Monday, February 18, 2008

Daily Roundup Feb 17, 2008 -- Did the Tort Lobby Block FISA?

After the Read More! Musharraf's party is predicted to lose seats at the polls. The Church of Euthanasia tries to attract members. Bill Clinton spars with an Obama supporter. Has the NYT violated the Espionage Act? Michael Totten tours a police dungeon in Fallujah. Robert Fisk finds a way to compare George W. Bush to Imad Mughniyeh. And those Chinese "poison" products: can we get away from them?

Plus, Robert Novak asks, did the tort lobby block the FISA bill?

Bloomberg reports that there may soon be enough opposition MPs to impeach Musharraf. "The national mood clearly indicates that political parties opposed to Musharraf will win a clear majority," said Hassan Abbas, a Harvard University political scientist. "Even in moderately fair elections, anti-Musharraf parties will have an upper hand."

Samizdata displays the publicity photograph of a clergyman named Nagasiva Yronwode from the Church of Euthanasia, headquartered just north of San Francisco and remarks that he is somewhat emblematic of the times. "Yes, Nagasiva Yronwode is a man for our times. He just doesn't know it yet." I wonder what he knows at all.

Pro-Obama heckler Robert Holeman and Bill Clinton almost literally came to blows after closing with the former President after heckling him continuously.

“I think he even hit me in the face with his hand,” he said. “He did give me a little pop. It was okay, because I understand his tenacity for his wife.” Clinton did engage Holeman for a few minutes, at times pointing directly at him. It was unclear whether he did make physical contact, however.

Maybe Holeman's audacity is the surest sign that the Clintons are finished -- psychologically at least. They're no longer feared.

Gabriel Schoenfeld, the senior editor of Commentary asks whether the NYT violated the law by revealing a top secret surveillance program.

The President, for his part, has not only stood firm, insisting on both the legality and the absolute necessity of his actions, but has condemned the disclosure of the NSA surveillance program as a “shameful act.” In doing so, he has implicitly raised a question that the Times and the President’s foes have conspicuously sought to ignore—namely, what is, and what should be, the relationship of news-gathering media to government secrets in the life-and-death area of national security. Under the protections provided by the First Amendment of the Constitution, do journalists have the right to publish whatever they can ferret out? Such is certainly today’s working assumption, and it underlies today’s practice. But is it based on an informed reading of the Constitution and the relevant statutes? If the President is right, does the December 16 story in the Times constitute not just a shameful act, but a crime?

The interesting question is whether any line exists which journalists may not cross in the name of the Freedom of the Press. And if such a line exists, where does it lie? Those who feel the NYT didn't cross the boundaries should, as a mental exercise, imagine where it would. Maybe the only way to find out is to take it to court. But does it have to come to that?

Michael Totten looks at the inside of an Iraqi prison and finds it incredibly harsh. He asked his escort, Sergeant Dehaan, what he thought of it.

“It's bad in there,” he said as we walked toward the jail. “But I've seen worse.”

“Where have you seen worse?” I said. He looked like someone who had been around. The hard lines in his face looked as though they were carved by sobering experience as much as by time.

“In Latin America,” he said. “In Colombia. I was a DEA agent there. The jail here is bad, and it might be the worst you'll ever see. But you need to know it isn’t the worst in the world.”

“Actually,” I said. “This will be the first time I've ever been inside a functioning jail.”

Functioning jails are dense human environments in which the physical conditions of the buildings count for less than the organizational culture of the guards and the mood among the prisoners. There's a pecking order at everything. Anyone who wants to survive knows exactly where he is.

“Can you believe this building is only three years old?” Sergeant Dehaan said to me.

“What?” I said.

No, I didn’t believe it. The building looked at least sixty years old, and it looked as though no maintenance work had ever been done. Floor tiles were broken, the foundation was cracked, the stairs were uneven, and the walls were utterly filthy as though they hadn’t been painted once since I’ve been alive.

Read the whole thing.

Robert Fisk recalls the suffering of his friends at the hands of Imad Mugniyeh but finds a way to understand him. Mugniyeh had an excuse for his brutality: a hatred of America. And that's always an extenuating circumstance.

