Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers:
on: February 20, 2008, 05:07:16 AM
"I am not a Virginian, but an American."
-- Patrick Henry (speech in the First Continental Congress,
6 September 1774)
Reference: Patrick Henry: Life Corerespondence and Speeches, Wirt,
ed., vol. 1 (220); original Life and Works of John Adams, vol. 2
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica
on: February 20, 2008, 05:04:55 AM
Recibido de un amigo Venezolano:
Date: February 19, 2008 7:38:50 PM GMT-04:30
Subject: FW: Analisis Economico. R. Bottome.
Lusinchi II - 01/08/2008
A finales de los 80, el Gobierno de Lusinchi alcanzó una ilusión
de crecimiento que se basó en un nivel de gastos que superaba los
recursos de los que disponía y logró contener las distorsiones,
por algún tiempo, a través de los controles de precios y del tipo
de cambio. El esquema colapsó en enero de 1989. Sobrevino una
maxidevaluación, la inflación se disparó hasta 81% y la economía
se contrajo 10%. El Gobierno de Chávez está repitiendo los errores
de Lusinchi y todo indica que la economía colapsará en 2008,
exactamente igual que en 1989
Las señales de peligro están por todas partes. El crecimiento de
la economía se detiene. Las presiones inflacionarias aumentan.
Cada vez es más difícil obtener dólares al cambio oficial para
pagar las importaciones y el servicio de la deuda.
La fiesta está a punto de acabar. El extraordinario auge que
Venezuela ha disfrutado durante cuatro años gracias al petróleo se
está quedando sin aliento. En cuestión de un año, o dos a lo sumo,
la economía estará hundida en una profunda recesión, acompañada
por una crisis de Balanza de Pagos, una fuerte devaluación del
bolívar y una inflación descomunal.
Igual que en el Gobierno de Jaime Lusinchi de 1984-89, el de Hugo
Chávez ha alcanzado una ilusión de crecimiento y prosperidad que
se sustenta en un masivo gasto público. Igual que Lusinchi, Chávez
ha tratado de contener las distorsiones resultantes a través de
controles de precios y de cambio. El Gobierno de Lusinchi también
logró "estirar" las reservas internacionales del Banco Central, a
través de un procedimiento por el cual se "garantizaba" a los
importadores el acceso a dólares al cambio oficial a través de la
emisión de "cartas de crédito del Banco Central" con las que el
tenedor tenía derecho a cambiar bolívares por dólares al cambio
oficial seis meses después de la fecha de emisión de la carta de
Aunque todos ellos funcionaron, más o menos, por un tiempo, los
controles del Gobierno de Lusinchi fracasaron a principios de
1989, desencadenándose una profunda recesión (la economía no
petrolera cayó 9,6%), una devaluación masiva (de Bs.7,50:$ y Bs.
14,50:$ a Bs.43:$) y una inflación galopante (81%). Es más, el
Banco Central no pudo honrar el grueso de las cartas de crédito
por un monto de $6,9 millardos que estaban pendientes para ese
momento, viéndose muchos negocios forzados a la quiebra. Podría
haber sido peor si no hubiera sido por la rápida aplicación de un
programa de ajustes ortodoxo, aprobado por el Fondo Monetario
Ahora la historia vuelve a repetirse. La inflación sigue en
ascenso mientras las presiones de la oferta y la demanda están
ahogando los controles de precios. La Balanza de Pagos está en
déficit. Tras casi dos años de relativa estabilidad, el tipo de
cambio paralelo casi triplica el oficial de Bs.2.150:$. Las
cuentas fiscales del Gobierno cada vez tienen más cifras en rojo.
Todo apunta hacia una recesión de gran envergadura en 2008.
El análisis de la situación actual es complicado debido a la grave
falta de información confiable. El Gobierno ha publicado
estimaciones del presupuesto del gobierno central para este año,
pero no ha revelado ninguna información sobre el "presupuesto
paralelo", el cual incluye el gasto de Fonden ($16,5 millardos
dentro y fuera de Venezuela, durante 2006-2007) y el "programa de
inversión social" de PDVSA ($13,3 millardos sólo en 2006). Sin
embargo, existen muchos indicios de que los presupuestos
"combinados" se encuentran en graves problemas.
1) Aumento de impuestos: A partir del 15 de octubre, se aumentaron
los impuestos a las ventas de licores (de 10,0% a 20,0%), cerveza
(de 8.5,% a 15,0%) y cigarrillos (de 45% a 70%). Más importante
aún es que el Gobierno decretó un punitivo Impuesto a las
Transacciones Financieras (ITF), el cual es verdaderamente una
mina de oro. Está generando hasta Bs.2,0 billones este año y se
espera que aporte otros Bs.12,3 billones en 2008. Dado que el 1,5%
de impuesto se grava en cada etapa de la cadena de producción y
distribución, también es un impuesto altamente inflacionario.
Gracias al "efecto cascada", se anticipa que el 1,5 de ITF aumente
costos y, por ende, precios, al menos en 5,0%. Sólo se puede
suponer que el Gobierno estaba desesperado por los ingresos
adicionales que están generando estos impuestos: los gobiernos
normalmente no aumentan impuestos de 4 a 6 semanas antes de una
2) Endeudamiento marcadamente mayor: La deuda externa del sector
público alcanzó un total de $35,2 millardos para el 30 de
septiembre, de acuerdo con el Banco Central, una asombrosa cifra
de $8,3 millardos (30,8%) para lo que va de año. El sector público
se incrementó otros $1,55 millardos durante octubre y noviembre,
para un total de $9,85 millones hasta la fecha este año, una
cantidad equivalente a casi el doble del déficit proyectado
actualmente del gobierno central para 2007.
3) Ventas de activos: Durante los 12 últimos meses, PDVSA vendió
alrededor de $2,0 millardos de activos, incluyendo, entre otros,
el 41,2% de participación de Citgo en la refinería Lyondell en
Houston, dos pequeñas refinerías en Estados Unidos y las
instalaciones de almacenamiento Borco en Bahamas. Con el precio
del petróleo marcando máximos históricos, estas ventas son un
indicio claro de que en PDVSA y, por consiguiente, en el gobierno
central están cortos de dinero.
En pocas palabras, el Gobierno sigue publicando cifras que
sugieren que sus cuentas fiscales están en orden, pero sus
acciones sugieren otra cosa. En conjunto, los nuevos impuestos, un
endeudamiento marcadamente mayor y ventas de activos hacen pensar
en un Gobierno que está raspando la olla, que se está esforzando
por manejar un déficit fiscal que se está saliendo de control.
Otras variables macroeconómicas apuntan a que el asunto va más
allá de una crisis fiscal:
4) Balanza de Pagos: De acuerdo con el Banco Central, las reservas
internacionales del país se encuentran, básicamente, estables,
manteniéndose más o menos en equilibrio la entrada y salida de
divisas, a pesar de las importaciones récord de más de $42
millardos. Sin embargo, los empresarios se quejan por las cada vez
mayores demoras de Cadivi. Conindustria, por ejemplo, estima que
el atraso asciende ahora a los $18 millardos. De ser así, se puede
inferir que la Balanza de Pagos está registrando un déficit de $18
millardos. Además, PDVSA o la nación tienen que presentarse con
varios millardos de dólares para comprar bonos y ajustar las
cuentas con los socios de las asociaciones estratégicas y otros
que fueron obligados a migrar hacia empresas mixtas.
5) Tipo de cambio: A Bs.2.150:$, el bolívar está excesivamente
sobrevaluado. Las estimaciones de paridad competitiva fluctúan
entre Bs.4.000:$ y Bs.7.000:$. En los dos últimos meses, el dólar
permuta ha variado entre Bs.5.500:$ y un poco más de Bs.7.000:$.
Una brecha tan grande entre el tipo de cambio oficial y el
paralelo es una clara señal de que se avecinan problemas.
6) PDVSA: La estatal petrolera está cada vez está en menor
capacidad para generar el dinero que el Gobierno requiere para
financiar sus programas de gasto. En parte, se debe a la
incapacidad de la compañía para invertir lo suficiente en mantener
y aumentar la capacidad de producción. También se debe a que la
industria ha sido incapaz de reemplazar los 20.000 gerentes y
técnicos excelentemente capacitados que fueron despedidos porque
no estaban comprometidos con la revolución bolivariana. Y,
finalmente, también se debe a que el Gobierno de Chávez ha
despojado a la mayoría de sus socios extranjeros de la capacidad,
y responsabilidad, de operar las instalaciones que esos mismos
socios habían establecido durante la década que va desde mediados
de los 90 hasta mediados de la década del 2000. De acuerdo con
informaciones de la OPEP y de la Agencia Internacional de Energía
(AIE), Venezuela está produciendo en este momento alrededor de 2,4
millones de b/d, lo que significa que PDVSA "perdió" alrededor de
1,8 millones de b/d de capacidad de producción en ocho años, una
pérdida que fue compensada sólo parcialmente por los 800.000 b/d
de capacidad nueva que activaron las antiguas contratistas de
servicios y las asociaciones estratégicas de la Faja Petrolífera
del Orinoco. Pero podría ser peor: fuentes de la industria señalan
que la producción cayó a 2,1 millones de b/d, es decir alrededor
de 300.000 b/d por debajo de las estimaciones de la OPEP y la AIE.
Tomando en conjunto elementos como el déficit fiscal, un tipo de
cambio sobrevaluado, un déficit de la Balanza de Pagos y una
empresa petrolera estatal cada vez más ineficiente, debería ser
obvio que se avecina una crisis de proporciones considerables.
También es evidente que la forma más sencilla para resolver esta
crisis es a través de una fuerte devaluación del bolívar:
normalmente, una devaluación beneficia a los exportadores (reciben
más bolívares por sus dólares) mientras que penaliza a los
importadores (tienen que pagar más). En Venezuela, el Estado es el
principal beneficiario de una devaluación, pues a él corresponde
el grueso de las exportaciones de la nación. Y las ganancias
extraordinarias atribuibles a la devaluación son precisamente lo
que el Gobierno necesita para aumentar el gasto y financiar el
Pero una devaluación de esta naturaleza desencadenaría el caos
dentro del sector privado, especialmente si, como parece probable,
una gran parte del retraso de Cadivi en el otorgamiento de divisas
termina siendo liquidada al nuevo tipo de cambio (Bs.4.000:$ o
Bs.F.4,00:$). Esta situación sería muy parecida a lo que sucedió
con los empresarios en 1989, quienes pagaron los platos rotos
cuando el Banco Central no honró alrededor de $6,9 millardos de
sus "cartas de crédito").
Una devaluación también implicaría aumentos de precios. Los
controles actuales de precios ya están demostrando que son
inútiles pues la mayoría de los bienes de consumo básicos se están
vendiendo a más del doble del precio regulado, lo que significa
que el impacto de una devaluación probablemente sería transferido
rápidamente a los consumidores.
De esta manera, la inflación podría llegar fácilmente a 50%,
incluso 75%, este año.
Finalmente, dado que la expansión actual de la economía se ha
fundamentado en el consumo y no en la producción, cabría anticipar
una fuerte contracción, del orden de 10%, más o menos.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: February 20, 2008, 04:44:13 AM
1. The March 2008 issue of the AELE Monthly Law Journal is online, with three new articles:
* Enforceability of Civil Liability Release Agreements
* Regulation of Off-Duty Activities - Sexual Conduct
* Legal Issues Pertaining to Inmate Property
Access the Law Journal's menu page at http://www.aele.org/law/MLJ2008MAR.html
2. The March 2008 issues of AELE's three periodicals have been uploaded. The current issues, back issues since 2000, three 30+ year case digests, and a search engine are FREE. Everyone is welcome to read, print or download AELE publications without charge. The main menu is at: http://www.aele.org/law
Among 100 different cases noted, there are several that warrant mention here:
*** Law Enforcement Liability Reporter ***
* Firearms Related: Intentional Use
Officer who fatally shot a a man outside his home was entitled to qualified immunity when the decedent had threatened to commit violent acts, was armed with a knife, refused to comply with repeated orders to drop the knife, and raised the knife blade above his shoulder and pointed it towards officers. Larsen v. Murr, #06-1094, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 25 (10th Cir.).http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/10th/061094p.pdf
* Restraint Asphyxia
Deputy sheriffs were not entitled to qualified immunity in a lawsuit claiming that they used excessive force in removing a morbidly obese man from a courtroom after he was found in contempt of court, causing him to die after several deputies allegedly placed themselves on his back while he was on the floor. Richman v. Sheahan, #07-1487, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 200 (7th Cir.). Viewable at: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/7th/071487p.pdf
*** Fire and Police Personnel Reporter ***
* Disciplinary Interviews
Divided Ninth Circuit panel rejects a civil rights suit brought by deputies that were required to remain on duty to assist superiors with a criminal investigation of an unlawful use of force. They were paid overtime, were allowed to contact counsel and were not treated like criminal suspects.
"A law enforcement officer is not seized for purposes of the Fourth Amendment simply because a supervisor orders him to remain at work after the termination of his shift or to come into the station to submit to questioning about the discharge of his duties as a peace officer."
Dissenting judge noted that the deputies "weren't told they were free to leave, and they weren't told they didn't have to answer questions." Aguilera v. Baca, #05-56617, 510 F.3d 1161 (9th Cir.). Viewable at: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/9th/0556617p.pdf
*** Jail and Prisoner Law Bulletin ***
Two Rastafarian and three Muslim inmates lose their suit challenging a policy prohibiting them from wearing beards. The Fourth Circuit cited a need to suppress contraband, to maintain discipline, security, health and safety, and to prevent inmates from quickly changing their appearance. McRae v. Johnson, #06-7548, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 246 (4th Cir.). Viewable at http://pacer.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinion.pdf/067548.U.pdf
3. The Massachusetts Municipal Police Institute has published a 102 page Search Warrant Applications Manual, prepared by MPCA General Counsel Jack Collins. Although focused on Massachusetts law, it can be used as a model to prepare a similar document for other states. It can be downloaded in PDF format at:http://www.municipalpoliceinstitute.org/documents/SEARCH_WARRANT_APPLICATIONS_MANUAL_Illustrated.pdf
4. Jack Collins also has authored two recent articles for Police Chief magazine:
* Salary Exempt Employees under the FLSA, Jan. 2008
* Handling Discrimination Retaliation Claims, Dec. 2007
Downloadable at http://policechiefmagazine.org/
AELE's 2008 seminar brochures are on the website at http://www.aele.org/Seminars.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF
on: February 19, 2008, 11:03:04 AM
A male patient is lying in bed in the hospital, wearing an oxygen mask
over his mouth and nose, still heavily sedated from a difficult, four
hour, surgical procedure.
A young nurse appears to give him a partial sponge bath.
"Nurse," he mumbles, from behind the mask, "Are my testicles black?"
Embarrassed, the young nurse replies, "I don't know, sir, I'm only here
to wash your upper body and feet."
He struggles to ask again, "Nurse, are my testicles black?"
Concerned that he might elevate his vital signs from worry about his
testicles, she overcomes her embarrassment & sheepishly pulls back the
covers. She raises his gown, holds it in one hand and carefully takes his
testicles in the other, lifting and moving them around. Then she takes a
close look & gently replaces his gown & bedding. "There's nothing
wrong with them, sir."
With difficulty, the man pulls off his oxygen mask, smiles at her and says
slowly, "Thank you very much. That was really wonderful, but, listen
very, very closely.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Webster
on: February 19, 2008, 06:09:02 AM
"It is an object of vast magnitude that systems of education should
be adopted and pursued which may not only diffuse a knowledge
of the sciences but may implant in the minds of the American
youth the principles of virtue and of liberty and inspire them
with just and liberal ideas of government and with an inviolable
attachment to their own country."
-- Noah Webster (On Education of Youth in America, 1790)
Reference: The Learning of Liberty, Prangle and Prangle (126);
original Noah Webster: Schoolmaster to America, Harry Warfel (42)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma
on: February 19, 2008, 02:32:01 AM
Friday, 15 February 2008
From Obama Says US Must End Gun Violence:
Feb 15, 12:14 PM (ET)
By NEDRA PICKLER
MILWAUKEE (AP) - Barack Obama says the country must do "whatever it takes" to eradicate gun violence but believes in the right to bear arms.
Obama says he's offered his Senate office to help Northern Illinois University with the investigation into a campus shooting rampage. The shooting happened in his home state. Obama was campaigning in neighboring Wisconsin.
The senator, a former constitutional law instructor, says he believes the Second Amendment to the Constitution grants individual gun rights.
But he says it's subject to commonsense regulations like background checks.
I just have to ask: After everything he has said and done, does he actually think we believe or trust him?
More on the Constitutional Right to Sporting Goods
Monday, 04 February 2008
From the AP:
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Democratic Sen. Barack Obama assured Western voters Saturday he believes in Jesus as well as the rights of gun owners.
The presidential candidate warned people about hoax e-mails they may get saying he’s secretly a Muslim who might want to destroy the United States.
“I’ve been going to the same church for 20 years, praising Jesus,” the Illinois senator told more than 10,000 people packed into Boise State’s basketball arena. He is a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago…
…”And then there are people who say, ‘well he doesn’t believe in the Second Amendment,’ even though I come from a state — we’ve got a lot of hunters in downstate Illinois. And I have no intention of taking away folks’ guns.”
Obama didn’t mention that he does support gun control and has a record of voting for it in the Illinois Senate. He backed limiting handgun purchases to one a month, but he made no attempts to ban them. Today, he stands by his support for controls while trying to reassure hunters that he has no interest in interfering with their access to firearms.
Well I have a few questions:
Barack, do you support my right to carry bowling balls? How about those extra-heavy, 15 pound, assault balls?
Do you support my right to shoot someone in my apartment who has invaded, unannounced and uninvited pointing a knife or gun at me?
How about if I live in the Chicago slums?
How about if I live downstate a mile from my nearest neighbor, 20 miles from the nearest cop?
These questions may seem completely unrelated, but according to Barack, they are not.
According to Barack, the Second Amendment is about hunting traditions from rural areas and has nothing to do with individual's rights.
And according to Barack, hunters should have access go guns while those in the inner city should be restricted because of the danger.
I am not sure where is he going with this or how he might attempt to accomplish it, but it sounds like we are heading back towards the racist roots of gun control.
Obama Calls for Permanent Assault Weapons Ban to Combat Inner-City Violence
Saturday, 19 January 2008
Hat tip to Traction Control from Fox News :
Sunday, July 15, 2007
He also said government should support and fund more after-school programs to keep kids off the streets. But some of the burden must also be shouldered by residents who need to do more to raise and protect at-risk children, he added."We have an entire generation of young men in our society who have become products of violence, and we are going to have to break the cycle," Obama said. "There are too many young men out there who have gone down the wrong path."He later added, "There's a reason they go out and shoot each other, because they don't love themselves. And the reason they don't love themselves is because we are not loving them enough."
CHICAGO — Standing before a church congregation that has witnessed inner-city violence firsthand, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Sunday that more must be done to end a social ill that is "sickening the soul of this nation."
Obama told churchgoers at the Vernon Park Church of God on Chicago's South Side that too many young lives are being claimed by violence and more must be done to combat the problem.
"From South Central L.A. to Newark, New Jersey, there's an epidemic of violence that's sickening the soul of this nation," the Illinois senator told the crowd. "The violence is unacceptable and it's got to stop."
Nearly three dozen Chicago students have been killed this year, according to Chicago Public Schools. Obama said that figure is higher than the number of Illinois serviceman who've died in Iraq in 2007.
"We need to express our collective anger through collective action," Obama said.
He said the government needs to permanently reinstate an assault weapons ban and close regulatory loopholes that protect unscrupulous gun dealers.
He also said government should support and fund more after-school programs to keep kids off the streets. But some of the burden must also be shouldered by residents who need to do more to raise and protect at-risk children, he added.
"We have an entire generation of young men in our society who have become products of violence, and we are going to have to break the cycle," Obama said. "There are too many young men out there who have gone down the wrong path."
He later added, "There's a reason they go out and shoot each other, because they don't love themselves. And the reason they don't love themselves is because we are not loving them enough."
From the New York Post
Wednesday, 26 December 2007
GOING BARACK & FORTH
FLIPS AFTER '96 ON EXECUTIONS, GUNS
December 23, 2007 -- Barack Obama has been flip-flopping like a carp on a boat deck, changing his position over the years on everything from the death penalty to the Patriot Act to Cuba, a review of his record shows.
The Illinois senator's views became markedly more conservative as he drew close to running for president.
On the death penalty, for instance, the Oprah heartthrob was a strong foe back in 1996 when he ran for the Illinois state Senate, according to a questionnaire from a political activist group that he filled out at the time. The answers were reviewed by The Associated Press.
But this year, he's been throwing some red meat to pro-execution voters around the country by saying he supports pulling the switch on those who commit particularly heinous crimes.
On gun control, Obama changed direction since 1996, when he called for a ban on all handgun possession and sales in Illinois.
In 2004, on another questionnaire, he backed off, saying a ban is "not politically practicable."
And so on....Going Barack and Forth
D.C. Gun Ban Constitutional!
Friday, 23 November 2007
But the campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said that he "...believes that we can recognize and respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and the right of local communities to enact common sense laws to combat violence and save lives. Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional."
From the Chicago Tribune.
The Joyce Foundation
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
The Joyce Foundation is a liberal, charitable foundation that, among other things, funds gun control groups. According to Wikipedia :
Since 2003, the Joyce Foundation has paid grants totaling over $12 million to gun control organizations and for research into gun violence prevention. The largest single grantee has been the Violence Policy Center, which received $4,154,970 between 1996 and 2006, and calls for an outright ban on handguns, semi-automatic and other firearms, and substantial restrictions on gun owners.
Conveniently, the Joyce Foundation has a list of the gun control funding grants here .
The Joyce Foundation's Annual Reports list Barack Obama as one of the 12 members of the Board of Directors from 1998 until 2001 .
From a Very Unexpected Source: The Daily Kos
Monday, 06 August 2007
Obama gunning to lose in 2008.
Nobody said that winning the Congress with a BlueDog approach would make for an easy honeymoon -- just witness the party's rage over this week's vote (myself included) -- but no-one can challenge that our win in 2006 has begun the change that this nation sorely needed. But as if right on time to scuttle our success, news comes out that Obama has finally begun to talk about firearms and gun control and frankly, the position he is taking will only mean the loss of BlueDog, rural, libertarian leaning, and gun owning Democrats...
So many of us have been waiting for more clarity on many of Obama's positions and one of those has been his position on American gun ownership. This month he is making himself clearly heard:
Obama delivers message tough on guns
Just days prior to announcing his urban agenda aimed at combating urban poverty, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama entered Vernon Park Church of God on July 15 to a thunderous applause from a supportive crowd with a message challenging the gun lobby, criticizing the Bush administration and issuing a call to action for Black men.
“Our playgrounds have become battlegrounds. Our streets have become cemeteries. Our schools have become places to mourn the ones we’ve lost,” said the Illinois senator. “I’m sick and tired of seeing our young people gunned down.”
