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23451  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives on: November 19, 2008, 12:16:43 PM
Closely related to debt is the matter of interest rates.  The Fed/Govt has been pushing interest rates to artificially low levels for quite some time now-- to the point where interest rates are actually negative!!!  shocked

Who on earth wants to save when in constant dollars after inflation and taxes you lose money?

Who doesn't want to borrow at no money down with negative interest rates?
23452  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From Micheal Yon on: November 19, 2008, 12:12:44 PM
Published: 19 November 2008

Email Address

Happy Ending

Between 2007 and 2008, I got to know a man in South Baghdad whose codename was “Bishop.”  This is the short story of his life.

His parents were Kurdish Sunnis.  They moved to Baghdad 34 years ago – recently married and excited to make a new life for themselves and create a family.  Bishop’s real name was Bashar Akram Ameen; the name given to him when he was born on October 6, 1978 in the Abu Ghraib apartments in Baghdad.  Bashar had three sisters and one brother.  His schooling included graduating from a Baghdad high school in the class of ’96 and attending the Agriculture College of Baghdad University from 1997 until 2002 when he graduated.  America had just set its sights on toppling Saddam.
 
Shortly after graduating, Bashar began service in the Iraqi Army Reserve, but that lasted only three months, because the U.S. crushed a great part of the Iraqi Army and then officially dissolved the rest.  For three months, Bashar was one of those unemployed young men we worried about.  He got a job in October of 2003 as a bodyguard for an Iraqi judge.  His first job didn’t last long because insurgents assassinated the judge.  Feeling lost and a bit frightened, Bashar decided to look for a “safer” job, and began interpreting for, as he called it, “the Sally Port Security Company” in al-Mansour, Baghdad.  Insurgents in his neighborhood figured out that he was working for an American company, and on February 21, 2006, as he left his job at 6:00 pm, they started shooting at him in his car, “…but I miraculously survived,” Bashar  explained to me, “and that was the reason to leave my job at that company.”

His own safety, and therefore that of his loved ones, was in jeopardy, and so, as Bashar recalled, “I quit visiting my family for over four months.”  Though he had used caution, his family was forced to flee in order to avoid imminent suffering or death from the insurgents. Bashar explained, “They had killed our neighbor’s son, so their father gave the key of his house to my father to keep the house safe until maybe the situation getting better.  Then, on the next day, the same killers of our neighbors came to my father and asked him about the key, so he refused to give it away and he said that he don’t have it and he don’t know anything about it.”  The insurgents warned Bashar’s father that they would check the validity of his information, and if it was untrue, “they will teach my father and us a lesson.” His family, doing what they must to survive, reluctantly left their home.  Bashar wrote to me, “My father packed some basic stuff and moved from our own house in Ameriya, Baghdad; Iraq.”

By now, the civil war was raging in Baghdad.
 
Not everything was so bleak.  Even at the height of the civil war, life went on.  Bashar met a woman named Alyaa, who worked in legal administration at the “Sally Port Security Company.”  They courted for a year, and got married on September 14, 2006 –  all the while, sectarian violence raged around Iraq.  A year later their first son, Mustafa, was born. Around that time, however, the local Shia militia (called Jaish al-Mahdi, or JAM) figured out that Bashar, who is Sunni, had worked for the Americans at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Falcon (where he got the codename “Bishop”). “They began coming around to bother my wife while I was at work,” he recalls. “So we moved again to live in al-Mansour, Baghdad. And since then, I stopped making any type of relationships with the neighbors just because you can’t trust anybody.  In al-Mansour, we had very quiet time….”
 
And so Bashar began working for the American Army as an interpreter, for various units, at the time of peak fighting.  I first met Bishop when he worked for 1-4 Cav in South Baghdad.  The 1-4 Cav soldiers kept Bishop busy, working him hard, and he became one of the team.  As the months rolled by and I came back to 1-4 on several occasions, their area had become quieter and quieter until, really, there was nothing going on except progress.  The younger infantrymen were proud of the progress, but wanted to get up to Mosul or out to Afghanistan, where the fighting was.  But not Bishop.  He’d seen the worst of it and did not want to see any more war.  He was old beyond his years and wanted peace.
 

Bishop with General Petraeus (center) and LTC Crider (right)



The two most dangerous jobs for Iraqis were probably journalist and interpreter.  Bishop wanted to come to the United States.  As a result, 1-4 Cav Commander, LTC James Crider, and some of the soldiers Bishop had worked with helped with the paperwork.
 
Just a small aside: LTC Crider and his battalion were serious contributors to success in Iraq.  I got e-mails from LTC Crider about his struggles with Iraqi bureaucracy on behalf of Bishop, even after he went home to America.  I’d seen this LTC Crider go to bat for Iraqis over and over again in Iraq.  In just one example, Crider and his staff waded for months through the Iraqi legal labyrinth to try to free a man who had been wrongfully detained for a bombing he could not have committed; the bombing had never occurred.  Crider and his battalion were welcome fixtures in that neighborhood, because he and his men had brought peace and serenity to a place that had previously been one of the most perilous places in Iraq.  The last time I was there, I walked around with no body armor or helmet, and bought popcorn on the street.  (I was just there again on about November 15; the progress continues without violence.)

I heard that many Iraqis cried when 1-4 redeployed to America.  One captain had even been offered a home if he would come back to live in the neighborhood.  The captain knew how to get things done, while still making the time to learn the names of every kid there.  And he knew their mothers and fathers, too.  But that was it; 1-4 went home and Bishop was left behind, with his family scattered by the war.
 
His father died in July 2007, his mother and two sisters still live in Baghdad, his brother in Kirkuk, and another sister in Syria.
 
LTC Crider and others struggled…and struggled…and finally succeeded.  On November 6, 2008, Bishop emigrated to America, landing in Nolensville, Tennessee along with his wife, Alyaa (who is carrying their second child), and their son, Mustafa.  And the amazing 1-4 Cav keeps winning battles, without firing a shot, long after leaving the war.

So now, Bashar is no longer “Bishop,” and he has begun an American life, with the many ups and downs we all have to face.  His next fight is to find a job in our troubled economy and overcome a high-voltage dose of culture shock.  He will come to understand that our culture is just as complicated as the one he left behind – but without the violence, threats and scars of war.

Many people have welcomed him to America.  I think Bashar can be of particular value to America at this time, simply by getting on the radio stations and talking to reporters and telling his story – the story of Iraq –  and showing people how it really is over here.  (I write this from Iraq.)  Perhaps he can explain why many of us think that it was all worth it.  I asked Bashar if I could publish his e-mail address, and he agreed.

This is not just a happy ending, but a happy beginning.  Please welcome this new family to America and pass this story to your local papers and radio stations.  Ask them to talk with a real Iraqi who just got here.  People need to know what happened in Iraq.   

Bashar can be reached at: bash.amen@yahoo.com
23453  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: November 19, 2008, 10:41:31 AM
November 19, 2008 | 0258 GMT

Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, head of military intelligence in Israel, said that he would not regard a dialogue between Washington and Iran as necessarily negative. In a public speech, Yadlin said, “Dialogue is not appeasement.” Even if the talks failed, Yadlin said, they could lead to a strengthening of sanctions and might lead to some success as well. He said, “Iran will do anything not to be cornered in the position of Iraq or North Korea,” adding that “Iran is also very susceptible to international pressure because of the (financial) crisis.”

This is a shift in Israeli thinking. While the future of Israel’s government is unclear, to say the least, Yadlin is certainly expressing more than his private views. He is certainly speaking for the leadership of the Israel Defense Forces and in all probability for the Israeli intelligence community. Over the past months, there has been a shift in the way Israelis have presented the imminence of the threat from Iran, indicating that the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon is neither as immutable nor as near as previously thought. Yadlin’s statement brings Israel one step further in this direction.

The change in tone tracks with the change in Iranian-U.S. relations. While hardly warm, there are signs of some thawing, as we have discussed. U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration appears to be moving toward more extensive, open discussions with Iran, and President-elect Barack Obama has indicated a commitment to exploring dialogue with Iran. Under those circumstances, Israel is not going to simply oppose talks. Israel cannot stray too far from the American position, and given that the Bush and Obama positions are converging, Israel cannot attempt to play off political disagreements in Washington.

Yadlin’s statement was far from an enthusiastic endorsement of diplomatic dialogue, since he recognized that a failure in talks between Washington and Tehran would open the door to harsher sanctions against Iran. He did point out that Israel recognizes two weaknesses in the Iranian position. First, Iran does not want to be a pariah state like North Korea or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Second, Iran — whose economy was already fragile — is under heavy pressure because of the global financial crisis. Given Iran’s long-term fear of isolation and attack, and its immediate financial problems, Yadlin seemed to be saying that if there are going to be talks with Iran, now is the time to have them.

The Israelis have been shifting positions on a number of issues in the past few months. Israel shifted its position on Georgia even before the war with Russia began, and then reached out to the Russians in the hope of preventing arms sales to Syria. Now Israel is shifting its views on talks with Iran. A great deal of this redefinition undoubtedly has to do with Obama’s election, but some of it has to do with a recognition that the dynamics of the world are changing and Israel’s posture was not aligned with new realities. Russia is becoming a more important player that Israel cannot take for granted, and talks with Iran are inevitable.

There is one deeper level here. The Israelis always wanted a balance of power between Iraq and Iran. They saw Iran as a block to Arab aspirations. Whatever the internal ideology of Iran, the tension between Iran and the Arabs benefits Israel. Many Israelis were less than thrilled by the U.S. invasion of Iraq because it collapsed that balance. A permanent presence of American forces in Iraq would of course have compensated, but the new Status of Forces Agreement means that U.S. troops will be leaving Iraq — and perhaps leaving it stronger than when they arrived. If there is going to be a strong Iraq, Israel will want a strong Iran. Now we are far from a strong Iraq, but we are also far from a glowing endorsement of U.S.-Iranian dialogue. What Yadlin has done is open the door to the idea that talking to Iran would not mean catastrophe for Israel. For the moment, that is quite enough.
23454  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Ukraine on: November 19, 2008, 10:39:04 AM
November 19, 2008 | 1204 GMT
Summary
Within Ukraine there are several forces that, in theory, could steer the country in one direction or another. However, the political forces have been locked in a battle for control for the past four years. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s oligarchs and other forces with both economic and political clout are too distracted by the current global financial crisis to take action. Thus, Ukraine has been left with no ability to handle its own crisis or determine its own future.

Analysis
Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a series on Ukraine.

Ukraine’s government is simply far too shattered and chaotic to handle the country’s current financial and economic problems or make any of the reforms needed in its defunct financial, economic, military and energy sectors. Kiev has been a confused and chaotic mass of shifting coalitions and governments since the 2004 Orange Revolution, which was supposed to herald a new era in which Ukraine would be part of the West rather than a Russian satellite.

From the Orange Revolution through today, Ukraine’s political scene has been dominated by three main parties (though there are myriad smaller parties):

Our Ukraine: The vehemently pro-Western party under current Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko

Bloc Yulia Timoshenko: A coalition of parties under current Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko that can flip to either the pro-Western or pro-Russian side; and

Party of Regions: The vehemently pro-Russian party led by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.
Our Ukraine and Timoshenko’s bloc were the parties behind the Orange Revolution, though all three major parties have flip-flopped into different coalitions half a dozen times in the past four years. Most of the breaks and alliances among the three groups have not necessarily come about because of changes in ideology; rather, they are driven by the personalities and egos of Yushchenko, Timoshenko and Yanukovich. Typically, with each turnover in the government and coalitions, the laws and reforms passed by the former ruling group are either undone or ignored. This has seriously retarded any restructuring or improvement in almost any sector or institution in the country.


Furthermore, each political group generally controls a certain region of the country, so the parties look out for those industries, oligarchs and regional economics that pertain to their regions. This means that if a political party is booted from power, any restructuring or deals in place for its favorite region, industry or business can be overturned. The result is a business environment as chaotic and confusing as the political environment.

Ukraine is still suffering from political chaos. There has been one small internal shift: So many political figures outside of the big three personalities are so worn down from the constant bickering that they have started a wave of new political parties and groups. Parliamentary elections could be held in December of January, with a presidential election in late 2009 or early 2010. And with 72 percent of Ukrainians saying they are tired of the political infighting, these new smaller parties could end up changing the political landscape and making Ukraine’s political future even more unpredictable.

The Oligarchs

As in neighboring Russia, Ukraine also has the political and economic force of the oligarchs — those who swooped in after the Soviet era to snatch up certain enterprises and businesses, making themselves incredibly wealthy and powerful very quickly. The oligarchs are very politically active. Some started out in politics and then seized wealth and position to become oligarchs; others began by securing wealth and position to use as leverage in politics. Just as in Russia, Ukraine’s oligarchs either back certain political forces — paying for campaigns and receiving kickbacks once their chosen players are in power (such as the oligarchs backing Yushchenko and Yanukovich) — or they establish their own political parties as a means to influence distribution of resources and advantageous business deals (as with Timoshenko). This has helped fuel the constant government chaos and sustained a level of distrust in Ukrainian businesses and those who run them.

But at the moment, the oligarchs are unable to shape the political or economic landscape in Ukraine because they are being crushed by the economic crisis. According to some records, Ukrainian oligarchs’ assets have lost some 90 percent of their value in the past few months. For example, Viktor Pinchuk (a Timoshenko backer), who controls Ukraine’s leading steel company Interpipe, has lost $2 billion. Sergei Taruta (a Yanukovich backer), who controls another metallurgical giant ISD, has lost $4.8 billion.

While Ukraine’s oligarchs are scrambling to keep their businesses and wealth intact, they are too preoccupied to be as politically active as usual. With two critical elections looming, there could be a shift in that the oligarchs will not be able to dole out cash as easily as in the past. For example, Timoshenko has already heard from one of her financial backers — Konstantin Zhevago, who owns Financial and Credit Group and iron producer Poltavsky — that he will not be dishing out his usual funding because he recently lost most of his wealth. The crisis among the oligarchs has led both Timoshenko and Yanukovich to try to postpone elections, knowing they do not heave enough cash to run full campaigns.

Rinat Akhmetov

The one Ukrainian oligarch who is not absent from the political scene is the wealthiest in the country — Rinat Akhmetov, who owns assets in energy, steel, coal, banking, hotels, telecommunications, media and soccer. Most Ukrainian oligarchs are worth only a fraction of what Akhmetov is worth. Much of his wealth was not in the hard-hit equity markets, and so he has only lost a reported $7 billion of his $36 billion in the economic slowdowns; thus, he still has quite a bit of influence to wield in politics and economics.

Akhmetov is looking to take advantage of others’ economic misfortune and wants to expand his reach over more assets (especially in coal and electricity) not only in Ukraine, but also in Russia, Poland, Romania and Hungary. He has long been the puppet master behind the Party of Regions and Yanukovich; Stratfor has learned from sources that he also holds a great deal of leverage over Yushchenko and Timoshenko. Long kept in the shadows, Akhmetov is considering running for the presidency, knowing he has the financial capabilities, political backing from his leash holder (Russia) and enough clout against the big three political leaders to possibly really shake things up.

Other Forces

The only other forces in Ukraine that can affect the political or economic landscapes are the military, intelligence services and organized crime. As stated earlier, Ukraine’s military — much like its stockpile of Soviet weaponry — is seriously deteriorating without the political or economic backing needed to push for and coordinate modernization and reforms.

Ukraine’s intelligence and security apparatus — mainly the Security Service of Ukraine — is currently tangled in an identity crisis stemming from its break with its former master, the Soviet KGB, and the constant restructuring and leadership changes. Ukraine’s intelligence and security services consist of seven agencies and institutes that are responsible for identifying threats to Ukraine both at home and abroad, collecting intelligence and analyzing data. All agency heads are appointed by and report to the president, but the parliament must approve the appointments — which means the intelligence and security services are another casualty of the political chaos as the president and prime minister fight for control.

Organized crime is another major political and economic force in Ukraine, having proliferated since the country gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Ukrainian organized crime started off as a function of physical security for the oligarchs who controlled Ukraine’s resources and backed favored politicians, but expanded because the country’s weak central government was unable to effectively police criminals. Organized crime became a pillar of the state through the political-criminal nexus in which politicians, businessmen and criminals provided each other with services and favors. It has branched out considerably, with Ukrainian organized crime groups forming partnerships or acting alone in countries throughout Eastern and Central Europe — and because Ukraine remains essentially a weak state dependent on outside patronage, foreign organized criminal elements have found a market there for illicit goods and human trafficking. But organized crime, just like other businesses, is suffering during the economic and financial crisis as criminal groups lose funds in foreign banks and customers have less cash to spend on services and goods.

23455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO's giant sucking sound on: November 19, 2008, 08:53:28 AM
His friends advise Barack Obama to launch a "New" New Deal. Maybe that's because the old New Deal is sinking fast.

Mr. Obama's one deeply false note during the campaign was his harping on "deregulation" as if that were the source of current troubles. His real problem is the crack-up of the world FDR built.

 
AP
Barack Obama gets taken for a ride by the UAW.
Fannie Mae was a New Deal creation, subsidizing the securitization of mortgage debt. FDR's successors piled on the subsidies for housing debt and incentives directed at low-income borrowers. Kaboom.

Then there's the UAW, born in 1935. For decades the UAW steadily traded away domestic auto market-share to imports and transplants to keep its aging membership toiling away toward their golden pensions and collecting wages and benefits twice those of their competitors. It worked for a while . . .

Mr. Obama must be looking around and beginning to suspect he will be pouring his political capital, along with considerable taxpayer capital, down bottomless holes for the next four years. He won't be building a legacy as the new FDR, but cleaning up after the last one.

Fannie and its twin, Freddie Mac, have already come back for a second helping of taxpayer money as their once-profitable business model devolves into a politically directed subsidy machine for propping up home prices and delaying foreclosures. Their next meltdown, in government hands, is all but written in the cards.

AIG, an otherwise healthy insurance company that went bust betting on housing debt, has already consumed taxpayer loans and capital injections nearly as big as AIG's $200 billion market cap when it was one of the world's most admired firms. AIG still has a valuable insurance business, but ignoramuses in Congress and the press are busy destroying it. The company sells many of its products through busy independent agents. It uses lush "seminars" to encourage them to sit still for pitches about why AIG should still be trusted despite AIG's purgatory in the headlines. But these seminars only produce more outraged grandstanding from the political commentariat.

It will take years for the government to get AIG off its hands, and there likely won't be much value left for taxpayers when it finally does.

But the really giant sucking sound is the auto sector, getting ready to gobble up whatever hopes Mr. Obama might have had for an ambitious, forward-looking presidency.

He and Nancy Pelosi naturally insist that any "bailout" must hit multiple bogies. They want UAW jobs to be preserved. They want the shibboleth of energy independence advanced. They want "green" cars to please the Tom Friedmans of the world. They want to tell taxpayers they're getting more for their money than just a bailout of Detroit.

All this makes sense to a politician, but not to any practical person, who knows that multiple bogies are bound to be conflicting bogies. You could just barely envision a bailout that wouldn't necessarily be a disastrous waste of money, one that would help Detroit create a competitive cost structure in pursuit of building products that are competitive in the marketplace. But this is just the opposite of what Mr. Obama and his Democrats have in mind.

Prepare to witness, then, the awesome capacity of an unreformed Detroit to consume taxpayer billions with nothing to show for it.

That Mr. Obama had been sent by history to assuage the insecurities of the middle class with a "New" New Deal was always a tad detached from reality anyway. The reason is those giant legacies of existing New Dealism known as Social Security and Medicare, about which he was careful to say nothing intelligible during the campaign. These programs worked for a while too, but now their expected revenues are (in present value) about $99.2 trillion short of the expected outlays required to assure present and future workers their promised comfort in retirement.

