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23001  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan: Time for Tea on: September 20, 2010, 03:00:55 PM
This fact marks our political age: The pendulum is swinging faster and in shorter arcs than it ever has in our lifetimes. Few foresaw the earthquake of 2008 in 2006. No board-certified political professional predicted, on Election Day 2008, what happened in 2009-10 (New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts) and has been happening, and will happen, since then. It all moves so quickly now, it all turns on a dime.

But at this moment we are witnessing a shift that will likely have some enduring political impact. Another way of saying that: The past few years, a lot of people in politics have wondered about the possibility of a third party. Would it be possible to organize one? While they were wondering, a virtual third party was being born. And nobody organized it.

Related Video

PM Report: How the Tea Party Is Shaking Up the GOP
News Hub: Tea Party Considers Future
Tea Party Movement's Risks for Republicans
.Here is Jonathan Rauch in National Journal on the tea party's innovative, broad-based network: "In the expansive dominion of the Tea Party Patriots, which extends to thousands of local groups and literally countless activists," there is no chain of command, no hierarchy. Individuals "move the movement." Popular issues gain traction and are emphasized, unpopular ones die. "In American politics, radical decentralization has never been tried on such a large scale."

Here are pollsters Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen in the Washington Examiner: "The Tea Party has become one of the most powerful and extraordinary movements in American political history." "It is as popular as both the Democratic and Republican parties." "Over half of the electorate now say they favor the Tea Party movement, around 35 percent say they support the movement, 20 to 25 percent self-identify as members of the movement."

So far, the tea party is not a wing of the GOP but a critique of it. This was demonstrated in spectacular fashion when GOP operatives dismissed tea party-backed Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. The Republican establishment is "the reason we even have the Tea Party movement," shot back columnist and tea party enthusiast Andrea Tantaros in the New York Daily News. It was the Bush administration that "ran up deficits" and gave us "open borders" and "Medicare Part D and busted budgets."

Everyone has an explanation for the tea party that is actually not an explanation but a description. They're "angry." They're "antiestablishment," "populist," "anti-elite." All to varying degrees true. But as a network television executive said this week, "They should be fed up. Our institutions have failed."

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Barbara Kelley
 .I see two central reasons for the tea party's rise. The first is the yardstick, and the second is the clock. First, the yardstick. Imagine that over at the 36-inch end you've got pure liberal thinking—more and larger government programs, a bigger government that costs more in the many ways that cost can be calculated. Over at the other end you've got conservative thinking—a government that is growing smaller and less demanding and is less expensive. You assume that when the two major parties are negotiating bills in Washington, they sort of lay down the yardstick and begin negotiations at the 18-inch line. Each party pulls in the direction it wants, and the dominant party moves the government a few inches in their direction.

But if you look at the past half century or so you have to think: How come even when Republicans are in charge, even when they're dominant, government has always gotten larger and more expensive? It's always grown! It's as if something inexorable in our political reality—with those who think in liberal terms dominating the establishment, the media, the academy—has always tilted the starting point in negotiations away from 18 inches, and always toward liberalism, toward the 36-inch point.

Democrats on the Hill or in the White House try to pull it up to 30, Republicans try to pull it back to 25. A deal is struck at 28. Washington Republicans call it victory: "Hey, it coulda been 29!" But regular conservative-minded or Republican voters see yet another loss. They could live with 18. They'd like eight. Instead it's 28.

For conservatives on the ground, it has often felt as if Democrats (and moderate Republicans) were always saying, "We should spend a trillion dollars," and the Republican Party would respond, "No, too costly. How about $700 billion?" Conservatives on the ground are thinking, "How about nothing? How about we don't spend more money but finally start cutting."

More Peggy Noonan
Read Peggy Noonan's previous columns

click here to order her new book, Patriotic Grace
.What they want is representatives who'll begin the negotiations at 18 inches and tug the final bill toward five inches. And they believe tea party candidates will do that.

The second thing is the clock. Here is a great virtue of the tea party: They know what time it is. It's getting late. If we don't get the size and cost of government in line now, we won't be able to. We're teetering on the brink of some vast, dark new world—states and cities on the brink of bankruptcy, the federal government too. The issue isn't "big spending" anymore. It's ruinous spending that they fear will end America as we know it, as they promised it to their children.

So there's a sense that dramatic action is needed, and a sense of profound urgency. Add drama to urgency and you get the victory of a tea party-backed candidate.

That is the context. Local tea parties seem—so far—not to be falling in love with the particular talents or background of their candidates. It's more detached than that. They don't say their candidates will be reflective, skilled in negotiations, a great senator, a Paul Douglas or Pat Moynihan or a sturdy Scoop Jackson. These qualities are not what they think are urgently needed. What they want is someone who will walk in, put her foot on the conservative end of the yardstick, and make everything slip down in that direction.

Nobody knows how all this will play out, but we are seeing something big—something homegrown, broad-based and independent. In part it is a rising up of those who truly believe America is imperiled and truly mean to save her. The dangers, both present and potential, are obvious.

A movement like this can help a nation by acting as a corrective, or it can descend into a corrosive populism that celebrates unknowingness as authenticity, that confuses showiness with seriousness and vulgarity with true conviction. Parts could become swept by a desire just to tear down, to destroy.


But establishments exist for a reason. It is true that the party establishment is compromised, and by many things, but one of them is experience. They've lived through a lot, seen a lot, know the national terrain. They know how things work. They know the history. I wonder if tea party members know how fragile are the institutions that help keep the country together.

One difference so far between the tea party and the great wave of conservatives that elected Ronald Reagan in 1980 is the latter was a true coalition—not only North and South, East and West but right-wingers, intellectuals who were former leftists, and former Democrats. When they won presidential landslides in 1980, '84 and '88, they brought the center with them. That in the end is how you win. Will the center join arms and work with the tea party? That's a great question of 2012.
23002  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Taranto on useful idiot Kristof on: September 20, 2010, 02:53:06 PM
By JAMES TARANTO
It would appear that the New York Times's Nicholas Kristof read our column Thursday on "Islamic affirmative action," thought the concept might be unclear to some people, and decided to offer himself up as an example. If we had wanted to satirize the attitude, we could hardly have done better than his column in yesterday's Times titled "Message to Muslims: I'm Sorry."

Here's how it begins:

Many Americans have suggested that more moderate Muslims should stand up to extremists, speak out for tolerance, and apologize for sins committed by their brethren.
That's reasonable advice, and as a moderate myself, I'm going to take it. (Throat clearing.) I hereby apologize to Muslims for the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness that has lately been directed at you. The venom on the airwaves, equating Muslims with terrorists, should embarrass us more than you. Muslims are one of the last minorities in the United States that it is still possible to demean openly, and I apologize for the slurs.
Kristof's central example of "the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness" is the wave of reader complaints against the Portland (Maine) Press Herald over a Sept. 11 human-interest story on local Muslims celebrating Eid, the end of Ramadan, which led to a groveling apology from the paper's editor-publisher.

As we noted Thursday, there is no reason to think that the complaining readers were bigots or nuts. The worst that can be said about them is that they were a bit ignorant: They mistook a coincidence of timing for Islamic affirmative action. (This misunderstanding might have been avoided if the Press Herald's Eid story had explained the workings of the Islamic calendar and this coincidence with Sept. 11.)

Podcast
James Taranto on Kristof's apology.
.Kristof draws a false and offensive equivalence between Islamic extremists and American "extremists." The latter, when something in the newspaper offends them, complain in a "courteous and polite" fashion, according to the Portland editor. The former, as in the case of cartoonist Molly Norris, issue religious edicts threatening death. (President Obama, champion of the First Amendment for Muslims, remains conspicuously silent about Norris's plight.)

We agree with Kristof that the Portland publisher's apology was a pathetic overreaction. But no one is in hiding as a result of the complaining Mainers--not the publisher, not the reporter who wrote the story, not the Muslim leader who was profiled in the Sept. 11 piece and "said that as an American Muslim, he has a sense of belonging that eclipses the hostility of the Rev. Terry Jones, the pastor in Florida who threatened to burn copies of the Quran," according to the Press Herald.

The important thing to understand here is that Islamic affirmative action only incidentally concerns Islam or Muslims. It is really about the moral exhibitionism of liberal elitists like Kristof, who love trumpeting their enlightenment and open-mindedness and sneering at the sensibilities of ordinary Americans. It never occurs to them that in doing so, it is they who are acting like bigots.

Like moral idiots, too. Consider this passage from Kristof's column:

Radicals tend to empower radicals, creating a gulf of mutual misunderstanding and anger. Many Americans believe that Osama bin Laden is representative of Muslims, and many Afghans believe that the Rev. Terry Jones (who talked about burning Korans) is representative of Christians.
How balanced, how even-handed. Kristof condemns extremists on both sides! Except that "their" extremist is a mass murderer, while "ours" merely talked about engaging in offensive symbolic speech. Kristof doesn't note that Jones's Koran-burning plan was condemned by almost all Americans, or that whatever harm it did could have been ameliorated had the media--including Kristof's paper--refrained from publicizing it.

In another attempt at balance, Kristof acknowledges a string of Islamic outrages: "theocratic mullahs oppressing people in Iran; girls kept out of school in Afghanistan in the name of religion; girls subjected to genital mutilation in Africa in the name of Islam; warlords in Yemen and Sudan who wield AK-47s and claim to be doing God's bidding." He does not list any comparable actions by American "extremists," because there aren't any.

Kristof concludes:

But I've also seen the exact opposite: Muslim aid workers in Afghanistan who risk their lives to educate girls; a Pakistani imam who shelters rape victims; Muslim leaders who campaign against female genital mutilation and note that it is not really an Islamic practice; Pakistani Muslims who stand up for oppressed Christians and Hindus; and above all, the innumerable Muslim aid workers in Congo, Darfur, Bangladesh and so many other parts of the world who are inspired by the Koran to risk their lives to help others. Those Muslims have helped keep me alive, and they set a standard of compassion, peacefulness and altruism that we should all emulate.
I'm sickened when I hear such gentle souls lumped in with Qaeda terrorists, and when I hear the faith they hold sacred excoriated and mocked. To them and to others smeared, I apologize.
Fair enough. But what about gentle American souls--the kind of people who take offense at the idea of building a fancy "Islamic center" adjacent to the site of an Islamic supremacist atrocity, or who complain politely to a newspaper that offends their sensitivities? In slandering them as bigots, nuts and extremists, Kristof lumps them in with al Qaeda. He owes Americans, not Muslims, an apology.

Islamic Group Honors Non-Muslim Jew-Hater
While Molly Norris lives in fear for her life, Helen Thomas is set to make a public appearance next month, the Hill reports:

[American journalism's crazy old aunt in the attic] will receive a lifetime achievement award from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
CAIR is honoring Helen Thomas, who is of Lebanese descent and now 90 years old, at its Leadership Conference and 16th Annual Fundraising Banquet on Oct. 9 in Arlington, Va.
Helen Thomas is not Muslim; like President Obama, she is reported to be a Christian. So why is CAIR honoring her lifetime of "achievement"? Well, remember her parting message to Jews: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine. . . . They should go home." It is difficult to understand CAIR's decision to honor Thomas as anything other than an endorsement of these hateful views.
23003  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: September 20, 2010, 10:36:36 AM
Brief · September 20, 2010

The Foundation
"When the government fears the people there is liberty; when the people fear the government there is tyranny." --Thomas Jefferson

Liberty
"We are faced today with two different roads, one of which follows the path of liberty set

by our Founders in the Constitution, and one of which diverges from that path and leads us down the road to tyranny. There are two different warring camps within our society, and the ongoing battle between those camps has been graphically illustrated in recent primary elections and by the vicious fight over the nationalization of our healthcare system. On one side are those of us, including the members of the Tea Party movement, who work hard to support their families, who love their country, and who understand and revere a document that has stood firm for 223 years to guide us. These ordinary, everyday Americans rightly fear the unprecedented growth in the size and power of the federal government. They are angry over the unsustainable and uncontrollable growth of federal spending and the federal deficit that will inevitably lead to financial ruin. They are appalled over the contempt shown by so many in the other camp for our governing document, the Constitution. ... That other camp is made up of politicians who recognize no limits on their power, their liberal activist allies in the judiciary, and members of the media, Hollywood, and academia, who have been stretching, bending, and chipping away at the Constitution for decades. They welcome a tyranny of elites who can govern however they see fit without being checked and limited by what they view as an 'anachronistic' document and the parochial views of the American people. After all, they know what is best for all of us. They should control our lives and our economy. ... There is a growing movement throughout America to reinvigorate the tree of liberty, a tree whose trunk is the Constitution, whose limbs are the Bill of Rights, and whose leaves are the new sons and daughters of liberty who embody the same spirit that infused our Founders. On Constitution Day, let Americans rededicate themselves to securing 'the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity' by actively working to preserve the Constitution of the United States." --former Attorney General Edwin Meese

The Gipper
"We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so. The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall of Philadelphia. In the days following World War II, when the economic strength and power of America was all that stood between the world and the return to the dark ages, Pope Pius XII said, 'The American people have a great genius for splendid and unselfish actions. Into the hands of America God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind.' We are indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth." --Ronald Reagan

Opinion in Brief
"[One of the] central reasons for the Tea Party's rise ... is the yardstick. ... Imagine that over at the 36-inch end you've got pure liberal thinking -- more and larger government programs, a bigger government that costs more in the many ways that cost can be calculated. Over at the other end you've got conservative thinking -- a government that is growing smaller and less demanding and is less expensive. You assume that when the two major parties are negotiating bills in Washington, they sort of lay down the yardstick and begin negotiations at the 18-inch line. Each party pulls in the direction it wants, and the dominant party moves the government a few inches in their direction. But if you look at the past half century or so you have to think: How come even when Republicans are in charge, even when they're dominant, government has always gotten larger and more expensive? It's always grown! It's as if something inexorable in our political reality -- with those who think in liberal terms dominating the establishment, the media, the academy -- has always tilted the starting point in negotiations away from 18 inches, and always toward liberalism, toward the 36-inch point. Democrats on the Hill or in the White House try to pull it up to 30, Republicans try to pull it back to 25. A deal is struck at 28. Washington Republicans call it victory: 'Hey, it coulda been 29!' But regular conservative-minded or Republican voters see yet another loss. They could live with 18. They'd like 8. Instead it's 28. ... What they want is representatives who'll begin the negotiations at 18 inches and tug the final bill toward 5 inches. And they believe Tea Party candidates will do that." --columnist Peggy Noonan

Political Futures
"Writing in 1962, [economist Milton Friedman] noted that 'conditions have changed,' as we 'now have several decades of experience with governmental intervention.' Indeed, it was clear then, way back in 1962, that free economies vastly outperform managed economies. And that was before the collapse of the Soviet/central-planning model, the economic explosion resulting from the Reagan-Thatcher tax cuts, the repudiation of Keynes even in Britain, the bankruptcy of the European welfare state, the rise of the Asian Tigers, and more. What was obvious in 1962 was beyond obvious in 2008 -- or should have been. And yet, Friedman sensed a lingering threat, one that hadn't sauntered off into the night. It was a 'subtle' threat, not from enemies outside but from do-gooders inside. He warned of an 'internal threat' from those professing 'good intentions and good will who wish to reform us,' who 'are anxious to use the power of the state to achieve their ends and confident of their own ability to do so.' It's so subtle that Americans voted for such reform, or 'change,' decisively, on November 4, 2008, without even knowing it, giving the threat vigor. Thus, the managers and planners are in charge, with their hands on the ship of state, seizing the resources that feed the most dynamic, prosperous engine that capitalism and freedom ever produced. The Invisible Hand has been waved off by the visible hands of the reformers. And they are spending us into oblivion." --author and professor Dr. Paul Kengor

Government
"From 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, until 1940, when the first Social Security checks were paid out, Americans did not receive income from the federal government unless they were pensioned veterans or employees of the government itself. For 164 years, Americans took care of themselves and their own families. With the Social Security Act, they began to slide into government dependency. Today, thanks to Social Security, a majority of Americans over 65 rely on the federal government for a majority of their income. Thanks to Medicare, enacted in 1965, American seniors now rely on the federal government for their health care, too. If Congress does not repeal Obamacare, virtually all Americans will soon depend on government for their health care. We will no longer be a free and self-reliant people -- we will be a government-dependent people." --CNSNews editor Terrence Jeffrey

Re: The Left
"U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently claimed: 'Districts around the country have literally been cutting for five, six, seven years in a row. And, many of them, you know, are through, you know, fat, through flesh and into bone....' Really? They cut spending five to seven consecutive years? Give me a break! Andrew Coulson, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom, writes that out of 14,000 school districts in the United States, just seven have cut their budgets seven years in a row. How about five years in a row? Just 87. That's a fraction of 1 percent in each case. Duncan may be pandering to his constituency, or he may actually be fooled by how school districts (and other government agencies) talk about budget cuts. When normal people hear about a budget cut, we assume the amount of money to be spent is less than the previous year's allocation. But that's not what bureaucrats mean. 'They are not comparing current year spending to the previous year's spending,' Coulson writes. 'What they're doing is comparing the approved current year budget to the budget that they initially dreamed about having.' So if a district got more money than last year but less than it asked for, the administrators consider it a cut. 'Back in the real world, a K-12 public education costs four times as much as it did in 1970, adjusting for inflation: $150,000 versus the $38,000 it cost four decades ago (in constant 2009 dollars),' Coulson says. Taxpayers need to understand this sort thing just to protect themselves from greedy government officials and teachers unions." --columnist John Stossel

Faith & Family
"Surrender on gay marriage is surrender on marriage -- which is surrender on the family and, ultimately, surrender on civilization. ... This unwillingness to fight for the family, on which civilization depends, is another sign of the failure of modern conservatism. The right can win a thousand battles against big government and lose the war for America's future, if it surrenders on marriage and the family. America's social traumas -- illegitimacy, juvenile crime, drug abuse, female-headed-households -- can all be traced back to the decline of the family: which started with the Great Society in the '60s, accelerated with no-fault divorce in the '70s, continued with the rise of cohabitation, and reached its culmination with strange-sex marriage. ... Unfortunately, many conservative intellectuals have lost sight of a crucial fact: American exceptionalism rests on three pillars -- faith, family and freedom. Remove any one, and the entire structure collapses. ... Without the family, it doesn't matter how many times we defeat socialism (nationalized health-care, government take-over of business, soaring deficits, redistributionism), in the end, we lose -- which is why the left has made same-sex marriage its priority, and why it is less tolerant of dissent here than anywhere else. Conservatives who don't understand this, understand nothing." --columnist Don Feder
23004  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Survey by Elaph shows surprising results on: September 20, 2010, 08:58:22 AM
Islam's Encounters With America
A survey by Elaph, the most respected electronic daily in the Arab world, saw 58% object to the building of the WTC mosque.

