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23901  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Big Read on: June 03, 2008, 09:13:21 PM
By George Friedman

The Saudis are hosting an interfaith conference June 4. Four hundred Islamic scholars from around the world will be there, with one day devoted to interfaith issues. Saudi King Abdullah will open the conference, over which Saudi Shura Council head Saleh bin Huma will preside. This is clearly intended to be a major event, not minimized by the fact that Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s most influential leader — who heads Iran’s Assembly of Experts, the body that elects and can remove the Supreme Leader — will be attending as well. Rafsanjani was specifically invited by the Saudi ambassador to Iran last Wednesday with the following message: “King Abdullah believes you have a great stature in the Islamic world … and he has assigned me the duty of inviting you to the conference.” We would not have expected to see a meeting on interfaith dialogue even a year ago.


For its part, al Qaeda condemned the conference. Its spokesman, Abu Yahya al-Libi, said of Abdullah via videotape that “He who is called the defender of monotheism by sycophantic clerics is raising the flag of brotherhood between religions … and thinks he has found the wisdom to stop wars and prevent the causes of enmity between religions and peoples.” He went on to say “By God, if you don’t resist heroically against this wanton tyrant … the day will come when church bells will ring in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula.” In the past, the Saudis have been very careful not to push al Qaeda, or the kingdom’s own conservatives, too far.

One reason for the change might be the increasing focus by conservative Saudi clerics on the Shia, particularly Iran and Hezbollah. Twenty-two leading conservative clerics issued a statement condemning the Shia as destabilizing the Arab world and hostile to Sunnis. More important, they claimed that Iran and Hezbollah are only pretending to be hostile to the United States and Jews. In a translation by The Associated Press, the clerics said that “If they (Shiites) have a country, they humiliate and exert control in their rule over Sunnis. They sow strife, corruption and destruction among Muslims and destabilize security in Muslim countries … such as Yemen.” This view paralleled statements by al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri a few weeks back.

No Fear of the Conservatives
To begin understanding all this, we need to start with the obvious fact that the Saudi government is no longer afraid of antagonizing conservatives. It should be remembered that there was extensive al Qaeda activity in Saudi Arabia in 2003 and 2004 after the Saudis increased their cooperation with the United States. The Saudis eliminated this activity, and the royal family has done extensive work in decreasing its internal rifts as well as reaching out to tribal leaders. Nevertheless, the Saudi government has been careful not to push too far. Holding a meeting to study interfaith dialogue would appear to be crossing the line. But clearly the Saudis don’t think so.

There are three reasons for this. First, al Qaeda has been crippled inside Saudi Arabia and in the broader region. The U.S. boast that al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run is no exaggeration. Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and Iraq are on the run because of a split among Sunni conservatives. Conservative Sunnis have their roots in local communities. Al Qaeda is an international grouping that moves into communities from the outside. As such, they threaten the interests of local Sunni leaders who are more unlikely to share theological values with al Qaeda in the long-term, and don’t want to be displaced as communal leaders nor want to see their communities destroyed in al Qaeda’s adventures. Theology aside, al Qaeda pushed its position too far, and those Sunnis who might theoretically support them have come to see them as a threat.

Second, and far more important, there is Saudi money. At current oil prices, the Saudis are absolutely loaded with cash. In the Arabian Peninsula as elsewhere, money buys friends. In Arabia, the rulers have traditionally bound tribes and sects to them through money. At present, the Saudis can overwhelm theological doubts with very large grants and gifts. The Saudi government did not enjoy 2004 and does not want a repeat. It is therefore carefully strengthening its ties inside Saudi Arabia and throughout the Sunni world using money as a bonding agent. That means that conservative Sunnis who normally would oppose this kind of a conference are less apt to openly criticize it.

Third, there is the deepening Sunni-Shiite split. In Christian history, wars between co-religionists like Roman Catholics and Protestants were brutal, and the distrust still echoes today. The Sunni-Shiite split, like the Catholic-Protestant split, ranges across theological and national interests. Iran is the major Shiite nation. It is mistrusted and feared by the Sunni Saudis, whose enormous wealth and military weakness leaves them vulnerable to the Iranians and forces them into an alliance with the Americans.

At this particular point, where Tehran’s mismanagement of Iran’s economy and particularly its oil industry has caused it to be left out of the greatest benefits of the surge in oil prices, the Saudis are worried that internal Iranian tensions and ambitions will cause Tehran at least to increase its subversive activities among Shia in the Arabian Peninsula and in Lebanon. Hence conservative Saudi clerics have focused their attacks on Iran and Hezbollah — officially without government sanction, but clearly not shut down by the government.

Protecting the Oil Bonanza
Behind all of this, something much deeper and more important is going on. With crude prices in the range of $130 a barrel, the Saudis are now making more money on oil than they could have imagined five years ago when the price was below $40 a barrel. The Saudis don’t know how long these prices will last. Endless debates are raging over whether high oil prices are the result of speculation, the policy of the U.S. Federal Reserve, conspiracy by the oil companies and so on. The single fact the Saudis can be certain of is that the price of oil is high, they don’t know how long it will remain high, and they don’t want anything interfering with their amassing vast financial reserves that might have to sustain them in lean times should they come.

In short, the Saudis are trying to reduce the threat of war in the region. War is at this moment the single greatest threat to their interests. In particular, they are afraid of any war that would close the Strait of Hormuz, through which a large portion of the oil they sell flows. The only real threat to the strait is a war between the United States and Iran in which the Iranians countered an American attack or blockade by mining the strait. It is assumed that the United States could readily deal with any Iranian countermove, but the Saudis have watched the Americans in Iraq and they are not impressed. From the Saudi point of view, not having a war is the far better option.

At the same time, if the Iranians decide to press the issue, the Saudis would be in no position to defend themselves. It is assumed that the United States would protect the Saudi oil fields out of self-interest. But any American government — and here they are looking past the Bush administration — might find it politically difficult to come to the aid of a country perceived as radically Islamist. Should another contingency come to pass, and the Iranians — either through insurgency or attack — do the unexpected, it is in the Saudi interest to create an image that is more compatible with U.S. tastes. And of course nothing does that better than interfaith dialogue. At this point, the Saudis are only at the point of discussing interfaith dialogue, but this still sets the stage.

It also creates a forum in which to drive home to the Iranians, via Rafsanjani, the unease the Saudis feel about Iranian intentions, using Hezbollah as an example. In permitting public attacks on the Shia, the Saudis do two things. First, they placate a domestic conservative constituency by retargeting them against Shiites. Second, they are boosting the theological framework to allow them to support groups who oppose the Shia. In particular that means supporting groups in Lebanon who oppose Hezbollah and Sunni groups in Iraq seeking more power in the Shiite dominated government. In doing this, Riyadh signals the Iranians that the Saudis are in a position to challenge their fundamental interests in the region — while Iran is not going to be starting Shiite uprisings in Arabia while the price of oil is high and the Shia can be made content.

Pacifying the Region
The Saudis are engaged in a massive maneuver to try to pacify the region, if not forever, then for at least as long as oil prices are high. The Saudis are quietly encouraging the Syrian-Israeli peace talks along with the Turks, and one of the reasons for Syrian participation is undoubtedly assurances of Saudi investments in Syria and Lebanon from which Damascus can benefit. The Saudis also are encouraging Israeli-Palestinian talks, and there is, we suspect, Saudi pressure on Hamas to be more cooperative in those talks. The Saudis have no interest in an Israeli-Syrian or Israeli-Hezbollah conflict right now that might destabilize the region.

Finally, the Saudis have had enough of the war in Iraq. They do not want increased Iranian power in Iraq. They do not want to see the Sunnis marginalized. They do not want to see al Qaeda dominating the Iraqi Sunnis. They have influence with the Iraqi Sunnis, and money buys even more. Ever since 2003, with the exception of the Kurdish region, the development of Iraqi oil has been stalled. Iraqis of all factions are aware of how much money they’ve lost because of their civil war. This is a lever that the Saudis can use in encouraging some sort of peace in Iraq.

It is not that Saudi Arabia has become pacifist by any means. Nor are they expecting (or, frankly, interested in) lasting peace. They are interested in assuring sufficient stability over the coming months and years so they can concentrate on making money from oil. To do this they need to carry out a complex maneuver. They need to refocus their own religious conservatives against the Shia. They need to hem in Iran, the main Shiite power. They need to reposition themselves politically in the United States, the country that ultimately guarantees Saudi national security. And they need to at least lower the temperature in Middle Eastern conflicts or, better still, forge peace treaties.

The Saudis don’t care if these treaties are permanent, but neither would they object if they were. Like any state, Saudi Arabia has interests to pursue; these interests change over time, but right now is the time for stability. Later is later. It is therefore no surprise that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak visited Riyadh for talks this weekend. The discussions weren’t theological in nature. Mubarak shares with the Saudis an interest in an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Mubarak fears the spread of Hamas’ ideas back into Egypt and he wants the radical Palestinian group kept in its Gaza box. A large cache of weapons uncovered in the Sinai last week, including surface to air missiles, is as much a threat to Egypt as to Israel. Mubarak has been in no position to conclude such an agreement, even though he has tried to broker it. The Saudis have the financial muscle to make it happen. Clearly the Egyptians and Saudis have much to discuss.

We are not at the dawn of a new age in the Middle East. We are in a period where one country has become politically powerful because of mushrooming wealth, and wants to use that power to make more wealth. A lasting peace is not likely in the Middle East. But increased stability is possible, and while interfaith dialogue does not strike us as a vehicle to this end, hundreds of millions in oil revenue does. Peace has been made on weaker foundations.
23902  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: June 03, 2008, 09:02:09 PM
Mexico Security Memo: June 2, 2008
Stratfor Today » June 2, 2008 | 2137 GMT
Related Links
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
Record Violence, Same Government Response
Last month’s 493 drug-related killings in Mexico made May the deadliest month yet in the government’s fight against drug cartels, according to tallies reported by Mexican media. In addition to increasing overall violence, a closer look at the homicides reveals other disturbing — albeit not too surprising — trends. The 64 police officers killed during May is more than twice the average of 27 killed per month during January through April. The geographic distribution of the violence is a continuation of trends we observed over the past several months. The violence is concentrated primarily in areas controlled by the Juarez cartel, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, and the Beltran Leyva brothers. Chihuahua and Sinaloa states account for more than 50 percent of the killings, followed by Guerrero, Durango, Sonora, and Baja California states. Gulf territory states like Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas accounted for less than 3 percent of the killings.

The passing of yet another record month in Mexico’s struggle against the cartels provides an opportunity to consider the government’s response to the violence. Stratfor has been waiting for decisive action from the Mexican government since the May 8 assassination of the acting head of the country’s federal police. Such action has yet to occur, however, and recent statements by the administration of President Felipe Calderon gave no hint that any change in strategy is forthcoming. This past week, Calderon and several Cabinet secretaries publicly defended the administration’s strategy, citing progress thus far and repeating the oft-heard statement that this would be a long-term struggle requiring cooperation at all levels of government as well as with the military. Other activities such as routine small-scale troop deployments and raids continued as usual.

