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5851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: November 28, 2007, 12:21:49 AM
Commenting on the WSJ piece 'Condi's Road to Damascas': I was once a big fan of Condi.  Now I am undecided and it may take a long time to sort out her time as a lot of subtle things are attempted and handled behind the scenes.  I think the comparison to Pelosi is off-base.  After all, Pelosi was accused of pretending she was Secretary of State.  Condi is Sec of State and she summoned the Syrian leadership to come here along with the other leaders.

Bret Stephens contends that the U.S. has no carrots and presumably no sticks to offer Syria.  We don't know that.  Places like Syria, Iran and N.Korea must wonder what this administration has left to do with more than a year still remaining and the war in Iraq starting to go better.

There are many publicly unanswered questions that remain from the recent super-secret Israeli attack inside Syria.  Israel and perhaps the U.S. could have something in terms of evidence on Syria even if that attack missed its target.  Rumored was nuclear material from North Korea.  Also rumored was a portion of Saddam's missing goods.  If not the U.S., the Israelis perhaps are still ready willing and able to re-adjust and hit again.

I like to think that our leaders have more information than we do so these meetings are difficult to judge.  A chance for the Americans to pass a personal message to Assad might have value to us.  From Assad's point of view, even if the information the Americans possess lacks perfect accuracy, that didn't save Assad's executed Sunni Arab neighbor.
5852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: November 25, 2007, 12:58:37 PM
Referendum date is Dec. 2.  Yes vote will enact make 69 revisions to Venezuela charter that expand the power of Chavez, including unlimited re-election.  Chavez says: Only a 'Traitor' Will Vote No: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8T3M1P00&show_article=1

Reuters reports independent poll that has the referendum down by 49% 'traitors to 39% Chavez enablers: http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSN2333983120071124?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&rpc=22&sp=true
Links courtesy of Drudge Report.  I really haven't seen this covered yet in the mainstream media.  Chavez attempting to become a permanent leader with dictator powers and cheating in elections is hardly news in their opinion.
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I predict the ten point no-vote lead is not good enough.  In a previous referendum independent reports had Chavez losing by 60-40% in the exit polls but the official Chavez voting machines tallied it up as a Chavez win at 60-40%, so exit polls were off by down 20 to up 20 - a 40% swing.  "International observer" Jimmy Carter instantly verified the results and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell quickly gave it the U.S. stamp of approval.  Oh well.
5853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 22, 2007, 11:18:18 PM
Here is an interview yesterday by Human Events, a conservative publication, with Mitt Romney covering all the large issues:  http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=23541
5854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 21, 2007, 11:17:19 PM
In mid December last time, a month later than now, Howard Dean was measuring the west wing for drapes and John Kerry was dull and unexciting.  Okay, bad analogy.  Anyway, back to issues and candidates:

I watched Fred Thompson on Meet the Press a couple of weeks ago and found him to be wise, thoughtful, independent and consistently conservative. (I watched Obama the following week.)  Here is Fred in a different interview today in Iowa:

Fred Thompson on Bloomberg TV

PETER COOK: Let me ask you first of all, if I could, about the economy. You have said that national security is the number-one issue facing the country right now. Where does the economy rank after that?

MR. THOMPSON: Number two, yeah.

MR. COOK: And what is it right now you see in the U.S. economy? Are you confident in the state of the economy? Not everyone is.

MR. THOMPSON: Yeah, I am. I think that we - the underlying factors there that the experts look at, as best I can tell, are strong. We are part of a good world economy now, and I think as long as our fiscal policies and our monetary policies make sense, that we'll continue to be strong. I think it's going to be a very bad time over these next couple of years for a tax increase, and that is what concerns me most.

MR. COOK: President Bush's handling of the economy? What sort of grade would you give President Bush?

MR. THOMPSON: I think that he would get an A as far as tax cuts are concerned. And I think he'd probably get a C-plus as far as spending is concerned. I wish he'd done better on the spending side of the ledger. I think he's doing quite good now with some of the bills that are coming across his desk. But we've got some long-term problems that he has tried to highlight in times past in terms of Social Security that are going to overtake us if we don't do better on the mandatory side of things. They don't just have to do with the everyday fiscal policies but have to do with the locked-in entitlement programs that we're facing.

So as we're concerned day-to-day with what we're doing to affect the economy in terms of fiscal policies, we have to really understand that a little bit further out, we have some drastic things that are going to happen to our economy if we don't get a handle on our mandatory spending.

MR. COOK: I know you've talked about some of these entitlement programs. You were the last one into the race, yet you've been given credit for being the first to talk about Social Security. And you've highlighted your own plan to deal with Social Security over the long term. Yet there's still some experts in Washington and elsewhere who say Medicare is actually the bigger problem right now. How are you going to fix Medicare?

MR. THOMPSON: So we hop right off into that? Medicare is a bigger problem. There's no question about it. I think that we would probably do ourselves a lot of good in addressing the Medicare problem if we could prove that we could deal with the lesser problem of Social Security. Social Security is going to go bankrupt. I mean, you consider it a lesser problem because it's somewhat easier to fix, although nobody else has stepped up to apply a fix other than myself.

But once we do that, then we need to do things like the hard choices. I think that we're going to have to ask the more affluent to pay a bigger share of the cost in the future for one thing. There's some other features of our Medicare program that -

MR. COOK: But you're not talking about a tax increase there or you are?

MR. THOMPSON: No, I'm talking about means testing some of our benefits. The deductibility, you know, at what point the person has to start kicking into his own retirement solutions - those are the issues I think that we're going to have to look at first. Tax increases, of course, always the first thing the Democrats look at. They want to means test everything. And 5 percent of our people now are paying about 60 percent of our taxes, so I don't know how progressive they want it to be, but they're in danger of hurting the economy; they're in danger of hurting small businesses and individual entrepreneurs if they keep going the tax increase route.

So we have to look at the spending side of the ledger and doing some common sense things now before we have to really hurt anybody, instead of waiting until later when we'll have to hurt everybody when we'll have drastic benefit cuts or astronomical tax increases or astronomical deficits and borrowing from abroad.

MR. COOK: You've talked already about taxes, and Democrats plans to raise taxes, as you and other Republicans suggest. What about your own differences with Republicans on tax policy? Rudy Giuliani is leading in national polls; Mitt Romney leading here in Iowa. How does Fred Thompson differ from those two when it comes to tax policy?

MR. THOMPSON: I think I'm the only one, for example, who has actively and specifically promoted a corporate tax cut. People have been talking around the edges about that for some time, but I came forth a considerable time ago and talked about it in specific detail. I said that -

MR. COOK: What's a corporate tax rate that is appropriate in Fred Thompson's mind?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, I look at what's going on with regard to our international competitors, and I see that 28 percent would be the norm instead of the 35 (percent) that we have now. We have the second real highest tax rate in the industrialized world. We're only one of two countries that hasn't lowered its tax rate since 1994. All of our competitors are doing that. I mean, they've caught on to the game. And why we haven't done that, I don't know. I see today that some officials in the Treasury once again are saying that we need to do that. And it looks like they're getting closer to a proposal.

MR. COOK: They've also talked about eliminating loopholes, if you will - some of the tax breaks that companies enjoy in exchange for lowering that corporate tax rate. Would you support that?

MR. THOMPSON: No, no, that's what Charles Rangel, I think, is promoting. I'm not sure that the Treasury Department.

MR. COOK: Mr. Secretary Paulson has suggested something along those lines as well.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, today, from what I heard - I didn't see any proposals for offsets so far. I don't think you need to approach it from that standpoint. You're going to have to do something about competitiveness. You're going to have to do something about economic growth. And raising taxes at the same time that you're cutting taxes I don't think promotes either one of those things. So I don't believe in the static accounting that goes on in Washington. I don't believe that you have to raise revenue every time you cut taxes. I think that we're still at a level now where a tax cut in the right way and the right amount is beneficial for the overall economy in terms of economic growth. And as far as the corporate tax rate is concerned, it's certainly beneficial to us from a competitiveness standpoint. We just stick out like a sore thumb in terms of the high corporate tax rate.