By FOUAD AJAMI
From his recent travels to the Persian Gulf—sponsored and paid for by the State Department—Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf returned with a none-too-subtle threat. His project, the Ground Zero Mosque, would have to go on. Its cancellation would risk putting "our soldiers, our troops, our embassies and citizens under attack in the Muslim world."

Leave aside the attempt to make this project a matter of national security. The self-appointed bridge between America and the Arab-Islamic world is a false witness to the sentiments in Islamic lands.

Deputy Editorial Page Editor Bret Stephens and Editorial Board member Matthew Kaminski on the plan for a 'Mosque at Ground Zero,' and Senior Editorial Writer Joseph Rago reports on the Missouri results.
The truth is that the trajectory of Islam in America (and Europe for that matter) is at variance with the play of things in Islam's main habitat. A survey by Elaph, the most respected electronic daily in the Arab world, gave a decided edge to those who objected to the building of this mosque—58% saw it as a project of folly.

Elaph was at it again in the aftermath of Pastor Terry Jones's threat to burn copies of the Quran: It queried its readers as to whether America was a "tolerant" or a "bigoted" society. The split was 63% to 37% in favor of those who accepted the good faith and pluralism of this country.

This is remarkable. The ground burned in the Arab-Islamic world over the last three decades. Sly preachers and their foot soldiers "weaponized" the faith and all but devoured what modernists had tried to build in the face of difficult odds. The fury has not burned out. Self-styled imams continue to issue fatwas that have made it all but impossible for Arabs and Muslims to partake of the modern world. But from this ruinous history, there has settled upon countless Muslims and Arabs the recognition that the wells are poisoned in their midst, that the faith has to be reined in or that the faith will kill, and that the economic and cultural prospects of modern Islam hang in the balance.

To this kind of sobriety, Muslim activists and preachers in the diaspora—in Patterson, N.J., and Minneapolis, in Copenhagen and Amsterdam—appear to be largely indifferent. They are forever on the look-out for the smallest slight.

Islam in America is of recent vintage. This country can't be "Islamic." Its foundations are deep in the Puritan religious tradition. The waves of immigrants who came to these shores understood the need for discretion, and for patience.



It wasn't belligerence that carried the Catholics and the Jews into the great American mainstream. It was the swarm of daily life—the grocery store, the assembly line, the garment industry, the public schools, and the big wars that knit the American communities together—and tore down the religious and ethnic barriers.

There is no gain to be had, no hearts and minds to be won, in Imam Rauf insisting that Ground Zero can't be hallowed ground because there is a strip joint and an off-track betting office nearby. This may be true, but it is irrelevant.

A terrible deed took place on that ground nine years ago. Nineteen young Arabs brought death and ruin onto American soil, and discretion has a place of pride in the way the aftermath is handled. "Islam" didn't commit these crimes, but young Arabs and Muslims did.

There is no use for the incantation that Islam is a religion of peace. The incantation is false; Islam, like other religions, is theologically a religion of war and a religion of peace. In our time, it is a religion in distress, fought over, hijacked at times, by a militant breed at war with the modern world.


Again, from Elaph, here are the thoughts of an Arab writer, Ahmed Abu Mattar, who sees through the militancy of the religious radicals. He dismisses outright the anger over the "foolish and deranged" Pastor Terry Jones who threatened to burn copies of the Quran. "Where is the anger in the face of dictatorships which dominate the lives of Arabs from the cradle to the grave? Would the Prophet Muhammad look with favor on the prisons in our midst which outnumber the universities and hospitals? Would he take comfort in the rate of illiteracy among the Arabs which exceeds 60%? Would he be satisfied with the backwardness that renders us a burden on other nations?"

The first Arabs who came to America arrived during the time of the Great Migration (1880-1920). Their story is told by Gregory Orfalea in his book, "The Arab Americans: A History" (2006). The pioneers were mostly Christians on the run from the hunger and the privations of a dying Ottoman empire. One such pioneer who fled Lebanon for America said he wanted to leave his homeland and "go to the land of justice." Ellis Island was fondly named bayt al-hurriya (the house of freedom). It was New York, in the larger neighborhood of Wall Street, that was the first home of the immigrants.

Restrictive quotas and the Great Depression reduced the migration to a trickle. This would change drastically in the 1950s and '60s. The time of Islam in America had begun.

It was in 1965, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf tells us, that he made his way to America as a young man. He and a vast migration would be here as American identity would undergo a drastic metamorphosis.

The prudence of days past was now a distant memory. These activists who came in the 1990s—the time of multiculturalism and of what the late Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called the "disuniting of America"—would insist on a full-scale revision of the American creed. American liberalism had broken with American patriotism, and the self-styled activists would give themselves over to a militancy that would have shocked their forerunners. It is out of that larger history that this project at Ground Zero is born.

There is a great Arab and Islamic tale. It happened in the early years of Islam, but it speaks to this controversy. It took place in A.D. 638, the time of Islam's triumphs.

The second successor to the Prophet, the Caliph Omar—to orthodox Muslims the most revered of the four Guided Caliphs for the great conquests that took place during his reign—had come to Jerusalem to accept the city's surrender. Patriarch Sophronius, the city's chief magistrate, is by his side for the ceremony of surrender. Prayer time comes for Omar while the patriarch is showing him the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The conqueror asks where he could spread out his prayer rug. Sophronius tells him that he could stay where he was. Omar refuses, because his followers, he said, might then claim for Islam the holy shrine of the Christians. Omar stepped outside for his prayer.

We don't always assert all the "rights" that we can get away with. The faith is honored when the faith bends to necessity and discretion.

Mr. Ajami is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
23005  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Part of struggle against corrupt officials in Bell CA on: September 20, 2010, 08:53:08 AM
By TAMMY AUDI
BELL, Calif.—Infuriated residents of this small southern California city made a national name for themselves when they ousted three municipal officials after revelations of high six-figure salaries. Lesser known is that Bell's citizen revolution is being run from an Islamic community center.

Taxpayer outrage has washed away the wariness that once separated the working-class Roman Catholic and Protestant Latinos who make up Bell's majority and a quietly flourishing minority of Shi'ite Muslims. The nascent unity in Bell—where 100 people meet regularly at the El-Hussein Center about the ongoing scandal—comes amid controversies in other U.S. cities over the construction or expansion of Islamic institutions.

More than 100 residents met last week in Bell, Calif.'s El-Hussein center. The banner in back, in Arabic, proclaims love for and acceptance of God.

"We're all victims here," said Ali Saleh, a Muslim resident and member of the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, which hosts the community meetings. "Sad to say, but that's what's bringing us together."

A Pew Research report released last month showed 30% of Americans have a positive view of Islam, compared with 42% who held a positive view in 2005. Muslim-American leaders have urged Muslims to counter that image by becoming more visibly involved in political life, but with limited success. Bell has the potential to become the kind of turnaround Muslim-Americans are after as the nation debates their place in American society.

Bell's former city manager, one of the officials forced out, took home nearly $800,000 a year in pay, and some part-time city council members earned $100,000. Alleging fraud and conspiracy, the state is suing current and former Bell officials.

Tightly packed across just two square miles, Bell is among several small cities tucked amid the sprawling industrial areas southeast of Los Angeles. It's wedged between four freeways, commercial railway lines and a concrete-lined stretch of the Los Angeles River. In the 1950s and '60s, Bell's population exploded.

Longtime Bell residents say white residents began to leave Bell in the 1960s for more spacious suburbs in neighboring Orange County. Race riots in Los Angeles drove more whites away. By 2000, says the U.S. Census, 90% of Bell's 37,000 population identified as Latino.

For most Bell residents, the community meetings that started at the Islamic center in early August are the first real contact they've had with a Muslim community that has been in the city for at least four decades.

"Since I was a little girl, I remember going to school with the Muslim children and they really kept to themselves," said Cynthia Rodriguez, a 29-year-old mother and lifelong resident of Bell.

She was nervous the first day she walked into the El-Hussein Center, unsettled by the unfamiliar images and Arabic writing. But "disgust and fury" at city officials outweighed her fear.

Then someone offered her a chair. Now, she attends every meeting and is getting to know some of her Muslim neighbors for the first time.

Bell's Muslims, numbering between 1,000 and 2,000, are Lebanese immigrants who fled civil war in their country in the 1970s and began arriving from the same village, called Yaroun.

They took jobs in the garment industry, bought homes, and built the mosque and community center. Some Lebanese immigrants opened clothing shops in the area and picked up Spanish to communicate with their largely Latino customer base.

Bell's Muslims said they felt an affinity with their Latino neighbors, if not a closeness. Both groups are immigrants who worked at low-wage jobs or opened small businesses, and both groups sent money to family in their home countries. Even soccer connected them "They work hard, we work hard. Everybody is just working and taking care of their kids" said Mr. Saleh. Bell's Muslims didn't get involved with local politics because "we just concentrated on our families and work," Mr. Saleh said.

But some began to feel it was time for a change in Bell. Last year, another local Muslim named Ali Saleh ran for city council. Then anonymous fliers appeared with images of the candidate's head on the body of a radical Muslim cleric, with New York's burning Twin Towers and a message: "Vote NO Muslims." Mr. Saleh lost.

At a recent city council meeting, the 35-year-old Mr. Saleh, who was born and raised in Bell, stood in front of the city council and a packed house of rowdy Bell residents.

"You told me you were running to protect your people from people like me," Mr. Saleh said, addressing Luis Artiga, a former opponent in the city council race who won the seat. "Let me tell you, these are all my people!" Mr. Saleh shouted to sustained cheering and applause. "Whether they're Arab, whether they're Mexican, whether they Salvadoran, Guatamalan, we are all one." He then repeated his words in Spanish.

After attending the most recent meeting at the El-Hussein Center, Mr. Artiga, a local pastor of a Southern Baptist church, said he regretted what he said during the campaign and that he had nothing to do with the fliers portraying Mr. Saleh as a terrorist. He and Mr. Saleh shook hands.

The new unity in Bell may soon be tested, however. The community association faces some criticism for its political ties and motives.

But as they have opened up to Bell, Muslim community members said, the response has been mostly positive. Recently a local grocer that caters to Latinos called the Islamic center to ask about stocking Halal items— food that meets Islamic dietary standards.

Muslim leaders say no one has bothered them about their mosque or community center until recently, when they received a letter that read "All I need to know about Islam I learned from 9-11"—from an anonymous sender in Texas.

The meetings at the center are conducted in Spanish and English, with the doors to the center thrown open to the evening air. At a recent meeting, more than 150 residents filled rows of green plastic chairs. Their bored children fidgeted in the back of the room, munching on churros and sipping hot chocolate under stacks of the Quran.

Meanwhile, 76-year-old Robert Mackin, who has lived in Bell since 1941, angry that city council members hadn't stepped down, shouted at the interim city attorney: "What about the crooks you still work for?"

Unsatisfied, Mr. Mackin walked toward a row of bearded Muslim men and shook their hands. "Good question, good question," one of the men told him.

Mr. Mackin said he has learned a few things about Islam as he had attended the meetings at the community center. He said he wasn't sure about one photograph on the wall until one young Muslim man told him it was Mecca. The same young man had asked him whether he was "Christian or Catholic."

"Well I laughed and said 'I'm Catholic but Catholics are Christians'," recalled Mr. Mackin. "He was young, and I guess he didn't know. Anyway, we're all learning."

Write to Tammy Audi at Tamara.Audi@wsj.com
23006  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010 on: September 20, 2010, 02:07:18 AM
Woof All:

An outstanding day!!!  45 fighters; the Gathering went over four hours-- without having kept count I am quite positive that this Gathering had the largest number of fights ever/highest number of fights per fighter ever.

So much to say that , , , I am speechless in the wordless state for now , , , and so will remain silent for now.

"Higher consciousness through harder contact."(c)
Crafty Dog
GF

PS:  Those who were accepted into or ascended within the Tribe, please post on the Dog Brothers Tribe thread reminding me.
23007  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Balkans, Macedonia, Bulgaria on: September 18, 2010, 11:48:39 PM
Radical Islam on rise in Balkans, raising fears of security threat to Europe

Published September 18, 2010
| Associated Press

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — An online music video praising Osama bin Laden has driven home a troubling new reality: A radical brand of Islam embraced by al-Qaida and the Taliban is gaining a foothold in the Balkans.

"Oh Osama, annihilate the American army. Oh Osama, raise the Muslims' honor," a group of Macedonian men sing in Albanian, in video posted on YouTube last year and picked up by Macedonian media this August. "In September 2001 you conquered a power. We all pray for you."

Although most of Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority are Muslims, they have generally been secular. But experts are now seeing an increasing radicalization in pockets of the country's Islamic community, particularly after armed groups from the ethnic Albanian minority, which forms a quarter of the population of 2.1 million, fought a brief war against Macedonian government forces in 2001.

It's a trend seen across the Balkans and has raised concerns that the region, which includes new European Union member Bulgaria, could become a breeding ground for terrorists with easy access to Western Europe. Many fear that radicalized European Muslims with EU passports could slip across borders and blend into society.

At the center of the issue is the Wahhabi sect, an austere brand of Islam most prevalent in Saudi Arabia and practiced by bin Laden and the Taliban.

"Wahhabism in Macedonia, the Balkans and in Europe has become more aggressive in the last 10 years," said Jakub Selimovski, head of religious education in Macedonia's Islamic community. He said Wahhabis were establishing a permanent presence in Macedonia where none existed before, and that "they are in Bosnia, here, Kosovo, Serbia, Croatia and lately they have appeared in Bulgaria."

It is the first time a high-ranking official in the former Yugoslav republic's Islamic community has agreed to speak openly about the presence and threat of radical Islam.

In Bulgaria, nearly one-sixth of the population of 7.6 million are Muslims who adhere to conventional Sunni beliefs. Ethnic peace has been maintained in the last 20 years. As elsewhere in the Balkans, however, Wahhabi incursions have led to a struggle for control of religion and Islamic community-owned property.

Large amounts of money, allegedly from Muslim organizations abroad, have been spent in Bulgaria since the mid-1990s for more than 150 new mosques and so called "teaching centers" to spread Wahhabism.