It is still unclear exactly what options Mexico City has in order to curb the escalating violence. For whatever reason, the government has not mobilized substantially more military forces over the past several months, opting instead to redeploy active forces from one hot spot to another. The government has 27,000 troops deployed to various hot spots of drug-trafficking related violence out of approximately 240,000 total troops. Other options, such as negotiating with cartel leaders, probably would not be practical given the fractured nature of criminal organizations in Mexico and their penchant for breaking their agreements. At this point, however, Calderon may not yet be feeling pressure to consider such options. The violence is still concentrated primarily among those involved in the drug trade and in cities long considered cartel strongholds. This certainly will not always be the case, and Stratfor has observed several ways in which violence is already increasingly affecting the civilian population. That, combined with the increasing threat to police, probably will represent the tipping point after which the government steps up its operations as the war on the cartels continues to escalate.

Border Smuggling Happenings
Two men were shot dead this week at a ranch located near Guadalupe, Chihuahua state, a small town which lies just across the border from Tornillo, Texas, on a remote part of the border. One of the victims was a former mayor of Guadalupe; his daughter was killed three days later on the day of the ex-mayor’s funeral when a man traveling in a vehicle shot her while she was driving. Her seven-year-old daughter was wounded in the attack, which according to many reports occurred as she was driving as part of her father’s funeral procession. Police have not announced a motive for the killings, and there is no known connection between this family and smuggling or drug trafficking organizations. This incident highlights the value to smugglers of private property adjacent to the border, however, and such violence directed against families seems consistent with narcotics activity.

Authorities in the United States believe the majority of illicit drugs entering the United States from Mexico arrive via official ports of entry, either hidden among legitimate goods or in the trunks of cars waved through by corrupt border officials. A smaller portion of drugs are smuggled through tunnels or overland through holes in border fences. Frequently, these smuggling efforts are aided by private property owners along the international border, who own land where drug shipments can be staged before finally being exported to the United States. While these types of smugglings are believed to constitute a minority of drug shipments to the United States, however, continuing security operations and the arrests of corrupt border officials in cartel strongholds like Reynosa and Ciudad Juarez may prompt drug traffickers to rely more heavily on remote locations like Guadalupe to bring drugs across the border.





(click to view map)

May 27
Seven federal agents died during a raid on a safe-house in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, which sparked a four hour firefight. The suspects in the safe-house repelled the raid with automatic weapons and fragmentation grenades. The incident claimed the largest number of federal agents killed in a single action during the fight against the cartels.
Authorities in Mexico City announced the deployment of 200 additional federal agents to Sinaloa state as part of a “complete offensive” against organized crime there.
The body of an unidentified man was found in a vehicle near Mexico City, wrapped in a blanket and with two gunshot wounds.
Soldiers in Suchiate, Chiapas state, reported the seizure of approximately 500 pounds of cocaine from a farm. The drugs were found hidden among a truck full of bananas.
The bodies of three men were found along a road in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. They were bound at the hands and appeared to have been shot execution style.
May 28
Two severed heads were found along a highway in Durango state. A note next to one of the heads read, in part, “We can respond too.”
The body of a state police commander in Sinaloa state was found along a river near Culiacan, Sinaloa state. Authorities believe he had been abducted the day before.
A former federal agent died in Mexico City after being shot nine times outside his home midday. He reportedly had worked at Mexico City’s international airport, and been involved in the seizure of drug and ephedra shipments destined for the Sinaloa cartel. The assassinations of other federal police officers also have been linked to drug shipments at the airport.
The body of a woman was found alongside a highway in Tabasco state along with a note that read, in part, “Keep talking, informant. The army is not going to protect you and yours.”
Motorists in Zapotlan del Rey, Jalisco state, found a suitcase on a roadside that contained the body of an unidentified woman bearing signs of torture.
May 29
Four unidentified men, one of whom may have been a police officer, were shot by gunmen in a vehicle as they stood outside a store in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
One man died and another was wounded when they were shot by gunmen as they traveled in a vehicle in Zapopan, Jalisco state.
May 30
Authorities in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, reported discovering the body of a man beside a road along with a note that read, in part, “To those that still don’t believe and work with El Chapo Guzman. Sincerely, La Linea.”
The police chiefs of two towns in Chihuahua state — Nuevo Casas Grandes and Ignacio Zaragoza — resigned from their positions.
June 1
Federal police arrested eight men and one woman in a suspected cartel safe-house in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state. During the raid, authorities seized firearms, grenades, eight vehicles, radios, more than 8,000 rounds of ammunition, and 60 pounds of cocaine.
The bodies of two men and one woman with several gunshot wounds were found at an intersection in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
23903  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: June 03, 2008, 06:41:55 PM
Islamic extremists to get therapy not jail in Government's new 'anti-radicalisation' plan

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
Last updated at 3:53 PM on 03rd June 2008

Islamic extremists could receive counselling instead of criminal charges under new Government plans to 'deradicalise' religious fanatics issued today.

The move is part of a £12.5m Home Office plan which give councils guidance about how to prevent extremism spreading.

People who fall under the influence of violent organisations will not automatically face prosecution under the new plan.

Instead it will concentrate on a national 'deradicalisation' programme that will try to persuade extremists to change their views through therapy and counselling from community groups.

The scheme will seek to reverse the process of indoctrination carried out by al Qaida-related extremists, using unnamed 'specialised techniques'.

Community groups and councils in England and Wales will get cash from a £12.5m fund to implement the new measures.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: 'The national security challenges we face demand fresh approaches.

'A key element of our strategy aims to stop people getting involved in extremist violence.

'We are investing at local level to build resilient communities, which are equipped to confront violent extremism and support the most vulnerable individuals.'

However the plan came in for criticism for being pointless.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said of today's publication: 'This is pointless when the Government is fuelling the problem it is seeking to solve with its draconian approach to 42 days.'

Ms Smith is facing a battle with MPs to extend the time police can hold terror suspects without charge from 28 days to 42 days.

The 72-page plan also said councils should make sure they have systems to remove funding or other support from inappropriate groups.

Councils should ask police to vet anyone involved in projects that receive government anti-radicalisation funding, it urged.

However local groups that challenge the messages of violent extremists should be supported, it went on.

If a group is found to be promoting violent extremism, local agencies and the police should consider disrupting or removing funding, and deny access to public facilities, the document added.

The measures on 'de-radicalisation' are based on examples overseas and on a scheme in Leicester which 'aims to encourage young people to feel more valued and to eradicate myths and assumptions which lead to young people becoming alienated and disempowered'.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said: 'Preventing violent extremism is about supporting local people to build resilient communities where extremists and their messages of hate cannot take root.

'Nationally and locally there is a growing alliance against violent extremism. A majority of individuals and organisations are working together to prevent radicalisation and extremism in a small minority of communities.

'We are putting funding where it is needed and today's new guidance sets out our clear expectations around what local authorities and their partners should achieve.

'Local leadership is vital and it is those people that know their communities best - community leaders, local authorities, police and schools - who, with support from government, provide the key to tackling this issue.

'Whilst no-one pretends it is easy we are already seeing some fantastic work including projects working with some of the most vulnerable young people, work to strengthen governance in mosques and the capacity of imams and Muslim women beginning to take a stronger role.'

A Home Office spokesman said the maps referred to in today's strategy document were already being drawn up.

They would not focus only on Muslim extremism but 'anywhere prone to extremist talk and violent behaviour,' he said.

'This is not an anti-Muslim document,' he said. 'It will cover denominations of all faiths.'

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...tion-plan.html
23904  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law on: June 03, 2008, 06:40:01 PM
Man with gun is shot and killed instead
http://www.dailynews.com/ci_9453065?source=rss

A man who pointed a gun at his intended victim was shot by the victim instead, police said.
Rosalio DeLa Rosa, 22, and 17-year-old accomplice where in a market near Parthenia Street and Woodley Avenue on Sunday at around 12:55 a.m. when they became involved in a dispute with Anthony DeLa Cruz, police said.

During the argument, DeLa Rosa claimed his gang affiliation and asked DeLa Cruz "where you from?" DeLa Cruz denied any gang ties and left the market in his vehicle. DeLa Rosa and the juvenile followed DeLa Cruz in their vehicle, brandishing a gun at DeLa Cruz several times before using their vehicle to stop DeLa Cruz' vehicle.

As DeLa Rosa got out of his vehicle he pointed a gun at DeLa Cruz. DeLa Cruz, in fear for his life, fired his own gun at DeLa Rosa, striking him once and causing him and the gun to fall to the ground. The juvenile then picked up the gun and fired the weapon at DeLa Cruz, but it misfired. DeLa Cruz fired at the minor, striking him once in the torso.

DeLa Cruz fled the location and flagged down police. He was arrested.

DeLa Rosa and the minor were both taken to a local hospital where DeLa Rosa was pronounced dead. The minor was treated for his injury, booked for murder and is being held without bail. DeLa Cruz was booked on a manslaughter charge and is being held on $100,000 bail.

Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call Van Nuys Homicide Detectives M. Martinez or L. Lowande at (818) 374-0040. On off
23905  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: June 03, 2008, 12:38:30 AM
Iraq hits milestones on U.S. troop deaths, oil

Sun Jun 1, 2008 12:22pm EDT

* U.S. monthly death toll drops to new low

* Iraq says oil production at post-war high

* Australia pulls out combat troops



By Ross Colvin

BAGHDAD, June 1 (Reuters) - U.S. troop deaths in Iraq fell to their lowest level last month since the 2003 invasion and officials said on Sunday improved security also helped the country boost oil production in May to a post-war high.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Iraq's oil minister credited better security for the two milestones, which illustrated a dramatic turnabout in the fortunes of a country on the brink of all-out sectarian civil war just 12 months ago.

"We've still got a distance to go but I think lower casualty rates are a reflection of some real progress," Gates told reporters in Singapore. "The key will be to continue to sustain the progress we have seen."

American generals have stressed that the security gains are both fragile and reversible. That was shown in March, when an Iraqi government offensive against Shi'ite militias in southern Basra sparked a surge in violence in the capital and other cities, catching U.S. and Iraqi officials off guard.

The U.S. military said 19 soldiers died in May, the lowest monthly death toll in a five-year-old war that has so far claimed the lives of more than 4,000 American soldiers.

Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani told Reuters in an interview that the improved security had helped Iraq, which has the world's third-largest oil reserves, raise oil production to a post-war high of 2.5 million barrels per day in May.

Iraq's oil industry, hit by decades of sanctions, war and neglect, was a vulnerable target for saboteurs after the U.S. invasion. Attacks on pipelines quickly destroyed any hopes of using Iraq's vast oil reserves to fund its reconstruction.