Other than that, a lot of us are saying pretty much the same thing now in terms of lower taxes. I guess the difference is that I had eight years on the national scene with regard to national tax issues, where I was saying the same thing eight years ago, 10 years ago, 12 years ago. When I was in the Senate, we had a chance to pass about four major tax cuts including the one in 2001, which I think in large part helped lay the groundwork for the prosperity that we have right now. So I was walking the walk back sometime ago before others were even talking the talk, even though on most things, except the corporate tax cut, a lot of us are saying the same things today.

MR. COOK: All right, are we going to see more specifics from your campaign over the next few days with regard to tax policy, and do you care to share any with us right now?

MR. THOMPSON: No, we've got a couple of details to work out yet, but I think it's fair to say over the next several days we'll be putting something out that's specific along those lines, and especially will involve a corporate tax cut.

MR. COOK: Let me ask you about the question of income inequality. There are Democrats on Capitol Hill right now still talking about the Bush tax cuts and how they unfairly were tilted towards the wealthy. They'd like to remedy that, at least some of the proposals on Capitol Hill. Do you believe income inequality is a problem in America right now?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, the Democrats always want to focus on the redistribution of wealth. And they don't recognize the fact that people come up through the system in our country and they come from the lower end to the high end - and go often times to the higher end. And the overwhelming majority of people move one direction or another.

And in a free and open economy and in a growing economy, people have the opportunity to make a determination for themselves as to how far they want to go economically in this country. That's not to say that there's some people that don't need some help and some people that can't help themselves; and we have ways to address those particular problems. But you can't just say that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer in this country. I don't think that that's happening that way. I think all levels are moving up.

The IRS just did a study not too long ago, as I recall, that showed just from the income tax forms that they traced back and looked at over a period of time that people were moving from lower income levels to higher income levels throughout their career in this country, which is what you would expect. So I'm more interested in policies that promote that, that let a small-town boy with very meager prospects - one might think - who grew up in a little town like I did and started working in a factory to have the opportunity to live the American dream, as so many of us have. That's what I want to promote today.

MR. COOK: Let me ask you about a couple other issues, if I could, domestic issues. Energy policy - I looked on your website and there are references to energy policies. There are not a lot of specifics there. I'd like to ask you what as president Fred Thompson would do to try and end America's addiction to oil. And I'll start with one specific. Would you support higher vehicle fuel economy standards?

MR. THOMPSON: No, again, taxes are not the way to go. I don't think that - the cost-benefit relationship is not there, which is what I think we always have to look at. I think in terms of our energy policy in general that we're not going to immediately turn our addiction to oil around. We might as well get over that notion. What we've got to do is have greater diversification, working more toward independence and less dependence on the wrong parts of the world.

There's such problem spots like the Middle East, right now. That's going to involve several things. We're going to have to start doing several things better than we have in the past. I think we're going to have to use our own resources more than we have. We can do that -

MR. COOK: But setting higher fuel standards is not one of those steps?

MR. THOMPSON: No, I don't think so. I think that the effect of that, what that would do to the consuming public in terms of the driving habits, what it would do in terms of the increased money that they would be having to pay, what that would do to the economy, what effect that would have on other parts of the economy, I just don't see the cost-benefit there. But I do see greater protection in a more economic environmentally friendly way than we've been able to do in the past of our own resources. It can't solve all of our problem, but certainly part of it. We're making headway, I think, with regard to the cleaner coal technology.

I think nuclear has got to be put back on the table, alternative, renewables, all of those things have got to be put on the table and we have got to do all of those things simultaneously I think in order to become more diversified.

MR. COOK: Related issue, global warming, how big a challenge is global warming? How big a problem is it, do you think?

MR. THOMPSON: I don't think anybody knows yet exactly how big it is. I think it's something that we have got to get answers to. We know that the globe is warming. We don't know whether or not that is part of a cycle. The -

MR. COOK: Do you think humans are responsible?

MR. THOMPSON: The earth has cooled in times past. This could be a part of a warming cycle that we will come out of some day. I don't know how long it would be. We don't know what extent - undoubtedly humans are contributing to it, but we don't know how much and what percentage. And we do know that unless we get other countries growing large economies, like China and India, to cooperate in any solutions that it's not going to be economically realistic for us to try to do things that would harm our own economy and have very little effect unless they join with us in some kind of a solution. But we have got to do everything that we can to get the answers to these questions, to see the nature of the problem, the extent of it, and what we can realistically do about it.

MR. COOK: Immigration, I know you're up with an ad here in Iowa citing your own views on the immigration issue and the proposal that came out of the Senate a couple of months ago. Again, talk to me about the - contrast your - your background, your history on this issue with that of your opponents, most notably, Mr. Mayor Giuliani and Governor Romney.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, the mayor and my backgrounds are in sharp contrast on some points. Nineteen ninety-six, I was passing a bill outlawing sanctuary cities. The mayor went to court to try to overturn that bill, and fortunately, he lost that lawsuit. Sanctuary cities were outlawed, but we still have them in this country in violation of federal law.

I simply think we are in high-tech-growing economy. We have an economic competitiveness issue that education is going to have to solve in part. It is not going to be in our long-term interests to be bringing millions and millions of people in this country who are lower-tech and lower-educated. That is the economic part of it. There is also a fairness part to people who have played by the rules to become a part of our society. They should not be disrespected. Then there is the national security part. A small amount of material in the wrong kind of hands can destroy an American city. We have virtually open borders. So we have to secure our borders and enforce our laws and stop providing inducements for people to come here such as sanctuary cities and driver's licenses and things of that nature.

MR. COOK: As you know, there are a lot of businesses out there who say they need these workers right now; this is important to the U.S. economy, the workers who are here even right now. If you can secure the borders, what happens to the 12 million illegal immigrants already here?

MR. THOMPSON: Enforcement by attrition. Over a period of time, if you enforce the law, if you secure the border, if you require employers to use a system that they have now called e-Verify so that they can readily determine whether or not someone is legal or illegal. If you do away with sanctuary cities, as is really the federal law, and stop providing inducements for people to come here, over a period of time, the numbers will be moving in the right direction and the problem will greatly rectify itself.

MR. COOK: Let me ask you if I could some political questions before we wrap this up here, specifically your take on what is going on in New Hampshire. I know there is a new poll out today that suggests you may be down to 4 percent support there. What is going on in New Hampshire? Are you putting all of the marbles here in Iowa?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, I'm putting a lot of marbles in Iowa, and we've been spending a lot of time in South Carolina where we are doing very well, usually running first in most of the polls there. We're going to have to wait and see. Every day is a new day. You know, Mayor Giuliani is doing well in the national polls but I'm running second in most of the national polls to Mayor Giuliani. So we're about where we need to be overall right now. We have some strength in places and some weaknesses in places and every day is a new day; you just have to do the best you can. It's very, very hard to handicap these races anymore, especially in a place like Iowa. Howard Dean was the odds on favorite in mid-December, and of course that didn't work out too well for him. And you can say the same thing about some of the early primary states in other parts of the country too. So who knows what to make of it.
5855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 19, 2007, 10:50:59 PM
Ron Paul has been the anti-Republican in the race so I am surprised they think his errors and misfortunes hurt the cause of where the party ought to be going.  All the fireworks in the debates seemed to be about Paul opposing Republican foreign policies.

OTOH, I heard a Ron Paul radio commercial traveling in Las Vegas yesterday.  His don't-tax-tips bill may never pass, but the radio spot is smart.  I'm sure there is a huge number of service workers in that market and the message broadcast is that they are being unfairly and excessively taxed.  His anti-war message is not very unique but his ant-tax message could be the first that many people hear. 
5856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WW3 on: November 19, 2007, 03:36:17 PM
I found the previous post here about Saddam's WMD to be the most helpful so far.  They outline a scenario that is believable and backed up in bits and pieces, though they admit without a single smoking gun.  New information makes the administration and coalition look bad, but as they write, correct by accident.   They also prove false IMO the refrain of the critics - that Saddam posed no threat.

The captured documents in need of translation had to be pulled from the internet site when it turned out they contained extremely precise information on how to build nuclear weapons.  I'm sure more details on all of this will emerge as more translations are done.

