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30251  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: October 15, 2008, 12:40:48 PM

The Chaos Strategy

A federal appeals court ruled last night that Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner must provide county election boards with state voter registration information so they can check the validity of some 666,000 new voter registrations submitted to Ohio officials in recent months.

The order, which Ms. Brunner vigorously resisted, will mean county boards will be able to stop counting absentee ballots if the registration linked to them doesn't match the name of a real person listed in government databases.

Ms. Brunner's office had argued that the federal Help America Vote Act did not require any such matching, and that delays in processing absentee votes could mean some valid votes wouldn't be counted.

Meanwhile, thousands of additional suspect registrations turned in by activist groups like Acorn have surfaced in Ohio. Local election officials tell me the volume of possibly fraudulent registrations will make it difficult for them to process those that are valid. "It's almost as if groups like Acorn want deliberate chaos in the election system, which they can then exploit on Election Day to demand that suspect votes be given the benefit of the doubt and counted," one county official told me.

-- John Fund
30252  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: October 15, 2008, 12:37:51 PM
Can McCain 'Mondale' Obama?

In tonight's debate look for John McCain to tie Barack Obama to liberal positions that are essential to elements of the Democratic nominee's coalition.

Chief among them is so-called "card check" legislation that passed the House in 2007 only to be bogged down in the Senate. The bill is the No. 1 priority of Mr. Obama's union supporters and would provide a way to bypass the requirement for secret-ballot elections to unionize a company. Instead, employees would be deemed to have selected a union when a majority of workers sign a card stating support for such a move -- often in the presence of union organizers.

Mr. McCain briefly raised card check in a previous debate with Mr. Obama, but he now has an iconic liberal he can cite as a prominent opponent of the idea. Former Sen. George McGovern calls secret ballots in union elections a "basic right." He has even agreed to appear in an ad sponsored by a pro-business group that is running in seven states holding Senate elections.

"It's hard to believe that any politician would agree to a law denying millions of employees the right to a private vote," Mr. McGovern says in the ad. "I have always been a champion of labor unions. But I fear that today's union leaders are turning their backs on democratic workplace elections." In a follow-up interview with The Hill newspaper, Mr. McGovern said a secret ballot is fundamental to American understandings of democracy: "When we elect a president, sheriff or member of Congress, we walk into the voting booth and pull the curtain free of anyone trying to twist our arm."

Mr. Obama has been a staunch supporter of card check and will no doubt have to defend it if pressed in tonight's debate. As for the unions backing card check, they have done little to hide their displeasure with Mr. McGovern. "It is deeply, deeply disappointing that someone like Sen. McGovern, who got so much support from labor unions, has sided . . . against labor's top priority," AFL-CIO Organizing Director Stuart Acuff says. "It's shocking."

-- John Fund

Liddy Opens the Jar

How bad are things for Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina? One of the Senate GOP's headliners and stellar fundraisers has now been forced to reach into her own pocket to counter a Democratic spending onslaught.

Mrs. Dole has been battered by Democratic ads in support of State Senator Kay Hagan, who accuses Mrs. Dole of being a Washington show horse who doesn't deliver for North Carolina. One brutal ad sponsored by Chuck Schumer's Democratic Senate Campaign Committee shows two old-timers arguing about whether Mrs. Dole is "92 or 93." The ad clearly is meant to get voters thinking Mrs. Dole, 72, is older than she is -- though the real subject is a Roll Call ranking that found her the 93rd most effective Senator and another survey showing she voted 92% of the time with the Bush administration.

The DSCC spent $1.5 million against Mrs. Dole just in August, with Mr. Schumer personally defending the controversial ad, saying, "She's not the Elizabeth Dole that was elected when she first ran" in 2002.

Mrs. Dole told the Associated Press: "You get such a lot coming at you and spending a great deal of time raising money -- there just comes a point when you feel like you need to put some skin in the game."

Yet the decisive factor may be out of her control -- turnout in the McCain-Obama race. So far, Barack Obama has been outspending John McCain in the state, pouring money into voter mobilization. Pro-Democratic polling analyst Nate Silver calculates that the percentage of black registered voters has increased from 20.3% to 21.4%, while the number of white voters decreased from 76.7% to 75.2%.

A scheduled rally by Sarah Palin tomorrow near Greensboro may help Mrs. Dole and Senate Republicans more than it does Mr. McCain at this point. An ABC News analysis says the Dole-Hagan battle might determine whether Democrats storm to a filibuster-proof majority after November. Mrs. Palin will be joined by country singer Hank Williams Jr., performing his new song "The McCain-Palin Tradition."

-- Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

Quote of the Day

"Democratic politicians and activists are giddy over visions of a 60-seat majority in the Senate next year, but experts say they don't need quite that many to rewrite a wide range of national policies to reflect the priorities of their presidential nominee, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, if he is elected. Primarily, that's because Senate rules provide for expedited consideration of the budget bills, known as 'reconciliation' measures, that have become the favored legislative vehicles for the most ambitious spending and tax plans of recent presidents... [E]ven outside the reconciliation process, Democrats are likely to be able to attract crossover Republican votes on various domestic and foreign policy measures . . . and there is a strong possibility that a President Obama would be operating with more senators from his own party than any president since Jimmy Carter, even if Democrats do not make it to 60 seats" -- Congressional Quarterly's Jonathan Allen.

The Chaos Strategy

A federal appeals court ruled last night that Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner must provide county election boards with state voter registration information so they can check the validity of some 666,000 new voter registrations submitted to Ohio officials in recent months.

The order, which Ms. Brunner vigorously resisted, will mean county boards will be able to stop counting absentee ballots if the registration linked to them doesn't match the name of a real person listed in government databases.

Ms. Brunner's office had argued that the federal Help America Vote Act did not require any such matching, and that delays in processing absentee votes could mean some valid votes wouldn't be counted.

Meanwhile, thousands of additional suspect registrations turned in by activist groups like Acorn have surfaced in Ohio. Local election officials tell me the volume of possibly fraudulent registrations will make it difficult for them to process those that are valid. "It's almost as if groups like Acorn want deliberate chaos in the election system, which they can then exploit on Election Day to demand that suspect votes be given the benefit of the doubt and counted," one county official told me.

-- John Fund

30253  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AQ #2 killed on: October 15, 2008, 09:38:11 AM
US troops kill No. 2 leader of al-Qaida in Iraq
By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer 57 minutes ago

American troops acting on a tip killed the No. 2 leader of al-Qaida in Iraq — a Moroccan known for his ability to recruit and motivate foreign fighters — in a raid in the northern city of Mosul, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

The military statement described the man, known as Abu Qaswarah, as a charismatic leader who had trained in Afghanistan and managed to rally al-Qaida followers in Iraq despite U.S. and Iraqi security gains.

Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, a U.S. spokesman in Baghdad, also said the military suspected that Iranian agents were trying to bribe Iraqi politicians to oppose negotiations over a security pact that would extend the presence of American troops in Iraq.

But, he said, the military had no reason to believe Iraqi politicians had taken the Iranians up on the offers.

"There are indicators that Iranian agents may come across the border and use money or other bribes to influence Iraqi politicians," Driscoll said. "It's a whole different matter whether Iraqi politicians would accept that."

U.S. troops killed Abu Qaswarah, also known as Abu Sara, on Oct. 5 after coming under fire during a raid on a building that served as an al-Qaida in Iraq "key command and control location for" in Mosul, the military said.

Abu Qaswarah — one of five insurgents killed — was later been positively identified, the military said, without elaborating.

The insurgent leader became the senior al-Qaida in Iraq emir of northern Iraq in June 2007 and had "historic ties to AQI founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and senior al-Qaida leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan," the military said.

It called him "al-Qaida in Iraq's second-in-command" as the senior operational leader for al-Zarqawi's successor, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.

Driscoll said Abu Qaswarah directed the smuggling of foreign terrorists into northern Iraq and reportedly killed those who tried to return to their homelands rather than carry out suicide bombings and other attacks against Iraqis.

The announcement would indicate that al-Qaida in Iraq's leadership has maintained a presence despite recent reports that many had fled to Afghanistan and Pakistan where fighting has been on the rise.

Abu Qaswarah was described by the military as a "charismatic AQI leader who rallied AQI's northern network in the wake of major setbacks to the terrorist organization across Iraq."

The death of the senior al-Qaida in Iraq leader will cause a major disruption to the terror network, particularly in northern Iraq, the military said.

Nationwide violence has declined drastically over the past year, particularly in Baghdad, but the U.S. military has consistently warned al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgents remain a serious threat.

A recent series of killings of Iraqi Christians in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, has highlighted the continued dangers in northern Iraq, where many insurgents fled intensive U.S. military operations in the capital and surrounding areas.

The number of Christian families fleeing violence in Mosul since last week has reached 1,390 — or more than 8,300 people, local migration official Jawdat Ismaeel said Wednesday.

Ismaeel said humanitarian teams are distributing food and aid materials to all displaced families, who are largely seeking refuge in nearby Christian-dominated towns and villages.

Islamic extremists have frequently targeted Christians and other religious minorities since the 2003 U.S. invasion, forcing tens of thousands to flee Iraq. However, attacks declined as areas became more secure following a U.S. troops buildup, a U.S.-funded Sunni revolt against al-Qaida and a Shiite militia cease-fire. Driscoll said the attacks against the Christians bore the hallmarks of a "typical al-Qaida in Iraq tactic" of trying to provoke retaliatory killings by pitting members of religious and ethnic groups against each other.
30254  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J Adams: on: October 14, 2008, 05:45:12 PM
"Duty is ours, results are God's."
John Quincy Adams
30255  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cover up on: October 14, 2008, 03:54:39 PM
London Sunday Times
October 12, 2008

Taliban Leader Killed By SAS Was Pakistan Officer

By Christina Lamb, in Kabul

British officials covered up evidence that a Taliban commander killed by special forces in Helmand last year was in fact a Pakistani military officer, according to highly placed Afghan officials.

The commander, targeted in a compound in the Sangin valley, was one of six killed in the past year by SAS and SBS forces. When the British soldiers entered the compound they discovered a Pakistani military ID on the body.

It was the first physical evidence of covert Pakistani military operations against British forces in Afghanistan even though Islamabad insists it is a close ally in the war against terror.

Britain’s refusal to make the incident public led to a row with the Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who has long accused London of viewing Afghanistan through the eyes of Pakistani military intelligence, which is widely believed to have been helping the Taliban.

“He feels he has been telling everyone about Pakistan for the past six years and here was the evidence, yet London refused to release it, because they care more about their relations with Islamabad than Kabul,” said a source close to the president. “He knows Britain is worried about inflaming its large Pakistani population, but that is no excuse.”

So furious was Karzai that he threatened to expel British diplomats. When some months later he was informed by the governor of Helmand that British officials were secretly negotiating with the Taliban, he expelled two men and accused Britain of wanting to set up a training camp for former Taliban fighters.

Karzai will visit London next month for talks with Gordon Brown in an attempt to repair the strained relations between the two countries.

“He is very sad about the breakdown of relations with Britain,” said the source. “He loves British culture and poetry, had a British education [at a school in India], likes tea in the afternoon and thinks Gordon Brown is a very decent man, not a cheat.”

British officials in Kabul refused to comment on the allegation that they had covered up the discovery of a Pakistani soldier. They insisted Karzai’s government had been informed of the negotiations with the Taliban, adding that “the camp was just a place for them to be reintegrated, learn about hygiene and things”.

During the war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, officers from Pakistani military intelligence regularly accompanied Afghan mujaheddin inside Afghanistan and directed operations.

The Afghan claims of Pakistani involvement in Helmand were backed by a senior United Nations official who said he had been told by his superiors to keep quiet after Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN apparently threatened to stop contributing forces to peacekeeping missions. Pakistan is the UN’s biggest supplier of peacekeeping troops.

The coalition’s refusal to confront Pakistan changed after the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul last July, when 41 people were killed. According to both British and US intelligence, phone intercepts led directly back to an Afghan cell of Pakistan’s military intelligence.

The past month has seen US forces carry out bombings and a ground raid on Pakistani territory. Claims of Pakistan’s involvement were rejected by Asif Durrani, the country’s chargé d’affaires in Kabul. “Afghanistan wants to blame someone else for its problems and Pakistan is just the whipping boy,” he said.

However, repeated accusations from Karzai about Pakistan’s active support for the Taliban have been backed by a senior US marine officer.

Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Nash, who commanded an embedded training team in eastern Afghanistan from June 2007 to March this year, told the Army Times that Pakistani forces flew repeated helicopter missions into Afghanistan to resupply a Taliban base camp during a fierce battle in June last year. Nash said: “We were on the receiving end of Pakistani military D-30 [a howitzer]. On numerous occasions Afghan border police checkpoints and observation posts were attacked by Pakistani military forces.”

Comments by Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith in The Sunday Times last week that a decisive military victory against the Taliban was not possible and negotiations should be opened have received widespread backing.

General Jean-Louis Georgelin, France’s military chief, said: “There is no military solution to the Afghan crisis and I totally share this feeling.”

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, who initially dismissed the brigadier’s comments as “defeatist”, said on Friday that the US was now prepared to back talks with the Taliban.
30256  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: October 14, 2008, 03:46:31 PM
Acorn Feels Its Oats

The liberal anti-poverty group Acorn is fighting back against allegations by the McCain campaign that its habit of filing false voter registrations carries a danger of injecting voter fraud into the election.

Acorn announced today it will ask Senator McCain to call on Republican election officials in battleground states to guarantee that voters who have lost their homes to foreclosure will not lose their right to vote. Acorn also will mischievously release a video of a 2006 Acorn-sponsored event supporting immigration reform that Mr. McCain spoke at. "While in recent weeks your campaign has stooped to engaging in tactics that do not reflect the John McCain who proudly appeared at the 2006 Acorn event, we hold out hope that the 2008 John McCain will do the right thing," says a statement by the group.

Acorn will also ask for a meeting with what it calls Mr. McCain's "front men" who are chairing the campaign's voter integrity committee. It accuses former New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman, a co-chair of the committee, of having "a well documented opposition to civil rights issues." The only example it cites is Mr. Rudman's 1983 opposition to a national federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King.

But Acorn's counterattack may be blunted today by news out of Ohio showing that fraudulently registered voters are already influencing the election outcome. The New York Post reports that Darnell Nash, one of four people subpoenaed in a Cuyahoga County probe of Acorn's voter-registration activities, "breezed into Ohio election offices" on September 30 and cast an invalid ballot. Mr. Nash did not show up for a hearing scheduled in his case yesterday.

