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23101  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Doggy Style on: December 31, 2008, 09:02:54 PM
May I ask you to post here instead?

http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1776.0

Thank you,
23102  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 31, 2008, 07:16:09 PM
Summary
Artillery rockets impacted the Israeli town of Beer Sheva on Dec. 30, much farther than Hamas’ rocket arsenal was thought to be able to reach. Their impact offers clues to the status of the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Analysis
Related Links
Israel, Palestinian Territories: Hamas and the Israeli Offensive
Geopolitical Diary: The Latest Phase of Israeli-Palestinian Fighting
Israel: Countering Qassams and Other Ballistic Threats
Geopolitical Diary: A New Shield for Israel
The Geopolitics of Israel: Biblical and Modern
Related Special Topic Pages
Israel’s Military
Israeli-Palestinian Geopolitics and the Peace Process
Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in Beer Sheva, Israel, some 25 miles from their point of origin, Haaretz news reported Dec. 30. This is the farthest inside Israel a Palestinian rocket has ever reached from Gaza. It almost certainly indicates a larger rocket than Hamas and the jihadist groups in Gaza were previously thought to possess.

For years, Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip have used Qassam rockets, which are made out of materials readily available in the territory and essentially assembled in garages. Last year, there were indications that changes to the fuel mixture had given a new version of the Qassam a greatly increased shelf life. (Older versions had to be fired a few days after being assembled.) Though range varies, Qassams have a range of around 6 miles.

Also last year, there were indications that Hamas had obtained a quantity of 122mm BM-21 Grad artillery rockets. These rockets, while crude, are manufactured to comparatively exacting military standards in a number of countries and have proliferated widely. They have a range of more than 12 miles.





(click image to enlarge)
The 25-mile range indicated by the latest strikes in Beer Sheva is more than favorable wind conditions could likely account for, suggesting a larger rocket in Hamas’ arsenal. The range is consistent with the Iranian-made Fajr-3, though of course there are multiple rockets that could reach 25 miles.

While this is still far short of the roughly 50-mile distance to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Dimona (home to the Israeli nuclear weapons program), this escalation in Hamas’ reach will be a major concern for Israel.

But what matters most is not where the rockets came from, but what the rocket strike in Beer Sheva says about the progress of the Israeli campaign in Gaza. As artillery rockets increase in range, they also generally increase in size and weight. A single Grad rocket (there are multiple variants) is more than 10 feet long and weighs in at 100-175 pounds, and requires multiple people to carry it. Whatever hit Beer Sheva at the end of the fourth day of the Israeli operation was almost certainly larger.

Destroying these rockets should have been one of the first objectives of any Israeli military assault on Gaza. While Israel was never going to destroy every last cache of rockets, especially from the air, it does not bode well for Israel that Hamas is demonstrating a new capability at the end of several days of bombardment by the Israeli Air Force — which is specifically targeting, among other things, that very rocket arsenal.

Of course, a potential ground incursion is looming. Israel has already called up some 7,000 reservists and moved tanks and armored vehicles to the border, and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak reportedly has asked for the authority to activate an additional 2,520. The Israel Defense Forces are preparing for weeks of protracted fighting to eliminate as much of Hamas’ fighting capability as they can. But the “use-it-or-lose-it” moment for Hamas with its rocket arsenal likely already has passed. The Dec. 30 strike is probably better understood as a defiant Hamas demonstrating how much capability it has retained, which suggests that Israeli air power and intelligence may not have achieved early hoped-for gains.

Whether more of these longer-range rockets appear as the conflict continues will be telling. If Hamas had only two left, and the rest have been destroyed, that is one thing. But if the longer-range barrage continues unabated, then it says something very different about the Israeli campaign. Indeed, the 40 shorter-range rockets that struck the western Negev on Dec. 30 alone also do not bode well for the success of the Israeli air campaign.

Ultimately, Barak’s push to activate more reservists suggests the Israelis know they have probably achieved what can be achieved from the air, and now are preparing for extended ground raids.
23103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Invitation to dialog to Muslims on: December 31, 2008, 04:41:47 PM
Amen to that.   Rachel, your Chanukah posts on the Power of Word thread on SCE forum have touched me in this regard.  My thanks.
23104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 31, 2008, 04:40:24 PM
Rachel:

I deeply value your presence here and our mix is greatly improved by your contributions.

The Adventure continues,
Marc
23105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Invitation to dialog to Muslims on: December 31, 2008, 10:46:33 AM
Well said.
23106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Invitation to dialog to Muslims on: December 31, 2008, 10:11:36 AM
And we know how it turned out for her-- which is why I am a "Never Again Jew".
23107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: on: December 31, 2008, 09:55:57 AM
"The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position."

--George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
23108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: December 31, 2008, 03:09:10 AM
Second post:

By TRENT ENGLAND
Olympia, Wash.

Sorry Minnesota, but the sequel is never as good as the original.

For those who watched the Washington State governor's race recounts in 2004, the ongoing recount drama in Minnesota is just another rehash of the same script -- albeit for a U.S. Senate seat that might put Democrats one vote away from a filibuster-proof majority.

Four years ago in Washington, Democratic Party candidate Christine Gregoire lost the first count, lost the recount, and then won a second, highly dubious recount by 133 votes. In Minnesota, where Sen. Norm Coleman is defending his seat against comedian-turned-candidate Al Franken, the first count showed Mr. Coleman up 725 votes. Today, thanks to another dubious recount, Mr. Franken is apparently in the lead.

Razor-thin margins like these put election systems to the test. As the old proverb goes, they are a crisis and an opportunity. Yet the crises keep coming and the opportunities continue to be squandered. It's time to learn the lessons of the recount wars and address the systemic flaws in our election processes. Indeed, the price of a continued decline in voter confidence is too troubling for most Americans to comprehend.

In Washington's 2004 gubernatorial election, at least 1,392 felons illegally voted, 252 provisional ballots were wrongly counted, and 19 votes were cast from beyond the grave, according to Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges's opinion in a case brought by Dino Rossi, Ms. Gregoire's Republican opponent.

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Election workers in King County (where Seattle is located) "enhanced" 55,177 ballots to make it easier for tabulating machines to read them -- even though the county had failed to establish written procedures as required by state law. In some cases, individual election workers modified voted ballots using black felt markers and white-out tape while observers were kept at a distance that prevented meaningful observation. Nine separate times, King County "discovered" and counted unsecured ballots.

Nevertheless, Ms. Gregoire lost to Mr. Rossi by 261 votes.

An automatic recount reduced Mr. Rossi's lead to just 42 votes. The Gregoire campaign demanded a state-wide hand recount, a time-consuming and expensive process that state law says the challenger must pay for (if the result changes, the challenger is reimbursed). Big labor unions joined with far-left groups like MoveOn.org to put up the money for Ms. Gregoire's third-time's-the-charm ballot shuffle.

During the recount process, five counties found new, uncounted, unsecured ballots and added them into their totals. King County officials admitted publicly that ballot reconciliation reports were falsified in an attempt to conceal variations between the number of votes counted and the number of voters who voted (two elections workers were disciplined as a result).

By the end, 3,539 votes more than the number of voters who voted were tabulated. Four other swing counties provided an additional 4,880 mystery ballots. Ms. Gregoire was the victor by a margin of 133 votes.

That margin -- 133 votes -- happens to be the same number of ballots that Minneapolis election officials are currently missing. The initial vote tally in one Democrat-leaning precinct counted 133 more ballots than officials have been able to find for the Senate recounts. The Minnesota canvassing board decided on Dec. 12 to allow Minneapolis simply to ignore the recount and go with the original number. This provided a 46-vote boost for Mr. Franken, about the same as his current projected lead. The board also "requested" that counties reconsider rejected absentee ballots, a new and novel part of the recount procedure that is also expected to favor Mr. Franken.

Something is wrong when a victorious candidate owes more thanks to vote counters than to voters. Such was the case in Washington in 2004, and Minnesota is poised to follow in its footsteps in 2008.

It need not be this way. After 2004, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation produced a 42-page report offering a dozen solutions. While a few were implemented, most were simply ignored by officials content to cross their fingers and hope the next close election is in someone else's jurisdiction.

Some reforms are simply educational and cultural; others are fundamental and essential. Election officials need to understand current federal and state laws and regulations governing the entire election process, including recounts. Those responsible for elections must also inculcate a culture of compliance among election staff, including temporary staff hired at election time.

From the moment they are printed, ballots should be isolated and guarded and their chain of custody recorded. Officials with rule-making authority are responsible for establishing processes that clarify how ballots are to be handled, stored, counted, and, if necessary, recounted.


Most important to maintaining and increasing public faith in elections is improving openness, especially leveraging Internet technology to make anyone a potential election observer. The Minneapolis Star Tribune's project to put all 6,700 contested ballots in the Senate race on the Web, so people can compare their own judgments to those of the canvassing board, is but one example. Election officials who have nothing to hide should be putting as much as possible online as quickly as possible.

Citizens and the media might also take a closer look at some of the individuals and organizations involved in monkeying with and even overturning elections. Both Mr. Franken and Ms. Gregoire were endorsed by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- Acorn -- a group under investigation in several states for suspected voter registration chicanery.

The man overseeing the Senate recount, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, was also endorsed by Acorn, and his election campaign in 2006 was funded in part by something called "The Secretary of State Project." This latter group, founded by MoveOn.org's former grass-roots director, exists solely to install far-left candidates as secretaries of state in swing states.

Close elections will always stir controversy. They will often require recounts to validate the results. Yet the Washington and Minnesota recounts offer cautionary tales. The democratic process is too important to be disregarded until a virtual tie forces us to pay attention. Regardless of which candidates win our elections, the voters -- not the vote counters -- should win every time.

Mr. England is director of the Citizenship and Governance Center at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation.
23109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: December 31, 2008, 03:06:06 AM
By LEON ARON
Russia faces a particularly nasty version of the global recession (at a minimum), and perhaps an economic "perfect storm." Regardless of how bad its economy gets, two broad political trends, each carrying profound implications for Russia's foreign policy and U.S.-Russian relations, are bound to emerge.

 
David KleinThe first will be a growing dissatisfaction with the government, which may lead to a political crisis. The second will be a reactionary retrenchment: increased internal repression and more of its already troubling foreign policy. Managing the relationship with Moscow in the face of these trends is something President-elect Barack Obama and his administration should start thinking about now.

The size and depth of Russia's economic problems -- and thus the amount of political turbulence -- will depend primarily on two variables. The first is the ruble decline. The national currency is steadily depreciating and has reached an all-time low against the euro despite the central bank's having spent $161 billion on its defense since mid-September. The ruble's losing at least 25% to 30% of its value is a given; the key political issue is whether the weakening can be managed into a gradual decline, or whether the depreciation turns into a panicky flight from the currency. (Already last September Russians dumped around 160 billion rubles to buy $6 billion -- the highest demand for dollars since the aftermath of the 1998 financial crisis.)

The second factor is oil prices. Last year, oil revenues accounted for at least one-fifth of Russia's GDP and half of state revenues. At $40 a barrel, the state budget goes into a 3%-4% deficit. In the past eight years, the national economy has mirrored fluctuating oil prices. So the 7%-8% growth projected for 2008 will have to be cut at best to 1%-2% for 2009. Zero growth or contraction are distinct possibilities.

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Such a predicament is most dangerous politically for a country whose population has become used to incomes increasing 8%-10% every year since 2000. Growing disappointment is sure to follow, first among the elites and then people at large.

Despite the reduction of the poverty rate to 14% from 20% in the last five years, tens of millions of Russians continue to live precariously: A recent poll found that 37% of all families have money enough only to cover food. Unemployment and inflation (already 14%, year-on-year, in November) may well push these people over the edge and into the streets.

Perilous for any regime, such disenchantment would be especially worrisome in a country where the legitimacy of the entire political structure appears to rest on the popularity of one man, Vladimir Putin, whose astronomic ratings stemmed largely from the relative economic prosperity he has presided over. This dangerously narrow legitimacy will be sorely tried in the coming months.

Forestalling or at least containing inevitable political consequences of the economic crisis is likely to be at the root of the other political tendency: an attempt by the Putin-led elite, coalesced around Gazprom, Rosneft, state corporations and the loyal industrial "oligarchs," to pre-empt challenges by beefing up the authoritarian "vertical of power." The rewriting of the constitution to give the president 12 consecutive years in office signals the implementation of this strategy. The amendment was overwhelmingly passed by both houses of the Federal Assembly within three weeks in November, ratified by all 83 regional parliaments in less than a month. President Dmitry Medvedev signed it into law yesterday.

One scenario bruited about in Moscow has Mr. Medvedev taking full responsibility for the crisis and resigning to free the Kremlin for the caretaker prime minister (Mr. Putin), soon to be re-elected president.

A bill introduced in the Duma on Dec. 12 expands the definition of treason, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, to "taking action aimed at endangering the constitutional order, sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Russia. That same day the parliament approved the elimination of the right to jury trials for defendants charged with treason. The ruthlessness with which the riot police troops, the OMON, attacked protesters, journalists and bystanders in Vladivostok over the weekend of Dec. 20 may be a preview of things to come.

In Today's Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

DynastyWhole Foods FiascoHank's Deals on Wheels

TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

Business World: Let Detroit Build Profitable Cars
– Holman W. Jenkins Jr.The Tilting Yard: The 'Market' Isn't So Wise After All
– Thomas Frank

COMMENTARY

Russia's Woes Spell Trouble for the U.S.
– Lee AronThe Minnesota Recount Folly: We've Been Down That Road
– Trent EnglandInstant Info Is a Two-Edged Sword
– Paul H. RubinFree Trade Should Be Part of the Stimulus
– James BacchusA reactionary crackdown will also mean the continuation and intensification of the already incessant and deafening propaganda portraying Russia as a "besieged fortress," surrounded by the U.S.-led enemies on the outside and undermined by the "fifth column" of the democratic political opposition within. In the words of one of the most astute independent columnists, the courageous Yulia Latyinina, the rabid anti-Americanism, which has become a linchpin of the regime's domestic political strategy, is likely to turn into a full-blown "hysteria."

The key lesson of George W. Bush's dealings with Russia is that the Kremlin's foreign policy priorities are determined by the changing ideology and the domestic political agenda of Russia's rulers to a far greater degree than by anything the U.S. does or does not do. (Which is why the U.S. exit from the antiballistic missile treaty was accepted with equanimity in 2002, while the intent to install a rudimentary antimissile system provoked Moscow's fury in 2007.) If reaction advances at home, the Kremlin will continue a truculent or outright aggressive foreign policy of resurgence and retribution, intended, among other things, to distract from and justify domestic repression. The recovery of geostrategic assets lost in the Soviet collapse will remain Moscow's overarching objective, especially in the territory of the former Soviet Union.

The Obama White House will have to navigate a difficult and narrow path in its relations with Moscow in 2009 between continuing to engage Moscow on the key issues of mutual concern (Iran, missile defense, nonproliferation, terrorism), on the one hand, and the broader strategic goal of assisting democratic stabilization in Russia.

But no matter what the Kremlin leaders and their propaganda stooges say in public, anything interpreted as approval or even a mere sign of respect by America, first and foremost by its president, is a huge boost to the government's domestic popularity and legitimacy. So the natural, almost protocol-dictated, inclination of the new administration to show good will must be balanced against firm support for the return to political and economic liberalization in Russia. Throwing diplomatic lifelines to a regime that refuses to choose such a path out of the crisis is not in America's -- and Russia's -- long-term interests.

Mr. Aron is director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the author, most recently, of "Russia's Revolution: Essays 1989-2007" (AEI, 2007).
23110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: December 31, 2008, 03:02:24 AM
For those who thought the new era of Democratic governance would be dull, we present this year's Senate replacement follies. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich kept the entertainment going yesterday by defying just about everyone and nominating former state Attorney General Roland Burris to the seat being vacated by President-elect Obama.

Recall that federal prosecutors had gone public with their criminal complaint against Mr. Blagojevich earlier this month expressly to deter him from making such an appointment. Mr. Obama had then declared that the Governor should not make an appointment, and Senate Democrats had said they wouldn't seat anyone Mr. Blagojevich did appoint. Majority Leader Harry Reid repeated that pledge yesterday regarding Mr. Burris, who lost to the Governor in a primary in 2002 but then was vice chairman of his transition team.


Democrats who run the state assembly are still trying to impeach Mr. Blagojevich, but meantime they've stepped back from allowing a special election for the seat. Democrats hope to dump the Governor and then have his replacement appoint a different Democrat. No doubt they're afraid Republicans might win given this exquisite display of competent, honest Democratic government.

Meanwhile, Democrats in New York are fighting over Caroline Kennedy's campaign to be appointed to the Senate seat being vacated by Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton. Former Democrat and former Republican and now independent Mayor Mike Bloomberg is all for the idea, as reportedly is Mr. Obama, whom the daughter of JFK and niece of Senator Ted Kennedy endorsed at a crucial moment during the Presidential primaries. Not so happy is New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the son of a former three-term Governor, who would like the seat himself and was once married to a Kennedy.


Caught in the middle is Democrat David Paterson, who will appoint a new Senator but is Governor himself only because Eliot Spitzer flamed out with a prostitute. Ms. Kennedy hasn't helped herself with a recent spate of interviews showing she doesn't know very much about many public issues. But then how much worse could she be than the professional politicians who populate Albany or represent New York in Washington? Democrats will outnumber Republicans in New York's House delegation next year, 26-3, and it speaks volumes about their abilities that Mr. Paterson might choose a dynastic neophyte over any of them.

Lest it be overlooked, there's also the spectacle in Delaware, where the soon-to-depart Joe Biden has arranged to have a crony appointed to take his Senate seat of 36 years. Edward "Ted" Kaufman, a former aide to Mr. Biden, is expected to keep the seat away from a more ambitious Democrat for two years, until Joe's son Beau Biden, the state attorney general, can return from his National Guard tour in Iraq and run in 2010 to maintain the family business.

And don't forget Colorado, where a mooted Senate replacement for Secretary of Interior nominee Ken Salazar is his brother, Congressman John Salazar. Democratic Governor Bill Ritter, who has benefited from the money and organization of the Salazar political machine, will make that appointment.

So to recap all of this change you can believe in: A Kennedy and Cuomo are competing to succeed a Clinton in New York; the skids are greased for a Biden to replace a Biden in Delaware; one Salazar might replace another in Colorado; and a Governor charged with political corruption in Illinois wants one of his cronies to succeed the President-elect. Let's just say we're looking forward to 2009.
23111  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 30, 2008, 06:53:57 PM
JDN: 

You seem to be a very nice person, but when human lives are at stake, having "nice opinions" that make nice statements about the nice person that you are just don't cut it-- they get real people, nice people, killed.

Here's one report on Israel's efforts to minimize collateral damage.
=====================================

Israel phones in warning to flee Gaza Strip strikes
By Abraham Rabinovich in Jerusalem
The Australian
December 30, 2008 12:01am

RESIDENTS at certain addresses in the Gaza Strip have been receiving unusual phone calls since the Israeli air assault began on Saturday - a request that they and their families leave their homes as soon as possible for their own safety.