It is quite scary that we still don't have enough translators to handle our intelligence and informational requirements for security.  Meanwhile our troops are still in harm's way without all the information available that they need.  No widespread attempt is yet being made that I am aware of to teach our troops Arabic, either at home or while serving in Iraq.

The information on Syria is interesting, but certainly not conclusive.  I remember the Debka reports from back then.  This report claims that Israel recently hit the wrong spot, but they seem to have something on Syria who remained amazingly silent about the attack.

To be continued, I'm sure.
5857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: November 19, 2007, 03:11:36 PM
As George Will wrote, the stock market has predicted nine of the last three recessions.  I agree with Crafty on his great depression summary.  I don't completely understand the low dollar period we are now experiencing.  Nor do I understand Pat Buchanan's dislike of free trade: "given their free-trade fanaticism and free-spending ways, that fate would not be undeserved." What qualifies a private freedom to do business to be lumped in with reckless public spending as a cause of economic disaster?  Buchanan has never adequately explained that, in my view.
5858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: November 14, 2007, 11:36:48 AM
This Asia Times article (below) makes an amazing observation on Iran demographics.  The fertility rate in Iran has fallen to only 0.66 children per female, a third of the population replacement rate of  2.1. A generation ago, it stood at 6.5.  One tenth of what it was.

First my own quick comments on the previous two posts in the Iran thread: 1) The Chinese visiting Iran is definitely interesting.  We will know how it went when it comes time for China to vote on sanctions. But China's vote will tell more about the state of Chinese relations with the US than about Iran's nuclear program.  2) Iran President 'Nut-job' may call protesters "traitors", call for wiping Israel off the map, deny the holocaust, build explosive devices that kill Americans, pursue nuclear weapons, etc. but the mainstream here didn't take notice until he denied there are gays in Iran. Go figure.
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http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/IK13Ak01.html

Why Iran is dying for a fight   (excerpt)

Iran's demographic catastrophe in the making, I have long argued, impels Tehran to stake its claim for regional empire quickly, while it still has the manpower to do so. Now one of the world's most attentive students of the global South, Prof Philip Jenkins, has taken notice of Iran's population bust and come to a conclusion diametrically opposite to mine. Writing in the November 9 New Republic, he opines, "there's a good chance that [Iran's] declining fertility rates will usher in a new era of stability...".

It pains me to take Prof Jenkins to the woodshed - I gave his last book a glowing review [1] - but it does not seem to have occurred to him that things which make peace inevitable in the long run may propel countries into war in the short run. The textbook example (if we had a competent textbook) would be France in 1914, which sought a quick war because its falling birth rate ensured that it could not beat Germany unless it did so immediately.

Population decline eventually leads to stability, but not necessarily by a direct path.

Before Iran is buried, it will have occasion to command the undivided attention of the West. The rulers of the Persian pocket-empire know better than Jenkins that today's soldiers will become pensioners a generation hence, turning a belligerent and ambitious country into an impoverished, geriatric ruin. They believe that Iran has a last opportunity for greatness, on which they will stake their last dinar. I summarized the evidence in a series of essays in this space, including The demographics of radical Islam (Aug 23, 2005) and Demographics and Iran's imperial design (Sept 13, 2005).

As Jenkins reports, Iran's fertility rate has fallen to only 0.66 children per female, a third of the population replacement rate of 2.1. A generation ago, it stood at 6.5. In other words, Iran presently has a bulge of military-age men as cannon-fodder. In a generation it will not be able to fill the ranks.
5859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: November 13, 2007, 11:30:35 PM
Cloudy Days on the Global Warming Front  (from powerlineblog.com)

Advocates of anthropogenic global warming want you to believe that the science is settled and there is nothing left to debate. But this is the opposite of the truth; in fact, climate science is in its infancy and virtually every proposition relating to it is controversial.

A case in point: the computer programs that tell us that human activity will lead to catastrophic warming assume that warmer temperatures will give rise to more high-altitude clouds, which in turn will trap heat in the earth's atmosphere and create a positive feedback loop. Recent research suggests, however, that increasing temperatures will have the opposite effect, reducing the incidence of high-altitude clouds and thereby creating a safety valve rather than reinforcing the original warming. The research was published in Geophysical Research Letters by Roy W. Spencer, William D. Braswell, John R. Christy and Justin Hnilo:

    The widely accepted (albeit unproven) theory that manmade global warming will accelerate itself by creating more heat-trapping clouds is challenged this month in new research from The University of Alabama in Huntsville.

    Instead of creating more clouds, individual tropical warming cycles that served as proxies for global warming saw a decrease in the coverage of heat-trapping cirrus clouds, says Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist in UAHuntsville's Earth System Science Center.

    "All leading climate models forecast that as the atmosphere warms there should be an increase in high altitude cirrus clouds, which would amplify any warming caused by manmade greenhouse gases," he said. "That amplification is a positive feedback. What we found in month-to-month fluctuations of the tropical climate system was a strongly negative feedback. As the tropical atmosphere warms, cirrus clouds decrease. That allows more infrared heat to escape from the atmosphere to outer space."

    As the Earth's surface warms - due to either manmade greenhouse gases or natural fluctuations in the climate system - more water evaporates from the surface. Since more evaporation leads to more precipitation, most climate researchers expected increased cirrus cloudiness to follow warming.

    "To give an idea of how strong this enhanced cooling mechanism is, if it was operating on global warming, it would reduce estimates of future warming by over 75 percent," Spencer said. "The big question that no one can answer right now is whether this enhanced cooling mechanism applies to global warming."

    "The role of clouds in global warming is widely agreed to be pretty uncertain," Spencer said. "Right now, all climate models predict that clouds will amplify warming. I'm betting that if the climate models' 'clouds' were made to behave the way we see these clouds behave in nature, it would substantially reduce the amount of climate change the models predict for the coming decades."

    The team analyzed six years of data from four instruments aboard three NASA and NOAA satellites. The researchers tracked precipitation amounts, air and sea surface temperatures, high and low altitude cloud cover, reflected sunlight, and infrared energy escaping out to space.

    When they tracked the daily evolution of a composite of fifteen of the strongest intraseasonal oscillations they found that although rainfall and air temperatures would be rising, the amount of infrared energy being trapped by the cloudy areas would start to decrease rapidly as the air warmed. This unexpected behavior was traced to the decrease in cirrus cloud cover.

    "Global warming theory says warming will generally be accompanied by more rainfall," Spencer said. "Everyone just assumed that more rainfall means more high altitude clouds. That would be your first guess and, since we didn't have any data to suggest otherwise ..."

    There are significant gaps in the scientific understanding of precipitation systems and their interactions with the climate, he said. "At least 80 percent of the Earth's natural greenhouse effect is due to water vapor and clouds, and those are largely under the control of precipitation systems.

    "Until we understand how precipitation systems change with warming, I don't believe we can know how much of our current warming is manmade. Without that knowledge, we can't predict future climate change with any degree of certainty."

That's a remarkable quote: "Everyone just assumed" that more rainfall means more high altitude clouds. That is the level of scientific certainty on which claims of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming rest.
5860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 13, 2007, 10:31:57 AM
First, regarding the previous post - Thompson v. Obama is exactly the matchup I'd like to see.
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Here is a TIME magazine piece on Hillary that I found to be sympathetic, but somewhat objective.  A little long (4 pages) and dull, and a little bit enlightening.  Then at the end they strangely predict Edwards will win Iowa on electability because he is "the white guy".

What Hillary Stands For
Wednesday, Nov. 07, 2007 By JOE KLEIN
http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1681670,00.html
5861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: November 08, 2007, 11:57:59 AM
http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=OTdhNDFkODBjY2Y2M2I1MGFlZTY3NTM0ZjkyNDAwZGM=

Oil Hydra
Is there an easy way out of the mess we've gotten ourselves into?

By Victor Davis Hanson

Oil is nearly $100 a barrel. Gas may soon reach $4 a gallon. And Americans are being bitten in almost every way imaginable by this insidious oil hydra.

Two billion people in China and India are now eager consumers. They want the cars, gadgets, and lifestyle that Westerners have claimed as a birthright for a half-century. Their growing energy appetites mean that the international petroleum market may remain tight, even if Americans — who use almost twice as much oil per day as China and India put together — cut back on imported energy.