The military says violence in Iraq is now at a four-year low following crackdowns by U.S. and Iraqi forces on Shi'ite militias in southern Basra and Baghdad and on al Qaeda in the northern city of Mosul, its last major urban stronghold.

"In May we have exceeded for the first time a 2 million barrels per day export rate. In production we have exceeded 2.5 million bpd," Shahristani said.

The number of Iraqi civilians killed in May also fell, to 505, after reaching a seven-month high of 968 in April, figures compiled by the interior, defence and health ministries showed.



SUICIDE BOMBING

U.S. officials credit the turnaround in security to President George W. Bush's decision to send 30,000 extra troops to Iraq, a rebellion by Sunni tribal leaders against al Qaeda, and a ceasefire by anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

But a suicide bombing in the town of Hit in western Anbar province on Saturday night that killed the local police chief underscored the fragility of Iraq's improved security.

Police said a suicide bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint, killing police chief Lieutenant-Colonel Khalil Ibrahim al-Jazzaa, eight other policemen and four civilians.

In Iraq's more stable south, about 500 Australian troops pulled out of their base in the city of Nassiriya, signalling an end to Australia's combat mission in the country.

Australia, a close U.S. ally, was one of the first countries to commit troops to the Iraq invasion, but Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Labour party won election last November largely on Rudd's campaign promise to bring the troops home this year.

The war is also a big issue in the U.S. presidential election, with Republican nominee John McCain vowing not to withdraw troops until the war is won, and his Democratic opponents Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton promising to bring them home as soon as possible.

Baghdad and the United States are negotiating a new deal that will provide a legal basis for U.S. troops in Iraq when their United Nations mandate expires at the end of the year.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a rare statement on the talks that they were at their early stages, but he acknowledged there were differences between Iraq and the United States over what should be included in the agreement.

"The Iraqi side has a vision and their draft differs from the American side and their vision," he said.

The talks have angered many Iraqis who suspect the United States of wanting to keep a permanent presence in Iraq, and on Friday thousands of Iraqis answered a call by Moqtada al-Sadr to protest against the negotiations.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki meanwhile asked France to supply sophisticated weaponry during a visit by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Sunday. (Additional reporting by Haider al-Nasrallah in Nassiriya, Ammar al-Awani in Ramadi, Adrian Croft, Ahmed Rasheed, Michael Georgy and Aws Qusay in Baghdad and Andrew Gray in Singapore; Editing by Charles Dick)
__________________
23906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Military Solution to Terrorism on: June 03, 2008, 12:33:14 AM
There Is a Military Solution to Terror
June 3, 2008; Page A19
Sadr City in Baghdad, the northeastern districts of Sri Lanka and the Guaviare province of Colombia have little in common culturally, historically or politically. But they are crucial reference points on a global map in which long-running insurgencies suddenly find themselves on the verge of defeat.

For the week of May 16-23, there were 300 "violent incidents" in Iraq. That's down from 1,600 last June and the lowest recorded since March 2004. Al Qaeda has been crushed by a combination of U.S. arms and Sunni tribal resistance. On the Shiite side, Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army was routed by Iraqi troops in Basra and later crumbled in its Sadr City stronghold.

In Colombia, the 44-year-old FARC guerrilla movement is now at its lowest ebb. Three of its top commanders died in March, and the number of FARC attacks is down by more than two-thirds since 2002. In the face of a stepped-up campaign by the Colombian military (funded, equipped and trained by the U.S.), the group is now experiencing mass desertions. Former FARC leaders describe a movement that is losing any semblance of ideological coherence and operational effectiveness.

In Sri Lanka, a military offensive by the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has wrested control of seven of the nine districts previously held by the rebel group LTTE, better known as the Tamil Tigers. Mr. Rajapaksa now promises victory by the end of the year, even as the Tigers continue to launch high-profile terrorist attacks.

All this is good news in its own right. Better yet, it explodes the mindless shibboleth that there is "no military solution" when it comes to dealing with insurgencies. On the contrary, it turns out that the best way to end an insurgency is, quite simply, to beat it.

Why was this not obvious before? When military strategies fail – as they did in Vietnam while the U.S. pursued the tactics of attrition, or in Iraq prior to the surge – the idea that there can be no military solution has a way of taking hold with civilians and generals eager to deflect blame. This is how we arrived at the notion that "political reconciliation" is a precondition of military success, not a result of it.

There's also a tendency to misjudge the aims and ambitions of the insurgents: To think they can be mollified via one political concession or another. Former Colombian president Andres Pastrana sought to appease the FARC by ceding to them a territory the size of Switzerland. The predictable result was to embolden the guerrillas, who were adept at sensing and exploiting weakness.

The deeper problem here is the belief that the best way to deal with insurgents is to address the "root causes" of the grievance that purportedly prompted them to take up arms. But what most of these insurgencies seek isn't social or moral redress: It's absolute power. Like other "liberation movements" (the PLO comes to mind), the Tigers are notorious for killing other Tamils seen as less than hard line in their views of the conflict. The failure to defeat these insurgencies thus becomes the primary obstacle to achieving a reasonable political settlement acceptable to both sides.

This isn't to say that political strategies shouldn't be pursued in tandem with military ones. Gen. David Petraeus was shrewd to exploit the growing enmity between al Qaeda and their Sunni hosts by offering former insurgents a place in the country's security forces as "Sons of Iraq." (The liberal use of "emergency funds," aka political bribes, also helped.) Colombian President Álvaro Uribe has more than just extended amnesty for "demobilized" guerrillas; he's also given them jobs in the army.

But these political approaches only work when the intended beneficiaries can be reasonably confident that they are joining the winning side. Nobody was abandoning the FARC when Mr. Pastrana lay prostrate before it. It was only after Mr. Uribe turned the guerrilla lifestyle into a day-and-night nightmare that the movement's luster finally started to fade.

Defeating an insurgency is never easy even with the best strategies and circumstances. Insurgents rarely declare surrender, and breakaway factions can create a perception of menace even when their actual strength is minuscule. It helps when the top insurgent leaders are killed or captured: Peru's Shining Path, for instance, mostly collapsed with the capture of Abimael Guzmán. Yet the Kurdish PKK is now resurgent nine years after the imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan, thanks to the sanctuary it enjoys in Northern Iraq.

Still, it's no small thing that neither the PKK nor the Shining Path are capable of killing tens of thousands of people and terrorizing whole societies, as they were in the 1980s. Among other things, beating an insurgency allows a genuine process of reconciliation and redress to take place, and in a spirit of malice toward none. But those are words best spoken after the terrible swift sword has done its work.

Write to bstephens@wsj.com
23907  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ross McGinnis RIP on: June 03, 2008, 12:31:21 AM
A Man in Full
June 3, 2008; Page A20
Next week on Flag Day, Army Private First Class Ross McGinnis would have turned 21 years old. Yesterday, President Bush presented his family with a posthumous Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for courage in combat. It was the fourth time the Medal has been awarded for those who have served in Iraq.

 
Associated Press Photo/Family photo via The Oil City Derrick 
Private First Class Ross Andrew McGinnis
In the gunner's hatch of a Humvee driving through Baghdad on December 4, 2006, Private McGinnis saw a grenade fly through the hatch, rolling to where it could have injured the four other soldiers inside. In easy position to leap and save himself, McGinnis instead jumped to cover the grenade with his body to shield his comrades.

The four men he saved were all at the White House yesterday to pay their respects. They and his parents, Thomas and Romayne McGinnis, knew Ross as one who, at 137 pounds and six feet tall, had barely outgrown his boyhood when he joined the Army on his 17th birthday, the first day he was eligible to enlist. The Knox, Pennsylvania native was known not to take things too seriously, the soldiers said – and yet in an instant he displayed the self-sacrifice that defines heroism in battle across generations. Although he didn't grow while he was in the Army, "he seemed to stand a lot taller," his father said. "He was a man."

All of America's men and women in uniform today are volunteers, and they have answered the call knowing they may be put in harm's way. "Supporting the troops" has become a mantra in our politics, but the true heroism of our soldiers goes beyond the slogans and politics to countless individual acts of courage under fire. At the moment it mattered, in a war worth fighting, Ross McGinnis honored America's finest traditions and our own better natures.

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

And add your comments to the Opinion
23908  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: June 03, 2008, 12:20:07 AM
I poorly timed my exit from EZCH and have not re-entered.

I have been dancing with a minor position in HPLF (artificial liver startup), so far rather profitably.  Exited water play BSHF just in time to take a minor profit before it nosedived; ISIS fully entered and in the black;

TAC!
23909  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: June 03, 2008, 12:15:49 AM
I am grateful for the people whom I trained today and for my wife who takes care of our children while I do so.
23910  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Getting Started? on: June 02, 2008, 06:32:27 PM
Woof DX:

I am on the road at the moment.  Please email your phone number @ Craftydog@dogbrothers.com.

It may take me a few days to get back to you.

TAC,
Guro Crafty
23911  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: June 01, 2008, 12:42:10 AM
I was trying to dead pan it. cheesy
23912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mex weapons laws for gringos on: May 31, 2008, 07:32:34 PM
http://tijuana.usconsulate.gov/tijuana/warning.html
23913  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Name that war!!! on: May 31, 2008, 05:53:07 PM
Woof All:

Earlier today on the WW3 thread GM posted a nice piece about the PC cowardice of our terminology concerning the name of the war in which we find ourselves (the War on Terrorism) and our enemy (terrorists).

We are not a war with a tactic, we are at war with a world-wide movement of religious fascists.  So, what shall we name the war and what shall we name our enemy?

My personal choice has been the War with Islamo Fascism and to name our enemy Islamo Fascists.   When he was still around here these terms would always set off Roger-- always a good indicator of probably being on the right track  cheesy -- but the floor is open for all suggestions-- both serious and fun.

Yip!
Marc
23914  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: May 31, 2008, 05:48:27 PM
Woof GM:

My hearty concurrence on the essence of the piece you post.

I'm going to start a thread on this right now.  evil

TAC!
Marc
23915  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: May 31, 2008, 05:43:45 PM
Woof Tony:

NO DISRESPECT TAKEN AT ANY POINT.   Poi Dog is right-- this was simply my idea of being funny.

TAC,
CD
23916  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: May 31, 2008, 12:45:14 PM
Kumu Rick:

What an interesting idea!   I will ask Pappy Dog to get in touch with you and check the place out while I am on the road.

CD
23917  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Drug Massacre leaves town terrorized on: May 31, 2008, 11:05:31 AM
Drug Massacre Leaves a Mexican Town Terrorized


 
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
Published: May 31, 2008
VILLA AHUMADA, Mexico — A massacre here two weeks ago has turned this once sleepy town into a ghostly emblem of the drug violence that has swept Mexico over the last year and a half, gutting local police forces, terrifying citizens and making it almost impossible for the authorities to assert themselves.