According to Bulgaria's former chief mufti, Nedim Gendzhev, some Muslim organizations were aiming to create a "fundamentalist triangle" formed by Bosnia, Macedonia and Bulgaria's Western Rhodope mountains. Local newspaper reports say radical Islam is being preached in different cities and villages in southern and northeastern Bulgaria.

In 2003, Bulgarian authorities shut down a number of Islamic centers on the grounds they allegedly belonged to Islamic groups financed mainly by Saudi Arabians that possibly also had links to "radical organizations" such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Official statements said that the centers were shut down "to prevent terrorists getting a foothold in Bulgaria."

However, centers where radical brands of Islam are preached continue to to crop up in the country, said political analyst Dimitar Avramov.

"Along with the three official Muslim schools, there are at least seven other which are not registered and not controlled by the state," he said, adding that in the last 20 years some 3,000 young Muslims have graduated from these schools.

In neighboring Serbia last year, 12 Muslims — allegedly Wahhabis — from the tense southern Sandzak region were sentenced to up to 13 years in prison for planning terrorist attacks, including on the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade. The presence of radical Muslims in Sandzak, the poorest region of Serbia, is linked to the advent of mujahedeen foreign fighters who joined Bosnian Muslims in their battle against the Serbs in Bosnia's 1992-95 independence war.

In Bosnia, the issue of Wahhabi influence is one of the most politically charged debates, with Bosnian Serbs maintaining there is a huge presence of Wahhabis in the country and Muslim Bosniaks downplaying the issue and at times claiming it does not exist.

Juan Carlos Antunez, a Spanish military specialist in religious extremism with years of experience in Bosnia, estimates there are about 3,000 people in Bosnia who have embraced this interpretation of Islam and only a small fraction of them are a potential security threat.

In a study prepared for the Sarajevo-based Center for Advanced Studies in May, Antunez argued that Bosnia's official Islamic Community has been successful in curbing Wahhabi influence. Although it did not aggressively ostracize the Wahhabis, it strictly controls the appointments of imams in mosques and lecturers in Islamic educational institutions in the country.

Ahmet Alibasic, a lecturer at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo, said most Wahhabis in Bosnia refrain from criticizing the Islamic Community and were even calling for unity among Muslims.

"Their influence reached its peak in 2000, but it has since started falling and it continues to fall," Alibasic said, adding that measures taken by Bosnian authorities after 9/11 had a significant effect as the movement began to lose power after the closure and banning of several Islamic, mostly Saudi-backed, charities which funded the movement.

In Albania, the issue is also charged. Ilir Kulla, former head of the government's department on religious issues, insisted the Wahhabis had not caused any problems in Albania.

Kulla said hundreds of young Albanian men had been educated in universities in the Middle East, including in Saudi Arabia, and were now mosque leaders, but that there had been no attempt by Wahhabis to challenge the leadership of the country's Muslim Community, which he insisted was still moderate.

But in Macedonia, the increasing clout of radical Islam is causing a rift in the country's Muslim community, with a power struggle developing within the country's official Islamic Religious Community between the moderate mainstream and the emerging Wahhabi wing.

"A destructive, radical and extremist current has appeared with an intention of taking over the lead of the Islamic religious community," Selimovski said.

Authorities in Macedonia are reluctant to confirm any threat of radical Islam in the country. But a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic, did acknowledge that "radical groups and their followers are being closely observed."

Last year, three ethnic Albanian brothers originally from Macedonia were implicated — along with a Jordanian, a Turk and a Kosovo Albanian living in the U.S. — in an alleged plot to attack the U.S. Army's Fort Dix military base in New Jersey. No attack was ever staged on the base, which is used largely to train U.S. reservists bound for Iraq.

"Macedonia is part of the international coalition in the fight against terrorism and it cannot be excluded from the responsibility to observe and respond to any possible activity or emerging of terrorists," Interior Ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevski told the AP.

Moderate Muslims say the Wahhabi sect now controls five mosques in Skopje even though the Islamic Religious Community has suspended the man they claim is the sect's leader, Ramadan Ramadani, as imam of the Isa Beg mosque in Skopje, and prohibited him from organizing prayers.

But Ramadani, who has launched a petition seeking supporters to overturn the current Community leadership, rejects any accusation of radicalism, saying his opponents are scaremongering.

"They need my name to have somebody to frighten people," Ramadani said. "I do not know any individuals or structures here that could be defined as Wahhabi. It is the attempt of political labeling and stigmatizing people who want reforms."

Ramadani insisted that Macedonia's Islamic community had nothing to do with the online song supporting bin Laden, and denied Macedonian media reports that it had been played in mosques there.

"Bin Laden is nothing for the Muslims in Macedonia," Ramadani said. "He is not our hero."
23008  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A thoughtful read sent by an Indian friend on: September 18, 2010, 11:45:05 PM
----- Original Message -----
From:
Sent: Saturday, September 18, 2010 4:39 AM
Subject: fak-ap solution ?




An Afghan bone for Obama to chew on
By M K Bhadrakumar

When Robert Blackwill, who was former United States secretary of state Condoleezza Rice's deputy as national security adviser and George W Bush's presidential envoy to Iraq, took the podium at the International Institute of Strategic Studies think-tank in London on Monday to present his "Plan B" on Afghanistan, readers of the Wall Street Journal would have wondered what was afoot.

Blackwill is wired deep into the bowels of the US establishment, especially the Pentagon headed by Robert Gates. And the IISS prides itself as having been "hugely influential in setting the intellectual structures for managing the Cold War". Thus, the setting on Monday was perfect.

Blackwill has remarkable credentials to undertake exploratory

   

voyages into the trajectory of US foreign policy. In a memorable opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal in March 2005 titled "A New Deal for New Delhi", he accurately predicted the blossoming of the US-India strategic partnership. He wrote:
The US should integrate India into the evolving global non-proliferation regime as a friendly nuclear weapons state ... Why should the US want to check India's missile capability in ways that could lead to China's permanent nuclear dominance over democratic India? ... We should sell advanced weaponry to India ... Given the strategic challenges ahead, the US should want the Indian armed forces to be equipped with the best weapons systems ... To make this happen, the US has to become a reliable long-term supplier, including through co-production and licensed manufacture arrangements.
Blackwill's construct almost verbatim did become US policy. Again, in December 2007 he penned a most thoughtful article titled "Forgive Russia, Confront Iran". He wrote:
To engage Russia, we need to substantially change our current policy approach to Moscow ... This is not to underrate the difficulties of interacting with Moscow on its external policies and its often-raw pursuit of power politics and spheres of influence ... But there are strategic priorities, substantive trade-offs and creative compromises that Western governments should consider. The West needs to adopt tactical flexibility and moderate compromise with Moscow.
Again, he hit the bull's eye in anticipating the US's reset with Russia. So, an interesting question arises: Is he sprinting indefatigably toward a hat-trick?

There can be no two opinions that the crisis situation in Afghanistan demands out-of-the-box thinking. Blackwill's radically original mind has come up with an intellectual construct when hardly 10 weeks are left for US President Barack Obama to take the plunge into his Afghanistan strategy review.

Blackwill foresees that the US's Afghan counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy is unlikely to succeed and an accommodation of the Taliban in its strongholds becomes inevitable in the near future. The current indications are that the process is already underway. (See Taliban and US get down to talks Asia Times Online, September 10, 2010.)

The Blackwill plan probes the downstream of this "accommodation". Blackwill flatly rules out a rapid withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan as that would be a "strategic calamity" for regional stability, would hand over a tremendous propaganda victory to the world syndicate of Islamist radicals, would "profoundly undermine" the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and would be seen as a failure of US leadership and strategic resolve.

Therefore, he proposes as a US policy goal a rationalization of the tangled, uneven Afghan battlefield so that it becomes more level and predictable and far less bloody, and enforcement of the game can come under new ground rules.

Prima facie, it appears scandalous as a plan calling for the "partition" of Afghanistan, but in actuality it is something else. In short, US forces should vacate the Taliban's historic strongholds in the Pashtun south and east and should relocate to the northern, central and western regions inhabited by non-Pashtun tribes.

Blackwill suggests the US should "enlist" the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras to do more of the anti-Taliban resistance, instead of COIN. And the US should only take recourse to massive air power and the use of special forces if contingencies arise to meet any residual threats from the Taliban after their politicalaccommodation in their strongholds.

A striking aspect of the Blackwill plan is that it is rooted in Afghan history and politics, the regional milieu and the interplay of global politics. Since 1761, Afghanistan has survived essentially as a loose-knit federation of ethnic groups under Kabul's notional leadership. The plan taps into the interplay of ethnicity in Afghan politics. The political reality today is that the Taliban have come to be the best-organized Afghan group and they are disinterested in a genuinely broad-based power-sharing arrangement in Kabul.

Unsurprisingly, the non-Pashtun groups feel uneasy. Their fears are not without justification insofar as the erstwhile anti-Taliban Northern Alliance has disintegrated and regional powers that are opposed to the Taliban, such as Russia, Iran and India, have such vastly divergent policy objectives (and priorities) that they cannot join hands, leave alone finance or equip another anti-Taliban resistance.

The Kabul government headed by President Hamid Karzai is far too weak to perform such a role. (Blackwill, curiously, doesn't visualize Karzai surviving.) According to Blackwill's plan, the US offers itself as the bulwark against an outright Taliban takeover. It envisages the US using decisive force against any Taliban attempt to expand beyond its Pashtun strongholds in the south and east, and to this end it promises security to non-Pashtun groups.

If it works, the plan could be a geopolitical coup for the US. It quintessentially means the US would hand over to the Taliban (which is heavily under the influence of the Pakistani military) the south and east bordering Pakistan while US forces would relocate to the regions bordering Central Asia and Iran.

The US would be extricating itself from fighting and bloodshed, while at the same time perpetuating its military presence in the region to provide a security guarantee to the weak Kabul government and as a bulwark against anarchy and extremism - on the pattern in Iraq.

The US's and NATO's profile as real-time providers of regional security and stability can only boost their influence in Central Asian capitals.

Seemingly recent random "happenings" mesh with Blackwill's plan, including:

A base to be built for US special forces in Mazar-i-Sharif.
The expansion of the air bases at Bagram and Shindand.
The overhaul of the massive Soviet-era air base in Termez by the US and NATO.
An agreement between the German Bundeswehr and the Uzbek government regarding Termez as a stop-off point for NATO military flights.
Fresh deployments of US special forces in Kunduz.
The US's parleys with non-Pashtun leaders in Berlin.
Mounting pressure on Hamid Karzai's brother Ahmed Wali Karzai to vacate Kandahar

(Blackwill said in an interview with the British Telegraph newspaper last week, "How many people really believe that Kandahar is central to Western civilization? We did not go to Afghanistan to control Kandahar.")

As a seasoned diplomat, Blackwill argues that China and Russia will choose to be stakeholders in an enterprise in which Washington underwrites Central Asia's security. True, China and Russia will be hard-pressed to contest the US's open-ended military presence in Afghanistan that is on the face of it projected as the unfinished business of the "war on terrorism". Central Asian states will be delighted at the prospect of the US joining the fight against creeping Islamism from Afghanistan.

The Blackwill plan brilliantly turns around the Taliban's ascendancy since 2005, which had occurred under Pakistani tutelage and, in retrospect, thanks to US passivity.

Blackwill admits that his plan "would allow Washington to focus on four issues more vital to its national interests: the rise of Chinese power, the Iranian nuclear program, nuclear terrorism and the future of Iraq".

Without suffering a strategic defeat, the US would be able to extricate itself from the war while the drop in war casualties would placate US opinion so that a long-term troop presence (as in Iraq) at the level of 50,000 or so would become sustainable. This was exactly what General David Petraeus, now the top US man in Afghanistan, achieved in Iraq.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.   
23009  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog (Canine) Training on: September 18, 2010, 03:02:16 PM
Quite off topic, , ,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f309fSTWYo4
23010  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Attention Fighters: Shirt colors on: September 18, 2010, 01:01:45 AM
Woof All:

I know lots of us like black shirts, but if both fighters are wearing a black shirt it makes the fight footage very hard to follow if the range closes.  If you can, please wear some other color, or bring a non-black shirt as well as a black shirt.

Thank you,
Crafty Dog
GF
23011  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: September 17, 2010, 07:10:38 PM
I didn't realize the quote was that old.  I too said plenty of things around that age that don't represent me now at all.
23012  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: How many jobs does $111million create? on: September 17, 2010, 05:28:15 PM


http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-stimulus-audit-20100917,0,3706864.story

Lets see.  If we divide $111,000,000 by the 55 jobs already created/saved, that comes out to $2,018,018 per job.

If we accept the promise of 265 jobs that will be created/saved when the program finishes spending its money, that comes out to about a mere bargain of $415,100 per job.

 tongue tongue tongue rolleyes rolleyes rolleyes  shocked shocked shocked angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry
23013  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: September 17, 2010, 05:08:04 PM
I don't have the data/quotes in front of me, but apparently Glen Beck is saying that there is some pretty remarkable Marxist language in the Dem candidate's background.
23014  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 17, 2010, 05:03:37 PM
If only there weren't opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque then all would be well.
23015  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 17, 2010, 05:00:02 PM
Gentlemen:

This last two posts belong in the Mexico thread or the Immigration thread, not the Israel thread.  Please repost there and delete here.

Yip!
23016  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 17, 2010, 04:52:56 PM
Amen!
23017  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010 on: September 17, 2010, 04:52:21 PM
18:30 (i.e. 6:30 PM)
Akbar Indian Restaurant
Northeast corner of Prospect Ave and Aviation Bl. in Hermosa Beach

Hope you can make it Poi!
23018  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010 on: September 17, 2010, 10:14:51 AM
Southpaw:

Pretty Kitty's contact info:
info@dogbrothers.com
310-540-6853
23019  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 16, 2010, 05:55:13 PM
Well, I know a little bit about this  wink  When I was in Ruth Bader Ginsburg's class on Constitutional Law even she recognized that sometimes cases were wrongly decided and should be reversed.  Why, look at how she reversed her previous thinking on the matter of States' Rights in Bush vs. Gore!  evil
23020  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 16, 2010, 04:21:38 PM
The argument needs to be made that Wickbard should be reversed.
23021  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Left Angeles Times (POTB) GOP ditches CO gov. candidate on: September 16, 2010, 04:20:05 PM
Republican Party ditches GOP nominee for Colorado governor
Dan Maes won the primary, but the party is withdrawing its support, saying the 'tea party' candidate is not running a professional campaign.



Reporting from Denver —
The Republican Party is walking away from Dan Maes, a small-time businessman and political novice with "tea party" backing who captured Colorado's GOP gubernatorial nomination, scrambling the race less than seven weeks before election day.

Maes has been disavowed by pillars of the Republican establishment — including former Sen. Hank Brown and current U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck. The chairman of the state Republican Party flatly said Maes is not running a professional campaign and called on him to drop out before ballots were printed Sept. 3. The Republican Governors Assn. refuses to help fund his campaign.

Several tea party groups have withdrawn their backing after it was revealed that Maes misrepresented how he left a Kansas police department, incurred record campaign fines and called Denver's bike-swap program a United Nations plot.

The question now is who will benefit from Maes' hemorrhaging support — his Democratic opponent, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, or former GOP Rep. Tom Tancredo, who is running as a third-party candidate because he thinks Maes is unelectable?

"What may happen is that, with a bit of time, Tancredo becomes viewed as the other major candidate," said Kenneth Bickers, a political scientist at the University of Colorado, who added that he is still reeling from the latest twists in the race. "I didn't see this coming 10 days ago."

Janet Rowland, a Mesa County commissioner who is active in the tea party movement, was one of nearly two dozen Republicans who announced recently that they were switching allegiance to Tancredo.

She said in an interview that this is the first time she hasn't backed a GOP nominee. The entire saga, she added, is a cautionary tale for the insurgent tea party.

"There is a belief by people who are fed up with government that, if they get somebody who hasn't been in politics, they will somehow be more pure," Rowland said.

Maes spokesman Nate Strauch said the establishment's abandonment of the candidate was worrisome.

"The Republican Party in the state has a very specific process for how it chooses its nominees," Strauch said. "It's a process that Dan Maes won fair and square." To turn around and say the votes of those 200,000 people who voted for him "don't count, to reward someone who circumvented the process, sets a dangerous precedent."

Strauch added that many tea party groups still supported Maes.

