Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wolfowitz (!)
on: June 03, 2009, 05:57:18 AM
Second post of the AM
By PAUL WOLFOWITZ
President Barack Obama faces great challenges when he speaks to the Muslim world tomorrow from Cairo. He must counter some of the myths and outright falsehoods about the United States that are commonly believed in many parts of the Muslim world, and he needs to present his audience with some inconvenient truths. But he also has an opportunity, based in no small part on his own remarkable career, to make the case that the political principles and values that are sometimes mistakenly labeled as "Western" are appropriate for the Muslim world.
The challenge of addressing the entire Muslim world in a single speech can be appreciated if one imagines what the reaction would be if some other world leader attempted to speak to the "Christian world," with all of its diversity. For example, although Islam is the state religion in most countries with Muslim majorities, there are a number -- including Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world -- where it is not. Moreover, some countries have large non-Muslim minorities. And the second largest Muslim population in the world lives as a minority in India. There is an enormous variety of views among Muslims around the world on everything from religion to politics to family values.
Although there are many expectations for this speech, one that Mr. Obama hopefully will disappoint is the expectation that he will walk away from what President George W. Bush called "the freedom agenda." That would be a great mistake for the U.S. and for the Muslim world.
Some observers have viewed the choice of Egypt as the venue for this important speech as a deliberate distancing from that idea. Egypt is an important country and the largest in the Arab world. But it is not the largest country in the Muslim world, or the most tolerant, or the freest, or the most democratic, or the most developed, or the most prosperous. The president should make clear that his decision to speak in Cairo does not mean he is indifferent to how the Egyptian government treats its own people, despite the importance of Egypt in the Arab-Israeli peace process and as an ally in confronting Iran.
The president said correctly in an NPR interview on Monday that "part of being a good friend is being honest," and that we need to be honest with Israel about "the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests." The president also needs to be honest with the Muslim world. That means addressing the causes of the poverty and tyranny which are so pervasive that they create a widespread belief the U.S. is at best indifferent -- and at worst actively complicit -- in maintaining those conditions in order to deny Muslims their rightful place in the world.
Mr. Obama's own remarkable career is living testimony to the strengths of America's open society and free institutions. Most Muslims recognize his achievement in becoming the leader of a country that, despite our problems, is still admired and envied for its prosperity and freedom. At the same time, they recognize that no one of comparable background could become the leader of any of their own countries. That empowers Mr. Obama to argue persuasively that the institutions and practices that have enabled the U.S. to change so much over the course of two centuries can provide the key for their progress as well.
Genuine democracy is a matter of making government accountable and transparent, not only through elections but through many other means as well, including a free press. It means protecting the rights of all citizens to develop their full potential, both for their own prosperity and for the society as a whole, by protecting equal rights under the law. That includes the right of private property, which is recognized clearly in Islam. In speaking to the Muslim world, it is particularly important for the president to emphasize the importance of protecting the rights of women and those of minorities -- subjects on which he can be particularly eloquent and persuasive.
The denial of equal rights to women is unjust. It hurts society as a whole when half the population is prevented from achieving its full potential. The countries in the Muslim world that have developed most successfully are those -- such as Indonesia, Turkey and Malaysia -- where women have been able to play a substantial role. Those same countries have also benefited enormously from giving scope to Christian and Jewish minorities to prosper, although the record is imperfect. Turkey's Jewish minority found refuge there 500 years ago from the Spanish Inquisition. In those days, when Islamic civilization was the most advanced in the world, it was also one of the most tolerant.
Unfortunately, today's trend is in the wrong direction in much of the Muslim world. Church burnings and other intolerant acts are increasing. As a member of a minority himself, Mr. Obama is strongly positioned to speak out against that trend.
More generally, the president could counter the belief that the U.S. is indifferent to the fate of the world's Muslims or, worse, that we demonize Islam. He could remind his listeners of the many occasions in the past 20 years when the U.S. put its men and women in harm's way -- in Kuwait, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo, not to mention Afghanistan and Iraq -- to assist people suffering from tyranny or famine who happened to be Muslims.
He could tell them of the deep respect that Americans have for religious belief in general and for Islam as one of the world's great religions. He could reiterate our understanding that the actions of extremists do not represent the majority of Muslims, as his predecessors emphasized repeatedly.
Hopefully, however, the president will not repeat what he said to Al-Arabiyah television in January about going back to "the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago." Throughout the Muslim world that was interpreted as a return to a time when, as President Bush said, the U.S. preferred stability to freedom in the Middle East and ended up with neither.
The president should make clear that the U.S. does not believe that democracy can be imposed by force. Nor should he suggest that stability is unimportant. Free institutions cannot be expected to develop overnight, and certainly not in Egypt. But particularly in Egypt it is appropriate to emphasize that true stability requires giving that country's persecuted liberal democrats the space to begin growing free institutions, rather than leaving the field entirely to extremists who organize effectively in secret.
One of those persecuted Egyptian liberals, Ayman Nour, recently asked whether Mr. Obama will "confirm his commitment to democracy, or will he appease dictators and aggressors?" One single speech cannot definitively answer that question but hopefully, tomorrow in Cairo, Ayman Nour will be pleased with Barack Obama's words.
Mr. Wolfowitz, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has served as deputy U.S. secretary of defense and U.S. ambassador to Indonesia.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The other Friedman on BO
on: June 03, 2009, 05:48:37 AM
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: June 3, 2009
During a telephone interview Tuesday with President Obama about his speech to Arabs and Muslims in Cairo on Thursday, I got to tell the president my favorite Middle East joke. It gave him a good laugh. It goes like this:
Skip to next paragraph
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Thomas L. Friedman
There is this very pious Jew named Goldberg who always dreamed of winning the lottery. Every Sabbath, he’d go to synagogue and pray: “God, I have been such a pious Jew all my life. What would be so bad if I won the lottery?” But the lottery would come and Goldberg wouldn’t win. Week after week, Goldberg would pray to win the lottery, but the lottery would come and Goldberg wouldn’t win. Finally, one Sabbath, Goldberg wails to the heavens and says: “God, I have been so pious for so long, what do I have to do to win the lottery?”
And the heavens parted and the voice of God came down: “Goldberg, give me a chance! Buy a ticket!”
I told the president that joke because in reading the Arab and Israeli press this week, everyone seemed to be telling him what he needed to do and say in Cairo, but nobody was indicating how they were going to step up and do something different. Everyone wants peace, but nobody wants to buy a ticket.
“We have a joke around the White House,” the president said. “We’re just going to keep on telling the truth until it stops working — and nowhere is truth-telling more important than the Middle East.”
A key part of his message, he said, will be: “Stop saying one thing behind closed doors and saying something else publicly.” He then explained: “There are a lot of Arab countries more concerned about Iran developing a nuclear weapon than the ‘threat’ from Israel, but won’t admit it.” There are a lot of Israelis, “who recognize that their current path is unsustainable, and they need to make some tough choices on settlements to achieve a two-state solution — that is in their long-term interest — but not enough folks are willing to recognize that publicly.”
There are a lot of Palestinians who “recognize that the constant incitement and negative rhetoric with respect to Israel” has not delivered a single “benefit to their people and had they taken a more constructive approach and sought the moral high ground” they would be much better off today — but they won’t say it aloud.
“There are a lot of Arab states that have not been particularly helpful to the Palestinian cause beyond a bunch of demagoguery,” and when it comes to “ponying up” money to actually help the Palestinian people, they are “not forthcoming.”
When it comes to dealing with the Middle East, the president noted, “there is a Kabuki dance going on constantly. That is what I would like to see broken down. I am going to be holding up a mirror and saying: ‘Here is the situation, and the U.S. is prepared to work with all of you to deal with these problems. But we can’t impose a solution. You are all going to have to make some tough decisions.’ Leaders have to lead, and, hopefully, they will get supported by their people.”
It was clear from the 20-minute conversation that the president has no illusions that one speech will make lambs lie down with lions. Rather, he sees it as part of his broader diplomatic approach that says: If you go right into peoples’ living rooms, don’t be afraid to hold up a mirror to everything they are doing, but also engage them in a way that says ‘I know and respect who you are.’ You end up — if nothing else — creating a little more space for U.S. diplomacy. And you never know when that can help.
“As somebody who ordered an additional 17,000 troops into Afghanistan,” said Mr. Obama, “you would be hard pressed to suggest that what we are doing is not backed up by hard power. I discount a lot of that criticism. What I do believe is that if we are engaged in speaking directly to the Arab street, and they are persuaded that we are operating in a straightforward manner, then, at the margins, both they and their leadership are more inclined and able to work with us.”
Similarly, the president said that if he is asking German or French leaders to help more in Afghanistan or Pakistan, “it doesn’t hurt if I have credibility with the German and French people. They will still be constrained with budgets and internal politics, but it makes it easier.”
Part of America’s “battle against terrorist extremists involves changing the hearts and minds of the people they recruit from,” he added. “And if there are a bunch of 22- and 25-year-old men and women in Cairo or in Lahore who listen to a speech by me or other Americans and say: ‘I don’t agree with everything they are saying, but they seem to know who I am or they seem to want to promote economic development or tolerance or inclusiveness,’ then they are maybe a little less likely to be tempted by a terrorist recruiter.”
I think that’s right. An Egyptian friend remarked to me: Do not underestimate what seeds can get planted when American leaders don’t just propagate their values, but visibly live them. Mr. Obama will be speaking at Cairo University. When young Arabs and Muslims see an American president who looks like them, has a name like theirs, has Muslims in his family and comes into their world and speaks the truth, it will be empowering and disturbing at the same time. People will be asking: “Why is this guy who looks like everyone on the street here the head of the free world and we can’t even touch freedom?” You never know where that goes.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Airstrike errors
on: June 03, 2009, 05:28:29 AM
Its the NY Slimes, so reports on subjects such as this one need to be read with care. Caveat lector!
U.S. Report Finds Airstrike Errors in Afghan Deaths
ERIC SCHMITT and THOM SHANKER
Published: June 2, 2009
WASHINGTON — A military investigation has concluded that American personnel made significant errors in carrying out some of the airstrikes in western Afghanistan on May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians, according to a senior American military official.
The official said the civilian death toll would probably have been reduced if American air crews and forces on the ground had followed strict rules devised to prevent civilian casualties. Had the rules been followed, at least some of the strikes by American warplanes against half a dozen targets over seven hours would have been aborted.
The report represents the clearest American acknowledgment of fault in connection with the attacks. It will give new ammunition to critics, including many Afghans, who complain that American forces too often act indiscriminately in calling in airstrikes, jeopardizing the United States mission by turning the civilian population against American forces and their ally, the Afghan government.
Since the raid, American military commanders have promised to address the problem. On Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, nominated to be the American commander in Afghanistan, vowed that reducing civilian casualties was “essential to our credibility.”
Any American victory would be “hollow and unsustainable” if it led to popular resentment among Afghanistan’s citizens, General McChrystal told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a confirmation hearing.
According to the senior military official, the report on the May 4 raids found that one plane was cleared to attack Taliban fighters, but then had to circle back and did not reconfirm the target before dropping bombs, leaving open the possibility that the militants had fled the site or that civilians had entered the target area in the intervening few minutes.
In another case, a compound of buildings where militants were massing for a possible counterattack against American and Afghan troops was struck in violation of rules that required a more imminent threat to justify putting high-density village dwellings at risk, the official said.
“In several instances where there was a legitimate threat, the choice of how to deal with that threat did not comply with the standing rules of engagement,” said the military official, who provided a broad summary of the report’s initial findings on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry was not yet complete.
Before being chosen as the new commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal spent five years as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, overseeing commandos in Iraq and Afghanistan. Special Operations forces have been sharply criticized by Afghans for aggressive tactics that have contributed to civilian casualties.
During his testimony, General McChrystal said that strikes by warplanes and Special Operations ground units would remain an essential part of combat in Afghanistan. But he promised to make sure that these attacks were based on solid intelligence and that they were as precise as possible. American success in Afghanistan should be measured by “the number of Afghans shielded from violence,” not the number of enemy fighters killed, he said.
The inquiry into the May 4 strikes in the western province of Farah illustrated the difficult, split-second decisions facing young officers in the heat of combat as they balance using lethal force to protect their troops under fire with detailed rules restricting the use of firepower to prevent civilian deaths.
In the report, the investigating officer, Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, analyzed each of the airstrikes carried out by three aircraft-carrier-based Navy F/A-18 strike aircraft and an Air Force B-1 bomber against targets in the village of Granai, in a battle that lasted more than seven hours.
In each case, the senior military official said, General Thomas determined that the targets that had been struck posed legitimate threats to Afghan or American forces, which included one group of Marines assigned to train the Afghans and another assigned to a Special Operations task force.
But in “several cases,” the official said, General Thomas determined either that the airstrikes had not been the appropriate response to the threat because of the potential risk to civilians, or that American forces had failed to follow their own tactical rules in conducting the bombing runs.
The Afghan government concluded that about 140 civilians had been killed in the attacks. An earlier American military inquiry said last month that 20 to 30 civilians had been killed. That inquiry also concluded that 60 to 65 Taliban militants had been killed in the fight. American military officials say their two investigations show that Taliban fighters had deliberately fired on American forces and aircraft from compounds and other places where they knew Afghan civilians had sought shelter, in order to draw an American response that would kill civilians, including women and children.
The firefight began, the military said, when Afghan soldiers and police officers went to several villages in response to reports that three Afghan government officials had been killed by the Taliban. The police were quickly overwhelmed and asked for backup from American forces.
American officials have said that a review of videos from aircraft weapon sights and exchanges between air crew members and a ground commander established that Taliban fighters had taken refuge in “buildings which were then targeted in the final strikes of the fight,” which went well into the night.
American troop levels in Afghanistan are expected to double, to about 68,000, under President Obama’s new Afghan strategy.
In his previous job as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, General McChrystal oversaw units assigned to capture or kill senior militants. In his appearance before Congress on Tuesday, he was questioned on reports of abuses of detainees held by his commandos.
Under questioning by Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is the committee chairman, General McChrystal said he was uncomfortable with some of the harsh techniques that were officially approved for interrogation. At the time, such approved techniques included stress positions, sleep deprivation and the use of attack dogs for intimidation.
He said that all reports of abuse during his command were investigated, and that all substantiated cases of abuse resulted in disciplinary action. And he pledged to “strictly enforce” American and international standards for the treatment of battlefield detainees if confirmed to the post in Afghanistan.
Under questioning, General McChrystal also acknowledged that the Army had “failed the family” in its mishandling of the friendly-fire death of Cpl. Pat Tillman, the professional football star who enlisted in the Army after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
A final review by a four-star Army general cleared General McChrystal of any wrongdoing, but punished a number of senior officers who were responsible for administrative mistakes in the days after Corporal Tillman’s death. Initially, Army officials said the corporal had been killed by an insurgent ambush, when in fact he had been shot by members of his own Ranger team.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Feds spike citizenship checks in GA
on: June 02, 2009, 09:18:43 PM
Feds spike voter citizenship checks in Georgia
Georgia should use the same system that prospective gun owners have to pass.That check has been accepted as non discriminatory.