Then again, Mr. Obama did say something in his campaign about tax rebates for all these payroll taxpayers. He also said something about government matching contributions to incentivize today's low- and middle-income workers to save for their own retirement.

Voilà, personal accounts funded by payroll-tax givebacks -- strangely similar to the solution our current president promoted to help workers escape the impending insolvency of the government retirement programs. Mr. Obama envisioned himself extending FDR's work. He may end up finishing George Bush's.
23456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: November 19, 2008, 08:46:21 AM
On Saturday, off the coast of East Africa, pirates seized their largest catch ever: a giant Saudi-owned oil tanker called the Sirius Star. The brazen attack came on the heels of the capture of a Ukrainian vessel (loaded with armaments destined for Kenya) by Somali pirates in September. Humanitarian food shipments into Somalia have had naval escort for nearly a year -- evidence of how much the security of sea-lanes has eroded. Media reports suggest that Somali pirates have already attacked more than 80 ships in 2008.

 
Chad CroweThese are unprecedented and dangerous developments. Suppressing piracy and the slave trade, accomplished by the last quarter of the 19th century, were among mankind's great civilizing achievements. These were brought about by major maritime powers such as Great Britain and the United States. Indeed, in the American republic's earliest days, President Jefferson dispatched the infant U.S. Navy to confront the Barbary pirates, both on shore and at sea.

By the 1970s, as a part of a growing chaos in parts of Africa and Asia, incidents of piracy began to pick up. But it was not until the 21st century that piracy has experienced a meteoric rise, with the number of attacks increasing by double-digit rates per year. Last year, according to the International Maritime Bureau, 263 actual and attempted pirate attacks took place. Large maritime areas have now become known as pirate heavens, where mariners can expect to be routinely molested. The Victorian self-confidence that drove pirates from the seas is gone.

Twenty-first century economics being what they are, the pirates have been more interested in the payment of ransom by anxious owners and insurers than in the vessels or their cargoes. Piracy is nonetheless a vicious and violent activity that exposes the world's merchant mariners to additional risk of death or injury. Even more fundamentally, the dramatic surge in piracy is, like terrorism, part of a broad challenge to civilization and international order.

Experience -- especially that of colonial America -- suggests that a few sporadic antipirate efforts will not be enough to solve the problem. Only a dedicated naval campaign, along with a determined effort to close the pirates' safe havens, will succeed in sending piracy back to the history books.

There has been some progress on this front. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has dispatched a formidable multinational force -- including British, Italian and Greek ships -- to join the American, French, Canadian and Danish vessels already cruising off Somalia's vast coastline. France has also aggressively pursued pirates, freeing captured vessels and hostages.

Capturing pirates is not the critical problem. Rather, the issue is how to handle those in captivity. Traditionally, pirates fell within that category of illegitimate hostiles that once included slave traders, brigands on the roads and, in wartime, unprivileged or "unlawful" enemy combatants. As Judge Nicholas Trott, presiding over a pirate trial, explained in 1718: "It is lawful for any one that takes them, if they cannot with safety to themselves bring them under some government to be tried, to put them to death." This law, of course, has changed since the 18th century. Pirates, brigands and unlawful combatants must now be tried before they can be punished.

One solution would be for the capturing state to press charges based on the much misunderstood and abused principle of "universal" jurisdiction. This is the notion that any state may criminalize and punish conduct that violates certain accepted international-law norms. Although its application in most circumstances is dubious -- there is very little actual state practice supporting the right of one state to punish the nationals of a second for offenses against the citizens of a third -- piracy is one area where a strong case for universal jurisdiction can be made (if only because piratical activities often take place on the high seas, beyond any state's territorial jurisdiction).

Moreover, given the nature of naval operations, discerning who is a pirate is usually a much easier task than separating Taliban and al Qaeda members from innocent bystanders. This fact, all things being equal, should make the task of prosecuting captured pirates an easier process, both from a legal and public-relations perspective.

key problem is that America's NATO allies have effectively abandoned the historical legal rules permitting irregular fighters to be tried in special military courts (or, in the case of pirates, admiralty courts) in favor of a straightforward criminal-justice model. Although piracy is certainly a criminal offense, treating it like bank robbery or an ordinary murder case presents certain problems for Western states.

To begin with, common criminals cannot be targeted with military force. There are other issues as well. Last April the British Foreign Office reportedly warned the Royal Navy not to detain pirates, since this might violate their "human rights" and could even lead to claims of asylum in Britain. Turning the captives over to Somali authorities is also problematic -- since they might face the head- and hand-chopping rigors of Shariah law. Similar considerations have confounded U.S. government officials in their discussions of how to confront this new problem of an old terror at sea.

In the last few years, France determined to return its pirate prisoners to Somalia based on assurances of humanitarian treatment. The U.S. has, of course, rendered terror prisoners to foreign governments based on similar assurances, and only time will tell whether they are genuine. An equally important question is whether the transfer of captured pirates to local authorities will result in prosecution at all. In many areas, local governments may be subject to corruption or intimidation by strong pirate gangs.

One thing is certain: As in the war on terror, the new campaign against piracy will test the mettle of Western governments. It will also require them to balance the rights of lawbreakers against the indisputable rights of the law-abiding to not live their lives in danger and fear.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey are Washington, D.C., lawyers who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
===============
The latest ship to fall into the hands of pirates off the coast of northern Africa is a Hong Kong-registered cargo vessel captured yesterday in the Gulf of Aden. The unfortunately named Delight is now steaming toward Somalia, where it presumably will be held for ransom. It joins the Saudi supertanker, Sirius Star, seized over the weekend.

 
AP
The MV Sirius Star.
The assault on the Delight is one of 90-plus attacks on ships this year by Somali pirates, more than double last year's tally, according to the International Maritime Bureau. It says that pirates are currently holding 15 ships and more than 250 sailors. That includes a Ukrainian ship carrying Russian tanks intended for southern Sudan; it was captured in September.

The pirates' headquarters is Somalia, whose dysfunctional government lacks basic law-enforcement agencies, on or off shore, to disrupt pirates. It has a 1,000-mile coastline along the Gulf of Aden, where marauders and their boats can hide easily. Yemen and Djibouti, which also border the Gulf of Aden, are more politically stable, but have few capabilities. The same is true for Kenya, off whose coast the supertanker was taken.

The pirates prey on commercial vessels, which in this computerized age usually carry small, mostly unarmed, crews; the Sirius Star, three times the size of an aircraft carrier, is run by a crew of just 25. The pirates are equipped with modern weapons and high-tech devices such as GPS trackers and satellite phones. Three years ago they used rocket-propelled grenades against a cruise ship carrying 150 American, Australian and European passengers. The ship managed to outrun the pirates.

As Somalia falls apart and the pirates proliferate, it's been left to the U.S. and the rest of the civilized world to police them. The main vehicle for doing so is a global maritime effort called Combined Task Force 150. It was set up after 9/11 by the Bush Administration and falls under the aegis of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. Commanders have hailed from France, Britain, the Netherlands, Canada and Pakistan. The current commander is a Commodore of the Danish Royal Navy.

CTF 150 has 2.5 million square miles to patrol. Fighting piracy poses knotty legal problems too, as David Rivkin and Lee Casey describe here, not least what to do with captured pirates. Build a Captain Jack Sparrow wing at Guantanamo to contain them?

Antipiracy efforts are working elsewhere in the world. Pirates thrived in the Strait of Malacca, which is transited annually by 60,000 ships, but last year there were only 73 pirate attacks, down from 276 five years earlier. The decline is the result of a coordinated policing effort by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, with help from the U.S., which provided training and equipment. Captured pirates are tried in local courts. They aren't treated lightly.

That's Asia. What remains to be seen is how the U.S. and Old Europe deal with this escalating assault. The world has been here before, circa 1805. That was the year of the Battle of Derne, the first fight on foreign soil of the new United States of America. It is recorded in the Marine Hymn's famous line about the "shores of Tripoli." President Thomas Jefferson ordered the Marines into action against the Barbary Coast pirates, who had been exacting ransom from the major maritime powers in return for seized ships and kidnapped citizens.

This problem obviously spills into the lap of the newly arriving President. Though relatively small, the pirates are a challenge to established authority in a way understandable to all. If the high seas are allowed to degrade into a no-man's land, the world's thugs will notice and press forward elsewhere. It's going to require an exercise of U.S. power to push back, or allow global piracy to flourish.

23457  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Britain grapples with Sharia on: November 19, 2008, 08:15:51 AM
The always suspect NY Times, on a subject wherein it is particulalry suspect:
==============================

Britain Grapples With Role for Islamic Justice
by ELAINE SCIOLINO
Published: November 18, 2008

LONDON — The woman in black wanted an Islamic divorce. She told the religious judge that her husband hit her, cursed her and wanted her dead.

Suhaib Hasan spoke with a woman who was trying to divorce her husband in London. But her husband was opposed, and the Islamic scholar adjudicating the case seemed determined to keep the couple together. So, sensing defeat, she brought our her secret weapon: her father.

In walked a bearded man in long robes who described his son-in-law as a hot-tempered man who had duped his daughter, evaded the police and humiliated his family.

The judge promptly reversed himself and recommended divorce.

This is Islamic justice, British style. Despite a raucous national debate over the limits of religious tolerance and the pre-eminence of British law, the tenets of Shariah, or Islamic law, are increasingly being applied to everyday life in cities across the country.

The Church of England has its own ecclesiastical courts. British Jews have had their own “beth din” courts for more than a century.

But ever since the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, called in February for aspects of Islamic Shariah to be embraced alongside the traditional legal system, the government has been grappling with a public furor over the issue, assuaging critics while trying to reassure a wary and at times disaffected Muslim population that its traditions have a place in British society.

Boxed between the two, the government has taken a stance both cautious and confusing, a sign of how volatile almost any discussion of the role of Britain’s nearly two million Muslims can become.

“There is nothing whatever in English law that prevents people abiding by Shariah principles if they wish to, provided they do not come into conflict with English law,” the justice minister, Jack Straw, said last month. But he added that British law would “always remain supreme,” and that “regardless of religious belief, we are all equal before the law.”

Conservatives and liberals alike — many of them unaware that the Islamic courts had been functioning at all, much less for years — have repeatedly denounced the courts as poor substitutes for British jurisprudence.

They argue that the Islamic tribunals’ proceedings are secretive, with no accountability and no standards for judges’ training or decisions.

Critics also point to cases of domestic violence in which Islamic scholars have tried to keep marriages together by ordering husbands to take classes in anger management, leaving the wives so intimidated that they have withdrawn their complaints from the police.

“They’re hostages to fortune,” said Parvin Ali, founding director of the Fatima Women’s Network, a women’s help group based in Leicester. Speaking of the courts, she said, “There is no outside monitoring, no protection, no records kept, no guarantee that justice will prevail.”

But as the uproar continues, the popularity of the courts among Muslims has blossomed.

Some of the informal councils, as the courts are known, have been giving advice and handing down judgments to Muslims for more than two decades.

Yet the councils have expanded significantly in number and prominence in recent years, with some Islamic scholars reporting a 50 percent increase in cases since 2005.

Almost all of the cases involve women asking for divorce, and through word of mouth and an ambitious use of the Internet, courts like the small, unadorned building in London where the father stepped in to plead his daughter’s case have become magnets for Muslim women seeking to escape loveless marriages — not only from Britain but sometimes also from Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany.

Other cases involve disputes over property, labor, inheritances and physical injury. The tribunals stay away from criminal cases that might call for the imposition of punishments like lashing or stoning.

Indeed, most of the courts’ judgments have no standing under British civil law. But for the parties who come before them, the courts offer something more important: the imprimatur of God.

“We do not want to give the impression that Muslims are an isolated community seeking a separate legal system in this country,” said Shahid Raza, who adjudicates disputes from an Islamic center in the West London suburb of Ealing.

“We are not asking for criminal Shariah law — chopping of hands or stoning to death,” he continued. “Ninety-nine percent of our cases are divorce cases in which women are seeking relief. We are helping women. We are doing a service.”
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Still, there is ample room for clashes with British custom. Three months ago, for example, a wealthy Bangladeshi family asked Dr. Raza’s council to resolve an inheritance dispute. It was resolved according to Shariah, he said. That meant the male heirs received twice as much as the female heirs.

Courts in the United States have endorsed Islamic and other religious tribunals, as in 2003, when a Texas appeals court referred a divorce case to a local council called the Texas Islamic Court.

But Shariah has been rejected in the West as well.

The Canadian province of Ontario had allowed rabbinical courts and Christian courts to resolve some civil and family disputes with binding rulings under a 1991 law. But when the Islamic Institute on Civil Justice there tried to create a Shariah court, it was attacked as a violation of the rights of Muslim women.

As a result, Ontario changed the entire system in 2006 to strip the rulings of any religious arbitration of legal validity or enforceability.

In Britain, beth din courts do not decide whether a Jewish couple’s marriage should end. They simply put their stamp of approval on the dissolution of the marriage when both parties agree to it. The beth din also adheres to the rules of Britain’s 1996 Arbitration Act and can function as an official court of arbitration in the consensual resolution of other civil disputes, like inheritance or business conflicts.

“People often come to us for reasons of speed, cost and secrecy,” said David Frei, registrar of the London Beth Din. “There’s nothing to prevent Muslims from doing the same thing.”

In Britain’s Islamic councils, however, if a wife wants a divorce and the husband does not, the Shariah court can grant her unilateral request to dissolve the marriage.

Most Shariah councils do not recognize the Arbitration Act, although Mr. Straw has been pushing them in recent months to do so. The main reason for their opposition is that they do not want the state involved in what they consider to be matters of religion.

The conflict over British Shariah courts comes at a time when Islamic principles are being extended to other areas of daily life in Britain.

There are now five wholly Islamic banks in the country and a score more that comply with Shariah.

An insurance company last summer began British advertising for “car insurance that’s right for your faith” because it does not violate certain Islamic prohibitions, like the one against gambling.

Britain’s first Shariah-compliant prepaid MasterCard was begun in August.

Here in London, Suhaib Hasan’s “courtroom” is a sparsely furnished office of the Islamic Shariah Council in Leyton, a working-class neighborhood in the eastern corner of the city. It has no lawyers or court stenographer, no recording device or computer, so Dr. Hasan takes partial notes in longhand.

“Please, will you give him another chance?” he asked the woman in black who was seeking divorce — that is, before she brought in the weighty voice of her father.

“No, no!” the woman, a 24-year-old employment consultant who had come seeking justice from 200 miles away, replied. “I gave him too many chances. He is an evil, evil man.”

“I’ll give you one month’s time to try to reconcile,” Dr. Hasan ruled.

Then her father tipped the scales.

“He was not a cucumber that we could cut open to know that he was rotten inside,” the father testified. “The only solution is divorce.”

Apparently convinced, Dr. Hasan said he would recommend divorce at the London Central Mosque, where he and several other religious scholars meet once a month to give final approval to cases like this.

Dr. Hasan, a silver-bearded, Saudi-educated scholar of Pakistani origin, handles the Pakistani community; an Egyptian ministers to the ethnic Arab community, while a Bangladeshi and a Somali work with their own communities.

The council in Leyton is one of the oldest and largest courts in the country. It has been quietly resolving disputes since 1982 and has dealt with more than 7,000 divorce cases.

Under some interpretations of Islamic law, a woman needs the blessing of a scholar of Islamic jurisprudence to be divorced, while a man can simply say three times that he is divorcing his wife.

Dr. Hasan counsels women that they must have their civil marriages dissolved in the British civil system.

“We always try to keep the marriages together, especially when there are children,” said Dr. Hasan’s wife, Shakila Qurashi, who works as an unofficial counselor for women.

If the husband beats her, she should go to the police and have a divorce, Ms. Qurashi said. “But if he’s slapped her only once or something like that,” she said, “and he admits he has made a mistake and promised not to do it again, then we say, ‘You have to forgive.’ ”

One recent afternoon, the waiting room was full of women and their family members.

A Pakistan-born 33-year-old mother of five explained that her husband would beat her and her children. “He threatens to kill us,” she said, as her daughter translated from Urdu. “He calls me a Jew and an infidel.” Dr. Hasan told her to immediately get police protection and request an Islamic divorce.

Another woman, 25, wanted out of a two-year-old arranged marriage with a man who refused to consummate the relationship. Dr. Hasan counseled dialogue.

“Until we see the husband,” he said, “we can’t be sure that what you’re saying is true.”
23458  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Speak Truth on: November 19, 2008, 07:49:26 AM
"It is of great importance to set a resolution, not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth. There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible; and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good disposition."

—Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August, 19 1785
23459  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives on: November 19, 2008, 07:41:01 AM
And on a more mundane level, we also need to end gerrymandering and to kill "campaign finance reform"-- both of which make it harder to take on an incumbent.  I don't know what the current numbers are, but not so lmany years ago, the incumbency re-election rate was well above 95%!!!
23460  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Reproductive issues on: November 19, 2008, 07:36:07 AM
My problem with this smoothly written piece is this:

"I suppose you don't have to have a lot of social programs to cut down on abortions, but you do have to somehow (1) give women the tools to prevent pregnancy in the first place, and (2) allow women the resources to make childbirth a viable option. Outlawing abortion doesn't do either of those things, which is why it's phenomenally unsuccessful at actually decreasing the abortion rate."

As a practical matter I have no problem with the first of these--making brith control methods widely available-- but doubt that money really is the issue-- if you can afford to take a woman out, you or she can afford the condom or other method.  If you can't afford a condom you probably aren't getting laid very much anyway.  cheesy   That said, "allowing women the resources" is a glib euphemism for taking money from some people, who might want to spend it on their own children, and giving it to others, who should be not getting pregnant, but are.

The fundamental problem for me with the approach suggested by this article is this-- it seems devoid of a sense that people should be responsible for the consequences of their own actions-- a core principle of a free society.

I simply don't find its logic of poor= higher abortion rates, therefor give the poor money, persuasive.  Yes there may be a correlation of higher abortion rates in the poor (tangentially I wonder if the rate has been the same over time-- if not, does it not suggest other variables are work?), but a discussion of all this there should include a discussison of the fact that birth rates are higher too.  For me, leaving this out is either poor methodology or disingenuous, or both.   Otherwise one could just as easily argue that the far lower than replacement birth rates of higher income people means that we should prevent wealth in order to increase birth rates to at least a replacement level-- and as logically consistent as it might be to do so, one doubt the author of this piece would approve of such logic!

For me, the answer lies in the right values.  That does NOT mean saying "Unless the State takes money from you and gives it to me, I will kill this Life inside me", which is what the logic of this piece reduces to, is a form of moral blackmail.    The right values are rather consistenly denigrated in movies, on TV, in popular culture-- and one suspects that there is a rather direct correlation between abortion rates and the inculcation of these liberal cultural values.   Because it is so important, and so utterly off the typical liberal radar screen, I mention in particular the importance of fathers and marriage.  I'm guessing that one finds a rather strong correlation between a woman considering an abortion and her being unmarried.  Where is the discussion of this in the article? I'm guessing there is a rather strong correlation between the woman wanting an abortion, and not being sure who the father is.  Where is the discussion of this in the article?

The bottom line reduces to this: BE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT YOU DO.  If you want to have sex but don't want to have a baby, use birth control. 


23461  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Schneier on: November 18, 2008, 10:12:41 PM
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/05/is_big_brother_1.html
Schneier on Security
A blog covering security and security technology.

« The Most Secure Car Park in the World | Main | Sex Toy Security Risk »

May 11, 2007
Is Big Brother a Big Deal?
Big Brother isn't what he used to be. George Orwell extrapolated his totalitarian state from the 1940s. Today's information society looks nothing like Orwell's world, and watching and intimidating a population today isn't anything like what Winston Smith experienced.

Data collection in 1984 was deliberate; today's is inadvertent. In the information society, we generate data naturally. In Orwell's world, people were naturally anonymous; today, we leave digital footprints everywhere.

