hour number.
30180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / June 6, 1944 on: June 04, 2009, 04:02:33 PM
President Reagan

God bless America.
30181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq-6 on: June 04, 2009, 01:34:14 PM
(There is an attached foto which for security reasons is not posted here)

Hard to  believe that just a  couple of years ago al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI) beheaded 60 people in the soccer stadium and announced to the people of Hadithah that Hadithah was now the caliphate of AQI.  And here I am the other day on the rooftop of the Hadithah courthouse, where very few criminal cases were allowed by AQI for that period of time, without a single care in the world. 
The only reason I am wearing PPE (personal protection equipment) is because regulations require it.  Else, as USMC LT Wong said, you could walk down the streets of Hadithah in your PT uniform.
The people there are quite happy to have the Marines there.  The USMC saved them from the utter cruelty of life under AQI.  Of cousre, there was no AQI before we invaded.  Saddam would not have tolerated that crap.  He would have had them in the soccer stadium.
Today it bothers me immensely that we broke this place and plan on leaving before we fixed it.  Not because I believe we can make Iraq a democracy in our image.  I simply do not believe we can.  But because these people are trying very hard in the here and now to figure out what their new post-Saddam/post-AQI/post-militia world will be/should be like, but they haven't quite glued it all together.
30182  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / David Carradine: Suicide on: June 04, 2009, 12:33:08 PM
30183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Comparison with Argentinian fascism on: June 04, 2009, 07:59:34 AM
Sent to me by Scott Grannis
30184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: June 04, 2009, 07:50:08 AM
This data from an email from economist Scott Grannis, whom I hold in highest regard, in reply to my questions to him (use search function for "Grannis" to find out more about who he is).  I find these numbers very interesting.


Latest data is 2006 for federal capgains collections: $118 billion. 
Figure it would not be more now, probably less due to stock market 

Total federal corporate income tax receipts: $320 billion. So cutting 
the tax rate to 20% would give a static result of about $190 billion

On Feb 25, 2009, at 12:33 PM, Marc Denny wrote:

1) Total revenues from the Cap Gains tax?

2) Static revenue assumptions, revenue loss from cutting corp tax rate 
from 34% to 20%?

If a hassle, then nevermind.
30185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Lone Wolf operations on: June 04, 2009, 07:09:19 AM

June 3, 2009

By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton

At approximately 10:30 a.m. on June 1, as two young U.S. soldiers stood in front of the Army Navy Career Center in west Little Rock, Ark., a black pickup pulled in front of the office and the driver opened fire on the two, killing one and critically wounding the other.

Eyewitnesses to the shooting immediately reported it to police, and authorities quickly located and arrested the suspect as he fled the scene. According to police, the suspect told the arresting officers that he had a bomb in his vehicle, but after an inspection by the police bomb squad, the only weapons police recovered from the vehicle were an SKS rifle and two pistols.

At a press conference, Little Rock Police Chief Stuart Thomas identified the suspect as Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a 21-year-old African-American man who had changed his name from Carlos Leon Bledsoe after converting to Islam. In Arabic, the word mujahid is the singular form of mujahideen, and it literally means one who engages in jihad. Although Mujahid is not an uncommon Muslim name, it is quite telling that a convert to Islam would choose such a name — one who engages in jihad — to define his new identity. Muhammad was originally from Memphis, Tenn., but according to news reports was living and working in Little Rock.

Chief Thomas said Muhammad admitted to the shootings and told police that he specifically targeted soldiers. During an interrogation with a Little Rock homicide detective, Muhammad reportedly said that he was angry at the U.S. Army because of their attacks against Muslims overseas, that he opened fire intending to kill the two soldiers and that he would have killed more if they had been in the parking lot. These statements are likely what Chief Thomas was referring to when he noted in his press conference that Muhammad appears to have had political and religious motives for the attack and that it was conducted in response to U.S. military operations.

Chief Thomas also stated that the initial police investigation has determined that Muhammad acted alone and was not part of a wider conspiracy, but given that the shooting was an act of domestic terrorism directed against U.S military personnel, a thorough investigation has been launched by the FBI to ensure that Muhammad was not part of a larger group planning other attacks.

ABC News has reported that Muhammad had traveled to Yemen after his conversion, though the date of that travel and its duration were not provided in those reports. ABC also reported that while in Yemen, Muhammad was apparently arrested for carrying a fraudulent Somali passport and that upon his return from Yemen, the FBI opened a preliminary investigation targeting him.

The fact that the FBI was investigating Muhammad but was unable to stop this attack illustrates the difficulties that lone wolf militants present to law enforcement and security personnel, and also highlights some of the vulnerabilities associated with using law enforcement as the primary counterterrorism tool.

Challenges of the Lone Wolf

STRATFOR has long discussed the threat posed by lone wolf militants and the unique challenges they pose to law enforcement and security personnel. Of course, the primary challenge is that, by definition, lone wolves are solitary actors and it can be very difficult to determine their intentions before they act because they do not work with others. When militants are operating in a cell consisting of more than one person, there is a larger chance that one of them will get cold feet and reveal the plot to authorities, that law enforcement and intelligence personnel will intercept a communication between conspirators, or that law enforcement authorities will be able to introduce an informant into the group, as was the case in the recently foiled plot to bomb two Jewish targets in the Bronx and shoot down a military aircraft at a Newburgh, N.Y., Air National Guard base.

Obviously, lone wolves do not need to communicate with others or include them in the planning or execution of their plots. This ability to fly solo and under the radar of law enforcement has meant that some lone wolf militants such as Joseph Paul Franklin, Theodore Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph were able to operate for years before being identified and captured.

Lone wolves also pose problems because they can come from a variety of backgrounds with a wide range of motivations. While some lone wolves are politically motivated, others are religiously motivated and some are mentally unstable. Even among the religiously motivated there is variety. In addition to Muslim lone wolves like Muhammad, Mir Amal Kansi, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet and John Allen Muhammad, we have also seen anti-Semitic/Christian-identity adherents like Buford Furrow and Eric Rudolph, radical Roman Catholics like James Kopp and radical Protestants like Paul Hill. Indeed, the day before the Little Rock attack, Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion lone wolf gunman, killed prominent abortion doctor George Tiller in Wichita, Kan.