-- John Fund

30257  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: October 14, 2008, 03:44:42 PM
If a respected journalist says something controversial at a media conference filled with reporters and bloggers but no one reports it, what is one to make of that?

Mark Halperin, an editor at large for Time magazine and coauthor of the campaign field guide "The Way to Win," was one of several speakers at yesterday's conference on the 2008 election sponsored by Time and CNN in New York. During his panel discussion, Mr. Halperin was asked if the media had been too soft on Mr. Obama. To the surprise of the largely liberal audience, his answer was yes. He went on to say that through the subtle choice of which stories to cover and where to deploy investigative resources, the national media had handed Mr. Obama "hundreds of millions in free publicity." He attributed the positive coverage in part to the historic nature of Mr. Obama's candidacy. But he also noted that only a few hands had gone up in the crowded room when the audience had been asked how many had voted for George W. Bush.

He quickly tempered his remarks by noting that John McCain had similarly been the beneficiary of positive media coverage in his 2000 campaign. "It is interesting that the media's favorite candidates in both parties both won their party's nominations this year," he observed. He called on reporters to look at their 2008 coverage of candidates after the election, in hopes that in the future "they do a better job treating people equally."

Mr. Halperin's comments were pithy, well argued and controversial. Yet, almost 24 hours after they were made, it appears none of the bloggers and reporters present for the event have chosen to report on them -- perhaps providing validation for his core statement about how bias is reflected in the choice of which stories to report and which to ignore.

-- John Fund
30258  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Black Swan on: October 14, 2008, 03:39:42 PM
The 1% Panic Our financial models were only meant to work 99% of the time.By L. GORDON CROVITZ

The Panic of 2008 is a crisis of trust. Investors don't trust the value of bad debts enough to offer market-clearing prices. Banks don't trust one another to stay in business long enough to do business together. And there's definitely no trust that Washington can avoid creating costly new moral hazards as it attempts to bail out the system.

But the most paralyzing loss of trust may be in Wall Street's system itself: How did the smartest people at the best banks running the most sophisticated financial models fail to forecast the collapse of mortgage-related securities? How did this unpredicted collapse devastate the system? And most of all, can we ever again trust the financial models on which value is supposed to be determined?

These questions matter because despite the current crisis, modern finance has delivered enormous benefits, from explaining to investors why they should diversify their investments to the creation of mutual and index funds. Related innovations helped financial institutions speed capital to its best use, fund new businesses and accelerate global prosperity. In other words, financial engineering worked beautifully -- until suddenly it didn't.

So what happened? Financial models take logic and historical data into account, but it's now clear that these elegant models have a serious weakness: They can't cope with illogical and uneconomic factors. Washington's insistence for years on artificial subsidies for mortgages through Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and other programs led to a loud "Does not compute!" that is still rocking the financial system.

 Here's how ill-conceived regulation poisoned the system. Until recently, bank CEOs and regulators slept well at night thanks to a financial model developed in the 1990s called "value at risk" or VaR. It assesses historical variances and covariances among different securities, informing financial institutions of the risks they're taking. By assessing risk factors across all securities, VaR can compare historical levels of risk for given portfolios, usually up to a 99% probability that banks would not lose more than a certain amount of money. In normal times, banks compare the VaR worst case with their capital to make sure their reserves can cover losses.

But VaR can't account for extreme unprecedented events -- the collapse of Barings in 1995 due to a rogue trader in Singapore, or today's government-mandated bad mortgages bundled into securities that are hard to value and unwind. The "1% likely" happened. And because the 1% literally didn't compute, there was no estimate of the stunning losses that have occurred.

Yale mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot pointed out the shortcomings of the VaR model in his "The (Mis)behavior of Markets," published in 2004. He noted that bell curves work for, say, disparities in the height of people. In markets, instead of flat tails of rare events at either end of the bell curve, there are "fat tails" of huge upsides and huge downsides. Markets are more complex than the neat shape of bell curves.

Last year's bestselling nonfiction book had a similar theme. In "The Black Swan," former trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb pointed out that extreme outcomes are actually common, warning that financial engineers -- "scientists," as he calls them -- ignore these unlikely outcomes at their peril. But today's credit panic was not entirely unpredictable. Mr. Taleb was prescient in writing, "The government-sponsored institution Fannie Mae, when I look at their risks, seems to be sitting on a barrel of dynamite, vulnerable to the slightest hiccup. But not to worry: Their large staffs of scientists deemed these events 'unlikely.'"

Likewise, the financial engineers at once high-flying hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management thought they had taken all risks into account, but the Russian financial crisis of 1998 blew their model. Last week the former general counsel of LTCM, James Rickards, reflected on how an incomplete VaR model undermined his firm. "Since we have scaled the system to unprecedented size, we should expect catastrophes of unprecedented size as well," he wrote in the Washington Post. "We're in the middle of one such catastrophe, and complexity theory says it will get much worse."

Global markets and new financial instruments are indeed complex. This complexity led to a fragility that made government meddling in markets more dangerous than ever before -- creating the 1% likely disaster. The good news for VaR and similar models is that the free market alone would not have allowed the bubble of subsidized mortgages, but the bad news is that it's far from clear that Congress has learned from the current crisis to pursue policy goals in ways that don't distort the fundamentals of markets.

Now the regulators trying to fix the damage in the financial system must also try to avoid more 1% likely crises. Transparent steps that restore market efficiency are better than complex, ad hoc policies that postpone market solutions. These programs should be judged on whether they make the financial models function better or function not at all. As we've learned, there's not much room in between.

Write to
30259  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Spiritual Matters on: October 14, 2008, 03:08:09 PM
My wife found this and was greatly moved by it-- one of these days I will have both the courage and the time to watch it at the same time:
30260  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survialist issues: Hunkering down at home on: October 14, 2008, 03:03:36 PM
Sent by a friend:

Subject: Disaster Preparedness Begins at home
 September is National Preparedness month.  Please read and/or print
 out the following checklists to get your family ready at home.
 Compliments of the Dept of Homeland Security.
 Generic Checklist for home:
 Older citizens:
 People with disabilities:
 Pet Owners:
 Some other things to consider that you won't find on these lists:
 1.  You can never have enough water and food - try to get enough for 2
 2.  Get a crowbar, hammer, wrenches.  Remember that you do have a jack
 in the truck of your car.  You may need them to get someone out of the
 rubble when we have an earthquake.
 3.  Rope.  You can get 50' of nylon rope at Big Lots for $3 a bundle.
 4.  Get leather gloves.  Broken glass will be everywhere.
 5.  Have extra tennis shoes, socks, and clothes where you can get to
 them - how about a backpack in the trunk of your car?  You may be
 stuck wearing the same clothes for a week, so take that into
 6.  Make sure everyone in your family knows a designated relative's
 phone number out of state so you can all call in and leave message for
 each other.  In many cases it may be the only way you'll have peace of
 mind knowing that they are ok.
 7.  How will you protect your family from thugs and looters?  You
 won't find this on any list.  Take a lesson from Hurricanes Katrina
 and Wilma.
 Remember, we have plans in place to take care of children and
 dependent adults on site in the event of an earthquake.  If your
 children aren't able to go to school, bring them with you when you
30261  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACORN on: October 14, 2008, 02:26:29 PM
I disagree strongly with McC on shamnesty and wanna puke when I think about how either candidate will handle this once elected.

That said, BO is deliberately cheating by messing with the integrity of the electoral process itself and McC is not.
30262  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 14, 2008, 02:15:58 PM

It leads me to reflect a moment , , , perhaps at it core this IS the problem-- I don't WANT government to be TOO efficient.  There's a lot of foolishness that literally is on the books but as a practical matter, AT LEAST BEFORE TECHNOLOGIES SUCH AS THOSE WE SEE HERE, wasn't really enforced. 

Also, there were a lot of liberal fascist nanny do-gooder ideas that simply weren't practical that might become practical now or in the not-so-distant future.

Does this help?
30263  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Cub Scout fundraising for Conrad Denny on: October 14, 2008, 02:09:36 PM
Well, this was a big success , , ,
30264  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Seminar: 10/11-12 Guro Crafty in Bloomington IL on: October 14, 2008, 02:08:12 PM
I had an awesome time Terry.  I am pleased to see what you and Scott have been doing and congratulations on making DBMAA Instructor!  (Likewise to Robin and Will of Memphis on making Group Leader!)  There were lots of great people there-- a fine, fine weekend.
30265  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: October 14, 2008, 12:00:37 PM
Actually GM that is Rachel taking me to task for my comments on Buddhism.  cheesy

Very good Rachel!  cheesy

But let us be clear, If I read correctly the terrorist Tamils are not the Buddhists here:

"Ethnic Sinhalese Buddhists make up about three-quarters of the island's population; Tamils, both Indian and Sri Lankan, are the next largest ethnic group. Most are Hindu. Tamil terrorism is rooted in conflict between the Tamils and the Sinhalese, who predominate in government."

i.e.the Buddhists are the government/majority population, NOT the terrorist Tamils.

"The Tamil population began to agitate for secession in the early 1970s, following Sinhalese measures to establish their cultural and political dominance. For example, Sinhalese was made the only official language and Buddhism was decreed the official religion. In the 1970s, student groups and others turned to armed protest to press their case with the government."

Armed resistance to English being the official language of the US would certainly tick me off more than a little.  As for ANY religion being an official religion, that strikes me as a really bad idea-- which is a fundamental problem I have with Sharia by the way.  That said, from this article we do not know what practical consequences resulted from this declaration.

"The conflict escalated in 1983, when anti-Tamil riots in the capital, Colomo, killed thousands and displaced almost 100,000 residents. The moment was decisive for many Tamils, who lent large scale support to independence movements." 

Coincidentally enough the DBMA Ass'n has a representative in Sri Lanka named Prasad and I will ask him about this.  He is Christian, which may put him in a good position to comment from a relatively impartial point of view.

That said, I think my larger point remains valid and essentially uncontested by this piece.  So far it appears that we have an ethnic conflict.  There's nothing here about Buddha saying that the Sinhalese must submit cut off the heads of the Tamils if they do not submit to Buddha.

I look forward to Prasad's input.

30266  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: October 14, 2008, 11:40:33 AM
Actually I found some of the typed in commentary to be a bit over the top but overall a good piece of guerrila theater.  Wish I had been back there-- this is where I grew up  grin
30267  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Indonesia on: October 14, 2008, 11:01:48 AM
Second post of the AM

LA Times

The Mujahedin Council wants to put an end to what it sees as Western depravity, including racy ads and beauty contests. But opponents say the bill threatens free expression.
By Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 14, 2008
JAKARTA, INDONESIA -- A beauty queen in a full-length evening gown is enough to make Abu Mohammed Jibril's blood boil.

Those bare arms and uncovered head. That cleavage. And don't get him started on the bikini portion of the show.

 Abu Mohammed JibrilMiss Universe is disgusting pornography to the deputy head of Indonesia's Mujahedin Council.

"It's destructive," he said of the contest that airs here. "Miss Universe is very famous, so Muslim mothers want their daughters to be like Miss Universe and copy what they've seen.

"So all of these things, like Miss Universe, fashion shows, are degrading morality. They're all porn. A Muslim woman should not let her hair be seen by other people."

Jibril's council hopes a proposed anti-pornography law will put an end to what it sees as Western depravity. But religious and cultural minorities, artists, teachers and other opponents warn that the bill, which supporters hope will come up for a vote in parliament this week, threatens free expression in Indonesia.

The Muslim council is headed by Abu Bakar Bashir, who has been widely accused of being the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, Al Qaeda's affiliate in Southeast Asia, a claim he denies. Still, his council shares Al Qaeda's sharp disdain for what Bashir and his followers consider Western moral pollution.

When worshipers answered the call to prayer at Jibril's Jakarta mosque on a recent afternoon, one young man arrived wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a portrait of Osama bin Laden.

Jibril sat for an interview on a green prayer rug, behind the wooden lectern he uses for sermons. Vilifying immoral dress, loose sex and other social trends he sees as signs of social decay, he paused only for an occasional question -- and to answer the male voice reciting a verse from the Koran, which is his cellphone's ring tone.

To punctuate each point, he flashed his palms, fingers stretched wide in little starbursts around his white turban.

"It's not only drugs and criminals that are at the root of all the devastation of our younger generation, but also the culture of pornography," said Jibril. "That is why we find many husbands cheating on their wives, and many wives cheating on their husbands."

Indonesia's long debate over the anti-porn bill, which has gone through many revisions, is dividing a nation founded on principles that include "Unity in Diversity." The Muslim majority has long been known for respecting the rights of religious minorities. Although this is the most populous Muslim nation, women more commonly wear Western fashions than head scarves.

The proposed law casts a broad net for purveyors of smut. It defines porn as sexual material that includes photographs, cartoons, films, poems, vocalization, conversations and body gestures in the media, or in public shows, exhibits or performances.

Those that "arouse sexual propensity, desires or longings" or "contravene community ethics, decency or morality" would be criminal acts if the bill becomes law.

Producers of obscene material, which would include depictions of sexual intercourse, child pornography, sexual violence, masturbation and what is described as "allusions to nudity," would face up to 15 years in prison or a maximum fine equivalent to $1.5 million.

Distributors of porn, which also would include what the bill's drafters call racy advertising, could be sentenced to a maximum three-year prison term or a $500,000 fine.

Backers of the bill's provisions against the sexual exploitation of children, Internet porn and other, more conventional measures against indecency decry what they consider the overkill of the measure's more aggressive elements. The loudest opposition comes from the resort island of Bali, where Hindus are a majority and Western tourists exposing skin are part of the scenery.

On Saturday, thousands of protesters from around the country came to Bali to rally against the bill, which opponents say is a threat to minority cultures. To make their point, Papuan tribesmen danced wearing only traditional penis sheaths and body paint.

Bali Gov. Made Mangku Pastika raised objections to the bill in a letter this month to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the speaker of the House of Representatives.

Jibril discounts the governor's objections, which he says are to be expected from the leader of a province where "they gain income from allowing foreigners to shows their breasts, to get naked by the beach, to kiss on the lips in public." Jibril said he doubts the bill will pass because the government is a cabal of liars intent on prolonging the debate to manipulate voters. In the end, the politicians will side with minorities and Muslims will give up on peaceful protest, he said in what sounded like a veiled threat.