ATLANTA — The Justice Department has rejected Georgia's system of using Social Security numbers and driver's license data to check whether prospective voters are citizens, a process that was a subject of a federal lawsuit in the weeks leading up to November's election.
In a letter released on Monday, the Justice Department said the state's voter verification program is frequently inaccurate and has a "discriminatory effect" on minority voters. The decision means Georgia must halt the citizenship checks, although the state can still ask the Justice Department to reconsider, according to the letter and to the Georgia secretary of state's office.
"This flawed system frequently subjects a disproportionate number of African-American, Asian and/or Hispanic voters to additional, and more importantly, erroneous burdens on the right to register to vote," Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said. King's letter was sent to Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker on Friday.
The decision comes as Georgia awaits word on whether a law passed in the spring that requires newly registering voters to show proof of citizenship will pass muster with DOJ. Under the law that takes effect in January, people must show their proof up front compared to doing checks through databases.
A three-judge federal panel in October ordered the state to seek Justice Department preclearance for the checks under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the same reason the federal agency must sign off on the new law that made Georgia only the second state after Arizona to require such proof. Georgia is one of several states that need federal approval before changing election rules because of a history of discriminatory Jim Crow-era voting practices.
Secretary of State Karen Handel blasted DOJ's decision, saying it opens the floodgates for non-citizens to vote in the state.
"Clearly, politics took priority over common sense and good public policy," said Handel, a Republican candidate for governor in 2010.
Justice Department officials said the citizenship match through driver's license and Social Security data has flagged 7,007 individuals as non-citizens but that many have been shown to be in error.
"Thousands of citizens who are in fact eligible to vote under Georgia law have been flagged," the Justice Department letter said.
The Justice Department decision marks the first time the new Democratic Obama administration has weighed in on Georgia's election laws. It is also the first time the Justice Department has rejected a change in election procedures by Georgia since the 1990s, according to a spokesman for the Georgia attorney general.
"We are pleased with this decision," said Elise Shore, Southeastern Regional Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "It vindicates our filing of the lawsuit."
But Handel said that more than 2,100 people who attempted to register in Georgia still have not resolved questions regarding their citizenship. Her office's inspector general is investigating more than 30 cases of non-citizens casting ballots in Georgia elections, including the case of a Henry County non-citizen who said she registered to vote and cast ballots in 2004 and 2006.
Handel said the checks were designed to follow federal guidelines to ensure the integrity of the vote and that those eligible are casting ballots.
But the ACLU and the Mexican American defense fund sued, saying the efforts amounted to a "systematic purging" of rolls just weeks before the election.
Separately, the U.S., Supreme Court is considering a challenge to the portion of the Voting Rights Act requiring Georgia and select other states to seek approval before tinkering with election law.
By SHANNON McCAFFREY, The Associated Press
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO voting against Roberts
on: June 02, 2009, 04:13:41 PM
The following is from then-Sen. Barack Obama's floor statement explaining why he would vote against confirming Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (September 2005):
. . . [T]he decision with respect to Judge Roberts' nomination has not been an easy one for me to make. As some of you know, I have not only argued cases before appellate courts but for 10 years was a member of the University of Chicago Law School faculty and taught courses in constitutional law. Part of the culture of the University of Chicago Law School faculty is to maintain a sense of collegiality between those people who hold different views. What engenders respect is not the particular outcome that a legal scholar arrives at but, rather, the intellectual rigor and honesty with which he or she arrives at a decision.
Given that background, I am sorely tempted to vote for Judge Roberts based on my study of his resume, his conduct during the hearings, and a conversation I had with him yesterday afternoon. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind Judge Roberts is qualified to sit on the highest court in the land. Moreover, he seems to have the comportment and the temperament that makes for a good judge. He is humble, he is personally decent, and he appears to be respectful of different points of view.
It is absolutely clear to me that Judge Roberts truly loves the law. He couldn't have achieved his excellent record as an advocate before the Supreme Court without that passion for the law, and it became apparent to me in our conversation that he does, in fact, deeply respect the basic precepts that go into deciding 95% of the cases that come before the federal court -- adherence to precedence, a certain modesty in reading statutes and constitutional text, a respect for procedural regularity, and an impartiality in presiding over the adversarial system. All of these characteristics make me want to vote for Judge Roberts.
The problem I face -- a problem that has been voiced by some of my other colleagues, both those who are voting for Mr. Roberts and those who are voting against Mr. Roberts -- is that while adherence to legal precedent and rules of statutory or constitutional construction will dispose of 95% of the cases that come before a court, so that both a Scalia and a Ginsburg will arrive at the same place most of the time on those 95% of the cases -- what matters on the Supreme Court is those 5% of cases that are truly difficult.
In those cases, adherence to precedent and rules of construction and interpretation will only get you through the 25th mile of the marathon. That last mile can only be determined on the basis of one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one's empathy.
In those 5% of hard cases, the constitutional text will not be directly on point. The language of the statute will not be perfectly clear. Legal process alone will not lead you to a rule of decision. In those circumstances, your decisions about whether affirmative action is an appropriate response to the history of discrimination in this country, or whether a general right of privacy encompasses a more specific right of women to control their reproductive decisions, or whether the Commerce Clause empowers Congress to speak on those issues of broad national concern that may be only tangentially related to what is easily defined as interstate commerce, whether a person who is disabled has the right to be accommodated so they can work alongside those who are nondisabled -- in those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart.
I talked to Judge Roberts about this. Judge Roberts confessed that, unlike maybe professional politicians, it is not easy for him to talk about his values and his deeper feelings. That is not how he is trained. He did say he doesn't like bullies and has always viewed the law as a way of evening out the playing field between the strong and the weak.
I was impressed with that statement because I view the law in much the same way. The problem I had is that when I examined Judge Roberts' record and history of public service, it is my personal estimation that he has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak. In his work in the White House and the Solicitor General's Office, he seemed to have consistently sided with those who were dismissive of efforts to eradicate the remnants of racial discrimination in our political process. In these same positions, he seemed dismissive of the concerns that it is harder to make it in this world and in this economy when you are a woman rather than a man.
I want to take Judge Roberts at his word that he doesn't like bullies and he sees the law and the court as a means of evening the playing field between the strong and the weak. But given the gravity of the position to which he will undoubtedly ascend and the gravity of the decisions in which he will undoubtedly participate during his tenure on the court, I ultimately have to give more weight to his deeds and the overarching political philosophy that he appears to have shared with those in power than to the assuring words that he provided me in our meeting.
The bottom line is this: I will be voting against John Roberts' nomination. . .
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Superb zinger by Israeli press secretary
on: June 02, 2009, 01:33:03 PM
State Dept.: Obama’s Demands To Stop West Bank Expansion Includes Jerusalem
By David Bedein, Middle East Correspondent
Published: Friday, May 29, 2009
Jerusalem — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued an unprecedented statement clarifying President Barack Obama’s demands for Israel to stop expanding Jewish communities in areas it acquired following the 1967 Six-Day War, including Jerusalem.
The statement, issued Wednesday, applies to the area known in Israel by their Biblical names, Judea and Samaria, and as the West Bank by the international community.
There are now 128 Jewish communities in these areas, with a population of almost 300,000 Jews.
Mrs. Clinton explained President Obama demands that there should be no expansion in these communities for the purpose of “natural growth.”
That would include an American demand to stop construction of kindergartens, schools and housing for young couples.
“West Bank maps” issued by the United Nations also include 18 Jewish neighborhoods inside the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, in areas inside the city that Israel formally annexed after the 1967 war.
One of the Jerusalem neighborhoods resettled by Jews after the 1967 war is the Old City of Jerusalem, which hosts the Temple Mount, the holiest place in the world to the Jewish people.
Ms. Clinton’s press spokesman was asked if President Obama’s demand to halt expansion of “West Bank Jewish communities” included a demand to stop expansion of Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
The answer was affirmative. The U.S. State Department demands that Israel limit Jewish growth in these areas of Jerusalem, “whose status remains to be determined” in negotiations.
Israeli Government Press Director Daniel Seamen reacted to this Obama administration statement by saying: “I have to admire the residents of Iroquois territory for assuming that they have a right to determine where Jews should live in Jerusalem.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq-5
on: June 02, 2009, 01:16:20 PM
Unfortunately I cannot upload a pic or two I wanted to right now.
While on the road to haditha yesterday I saw out in the distance (over the course of several miles) about 5-6 Soviet MIGs. Just sitting out there in the desert. A couple looked in mint condition. Others falling apart. One looked like Swiss cheese. They were all a light green color so they stood out against the sand.
Apparently pre-invasion Saddam tried to hide his jets in the desert. I don't know how one could possibly do this but he nonetheless tried.
One story is that you used to be able to go fool around over at the planes. Take cool guy pcis. Sit inside the pilot's seat. And in the case of one U.S. serviceman discover that the ejection seat still worked. It launched him way the hell into the air which resulted in him crashing back to Earth. Yes he died. It was apparently a huge drop.
One night in Haditha proper, al-Qa'ida kidnapped and captured dozens of people, including 20 Iraqi police officers. They made the townspeople come to the soocer stadium and watch their beheadings. It was this night, the story goes, that the Sunni Awakening Councils began. Ultimately, and together, the USMC and the Sunnis kicked the snot out of al-Qa'ida. Some of the fiercest fights the USMC had were in haditha.
Driving, and then walking a considerable distance, down the street I have never seen so many Iraqis wave to our soldiers (Marines). Kids, adults, elders. I never received so many trully warm "salaam a'laikums." It was amazing because they seemed so genuine. People driving down the street in cars beeping their horns.
They are facing huge water problems in the future though. Dams in Turkey and Syria have reduced the Euphrates River to a fraction of its former self. The water level is so low now that the dam only produces something like 10% of its prior capacity. And the watewr treatment facility is overleaded because there is so much sediment in the water that does get treated. Back in Saddam's day apparently they had an understanding. If enough water does not come down the Euphrates into Iraq he would bomb the dams. Now an Iraq with no teeth does not have that option. The Americans are trying to work out some sort of oil for water scenario with Turkey and Syria. Meanwhile the average Iraqi faces a potentially bleak future as far as water goes.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: June 02, 2009, 12:57:18 PM
I have consistently thought that one of the key points of the turnaround in Iraq was that AQ simply overdid it and turned people against them. See e.g. today's entry in the Iraq thread from Our Man in Iraq
Are we seeing the beginning of the same dynamic in Pak?
In symbolic and strategic terms, the fall of Mingora on Saturday marks a potential turning point for Pakistan, and perhaps for the fight against al Qaeda. Three weeks after launching its counteroffensive against the Taliban, Pakistan's military took back the largest city in the Swat Valley and is now pushing further against Islamist insurgents in the unruly tribal regions of that nuclear-armed country.
Only weeks ago, the urgent question was whether Pakistan's government and military had the will to resist Taliban advances. Earlier this year, the army had ceded the scenic northwest region in an ill-thought "peace accord." But the Taliban got greedy, soon expanding from Swat into the neighboring Buner district 60 miles from the capital Islamabad, and imposing its brutal form of Shariah law. The global alarm bells that followed, particularly in Washington, embarrassed the military and government.
Pakistan's media and public are disenchanted with their leaders and have been prone to sympathize with the bearded anti-American fighters in the hills. But stories of Taliban beheadings and cellphone images of a public flogging of a teenage girl in Swat brought the insurgency distressingly close to home. So did a spate of suicide bombings in Islamabad and the cultural center of Lahore by followers of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. Pakistan authorities found themselves called to act by their own people -- and pressed usefully by the Obama Administration.
The success in clearing Buner and Swat, all of which should be in government control in days, shows the military can sustain this sort of campaign. Too often in the past, Pakistan attacks on the Taliban were brief and half-hearted, and the military soon returned its focus to the eastern border with India. This time the military didn't rely on aerial bombing and instead put commandos on the ground. Though impossible to verify, Pakistan claims more than 1,000 militants and 81 of its own soldiers have been killed since the fighting began in early May.
The cost has been high, with an estimated three million refugees having fled the frontier regions. The army also hasn't captured the senior Taliban leaders in Swat, and many of those refugees won't return until the government assures them that they can be protected. But the country seems to back the offensive. "The military feels it's in a much better position to finish the job because it has public support," General Athar Abbas, a military spokesman, said.
The even better news is that Pakistanis say the army won't stop at Swat. Next should come a push into lawless Waziristan and the other tribal regions that have become terrorist sanctuaries for al Qaeda and other groups. This will be harder than Swat, because Pakistan's government has never been able to establish its writ over those northwestern frontier regions. But now, with the Taliban retreating, is the time to press the advantage.
Blamed for the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and other terrorist attacks, Mehsud and other Pakistani Taliban are enemies of the democratic government. Washington will also want Pakistan to root out the Afghan Talibs who launch attacks against Afghanistan from camps in Waziristan and around the southwestern city of Quetta. That means turning against Pakistan's erstwhile allies such as Jalaluddin Haqqani, a prominent commander in the Afghan insurgency, and former Taliban leader Mullah Omar. As long as they have sanctuary in Pakistan, Afghanistan will never be peaceful.
This offensive may have spillover benefits for the U.S. campaign against al Qaeda. The Taliban's advance has created an informal buffer around al Qaeda's sanctuaries in the area, and its retreat could force some foreign jihadists to leave their safe havens. Uprooted and on the move, they are more vulnerable to intelligence intercepts and Predator strikes. The Obama Administration seems to have resisted panicky calls on Capitol Hill to stop the Predator strikes lest they inflame public opinion in Pakistan. Care about civilian casualties is important, but the Predators are the best weapon we have in the mountainous border regions.
The fight ahead is filled with potential detours in Pakistan, which has a weak civilian government, a fractious political class, and a military that worries more about India than its own insurgency. But the news of the last few weeks is that Pakistan's establishment and public have shown they are willing to fight back against radical Islamists who have targeted Pakistan as much as they have America. Now is the time for Congress to show its support by passing Mr. Obama's request for military and economic aid for our allies in Islamabad. (Have a care here-- a lot of this "aid" ends up elsewhere , , ,)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: June 02, 2009, 10:54:45 AM
Wednesday, May 27, 2009 Administration blocks helicopters for Israel due to civilian casualties in Gaza
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has blocked Israel's request for advanced U.S.-origin attack helicopters. ShareThis
Government sources said the administration has held up Israel's request for the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter. The sources said the request was undergoing an interagency review to determine whether additional Longbow helicopters would threaten Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.
"During the recent war, Israel made considerable use of the Longbow, and there were high civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip," a source close to the administration said.
The sources said Israel has sought to purchase up to six new AH-64Ds in an effort to bolster conventional and counter-insurgency capabilities. They said Israel wants to replenish its fleet after the loss of two Apache helicopters in the 2006 war with Hizbullah.