In addition to the wide spectrum of ideologies and motivations among lone wolves, there is also the issue of geographic dispersal. As we’ve seen from the lone wolf cases listed above, they have occurred in many different locations and are not just confined to attacks in Manhattan or Washington, D.C. They can occur anywhere.

Moreover, it is extremely difficult to differentiate between those extremists who intend to commit attacks from those who simply preach hate or hold radical beliefs (things that are not in themselves illegal due to First Amendment protections in the United States). Therefore, to single out likely lone wolves before they strike, authorities must spend a great deal of time and resources looking at individuals who might be moving from radical beliefs to radical actions. With such a large universe of potential suspects, this is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Limitations on Both Sides

Due to the challenges lone wolf militants present, the concept of leaderless resistance has been publicly and widely embraced in both the domestic terrorism and jihadist realms. However, despite this advocacy and the ease with which terrorist attacks can be conducted against soft targets, surprisingly few terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by lone wolf operatives. In fact, historically, we have seen more mentally disturbed lone gunmen than politically motivated lone wolf terrorists. A main reason for this is that it can be somewhat difficult to translate theory into action, and as STRATFOR has frequently noted, there is often a disconnect between intent and capability.

Because of the difficulty in obtaining the skills required to conduct a terrorist attack, many lone wolves do not totally operate in a vacuum, and many of them (like Muhammad) will usually come to somebody’s attention before they conduct an attack. Many times this occurs as they seek the skills or materials required to conduct a terrorist attack, which Muhammad appears to have been doing in Yemen.

However, in this case, it is important to remember that even though Muhammad had been brought to the FBI’s attention (probably through information obtained from the Yemeni authorities by the CIA in Yemen), he was only one of the thousands of such people the FBI opens a preliminary inquiry on each year. A preliminary inquiry is the basic level of investigation the FBI conducts, and it is usually opened for a limited period of time (though it can be extended with a supervisor’s approval). Unless the agents assigned to the inquiry turn up sufficient indication that a law has been violated, the inquiry will be closed.

If the inquiry indicates that there is the likelihood that a U.S. law has been violated, the FBI will open a full-field investigation into the matter. This will allow the bureau to exert significantly more investigative effort on the case and devote more investigative resources toward solving it. Out of the many preliminary inquiries opened on suspected militants, the FBI opens full-field investigations only on a handful of them. So, if the information reported by ABC News is correct, the FBI was not conducting surveillance on Muhammad because to do so it would have had to have opened a full-field investigation.

Of course, now that Muhammad has attacked, it is easy to say that the FBI should have paid more attention to him. Prior to an attack, however, intelligence is seldom, if ever, so black and white. Sorting out the individuals who intend to conduct attacks from the larger universe of people who hold radical thoughts and beliefs and assigning law enforcement and intelligence resources to monitor the activities of the really dangerous people has long been one of the very difficult tasks faced by counterterrorism authorities.

This difficulty is magnified when the FBI is looking at a lone wolf target because there is no organization, chain of command or specific communications channel on which to focus intelligence resources and gather information. Lacking information that would have tied Muhammad to other militant individuals or cells, or that would have indicated he was inclined to commit a crime, the FBI had little basis for opening a full-field investigation into his activities. These limitations, and the FBI’s notorious bureaucracy (as seen in its investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui and the 9/11 hijackers), are the longstanding shortfalls of the law-enforcement element of counterterrorism policy (the other elements are diplomacy, financial sanctions, intelligence and military).

However, politics have proved obstructive to all facets of counterterrorism policy. And politics may have been at play in the Muhammad case as well as in other cases involving Black Muslim converts. Several weeks ago, STRATFOR heard from sources that the FBI and other law enforcement organizations had been ordered to “back off” of counterterrorism investigations into the activities of Black Muslim converts. At this point, it is unclear to us if that guidance was given by the White House or the Department of Justice, or if it was promulgated by the agencies themselves, anticipating the wishes of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.

As STRATFOR has previously noted, the FBI has a culture that is very conservative and risk-averse. Many FBI supervisors are reluctant to authorize investigations that they believe may have negative blow-back on their career advancement. In light of this institutional culture, and the order to be careful in investigations relating to Black Muslim converts, it would not be at all surprising to us if a supervisor refused to authorize a full-field investigation of Muhammad that would have included surveillance of his activities. Though in practical terms, even if a full-field investigation had been authorized, due to the caution being exercised in cases related to Black Muslim converts, the case would most likely have been micromanaged to the point of inaction by the special agent in charge of the office involved or by FBI headquarters.

Even though lone wolves operate alone, they are still constrained by the terrorist attack cycle, and because they are working alone, they have to conduct each step of the cycle by themselves. This means that they are vulnerable to detection at several different junctures as they plan their attacks, the most critical of which is the surveillance stage of the operation. Muhammad did not just select that recruiting center at random and attack on the spot. He had cased it prior to the attack just as he had been taught in the militant training camps he attended in Yemen. Law enforcement officials have reported that Muhammad may also have researched potential government and Jewish targets in Little Rock, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York, Louisville and Memphis.

Had the FBI opened a full-field investigation on Muhammad, and had it conducted surveillance on him, it would have been able to watch him participate in preoperational activities such as conducting surveillance of potential targets and obtaining weapons.

There is certainly going to be an internal inquiry at the FBI and Department of Justice — and perhaps even in Congress — to determine where the points of failure were in this case. We will be watching with interest to see what really transpired. The details will be extremely interesting, especially coming at a time when the Obama administration appears to be following the Clinton-era policy of stressing the primacy of the FBI and the law enforcement aspect of counterterrorism policy at the expense of intelligence and other elements.

30186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Isreali settlement agreement with Bush? on: June 04, 2009, 06:59:27 AM
Its the NYSlimes, so caveat lector:

JERUSALEM — Senior Israeli officials accused President Obama on Wednesday of failing to acknowledge what they called clear understandings with the Bush administration that allowed Israel to build West Bank settlement housing within certain guidelines while still publicly claiming to honor a settlement “freeze.”

The complaint was the latest in a growing rift between the Obama administration and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over how to move forward to achieve peace in the Middle East. Mr. Obama was in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and is scheduled to address the Muslim world from Cairo on Thursday.

