Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: January 12, 2008, 01:04:53 PM
Agreed in part, though I think the analysis of the Fair Tax to be cliched and flawed. The Balance of Trade analysis is more or less corrrect, but substantially irrelevant-- the real issue is capital flows (which simply dwarf trade flows) and the value of the dollar. With Gold approaching $900 and oil having kissed $100, it seems obvious that there are too many dollars out there. (In Euro terms, in gold terms, gold's rise has been far, far less.) Yet Bernake seems to be a clueless Keynesian looking to prime a pump when what he is really doing is pushing on a string. I fear stagflation is coming and that, as you note, none of the Dems and few of the Reps seem to get it.
The true issue as I see it is a matter of relative tax rates. (Here Fred is strong, Huck interesting but suspect, Rudy pretty good, Romney OK, McCain suspect) Europe, (due to the dynamics of east Europe, Ireland?) has cut and simplified taxes and with a good chance of a Dem victory in November, the Bush rate cuts seem likely to "expire" -- not to mention additonal Dem tax increases and economic meddling planned. The US corp tax rate is now second highest in advanced world IIRC. THIS IS THE CORE PROBLEM IN MY OPINION. Naturally a stampede for the exits begins in the stock market.
Staying with the subject of this thread (feel free to carry political economic subjects to the thread for them), this bodes ill for the Reps unless they can front someone who can fly into the face of the conventional wisdom and carry the day.
Here's this from the WSJ about Hillary's next incarnation:
Mrs. Clinton's Sex Appeal
By JAMES TARANTO
January 11, 2008
Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia has the most interesting poll result we've seen in all the years of the 2008 presidential campaign:
Let's not forget the enduring affection New Hampshirites have for their "Comeback Kid" Bill Clinton. He was everywhere, and he issued hard-edged--some say petty--blasts at Obama that received saturation attention in the media. Interestingly, Democratic voters in the exit poll were asked if Bill Clinton were a White House candidate in '08, would they have voted for him or their current candidate. By a margin of 58 percent to 27 percent, Hillary Clinton's voters preferred Bill, while all other Democrats kept most of their own voters. This is not a compliment to Hillary, but it's obvious that without Bill, she would not be in a position to win the party nomination.
Did any pollster think to ask Republican voters in 2000 to choose between their candidate and George Bush père? We're pretty sure not, and that's revealing in itself. Although George W. Bush undoubtedly benefited from his famous political name, it's highly doubtful that Republican voters would have preferred the elder Bush (who, having served only one term, was constitutionally eligible to run). Indeed, although the elder Bush now receives lots of backhanded compliments from those who despise his son (even George McGovern!), many Republicans remember him for tax increases, David Souter and Saddam Hussein's survival.
In Mrs. Clinton's case, the comparison to that feminist icon Lurleen Wallace seems more apposite all the time. But as we look toward November, it's worth pondering the nature of this longing for Bill Clinton.
It seems unlikely that it is, at its root, about policy. Mr. Clinton was not a defining ideological figure, no FDR or Reagan. To the extent that he moved his party, it was toward the center, and the party--including Mrs. Clinton--has in many ways moved back.
There is perhaps an element of nostalgia for the peace and prosperity of the 1990s, notwithstanding that the peace was illusory and the prosperity hasn't gone away.
But above all, Clinton nostalgia is about partisanship. Mr. Clinton endeared himself to his party, and especially its left wing, not via his policies but by provoking the enmity of Republicans--most notably, by being impeached. His final two years in office thus produced a partisan closing of the ranks behind him, to some extent despite his centrist policies. (Ironically, George W. Bush might now enjoy more support than he does among Republicans if the Democratic opposition were better organized.)
It's telling that in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton did much better among Democrats than among independents. This may augur well for her in subsequent primaries and caucuses, many of which are limited to registered Dems. But it may bode ill for November, when the majority of voters will be non-Democrats. Bill Clinton, after all, never quite managed to get a majority of the popular vote, against fairly weak Republican opposition (albeit with Ross Perot available as an alternative).
To be elected, Mrs. Clinton will have to find an appeal broader than her husband's, a tall order given that many of her supporters prefer him. Off the top of our head, the only idea that occurs to us is one she seems to be trying: urging women to vote for her because she'd be the first female president.
There is a risk of taking this too far. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports on a bizarre comment Mrs. Clinton made yesterday while campaigning for the Jan. 19 Nevada caucuses:
Clinton and her busload of traveling press moved from there to the popular local Mexican restaurant Lindo Michoacan, where a "roundtable" that was actually square passed a microphone around to tell her people's concerns about the mortgage crisis and foreclosures. She took notes and munched on tortilla chips. . . .
A man shouted through an opening in the wall that his wife was illegal.
"No woman is illegal," Clinton said, to cheers.
No woman is illegal? She really seems bent on alienating male voters, doesn't she?
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Strange Case in NYC
on: January 12, 2008, 12:30:05 PM
January 11, 2008
One Dead After Attack on Transit Worker
By AL BAKER
A New York City Transit worker walking home after a late shift, three muggers armed with a curved knife and a bystander who somehow got caught in the middle: they all converged on a dark and rainy street in Upper Manhattan late Thursday in a blood-soaked frenzy that left the bystander stabbed to death and two others — including the transit worker — hospitalized.
Hours after the midnight attack on West 139th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, detectives were still trying to sift through the details of the deadly encounter.
As the day wore on, it appeared that the bystander, Flonarza M. Byas, got involved either as a good Samaritan trying to help the struggling transit worker, Maurice Parks, or inadvertently collided with the mugging. Earlier theories — that he might have been one of the assailants or that he might have jumped in to prey on the conductor once the muggers knocked him down — were being discounted.
One thing was clear: As of late Friday, investigators said it appeared that the subway motorman was a victim who decided to fight back — just as officials said he did when he was mugged in the city in 1994.
This time, Mr. Parks was attacked from behind, hit on the side of the head and knocked to the ground after he emerged from the subterranean subway tunnels at West 135th Street and walked about three blocks, the police said. Once down, the assailants started beating Mr. Parks and took a denim bag he had packed with clothes and papers. The muggers — detectives believe there were three men in all — pulled a knife and Mr. Parks pulled one too, the police said.
The conductor apparently carried the blade for just this reason, so he could defend himself, one law enforcement official said. But who stabbed whom first in this case is an open question.
When the blades were wielded, the tally of wounds was long: Mr. Parks, 39, of Manhattan, was stabbed in the abdomen and slashed in the hands; Mr. Byas, 28, was stabbed in the chest, back and leg; and Hector Cruz, 21, was stabbed twice in the abdomen, the police said.
The official said that investigators believe Mr. Parks was stabbed by Mr. Cruz and that he — in turn — stabbed Mr. Cruz and Mr. Byas. The police said they believed Mr. Byas was homeless and said he had received a summons an hour before the attack for trespassing in a nearby park. But Mr. Byas’s fiancé and his brother each insisted he had been employed as an accountant and was not homeless.
“He was a really good person, a person I really loved a lot,” said Stephanie C. Diaz, 22, who said she and Mr. Byas were engaged to be married last year. “We had a lot of plans for us; it’s just hard to see that go away.”
One official said Mr. Byas “wandered into the middle of it, unbeknownst to the victim, Parks.” The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing, said that Mr. Parks appeared to believe Mr. Byas was an assailant so he stabbed him. “That is what it looks like,” the official said.
Another official said another possibility is that Mr. Byas might have mistook Mr. Parks for a criminal.
“It’s possible he thought Parks was the aggressor,” the second official said of Mr. Byas. “He probably stepped in to help, but it might have been difficult to tell who was the aggressor and who was the victim, Parks or the others.” The official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, added of Mr. Byas: “He could have been stabbed by both of them, for all we know.”
In the chaos, 911 calls were made. When uniformed police officers from the 26th Precinct arrived on the street in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood they were flagged down by Mr. Cruz, who was bleeding, and Leandro Ventura, 15, who initially characterized themselves as victims. Mr. Parks and Mr. Byas were lying on the ground next to one another less than a block away to the west. Mr. Parks identified Mr. Ventura as one of his assailants, the police said, and the three wounded men were taken by ambulance to Harlem Hospital Center, where Mr. Byas pronounced dead at 12:46 a.m.
Mr. Ventura, meanwhile, was taken into custody and interviewed at the precinct station house, the police said. He was later charged with first-degree robbery, even though his relatives said he was being wrongly accused.
“He implicates himself in robbing, but tries to put himself away from the stabbing,” the first official said of Mr. Ventura, adding that investigators believe Mr. Cruz was wielding the knife.
Two knives were recovered as evidence — the folding knife with a curved blade and a straight knife that Mr. Parks is believed to have pulled from his pocket. Detectives were seeking a third assailant whom the responding officers initially saw, but who is believed to have fled. They were checking video cameras of nearby stores.
As for Mr. Parks, a conductor who became a transit worker in 1997, he was recovering after surgery on Friday, his mother and a spokesman for his union said.
Officials said it was not likely he would be charged criminally.
In New York, it is legal for someone to carry a knife provided the state penal law does not define it as illegal, such as a switchblade or a gravity knife, for example, according to prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys. Many objects — such as a legal knife or a baseball bat — can be classified as a “dangerous instrument” if they are used in a crime, the analysts said.
“It’s a common question in criminal cases, whether what someone had in their possession fits the definition of these few illegal knives, or whether they knew that the knife was illegal,” said Thomas M. O’Brien, an attorney with the special litigation unit of the city’s Legal Aid Society, who said he could not comment on the case in Manhattan. “Just having an ordinary knife is not a crime.”
At Mr. Parks’s bedside was Roger Toussaint, the president of the Transport Workers Union, Local 100, said the union spokesman, Jesse Derris. Transit workers were seen on Friday coming and going from the hospital at Lenox Avenue and 135th Street.
And Mr. Parks’ mother, Mona Parks, 57, who lives in the Bronx, spoke outside the hospital, saying she was upset that her son had been so seriously hurt, but relieved he had survived. She said she had spoken to him and that he whispered that he wanted some water as he slowly regained consciousness after surgery.
“I’m glad he did what he did, otherwise he’d be dead,” said Ms. Parks. Mr. Derris said Mr. Parks, “works vacation relief, meaning he covers different lines on the numbered trains when people are on vacation.” He works nights, Mr. Derris said, and got off work at about 11:23 p.m. on Thursday.
Ms. Parks and a martial arts instructor, Little John Davis, said Mr. Parks was a dedicated student of martial arts and was physically fit. “I’m sad that it happened,” Mr. Davis said. “But it’s good that somebody had some training to be able to take care of themselves.”
Ms. Parks said her son is not reckless and that his heroics were borne of necessity.
“If he had an opportunity to run he would’ve run, but there were four of them,” she said, apparently mistakenly including Mr. Byas in the group of assailants. At Mr. Ventura’s home at West 141st Street, the teenager’s older brother defended him. George A. Ventura, 21, said his brother was walking home from playing basketball in St. Nicholas Park when he saw the altercation and stopped to help one of the stabbed men who was screaming for help. Mr. Ventura said his brother flagged down a police car.
“I know he had nothing to do with it,” said Mr. Ventura, who said his brother is a student at Washington Irving High School. “I know his friends, I’ve never seen my brother hanging with older dudes in my life.” He added: “He’s a good kid, he’s not a troubled dude, he always listens.”
George Ventura said that the police called the family home after the incident and that when he and his mother, Yolanda Escoto, went to the precinct, officers said the teenager was a witness. It was not until Friday morning that the family learned he was a suspect, said George Ventura.
The teenager’s lawyer, Ismael Gonzalez, said, “He’s going to plead not guilty to the charges.”
Relatives of Mr. Cruz also came to visit him at the hospital. “He’s a good kid,” said his sister, who declined to provide her name. “He was hanging out with the wrong people.”
Colin Moynihan, Daryl Khan and Robin Stein contributed reporting.http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/11/nyregion/11cnd-stab.html?_r=2&hp=&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: January 12, 2008, 12:01:53 PM
James T. Conway
First to the Fight
By BRENDAN MINITER
January 12, 2008; Page A9
When James T. Conway went down to see the draft board at the height of the Vietnam War in 1969, he was told "we're not going to draft you. You've got a great number and you don't have to worry about military service." He responded, "You don't understand, I actually want to go."
Today, as Commandant of the Marine Corps, he's one of the nation's leading military commanders. He's led tens of thousands of Marines on two significant campaigns in Iraq. The first was the drive on Baghdad in 2003; the second was what turned out to be an aborted assault on Fallujah in April 2004. In 2006 he became the steward of a fighting force with a history that stretches all the way back to 1775, before there was a United States of America.
But it's the future of the Corps, not its past, that dominates Gen. Conway's thoughts and our conversation. We met at the Pentagon earlier this week -- just a few days before the one-year anniversary of President Bush's decision to "surge" more troops into Iraq. He was dressed in cammies, combat boots and an open collar. He's lean and tall and he seemed to envelop the table we were seated at. He's also a man who gives the appearance of someone who would much rather be with his Marines in Anbar province than in an office on the outskirts of Washington.
Two related concerns about the war occupy his mind: That in order to fight this war, his Corps could be transformed into just another "land army"; and, if that should happen, that it would lose the flexibility and expeditionary culture that has made it a powerful military force.
The Corps was built originally to live aboard ships and wade ashore to confront emerging threats far from home. It has long prided itself in being "first to the fight" relying on speed, agility and tenacity to win battles. It's a small, offensive outfit that has its own attack aircraft, but not its own medics, preferring to rely on Navy corpsmen to care for its wounded.
For more than a decade, the size of the active-duty Marine Corps has been 175,000. The Army, by comparison, has more than 500,000 soldiers on active duty.
Now, however, the Corps is being expanded to 202,000 over the next couple of years. And what's more, the Marines are being asked to conduct patrols and perform other non-offensive operations in Iraq that are forcing the Corps to become a more stationary force than it traditionally has been.
It's a "static environment where there is no forward movement," Gen. Conway says. And "that gets more to an occupational role, and that's what the Army historically does and the Marine Corps has previously seen very little of."
One way the Marines are clearly changing is in the vehicles troops use to patrol in Iraq. "If you look at the table of equipment that a Marine battalion is operating with right now in Iraq," Gen. Conway explains, "it is dramatically different than the table of equipment the battalion used when it went over the berm in Kuwait in '03, and it is remarkably heavier. Heavier, particularly in terms of vehicles.
"I mean the Humvees were canvas at that point for the most part. Today they are up-armored and we're looking at vehicles even heavier than that. We've got a whole new type of vehicle that we're patrolling in, conducting operations in, that's the MRAP [Mine Resistant Ambush Protected], a 48,000 pound vehicle. . . . these type of things, make us look more like a land army than it does a fast, hard-hitting expeditionary force."
Gen. Conway commends the MRAP's performance: "[W]e had over 300 attacks against the MRAP without losing a Marine or sailor." And, he says, "We always have to be concerned about protecting our Marines. We owe that to the parents of America."
"But," he adds, "first we have to be able to accomplish our mission. And I think there are a lot of instances where a lighter, faster, harder-hitting force that gets to a scene quickly is more effective than a heavier, more armored force that gets there weeks or months later."
It is clear that the MRAP can make it more difficult to maneuver in a battle zone. "We saw some problems with the vehicle once it went off of the roadways," Gen. Conway says. "Its cross-country mobility, particularly in western Iraq where you have wadis [dry riverbeds] and small bridges and that type of thing was not what we hoped it would be."
And it is something Gen. Conway has decided to have fewer of. He recently announced that the Marines are halting orders for these vehicles. The Corps will take delivery of a total of 2,300 new MRAPs by the end of the year, which it will use to conduct missions in Iraq. But Gen. Conway is canceling orders for 1,400 additional MRAPs that he and his advisors believe they will not need in the coming years. In the process, Gen. Conway is saving Uncle Sam $1.7 billion. "Yeah. I mean, that to me was a common sense kind of determination."
In short, wars have a tendency to change the culture of the militaries that fight them. For the Marines, the cultural change they fear most is losing their connection to the sea while fighting in the desert.
Today there are about 26,000 Marines in Iraq, many of them on their second or third tour, and tens of thousands of others who have either recently returned or who are preparing to go in the coming months and years. Keeping a force that size in Iraq has made it difficult for the Marines to give mid-level officers assignments that would hone the skills necessary to conduct what has always been a central component of Marine warfighting -- landing troops on a beach head.
"If you accept a generation of officers is four years," Gen. Conway says, "that's what an officer signs on for, we now have that generation of officers -- and arguably troops -- that have come and gone, that are combat hardened, but that will never have stepped foot aboard ship. . . . an amphibious operation is by its very nature the most complicated of military operations; and that we have junior officers and senior officers who understand the planning dimensions associated with something like that, that have sufficient number of exercises over time to really have sharpened their skills to work with other services to accomplish a common goal -- these are the things that concern me with the atrophying of those skills and the ability to go out and do those things."
Gen. Conway graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1969, got married, and volunteered for the Marines at a time when the Vietnam War was still raging. He had friends -- fraternity brothers -- who hadn't kept their grades up and who got drafted.
Not that he regrets signing up. "I thought about trying to contact [that recruiter] and thank him for the way he kind of reeled me in," he says.
As a young officer, Gen. Conway didn't end up in Vietnam. But he did get a front row seat in watching the Marine Corps rebuild itself after the war in Southeast Asia ended. And now, looking back through history, he has a clear perspective on the turning points in the development of the modern Marine Corps.
The first turning point came in World War I at the Battle of Belleau Wood, where a few thousand Marines helped stop a German advance that otherwise might have taken Paris and knocked France out of the war. Marines fought so ferociously in hand-to-hand combat in dense French forest in that battle, that the Germans nicknamed them "Devil Dogs." Afterward, Congress expanded the size of the Marines to more than 70,000, up from about 14,000 at the start of the war.
The second turning point brings Gen. Conway back to his concern for protecting the Marines' institutional culture. "Others will cite other battles," he said, but he sees the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II, a six-month campaign in the Pacific starting in August 1942, as a turning point.
It was there that Marines, later reinforced by Army units, dealt the Japanese their first significant land defeat. "It was only our expeditionary ability to get out there rapidly, as rapidly as we could . . . to put the force out there, smack in the path of the Japanese [that] was a major capability and one we're still very proud of."