"There will be a time when Muslims are tired of holding these [mass protests] and then something unwanted can happen," he warned.

30268  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: October 14, 2008, 10:56:30 AM
ISTANBUL — High school hurt for Havva Yilmaz. She tried out several selves. She ran away. Nothing felt right.

Havva Yilmaz, center, with friends at a cafe in Istanbul. Ms. Yilmaz has embraced her religious identity, and has campaigned for tolerance of those who, like her, choose to express their beliefs.

“There was no sincerity,” she said. “It was shallow.”

So at 16, she did something none of her friends had done: She put on an Islamic head scarf.

In most Muslim countries, that would be a nonevent. In Turkey, it was a rebellion. Turkey has built its modern identity on secularism. Women on billboards do not wear scarves. The scarves are banned in schools and universities. So Ms. Yilmaz dropped out of school. Her parents were angry. Her classmates stopped calling her.

Like many young people at a time of religious revival across the Muslim world, Ms. Yilmaz, now 21, is more observant than her parents. Her mother wears a scarf, but cannot read the Koran in Arabic. They do not pray five times a day. The habits were typical for their generation — Turks who moved from the countryside during industrialization.

“Before I decided to cover, I knew who I was not,” Ms. Yilmaz said, sitting in a leafy Ottoman-era courtyard. “After I covered, I finally knew who I was.”

While her decision was in some ways a recognizable act of youthful rebellion, in Turkey her personal choices are part of a paradox at the heart of the country’s modern identity.

Turkey is now run by a party of observant Muslims, but its reigning ideology and law are strictly secular, dating from the authoritarian rule in the 1920s of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a former army general who pushed Turkey toward the West and cut its roots with the Ottoman East. For some young people today, freedom means the right to practice Islam, and self-expression means covering their hair.

They are redrawing lines between freedom and devotion, modernization and tradition, and blurring some prevailing distinctions between East and West.

Ms. Yilmaz’s embrace of her religious identity has thrust her into politics. She campaigned to allow women to wear scarves on college campuses, a movement that prompted emotional, often agonized, debates across Turkey about where Islam fit into an open society. That question has paralyzed politics twice in the past year and a half, and has drawn hundreds of thousands into the streets to protest what they call a growing religiosity in society and in government.

By dropping out of the education system, she found her way into Turkey’s growing, lively culture of young activists.

She attended a political philosophy reading group, studying Hegel, St. Augustine and Machiavelli. She took sociology classes from a free learning center. She met other activists, many of them students trying to redefine words like “modern,” which has meant secular and Western-looking for decades. She made new friends, like Hilal Kaplan, whose scarf sometimes had a map of the world on it.

Their fight is not solely about Islam. Turkey is in ferment, and Ms. Yilmaz and her young peers are demanding equal rights for all groups in Turkey. They are far less bothered by the religious and ethnic differences that divide older generations. “Turkey is not just secular people versus religious people,” Ms. Kaplan said. “We were a very segregated society, but that segregation is breaking up.”

In a slushy week in the middle of January, the head scarf became the focus of a heated national outpouring, and Ms. Yilmaz one of its most eloquent defenders.

The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to pass a law letting women who wear them into college. Staunchly secular Turks opposed broader freedoms for Islam, in part because they did not trust Mr. Erdogan, a popular politician who began his career championing a greater role for Islam in politics and who has since moderated his stance.

Turkey remains a democratic experiment unique in the Muslim world. The Ottomans dabbled in democracy as early as 1876, creating a Constitution and a Parliament. The country was never colonized by Western powers, as Arabs were. It gradually developed into a vibrant democracy. The fact that young people like Ms. Yilmaz are protesting at all is one of its distinguishing features.

In many ways, Ms. Yilmaz’s scarf freed her, but for many other women, it is the opposite. In poor, religiously conservative areas in rural Turkey, girls wear scarves from young ages, and many Turks feel strongly that without state regulation, young women would come under more pressure to cover up.

The head scarf bill, in that respect, could lead to less freedom for women, they argued. But for Ms. Yilmaz, the anger against the bill was hard to understand.

So one day, armed with a microphone and a strong sense of justice, Ms. Yilmaz marched into a hotel in central Istanbul and, with two friends, both in scarves, made her best case


Page 2 of 3)

“The pain that we’ve been through as university doors were harshly shut in our faces taught us one thing,” she said, speaking to reporters. “Our real problem is with the mentality of prohibition that thinks it has the right to interfere with people’s lives.”

Generation Faithful

Ms. Yilmaz’s heartfelt speech, written with her friends, drew national attention. They were invited on television talk shows. They gave radio and newspaper interviews. Part of their appeal came from their attempt to go beyond religion to include all groups in Turkish society, like ethnic and sectarian minorities.

After Ms. Yilmaz left high school, she joined a group called the Young Civilians, a diverse band of young people who used dark humor and occasional references to the philosopher Michel Foucault to criticize everything from the state’s repression of Kurds, the biggest ethnic minority, to its day of “Youth and Sport,” a series of Soviet-style rallies of students in stadiums every spring.

Their symbol was a Converse sneaker. Their members were funny and irreverent. One once joked that if you mentioned the name Marx, young women without head scarves assumed you were talking about the British department store Marks & Spencer, while ones in scarves understood the reference to the philosopher.

In a tongue-in-cheek effort to change perceptions of Kurds, the group ran a discussion program called “Let’s Get a Little Kurdish,” which featured sessions on Kurdish music, history and — in a particularly rebellious twist — even language.

By March, the month after Parliament passed the final version of the head scarf proposal, the debate had reached a frenzied pitch. Ms. Yilmaz and some friends — some in scarves, some not — agreed to go on a popular television talk show. The audience’s questions were angry.

One young woman stood up and, looking directly at another in a scarf, said that she did not want her on campus, said Neslihan Akbulut, a friend of Ms. Yilmaz, who had helped to compose the head scarf statement. Another said she felt sorry for them because they were oppressed by men. A third fretted that allowing them into universities would lead to further demands about jobs, resulting in an “invasion.”

Ms. Yilmaz said later: “I thought, are we living in the same country? No, it’s impossible.”

They did not give up. They spent the day in a drafty cafe in central Istanbul, wearing boots and coats and going over their position with journalists, one by one.

“If women are ever forced to wear head scarves, we should be equally sensitive and stand against it,” Ms. Akbulut said.

One of the journalists said, “You don’t support gays.”

Ms. Kaplan countered: “Islam tells us to fight this urge,” but she said that did not affect a homosexual’s rights as a citizen. “I am against police oppression of homosexuals. I am against a worldview that diminishes us to our scarves and homosexuals to the bedroom.”

Ms. Yilmaz agreed. “When you wear a scarf,” she said, “you are expected to act and think in a certain way, and support a certain political party. You’re stripped of your personality.”

The young women say that the scarf, contrary to popular belief, was not forced on them by their families. Some women wear it because their mothers did. For others, like Ms. Yilmaz, it was a carefully considered choice.

Though it is not among the five pillars of Islam — the duties required for every Muslim, including daily prayer — Ms. Yilmaz sees it as a command in the Koran.

“Physical contact is something special, something private,” she said, describing the thinking behind her covering. “Constant contact takes away from the specialness, the privacy of the thing you share.”

Still, in Turkey, traditional rules are often bent to accommodate modern life. Handshaking, for example, is a widespread Turkish custom, and most women follow it. Turkey is culturally very different from Arab societies, and for that reason interprets Islam differently. Islam here is heavily influenced by Sufism, an introspective strain that tends to be more flexible.

“You can’t reject an extended hand,” Ms. Kaplan said. “You don’t want to break a person’s heart.”


(Page 3 of 3)

Young activists like Ms. Yilmaz are driving change in Turkish society against a backdrop of growing materialism and consumerism. Most young Turks care little for politics and are instead occupied with the daily task of paying the bills.

This is the seventh in a series of articles examining the lives of the young across the Muslim world at a time of religious revival.

That is an easier task in Turkey than in a number of Middle Eastern countries, because Turkey is relatively affluent. After three decades of intense development, its economy is five times bigger than Egypt’s — a country with roughly the same population.

The wealth has profoundly shaped young lives. In cities, young people no longer have to live with their parents after marriage. They take mortgages. They buy furniture on credit. They compete for jobs in new fields like marketing, finance and public relations.

In past generations, women lived with their husband’s families, doubling their work.

“When you don’t have time to do anything for yourself, you don’t have time to question anything, even religion,” Ms. Kaplan said.

The economic changes that have swept Turkish society, bringing cellphones, iPods and the Internet, are transforming the younger generation. Young people are more connected to the Western world than ever before. A quick visit to a bookstore or a movie theater offers proof.

Observant Turks are grappling with questions like: Where does praying fit in a busy life of e-mail messages and 60-hour weeks? How do you hold on to Eastern tradition in a rising tide of Western culture?

The head scarf debate ended abruptly in June, when Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that the new law allowing women attending universities to wear scarves was unconstitutional, because it violated the nation’s principles of secularism.

Ms. Yilmaz got the news in a text message from her friend. In her bitter disappointment, she realized how much hope she had held out. “How can I be a part of a country that does not accept me?” she said.

Still, she has no regrets and is not giving up. “What we did was worth something,” she said. “People heard our voices. One day the prohibition is imposed on us. The next day, it could be someone else. If we work together, we can fight it.”
30269  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACORN on: October 14, 2008, 10:36:56 AM
copied from the 2008 thread:

Vote drives defended, despite fake names
By Richard Danielson, Times Staff Writer
In print: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mickey Mouse tried to register to vote in Florida this summer, but Orange County elections officials rejected his application, which had an ACORN stamp on it. 
 Mickey Mouse tried to register to vote in Florida this summer.

Orange County elections officials rejected his application, which was stamped with the logo of the nonprofit group ACORN.

Tow truck driver Newton Bell did register to vote in Orange County this summer. In the hands of ACORN, his paperwork went through without a hitch.

Two cases, two outcomes, each with a connection to ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

Nationwide, ACORN is a favorite GOP target for allegations of voter registration fraud this year.

That's not new. Similar complaints followed the 2004 elections. A criminal investigation in Florida found no evidence of fraud. ACORN even has a cameo role in the scandal over the 2006 firings of several U.S. attorneys by the Bush Justice Department.

Under attack again, ACORN leaders defend their work. Often, they say, things are as not simple as they're portrayed.

Take Mickey Mouse.

Yes, that's their logo. But they say their workers routinely scanned all suspicious applications.

"We don't think this card came through our system," said Brian Kettenring, ACORN's head organizer in Florida.

With more than 450,000 member families nationwide — 14,000 in Florida — ACORN is a grass roots advocacy group focused on health care, wages, affordable housing and foreclosure.  Bell, the truck driver, certainly, is more representative of ACORN's work in Florida than the cartoon mouse is.

This year, ACORN signed up 1.3-million voters nationwide and about 152,000 in Florida, mostly in Orange, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. ACORN estimates it flagged 2 percent of its Florida registrations as problematic because they were incomplete, duplicates or just plain bogus.

That's enough to give headaches to election officials and to provide ammunition to Republican activists.

Brevard County elections officials have turned over 23 suspect registrations from ACORN to prosecutors. The state Division of Elections has received two ACORN-related complaints, in Orange and Broward counties.  ACORN wasn't active in the Tampa Bay area. Last week, however, Pinellas County elections officials gave local prosecutors 35 questionable registrations from another group, Work for Progress. 

The GOP accuses ACORN of registration fraud all over the country. In Las Vegas, authorities said the group's petitions included the names of the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys.

"This is part of a widespread and systemic effort … to undermine the election process," says Republican National Committee chief counsel Sean Cairncross, who describes ACORN as a "quasicriminal organization."

No, Kettenring said, it's more like Wal-Mart.

"Some percentage of Wal-Mart workers try to get paid without doing their work or steal from their employer," he said.

Some ACORN workers, he said, have simply made up names.

Maybe, elections officials say, but it's still annoying.

"We did experience a significant amount of problems, enough that we did contact the group to express some of our frustration with their work," said Linda Tanko, Orange County's senior deputy supervisor for voter services.

ACORN's problems included applications with unreadable handwriting, missing information, signatures that didn't match those on file, altered dates of birth or Social Security numbers, applications for people already registered to vote and names that appeared repeatedly, often with different addresses.

ACORN said it terminates canvassers who forge applications. In Broward County, it fired one worker after he turned in applications with similar handwriting and brought the matter to the attention of the Supervisor of Elections Office.

Pay to gather registrations started at $8 an hour, and the goal was 20 signups per day. The organization did not pay by the signature or pay bonuses for volume. The organization also tried to follow up on each registration, calling the person listed to confirm that the form is accurate.

In most states, ACORN must turn in every form that is filled out. "We must turn in every voter registration card by Florida law, even Mickey Mouse," Kettenring said.

Well, not yet, said Jennifer Krell Davis, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State.

Florida does have a law saying third-party voter registration groups must turn in every form without regard to things like party affiliation, race, ethnicity or gender. So far, however, the state has not written the rules to implement it.

In Florida, ACORN is best known for its 2004 effort to lead a petition drive to raise the minimum wage. The FDLE looked into voter fraud allegations then and found no laws were broken.  ACORN also played a role in the firing of one of nine U.S. attorneys dismissed in 2006.  In New Mexico, U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was fired "because of complaints by elected officials who had a political interest in the outcome" of, among other things, a Republican voter fraud complaint against ACORN, according to an internal Justice Department report last month.  This year, 39 members of the House of Representatives have asked Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate ACORN.  One of those, Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, also has written to supervisor of elections offices in Central Florida seeking "all ACORN-related registration of voters within the last two years."

Republicans also accuse Sen. Barack Obama of trying to distance himself from ACORN, which he represented in a federal lawsuit in 1995.

ACORN's political action committee has endorsed Obama, but the group says its voter registration efforts are nonpartisan.

And the McCain campaign's complaints now are puzzling, ACORN says, because two years ago McCain was the keynote speaker at an immigration reform rally ACORN co-sponsored in Miami. "In 2006," Kettenring said, "we were working together."

Richard Danielson can be reached at or (813)269-5311.