Sen. Obama decried the inaction on the part of the Bush administration to ban assault rifles, mentioning that the nearly three dozen children killed in Chicago this year is higher than the number of Illinois servicemen who have died in Iraq.
The clear implication of this statement is that Obama belives that Chicago's violent crimes are to be solved at a national level -- since Chicago & IL already have VERY tough gun control laws that have not stopped their crime problems--, and to be solved by gun control legislation specifically mentioning the 1994 "Assault Weapons Ban" and blaming Bush for that ban's lack of renewal.
Read more at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/8/6/104556/3837
The Right to Bear Sporting Goods
Friday, 15 June 2007
The Blue Steel Democrats blog Senator Obama's Position on Gun Ownership Rights.
Obama says U.S. needs to review gun policies
Sunday, 22 April 2007
April 20, 2007
NASHUA, N.H. --Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said this week's shooting at Virginia Tech highlights serious shortcomings with gun control.
"We're still selling handguns to crazy people," Obama said during a campaign stop at a Nashua senior center on Friday. "We're supposed to have a system that these people are screened out. What's clear is the background check system in this case failed entirely."
Actually, the perp was never involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, so was not a prohibited person on those grounds.
Read more at http://www.boston.com/news/local/new_hampshire/articles/2007/04/20/obama_says_us_needs_to_review_gun_policies/
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma
on: February 19, 2008, 02:26:33 AM
BO meets with Bloomberg?!?http://wcbstv.com/topstories/barack.obama.michael.2.599317.html
NEW YORK (CBS) ― Just when the speculation seemed to simmer to silence, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has once again turned up the heat on the presidential hot stove.
The Independent mayor had a mystery breakfast meeting in Manhattan Friday morning with Democratic candidate Barack Obama, a move that could irk the Hillary Clinton campaign seeing as, after all, New York is her turf.
Bloomberg has repeatedly asserted he plans to complete his entire mayoral term and keep out of the presidential race, but he sure knows how to tease the masses.
Obama and Bloomberg met on a coffee date, scheduled because of their "mutual interest." The billionaire mayor and the Illinois senator chatted over eggs and potatoes early Friday at the New York Luncheonette on East 50th Street.
"We are trying to push our agenda because it helps New Yorkers, and because what's worked in New York will work elsewhere," said Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser. "There are a lot of people we'd like to speak to and we're going to continue to press our case."
Security closed the diner to regular customers while the politicians were there.
Members of the media gathered outside the glass window next to the booth where the pair appeared to partake in quite the serious conversation, with Obama keeping his index and middle fingers glued to his temple as he listened intently to an animated Bloomberg.
After the 45 minute meal, Obama picked up the $17.34 check, and he left a generous $10 tip, according to their waitress, Judith Perez.
"When I took the order, I was very nervous," she admitted.
Obama and Bloomberg then said their goodbyes, leaving in separate cars without addressing the media throng.
Loeser said among the topics discussed were global warming, homeland security, education, and the economy. He added that Bloomberg wasn't there for any other agenda such as joining forces as Obama's wingman against Clinton.
Thursday night, Obama made his first trip to Harlem as a presidential candidate, and the Apollo Theater was a packed with a sold out crowd charged just $50 each to see him. Before his visit to the Apollo, Obama paid his respects to one of Harlem's top powerbrokers in Rev. Al Sharpton, who says he hasn't decided who he is supporting.
Still the meeting sent a warning to Clinton that Harlem could be up for grabs.
"I trust him," said Harlem resident Angela Dews. "Hillary is slick. Democrats are taking us for granted."
By having breakfast with Obama, Bloomberg is doing what he said he would do while not running for president and dropping his Republican party affiliation: he is injecting himself into the national dialogue to try to influence the debate.
"I am going to speak out on those issues," Bloomberg said in June. "By not being affiliated with a party I think I'm going to have a better opportunity to do that."
Obama "is a person who is not only setting policy in the senate, he's also one of the handful of people who are shaping the national debate," Loeser said.
A spokesman for Obama, Robert Gibbs, said the men share a similar view: that Washington has been consumed by partisan politics.
Earlier this week, Bloomberg dined with Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, so today's mysterious photo-op with the Democrat Obama may be his way of showing how non-partisan he is in the presidential race.
Bloomberg speaks well of her publicly, but there is speculation he wanted to annoy Clinton, because she did not endorse him when he ran for mayor as a Republican. The two last met at the Sept. 11 anniversary ceremony, and their last private meeting was in March, Loeser said.
CBS 2's Magee Hickey, Marcia Kramer, and Steve Fink contributed to this article.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kosovo
on: February 19, 2008, 02:18:56 AM
The Russian press (which is to say, the state-controlled media) was deathly quiet about Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia on Monday. Even the basic reports of states’ initial recognitions of Kosovo showed up hours late.
Historically, when Russian newspapers are silent, it means one of two things: First, there could be a total lack of consensus and direction among Moscow’s upper leadership regarding what to do — which typically sets the stage for a palace coup. Such silence reigned after the Cuban Missile Crisis and just before the fall of Nikita Khrushchev, as well as after the 1999 NATO-Yugoslav War, which led to Vladimir Putin’s rise. Second, the Kremlin could have a major plan on which it is about to act. Such quietness also preceded the building of the Berlin Wall and the 1979 attack against Afghanistan.
In the face of the major powers’ recognition of an independent Belgrade, Moscow needs to repair the image of Russian power — both in the former Soviet Union and in Europe itself. But it is not enough simply to expand and entrench Russia’s influence somewhere. To regain its credibility, Russia must strike back at those that made Kosovar independence possible: the European Union and NATO.
This eliminates many of Russia’s options. For example, pushing hard in Georgia by annexing the Caucasian state’s two separatist regions might represent a kind of victory for the Kremlin and serve certain Russian interests, but at the end of the day, Georgia is a peripheral concern for the Europeans. Russia needs to move in a region in which Europe has a direct stake.
The list of possibilities is brutally short. There really are only three points where Russian options significantly overlap with European vulnerabilities. The first is Ukraine, which the Europeans have marked for eventual EU membership. But “eventual” is the key word here; while Ukraine is high on Europe’s “to-integrate” list, real work has not yet begun there. Additionally, Russia already is neck-deep in Ukrainian politics, so any surge might prove difficult to identify. Russia needs far more than a token victory — it needs to hit where Europe can feel the impact.
The second option is the Finnish frontier. The European who has taken point for the bulk of the EU Kosovo policy is Martti Ahtisaari, who served as prime minister of Finland — and, incidentally, held the rotating presidency of the European Union — when the first Kosovo crisis erupted in 1998. He has since served as the U.N. mediator on the Kosovo issue. The EU plan for Kosovo’s guided independence largely is his brainchild. Add in a century of complex relations between Finland and Russia, and a Finno-Russian crisis could fit the bill.
But there are problems with this strategy. Russia has no real tools for pressuring Finland, shy of a military invasion. Moscow is angry, but it does not want to start a hot war, and Finland’s military exists for but one reason: to defend against a Russian attack. During the Cold War, Russia was powerful enough to cow Finland into neutrality, but Russian power is no longer sufficient enough to intimidate Helsinki to that degree. In the aftermath of a Russian defeat over Kosovo, a Russian military move against Finland actually could result in a close NATO-Finland relationship that might even include NATO membership for Helsinki. This only would compound Russia’s humiliation.
The final option involves the three Baltic republics: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. These former Soviet states house substantial Russian minorities, and each has a reputation for seizing whatever opportunity it can to twist the Russian tail. Unlike Finland, the Baltics are not militarily capable of attempting a reasonable independent defense. The only thing preventing a Russian move against the Baltics is the risk of a NATO or EU reaction — all three Baltic states are members of both organizations. Yet, unlike the former Warsaw Pact states of Central Europe, the Baltics lack the infrastructure connections to the core of Europe that would enable them to be defended easily by NATO allies. They sport no NATO bases of military significance, and the only NATO member with a meaningful expeditionary capability is the United States, which has all of its deployable troops locked down in Iraq.
Russia hardly needs to conquer these three states to prove its point. Simply using military force to settle a minor border dispute — even one over a space as small as a few acres — would be sufficient. Russia needs to pick a fight it can win, as well as one that humiliates NATO and the European Union. The Baltics could provide the only potential crisis that delivers both.
Moscow has always thought that NATO security guarantees are not worth the paper they are written on. If Russia is to avoid being pushed not only out of the Balkans but also eventually out of its own periphery — and if Putin is going to secure his own skin (to say nothing of his legacy) — the Kremlin might finally have to test that position.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Condemned Afghan man's defenders seal his fate (WTF?)
on: February 18, 2008, 08:38:24 PM
LATimes. Note the *ssbackwards thought process of the article-- no surprise, its the Left Angeles Times.
CLASH OF VALUES: Afghans in Jalalabad protest the death sentence of student and journalist Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh, convicted for downloading an Internet article questioning a Muslim precept. A Western outcry may stiffen conservatives’ resolve.
An international outcry is brewing on behalf of the 23-year-old, condemned to death on blasphemy laws. But protests may increase religious conservatives' resolve to assert their independence.
By Bruce Wallace, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 18, 2008
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- Family members describe Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh as a frightened young man, sitting in a cramped Afghan prison cell alongside 30 hard-core criminals, hoping an apology will save him from execution for blasphemy.
But to the outside world, the 23-year-old student and journalist has become a cause: a symbol of Afghanistan's clashing constitutional commitments to freedom of expression yet also to Islamic law that allows apostasy to be punished by death. His sentence, imposed after a closed-door trial during which he was not permitted a lawyer or a hearing, has become a rallying cry for foreign critics who want Afghanistan to hew to international norms on human rights.
The question now is whether international protests will save Kaambakhsh from a firing squad, or instead stiffen the spines of religious conservatives who fear that Afghanistan's morals are being diluted by imported Western values.
The student's troubles began when he downloaded an article written by an Iranian writer living in Europe that questioned the Islamic precept of allowing men to take several wives. Kaambakhsh, a journalist in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, was arrested in October after he circulated copies of the article at the city's Balkh University.
He was convicted and sentenced to death on Jan. 22. Kaambakhsh has told his family he expects to die, but many Afghans expect the death sentence to eventually be rescinded. The student still has the right to appeal to two higher courts and, as a last resort, President Hamid Karzai has authority to commute his penalty to a jail term.
"We have talked to experts in Sharia [Islamic] law who say there are no executions for blasphemy when the accused apologizes," said Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, the condemned man's brother. "And my brother has apologized lots of times."
But many Afghans also say the mounting international pressure against the death sentence is creating a populist backlash against foreign meddling in the country's justice system. That hostility complicates matters for Karzai, whose room to maneuver is already limited by his deepening unpopularity and the perception that he is a U.S. puppet.
"These are the worst kinds of cases for Karzai," said Sherin Aqa Manawi, deputy head of the Ulema Council, Afghanistan's central body of religious scholars. "It was a normal case before the courts until the West made it into a big deal. But when the West interfered, they cornered Karzai.
"He is caught between showing the West that he's bringing democracy and human rights to Afghanistan," said Manawi, "and on the other hand showing Afghans that he supports their religious leaders."
Kaambakhsh's brother calls the sentence "a very emotional decision by the court," whose prosecutor and judges lacked the sophistication to understand the difference between downloading an article and writing it.
"The judges did not even know the difference between a keyboard and a monitor," Ibrahimi said.
Afghans who are aware of the debate are divided over the sentence. Some, -- such as Ahmad Romal, a 21-year-old Kabul University student -- argue, "If there is no death penalty, then these kinds of un-Islamic activities will continue."
Others say the sentence represents the religious extremism that was supposed to have been banished with the defeat of the Taliban in 2001. "We shouldn't let anyone implement laws like the Taliban did," said Mohammed Abraham, 65, a former teacher. "I hope they forgive him and give him a chance."
Organizations ranging from the United Nations mission in Afghanistan to Reporters Without Borders have joined a Western chorus urging Karzai to spare Kaambakhsh.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband raised the case with the Afghan president during meetings this month in Kabul. And NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned last week in a major speech to a security conference in Munich, Germany, that "there should be understanding from our Afghan friends that we have great difficulty to accept a death sentence for a young journalist for downloading an article from the Internet."
"Public support in our societies for our soldiers' presence in Afghanistan will erode," he said, "if we do not agree on the universal values we are defending, together with our Afghan friends."
Karzai has said only that "at the end of the day, justice will be done in the right way."
Afghan critics of Kaambakhsh's death sentence fear that the foreign pressure could prove counterproductive.
"The international community should know that Afghanistan has its rules and laws," said Habiba Danesh, a parliament member who agrees that Kaambakhsh should have been allowed a defense lawyer and an open trial. Still, she said, "Afghanistan should be left to make its decision in light of its judicial system."
There is also lingering ill will from a 2006 case in which an Islamic court passed a death sentence against Abdur Rahman, a Muslim who converted to Christianity. After a storm of international protest led by the Bush administration, his conviction was dismissed for technical reasons and Rahman fled to Italy.
Some Afghans still argue that Rahman escaped justice. And they are suspicious about Kaambakhsh's motives. Manawi of the Ulema Council accuses many young journalists of "intentionally creating trouble in order to get famous, or even as a way to get citizenship in Western countries."
The condemned man's brother said pressure on Karzai from foreign governments can be helpful if it remains low-key. Letters to Karzai and the Supreme Court are fine, Ibrahimi said. But a drumbeat of foreign criticism could further sour public opinion.
"Afghans are an emotional people, and they take decisions emotionally. If there is pressure from outside, and people see it on TV, it will cause a big reaction by fundamentalist groups. Fundamentalist groups want to make an example of this case. They want to shock young Afghans. The mullahs can turn people against my brother," he said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Our Founding Fathers:
on: February 18, 2008, 01:25:34 PM
Second post of the morning, from the LA Times:
A tussle over the founding fathers' words
BEN THERE: A portrait of Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Wright. Scholars are transcribing and annotating the writings of Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.
It will take decades for historians to finish editing the volumes. But some scholars want them online now.
By Sarah D. Wire, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 18, 2008
WASHINGTON -- The names and public acts of the founding fathers are familiar to many Americans, but their thoughts have remained largely a mystery.
"People think it would be difficult to touch them as who they were," historian David McCullough told a recent Senate hearing. "And it is, except in what they wrote."
For 65 years, scholars have been compiling, transcribing and annotating the writings of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. By the time the work is completed in 2049, the letters, diaries, official papers and other writings of the historical figures will be chronicled in 341 volumes, each 600 to 800 pages.
On Feb. 7, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard from scholars, librarians and others seeking to improve public access to the papers while the bound volumes are finished over the next 41 years. The consensus was that the papers should be available online, but there was little agreement on how -- and how rapidly -- that should be accomplished.
Brian Lee, a spokesman for the National Endowment for the Humanities, which provides financial support for the project, said in an interview that it was crucial to get the papers online quickly, and the fastest way to do that was "in the form of nonedited papers."
Such a move concerns historians, who gain as much from the editors' annotations of each detail as from the original words. "The footnotes are pure gold," McCullough told the panel. "Many are masterpieces of close scholarship."
Editing the documents is not a process that can be rushed, scholars said.
First, the documents are gathered from archives, libraries, private homes and other depositories. Then an editor transcribes each page, which may be blurred, faded or damaged.
After that, the transcription is annotated to identify each significant person, event and place mentioned in the text.
Editors then compare it with all other known texts of the document and note any variations.
Such close study is costly and time-consuming. So far, nearly $60 million in private and public money has been spent on the project. Rebecca W. Rimel, president and chief executive of the Pew Charitable Trusts, which has contributed more than $7.5 million, told the Senate panel that about one volume per founding father is completed each year.
The bound, annotated copies will be most beneficial to scholars, said Stanley N. Katz, a professor of public affairs at Princeton University and chairman of Papers of the Founding Fathers Inc., an umbrella group that raises money for the project.
But he acknowledged that the public would have easier access to the documents if they were online.
About two-thirds of the volumes have been published. Because Hamilton was only 49 when he was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr, he left fewer papers than the other five. The collection of his writings is the only one to be completed. One volume of the Hamilton papers costs $180; the complete set of 27 volumes is $2,600.
"We don't imagine any individual is going to buy these series," Katz said last week.
There is a split over where to put the online versions. Papers of the Founding Fathers supports digitization of "fully verified, scrupulously accurate texts" on a fee-based website at the University of Virginia Press. The Pew Charitable Trusts supports placing unannotated documents, along with digitized versions of the volumes as they are produced, "on a single, easily accessible and searchable website, such as that of the Library of Congress."
"It ought to be free to everyone," Rimel told the panel. "These are the founders' words."
In a September 2006 letter to the National Endowment for the Humanities, the editors of the five ongoing projects -- based at the University of Virginia, Princeton and Yale universities, the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation -- said that if they were given $13 million, all of the papers could be searchable online through a single database within five years.
The editors' plan would digitize the papers of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison and make them available through Rotunda, an online publication service of the University of Virginia Press.
Franklin's and Hamilton's would be added online later. The plan calls for increasing staff and office space, as well as improving coordination among the five projects, which work independently.
Rotunda began digitizing the published volumes of the Washington papers in 2004, paid for by Mount Vernon and the University of Virginia. Even without a secure source of funding, the online project is moving forward, with Adams' papers due next month and Jefferson's and Madison's expected in the next year.
The price for access to all four presidents' papers has not been set. It is expected to be a sliding scale. For example, to gain access to the Washington papers already on the Rotunda site, individuals and high schools pay a one-time fee of $663, with prices increasing to $6,630 for large research universities.
"Once a library buys it, they have it forever," said Penelope J. Kaiserlian, director of the University of Virginia Press.
But the cost could prevent the public from getting the papers, said Deanna Marcum, associate librarian for library services at the Library of Congress.
She urged the senators to support placing an online version, including unannotated papers, at her institution, which she said already had digitized copies of the presidential papers of Washington, Jefferson and Madison.
"The scholarly editions in their current form are serving the scholarly community well, but we serve a different audience," she said.
Historians emphasized that placing the information online or speeding the process should not be allowed to affect the quality of the work.
The papers' editors, McCullough told the committee, "are the best in the business, and the high quality of the work they do need not [and] must not be jeopardized or vitiated in order to speed up the rate of production. There really should be no argument about that."
McCullough, who said he supported increased funding so that additional staff could be hired, noted that he had relied extensively on the founding fathers' papers for two of his bestselling books, "1776" and the Pulitzer-winning "John Adams."
"Their value is unassailable, immeasurable. They are superbly edited. They are thorough. They are accurate," he said, adding: "I know how essential the papers are to our understanding those great Americans and their time."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: February 18, 2008, 10:41:08 AM
The Grand Old White Party Confronts Obama
By FRANK RICH
Published: February 17, 2008
THE curse continues. Regardless of party, it’s hara-kiri for a politician to step into the shadow of even a mediocre speech by Barack Obama.
Senator Obama’s televised victory oration celebrating his Chesapeake primary trifecta on Tuesday night was a mechanical rehash. No matter. When the networks cut from the 17,000-plus Obama fans cheering at a Wisconsin arena to John McCain’s victory tableau before a few hundred spectators in the Old Town district of Alexandria, Va., it was a rerun of what happened to Hillary Clinton the night she lost Iowa. Senator McCain, backed by a collection of sallow-faced old Beltway pols, played the past to Mr. Obama’s here and now. Mr. McCain looked like a loser even though he, unlike Senator Clinton, had actually won.
But he has it even worse than Mrs. Clinton. What distinguished his posse from Mr. Obama’s throng was not just its age but its demographic monotony: all white and nearly all male. Such has been the inescapable Republican brand throughout this campaign, ever since David Letterman memorably pegged its lineup of presidential contenders last spring as “guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club.”
For Mr. McCain, this albatross may be harder to shake than George W. Bush and Iraq, particularly in a faceoff with Mr. Obama. When Mr. McCain jokingly invoked the Obama slogan “I am fired up and ready to go” in his speech Tuesday night, it was as cringe-inducing as the white covers of R & B songs in the 1950s — or Mitt Romney’s stab at communing with his inner hip-hop on Martin Luther King’s birthday. Trapped in an archaic black-and-white newsreel, the G.O.P. looks more like a nostalgic relic than a national political party in contemporary America. A cultural sea change has passed it by.
The 2008 primary campaign has been so fast and furious that we haven’t paused to register just how spectacular that change is. All the fretful debate about whether voters would turn out for a candidate who is a black or a woman seems a century ago. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama vanquished the Democratic field, including a presidential-looking Southern white man with an enthusiastic following, John Edwards. What was only months ago an exotic political experiment is now almost ho-hum.
Given that the American story has been so inextricable from the struggle over race, the Obama triumph has been the bigger surprise to many. Perhaps because I came of age in the racially divided Washington public schools of the 1960s and had one of my first newspaper jobs in Richmond in the early 1970s, I almost had to pinch myself when Mr. Obama took 52 percent of Virginia’s white vote last week. The Old Dominion continues to astonish those who remember it when.
Here’s one of my memories. In 1970, Linwood Holton, the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction and a Richard Nixon supporter, responded to court-ordered busing by voluntarily placing his own children in largely black Richmond public schools. For this symbolic gesture, he was marginalized by his own party, which was hellbent on pursuing the emergent Strom Thurmond-patented Southern strategy of exploiting white racism for political gain. After Mr. Holton, Virginia restored to office the previous governor, Mills Godwin, a champion of the state’s “massive resistance” to desegregation.
Today Anne Holton, the young daughter sent by her father to a black school in Richmond, is the first lady of Virginia, the wife of the Democratic governor, Tim Kaine. Mr. Kaine’s early endorsement of Mr. Obama was a potent factor in his remarkable 28-point landslide on Tuesday.
For all the changes in Virginia and elsewhere, vestiges of the Southern strategy persist in some Republican quarters. Mr. McCain, however, has been a victim, rather than a practitioner, of the old racial gamesmanship. In his brutal 2000 South Carolina primary battle against Mr. Bush and Karl Rove, Mr. McCain’s adopted Bangladeshi daughter was the target of a smear campaign. He was also pilloried for accurately describing the Confederate flag as a “symbol of racism and slavery.” (Sadly, he started to bend this straight talk the very next day.) He is still paying for correctly describing Jerry Falwell, once an ardent segregationist, and Pat Robertson, a longtime defender of South African apartheid, as “agents of intolerance.” And of course Mr. McCain remains public enemy No. 1 to some in his party for resisting nativist overkill on illegal immigration.
Though Mr. Bush ran for president on “compassionate conservatism,” he diversified only his party’s window dressing: a 2000 Republican National Convention that had more African-Americans onstage than on the floor and the incessant photo-ops with black schoolchildren to sell No Child Left Behind. There are no black Republicans in the House or the Senate to stand with the party’s 2008 nominee. Exit polls tell us that African-Americans voting in this year’s G.O.P. primaries account for at most 2 to 4 percent of its electorate even in states with large black populations.
