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23651  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: August 11, 2008, 11:46:01 AM
James:

A pleasant surprise that you are willing to entertain military action against Iran.

If I understand correctly GM was mocking the liberal left with his use of "brown people", not advocating it as his own preferred term.

Tail wags for the kind words on my drumming-- I was worse than usual yesterday, my efforts at groove disrupted by trying to get the "chain of challenge" going.  I wish you had introduced yourself personally so that I would have a face to put with our conversation here.

Marc
23652  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia on: August 11, 2008, 11:22:43 AM
August 11, 2008 | 0151 GMT
The war between Georgia and Russia appears to be drawing to a close. There were Russian air attacks on Georgia on Sunday and some fighting in South Ossetia, and the Russians sank a Georgian missile boat. But as the day ended the Russians declared themselves ready to make peace with Georgia, and U.N. officials said the Georgians were ready to complete the withdrawal of their forces from South Ossetia.

At this point, the Russians have achieved what they wanted to achieve, quite apart from assuring South Ossetia’s autonomy. First, they have driven home the fact that in the end, they are the dominant power not only in the Caucasus but also around their entire periphery. Alliance with the United States or training with foreign advisers ultimately means little; it is not even clear what the United States or NATO would have been able to do if Georgia had been a member of the alliance. That lesson is not for the benefit of Georgia, but for Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, and even Poland and the Czech Republic. The Russians have made it clear that, at least at this moment in history, they can operate on their periphery effectively and therefore their neighbors should not be indifferent to Russian wishes.

The second lesson was for the Americans and Europeans to consider. The Russians had asked that Kosovo not be granted independence. The Russians were prepared to accept autonomy but they did not want the map of Europe to be redrawn; they made it clear that once that starts, not only will it not end, but the Russians would feel free to redraw the map themselves. The Americans and Europeans went forward anyway, making the assumption that the Russians would have no choice but to live with that decision. The Russian response to the Georgian attack on South Ossetia drives home the point that the Russians are again a force to be reckoned with.

There has been sharp rhetoric from American and European officials, but that rhetoric can’t be matched with military action. The Europeans are too militarily weak to have any options, and the Americans have quite enough on their plates without getting involved in a war in Georgia. In some ways the rhetoric makes the Russians look even stronger than they actually are. The intensity of the rhetoric contrasted with the paucity of action is striking.

The Americans in particular have another problem. Iran is infinitely more important to them than Georgia, and they need Russian help in Iran. Specifically, they need the Russians not to sell the Iranians weapons. In particular, they do not want the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles delivered to the Iranians. In addition, they want the Russians to join in possible sanctions against Iran. Russia has a number of ways to thwart U.S. policy not only in Iran, but also in Afghanistan and Syria. These are areas of fundamental concern to the United States, and confronting the Russians on Georgia is a risky business. The Russians can counter in ways that are extremely painful to the United States.

There is talk that the Russians might want a new government in Georgia. That is probably so, but the Russians have already achieved their most important goals. They have made it clear to their neighbors that a relationship with the West does not provide security if Russia’s interests are threatened. They have made it clear to the West that ignoring Russian wishes carries a price. And finally, they have made it clear to everyone that the Russian military, which was in catastrophic shape five years ago, is sufficiently healed to carry out a complex combined-arms operation including land, air and naval components. Granted it was against a small country, but there were many ways in which the operation could have been bungled. It wasn’t. Russia is not a superpower, but it is certainly no longer a military cripple. Delivering that message, in the end, might have been the most important to Russia.
============
The conflict in the small former Soviet state of Georgia has taken a new twist.

So far, apart from Russian airstrikes, most of the combat has been limited to the north-central Georgian secessionist province of South Ossetia. But on Aug. 11, Russia beefed up its 2,500-strong peacekeeping force in Abkhazia — a secessionist region in northwestern Georgia — to more than 9,000 troops. And now the Russian Defense Ministry has announced — and the Georgian Interior Ministry has confirmed — that Russian forces have advanced up to the western Georgian city of Senaki.

The presence of Russian troops in Senaki has a number of important implications.

First, the Russian forces used in the operation approached from Abkhazia. There has been a U.N. buffer force between Abkhaz- and Georgian-controlled territory, so for Russian forces to be near Senaki, the Russians would have had to move through — and ultimately beyond — that buffer. Georgia’s best troops are also typically kept near Abkhazia, suggesting that those forces have been either bypassed or destroyed. Several reports indicate the Georgians are engaged in combat with Abkhaz forces in the upper reaches of the Kodori Gorge, so it seems likely they were bypassed.

Second, Senaki sits astride a railroad juncture that links the rest of the country not only to Abkhazia, but to Georgia’s largest port: Poti. The Russians have already bombed Poti several times, but taking Senaki completely removes the port from the equation.

Third, another Georgian city — Samtredia — is only an hour’s march from Senaki. Samtredia sits astride the Baku-Tbilisi-Supsa oil pipeline, transit fees from which are a major portion of Georgia’s economic wherewithal. But its military significance for Georgia cannot be overstated.

Samtredia is where Georgia’s transport links to its only other ports, Supsa and Batumi, merge with its link to Poti. (Technically, Sukumi is also a Georgian port, but the Abkhaz have controlled it since achieving de facto independence in 1993.) Should Samtredia fall, Russia will have, in effect, enacted a naval blockade of Georgia without using its navy. The city is also the only land link of any meaningful size to Turkey. While Turkey — along with the rest of the world — does not want to get involved in the conflict, the capture of Samtredia effectively blocks any potential land-based reinforcements from reaching Georgia via Turkey.

Furthermore, there is only one road and rail line that leads east from Samtredia to the rest of the country. This transport corridor is, in essence, the backbone of the entire country. Should Samtredia fall, there is really nothing that can be done — by Georgia or anyone else — to stop the Russians from taking over Georgia outright, one piece at a time, at their leisure.

In essence, the Russians are a heartbeat away from being able to dictate terms to the Georgians without even glancing in the direction of Tbilisi.
23653  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia on: August 11, 2008, 09:16:59 AM
War in the Caucasus
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE
August 11, 2008

"War has started," Vladimir Putin said Friday as Georgian and Russian forces fought over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. Since then, the Prime Minister has personally overseen an escalation of hostilities that suggests Russia's true aim is demolishing Georgia's fledgling democracy.

Regardless of who fired the first shots late last week -- each side blames the other -- it became clear over the weekend that Russia intended from the start to turn that small battle into a broader assault. As Georgian troops withdrew from South Ossetia yesterday in hopes of negotiating a cease-fire, thousands of Russian soldiers reportedly were unloading from warships in the Black Sea into another separatist Georgian area, Abkhazia, to create a second front. Russian warplanes bombed cities well inside Georgia, including military bases and the civilian airport near the capital Tbilisi. Moscow has long since gone beyond merely pushing back on Georgia.

On Saturday Mr. Putin explicitly rejected "a return to the status quo" of just a few days ago, when rebels and Russian "peacekeepers" controlled the breakaway regions. Mr. Putin was meeting with generals near the Russia-Georgia border after flying home from the Beijing Olympics, leaving no doubt who was in charge of a war that the Kremlin has long sought (hint: not President Dmitry Medvedev).

Western leaders should have seen this coming. Russia has baited the hot-tempered Georgian leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, with trade and travel embargoes as well as saber-rattling. Georgia has had to tolerate a few thousand Russian troops on its soil. And in April, Russia downed a Georgian drone over Abkhaz -- that is, Georgian -- air space. Russia in recent years has also granted citizenship to the separatists. That looks like premeditation now. President Medvedev pledged Friday to "protect the lives and dignity of Russian citizens, no matter where they are located."

Despite this aggression, the West has proved unwilling to push back against Moscow in the Caucasus. When the U.S. proposed NATO "membership action plans" for Georgia and Ukraine at an April summit in Bucharest, Germany vetoed the move. Berlin didn't want to anger Moscow, a fact that the Russians surely noticed as they contemplated when, or if, to move against the government of Mr. Saakashvili, whom they have long despised as a reformer outside of the Kremlin's orbit. (Mr. Saakashvili writes about the war on a nearby page.)

Europe depends on Russian energy supplies and is loath to stand up to Moscow to help Georgia, which is seen to have made trouble for itself. But this is a crucial moment in the West's relationship with Russia. The rest of the Caucasus, home of other imperfect democracies and critical partners in the Continent's bid for energy security, will take its future cues from how Europe and the U.S. do or don't support Tbilisi.

Now it's up to NATO and especially the U.S. to persuade Moscow to stand down. Washington has publicly described the weekend's events as a "disproportionate and dangerous escalation on the Russian side" and warned of a "significant, long-term impact on U.S.-Russian relations."

Everyone acknowledges that Russia is back as a world power. But it has no right to use its renewed strength to punish democratic neighbors and prevent them from choosing their own futures. Mr. Putin needs to hear that using Ossetia as a pretext for imperialism will have consequences for Russia's relationship with the West.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary
23654  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Curtains for Musharraf on: August 11, 2008, 08:59:48 AM
It's Curtains for Musharraf
By NAJAM SETHI
August 11, 2008; Page A13

After months of prevarication, the Pakistani government, led by Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, has finally decided to impeach President Pervez Musharraf. Although a fighting man, Mr. Musharraf is expected to quit within the week. He doesn't have enough parliamentary backing to thwart the move, and the army and America, his main sources of support, have abandoned him in the face of popular pressure.

 
Ken Fallin 
The government has been mulling this move for months. Mr. Zardari, of the People's Party of Pakistan (PPP), and Mr. Sharif, of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), both hate the president for political and personal reasons.

Mr. Musharraf ousted Mr. Sharif from power in 1999, exiled him to Saudi Arabia, and only allowed him to return last year to contest the February elections because of Saudi pressure. Mr. Zardari was imprisoned for six years, then permitted to leave the country to join his wife Benazir Bhutto in exile in Dubai. Thanks to American pressure, she was allowed to return last October to contest the elections, and he only returned after she was assassinated in December.

The popular Bhutto accused Mr. Musharraf of an assassination attempt last October. When she was killed two months later, many Pakistanis remembered that accusation.

The Zardari-Sharif cooperation has been driven by political missteps on all sides. Mr. Zardari's decision to work with Mr. Musharraf -- under American urging -- alienated the PPP's rank and file, which has been historically antiarmy and anti-American. At the same time, Mr. Sharif took an anti-Musharraf and anti-America stance, boosting his popularity. Mr. Musharraf didn't help matters when he tried to oppose Mr. Zardari's prime minister pick. Later, he also criticized the new government's "dysfunctionality" in the face of an "impending economic meltdown."

Mr. Musharraf's biggest mistake was to lose focus on the war on terror, alienating his Washington backers without winning domestic public support. For months now, the U.S. has been upset at Pakistan's lackluster cooperation with coalition forces in the war on terror in Pakistan's tribal areas. Washington also accused Pakistan's powerful Interservices Intelligence (ISI) agency, which is associated with Mr. Musharraf, of complicity in the Taliban attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul last month. On the eve of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's state visit to Washington last month, the government decreed the ISI would henceforth be answerable to the home ministry, instead of to the army chief or President Musharraf.

Mr. Musharraf couldn't countenance this loss of power. He accused the government of trying to "politicize the ISI and undermine national security" at America's prodding, forcing it to backtrack clumsily and lose face. To stave off a possible sacking at Mr. Musharraf's hands, Mr. Zardari joined hands with Mr. Sharif to impeach the president.

Washington, which had not so long ago advocated "working relations" between Mr. Zardari and Mr. Musharraf -- and later shifted its stance to a "dignified exit" for Mr. Musharraf -- responded with a studied silence. "The impeachment of President Musharraf is an internal matter for Pakistan that must be resolved in accordance with the law and constitution," said a White House spokesman on Aug. 7, the day the impeachment decision was announced.

In other words, "go Musharraf go." The U.S. realizes that Mr. Musharraf is extremely unpopular at home, and has concluded that the army is not prepared to risk propping him up any longer. So he is no longer useful. A working relationship with the new civilian order is a better bet.

The Pakistan army is the key to what happens next. Formally, the impeachment of Mr. Musharraf is a numbers game. The ruling coalition needs 295 votes out of 442 in a joint sitting of both houses of parliament to clinch it. They claim the motion will sail through.

But the result will critically depend on about 27 independent members of parliament, and members from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. If the ISI chooses to support Mr. Musharraf, it could probably manage to sway the tribal votes for the president. But it would need the green light from the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, before doing this.

It's unlikely Gen. Kayani will dive into this fray. The army is hugely unpopular at home for fighting "America's war on terror." It is dispirited because it is being criticized by its American ally not just for not doing enough, but for complicity in harboring and protecting the Afghan Taliban. It is demoralized, having lost over 2,000 men fighting terrorists in the tribal areas without sufficient training or motivation. The army remains the prime target of suicide bombers in the urban areas of the country, so much so that its officers no longer go about town in uniform.

Gen. Kayani successfully salvaged some public respect by refusing to tilt the February election results in favor of Mr. Musharraf's party. Therefore, while the officers abhor the "corrupt and bungling civilians," the grudging view is that any overt or covert military backing for Mr. Musharraf would be hugely unpopular, and any formal intervention untenable in the difficult economic and political environment facing the country.

If Mr. Musharraf throws in the towel this week, the current political paralysis might end, but the instability will remain. Mr. Sharif will play to public opinion and press Mr. Zardari to punish Mr. Musharraf for treason. He wants the deposed chief justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, and his erstwhile colleagues restored with full powers.

Mr. Zardari, for his part, may heed advice from the army and Washington and facilitate a safe exit for the president. He will, in all likelihood, refuse to reinstate the chief justice for fear that a reinvigorated judiciary will hold every Musharraf action to date as illegal, including the amnesty from corruption charges granted to him in November. Mr. Zardari also wants to become president himself, a prospect Mr. Sharif cannot stomach.

Pakistan's neighbors India and Afghanistan, and its strategic ally America, cannot be too sanguine about this continuing political instability. Their core interests require Pakistan's civilian leadership to lean on the Pakistan army to rein in and retool the ISI, support the war on terror in Afghanistan, and refrain from refueling Islamist jihad in India-administered Kashmir. But with the army sulking politically and licking its wounds militarily, the Zardari government looks unlikely to deliver on these fronts -- with or without a President Musharraf.

Mr. Sethi is editor of the Friday Times and Daily Times in Lahore, Pakistan.
23655  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia-Georgia, Turkey, Caucasus, Central Asia on: August 11, 2008, 08:55:31 AM
Woof All:

It looks like the situation in Georgia requires its own thread.

I begin with the observation that it looks like Stratfor's predictions in the wake of our support of Kosovo's independence are being born out.

Anyway, here's the appeal of the president of Georgia in today's WSJ to kick things off.

Marc
==============================

The War in Georgia
Is a War for the West
By MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI
August 11, 2008; Page A15

Tbilisi, Georgia

As I write, Russia is waging war on my country.

