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5851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: September 25, 2007, 11:14:49 AM
There is quite a wide range of views from good economists on the economy right now.  I see Brian Wesbury thinks interest rate cuts aren't necessary and the economy still has good growth going.  http://blogs.forbes.com/digitalrules/2007/09/dont-cut-says-w.html

David Malpass sees a 'material slowdown', very weak growth coming and calls for the Fed to "move quickly to its interest-rate goal rather than stringing out its hikes or cuts as in the past." http://blogs.forbes.com/digitalrules/2007/09/material-slowdo.html

From my point of view, I hold economists to a much lower standard than their ability to see the future - I am happy if they can just explain the past with some degree of accuracy.  For example, I am interested in a plausible explanation of how we got to these new relative values for competing currencies.

5852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: September 18, 2007, 12:30:50 AM
"Any comments on my Red October [Stratfor] post of earlier today?"

From my point of view it answered a central question I've had about Russia - why do we pretend they are still relevant.  Russia is a second rate power, a third world country, a potentially failed new democracy, a lousy ally of the US, if they are one at all. They are not in the top 15 economies in the world yet are included in the big 'G8' talks every year and they are a 'permanent' member of the UN security council.

Friedman put in very clear terms why they are still relevant and strategic.  They are capable of building and selling weapons and defense products to our worst enemies that could cost us real casualties and problems in future conflicts that are no doubt already under consideration.

They prove false George Bush's doctrine: "Either you are with us or you are against us."  Like the swing vote senators, they could go either way at any time on the biggest issues and thus take on an importance larger than they spinelessly deserve.  When France did not back us or help us in Iraq, they also did not take up arms against us.  Russia is different.  Friedman describes with specificity how Russia could be supporting the wrong side in the next conflict.  Even if Russian arms and defense systems sold to enemy nations turn out to be defective and inferior, the false confidence the weapons provide removes a portion of the deterrent for avoiding full-scale war.

From the piece:
"In Ukraine and Belarus, the Russians will expect an end to all U.S. support to nongovernmental organizations agitating for a pro-Western course.

In the Baltics, the Russians will expect the United States to curb anti-Russian sentiment and to explicitly limit the Baltics' role in NATO, excluding the presence of foreign troops, particularly Polish.

Regarding Serbia, they want an end to any discussion of an independent Kosovo.

The Russians also will want plans abandoned for an anti-ballistic-missile system that deploys missiles in Poland. "

To each I would say - how is that any of their business?

I was not familiar with details of the Russia-Georgia tensions.  Here is a pretty good overview for anyone else who is curious: http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0827/p06s02-woeu.html

GM's comment is a little blunt.  "I'd give him free reign to do as he wishes with the Chechen problem in exchange for cutting off support to Iran and Syria."  The back room negotiations might go something like that and then the public pronouncements would come out a little softer.

Players like Russia in the global security picture sure make diplomacy an ugly and difficult business.
5853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 04, 2007, 11:23:12 PM
A second post also inspired by Marc's WSJ piece, my comments for the other side of the aisle. I noticed this phrase from the WSJ story: "In 1996, when Bob Dole was battling Steve Forbes and Lamar Alexander in Iowa..."

It's not a perfect analogy, but that scenario reminds quite a bit of the trio right now on the Democratic side.  Hillary is the Bob Dole of her party and will win the nomination.  She is nearly the war hero politically (remember the 60 minutes episode confronting the Gennifer Flowers story that rescued her party to victory in 1992) and it appears right now that this is her turn.

Barack Obama is the Steve Forbes though reversed in qualities.  Forbes had substance without charisma and Obama may have the reverse.  Still each is the big hope of the idiological wing of his own party.  My favorite liberal friends still want Obama though it is pretty clear he has no chance.  And Edwards is the Lamar Alexander.  From my point of view just running very hard yet staying irrelevant. 

I hope someone also writes the positives of this cast here, but from my point of view Hillary is unchallenged by anyone of substance in her own party but lacking in real achievements qnd crossover appeal.
5854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 04, 2007, 10:44:04 PM
Thanks Marc for the post on Fred Thompson.  I support Fred at this time for reasons I already wrote and will likely elaborate on over time.  Mostly because I'm a conservative and I find him to be an unapologetic conservative, unlike hyphonated-compassionate-conservatives and Republicans in our purple state who brag about how much like Democrats they are.  That said, I wanted to enter this negative critique of Fred Thompson into the record here from a writer whose opinion I respect, John Hinderacker at Powerlineblog last week.  Basically he says that something is missing with Fred.  Where I disagree I think is that he doesn't seem to give credit for some very direct and bold written positions that Fred has delivered also via radio and internet that will form a foundation for his candidacy in both the primaries and the general election. Also I predict Thompson is the candidate who will align most closely with proposals that Newt is generating which may answer the objection: "Nor does he offer unique solutions to problems...".  To his credit, Hinderacker was face to face with Thompson and has been watching his pre-candidacy pretty closely.  I would say the guys at Powerline lean pro-Mitt Romney and are very respectful of Giuliani though they claim to be undecided.
--
August 27, 2007
My Dinner With Fred
(by John Hinderaker)
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2007/08/018298.php

Actually, given the exigencies of Presidential campaigns, Fred Thompson left before dinner. But I did have the opportunity to be part of a small group who chatted with him and asked him questions.

Thompson was in Minnesota today for a variety of functions, including an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair. That convinced me that he is in the race to stay. No one would work the state fair circuit unless he were serious about the race.

My own impression of Thompson was similar to the image I already had of him. He's good; he has a nice, folksy manner, some good lines, a sincere, fatherly demeanor, and comes across as a solid conservative of the border-state variety.

Yet I still think there is something missing. Thompson gives long answers to questions, and a point often comes where his folksiness gives way to ennui. He rarely shows much--any--intensity. Thomson presents himself as the solution to intractable problems like entitlements and the world-wide Islamofascist threat. Yet one misses the spark of fire, of energy, that would generate confidence that Thompson is really the man to get the job done. Nor does he offer unique solutions to problems; his proposals are, like his persona, of the generic conservative variety.

There's nothing wrong with that, necessarily. But in the end, Thompson's candidacy rests on the premise that there is something about him that will rally millions of otherwise uncommitted voters to the conservative banner. Maybe there is; maybe that folksiness goes a long way. If in the end I'm convinced that he is the strongest Republican candidate, I'll support him. But I haven't seen persuasive evidence of that yet.
5855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 29, 2007, 11:03:25 AM
This story from Sunday came and went by quietly as I hear both sides of the American aisle say that no political progress is being made in Iraq. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070826/wl_nm/iraq_dc

Iraq's leaders agree on key benchmarks

By Waleed Ibrahim and Wisam Mohammed Sun Aug 26, 6:27 PM ET

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's top Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political leaders announced on Sunday they had reached consensus on some key measures seen as vital to fostering national reconciliation.

The agreement by the five leaders was one of the most significant political developments in Iraq for months and was quickly welcomed by the United States, which hopes such moves will ease sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands.

But skeptics will be watching for action amid growing frustration in Washington over the political paralysis that has gripped the government of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore congratulated Iraq's leaders on the accord, hailing it in a statement as "an important symbol of their commitment to work together for the benefit of all Iraqis."

The apparent breakthrough comes two weeks before U.S. President George W. Bush's top officials in Iraq present a report that could have a major influence on future American policy in Iraq.

"I hope that this agreement will help Iraq move beyond the political impasse," Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih told Reuters. "The five leaders representing Iraq's major political communities .... affirmed the principle of collective leadership to help deal with the many challenges faced by Iraq."

Maliki's appearance on Iraqi television with the four other leaders at a brief news conference was a rare show of public unity.

The other officials present were President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd; Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi; Shi'ite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and Masoud Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

Iraqi officials said the five leaders had agreed on draft legislation that would ease curbs on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party joining the civil service and military.

Consensus was also reached on a law governing provincial powers as well as setting up a mechanism to release some detainees held without charge, a key demand of Sunni Arabs since the majority being held are Sunnis.

The laws need to be passed by Iraq's fractious parliament, which has yet to receive any of the drafts.

OIL LAW

Yasin Majid, a media adviser to Maliki, told Reuters the leaders also endorsed a draft oil law, which has already been agreed by the cabinet but has not yet gone to parliament.

But a statement from Talabani's office said more discussions were needed on the draft oil law and constitutional reforms. Committees had also been formed to try to ensure a "balance" of Shi'ites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds in government.

The oil law is seen as the most important in a package of measures stalled by political infighting in Maliki's government.

The lack of action has frustrated Washington, which has been urging more political progress before the pivotal report on Iraq is presented to the U.S. Congress around September 11.

The report by the U.S. military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and ambassador Ryan Crocker, is seen as a watershed moment in the unpopular four-year-old war, with Democrats likely to use the negligible political progress to press their case for troops to begin pulling out soon.

Bush is pleading for patience, pointing to the military's apparent success in reducing levels of violence between majority Shi'ite Muslims and minority Sunni Arabs.

The White House's Lawrimore said in her statement that the United States would "continue to support these brave leaders and all the Iraqi people in their efforts to overcome the forces of terror who seek to overwhelm Iraq's democracy.

"The President also welcomes the desire of the Iraqi leadership to develop a strategic partnership with the United States based on common interests."

But Democrats are not convinced, and presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton and fellow Senator Carl Levin have called for Maliki to be replaced.

Maliki hit back on Sunday, saying: "There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin."

"This is severe interference in our domestic affairs. Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton are from the Democratic Party and they must demonstrate democracy," he said. "I ask them to come to their senses and to talk in a respectful way about Iraq."
5856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: August 27, 2007, 08:00:02 PM
There was a big story on global warming this month of some downward corrections in recent temperatures that makes the 1930s again hotter than any year of late.  Credit goes to Buzzwardo for posting the NASA corrections here and to the source he linked of coyoteblog http://www.coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/2007/08/official-us-cli.html for timely and enlightening info.

I predicted elsewhere that the NY Times would pick up this story in a few days maybe on page 47.  In fact, it took them 16 days and they changed the context to be a story about right wing blogs making a big deal out a quarter of a degree "fix".  For that reason I moved my reply to 'media issues'.

A larger point I took from the story is that they don't measure temperature, they gather readings and then adjust, balance, tweak and make changes to the data according to some secret and flawed algorithms from some scientists who have their own bias and investment in the outcome.

Here is that NY Times story: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/26/us/26climate.html

Quarter-Degree Fix Fuels Climate Fight

By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Published: August 26, 2007

Never underestimate the power of the blogosphere and a quarter of a degree to inflame the fight over global warming.

A quarter-degree Fahrenheit is roughly the downward adjustment NASA scientists made earlier this month in their annual estimates of the average temperature in the contiguous 48 states since 2000. They corrected the numbers after an error in meshing two sets of temperature data was discovered by Stephen McIntyre, a blogger and retired business executive in Toronto. Smaller adjustments were made to some readings for some preceding years.

All of this would most likely have passed unremarkably if Mr. McIntyre had not blogged that the adjustments changed the rankings of warmest years for the contiguous states since 1895, when record-keeping began.

Suddenly, 1934 appeared to vault ahead of 1998 as the warmest year on record (by a statistically meaningless 0.036 degrees Fahrenheit). In NASA’s most recent data set, 1934 had followed 1998 by a statistically meaningless 0.018 degrees. Conservative bloggers, columnists and radio hosts pounced. “We have proof of man-made global warming,” Rush Limbaughtold his radio audience. “The man-made global warming is inside NASA.”

Mr. McIntyre, who has spent years seeking flaws in studies pointing to human-driven climate change, traded broadsides on the Web with James E. Hansen, the NASA team’s leader. Dr. Hansen said he would not “joust with court jesters” and Mr. McIntyre posited that Dr. Hansen might have a “Jor-El complex” — a reference to Superman’s father, who foresaw the destruction of his planet and sent his son packing.

Blogs are still reverberating, but Mr. McIntyre, Dr. Hansen and others familiar with the initial data revisions are clarifying what is, and is not, at issue.

One thing not in question, Mr. McIntyre and Dr. Hansen agree, is the merit of shifting away from energy choices that contribute heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Mr. McIntyre said he feels “climate change is a serious issue.” His personal preference is to shift increasingly to nuclear power and away from coal and oil, the main source of heat-trapping carbon dioxide.

Mr. McIntyre and Dr. Hansen also agree that the NASA data glitch had no effect on the global temperature trend, nudging it by an insignificant thousandth of a degree.

Everyone appears also to agree that too much attention is paid to records, particularly given that the difference between 1934, 1998, and several other sets of years in the top 10 warmest list for the United States are so small as to be statistically meaningless.

Mr. McIntyre said that when he posted the revised list under the heading “A New Leaderboard at the U.S. Open,” “I just was sort of having some fun with it as much as anything.”

He added: “The significance of things has been misstated by Limbaugh and people like that.”

Dr. Hansen and his team note that they rarely, if ever, discuss individual years, particularly regional findings like those for the United States (the lower 48 are only 2 percent of the planet’s surface). “In general I think that we want to avoid going into more and more detail about ranking of individual years,” he said in an e-mail message. “As far as I remember, we have always discouraged that as being somewhat nonsensical.”

Jay Lawrimore, a scientist at the National Climatic Data Center of the Commerce Department who works on assembling the climate records that NASA analyzed, said his agency could probably do a better job of emphasizing the uncertainty surrounding its annual temperature announcements.

Indeed, there is enough wiggle room in the numbers that the center has a different list of the 10 warmest years than those produced using NASA’s and Mr. McIntyre’s analyses. By the climate center’s reckoning, 1998 remains the warmest year for the 48 states (with 2006 second and 1934 third).

Dr. Lawrimore, Dr. Hansen and other experts said that trends are far more important than particular years, and the recent widespread warming trend has been clear — and very distinct from the regional hot spell that drove up United States temperatures in the 1930s.

Mr. McIntyre and the government scientists do agree on at least one more thing: the need to improve the quality of climate data gathered around the world, including in the United States, which has by far the planet’s biggest network of meteorological stations.