Maes was a long shot in the Republican primary, up against former Rep. Scott McInnis. He touted himself as a successful businessman, but tax records showed that some years he made little money. A supporter said Maes asked her for help paying his mortgage. He received a record $17,000 campaign fine for paying himself more than $40,000 from his campaign contributions for mileage.

Still, when McInnis acknowledged that he plagiarized a paper on water issues that he was paid $300,000 to write, Maes' support surged. He won the nomination by about 1% of the primary vote.

Two weeks later, the Denver Post reported that Maes' story about how he left a small-town Kansas police department was false. Maes had said he was fired because he had been working undercover for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, but Kansas officials said Maes never worked for them.

Right away, prominent Republicans began calling for Maes to drop out of the race before ballots were printed, including state party Chairman Dick Wadhams. Maes refused. He raised only $50,000 in August — less than a quarter of Tancredo's haul and an eighth of Hickenlooper's.

In an interview, Wadhams noted that Maes is still the party's nominee but worried that he has yet to assemble a professional campaign team. "To run a real, competitive race in Colorado, you have to have a real campaign," Wadhams said.

Strauch said Maes was not planning to hire any political professionals: "He won the nomination on a shoestring and he's using a similar strategy in the general."

Bay Buchanan, a veteran Washington, D.C.-based operative who is now Tancredo's campaign manager, contended that the onetime congressman, best known for his hard-line stance against illegal immigration, is the only real conservative opposition to Hickenlooper. "We've had enormous movement in the last five to six days," she said last week.

Hickenlooper spokesman George Merritt said the Democratic nominee "is focused on creating jobs, finding ways to support Colorado business, and promoting education."

Former Democratic Sen. Gary Hart, who teaches at the University of Colorado-Denver, said that as the GOP nominee, Maes will inevitably receive a large number of votes in November and split the conservative electorate, handing Hickenlooper a victory.

"Tancredo is whistling past the graveyard," Hart said. "What's interesting about the race is the disarray in the [Republican] party in general. It sought to embrace the tea party movement. When it did, it bought a whole lot of trouble."

nicholas.riccardi@latimes.com
Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

 

23022  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's safe school czar said gay curriculum is the goal on: September 16, 2010, 04:12:21 PM


http://www.theblaze.com/stories/obama%e2%80%99s-safe-school-czar-admits-gay-curriculum-is-the-ultimate-goal/
23023  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove on Delaware's O'Donnell on: September 16, 2010, 02:23:03 PM
Karl Rove: “I think the questions about why she had a problem for five years with paying her federal income taxes, why her house was foreclosed on and put up for a sheriff’s sale, why it took 16 yers for her to settle her college debt and get her diploma after she went around for years claiming she was a college graduate — these and other troubling sort of personal background things, she thinks she has explained them. I think she’s got to — I think a lot of voters in Delaware are going to want more than she’s offering to them right now.”
23024  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cartoonist goes into hiding at FBI's insistence on: September 16, 2010, 02:17:06 PM
 

‘Draw Mohammad’ Cartoonist Goes Into Hiding at FBI's Insistence
Published September 16, 2010

| FoxNews.com



AP

May 19: Pakistani students gather to demonstrate against a Facebook page amid anger over a page on the social networking site which encourages users to post images of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, in Lahore, Pakistan.

The Seattle cartoonist whose work sparked the controversial "Everybody Draw Mohammed Page" on Facebook has gone into hiding at the advice of the FBI, the newspaper that published her comics said Wednesday.

Molly Norris has moved and changed her name following a call by U.S.-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, The Seattle Weekly said. Awlaki reportedly said she was a "prime target" for execution and that her "proper abode is hellfire."

"You may have noticed that Molly Norris' comic is not in the paper this week," the newspaper said. "That's because there is no more Molly."

"The gifted artist is alive and well, thankfully. But on the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI, she is, as they put it, 'going ghost': moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity.

"She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program -- except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab," the newspaper said.

Norris drew a cartoon in April to protest the decision by the cable TV channel Comedy Central to cancel an episode of the popular show "South Park" over its depiction of the Prophet Mohammed in a bear suit.

In her cartoon, Norris satirically proposed making May 20 "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day."

Soon after, A fan page turned up on Facebook but Norris wrote on her since-shuttered website that said she had nothing to do with it.

"I did NOT 'declare' May 20 to be 'Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,'" she said, adding that her idea was satire that was "taken seriously, hijacked and made viral."

"I apologize to people of Muslim faith and ask that this 'day' be called off," she said.

Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of any prophet as blasphemous and the "Draw Mohammed" page led to Facebook being temporarily blocked in Pakistan and sparked angry street protests.

In July, an English-language Al Qaeda magazine, "Inspire," in an article attributed to Awlaki, the radical Yemeni cleric, said Norris "should be taken as a prime target of assassination."

Awlaki, who is based in Yemen, rose to prominence last year after it emerged he had communicated by email with Major Nidal Hasan, a US army psychiatrist accused of opening fire on colleagues at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13.

Agence France Presse contributed to this report.

 
23025  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Twas the night before elections on: September 16, 2010, 01:47:05 PM
MERRY CHRISTMAS

November 2, 2010
                                                                                               
Gift wrap them and send them all home

 

'Twas the night before elections 
 And all through the town
 Tempers were flaring
 Emotions all up and down!
 
 I, in my bathrobe
 With a cat in my lap
 Had cut off the TV
 Tired of political crap.
 
 When all of a sudden
 There arose such a noise
 I peered out of my window
 Saw Obama and his boys
 
 They had come for my wallet
 They wanted my pay
 To give to the others
 Who had not worked a day!
 
 He snatched up my money
 And quick as a wink
 Jumped back on his bandwagon
 As I gagged from the stink
 
 He then rallied his henchmen
 Who were pulling his cart
 I could tell they were out
 To tear my country apart!
 
 'On Fannie, on Freddie,
 On Biden and Ayers!
 On Acorn, On Pelosi'
 He screamed at the pairs!
 
 They took off for his cause
 And as he flew out of sight
 I heard him laugh at the nation
 Who wouldn't stand up and fight!
 
So I leave you to think
On this one final note-
IF YOU DONT WANT SOCIALISM

GET OUT  THERE & VOTE!!!!

                           AMEN BROTHER
 
23026  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Meanwhile, nearby on: September 16, 2010, 10:52:51 AM
Shawn tells me this happend just four blocks from the seminar

http://downtownseattle.komonews.com/content/3-stabbed-victor-steinbreuck-park-2-custody
23027  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Constitution Day on: September 16, 2010, 10:49:46 AM
Alexander's Essay – September 16, 2010

The Enshrinement of Essential Liberty
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. ... Done...the seventeenth day of September, in the year of our LORD one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven." --George Washington and the delegates

The U.S. ConstitutionOn 17 September of every year, we observe Constitution Day in recognition of the anniversary of that venerable document's signing by our nation's Founders.

In our household, we observe it further because it is the date of birth of my eldest son.

I suppose there really is no such thing as coincidence, because this young man, like his younger sister and brother, proudly represents the promise of Liberty for the next generation. He is an outspoken advocate for both Liberty and constitutional Rule of Law (could be in his genes). He is a student leader, young scholar and great sportsman. A week ago, he completed his Eagle Scout project. He is interested in serving our nation and initiating that service as a cadet in one of our military academies.

I am, of course, proud of each of my children, but that pride is about much more than the delight of a father.

Our nation is under siege, and the Socialist regime of Barack Hussein Obama has proven to be a more subversive threat to freedom than that of any sitting president in our nation's history.

Much of the burden of the damage already done by this odious regime will be shouldered by the next generation, including my children, and it will take clear-headed young conservatives in their generation to hold the line against tyranny.

Like millions of other American Patriots, especially parents, I am of the same opinion as Thomas Paine on the matter of passing our burden to them: "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace."

Just one short election cycle past, a majority of Americans were duped into voting for a childish and flimsy promise of "hope and change." What the nation received instead was a perilous attempt by a small cadre of elite Leftists to "fundamentally transform the United States of America."

To arm yourself with the right intellectual ammo to reverse that transformation, I invite you to read any or all of these collected essays outlining the Liberty proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence, and enshrined in our nation's Constitution. After all, if we are to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity," we must first know precisely what it is we're defending.

Start with Essential Liberty, a brief but comprehensive essay on the origins of Liberty: On December 16th, 1773, "radicals" from Boston, members of a secret organization of American Patriots called the Sons of Liberty, boarded three East India Company ships and threw 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.

Further reading...

A 'Living Constitution' for a Dying Republic: For its first 150 years (with the notable exception Marbury v. Madison in 1803), our Constitution stood as our Founders, and more importantly, "the people," intended -- as is -- in accordance with its original intent. In other words, it was interpreted exegetically rather than eisegetically, textually as constructed, not as could be re-interpreted by later generations of jurists.

Our Sacred Honor ... to Support and Defend: The Constitution specifies in Article VI, clause 3: "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution..." The Constitution also prescribes the following oath to be taken by the president-elect: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

The First Statement of Conservative Principles: It took the election of a "community organizer" and ideological Socialist, Barack Hussein Obama, to launch a popular resurgence of interest in constitutional Rule of Law and the First Principles upon which our nation was founded, and not a moment too soon.

On American Patriotism: American Patriots will not stand idly by while the last vestiges of Liberty succumb to tyranny. In Jefferson's words, "Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them."

The Brushfires of Freedom: "It does not take a majority to prevail ... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men." --Samuel Adams

The 'Tea Party' Movement: "The people of the U.S. owe their Independence & their liberty, to the wisdom of descrying in the minute tax of 3 pence on tea, the magnitude of the evil comprised in the precedent. Let them exert the same wisdom, in watching against every evil lurking under plausible disguises, and growing up from small beginnings." --James Madison

 
Click Here 

 Tea Party Primer
Our quintessential field guide for the Tea Party movement, Tea Party Primer, is immediately available individually, in small quantity or as a bulk purchase. Inexpensively priced for wide distribution, the Tea Party Primer's purpose is to be a catalyst for the restoration of our Constitution's integrity and mandate for Rule of Law! All purchases at The Patriot Shop support our Mission of Service to America's Armed Forces.
 

When Debating a Liberal, Start With First Principles: Rule Number One: You must define the debate in terms of First Principles, which is to say, you must be able to articulate those principles. "On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." --Thomas Jefferson

The Patriot Declaration: We are American Patriots, defenders of First Principles and Essential Liberty... The Patriot Declaration is not a petition. It is a "Declaration of Cause and Necessity" and stands on its own as a resolution of intent for all who sign it. Just as important, it serves as due notice for those who would abandon their oath to "Support and Defend the Constitution" and abuse their office to the detriment of individual liberty and states' rights.

Finally, I invite you to observe Constitution Day by visiting The Patriot's outstanding Historic Documents repository for the complete texts of our nation's most significant formative documents, and to see our excellent selection of constitutional items at The Patriot Shop.

This week, as our family celebrates the birthday of my firstborn son, we are reminded of the challenges he, his siblings and their peers will face in future generations. We pray that the upcoming midterm election will reflect a great public awakening to the perilous threats to liberty we now face, and foretell a trend to restore the integrity of our Constitution. Let us resolve this Constitution Day to arm and rearm ourselves with the First Principles necessary to defend Essential Liberty.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
23028  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pants on the ground! on: September 16, 2010, 08:46:23 AM
Court Rules Police Can Pull Up Suspects' Saggy Pants
1,193 Views 39 Comments  Minneapolis Star Tribune via YellowBrix

September 15, 2010

ST. PAUL, MN – White Castle, weed and baggy pants. It has all the elements of a comedy, but throw in a concealed handgun, a suspected drug deal and a wardrobe malfunction, and it’s a Minnesota Court of Appeals case that even compelled a judge to quote an “American Idol” audition.

St. Paul police officer Kara Breci and her partner spotted a possible drug deal in a car at a White Castle parking lot in November 2008. They ordered the men out of their vehicle and told them to put their hands in the air. That’s when suspect Frank Irving Wiggins’ baggy pants, already dangerously low at the knees, fell to the pavement.

Breci hoisted the jeans and found a .38-caliber pistol inside the front pocket. Wiggins was eventually convicted of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person and sentenced to five years in prison. He challenged the legality of the pants-hoisting, with the case ultimately landing at the state Court of Appeals.

“This case requires us to determine the constitutionality of a novel police procedure which, as far as we can tell, has never been reviewed on appeal by this court or any other,” wrote Judge Kevin G. Ross in an opinion filed Tuesday.

Breci and her partner encountered Wiggins and another man in a car in a high drug-activity area. A third man popped into the backseat. His hands were suspiciously slider-free.

“No one in the car appeared to be eating,” Ross wrote.

The officers approached, and the backseat passenger admitted that a plastic bag contained marijuana. That’s when the men were ordered out, and the pants fell.

Breci felt the gun through Wiggins’ pants and asked him about it. He denied knowing what it was. Breci removed the gun.

Wiggins, 24, later tried to suppress the gun evidence in his case before district court, citing unlawful seizure and pat-search, but was denied.

Ross wrote that the circumstances of the drug search would “lead a reasonable officer to suspect that Wiggins was engaging in a drug deal,” and that Breci’s actions were not unconstitutional.

The judge wrote that Breci’s actions weren’t a search, but “incidental contact.”

“Perhaps [Breci] decided to raise Wiggins’ pants to afford him a bit of dignity regardless of her planned search,” Ross wrote in the opinion. “Or perhaps she wanted to avoid the risk of contacting his genitalia through his underwear during her pat-search.”

Breci’s actions were intended to provide Wiggins with privacy, not deprive him of it, as a search would, Ross wrote. “We acknowledge that one might be offended by an officer’s realigning of his pants: It is the sort of thing that one usually prefers to do for himself,” the decision read. "Wiggins argues that affirming the district court would encourage officers to trample the privacy of young people who participate in this baggy-pants fashion trend. The concern is unwarranted.

“We are confident that our opinion will not be misconstrued to suggest that an officer can freely meddle with a person’s clothes to the refrain, ‘Pants on the ground, pants on the ground’…”
23029  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NY Times: NFL concussion raises questions on: September 16, 2010, 08:42:20 AM
On Sunday afternoon, more than 28 million people were watching Fox’s national broadcast when the Philadelphia Eagles’ Stewart Bradley rose woozily, stumbled and then collapsed onto the turf. The Fox announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman expressed concern and even horror. Players waved frantically for medical assistance.

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David Maialetti/Philadelphia Daily News
Eagles Coach Andy Reid, left, checking on linebacker Stewart Bradley during the second quarter. Bradley returned to the game less than four minutes after collapsing on the field.
Less than four minutes later, Bradley, a linebacker, was sent back into the game.

Only at halftime was his injury diagnosed as a concussion.

The Eagles said afterward that they did not permanently remove Bradley at the time of his injury — per new N.F.L. rules — because their sideline exam revealed no concussion and also because no medical person saw either the hit Bradley took or his collapse to the turf.

Considering that doctors and trainers are well represented on N.F.L. sidelines and that the league has made concussion awareness an issue this season, the Eagles’ handling of Bradley’s injury raises a stark question: If a concussion this glaring can be missed, how many go unnoticed every fall weekend on high school and youth fields, where the consequences can be more serious, even fatal?

According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, only 42 percent of high schools in the United States have access to a certified athletic trainer, let alone a physician, during games or practices. In some poorer rural communities, concussed players are taken to doctors with no experience with head injuries. Youth leagues with players as young as 8 and 9 rarely, if ever, have any medical personnel on hand; when a child is hurt, a parent, assuming one is present, walks out on the field, scoops up the child and carries him or her off.

The cost of hidden head trauma among children was driven home Monday, also in Philadelphia, as a University of Pennsylvania lineman who hanged himself in April, Owen Thomas, was found to have died with the same progressive brain disease found in more than 20 N.F.L. players. Playing since age 9, Thomas never had a reported concussion; his disease silently developed either through injuries he did not report or by thousands of subconcussive blows that accumulated over time.

Research suggests that 10 percent to 50 percent of high school football players will sustain a concussion each season, with as many as 75 percent of those injuries going unreported and unnoticed.

“Here in Rhode Island we have a state law that an athletic trainer must be at contests, but most schools are in violation,” Dr. John P. Sullivan, the University of Rhode Island’s sports psychologist, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday. “The risk is real.”

Dawn Comstock of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, is the nation’s principal researcher of injuries among all high school athletes, having overseen the collecting of data that suggest about 70,000 concussions occur each year in high school football. Those that are reported, that is.

“We have very little about what happens to high school brains during these hits,” Comstock said. “We have no idea at all what’s happening in kids’ brains while they’re on the youth field or community rec field.”