More unusual than the recorded message is the Arabic-speaking caller, who identifies himself as being from the Israeli defence forces, The Australian reports.

Dipping into their bag of tricks for the updated Gaza telephone numbers, Israel's intelligence services are warning Palestinian civilians in Gaza living close to Hamas facilities that they may be hurt unless they distance themselves from those targets.

In some cases, the warning comes not by telephone but from leaflets dropped from aircraft on selected districts.

Such warnings clearly eliminate the element of surprise, but for Israel it is of cardinal importance to minimise civilian casualties, and not just for humanitarian reasons.

The principal calculation is fear that a stray bomb hitting a school or any collection of innocent civilians could bring down the wrath of the international community on Israel, as has happened more than once in the past, and force it to halt its campaign before it has achieved its objectives.

Israel Radio reported that leaflets had been dropped at the beginning of the operation in the Rafah area near the border with Egypt, warning residents that the tunnels to Egypt through which weapons and civilian products were smuggled would be bombed.

Many of the residents, mostly youths, are employed in the tunnels. Initial reports said two people were killed when the tunnels were bombed.

Gaza is one of the most densely built-up areas in the world, making it extremely difficult to pinpoint targets without collateral damage.

Israeli officials say that the small percentage of civilians killed so far is due to precise intelligence regarding the location of Hamas targets and accurate bombing and rocketing.

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,24855309-2,00.html
===========================================

The underlying truth for most of the criticism of Israel is this:

1) Cowardice:  Europe fears its own Arabs/Turks/Muslims

2) Cowardice and Greed:  It ain't "Blood for oil."  Its "Sell out the Jews for oil."

23112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: December 30, 2008, 02:06:20 PM
In today's Political Diary:

- Note to Readers
- Obama Senate Seat Becomes a Test of 'Chicago Politics'
- Republicans vs. Bailout Nation
- Fannie, Freddie and Hankie (Quote of the Day I)
- Nosey Parker (Quote of the Day II)
- Advice from Voters for the GOP


Note to Readers

PD will be getting an early start on goofing off in '09. We'll be back on Monday. Happy New Year!

-- The Mgmt.


Where Obama Comes From

Barack Obama's Senate seat has been vacant for a month now and looks like it will remain vacant as long as embattled Governor Rod Blagojevich resists efforts to remove him from office or persuade him to resign. The governor has said he won't be naming anyone to fill the Obama vacancy because the U.S. Senate wouldn't likely seat such a tainted appointee.

A special election to fill the vacancy was initially proposed by leading Democrats such as U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Lt. Governor Pat Quinn and Senate President Emil Jones. But they backed off as realization dawned that Republicans might actually have a chance of winning a special election in the person of Congressman Mark Kirk, a respected moderate from the Chicago suburbs who has $5 million in his campaign fund.

So Democrats are stuck. As long as Mr. Blagojevich remains in office, Illinois will have only one senator and the voting public will be upset at the failure to call a special election.

That's why one Democratic state legislator is proposing a stopgap solution. Chicago Democrat Will Burns is introducing a bill that would require anyone Governor Blagojevich might appoint to the Senate to undergo hearings before both houses of the state legislature, followed by a confirmation vote. "Balancing the fiscal problems the state is facing with the need for more disclosure and a better process, I thought that this hybrid proposal provides the public with more transparency," Mr. Burns told Illinois Public Radio.

But his bill doesn't envision any long-term change in the process by which vacated U.S. Senate seats are filled in Illinois. The new bill would be a "one ride only" piece of legislation applying solely to the Obama vacancy.

Illinois pols can come up with any number of Rube Goldberg solutions to avoid a straightforward special election that would put the choice in the hands of voters. But if a special election were called, it could be held in conjunction with local elections already scheduled for most of the state in February or April. The cost would be minimal and voters would have real input in who will be representing them in Washington. Of course, that would mean the pols would lose control of the process, something which can't be allowed to happen in machine-dominated Illinois.

-- John Fund


The Bush Hangover

The Republican National Committee, which consists of two representatives from every state and territory, is technically the governing body of the Republican Party. In reality, it has normally been a rubber-stamp for the incumbent president whenever the White House is in GOP hands. "I've never seen much of any debate, much less a contested vote, in the years I've been on it," one RNC member told me.

But the debacle of the last two election cycles, coupled with an increasingly erratic set of policy choices by the Bush White House, is finally prompting a mini-revolt. A group of RNC members has initiated a special meeting to hear presentations from the six candidates running for the job of chairman. Even more significantly, the RNC's vice chairman and other officials are sponsoring a resolution that will oppose the Bush White House's support of seemingly bottomless bailouts for Wall Street and the auto industry.

"We can't be a party of small government, free markets and low taxes while supporting bailouts and nationalizing industries, which lead to big government, socialism and high taxes at the expense of individual liberty and freedoms," Solomon Yue of Oregon, a cosponsor of the resolution, told the Washington Times. The resolution was written by James Bopp, a noted constitutional law attorney who is the RNC's national vice chairman.

"Articulating a political philosophy is equally important as applying it consistently," says Mr. Yue. "Failing to do so, we have today's identity crisis, which resulted in our losses in 2006 and 2008."

The resolution is scheduled to be presented during the RNC's next general meeting in Washington D.C., which will be held between January 28 and 30. While the fact that some RNC members have finally developed a policy backbone is commendable, their declaration of independence comes a bit late. The Bush administration will be safely out of town by the time the resolution comes up for a vote.

-- John Fund


Quote of the Day I

"By mid-2006 there was a new actor in this long-running drama: Hank Paulson, the former Goldman Sachs C.E.O. who had just become Treasury secretary. Unlike the advisers who surrounded Bush, Paulson did not believe that the G.S.E.'s [government-sponsored enterprises, notably Fannie and Freddie] were the bogeymen of the financial system. After all, they had been major clients of his for years, and the ties between Goldman and Fannie ran deep. Nor did Paulson want any part of what he called 'the closest thing I've witnessed to a Holy War.' Paulson quickly began to move away from what one observer calls the 'extreme rigidity' of the administration's position. . . . 'I was aghast,' says a longtime G.S.E. foe, expressing a common attitude. 'Here we were fighting trench warfare with Fannie and Freddie, and Paulson says, "Let's cut a deal and say we won." Some of us really did believe they were a house of cards''' -- Vanity Fair writer Bethany McLean, on the federal government's failure to rein in mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.


Quote of the Day II

"Given the holidays and the press of business in preparation for the new administration, we have not reconstructed the circumstances behind each ticket. However, Congressman Rangel is confident that the National Leadership PAC and Rangel for Congress complied with all applicable laws and regulations in connection with these expenses, which were fully reported consistent with FEC requirements" -- Emile Milne, spokesman for Rep. Charlie Rangel, on revelations that Mr. Rangel used campaign funds to pay $1,540 in parking tickets in the District of Columbia, an illegal use of donations unless the fines were incurred as part of campaign events.


The GOP's 12 Steps to Recovery

The first comprehensive poll on why voters voted the way they did in November has just been released by the communications firm Target Point Consulting. I received a full briefing from the pollster Alex Lundry on what these 1,000 voters think of Republicans. The short answer is: not much.

The GOP is "in great disfavor with the electorate right now. Republicans are blamed for fiscal mismanagement, overspending, and the bad economy," says Mr. Lundry. "Democrats are seen as a center-right party, while Republicans are seen as dominated by the right."

That's a big problem because even though 84% of voters say they are center or right on the ideological spectrum, the 48% in the middle, i.e., independents, are tilting heavily toward Democrats. The fairly narrow victory by Barack Obama in the popular vote disguises an "enthusiasm gap" among Democratic and Republican voters. Some 65% of Obama voters "strongly supported" him, whereas only 33% of John McCain voters "strongly supported" the Arizona Republican. This helps explain the river of money for Mr. Obama and the massive grassroots advantage for the Democrats.

But the biggest problem revealed by the poll for Republicans is that "voters no longer believe that the party cares about the middle class in a meaningful or credible way," Mr. Lundry explains. "Democrats cleverly frame every issue as for the middle class."

What issues have Republicans hurt themselves most on? Three that jump out are immigration, where Republicans are seen as too strident; the War in Iraq, where voters are eager for closure; and bailouts, where voters have become angry and resentful at throwing money at failing giant corporations. Furthermore, as economic anxieties have escalated, independent voters are now more favorably inclined toward protectionist trade policies. Free marketeers need to make a better case for the positive benefits of international trade or more restrictions are certainly on the way.

The good news is that voters are very fearful that Democrats will go too far with their liberal agenda. When voters are asked what they "like least about the Democrats," the most common answers volunteered were: "taxes going up," "big government," "liberal," "raise spending," and even "socialism." These broad economic and fiscal principles appear to present the GOP with its biggest opening.

The poll also reveals that Republicans can win back voters by opposing Democrats on several specific policies coming down the pike in 2009: card-check labor union elections, bailouts for banks and auto makers, welfare expansions and affirmative action.

The key for the months ahead is for Republicans to posture themselves, advises Mr. Lundry, "not as obstructionists, but as a check on the Obama agenda."

-- Stephen Moore
23113  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Ecuador on: December 30, 2008, 01:47:42 PM
Mi computadora no tiene internet en el momento por lo cual no puedo traducir lo siguiente:


MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images
Ecuadorian President Rafael CorreaSummary
In the wake of a default on international debt, Ecuador is already borrowing from its own Social Security Institute. At the same time, the country is imposing all oil production cuts related to its membership in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on foreign investors — a decision that will alienate foreign direct investment. The two moves together bring Ecuador closer to economic crisis.

Analysis
Ecuador is due to sell a $500 million tranche of debt to the country’s Social Security Institute (IESS) on Dec. 29, bringing the government’s total domestic borrowing to $1.2 billion in the past week. The move follows Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s announcement that his government would default on $3.9 billion worth of debt owed on international credit markets. At the same time, Ecuador is poised to force foreign energy investors to absorb Ecuador’s portion of the production cut agreed on by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Combined, the moves bring Ecuador closer to the brink of economic crisis.

Ecuador’s decision to default on its debt made it the first developing country to use default as a way of managing its options in the wake of the international financial crisis. The move exacerbates Ecuador’s isolation from an already risk-averse international capital market, and will make it very difficult for the country to cover its expenses.

With no access to international capital, the government’s only option for borrowing is the domestic capital market, which is limited to Ecuadorian banks and lending institutions such as the IESS. But the market is extremely small, particularly given that Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its national currency and has no recourse to monetary expansion as a method of broadening its spending options.

Although Ecuador may be forced to drop the dollar, in the meantime it is limited to the pools of dollars that already exist. The capacity of the IESS is quite limited, as social security taxes only amount to about $1.9 billion per year. With the government already purchasing $1.2 billion, this option will be quickly exhausted. Furthermore, the government is also rapidly depleting foreign reserves, which fell 8.4 percent Dec. 19 from a week earlier, to $4.8 billion.

The country’s largest pool of capital (and likely the next stop for the government) is the banking industry, which is worth about $18.8 billion, or about 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. But the banking industry has already expressed nervousness about the current economic situation, and the government’s complete reliance on the small sector could quickly exhaust the banks’ resources. Furthermore, the government’s absorption of all domestic capital will make it impossible for private businesses to borrow, which will stifle the private sector as it attempts to adjust to a declining economy.

The government’s budgetary stress is exacerbated by the fact that the price of oil — a major export commodity for Ecuador — has fallen dramatically. As a member of OPEC, Ecuador is obligated to cut production alongside fellow OPEC members in an attempt to raise the international price of oil. This further reduces Ecuador’s options for revenue. The Correa administration has decided to implement the cuts, but only through reductions in foreign firms’ production quotas.

Ecuador’s decision to place the entire burden of OPEC cuts on foreign companies will hit Ecuador’s only other source of foreign capital: foreign direct investment. It does make a certain kind of sense for Ecuador to force private companies to absorb the production cuts. Ecuador relied on oil revenues for about 39 percent of its 2008 budget, which totaled just under $16 billion, and most of that revenue came from the country’s state-owned energy company Petroecuador. Thus, enforcing OPEC cuts on the state company could hurt the budget severely in the short term. But by targeting foreign investors, Correa is courting a long-term economic decline.

Ecuador’s options are severely limited in the wake of the financial crisis and the default. With oil prices plunging and access to international credit gone, the government will have to scrounge for funding sources. A complete reliance on domestic capital and the alienation of international investors appear increasingly likely to bring Ecuador close to yet another economic crisis.
23114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: India and India-Pak on: December 30, 2008, 12:31:34 PM
The preceding makes sense in the context of the following:

Geopolitical Diary: Pakistan's Nuclear Option
December 30, 2008 | 0255 GMT
It has now been more than a month since the Mumbai attacks unfolded, and India has not responded militarily in Pakistan. Some war preparations have been made and New Delhi has by no means taken the military operation off the table, but the crisis, for now, is at a lull. In an unscheduled conversation recently with his Indian counterpart, Director-General of Military Operations Lt. Gen. A. S. Sekhon, over the crisis hotline between their capitals, Pakistan’s Maj. Gen. Javed Iqbal very well might have given an overt reminder of Islamabad’s longstanding nuclear first-use policy. It is possible that India took a step back to re-evaluate its options and the consequences of direct military intervention in Pakistan.

Two nuclear-armed foes adhering to a no-first-use policy are unlikely to have a nuclear exchange. In first-use, one or both adversaries deliberately hold their nuclear weapons out as a deterrent to various forms of aggression, or as leverage when the conventional dynamics are unfavorable to them. Like NATO in Europe during the Cold War, Pakistan is simply incapable of quantitatively matching Indian demographics and conventional military forces (challenges only compounded by Islamabad’s qualitative and technological disadvantages in relation to India). Nuclear weapons are Pakistan’s ace in the hole. Consequently, Islamabad maintains an overt first-use policy, just as the United States and NATO never ruled out first-use.

Despite this, there are some very real differences between the Cold War dynamic and the current situation between India and Pakistan that are useful to highlight in assessing the likelihood of escalation:

Distance: The Americans and the Soviets were, for all intents and purposes, several thousand miles apart, despite the proximity of Alaska to Russia’s Far East. The inability to deliver meaningful conventional strikes at that distance until the waning days of the Cold War meant that any direct confrontation likely would be nuclear or result in a massive land war in Europe. In comparison, Islamabad and New Delhi are less than 500 miles apart. Dense populations, saddle both sides of the border, and the Pakistani demographic, agricultural and industrial heartland lies directly across a border from India — with no real geographic barriers to invasion. This increases the likelihood of conventional warfare and, therefore, the potential for escalation toward the nuclear realm.
Global scale: With interests around the globe, it was easy enough for the Soviet Union and the United States to challenge each other indirectly through proxies and peripheral wars, from Korea to Vietnam and Afghanistan. In the case of Pakistan and India, the historical alternatives to a massive confrontation along the Punjab border have been fighting in the mountains and on the glaciers of Kashmir, blockades of Pakistani ports, and the use of militant proxies. With military competition so close to home, the use of ballistic missiles and strike aircraft in conventional roles inevitably raises the specter of their use in the nuclear role — and when the stakes are that high, one does not have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for clarification of intent once a missile makes impact. With any launch, one must assume the worst.
Mutually assured destruction: Though Pakistan’s small, crude and low-yield arsenal could indeed be devastating, it does not threaten India with total destruction. With its own delivery systems capable of reaching every corner of Pakistan, New Delhi enjoys immense strategic depth that Islamabad cannot match with any current systems. India’s arsenal is more mature and more robust than Pakistan’s. Thus, Islamabad’s first-use policy is actually defensive in nature; it is a deterrent against Indian aggression that, in the end, Pakistan knows it could not defeat.
But first-use is also a policy of which not only the Indian military, but Indian society at large, is well aware. Delivering an explicit reminder of this issue, during a tense conversation in the midst of a crisis, would be a deliberate choice by Pakistan.

The advantage of being a nuclear power is the ability to draw a line in the sand when the going gets tough. It is hardly a guaranteed defense, but certainly will give one’s adversary pause. Ultimately, it did not deter the Chinese from moving forces into North Korea in 1950 or the Syrians and Egyptians from invading Israel in 1973 (which, at that point, was known to have nuclear weapons). In fact, it didn’t deter Pakistan from conducting a bold military operation in the 1999 Kargil war, nor did it keep India and Pakistan from coming to a near-nuclear confrontation in 2002 after an attack on the Indian parliament. And ultimately, it might not deter India now. Islamabad is probably not willing to escalate to nuclear war over a few Indian air strikes, when the price for escalation would be an inevitable and devastating nuclear reprisal from New Delhi. India can be fairly confident of this fact.

The question, now that Pakistan appears to have drawn a very clear line in the sand, is how India will respond. How will the world community move to de-escalate a crisis that no one —- not India, not Pakistan, nor anyone else —- is interested in seeing deteriorate into a nuclear exchange (however unlikely this remains in practice)?

There is a problem with a weaker nuclear power playing this card when neither its chief foe nor the world’s sole superpower has any interest in escalating nuclear tensions: The threat itself might go too far. While it could succeed in getting India to take a step back and re-evaluate, it also could drive the Indians and Americans to consider a bilateral strategic deal. Moreover, it leaves India -— and the United States —- to contemplate just how hard it might be to take the Pakistani deterrent out of the equation.

And removing a nuclear power’s nuclear power is a profoundly dangerous proposition in and of itself.
23115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: December 30, 2008, 12:15:29 PM
Stratfor
---------------------------

 

GEOPOLITICAL DIARY: THE LATEST PHASE OF ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN FIGHTING

The Israeli military attacked Hamas-controlled Gaza this weekend. On Friday, Hamas had terminated its unilateral truce with the Israelis. The decision was accompanied by rockets fired into Israel and claims by Hamas that it had longer-range rockets capable of striking even deeper into the country. The Israelis responded with a massive attack that was designed to smash Hamas' infrastructure, impose heavy penalties on Gaza for Hamas' decision, and attempt to preempt not only rocket attacks but also a new campaign of suicide bombers. Whether the campaign will achieve Israel’s goals or trigger an escalation from the Hamas side is now the issue. What is not at issue is that a new round of fighting in Gaza had been expected for weeks. Hamas had made it clear that it was going to end the truce, and Israel had made it clear that it would consider the war resumed and respond accordingly.

The first question is why Hamas chose to end the truce, opening the door to an Israeli attack. The answer might lie in the fact that Palestinian elections are coming up. While Hamas was a pure opposition party, it was an effective critic of Fatah's governance. But having been responsible for Gaza for a while, Hamas now bears criticism for the conditions there, and thus the party's popularity had slipped. Having failed to make significant inroads into the West Bank -- where Fatah dominated -- and having drawn criticism for its administration in Gaza, Hamas saw its momentum blunted.

Hamas was much more effective as a combat party, fighting the Israelis, than as an administrative party dealing with the intractable problem of Gaza. The longer it remained passive toward the Israelis and the longer it remained responsible for Gaza, the less it was likely to appeal to Palestinian voters. Hamas made a strategic decision to re-establish its credentials as the only Palestinian force effectively fighting Israel. In doing so, it also reinforced the perception of Fatah as collaborating with the Israelis (and an Israeli attack is also a mechanism to prompt Palestinians to rally behind Hamas). From Hamas' point of view -- facing a hopeless situation governing Gaza and a showdown with Fatah -- ending the truce made sense in the long term, on the premise that a conventional attack by Israel would not decisively break Hamas' capability.