Mougnieh, Lebanese by birth, was a man of frightening self-confidence, of absolute self-belief, something he shared with Osama bin Laden and – let us speak frankly about this – with President George W Bush. Islamic Jihad, it was said, tortured its enemies. So does al-Qa'ida. And so, as we all now know, does Mr Bush's army.

Mougnieh – and again we should speak openly about this – was a valued, respected and senior figure in Iran's security apparatus. "Islamic Jihad" was a satellite of the Lebanese Hizbollah, the old un-reformed Hizbollah, whose leadership would now like to forget – even deny – its association with abductions. In that sense, Mougnieh was a man of the past, pensioned off in Damascus, safer for the Iranians there rather than cosseted in a Tehran hotel room.

But back in his days as an intelligence officer, he was a powerful man. Because of the suffering he had caused Terry, I should have hated him. But I did not hate him. In the course of our conversation, he would become angry, stabbing his right fist in fury as he condemned America for its support for Israel and for shooting down an Iranian Airbus civilian airliner over the Gulf in 1988. I had seen this kind of fury before, at cemeteries and at mass graves. If he had allied himself with Iran, his passion was genuine.

Fisk says, "his passion was genuine ... but I did not hate him." Then maybe the better comparison is not between Muggniyeh and Bush but between Mughniyeh and Robert Fisk. The Hezbollah terrorist hated enough to fight America. Fisk only hated it enough to call himself a journalist.

The China Law Blog looks at Trader Joe's decision to stop carrying some Chinese foodstuffs. The reputation of Chinese goods has taken a beating lately. The AP looks at the case of the China poison dumpling factory. FP passport worries about Chinese components in American pharmaceuticals, like heparin. Contaminants in medicine can be potentially deadly. FlagGranny looks back at the poison cough syrup that killed more than 300 people in Panama.

Part of the popularity of Chinese goods comes from their low price. And considering the volume of their output the quality of goods made in China is broadly acceptable. But on occasion they're just garbage. One of my best friends shorted out the electrical system of his entire apartment when he plugged a Chinese-made appliance into a power socket.

So why not stop buying Chinese goods? Because we don't always know when we're buying Chinese manufactures. Many familiar brands contain components sourced from China. Usually they work out well. But every now and again they don't and the house burns down or the patient keels over.

Robert Novak asserts that the FISA extension had extensive bipartisan support in Congress and would have passed easily. But it was tabled for a more mundane reason. "The true reason for blocking the bill was Senate-passed retroactive immunity to protect from lawsuits private telecommunications firms asked to eavesdrop by the government. The nation's torts bar, vigorously pursuing such suits, has spent months lobbying hard against immunity." In other words he suggesting that it was more important to pander to a private interest group than to protect national security.

The recess by House Democrats amounts to a judgment that losing the generous support of trial lawyers, the Democratic Party's most important financial base, would be more dangerous than losing the anti-terrorist issue to Republicans. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against the phone companies for giving individuals' personal information to intelligence agencies without a warrant. Mike McConnell, the nonpartisan director of national intelligence, says delay in congressional action deters cooperation in detecting terrorism. ...

Big money is involved. Amanda Carpenter, a columnist, has prepared a spreadsheet showing that 66 trial lawyers representing plaintiffs in the telecommunications suits have contributed $1.5 million to Democratic senators and causes. Of the 29 Democratic senators who voted against the FISA bill last Tuesday, 24 took money from the trial lawyers (as did two absent senators, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama). Eric A. Isaacson of San Diego, one of the telecommunications plaintiffs' lawyers, contributed to the recent unsuccessful presidential campaign of Sen. Chris Dodd, who led the Senate fight against the bill containing immunity.

Whether Novak is correct in this specific case will be debated. But in principle money interests beat out public interests all the time. Consider the border fence. Consider the visa-free program for Saudi Arabia. So if the tort-lawyers want their share from the candy store, why not?



Blogger DougLoss said...

If the fellow from the Church of Euthanasia is truly sincere, I expect him to suicide forthwith. :)

Wretchard, you ask in respect to the mainstream media publishing anything it can regardless to the detriment to national security: "Maybe the only way to find out is to take it to court. But does it have to come to that?" Unfortunately, yes, it does. When some administration finally has the fortitude to actually enforce the law in this area, there will be a firestorm of outraged criticism from the major news outlets. But I suspect there will also be a lot of people around the country saying to themselves, "Finally!"