The Israeli officials said that repeated discussions with Bush officials starting in late 2002 resulted in agreement that housing could be built within the boundaries of certain settlement blocks as long as no new land was expropriated, no special economic incentives were offered to move to settlements and no new settlements were built.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity so that they could discuss an issue of such controversy between the two governments.

When Israel signed on to the so-called road map for a two-state solution in 2003, with a provision that says its government “freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements),” the officials said, it did so after a detailed discussion with Bush administration officials that laid out those explicit exceptions.

“Not everything is written down,” one of the officials said.

He and others said that Israel agreed to the road map and to move ahead with the removal of settlements and soldiers from Gaza in 2005 on the understanding that settlement growth could continue.

But a former senior official in the Bush administration disagreed, calling the Israeli characterization “an overstatement.”

“There was never an agreement to accept natural growth,” the official said Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter. “There was an effort to explore what natural growth would mean, but we weren’t able to reach agreement on that.”

The former official said that Bush administration officials had been working with their Israeli counterparts to clarify several issues, including natural growth, government subsidies to settlers, and the cessation of appropriation of Palestinian land.

The United States and Israel never reached an agreement, though, either public or private, the official said.

A second senior Bush administration official, also speaking anonymously, said Wednesday: “We talked about a settlement freeze with four elements. One was no new settlements, a second was no new confiscation of Palestinian land, one was no new subsidies and finally, no construction outside the settlements.”

He described that fourth condition, which applied to natural growth, as similar to taking a string and tying it around a settlement, and prohibiting any construction outside that string.

But, he added, “We had a tentative agreement, but that was contingent on drawing up lines, and this is a process that never got done, therefore the settlement freeze was never formalized and never done.”

A third former Bush administration official, Elliott Abrams, who was on the National Security Council staff, wrote an opinion article in The Washington Post in April that seemed to endorse the Israeli argument.

The Israeli officials acknowledged that the new American administration had different ideas about the meaning of the term “settlement freeze.” Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have said in the past week that the term means an end to all building, including natural growth.

But the Israeli officials complained that Mr. Obama had not accepted that the previous understandings existed. Instead, they lamented, Israel now stood accused of having cheated and dissembled in its settlement activity whereas, in fact, it had largely lived within the guidelines to which both governments had agreed.

On Monday, Mr. Netanyahu said Israel “cannot freeze life in the settlements,” calling the American demand “unreasonable.”

Dov Weissglas, who was a senior aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote an opinion article that appeared Tuesday in Yediot Aharonot, a mass-selling newspaper, laying out the agreements that he said had been reached with officials in the Bush administration.

He said that in May 2003 he and Mr. Sharon met with Mr. Abrams and Stephen J. Hadley of the National Security Council and came up with the definition of settlement freeze: “no new communities were to be built; no Palestinian lands were to be appropriated for settlement purposes; building will not take place beyond the existing community outline; and no ‘settlement encouraging’ budgets were to be allocated.”

He said that Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser at the time, signed off on that definition later that month and that the two governments also agreed to set up a joint committee to define more fully the meaning of “existing community outline” for established settlements.

In April 2004, President Bush presented Mr. Sharon with a letter stating, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”

That letter, Mr. Weissglas said, was a result of his earlier negotiations with Bush administration officials acknowledging that certain settlement blocks would remain Israeli and open to continued growth.

The Israeli officials said that no Bush administration official had ever publicly insisted that Israel was obliged to stop all building in the areas it captured in 1967. They said it was important to know that major oral understandings reached between an Israeli prime minister and an American president would not simply be tossed aside when a new administration came into the White House.

Of course, Mr. Netanyahu has yet to endorse the two-state solution or even the road map agreed to by previous Israeli governments, which were not oral commitments, but actual signed and public agreements.

In his opinion article in The Washington Post, Mr. Abrams, the former Bush official who was part of negotiations with Israel, wrote: “For the past five years, Israel’s government has largely adhered to guidelines that were discussed with the United States but never formally adopted: that there would be no new settlements, no financial incentives for Israelis to move to settlements and no new construction except in already built-up areas. The clear purpose of the guidelines? To allow for settlement growth in ways that minimized the impact on Palestinians.”

Mr. Abrams acknowledged that even within those guidelines, Israel had not fully complied. He wrote: “There has been physical expansion in some places, and the Palestinian Authority is right to object to it. Israeli settlement expansion beyond the security fence, in areas Israel will ultimately evacuate, is a mistake.”

Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Washington.
30187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: June 04, 2009, 12:13:11 AM
Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, et al from Wall Street?

The UAW?

The Teacher's Union?

The Trial Lawyers Ass'n?

30188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: June 04, 2009, 12:10:54 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Obama's Outreach to the Muslim World
June 3, 2009
U.S. President Barack Obama embarked late Tuesday on a key trip that includes visits to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The stopover in Riyadh was a late addition to his original itinerary, but Cairo — where Obama will deliver a much-anticipated speech to the Muslim world on June 4 — remains the main event.

The speech is part of a diplomacy initiative by Obama, with the stated objective of improving relations between the United States and the Islamic world. The campaign began with his inaugural address, in which Obama called for a new beginning with the Muslim world and relations based on mutual respect. That was followed by an interview with Saudi-owned satellite channel al-Arabiya (his first with a foreign news organization after becoming president), a message to Iran on the occasion of the Iranian New Year, and his speech to the Turkish parliament.

Reaching out to a global religious community in such a manner is a very unorthodox form of diplomacy. International relations usually concerns bilateral and multilateral dealings between governments of nation-states. But in the case of the U.S. relationship with the Islamic world, Obama is going beyond the standard approach to diplomacy and creating a new channel by reaching out directly to the Muslim masses, which harbor serious grievances over U.S. foreign policy, especially in light of the post-9/11 U.S. military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While many in Muslim countries take issue with Washington, they are often equally (if not more) opposed to their own governments. In fact, these two views are linked together in the criticism that Washington continues to support authoritarian regimes that have long suppressed citizens. The Obama administration, while it seeks to engage Muslim populations, obviously is not about to withdraw from its relationships with the governments that rule over them.