Mr. Obama’s ascension hardly means that racism is kaput in America, or that the country is “postracial” or “transcending race.” But it’s impossible to deny that another barrier has been surmounted. Bill Clinton’s attempt to minimize Mr. Obama as a niche candidate in South Carolina by comparing him to Jesse Jackson looks more ludicrous by the day. Even when winning five Southern states (Virginia included) on Super Tuesday in 1988, Mr. Jackson received only 7 to 10 percent of white votes, depending on the exit poll.
Whatever the potency of his political skills and message, Mr. Obama is also riding a demographic wave. The authors of the new book “Millennial Makeover,” Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, point out that the so-called millennial generation (dating from 1982) is the largest in American history, boomers included, and that roughly 40 percent of it is African-American, Latino, Asian or racially mixed. One in five millennials has an immigrant parent. It’s this generation that is fueling the excitement and some of the record turnout of the Democratic primary campaign, and not just for Mr. Obama.
Even by the low standards of his party, Mr. McCain has underperformed at reaching millennials in the thriving culture where they live. His campaign’s effort to create a MySpace-like Web site flopped. His most-viewed appearances on YouTube are not viral videos extolling him or replaying his best speeches but are instead sendups of his most reckless foreign-policy improvisations — his threat to stay in Iraq for 100 years and his jokey warning (sung to the tune of the Beach Boys’ version of “Barbara Ann”) that he will bomb Iran. In the vast arena of the Internet he has been shrunk to Grumpy Old White Guy, the G.O.P. brand incarnate.
The theory of the McCain candidacy is that his “maverick” image will bring independents (approaching a third of all voters) to the rescue. But a New York Times-CBS News poll last month found that independents have even a lower opinion of Mr. Bush, the war, the surge and the economy than the total electorate and skew slightly younger. Though the independents in this survey went 44 percent to 32 percent for Mr. Bush over John Kerry in 2004, they now prefer a Democratic presidential candidate over a Republican by 44 percent to 27 percent.
Mr. McCain could get lucky, especially if Mrs. Clinton gets the Democratic nomination and unites the G.O.P., and definitely if she tosses her party into civil war by grabbing ghost delegates from Michigan and Florida. But those odds are dwindling. More likely, the Republican Party will face Mr. Obama with a candidate who reeks even more of the past and less of change than Mrs. Clinton does. I was startled to hear last week from a friend in California, a staunch anti-Clinton Republican businessman, that he was wavering. Though he regards Mr. McCain as a hero, he wrote me: “I am tired of fighting the Vietnam war. I have drifted toward Obama.”
Similarly, Mark McKinnon, the Bush media maven who has played a comparable role for Mr. McCain in this campaign, reaffirmed to Evan Smith of Texas Monthly weeks ago that he would not work for his own candidate in a race with Mr. Obama. Elaborating to NPR last week, Mr. McKinnon said that while he is “100 percent” for Mr. McCain and disagrees with Mr. Obama “on very fundamental issues,” he likes Mr. Obama and what he’s doing for the country enough to stay on the sidelines rather than fire off attack ads.
As some Republicans drift away in a McCain-Obama race, who fills the vacuum? Among the white guys flanking Mr. McCain at his victory celebration on Tuesday, revealingly enough, was the once-golden George Allen, the Virginia Republican who lost his Senate seat and presidential hopes in 2006 after being caught on YouTube calling a young Indian-American Democratic campaign worker “macaca.”
In that incident, Mr. Allen added insult to injury by also telling the young man, “Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.” As election results confirmed both in 2006 and last week, it is Mr. Allen who is the foreigner in 21st century America, Mr. Allen who is in the minority in the real world of Virginia. A national rout in 2008 just may be that Republican Party’s last stand.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma
on: February 18, 2008, 10:25:49 AM
“In 1963, John F. Kennedy was murdered in Texas by a fervent admirer of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. In 2008, a large Cuban flag emblazoned with the image of Che Guevara, Castro’s brutal henchman, is prominently displayed in a Barack Obama campaign volunteer office in Houston. Obama has been widely compared to JFK, most notably by the late president’s brother and daughter. President Kennedy, a stalwart anticommunist, despised Castro and his gang of totalitarian thugs. But when word broke last week that Obama’s supporters in Houston work under a banner glorifying Che, the campaign’s reaction was to brush it off as an issue involving volunteers, not the official campaign. After two days of controversy, the campaign issued a statement calling the flag ‘inappropriate’ and saying its display ‘does not reflect Senator Obama’s views.’ Would JFK have reacted so mildly?... That this sadistic thug’s face also adorns the office of a U.S. presidential candidate’s supporters is appalling and disgraceful. That the candidate couldn’t bring himself to say so is even worse.” —Jeff Jacoby
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams: Washington
on: February 18, 2008, 09:53:30 AM
"His Example is now complete, and it will teach wisdom and virtue
to magistrates, citizens, and men, not only in the present age,
but in future generations, as long as our history shall be read."
-- John Adams (message to the U.S. Senate, 19 December 1799)
Reference: Life of Washington, John Marshal, vol. 5
Our Founding Lame Duck
By WILLIAM HOGELAND
Published: February 18, 2008
HISTORIANS have often noted that George Washington not only began but also did much to define the American presidency. He imprinted on the office a sense of competence and integrity that can make later presidents, even successful ones, seem to fall short. Then to top it off, he left the job voluntarily. No law required him to step down, and running against him would have been impossible. Retiring after two terms, Washington enabled the transfer of executive power by electoral process.
That crowning achievement also made George Washington our first lame-duck president. Here again he set the standard, albeit one less celebrated by history. His last year in office was, in his estimation, lame indeed. He was just waiting for it all to be over.
Not that Washington was ever exactly chipper about being president. He’d fervently hoped to resign at the end of his first term. By then, his hearing and memory had started to fail. He complained of the burden of endless duty. His cultural status as a demigod made it impossible for anyone to criticize him publicly, but he interpreted every attack on a subordinate as meant for him. According to Thomas Jefferson, then secretary of state, Washington bitterly disbelieved the gushing reverence the press accorded him. Yet feeling that he was needed to referee the battles between Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, secretary of the Treasury, and to shore up national unity, he agreed to serve a second term.
By 1796, Washington might reasonably have felt proud, relieved, even optimistic. The skeletal American Army had beaten a powerful confederation of Great Lakes Indians, and the president himself had led a force to suppress an insurgency of Western settlers known as whiskey rebels. These victories established national sovereignty and federal law, discouraged Spanish and British designs on American lands and helped renew the country’s patriotism.
Still, Washington’s spirits that year were lower than ever. He was exhausted. He suffered from a disabling back injury. He had to sit for hours for the portraitist Gilbert Stuart, a hard-drinking hustler. Among his second- and third-string cabinet members — some of whom were founding the job of executive-branch hack — were cronies of Hamilton, who was trying to run the presidency from outside. Meanwhile, at Monticello, Jefferson was excoriating the president and mounting open opposition. Partisan politics had arrived, and to Washington, that was a miserable failure.
The only significant order of business for 1796 was getting through Congress a treaty with England. The press and public loudly criticized Washington for negotiating it — he was no longer off limits to direct attack — and the House of Representatives threatened to withhold financing. In the end, Congress ratified the treaty, but Washington thought the House had crossed a line separating federal powers and struck at the Constitution itself. “Charity would lead one to hope that the motives to it have been pure,” he reflected to allies. “Suspicions, however, speak a different language.”
The hopelessness with which Washington ended his presidency was obvious in the way he described to Hamilton his plan to retire. He wrote that he had “a disinclination to be longer buffeted in the public prints by a set of infamous scribblers.” He needed retirement, he told another correspondent, just to make bearable what he predicted would be a short trip to his death.
In the last few months of his term, as the first vicious presidential election contest (between Jefferson and John Adams) geared up, the president did little but hold ceremonial meetings with Indian leaders, accept visits of congratulation and write farewell letters. His annual address to Congress that year was as insistent a goodbye as his much-praised farewell speech. But he himself seemed, one observer thought, “morose.” Today we might call it depressed.
Two-term presidents nowadays typically celebrate their accomplishments, hand out grants and pardons, and talk excitedly about beginning a new career of public service. They may be happier than Washington was, but he may have set the pattern that condemns them to a period of impotence while we wait for the next leader to come along.
William Hogeland is the author of “The Whiskey Rebellion.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World
on: February 17, 2008, 01:50:58 PM
By MARK A. SIEGEL
February 16, 2008; Page A10
This week's publication of Benazir Bhutto's "Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West" is bittersweet to me, her friend and collaborator on the book, which was written in her last days. Many mullahs may hate the book, but so might many in the U.S. State Department. It takes on both the West and the Islamic world equally, exposing the dysfunctions of their respective world views, and puts Pakistan at the epicenter of the dual crises that were Benazir's themes -- the internal crisis within Islam and the crisis between Islam and the West.
Benazir and I worked on this project over the last very difficult days of her life, through assassination attempts, house arrest, emergency rule, martial law and constant harassment and intimidation. We had reason to know that all of our conversations and email exchanges were intercepted and monitored by the Musharraf regime. What we could not know, of course, was that this book would become Benazir's untimely final legacy.
Benazir believed that the international terrorist movement has two primary aims. First, the jihadists seek to reconstitute the concept of the caliphate, politically uniting the great Muslim populations of the world. Second, they seek to provoke the much debated clash of civilizations between Western values and Islam that they hope will result in the domination of a medieval interpretation of Islam that rejects modernity and pluralism. Benazir hoped to pre-empt this collision through reconciliation with the West and mobilization of the moderates within the world's 1.4 billion Muslims.
Benazir was critical of Western governments that in the past helped Muslim monarchs and dictators suffocate democratic movements and democratic governance. But she condemns Muslim hypocrisy as well. She says that while one billion Muslims around the world seem united in their outrage at the war in Iraq and the deaths of Muslims caused by U.S. military intervention, there is little similar outrage against the sectarian civil war in Iraq that has led to far more casualties. Benazir castigates Muslim leaders and intellectuals for criticizing harm inflicted on fellow Muslims by the West, but remaining deadly silent when confronted with Muslim-on-Muslim violence. She finds the Muslim community's silence about genocide in Darfur particularly reprehensible.
In her book, Benazir seeks to educate the West about what she believed to be the true nature of Islam. From the core of her being she rejects those who would use Islam to justify acts of terror; who pervert, manipulate and exploit religion for their political agendas. Chronicling and cataloging their assertions against democracy, pluralism, tolerance to other religions and societies, equality for women, and rejection of technology and modernity, she shows through specific citations of the Quran that the jihadist interpretations are not only antithetical to Islam but specifically prohibited by it.
Benazir believed that extremism thrives under dictatorship, and is nurtured and fueled by it. She believed that when people lose faith in the political process, frustration and despair lead them to reach out to extra-governmental solutions. That is exactly what she believed is happening in Pakistan today. The U.S. is once again "dancing with a dictator" by supporting President Pervez Musharraf, a policy that will come back to haunt America. Despite the administration casting its lot with a military dictator, extremism has flourished.
Benazir Bhutto and I collaborated on "Reconciliation" while she planned her return to Pakistan to contest parliamentary elections that all polls indicated she would win. Mr. Musharraf repeatedly denied requests for meaningful security for Benazir, even after the heinous assassination attempt against her on Oct. 19 that left 179 dead. The State Department continued to dismiss repeated expressions of concern about her safety. When Congress sent letters and made phone calls, Congress was ignored.
And on Dec. 27 Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi, in the heart of the nation's military garrison. On Monday Pakistan will hold the national elections for which Benazir returned. The U.S. Congress has demanded that these elections be free, fair, transparent and internationally monitored. The U.S. State Department however, seems content to concede that the elections will not be free and fair but still (somehow) "good." In Islamabad these words are seen as a green light to rig with impunity.
Benazir Bhutto gave her life for the principles in which she believed. It is time for the Bush administration to tell Mr. Musharraf that anything less than free and fair elections is unacceptable and that an electoral fraud will not stand.
Mr. Siegel collaborated with Benazir Bhutto on the recently published book "Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West" (Harper). He is a partner at Locke Lord Strategies in Washington, D.C.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Pollution causes Liberalism, Homosexuality
on: February 17, 2008, 01:47:49 PM
Here's another theory
Top Psychiatrist Concludes Liberals Are Mentally Ill
Just when liberals thought it was safe to start identifying themselves as such, an acclaimed veteran psychiatrist is making the case that the ideology motivating them is actually a mental disorder.
"Based on strikingly irrational beliefs and emotions, modern liberals relentlessly undermine the most important principles on which our freedoms were founded." says Dr. Lyle Rossiter, author of the new book, The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness. "Like spoiled, angry children, they rebel against the normal responsibilities of adulthood and demand that a parental government meet their needs from cradle to grave."
While political activists on the other side of the spectrum have made similar observations, Rossiter boasts professional credentials and a life virtually free of activism and links to "the vast right-wing conspiracy."
For more than 35 years he has diagnosed and treated more than 1,500 patients as a board-certified clinical psychiatrist and examined more than 2,700 civil and criminal cases as a board-certified forensic psychiatrist. He received his medical and psychiatric training at the University of Chicago.
Rossiter says the kind of liberalism being displayed by the two major candidates for the Democratic Party presidential nomination can only be understood as a psychological disorder.
"A social scientist who understands human nature will not dismiss the vital roles of free choice, voluntary cooperation and moral integrity as liberals do," he says. "A political leader who understands human nature will not ignore individual differences in talent, drive, personal appeal and work ethic, and then try to impose economic and social equality on the population as liberals do. And a legislator who understands human nature will not create an environment of rules which over-regulates and over-taxes the nation's citizens, corrupts their character and reduces them to wards of the state as liberals do."
Dr. Rossiter says the liberal agenda preys on weakness and feelings of inferiority in the population by:
1. creating and reinforcing perceptions of victimization; satisfying infantile claims to entitlement, indulgence and compensation.
2. augmenting primitive feelings of envy.
3. rejecting the sovereignty of the individual, subordinating him to the will of the government.
"The roots of liberalism and its associated madness can be clearly identified by understanding how children develop from infancy to adulthood and how distorted development produces the irrational beliefs of the liberal mind." he says. "When the modern liberal mind whines about imaginary victims, rages against imaginary villains and seeks above all else to run the lives of persons competent to run their own lives, the neurosis of the liberal mind becomes painfully obvious."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma
on: February 17, 2008, 01:44:59 PM
Ummm, , , things like this , , ,
AIM Says Media Cover-Up Obama’s Socialist-Oriented Global Tax Bill
Press Release | By admin | February 13, 2008
WASHINGTON, February 13, 2008 -- Accuracy in Media editor Cliff Kincaid disclosed today that a hugely expensive bill called the "Global Poverty Act," sponsored by Democratic Senator Barack Obama, was quickly passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday and could result in the imposition of a global tax on the United States. Kincaid said that the major media's cover-up of the bill, which makes levels of U.S. foreign aid spending subservient to the dictates of the United Nations, demonstrates the media's desire to see Senator Obama elected to the presidency.
In a column posted on the AIM web site, Kincaid noted that Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was trying to rush Obama's "Global Poverty Act" (S. 2433) through his committee without hearings.
The legislation would commit the U.S. to spending 0.7 percent of gross national product on foreign aid, which amounts to a phenomenal 13-year total of $845 billion over and above what the U.S. already spends. It was scheduled for a Thursday vote but was moved up a day, to Wednesday, and rushed through by voice vote. Kincaid learned, however, that conservative Senators have now put a "hold" on the legislation, in order to prevent it from being rushed to the floor for a full Senate vote.
The House version (H.R. 1302) was suddenly brought up on the House floor last September 25 and was passed by voice vote. House Republicans were caught off-guard, unaware that the pro-U.N. measure committed the U.S. to spending hundreds of billions of dollars. Kincaid's column notes that the official in charge of making nations comply with the U.N. Millennium Goals, which are prominently highlighted in the Obama bill, says a global tax will be necessary to force American taxpayers to provide the money.
Legislation would aim to cut extreme global poverty in half by 2015
February 13, 2008 -- WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) today hailed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's passage of the Global Poverty Act (S.2433), which requires the President to develop and implement a comprehensive policy to cut extreme global poverty in half by 2015 through aid, trade, debt relief, and coordination with the international community, businesses and NGOs.
This legislation was introduced in December. Smith and Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) sponsored the House version of the bill (H.R. 1302), which passed the House last September.
"With billions of people living on just dollars a day around the world, global poverty remains one of the greatest challenges and tragedies the international community faces," said Senator Obama. "It must be a priority of American foreign policy to commit to eliminating extreme poverty and ensuring every child has food, shelter, and clean drinking water. As we strive to rebuild America's standing in the world, this important bill will demonstrate our promise and commitment to those in the developing world. Our commitment to the global economy must extend beyond trade agreements that are more about increasing corporate profits than about helping workers and small farmers everywhere. I commend Chairman Biden and Ranking Member Lugar for supporting this bill and moving it forward quickly."
"Poverty, hunger, and disease will be among the most serious challenges confronting the world in the 21st century," Senator Hagel said. "This legislation provides the President of the United States the framework and resources to help implement a comprehensive policy to reduce global poverty. It is the human condition that has always driven the great events of history. This is a responsibility of all citizens of the world."
"Global poverty directly impacts our national security. We must rally private sector and government resources to eliminate extreme global poverty and to fight global disease." said Senator Cantwell. "With more than 1.1 billion men, women and children throughout the world living on less than $1 a day, it is of the utmost importance to make sure these people get the help they need and push for sustainable economic growth. We need to do more to save lives in the poorest countries and extend our hand to people in need."
"Global poverty is one of the greatest moral and security challenges facing the world today. Nearly 2.7 billion people live on less than $2 a day and close to a billion live on less than $1 a day. This bill represents a major advance in our effort to address global poverty. After introducing this measure in the House for the past several years, I am pleased to see the Senate Foreign Relations Committee take significant steps toward its final passage," Congressman Smith said.
For years, America has committed to improving the lives of the world's poorest people. In 2000, the U.S. joined more than 180 countries at the United Nations Millennium Summit and vowed to reduce global poverty by 2015. We are halfway towards this deadline, and it is time the United States makes it a priority of our foreign policy to meet this goal and help those who are struggling day to day.
The Global Poverty Act:
* Declares it official U.S. policy to promote the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme global poverty in half by 2015.
* Requires the President to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to carry out that policy.
* Includes guidelines for what the strategy should include - from aid, trade, and debt relief, to working with the international community, businesses and NGOs, to ensuring environmental sustainability.
* Requires that the President's strategy include specific and measurable goals, efforts to be undertaken, benchmarks, and timetables.
* Requires the President to report back to Congress on progress made in the implementation of the global poverty strategy.
The legislation is supported by a broad range of groups, including Bread for the World, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, CARE, Oxfam America, Habitat for Humanity International, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, United Church of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Borgen Project, United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, RESULTS, Micah Challenge USA, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Source: Senator Barack Obama
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pollution causes Liberalism, Homosexuality
on: February 17, 2008, 11:59:08 AM
Study finds human medicines altering marine biology
Southern California toxicology researchers find chemicals from wastewater are ending up in coastal oceans -- and affecting the hormone levels of fish.
By Kenneth R. Weiss, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 17, 2008
BOSTON -- Sewage-treatment plants in Southern California are failing to remove hormones and hormone-altering chemicals from water that gets flushed into coastal ocean waters, according to the results of a study released Saturday.
The preliminary findings were part of the most ambitious study to date on the effect of emerging chemical contaminants in coastal oceans. It confirms the findings of smaller pilot studies from 2005 that discovered male fish in the ocean were developing female characteristics, and broadened the scope of the earlier studies by looking at an array of man-made contaminants in widespread tests of seawater, seafloor sediment and hundreds of fish caught off Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.
The results, outlined by a Southern California toxicologist at a conference in Boston, reveal that a veritable drugstore of pharmaceuticals and beauty products, flame retardants and plastic additives are ending up in the ocean and appear to be working their way up the marine food chain.
Flame retardants used in upholstery and plastic additives are showing up in fish tissues at levels as high or higher than lingering residue of the banned pesticide DDT and another stubborn industrial pollutant, polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.
The study also showed that male flatfish contain unusually high levels of the female hormone estrogen, possibly in reaction to one or more of these hormone-altering chemicals.
As many as 90% of these male fish were found to have produced egg yolk proteins, and one had actually produced eggs, indicating that the feminizing of fish seen in freshwater streams and lakes can happen in the open ocean as well. This evidence, scientists said, suggests that diluting pollution with a vast amount of seawater may not be an effective way to dispose of these new and little-understood contaminants.
"Dilution is not the solution for some of these newer compounds," said Steven Bay, a toxicologist with the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project in Costa Mesa. He expects the study to raise policy debates over upgrading sewage-treatment plants.
Although some of these contaminants may be in urban runoff, the main source appears to be the 1 billion gallons of partially treated sewage that flows into the ocean every day from the region's four major sewage outfalls.
Women taking birth control pills excrete estrogen in their urine, which is flushed down the toilet and ends up in the ocean. The same is true of antidepressants, tranquilizers, anti-inflammatory medicine and other drugs, as well as musk fragrances, sunscreens, soaps and additives to plastics -- compounds known to mimic or disrupt hormones.
"Sewage-treatment plants only remove 50% to 70% of these chemicals," Bay said.
Bay sketched out the preliminary results in a special session at the annual meeting of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science.
Much of Saturday's discussion focused on sex-changing chemicals in municipal wastewater. "It doesn't take much of the pill to stop fish from reproducing," said Karen Kidd, a biology professor at the University of New Brunswick in Canada.
Kidd said sewage plants could remove virtually all estrogen with more advanced forms of treatment.
Primary treatment, the type used in San Diego, doesn't take out as much estrogen as secondary treatment, used by Los Angeles' Hyperion plant in El Segundo. Those plants, if upgraded to tertiary treatment, could remove nearly all of the estrogen, Kidd said.
Another study looked at how compounds used as fabric stain repellents, nonstick pan coatings and coatings in microwave popcorn bags have accumulated in the blood and tissue of loggerhead sea turtles. They are suppressing the immune systems of these turtles, which are officially designated as threatened with extinction.
The sea turtles pick up these compounds through what they eat, said Jennifer M. Keller, a researcher with the National Institute of Standards and Technology. "They eat crabs and clams and other shellfish -- a diet they share with humans."
The study in Southern California waters looked at contaminants in wastewater, surrounding ocean waters, sediments and in the flesh of 600 flatfish called hornyhead turbot.
These bottom-dwelling fish were selected because they reside near sewage outfalls.
The results showed that the chemicals and responses from the fish were widespread and not confined to areas near sewage outfalls, showing how easily the chemicals get dispersed.
Besides elevated estrogen levels in male fish, test results showed altered thyroid hormone levels in the turbot. They also had depressed cortisol levels, an indication that the fish were worn out and are vulnerable to disease.
So far, Bay said, no evidence has emerged that the chemicals are threatening their survival or ability to reproduce.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Obama Phenomena
on: February 16, 2008, 11:12:43 PM
Its looking like BO is going to beat the Hillbillary Clintons. The man's track record
is rather vague, so lets see what we can do to get a sense of the man, the people around him, and the phenomena.