1984's police state was centralized; today's is decentralized. Your phone company knows who you talk to, your credit card company knows where you shop and Netflix knows what you watch. Your ISP can read your email, your cell phone can track your movements and your supermarket can monitor your purchasing patterns. There's no single government entity bringing this together, but there doesn't have to be. As Neal Stephenson said, the threat is no longer Big Brother, but instead thousands of Little Brothers.

1984's Big Brother was run by the state; today's Big Brother is market driven. Data brokers like ChoicePoint and credit bureaus like Experian aren't trying to build a police state; they're just trying to turn a profit. Of course these companies will take advantage of a national ID; they'd be stupid not to. And the correlations, data mining and precise categorizing they can do is why the U.S. government buys commercial data from them.

1984-style police states required lots of people. East Germany employed one informant for every 66 citizens. Today, there's no reason to have anyone watch anyone else; computers can do the work of people.

1984-style police states were expensive. Today, data storage is constantly getting cheaper. If some data is too expensive to save today, it'll be affordable in a few years.

And finally, the police state of 1984 was deliberately constructed, while today's is naturally emergent. There's no reason to postulate a malicious police force and a government trying to subvert our freedoms. Computerized processes naturally throw off personalized data; companies save it for marketing purposes, and even the most well-intentioned law enforcement agency will make use of it.

Of course, Orwell's Big Brother had a ruthless efficiency that's hard to imagine in a government today. But that completely misses the point. A sloppy and inefficient police state is no reason to cheer; watch the movie Brazil and see how scary it can be. You can also see hints of what it might look like in our completely dysfunctional “no-fly��? list and useless projects to secretly categorize people according to potential terrorist risk. Police states are inherently inefficient. There's no reason to assume today's will be any more effective.

The fear isn't an Orwellian government deliberately creating the ultimate totalitarian state, although with the U.S.'s programs of phone-record surveillance, illegal wiretapping, massive data mining, a national ID card no one wants and Patriot Act abuses, one can make that case. It's that we're doing it ourselves, as a natural byproduct of the information society.We're building the computer infrastructure that makes it easy for governments, corporations, criminal organizations and even teenage hackers to record everything we do, and -- yes -- even change our votes. And we will continue to do so unless we pass laws regulating the creation, use, protection, resale and disposal of personal data. It's precisely the attitude that trivializes the problem that creates it.

This essay appeared in the May issue of Information Security
23462  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gingrich: Crony Capitalism on: November 18, 2008, 07:47:05 PM
Other names for Liberal Fascism are Corporatism (running society as if it were one giant corporation) and Crony Capitalism:

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

Crony Capitalism, Predatory Politicians, and the Detroit Three
by  Newt Gingrich

There’s a term that’s commonly applied to the economic systems of some Asian and Latin American countries.  It’s “crony capitalism.”

Crony capitalism is when government controls significant parts of the economy.  Under this kind of bureaucratic micromanagement, politicians -- not the free market -- call the shots.  And that means that the decisions that control the economy are of necessity political decisions, not economic ones.

Crony capitalism is bad for government.  Economic power in the hands of politicians breeds corruption.  Crony capitalism is bad for democracy.  Individuals and businesses outside favored industries have an unequal voice in self-government.  Crony capitalism is bad for business.  Politicians wedded to the status quo stifle growth and innovation.  And there’s one more thing about crony capitalism:  It’s come to America.

Predatory Politicians Practicing Crony Capitalism Created the Economic Crisis

It’s the nature of crony capitalism to expand -- for government to acquire more and more of the economy. The agents of this expansion are elected officials.  Call them “predatory politicians.”

Crony capitalism practiced by predatory politicians is at the root of the current financial meltdown.  In exchange for campaign cash and support for favored constituents, predatory politicians aided and abetted the government-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as they created and fed the subprime mortgage market. Now Predatory Politicians Are About to Make It Worse

And to fix the mess they created, what have predatory politicians turned to?  Why, more crony capitalism of course.

First, they designed Wall Street bailouts in which a former chairman of Goldman Sachs got a blank check to disburse hundreds of billions of dollars to his former colleagues on Wall Street.  Then they took over an insurance company at a hugely inflated cost. Now predatory politicians want taxpayers to fund a bailout of three bloated, stagnant companies that have been losing money for years, one of which is currently hemorrhaging over $1 billion a month.

The Detroit Three:  An Investment Only a Predatory Politician Would Propose

To reward the unions that helped produce its electoral victory, the newly empowered Democratic Congress is proposing that American taxpayers pony up $25 billion to bail out the Detroit Three automakers, Ford, GM and Chrysler.  Democrats are using the current financial crisis as their excuse to bailout the autos.  But in fact, the Detroit three were unprofitable long before the current crisis hit.  According to one economist, GM and Ford made more money-losing investments in the 1980s than any other U.S. companies.  And the Detroit money pit only got deeper in the ensuing two decades.  Since 1998, GM has been losing an astonishing $1.5 billion a month.

That’s an investment only a predatory politician would propose.

Bringing Fannie and Freddie Style Accountability to the Auto Industry

One of the things that makes crony capitalism so profitable for politicians is that Washington exempts itself from the economic and financial rules it imposes on private industry.  For example, in 2003, federal regulators discovered that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had engaged in Enron-style accounting fraud.  But while executives at private companies who engaged in similar fraud went to prison -- and Congress responded by imposing the draconian and business-killing Sarbanes-Oxley bill on private businesses -- Fannie and Freddie executives barely received a slap on the wrist. 

One of the reasons was House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.).  Frank fought tenaciously against the regulation that would have held Fannie and Freddie executives accountable and might have averted the financial crisis. Now Chairman Frank wants to bring his particular style of crony capitalism to the auto industry.

Any Detroit Bailout Government Board Should Be Subject To Sarbanes-Oxley

On “Face the Nation” this Sunday, Chairman Frank announced that not only would he push for a taxpayer bailout of the Detroit Three during the special session of Congress this week, but he would also create a government oversight board for the three companies -- in effect, a board of directors made up of predatory politicians.

I believe that it would be a mistake for the taxpayers to be forced to bail out Detroit.  Companies at which union workers make $71 an hour in wages and benefits -- compared to just $47 an hour at Toyota’s U.S. plants -- are not going to be saved by a $25 billion government check.

But if Democrats do find the votes to bring crony capitalism to Detroit, Americans should at the very least insist that any government board of directors created for the auto industry be subject to the criminal penalties and lengthy prison sentences in Sarbanes-Oxley.

What’s fair for the rest of us is fair for predatory politicians.

A Chance For President-Elect Obama to Deliver Real Change

The solution to our economic problems, be they in Detroit or on Wall Street, isn’t more crony capitalism; it’s economic growth. 

While politicians in Washington are constantly calling on taxpayers to put up more and more money to bail out flagging businesses, there are practical things that wouldn't cost the taxpayers a penny that we could do to make America a better place to create jobs.

One of these things is to repeal Sarbanes-Oxley.  As I outline in more detail here, Sarbanes-Oxley has had the unintended consequences of stifling innovation, killing new business start-ups and driving listings overseas.

President-elect Obama won an historic victory two weeks ago on the promise of delivering change to the American people.  Bailing out the Detroit auto dinosaurs is not change. It is crony capitalism in service of a failed status quo. 

President-elect Obama should stand up to congressional Democrats and say “no” -- “no” to saddling future generations of Americans with the bill for today’s crony capitalism.

That would be change we could believe in.

Your friend,




23463  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: November 18, 2008, 07:30:53 PM
http://www.youtube.com:80/watch?v=HA1JK-oGo4M
23464  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Education on: November 18, 2008, 05:41:14 PM
Right now most parents face a monopsony.  Charter schools would end that without spending any more than we currently spend.

Agree with GM about getting the Feds out of education through high school.
23465  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: November 18, 2008, 05:38:11 PM
We are so fornicated , , , cry
23466  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Grannis on: November 18, 2008, 04:51:01 PM
Scott Grannis writes:

A better bailout proposal
Grover Norquist has a brilliant suggestion for a much better way to spend $700 billion of taxpayers' money. In my view, this proposal would guarantee a quick recovery. And with Laffer-Curve effects taken into account, they might end up costing almost nothing:

Cut the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 15%, giving us one of the lowest corporate income tax rates in the developed world. We currently have the second-highest rate in the world (behind only Japan). This new 15% rate would give us the third-lowest rate in the world (ahead of only Ireland and Iceland). It would put us well below the Euro-zone average rate of 25%. Companies would be dying to set up shop in the United States. Estimated JCT cost: $170 billion

Eliminate the capital gains and dividends tax. These rates are currently 15%, but actually represent a double-tax on corporate profits. When combined with the new, lower 15% rate on corporate income, capital costs would be at their lowest levels in nearly a century. Tax something less, and get more of it. Estimated JCT cost: $35 billion

Cut the top personal income tax rate from 35% to a flat 15%. This would give the U.S. the lowest personal income tax rate in the developed world. Estimated JCT score: $235 billion

Kill the death tax. Almost nothing is more capital-killing for small businesses and family farms than the estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer taxes. Estimated JCT score: $24 billion

Allow companies to fully-expense capital assets purchased the first year. Under current law, businesses and other taxpayers must usually “depreciate,” or slowly-deduct, capital asset purchases the first year. This capital-boosting proposal would allow taxpayers to deduct 100% of the purchase price from their taxes in year one. Estimated JCT score: $240 billion
23467  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Updated letter on: November 18, 2008, 04:28:35 PM
Woof All:

My name is Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny.  Some of you may know me as "the Guiding Force" of "the Dog Brothers" and/or the Head Instructor of Dog Brothers Martial Arts. www.dogbrothers.com .  Today I speak as Dog Brothers Inc.

I have been asked by a well established Producer with a good track record in doing athletically-oriented television series for major networks to help develop a television show based upon stick and other weaponry fights, so I am looking for fighters.  For the right men, this could be a very special opportunity to build a career doing something you love.

I need to be vague on the vision for the show at the moment and how much money is involved.  That is the way it must be for now.  Once we see who we have, "the story will tell itself"(tm) and we will know which of visions we have for the show will be the right one, and you will have a chance to decide if it is right for you.

Although much of the fighting will be similar to our "Dog Brother Real Contact Stickfighting" (see the fight clips at
http://www.dogbrothers.com/pages/multimedia.html to get an idea) know that the fighting here will be , , , well, it will be
something that has never been seen before.

This does NOT mean it will be more dangerous or more painful , , , necessarily wink

As I write this in Mid-November 2008, we are looking at a time frame of several months.

Those selected first will be part of the pilot and the rest will be brought on stream as things move forward.   IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE CONSIDERED FOR BECOMING A PART OF THIS, well, 90% of Life is showing up.  We need to see the following
from you:

1) a one page RESUME.  The resume should include the following:
    a) age, height, weight, citizenship, languages, website/mypage/etc. if any,
    b) martial arts background: systems, styles, teachers, fighting experience, competitive athletic background etc.
    c) contact info

2) Photos: 
   a) Head Shot
   b) Full Body shot.  Not to worry if you are not body beautiful.

3) DEMO REEL:  The Demo Reel should have two sections.

   A: The PHYSICAL section:

Please demonstrate fight skills with your preferred weapons.  Ideally this will be both solo (we'd like to see the nature of your movement) AND with/against others.  Of course, we are more interested in the latter.

If you don't have/have access to your fight footage, please state briefly and clearly what your fight experience is (and isn't).  Simple honesty, no puffery please.  Remember, the bullshit that gets you in the door also gets you out the door.

These are the possible areas of interest to us.

   a) Double stick
   b) Single stick
   c) Staff
   d) knife
   e) emptyhand skills: MMA or otherwise
   f) gun skills (pistol, rifle, or paintball)
   g) other (e.g. sword and shield, whip, nunchaku, fencing, etc)
   h) footage that indicates your athleticism, your strength and
conditioning level, etc..

Total running time no more than FIVE MINUTES:

   B: A PERSONALITY SECTION.  This section is optional.  Maximum time: Three minutes.  Note that a good one minute is better than three minutes of chatter.  Please simply talk to the camera about why you do what you do, where you could picture something like this fitting in your life, and so forth.  JUST BE YOURSELF.  Conventional and off-beat are good, so too are funny and serious, and crude and cosmic!   JUST BE YOURSELF!


Please send your resume and Demo Reel/Disc to

Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny
Attention: TV Project
703 Pier Ave #664
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

And of course, the submissions and the contents thereof become the property of Dog Brothers Inc.!

The Adventure begins!
Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny
Dog Brothers Inc.
23468  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, et al, cf Yemen) on: November 18, 2008, 03:51:53 PM
Oil Tankers and Pirates on the Open Sea
Stratfor Today » November 18, 2008 | 0006 GMT

KHALED FAZAA/AFP/Getty Images
The Japanese tanker Takayama, which was targeted by pirates in April 2008Summary
The U.S. Fifth Fleet announced Nov. 17 that pirates have hijacked the Sirius Star, an oil tanker en route from Saudi Arabia to the United States. Such a hijacking is very difficult and would indicate a significant increase in tactical capabilities of pirates. Not only is the ship massive and difficult to board, it also was far out at sea and hard to get to. The tanker was also carrying $100 million worth of crude, which could result in a very handsome ransom for the pirates — that is, if U.S. or other naval forces on patrol in the area don’t try to recapture the vessel.

Analysis
The Sirius Star, a United Arab Emirates-owned Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC), was hijacked Nov. 15 by pirates, probably Somalians, 520 miles southeast of Mombassa, Kenya. The ship, which is 360 yards long and sits about 11 yards above the water line, was carrying 2 million barrels of oil worth $100 million for delivery to the United States. It is now reported to be en route to Eyl, in the Puntland region of Somalia, where up to 11 other ships are being held while ransoms are negotiated. The largest ship ever hijacked, the Sirius Star will not be able to dock at Eyl, but the hijackers will do their best to hold on to it and demand a ransom for its return.

This is not the first time that pirates have targeted a tanker. In April, an attempt was made on the Takayama, a Japanese tanker, but it failed even though the pirates used rocket propelled grenades to try to intimidate the ship’s captain into letting them aboard. These scare tactics have typically been successful on small fishing boats or yachts, but VLCCs are high enough off of the water to repel pirate attacks if the pirates are spotted in time. Pirates face a disadvantage when they attempt to scale the face of a tanker because the crew can more easily disrupt their attempts with water hoses or even weapons. However, Somalian pirates are heavily armed and more practiced with their weapons than the typical tanker crew.

The location of this hijacking is far outside the range in which pirates are considered a threat. The world’s most active waters for piracy are in the Gulf of Aden, located along Somalia’s northern coast, south of Yemen. But the Nov. 16 attack was much farther south, closer to Kenya and Tanzania than Yemen. It was also much farther off shore than most pirate attacks, which typically poses a challenge because the boats are limited to how much fuel they can carry. Given pirates’ emerging new tactics and technologies — using “mother ships” to transport smaller attack boats out to sea, global positioning systems, satellite phones — it should be expected that the range of pirate activity will increase.

It is also possible that the Sirius Star, outside the traditional range of pirate attacks, had let down her guard. Given the location of the hijacking, it is likely that the pirates were trolling outside of their traditional waters as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and other NATO countries (as well as Russia) step up patrols and escorts in the Gulf of Aden. By expanding their range, pirates have managed to continue their operations despite increased policing of the gulf. This could, in turn, increase the range of antipiracy efforts that are currently constrained to the gulf and Somalian waters.

Of course, the pirates would be happy to return the ship for the right amount of money. The highest ransom reportedly collected by Somalian pirates was $3 million, and pirates are currently asking for $20 million to release the MV Faina, a Ukrainian ship that was delivering tanks and light arms to Kenya.

Now that the Sirius Star is captured, it will be interesting to see how the international naval contingent patrolling the waters of Somalia will respond. Stratfor has contended that piracy is being made easy and profitable by a lack of international interest in the welfare of ocean-going vessels, since most that have been hijacked belong to countries that lack the capability to take them back by force. But the United States certainly has an interest in the Sirius Star — and the capability to recapture the ship. And French special forces have demonstrated that if French citizens are in harm’s way, as they were when the Le Ponant was hijacked April 4 in the Gulf of Aden, it is possible to take back a ship by force. Britain also has an interest in Sirius Star — two of its 25 crewmembers are British
— as well as the capability to deploy special forces to capture a VLCC.

Nevertheless, taking down a ship is very risky — especially such a large ship in hostile territory. If no country is willing or able to retake the Sirius Star, Vela International, the ship’s owner, may find itself in ransom negotiations for the ship’s cargo and crew. This kind of brazen hijacking will give the United States, Britain and other countries with a naval units operating off the coast of Somalia a chance to prove how committed they are to stopping piracy.
23469  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: November 18, 2008, 03:41:33 PM
At the moment I am looking a the first rough edit of Kali Tudo 2 and am awaiting the first rough edit of DLO-3.   Given our concerns about piracy and related matters (see thread nearby), there is a chance that I will say "Screw it!" and do DLO-3 as a LEO/Military project only.
23470  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Piracy, copyright infringment, youtube, and related matters on: November 18, 2008, 03:39:28 PM
Woof All:

We sell DVDs.  We believe in what we sell and believe we sell it at a fair price.

As we all know, piracy, putting stuff up for free on youtube type sites, rental operations, download operations, etc. all add up to the march of technology making it very easy for others to steal our work.  This has become quite a problem and has gotten to the point that I am seriously asking myself if it makes sense for us to make new DVDs.

The purpose of this thread is twofold:

1) to open a discussion here of these issues, and
2) to request that if you think we treat your fairly for you to help us out by letting us know about those who do us wrong.  In this regard, please do NOT post them here--after all we don't want these nefarious actors getting any free advertising!-- just email us at info@dogbrothers.com   Know that my wife invariably expresses our appreciation with some freebie DVDs and other items!

Thank you,
Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny
23471  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran, Iraq, and the SOFA on: November 18, 2008, 03:27:34 PM
Geopolitical Diary: The SOFA and Iranian Options
November 18, 2008 | 0257 GMT
Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the head of Iran’s judiciary and a figure close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, publicly praised the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) reached between the United States and the government of Iraq. He said the Iraqi government had acted “very well” in approving the SOFA — the first time a senior Iranian official had anything good to say about the agreement.

This is clearly a public shift in Iranian policy, which has thus far been critical of the SOFA, which would allow U.S. forces to remain in Iraq for another three years. Iran’s position has been that American troops should be withdrawn immediately. Therefore, in accepting the presence of U.S. forces for three more years, Tehran appears to have made a concession. Publicly, the Iranians had been opposing the pact, but behind the scenes they were part of the negotiation process. They have also cut the ground out from under those Iraqi Shia who oppose the SOFA, such as Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement. The al-Sadrites have said they would oppose the treaty through “legal avenues,” which means there is a possibility of some trouble in the legislature.

But we can be confident that Shahroudi did not make his statements casually. He is too well connected and too influential to have simply spoken out of turn. The Iranians have signaled their approval. But it should be remembered that this was not an official government endorsement. Iran can potentially back away from its approval. Nevertheless, it is as close as we can get to approval by Iran without a sea change in U.S.-Iranian relations.

That’s the real question here — whether Shahroudi’s statement represents a redefinition of U.S.-Iranian relations. There have been persistent reports of the Bush administration opening low-level diplomatic relations with Iran before it leaves office. There have been indications from Tehran that such an opening would be welcome. Undoubtedly, there have been quiet talks between U.S. and Iranian officials. Senior Iraqi Shiite leaders were cool on the SOFA until this weekend, when they shifted their position, opening the door for an agreement. It is speculative, but not unreasonable, to wonder what role the Iranian government played in changing the Shiite leaders’ minds and what other elements there may be to any U.S.-Iranian understanding that Shahroudi’s statement was a part of.