In Villa Ahumada, Mexico, on May 18. The night before, dozens of gunmen killed six people in the town, including two civilians who were together in a pickup truck, and abducted others.


On the night of May 17, dozens of men with assault rifles rolled into town in several trucks and shot up the place. They killed the police chief, two officers and three civilians. Then they carried off about 10 people, witnesses said. Only one has been found, dead and wrapped in a carpet in Ciudad Juárez.

The entire municipal police force quit after the attack, and officials fled the town for several days, leaving so hastily that they did not release the petty criminals held in the town lockup. The state and federal governments sent in 300 troops and 16 state police officers, restoring an uneasy semblance of order. But townspeople remain terrified.

“Yeah, we’re afraid, everyone’s afraid,” said José Antonio Contreras, a 17-year-old who was threatened by the gunmen. “Nobody goes out at night.”

Tourists driving south from Texas to the Pacific Coast beaches pass through Villa Ahumada on Highway 45. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when this dusty town on the railroad tracks was best known for its roadside burrito stands, its good cheese and its having recorded one of the coldest temperatures in Mexico — 23 below zero in January 1962.

In recent years, however, it also became a way station along one of Mexico’s major drug smuggling routes. Villa Ahumada lies about 85 miles south of El Paso on the main highway from the city of Chihuahua to the border city of Ciudad Juárez.

Mexico’s drug violence has by now become so pervasive that it is infecting even small communities like this one, which has fewer than 9,000 residents.

Around the country in the last 18 months, more than 4,000 people have been killed in similar attacks and gun battles, even as President Felipe Calderón has tried to take back towns where the local police and officials were on the payroll of drug kingpins.

This week, seven federal officers died in a gun battle with cartel henchmen when they tried to enter a house in Culiacán, Sinaloa, a city notorious for its traffickers. The officers had been sent to the city, along with 2,700 other soldiers and agents, to track down a reputed drug kingpin believed to have ordered the assassination of the acting federal chief of police, who was killed in Mexico City on May 8.

When the police arrived, banners were hung in the city taunting the officers and saying the reputed kingpin, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, reigned supreme in Culiacán.

In Villa Ahumada less than two weeks after the massacre, people remained so cowed that even the mayor and his police commissioner declined requests to be interviewed. When asked who the gunmen were and why they had come, most of the residents who were interviewed shook their heads and whispered that spies were everywhere. In private, however, some acknowledged that the town had long been home to narcotics traffickers in league with a reputed drug dealer, Pedro Sánchez Arras.

Frightened residents, who did not want to be identified, said Mr. Sánchez’s agent in the town was Gerardo Gallegos Rodelo, a 19-year-old tough guy who went around with an armed posse. It was rumored that he and Mr. Sánchez had links to a drug cartel in Ciudad Juárez that is controlled by the Carrillo Fuentes family. Law enforcement officials did not confirm the claim.

Several residents said Mr. Gallegos and Mr. Sánchez had also seemed to enjoy good relations with the local police. People shrugged and tolerated the arrangement. The town was peaceful, after all, some said. It seemed best to leave well enough alone.

“Wherever you are in Mexico these days there are drug dealers, not just here,” explained Raúl Moreno, 64, a day laborer. “They didn’t bother anyone. No one bothered them.”

The trouble started, people here say, when Mr. Gallegos was killed in a shootout with a group of reputed gangsters in Hidalgo del Parral, in the southern part of Chihuahua State, on April 6.
=============

Page 2 of 2)



Two days later, the army swooped in on his funeral in Villa Ahumada and arrested dozens of people in attendance, taking into custody a police commander, Adrián Barrón, among others. It remains unclear what those detained will be charged with, the attorney general’s office said.

The arrest seemed to set in motion the trouble in Villa Ahumada. Late on the Saturday night four days after Mr. Sánchez’s arrest, said Mr. Contreras, the 17-year-old, he and several other boys were dancing at a party for a friend in a hall just off the main square when they heard the rat-tat-tat of machine-gun fire.

He hurriedly left the party with his girlfriend and mother, but they ran into three cars full of heavily armed men, he said. Spewing death threats, the men forced the three to lie on the ground. He waited for the shots, but the cars roared off. One of the men called out, “We’ll be back.”

For three hours, the gunmen roamed the town in six pickups and sport utility cars. They strafed a used car lot with bullets. They pumped more than 75 rounds into two men riding in a truck. One was Julio Armando Gómez, the manager of a roast chicken place. The other was Mario Alberto González Castro, 41, who sold tickets at the bus station.

Mr. González’s wife, who asked to be identified only by her nickname, Cuquis, said she had gone looking for her husband when she heard the shooting and found his lifeless body oozing blood in the car. Her hands trembled with fear when she was asked who might be behind the killing; then she broke down, saying she had told the police what she knew and could not say anything else. “He was innocent, innocent above all else,” she said through her sobs.

The gunmen caught up to the police chief, José Armando Estrada Rodríguez, and two officers, Óscar Zuñiga Dávila and José Luis Quiñones Juárez, who were sitting in their patrol car at a gas station. The attackers killed the three men with 26 shots from an assault rifle, officials said.

Also killed was Luis Eduardo Escobedo Ruiz, 21, who happened to be pulling into a parking lot near the gas station. More than 100 shells were found outside his car.

Privately, some residents speculated that the attackers came from a rival drug cartel intent on dislodging the Carrillo Fuentes family from Ciudad Juárez and the cities along the route down through Chihuahua State to Sinaloa State. Some whisper it was Joaquín Guzmán, an accused drug kingpin known as “El Chapo,” who sent the commandos. Others mention the Zetas, feared hired killers in the employ of the Gulf Cartel.

“They are getting rid of all the people connected to Pedro Sánchez,” said one young man, requesting anonymity for fear of the cartels. “All the police worked for Pedro.”

The state authorities say they still have little information about what happened, much less whom the gunmen worked for. The fearful silence of residents makes it hard for investigators to make progress, Eduardo Esparza, a spokesman for the state attorney general, said.

“At this moment, we have no lines of investigation,” he said. “It’s hard to get information. The families of the victims refuse to talk, mainly out of terror. One can’t advance at a good pace. There are lots of barriers.”

One measure of those barriers is that the state police have been informed of only two kidnappings on the night the raiders came to town, but several residents insisted that at least 10 people were missing.

The townspeople say they feel a pall hanging over them. The roadside restaurants and vendors of cheese say fewer people stop in the town, apparently out of fear. Soldiers in Humvees with mounted machine guns patrol the streets.

Some residents said they were stunned that the entire police force of more than 20 officers had stepped down. Many say the town will never be able to afford the cost of a more professional force that could stop future attacks.

“One feels very disillusioned with the government,” said the owner of a popular restaurant, who has spent her life in the town. “There is no one who seems to be able to do anything.”


23918  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: May 31, 2008, 02:16:01 AM
So can I.  evil cheesy cheesy
23919  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillbillery rolls her dice on: May 31, 2008, 02:05:37 AM


WSJ

The Argument for Nominating Hillary
By LANNY J. DAVIS
May 31, 2008

After the votes are in from Puerto Rico tomorrow and South Dakota and Montana on Tuesday, neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton will be able to make a facts-based case that they represent a significant majority of grass-roots Democrats.

Chances are Sens. Obama and Clinton will virtually split the more than 4,400 delegates – including Florida and Michigan – elected by more than 34 million people over the past five months.

Sen. Clinton has already won the most votes, but there is controversy over including the over 300,000 votes from Michigan, since Sen. Obama was not on the ballot (by his own choice). But if Sen. Clinton wins a substantial victory in Puerto Rico tomorrow – with an expected record turnout exceeding two million voters – she could well end up with more popular votes than Sen. Obama, even if Michigan's primary votes are excluded.

Worst case, she could come out with a 2% deficit in elected pledged delegates. But that gap can be made up, if most of the remaining 200 or so unpledged superdelegates decide to support Sen. Clinton as the strongest candidate against John McCain – or if others committed to Sen. Obama decide to change their minds for the same reason. A number of superdelegates previously committed to Sen. Clinton later announced support for Sen. Obama, so it's certainly possible that, when confronted with growing evidence that Sen. Clinton is stronger than Sen. McCain, they might switch back.

The final argument for Hillary comes down to three points – with points one and two leading to the third.

First, Sen. Clinton is more experienced and qualified to be president than is Sen. Obama. This is not to say Sen. Obama cannot be a good, even great, president. I believe he can. But Sen. Clinton spent eight years in the White House. She was not a traditional first lady. She was involved in policy and debate on virtually every major domestic and foreign policy decision of the Clinton presidency, both "in" and "outside" the room with her husband. She has been a U.S. senator for eight years and has a record of legislative accomplishments, including as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

With no disrespect or criticism intended, Sen. Obama has been an Illinois state senator for eight years and a U.S. senator for just four years. He has, understandably, fewer legislative accomplishments than Sen. Clinton. That's just a fact. Therefore, it is reasonable to argue that Sen. Clinton would be less vulnerable to criticism from Sen. McCain on the "experience" issue.

Second, Sen. Clinton's position on health care gives her an advantage over Sen. McCain. Her proposal for universally mandated health care based primarily on private insurance and individual choices is a stark contrast to Sen. McCain's total reliance on private market insurance, HMOs or emergency rooms for the 45 million or more uninsured. Sen. Obama's position, while laudable in its objective, does not mandate universal care and, arguably, won't challenge Sen. McCain as effectively as will Sen. Clinton's plan.

Despite the fact that Sen. Obama's campaign made the Iraq war a crucial issue in the Iowa caucuses and early primaries, there has never been a significant difference between his position and Sen. Clinton's. Sen. Obama deserves credit for opposing military intervention in Iraq while he was running for the state senate in early 2002.

But in 2004, Sen. Obama said he "did not know" how he would have voted on the war resolution had he been a senator at the time. That summer he told the Chicago Tribune: "There's not much of a difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage" of the Iraq War. (This is a statement that Sen. Clinton would not have made.) While he served in the Senate, he voted 84 out of 85 times the same as Sen. Clinton on Iraq-war related votes. The only exception is when he supported President Bush's position on the promotion of a general that Sen. Clinton opposed.

Third and finally, there is recent hard data showing that, at least at the present time, Sen. Clinton is a significantly stronger candidate against Sen. McCain among the general electorate (as distinguished from the more liberal Democratic primary and caucus electorate).

According to Gallup's May 12-25 tracking polling of 11,000 registered voters in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., Sen. Clinton is running stronger against Sen. McCain in the 20 states where she can claim popular-vote victory in the primaries and caucuses. In contrast, Sen. Obama runs no better against Sen. McCain than does Sen. Clinton in the 28 states plus D.C. where he has prevailed. "On this basis," Gallup concludes: "Clinton appears to have the stronger chance of capitalizing on her primary strengths in the general election."