So is the Marine Corps the right force to be fighting in Iraq now? It's a loaded question because in recent months Gen. Conway made headlines by airing a plan that would have had the Marines rotate out of Iraq and, with a somewhat smaller force, into Afghanistan. The plan was a nonstarter with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and has been shelved.
"Yeah, I think we are," Gen. Conway said. "For what the nation is now engaged in, it is a major insurgency. From our perspective a counterinsurgency. And when the nation is as hotly engaged as we are in Iraq, I think that's exactly where the Marine Corps needs to be.
"Now, it has necessitated that we undergo these changes to the way we are constituted. But that's OK. We made those adjustments. We'll adjust back when the threat is different. But that's adaptability . . . . You create a force that you have to have at the time. But you don't accept that as the new norm and you do the necessary draw-down at a time when you can."
As for now, he sees the expansion of the Corps to 202,000 "as good . . . We need a Marine Corps that's larger. We need an Army that's larger until we get through what probably is going to be, I think will be, a generational struggle. I think it is absolutely necessary. . . . our military today, all the services all uniforms, is still less than 1% of our great country."
Has the country already forgotten the lessons of 9/11?
Not all of us, Gen. Conway says. "I still hear that a lot, you know, we saw [a] surge [in enlistments] after 9/11, but if you talk to a young Marine out there, even people who were, I don't know, 12, 13, 14 at that point, [they] are still saying that, you know, that they are offended by that, are still incensed by that and they realize that those are still essentially the people out there that we're fighting, so it continues to reverberate. . . . When I visit Gen. Odierno in Baghdad, he's got a picture, a very large picture of one [World Trade Center] tower burning and the other plane about to hit. And I think that our country would do well to remember how we got to where we are today."
Mr. Miniter is an assistant features editor for The Wall Street Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Lost Archive-- fascinating!
on: January 12, 2008, 10:20:11 AM
The Lost Archive
Missing for a half century, a cache of photos
spurs sensitive research on Islam's holy text
By ANDREW HIGGINS
January 12, 2008; Page A1
-- Munich, Germany
On the night of April 24, 1944, British air force bombers hammered a former Jesuit college here housing the Bavarian Academy of Science. The 16th-century building crumpled in the inferno. Among the treasures lost, later lamented Anton Spitaler, an Arabic scholar at the academy, was a unique photo archive of ancient manuscripts of the Quran.
The 450 rolls of film had been assembled before the war for a bold venture: a study of the evolution of the Quran, the text Muslims view as the verbatim transcript of God's word. The wartime destruction made the project "outright impossible," Mr. Spitaler wrote in the 1970s.
Mr. Spitaler was lying. The cache of photos survived, and he was sitting on it all along. The truth is only now dribbling out to scholars -- and a Quran research project buried for more than 60 years has risen from the grave.
"He pretended it disappeared. He wanted to be rid of it," says Angelika Neuwirth, a former pupil and protégée of the late Mr. Spitaler. Academics who worked with Mr. Spitaler, a powerful figure in postwar German scholarship who died in 2003, have been left guessing why he squirreled away the unusual trove for so long.
Ms. Neuwirth, a professor of Arabic studies at Berlin's Free University, now is overseeing a revival of the research. The project renews a grand tradition of German Quranic scholarship that was interrupted by the Third Reich. The Nazis purged Jewish experts on ancient Arabic texts and compelled Aryan colleagues to serve the war effort. Middle East scholars worked as intelligence officers, interrogators and linguists. Mr. Spitaler himself served, apparently as a translator, in the German-Arab Infantry Battalion 845, a unit of Arab volunteers to the Nazi cause, according to wartime records.
During the 19th century, Germans pioneered modern scholarship of ancient texts. Their work revolutionized understanding of Christian and Jewish scripture. It also infuriated some of the devout, who resented secular scrutiny of texts believed to contain sacred truths.
The revived Quran venture plays into a very modern debate: how to reconcile Islam with the modern world? Academic quarrying of the Quran has produced bold theories, bitter feuds and even claims of an Islamic Reformation in the making. Applying Western critical methods to Islam's holiest text is a sensitive test of the Muslim community's readiness to both accommodate and absorb thinking outside its own traditions.
Read the Quran in English and see other languages and readings"It is very exciting," says Patricia Crone, a scholar at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study and a pioneer of unorthodox theories about Islam's early years. She says she first heard that the Munich archive had survived when attending a conference in Germany last fall. "Everyone thought it was destroyed."
The Quran is viewed by most Muslims as the unchanging word of God as transmitted to the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century. The text, they believe, didn't evolve or get edited. The Quran says it is "flawless" and fixed by an "imperishable tablet" in heaven. It starts with a warning: "This book is not to be doubted."
Quranic scholarship often focuses on arcane questions of philology and textual analysis. Experts nonetheless tend to tread warily, mindful of fury directed in recent years at people deemed to have blasphemed Islam's founding document and the Prophet Muhammad.
A scholar in northern Germany writes under the pseudonym of Christoph Luxenberg because, he says, his controversial views on the Quran risk provoking Muslims. He claims that chunks of it were written not in Arabic but in another ancient language, Syriac. The "virgins" promised by the Quran to Islamic martyrs, he asserts, are in fact only "grapes."
Ms. Neuwirth, the Berlin professor now in charge of the Munich archive, rejects the theories of her more radical colleagues, who ride roughshod, she says, over Islamic scholarship. Her aim, she says, isn't to challenge Islam but to "give the Quran the same attention as the Bible." All the same, she adds: "This is a taboo zone."
Ms. Neuwirth says it's too early to have any idea what her team's close study of the cache of early texts and other manuscripts will reveal. Their project, launched last year at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science and Humanities, has state funding for 18 years but could take much longer. The earliest manuscripts of the Quran date from around 700 and use a skeletal version of the Arabic script that is difficult to decipher and can be open to divergent readings.
Mystery and misfortune bedeviled the Munich archive from the start. The scholar who launched it perished in an odd climbing accident in 1933. His successor died in a 1941 plane crash. Mr. Spitaler, who inherited the Quran collection and then hid it, fared better. He lived to age 93.
The rolls of film, kept in cigar boxes, plastic trays and an old cookie tin, are now in a safe in Berlin. The photos of the old manuscripts will form the foundation of a computer data base that Ms. Neuwirth's team believes will help tease out the history of Islam's founding text. The result, says Michael Marx, the project's research director, could be the first "critical edition" of the Quran -- an attempt to divine what the original text looked like and to explore overlaps with the Bible and other Christian and Jewish literature.
A group of Tunisians has embarked on a parallel mission, but they want to keep it quiet to avoid angering fellow Muslims, says Moncef Ben Abdeljelil, a scholar involved in the venture. "Silence is sometimes best," he says. Afghan authorities last year arrested an official involved in a vernacular translation of the Quran that was condemned as blasphemous. Its editor went into hiding.
Many Christians, too, dislike secular scholars boring into sacred texts, and dismiss challenges to certain Biblical passages. But most accept that the Bible was written by different people at different times, and that it took centuries of winnowing before the Christian canon was fixed in its current form.
Muslims, by contrast, view the Quran as the literal word of God. Questioning the Quran "is like telling a Christian that Jesus was gay," says Abdou Filali-Ansary, a Moroccan scholar.
Modern approaches to textual analysis developed in the West are viewed in much of the Muslim world as irrelevant, at best. "Only the writings of a practicing Muslim are worthy of our attention," a university professor in Saudi Arabia wrote in a 2003 book. "Muslim views on the Holy Book must remain firm: It is the Word of Allah, constant, immaculate, unalterable and inimitable."
Ms. Neuwirth, the Berlin Quran expert, and Mr. Marx, her research director, have tried to explain the project to the Muslim world in trips to Iran, Turkey, Syria and Morocco. When a German newspaper trumpeted their work last fall on its front page and predicted that it would "overthrow rulers and topple kingdoms," Mr. Marx called Arab television network al-Jazeera and other media to deny any assault on the tenets of Islam.
Europeans started to study the Quran in the Middle Ages, largely in an effort to debunk it. In the 19th century, faith-driven polemical research gave way to more serious scientific study of old texts. Germans led the way.
Their original focus was the Bible. Priests and rabbis pushed back, but scholars pressed on, challenging traditional views of the Old and New Testaments. Their work undermined faith in the literal truth of scripture and helped birth today's largely secular Europe. Over time, some turned their attention to the Quran, too.
In 1857, a Paris academy offered a prize for the best "critical history" of the Quran. A German, Theodor Nöldeke, won. His entry became the cornerstone of future Western research. Mr. Nöldeke, says Ms. Neuwirth, is "the rock of our church."
The Munich archive began with one of Mr. Nöldeke's protégés, Gotthelf Bergsträsser. As Germany slid towards fascism early last century, he hunted down old copies of the Quran in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. He took photographs of them with a Leica camera.
In 1933, a few months after Hitler became chancellor, Mr. Bergsträsser, an experienced climber, died in the Bavarian Alps. His body was never given an autopsy; rumors spread of suicide or foul play.
His work was taken up by Otto Pretzl, another German Arabist. He too set off with a Leica. In a 1934 journey to Morocco, he wangled his way into a royal library containing an old copy of the Quran and won over initially suspicious clerics, he said in a handwritten report about his trip.
The Nazis began to use Arabists early in the war when German forces began pushing into regions with large Muslim populations, first North Africa and then the Soviet Union. Scholars were used to broadcast propaganda and to help set up mullah schools for Muslims recruited into the German armed forces.
Mr. Pretzl, the manuscript collector, appears to have worked largely in military intelligence. He interrogated Arabic-speaking soldiers captured in the invasion of France, then, according to some accounts, set off on a mission to stir up an Arab uprising against British troops in Iraq. His plane crashed.
Film from the Quran photo archive
Responsibility for the Quran archive fell to Mr. Spitaler, who had helped collect some of the photos. During the war, Mr. Spitaler served in the command offices in Germany and later as an Arabic linguist in Austria, gaining only a modest military rank, records indicate.
After the war, he returned to academia. Instead of reviving the Quran project, he embarked on a laborious but less-sensitive endeavor, a dictionary of classical Arabic. After nearly half a century of work, definitions were published only for words beginning with two letters of the 28-letter Arabic alphabet.
Mr. Spitaler rarely published papers, but was widely admired for his mastery of Arabic texts. A few scholars, however, judged him overly cautious, unproductive and hostile to unconventional views.
"The whole period after 1945 was poisoned by the Nazis," says Günter Lüling, a scholar who was drummed out of his university in the 1970s after he put forward heterodox theories about the Quran's origins. His doctoral thesis argued that the Quran was lifted in part from Christian hymns. Blackballed by Mr. Spitaler, Mr. Lüling lost his teaching job and launched a fruitless six-year court battle to be reinstated. Feuding over the Quran, he says, "ruined my life."
He wrote books and articles at home, funded by his wife, who took a job in a pharmacy. Asked by a French journal to write a paper on German Arabists, Mr. Lüling went to Berlin to examine wartime records. Germany's prominent postwar Arabic scholars, he says, "were all connected to the Nazis."
Berthold Spuler, for example, translated Yiddish and Hebrew for the Gestapo, says Mr. Lüling. (Mr. Spuler's subsequent teaching career ran into trouble in the 1960s when, during a Hamburg student protest, he shouted that the demonstrators "belong in a concentration camp.") Rudi Paret, who in 1962 produced what became the standard German translation of the Quran, was listed as a member of "The Institute for Research on and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life." Despite their wartime activities, the subsequent work of such scholars is still highly regarded.
By the mid-1970s, Mr. Spitaler in Munich was nearing retirement at the university there. He began moving boxes into a room set aside for the dictionary project at Bavaria's Academy of Sciences. His last doctoral student in Munich, Kathrin Müller, who was working on the dictionary, says she looked inside one of the boxes and saw old film. She asked Mr. Spitaler what it was but didn't get an answer. The boxes, she now realizes, contained the old Quran archive. "He didn't want to explain anything," she says.
In the early 1980s, when the archive was still thought to be lost, two German scholars traveled to Yemen to examine and help restore a cache of ancient Quran manuscripts. They, too, took pictures. When they tried to get them out of Yemen, authorities seized them, says Gerd-Rüdiger Puin, one of the scholars. German diplomats finally persuaded Yemen to release most of the photos, he says.
Mr. Puin says the manuscripts suggested to him that the Quran "didn't just fall from heaven" but "has a history." When he said so publicly a decade ago, it stirred rage. "Please ensure that these scholars are not given further access to the documents," read one letter to the Yemen Times. "Allah, help us against our enemies."
Berlin Quran expert Ms. Neuwirth, though widely regarded as respectful of Islamic tradition, got sideswiped by Arab suspicion of Western scholars. She was fired from a teaching post in Jordan, she says, for mentioning a radical revisionist scholar during a lecture in Germany.
Around 1990, Ms. Neuwirth met Mr. Spitaler, her old professor, in Berlin. He was in his 80s and growing frail, but remained sharp mentally. He "got sentimental about the old times," recalls Ms. Neuwirth. As they talked, he casually mentioned that he still had the photo archive. He offered to give it to her. "I had heard it didn't exist," she says. She later sent two of her students to Munich to collect the photo cache and bring it to Berlin.
The news didn't spread beyond a small circle of scholars. When Mr. Spitaler died in 2003, Paul Kunitizsch, a fellow Munich Arabist, wrote an obituary recounting how the archive had been lost, torpedoing the Quran project. Such a venture, he wrote, "now appears totally out of the question" because of "the attitude of the Islamic world to such a project."
Information about the archive's survival has just begun trickling out to the wider scholarly community. Why Mr. Spitaler hid it remains a mystery. His only published mention of the archive's fate was a footnote to an article in a 1975 book on the Quran. Claiming the bulk of the cache had been lost during the war, he wrote cryptically that "drastically changed conditions after 1945" ruled out any rebuilding of the collection.
Ms. Neuwirth, the current guardian of the archive, believes that perhaps Mr. Spitaler was simply "sick of" the time-consuming project and wanted to move on to other work. Mr. Lüling has a less charitable theory: that Mr. Spitaler didn't have the talents needed to make use of the archive himself and wanted to make sure colleagues couldn't outshine him by working on the material.
Mr. Kunitzsch, the obituary author, says he's mystified by Mr. Spitaler's motives. He speculates that his former colleague decided that the Quran manuscript project was simply too ambitious. The task, says Mr. Kunitzsch, grew steadily more sensitive as Muslim hostility towards Western scholars escalated, particularly after the founding of Israel in 1948. "He knew that for Arabs, [the Quran] was a closed matter."
Ms. Müller, Mr. Spitaler's last doctoral student, says the war "was a deep cut for everything" and buried the prewar dreams of many Germans. Another possible factor, she adds, was Mr. Spitaler's own deep religious faith. She opens up a copy of a Quran used by the late professor, a practicing Catholic, until his death. Unlike his other Arabic texts, which are scrawled with notes and underlinings, it has no markings at all.
"Perhaps he had too much respect for holy books," says Ms. Müller.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: January 12, 2008, 09:43:33 AM
This article indicates that Kurd-Sunni live and let live may be a while off , , ,
Omar was a Sunni Arab from a village outside Mosul; he was a short and weedy man, roughly 30 years old, who radiated a pure animal anger. He was also a relentless jabberer; he did not shut up from the moment we were introduced. I met him in an unventilated interrogation room that smelled of bleach and paint. He was handcuffed, and he cursed steadily, making appalling accusations about the sexual practices of the interrogator’s mother. He cursed the Kurds, in general, as pig-eaters, blasphemers, and American lackeys. As Omar ranted, the interrogator smiled. “I told you the Arabs don’t like the Kurds,” he said. I’ve known the interrogator for a while, and this is his perpetual theme: close proximity to Arabs has sabotaged Kurdish happiness.
Omar, the Kurds claim, was once an inconsequential deputy to the now-deceased terrorist chieftain Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Omar disputed this characterization. By his own telling, he accomplished prodigies of terror against the pro-American Kurdish forces in the northern provinces of Iraq. “You are worse than the Americans,” he told his Kurdish interrogator. “You are the enemy of the Muslim nation. You are enemies of God.” The interrogator—I will not name him here, for reasons that will become apparent in a moment—sat sturdily opposite Omar, absorbing his invective for several minutes, absentmindedly paging through a copy of the Koran.
During a break in the tirade, the interrogator asked Omar, for my benefit, to rehearse his biography. Omar’s life was undistinguished. His father was a one-donkey farmer; Omar was educated in Saddam’s school system, which is to say he was hardly educated; he joined the army, and then Ansar al-Islam, the al-Qaeda–affiliated terrorist group that operates along the Iranian frontier. And then, on the blackest of days, as he described it, he fell prisoner to the Kurds.
The interrogator asked me if I had any questions for Omar. Yes, I said: Have you been tortured in this prison?
“No,” he said.
“What would you do if you were to be released from prison right now?”
“I would get a knife and cut your head off,” he said.
At this, the interrogator smacked Omar across the face with the Koran.
Omar yelped in shock. The interrogator said: “Don’t talk that way to a guest!”
Now, Omar rounded the bend. A bolus of spit flew from his mouth as he screamed. The interrogator taunted Omar further. “This book of yours,” he said, waving the Koran. “‘Cut off their heads! Cut off their heads!’ That’s the answer for everything!” Omar cursed the interrogator’s mother once again; the interrogator trumped him by cursing the Prophet Muhammad’s mother.
The meeting was then adjourned.
In the hallway, I asked the interrogator, “Aren’t you Muslim?”
“Of course,” he said.
“But you’re not a big believer in the Koran?”
“The Koran’s OK,” he said. “I don’t have any criticism of Muhammad’s mother. I just say that to get him mad.”
He went on, “The Koran wasn’t written by God, you know. It was written by Arabs. The Arabs were imperialists, and they forced it on us.” This is a common belief among negligibly religious Kurds, of whom there are many millions.
“That’s your problem, then,” I said. “Arabs.”
“Of course,” he replied. “The Arabs are responsible for all our misfortunes.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews
on: January 12, 2008, 09:34:55 AM
Bush Says U.S. Should Have Bombed WWII Death Camp During Holocaust Memorial Tour
Friday , January 11, 2008
President George W. Bush, on an emotional tour of Israel's Holocaust memorial, stopped in front of an aerial photo of Auschwitz on Friday and told his secretary of state that the U.S. should have bombed the death camp to stop the extermination of Jews there, the memorial's chairman said.