Mr. McIntyre is not alone in pointing out that the need to adjust and revise such data — with the attendant risk of mistakes — would be reduced with more care and consistency taken in collecting climate data.

The National Academy of Sciences has repeatedly called for improvements in climate monitoring. An independent group of meteorologists and weather buffs is compiling its own gallery of American weather stations at www.surfacestations.org, with photographs showing glaring problems, like thermometers placed next to asphalt runways and parking lots.

Dr. Lawrimore said that the government is preparing to build a climate reference network of more sophisticated, and consistent, monitoring stations that should cut uncertainty in gauging future trends.

In any case, he said, the evidence for human-driven warming remains robust. “Saying what they’re saying has just provided an opportunity for them to create doubt in people’s minds,” he said of the bloggers.
5857  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: August 27, 2007, 01:27:10 PM
My first 'martial arts' post, not perfectly placed here, but a good story about a citizen's defense of self and family that led to the arrest of a fugitive. Perhaps his martial arts skill was wrestling(?) He is a law partner of John Hinderacker at Powerline: http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2007/08/018281.php http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2007/08/018280.php

Radtke was listed in good condition at Regions Hospital in St. Paul on Saturday and, although he didn't want to talk about his ordeal, authorities had a message for him: Thanks.

Sgt. Andrew Ellickson said he was convinced that if Radtke's brave actions hadn't stopped the suspect, he would have caused more damage and injuries.

"He wouldn't have been stopped," Ellickson said.

Leland Klanderman agreed: "The guy was determined."

Radtke, an attorney for Faegre & Benson, and his wife, Jody, had just put their three sons to bed Friday.

They were headed downstairs to relax when the front door flew open, according to Jody's mother, Sandy Brandt.

The Radtkes were staring at a ragged-looking man with a rifle, she said.

Authorities said the man forced Keith and Jody Radtke toward the garage.

Quick decision

At this point, Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton said, Radtke's world began to narrow into a "funnel."He had to make a decision," Hutton said.

When they got into the garage, Radtke saw an opportunity and pounced, knocking the rifle out of the suspect's hands.

Radtke put the suspect in a bear hug and yelled for his wife to go inside and call 911, Hutton said. She did.

Radtke didn't realize there also was a .45-caliber gun in the suspect's waistband, and the suspect was able to get a hold of it and shot Radtke in the lower back.

Radtke continued to struggle with the suspect and knocked the handgun across the garage floor. The suspect bit Radtke several times, and Radtke put him in a wrestling hold.

Nearby officers arrived at the scene, separated the men and used a Taser to subdue the suspect.

 
5858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bridges and Infrastructure on: August 22, 2007, 11:53:07 PM
This post could have gone into 'Science' but I think the topic, if discussed, will quickly move to politics.  I wrote earlier that  "I twice drove over an 8-lane, 2000 ft. bridge within 3 hours of it tumbling into the Mississippi."  The story is national but it is a particularly big deal here since it is still down and quite a few people died, 13 I think.  My flippant mind tells me the force that brought the bridge down was gravity and the onus was on the engineers to tell us why it shouldn't fall.

First hunch on cause that makes so far is good news in a sense because it was only installed on a few bridges including the I-35W Minneapolis bridge that fell and the counterpart I-35E bridge over the Mississippi in St. Paul.  It turns that they installed an automatic spraying system for Potassium Acetate on the bridge which is likely a weld and bolt corrosion accelerator.  That's a side effect; its primary purpose is to rust and rot our cars, it also melt snow and ice.

My lesson so far from this ordeal is to question whether these are the people we want to run our health care system.

(Repeating from above, this is only a hunch, the cause of the collapse won't be determined for a long time)

http://www.startribune.com/10204/story/1377743.html

Oct. 19, 1999: I-35W bridge getting de-icer system

By Laurie Blake, Star Tribune

Starting today, the most notorious winter slick spot on the Twin Cities-area freeway system - the Interstate Hwy. 35W Bridge over the Mississippi River - is being fitted with an automatic de-icing system.

Using temperature- and precipitation-activated nozzles embedded in the bridge deck, the system will spray the bridge with liquid potassium acetate in a bid to rid the surface of the treacherous black ice that has caused more than 120 accidents in the past five winters.

The potassium retains its melting power at 20 to 30 degrees below zero. Keeping the bridge clear of black ice has been difficult at sub-zero temperatures when salt is no longer effective. The State Patrol occasionally has closed the bridge to protect drivers.

The automatic system will apply the liquid potassium to the bridge from 68 spray heads in the driving surface placed 59 feet apart and from eight additional spray heads on the north end of the bridge in the median barrier and on the sides of the bridge, said Ia Xiong, project engineer.

Sensors in the bridge detect freezing temperatures before ice forms and activate the potassium spray to prevent ice formation.  The liquid will squirt out of nozzles in an arc 4 to 6 inches high, so motorists will see the spray. The deck surface will be wet.  The plastic nozzles are about an inch thick and 11 inches in diameter. The spray will reach most of the bridge and vehicles will spread it across the entire deck.
5859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: August 20, 2007, 10:31:16 PM
Tom,  I did not give you my "talking strategy"; I gave you honest, heartfelt opinions on matters of life and death.  In return you acknowledge no validity and return with condescension.  What a bummer it was investing the time I did.   - Doug
5860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: August 20, 2007, 06:24:49 PM
Tom wrote: "I notice you did not respond to my assertion that there were better places world wide to confront Jihadists....so how do you feel about the Sudan?"

Give me a break, yes I did in my own way.  I spelled out dangers in Iraq that are not the same as in the Sudan: [If al Qaida and the terrorists win in Iraq they will] "take the riches of the 3rd largest oil reserves to arm and finance and export terror, worse than before." - Most third world tyranny locations are tragedies.  Iraq is explosive.  Besides oil, 3 reasons Iraq is unique are location, location, location, relating to Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and other hot spots.

How the hell do you think I feel about genocide in Sudan (where is that angry face symbol)? Different than you or others? I would like to find a justification to depose and hang every genocidal dictator across the globe, time permitting, and they will all be more nervous when we are winning in Iraq than when we are losing.

I adamantly disagree with you that we started this war.  Saddam did that.  Saddam justified this war and finally some American President noticed it. He invaded Kuwait, was driven out, saved his skin by signing a 4-page surrender agreement which I have read and then he violated everything in it.

I don't write for a consensus here and I've never met anyone else on the board.  I know Crafty only through writings over a period of years.  In the short time I've been here I've seen most sides of most issues represented.

Let's get a fresh start on a different subject.
5861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: August 20, 2007, 12:07:15 PM
"I would contend that not all those that engage our troops fall into the terrorist category. "

They are terrorizing the countryside, the roadside, the neighborhoods and the mosques.  They are terrorists.  They are not "engaging" our troops, they are hiding and taking hostages.  Set aside the involvement of America as a foreign country, they are fighting the freely elected government of their own country and the security forces trying to establish peace.

There were two wars in Iraq.  The one against Saddam is long over and only under debate for historical perspective.  The war continuing will result either in what you described as "a free and democratic society" and of course it will pass laws that are based on the traditions and rules of Islam, a peaceful and socially strict religion.  The American goal includes the first part, free and democratic, the second part that they can't take on the same qualities we rightly or wrongly fought - WMD programs and sponsoring or harboring terrorists, and third, the American interest is to have it remain one country with an internal balancing of power which turns out to be the hardest. 

"but there again....What kind of Jihad was going on in Iraq before we got there?"

And there again we are not fighting Saddam.  That war is over.  We are fighting an alternative power who would like to fill the vacuum, to oppress same or worse than Saddam as they do in Iran, to threaten the world's oil supply with saber rattling as the Mulluhs constantly do, and to take the riches of the 3rd largest oil reserves to arm and finance and export terror, worse than before. 

"Very bold of you to equate Sadaam with the likes of Hitler(or the Iraq war with ww2)....hardly but ok......."

Please no straw man argument.  The war against Saddam is over (broken record), we are fighting an opposing vision for Iraq that I described above.  I don't equate Saddam with Hitler, I equate Nazism with the Jihadist movement, which I think you acknowledge is real and global - call it by whatever name  you like, Radical Islamic Fundamentalism, Islamofascism, etc.  Like Soviet communism and Nazi fascism, in the real world radical Islamic fundamentalism doesn't face free and fair elections and isn't content to capture one country and not export terror and destabilization.

"No one will argue Sadaam a bad guy and needed to be removed from power....Now all I ask is we take responsiblity for removing him from power.  Is that too much to ask?"

Thank you for conceding the first part; that was not at all clear in your recent posts or elsewhere in this one. For the second part, isn't that exactly why we are fighting - taking responsibility for the vacuum we created.

"Where are all those folks who dream to be free from the tyranny of Islam?  Oh I know.....they defected with the 110,000 AK 47'S"

To me that statement implies a view that the majority favor a collapse of the budding new democratic government.  I don't believe that.  The innocent civilians in the neighborhoods should be reluctant to stick their neck out publicly siding with Americans or the current government the day before we pull the plug and they face slaughter from the victory of the terrorists.  OTOH, as they see security and democracy taking shape, the citizens seem to be more and more helpful with reliable information, and accurate info is the only way we know the difference between a bomb builder and a plumber.  With reliable information we win.  Without it we lose.  JMHO.

5862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: August 19, 2007, 06:47:53 PM
Tom, all - Combining my reply to Tom's from two threads over to here in Rants-  The back and forth is nice, but in general I prefer if someone else jumps in.  From a time management perspective, I plan to answer or post only when I think I have something to add that hasn't already been said.  I don't have any unique or inside info on Iraq or foreign policy except to explain my own opinions and why I think this way. We are looking at the same information and drawing different views. I don't see any sign of minds changing.

I recognize that you served and I didn't and I am grateful and always remembering of that.

Picking what I answer,I won't get to everything- 

"One mans terrorist is another mans patriot."  - No, I don't share the moral equivalent view that comment implies to me.  If you join me in bank robberies and the cops are our enemy that doesn't change which side has the patriots and which side has the terrorists.  Maybe it's a judgment or opinion, and maybe it takes fifty years to sort it all out, but there is a difference.  There's no moral symmetry IMO between this American intervention and the fight of the Jihadists.  If we can't draw that distinction here I don't see how you could in any past conflict either.  Why was it okay to fight Japan and Germany but not these thugs.

Another huge difference in thinking, Tom wrote: "The Kurd massacares happend 20 years ago. These things were not going on when we went into Iraq to "liberate" the people."  -My view is diametrically opposed to that.  Time elapsing doesn't remove anything about the crimes against humanity for me except perhaps the freshness of the evidence, and gassing the Kurds was far from being Saddam's only or most recent crime.  If a people live with a gun to their heads and they do exactly as they are told and then are not killed, I say life is still lost and terror and violence have been committed although death and damage may be hard to measure.  I join this with opposing the view that we are responsible for al Qaida's damage to Iraq.  These are show stopping differences.

"Do you think its been worth it so far"  - Again it's different thinking. The value to me doesn't change easily.  I also don't know how to explain to anyone who disagrees that a half million American lives were worth it to win WWII - I just have to say yes IMO it was clearly the right thing to do and the cost is an unbelievable tragedy.  This is no less important.  Yes we misjudged and bogged down and changed tactics and gained battleground information and added resources and changed leaders and stayed resolved to win, if momentum and victory are possible before either a new President changes course or until congress ends it.  Yes I think fighting and winning this war now is better than the alternatives such as leaving Saddam in power then or leaving unfinished now.  The 'viewed as liberators' and all will cooperate scenario isn't what played out.  We underestimated our enemy, their numbers, their will and their abilities.  Hunting them down in all neighborhoods simultaneously is the current strategy and we'll see how that goes.  I support it and wish them speedy success.

The point is beautifully stated in Crafty's post from the cabinet secretary of India.  His context I think is global, meaning more difficult than Iraq: 28.There is no end in sight to the US military operations against the Neo Al Qaeda and the Neo Taliban even almost six years after the operations started. This is nothing to be surprised about. Victory in the war is not for tomorrow or the day after. There is no doubt that the US will one day ultimately prevail over the jihadi terrorists. It has to in order to protect its homeland. But that day is still far off."(end quote)   In Iraq the battle is joined and I believe a) we will win and b) it was worth it.

"You also did not answer my question as to what would be considered a"victory" in Iraq."  - I have written about that in the past.  I'll describe it here the best I can.  The American part of the war is 'over' when the Iraqi security forces can provide basic security. Then American troops can fortress back from the front line and reduce numbers significantly.  The war itself is won when the  preponderance of activities in Iraq having to do with commerce, family, religion, self-government,  communities and recreation etc. overshadow the remnants of war. 



5863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 18, 2007, 07:12:07 PM
Tom, Results out of Iraq are mixed and changing.  Yes, I meant bias in the context that we all have some. The difference in my mind is that most proponents don't intentionally tout successes or justifications without acknowledging the enormous costs, risks, sacrifices and setbacks. Admittedly, they sometimes go unspoken. I get the impression from writers like this that we are the purveyors of evil or just bumbling idiots.

Anyway, I would look to critics and opponents for details on alternative strategies; Buzz's post above is a great example.  Details on our actual, current strategies are harder to get accurately because they can't tell us everything without also telling everyone else.  Still I find recent posts with Petraeus in his own words helpful as well as accounts from certain reporters who are close to the commanders and the battles.

Do I agree "at least in some context this mans article is for the most part true"? -  No, I certainly don't think he made his case that Petraeus is either incompetent or lacks the will to win or that someone else could easily do better what Maliki is trying to do.  We were wrong to think this would be easier.

"you didn't argue any part of this article to be a lie or do you?  See...We accuse the liberal media of only reporting on the negatives of the war."  -  No, not lies, just not telling a big enough picture to give an accurate picture.  He seems unaware of recent progress or recent strategies though he is no doubt more informed than I am about mistakes made by Rumsfeld etc. in the past, in hindsight.  I resent the attack on Bremer.  I agree putting an American in charge was a mistake.  I agree Bremer made mistakes, in hindsight.  Those were tough decisions with compelling reasons on both sides.  Far as I know he was a brave, tough American who did his best and risked his life when asked to serve.