Obama Campaign Theatrics
--Producer Phil writes
A Wall Street Journal writer, James Taranto , has uncovered a hilarious and puzzling coincidence at 5 different Sen. Obama campaign speeches over the last few months, including the recent speech in Seattle.
Dori and listeners have found one other Sen. Obama incident posted on YouTube where a person near the stage faints. Sen. Obama responds to each incident with the same routine and phrases.
Is it phoney, orchestrated, manufactured campaign theatrics or is it merely physiological coincidence? You be the judge.
VIDEO circa Feb. 24th, 2007-Sen. Obama in Los Angeles, CAhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpMf1070uW0
VIDEO Sept. 8th, 2007--Sen. Obama in Santa Barbara, CA scroll to 6:29http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_oXsljcKaA
VIDEO Dec. 8th, 2007--Sen. Obama in Des Moines, IA scroll to 1:45http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hO1whLUKZhE
VIDEOJan. 8th, 2008--Sen. Obama in Hanover, NHhttp://firstname.lastname@example.org
VIDEOFeb. 4th, 2008--Sen. Obama in Hartford, CN scroll to 6:05
AUDIOFeb 8th, 2008 Sen. Obama encountered another fainter at his Key Arena speech in Seattle
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism
on: February 16, 2008, 11:00:36 PM
KSM, the Victim
February 16, 2008; Page A10
On Monday, some six years after 9/11, military prosecutors filed charges against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al Qaeda's foreign-operations chief, along with five of his conspirators. They will stand before a military tribunal, and if convicted they could face execution. And as if to prove that the U.S. has lost its seriousness and every sense of proportion, now we are told not that KSM is a killer, but a victim.
The victim, supposedly, of President Bush. Opponents of military commissions (including Barack Obama) want KSM & Co. turned over to the regular civilian courts, or at least to military courts-martial; anything else is said to abridge American freedoms. This attitude is either disingenuous or naïve, or both, because it is tenable only by discounting the nature of the attacks and the enemies who carried them out.
* * *
KSM himself has made plain the extent and ambition of his world war. "I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z," he admitted during a hearing in March last year. He planned the 1993 World Trade Center attack, the 2002 bombings of the Bali nightclubs and the Kenya hotel, among 31 actual attacks. KSM was an architect of the Bojinka plot in 1995; by his own confession he drew up plans for strikes in South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Panama, Israel, Brussels and London, plus a "new wave" of post-9/11 attacks on L.A., Seattle, Chicago and New York.
These are not ordinary crimes. "For sure, I'm American enemies," said KSM in his broken English. "When we made any war against America we are jackals fighting in the nights. . . . the language of the war are killing." The proper venue to address his mass crimes against humanity is not some civilian jurisdiction. Terror cases committed as acts of war, by their very nature, require a separate judicial process.
The U.S. effort to bring it about was long delayed by legal challenges. Yet with the Constitutional guidance of the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision, Congress and the President established a deliberate framework for prosecuting "unlawful enemy combatants" in the 2006 Military Commissions Act.
Yet now anti-antiterror activists are attempting to make the process a referendum on the Bush Presidency or "torture" or whatever. Purportedly the tribunals are illegitimate because they do not afford every last Miranda right or due-process safeguard of the civilian courts. The key and appropriate distinction is that foreign terrorists are not entitled to the protections of the U.S. Constitution. They also violated the laws of war -- for example, by deliberately targeting civilians. International law has always held that such people deserve fewer legal protections, much less those of civilian defendants.
• Torture a Likely Focus at TrialStill, it's no exaggeration to say these war tribunals will be the most due-process-minded war tribunals in history. The procedures are nearly identical to those of a court-martial, with small differences for rules on secrecy and evidence. To avoid compromising intelligence sources and methods, and given the national-security interests, some tradeoffs were necessary. What's notable is how fine those distinctions are. Even liberal darlings like the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia are more severe, allowing prosecutors to pack the pretrial factual record or to have ex parte contact with judges.
By contrast, terror detainees have rights approximating habeas corpus and can challenge their incarceration, including judicial review by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. Critics yowl about the admissibility of "hearsay," but civilian jurisprudence is loaded with exemptions for second-hand material -- as any first-year law student will attest. The relevant point is that in terror cases it may be necessary to shield sources and tactics, or allow for evidence gathered under battlefield conditions.
Another point of controversy is that defendants may be barred from seeing all the evidence against them. But their government-appointed defense lawyers, with security clearances, can; and in any case, the detainees will be given access to declassified summaries of such evidence.
The most preposterous canard is that the tribunals are tainted because some terrorists were subjected to coercive interrogation techniques while in CIA custody. But a total of three -- KSM being the only one yet charged -- were waterboarded. It was conducted not to extract a confession but in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 when further attacks seemed likely and intelligence about al Qaeda's operations was limited. CIA Director Michael Hayden recently testified that these interrogations saved American lives.
Though allegedly coerced testimony might potentially be admitted under the Military Commissions Act, the Pentagon took the extra step of using "clean teams" to rebuild the cases. Not that it matters: Like KSM, most of the 9/11 conspirators happily boast of their atrocities.
* * *
Whether they intend it or not, KSM's victimologists are dupes in his campaign to undermine the antiterror enterprise. They also risk tearing down the firewall between national security and the civilian courts, where Constitutional principles could easily bend after some future attack to the gravity of national self-defense.
The proceedings are likely to be transparent, with only a limited portion closed to observers. It is true that this could become a forum for claims of childhood trauma, or a platform for grievances against the U.S., as with Zacarias Moussaoui; they also could degenerate into a media carnival. But that has more or less already happened. One virtue of public proceedings is to show that the U.S. is not conducting the Star Chambers of liberal caricature. Another is to reveal the ideology that irrigates al Qaeda's violence.
The ultimate purpose of the tribunals is to administer justice. It is a strange worldview that considers such tribunals and the death penalty inappropriate for the murders of 2,972 people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania, and hundreds more world-wide. A society that would not tender justice to a human butcher like KSM is not serious about defending itself.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / June 27, 28-29 DBMA Camp with Guro Crafty
on: February 16, 2008, 10:58:04 PM
As part of the conversation on the thread about Guro Lonely Dog's camp in Switzerland, requests were made for me to do one here. We started planning it there, but with this post I now give it its own thread.
WIth everything going on with regard to the Nat Geo documentary finally over, I am free to return to semi-regularly scheduled events such as my semi-annual DBMA Camps.
These camps typically are for DB Tribe and DBMA Association members, but for what I have planned for this Camp i think allows me to have some slots for friends of the Tribe/Ass'n.
One of the first things to decide is the number of days and the dates in question. We are looking at 2-4 days, on June 26, 27, 28-29 depending. My logic is that this will put us abut 6 weeks before the Gathering.
Is there any interest in my bringing in Bruno Cruicchi of Venezuela to do some teaching? Although I am not personally familiar with him, be comes well recommended to me-- and I have seen some interesting footage of Venezuela systems-- there does seem to be something distinctive there. Bruno and I have chatted on the phone a couple of times, so if there is interest from those who will be attending, to spice things up with a fresh perspective on things I could ask him if he would like to come in (he lives in Florida as well as Venezuela)
The Adventure continues,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: February 15, 2008, 01:58:46 PM
Biofuels wreck the environment
To the surprise of absolutely no one who greets climate change alarmism with even a hint of skepticism, two new scientific studies have concluded that biofuels do more harm than good. Both studies were published in the peer-reviewed journal Science.
According to the first study, which was conducted by ecologists from Princeton and the Woods Hole Research Center, biofuel advocates have made massive accounting errors by ignoring renewable energy’s “hidden costs.” For example, there is 2.7 times more carbon stored in plant material than the atmosphere, and massive amounts of this plant material would have to be burned off to make room to grow biofuel crops. Moreover, plant material serves as a sort of “carbon sink,” absorbing large amounts of CO2. By removing trees to make room for biofuel crops, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will only increase. The study ultimately concludes that when one considers production costs, the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions from ethanol over a period of 30 years will be twice as high as from gasoline, and that it will take 167 years for ethanol to “pay back” the carbon released by making land suitable for biofuel crops.
The second study was conducted by the University of Minnesota and the Nature Conservancy, which decided to take an even closer look at the issue of “carbon debt.” The conclusion? It would take between 48 and 93 years for the United States to bring corn ethanol to parity with gasoline as a net emitter of carbon. In Malaysia and Indonesia, where palm oil is created for European biodiesel, deforestation exceeds 1.5 percent annually, resulting in a carbon debt of 423 years.
Of course this news comes as Congress has just passed an energy bill providing huge federal subsidies and tax credits for corn ethanol research and development. One would think that if the politicians in Washington really cared about safe, cost-efficient, environmentally friendly energy, they would take another look at nuclear power. There’s nothing to be afraid of—just ask the French.
Exxon Mobil takes on thug dictator
What happens when the world’s largest publicly traded oil company takes on one of the world’s most notorious dictators? Exxon Mobil decided to find out. After Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez seized Exxon’s stake in two ventures in the country, including one 42.5-percent stake worth at least $4 billion, Exxon took Chavez to international court, targeting the assets of the country’s state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, SA, in U.S., British and Dutch courts. Last week, a British court sided with Exxon, issuing an injunction to freeze $12 billion in assets. A U.S. court also backed the company, freezing $315 million in Venezuelan cash.
In response, Chavez and his political puppets screamed “judicial terrorism” and stopped oil sales to Exxon. Despite Chavez’s intimidation attempts, however, experts say his actions will have little real impact on oil production. While Venezuela supplies approximately 11 percent of U.S. oil, the South American dictatorship is far more dependent on oil revenue than the U.S. is on Venezuelan oil. Exxon will easily be able to buy oil from other sources. Venezuela, however, has nowhere else to go for U.S. money. So, who’s holding the trump card now, Hugo?
Let us know what you think: Click here to comment on this section
All Heller breaking loose
Vice President Dick Cheney broke with his own administration last week when he signed onto a Supreme Court brief filed by a majority of Congress instead of the brief filed by President Bush’s own solicitor general. The Amicus Curiae brief filed by Congress asks the Supreme Court to uphold a lower-court ruling that affirmed the Second Amendment as an individual right and declared the District of Columbia’s handgun ban to be unconstitutional. Vice President Cheney signed the brief as “President of the United States Senate, Richard B. Cheney,” a rarely used title that denotes the vice president’s dual role as member of both the executive and legislative branches. Legal experts believe this may be the first time in history that a vice president has gone against his own administration in an Amicus Curiae brief. It seems that Vice President Cheney sensed—as we did—that the brief filed by the Bush administration was gutless and indecisive. According to Cheney’s press secretary, Megan Mitchell, “The Vice President believes strongly in the Second Amendment.” Apparently, so do 55 senators and 250 House members, a number that NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre says should send “a historical message to the court.” We can only hope.
As the Supreme Court considers the constitutional right to bear arms in DC, those on college campuses are also still denied the right. And once again, a murderous psychopath ignored the “gun-free zone” and killed six people Thursday—this time at Northern Illinois University. Unarmed students and professors were helpless until police arrived, by which time the shooter had determined that he was done and killed himself.
Frontiers of Junk Science: Maunder Minimum
Not all scientists are on board with Al Gore’s global warming mythology and accompanying hysteria. In fact, many scientists are currently seeking funding to research the possibility that we may be on the verge of a new ice age. The Danish Meteorological Institute released a study in 1991 showing that global temperatures follow solar cycles. Canadian scientists are planning to analyze the impact of the sun on the earth’s climate and the possibility that another ice age is imminent. Solar activity occurs in cycles of 11 years, and thus far, in the current cycle, the sun has been unusually quiet. The sun’s inactivity could indicate the beginning of what is known as the Maunder Minimum. This event occurs every few hundred years and lasts possibly as long as a century. The last Maunder Minimum occurred in 1650 and was marked by 50 years of terribly freezing winters and cool summers. These findings prove once again what should be blatantly obvious: that Al Gore’s man-made global-warming circus is not scientific, but rather is a scare tactic used for the promotion of class warfare and the redistribution of wealth. Liberals hope that, in addition to piling up political capital with global warming, they can also guilt-trip Americans into surrendering their quality of life.
Faith and Family: UK Sharia
Proposing an arrangement that would leave Britons with a multiple-choice legal system, Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the global Anglican Church, caused an uproar last week by stating that adopting portions of Sharia law in the UK is “unavoidable.” While he has since said, “Some of what has been heard is a very long way indeed from what was actually said,” Dr. Williams has yet to negate the sentiment of his statement—that Islamic law should be welcomed and that the country should consider a “constructive relationship between Islamic law and the statutory law of the United Kingdom.”
Interestingly, according to Shaista Gohir, director of Muslim Voice UK, “[T]he majority of Muslims do not want it [Sharia law].” Gohir stated that formally adopting Sharia law would be “impossible because Muslims wouldn’t agree on one interpretation, and women would face discrimination from male-dominated councils.” Yet, Dr. Williams wants the UK to “face up to the fact” that not all citizens relate to the British legal system.
A better idea would be for Dr. Williams to “face up to the fact” that law does not depend on “relatability,” and, as Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s office stated, “British laws should be based on British values.”
Speaking of Islam, Danish police foiled a plot to murder one of the cartoonists that drew some rather humorous cartoons of Mohammed two years ago. Two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan descent were arrested and will likely be expelled from Denmark. Denmark’s leading newspapers republished the cartoons.
When it comes to gun control and its advocates, examples of hypocrisy abound. There is Sarah Brady of the Brady Campaign, who once purchased a Remington.30-06 rifle for her son as a Christmas present. There are entertainers like Rosie O’Donnell and Oprah Winfrey, who speak out about the evils of gun ownership under the protection of their armed guards. There is anti-gun Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), who holds one of the only concealed weapon permits in San Francisco. There is New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who confiscated guns after Hurricane Katrina but thinks a photo op with an “assault rifle” is funny. And then there is Josh Sugarmann, gun-control activist and... gun dealer?
Sugarmann is the founder and executive director of the Violence Policy Center, a Washington lobby dedicated to banning handguns and semi-automatic weapons. Among other things, Sugarmann is notorious for coining the misleading term “assault weapon” and writing inane rants for the Huffington Post, but he also seems to have a side business, or at least a permit for one. According to the website of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a federal firearms license (FFL) is registered to one Joshua Alan Sugarmann at the same Washington, DC, address as the headquarters of the Violence Policy Center. The federal government requires that all gun dealers obtain an FFL before buying, selling and manufacturing firearms.
We’re not quite sure what to make of this, except that maybe Josh Sugarmann foresees a booming gun business in the District of Columbia if the Supreme Court affirms the individual right interpretation of the Second Amendment later this year in District of Columbia v. Heller. Or maybe he’s merely Sen. Feinstein’s private gun dealer. Whatever the case, it can’t be easy selling guns in a dry county.
Veritas vos Liberabit—Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus, et Fidelis! Mark Alexander, Publisher, for The Patriot’s editors and staff. (Please pray for our Patriot Armed Forces standing in harm’s way around the world, and for their families—especially families of those fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, who granted their lives in defense of American liberty.)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: February 15, 2008, 01:57:44 PM
Meanwhile, Ron Paul has vowed to continue his campaign, though it will be significantly scaled back and meant more to influence the debate than to win the nomination. Consideration for his House seat is a large factor in the pullback, given that he faces a primary battle on 4 March. “If I were to lose the primary for my congressional seat,” Paul said, “all our opponents would react with glee and pretend it was a rejection of our ideas. I cannot and will not let that happen.” Paul’s incredibly loyal supporters continue to rally around his message of “limited government, non-interventionism, respect for individual rights and strict adherence to the Constitution,” but Paul has repeatedly promised not to run as a third-party candidate.
From the Left: Democrat primaries
Barack Obama remains undefeated since Super Tuesday, racking up smashing victories in recent days in Washington, Nebraska, Louisiana, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. “At this moment, the cynics can no longer say that our hope is false,” Obama told supporters after Tuesday’s Potomac Primary. “We have now won East and West, North and South, across the heartland.” Obama has edged ahead of Hillary Clinton in the delegate count, and Clinton’s campaign made some leadership changes as a result of her inability to gain traction. Her campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, and deputy campaign manager, Mike Henry, got the boot after Tuesday’s losses. Doyle, who served as Hillary’s scheduler in the White House, had brought Henry onto the campaign.
Maggie Williams, yet another crony from the old days, is now running the campaign. Williams fits the classic Clinton mold of ethically challenged individuals, having served as Hillary’s chief of staff in the White House. Williams is the person who accepted the $50,000 check from Johnny Chung, the crooked Chinese fundraiser who wanted a photo-op with President Bill in 1996. Williams was also seen removing documents from Vince Foster’s office the night after the mysterious death of the White House counsel.
Clinton has pinned her campaign’s future on the Texas and Ohio primaries on 4 March. Never count a Clinton out of the game, as there is always one more trick in the bag. For instance, Hillary is still ahead of Obama in the competition for so-called super delegates. Super delegates are a creation of the Democratic National Committee that allows elected officials to have input into the nomination process. Democrat super delegates include Bill Clinton and such Clintonistas as Terry McAuliffe and Harold Ickes. The contest for super delegates is basically a Washington schmooze fest in which surrogates for Clinton and Obama will crisscross the country and burn up the phone lines in an attempt to sway votes in favor of their candidate.
Another issue that threatens to boil over is the question about what to do with the delegates from Florida and Michigan. The DNC ruled that these delegates could not be seated at the convention because the two states violated party rules by moving their primaries too close to New Hampshire’s on the calendar. Obama and John Edwards obeyed the DNC mandate and did not campaign in either state, but Clinton, consistently unburdened by rules made by others, campaigned vigorously in both states and unsurprisingly walked away with a lion’s share of the delegates. Now that it looks as if she will need virtually every delegate she can muster, Clinton has begun a push to get the DNC to reverse its earlier decision.
This week’s ‘Braying Jenny’ award
“I think that both in Michigan and in Florida, the Democratic [sic] Party should really give these people who came out and voted—they weren’t involved in the rulemaking—give them a chance.” —Hillary Clinton
Che Obama and the Cuban flag
Barack Obama has some ‘splainin’ to do. Fox News cameras captured a disturbing image in a campaign office in Houston: that of a Cuban flag with Communist mass murderer Che Guevara’s face printed on it. Naturally, Obama’s “explanation” was that the volunteer office is independently run, so he has no control over what goes on there. And that’s supposed to make voters want him elected president? Che Guevara may be fashionable among the nation’s leftist college students, but we remind readers that it was Guevara who was “supreme prosecutor” during the show trials after Fidel Castro seized power, overseeing the execution of countless people. Cuba is also still under a U.S. embargo and, last time we checked, is still a Communist dictatorship. Seems the Obama campaign is trying to communicate an idea, even if the candidate himself appears bereft of them.
Let us know what you think: Click here to comment on this section
Warfront with Jihadistan: Justice served
“You can run, but you can’t hide.” So said President Ronald Reagan to terrorists nearly 20 years ago. This week, one jihadi who had been running was finally found, and let’s just say he won’t be in the terror business anymore. Senior Hizballah planner and operative Imad Mugniyah, wanted for more than 25 years, was killed Tuesday in Damascus by a car bomb, a fitting end for the man who pioneered vehicle bombings as an act of terror. Mugniyah was behind some of the most significant acts of terrorist violence ever perpetrated against Americans, including the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, and the 1985 murder of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem during an airline hijacking. However, he had virtually disappeared since the early 1990s. Syrian, Iranian and Hizballah spokesmen immediately blamed Israel and the United States for the car bomb, a charge Israel promptly denied. The authors of this bombing will likely never be known, but the end result is the same: justice served at long last to a terrorist with the blood of hundreds on his hands.
Turning to the ongoing terrorist threat, two documents recently recovered by U.S. forces in Iraq offer insight into the current state of mind of al-Qa’ida in Iraq: gloom and doom. Citing the sweeping changes that have taken place since the U.S. troop surge began, one captured document’s author laments, “[T]he Islamic State of Iraq is faced with an extraordinary crisis, especially in al-Anbar.” Patriot readers will no doubt remember that just 18 months ago the Marines’ top intelligence officer judged that “there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation [in Anbar].” While these documents represent the views of only two individuals, the enemy’s own words are the clearest possible indication of what effect the surge and the Sunni Awakening have had in Iraq, no matter how many times Harry Reid (D-nial) and Nancy Pelosi (D-featist) tell us it isn’t so.
This week’s ‘Alpha Jackass’ award
“The gains [in Iraq] have not produced the desired effect, which is the reconciliation of Iraq. This is a failure. This is a failure! The troops have succeeded. God bless them. We owe them the greatest debt of gratitude, the sacrifice, their patriotism, and for their courage, and to their families as well. This is a disaster, and we cannot perpetuate it.” —House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who, uh, supports the troops, God bless them!
Pentagon seeks death for 9/11 suspects
Finally, justice for 9/11 may be served. On Monday, the Pentagon formally charged six jihadi suspects held at Guantanamo Bay with murder and war crimes related to the September 11th attacks, with Pentagon officials saying they will seek the death penalty should the suspects be convicted. Among the six is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, suspected mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann, legal adviser to the U.S. military-tribunal system, said of the 169 charges to be brought against the suspects, “These charges allege a long-term, highly sophisticated, organized plan by al-Qa’ida to attack the United States of America.” The other five jihadis include Mohammed al-Qahtani, the alleged 20th hijacker; Ramzi Binalshibh, liaison between the hijackers and al-Qa’ida; Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali (a.k.a. Ammar al-Baluchi), a nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and lieutenant for operations; Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, one of al-Baluchi’s assistants; and Waleed bin Attash, who selected and trained some of the 9/11 hijackers. Needless to say, they are as fine a group as any to kick off the first capital trial under the military’s tribunal system.
Of course, the usual cadre of leftists, pacifists and dimwits (but we repeat ourselves) started howling that the indicted jihadis had been tortured and denied due process. We are not entirely clear on how making the Pentagon jump though years of legal hoops and modify its tribunal rules is not due process. As for torture, waterboarding may or may not be torture, but that has no bearing on the jihadis’ involvement in 9/11. We may soon see the Jihadi 6 sent to meet their 72 virgins.
Leftists ‘support’ the Marines
Last week, we reported that the city of Berkeley, California, had resolved that the United States Marine Corps was not welcome to continue recruiting there. If they continued, it would be as “uninvited and unwelcome intruders.” It seems that news raised the ire of many a patriotic American, forcing the city council to reconsider—now they will not send their hateful letter to the USMC. Not only that, but they issued a statement saying they “deeply respect and support” the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Something makes us doubt their sincerity. Maybe it’s the fact that the angry anti-war group Code Pink still has a special parking space reserved outside the recruiting office.
In Congress, Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) responded by introducing the Semper Fi Act, which would strip Berkeley of all federal earmarks for fiscal year 2008, instead giving the money to the United States Marines for recruiting.