On Friday, hundreds of Russian tanks crossed into Georgian territory, and Russian air force jets bombed Georgian airports, bases, ports and public markets. Many are dead, many more wounded. This invasion, which echoes Afghanistan in 1979 and the Prague Spring of 1968, threatens to undermine the stability of the international security system.

 
AP  
An apartment building, damaged by a Russian air strike, in the northern Georgian town of Gori, Saturday, Aug. 9.
Why this war? This is the question my people are asking. This war is not of Georgia's making, nor is it Georgia's choice.

The Kremlin designed this war. Earlier this year, Russia tried to provoke Georgia by effectively annexing another of our separatist territories, Abkhazia. When we responded with restraint, Moscow brought the fight to South Ossetia.

Ostensibly, this war is about an unresolved separatist conflict. Yet in reality, it is a war about the independence and the future of Georgia. And above all, it is a war over the kind of Europe our children will live in. Let us be frank: This conflict is about the future of freedom in Europe.

No country of the former Soviet Union has made more progress toward consolidating democracy, eradicating corruption and building an independent foreign policy than Georgia. This is precisely what Russia seeks to crush.

This conflict is therefore about our common trans-Atlantic values of liberty and democracy. It is about the right of small nations to live freely and determine their own future. It is about the great power struggles for influence of the 20th century, versus the path of integration and unity defined by the European Union of the 21st. Georgia has made its choice.

When my government was swept into power by a peaceful revolution in 2004, we inherited a dysfunctional state plagued by two unresolved conflicts dating to the early 1990s. I pledged to reunify my country -- not by the force of arms, but by making Georgia a pole of attraction. I wanted the people living in the conflict zones to share in the prosperous, democratic country that Georgia could -- and has -- become.

In a similar spirit, we sought friendly relations with Russia, which is and always will be Georgia's neighbor. We sought deep ties built on mutual respect for each other's independence and interests. While we heeded Russia's interests, we also made it clear that our independence and sovereignty were not negotiable. As such, we felt we could freely pursue the sovereign choice of the Georgian nation -- to seek deeper integration into European economic and security institutions.

We have worked hard to peacefully bring Abkhazia and South Ossetia back into the Georgian fold, on terms that would fully protect the rights and interests of the residents of these territories. For years, we have offered direct talks with the leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, so that we could discuss our plan to grant them the broadest possible autonomy within the internationally recognized borders of Georgia.

But Russia, which effectively controls the separatists, responded to our efforts with a policy of outright annexation. While we appealed to residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with our vision of a common future, Moscow increasingly took control of the separatist regimes. The Kremlin even appointed Russian security officers to arm and administer the self-styled separatist governments.

Under any circumstances, Russia's meddling in our domestic affairs would have constituted a gross violation of international norms. But its actions were made more egregious by the fact that Russia, since the 1990s, has been entrusted with the responsibility of peacekeeping and mediating in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Rather than serve as honest broker, Russia became a direct party to the conflicts, and now an open aggressor.

As Europe expanded its security institutions to the Black Sea, my government appealed to the Western community of nations -- particularly European governments and institutions -- to play a leading role in resolving our separatist conflicts. The key to any resolution was to replace the outdated peacekeeping and negotiating structures created almost two decades ago, and dominated by Russia, with a genuine international effort.

But Europe kept its distance and, predictably, Russia escalated its provocations. Our friends in Europe counseled restraint, arguing that diplomacy would take its course. We followed their advice and took it one step further, by constantly proposing new ideas to resolve the conflicts. Just this past spring, we offered the separatist leaders sweeping autonomy, international guarantees and broad representation in our government.

Our offers of peace were rejected. Moscow sought war. In April, Russia began treating the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as Russian provinces. Again, our friends in the West asked us to show restraint, and we did. But under the guise of peacekeeping, Russia sent paratroopers and heavy artillery into Abkhazia. Repeated provocations were designed to bring Georgia to the brink of war.

When this failed, the Kremlin turned its attention to South Ossetia, ordering its proxies there to escalate attacks on Georgian positions. My government answered with a unilateral cease-fire; the separatists began attacking civilians and Russian tanks pierced the Georgian border. We had no choice but to protect our civilians and restore our constitutional order. Moscow then used this as pretext for a full-scale military invasion of Georgia.

Over the past days, Russia has waged an all-out attack on Georgia. Its tanks have been pouring into South Ossetia. Its jets have bombed not only Georgian military bases, but also civilian and economic infrastructure, including demolishing the port of Poti on the Black Sea coast. Its Black Sea fleet is now massing on our shores and an attack is under way in Abkhazia.

What is at stake in this war?

Most obviously, the future of my country is at stake. The people of Georgia have spoken with a loud and clear voice: They see their future in Europe. Georgia is an ancient European nation, tied to Europe by culture, civilization and values. In January, three in four Georgians voted in a referendum to support membership in NATO. These aims are not negotiable; now, we are paying the price for our democratic ambitions.

Second, Russia's future is at stake. Can a Russia that wages aggressive war on its neighbors be a partner for Europe? It is clear that Russia's current leadership is bent on restoring a neocolonial form of control over the entire space once governed by Moscow.

If Georgia falls, this will also mean the fall of the West in the entire former Soviet Union and beyond. Leaders in neighboring states -- whether in Ukraine, in other Caucasian states or in Central Asia -- will have to consider whether the price of freedom and independence is indeed too high.

Mr. Saakashvili is president of Georgia.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus
23656  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Kremlin Capers on: August 11, 2008, 08:42:58 AM
Kremlin Capers
August 11, 2008
Grim news continued to flow from Georgia yesterday. The Georgians said Russia had bombed the civilian airport in Tbilisi, while Russian warships off the coast began an economic embargo. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin left the Beijing Olympics and flew to Russian North Ossetia, where he revealingly criticized "Georgia's aspiration to join NATO."

Not least among the geopolitical realities coming to the surface at the moment is that of just who's top dog in the Kremlin. While it's widely thought Mr. Putin's power trumps that of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, an interesting wrinkle has emerged elsewhere in the new Russia that has modern-day Kremlinologists wondering whether the president might yet become more his own man.

The story revolves around Russian coal and steel company Mechel, which is publicly listed on the New York Stock exchange. On Friday the firm said it was going to postpone a preferred share placement in the wake of a battering its shares took from the volatile Mr. Putin.

Late last month, Mr. Putin accused the company of price gouging and tax evasion and warned of investigations to follow. He also got personal after Mechel CEO Igor Zyuzin failed to show up to a meeting the prime minister was holding with business leaders. "The director has been invited, and he suddenly became ill," said Mr. Putin, according to the Moscow Times. "I think he should get well as soon as possible. Otherwise, we will have to send him a doctor and clean up all the problems." Mr. Zyuzin had been hospitalized a day earlier with heart problems.

Coming from Mr. Putin, such talk is nothing short of terrifying: Consider the fate of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, now in jail in Siberia while Yukos's assets were gobbled up by state-owned oil company Rosneft. Investors swiftly took note: Mechel's stock dropped by more than 33% in a day, while the Russian exchange fell by 9%.

The Mechel play springs from a familiar game plan, in which accusations of tax or regulatory problems become the alibis by which the Kremlin and its cronies seize the assets of unwanted competitors. "It is a strictly commercial operation in the framework of Kremlin Inc. Tribute is no longer enough for them; they want to take everything into ownership," speculates Russian analyst Vladimir Pribylovsky. A similar scenario has played out with British Petroleum's BP-TNK venture in Russia, in which the Russian partners used visa "issues" to force CEO Robert Dudley out of the country.

The surprise in all this is that President Medvedev has decided to protest. "We need to create a normal investment climate in our country," the President said, without mentioning Mr. Putin. "Our law-enforcement agencies and government authorities should stop causing nightmares for business." A Medvedev adviser added that "it is not correct to destroy your own stock market . . . and wipe off $60 billion." The Russian stock market is trading at a 22-month low.

The question for Kremlinologists is whether Mr. Medvedev's comments are evidence of some independence on his part and perhaps a looming power struggle, or merely amount to a good cop, bad cop routine. It would be heartening to think it's the former, and that Russia's leaders are beginning to realize there are costs to their habits of confiscation. But with foreign investors still looking to make a fast killing in Russian markets (foreign direct investment jumped by some 60% between 2006 and 2007), those costs apparently won't be paid for some time. Meanwhile, for anyone thinking of putting money into Russia, the message should be caveat investor.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.

And add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.

23657  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: August 11, 2008, 08:04:06 AM
"9/11 was terrible, albeit lucky"

Here we have a profound difference of opinion.  911 was quite on purpose, and a continuation of the previous attacks on the WTC.  The luck on that day was not theirs that the WTC collapsed, the luck that day was ours that their attack succeeded only partially.  My understanding is that the plane that hit the Pentagon did so because of the minimal flying skills of the jihadi pilot.  He missed the White House and therefor continued on to the Pentagon as the previously worked out Plan B.  Then there is the matter of Flight 93.  What was its intended target?  The Capitol Building?  The nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island-- in which case a goodly % of Pennsylvania would have been left glowing for a very long time.

"(A)s terrible as it was, it was an abberation."

Here too we disagree.  It was not an abberation.  It is part of a world wide pattern.

"Muslims/Islam do not threaten core American and simply cannot.  Another terror attack yes, but core America; no.  They do not have the means; intent is one thing, evil is evil, but means, i.e. nuclear weapons, a significant army, navy, delivery systems, etc. is another."

I am glad we agree about the evil and its intent, but we do not when it comes to the matter of means.

Of course there is no issue of a frontal military invasion, but IMHO the unfortunate reality is that the nature of 4th Generation Warfare is that if we do nothing they will have the means in addition to already having the intent.    I mentioned a moment ago the possibility of Flight 93 having been intended for the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island.  Whether that particular hijacking did have such a target or not, other ones in the future can. 

There is also the matter of the spread of nuclear technology.  Of course you know about Iran disrespecting its obligations under international treaty about allowing its nuclear program to be supervised to ensure that it does not develop the bomb.  Please correct me if I am wrong, but you read to me as caring not at all or very little about this.  Please tell us what, if anything, you think should be done about this.

Iran is already in a position to hand off radioactive materials -- something of which Israel, a goodly portion of which is in reach of over 20,000 Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, is acutely aware.  Iran's theocratic state has already expressed the desire and intention to wipe out Israel-- which continues to exist so far only because it is a nuclear power.  What happens when Iran gets the bomb?

As far as delivery capability goes, Iran, in preparation for the day that it will have the bomb, has already developed missiles capable of carrying nukes that can reach the eastern half of Europe.  Is this a matter of indifference to you?  I doubt it is to the Euros?  It is why we are having to establish anti missile missiles in eastern Europe, much to the irriation of the Russians, who as I type are invading Georgia in retaliation for our doing so (as well as our stupid support of separating Kosovo).   At what point do you think we need to act?  Only when it becomes even more difficult to do something about it?

I think it was in the Iran thread that I posted that Iran has tested launching from boats.  What this means is that with one speacially prepared tramp steamer, one nuclear bomb, and their existing missiles, that Iran could deniably hand off and launch a nuclear bomb and explode it high over the continental US and the EMP (electric magnetic pulse) could/would wipe out a very large percentage of our internet, computers, the records stored thereon etc.

"I assure you, we have enough problems to worry about, but worrying about Muslims invading America is very low our my list.  Actually, I know quite a few; they are doctors and attorneys and they are all wonderful people.  Unlike you, I don't think think they are all evil and a threat to America.  I think you will find every race has good and bad; it is too bad you focus and seem to hate minorities; Muslims and Asians in particular, yet you are a minority.  Rather odd...?"

As discussed the frontal military invasion is not the issue.  The invidious and vicious logic of 4th Gen Warfare is the issue. 

But let us turn to Islam itself.  As I hope you have already noticed, quite a few threads on this forun are dedicated to exploring the question of the nature of Islam here and around the world.  Have you read them?  I know that they are quite long but I encourage you to put aside the time to go back and read through them-- it is way this forum organizes the content of threads the way it does; so that readers such as you can study a particular theme.  Yes the investment of your time will be substantial, but I think you will come away with your opinion evolved from where it is now.

OF COURSE many Muslims are fine and wonderful people.  Unfortunately there seems to be SOMETHING going on on a world-wide basis.  IMHO actions such blowing up Buddhist statues in Afg (the act which first put the Taliban on the international radar screen) or beheading Buddhist monks and school teachers in Thailand, the Paristinian Revolt in France and so forth show that this is not a matter of blowback as the liberal guilt school of analysis would have it. We have seen the world-wide riots and the killings in response to the Danish cartoons.  Iran issued a death sentence on Rushdie for writing a book and has had people involved in publishing the book killed even though they have not yet gotten to him. Just this past week we saw a US publishing company back off from publishing a novel about Mohammed's nine year old bride for fear of the same-- does it not give you a sense of the phenomenon of Islamic Fascism already beginning to reach into your life when certain books are not published here in America for fear???

My approach is this.  The creed upon which this country is founded holds in part that our rights come from the Creator and amongst them are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.  That includes Freedom of Choice, informed by Free Speech, which is insured in part by Separation of Church and State.  In my opinion, to be a good American one must believe in these things. 

Because as good Americans we believe in tolerance and freedom of religion IMHO it becomes important to understand that if one believes in theocracy, and the right to silence by any means necessary those who mock or criticize. then we have a real problem.  To the extent that a follower of Islam believes in theocracy, Islam becomes a political ideology as well as religion and that political ideology is seditious and as such the danger is proportionate to the numbers of the followers of this political ideology.

"As for "facts and proof" interesting how you ignore the ones you can't (torture) contest, but manage to find (you must have lots of time) an article (I suppose I could find an article or source to support that the world is still flat; ahhh the beauty of cut and paste) to support your biased minority opinion.   I suppose if I had time (I don't) I could cut and paste articles to match your prolific articles one to one, but the overwhelming evidence contradicts you!  Our own government acknowledges torture!  Good grief man, wake up!  We've done wrong!  It's a given."

1) Four posts ago GM specifically responded you various assertions you made and I invite you to respond specfically to them.

2) For the second, and hopefully last, time I address this matter of pasting articles.  GM has posted articles which are specifically responsive to the assertions and points you make.  It doesn't take him a long time to find these articles precisely because he has run into the assertions you make many times before and simply already has them at hand and simply calling them "biased, minority opinion" simply does not engage with their content.

3) This matter of when interrogation techniques become torture and what we have or havent' actually done IS a difficult one.  As I have previously stated here, I think the Bush-Rumbo team has committed some real errors here and in some respects gone places which I think we shouldn't have gone too. 

OTOH I think there has been a tremendous amount of disingenuous and non-factual hypeventilating in the MSM e.g. when the NY Times reports Gitmo prisoners accusations as fact.  Forgive me, but I think this misreportage has infected your perception of reality with a "There's so much smoke! Everyone knows there must be fire!" state of mind wherein it has become difficult for you to emotionally enagage with the very specific information which GM has put in your path.

"And basic Civil Rights have been denied; it might be you and me next time if we don't speak up.  Accept it and please don't cut and paste absurdly biased articles.  Open your eyes; the world is not us against Muslims and Asians (Brown People) etc. 