30270  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: October 14, 2008, 10:33:57 AM
JDN wrote:

"Not sure where to post this, but on this Subject and many others on this forum Islam in general has been badly maligned. 
Yes, we are are war.  And yes, there are some very bad Muslims as there are bad Christians, Jews, and Buddhists although
bad Muslims seem to rank near the top.  Yet, we seem to paint all Muslims as being bad; I don't think it's true.  I think we
need to stop being racists and simply be human and try a little tolerance and understanding."

Ummm , , , I invite you to name us some "bad Buddhists".  Any terrorist bombings?  Any fatwas?  Any beheadings? Any beatings of women by purity police?  Any destruction of the symbols of other religions?  Any thing at all?  rolleyes

I challenge you to show where this forum is about maligning Muslims and Islam.  This forum is about TRUTH.  To speak the Truth is not to malign- and to conflate the two is , , , a malignment of its own.

Where do we "paint all Muslims as being bad"? 

For example, I have repeatedly made the point here that we need to define this war with Islamic Fascism as being between Civilization and Barbarism, not against Islam when Islam respects "Pursuit of Happiness enabled by Freedom of Choice, informed by Freedom of Speech, and guaranteed by Separation of Church and State".    The very purpose of this formulation is to leave it up to Muslims to decide what their religion is to be!

There was a time (one thousand years ago) when Islam led the world in science and shone in many ways.  Then it decided to freeze itself in its understandings (I forget the name for this decision) and with this decision, things began to go downhill and now we have a situatiaon where intellectually brave and honest people are left to fairly wonder if they can respect "Pursuit of Happiness enabled by Freedom of Choice, informed by Freedom of Speech, and guaranteed by Separation of Church and State". 

If they cannot, then there is a fundamental problem unique to Islam and Islam is fundamentally seditious to the American creed in a way that has nothing to do with freedom of religion and everything to do with self-defense.   If they DO respect and support "Pursuit of Happiness enabled by Freedom of Choice, informed by Freedom of Speech, and guaranteed by Separation of Church and State", then we will see it in support from American Muslims (e.g. with language skills, as well as politically) for efforts to deal with Islamic Fascism. 

As for Muslims outside of America, for them too it is for them to decide what their religion is to be.  If the relgion is about fatwas for books and cartoons, then there is a fundamental problem.  If the religion is about death to apostates (see e.g. yesterday's post about Iran in Islam in Islamic Countries) then it is silliness incarnate to blather about racism.  (Indeed, in that Islam is not a race, it IS silliness, but that is a separate point.)

In this forum we are ALL about understanding-- WE SEEK TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS TRUE, not to find ways to believe that avoid the search for Truth.    As for "tolerance", tolerance begets tolerance.  OTOH tolerance of that which seeks to destroy one's tolerance is simply , , , the path of those who fear to speak truth to religious fascism.

"Tere are more than 1.2 million Arab-Americans and about 7 million Muslim-Americans, former Cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, successful business people, normal average Americans from all walks of life."

I have seen articles suggesting that these numbers have been puffed up, but putting that point aside I will agree.  There ARE many American Muslims who are fine people and good Americans. (I'm not wild about that Muslim congressman from MI though).  Indeed we do not see here in America analogs of the Paristinian Revolt that we see in Paris and elsewhere in France.  America has been good to them, and many of them seek to be good to America.  There are some (far too few in my opinion) who help OUR country with their language skills.  There are some (far too few in my opinion) who sign up to serve our Armed Forces.  I have a doctor who is a Muslim.

JDN, I have complete confidence that you are a good person of a good heart and I am sorry that I feel the need for such vigorous words in this post-- but I utterly reject your charge that this forum is about racism and intolerance.

30271  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 14, 2008, 09:38:50 AM

As always you paste interesting and pertinent pieces , , , without personal commentary.  Would you care to personally answer BBG's reasoned personal response to you?

30272  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 14, 2008, 08:21:00 AM
As a Noble winner, Stiglitz is certainly a big name, but I find this piece singularly unimpressive.

For example, lets look at his list of woe:

"Virtually all the indicators look grim. Inflation is running at an annual rate of nearly 6 percent, its highest level in 17 years. Unemployment stands at 6 percent; there has been no net job growth in the private sector for almost a year. Housing prices have fallen faster than at any time in memory—in Florida and California, by 30 percent or more. Banks are reporting record losses, only months after their executives walked off with record bonuses as their reward. President Bush inherited a $128 billion budget surplus from Bill Clinton; this year the federal government announced the second-largest budget deficit ever reported. During the eight years of the Bush administration, the national debt has increased by more than 65 percent, to nearly $10 trillion (to which the debts of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae should now be added, according to the Congressional Budget Office). Meanwhile, we are saddled with the cost of two wars. The price tag for the one in Iraq alone will, by my estimate, ultimately exceed $3 trillion."

a) inflation is a function of too much money being printed.  Gold has gone from $250 to over $900 during the Bush years and interest rates are negative.   The govt, via the Fed, prints money and as such this is 100% a government caused problem. 
b) the 6% number he quotes for inflation, is that of one month at the peak of peak oil prices, which have declined dramatically since then.  I don't know the time lag for new data, but it will be intereting to see.  I comment that making the point as he does based upon one month, a month which I am sure a bright fellow likes him to know to be a typical, is the sort of type of persuasion that I would expect from a chattering class piece, not a Nobel laureate.
c) Again, the government deficit is a function of , , , drum roll please , , , the government!!!  Duh!!!  The deficit has increased despite an increase in revenues (until this year at any rate!) because , , , shocking development here  , , , government spending has increased dramatically.
d) FM and FM, and their debt, are the creations of , , , the government!!!
e) war is waged by , , , the government!!!

Yet somehow from this tale of woe he concludes the cause was the free market and the solution is , , , the government!!!

I find it remarkably unserious for a lengthy piece (lengthy enough to require two entries in our forum here) by a serious economist to not address that the government has pushed private behavior towards the reckless due to causing inflation, due to negative interest rates, due to a dramatically fallling currency, due to the force of law of the CRA (Community Reinvestment Act or something like that) which forced lenders to lend to mass numbers of unqualified people-- people who numbers now swell the data of foreclosures--and particulary due to the FMs and all that they have spawned.  Add in the unintended consequences of the "mark to market" regulations too!  For him not to address these points in a piece that blames the free market and proposes MORE GOVERNMENT is simply extraordinary.

I am unable to comprehend the derivatives thing enough to comment there, but until I do understand better, it seems to me that what transpired would not have transpired or would have transpired to a significantly lesser degree but for the underlying impetus of unsound money and negative interest rates.
30273  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / VA Ratifying Convention on: October 14, 2008, 07:57:45 AM
"That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a
well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people trained
to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state;
that standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty,
and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances
and protection of the community will admit; and that, in all
cases, the military should be under strict subordination to,
and governed by, the civil power."

Recommended Bill of Rights from the Virginia Ratifying Convention,
27 June 1778

Reference: The Debates of the Several State..., Elliot, vol. 3
30274  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Water at Gulliver' on: October 13, 2008, 10:17:25 PM
America Will Remain the Superpower When the tide laps at Gulliver's waistline, it usually means the Lilliputians are already 10 feet under.By BRET STEPHENS
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Constantinople fell to the Ottomans after two centuries of retreat and decline. It took two world wars, a global depression and the onset of the Cold War to lay the British Empire low.

APSo it's a safe bet that the era of American dominance will not be brought to a close by credit default swaps, mark-to-market accounting or (even) Barney Frank.

Not that there's a shortage of invitations to believe otherwise. Almost in unison, Germany's finance minister, Russia's prime minister and Iran's president predict the end of U.S. "hegemony," financial and/or otherwise. The New York Times weighs in with meditations on "A Power That May Not Stay So Super." Der Spiegel gives us "The End of Hubris." Guardian columnist John Gray sees "A Shattering Moment in America's Fall From Power."

Much of this is said, or written, with ill-disguised glee. But when the tide laps at Gulliver's waistline, it usually means the Lilliputians are already 10 feet under. Before yesterday's surge, the Dow had dropped 25% in three months. But that only means it had outperformed nearly every single major foreign stock exchange, including Germany's XETRADAX (down 28%) China's Shanghai exchange (down 30%), Japan's NIKK225 (down 37%), Brazil's BOVESPA (down 41%) and Russia RTSI (down 61%). These contrasts are a useful demonstration that America's financial woes are nobody else's gain.

On the other hand, global economic distress doesn't invariably work at cross-purposes with American interests. Hugo Chávez's nosedive toward bankruptcy begins when oil dips below $80 a barrel, the price where it hovers now. An identical logic, if perhaps at a different price, applies to the petrodictatorships in Moscow and Tehran, which already are heavily saddled with inflationary and investor-confidence concerns. Russia will also likely burn through its $550 billion in foreign-currency reserves faster than anticipated -- a pleasing if roundabout comeuppance for last summer's Georgian adventure.

Nor does the U.S. seem all that badly off, comparatively speaking, when it comes to its ability to finance a bailout. Last month's $700 billion bailout package seems staggeringly large, but it amounts to a little more than 5% of U.S. gross domestic product. Compare that to Germany's $400 billion to $536 billion rescue package (between 12% and 16% of its GDP), or Britain's $835 billion plan (30%).

Of course it may require considerably more than $700 billion to clean out our Augean Stables. But here it helps that the ratio of government debt to GDP in the U.S. runs to about 62%. For the eurozone, it's 75%; for Japan, 180%.

It also helps that the U.S. continues to have the world's largest inflows of foreign direct investment; that it ranks third in the world (after Singapore and New Zealand) for ease of doing business, according to the World Bank; and that its demographic trends aren't headed toward a tall and steep cliff -- as they are in the EU, Russia, Japan and China.

Above all, the U.S. remains biased toward financial transparency. I am agnostic as to whether mark-to-market accounting is a good idea; last month's temporary ban on short-selling financials seemed a bad one.

But a system that demands timely and accurate financial disclosure and doesn't interfere with price discovery will invariably prove more resilient over time than a system that does not make such demands. If Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were financial time bombs of one kind, then surely China's state-owned enterprises are time bombs of another. Can anyone determine with even approximate confidence the extent of their liabilities?

This isn't to say that the abrupt failure of the SOEs would be in anyone's interests, including the U.S.'s. But one of the unremarked ironies of the present crisis is that America's financial vulnerabilities came fully into view months before Europe's (or the rest of the world's) did. That's one reason the dollar has rallied in recent months. It's also why the U.S. is likely to come through the crisis much more quickly than, say, Japan, which spent the better part of the 1990s hiding its own banking crisis from itself.

Exactly how -- and how quickly -- the U.S. does come through is anyone's guess. Recessions are periodic facts of economic life that tend to last anywhere between six and 16 months. Severe recessions or depressions are fundamentally political events that can last a decade or longer -- however long economic policy remains bad.

If the next administration is wise, it will do what it can to help the markets clear, let the recession take its course, and do what it can to preserve intact a financial system that has served us splendidly. If it is unwise, it will embark on several years of grandiose social experimentation. Either way, the United States will eventually regain its economic footing and maintain its place.

Write to
30275  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 13, 2008, 10:03:33 PM
At the recent Emmy Awards, historian Laura Linney averred that America's Founders had been "community organizers" -- like Barack Obama. Too bad they aren't like that any more. Mr. Obama's kind of organizers work at Acorn, the militant advocacy group that is turning up in reports about voter fraud across the country.

APAcorn -- the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- has been around since 1970 and boasts 350,000 members. We've written about them for years, but Acorn is now getting more attention as John McCain's campaign makes an issue of the fraud reports and Acorn's ties to Mr. Obama. It's about time someone exposed this shady outfit that uses government dollars to lobby for larger government.

Acorn uses various affiliated groups to agitate for "a living wage," for "affordable housing," for "tax justice" and union and environmental goals, as well as against school choice and welfare reform. It was a major contributor to the subprime meltdown by pushing lenders to make home loans on easy terms, conducting "strikes" against banks so they'd lower credit standards.

But the organization's real genius is getting American taxpayers to foot the bill. According to a 2006 report from the Employment Policies Institute (EPI), Acorn has been on the federal take since 1977. For instance, Acorn's American Institute for Social Justice claimed $240,000 in tax money between fiscal years 2002 and 2003. Its American Environmental Justice Project received 100% of its revenue from government grants in the same years. EPI estimates the Acorn Housing Corporation alone received some $16 million in federal dollars from 1997-2007. Only recently, Democrats tried and failed to stuff an "affordable housing" provision into the $700 billion bank rescue package that would have let politicians give even more to Acorn.

All this money gives Acorn the ability to pursue its other great hobby: electing liberals. Acorn is spending $16 million this year to register new Democrats and is already boasting it has put 1.3 million new voters on the rolls. The big question is how many of these registrations are real.

The Michigan Secretary of State told the press in September that Acorn had submitted "a sizeable number of duplicate and fraudulent applications." Earlier this month, Nevada's Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller requested a raid on Acorn's offices, following complaints of false names and fictional addresses (including the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys). Nevada's Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said he saw rampant fraud in 2,000 to 3,000 applications Acorn submitted weekly.

Officials in Ohio are investigating voter fraud connected with Acorn, and Florida's Seminole County is withholding Acorn registrations that appear fraudulent. New Mexico, North Carolina and Missouri are looking into hundreds of dubious Acorn registrations. Wisconsin is investigating Acorn employees for, according to an election official, "making people up or registering people that were still in prison."

Then there's Lake County, Indiana, which has already found more than 2,100 bogus applications among the 5,000 Acorn dumped right before the deadline. "All the signatures looked exactly the same," said Ruthann Hoagland, of the county election board. Bridgeport, Connecticut estimates about 20% of Acorn's registrations were faulty. As of July, the city of Houston had rejected or put on hold about 40% of the 27,000 registration cards submitted by Acorn.

That's just this year. In 2004, four Acorn employees were indicted in Ohio for submitting false voter registrations. In 2005, two Colorado Acorn workers were found to have submitted false registrations. Four Acorn Missouri employees were indicted in 2006; five were found guilty in Washington state in 2007 for filling out registration forms with names from a phone book.

Which brings us to Mr. Obama, who got his start as a Chicago "community organizer" at Acorn's side. In 1992 he led voter registration efforts as the director of Project Vote, which included Acorn. This past November, he lauded Acorn's leaders for being "smack dab in the middle" of that effort. Mr. Obama also served as a lawyer for Acorn in 1995, in a case against Illinois to increase access to the polls.