In this diplomacy initiative, Obama will have to find a balance between the states and their citizens in order to avoid further entanglement in what, to a great degree, is an internal struggle within the Muslim world. This is going to be extremely difficult: The masses seek change to the political status quo, which, from Washington’s point of view, translates into instability that might threaten U.S. interests. In fact, the likely purpose behind the president’s unconventional initiative is to offer what little assistance he can, in the form of an improved U.S. image, to governments in the Muslim world that find themselves increasingly estranged from the societies they govern.

Many within the target audience already are skeptical about the potential for change in U.S. policy — and rightfully so. The foreign policy of any country is a function of its objective geopolitical realities, which do not shift much with a change in leadership. Indeed, his rhetoric notwithstanding, Obama’s actual policies are very much a continuation of those of his predecessor.

While the administration says it is reaching out to the Muslim world, the choice of Cairo as the venue clearly indicates that the focus is on the largely Arab Middle East and, by extension, South Asia. There are many who argue that, while a major change in policy naturally cannot be expected, this should not discount the possibility of modest adjustments. But within the Middle East, the administration is caught within a complex constellation of relationships that include rival Arab states, Iran, Israel and Turkey. Any meaningful shift likely would upset the balance in the region. The latest example of this is the concern among Arab states and the Israelis over U.S. efforts to engage Iran diplomatically. In other words, there isn’t much room to maneuver with policy adjustments.

Ultimately, what this means is that the Muslim masses are in for a disappointment when it becomes clear that the Obama administration is not going to overhaul U.S. foreign policy. But this will not pose much of a problem for Obama. The fond feelings of the Muslim world might be nice to claim, but ultimately, he does not need their support. In the end, it will be the American people, not the rest of the world, who will issue the final referendum on his performance as president.
30189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Younger women good for you on: June 04, 2009, 12:07:42 AM
Men 'live longer' if they marry a younger woman
Men are likely to live longer if they marry a younger woman, new research suggests.

By Murray Wardrop
Published: 7:31AM BST 02 Jun 2009

A man's chances of dying early are cut by a fifth if their bride is between 15 and 17 years their junior.

The risk of premature death is reduced by 11 per cent if they marry a woman seven to nine years younger.

The study at Germany's Max Planck Institute also found that men marrying older women are more likely to die early.

The results suggest that women do not experience the same benefits of marrying a toy boy or a sugar daddy.

Wives with husbands older or younger by between seven and nine years increase their chances of dying early by 20 per cent.

This rises to 30 per cent if the age difference is close to 15 and 17 years.

Scientists say the figures for men may be the result of natural selection – that only the healthiest, most successful older men are able to attract younger mates.

"Another theory is that a younger woman will care for a man better and therefore he will live longer," said institute spokesman Sven Drefahl.

The study examined deaths between 1990 and 2005 for the entire population of Denmark.

On average in Europe, most men marry women around three years younger.
30190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 03, 2009, 10:37:50 PM
Well, I will add to the mix that the United Nations created the modern state of Israel.

I will add that Jews have been the majority of Jerusalem since the Catholics threw them out of Spain.

I will add that, working from memory here, for the few decades of Israel, the majority of its immigration was emmigration from various Arab/Muslim lands due to the poor treatment there. 

I will add that Arabs are Israeli citizens, vote, have members of parliament, can sue and win, can have mosques, can have Korans and so forth.  Try finding that in Saudi Arabia.

Also, women are legally equal to men, and are not beaten by the religious police if they do not cover themselves in potato sacks from head to toe when it is 120 degrees out.
30191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: June 03, 2009, 10:31:51 PM

Catholic charities breaking law on homosexual adoption

Catholic charities who discriminate against homosexual couples who want to adopt children are breaking the law, the Charity Tribunal has ruled.

Published: 7:56AM BST 03 Jun 2009

Adoption: Catholic Care might face discrimination claims by same-sex couples it has turned away in the past.

The tribunal ruled that a "heterosexuals only" policy in the adoption field of the Catholic Church in England and Wales would fall foul of the ban on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation brought in two years ago. The Tribunal's ruling leaves leading charity Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) facing a deep religious impasse and creates a fundamental conflict between the tenets of the Catholic Church and the law of the land.

If the charity now sticks to Church policy and continues to follow its "heterosexuals only" policy it could lose its charity status and public funding...

And more ...

Law 'will force churches to employ gay staff'

Churches will be banned from turning down gay job applicants on the grounds of their sexuality under new anti-discrimination laws, a Government minister said.

And more ...

Homosexual couple sue Christian hotel owners for refusing them a double room

A homosexual couple are suing the Christian owners of a seaside hotel for sexual discrimination after they were refused a double bedroom.

30192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on GM's bankruptcy on: June 03, 2009, 06:01:31 AM

Geopolitical Diary: The Significance of GM's Bankruptcy
June 2, 2009
U.S. auto giant General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday, ending a period of U.S. dominance in automotive manufacturing that began when the first Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line in Detroit. In the United States and around the world, GM’s collapse is being viewed as yet another harbinger of doom — at least the third horseman of the apocalypse (right behind the collapse of Lehman Bros. and mounting government deficits) foretelling the end of U.S. hegemony — and as “proof” that American manufacturing capacity and industrial prowess is rotten to the core.

The collapse of GM is certainly not to be taken lightly, and its political, social and economic ramifications are serious. The U.S. “Rust Belt” has been rusting since essentially the late 1960s, and the collapse of what was once a manufacturing powerhouse certainly will erode it further. Some 21,000 employees (around 34 percent of GM’s total work force) are looking at layoffs. The 780,000-plus workers in the automotive parts industry are facing uncertainty, as their industry will be affected by the collapse. Then there are the serious effects that the end of GM will have for businesses that are not related to, but nevertheless dependent on, the automotive sector. According to estimates from the auto parts industry, 4.7 jobs — in everything from catering to regional banks — are created for every one job in the motor vehicle parts industry.

This is undoubtedly a social and economic concern. From a geopolitical perspective, however, it is far from upsetting the main foundations of U.S. hegemony.

First, American industrial prowess remains unrivaled in the world. In 2006, U.S. industrial production equaled $2.8 trillion — the largest in the world, more than double that of second-place power Japan, and more than the production of Japan and China combined. The collapse of GM, the symbol of American manufacturing might, will not put a dent in this industrial output.