The Israel Air Force has also requested U.S. permission to integrate the Spike extended-range anti-tank missile into the AH-64D. Spike ER, developed by the state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, has a range of eight kilometers and was installed on the Eurocopter Tiger and AgustaWestland A129 helicopters.
The sources said the deployment of Spike would require integration into the Longbow's millimeter-wave fire control and acquisition system. They said this would require permission from both Boeing and the U.S. government.
Israel's Defense Ministry and air force have discussed procurement of additional Longbows with the U.S. firm Boeing. But the sources said the Longbow as well as other defense requests have been shelved by the administration amid its review of the potential use of American weapons platforms by Israel.http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtri...0424_05_27.asp
Egypt - AH-64D APACHE Longbow Helicopters (Source: US Defense Security Cooperation Agency; issued May 26, 2009) http://www.defense-aerospace.com/art...licopters.html
WASHINGTON --- On May 22, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified
Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Egypt of
12 AH-64D Block II APACHE Longbow Helicopters and associated equipment,
parts, training and support for an estimated cost of $820 million.
The Government of Egypt has requested a possible sale of 12 AH-64D Block II
APACHE Longbow Helicopters, 27 T700-GE-701D Engines, 36 Modernized Targeting
Acquisition and Designation Systems/Pilot Night Vision Sensors, 28 M299
Hellfire Longbow Missile Launchers, 14 AN/ALQ-144(V)3 Infrared jammers, and
14 AN/APR-39B(V)2 Radar Signal Detecting Sets.
Also included: composite horizontal stabilizers, Integrated Helmet and
Display Sight Systems, repair and return, transportation, depot maintenance,
spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical
documentation, U.S. Government and contractor technical support, and other
related elements of program support.
The estimated cost is $820 million.
This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national
security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a
friendly country which has been and continues to be an important force for
political stability and economic progress in the Middle East. This sale is
consistent with these U.S. objectives and with the 1950 Treaty of Mutual
Cooperation and Security.
Egypt will use the AH-64D for its national security and protecting its
borders. The aircraft will provide the Egyptian military more advanced
targeting and engagement capabilities. The proposed sale will provide for
the defense of vital installations and will provide close air support for
the military ground forces. Egypt will have no difficulty absorbing these
helicopters into its armed forces.
The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic
military balance in the region.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYT: Animal "regret"?
on: June 02, 2009, 09:02:10 AM
In That Tucked Tail, Real Pangs of Regret?
Published: June 1, 2009
If you own a dog, especially a dog that has anointed your favorite rug, you know that an animal is capable of apologizing. He can whimper and slouch and tuck his tail and look positively mortified — “I don’t know what possessed me.” But is he really feeling sorry?
Could any animal feel true pangs of regret? Scientists once scorned this notion as silly anthropomorphism, and I used to side with the skeptics who dismissed these displays of contrition as variations of crocodile tears. Animals seemed too in-the-moment, too busy chasing the next meal, to indulge in much self-recrimination. If old animals had a song, it would be “My Way.”
Yet as new reports keep appearing — moping coyotes, rueful monkeys, tigers that cover their eyes in remorse, chimpanzees that second-guess their choices — the more I wonder if animals do indulge in a little paw-wringing.
Your dog may not share Hamlet’s dithering melancholia, but he might have something in common with Woody Allen.
The latest data comes from brain scans of monkeys trying to win a large prize of juice by guessing where it was hidden. When the monkeys picked wrongly and were shown the location of the prize, the neurons in their brain clearly registered what might have been, according to the Duke University neurobiologists who recently reported the experiment in Science.
“This is the first evidence that monkeys, like people, have ‘would-have, could-have, should-have’ thoughts,” said Ben Hayden, one of the researchers. Another of the authors, Michael Platt, noted that the monkeys reacted to their losses by shifting their subsequent guesses, just like humans who respond to a missed opportunity by shifting strategy.
“I can well imagine that regret would be highly advantageous evolutionarily, so long as one doesn’t obsess over it, as in depression,” Dr. Platt said. “A monkey lacking in regret might act like a psychopath or a simian Don Quixote.”
In earlier experiments, both chimpanzees and monkeys that traded tokens for cucumbers responded negatively once they saw that other animals were getting a tastier treat — grapes — for the same price. They made angry sounds and sometimes flung away the cucumbers or their tokens, reported Sarah Brosnan, a psychologist at Georgia State University.
“I think animals do experience regret, as defined as the recognition of a missed opportunity,” Dr. Brosnan said. “In the wild, these abilities may help them to recognize when they should forage in different areas or find a different cooperative partner who will share the spoils more equitably.”
No one knows, of course, exactly how this sense of regret affects an animal emotionally. When we see a dog slouching and bowing, we like to assume he’s suffering the way we do after a faux pas, but maybe he’s just sending a useful signal: I messed up.
“It’s possible that this kind of social signal in animals could have evolved without the conscious experience of regret,” said Sam Gosling, a psychologist at the University of Texas, Austin. “But it seems more plausible that there is some kind of conscious experience even if it’s not the same kind of thing that you or I feel.”
Marc Bekoff, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Colorado, says he’s convinced that animals feel emotional pain for their mistakes and missed opportunities. In “Wild Justice,” a new book he wrote with the philosopher Jessica Pierce, Dr. Bekoff reports on thousands of hours of observation of coyotes in the wild as well as free-running domesticated dogs.
When a coyote recoiled after being bitten too hard while playing, the offending coyote would promptly bow to acknowledge the mistake, Dr. Bekoff said. If a coyote was shunned for playing unfairly, he would slouch around with his ears slightly back, head cocked and tail down, tentatively approaching and then withdrawing from the other animals. Dr. Bekoff said the apologetic coyotes reminded him of the unpopular animals skulking at the perimeter of a dog park.
“These animals are not as emotionally sophisticated as humans, but they have to know what’s right and wrong because it’s the only way their social groups can work,” he said. “Regret is essential, especially in the wild. Humans are very forgiving to their pets, but if a coyote in the wild gets a reputation as a cheater, he’s ignored or ostracized, and he ends up leaving the group.” Once the coyote is on his own, Dr. Bekoff discovered, the coyote’s risk of dying young rises fourfold.
If our pets realize what soft touches we are, perhaps their regret is mostly just performance art to sucker us. But I like to think that some of the ruefulness is real, and that researchers will one day compile a list of the Top 10 Pet Regrets. (You can make nominations at TierneyLab, at nytimes.com/tierneylab.) At the very least, I’d like to see researchers tackle a few of the great unanswered questions:
When you’re playing fetch with a dog, how much regret does he suffer when he gives you back the ball? As much as when he ends the game by hanging on to the ball?
Do animal vandals feel any moral qualms? After seeing rugs, suitcases and furniture destroyed by my pets, I’m not convinced that evolution has endowed animals with any reliable sense of property rights. But I’m heartened by Eugene Linden’s stories of contrite vandals in his book on animal behavior, “The Parrot’s Lament.”
He tells of a young tiger that, after tearing up all the newly planted trees at a California animal park, covered his eyes with his paws when the zookeeper arrived. And there were the female chimpanzees at the Tulsa Zoo that took advantage of a renovation project to steal the painters’ supplies, don gloves and paint their babies solid white. When confronted by their furious keeper, the mothers scurried away, then returned with peace offerings and paint-free babies.
How awkward is the King Kong Syndrome? Both male and female gorillas have become so fond of their human keepers that they’ve made sexual overtures — one even took to dragging his keeper by her hair. After the inevitable rebuff, do they regret ruining a beautiful friendship?
Do pet cats ever regret anything?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy
on: June 02, 2009, 08:58:32 AM
Not 24 hours after North Korea's nuclear test last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a statement insisting "we don't have any cooperation [with North Korea] in this field." The lady doth protest too much.
When it comes to nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, history offers two hard lessons. First, nearly every nuclear power has been a secret sharer of nuclear technology. Second, every action creates an equal and opposite reaction -- a Newtonian law of proliferation that is only broken with the intercession of an overwhelming outside force.
On the first point, it's worth recalling that every nuclear-weapons state got that way with the help of foreign friends. The American bomb was conceived by European scientists and built in a consortium with Britain and Canada. The Soviets got their bomb thanks largely to atomic spies, particularly Germany's Klaus Fuchs. The Chinese nuclear program got its start with Soviet help.
Britain gave France the secret of the hydrogen bomb, hoping French President Charles de Gaulle would return the favor by admitting the U.K. into the European Economic Community. (He Gallicly refused.) France shared key nuclear technology with Israel and then with Iraq. South Africa got its bombs (since dismantled) with Israeli help. India made illegal use of plutonium from a U.S.-Canadian reactor to build its first bomb. The Chinese lent the design of one of their early atomic bombs to Pakistan, which then gave it to Libya, North Korea and probably Iran.
Now it's Pyongyang's turn to be the link in the nuclear daisy chain. Its ties to Syria were exposed by an Israeli airstrike in 2007. As for Iran, its military and R&D links to the North go back more than 20 years, when Iran purchased 100 Scud-B missiles for use in the Iran-Iraq war.
Since then, Iranians have reportedly been present at a succession of North Korean missile tests. North Korea also seems to have off-shored its missile testing to Iran after it declared a "moratorium" on its own tests in the late 1990s.
In a 2008 paper published by the Korea Economic Institute, Dr. Christina Lin of Jane's Information Group noted that "Increased visits to Iran by DPRK [North Korea] nuclear specialists in 2003 reportedly led to a DPRK-Iran agreement for the DPRK to either initiate or accelerate work with Iranians to develop nuclear warheads that could be fitted on the DPRK No-dong missiles that the DPRK and Iran were jointly developing. Thus, despite the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate stating that Iran in 2003 had halted weaponization of its nuclear program, this was the time that Iran outsourced to the DPRK for proxy development of nuclear warheads."
Another noteworthy detail: According to a 2003 report in the L.A. Times, "So many North Koreans are working on nuclear and missile projects in Iran that a resort on the Caspian coast is set aside for their exclusive use."
Now the North seems to be gearing up for yet another test of its long-range Taepodong missile, and it's a safe bet Iranians will again be on the receiving end of the flight data. Nothing prevents them from sharing nuclear-weapons material or data, either, and the thought occurs that the North's second bomb test last week might also have been Iran's first. If so, the only thing between Iran and a bomb is a long-range cargo plane.
Which brings us to our second nuclear lesson. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has lately been in Asia taking a tough rhetorical line on the North's nuclear activities. But it's hard to deliver the message credibly after Mr. Gates rejected suggestions that the U.S. shoot down the Taepodong just prior to its April test, or when the U.S. flubbed the diplomacy at the U.N. So other countries will have to draw their own conclusions.
One such country is Japan. In 2002, Ichiro Ozawa, then the leader of the country's Liberal Party, told Chinese leaders that "If Japan desires, it can possess thousands of nuclear warheads. Japan has enough plutonium in use at its nuclear plants for three to four thousand. . . . If that should happen, we wouldn't lose to China in terms of military strength."
This wasn't idle chatter. As Christopher Hughes notes in his new book, "Japan's Remilitarization," "The nuclear option is gaining greater credence in Japan because of growing concerns over the basic strategic conditions that have allowed for nuclear restraint in the past. . . . Japanese analysts have questioned whether the U.S. would really risk Los Angeles for Tokyo in a nuclear confrontation with North Korea."
There are still good reasons why Japan would not want to go nuclear: Above all, it doesn't want to simultaneously antagonize China and the U.S. But the U.S. has even better reasons not to want to tempt Japan in that direction. Transparently feckless and time-consuming U.S. diplomacy with North Korea is one such temptation. Refusing to modernize our degraded stockpile of nuclear weapons while seeking radical cuts in the overall arsenal through a deal with Russia is another.
This, however, is the course the Obama administration has set for itself. Allies and enemies alike will draw their own conclusions.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Story
on: June 02, 2009, 08:32:57 AM
"The truth is, that, even with the most secure tenure of office, during good behavior, the danger is not, that the judges will be too firm in resisting public opinion, and in defence of private rights or public liberties; but, that they will be ready to yield themselves to the passions, and politics, and prejudices of the day."
--Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: After the fight
on: June 01, 2009, 11:56:21 PM
Yes! My glitch for not remembering this thread! Gabe's piece here really belongs there.
Strongly recommended reading in that thread folks.
Post in whichever thread you'd rather see become the thread where the present conversation continues.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sotomayor
on: June 01, 2009, 10:58:38 PM
Right. Like John McCain , , ,
Its been so long since I caught Rush that I don't really have an opinion on him. Glenn Beck I am finding very interesting though. A bit quirky, but he brings on really bright guests, and asks prepared thoughtful questions, and has a decent concentration span-- withness his recent praiseworthy relentless pressure on ACORN.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Feds taking over all water?
on: June 01, 2009, 10:53:39 PM
By Jack Hoogendyk
Michigan, through its Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is one of only two states in the union that regulates wetlands with a state agency rather than through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
This has been a problem, because the state guidelines are much more strict than the federal guidelines. Additionally, the DEQ has proven to be arbitrary and capricious in its decision making and has often caused long, unnecessary delays in approving permits.
While the concerns about over-regulation by a state agency are valid, they may be rendered moot by recent efforts in Congress.
U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold has introduced a bill with 23 sponsors including Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow.
Senate Bill S787 is titled, “To amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to clarify the jurisdiction of the United States over waters of the United States.”
Notice they start the description with the words “pollution control.” That makes it sound caring and good, doesn’t it?
The fact is, this legislation will put ALL surface waters in the United States of America under congressional jurisdiction.
The bill language has a couple of key phrases in it. The first changes the definition of what is under congressional jurisdiction. Ever since the Commerce Clause of the Constitution and several test cases in the Supreme Court, Congress has had jurisdiction over navigable waters. The meaning of that word has been argued, but according to precedent and legal definition, navigable includes anything you can get a canoe down, or anything that is connected by water to the same.
No matter, because under S787, the word navigable is stricken, which means now ALL surface water is under congressional jurisdiction.
Additionally, in case there were any question of state’s rights, the bill also states that this applies to interstate and intrastate waters. That means there is no state sovereignty over waters within that state’s boundaries.
And, if you have any doubt as to what the congressional definition of “waters” is, they spell that out, too. It includes, “all waters subject to the ebb and flow of the tide, the territorial seas, and all interstate and intrastate waters and their tributaries, including lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, natural ponds, and all impoundments of the foregoing, to the fullest extent that these waters, or activities affecting these waters, are subject to the legislative power of Congress under the Constitution.”
The bottom line is this: Congress is taking over all the water.
If the Obama administration and Congress are anything like this state’s governor and her administration, you will see free trade and commerce come to a virtual standstill. Manufacturing, especially, will come to a screeching halt.
Water is an essential resource in the manufacture of virtually any consumable or durable good. Without ready access, manufacturers will be stifled in their attempts to create new products for market and the jobs that go with them.