There have been improvements in the three years that concussions have received national attention. More than a dozen states have passed laws requiring education for coaches and requiring clearance from an appropriate medical professional before a child is allowed to return to his or her sport. (The laws often cover only public schools, however.) At Norman High School in Oklahoma last month, when a sophomore walked into the coach’s office and asked if he could try out for the team, within 15 seconds he was handed a two-page information sheet regarding concussions that he and his parents had to sign before he could play.

“That’s new this year,” the coach, Greg Nation, said. “It’s really changed.”

Acknowledging the league’s impact on young athletes, the N.F.L. asked a skeptical Congress and public to view its protocol changes last year as proof of its commitment to lead concussion awareness efforts.

N.F.L. players now must be removed for the rest of the day after a concussion is diagnosed; an independent doctor must clear the player before he can return; and a new poster warns players of head injuries with stunningly strong language. That placard even concludes, “Young Athletes Are Watching.”

Yet, when the entire football world saw the Eagles put Bradley at significant safety risk by not properly diagnosing his concussion, it only emphasized the crisis that exists in high school and youth football, where almost no one is watching at all.

Last year, the N.F.L. requested and received praise for producing the first public-service announcement geared toward educating young players about the dangers of concussions. This week it has delivered a different, less scripted, message.
23030  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / excerpt from "The Evolution of God" on: September 16, 2010, 08:39:02 AM
Second post:
http://evolutionofgod.net/swordverse

Here is the exegis Wright mentions in my previous post-- I am left with wondering whether Muslims define Christians concept of Jesus as polytheism:

excerpt from
Chapter 17


* * *
Right-wing Web sites devoted to showing the “truth about Islam” array searing verses that seem to show the Koran offering a nearly unlimited license to kill. (A few years after 9/11, a list of “the Koran’s 111 Jihad verses” was posted on the conservative Web site freerepublic.com.) But the closer you look at the context of these verses, the more limited the license seems.

The passage most often quoted is the fifth verse of the ninth sura, long known to Muslims as the “Sword verse.” It was cited by Osama bin Laden in a famous manifesto issued in 1996, and on first reading it does seem to say that bin Laden would be justified in hunting down any non-Muslim on the planet. The verse is often translated colloquially—particularly on these right-wing Web sites—as “kill the infidels wherever you find them.”

This common translation is wrong. The verse doesn’t actually mention “infidels” but rather refers to “those who join other gods with God”—which is to say, polytheists. So, bin Laden notwithstanding, the “Sword verse” isn’t the strongest imaginable basis for attacking Christians and Jews.

Still, even if the Sword verse wasn’t aimed at Christians and Jews, it is undeniably bloody: “And when the sacred months are passed, kill those who join other gods with God wherever ye shall find them; and seize them, besiege them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush.” It seems that a polytheist’s only escape from this fate is to convert to Islam, “observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms.”

But the next verse, rarely quoted by either jihadists or right-wing Web sites, suggests that conversion isn’t actually necessary: “If any one of those who join gods with God ask an asylum of thee, grant him an asylum, that he may hear the Word of God, and then let him reach his place of safety.” After all, polytheists are “people devoid of knowledge.”

And the following verse suggests that whole tribes of polytheists can be spared if they’re not a military threat. If those “who add gods to God” made “a league [with the Muslims] at the sacred temple,” then “so long as they are true to you, be ye true to them; for God loveth those who fear Him.” For that matter, the verse immediately before the Sword verse also takes some of the edge off it, exempting from attack “those polytheists with whom ye are in league, and who shall have afterwards in no way failed you, nor aided anyone against you.”

In short, “kill the polytheists wherever you find them” doesn’t mean “kill the polytheists wherever you find them.” It means “kill the polytheists who aren’t on your side in this particular war.”

Presumably, particular wars were the typical context for the Koran’s martial verses—in which case Muhammad’s exhortations to kill infidels en masse were short-term motivational devices. Indeed, sometimes the violence is explicitly confined to the war’s duration: “When ye encounter the infidels, strike off their heads till ye have made a great slaughter among them, and of the rest make fast the fetters. And afterwards let there either be free dismissals or ransomings, till the war hath laid down its burdens.”

Of course, if you quote the first half of that verse and not the second half—as both jihadists and some western commentators might be tempted to do—this sounds like a death sentence for unbelievers everywhere and forever. The Koran contains a number of such eminently misquotable lines. Repeatedly Muhammad makes a declaration that, in unalloyed form, sounds purely belligerent—and then proceeds to provide the alloy. Thus: “And think not that the infidels shall escape Us! . . . Make ready then against them what force ye can, and strong squadrons whereby ye may strike terror into the enemy of God and your enemy.” Then, about thirty words later: “And if they lean to peace, lean thou also to it; and put thy trust in God.”

If the Koran were a manual for all-out jihad, it would deem unbelief by itself sufficient cause for attack. It doesn’t. Here is a verse thought to be from the late Medinan period: “God doth not forbid you to deal with kindness and fairness toward those who have not made war upon you on account of your religion, or driven you forth from your homes: for God loveth those who act with fairness. Only doth God forbid you to make friends of those who, on account of your religion, have warred against you, and have driven you forth from your homes, and have aided those who drove you forth.”

Besides, even when enmity is in order, it needn’t be forever: “God will, perhaps, establish good will between yourselves and those of them whom ye take to be your enemies: God is Powerful: and God is Gracious.”
23031  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Robert Wright: The Meaning of the Koran on: September 16, 2010, 08:33:40 AM
Robert Wright is the author of two wonderful books I have read on evolutionary psychology, The Moral Animal and Non-Zero Sum, and also "The Evolution of God" which I have not read.  His thoughts here are of a different tenor than most of what we see on this forum concerning Islam, but are none the less worthy for consideration for it.

==================================

The Meaning of the Koran
By ROBERT WRIGHT



.
Test your religious literacy:

Which sacred text says that Jesus is the “word” of God? a) the Gospel of John; b) the Book of Isaiah; c) the Koran.

The correct answer is the Koran. But if you guessed the Gospel of John you get partial credit because its opening passage — “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God” — is an implicit reference to Jesus. In fact, when Muhammad described Jesus as God’s word, he was no doubt aware that he was affirming Christian teaching.

Extra-credit question: Which sacred text has this to say about the Hebrews: God, in his “prescience,” chose “the children of Israel … above all peoples”? I won’t bother to list the choices, since you’ve probably caught onto my game by now; that line, too, is in the Koran.

I highlight these passages in part for the sake of any self-appointed guardians of Judeo-Christian civilization who might still harbor plans to burn the Koran. I want them to be aware of everything that would go up in smoke.

But I should concede that I haven’t told the whole story. Even while calling Jesus the word of God — and “the Messiah” — the Koran denies that he was the son of God or was himself divine. And, though the Koran does call the Jews God’s chosen people, and sings the praises of Moses, and says that Jews and Muslims worship the same God, it also has anti-Jewish, and for that matter anti-Christian, passages.

The regrettable parts of the Koran — the regrettable parts of any religious scripture — don’t have to matter.
.This darker side of the Koran, presumably, has already come to the attention of would-be Koran burners and, more broadly, to many of the anti-Muslim Americans whom cynical politicians like Newt Gingrich are trying to harness and multiply. The other side of the Koran — the part that stresses interfaith harmony — is better known in liberal circles.

As for people who are familiar with both sides of the Koran — people who know the whole story — well, there may not be many of them. It’s characteristic of contemporary political discourse that the whole story doesn’t come to the attention of many people.

Thus, there are liberals who say that “jihad” refers to a person’s internal struggle to do what is right. And that’s true. There are conservatives who say “jihad” refers to military struggle. That’s true, too. But few people get the whole picture, which, actually, can be summarized pretty concisely:

Reading the scripture.The Koran’s exhortations to jihad in the military sense are sometimes brutal in tone but are so hedged by qualifiers that Muhammad clearly doesn’t espouse perpetual war against unbelievers, and is open to peace with them. (Here, for example, is my exegesis of the “sword verse,” the most famous jihadist passage in the Koran.) The formal doctrine of military jihad — which isn’t found in the Koran, and evolved only after Muhammad’s death — does seem to have initially been about endless conquest, but was then subject to so much amendment and re-interpretation as to render it compatible with world peace. Meanwhile, in the hadith — the non-Koranic sayings of the Prophet — the tradition arose that Muhammad had called holy war the “lesser jihad” and said that the “greater jihad” was the struggle against animal impulses within each Muslim’s soul.

Why do people tend to hear only one side of the story? A common explanation is that the digital age makes it easy to wall yourself off from inconvenient data, to spend your time in ideological “cocoons,” to hang out at blogs where you are part of a choir that gets preached to.

Makes sense to me. But, however big a role the Internet plays, it’s just amplifying something human: a tendency to latch onto evidence consistent with your worldview and ignore or downplay contrary evidence.

This side of human nature is generally labeled a bad thing, and it’s true that it sponsors a lot of bigotry, strife and war. But it actually has its upside. It means that the regrettable parts of the Koran — the regrettable parts of any religious scripture — don’t have to matter.

After all, the adherents of a given religion, like everyone else, focus on things that confirm their attitudes and ignore things that don’t. And they carry that tunnel vision into their own scripture; if there is hatred in their hearts, they’ll fasten onto the hateful parts of scripture, but if there’s not, they won’t. That’s why American Muslims of good will can describe Islam simply as a religion of love. They see the good parts of scripture, and either don’t see the bad or have ways of minimizing it.

So too with people who see in the Bible a loving and infinitely good God. They can maintain that view only by ignoring or downplaying parts of their scripture.

For example, there are those passages where God hands out the death sentence to infidels. In Deuteronomy, the Israelites are told to commit genocide — to destroy nearby peoples who worship the wrong Gods, and to make sure to kill all men, women and children. (“You must not let anything that breathes remain alive.”)

As for the New Testament, there’s that moment when Jesus calls a woman and her daughter “dogs” because they aren’t from Israel. In a way that’s the opposite of anti-Semitism — but not in a good way. And speaking of anti-Semitism, the New Testament, like the Koran, has some unflattering things to say about Jews.

Devoted Bible readers who aren’t hateful ignore or downplay all these passages rather than take them as guidance. They put to good use the tunnel vision that is part of human nature.

All the Abrahamic scriptures have all kinds of meanings — good and bad — and the question is which meanings will be activated and which will be inert. It all depends on what attitude believers bring to the text. So whenever we do things that influence the attitudes of believers, we shape the living meaning of their scriptures. In this sense, it’s actually within the power of non-Muslim Americans to help determine the meaning of the Koran. If we want its meaning to be as benign as possible, I recommend that we not talk about burning it. And if we want imams to fill mosques with messages of brotherly love, I recommend that we not tell them where they can and can’t build their mosques.

Of course, the street runs both ways. Muslims can influence the attitudes of Christians and Jews and hence the meanings of their texts. The less threatening that Muslims seem, the more welcoming Christians and Jews will be, and the more benign Christianity and Judaism will be. (A good first step would be to bring more Americans into contact with some of the overwhelming majority of Muslims who are in fact not threatening.)

You can even imagine a kind of virtuous circle: the less menacing each side seems, the less menacing the other side becomes — which in turn makes the first side less menacing still, and so on; the meaning of the Abrahamic scriptures would, in a real sense, get better and better and better.

Lately, it seems, things have been moving in the opposite direction; the circle has been getting vicious. And it’s in the nature of vicious circles that they’re hard to stop, much less reverse. On the other hand, if, through the concerted effort of people of good will, you do reverse a vicious circle, the very momentum that sustained it can build in the other direction — and at that point the force will be with you.

Postscript: The quotations of the Koran come from Sura 4:171 (where Jesus is called God’s word), and Sura 44:32 (where the “children of Israel” are lauded). I’ve used the Rodwell translation, but the only place the choice of translator matters is the part that says God presciently placed the children of Israel above all others. Other translations say “purposefully,” or “knowingly.”  By the way, if you’re curious as to the reason for the Koran’s seeming ambivalence toward Christians and Jews:

By my reading, the Koran is to a large extent the record of Muhammad’s attempt to bring all the area’s Christians, Jews and Arab polytheists into his Abrahamic flock, and it reflects, in turns, both his bitter disappointment at failing to do so and the many theological and ritual overtures he had made along the way. (For a time Muslims celebrated Yom Kippur, and they initially prayed toward Jerusalem, not Mecca.) That the suras aren’t ordered chronologically obscures this underlying logic.
23032  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH editorial on: September 16, 2010, 08:22:54 AM
Pravda on the Hudson's take on things:

Democratic operatives are ablaze with excitement over the victory of two particularly dubious Tea Party candidates in Tuesday’s Republican primaries, envisioning smoother paths to victory in the races for governor in New York and United States senator in Delaware. But for voters of all stripes, Tuesday’s primaries should illuminate the growling face of a new fringe in American politics — and provide the incentive for level-headed voters to become enthusiastic about the midterm election.

Republican leaders have to decide if they want the tiny fraction of furious voters who have showed up at the primary polls to steer them into the swamp for years ahead. They have a chance to repudiate the worst of the Tea Party crowd and show that they can govern without appealing to the basest political instincts. So far, they have preferred to greedily capitalize on the nuclear energy in the land without considering its destructive effects.

Democrats, especially beleaguered incumbents and the White House, need to counter the toxic message of the Tea Party so voters have an alternative.

For both parties and certainly the broad swath of independent voters, defeating this new crop of Tea Party nominees has become imperative to avoid the sense of national embarrassment from each divisive and offensive utterance, each wacky policy proposal.

Take the new Republican nominee for United States senator from Delaware, Christine O’Donnell. She founded a group called the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth, with a curious focus on sexual purity, and claimed there was scientific evidence that God created the world in six 24-hour periods. She lied for years about being a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University, having earned a degree only in recent weeks, 17 years after she left campus. She has no steady source of income and has a substantial trail of unpaid bills, battles with the Internal Revenue Service and questionable use of campaign donations for personal expenses.

Ms. O’Donnell defeated Mike Castle, a veteran congressman and example of the moderate and conciliatory approach that Northeast Republicans once brought to Washington. Her campaign ridiculed him for being 71 years old with a history of heart problems. Ms. O’Donnell called Mr. Castle “unmanly.”

Or consider Carl Paladino, the Republicans’ new nominee for governor of New York, who has transfigured the state’s justifiable disgust with Albany into a malevolent snarl at the world. It is one thing to promise to shake up state government; it is very much another to thuggishly proclaim that he intends to clean up Albany “with a baseball bat” and turn the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, upside down to get his blood flowing and then send him “to Attica.” This is the man who has vowed to send welfare recipients to state prisons to pick up their checks and be given lessons in hygiene. He has defended an ally’s comparison of Mr. Silver to Hitler or the Antichrist and is known for forwarding e-mail messages to friends with racist or pornographic images.

In both cases, the Republican establishment did everything possible to avoid having the party be represented by these two, lest the link to the Tea Party become evident. Karl Rove, long the party’s tactical mastermind, dismissed Ms. O’Donnell as “nutty.”

But, in fact, the party’s hopes for retaking Congress are deeply bound up with the fate of Tea Party candidates across the country, and the party’s leaders have done little to distance themselves from the extremism that now constitutes mainstream conservative policy.

When the House Republican leader, John Boehner, voiced a possible compromise on tax cuts, he was immediately shouted down by other party officials and pilloried as weak by right-wing blogs. Mr. Rove noted that Ms. O’Donnell is unlikely to win in November, possibly preventing the Republicans from taking over the Senate. He is now a pariah himself in those same circles.

On Wednesday, Mr. Boehner invited Tea Party activists to help “drive the debate” in Washington and shape the legislative agenda. That invitation act should be a dose of adrenaline to dispirited Democrats, independents and mainstream Republican voters who had not fully grasped the stakes in November’s election.
23033  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on: September 16, 2010, 08:17:01 AM
Brian Wesbury is an outstanding economist (supply side school) with a superb track record, which is why i post the following although I find it to be remarkably glib:

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Unfunded Liabilities And Cheap Stocks
Brian S. Wesbury and Robert Stein


Despite cries of "uncertainty" that reverberate through the financial markets, U.S. equities remain grossly undervalued. Risk premiums are exceedingly high. Too high!

In total, S&P 500 companies reported after-tax annualized earnings of $716 billion in the second quarter and had a market capitalization of $9.3 trillion. In other words, for every $100 in market value, the companies in the S&P 500 were generating $7.70 in after-tax profits--an "earnings yield" of 7.7%.