The Middle East is raking in billions each week. At best, our so-called friends in cash-laden Saudi Arabia subsidize fundamentalist mosques and hate-filled madrassas worldwide. At worst, our enemies in petrol-rich Iran are after the bomb, send weapons into Iraq to kill Americans and fund Hezbollah jihadists.

War in Iraq, rumors of fighting in the near-future in Iran and tension on the West Bank only panic markets, raise oil prices and further enrich our grinning enemies.

The nearly half-trillion dollars we will soon pay for imported oil does a lot more than prop up Russia's Vladimir Putin, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The petrodollar drain also contributes to our trade deficits, falling dollar and a general demoralization of the American people.

Our oil habit not only makes us dependent on some creepy suppliers, but we look like fools as we work nonstop to hand over our earnings to those who are rich by an accident of sitting atop oil someone else found and developed.

There is talk in this country of a gradual transition to alternative fuels, solar power, wind machines, plug-in electric cars, and nuclear power. Supposedly Americans will soon be less dependent on imported oil — while helping to slow global warming — as we are weaned off our fossil-fuel addiction.

But let's talk about the present: If oil continues to climb, ultimately, it will change our very way of life. Hard-pressed families will shell out thousands more a year in direct transportation and heating and cooling costs, and more still as consumer prices inflate.

It may have always been unwise for commuters to buy large SUVs and V8 supercab trucks. Now, though, we may reach the point where these pricey huge vehicles will sputter to a halt. Indebted Americans will still shell out monthly payments to pay off their parked dinosaurs, only to drive them for emergency or ceremonial occasions.

Also expect rising popular anger at an asleep-at-the-wheel government that for the last 20 years should have been doing a lot more to mandate conservation, subsidize alternate fuels, encourage nuclear power and open up oil fields offshore and in Alaska.

Instead, doctrinaire free-market purists and radical environmentalists, hand in glove, for years have thwarted both conservation and exploration.

True, in a perfect world, the market would teach Detroit not to build gas-hungry big cars. Yet in the here and now, we are needlessly burning scarce fuel as too many 7,000-pound mammoths deliver single 180-pound drivers to work — while the auto industry continues on its path to irrelevance.

Meanwhile, green politicians may not want messy oilrigs off their coasts, or tankers up north among the ice and polar bears. But so far very few of them have sworn off jet travel, nice cars or ample homes.

Oil companies claim that they are only passing along escalating costs from overseas suppliers over which they have no control. But around a third of our oil is pumped here at home.

Think about it: The cost to extract oil from existing older wells is relatively fixed. For much of the 1990s and early 2000s, oil prices had been steady at between $20 and $30 a barrel (when adjusted for inflation) — and domestic oil companies did quite well. So now at near $100 a barrel, these corporations are raking additional profits of over $60 a barrel — potentially a domestic windfall of hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

Is there an easy way out of the mess we've gotten ourselves into?

Maybe a Silicon Valley genius inventor or entrepreneur will step forward with a breakthrough new energy source.

Maybe our government will start a crash project on the scale of the Manhattan Project to conserve and produce more fuels.

Maybe China and India will consider radical conservation measures.

Maybe countries like Iraq, Libya, and Russia will start reinvesting in their oil infrastructures and double production.

Maybe the Middle East will finally settle down and soothe jittery oil speculators.

Those are too many maybes to wait for while our way of life hangs in the balance. It is past time to demand from our presidential candidates, as well as the current government, exactly when and how they plan to slay this many-headed oil monster.
5862  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: November 02, 2007, 08:51:04 AM
Saw this on local news last night. Police tasers are equipped with cameras that help the officer document the scene.

http://wcco.com/local/taser.cameras.minneapolis.2.480654.html

Mpls. Police Use Tasers Equipped With Cameras
Reporting
Caroline Lowe
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) ― The Minneapolis Police Department has become one of the latest law enforcement agencies to use Tasers equipped with cameras. The new Tasers have the cameras mounted on the end of them. Once an officer turns on his Taser, the camera starts recording audio and video of the encounter.

The MPD released video to WCCO-TV from several incidents which occurred in recent months. They included a confrontation with a man armed with a knife at a pool hall, a domestic call where a man holds a crying baby hostage and several encounters where the suspects cooperated after the Taser was turned on but before the officer used the electronic jolt.

"More often than not it does give us a very good picture of the scene just prior to Taser deployment," said Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Scott Gerlicher.

Gerlicher also believes the Taser cameras will increase community confidence in how the MPD handles encounters with suspects.

"We think it affords us a lot better accountability for the officers and for the public to know that we can go back and look at the video and see under the circumstances with which the Taser was deployed," said Gerlicher.

The MPD currently has cameras on 10 of the department's 200 Tasers. Officials hope to eventually provide Taser cameras to all officers on patrol.

The MPD Taser coordinator, Officer Adam Grogove, invited WCCO-TV reporter Caroline Lowe, who also has her Minnesota police license, to try out their new tool. Lowe has been "tased" twice for previous reports but this was the first time she had been on the other end of a Taser.

Grobove wore a protective suit and was armed with a knife when he played a "bad guy" confronting Lowe.

Lowe yelled at him to "back off" and then shot off her Taser cam when he continued to lunge forward. After he was struck with a burst from Lowe's Taser, two other officers took control of "bad guy" Grobove and handcuffed him.

The "staged" incident with Lowe was all captured on video and audio recorded by the Taser cam.

According to a report by the Minneapolis Police Department, officers used Tasers 232 times last year. So far, they have received no complaints from the community.

The Minnesota State Patrol will be getting their first Taser cameras in the next few weeks. They will join Minneapolis, St. Cloud and the Itasca County Sheriff's Office who already have the Taser cameras.
5863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 23, 2007, 10:28:19 AM
Since I haven't found anyone here so far to argue against free market based economics, I'll post the opposing view myself, courtesy of the NY Times.  They contend we are severely under-taxed.  Absolutely no hint in their 'analysis' that revenues to the treasury are actually growing at record rates.  Only 'logic' I could find to back their view is that America needs to be more like the rest of the world, starting with tax burden.  Their math with a 28% total tax burden doesn't exactly match tax freedom day that occurs here in May.  Nonetheless, our "meager tax take" of 4 trillion dollars per year"leaves the United States ill prepared to compete."  huh

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/22/opinion/22mon2.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&oref=slogin

Editorial:  A Dearth of Taxes
Published: October 22, 2007

President Bush considers himself a champion tax cutter, but all the leading Republican presidential candidates are eager to outdo him. Their zeal is misguided. This country’s meager tax take puts its economic prospects at risk and leaves the government ill equipped to face the challenges from globalization.

According to a report from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, a think tank run by the industrialized countries, the taxes collected last year by federal, state and local governments in the United States amounted to 28.2 percent of gross domestic product. That rate was one of the lowest among wealthy countries — about five percentage points of G.D.P. lower than Canada’s, and more than eight points lower than New Zealand’s. And Danes, Germans and Slovaks paid more in taxes, as a share of their economies.

Politicians on the right have continuously paraded the specter of statism to rally voters’ support for tax cuts, mainly for the rich. But the meager tax take leaves the United States ill prepared to compete. From universal health insurance to decent unemployment insurance, other rich nations provide their citizens benefits that the United States government simply cannot afford.

The consequences include some 47 million Americans without health insurance and companies like General Motors being dragged to the brink by the cost of providing workers and pensioners with medical care.

President Bush and his tax-averse friends extol the fact that the tax haul has risen over the past two years as evidence of the wisdom of his tax cuts. But if anything, the numbers underscore the economy’s weaknesses — mainly its growing inequality.

Indeed, the growth in tax revenue since 2004 is due mostly to the spectacular increase in corporate profits, which have grown at the expense of workers’ wages. Moreover, it’s proving ephemeral. As economic growth has decelerated, corporate profits are losing steam and the growth of tax revenue has begun to slow. This pretty much guarantees that the revenue will prove too low to face the challenges ahead.
5864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: October 20, 2007, 10:32:47 PM
Not exactly a perfect ally, but a valuable one according to this WSJ editorial:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/weekend/hottopic/?id=110010760

The Turkish Front
The path to a better Middle East goes through Ankara.