Jack Hoogendyk is a former state legislator and executive director of CIVPRO, a nonprofit property rights organization based in Michigan
Now mind you Michigans DEQ water quality standards are much stricter than the EPA . So this isn't about pollution this is about controll over the states and manufacturing.Also this will then enable the feds to start draining the great lakes and pumping the water else where which every Michigander is opposed to except the sellout obamites levin and stabenow.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NYT: Hip-knee interactions
on: June 01, 2009, 06:01:15 AM
Hips Are Bringing More Athletes to Their Knees
Published: May 31, 2009
The quest to build ever more proficient athletes keeps hitting unexpected snags, and perhaps nowhere is this more vivid than in Major League Baseball. Several top players have been hampered by a hip ailment that was unheard of in the sport a decade ago.
Knee injuries to countless recreational and professional athletes in recent years made anterior cruciate ligament a household phrase and compelled trainers to emphasize building leg strength. Sports medicine experts now say that approach, while mitigating knee injuries, may be making hips vulnerable.
“No matter what we do, as complex as we try and make workouts and training methods, we lose sight of other things,” said Mackie Shilstone, a trainer based in New Orleans, who works with baseball, football and hockey players who are rehabilitating injuries. “We tend to concentrate on what is directly in front of us.
“In all my years as a trainer, I have not seen anything like the increase in hip injuries that I have seen over the past two years.”
No studies have been published to confirm this phenomenon. But many trainers and orthopedists say the anecdotal evidence is jarring, and medical staffs for Major League Baseball teams and franchises in other sports are scrambling to understand why athletes’ hips suddenly seem so fragile.
Experts said other factors could be at work in addition to the overemphasis on leg strength. Advances in magnetic imaging have enabled doctors to see inside the hip and identify certain ailments, and the increasing number of children playing sports at younger ages has led to more instances of improper bone development.
Several of baseball’s biggest stars — including Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies and Carlos Delgado of the Mets — have been forced to the sideline after having surgery to repair a torn labrum, the cartilage that runs along the rim of the hip socket. Rodriguez recently returned after missing two months, and Delgado has said he may not return this season. On Thursday, one of Utley’s teammates, pitcher Brett Myers, was found to have a damaged labrum in his hip. He is expected to have surgery this week.
Not all doctors are convinced that training is the culprit.
“It’s not like workouts have changed all of a sudden; it doesn’t explain it,” said Christopher Powers, an associate professor of biokinesiology at the University of Southern California. “People and doctors are just more aware of it diagnostically. We’ve always had hip problems; now we are just finding it better.”
The number of players on the disabled list because of hip and groin-muscle injuries rose to 34 in 2008 from 20 in 2007. Through the first quarter of this season, at least 13 players have gone on the disabled list with hip injuries.
“Delgado and A-Rod asked me about it,” said Utley, who had hip surgery last November after the Phillies won the World Series. “They both wanted to know what I did to keep playing.
“Before, guys never had hip surgeries and never let them work on their hips. But this was different.”
No sports medicine experts pointed to performance-enhancing drugs in explaining the rise in hip injuries. But dozens of major league baseball players, including Rodriguez, have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs in recent years, raising suspicions every time a new injury trend appears.
“It’s interesting to see what injuries increase as we come out of the steroid era,” said Stan Conte, the head trainer for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The sudden prominence of hip injuries comes a year after an unusual number of baseball players sustained strained oblique muscles, which run from the ribs to the abdomen.
The apparent rash of hip injuries extends beyond baseball, doctors and trainers said. Athletes of all ages and skill levels and in varying sports are having hip problems at higher rates and being found to have labral tears, they said. Soccer and hockey players in particular have followed the conventional training wisdom in recent years and bolstered their knees. Now some of them, including Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro and midfielder Freddie Ljungberg of Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders, who have both had labrum surgery, are having hip trouble.
“In soccer, they train harder than they used to train 10 to 15 to 20 years ago, when soccer had had a lot of A.C.L. tears,” said Dr. Andreas H. Gomoll, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School and a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“They started worrying much more about knees; they now do special training to protect the knee. And one belief is that this is why we have more of these injuries because the strength is putting more pressure on the hips.”
Dr. Bryan T. Kelly, a surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, performed Utley’s operation and is scheduled to operate on Myers. He said he did not believe it was a coincidence that “I get 40 hockey players in a six-week period at the end of the season all coming into my office with the same-looking bone structure in their hips, all saying that they have been skating since they were 3 years old.”
Kelly added, “I believe we are seeing some consequences from having our kids over the past few decades playing sports more at younger ages.”
As magnetic imaging has become more sophisticated, doctors have gained the ability to see inside the hip and identify labral tears.
“We are doing a much better job at imaging the injuries, and we are also seeing athletes with bigger bodies that are working harder on strength and conditioning, and the bigger, stronger muscles are allowing athletes to torque faster and more pressure is being put on the hip,” said Dr. Jordan Metzl, a sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
Problems with labral tears occur when the head of the femur does not fit correctly in the hip socket. If it is not a good fit, the labrum is squeezed between the ball and the socket when the hip is flexed. Over time, the labrum can become irritated and tear.
The problem with an adolescent, doctors said, is that the head of the femur is still growing. Stress on the hip can cause the bone to become misshapen. As the athlete continues to play sports into adulthood, the improperly shaped bone rubs against the labrum.
“I believe the situation with the hips is similar to Little League baseball, where there is a high awareness to elbow injuries from pitching too much because the joints are still developing,” Kelly said. “But with the hips, nothing is said. There is nothing done to try and prevent damage from being done.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From Russia, with perception
on: May 31, 2009, 09:00:33 PM
American capitalism gone with a whimper
It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American decent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people.
True, the situation has been well prepared on and off for the past century, especially the past twenty years. The initial testing grounds was conducted upon our Holy Russia and a bloody test it was. But we Russians would not just roll over and give up our freedoms and our souls, no matter how much money Wall Street poured into the fists of the Marxists.
Those lessons were taken and used to properly prepare the American populace for the surrender of their freedoms and souls, to the whims of their elites and betters.
First, the population was dumbed down through a politicized and substandard education system based on pop culture, rather then the classics. Americans know more about their favorite TV dramas then the drama in DC that directly affects their lives. They care more for their "right" to choke down a McDonalds burger or a BurgerKing burger than for their constitutional rights. Then they turn around and lecture us about our rights and about our "democracy". Pride blind the foolish.
Then their faith in God was destroyed, until their churches, all tens of thousands of different "branches and denominations" were for the most part little more then Sunday circuses and their televangelists and top protestant mega preachers were more then happy to sell out their souls and flocks to be on the "winning" side of one pseudo Marxist politician or another. Their flocks may complain, but when explained that they would be on the "winning" side, their flocks were ever so quick to reject Christ in hopes for earthly power. Even our Holy Orthodox churches are scandalously liberalized in America.
The final collapse has come with the election of Barack Obama. His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been a record setting, not just in America's short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more then another year, and there is no sign that it will not, America at best will resemble the Wiemar Republic and at worst Zimbabwe.
These past two weeks have been the most breath taking of all.
First came the announcement of a planned redesign of the American Byzantine tax system, by the very thieves who used it to bankroll their thefts, loses and swindles of hundreds of billions of dollars. These make our Russian oligarchs look little more then ordinary street thugs, in comparison. Yes, the Americans have beat our own thieves in the shear volumes. Should we congratulate them?
These men, of course, are not an elected panel but made up of appointees picked from the very financial oligarchs and their henchmen who are now gorging themselves on trillions of American dollars, in one bailout after another. They are also usurping the rights, duties and powers of the American congress (parliament). Again, congress has put up little more then a whimper to their masters.
Then came Barack Obama's command that GM's (General Motor) president step down from leadership of his company. That is correct, dear reader, in the land of "pure" free markets, the American president now has the power, the self given power, to fire CEOs and we can assume other employees of private companies, at will. Come hither, go dither, the centurion commands his minions.
So it should be no surprise, that the American president has followed this up with a "bold" move of declaring that he and another group of unelected, chosen stooges will now redesign the entire automotive industry and will even be the guarantee of automobile policies. I am sure that if given the chance, they would happily try and redesign it for the whole of the world, too. Prime Minister Putin, less then two months ago, warned Obama and UK's Blair, not to follow the path to Marxism, it only leads to disaster. Apparently, even though we suffered 70 years of this Western sponsored horror show, we know nothing, as foolish, drunken Russians, so let our "wise" Anglo-Saxon fools find out the folly of their own pride.
Again, the American public has taken this with barely a whimper...but a "freeman" whimper.
So, should it be any surprise to discover that the Democratically controlled Congress of America is working on passing a new regulation that would give the American Treasury department the power to set "fair" maximum salaries, evaluate performance and control how private companies give out pay raises and bonuses?
Senator Barney Franks, a social pervert basking in his homosexuality (of course, amongst the modern, enlightened American societal norm, as well as that of the general West, homosexuality is not only not a looked down upon life choice, but is often praised as a virtue) and his Marxist enlightenment, has led this effort. He stresses that this only affects companies that receive government monies, but it is retroactive and taken to a logical extreme, this would include any company or industry that has ever received a tax break or incentive.
The Russian owners of American companies and industries should look thoughtfully at this and the option of closing their facilities down and fleeing the land of the Red as fast as possible. In other words, divest while there is still value left.
The proud American will go down into his slavery with out a fight, beating his chest and proclaiming to the world, how free he really is. The world will only snicker.
The article has been reprinted with the kind permission from the author and originally appears on his blog, Mat Rodina
© 1999-2009. «PRAVDA.Ru». When reproducing our materials in whole or in part, hyperlink to PRAVDA.Ru should be made. The opinions and views of the authors do not always coincide with the point of view of PRAVDA.Ru's editors.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Schumpeter
on: May 31, 2009, 10:16:38 AM
By CARL SCHRAMM From today's Wall Street Journal Europe.
We continue to be in the middle of a frightening economic drama, one that is putting the core tenets of modern capitalism at the center of the global debate. That is an important debate to have, considering that the fundamental assumptions of modern economics -- that governments have appropriately designed counter-cyclical tools, that central banks are omnipotent, that the business cycle has been tamed and that our securities markets have finally rationalized risk -- have been shattered.
Is this the moment the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter had envisaged when he spoke of "creative destruction"? After all, it was Schumpeter who worried more than any other modern economist about what might be called the fragile condition of capitalism. He did so having lived through the economic horrors of Weimar, witnessed the terror of Soviet-style political economy, experienced the Depression -- and seen the chaos of World War II. Plenty of destruction, to be sure. His life's work concentrated on entrepreneurs renewing the economy through what he called "creative destruction."
If Schumpeter were alive today, he would surely ask, What caused this crisis? And, is this kind of scandal or drama endemic to the nature of capitalism itself? While a lot of attention has been given to the first question, I want to focus on the more ominous second one. Namely, how to save capitalism from a potentially fatal reaction to this crisis.
We need to remember that Schumpeter embraced capitalism not as a reaction or as the second-best solution to the unproductive reality of utopian economic planning. Rather, he saw capitalism as the foundation of two complementary forces. The first was economic expansion. The second was its role in protecting individual freedom.
For Schumpeter, to sacrifice one was to imperil the other. More starkly, he would remind us in no uncertain terms that, whatever our present doubts, the only way freedom is secure for any individual is within a growing economy. In other words, political freedom depends on economic expansion. In our own time, the Indian-born economist Amartya Sen has shown the importance of this tandem for the world's developing economies where economic expansion has become synonymous with freedom.
The connection between economic growth and democracy is, as political scientist Michael Mandelbaum says, a "tendency," not an "invariable law" of political economy. Economic growth usually brings higher rates of literacy and education, as well as a general shift from rural to urban living, elements shown to be correlated with democracy. Moreover, the overlap between free markets and democracy -- in private property, limited government, a thriving civil society, and established rule of law -- makes the causal connection even stronger.
As a general rule, only capitalism can create wealth and liberty at the same time. And, of course, capitalism can expand welfare faster than any other social or economic order has ever done.
However, given the pressures of the current crisis, a future where growth and freedom continue to jointly secure each other and anchor civil society is not assured. It seems that when economic contractions occur in their inevitable, yet unpredictable way, the critique of capitalism itself becomes more powerful and shrill.
From Schumpeter's vantage point, capitalism's very success allows rich societies to use government to relax the impersonal rules that govern markets, creating new rules that buffer citizens from the rigors of risk-taking and failure. In that sense, government invents for itself the task of mediating market outcomes. Schumpeter had seen the dangers of this play out in Bismarck's conception of Prussia's welfare state. In the face of the Marxist threat, the elite secured its position by causing government to dispense social benefits. Political entrenchment, not charity, had motivated Bismarck. When distorted in such a way, free-market capitalism is seen to suppress -- rather than to encourage -- social and economic mobility.
Since the New Deal, Americans have come to see government as somehow the ultimate protector of their financial welfare. In reality, though, the evidence of the U.S. government behaving in this way during the New Deal is thin to say the least. Although it is largely forgotten now, much of the government's action during the Depression actually had a marginal impact on individual lives. Monetary expansion and technological innovation boosted the economy, while the "second" depression of 1937-1938 is widely understood as having been induced by Roosevelt's attempt to manipulate credit markets.
So what about the ultimate Schumpeterian challenge: Can capitalism be saved? France's President Nicolas Sarkozy in October 2008 proposed a brilliant formulation. He said: "The financial crisis is not the crisis of capitalism. It is the crisis of a system that has distanced itself from the most fundamental values of capitalism, which betrayed the spirit of capitalism."
No doubt, in the face of the continuing financial crisis, entrepreneurial capitalism is threatened. All over the world, people are giving greater emphasis to personal security. Their taste for assuming personal risk may be chastened, at least for the moment. This is an altogether rational and expected response.
Where that becomes troublesome, however, is the moment when government comes to be seen as the sole source of security. What we, the public, need to understand is that the best guarantor of security is not government. It's economic growth. While we want to believe otherwise, the cold fact is that government can't guarantee economic permanency. Nobody, and nothing, can.
Pragmatically speaking, we must figure out how to increase people's sense of security without making government itself bigger or more powerful.
Joseph Schumpeter's answer to all this is that the most important citizen is not the politician, nor the big businessman, nor the bankers on Wall Street. They are important, but not central to the renewal of democratic capitalism. That role, that burden falls to our fellow citizens who, in the face of the challenges we see all around us, are ready to pursuit what entrepreneurs do: Create the new, create jobs and make the wealth that will be more necessary than ever to purchase a future worth living.
Whatever road we choose, entrepreneurial capitalism cannot be revived or flourish if new government security programs end up attenuating the individual's ultimate responsibility to attend to his or her own welfare.
Mr. Schramm is president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation and co-author of "Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity" (Yale Univ. Press, 2007).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan
on: May 31, 2009, 07:44:43 AM
"Let's play grown-up." When I was a child, that's what we said when we ran out of things to do like playing potsie or throwing rocks in the vacant lot. You'd go in and take your father's hat and your mother's purse and walk around saying, "Would you like tea?" In retrospect we weren't imitating our parents but parents on TV, who wore pearls and suits. But the point is we amused ourselves trying to be little adults.