Apparently, the mayor of Toledo, Ohio, hadn’t seen this news as he ordered 200 members of Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines to turn around and leave rather than engage in urban-patrol exercises in the downtown area. Despite the fact that Toledo police knew about the exercise days in advance and the Marines have held exercises there before, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner (yes, that’s his real name) “asked them to leave because they frighten people,” according to a spokesman. “I wish they would have told us this four hours ago,” Staff Sgt. Andre Davis said. Indeed, the aborted exercise—busing the Marines from Grand Rapids, Michigan—cost roughly $10,000.
Profiles of valor: USAF Tech. Sgt. Chapman
United States Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, from Fayetteville, North Carolina, was involved in a reconnaissance mission in northern Afghanistan on 4 March 2002 when the team’s twin-engine Chinook helicopter came under heavy fire. It was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and crash-landed. Chapman called in air support to cover the team, which was now exposed to enemy fire. He also directed a helicopter rescue of his team and aircrew members and led the search for a Navy SEAL who had fallen from the helicopter. Chapman killed two jihadis during the search, but came upon a machine-gun nest. Though the enemy fired on the rescue team on three sides, Chapman fired back. Soon, however, multiple wounds claimed his life, though he is credited with saving the lives of the others in the rescue team. For his actions, Chapman was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, and a U.S. Navy cargo ship was named in his honor.
Immigration front: Hasta la vista
In recent days, hard evidence has shown that illegal aliens in Arizona are “self-deporting” in droves, with many thousands more planning to leave soon. Mexican officials in Arizona are being inundated with requests for documents that will let them enroll their children in Mexican schools and return to Mexico without paying taxes on their furniture and other belongings. The mass exodus is in response to a new Arizona law that makes it nearly impossible for illegals to hold a job in the state, which boasts the highest number of illegals in its workforce—a whopping 12 percent. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has gotten in on the fun, of course, establishing a hotline for citizens to report those who hire illegals. Additionally, authority has been given to local law enforcement by Customs and Border Protection for the enforcement of federal immigration law, which should prove valuable. The new law goes into effect on 1 March. Who needs amnesty when simple law enforcement will do?
Let us know what you think: Click here to comment on this section
BUSINESS & ECONOMY
Regulatory Commissars: Health ‘mandates’
In a classic case of deception by projection, politicians blame health insurers for the rising costs of health insurance. Yet, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance has counted 1,961 legislatively required “mandates” added to these costs since the early days of the Clinton administration, only 15 years ago. These “mandates” expand insurance coverage to procedures that typically are not medically necessary, because legislators have cozied up with sellers of the products and services. Sellers profit from increased business, and users of the products and services enjoy lower out-of-pocket costs.
Like each raindrop that doesn’t believe it is responsible for the flood, legislators have continued to act as if health insurance is their personal social experiment because someone else always pays the bill and takes the blame. While the cost of most government mandates adds between one and three percent to the cost of coverage, their cumulative costs are the main force driving up premiums. These mandates include covering slacker “children” up to age 30, as well as wigs, massages and obesity treatments.
Eventually, costs may be forced high enough to grant liberals their dream of socialized medicine. Americans would do well, however, to remember President Reagan’s cutting of the regulatory burdens, thereby giving industries the breathing room to become more competitive and affordable once again.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PatriotPost
on: February 15, 2008, 01:55:08 PM
“The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.” —Samuel Adams
Patriot Candidate Profile: Mike Huckabee
By Mark Alexander
In his victory speech after sweeping the Potomac Primaries, John McCain had this to say about his primary Republican opponent: “I want to commend my friend, Governor Huckabee, whose spirited campaign, many gifts as a communicator and advocate, and passionate supporters are a credit to him and our party.”
That wasn’t exactly an invitation for Mike Huckabee to join McCain’s ticket, but the prospect is an evermore-distinct possibility.
I first met Mike Huckabee in 1992 at the onset of the Clintonista siege. I was a few pounds lighter, and he a few pounds heavier.
A mutual friend (who was, at that time, the strongest Reagan Republican in Tennessee’s State Senate) thought enough of Mike that he pulled together a group of the Volunteer State’s conservative mafia to see what we could do to help this guy fill the seat of a Clinton crony, former Lt. Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, who had moved up to take Clinton’s post.
We pitched in, and a year later, Mike won a special election, becoming only the second Republican elected Lt. Governor since the War Between the States. He was re-elected to a full term as Lt. Gov. in 1994.
Two years later, Tucker was among the Clinton front men convicted for Whitewater shenanigans, in his case for arranging nearly $3 million in fraudulent loans. He was forced to resign, and he thus gave the keys to the Governor’s mansion to Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee served out the remainder of Tucker’s term and was elected outright to a full term in 1998, and re-elected in 2002.
Mike Huckabee and Bill Clinton have some things in common: They were both born in Hope, Arkansas, both served as Governor of Arkansas, both chaired the National Governors Association and both are amateur musicians—Huckabee playing bass guitar with his band, Capitol Offense.
The similarities end there.
Huckabee grew up in a caring, intact family. His father was a fireman, and his mother a clerk. They scraped together enough to live modestly. “Some of us know what it’s like to start at the bottom of the ladder,” he says, “but where you finish is up to you.” Mike’s formative years were steeped in Christian teaching and discipline. He says that his father was “the ultimate patriot. You know, he’d lay on the stripes, and I’d see stars.”
He was president of Hope High School in 1973, and two-and-a-half years later he graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree from Ouachita Baptist University, a small, academically competitive institution.
In 1974, he married (and notably, is still married to) Janet McCain (no relation). They have three children.
My original impression of Mike was that he was an honest, intelligent, plainspoken man guided by an indissoluble reliance on God. He made no apology for the fact that his political views were shaped by his faith. “Politics are totally directed by worldview,” says Huckabee. “That’s why when people say, ‘We ought to separate politics from religion,’ I say to separate the two is absolutely impossible.”
However, that impression has, to be polite, weathered a bit over the years.
Huckabee’s overall Patriot Candidate Rating is a “6”, placing him between John McCain (5) and Mitt Romney (7). He gets high marks for his character, leadership ability and record as a constitutional constructionist, but low marks on experience, and his contemptible record on taxation and spending, which is, well, Bushy.
During his tenure, he rolled the South’s economic boom—and his state’s subsequent increases in tax collections—into a 65-percent increase in state spending by 2004. According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, between 1996 and 2006 Huckabee signed 90 tax-reduction measures totaling $378 million, and 21 tax increases totaling $883 million.
When Huckabee entered office, Arkansas had a $200-million deficit. When he left, it had an $850-million surplus, though the state’s general-debt obligations increased by almost $1 billion. His tax-and-spend policies undermined the integrity of Arkansas’ state Republican Party.
As Fred Thompson observed, “Mike Huckabee talks like a Republican but taxes like a Democrat.”
Predictably, and commendably, he supported many conservative initiatives to strengthen marriage and families while governor.
In his quest for the presidency, Huckabee’s support for Operation Iraqi Freedom and his support for border security and comprehensive immigration reform mirror positions advocated by The Patriot, with the notable exception that he does not support an end to the Constitution’s misinterpreted provision regarding birthright citizenship, which has perpetuated the “anchor baby” influx.
He supports conservative family and faith initiatives, including the affirmation of life at conception and the objection to same-sex “marriage.” He would maintain the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuals in the military and a prohibition on women in combat roles.
However, he opposes school choice, which won him the dubious endorsement of the National Education Association of New Hampshire.
He supports the constructionist interpretation of First and Second Amendment rights.
Despite his record on taxes in Arkansas, Huckabee says the FairTax should replace the current tax system: “That’s the first thing I’d love to do as president, put a ‘Going Out of Business’ sign on the Internal Revenue Service and stop the $10 billion a year that it costs just for them to operate. If we had a fair tax, it would eliminate not just the alternative minimum tax, personal income tax, corporate tax, it would eliminate all the various taxes that are hidden in our system, and Americans don’t realize what they’re paying. It would be revenue neutral. It’s the best proposal that we ought to have, because it’s flatter, it’s fairer, it’s finite, it’s family-friendly.”
Perhaps the most significant reason to keep a skeptical eye on Huckabee is, as we noted with John McCain, the Leftmedia’s sycophantic accolades for these two campaigns.
Never, NEVER take advice from your enemy.
Perhaps the best thing I can say about Mike now is that McCain/Huckabee has a much nicer ring than McCain/Giuliani.
(Publisher’s Note: The Patriot’s editors have provided Presidential Candidate Ratings on our Patriot Policy Papers page. These ratings are based on comprehensive analysis of many factors, including each candidate’s record, experience, capability, character, leadership qualifications and, of course, demonstrated ability to grasp the plain language of our Constitution—and promote it accordingly.)
Quote of the week
“Ed Rollins, [Mike] Huckabee’s campaign manager, recently dismissed the Reagan coalition as ‘gone,’ saying ‘it doesn’t mean a whole lot to people anymore.’ That’s quite the claim, but perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise. Huckabee has every incentive to distance himself from the GOP coalition: his nomination rests on its demise. Allowing Mike Huckabee to become the face of conservatism would trade unity and principle for an ill-advised romance with a flighty, flaky new brand of politics.” —Former House Majority Leader, Dick Armey
Q: “Compassionate conservatism started out as a program to help the poor while decreasing the size of government by increasing the role of civil society. Bush administration spending led some Republicans to call it a euphemism for big government. What’s your view of compassionate conservatism?” —Marvin Olasky to Mike Huckabee
A: “I believe each of us has an obligation to give of our treasure, time and talent to help those less fortunate. However, I don’t support trying to have big government substitute for individual and community responsibility. I don’t view compassionate conservatism as ‘big government,’ but rather as encouraging individuals and groups to do more for those less fortunate, sometimes with help from government at various levels. The most valuable thing the government can do for the poor is protect the opportunity created by our free-market economy, enacting pro-growth policies that create jobs, make certain that every child has access to a first-rate education, and adopt policies [like tax policies] that encourage marriage and the family. Much of the poverty in this country is in families headed by a single mother.” —Mike Huckabee
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
News from the Swamp: Stimulus signed
President George W. Bush signed the $168-billion Economic Stimulus Act on Wednesday saying it would be a “booster shot” to help the economy get through a “rough patch.” Americans will begin to see their tax-rebate checks arrive in May—$600 for individuals, $1,200 for couples and $300 for each dependent child, sent to 128 million households. Meanwhile, government spending is up eight percent this year and the deficit will skyrocket, but Congress and the President have decided to borrow $168 billion from China to get consumers to buy stuff from... China. Actually, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says he hopes consumers will “spend it on things that are domestically produced,” but all we can say is good luck with that. We in our humble shop do have a plan for that little extra cash: specifically, purchasing a number of domestically produced Bushmaster ACR and Robinson XCR “assault” rifles. That should be stimulating.
We also understand, as do most economists, that this is little more than an election-year gimmick to save politicians’ jobs. Real solutions to the economy lie in reducing the tax burden, not in income redistribution. It’s high time Congress made the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 permanent. That assurance alone would truly stimulate the economy.
On the Hill: Surveillance Act
For anyone wondering how a McCain administration would be different from a Hillary or Obama administration, the Senate offered a sneak preview this week. In a 68-29 vote, the Senate reauthorized the surveillance law that allows American intelligence agencies to monitor the communications between suspected terrorists overseas and their contacts in the United States. The bill also includes a provision for retroactive immunity for telephone companies that have cooperated with the government’s wiretapping program and have been sued as a result. Approximately 40 such lawsuits have been filed, prompting President Bush to insist that an immunity provision be made into law if these companies are expected to continue assisting the intelligence community in the War on Terror. The Senate Intelligence Committee agreed, saying that the telcos had “acted in good faith.” Seventeen Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for the bill, including the chairman of the intelligence committee, Sen. John Rockefeller IV (D-WV).
Another senator who voted in favor of the bill was Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who continues to demonstrate a solid understanding of national-security issues. The Democrat presidential candidates were not so astute: Sen. Barack Hussein Obama voted against reauthorizing the terrorist-surveillance program, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was too busy campaigning to vote at all.
House Democrats still oppose granting immunity. The House voted Wednesday to reject a 21-day extension of the law, which would have given them more time to iron out differences. President Bush has said he will not sign another extension and accused House Democrats of risking national security. The law expires tonight if nothing is done.
In the House: Earmark reform
Aiming to “change the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars,” House Republicans have set up EarmarkReform.House.gov as a way to inform taxpayers regarding earmarks. Republican Leader John Boehner (OH) said the site will contain news releases, opinion editorials and other information that “will shine a spotlight on [Democrats’] broken promises and empty rhetoric on earmarks.” Meanwhile, Reps. Jack Kingston (R-GA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) introduced legislation that would stop the earmark process entirely until a panel is established to reform the practice permanently. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to support the legislation, despite her incessant promises for fiscal discipline in Congress. However, several House Republicans, along with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), have pledged that they will not request earmarks in appropriations bills this year.
In other House news, conservative stalwart John Shadegg (R-AZ) has announced that he will not seek re-election this year—the 29th Republican to decide so. Shadegg had run for minority leader and has been a fiscal hawk since his election with the Republican Revolution of 1994. There is speculation that he may run for a certain open Arizona Senate seat or possibly for governor, but he has not confirmed either.
Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) died this week of esophageal cancer at age 80. Lantos was the only Holocaust survivor elected to Congress and was an influential member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. A special election will be held on 3 June to fill the seat.
New & notable legislation
The Senate passed a bill Wednesday to ban the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics to extract critical information from terrorists. The CIA has waterboarded three terrorists for a total of less than five minutes since 2001. The military was similarly banned from using waterboarding in 2006, but President Bush has promised to veto this bill.
Rep. Christopher Shays (RINO-CT) announced a proposal to provide universal healthcare that is modeled after the plan offered to federal employees. This latest incarnation of socialized medicine would call for the federal government to negotiate benefit packages with private insurers that would be less expensive but provide more comprehensive coverage. Premiums under the current federal plan rise less than in the private market, but the public plan proposed by Shays would call for the government to pay up to 75 percent of the enrollee’s total premium. In reality, the money saved through lower insurance premiums would be paid for with higher taxes.
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) introduced the National Crime Gun Identification Act in both the Senate and House this week. CNS News reports that the bill “would require all semiautomatic pistols to have ‘microstamped identifiers’ —tiny internal markings that transfer themselves onto bullet cartridges fired from a gun.” The markings would supposedly make crime solving easier, though the NRA points out that criminals usually steal guns for their criminal endeavors rather than buy them, making this bill unnecessary and costly gun control. It is similar to a bill recently passed in California. One manufacturer has already stopped sales to California as a result.
On Thursday, House Democrats took up H. Res. 979 and 980 to find in contempt of Congress former White House lawyer Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten for assertions of executive privilege against House Judiciary Committee subpoenas. The Grand Inquisitors want to pillory the pair with queries about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. In response to the topsy-turvy Democrat priorities for floor action, Republicans walked out of the chamber. The final vote was 232-32 in favor of contempt, and the matter now goes to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
Campaign watch: GOP primaries
John McCain continues his steady climb toward the 1,191 delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination, but his main competitor, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, is not making it easy for him. McCain’s only victory in last weekend’s contests was Washington, leaving Huckabee with a narrow win in Louisiana and a resounding victory in Kansas. McCain bounced back this week, winning the so-called Potomac Primary (Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia) by respectable margins. We note that McCain opted out of public funding for his campaign this week, which will vastly increase his fundraising potential while also opening up the co-author of our current campaign-finance “reform” laws to some well-deserved criticism. After all, isn’t private money the root of all political evil? Indeed, McCain is still having trouble gaining the confidence of conservatives, though Mitt Romney endorsed him Thursday and requested that his delegates get behind the likely nominee.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: U.S. Senate Races of 2008
on: February 15, 2008, 01:29:25 PM
Lincoln Chafee, a former Republican Senator from Rhode Island, has left the GOP and endorsed Barack Obama for president.
The move can only be considered a slap in the face to John McCain, who came to Rhode Island to assist Mr. Chafee in a hard-fought 2006 GOP primary against conservative Steve Laffey. Mr. Chafee won the primary narrowly, and then went on to lose the general election to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.
Asked about how his sudden shift in loyalties will be perceived, Mr. Chafee told reporters: "I'm sure Sen. McCain will understand."
That's up to Mr. McCain, but somehow I doubt that all the donors to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which pumped over $2 million into Rhode Island to save Mr. Chafee in his primary, will understand.
Nachama Soloveichik, who served as press secretary for Mr. Laffey and now works at the Club for Growth, has published an open letter to Senator Elizabeth Dole, who ran the NRCC in 2006. She points out that Mr. Chafee's pending apostasy was already well in evidence in 2006: He had refused to vote for President Bush in the 2004 presidential election, voted against both Bush tax cuts, and cast the only Republican vote against the confirmation of Sam Alito to the Supreme Court. To be sure, the NRSC's job was to save Senate seats for Republicans in 2006, but it proved abysmal at the task. Rather than invest in Senate races that wound up being lost to Democrats by a handful of votes -- Montana and Virginia come to mind -- Mrs. Dole wasted precious resources trying to save the unreliable Mr. Chafee from a Republican challenger.
"It's not about liberal or conservative. It's about protecting incumbents no matter what their views," is how Mrs. Dole defended her decision back in 2006. But this is precisely the attitude that has led Republican donors increasingly to sit on their wallets this election cycle.
Will John McCain pull a Bob Dole? Will he resign his Senate seat to devote full time to the presidential race, as Kansas Senator Bob Dole did in 1996 after he tied up the GOP nomination? The Washington rumor mill is abuzz with the possibility now that the Arizona media has raised speculation of a McCain Senate departure as early as this spring.
Mr. McCain's Senate office and campaign are remaining mute, saying only there are "no such plans." That's what Mr. Dole said up to the day of his surprise announcement.
If Senator McCain decides to step down, conservatives would have a number of prime choices to succeed him. Free market and anti-big spending champions John Shadegg and Jeff Flake in the House would be high on the list. A Flake spokesman says Mr. Flake would "certainly take a close look." Mr. Shadegg has already announced he's leaving the House, but a Senate race would be mighty attractive to him as well. Still another supply-sider who could get in the race would be former Governor Fyfe Symington.
Mr. McCain was already seen as likely to leave the Senate when his seat rotates up for reelection in 2010, but there are party advantages to leaving now. A big one is that Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano is eyeing the seat for 2010, but she would be hard-pressed to run in 2008. Ms. Napolitano would pick an interim senator to serve until November and must appoint someone of the same party as the person vacating the office. An election would then be held in November to fill the seat through 2010. Whomever Ms. Napolitano appoints, especially if it's an apolitical weakling or moderate, wouldn't necessarily be a front-runner for the November election.
Says veteran conservative Senate watcher Dave Hoppe: "This would be a great opportunity to put a strong conservative in this seat." Messrs. Flake and Shadegg are both beloved by conservatives and seen as future stars of the party.
WSJ Political Diary
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / EZCH
on: February 15, 2008, 01:26:56 PM
From the Gilder weekly letter:
The Week / EZ Reaction
LanOptics Announces 130% Revenue Growth in 2007: Yokneam, Israel, February 11, 2008 -- LanOptics Ltd. (NASDAQ: EZCH), a provider of network processors, today announced its results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2007.
READ ON: http://www.ezchip.com/pr_080211ln.htm
EZchip Corporate Presentation: http://www.ezchip.com/Images/pdf/LNOP-investorsQ407-080214.pdf
Gilder Telecosm Forum Member #1 (2/11/08): The only way to listen to the company's comments and be discouraged is if you are using the daily stock price as your primary source of research…
Any frustration is a function of our own expectations which have been formed off of an incomplete understanding of the development cycle. But we now have the window for the break-out narrowed down to a few months…
Gilder Telecosm Forum Member #2 (2/11/08): I too was struck by [CEO] Eli Fructer not ruling out a 1H08 Cisco move to production with NP-3c… Eli has always been conservative and understated.
George Gilder (2/11/08): The key to EZ is its role in the critical path of the next three generations of networking technology. It defines the system level products on the fiberspeed level. That means it is slow to get off the ground, but once aloft will fly high for a long time.
For me there was one major upside surprise. I would not have guessed that 20 percent of EZ's design wins were with the two first tier customers. That means a minimum of 10 design wins with both Juniper and Cisco. That strikes me as huge. EZ penetrated Cisco only a year or so ago….
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt part Two
on: February 14, 2008, 02:48:07 PM
They didn’t say that at all. They said, “Gingrich must have cheated.” And their most partisan members just hated me. They filed 83 ethic charges and they did all sorts of things because they just couldn’t stand it. They knew they were supposed to be chairman. In fact, the first couple of weeks, people would come in and sit in the chairman’s seat and we would have to say to them, you know, you’re the ranking member now, and they were just beside themselves because they can’t have been wrong. <laughter> And frankly this is why they hate George W. Bush so much. The notion that we might have actually been elected under the rules in 2000, the notion that we might actually be doing the right thing, just drives the Left crazy. <Applause>
But it is a deeper problem. I had no real understanding of how decisively and deeply entrenched our opponents are from every level. From the Marxist tenure faculty member running for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota, achieving the impossible, the only man in America who could be to the left of Al Franken, and a vivid reminder of how much our University campuses are filled with people who hate the very country that provides them their salary, that provides them their tenure, and provides them their freedom. <Applause>
To a Detroit school bureaucracy which is crippling the children of Detroit, which graduates only 25% of its entering freshman on time, which is one of the highest paid and most expensive programs in the country, and which, when a successful millionaire offered to give $200 million dollars, to help create charter schools to save the children of Detroit, promptly attacked him as a racist because no white man had the right to step in and save black children, and in fact drove him out of Detroit, because he was such a threat, by insisting that teachers actually be competent, and that the purpose of schools was actually to teach. <Applause>
But we have seen the same thing right here. Any of youo who have listened to Ambassador John Bolton knows that we have a vast portion of the State Department deeply committed to defeating the policies of President Bush. We have a large proportion of the Intelligence community deeply committed to defeating the policies of President Bush. The fact that he is the elected Commander in Chief of the American people, the fact that the laws have been passed by the elected legislators of the American people, seems to be no matter to this bureaucratic elite, which arrogates to itself the right to do things that are stunningly destructive.