I really don't appreciate the slam on Petraeus while he commands troops in harm's way.  If this author is correct and Petraeus is later determined to be a bum, then I guess the author will have bragging rights.  In the meantime, who knows what harm that does.  My guess is that the negativity plays a role in the suicides and helps keep up the spirits of the surviving enemy who is also having a long, tough war.  If this mission were viewed as worthwhile and heroic these soldiers might be better able to live with the gruesome details they experience.

"How about those 110,000 ak47's and the 80,000 pistols that we lost...."  - The wording doesn't sound like it came from someone who knows exactly what happened.  Not long ago I twice drove over an 8-lane, 2000 ft. bridge within 3 hours of it tumbling into the Mississippi.  The next evening I walked into a dinner by chance with the  Republican leader of the statehouse who said off the record that the recently turned down state gas tax increase would now be a reality because of this (in addition to a likely Federal increase) even though no proposed repair or replacement was turned down for lack of funding and even though we don't even yet know the cause of the collapse.  Tom, I don't know what happened to the guns.  Unless it's an accounting error, it's a potentially negative development (understatement).  If your question is whether I think this negative development, if true, bolsters the case for the other, all-negative conclusions - I would have to say no.
5864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 18, 2007, 03:31:58 PM
Replying to the David Gardner piece - since you asked for comments Smiley, I found it loaded with bias and sloppy with facts.  For example, quoting Gardner: "After his (Petraeus) withdrawal, however,two-thirds of Mosul's security forces defected to the insurgency and the rest went down like fairground ducks. His forces appear not to have noticed, moreover, that Saudi-inspired jihadis had established a bridgehead in Mosul before the war had even started."  Sounds a bit overstated and I thought there was no foreign fighter or jihad movement in Iraq before America broke the 'peace'.  The same people also criticize us when former insurgents join the security forces.  He rips Rumsfeld, Bremer, Maliki and Petraeus.  Really everyone it seems except terrorists and suicide bombers.

When I smell bias like that I look for other writings. What Israel built on Israeli land he called illegal settlements. He says Hizbollah was born to parents of Israel and US for our sponsorship of their aggression and that Arafat led a cause of terror because he "felt swindled" in Oslo: http://www.christusrex.org/www1/news/ft-8-6-06a.html
5865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 17, 2007, 05:14:42 PM
Tom , You explained it as well as I think was possible. I was going to answer Crafty that opponents count Al Qaida and insurgent bombings in the damage 'caused' by America.  I frankly don't think that's fair, and I don't believe that any Kurd gassed by Saddam or any Shite 'detainee' from al-Dujaile (http://iraqiholocaust.blogspot.com/2004/07/al-dujail.html), for examples, would agree with the premise that Iraq was a peaceful place before the 'liberators' arrived.
 One account of one massacre from the link (This was later proven in court and Saddam was hanged):
    -"Al-Dujaile is my home town, I always looked at it as god's heaven on earth, it's about 60 kilometers to the north of Baghdad, on the bank of al Ishaki river (a branch of Tigris), inhabited by few thousands, most of whom are farmers, our village is well known by its date palms and grapes, a fascinating nature that takes your breath away, its people are related by strong tribal relations that keep them as one large family.
    - Date: 7/8/1982, Saddam decides to visit the village, the Ba’ath party in the region prepared the people to make a big reception, they took us out of the schools(I was 7 years old). They made us line in a row on both sides of the road to wave for him and cheer his name. It never occurred to me that it would be my last day in the childhood world. I was forced to skip that period of my life with such cruelty that I can not explain.
    -17 of the finest young men in the village had decided to put an end to the tyrant's life at that day, they had the courage to face him, we didn't know about their intention.
    The brave men set an ambush among the palm trees, they couldn't tell which car was his, there were dozens of cars, all identical in model and color.
    -The attack starts, the brave young men open fire from their simple weapons, some of the body guards get killed, others wounded, the tyrant get panicked, imagine that (Saddam is afraid) the man who enjoyed terrorizing people lives a moment of fear with all its details, he was so close to death this time.
    8 of the attackers were killed, the rest fled out of the country.
    (Woe to the sinners) who dared to make him scared, you should fear his revenge, you should learn the lesson so that it won't happen again, you should bow more and more and fear more and more, you should be scared to death so that you don't dare even to think of harming him; the shadow of god on earth.
    -The answer was fast, one hour after the escape of the tyrant, we had to face his anger, I heard the sound of helicopters over our heads wreaking their vengeance upon our small village, backed later with shovels that leveled the trees with the ground, the order was clear(the terror should be great) so that the others would learn.
    I ran away to my home into my mothers' lap, my younger brother and sisters gathered around me, I realized something huge has happened and anticipated the eminent evil. it didn't take long for the security to get to our house, we were taken to the unknown, me, my mother(who was 4 months pregnant), my sisters Einas(5 years), Zeina(3 years)and my brother Mohammed(1 year).
    -The first station in our long journey was Al-Hakimiyah prison that belongs to the intelligence, I found hundreds of my village people, old, young, men, women and children, we were 480 there. Out of whom 80 were relatives of mine.
    It was enough to say the word Hakimiyah for any Iraqi to be completely paralyzed(the one who gets in is a missing-the one who gets out is reborn-this was what we used to say about this prison, the walls of which tell thousands of horror stories that you refuse to believe.
    I was too young to know why we were treated like that, but I sure knew the meaning of being scared to death. The sound of foot steps that stops by the door was enough for every one to freeze, as after that the door would be opened, a name of one of the men would be announced and he would be dragged to the interrogation room to return few hours later unconscious, covered by blood, wrapped in a blanket, and would be thrown on us.
    The women and children had their share, and this is what saw: extraction of nails and teeth, electric shocks, whipping with lashes, using razors to tear the skin into shreds, my aunt was left hanging from the roof after her clothes had been wrapped of her in front of her brothers to force them to talk. Do you know how much pain we suffered? Can you imagine? I doubt it.
    We stayed at Al-Hakimiyah for one month, the space was too small for all of us to sleep, some of us had to stay on their feet so that the others could sleep.
    -After that we were transferred to Abu-Ghraib prison, where we met the men for the last time, after that, the 143 men separated from us and then transferred to another place, as for the rest of us, we were kept in Abu-Ghraib prison for six months, during that time, the day for my mother to deliver her baby came, she had complications and they didn't take her to the hospital until it was too late, the baby died. my mother never if it was a boy or a girl.
    In the prison, 4 people died, my grandfather(Yousif Ya'koob), my uncles wife(Noofa Hasan), the old man(Abdul Wahab Ja'far) and his wife (Sabreya), after that we were transferred to a camp in the desert, near the Iraqi-Saudi borders, 400 kilometers south-west to Baghdad(Leeah camp).
    We spent four years there.
    Four years in hell, we were isolated from the world, all we could do is stay alive and pray for the men whom their destiny was unknown to us.
    We were released in 1986, only for another journey of pain and suffering. We had to start a new life as all our properties were confiscated and we still don’t know anything about the men.
    The other good people in our village helped us, offered us jobs in their lands and a place to stay in. I had to work -with my little brother and sisters- to earn our living and to continue with our study. Farming is too hard a job for children of our age, but we had already passed that stage.
    It’s hard to explain what life is when you're a suspect with the eyes of security agents following you, stifling your breath, making your life even harder and harder, we had to give them all the pennies we could save to get some information about the missing ones, and they always promised us good news, and that our beloved ones were alive and being treated well. we didn't believe that, but what is life without hope!?
    -Sixteen years later...October/2002. I finished medical school and started to practice my job as a doctor in Baghdad. The same year, Saddam suffers a hard time, the USA and the allies tighten the circle around him, he decides to set all prisoners free, including the political. That was what he said, the fact; he released only the murderers and the thieves.
    Our cries lost their way trying to find our relatives among the thousands of faces, each time they reassure us that there would be another group to be released the next day, but all our efforts were in vain, we had no one but god to pray to and seek his help to show us the way.
    Date: 4/9/2003, I can’t believe it, the tyrant falls, is it a dream?
    Does it mean no more fear, no more terror, and no more death? We jumped into the streets wreaking our vengeance on his pictures and statues that surrounded the village he raped in a dark night.
    The towns and villages expelled him and expelled his name……..WE WERE SAVED.
    I took a deep breath, the air had the scent of freedom, nothing can be more beautiful, it’s difficult to describe, but we were overwhelmed by happiness, with only one distress: where had our beloved ones gone?
    We started to search the security departments in Baghdad,- like thousands of Iraqis- looking for a trace, I didn’t take a long time, we found what we were looking for. The documents of the crime, I read with tears in my eyes; the presidency order dated: 7 /23 /1985, signed by the tyrant, ordering the execution of 143 men from Al-Dujaile, the youngest one (Najeeb Abd Kadim) 11 years old. Among these, 35 were relatives of mine.
    God bless your souls martyrs, may you have peace in heaven, if it wasn’t your courage and blood we wouldn’t be proud.
    This is the story behind these photos, my friend. It’s time they have a decent funeral. We haven’t found their remains yet, but they will always remain in our hearts”
    My friend surprised me saying” we don’t regret what happened, and yesterday, when the nine remaining heroes returned to Iraq, we met them with flowers, as the heroes of all the Iraqis, and we will never blame them, as they’re the ones who kept our chins up.”
5866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters on: August 17, 2007, 03:30:48 PM
I enjoyed the last two geo-political posts, ccp and cd, just want to add or quibble slightly.  I find alignments in the world today very puzzling.  Regarding China-Russia dominating Asia, they are missing some key pieces such as Japan, So. Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, etc,  Australia (greater Asia?), USA (with Hawaii and troops/ships in Asia), and perhaps missing India, Pakistan and who knows about the Middle East.

Regarding USA and Europe, I have almost no idea from current events whether or not western Europe is allied with us (nor which smiling or frowning face to follow that with).  Eastern Europe is probably a more reliable ally but brings little to the table.

The battles of Africa are taking shape with South Africa the friend of all dictators and the Horn and the North certainly on Al Qaida's To Do list and the US in absence or retreat.  Remember the embassy bombings?  IMO that is another reason it is unacceptable to lose the current battles.  Even in victory there would be plenty of trouble around the world.  A surrender in Iraq or Afghanistan would likely mean surrender to and empowerment of our enemy many places elsewhere.

The Chavez story and other instability in Latin America is troubling.  They don't want our help and don't pose a direct threat to us so it just a downward spiraling wait-and-see situation.  Very sad IMO.  CCP's recent comment with the inspirational story of the illagal immigrant doctor achieving great success nailed my thoughts on this.  Paraphrasing - why can't this be done in Mexico (or so many other places) - why do they design and maintain a system that seems to lock out real achievement?
5867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: August 10, 2007, 05:08:42 PM
Hi Tom, I was trying to hide over here on rants to avoid further discussion with you on Iraq Smiley

As I told a friend recently, I don't believe we had bin Laden in our grasp or sights and then just let go because those exact fighters of ours were suddenly needed in Iraq.  In Afghanistan, we have more allies helping us, and like you say we had more immediate justification.  OTOH, once al Qaida leadership fled, we are left to fight the Taliban whose main 'crime' was to harbor al Qaida (who fled).  The story of heroin crop yields seems to me as just negativists looking for data and finding it.  Are we managing crops fields or fighting terror.  Afghanistan pre-war was an economy, as George Gilder put it, incapable of manufacturing a flashlight.  BTW, isn't the plant of heroin also source of legal drugs such as morphine I received after being hit by a car?

You supported the invasion then.  You support staying now.  We all suffer war fatigue and for me I am experiencing that lakeside, sipping something cool on a beautiful and comfortable Minnesota summer afternoon.  Imagine how the soldiers feel in desert heat.

So we second guess and use hindsight to judge strategies, and that's okay.  That's what these boards are for.  We should have surged sooner? Maybe. We should have known this would be difficult.  Maybe we needed our accumulated knowledge base in Iraq for this surge to succeed, if it is.  And maybe these tactics would have cost more lives if tried sooner.  I don't know.  For me, rather than blame the prosecutors of the war, it is a little more obvious to blame the dissenters of the war for lifting the spirits and giving the enemy encouragement to keep going in spite of all the errors they too have made.

Americans will stay on to watch the peace post-war?  I suppose so.  We are still in europe and Asia.   Not really a hidden agenda when the repeated theme is to fight them there so we won't have to fight them here.
5868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 09, 2007, 10:44:26 PM
My comments on the latest Stratfor Iraq post regarding talks between the US, Iran and Saudi: First, I always find them well-informed and insightful. They are certainly correct in pointing out the complexities.

I know they are trying to take a different angle, but it hard to read an analysis in Aug 2007 that doesn't contain the word 'surge'. Also hard to understand how the Saudi Kingdom is a major player when Strat concedes they are no miliatary match for Iran.  Also they might have been the next annexed 'province' of Saddam in 1990-1991 if not for the military of the U.S. Remember "Desert Shield"?

Quoting the last sentence / conclusion of Stratfor: "These talks not only are enormously important but they also are, in some ways, more important than the daily reports on combat and terrorism. If this war ends, it will end because of negotiations like these."

IMO, yes and no.  The 'talks' will succeed only as Iran sees us 'winning' on the ground, not because of mutual interests.  Nothing (again IMO) favors Iran more than a widely publicized and humiliating  American defeat next door.  Specifically, the perception of American quagmire in Iraq is what gives Iran the freedom to speak of wiping Israel off the map and to pursue banned weapons programs without consequence.
5869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: August 09, 2007, 10:11:25 PM
A brief political insight from Paul Mirengoff of Powerlineblog.com this week.   Opposing replies welcome. 