During his tenure on the board of Chicago's Woods Fund, that body funneled more than $200,000 to Acorn. More recently, the Obama campaign paid $832,000 to an Acorn affiliate. The campaign initially told the Federal Election Commission this money was for "staging, sound, lighting." It later admitted the cash was to get out the vote.


The Obama campaign is now distancing itself from Acorn, claiming Mr. Obama never organized with it and has nothing to do with illegal voter registration. Yet it's disingenuous to channel cash into an operation with a history of fraud and then claim you're shocked to discover reports of fraud. As with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, Mr. Obama was happy to associate with Acorn when it suited his purposes. But now that he's on the brink of the Presidency, he wants to disavow his ties.

The Justice Department needs to treat these fraud reports as something larger than a few local violators. The question is whether Acorn is systematically subverting U.S. election law -- on the taxpayer's dime.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.

30276  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hanged for being a Christian in Iran on: October 13, 2008, 07:41:30 PM
Hanged for being a Christian in Iran

Eighteen years ago, Rashin Soodmand's father was hanged in Iran for converting to Christianity. Now her brother is in a Mashad jail, and expects to be executed under new religious laws brought in this summer. Alasdair Palmer reports.


A month ago, the Iranian parliament voted in favour of a draft bill, entitled "Islamic Penal Code", which would codify the death penalty for any male Iranian who leaves his Islamic faith. Women would get life imprisonment. The majority in favour of the new law was overwhelming: 196 votes for, with just seven against.

Imposing the death penalty for changing religion blatantly violates one of the most fundamental of all human rights. The right to freedom of religion is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in the European Convention of Human Rights. It is even enshrined as Article 23 of Iran's own constitution, which states that no one may be molested simply for his beliefs.

And yet few politicians or clerics in Iran see any contradiction between a law mandating the death penalty for changing religion and Iran's constitution. There has been no public protest in Iran against it.

David Miliband, Britain's Foreign Secretary, stands out as one of the few politicians from any Western country who has put on record his opposition to making apostasy a crime punishable by death. The protest from the EU has been distinctly muted; meanwhile, Germany, Iran's largest foreign trading partner, has just increased its business deals with Iran by more than half. Characteristically, the United Nations has said nothing.

It is a sign of how little interest there is in Iran's intention to launch a campaign of religious persecution that its parliamentary vote has still not been reported in the mainstream media. (Guess at this point any criticism of that "tiny country that does not pose a threat" might be bad for the Obamination and his campaign, so it's better to pretend shit like that isn't happening.)

For one woman living in London, however, the Iranian parliamentary vote cannot be brushed aside. Rashin Soodmand is a 29-year-old Iranian Christian. Her father, Hossein Soodmand, was the last man to be executed in Iran for apostasy, the "crime" of abandoning one's religion. He had converted from Islam to Christianity in 1960, when he was 13 years old. Thirty years later, he was hanged by the Iranian authorities for that decision.

Today, Rashin's brother, Ramtin, is also held in a prison cell in Mashad, Iran's holiest city. He was arrested on August 21. He has not been charged but he is a Christian. And Rashin fears that, just as her father was the last man to be executed for apostasy in Iran, her brother may become one of the first to be killed under Iran's new law.

Not surprisingly, Rashin is desperately worried. "I am terribly anxious about him," she explains. "Even though my brother is not an apostate, because he has never been a Muslim – my father raised us all as Christians – I don't think he is safe. They assume that if you are Iranian, you must be Muslim."

Her brother's situation has ominous echoes of her father's fate. Rashin was 14 when her father was arrested. "He was held in prison for one month," she remembers. "Then the religious police released him without explanation and without apology. We were overjoyed. We thought his ordeal was over."

But six months later, the police came back and took her father away again. This time, they offered him a choice: he could denounce his Christian faith, and the church in which he was a pastor – or he would be killed. "Of course, my father refused to give up his faith," Rashid recalls proudly. "He could not renounce his God. His belief in Christ was his life – it was his deepest conviction." So two weeks later, Hossein Soodmand was taken by guards to the prison gallows and hanged.

Life for Rashin, her siblings and her mother became extremely difficult. Some Muslims are extremely hostile to people of any other religion, never mind to those who they consider apostates: Ayatollah Khomeini declared that "non-Muslims are impure", insisting that for Muslims to wash the clothes of non-Muslims, or to eat food with non-Muslims, or even to use utensils touched by non-Muslims, would spoil their purity.

The family was supported with financial and other help from a Christian church based in Iran. That support became even more critical as Rashin's mother began to lose her sight. Rashin herself was eventually able to leave Iran. She now lives in London, married to a fellow Christian from Iran who successfully applied for asylum in Germany.

It took years for Rashin to understand how her father could have been legally executed simply for becoming a Christian. In 1990, there was no parliamentary law mandating the death for apostates. What, then, was the legal basis for Hossein Soodmand's execution?

"After the revolution of 1979, Iran's rulers wanted to turn Iran into an Islamic state, and to abolish the secular laws of the Shah," explains Alexa Papadouris of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a human rights organisation that specialises in freedom of religion. "So the clerics instituted a mandate for judges presiding over criminal cases: if the existing penal code did not include legislation on whether a certain kind of behaviour is an offence, then the judges should refer to traditional Islamic jurisprudence." In other words: sharia law.

"That automatically created problems" says Mr Papadouris, "because Islamic jurisprudence is not codified law: it is a series of formulations developed across generations by scholars and clerics. Depending on the Islamic school or historical era, these formulations can differ and even contradict each other."

On one subject, however, sharia law is unequivocal: men who change their religion from Islam must be punished with death. So when the judge heard the case of Rashid's father, he could refer to sharia and reach a straightforward decision: the death penalty. There was no procedure for appeal.

Nevertheless, in the 18 years since Hossein Soodmand's execution, there have been no judicially sanctioned killings of apostates in Iran, although there have been many reports of disappearances and even murders. "As the number of converts from Islam grows," notes Ms Papadouris, "apostasy has again become a serious concern for the Iranian government." In addition to 10,000 Christian converts living in Iran, there are several hundred thousand Baha'is who are deemed apostates.

There is another factor: President Ahmadinejad. "The President didn't initiate the law mandating the death penalty for apostates," says Papadouris, "but he has been lobbying for it. It is an effective form of playing populist politics. The Iranian economy is doing very badly, and the country is in a mess: Ahmadinejad may be calculating that he can gain support, and deflect attention from Iran's problems, by persecuting apostates."

The new law is not yet in force in Iran: it requires another vote in parliament, and then the signature of the Ayatollah. But that could happen within a matter of weeks. "Or," says Papadouris, "it could conceivably be allowed to drop, were there a powerful enough international outcry".

Time may be running out for Rashin's brother. She believes that the new law will be applied in an arbitrary fashion, with individuals selected for death being chosen to frighten others into submission. That is why she fears for her brother. "We just don't know what will happen to him. We only know that if they want to kill him, they will."
30277  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: October 13, 2008, 07:21:40 PM
I'm thinking today's move in the market should lessen the damage to McC.

Here's PD WSJ:

Like Nixon, Obama Won't Be Satisfied Unless He Wins Ugly
An Alaska Scandal That Wasn't
Just Pray the Election Doesn't Come Down to Ohio
Obama's Ghostwriter? (Quote of the Day)
Another Lehman Lesson


A PD item on Massachusetts politics should have made clear that no woman had been elected to its governorship or U.S. Senate seat. Lt. Gov. Jane Swift became Acting Governor in 2001 when Gov. Paul Cellucci resigned to become U.S. Ambassador to Canada. Sorry for the error.

-- The Mgmt.

If You Don't Have a Race Card, Invent One

Georgia Rep. John Lewis has decided that the McCain campaign is channeling Southern segregationist George Wallace. The civil rights icon issued a statement over the weekend saying, "What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history." He accused Team McCain of "hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse."

New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis followed up by accusing the McCain campaign of using Willie Horton tactics, referring to a 1988 ad by an independent group supporting George H. W. Bush against Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, involving rapist and murderer Willie Horton, who was released from prison on a furlough program supported by Mr. Dukakis. On one of his furloughs, Horton raped a woman in front of her husband. Even Mr. Louis acknowledges the incident was "fair game, to a point." But the use of Horton's image in a single commercial "became the worst kind of racial scare-mongering, a low point in modern politics," he says, before sliding into an unexplained parallel to the fact that "McCain has begun harping on Obama's tenuous connection to William Ayers, an ex-radical who served with Obama on the six-member board of a Chicago charity."

What is curious about these attacks is that there are almost no specific examples. Congressman Lewis cites no examples and Mr. Louis only refers to Mr. McCain's attacks on the Obama-Ayers connections without saying how they implicate racism. Mr. Ayers is white and investigations by both the New York Times and CNN have found that Mr. Obama appears to have obscured the extent of his relationship with the unrepentant Weather Underground bomber.

Last week, Mr. McCain responded to a woman at a rally who called Mr. Obama "an Arab" by saying she was wrong and that his opponent was a decent man whom he had disagreements with. To date, Mr. McCain has never used the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's 20-year association with Barack Obama against him -- a forbearance that was nonetheless rewarded with the kind of attacks that Rep. Lewis and Mr. Louis launched over the weekend. Just imagine the reaction from Obama supporters if Mr. McCain had even dipped his toe into the Rev. Wright controversy.

Claiming that race has been injected into a campaign when it clearly hasn't is cheap demagoguery and does nothing to improve race relations in this country.

-- John Fund

The Old-Boy Network Strikes Back

Gov. Sarah Palin has been asking reporters to actually read the Alaska state government report issued over the weekend that supposedly found she had abused her power in seeking the dismissal of Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten. And indeed, the report is more favorable to Mrs. Palin than much of the reporting has suggested. Mrs. Palin and her husband Todd did likely push for Mr. Wooten to be fired. But Special Prosecutor Stephen Branchflower was originally asked to look into whether Mrs. Palin violated state laws by firing her Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, who claimed that he was let go for refusing to oust Mr. Wooten. Mr. Branchflower determined that, in fact, the governor was within her rights to fire Mr. Monegan.

What's more, the recommendations Mr. Branchflower makes are largely favorable to Mrs. Palin. She had warned that Mr. Wooten, her ex-brother-in-law, was too unstable to be a police officer and had posed a threat the Palin family. Mr. Branchflower discounts the family's personal safety concerns, but recommends that the legislature create procedures so those who file complaints about police officers are informed about what steps are subsequently taken. Throughout the Wooten affair, the Palins had expressed frustration that no one could tell them what disciplinary action had been taken against Mr. Wooten (which likely led to the impression they were pressuring state officials). The report also notes that the original complaint filed against Mr. Wooten came from Chuck Heath, Mrs. Palin's father, who reported being concerned about an alleged threat by Mr. Wooten to kill him.

The report is a compilation of sordid details surrounding a messy episode in Alaska. Democrat Sen. Hollis French, who oversaw the special out-of-session legislative committee that ordered the investigation, insisted it be completed and released before Election Day. The report seems to rely on an assumption that Mrs. Palin wasn't really concerned about her personal safety, because she had reduced the size of her security detail -- never mind that she had campaigned partly on trimming back gubernatorial perks and pomp and had acted on those promises in other ways too. The report is available online ( It's hardly the smoking gun her opponents would like it to be.

-- Brendan Miniter

The War for Ohio

The seesaw court battle in Ohio over "Golden Week," a seven-day period earlier this month when state residents could register and immediately cast an absentee ballot, continues.

First, a federal judge slapped down Jennifer Brunner, Ohio's controversial Democratic Secretary of State, for failing to allow counties the information they need to verify the identity of hundreds of thousands of newly-registered voters signed up by outside groups such as the housing lobby ACORN. A lawsuit asking Ms. Brunner to follow the federal Help America Vote Act's provisions mandating that new registrations be matched with government databases to confirm their validity was brought by the Ohio Republican Party.

"Plaintiffs assert, and the court agrees, that it is hard to imagine a public interest more compelling than safeguarding the legitimacy of the election of the president of the United States," Federal District Judge George C. Smith, who was appointed to the bench by President Reagan, wrote in his ruling.

The Associated Press reports that Ms. Brunner claims HAVA "provides no requirements regarding what to do if a mismatch is discovered, and it is up to Ohio's counties to check the system for flagged registrations and investigate if warranted." But until the judge's order, Ohio's counties had not been allowed full access to the necessary records to do the job.

Ms. Brunner responded with an immediate appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Over the weekend, a divided three-judge panel vacated Judge Smith's order, siding with Secretary Brunner. Today, the full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is likely to take up the case and issue a final ruling.

Democrats, who had expressed keen interest in making the position of Secretary of State a non-partisan office when Republican Ken Blackwell held the post in 2004, have been largely silent on the issue since Ms. Brunner won election in 2006.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"Prior to 1990, when Barack Obama contracted to write 'Dreams From My Father,' he had written very close to nothing. Then, five years later, this untested 33 year-old produced what Time Magazine has called -- with a straight face -- 'the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.' The public is asked to believe Obama wrote 'Dreams From My Father' on his own, almost as though he were some sort of literary idiot savant. I do not buy this canard for a minute, not at all. . . . [T]here are only two real possibilities: one is that Obama experienced a near miraculous turnaround in his literary abilities; the second is that he had major editorial help, up to and including a ghostwriter. The weight of the evidence overwhelming favors the latter conclusion and strongly suggests who that ghostwriter is" -- author Jack Cashill, writing at on why he suspects former Weather Underground fugitive William Ayers ghostwrote Mr. Obama's memoirs.

Have We Found the Real 'Weapons of Mass Financial Destruction'?

Barack Obama and Joe Biden and just about anybody else with a "D" stumps on "restoring America's standing in the world," while generously throwing around the damnation "unilateral" in relation to George W. Bush's administration.

Whatever the errors of the Bush team, this critique mangles the real issue -- which was never "unilateral vs. multilateral" (a distinction that resolves into meaninglessness when you really think about it) but "isolationist vs. engaged." President Bush engaged the U.S. in the world in extraordinarily controversial ways -- but we're certainly engaged. The message of the Iraq and Afghanistan interventions: The march toward a more interdependent globalized economic society will not be stopped by chaos arising from lagging regions and failing nations.

This weekend's coordinated actions by First World governments to repair the financial system may be even more significant. Message: We're doubling down on interdependence, not throwing up our hands and running away from globalization.