In terms of value added from the United States’ entire industrial output, the automotive sector (counting both the suppliers and automotive manufacturers) accounted for only 5.54 percent. Motor vehicles alone accounted for just 2.49 percent, with the rest roughly representing auto-parts manufacturers’ shares. Computer and electronic products, by contrast, accounted for 7.64 percent, non-transport machinery (such as capital goods) accounted for 5.01 percent and aerospace accounted for 3.26 percent. In fact, if computers and electronics are combined with other “high-tech” manufacturing categories (such as communication equipment; aerospace; semiconductor and other electronic components; navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments; and other electrical equipment), they account for more than 20 percent of total U.S. industrial output.

Nevertheless, automotive manufacturing does account for the majority of manufacturing jobs — 4.5 million of them nationwide. And according to the Center for Automotive Research, automotive manufacturing provides more jobs than any other sector in seven states (Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee). However, manufacturing as a whole has played a declining role in U.S. employment, despite a steady and regular rise of the industrial production index, which calculates real industrial output. The reason for this is the rise in labor-saving technological advances. For the U.S. industrial sector, this means that between 1979 and 2009, industrial output roughly doubled, but the labor force engaged in manufacturing dropped from 21 percent in 1979 to just over 9 percent in 2009. Basically, the U.S. industrial laborer has become four times more efficient than his or her counterpart in the 1980s.

The fact is that U.S. industrial output has been increasing along with the productivity of the American worker. The switch to more specialized and high-tech manufacturing jobs has facilitated that shift, and the collapse of the automotive manufacturing sector simply represents the culling of the least-efficient sector of American manufacturing. Highlighting that shift, GM was replaced in the Dow Jones Industrial Average — a key index for the U.S. industrial sector — by Cisco Systems, a manufacturer and designer of complex networking and communications technology.

The culling of jobs in the automotive sector will be extremely difficult. It will present a social, demographic and economic challenge that could define the next decade of American politics. However, from a geopolitical perspective, the United States is losing manufacturing capacity in a technology that has been mastered by almost every current, rising and future global player.

Whereas automotive manufacturing once signaled one’s “arrival” on the geopolitical scene — which in part explains a plethora of car manufacturers from Serbia to Colombia — it no longer represents a monumental technological achievement. Future economic competition will be based on the ability to master computer, communication, robotic, space travel, and nuclear technology (with potentially other, unforeseen technologies becoming part of the mix as well).

In other words, the United States is moving onto bigger challenges, fulfilling its role as a global hegemon, but incurring the political growing pains that go along with such a shift.
30193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: restraining judges on: June 03, 2009, 05:58:33 AM
"One single object ... [will merit] the endless gratitude of the society: that of restraining the judges from usurping legislation."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Livingston, March 25, 1825
30194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wolfowitz (!) on: June 03, 2009, 05:57:18 AM
Second post of the AM

President Barack Obama faces great challenges when he speaks to the Muslim world tomorrow from Cairo. He must counter some of the myths and outright falsehoods about the United States that are commonly believed in many parts of the Muslim world, and he needs to present his audience with some inconvenient truths. But he also has an opportunity, based in no small part on his own remarkable career, to make the case that the political principles and values that are sometimes mistakenly labeled as "Western" are appropriate for the Muslim world.

The challenge of addressing the entire Muslim world in a single speech can be appreciated if one imagines what the reaction would be if some other world leader attempted to speak to the "Christian world," with all of its diversity. For example, although Islam is the state religion in most countries with Muslim majorities, there are a number -- including Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world -- where it is not. Moreover, some countries have large non-Muslim minorities. And the second largest Muslim population in the world lives as a minority in India. There is an enormous variety of views among Muslims around the world on everything from religion to politics to family values.

Although there are many expectations for this speech, one that Mr. Obama hopefully will disappoint is the expectation that he will walk away from what President George W. Bush called "the freedom agenda." That would be a great mistake for the U.S. and for the Muslim world.

Some observers have viewed the choice of Egypt as the venue for this important speech as a deliberate distancing from that idea. Egypt is an important country and the largest in the Arab world. But it is not the largest country in the Muslim world, or the most tolerant, or the freest, or the most democratic, or the most developed, or the most prosperous. The president should make clear that his decision to speak in Cairo does not mean he is indifferent to how the Egyptian government treats its own people, despite the importance of Egypt in the Arab-Israeli peace process and as an ally in confronting Iran.

The president said correctly in an NPR interview on Monday that "part of being a good friend is being honest," and that we need to be honest with Israel about "the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests." The president also needs to be honest with the Muslim world. That means addressing the causes of the poverty and tyranny which are so pervasive that they create a widespread belief the U.S. is at best indifferent -- and at worst actively complicit -- in maintaining those conditions in order to deny Muslims their rightful place in the world.

Mr. Obama's own remarkable career is living testimony to the strengths of America's open society and free institutions. Most Muslims recognize his achievement in becoming the leader of a country that, despite our problems, is still admired and envied for its prosperity and freedom. At the same time, they recognize that no one of comparable background could become the leader of any of their own countries. That empowers Mr. Obama to argue persuasively that the institutions and practices that have enabled the U.S. to change so much over the course of two centuries can provide the key for their progress as well.

Genuine democracy is a matter of making government accountable and transparent, not only through elections but through many other means as well, including a free press. It means protecting the rights of all citizens to develop their full potential, both for their own prosperity and for the society as a whole, by protecting equal rights under the law. That includes the right of private property, which is recognized clearly in Islam. In speaking to the Muslim world, it is particularly important for the president to emphasize the importance of protecting the rights of women and those of minorities -- subjects on which he can be particularly eloquent and persuasive.

The denial of equal rights to women is unjust. It hurts society as a whole when half the population is prevented from achieving its full potential. The countries in the Muslim world that have developed most successfully are those -- such as Indonesia, Turkey and Malaysia -- where women have been able to play a substantial role. Those same countries have also benefited enormously from giving scope to Christian and Jewish minorities to prosper, although the record is imperfect. Turkey's Jewish minority found refuge there 500 years ago from the Spanish Inquisition. In those days, when Islamic civilization was the most advanced in the world, it was also one of the most tolerant.