2/18/2008 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

The MSM has proved beyond doubt that it will submit its "principles" to intimidation. The Motoons fiasco is proof positive of that. The NYT squeals that Republicans are putting on their jack boots as we speak but have no fear that there will be any reprisals from Republicans for actually harming national security, at the same time the NYT editors piss their pants at the prospect of some Islamo nut calling them out for publishing a line drawing of Muhammed.

I think I figured out why the NYT is so influential among the chattering class. Above the fold on the front page it enumerates the reasons why white guys and girls should feel guilty about their comfortable lifestyle but then absolves them because the story line proves it's not their fault - some Republican white guy did the bad deed and their bad feelings are only by association and not by commission, which is much worse.

Below the fold there is always a story about some not-white guy or girl, preferably homosexual, who is able to accomplish great things despite story line number one. This proves that everything will be OK and the world a better place if we all just get rid of the Republican white guys who screwed things up.

Indexes, links, and blurbs go to stories about enjoying the comfortable lifestyle and increasing the amount and intensity of bodily functions.

2/18/2008 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Totten comments in passing that the Iraqi jail was constructed three years ago by a "bad contractor".

I would love to have a definition of a "bad contractor" as in: American? Iraqi? Halliburton? UN / NGO? Other, and if so who / what / where/ when?

Who was the bad contractor, who paid for the bad construction, and what is the current status of the bad contractor?

And is there any way to knock on his door and demand our money back?

Reading these stories of horrors committed under Saddam, I also keep wondering what ever happened to the Baathists who staffed the rape rooms, and tortured people people until fat ran down the drains. You just *know* that they've managed to get themselves a sinecure in Maliki's government somewhere ... or they've immigrated to the West, like the concentration camp Nazi's did after WW2.

2/18/2008 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

"The interesting question is whether any line exists which journalists may not cross in the name of the Freedom of the Press. And if such a line exists, where does it lie?"

Not being a lawyer, "but I play one on TV", I think the line should be when an initial disclosure of classified information is grossly negligent and proven beyond a reasonable doubt to "aid and abet the enemy". That may not narrow the definition much, but I think it's a functional framework for doing so.

2/18/2008 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

I wasn't aware that the administration was conducting warrantless domestic surveillance without an overseas connection. I thought that all warrantless taps had an overseas component (which is nothing new in war) or were at least initiated by an overseas call.

I don't know why domestic to domestic warrantless taps are needed, and without an overwhelming need or precedent, it's wrong.

2/18/2008 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger Zenster said...

Those who feel the NYT didn't cross the boundaries should, as a mental exercise, imagine where it would. Maybe the only way to find out is to take it to court. But does it have to come to that?

Yes. After witnessing Dan Rather attempt to throw a presidential election using blatantly falsified evidence, it is time to show the MSM where the boundaries of treason lie.

No jackboots, just a calm dispassionate layout of what national security means and swift imprisonment for those who endanger it. Pinchy has crossed the line so repeatedly that his turn in the barrel is long overdue.

As to China:

China has set itself up for a "perfect storm" of catastrophic economic, societal and environmental disasters.

1.) During China's recent privatization, the vast majority of government-run big business was essentially handed over to the PLA's military elite at fire sale prices, who—without a shred of business experience—promptly proceeded to run them into the ground. All the while, these well-connected Mandarins consumed massive loans from banking cronies to prop up these over-staffed and under-equipped enterprises. Government jobs were once known as “cast iron rice bowls”, in that people were so rarely fired that their source of income (rice bowl), could not be “broken”.

Moreover, oil prices continue to escalate—in some part—caused by Chinese arms shipments that exacerbate MME (Muslim Middle East) tensions. Should they rise high enough, bunker fuel costs will erode the profitability of long haul trans-Pacific container traffic and significantly impact the price competitiveness of already shaky Chinese manufacturing enterprises.