What's more, Mr. Bush and his fellow world leaders got some good news with the successful netting out of $400 billion in Lehman default insurance trades on Friday. These unregulated instruments (known as credit default swaps) raised fears of potential domino-like consequences because no regulatory overseer was in a position to know whether 350 banks and hedge funds had used them responsibly or recklessly committed one-way bets on Lehman's solvency. Well, it turns out big financial players aren't crazy. In a new market created outside the established regulatory apparatus, it appears they didn't take suicidal, "unregulated" risks after all.

Keep this in mind as the post-mortems of the global panic start to come in. More and more the relevant question will be why firms took exactly such unhedged risks in the market for housing-related financial instruments -- a market created by government, dominated by government, and subject to never-ending solicitude and subsidies from Congress and the White House regardless of political party.

-- Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

30278  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Old Boy Network Strikes Back on: October 13, 2008, 06:04:21 PM
The Old-Boy Network Strikes Back

Gov. Sarah Palin has been asking reporters to actually read the Alaska state government report issued over the weekend that supposedly found she had abused her power in seeking the dismissal of Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten. And indeed, the report is more favorable to Mrs. Palin than much of the reporting has suggested. Mrs. Palin and her husband Todd did likely push for Mr. Wooten to be fired. But Special Prosecutor Stephen Branchflower was originally asked to look into whether Mrs. Palin violated state laws by firing her Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, who claimed that he was let go for refusing to oust Mr. Wooten. Mr. Branchflower determined that, in fact, the governor was within her rights to fire Mr. Monegan.

What's more, the recommendations Mr. Branchflower makes are largely favorable to Mrs. Palin. She had warned that Mr. Wooten, her ex-brother-in-law, was too unstable to be a police officer and had posed a threat the Palin family. Mr. Branchflower discounts the family's personal safety concerns, but recommends that the legislature create procedures so those who file complaints about police officers are informed about what steps are subsequently taken. Throughout the Wooten affair, the Palins had expressed frustration that no one could tell them what disciplinary action had been taken against Mr. Wooten (which likely led to the impression they were pressuring state officials). The report also notes that the original complaint filed against Mr. Wooten came from Chuck Heath, Mrs. Palin's father, who reported being concerned about an alleged threat by Mr. Wooten to kill him.

The report is a compilation of sordid details surrounding a messy episode in Alaska. Democrat Sen. Hollis French, who oversaw the special out-of-session legislative committee that ordered the investigation, insisted it be completed and released before Election Day. The report seems to rely on an assumption that Mrs. Palin wasn't really concerned about her personal safety, because she had reduced the size of her security detail -- never mind that she had campaigned partly on trimming back gubernatorial perks and pomp and had acted on those promises in other ways too. The report is available online ( It's hardly the smoking gun her opponents would like it to be.

-- Brendan Miniter
30279  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: October 12, 2008, 09:05:29 PM
I will be putting the word to various people to come.
30280  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 12, 2008, 06:06:30 PM
Smart ass cheesy

I'm on the road and do not have the time at this moment.  I fly to LA starting at 0600 tomorrow.
30281  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: October 12, 2008, 06:03:30 PM

I am in Bloomington IL at the moment, but will be teaching again next week.
30282  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 100 Taliban killed on: October 12, 2008, 08:11:46 AM
Official: More Than 100 Taliban Militants Killed in Afghanistan Clashes

Sunday , October 12, 2008

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan —
Taliban militants launched a surprise attack on a key southern Afghan town, sparking a battle that killed some 60 insurgents, an Afghan official said Sunday. A second clash in the same region killed another 40 militants.

Taliban fighters used rockets and other heavy weapons to attack Afghan forces on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, said Daud Ahmadi, the spokesman for Helmand's governor.

Militants attacked the city from three sides starting just after midnight and were pushed back only after a battle that involved airstrikes, Ahmadi said. Rockets landed in different parts of the city but there were no civilian casualties, he said.

Authorities recovered the bodies of 41 Taliban fighters on the city's outskirts, from where the attack was launched, he said. He estimated the bodies of another 20 fighters were taken from the battle site by the militants, citing intelligence reports.

British forces are responsible for protecting the area around Lashkar Gah.
In a second battle in Helmand province, Afghan and international troops retook the Nad Ali district center — which had been held by militants — during a three-day fight, Ahmadi said. That battle, which also involved airstrikes, ended Saturday, Ahmadi said.

Afghan police and soldiers were now in control of the district center. There were no casualties among Afghan or NATO troops, Ahmadi said.
Ahmadi's death tolls could not be verified independently. Journalists are not able to travel to remote and dangerous battle sites. Afghan officials have been known to exaggerate death tolls in the past.

The NATO-led force said it was aware of fighting in Helmand but could not provide any information.

Helmand province is the largest drug producing area in the world and the region alone accounts for more than half of Afghanistan's production of opium poppies. More than 90 percent of the world's opium is produced in Afghanistan and up to $100 million of the trade's profits are used to finance the Taliban insurgency.

Insurgency related violence has killed more than 4,700 people — mostly militants — this year, according to an Associated Press count of figures from Western and Afghan officials.

A roadside bomb, meanwhile, struck a civilian vehicle traveling in the Shamulzai district of Zabul province on Sunday, killing five people, said Ghulab Shah Alikheil, a provincial official.

Alikheil blamed Taliban militants for planting the bomb.
30283  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 12, 2008, 07:57:28 AM
I am grateful for a fine day yesterday working with a good group of people and having a good time. I do so like what I get to do.
30284  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 12, 2008, 12:36:39 AM
"Yeah, I don't see how sorting through voluntarily supplied information violates any constitutional protection. I have yet to see anyone here explain how it does.****"

OK, let me take a stab at it.  The collection and sorting into patterns of tremendous amounts of data, as is increasingly being enabled by the geometric progressions in technological capabilities, gives a far clearer picture of a person's private life than if these various fragments of data are not mined.  There may be very rare examples, but for general purposes it seems to me that NO ONE lives a life wherein they wouldn't be embarrassed by something coming to light.  The inchoate concerns triggered when the private sector does it reify when it is The State (or nefarious actors within the State) who can purposely destroy the reputation of those who are perceived as posing a political risk.

Example:  If I were to run for US Congress again (I've run 3x for the Libertarian Party 1984,1988, 1992) there are youtube clips I've watched that I would not want to have to explain to my son or daughter.

30285  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Quotes of note: on: October 12, 2008, 12:21:31 AM
There comes a point when every society advances enough to eliminate natural selection.Then you get liberals.
30286  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 11, 2008, 06:30:33 PM
"If you are really concerned about it, i'd suggest that you go "off the grid" as much as possible."

Mmmm, , , No thank you.  I am American and I don't shut up for fear of the government.  I simply would rather not to have to have courage to speak out or read about odd things.  Nor should people who wish to get involved a lot more than me have to worry about a State capable of playing a level of the politics of personal destruction for beyond anything we've seen.

PS:  I would like to offer for your consideration that overal I think Buz and I have a pretty good track record around here of lucid reasoning, so I am left wondering at the relevance of general references to wooly headed liberal thinking.
30287  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Street Weapons on: October 11, 2008, 06:21:32 PM
Where can I get one? cheesy
30288  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Europe's Islamic Legacy challenged on: October 11, 2008, 08:07:04 AM
The West’s Islamic legacy challenged
A French scholar has sparked a controversy by challenging the conventional wisdom that we emerged from the Dark Ages guided by Muslim teachers.
Sylvain Gouguenheim | Aristote au Mont saint-Michel – Les Racines grecques de l’Europe chrétienne | Seuil, Paris | 2008 | 280 pages

In France, historians writing about the cultural formation of Christian Europe throughout the Middle Ages do so at their own peril, as Sylvain Gouguenheim, professor of Medieval History at the École normale supérieure de Lyon (ENS-L), recently discovered. Because his latest book argues that the contribution of Islam to the cultural and intellectual development of Europe has been largely overemphasized, a petition was drawn up last spring by faculty colleagues lamenting its “ideological positions [inconsistent with] the pedagogical serenity and the scientific reputation of the ENS-L”.

The controversy quickly spilled into the French press with various specialists of the Middle Ages debating the book’s merits and demerits for weeks on end. Although Le Figaro (moderate right) and Le Monde (left) both published positive reviews, other publications such as Libération (far left) and Télérama (Catholic progressive) accused Gouguenheim of pursuing a “repugnant objective, that of annihilating the very notion of Arabian identity”. This led some world known authorities on the Middle-Ages, notably Rémi Brague and Jacques Le Goff, to take Gouguenheim’s defense. The book was also hotly debated on French television.

To understand why the controversy arose in the first place, one must bear in mind that there are currently three schools of thought about the relationship between Greece, the Islamic world and Medieval Europe.

The first school is premised on the notion of the “Dark Ages”, a period allegedly running from about 400 AD to 1200 AD (or earlier, depending on various historians) during which almost any form of learning would have ceased to exist except in monasteries. It holds: a) that the works of Greek philosophers, doctors and mathematicians would have first been discovered by the Arab-Muslim world beginning in the 9th century, thus giving rise to an “Islamic Enlightenment” fostered by the Abbasid Dynasty; b) that, thanks to the translation of these works from Arabic into Latin, Greek knowledge would have then penetrated into Christian Europe beginning in the 12th century; and c) that the West grew out of its “darkness” largely as a result of this “Islamic Enlightenment” and is therefore culturally indebted to the Islamic World. (1)

While this school held sway until the early 1950s, it was gradually overtaken in recent decades by a second school, one that might be termed the “self-development” view, which holds that Western civilization essentially grew out of a synthesis of Greek philosophy, Roman law and the Christian faith. Although it admits of some limited cultural influence exerted by the Islamic world on the West, it emphasizes the autonomy of Western cultural development based on a self-directed assimilation of our Greek heritage.

The third school argues that the notion of a vital continuity, whether directly from Greece to Europe, or indirectly from Greece to Arabia to Europe, is highly debatable and that, indeed, the very concept of “cultural roots” on which historians have traditionally relied should be called into question.(2)

Because the relatively new “self-development” view of the Middle Ages has been increasingly challenged in recent years by upholders of the first and third schools mentioned above, Gouguenheim has undertaken to buttress it and to respond to the arguments of its challengers. His book is essentially a synthesis of scholarly works published in the last 40 years (the bibliography includes more than 250 books and articles) by well-known French, British, Italian and American historians who contributed to the “self-development” interpretation of the Middle Ages.

So what does Gougenheim’s synthesis tell us? Four things.

First, Greek thought never really impregnated the Islamic world because the latter carefully subjected all “foreign” knowledge to an “Islamic filter” designed to determine its consistency with Muslim beliefs. Consequently, what Islamic scholars retained from Greece was limited “to that which did not contradict the teaching of the Koran”. This created major problems, notably with respect to Aristotle’s Physics and Metaphysics. More specifically, the Greek concept of causality was deemed incompatible with the Koranic understanding of God’s omnipotence, which it seemed to limit. And although some scholars like Al-Farabi, Al-Andalusi, Avicenna and Averroes were genuinely receptive to Greek influences, they were unable to reconcile Aristotelian metaphysical concepts with the content of Islamic revelation.

Moreover, Islamic works that did reflect Greek influence were usually not well received. Averroes’ books were burnt (only Latin translations of his commentaries on Aristotle have survived, all of his commentaries in Arabic having been lost or destroyed) and his disciples were found only among Jews and Christians. While the Koran may well offer its adherents a rational view of the world, Muslim rationalism has very little in common with Western rationalism. The notion of kalâm, sometimes translated as “Islamic philosophy”, was understood by the famous Muslim theologian Al-Ghazali as a means of “protecting the faith against the disruptions of innovators” and was, therefore, alien to the Greek concept of philosophy.

Finally, Muslim scholars were quick to realize that Aristotle’s political theories were inapplicable in a Muslim state, where politics, law and religion are closely intertwined. This explains why the Greco-Roman legal system was never envisaged, even by Averroes, as a source of juridical thinking in the Islamic world.

Second, Greek knowledge became accessible to the Islamic world thanks to the work of Eastern Christian scholars who translated Greek works into their own Syriac language, and then from Syriac into Arabic. More importantly, however, Islamic civilization is itself culturally indebted to early Christian scholars. For example, because the translation of Greek documents into Arabic raised major problems occasioned by the total absence of scientific terms in that language, it became incumbent on Christian Melkite translators to develop most of the Arabic scientific vocabulary. They were responsible in particular for translating into Arabic 139 medical books by Galen and Hippocratus and 43 books by Rufus of Ephesis. Also of interest is the fact, attested by several Muslim writers, that the Arabic “coufic” writing was developed by Christian missionaries in the 6th Century.

Third, Islam did not pass on its intellectual heritage to the West. The knowledge acquired by the West is the product of its own discoveries. The West benefited from the translations done at the request of abbots and bishops by clerics familiar with the Greek language, like Jacques de Venise who, after studying several years in Byzantium, spent the rest of his life translating Aristotle and other Greek philosophers at the monastery of Mont Saint-Michel, in Brittany. The West also benefited from a constant relationship with Byzantium, where Greek was the everyday language and Byzantine scholars were quite familiar with the Greek heritage. Thus, most of the knowledge discovered or transmitted throughout the period extending from the 8th to the 12th centuries resulted, not from Islam, but from the intellectual appetite of European Church elites. This explains the first Western Renaissance, known as the Carolingian Renaissance, which took place at the turn of the 9th Century.

Fourth, far from having been a “dark” or “barbarian” age, the period from the 8th to the 12th century, from Charlemagne to Peter Abelard, was characterized by the gradual assimilation of Greek philosophy and science and by an exceptional intellectual dynamism. It is throughout this period that Europe acquired the frame of mind of Greek and Roman antiquity and developed an understanding of the world and of science which became a specific character of Western civilization. The period set the stage for the 13th century, which witnessed a new intellectual “take-off” that manifested itself in the philosophical and theological works of Bonaventure, Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, as well as in the scientific works of Roger Bacon, Campanus de Novare and Pierre de Marincourt.

Anyone interested in understanding the cultural roots of Western civilization will benefit greatly from reading Gouguenheim’s book. It provides overwhelming evidence in support of the notion that the Islamic world and the West reacted very differently to Greek knowledge, with the former remaining relatively impermeable to its influence and the latter making it very much its own. No one who reads Guggenheim can fail to realize how true remains the contention that Western civilization was built on the combined heritage of Athens, Rome and Jerusalem.