And that's what the GOP should do right now: play grown-up.
The Democrats in the White House have been doing it since January, operating with a certain decorum, a kind of assumption as to their natural stature. Obamaland is very different from the last Democratic administration, Bill Clinton's. The cliché is true: White House staffs reflect their presidents. Mr. Clinton's staff was human, colorful, messy, slightly mad. They had pent-up energy after 12 years of Republican rule, and they believed their own propaganda that Republicans were wicked. They were oafish: One dragooned a government helicopter to go play golf. President Obama's staff is far less entertaining. They're smooth, impeccable, sophisticated, like the boss. They don't hate Republicans but think they're missing a few chips (empathy, logic, How Things Really Work). It is true they don't know what they don't know, but what they do know (how to quietly seize and hold power, for instance—they now run the American auto industry), they know pretty well.
But back to Sonia Sotomayor, which is my subject.
She is of course a brilliant political pick—Hispanic when Republicans have trouble with Hispanics, a woman when they've had trouble with women. Her background (public housing, Nuyorican, Catholic school, Princeton, prominence) is as moving as Clarence Thomas's, and that is moving indeed. Politically she's like a beautiful doll containing a canister of poison gas: Break her and you die.
The New York Post's front page the day after her announcement said it all: "Suprema!" with a picture of the radiant nominee. New York is proud of her; I'm proud of our country and grateful at its insistence, in a time when some say the American dream is dead, that it most certainly is not. The dream is: You can come from any place or condition, any walk of life, and rise to the top, taking your people with you, in your heart and theirs. Maybe that's what they mean by empathy: Where you come from enters you, and you bring it with you as you rise. But if that's what they mean, then we're all empathetic. We're the most fluid society in human history, but no one ever leaves their zip code in America, we all take it with us. It's part of our pride. And it's not bad, it's good.
Some, and they are idiots, look at Judge Sotomayor and say: attack, attack, kill. A conservative activist told the New York Times, "We need to brand her." Another told me a fight is needed to excite the base.
Excite the base? How about excite a moderate, or interest an independent? How about gain the attention of people who aren't already on your side?
The base is plenty excited already, as you know if you've ever read a comment thread on a conservative blog. Comment-thread conservatives, like their mirror-image warriors on the left ("Worst person in the woooorrrlllddd!") are perpetually agitated, permanently enraged. They don't need to be revved, they're already revved. Newt Gingrich twitters that Judge Sotomayor is a racist. Does anyone believe that? He should rest his dancing thumbs, stop trying to position himself as the choice and voice of the base in 2012, and think.
A few—very few—agitate to go at Judge Sotomayor as the Democrats went after Robert Bork in 1987. The abuse suffered by that good man is a still suppurating wound within the GOP, but it is also a wound for the Democrats, the worst kind, a self-inflicted one. They damaged our national political culture and lowered their own standing with their assault, and their victory left them looking not strong and uncompromising but mean and ferocious. And on some level they know it. Ask Ted Kennedy, if he had it to do over again, if he would repeat all his intemperate and unjust words about "Bob Bork's America" and "back-alley abortions" and blacks turned away from lunch counters. He'd be a fool if he said yes. He damaged himself in that battle.
The choice for Republicans isn't between "attack" and "roll over." It's broader than that, and more interesting. There's a new and fresh opportunity here for Republicans in the Senate to be serious, and, in their seriousness, to be seen and understood in a new light.
Serious opposition to Judge Sotomayor is not only fair, it's necessary: It's your job to oppose if you oppose. But it should be serious, not merely partisan. Mr. Obama himself well knows he voted against John Roberts and Sam Alito only in essence because they were conservative. He was planning a presidential run and playing to a left-wing base. But that didn't enhance his reputation, did it? Not with anyone who wasn't part of his base.
Barring extraordinary revelations, Judge Sotomayor is going to be confirmed. She's going to win. She does not appear to be as liberal or left-wing as others who could have been picked. She seems reminiscent of the justice she will replace, David Souter. She will likely come across in hearings as smart, spirited, a middle-aged woman who's lived a life of grit, determination and American-dream proving.
Republicans can be liberated by the fact that they're outnumbered and likely about to lose. They can step back, breathe in, and use the Sotomayor confirmation hearings to perform a public service: Find out what the future justice thinks and why she thinks it, explain what they think and why they think it, look at the two different philosophies, if that's what they are. Don't make it sparring, make it thinking.
Don't grill and grandstand, summon and inform. Show the respect that expresses equality and the equality that is an expression of respect. Ask and listen, get the logic, explain where you think it wrong. Fill the airwaves with thoughtful exchanges.
Here are some areas: What is judicial activism? Is it sometimes more rightly called judicial presumption? Judge Sotomayor sided against the Connecticut firemen in the famous Ricci case—why? Was this empathy, or a very selective sympathy that resulted in the victimizing of human beings who were not members of a politically favored ethnic or racial group? What is affirmative action, when does it become quota making? How does she understand the Second Amendment? What did the Framers intend there? In what ways did her experience, upbringing and ethnicity contribute to her understanding of the law?
These are just a few fertile areas. There are more.
The odd thing Republican elected officials forget is that they often have the better argument. So used are they to the defensive crouch that they find it difficult to stand tall, expand, tell, hear. They should have more faith in the philosophical assumptions of their party, which so often reflect the wisdom of experience, of tradition, of Founders more brilliant than we.
This might be a good time for them to rediscover their faith in the American people, in their ability to listen, weigh and think. That thinking may not always show up immediately in polls, but it adds up in time and has its own weight, its own force, and future.
Trust them. They're grown-ups, even if they don't always dress the part.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ
on: May 31, 2009, 07:18:25 AM
Right after North Korea's first nuclear test, in October 2006, Senator Bob Menendez explained that the event "illustrates just how much the Bush Administration's incompetence has endangered our nation." The New Jersey Democrat hasn't said what he thinks North Korea's second test says about the current Administration, so allow us to connect the diplomatic dots.
At the time of the first test, the common liberal lament was that Kim Jong Il was belligerent only because President Bush had eschewed diplomacy in favor of tough rhetoric, like naming Pyongyang to the "axis of evil." Never mind that the U.S. had continued to fulfill its commitments under the 1994 Agreed Framework, including fuel shipments and the building of "civilian" nuclear reactors, until the North admitted it was violating that framework in late 2002. Never mind, too, that by 2006 the Bush Administration had participated in multiple rounds of six-party nuclear talks, or that it had promised to normalize relations with the North.
Nevertheless, President Bush adopted the views of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who had internalized the views of Bush Administration critics. Led by Christopher Hill (now President Obama's ambassador in Baghdad), the U.S. announced the resumption of the six-party talks -- only three weeks after the first North Korean test. Mr. Hill also held direct bilateral talks with the North Koreans, something Pyongyang had long sought and Mr. Bush had long resisted.
In February 2007, the six parties agreed to a statement in which North Korea promised to shut down and seal its nuclear reactor and bring in inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor compliance. The typical reaction was that the Bush Administration had finally seen the error of its ways. Columnist Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune captured the media consensus by calling it a "surprising breakthrough that belied [Mr. Bush's] hard-line record and shrewdly advanced American interests in a vital part of the world."
As part of the deal, the North promised to provide a complete list of its nuclear programs within 60 days. But Kim's minions refused to provide the list until the U.S. released $25 million in North Korean assets deposited at the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia, which had been sanctioned under the Patriot Act for money laundering and counterfeiting. The Administration even enlisted the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to get the funds to Pyongyang after no international bank would go near the transaction.
By then it was summer and North Korea promised again to provide a complete nuclear report, this time by the end of the year. In exchange, it got more diplomatic goodies: The U.S. said it would work toward a peace agreement with the North once the nuclear issue had been resolved; South Korea proposed a "South-North economic community"; and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda pledged to improve relations despite unresolved issues regarding Japanese citizens abducted by the North.
Amid this Western accommodation, in September 2007 Israel bombed a Syrian nuclear facility that U.S. and Israeli intelligence believe was supplied by North Korea. Pyongyang denied any role, and the U.S. kept its diplomacy active. However, North Korea ignored its end-of-year deadline for producing its nuclear declaration. When it did finally produce one, six months later, it included an incomplete plutonium record and nothing about its uranium nuclear program. The North did publicly destroy the cooling tower of its reactor at Yongbyon for the TV cameras, but it balked at any credible verification process.
Still, the Bush Administration decided to put the best face on it. Mr. Bush announced last June that he was lifting restrictions on the North under the Trading With the Enemy Act. He also removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
This is the state-of-play that the Bush Administration bequeathed its successor. And it was a diplomatic approach that the Obama Administration made clear it was ready to pursue. But then Kim Jong Il decided to return to his familiar script, raising the ante by launching a ballistic missile in April, expelling U.N. inspectors, boycotting the six-party talks and then detonating a second bomb last week.
Whatever is driving Kim, no one can say it's U.S. bellicosity. Our guess is that Kim must figure President Obama will soon come calling with his own "carrots" in return for more empty disarmament promises. That's what the U.S. has always done before.
We offer this timeline of diplomatic futility as a suggestion that maybe it's time to try something different. The U.S. is now working to secure a fresh U.N. sanctions resolution, and good luck making that stick. North Korea has never honored any commitment, or abided by any convention, or respected any international law. And until some very clear signal is sent by the U.S. and its allies that they will not be gulled again by the allure of negotiations, it never will.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / In defense of the Constitution
on: May 31, 2009, 06:48:13 AM
In Defense Of The Constitution
News & Analysis
May 31, 2009
According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) world fact book, the State of Israel occupies a total of 20,770 square kilometers which includes 440 sq km of water. To put this in perspective, the entire country of Israel is smaller than the US state of New Jersey.
The total population of Israel is listed as 7,233,701; this includes non-Jewish Arabs whom are Israeli citizens. Israel is 76.4% Jewish with a minority of Muslims (16%), Arab Christians (1.7%) with “other Christians”, Druze, and unspecified making up the remaining religious groupings.
The government of Israel is a parliamentary democracy with a number of factions making up the Knesset, which includes members who are not only anti-Israel, but anti-Semitic as well.
In short, Israel, excepting its parliamentary form of government, is somewhat a microcosm of the United States; a multi-religious society with a participatory government that includes those dedicated to its destruction from within.
The US president is expected to present a “Peace Speech” in Egypt on June 4. President Obama is expected to announce his support for a “settlement of the Jewish question” by calling on Israel to accept the two state “solution” that will make it impossible for Israel to effectively defend itself. To be blunt, Israel is being asked to commit national suicide first by division into indefensible borders and secondly by massive immigration that will destroy the country from within.
Israel, a country occupying a fraction of the Middle East; a country re-born following the Holocaust; a country that makes a home even for those dedicated to its destruction; is being demanded of by the rest of the world to commit national suicide by dividing itself into two; one side that is expected to live with a false promise of peace and the other that is totally dedicated to destroying the other by any means necessary. Israel must win every war; her numerous enemies only one.
We shall not have peace by any division of Israel; nor will we “solve the Jewish question” by partnering with countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or any other Muslim-majority country in the Middle East. History has proven, time and time again, that political agreements with Muslim-majority countries are not worth the paper they are printed on and that all “agreements” are viewed by Muslim-majority governments as concessions to their religious ideology.
Let us ask the Saudi’s, the Syrians, and the rest of the Muslim world why they accept the presence of refugee camps housing multi-generations of Palestinians; why they refuse to take these refugee’s or provide them any meaningful assistance? Are not the Palestinians their Muslim brothers and sisters? Why do these Muslim countries turn their back on their brethren and demand of the Jews to destroy their country to accommodate those who have absolutely NO RIGHT to Israel?
The next time someone says “Why, Jew?” when the question of Israel arises, turn your back on him. For an American to pose such a question; given our own history with tyranny at our founding; clearly demonstrates a lack of appreciation for our own freedoms, it would be impossible for such a person to understand other people’s right to the same.
President Obama may get his wish for what could lead to the destruction of Israel; but this would only show the world, again, that the United States stands for what is expedient, not for what is right. How many of our allies will continue to trust us if we turn our backs on Israel?
As for me, I stand for a united Israel…from the river to the sea.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy
on: May 31, 2009, 12:28:16 AM
I think if you look up Alan Reynolds, whom I have followed for many years, you will find him to be a highly regarded economist across the political spectrum (he is definitely a supply sider). IIRC more than once he has won the WSJ's top prognosticator of the year award.
I appreciate your point about the 34% rate, but offer for your consideration that he may be taking into account other taxes e.g. state taxes, as well. I strongly suspect that upon examination his numbers will hold up quite nicely.
I agree with BBG's point about the manipulations of the economy enabled by high tax rates.
Also, the greybeards amongst us may remember Hillary Evita Clinton's amazing string of good luck with commodity straddles (back pre Reagan when the top individual rate was 70%) while advised by the largest employer in the state of AK (Tyson Foods) while her husband was running for governor , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Dirty magazines
on: May 30, 2009, 09:00:34 PM
A Marine husband called home to tell his wife he would be late. He said dirty magazines had been discovered in the platoon's quarters and they had to discipline the whole squad.
She launched into a tirade, arguing that many men had pictures hanging in their quarters at their previous post, so his new platoon should not be penalized for something so trivial.
The husband calmly listened to her gripes and then explained, "Dirty magazines: The clips from their rifles had not been cleaned."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy
on: May 30, 2009, 06:29:58 PM
CCP's post moved to here:
I don't get the previous post. Is he critical of BO, Bush, BO because he is too much like Bush, Bo is too naive, or what?
He is all over the place. I have no idea what his point is or what his conclusion is.
Here is another one who sounds mixed up but states BO is while on the surface similar to Bush's it is at its heart diametrically opposed.
It appears to me that he is saying that it is tranformational in a positive way. Yet one gets the feeling that these people really are holding back because they are not sure that the cuddly adorable we are all the world we are one rhetoric, which is right out of a 1960s pepsi commercial, is going to work.
IN any case my opinion is that BO is selling the US down the river. Sure, he may be popular around the world - he is giving our soveriegnty to them. So what's for them not to like:
***Obama's Foreign Policy Isn't Bush Part 2
by Peter Scoblic
Peter Scoblic is the executive editor of The New Republic and the author of U.S. vs. Them: Conservatism in the Age of Nuclear Terror.
NPR.org, March 25, 2009 · With his bold budget and ambitious plans for health care, no one seems to think that Barack Obama's domestic agenda is anything like George W. Bush's. But many commentators seem to think that when it comes to foreign policy, the new president is just like the old.
Foreign Policy magazine, for example, ran a piece titled "The Making Of George W. Obama." And in the Washington Post, a former John McCain adviser wrote that the "pretense" of change has required "some sleight of hand."