It was a rare acknowledgment from a U.S. leader on an issue that has stirred deep controversy for decades.
The Allies had detailed reports about Auschwitz during the war from Polish partisans and escaped prisoners. But they chose not to bomb the camp, the rail lines leading to it, or any of the other Nazi death camps, preferring instead to focus all resources on the broader military effort.
Between 1.1 million and 1.5 million people were murdered at the infamous camp in Poland.
Bush twice had tears in his eyes during an hour-long tour of the museum, said Yad Vashem's chairman, Avner Shalev, who guided Bush through the exhibits.
Upon viewing an aerial shot of Auschwitz, taken during the war by U.S. forces, Bush called the ruling not to bomb it "complex." He then called over Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's decision, clearly pondering the options before rendering an opinion of his own, Shalev told the Associated Press.
"We should have bombed it," Bush said, according to Shalev.
Tom Segev, a leading Israeli scholar of the Holocaust, said the Bush comment, which appeared spontaneous, marked the first time an American president had made this acknowledgment.
"It is clear now that the U.S. knew a lot about it," he said. "It's possible that bombing at least the railway to the camps may have saved the lives of the Jews of Hungary. They were the very last ones who were sent to Auschwitz at a time when everybody knew what was going on."
Bush, making the most extensive Mideast trip of his presidency, was accompanied on his tour of the museum by a small party that included Rice, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Israeli President Shimon Peres.
At the compound, overlooking a forest on Jerusalem's outskirts, Bush visited a memorial to the 1.5 million Jewish children killed in the Holocaust, featuring six candles reflected 1.5 million times in a hall of mirrors.
At the site's Hall of Remembrance, he heard a cantor chant a Jewish prayer for the dead. There, Bush, wearing a yarmulke, placed a red-white-and-blue wreath on a stone slab that covers ashes of Holocaust victims taken from six extermination camps. He also lit a torch memorializing the victims.
"I was most impressed that people in the face of horror and evil would not forsake their God. In the face of unspeakable crimes against humanity, brave souls — young and old — stood strong for what they believe," Bush said.
"I wish as many people as possible would come to this place. It is a sobering reminder that evil exists, and a call that when evil exists we must resist it," he said.
The memorial was closed to the public and under heavy guard Friday, with armed soldiers standing on top of some of the site's monuments and a police helicopter and surveillance blimp hovering in the air overhead.
It was Bush's second visit to the Holocaust memorial, a regular stop on the visits of foreign dignitaries. His first was in 1998, as governor of Texas. The last sitting U.S. president to visit was Bill Clinton in 1994.
In the memorial's visitors' book, the president wrote simply, "God bless Israel, George Bush."
Shalev then presented Bush with illustrations of the Bible drawn by the Jewish artist Carol Deutsch, who perished in the Holocaust.
Deutsch created the works while in hiding from the Nazis in Belgium. He was informed upon, and died in 1944 in the Buchenwald camp. After the war, his daughter Ingrid discovered that the Nazis had confiscated their furniture and valuables but had left behind a single item: a meticulously crafted wooden box adorned with a Star of David and a seven-branched menorah, containing a collection of 99 of the artist's illustrations of biblical scenes.
The originals are on display at Yad Vashem. The memorial recently decided to produce a special series of 500 replicas, the first of which was presented to Bush.
Debbie Deutsch-Berman, a Yad Vashem employee whose grandfather was Deutsch's brother, said she was proud that Bush would be given her relative's artwork.
"These are not just his paintings, they are his legacy, and the fact that they survived shows that as much as our enemies tried to destroy the ideas that these paintings embody, they failed," she said.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Nat Geo Documentary on the Dog Brothers: Fight Club
on: January 11, 2008, 11:53:29 AM
I've decided to establish a thread dedicated to National Geographic's "Fight Club" documentary on the Dog Brothers. Duplicating the info already posted on the thread "Spike TV etc"
This link is for Eastern Time (ET in the link)http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/ET/daily/20080123.html
This link is for Pacific Time (PT in the link)http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/PT/daily/20080123.html
Wednesday January 23 6 pm & 9 pm PST (9 pm & 12 am EST)
Saturday January 26 7pm and 10pm PST (10 pm and 1 am EST)
Monday January 28 10am PST (1 pm EST)
Wednesday January 30 2 pm (5 pm EST)
A few words on the name "Fight Club".
Frankly, I spoke against the “Fight Club” name of the piece when it was first proposed. To me it not only resonated of the Brad Pitt movie of that night—an interesting movie no doubt, but possessing a , , , vibration that might interfere with viewer’s “empty cup” towards the “Dog Brothers Experience”. For me the name itself apart from the associations that come with the movie, ran the risk of triggering viewer assumptions about us being of thuggish values.
On the other hand, Nat Geo wanted something that would not only fit on the spine of a DVD box, but could provide an easy handle that would “bring people in” and thought my suggestions such as “Tao of the Dog- Higher Consciousness through Harder Contact” to be both “too heady” and too long to fit in program listings and unlikely to communicate to viewers what the hell the program was about-- reasonable points all!
The point about "bringing people in" I think is key because what is really important is the substance of the show that people see once they tune in.
Returning to the subject at hand, Nat Geo tells me it will be establishing a blog to help build buzz for the show. To help I would like to ask any and everyone who participated in the documentary itself, who fought in that Gathering, who fought in any Dog Brother Gathering, anyone who considers themselves part of the extended Dog Brothers tribe, to post here in this thread about what it all means to you, to share stories and so forth. Dog Tom's post in the August 2008 Gathering thread http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1484.0
would be a good example of the sort of thing we are looking for.
The Adventure continues!!!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: War and Commerce
on: January 11, 2008, 10:11:25 AM
"War is not the best engine for us to resort to; nature has given
us one in our commerce, which if properly managed, will be a
better instrument for obliging the interested nations of Europe
to treat us with justice."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Thomas Pickney, 29 May 1797)
Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Ford, ed., vol. 8
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: January 10, 2008, 11:30:51 PM
Head banker leaves job over Muslim gaffe
By OUT-LAW.COM → More by this author
Published Tuesday 8th January 2008 10:22 GMT
Find out how your peers are dealing with Virtualization
A senior banking industry figure has left his job after making a joke about Muslims which reportedly stunned colleagues and was the subject of complaints. Marc Howells of Barclaycard Europe has left his post.
Howells was discussing quarterly figures with staff when he is reported as saying: "The results were like Muslims – some were good, some were Shi'ite".
The remark was reported to senior management and a complaint was made. It is understood that Howells has left in what has been called 'redundancy under compromise'. He was the head of Barclaycard in Europe.
Barclaycard will not comment directly on Howells and his leaving of the company, but company sources told the Daily Telegraph newspaper: "Once word got round and a complaint was made he was toast. Part of the deal was that the circumstances of his departure must never be disclosed. But there was no chance of that once his Shi'ite joke started doing the rounds."
"We have nothing to add on this particular case," said a Barclaycard statement. "Everybody who works here gets guidance of what is right and what is wrong. We have a robust approach to equality and diversity and do not tolerate discrimination."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ
on: January 10, 2008, 08:56:14 AM
IMHO the Wall Street Journal, especially its editorial page, is an extraordinary newspaper.
The Wall Street Journal has a long tradition of vigorous and independent editorial commentary. As early as 1902 Charles Dow wrote a column called "Review & Outlook," and that title runs today over our editorials in editions on three continents. In the boom of the 1920s, the paper was distinguished by the reporting and commentary of its proprietor, C.W. Barron. In the years after World War II, Bernard Kilgore was the publishing genius who forged the Journal into a national and now international institution. (See "Barney Kilgore Built His Dream.") But it was for editorial writing that his Journal won its first two Pulitzer Prizes, to William Henry Grimes in 1947 and Vermont Royster in 1953. In 1951 Mr. Grimes famously spelled out The Journal's approach to reporting and editorializing in "A Newspaper's Philosophy."
Looking back over this history, what's surprising is not the change of views but their constancy. (See "Journal Editorials and the Common Man.") They are united by the mantra "free markets and free people," the principles, if you will, marked in the watershed year of 1776 by Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence and Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations." So over the past century and into the next, the Journal stands for free trade and sound money; against confiscatory taxation and the ukases of kings and other collectivists; and for individual autonomy against dictators, bullies and even the tempers of momentary majorities. If these principles sound unexceptionable in theory, applying them to current issues is often unfashionable and controversial.
Even regular readers often inquire about how our articles and views manage to appear five days a week, or how many people write the editorials? This is not as simple a question as it seems. When we counted the other day, the full-time budgeted staff of the editorial page numbered 43. This staff is responsible for the editorial and op-ed pages of The Wall Street Journal, The Wall Street Journal Asia, The Wall Street Journal Europe, the daily Leisure & Arts pages of the domestic Journal and the critical reviews and Taste page for the Weekend Journal, and OpinionJournal.com with its substantial body of original content.
At last count, about 22 of the 43 staff members have written at least one editorial over the last year. But there are many other things to do. Ten are involved in producing the pages (i.e., formatting the electronic images that fill printing plates or computer screens), clerical and business-management tasks. Six are principally involved in arts and cultural reviewing, which on this newspaper are recognized as an opinion function. Eight are mainly involved in the two international editions, both writing editorials and editing feature articles, and two devote most of their time to producing the OpinionJournal.com Web site features.
In New York and Washington, a core group of 12 people is principally involved in writing editorials or our proprietary columns. Another four are principally involved in editing features from outside contributors and letters to the editor. Of course, many editorials and articles are used in more than one edition, often with appropriate customization. And some writers or editors may be doing editorials one day, cultural reviews the next and feature articles the third. Out of this maelstrom, three sets of editorial and op-ed pages across the world get filled every morning. Our tradition has long been to avoid set-piece meetings but to gather come-who-wants informally. This tradition is now giving way to e-mail exchanges, and we've adopted one formal meeting a week for more free-ranging discussion.
But coordination of policy positions is not as difficult as an outsider might think, for we all share a similar world view. The most important coordinators--Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot and Deputy Editors Daniel Henninger and Melanie Kirkpatrick--have worked together for decades. They are guided by the tradition of free people and free markets set out by Charles Dow and elaborated by a long string of editors.
A word is due here about journalistic philosophy, as opposed to political philosophy. The Journal editorial pages are obviously in themselves a substantial journalistic enterprise. But they are dwarfed by the Journal news department: more than 600 reporters on the global news staff and another 900-plus on Dow Jones Newswires. Following the American newspaper practice, the heads of News and Editorial report independently to the publisher, Gordon Crovitz.
We expect our editorial writers to do their own reporting, developing their own sources and seeking news from their own perspective and insights. It may sometimes happen that news sources get calls from both news and editorial departments. Sometimes the dispatches of news and editorial seem to disagree, primarily in reflecting different sets of news sources. While this can be confusing, we do not see that the reader is the loser.
We believe that the ultimate function of the editorial pages is the same as the rest of the newspaper, to inform. But in opinion journalism we have the additional purpose of making an argument for a point of view. We often take sides on the major issues of politics and society, with a goal of moving policies or events in what we think is the best direction for the country and world. We recognize that others may disagree but see little value in equivocation. In stating our own views forcefully, we hope to raise and sharpen the level of debate and knowledge. And we hope that our editorials reflect not merely the passing whim of passing editors, but a body of thought shaped by a century of tradition.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Cuba
on: January 10, 2008, 08:20:30 AM
Cuba's Transition Begins
By BRIAN LATELL
January 7, 2008; Page A12
Without a hint of irony, Fidel Castro asserted twice last month in columns in Cuba's Granma newspaper, that he is not one "to cling to power." The truth is that few world leaders in modern times have ruled as long as he has. On New Year's Day he began the 50th year of his dictatorship.
But now, at the age of 81, handicapped and incapable of providing coherent leadership, the end of his historic reign is imminent. He has not been seen in public for more than 17 months after ceding authority "provisionally" to his brother Raúl, Cuba's defense minister.
During his incapacitation there have been no reports of Communist Party officials seeking his counsel, carrying out his directives, or even taking initiatives in his name. When pressed to comment on Fidel's condition and role in the leadership, Cuban officials lately have been saying mainly that he continues to inspire them and provide ideas.
So it seems all but certain that, voluntarily or not, he'll vacate the Cuban presidency early this year, though he may symbolically hold onto some new, wholly honorific title.
The transition at the top will probably set in motion cascading reassignments of civilian and military officials. Raúl Castro will call the shots, but mostly from behind the scenes. With his own bases of support in the armed forces that he has run since 1959, the security services he has controlled since 1989, and the Communist Party he manages, he has the power and legitimacy to preside over the succession. He has been the designated heir since January 1959. And at the age of 76, with many years of hard drinking under his belt, he is probably viewed by most in the leadership as a transitional figure, better to be courted than challenged.
Raúl's style guarantees that Cuba will be governed differently. He'll rule more collegially than his brother, consulting trusted subordinates and delegating more. During the interregnum he has worked with officials of different generations and pedigrees, even promoting one long-time archrival to create a united front after his brother's initial withdrawal.
On his watch, Raúl has broken some previously sacred crockery as well. He has admitted that Cuba's many problems are systemic. In his disarmingly accurate view, it is not the American embargo or "imperialism" that are the cause of problems on the island, as his brother always insisted, but rather the regime's own mistakes and mindsets. He has called on Cubans, especially the youth, to "debate fearlessly" and help devise solutions for the failures. Candid discussions at the grassroots level have proliferated.
Yet like his brother, Raúl has no intention of opening Cuba to free political speech or participation. While the number of Cubans willing to voice their discontent publicly is on the increase, so too is the brutality of government reprisals against would-be leaders of the dissident movement. By acknowledging state failures, Raúl is playing with fire, and if the lid is going to be kept on, those challenging the regime have to pay a price. As to his own future, in the leadership realignments he plans, he will probably move up one rank and assume command of the Communist Party as first secretary.
In an address last July dedicated primarily to massive failures in agriculture, Raúl called for "structural and conceptual" change. Given his past sympathetic references to the laws of supply and demand, his advocacy of liberalizing economic reforms in the 1990s, and the many for-profit enterprises his military officers have been encouraged to run, he probably plans to introduce market incentives in the countryside. That might prove the first step toward adopting something akin to the Chinese or Vietnamese economic development models.
It has been Raúl's preference since the earliest days of his partnership with Fidel to work inconspicuously in the background. As they have been doing since Fidel's confinement, others will represent Cuba abroad and preside at holiday events. Someone who is not named Castro will likely become Cuba's next president. There has never been a "third man" in the running for leadership. But legitimizing the longer-term succession is surely now one of Raúl's highest priorities. Politburo member and Vice President Carlos Lage is the leading candidate. A medical doctor 20 years younger than Raúl, Mr. Lage is widely considered an advocate of economic reform.
After nearly a half century of Fidel's suffocating control, the transition will be daunting. His successors are inheriting a bankrupt and broken system, a profoundly disgruntled populace, and acute economic problems. The worst of these are the dysfunctional public transportation and agricultural sectors, a housing shortage, decrepit infrastructure, unemployment and the widening gap in living standards between Cubans with access to hard currency and the more numerous poor who must subsist on worthless pesos.
And there is Hugo Chávez. Unlike Fidel, Raúl has no personal rapport with the mercurial Venezuelan president, and surely no desire to be subordinated to another narcissistic potentate just as he is finally close to escaping his brother's grip. But Cuba has become highly dependent economically on Venezuela. The value of the Chávez dole, mostly oil, reached between $3 billion and $4 billion last year, approaching the amounts once provided by the Soviet Union. Raúl would be loath to provoke the Venezuelan. Without his support, the Cuban economy would soon plunge into deep recession.
There is no way to know how skillfully Raúl Castro will lead and deal with inevitable crises once his brother is gone. He clearly wants to begin rectifying economic problems but knows that, for some time at least, he cannot broadly repudiate his brother's legacy. A powerful backlash could come from fidelista hard-liners in the leadership -- and perhaps from Mr. Chávez. In the end, however, it is the gamble Raúl will have to take.
Mr. Latell served as national intelligence officer for Latin America from 1990-1994 and is author of "After Fidel," (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: good govt will be popular
on: January 10, 2008, 07:57:59 AM
"I will venture to assert that no combination of designing men
under heaven will be capable of making a government unpopular
which is in its principles a wise and good one, and vigorous in
-- Alexander Hamilton (speech to the New York Ratifying Convention,
Reference: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Cabot Lodge,
ed., II, 29.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Defining Diversity Down
on: January 09, 2008, 05:41:16 PM
Defining Diversity Down
A proposal to make it easier to get into California colleges.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008 12:01 a.m. EST
The world gets more competitive every day, so why would California's education elites want to dumb down their public university admissions standards? The answer is to serve the modern liberal piety known as "diversity" while potentially thwarting the will of the voters.
The University of California Board of Admissions is proposing to lower to 2.8 from 3.0 the minimum grade point average for admission to a UC school. That 3.0 GPA standard has been in place for 40 years. Students would also no longer be required to take the SAT exams that test for knowledge of specific subjects, such as history and science.
UC Board of Admissions Chairman Mark Rashid says that, under this new system of "comprehensive review," the schools "can make a better and more fair determination of academic merit by looking at all the students' achievements." And it is true that test scores and grades do not take full account of the special talents of certain students. But the current system already leaves slots for students with specific skills, so if you think this change is about admitting more linebackers or piccolo players, you don't understand modern academic politics.
The plan would grant admissions officers more discretion to evade the ban on race and gender preferences imposed by California voters. Those limits became law when voters approved Proposition 209 in 1996, and state officials have been looking for ways around them ever since. "This appears to be a blatant attempt to subvert the law," says Ward Connerly, a former member of the University of California Board of Regents, who led the drive for 209. "Subjective admissions standards allow schools to substitute race and diversity for academic achievement."
One loser here would be the principle of merit-based college admissions. That principle has served the state well over the decades, helping to make some of its universities among the world's finest. Since 209, Asian-American students have done especially well, with students of Asian ethnicity at UCLA nearly doubling to 42% from 22%. Immigrants and the children of immigrants now outnumber native-born whites in most UC schools, so being a member of an ethnic minority is clearly not an inherent admissions handicap. Ironically, objective testing criteria were first introduced in many university systems, including California's, precisely to weed out discrimination favoring children of affluent alumni ahead of higher performing students.