END RESULT: Mismanagement has left China with an estimated $500 billion to $1 trillion worth of bad debt that their own prohibitions on foreign majority bank ownership prevents any bailout of. All the while, their MME meddling promises to interfere with the free flow of petroleum exports doing further damage to their own economy. There also exists pandemic official corruption that is tacitly accepted by the government resulting in substandard civil engineering and a host of other dangerous or counter-productive practices.

2.) These same industries have historically operated with total disregard for environmental impact or pollution laws due to their immunity through contacts within the PLA. Examine the near-total absence of significant prosecution for the constant coal-mining fatalities and egregious lack of mine safety.

One single statistic tells the entire story. Out of the world’s TWENTY most polluted cites, SIXTEEN of them are in CHINA. Manmade disasters loom large in China’s future. More than once engineers have had to patch large CRACKS forming on the Three Gorges Dam face. Upstream, rising water has soaked into and destabilized massive earthen cliffs that slide into the reservoir causing destructive waves. There are concerns that these surges may even cause damage to the dam itself. A catastrophic failure of this gigantic hydroelectric project could cause the death of untold MILLIONS downstream.

China has also begun work upon a string of hydroelectric dams at the highest reaches of the Mekong River. This vital aquatic artery for much of Southeast Asia could effectively fall under Chinese control. Retention of too much runoff could cause the collapse of critical downstream aquaculture necessary for rural sustenance while impeding commercial traffic reliant upon riverine navigation. Given China’s rapacious nature, none of this bodes well for its Southern neighbors.

END RESULT: Massive damage to vital natural and regional resources, air quality and some of China's most precious historical locations or archaeological sites.

3.) China's "one family - one child" policy has led to endemic gender based abortion and female infanticide. This lopsided demographic is already beginning to affect Chinese society with the "Little Emperor" syndrome of intensely spoiled male children. As both parents toil in day jobs, these brats are left in the care of grandparents. Chinese culture deems even slight deformities as an insurmountable impediment to marriage. By threatening to injure themselves, these “Little Emperors” extort ice cream and candy from their grandparent caretakers. Imagine such manipulative, cosseted and ill-tempered only-children taking command of China’s nuclear arsenal.

Further, the lack of marriageable women can only presage some sort of increase in male homosexuality. Slowly eroding cultural mores will remove some of the stigma attached to homosexuality and lack of female companionship will do the rest. At present, once unmarriageable peasant girls from rural provinces now have their pick of male suitors. Starving North Korean mail-order brides are also being imported to meet this demand.

END RESULT: Extreme potential for a major upswing in male homosexuality. Complicated by:

4.) China's medically caused HIV/AIDS epidemic is the largest in world history. Henan province plasma buyers re-injected aggregated red blood cells back into similar type donors, thereby spreading the virus like wildfire. Corrupt government officials—more concerned about covering up their connections to these plasma buyers—did little to quarantine or contain the crisis, allowing infected individuals to migrate into large urban centers.

END RESULT: A ticking time-bomb of gigantic proportions that may be facilitated through a host of other societal factors including heavy discrimination against HIV positive people, intense shame over homosexuality and government suppression of publishing any medical statistics regarding this as being damaging to China's image.

5.) China’s ratio of urban versus rural earning power is incredibly lopsided. Conservative estimates place 1995 rural earnings at 40% of that paid to urban workers. The global figure for that time was 60%. Other estimates place China's earnings gap at seven to one and even an astounding ten to one ratio. This disparity encourages migration to city centers in search of higher pay. Mao’s promise to break all chains binding peasants to the land was a tremendous lie that found farmers imprisoned by even more intense poverty than before.

END RESULT: Breakdown in agricultural productivity and lack of regulatory oversight in the haste to avoid food shortages. This creates vast potential for tainted goods, which has already manifested in dead infants killed by being fed nutrition-free baby formula, fake rabies vaccines and eggs injected with toxic industrial dyes.

All of the above factors are converging to combine into an onslaught of destructive forces that bode exceptionally ill for China’s future. Such internal pressures may cause civil war or drive China into territorial aggression in order to relieve surging demand for dwindling resources, marriageable women or unpolluted living space. Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula, Japan, Eastern Russia and Southeast Asia all fall under the shadow of China's looming crises.

2/18/2008 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Elijah said...