And then there is the important question of why Iran is so happy about this deal. One answer is that Tehran has moved closer to an agreement with the United States that guarantees its interests in Iraq. The other is that the SOFA, while extending the U.S. presence in Iraq, guarantees that U.S. forces will leave the country after three years and reduce their presence in Iraq’s cities in 2009. If we were cynical, we would wonder whether Iran’s good cheer — agreement with Washington or not — stems from the fact that the Americans will be gone and Iran will still be there after three years. The Iranians can wait, and they know that in three years or 10, the Baghdad government will be fragile and manipulable.

Indeed, the two explanations are fully compatible. The United States and Iran may well have reached quiet understandings that have made this SOFA achievable, and Iran is content with those agreements. At the same time, the Iranians may be thinking ahead and recognizing that the SOFA clears the way — should the situation permit and require — for much greater Iranian involvement in Iraq down the road. The SOFA gives the Iranians options, and it should not be a surprise that they are pleased.

As for the United States, this SOFA, if implemented, closes down options and limits influence. With the United States pulling out in three years — or perhaps less — Iraqi groups know that they will not be able to depend on American forces to protect their interests. They will be moving away from the United States to secure their positions on their own. As that happens, U.S. influence in Baghdad will begin to decrease dramatically.

This leaves open the question of what Washington — either George W. Bush’s or Barack Obama’s — thinks the status of U.S.-Iranian relations will be in three years. As it currently stands, the SOFA, without any other understandings, works only if the government in Baghdad is effective enough and motivated to block Iranian influence in three years. Without that, Iraq could well come into an Iranian orbit. The United States is clearly betting on Baghdad.
23472  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Any Training Groups Near San Diego? on: November 18, 2008, 03:06:36 PM
I have always had high regard for Guro Narrie Babao. (He can be seen in our "Grandfathers Speak" DVD)  He lives somewhere in the San Diego area.  I have been given permission by his son to post his contact info here:

" His e-mail Narrie_b@hotmail.com. His cell (619) 980-6144"
23473  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: November 18, 2008, 02:57:20 PM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/...guns-to-agent/

http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/...10312008_7.xml

http://www.voanews.com/english/archi...01-26-voa1.cfm

http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/20...s-neighborhood

and most damning of all:
http://www.judicialwatch.org/news/20...ursion-reports

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

Mexico Security Memo: Nov. 17, 2008
Stratfor Today » November 18, 2008 | 0014 GMT
Related Special Topic Page
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
Mexicans Detained in Buenos Aires-Area Cocaine Seizure
Federal police in Argentina made one of the largest narcotics seizures in the South American country in recent years on Nov. 13, when they confiscated 752 kilograms of cocaine from a warehouse in the San Miguel area just north of Buenos Aires. In addition to the cocaine seizure, three Bolivian nationals and two Mexican nationals were taken into custody. The cocaine is thought to have come from Colombia and to have been destined for Europe. The tip that led to the seizure allegedly originated from Federico Faggionatto Marquez, the lead investigator into ephedrine smuggling involving Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel. In recent months, Argentine officials have made several arrests of suspected Sinaloa cartel members, including the reported head of the ephedrine smuggling operation, Jesus Martinez Espinoza, who was arrested in Paraguay and extradited to Argentina on Nov. 14 to face narcotics-related charges.

The United States still remains the largest and most lucrative drug market for the Mexican cartels. But the increased law enforcement presence along the U.S.-Mexican border could have prompted the Sinaloa cartel to diversify its markets by shifting its focus southward, something suggested by evidence of increased Sinaloa operations in South America. Argentine officials have only been investigating Sinaloa’s presence in the South American country since August, so it probably will take some time before the full extent of the Sinaloa cartel’s operations and presence in South America is known.

Doubts Over Plane Crash Investigation
In a poll conducted by the periodical Milenio, 56 percent of Mexicans told surveyors that they believe the plane crash that killed Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mourino and former Deputy Attorney General Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos was not accidental. According to Stratfor sources, that sentiment is echoed among many members of the Mexican government as well. The Mexican government asked the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board to help with the investigation, which reassured most observers that the investigation would be handled competently.

Even though the results finding pilot error were handed over by a reputable U.S. agency, the cartels’ demonstrated ability to assassinate high-level Mexican federal employees has left many Mexicans skeptical of government claims that the Nov. 4 crash was an accident. Doubts over official explanations of political figures’ deaths are not new for Mexico. For example, many Mexicans still doubt Mexican government claims that a lone gunmen shot Institutional Revolutionary Party presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio at a campaign rally in Tijuana, Baja California, in March 1994, instead suspecting that the Arellano Felix Organization ordered the assassination.





(click to view map)

Nov. 10
The mayor of Ciudad Juarez said he favors allowing citizens to use firearms to protect themselves.
The United States began the process of requesting the extradition of Jamie “El Hummer” Gonzalez Duran, who faces drug-trafficking charges in the United States.
In a survey conducted by Milenio.com, 56 percent of those questioned believe the plane crash that killed Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mourino was not accidental.
Three bodies with bound hands and feet, blindfolded, and showing signs of torture were discovered below a dam near Durango, Durango state.
Citizens of the indigenous community of Cheranastico, Michoacan, kidnapped 17 Paracho municipal policemen in protest of the arrest of Juan Escamilla Lucas for arms violations.
A group of armed commandos kidnapped 27 workers from a ranch in northern Sinaloa state.
Mexican military members confiscated nearly 1 ton of marijuana in the Huetamo municipality of Michoacan state.
Three men with high-powered rifles attacked members of the Mexican military’s 76th Infantry Battalion conducting an operation Chihuahua state, during which the military personnel seized 12 tons of marijuana.
Nov. 11
Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said that the Mexican government has underestimated the true power of the drug cartels.
Four alleged leaders of the international street gang MS-13 were detained in the southern state of Chiapas following an anonymous tip that led police to their safe house.
A confrontation between peasants and indigenous villagers in Chiapas state capital Tuxtla Gutierrez left one woman dead and nine others in police custody. Authorities also seized various firearms and magazines.
Twenty-seven day laborers kidnapped from a ranch in northern Sinaloa state on Nov. 10 were released. The ranch involved reportedly is connected to the crime family of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, who heads the Juarez cartel.
The burned bodies of two individuals were found along the federal Acapulco highway in Guerrero state.
One male and one female prison guard were shot dead in a local jail in Culiacan, Sinaloa.
Nov. 12
Mexican military personnel decommissioned a cocaine processing laboratory near the center of Culiacan, Sinaloa.
Mexican military personnel detained 22 policemen of various ranks for alleged connections to drug-trafficking organizations.
Six heavily armed assassins executed the director of public security for the city of Patzcuaro, Michoacan, as he left the public security department headquarters.
Mexican army personnel seized more than 120 firearms of various calibers, 1,500 rounds of ammunition and about 140 pounds of marijuana during operations in eastern Michoacan state.
Mexican army personnel guarded the offices of the Anti-Organized Crime Unit of the Mexican attorney general’s office as 21 police officers arrived from Baja California state for investigation into their presumed connections to drug trafficking.
Federal police seized more than 2 tons of marijuana, two firearms and three vehicles during operations in Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas state.
Nov. 13
Municipal police arrested 13 presumed members of the Milenio cartel in Tonala, Guadalajara, traveling in three trucks. Police seized 13 long arms, three short arms, various fragmentation grenades, and body armor with Federal Investigations Agency insignia.
Baja California state has asked for U.S. assistance in the search for ten municipal policemen associated with drug trafficking.
In three separate operations, police in Chiapas detained 13 men and women belonging to three different kidnapping gangs: “El Aguila,” “La Zorrita” and “Los Melendez.”
The U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, was closed after gunshots were heard near the building; consulate operations were suspended indefinitely.
Elements of the Mexican military seized 19 airplanes, various aeronautical equipment and several weapons reportedly used by drug traffickers in Cajeme, Sonora.
A body riddled with bullet holes was discovered in the Lomas de Guadalupe neighborhood of Culiacan, Sonora.
Nov. 14
A group of armed men stormed an immigration checkpoint in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Oaxaca state, kidnapping 12 women of Central American origin. State police officials indicated that the group might be linked to Los Zetas, the armed wing of the Gulf cartel.
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) members in the Mexican Senate have proposed reforms that will provide police officers and government officials with guarantees of protection during and after their commissions and entitle them to pensions. In response to an increase in infiltration of the police by drug cartels and attacks against authorities, PRI Sen. Francisco Herrera said that the safeguard will help “return to society not only hope, but also confidence in the security of the state,” El Milenio reported.
A group of armed men in Tijuana, Baja California state, shot four men and one woman. Shell casings found at the scene indicate the gunmen used 7.62mm-by-39mm and 2.23 caliber weapons, the police said.
Speaking in Acapulco, Mexican President Felipe Calderon praised the Mexican navy for recent success in the war against the drug cartels; naval cocaine seizures have reached nearly 43 tons.
Four people were shot and killed in two separate incidents in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, including a former farm leader and former alderman of the Democratic Revolutionary Party. The first incident involved a roadside shooting by gunmen armed with 9 mm pistols. The other incident involved a double execution with AK-47 rounds.
Elements of the State Judicial Police arrested three alleged members of the La Familia Michoacana criminal organization in Teoloyucan, Mexico state for allegedly threatening employees of the public safety department.
A group of armed men attacked a political convoy on one of the main avenues in Tijuana, Baja California state. Authorities reported that no one was injured during the incident.
Nov. 15
A man was found dead in the town of Churumuco, Michoacan state; the victim had two bullets in his skull.
Guerrero state Gov. Zeferino Torreblanca Galinso confirmed a report from a commanding officer of the Federal Investigations Agency that organized criminal elements are funding at least two social organizations in Guerrero state. The organizations’ names were not specified.
Five people were killed in Tijuana; two were shot with assault rifles at a restaurant, one man was shot dead in a pool hall, and two bodies were found in the street.
Nov. 16
Mexican drug dealers have established bases of operation in 42 of the 50 U.S. states, Mexican newspaper Milenio reported Nov. 16, citing Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) findings. According to the DEA, Mississippi, Virginia, West Virginia, Montana, Alabama, Arkansas, Vermont and South Dakota are the only states that Mexican drug dealers do not occupy. The report indicates that the Juarez cartel is present in at least 21 states, including the U.S.-Mexican border states; the Sinaloa cartel in 17; the Tijuana cartel in 15; and the Gulf cartel in 13.
Tell Stratfor What You Think
23474  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: November 18, 2008, 02:52:47 PM
And here is a hero of mine, Michael Yon:

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/
23475  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives on: November 18, 2008, 02:43:28 PM
Hannity is a putz and a schmuck.  I can't bear to watch him even when I agree with him.  tongue
23476  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yemen: The neglected rights of women on: November 18, 2008, 02:40:02 PM
http://yementimes.com/article.shtml?i=1208&p=culture&a=2
Wirasat (Succession), neglected rights of woman
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Qazi Dr. Shaikh Abbas Borhany For the Yemen Times

 
 

Except Islam which attained its perfection divinely, no other religion grants and honours the share of women in Wirasat (inheritance). According to the Qur’an and Ahadith such laws, are considered and judged to be tyrannical and against the law of nature, which totally neglect the rights of women in Wirasat. Today, the so-called ‘Liberals’, who in general are also called ‘Reformists’ are in fact a group of that class who are ignorant of the Shariah. They raise the slogan of equality in the shares of men and women in Wirasat, which is totally repugnant to the Shariah. These inimical forces of Islam totally forget that neither Christians nor Jews or Hindus grant the Rights of Women in the Wirasat, as is bestowed by Islam.

Sharia law is no longer a difficult to understand in the study of Islam. Today Sharia, its role in political Islam and its impact on the daily lives of Muslim women and humanity has made headlines everywhere, almost daily. The word "Sharia" literally means "the path on sand created by camels walking to water-spots" but spiritually it means Hidayat-guidance. Islam initially restore women's rights by taking the first steps in that desert society by banning female-infanticide, preventing forcing of women into unwanted marriages, allowing women to retain their fathers' names after marriage, permitting women to be witnesses (albeit their testimony counted as half of a man's) and establishing Haq ul Wirasat- their ownership rights to property and their income. All of these advances in women's rights occurred in the Middle East when Europe was in the midst of the Dark Ages. The term "Fiqh" emerged, which literally means human understanding. "Where an explicit command of Allah or His Rasul already exists, no Muslim leader or legislature, or any religious scholar can form an independent judgment not even all the Muslims of the world put together, have any right to make least alteration to it". Believing so is regarded as alliance to Islam itself. All books on Sharia law univocally maintain this dictum. The Qur'an and the Ahadith are two of the most important sources of Sharia.

From early days to the present so-called civilized period, women have been a victim of injustice. Fourteen centuries have passed and the benedictions of Islam have covered a large part of the world, and now we are in the 15th century, but women are still deprived of their Right of Wirasat. The major reason for not acting upon the laws of Wirasat, conferred by Shariah, is due to the filthy rich selfish class. This cursed class has set aside the commandments of Shariah so that their property and estate may not get divided, and due to this reason keep their sisters and daughters unmarried. Before the dawn of Islam, daughters, whether, old or young, were not given any share in Wirasat. In the days of Jahiliyah, Arabs did not give their own daughters any Right of Wirasat but adopted a boy of some one else as their own son (Mutabanna in Arabi) and gave him the status of successor. Islam eliminated this injustice and strongly ordered to distribute the due share of their wealth and property to their women. One of the most important differences between the Qur'an and the Bible is their attitude towards female inheritance of the property of a deceased relative. According to Numbers 27:1-11, widows and sisters don't inherit at all. Daughters can inherit only if their deceased father had no sons. Otherwise the sons receive the entire inheritance. Prior to Islam, inheritance rights were confined exclusively to the male relatives. The Qur'an abolished all these unjust customs and gave all the female relatives their just share (see Qur'an 4:7, 11, 12 and 176). It is a matter of sorrow and regret that the practice prevalent before Islam still exists and women are bereft of their share in Wirasat. To dispel this tyranny Ayat 7 of Surah al Nisa was sent down by Allah. The principle was fixed divinely so that both men and women become rightful share holders in Wirasat. Qur’an says:

“For men, there is a share in what their parents and kindred leave behind, and for women a share in what their parents and kindred leave behind, be it little, or be it much: a decreed share”.

The cardinal principal of Wirasat is to distribute the wealth among all the near relatives, and not to let it accumulate in the hands of one person, a wise and effective check on concentration of wealth in few hands. In Surah al Nisa it has been clarified:

“A man would get share equal to two women”.

This law of Wirasat contains a clarification of the shares of a man and a woman and is like other laws of Shariat, conferred by the divine institution of Wahi. It is not a law passed by any Council, Senate, Assembly, Committee or Organization, which may be approved today or amended and rejected tomorrow. After the Wahi, the matter does not rest on the opinion of any human bequeathing wealth/property. The distribution of shares and every right of Wirasat has been fixed by the Divine Law of Shariah. It cannot be amended at will by the so-called enlightened or reformist, whenever they wish to do it, and due to the Wahi, their thoughts and Aqaid become null and void in which a woman remains deprived of any share in Wirasat. If we look at the spirit of Shariah, we will find that the responsibilities of men and women are quite distinct and separate. Their duties and rights are separate and different. Men have been made responsible for supporting women; but not vice-versa. The responsibility of man in regard to the sustenance of woman has been fixed by Islam. A woman has been given half the share of man in wealth/property because there are separate laws for her sustenance, military services and punishment. A woman’s special right in the Wirasat is due to Mehar, and the right of Nufuqa. If we look at the social order of Islam, we will find that according to the law of Wirasat, a man gets two thirds while a woman gets one third because men are responsible for the expenses of women. Therefore the wealth/property of a woman remains immune from the use or grip of men, while two third share of man is spent on both man and woman. If we consider this point, we find that a woman gets a substantial share in Wirasat as an additional benefit.

In his famous book “Daem al Islam”, Vol. II., Syedna Qazi al Numan has mentioned that Abi Jafar Imam Mohammad al Baqir and Abi Abdullah Imam Jafar Assadiq have jointly declared that women are not entitled for inheritance in movable property, but are only entitled to their proper share of Wirasat according to the Law of Qur’an, the amount being taken for the price of land forming part of the heritable estate. Thus the woman would get her proper share, not in the shape of land, but in other forms of property known at that time. Syedna Qazi al Numan explained further: this is not a general rule, (very unfortunately many Fuquha (Muslim Jurists) still consider it as general rules and applying the same formula on every case) but restricted

(a) to land which had been dedicated as Waqf for the benefit of men, who had undertaken Jihad in defense of the Muslims or

(b) to land dedicated as Waqf for the benefit of one group of persons (namely men) to the exclusion of the other group (women).

According to the pre Islam customary law, females and cognate were excluded from Wirasat. The amendments in the law of Wirasat conferred by Islam fall generally under two heads:

The husband or wife and females as well as cognates are recognized as competent to inherit.

Parents and ascendants are given a Right to inherit even when there are male Wurus’a who are present.

It is a provision of Qur’an that the daughter is entitled to succeed with the son, as interpreted by the Ahl al Bait as applicable to all female Wurus’a. Fuquh’a takes the provision of the Qur’an as not restricted to individual instances of the daughter or the sister, but as establishing a new principle for the benefit of the women, which is the most important legal reform introduction by Islam when referring to the rights of women.

Summarizing this we can confirm that Islam has totally eliminated all injustices regarding the Wirasat of women, and that the double share of man in Wirasat is due to the fact that the man has to bear other burdens (family) on his budget. Also the aspect of Wirasat of a wife is on the basis of her Mehar and the right of Nufuq’a. If only an economic aspect was under consideration, Islam would not have differentiated in the rights of Wirasat of men and women, like the worshippers of the West.


The writer is Attorney at Law & Religious Scholar. He has a PhD (USA), NDI, Shahadat al A’alamiyyah (Najaf, Iraq), M.A., LLM (Shariah)and is a member, Ulama Council of Pakistan.

Email address: qazishkborhany@hotmail.com
23477  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives on: November 18, 2008, 01:34:48 PM
 tongue cheesy

Actually, appearances to the contrary,  cheesy it IS a serious answer.  I've misplaced my copy of the book "Liberal Fascism" and so cannot even give you the author's name.

That said, if you go back to the intellectual origins of Mussolini and Hitler's National SOCIALISM, you will see that fascism is a LEFT WING ideology, not right wing.  If you go back you will see that FDR's New Deal, which BO seeks to emulate and dramatically expand, was essentially FDR's take on what Mussolini was doing.

Although American Fascism, a.k.a. Liberalism, usually lacks the overtly violent tactics of Mussolini's Brown Shirts, its economic and social concepts and its goals are those of fascism. 
23478  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: November 18, 2008, 01:21:35 PM
Many Dealings of Bill Clinton Are Under Review
 DON VAN NATTA Jr. and JO BECKER
NY Times
Published: November 17, 2008
Over the weekend, former President Bill Clinton enthusiastically endorsed the prospect that his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, might join the Obama administration as secretary of state. “If he decided to ask her and they did it together,” the former president said, “I think she’ll be really great as a secretary of state.”

Mr. Clinton delivered those remarks at an international economic symposium in Kuwait City sponsored by the National Bank of Kuwait, which said the former president would “share with a select audience his perspective on the issues likely to shape the future prospects of the region.”
It is precisely that kind of paid speech, which Mr. Clinton delivered 54 times last year for a total of $10.1 million in fees, that has complicated the vetting process that Mrs. Clinton is undergoing by the Obama transition team. “Whatever happens or doesn’t happen is between Obama and her,” Mr. Clinton said.

That may be, but Mr. Clinton’s postpresidential life as a globe-trotting philanthropist, business consultant and speech-giver poses the highest hurdle for Mrs. Clinton to overcome if President-elect Barack Obama chooses to nominate her as secretary of state, according to aides of the Clintons and Mr. Obama.