The other big losers would be the overall level of achievement demanded in California public elementary and high schools. A recent study by the left-leaning Institute for Democracy, Education and Access at UCLA, the "California Educational Opportunity Report 2007," finds that "California lags behind most other states in providing fundamental learning conditions as well as in student outcomes." In 2005 California ranked 48th among states in the percentage of high-school kids who attend college. Only Mississippi and Arizona rated worse.
The UCLA study documents that the educational achievement gap between black and Latino children and whites and Asians is increasing in California at a troubling pace. Graduation rates are falling fastest for blacks and Latinos, as many of them are stuck in the state's worst public schools. The way to close that gap is by introducing more accountability and choice to raise achievement standards--admittedly hard work, especially because it means taking on the teachers unions.
Instead, the UC Board of Admissions proposal sounds like a declaration of academic surrender. It's one more depressing signal that liberal elites have all but given up on poor black and Hispanic kids. Because they don't think closing the achievement gap is possible, their alternative is to reduce standards for everyone. Diversity so trumps merit in the hierarchy of modern liberal values that they're willing to dumb down the entire university system to guarantee what they consider a proper mix of skin tones on campus.
A decade ago, California voters spoke clearly that they prefer admissions standards rooted in the American tradition of achievement. In the months ahead, the UC Board of Regents will have to decide which principle to endorse, and their choice will tell us a great deal about the future path of American society.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy
on: January 09, 2008, 04:55:35 PM
By MIGUEL HELFT
Published: December 11, 2007
OAKLAND, Calif., Dec. 10 - Will privacy sell?
Skip to next paragraph
Blogrunner: Reactions From Around the Web
Ask.com is betting it will. The fourth-largest search engine company will
begin a service today called AskEraser, which allows users to make their
searches more private.
Ask.com and other major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft
typically keep track of search terms typed by users and link them to a
computer's Internet address, and sometimes to the user. However, when
AskEraser is turned on, Ask.com discards all that information, the company
Ask, a unit of IAC/InterActiveCorp based in Oakland, hopes that the privacy
protection will differentiate it from more prominent search engines like
Google. The service will be conspicuously displayed on Ask.com's main search
page, as well as on the pages of the company's specialized services for
finding videos, images, news and blogs. Unlike typical online privacy
controls that can be difficult for average users to find or modify, people
will be able to turn AskEraser on or off with a single click.
"It works like a light switch," said Doug Leeds, senior vice president for
product management at Ask.com. Mr. Leeds said the service would be a selling
point with consumers who were particularly alert about protecting their
"I think that it is a step forward," said Ari Schwartz, deputy director of
the Center for Democracy and Technology, about AskEraser. "It is the first
time that a large company is giving individuals choices that are so
But underscoring how difficult it is to completely erase one's digital
footprints, the information typed by users of AskEraser into Ask.com will
not disappear completely. Ask.com relies on Google to deliver many of the
ads that appear next to its search results. Under an agreement between the
two companies, Ask.com will continue to pass query information on to Google.
Mr. Leeds acknowledged that AskEraser cannot promise complete anonymity, but
said it would greatly increase privacy protections for users who want them,
as Google is contractually constrained in what it can do with that
information. A Google spokesman said the company uses the information to
place relevant ads and to fight certain online scams.
Some privacy experts doubt that concerns about privacy are significant
enough to turn a feature like AskEraser into a major selling point for
Ask.com. The search engine accounted for 4.7 percent of all searches
conducted in the United States in October, according to comScore, which
ranks Internet traffic. By comparison, Google accounted for 58.5 percent,
Yahoo for 22.9 percent and Microsoft for 9.7 percent.
"My gut tells me that basically it is not going to be a competitive
advantage," said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon
Institute, an independent research company "I think people will look at it
and see it as a cool thing, and they may use it. But I don't think it will
be a market differentiator."
Mr. Ponemon said many surveys showed that while about three in four
Americans said they were concerned about privacy, their concern was not
sufficient to make them change their behavior toward sharing personal
information. About 8 percent of Americans were concerned enough about
privacy to routinely take steps to protect it, the surveys showed.
"Privacy only becomes important to the average consumer when something blows
up," Mr. Ponemon said.
Of course, something has already blown up. Last year, AOL released the
queries conducted by more than 650,000 Americans over three months to foster
academic research. While the queries where associated only with a number,
rather than a computer's address, reporters for The New York Times and
others were quickly able to identify some of the people who had done the
queries. The queries released by AOL included searches for deeply private
things like "depression and medical leave" and "fear that spouse
The incident heightened concerns about the risks posed by the systematic
collection of growing amounts of data about people's online activities. In
response, search companies have sought to reassure consumers that they are
serious about privacy.
While companies say they need to keep records of search strings to improve
the quality of search results and fight online scams, they have put limits
on the time they retain user data.
Google and Microsoft make search logs largely anonymous or discard them
after 18 months. Yahoo does the same after 13 months.
In recent months, privacy has emerged as an increasingly important issue
affecting major Internet companies. Several consumer advocacy groups,
legislators and competitors, for instance, have expressed concerns about the
privacy implications of the proposed $3.1 billion merger between Google and
the ad serving company DoubleClick, which is being reviewed by regulators in
the United States and Europe.
Last month, the Federal Trade Commission held a forum to discuss concerns
over online ads that appear based on a user's Web visits. And just last
week, the popular social networking site Facebook suffered an embarrassing
setback when it was forced to rein in an advertising plan that would have
informed users of their friends' buying activities on the Web. After more
than 50,000 of its members objected, the company apologized and said it
would allow users to turn off the feature.
In some cases, companies have argued that they are required to keep records
of search queries for some time to comply with laws in various countries.
"Those arguments are seriously undermined when their competitors erase data
immediately," said Chris Hoofnagle, a senior lawyer at the Samuelson Law,
Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley.
Mr. Hoofnagle and other privacy advocates said they hoped AskEraser would
pressure Google and others to offer a similar feature. A Google spokesman
said the company takes privacy seriously but is not currently developing a
service to immediately discard search queries.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: RKBA
on: January 09, 2008, 04:54:26 PM
This is why we were supposed to have militias, instead of a standing army.
The armed populace was supposed to be the final check in our system of
checks and balances:
The federal and State governments are in fact but different agents and
trustees of the people . . the adversaries of the Constitution seem to have
lost sight of the people altogether in their reasonings on this subject; and
to have viewed these different establishments not only as mutual rivals and
enemies, but as uncontrolled by any common superior in their efforts to
usurp the authorities of each other. These gentlemen must here be reminded
of their error. They must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the
derivative may be found, resides in the people alone . .
James Madison Federalist 46. According to Tench Coxe, another prominent
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / CCW Self-Defense in Memphis, TN
on: January 09, 2008, 04:51:40 PM
With more people carrying guns, self-defense killings on increase
By Christopher Conley
Saturday, January 5, 2008
The number of justifiable homicides in Memphis jumped from 11 in 2006 to 32 in 2007.
No one is sure why, but one man has a theory.
"The thugs have started running into people who can protect themselves," said Tom Givens, owner and instructor at the firearms training school RangeMaster, 2611 S. Mendenhall in Memphis.
Police detectives and prosecutors don't think it's that simple, and they acknowledge the spike could be a one-time occurrence.
"It's hard to put your finger on it," said police Lt. Joseph Scott. "There are more handgun carry permits, there is more education, but you can't say that's the reason."
More people are getting carry permits and more people know their rights. As many as 35,000 people in Shelby County have carry permits, which means they have had some training on the laws governing self-defense.
The education, Givens says, is "trickling down" to friends and family members.
There were 19 fewer criminal homicides in 2007 compared to 2006. There were fewer gang killings as well, which are less likely to be viewed as justified, and there were fewer beating deaths, which, again, are rarely justifiable.
But there were more deadly shootings by law enforcement officers last year -- four by Memphis police, including one by an officer assigned to a federal fugitive task force. There was also one by a Shelby County sheriff's deputy and one by a University of Tennessee officer. All were found to be what internal affairs investigators term "good shoots."
Tennessee law gives citizens the right to defend themselves if they have a reasonable and imminent fear of harm from a carjacker, rapist, burglar or other violent assailant. They can also employ deadly force to protect another person.
And while a diminishing number of states require citizens to try to avoid a confrontation before using deadly force, Tennessee does not have such a "retreat law."
When someone claims self-defense, it is the burden of the prosecutors to refute that claim. Tie goes to the shooter.
"The state has to prove it was not justified. ... We have the burden of proof," said Asst. Dist. Atty. Tom Henderson, a member of the review team that determines whether killings are justified.
Even if the shooting is found to be justified, the shooter often suffers trauma. Even if the shooter is a police officer.
Henderson has seen one trend: "The more the public is afraid of crime, the less concerned they are with criminals being shot." But he can't say that has affected the totals for justifiable homicides.
When someone claims self-defense, detectives often have to dig to determine what happened.
They look at the forensic evidence to see if it matches up with the shooter's story. What does the gunshot look like? Is it at the right angle, the right distance? Did anyone see a gun?
Recently, a killing that looked like a case of a citizen defending himself and his girlfriend from a burglar had an odd twist.
Investigators said Antionita Clay, 31, called boyfriend Christopher Jones and told him someone had broken into her home and might still be there.
Jones went to Clay's Camelot Lane apartment and confronted Asa Marmon, 22, who had a stun gun. When Marmon lunged at Jones, Jones shot him.
Clay filed a burglary report and denied knowing Marmon, but investigators quickly learned that Clay and Marmon were involved sexually.
Clay told police she knew Jones had a handgun and she wanted Jones to scare Marmon.
Jones told police he thought he was confronting a burglar or rapist based on what Clay told him. Prosecutors decided Jones was justified in killing Marmon, but they still charged Clay on Dec. 28 with reckless homicide.
- Chris Conley: 529-2595
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crimes using knives
on: January 09, 2008, 03:57:14 PM
Man stabs self with knives in pants
Man accused of stealing hunting knives hidden in waistband trips, stabs self
The Associated Press
updated 6:23 p.m. ET, Tues., Jan. 8, 2008
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A man who hid hunting knives in his pants to try to steal them from a western Michigan store tripped while fleeing and stabbed himself in the abdomen, police say.
The suspect was hospitalized after Monday night's attempted theft from a Meijer Inc. superstore in Grand Rapids and is expected to face a misdemeanor shoplifting charge, police say.
The wounds did not appear to be life-threatening, The Grand Rapids Press reported.
The man had put about $300 worth of hunting knives in his waistband, police told WZZM-TV. Police say he tried to leave the store, but Meijer employees confronted him and a scuffle followed.
The man then fell and was stabbed by the knives he had hidden in his clothing, police said. They said it happened about 5:40 p.m.
"The man was taken to the hospital," said Meijer spokesman Frank Giuliano. "We are cooperating with the investigation by police."
Police said the suspect has a record of retail fraud.
"I saw a man laying down on the mat by the carts, a knife by him with blood on the full blade of the knife," shopper Heather Dodd told WOOD-TV. "It was not a dull kitchen knife or a sharp butcher's knife, it was somewhere in between.
"Someone was holding him down so I just walked around him, grabbed my cart, made sure everything was OK and got out of the way."
© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22560281/?gt1=10755
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: January 09, 2008, 10:44:49 AM
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The Lancet's Political Hit
January 9, 2008
Three weeks before the 2006 elections, the British medical journal Lancet published a bombshell report estimating that casualties in Iraq had exceeded 650,000 since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. We know that number was wildly exaggerated. The news is that now we know why.
It turns out the Lancet study was funded by anti-Bush partisans and conducted by antiwar activists posing as objective researchers. It also turns out the timing was no accident. You can find the fascinating details in the current issue of National Journal magazine, thanks to reporters Neil Munro and Carl Cannon. And sadly, that may be the only place you'll find them. While the media were quick to hype the original Lancet report -- within a week of its release it had been featured on 25 news shows and in 188 newspaper and magazine articles -- something tells us this debunking won't get the same play.
The Lancet death toll was more than 10 times what had been estimated by the U.S. and Iraqi governments, and even by human rights groups. Asked about the study on the day it was released, President Bush said, "I don't consider it a credible report." Neither did the Pentagon and top British authorities. To put the 655,000 number in perspective, consider that fewer Americans died in the Civil War, our bloodiest conflict.
Skeptics at the time (including us) pointed to the Lancet study's manifold methodological flaws. The high body count was an extrapolation based on a sampling of households and locations that was far too small to render reliable results. What the National Journal adds is that the Lancet study was funded by billionaire George Soros's Open Society Institute. Mr. Soros is a famous critic of the Iraq campaign and well-known partisan, having spent tens of millions trying to defeat Mr. Bush in 2004.
But "Soros is not the only person associated with the Lancet study who had one eye on the data and the other on the U.S. political calendar," write Messrs. Munro and Cannon. Two co-authors, Gilbert Burnham and Les Roberts of Johns Hopkins University, told the reporters that they opposed the war from the outset and sent their report to the Lancet on the condition that it be published before the election.
Mr. Roberts, who opposed removing Saddam from power, sought the Democratic nomination for New York's 24th Congressional District in 2006. Asked why he ran, Mr. Roberts replied, "It was a combination of Iraq and [Hurricane] Katrina."
Then there is Lancet Editor Richard Horton, "who agreed to rush the study into print, with an expedited peer review process and without seeing the surveyors' original data," report Mr. Munro and Mr. Cannon. He has also made no secret of his politics. "At a September 2006 rally in Manchester, England, Horton declared, 'This axis of Anglo-American imperialism extends its influence through war and conflict, gathering power and wealth as it goes, so millions of people are left to die in poverty and disease,'" they write. See YouTube for more.
We also learn that the key person involved in collecting the Lancet data was Iraqi researcher Riyadh Lafta, who has failed to follow the customary scientific practice of making his data available for inspection by other researchers. Mr. Lafta had been an official in Saddam's ministry of health when the dictator was attempting to end international sanctions against Iraq. He wrote articles asserting that many Iraqis were dying from cancer and other diseases caused by spent U.S. uranium shells from the Gulf War. According to National Journal, the Lancet studies "of Iraqi war deaths rest on the data provided by Lafta, who operated with little American supervision and has rarely appeared in public or been interviewed about his role."
In other words, the Lancet study could hardly be more unreliable. Yet it was trumpeted by the political left because it fit a narrative that they wanted to believe. And it wasn't challenged by much of the press because it told them what they wanted to hear. The truth was irrelevant.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin
on: January 09, 2008, 08:57:51 AM
Some interesting history in this piece:
Mrs. Clinton Smears Ike
How desperate is Hillary Clinton in the face of the Obama juggernaut? So desperate that she is smearing a genuine war hero. And we seem to be the first to notice it.
The Politico's Ben Smith set off a bit of a kerfuffle yesterday when he noted that Mrs. Clinton, in an interview with Fox News's Major Garrett, seemed to be likening front-runner Barack Obama to Martin Luther King, and not in a good way:
[Mrs.] Clinton rejoined the running argument over hope and "false hope" in an interview in Dover this afternoon, reminding Fox's Major Garrett that while Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on behalf of civil rights, President Lyndon Johnson was the one who got the legislation passed. . . .
"Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act," Clinton said. "It took a president to get it done."
Josh Marshall weighed in with a halfhearted defense of Mrs. Clinton. He quotes her at length:
"I would, and I would point to the fact that that Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he was able to get through Congress something that President Kennedy was hopeful to do, the President before had not even tried, but it took a president to get it done. That dream became a reality, the power of that dream became real in people's lives because we had a president who said we are going to do it, and actually got it accomplished."
"It's an ambiguous statement," Marshall allows. "But her reference is to different presidents--Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, one of whom inspired but did relatively little legislatively and Johnson who did a lot legislatively, though he was rather less than inspiring. Quite apart from the merits of Obama and Clinton, it's not a bad point about Kennedy and LBJ."
Smith then defended his interpretation. What both of them missed was that passing mention about the Civil Rights Act being something "the president before had not even tried." In context, it is clear that this is a reference to the president before Kennedy--that is, Dwight Eisenhower--not to Kennedy himself, who did in fact propose civil rights legislation in 1963 but died before Congress could pass it.
This, however, is a smear against Ike, who was a much better civil-rights president than he typically gets credit for. As Bruce Bartlett explains in "Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party's Buried Past" (available from the OpinionJournal bookstore):
In his January 10, 1957, State of the Union Address, Eisenhower renewed his request for civil rights legislation, which had passed the House but died in the Senate in the previous Congress due to Southern Democratic delaying tactics. . . .
Everyone knew that the critical fight on the civil rights bill would be in the Senate. . . . In that body, the key figure was Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson, who represented the [former] Confederate state of Texas and had been installed in his position by Southern Democrats precisely in order to block civil rights legislation. Until the 1950s, Johnson's record of opposition to all civil rights legislation was spotless. But he was ambitious and wanted to be president. . . .
After dragging his feet on the civil rights bill throughout much of 1957, Johnson finally came to the conclusion that the tide had turned in favor of civil rights and he needed to be on the right side of the issue if he hoped to become president. . . .
At the same time, the Senate's master tactician and principal opponent of the civil rights bill, Democrat Richard B. Russell of Georgia, saw the same handwriting on the wall but came to a different conclusion. He realized that the support was no longer there for an old-fashioned Democrat filibuster. . . . So Russell adopted a different strategy this time of trying to amend the civil rights bill so as to minimize its impact. Behind the scenes, Johnson went along with Russell's strategy of not killing the civil rights bill, but trying to neuter it as much as possible. . . .
Eisenhower was disappointed at not being able to produce a better piece of legislation. "I wanted a much stronger civil rights bill in '57 than I could get," he later lamented. "But the Democrats . . . wouldn't let me have it."
Liberals criticized Eisenhower for getting such a modest bill at the end of the day. But Johnson argued that it was historically important because it was the first civil rights bill to pass Congress since 1875. "Once you break virginity," he said, "it'll be easier next time."
To put it mildly, LBJ was not a consistent advocate of racial equality. Bartlett (both in his book and in this article) quotes LBJ's explanation of why he backed the Civil Rights Act of 1957:
"These Negroes, they're getting pretty uppity these days and that's a problem for us since they've got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we've got to do something about this, we've got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference. For if we don't move at all, then their allies will line up against us and there'll be no way of stopping them, we'll lose the filibuster and there'll be no way of putting a brake on all sorts of wild legislation. It'll be Reconstruction all over again."