Sure, there are some similarities: Obama hasn't immediately withdrawn troops from Iraq, and he's continuing Predator strikes against Pakistani militants. But his worldview is diametrically opposed to Bush's. And if the last eight years are any guide, that difference will be incredibly important.
At the most basic level, President Bush and the conservatives around him believed that the world was divided into good and evil. They certainly weren't the first to do so. The early colonists proclaimed America a holy refuge from the evils of Europe. And when Thomas Jefferson famously spoke against "entangling alliances," he too was dividing the world into two categories: "us" and "them."
That attitude worked in the 1800s, but in the 20th century, as our security became intertwined with that of other countries, those kinds of binary distinctions lost power. That's why isolationism fell out of fashion. That's why Woodrow Wilson and FDR spoke of a community of nations. And with the invention of nuclear weapons, our very existence became dependent not simply on our ability to wage war against our enemies, but on our ability to cooperate with them.
Yet conservatives resisted history's push toward globalism. They saw the Cold War as a quasi-religious struggle. So they rejected coexistence with communism, negotiation with Moscow and containment of the Soviet Union, because each of these represented accommodation with "evil."
Even after the Cold War ended and transnational threats — like terrorism, disease and proliferation — became paramount, conservatives clung to that vision. In 2000, Bush said, "When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world. And we knew exactly who the 'they' were. It was us vs. them, and it was clear who 'them' was. Today we're not so sure who the 'they' are, but we know they're there."
In office, he put that attitude into practice. He derided diplomacy while emphasizing military action, which didn't require cooperation with other countries. Rejecting negotiation, containment and coexistence with the "axis of evil," Bush invaded Iraq while refusing to engage North Korea and Iran despite their accelerating nuclear programs. The results were disastrous.
Obama's approach is strikingly different. Last month, he said: "In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America."
True, this approach is still developing. But, in and of itself, Obama's dismissal of us vs. them ideology is a crucial transformation in U.S. foreign policy. The only way you can argue it won't matter in the future is to completely ignore the past.
Peter Scoblic is the executive editor of The New Republic and the author of U.S. vs. Them: Conservatism in the Age of Nuclear Terror.****
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Loose cannon gives BO a lesson
on: May 30, 2009, 06:28:24 PM
GM's post moved to herehttp://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25557458-5013460,00.html
Loose cannon gives Obama a lesson
Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor | May 30, 2009
Article from: The Australian
THERE has been a battle of wills between North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il and US President Barack Obama. So far, Kim has won.
However history finally judges Kim - genocidal narcissist, self-declared god king, supreme Stalinist end point of communism - it also will have to acknowledge his extraordinary success in imposing his own reality, his personal paradigm, on the international system and on the US.
This week, former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans argued that Kim's ambitions were essentially reasonable. Kim wanted recognition from the US, a reliable security guarantee and, according to Evans, didn't really want nuclear weapons.
That a sane man can make this judgment after decades of relentless nuclear development by Pyongyang, and after it has rejected or broken this same deal time and time again, demonstrates the feebleness of the foreign policy process mind.
It shows a complete failure of political imagination as to what the North Korean political culture really is.
It is the same kind of mind that dominates the Obama White House.
On May 12, Obama's special envoy on the Korean peninsula, Steve Bosworth, declared: "I think everyone is feeling relatively relaxed about where we are at this point in the process. There is not a sense of crisis." This could go down as one of the great ambassadorial dumb remarks of all time, indicating a disturbing detachment from reality. It certainly would do if it had been uttered by one of George W. Bush's officials.
Consider the implications of Bosworth's remark. Either the US knew a new nuclear test was imminent and Bosworth was telling a blatant lie in an effort to keep everyone calm or, likelier, it was the truth and indicates that the US had not the faintest idea what the North Koreans were up to, despite numerous analysts across the world, operating with far less information than the US Government had available, predicting Kim's nuclear explosion.
Certainly Obama's subsequent remarks, and those of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as US efforts at the UN Security Council, indicate that once the test was undertaken Washington was anything but relaxed.
To put it another way, Kim can predict Obama, but Obama cannot predict Kim.
Obama is plainly a leader of the highest intelligence, with a calm temperament and a very good bedside manner. But sometimes he seems to think he can change the world with PR.
Kim is teaching him that the world is a very intractable place. It is useful for the US to have good PR, but there are no serious problems that good PR alone will solve.
Obama is deeply involved in the detail of his foreign policy. Yet he came to the presidency with no foreign policy experience and few settled or even articulated views on national security. His multi-volume autobiography is noteworthy for its lack of anything resembling foreign policy substance.
Instead, as President he seems to have simply absorbed the world view of the US's great institutions of state, in particular the State Department and the Pentagon. In general this is not bad, as these institutions are generally reservoirs of expertise.
It also has led to Obama adopting almost exactly the foreign and national security policies of Bush's second administration. In the second Bush administration, with Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, the State Department's world view shaped the administration's actions.
The same is true for Obama, even if, through his vast panoply of special envoys and the beefing up of the National Security Council, he has continued the process of concentrating ever more direct power in the White House.
But on policy substance, Obama is an almost eerie replica of Bush's second term. In response to the Korean nuclear crisis, Obama is begging China to allow some sanctions through the UN Security Council, reassuring Japan and South Korea of the US military commitment, and trying to appear calm, all as Bush and Rice would have.
On Iraq, Obama is withdrawing on a slower timetable than he promised and one approved by his Republican rival, John McCain, with plenty of caveats allowing course correction.
On Afghanistan, Obama is surging with more than 20,00 additional US troops. Meanwhile the US predator drones are still flying and still firing missiles at al-Qa'ida and Taliban targets, including in Pakistan, wherever possible. On Pakistan, Obama is pleading with Congress to authorise billions of dollars in new aid for a corrupt and hopeless government because the alternative is Islamist extremists, exactly as Bush did.
On Guantanamo Bay, Obama has not yet closed the prison camp. He says he will try to within a year. He also says some inmates will be detained indefinitely without trial because of the risks they pose, while others will be tried in military commissions, not civilian courts. He has not flung open Guantanamo's doors, and rendition continues.
On Israel, Obama's support for Israel's security and its special relationship with the US is every bit as strong as Bush's. His promotion of the peace process, and his criticism of some aspects of Israeli West Bank settlement policy, are the same as Rice's and follow precisely from the Bush-initiated Annapolis process.
On Iran, Obama has indeed changed the tone, but not the substance, of the policy. He is pursuing dialogue to see if he can talk Iran out of its nuclear ambitions. This, in fact, is just what Bush and Rice were doing. Obama is even using exactly the same senior State Department official as Bush did to pursue this dialogue.
Iran is nonetheless one area where Obama's PR efforts may do some good. The dialogue with Iran will not work, but when crunch time comes the US will be in a better position for having made the effort.
Obama is even following Bush in taking a ridiculous amount of time to appoint an ambassador to Canberra.
In saying all this I am not criticising Obama (except for not appointing an envoy to Australia). Even the Left is slowly waking up to what a conventional and sensible President Obama mostly is on national security.
Even Maureen Dowd in The New York Times last week mocked Obama's national security policy as representing Dick Cheney's third term. Any president who earns that kind of abuse from Dowd is certainly doing a lot right.
At least for the past four years US foreign policy has been completely pragmatic, which is why Obama term I so far closely resembles Bush term II (which ought in honesty to lead to a re-evaluation of Bush II).
The sad reflection thereby arising, however, is that Bush had absolutely no success in stopping North Korea's progress along the nuclear path. The only real success in halting Pyongyang's nuclear proliferation came in 2007 when Israel bombed a North Korean-built nuclear reactor in Syria.
Obama has all the charm. Kim, demented, twisted, weird and evil, certainly has the will.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Palo Canario
on: May 30, 2009, 11:20:55 AM
!Una abundancia de buenas noticias!
a) Lo de las fotos me alegra mucho. Por favor mandemelas en las mas alta resolucion factible a email@example.com
b) La noticia de Angela es tremendo! Como padre a padre me acuerdo come tu te preocubabas y ahora me imagino la felizidad de Rosa y ti.
c) Y tener uno mas-- feliticaciones!
d) Yo tambien soy miembro de facebook, pero la enlace no funciona para mi. ?Posiblement necesitamos ser "amigos" primero?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Pravda Times: Sotomayor on campaign finance laws
on: May 30, 2009, 10:58:22 AM
WASHINGTON — In 1996, Judge Sonia Sotomayor delivered a speech comparing campaign contributions to “bribes” and asking whether elected officials could credibly say they were “representing only the general public good, when private money plays such a large role” in helping them win office.
“If they cannot, the public must demand a change in the role of private money or find other ways, such as through strict, well-enforced regulation, to ensure that politicians are not inappropriately influenced in their legislative or executive decision-making by the interests that give them contributions,” she said.
The 1996 speech, a version of which was later published in a law journal, is not the only public marker in the record of Judge Sotomayor, who is now President Obama’s Supreme Court choice, on campaign finance regulations.
Judge Sotomayor has ruled in several cases for outcomes favorable to proponents of campaign restrictions. And before she became a judge, she spent four years on the New York City Campaign Finance Board, which enforces election spending laws, and where, board minutes and other records obtained by The New York Times show, she took an active role.
“People who are First Amendment absolutists are not going to be thrilled with her positions in these cases,” said Richard L. Hasen, a Loyola Law School Los Angeles professor who specializes in election law. “But people who support reasonable regulation of the political system are going to be more in favor of the kind of positions she has taken.”
Several important cases about campaign finance regulations could eventually reach the Supreme Court, including a case challenging contribution limits on independent groups that run political advertisements and another in which the Republican National Committee has brought a fresh challenge to the ban on unregulated “soft money” in elections.
The constitutionality of campaign finance laws has been one of the hardest-fought issues at the Supreme Court in recent years, generating some of its highest-profile rulings.
In 2003, the court voted 5 to 4 to uphold the 2002 McCain-Feingold law, which banned soft money — contributions not subject to donor limits — to political parties for use in campaigns. But the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2006 and her replacement by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. created a new majority bloc that has struck down campaign regulations in several more recent cases.
Justice David H. Souter, whom Judge Sotomayor would succeed if confirmed, has been among the faction willing to uphold such laws. “Sotomayor’s replacement of Souter won’t change the balance on the court in this area — so it means they won’t become more hostile to regulation as a result of this change,” said Richard Briffault, an election law specialist at Columbia Law School who has worked on issues related to the Campaign Finance Board. “This may be a good example of where this will be pretty close to a one-for-one substitution.”
Judge Sotomayor’s engagement with campaign finance regulations dates back to 1988, when Peter L. Zimroth, New York’s corporation counsel, said he recommended that Mayor Edward I. Koch appoint her to the city’s new Campaign Finance Board.
The board members, including Ms. Sotomayor, became pioneers in developing a voluntary program in which local candidates receive public matching money in exchange for accepting disclosure requirements and limits on contributions and spending.
Board minutes provide a glimpse: Ms. Sotomayor, then in private practice, grilled one politician over why his campaign reported receiving some cash contributions as checks, requested a study “on the ethnicity and sex” of program participants, and reviewed the Spanish translation of voter guides.
At other times, Ms. Sotomayor noted approvingly that the program appeared to be encouraging more challengers, and also warned that a certain proposed action “might be construed as a partisan move.” On rare occasions, she dissented from board votes, including a decision to penalize the 1989 mayoral campaign of David N. Dinkins over paperwork problems. The minutes do not say what her specific objections were.
Ms. Sotomayor resigned from the board when she became a federal judge in 1992. But the experience seems to have helped shape her views. In addition to her 1996 speech warning about the influence of money in politics which she wrote with Nicole Gordon, a former executive director of the Campaign Finance Board — she went on to issue rulings in several cases that endorsed election regulations.
For example, as Mr. Hasen noted in a recent blog post, she upheld a law that forbids paying signature-gatherers by the number of people they get to sign petitions. She also upheld a law that prevented minor political parties from gaining official status on ballots.
That record is not without exception. In 2005, she voted to strike down the State of New York’s method of choosing judges, a ruling the Supreme Court overturned.
Still, after a panel of her colleagues upheld a Vermont campaign finance law that imposed strict contribution and spending limits on campaigns, she voted not to rehear the case. The Supreme Court later struck down the Vermont law.
Judge Sotomayor’s record on campaign finance regulations has not gone unnoticed. The Center for Competitive Politics, which opposes such limits, has noted her views with concern, declaring she is “not the Supreme Court nominee we wanted.”
But Democracy 21, which supports such regulations, argued that her “views are within the mainstream of the Court’s well-established First Amendment jurisprudence and consistent with the exercise of robust free speech rights.”
Itai Maytal contributed research.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sotomayor
on: May 29, 2009, 10:32:42 PM
President Barack Obama has laid down his ground rules for the debate over Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. The big question now is whether Republicans agree to play by rules that neither Mr. Obama nor his party have themselves followed.
Ground Rule No. 1, as decreed by the president, is that this is to be a discussion primarily about Judge Sotomayor's biography, not her qualifications. The media gurus complied, with inspiring stories of how she was born to Puerto Rican immigrants, how she was raised by a single mom in a Bronx housing project, how she went on to Princeton and then Yale. In the years that followed she presumably issued a judicial opinion here or there, but whatever.
The president, after all, had taken great pains to explain that this is more than an American success story. Rather, it is Judge Sotomayor's biography that uniquely qualifies her to sit on the nation's highest bench -- that gives her the "empathy" to rule wisely. Judge Sotomayor agrees: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn't lived that life," she said in 2001.
If so, perhaps we can expect her to join in opinions with the wise and richly experienced Clarence Thomas. That would be the same Justice Thomas who lost his father, and was raised by his mother in a rural Georgia town, in a shack without running water, until he was sent to his grandfather. The same Justice Thomas who had to work every day after school, though he was not allowed to study at the Savannah Public Library because he was black. The same Justice Thomas who became the first in his family to go to college and receive a law degree from Yale.
By the president's measure, the nation couldn't find a more empathetic referee than Justice Thomas. And yet here's what Mr. Obama had to say last year when Pastor Rick Warren asked him about the Supreme Court: "I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. I don't think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation."
In other words, nine months ago Mr. Obama thought that the primary qualification for the High Court was the soundness of a nominee's legal thinking, or at least that's what Democrats have always stressed when working against a conservative judge. Throughout the Bush years, it was standard Democratic senatorial practice to comb through every last opinion, memo, job application and college term paper, all with an aim of creating a nominee "too extreme" or "unqualified" to sit on the federal bench.
Mr. Obama knows this, as he took part in it, joining a Senate minority who voted against both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito. Mr. Obama also understands a discussion of Judge Sotomayor's legal thinking means a discussion about "judicial activism" -- a political loser. In a day when voters routinely rise up to rebuke their activist courts on issues ranging from gay marriage to property rights, few red-state Democrats want to go there. Moreover, a number of Judge Sotomayor's specific legal opinions -- whether on racial preferences, or gun restrictions -- put her to the left of most Americans.