Unfortunately, today's trend is in the wrong direction in much of the Muslim world. Church burnings and other intolerant acts are increasing. As a member of a minority himself, Mr. Obama is strongly positioned to speak out against that trend.

More generally, the president could counter the belief that the U.S. is indifferent to the fate of the world's Muslims or, worse, that we demonize Islam. He could remind his listeners of the many occasions in the past 20 years when the U.S. put its men and women in harm's way -- in Kuwait, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo, not to mention Afghanistan and Iraq -- to assist people suffering from tyranny or famine who happened to be Muslims.

He could tell them of the deep respect that Americans have for religious belief in general and for Islam as one of the world's great religions. He could reiterate our understanding that the actions of extremists do not represent the majority of Muslims, as his predecessors emphasized repeatedly.

Hopefully, however, the president will not repeat what he said to Al-Arabiyah television in January about going back to "the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago." Throughout the Muslim world that was interpreted as a return to a time when, as President Bush said, the U.S. preferred stability to freedom in the Middle East and ended up with neither.

The president should make clear that the U.S. does not believe that democracy can be imposed by force. Nor should he suggest that stability is unimportant. Free institutions cannot be expected to develop overnight, and certainly not in Egypt. But particularly in Egypt it is appropriate to emphasize that true stability requires giving that country's persecuted liberal democrats the space to begin growing free institutions, rather than leaving the field entirely to extremists who organize effectively in secret.

One of those persecuted Egyptian liberals, Ayman Nour, recently asked whether Mr. Obama will "confirm his commitment to democracy, or will he appease dictators and aggressors?" One single speech cannot definitively answer that question but hopefully, tomorrow in Cairo, Ayman Nour will be pleased with Barack Obama's words.

Mr. Wolfowitz, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has served as deputy U.S. secretary of defense and U.S. ambassador to Indonesia.

30195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The other Friedman on BO on: June 03, 2009, 05:48:37 AM
Published: June 3, 2009
During a telephone interview Tuesday with President Obama about his speech to Arabs and Muslims in Cairo on Thursday, I got to tell the president my favorite Middle East joke. It gave him a good laugh. It goes like this:

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Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Thomas L. Friedman

There is this very pious Jew named Goldberg who always dreamed of winning the lottery. Every Sabbath, he’d go to synagogue and pray: “God, I have been such a pious Jew all my life. What would be so bad if I won the lottery?” But the lottery would come and Goldberg wouldn’t win. Week after week, Goldberg would pray to win the lottery, but the lottery would come and Goldberg wouldn’t win. Finally, one Sabbath, Goldberg wails to the heavens and says: “God, I have been so pious for so long, what do I have to do to win the lottery?”

And the heavens parted and the voice of God came down: “Goldberg, give me a chance! Buy a ticket!”

I told the president that joke because in reading the Arab and Israeli press this week, everyone seemed to be telling him what he needed to do and say in Cairo, but nobody was indicating how they were going to step up and do something different. Everyone wants peace, but nobody wants to buy a ticket.

“We have a joke around the White House,” the president said. “We’re just going to keep on telling the truth until it stops working — and nowhere is truth-telling more important than the Middle East.”

A key part of his message, he said, will be: “Stop saying one thing behind closed doors and saying something else publicly.” He then explained: “There are a lot of Arab countries more concerned about Iran developing a nuclear weapon than the ‘threat’ from Israel, but won’t admit it.” There are a lot of Israelis, “who recognize that their current path is unsustainable, and they need to make some tough choices on settlements to achieve a two-state solution — that is in their long-term interest — but not enough folks are willing to recognize that publicly.”

There are a lot of Palestinians who “recognize that the constant incitement and negative rhetoric with respect to Israel” has not delivered a single “benefit to their people and had they taken a more constructive approach and sought the moral high ground” they would be much better off today — but they won’t say it aloud.

“There are a lot of Arab states that have not been particularly helpful to the Palestinian cause beyond a bunch of demagoguery,” and when it comes to “ponying up” money to actually help the Palestinian people, they are “not forthcoming.”

When it comes to dealing with the Middle East, the president noted, “there is a Kabuki dance going on constantly. That is what I would like to see broken down. I am going to be holding up a mirror and saying: ‘Here is the situation, and the U.S. is prepared to work with all of you to deal with these problems. But we can’t impose a solution. You are all going to have to make some tough decisions.’ Leaders have to lead, and, hopefully, they will get supported by their people.”

It was clear from the 20-minute conversation that the president has no illusions that one speech will make lambs lie down with lions. Rather, he sees it as part of his broader diplomatic approach that says: If you go right into peoples’ living rooms, don’t be afraid to hold up a mirror to everything they are doing, but also engage them in a way that says ‘I know and respect who you are.’ You end up — if nothing else — creating a little more space for U.S. diplomacy. And you never know when that can help.

“As somebody who ordered an additional 17,000 troops into Afghanistan,” said Mr. Obama, “you would be hard pressed to suggest that what we are doing is not backed up by hard power. I discount a lot of that criticism. What I do believe is that if we are engaged in speaking directly to the Arab street, and they are persuaded that we are operating in a straightforward manner, then, at the margins, both they and their leadership are more inclined and able to work with us.”

Similarly, the president said that if he is asking German or French leaders to help more in Afghanistan or Pakistan, “it doesn’t hurt if I have credibility with the German and French people. They will still be constrained with budgets and internal politics, but it makes it easier.”

Part of America’s “battle against terrorist extremists involves changing the hearts and minds of the people they recruit from,” he added. “And if there are a bunch of 22- and 25-year-old men and women in Cairo or in Lahore who listen to a speech by me or other Americans and say: ‘I don’t agree with everything they are saying, but they seem to know who I am or they seem to want to promote economic development or tolerance or inclusiveness,’ then they are maybe a little less likely to be tempted by a terrorist recruiter.”

I think that’s right. An Egyptian friend remarked to me: Do not underestimate what seeds can get planted when American leaders don’t just propagate their values, but visibly live them. Mr. Obama will be speaking at Cairo University. When young Arabs and Muslims see an American president who looks like them, has a name like theirs, has Muslims in his family and comes into their world and speaks the truth, it will be empowering and disturbing at the same time. People will be asking: “Why is this guy who looks like everyone on the street here the head of the free world and we can’t even touch freedom?” You never know where that goes.