The crack about Asians/Brown People reads to me as a smear.  Unless you can point to something specific that GM has said, you should withdraw this comment.

"The world is getting smaller and we need to learn to live together."

Exactly.  Not killing people for writing books, drawing cartoons, not believing in Islam would be a good idea, not killing school teachers for teachng girls, not beating up women for not wearing a potato sack from head to toe when its 120 degrees out would be a good start-- yes?.

"Most of my friends are very successful and work for large international corporations; they are not just American companies, but global companies and the world (Muslims, Asians, etc.) is their marketplace.  No one seems to share you belief that a boogie man (Muslims) lives and threatens us behind every tree..."

You mischaracterize. Anyway, I'm hungry and go upstairs to make some breakfast.

IMHO the question presented is whether Muslims see this as a religious war with them against us, or whether they see this as a war between civilization and barbarism with them on the same side as us.



23658  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: War and Peace on: August 11, 2008, 06:28:37 AM
"Whatever enables us to go to war, secures our peace."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to James Monroe, 24 October 1823)

Reference: Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, Foley (685); orignal The
Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Ford, ed., vol. 5 (198)
23659  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: August 10, 2008, 10:12:11 AM
At the time I didn't understand why we supported the breakaway of Kosovo.  As Stratfor predicted, the Russians looked for a place to retaliate rhetorically hoisting us on our petard with its justifications.    What will they do now viz our efforts to stop Iran from going nuke?

Condi Rice is supposed to be a deep expert in Russian matters, but as best as I can tell the Bush administration has misread Putin and seriously overplayed our hand viz the Russkis. 
23660  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Water in Israel on: August 10, 2008, 07:30:32 AM
NEGEV DESERT, Israel
Roni Kedar works with an irrigation system.
A SOUVENIR in the corner of Doron Ovits’s office attests to the challenges of farming in Israel.

It’s a mangled piece of metal, and Mr. Ovits says it came from a rocket that landed in a field recently, lobbed from the nearby Gaza Strip.  But Mr. Ovits may have a bigger long-term problem than rockets. 

Israel is running short of water. A growing population and rising incomes have increased demand for fresh water, while a four-year drought has created what Shalom Simhon, the agriculture minister, calls “a deep water crisis.”

The problem isn’t only in Israel. Many arid regions of the globe, including the American West, are dealing with growing populations and shrinking water supplies. Global warming could make matters even worse.  In a speech earlier this year, the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said the shortage of water could lead to violence.

“Our experiences tell us that environmental stress, due to lack of water, may lead to conflict and would be greater in poor nations,” he said. “Population growth will make the problem worse. So will climate change. As the global economy grows, so will its thirst. Many more conflicts lie just over the horizon.” Some economists suggest that arid countries should focus on growing only those crops that give them a competitive advantage, like water-sipping grapes and vegetables, and buy everything else on the world market.

But the recent volatility and high prices in commodity markets have made many world leaders reluctant to rely on global markets. Some oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia are now shopping for farmland in more fertile countries like Sudan and Pakistan.  Others are now more determined than ever to increase their own food production, Israel among them. The question now becomes, at what cost?

“The greatest challenge we face is to try and reduce the dependence on the import of grains, whether by increasing local production or whether by making more efficient use of raw materials in feeding livestock,” Mr. Simhon said in an e-mail exchange. “This must be done, despite all limitations, mainly the lack of water.”

Israel has always been considered to be at the forefront of water efficiency in agriculture. Modern drip irrigation was invented in Israel, and Israeli companies like Netafim now ship drip-irrigation systems all over the world.  Israel has also aggressively pursued the use of treated sewer water for irrigation. Mr. Ovits’s tomatoes and peppers, for instance, are irrigated with recycled sewer water that he says is “even cleaner than the drinking water.”

For all the country’s efforts though, it can’t control the weather. But Israeli officials say they believe they have a solution.

Agriculture in Israel now consumes 500 million cubic meters of potable water and an equal amount of other types of water, primarily treated sewer water. The country plans to provide a further 200 million cubic meters of recycled sewer water and build more desalination plants to supply even more water.

“If the desalination and recycling projects are implemented, a lack of water is not expected in 2013,” Mr. Simhon said.

But is such an investment wise for a sector that contributes just 2 percent to the gross domestic product? Some critics suggest that Israel would be better off focusing on conservation.

Others have predicted a dire future. The chief scientist in the environment ministry, Yeshayahu Bar-Or, was quoted in The Economist in June as predicting that global warming would cause 35 percent less rainfall, contamination of underground water sources and pollution of the Sea of Galilee, this nation’s largest source of fresh water.

In the Golan Heights, Roni Kedar, 46, hopes his farm can survive long enough for a solution.  As a farmer for Kibbutz Ein Zivan, which abuts the Syrian border, he has spent the last 30 years trying to conserve water while growing grapes, apples, flowers and berries. 
HIS crops are irrigated with treated sewer water and rain runoff that is captured in a nearby reservoir, which is now severely depleted. He grows plants that do not require much water and feeds them with irrigation lines that drip water directly onto a plant’s roots, minimizing waste. And he is now experimenting in his apple orchards with mesh nets that may further prevent evaporation.

But because of the drought, Israeli officials have cut the kibbutz’s annual quota of water. This year’s cuts were particularly harsh, to 1 million cubic meters from 1.8 million, forcing Mr. Kedar to tear out some of his orchards and rip the fruit off of some of his apple trees, to keep the trees alive but preserve water.

“I don’t even like to go there. It’s a disaster,” he said, motioning toward an apple orchard where the fruit covers the ground. “We just threw everything to the floor and hope that next year is better.”

He estimated that he would not harvest a third of his fields because of the water restrictions. “The decision is really simple. You choose the part of your fields that are hardest to get water to and you destroy them. We just don’t have enough water,” he said later. “It’s frustrating because you work hard to make it grow. The point is to be big and efficient enough to survive. But right now it’s hard.”
23661  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: August 10, 2008, 07:15:06 AM
One of the better UFC cards in a while last night IMHO.

Brock Lesnar showed tremendous improvement over his last outing which I suspect is due to having both Eric Paulsen and Greg Nelson in his corner  shocked  Herring gets the Rocky award.

GSP continues to amaze and balls of steel award, jaw of steel award and conditioning award to Fitch for being the warrior to let him show it.  Great respect between the two at the end of the fight.  Perhaps Sled Dog can give us some background on GSP's fight preps?

Just before Manny Gamburian got dropped I said "He sure is looking straight up and down with his chin out , , ,"  MG is very good and surely must be sorely disappointed with himself.

Other good fights too, but the names slip my mind at the moment.

23662  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: August 10, 2008, 12:20:58 AM
Reminder: See page three of this thread for Pappy Dog's post giving the details for the Fighters Post Gathering Get-together.
23663  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: August 09, 2008, 09:03:23 PM
Tom did not go easy on him either.  A lot of men would not have come back after that.
23664  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: August 09, 2008, 01:06:08 PM
As has become the custom, there will be a get-together for the fighters, family and friends at Joe's afterwards.  Pappy Dog will be posting the info shortly. 

Be warned, if the piano is still there, I will be playing for a little while once again.
23665  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The bottom line on: August 09, 2008, 11:33:11 AM
Stratfor

Given the speed with which the Russians reacted to Georgia’s incursion into South Ossetia, Moscow was clearly ready to intervene. We suspect the Georgians were set up for this in some way, but at this point the buildup to the conflict no longer matters. What matters is the message that Russia is sending to the West.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev summed this message up best: “Historically Russia has been, and will continue to be, a guarantor of security for peoples of the Caucasus.”

Strategically, we said Russia would respond to Kosovo’s independence, and they have. Russia is now declaring the Caucasus to be part of its sphere of influence. We have spoken for months of how Russia would find a window of opportunity to redefine the region. This is happening now.
All too familiar with the sight of Russian tanks, the Baltic countries are terrified of what they face in the long run, and they should be. This is the first major Russian intervention since the fall of the Soviet Union. Yes, Russia has been involved elsewhere. Yes, Russia has fought. But this is on a new order of confidence and indifference to general opinion. We will look at this as a defining moment.

The most important reaction will not be in the United States or Western Europe. It is the reaction in the former Soviet states that matters most right now. That is the real audience for this. Watch the reaction of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Nagorno-Karabakh and the Balts. How will Russia’s moves affect them psychologically?

The Russians hold a trump card with the Americans: Iran. They can flood Iran with weapons at will. The main U.S. counter is in Ukraine and Central Asia, but is not nearly as painful.

Tactically, there is only one issue: Will the Russians attack Georgia on the ground? If they are going to, the Russians have likely made that decision days ago.

Focus on whether Russia invades Georgia proper. Then watch the former Soviet states. The United States and Germany are of secondary interest at this point.
23666  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Recommendations for book on history of Philippines? on: August 09, 2008, 06:20:04 AM
http://www.amazon.com/review/product/0979517303/ref=sr_1_1_cm_cr_acr_img?%5Fencoding=UTF8&showViewpoints=1
23667  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: August 09, 2008, 05:53:24 AM
For the record, I think the Bush team has gone places with interrogation techniques that I think both wrong and unsound.  I also think that there has been a tremendous amount of dishonest and disingenuous hyperventilating by the Dems and the MSM.  The cacophony generated by them leads good people such as JDN to assume that with so much smoke, there must be a lot of fire-- but if JDN is willing to reason with GM I think by the end of the conversation he may find that his thinking has changed in some respects.  The Dorf piece he has posted answers quite directly many of the assertions/accusations that you raise.  What say you?

23668  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sgt Claude on: August 09, 2008, 05:39:13 AM
Profiles of valor: USA Sgt. Claude
In September 2007, United States Army Sergeant Charles Claude Jr. was on patrol in Mosul, Iraq, as the turret gunner in an M1117 Guardian Armored Security Vehicle (ASV). Claude’s convoy noticed an IED ahead and sent forward troops to neutralize it as quickly as possible. As soon as it was disabled, however, insurgents attacked from all directions with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. Sgt. Claude fired back, taking out two insurgent vehicles—known as “technicals” —before being hit himself by a barrage of fire. His vehicle commander was also wounded. But Claude fought on despite his wound, and despite the fact that the sights of his machine gun were destroyed by enemy fire. Then, in close-quarters fighting, an insurgent jumped onto Claude’s vehicle. While the driver tried to throw the insurgent off, Claude spun his turret toward the enemy and ended the threat. As the area was secured, Claude continued to ignore his wound while providing defensive cover. Later it was discovered that the two disabled enemy “technicals” were mobile weapons caches, and they were no longer in the hands of terrorists. Sgt. Claude’s courageous actions that day saved numerous American lives and turned the tables on an enemy ambush. He was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor.
23669  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PatriotPost on: August 09, 2008, 05:37:26 AM
Campaign watch: Lots of nonsense
Barack Obama, as expected, has declined John McCain’s offer to participate in a series of 10 town hall meetings this fall. Obama, no doubt wondering how he would coherently expound upon “change we can believe in” when put on the spot by audience members, has committed only to the three debates scheduled by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Obama also angered some black groups this week by “clarifying” his earlier position on slavery reparations. Earlier, when asked about the possibility of an apology and reparations for slavery and the Jim Crow era, he spoke about backing up words with deeds. He now says that an apology would not necessarily benefit black Americans, and that reparations might be a “distraction,” presumably from real change. No wonder he doesn’t want to participate in McCain’s town hall meetings—he doesn’t dare to walk this particular tightrope, or others, without his trusty teleprompter.

On the lighter side of things, the McCain campaign has been hitting Obama on all sides with humor. For example, Obama offered last week this money-saving tip: Americans should make sure their tires are properly inflated. While this maintenance practice does indeed improve gas mileage, it is hardly the sort of substantive suggestion we should be hearing from a presidential candidate. McCain senior aid Mark Slater soon began handing out tire gauges that read “Obama’s Energy Plan.” Who said the energy crisis isn’t funny?

The big buzz, of course, is that in a new ad, McCain compared Obama to celebrities Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. The ad called Obama “the biggest celebrity in the world” and asked if he was ready to lead. Hilton’s mother jumped to her defense, criticizing the ad. Oddly enough, she and her husband have donated $4,600 to McCain’s campaign. We think astute political analyst Jay Leno got this one right: “Of all the videos Paris Hilton has been in, this is the one mom’s upset about?”
23670  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: August 09, 2008, 05:35:04 AM
I'm thinking the Chinese will to be violent has something to do with it too , , , Anyway, my doubt of your hypothesis remains.   Furthermore, I can see them using this to increase their totalitarian control-- which my libertarian self notes includes quite a few million cameras everywhere watching everything.
23671  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Paycheck Fairness drivel on: August 09, 2008, 05:31:16 AM
Rachel:

What do you think of this sort of thing?

Marc
===========
WSJ

Anything but fairness
Shortly before it recessed, the House passed the inaptly named “Paycheck Fairness Act.” This bill so dramatically amends the Fair Pay Act of 1963 that it should be called “The Small Business Destruction Act.”

Under current law, it is permissible for an employer to give male and female employees different compensation so long as the difference is based on “a factor other than sex.” Not so under the scheme devised by House Democrats. Under the new law, an employer would be liable for any difference in pay between male and female employees, unless the employer can show that a “legitimate” business reason exists for the differential, and, furthermore, that no “alternative employment practice” could prevent the differential. Democrats don’t want the employer and the labor market to make compensation decisions. Instead, they prefer that plaintiffs’ lawyers, the courts and juries decide what compensation is proper.

It gets worse. This law applies to virtually all employers, even businesses with as few as two employees. Employers would be liable, even if they did not intend to discriminate. Moreover, they face unlimited compensatory and punitive damages. This legislation, which Pelosi calls a “common-sense” measure, is a dream come true for the radical feminists who think wrongly that all wage disparities between men and women are the result of sex discrimination. It’s also a boon for trial lawyers—and a nightmare for the rest of us. Thankfully, the bill faces substantial opposition in the Senate, and President George W. Bush has vowed a veto.
23672  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / EMP on: August 09, 2008, 05:18:54 AM
The EMP Threat
August 9, 2008; Page A10
WSJ
Imagine you're a terrorist with a single nuclear weapon. You could wipe out the U.S. city of your choice, or you could decide to destroy the infrastructure of the entire U.S. economy and leave millions of Americans to die of starvation or want of medical care.

The latter scenario is the one envisioned by a long-running commission to assess the threat from electromagnetic pulse, or EMP. The subject of its latest, and little discussed, report to Congress is the effect an EMP attack could have on civilian infrastructure. If you're prone to nightmares, don't read it before bedtime.

An EMP attack occurs when a nuclear bomb explodes high in the Earth's atmosphere. The electromagnetic pulse generated by the blast destroys all the electronics in its line of sight. For a bomb detonated over the Midwest, that includes most of the continental U.S. Few, if any, people die in the blast. It's what comes next that has the potential to be catastrophic. Since an EMP surge wipes out electronics, virtually every aspect of modern American life would come to a standstill.