The Israeli response was also, on one level, driven by public opinion. Hamas' ability to attack Israeli positions with rockets, or potentially to launch another round of suicide bombings in Israeli population centers, was quite real. If it happened, Israeli public opinion not only would create a crisis for any Israeli government, but also would strengthen those forces that felt that any peace process with the Palestinians was impossible.

Ehud Olmert, still prime minister pending a new government, saw the Hamas move as an opportunity. Hamas created a situation that had to be dealt with. Waiting for his successor to deal with the problem would bog that successor down in an issue with the international community that would cripple any ongoing diplomacy. Launching a security campaign as a lame-duck prime minister takes the issue off his successor's plate. In an odd way, this increases the chance of some sort of settlement with the Palestinians, by allowing Olmert to be cast as a villain.

If this seems more complicated than it should be, that is not an incorrect impression. Underneath all of this is a core reality: A Palestinian state on the 1948 borders is an impossibility for both Palestinians and Israelis. For the Palestinians, it would mean a state divided physically between Gaza and the West Bank, without an independent economic foundation. It would be a fiasco. For the Israelis, the 1948 borders would allow the Palestinians to rocket Tel Aviv easily, with no guarantee that a Palestinian state would or could put a stop to it. The Palestinians need more than the 1948 borders, and the Israelis can't even give that.

Therefore, the current cycle of violence is simply one of many such cycles that are hardwired into the geography of Israel and Palestine and from which there is no escape. It is almost unnecessary to go through the political reasoning that has led each side to this point, except to explain why it is happening now instead of earlier or later. The politics simply determine the time and shape of conflict. Geography determines that the conflict is intractable.
23116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Is this true? on: December 30, 2008, 12:10:00 PM
This from orbat.com....is setting the indian defense forums in a
frenzy...dont know if it is fact or fantasy...but the writer is a
"respected" forum moderator...Yash


*India offers US 120,000 troops for Afghanistan*



We asked Mandeep "are we being used by the Indians in a psyops game to put
pressure on Pakistan?" Not that the Government of India knows we exist, but
in all the movies about the media the Editor always asks if the paper is
being played.

   -

   Mandeep's answer, paraphrased, was this: "I don't know at what level the
   offer has been made, but the Indian Army and Air Force are down to
   identifying specific units, formations, and squadrons..." - details, as we
   said, at Long War Journal - "...as well as discussing a specific name for
   force commander, plus working on the details of pre-deployment training, so
   this is a lot more elaborate than needed for a psyops game.'
   -

   We'd prefer to discuss this after we learn more, rather than waste your
   time with elaborate theories spun out of nothing ("Orbat.com's military
   sources say..."). But the following points are immediately apparent.
   -

   For the new US administration, this offer would be heaven-sent and just
   making it would put the US Government in debt to the Indians - "your other
   friends/allies talked, we walked." The administration could turn around to
   to its own people, and say: "Americans, you complain we are carrying the
   Afghan burden by ourselves, now we have a partner."
   -

   At Orbat.com we've been constantly talking about the need for more
   manpower; well, here you have a whacking big increment of manpower. With
   US/Allied troops it takes one to 75% of what Orbat.com considers a minimum
   force if Afghanistan is to be won.
   -

   In one deft swoop, India forces the Americans to chose Delhi over
   Islamabad. To the Indians the constant US attempt to "balance" the two
   countries has been a source of serious blood pressure since the 1940s;
   obviously if the Americans accept it has to be India First from now on and
   Pakistan gets marginalized. Moreover, the Indians put America up the creek
   without the paddle regarding Pakistan: "what is it your so-called ally is
   doing, compared to what we are willing to do."
   -

   The devious cunning of the Indian move becomes more apparent when you
   consider if the US government refuses, the American people are going to get
   on the Government's case: "The Indians are offering and you're still
   sticking with those slimey two-timers the Pakistanis?"
   -

   For India, offering a huge contingent takes the pressure off the Indian
   government to act aggressively against Pakistan. India does not have a
   launch a single sortie against Pakistan to punish it for acting against
   India. Indian government can tell its own people: "What good will a pinprick
   do? The Israelis have been bashing up the Palestinians for two decades, and
   where are the results? What we are doing is to strike a hard blow at
   Pakistan without crossing the Pakistan border and getting beat up by
   everyone for provoking war."
   -

   Plus India neatly destroys Pakistan's strategic depth objective. The
   Indians have been wanting to get into the act in Afghanistan for several
   years, because they know a Taliban government means more fundamentalist
   pressure on Pakistan and thereby on India. But the Americans have been
   refusing India help for fear of offending the Pakistanis. For India to get
   into Afghanistan in force is to again change the paradigm of
   Indian-Pakistani relations as happened in 1971 when India split East Bengal
   from Pakistan. For the last almost 40 years India's efforts to marginalize
   Pakistan have been stymied. If the US accepts the Indian offer, India gains
   hugely.
   -

   But right now a lot of American decision-makers do not care if Pakistan
   is offended because they see the latter has no interest in fighting the
   insurgents or helping the US against the Taliban. Once alternate supply
   routes are available, US can write off Pakistan and as a consequence,
   paradoxically, vastly increase its leverage in that country.
   -

   As for Pakistani/jihadi retaliation against India or the Indian
   contingent in Afghanistan, we've said before the Indians don't care. Their
   point is India is squarely in the sights of the jihadis: India is already
   under severe, sustained attack and unable to retaliate. As for the security
   of the Indian troops, that really is the last thing the Indians are
   concerned about. They want to go to Afghanistan to fight, not to protect
   their troops against suicide bombers.
   -

   Two other minor points in passing. By making this offer, India takes the
   wind out of Pakistan's sails because the latter has very successful turned
   the world's attention from the Bombay atrocity to getting the world to stop
   escalation between India and Pakistan. Every day that goes by, India has
   less diplomatic/geopolitical freedom to hit Pakistan. But if India has
   offered several divisions for Afghanistan, obviously the last thing the
   Indians are thinking of is attacking Pakistan - 3/4th of the Army troops (as
   opposed to the CI troops) India is earmarking for Afghanistan are from the
   three strike corps. So India undercuts Pakistani claims that Delhi is
   preparing to attack.
   -

   The second point we find interesting. PRC knows if Pakistan falls to the
   jihadis, Sinkiang is the next target. By offering to go to Afghanistan,
   India is directly helping Beijing. Which puts Beijing in a very awkward spot
   as India is a big rival for influence in Asia. Not only will Indians be
   helping PRC, if China does send troops to Afghanistan, Delhi will canoodle
   with Washington without competition from China. The Chinese will have no
   choice but to join the Afghan venture or lose influence in South and Central
   Asia, and with Washington.
   -

   To sum up: Orbat.com has been second to none in bashing the Government of
   India as incompetent and impotent. But with this offer, India has overnight
   changed the rules of game in South/Central Asia and struck a potentially
   fatal blow at Pakistan. In the end, this could become much, much bigger by
   an order of magnitude than breaking off East Pakistan in 1971.
23117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: December 30, 2008, 10:31:26 AM
"She is the federal employee who Monica Lewinsky took her tale of presidential trysts to."

"She is the federal employee to whom Monica Lewinsky took her tale of presidential trysts."  wink

I must be slow this morning , , , I am still not understanding. embarassed


23118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / wsj: BO will ration on: December 30, 2008, 10:01:45 AM
By SALLY C. PIPES
People are policy. And now that President-elect Barack Obama has fielded his team of Tom Daschle as secretary of Health and Human Services and Melody Barnes as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, we can predict both the strategy and substance of the new administration's health-care reform.

The prognosis is not good for patients, physicians or taxpayers. If Mr. Daschle meant what he wrote in his book "Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis," Americans can expect a quick, hard push to build more federal bureaucracy, impose price controls, restrict medicines and technology, boost taxes, mandate the purchase of health insurance, and expand government health care.

In his book, Mr. Daschle proposes a National Health Board to regulate the way health care is provided. This board would have vast powers in regulating the massive federal health-care system -- a system that includes Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs. Under Mr. Obama, it is likely that that system will be expanded and that new government insurance for the nonelderly, nonpoor will be created.

Given the opportunity, Mr. Daschle would likely charge the board with determining which treatments and drugs are cost effective and therefore permissible to use for patients covered by the government. And because the government is such a big player in the health-care market (46% of health-care spending comes from the government), the board would effectively set parameters for private insurers.

It is nearly certain that the process of determining which drugs and which treatments would be approved for use would be quickly politicized. The details of health-care policy may not be kitchen table conversation, but the fact that a Washington committee can deny grandma a hip replacement due to her age, or your sister a new and expensive drug, is. Health care is personal and voters will pressure lawmakers on access to care.

Liberal experts, Mr. Daschle included, believe that America needs to ration new technology and drugs. In his book, Mr. Daschle complains about overuse of new technology and praises the United Kingdom's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), a rationing system that controls government costs. NICE's denial of care is legendary -- from the arthritis drug Abatacept to the lung cancer drug Tarceva. These drugs are effective. It's just that the bureaucrats don't consider them cost effective.

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Americans will not put up with such limits, nor will our elected representatives. Mr. Daschle himself proves this. He punts the hard decisions about rationing to an unelected board. Yet his main proposals are not only about expanding subsidized programs to cover more people but about adding the massively expensive benefit categories of mental health, which has a strong lobby behind it, and long-term care, which is important to the broad middle class.

One of the great myths in health care is that the uninsured are responsible for driving up private premiums by shifting costs. Uncompensated care certainly shifts some costs to private payers. Yet these costs are actually quite manageable in the aggregate, akin to what retailers lose due to shoplifting. The major cost shift is from government programs -- Medicare and Medicaid -- to private plans. The government pays doctors to treat Medicare and Medicaid patients. But the rates it pays, on average, are less than the cost for providing care to these patients. This is why Medicaid patients, and increasingly Medicare patients, struggle to find doctors. Putting more people on these programs will destabilize the remaining private system and create a coalition for price and wage controls.

Americans will never tolerate this. Remember our managed-care experiment in the 1990s. It succeeded in its main goal of controlling costs without an aggregate reduction in health quality. But in asking Americans to limit their choices, it prompted a bipartisan act of Congress to provide patients with a Bill of Rights. Now Mr. Daschle proposes nothing less than a giant HMO with a federal bureaucracy setting the benefit plan.

Mr. Daschle's model is Massachusetts. But Massachusetts's plan is an unfolding disaster and demonstrates how Mr. Daschle's private/public model is merely a stalking horse for government-dominated health care.

In Today's Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

The Wizards of OilThe Philanthropy ShakedownYou Are Your Record

TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

Global View: Hamas Know One Big Thing
– Bret StephensMain Street: New Jersey Is the Perfect Bad Example
– William McGurn

COMMENTARY

Samuel Huntington's Warning
– Fouad AjamiWhy Detroit Has an Especially Bad Union Problem
– Logan RobinsonObama Will Ration Your Health Care
– Sally C. PipesThe FDA Is Killing Crohn's Patients
– Gideon J. Sofer
The headline claim is that the program has signed up 442,000 more people for health insurance. The reality is that 80,000 of these were simply put on Medicaid and 176,000 more on the taxpayer-subsidized plans. Costs have exploded, requiring additional tax hikes and the entire system is only possible due to sizable transfers from the federal government. The plans are so unaffordable that in 2007, 62,000 people were exempted from the individual mandate. So much for universal coverage.

The only way the Massachusetts plan will survive is with continued and increasing federal subsidies -- that is, tax revenue from the residents of other states. The only way Mr. Daschle's proposed plan would survive is with massive deficit spending -- that is, with taxpayer money from future Americans, many of whom are not yet born.

Mr. Daschle and the Democrats have spent years developing both the policy and political strategy to make the final push for taxpayer-financed universal health insurance. They have the players on the field, a crisis providing a sense of urgency, and a playbook filled with lessons learned from years of health policy reform disasters -- most recently that of HillaryCare in 1994.

The big questions for believers in private medicine are at this point political and strategic. With employers and most insurers reportedly on board with the new administration's desire for radical overhaul, who will step in to ask the tough questions? Will these issues get raised in time to provoke a meaningful, fact-based debate? Americans could easily find that Mr. Obama's 100-day honeymoon ends with a whole new health-care regime they hadn't quite bargained for.

Ms. Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, is the author of "The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care: A Citizen's Guide" (Pacific Research Institute, 2008).

 
23119  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Stickfighting from around the World on: December 30, 2008, 09:55:30 AM
Please give Bruno my regards.
23120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: S.Huntington and The American Creed: on: December 30, 2008, 09:54:51 AM
Thank you.

Who is Lucianne?

Speaking of the American Creed, here's this:
==============================

By FOUAD AJAMI
The last of Samuel Huntington's books -- "Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity," published four years ago -- may have been his most passionate work. It was like that with the celebrated Harvard political scientist, who died last week at 81. He was a man of diffidence and reserve, yet he was always caught up in the political storms of recent decades.

 
Zina Saunders"This book is shaped by my own identities as a patriot and a scholar," he wrote. "As a patriot I am deeply concerned about the unity and strength of my country as a society based on liberty, equality, law and individual rights." Huntington lived the life of his choice, neither seeking controversies, nor ducking them. "Who Are We?" had the signature of this great scholar -- the bold, sweeping assertions sustained by exacting details, and the engagement with the issues of the time.

He wrote in that book of the "American Creed," and of its erosion among the elites. Its key elements -- the English language, Christianity, religious commitment, English concepts of the rule of law, the responsibility of rulers, and the rights of individuals -- he said are derived from the "distinct Anglo-Protestant culture of the founding settlers of America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries."

Critics who branded the book as a work of undisguised nativism missed an essential point. Huntington observed that his was an "argument for the importance of Anglo-Protestant culture, not for the importance of Anglo-Protestant people." The success of this great republic, he said, had hitherto depended on the willingness of generations of Americans to honor the creed of the founding settlers and to shed their old affinities. But that willingness was being battered by globalization and multiculturalism, and by new waves of immigrants with no deep attachments to America's national identity. "The Stars and Stripes were at half-mast," he wrote in "Who Are We?", "and other flags flew higher on the flagpole of American identities."

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Three possible American futures beckoned, Huntington said: cosmopolitan, imperial and national. In the first, the world remakes America, and globalization and multiculturalism trump national identity. In the second, America remakes the world: Unchallenged by a rival superpower, America would attempt to reshape the world according to its values, taking to other shores its democratic norms and aspirations. In the third, America remains America: It resists the blandishments -- and falseness -- of cosmopolitanism, and reins in the imperial impulse.

Huntington made no secret of his own preference: an American nationalism "devoted to the preservation and enhancement of those qualities that have defined America since its founding." His stark sense of realism had no patience for the globalism of the Clinton era. The culture of "Davos Man" -- named for the watering hole of the global elite -- was disconnected from the call of home and hearth and national soil.

But he looked with a skeptical eye on the American expedition to Iraq, uneasy with those American conservatives who had come to believe in an "imperial" American mission. He foresaw frustration for this drive to democratize other lands. The American people would not sustain this project, he observed, and there was the "paradox of democracy": Democratic experiments often bring in their wake nationalistic populist movements (Latin America) or fundamentalist movements (Muslim countries). The world tempts power, and denies it. It is the Huntingtonian world; no false hopes and no redemption.

In the 1990s, when the Davos crowd and other believers in a borderless world reigned supreme, Huntington crossed over from the academy into global renown, with his "clash of civilizations" thesis. In an article first published in Foreign Affairs in 1993 (then expanded into a book), Huntington foresaw the shape of the post-Cold War world. The war of ideologies would yield to a civilizational struggle of soil and blood. It would be the West versus the eight civilizations dividing the rest -- Latin American, African, Islamic, Sinic, Hindu, Orthodox, Buddhist and Japanese.

In this civilizational struggle, Islam would emerge as the principal challenge to the West. "The relations between Islam and Christianity, both orthodox and Western, have often been stormy. Each has been the other's Other. The 20th-century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity."

He had assaulted the zeitgeist of the era. The world took notice, and his book was translated into 39 languages. Critics insisted that men want Sony, not soil. But on 9/11, young Arabs -- 19 of them -- would weigh in. They punctured the illusions of an era, and gave evidence of the truth of Huntington's vision. With his typical precision, he had written of a "youth bulge" unsettling Muslim societies, and young, radicalized Arabs, unhinged by modernity and unable to master it, emerging as the children of this radical age.

In Today's Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

The Wizards of OilThe Philanthropy ShakedownYou Are Your Record

TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

Global View: Hamas Know One Big Thing
– Bret StephensMain Street: New Jersey Is the Perfect Bad Example
– William McGurn

COMMENTARY

Samuel Huntington's Warning
– Fouad AjamiWhy Detroit Has an Especially Bad Union Problem
– Logan RobinsonObama Will Ration Your Health Care
– Sally C. PipesThe FDA Is Killing Crohn's Patients
– Gideon J. Sofer
If I may be permitted a personal narrative: In 1993, I had written the lead critique in Foreign Affairs of his thesis. I admired his work but was unconvinced. My faith was invested in the order of states that the West itself built. The ways of the West had become the ways of the world, I argued, and the modernist consensus would hold in key Third-World countries like Egypt, India and Turkey. Fifteen years later, I was given a chance in the pages of The New York Times Book Review to acknowledge that I had erred and that Huntington had been correct all along.

A gracious letter came to me from Nancy Arkelyan Huntington, his wife of 51 years (her Armenian descent an irony lost on those who dubbed him a defender of nativism). He was in ill-health, suffering the aftermath of a small stroke. They were spending the winter at their summer house on Martha's Vineyard. She had read him my essay as he lay in bed. He was pleased with it: "He will be writing you himself shortly." Of course, he did not write, and knowing of his frail state I did not expect him to do so. He had been a source of great wisdom, an exemplar, and it had been an honor to write of him, and to know him in the regrettably small way I did.

We don't have his likes in the academy today. Political science, the field he devoted his working life to, has been in the main commandeered by a new generation. They are "rational choice" people who work with models and numbers and write arid, impenetrable jargon.

More importantly, nowadays in the academy and beyond, the patriotism that marked Samuel Huntington's life and work is derided, and the American Creed he upheld is thought to be the ideology of rubes and simpletons, the affliction of people clinging to old ways. The Davos men have perhaps won. No wonder the sorrow and the concern that ran through the work of Huntington's final years.

Mr. Ajami is professor of Middle East Studies at The Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies. He is also an adjunct research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

 
23121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Taliban targets children on: December 30, 2008, 08:57:14 AM
http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblog...ren_caught.asp

"Watch the video, you will see the suicide bomber weaving through the barriers designed to slow down vehicles. The school children are walking against the wall on the right, and are in clear view. The suicide bomber clearly had a view of the children - he was moving slowly enough. Yet he detonated his bomb just as the line of children passed by his car. "
===============================
Pakistan: The Khyber Pass and Western Logistics in Afghanistan
Stratfor Today » December 30, 2008 | 1811 GMT

TARIQ MAHMOOD/AFP/Getty Images
A truck with supplies for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan transiting the Khyber PassSummary
A Pakistani security operation that began early Dec. 30 has temporarily closed the Khyber Pass to truck convoys supplying U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Though necessary, the operation is unlikely to address the larger issues of border and internal security meaningfully — especially while Indo-Pakistani tensions remain high.