"I don't know why domestic to domestic warrantless taps are needed, and without an overwhelming need or precedent, it's wrong."

- not needed & wrong

In 2004 CIA Director George Tenet was reported to have testified to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee that Hezbollah has ...cultivated an extensive network of operatives on American soil and has "an ongoing capability to launch terrorist attacks within the United States."
5/09/2007 07:15:00 AM @ BC

2/18/2008 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Journalists do have the right to publish what they know, however, they often confuse the "right" with the idea it is an "obligation". There is no duty, obligation, or compulsion to print what they know.

Furthermore I find journalists assume they have more than a right to publish what they know they extend to assume they have a right to know as well. Of course that is steroidal arrogance.

As far as China's problems its product's reputation. Funny thing how capitalism works, maybe China can squelch internal public discussion of the problems they are having but they can not do so outside of China and that knowledge has real consequences.

The wife and I are looking into importing goods from the region and I am thinking that is going to be a selling point NOT from China!

2/18/2008 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger always right said...

With regards to China and quality of Chinese goods - It is a “birthing problem” for the third world country becoming “developed”.

The same phenomenon occurred for goods “Made in Taiwan”, and probably lots of “Made in (other countries)”. At first, there was no accountability, manufacturers were first driven by meeting the demands, as competition set in, then driven by profit margins. However, for the country to successfully transition into developed/industrialized status, demands for accountability from the consumers eventually weed out those bad seeds.

It has to do with the callous attitude towards value the individual human life in these countries, most of them have abundant and easily replenish-able people (hence, cheap labor). Also people in power have the absolute control of the media. Unless and until company owners even with “good connections” to the people in power are held accountable, calling China an economic wonder is a bit premature.

We won't know if China will be able to manage the transition. Only from when the s%#$ hits the fan (it will!) and from China's response could we be able to tell.

2/18/2008 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger shivermetimbers said...

Zenster - you are correct in your points regarding the level of corruption in China and how it manifests in tainted products. Unfortunately, this happens here in the US as well; especially when it comes to our food.

Just today the USDA is recalling 143 million pounds of beef due to a company caught on video sending cows that were too sick to walk to the slaughterhouse. This video shows them using fork lifts, cattle prods, etc., to get them in.

This company was a major provider of beef to the SCHOOL LUNCH program.

Unfortunately, USDA stamp do not mean anything as management who work for these beef companies are the ones who stamp the meat, not the government.

These animals get so sick and are pumped with growth hormones and antibiotics. With this company, even this was not enough as these animals are clearly ill.

We wonder why girls in this country used to reach their menstrual periods at age 14 -15, now they reach it at 11.;_ylt=Ah983drHCWdkWCw8kyzoPBis0NUE

BTW: This video was not taped by undercover US agents in a sting operation, but by some animal rights group. So, how much of this goes on without being caught.

2/18/2008 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Bill -- about 16 mos ago a secret FISA court ruling held that:

EVEN IF both ends of a communication are foreign and involve foreigners, if they pass through US servers or wires, a WARRANT FROM A FISA COURT IS REQUIRED.

Yes. You read it right. FISA COURT held that totally foreign communications cannot be monitored WITHOUT A COURT ORDER. If the communications pass through US "wires."

Legalism at it's finest. So if say, an associate of Ayman Al Zawahari in Pakistan calls a man in Saudi Arabia, a warrant is needed BEFORE the communication can be monitored. Probable cause must be shown. So the court warrant requirement will not allow NSA to monitor a totally foreign conversation.

A nation not serious about National Security and believing no real threat can happen. Ever. That the entire world is a safe suburb.

Childish and stupid.

Zenster -- I disagree with your assessment that homosexuality will become more acceptable and rampant. China is very homophobic, at the margins we are looking at "prison sex" ala various Muslim groups with considerable shame and stigma and displaced rage. More likely is the attempt to gain ANY WOMEN at all by conquering the neighbors or helpless foreigners and taking their women. Historically this is how most societies have dealt with their surplus unmarriageable men.