The difference between a liberal and a leftist

Democrats are fond of arguing that we should withdraw from Iraq so we can fight more effectively on the "real" battlefields in the war on terror in Afghanistan and perhaps Pakistan. But at the Contentions blog, Max Boot maintains that defeat in Iraq will make it more difficult to fight in Afghanistan and to counter terrorists in Pakistan. Boot points to a report in the Washington Post that Pakistan's dictator Musharraf has complained that his leverage over tribal militants has slipped because their leaders are less fearful of the U.S. given our difficulties in Iraq. Boot suggests that U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would accentuate this trend.

The point is a rather obvious one -- failure to succeed at war reduces a nation's ability to exert influence and emboldens a nation's enemies and potential enemies. This may not be a rationale for continuing to fight a lost cause. However, recent developments in Iraq strongly suggest that the cause there is not lost.

If the Democrats push for defeat in Iraq under these circumstances, it would be difficult not to conclude that either (a) they would like to see the U.S. unable to exert influence in the world or (b) they have no understanding of how the world works. Option (a) provides a good working definition of an American leftist; option (b) of an American liberal.
5870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: July 31, 2007, 02:56:00 PM
Interesting post, no shoot the messenger is intended with my 2cents worth aimed back at Mr. Rubin.

First point in my mind on foreign policy is that this administration has broken its back in the effort to KEEP its promises, namely the fight in Iraq and efforts to shut down the functional organizations of known terrorists.  If we had the slightest support at home or from our allies in the current struggles we might have won already and have the resources to help Turkey secure its border (before we secure ours).  If I recall correctly, the first thing to go wrong in this war was when Turkey, our alleged ally and NATO member, shut down our access into Iraq from the north. That cost us time, lives and resources that are now hard to come by.  Being an ally is a 2-way street.  While we are almost the only ones doing anything to secure Iraq, Turkey says we aren't doing enough? How do I say nicely...f*** them.

His recap of 2002 statements about Israel and Palestinian issues reminds me of parent child explanations I have had to make with my daughter.  Sometimes we change our plans with new circumstances or new strategies.  I have no idea what the right answers are with the Palestinians, but I hope that in an 8 year presidency we have the right to change our approaches and change our thinking.  Criticism aside, we ARE doing enough to encourage middle east peace.

The President's promise to encourage democratic movements rings hollow in Egypt???  Once again, my God, we aren't doing enough in the Middle East??? And an American intervention in Egypt would be welcomed by whom?  Certainly not the Egyptians or the Democrats or media in America.  Or the voters.

We backstabbed Japan on North Korea???  We were the ones who insisted on the 6 party talks to INCLUDE JAPAN and correctly refused to let this be N.Korea vs. USA issue.  I wish we could bomb their facilities into oblivion but no one can say that would have eased the anti-US sentiments around the globe or satisfied one critic.

Likewise with Taiwan.  They weren't crushed under G.W.Bush's watch.  Without US backing they would have been.  Dealing with China without war is a delicate situation and whatever Bush's cowboy image may be, we mostly used finesse to get cooperation and no one (other than perhaps me) seriously thinks we should be bringing down the regime and liberating the people.

"Kicking diplomatic problems down the road is not a strategy."  - Yes it is.  Achieving stability in Iraq and defeat of current adversaries does help the democratic movements elsewhere and make the world smaller for the remaining bloody tyrants and rogue regimes. JMHO.
5871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 30, 2007, 11:14:22 AM
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article2159249.ece

The Sunday Times (of London)
July 29, 2007
Musharraf risks civil war as he invades the Al-Qaeda badlands
Pakistan’s president takes on the Islamic militants who have set up a rogue state on his country’s wild north

IN North Waziristan, the wild border land that America hopes will be Osama Bin Laden’s graveyard, the normally busy roads are almost deserted and the fear is pervasive. Army helicopters sweep the valleys at night hunting for Al-Qaeda militants as troops and gunmen exchange artillery and rocket fire.

America and Britain regard this usually autonomous tribal area - where Bin Laden is long believed to have been hiding - as the logistics centre of Islamic terrorist attacks around the world.

President Pervez Musharraf sees it as the centre of a campaign to “Talibanise” Pakistan. Spurred on by Washington, he has abandoned a truce with Waziristan’s Islamist guerrillas and ordered his army to root them out.

There are believed to be about 8,000 gunmen – a mix of foreign Al-Qaeda volunteers, Afghan Taliban, Pakistani Islamists and local Waziris whose families have for centuries fought off any attempt to impose outside rule on this area. In modern times, even map-makers have been shot to hide the region’s mysteries from the outside world.

Last week soldiers sealed all the roads into Miran Shah, the provincial capital, occupied the hills around it and fired the first artillery salvo in what Musharraf’s many critics have called a war on his own people.

On Friday morning the army moved into parts of Miran Shah itself after militants blew up government buildings overnight. Most of the 60,000 townspeople are feared trapped, but hundreds of families have fled their mud homes in villages nearby and headed east for the sanctuary of Bannu, a town in the neighbouring North West Frontier province.
5872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 30, 2007, 09:38:56 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/30/opinion/30pollack.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

A War We Just Might Win
By MICHAEL E. O’HANLON and KENNETH M. POLLACK

VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.

Everywhere, Army and Marine units were focused on securing the Iraqi population, working with Iraqi security units, creating new political and economic arrangements at the local level and providing basic services — electricity, fuel, clean water and sanitation — to the people. Yet in each place, operations had been appropriately tailored to the specific needs of the community. As a result, civilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began — though they remain very high, underscoring how much more still needs to be done.

In Ramadi, for example, we talked with an outstanding Marine captain whose company was living in harmony in a complex with a (largely Sunni) Iraqi police company and a (largely Shiite) Iraqi Army unit. He and his men had built an Arab-style living room, where he met with the local Sunni sheiks — all formerly allies of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups — who were now competing to secure his friendship.

In Baghdad’s Ghazaliya neighborhood, which has seen some of the worst sectarian combat, we walked a street slowly coming back to life with stores and shoppers. The Sunni residents were unhappy with the nearby police checkpoint, where Shiite officers reportedly abused them, but they seemed genuinely happy with the American soldiers and a mostly Kurdish Iraqi Army company patrolling the street. The local Sunni militia even had agreed to confine itself to its compound once the Americans and Iraqi units arrived.

We traveled to the northern cities of Tal Afar and Mosul. This is an ethnically rich area, with large numbers of Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens. American troop levels in both cities now number only in the hundreds because the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate. Reliable police officers man the checkpoints in the cities, while Iraqi Army troops cover the countryside. A local mayor told us his greatest fear was an overly rapid American departure from Iraq. All across the country, the dependability of Iraqi security forces over the long term remains a major question mark.

But for now, things look much better than before. American advisers told us that many of the corrupt and sectarian Iraqi commanders who once infested the force have been removed. The American high command assesses that more than three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable partners (at least for as long as American forces remain in Iraq).

In addition, far more Iraqi units are well integrated in terms of ethnicity and religion. The Iraqi Army’s highly effective Third Infantry Division started out as overwhelmingly Kurdish in 2005. Today, it is 45 percent Shiite, 28 percent Kurdish, and 27 percent Sunni Arab.

In the past, few Iraqi units could do more than provide a few “jundis” (soldiers) to put a thin Iraqi face on largely American operations. Today, in only a few sectors did we find American commanders complaining that their Iraqi formations were useless — something that was the rule, not the exception, on a previous trip to Iraq in late 2005.

The additional American military formations brought in as part of the surge, General Petraeus’s determination to hold areas until they are truly secure before redeploying units, and the increasing competence of the Iraqis has had another critical effect: no more whack-a-mole, with insurgents popping back up after the Americans leave.

In war, sometimes it’s important to pick the right adversary, and in Iraq we seem to have done so. A major factor in the sudden change in American fortunes has been the outpouring of popular animus against Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups, as well as (to a lesser extent) against Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

These groups have tried to impose Shariah law, brutalized average Iraqis to keep them in line, killed important local leaders and seized young women to marry off to their loyalists. The result has been that in the last six months Iraqis have begun to turn on the extremists and turn to the Americans for security and help. The most important and best-known example of this is in Anbar Province, which in less than six months has gone from the worst part of Iraq to the best (outside the Kurdish areas). Today the Sunni sheiks there are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies. Just a few months ago, American marines were fighting for every yard of Ramadi; last week we strolled down its streets without body armor.

Another surprise was how well the coalition’s new Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working. Wherever we found a fully staffed team, we also found local Iraqi leaders and businessmen cooperating with it to revive the local economy and build new political structures. Although much more needs to be done to create jobs, a new emphasis on microloans and small-scale projects was having some success where the previous aid programs often built white elephants.

In some places where we have failed to provide the civilian manpower to fill out the reconstruction teams, the surge has still allowed the military to fashion its own advisory groups from battalion, brigade and division staffs. We talked to dozens of military officers who before the war had known little about governance or business but were now ably immersing themselves in projects to provide the average Iraqi with a decent life.

Outside Baghdad, one of the biggest factors in the progress so far has been the efforts to decentralize power to the provinces and local governments. But more must be done. For example, the Iraqi National Police, which are controlled by the Interior Ministry, remain mostly a disaster. In response, many towns and neighborhoods are standing up local police forces, which generally prove more effective, less corrupt and less sectarian. The coalition has to force the warlords in Baghdad to allow the creation of neutral security forces beyond their control.

In the end, the situation in Iraq remains grave. In particular, we still face huge hurdles on the political front. Iraqi politicians of all stripes continue to dawdle and maneuver for position against one another when major steps towards reconciliation — or at least accommodation — are needed. This cannot continue indefinitely. Otherwise, once we begin to downsize, important communities may not feel committed to the status quo, and Iraqi security forces may splinter along ethnic and religious lines.

How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

Michael E. O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Kenneth M. Pollack is the director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.
5873  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 28, 2007, 06:07:19 PM
Quoting Tom:"THERE WERE NO WEAPONS OF MASS DESCTRUCTION when we invaded Iraq.
Simple as that. There fore the excuse for going into Iraq due to the fact theres was no WMD just dosen't fly..."

All the best intelligence in the world said there was and the burden of proof was on him .  There is no do-over.  All the best intelligence still says he maintained everything necessary to re-constitute his  'past' programs.  Are you now saying his shell game compliance was sufficient or that his previous surrender agreement was not binding?

"Ia'm no Bush lied person"  - ok, but you wrote recently: "my opinon a personal vendetta by Bush", that's a pretty fine distinction IMO.

"If you read my posts you'll see where I have stated several times my support for the Iraq war and I voted for Bush twice...Iam one who at least can admit we F'D that one WAY UP."

That you have changed your view doesn't mean for certain that you are correct now. Smiley  - Doug


5874  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: July 28, 2007, 04:50:49 PM
Crafty: "Is this true?"  - If you mean that former Senator and Energy Secretary Republican Spencer Abraham of Michigan joined the non-campaign campaign at the top level, yes. The rest of her hit piece concludes that Thompson can't be trusted for associating with such a bad, bad man.  On that question I'll take a watch and see attitude. Seems to me that Thompson writes his own position papers, unlike probably any other candidate except Newt.  Thompson's views on key issues are decidedly conservative. They are extremely clear with an un-erasable paper trail.  And he has no history or tendency toward flip-flopping.  In this story he reaches out to moderate and liberal Republicans, possibly independents. I see that as a good thing.

Abraham was elected (and defeated) in Michigan, a Democrat state that was almost in play in 2004. He is accused of being pro-immigration - so am I.  He voted 'wrong' on a bill that included cracking down on expired green card holders.  Maybe there were other considerations, and that was PRE-911. It's implied that he is pro-jihad, but I don't know any Christians from Lebanon that are less aware of the dangers of Islamic extremism than any of us here. 

Missing from the piece about the energy secretary is ANY comment on his energy policies or views, other than security.  Energy policy is one of the most important issues we face.  I take it by omission that she had no major quarrel with him on the details of energy policy.

Speaking of moderates in high places, Reagan picked Richard Schweiker in 1976 and George H.W. in 1980 as running mates as his strategy to win.  That didn't cause Reagan to check with his VP or campaign manager before he cut taxes or shouted out 'tear down this wall'.
--
Regarding Newt - excellent video. I will vote for him if nominated.  IMO he needs to demonstrate he can get moderate support and crossover votes before conservatives will trust him to win.  The liberal playbook says he served divorce papers on his first wife on her hospital death bed and had an ongoing affair with a staffer during the Clinton impeachment.  Rather than refute charges, he came out to admit non-specific sins. I know these are strange comments in a race where all have baggage, but there are moderates who just can't get past the hypocrisy. God forgives, Republicans don't. As a conservative, I credit him for what he accomplished, but also remember he risked what we worked for and lost it.(MHO)
--

Back to Fred Thompson, here is the Washington Post yesterday:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/26/AR2007072602247.html?nav=rss_politics

In Online Writings, Thompson Flashes His Conservative Credentials

On the Internet sites where conservatives gather to read and chat each day, Fred D. Thompson, the as-yet-unannounced Republican presidential candidate, has been laying out his positions on dozens of issues with little public notice and plenty of rhetorical flair.

The Virginia Tech massacre, he said, showed that students should be allowed to carry guns "to protect themselves on their campuses," and he said the university's ban on legal guns may have contributed to how long the shooter was able to keep killing.
   
Scientists who insist that global warming is ruining nature, he said, are like those true believers four centuries ago who insisted that the Earth is flat. "Ask Galileo," he said.

As for Congress's recent attempt at an immigration overhaul, that was nothing more than a "legislative pig" with lipstick that hid the United States' failure to secure its borders. "A nation without secure borders will not long be a sovereign nation," he warned.

The musings seem to constitute Thompson's early effort at assuring the core conservatives of the Republican Party that he is one of them -- despite his run-ins with the bloc as a U.S. senator who supported campaign finance reform and opposed federal limits on malpractice lawsuits and attorneys' fees.

"They were wildly popular," said Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, where three dozen commentaries by Thompson have been posted since he started testing the presidential waters in March. "It was a great way to introduce himself. He had just the right balance of red meat and substance to feed a conservative audience -- at least as an opener."