30196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Airstrike errors on: June 03, 2009, 05:28:29 AM
Its the NY Slimes, so reports on subjects such as this one need to be read with care.  Caveat lector!

U.S. Report Finds Airstrike Errors in Afghan Deaths

Published: June 2, 2009
WASHINGTON — A military investigation has concluded that American personnel made significant errors in carrying out some of the airstrikes in western Afghanistan on May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians, according to a senior American military official.

The official said the civilian death toll would probably have been reduced if American air crews and forces on the ground had followed strict rules devised to prevent civilian casualties. Had the rules been followed, at least some of the strikes by American warplanes against half a dozen targets over seven hours would have been aborted.

The report represents the clearest American acknowledgment of fault in connection with the attacks. It will give new ammunition to critics, including many Afghans, who complain that American forces too often act indiscriminately in calling in airstrikes, jeopardizing the United States mission by turning the civilian population against American forces and their ally, the Afghan government.

Since the raid, American military commanders have promised to address the problem. On Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, nominated to be the American commander in Afghanistan, vowed that reducing civilian casualties was “essential to our credibility.”

Any American victory would be “hollow and unsustainable” if it led to popular resentment among Afghanistan’s citizens, General McChrystal told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a confirmation hearing.

According to the senior military official, the report on the May 4 raids found that one plane was cleared to attack Taliban fighters, but then had to circle back and did not reconfirm the target before dropping bombs, leaving open the possibility that the militants had fled the site or that civilians had entered the target area in the intervening few minutes.

In another case, a compound of buildings where militants were massing for a possible counterattack against American and Afghan troops was struck in violation of rules that required a more imminent threat to justify putting high-density village dwellings at risk, the official said.

“In several instances where there was a legitimate threat, the choice of how to deal with that threat did not comply with the standing rules of engagement,” said the military official, who provided a broad summary of the report’s initial findings on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry was not yet complete.

Before being chosen as the new commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal spent five years as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, overseeing commandos in Iraq and Afghanistan. Special Operations forces have been sharply criticized by Afghans for aggressive tactics that have contributed to civilian casualties.

During his testimony, General McChrystal said that strikes by warplanes and Special Operations ground units would remain an essential part of combat in Afghanistan. But he promised to make sure that these attacks were based on solid intelligence and that they were as precise as possible. American success in Afghanistan should be measured by “the number of Afghans shielded from violence,” not the number of enemy fighters killed, he said.

The inquiry into the May 4 strikes in the western province of Farah illustrated the difficult, split-second decisions facing young officers in the heat of combat as they balance using lethal force to protect their troops under fire with detailed rules restricting the use of firepower to prevent civilian deaths.

In the report, the investigating officer, Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, analyzed each of the airstrikes carried out by three aircraft-carrier-based Navy F/A-18 strike aircraft and an Air Force B-1 bomber against targets in the village of Granai, in a battle that lasted more than seven hours.

In each case, the senior military official said, General Thomas determined that the targets that had been struck posed legitimate threats to Afghan or American forces, which included one group of Marines assigned to train the Afghans and another assigned to a Special Operations task force.

But in “several cases,” the official said, General Thomas determined either that the airstrikes had not been the appropriate response to the threat because of the potential risk to civilians, or that American forces had failed to follow their own tactical rules in conducting the bombing runs.

The Afghan government concluded that about 140 civilians had been killed in the attacks. An earlier American military inquiry said last month that 20 to 30 civilians had been killed. That inquiry also concluded that 60 to 65 Taliban militants had been killed in the fight. American military officials say their two investigations show that Taliban fighters had deliberately fired on American forces and aircraft from compounds and other places where they knew Afghan civilians had sought shelter, in order to draw an American response that would kill civilians, including women and children.

The firefight began, the military said, when Afghan soldiers and police officers went to several villages in response to reports that three Afghan government officials had been killed by the Taliban. The police were quickly overwhelmed and asked for backup from American forces.

American officials have said that a review of videos from aircraft weapon sights and exchanges between air crew members and a ground commander established that Taliban fighters had taken refuge in “buildings which were then targeted in the final strikes of the fight,” which went well into the night.

American troop levels in Afghanistan are expected to double, to about 68,000, under President Obama’s new Afghan strategy.

In his previous job as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, General McChrystal oversaw units assigned to capture or kill senior militants. In his appearance before Congress on Tuesday, he was questioned on reports of abuses of detainees held by his commandos.

Under questioning by Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is the committee chairman, General McChrystal said he was uncomfortable with some of the harsh techniques that were officially approved for interrogation. At the time, such approved techniques included stress positions, sleep deprivation and the use of attack dogs for intimidation.

He said that all reports of abuse during his command were investigated, and that all substantiated cases of abuse resulted in disciplinary action. And he pledged to “strictly enforce” American and international standards for the treatment of battlefield detainees if confirmed to the post in Afghanistan.

Under questioning, General McChrystal also acknowledged that the Army had “failed the family” in its mishandling of the friendly-fire death of Cpl. Pat Tillman, the professional football star who enlisted in the Army after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

A final review by a four-star Army general cleared General McChrystal of any wrongdoing, but punished a number of senior officers who were responsible for administrative mistakes in the days after Corporal Tillman’s death. Initially, Army officials said the corporal had been killed by an insurgent ambush, when in fact he had been shot by members of his own Ranger team.
30197  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: June 03, 2009, 05:11:45 AM
Never a dull moment  cheesy
30198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Feds spike citizenship checks in GA on: June 02, 2009, 09:18:43 PM
Feds spike voter citizenship checks in Georgia


Georgia should use the same system that prospective gun owners have to pass.That check has been accepted as non discriminatory.

ATLANTA — The Justice Department has rejected Georgia's system of using Social Security numbers and driver's license data to check whether prospective voters are citizens, a process that was a subject of a federal lawsuit in the weeks leading up to November's election.

In a letter released on Monday, the Justice Department said the state's voter verification program is frequently inaccurate and has a "discriminatory effect" on minority voters. The decision means Georgia must halt the citizenship checks, although the state can still ask the Justice Department to reconsider, according to the letter and to the Georgia secretary of state's office.