Saturday, October 20, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Some day, we may look back on this week as a turning point in America's relations with its closest Muslim ally, Turkey, and perhaps for the entire Middle East. Unfortunately, only a seer can say whether it'll be a turn for the better.

The ructions over the House's foray into Ottoman history and Turkey's threat to invade northern Iraq don't look good. But clear-eyed leaders will spot an opportunity in this crisis to renew an alliance for this difficult new era. American and Turkish interests overlap, and the countries need each other as much as they did during the Cold War.

The more sober politicians in Washington and Ankara understand this. Wednesday's parliamentary approval of a possible Turkish incursion to chase down Kurdish terrorists in their Iraqi hideouts was remarkable for its restraint. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan waited more than a week after the latest strike by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (or PKK) killed 13 Turkish soldiers to bring up the measure. No democratic government could ignore such attacks and the growing public outrage.

The Turks have also ruled out any rash move into northern Iraq. Ankara would prefer that the Iraqi Kurds and U.S. squeeze the PKK hiding in the Qandil mountains and avoid the risks of launching its own incursion. The vote this week is a wake-up call from the Turks--not least to the Iraqi Kurds, who have an opening to improve ties with their most important neighbor.

Meanwhile, with uncanny timing, Congressional Democrats this week were about to stick a finger in Turkey's eye. Whether the massacres of up to 1.5 million Armenians in eastern Anatolia in 1915 constitute "genocide," as a nonbinding House resolution declares, is a matter for historians. In the here and now, the resolution would erode America's influence with Ankara and endanger the U.S. effort in Iraq. Worse, Mr. Erdogan's ability to work with Washington would be constrained by an anti-American backlash.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi began the week promising to bring the resolution to the House floor. But she is now having second thoughts--if not out of good sense, then because her rank-and-file are peeling away as they are lobbied against the anti-Turk resolution by the likes of General David Petraeus. Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert tabled a similar resolution when asked by President Clinton in 2000, and we'll soon see if Ms. Pelosi will do the same for a Republican President.

The PKK also reads the papers, and its leaders timed their attacks on consecutive weekends this month as the resolution moved through the House. The Marxist separatist group, whose 20-year war has claimed almost 40,000 lives, would love to divide the U.S. from Turkey. Unless managed right, the Turkish response this week also imperils improving bilateral ties between Ankara and Baghdad; the countries had only recently signed a counterterrorism pact. In Turkey itself, PKK support is dwindling, and Mr. Erdogan's ruling party swept the Kurdish-majority areas in July's elections.

To avoid the trap set by the PKK, the U.S. needs to press the Iraqi Kurds to act against them. This doesn't have to hurt America's friendly dealings with the Kurds. But someone has to remind Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's Kurdish region, that the PKK poses a grave threat to the economic boom and stability of northern Iraq. His aggressive rhetoric toward Turkey, and the Kurdish peshmerga militia's disinterest in cracking down on the PKK, gives the wrong impression of complicity with the terrorists. With typical bluster, Mr. Barzani yesterday said he'd fight the Turks--hardly helpful.

Short of declaring war on the PKK, the peshmerga could easily cut off supply lines of food and arms into the Qandil mountains. The Turks want the U.S. to nab a few big PKK fish, which is easier said than done. But Ankara isn't unreasonable to expect to see more of an effort. In return, its troops can stay on their side of the border.

This hasn't been an easy year for Turkey. For most of it, Mr. Erdogan and his neo-Islamist party fought a cold war with the country's secular establishment, led by the military. His commanding election victory in July ended that political crisis, only to see Congress and the PKK distract anew from his primary task, which is building the Muslim world's most vibrant free-market democracy.

Turkey wants a unitary, stable and prosperous Iraq, and should know that any wrong moves in the north could jeopardize that. The Turks unabashedly support Israel's right to exist and can't abide a nuclear Iran. On these and other issues, Ankara is an indispensable partner for America. Mr. Erdogan is expected to meet President Bush next month to discuss Iraqi Kurdistan and probably the Armenian resolution. The U.S.-Turkey friendship is too important to let it be ruined by parochial politics in either country.
5865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: October 18, 2007, 07:44:50 PM
"...reads like we just caved in big time"

Here's another look and excerpt:
http://www.euro2day.gr/articlesfna/45451397/
"A senior US defense official said Washington would continue negotiating with Poland and the Czech Republic towards building the missile defense installations. But he said the US was willing to leave the system switched off until the US and Russia had jointly validated that Iranian ballistic missiles posed a threat. "It is our intention to proceed with the construction of missile defense in Europe," said Geoff Morrell, Pentagon spokesman. "But the pace at which it becomes operational could be adjusted to meet the threat."

Who snowed whom? a) Putin is adamant about no bases in those locations.  America is apparently going to begin construction.  This looks like a wink of face saving - we won't flip on the switch - while we go right ahead and build.  b) The delay could fit with our process of perfecting the technology. c) It puts an incentive on Putin to keep Iran unready and non-nuclear. d) Ahmadinejad has a big-mouth.  He isn't going to achieve full nuclear readiness without shouting it from the rooftops. It will be meaningless to wait for 'validation' from Moscow after Iran declares itself ready, willing and able. Switch it on.

Meanwhile, most of what those meetings in Russia should have been about was the restraint we need right now from them.  We'll see in time if we received any.
5866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: October 18, 2007, 03:52:33 PM
Thanks for the dog story. I'm not much of an Ellen fan or of anyone else in showbiz - still couldn't help wondering how they came to have kids,so I googled it:

Ellen DeGeneres denies adoption reports, Saturday, February 10 2007 ... denied claims that she is planning to adopt a child with girlfriend Portia De Rossi. The talk show host insisted that she has no plans to have children and praised De Rossi for making her life "almost perfect". "We're not adopting and we don't want to have children," she explained. "No babies - neither of us want children.

But also found:
DEGENERES TO ADOPT? Comedian Ellen DeGeneres reportedly has plans to adopt a child with her actress girlfriend Alexandra Hedison. ...pals say they're now ready to seal their romance with a child. ( - oops, wrong 'spouse')

And this:
Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi are said to be considering cementing their romance by becoming first-time parents. Although the two stars did not reveal their choice for adoption or for natural birth, comedienne DeGeneres confessed she's been thinking about motherhood - and she's aware she has to act fast. "I think we should do it (have a child) soon... When I'm around babies, I just melt. It's a big responsibility", she told America's People magazine.

I guess they really 'cemented their relationship' when they took the next big step after a kid and added a dog... File it all under media issues. huh
5867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: October 18, 2007, 03:19:50 PM
An interesting piece from the Boston Globe this week that I think marks the memory of Hong Kong as a free colony. Amazing that we saw in our lifetime this little island of liberty exist within Communist China and then be given back to China.

Hong Kong's heyday

By H.D.S. Greenway  |  October 16, 2007

HONG KONG
FORTY YEARS ago I came to live here with my family, landing on a heart-stopping thumb of land sticking out in the harbor that served as a runway, where the landing wheels seemed about to snatch the laundry off the clotheslines of Kowloon.
 
Hong Kong was then what they called a British Crown Colony, with most of it on a 99-year lease - "on borrowed time in a borrowed place."

China was in the grip of the Cultural Revolution, with unimagined excesses going on just across the border, which Americans were forbidden to cross. Some of it spilled into the colony with Red Guards going around waving the little red books of Chairman Mao's sayings, and bombs that would occasionally kill. Bodies would sometimes float down the Pearl River from Canton, some of them having been tied up and tortured.

And all around the restless rim of Asia there was trouble. The Vietnam War, for which I was headed, raged. Indonesia had recently experienced mass killings of astonishing scale. Singapore and Malaysia's future could not be assured. Thailand faced a Communist insurgency on its northeast frontier, and Laos, "the landlocked kingdom" of newspaper headlines, seemed always to be "teetering on the brink."

Hong Kong was the oasis then, despite the occasional disturbance. My favorite image of those years was watching cricket players on their downtown pitch with the Bank of China in the background draped in huge red Mao banners.

Refugees, as they always had when China was in trouble, tried to sneak or swim into British territory.