Already CHina is promoting African "adventures" where peasants go to Africa and "farm" in various enterprises. Making them tempting targets for the local tyrant. And guaranteeing Chinese intervention in a colonial action eventually. What, China will just sit there and let their pool of young men with no women, angry and disappointed and wanting to seize power for themselves become "pre-revolutionary?"

Unlikely. Better to ship them off to weak African states, give them support, and get colonies that will also feed China's appetite for resources.

Classic Colonialism and should be "hilarious" to watch leftists tie themselves into knots over it, if the human cost were not sad and ugly for all concerned.

Spot on about pollution. I visited a Cement Plant (joint GE-China enterprise) outside Beijing in 1996. Remarkably ugly in how cement dust coated everything for miles around. Including houses.

2/18/2008 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

RE: journalists having a "right" to publish what the know, it is apparent that many journalists are so stupid that what they think they know might not be actual reality.

And we're supposed to trust that a journalist who "knows" that something is not black but white (when in reality it's actually green) will have the acuity to see a big picture and to appreciate where his or her little (possibly mistaken) factoid fits in?

And that's not even factoring in things like careers and ambition and climbing the corporate ladder to earn more money if you can manage to publish something secret that no one else knows about.

2/18/2008 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

In Florida we had one paper decide it was a good idea to publish all of the names of people who have concealed carry gun permits.

I wonder if there will be any concern from the professional journalists if some interesting things about them and the companies they work for was published – such as where they bank, where they shop, where they live, what times they are gone from home, where their kids go to school, etc.

I tried to get a list of the names and corporate affiliations of the lawyers who had attacked military votes in the 2000 election in Florida, with the objective of publishing that information on the Internet - but I could not – seems that no one had bothered to write down the names. It would have been nice also to publish their home and business addresses, e-mail addresses and phone numbers, too – but I would never do that, would I? After all, I am not a “professional journalist.”

2/18/2008 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Nahncee: Do you by any chance recall all the wailing from the Left about how we were spending all our money in Iraq with “large corporations who are friendly to the Bush Admin, such as Halliburton instead of local people?” Before the last Presidential election I even got a supposed telephone “survey” that asked just that question. So I would bet that prison was done by one of the local Iraqi contractors in order to help shut up the Left in the U.S.

Zenster: Ever read the P.J. O’Rourke book “Eat the Rich”? He goes to China and finds that they have built all of these big condos and office buildings across the river from Shanghai to support Crony Capitalism. Thing is, there is nothing whatsoever over there that would make people want to leave downtown Shanghai. So the Chinese govt has been pressuring people to buy in the new developments if they want to do business in China.

The quality of the crap that comes out of China is very distressing. It is one thing to send a couple of bucks on a piece of cheap junk at a flea market that you don’t much care if it lasts – but to pay good money something made in China that is marked GE, or Black and Decker, or Phillips and find that it is junk is another story. We are on our third new toaster over in less than a year. The previous one we had was Made in The USA, is 20 years old, and still works. And they are not going to fix it, ever. None of the places that eventually progressed to quality products were raised up Communist. Feudal perhaps, authoritarian, maybe, but Commie, No Way!

2/18/2008 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Bad toasters is one thing. Poisoned pet food is a whole 'nother hill of beans, and I take great umbrage at the Chinks for trying to sell us poisoned food, whether it be for children, pets, or me.

2/18/2008 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

Marcus Aurelius: Journalists do have the right to publish what they know, however, they often confuse the "right" with the idea it is an "obligation". There is no duty, obligation, or compulsion to print what they know.

Just because you have a right to do something does not make it the right thing to do.

Somewhere along the line people, especially news and media journalists, have lost sight of this simple fact.

ShiverMeTimbers: We wonder why girls in this country used to reach their menstrual periods at age 14 -15, now they reach it at 11.

Actually, this is far more likely a result of dietary changes and not due to the presence of growth hormones or anti-biotics. Young women that are anorexic, vegan, vegetarian or who go on crash diets will frequently stop menstruating.

A human body requires fat in order to transport nearly all the vitamins required for proper nutrition. Additionally, increased levels of fat and protein are associated with early onset of puberty. This is the more likely explanation.