The commission's list of horribles is 181 pages long. The chapter on food, for instance, catalogs the disruptions up and down the production chain as food spoils or has no way to get to market. Many families have food supplies of several days or more. But after that, and without refrigeration, what? The U.S. also has 75,000 dams and reservoirs, 168,000 drinking water-treatment facilities, and 19,000 wastewater treatment centers -- all with pumps, valves and filters run by electricity.

Getting everything up and running again is not merely a matter of flipping a switch, and the commission estimates that many systems could be out of service for months or a year or more -- far longer than emergency stockpiles or batteries could cover. The large transformers used in electrical transmission are no longer built in the U.S. and delivery time is typically three years. "Lack of high voltage equipment manufacturing capacity represents a glaring weakness in our survival and recovery," the commission notes.

Many industries rely on automated control systems maintained by small work forces. In emergencies -- say, during a blackout -- companies often have arrangements in place to borrow workers from outside the affected area to augment the locals and help with manual repairs. After an EMP attack, those workers would be busy in their home regions -- or foraging for food and water for their families.

The commission offers extensive recommendations for how industry and government can protect against the effects of an EMP attack and ensure a quicker recovery. They include "hardening" more equipment to withstand an electromagnetic pulse; making sure replacement equipment is on hand; training recovery personnel; increasing federal food stockpiles; and many others.

If not, our vulnerability "can both invite and reward attack," the commission's chairman, William Graham, told Congress last month. Iran's military writings "explicitly discuss a nuclear EMP attack that would gravely harm the United States," he said. James Shinn, an assistant secretary of defense, has said that China is developing EMP weapons. The commission calls an EMP attack "one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences." The threat is real. It's past time to address it.
23673  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: August 09, 2008, 04:15:46 AM
August 8, 2008
Fighting in Georgia’s separatist enclave of South Ossetia picked up overnight Friday. Georgia moved regular army forces into the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali proper after having captured most of the suburbs and encircling the town. The Georgian government says that its forces now hold most South Ossetian territory, including all of the heights overlooking the capital.

South Ossetia seceded from Georgia in 1993 during the chaos of the Soviet breakup. In those early post-Soviet days, a crumbling Russia wanted to maintain footholds south of the Caucasus Mountains and ensure that Georgia could not become a launching point for foreign influence into Russian territory. On the other side of the border, Georgia was undergoing a nationalist spasm that made the South Ossetians believe that their destruction was imminent. These fears merged and the Russians provided the South Ossetians with the military capabilities they needed to secure and hold independence. Fifteen years later, the Georgians are attempting to eliminate the South Ossetian separatists.

But this conflict is about much more than simply which flag flies over a tiny chunk of territory in the Caucasus. Georgia is an extremely pro-American and pro-Western state and represents the easternmost foothold of American/Western power. It has also been in the Russian orbit for the bulk of the past 300 years. As such, it is the hottest flashpoint in Western-Russian relations. Which way the territory falls ultimately decides whether Russia can determine security concerns that literally fall right on the border of its heartland. To put it another way, what is being decided here is whether bordering Russia and simultaneously being a U.S. ally is a suicidal combination. Whichever way this works out, the dynamics of the entire region are about to be turned on their head.

The conflict started on Thursday because the South Ossetians feared that the Russians were about to sell them out. Russia does not want Georgia to join NATO — or even to be appearing to be seeking to join NATO — and so has cranked up political, economic and military pressure on Tbilisi. The two had been negotiating a deal by which Georgia would abandon its NATO bid and tone down its rhetoric in exchange for being allowed to continue existing. Since South Ossetia (and, to a lesser degree, Georgia’s other breakaway region of Abkhazia) gauges its own prospects for continued existence based on the level of tension between Moscow and Tbilisi, the South Ossetians feared that restoration of some sort of “normal” relations between Russia and Georgia could destroy them. Ergo they began shelling Georgian towns near Tskhinvali. The Georgians responded with an invasion.

Fundamentally there are only two locations in this conflict that matter: the capital and the southern end of the Roki Tunnel, which connects South Ossetia to Russia. The capital is the only city of note in South Ossetia, and the Roki is the only means for Russia to shuttle forces to and from the territory. The tunnel is only two lanes wide and is an excellent choke point. If Georgia can capture and hold those two targets, South Ossetia’s 15-year rebellion will in essence be over.

But that can happen only if the Russians let it. While Georgia’s forces — with U.S. training — have become demonstrably more capable in the past five years, Georgia remains a relative military pigmy and South Ossetia is a Russian client.

Effective Russian intervention has not yet materialized, however. Russian sources are reporting that the Georgians have engaged Russian peacekeepers (forces the Russians have long deployed to guarantee South Ossetia’s independence) and killed their commander. Georgian sources report that Russian jets have bombed Gori, a city in Georgia proper that is being used for the invasion’s launching point. Those reports also claim that Georgian forces downed one of the jets.

The truth of the reports from either side cannot be confirmed at this point, but this we know for sure: If the Russians were committed to assisting the South Ossetians, then the Roki tunnel would be flooded with military assets flowing south instead of evacuees flooding north. All reports at present indicate that the northern end of the tunnel is cluttered with evacuation buses, by some reports enough to transport a sizable portion of South Ossetia’s total population of about 70,000.

If the Russians do commit militarily, one of the most enthusiastic forces they could tap to assist South Ossetia are the Abkhaz. Like South Ossetia, Abkhazia is another Georgian separatist enclave that could have attained and maintained its de facto independence only with active Russian military support. The Abkhaz say they are willing to send at least 1,000 volunteers to back up South Ossetia, but it appears the Russians are restraining them.

The Russians appear to be making up their minds about what to do. President Dmitri Medvedev is chairing a National Security Council meeting as this diary is being published, a meeting that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin — at the Olympics in Beijing — is undoubtedly attending remotely.

The Russians now face an uncomfortable decision. South Ossetia wants to force Russia to intervene militarily, but Russia prefers to maintain the fiction that it is not Russian military assets that guarantee South Ossetian independence. Should Russia not intervene, however, it will essentially have demonstrated its ineffectiveness in its own back yard. Kosovo’s independence proved that Russian diplomatic power in Europe was nonexistent. Getting forced out of South Ossetia — a territory that Russia not only borders but has troops in — would be several steps past humiliation.

And so we would be very surprised if Russia does not act. Which means we are very surprised that the Russians have not yet acted firmly. They will need to do so very soon, for if Georgia manages to capture both Tskhinvali and the mouth of the Roki Tunnel, then Russia not only will have lost its foothold in the South Caucasus, but also will be unable to use purely conventional forces to put the military balance back where Moscow would like it to be.

So, for now, all eyes are on that security council meeting in Moscow. The Russians need to decide if they are all in.

stratfor
23674  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: August 09, 2008, 04:15:05 AM
I say this with complete sincerity GM-- that was very interesting.

I can see that I need to sharpen my question a bit.  My hesitation with your analysis comes from not seeing the Chinese as seeing this as something for which they will particularly benefit from working with us.  I can see them as looking to solve the problem as they do so many others (e.g. Tibet) -- by being the totalitarian pricks that they are and by dilution with Chinese population.
23675  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: August 08, 2008, 11:00:39 PM
By all means start filling your dance card gents.

My student Mauricio of Mexico City is looking for double stick fights.

Changing subjects, our friend David Knight of Hermosa Beach needs a ride to and from the Gathering.  If someone could help him out that would be great.  His phone number is 310-404-3815.  I've just left a message telling him I will be posting here about him so he shouldn't be surprised to hear from you.  Thanks.
23676  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: August 08, 2008, 02:59:22 PM
If I counted correctly we are now at 50 fighters including from Belgiium, Canada, and Mexico!
23677  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: August 08, 2008, 02:55:30 PM
"To successfully engage an element of the global jihad requires a global, systemic strategy, not just targeting hajis in Xinjiang."

Why?
23678  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: August 08, 2008, 02:51:21 PM
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,317398,00.html


MINNEAPOLIS — With her six kids and husband tucked into bed, Yee Moua was watching TV in her living room just after midnight when she heard voices — faint at first, then louder. Then came the sound of a window shattering.

Moua bolted upstairs, where her husband, Vang Khang, grabbed his shotgun from a closet, knelt and fired a warning shot through his doorway as he heard footsteps coming up the stairs. He let loose with two more blasts. Twenty-two bullets were fired back at him, by the family's count.
Then things suddenly became clear.

"It's the police! Police!" his sons yelled.

Khang, a Hmong immigrant with shaky command of English, set down his gun, raised his hands and was soon on the ground, an officer's boot on his neck.

The gunmen, it turned out, were members of a police SWAT team that had raided the wrong address because of bad information from an informant — a mistake that some critics say happens all too frequently around the country and gets innocent people killed.

"I have six kids, and only one mistake almost took my kids' life," said Moua, 29. "We will never forget this."

No one was hurt in the raid Sunday, conducted by a task force that fights drugs and gangs, though two police officers were hit by the shotgun blasts and narrowly escaped injury because they were wearing bulletproof vests.

Police apologized to the family and placed the seven officers on leave while it investigates what went wrong.

Such mistakes are a fact of police work, some experts said.
"Does going to the wrong address happen from time to time? Yes," said John Gnagey, executive director of the National Tactical Officers

Association in Doylestown, Pa. "Do you corroborate as best you can the information the informant gives you? Absolutely. But still from time to time mistakes are
made."

--

They gave the MN SWAT guys some medals.

http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=5484185


A Minneapolis family is outraged that members of the SWAT team that mistakenly raided their house and fired upon them last December have been awarded medals for their bravery under fire.

According to Heffelfinger, the Laotian family has owned and lived in the house for four years and had no knowledge of the female police informant. "Ironically, the house is located across the street from a police precinct," Heffelfinger said, "so, if [the SWAT team] had simply asked the precinct, they would have learned the family was not gang bangers."

"They were acting in good faith on a warrant that was properly drawn up, based off of what appeared to be good information," Garcia said. "Their bravery under fire should not be negated [because of the misinformation]."

But the Khangs, through their lawyer, beg to differ.

"They were given medals for taking fire in my client's house ... where, by the grace of God, no one was killed that night," Heffelfinger said.
Police claimed to have protected the six children -- ranging in ages from 3 to 15 -- that night, but Heffelfinger says it's "hogwash."

Two of the children jumped up from a mattress on the floor to hide in a corner seconds before the same mattress was littered with bullets fired from the police, he said.

--

Some video. Upper right hand corner.

http://wcco.com/iteam/swat.team.honored.2.783216.html
__________________
23679  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: August 08, 2008, 02:08:31 PM
Woof to the Dog Tribe:

TTT.

If you are not listed or are listed incorrectly, please let me know.

Crafty Dog
Guiding Force
23680  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: August 08, 2008, 02:06:47 PM
Woof Baltic Dog:

I think that is a good idea , , , for next time smiley  And yes, SERIOUS props to C-Space Dog!

Woof All:

Meynard Ancheta's form arrived this morning.

HC through HC
CD
GF
23681  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: August 08, 2008, 02:03:18 PM
The Race Card Is a Losing Hand

Memphis voters overwhelmingly rejected the tactics of black attorney Nikki Tinker in yesterday's Democratic primary for Congress in Tennessee. Her campaign had run an ad featuring Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen, who is white and Jewish, next to a picture of a hooded Klansman while an announcer criticized him for voting against removing a statue of a Confederate general from a local park. A later ad attacked Mr. Cohen for "praying in our churches" while opposing mandatory school prayer.

The raw appeals backfired as Mr. Cohen won a stunning 79% of the vote, to Ms. Tinker's 19%. Indeed, Ms. Tinker pulled off the feat of receiving fewer votes than she got in 2006, when she was part of a nine-candidate slate fighting for the then-vacant Congressional seat. Mr. Cohen narrowly won that primary in the majority-black district as the only white candidate, winning 31% of the vote to Ms. Tinker's 25%.

"It says that we have come a long, long way and that the people who were counting on racial voting to prevail are thinking of a Memphis that doesn't exist anymore," Mr. Cohen told Politico.com last night. "The people of Memphis are more sophisticated voters that deal with issues and someone's record and not simply race."

-- John Fund
Obama's Got a Tiger in His Tank

Democrats think they can gain some extra political mileage -- tires properly inflated, of course -- by linking John McCain to the oil-and-gas industry. This week, the Democratic National Committee debuted an advertising campaign that floats Exxon as the GOP running mate. Har, har.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, is up with television spots that accuse Mr. McCain of being "in the pocket of Big Oil" before touting a plan for a windfall profits tax.

But wait. According to FEC data examined by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in a new report released yesterday, Exxon executives and employees have broken in favor of Mr. Obama over Mr. McCain this election cycle -- by $41,100 to $35,166. Chevron's and BP's contribution margins also favor the Democrat -- by about $6,600 and $4,500, respectively. Guess those Democratic commercials now could use a footnote or two.

Of course, Mr. McCain has received in total more than three times as much money from the oil sector as Mr. Obama this election cycle. (The larger Republican Party also tops out easily.) That's hardly surprising, given that Mr. McCain is somewhat less likely to yoke the industry with punitive new taxes and regulation. Besides, a lot of this money comes from smaller, more entrepreneurial companies that are even less likely than Exxon to influence the price of gas and aren't usually whipping boys of Democratic rhetoric.

The real question is how the McCain camp handles the CRP revelations, if it does. Mr. McCain's immediate impulse will be to demagogue the "gotcha" angle. But he might take his cue from Republican candidates across the country, most notably Colorado's Bob Schaffer. A growing GOP band has been able to profitably turn supposedly being "in the pocket of Big Oil" into an electoral asset. After all, the oil industry provides a product that America can't do without.

-- Joseph Rago
Terms of Endearment

Chalk up another boilerplate liberal position for Barack Obama on a major congressional reform issue: term limits. Asked about whether he supports term limits last week, the Illinois Senator was unequivocal: "I'm generally not in favor of term limits. Nobody is term-limiting the lobbyists or the slick operators walking around the halls of Congress. I believe in one form of term limits. They're called elections."

Let's translate that answer: You can almost hear the K Street "lobbyists" and "slick operators," who despise term limits, breathing a sigh of relief.

U.S. Term Limits president Philip Blumel mocks Mr. Obama's attitude as "utter nonsense." He notes that lobbyists derive their power and influence from careerist politicians, giving rise to the so-called "iron triangle" of power in Washington: career politicians, federal agency bureaucrats and lobbyists. The idea of term limits is to break up that symbiotic and corruptive pact.

The argument that elections are a form of term limits is the standard reply from the business-as-usual crowd in Washington. "As an incumbent," says Mr. Blumel, "Mr. Obama knows full well that members of Congress have now skewed the laws to give themselves a virtual guarantee of a lifetime job. And as the self-appointed apostle of change, he ought to be taking the lead to change all that inequity."

The statistics back up Mr. Blumel's point. Even in 2006 midterm elections, when Republicans lost control of Congress and voters were angry with incumbents, 94% of incumbents won reelection. Normally, reelection rates in the House are closer to 96% and here's one reason: Incumbents on average raise $2 million per election -- or three times more than challengers.