Analysis
Related Links
Countries in Crisis: Pakistan
Part 1: The Perils of Using Islamism to Protect the Core
Part 2: A Crisis in Indian-Pakistani Relations
Part 3: Making It on Its Own
The Geopolitics of India: A Shifting, Self-Contained World
Related Special Topic Pages
Militant Attacks In Mumbai and Their Consequences
Pakistani Democracy and the Army
Pakistani security forces began an operation before dawn Dec. 30 to root out militants and Taliban fighters in and around Khyber Agency who have raided NATO supply convoys and supply depots and begun operating in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province. Just Dec. 29, these militants attacked tanker trucks bound for Afghanistan with rocket fire. As part of the Pakistani government operation, the critical Torkham crossing through the Khyber Pass has been temporarily closed to convoys carrying fuel and supplies for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

This is not the first time that the Khyber Pass has been temporarily shut down. It was closed for two days in early September in protest of U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle strikes inside Pakistan. It also was closed for one day during a November security operation; when it reopened Nov. 17, paramilitary escorts from Pakistan’s Frontier Corps accompanied convoy traffic.

Ultimately, the November operation and the subsequent escorts have not done much to stem the rise in attacks — and little indicates that the new operation will be any more effective. While Islamabad has massed security forces in the area and reinforced them with armor and attack helicopters, overall it is drawing military units and personnel away from the Afghan border to reinforce the Indian border while tensions with New Delhi remain high. Already, some 20,000 Pakistani troops have been shifted to the Indian border.

While the government could make temporary security gains in Khyber Agency, an isolated operation there is hardly going to address the issues and problems underlying border security.

Of course, logistical disruptions are nothing new to Afghanistan. The geographically isolated country has long presented challenges for supply because it is so far from the sea and lacks transit infrastructure and links. The United States and NATO have long maintained stocks to deal with such interruptions, and those stockpiles recently have been increased. Statements from Western forces in Afghanistan suggest that there are at least several weeks’ worth of supplies on hand in country.
And though the United States and NATO have searched for alternative routes, there simply are few other options. Given that the United States and NATO are looking to pour additional forces into Afghanistan, this logistical burden will only get heavier.

At present, more than 300 container and tanker trucks combined generally cross into Afghanistan each day at two crossings. One is Torkham; the other is the Chamman crossing, which connects the Pakistani province of Balochistan with Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. The latter crossing remains open, though Kandahar remains an area of high Taliban activity. This is especially true of the Kandahar-Kabul province corridor, which trucks that otherwise would have used the Khyber Pass probably will use. More than 70 percent of the supplies used by U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan arrive via these two crossings.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is mired in a deep crisis with India just as the United States is looking to ratchet up pressure on Islamabad to tackle militants on the Afghan border. While the actions Washington and New Delhi are pressuring Islamabad to take — namely, rooting out corruption in the Inter-Services Intelligence agency and establishing its writ throughout its territory — are not contradictory, they mainly require military campaigns in different parts of Pakistan. Islamabad simply lacks the capacity to carry them all out, especially while Pakistan remains deeply insecure about India’s intentions and keeps the bulk of its frontline military forces parked on the Indian border.

And while the logistical problem the United States and NATO face in Pakistan is nothing new, given these new tensions, it is especially important for Islamabad to remind Washington of its importance. (Mechanisms in place for the coordination of military activity along the Afghan-Pakistani border make it very likely that the United States was forewarned about the closure and the security operation.) Pakistan thus might have carried out the closure for two reasons. First, it might have sought to remind the United States of just how critical Pakistan’s territory and cooperation are to the new U.S. focus on the Afghan campaign. Second, it might be trying to show that it is doing enough to establish and maintain security on the Afghan border to prevent Washington from writing Pakistan off as a lost cause.

During this particularly critical moment in the crisis with India, as New Delhi contemplates military action against Pakistan, Islamabad needs the United States to continue to act to restrain Indian military action rather than to take India’s side. And whether or not the Khyber closure will last for only a day or two as before, the closure serves as a reminder of the deep logistical challenges for Western forces in Afghanistan that lie ahead.
23122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: December 30, 2008, 08:44:31 AM
The book "Liberal Fascism" (the author's name slips my mind at the moment) discusses TR at some length.  TR was McCain's idol/hero.  After McCain's terrible response to the market meltdown I'm finding it less upsetting that he lost.

Bush, McCain, and BO all were/are Keynesians and with the utter stupidity, vapidity, and disingenuity of how the story of the meltdown is being told (the market did it rolleyes tongue angry angry angry angry) it looks like we are set to repeat the same policy errors of FDR and with the same results of FDR and the Japanese's "lost decades".

Our cultural memory of what this country is about grows dimmer and dimmer.
23123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Solar winds at low on: December 30, 2008, 08:33:28 AM
Solar Wind Loses Power, Hits 50-year Low

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2..._solarwind.htm

Sept. 23, 2008: In a briefing today at NASA headquarters, solar physicists announced that the solar wind is losing power.

"The average pressure of the solar wind has dropped more than 20% since the mid-1990s," says Dave McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. "This is the weakest it's been since we began monitoring solar wind almost 50 years ago."

McComas is principal investigator for the SWOOPS solar wind sensor onboard the Ulysses spacecraft, which measured the decrease. Ulysses, launched in 1990, circles the sun in a unique orbit that carries it over both the sun's poles and equator, giving Ulysses a global view of solar wind activity:

   Solar Wind Loses Power, Hits 50-year Low
09.23.2008


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Sept. 23, 2008: In a briefing today at NASA headquarters, solar physicists announced that the solar wind is losing power.
"The average pressure of the solar wind has dropped more than 20% since the mid-1990s," says Dave McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. "This is the weakest it's been since we began monitoring solar wind almost 50 years ago."
McComas is principal investigator for the SWOOPS solar wind sensor onboard the Ulysses spacecraft, which measured the decrease. Ulysses, launched in 1990, circles the sun in a unique orbit that carries it over both the sun's poles and equator, giving Ulysses a global view of solar wind activity:
Above: Global measurements of solar wind pressure by Ulysses. Green curves trace the solar wind in 1992-1998, while blue curves denote lower pressure winds in 2004-2008. [Larger image]

Curiously, the speed of the million mph solar wind hasn't decreased much—only 3%. The change in pressure comes mainly from reductions in temperature and density. The solar wind is 13% cooler and 20% less dense.
"What we're seeing is a long term trend, a steady decrease in pressure that began sometime in the mid-1990s," explains Arik Posner, NASA's Ulysses Program Scientist in Washington DC.

How unusual is this event?
"It's hard to say. We've only been monitoring solar wind since the early years of the Space Age—from the early 60s to the present," says Posner. "Over that period of time, it's unique. How the event stands out over centuries or millennia, however, is anybody's guess. We don't have data going back that far."
Flagging solar wind has repercussions across the entire solar system—beginning with the heliosphere.

The heliosphere is a bubble of magnetism springing from the sun and inflated to colossal proportions by the solar wind. Every planet from Mercury to Pluto and beyond is inside it. The heliosphere is our solar system's first line of defense against galactic cosmic rays. High-energy particles from black holes and supernovas try to enter the solar system, but most are deflected by the heliosphere's magnetic fields.

Right: The heliosphere. Click to view a larger image showing the rest of the bubble.
"The solar wind isn't inflating the heliosphere as much as it used to," says McComas. "That means less shielding against cosmic rays."
In addition to weakened solar wind, "Ulysses also finds that the sun's underlying magnetic field has weakened by more than 30% since the mid-1990s," says Posner. "This reduces natural shielding even more."

Unpublished Ulysses cosmic ray data show that, indeed, high energy (GeV) electrons, a minor but telltale component of cosmic rays around Earth, have jumped in number by about 20%.
==============================
from the WT forum:
======
An increase in Cosmic Ray Flux (CRF) means more low cloud formation due to ionizing radiation producing ions which cause water vapor to condense on them. This causes a net cooling. There have been several controlled studies on this with the major test coming up next year in the EU. If this test works out and confirms the theory on CRF, then C02 induced climate feedback will get tossed in the trash.

There is a very high correlation between temperature changes on the Earth and CRF rates. In very short timescales, CRF is controlled by the sun with higher CRF occurring during low sunspot counts. On longer timescales, CRF is controlled by the Solar System's location within the Milky Way galaxy - with times within the spiral arms being high CRF (cold periods) and times between the arms as low CRF ( warm periods). In between these two timescales is the Milankovitch Cycle.

You can google "cosmic rays cloud formation" for more information. Here is an infamous article that really set the stage for this publicly.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle1363818.ece

You can watch the hourly and monthly CRF averages here.

http://cosmicrays.oulu.fi/

Sunspot counts and climate. Plus, a prediction.

http://meteo.lcd.lu/globalwarming/Ar...cles_may07.pdf
__________________
23124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: December 29, 2008, 04:03:55 PM
Israel's air assault on Gaza in response to Hamas rocket attacks is inspiring familiar international denunciations. But the best commentary we've heard might be this one: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing."

 
AP
Northern Gaza Strip as seen from Netiv Hasara, Israel, Dec. 27, 2008.
Barack Obama said those words in July while visiting Israel as a Presidential candidate.

Now as President-elect, Mr. Obama is maintaining an appropriate silence while deferring to the Bush Administration before his Inauguration. But his July remarks capture the essence of Israel's right to self-defense. Moreover, the more successful Israel is this week in damaging Hamas as a terrorist force, the better chance Mr. Obama will have to make progress in facilitating a genuine Mideast peace.

Naturally, the conventional diplomatic and journalistic wisdom is that the longer the fight goes on the more difficult the "peace process" becomes. The usual suspects at the United Nations are condemning Israel and blaming it for "excessive" force. Even Nicolas Sarkozy -- who holds the rotating European Union presidency and is considered Israel-friendly for a French president -- criticized Jerusalem's "disproportionate" response.

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But as Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi explain, the Israeli public isn't about to make territorial concessions on the West Bank or the Golan Heights if Gaza is allowed to become a neighboring terrorist state that can launch attacks with impunity. Israel has already had a bad enough experience letting that happen with Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. Meanwhile, the stronger Hamas becomes, the more resistance Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will face to making any concessions to Israel.

The chronology of this latest violence is important to understand. Israel withdrew both its soldiers and all of its settlers from Gaza in August 2005. Hamas won its internal power struggle with Mr. Abbas's Fatah organization to control Gaza in 2007. Since 2005 Hamas has fired some 6,300 rockets at Israeli civilians from Gaza, killing 10 and wounding more than 780.

Hamas did agree to a six-month cease-fire earlier this year, during which the rocket attacks declined in number but never completely stopped. But Hamas refused to extend the truce past December 19, and the group has since resumed attacks, firing nearly 300 missiles, rockets and mortars. The 250,000 Israelis in the southern part of the country live under constant threat, often in bomb shelters, and the economy has suffered. Yet the world's media seem to pay attention only when Israel responds to that Hamas barrage.

Israel's air assault has resulted in more Palestinian casualties, but that is in part because Hamas deliberately locates its security forces in residential neighborhoods. This is intended both to deter Israel from attacking in the first place as well as to turn world opinion against the Jewish state when it does attack. By all accounts, however, the Israeli strikes have hit their targets precisely enough to do significant damage to Hamas forces -- both to its leadership and, on Sunday, to the tunnels from Gaza to Egypt that Hamas uses to smuggle in weapons and build its growing army.

In Today's Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Israel's Gaza DefenseOrszag's Health WarningSudan's Slaves

TODAY'S COLUMNIST

The Americas: Hollywood Celebrates Che Guevara
– Mary Anastasia O'Grady

COMMENTARY

Palestinians Need Israel to Win
– Michael B. Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi'Stimulus' Doesn't Have to Mean Pork
– Clifford WinstonThe War on Terror Has Not Gone Away
– Thane RosenbaumCarbon Limits, Yes; Energy Subsidies, No
– William Tucker
Hamas claims the goal of its rocket attacks is merely to force Israel to ease its strict travel restrictions into and out of Gaza. But those restrictions are intended to prevent suicide bombers from blowing up Israeli citizens in cafes as they did during the intifadah earlier this decade. If Hamas wants its people to have freer movement, it can stop sponsoring terror killings.

Even as Arab leaders have formally condemned Israel's attacks, they have also noted Hamas's escalation. Mr. Abbas yesterday said "We talked to them [Hamas] and we told them 'please, we ask you, do not end the truce. Let the truce continue and not stop' so that we could have avoided what happened." Egypt's Foreign Minister, Ahmed Abul Gheit, assailed Israel's air strikes but also held Hamas responsible. They understand that Hamas, like Hezbollah, is increasingly allied with Iran and its goals for fomenting regional instability.

Israel itself faces a difficult decision of whether to escalate with a ground attack on Gaza. That would help further diminish Hamas, though at the cost of more casualties and greater international disapproval. The worst outcome would be a ground assault, a la the one in Lebanon in 2006, that stirred anti-Israel sentiment but stopped short of achieving its military goals.

The Bush Administration's support for Israel is welcome, though we should note the violence comes at the end of a four-year Bush effort to midwife a Palestinian peace. There's a lesson here for Mr. Obama, who is about to discover that the terrorists of the Middle East aren't about to change their radical ambitions merely because America has a new President.
23125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / T.Parsons on: December 29, 2008, 12:16:25 PM

"We have duties, for the discharge of which we are accountable to our Creator
and benefactor, which no human power can cancel. What those duties are, is
determinable by right reason, which may be, and is called, a well informed
conscience."

--Theophilus Parsons the Essex Result, 1778
23126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 29, 2008, 12:08:48 PM
Forgive me CCP, but I am baffled why you would post such twaddle.

Hamas, in contravention to "Palestine's" international legal obligations, is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.  Exactly why is Israel supposed to faciliate it and its actions towards that end? 
23127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: December 29, 2008, 11:58:06 AM
December 29, 2008

In today's Political Diary:

- Not Ready for SNL
- Overslept at Oversight
- A Transition to Remember (Quote of the Day I)
- Obama and the Age of Miracles (Quote of the Day II)
- Health Care, Chicago-Style


Caroline's 168 'You Knows'

When Sarah Palin gave a disastrous interview to CBS's Katie Couric, the national news media quickly jumped on the Alaska governor to declare her "not ready for prime time." Her verbal tics -- unusual sentence construction and a broad accent -- were skewered week after week on "Saturday Night Live."

Caroline Kennedy has largely avoided such ridicule in her quest to be appointed to replace Hillary Clinton as New York's Senator. The 51-year-old author and fundraiser has studiously ducked the media for years. Finally, barraged by criticism that she wasn't answering questions, she surfaced over the weekend to give a series of media interviews. They didn't go well. In fact, if the Palin standard were applied, Ms. Kennedy would be roundly judged unsuited for the national political stage.

Ms. Kennedy told the cable channel New York One that much of what makes a U.S. Senator effective are skills at "communication." But she utterly failed to articulate a reasonable case for why she should be placed in the U.S. Senate with no elective experience. "It's really, you know, it's not about just the Kennedy name," she said. "It's about my own work and what I've done with those values. . . . I just hope everybody understands that. . . . I have a lifelong devotion to public service."

But what raised the eyebrows of many people were Ms. Kennedy's verbal tics. In the space of the 30-minute NY One interview, she used the words "you know" a total of 168 times. In some sentences, she would employ that "filler" phrase three times.

A speaking problem such as hers can be cured and it's nothing to be made fun of. But as speech specialist Susan Ward notes: "Using excessive fillers is the most irritating speech habit. . . . They distract your listener often to the point that he doesn't hear anything you say. Your message is entirely lost."

Nor was her NY One interview an exception. Both the New York Daily News and the New York Times, which published reports on interviews with her on Sunday, noted her excessive use of "you know" and "um." But columnist Michael Goodwin of the Daily News was one of the few media analysts to report clearly on the problems surrounding her candidacy: "Her quest is becoming a cringe-inducing experience, as painful to watch as it must be to endure. Because she is the only survivor of that dreamy time nearly 50 years ago, she remains an iconic figure. But in the last few days, her mini-campaign has proved she has little to offer New Yorkers except her name."

Although critics have largely tiptoed around her liabilities, the general public is catching on that Camelot's Empress is under-dressed for her role. The Web site InTrade, which takes bets on the likelihood of political events, had her odds of being appointed by Governor Paterson at 85% just ten days ago. Now they are listed at just over 50%.

Ms. Kennedy is lucky that her status has spared her most of the verbal abuse that was heaped on Sarah Palin, but her qualification problems are big enough that she must now realize that the level of criticism -- especially from resentful New York Democrats -- is about to ramp up dramatically.

-- John Fund


While Edolphus Slept

President-elect Barack Obama has vowed a new war on "waste, fraud and abuse" within the federal government when he takes office.

But government reformers on both the left and right aren't expecting a major player in that fight to be the new chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Rep. Edolphus Towns, a 74-year-old Democrat from New York, is set to take over from Rep. Henry Waxman in January, after the California Democrat moves over to take the helm of the powerful Commerce Committee.

While Mr. Waxman was viewed as an often-partisan figure, no one doubted his energy as he conducted dozens of hearings into management of the Iraq war, pay packages on Wall Street and conflicts of interest within the Bush administration. But Mr. Towns was seldom a part of those meetings. USA Today reports that he attended only 12 of the committee's 74 oversight hearings in the last two years. That included skipping four of the six sessions recently on the country's economic meltdown.

Mr. Towns, who has been in the House since 1982, blames his poor attendance on overlapping duties related to another committee assignment. But every member of Congress serves on two or three committees and usually manages to reconcile their demands.

Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the new ranking Republican on the investigative committee, told me he is revamping the GOP staff by recruiting group of new investigators to make up for what he expects will be a lack of aggressive oversight of the incoming Obama administration. "Congressional oversight hasn't been handled well under both Democratic and Republican administrations in recent years," he told me. "I hope the media and public demands a higher standard going forward."

-- John Fund


Quote of the Day I

"You can't move the ball forward if you don't have a team working together. That's a big challenge for every president. You know, you look at George W. Bush's first year in office: There was not a single leak, not a single story written in the Washington Post or the New York Times, not a single one quoting unattributed, unnamed White House sources. And that's an incredible testament to everybody pulling on the same oar at the same time that you have to have to move your agenda forward in this very complex policy environment in Washington" -- Terry Sullivan, executive director of the University of North Carolina's White House Transition Project, on what President-elect Barack Obama could learn from his predecessor, in a Q&A with National Journal magazine.