Which brings us to Ground Rule No. 2, which is that Republicans are not allowed to criticize Judge Sotomayor, for the reason that she is the first Hispanic nominee to the High Court. The Beltway media also dutifully latched on to this White House talking point, reporting threats from leading Democrats, including New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who intoned that Republicans "oppose her at their peril."
This would be the same Mr. Schumer who had this to say about Miguel Estrada, President Bush's Hispanic nominee (who, by the way, came to this country as an immigrant from Honduras) to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002: Mr. Estrada "is like a Stealth missile -- with a nose cone -- coming out of the right wing's deepest silo." That would be the same Mr. Schumer who ambushed Mr. Estrada in a Senate hearing, smearing him with allegations made by unnamed former associates. That would be the same Mr. Schumer who sat on the Judiciary Committee, where leaked memos later showed that Democrats feared Mr. Estrada would use a position on the D.C. Circuit as a launching pad to become the nation's . . . first Hispanic Supreme Court judge. Two tortured years later, Mr. Estrada withdrew, after the Democrats waged seven filibusters against a confirmation vote.
Republicans will be tempted by this history to go ugly. They might instead lay down their own rules, the first being that they will not partake in the tactics of personal destruction that were waged by the left on nominees such as Mr. Thomas or Mr. Alito or Mr. Estrada. But the party could also make a rule to not be scared away from using Judge Sotomayor's nomination, or future Obama picks, as platforms for big, civil, thorough debates about the role of the courts and the risk of activist judges to American freedoms and beliefs.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism
on: May 29, 2009, 08:51:12 PM
By DAVID B. RIVKIN JR. and LEE A. CASEY
President Barack Obama is retaining many important Bush administration antiterror policies, including the detention without trial of jihadist captives as well as military commissions. He is determined, however, to close the Guantanamo detention facility because he believes doing so will not cause many problems in the U.S., and will improve our image abroad and bolster international support for U.S. antiterror policies. He will be disappointed on all counts.
Guantanamo has always been a symbol, rather than the substance, of complaints against America's "war on terror." It's the military character of the U.S. response to 9/11 that foreign and domestic critics won't accept.
There are also longstanding ideological currents at work here. At least since the 1970s, "progressive" international activists have sought to level the playing field between nation states (especially the U.S. and Israel) and nonstate actors such as the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas. Although international humanitarian law is supposed to apply neutrally to all belligerents, international opinion now gives nonstate actors far more leeway to ignore fundamental norms such as the rule against deliberately targeting civilians. The underlying implication is that terrorist tactics, however regrettable, are justified as the only means of achieving laudable goals like national liberation.
This mindset will not change if Guantanamo closes. At the same time, closing the detention facilities will create numerous headaches quite beyond the security issues raised by dangerous detainees who might escape or serve as a magnet for terrorist attacks in U.S.-based facilities.
One immediate problem, identified by FBI Director Robert Mueller, is the very real possibility that the Guantanamo detainees will recruit more terrorists from among the federal inmate population and continue al Qaeda operations from the inside. Radical Islamists already preach jihad in prisons -- this was how the just-arrested New York synagogue bombers were recruited -- and criminal gangs have proved that a half-in/half-out management model works.
A longer-term problem is that once Guantanamo is closed the option of holding captured enemy combatants any place overseas will be undermined. Over time, more and more such individuals, including the ones convicted by military commissions, would have to be brought to the U.S., especially as Europe backs away from taking such individuals. Aggregating the world's worst jihadists on American soil, from which they can never be repatriated, is not a smart way to fight a war.
Meanwhile, the legality of incarcerating captured terrorists in U.S. domestic prisons is far from clear. Today the Guantanamo detainees are held under well-established laws of war permitting belligerents to confine captured enemies until hostilities are over. This detention, without the due process accorded criminal defendants, has always been legally justified because it emphatically is not penal in nature but a simple expedient necessary to keep captives from returning to the fight. It was on this basis that the Supreme Court approved the detention of war-on-terror captives, without trial, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004).
The Guantanamo detainees are "unlawful" enemy combatants and not "prisoners of war" under the Geneva Conventions. Yet they are still combatants, not convicts. By contrast, the individuals held in the federal prison system, and especially those in the maximum security facilities suggested for the Guantanamo detainees, are convicted criminals.
It is very doubtful that under the customary laws and customs of war, the Hamdi decision, or Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (which the Supreme Court also has applied to the war on terror) the Guantanamo detainees can be treated like convicted criminals and consigned without trial to the genuinely fearsome world of a super-max prison.
Segregating the detainees from the overall prison population -- to maintain the "non-penal" character of their confinement as well as to frustrate any recruiting activities or continuing al Qaeda operations -- is also legally dubious. Unless a new Guantanamo is to be constructed, this segregation will have to take place in existing isolation wards used to discipline (and sometimes protect) federal inmates.
This could mean solitary confinement, perhaps for 23 hours a day, without regard to a detainee's conduct or disciplinary status. The chances that courts would consider this to be the "humane" treatment required by the Geneva conventions are not overwhelming.
The Obama administration can be certain these conditions will be challenged in the courts, and it is difficult to see how, in light of current judicial attitudes, the detainees will be denied the entire panoply of constitutional rights claimed by ordinary inmates -- including lawsuits challenging their conditions of confinement. If courts conclude that these conditions are unconstitutional, or that they cannot be held indefinitely as enemy combatants, judges could mandate the release of these jihadists into the U.S.
Mr. Obama can still reverse his decision to close Guantanamo. This would cost him significant political support among his base. But making unpopular decisions to serve the national interest is a president's duty and obligation. In this regard, Mr. Obama should follow his predecessor's example and put American national security before the vagaries of popular approval.
Messrs. Rivkin and Casey worked in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and have served as expert members of the U.N. Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / GM Giron
on: May 29, 2009, 08:48:40 PM
Grandmaster Leo Giron Last of the Bladed Warriors
By Antonio E. Somera
This article is courtesy of CFW Enterprises Incorporated. All Rights
During the outbreak of World War II many Filipinos volunteered for
service. The outpouring was so creditable that orders were issued to activate
the First Filipino Infantry Regiment in Salinas, Calif., effective July 13,
1942 and the Second Filipino Infantry Regiment Nov. 21, 1942. The First and
Second Filipino Infantry was once one division with the strength of 12,000
men, three regiments, plus other special companies. In addition, out of these
12,000 men, about 1,000 were selected for special missions. This force of
fighting Filipinos was known as the First Reconnaissance Battalion and was
activated Nov. 20, 1944. This included the 978th signal service company, which
was identified with the Allied Intelligence Bureau.These men and officers were
called Commandos and "Bahala Na" ("come what may") was their slogan. As part
of General Douglas MacArthurâ?Ts secret force, they were dropped behind enemy
lines and became the eyes and ears of General MacArthur.
One of the most noted of these servicemen was Sergeant Leo M. Giron of the 978th signal
service company. Sergeant Giron served over one year behind enemy lines in the
jungles of Northern Luzon, Philippines. He was a member of a group of secret
commandos that were part of General Douglas MacArthur's secret army.
Grandmaster Giron is head advisor and world-renowned founder of the Bahala Na
Martial Arts Association. At the tender age of 90 he still resides in
Stockton, Calif., and attends class on a regular bases.
His knowledge of jungle warfare is an invaluable asset to those who train with him. He is a
rare combination of humble martial artist and distinguished college professor.
Here is his story:
FILIPINO MARTIAL ARTS: When were you inducted into the
LEO GIRON: I was inducted on Oct. 9, 1942. This was in Los Angeles,
Calif., because prior to this I was farming in Imperial Valley, Calif. I was
first stationed at Camp San Luis Obispo, and then in the winter of the same
year I was transferred to Fort Ord.
FMA: How were you selected to be in the
978th signal service company?
LG: Well, everyone was brought into a big room.
It was the recreation room on base. This is where we were given an aptitude
test. Many did not pass and they were sent back to their regiment. But others
made it and were given additional education on Morse code. The Army was
looking for specific types of men. They were looking for men with schooling
and how well they could communicate. That included speaking English. I was one
of the few that made it.
FMA: What was your training experience like in the
LG: During boot camp we also went to school. We were learning
communications like Morse code, wig-wag (flag signals), cyma four,
cryptography and paraphrasing. I was trained to communicate. At the time I did
not know what the Army was planning for me to do. We were never told why we
were training; you just did what the Army told you to do.
FMA: What type of
self-defense training did you receive from the Army?
LG: We learned all the
basic training needed for soldiering. Nothing special, just how to shoot a
carbine, how to use a .45 and some basic hand-to-hand combat. I was fortunate
to learn escrima as a child and later after coming to America with one of my
most influential teachers, Flaviano Vergara. Flaviano taught me the most about
escrima and how to defend myself. In fact, I met Flaviano a second time in
Fort Ord during which time we would play on weekdays after dinner and on the
weekends while everyone went into town. Flaviano and I would do nothing but
drill and drill using estilo de fondo and larga mano. Sometimes a soldier
would come by and ask what were we doing. Some would tell us that they would
never come close to a Samurai sword. They claimed they would give the Samurai
a load of their M-1.
FMA: When did you go overseas?
LG: On Dec. 10, 1943 two
of us were shipped to New Guinea, but this was a mistake by the Army. We were
supposed to go to Australia. So on Jan. 10, 1944 I was sent to Australia to a
place called Camp X. It was close to the little town of Beau Desert about 60
miles from the seaport of Brisbane in Queensland. It was there that I
furthered my training in Morse code, cryptography, visual communications, etc.
I also embarked on my final training in jungle warfare in a place called
Canungra. Thirteen weeks of hard training contributed to my ability to climb
the high mountains of the Philippines and survive in the jungles. One time for
a week we were given only three days of C-rations and the other four days we
were to survive on our own. At this point I was staff sergeant.
FMA: Did you
ever meet General Douglas MacArthur?
LG: Yes, several times, but on Aug. 10,
1944 I was ordered to a briefing at the General' Headquarters. General
MacArthur crossed his arms and said to us, "Boys, I selected you to do a job
that a general can't do. You have the training to do a job that no one else
You are going home to our country, the Philippines-- yours and my
homeland. You'll serve as my eyes, my ears, and my fingers, and you'll
keep me informed of what the enemy is doing. You will tell me how to win the
war by furnishing me with this information, which I could not obtain in any
other way. Good luck, and there will be shinning bars waiting for you in
FMA: How did you land in the Philippines?
LG: On Aug. 12, 1944 we
boarded one of the smallest submarines in the United States Navy armada. It
was called the U.S. Sting Ray. We were loaded and armed with carbines,
submachine guns, side arms, bolo knives, trench knives, brass knuckles,
ammunition and a few other special packages. While on our way to the
Philippines we slept on our own cargo boxes. Myself and one other soldier
slept under the torpedo racks. One time we were fired upon and had to
outmaneuver several torpedoes at full speed. This occurred near the Halmahera
Island on the Celebes Sea. We also were attacked in Caonayan Bay just before
disembarking the submarine. The attack was on the submarine when a plane had
dropped depth charges on us. They came close enough to rattle the sub and
burst some pipes, but luckily this was the extent of the damage. We landed on
the beach Aug. 28, 1944.
FMA: What was the most memorable encounter you had
with the enemy?
LG: Well it is hard to try and choose one particular encounter
because they were all very horrifying. One Bonsai attack comes to mind, in
early June 1945 on a rainy day. A large number of enemy soldiers charged our
position. We formed a wedge or triangle formation, two on the side and one as
a point man. I was point man. Just like any Bonsai charge the enemy was always
noisy. Yelling and shouting, they are not afraid to die. The Filipino
guerrillas, on the other hand, chew their tobacco, grit their teeth and wing
their bolos, chop here, jab there, long bolos, short daggers, pointed bamboo,
pulverized chili peppers with sand deposited in bamboo tubes to spray so the
enemy cannot see. By now my adrenaline must have gone up. One bayonet and
samurai sword came simultaneously. The samurai sword was in front of me while
the bayonet was a little to the left. With my left hand I parried the bayonet.
I blocked the sword coming down on me. The bayonet man went by
and his body came in line with my bolo.
That's when I came down to cut his
left hip. The Samurai was coming back with a backhand blow. I met his triceps
with the bolo and chopped it to the ground. After the encounter I wiped my
face with my left hand to clear my eyes from the rain and found bloodstains on
my face. There were many more encounters. But our job was not to be detected
by the enemy; our mission was to send back vital information on the enemy to
FMA: When did you start teaching the art of arnis escrima?
In October, 1968 I decided to open a club in Tracy, Calif., where I was
residing at the time. I was motivated after I heard on the news that a man in
Chicago killed eight nursing students and some of the nurses were Filipina.
FMA: Why did you name your Martial Art Association "Bahala Na"?
LG: It was the
slogan of my outfit during World War II. I am proud of the men I fought with
during World War II and in the spirit of my comrades. I hold the memories of
all those I fought with in very high regard and close to my heart. I also can
associate the combative spirit we had during the time of World War II and
because of this I feel I have the right to use the slogan of "Bahala Na". By
the way it means "Come what may."
FMA: What makes a good student?
LG: A person with good passive resistance. You must have patience and not be too
eager to win and be the champion. What he should be interested in is learning
how to defend himself and his family against aggression. The end result will
be that you will survive -- this makes you victorious. You do not need to say
I am going to win and defeat my opponent. The attitude is that I am going to
survive and not get hurt. That's what will count; the other man will
eventually fall into a loophole were he will fall by himself and eventually he
will defeat himself.
FMA: Do you feel that your experience during World War
II in the jungles of the Philippines helped you become a better teacher?
know the respect of the bolo knife. Wartime is different. There is no regard
for life. Its different teaching; you must have structure and good
communications with your students. I like to teach more about the application
and fundamentals. Its not about how hard you hit or who is faster; its
about sharing the art of our forefathers, because if you analyze it we are
only the caretakers of the art for future generations.
FMA: Why do you still
LG: Well, first its a hobby. I have the chance to stretch my
legs, work my arms and exercise my body. I feel it is a gift to be able to
learn a combative art like escrima. Being that it falls in the field of
sports, it is good to have and know something that not too many people know. I
feel proud that I have something to share with the children, my friends and
those that want to learn an art that is a little different than other martial
arts. I feel that the Filipino art is a superior art in comparison to other
arts, so I stand firm in saying that I am proud that I have learned and still
know the art of escrima.
FMA: Have you ever fought in any death matches?
No, I have never fought in a death match. From what I understand, to
participate in a death match you will need to have a referee and a second or
back-up person in your corner -- something similar to a boxing match. The
only type of death match I had was during World War II. This is where I fought
in the jungles for over a year, not knowing if we would survive. Our weapons
of choice were the bolo knife or talonason, a long knife whose overall length
is 36 inches long. No referee, no rules; the only rule was to survive.