The Obama transition team is focused on the wide array of Mr. Clinton’s postpresidential activities, some details of which have not been made public. This list includes the identity of most of the donors to his foundation, the source of some of his speaking fees — he has earned as much as $425,000 for a one-hour speech — and his work for the billionaire investor Ronald W. Burkle.

The vetting of Mr. Clinton’s myriad philanthropic and business dealings is “complicated, and it may be the complications that are causing hesitation on both sides,” said Abner J. Mikva, one of Mr. Obama’s closest supporters and a White House counsel during the Clinton administration. “There would have to be full disclosure as to who all were contributors to his library and foundation. I think they’d have to be made public.”

While aides to the president-elect declined Monday to discuss what sort of requirements would make it possible for Mrs. Clinton to serve as secretary of state, they said Mr. Obama would not formally offer her the job unless he was satisfied that there would be no conflicts posed by Mr. Clinton’s activities abroad.

Associates of the Clintons said that Mr. Clinton was likely to have to make significant concessions and that he was inclined to do so. Among other things, they said, he would probably have to agree not to take money for speeches from foreign businesses that have a stake in the actions of the American government. Another obvious issue, Democratic lawyers said, would be whether Mr. Clinton’s foundation should accept money from foreign governments, businesses or individuals for the foundation’s philanthropic activities and if it should disclose those donors publicly.

“The problem is it’s going to require some sacrifice by him,” said a former Clinton aide who is not involved in the discussions but did not want to be identified because the talks are confidential. “If he’s not willing to do that, it could blow up.”

One proposal, floated by Mr. Mikva and several other aides involved in the vetting process, would be for Mr. Clinton to separate himself from the activities of his foundation, including raising money.

“It’s not just what he does or says — it’s the fact that the foundation is involved with foreign countries, some of which might well be in conflict with U.S. policy,” Mr. Mikva said. “It’s more than a legal problem — there are ethical problems and appearance problems.”

Several longtime associates of the Clintons said the former president would be an asset to Mrs. Clinton if she were appointed secretary of state. The Obama administration “would be able to use Bill Clinton as the ultimate special envoy inside the tent,” one longtime associate said.

Since the former president established the William J. Clinton Foundation in 1998, it has raised more than $500 million, a sum that allowed him to build his steel-and-glass presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., and create the Clinton Global Initiative, which has done good deeds all over the world, including working to eradicate AIDS in Africa. Much of that money has been raised from foreign sources.

======

Page 2 of 2)



Mr. Clinton is not required by law to identify the donors to his foundation, and this year he declined to name them. Last year, while Mrs. Clinton was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, The New York Times compiled the first detailed list of 97 donors who gave or pledged a total of $69 million for the Clinton presidential library in the final years of his administration. The examination found that while some $1 million contributors were longtime Clinton friends, others were seeking policy changes from the administration. Two people pledged $1 million each while they or their companies were under investigation by the Clinton Justice Department.

The foundation has received contributions from the Saudi royal family, the king of Morocco, a foundation linked to the United Arab Emirates and the governments of Kuwait and Qatar.

In a statement, the foundation said at the time, “Donors did not seek, nor did President Clinton give, favors from the federal government,” adding that most of the contributions were made after Mr. Clinton left office. A spokesman for the foundation, Matt McKenna, declined to comment on Monday.

During Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, the Clintons agreed to sell $11 million to $26 million worth of stock and pledged to liquidate holdings that had been in a blind trust. She said then that they wanted to avoid conflicts of interest.

In September, at his annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting, Mr. Clinton hosted more than two dozen foreign leaders, including Queen Rania of Jordan, President Shimon Peres of Israel and President Álvaro Colom of Guatemala.

Mr. Obama met Thursday in Chicago with Mrs. Clinton. Shortly after that, the process of looking into Mr. Clinton’s activities began, slowed in part because Mr. Clinton did not return to the United States until early Monday.

Several Democrats close to the Clintons said the former president’s activities should not be a disqualifier because the couple had been more open about their finances than past veterans of the White House, thanks to Senate disclosure requirements.

“They are arguably the most transparent former first couple in history,” said one Democratic official, who declined to be identified because the talks are confidential. “For eight years, they’ve been doing this.”

Lanny J. Davis, a longtime Clinton friend who said he was not speaking on the couple’s behalf, said he “completely rejects 100 percent” any suggestion that there was a conflict between Mr. Clinton’s work raising money for his foundation and the work Mrs. Clinton would be doing as the nation’s chief diplomat.

When the Clintons released their postpresidency tax returns in April, the documents showed the couple had earned $109 million after leaving the White House in January 2001. Most of it has come from book-writing and speaking fees, a sum that accounts for nearly $92 million, including a $15 million advance from Mr. Clinton’s best-selling autobiography, “My Life.”

The returns also showed that Mr. Clinton had collected at least $12.6 million since 2002 from his work as an adviser to Mr. Burkle, whose Yucaipa Companies have invested money for the Dubai government and acquired a stake in a Chinese media company.

The former president helped drum up business for several domestic and foreign investment funds in Yucaipa’s portfolio, although precisely what Mr. Clinton did is unknown.

Beyond Mr. Clinton’s work for his foundation and his foreign business dealings, there is also the unique issue of having a secretary of state whose husband is a former president. During her campaign, Mrs. Clinton said if she were elected president, she would appoint Mr. Clinton as a “roving global ambassador.”

But if Mrs. Clinton were to be nominated as secretary of state, potential conflicts could occur if Mr. Clinton continued to serve as a traveling emissary of the United States. It is unknown whether he would be asked to curtail speaking out on foreign policy matters or, if asked, if he would be willing to do so.
23479  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives on: November 18, 2008, 01:18:34 PM
The proper name for this is Liberal Fascism.
23480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: November 18, 2008, 12:19:49 PM
Well, drifting briefly outsdie the parameters of this thread:

As best as I can tell, our support of Kosovo breaking away is a break from the understandings of international law.   Redrawing international boundaries is a true Pandora's box.  Due to its many border regions where ethnic Russians are a small minority, the priniciples enunciated by the US in supporting the breakaway of Kosovo can readily be applied to various situations which would challenge the territorial integrity of Russia itself.  Russia was EXTREMELY emphatic that Kosovo should not breakaway and basically we laughed and said "Watcha gonna do about it?"  -- so Russia was delighted to hoist us on our own petard when it applied them to the two regions of Georgia where ethnic Russians are in the majority.

(In dealing with Russia IMHO at all times we need to keep our eye on the demographic ball-- Russian birth rates are FAR below replacement levels. Every day Russia has fewer Russians, and the ones they have are older.  This makes the Russians in their "near abroad" e.g. Ukraine, doubly important to them.)

Concerning the pipeline issues:  Europe, especially Germany, gets a lot of gas from western Russia and Russia gets a lot of gas from central Asia-- without which it could not export its western gas to Europe.   Supplying Europe gives Russia huge leverage over Europe.

There is a lot of gas and oil in central Asia.  If that oil and gas could reach world markets through pipelines not controlled by Russia, it would help get Europe from under the Russian thumb.  One such pipeline currently exists-- and it runs through Georgia.   Russia's conquest of northern Georgia has made clear that there is nothing that the US or Europe will do about it (see e.g. the Russia-Europe thread entry of this morning) and hence that the pipeline which runs through Georgia does so at Russian whim.  Thus plans for additional pipelines are being mothballed.  What private company would invest now the tens of billions of $$$ required?

Outside the box thinker Jack Wheeler (google him, he is an interesting guy) suggests building a pipeline from central Asiaa though Afg and Pak.  This he thinks would give Afg and Pak some skin in the game for productive activities (at present what does Afg have except for opium?) AND foil Russian attempts to control Europe's energy supplies.
23481  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ukraine on: November 18, 2008, 11:06:12 AM
Ukjraine would not be on my radar screen but for the analyses of Stratfor in the past few years.  Beginning today Stratfor is starting an extended analysis of the situation in Ukraine, its pivotal role in US-Russia and Euro- Russian relations and so I begin this thread.

============
Part 1: Instability in a Crucial Country
Stratfor Today » November 18, 2008 | 1205 GMT
Summary
Ukraine is a country at a crossroads. Not only is it among those being hit hardest by the current global financial crisis, but it is now flirting with actual dissolution. The country’s economy is fundamentally weak, and ongoing political strife has made economic reforms necessary but impossible. Furthermore, the country is the cornerstone of the geopolitical battle between the West and Russia. Its weakness makes Ukraine dependent on outside powers, but outside powers appear to be working to pull the country apart.

Analysis
Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a series on Ukraine.

Of all the countries being hit by the global financial crisis, Ukraine is one of the most profoundly affected because it is already coping with failing financial institutions, a collapsing economy and a domestic political scene too shattered to handle much of anything. On top of that, it is unfortunate enough to be the centerpiece of the geopolitical turf war between Russia and the West. In short, Ukraine is so deeply troubled that it cannot exist or remain united as a state unless an outside power enables it. And right now, outside powers are doing just the opposite.

The Current Financial Crisis
Ukraine is fundamentally unprepared to weather the global financial crisis. The country’s budget deficit is 2.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and is likely to increase before it decreases, as declining industrial output triggered by the global recession will inevitably reduce expected tax receipts. Confounding the budget deficit is the parliament’s promise to increase minimum wages in 2009 — a promise that no party will want to back out of publicly when parliamentary and presidential elections could be held soon.

Related Link
Countries in Crisis
Ukrainian currency problems are also quite severe. Foreign investment has been leaving Ukraine’s equity markets (it declined almost 80 percent so far in 2008; only Iceland experienced a larger drop) and speculators have been attacking the currency, the hryvnia. The hryvnia has lost 20 percent of its value in the last month alone, and there are fears that a devaluation is on the way. As confidence inside Ukraine slides, bank runs are taking place; Ukraine’s Central Bank President Vladimir Stelmakh estimated that customers withdrew almost $3 billion — approximately 4 percent of the country’s total deposits — from accounts within a week.

As the hryvnia’s decline continues, all loans — both business and private — taken out in foreign currencies (whether Swiss franc, euro or dollar) will begin appreciating, creating a very real possibility of defaults that domestic banks will not be able to cover.

This brings up the issue of total public and private sector debt. Ukraine’s debt is not exorbitant (private sector debt is at $80 billion and public is $20 billion; combined, it is a moderately high 66 percent of GDP), but it is the speed with which it has accumulated over the past two years that is worrying. With the decline in the hryvnia and upcoming debt service payments (around $46 billion due next year for private sector and $1.6 billion for public), Ukrainian total foreign currency reserves — totaling $37 billion — could begin drying up fast, particularly if the government continues to try to use the reserves to prop up the hryvnia.

Ukraine’s public sector debt, currently only 10 percent of GDP, could also begin to rise as the domestic banks face liquidity pressures and the government is forced to intervene as well as it can, though it cannot afford bailouts like those in the United States, Europe and Russia. The country’s sixth largest bank, Prominvestbank — which holds 4 percent of the market share in Ukraine’s banking sector — was already bailed out by the government on Oct. 8 to the tune of $1 billion, and the Ukrainian economy’s overall weakness indicates that more domestic lenders could follow suit.

However, much as in Central Europe, it could be the foreign banks that create havoc for Ukraine’s economy. Foreign banks already own roughly 50 percent of the country’s banking system: Austria’s Raiffeisen owns Bank Aval, Italy’s UniCredit owns Ukrsotsbank and the French BNP Paribas owns UkrSibbank. These banks — both foreign and domestic — were particularly active in bringing about the Ukrainian explosion of mortgages and retail loans, most of which were made in foreign currencies (euro and Swiss francs) so as to take advantage of a lower interest rate.

Ukraine is right behind the troubled Hungary, Croatia and Romania in terms of the percentage of total loans made in foreign currencies (roughly 50 percent of all loans in Ukraine). As the hryvnia depreciates, consumers and businesses will be less able to service these foreign-currency-denominated loans. This will lead to a potential mountain of unserviceable debt that could collapse domestic banks and spread the contagion to the rest of emerging markets and potentially to foreign bank headquarters.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has offered Ukraine a $16.5 billion loan. However, Ukraine’s internal political chaos has suspended the country’s ability to meet the IMF’s conditions or even make a decision on the IMF’s terms.

Fundamentally Weak
Beyond the current financial crisis, Ukraine’s economy is volatile at best — leaving little hope for the country to pull itself out of any difficulty. One problem is that each region in Ukraine is highly dependent on a specific industry for money; so when that industry fails, the entire region tends to fail. Furthermore, most of Ukraine’s lucrative business is based in the eastern half of the country, which typically gives that half (and Russia) a bit more political and economic power. Although Ukraine mainly depends on its metallurgical industry, it also gains much revenue from grain, military exports and energy transit. However, each of these sectors is suffering from deep problems that could not be easily fixed even if the country had the proper tools.





(click image to enlarge)
Metals
Ukraine is one of the world’s top 10 steel-producing and iron-ore-producing nations and is the third-largest exporter of steel. The metallurgical industry accounts for 40 percent of Ukraine’s exports, nearly 30 percent of its GDP and 12 percent of its tax revenues — and it employs more than half a million people.

However, the metallurgical industry is exceedingly inefficient and outdated. It is also highly dependent on expensive natural gas from its neighbor, Russia, making the cost of Ukrainian steel already 25 percent higher than its Russian and Chinese competitors. To make matters worse, demand and prices for many metals, especially steel, are collapsing globally. Prices for steel soared for the past year, prompting many steel-producing countries such as Brazil, India, Russia, China and Australia to overproduce, creating a global surplus. This leaves Ukraine horribly exposed since anyone who would have previously agreed to pay for the more-expensive Ukrainian steel now has several other options.

Ukraine’s Industry Ministry has officially declared the metallurgical sector to be in crisis, with 17 of the 36 steelmaking furnaces closed. Moreover, many of the metals heavyweights in Ukraine are foreign-owned — by firms such as ArcelorMittal and Rusal — and are already discussing massive layoffs. This will also greatly increase Ukraine’s account deficit. The bottom line is that Ukraine simply cannot compete on a global level in metallurgy, though much of its economy is dependent on it.

Grain
Ukraine saw an increase in revenues from an abundant grain harvest and exporting; in the third quarter of 2008, Ukraine’s exports outpaced imports. Grains account for approximately 6 percent of the country’s exports and brought in more than $2 billion the summer of 2008. The problem with grain is that the revenue it generates is cyclical, and thus Ukraine will not see any more cash from it until mid-2009. That, combined with severe credit constriction — which will stress farmers in the upcoming planting season — makes any dependency on the grain sector shaky.

Military Exports
Ukraine also depends on military exports to bring in cash. During and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, military units (including nuclear forces) were moved from Ukraine back inside Russia proper, but Kiev retained and commanded a great deal of Soviet military hardware and production facilities. Since around the mid-1990s, Kiev has sold that used equipment to countries as diverse as China, Sierra Leone, Kenya and even the United States. Though Ukraine retains significant stocks of such equipment, those stocks continue aging and slipping further toward obsolescence, and there is a (rapidly approaching) limit to how far the Soviet military legacy can carry Ukraine. There are a few discrepancies in estimates of how much money military exports bring in for Kiev. The official estimate by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry is around $1 billion a year; however, there are many within the government who claim it generates three times that amount but some equipment is sold under the table to other parties (such as Georgia) that Kiev does not want to be formally connected with.

Energy Transit
The only other really substantial moneymaker for the country is energy transit. Eighty percent of Russia’s energy exports of oil and natural gas to Europe transit through Ukraine. Currently, Ukraine receives approximately $1.9 billion a year simply for transiting Russian and Central Asian natural gas to Europe, along with some compensation on its own domestic purchases — be that a small bartered amount in payment or discounted natural gas. Ukraine announced Nov. 5 that it is planning on raising the amount it transports in 2009 in hopes of raising its revenues. However, the energy game is tricky for Ukraine because it also has to import 90 percent of its own domestic supplies of natural gas — something that typically gets the government into a $2 billion debt to Moscow every quarter — and Russia is considering raising its prices to Ukraine in the new year.

Tell Stratfor What You Think


23482  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives on: November 18, 2008, 11:03:27 AM
May I suggest we continue the discussion of education over at the Education thread on the SCH forum?
23483  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: November 18, 2008, 10:57:13 AM
Hillary's experience?  tongue   After she clusterfcuked her effort to socialize 14.7% of GDP, she was sent off to bake cookies, hide subpoenaed documents, and duck sniper fire evil  And if she had met her responsibilities to slick the President's willie, maybe the whole Lewinsky saga would not have happened  cheesy

More seriously now, IMHO this SOS thing is a head fake. 

BO got ragged for not giving Hillary the respect of pretending to consider her for VP, so now he pretends to give her consideration here.   If she takes it, she's under his thumb-- and she won't take it because to do so would mean that Bill would have to explain all kinds of shady money he has been receiving, so I seriously doubt she will take it.
23484  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Cooties in Training on: November 18, 2008, 10:38:22 AM
A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel this week will consider three proposed antibiotics designed to treat serious skin infections, including some caused by a type of staph bacterium resistant to many antibiotics.

The bacterium -- methicillin-resistant staph aureus, or MRSA -- has sparked concern as the super bug has moved into community settings like schools and locker rooms in recent years after once being largely confined to hospital settings. But it's not clear if any of the three drugs will reach the bar for FDA approval because of safety concerns or questions about how well the drugs work compared with other available medications.

On Wednesday the panel is expected to vote on Theravance Inc.'s telavancin and Targanta Therapeutics Corp.'s oritavancin before considering iclaprim by Swiss biotech company Arpida Ltd. Thursday.

The FDA posted a review Monday of telavancin and oritavancin ahead of the meeting. Iclaprim's review is expected Tuesday.

Telavancin has already faced trouble gaining FDA approval. Last year, the agency refused to approve the drug and asked for additional clinical data. Earlier this year, the agency canceled an advisory panel meeting for telavancin after it had discovered violations of good clinical practice at some study sites involved in telavancin's clinical trials.

On Monday, the FDA said that, after tossing data from five sites out of about 200 study sites, the rest of the study information used to evaluate telavancin was "reliable," thereby allowing the agency to consider it as part of the drug application submitted by Theravance.

Overall, the agency said both telavancin and oritavancin met study goals of being at least as good as a vancomycin -- an older, generic antibiotic -- at treating skin infections.

However, the FDA said it was concerned about an "imbalance" in the number of serious adverse events that involved the kidneys, with more patients receiving Theravance's telavancin having some problems when compared with those receiving vancomycin.

The agency also said it would ask the FDA panel for advice about whether a risk-management program would be needed to keep pregnant women from receiving the drug because of concerns about the drug's effect on a developing fetus, based on results from animal studies. The agency also noted that 18 patients receiving telavancin or vancomycin died during studies and said some deaths in both groups were possibly drug-related.

Theravance said in a statement that "the safety profile of telavancin in these studies was compatible with treatment of patients with serious infections."

In a review of Targanta's oritavancin, the FDA looked at the impact of the drug on 11 types of bacteria -- including MRSA -- compared with vancomycin's effects. The agency said one of the studies showed that a lower percentage of oritavancin patients were considered a treatment success for MRSA, and it will ask the panel to comment on that finding.

Targanta, in briefing documents posted on FDA's Web site, said oritavancin was "safe and well-tolerated."

Write to Jennifer Corbett Dooren at jennifer.corbett-dooren@dowjones.com

23485  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: New Staph antibiotics on: November 18, 2008, 10:37:34 AM
A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel this week will consider three proposed antibiotics designed to treat serious skin infections, including some caused by a type of staph bacterium resistant to many antibiotics.