Thompson's writings could prove problematic in a general election, where he would have to win over moderate voters.

"Today, everything is out there forever, and you don't have any luxury of claiming there was a misunderstanding," said Ed Rollins, a veteran Republican strategist. "If a campaign is putting some of these comments out there, they are going to have to live with them for the rest of the campaign."

Rollins knows the benefits and risks of an actor-turned-politician's use of a "commentary campaign" to burnish conservative credentials before a run for the White House. He worked for Ronald Reagan, who for years used radio commentaries and columns to lay out his vision for America before running for president.

Thompson mostly writes his own articles, often borrowing material from the commentaries he gives on ABC Radio as a frequent contributor to Paul Harvey's show, aides said. In addition to his articles on National Review Online, Thompson has posted to the Townhall.com blog and placed podcasts on RedState.com, including a three-part, issue-oriented interview.

Aides said Thompson's writings and Web postings began a year or so ago as an effort to repurpose his radio commentaries. But they have taken on a life of their own now that Thompson is considering running for president, and giving him a forum to lay out his positions.
   
They have helped distinguish Thompson from many candidates in the race, said Mark Levin, a conservative talk radio host with 4 million listeners. Thompson has appeared on his show four times in the past four months.

"Most of the other candidates -- other than an issue here or there -- are trying to conceal their viewpoints in which they think they will offend some portion of the electorate," Levin said. "Thompson comes out, and he is unafraid of articulating his viewpoints. He's not trying to camouflage them."

Thompson's writings seem certain to appeal to key elements of the Republican base.

"Let me ask you a hypothetical question," Thompson wrote in defending Israel's military responses during the Palestinian conflict. "What do you think America would do if Canadian soldiers were firing dozens of missiles every day into Buffalo, N.Y.? . . . I can tell you, our response would look nothing like Israel's restrained and pinpoint reactions to daily missile attacks from Gaza."

His commentary on the Virginia Tech shootings -- titled "Signs of Intelligence?" -- suggested that the university's gun ban was a reason the gunman was not stopped sooner.

"One of the things that's got to be going through a lot of peoples' minds now is how one man with two handguns, that he had to reload time and time again, could go from classroom to classroom on the Virginia Tech campus without being stopped," Thompson wrote. "Much of the answer can be found in policies put in place by the university itself."

"Virginia Tech administrators overrode Virginia state law and threatened to expel or fire anybody who brings a weapon onto campus," he wrote. "Many other universities have been swayed by an anti-gun, anti-self defense ideology. I respect their right to hold those views, but I challenge their decision to deny Americans the right to protect themselves on their campuses."

Thompson also derided Congress's failed immigration legislation, demanding that its supporters "explain why putting illegals in a more favorable position than those who play by the rules is not really amnesty."

Thompson seems to have taken particular pleasure in mocking global warming.

"It seems scientists have noticed recently that quite a few planets in our solar system seem to be heating up a bit, including Pluto. . . . This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non signatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air-conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle," he wrote.
5875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 27, 2007, 05:54:33 PM
"Doug, If you want to hold on to the WMD thingy I also got a hand full of air for you...with about as much substance."

Didn't appreciate the ridicule.  My reasons follow; you are welcome to discount each piece as you see fit.  IMO the 'Bush lied' crowd is over-hyping their hand more than Bush, Blair, Powell, Cheney did.

Nuclear: Israel struck the Osirak facility in 1981 and the Americans finished it off in 1991.  Best information I know of concludes that Saddam was working on nuclear capabilities.  Even Joe Wilson's original report said he was trying to buy yellow cake in Niger.

He gassed his own people, right? Evidence: witnesses and mass graves.  The Downing Street memos said the Brits feared he would use WMD Bio and/or Chem against the liberators.  To not find stockpiles after giving a year to hide, move, transfer or destroy doesn't prove anything to me.  I think the 'lies' (exaggerations) about WMD capabilities came from Saddam's inner circle.  A bad move for him in hindsight.  I'll tack on further WMD info at the end of the post.

"Proof is in the pudding,so they say....as for the ties to terrorism.......don't suppose you could name any for instances could you? I mean actual for instances...not just accusational or theory ones."

Sorry I don't know where your distinction between actual and accusatory lies.  I'm only telling you why I believe what I do, not trying to change your mind or 'prove' you wrong. 1) Saddam's regime provided major financial support for suicide bombers; I didn't know that was still in dispute. 2) Saddam's Iraq was tied to the first WTC bombing in 1993.  3) Actively shooting at US planes doing their lawful UN enforcement routes. 4) Gassed his own people.  Terror, right? 5) Terror inside Iraq such as the story of Dujaille.  Have you read the story that led to his death sentence and just hanging.  Certainly it was all about using terror to hold on to power.  How else did he win 99.9$ of the vote? 5) Attempted Assassination of President Bush by Iraqi Agents, April 14, 1993.  I don't b elieve you have to be the target's son for a sitting President to take that act personally.  6) Ties to al Qaida.  Iraq Study group concluded: NO COLLABORATIVE, OPERATIONAL RELATIONSHIP.  I find that more parsed than Clinton pondering the meaning of what is is.  They didn't say no relationship.  They didn't say no meetings.  The didn't say no harboring or training camps.  And they didn't say no common enemy as a motive.  Remember the action in Iraq was not to avenge 9/11, it was to preempt future attacks. 

A bizarre story always stuck in my mind that no one else seems to care about.  I'm happy to post here if it wasn't covered back then.  Saddam's state newspaper named the targets than bin Laden would hit 2 MONTHS before 9/11.  It was subtle and in the floweriest of terms and had no real meaning without hindsight, then became prescient.  On July 21, 2001 [less than two months prior to 911] the Iraqi state-controlled newspaper "Al-Nasiriya" predicted that bin Laden would attack the U.S. "with the seriousness of the Bedouin of the desert about the way he will try to bomb the Pentagon after he destroys the White House." The same state-approved column also insisted that bin Laden "will strike America on the arm that is already hurting," and that the U.S. "will curse the memory of Frank Sinatra every time he hears his songs" - an apparent reference to the Sinatra classic, "New York, New York."  This was entered into the Congressional Record on Sept.12 2002  by Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC). http://www.uscg.mil/Legal/Homeland_legislation/Text/091202%20Homeland%20Security.txt http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getpage.cgi?position=all&page=S8526&dbname=2002_record
--

WMD programs and capabilities continued:

Nuclear
   
    * Acquired nuclear material for small civilian nuclear program during the Atoms for Peace program in the mid-1950s.
    * Nuclear weapons program began in mid 1970s as a response to a perceived Israeli nuclear weapons program.
    * 1976, a $300 million deal completed between the French and the Iraqis for two nuclear reactors: a 40MW(th) reactor that the French dubbed "Osirak," and an 800kW(th) reactor called Isis. The Iraqis called the reactors Tammuz-1 and Tammuz-2.
    * Osirak (Tammuz-1) was destroyed by an Israeli aerial bombing campaign in June, 1981.
    * In 1990, Iraq launched a crash program to divert reactor fuel under IAEA safeguards to produce nuclear weapons.
    * Iraq considered two delivery options for nuclear weapons: either using unmodified al-Hussein ballistic missile with 300km range, or producing Al-Hussein derivative with 650km range.
    * Until 1991, Iraq had a nuclear weapon development program that involved 10,000 personnel, and had a multi-year budget totaling approximately $10 billion.
    * After the Gulf War of 1991, the Iraqi nuclear weapons program progressively decayed due to Coalition bombing and UNSCOM disarmament efforts.
    * April 1991, UNSC Resolution 687 adopted enabling the IAEA to carry out immediate on-site inspection of Iraq's nuclear capabilities and carry out a plan for the destruction, removal or rendering harmless of prohibited items.
    * August 1991, UNSC Resolution 707 adopted demanding Iraq "halt all nuclear activities of any kind, except for use of isotopes for medical, agricultural, or industrial purposes."
    * Saddam retained intellectual capital (scientists) for the possibility for restarting a nuclear program post 1991.
        * November 15th, 1991, the first removal of highly enriched uranium from Iraq. An IAEA cargo flight carrying 42 fresh fuel elements from the IRT-5000 5 megawatt light water research reactor at Al Tuwaitha, and 6.6 kilograms of uranium-235 left Baghdad for Moscow.
    * Iraq Survey Group's (ISG) inquiry found Iraq concealed elements of its nuclear program from inspectors after 1991, including the hiding of documents, technology, and attempting to maintain the brain trust of scientists who had earlier worked on the nuclear program; this conclusion echoes the statements made by Hussein Kamel upon his defection in 1995.
    * In 2004 Jafar Dhia Jafar, former head of Iraq's nuclear agency, announces all weapons programs had been destroyed after 1991, at which point they had been 2-3 years away from producing a nuclear weapon (2006-2007).
   
Biological
   
    * Signed the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention in 1972. The Convention prohibited development, production and stockpiling of biological weapons.
    * The Iraqi Ministry of Defense published a manual in 1987 entitled Principles of Using Chemical and Biological Agents in Warfare, including a section on military use of biological agents with instruction for small attacks and sabotage operations before a general offensive begins.
    * The timing of the publications suggests the use of such tactics in the Iran-Iraq war.
    * Iraq authorized use of BW against Israel, Saudi Arabia and US forces prior to the 1991 Gulf war, should the need arise.
    * Post 1991, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 687, authorizing UNSCOM and the IAEA to implement on-site inspections of the facilities in Iraq believed to be related to WMD production.
    * Resolution 687 required Iraq to declare and destroy all holdings of biological weapons.
    * Upon commencement of the inspections, Iraq declared despite a biological weapons research and design program for defense purposes, no offensive biological weapons (BW) program existed.
    * Ratified the BTWC on 4/18/91, as required by the Gulf War cease-fire agreement.
    * 1995, Saddam's son-in-law and advisor General Hussein Kamel defected and admitted to destroying all weapons programs, including biological, though research and design elements were preserved.
    * Iraq acknowledged open-air testing of biological agents between March 1988 and January 1991 including Bacillus anthracis, Bacillus subtilis, botulinum toxin, aflatoxin, and ricin at facilities such as al-Muhammadiyat, Khan Bani Saad, Jurf al-Sakr Firing Range, and the Abu Obeydi Airfield.
    * Conducted research on BW dissemination using unmanned aerial vehicles.
   
Chemical
   
    * Established Chemical Corps in the mid-1960s, foundation of the future CW program. The Corps were tasked with the nuclear, biological and chemical protection of Iraqi troops and civilians.
    * Mid 1970s, the Corps developed a laboratory-scale facility which later synthesized chemical warfare agents and evaluated their properties.
    * Repeatedly used CW against Iraqi Kurds in 1988 and against Iran in 1983-1988 during the Iran-Iraq war.
    * Due to CW success in the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam viewed this type of warfare as efficient and necessary in defensive and offensive strategy.
    * Saddam considered his chemical weapons program to be a deterrent to Coalition forces moving toward Baghdad in 1991.
    * ISG found all CW holdings had been destroyed in 1991 after the Gulf War as a result of Saddam's desire to have sanctions lifted.
    * Throughout the 1990s, Iraq maintained a trust of scientists that had worked on the previous CW program.
    * Chemical programs were reinstituted in the mid-1990s due to a brief period of economic recovery.
    * An extensive CW arsenal–including 38,537 munitions, 690 tons of CW agents, and over 3,000 tons of CW precursor chemicals–was destroyed by UNSCOM prior to the inspectors' withdrawal in 1998.
   
5876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 25, 2007, 01:11:16 PM
Tom,  For me, the 'WMD thingy' and ties to terrorism argument still holds.  Also to me, success in Iraq now is closely related to success in Iran later.  And so is failure.

"Doug..... Can you tell me who is heading up your so called insurgency? Thats all I was looking for when I came upon the article. It would be nice to know WHO we are fighting in Iraq......care to name a name?"

I should disclose I am a civilian sitting in a secure, Midwest living room.  The closest I've come to seeing a real  battle lately was the Nidal-Federer match.  Hope I didn't pretend to know more than I do.  I know that author and the MN Daily are among the furthest left in the nation, criticizing Michael Moore for his conservatism. Their view of a good outcome and lasting peace isn't likely to be similar to mine, though facts can be stubborn.  Their headline says they address your question.  My point is that they don't.  From what I gather our enemy is now primarily groups like al Qaida in Iraq which are not necessarily top-down organizations with easy to identify leaders and headquarters. I have no way of knowing if former Ba'athists creating havoc play a bigger or smaller role than the foreign fighters.  I have seen names of former insurgent Sunni leaders as they come to the table and I have names of enemy leaders like Zarqawi at their death, but I certainly don't know the names you are looking for, insurgency commanders.  I'm not sure what you are getting at by asking.  I think one reason the US didn't make a headline battle out of the hunt for OBL is that the battles would not end with the ousting of one man.
5877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 25, 2007, 11:58:39 AM
Regarding the MN Daily piece "Who is the enemy"  from my alma mater, the student newspaper at the U. of MN,  that assessment doesn't match what Gen. Petraeus said last week.  I see from Bob Woodward's column that the Michael Hayden report was from Nov. 2006, probably the lowest point in the war.  Petraeus this year makes a very different analysis.