Dr. Paul Kaplowitz from the Medical College of Virginia, co-chair of the panel that wrote the new pediatric guidelines, believes that "at least part of the explanation is overweight" since a certain amount of body fat is required for normal reproductive function. Fat cells manufacture leptin, a hormone that might be involved in triggering puberty. If girls get to a higher level of body fat and secrete enough leptin a few years earlier than they did in the past, it is possible that the first signs of puberty could emerge earlier. However, since puberty often causes weight gain, it is difficult to determine whether obesity causes early puberty or vice versa.

Worldwide increases in childhood obesity point towards the fat model. As to chemical exposure, plasticizers like pthalates—classified as "endocrine disruptors"—remain a strong concern but they do not explain the broadbased global change in puberty onset so well as the dietary model.

Incidentally, as someone who has worked as a professional chef, you would have to hold a gun to my head in order for me to purchase one of those five pound chubs of hamburger. Large scale slaughterhouse operations have not made enough progress since the time of Upton Sinclair to have gained my confidence. All ground meat that I purchase is processed from trim at a supermarket. A decent butcher is far more likely to spot any tainted or improperly processed meat passing through the meat packing area.

Whole portions of meat—known as primal and secondary cuts—have nowhere near the ability to transmit Ecoli and other contaminants. Ground meat is far more likely to contain offal and other non-muscle ingredients that can carry such food borne bacteria.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)—commonly referred to as “Mad Cow” Disease—is a far more serious issue. Two schools of thought predominate as to its modern entry into our food chain. During the late 20th century, large American livestock feed manufacturers like Monsanto and Purina would augment protein and calcium levels in cattle feed by grinding up scrap carcasses for their bone meal and residual meat content. Little thought was given to use of brain, spinal or major ganglion tissue. Only later, as studies of vCJD—Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease—among New Guinea headhunters began to show up, was there revealed the connection between consumption of human brain tissue and this severe wasting disease.

Another new British theory involves examination of “large bones”—typically cattle femurs—used for bone meal supplements in livestock feed. Large quantities of these bones originated in South Asia. Investigations revealed that less discriminating suppliers would harvest these bones from major waterways where carcasses would wash downstream after monsoons or other floods.

Unfortunately, large rivers like the Ganges are also the epicenter of countless human funeral ceremonies whereby cremation pyres are dumped into the water afterwards. Financially strapped families may not always afford sufficient timbers to assure total consumption of the deceased’s body. When the partial remains were disposed of the “large bone” suppliers may well have ended up harvesting human femurs mistaking them for bovine skeletal remains. This is the only significant competing theory for how such a rare contaminant entered the human food chain.

Worst of all, prions, the carrier of vCJD are an extreme danger. They have been shown to withstand regulation cooking temperatures with their deleterious properties intact. Even more frightening are recorded instances of “species jumping” from cattle populations over to other ruminants like elk and deer. Incidents reaching from Virginia to Wisconsin reveal cases where deer hunters who often consumed and shared their kills have developed vCJD some ten years after the fact.

The prolonged incubation time and delay in onset of effects by prions makes their point of entry and vector method exceptionally difficult to trace. Wisconsin’s state economy relies heavily upon tourist revenues derived from its famous deer-hunting season and could face financial disaster if its herds prove to be seriously contaminated. Additionally, Western state ranchers who use government land to graze cattle may also risk their herds being exposed to infected elk or deer. Quite clearly, this is no small matter.

Whiskey_199: I disagree with your assessment that homosexuality will become more acceptable and rampant. China is very homophobic, at the margins we are looking at "prison sex" ala various Muslim groups with considerable shame and stigma and displaced rage. More likely is the attempt to gain ANY WOMEN at all by conquering the neighbors or helpless foreigners and taking their women. Historically this is how most societies have dealt with their surplus unmarriageable men.

Fear not—as per the closing observations in my original comment—expansionism is another major concern. It ties back quite directly to worries about why China is undergoing such a pronounced military buildup in the complete absence of any regional enemies.

Albeit from Wikipedia, there does seem to be some loosening of traditional anti-homosexual traditions in China.