Finally, one is hard put to find any evidence in this book in support of the view that it is ideologically biased. The grievances against the author call to mind Matthew 7:3 – “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?”

Richard Bastien is director of the Catholic Civil Rights League for the National Capital Area in Canada and a contributor to Égards, a French language journal of ideas.


(1) This is the view held by historians such as R.-R. Menocal (The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History: A Forgotten Heritage), A. de Libera (Penser au Moyen Âge), A. Miquel (L’Islam et sa civilisation) and R. Mantran (L’Expansion musulmane).
30289  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: NATO agrees to take aim at Drug Trade on: October 11, 2008, 06:45:12 AM
This also seems significant to me and seeks address a point I have been making-- of course its significance it could turn out to be that it is meaningless or counterproductive rolleyes :

NATO Agrees to Take Aim at Afghan Drug Trade
Published: October 10, 2008
NY Times

BUDAPEST — NATO defense ministers agreed Friday to allow troops operating in Afghanistan to attack drug lords and their networks supporting the escalating insurgency in the country.

The United States has identified opium trafficking in Afghanistan as a primary target in the battle against the Taliban, but many poor farmers who toil in the poppy fields, above, depend on it.

Times Topics: Afghanistan
 The agreement came after strong pressure from the United States, which has identified opium trafficking in Afghanistan — the source of more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin supplies — as a primary target in the stepped-up battle against the Taliban insurgency that American commanders have begun mapping out in recent weeks.

But the accord also accommodates objections from some of the 26 NATO nations that contribute troops to the 50,000-strong NATO force. Attacks on drug “facilities and facilitators supporting the insurgency” are to occur only if the NATO and Afghan troops involved have the authorization of their own governments, a provision that will allow dissenting nations to opt out of counternarcotics strikes.

The compromise appeared to satisfy the two American officials who pushed the case for the new policy at a meeting here, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Gen. John Craddock, the supreme NATO commander. Afterward, Mr. Gates said that the accord would allow “some to do things that others did not want to do,” and added, “It’s better than nothing.”

On the drug policy, the United States once again ran into a problem that has beset the Afghan war: the widely-differing levels of commitment by its NATO partners, some of whom have committed troops to the effort, but have insisted that they remain in areas of Afghanistan where insurgent threats are low. Reluctance to widening the NATO mandate to include attacks on drug networks has come from Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain, among other nations.

Their fear has been that attacks on drug lords, laboratories and supply networks will further alienate ordinary Afghans who have grown wary or hostile toward NATO troops, undercutting efforts to curb the insurgency and increasing threats to NATO troops.

The drug trade is estimated to account for about half of Afghanistan’s meager economy, and some of the nation’s poorest people, including farmers who toil in the poppy fields, are dependent on incomes that flow directly or indirectly from narcotics. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in a recent survey on the 2008 opium yield in Afghanistan, estimated that the average income for the 500,000 families involved in the opium harvest amounted to nearly $2,000.

There have also been concerns that attacks on drug networks will depend heavily on intelligence supplied by Afghans, which has often proved unreliable, contributing to the deaths of civilians in attacks. Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, under pressure from NATO members to rid his government of the corruption and incompetence they say are hampering the war effort, has been increasingly shrill in recent months in his criticism of the civilian toll taken by NATO military action, particularly American airstrikes.

Mr. Karzai has also opposed the forceful eradication of poppy crops, something that did not appear to be sanctioned by the new NATO mandate. Mr. Karzai has argued that other measures, including crop substitution and public education programs, along with foreign aid that provides jobs, are the most effective ways of cutting opium production without the violence likely to be provoked by crop eradication.

But American commanders have concluded that gaining the upper hand in the fight against the resurgent Taliban will require depriving the insurgents of income from the drug trade, which the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan, estimated at a Washington briefing last week to be a minimum of $100 million.

Despite the misgivings among some NATO allies, the American push for a NATO mandate that includes attacks on drug networks fueling the insurgency has been backed by the Afghan government, which reiterated the sentiment at the Budapest meeting.

The need for more aggressive action against the drug lords has also been pressed by the United Nations drug agency. In its August report, authored by its executive director, Antonio Maria Costa of Italy, it noted the “inextricable link between drugs and conflict,” and without referring to or sanctioning military action, said that something needed to be done.

Beyond that, the American commanders have been supported by Britain, whose 8,000 troops in Afghanistan are second only in numbers, among NATO nations, to the 33,000 American troops. British support is particularly significant, since most of the British troops are concentrated in Helmand Province in the southwest, the heartland of the opium trade and one of the most intensive battlefields of the insurgency. United Nations figures estimate that Helmand alone accounts for more than 50 percent of the country’s opium production.

According to the recent United Nations survey, 98 percent of Afghanistan’s opium comes from seven provinces in the southwest, with no opium at all produced in half of the country’s 34 provinces. The bulk of the NATO troops operating in the southwest come from the United States, Britain, Canada and Denmark, and it is those nations that are likely to be most affected by the new NATO mandate.

Together with the United States, Britain and Canada have already taken the heaviest casualties among the NATO nations fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda, with NATO troops who have died in the seven-year war now approaching 1,000, including more than 600 Americans.

Judy Dempsey reported from Budapest, and John F. Burns from Kabul, Afghanistan
30290  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 10, 2008, 10:45:46 PM
Grateful for a very full and very enjoyable day of teaching privates here in Bloomington.
30291  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: October 10, 2008, 10:44:17 PM
Woof Gentlemen:

I am far less orderly and organized than my Swiss DB Lonely Dog  embarassed This is the perfect place to bring this to my attention.  I am in Bloomington IL for a seminar at the moment, but will attend to this when I get back to LA.

Crafty Dog
30292  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 10, 2008, 10:39:31 PM

As usual you make good points, but for me you seem to have a blind spot for what it is that concerns, BBG, JDN, and me.  Please allow me to take another try at communicating one aspect of it (of course I do not speak for BBG or JDN, but I suspect there is overlap with their positions and mine):

Yes the private sector data mines, but the private sector does not have the ability to get violent with or oppress me.  The State does.  For example, Amazon knows a lot about my reading habits, but I would much rather that the government not keep track of what I read.  This is not because I am a nefarious individual, it is because the State might decide to harass me (e.g. an IRS investigation not because of anything I've done or not done, but in order to drag me down).  We have already seen the Hilbillary Clintons do this IMHO.  I would rather that the coming minions of His Glibness not be keeping track of me and my thoughts.
30293  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 10, 2008, 10:20:43 PM
Off the top of my head, it occurs to me to note that we may be losing in Afg.  As I have opined here several times recently we have no coherent strategy that I can discern.  Thus negotiating with them arguably is a sign of defeat-- as it arguably would be with Iran.  Please note that I personally have not taken a position here.

Here is Stratfor's take on things:

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on Thursday that the United States would be prepared for a reconciliation with the Taliban if the Afghan government chose to pursue talks to end the war. He made the statement at a NATO conference in Budapest. According to Gates, “There has to be ultimately, and I’ll underscore ultimately, reconciliation as part of the political outcome to this. That’s ultimately the exit strategy for all of us.” Gates made it clear that reconciling with the Taliban does not mean reconciling with al Qaeda, which is something that the United States would never do.

The United States thus has taken the first critical step in moving toward a political resolution to the Afghan war. By distinguishing the Taliban from al Qaeda, Gates is distinguishing between domestic Afghan forces who might share values with al Qaeda, but who did not participate in the 9/11 attacks. This is not only an important distinction, it is a vital one. The Taliban organization was allied with al Qaeda but distinct from it: One was an Afghan movement, the other an internationalist movement. Now it has to be understood that the Taliban gave al Qaeda sanctuary and enabled it to launch its global operations from Afghanistan. However, the Taliban and al Qaeda are technically different organizations, and the Taliban were not directly involved in the 9/11 operation.

This is an important distinction for the United States to make in order to justify a necessary reversal in its policy in Afghanistan. The United States does not have the force to defeat the Taliban, nor is the future makeup of the Afghan government a matter of fundamental national interest for the United States. What is important is that the Taliban movement not enable further attacks by al Qaeda. If it were to agree to that, the United States could secure its interests in Afghanistan and leave, while allowing the Afghan government to make what deal it can make with the Taliban.

There are two problems with the idea. First, why should the United States trust the Taliban to keep their distance from al Qaeda? Second, why should the Taliban agree to any deal with the United States? The United States is not going to defeat them militarily, and from their point of view, time is on their side, since the Americans can’t remain in Afghanistan permanently. These would seem to kill any chance for the deal to get off the ground.

However, there is a key element to consider. The Taliban movement is not a homogenous organization. It has many elements, and some are more rigidly committed to the jihadist cause than others. Some might be very interested in the possibilities that could open up to them as major elements of an Afghan government, controlling important regions for their own use. Certainly, there are elements in the Taliban group that would reject any reconciliation, but the members of the group are sufficiently divided that it might be possible to split the organization and turn factions against each other. There might be factions that have no use for al Qaeda, and they might well be interested in the benefits of reconciliation.

This is, of course, the essence of U.S. Gen. David Petraeus’ strategy in Iraq. First, make a small increase in forces and use that as a psychological tool to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the country. Then enter into relations with the most hardened enemies of the United States — the Sunni insurgents — who then turn on the foreign jihadists calling themselves al Qaeda. At the same time, introduce them into the Baghdad government and slowly begin tiptoeing to the exits.

So, in Afghanistan, we have discussions of increased forces, coupled with indications of a willingness to reconcile with the Taliban. This splits the factions — and the faction wanting a deal turns on the faction opposing it. The former enters into Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government, and the United States heads for the exits. And Karzai is left trying to figure out what happened to him.

The real question is whether the United States has enough credibility to attract any faction and whether the faction it attracts is stronger than the faction it doesn’t. The problem is that the Americans have no way to defeat the Taliban with available forces — and the Taliban knows it. However, the United States might be able to shift expectations by increasing forces and massively increasing air operations. The pain the American forces inflict on some factions of the Taliban might be enough to persuade them to split.

The primary virtue of this strategy is that it is the only strategy that has the potential of working. The other option is an extended war without a clear and attainable end. It is interesting that Gates made his statement about reconciliation with the Taliban while U.S. presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain have spoken of their commitment to fight this war in Afghanistan. Since the ground truth is the same for them as for the Bush administration, Gates just made either of their lives easier by opening the door to this strategy. Obama or McCain will be able to claim that he was merely following established policy when he sits down with the Taliban. Then there is also a chance that some in the Taliban would like to make a deal with an administration looking for a legacy, rather than a new one that is unpredictable.

Gates’ statement was a major event, but not necessarily a promising one.

Tell Stratfor What You Think
30294  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams on: October 10, 2008, 08:28:35 AM
"[D]emocracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, such an anarchy
that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man's
life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every
one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination
of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers
of wealth, beauty, wit and science, to the wanton pleasures, the
capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few."

-- John Adams (An Essay on Man's Lust for Power, 29 August 1763)

Reference: Original Intent, Barton (338); original The Papers of
John Adams, Taylor, ed., vol. 1 (83)

30295  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO the Magician on: October 10, 2008, 08:23:01 AM
And now, America, we introduce the Great Obama! The world's most gifted political magician! A thing of wonder. A thing of awe. Just watch him defy politics, economics, even gravity! (And hold your applause until the end, please.)

To kick off our show tonight, Mr. Obama will give 95% of American working families a tax cut, even though 40% of Americans today don't pay income taxes! How can our star enact such mathemagic? How can he "cut" zero? Abracadabra! It's called a "refundable tax credit." It involves the federal government taking money from those who do pay taxes, and writing checks to those who don't. Yes, yes, in the real world this is known as "welfare," but please try not to ruin the show.

Ken FallinFor his next trick, the Great Obama will jumpstart the economy, and he'll do it by raising taxes on the very businesses that are today adrift in a financial tsunami! That will include all those among the top 1% of taxpayers who are in fact small-business owners, and the nation's biggest employers who currently pay some of the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world. Mr. Obama will, with a flick of his fingers, show them how to create more jobs with less money. It's simple, really. He has a wand.

Next up, Mr. Obama will re-regulate the economy, with no ill effects whatsoever! You may have heard that for the past 40 years most politicians believed deregulation was good for the U.S. economy. You might have even heard that much of today's financial mess tracks to loose money policy, or Fannie and Freddie excesses. Our magician will show the fault was instead with our failure to clamp down on innovation and risk-taking, and will fix this with new, all-encompassing rules. Presto!

Did someone in the audience just shout "Sarbanes Oxley?" Usher, can you remove that man? Thank you. Mr. Obama will now demonstrate how he gives Americans the "choice" of a "voluntary" government health plan, designed in such a way as to crowd out the private market and eliminate all other choice! Don't worry people: You won't have to join, until you do. Mr. Obama will follow this with a demonstration of how his plan will differ from our failing Medicare program. Oops, sorry, folks. The Great Obama just reminded me it is time for an intermission. Maybe we'll get to that marvel later.

We're back now. And just watch the Great Obama perform a feat never yet managed in all history. He will create that enormous new government health program, spend billions to transform our energy economy, provide financial assistance to former Soviet satellites, invest in infrastructure, increase education spending, provide job training assistance, and give 95% of Americans a tax (ahem) cut -- all without raising the deficit a single penny! And he'll do it in the middle of a financial crisis. And with falling tax revenues! Voila!

Moving along to a little ventriloquism. Study his mouth carefully, folks: It looks like he's saying "I'll stop the special interests," when in fact the words coming out are "Welcome to Washington, friends!" Wind and solar companies, ethanol makers, tort lawyers, unions, community organizers -- all are welcome to feed at the public trough and to request special favors. From now on "special interests" will only refer to universally despised, if utterly crucial, economic players. Say, oil companies. Hocus Pocus!

And for tonight's finale, the Great Obama will uphold America's "moral" obligation to "stop genocide" by abandoning Iraq! While teleported to the region, he will simultaneously convince Iranian leaders to peacefully abandon their nuclear pursuits (even as he does not sit down with them), fix Afghanistan with a strategy that does not resemble the Iraqi surge, and (drumroll!) pull Osama bin Laden out of his hat!


You can clap now. (Applause. Cheers.) We'd like to thank a few people in the audience. Namely, Republican presidential nominee John McCain, who has so admirably restrained himself from running up on stage to debunk any of these illusions and spoil everyone's fun.