Seems to me the question of 'who is the enemy' is different from the question of where is violence coming from.  That distinction is lost in the piece.  If we are fighting against Sunnis, Shia (and Kurds?) then all is obviously lost.  The other theory is that the public for the most part and most leaders of Sunni, Shia and Kurd groups as well as the central government are with us wanting security, stability, peace and political settlement.  If that is true then an insurgency can be defeated, but only with a determined fight over a long period of time.

ps. I see war opponents quick to quote CIA information when negative but aren't previous CIA errors also the centerpiece of what has gone wrong so far?
5878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 24, 2007, 06:46:05 PM
CD: "Doug, I tried but couldn't get it to play for me." (Charlie Rose interview of NY Time Baghdad Bureau Chief)

Here's how I got there: go to: http://www.charlierose.com/schedule/ click on July 17, and click on the photo and the interview started. I think it uses adobe flash 9.
5879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 21, 2007, 10:30:13 PM
I highly recommend listening to Charlie Rose interviewing NY Time Baghdad Bureau Chief John Burns on Tues. July 17: http://www.charlierose.com/schedule/  Sorry I can't find a transcript.  Burns argues very persuasively that American military forces are an inhibitor, not a provocateur of the violence in Iraq and that there will be a cataclysmic escalation of violence if the Americans forces leave.  He acknowledges there is also enormous cost and makes no judgment on the issue of withdrawal.  He says: " After all, I'm a reporter."  He calls the issue in congress an agonizing, agonizing decision.
5880  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: July 20, 2007, 01:31:39 PM
Scolding of Crafty aside, I found this source/link: Ralph Peters, NY Sun, http://www.nypost.com/seven/07192007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/twisting_intel_opedcolumnists_ralph_peters.htm

The political point goes both ways regarding military service.  I find it petty when used in that context.  Maybe the author is having some fun or getting revenge with the people who tortured Bush who did serve and Cheney who used college deferments like most who could.  Obviously it is not a prerequisite for Democrats as none of the front runners served nor for Republicans. I agree. I believe in civilian rule of the country and our military. I wish the cheapshot artists would check the candidates for competence on economic issues as closely as they check for military service.
5881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 19, 2007, 12:29:41 PM
I heard General Petraeus interviewed on the radio yesterday and found it to be a worthwhile listen or read for what is happening there right now.
Audio link (34 minutes)here: http://www.townhall.com/talkradio/Show.aspx?RadioShowID=5
Transcript: http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/Transcript_Page.aspx?ContentGuid=484182dc-bf7c-42a7-ac74-9e270a9ef0f2
5882  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: July 18, 2007, 11:37:51 AM
I find it interesting to review pre-9/11/2001 writings about risks and preparedness with the benefit now of hindsight. This is from the Journal of the Air Force Association, http://www.afa.org/magazine/Dec2000/1200base_print.html December 2000. In the 1990s we were basking in  the so-called 'peace dividend' which meant world war risk was gone and preparedness for a couple of regional conflicts was adequate.  Then we cut drastically below those levels. 
--

 "Ten years ago this month, DoD officially began transforming its Cold War force into the Base Force. A military that long had been preoccupied with global war started shedding 500,000 troops and focusing on regional conflicts.
This step-pushed hard by Gen. Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-came only after a major Pentagon struggle, one ably chronicled in "The Development of the Base Force: 1989-1992" by Lorna S. Jaffe of the JCS Joint History Office.
As Jaffe's 1993 study showed, the changeover was painful and hard-fought. The four service chiefs opposed the cuts. President Bush's Defense Secretary, Dick Cheney, did not approve the plan until convinced he could reverse the drawdown. Powell himself saw the Base Force as the minimum required for superpower responsibilities.
After taking office in January 1993, the newly elected President, Bill Clinton, launched his own defense review. The outcome was the elimination of 300,000 more troops, six more Air Force wings, two more Army divisions, and 150 more Navy warships. It marked the end of the Base Force."
5883  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea on: July 18, 2007, 11:06:11 AM
The North Koreans shut down a known reactor and the South Koreans delivered oil to them.  The difference between this and the Clinton agreement is that this administration is reacting with caution, acknowledging that other covert reactors may still exist.  Bill Clinton and Madeline Albright reacted with an end zone dance that could have made Randy Moss blush.

What I fail to grasp is why a rogue NK is useful to China in 2007. 
--

National Security Director Steven Hadley on Fox News Sunday: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,289361,00.html

"It's a first step in implementing an agreement that was reached last February, which is part of an overall framework of a year ago September, and under that framework, they need to give up their entire nuclear program."

[Understood. But what effect — what practical effect does the shutdown at Yongbyon have on their ability to continue to produce nuclear devices?]

"It means they will no longer be able to process to produce the plutonium from which they — of those nuclear weapons that are made out of plutonium.  We have concerns they may have a covert enrichment program. That will be the next subject of discussions..."

[And that's a uranium deal, right?]

"This is basically enriching uranium to the point where it can be used for nuclear weapons."

[Harder to do than with plutonium, correct?]

"Harder to do. We've had concerns they have a covert program. They at one point admitted that program.  But the route that they have used to date is the reprocessing route. That will be shut down. That route will be cut off, assuming these facilities are shut down.  We will then pursue to work through toward disabling, ultimately dismantling that program, getting a full accounting of what they've been doing with any covert enrichment program, and finally getting them to turn over any nuclear materials from which nuclear weapons have or could be made."
5884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea on: July 18, 2007, 05:56:54 AM
I think this is the article you were posting,  I don't understand either China's strategy or Stratfor's analysis of it.

China: Fearing a U.S.-North Korean Thaw
July 16, 2007 20 42  GMT

Summary

The six-party nuclear talks are slated to resume July 18 in Beijing now that North Korea has shut down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor. Before then, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill will hold a bilateral meeting with North Korean chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan. The recent progress on the North Korean nuclear issue is raising new concerns in Beijing, sending it on a mission to reclaim its influence over the U.S.-North Korean relationship.

Analysis

Now that North Korea has shut down the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, the six-party nuclear talks have been set to resume July 18 in Beijing. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill will meet one-on-one with North Korean chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan before then.

Signs that Washington and Pyongyang might begin a series of bilateral security talks, coupled with the recent progress on the North Korean nuclear issue, have caused China some concern, prompting Beijing to seek to restore its influence over the U.S.-North Korean relationship.

China has hosted the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program, publicly calling numerous times for dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington. While Beijing sought to avoid another war on the Korean Peninsula, it knew such a scenario was very remote. It used its ties with, and influence over, North Korea to help manage Chinese relations with the United States, using its role as mediator and facilitator of the talks to reduce U.S. pressure on China in other areas.

However, the growing rift between Beijing and Pyongyang and the decline in North Korean reliance on Chinese exports steadily have eroded Beijing's ability to command obedience from Pyongyang. North Korean oil imports from Russia's Primorsky region via deals brokered through Moscow, for example, have risen precipitously in recent years. And while China still exerts influence over North Korea, Chinese oil stoppages no longer hold the bite they once did.

The long delay between the Feb. 13 agreement and North Korea's shutdown of Yongbyon was not a big problem for Beijing. While it did show some limitations of Beijing's ability to manipulate North Korea, it kept Washington looking to Beijing to keep North Korea in line. But the rapid shift -- just three weeks -- from the return of North Korean funds deposited in Macau's Banco Delta Asia (long a sticking point in the six-party process) to Pyongyang's announcement of the shutdown has left China concerned that the process is moving out of its control. Pyongyang's offer of direct bilateral defense talks with Washington and Washington's relatively positive response to this have magnified Chinese fears.

North Korea's offer of direct military talks with the United States, something that could be part of -- or a supplement to -- a peace accord between the two nations, sidesteps China's role as facilitator. China remains a signatory to the 1953 Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War, along with North Korea and the United States. (South Korea refused to sign at the time.) Washington's positive response, as well as rumors that the United States is even considering normalized relations with North Korea -- or at least a liaison office in Pyongyang -- is adding to China's sense of isolation.

For China, this is more than just the short-term issue of using North Korea's latest crisis as a lever in U.S.-Chinese relations; North Korean nuclear crises come and go. Rather, there is a deeper concern in Beijing regarding a true U.S.-North Korean rapprochement. North Korea is a critical component of China's buffer strategy. China has significant land borders and so has created a system of buffers to protect the heartland around the Yellow, Yangtze and Pearl rivers. This buffer zone was created over the course of China's history and includes Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet, among other parts of China. It offers strategic depth and supplements China's defense forces with natural barriers.

Historically, China viewed Korea as part of this buffer zone, even if it was not formally part of the Chinese nation. During the Korean War, the fear of losing North Korea as a strategic buffer to U.S. forces triggered Chinese intervention. And while Washington is currently not threatening to march up to the Yalu, China's need for North Korea as a strategic buffer remains strong. A saying used by the Chinese during the Korean War maintains that relations between China and North Korea are as close as lips and teeth: When the lips are gone, the teeth get cold. When North Korea ceases to be a friendly buffer state, China accordingly gets nervous and feels vulnerable.

For Beijing, helping the inter-Korean reconciliation process was not much of a concern. For geographic and economic reasons, a unified Korea would more than likely shift toward China -- but a U.S.-friendly North Korea is a different story. And even if it is unlikely that Washington and Pyongyang will make immediate friends and become close allies, Beijing is worried that it is losing control of the process, and thus its ability to shape its own strategic environment.

Beijing is now looking for a way to reclaim its influence over the U.S.-North Korean relationship. One method will be to press for four-party talks on shaping a peace accord. These talks would include China, the United States and the two Koreas, drawing on Seoul's similar concern that it is being left out of the U.S.-North Korean process. This would also help keep Russia out in the cold as far as influence over the six-party talks is concerned. Another means by which Beijing could address this issue would be to offer support for South Korean attempts to resurrect the North Korean economy by tying existing economic activities on the China-North Korea border to those on the inter-Korean border (such as the inter-Korean Kaesong industrial complex).

However remote, the threat Beijing perceives from any sign of a U.S.-North Korean rapprochement is very real. Hence, China's primary goal at the talks beginning July 18 will be to reclaim influence over the U.S.-North Korean relationship.
5885  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: July 17, 2007, 02:00:21 PM
I don't know what happened to Paul Craig Roberts but I liked him better before.  He enjoys the by-line of working for Reagan and the WSJ in the past but didn't get those jobs by advancing the types of views he writes now for anti-war.com and for 911 conspiracy sites.  His impeach-now view would make sense if he backed up his Bush staged the terrorism claim with a shred of evidence. No matter what actions Bush does or does not take with Iran, we aren't going to be in a "dictatorial police state" next year.  The '08 elections will be held on schedule, and it was misguided Jihadists, not an American conspiracy, who brought down the towers. JMHO.
5886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: July 17, 2007, 12:16:44 PM
Chavez losing popularity:

http://www.miamiherald.com/583/story/170406.html

Proposals for the unlimited reelection of President Hugo Chávez, the possibility of establishing a Cuba-like political system and the ''violent'' clash with Washington are rejected by most Venezuelans, according to a new poll unveiled Friday.

The poll by Hinterlaces, a Caracas think tank that carries out surveys and analysis for private clients, also showed that Chávez's popularity has dropped 13 points since November, from 52 percent to 39 percent.

Hinterlaces' figures indicated that the average Venezuelan is increasingly rejecting Chavismo's ideological agenda in key areas such as the rights of private property and the country's shift toward Cuban-style socialism.

''More than a revolution, what Venezuela is living is a process of democratic maturation and the remodeling of its political culture,'' said Oscar Schemel, president of Hinterlaces, which correctly predicted Chávez's landslide reelection in December.

The political interests of today's Venezuelans are ''the opposite of extremist speeches'' not only by Chávez, but also by his radical opposition, Schemel added.

He said Chávez's radical stances ''seem to run counter to the key ideas and meanings of the sociopolitical culture of Venezuela'' and are generating resistance among Venezuelans.

The latest Hinterlaces poll, which consulted 990 people in five major Venezuelan cities in May and June, showed the following results:

• 63 percent rejected unlimited presidential reelection.

• 47 percent opposed the establishment of socialism.

• 85 percent opposed Cuban-style socialism.

• 86 percent rejected the idea that ``to be rich is bad.''

• 87 percent supported private property.

• 75 percent rejected the ''violent and rude'' confrontation with Washington.

• 81 percent said the country needs new leaders.

Since his December reelection the leftist Chávez has stepped up his efforts to move Venezuela toward ''21st century socialism'' and pushed for a constitutional change to allow unlimited presidential reelection.

Hinterlaces first asked respondents whether they supported unlimited reelection in February, obtaining a 61 percent negative response. Other polling companies have obtained similar results.

The rejection of Chávez's ideological agenda shown in the polls ''has been consistent in the nine years of Chávez government,'' said Carlos Escalante, director of the Miami-based Inter-American Center for Political Management.

Escalante added, however, that he found it paradoxical that ``people don't want to look like Cuba, and prefer private property and keeping their freedom, yet each day the positive evaluation of Chávez remains high.''

The poll's release came one day after the pro-Chávez president of the national legislature, Cilia Florez, attacked what she called an attempt to ''manipulate the proposal for presidential reelection,'' saying it was not for indefinite reelection but rather ''continuous'' reelection.

''If a president has been running a country correctly and the people are satisfied with that rule, we cannot take away their opportunity to reelect that president,'' Florez said at a news conference.

 
5887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: July 17, 2007, 11:24:19 AM
Replying to a couple of recent posts here:

"Is he (Dick Morris) suggesting the individual cap gains should be taxed at the same rate as income?!?" - I think he is comparing her to the further left positions of Obama and Edwards.  Also, I think 50 states tax capital gains same as ordinary income (a crime IMO); the states were laughing to the bank when the fed rate was cut.

"Does anyone know what rate corporations pay on cap gains?" - 35% vs. 15% individual: http://www.nationalreview.com/nrof_comment/kerpen200604110850.asp

--

Commenting on the Richard Viguerie piece attacking Fred Thompson as no conservative leader:

First evidence shown is his former support for McCain Feingold, terrible legislation.  He now agrees at least parts of that were a mistake.  To me that was already the biggest issue that I disagree with Fred on, so the criticism provides no new light and skips intentionally the fact that he has had second thoughts.

Viguerie admits Thompson is more conservative than Giuliani, McCain or Romney.  From a conservative point of view, isn't that the point.  He goes on to show how Thompson with his moderate friends can't be painted into a far-right corner.  Isn't that the rest of the point - winning.

Thompson isn't pro-life enough? He's running against Giuliani - prochoice.  Then against Hillary Clinton most likely.  The President's role in this is to appoint good justices.  Seems to me both Giuliani and Thompson would do that.  Thompson played a leading role with the John Roberts confirmation.