You can see where Mrs. Clinton, with her finger-to-the-wind approach to some of today's most pressing issues, might feel a certain kinship with LBJ. On the other hand, it's not at all clear that LBJ's presidency was a necessary condition for the passage of the Civil Rights Act. If Richard Nixon, Eisenhower's vice president, had won the 1960 election and LBJ had remained in the Senate as majority leader, it's easy to imagine the latter--with an eye toward the presidency in 1964 or '68--shepherding the Civil Rights Act through the Senate and the former signing it.
LBJ was, after all, a very effective legislator. Can the same be said of New York's junior senator? Oddly, Mrs. Clinton has chosen to compare herself to a deeply flawed president. Odder still, the comparison ends up underscoring her failure to measure up.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: Creator's law, Nature's law
on: January 09, 2008, 07:37:32 AM
"To grant that there is a supreme intelligence who rules the
world and has established laws to regulate the actions of his
creatures; and still to assert that man, in a state of nature,
may be considered as perfectly free from all restraints of law
and government, appears to a common understanding altogether
irreconcilable. Good and wise men, in all ages, have embraced
a very dissimilar theory. They have supposed that the deity,
from the relations we stand in to himself and to each other, has
constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is indispensably
obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institution
whatever. This is what is called the law of nature....Upon this
law depend the natural rights of mankind."
-- Alexander Hamilton (The Farmer Refuted, 1775)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy
on: January 08, 2008, 12:25:38 PM
I like the FAIR tax idea a lot in theory-- but here's an attack on it:
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By JERRY BOWYER
January 8, 2008; Page A20
If talk show hosts ran the world, we'd have a national sales tax. We'd have no immigration, and we would have long ago carpet-bombed the entire Middle East. We'd also have something called "fair trade," which means no real trade at all.
But they don't run the world; they just pretend that if they did, everything would be great. I would be a lot more confident that this was true if I didn't know so many talk show hosts. I would be even more confident if they had really run anything of consequence before. But I do, and they haven't.
I mention this because last week Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucus partly on a movement incubated in large part on radio talk shows: the FairTax. If words were deeds, then life would be great. We could simply declare that by switching from a federal income tax to a national retail sales tax, tax cheating would end, code complexity would be a thing of the past, and illegal immigrants would start paying taxes. And, of course, we'd switch into high economic growth -- forever.
The problem is that none of this would happen. People would simply switch from cheating on income taxes to cheating on sales taxes.
Small vendors often fail to withhold sales taxes. Buyers cheat on sales taxes now. They often fail to pay taxes on interstate catalogue sales. They buy some goods in black markets.
This doesn't happen much because sales taxes are much lower than income taxes, but if that were reversed, consumers would cheat more. Look at cigarettes. Organized crime sells smokes on the black market in jurisdictions that impose high cigarette taxes.
There is a large category of economic activity designed to avoid sales taxes -- it's called smuggling. We don't hear that word much anymore, because we're not a sales-tax or tariff-based system anymore. Increase sales taxes to a combined state and federal 30%, up from a state-based 6% now, and watch the dodging begin.
The immigrant stuff is nonsense on stilts. Let me ask you this: If they're here illegally, why won't they also buy and sell goods on the black market?
Then there's the complexity argument. You don't think the lobbyists and lawyers will get involved in this, looking for exemptions on houses, medical services and education? You're going to put a 30% tax on my home purchase, and my doctor visits and my kids' tuition? Yeah, great idea.
And what about business transactions? If you tax business-to-business transactions, then you'll set off a wave of corporate consolidation. Instead of buying from a supplier at a 30% markup, I'll just buy my supplier and be tax free. And what about financial firms like Goldman Sachs, which spend most of their money on payroll and investments, and very little on goods and services? Goldman will pay taxes on what? Paper clips?
If, on the other hand, we institute the most widely supported version of the national sales tax, then business transactions are to be exempted. In addition to the colossal job of selling America on a zero tax rate for business, a rigorous definition of the term "business transaction" would have to be provided. What is a business transaction, exactly? I write articles for publication. I consider it a hobby. Sometimes I get paid. Should I pay sales taxes on money I earn for writing this article?
What about the Internet connection I used to send it? Should readers pay taxes on the connection they use to read my article? What if a reader uses it for his job? If he is a financial adviser, then no, but otherwise it's yes? Will I pay taxes on gas I used to drive to the studio to talk about this article? What if I stop to buy my son Jack a birthday present on the way home?
I'm a recovering tax accountant (and not a good one at that) and I've got 50 ways to avoid this tax swimming around in my head. What about the really smart guys?
And what about transition rules? There are millions of transactions that are, at any given moment, occurring over an extended time. The most obvious example is retirement. I defer taxes now, for retirement later. So I make a decision based on an income-tax regime that doesn't make any sense in a sales-tax regime. Do I get my money back? What about Roth IRAs? I pay income taxes on the money now, and then pay again later when I spend it during retirement? Double taxation isn't really a "fair" tax, is it?
These are the easy-to-see cases, but what about the incredible variety of tax questions raised by installment sales? Inventory accounting? Wholesale purchases? Ebay?
None of this matters anyway. We will never make this change. The 16th Amendment will not be repealed in favor of a tax vigorously opposed by an army of restaurants, pubs and retail stores. It's hard to get good ideas through the ratification process; imagine how hard it would be to push this stinker. In point of fact, the FairTax serves one main purpose right now: It gives Mr. Huckabee the chance to sum up his economic plan in one line. And that just doesn't seem, well, fair.
Mr. Bowyer is chief economist of BenchMark Financial Network and a CNBC contributor.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: January 08, 2008, 10:54:07 AM
Bush of Arabia
This U.S. president is the most consequential the Middle East has ever seen.
BY FOUAD AJAMI
Tuesday, January 8, 2008 12:01 a.m. EST
It was fated, or "written," as the Arabs would say, that George W. Bush, reared in Midland, Texas, so far away from the complications of the foreign world, would be the leader to take America so deep into Arab and Islamic affairs.
This is not a victory lap that President Bush is embarking upon this week, a journey set to take him to Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian territories, the Saudi Kingdom, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Mr. Bush by now knows the heartbreak and guile of that region. After seven years and two big wars in that "Greater Middle East," after a campaign against the terror and the malignancies of the Arab world, there will be no American swagger or stridency.
But Mr. Bush is traveling into the landscape and setting of his own legacy. He is arguably the most consequential leader in the long history of America's encounter with those lands.
Baghdad isn't on Mr. Bush's itinerary, but it hangs over, and propels, his passage. A year ago, this kind of journey would have been unthinkable. The American project in Iraq was reeling, and there was talk of America casting the Iraqis adrift. It was then that Mr. Bush doubled down--and, by all appearances, his brave wager has been vindicated.
His war has given birth to a new Iraq. The shape of this new Iraq is easy to discern, and it can be said with reasonable confidence that the new order of things in Baghdad is irreversible. There is Shiite primacy, Kurdish autonomy in the north, and a cushion for the Sunni Arabs--in fact a role for that community slightly bigger than its demographic weight. It wasn't "regional diplomacy" that gave life to this new Iraq. The neighboring Arabs had fought it all the way.
But there is a deep streak of Arab pragmatism, a grudging respect for historical verdicts, and for the right of conquest. How else did the ruling class in Arabia, in the Gulf and in Jordan beget their kingdoms?
In their animus toward the new order in Iraq, the purveyors of Arab truth--rulers and pundits alike--said that they opposed this new Iraq because it had been delivered by American power, and is now in the American orbit. But from Egypt to Kuwait and Bahrain, a Pax Americana anchors the order of the region. In Iraq, the Pax Americana, hitherto based in Sunni Arab lands, has acquired a new footing in a Shiite-led country, and this is the true source of Arab agitation.
To hear the broadcasts of Al Jazeera, the Iraqis have sinned against the order of the universe for the American military presence in their midst. But a vast American air base, Al Udeid, is a stone's throw away from Al Jazeera's base in Qatar.
There is a standoff of sorts between the American project in Iraq on the one side, and the order of Arab power on the other. The Arabs could not thwart or overturn this new Iraq, but the autocrats--battered, unnerved by the fall of Saddam Hussein, worried about the whole spectacle of free elections in Iraq--survived Iraq's moment of enthusiasm.
They hunkered down, they waited out the early euphoria of the Iraq war, they played up the anarchy and violence of Iraq and fed that violence as well. In every way they could they manipulated the nervousness of their own people in the face of this new, alien wave of liberty. Better 60 years of tyranny than one day of anarchy, goes a (Sunni) Arab maxim.
Hosni Mubarak takes America's coin while second-guessing Washington at every turn. He is the cop on the beat, suspicious of liberty. He faced a fragile, democratic opposition in the Kifaya (Enough!) movement a few years back. But the autocracy held on. Pharaoh made it clear that the distant, foreign power was compelled to play on his terms. There was never a serious proposal to cut off American aid to the Mubarak regime.
In the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf, a new oil windfall has rewritten the terms of engagement between Pax Americana and the ruling regimes. It is a supreme, and cruel, irony that Mr. Bush travels into countries now awash with money: From 9/11 onwards, America has come to assume the burden of a great military struggle--and the financial costs of it all--while the oil lands were to experience a staggering transfusion of wealth.
Saudi Arabia has taken in nearly $900 billion in oil revenues the last six years; the sparsely populated emirate of Abu Dhabi is said to dispose of a sovereign wealth fund approximating a trillion dollars. The oil states have drawn down the public debt that had been a matter of no small consequence to the disaffection of their populations. There had been a time, in the lean 1990s, when debt had reached 120% of Saudi GDP; today it is 5%. There is swagger in that desert world, a sly sense of deliverance from the furies.
The battle against jihadism has been joined by the official religious establishment, stripping the radicals of their religious cover. Consider the following fatwa issued by Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdallah al-Sheikh, the Mufti of the Kingdom--the highest religious jurist in Saudi Arabia--last October. There is evasion in the fatwa, but a reckoning as well:
"It has been noted that over the last several years some of our sons have left Saudi lands with the aim of pursuing jihad abroad in the path of God. But these young men do not have enough knowledge to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and this was one reason why they fell into the trap of suspicious elements and organizations abroad that toyed with them in the name of jihad."
Traditional Wahhabism has always stipulated obedience to the ruler, and this Wahhabi jurist was to re-assert it in the face of freelance preachers: "The men of religion are in agreement that there can be no jihad, except under the banner of wali al-amr [the monarch] and under his command. The journey abroad without his permission is a violation, and a disobedience, of the faith."
Iraq is not directly mentioned in this fatwa, but it stalks it: This is the new destination of the jihadists, and the jurist wanted to cap the volcano.
The reform of Arabia is not a courtesy owed an American leader on a quick passage, and one worried about the turmoil in the oil markets at that. It is an imperative of the realm, something owed Arabia's young people clamoring for a more "normal" world. The brave bloggers, and the women and young professionals of the realm, have taken up the cause of reform. What American power owes them is the message given them over the last few years--that they don't dwell alone.
True to the promise, and to the integrity, of his campaign against terror, Mr. Bush will not lay a wreath at the burial place of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah. This is as it should be. Little more than five years ago, Mr. Bush held out to the Palestinians the promise of statehood, and of American support for that goal, but he made that support contingent on a Palestinian break with the cult of violence. He would not grant Arafat any of the indulgence that Bill Clinton had given him for eight long years. It was the morally and strategically correct call.
The cult of the gun had wrecked the political life of the Palestinians. They desperately needed an accommodation with Israel, but voted, in early 2006, for Hamas.
The promise of Palestinian statehood still stood, but the force, and the ambition, of Mr. Bush's project in Iraq, and the concern over Iran's bid for power, had shifted the balance of things in the Arab world toward the Persian Gulf, and away from the Palestinians. The Palestinians had been reduced to their proper scale in the Arab constellation. It was then, and when the American position in Iraq had been repaired, that Mr. Bush picked up the question of Palestine again, perhaps as a courtesy to his secretary of state.
The Annapolis Conference should be seen in that light: There was some authority to spare. It is to Mr. Bush's singular credit that he was the first American president to recognize that Palestine was not the central concern of the Arabs, or the principal source of the political maladies.
The realists have always doubted this Bush campaign for freedom in Arab and Muslim lands. It was like ploughing the sea, they insisted. Natan Sharansky may be right that in battling for that freedom, Mr. Bush was a man alone, even within the councils of his own administration.
He had taken up the cause of Lebanon. The Cedar Revolution that erupted in 2005 was a child of his campaign for freedom. A Syrian dominion built methodically over three decades was abandoned in a hurry, so worried were the Syrians that American power might target their regime as well. In the intervening three years, Lebanon and its fractious ways were to test America's patience, with the Syrians doing their best to return Lebanon to its old captivity.
But for all the debilitating ways of Lebanon's sectarianism, Mr. Bush was right to back democracy. For decades, politically conscious Arabs had lamented America's tolerance for the ways of Arab autocracy, its resigned acceptance that such are the ways of "the East." There would come their way, in the Bush decade, an American leader willing to bet on their freedom.
"Those thankless deserts" was the way Winston Churchill, who knew a thing or two about this region, described those difficult lands. This is a region that aches for the foreigner's protection while feigning horror at the presence of strangers.
As is their habit, the holders of Arab power will speak behind closed doors to their American guest about the menace of the Persian power next door. But the Arabs have the demography, and the wealth, to balance the power of the Persians. If their world is now a battleground between Pax Americana and Iran, that is a stark statement on their weakness, and on the defects of the social contract between the Sunnis and the Shiites of the Arab world. America can provide the order that underpins the security of the Arabs, but there are questions of political and cultural reform which are tasks for the Arabs themselves.
Suffice it for them that George W. Bush was at the helm of the dominant imperial power when the world of Islam and of the Arabs was in the wind, played upon by ruinous temptations, and when the regimes in the saddle were ducking for cover, and the broad middle classes in the Arab world were in the grip of historical denial of what their radical children had wrought. His was the gift of moral and political clarity.
In America and elsewhere, those given reprieve by that clarity, and single-mindedness, have been taking this protection while complaining all the same of his zeal and solitude. In his stoic acceptance of the burdens after 9/11, we were offered a reminder of how nations shelter behind leaders willing to take on great challenges.
We scoffed, in polite, jaded company when George W. Bush spoke of the "axis of evil" several years back. The people he now journeys amidst didn't: It is precisely through those categories of good and evil that they describe their world, and their condition. Mr. Bush could not redeem the modern culture of the Arabs, and of Islam, but he held the line when it truly mattered. He gave them a chance to reclaim their world from zealots and enemies of order who would have otherwise run away with it.
Mr. Ajami teaches at Johns Hopkins University. He is author of "The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq," (Free Press, 2006), and a recipient of the Bradley Prize.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers:
on: January 08, 2008, 10:29:27 AM
The Patriot Post
Founders' Quote Daily
"Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among
the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of
their rights and liberties, and as these depend on spreading the
opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of
the country, and among the different orders of people, it shall be
the duty of legislators and magistrates... to cherish the interest
of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them."
-- John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776)
Reference: The Works of John Adams, Charles Adams, ed., 259.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: January 07, 2008, 12:26:50 PM
Outrageous that Fox did not include RP in the debates last night
Fox Under Fire for Excluding Ron Paul
Sunday, January 6, 2008 11:26 AM
By: Newsmax Staff
When Fox News hosts its Republican candidates forum Sunday night, one of the leading candidates won't be invited.
The Fox debate is excluding Texas Congressman Ron Paul, even though he polls higher in New Hampshire, has raised significantly more money, and is campaigning more in New Hampshire than Fred Thompson -- who is invited. The censorship of Paul has infuriated his loyal supporters, who note that he pulled 10 percent of the vote in Iowa, well ahead of Rudy Giuliani, who pulled just over 3 percent. Giuliani has also been invited to the Fox forum. Paul is also setting records in GOP fundraising, raking in $20 million in the last quarter alone.
New Hampshire Republicans are apparently not happy with Fox's arbitrary decision to exclude Paul. This weekened the New Hampshire Republican Party issued a press release announcing it had dropped its affiliation with the Fox Republican debate.
"The first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary serves a national purpose by giving all candidates an equal opportunity on a level playing field," said Republican Chairman Fergus Cullen. "Only in New Hampshire do lesser known, lesser funded underdogs have a fighting chance to establish themselves as national figures."
Paul's campaign is also angered by the Fox effort to cut out his voice.
"The New Hampshire Republican Party did the right thing by pulling its sponsorship for Fox's candidate forum," said Ron Paul 2008 spokesman Jesse Benton. "'Fox News' decision to exclude Congressman Paul is unfair, but it won't stop Dr. Paul's message of freedom, peace and prosperity from resonating with the people of New Hampshire."
The Fox decision is not going over well with New Hampshire voters or media who don't like New York-based media coming to their state to dictate news coverage. This past Thursday, the Manchester Union Leader, New Hampshire's major newspaper, published a front-page editorial blasting news organizations that do not invite all candidates to their forums. Fox said it decided to invite candidates who had received high standing in national polls, despite the fact small primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire will often back underdogs. Paul supporters believe the move is an effort to marginalize their candidate, who has been a strong critic of the Iraq war.
"Fight Fox," a new Web site organized by Paul backers, tells readers: "We need to send a message to Fox's Rupert Murdoch & his fellow Neocon buddies that he is not Musharraf and the US is not Pakistan, yet! Fox News cannot just stifle public opinion. debate and impact a primary election by excluding Ron Paul just because they don't like his message of freedom and liberty."
Paul seems to share that view. According to a report in the Boston Globe, he called Fox News a "propagandist" for the Iraq war.
Despite the hoopla, Fox is sticking to its guns: no Ron Paul.
"We look forward to presenting a substantive forum which will serve as the first program of its kind this election season," David Rhodes, vice president of Fox News, said in a statement.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reagan: City upon a hill
on: January 07, 2008, 12:07:10 PM
“Our party must be the party of the individual. It must not sell out the individual to cater to the group. No greater challenge faces our society today than ensuring that each one of us can maintain his dignity and his identity in an increasingly complex, centralized society. Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business... frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise. They are the residue of centralized bureaucracy, of government by a self-anointed elite. Our party must be based on the kind of leadership that grows and takes its strength from the people...