The 20 states, Gallup points out, not only encompass more than 60% of the nation's voters, but "represent more than 300 Electoral College votes while Obama's 28 states and the District of Columbia represent only 224 Electoral College votes." Sen. Clinton leads Sen. McCain in these 20 states by seven points (50%-43%), while Sens. Obama and McCain are pretty much tied. But in the 26 states plus D.C. that Sen. Obama carried in the primaries/caucuses, he and Sen. Clinton are both statistically tied with Sen. McCain (Clinton 45%-McCain 47%; Obama 45%-McCain 46%).

Gallup's state-by-state polling in seven key battleground "purple" states also shows Sen. Clinton winning cumulatively in these states by a six-point margin (49%-43%) over Sen. McCain, while Sen. Obama loses to Sen. McCain by three points – a net advantage of 9% for Sen. Clinton. These key seven states – constituting 105 electoral votes – are Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Mexico, Arkansas, Florida and Michigan.

Meanwhile, Sen. Obama holds about an equal advantage over Sen. McCain in six important swing states that he carried in the primaries and caucuses – Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri. But these constitute less than half – 54 – of the electoral votes of the larger states in which Sen. Clinton is leading.

The latest state-by-state battleground polls (published May 21-23) by other respected polling organizations verify Gallup's findings that Sen. Clinton is significantly stronger against Sen. McCain in the key states that a Democrat must win to gain the presidency. According to various poll data within the last 10 days:

- Pennsylvania: Sen. Clinton leads McCain 50%-39%; Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain are effectively tied.

- Ohio: Sen. Clinton leads Sen. McCain 48%-41%, Sen. Obama is down 44%-40%.

- Florida: Sen. Clinton leads Sen. McCain 47%-41%; Sen. McCain leads Sen. Obama 50%-40%. (Sen. Clinton has a net advantage of 16 points!)

- North Carolina: Despite a substantial primary victory, Sen. Obama is down 8% vs. Sen. McCain, (51%-43%), while Sen. Clinton leads by 6% (49%-43%).

- Nevada: Sen. Clinton up 5%, Sen. Obama down 6%.

Even the theory that Sen. Obama can open up significant numbers of "red" states has not been borne out by recent polling. For example: in Virginia, which Sen. Obama won substantially in the Feb. 12 Democratic primary, he is currently down in at least one recent, respected poll by a significant 9% margin – one point greater than the 8% margin Sen. Clinton is behind Sen. McCain.

Finally, one unfortunate argument is making the rounds lately to convince superdelegates to go for Sen. Obama. That is the prediction that if Sen. Obama is not the nominee, African-American and other passionate Obama supporters will conclude that the nomination had been "stolen" and will walk out of the convention or stay at home. On the other side are the many women and others strongly committed to Sen. Clinton promising that if she is denied the nomination, they will refuse to vote for Sen. Obama.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are progressive, pro-civil rights, pro-affirmative action, pro-choice Democrats. Neither Obama supporters nor Clinton supporters who care about the issues, the Supreme Court, and the need to begin withdrawing from Iraq can truly mean they will actively or passively help Sen. McCain get elected. Threats of walkouts or stay-at-homes by good Democrats are not the answer, nor should they be a factor in superdelegate decisions.

But there is one possible scenario that avoids disappointment and frustration by passionate supporters of both candidates, that combines the strengths of one with the strengths of the other, and that virtually guarantees the election of a Democratic president in 2008:

A Clinton-Obama or an Obama-Clinton ticket.

Stay tuned.

Mr. Davis, former special counsel to President Clinton in 1996-98, is a longtime friend and supporter of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
23920  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: May 31, 2008, 01:56:23 AM
Woof Rachel:

I look forward to answering you in the thoughtful manner your post deserves, but at the moment simply do not have the time due to work matters.

So for the moment, I plant you an additional question:

If the courts can change the definition of marriage from being between a man and a woman, why not poligamy too?  As the following article shows, this is not only a theoretical question.

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

John Turley-Ewart: Sharia by stealth — Ontario turns a blind eye to polygamy
Posted: May 29, 2008, 4:07 PM by John Turley-Ewart

It’s an issue the Liberal government of Ontario, led by Premier Dalton McGuinty, doesn’t want to deal with — polygamy in the Muslim community. Last week the Toronto Star told the story of Safa Rigby, a 35-year-old mother of five children who recently learned her husband of 14 years had two other wives. Ms. Rigby’s life is in tatters. She followed her husband’s advice that she leave Toronto and live in Egypt for a year on the grounds that it would be better for their children to spend more time in a Muslim country. Now she knows it was a ruse. He used her time there to marry two other women.
Ms. Rigby does not support polygamy, which has been illegal in Canada for more than a century. But Toronto Imam Aly Hindy, who runs the Toronto Salahuddin Islamic Centre, does. He married Ms. Rigby’s husband knowing he already had a wife and counselled him to keep the marriage secret from Ms. Rigby for as long as possible. Hindy has by his own admission performed 30 ceremonies in which men were married who already had wives. When Ms. Rigby confronted Hindy his response was reportedly cold and unsympathetic: “You will have to stand beside him in these difficult times,” Hindy told her. “You should stop causing problems to (sic) him. You will not get anything by divorce except destroying your life” he went on to say.

For Hindy this is not about Ms. Rigby or her husband’s desire to marry another woman — but making a broader political point.
Hindy is using polygamy as a proxy for his fundamentalist version of Islam, something he wants to see legitimized in Canadian society as a whole. It is part of an attempt at empire building, a bid that if successful will enhance his influence within the Muslim and demonstrate that Ontario and Canada is too ignorant and too afraid of Islam to uphold its own laws. He has admitted as much, challenging Ontario’s government to dare stop him. “If the laws of the country conflict with Islamic law, if one goes against the other, then I am going to follow Islamic law, simple as that,” he told the Star. Interviewed after the Star story appeared on the John Oakley Show on AM 640Toronto, Hindy was not apologetic and argued that freedom of religion in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms trumped prohibitions against polygamous marriages.
When he and another Imam from Toronto, Steve Rockwell, were challenged on the appropriateness of polygamy by a Muslim caller to the Oakley Show, the caller was immediately attacked and his identity as a true Muslim questioned because he did not follow Hindy’s view that polygamy is a foundational pillar of Islam that grows out of Sharia Law. This speaks to a troubling absolutist interpretation of Islamic law, which runs against the reality that Sharia law is much more flexible that Hindy allows for, a fact well documented by Anver Emon, a specialist in Islamic law at the University of Toronto. Moreover, as noted in the Star article on Ms. Rigby, there is grave doubt that the Charter protects Islamic polygamy, as Hindy believes. Nik Bala, who teaches family law at Queen’s University, points out that “Islam permits polygamy, but doesn’t require it to be a practising Muslim.” This is key, and may mean Hindy’s attempt to find shelter behind the Charter will fail. Moreover, the impact polygamy has on women's equality and children could also sway the courts to uphold Canada's ban on polygamy.


But there is little chance at the moment that this will become a Charter issue down the road. Dalton McGuinty’s government has responded to the revelations about polygamy in the Muslim community by denying its existence. On Wednesday Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin responded to a question on the issue in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario saying:
“Polygamy is a serious crime in Ontario . It’s not something that’s tolerated. As you know, the best advice I can give the honourable member opposite is that if she has any evidence that someone is engaging in multiple marriages, she should report it, because our Registrar General and our official reporting mechanisms have no evidence that that’s happening. As you know, Mr. Speaker, marriage is a contract. A contract require a licence, and once a marriage occurs, it has to be registered. There are no multiple marriages being registered in the province of Ontario.”
Mr. McMeekin’s response is a shameful twisting of the law. The criminal code is clear. Section 293. (1) reads: “Every one who
(a) practises or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into
(i) any form of polygamy, or
(ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time,
whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or
(b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii),
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.”
There is no provision in the law, contrary to Mr. McMeekin’s assertion in the Ontario Legislature, that a polygamous marriage has to be registered before the government can act. The opposite is in fact true.
By turning a blind eye to polygamy, Premier McGuinty is giving licence to Sharia by stealth.
In 2005 Ontario’s premier rightly ruled out Sharia family courts, conceding that Muslim women may well fair poorly if such a system was allowed to be established. The same concern exists today, yet Ontario’s Liberals sit on their hands.
Muslim women like Ms. Rigby are being victimized as are her children. Imam Hindy has told her to put up with her husband’s desire for other wives. She has properly said no and has now obtained a divorce. When will Premier McGuinty’s government say no and enforce the law it is bound to uphold?

jturley-ewart@nationalpost.com
23921  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: May 31, 2008, 01:52:37 AM
John Turley-Ewart: Sharia by stealth — Ontario turns a blind eye to polygamy
Posted: May 29, 2008, 4:07 PM by John Turley-Ewart

It’s an issue the Liberal government of Ontario, led by Premier Dalton McGuinty, doesn’t want to deal with — polygamy in the Muslim community. Last week the Toronto Star told the story of Safa Rigby, a 35-year-old mother of five children who recently learned her husband of 14 years had two other wives. Ms. Rigby’s life is in tatters. She followed her husband’s advice that she leave Toronto and live in Egypt for a year on the grounds that it would be better for their children to spend more time in a Muslim country. Now she knows it was a ruse. He used her time there to marry two other women.
Ms. Rigby does not support polygamy, which has been illegal in Canada for more than a century. But Toronto Imam Aly Hindy, who runs the Toronto Salahuddin Islamic Centre, does. He married Ms. Rigby’s husband knowing he already had a wife and counselled him to keep the marriage secret from Ms. Rigby for as long as possible. Hindy has by his own admission performed 30 ceremonies in which men were married who already had wives. When Ms. Rigby confronted Hindy his response was reportedly cold and unsympathetic: “You will have to stand beside him in these difficult times,” Hindy told her. “You should stop causing problems to (sic) him. You will not get anything by divorce except destroying your life” he went on to say.