The bacterium -- methicillin-resistant staph aureus, or MRSA -- has sparked concern as the super bug has moved into community settings like schools and locker rooms in recent years after once being largely confined to hospital settings. But it's not clear if any of the three drugs will reach the bar for FDA approval because of safety concerns or questions about how well the drugs work compared with other available medications.

On Wednesday the panel is expected to vote on Theravance Inc.'s telavancin and Targanta Therapeutics Corp.'s oritavancin before considering iclaprim by Swiss biotech company Arpida Ltd. Thursday.

The FDA posted a review Monday of telavancin and oritavancin ahead of the meeting. Iclaprim's review is expected Tuesday.

Telavancin has already faced trouble gaining FDA approval. Last year, the agency refused to approve the drug and asked for additional clinical data. Earlier this year, the agency canceled an advisory panel meeting for telavancin after it had discovered violations of good clinical practice at some study sites involved in telavancin's clinical trials.

On Monday, the FDA said that, after tossing data from five sites out of about 200 study sites, the rest of the study information used to evaluate telavancin was "reliable," thereby allowing the agency to consider it as part of the drug application submitted by Theravance.

Overall, the agency said both telavancin and oritavancin met study goals of being at least as good as a vancomycin -- an older, generic antibiotic -- at treating skin infections.

However, the FDA said it was concerned about an "imbalance" in the number of serious adverse events that involved the kidneys, with more patients receiving Theravance's telavancin having some problems when compared with those receiving vancomycin.

The agency also said it would ask the FDA panel for advice about whether a risk-management program would be needed to keep pregnant women from receiving the drug because of concerns about the drug's effect on a developing fetus, based on results from animal studies. The agency also noted that 18 patients receiving telavancin or vancomycin died during studies and said some deaths in both groups were possibly drug-related.

Theravance said in a statement that "the safety profile of telavancin in these studies was compatible with treatment of patients with serious infections."

In a review of Targanta's oritavancin, the FDA looked at the impact of the drug on 11 types of bacteria -- including MRSA -- compared with vancomycin's effects. The agency said one of the studies showed that a lower percentage of oritavancin patients were considered a treatment success for MRSA, and it will ask the panel to comment on that finding.

Targanta, in briefing documents posted on FDA's Web site, said oritavancin was "safe and well-tolerated."

Write to Jennifer Corbett Dooren at jennifer.corbett-dooren@dowjones.com

23486  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: November 18, 2008, 10:28:38 AM
I have voiced my concerns over what I perceive as an absence of a coherent strategy for Afg-Pak.  Here's one POV:

==============n't Negotiate With the Taliban
Afghanistan is making progress despite its president.By ANN MARLOWEArticle
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Khost Province, Afghanistan

The British have been muttering in recent weeks about talking with the Taliban to end the Afghan insurgency. And Afghan President Hamid Karzai has recently offered amnesty to Taliban leader Mullah Omar if he would return to Afghanistan for peace talks. Mr. Karzai said that if foreign nations disapproved they could either withdraw their troops or remove him (the latter being the best suggestion he has had in a long time). So the terrible idea of talks with the Taliban has penetrated American military and political circles, part of a new pessimism that threatens to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

"The security situation is better than it was when the 82nd Airborne left in April. I am satisfied." So says Haji Doulat, the 63-year-old subgovernor of Mandozai, one of the 12 districts of Khost Province. He has worked hard with American troops to develop this rural farming community of 120,000.

Khost is one of the frontline provinces in the war on terror. It shares a 112 mile border with some of the most lawless areas of Pakistan. And its Zadran tribe counts as a member the insurgent leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, who regularly stages attacks on Coalition forces from across the border. The first two girls admitted to Khost's university this fall are so fearful of reprisals that they study at home and go to the campus only for exams. But Khost is also one of the places where we are winning the war against the Taliban, if slowly and expensively.

Since 2007, the U.S. commanders in Khost have dispersed their fighters among the province's districts to live in force-protection facilities alongside the subgovernors like Mr. Doulat and the Afghan National Police. These troops and the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team, a civil-military partnership, use their Commander's Emergency Response Program Funds to improve Afghans' lives.

In 2002, there were 13 schools in this province of a million people. Now there are 205, of which 53 were built by the U.S. and 30 by other donors including NGOs, the World Bank and foreign governments. U.S. troops are building 25 more now. Before the invasion not a single girl went to school in all of Khost Province. In 2002 approximately 3,000 attended school. This year, 8,000 girls in Mandozai District alone were in school, and 50,047 attended in all of Khost.

The economy in Mandozai, as in other districts of Khost, has boomed thanks to the hardtop roads financed by the U.S. This week, Mr. Doulat sent men to take a first-ever survey of all the shops in his district with a view of increasing tax rolls and jumpstarting a small bazaar area. There were 61 shops in one half of Mandozai, most with more than 50,000 afghanis ($1,000) in capital. At the beginning of 2007, there were only about 15 shops in all of Mandozai bazaar. (There are 11,300 shops in the city of Khost, the provincial capital, with 2,000 added in the past year, according to Kiramert Khan, the head of the shopkeepers' union.)

Good governance is an essential part of progress. Mr. Doulat is considered the best of Khost's subgovernors by U.S. commanders. On a national level, much that's gone wrong is the fault of Mr. Karzai's wavering and often incompetent government.

This is why Mr. Karzai has been calling for talks with the Taliban and the ruthless war criminal Gulbuddin Hekmatyar -- who in his Kabul University days splashed acid on the faces of unveiled female students -- for a couple of years now. Exaggerating the potency of the insurgents is a way of excusing his own failures. It may also help him retain the support of hard-line Pashtun nationalists, nearly his only constituency now.

American commanders have nothing to cover up. In the 14 eastern provinces they command, progress is obvious. But talking with the Taliban will send the wrong message to everyone, from the feckless Mr. Karzai to energetic, courageous Afghans like Mr. Doulat to the little girls going to school for the first time.

– Robert C. Pozen and Yaneer Bar-YamAhmad Nadar Nadary, commissioner of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, is about to publish a 30-page report on Taliban atrocities, including about 700 Afghan civilians murdered between June 2007 and July 2008. (Look for it on www.aihrc.org.af.) One recent attack came on Oct. 30, when the Taliban attacked Afghanistan's Ministry of Culture. Three insurgents murdered a policeman and four civilians. The people who commit such killings are criminals who should be punished.

Apart from the ethics of talking with the Taliban, it would also be a fool's errand. If they weren't losing, they would have no interest in dialogue. Those who've been killing their own countrymen for the past few years aren't interested in the democratic process. Any Taliban who is interested is already in the government. (About 30%-40% of Afghan Parliament's Lower House are religious fundamentalists.)

Victory in Afghanistan -- defined as the time when we can pack up and leave Afghans to govern and defend their own country -- will come. It will take patience, however. After meeting with Mr. Doulat, I visited a girls' school in neighboring Tani District and stepped into a first-grade class with about 20 girls. None of them had a mother who was literate. They were being taught by an ancient, bearded, good-hearted man. I asked him who the top girl in the class was, and he pulled skinny, seven-year-old Meena to her feet. Her father is a laborer, and her clothes were ragged. If her illiterate parents have enough faith in the future that they send her to school, against cultural norms, we must not betray them or her.

An Afghanistan that officially acknowledges Taliban ideology by talking to Taliban leaders about their grievances and concerns offers nothing for its Meenas.

Ms. Marlowe is a New York-based writer who travels frequently to Afghanistan.

 
23487  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Europe kitties out again on: November 18, 2008, 10:22:15 AM
Russia needed only a few days this August to drive Georgia's army into retreat. In the aftermath, Europe has held out only a bit longer than Tbilisi's troops.

EU leaders on Friday said they were resuming talks with Moscow toward an economic-cooperation agreement. The negotiations were put on ice 10 weeks earlier because of Russia's invasion of its tiny neighbor and refusal to abide by a French-brokered cease-fire. But by Friday's EU-Russia summit in Nice, France, Moscow's fulfillment of "a large part of its obligations" was good enough for French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Thus ends the lone sanction Europe placed on its belligerent neighbor after the August war. The talks are back on, but Georgians are still waiting for the promised pullback of Russian soldiers to their prewar positions. Numerous Russian troops remain in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose self-declared independence has been recognized by only Russia and Nicaragua.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of ethnic Georgians are still unable to return to their homes both in and outside the conflict zone. EU and other Western observers remain blocked from entering the most war-torn areas, and as recently as Sunday were still reporting incidents in which they'd been fired upon near Abkhazia.

A second round of peace talks between Russia and Georgia is slated to begin today in Geneva. But with Europe in retreat, Moscow will be under no pressure to compromise with Tbilisi. This round is likely to end almost as soon as it begins, just like a first set of negotiations in October.

In today's Opinion Journal
REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Iraq 'Fails' UpwardRussia Out of RehabThe Public Payroll Always Rises

TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

Global View: 'No Excuses' for Liberals
– Bret StephensMain Street: Mr. Obama, Give That Man a Medal – William McGurn

COMMENTARY

Our Spendthrift States Don't Need a Bailout
– Steve MalangaHow to Help People Whose Home Values Are Underwater
– Martin FeldsteinDon't Negotiate With the Taliban
– Ann MarloweThere's a Better Way to Prevent 'Bear Raids'
– Robert C. Pozen and Yaneer Bar-YamEurope's reversal is embarrassing on a number of levels. Russia hardly seemed bothered by the suspension in the first place -- and wasn't exactly begging Brussels to come back to the table. Worse were the rationales for resuming the talks, as offered by Mr. Sarkozy, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. Perhaps anticipating the decision, Mr. Sarkozy noted on November 7 that the negotiations had not been suspended but "postponed" -- and that this meant he and Mr. Barroso had the authority to decide how long the postponement would last.

Mr. Barroso even scolded EU members such as Lithuania and Poland for standing in the way of consensus on the bloc's stance toward Russia. "You may not like the common EU position entirely," he said, "but it is in your own interest to have one rather than three or four different positions."

One might expect the Poles and Baltic nations to have a better idea than Mr. Barroso of how to deal with Russia. As for us, we recall a conversation in August with a U.S. diplomat about approaching Russia after the war in Georgia. Rather than trying to wallop Russia's political and business elites with some large penalty while they were in the flush of victory, the diplomat suggested, it would be better to produce a steady stream of measures over time, "so that they realize this isn't going to pass."

What Russia no doubt realizes after last week is that Europe has the will to do absolutely nothing, and that its invasion will in fact "pass" without consequence.
23488  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / SATs on: November 18, 2008, 09:22:20 AM
FOR some years now, many elite American colleges have been downgrading the role of standardized tests like the SAT in deciding which applicants are admitted, or have even discarded their use altogether. While some institutions justify this move primarily as a way to enroll a more diverse group of students, an increasing number claim that the SAT is a poor predictor of academic success in college, especially compared with high school grade-point averages.

Are they correct? To get an answer, we need to first decide on a good measure of “academic success.” Given inconsistent grading standards for college courses, the most easily comparable metric is the graduation rate. Students’ families and society both want college entrants to graduate, and we all know that having a college degree translates into higher income. Further, graduation rates among students and institutions vary much more widely than do college grades, making them a clearer indicator of how students are faring.

So, here is the question: do SATs predict graduation rates more accurately than high school grade-point averages? If we look merely at studies that statistically correlate SAT scores and high school grades with graduation rates, we find that, indeed, the two standards are roughly equivalent, meaning that the better that applicants do on either of these indicators the more likely they are to graduate from college. However, since students with high SAT scores tend to have better high school grade-point averages, this data doesn’t tell us which of the indicators — independent of the other — is a better predictor of college success.

Instead, we need to look at the two factors separately. And we can, thanks to the recent experience of the State University of New York, America’s largest comprehensive university system, where I was provost from 1997 to 2006. SUNY is blessed with many different types of campuses, mirroring most of the collegiate options (other than small elite private institutions) that characterize contemporary higher education. The university also collects a gold mine of student data, including statistics on pre-admission academic profiles and graduation rates.

In the 1990s, several SUNY campuses chose to raise their admissions standards by requiring higher SAT scores, while others opted to keep them unchanged. With respect to high school grades, all SUNY campuses consider applicants’ grade-point averages in decisions, but among the total pool of applicants across the state system, those averages have remained fairly consistent over time.

Thus, by comparing graduation rates at SUNY campuses that raised the SAT admissions bar with those that didn’t, we have a controlled experiment of sorts that can fairly conclusively tell us whether SAT scores were accurate predictors of whether a student would get a degree.

The short answer is: yes, they were. Consider the changes in admissions profiles and six-year graduation rates of the classes entering in 1997 and 2001 at SUNY’s 16 baccalaureate institutions. Among this group, nine campuses raised the emphasis they put on the SAT after 1997. This group included two prestigious research universities (Buffalo and Stony Brook) and seven smaller, regional colleges (Brockport, Cortland, New Paltz, Old Westbury, Oneonta, Potsdam and Purchase).

Among the campuses that raised selectivity, the average incoming student’s SAT score increased 4.5 percent (at Cortland) to 13.3 percent (Old Westbury), while high school grade-point averages increased only 2.4 percent to 3.7 percent — a gain in grades almost identical to that at campuses that did not raise their SAT cutoff.

Yet when we look at the graduation rates of those incoming classes, we find remarkable improvements at the increasingly selective campuses. These ranged from 10 percent (at Stony Brook, where the six-year graduation rate went to 59.2 percent from 53.8 percent) to 95 percent (at Old Westbury, which went to 35.9 percent from 18.4 percent).

Most revealingly, graduation rates actually declined at the seven SUNY campuses that did not raise their cutoffs and whose entering students’ SAT scores from 1997 to 2001 were stable or rose only modestly. Even at Binghamton, always the most selective of SUNY’s research universities, the graduation rate declined by 2.8 percent.

The change is even more striking if we compare experiences of three pairs of similar SUNY campuses that, from 1997 to 2001, took sharply divergent paths. First, Stony Brook and Albany, both research universities: over four years, at Stony Brook the average entering freshman SAT score went up 7.9 percent, to 1164, and the graduation rate rose by 10 percent; meanwhile, Albany’s average freshman SAT score increased by only 1.3 percent and its graduation rate fell by 2.7 percent, to 64 percent.

Next, Brockport and Oswego, two urban colleges with about 8,000 students each: Brockport’s average freshman SAT score rose 5.7 percent to 1080, and its graduation rate increased by 18.7 percent, to 58.5 percent. At the same time, Oswego’s freshman SAT average rose by only 3 percent and its graduation rate fell by 1.9 percent, to 52.6 percent.

Finally, Oneonta and Plattsburgh, two small liberal arts colleges with 5,000 students each: Oneonta’s freshman SAT score increased by 6.2 percent, to 1069, and its graduation rate rose 25.3 percent, to 58.9 percent. Plattsburgh’s average freshman SAT score increased by 1.3 percent and its graduation rate fell sharply, by 6.3 percent, to 55.1 percent.

Clearly, we find that among a group of SUNY campuses with very different missions and admissions standards, and at which the high school grade-point averages of enrolling freshmen improved by the same modest amount (about 2 percent to 4 percent), only those campuses whose incoming students’ SAT scores improved substantially saw gains in graduation rates.

Demeaning the SAT has become fashionable at campuses across the country. But college administrators who really seek to understand the value of the test based on good empirical evidence would do well to learn from the varied experiences of New York’s state university campuses.

Peter D. Salins is a professor of political science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
23489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Story on: November 18, 2008, 09:11:22 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
23490  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: November 18, 2008, 12:00:33 AM
A German friend asked me what I thought of the election.  Here's my response:

> Hello Marc
>
> I'm very, very impressed how honourably Republicans are handling the
> setback.

Forgive me the crankiness, but note the contrast with the Dems over the two
Bush victories.

>I was impressed with Senator McCain's strength restraining the audience to
>boo during his last speech.

What a frustrating candidate McCain was!  So many mediocrities, so many
hesitations, so many failures to get the analysis right, so many failures to
spot and capitalize on weaknesses, , , , and then moments of sheer class and
quality-- like his concession speech.

> What is your personal opinion on Obama's victory?

The most hopeful thing I can say is that it is really hard to say who he is
or what he truly stands for.

I greatly fear that he will legalize some 10-20 million illegal Mexicans and
enable them to easily become citizens via low meaningless standards and
enable them to bring multiples of their numbers into the US.  Apart from the
economic questions raised by this, there is the matter that these tens of
millions will mostly vote Democrat and the political landscape will change
America from center-right to center-left and we then will head down the road
towards Europe.

IF he goes with the liberal left twaddle on the economy, then we are
seriously fcuked.  If he turns the American tax code into a welfare program,
then it may not be possible to undo the damage for it will become
untouchable. He does not seem to grasp that taxing business drives it
off-shore.  He thinks that global warming is both real and man-made and
looks to try to impose central control of the economy in the name of
stopping it.  Profoundly foolish and damaging!

OTOH if he goes with serious, somber people like Volcker or Summers at
Treasury, it will be a good sign that the adults are in charge of some
aspects of his economic policy.  His chief of staff selection can be
interpreted as preparing himself to deal with the Demogogue wing of his
party.

I greatly fear for BO's desire to give away US sovereignty to international
organizations (UN et al)

If he goes with the Bambi (a nice gentle deer in children's stories)
approach to foreign affairs, then the world is fcuked.   His weakness on
Iraq leaves him little bargaining leverage with Iran.  As Iran goes nuke, I
fear terrible consequences.

He has made bellicose noises about Pak-Afg, but IMHO no one has a coherent
strategy there for us.  I am better informed than most (I think) but I
cannot say what our strategy is.  As it is, we fear to take on the opium
because of its economic importance to the people there and as long as it is
there, much of the money/power goes to the enemy.  There is no win in this
circle for us and with no win, we lose.

Bush has left a mess with Russia and now, given Euro spinelessness, we have
no good options.    Bush's stupidity in recognizing Kosovo has enabled
Russia to take the two provinces in Georgia; the larger point of which is to
make clear that it can take the pipeline any time it wants.  The true issue
is access to central Asian gas and oil-- as we have discussed.  I like Jack
Wheeler's idea of building a pipeline from central Asia through Afg-Pak and
thus create a form of wealth generation that gives us true leverage in
Afg-Pak as well as undercutting Russia's chokehold on Euro energy.

OTOH the man seems unusually calm and centered and capable of extraordinary
changes in his position without his groupies caring or noticing.

THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES!!!

Marc
23491  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: November 17, 2008, 06:44:41 PM
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1858151,00.html?imw=Y

In Mexico, a Theme Park for Border Crossers
By Ioan Grillo / Parque Alberto Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008Tour guide Poncho leads a night walk for Saturday night revelers
Alan Gonzalez for TIME

Men in border-patrol caps tackle a young Mexican to the ground amid jagged rocks and cacti. "You need papers to come to this country. This is not a game!" shouts one agent as he yanks the man's arms behind his back, almost tearing them from his shoulders. It looks like a scene on the U.S. border that would get human rights groups yelling. But actually, it is a game, and it takes place in the mountains of central Mexico. All of the participants are Mexicans, many of whom have paid to be part of the re-enactment of the arrest, part of a border-crossing experience for Saturday-night revelers.

The so-called night hike in the highlands of Hidalgo state is a curious testimony to Mexico's identity as an emigrant nation, in which enormous numbers of young men and women continue to risk their lives sneaking into "El Norte" for a perceived better life. Every weekend, dozens of participants pay about $20 apiece to scramble up hills, slide down ravines and run through tunnels pursued by siren-blaring pickup trucks and pumped-up border-patrol agents shouting in accented English. (See pictures of the fence between the U.S. and Mexico.)

To many outsiders, this seems an odd way to enjoy a night out. But the participants and organizers all say it is both a great deal of fun and an important way to raise consciousness about the migrant experience. "It was fantastic. It totally exceeded my expectations," says medical saleswoman Araceli Hernandez, nursing a bite from a giant ant and brushing off dust after the five-hour slog. "But it makes me feel sad thinking about what the real migrants go through."