So, the corrupting power structure in Washington and lifetime politicians can relax. When it comes to cleaning up the swamp of special interests inside the Washington beltway, Mr. Obama may be touting a slogan of "change you can believe in" but he sounds more and more like a defender of the status quo.

-- Stephen Moore
Quote of the Day

"Obama allowed that it was not hard to understand a recent Pew survey's findings that some voters feel they are hearing too much about him, coming off the 'longest primary in history.' He said his upcoming weeklong trip with his family to visit his grandmother in Hawaii should result in less coverage, with the media's help. 'I think that the majority of people have been fed a constant stream of political chatter,' he said. 'And I'm sure that having a couple weeks off and enjoying the Olympics is probably what the doctor ordered for everybody'" -- National Journal's Athena Jones, covering the Barack Obama campaign.

The Prodigal Hugo

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has tried make himself a global powerbroker and the leader of a socialist resurgence, but his methods have been less than statesman-like. Calling the president of the United States an unflattering part of the human anatomy is one example. Hanging with Colombian terrorists is another.

Yet, according to the State Department's Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Tom Shannon, blowback may be starting to force the Venezuelan leader to rethink his antisocial ways. "Countries around the region have seen the political space open to Venezuela shrinking," the Bush Administration's top diplomat for Latin America told a House subcommittee last month. "The re-emergence of countries that have traditionally been regional leaders has constricted Venezuela's diplomatic movements."

This is a polite way of saying Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Mexico, thanks to their economic achievements and the evolution of their institutions, have been elevated to the realm of serious countries -- while Venezuela has sunk to banana-republic status.

Venezuela has been further damaged, Mr. Shannon added, by Mr. Chávez's failed campaign for a U.N. Security Council seat and his country's growing "internal problems" -- of which the most visible are skyrocketing crime, inflation, food shortages and unemployment.

Where Mr. Shannon ventured into questionable territory, however, was a suggestion that the loose cannon in Caracas may be seeing the error of his ways. "For the first time in many years," he said, Venezuela has "expressed a willingness to explore improved relations with the U.S. President Chávez recently told our Ambassador that he wanted to improve our counter-drug cooperation. . . . "

How wonderful. Venezuela under Mr. Chávez has become a key transshipment agent for cocaine destined for the U.S., Europe and -- lately -- West Africa, where (as even Mr. Shannon noted) "the drug trade is exploding and causing instability to the region."

Mr. Chávez may well be softening his tone since he can only conduct so many fights at one time. At home, he's trying to brace up his troubled rule with new decrees seizing control of the economy and setting up a personal militia. But to mistake his tactical maneuvers as a sign of new maturity would be wishful thinking. Let's hope the Bush Administration -- and whoever comes next -- is not so unwise.

-- Mary Anastasia O'Grady
23682  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: August 08, 2008, 10:56:53 AM
BTW, for the record Bryan Stoops is "Guide Dog", not "C-Guide Dog"  smiley
23683  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: August 08, 2008, 10:51:05 AM
If he wins, in several ways McCain will be very bad.  Its just that BO will be bad n most ways, including the struggle with Islamic Fascism.
23684  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: August 08, 2008, 10:48:31 AM
Good piece GM.

I do find myself doubting some of what I understand to be your unerlying hypothesis.  My current sense of things is that the Chinese govt will be the totalitarian assh*le that it is in dealing with its  Islamo Fascists, and that this will affect nothing in their dealings with us.
23685  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: August 08, 2008, 10:43:52 AM
Equal is such a slippery word.  4+1=2+3 but they are not the same thing.
23686  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: August 08, 2008, 12:48:30 AM
RAchel:

I have high regard for Stratfor, but this time around I suspect they may be a bit too in love with their own IQ.

Marc
23687  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: August 07, 2008, 07:54:17 PM
JDN:

Your criteria simply do not apply to a foreign battlefield.

BTW, this driver had a few missiles in the trunk of his car.

23688  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Volunteers needed on: August 07, 2008, 07:51:11 PM
Woof All:

We are in need of a couple of volunteers to help out setting things up and taking them down at the end of the day.  Please call Pappy Dog 818-618-0525.

I've yet to confirm the details with Cindy, but a goodly discount on DBMA DVDs is one option as an expression of our appreciation.

"HC through HC"
Crafty Dog
GF
23689  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Petraeus in Lebanon on: August 07, 2008, 04:57:09 PM
U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, the top coalition military commander in Iraq and future head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), made a surprise visit to Beirut on Wednesday to discuss military cooperation with the Lebanese. The U.S. general reportedly met with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman (also a former army commander) and acting Lebanese army commander Maj. Gen. Shawki al-Masri.

Petraeus essentially has been Washington’s rainmaker for the Middle East. He is credited with bringing some semblance of stability to Iraq and has been chosen to try to do the same for Afghanistan. Though his hands are already quite full, the general — who takes over as CENTCOM chief in September — apparently felt the need to make time for some meetings in the Levant, which leaves us wondering what this trip is really about.

Contrary to expectations, the visit likely has little to do with military assistance to the Lebanese army. No amount of U.S. aid is going to be enough to build the Lebanese military into a force unified and formidable enough to competently confront an organization like Hezbollah. And a soon-to-be CENTCOM chief like Petraeus certainly does not have to be the one to make the time for a trip to Beirut to discuss giving a new batch of vehicles to Lebanese security forces. We suspect this meeting addressed more important matters.

The visit comes at a critical time; the regional dynamics are shifting in the Levant. Israel and Syria are negotiating in fancy hotel rooms in Turkey over a peace deal that would enhance Israel’s national security and reassert Syrian hegemony in Lebanon. These talks are progressing and are making Hezbollah more and more paranoid by the day, given that any final accommodation between the Israelis and the Syrians would include cutting Hezbollah down to size.

Though the Syrians already appear to have taken some (quiet) steps to curtail Hezbollah’s arms supplies, the Israelis are signaling that the ultimate litmus test for this peace deal will involve bigger and bolder action by the Syrians against the Shiite militant group. Israel is not about to allow Syria to play the middle ground in dealing with Hezbollah. With the Lebanese incapable of containing Hezbollah themselves, the Syrians are expected to play a major role in diluting Hezbollah’s military strength.

Exactly how Israel intends to deal with Hezbollah is still unclear, especially as the Israeli government is in a major political flux over its prime minister’s impending resignation. But Israeli preparations for a military confrontation with Hezbollah are now in full swing, and we can’t help but wonder whether these preparations are simply precautionary measures in case of a Hezbollah attack; or perhaps they are part of an Israeli strategy to goad Hezbollah into a war that would prove Syria’s commitment to the peace talks.

The same day Petraeus was in Lebanon, Stratfor picked up information from a source in the region claiming that Syria had dismantled an anti-aircraft system in the Anti-Lebanon mountain range to the east of the Bekaa Valley — a major Hezbollah stronghold and likely the main site of fighting between Hezbollah and Israel should full-scale hostilities resume. According to the source, Israel assured the Syrians (via Turkey) that it would not attack Syrian military positions in the event of such an outbreak, leaving Hezbollah particularly vulnerable and dependent on its own meager arsenal of man-portable surface-to-air missiles.

Stratfor has not been able to confirm this information, but if true, it signals a significant shift toward peace by the Syrians. Whether or not Israel intends to attack Hezbollah, whether or not Syria intends to attack Hezbollah, and whether or not the two decide to work together militarily or politically against Hezbollah, the bottom line is that that time is coming. Any of the above options are feasible, and there are many more ways to skin this particular cat. But the commonality among all of them is that Israel and Syria are sliding from a cold war into a cold peace, and that will redefine not just their bilateral relations, but the balance of power throughout the region. A Syria that can work with Israel is one in which Iran holds little influence. A Lebanon under the Syrian thumb is one in which groups like Hezbollah face the question of accommodation or oblivion. A more secure Israel is one that does not need to be overly concerned about anything the Palestinians demand. All this adds up to a very different region, and one which the United States — via Petraeus — fully intends to be involved in shaping.

Tell Stratfor What You Think
23690  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: August 07, 2008, 04:51:36 PM
California Attorney General Jerry Brown is stepping outside his law enforcement role and playing politics with a November ballot measure that would ban same-sex marriage in the state.

Backers of the measure collected some one million signatures this spring under a title approved by Mr. Brown's office that made it clear the measure would "provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid." Since the signatures were collected, the state Supreme Court has ruled same-sex marriage constitutional but also allowed the ballot measure to go before voters.

Mr. Brown, a candidate for governor in 2010, has apparently decided to make a play for liberal Democratic primary voters by changing his own office's description of the measure. It now reads that the ballot initiative seeks "to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry," a much more negative way of describing the measure. His office says the meaning is the same.

But both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage "know that to some voters -- perhaps a decisive bloc in a close election -- the new ballot title language could make the measure sound punitive by eliminating a 'right,'" notes Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters.

Lawyers question the validity of Mr. Brown's move. If the meaning is the same, why is the change needed? If the meaning is different, the change contradicts the petition that placed the proposition on the ballot. Either way, the change is groundless.

Mr. Brown has pulled this trick before. Back in February he obscured the title language of a ballot measure that would have watered down the state's term limit law. Luckily, voters saw through the subterfuge and voted down the proposal, which had been sponsored by key state legislators who were about to be turned out of office.

The courts will have to decide on the validity of Mr. Brown's latest ploy, but political analysts say it's yet more evidence of the 70-year-old Mr. Brown's ability to further his ambitions in creative ways. "He may not have been governor for over a quarter century, but he is doing everything he can to win the office back," says Jon Fleischman, editor of the political news service FlashReport.org.

-- John Fund
Vetting Tim Kaine

 A week before his election as Virginia governor in 2005, Democrat Tim Kaine won the endorsement of the irascible Doug Wilder, a former governor. Three days later Mr. Kaine's campaign paid Paul Goldman, a top aide to Mr. Wilder, $15,000 in consulting fees, setting off a storm of criticism.

No evidence has surfaced to show the two events are connected, but it points to one set of concerns as the Obama campaign vets Mr. Kaine for a possible nomination to the vice presidency -- his reputation as dutiful attendant to the Virginia machine and its key movers and shakers.

Mr. Kaine is a popular and moderately successful governor of what until recently was considered a reliably conservative state. He has kept the state's GOP on the defensive, brought his party to within striking distance of retaking the state legislature and has run a competent administration. He doesn't have a major overhaul of the state's transportation system to his credit or any other major reform to point to, but instead has quietly built his political persona as someone who can work the levers of government, play hardball when necessary and operate comfortably in the shadow of larger political personalities.

He was happy to cede the spotlight to his predecessor, Democrat Mark Warner, who became a media darling by passing a massive tax increase through a Republican legislature in 2004 when Democrats were floundering nationally. Rather than resent the focus on Mr. Warner, Mr. Kaine embraced it. He campaigned with Mr. Warner and, as the sitting lieutenant governor, promised to carry on his tax and education policies. Once elected, he retained Mr. Warner's chief of staff and demonstrated his willingness to cross swords with the GOP by nominating Daniel LeBlanc, head of the state's AFL-CIO, to be a member of his cabinet as Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Republicans rejected the nomination, drawing a rebuke from Mr. Kaine who promised a budget fight in response. He made good on the threat by forcing the legislature into a special session to debate details of various transportation proposals (finally winning passage of a transportation bill last year). On the stump, Mr. Kaine turned the rejection of Mr. LeBlanc to his advantage, using it to rally union support and raise money for other Democrats, including Jim Webb in his successful bid to unseat Republican Sen. George Allen two years ago.

Bottom line: If Mr. Obama is looking for someone who is non-threatening to the average voter, but who will be a loyal liberal soldier, Mr. Kaine fits the bill. The base will be happy with him; he brings the possibility of carrying Virginia, potentially a crucial battleground state. On the margins he will appeal to swing voters. The one thing he won't deliver is a reputation for major policy accomplishments or conspicuous substantive experience that would offset Mr. Obama's own weakness in these areas.

-- Brendan Miniter
The Show Me (A Good Race) State

 Looking for exciting races to watch outside of the presidential election? You can almost skip right over this year's contests for governor, which feature a severe dearth of competition. One reason is that only 11 of the 50 states hold elections for their top spot in presidential years; another reason is that of this year's 11 contests, only three feature open seats and just two of those will be competitive in November.

However, one race to keep an eye on is Missouri's, where things got a lot more interesting in January when Republican Gov. Matt Blunt announced unexpectedly that he would not seek re-election. Suddenly, Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon, who had been running against Blunt since 2005, was given a huge edge in the race. Mr. Nixon did not face a competitive primary challenge, unlike the GOP, which had a number of people interested in filling Mr. Blunt's shoes. The winner was Rep. Kenny Hulshof, who's held the 9th Congressional District seat since 1996. He will now face Mr. Nixon after squeaking past state Treasurer Sarah Steelman in Tuesday's GOP primary by 49% to 45%.

Interestingly, even the eventual loser of this race could be someone to watch. The last two candidates defeated in Missouri governor races have gone on to win a U.S. Senate seat. Republican Jim Talent lost to Bob Holden in 2000 and two years later defeated Jean Carnahan in the special election to fill the Senate seat won by her late husband. In 2004, Democrat Claire McCaskill lost to Mr. Blunt and two years later knocked Mr. Talent out of his Senate seat. Think Republican Sen. Kit Bond, who's up for re-election in 2010, is watching this one with interest?

-- Kyle Trygstad, RealClearPolitics.com
Quote of the Day

"[Hillary] Clinton has been giving tacit encouragement to suggestions that her name be placed in nomination at the [Democratic] convention, a symbolic move that would be a reminder of the bruising primary battle. 'No decisions have been made,' Clinton said when asked in California -- to whoops and applause -- about that possibility. Still, it was hard to miss what Clinton would like to see in the pointed way she added, 'Delegates can decide to do this on their own. They don't need permission'" -- Time magazine, reporting on the lingering bitterness of the Clinton forces over their defeat by Barack Obama.

Talking Freedom to China

 HONG KONG -- President Bush's remarks in Bangkok today show that he, for one, is going to China with his eyes open. At his stop in Thailand, he delivered a speech that was pitch-perfect on the legitimate interest the outside world takes in China's human rights.

"America stands in firm opposition to China's detention of political dissidents and human rights advocates and religious activists," he said. "We speak out for a free press, freedom of assembly, and labor rights -- not to antagonize China's leaders, but because trusting its people with greater freedom is the only way for China to develop its full potential."

China invariably takes umbrage at such meddling in its "internal affairs," but is certainly glad to have Mr. Bush's attendance at the Olympics. The Communist Party regime had hoped -- and activists feared -- that the world would see only China's economic growth and ignore its political and religious oppression during the Games. At this point, given concerns about everything from pollution and visas for outspoken athletes to power outages and traffic jams, Beijing perhaps will be satisfied if the show comes off without major embarrassments.