Comparing that earnings yield to the 10-year Treasury yield (currently 2.8%) reveals a gap of nearly five percentage points, the largest such gap since the late 1970s. And with profits expected to continue their upward climb, this gap is highly likely to increase even more in the next few quarters.

Relative to bonds, stocks are undervalued by a considerable margin. So what's holding investors back? Why are bond flows continuing to outpace equity flows?

One reason is fear of government spending. Current deficits and future deficits related to Social Security and Medicare are one reason. Every dollar the government spends must eventually be paid for by taxpayers. If these higher future taxes confiscate enough corporate profits, then the market will reflect that fact today with lower prices. So is the market discounting these costs accurately? Let's crunch the numbers.

The Trustees report for Social Security and Medicare estimates the present value of all unfunded entitlement benefits are roughly $50 trillion. On the same present value basis, this is equal to 3.8% of future GDP. In other words, rather than taxing 19% of GDP (as the Congressional Budget Office predicts for 2012-'13), total tax revenue would need to climb to 22.8% of GDP--an increase in tax revenues of 20% from everyone and everything that the federal government already taxes. In other words, a 10% tax rate will need to rise to 12%.

Of course everyone realizes that a 20% tax hike would never generate 20% more revenue. A dynamic model would forecast slower economic growth and more unemployment if the government hiked taxes by this much. This is why some are advocating benefit cuts. But, for our purpose here (analyzing the impact of paying for unfunded liabilities) we assume tax hikes are the only method used.

A 20% increase in corporate taxes as well as taxes on capital gains and dividends, would reduce total returns to shareholders by roughly 11%. This would reduce the earnings yield (currently 7.7%) to about 6.9%--more than 4 percentage points above current 10-year Treasury yields.

Don't take this the wrong way. We are certainly not advocating a massive tax hike to fix Social Security and Medicare. Raising tax rates will hurt the economy. Moving to private accounts would be our preferred solution. But the current level of fear about the costs of fixing these entitlement problems is out of proportion to reality. Things are far from perfect, but the stock market is grossly undervalued.

Brian S. Wesbury is chief economist and Robert Stein senior economist at First Trust Advisors in Wheaton, Ill. They write a weekly column for Forbes. Wesbury is the author of It's Not As Bad As You Think: Why Capitalism Trumps Fear and the Economy Will Thrive.
23034  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 16, 2010, 07:21:06 AM
"you are certainly right that there is a significant distinction to be made between the limited power to regulate interstate commerce and regulating all commerce"

Which was what I intended to say  smiley
23035  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Unrest in Kashmir on: September 16, 2010, 07:17:46 AM
Civilian Unrest, Not Militancy, in Indian-Controlled Kashmir

Indian authorities deployed thousands of additional federal police personnel across the Kashmir Valley on Tuesday to enforce a curfew, and all flights to Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, were canceled due to security fears. The move comes a day after 18 protesters were killed in police shootings — the worst violence in three months of protests in the region. Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony called the situation “very serious” and said that an all-party meeting would be held in New Delhi on Wednesday. After the meeting, Antony said, the government will decide whether to partially lift a 20-year-old emergency law that many in Kashmir despise: the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which protects army and paramilitary troops from prosecution and gives them sweeping powers to open fire, detain suspects and confiscate property.

Unrest involving the Muslim majority community in the Kashmir Valley region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is not new. Demonstrations by the Muslim community opposing Indian rule in the region have been routine in recent years but were contained by Indian authorities. The latest wave of protests, however, is being described as the worst unrest since the beginning of the uprising in 1989. Certainly, the current round of protests is the longest period of street agitation in the region, and its staying power has forced the Indian government to acknowledge that the situation is no longer business as usual.

“The current unrest in Kashmir is clearly not the handiwork of Islamist militants; it is quite the contrary.”
The region of Kashmir normally is seen as the main point of contention in the historic conflict between South Asia’s two nuclear rivals, India and Pakistan. Within this context, the key issue is seen as Pakistani-backed Islamist militant groups fighting India in Kashmir and in areas far south of the western Himalayan region. Even though the insurgency that broke out in Indian-administered Kashmir in the late 1980s and early 1990s was an indigenous phenomenon, it very quickly became an issue of Pakistani-sponsored Islamist militancy.

The Pakistani-backed militancy reached a climax in the mini-war between India and Pakistan during the summer of 1999 in the Kargil region along the line of control dividing Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir. The Pakistani move to try to capture territory on the Indian side of the border failed, and then the post-Sept. 11 global atmosphere made it increasingly difficult for Pakistan to use its Islamist militant proxies against India, particularly in Kashmir. By 2007, Pakistan was in the throes of a domestic insurgency waged by Islamist militants. Then, in November 2008, elements affiliated with the one of the largest Pakistan-based Kashmiri Islamist militant groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba, staged attacks in the Indian financial hub, Mumbai.

The Mumbai attacks brought India and Pakistan very close to war, which was avoided via mediation by the United States. More importantly, though, it became clear to Islamabad that not only could it no longer back militants staging attacks in India, it also had to make sure that militants acting independent of the Pakistani state were curbed. Otherwise, it was risking war with India.

Within months of the Mumbai crisis, the Pakistanis were forced into a position where they had to mount a major counterinsurgency offensive in their own northwestern areas that had come under the control of Taliban rebels. As a result, Islamabad is no longer employing militancy as its main tool against India. In fact, Indian officials are saying that Pakistan has changed its strategy and, rather than backing militant groups, is stoking civilian unrest — which brings us back to the problem in Kashmir.

The current unrest in Kashmir is clearly not the handiwork of Islamist militants; it is quite the contrary. There are mass protests and rioting that is much harder to control than militancy. Militant activity can easily be painted as a foreign-backed (read Pakistani-backed) threat, which India achieved rather successfully by containing the militancy in Kashmir. But public agitation, which is indigenous in nature, is not easily dismissed as a Pakistani-backed movement. Furthermore, a violent military response to militant attacks is easier to justify than a violent response to civilian unrest.

Of course, Pakistan is exploiting the issue to its advantage, but that is very different from actually engineering the unrest from the ground up. This explains New Delhi’s concern and the dilemma it faces. India will have to address a new, more sophisticated threat to its authority in Kashmir with a new, more sophisticated response. Pakistan will have an advantage in Kashmir in the meantime. India also faces international pressure over Kashmir, because the crackdowns make India look bad, yet New Delhi has been trying not to internationalize the conflict since it wants to deal with Kashmir on its own terms.
23036  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: September 15, 2010, 09:44:39 PM
Well, to be precise, it is an open question for him-- but you have the gist of it I think.
23037  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 15, 2010, 09:43:09 PM
Forgive the nitpick PC, but it is "interstate commerce", not "commerce".

I would also add a reminder of the 9th Amendment as well as the 10th.
23038  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US to lend $1B to Mexico for drilling blocked by Obamatorium? on: September 15, 2010, 07:29:08 PM
U.S. Backs $1B Loan to Mexico for Oil Drilling Despite Obama Moratorium

Published September 11, 2010

Despite President Obama's moratorium on U.S. deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Export-Import Bank intends to guarantee $1 billion in loans to PEMEX, the Mexican state oil company, to bolster the company's oil drilling in the region.

The bank, which is the official American export credit agency, loaned more than $1 billion to PEMEX in 2009 -- when the company was the bank's largest borrower -- in support of its drilling activities. That year, the bank also guaranteed two loans totaling $300 million made by a commercial lender.

The latest request comes during a drilling moratorium that was first imposed by Obama in May to find out what was the cause behind the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion killed 11 workers and led to 206 million gallons of oil spewing from BP's undersea well.

After a federal court struck down the ban amid complaints that it threatened thousands of jobs in the offshore oil industry, the Obama administration issued a new moratorium in July on most deep-water drilling activities that is in effect until Nov. 30.

The Export-Import Bank said the moratorium doesn't affect its pending deal with PEMEX.

"None of these projects involve deepwater drilling," bank spokeswoman Maura Policelli told FoxNews.com in an e-mail.

The $1 billion deal is awaiting approval by the bank's board, which is expected to reach a final decision by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. Because the bank is an independent agency, the deal is not subject to congressional approval.

"Before deciding whether to approve applications for financing, Ex-Im Bank performs rigorous environmental, safety and financial due diligence activities, including on-site inspections" Policelli said.

"After financing is approved, the bank monitors the company's financial, environmental and safety activities and performs on-site inspections as often as twice a year," she said.

The 2010 request will support multiple PEMEX projects, including offshore drilling and a $200 million facility to finance sales to U.S. small businesses, Policelli said.

By law, the bank's financing is "directly tied to the export of goods and services produced or provided by American workers," Policelli said.

Since 1998, the bank has guaranteed $7.7 billion in loans that U.S. and international banks have made to PEMEX. The bank agreed to make the direct loan of $1.05 billion to PEMEX last year in the wake of the financial crisis when commercial lenders tightened their lending.

"This loan supported the purchase of U.S. goods and services," Policelli said.

Over that 12-year period, Policelli said, the bank's financing of PEMEX has "helped create or sustain the jobs of over 47,000 American workers at over 1,300 U.S. companies, including 915 small businesses and 400 large companies."
23039  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010 on: September 15, 2010, 07:27:50 PM
43 fighters.
23040  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Gathering Dhimmitude on: September 15, 2010, 07:19:34 PM
Koran burner Derek Fenton booted from his job at NJ Transit
By Alison Gendar, Kevin Deutsch and Pete Donohue
DAILY NEWS WRITERS

Originally Published:Tuesday, September 14th 2010, 7:55 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 14th 2010, 9:05 PM

Derek Fenton's 11-year career at the agency came to an abrupt halt Monday after photographs of him ripping pages from the Muslim holy book and setting them ablaze appeared in newspapers.  Fenton, 39, of Bloomingdale, N.J., burned the book during a protest on the ninth anniversary of Sept. 11 outside Park51, the controversial mosque slated to be built near Ground Zero.  He was apparently inspired by Pastor Terry Jones, the Florida clergyman who threatened to burn the Koran that day but later changed his mind.

NJ Transit said Fenton was fired but wouldn't give specifics.

"Mr. Fenton's public actions violated New Jersey Transit's code of ethics," an agency statement said.  "NJ Transit concluded that Mr. Fenton violated his trust as a state employee and therefore [he] was dismissed."

Fenton was ushered from the protests by police on Saturday and questioned, but he was released without charges.

"He said, 'This is America,' and he wanted to stand up for it, in a Tea Party kind of way," a police source said.  Another police source said Fenton described himself as a "loyal American" exercising his "right to protest."

But the source said Fenton looked like he was having second thoughts as he was released.

"He looked nervous, like he was starting to think it wasn't such a good idea," the police source said.

Described by neighbors as a likable family guy with two children, Fenton was an assistant train-consist coordinator, sources said - a job that entails ensuring there are enough train cars positioned to be put into service. He previously worked as an NJ Transit conductor.

Several neighbors in Fenton's town stood up for his right to express himself with flames.

"Good for him for burning the Koran," neighbor Jacqui Marquez, 40, said.

"Everybody's entitled to their opinion ... by firing him, they're sending a message that there's no freedom of speech. They're completely wrong for doing this."

"He's a family man," neighbor Randy McConnell, 43, said. "He loves his kids and he loves trains. I don't agree with what he did, but he shouldn't lose his job over it. That's his right."

If Fenton was fired for burning the Koran while off-duty, his First Amendment rights probably were violated, Chris Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union said.

"The Supreme Court has recognized a constitutional right to burn the flag. As reprehensible as it may be, burning the Koran would be protected as well."
=======================
Government Justice Breyer Questions Free-Speech Right to Burn Korans`

* Posted on September 14, 2010 at 12:36pm by Scott Baker

“Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos interviewed Justice Breyer this morning:

Last week we saw a Florida Pastor – with 30 members in his church – threaten to burn Korans which lead to riots and killings in Afghanistan. We also saw Democrats and Republicans alike assume that Pastor Jones had a Constitutional right to burn those Korans. But Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer told me on “GMA” that he’s not prepared to conclude that — in the internet age — the First Amendment condones Koran burning.

“Holmes said it doesn’t mean you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” Breyer told me. “Well, what is it? Why? Because people will be trampled to death. And what is the crowded theater today? What is the being trampled to death?”

Stephanopoulos points out that Obama and Boehner gave at least grudging affirmation that Pastor Jones had the legal right to burn a Koran. Breyer isn’t convinced:

“It will be answered over time in a series of cases which force people to think carefully. That’s the virtue of cases,” Breyer told me. “And not just cases. Cases produce briefs, briefs produce thought. Arguments are made. The judges sit back and think. And most importantly, when they decide, they have to write an opinion, and that opinion has to be based on reason. It isn’t a fake.”
23041  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Al andalus (i.e. Spain) on: September 15, 2010, 05:42:20 PM
And of course the proposed name for the proposed Ground Zero Mosque (Cordoba House) is just a coincidence , , ,  rolleyes
23042  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 14, 2010, 05:40:03 PM
Grateful to have two teeth that have been missing for many years replaced today!
23043  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 14, 2010, 05:32:51 PM
BD:

Thank you for that thoughtful analysis.
23044  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Succession-3 on: September 14, 2010, 12:56:34 PM
The Central Military Commission

The Central Military Commission (CMC) is the state’s most powerful military body, comprising the top ten military chiefs, and chaired by the country’s civilian leader. This means the CMC has unfettered access to the top Chinese leader, and can influence him through a more direct channel than through its small representation on the Politburo Standing Committee. Thus the CMC is not only the core decision-making body of the Chinese military, it is also the chief conduit through which the military can influence the civilian leadership.





(click here to enlarge image)
Promotions for China’s top military leaders are based on the officer’s age, his current official position — for instance, whether he sits on the CMC or in the CPC Central Committee — and his personal connections. Officers born after 1944 will be too old for promotion since they will be 68 in 2012, past the de facto cutoff age after which an officer is no longer eligible for promotion to the CMC. Those officers meeting the age requirement and holding positions on the CMC, the CPC Central Committee, or a command position in one of China’s military services or its seven regional military commands (or the parallel posts for political commissars) may be eligible for promotion.

China’s paramount leader serves simultaneously as the president of the state, the general-secretary of the Party, and the chairman of the military commission, as Hu does. The top leader does not always hold all three positions, however: Jiang held onto his chair on the CMC for two years after his term as president ended in 2002. Since Hu did not become CMC chairman until 2004, it is not unlikely that he will maintain his chair until 2014, two years after he gives up his presidency and leadership of the party. But this is a reasonable assumption, not a settled fact, and some doubt Hu’s strength in resolving such questions in his favor.

Interestingly, Hu has not yet appointed Vice President Xi Jinping to be his successor on the CMC, sparking rumors over the past year about whether Hu is reluctant to give Xi the vice chairmanship or whether Xi’s position could be at risk. But Hu will almost certainly dub Xi his successor as chairman of the CMC soon, probably in October. Given the possibility that Hu could retain his CMC chairmanship till 2014, Xi’s influence over the military could remain subordinate to Hu’s until then, raising uncertainties about how Hu and Xi will interact with each other and with the military during this time. Otherwise, Xi will be expected to take over the top military post along with the top Party and state posts in 2012.


Old and New Trends

Of the leading military figures, there are several observable trends. Regional favoritism in recruitment and promotion remains a powerful force, and regions that have had the greatest representation on the CMC in the past will retain their prominent place: Shandong, Hebei, Henan, Shaanxi and Liaoning provinces, respectively, appear likely to remain the top regions represented by the new leadership, according to research by Cheng Li, a prominent Chinese scholar. These provinces are core to the CPC’s support base. There is considerably less representation in the upper officer corps from Shanghai, Guangdong, Sichuan, or the western regions, all of which are known for regionalism and are more likely to stand at variance with Beijing. (This is not to say that other provinces, Sichuan for instance, do not produce a large number of soldiers.)

One group of leaders, the princelings, are likely to take a much greater role in the CMC in 2012 than in the current CMC, in great part because these are the children or relatives of Communist Party revolutionary heroes and elites and were born during the 1940s-50s. Examples include the current naval commander and CMC member Wu Shengli, political commissar of the Second Artillery Corps Zhang Haiyang, and two deputy chiefs of the general staff, Ma Xiaotian and Zhang Qinsheng. In politics, the princelings are not necessarily a coherent faction with agreed-upon policy leanings. Though princeling loyalties are reinforced by familial ties and inherited from fathers, grandfathers and other relatives, they share similar elite backgrounds, their careers have benefited from these privileges, and they are viewed and treated as a single group by everyone else. In the military, the princelings are more likely to form a unified group capable of a coherent viewpoint, since the military is more rigidly hierarchical and personal ties are based on staunch loyalty. The strong princeling presence could constitute an interest group within the military leadership capable of pressing more forcefully for its interests than it would otherwise be able to do.