Grandmaster Leo Giron was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroic efforts. The
letter accompanying the Bronze Star reads: "By direction of the President of
the United States of America, under the provisions of Executive order 9419, 4
February 1944 (Sec. II, Bulletin 3, WD, 1944), a Bronze Star Medal is awarded
by the Commander-in-Chief, United States Army Forces, Pacific, to the
following-named officer and enlisted men for heroic achievement in connection
with military operations against the enemy in Luzon, Philippine Islands,
during the period indicated, with citation for each as shown herein below:
Technical Sergeant Leovigildo M. Giron, 39536996, Signal Corps, United States
Army. 27 August 1944 to 11 June 1945. Address: Bayambang, Pangasinan,
"Volunteering for a secret and dangerous military
intelligence mission, he was landed by submarine in Luzon, Philippine Islands,
where he assisted in successfully extending lines of
communication, securing vital weather data and obtaining military information
which proved of the greatest assistance to impending military operations. By
his loyalty, daring, and skillful performance of duty under most hazardous
condition, he readied a campaign for the recapture of the Philippine Islands."
By command of General MacArthur: R.K. Sutherland, Lieutenant General,
United States Army, Chief of Staff. Official: B.M. Fitch Brigadier
General, U.S. Army, Adjutant General
Grandmaster Leo M. Giron, head advisor
and founder of Bahala Na Martial Arts Association, is known as the "Father of
Larga Mano" in America. There have only been 79 graduates from the Bahala Na
Martial Arts Association over the past 32 years. Some of his most famous
graduates are Dan Inosanto, Richard Bustillo, Ted Lucay Lucay, Jerry Poteet
and Dentoy Rivellar. He remains active and teaches along with grandmaster
Antonio E. Somera in Stockton, Calif.
Antonio E. Somera studies the Filipino
martial arts with grandmaster Leo Giron. For more information on classroom or
private classes, seminars, certified affiliate programs, Stockton training
camps or books, contact grandmaster Antonio E. Somera, P.O. Box 8584,
Stockton, CA 95208; www.gironarnisescrima.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lieberman
on: May 29, 2009, 08:38:44 PM
By JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that it is imperative that the world prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. She pledged that the Obama administration's engagement with Iran to achieve that end would be carried out "with eyes wide open and under no illusions."
Mrs. Clinton is right. Iran's illicit nuclear activities represent a uniquely dangerous and transformational threat to the United States and the rest of the world -- a threat that demands a response of open-eyed realism.
A realistic response requires that we first recognize that the danger posed by the Islamic Republic's nuclear activities cannot be divorced from its broader foreign policy ambitions and patterns of behavior -- in particular, its longstanding use of terrorist proxies to destabilize and weaken its Arab neighbors and Israel, to carve out spheres of Iranian influence in the Mideast, and to tilt the region toward extremism.
The Iranians have supported Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, and Shiite militias in Iraq. They have sponsored terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of innocent Muslims throughout the region. They have also exploited the plight of the Palestinians in a cynical attempt to put a wedge between moderate Arab governments and their people.
Consider how the balance of power and the prospects for peace in the Middle East would change if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons -- and its extremist proxies could attack moderate Arab regimes, Israel and us under the protection of Tehran's nuclear umbrella, which they would use to deter conventional military retaliation in response to their aggression.
Engaging Iran with open-eyed realism also requires that we take seriously the violent words of the Iranian regime, and its acts of domestic repression. I know there are some who dismiss Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's calls for Israel to be wiped off the map as little more than political rhetoric. Others urge us not to hear Iran's rulers when they lead crowds in chanting "Death to America." Still others argue that the Iranian regime's mistreatment of its own citizens should not interfere in our diplomacy. If we ever accept that counsel, it would be at our grave peril.
As the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov once said, "A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors." There is no better proof of this than Iran today.
I am not opposed to pursuing direct engagement with the Iranians. It is certainly the preferred way to end Iran's nuclear program. But engagement is a tactic, not a strategy. What we need is a multipronged strategy that employs all of the elements of our national power. Such a strategy would include a clear and credible set of benchmarks by which we can judge Iran's response to our outreach, a timeline by which to expect results, and a set of carrots and sticks that both sides understand. We must make clear to the Iranians and the region that engagement will not be a process without end, but rather a means to a clearly identified set of ends.
And we must build a consensus domestically and internationally. Just as steps forward by the Iranians will justify continued and rewarding engagement, a lack of progress will be met with what Mrs. Clinton characterized before the House Foreign Affairs Committee as "crippling" sanctions.
With the goal of giving President Barack Obama the authority to impose precisely such sanctions, a bipartisan coalition of senators, organized by Sens. Evan Bayh, Jon Kyl and me, recently introduced legislation that would empower the president to sanction companies that are involved in brokering, shipping or insuring the sale of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran.
During last year's campaign, Mr. Obama expressed interest in using Iran's dependence on imported gasoline as leverage in our nuclear standoff. However, under current law, his authority to do so is uncertain. Our legislation would eliminate this ambiguity and enable the president to tell companies involved in this trade that they must choose between doing business with Iran or doing business with America.
I am especially proud of the breadth of the coalition that introduced this bill. It includes some of the most liberal and most conservative members of the U.S. Senate, and it should send an unambiguous message of unity, strength and resolve from America to Iran and the rest of the world.
We should likewise seek to build greater unity among our friends abroad. In the Middle East today, there is an unprecedented convergence of concerns about Iran among Arabs and Israelis alike. The question is whether we can seize this moment to help usher into place a new strategic architecture for the Middle East -- keeping in mind that some of the strongest alliances in history have been forged among old antagonists when confronted by a new, common threat.
Iran's easiest path to a nuclear weapon is clear: It is by dividing the rest of us, Europeans from Americans, the Russians and Chinese from the West. It is by pitting Arabs against Arabs in Lebanon, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority and the Gulf, and by stirring up hatred between Muslims and Jews. It is by dividing the Iranian people from the American people when we are otherwise natural allies. It is by dividing us here at home -- Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals.
The best way to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons is equally clear: It is by recognizing that whatever differences divide us on other matters, our shared interest in stopping the Iranian government from getting nuclear weapons is far greater. This is why we must urgently unite to prevent that dangerous result.
Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut. This article is adapted from a speech he delivered at the American Enterprise Institute.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree
on: May 29, 2009, 08:35:24 PM
Politicians wouldn't be politicians if they didn't trim their sails to the prevailing winds. Even so, the emerging 180-degree turn by Democrats on taxes and health insurance is one for the record books.
Democrats have spent years arguing that proposals to equalize the tax treatment of health insurance are an outrage against the American people. Workers pay no income or payroll taxes on the value of job-based plans, but the same hand isn't extended to individuals who must buy coverage on their own. Last year liberals mauled John McCain for daring to touch the employer-based exclusion to finance more coverage for the individually uninsured. He was proposing "a multitrillion-dollar tax hike -- the largest middle-class tax hike in history," said Barack Obama, whose TV ads were brutal.
But now Democrats need the money to finance $1.2 trillion or more for their new health insurance entitlement. Last week Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus released his revenue "policy options" and high on the list is . . . taxing health benefits. Or listen to White House budget director Peter Orszag, who recently told CNN's John King that the exclusion "was not in the President's campaign plan, it wasn't in our budget. Clearly, some Members of Congress are putting it on the table and we are going to have to let this play out."
Mr. King tried again. "Let this play out. But would the President sign a bill that includes a pretty significant tax increase? That would be a tax increase." Mr. Orszag: "We're not going to be -- I think it's premature to be commenting on individual items . . . There are lots of ideas that are being put on the table." Translation: You betcha he'd sign it.
The tax exclusion is such a big revenue prize because Mr. Baucus is scrubbing every other tax nook and cranny and only coming up with rounding errors. A sampler:
- Impose an excise tax on hard alcohol, beer and some kinds of wine. That would be in addition to a sin tax on beverages sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, such as soda. Mr. Baucus doesn't offer revenue estimates, though the Congressional Budget Office says a $16 per proof gallon alcohol tax might raise $60 billion over 10 years, and another $50.4 billion at three cents per 12 ounces of sugary drink.
- End or limit the tax-exempt status of charitable hospitals, which only costs currently a mere $6 billion a year.
- Make college students in work-study programs subject to the payroll tax. Also targeted are medical residents, perhaps on the principle that they'll one day be "rich" doctors. CBO has no score on these.
- Reducing Medicare reimbursement rates for supposedly "over valued physician services," such as diagnostic imaging. CBO says that requiring doctors to get prior clearance could save $1 billion in 10 years.
- For individuals with high-deductible insurance plans, contributions to health savings accounts would no longer be tax deductible. That would penalize patients who choose plans that encourage them to be informed consumers. CBO says that banning HSA payments entirely would yield all of $10 billion.
By contrast, the employer-based exclusion offers a huge money pot -- an estimated $226 billion in 2008. Yet as liberal MIT economist Jonathan Gruber recently told Mr. Baucus's committee, "no health expert today would ever set up a health system with such an enormous tax subsidy to a particular form of insurance" (his emphasis). It creates a coverage gap between workers who receive it from their employers and those who pay -- or can't afford to pay -- with after-tax money.
The tax exclusion is also one reason health costs continue to rise. It encourages workers to take an extra dollar of compensation in fringe benefits instead of cash while also routing low-deductible health spending through third parties. Some 84 cents of every medical dollar is spent by someone other than the patient. The insured have no incentives to make cost-conscious decisions about care.
So reforming the exclusion would inject a dose of discipline into American medicine. But for most Democrats the goal isn't to create a more rational health-insurance market. They simply want the revenue for another government program. Mr. Baucus won't target gold-plated employer insurance plans in general, because union-negotiated benefits are usually gold-plated. Rather, he may cap or phase out the exclusion by income, starting with workers earning more than $200,000. Insurance options that don't conform to government diktats (health savings accounts) would also lose any tax advantage. This would do nothing for market efficiency, but it would be one more stealth tax increase.
Democrats owe an apology to Mr. McCain, and it'll be fascinating to see if they will now suffer a political backlash of their own making. Having told the country that this tax reform is really a tax increase, Democrats are opening themselves to the same attacks they leveled against Republicans.
They could avoid that fate if they used the tax exclusion money to finance, say, a tax credit for the uninsured. That would be a genuinely bipartisan reform. But liberals won't accept that because they want to take one giant step toward government-run health care. And the only way they can pay for it is by taxing everything in sight, including your current health insurance.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kurds
on: May 29, 2009, 03:59:29 PM
Geopolitical Diary: The Reality of Iraqi Geopolitics
May 29, 2009 | 0010 GMT
Iraq’s oil ministry has announced plans for oil exports to Turkey, from newly developed fields in the northern autonomous Kurdish region, to begin on Sunday. The Taq Taq and Tawke fields in Dahuk province will be the first new fields brought online in Iraq in more than three decades. Together, they will yield 100,000 barrels per day (bpd), with production growing to 450,000 bpd by 2011.
Though the Kurds are already celebrating the occasion, this is a bittersweet moment for Sunni and Shiite leaders in Baghdad. Iraq’s Shiite-dominated central government has long been in a fierce contest with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over oil reserves in the north. On a strategic level, Iraqi Arabs — as well as Iraq’s neighbors — have a core interest in keeping the Kurds on a leash and quelling separatist hopes. The central government is doing its part to keep the Kurds boxed in: It wants to ensure that Baghdad gets sign-off on any oil deals the Kurds make with foreign companies to develop their energy fields, and that all oil revenues go through the central government before being distributed to the regional governorates.
But after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Kurds knew they had limited time to secure their influence before being ganged up on by an array of rivals (which is happening now.) The KRG signed production-sharing agreements left and right with foreign firms, giving companies 10-20 percent of the profit and partial ownership of the fields, to rush in investment. The Iraqi oil ministry, however, has declared all of these deals void, insisting that Baghdad must be the one to approve agreements and that all deals must be based on less attractive, fixed-fee service contracts, which deny foreign companies ownership of energy fields.
The row between the KRG and Baghdad is ongoing, and it remains to be seen how the foreign companies developing the fields will end up getting paid. But with oil production stagnating at just under 2 million bpd, the Kurds have found a way to exploit the central government’s vulnerability. With the budget in danger, Baghdad reluctantly agreed to get these fields pumping, in order to raise exports and generate more cash for government coffers. The Kurds are getting a nice break, but they are still beholden to central government-controlled infrastructure and the interests of their rivals, like Turkey, to continue exporting oil from KRG territory.
While keeping a close eye on the Kurds, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is also busy picking out scapegoats for the fall in Iraqi oil production. He recently launched a massive anti-corruption drive that has brought down the trade minister and is now targeting the oil and electricity ministers, who could end up getting axed in a widely rumored cabinet reshuffle. Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani, who has close ties to Tehran, is expected to be summoned by the Parliament soon to explain why his mismanagement of the ministry (never mind the effects of the global economic crisis) has prevented production increases.
Al-Maliki is doing this for several reasons. He needs to blame someone for the economic pressure Iraq is under, but he also needs to clean house, consolidate power and prepare his government for the day that U.S. forces leave Iraq and Baghdad will have to fend for itself against a host of powerful neighbors — who all feel they have some stake in Iraq. The Turks are on a resurgent path and are privately discussing with the United States their desire to move into the north to contain the Kurds. The Iranians harbor aspirations about carving out Shiite-dominated southern Iraq for themselves. And Saudi Arabia and other Arab states see themselves as the defenders of Iraq’s Sunnis against the Shia; they do not regard al-Maliki as a legitimate leader or even see Iraq as a legitimate country.
Al-Maliki is on a mission to revive Iraq’s standing as a strong Arab state — only this time, under Shiite leadership. Iraq is already an extremely fractious country, split geographically, ethnically and politically among Shia, Sunnis and Kurds. What al-Maliki wants to avoid is a “Lebanonization” of Iraq that would brand the country as paralyzed, fractured and sufficiently vulnerable to be preyed upon by outside powers. The only way to overcome these internal weaknesses is to impose some level of authoritarianism at home.
Al-Maliki is the leader of the Arab world’s newest democracy, but some of his statements hint at an authoritarian strain of thought. He said recently that in the first stage of post-Hussein Iraq, “consensus was necessary for us.” “But,” he continued, “if this continues it will become a problem, a flaw, a catastrophe. The alternative is democracy, and that means majority rule … From now on, I call for an end to that degree of consensus.” Al-Maliki also has begun standing up to Iraq’s neighbors — telling the Saudis, who among other Arab powers continue to snub him at regional summits, that “Iraq has no intention of making new goodwill gestures towards Saudi Arabia because my initiative has been interpreted in Riyadh as a sign of weakness.”
Contrary to popular perception, this behavior is not necessarily a reflection of al-Maliki’s personality. Whether the person at the helm of Iraqi politics is al-Maliki or anyone else, Baghdad will see a need for the Kurds to be contained and — depending on who has the upper hand — for either the Shia or the Sunnis to rule with an iron fist. Such is the reality of Iraqi geopolitics.