Mr. Bush's critics, for their part, still insist he never should have made the trip. His approach, however, has been consistent with the Freedom Agenda that has been a cornerstone of his foreign policy -- that progress on democracy and human rights is as much in China's interests as our own. That's not a message that would come through by treating China as a pariah or an enemy.

-- Abheek Bhattacharya

23691  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: August 07, 2008, 10:04:29 AM
As I am occasionally reminded  cheesy

Here's our current list of people from whom we do not have registration forms:

Erik Bryant
Al Romo
Jeff L.  (Don't know last name but he was mentioned on the forum)
Michael Klinefelter
23692  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Chapter Two on: August 07, 2008, 10:03:32 AM
Continuing with this story

Pr. George's Police Arrest 2 In Marijuana-Shipping Plot
One Package Went to Mayor's Wife
By Rosalind S. Helderman and Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 7, 2008; A01



Prince George's County police announced yesterday that they have arrested a deliveryman and another man who they say are involved in a scheme to smuggle marijuana by shipping packages addressed to unsuspecting recipients, including a delivery last week to the wife of the mayor of Berwyn Heights.

The county Sheriff's Office SWAT team and narcotics officers raided the home of Mayor Cheye Calvo and his wife, Trinity Tomsic, after intercepting a package addressed to her that was filled with 32 pounds of marijuana. During the raid, officers broke down Calvo's door and fatally shot the family's two black Labrador retrievers.

Police said the package was one of about a half-dozen retrieved by authorities in the past week along the route of a deliveryman in northern Prince George's. The packages contained a combined 417 pounds of marijuana valued at about $3.6 million.

Police Chief Melvin C. High would not rule out that Calvo and Tomsic had some involvement in the delivery. Asked whether police had cleared them, he said: "From all the indications at the moment, they had an unlikely involvement, but we don't want to draw that definite conclusion at the moment." He later said, "Most likely, they were innocent victims."
Neither he nor Sheriff Michael A. Jackson apologized for the raid, which they said was conducted responsibly, given what deputies and officers knew at the time.

Calvo declined to comment. Timothy Maloney, an attorney for Calvo and Tomsic, said the arrests confirm that Tomsic was a "random victim of identity theft at the hands of major drug traffickers."

"This crime was compounded by law enforcement when it illegally invaded the Calvo home, tied up the mayor and his mother-in-law, and killed the family dogs," he said in an e-mail. "The Calvo family is still waiting for an explanation from law enforcement as to how this could possibly have happened."

Police had been tracking the package since a drug-sniffing dog in Arizona drew attention to it. Calvo has said law enforcement officers burst into his home moments after he picked up the package from his porch and brought it in. It had been left on the porch on the instructions of his mother-in-law by police posing as deliverymen. Calvo has said sheriff's deputies entered without knocking and began shooting immediately.

High said one of the men arrested was an independent contractor who worked as a package deliveryman. The police chief did not release the name of either man.

High and Maj. Mark Magaw, commander of the county's narcotics enforcement division, said the two suspects worked in tandem. The officials said that the deliveryman would drop off the package and that the other man would come by shortly thereafter and retrieve it.
At other times, the officials said, the suspects exchanged packages face to face in parking lots. In two instances, Magaw said, the deliveryman mistakenly took drugs to the wrong address, then went to the houses and asked for the packages.

He said police investigating the case uncovered a separate and parallel scheme to use the package delivery system to send marijuana. They arrested two other men yesterday in connection with that conspiracy and seized about 100 pounds of marijuana.

High and Jackson spent much of a news conference yesterday defending the raid on Calvo's home. They said using a SWAT team was appropriate because guns and violence are often associated with drug rings.
"In some quarters, this has been viewed as a flawed police operation and an attack on the mayor, which it is not," High said. "This was about an address, this was about a name on a package . . . and, in fact, our people did not know that this was the home of the mayor and his family until after the fact."

High said Jackson's team was responsible for determining how "dynamic" an entry was required. Jackson said that the search warrant authorizing the raid was obtained by the police department and that his team was there only because the police's SWAT team was busy on another assignment.

Neither explained why police spokesmen initially said a "no knock" warrant had been authorized, giving law enforcement officers permission from a judge to raid the home without announcing their presence. Magaw said there was no such thing as a no-knock warrant and denied telling public information officers that one exists. Legal experts say a law adopted in 2005 created such a warrant.

Police are allowed to enter without announcing themselves even without the authorization, but only if specific circumstances at the scene lead them to reasonably suspect that evidence might be destroyed or officers' lives endangered.

Jackson said yesterday that his team was justified in entering the home as forcefully as it did because Calvo's mother-in-law screamed when she saw the officers approaching the house. The noise, he said, could have alerted any armed occupants of the home or allowed time for destruction of any evidence.

He also defended the shooting of the dogs. He said his deputies were "engaged" by the dogs, by one as they entered the house and by the other as they made their way through it. Neither dog bit a deputy, he said.

Calvo maintains that his dogs were peaceful.

Maloney said yesterday that it was "demonstrably false" to suggest the dogs were threatening law enforcement, and on the whole called the law enforcement's statement about the raid "defensive" and "outrageous."
Neither agency has asked for the family's version of the raid, he said.
"It is clear that neither agency can conduct an independent review into the law enforcement misconduct that occurred here, nor are they willing to review their policies involving no-knock entry and the killing of innocent family pets," Maloney said.

The family will hold a news conference today to address the issues. Calvo, 37, works part time as the mayor and serves as director of expansion for the SEED Foundation, a national nonprofit group that runs urban public boarding schools. Tomsic is a finance officer for the state.

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.
23693  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Moqtada packs it in on: August 07, 2008, 08:48:47 AM


second post of the AM

Moqtada Packs It In
August 6, 2008; Page A14
Good news out of Iraq is becoming almost a daily event: In just the past week, we learned that U.S. combat fatalities (five) dropped in July to a low for the war, that key leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq have fled to the Pakistani hinterland, that troop deployments will soon be cut to 12 months from 15, and that Washington and Baghdad are close to concluding a status-of-forces agreement.

Now this: Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr plans to announce Friday that he will disarm his Mahdi Army, which was raining mortars on Baghdad's Green Zone as recently as April. Coupled with the near-total defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq, this means the U.S. no longer faces any significant organized military foe in the country. It also marks a major setback for Iran, which had used the Mahdi Army as one of its primary vehicles for extending its influence in Iraq.

The story, broken yesterday by the Journal's Gina Chon, marks the latest of serial defeats for Mr. Sadr, beginning in February 2007 when he was forced underground (reportedly to Iran) in anticipation of the surge of U.S. troops. More recently, the Mahdi Army was defeated and evicted from Basra and other southern strongholds by an Iraqi-led military offensive. The Mahdi Army capitulated without a fight from its Baghdad enclave of Sadr City. Now the young cleric will focus his group's efforts on politics and social work, perhaps while he pursues theological studies in Iran. He wouldn't be the first grad student in history with a tendency toward rabble-rousing.

In many respects, the story of the Mahdi Army's decline follows the same pattern as al Qaeda's: Not only was it routed militarily, it also made itself noxious to the very Shiite population it purported to represent and defend. It enforced its heavy-handed religious edicts, coupled with mob-like extortion tactics, wherever it assumed effective control. The overwhelming Shiite rejection of this brand of politics is another piece of good news from Iraq, as it means that Iraqis will not tolerate Iranian-style theocratic rule.

It is also an indication that Iraqi politics is developing in a healthy way. There was considerable anxiety that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as the leader of the Shiite-dominated Islamic Dawa Party, would practice a sectarian form of politics and toe a pro-Iranian line, particularly since it had long been headquartered in Tehran. Mr. Maliki's coalition initially included Mr. Sadr's loyalists, including several cabinet members.

Mr. Maliki had little choice but to make political alliances with Shiite sectarians and seek good relations with Iran, but he has also proven to be more than a sectarian politician and no Iranian pawn. Instead, he has turned out to be a muscular Iraqi nationalist, a stance that enjoys far greater popular support than many Western "experts" on Iraq believed possible. (Remember Senator Joe Biden and others who advised only last year that Iraq had to be divided into three parts?) It's thus no surprise that the more Mr. Sadr aligned himself with Tehran, the faster his popularity declined.

As with so much in Iraq, Mr. Sadr's sudden turn to moderation remains reversible. Breakaway factions of the Mahdi Army, aided by Iran, will surely launch fresh attacks on U.S. targets -- especially as U.S. and Iraqi elections near. That's all the more reason to regret the U.S. failure to arrest Mr. Sadr in 2004 for the murder the previous year of Imam Abdul Majid al-Khoei, widely believed to have been undertaken on Mr. Sadr's orders.

That mistake, like others the U.S. has committed in Iraq, can't be undone. But our recent and considerable successes can be, which is all the more reason to see our involvement in Iraq through to an irreversible victory. With Mr. Sadr's "retirement," we've taken another long stride in that direction.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary
23694  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: You still can't write about Muhammad on: August 07, 2008, 08:45:52 AM
You Still Can't Write
About Muhammad
By ASRA Q. NOMANI
August 6, 2008; Page A15

Starting in 2002, Spokane, Wash., journalist Sherry Jones toiled weekends on a racy historical novel about Aisha, the young wife of the prophet Muhammad. Ms. Jones learned Arabic, studied scholarly works about Aisha's life, and came to admire her protagonist as a woman of courage. When Random House bought her novel last year in a $100,000, two-book deal, she was ecstatic. This past spring, she began plans for an eight-city book tour after the Aug. 12 publication date of "The Jewel of Medina" -- a tale of lust, love and intrigue in the prophet's harem.

 
Corbis 
It's not going to happen: In May, Random House abruptly called off publication of the book. The series of events that torpedoed this novel are a window into how quickly fear stunts intelligent discourse about the Muslim world.

Random House feared the book would become a new "Satanic Verses," the Salman Rushdie novel of 1988 that led to death threats, riots and the murder of the book's Japanese translator, among other horrors. In an interview about Ms. Jones's novel, Thomas Perry, deputy publisher at Random House Publishing Group, said that it "disturbs us that we feel we cannot publish it right now." He said that after sending out advance copies of the novel, the company received "from credible and unrelated sources, cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment."

After consulting security experts and Islam scholars, Mr. Perry said the company decided "to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel."

This saga upsets me as a Muslim -- and as a writer who believes that fiction can bring Islamic history to life in a uniquely captivating and humanizing way. "I'm devastated," Ms. Jones told me after the book got spiked, adding, "I wanted to honor Aisha and all the wives of Muhammad by giving voice to them, remarkable women whose crucial roles in the shaping of Islam have so often been ignored -- silenced -- by historians." Last month, Ms. Jones signed a termination agreement with Random House, so her literary agent could shop the book to other publishers.

This time, the instigator of the trouble wasn't a radical Muslim cleric, but an American academic. In April, looking for endorsements, Random House sent galleys to writers and scholars, including Denise Spellberg, an associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas in Austin. Ms. Jones put her on the list because she read Ms. Spellberg's book, "Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of 'A'isha Bint Abi Bakr."

But Ms. Spellberg wasn't a fan of Ms. Jones's book. On April 30, Shahed Amanullah, a guest lecturer in Ms. Spellberg's classes and the editor of a popular Muslim Web site, got a frantic call from her. "She was upset," Mr. Amanullah recalls. He says Ms. Spellberg told him the novel "made fun of Muslims and their history," and asked him to warn Muslims.

In an interview, Ms. Spellberg told me the novel is a "very ugly, stupid piece of work." The novel, for example, includes a scene on the night when Muhammad consummated his marriage with Aisha: "the pain of consummation soon melted away. Muhammad was so gentle. I hardly felt the scorpion's sting. To be in his arms, skin to skin, was the bliss I had longed for all my life." Says Ms. Spellberg: "I walked through a metal detector to see 'Last Temptation of Christ,'" the controversial 1980s film adaptation of a novel that depicted a relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. "I don't have a problem with historical fiction. I do have a problem with the deliberate misinterpretation of history. You can't play with a sacred history and turn it into soft core pornography."

After he got the call from Ms. Spellberg, Mr. Amanullah dashed off an email to a listserv of Middle East and Islamic studies graduate students, acknowledging he didn't "know anything about it [the book]," but telling them, "Just got a frantic call from a professor who got an advance copy of the forthcoming novel, 'Jewel of Medina' -- she said she found it incredibly offensive." He added a write-up about the book from the Publishers Marketplace, an industry publication.

The next day, a blogger known as Shahid Pradhan posted Mr. Amanullah's email on a Web site for Shiite Muslims -- "Hussaini Youth" -- under a headline, "upcoming book, 'Jewel of Medina': A new attempt to slander the Prophet of Islam." Two hours and 28 minutes after that, another person by the name of Ali Hemani proposed a seven-point strategy to ensure "the writer withdraws this book from the stores and apologise all the muslims across the world."

Meanwhile back in New York City, Jane Garrett, an editor at Random House's Knopf imprint, dispatched an email on May 1 to Knopf executives, telling them she got a phone call the evening before from Ms. Spellberg (who happens to be under contract with Knopf to write "Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an.")

"She thinks there is a very real possibility of major danger for the building and staff and widespread violence," Ms. Garrett wrote. "Denise says it is 'a declaration of war . . . explosive stuff . . . a national security issue.' Thinks it will be far more controversial than the satanic verses and the Danish cartoons. Does not know if the author and Ballantine folks are clueless or calculating, but thinks the book should be withdrawn ASAP." ("The Jewel of Medina" was to be published by Random House's Ballantine Books.) That day, the email spread like wildfire through Random House, which also received a letter from Ms. Spellberg and her attorney, saying she would sue the publisher if her name was associated with the novel. On May 2, a Ballantine editor told Ms. Jones's agent the company decided to possibly postpone publication of the book.

On a May 21 conference call, Random House executive Elizabeth McGuire told the author and her agent that the publishing house had decided to indefinitely postpone publication of the novel for "fear of a possible terrorist threat from extremist Muslims" and concern for "the safety and security of the Random House building and employees."

All this saddens me. Literature moves civilizations forward, and Islam is no exception. There is in fact a tradition of historical fiction in Islam, including such works as "The Adventures of Amir Hamza," an epic on the life of Muhammad's uncle. Last year a 948-page English translation was published, ironically, by Random House. And, for all those who believe the life of the prophet Muhammad can't include stories of lust, anger and doubt, we need only read the Quran (18:110) where, it's said, God instructed Muhammad to tell others: "I am only a mortal like you."

Ms. Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, is the author of "Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam" (HarperOne, 2006).
23695  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: August 07, 2008, 08:30:32 AM
Second post of the AM:

WSJ

The McCain Veepstakes
August 7, 2008; Page A12
The Beijing Olympics are about to begin, but in Washington the real games of August involve vetting the potential Presidential running mates. As a young, rookie candidate running on "change," Barack Obama can help himself by choosing a safe, seasoned politician like Evan Bayh or Joe Biden. As the trailing candidate from an unpopular party, John McCain has the harder decision because there really is no obvious candidate.