The National Intelligence Estimate on Iran can only be understood as a bureaucratic coup d’état, deliberately designed to undermine the policies of the United States, on behalf of some weird goal. <Applause>
There is one other declaration of independence we need and this will startle some of you. And remember I say this from a background of having been active in the Georgia Republican Party since 1960. In a fundamental way, the conservative movement has to declare itself independent from the Republican Party. <Applause>
Let me make very clear what I'm saying here. I am not saying there should be a third party – I think a third party is a dumb idea, will not get anywhere, and in the end will achieve nothing. <Applause>
I actually believe that any reasonable conservative will, in the end, find that they have an absolute requirement to support the Republican nominee for president this fall. <Applause>
And let me remind you, I say that in the context of personally believing that the McCain-Feingold Act is unconstitutional and a threat to our civil liberties. <Applause>
And I say that in the context of believing that the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill was a disaster and was correctly stopped by the American people. <Applause>
But I would rather, as a citizen, and I say this with Callista and I have two wonderful grandchildren. Maggie who is 8 and Robert who is 6. We think about their future. As a citizen, I would rather have a President McCain that we fight with 20% of the time, than a President Clinton or a President Obama that we fight with 90% of the time. <Applause>
Let me, if I might, carry this a step further so that you understand where I am coming from. I believe the conservative movement has to think about reaching out to every American of every background. I think we have to decide that in 2010, we are going to recruit and support conservative candidates in Democratic districts, because the right answer to gerrymandering is to beat them in the primary. <Applause>
Now all of you have a copy, I hope you got a copy, but if you didn't, you can get it later on outside of the Platform of the American People from American Solutions. And it’s also at the back of my new book Real Change. And you can also get it at AmericanSolutions.com. And you can download it for free.
Let me tell you how we developed this. This is a work in progress and this is phase 1. We had a Solutions Day workshop last September with over 100,000 people participating across the country on the internet, in person, and on television. We had over 25,000 people in telephone and townhall meetings where we asked them to be involved and we listened to their questions and worked with them. We took six national surveys. And what we were looking for, and what’s in this Platform of the American People is issues which are tripartisan. They get a majority of Democrats, a majority of Republicans, and a majority of independents.
Now it turns out when you develop a tripartisan platform, it's a center-right platform because this is a center-right country. The fascinating thing will be watching Senator Obama who is for “Real Change” and has “change” on all his slogans, and I am for it. We wrote the book Real Change last summer and I want to thank the people at Regnery for going along with the title, it turns out this February that it was really a good title.<Laughter>
But it was also an obvious title. But here’s the question: Are you for the right change or the wrong change?
Let me give you a couple of examples from here. And this isn’t the Gingrich Platform, this is the Platform of the American People. And by the way, we’re going to want your help when you go back home reaching out to Democrats and Republicans, to get them at your county, at your district, at your state, in both parties to adopt this platform. Everything in here has a majority Democrat support. It doesn’t have a majority elite support, but I’m hoping you’ll go back home and I do want to introduce for one second Princella Smith who’s here somewhere. Princella is the chief advocate of the Platform of the American People and she’d love to talk to you later on and be available to explain it and work on it.
And here’s my point. Let’s talk about the right change versus the wrong change. 85% of the American people believe we have an absolute obligation to defend America and her allies. <Applause>
So if we need to strengthen our intelligence capabilities, and strengthen our interdiction and surveillance capabilities, and strengthen our ability to win wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere that would be the right change. But if we want to have weakness, under funding, and crippling of our departments of security that would be the wrong change.
Now let me give you a second example. 75% of the American people believe we have an obligation to defeat our enemies. Pretty strong language. Actually a higher number than I thought we’d get. 75% to 16%. So if we knew how to be clear and articulate and explain it, if we knew how to communicate to every American what the Director of National Intelligence said last week about the depth and intensity of al-Qaeda and this was on public record it just wasn’t, people didn’t pay attention to it, the news media didn’t want to cover it. The Director of National Intelligence said, let me tell you, al-Qaeda is working all day every day to find a way how to kill Americans. And they’re recruiting Westerners to have more sophisticated people to come and kill Americans. Now you would think if that was on then someone might say to Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, okay if al-Qaeda wants to come here, would you like to stop them over there? And if you want to stop them over there, how can you run back home to here if we’re trying to stop them over there? <Applause>
Just three more examples to show you the difference between right change and wrong change. 92% of the American people believe that for us to compete with China and India in an age of science and technology we have to dramatically improve math and science education. Now, I am prepared to change every bureaucracy in America that is failing our children until we get them to actually succeed, and I think the change should start today, because we shouldn’t lose a single child to prison who ought to be in college if only they had a decent school to go to. <Applause>
And the question for Senator Obama and Senator Clinton is simple. Are you prepared to put the children ahead of your union allies, and actually measure achievement rather than union dues as a primary success? <Applause>
Two last examples. 87% of the American people believe English should be the official language of government. <Applause>
Now, 87% means an absolute majority of Democrats favor English as the official language of government. An absolute majority of Republicans favor English as the official language of government. An absolute majority of independents favor English as the official language of government. An absolute majority of Hispanics favor English as the official language of government. <Applause>
Both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton voted against 87% percent of the American people, but nobody knows it. <Booing>
Well, it’s not their fault that nobody knows it, it’s our fault. So I would think if you want an example of real change, I think the Senate Republicans should say you know we like this idea of working together, we like this idea of getting real change, we’re prepared to work with Senator Obama next week, and Senator Clinton next week, and then once a week I would give them a chance to vote up or down on making English the official language of government. And let it just keep drawing it out. <Applause>
Because there’s a profound principle here. If something is both historically right, and has 87% of the American people in favor of it, then leadership which is prepared to stand firm will in the end be successful in getting the right change, not the wrong change, for America’s future.
Lastly, 84% of the American people would like to have a one page tax form with an optional flat tax. <Applause>
I know a number of you favor the Fair Tax, I’m just pointing out as an interim transition step, a one page flat tax wouldn’t be a bad interim step. And here’s my point about real change. If every Republican in the House and Senate were to send out a mailer to all of their constituents in March with literally the one page tax form, and an explanation on the back, and a little questionnaire that said, “Hi. Would you like to just change the whole tax code and have the option, now you can keep the current code if you want. If you like record keeping and you think you need your deductions, and you want to pay your CPA and your tax accountant or attorney, that’s fine. But if you’d like simplicity, clarity, and certainty, you could have this.” You would suddenly change the entire tax debate from finding a way to get more money for Washington, to finding a way to save an immense amount of time and clarity, and all of a sudden the Democrats would have to answer the question: Would they like to have real change now, and would they like to have the right change now?<Applause & Laughter>
Those of you who have cell phones with you I’m going to give you a chance to do a text message if you want to know more about what we’re doing. At American Solutions, we are dedicated to reaching out to everybody in the country. And so if you’d like to text Newt, see they made as easy for you as they could, we’d love to find out how to stay in touch with you.
I believe the following. And I say this having lived through the narrow defeat of 1960, the great convention victory of Goldwater followed by a disastrous defeat in ’64, the recovery in the ’66 off-year election, the very narrow election of Nixon in ’68, the stunning landslide over McGovern in ’72, the collapse of the Nixon administration, and the rise of Reagan, the loss to Jimmy Carter, the extraordinary victory of 1980.
I believe we have two futures this year.
I believe we can be for real change now. We can put the Democrats on record every day from here on out. We could use the House and Senate as opportunities to have the country focused on what’s the right change and what’s the wrong change. We can take on the bureaucracies and decide that we don’t care who the nominal head is. The permanent bureaucracy is permanently liberal, permanently obsolete, permanently incapable of doing its job, and we need fundamental deep change from school board to city council to county commission to the sheriff’s office to the state legislature to the governor to Washington, D.C., and we are the movement of real change by this summer I suspect we will win one of the most cataclysmic elections in American history. Because the sad reality is that our friends on the Left are trapped by their allies, they’re trapped by the trial lawyers, they’re trapped by the unions, they’re trapped by the big city bureaucracies, they are trapped by their allies in tenured faculty, they are trapped by the Hollywood Left.
And if there is a clear choice of which change, we will win. But if we run a traditional consultant-dominated tactical Republican campaign, like we’ve seen in the last eight years, we will be defeated this fall, and we will be having a CPAC meeting next year talking about how we rebuild for the future with either President Obama or President Clinton in charge. <Booing>
I’m here as somebody who has spent his entire life practically, since I was fifteen years old, trying to find a way for us. And we’ve had great successes. We cut taxes dramatically, we re-launched the American economy in the 1980s, we eliminated the Soviet Union. The fact is we won the Cold War. People are freer. <Applause>
So we have had great successes. But we can’t rest on them. And so we need to go out dedicated to insist on real change now, on the right change now, and about making sure that every American, of every background, in every neighborhood, understands that their future, their children’s future, and their country’s future, rest on creating the kind of opportunities that we are building, and that that requires real change in the obsolete, expensive, and destructive bureaucracies we’ve inherited in the past.
With your help, at every level, starting with adopting the Platform of the American People, and moving on to encouraging every elected official you know to be active in the reform movement, we have a chance I think to set the stage for a dramatically better American future. Thank you, good luck, and God bless you.<Applause>
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt
on: February 14, 2008, 02:46:13 PM
Transcript: A Declaration of Independence for the Conservative Movement
35th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference
February 9, 2008
Click here to view video of the full speech
Click here to listen to an audio-only version
PODCAST version here
(Transcript made from speech as delivered.)
Thank you all for that remarkable welcome. I’m deeply, deeply grateful, and Callista and I are delighted to be back here once again at the most important single meeting of the conservative movement in a historic time. <Applause>
Many of you know that my background includes being a teacher, and I am going to try in the next few minutes to offer a little bit of a lesson. My Dad was a career soldier, served 27 years in the infantry, and when I was very young, he convinced me that leadership and courage and a willingness to think deeply are vital to the survival of a free country. <Applause>
Between my freshman and sophomore years in high school, when we were stationed first in Orleans, France, and then in Stuttgart, Germany, I concluded that what we are doing here today is really, really important. It’s part of the dialogue by which a free people govern themselves. My dad was reassigned to Fort Benning, Georgia, and in 1960, I was a volunteer as a high school student in the Nixon-Lodge campaign. So I want to talk to you this afternoon from having spent what will be this August, fifty years studying and thinking about what it takes for America to survive. In many ways, they’ve been remarkable years. The Georgia I arrived at in 1960, was legally segregated and a one-party Democratic state. Today it is legally integrated and a two-party state with a Republican governor, two Republican senators, and a Republican legislature.<Applause>
When I decided at the beginning of my sophomore year in high school that I would study national security and I would try to understand how we acquire the power legitimately from the people in order to implement the policies we need, the Soviet Empire was a real and a direct threat to the survival of freedom on this planet. Because of the courage persistence, clarity, and vision of one person, the Soviet Union does not exist today, and that person was Ronald Wilson Reagan. <Applause> Next month will be the 25th anniversary of two speeches: the speech in which he broke with the elite, morally neutral, real politik, accommodationist view, and described the Soviet Union as an “evil empire”, the beginning of the end of that evil…<Applause> and 13 days later, the speech in which he outlined a proposal for a science-and-technology-based, entrepreneurial approach to national security to develop a strategic defense initiative which would in effect bankrupt the Soviet Union and lead to its collapse. <Applause>
Those two speeches could have been given by no other leader in the last fifty years. He had the courage, he had the conviction, and from 1947 on, he had been systematically thinking about and studying communism and trying to find out how to defeat it. Now, he made the first CPAC conference really important, because he came here at a time when we were in despair, when the Republican Party was crumbling under the weight of Watergate, when the Left was on offense, when the counterculture was in full steam, and he said in [March of 1975] that we must have a flag of bold colors, no pale pastels. [“Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people?”—Ronald Reagan] <Applause>
I tried in thinking through what I could say to you this afternoon to literally ask what would Ronald Reagan have said in this setting at this time, not to repeat what he said in other times, but to think about the clarity and the historic context. I went back and looked at what Barry Goldwater said in 1960 when there was a conservative eruption because Nixon was going too far to the left, and Goldwater’s name was put a nomination for vice-president, and he withdrew it and said he would support the ticket. Compared to the other party, there was no choice. I looked at what Ronald Reagan said in 1976, when having risen in rebellion against an incumbent Republican President and come within 70 votes of the nomination, he said that given a choice between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, there was no choice, because Jimmy Carter would be about as bad as he turned out to be. <Laughter & Applause>
So I want to say several things that are fairly complicated and I hope you will bare with me, because I think we are at a moment of historic choice for the conservative movement’s future. I want to give you four sets of numbers, those of you who are truly interested in this may want to write them down, we gave you a copy of the Platform of the American People which I’ll talk about in a minute, but feel free to write on the back of it. I think you’ll find this interesting as a lesson in history and as a thought process about where we are now. The first is the number 9 million. The second is two numbers: 1928 and 68. The third is 0 to 6, and the fourth is 14.6 to 8.3. I believe in these four sets of numbers, lies a diagnosis of where we are and where we must go.
The first number, 9 million, is the number of additional votes who came out to vote in 1994, the largest one-party increase in an off-year election in the history of the United States, brought out by a proud, positive, clear, and very, very bold Contract with America. <Applause> I cite it to point out that when we stand clearly, simply, and directly for large-scale change, that year it was welfare reform, the first tax cut in 16 years, a balanced federal budget, accountability for the Congress, stronger national defense and intelligence. The American people responded.
The second set of numbers, 1928 and 68. In 1928 was the last time a Republican Congress was reelected. We had held the House from 1946 for two years, we held the House in 1952 for two years, and when I became Speaker I felt the greatest challenge I had was to ensure that we would in fact keep a majority in 1996 for the first time in 68 years. Now, it was a doubly difficult problem because I had every expectation that President Clinton, as one of the smartest, most agile, and least inhibited by principle politicians in America, would flow magically to whatever he had to in order to get reelected. So my assumption all along was that come the presidential campaign, we would have an uphill fight. No Republican House had been reelected with a Democratic President winning. And I want to share three keys with you that people don’t understand to this day in this city:
The first key is, we kept our word on the Contract, and we voted on every single item in the first 93 days, and people began to believe we were serious. <Applause>
The second, is something that the news media and the elites and the Republican consultants got exactly backwards. We got into a struggle over balancing the budget with Bill Clinton and the federal government was closed. Everyone says, “What a huge mistake,” and I keep trying to say to them, “We were the first reelected majority in 68 years and you think it was a mistake?” If we had broken our word with fiscal conservatives, if we had rolled over and caved, if we had failed to fight, we would not have held the Congress in 1996. In fact, it was precisely because people suddenly looked up and said, “Wait a second. These guys actually believe it enough to lay their careers on the line and stand for something even when they’re being yelled at,” that led people to decide that we were real.<Applause>
And third, we voluntarily committed that we would balance the federal budget. We weren’t required to by the Contract. The Contract said we’d vote on a balanced budget amendment. But we said when the amendment passed the House and failed by one vote in the Senate, we would go ahead and behave as though it had passed. And we said by definition if we were going to pass the amendment we thought we could balance the budget in seven years because that’s what to amendment said. And so we held a meeting and I’ll never forget it. Dick Armey, Bob Walker, Bob Livingston, Bill Archer, John Kasich, Tom Delay. We all sat down and we looked at each other. And I said, “We have a chance to decisively make history if we have the courage to make history.” Now in order to do that, we had to reform Medicare in the middle of an election year with a liberal Democrat in the White House. And we had to do so, so carefully, and with such training that all of our members could go home and explain what we were doing. And we had to do so with such care that AARP would not attack us, because we couldn’t have withstood it if they had decided to tell every senior citizen that we were against them. When we finished keeping our word on the Contract, standing firm even if it had involved a real fight, and moving towards a balanced budget with an effective reform of Medicare that people agreed was needed and correct, we kept the U.S. House for the first time in 68 years. And there’s a big lesson there.
Now the third number, which I think should have led to a vastly bigger discussion in the Republican Party, is 0 to 6. That’s the track record of incumbent U.S. Senators in a close election in 2006. Now if your party loses every single close incumbent election despite having raised an immense amount of money, maybe there’s something wrong. I don’t want to be too bold, <Laughter> but I want to suggest that if I were a stockholder and we were 0 for 6, I would like to talk about what’s going on. And yet we sleepwalk through 2007.
Now, because we were sleepwalking through 2007, we get to the last set of numbers which should sober every person in this country who does not want to have a left wing president. On Super Tuesday, there were 14.6 million Democratic votes, and 8.3 million Republican votes. Now, I want to repeat this because I want it to sink it in here. There were 14.6 million Democrats who thought the presidential nomination was worth voting for, and there were 8.3 million Republicans on Super Tuesday. That is a warning of a catastrophic election. I was in Idaho this last week, and Barack Obama on last Saturday had 16,000 people in Boise. The idea that the most liberal Democratic Senator getting 16,000 people in Boise was inconceivable. And every person who cares about the conservative movement and every person who cares about the Republican Party had better stop and say to themselves, “There is something big happening in this country. We don’t understand it. We’re not responding to it. And we’re currently not competitive. And if we want to get to be competitive, we had better change and we had better change now.”
Let me tell you flatly. I said the week before Super Tuesday, actually a week before the Super Bowl, reporters asked me, I think it was on Hannity and Colmes, and they said, “What are the Republican chances this fall?” And I said, “Well, I think they’re about as good as the New York Giants beating the Patriots.” <Laughter>
Now, and this next comment comes with a little pain because I’m a Green Bay fan, and I learned a lot about the Giants when they played in Green Bay recently, but here’s the point I was making. People thought I was saying we didn’t have a chance to win. I was saying, the game hasn’t started, and if we field the right team with the right issues in the right way, we have fully was much chance to win as the Giants did, but I’ll tell you, we are currently no where near being ready to do this. This is not a comment–I want to make this clear for the news media–this is not a comment about any of the current candidates for president.
This is a comment about the conservative movement, and it's a comment about the Republican Party, and all the candidates currently running fit within those two phrases. But it is about all of us. It is about our Congressman, our Senator, our governors, our county commissioners, our school board members.
And let me make this very clear, I believe we have to change or expect defeat.
And I believe that this is a time for the conservative movement, to issue a declaration of independence. And let me explain what I mean by issuing a declaration of independence.
First of all, I think we need to get independent from a Washington fixation. <Applause> There are 513,000 elected officials in the United States and the conservative movement should believe in a decentralized United States, where every elected official has real responsibility, and we should be developing a conservative action plan, at every level of this country, and not simply focused over and over again on arguments about the White House.
Second, I think we need to get independent from this leader fascination with the presidency. Remember Ronald Reagan rose in rebellion because Gerald Ford was negotiating the Panama Canal Treaty. I voted against two Reagan tax increases. I voted against George H. W. Bush’s 1990 tax increase. It is a totally honorable and legitimate thing to say I am going to support the candidate and oppose the policy. This idea [is] that I think we [did] President George W. Bush a grave disservice by not being dramatically more aggressive in criticizing when they were wrong, and being more open when they were making mistakes.
And I don’t think it helped them or the country. <Applause>
I also think that we need to declare our independence from trying to protect and defend failed bureaucracies that magically become our’s as soon as we are in charge of them. We appoint solid conservatives to a department and within three weeks they are defending and protecting the very department that they would have been attacking before they got appointed. And this is a fundamental problem and I think it comes from some very great challenges. And I want to suggest to you, and I spent a lot of time since 1999 thinking about this. That’s the part of why I wrote the book Real Change, and why I have tried to lay out at American Solutions a fundamentally different approach to how we think about solving our problems.
I think that there are two grave lessons for the conservative movement since 1980. The first, which we still haven’t come to grips with, is that governing is much harder than campaigning. Our consultants may be terrific at winning one election, they don’t know anything about governing. And unfortunately most of our candidates listen to our consultants. And so you end up with people who don’t understand briefing people who don’t know, and together they have no clue. <Laughter>
We win the election and then we lose the government. And this happens at every level. It happens in Sacramento, it happens in Tallahassee, it happens in Albany, it happens Trenton, and it happens in Washington D.C.
So the first lesson is that we are going to have to learn as a movement how to actually create conservative government, not just conservative politics. And that is a fundamentally harder thing. <Applause>
The second thing that I think has been a very sobering surprise to me, and it really started when we won in 1994, and I thought that the Democrats would stop and say “Wow we just lost power that we had for forty years, I guess maybe we did something wrong.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: February 14, 2008, 01:07:00 PM
The John Edwards Factor
Hillary Clinton still has fight left in her. She is pulling out all the stops to entice John Edwards to endorse her over Barack Obama, including a secret visit to his North Carolina home so she could make her pitch in person.
"There is a lot John and I have in common," Mrs. Clinton told reporters later. "I will be a fighter, and I intend to ask John Edwards to be a part of anything I do in the White House." Could that include his being her Attorney General?
ABC News reports that several of Mr. Edwards' advisers "likened his thought process to a heart-versus-head split with his heart favoring Sen. Barack Obama's strong message of change, and his head attracted to Clinton's tested nature and commitment to tough fights."
Mr. Edwards also must know that, if he were to endorse Mr. Obama now, he might seem merely to be joining the media bandwagon. Endorsing Mrs. Clinton, on the other hand, would be the surprising move and might allow him to take personal credit for reenergizing her flagging campaign. Mr. Edwards won 40 delegates before ending his own race, and his powers of persuasion could put many of those now uncommitted votes into the New York senator's corner.
Should Mr. Edwards endorse Mrs. Clinton, speculation would be rife that he would get the top job at the Justice Department for helping her win the White House. That slot would keep him in the public eye, provide him with a platform for his anti-corporate views and leave open the chance he could run for president again.
-- John Fund
The Iraq Factor
A Strategic Vision poll in Wisconsin -- next week's big Democratic primary battle -- shows Barack Obama holding a 45% to 41% lead over Hillary Clinton. But the real news in the poll are its intriguing hints on just how sour the electorate in that critical swing state is over the war in Iraq.
Not surprisingly, 68% of the state's voters disapproved of President Bush's handling of Iraq, but a stunning 74% also disapproved of how Congress is conducting itself. The money question was: Do you believe that Democrats in Congress have a better plan to resolve the Iraq War than President Bush?
The answer in thoroughly dovish Wisconsin was 71% "no," 18% "yes" and 11% undecided. Small wonder that the war in Iraq has faded as a campaign issue, even in Democratic primaries. Voters simply don't believe claims by any candidate that they have a monopoly of wisdom on dealing with the situation in Iraq.
-- John Fund
Hillary Needs Debates, So MSNBC Is Forgiven
"Voters want more debates," Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson told reporters yesterday, citing record-breaking viewership of previous televised encounters as proof of his claim.
Despite the fact Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have stood on stage together 18 times this year, the Clinton campaign is aggressively pushing Mr. Obama to commit to further one-on-one televised debates. Yesterday, the campaign launched a statewide television ad in Wisconsin slamming Mr. Obama for refusing to agree to debate before the state's primary next Tuesday. "Maybe he'd prefer to give speeches than have to answer questions," the ad says. Mr. Wolfson followed up yesterday by accusing Mr. Obama of "hiding" from voters in Wisconsin and displaying an "unwillingness" to discuss issues.
Also yesterday, Mrs. Clinton announced she would take part in a debate hosted by NBC in Cleveland, Ohio, on February 26. Mrs. Clinton had threatened to skip the debate after MSNBC's David Shuster suggested on a broadcast last week that the Clintons had "pimped out" 27-year old Chelsea Clinton on behalf of her mother's campaign. Mr. Shuster apologized and was suspended immediately, but the campaign cited previous derogatory statements about Mrs. Clinton by host Chris Matthews (who also apologized) as part of a pattern of behavior at the network that justified boycotting the debate.