A ho-hum career in the senate.  Yes, each vote can be picked apart.  Likewise for Hillary and Obama.  Great senators have different skills and strengths than great Presidents.  Thompson didn't find a permanent place for himself in the senate even though he could have easily won another term.  At 8 years he is still on par with his likely opponents.

I noticed the anti-Thompson opinions have picked up since both Rasmussen and Zogby show Thompson slightly edging Giuliani in their latest polls.  All before announcing.  http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/us/republican_presidential_nomination-192.html

I find that Thompson has quite a gift for expressing conservative views unapologetically. Viguerie says he doesn't have prominent conservatives in his inner circle.  In that case, like Reagan, it must be Thompson himself writing his own very clearly articulated conservative views.
5888  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: July 07, 2007, 12:52:13 PM
I refuse to believe that a congress with an approval gap 7 points worse that Bush, coming into an important election season, that can't seem to get anything done on anything will pass freedom of speech barring legislation that will prohibit the broadcast of a No. 1 show like Rush Limbaugh for example, and make joke balancing like they lamely attempt on Jay Leno to be the law.

That it used to be the law does not prove that this genie can be put back into the bottle.

I don't find compelling Roger's argument that successful shows pick the dumbest liberal caller in order to defeat that view.  In fact, these shows are loaded with real clips of liberal politicians in power, in their own words, with context largely preserved. Not with balance or equal time, but their views are discussed at length.

Missed in his analysis, it seems to me, is that the media was NOT balanced under the the last freedom of speech banning doctrine.  Rush's success and now so many others is based on the fact that a very widely held viewpoint, roughly called conservatism, was and still is under-expressed elsewhere.

Nor do I find compelling that statements like Michael Savage saying "Liberalism is a mental disorder" require a response.  I first do not put him in a category with conservatives.  And second, if I was a liberal strategist, I would not encourage prominent liberals to get on his show and raise his stature and balance.  I listened to enough Air America to know that either side can digress their message to that level, but the answer is already well stated in this thread - turn the dial, not try to regulate the hatefulness or opinions you find to be misguided.
5889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: July 07, 2007, 11:06:00 AM
VDH wrote about the threat to civil liberties this past week.  Always a worthwhile read IMO.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/07/the_real_threat_to_civil_liber.html
July 02, 2007
The Real Threat to Civil Liberties
By Victor Davis Hanson

A common liberal complaint against the Bush administration is its supposed trampling of civil liberties. The Patriot Act, wiretaps, and Guantanamo supposedly have undermined our freedoms--or so we are warned ad nauseam by liberal watchdogs.

True, we have not received any detailed analysis or cost/benefit ratios of how many deadly terrorist plots have been circumvented by these new controversial measures. The administration's past defense of tough interrogations abroad of suspected terrorists sounded to many a lot like an endorsement of torture-light. In any case, as the danger of another 9/11 fades after almost six years, the public seems to be backing off from such anti-terrorism measures--at least until another such mass murder takes place on our shores.

But at least the Patriot Act passed both houses of Congress with wide public support. In contrast, there are a variety of other assaults on personal freedoms, due process, and the sanctity of the law that leftwing moralists not only ignore, but often seem to endorse--as if the liberal ends should justify illiberal means.

First, take illegal immigration. Not only have we neglected to enforce federal immigration statutes, but also local communities, due to pressures from Hispanic lobbyists and tacit approval from employers, have passed local codes barring arrests of suspected illegal aliens.

Tens of thousands of regional and local government officials, along with law enforcements, have taken the law into their own hands by simply deciding not to enforce it.

Both employers and aliens--the former for profit, the latter with the expectation of ethnic solidarity and support--have simply flaunted the law with impunity. We don't talk about massive fraud in our Social Security system due to false names and numbers used by illegal aliens, but only in pragmatic terms of whether such flagrant disregard ultimately puts more into the system than it takes out.

The result is one of the most grievous examples of civil disobedience in our nation's history--with 12 million de facto exempt from the law. In fact, we haven't seen state and local government defy federal laws in such blatant fashion since the Jim Crow days when the states of the Old Confederacy were openly insurrectionist.

Second, every bit as dangerous as wiretaps are prosecutors who manipulate the law, either for personal, ideological or political reasons. And here too reappears a pattern in which perceived political liberalism seems to trump adherence to the spirit of the law.

In the so-called Duke rape case, now disbarred District Attorney Michael Nifong withheld evidence in his holy crusade to convict three innocent Duke Lacrosse players--in hopes of appeasing the lynch mob of local black activists and self-righteous university professors. But even before evidence was adduced--all exculpatory to the defendants--liberal forces had tried and convicted the falsely accused in the media in furtherance of their own leftwing race, class, and gender agendas.

In the case of Valerie Plame, a special prosecutor was selected to find out who outed supposedly covert status at the CIA. The common liberal allegation was that administration lackies had stooped to hound a CIA employee for the anti-war politicking of her husband Joe Wilson.

But very early on in Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald's investigation, two inconvenient truths emerged. Ms. Plame was not a covert agent as envisioned by the original mandate of the special prosecutor. And second, the culprit who disseminated knowledge of her employment in with the CIA was almost immediately revealed--former State Department official Richard Armitage.

But no matter. Armitage was out of office and had voiced misgivings about the Iraq war. Thus his early conviction would have earned little public attention, but might instead have ended the investigation before it could snowball in the daily press.

So Fitzgerald barreled ahead anyway on a new mission to satisfy the partisan lust for high-value scalps--hoping to find some top administration official guilty of something else in the growing labyrinth of competing testimonies.

Presto! Scooter Libby, Chief of the Vice President's staff was found to have offered contradictory evidence, and thus convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. We tend to think of smooth Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald as far more professional than the buffoonish Nifong. Maybe. But as was true of Nifong in the Duke rape case, Fitzgerald knew of information that might be fatal to his case--that early on Richard Armitage confessed to the leak--and yet neither apprised the public nor shut down his investigation.

Prosecutors pick and choose what charges to bring. When they either act unprofessionally or beyond their mandates, they have enormous, unchecked powers to undermine the very legal system that employs them.

Everyone has their own particular complaint about the modern Supreme Court's propensity to legislate new rather than interpret existing laws. But two years ago this June, they dismantled much of the constitutional protections of the right to hold private property.

In the Susette Kelo case, the court gave state and local officials unchecked rights of eminent domain to expropriate her house. The property was not condemned for a necessary bridge or public highway. Instead it was seized for "urban redevelopment"--even when the property in question was not blighted, and the urban renewal project was of questionable viability.

City officials were delighted. Their stock and trade have been to confiscate properties, sell them in sweet heart deals to wealthy insider developers--and paper over the entire shanigan with utopian rhetoric about helping the underclass.

Fourth, most recently Democrats have discussed reinstating some sort of "fairness" doctrine aimed at regulating talk radio. They are furious that the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Bill Bennett, Michael Savage, and a host of other conservatives dominate the AM airwaves--while Air America, Jerry Brown, Jim Hightower, Mario Cuomo, and other liberals have failed utterly to carve out a comparable audience in the marketplace of ideas and entertainment.

Once again, liberal civil libertarians are not so liberal about free speech when it is a matter of the public not buying into their own progressive agendas. We should remember that the public is free to choose--and advertisers respond accordingly--about what they wish to hear. Apparently, whiny sermons by nasal-droning elites about the illiberal nature of the yokel middle class is exactly what most on their way to work do not wish to endure.

Of course, conservatives likewise lament the imbalance of left-leaning public radio and television, the major networks such as NBC and CBS, the predominantly liberal print media, universities, the entertainment industry, and foundations. But the difference is that for the most part they are not calling for the government to mandate "fairness" by empowering federal bureaucrats to curb the liberal biases of these institutions.

It is stereotypically easy to identify authoritarians who seek restrict civil liberties during war in the name of "national security." But it is much harder to take on crusading special interest groups, district attorneys, court justices, and liberal Senators who ignore, twist, or subvert our constitutional freedoms under the liberal clarion call of helping minorities, stopping the war, or championing the underclass.

If we are to lose our civil liberties, it won't be all of sudden due to Patriot-Act zealots in sunglasses and flattops, but rather insidiously and incrementally by egalitarian professors, moral crusaders, muckraking journalists, and government utopians all unhappy that constitutional justice is too little and too late for their ever impatient desire to ensure heaven on earth.
Victor Davis Hanson
5890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 19, 2007, 06:12:35 PM
Tough, but vulnerable - a pretty good LA Times article on why Democrats are leaning toward Hillary.  I'm just the messenger here; I won't be voting for Hillary.

Excerpt: "Scars can become marks of distinction, and for those assessing her, some of Clinton's darkest White House moments now add to her character. Murphy and others saw her failure to overhaul healthcare less as an indication of flawed political judgment than as valuable preparation for a rematch."

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-brownstein13jun13,0,2765403.column?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

The tough, but vulnerable, front-runner
Hillary Clinton's experience puts her on top of the Democratic field, but her own caution could bring her down.
June 13, 2007

Detroit — AFTER WATCHING Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) juggle pointed questions before nearly 1,000 union members here Saturday, it was easy to imagine how she might pull away from her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. But it was also possible to see how she might stumble on the way.

Clinton's performance at the town hall meeting — part of a series that the AFL-CIO is conducting with the Democratic candidates to help determine whether it will endorse one of them this fall — was solid but not gripping. She sounded expert on some answers but evasive on others. And she didn't erase all doubts. Yet most people in the crowd were impressed — in ways that suggest Clinton's early lead in the polls rests on a solid foundation of confidence in her qualifications.

As the first woman to be a serious contender, Clinton might have confronted skepticism about her credibility as commander in chief, especially during wartime. But that's the dog that hasn't barked in the Democratic race. Primarily because of her years as first lady, it appears Democrats view her as more prepared for the presidency than her (male) rivals.

That's evident in national polls comparing Clinton with her top opponents, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards. A recent ABC/Washington Post poll asked Democrats which candidate was the strongest leader, could best handle a crisis and had the best experience for the presidency. On all three questions, more respondents picked Clinton than Obama and Edwards combined. Women preferred her most, but men also favored her on those tests.

Those personal assessments, more than any policy position, buttressed Clinton's support at the town hall meeting too. Harry Murphy, an African American who organizes for Unite Here, the textile and hotel workers union, said that although Obama "needs to get his feet a little wetter," he believes that Clinton "is tested … [and] already knows the system." Clinton's admirers see her as not only experienced but tough. Margaret McCormick, a teacher who was visiting from Louisville, Ky., liked Edwards' message but was leaning toward Clinton because "when Hillary's backed into a corner, she does not give an inch." Joe Mazzarese, a United Auto Workers organizer, expressed the thought more pungently: "If I was going to get in a fight, even in a war, I'd want her on my side."

Scars can become marks of distinction, and for those assessing her, some of Clinton's darkest White House moments now add to her character. Murphy and others saw her failure to overhaul healthcare less as an indication of flawed political judgment than as valuable preparation for a rematch. Even more striking was this observation from Elaine Crawford, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local that hosted the meeting: After watching Clinton hold her balance during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, she's certain Clinton can manage anything the presidency throws at her. "That was a personal glimpse of how she handled herself under tough personal pressure," Crawford said. "So I wouldn't be afraid of her making those tough decisions for the country."

Clinton also effectively portrayed herself as a fighter for those in need — an argument that resonated especially with the blue-collar women listening. And she benefited from residual good feelings about her husband's presidency among Democrats, drawing applause at almost every reference to the 1990s.

Yet Clinton still excels more at the prose than the poetry of politics; there was more energy in the room when she arrived than when she left. Several in the crowd worried about whether she can win a general election — partly because they doubt that America will elect a woman, but mostly because they fear that Republicans will reprise old scandal allegations against both Clintons.

Some of these activists also questioned whether she (and her husband) sufficiently represent the party's liberal base. Usually that sentiment manifests in skepticism about her stance on Iraq, but here it translated into a barbed question about her service, from 1986 to 1992, on Wal-Mart's board of directors.

The most worrisome sign for Clinton at the meeting was her own caution. Asked whether she would support higher automotive fuel economy standards — an overdue idea that the autoworkers have joined the auto companies in fighting — Clinton implied that she would but never directly answered. Nor, while talking tough on trade, did she ever acknowledge how much the American auto companies' miscalculations have contributed to their decline. Both answers contrasted badly with Obama, who, during a recent Detroit speech, forthrightly endorsed better fuel economy and chastised the companies for building too many cars consumers disdained.

With such timidity, Clinton risks sharpening one of her detractors' best weapons — the charge that calculation, not conviction, is her compass. Front-runners dislike risk, but in her case, the riskiest move may be playing it safe.

Ronald Brownstein, LA Times
5891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 18, 2007, 11:41:17 PM
Here is a short podcast audio of Fred Thompson taking on Harry Reid regarding comments and policies in Iraq. Not exactly a fair fight IMO.  Besides calling Harry Reid on the carpet, he is obviously practicing his aim for Hillary where the same points would apply. Click the link at Powerline and click play. Just takes a couple of minutes.

http://powerlineblog.com/archives/017975.php

For a negative story on Fred Thompson, see George Will from last week: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19140623/site/newsweek/page/2/

Will says Thompson is 99% charm, 1% substance.  I disagree.  I think it's the opposite.  He has been speaking out very frankly on the key issues of the day.  Will's only example that Thompson lacks substance:

"Thompson expressed a truly distinctive idea about immigration. Referring to the 1986 amnesty measure that Reagan signed into law, he said: "Twelve million illegal immigrants later, we are now living in a nation that is beset by people who are suicidal maniacs and want to kill countless innocent men, women and children around the world."

Maybe that quote and context is inarticulate or he failed to explain his thought, but I think plenty of people can see a potential connection between unchecked entrances and our next catastrophe.
5892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: June 18, 2007, 06:12:58 PM
Gen. David Petraeus with Chris Wallace on Sunday.  It was too long to post, but here is the link:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/06/petraeus_on_iraq_panel_on_immi.html

I found it relevant and helpful. To me, he seems like a straight shooter giving the good and the bad as he sees it.  Unlike a post I just read, I'm pulling for the coalition government, supported by the Americans, to win the war, and to win the peace.