Our view is that vice presidential nominees rarely matter much to election prospects because voters focus on the top of the ticket. A bad selection can hurt, of course, and veep nominees can be very important both to governing and especially to the future of the party. We'd advise Mr. McCain to make his choice based mainly on the latter two criteria, especially because at his age he could be a one-termer.

This means choosing someone who voters think has the stature to be President from the outset, and also doesn't give up Mr. McCain's clear experience edge over Mr. Obama. That probably rules out a pair of young, attractive Governors, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Alaska's Sarah Palin, despite their potential and appeal as GOP reformers.

Experience also argues against tapping nonpoliticians like eBay's Meg Whitman or FedEx's Fred Smith. Both have undeniable appeal as successful entrepreneurs who could help Mr. McCain's economic bona fides. But the magnitude of press scrutiny that any nominee must endure today is a lot to ask of someone who's never sought elective office. Even Presidential nominees get to spend months auditioning off-Broadway in the primaries, while Dan Quayle knows all about the way the press corps treats unknown GOP veeps.

A successful choice would also be someone who doesn't offend the currently listless conservative base. Independent Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut would be a splendid VP in our book, and is solid on foreign policy and taxes, but he'd probably alienate too many social conservatives. The best choice on the merits, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, has the wrong last name. Florida Governor Charlie Crist could help the nominee in a big state with 27 electoral votes. But like Iowa caucus winner Mike Huckabee, Mr. Crist has a record of too-frequent political opportunism that would disappoint much of the party.

A name often mentioned is Mitt Romney, who looks and speaks the part and as an entrepreneur himself could help on the economy. The former Massachusetts Governor failed to catch fire in the primaries, though, and, however unfairly, his Mormonism seems to be an issue with many evangelicals. Our own concern is that he continues to defend his state health-care reform even as it looks increasingly like a fiscal disaster.

By now you might be wondering if there's anyone we do like. Well, Fred Thompson would bring governing judgment and policy heft, and because he isn't much younger than Mr. McCain might make sense as a duo promising to serve one term, clean up the mess, and go home. On the other hand, he might be better suited for Attorney General if Mr. McCain prevails.

Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota is a conservative on most issues who has twice won the governorship of a liberal swing state. He's as confused as Mr. McCain on global warming, but he seems to have more principles than Mr. Crist. Rob Portman, former White House budget chief and once a rising star in Congress, brings candle power and might help in his home state of Ohio. Some McCain advisers will say his Bush experience rules him out, but he has depth as a policy wonk.

South Carolina's Mark Sanford, now in his second term as Governor, is unknown to most voters but is well liked among GOP activists for his reform credentials. Elected to Congress in 1994, he kept his promise to serve only three terms. As Governor, he's pushed for lower taxes, less spending and more school choice for disadvantaged kids. Mr. Sanford did stumble recently during a CNN interview, going blank when asked to name policy differences between Mr. McCain and President Bush. Still, it was a minor misstep, and Mr. McCain could do worse.

A darkhorse pick would be John Kasich, another Buckeye-state politician and former Congressman who left Washington before Tom DeLay and other Republican leaders forgot why the voters elected them. Mr. Kasich is still well known in Ohio and is widely thought to be aiming at a run for Governor in 2010. He's an energetic campaigner, the son of a mailman who can talk about taxes and spending in ways that voters can understand.

If there were a miracle choice for Mr. McCain, that person would be obvious by now. There isn't, and an attempt to find one can easily backfire (Spiro Agnew, Geraldine Ferraro). Mr. McCain's age and moderate political profile suggest he needs a younger but still experienced conservative who can help him unite the party and govern if he happens to win.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
23696  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove says on: August 07, 2008, 07:38:35 AM
What McCain Should Do Next
By KARL ROVE
August 7, 2008

Notwithstanding the hype about Barack Obama, here is where the presidential race stands: John McCain was within an average of 1.9% of his Democratic opponent in last week's daily Gallup tracking poll.

It shouldn't be this close. Sen. Obama should be way ahead. It's not that Sen. McCain has made up a lot of ground. Pollster.com shows that the Republican steadily declined from March through June as the Democratic contest dominated the news. Mr. McCain stabilized in July, and then ticked up slightly. But the most important political fact of July is that Mr. Obama has lost altitude. Gallup now projects that 23% of this year's electorate will be swing voters, more than twice the share in 2004.

 
M.E. Cohen 
It seems that each candidate is underperforming with his base. Mr. Obama's problem is that only 74% of Democrats in the latest Fox Poll support him, while Mr. McCain gets 86% of Republicans. But Mr. McCain's support lacks the same intensity Mr. Obama receives. The latest Pew poll found that 24% of voters "strongly" support Mr. Obama, compared to 17% for Mr. McCain.

Old doubts about Mr. Obama remain. In a late June Washington Post poll, 46% said Mr. Obama lacked the experience to do the job, the same number as in March, before he spent $119 million to run ads extolling himself. In February 2000, 59% said George W. Bush, then governor of Texas, had the experience to be president. That number grew as the campaign wore on. Now Mr. Obama faces new doubts over perceptions that he's arrogant, self-centered and calculating.

So what should Mr. McCain do? He's rightly raising questions about Mr. Obama's fitness to be president, starting with his failure to admit that the surge in Iraq worked. Mr. McCain should stay at it, though he'll need help to make the case.

Mr. McCain was correct to seize on Mr. Obama's insinuations that the GOP would mount racist attacks against him. Now Mr. McCain needs to find ways to describe an Obama who is running on empty rhetoric. He needs to do to Mr. Obama what Walter Mondale did to Gary "Where's the Beef?" Hart in the 1984 Democratic primaries. Given Mr. Obama's thin résumé and accomplishments, this can be done, with a sustained effort.

But to win, Mr. McCain must also make a compelling case for electing John McCain. Voters trust him on terrorism and Iraq and they see him as a patriot who puts country first. But they want to know for what purpose?

In the coming weeks, he needs to lay out a bold domestic reform program. He gave a taste on energy, but with a few missteps. He should appear in front of manufacturing plants where jobs depend on affordable energy, small businesses affected by fuel prices, and farms hurt by skyrocketing fertilizer costs -- and not in front of oil rigs. He needs to describe the consequences of specific domestic policy decisions. He must explain how his proposals on energy, health care, jobs and education will make a difference for ordinary families.

Mr. McCain also needs to elevate his arguments. It's not only that he opposes tax increases and Mr. Obama favors them. Mr. McCain must also make the principled case that there should be a limit to what government can take from its citizens. This argument will appeal to a large majority of voters. The top income tax rate is 35% and, according to the Tax Foundation, 89% of Americans believe that government should take no more than 30% from anyone's paycheck.

Mr. McCain should also talk about issues that increase Republican enthusiasm and win over independents, such as earmarks and judicial activism. And he should not shy away from appeals for bipartisanship. He's done it -- and talking about it undermines Mr. Obama, who hasn't. It also explains who Mr. McCain is. Mr. McCain should welcome opportunities to go against the grain. Defending free trade in manufacturing states is gutsy and feeds his maverick, straight-talk image.

He will be pleasantly surprised to find out how many people in Ohio and elsewhere understand that their state's prosperity depends on knocking down trade barriers.

Then there's character. Mr. McCain is the most private person to run for president since Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s. He needs to share (or allow others to share) more about him, especially his faith. The McCain and Obama campaigns are mirror opposites. Mr. McCain offers little biography, while Mr. Obama is nothing but.

The Republican Party's convention next month is Mr. McCain's biggest chance to improve his posture. The best minds in his campaign should be carefully working on its script. Everyone knows conventions are show, but voters want to see if a candidate can put on a good one that rings true.

Mr. Obama has the easier path to victory: reassure a restive electorate that he's up to the job. Mr. McCain must both educate voters to his opponent's weaknesses and persuade them that he has a vision for the coming four years. This will require a disciplined, focused effort. Mr. McCain has gotten this far fighting an unscripted guerrilla campaign. But it won't get him all the way to the White House.

Mr. Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
23697  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AS part 2 on: August 07, 2008, 07:17:04 AM
Socialism
It is almost universally recognized that the West shows all the world a way to successful economic development, even though in the past years it has been strongly disturbed by chaotic inflation. However, many people living in the West are dissatisfied with their own society. They despise it or accuse it of not being up to the level of maturity attained by mankind. A number of such critics turn to socialism, which is a false and dangerous current.

I hope that no one present will suspect me of offering my personal criticism of the Western system to present socialism as an alternative. Having experienced applied socialism in a country where the alternative has been realized, I certainly will not speak for it. The well-known Soviet mathematician Shafarevich, a member of the Soviet Academy of Science, has written a brilliant book under the title Socialism; it is a profound analysis showing that socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit and to a leveling of mankind into death. Shafarevich's book was published in France almost two years ago and so far no one has been found to refute it. It will shortly be published in English in the United States.

Not a Model
But should someone ask me whether I would indicate the West such as it is today as a model to my country, frankly I would have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society in its present state as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through intense suffering our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive. Even those characteristics of your life which I have just mentioned are extremely saddening.

A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human beings in the West while in the East they are becoming firmer and stronger. Six decades for our people and three decades for the people of Eastern Europe; during that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience. Life's complexity and mortal weight have produced stronger, deeper and more interesting characters than those produced by standardized Western well-being. Therefore if our society were to be transformed into yours, it would mean an improvement in certain aspects, but also a change for the worse on some particularly significant scores. It is true, no doubt, that a society cannot remain in an abyss of lawlessness, as is the case in our country. But it is also demeaning for it to elect such mechanical legalistic smoothness as you have. After the suffering of decades of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer and purer than those offered by today's mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor and by intolerable music.

All this is visible to observers from all the worlds of our planet. The Western way of life is less and less likely to become the leading model.

There are meaningful warnings that history gives a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, the decadence of art, or a lack of great statesmen. There are open and evident warnings, too. The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin, then, the social system quite unstable and unhealthy.

But the fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future; it has already started. The forces of Evil have begun their decisive offensive, you can feel their pressure, and yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?

Shortsightedness
Very well known representatives of your society, such as George Kennan, say: we cannot apply moral criteria to politics. Thus we mix good and evil, right and wrong and make space for the absolute triumph of absolute Evil in the world. On the contrary, only moral criteria can help the West against communism's well planned world strategy. There are no other criteria. Practical or occasional considerations of any kind will inevitably be swept away by strategy. After a certain level of the problem has been reached, legalistic thinking induces paralysis; it prevents one from seeing the size and meaning of events.

In spite of the abundance of information, or maybe because of it, the West has difficulties in understanding reality such as it is. There have been naive predictions by some American experts who believed that Angola would become the Soviet Union's Vietnam or that Cuban expeditions in Africa would best be stopped by special U.S. courtesy to Cuba. Kennan's advice to his own country -- to begin unilateral disarmament -- belongs to the same category. If you only knew how the youngest of the Moscow Old Square [1] officials laugh at your political wizards! As to Fidel Castro, he frankly scorns the United States, sending his troops to distant adventures from his country right next to yours.

However, the most cruel mistake occurred with the failure to understand the Vietnam war. Some people sincerely wanted all wars to stop just as soon as possible; others believed that there should be room for national, or communist, self-determination in Vietnam, or in Cambodia, as we see today with particular clarity. But members of the U.S. anti-war movement wound up being involved in the betrayal of Far Eastern nations, in a genocide and in the suffering today imposed on 30 million people there. Do those convinced pacifists hear the moans coming from there? Do they understand their responsibility today? Or do they prefer not to hear? The American Intelligentsia lost its [nerve] and as a consequence thereof danger has come much closer to the United States. But there is no awareness of this. Your shortsighted politicians who signed the hasty Vietnam capitulation seemingly gave America a carefree breathing pause; however, a hundredfold Vietnam now looms over you. That small Vietnam had been a warning and an occasion to mobilize the nation's courage. But if a full-fledged America suffered a real defeat from a small communist half-country, how can the West hope to stand firm in the future?

I have had occasion already to say that in the 20th century democracy has not won any major war without help and protection from a powerful continental ally whose philosophy and ideology it did not question. In World War II against Hitler, instead of winning that war with its own forces, which would certainly have been sufficient, Western democracy grew and cultivated another enemy who would prove worse and more powerful yet, as Hitler never had so many resources and so many people, nor did he offer any attractive ideas, or have such a large number of supporters in the West -- a potential fifth column -- as the Soviet Union. At present, some Western voices already have spoken of obtaining protection from a third power against aggression in the next world conflict, if there is one; in this case the shield would be China. But I would not wish such an outcome to any country in the world. First of all, it is again a doomed alliance with Evil; also, it would grant the United States a respite, but when at a later date China with its billion people would turn around armed with American weapons, America itself would fall prey to a genocide similar to the one perpetrated in Cambodia in our days.

Loss of Willpower
And yet -- no weapons, no matter how powerful, can help the West until it overcomes its loss of willpower. In a state of psychological weakness, weapons become a burden for the capitulating side. To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die; there is little such readiness in a society raised in the cult of material well-being. Nothing is left, then, but concessions, attempts to gain time and betrayal. Thus at the shameful Belgrade conference free Western diplomats in their weakness surrendered the line where enslaved members of Helsinki Watchgroups are sacrificing their lives.

Western thinking has become conservative: the world situation should stay as it is at any cost, there should be no changes. This debilitating dream of a status quo is the symptom of a society which has come to the end of its development. But one must be blind in order not to see that oceans no longer belong to the West, while land under its domination keeps shrinking. The two so-called world wars (they were by far not on a world scale, not yet) have meant internal self-destruction of the small, progressive West which has thus prepared its own end. The next war (which does not have to be an atomic one and I do not believe it will) may well bury Western civilization forever.

Facing such a danger, with such historical values in your past, at such a high level of realization of freedom and apparently of devotion to freedom, how is it possible to lose to such an extent the will to defend oneself?

Humanism and Its Consequences
How has this unfavorable relation of forces come about? How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present sickness? Have there been fatal turns and losses of direction in its development? It does not seem so. The West kept advancing socially in accordance with its proclaimed intentions, with the help of brilliant technological progress. And all of a sudden it found itself in its present state of weakness.

This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance and found its political expression from the period of the Enlightenment. It became the basis for government and social science and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists.

The turn introduced by the Renaissance evidently was inevitable historically. The Middle Ages had come to a natural end by exhaustion, becoming an intolerable despotic repression of man's physical nature in favor of the spiritual one. Then, however, we turned our backs upon the Spirit and embraced all that is material with excessive and unwarranted zeal. This new way of thinking, which had imposed on us its guidance, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth. It based modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend to worship man and his material needs. Everything beyond physical well-being and accumulation of material goods, all other human requirements and characteristics of a subtler and higher nature, were left outside the area of attention of state and social systems, as if human life did not have any superior sense. That provided access for evil, of which in our days there is a free and constant flow. Merely freedom does not in the least solve all the problems of human life and it even adds a number of new ones.

However, in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God's creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming increasingly and totally materialistic. The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man's sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistically selfish aspect of Western approach and thinking has reached its final dimension and the world wound up in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the Twentieth century's moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the Nineteenth Century.