An Internet survey in 2000 showed that Chinese people are becoming more tolerant towards homosexuality: among the 10,792 surveyed, 48.15% were in favor, 30.9% disapproved, 14.46% were uncertain, and 7.26% were indifferent. Gay-bashing is rare in modern China. But some scholars complain that the government is too indifferent on this issue, doing nothing to promote the situation of homosexuality in China. During the 2002 Gay Games, only 2 persons from the mainland were sent to take part , and apart from gay websites the media gave little coverage to the event. The authorities still refuse to promote either gay issues or gay rights in China. Although there is no explicit law against homosexuality or same-sex acts between consenting adults, neither are there laws protecting gays from discrimination, nor are there any gay rights organizations in the PRC. It is believed that the Chinese policy towards the gay issue remains the "Three nos": no approval, no disapproval, and no promotion …

The number of homosexuals in China remains unclear. One statement based on Chinese government documents and academic studies states that the figure is 15 million. An official statistics, as quoted in a news report in China Daily, put the figure for mainland China at "approximately 30 million".[6] Compared to the higher proportions of homosexuals in other countries, many find these figures unconvincing.

Moreover, there is simply no way that enough women can be imported or enough men exported to prevent some sort of lateral shift in sexual preferences. To be sure, there remains a definite stigma but that will merely enforce a “closet” mentality without necessarily preventing or deterring the practice altogether.

2/18/2008 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Perhaps Zenster. When I was in China (admittedly only for four months on a US Dept. of Energy boondoggle) my Chinese Hosts at Tsinghua University were aghast at the notion that casual sex among Chinese would be permitted. Much less homosexual conduct in the open. Perhaps things have changed significantly since 1996.

[We were not allowed in public on Tiananmen Day.]

What my thoughts were ... what gay sex was done would be resented and cause aggression as in Muslim lands. Very likely there will be a lot of angry and degrading porn. A question for worry.

However we in the West also have what amounts to defacto polygamy. You've seen no doubt the Kay Hymowitz City Journal article about the young men who while away their time with X Boxen. Instead of marrying girls.

I am reminded of "Little Emperors." Except that young men mostly don't have the means, economically to afford the house and money to attract a mate. Young women seem to demand a differential, a higher income than their own, for a mate, and spend their twenties searching after the few high status A lister guys.

The explosion of breast implants among young women, cosmetics, etc. would seem to indicate a beauty arms race aimed at the few "suitable" young men. Meanwhile the age-peers seem to substitute with internet porn, X boxen, DVDs, and other diversions. I see a huge pattern though in resentment -- all those slasher movies with young women being slaughtered.

What I find interesting is that in the 1970's, that benighted decade, men in their thirties could buy houses. Not so today. Particularly around job centers.

We probably are also experiencing instability like China. Just not to their degree.

2/19/2008 12:26:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...


That is what I mean by saying "there is no obligation".

Many in the press are little more than blabbermouth gossips and believe knowing something means they *_HAVE_* to tell it.

2/19/2008 01:40:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

We probably are also experiencing instability like China. Just not to their degree.

I thought adding women to our work force -- 50% more brain power -- was supposed to have stabilized us as a society, made us *more* flexible and *more* smarter.

Not to mention that giving women the choice of whether they wanted to be breeders or workers is supposed to be more civilize.

I wonder how many American females would be willing to immigrate to China to marry nice young Chinese men (and their mothers inlaw), if they were promised hefty allowances in return.

Chinese probably wouldn't want American women. Like the Arabs, they'd find Filippina's and Indian ladies much more docile and easy to torment.

2/19/2008 06:13:00 AM  
Blogger Ari Tai said...

re: tort lobby, telcos and MSM passing secrets to the enemy.

Pity the MSM doesn't isn't rolling in a lot more dough than the telcos. Imagine if they were the target of the tort lobby for every war casualty where the thinnest link could be found to the secret leaked.

So, the 'pubs should offer an amendment to the FISA bill to hit two birds with one stone - get more special interest support for passage by providing the tort lobby with an arguably richer, easier, target to extort - by lowering the rules of evidence required to win the civil suits filed by the casualties or their survivors. Perhaps even move the burden of proof to the publisher (that the leak did not contribute).

Forget criminal. In a time of war put their personal and shareholders fortunes at risk. Triple damages if they don't turn in the leaker. Would be a wonderful turn-about, fair play.

2/19/2008 06:24:00 PM  

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