"This flawed system frequently subjects a disproportionate number of African-American, Asian and/or Hispanic voters to additional, and more importantly, erroneous burdens on the right to register to vote," Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said. King's letter was sent to Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker on Friday.

The decision comes as Georgia awaits word on whether a law passed in the spring that requires newly registering voters to show proof of citizenship will pass muster with DOJ. Under the law that takes effect in January, people must show their proof up front compared to doing checks through databases.

A three-judge federal panel in October ordered the state to seek Justice Department preclearance for the checks under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the same reason the federal agency must sign off on the new law that made Georgia only the second state after Arizona to require such proof. Georgia is one of several states that need federal approval before changing election rules because of a history of discriminatory Jim Crow-era voting practices.

Secretary of State Karen Handel blasted DOJ's decision, saying it opens the floodgates for non-citizens to vote in the state.

"Clearly, politics took priority over common sense and good public policy," said Handel, a Republican candidate for governor in 2010.

Justice Department officials said the citizenship match through driver's license and Social Security data has flagged 7,007 individuals as non-citizens but that many have been shown to be in error.

"Thousands of citizens who are in fact eligible to vote under Georgia law have been flagged," the Justice Department letter said.

The Justice Department decision marks the first time the new Democratic Obama administration has weighed in on Georgia's election laws. It is also the first time the Justice Department has rejected a change in election procedures by Georgia since the 1990s, according to a spokesman for the Georgia attorney general.

"We are pleased with this decision," said Elise Shore, Southeastern Regional Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "It vindicates our filing of the lawsuit."

But Handel said that more than 2,100 people who attempted to register in Georgia still have not resolved questions regarding their citizenship. Her office's inspector general is investigating more than 30 cases of non-citizens casting ballots in Georgia elections, including the case of a Henry County non-citizen who said she registered to vote and cast ballots in 2004 and 2006.

Handel said the checks were designed to follow federal guidelines to ensure the integrity of the vote and that those eligible are casting ballots.

But the ACLU and the Mexican American defense fund sued, saying the efforts amounted to a "systematic purging" of rolls just weeks before the election.

Separately, the U.S., Supreme Court is considering a challenge to the portion of the Voting Rights Act requiring Georgia and select other states to seek approval before tinkering with election law.

By SHANNON McCAFFREY, The Associated Press
30199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO voting against Roberts on: June 02, 2009, 04:13:41 PM
The following is from then-Sen. Barack Obama's floor statement explaining why he would vote against confirming Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (September 2005):

. . . [T]he decision with respect to Judge Roberts' nomination has not been an easy one for me to make. As some of you know, I have not only argued cases before appellate courts but for 10 years was a member of the University of Chicago Law School faculty and taught courses in constitutional law. Part of the culture of the University of Chicago Law School faculty is to maintain a sense of collegiality between those people who hold different views. What engenders respect is not the particular outcome that a legal scholar arrives at but, rather, the intellectual rigor and honesty with which he or she arrives at a decision.

Given that background, I am sorely tempted to vote for Judge Roberts based on my study of his resume, his conduct during the hearings, and a conversation I had with him yesterday afternoon. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind Judge Roberts is qualified to sit on the highest court in the land. Moreover, he seems to have the comportment and the temperament that makes for a good judge. He is humble, he is personally decent, and he appears to be respectful of different points of view.

It is absolutely clear to me that Judge Roberts truly loves the law. He couldn't have achieved his excellent record as an advocate before the Supreme Court without that passion for the law, and it became apparent to me in our conversation that he does, in fact, deeply respect the basic precepts that go into deciding 95% of the cases that come before the federal court -- adherence to precedence, a certain modesty in reading statutes and constitutional text, a respect for procedural regularity, and an impartiality in presiding over the adversarial system. All of these characteristics make me want to vote for Judge Roberts.

The problem I face -- a problem that has been voiced by some of my other colleagues, both those who are voting for Mr. Roberts and those who are voting against Mr. Roberts -- is that while adherence to legal precedent and rules of statutory or constitutional construction will dispose of 95% of the cases that come before a court, so that both a Scalia and a Ginsburg will arrive at the same place most of the time on those 95% of the cases -- what matters on the Supreme Court is those 5% of cases that are truly difficult.

In those cases, adherence to precedent and rules of construction and interpretation will only get you through the 25th mile of the marathon. That last mile can only be determined on the basis of one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one's empathy.

In those 5% of hard cases, the constitutional text will not be directly on point. The language of the statute will not be perfectly clear. Legal process alone will not lead you to a rule of decision. In those circumstances, your decisions about whether affirmative action is an appropriate response to the history of discrimination in this country, or whether a general right of privacy encompasses a more specific right of women to control their reproductive decisions, or whether the Commerce Clause empowers Congress to speak on those issues of broad national concern that may be only tangentially related to what is easily defined as interstate commerce, whether a person who is disabled has the right to be accommodated so they can work alongside those who are nondisabled -- in those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart.

I talked to Judge Roberts about this. Judge Roberts confessed that, unlike maybe professional politicians, it is not easy for him to talk about his values and his deeper feelings. That is not how he is trained. He did say he doesn't like bullies and has always viewed the law as a way of evening out the playing field between the strong and the weak.

I was impressed with that statement because I view the law in much the same way. The problem I had is that when I examined Judge Roberts' record and history of public service, it is my personal estimation that he has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak. In his work in the White House and the Solicitor General's Office, he seemed to have consistently sided with those who were dismissive of efforts to eradicate the remnants of racial discrimination in our political process. In these same positions, he seemed dismissive of the concerns that it is harder to make it in this world and in this economy when you are a woman rather than a man.

I want to take Judge Roberts at his word that he doesn't like bullies and he sees the law and the court as a means of evening the playing field between the strong and the weak. But given the gravity of the position to which he will undoubtedly ascend and the gravity of the decisions in which he will undoubtedly participate during his tenure on the court, I ultimately have to give more weight to his deeds and the overarching political philosophy that he appears to have shared with those in power than to the assuring words that he provided me in our meeting.

The bottom line is this: I will be voting against John Roberts' nomination. . .
30200  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: June 02, 2009, 03:30:37 PM
A pleasure meeting and working with you yesterday.  See you next Monday.
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