The rules were that you would be stopped and turned back if caught. But if you made it you would not be deported.

Britain ran its colony in the most laissez-faire way possible, with few rules on its unfettered capitalism, in stark contrast to the nanny state that was pre-Thatcherite Britain.

As the last governor, Christopher Patten, would write: "Hong Kong's special fortune was to be blessed with a small team of colonial administrators eccentric enough to believe in free markets and cussed enough to stick to their guns. . ." While the home country flirted with "nationalization, high taxation, rigid labor markets, excessive social spending, it allowed its colonial dependency to practice the ancient economic virtues with conspicuous success."

There was poverty, of course, extreme by British standards, but everyone felt better off than their neighbors on the mainland.

There were courts of law with bewigged judges, but just across the way Red Guards trampled laws and Chinese traditions in their political frenzy.

Everyone knew that China could take Hong Kong anytime it wanted. A British general, briefing the press on the colony's defenses, was incredulously asked: "You are not implying that you could actually defend this place from the People's Liberation Army, are you?"

"Perhaps not," the general answered, "but we would give them an interesting afternoon." Despite the turmoil, the Chinese leadership kept its hands off Hong Kong, their invaluable window to the West.

Hong Kong became one of the wealthiest places on earth in the following years. It was a front-page story when the number of registered Rolls Royces passed the number of registered rickshaws.

In time, of course, the borrowed time was up and the borrowed place had to be given back. The idea of "one country, two systems" was a masterpiece of political compromise, allowing Hong Kong, in theory, to run its own show for 50 years.

Ten years ago, when the British flag was being lowered for the last time over its last big - in population anyway - colonial possession, I came back to watch the empire end, Christopher Patten and Prince Charles sail away on the royal yacht, and the Chinese Army rumble in on a monsoon rain.

Today, Hong Kong's spectacular skyline continues to grow ever higher, even as its storied harbor shrinks before ever- increasing landfills. If democracy has not advanced as much as Patten had hoped, neither has totalitarianism as many of us feared.
5868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 17, 2007, 10:27:56 AM
Payroll Growth: 1990s vs. 2000s
Posted by BRIAN WESBURY   October 17, 2007
http://time-blog.com/real_clear_politics/2007/10/payroll_growth_1990s_vs_2000s.html

As far as economic recoveries go, the current one may be the most maligned in history. One glaring weakness, which pessimists never tire of pointing out, is that payroll job growth in this cycle has been weaker than in the 1990s. Over the past three years, payroll jobs have grown at an average monthly rate of 180,000. At the same point in the previous cycle (1994-96) payrolls grew at an average monthly rate of 244,000.

But don't despair. While the data is accurate, it is highly misleading. After digging beneath the surface, the jobs market is just as strong today as it was in the mid-1990s.

First, the unemployment rate was higher in 1994 than it was in 2004, 6.6% versus 5.4%. As a result, pent up demand for labor in the 1990s helped lift job growth.

Second, there has been a massive decline in young people who want a job. Without the drop among 16-24 year olds, a higher share of the population would be participating in the labor force today than a decade ago.

Notably, most of the drop in labor force participation among the young is due to increased school enrollment. Not only do students work less than non-students, but today's students are working less than their predecessors. About 44% of teenage students were in the labor force in the mid- 1990s versus about 36% in the past few years. In our view, this is a sign of prosperity and suggests support for productivity growth in the future once these more educated workers eventually get a job.

Third, Baby Boomers were in their peak working years in the 1990s and are now moving toward retirement. Labor force participation tends to peak at about age 40 and declines rapidly after age 50. In the mid-1990s the typical Baby Boomer was about age 40 and none of them were older than 50. Now, about half of Boomers have passed age 50.

Last, the Labor Department uses two major surveys for job creation. The establishment survey asks businesses how many are on their payrolls. That's the source of the payroll data, which has been weak relative to the 1990s. The household survey asks people directly if they are working. This survey generates data on civilian employment, which has increased at an average monthly rate of 189,000 in the past three years, almost exactly the 191,000 rate in 1994-96.

If someone has two jobs, the payroll data counts them twice, while the household survey does not. In the 1990s, the number of workers holding multiple jobs was rising, which boosted the payroll data relative to the household data. Lately, the number of these multiple job holders has fallen, helping move the two surveys back in line. Clearly, this suggests that the 2000s may actually have a healthier job market than the 1990s. This view is buttressed by the fact that in the past two years average hourly earnings are up 8.4, the fastest pace since 1990.

Given all these important demographic changes, payroll growth has actually been healthy, not weak. A useful analysis published last year by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City suggests payrolls need to grow at an average monthly rate of about 120,000 to keep the unemployment rate steady. Looking back, payroll employment has grown at a 1.07% annual rate since March 1998, when the unemployment rate was also equal to today's 4.7%. Applying this rate of growth to the current level of payrolls suggests that the US needs 123,000 new payroll jobs every month to hold the unemployment rate steady.

A little digging is all it takes to show that the unfairly maligned economy is actually doing quite well. The good news is that all this concern creates a “wall of worry” that the stock market continues to climb.
5869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: October 09, 2007, 11:24:29 AM
Coincidental to the timing of the story that US intel obtained bin Laden's tape before he posted it, that media outlets blew our cover and that AQ had to shut down their sites, I see there has been heavy fighting in Waziristan the last 3 days where that group is presumed to be residing. I'm guessing the new fighting is inspired by the latest intel. One of these days, one of these battles is going to bring us the head of AQ.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7034795.stm

Battles rage on Pakistan border
Pakistani troops in North Waziristan (file photo)
The army faces well-armed, well-trained militants in Waziristan
At least 45 Pakistani soldiers and 150 pro-Taleban militants have died in three days of fierce fighting in North Waziristan, the Pakistani army says.

Unconfirmed reports say 50 more rebels died in fresh air strikes on Tuesday.  It is the heaviest fighting in the Waziristan region, which borders Afghanistan, for many months. Locals are reported to be fleeing the clashes.

US and Nato have been pressing Pakistan to do more to stop militants crossing the border to attack their troops.

The fighting is centred around the town of Mir Ali. The bombing destroyed many shops and homes...
Latest reports say many of its residents are trying to escape, but it is unclear how many are going.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says that Mir Ali is known as a base for foreign militants with links to the Taleban and al-Qaeda.  The violence has been escalating since mid-July when a ceasefire between the army and the militants broke down.  Access for journalists to the tribal areas is restricted and it is impossible to independently verify the casualty figures.

Military aircraft struck "one or two places" near Mir Ali on Tuesday, army spokesman Maj Gen Waheed, the Associated Press news agency reports. There were unconfirmed reports that about 50 militants had been killed.

As well as soldiers confirmed killed, the army says up to 15 soldiers who went missing on Monday are still unaccounted for.

The army says it has rejected a ceasefire proposed by the militants and will "continue punitive action till complete peace is restored", AP said.

Our correspondent says that, by all accounts, the fighting in North Waziristan has been extraordinarily fierce.  The army has been bombing suspected militant positions in villages using helicopter gun ships and jet fighters.
5870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Book Reviews on: October 09, 2007, 10:55:40 AM
Thomas Sowell writes about the new Clarence Thomas book and interviews.  I heard a couple of interviews but haven't read his book yet.  Crafty correctly put his Clarence Thomas post in 'legal issues'.  This book maybe falls in the category of 'parenting'.  I see the soft, easy, material life that my 13yo daughter and her friends live and we know of the harder, tougher upbringing that people like Thomas and Sowell experienced and wonder how we can hope for our kids to develop a fraction of the character that they learned.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/10/clarence_thomas.html

October 09, 2007
Clarence Thomas
By Thomas Sowell

It would be hard to think of anyone whose portrayal in the media differs more radically from the reality than that of Justice Clarence Thomas. His recent appearances on "60 Minutes," the Rush Limbaugh program, and other media outlets provide the general public with their first in-depth look at the real Clarence Thomas.

These media appearances are part of the promotion of his riveting new memoir, titled "My Grandfather's Son." Otherwise, Justice Thomas would probably have continued to confine himself to doing his work at the Supreme Court, without worrying about what was being said about him in the media.