A marked difference in the upcoming CMC is the rising role of the PLAN, PLAAF and Second Artillery Corps, as against the traditionally dominant army. This development was made possible by the enlargement of the CMC in 2004, elevating the commanders of each of these non-army services to the CMC, and it is expected to hold in 2012. The army will remain the most influential service across the entire fifth generation military leadership, with the navy, air force, and missile corps following close behind. But crucially, in the 2012 CMC the army’s representation could decline relative to the other branches of service, since of the three members of the current CMC eligible to stay only one comes from the army (General Armaments Department Director Chang Wangquan) and many of the next-highest candidates also hail from other services. After all, missile capabilities and sea and air power are increasingly important as China focuses on the ability to secure its international supply chains and prevent greater foreign powers (namely the United States) from approaching too closely areas of strategic concern. The greater standing of the PLAN, PLAAF, and Second Artillery Corps is already showing signs of solidifying, since officers from these services used not to be guaranteed representation on the CMC but now appear to have a permanent place.


MARK WILSON/Getty Images
Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Gen. Xu Caihou and a military delegation in WashingtonThere is also a slight possibility that the two individuals chosen to be the CMC vice chairmen could both come from a background in military operations. Typically the two vice chairmen — the most powerful military leaders — are divided between one officer centered on military operations and another centered on political affairs. This ensures a civilian check on military leadership, with the political commissar supervising the military in normal times, and the military commander having ultimate authority during times of war. However, given the candidates available for the position, the precedent could be broken and the positions filled with officers who both come from a military operational background. Such a configuration in the CMC could result in higher emphasis on the capability and effectiveness of military rather than political solutions to problems and a CMC prone to bridle under CPC orders. But having two military affairs specialists in the vice chairmen seats is a slim possibility, and personnel are available from political offices to fill one of the vice chairmanships, thus preserving the traditional balance and CPC guidance over military affairs.


Civilian Leadership Maintained

The rising current of military power in the Chinese system could manifest in any number of ways. Sources tell STRATFOR that military officers who retire sooner than civilian leaders may start to take up civilian positions in the ministries or elsewhere in the state bureaucracy. Nevertheless, the overall arc of recent Chinese history has reinforced the model of civilian leadership over the military. The Communist Party retains control of the CMC, the central and provincial bureaucracies, the state-owned corporations and banks, mass organizations, and most of the media. Moreover, there does not appear to be a single military strongman who could lead a significant challenge to civilian leadership. So while the military’s sway is undoubtedly rising, and the upcoming civilian leadership could get caught in stalemate over policy, the military is not in a position to seize power. Rather, it is maneuvering to gain more influence within the system, adding another element of intrigue to the already tense bargaining structure that defines elite politics in China. But despite possible military-civilian frictions, the PLA will seek to preserve the regime, and to manage or suppress internal or external forces that could jeopardize that goal.



Read more: Looking to 2012: China's Next Generation of Leaders | STRATFOR
23045  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Succession-2 on: September 14, 2010, 12:55:15 PM
Collective Rule

The factions are not so antagonistic that an intense power struggle is likely to rip them apart. Instead, they can be expected to exercise power by forging compromises. Leaders are chosen by their superiors through a process of careful negotiation to prevent an imbalance of one faction over another that could lead to purges or counterpurges. That balance looks as if it will roughly be maintained in the configuration of leaders in 2012. In terms of policymaking, powerful leaders will continue to debate deep policy disagreements behind closed doors. Through a process of intense negotiation, they will try to arrive at a party line and maintain it uniformly in public. Stark disagreements and fierce debates will echo through the statements of minor officials and academics, and in public discussions, newspaper editorials, and other venues, however. In extreme situations, these policy battles could lead to the ousting of officials who end up on the wrong side. But the highest party leaders will not contradict each other openly on matters of great significance unless a dire breakdown has occurred, as happened with fallen Shanghai Party Secretary Chen Liangyu.

That the fifth generation leadership appears in agreement on the state’s broadest economic and political goals, even if they differ on the means of achieving those goals, will be conducive to maintaining the factional balance. First, there is general agreement on the need to continue with China’s internationally oriented economic and structural reforms. These leaders spent the prime of their lives in the midst of China’s rapid economic transformation from a poor and isolated pariah state into an international industrial and commercial giant, and were the first to experience the benefits of this transformation. They also know that the CPC’s legitimacy has come to rest, in great part, on its ability to deliver greater economic opportunity and prosperity to the country — and that the greatest risk to the regime would likely come in the form of a shrinking or dislocated economy that causes massive unemployment. Therefore, for the most part they remain dedicated to continuing with market-oriented reform. They will do so gradually and carefully, however, and will not seek to intensify reformist efforts to the point of dramatically increasing the risk of social disruption. Needless to say, while the elitists can be energetic in their pursuit of economic liberalization, the populists tend to be more suspicious and more willing to re-centralize controls to avoid undesirable political side effects, even at the expense of long-term risks to the economy.

More fundamentally, all fifth generation leaders are committed to maintaining CPC rule. The chaos of the Cultural Revolution impressed upon the fifth generation a sense of the extreme dangers of China’s having allowed an autocratic ruler to dominate the decision-making process and intra-party struggle to run rampant. Subsequent events have reinforced the fear of internal divisions: the protest and military crackdown at Tiananmen Square in 1989, the threat of alternative movements exemplified by the Falun Gong protest in 1999, the general rise in social unrest throughout the economic boom of the 1990s and 2000s. More recent challenges have reinforced this, such as natural disasters like the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, ethnic violence and riots in Tibet in 2008 and Xinjiang in 2009, and the pressures of economic volatility since the global economic crisis of 2008. These events have underscored the need to maintain unity and stability in the Party ranks and in Chinese society, by force when necessary. So while the fifth generation is likely to agree on the need to continue with economic reform and perhaps even limited political reform, it will do so only insofar as it can without destabilizing socio-political order. It will delay, soften, undermine, or reverse reform to ensure stability. Once again, the difference between the factions lies in judging how best to preserve and bolster the regime.


Regionalism

Beyond the apparent balance of forces in the central party and government organs, there remains the tug-of-war between the central government in Beijing and the 33 provincial governments (not to mention Taiwan) — a reflection of the timeless struggle in China between center and periphery. If China is to be struck by deep destabilization under the watch of the fifth generation leaders (which is by no means impossible, especially given the economic troubles facing them), the odds are this would occur along regional lines. Stark differences have emerged, as China’s coastal manufacturing provinces have surged ahead while provinces in the interior, west and northeast have lagged. The CPC’s solution to this problem generally has been to redistribute wealth from the booming coast to the interior in hopes that subsidizing the less developed regions eventually will nurture economic development. In some instances, such as in Shaanxi or Sichuan provinces, urbanization and development have indeed accelerated in recent years. But overall, the interior remains weak and dependent on subsidies from Beijing.

The problem for China’s leadership is that the coastal provinces’ export-led model of growth that has worked well over the past three decades has begun to peak, and China’s annual double-digit growth rates are expected to slow due to weakening external demand, rising labor and material costs and other factors. The result will be louder demands from poor provinces and tighter fists in rich provinces — exposing and deepening competition, and in some cases leading to animosity between the regions.

More so than any previous generation, the fifth generation has extensive cross-regional career experience. This is because climbing to the top of Party and government has increasingly required that many of these leaders first serve in central organizations in Beijing and then do a stint (or more) as governor or Party secretary of one of the provinces (the more far-flung, the better), before returning to a higher central Party or government position in Beijing. Hu Jintao followed such a path, as have many of the aforementioned candidates for the Politburo Standing Committee. Moreover, it has become increasingly common to put officials in charge of a region other than the one from which they originally hailed to reduce regionalism and regional biases. This practice has precedent in China’s imperial history, when it was used to prevent the rise of mini-fiefdoms and the devolution of power. More of the likely members of the 2012 Politburo Standing Committee than ever before have experience as provincial chiefs. This means that when these leaders take over top national positions, they theoretically will have a better grasp of the realities facing the provinces they rule, and will be less likely to be beholden to a single regional constituency or support base. This could somewhat mitigate the central government’s difficulty in dealing with profound divergences of interest between the central and provincial governments.

But regional differences are grounded in fundamental, geographical and ethnic realities, and have become increasingly aggravated by the disproportionate benefits of China’s economic success. Temporary changes of position across the country have not prevented China’s leaders from forming lasting bonds with certain provinces to the neglect of others; and many politicians still have experience exclusively with the regional level of government, and none with the central. The patron-client system, by which Chinese officials give their loyalty to superiors in exchange for political perks or monetary rewards, remains ineradicable. Massive personal networks extend across party and government bureaus, from the center to the regions. Few central leaders remain impervious to the pull of these regional networks, and none can remain in power long if his or her regional power base or bases have been cut. The tension between the center and provinces will remain one of the greatest sources of stress on the central leadership as it negotiates national policy.

As with any novice political leadership, the fifth generation leaders will take office with little experience of what it means to be fully in charge of a nation. Provincial leadership experience has provided good preparation, but the individual members have yet to show signs of particularly strong national leadership capabilities. The public sees only a few of the upcoming members of the Politburo Standing Committee as successfully having taken charge during events of major importance (for instance, Xi Jinping’s response to Tropical Storm Bilis, Wang Qishan’s handling of the SARS epidemic and the Beijing Olympics); only one has military experience (Xi, and it is slight); and only a few of the others have shown independence or forcefulness in their leadership style (namely Wang Qishan and Bo Xilai). Because current Politburo Standing Committee members or previous leaders (like former President Jiang Zemin) will choose the future committee members after painstaking negotiations, this might preserve the balance of power between the cliques. It might also result in a “compromise” leadership — effectively one that would strive for a middle-of-the-road approach, even at the cost of achieving mediocre results. A collective leadership of these members, precariously balanced, runs the risk of falling into divisions when resolute and sustained effort is necessary, as is likely given the economic, social and foreign policy challenges that it will likely face during its tenure.

This by no means is to say the fifth generation is destined to be weak. Chinese leaders have a time-tested strategy of remaining reserved for as long as possible and not revealing their full strength until necessary. And China’s centralist political system generally entails quick implementation once the top leadership has made up its mind on a policy. Still, judging by available criteria, the fifth generation leaders are likely to be reactive, like the current administration. Where they are proactive, it will be on decisions pertaining to domestic security and social stability.


Military Leadership


The Rise of the People’s Liberation Army


PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Chinese soldiers at the World Expo 2010 in ShanghaiAfter Deng’s economic reforms, the Chinese military began to use its influence to get into industry and business. Over time, this evolved into a major role for the military on the local and provincial level. Military commands supplemented their government budget allocations with the proceeds from their business empires. Ultimately, the central government and Party leadership became concerned that the situation could degenerate into regional warlordism of the sort that has prevailed at various times in Chinese history — with military-political-business alliances developing more loyalty to their interests and foreign partners than to Beijing. Thus when Jiang launched full-scale reforms of the military in the 1990s, he called for restructuring and modernization (including cutting China’s bloated ground forces and boosting the other branches of service) and simultaneously ordered the military to stop dabbling in business. Though the commanders only begrudgingly complied at first, the military-controlled businesses eventually were liquidated and their assets sold (either at a bargain price to family members and cronies or at an inflated price to local governments). To replace this loss of revenue and redesign the military, the central government began increasing budgetary allocations focusing on acquiring new equipment, higher technology, and training and organization to promote professionalism. The modernization drive eventually gave the military a new sense of purpose and power and brought a greater role to the PLA Navy (PLAN), the PLA Air Force (PLAAF), and the Second Artillery Corps (the strategic missile corps).

The military’s influence appears highly likely to continue rising in the coming years for the following reasons:

Maintaining internal stability in China has resulted in several high-profile cases in which the armed forces played a critical role. Natural disasters such as massive flooding (1998, 2010) and earthquakes (especially in Sichuan in 2008) have required the military to provide relief and assistance, giving rise to more attention on military planning and thereby improving the military’s propaganda efforts and public image and prestige. Because China is prone to natural disasters and its environmental difficulties have worsened as its massive population and economy have put greater pressure on the landscape, the military is expected to continue playing a greater role in disaster relief, including by offering to help abroad. At the same time, the rising frequency of social unrest, including riots and ethnic violence in regions like Xinjiang and Tibet, has led to military involvement in such matters. As the trend of rising social unrest looks to continue in the coming years, so the military will be called upon to restore order, especially through the elite People’s Armed Police, which falls under the joint control of the Central Military Commission and State Council.
As China’s economy has become the second largest in the world, its international dependencies have increased. China depends on stable and secure supply lines to maintain imports of energy, raw materials, and components and exports of components and finished goods. Most of these commodities and merchandise are traded over sea, often through choke-points such as the straits of Hormuz and Malacca, making them vulnerable to interference from piracy, terrorism, conflicts between foreign states, or interdiction by navies hostile to China (i.e., the United States, India or Japan). Therefore it needs the PLAN to expand its capabilities and reach so as to secure these vital supplies — otherwise the economy would be exposed to potential shocks that could translate into social and political disturbances. This policy has also led the PLA to take a more active role in U.N. peacekeeping efforts and other international operations, expand integrated training and ties with foreign militaries, and build a hospital ship to begin military-led diplomacy.
Competition with foreign states is intensifying as China has become more powerful economically and internationally conspicuous. In addition to building capabilities to assert its sovereignty over Taiwan, China has become more aggressive in defending its sovereignty and territorial claims in its neighboring seas — especially in the South China Sea, which Beijing elevated in 2010 to a “core” national interest (along with sovereignty over Taiwan and Tibet) and also in the East China Sea. This assertiveness has led to rising tension with neighbors that have competing claims on potentially resource-rich territory in the seas, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Japan. Moreover, Beijing’s newfound assertiveness has collided with U.S. moves to bulk up its alliances and partnerships in the region, which Beijing sees as a strategy aimed at constraining China’s rise.
China’s military modernization remains a primary national policy focus. Military modernization includes acquiring and developing advanced weaponry, improving information technology and communications, heightening capabilities on sea and in the air, and developing capabilities in new theaters such as cyberwarfare and outer space. It also entails improving Chinese forces’ mobility, rapid reaction, special operations forces and ability to conduct combined operations between different military services.
The PLA has become more vocal, making statements and issuing editorials in forums like the PLA Daily and, for the most part, receiving positive public responses. In many cases, military officers have voiced a nationalistic point of view shared by large portions of the public (though one prominent military officer, Liu Yazhou, a princeling and commissar at National Defense University, has used his standing to call for China to pursue Western-style democratic political reforms). Military officials can strike a more nationalist pose where politicians would have trouble due to consideration for foreign relations and the concern that nationalism is becoming an insuppressible force of its own.
Of course, a more influential military does not mean one that believes it is all-powerful. China will still try to avoid direct confrontation with the United States and its allies and maintain relations internationally given its national economic strategy and the fact that its military has not yet attained the same degree of sophistication and capability as its chief competitors. But the military’s growing influence is likely to encourage a more assertive China, especially in the face of heightened internal and external threats.

23046  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Succession on: September 14, 2010, 12:54:03 PM
second post of the day:
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In 2012, the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) leaders will retire and a new generation — the so-called fifth generation — will take the helm. The transition will affect the CPC’s most powerful decision-making organs, determining the makeup of the 18th CPC Central Committee, the Political Bureau (Politburo) of the Central Committee, and most important, the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee that is the core of political power in China.

While there is considerable uncertainty over the handoff, given China’s lack of clear, institutionalized procedures for succession and the immense challenges facing the regime, there is little reason to anticipate a succession crisis. But the sweeping personnel change comes at a critical juncture in China’s modern history, with the economic model that has enabled decades of rapid growth having become unsustainable, social unrest rising, and international resistance to China’s policies increasing. At the same time, the characteristics of the fifth generation leaders suggest a cautious and balanced civilian leadership paired with an increasingly influential and nationalist military. This will lead to frictions over policy even as both groups remain firmly committed to perpetuating the regime.

The Chinese leadership that emerges from 2012 will likely be unwilling or unable to decisively carry out deep structural reforms, obsessively focused on maintaining internal stability, and more aggressive in pursuing the core strategic interests it sees as essential to this stability.