Quote of the Day II

"By July, we will come to feel that 2009 will be one of the most upbeat years in our history, as what used to be the news media begins to get behind America and report on all the mysteriously wonderful things that are suddenly taking place . . . . 'Depression' will transmogrify into 'recession' which in turn by July will be a 'downturn' and by year next an 'upswing' on its way to boom times. Indeed, almost supernaturally crises will be solved with the departure of the hated Bush. . . . Static, same-old, same-old government policy will, of course, be said to have altered radically ('hoped and changed'), but it will also be refashioned in the media as 'sober' and 'judicious', as the administration moves 'in circumspect fashion' to probe and explore 'complex' and often 'paradoxical' matters of national security that 'indeed at the end of the day have no easy answers'" -- historian Victor Davis Hanson, writing at RealClearPolitics.com on the next phase of Obama cheerleading in the media.


Blago's Health-Care Model

If Barack Obama hears footsteps, it might just be shoes dropping in Gov. Rod Blagojevich's pay-to-play scandal.

On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal dug this little nugget out of the 76-page criminal complaint filed against Mr. Blagojevich a few weeks ago: Allegedly as part of his scams, Blago exploited an "ethics reform" law that was ushered through the state legislature in 2003 by . . . Mr. Obama. Back then, Mr. Obama was a mere state senator and his reform -- cutting the number of people who serve on a government board overseeing hospital construction -- seemed innocuous at the time. Now it seems it may have allowed the governor to stack the board with individuals willing to hold up construction projects on his say-so, allegedly while he extracted campaign contributions in exchange for green lighting the projects.

No one has credibly claimed wrongdoing on Mr. Obama's part. But sensational corruption allegations are only part of the story unfolding in Illinois. Mr. Blagojevich came into office six years ago promising clean government and also made a signature issue of expanded government health care. The governor saw the two issues -- ethics and government health care -- as intertwined. He even announced his biggest health-care initiative from the pulpit of a downtown church in Chicago two years ago. His plan was to enact a massive tax increase to pay for the creation of a nearly-universal health-care program, but it floundered in the legislature in no small part because of the personal animus he had built up with legislative leaders. That was a lucky break for Illinois taxpayers in more ways than one: Imagine the pay-to-play boodle that his office might have extracted from billions of dollars in new health-care contracts his administration would have been writing these past two years.

All this circles back to Mr. Obama on the policy level. The Chicago pol will be sweeping into Washington next month with the intention of enacting a massive new universal health-care program. On both sides of the aisle in recent years, massive government expenditures from highways to defense contracts have almost invariably led to wasteful earmarks and even out-and-out corruption of the sort behind the bumper crop of recent indictments and convictions of federal lawmakers. Back in Illinois, Mr. Blagojevich reminds us that the altruistic intentions of politicians aside, pricey new government run health-care programs are likely to be no exception.

-- Brendan Miniter
23128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 28, 2008, 02:18:07 PM
Peace through victory is the only option left to Israel.
23129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: December 27, 2008, 11:07:30 PM
That article is profoundly and tragically true. cry cry cry
23130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: December 27, 2008, 03:57:54 PM
Africa: Obama's Victory, Our Hypocrisy

Chris Agbiti
26 December 2008

November 4th, 2008 will, undoubtedly go down in world history as epoch making.

It was a day that signposted the final internment of the age-long divisive philosophy that held one race superior to another (apology to the legend, Bob Marley); it was a day the entire world came together, irrespective of creed and religion, to recite Dune Dimitis (however, not with long faces) for the monster of racial discrimination that had for long defined the political climate of America but now chased away; it was the day Barack Hussein Obama won in landslide, the U.S Presidential election.

The U.S. Presidential Election has come and gone but the echoes of it continue to reverberate in every nook and cranny of Africa especially in Kenya where Obama traces his patrilineal descent from. The euphoria of Obama's victory will for long continue its ripples in the Negroid race of Africa.

However, the point is worth making that for the Americans, the euphoria of joy sweeping through its entire nation is understandable: That, at last, someone who has a clear vision and a good grasp of the issues that need to be addressed to restore U.S. lost glory, consequent upon the lacklustre performance of the out-going president, was not held back from realizing that ambition by prejudices. But for Africans, what other reason beside the sentimental consideration that a fellow brother African now becomes President of U.S., can we adduce to bedrocks our own euphoria at the election of Obama?

If one may ask, what business do African countries, together with their stinking leaders, have in rejoicing over Obama's victory at the U.S. poll when we know in our hearts of hearts that we will never allow the kind of system that has produced Obama in U.S. election to be replicated in our own land?

Or, are we under a delusion that, with Obama's presidency, African countries shall wake up one morning, like the fabled Alice in Wonderland, and find all the good things of life in sufficiency for all as obtain in the western world, even while our leaders and people continue in their culture of greed, corruption, ethnic hostilities and all such practices antithetical to the dictate of modern civilization?

It bears repeating to state here that it borders on crass hypocrisy for African countries such as Zambia, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Nigeria, et al, to rejoice at Obama's victory even when they are all still involved in various acts of prejudices, this time around, not even against a coloured person but against their own black brothers.

We have witnessed instances in Zambia where the first post independent Kenneth Kaunda had his citizenship withdrawn on the allegation that his ancestry is somewhere in another African country! Similar acts have played out in Ivory Coast and Nigeria (Shugaba's case). The xenophobic hostilities in South Africa and Zimbabwe are all still fresh in our memories. Africans must be reminded not to expect too much from the presidency of Obama any more than they expected from the presidency of Bill Clinton.

Our only obvious claim to Obama is his blood ties to his Kenyan father. But we must call to memory that, for all the time the elder Obama lived, his conduct in juxtaposition to what Obama Jr. is and stands for today shows, in very lucid details, those sad commentaries of a pure bred African man. The elder Obama came to America and deceitfully led Obama's mother into marriage, even while he was already married to another Kenya woman back home.

He was to later abandon Obama's mother and returned to Kenya, leaving young Obama in the care of his maternal grandparents in America. It was recorded that he died drunk-driving. Should Obama's father were to be alive, one imagines that he too may be rejoicing just like the other African leaders are hypocritically doing.

We must stop deceiving ourselves. It is high time we told ourselves a few home truths. Whatever Obama is today or stands for, he owes it all to the American society.

If he were to be brought up in Kenya, his fatherland, with all his seeming immeasurable grace of intelligence, he would have ended up, at best, as a very brilliant but frustrated university don holed up somewhere in one of our glorified secondary schools, called university, like many other frustrated Obamas in our African society today. The American society that shaped Obama to become what he is to day places a higher premium of kinship of ideas over and above that of blood.

That explains the acceptance of Obama's candidature across the racial divides. If Obama were not of the rare breed of mankind (who recreates themselves independent of genetic force), he would not even be identifying his African root. It is only for Obama's high sense of humility and decency that he does so and I commend him for it. Africans must be reminded that as we cheer Obama's victory, we must cast away that extra baggage of hypocrisy and begin to reflect on the need for us to home-grow a system similar to what sustains in the U.S. that has made possible the Obama phenomenon.

The world today is ruled by ideas. It is not enough for us bank on blood kinship to Obama and think that alone will be the open sesame to our El Dorado.

In today's modern world, kinship of ideas, as aforesaid, rather than of blood or ethnicity is one of the driving force of attraction. In doing so, we must remind ourselves that until we jettison that negative attitude that encourages subjugation of fellow man rather than our environment which is what the white man has effectively achieved, we shall continue in our collective grope.

Chris Agbiti wrote from Port Harcourt.

http://allafrica.com/stories/200812260007.html
23131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: December 27, 2008, 03:47:22 PM
Arguably it IS effective-- at least some are intimidated.
23132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Rick Warren on: December 27, 2008, 01:58:39 AM
The most thoughtful and interesting debate of the two-year-long presidential campaign occurred last August at Saddleback Church between John McCain and Barack Obama, moderated by Saddleback pastor Rick Warren. So it is notable that President-elect Obama's choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his Inauguration next month has brought forth hyperpartisan invective from the Democratic left. It has spent the past week conveying to the world its disappointment and disgust with the choice of Pastor Warren because he opposes gay marriage and abortion.

 
APJoe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said that "By inviting Rick Warren to your Inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender [LGBT] Americans have a place at your table."

The head of People for the American Way, Kathryn Kolbert, is "deeply disappointed." She says Mr. Obama should have picked someone with "consistent mainstream American values."

Perhaps the most telling comment came from a "very disappointed" Rep. Barney Frank, who pointed out that during the campaign Senator Obama's "stated commitment to LGBT rights won him the strong support of the great majority of those who support that cause." Mr. Frank is putting down a marker; the left will monitor whether the new President deserves their continued support after the Warren-blessed Inauguration.

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During the famous and corrosive Culture Wars, both sides accused the other of unremitting intolerance. Our own longstanding view has been that conferring protected legal status on the most politicized issues in those disputes, such as abortion and gay marriage, properly belongs inside the political system of the states, where diverse populations can work toward a political settlement.

Californians did so in November when they voted to pass Prop. 8, in effect disapproving of legal status for gay marriage. Rick Warren, an evangelical minister, as well as the Mormon Church worked for Prop. 8's passage. It won by about 52% to 47%.

Afterwards, some gay leaders said their side would have to work harder to make more voters understand their arguments. More publicized, though, were the acts of retribution taken by gay activists in California against individuals whom campaign-contributions showed to have supported Prop. 8. Some were forced out of their jobs.

For about a generation, many on the left have believed that active and unapologetic intolerance of the right was justified because its views on matters such as abortion and gay rights were simply unacceptable. This moral somersault may work for them, but to the average American voter, a full-throated assault on the likes of Rick Warren for being "wrong" on two of many issues looks like simple intolerance.

The person in this drama for whom the leftwing Democratic habit of moralized intolerance could be a problem is Barack Obama. The left loaded up heavily in its support of candidate Obama, first against the Clinton machine -- always thought to be too willing to compromise with the center -- and then in the general campaign. These elements in the Democratic Party know what they want Barack Obama to deliver on judges, the environment, global warming and lifestyle rights litigation.

Mr. Obama's choice of Rick Warren for the Inaugural's invocation suggests that he is intent on using the momentum of his remarkable victory to build a governing coalition for the long haul. The silver lining for Republicans may be that the left won't let him do that.
23133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Lionel Tiger: Monkeys and Utopia on: December 27, 2008, 01:52:53 AM
By LIONEL TIGER
Reveries about human perfection do not exist solely in the enthusiastic systems confected by Karl Marx, or in the REM sleep of Hugo Chávez, or through the utopian certainties of millenarians. There has been a persistent belief through countless societies that life is better, much better, somewhere else. In some yet-unfound reality there is an expression of our best natures -- our loving, peaceful, lyrically fair human core.

Anthropologists have been at the center of this quest, its practitioners sailing off to find that elusive core of perfection everywhere else corrupted by civilization. In the 1920s, Margaret Mead found it in Samoa, where the people, she said, enjoyed untroubled lives. Adolescents in particular were not bothered by the sexual hang-ups that plague our repressive society. Decades later an Australian researcher, Derek Freeman, retraced her work and successfully challenged its validity. Still, Mead's work and that of others reinforced the notion that our way of life was artificial, inauthentic, just plain wrong.

Enter primatology, which provided yet more questions about essential hominid nature -- and from which species we could, perhaps, derive guidance about our inner core. First studied in the wild were the baboons, which turned out to have harsh power politics and sexual inequity. Then Jane Goodall brought back heartwarming film of African chimps who were loving, loyal, fine mothers, with none of the militarism of the big bad baboons. But her subjects were well fed, and didn't need to scratch for a living in their traditional way. Later it became clear that chimps in fact formed hunting posses. They tore baby baboons they captured limb from limb, and seemed to enjoy it.

In Today's Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Rick Warren, Obama and the LeftA Rigged Auction DerailedPlankton Watch

TODAY'S COLUMNIST

Declarations: A Year for the Books
– Peggy Noonan

COMMENTARY

There's No Pain-Free Cure for Recession
– Peter SchiffCross Country: All I Wanted for Christmas Was a Newspaper
– Paul MulshineOf Monkeys and Utopia
– Lionel TigerWhere to look now for that perfect, pacifistic and egalitarian core? Franz de Waal, a talented and genial primatologist, observed the behavior of bonobos at Emory University's primate lab in the 1980s. These chimpanzees, he found, engaged in a dramatic amount of sexual activity both genital and oral, heterosexual and homosexual -- and when conflicts threatened to arise a bout of sex settled the score and life went on. Bonobos made love, not war. No hunting, killing, male dominance, or threats to the sunny paradise of a species so closely related to us. His research attracted enormous attention outside anthropology. Why not? How can this lifestyle not be attractive to those of us struggling on a committee, in a marriage, and seeking lubricious resolution?

Alas, Mr. de Waal also hadn't studied his species in the wild. And, with a disappointing shock in some quarters, for the past five years bonobos have been studied in their natural habitat in a national park in the Congo.

There, along with colleagues, Gottfried Hohman of the Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig has seen groups of bonobos engage in clearly willful and challenging hunts. Indeed, female bonobos took full part in the some 10 organized hunts which have been observed thus far. Another paradise lost.

Reveries about hidden human perfection centered in primate life have been sharply curtailed by what we've learned about the Malibu ape -- when it seeks its own food, doesn't live in an easy-hook-up dormitory, and may confront severe challenges in life.

Bonobo, we hardly know you.

Mr. Tiger is the Charles Darwin professor of anthropology at Rutgers University.
23134  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Making friends and influencing people on: December 27, 2008, 01:51:03 AM
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Little Teapot 
Member   Join Date: Sep 2008
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 Viagra Helps CIA Win Friends in Afghanistan

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Washington Post
By Joby Warrick
updated 6:01 a.m. ET Dec. 26, 2008


The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

"Take one of these. You'll love it," the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes — followed by a request for more pills. For U.S. intelligence officials, this is how some crucial battles in Afghanistan are fought and won. While the CIA has a long history of buying information with cash, the growing Taliban insurgency has prompted the use of novel incentives and creative bargaining to gain support in some of the country's roughest neighborhoods, according to officials directly involved in such operations.

'Whatever it takes'
In their efforts to win over notoriously fickle warlords and chieftains, the officials say, the agency's operatives have used a variety of personal services. These include pocketknives and tools, medicine or surgeries for ailing family members, toys and school equipment, tooth extractions, travel visas, and, occasionally, pharmaceutical enhancements for aging patriarchs with slumping libidos, the officials said.

"Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people — whether it's building a school or handing out Viagra," said one longtime agency operative and veteran of several Afghanistan tours. Like other field officers interviewed for this article, he spoke on the condition of anonymity when describing tactics and operations that are largely classified.

Officials say these inducements are necessary in Afghanistan, a country where warlords and tribal leaders expect to be paid for their cooperation, and where, for some, switching sides can be as easy as changing tunics. If the Americans don't offer incentives, there are others who will, including Taliban commanders, drug dealers and even Iranian agents in the region.
The usual bribes of choice — cash and weapons — aren't always the best options, Afghanistan veterans say. Guns too often fall into the wrong hands, they say, and showy gifts such as money, jewelry and cars tend to draw unwanted attention.

"If you give an asset $1,000, he'll go out and buy the shiniest junk he can find, and it will be apparent that he has suddenly come into a lot of money from someone," said Jamie Smith, a veteran of CIA covert operations in Afghanistan and now chief executive of SCG International, a private security and intelligence company. "Even if he doesn't get killed, he becomes ineffective as an informant because everyone knows where he got it."

The key, Smith said, is to find a way to meet the informant's personal needs in a way that keeps him firmly on your side but leaves little or no visible trace.

"You're trying to bridge a gap between people living in the 18th century and people coming in from the 21st century," Smith said, "so you look for those common things in the form of material aid that motivate people everywhere."

Sex as a motivator
Among the world's intelligence agencies, there's a long tradition of using sex as a motivator. Robert Baer, a retired CIA officer and author of several books on intelligence, noted that the Soviet spy service was notorious for using attractive women as bait when seeking to turn foreign diplomats into informants.

"The KGB has always used 'honey traps,' and it works," Baer said. For American officers, a more common practice was to offer medical care for potential informants and their loved ones, he said. "I remember one guy we offered an option on a heart bypass," Baer said.

For some U.S. operatives in Afghanistan, Western drugs such as Viagra were just part of a long list of enticements available for use in special cases. Two veteran officers familiar with such practices said Viagra was offered rarely, and only to older tribal officials for whom the drug would hold special appeal. While such sexual performance drugs are generally unavailable in the remote areas where the agency's teams operated, they have been sold in some Kabul street markets since at least 2003 and were known by reputation elsewhere.

"You didn't hand it out to younger guys, but it could be a silver bullet to make connections to the older ones," said one retired operative familiar with the drug's use in Afghanistan. Afghan tribal leaders often had four wives — the maximum number allowed by the Koran — and aging village patriarchs were easily sold on the utility of a pill that could "put them back in an authoritative position," the official said.

Both officials who described the use of Viagra declined to discuss details such as dates and locations, citing both safety and classification concerns.

'Think out of the box'
The CIA declined to comment on methods used in clandestine operations. One senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the agency's work in Afghanistan said the clandestine teams were trained to be "resourceful and agile" and to use tactics "consistent with the laws of our country."

"They learn the landscape, get to know the players, and adjust to the operating environment, no matter where it is," the official said. "They think out of the box, take risks, and do what's necessary to get the job done."

Not everyone in Afghanistan's hinterlands had heard of the drug, leading to some awkward encounters when Americans delicately attempted to explain its effects, taking care not to offend their hosts' religious sensitivities.

Such was the case with the 60-year-old chieftain who received the four pills from a U.S. operative. According to the retired operative who was there, the man was a clan leader in southern Afghanistan who had been wary of Americans — neither supportive nor actively opposed. The man had extensive knowledge of the region and his village controlled key passages through the area. U.S. forces needed his cooperation and worked hard to win it, the retired operative said.

After a long conversation through an interpreter, the retired operator began to probe for ways to win the man's loyalty. A discussion of the man's family and many wives provided inspiration. Once it was established that the man was in good health, the pills were offered and accepted.  Four days later, when the Americans returned, the gift had worked its magic, the operative recalled.

"He came up to us beaming," the official said. "He said, 'You are a great man.' And after that we could do whatever we wanted in his area."
23135  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: December 27, 2008, 12:59:57 AM
Woof All:

The kids were playing Laser Tag in Cindy's office this AM and knocked out our internet connection.  Cindy just hooked up the lap top-- all this by way of explaining that I would have been reminding people this AM that there is no class tomorrow.   embarassed

Yip!
Guro Crafty
23136  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Intervention goes sideways on: December 26, 2008, 08:01:29 AM
http://www.pnj.com/article/20081224/NEWS01/812240327/1052

Beach brawl suspect to be charged with murder

Saturday night fight ended in man's death

Kris Wernowsky • kwernowsky@pnj.com • December 24, 2008
Ryan Toole, 28, who spent about two months this year training as a mixed martial arts fighter, is charged in the death of Michael Chesney, 32. A conviction on the charge carries a possible state prison term of 20 years to life.
Chesney never regained consciousness after the fight early Saturday morning and spent the last hours of his life at Baptist Hospital in intensive care. The Beulah man was taken off life support early Sunday.
Toole's family has retained veteran criminal defense attorney Barry Beroset to represent him.