In an era when too many judges, including justices of the Supreme Court, seem to be playing to the media gallery -- if not writing opinions or leaking information with an eye toward favorable coverage in the press -- Justice Thomas' refusal to play that game tells us a lot about him.

His memoir tells us more. Born in material poverty beyond anything experienced even by people on welfare today, Clarence Thomas was raised with an abundance of discipline and character-building that would pay off in later life.

This was largely the work of his grandfather, who raised him, and whom he now calls "the greatest man I have ever known." But that was not his view at the time, when he was a child.

His grandfather, however, was not preoccupied -- like so many modern parents -- with how the children see things. He took his role as a parent to be to see things that children could not see, including challenges that they would encounter in later life.

The metamorphosis of Clarence Thomas went through many phases -- from altar boy to seminary student to a campus radical and racial militant, before eventually coming full circle back to the values his grandfather taught him and an understanding of the law and society that he acquired on his own.

One sign of where he was in his radical and militant phase was that, when someone gave him a book of mine to read, he threw it in the trash basket.

But, by the time I first met him, in 1978, he had already reached the same conclusions on his own that I had reached.

Those conclusions were probably more firmly grasped because they were his own, rather than something he read by somebody else.

Clarence Thomas' own experiences shocked him into a realization that "affirmative action" and other policies being pushed by civil rights organizations and by liberals generally were doing more harm than good, both to blacks and to American society.

In an era when so many people have neither the time nor the patience to examine arguments and evidence, critics have tried to dismiss Clarence Thomas as someone who "sold out" in order to advance himself.

In reality, he was in far worse financial condition than if he had taken the opposite positions on political issues.

As late as the time of his nomination to the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas' net worth -- everything he had accumulated over a lifetime -- was less than various civil rights "leaders" make in one year.

Nobody sells out to the lowest bidder.

The other great myth about Justice Thomas is that he is a lonely and embittered man, withdrawn from the world, as a result of the brutal confirmation hearings he went through back in 1991.

Clarence Thomas was never a social butterfly. You didn't see his name in the society pages or at media events, either before he got on the High Court or afterward.

In reality, Justice Thomas has been all over the place, giving talks, especially to young people, and inviting some of them to his offices at the Supreme Court.

Summers find him driving his own bus all around the country, mixing with people at truck stops, trailer parks and mall parking lots. The fact that he is not out grandstanding for the media does not mean that he is hunkering down in his cellar.

Clarence Thomas' sense of humor is terrific. Whenever I am on the phone with someone and laughing repeatedly, my wife usually asks me afterward, "Was that Clarence?" It usually is.

Now, thanks to his book, the public can get to know the man himself, rather than the cardboard image created by the media.
5871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 08, 2007, 11:15:12 AM
http://victordavishanson.pajamasmedia.com/2007/10/06/observations_about_the_war.php
Observations about the war, from Victor Davis Hanson

Last week’s quiet

I just returned to Kuwait, and have been in Iraq visiting forward operating bases in Anbar and Diyala provinces, as well as suburbs of Baghdad the last week, hence the recent silence on this blog given sporadic internet facilities in Iraq. I hope to post a series of observations. But for now here are a few initials impressions from my second visit to the country. (Please excuse the typos, writing in haste from Kuwait City)

Better News?

Almost all the Marines and Army units I visited from Ramadi to Taji to various hot spots in Baghdad and Diyala believe there has been a sudden shift in the pulse of battlefield. Sometimes without much warning thousands of once disgruntled Sunni have turned on al Qaeda, ceased resistance, and are flocking to join government security forces and begging the Americans to stop both al Qaeda and Shiite militias.

Commanders in the field are cautious. They know that if the Shiite dominated government in Baghdad stays vengeful for decades of past suffering at the hands of Sunni Baathists, the reconciliation will fail. So thousands of American officers are desperately pressuring ministries to start distributing the vast wealth of Iraq’s $80 a barrel oil revenues to Anbar and Diyala before the Sunni revert back to insurgency.

The U.S. military

The brilliance of U.S. army and marines officers has not been fully appreciated. I met scores with PhDs and MAs, from Majors to Colonels, who are literally all at once trying to defeat al Qaeda gangs and Shiite militias, rebuild government facilities, arbitrate tribal feuds, repair utilities and train Iraqi army and police. As was true of the last trip to Iraq, I am left with three general impressions about the military.

(1) Our army and marines are far too few and overextended. The United States must either radically increase the size of these traditional ground units or scale back its commitments in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Through constant rotations, we are literally burning out gifted officers and lifetime professionals— and will lose their priceless expertise if they begin, as I fear, retiring en masse due to the sheer exhaustion.

(2) There is more optimism about success among the battlefield soldiers than present with analysts in Baghdad. The sudden decrease in violence has left many units stunned that Iraqis who used to try to kill them are suddenly volunteering information about terrorists and landmines, and clamoring to join the joint security force. Usually those behind the desk are the optimists, the soldiers who die the pessimists. But instead there is genuine feeling on the front that after four frustrating years of ordeal, at last there are tangible signs of real, often radical improvement.

(3) As a supporter of some four years of the now unpopular effort to remove Saddam and leave a democracy in his place, I continue to have only one reservation, albeit a major one. The U.S. soldier in the field is so unusually competent and heroic that one comes to despair at the very thought of losing even one of them. As a military historian I know that an army that can’t take casualties can’t win, but I confess after spending 16-hour days with our soldiers in impossible conditions one wonders whether the entire country of Iraq is worth the loss of just of these unusual Americans. I understand both the lack of logic and perhaps amorality in such a sweeping statement, but feel it nonetheless out here.

The complexity of the effort

The military is pulling out all the stops. Some examples. They have flown Vietnam-era veterans to lecture on counter-insurgency in their school at Taji, in addition to clinic psychologists and veterans of recent wars from Panama to Afghanistan. The problem is now not too few interpreters, but too many trying to join us. Some of the best are Iraqi-Americans, who know American idiom and deeply appreciate being an American.

Hundreds are working on IEDs, not just counter-technologies and aerial surveillance, but sophisticated methods of learning how they are made, how the bombers function, and how they are paid and maintained. Thousands of other reserve and retired engineers have come to Iraq to build and advise Iraqi contractors. I met a fascinating engineer in his mid-fifties who volunteered to return to the Marines and is now supervising the reconstruction of the governmental center in Ramadi.

Again, they are trying not just to defeat the insurgency, but to literally take Iraq from its primordial past to the twenty-first century within four years. A Herculean Task.

Mythologies

A common slur is that Halliburton is looting the treasury and contractors in Iraq are greedy profiteers. I again found the opposite to be true. Thousands of construction personnel build bases, road, and Iraqi facilities, sometimes under fire, but living with the notion of shelling or shooting any minute. I consider them more likely under- rather than overpaid.

Iraq is not a poor country. Flying over the Tigris-Euphrates valley (I speak now a farmer) is unlike anything in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. The soil is rich, the water plentiful and the dry climate perfect for intensive agriculture. That the country in theory within a year or two could pump well over three million barrels of petroleum a day, gives some indication of just how badly Iraq has been run the last forty years to screw up such natural bounty of a country—the Baathist-terror state, the attack on Iran, the massacres of Kurdish and Shiite innocents, the 1991 Gulf War, the no-fly zones and UN embargo, et al.

Next posting…

Hope to leave Kuwait tonight and post more on Iraq—some thoughts on our chances of winning, the nature of our colonels in the field, an interview with General Petraeus, the real Al Qaeda (or what Sunnis who once joined them now say about them) and other observations. .. Again, excuse the typos, since I write in haste.