For Hindy this is not about Ms. Rigby or her husband’s desire to marry another woman — but making a broader political point.
Hindy is using polygamy as a proxy for his fundamentalist version of Islam, something he wants to see legitimized in Canadian society as a whole. It is part of an attempt at empire building, a bid that if successful will enhance his influence within the Muslim and demonstrate that Ontario and Canada is too ignorant and too afraid of Islam to uphold its own laws. He has admitted as much, challenging Ontario’s government to dare stop him. “If the laws of the country conflict with Islamic law, if one goes against the other, then I am going to follow Islamic law, simple as that,” he told the Star. Interviewed after the Star story appeared on the John Oakley Show on AM 640Toronto, Hindy was not apologetic and argued that freedom of religion in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms trumped prohibitions against polygamous marriages.
When he and another Imam from Toronto, Steve Rockwell, were challenged on the appropriateness of polygamy by a Muslim caller to the Oakley Show, the caller was immediately attacked and his identity as a true Muslim questioned because he did not follow Hindy’s view that polygamy is a foundational pillar of Islam that grows out of Sharia Law. This speaks to a troubling absolutist interpretation of Islamic law, which runs against the reality that Sharia law is much more flexible that Hindy allows for, a fact well documented by Anver Emon, a specialist in Islamic law at the University of Toronto. Moreover, as noted in the Star article on Ms. Rigby, there is grave doubt that the Charter protects Islamic polygamy, as Hindy believes. Nik Bala, who teaches family law at Queen’s University, points out that “Islam permits polygamy, but doesn’t require it to be a practising Muslim.” This is key, and may mean Hindy’s attempt to find shelter behind the Charter will fail. Moreover, the impact polygamy has on women's equality and children could also sway the courts to uphold Canada's ban on polygamy.


But there is little chance at the moment that this will become a Charter issue down the road. Dalton McGuinty’s government has responded to the revelations about polygamy in the Muslim community by denying its existence. On Wednesday Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin responded to a question on the issue in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario saying:
“Polygamy is a serious crime in Ontario . It’s not something that’s tolerated. As you know, the best advice I can give the honourable member opposite is that if she has any evidence that someone is engaging in multiple marriages, she should report it, because our Registrar General and our official reporting mechanisms have no evidence that that’s happening. As you know, Mr. Speaker, marriage is a contract. A contract require a licence, and once a marriage occurs, it has to be registered. There are no multiple marriages being registered in the province of Ontario.”
Mr. McMeekin’s response is a shameful twisting of the law. The criminal code is clear. Section 293. (1) reads: “Every one who
(a) practises or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into
(i) any form of polygamy, or
(ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time,
whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or
(b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii),
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.”
There is no provision in the law, contrary to Mr. McMeekin’s assertion in the Ontario Legislature, that a polygamous marriage has to be registered before the government can act. The opposite is in fact true.
By turning a blind eye to polygamy, Premier McGuinty is giving licence to Sharia by stealth.
In 2005 Ontario’s premier rightly ruled out Sharia family courts, conceding that Muslim women may well fair poorly if such a system was allowed to be established. The same concern exists today, yet Ontario’s Liberals sit on their hands.
Muslim women like Ms. Rigby are being victimized as are her children. Imam Hindy has told her to put up with her husband’s desire for other wives. She has properly said no and has now obtained a divorce. When will Premier McGuinty’s government say no and enforce the law it is bound to uphold?

jturley-ewart@nationalpost.com
23922  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AQ on the Run on: May 31, 2008, 01:51:56 AM
Al Qaeda on the Run
May 31, 2008
A year ago in July, a National Intelligence Estimate warned that al Qaeda had "protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability," meaning it could be poised to strike America again. The political reaction was instantaneous and damning. "This clearly says al Qaeda is not beaten," said Michael Scheuer, the former CIA spook turned antiterror scold.

What a difference 10 months – and a surge – make.

CIA Director Michael Hayden painted a far more optimistic picture in an interview yesterday in the Washington Post. "On balance, we are doing pretty well," he said. "Near strategic defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al Qaeda globally – and here I'm going to use the word 'ideologically' – as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on their form of Islam."

What happened? To certain sophisticates, this is all al Qaeda's doing: By launching suicide attacks on Shiite and even Sunni targets, and ruling barbarically wherever they took control, the group has worn out its welcome in the Muslim world.

There's some truth in this. The Sunni Awakening in Iraq was in part a reaction by local clan leaders against al Qaeda's efforts to subjugate and brutalize them. The Arab world took note when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ordered the November 2005 bombing of three hotels in Amman, Jordan, in which nearly all of the victims were Sunni Arabs. Extremist Islamic parties took an electoral drubbing in Pakistan's elections earlier this year following a wave of suicide bombings, one of which murdered Benazir Bhutto.

It's also true that al Qaeda finds itself on the ideological backfoot, even in radical circles. As our Bret Stephens reported in March, Sayyed Imam, a founder of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and once a mentor to Ayman al Zawahiri, has written an influential manifesto sternly denouncing his former comrades for their methods and theology. This was enough to prompt a 215-page rebuttal from Zawahiri, who seems to have time on his hands. Lawrence Wright in the New Yorker and Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank in the New Republic have recently written about similar jihadist defections.

But the U.S. offensives in Afghanistan and especially Iraq deserve most of the credit. The destruction of the Taliban denied al Qaeda one sanctuary, and the U.S. seems to have picked up the pace of Predator strikes in Pakistan – or at least their success rate. This has damaged al Qaeda's freedom of movement and command-and-control.

As for Iraq, Zawahiri himself last month repeated his claim that the country "is now the most important arena in which our Muslim nation is waging the battle against the forces of the Crusader-Zionist campaign." So it's all the more significant that on this crucial battleground, al Qaeda has been decimated by the surge of U.S. forces into Baghdad. The surge, in turn, gave confidence to the Sunni tribes that this was a fight they could win. For Zawahiri, losing the battles you say you need to win is not a way to collect new recruits.

General Hayden was careful to say the threat continues, and he warned specifically about those in Congress and the media who "[focus] less on the threat and more on the tactics the nation has chosen to deal with the threat." This refers to the political campaign to restrict wiretapping and aggressive interrogation, both of which the CIA director says have been crucial to gathering intelligence that has blocked further terrorist spectaculars that would have burnished al Qaeda's prestige.

One irony here is that Barack Obama is promising a rapid withdrawal from Iraq on grounds that we can't defeat al Qaeda unless we focus on Afghanistan. He opposed the Iraq surge on similar grounds. Yet it is the surge, and the destruction of al Qaeda in Iraq, that has helped to demoralize al Qaeda around the world. Nothing would more embolden Zawahiri now than a U.S. retreat from Iraq, which al Qaeda would see as the U.S. version of the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan.

It is far too soon to declare victory over al Qaeda. Still, Mr. Hayden's upbeat assessment is encouraging, and it suggests that President Bush's strategy of taking the battle to the terrorists is making America safer.

WSJ
23923  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: May 31, 2008, 01:38:36 AM
Very good Poi Dog.

Can you guys keep a secret?
23924  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Win Win on: May 31, 2008, 01:31:47 AM
Woof All:

About 6 weeks ago I had a very productive conversation with the principal and got her to agree in principal with the concept of the right of self-defense.  She agreed to have me help her draft the language for next year's school handbook.  Today we finally got around to it.

Here is the language we agreed upon:


"FIGHTING:   Part of a good education is learning how to resolve conflict peacefully and we take that seriously here at __________.  If a student is being harassed or bullied, the proper solution is to report the matter to a teacher or other school authority.  The matter will then be mediated in a civilized manner.  Parental support in this area is particularly important. 
 
"At the same time, of course we recognize that everyone has the right to defend his/herself if attacked.   Of course distinguishing self-defense and fighting can sometimes be quite a challenge!
 
"In the event of an altercation, it is the responsibility of the principal or designee to interview all students who were involved and any witnesses.  A determination will be made based upon the facts as to whether or not an attack which was defended or fighting occurred.  Then the principal/designee will make a determination on the merits and as to suitable punishment, if any.  Know that  two children claiming "He started it!" is likely to be resolved with the punishment of both."
 
The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog

23925  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Spelling reform? on: May 30, 2008, 09:42:15 PM
National Spelling Bee
Brings Out Protesters
Who R Thru With Through
Rewriting the P's and Q's Is Quest
Of Group That Prefers Phonetics
By REBECCA DANA
May 30, 2008; Page A1

A fyoo duhzen ambishuhss intelectchooals, a handful ov British skool teechers and wuhn rokit siuhntist ar triing to chang the way we spel.

They are the leaders of the spelling-reform movement, a passionate but sporadic 800-year-old campaign to simplify English orthography. In its long and failure-ridden history, the movement has tried to convince an indifferent public of the need for a spelling system based on pronunciation.

TONGUE? TONGE? TOUNG? TUNG?

 
 
Read arguments for and against simplified spelling as far back as the 15th century.
ROZEVULT'S LIST

 
Review the 300 simplified spellings President Roosevelt designated for use in government documents in August 1906.Reformers, including Mark Twain, Charles Darwin and Theodore Roosevelt, argued that phonetic spellings would make it easier for children, foreigners and adults with learning disabilities to read and write. For centuries, few listened, and the movement, exhausted by its own rhetoric and disputes within its ranks, sputtered out. It's back.

Spelling reform is currently enjoying a renaissance in the U.S. and Britain. At a time when young people are inventing their own shorthand for email and text messages, the reformers see a fresh opportunity 2 convert people 2 the cause.

In recent years, the ranks of Britain's Spelling Society and the American Literacy Council have swelled from a few stalwart members to more than 500, which in this effort is a lot. Reformers are energized: Some are writing to dictionary editors urging them to include simplified spellings in new editions. Others are organizing academic conferences, including one on June 7 in Coventry, England, on "The Cost of Spelling." The American Literacy Council just allocated $45,000 of its $250,000 private endowment to develop a series of DVDs using simplified spelling to teach English to international students. The Spelling Society has hired its first publicist.

 
Getty Images 
Pierce Dageforde of Omaha, Neb., misspelled his word Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.
And in their most effective initiative to date, reformers organize a protest every year outside the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which ends today.

Still, no one is particularly optimistic.

"It probably won't happen," says Edward Rondthaler, the father of the modern American spelling-reform movement, chairman emeritus of the ALC and a founder of the International Typeface Council. Mr. Rondthaler is 102 years old and lives on the bank of the Croton River in New York, in a Sears Roebuck house he bought for $7,000 in 1941. After a lifetime spent at the helm of a movement that has made no significant progress, he is still an advocate of spelling reform.

"I have always known it would not happen, but I worked for it anyway, because it should happen," he says. "We have 42 different sounds in English, and we spell them 400 different ways. Isn't that a rather silly thing to do?"

Dream Scenario

About 30 million Americans are functionally illiterate, meaning they lack basic written communications skills, according to the most recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy, conducted by the U.S. Department of Education. The reformers believe Byzantine word spellings that evolved from the English language's Latin, Greek, French, German and Scandinavian roots are to blame. In their dream scenario, a sik person wud cof, a hapee person wud laf, and no American child wud ever spend his free time studeeing for a speling bee.

 
But even as Americans struggle to learn to read, popular culture celebrates master spellers. At least three major films about spelling have been made in recent years: "Bee Season," the documentary "Spellbound," and "Akeelah and the Bee." The hit Broadway musical "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" closed in January after 1,136 performances. Such is the interest in competitive spelling these days that Disney's ABC television network will air the final two hours of the National Spelling Bee live in prime time tonight.