An Unexpected Kinship
As humanism in its development became more and more materialistic, it made itself increasingly accessible to speculation and manipulation at first by socialism and then by communism. So that Karl Marx was able to say in 1844 that "communism is naturalized humanism."

This statement turned out not to be entirely senseless. One does see the same stones in the foundations of a despiritualized humanism and of any type of socialism: endless materialism; freedom from religion and religious responsibility, which under communist regimes reach the stage of anti-religious dictatorship; concentration on social structures with a seemingly scientific approach. (This is typical of the Enlightenment in the Eighteenth Century and of Marxism). Not by coincidence all of communism's meaningless pledges and oaths are about Man, with a capital M, and his earthly happiness. At first glance it seems an ugly parallel: common traits in the thinking and way of life of today's West and today's East? But such is the logic of materialistic development.

The interrelationship is such, too, that the current of materialism which is most to the left always ends up by being stronger, more attractive and victorious, because it is more consistent. Humanism without its Christian heritage cannot resist such competition. We watch this process in the past centuries and especially in the past decades, on a world scale as the situation becomes increasingly dramatic. Liberalism was inevitably displaced by radicalism, radicalism had to surrender to socialism and socialism could never resist communism. The communist regime in the East could stand and grow due to the enthusiastic support from an enormous number of Western intellectuals who felt a kinship and refused to see communism's crimes. When they no longer could do so, they tried to justify them. In our Eastern countries, communism has suffered a complete ideological defeat; it is zero and less than zero. But Western intellectuals still look at it with interest and with empathy, and this is precisely what makes it so immensely difficult for the West to withstand the East.

Before the Turn
I am not examining here the case of a world war disaster and the changes which it would produce in society. As long as we wake up every morning under a peaceful sun, we have to lead an everyday life. There is a disaster, however, which has already been under way for quite some time. I am referring to the calamity of a despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness.

To such consciousness, man is the touchstone in judging and evaluating everything on earth. Imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now experiencing the consequences of mistakes which had not been noticed at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. In the East, it is destroyed by the dealings and machinations of the ruling party. In the West, commercial interests tend to suffocate it. This is the real crisis. The split in the world is less terrible than the similarity of the disease plaguing its main sections.

If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President's performance be reduced to the question of how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism.

It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us completely helpless in front of the trials of our times.

Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man's life and society's activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?

If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.

This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but -- upward.


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Notes
[1] The Old Square in Moscow (Staraya Ploshchad') is the place where the [headquarters] of the Central Committee of the CPSU are located; it is the real name of what in the West is conventionally referred to as "the Kremlin."


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Source: Texts of Famous Speeches at Harvard

Re-formatted in HTML by The Augustine Club at Columbia University, 1997
23698  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More from AS on: August 07, 2008, 07:16:17 AM
Text of Address by

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

at Harvard Class Day Afternoon Exercises,

Thursday, June 8, 1978

I am sincerely happy to be here with you on this occasion and to become personally acquainted with this old and most prestigious University. My congratulations and very best wishes to all of today's graduates.

Harvard's motto is "Veritas." Many of you have already found out and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit. And even while it eludes us, the illusion still lingers of knowing it and leads to many misunderstandings. Also, truth is seldom pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter. There is some bitterness in my speech today, too. But I want to stress that it comes not from an adversary but from a friend.

Three years ago in the United States I said certain things which at that time appeared unacceptable. Today, however, many people agree with what I then said...

A World Split Apart
by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
The split in today's world is perceptible even to a hasty glance. Any of our contemporaries readily identifies two world powers, each of them already capable of entirely destroying the other. However, understanding of the split often is limited to this political conception, to the illusion that danger may be abolished through successful diplomatic negotiations or by achieving a balance of armed forces. The truth is that the split is a much profounder and a more alienating one, that the rifts are more than one can see at first glance. This deep manifold split bears the danger of manifold disaster for all of us, in accordance with the ancient truth that a Kingdom -- in this case, our Earth -- divided against itself cannot stand.

Contemporary Worlds
There is the concept of the Third World: thus, we already have three worlds. Undoubtedly, however, the number is even greater; we are just too far away to see. Any ancient deeply rooted autonomous culture, especially if it is spread on a wide part of the earth's surface, constitutes an autonomous world, full of riddles and surprises to Western thinking. As a minimum, we must include in this category China, India, the Muslim world and Africa, if indeed we accept the approximation of viewing the latter two as compact units. For one thousand years Russia has belonged to such a category, although Western thinking systematically committed the mistake of denying its autonomous character and therefore never understood it, just as today the West does not understand Russia in communist captivity. It may be that in the past years Japan has increasingly become a distant part of the West, I am no judge here; but as to Israel, for instance, it seems to me that it stands apart from the Western world in that its state system is fundamentally linked to religion.

How short a time ago, relatively, the small new European world was easily seizing colonies everywhere, not only without anticipating any real resistance, but also usually despising any possible values in the conquered peoples' approach to life. On the face of it, it was an overwhelming success, there were no geographic frontiers to it. Western society expanded in a triumph of human independence and power. And all of a sudden in the twentieth century came the discovery of its fragility and friability. We now see that the conquests proved to be short lived and precarious, and this in turn points to defects in the Western view of the world which led to these conquests. Relations with the former colonial world now have turned into their opposite and the Western world often goes to extremes of obsequiousness, but it is difficult yet to estimate the total size of the bill which former colonial countries will present to the West, and it is difficult to predict whether the surrender not only of its last colonies, but of everything it owns will be sufficient for the West to foot the bill.

Convergence
But the blindness of superiority continues in spite of all and upholds the belief that vast regions everywhere on our planet should develop and mature to the level of present day Western systems which in theory are the best and in practice the most attractive. There is this belief that all those other worlds are only being temporarily prevented by wicked governments or by heavy crises or by their own barbarity or incomprehension from taking the way of Western pluralistic democracy and from adopting the Western way of life. Countries are judged on the merit of their progress in this direction. However, it is a conception which developed out of Western incomprehension of the essence of other worlds, out of the mistake of measuring them all with a Western yardstick. The real picture of our planet's development is quite different.

Anguish about our divided world gave birth to the theory of convergence between leading Western countries and the Soviet Union. It is a soothing theory which overlooks the fact that these worlds are not at all developing into similarity; neither one can be transformed into the other without the use of violence. Besides, convergence inevitably means acceptance of the other side's defects, too, and this is hardly desirable.

If I were today addressing an audience in my country, examining the overall pattern of the world's rifts I would have concentrated on the East's calamities. But since my forced exile in the West has now lasted four years and since my audience is a Western one, I think it may be of greater interest to concentrate on certain aspects of the West in our days, such as I see them.

A Decline in Courage [. . .]
may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life. Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity and perplexity in their actions and in their statements and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable as well as intellectually and even morally warranted it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and weak countries, not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.

Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?

Well-Being
When the modern Western States were created, the following principle was proclaimed: governments are meant to serve man, and man lives to be free to pursue happiness. (See, for example, the American Declaration). Now at last during past decades technical and social progress has permitted the realization of such aspirations: the welfare state. Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness, in the morally inferior sense which has come into being during those same decades. In the process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to obtain them imprints many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings. Active and tense competition permeates all human thoughts without opening a way to free spiritual development. The individual's independence from many types of state pressure has been guaranteed; the majority of people have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about; it has become possible to raise young people according to these ideals, leading them to physical splendor, happiness, possession of material goods, money and leisure, to an almost unlimited freedom of enjoyment. So who should now renounce all this, why and for what should one risk one's precious life in defense of common values, and particularly in such nebulous cases when the security of one's nation must be defended in a distant country?

Even biology knows that habitual extreme safety and well-being are not advantageous for a living organism. Today, well-being in the life of Western society has begun to reveal its pernicious mask.

Legalistic Life
Western society has given itself the organization best suited to its purposes, based, I would say, on the letter of the law. The limits of human rights and righteousness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad. People in the West have acquired considerable skill in using, interpreting and manipulating law, even though laws tend to be too complicated for an average person to understand without the help of an expert. Any conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the supreme solution. If one is right from a legal point of view, nothing more is required, nobody may mention that one could still not be entirely right, and urge self-restraint, a willingness to renounce such legal rights, sacrifice and selfless risk: it would sound simply absurd. One almost never sees voluntary self-restraint. Everybody operates at the extreme limit of those legal frames. An oil company is legally blameless when it purchases an invention of a new type of energy in order to prevent its use. A food product manufacturer is legally blameless when he poisons his produce to make it last longer: after all, people are free not to buy it.

I have spent all my life under a communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulses.

And it will be simply impossible to stand through the trials of this threatening century with only the support of a legalistic structure.

The Direction of Freedom
In today's Western society, the inequality has been revealed of freedom for good deeds and freedom for evil deeds. A statesman who wants to achieve something important and highly constructive for his country has to move cautiously and even timidly; there are thousands of hasty and irresponsible critics around him, parliament and the press keep rebuffing him. As he moves ahead, he has to prove that every single step of his is well-founded and absolutely flawless. Actually an outstanding and particularly gifted person who has unusual and unexpected initiatives in mind hardly gets a chance to assert himself; from the very beginning, dozens of traps will be set out for him. Thus mediocrity triumphs with the excuse of restrictions imposed by democracy.

It is feasible and easy everywhere to undermine administrative power and, in fact, it has been drastically weakened in all Western countries. The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.

Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counter-balanced by the young people's right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.

And what shall we say about the dark realm of criminality as such? Legal frames (especially in the United States) are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also certain individual crimes. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency with the support of thousands of public defenders. When a government starts an earnest fight against terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorists' civil rights. There are many such cases.

Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of evil has come about gradually but it was evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature; the world belongs to mankind and all the defects of life are caused by wrong social systems which must be corrected. Strangely enough, though the best social conditions have been achieved in the West, there still is criminality and there even is considerably more of it than in the pauper and lawless Soviet society. (There is a huge number of prisoners in our camps which are termed criminals, but most of them never committed any crime; they merely tried to defend themselves against a lawless state resorting to means outside of a legal framework).

The Direction of the Press
The press too, of course, enjoys the widest freedom. (I shall be using the word press to include all media). But what sort of use does it make of this freedom?

Here again, the main concern is not to infringe the letter of the law. There is no moral responsibility for deformation or disproportion. What sort of responsibility does a journalist have to his readers, or to history? If they have misled public opinion or the government by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, do we know of any cases of public recognition and rectification of such mistakes by the same journalist or the same newspaper? No, it does not happen, because it would damage sales. A nation may be the victim of such a mistake, but the journalist always gets away with it. One may safely assume that he will start writing the opposite with renewed self-assurance.

Because instant and credible information has to be given, it becomes necessary to resort to guesswork, rumors and suppositions to fill in the voids, and none of them will ever be rectified, they will stay on in the readers' memory. How many hasty, immature, superficial and misleading judgments are expressed every day, confusing readers, without any verification. The press can both simulate public opinion and miseducate it. Thus we may see terrorists heroized, or secret matters, pertaining to one's nation's defense, publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusion on the privacy of well-known people under the slogan: "everyone is entitled to know everything." But this is a false slogan, characteristic of a false era: people also have the right not to know, and it is a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need this excessive burdening flow of information.

Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic disease of the 20th century and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press. In-depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the press. It stops at sensational formulas.

Such as it is, however, the press has become the greatest power within the Western countries, more powerful than the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. One would then like to ask: by what law has it been elected and to whom is it responsible? In the communist East a journalist is frankly appointed as a state official. But who has granted Western journalists their power, for how long a time and with what prerogatives?

There is yet another surprise for someone coming from the East where the press is rigorously unified: one gradually discovers a common trend of preferences within the Western press as a whole. It is a fashion; there are generally accepted patterns of judgment and there may be common corporate interests, the sum effect being not competition but unification. Enormous freedom exists for the press, but not for the readership because newspapers mostly give enough stress and emphasis to those opinions which do not too openly contradict their own and the general trend.

A Fashion in Thinking
Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day. There is no open violence such as in the East; however, a selection dictated by fashion and the need to match mass standards frequently prevent independent-minded people from giving their contribution to public life. There is a dangerous tendency to form a herd, shutting off successful development. I have received letters in America from highly intelligent persons, maybe a teacher in a faraway small college who could do much for the renewal and salvation of his country, but his country cannot hear him because the media are not interested in him. This gives birth to strong mass prejudices, blindness, which is most dangerous in our dynamic era. There is, for instance, a self-deluding interpretation of the contemporary world situation. It works as a sort of petrified armor around people's minds. Human voices from 17 countries of Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia cannot pierce it. It will only be broken by the pitiless crowbar of events.

I have mentioned a few trends of Western life which surprise and shock a new arrival to this world. The purpose and scope of this speech will not allow me to continue such a review, to look into the influence of these Western characteristics on important aspects on [the] nation's life, such as elementary education, advanced education in [?...]

23699  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From Gaza with money on: August 07, 2008, 07:05:39 AM
The sources of the following are, IMHO, quite capable of hyper-ventilating.  Lets see where this goes , , ,

==========

Obama Receives Illegal Funds From Gaza

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Obama receives illegal funds from 'terrorist hotbed' Jim Brown - OneNewsNow - 8/6/2008 6:00:00 AMvar addthis_pub = 'onenewsnow';



According to Federal Election Commission filings, Barack Obama has received illegal donations from Palestinians living in Gaza, a hotbed of Hamas terrorists.


Obama received more than $24,000 in campaign contributions over a period of two months last fall from three Palestinian brothers from the "Edwan" family in Rafah, Gaza, which is a Hamas stronghold along the border with Egypt. The story was uncovered by Pamela Geller of the Atlas Shrugs blog. (see Federal Election Commission report)

Attorney and conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel notes foreign nationals are barred from making contributions in connection with any election -- federal, state, or local -- and an individual is allowed to give only $2,300 per election to a federal candidate or the candidate's campaign committee.

"The donations are basically through and through illegal -- that's number one. And number two is how the Obama campaign tried to conceal it," Schlussel chides. "They listed the campaign contributions as coming from Rafah, Georgia. They used the 'GA' from Gaza so it makes it look like it's legal; and then for the zip code it says '972,' which is actually the area code to dial over to Gaza," she contends.

The attorney comments that if the Obama campaign is willing to "accept thousands of dollars beyond the legal limit and they're also going to flout [Federal Election Commission] restrictions...that's very indicative of what kind of president [Obama] is going to be."

"They're not going to be worried about the details and they won't mind if they break the law to get to the final result that they want," adds Schlussel. She believes it is a "major news story when a presidential candidate receives money from 'a bastion of Islamic terrorism.' And Schlussel argues that the media is "bending over backwards to help Barack Obama and cover up any negative news about him."

Schlussel says Pamela Geller will likely file a Federal Election Commission complaint against the Obama campaign for violating restrictions and limits on campaign contributions.
23700  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Wolves, Dogs and other canines on: August 07, 2008, 07:03:44 AM
Thanks-- I just ordered it.
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