Postscript
Hope to post tomorrow. One final thought. I must emphasize that we as a country have to support those in the field of fire. They believe not just that we can win by securing Iraq, but that they are doing a moral good by giving millions a chance of something quite different. Whatever one’s views on the war are, it seems to me morally reprehensible that anyone would slander an American soldier, whether comparing them to terrorists or their General to a betrayer. We have a very rare precious resource in today’s military that really does represent the moral upper crust of American society, and as long as it is engaged, we need to support it. We may come to the day that the military itself thinks victory is beyond our resources or not worth the cost, but from what I saw this week, as in 2006, we are not there at that day yet by a long shot.
5872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 08, 2007, 11:02:57 AM
The Best Economy Ever?
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2007/10/018668.php

It's time to start taking seriously the proposition that the American economy under the Bush administration is the best in the nation's history. This morning the White House expressed entirely appropriate pride in the country's economic achievements on its watch:

    Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new jobs figures – 110,000 jobs created in September. September 2007 is the 49th consecutive month of job growth, setting a new record for the longest uninterrupted expansion of the U.S. labor market. Significant upward revisions to employment in July and August mean employment growth has averaged 97,000 per month over the last three months. Since August 2003, our economy has created more than 8.1 million jobs, and the unemployment rate remains low at 4.7 percent.

    Real after-tax per capita personal income has increased by over 12.5 percent – an average of over $3,750 per person – since President Bush took office. More than 30 percent of the Nation's net worth has been added since the President's 2003 tax cuts.

    Real wages have grown 2.2 percent over the 12 months that ended in August. This is much higher than the average growth rate during the 1990s, and it means an extra $1,266 in the past year for a family with two average wage earners.

    Real GDP grew at a strong 3.8 percent annual rate in the second quarter of 2007. The economy has now experienced nearly six years of uninterrupted growth, averaging 2.7 percent a year since the turnaround in 2001.

The stock market is at record highs, unemployment continues at historic lows. What's not to like? Of course, one can always question the link between prosperity (or the lack thereof) and government policies. But in President Bush's case, it seems pretty obvious that his tax cuts prevented what could have been a disastrous downward spiral. At a time when our economy was subject to the double-whammy of recession and the bursting of the tech bubble, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 could easily have sent the economy into a tailspin.

By the same token, I don't think any serious observer doubts that the policies the Democrats want to adopt will damage the economy. The Democrats want higher taxes:

    If Congress lets Bush's tax cuts expire, it would increase taxes by more than $1,800, on the average, for a family of four making $60,000 dollars a year. Small business owners would see their taxes go up by almost $4,000, and families with children would pay an additional $500 per child.

Beyond that, the adverse economic consequences of socialized medicine are incalculable. And we haven't mentioned what would happen if the federal government started mandating the shut-down of industry so as to reduce carbon emissions in a superstitious attempt to control the weather, while China and India do nothing of the sort.

I became a Republican mostly because experience and observation taught me that free enterprise works, and socialism doesn't. Those issues have been more or less off the table in recent years because of the downfall of international socialism, the relatively enterprise-friendly Clinton administration and the Republicans' failure to control spending while they controlled Congress. But the economic issues may be about to emerge once again, as Americans consider whether they want to abandon the successful policies of the Bush administration.
5873  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The left's family values on: October 07, 2007, 02:12:32 PM
"the ones who want to keep the troops in harm's way"
We are trying to accomplish something, agree with that or not, but certainly not just 'keeping them in harm's way which guarantees that some will be killed. Planet earth IMO is in harm's way for the larger force we are fighting.  I know you disagree with the war but those who disagree with this part of this war lost that argument and right now our troops are in harm's way fighting for something.  It's hard not to cringe at your previous words wishing them to lose at war.  If I am reading you wrong on that or you have already clarified that I apologize; I don't think anyone here intends to mis-state what you have written. In the hypothetical I can appreciate that you wish they were home, but this war is not hypothetical.

My perspective on Christians imposing views - I believe the school prayer issue is about a right to pray, never a requirement to pray at all much less Christian.  Banning abortion to me is like banning murder or slavery. It really isn't a desire to run all aspects of people's lives, just to stop the carnage.  Do people really still argue that the unborn is not an innocent life?  Most pro-life arguments I see are aimed at raising that awareness and at criticizing and overturning what so many believe is a badly-decided case.

"forbidding gays from marrying" - Again, it is not complicated or controversial to me, a single dad, that marriage is a special relationship between a man and a woman, hence the terms husband and wife.   A brother and sister or group of close friends might bond together under one roof to take care of each other, our household is a father and daughter, but that does not make a relationship a marriage or cause a need to re-define a pretty good institution.  Arguing for rights such as the right to will and inherit and to designate each other for end of life decisions seems perfectly fair, but not to change  the meaning of husband and wife.  JMHO
5874  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin on: September 27, 2007, 11:11:18 AM
Choosing the category of race, culture and humanities for a follow up on crime in America's cities as unearthed in the Wisconsin self defense case from Milwaukee.  I speculate that the aggressors and the victim in this case are black because the bad neighborhoods of Milwaukee are primarily black and because race is not covered in the story. If true, it means this tragic, concealed carry story is also about black on black crime.  I would be thrilled to be corrected on that, but the major media has a ban on publishing race 'when it isn't part of the story'.

Illegalized self-defense was one factor.  Another is our social system of bad incentives.  Welfare payments cause dependency and perpetuate unproductive lifestyles.  It's still happening today, a decade after 'welfare reform'.  The dependency cycle hits blacks disproportionately, and crime is rampant in areas of unproductive density.

Wisconsin was a leader in welfare reform, but they only reformed one type of payment while dozens/hundreds of other federal, state and local programs continued to increase and perpetuate the cycle of poverty.    Free health care, food stamps, and section 8 housing are enormous examples, while the payroll tax chops off a huge chunk of the incentive from those on the edge of becoming contributing members, making the jump even less attractive.
5875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: September 25, 2007, 11:54:59 PM
I applaud the Wisconsin concealed carry decision but mainly I am struck by the facts - the poor man being mugged so many times.  It's puzzling that he stayed in Milwaukee and kept delivering pizzas in a high crime area.  What's wrong with this town that they allow crime to run out of control?  Looks like a good part of the answer is in the case: they took away the right of citizens to defend themselves.
5876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: September 25, 2007, 12:26:03 PM
Commenting on Crafty's quote of Mark Twain - Scary how true that became!  ... and

CCP's post of Republican trouble in the senate this year with Dick Morris' analysis:
"It may well be another 50 years before we see that party come back."

The senate may look bleak for Republicans in 2008 because of numbers and matchups, but the thin Democratic majority in the unpopular house is also up for re-election.  I see two scenarios: one, if conventional wisdom prevails and Hillary becomes President because of the demographics and momentum cited, then the electorate who seem to unconsciously support divided government could cross votes in the close swing districts.  If Hillary success is based on the model of her husband,then her party will likely be hurt down the ticket.

The other unmentioned scenario is that some Republican with a conservative message could win the contest of competing philosophies and thus win some coattails. 

Even if Republicans lose 3 seats in the senate, the majority still falls in the 51-59 seat range unable to do business without minority support.  The lessons of 2008 are not yet known, but almost every scenario I can see involves divided government.

I find Morris to be a polling and demographic expert, but his take on my state "liberal Minnesota" is half wrong.  Statewide elections have split about 50-50 over the last two decades.
5877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 25, 2007, 11:39:29 AM
I appreciate seeing a positive Fred Thompson story (Crafty's Chris Edwards of Cato post) as I still prefer him. For balance, here is a nice compilation of all the negatives cast against Thompson, written by Dick Morris who thinks Thompson isn't up to the task: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,296882,00.html

What Morris, an ideological agnostic, misses IMO is that the ho-hum speeches sounding ho-hum conservative themes like secure borders, federalism, judges who interpret the constitution, etc. might actually have surprising appeal. 

Should he win the nomination, it is good for him strategically in the general election to have not been branded early as an extreme conservative or be in lock-step with the party or the administration.

One of the knocks against Thompson is fund-raising, yet look at the attention and poll numbers he has drawn without money.  Right now these candidates are not running very hard against each other.  The idea that if you don't give to Fred for example, then Rudy or Mitt will be the nominee, even McCain, is not a scary proposition for a Republican.  In a general election it will be pretty easy to make the case in a fund raising letter that if you don't support this guy (or whoever the nominee is) that Hillary will be President.
5878  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.

5879  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.
5880  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.
5881  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.
5882  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."
5883  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.
5884  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.

 
5885  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.
5886  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
5887  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.
5888  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.

5889  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. 



5890  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.
5891  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
5892  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.”
5893  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?
5894  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.
5895  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.
5896  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.
5897  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.
5898  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.
5899  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.
5900  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


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