The hike was started four years ago by a group of Hnahnu Indians on their ancestral lands. Some of the poorest people in Mexico, the Hnahnu first began crossing into the U.S. in the late 1980s, and within a decade most of their young had left their ramshackle villages in search of dollars. While the fruits of the exodus transformed the Hnahnu's home landscape, allowing migrants to build walled mansions and paved roads, it also divided the community, separating families by thousands of miles and an ever more fortified border. The Hnahnu of the Parque Alberto community then began an eco-tourism project as a local jobs program so more of their people could stay home. The border-crossing simulation soon became their most famous attraction.

"We wanted to have a type of tourism that really raised people's understanding," says founder Alfonso Martinez, who dresses in a ski mask and goes by the name Poncho. "So we decided to turn the painful experience all of us here have gone through into a kind of game that teaches something to our fellow Mexicans." Poncho and other ski-masked comrades play polleros, or chicken herders — the human smugglers who guide wannabe migrants over the deserts and rivers into the U.S. Having made the real journey dozens of times to work as a gardener in Nevada, Poncho is well versed in mimicking the polleros' tactics closely. He moves swiftly over the side of the mountain, commanding participants with authority and ordering them to hold tight in the brambles for long periods and then suddenly sprint for miles.

In hot pursuit are the migra, or border-patrol agents, played by other Hnahnu. Most migrants have been nabbed at least once and know well what it feels like to get a pair of handcuffs slapped on after days of exhausting travel. The actors play their nemeses with energy and zest, tearing across fields to get the migrants and insulting them in a colorful language: "Don't you speak Spanish. You are not in Mexico now, my friend. Tell me who the boss is."

The participants are mostly middle-class professionals and students from Mexico City and other urban areas. While many have friends or family who have crossed illegally into the U.S., they all say they will not do it themselves: the simulated border-crossing is adventure enough for them. At one point the group walks through a nest of giant ants that bite people's legs. One girl starts screaming after injuring herself on the trip and has to be supported by friends as she hops along. The group slides down a steep ravine, a particularly hard task in the middle of the night, and many come through with cuts and bruises. But by the time the group arrives at the base camp and sings a lively rendition of the Mexican national anthem, no one complains that it was too hard.

Poncho hopes the experience will be life-changing for the participants. With the night-hike tours, he envisions himself as a revolutionary fighting for a better world. In a final pep talk, he drills the group about their class differences and how they can overcome them. "What do you call our ethnic group?" he asks in a booming voice. "You call us Indians, and say we are lazy and ignorant. Don't worry, I'm used to it. This experience is about showing we are human beings."

23492  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: November 17, 2008, 12:21:22 PM
November 17, 2008

For More of Mexico’s Wealthy, Expenses Include Guards

By MARC LACEY
MEXICO CITY — When José hops into his Ferrari, presses his Ferragamo loafer to the floor and fills the night air with a deep roar, his bodyguards hustle into a black sport utility vehicle with their weapons at the ready, tailing their fast-moving boss through the streets.

José, a business magnate in his 30s who said he was afraid to have his full name published, makes sure his two children get the same protection. Bodyguards pick them up from school and escort them even to friends’ birthday parties — where the bodyguards meet other bodyguards, because many of the children’s classmates have similar protection.

With drug-related violence spinning out of control and kidnappings a proven money-maker for criminal gangs, members of Mexico’s upper class find themselves juggling the spoils of their status with the fear of being killed.

Dinner party chatter these days focuses on two things that are making their lives, still the envy of the country’s masses, far less enviable: the financial crisis, which is chipping away at their wealth, and the wave of insecurity, which is making it more perilous for them to enjoy what remains.

Mexico’s violence afflicts both rich and poor, but the nation’s income gap is so pronounced that criminals scour the society pages for potential kidnapping victims, for whom they demand, and often receive, huge sums in ransom. A recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that Mexico had the largest divide between rich and poor of the group’s 30 member nations, virtually assuring that wealthy targets stand out.

Wealthy Mexicans have long hired bodyguards, but experts say the numbers of those seeking protection have jumped since President Felipe Calderón challenged the drug cartels, bringing unprecedented levels of related violence — which had been mainly confined to the areas bordering the United States — into the major cities.

High-profile and sometimes gruesome crimes have stoked people’s fears.

In one of the worst cases, a 5-year-old boy from a poor family was plucked from a gritty market this month and killed by kidnappers, who injected acid into his heart.

Early this month, white-coated doctors in Tijuana protested after one of their own, a prominent kidney specialist, was plucked from outside his office by heavily armed men. He has since been released.

“It’s out of control,” said Dr. Hector Rico, the leader of the local medical association.

Confronted by the irate doctors at a public meeting, José Guadalupe Osuna Millán, the governor of Baja California State, said the answer to the rising insecurity was to come together and fight.

“We’re not going to cede one millimeter of territory to these criminals,” he said of the federal government’s war on drug traffickers.

But hundreds of well-off families along the border have become so consumed by their fears that they have moved out of Mexico, at least temporarily, often using business visas granted because of their work in the United States.

“It’s a bad feeling to have to leave your country behind,” said Javier, a prosperous Tijuana businessman, who moved his family across the border to San Diego last year after a group of armed men tried to kidnap him. “But I didn’t really have a choice.” He insisted that his last name not be used, out of fear that criminals might track him.

“There’s an exodus, and it’s all about insecurity,” said Guillermo Alonso Meneses, an anthropologist at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana. “A psychosis has developed. There’s fear of getting kidnapped or killed.

“People don’t want to live that way,” he continued, “and those who can afford it move north.”

Still, most of the wealthy have chosen to stay put, hiring armies of protectors to continue enjoying their gilded lives.

Although there are few firm figures for the number of Mexicans employed to guard their fellow citizens — most security companies ignore requirements to register with the government — experts say business is booming for the estimated 10,000 security companies operating in the country.

In the border state of Chihuahua, the Mexican Employers’ Association recently reported a 300 percent increase in the number of bodyguards. In that violence-torn state, some luxury hotels now offer their guests bodyguards and bulletproof vehicles.

For many affluent families, the guards and bulletproof cars, homes and even clothing have become a way of life. Some Mexicans say the protection has even become a status symbol.

In Mexico City, some people being protected by men wearing earpieces strut along in designer clothes, using their armed guards to clear a path.

A stylish woman at a Starbucks in the well-off Coyoacán neighborhood held out her cappuccino the other day while chatting with friends. A member of her two-man security detail discreetly slipped a cardboard sleeve on the cup so that the woman’s fingertips were protected, along with the rest of her.

“It’s a different life,” said José, the well-protected Ferrari driver, who agreed to provide a glimpse of that life. “I’ve gotten used to it.”

Indeed, José hands out designer clothing and other expensive gifts to his family’s two dozen or so bodyguards and invites them to his mother’s house weekly for a meal. He is being benevolent but also practical, given that many crimes in Mexico are inside jobs.

“I want them to feel like they’re part of the family,” he said. “And if something happens to me, I want them to react. They won’t risk their life for a paycheck. They will risk their life for a friend, for family.”

Some security consultants and academics point out that at least the upper crust has options, while other Mexicans must rely on law enforcement agencies, known for their corruption and ineffectiveness, to protect them from the violence. Many families who struggle to make ends meet find their loved ones grabbed for ransom. And shootouts between traffickers and the police and soldiers pursuing them erupt with no regard for the income level of bystanders.

“There’s reason for everyone to be fearful,” said Dr. Alonso, the Tijuana anthropologist, who hears gunfire at night in his middle-class neighborhood and, like many others, rarely ventures out after dark.

Despite José’s expensive clothing, eye-catching jewelry and luxury home in the hills, he insists that his family is different from many others in their income bracket.

“We’re not nouveau riche,” he said with a huff. “Those people want guards to show how important they are.”

As for the Ferrari, which he acknowledged is the opposite of discreet, José said it was the car’s engine that attracted him to it. “It’s not to sit back and have everyone look at me,” he said. “It’s to drive.”

But people do gawk. And José’s bodyguards worry about the attention his rare sports car attracts on the roads of Mexico.

“Of course, he shouldn’t be driving himself,” one of José’s bodyguards said. “But he’s like a presidential candidate who likes to go into crowds. Our function is to provide the security around the life he’s living.”

That life includes late-night stops at exclusive nightclubs and humble taco shops. José understands what he puts his guards through, because he completed bodyguard training in Guatemala to learn what his employees should be doing.

José also conducts background checks before hiring his bodyguards and sends them for regular refresher courses, meaning they are a cut above the run-of-the-mill Mexican bodyguard, who might be a washout police officer or soldier with modest training and little discipline for the job.

Javier, the businessman who now lives north of the border, said he did not believe bodyguards were the answer.

“One bodyguard, two bodyguards, even three of them can’t do anything with these criminals, who come in groups of 20 with high-powered arms,” he said. “If they want to hunt you down, they will get you.”

Even José is taking a break from Mexico. He recently headed to Canada with his family, for what he insisted was a respite rather than an abandonment of his country.

“I’m not running away,” he said. “I have an opportunity, and I’ll be back. But I’m not going to miss the insecurity. Not at all.”

Especially appealing, he said, was that his 6-year-old son would be able to ride his bike to school instead of being escorted in a bulletproof vehicle driven by a private paramilitary force.

“For my children, they don’t understand,” José said. “They’re happy to have these guys around. When they get out of school, there’s someone to take their backpack. There’s always someone around to play. I try to teach them that this isn’t normal. It shouldn’t be this way.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/17/wo...mexico.html?hp
23493  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine on: November 17, 2008, 11:58:30 AM
Just wanted to make sure I had it clear in my mind  smiley

=========

 NY Detective Saves Ex Cop Shot In Waldorf Heist By Relieving Tension PneumoThorax

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

EX-COP SHOT IN WALDORF HEIST

By JOHN DOYLE, ALIYAH SHAHID and DOUGLAS MONTERO

November 16, 2008

A gunman dressed all in black shot a retired NYPD detective working as a security guard during a robbery of a jewelry store in the lobby of the famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel yesterday afternoon, police said.  Rafael Rabinovich-Ardans, 20, entered Cellini Jewelry - where gems and watches typically sell for tens of thousands of dollars - at the rear of the Park Avenue hotel's lobby just before 2:30 p.m., pulled a gun and announced a robbery, sources said.  The suspect - wearing black Army pants, a black shirt and black boots - allegedly smashed two display cases before Gregory Boyle, a 21-year-veteran of the 66th Precinct in Brooklyn, tackled him.  As they struggled, the gunman fired three shots, striking Boyle, 54, in the left armpit, sources said.  As the shots echoed through the lobby, panicked visitors began running for cover and hotel staff began to evacuate guests.

"I heard pops and instantly people screamed, 'Gunshot! Robbery! Get out!' Everyone ran to the exit," said Matt Luba, 49, of Old Tappan, NJ.

"Everybody just started running and I'm like, 'What's going on?' " said Jeff Johnstone, 51, who is in vacationing with his wife from Raleigh, NC.

He said he then heard a shot and saw people duck for cover behind chairs and pillars, and run into the bar.

"I just ran behind a column, just like everybody else," he said.

As the thief tried to flee the store an employee tackled him. The gunman managed to squeeze off another round, but hit no one, sources said. Hotel security then subdued him and held him for police.

"We saw mass commotion and lots of people started running," said Leanne McDonald, 34, of Freehold, NJ. "A few minutes later, cops flooded the lobby. A man was carried out on a stretcher and he had blood all over his chest."

An NYPD Hercules team, which monitors high-profile locations, was at Grand Central Station and was the first to respond, police said.
Detective Dennis Canale, who has training as a physician's assistant, put a stent in Boyle's collapsed lung, allowing him to breathe.

"He was pretty disoriented, that's the first sign of shock. That's what we were concerned about," said Canale, who kneeled in broken glass as he worked on Boyle. "It's a very deadly wound. I told him we'll take care of you."

Canale, 32, also saw a wound on Boyle's left forearm, but it was unclear what it was, he said.  Boyle, who retired in 2002 and whose son Edward is an officer in the 72nd Precinct, was rushed to Bellevue Hospital where he was "conscious and alert."

"He's a wonderful man," said the ex-cop's neighbor Isabella Damante, 78. "He's always helpful to us. The whole family is very well-respected in the neighborhood."

Rabinovich-Ardans, of Highland Park, NJ, was taken from the hotel in cuffs, weeping while he struggled with police. He was charged with attempted murder, assault, attempted grand larceny, robbery and criminal use of a firearm, police said.

Cops recovered two semiautomatic handguns - including a .45-caliber weapon - from the scene.

http://www.nypost.com/seven/11162008...ist_138946.htm
23494  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: November 17, 2008, 11:37:50 AM
November 17, 2008

In today's Political Diary

More Clinton Melodrama
They Vote Secretly So You Won't Have To
Grand Old Toupee (Quote of the Day I)
The New Affirmative Action Babies (Quote of the Day II)
Three Musketeers


What's Behind the Hillary Head Fake?

In floating the idea of Hillary Clinton becoming his Secretary of State, Barack Obama has scored a two-fer. If she accepted such an offer, he would instantly neutralize his strongest potential adversary within the Democratic Party, enhance his relationship with Democratic women and gain a tough-minded operator who might actually be able to manage the notoriously independent Foggy Bottom bureaucracy.

But Reason #1 also makes it very unlikely Mrs. Clinton will become Secretary of State. As the nation's top diplomat, she would be barred by both law and custom from any partisan politics. Fundraisers for the Democratic Party or Democratic candidates would be off the table. She would have to dismantle her formidable political operation. Finally, she would be forced to follow Obama administration policy and rule out, as a loyal soldier, any possibility of challenging him for the 2012 Democratic nomination if his administration were widely seen to be unsuccessful.

Look for a face-saving maneuver that will, in the end, keep her out of the cabinet. One excuse would be the difficulty of unwinding the large number of conflicts of interest arising from Bill Clinton's global foundation, whose myriad of donors Mr. Clinton would be less than anxious to make public. As the New York Daily News dryly notes: "Questions about those donors, some say, might trip up a new administration that has made itself all about promoting a new kind of politics."

Thus Barack Obama will get credit for having considered Hillary Clinton to be the nation's top diplomat and none of the blame when it doesn't happen. Mr. Obama may be good at shooting hoops on the basketball court, but his real skill is in the political head fake.

-- John Fund

A Secret Ballot for Me, Not Thee

Last year, Democratic Senators voted for so-called "card check" legislation that would have deprived millions of employees of the right to vote secretly on whether they want to be represented by a labor union. Tomorrow many of those same Democratic Senators will insist on using a secret ballot process to determine whether Joe Lieberman will be stripped of his chairmanship of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

That same day, Republican Senators are likely to use a secret ballot to decide whether to expel convicted colleague Ted Stevens from their caucus. Later in January, the House Democratic Caucus will use a secret ballot to determine whether Michigan Rep. John Dingell keeps his chairmanship of the House Energy & Commerce Committee against a challenge from California Rep. Henry Waxman.

In other words, many legislators who value a secret ballot to preserve their own privacy and freedom from intimidation in conducting Congressional business are nonetheless prepared to support union-backed "card check" legislation to strip American workers of the same privacy and freedom. Instead, a workplace would be deemed "organized" as soon as 50%-plus-one-worker signed cards carried around by union organizers authorizing such a move.

If card-check passes, workers in company after company might soon see their workplaces dominated by the same kind of union shop arrangements that helped bring Detroit's auto making industry to its knees -- and all without workers being able to choose their fate in the privacy of a voting booth.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day I

"We're going to need more than just a political comb-over" -- Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty at a meeting of the Republican Governors Association on the current state of the Republican Party.

Quote of the Day II

"ome of the conservatives' complaints about a liberal tilt are valid. Journalism naturally draws liberals; we like to change the world. I'll bet that most Post journalists voted for Obama. I did. . . . Are there ways to tackle this? More conservatives in newsrooms and rigorous editing would be two. The first is not easy: Editors hire not on the basis of beliefs but on talent in reporting, photography and editing, and hiring is at a standstill because of the economy. But newspapers have hired more minorities and women, so it can be done" -- Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell, in an article called "Remedying the Bias Perception."

No Room for RINOs

South Carolina's Mark Sanford is one of three GOP governors now being widely mentioned as potential saviors of the Republican Party between now and 2012. All are conspicuous for calling on their own party to live up to its principles. Most notably, none have advocated the GOP move to the left.

Mr. Sanford is a two-term governor known for vetoing spending bills, pushing market-oriented policy reforms (such as moving his state's Medicaid system to a private account-based model) and criticizing the lapses of the national GOP. "Some on the left will say our electoral losses are a repudiation of our principles of lower taxes, smaller government and individual liberty," he wrote on CNN.com after this month's elections. "But Tuesday was not in fact a rejection of those principles -- it was a rejection of Republicans' failure to live up to those principles."

In the same op-ed he took a swing at Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, identifying him as someone who "personifies what went wrong in the election. . . He was a proud champion of pork barrel spending and bridges to nowhere and stayed so long that he developed a blind eye to ethical lapses that would be readily seen by scout leaders and soccer moms alike."

Two other leading lights for a troubled GOP are Govs. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Before she became John McCain's running mate, Mrs. Palin was best known for challenging her own state GOP to cure its spendthrift, corrupt ways. She unseated a sitting mayor in her first bid for office and became a giant killer by knocking off the high-handed, free-spending Gov. Frank Murkowski in a Republican primary.

Mr. Jindal is a boy wonder of the party. At 25, he was appointed to fix Louisiana's failing Medicaid program, and succeeded. At 32, he lost a hard-fought campaign for governor but later landed a Congressional seat from which he criticized bureaucratic bungling in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Last year, after Katrina had destroyed Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco's reputation, he won his second bid for the office by promising sweeping reform of Louisiana's corrupt and inefficient government culture.

That Republicans are coalescing around these three governors is also revealing for who is not included. Several years ago Christie Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and EPA administrator, wrote a book called "It's My Party Too." She used that treatise to argue for the party to abandon its conservative roots. Even after two serious GOP drubbings at the polls, she has found no takers. Likewise, Lincoln Chaffee, the former Rhode Island Senator once labeled a "Republican in Name Only," was still complaining last week to the Washington Post that "right-wing talk show hosts and the Ann Coulters and that ilk" never understood that the GOP needs people like him.

Maybe that's because Republicans have looked closely at the election results. The country hasn't so much moved left as it has abandoned a GOP that abandoned its own principles. In Ohio, Barack Obama actually won about 40,000 fewer votes than John Kerry did four years ago. Mr. Obama took Ohio only because John McCain pulled 350,000 fewer votes than George W. Bush did in 2004. Republicans and Republican-leaning voters stayed home.

That's not an endorsement of the ideas of the left. It's a lack enthusiasm for a party that failed to deliver the smaller government it promised in Washington. At least the GOP, in settling on future leaders like Governors Jindal, Sanford and Palin, seems to understand that.

23495  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: November 17, 2008, 11:36:17 AM
No Room for RINOs

South Carolina's Mark Sanford is one of three GOP governors now being widely mentioned as potential saviors of the Republican Party between now and 2012. All are conspicuous for calling on their own party to live up to its principles. Most notably, none have advocated the GOP move to the left.

Mr. Sanford is a two-term governor known for vetoing spending bills, pushing market-oriented policy reforms (such as moving his state's Medicaid system to a private account-based model) and criticizing the lapses of the national GOP. "Some on the left will say our electoral losses are a repudiation of our principles of lower taxes, smaller government and individual liberty," he wrote on CNN.com after this month's elections. "But Tuesday was not in fact a rejection of those principles -- it was a rejection of Republicans' failure to live up to those principles."