The spelling reformers are trying to capitalize on the moment. Every year, a group travels to the Bee site, the Grand Hyatt in Washington, to hold a protest on the sidewalk outside. They hand out pamphlets and pins that say "I'm Thru with Through." Some dress as bumblebees. Last year, the protesters spent much of the $1,500 budget allotted to them by the American Literacy Council, to hire a Benjamin Franklin impersonator to articulate for children, television cameras and other passersby the Founding Father's advocacy of spelling reform. They stress that they are protesting the words themselves, not the children who are competing.

The Bee protest was the brainchild of Alan Mole, president of the ALC and a rocket scientist -- an aerospace stress analyst -- in Colorado. It is organized every year by Elizabeth Kuizenga, a California teacher of English-as-a-second-language and the mother of the actress Rebecca Romijn (pronounced romaine). Ms. Kuizenga says she became interested in spelling reform as a child, when she mispronounced the word "ignorance" and her parents laughed at her.

Many other languages have undertaken spelling reforms in the 20th century, including French, Greek, Spanish, Swedish, Irish, Japanese and Hebrew. In 1996, four German-speaking countries agreed on a comprehensive spelling reform of the language. Ms. Kuizenga wondered: "Why not English?"

Dating back to a 13th-century monk named Orm, the spelling-reform movement was a pet project for religious leaders and ivory-tower intellectuals for much of its history. Noah Webster catapulted the movement into relevance in the 18th century, when he created a new, distinctly American orthography on a patriotic impulse, around the time of the Revolutionary War. Webster, who died in 1843, is why Americans write "color" instead of "colour" and "theater" instead of "theatre." He fought his whole life for government-mandated spelling reform and died despondent that it never happened.

Campaign for Reform

Later, a group of determined professors from Oxford, Columbia and Yale took up Webster's cause and began campaigning for widespread reform. The movement reached its apogee on Aug. 20, 1906, when President Theodore Roosevelt, a terrible speller, officially changed the spelling of 300 English words.

 
What seemed like a good idea -- changing "through" to "thru," and so on -- turned into a humiliating disaster. Newspapers mocked him as "Rozevult." Congress voted 142-24 to overturn the order.

Modern Critics

Modern critics find a number of faults with the theory of spelling reform. Some consider English spelling beautiful because each word reflects its own evolutionary history. Others argue the idea of phonetic spelling fails to take dialect into account, since pronunciation varies widely from one English-speaking place to another. Finally, the spelling-reform movement has never been able to settle on a single simplification scheme.

But hope springs eternal. "People think we're suggesting a major change in the English language," says Ms. Kuizenga. "We don't even think that's possible, and we certainly don't see any point to it. We're all people who love the English language just as much as anyone, if not more. We just want to make it a little easier to spell."
23926  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islamic indoctrination in a Texas public school on: May 30, 2008, 05:16:08 PM
Public school students at Friendswood Junior High in the Houston area have been roped into Islamic training by representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations during class time, prompting religious leaders to protest over Principal Robin Lowe's actions.
Pastor Dave Welch, spokesman for the Houston Area Pastor Council, confirmed the indoctrination had taken place and called it "unacceptable."
"The failure of the principal of Friendswood Junior High to respect simple procedures requiring parental notification for such a potentially controversial subject, to not only approve but participate personally in a religious indoctrination session led by representatives of a group with well-known links to terrorist organizations and her cavalier response when confronted, raises serious questions about her fitness to serve in that role," the pastors' organization said. According to a parent, whose name was withheld, the children were given the Islamic indoctrination during time that was supposed to be used for a physical education class.

The rest here:

http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=65659
23927  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: May 30, 2008, 02:10:30 PM
Yes I can.
23928  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Run against Congress on: May 30, 2008, 01:44:53 PM
McCain Should Run Against Congress
May 30, 2008
WSJ

When House Minority Leader John Boehner is asked whether his party needs to distance itself from George W. Bush, he likes to point out the president isn't on the ticket this fall. True. Several hundred incumbent GOP members of Congress are, however, and don't think John McCain hasn't noticed.

With Congress's approval rating at record lows, the time is ripe for a slam campaign. Barack Obama won't do it, since his Democratic colleagues are running the joint. But it's a huge opportunity for Mr. McCain, who could play Congress's failings off his promises for reform. Even as Republicans sagely warn their nominee to distance himself from the president, they're beginning to see that his more productive option might just be to throw them – and Congressional Democrats – under the Straight Talk bus.

 
AP 
Mr. McCain could take encouragement from history. Harry Truman managed a 1948 victory by trashing the "Do Nothing Congress." Upstart Barry Goldwater in 1952 told Arizonans that Majority Leader Ernest McFarland represented the mess in Washington, and snatched the Democrat's seat. Tom Daschle followed McFarland, after being pilloried for turning the Senate into a dead zone.

Today's Congress is ripe for a shredding. The GOP kicked off an era of public disgust with its corruption and loss of principle, a reputation it has yet to shake. Democrats have, impressively, managed to alienate voters further with inaction and broken promises. Congress has come to represent the institutional malaise that so frustrates voters. That distaste explains this year's appetite for "change."

Mr. McCain could play off that hunger, and in the process provide his campaign with the theme it still sorely needs. Mr. Obama has his "change" slogan, but as of yet no innovative policies to hang on it. Mr. McCain's problem is opposite: He's laid out smart ideas – an optional flat tax, health-care tax credits, a veto of all earmarks – but has yet to find a narrative to bring them together. One solution: Latch on to a subject that today occupies only a part of his speeches – the promise of "political reform" – and turn it into a full-fledged philosophy. Theme: "Your government has failed you, and here's how I plan to fix it."

Congress is the embodiment of that failure, and Mr. McCain could use it to draw distinctions. He could swivel the focus away from the Bush comparison, and toward Mr. Obama's kinship with today's all-talk Democratic Congress. He could tell voters that the party they feel is today failing them in the Capitol will also fail them in the White House.

As for bad-mouthing the GOP as part of this process, it isn't likely Mr. McCain would offend his conservative base. Most of it is already offended by Congress. His criticism of today's diminished GOP brand, and a promise to revive it, might even help him with the rank-and-file, and would certainly draw independents.

Mr. McCain has so far only flirted with this idea. He wrote an op-ed criticizing the farm bill, but it was largely an abstract complaint about policy. He might have instead made its focus the skewering of a Congress that relentlessly shovels subsidies to agribusiness, and then directly tied that naked vote-buying to today's high prices. A proponent of entitlement reform, he could flay Congress for its decades of inaction on Social Security. His earmark criticism might name names, including those in his party, whose pork addiction has sullied politics. If he's looking for suggestions, he could start with the Alaska delegation.

Mild as Mr. McCain's criticism has been, it's already got Republicans spooked. Many in the party resisted falling in behind his reform message, and some worry that's already taking a toll – creating difficulties even in races that should have been easy.

Consider: As part of his condemnation of the farm bill, Mr. McCain singled out a $93 million earmark for racehorses. While Mr. McCain avoided naming the author, it happened to be Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Mr. McConnell has bragged in ads about the pork he brings home to Kentucky, even as his election opponents (taking their cue from Mr. McCain) use those earmarks to paint him as part of a Washington crony culture.

Republicans haven't been worried about Mr. McConnell's seat, and a recent Rasmussen poll has Mr. McCain with a whopping 25 percentage-point lead over Mr. Obama in the state. Yet that same poll had Mr. McConnell's opponent with a five percentage-point lead. And only 67% of declared McCain voters said they'd vote for their four-term Republican senator.

If Congressional Republicans were smart, they'd be figuring out now how to get some protection from a potential McCain onslaught. A unilateral earmark ban? A new resolve against the farm bill? They'd better think of something. If Mr. McCain does take aim at the big, fat Congressional target in front of him, right now it's the GOP, as much as Democrats, that he'll hit.

Write to kim@wsj.com
23929  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: May 30, 2008, 11:41:28 AM
Which is my point exactly-- sexual energies do not belong in military units, especially combat units, lest they sow doubt and discord.

Again, I have not served, so I leave this to those that have-- but I do note that civilian interventions, e.g. by President Hillbillary Clinton, puts at risk the careers of those with thinking similar to mine should they express that thinking.
23930  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: May 30, 2008, 11:28:58 AM
Punong Guro Edgar Sulite made such a ball for me back in 1990-- which is quite a bit before the modern medicine ball craze  wink  He also gave me a couple of special exercises, which now that I write about them here I remind myself I need to get back to them embarassed
23931  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Rare uncontacted tribe photographed in Amazon on: May 30, 2008, 11:15:04 AM
Woof Maxx:

This may stay posted for only a few days.  Would you please post the content as well?

TIA,
CD
23932  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Ghurkas in Iraq? and anyone know what system of Hand To Hand they use? on: May 29, 2008, 07:12:10 PM
Mike Mai of El Segundo is trained by GM Gyi in the Kukri.  I do not know his criteria for people who wish to learn it.

GM Gyi has been a good teacher to me and is an outstanding martial artist.  I will say though that I did not feel fairly treated in my dealings with the prime website which attacks him concerning the legitimacy of his record.  Last time I looked (several years ago) they were still soliciting accusations that were both anonymous and hearsay-- which is not my idea of the right way to bring a man down.  Regardless of the merits of the matter I find it remarkable how many people simply fail to note this point, but I digress , , ,  I leave it to him to defend himself from these accusations or not.  He has stated for the record that he regrets any errors/mistakes and never meant to hurt anyone.  He is now well into his 70s and as far as I know is dedicating himself to teaching yoga and his Bando Monk system.
23933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: May 29, 2008, 12:13:28 PM
Clinton Time

Hillary Clinton continues to feverishly campaign, convinced she can pull out a symbolic nationwide popular-vote lead when the final states finish their primaries on June 3.

Right now, she actually leads Barack Obama by a hair if the Florida and Michigan primary votes are counted, but the Democratic National Committee has ruled those votes invalid. If Mrs. Clinton does well in Puerto Rico this coming weekend, she could overtake Mr. Obama in the popular vote even excluding Michigan, where he removed himself from the ballot and she didn't.

Of course, Mr. Obama's simple reply is that it's only delegates that count and right now he has 190 more delegates than she does. But that won't stop Mrs. Clinton from using every argument on the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee's special meeting that will be held this Saturday. She has already compared the need to seat the delegations of the two states to the abolition of slavery and the likely stolen election in Zimbabwe. She scored a half victory when party lawyers conceded at least the principle this week, issuing a brief recommending that half the Florida and Michigan delegates be seated.

In the end, the result will likely be determined more by raw political power than rhetoric, logical or strained. The 30-member committee has 13 Hillary backers serving on it, eight Obama supporters and the rest haven't declared a preference. The most likely outcome? Don Fowler, a former chair of the DNC who supports Mrs. Clinton, thinks the committee is likely to relent and seat some delegates, but he says "even I would assert that there has to be some kind of retribution, some kind of sanction" for the two states jumping the DNC's primary calendar.