In the end, however, the campaign's desire -- or need -- to engage with Mr. Obama won the day. "We have expressed concerns about that network," Mr. Wolfson said yesterday, "but we don't believe those concerns should stand in the way allowing the people of Ohio to see important distinctions between the candidates."
The only other debate currently on the calendar will take place on February 21 at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas.
Reeling from Mr. Obama's win streak of eight straight contests over the past week, the Clinton campaign now sees one-on-one debates as among the precious few opportunities to change the narrative and regain positive momentum heading into make-or-break contests for Mrs. Clinton in Texas and Ohio on March 4. Mr. Obama has generally been outmatched by Mrs. Clinton in debate forums throughout the year, but with the status of frontrunner comes the luxury of choosing when and where he wants to meet his opponent.
-- Tom Bevan, executive editor of RealClearPolitics.com
Quote of the Day
"You know, when it comes down to a general election -- looks like it's going to be Obama versus McCain -- any number of ways of playing this, and one of them, I don't necessarily have to tout McCain, but I certainly will be critical of Obama. Once we get down to the general, you start examining what this guy's policies are. Right now [Obama is] saying nothing better than anybody has ever said it. At least in my lifetime. It's going have to get specific at some point" -- radio host Rush Limbaugh, in an interview with Time Magazine.
We Interrupt This Campaign...
Mike Huckabee is spurning suggestions that he drop out of the presidential race because he has no mathematical chance to win the GOP nomination. He is stubbornly staying in the race, holding fundraisers, attending rallies and giving interviews.
Except for this coming Saturday, when Mr. Huckabee will abandon the campaign trail to give a speech to a group of business leaders -- in the Cayman Islands. Huh? When did that British overseas territory start sending delegates to American political conventions?
It turns out he will be giving a paid speech in the offshore banking center. "I have to make a living," Mr. Huckabee told reporters in Wisconsin yesterday. "There will be a few other times when I go out and make sure I can pay my mortgage payment like everybody else has to."
There will be other detours in Mr. Huckabee's campaign schedule this month. On February 22 he will address a group of Colorado business leaders, a fine audience no doubt, but not one that will do his campaign much good. Colorado Republicans already selected their delegates to the GOP's national convention last week. But give him credit. In exploiting his newfound fame to troll not just for votes but personal income as well, Mr. Huckabee is clearly charting an unusual course.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries:
on: February 14, 2008, 12:44:17 PM
International fury over Saudi Arabia's plans to behead woman accused of being a witch
The Saudi Arabian king today faced international outcry over the planned beheading of a woman accused of being a witch.
Fawza Falih turned two men impotent, a court heard in the ultra-religious state where performing supernatural occurrences is considered an offence against Islam.
Judges were also told she cast a spell to bring about the return of a divorced man's ex-wife.
But international charity Human Rights Watch said King Abdullah's religious police had forced a confession out of her.
And they claim the judges who tried her in the northern town of Quraiyat never gave her the opportunity to prove her innocence in the face of "absurd charges that have no basis in law."
The court also relied on the statements of witnesses who said she had "bewitched" them to convict her in April 2006, according to HRW.
Fawza later retracted her confession in court, claiming it was extracted under duress, and said that as an illiterate woman, she did not understand the document she was forced to fingerprint.
An appeals court ruled in September 2006 that Fawza could not be sentenced to death for witchcraft as a crime against God, because she had retracted her confession.
After that, the lower court judges re-sentenced her to death on the court's "discretionary" basis, for the benefit of "public interest" and to "protect the creed, souls and property of this country."
HRW's Joe Stork said: �The fact that Saudi judges still conduct trials for unprovable crimes like 'witchcraft' underscores their inability to carry out objective criminal investigations.
"Fawza Falih's case is an example of how the authorities failed to comply even with existing safeguards in the Saudi justice system.
"The judges' behavior in Fawza Falih's trial shows they were interested in anything but a quest for the truth," Mr Stork added.
"They completely disregarded legal guarantees that would have demonstrated how ill-founded this whole case was."
The statement did not mention Fawza's nationality but said she has relatives in Jordan. Also, Falih's age is unknown.
The case is one of several that have triggered criticism of the Saudi legal system, which does not have a written penal code that spells out the elements of a particular crime. The Law of Criminal Procedure issued in 2002 grants defendants the right to be tried in person, to have a lawyer present during interrogation and trial and to cross-examine any prosecution witnesses. But in practice, lawyers are often banned from courtrooms, rules of evidence are shaky and sentences often depend on the whim of judges.
The most frequent - and recently, most high-profile - victims of such whimsical rulings are women, who already suffer severe restrictions in their daily life in Saudi Arabia. Women there cannot drive, appear before a judge without a male representative or travel abroad without a male guardian's permission.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...page_id=181
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hanilton: The people
on: February 14, 2008, 06:00:52 AM
"Here sir, the people govern."
-- Alexander Hamilton (speech in the New York ratifying convention,
17 June 1788)
Reference: The Debates of the Several State..., Elliot, vol. 2
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: February 13, 2008, 04:26:09 PM
Complaint Filed Against Three Men of Columbia, Tennessee for Vandalizing Islamic Center
WASHINGTON, Feb 12, 2008
PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- A federal felony criminal complaint was filed in Nashville, Tenn., today against three men for their roles in burning down and vandalizing the Islamic Center of Columbia in Columbia, Tenn., announced Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Edward M. Yarbrough, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, James M. Cavanaugh, Special Agent in Charge of the Nashville Division of the ATF, My Harrison, Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Division of the FBI, and Barry Crotzner, Chief of the Columbia Police Department.
The complaint charges the three men, Eric Ian Baker, Michael Corey Golden, and Jonathan Edward Stone, all of Columbia, with unlawful possession of a destructive device.
According to the complaint, Baker, Golden and Stone had planned for approximately one week to burn down the Islamic Center. On Feb. 9, 2008, the defendants used gasoline, rags and empty beer bottles to fashion incendiary devices. They went to the Islamic Center, where Baker spray-painted three swastikas onto the walls of the building, along with the phrases "We run the world" and "White Power." Golden and Stone then broke into the building, ignited the incendiary devices and used them to ignite the Islamic Center. The Islamic Center was severely damaged by the fire.
"The Department of Justice takes hate crimes very seriously, and the U.S. Attorney's Office will prosecute such crimes vigorously and to the fullest extent of the law," said U.S. Attorney Yarbrough.
"Three individuals who are accused of fire bombing a place of worship face federal charges today. Today begins a court process to hold the individuals accountable for an act which destroyed religious property and shocked a community," said Special Agent Cavanaugh. "We are fortunate despite the loss of property and a sense of sadness, that no one was killed or injured from the incident."
If convicted, defendants Baker, Golden and Stone face a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
A federal felony criminal complaint is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
This case remains under investigation by the ATF, the FBI and the Columbia Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal McDonough of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney Jonathan Skrmetti of the Criminal Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
SOURCE U.S. Department of Justicehttp://www.USDOJ.gov
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters
on: February 13, 2008, 02:56:53 PM
Dongfan Chung, an engineer, was arrested in Los Angeles on Monday for economic espionage and serving as an unregistered foreign agent. According to the charges filed against him, Chung had been engaged in espionage since 1979, when he worked for Rockwell International, providing the Chinese with technical intelligence on the B-1 bomber. Rockwell later was taken over by Boeing, and Chung then began providing China with intelligence on the space shuttle, the C-17 transport aircraft and rocket engines. Chung, a naturalized American citizen, held security clearances and traveled to China several times between 1985 and 2003 to meet with his handlers and deliver information in person.
Although it is not clear when he joined the B-1 project, he is thought to have started providing the Chinese with intelligence in 1979. A heavy strategic bomber, the B-1 was optimized for low-altitude penetration and remains one of the most advanced designs in the world — short of the B-2 stealth in key technology, but still not trivial.
Clearly, the charges against Chung are only allegations at this point, but if we assume for now that the government’s evidence is rock solid, the case merits examination. We would be looking at Chung’s ability to infiltrate a highly classified program and provide information to his handlers — and then to shift to other classified programs. His ability to do this for 30 years without being detected, in spite of an apparent flow of information and several trips to China, seems even more interesting. Most important, it is not clear what he would have passed to the Chinese. It can’t be assumed that it was simply material to which he had access. A skilled agent would — over time — be able to access information throughout a facility or a program. Chung was an engineer operating near many classified projects; what else did he access?
The allegations raise an important question about Chung. Was he a trained Chinese intelligence officer assigned to penetrate the B-1 program, or was he simply recruited by Chinese intelligence after he went to work there? The difference is crucial. A trained intelligence officer dedicated enough to operate under deep cover for that long is going to be a tough nut to crack. Someone recruited for love or money is more likely to be prepared to talk in exchange for leniency.
Who Chung is matters. That he allegedly was able to operate in sensitive facilities for almost three decades matters just as much. It raises questions about exactly how the United States works to detect espionage. Obviously, background checks are done. But background checks are not particularly effective at screening out threats. The famous cases of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hannsen, both of whom were recruited by the Soviets from deep in the CIA and FBI, show the weakness not only of the background check but also of the polygraph, with which the intelligence community is so enamored.
Chung was born in China. But if the United States ruled out foreign-born engineers, it would not have enough engineers. And most foreign-born engineers have nothing to do with espionage. The issue is not what someone was — which is frequently unknowable — or what one’s blood flow is during a polygraph. Security is constant monitoring and testing of all personnel. That is costly, time consuming and difficult. It is easier to ask neighbors if he ever used drugs and do a polygraph.
Chinese intelligence did exactly what it was supposed to do — and did it well. If Chung was a Chinese intelligence officer, he served his country well. If he simply was bought, the agent who bought Chung did his job. One would hope that U.S. intelligence is returning the favor as we speak. But the Chung case raises two questions: First, how compromised was the B-1 project, and how do we know? Second, how many agents do the Chinese currently have deployed in sensitive positions, and how do we intend to find out?
Chung supposedly operated for almost 30 years. If true, either he was very good or U.S. counterintelligence was very bad — or both. In any case, this is a cautionary tale. How many out there are feeding information to China on projects so black that U.S. citizens may never hear of them?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: February 13, 2008, 01:30:17 PM
If you are a billionaire, or a foreigner, and don't want it known that you are donating millions to a US presidential campaign, here's how (via Don Surber):
Secret Money Floods Campaigns
Big Count of Small Gifts Is Opaque to the Public
A torrent of secret money is flooding into the leading presidential campaigns, with more than $118 million, or one-quarter of the total raised in this cycle, banked without disclosure of who gave the funds or where the donations originated.
The money is coming from hundreds of thousands of donations of $200 or less, which have been widely praised for democratizing the system for funding White House bids. However, the surge in low-dollar gifts has come at the cost of transparency, since federal law only requires campaigns to itemize donations when a donor gives more than $200.
According to an analysis being released today by a Washington think tank, the Campaign Finance Institute, Senator Obama of Illinois led the pack with such small and secret donations, pulling in about $31 million during 2007. Rep. Ron Paul ran second in small gifts, raking in more than $17 million. At the end of the year, Senator Clinton and John EdwardsBusiness-Should-Not-Fear-Edwards Jan-08 , who has since dropped out, were essentially tied for third in unitemized, small contributions, with each candidate raising about $11 million.
However, one area of concern with the flood of donations, particularly those made online, is that foreigners could be weighing in illegally in an American election. Mr. Obama's Web site allows donors to choose an address in one of 227 possible countries or territories, including Iran, Iraq, Zimbabwe, and Yemen.
While it is a crime for most foreigners to donate to American campaigns at the federal level, those with so-called green card status can donate legally, as can Americans who live abroad.
And who's going to know if they aren't?http://faustasblog.com/2008/02/foreign-millions-for-obama.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: February 13, 2008, 12:50:42 PM
No Hurry, Mike
Why is Mike Huckabee staying in the Republican race even though it is now mathematically impossible to win the nomination?
The answer is: Why not? His base among evangelicals is such that he can do surprisingly well in states like Virginia, where he only lost to John McCain by nine points last night. He builds up more media credibility as a possible running mate for Mr. McCain, who might not want to risk alienating Mr. Huckabee's socially conservative followers. And the former Arkansas governor clearly enjoys campaigning.
Republicans would be wise not to pressure Mr. Huckabee to leave the race. "No one is entitled to tell you to drop out of the race except your spouse," is how former White House aide Karl Rove put it last night on Fox News.
Indeed, Dan Schnur, John McCain's communications director in 2000, says that a continued Huckabee candidacy gives the McCain campaign a chance to stay relevant in a news cycle that is now dominated by the knockdown Democratic fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. "As long as the Democrats keep fighting it out on the other side, [Huckabee] has got the luxury of time," Mr. Schnur told The Hill newspaper.
-- John Fund
Al Gore to the Rescue?
Democratic political operatives are beginning to think ahead in case the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama race ends in deadlock and Democrats arrive at their Denver convention in August without a nominee. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama remain in a virtual dead heat in the delegate count. Despite the Obama momentum and recent landslides in many states, if Hillary were to win Texas, where there is a very large Hispanic vote, she would have won the four big electorate-rich states: New York, California, Florida, and Texas. That would be a strong case for many undecided Democratic superdelegates to support her notwithstanding Mr. Obama's strong showing.
What happens in a deadlocked convention? If neither candidate throws in the towel and neither can get a majority of delegates, one option is a brokered convention, where both candidates step aside for a compromise candidate. That's the way smoke-filled, dealmaking conventions used to work. One name keeps resurfacing as the ideal brokered candidate: Al Gore. Many Democratic pundits still believe the Oscar and Nobel Peace Prize winner would have the best chances against the GOP in November. His record is not nearly as far left as Senator Clinton's or Senator Obama's and he may stand a better chance of winning independent voters than either of them.
But a problem with this scenario, as one Democratic insider tells me, is that Al Gore and Hillary Clinton are "mortal enemies." She would rather sleep on a bed of coals than hand the nomination to her husband's vice president, whom she constantly squabbled with in the White House.
Yet the vitriol between the Clinton and Obama camps is also very real and palpable. That means neither is likely to surrender delegates to the other, ruling out a deal in which, say, Mrs. Clinton would head the ticket and Mr. Obama would serve as running mate -- although it wouldn't be unprecedented for two political enemies to run together on the same ticket. It happened with John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
By far the most likely scenario is that the Democrats settle on a candidate in the weeks ahead, but a stalemate isn't out of the question and don't be surprised if you start seeing Al Gore on TV more often in the meantime.
-- Stephen Moore
Maryland Sends a Message
A quarter of Maryland's Congressional delegation went down to defeat in last night's primary. The results demonstrate the increasing polarization of the House. Liberal voters ousted Democratic Rep. Albert Wynn partly for his 2002 vote to intervene in Iraq while conservative voters turned out GOP Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in part for being one of only two House Republicans to vote for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. The last time a Maryland congressman lost a party primary was in 1992.
Attorney Donna Edwards built on her 2006 Democratic primary showing against Mr. Wynn, when she lost by only three percentage points. She hammered him on Iraq and for his occasional votes with Republicans on economic issues. A phalanx of liberal groups poured money into the Washington D.C.-area district and Mr. Wynn lost badly. Markos Moulitsas, who runs the left-wing DailyKos.com Web site, was exultant, claiming that Democrats are "once again on notice: If they continue to serve corporate interests rather than their constituents, if they insist on remaining aloof to the nation's popular sentiment, they'll get booted in a Democratic primary like Joe Lieberman in 2006."
Ms. Edwards's victory over an eight-term veteran like Mr. Wynn will certainly make it more difficult for Democrats to cross the aisle and seek bipartisan cooperation with Republicans. Meanwhile, conservatives are exulting in the loss of Mr. Gilchrest, who broke with his party more often than any other House Republican last year. State Senator Andy Harris, a former navy doctor, not only defeated the incumbent, but did so despite the presence of another challenger, State Senator E.J. Pipken, who threatened to split the conservative vote.
In the end, Mr. Pipken trailed badly despite his efforts to tie both Mr. Harris and Rep. Gilchrest to policies he claimed were soft on illegal aliens. He even put up an ad that linked his GOP opponents to Maryland's Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley, portraying the trio as "Three Amigos" in sombreros. Mr. Pipken wound up spending over $1 million of his own money to no avail.
"They told me nine months ago that you could never possibly take on an incumbent, it could never happen, don't even try it," the victorious Mr. Harris told his supporters last night. "They don't know me; they don't know my volunteers."
Environmental groups and unions wound up coming to Mr. Gilchrest's side when it became clear he was in trouble and that no Democrat would stand a chance in the fall election against the winner of the GOP primary. But the free-market Club for Growth helped assemble a stunning $500,000 in contributions for Mr. Harris, allowing him to remain financially competitive against the nine-term incumbent Mr. Gilchrest.
-- John Fund
Quote of the Day I
"The wonder, really, is that the nomination train wreck confronting the Democratic Party didn't happen years earlier. The stage was set for the current stalemate over five marathon days of negotiations in June 1988. In the fifth-floor conference room of a Washington law firm, representatives of Michael Dukakis, the party's nominee, and Jesse Jackson, his unsuccessful challenger, hashed out a new set of delegate selection rules. Jackson felt aggrieved that he had not amassed as many delegates as his popular vote total would have suggested. In the 1984 primary campaign, for instance, Jackson won 19 percent of the popular vote but received just 10 percent of the delegates. So Jackson's rules guru, Harold M. Ickes, insisted on adopting proportional representation rules that would award insurgent candidates a bigger share of delegates in future contests. Twenty years later, the rules Ickes advocated seem to be working against his current candidate, Hillary Clinton, reducing the impact of her wins in delegate-rich states such as California, New York and New Jersey" -- Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus.
Quote of the Day II
"There are fault lines -- of race, gender and generation -- in the Democratic party that have opened in the course of the campaign. An insurgency threatens an establishment. And if a battle over contested delegations goes clear to the convention, if the superdelegates anoint a nominee in a process and for a reason that isn't clear to all, then the fight in Denver, like the fight 40 years ago [at the Chicago Democratic convention in 1968], won't simply be over an issue or even a nomination. It could well be a furious battle among core Democratic constituencies for the future of the party. And the only winner of that fight would be John McCain" -- Harold Meyerson, editor of the liberal American Prospect magazine.
Hillary as Underdog
It wasn't the six debates she had demanded, but Hillary Clinton did finally get Barack Obama last week to agree to debate her again before the next big-state primaries. After her trouncing last night in the so-called Potomac races, Mrs. Clinton needs more than ever to find ways to undercut the Obama momentum.
For a supposed front-runner, Mrs. Clinton was in the unusual position of demanding that her challenger debate her once a week until the Democratic primaries effectively conclude in April. Mr. Obama, knowing that Mrs. Clinton is trying to draw him into forums where she can expose him as less substantive and detailed on issues, had resisted. But his advisers finally convinced him that ignoring her calls for further exchanges would hurt him with undecided voters and that she was just as likely to make a major stumble in a debate as he was.
The next debate will be held in Cleveland on February 26, just before the crucial Ohio primary. The sub-prime mortgage crisis, which has caused nearly 10% of Cleveland homes to slip into possible foreclosure, will certainly be a major topic -- and at the center of it will be Mrs. Clinton's bizarre notion that mortgage interest rates can be frozen for five years without drying up lending for new borrowers.
The second debate will be in Texas just before the state's March 4 primary. Both candidates will no doubt be asked about immigration issues, where Mrs. Clinton will likely bash Mr. Obama for his support of driver's licenses for illegal aliens. Mr. Obama hopes to use her position to point out her insensitivity to Hispanic concerns and undermine her strong reliance on the Hispanic vote.
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Staredown with a Lion
on: February 13, 2008, 11:03:57 AM
Staredown with a Lion
I am one day by foot from the New Mexico border into Arizona's remote Blue Range. A mountain lion is at the water hole. It is a male, well over 100 pounds, lapping water from the edge. It does not know that I am here. I come on it from behind, staring a beeline down its long tail, which is laid flat against the ground. An early-morning breeze moves in my direction, taking my scent behind. I let down a 60-pound pack without making a sound. I focus binoculars to get a good look.
The mountain lion has been in battle. A long, old scar follows its right side. The males are territory defenders. They will fight over land and come out with ragged ears and torn skin. It looks healthy, though—a strong, agile lion, hunched to the water so that its shoulder blades form shields around its back. When it stands, it makes a careful visual sweep. I am blending into my background, and its eyes swing by mine, not lingering on me at all. It is keyed to motion and scent, and nothing registers. I look like a rock, a stump, something simple and expected. Even so, a shiver pounces down my back.
In America's suburbs and parks, mountain lions can be aggressive around people. Attacks are up. In fact, it is the mountain lion that has become most likely to make a meal of a human in North America. Close encounters in the deep wilderness are a different category. Concerning humans, lions out here avidly and skillfully avoid them. This is their territory, and I feel safe enough. I am dealing with precepts I think I understand.
The lion at the water hole eventually walks away, into a mesh of junipers that leads into the ponderosa forests and the high desert beyond. I wait for several minutes, then walk to the water to get a good identification, to take measurements and write it all down. The wind has shifted a few times, distributing my scent all over. But if I know the mountain lion, it is half a mile away by now, getting well out of my range.
At the water are many tracks in the mud, like sentences overlapping. I move to get a close look. Before I am on the ground, I scan the perimeter. At first I see nothing.
Then it is there, behind me. It has circled to my back. Eyes are in the shadows of a couple of low junipers, 30 feet away.
I move slowly, deliberately. The lion is probably startled by me. It may be hiding, like a rabbit that is nearly stepped on before it leaps away. But its eyes are not frozen like a hiding rabbit's, and its body is not bunched, ready for a line drive in the opposite direction. I am being observed.
I watch the lion, taking advantage of my proximity to study its features. I am expecting it to bolt any second, to dive into the woods and vanish. Remember this, I think. You will never be this close again.
Instead of running, it stands. Without a pause for thought, it moves out from under the shadows so that both of us are in the same sunlight. We make clear, rigid eye contact. It begins walking straight toward me.
My heartbeat lodges into my throat. My adrenaline dumps. All of it. No dilemma in the lion's eyes; it stares me down as if I am prey backed against a water hole. Even with a slow, lucid gait, it is quickly in my world. It looks up at me from under its brow so that its head is down and its eyes are shelved by a shadow. A stalking stare. The distance is closed in seconds.
The cat is going to attack me. I pull a knife off my right hip. It has a 5-inch blade. One claw against eight claws; hesitation against instinct. The advantage is not mine.
Mountain lions are known to take down animals six, seven, and eight times their size. Their method: attack from behind, clamp onto the spine at the base of the prey's skull, snap the spine. The top few vertebrae are the target, housing respiratory and motor skills that cease instantly when the cord is cut.
Cats have attacked people who have been crouched, or small, or running the other way. Even in zoos they sometimes charge at the cage when children come by. Parents are often asked to hold their children close as they pass cages, to break up the image of fast little kids making random movements. Mountain lions have stalked people for miles. One woman survived an attack and escaped by foot on a road. The lion shortcut the road several miles farther and killed her from behind.