In the same op-ed he took a swing at Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, identifying him as someone who "personifies what went wrong in the election. . . He was a proud champion of pork barrel spending and bridges to nowhere and stayed so long that he developed a blind eye to ethical lapses that would be readily seen by scout leaders and soccer moms alike."

Two other leading lights for a troubled GOP are Govs. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Before she became John McCain's running mate, Mrs. Palin was best known for challenging her own state GOP to cure its spendthrift, corrupt ways. She unseated a sitting mayor in her first bid for office and became a giant killer by knocking off the high-handed, free-spending Gov. Frank Murkowski in a Republican primary.

Mr. Jindal is a boy wonder of the party. At 25, he was appointed to fix Louisiana's failing Medicaid program, and succeeded. At 32, he lost a hard-fought campaign for governor but later landed a Congressional seat from which he criticized bureaucratic bungling in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Last year, after Katrina had destroyed Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco's reputation, he won his second bid for the office by promising sweeping reform of Louisiana's corrupt and inefficient government culture.

That Republicans are coalescing around these three governors is also revealing for who is not included. Several years ago Christie Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and EPA administrator, wrote a book called "It's My Party Too." She used that treatise to argue for the party to abandon its conservative roots. Even after two serious GOP drubbings at the polls, she has found no takers. Likewise, Lincoln Chaffee, the former Rhode Island Senator once labeled a "Republican in Name Only," was still complaining last week to the Washington Post that "right-wing talk show hosts and the Ann Coulters and that ilk" never understood that the GOP needs people like him.

Maybe that's because Republicans have looked closely at the election results. The country hasn't so much moved left as it has abandoned a GOP that abandoned its own principles. In Ohio, Barack Obama actually won about 40,000 fewer votes than John Kerry did four years ago. Mr. Obama took Ohio only because John McCain pulled 350,000 fewer votes than George W. Bush did in 2004. Republicans and Republican-leaning voters stayed home.

That's not an endorsement of the ideas of the left. It's a lack enthusiasm for a party that failed to deliver the smaller government it promised in Washington. At least the GOP, in settling on future leaders like Governors Jindal, Sanford and Palin, seems to understand that.

-- Brendan Miniter



23496  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Chavez (Dodd) on: November 17, 2008, 11:24:12 AM
Hugo Chávez's threat last week to bring tanks to the streets if his side does not win key states in Sunday's gubernatorial elections is chilling. But it is not surprising. It is only the next logical step in what is the Venezuelan president's drive to seize all power and silence all dissent.

 
Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez.
Despite numerous setbacks for Venezuelan democracy, many still believe that they can rid themselves of Mr. Chávez democratically. Their expectations were raised last year when voters defeated a referendum in which Mr. Chávez attempted to rewrite the constitution to strengthen his authoritarian powers. Now they hope to deliver another setback by voting in anti-Chávez governors in at least three and maybe more than 10 of the country's 23 states. The top post in the capital district of Caracas is also up for grabs.

There are currently at least 18 states with pro-Chávez governors, and despite deteriorating living standards, Mr. Chávez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela is expected to be returned to power in a good number of them.


Mary Anastasia O'Grady speaks with James Freeman. (Nov. 17)
One reason is that the cards are stacked against the opposition. The government is using state funds for pro-Chávez candidates and has dramatically outspent the competition. The National Electoral Council is dominated by pro-Chávez representatives. Scores of individuals who are popular were declared "ineligible" to run. The government has refused to release the voter rolls so that the opposition can ensure that they are clean. On election day, lines are expected to be long and the widespread assumption that the government will use tricks to win could dampen opposition turnout.

Yet even these odds are not enough for Mr. Chávez. In recent weeks he has begun threatening to use the military against his own population in states where his municipal and gubernatorial candidates are defeated. On a trip to the state of Carabobo last week, for example, he told voters, "If you let the oligarchy return to government then maybe I'll end up sending the tanks of the armored brigade out to defend the revolutionary government." Just as troubling are the president's declarations that in states where his candidates are not elected, he will withhold federal funding.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
Venezuelans saw this coming. From his earliest days as president in 1999, Mr. Chávez began working to destroy any checks on his power. On April 11, 2002, after weeks of street protests against this effort, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans marched again in Caracas. Nineteen people were shot dead in the streets by government supporters. When Mr. Chávez asked the military to use force against the crowd, the generals refused and instead told him he had to step aside.

One might think that all Americans would have supported the demand to stop the bloodshed. But Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd threw a fit over Mr. Chávez's removal. The self-styled Latin America expert insisted that since Mr. Chávez had been initially "democratically elected" in a fair vote, he should have been immune from challenges to his power, no matter the abuses. To this day the senator calls the event a U.S.-backed coup, even though a State Department Inspector General's report found that the charge was false. Even the Organization of American States accepted the change in power.

Of course it wasn't a coup, U.S. backed or otherwise, as witnessed by the fact that while Mr. Chávez was removed from power, he was allowed to keep his cell phone, chat with Havana and negotiate his future. With the inadvertent help of the opposition, which acted incompetently, Mr. Chávez was back in office days later.

Today in Opinion Journal
REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Spitzer as VictimThe $639 Million LoopholeChina's News Concession

TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

The Americas: Dodd's 'Democrat' Tightens His Grip
– Mary Anastasia O'GradyInformation Age: Markets Declare Truce in Copyright Wars
– L. Gordon Crovitz

COMMENTARY

Why Bankruptcy Is the Best Option for GM
– Michael E. LevineTo Prevent Bubbles, Restrain the Fed
– Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr.Democrats Shouldn't Rush on Labor Legislation
– Ariella BernsteinThe circumstances of Mr. Chávez's political resurrection are still debated, but what is not in question is the reason Venezuelans had massed in the streets that day: They opposed the strongman's consolidation of power, which they warned would lead to dictatorship.

Fast forward six and a half years, and it turns out that the protestors were right.

Nearly all economic, judicial, electoral and congressional power in Venezuela is now in the hands of Mr. Dodd's "democratically elected" Chávez. Cuban doctors and teachers blanket the country, indoctrinating the poor. Cuban intelligence personnel are always on hand to support the Bolivarian Revolution while neighborhood gangs do the grass-roots work of enforcement. Political prisoners are rotting in Venezuelan jails without trials.

Being identified as a political opponent of the revolution is a ticket to the end of the unemployment line. Private property has zero protection under the law and the economy's private sector has been all but destroyed.

Mr. Chávez appears surprised that after a decade of repression, Venezuelans are still struggling to regain their liberty. But he is just as determined to retain control, and has made it clear he will not accept defeat at the polls. This is your "democratically elected" president, Sen. Dodd.

Write to Mary Anastasia O'Grady at O'Grady@wsj.com
23497  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Chapter 11 for GM on: November 17, 2008, 11:17:15 AM
eneral Motors is a once-great company caught in a web of relationships designed for another era. It should not be fed while still caught, because that will leave it trapped until we get tired of feeding it. Then it will die. The only possibility of saving it is to take the risk of cutting it free. In other words, GM should be allowed to go bankrupt.

 
APConsider the costs of tackling GM's problems with some kind of bailout plan. After 42 years of eroding U.S. market share (from 53% to 20%) and countless announcements of "change," GM still has eight U.S. brands (Cadillac, Saab, Buick, Pontiac, GMC, Saturn, Chevrolet and Hummer). As for its more successful competitors, Toyota (19% market share) has three, and Honda (11%) has two.

GM has about 7,000 dealers. Toyota has fewer than 1,500. Honda has about 1,000. These fewer and larger dealers are better able to advertise, stock and service the cars they sell. GM knows it needs fewer brands and dealers, but the dealers are protected from termination by state laws. This makes eliminating them and the brands they sell very expensive. It would cost GM billions of dollars and many years to reduce the number of dealers it has to a number near Toyota's.

Foreign-owned manufacturers who build cars with American workers pay wages similar to GM's. But their expenses for benefits are a fraction of GM's. GM is contractually required to support thousands of workers in the UAW's "Jobs Bank" program, which guarantees nearly full wages and benefits for workers who lose their jobs due to automation or plant closure. It supports more retirees than current workers. It owns or leases enormous amounts of property for facilities it's not using and probably will never use again, and is obliged to support revenue bonds for municipalities that issued them to build these facilities. It has other contractual obligations such as health coverage for union retirees. All of these commitments drain its cash every month. Moreover, GM supports myriad suppliers and supports a huge infrastructure of firms and localities that depend on it. Many of them have contractual claims; they all have moral claims. They all want GM to be more or less what it is.

And therein lies the problem: The cost of terminating dealers is only a fraction of what it would cost to rebuild GM to become a company sized and marketed appropriately for its market share. Contracts would have to be bought out. The company would have to shed many of its fixed obligations. Some obligations will be impossible to cut by voluntary agreement. GM will run out of cash and out of time.

GM's solution is to ask the federal government for the cash that will allow it to do all of this piece by piece. But much of the cash will be thrown at unproductive commitments. And the sense of urgency that would enable GM to make choices painful to its management, its workers, its retirees, its suppliers and its localities will simply not be there if federal money is available. Like AIG, it will be back for more, and at the same time it will be telling us that it's doing a great job under difficult circumstances.

Federal law provides a way out of the web: reorganization under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. If GM were told that no assistance would be available without a bankruptcy filing, all options would be put on the table. The web could be cut wherever it needed to be. State protection for dealers would disappear. Labor contracts could be renegotiated. Pension plans could be terminated, with existing pensions turned over to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC). Health benefits could be renegotiated. Mortgaged assets could be abandoned, so plants could be closed without being supported as idle hindrances on GM's viability. GM could be rebuilt as a company that had a chance to make vehicles people want and support itself on revenue. It wouldn't be easy but, unlike trying to bail out GM as it is, it wouldn't be impossible.

The social and political costs would be very large, but if GM fails after getting $50 billion or $100 billion in bailout money, it'll be just as large and there will be less money to soften the blow and even more blame to go around. The PBGC will probably need money to guarantee GM's pensions for its white- and blue-collar workers (pension support is capped at around $40,000 per year, so that won't help executives much). Unemployment insurance will have to be extended and offered to many people, perhaps millions if you include dealers, suppliers and communities dependent on GM as it exists now. A GM bankruptcy will make addressing health-care coverage more urgent, which is probably a good thing. It would require job-retraining money and community assistance to affected localities.

But unless we are willing to support GM as it is indefinitely, the downsizing and asset-shedding will have to come anyway. Even if it builds cars as attractive and environmentally responsible as those Honda and Toyota will be building, they won't be able to carry the weight of GM's past.

GM CEO Rick Wagoner says "bankruptcy is not an option." Critics of a bankruptcy say that GM won't be able to get the loans it will need to guarantee warranties, pay its operating losses while it restructures, and preserve customers' ability to finance purchases. While consumers buy tickets from bankrupt airlines, electronics from bankrupt retailers, and apartments from bankrupt builders, they say consumers won't buy cars from a bankrupt auto maker. But bankruptcy no longer means "liquidation" or "out of business" to a generation of consumers used to buying from firms in reorganization.

Today in Opinion Journal
REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Spitzer as VictimThe $639 Million LoopholeChina's News Concession

TODAY'S COLUMNISTS

The Americas: Dodd's 'Democrat' Tightens His Grip
– Mary Anastasia O'GradyInformation Age: Markets Declare Truce in Copyright Wars
– L. Gordon Crovitz

COMMENTARY

Why Bankruptcy Is the Best Option for GM
– Michael E. LevineTo Prevent Bubbles, Restrain the Fed
– Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr.Democrats Shouldn't Rush on Labor Legislation
– Ariella BernsteinGM would guarantee warranty support with a segregated fund if necessary. And debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing -- loans that provide the near-term cash for reorganizing companies -- is very safe, because the DIP lender has priority over all other claimants. In normal markets, it would certainly be available to a GM that has assets to sell, including a viable overseas business. Such financing is probably available even now.

In any event, it would be lined up before a filing, not after, so any problems wouldn't be a surprise. As a last resort, we could at least consider a public DIP loan to support a reorganizing GM with a good chance to survive -- as opposed to subsidizing a GM slowly deflating.

The fate of Daewoo -- the Korean auto maker that collapsed in 2000 after filing for bankruptcy, leaving about 500 dealers stranded in the U.S. -- is often cited as "proof" that a GM bankruptcy won't work. But Daewoo was headquartered in a part of the world where bankruptcy still carries a major stigma and usually means liquidation. Daewoo's experience is largely irrelevant to a major U.S. company undergoing a well-publicized positive transformation, almost certainly under new management.

GM as it is cannot survive without long-term government life support. If it gets that support, it can't change enough and won't change fast enough. Contrary to Mr. Wagoner's brave declaration, bankruptcy is an option. In fact, it's the only option that merits public support and actually has a chance at succeeding.

Mr. Levine, a former airline executive, is a distinguished research scholar and senior lecturer at NYU School of Law.

 
23498  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: November 17, 2008, 11:00:28 AM
My education continues-- thank you.  Looking forward to the next installment.
23499  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Early Doors recording to be released soon on: November 17, 2008, 10:57:02 AM
Early S.F. Doors show breaks on through to CD
Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior Pop Music Critic

Monday, November 17, 2008

 
Only a few tables of curious spectators showed up at the club each night, so the musicians pretty much played for themselves. In between two weekend engagements at the Avalon Ballroom, a little-known rock group from Los Angeles called the Doors played Tuesday through Friday at a 100-seat Marina district club called the Matrix. Even the musicians might have forgotten all about the gig if the club manager hadn't decided to tape the shows.

The Doors were making their second trip to the thriving San Francisco ballroom scene in March 1967. It was an unseasonably chilly end of winter before the Summer of Love and just three months after the little-noted release of the band's now-historic debut album.

"We were on the lip of great success and we didn't know it," drummer John Densmore says. "Neither did the audience, which was very cool."

"Light My Fire" wouldn't break the group on radio for another three months, so the Doors were playing that weekend second-billed to Country Joe and the Fish at the Avalon, and almost no one showed up at their midweek Matrix engagement.

Matrix co-owner Peter Abrams had only recently installed a tape recorder in the sound booth, but it would be his custom over the next five years to record every show at the club. His tapes have been made into albums before; his live recording of the Velvet Underground is one of the few records of that landmark band's stage show. The Doors' tapes have been passed around in the underground world of bootleg recordings for years, including a set of "horrible, horrible sounding" Italian CDs that Doors producer Bruce Botnick heard.

Botnick, who has engineered and produced virtually every Doors recording in the band's history, finally dusted off the tape copies in the band's vault, cleaned them up and put together a two-CD set, "Live at the Matrix," complete with a cover by '60s San Francisco poster artist Stanley Mouse, to be released Tuesday on Rhino Records. Botnick says he thinks the Matrix tapes contain "one of their best recorded performances."

"They were young, enthusiastic, out to have fun," he says. "They experimented a lot, changed arrangements around and played things they never did before."

"We looked at it as a paid rehearsal," says guitarist Robbie Krieger. "There were five to 10 people in the club. We did it for ourselves."

The Doors first came to San Francisco in January 1967 to open for the Young Rascals and Sopwith Camel at the Fillmore Auditorium. It was the same weekend that more than 25,000 hippies filled Golden Gate Park for the Human Be-In, and the Doors were there, too.

'Changing the world'
"We thought you guys were changing the world," Densmore says.

They stayed at the Swiss American Hotel on Broadway and ate po'boy sandwiches across the street at Mike's Pool Hall. "We were baby beatniks," organist Ray Manzarek says.

Along with the San Francisco rock bands of the day, such as Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service, LSD evangelist Tim Leary urged the gathering of the tribes in the park to "turn on, tune in and drop out." There were also readings by the beat poets Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure and Gary Snyder.

"Holy cow - these are the beat icons," says Manzarek. "(Jim) Morrison and I idolized the beats."

When the band appeared that night in the scheduled engagement at the Fillmore, the musicians sensed a certain reluctance by the crowd to embrace the band, introduced as a rock group from Los Angeles - "grumble, rumble, murmur, spatter of applause, sigh of disrespect," Manzarek remembers - but Morrison insisted the band plunge right ahead, opening with the 10-minute-plus opus "When the Music's Over," and winning the crowd right from the start. Promoter Bill Graham gave the band a $100 bonus.

Three months later, the Doors returned to San Francisco for the Avalon Ballroom and the midweek Matrix engagement, checking into a Lombard Street motel.

Airplane led the way
The Matrix opened in August 1965, with the first public performance by the Jefferson Airplane - in many ways, the birth of the San Francisco scene. The band held an ownership interest in the enterprise - the surviving Doors semi-accurately remembered the club as belonging to Airplane vocalist Marty Balin - and the Airplane performed as house band during the brief, early days.

"Then the Fillmore opened and we got semi-famous," says Airplane founding member Paul Kantner, who helped paint the club.

All the San Francisco bands of the day played the former Fillmore Street pizza parlor. Artist Victor Moscoso did some of his most famous posters, highly prized by collectors, for the club. The Airplane played the band's last Matrix show in September 1966, the first night Grace Slick sang with the band. Her previous group, the Great Society, is largely remembered today through two live albums recorded by Abrams at the Matrix.

The current whereabouts of Abrams is not known to his former associates or the Doors, who tried to locate him for years. He is rumored to have sold copies of his Matrix tapes through classified ads in the back of Rolling Stone magazine during the '80s. Some 40 years ago, he gave the Doors four edited reels of the recordings - Botnick says he believes the tapes come from only two different nights - and the CD set was made from these first-generation dub copies.

A roar through the repertoire
On the earliest known live recording of the Doors, the band surges with power ("Robby was exceptionally good," says Botnick), roaring through the repertoire from the band's classic debut album with the certainty of a thousand previous performances at Sunset Strip niteries. Vocalist Morrison doesn't sound on the tapes like he thinks it's a paid rehearsal.

"The ante is upped anytime you have people there," drummer Densmore says, "even if it's only a couple. You can tell - Jim wants to say something, even to two people: 'I don't care - it will be like a pebble dropped in the water and make big circles.' "

The band played a lot of blues at the Matrix, including Allen Toussaint's "Get Out of My Life Woman" and Slim Harpo's "I'm a King Bee" that rarely turned up again in the repertoire. They did an instrumental version of "Summertime," a piece Botnick never heard the band play again. The group introduced new material that would eventually find its way to the second album - "People Are Strange," "Moonlight Drive" - while Morrison expanded and elaborated the ending of the already epic "The End" as recorded on the first album. The shadowy, echoey recording sounds like being in the dingy, rundown nightclub. The tiny room and handful of strangers in the crowd give off a palpable presence on the tape. All 10 people applaud madly.

Site's come full circle
In 2001, new owners reclaimed the bar's name - it now goes by MatrixFillmore - and some of its history. A enlargement of one of Moscoso's iridescent psychedelic posters dominates the entranceway of this sleek, upscale bar, operated by the ritzy PlumpJack restaurant firm. The entire front wall is glass now, and a modern fireplace burns away in the middle of the floor.

On a recent Wednesday night, a desultory DJ spun bluesy instrumentals from the stage in the corner to a crowd about the size the Doors drew in '67. Fewer than a dozen patrons nursed their drinks and made small talk. The dance floor was empty.

New owners have done over the floors and ceiling. The backstage where Jerry Garcia once smoked joints has been converted into an upholstered lounge. The place is not just empty of customers; something else is missing. It's squeaky clean, well-appointed, illuminated carefully. Despite the echo of the psychedelic posters on the drinks menu and the matchbooks, there isn't a trace of rock 'n' roll funk anywhere.

Outside a chilly wind whips though the foggy streets. At least the weather hasn't changed.

E-mail Joel Selvin at jselvin@sfchronicle.com.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/17/DD6Q13RA0V.DTL
23500  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: November 17, 2008, 10:55:41 AM
OTOH, a goodly percentage of the other side is this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmnpMXOpaM4&NR
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