Just as China’s civilian leadership will change, China’s military will see a sweeping change in leadership in 2012. The military’s influence over China’s politics and policies has grown over the past decade, as the country has striven to professionalize and modernize its forces and expand its capabilities in response to deepening international involvement and challenges to its internal stability. The fifth generation military leaders are the first to have come out of the military modernization process, and to have had their careers shaped by the priorities of a China that has become a global economic power. They will take office at a time when the military’s budget, stature and influence over politics is growing, and when it has come to see its role as extending beyond that of a guarantor of national security to becoming a guide for the country as it moves forward and up the ranks of international power.


Civilian Leadership

Power transitions in the People’s Republic of China have always been fraught with uncertainty because the state does not have clear and fixed institutional procedures for the transfer of power between leaders and generations. The state’s founding leader, Mao Zedong, did not establish a formal process before he died, giving rise to a power struggle. Mao’s eventual successor, Deng Xiaoping, was also a strong leader whose personal power could override rules and institutions. But Deng’s retirement also failed to set a firm succession precedent. He saw two of his chosen successors lose out amid factional struggles, and Deng maintained extensive influence well after formally retiring and passing power to Jiang Zemin and naming Jiang’s successor, current President Hu Jintao.

Even though China does not have any fixed rules on power transfers, a series of precedents and informal rules have been observed. Recent years have seen a move toward the solidification of these rules. Deng set a pattern in motion that smoothed the 2002 presidential transition from Jiang to Hu despite behind-the-scenes factional tensions. As mentioned, Deng had also appointed Hu to be Jiang’s successor. This lent Hu some of Deng’s great authority, thus establishing an air of inevitability and deterring potential power grabs. This leap-frog pattern was reinforced when Jiang put Vice President Xi Jinping in line to succeed Hu in 2012. The coming transfer will test whether the trend toward stable power transitions can hold.


Characteristics of the Fifth Generation

While all countries experience leadership changes that can be described as generational in one sense or another, modern Chinese history has been so eventful as to have created generations that, as a group, share distinct characteristics and are markedly different from their forebearers in their historical, educational and career experiences. Deng created the concept of the “generational” framework by dubbing himself the core second-generation leader after Mao, and events and patterns in leadership promotion and retirement reinforced the framework. The most defining factor of a Chinese leadership generation is its historical background. The first generation defined itself by the formation of the Communist Party and the Long March of exile in the 1930s, the second generation in the war against the Japanese (World War II), and the third during civil war and the founding of the state in 1949. The fourth generation came of age during the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s, Mao’s first attempt to transform the entire Chinese economy.

The fifth generation is the first group of leaders that cannot — or can only barely — remember a time before the foundation of the People’s Republic. These leaders’ formative experiences were shaped during the Cultural Revolution (1967-77), a period of deep social and political upheaval in which the Mao government empowered hard-liners to purge their political opponents in the bureaucracy and Communist Party. Schools and universities were closed in 1966 and youths were sent down to rural areas to do manual labor, including many fifth-generation leaders such as likely future President Xi Jinping. Some young people were able to return to college after 1970, where they could only study Marxism-Leninism and CPC ideology, while others sought formal education when schools were reopened after the Cultural Revolution. Very few trained abroad, so they did not become attuned to foreign attitudes and perceptions in their formative days (whereas the previous generation had sent some young leaders to study in the Soviet Union). Characteristically, given the fuller educational opportunities that arose in the late 1970s, the upcoming leaders have backgrounds in a wide range of studies. Many were trained as lawyers, economists and social scientists, as opposed to the engineers and natural scientists who have dominated the previous generations of leadership.


TEH ENG KOON/AFP/Getty Images
Politburo Standing Committee member Xi Jinping at the National People’s Congress meeting in MarchIn 2012, only Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang will remain on the Politburo Standing Committee, the core decision-making body in China. Seven new members will join, assuming the number of total members remains at nine, which has been the case since 2002. All seven will hail from the broader Politburo and were born after October 1944, in accordance with an unwritten rule established under Deng requiring Chinese leaders to retire at age 70 (it was lowered to 68 in 1997). The retiring leaders will make every effort to strike a deal preventing the balance of power within the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee from tipping against them and their faction.

At present, China’s leaders divide roughly into two factions broadly defined as the populists and the elitists.

The populists are associated with Hu Jintao and the China Communist Youth League (CCYL) and are more accurately referred to as the “league faction” (in Chinese, the “tuanpai”). In the 1980s Hu led the league, which comprises his political base. The CCYL is a massive organization that prepares future members of the CPC. It is structured with a central leadership and provincial and local branches based in the country’s schools, workplaces, and social organizations. In keeping with the CCYL’s rigid hierarchy and doctrinal training, the policies of Hu’s “CCYL clique” focus on centralizing and consolidating power, maintaining social stability, and seeking to redistribute wealth to alleviate income disparities, regional differences, and social ills. The clique has grown increasingly powerful under Hu’s patronage. He has promoted people from CCYL backgrounds, some of whom he worked with during his term as a high-level leader in the group in the early 1980s, and has increased the number of CCYL-affiliated leaders in China’s provincial governments. Several top candidates for the Politburo Standing Committee in 2012 are part of this group, including Li Keqiang and Li Yuanchao, followed by Liu Yandong, Zhang Baoshun, Yuan Chunqing, Liu Qibao and Wang Yang.

The elitists are leaders associated with former President Jiang Zemin and his Shanghai clique. Their policies aim to maintain China’s rapid economic growth, with the coastal provinces unabashedly leading the way. They also promote economic restructuring to improve China’s international competitiveness and reduce inefficiencies, even at the risk of painful changes for some regions or sectors of society. The infamous “princelings” — or the sons, grandsons and relatives of the CPC’s founding fathers and previous leaders who have risen up the ranks of China’s system through these familial connections — are often associated with the elitists. The princelings are criticized for benefiting from nepotism, and some have suffered from low support in internal party elections. Still, they have name recognition from their proud Communist family histories, the finest educations and career experiences and access to personal networks set up by their fathers. The Shanghai clique and princelings are joined by economic reformists of various stripes who come from different backgrounds, mostly in the state apparatus such as the central or provincial bureaucracy and ministries, who often are technocrats and specialists. Prominent members of this faction eligible for the 2012 Politburo Standing Committee include Wang Qishan, Zhang Dejiang, Bo Xilai, Yu Zhengsheng and Zhang Gaoli.

The struggle between the populist and elitist factions is a subset of the deeper struggle in Chinese history between centralist and regionalist impulses. Because of China’s vast and diverse geography, China historically has required a strong central government, usually located on the North China Plain, to maintain political unity. But this cyclical unity tends to break down over time as different regions pursue their own interests and form relationships with the outside world that become more vital to them than unity with the rest of China. The tension between centralist and regionalist tendencies has given rise to the ancient struggle between the north (Beijing) and the south (Shanghai), the difficulties that successive Chinese regimes have had in subordinating the far south (i.e. Guangdong and the Pearl River Delta), and modern Beijing’s anxiety over the perceived threat of separatism from Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet. In this context, the struggle between the two dominant political factions appears as the 21st century political manifestation of the irresolvable struggle between the political center in Beijing and the other regions, whose economic vibrancy leads them to pursue their own ends. While Hu Jintao and his allies emphasize central control and redistributing regional wealth to create a more unified China, the followers of Jiang tend to emphasize the need to let China’s most competitive regions grow and prosper, often in cooperation with international partners, without being restrained by the center or weighed down by the less dynamic regions.


Factional Balance

The politicians almost certain to join the Politburo Standing Committee in 2012 appear to represent a balance between factional tendencies. The top two, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, are the youngest members of the current Politburo Standing Committee and are all but certain to become president and premier, respectively. Xi is a princeling — son of Xi Zhongxun, an early Communist revolutionary and deputy prime minister — and his leadership in Fujian, Zhejiang and Shanghai exemplifies the ability of coastal manufacturing provinces to enhance an official’s career. But Xi is also popular with the public, widely admired for his hardships as a rural worker during the Cultural Revolution. He is the best example of bridging both major factions — promoting economic reforms but seen as having the people’s best interests at heart. Li was trained as an economist under a prestigious teacher at Beijing University, received a law degree, and is a former top secretary of the CCYL and stalwart of Hu’s faction. Economics is his specialty, not in itself but as a means to social harmony. For example, he is famous for promoting further revitalization of northeastern China’s industrial rust belt of factories that have fallen into disrepair. Li also has held leadership positions in provinces like Henan, an agricultural province, and Liaoning, a heavy-industrial province, affording him a view of starkly different aspects of the national economy.

After Xi and Li, the most likely contenders for seats on the Politburo Standing Committee are Li Yuanchao, director of the CPC’s powerful organization department (CCYL clique), Wang Yang (CCYL), member of the CPC’s Politburo, Liu Yunshan (CCYL), director of the CPC’s propaganda department, and Vice Premier Wang Qishan (princeling/Jiang’s Shanghai clique). The next most likely candidates include Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang (Jiang’s Shanghai clique), Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai (princeling), Tianjin Party Secretary Zhang Gaoli (Jiang’s Shanghai clique) and CPC General Office Director Ling Jihua (secretary to Hu Jintao, CCYL clique). It is impossible to predict exactly who will be appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee. The lineup is the result of intense negotiation between the current committee members, with the retiring members (everyone except Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang) wielding the most influence. Currently, of the nine Politburo Standing Committee members, as many as six are Jiang Zemin proteges, and they will push for their followers to prevent Hu from taking control of the committee.





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It accordingly seems possible that the 2012 Politburo Standing Committee balance will lean slightly in favor of Jiang’s Shanghai clique and the princelings, given that Xi Jinping will hold the top seat, but that by numbers the factions will be evenly balanced. Like his predecessors, Xi will have to spend his early years as president attempting to consolidate power so he can put his followers in positions of influence and begin to shape the succeeding generation of leaders for the benefit of himself and his circle. An even balance, if it is reached, may not persist through the entire 10 years of the Xi and Li administration: the CCYL clique looks extremely well-situated for the 2017 reshuffle, at which point many of Jiang’s proteges will be too old to sit on the Politburo Standing Committee while a number of rising stars in the CCYL currently serving as provincial chiefs will be well-placed for promotion.

There is a remote possibility that the number of seats on the Politburo Standing Committee could be cut from nine to seven, the number of posts before 2002. This would likely result in a stricter enforcement of age limits in determining which leaders to promote, perhaps setting the cutoff age at 66 or 67 (instead of 68). Stricter age criteria could eliminate three contenders from Jiang’s Shanghai clique (Zhang Gaoli, Zhang Dejiang, and Shanghai Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng) and one from Hu’s clique (Politburo member Liu Yandong). This would leave Bo Xilai (a highly popular princeling with unorthodox policies, but like Xi Jinping known to straddle the factional divide) and CPC General Office Director Ling Jihua (secretary to Hu Jintao, CCYL clique) as the most likely final additions to the Politburo Standing Committee. The overall balance in this scenario of slightly younger age requirements would then lean in favor of Hu’s clique.

23047  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Infighting on: September 14, 2010, 12:49:26 PM
Summary
The Iranian government has reversed its decision several times on whether to release Sarah Shourd, the U.S. woman being held in Iran on suspicion of espionage. The latest move is a demand for $500,000 bail to release Shourd — a decision that likely has more to do with the intensifying internal struggle within Iran’s political establishment than with U.S.-Iranian relations. In recent months, it has become unclear that Tehran is unified enough to negotiate meaningfully with Washington on key contentious subjects like the balance of power in Iraq after the U.S. withdrawal, Iran’s nuclear program and Afghanistan.

Analysis
The attorney for 32-year-old Sarah Shourd, one of three U.S. citizens who has been in Iranian custody for more than a year on suspicion of espionage, on Sept. 13 said her family is asking Tehran to drop a demand for $500,000 bail. The demand came after Iranian judicial authorities canceled plans to release her Sept. 11. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s conservative opponents have publicly opposed his government’s move to release Shourd — a gesture on Ahmadinejad’s part to facilitate talks with the United States ahead of his trip to New York later in September.

The Shourd issue is just the latest manifestation of the internal struggle within the Islamic republic’s political establishment. In recent weeks, the Iranian media have been replete with statements from pragmatists opposed to Ahmadinejad and even from his fellow ultraconservatives (who supported him until last year) criticizing several of his foreign policy decisions. These include the decision to appoint special envoys to various regions, his calls for negotiations with the United States and his willingness to compromise on swapping enriched uranium. Clearly, the infighting has reached the point where the president’s opponents are aggressively targeting his efforts to execute foreign policy.

STRATFOR has chronicled the growing intra-conservative rift in Tehran since before the presidential election in June 2009. Although the Ahmadinejad government and its allies within the clerical and security establishment effectively defeated the reformist challenge from the street, the Green Movement, the rifts among the conservatives have only worsened. The old dichotomy between the Ahmadinejad-led ultraconservatives and the pragmatic conservatives led by the regime’s second-most influential cleric, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is inadequate to describe the growing complexity of the struggle.

A key reason for the growing rifts is that Ahmadinejad — despite his reputation as a hard-liner — has increasingly assumed the pragmatist mantle, especially with his calls to the Obama administration to negotiate a settlement with his government. This has turned many of his fellow hard-liners against him, giving the more moderate conservatives like Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani an opening to exploit and thus weaken the president. The situation is serious enough that it has offset the day-to-day balancing act among the various factions that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been engaged in for decades.

The situation is exemplified in the open disagreement between the executive and legislative branches. A special committee within the Guardian Council was formed in late August to mediate between the two sides. The Rafsanjani-led Expediency Council was created in 1989 to settle disputes among various state organs. That an ad hoc special committee was created under the supervision of the Guardian Council (which vets individuals for public office and has oversight over legislation) to mediate this dispute shows the extent of the problems the Iranians are having in mitigating internal disagreements.

Just as the disagreements in Tehran are no longer between two rival camps, they also are not limited to one institution disputing another, as elements from both sides are within each institution. Guardians Council chief Ahmad Jannati, a powerful cleric who played a key role in Ahmadinejad’s ability to secure a second term, criticized the president for trying to prevent security forces from enforcing the female dress code in public. Likewise, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, Chief of the Joint Staff Command of the Armed Forces — to whom Ahmadinejad is close — referred to a call by Ahmadinejad’s most trusted aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, to promote Iranian nationalism over Islamic solidarity as “deviant.” In response, Mashaie threatened to sue the general sitting at the apex of Iran’s military establishment. Perhaps most damaging for Ahmadinejad is that his own ideological mentor, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, also criticized the president’s top aide, warning about a “new sedition” on the part of “value-abiding” forces — a reference to the president and his supporters. Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, has strongly supported his chief of staff (who is also his closest friend and relative), saying he has complete trust in him.

In the midst of all this, the supreme leader is trying to arbitrate between the warring factions but fears that Ahmadinejad could be trying to undermine him. Thus, Khamenei cannot support Ahmadinejad as he did during the post-election crisis of 2009, yet he cannot act against the president because doing so would undermine the stability of Iran’s political system at a critical time for several foreign policy issues — Iraq, the nuclear dispute and Afghanistan, among others.

At this stage, then, the outcome of this increasing factionalization is unclear. What is clear is that the Shourd case is only one small disagreement in the midst of a much larger rift. The battling Iranian factions could reach a compromise on this particular matter, but the accelerating domestic disputes in Tehran make it very difficult for the United States to negotiate with Iran on the host of strategic issues the two are struggling over.

Ahmadinejad feels that if he is able to clinch a deal of sorts with the United States from a position of relative strength, it could help him deal effectively with the domestic challenge to his power. Conversely, his allies are determined to prevent that from happening, as is clear from the statements against negotiating with Washington. At the very least, this public struggle is helping the ultraconservatives, the military and those who are the most opposed to talks with the United States
23048  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 14, 2010, 11:49:36 AM
I'd quibble with some of your interpretation on some points but haven't the time right now, but will agree with the general notion that "Every solution creates a problem."

Israel is already fcuked.  As I commented at the time, it made a historical error when it did not finish the job it started the last time it went into Lebanon.  Now, if they strike Iran, Iran/Hezbollah has so many new improved rockets (well over 50,000 I's thinking) in Lebanon, dug in under hospitals, schools and the like, that virtually the entirety of Israel, including its own reactor, are in reach. 
23049  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: September 14, 2010, 11:37:44 AM
Doug:

I have seen this point made in various studies over the years.  It is a very good one and one that I had forgotten.
23050  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: September 14, 2010, 11:30:54 AM
Amen!
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