Bone is rarely ever broken. Rather, the teeth slide between vertebrae and open the spine surgically. Cat teeth are heavily laden with nerves so that the animal can actually feel its way around the spine and find the area for incision.
The mountain lion keeps walking straight at me. A powerful voice in me says, Run!
Find shelter! The voice wants the mountain lion magically gone, it wants me to flee to my pack and bunch into a tiny ball. The lion is pushing my button, scrambling the innards of my instinct. Never have I felt fight or flight like this. My only choice, the message going to the thick of the muscle in my legs, is to run. I've got to get out of here before it's too late.
What I do, instead, is not move. My eyes lock onto the mountain lion. I hold firm to my ground and do not even intimate that I will back off. If I run, it is certain. I will have a mountain lion all over me. If I give it my back, I will only briefly feel its weight on me against the ground. The canine teeth will open my vertebrae without breaking a single bone.
Some of the larger animals push their faces toward an attacking lion. It can't get anything at the face. It has got to have a clear shot at the neck, from behind or the sides. It tries to intimidate and push the panic button with this kind of doubtless approach so the prey will turn. When the prey runs, the kill is sealed.
The mountain lion begins to move to my left, and I turn, keeping my face on it, my knife at my right side. It paces to my right, trying to get around on my other side, to get behind me. I turn right, staring at it.
Earlier I would have raised my arms and barked at it, but the lion had come too fast. Now any motion could snap the space we have. My stare is about the only defense I have. People working alone in the mangrove jungles at the mouth of the Ganges River in India sometimes wear the mask of a face on the back of their head. John Seidensticker, who studied the social organization of mountain lions, suggests that humans began to stand upright in order to more vividly show their faces to aggressive cats and to appear less like four-legged prey.
Most of my body has stopped. All that is left are my eyes, my right hand with the knife, and my ability to turn. The lion comes left again. When I rotate, it stops walking. It has got me in a stationary, tight stare from 10 feet. Its nose is moist and pale. Eyes made of gray and green. And that is where I see all of the energy, bound up and ready to flush into the body for one quick jump.
If it jumps, the knife goes into the rib cage. All my energy will be in the thrust. The lion may reconsider after that. But what shape will I be in after the single blow its entire body is built to deliver? Fifty million years of evolution to make an animal designed to kill on the first move. It could be that I will get in a good knife jab, but what will its jaws do around my face and throat? What will its claws do? And mountain lions are known to come back. They do stalk. Will I be holding my skin together with hands and bandanas when it finds me again?
It is looking for the approach. It looks one way, just a couple of inches to one of my sides, and then it looks to the other side. I won't give it leeway, moving my head to keep its eyes on mine. There have been cases in which a lion cleared 20 feet in about a second when eye contact was broken.
It steps to my right, coming clear around, and I synchronize myself with it. It is not focused on my knife, my body, or even my eyes. It is moving intently at some point through me, inside of me, perhaps the single point where life itself is seated. It has happened so often that a mountain lion has launched straight at a hunter or a field biologist who has a sidearm leveled at its head. The mountain lion does not stop and is shot point-blank, dead. Why is that? A coyote or a bear will know when a person has a gun, and will often behave much differently. But the mountain lion is a creature with too great a nature to see a gun or a knife. It is so focused that the rest of the world goes silent.
The distance between us increases slightly. The lion walks toward the water hole. Until now I haven't had the room to take a good posture without triggering an attack. It is customary to throw up your arms and make noise when encountering an aggressive animal at a fair distance. Or to put your hands in your pockets and flare out your coat, making yourself look 100 pounds heavier. It is an old bluff trick. Usually works. Now that it is 15 feet away, I lift my hands in the air. All the way so that my knife is an arm's length over my head, looking like something too unusual and unknown for a mountain lion to bother with.
It doesn't work. The mountain lion swings back and comes straight at me again. My arms drop. Fast. Right to my sides. Ice comes down my back. The lion stops there, close again. I have never been watched like this.
It begins a long, winding route, still trying to come from behind. It covers a great deal of space, going back and forth. There is a seamless continuum from the surrounding world, through the lion's eyes, into its heart, and back to the world. I am somewhere in there, holding steady like a rock planted beside the water hole. It watches me closely as it leaves. It walks into the forest and I no longer see it.
I stand for a few minutes, staring at the forest.
I never saw the lion again. For the next week of hiking, though, I could see it all around me. I slept half awake. When I came to water, I gathered it quickly and retreated. I kept my eyes trained into the shadows, waiting, seeing a mountain lion wherever I looked.
From the book The Animal Dialogues by Craig Childs. ©2007 by Craig Childs. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Co., New York, N.Y. All rights reserved.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mughniyah
on: February 13, 2008, 10:36:26 AM
Multiple reliable Stratfor sources have confirmed that Israel’s Mossad was behind the Feb. 12 car bombing in Damascus, Syria, that killed Hezbollah’s operations chief Imad Mughniyah. Hezbollah has a number of ways to retaliate for Mughniyah’s death.
Multiple reliable Stratfor sources confirmed Feb. 13 that Israel’s Mossad was responsible for the Feb. 12 car bombing in Damascus, Syria, that killed Hezbollah’s chief of operations Imad Mughniyah, also known as “The Wolf”. One source said Mughniyah was leaving a security meeting with Hamas personnel in a Syrian intelligence office when he was hit.
Mughniyah was a legendary Hezbollah leader and a highly valuable asset to the organization’s patrons in Iran and Syria. Iran, which has been steadily working to firm up its grip on Hezbollah over the past several months, had brought Mughniyah out of hiding to head up Hezbollah’s most daring operations, including training Shiite operatives from the Gulf Arab states to carry out retaliatory strikes against U.S. interests in the event of a U.S. attack on Iran.
The only reason Mughniyah has managed to dodge the CIA and Mossad for so long is his obsession with operational security. We are told that he primarily spent his time in recent months in Beirut’s southern suburbs — Hezbollah’s stronghold. However, he would on several occasions take trips to Syria to meet with members of Syrian and Iranian intelligence officers.
Hezbollah will retaliate for Mughniyah’s death, though the design of the group’s retaliatory campaign is still unclear. Hezbollah is unlikely to take any major overt action that could spin up another war with Israel, which could end up costing Hezbollah more in the end. However, Hezbollah, which has a long history of acting on motives of retribution and revenge, has a number of covert plans in the works that could be put into action. Ironically, Mughniyah was the Hezbollah strongman in charge of the group’s foreign operations.
Once Hezbollah dusts off its contingency plans for occasions such as this, it will take the group at least several days to update surveillance before the strike, putting the group’s operatives at higher risk of getting caught. Hezbollah’s foreign operations network is vast, with the United States, Western Europe and South America on the list of potential targets. African countries with strong ties to Israel, such as South Africa and Kenya, could be vulnerable to an attack.
Stratfor has also learned that Hezbollah has been preparing for kidnappings targeting Westerners in Beirut. The organization has already compiled a thorough dossier on U.S. citizens in Lebanon and has mapped U.S. targets in the country. Though such a high-profile move carries considerable risks for the Shiite militant movement, Mughniyah’s death could very well be the trigger to put this plan into action.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: February 13, 2008, 10:29:22 AM
The Jihadist Insurgency in Pakistan
February 6, 2008 | 1616 GMT
By Kamran Bokhari
The increasing crisis of governance in Pakistan over the past several months has triggered many queries from Stratfor readers, most wanting to know how events will ultimately play out. Would a collapse of the Musharraf regime lead to a jihadist takeover? How safe are the country’s nuclear weapons? What are the security implications for Afghanistan? Topmost among the questions is whether Pakistan will remain a viable state.
Globally, there are fears that the collapse of the current regime could lead to an implosion of the state itself, with grave repercussions on regional and international security. Pakistanis themselves are very much concerned about a disaster of national proportions, particularly if the Feb. 18 elections go awry.
Although there are conflicting theories on what will happen in and to Pakistan, most have one thing in common. They focus on the end result, seeing the unfolding events as moving in a straight line from Point A to Point B. They deem Point B — the collapse of Pakistan — to be an unavoidable outcome of the prevailing conditions in the country. Such predictions, however, do not account for the many arrestors and other variables that will influence the chain of events.
Though there are many, many reasons for concern in Pakistan, state breakdown is not one of them. Such an extreme outcome would require the fracturing of the military and/or the army’s loss of control over the core of the country — neither of which is about to happen. That said, the periphery of the country, especially the northwestern border regions, could become an increasing challenge to the writ of the state.
We have said on many occasions that Islamabad is unlikely to restore stability and security any time soon, largely because of structural issues. In other words, the existing situation is likely to persist for some time — and could even deteriorate further. This raises the question: How bad can things get?
The answer lies in the institutional cohesiveness of Pakistan’s military establishment and the geographical structure of the country.
Stratfor recently pointed out that the army — rather than any particular military general — is the force that holds the state together. Therefore, the collapse of the state would come about only if the military establishment were to fracture. For several reasons, this is extremely unlikely.
Pakistan’s army is a highly disciplined organization made up of roughly half a million personnel. This force usually is led by at least two four-star generals — the chief of the army staff and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. The leadership also consists of nine corps commanders and several other principal staff officers — all three-star generals. Beneath these approximately 30 lieutenant generals are about 150 two-star generals and some 450 one-star generals.
Moreover, and unlike in the Arab world, the Pakistani army has largely remained free of coups from within. The generals know their personal well-being is only as good as their collective ability to function as a unified and disciplined force — one that can guarantee the security of the state. The generals, particularly the top commanders, form a very cohesive body bound together by individual, corporate and national interests.
It is extremely rare for an ideologue, especially one with Islamist leanings, to make it into the senior ranks. In contrast with its Turkish counterpart, the Pakistani military sees itself as the protector of the state’s Islamic identity, which leaves very little room for the officer corps to be attracted to radical Islamist prescriptions. Thus, it is extremely unlikely that jihadism — despite the presence of jihadist sympathizers within the junior and mid-level ranks — will cause fissures within the army.
In the absence of strong civilian institutions, the army also sees itself as the guardian of the republic. Because of the imbalance in civil-military relations — there is virtually no civilian oversight over the military — the army exercises nearly complete control over the nation’s treasury. Having directly ruled Pakistan for some 33 years of the country’s 60-year existence, the army has become a huge corporation with massive financial holdings.
While these interests are a reason for the army’s historical opposition to democratic forces, they also play a major role in ensuring the cohesiveness of the institution. Consequently, there is no danger of the state collapsing. By extension, it is highly unlikely that the country’s nuclear assets (which are under the control of the military through an elaborate multilayered institutional mechanism) would fall into the wrong hands.
Although a collapse of the state is unlikely, the military is having a hard time running the country. This is not simply because of political instability, which is hardwired into Pakistan’s hybrid political system, but rather because of the unprecedented jihadist insurgency.
While civilian forces (political parties, civil society groups, the media and the legal community) are pushing for democratic rule, jihadists are staging guerrilla-style attacks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the rural Pashtun districts of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). Moreover, they are mounting a campaign of suicide bombings in major urban centers. The military does not have the bandwidth to deal with political unrest and militancy simultaneously — a situation that is being fully exploited by the jihadists. The likely outcome of this trend is the state’s relative loss of control over the areas in the northwestern periphery.
Geography and Demography
From a strictly geopolitical point of view, Pakistan’s core is the area around the Indus River, which runs from the Karakoram/Western Himalayan/Pamir/Hindu Kush mountain ranges in the North to the Arabian Sea in the South. Most areas of the provinces of Punjab and Sindh lie east of the Indus. The bulk of the population is in this area, as is the country’s agricultural and industrial base — not to mention most of the transportation infrastructure. The fact that seven of the army’s nine corps are stationed in the region (six of them in Punjab) speaks volumes about its status as the core of the country.
In contrast, the vast majority of the areas in the NWFP, FATA, Balochistan province, the Federally Administered Northern Areas and Pakistani-administered Kashmir are sparsely populated mountainous regions — and clearly the country’s periphery. Moreover, their rough terrain has rendered them natural buffers, shielding the core of the country.
In our 2008 Annual Forecast for South Asia, we said the country’s Pashtun areas could become ungovernable this year, and there already are signs that the process is under way. Pakistani Taliban supported by al Qaeda have seized control of many parts of the FATA and are asserting themselves in the districts of NWFP adjacent to the tribal areas.
While Islamism and jihadism can be found across the country, the bulk of this phenomenon is limited to the Pashtun areas — the tribal areas, the eastern districts of NWFP and the northwestern corridor of Balochistan province. Unlike the vast majority of Pakistanis, the Pashtuns are disproportionately an ultra-conservative lot (both religiously and culturally), and hence are disproportionately more susceptible to radical Islamist and jihadist impulses. It is quite telling that in the last elections, in 2002, this is roughly the same area in which the Islamist alliance, the Mutahiddah Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), won the bulk of its seats in the national legislature. In addition to maintaining a large parliamentary bloc, the MMA ran the provincial government in NWFP and was the main partner with the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League in the coalition government in Balochistan.
Social structures and local culture, therefore, allow these areas to become the natural habitat of the Taliban and al Qaeda. Because of the local support base, the jihadists have been able not only to operate in these parts, but to take them over — and even to project themselves into the more settled areas of the NWFP. In addition to this advantage by default, security operations, which are viewed by many within the country as being done at the behest of the United States, have increasingly alienated the local population.
Given the local culture of retribution, the Pashtun militants have responded to civilian deaths during counterinsurgency operations by increasingly adopting suicide bombings as a means of fighting back. (It was not too long ago that the phenomenon of suicide bombings was alien to the local culture). The war in Afghanistan and its spillover effect on the border regions of Pakistan have created conditions in the area that have given al Qaeda and the Taliban a new lease on life.
Insurgency and Counterinsurgency
Resentment first toward Islamabad’s pro-U.S. policies and then the security crackdown that began in early 2004 to root out foreign fighters has developed into a general uprising of sorts. A younger, far more militant generation of Pashtuns enamored of al Qaeda and the Taliban has usurped power from the old tribal maliks. Not only has the government failed to achieve its objective of driving a wedge between foreign fighters and their local hosts, it has strengthened the militants’ hand.
One of the problems is the government’s haphazard approach of alternating military operations with peace deals. Moreover, when the government has conducted security operations, it not only has failed to weaken the militancy, it has caused civilian casualties and/or forced local people to flee their homes, leading to a disruption of life. When peace agreements are made, they have not secured local cooperation against Taliban and al Qaeda elements. The lack of a coherent policy on how to deal with the jihadists has caused the ground situation to go from bad to worse. At the same time, on the external front, Islamabad has come under even more U.S. pressure to act against the militants, the effects of which further complicate matters on the ground.
On a tactical level, while the Pakistani army has a history of supporting insurgencies, it is ill-equipped to fight them. Even worse, despite the deployment of some 100,000 soldiers in the region, the bulk of security operations have involved paramilitary forces such as the Frontier Corps, which is mostly made up of locals who have little incentive to fight their brethren. Furthermore, Pakistan’s intelligence capabilities already are compromised because of militant penetration of the agencies.
In addition to these structural problems, the Musharraf government’s battle for political survival over the past year has further prevented the government from focusing on the jihadist problem. The only time it acted with any semblance of resolve is when it sent the army to regain control of the Red Mosque in the summer of 2007. However, that action was tantamount to pouring more fuel on the militant fire.
President Pervez Musharraf, by stepping down as army chief and becoming a civilian president, did not resolve his survival issues. In fact, it has led to a bifurcation of power, with Musharraf sharing authority with his successor in the militaryGen. Ashfaq Kayani. While Musharraf remains preoccupied with making it through the coming election, Kayani is increasingly taking charge of the fight against jihadism. The assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto further complicated the regime’s struggle to remain in power, leaving very little bandwidth for dealing with the jihadists.
What Lies Ahead
With the army’s successful retaking of the district of Swat from militants loyal to Mullah Fazlullah, Kayani has demonstrated his abilities as a military leader. Despite this tactical victory, however, the situation is far from stable. From a strategic point of view, Kayani’s plans to deal with the insurgency depend heavily on the outcome of the Feb. 18 elections (if indeed they are held). The hope is that the political turmoil can be brought back within acceptable parameters so the army can focus on fighting jihadists.
That would be an ideal situation for the army, because the prevailing view is that the military needs public support in order to be successful in combating religious extremism and terrorism. Such public support can only be secured when an elected government comprising the various political stakeholders is in charge. The assumption is that the policies of such a government would be easier to implement and that if the army has to use a combination of force and negotiations with the militants, it will have the public’s backing instead of criticism.
But the problem is that there is an utter lack of national consensus on what needs to be done to defeat the forces of jihadism, beyond the simplistic view that the emphasis should be on dialogue and force should be used sparingly. Most people believe the situation has deteriorated because the Musharraf regime was more concerned with meeting U.S. demands than with finding solutions that took into consideration the realities on the ground. Islamabad knows it cannot avoid the use of force in dealing with the militants, but because of public opposition to such action, it fears that doing so could make the situation even worse.
Moreover, regardless of the election outcome (assuming the process is not derailed over cries of foul play), the prospects for a national policy on dealing with the Islamist militancy are slim. Circumstances will require that the new government be a coalition — thus it will be inherently weak. This, along with the deteriorating ground reality, will leave the army with no choice but to adopt a tough approach — one it has been avoiding for the most part.
Having led the country’s premier intelligence directorate, Inter-Services Intelligence, Kayani is all too aware of the need to overhaul the country’s intelligence system and root out militant sympathizers. This is the principal way to reduce the jihadists’ ability to stage attacks in the core areas of the country, where they have limited support structure. While this lengthy process continues, the army will try to contain the jihadist phenomenon on the western periphery along the border with Afghanistan.
The Pakistani government also needs to address the problems it has created for itself by distinguishing between “acceptable” and “unacceptable” Taliban. Islamabad continues to support the Taliban in Afghanistan while it is at war with the Pakistani Taliban. Given the strong ties between the two militant groups, Islamabad cannot hope to work with those on the other side of the border while it confronts those in its own territory.
Further complicating matters for Islamabad is the U.S. move to engage in overt military action on Pakistani soil in an effort to root out transnational jihadist elements. The Pakistanis need U.S. assistance in fighting the jihadist menace, but such assistance comes at a high political cost on the domestic front. The ambiguity in the Pakistani position could allow the Taliban and al Qaeda to thrive.
What this ultimately means is that the Pashtun areas could experience a long-term insurgency, resulting in some of these areas being placed under direct military rule. With the militants already trying to create their own “Islamic” emirate in the tribal areas, the insurgency has the potential to transform into a separatist struggle. Historically, the Pakistani army tried to defeat Pashtun ethnic nationalism by promoting Islamism — a policy that obviously has backfired miserably.
The Bottom Line
The good news for the Pakistanis — and others interested in maintaining the status quo — is that the ongoing jihadist insurgency and the political turmoil are unlikely to lead to the collapse of the state. The structure of the state and the nature of Pakistani society is such that radical Islamists, though a significant force, are unlikely to take over the country.
On the other hand, until the army successfully cleans up its intelligence system, suicide bombings are likely to continue across the country. Much more significant, the Pashtun areas along the Afghan border will be ungovernable. Pashtun jihadists and their transnational allies on both sides of the Durand Line will continue to provide mutual benefit until Pakistan and NATO can meaningfully coordinate their efforts.
Imposing a military solution is not an option for the Pakistanis or for the West. Negotiations with the Taliban in the short term are not a viable alternative either. Therefore, a long-term insurgency, which is confined to the Pashtun areas on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, is perhaps the best outcome that can be expected at this time.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now that's the spirit!
on: February 13, 2008, 09:20:30 AM
Danish newspapers have reprinted one of several caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad which sparked violent protests across the Muslim world two years ago.
They say they wanted to show their commitment to freedom of speech after an alleged plot to kill one of the cartoonists behind the drawings.
Three suspects were held in Denmark on Tuesday "to prevent a murder linked to terrorism", officials said.
The cartoons were originally published by Jyllands-Posten in September 2005.
Danish embassies were attacked around the world and dozens died in riots that followed.
Jyllands-Posten and several other leading newspapers - including Politiken and Berlingske Tidende - reprinted the caricature in their Wednesday editions.
I have turned fear into anger and resentment
The cartoon depicts Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse.
"We are doing this to document what is at stake in this case, and to unambiguously back and support the freedom of speech that we as a newspaper will always defend," Berlingske Tidende said.
One Danish tabloid published all 12 drawings, the Associated Press news agency reported.
On Tuesday, the head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (Pet), Jakob Sharf, said its operatives had carried out pre-dawn raids in the Aarhus region.
The three suspects - two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan origin - had been detained "after lengthy surveillance", he added.
The Danish citizen will be released pending further investigation, while the Tunisians will be held until they are expelled from the country.
The Pet did not identify the target of the alleged plot, but the online edition of Jyllands-Posten said its cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, was the focus.
The newspaper, based in Aarhus, said Mr Westergaard, 73, and his 66-year-old wife, Gitte, had been under police protection for the past three months.
In a statement on Jyllands-Posten's website, Mr Westergaard said: "Of course I fear for my life when the police intelligence service say that some people have concrete plans to kill me.
"But I have turned fear into anger and resentment."
The editor of Jyllands-Posten, Carsten Juste, said he and his staff had been "deeply shaken" by the news.
"We'd become more or less used to death threats and bomb threats since the cartoons, but it's the first time that we've heard about actual murder plans - that's new," he said.
The BBC's Thomas Buch-Andersen in Copenhagen says the arrests have stunned people in Denmark, where the furore over the cartoons was thought to have passed.
Mr Westergaard was one of 12 artists behind the drawings but he was responsible for what was considered the most controversial of the pictures.
The cartoons were later reprinted by more than 50 newspapers, triggering a wave of protests in parts of the Muslim world.
The demonstrations culminated a year ago with the torching of Danish diplomatic offices in Damascus and Beirut and dozens of deaths in Nigeria, Libya and Pakistan.
Story from BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/h...pe/7242258.stm
Published: 2008/02/13 10:20:06 GMT
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: legitimate powers of government
on: February 13, 2008, 08:15:34 AM
"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only
as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my
neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither
picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
-- Thomas Jefferson (Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 17,
Reference: Jefferson: Writings, Peterson ed., Library of America
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: February 13, 2008, 08:13:38 AM
FWIW I think Mitt was disliked by the others because of his silver spoon.
FWIW I think Mitt failed to catch on until too late because he did not seem genuine. My impression of him was of a Ken doll. He seemed lacking in depth in the early debates e.g. when asked a question about what he would first do in the event of another attack on the US (or something like that) he said something about asking the lawyers what he could do. I remember the answer left me rolling my eyes.
Although he sometimes showed more substance in 1 on 1 interviews, for me it was not until his concession speech that I felt like the man expressed his vision and his passion. The communication of "That vision thing" was missing until that moment-- and its why he "went negative"-- which often was only a fair pointing out of genuine differences, but seemed negative for the lack of the positive-- "the vision thing".
I think if he had shown that man that gave his concession speech from the beginning things might have gone differently.