We know he's in a bit of a box, having initially blamed today's financial crisis on corporate "greed," and thus made it that much harder to call for a corporate tax cut, or warn against excessive regulation. Still, there were some pretty big openings up here this evening, and he let them alone! We'd also like to thank Mr. McCain for keeping all the focus on himself these past weeks. It has helped the Great Obama to just get on with the show.

As for that show, we'd love to invite you all back for next week's performance, when the Great Obama will thrill with new, amazing exploits. He will respect your Second Amendment rights even as he regulates firearms! He will renegotiate Nafta, even as he supports free trade! He will . . .

Write to

30296  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MILF, Army, non-Muslim Civilians fighting on: October 10, 2008, 07:49:44 AM
30297  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / UK Self-Defense Law on: October 10, 2008, 01:03:41 AM
Brit Gardener Ordered To Remove Barbed Wire to Protect Thieves


Gardener ordered to take down barbed wire to protect thieves

A gardener who fenced off his allotment patch with a single strand of barbed wire to protect it from thieves has been ordered to take it down in case intruders hurt themselves.

Last Updated: 2:53PM BST 09 Oct 2008

Bill Malcolm, 61, was told to "remove it on health and safety grounds" by the local council, which owns the allotments.

He erected the deterrent after thieves struck three times in four months, stealing more than £300 worth of spades, forks, hoes and wrecking his potato patch in the process.

But officials instructed Mr Malcolm to remove the waist-high wire from his plot at Round Hill Allotments in Marlbrook, Worcs.

He said: "It's an absolutely ridiculous situation, all I wanted was to protect my property but the wire had to go in case a thief scratched himself.

"The council said they were unhappy about the precautions I had made but my response was to tell them that only someone climbing over on to my allotment could possibly hurt themselves.

"They shouldn't be trespassing in the first place but the council apologised and said they didn't want to be sued by a wounded thief.

"I told them to let the thief sue me so at least that way I would know who was breaking into my allotment but everything I said fell on deaf ears.

"It seems as though they are so wrapped up in red tape, they are unable to help me.

"The barbed wire was a single strand and ringing my property only. It was just three foot high and wasn't as though I'd dug a moat filled with piranha and erected six foot iron railings."

A spokesman for Bromsgrove District Council responded: "With regard to the barbed wire, when this is identified on site, we are obliged to request its removal or remove it on health and safety grounds to the general public, as this is a liability issue. This is a requirement enforced by our health and safety department."

She advised allotment tenants with security concerns to contact the local police.

Judge orders court to apologise to gardener prosecuted for having a scythe

Last updated at 6:18 PM on 09th October 2008

As a professional gardener, they are the essential tools of Peter Drew's trade.

But in the eyes of the police, the scythe, axes and knives found inside the back of his van were something far more sinister.

And despite Mr Drew's desperate attempts to explain that he needed them for horticultural reasons, he was arrested - and charged with carrying an offensive weapon.

Mr Drew, 49, then endured eight months of court appearances and the threat of a trial hanging over his head.

But last week the judge threw the case out of court moments before a trial was due to begin and demanded a public apology to Mr Drew from the prosecution.

He blasted the Crown Prosecution Service for wasting jurors' time and for putting Mr Drew through the 'trauma' of a doomed prosecution.

After Mr Drew produced references from customers - including several solicitors - Judge Paul Darlow ordered prosecution barrister, Philip Lee, to issue a public apology to Mr Drew at Truro Crown Court in Cornwall and asked the CPS to do the same.

Speaking at the hearing, Judge Darlow said: 'I want to find out why we've got to the start of the trial and the CPS are suddenly saying 'Oops'.

'I don't think the CPS can escape criticism or blame if they leave it to the last minute to make up their minds.

'We despair of trying to run these courts in any sort of efficient way.

'Try telling this to jurors who come from their jobs and their homes, quite apart from any trial and trauma that Mr Drew has been through, by knowing that in October he would be in front of a jury.'

The judge went on: 'I think some sort of public apology to Mr Drew from the court would not go amiss.'

Phillip Lee, prosecuting, responded: 'On behalf of the CPS I apologise that it has taken this long.

'Some decisions are very obvious and some less so. I wouldn't say this was an obvious decision.'

After the brief hearing Mr Drew, of Heamoor near Penzance, Cornwall, described his ordeal as a 'nightmare'.

He said: 'The whole thing knocked me for six - I've lived in Heamoor all my life and when the case was reported in the papers, people were asking me what it was all about and I didn't want to say anything because the case was still going on.

'I'm disgusted, really. Now I just want to clear my name so everyone knows I haven't been carrying knives illegally.'

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said Peter Drew was found with a bread knife and a machete behind the sun visor of his van.

Officers also discovered two axes in driver's door pocket and a scythe in the passenger footwell.

He said: 'Officers searched Mr Drew's van and found various bladed items, including an axe and a bread knife.

'The items were in the side pockets, the footwell and behind the sun visor.

'An officer might assume a professional gardener would keep his tools in a bag in the back of the van.

'He explained that the knives were for business purposes but the officers felt this was for the courts to decide.

'Mr Drew was summonsed to magistrates court and offered no plea and the matter was referred to crown court.

'He produced evidence that the knives were used for pruning and the CPS accepted his explanation before proceedings began.'
30298  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Seminar: 10/11-12 Guro Crafty in Bloomington IL on: October 10, 2008, 12:50:42 AM
Arrived in Bloomington and have been put in a wonderful B&B built in 1869 with a baby grand piano that is in tune cool With no one else in the house tonight I have been having a fine time.

Scott has visions of chess revenge on Saturday night , , , sounds like he's been playing , , , cheesy
30299  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Syria masses on Leb border on: October 09, 2008, 11:07:49 AM
Syria downplays troop buildup on Lebanese border
Damascas says it's merely beefing up border security. But the US issued Syria a strong warning, and Israeli troops are on alert.
By Jonathan Adams
Syria this week continued to mass troops on its border with northern and eastern Lebanon. But officials from both countries dismissed US and Israeli concerns about the buildup as alarmist hype.

Damascus claims it is merely beefing up border security to prevent smuggling and the infiltration of Islamic extremists from northern Lebanon. But some fear Syria wants to use the threat of Sunni Islamic terrorism as a pretext for reentering Lebanon. Syria withdrew its troops from its neighbor in 2005 under intense international pressure.

Last month, Syria's president publicly warned that northern Lebanon had become a haven for Sunni militants who aim to destabilize his country. That warning came before back-to-back car bombings in Damascus (Sept. 27, blamed on Sunni extremists) and in northern Lebanon's Tripoli (Sept. 29) that killed at least 22.

Gulf News, a Dubai-based daily, reported Wednesday that the Lebanese foreign minister had downplayed concerns about the military ramp-up.

The deployment of thousands of Syrian troops along the Lebanese frontier isn't a threat to Beirut and the move should be seen in the context of Damascus's need to safeguard its interests, the Lebanese foreign minister said on Tuesday. "The troop deployment doesn't constitute a source of concern for us as long as they [troops] remain within Syrian territory," Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Sallough told Gulf News.

Last month the Lebanese Army said Syria had massed nearly 10,000 troops on the border. Syria insists their deployment along the border numbers only in the hundreds.

Lebanon's The Daily Star cited a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP) that quoted a Syrian official defending the buildup.

"These measures are aimed to control the border, only from Syrian territory, and we have no other intentions," a Syrian official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "Syria has in effect boosted its security measures with a few hundred [extra] soldiers, and the spy satellites know the truth," the official said. "Our aim is to control the border, combat smuggling and stop saboteurs from crossing these borders," the official said, adding that the issue had been raised during Lebanese President Michel Sleiman's visit to Damascus in August.

On Monday, the US State Department expressed concern that Syria might have designs on Lebanon, and warned against any Syrian incursion. Reuters reported spokesman Robert Wood saying:

"The recent terrorist attacks that took place in Tripoli (Lebanon) and Damascus should not serve as a pretext for, you know, further Syrian military engagement or, should not be used to interfere in Lebanese internal affairs," Wood told reporters. "Obviously we're concerned about this type of activity along the border and that it not lead to any further interference on the part of Syria into Lebanon's internal affairs," Wood said.

Those comments came as the US and Lebanon set up a joint military commission to improve defense ties, according to the Associated Press (AP).

The National Post, a Canadian daily, reported that Israeli officials are also nervous about Syrian intentions.

...Israel placed its armed forces in the Golan Heights on an increased alert on Tuesday and ordered the air force and emergency first aid teams on standby in case of attacks by Syria or Hezbollah. The Israeli alerts came as the country prepared to shut down for 25 hours starting Wednesday afternoon to observe Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the most solemn and important of Jewish holidays.

The AP noted that Syria-Lebanon ties have actually warmed recently.

...Ties have improved considerably in recent months after Lebanon formed a unity government that includes Syria's ally, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. Syria has agreed to establish formal diplomatic ties with Lebanon for the first time since the countries' creation in the 1940s and promised to officially delineate their borders, a longtime Lebanese demand. Syria also views Lebanon's new president favorably and many doubt it would undermine him with a military incursion.

The Christian Science Monitor reported last month on worsening sectarian violence in northern Lebanon. There, Sunni Muslim fundamentalists are pitted against a small Shiite group that's close to the Syrian government. Sunni jihadists that oppose the Syrian regime regularly pass between northern Lebanon and Syria, the report said.

Since May, Sunni militants in northern Lebanon have clashed with the small Alawite community, which has close links to the Syrian regime. A reconciliation agreement reached earlier this month has quelled fighting for now, but north Lebanon remains tense.

In a 2005 report, the International Crisis Group noted a reason Damascus would want to keep a hand in Lebanese affairs, despite its withdrawal:

Seen from the angle of Lebanon's fractious groups – whether in the opposition or loyal to Damascus – the end of Syria's presence means re-opening issues suppressed since the close of the civil war, from sectarian relations and the distribution of power through to Hizbollah and Palestinian refugees. All these are combustible elements that disgruntled Lebanese and outside actors will be tempted to exploit. In a country awash with weapons, accustomed to being a theatre for proxy wars between Arabs, Palestinian and Israelis, and on the verge of a major redistribution of power and resources, the means and motivations for violence abound.
Lebanese media has reported that Syria is massing still more troops on the Syrian-Lebanese border. The move is part of a Syrian effort to rebuild its position in Lebanon.

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Israel, Syria and Lebanon: A Tangled Web
Syria is reportedly massing more troops along the Lebanese border, according to various Lebanese news agencies. The Arab daily Al Hayat reported Oct. 8 that the Syrian army had deployed tanks to the border town of Al Qaa along Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley. Eyewitness reports from the area said the Syrian army has dug trenches and erected earthen barriers. The reported troop buildup comes in the wake of an additional Syrian massing of 10,000 troops on the northern Syrian-Lebanese border near the Lebanese city of Tripoli, which began more than two weeks ago.

As Stratfor previously has discussed, the Syrian government is signaling Lebanon and the international community that it is prepared to reassert Syria’s physical presence in its western neighbor. Part of the Syrian plan is to use its covert assets and militant proxies in northern Lebanon to instigate clashes in Tripoli, thereby justifying a Syrian military intervention. Damascus’ show of force has set off alarm bells in Saudi Arabia and among Lebanon’s anti-Syrian March 14 coalition, which greatly fears having the Syrians re-assume the powerbroker status that they held in Lebanon prior to the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

But no group is perhaps more scared by the sight of Syrian forces on the border than Hezbollah, which has seen its relationship with Syria disintegrate following the February assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah. This latest Syrian military buildup is quite significantly on the edge of Hezbollah’s main stronghold, the Bekaa Valley.

So far, Hezbollah has remained silent on the matter. The group cannot endorse Syrian efforts to enter Lebanon because it knows it will soon be victimized by the Syrians. Conversely, it cannot condemn Syrian efforts because the falling-out between Damascus and the Shiite militant groups has not yet fully come out in the public domain.

Syrian tanks are in close proximity to Al Qaa, a Maronite village from which Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea draws many recruits. Deploying troops next to this village not only undermines Hezbollah security, it also points to Syrian fears that Lebanese forces may be planning an offensive against the Mirada militia of Suleiman Franjiyye, who is one of Syria’s closest allies in Lebanon.

Syria continues to assert that the troop buildup is simply its way of watching out for its own security, particularly in the wake of a Sept. 27 car bombing in Damascus and recent clashes in Tripoli (even though many of the clashes in Tripoli have been instigated by perpetrators on the payroll of Syrian intelligence). Damascus intends to show the world that Syria, as well as the Lebanese army, is a victim of terrorism from Lebanon. As the militant threat in Lebanon appears to grow larger (with the aid of the Syrians), Syria will gradually build a case for intervention, much as it did in 1975, after which Syria eventually received a green light from the Israelis and the Americans to enter Lebanon in 1976. Though the general fear in the region is that Syria is on the verge of rolling troops into Lebanon, sources in the region claim that Syria plans to take its time, gradually build a case for intervention and reclaim its position in Lebanon by spring 2009.

In the meantime, Syria can also see what comes out of peace talks with Israel once the Israeli government sorts out its political issues at home. Without a doubt, Syria’s moves have Iran on edge, as Tehran’s main militant proxy in the Levant is under threat. The United States has been the most vocal in its opposition to the Syrian military buildup, revealing an apparent divide between Israel and the United States over the merits of having the Syrians “impose stability” in Lebanon. Whereas Israel is more inclined toward negotiations with Damascus to secure Israel’s northern frontier and contain the threat from Hezbollah, the U.S. administration is much more reluctant to have Syria re-empowered in Lebanon.

The Syrians may be on a longer timetable than previously expected, but that will do little to calm the fears of those in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States who want to keep Syrian influence curtailed. Without having made any big, overt moves into Lebanon yet, the Syrians have not run a major risk of provoking these powers into acting against Damascus. Instead, Damascus is more focused on preparing the world for what it sees as an inevitable Syrian return to Lebanon.

30300  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: October 09, 2008, 09:49:05 AM

"We established however some, although not all its
[self-government] important principles . The constitutions of most
of our States assert, that all power is inherent in the people;
that they may exercise it by themselves, in all cases to which they
think themselves competent, (as in electing their functionaries
executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves,
in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved,) or they
may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it
is their right and duty to be at all times armed."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Cartwright, 1824)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition,
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