Beroset said Tuesday he could not speak about the details of his meeting with Toole, but he said his client's family is concerned about the well-being of Chesney's family.

"It's a very unfortunate situation for the family of this young man," Beroset said.

Attempts to reach Chesney's family Tuesday were unsuccessful. His visitation is scheduled for Friday.  Assistant State Attorney David Rimmer said he has reviewed transcriptions of six interviews, including statements from Toole and other witnesses, about the altercation. 

Escambia County Sheriff's Office homicide investigator Chris Baggett expects Toole will be allowed to surrender as early as today on the new charge.  The second-degree murder charge could lead to an increased bond for Toole, who originally was arrested on a count of second-degree attempted murder. He posted a $25,000 bond Sunday.

While Rimmer contends Chesney likely died when the back of his head struck the pavement and not directly because of the punch delivered by Toole, he says the act itself supports the new charge.

"It's going to be the state's position that Ryan Toole caused that to happen," he said. "If you push somebody off a 10-story building, hitting the ground may have killed them. But the mere act that someone pushed them means they can be held liable."

Toole was involved in an altercation with a woman outside The Islander on Pensacola Beach early Saturday. Chesney and a friend, Jason Campbell, 35, intervened about 2:40 a.m., the Sheriff's Office said.

Toole punched Campbell, then punched Chesney, who went down and hit his head on the pavement, Baggett said.

On Tuesday night, deputies assigned to Pensacola Beach were expected to begin checking in with each of the 13 bars at the beach.
Sheriff's Office Lt. Gary Montee said he was instituting the new policy as a result of the fatal fight.

"We can't put a cop on every street corner, but we can try to do what we can with the resources we have," Montee said.

Montee said when he worked at the beach in the 1970s, deputies walked into beach businesses and talked with the owner or employees.
"We would walk into these bars during every shift," he said. "You walk into these places and you get a good feel for its clientele. We are getting back to the basics."
23137  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unsecret donations on: December 26, 2008, 07:52:29 AM
By JOHN R. LOTT JR. and BRADLEY SMITH
How would you like elections without secret ballots? To most people, this would be absurd.

We have secret balloting for obvious reasons. Politics frequently generates hot tempers. People can put up yard signs or wear political buttons if they want. But not everyone feels comfortable making his or her positions public -- many worry that their choice might offend or anger someone else. They fear losing their jobs or facing boycotts of their businesses.

And yet the mandatory public disclosure of financial donations to political campaigns in almost every state and at the federal level renders people's fears and vulnerability all too real. Proposition 8 -- California's recently passed constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage by ensuring that marriage in that state remains between a man and a woman -- is a dramatic case in point. Its passage has generated retaliation against those who supported it, once their financial support was made public and put online.

For example, when it was discovered that Scott Eckern, director of the nonprofit California Musical Theater in Sacramento, had given $1,000 to Yes on 8, the theater was deluged with criticism from prominent artists. Mr. Eckern was forced to resign.

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Richard Raddon, the director of the L.A. Film Festival, donated $1,500 to Yes on 8. A threatened boycott and picketing of the next festival forced him to resign. Alan Stock, the chief executive of the Cinemark theater chain, gave $9,999. Cinemark is facing a boycott, and so is the gay-friendly Sundance Film Festival because it uses a Cinemark theater to screen some of its films.

A Palo Alto dentist lost patients as a result of his $1,000 donation. A restaurant manager in Los Angeles gave a $100 personal donation, triggering a demonstration and boycott against her restaurant. The pressure was so intense that Marjorie Christoffersen, who had managed the place for 26 years, resigned.

These are just a few instances that have come to light, and the ramifications are still occurring over a month after the election. The larger point of this spectacle is its implications for the future: to intimidate people who donate to controversial campaigns.

The question is not whether Prop. 8 should have passed, but whether its supporters (or opponents) should have their political preferences protected in the same way that voters are protected. Is there any reason to think that the repercussions Mr. Eckern faced for donating to Prop. 8 would be different if it were revealed that instead of donating, he had voted for it?

Indeed, supporters of Prop. 8 engaged in pressure tactics. At least one businessman who donated to "No on 8," Jim Abbott of Abbott & Associates, a real estate firm in San Diego, received a letter from the Prop. 8 Executive Committee threatening to publish his company's name if he didn't also donate to the "Yes on 8" campaign.

In each case, the law required disclosure of these individuals' financial support for Prop. 8. Supposedly, the reason for requiring disclosure of campaign contributions is to allow voters to police politicians who might otherwise become beholden to financiers by letting voters know "who is behind the message." But in a referendum vote such as Prop. 8, there are no office holders to be beholden to big donors.

Does anyone believe that in campaigns costing millions of dollars a donation of $100, or even $1,000 or $10,000 will give the donor "undue" influence? Over whom? Meanwhile, voters learn little by knowing the names and personal information of thousands of small contributors.

Besides, it is not the case that voters would have no recourse when it comes to the financial backers of politicians or initiatives. Even without mandatory disclosure rules, the unwillingness to release donation information can itself become a campaign issue. If voters want to know who donated, there will be pressure to disclose that information. Possibly voters will be most concerned about who the donors are when regulatory issues are being debated. But that is for them to decide. They can always vote "no."

In Today's Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Obama's Secretary of EarmarksBridges to EverywhereStill Oklahoma's Most Wanted

TODAY'S COLUMNIST

Declarations: A Year for the Books
– Peggy Noonan

COMMENTARY

Obama Picks a Moderate on Education
– Collin LevyThe Economic News Isn't All Bleak – Zachary KarabellDonor Disclosure Has Its Downsides
– John R. Lott Jr. and Bradley SmithBush Is a Book Lover
– Karl RoveA Brother's Plea: Remember Burma
– Min ZinIronically, it has long been minorities who have benefited the most from anonymous speech. In the 1950s, for example, Southern states sought to obtain membership lists of the NAACP in the name of the public's "right to know." Such disclosure would have destroyed the NAACP's financial base in the South and opened its supporters to threats and violence. It took a Supreme Court ruling in NAACP v. Alabama (1958) to protect the privacy of the NAACP and its supporters on First Amendment grounds. And more recently, it has usually been supporters of gay rights who have preferred to keep their support quiet.

There is another problem with publicizing donations in political elections: It tends to entrench powerful politicians whom donors fear alienating. If business executives give money to a committee chairman's opponent, they often fear retribution.

Other threats are more personal. For example, in 2004 Gigi Brienza contributed $500 to the John Edwards presidential campaign. An extremist animal rights group used that information to list Ms. Brienza's home address (and similarly, that of dozens of co-workers) on a Web site, under the ominous heading, "Now you know where to find them." Her "offense," also revealed from the campaign finance records, was that she worked for a pharmaceutical company that tested its products on animals.

In the aftermath of Prop. 8 we can glimpse a very ugly future. As anyone who has had their political yard signs torn down can imagine, with today's easy access to donor information on the Internet, any crank or unhinged individual can obtain information on his political opponents, including work and home addresses, all but instantaneously. When even donations as small as $100 trigger demonstrations, it is hard to know how one will feel safe in supporting causes one believes in.

Mr. Lott, a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland, is the author of "Freedomnomics" (Regnery, 2007). Mr. Smith, a former Federal Election Commission commissioner, is chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics and professor of law at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.

 
23138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Turkey on: December 26, 2008, 07:35:20 AM
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s religious businessmen spent years building empires on curtains, candy bars and couches. But as observant Muslims in one of the world’s most self-consciously secular states, they were never accepted by elite society.

Now that group has become its own elite, and Turkey, a more openly religious country. It has lifted an Islamic-inspired political party to power and helped make Turkey the seventh largest economy in Europe.

And while other Muslim societies are wrestling with radicals, Turkey’s religious merchant class is struggling instead with riches.

“Muslims here used to be tested by poverty,” said Sehminur Aydin, an observant Muslim businesswoman and the daughter of a manufacturing magnate. “Now they’re being tested by wealth.”

Some say religious Turks are failing that test, and they see the recent economic crisis as a lesson for those who indulged in the worst excesses of consumption, summed up in the work of one Turkish interior designer: a bathroom with faucets encrusted with Swarovski crystal, a swimming pool in the bedroom, a couch rigged to rise up to the ceiling by remote control during prayer. “I know people who broke their credit cards,” Ms. Aydin said.

But beyond the downturn, no matter how severe, is the reality: the religious wealthy class is powerful now in Turkey, a new phenomenon that poses fresh challenges not only to the old secular elite but to what good Muslims think about themselves.

Money is at the heart of the changes that have transformed Turkey. In 1950, it was a largely agrarian society, with 80 percent of its population living in rural areas. Its economy was closed and foreign currency was illegal. But a forward-looking prime minister, Turgut Ozal, opened the economy. Now Turkey exports billions of dollars in goods to other European countries, and about 70 percent of its population lives in cities.

Religious Turks helped power that rise, yet for years they were shunned by elite society. That helps explain why many are engaged in such a frantic effort to prove themselves, said Safak Cak, a Turkish interior designer with many wealthy, religious clients. “It’s because of how we labeled them,” he said. “We looked at them as black people.”

Mr. Cak was referring to Turkey’s deep class divide. An urban upper class, often referred to as White Turks, wielded the political and economic power in the country for decades. They saw themselves as the transmitters of the secular ideals of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s founder. They have felt threatened by the rise of the rural, religious, merchant class, particularly of its political representative, Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“The old class was not ready to share economic and political power,” said Can Paker, chairman of the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, a liberal research organization in Istanbul. “The new class is sharing their habits, like driving Mercedes, but they are also wearing head scarves. The old class can’t bear this.”

“ ‘They were the peasants,’ ” the thinking goes, Mr. Paker said. “ ‘Why are they among us?’ ”

Ms. Aydin, 40, who wears a head scarf, encountered that attitude not long ago in one of Istanbul’s fanciest districts. A woman called her a “dirty fundamentalist” when Ms. Aydin tried to put trash the woman had thrown out her car window back inside.

“If you’re driving a good car, they stare at you and point,” Ms. Aydin said. “You want to say, ‘I graduated from French school just like you,’ but after a while, you don’t feel like proving yourself.”

She does not have to.

Her father started by selling curtains. Now he owns one of the largest home-appliance businesses in Europe. Ms. Aydin grew up wealthy, with tastes no different from those of the older class. She lives in a sleek, modern house with a pool in a gated community. Her son attends a prestigious private school. A business school graduate, she manages about 100 people at a private hospital founded by her father. Her head scarf bars her from employment in a state hospital.

Her husband, Yasar Aydin, shrugged. “Rich people everywhere dislike newcomers,” he said. In another decade, those prejudices will be gone, he said.

The businessmen describe themselves as Muslims with a Protestant work ethic, and say hard work deepens faith.

===========

Page 2 of 2)



“We can’t lie down on our oil like Arab countries,” said Osman Kadiroglu, whose family owns a large candy company in Turkey, with factories in Azerbaijan and Algeria. “There’s no way out except producing.”

Fortunes were made, forming new patterns of consumption. Istanbul, Turkey’s economic capital, is No. 4 in the world on the latest Forbes list of cities with the highest number of billionaires. Luxury cars stud its streets. Shopping malls, 80 at last count, are mushrooming.

“Now, unfortunately, there is a taste for luxury, excessive consumption and comfort, vanity, exhibitionism and greed,” said Mehmet Sevket Eygi, a 75-year-old newspaper columnist, who has written extensively about Muslims and wealth.

An Islamic concept called israf forbids consuming more than one needs, but the line is blurry, leaving rich Muslims struggling with questions like whether luxury cars can be offset by donations to charity, a central tenet of Islam.

“You have money, but do you buy whatever you want?” said Recep Senturk, a sociologist at the Center for Islamic Studies in Istanbul. “Or should you keep a humble life? This is a debate in Turkey right now.”

Islam requires that the wealthy give away a portion of their income to the poor. In the Ottoman Empire, it paid for everything from hospitals to dishes broken by maids in rich houses.

Donations to Deniz Feneri, one of the largest charities in Turkey, jumped almost 100-fold in the six years ending in 2006, when they topped $62 million.

Even house designs take charity into account. Mr. Cak described a multimillion-dollar house whose design included an industrial-size kitchen where food was cooked daily and distributed in trucks.

Ms. Aydin, for her part, supports 25 families. The real problem is not finding a place to pray on a busy day out (mall fitting rooms work), but being truly charitable and putting others first when the frenzied pace of life pushes in the opposite direction. She holds onto traditions, like Muslim holidays, tightly.

“The world is changing but I don’t want to lose this,” she said.
23139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: The Reckoning on: December 26, 2008, 07:29:17 AM
“Usually it’s the rich country lending to the poor. This time, it’s the poor country lending to the rich.”
— Niall Ferguson


WASHINGTON — In March 2005, a low-key Princeton economist who had become a Federal Reserve governor coined a novel theory to explain the growing tendency of Americans to borrow from foreigners, particularly the Chinese, to finance their heavy spending.

The problem, he said, was not that Americans spend too much, but that foreigners save too much. The Chinese have piled up so much excess savings that they lend money to the United States at low rates, underwriting American consumption.

This colossal credit cycle could not last forever, he said. But in a global economy, the transfer of Chinese money to America was a market phenomenon that would take years, even a decade, to work itself out. For now, he said, “we probably have little choice except to be patient.”

Today, the dependence of the United States on Chinese money looks less benign. And the economist who proposed the theory, Ben S. Bernanke, is dealing with the consequences, having been promoted to chairman of the Fed in 2006, as these cross-border money flows were reaching stratospheric levels.

In the past decade, China has invested upward of $1 trillion, mostly earnings from manufacturing exports, into American government bonds and government-backed mortgage debt. That has lowered interest rates and helped fuel a historic consumption binge and housing bubble in the United States.

China, some economists say, lulled American consumers, and their leaders, into complacency about their spendthrift ways.

“This was a blinking red light,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard and a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. “We should have reacted to it.”

In hindsight, many economists say, the United States should have recognized that borrowing from abroad for consumption and deficit spending at home was not a formula for economic success. Even as that weakness is becoming more widely recognized, however, the United States is likely to be more addicted than ever to foreign creditors to finance record government spending to revive the broken economy.

To be sure, there were few ready remedies. Some critics argue that the United States could have pushed Beijing harder to abandon its policy of keeping the value of its currency weak — a policy that made its exports less expensive and helped turn it into the world’s leading manufacturing power. If China had allowed its currency to float according to market demand in the past decade, its export growth probably would have moderated. And it would not have acquired the same vast hoard of dollars to invest abroad.

Others say the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department should have seen the Chinese lending for what it was: a giant stimulus to the American economy, not unlike interest rate cuts by the Fed. These critics say the Fed under Alan Greenspan contributed to the creation of the housing bubble by leaving interest rates too low for too long, even as Chinese investment further stoked an easy-money economy. The Fed should have cut interest rates less in the middle of this decade, they say, and started raising them sooner, to help reduce speculation in real estate.

Today, with the wreckage around him, Mr. Bernanke said he regretted that more was not done to regulate financial institutions and mortgage providers, which might have prevented the flood of investment, including that from China, from being so badly used. But the Fed’s role in regulation is limited to banks. And stricter regulation by itself would not have been enough, he insisted.

“Achieving a better balance of international capital flows early on could have significantly reduced the risks to the financial system,” Mr. Bernanke said in an interview in his office overlooking the Washington Mall.

“However,” he continued, “this could only have been done through international cooperation, not by the United States alone. The problem was recognized, but sufficient international cooperation was not forthcoming.”

The inaction was because of a range of factors, political and economic. By the yardsticks that appeared to matter most — prosperity and growth — the relationship between China and the United States also seemed to be paying off for both countries. Neither had a strong incentive to break an addiction: China to strong export growth and financial stability; the United States to cheap imports and low-cost foreign loans.

In Washington, China was treated as a threat by some people, but mostly because it lured away manufacturing jobs. Others argued that China’s heavy lending to this country was risky because Chinese leaders could decide to withdraw money at a moment’s notice, creating a panicky run on the dollar.

Mr. Bernanke viewed such international investment flows through a different lens. He argued that Chinese invested savings abroad because consumers in China did not have enough confidence to spend. Changing that situation would take years, and did not amount to a pressing problem for the Americans.

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age 2 of 3)



“The global savings glut story did us a collective disservice,” said Edwin M. Truman, a former Fed and Treasury official. “It created the idea that the world was doing it to us and we couldn’t do anything about it.”

But Mr. Bernanke’s theory fit the prevailing hands-off, pro-market ideology of recent years. Mr. Greenspan and the Bush administration treated the record American trade deficit and heavy foreign borrowing as an abstract threat, not an urgent problem.

Mr. Bernanke, after he took charge of the Fed, warned that the imbalances between the countries were growing more serious. By then, however, it was too late to do much about them. And the White House still regarded imbalances as an arcane subject best left to economists.

By itself, money from China is not a bad thing. As American officials like to note, it speaks to the attractiveness of the United States as a destination for foreign investment. In the 19th century, the United States built its railroads with capital borrowed from the British.

In the past decade, China arguably enabled an American boom. Low-cost Chinese goods helped keep a lid on inflation, while the flood of Chinese investment helped the government finance mortgages and a public debt of close to $11 trillion.

But Americans did not use the lower-cost money afforded by Chinese investment to build a 21st-century equivalent of the railroads. Instead, the government engaged in a costly war in Iraq, and consumers used loose credit to buy sport utility vehicles and larger homes. Banks and investors, eagerly seeking higher interest rates in this easy-money environment, created risky new securities like collateralized debt obligations.

“Nobody wanted to get off this drug,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who pushed legislation to punish China by imposing stiff tariffs. “Their drug was an endless line of customers for made-in-China products. Our drug was the Chinese products and cash.”

Mr. Graham said he understood the addiction: he was speaking by phone from a Wal-Mart store in Anderson, S.C., where he was Christmas shopping in aisles lined with items from China.

A New Economic Dance

The United States has been here before. In the 1980s, it ran heavy trade deficits with Japan, which recycled some of its trading profits into American government bonds.

At that time, the deficits were viewed as a grave threat to America’s economic might. Action took the form of a 1985 agreement known as the Plaza Accord. The world’s major economies intervened in currency markets to drive down the value of the dollar and drive up the Japanese yen.

The arrangement did slow the growth of the trade deficit for a time. But economists blamed the sharp revaluation of the Japanese yen for halting Japan’s rapid growth. The lesson of the Plaza Accord was not lost on China, which at that time was just emerging as an export power.

China tied itself even more tightly to the United States than did Japan. In 1995, it devalued its currency and set a firm exchange rate of roughly 8.3 to the dollar, a level that remained fixed for a decade.

During the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, China clung firmly to its currency policy, earning praise from the Clinton administration for helping check the spiral of devaluation sweeping Asia. Its low wages attracted hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign investment.

By the early part of this decade, the United States was importing huge amounts of Chinese-made goods — toys, shoes, flat-screen televisions and auto parts — while selling much less to China in return.

“For consumers, this was a net benefit because of the availability of cheaper goods,” said Laurence H. Meyer, a former Fed governor. “There’s no question that China put downward pressure on inflation rates.”

But in classical economics, that trade gap could not have persisted for long without bankrupting the American economy. Except that China recycled its trade profits right back into the United States.