- ur cause must be to rediscover, reassert and reapply America s spiritual heritage to our national affairs. Then with God s help we shall indeed be as a city upon a hill with the eyes of all people upon us.” —Ronald Reagan
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: The Senate and appointments; S. Adams: Leaders
on: January 07, 2008, 12:01:02 PM
"In forming the Senate, the great anchor of the Government, the
questions as they came within the first object turned mostly on
the mode of appointment, and the duration of it."
-- James Madison (letter to Thomas Jefferson, 24 October 1787)
Reference: Madison: Writings, Rakove, ed., Library of America (145)
“If men of wisdom and knowledge, of moderation and temperance, of patience, fortitude and perseverance, of sobriety and true republican simplicity of manners, of zeal for the honor of the Supreme Being and the welfare of the commonwealth; if men possessed of these other excellent qualities are chosen to fill the seats of government, we may expect that our affairs will rest on a solid and permanent foundation.” —Samuel Adams
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy
on: January 07, 2008, 11:16:14 AM
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A Supply-Side World
January 7, 2008; Page A12
Democrats in Congress remain committed to raising taxes on grounds that tax rates don't much matter to economic growth, and in any case they only help the rich. They may be the last public officials on the planet to believe this. In recent weeks alone, some of the unlikeliest political leaders have endorsed tax rate cuts in the name of making their economies better.
Start in Europe, where Socialist Party Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero pledged in December that if re-elected, "One of the first decisions I would take is to eliminate the wealth tax [up to 2.5%]," which he says is one of the highest in Europe and "punishes savings." Mr. Zapatero is no conservative. But he's joining the European march down the Laffer Curve on taxes, having already phased in reductions in Spain's corporate tax rate to 30% from 35% and its personal income tax rate to 43% from 45%.
Like France and Germany, Spain is cutting rates because of the tax competition from their European Union neighbors such as Ireland and East Europe. There are now at least 11 nations formerly behind the Iron Curtain with flat rate taxes of 25% or lower. On January 1, a new flat tax of 10% became law in Bulgaria, replacing its progressive rate structure and as far as we know the lowest such rate in the world. The newly elected Polish parliament is also planning to cut taxes, though an earlier flat-tax proposal earned a veto threat from the president.
And this just in: In the Middle East, Kuwait has decided to slash its corporate income tax on foreign companies to 15% from 55%. Finance Minister Mostafa al-Shemali argued for the cut, noting that Kuwait attracted less than $300 million in foreign investment last year, compared to some $18 billion in lower-tax Saudi Arabia (which has a religious tax but no corporate or income tax on Saudi nationals). "This law will encourage foreign investors to enter Kuwait," says Ahmed Baqer, head of the parliament's finance panel.
It's getting lonelier all the time at the top for America, which with a corporate tax rate of 35% is one of the few developed nations left with a rate of more than 30%. Economist Dan Mitchell tracks these trends for the Cato Institute, and he finds that 26 developed nations have cut either personal or corporate income tax rates since 2005. Since 1980, OECD nations have sliced their average personal income tax rate by 24 percentage points, to 40% from 64%. Corporate tax rates have fallen by more than 20 percentage points. Foreign leaders have learned that, in a world of easy global capital flows, high tax rates chase away investment and entrepreneurs.
Some of these tax-cutting nations -- such as Estonia, Ireland, Russia and Spain -- have seen revenues rise even as rates have fallen. This is what turns socialists into supply-siders in Spain, if regrettably not in the U.S.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US consider "covert"
on: January 06, 2008, 05:33:38 PM
I confess bafflement and anger at the officials who leak these sorts of things to the press and the press that print them.
I also note the apparent cluelessness of our officials analysis from the perspective of the Indian article that I posted. I have no idea if the Indian article's point about the anger over the raid on the mosque is correct, I simply note the disparity.
Personally I find myself dubious of the effect of minor, incremental steps. The Whackostans/Taliban/AQ have repeatedly launched attacks both successful and unsuccessful against the US, UK, and other parts of Europe. To my way of thinking plenty of causus belli exists.
We helped Afg fight the Soviets, then left them alone. In return they gave AQ safe harbor to attack us and now the same folks (in Afg and the Whackostans) produce 90% of the world's heroin and opium while lecturing us about morality and decadence and continue to launch attacks upon the US, UK, and elsewhere in Europe. When I read “He is in South Waziristan agency, and let me tell you, getting him in that place means battling against thousands of people, hundreds of people who are his followers, the Mehsud tribe, if you get to him, and it will mean collateral damage,” my reaction is to wonder whether our incremental and incompetent dithering and meddling will ever get the job done. Perhaps a goodly dose of Jacksonian War will be required?
U.S. Considers New Covert Push Within Pakistan
By STEVEN LEE MYERS, DAVID E. SANGER and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: January 6, 2008
This article is by Steven Lee Myers, David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt.
The New York Times
Al Qaeda and the Taliban use the tribal areas as a base.
WASHINGTON — President Bush’s senior national security advisers are debating whether to expand the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and the military to conduct far more aggressive covert operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
The debate is a response to intelligence reports that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are intensifying efforts there to destabilize the Pakistani government, several senior administration officials said.
Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a number of President Bush’s top national security advisers met Friday at the White House to discuss the proposal, which is part of a broad reassessment of American strategy after the assassination 10 days ago of the Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. There was also talk of how to handle the period from now to the Feb. 18 elections, and the aftermath of those elections.
Several of the participants in the meeting argued that the threat to the government of President Pervez Musharraf was now so grave that both Mr. Musharraf and Pakistan’s new military leadership were likely to give the United States more latitude, officials said. But no decisions were made, said the officials, who declined to speak for attribution because of the highly delicate nature of the discussions.
Many of the specific options under discussion are unclear and highly classified. Officials said that the options would probably involve the C.I.A. working with the military’s Special Operations forces.
The Bush administration has not formally presented any new proposals to Mr. Musharraf, who gave up his military role last month, or to his successor as the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who the White House thinks will be more sympathetic to the American position than Mr. Musharraf. Early in his career, General Kayani was an aide to Ms. Bhutto while she was prime minister and later led the Pakistani intelligence service.
But at the White House and the Pentagon, officials see an opportunity in the changing power structure for the Americans to advocate for the expanded authority in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country. “After years of focusing on Afghanistan, we think the extremists now see a chance for the big prize — creating chaos in Pakistan itself,” one senior official said.
The new options for expanded covert operations include loosening restrictions on the C.I.A. to strike selected targets in Pakistan, in some cases using intelligence provided by Pakistani sources, officials said. Most counterterrorism operations in Pakistan have been conducted by the C.I.A.; in Afghanistan, where military operations are under way, including some with NATO forces, the military can take the lead.
The legal status would not change if the administration decided to act more aggressively. However, if the C.I.A. were given broader authority, it could call for help from the military or deputize some forces of the Special Operations Command to act under the authority of the agency.
The United States now has about 50 soldiers in Pakistan. Any expanded operations using C.I.A. operatives or Special Operations forces, like the Navy Seals, would be small and tailored to specific missions, military officials said.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who was on vacation last week and did not attend the White House meeting, said in late December that “Al Qaeda right now seems to have turned its face toward Pakistan and attacks on the Pakistani government and Pakistani people.”
In the past, the administration has largely stayed out of the tribal areas, in part for fear that exposure of any American-led operations there would so embarrass the Musharraf government that it could further empower his critics, who have declared he was too close to Washington.
Even now, officials say, some American diplomats and military officials, as well as outside experts, argue that American-led military operations on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan could result in a tremendous backlash and ultimately do more harm than good. That is particularly true, they say, if Americans were captured or killed in the territory.
In part, the White House discussions may be driven by a desire for another effort to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri. Currently, C.I.A. operatives and Special Operations forces have limited authority to conduct counterterrorism missions in Pakistan based on specific intelligence about the whereabouts of those two men, who have eluded the Bush administration for more than six years, or of other members of their terrorist organization, Al Qaeda, hiding in or near the tribal areas.
The C.I.A. has launched missiles from Predator aircraft in the tribal areas several times, with varying degrees of success. Intelligence officials said they believed that in January 2006 an airstrike narrowly missed killing Mr. Zawahri, who had attended a dinner in Damadola, a Pakistani village. But that apparently was the last real evidence American officials had about the whereabouts of their chief targets.
Critics said more direct American military action would be ineffective, anger the Pakistani Army and increase support for the militants. “I’m not arguing that you leave Al Qaeda and the Taliban unmolested, but I’d be very, very cautious about approaches that could play into hands of enemies and be counterproductive,” said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. Some American diplomats and military officials have also issued strong warnings against expanded direct American action, officials said.
Hasan Askari Rizvi, a leading Pakistani military and political analyst, said raids by American troops would prompt a powerful popular backlash against Mr. Musharraf and the United States.
In the wake of the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, many Pakistanis suspect that the United States is trying to dominate Pakistan as well, Mr. Rizvi said. Mr. Musharraf — who is already widely unpopular — would lose even more popular support.
“At the moment when Musharraf is extremely unpopular, he will face more crisis,” Mr. Rizvi said. “This will weaken Musharraf in a Pakistani context.” He said such raids would be seen as an overall vote of no confidence in the Pakistani military, including General Kayani.
The meeting on Friday, which was not publicly announced, included Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser; Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and top intelligence officials.
Spokesmen for the White House, the C.I.A. and the Pentagon declined to discuss the meeting, citing a policy against doing so. But the session reflected an urgent concern that a new Qaeda haven was solidifying in parts of Pakistan and needed to be countered, one official said.
Although some officials and experts have criticized Mr. Musharraf and questioned his ability to take on extremists, Mr. Bush has remained steadfast in his support, and it is unlikely any new measures, including direct American military action inside Pakistan, will be approved without Mr. Musharraf’s consent.
“He understands clearly the risks of dealing with extremists and terrorists,” Mr. Bush said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday. “After all, they’ve tried to kill him.”
The Pakistan government has identified a militant leader with links to Al Qaeda, Baitullah Mehsud, who holds sway in tribal areas near the Afghanistan border, as the chief suspect behind the attack on Ms. Bhutto. American officials are not certain about Mr. Mehsud’s complicity but say the threat he and other militants pose is a new focus. He is considered, they said, an “Al Qaeda associate.”
In an interview with foreign journalists on Thursday, Mr. Musharraf warned of the risk any counterterrorism forces — American or Pakistani — faced in confronting Mr. Mehsud in his native tribal areas.
“He is in South Waziristan agency, and let me tell you, getting him in that place means battling against thousands of people, hundreds of people who are his followers, the Mehsud tribe, if you get to him, and it will mean collateral damage,” Mr. Musharraf said.
The weeks before parliamentary elections — which were originally scheduled for Tuesday — are seen as critical because of threats by extremists to disrupt the vote. But it seemed unlikely that any additional American effort would be approved and put in place in that time frame.
Administration aides said that Pakistani and American officials shared the concern about a resurgent Qaeda, and that American diplomats and senior military officers had been working closely with their Pakistani counterparts to help bolster Pakistan’s counterterrorism operations.
Shortly after Ms. Bhutto’s assassination, Adm. William J. Fallon, who oversees American military operations in Southwest Asia, telephoned his Pakistani counterparts to ensure that counterterrorism and logistics operations remained on track.
In early December, Adm. Eric T. Olson, the new leader of the Special Operations Command, paid his second visit to Pakistan in three months to meet with senior Pakistani officers, including Lt. Gen. Muhammad Masood Aslam, commander of the military and paramilitary troops in northwest Pakistan. Admiral Olson also visited the headquarters of the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force of about 85,000 members recruited from border tribes that the United States is planning to help train and equip.
But the Pakistanis are still years away from fielding an effective counterinsurgency force. And some American officials, including Defense Secretary Gates, have said the United States may have to take direct action against militants in the tribal areas.
American officials said the crisis surrounding Ms. Bhutto’s assassination had not diminished the Pakistani counterterrorism operations, and there were no signs that Mr. Musharraf had pulled out any of his 100,000 forces in the tribal areas and brought them to the cities to help control the urban unrest.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yet more on Rosarito BC
on: January 06, 2008, 04:49:51 PM
As an Angeleno, news of Rosarito is of particular interest to me:
Tourists shun crime-hit Mexico beaches By ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press Writer
Sat Jan 5, 1:24 PM ET
PLAYAS DE ROSARITO, Mexico - Assaults on American tourists have brought hard times to hotels and restaurants that dot Mexican beaches just south of the border from San Diego.
Surfers and kayakers are frightened to hit the waters of the northern stretch of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, long popular as a weekend destination for U.S. tourists. Weddings have been canceled. Lobster joints a few steps from the Pacific were almost empty on the usually busy New Year's weekend.
Americans have long tolerated shakedowns by police who boost salaries by pulling over motorists for alleged traffic violations, and tourists know parts of Baja are a hotbed of drug-related violence. But a handful of attacks since summer by masked, armed bandits — some of whom used flashing lights to appear like police — marks a new extreme that has spooked even longtime visitors.
Lori Hoffman, a San Diego-area emergency room nurse, said she was sexually assaulted Oct. 23 by two masked men in front of her boyfriend, San Diego Surfing Academy owner Pat Weber, who was forced to kneel at gunpoint for 45 minutes. They were at a campground with about 30 tents, some 200 miles south of the border.
The men shot out windows of the couple's trailer and forced their way inside, ransacked the cupboards and left with about $7,000 worth of gear, including computers, video equipment and a guitar.
Weber, who has taught dozens of students in Mexico over the last 10 years, plans to surf in Costa Rica or New Zealand. "No more Mexico," said Hoffman, who reported the attack to Mexican police. No arrests have been made.
The Baja California peninsula is known worldwide for clean and sparsely populated beaches, lobster and margaritas and blue waters visited by whales and dolphins. Surfers love the waves; fishermen catch tuna, yellowtail and marlin. Food and hotels are cheap.
News of harrowing assaults on American tourists has begun to overshadow that appeal in the northern part of the peninsula, home to drug gangs and the seedy border city of Tijuana. The comparatively isolated southern tip, with its tony Los Cabos resort, remains safer and is still popular with Hollywood celebrities, anglers and other foreign tourists.
Local media and surfing Web sites that trumpeted Baja in the past have reported several frightening crimes that U.S. and Mexican officials consider credible. Longtime visitors are particularly wary of a toll road near the border that runs through Playas de Rosarito — Rosarito Beach.
In late November, as they returned from the Baja 1000 off-road race, a San Diego-area family was pulled over on the toll road by a car with flashing lights. Heavily armed men held the family hostage for two hours. They eventually released them but stole the family's truck.
Before dawn on Aug. 31, three surfers were carjacked on the same stretch of highway. Gunmen pulled them over in a car with flashing lights, forced them out of their vehicles and ordered one to kneel. They took the trucks and left the surfers.
Aqua Adventures of San Diego scrapped its annual three-day kayak trip to scout for whales in January, ending a run of about 10 years. Customers had already been complaining about longer waits to return to the U.S.; crime gave them another reason to stay away.
"People are just saying, 'No way.' They don't want to deal with the risk," said owner Jen Kleck, who has sponsored trips to Baja about five times a year but hasn't been since July.
Charles Smith, spokesman for the U.S. consulate in Tijuana, said the U.S. government has not found a widespread increase in attacks against Americans, but he acknowledged many crimes go unreported. The State Department has long warned motorists on Mexico's border to watch for people following them, though no new warnings have been issued.
Mexican officials acknowledge crime has threatened a lifeblood of Baja's economy. In Playas de Rosarito, a city of 130,000, police were forced to surrender their weapons last month for testing to determine links to any crimes. Heavily armed men have patrolled City Hall since a failed assassination attempt on the new police chief left one officer dead. On Thursday the bullet-riddled bodies of a Tijuana police official and another man were found dumped near the beach.
"We cannot minimize what's happening to public safety," said Oscar Escobedo Carignan, Baja's new secretary of tourism. "We're going to impose order ... We're indignant about what's happening."
Tourist visits to Baja totaled about 18 million in 2007, down from 21 million the previous year, Escobedo said. Hotel occupancy dropped about 5 percentage points to 53 percent.
Hugo Torres, owner of the storied Rosarito Beach Hotel and the city's new mayor, estimates the number of visitors to Rosarito Beach since summer is down 30 percent.
In the city's Puerto Nuevo tourist enclave, which offers $20 lobster dinners and $1 margaritas, restaurant managers said sales were down as much as 80 percent from last year. One Saturday afternoon in October, masked bandits wielding pistols walked the streets and kidnapped two men — an American and a Spanish citizen — who were later released unharmed. Two people who were with them were shot and wounded.
Omar Armendariz, who manages a Puerto Nuevo lobster restaurant, is counting on the new state and city governments to make tourists feel safer. He has never seen fewer visitors in his nine years on the job.
"It's dead," he said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No go zones for non-Muslims
on: January 06, 2008, 10:37:59 AM
Bishop warns of no-go zones for non-Muslims
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones
Last Updated: 12:39am GMT 06/01/2008
Islamic extremists have created "no-go" areas across Britain where it is too dangerous for non-Muslims to enter, one of the Church of England's most senior bishops warns today.
The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester and the Church's only Asian bishop, says that people of a different race or faith face physical attack if they live or work in communities dominated by a strict Muslim ideology.
Bishop Nazir-Ali warns that attempts are being made to give Britain an increasingly Islamic character
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, he compares the threat to the use of intimidation by the far-Right, and says that it is becoming increasingly difficult for Christianity to be the nation's public religion in a multifaith, multicultural society.
His comments come as a poll of the General Synod - the Church's parliament - shows that its senior leaders, including bishops, also believe that Britain is being damaged by large-scale immigration.
Bishop Nazir-Ali, who was born in Pakistan, gives warning that attempts are being made to give Britain an increasingly Islamic character by introducing the call to prayer and wider use of sharia law, a legal system based on the Koran.
In an attack on the Government's response to immigration and the influx of "people of other faiths to these shores", he blames its "novel philosophy of multiculturalism" for allowing society to become deeply divided, and accuses ministers of lacking a "moral and spiritual vision".
Echoing Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, who has said that the country is "sleepwalking into segregation", the bishop argues that multiculturalism has led to deep divisions.
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, has accused Muslims of promoting a kind of "voluntary apartheid" by shutting themselves in closed societies and demanding immunity from criticism.
In the Synod survey, to be published this week, bishops, senior clergy and influential churchgoers said that an increasingly multi-faith society threatens the country's Christian heritage and blamed the divisions on the Government's failure to integrate immigrants into their communities.