5893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: June 16, 2007, 01:31:17 AM
Getting back to what Denny (Captainccs) wrote, thank you very much for the first hand explanation.  Your recap of recent history is very helpful. 

My understanding and recollection is that the recall vote was going against Chavez 40-60 in exit polls but tht Chavez vote won by 60-40on the state count,a 40 point swing.  International observer Jimmy Carter declared the results good to go.  Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell quickly recognized the result. 

Curious what your take on that was and wondering if anyone has seen Powell express any second thoughts.
5894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 16, 2007, 12:55:52 AM
CCP,  I'd like to answer that from my perspective and Rog can add his own.  I think it is one of the great issues where right and left could agree and work together to eliminate it. In usage I think corporate welfare means any break whatsoever that any business gets that isn't available to all others.  Examples might be incentives to drill for new oil or tax credits to buy insulation or solar panels.

In the realm of regular welfare, you might count cash payments and even non-cash subsidies as welfare, but probably not an education or health expense deduction.  In that sense I think I see what CCP might be getting at, that the term isn't particularly precise or analogous.

In a perfect world it would be nice to get rid of all preferences and then tax every dollar of income at a proportionally lower rate.  I'd like to see us move in that direction. On the individual side, the mortgage deduction is a good example.  It certainly is well intended and claims great results - we have record high rates of home ownership.  At the same time it encourages debt and means that every other dollar has to be taxed at a higher rate.

The opposite viewpoint IMO is expressed in any one of Bill Clinton's State of the Union speeches.  Basically he gave us 40-60 minutes each year of non-stop ideas for targeted tax break after targeted tax break on top of an already train-car sized tax code. 

If I wrote the next tax code, I would try to fit it onto one side of a cocktail napkin.  (Free trade agreements should be shorter.)

5895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 14, 2007, 11:06:29 PM
Jumping in with my 2 cents, I would put a distinction between single women and single moms.  I doubt single women who are childless are less educated or much poorer than male counterparts.  I found CCP's title to be provacative: "girls can marry a guy to take care of them - or vote for the Hillary". Not speaking for him, but it could be interpreted generously to mean that some women find a man of equal or similar income to her own, they take care of each other, live well as we know it, travel, buy and furnish a nice home, raise children, invest, pay for college, heath care, cars, insurance, retirement, etc. Single women as a group see more of a state role in financial security, particularly in health care and retirement security even if they have high incomes.

Single moms might be most likely to appreciate laws that force businesses to give time off with pay for childbearing as well as likely to support programs such as child support enforcement, welfare, food stamps, section 8 housing, WIC, free school lunches,and most safety net programs  There are plenty of exceptions I'm sure; I am a single Dad raising a daughter and my personal views certainly don't fit that description.

The conservative argument as I see it is that assistance skews the incentives and removes responsibility from individuals.  As an inner city landlord, I have seen families hide the father to qualify for a program and had pregnant applicants point out how their income will go up after the next baby is born.  Where you find multi-generational poverty, you tend to find women who see government as the provider of security more than the (missing)husband/father and you tend to see the man who passed on that responsibility filling his time and energy with less desirable activities. Crime and prison statistics seem to bear that out.

Yes, a single woman might be more likely to support current abortion law that requires no input whatsoever from the unborn's father.  I have no data but doubt that pro choice passions trump pocketbook issues for most ordinary, single women.
5896  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: June 14, 2007, 06:16:58 PM
[WSJ editorials have] "open contempt for...restraints on wealth accumulation".  Well said, me too!  Smiley
5897  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: June 14, 2007, 01:52:16 PM
The Prime Minister of Iraq wrote an op-ed published yesterday in the WSJ, posted below.  Very worthwhile read IMO.  First my comments on the previous 2 posts here.

My conclusion from the Strat piece, if they are correct, is that the Americans are now allied with the Sunni, Shia and Kurd political leaders and populations along with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces, and are fighting against mainly foreign jihadists and Shia militias. Sounds like the political side is going well but violence continues because the enemy believes that continuing war is  their victory.

The Gore video is amazing.  He strongly attacks Bush I for being soft on Saddam in years prior.  It is perhaps easier to understand as a 1992 Clinton attack piece in the general campaign with the VP candidate with his 'hawk' credentials delivering the attack. Amazingly they weakened Bush for raising taxes when they would raise them more and for being soft on tyrants when they would be softer.  Masterful political selling if deception is your product.

Here is the Prime Minister of Iraq from yesterday:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110010203

Our Common Struggle
America had its civil war. Why expect freedom to come easy to Iraq?

BY NOURI AL-MALIKI
Wednesday, June 13, 2007

BAGHDAD, Iraq--Americans keen to understand the ongoing struggle for a new Iraq can be guided by the example of their own history. In the 1860s, your country fought a great struggle of its own, a civil war that took hundreds of thousands of lives but ended in the triumph of freedom and the birth of a great power. Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation signaled the destruction of the terrible institution of slavery, and the rise of a country dedicated, more than any other in the world of nation-states then and hence, to the principle of human liberty.

Our struggle in Iraq is similar to the great American quest, and is perhaps even more complicated. As your country was fighting that great contest over its unity and future, Iraq was a province of an Ottoman empire steeped in backwardness and ignorance. A half a century later, the British began an occupation of Iraq and drew the borders of contemporary Iraq as we know them today. Independence brought no relief to the people of our land. They were not given the means of political expression, nor were they to know political arrangements that respected their varied communities.

Under the Baath tyranny, Iraqis were to endure a brutal regime the likes of which they had never known before. Countless people were put to death on the smallest measure of suspicion. Wars were waged by that regime and our national treasure was squandered without the consent of a population that was herded into costly and brutal military campaigns. Today when I hear the continuous American debate about the struggle raging in Iraq, I can only recall with great sorrow the silence which attended the former dictator's wars.

It is perhaps true that only people who are denied the gift of liberty can truly appreciate its full meaning and bounty. I look with admiration at the American debate surrounding the Iraq war, and I admire even those opinions that differ from my own. As prime minister of Iraq I have been subjected to my share of criticism in that American debate, but I harbor no resentment and fully understand that the basic concerns of Americans are the safety of their young people fighting in our country and the national interests of their society. As this American debate goes on, I am guided and consoled by the sacred place of freedom and liberty in the American creed and in America's notion of itself.

War being what it is, the images of Iraq that come America's way are of car bombs and daily explosions. Missing from the coverage are the great, subtle changes our country is undergoing, the birth of new national ideas and values which will in the end impose themselves despite the death and destruction that the terrorists have been hell-bent on inflicting on us. Those who endured the brutality of the former regime, those who saw the outside world avert its gaze from their troubles, know the magnitude of the change that has come to Iraq. A fundamental struggle is being fought on Iraqi soil between those who believe that Iraqis, after a long nightmare, can retrieve their dignity and freedom, and others who think that oppression is the order of things and that Iraqis are doomed to a political culture of terror, prisons and mass graves. Some of our neighbors have made this struggle more lethal still, they have placed their bets on the forces of terror in pursuit of their own interests.

When I became prime minister a year and a half ago, my appointment emerged out of a political process unique in our neighborhood: Some 12 million voters took part in our parliamentary elections. They gave voice to their belief in freedom and open politics and their trust imposed heavy burdens on all of us in political life. Our enemies grew determined to drown that political process in indiscriminate violence, to divert attention from the spectacle of old men and women casting their vote, for the first time, to choose those who would govern in their name. You may take this right for granted in America, but for us this was a tantalizing dream during the decades of dictatorship and repression.

Before us lies a difficult road--the imperative of national reconciliation, the drafting of a new social contract that acknowledges the diversity of our country. It was in that spirit that those who drafted our constitution made provisions for amending it. The opponents of the constitution were a minority, but we sought for our new political life the widest possible measure of consensus. From the outset, I committed myself to the principle of reconciliation, pledged myself to its success. I was determined to review and amend many provisions and laws passed in the aftermath of the fall of the old regime, among them the law governing de-Baathification. I aimed to find the proper balance between those who opposed the decrees on de-Baathification and others who had been victims of the Baath Party. This has not been easy, but we have stuck to that difficult task.

Iraq is well on its way to passing a new oil law that would divide the national treasure among our provinces and cities, based on their share of the population. This was intended to reassure those provinces without oil that they will not be left behind and consigned to poverty. The goal is to repair our oil sector, open the door for new investments and raise the standard of living of Iraqi families. Our national budget this year is the largest in Iraq's history, its bulk dedicated to our most neglected provinces and to improving the service sector in the country as a whole. Our path has been made difficult by the saboteurs and the terrorists who target our infrastructure and our people, but we have persevered, even though our progress has been obscured by the scenes of death and destruction.

Daily we still fight the battle for our security. We lose policemen and soldiers to the violence, as do the multinational forces fighting along our side. We are training and equipping a modern force, a truly national and neutral force, aided by our allies. This is against the stream of history here, where the armed forces have traditionally been drawn into political conflicts and struggles. What gives us sustenance and hope is an increase in the numbers of those who volunteer for our armed forces, which we see as proof of the devotion of our people to the stability and success of our national government.

We have entered into a war, I want it known, against militias that had preyed upon the weakness of the national government and in the absence of law and order in some of our cities, even in some of the districts in Baghdad, imposed their own private laws--laws usually driven by extremism and a spirit of vengeance. Some of these militias presented themselves as defenders of their own respective communities against other militias. We believe that the best way to defeat these militias is to build and enhance the capabilities of our government as a defender of the rights of our citizens. A stable government cannot coexist with these militias.

Our conflict, it should be emphasized time and again, has been fueled by regional powers that have reached into our affairs. Iraq itself is eager to build decent relations with its neighbors. We don't wish to enter into regional entanglements. Our principle concern is to heal our country. We have reached out to those among our neighbors who are worried about the success and example of our democratic experiment, and to others who seem interested in enhancing their regional influence.

Our message has been the same to one and all: We will not permit Iraq to be a battleground for other powers. In the contests and ambitions swirling around Iraq, we are neutral and dedicated to our country's right to prosperity and a new life, inspired by a memory of a time when Baghdad was--as Washington is today--a beacon of enlightenment on which others gazed with admiration. We have come to believe, as Americans who founded your country once believed, that freedom is a precious inheritance. It is never cheap but the price is worth paying if we are to rescue our country.

Mr. Maliki is prime minister of Iraq.
5898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: June 13, 2007, 11:09:31 AM
Crafty, I have also been a huge fan of the Journal and for me also it is/was always because of the editorial page.  I was first referred there by my college economics professor, Walter Heller, who made us read his contributions there in the mid-1970s.  I peeked around a little further and found that he was only on their Board of Contributors only because of his dissenting view; the the main editorials made far more sense to me.  Heller was chief economist for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and was poised to take that role for Ted Kennedy who nearly beat Jimmy Carter in the 1980 primaries with a platform of gas rationing and national health care.  (Sound like liberals 28 years later)  Meanwhile Robert Bartley and his staff at the Journal were all over the underpinnings and advancement of supply-side economics and writing editorials like the classic 'Keynes is Dead', which claimed that if inflation and unemployment can worsen simultaneously, they could also be solved simultaneously.  They were right.

I assume that Murdoch is a market, media and investment genius and wouldn't buy Dow Jones just to squander the brand names of Barrons and the WSJ. The Journal has always maintained a very real firewall between its newsroom and its editorial page so the changes in the newsroom don't alarm me.
5899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: June 08, 2007, 06:38:55 PM
The key phrase to me was not the news in the news story, that the opposition was voicing opposition, it was the background information that concerns me:

"Congress, which has granted Chavez the power to rule by decree..."

I will look into the points you made and I hope others will post, especially Denny, who is there.  By his cartoon post that shows Chavez speaking on all channels, I don't think he agrees with you, but hopefully we will get a first-hand account in his own words.
5900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Venezuela on: June 08, 2007, 12:00:56 PM
I didn't see an English language thread for Venezuela, so I hope this can be a place to exchange information and views.

It's nice to see Denny (captainccs) post.  I remember his wisdom on investing and life posted elsewhere.  I was concerned for his safety when I saw a gap between posts of Chavez dissent on his site at softwaretimes.com. 

I wonder what people in Venezuela can or should do to get their country back, and I wonder what people in the U.S. and other countries can or should do to help.

Here is a Reuters (English) version of the Douglas Barrios story since I can't read the Spanish version. Click on the link to include the protest photo with the story.

http://en.epochtimes.com/news/7-6-7/56241.html

Students Take TV Fight to Venezuela Congress

Reuters,     Jun 07, 2007

Thousands of students and university rectors and professors march for freedom of expression in Caracas. (Photo)

CARACAS—Students took their 11-day-old protest over President Hugo Chavez's shutdown of the last nationwide opposition television station to Venezuela's Congress on Thursday, in a rare appearance by the opposition in the legislature.

Addressing the 167-member body, where there have been no opposition lawmakers since 2005, student leader Douglas Barrios said daily demonstrations against the closure of RCTV would continue.

"Today our classes are in the street," he said in remarks that were broadcast nationally.

At one point, Barrios took off his T-shirt in the signature red of Chavez, saying Venezuelans could refuse to wear the government uniform—a reference to the opposition's charge that Chavez intimidates people into displaying support for him.

The closing has become the rallying cry for a nascent pro-democracy student movement that critics of the president hope can help fill a void left by a weak opposition in the polarized OPEC nation.

Congress, which has granted Chavez the power to rule by decree, organized a debate over the station's closure between pro- and anti-government students and the government required all Venezuelan television and radio to broadcast the session.

The anti-Chavez students—part of a mainly middle-class movement that has at times drawn tens of thousands onto the streets—walked out after the first pro-government speech, complaining the event was politicized.

They were escorted past Chavez supporters outside by security forces with anti-riot shields. Some were driven off in a troop carrier.
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