It did so to protect its own interests. China kept its banks under tight state control and its currency on a short leash to ensure financial stability. It required companies and individuals to save in the state-run banking system most foreign currency — primarily dollars — that they earned from foreign trade and investment.

As foreign trade surged, this hoard of dollars became enormous. In 2000, the reserves were less than $200 billion; today they are about $2 trillion.

Chinese leaders chose to park the bulk of that in safe securities backed by the American government, including Treasury bonds and the debt of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which had implicit government backing.

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

Dollar Shift: Chinese Pockets Filled as Americans’ Emptied


published: December 25, 2008

(Page 3 of 3)



This not only allowed the United States to continue to finance its trade deficit, but, by creating greater demand for United States securities, it also helped push interest rates below where they would otherwise have been. For years, China’s government was eager to buy American debt at yields many in the private sector felt were too low.

This financial and trade embrace between the United States and China grew so tight that Niall Ferguson, a financial historian, has dubbed the two countries Chimerica.
‘Tiptoeing’ Around a Partner

Being attached at the hip was not entirely comfortable for either side, though for widely differing reasons.

In the United States, more people worried about cheap Chinese goods than cheap Chinese loans. By 2003, China’s trade surplus with the United States was ballooning, and lawmakers in Congress were restive. Senator Graham and Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, introduced a bill threatening to impose a 27 percent duty on Chinese goods.

“We had a moment where we caught everyone’s attention: the White House and China,” Mr. Graham recalled.

At the People’s Bank of China, the central bank, a consensus was also emerging in late 2004: China should break its tight link to the dollar, which would make its exports more expensive. Yu Yongding, a leading economic adviser, pressed the case. The American trade and budget deficits were not sustainable, he warned. China was wrong to keep its currency artificially depressed and depend too much on selling cheap goods.

Proponents of revaluation in China argued that the country’s currency policies denied the fruits of prosperity to Chinese consumers. Beijing was investing their savings in low-yielding American government securities. And with a weak currency, they said, Chinese could not afford many imported goods.

The central bank’s English-speaking governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, was among those who favored a sizable revaluation.

But when Beijing acted to amend its currency policy in 2005, under heavy pressure from Congress and the White House, it moved cautiously. The renminbi was allowed to climb only 2 percent. The Communist Party opted for only incremental adjustments to its economic model after a decade of fast growth. Little changed: China’s exports kept soaring and investment poured into steel mills and garment factories.

But American officials eased the pressure. They decided to put more emphasis on urging Chinese consumers to spend more of their savings, which they hoped would eventually bring the two economies into better balance. On a tour of China, John W. Snow, the Treasury secretary at the time, even urged the Chinese to start using credit cards.

China kicked off its own campaign to encourage domestic consumption, which it hoped would provide a new source. But Chinese save with the same zeal that, until recently, Americans spent. Shorn of the social safety net of the old Communist state, they squirrel away money to pay for hospital visits, housing or retirement. This accounts for the savings glut identified by Mr. Bernanke.

Privately, Chinese officials confided to visiting Americans that the effort was not achieving much.

“It is sometimes hard to change successful models,” said Robert B. Zoellick, who negotiated with the Chinese as a deputy secretary of state. “It is prototypically American to say, ‘This worked well, but now you’ve got to change it.’ ”

In Washington, some critics say too little was done. A former Treasury official, Timothy D. Adams, tried to get the I.M.F. to act as a watchdog for currency manipulation by China, which would have subjected Beijing to more global pressure.

Yet when Mr. Snow was succeeded as Treasury secretary by Henry M. Paulson Jr. in 2006, the I.M.F. was sidelined, according to several officials, and Mr. Paulson took command of China policy.

He was not shy about his credentials. As an investment banker with Goldman Sachs, Mr. Paulson made 70 trips to China. In his office hangs a watercolor depicting the hometown of Zhu Rongji, a forceful former prime minister.

“I pushed very hard on currency because I believed it was important for China to get to a market-determined currency,” Mr. Paulson said in an interview. But he conceded he did not get what he wanted.

In late 2006, Mr. Paulson invited Mr. Bernanke to accompany him to Beijing. Mr. Bernanke used the occasion to deliver a blunt speech to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in which he advised the Chinese to reorient their economy and revalue their currency.

At the last minute, however, Mr. Bernanke deleted a reference to the exchange rate being an “effective subsidy” for Chinese exports, out of fear that it could be used as a pretext for a trade lawsuit against China.

Critics detected a pattern. They noted that in its twice-yearly reports to Congress about trading partners, the Treasury Department had never branded China a currency manipulator.

“We’re tiptoeing around, desperately trying not to irritate or offend the Chinese,” said Thea M. Lee, public policy director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. “But to get concrete results, you have to be confrontational.”

An Embrace That Won’t Let Go

For China, too, this crisis has been a time of reckoning. Americans are buying fewer Chinese DVD players and microwave ovens. Trade is collapsing, and thousands of workers are losing their jobs. Chinese leaders are terrified of social unrest.

Having allowed the renminbi to rise a little after 2005, the Chinese government is now under intense pressure domestically to reverse course and depreciate it. China’s fortunes remain tethered to those of the United States. And the reverse is equally true.

In a glassed-in room in a nondescript office building in Washington, the Treasury conducts nearly daily auctions of billions of dollars’ worth of government bonds. An old Army helmet sits on a shelf: as a lark, Treasury officials have been known to strap it on while they monitor incoming bids.

For the past five years, China has been one of the most prolific bidders. It holds $652 billion in Treasury debt, up from $459 billion a year ago. Add in its Fannie Mae bonds and other holdings, and analysts figure China owns $1 of every $10 of America’s public debt.

The Treasury is conducting more auctions than ever to finance its $700 billion bailout of the banks. Still more will be needed to pay for the incoming Obama administration’s stimulus package. The United States, economists say, will depend on the Chinese to keep buying that debt, perpetuating the American habit.

Even so, Mr. Paulson said he viewed the debate over global imbalances as hopelessly academic. He expressed doubt that Mr. Bernanke or anyone else could have solved the problem as it was germinating.

“One lesson that I have clearly learned,” said Mr. Paulson, sitting beneath his Chinese watercolor. “You don’t get dramatic change, or reform, or action unless there is a crisis.”
23140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Confessions of a foot soldier on: December 26, 2008, 07:14:11 AM
Friday, Dec. 26, 2008
By Ioan Grillo / Mexico City

For a confessed drug cartel hood whose alias is "The Nut Job," Marco Vinicio Cobo is remarkably calm and plain-looking. Sitting in the blue-walled interrogation room of a Mexican army base, the chubby, goatee-bearded 30-year-old coolly describes his work for the Zetas, a feared paramilitary force responsible for thousands of brutal murders. And even when he details how his bosses kidnapped and chopped the head off a soldier, he appears relaxed and unemotional, as if he were discussing the weather. But despite the unsettling indifference of its tone, Cobo's confession — of which a video has been obtained by TIME — offers some extraordinary insights into how the cartels have grown into a formidable threat to the Mexican government, outwitting and outgunning the armed forces in great swathes of the country.

In the statement made on video following his arrest in southern Mexico last April, Cobo explains how the cartels use a disciplined cell structure with a vertical, military-style chain of command to control thousands of men at arms. "I began as an H — the code they use for Hawk," he says. "After a time, I became a Central. I gave information to all the local H's in the community." He also reveals how his "family" stays one step ahead of the authorities by paying a vast network of informants, from local journalists to high-ranking federal agents. (See images of fighting crime in Mexico City)

In the worst year for Mexican law enforcement in recent history, cartel gunmen have killed more than 500 police and military personnel, including eight soldiers who were beheaded near Acapulco on Sunday. Cobo's own life story also sheds light on the machinations of the crime empires behind this killing spree. From a lower-middle class family, Cobo had worked for a while as a journalist in the poor state of Oaxaca before joining the cartel in his late 20s because it was the best job opportunity available. "They first paid me $300 a fortnight, and then it went up to $400," he explains. "The money was deposited at the local Elektra [a chain store that provides low-cost banking]". His modest wage shows how many cartel foot soldiers such as Cobo live a world apart from the extravagant kingpins with their million-dollar mansions and fleets of luxury cars, but it was still five times the country's minimum wage. And it's the swelling of the narco armies with tens of thousands of low-paid recruits that helps explain the scale of the bloodshed here, with more than 5,300 drug-related killings over the past year alone.

Cobo claims he first came into contact with the Zetas while covering crime for the small-town newspaper Sol del Istmo. "Journalists were threatened," he said. "One time, they told me not to publish a story about some men who were arrested with guns. They said the story couldn't come out." When he joined up with these gangsters, he said his first job was to monitor the local roads. Later he helped set up the abductions of any cartel targets on those routes. "They kidnapped people who had committed what they said was a crime," he said. "Many were people who worked as drug traffickers." He lost count of how many victims they abducted, but said three had had been killed and buried in the yard of a suburban house.

The Zetas act as the enforcement wing of the Gulf Cartel and extort payments from anyone who moves narcotics through their territories. The Oaxaca coast, where Cobo joined, is strategically important in trafficking routes of cocaine from Colombia to the United States. It is also the thinnest point between the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico. "The Gulf Cartel controls the drug trade along the Gulf of Mexico and dominates the movement of drugs into this country primarily through Texas," said Michele M. Leonhart, Acting Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in a recent statement. "They are known, even among their rivals, for their extreme violence."

As a "Central", Cobo had 13 "Hawks" under his command. Above him were Second Commanders. The Zeta ranking system is based on the Mexican military, which is unsurprising considering that the organization was founded by soldiers from the army's special forces who defected to the gangsters in the late 1990s. Cobo knew his superiors only by aliases, in order to protect their identities. "There was Franco, Tarzan, Texas, and Zorro," he said. He saw a book with names of dozens of police under the unit's payroll, he said, including officers from many nearby towns and federal agents stationed there. The corrupt police were also given aliases, including Papa and Brother.

In late March, Cobo's unit kidnapped a military officer, decapitated him and stuck his body out on a road, along with several bags of cocaine and about $2,000 in cash. "Franco told me that the officer was from military intelligence and he was getting too close," Cobo said. "The drugs and the money were planted so it would seem like he was involved in narco trafficking." Following the slaying, soldiers arrested Cobo and 13 others, along with semi-automatic rifles and radio equipment. His confession led the military to the suburban house where they dug up the bodies he had mentioned. Cobo was eventually sent to a civilian prison, where he awaits his court date on organized crime charges. Federal prosecutors declined to comment on whether his cooperation will lead to a more lenient sentence.
Find this article at:
http://www.time.com/time/world/artic...868666,00.html
__________________
23141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Story: Consitutional interpretation on: December 26, 2008, 07:00:26 AM
"The constitution of the United States is to receive a reasonable interpretation of its language, and its powers, keeping in view the objects and purposes, for which those powers were conferred. By a reasonable interpretation, we mean, that in case the words are susceptible of two different senses, the one strict, the other more enlarged, that should be adopted, which is most consonant with the apparent objects and intent of the Constitution."

--Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833

23142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Circling the drain on: December 25, 2008, 08:29:10 PM
It being the NYT the enemy's indignation at UAV attacks goes unquestioned even as they deliberately target civilians and throw acid at little girls for attending school.  rolleyes
======================================

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — This frontier city boasts a major air base and Pakistani Army and paramilitary garrisons. But the 200 Taliban guerrillas were in no rush as they methodically ransacked depots with NATO supplies here two weeks ago.

An important NATO supply line goes over Khyber Pass.
The militants began by blocking off a long stretch of the main road, giving them plenty of time to burn everything inside, said one guard, Haroon Khan, who was standing next to a row of charred trucks.

After assuring the overmatched guards they would not be killed — if they agreed never to work there again — the militants shouted “God is great” through bullhorns. They then grabbed jerrycans and made several trips to a nearby gas station for fuel, which they dumped on the cargo trucks and Humvees before setting them ablaze.

The attack provided the latest evidence of how extensively militants now rule the critical region east of the Khyber Pass, the narrow cut through the mountains on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border that has been a strategic trade and military gateway since the time of Alexander the Great.

The area encompasses what is officially known as the Khyber Agency, which is adjacent to Peshawar and is one of a handful of lawless tribal districts on the border. But security in Khyber has deteriorated further in recent months with the emergence of a brash young Taliban commander who calls news conferences to thumb his nose at NATO forces, as well as with public fury over deadly missile attacks by American remotely piloted aircraft.

Khyber’s downward spiral is jeopardizing NATO’s most important supply line, sending American military officials scrambling to find alternative routes into Afghanistan through Russia and Central Asia. Three-quarters of troop supplies enter from Pakistan, most of the goods ferried from Karachi to Peshawar and then 40 miles west through the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan.

A half-dozen raids on depots with NATO supplies here have already destroyed 300 cargo trucks and Humvees this month. American officials insist that troop provisions have not suffered, but with predictions that the American deployment in Afghanistan could double next year, to 60,000 soldiers, the pressure to secure safer transportation is even more intense.

For NATO the most serious problem is not even the depots in Peshawar but the safety of the road that winds west to the 3,500-foot Khyber Pass. The route used to be relatively secure: Afridi tribesman were paid by the government to safeguard it, and they were subject to severe penalties and collective tribal punishment for crimes against travelers.

But now the road is a death trap, truckers and some security officials say, with routine attacks like one on Sunday that burned a fuel tanker and another last Friday that killed three drivers returning from Afghanistan.

“The road is so unsafe that even the locals are reluctant to go back to their villages from Peshawar,” said Gul Naseem, who lives in Landi Kotal, near the border.

The largest truckers’ association here has gone on strike to protest the lack of security, saying that the job action has sidelined 60 percent of the trucks that normally haul military goods. An American official denied that the drop-off had been that severe.

“Not a single day passes when something doesn’t happen,” said Shakir Afridi, leader of the truckers’ group, the Khyber Transport Association. He said at least 25 trucks and six oil tankers were destroyed this month. “Attacks have become a daily affair,” he said.

There are new efforts to deter Taliban raids, including convoy escorts by a Pakistani paramilitary group, the Frontier Corps. But now militants are attacking empty — and unguarded — trucks returning to Pakistan. The road from Peshawar to the border has become far more perilous than the route on the other side in Afghanistan, truckers say.

“Our lives are in danger and nobody cares,” said Shah Mahmood Afridi, a driver who was in the returning convoy attacked on Friday. “They fired at the trucks and killed three men inside. There is no security provided when we are empty.”

Escalating violence on the Khyber road has paralleled the rise of Hakimullah Mehsud, a young Taliban commander and lieutenant of Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the main Pakistani Taliban faction.

Earlier this year, Hakimullah Mehsud’s forces took control of Orakzai Agency and instituted the strict Islamic laws known as Shariah. At a news conference there one month ago, Hakimullah Mehsud declared his intention to intensify attacks on NATO supply convoys. Some security officials say they believe that he was behind the assassination in August of a rival militant leader, Hajji Namdar, in Khyber.

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Page 2 of 2)



At the same time, another powerful Khyber warlord, Mangal Bagh, who officials say has not been attacking the convoys, has seen the geographic range of his influence narrow somewhat, easing the path for Mr. Mehsud’s authority to expand inside some parts of Khyber. “I have no love for Mangal Bagh, but the fact remains that Mangal Bagh does not do these attacks,” said Tariq Hayat, the Khyber political agent, the top government official in the region.

Pakistani employees two weeks ago inspected trucks burned by Taliban guerrillas at a depot with NATO supplies in Peshawar.
Increased missile attacks by remotely piloted American aircraft — like one that killed seven people in the South Waziristan Agency on Monday — have enraged residents in Khyber and other tribal areas near the border, increasing sympathy for attacks on convoys. Mr. Afridi, of the truckers’ association, condemns the strikes and blames them for increased assaults on his drivers. “We are a tribal people, and if the Americans hit innocent people in Waziristan, we also feel the pain,” he said.

Raising the prospect of an even wider threat to the convoys, an influential Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, staged a rally last week in Peshawar, turning out thousands to condemn the missile strikes. The marchers demanded that Pakistan end the NATO convoys, and they vowed to cut the supply lines themselves.

Taliban militants have also moved into Khyber after Pakistani military campaigns in nearby areas like Bajaur Agency. Their migration is reminiscent of a tactic that bedeviled the American military in Iraq for years — dubbed “whack a mole” by combat officers — in which guerrillas eluded large American combat operations and moved to take up positions in areas with understaffed troop contingents.

All those factors have been amplified, in the view of some officials, by the torpor of the Pakistani government. Mahmood Shah, a retired Pakistani Army brigadier who until 2006 was in charge of security in the western tribal regions, said the government had the manpower to drive militants out of Khyber but had mounted only a weak response.

He recounted a recent conversation with a senior Pakistani government official. “You have the chance to wake up,” he said he told the official. “But if you don’t wake up now, there is a good chance you won’t wake up at all.”
23143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Samuel Adams on: December 25, 2008, 06:31:57 PM
"Religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of public liberty and happiness."

--Samuel Adams, letter to John Trumbull, 16 October 1778
23144  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: December 25, 2008, 06:30:52 PM
Agradezco que aunque yo haya fallado post (?como se dice "to post"?), que cada dia es una nueva oportunidad.    Agradezco este quinta dia de Chanukah y y esa dia Navidad y haberlo compartido con mi familia.
23145  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Vehicles, driving skills, crime, related issues on: December 25, 2008, 05:52:11 PM
Tony P makes a good point about leaving space in front of you when stopped for a light.  I believe this saved me one time from being carjecked.  Briefly, what happened is this:

I stopped in the #2 turn lane and left plenty of space in front of me.  A ratty van with 3 gang banger types pulled up along side me in the #1 turn lane.  This was odd because there was no one in front of them.  Spider sense tingled! The one in the passenger seat gestured towards me as if he wanted to talk and began getting out of the van.   I pulled forward several feet and reached under my seat while maintaining indirect visual on him out of the corner of my eye.  He got back in his van and it too moved forward several feet and again the second man began getting out.  I made a very deliberate gesture reaching under my seat and maintained indirect visual contact.  He got back in.  The light changed to green and as they drove by me we exchanged some very hard looks.

Given the POS that my truck is, I found it hard to comprehend that anyone would want to steal it.  When I told Gabe Suarez the story he said he thought that they probably simply saw the set up in the turn lanes as tactically desirable and simply wanted to take my truck to use it in some crime and then abandon it.

I sometimes tell this story when asked if I ever have had to use a gun in self-defense.  evil cheesy

23146  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Army stops use of WoundStat on: December 24, 2008, 09:17:07 AM
Army Stops Use of WoundStat: Officials need to study first-aid item more
Updated 1:27 PM EST, Tue, Dec 23, 2008

WASHINGTON -- Until more testing can be done, Army medics are being told to stop using a new product just sent to the war front to help control bleeding among wounded troops.

Officials were in the process of distributing some 17,000 packets of WoundStat, granules that are poured into wounds when special bandages, tourniquets or other efforts won't work. But a recent study showed that, if used directly on injured blood vessels, the granules may lead to harmful blood clots, officials said Tuesday.