It found that more than one in three believe that a mass influx of people of other faiths is diluting the Christian nature of Britain and only a quarter feel that they have been integrated into society.
The overwhelming majority - 80 per cent - said that the Government has not upheld the place of religion in public life and up to 63 per cent fear that the Church will be disestablished within a generation, breaking a bond that has existed between the Church and State since the Reformation.
Calls for disestablishment have grown following research showing that attendance at Mass has overtaken the number of worshippers at Church of England Sunday services.
Bishop Nazir-Ali, whose father converted from Islam to Catholicism, was criticised by Ibrahim Mogra, of the Muslim Council of Britain. He said: "It's irresponsible for a man of his position to make these comments.
"He should accept that Britain is a multicultural society in which we are free to follow our religion at the same time as being extremely proud to be British. We wouldn't allow 'no-go' areas to happen. I smell extreme intolerance when people criticise multiculturalism without proper evidence of what has gone wrong."
Religious membership in Britain:
click to enlarge
But the Bishop's concerns are shared by other members of the General Synod.
The Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, the Bishop of Blackburn, which has a large Muslim community, said that it was increasingly difficult for Christians to share their faith in areas where there was a high proportion of immigrants of other faiths.
He believes that increasing pressure will be put on the Government to begin the process of disestablishment and end the preferential status given to the Church of England. "The writing is on the wall," he said.
Gordon Brown relinquished Downing Street's involvement in appointing bishops in one of his first facts as Prime Minister - a move viewed by some as a significant step towards disestablishment.
Last night, Mr Davis said: "Bishop Nazir-Ali has drawn attention to a deeply serious problem. The Government's confused and counter-productive approach risks creating a number of closed societies instead of one open, cohesive one. It generates the risk of encouraging radicalisation and creating home-grown terrorism."
Can anyone help explain the role of the Church of England and its connection with the British government?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: January 05, 2008, 07:47:51 PM
Body has two supplies of energy: glycogen and fat. When our body's hormones e.g. insulin are "in the zone" we burn both, but when we eat high glcemic foods we burn glycogen, but not fat. Brain requires glycogen, hence when we run low the body'd demand for fuel becomes irresistable. Over time weight ratchets upwards. But if we maitain hormonal balance by eating correct mix of carbs (low glycemic) protein and fat, then body burns fat as well as glycogen. Thus glycogen stores last longer before brain/body insists on more fuel and fat weight can truly be lost.
I hope I have explained this coherently and accurately, but guarantee neither
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Huckabee is for NWO?!?
on: January 05, 2008, 06:34:58 PM
Third post of the day:
Mike Huckabee recently named Richard Haas (the President of the CFR) as his advisor on foreign policy. CNN's WOLF BLITZER asked "Who are your principal foreign policy advisers, Governor?" Mike Huckabee responded: "Well, I have a number of people from whom I get policy. I'm talking to Frank Gaffney, I talk to Richard Haas.."
So what does Richard Haas believe in? Here's an article below which was written by Haas for the Tapei Times. It basically states the Bill of Rights and Constitution should be given up in favor of a cooperative world body run by elite consensus. Who needs individual rights in the techno-futuristic world police state? And you thought liberty was in jeopardy now? Just wait till you see what your children will have to deal with. Get activated folks, These police state freaks want to shape your future into a control grid enforced through the fear based reaction to state sponsored false flag terror.
State Sovereignty Must be Altered in Globalized Era
In the age of globalization, states should give up some sovereignty to world bodies in order to protect their own interests
By Richard Haass
Taipei Times - For 350 years, sovereignty -- the notion that states are the central actors on the world stage and that governments are essentially free to do what they want within their own territory but not within the territory of other states -- has provided the organizing principle of international relations. The time has come to rethink this notion.
The world's 190-plus states now co-exist with a larger number of powerful non-sovereign and at least partly (and often largely) independent actors, ranging from corporations to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), from terrorist groups to drug cartels, from regional and global institutions to banks and private equity funds. The sovereign state is influenced by them (for better and for worse) as much as it is able to influence them. The near monopoly of power once enjoyed by sovereign entities is being eroded.
As a result, new mechanisms are needed for regional and global governance that include actors other than states. This is not to argue that Microsoft, Amnesty International, or Goldman Sachs be given seats in the UN General Assembly, but it does mean including representatives of such organizations in regional and global deliberations when they have the capacity to affect whether and how regional and global challenges are met.
Less is more Moreover, states must be prepared to cede some sovereignty to world bodies if the international system is to function. This is already taking place in the trade realm. Governments agree to accept the rulings of the WTO because on balance they benefit from an international trading order even if a particular decision requires that they alter a practice that is their sovereign right to carry out.
Some governments are prepared to give up elements of sovereignty to address the threat of global climate change. Under one such arrangement, the Kyoto Protocol, which runs through 2012, signatories agree to cap specific emissions. What is needed now is a successor arrangement in which a larger number of governments, including the US, China, and India, accept emissions limits or adopt common standards because they recognize that they would be worse off if no country did.
All of this suggests that sovereignty must be redefined if states are to cope with globalization. At its core, globalization entails the increasing volume, velocity, and importance of flows -- within and across borders -- of people, ideas, greenhouse gases, goods, dollars, drugs, viruses, e-mails, weapons and a good deal else, challenging one of sovereignty's fundamental principles: the ability to control what crosses borders in either direction. Sovereign states increasingly measure their vulnerability not to one another, but to forces beyond their control.
Globalization thus implies that sovereignty is not only becoming weaker in reality, but that it needs to become weaker. States would be wise to weaken sovereignty in order to protect themselves, because they cannot insulate themselves from what goes on elsewhere. Sovereignty is no longer a sanctuary.
This was demonstrated by the American and world reaction to terrorism. Afghanistan's Taliban government, which provided access and support to al-Qaeda, was removed from power. Similarly, the US' preventive war against an Iraq that ignored the UN and was thought to possess weapons of mass destruction showed that sovereignty no longer provides absolute protection.
Imagine how the world would react if some government were known to be planning to use or transfer a nuclear device or had already done so. Many would argue -- correctly -- that sovereignty provides no protection for that state.
Necessity may also lead to reducing or even eliminating sovereignty when a government, whether from a lack of capacity or conscious policy, is unable to provide for the basic needs of its citizens. This reflects not simply scruples, but a view that state failure and genocide can lead to destabilizing refugee flows and create openings for terrorists to take root.
The NATO intervention in Kosovo was an example where a number of governments chose to violate the sovereignty of another government (Serbia) to stop ethnic cleansing and genocide. By contrast, the mass killing in Rwanda a decade ago and now in Darfur, Sudan, demonstrate the high price of judging sovereignty to be supreme and thus doing little to prevent the slaughter of innocents.
Conditions needed Our notion of sovereignty must therefore be conditional, even contractual, rather than absolute. If a state fails to live up to its side of the bargain by sponsoring terrorism, either transferring or using weapons of mass destruction, or conducting genocide, then it forfeits the normal benefits of sovereignty and opens itself up to attack, removal or occupation.
The diplomatic challenge for this era is to gain widespread support for principles of state conduct and a procedure for determining remedies when these principles are violated.
The goal should be to redefine sovereignty for the era of globalization, to find a balance between a world of fully sovereign states and an international system of either world government or anarchy.
The basic idea of sovereignty, which still provides a useful constraint on violence between states, needs to be preserved. But the concept needs to be adapted to a world in which the main challenges to order come from what global forces do to states and what governments do to their citizens rather than from what states do to one another.
Richard Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Opportunity: America's Moment to Alter History's Course.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: January 05, 2008, 06:29:02 PM
GM my friend, I reject your moment of defeatism
We have our guns yet and as for the rest, as long as we do have them, we shall see.
Here's Peggy Noonan on Iowa:
Out With the Old, In With the New
Obama and Huckabee rise; Mrs. Clinton falls.
Friday, January 4, 2008 12:01 a.m. EST
And so it begins.
We wanted exciting, we got exciting.
As this is written, late on the night of the caucuses, the outlines of the decisions seem clear: Barack Obama won.
Hillary Clinton, the inevitable, the avatar of the machine, lost.
It's huge. Even though people have been talking about this possibility for six weeks now, it's still huge. She had the money, she had the organization, the party's stars, she had Elvis behind her, and the Clinton name in a base that loved Bill. And she lost. There are always a lot of reasons for a loss, but the ur-reason in this case, the thing it all comes down to? There's something about her that makes you look, watch, think, look again, weigh and say: No.
She started out way ahead, met everyone, and lost.
As for Sen. Obama, his victory is similarly huge. He won the five biggest counties in Iowa, from the center of the state to the South Dakota border. He carried the young in a tidal wave. He outpolled Mrs. Clinton among women.
He did it with a classy campaign, an unruffled manner, and an appeal on the stump that said every day, through the lines: Look at who I am and see me, the change that you desire is right here, move on with me and we will bring it forward together.
He had a harder row to hoe than Mrs. Clinton did. He was lesser known, too young, lacked an establishment. He had to knock her down while building himself up. (She only had to build herself up until the end, when she went after his grade-school essays.) His takedown of Mrs. Clinton was the softest demolition in the history of falling buildings. I think we were there when it happened, in the debate in which he was questioned on why so many of Bill Clinton's aides were advising him. She laughed, and he said he was looking forward to her advising him, too. He took mama to school.
And so something new begins on the Democratic side.
Something new begins on the Republican side, too.
Everyone said Mike Huckabee was a big dope to leave Iowa Wednesday to fly to L.A. to be on Jay Leno, but did you see him on that thing? He got off a perfect line on why he's doing well against Romney: "People are looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off." The studio audience loved him. And you know, in Iowa they watch "The Tonight Show" too.
Mr. Huckabee likes to head-fake people into thinking he's Gomer Pyle, but he's more like the barefoot boy of the green room. He's more James Carville than Jim Nabors.
What we have learned about Mr. Huckabee the past few months is that he's an ace entertainer with a warm, witty and compelling persona. He won with no money and little formal organization, with an evangelical network, with a folksy manner, and with the best guileless pose in modern politics. From the mail I have received the past month after criticizing him in this space, I would say his great power, the thing really pushing his supporters, is that they believe that what ails America and threatens its continued existence is not economic collapse or jihad, it is our culture.
They have been bruised and offended by the rigid, almost militant secularism and multiculturalism of the public schools; they reject those schools' squalor, in all senses of the word. They believe in God and family and America. They are populist: They don't admire billionaire CEOs, they admire husbands with two jobs who hold the family together for the sake of the kids; they don't need to see the triumph of supply-side thinking, they want to see that suffering woman down the street get the help she needs.
They believe that Mr. Huckabee, the minister who speaks their language, shares, down to the bone, their anxieties, concerns and beliefs. They fear that the other Republican candidates are caught up in a million smaller issues--taxing, spending, the global economy, Sunnis and Shia--and missing the central issue: again, our culture. They are populists who vote Republican, and as I have read their letters, I have felt nothing but respect.
But there are two problems. One is that while the presidency, as an office, can actually make real changes in the areas of economic and foreign policy, the federal government has a limited ability to change the culture of America. That is something conservatives used to know. Second, I'm sorry to say it is my sense that Mr. Huckabee is not so much leading a movement as riding a wave. One senses he brilliantly discerned and pursued an underserved part of the voting demographic, and went for it. Clever fellow. To me, the tipoff was "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"
My sense is that Mr. Huckabee's good supporters deserve a better leader.
His next problem may be not so much New Hampshire as Ed Rollins, the Reagan White House political aide who came in a week ago to manage his campaign. Mr. Rollins began his tenure announcing to respectful young reporters that he--"the grizzled veteran," the "old battler"--would like to sink to his knees and "shoot Romney in the groin" and "punch his teeth out." Such class is of course always welcome on the trail, but one senses the verbal ante will constantly be upped, and I'm not sure that will work well for Mr. Huckabee. Self inflated dirigibles, especially unmoored ones, can cast shadows on parades.
Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on OpinionJournal.com.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 10 Most Under Reported Stories of 2007
on: January 05, 2008, 11:58:30 AM
6. Hillary and her felonious fundraising: A shady Chinese megadonor to Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign named Norman Hsu drew some attention from mainstream media then faded. But virtually ignored was the fact it merely represented a host of illegal fundraising accusations against the Clintons. One case proceeding in the courts will require Sen. Clinton and her husband to testify under oath to fraud charges in the midst of the presidential election campaign this year.
Business mogul Peter Paul has filed a lawsuit charging President Clinton destroyed his entertainment company to get out of a $17 million agreement. The California Supreme Court already upheld a lower-court decision to deny the Clintons' motion to dismiss the case. Bill Clinton, according to the complaint, promised to promote Paul's company, Stan Lee Media, in exchange for stock, cash options and massive contributions to his wife's 2000 Senate campaign.
This month, Paul filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission asking the agency to re-open an investigation into illegal contributions and to probe alleged continuing violations of the law by Sen. Clinton.
Paul, armed with videotape he made of a July 2000 phone call, contends the senator committed felony violations carrying a prison sentence of up to five years.
Meanwhile, WND reported Norman Hsu's close ties to an aerospace mogul accused of sharing missile secrets with Beijing during the Clinton administration.
Republicans in Congress saw parallels to last decade's Chinagate fund-raising scandal and clamored for public hearings. Clinton rejected comparisons between Chinagate and Hsu, saying, "I don't think it's analogous at all."
7. Illegal aliens who rape, murder, kill driving drunk, commit voter fraud, welfare fraud and burden the system: WND has reported on the growing list of illegal immigrants who have not only ignored U.S. immigration laws, but state laws against drinking and driving as well, killing innocents on the highways in the process.
For example, if Luciano Melendres had been deported to Mexico following his 2006 arrest for driving drunk – or even if a judge hadn't suspended his six-month jail sentence and given him 12 months probation – Dacus Lamont Sims, 32, would be alive today.
Meanwhile, a new study has finally fixed an approximate taxpayer cost for the millions of illegal aliens residing in the U.S. The Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector found a household headed by an individual without a high school education, about two-thirds of illegal aliens, costs U.S. taxpayers more than $32,000 in federal, state and local benefits. That same family contributes an average of $9,000 a year in taxes, resulting in a net tax burden of $22,449 each year.
Over the course of the household's lifetime the tax burden translates to $1.1 million. If the lower figure of 12 million illegal aliens is used for estimation purposes, the total tax burden translates to $2.2 trillion.
Many states and local jurisdictions, however, are fighting back. For example, a new Arizona law to require employers to verify the immigration status of employees is being blamed – and credited – for chasing illegal aliens out of the state.
Just one week before that report, WND reported on a new Oklahoma law requiring the deportation of arrested illegal aliens was prompting an exodus from the state.
In Hazelton, Pa., the American Civil Liberties Union was joined by Hispanic activist groups in a lawsuit to block implementation of a law designed to restrict activities by illegal aliens.
Many of these developments were launched after a brokered plan in the U.S. Senate to create a path to legal residency for the millions of illegal aliens in the country collapsed.
But then-presidential spokesman Tony Snow told WND attempts by cities or other governments to sidestep federal policy and make their own provisions for illegal aliens won't get any attention from the White House.
WND also reported Snow said he wouldn't either condemn or endorse plans announced in several locations to set up "sanctuary" facilities for illegal aliens in violation of federal law.
Responding to the failed bill, an illegal alien who refused to follow a deportation took refuge in a Chicago-area church and called for suspension of the nation's immigration laws and a "campaign of resistance."
8. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's resignation from the Senate Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee, which she chaired, amid a conflict of interest due to her husband's ownership of two major defense contractors. : The firms owned by Feinstein's husband, Richard C. Blum, reportedly were awarded billions of dollars for military construction projects approved by the senator.
Feinstein "regularly took junkets to military bases around the world to inspect construction projects, some of which were contracted to her husband's companies, Perini Corp. and URS Corp.," reported Metroactive, an online report from the Silicon Valley.
Feinstein abandoned the Senate committee "as her ethical problems were surfacing in the media, and as it was becoming clear that her subcommittee left grievously wounded veterans to rot while her family was profiting from the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan," the report said.
In 2005, the Capitol Hill paper Roll Call calculated Feinstein's wealth at $40 million, up $10 million from just a year earlier. Reports show her family earned between $500,000 and $5 million from capital gains on URS and Perini stock.
9. Progress of Law of the Sea Treaty: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on a 17-4 vote, moved forward the Law of the Sea Treaty, or LOST, despite a wide spectrum of critics charging it would grant the United Nations control of 70 percent of the planet under its oceans and undermine U.S. sovereignty.
International negotiators drafted the treaty in 1982 in an attempt to establish a comprehensive legal regime for international management of the seas and their resources. President Ronald Reagan, however, refused to sign LOST because he concluded it didn't serve U.S. interests.
In 1994, President Clinton signed a revised version and forwarded it to the Senate, but the Senate deferred action, and it sat until resurrection by the Bush administration.
Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., has called it, "U.N. on steroids," and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has concluded it is "the dumbest thing we've ever done. It's like taking our sovereignty and handing it over to some international tribunal. What's wrong with us?"
Responding to a question from WND, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in November, "The president is supportive of the treaty, and so is our military and our State Department. And we have testified on Capitol Hill multiple times about it. I understand that there are concerns, but we believe that those have been addressed."
But the Heritage Foundation warns the treaty would have unintended consequences for U.S. interests – including a threat to sovereignty.
The conservative think tank says "bureaucracies established by multilateral treaties often lack the transparency and accountability necessary to ensure that they are untainted by corruption, mismanagement or inappropriate claims of authority. The LOST bureaucracy is called the International Seabed Authority Secretariat, which has a strong incentive to enhance its own authority at the expense of state sovereignty."
Heritage fellows Baker Spring and Brett D. Schaefer said the treaty "would impose taxes on U.S. companies engaged in extracting resources from the ocean floor. This would give the treaty's secretariat an independent revenue stream that would remove a key check on its authority. After all, once a bureaucracy has its own source of funding, it needs answer only to itself."
One of the main authors of LOST not only admired Karl Marx but was an ardent advocate of the Marxist-oriented New International Economic Order. Elisabeth Mann Borgese, a socialist who ran the World Federalists of Canada, played a critical role in crafting and promoting LOST, as WND reported in 2005.