The Army Medical Command will continue its research and work with the manufacturer in hopes of figuring out in the next few months whether to resume use of WoundStat, said Col. Paul Cordts, head of Army health policy and services.

WoundStat manufacturer TraumaCure, Inc., of Bethesda, Md., had no immediate comment.

The product, which was developed at Virginia Commonwealth University, had been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It was one of the latest in a series of Army efforts to improve survival rates on the battlefield.

Today, 90 percent of injured troops survive their wounds, the highest rate of any war, Cordts said in an interview. He credited better training of combat medics, better body armor the troops wear and better tactics they use on the battlefield, as well improved bandages, tourniquets and so on.

Defense Department figures show that as of this month, more than 4,800 troops have been killed in Iraq and the global war on terror. The latter category counts casualties mostly from Afghanistan. Some 34,000 troops have been wounded in the wars, where insurgents have made wide use of roadside bombs and other explosives.

Excessive blood loss is the number one killer on the battlefield, and the Army announced in October that it was sending two potential lifesavers -- the WoundStat packets and a bandage called Combat Gauze -- to replace older other products that had been in use at the time.

A committee of Army medics, Navy corpsmen, surgeons and others recommended the Combat Gauze bandage -- which has an agent that triggers blood clotting -- should be the first-line treatment for life-threatening hemorrhaging in cases where a tourniquet could not be placed, such as the armpit or groin area.

The WoundStat granules were to be used if the bandage failed to work.

Cordts said the Army put out a message on Dec. 18, directing the temporary halt in use of WoundStat. Though it has arrived at the war zones, officials are unclear on how widely it has been distributed so far. They're working to identify any soldiers who got the treatment, study their cases and examine them for any problems with blood clotting, Cordts said.

He said he didn't know whether it had been used on any soldiers and thus had no reports back from the field -- positive or negative -- on how effective it might have been.

Cordts said that after an additional few months of study, officials will likely determine whether they should discontinue its use altogether or perhaps redistribute it with warnings for how it is to be used.

23147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Generation Faithful on: December 24, 2008, 09:07:23 AM
AMMAN, Jordan — Muhammad Fawaz is a very serious college junior with a stern gaze and a reluctant smile that barely cloaks suppressed anger. He never wanted to attend Jordan University. He hates spending hours each day commuting.


As a high school student, Mr. Fawaz, 20, had dreamed of earning a scholarship to study abroad. But that was impossible, he said, because he did not have a “wasta,” or connection. In Jordan, connections are seen as essential for advancement and the wasta system is routinely cited by young people as their primary grievance with their country.

So Mr. Fawaz decided to rebel. He adopted the serene, disciplined demeanor of an Islamic activist. In his sophomore year he was accepted into the student group affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan’s largest, most influential religious, social and political movement, one that would ultimately like to see the state governed by Islamic law, or Shariah. Now he works to recruit other students to the cause.

“I find there is justice in the Islamic movement,” Mr. Fawaz said one day as he walked beneath the towering cypress trees at Jordan University. “I can express myself. There is no wasta needed.”

Across the Middle East, young people like Mr. Fawaz, angry, alienated and deprived of opportunity, have accepted Islam as an agent of change and rebellion. It is their rock ’n’ roll, their long hair and love beads. Through Islam, they defy the status quo and challenge governments seen as corrupt and incompetent.

These young people — 60 percent of those in the region are under 25 — are propelling a worldwide Islamic revival, driven by a thirst for political change and social justice. That fervor has popularized a more conservative interpretation of the faith.

“Islamism for us is what pan-Arabism was for our parents,” said Naseem Tarawnah, 25, a business writer and blogger, who is not part of the movement.

The long-term implications of this are likely to complicate American foreign policy calculations, making it more costly to continue supporting governments that do not let secular or moderate religious political movements take root.

Washington will also be likely to find it harder to maintain the policy of shunning leaders of groups like the Brotherhood in Egypt, or Hamas in Gaza, or Hezbollah in Lebanon, which command tremendous public sympathy.

Leaders of Muslim countries have tried to appease public sentiment while doing all they can to discourage the West from engaging religious movements directly. They see the prospect of a thaw in relations with the West, and see these groups as a threat to their monopoly on power.

Authoritarian governments view relative moderation as more of a political challenge than extremism, which is a security problem that can be contained through harsh methods.

“What happens if Islamists accepted the peace process and became more pragmatic?” said Muhammad Abu Rumman, research editor at the newspaper Al Ghad in Amman. “People see them as less corrupt and as the only real opposition. Israel and the U.S. might look at them differently. The regime is afraid of the Brotherhood when it becomes more pragmatic.”

The financial crisis only adds to the anxiety of governments in the Middle East that had hoped economic development could appease their citizens, create jobs for legions of unemployed and underemployed young people and dilute the appeal of Islamic movements. But the crisis and the drop in oil prices have hit hard, throwing the brakes on once-booming economies in the Persian Gulf region, and modest economic growth elsewhere in the region.

In this environment, governments are forced to confront a reality of their own creation. By choking off democracy and free speech, the only space where groups could gather and discuss critical ideas became the mosque, and the only movements that had room to prosper were religion-based.

Today, the search for identity in the Middle East no longer involves tension between the secular and religious. Religion has won.

The struggle, instead, is over how to define an Islamic society and government. Zeinah Hamdan, 24, has traveled a typical journey in Jordan. She says she wants a more religious government guided by Shariah law, and she took the head scarf at a younger age than anyone else in her family.

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But when she was in college, she was offended when an Islamist student activist chastised her for shaking a young man’s hand. She wants to be a modern religious woman, and she defines that as working and socializing in a coed environment.


“If we implement Shariah law, we will be more comfortable,” she said. “But what happens is, the people who come to power are extremists.”

Like others here, she is torn between her discomfort with what she sees as the extreme attitudes of the Muslim Brotherhood and her alienation from a government she does not consider to be Islamic enough. “The middle is very difficult,” she said.

Focus on Popular Causes

Under a bright midday sun one recent day, Mr. Fawaz and his allies in the Islamic student movement put on green baseball caps that read, in Arabic, “Islamic Current of Jordan University” and prepared to demonstrate. Mr. Fawaz carried a large poster board reading, “We are with you Gaza.”

The university protest reflected the tactics of the Muslim Brotherhood in the country as a whole: precisely organized, deliberately nonthreatening and focused on popular causes here such as the Palestinians. The Brotherhood says it supports democracy and moderation, but its commitment to pluralism, tolerance and compromise has never been tested in Jordan.

Mr. Fawaz and about 200 other students stood in a straight line, extending nearly two city blocks, parallel to the traffic on the major roadway in front of the university. More than half of the students were women, many with their faces veiled.

State security men in plain clothes hurried up and down the line. “Brother, for God’s sake, when will you be angry?” one security agent screamed into his phone, recording for headquarters the slogan on a student’s placard.

At 12:30 p.m., the male students stepped into the road, blocking traffic, while the women rushed off to the sidewalk and melted back into the campus. One minute later, they walked out of traffic, took off their caps and folded up their signs, tucked them into computer bags and went back to school.

“I want to be able to express what I want; I want freedom,” Mr. Fawaz said, after returning to the campus. His glasses always rest crooked on his face, making him look younger, and a bit out of sorts. “I don’t want to be afraid to express my opinion.”

Mr. Fawaz grew up in a small village called Anjara, near Ajloun, about 50 miles from Amman. His father grew up in the Jordan Valley and worked as a nurse in Irbid. Mr. Fawaz said he was 8 years old he was first invited to “leadership retreats” with a youth organization of the Brotherhood.

When he was 13, the youth group took him on a minor pilgrimage to Mecca. So, he said, he had been enticed by religion at an early age. But he only decided to become politically active — and to join the Brotherhood — when he was denied a scholarship to study abroad.

While there are no official statistics on student membership in the Brotherhood, only a fraction of Jordan University students are formally affiliated. Yet many others say they share the same vague sense of discontent and yearning, the same embrace of the Brotherhood’s slogan, “Islam Is the Solution,” a resonant catchall in the face of many problems.

The university, with about 30,000 students from across the country, has long served as a proxy battlefield for Jordan’s competing interests.

Competing Loyalties

In Jordan, unlike Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is legal, with a political party and a vast network of social services. It also has a political party, called the Islamic Action Front. While some fear it as too extreme, others argue that it has sold out by working within a political system they see as corrupt and un-Islamic. On campus, the Islamists try to build sympathy, handing out study sheets or copying notes for students.

Mr. Fawaz decided this year to run as an Islamist candidate for the student council, an influential organization with its own budget and the right to put up posters, distribute fliers and hold on-campus events.

The Islamic students’ movement had boycotted the elections for years to protest a change of election rules that called for appointing — not electing — half of the council’s 80 members. The rule change, decreed by the former university president, was made in order to block the Islamists, who were the most organized group on campus, from controlling the council.

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That is a direct echo of how the state has long tried to contain the Islamist movement in Jordan. The Brotherhood is allowed to operate, but the government and the security services broadly control the outcome of elections.


Indeed, as Islamist movements have swelled, governments across the Middle East have chosen both to contain and to embrace them. Many governments have aggressively moved to roll back the few democratic practices that had started to take root in their societies, and to prevent Islamists from winning power through the voting booth. That risks driving the leaders and the followers of Islamic organizations toward extremism.

At the same time, many governments have tried to appease popular Islamist fervor. Jordan recently granted a Muslim Brotherhood-aligned newspaper the right to publish daily instead of weekly; held private talks with Hamas leaders; arrested a poet, saying he had insulted Islam by using verses of the Koran in love poems; and shut down restaurants that had served alcohol during Ramadan, though they had been licensed by the state to do so.

This year, the new president of Jordan University permitted all student council seats to be elected, but with rules in place that would, again, make it nearly impossible for the Islamist bloc to have control.

Two days before the voting took place, Mr. Fawaz was campaigning on the steps of the education building, dressed in his best suit and tie. His campaign message to the students was simply, “For your sake.”

Running as an Islamist risks consequences: Mr. Fawaz said that he was approached by a student in his class who he believed was delivering a message from the security services. “He told me that they will write about me; I will never get a job,” Mr. Fawaz said.

But even when the police ordered him to take down his posters on election day, he remained resolute and confident.

“Everybody knows that I am going to win,” Mr. Fawaz said, without sounding boastful. “Because I represent the Islamic movement.”

But he did not win. Instead, a candidate representing a large tribe from the city of Salt won, reflecting the loyalty to bonds of kinship and family heritage even as tribal culture has begun to absorb more conservative Islamic practices and beliefs.

Yet Mr. Fawaz was untroubled. “What is important for me,” he said, “is to serve the movement by spreading the word among the students.”

Amjad al-Absy, 28, remembers the moment when he pledged to join the Muslim Brotherhood. He was 15 and he was identified by Brotherhood recruiters when he was playing soccer in a Palestinian refugee camp. He described how the Brotherhood monitors young men — when they play soccer, go to school, to mosque, to work, as well as in the street and singles out those who appear receptive.

“Once you say yes, they put you in a ring, in a family,” said Mr. Absy. “Outside of the Brotherhood, there is no concern for young men, there is no respect. You are alone.”

Mr. Absy and his friend Tarak Naimat, 24, said that while they were students at the university, they had helped to recruit other young men.

“In the computer lab, in the mosque, you buddy up,” Mr. Naimat said. “Then you participate in events together. Then he becomes a member. If he’s advanced, it can take six months. If less, maybe two years.”

The appeal, Mr. Naimat said, was simple: “It gives you the feeling you can change things, you can act, you can be a leader. You feel like you are part of something important.”

Recruiters to the movement operate in a social atmosphere far more receptive than in the past. Every one of five young men talking near the cafeteria of the university recently insisted that the only way Jordan would have democracy was under an Islamic government, which is what the Brotherhood says it wants to achieve.

Muhammad Safi is a 23-year-old with neatly gelled hair and a television-white smile who described himself as the least religious student at the table. He said he had lived in the United States for five years and was eager to marry an American so he could return. Yet he declared: “An Islamic state would be better. At least it would take care of people.”

A Political Crossroads

The task facing Middle East governments and Islamic leaders is to figure out how to harness the energy of the Islamic revival. The young — the demographic bulge that is defining the future of the Islamic world and the way the West will have to engage it — have embraced Islam with all the fervor of the counterculture.

But the movement is still up for grabs — whether it will lead to greater extremism, even terrorism in some cases, and whether the vague dissatisfaction of young people will translate into political engagement or disaffection.

So the cycle is likely to continue, with religious identification fueled not only by the Islamic movements, but also by governments eager to use religion to enhance legitimacy and to satisfy demands of their citizens. That, in turn, broadens support for groups like the Brotherhood, while undermining support for the government, said many researchers, intellectuals and political scientists in Jordan.

The battle lines are clear on the campus of Jordan University. Bilal Abu Sulaih, 24, is a leader in the Islamic student movement. He returned to school this year to study Islamic law after being suspended for one year for organizing protests, he said. During the year off, he said, he worked as a student organizer for the political party office of the Brotherhood. “We are trying to participate,” he said of the movement’s role on campus. “We do not want to overpower everyone else.”

But his reassurances were brushed aside as another student confronted him. “It’s not true,” shouted Ahmed Qabai, 28, who was seated on a nearby bench. He thrust a finger in Mr. Sulaih’s direction.

“You want to try to control everything,” Mr. Qabai said. “I’ve seen it before, your people talking to women and asking them why they’re not veiled.”

Mr. Sulaih, embarrassed by the challenge, said, “It’s not true.”

Mr. Qabai made it clear that he detested the Muslim Brotherhood, getting more and more worked up, until finally he was screaming. But what he said summed up the challenge ahead for Jordan, and for so many governments in the region: “We all know Islam is the solution. That we agree on.”
23148  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: on: December 24, 2008, 08:39:11 AM
"I have often expressed my sentiments, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience."

--George Washington, letter to the General Committee of the United Baptist Churches in Virginia, May 1789
23149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bill's donor list on: December 24, 2008, 12:59:44 AM
By MARTIN PERETZ
This is not about former President Bill Clinton's shakedown of the sheikhs. They can take care of themselves, Clinton Foundation or no Clinton Foundation.

 
APThis is also not about Hillary Clinton's vulnerability to her husband's donors. She can tell him to "go stuff it," which people say she's been doing for a long time anyway. Rest assured, the next secretary of state will not shirk her diplomatic obligations for the benefit of some scummy foreign mineral magnate's uranium.

What I've been tying to discern about the Clinton Foundation is why -- aside from the annual fancy party in New York -- foreign governments, other foundations and charities have given money to fund what they already do themselves.

I understand why McDonald's of central Arkansas would make a contribution to Mr. Clinton's present career. He has spent so much cash on Big Macs over three decades that they actually owe it to him. But I fail to grasp why the "I Won't Cheat" foundation gave a donation to Bill's charity. He isn't exactly an ideal poster boy.

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None of these gifts were really big money, at least not for Mr. Clinton, for whom a million dollars isn't at all big anymore. But the scrounging operation seems to have dug down very deep to pull in thousand-dollar gifts.

There were four United Way contributions, one from the national outfit, three from local branches. Since when is the Clinton Foundation one of the approved charities of the United Way?

Then there are more serious questions about operating charities. What was the purpose of a contribution by the National Opera of Paris? Or of hospitals themselves in strained circumstances, like Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn and Arkansas Children's Hospital?

The University of Cambridge and Liverpool University in the United Kingdom threw into the pot from the other side of the pond. American universities like Tufts, Columbia, Georgetown, Iowa State, Texas, Brown, Rensselaer Polytechnic, UCLA and its school of public health all gave, plus the University of Judaism with a whopping sum between $100,000 and $250,000. (Is Bill Clinton now supporting studies in theology?) Do these educational institutions have such deep pockets to share with Bill Clinton's ego?

On the donor list are also the names of the charities we all give to generically: Human Rights Watch (well, not me), Feed the Children, and the Hunger Project. The foundation also receives funding from the International Bank for Recovery and Development of the World Bank, and the World Health Organization. They have their own, far-reaching projects. Why would they give cash to charitable work for which Mr. Clinton is at most a matchmaker?

In Today's Opinion Journal
 

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

In Hoc Anno DominiCongress Targets PhilanthropyAn Ethanol Bailout?

TODAY'S COLUMNIST

Business World: Get Ready for a Lost Decade
– Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

COMMENTARY

Defense Spending Would Be a Great Stimulus
– Martin Feldstein

Clinton's Donor List Raises Lots of Questions
– Martin PeretzHow Bush Can Transcend the Shoe Thrower
– Mark BowdenA Christmas Tale – 1919
– Hans von SpakovskyThere's a certain looseness here that spreads downwards: District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union gave old comrade Bill somewhere in the range of half a million bucks. And then spreads upwards, so to speak: Citi gave him from $1 million to $5 million. Perhaps Citi's gift was just a pledge. In that case, is Treasury now paying up?

Many are focused on the contributions of the Arab states. Mr. Clinton started his charity in 1997 with four years to go in his presidency, a period when no American law provided for the most elementary public reporting of the enterprise. Still, the fact that Saudi Arabia is on the donor list comes as no surprise.

What we now know is that Mr. Clinton was indiscriminating when it came to accepting cash from all sorts of countries. He took money from poor countries like Jamaica, and more prosperous countries like Italy. He dipped into the Irish Aid Fund and the Swedish Postal Lottery for big money, and for small money from the Social Economic Council of the Netherlands. And then there was an especially strange source from which he schnorrered: Citgo, Hugo Chávez's oil company. Even if the revolucion didn't gain points for this, it is unseemly for an American president to ask the energy company of the Venezuelan dictatorship for spare cash.

So where did all this fund-raised money go? Wouldn't you want to know to which philanthropic undertaking the King of Saudi Arabia and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques committed himself? This information is not in the report -- and it doesn't look like President-elect Obama has any interest in pushing for further disclosure. Maybe the king just gave to general expenses.

Mr. Peretz is editor in chief of The New Republic.
23150  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Boxing Thread on: December 24, 2008, 12:48:16 AM
Tangential story:

For a time one of my sisters parlayed working for Howard Cosell rolleyes into some fairly heavy involvement with boxing telecasts and PR (e.g. she represented heavyweight champ Riddick Bowe for a time) , , , Anyway, as part of this she would get me gigs from time to time as "assistant stage manager" for various championship fights.  Mostly this meant that I sat at Al Bernstein's elbow and controlled security in the area.   

When welter champ Marlon Starling came up to middleweight to challenge Michael Nunn, the color commentators were Angelo Dundee and then heavyweight champ Buster Douglas and I got to spend the day with them escorting them around and such.  Both AD and BD were a pleasure to spend the day with.

The night before BD defended his title against Evander Holyfield, there was a dress rehearsal for the pre-fight ceremonies.  I got to meet Sugar Ray AND Thommy Hearns (got to read TH's hand too-- an absolutely amazing hand!)  A few minutes later I saw TH and Sugar Ray sitting down together in deep conversation  IIRC they probably were plotting their second or third fight.    After TH returned to his entourage, someone else sat down with SR and during the course of the conversation SR apparently was showing the other man some details about jabbing.  Naturally this had my attention!

Good times , , ,
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