10. Syria's alleged WMDs and Israel's attack: Syrian President Bashar Assad claimed Israeli jets hit an unmanned military facility in a Sept. 6 raid. The Israel Defense Forces remained quiet, later admitting it targeted a military installation. But reports surfaced that Israel destroyed a facility at which North Korea was transferring nuclear technology to the Syrians.
WND's Jerusalem bureau reported Israel believed Syria planned to use proxy terrorist groups to respond indirectly to the air strike in September on an undisclosed military facility.
The report came as bureau chief Aaron's Klein's book – "Schmoozing with Terrorists: From Hollywood to the Holy Land, Jihadists Reveal their Global Plans – to a Jew!" – disclosed Syria recently formed a new guerrilla group modeling itself after the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. The new group is preparing for "resistance attacks" against Israel.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The 10 Most Under Reported Stories of 2007
on: January 05, 2008, 11:57:14 AM
I suppose this could be posted in the Media bias thread, but I feel like giving it its own thread. It comes from WND, a site which often hyperventilates and IMHO sometimes plays fast and loose with the facts and with data, but often is worth keeping an eye on. So with those caveats in place , , ,
Here, with our readers' help, are WorldNetDaily editors' picks for the 10 most underreported stories of 2007:
1. Developments moving U.S. and continent closer to a North American Union: President Bush ridiculed any talk of a continental merger as conspiracy theory, and recent articles published in The Nation and Newsweek magazines have attempted to characterize "NAFTA Superhighways" the same way, but numerous developments and admissions by officials this past year indicate otherwise.
The leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico conferred over the Security and Prosperity Partnership
Last month, for example, Canada announced a plan to complete a continental highway grid designed to accommodate an anticipated tsunami of containers from China and the Far East.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers in Oklahoma and Texas continued to battle plans for a "NAFTA Superhighway and North American Union" as threats to the sovereignty of the U.S.
A number of influential voices raised the possibility the U.S. dollar might be replaced by a regional currency called the amero.
Stephen Jarislowsky, known as the Canadian Warren Buffet, told a parliamentary committee that Canada and the U.S. should abandon their dollars and move to a regional North American currency as soon as possible.
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox confirmed the existence of a plan conceived with President Bush to create a new regional currency in the Americas.
Fox admitted to CNN's Larry King he had agreed with Bush to pursue the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas – a trade zone extending throughout the Western Hemisphere – suggesting part of the plan was to institute a regional currency.
Much of the concern about incremental moves toward a continental merger centered on the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, an agreement Bush entered after secret discussions with Mexico's then-president Vicente Fox and Canada's then-prime minister Paul Martin in Waco, Texas, March 23, 2005.
An insider who presented a paper at a recent North American Forum meeting in Mexico, however, says public exposure has sparked opposition to North American integration, stalling SPP efforts, .
2. Bush's refusal to pardon imprisoned Border Patrol Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, who were prosecuted by the president's friend, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton: Last month, a bi-partisan resolution was introduced into the House of Representatives calling on President Bush to commute the former agents' sentences immediately, allowing them to be home with their families by Christmas.
But Ramos and Compean continue to serve 11- and 12-year federal prison sentences for shooting an admitted drug smuggler as he fled across the border after smuggling into the U.S. a load of 750 pounds of marijuana in a van.
A Border Patrol activist group accused Sutton of protecting the drug smuggler, Osvaldo Adrete-Davila, from facing perjury charges, calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the U.S. attorney for subornation of perjury for allowing Aldrete-Davila to take the stand under "false pretenses."
Former U.S. Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos embraced his wife, Monica Ramos, two days before he was sentenced to 11 years in prison (Courtesy El Paso Times)
Aldrete-Davila was arrested at the Mexican border in November for alleged drug offenses committed while under immunity to testify as the star witness in the case.
WND also reported a long list of lies Aldrete-Davila told under oath, including the claim he committed a single drug offense because he was under duress to get money to buy medicine for his sick mother after he lost his commercial driver's license in Mexico.
Last month, the three judges hearing the Ramos and Compean appeal for the 5th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans were harshly critical of the prosecution in their questions and comments from the bench. Remarkably, the U.S. government admitted in federal court that Aldrete-Davila lied under oath. One judge said the "government overreacted" in applying a law that requires an additional 10-year minimum prison sentence if felons in the act of committing crimes such as rape or burglary carry a weapon.
WND reported on the intervention of Mexican consulates demanding the law enforcement agents be prosecuted for using force, even against illegal aliens committing crimes in the U.S. The demands were a major factor leading to prosecution not only of Ramos and Compean but others, including deputy sheriff Gilmer Hernandez of Rocksprings, Texas, who was convicted for shooting a fleeing van of illegal aliens who tried to run him over.
Sutton also prosecuted former Border Patrol agent Gary Brugman, who served a 24-month sentence in federal prison for a minor scuffle with an illegal alien at the U.S. border in January 2001. Brugman told WND, "For many years after what happened to me, I lost faith in the United States of America."
3. Research refuting man-made global warming: Former Vice President Al Gore won a Nobel prize in 2007 for his global warming campaigning to add to the Oscar for the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth. But numerous reports were issued throughout the year challenging the mainstream media's oft-repeated contention that the debate is settled over whether or not humans are causing global warming.
A new U.S. Senate report documented hundreds of prominent scientists – experts in dozens of fields of study worldwide – who say global warming and cooling is a cycle of nature and cannot legitimately be connected to man's activities.
An analysis of peer-reviewed literature by the Hudson Institute found more than 500 scientists have published evidence refuting the current man-made global warming scare.
After an investigation, a veteran meteorologist found dire "global warming" predictions were based on bad science from the very start, pointing out surface temperatures recorded throughout the U.S. are done with almost no regard to scientific standards.
Anthony Watts found temperature monitoring stations used by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were constructed and placed without regard to achieving accurate recordings of natural temperatures.
The assessment supports another study on which WND reported, revealing carbon dioxide levels were largely irrelevant to global warming. Those results prompted Reid Bryson, founding chairman of the Department of Meteorology at the University of Wisconsin, to quip, "You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide."
WND also reported on a NASA-funded study that noted some climate forecasts might be exaggerating estimations of global warming. Taking aim at Gore and other "climate change" activists, the founder of the Weather Channel said the campaign to promote the theory of man-made global warming is "the greatest scam in history."
John Coleman, now a meteorologist for San Diego TV station KUSI, called it a "manufactured crisis" by "dastardly scientists with environmental and political motives" who have "manipulated long-term scientific data to create an illusion of rapid global warming."
Muriel Newman, director of the New Zealand Centre for Political Research called for Gore's Nobel to be rescinded after British High Court judge Michael Burton concluded "An Inconvenient Truth" should be shown in British schools only with guidance notes to prevent political indoctrination. The decision followed a lawsuit by a father, Stewart Dimmock, who claimed the film contained "serious scientific inaccuracies, political propaganda and sentimental mush." The British court pointed to 11 inaccuracies in the production.
A cover story in Newsweek reported a "denial machine," bought and paid for by big industry, was preventing critical government action to stop global warming. But the following week's issue of Newsweek contained a scathing report by longtime contributing editor Robert J. Samuelson characterizing the previous cover story as "highly contrived" and "fundamentally misleading."
A dramatic documentary produced by the UK's Channel 4 TV deviated from the dire presentations on impending global-warming disaster. In "The Great Global Warming Swindle," British TV director Martin Durkin interviewed scientist after scientist who claim the current hysteria over global warming is, in a word, nonsense.
4. Lack of action on border fence mandated by Congress: The Secure Fence Act of 2006 required the construction of a double-layered barrier covering 854 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, but Democrats led efforts to squelch the plan.
Republican presidential hopeful Duncan Hunter blasted a Democrat-sponsored House bill that would prevent the fence from being built.
"By eliminating the double fence requirement, the Democratic Congress is going to make it easier for drug and human smugglers to cross our Southern land border," said Hunter. "This goes against the interests of any family that has been touched by illegal drugs or any American who has seen their job taken by an illegal alien."
Also, in the Senate, as WND reported , an amendment submitted by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and co-sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, for the Department of Homeland Security 2008 budget was aimed at gutting the already-approved Secure Fence Act.
The Hutchison amendment would allow the secretary of homeland security to use discretion in deciding whether a fence was the most appropriate means to achieve and maintain operational control along the border with Mexico.
5. California bill introducing homosexuality to young children: Children as young as two years of age are in the bull's-eye of coming changes in California's school curriculum, which "gay rights" advocates now admit will alter the very foundation of information presented to public school classrooms.
Opponents of a new state law that bars "discriminatory bias" in public schools because of a "characteristic," including "perceived gender," argued before its passage that it would foster a pro-homosexual bias that would eliminate references to "mom" and "dad" or "husband" and "wife."
Supporters steadfastly maintained the bill only clarified anti-discrimination laws already on the books. But, already, demands by homosexual advocacy groups such as Equality California indicate the new law actually paves the way for editing of all school curricula in the state.
A list of school resources, sponsored by a homosexual-advocacy group called Safe Schools Coalition, suggests "Felicia's Favorite Story," which tells how a girl was "adopted by her two mothers." It also promotes a book called "Are You a Girl or a Boy?" for children ages 4-8 that advocates homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism and other lifestyles. Other resources promoted in the wake of California's new law include books authored by officials with Planned Parenthood and the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network.
One book, called "Tackling Gay Issues in School," is for kindergarten through grade 12, and features recommended "extracurricular" activities for classes.
WND also reported how thousands of requests for information about homeschooling organizations and Christian schools have been bombarded with requests for information.
A grass-roots advocacy group is working on a referendum and the non-profit Advocates for Faith and Freedom is filing a lawsuit challenging the law.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: January 05, 2008, 11:27:42 AM
Second post of the morning. This very interesting piece was sent to me by a friend in India. As best as I can tell, I have found the commentary from India about Afg-Pak often to be quite superior to that which we generate here in the US.
2008: Bleeding Pakistan - International Terrorism Monitor---Paper No. 345
By B. Raman
"It is obligatory on the Muslims in Pakistan to carry out Jihad and fighting to remove Pervez, his government, his army and those who help him. We in al-Qaida Organization call on Allah to witness that we will retaliate for the blood of Maulana Abd al-Rashid Ghazi and those with him against Musharraf and those who help him, and for all the pure and innocent blood, foremost of which is the blood of the champions of Islam in Waziristan - both North and South - among them the two noble leaders, Nek Muhammad and Abdullah Mahsud." (My comment: Maulana Ghazi died in the Pakistan Army commando raid into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad between July 10 and 13, 2007) ---- From my article on "Bin Laden's Fatwa Against Musharraf & Pakistani Army" of September 22, 2007, at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers24/paper2388.html
Pakistan has gone through a traumatic 2007. The trauma started with the Pakistan Army commando action in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad from July 10 to 13, 2007, during which about 300 young tribal girls from the Pashtun tribal belt, who were studying in a girls' madrasa run by the masjid, were allegedly killed. These girls came from poor tribal families. Many of them were the daughters or sisters of Pashtuns from the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) serving in the Army and other security forces.
2.The anger caused by the commando action, the resulting death of a large number of young tribal girls and the damage to the masjid triggered off a wave of suicide terrorism, the like of which Pakistan had not seen before. The number of acts of suicide terrorism increased nine-fold from six in 2006 to 55 in 2007. The most dramatic victim of this wave was Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, who was killed by unidentified terrorists at Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.
3. Unless one constantly keeps in mind the traumatic impact of the commando action on the minds of the Pashtuns, one is likely to err in one's assessment of the worsening state of jihadi terrorism in Pakistan and blame everything that is happening in Pakistan on Al Qaeda. There has been a frightening wave of tribal anger in the wake of the Lal Masjid operation. Al Qaeda and other pro-Al Qaeda jihadi terrorist organisations have been capitalising on this anger to promote their own pan-Islamic, anti-US and anti-Musharraf agenda, but they were not the cause of this anger.
4. President Pervez Musharraf caused this anger by his inept handling of the Lal Masjid episode. Initially, he did not act against the members of the Laskar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), who were gathering inside the Masjid in order to instigate the madrasa students against the Government and the liberal sections of the Pakistani society. When these extremists started targeting some Chinese women working in Islamabad, he over-reacted, sent the commandos of the US-trained Special Services Group (SSG) in and used force, which was perceived by many as disproportionate.
5. The result---the current wave of suicide terrorism by angry tribals and others. The suicide bombers are of varying backgrounds--- Al Qaeda, pro-Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda tribals, the LEJ, which is largely an anti-Shia organisation of Punjabis, ex-servicemen not belonging to any organisation whose daughters or sisters died in the commando raid, the male students of a madrasa attached to the Lal Masjid, who want to avenge the death of the women students etc. Attempts to attribute everything to Al Qaeda and see everything that has been happening in Pakistan as part of Al Qaeda's global jihad against the US are too simplistic and would not permit a lucid understanding of the situation.
6. The international community and the post-9/11 crop of Al Qaeda watchers, who are largely influenced by American perceptions, may have difficulty in understanding the roots of the anger sweeping across Pakistan's tribal belt, but we in India should be able to understand it better. We passed through a similar trauma in the months after the Army's raid into the Golden Temple at Amritsar in June 1984, to flush out a group of Khalistani terrorists, who had taken control of the Temple. During the Army operation, many civilians, including Bhindranwale, the religious mentor of the extremists, were killed and some parts of the temple premises were badly damaged by the exchange of fire between the Army and the terrorists. The only saving grace for us was that there were no religious schools inside the temple complex and hence no young students were killed.
7. The Army raid into the Gold Temple, called Operation Blue Star, had a disastrous sequel---- many Sikh soldiers of the Indian Army deserted just as Pakistani tribal soldiers are deserting after the Lal Masjid raid; four Sikh deserters crossed over into Pakistan and sought political asylum; some of the Sikh deserters shot dead a serving Brigadier; Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, was gunned down inside her house by her own Sikh security guards; Gen. A. S. Vaidya, who was the Chief of the Army Staff during Operation Blue Star was shot dead by Khalistanis at Pune where he was living after retirement; Khalistanis unsuccessfully tried to assassinate Mr. Jule Ribeiro, who had served as the Punjab police chief, at Bucharest where the Govt. had sent him as Ambassador in order to protect him from the wrath of the Khalistanis, Mr. Bhajan Lal, former Chief Minister of Haryana, escaped a plot to kill him in the US due to the timely detection of the conspiracy by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Kanishka aircraft of Air India flying from Toronto to India was blown up in mid-air off the Irish coast by Khalistanis, coinciding with the first anniversary of Blue Star; another Air India aircraft escaped a similar disaster due to the premature explosion of the device at the Tokyo airport; Liviu Radu, a Romanian diplomat posted at New Delhi was kidnapped, migrant Hindu agricultural workers working in Punjab were targeted and killed; there was an upsurge in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) not only in Punjab, but also in Delhi etc etc. The post-Blue Star trauma and anger started subsiding only after 1992. It lasted eight years.
8. Popular perceptions---right or wrong--- of acts of desecration against places of worship and religious significance have disastrous after-effects. We saw it after Operation Blue Star and after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in India. We have been seeing it in Malaysia in recent months. The Hindus of Malaysia were a very law-abiding people. They had never in the past taken their economic and social grievances out into the streets, but their anger over the demolition of some Hindu temples and alleged bulldozing of some Hindu idols by municipal authorities at some places provoked them to come out in the streets in large numbers in defiance of the police and the law. We have been seeing a growing wave of anger among the Hindus of India over the alleged plans of the authorities to demolish the Ramar Setu, a site of religious significance, for the construction of the Sethusamudram Project in India's southern coast.
9. The suicide wave, which we have been seeing in Pakistan, is partly---if not largely--- the result of the anger unleashed among the tribals by what happened in the Lal Masjid. This anger is among the Pashtun tribals on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Even Afghan Pashtuns in large numbers, who were previously fighting against the US and other NATO forces in Afghan territory, have now been moving into Pakistan since July for acts of reprisal against Musharraf and his perceived collaborators----military as well as civilian. Action to kill Musharraf, whom they view as apostate, and other apostates has assumed priority in their eyes over action against the NATO in Afghan territory. Moreover, in their view, if they eliminate these apostates, their jihad in Afghanistan against Western forces would be facilitated.
10. There are over a dozen jihadi terrorist organisations operating from the tribal belt---- Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan of which Baitullah Mehsud is the Amir, the TNSM of which Maulana Fazlullah is the Amir, the Lashkar Islam, the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), the LEJ, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Union etc. Periodically, they have been putting out their own demands. Most of their agenda is influenced by local factors. But there is one agenda item which is common to all of them--- the need to avenge the alleged massacre in the Lal Masjid by Pakistani Army commandoes.
11. Even before the Lal Masjid episode, Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and other jihadi organisations were well entrenched in the tribal belt, but they were facing difficulty in getting volunteers for suicide terrorism, but after the Lal Masjid raid, they are getting volunteers in their hundreds from the tribal areas on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. In its issue of August 3-9, 2007, the "Friday Times" of Lahore wrote as follows: "Recruits are formally registered with the Taliban as suicide bombers and given a receipt indicating their registration number. At any given point, there are thousands in line waiting to sacrifice their lives, an observer returning from South Waziristan told the weekly. If one of them is selected to be the next bomber, the news is a cause for celebration in his household. Once confirmation arrives of his death, the funeral prayers are substituted with congratulatory messages for the family....Women, because of the Taliban's strict anti-wife-beating policy, are largely in favour of them..... This is part of the strategy of winning over the mothers, who, according to the Taliban, have the greatest influence on the child as he grows up. Women are thus actively involved in the process of indoctrinating children in favour of the Taliban." The deaths of a large number of tribal girls in the Lal Masjid have further motivated Pashtun women to act as recruiters of suicide terrorists for whichever organisation wants them.
12. Al Qaeda is growing stronger in Pakistan. It has spread its tentacles even to Rawalpindi and into the lower and middle ranks of the Armed Forces. But, any counter-terrorism strategy, which focusses exclusively on the physical threat from Al Qaeda, without paying attention to the psychological factors being exploited by it, would prove ineffective. While stepping up action against Al Qaeda and other pro-Al Qaeda organisations, it is equally important to address the post-Lal Masjid anger in the tribal belt through actions such as an enquiry into the alleged deaths, compensation for the families of those killed etc. By refusing to admit the role of the commando raid in the upsurge of jihadi terrorism, Musharraf is only making the situation worse. If he continues with his ill-advised policies, Pakistan will continue to bleed.