But that may not end the matter. If Mrs. Clinton doesn't like the result and is still contesting the nomination, she is free to appeal any decision to the party's Credentials Committee. That committee could hold its first meeting on the matter as early as June 29.

Mr. Obama and the media have more or less declared the Democratic nomination fight over. But Mrs. Clinton knows that as soon as the primaries end, the contest moves into the backrooms where legal maneuvering and strong-arm tactics are in play. For those looking for a reason why Mrs. Clinton is continuing to fight on, everyone knows those are skills the Clintons excel in.

-- John Fund

Democrats, Be Careful What You Wish For

On Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Clinton sent a letter to all Democratic superdelegates in which she makes what may be her final plea for the nomination. Brush away the gobbledygook and we are left with this key paragraph:

"I am ahead in states that have been critical to victory in the past two elections. From Ohio, to Pennsylvania, to West Virginia and beyond, the results of recent primaries in battleground states show that I have strong support from the regions and demographics Democrats need to take back the White House. I am also currently ahead of Senator McCain in Gallup national tracking polls, while Senator Obama is behind him. And nearly all independent analyses show that I am in a stronger position to win the Electoral College, primarily because I lead Senator McCain in Florida and Ohio."

Unfortunately for Mrs. Clinton, it is also almost certainly too late. Whether it's the superdelegates or the Democratic National Committee, everyone wants the race to end soon after the final primaries are held next week. And the only way for it to end quickly is to give the nomination to Sen. Barack Obama.

That may turn out to be a mistake for Democrats, because Mrs. Clinton's case -- that she is the strongest general election candidate -- continues to be supported by the polls. Gallup recently looked at the 20 states where Mrs. Clinton has prevailed in the popular vote this primary season and found that she "is currently running ahead of McCain... while Obama is tied with McCain in those same states." Those states include Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Arkansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan -- all swing states come the general election. In Gallup's analysis of these swing states, Mrs. Clinton leads Mr. McCain by six points, while Mr. Obama is losing to Mr. McCain by three points.

Gallup further notes that "Clinton's 20 states represent more than 300 Electoral College votes while Obama's 28 states and the District of Columbia represent only 224 Electoral College votes." In the general election, Mrs. Clinton would not win every state she has won in the primaries, nor would Mr. Obama lose every state in the general he has lost in the primaries. But things get trickier for Mr. Obama. As Gallup found, in the 28 states Mr. Obama has won this primary season, "he is performing no better than Clinton is in general-election trial heats versus McCain." With little else to go on at this stage in the general election, Gallup's analysis should be a powerful tool in Mrs. Clinton's campaign for superdelegates.

And yet at this point there is not much the superdelegates can do if they wish to avoid a contested convention. But remember these numbers (and Mrs. Clinton's letter), because if nominating Mr. Obama turns out to be the blunder this data suggests it could be, then all the finger-pointing and recriminations that will come after the first Tuesday in November will wind its way back to where we are right now.

-- Blake Dvorak, RealClearPolitics.com

Quote of the Day I

"If Scott McClellan's allegations about President Bush sound as if he copied them from the editorial page of any liberal newspaper, there is a reason for it: As White House press secretary, McClellan was not privy to sensitive policy decisions and therefore has no specifics to back up his charges.... [H]e alleges that the administration repeatedly shaded the truth [in making the case for the Iraq war] and that Bush 'managed the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option.' McClellan cites no details, and for good reason. McClellan was not invited to attend classified meetings where the decisions about going to war were discussed" -- Ronald Kessler, Washington bureau chief for Newsmax.com, on former White House media adviser Scott McClellan's new book criticizing the selling of the Iraq war.

Quote of the Day II

"If he revs up the Republican convention and speaks for John McCain... I will feel a disappointment and a hurt. But I hope Democrats will give him a pass for the same reason that I would give him a pass and forgive him, because he's a progressive Democrat who gave us [control of] the U.S. Senate. To do otherwise smacks of cynicism, revenge, and lack of gratitude" -- former Clinton adviser and Lieberman friend Lanny Davis, quoted in the National Journal on the growing mood among Senate Democrats and staffers to punish Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman for supporting Republican John McCain for president.

Local Hero

Mitt Romney may be adding another state to the long list for which he can claim a personal connection should he choose to run for president again. Later this month, the former venture capitalist and governor is closing on a home in La Jolla, just north of San Diego. Mr. Romney's office says he has no intention of running for statewide office in California, noting that one of his five sons lives near San Diego and his wife Ann often visits the area to ride horses.

But owning a house in the state that sends the largest single delegation to Republican conventions certainly could help Mr. Romney, as it would facilitate building relationships with donors, officeholders and volunteers. Last week, Mr. Romney announced he was forming the Free and Strong America political action committee to facilitate his funneling support to fellow Republicans.

With California added, Mr. Romney now has an impressive list of places he can sort of call "home." He was born in Michigan, where his late father's record as governor helped him carry that state's primary this year. He successfully ran the 2000 Winter Olympics in Utah, where he also maintains a home. Then there is his summer home in New Hampshire, a useful staging area for meeting voters in the nation's first primary state. Oh, and then finally there is Massachusetts, where Mr. Romney spent much of his business career and where he served as governor from 2003 to 2007.

All in all, an impressive haul. The five states where Mr. Romney either has homes or family ties represent a fifth of the country's population. That puts to shame even Hillary Clinton's multiple state connections which involved Illinois where she was born, Arkansas where she was First Lady, and New York where she was elected to the Senate.

23934  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Florida Revelation on: May 29, 2008, 07:16:58 AM
The Florida Revelation . . .
May 29, 2008; Page A16
Republicans in Congress may be out of gas, but that doesn't mean conservative ideas aren't percolating elsewhere, and even on the supposedly Democratic stronghold of health care. Take the news from Florida, where GOP Governor Charlie Crist succeeded last week in moving an innovative reform through the state legislature.

The Sunshine State has about 3.8 million people without insurance, or about 21% of the population, the fourth-highest rate in the country. The "Cover Florida" plan hopes to improve those numbers by offering access to more affordable policies. As even Barack Obama says, the main reason people are uninsured isn't because they don't want to be; it's because coverage is too expensive.

 
But the Florida reform, which both houses of the legislature approved unanimously, renounces Mr. Obama's favored remedy: It nudges the government out of the health-care marketplace. Insurance companies will be permitted to sell stripped-down, no-frills policies exempted from the more than 50 mandates that Florida otherwise imposes, including for acupuncture and chiropractics. The new plans will be designed to cost as little as $150 a month, or less.

Mr. Crist observed that state regulations increase the cost of health coverage, and thus rightly decided to do away with at least some of them. It's hard to believe, but this qualifies as a revelation in the policy world of health insurance. The new benefit packages will be introduced sometime next year and include minimum coverage for primary care and catastrophic expenses for major illness.

Critics are already saying that, without mandates, the plan won't guarantee quality of care. That's purportedly why the states have imposed more than 1,900 specific-coverage obligations. But invariably mandates are the product of special-interest lobbying. Health-care providers – not consumers – are always asking for tighter regulation, because they profit from making everyone subsidize generous plans that cover, say, podiatry or infertility treatment. Given the choice, consumers might choose policies that cover some services but not others.

These government rules are imposed without regard for how much they will cost and who will bear the burden. In practice, the costs are disproportionately carried by lower- and middle-income workers, who already on average have more limited insurance coverage as part of their compensation, or none at all. When prices rise because of mandates, the less affluent are often forced to make an all-or-nothing choice between "Cadillac coverage," which involves just about everything, or going uninsured. In other words, they're prohibited from buying the lower-cost options that might be better suited to their needs.

Governor Crist is to be credited for removing this artificial, regressive floor on plans. It's a simple matter of equity. And though the plan will only enroll those who have gone without coverage for six months, it also creates a clearinghouse that will let small businesses that can't afford coverage offer their employees a variety of similar policies.

Despite his often populist brand of politics (such as on hurricane insurance), Mr. Crist also avoided the typical liberal health-care response of expanding public programs. Mitt Romney should have taken this route in Massachusetts, but fell instead for the siren song of "universal coverage," even if provided by the government. Florida is already having a tough fiscal year, but such state-level expansions are often pushed anyway.

Some 13 states currently offer bare-bones policies on a full or trial-run basis. While not a cure-all, they're movement in the right direction – especially as the states can't do anything about the continuing tax bias for employer-provided health insurance. That kind of much-needed change can only come from Washington, as John McCain is proposing.

The Florida success also shows the political benefits when Republicans talk seriously about health care. Mr. Crist has made increasing consumer choice a signature issue. When Mr. McCain talked up his health-care reforms earlier this spring, he did so in Tampa. He chose the right state.
23935  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Diversity in faculties of men on: May 29, 2008, 07:08:45 AM
"The diversity in the faculties of men from which the rights
of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a
uniformity of interests.  The protection of these faculties is
the first object of government."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 10, 23 November 1787)

Reference: Madison, Federalist No. 10 (78)
23936  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Time to bust Telmex on: May 29, 2008, 07:02:25 AM
It's Time to Bust the Telmex Monopoly
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
May 19, 2008; Page A13
WSJ

It is a decade overdue, but Mexico finally has a clear path to ending the near-monopoly status of Telmex – Carlos Slim's Telefonos de Mexico. Whether President Felipe Calderón seizes the day will signal just how serious he is about modernizing his country's economy.

The cost to the economy of Telmex's dominance cannot be overstated. Lack of competition is the reason Mexicans pay some of the highest telecom charges in the developed world, according to a report last year by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. It's also the reason Mexicans' access to telephone services – landlines and mobile – is "one of the lowest in the OECD." As a result, while the world forges ahead in the information age, Mexico is being left in the Stone Age.

 
Mexico finally has a clear path to ending Telmex's near-monopoly. But will President Felipe Calderón seize the opportunity? Americas columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady reports. (May 18)
Good news came last week when the government ordered Telmex to provide interconnection to a key competitor. It is the first time since 1997, when Telmex's monopoly privileges ran out, that the government has been willing to enforce the terms of the 1990 concession title. That is the agreement signed at the time of privatization.

Even so, the ruling does nothing to solve the main cause of Mexico's inefficient and costly telecom market. Until Telmex is forced to provide competitive pricing to non-Telmex carriers that have to use the network, and simple number portability to customers who want to switch to other carriers, competition will not evolve. Telmex should also have to cease its practice of cross-subsidizing its telephony businesses.

Until now, Mr. Slim has been an immoveable object. When his monopoly privileges expired in 1997, regulators tried to make him provide network access, at competitive rates, to the other carriers. But by then he had gotten used to the spoils of the monopoly. Whenever regulators have tried to force competitive practices, he has used the courts to block them.

Mexico's largest special interest is also known for using his influence in the halls of Congress and with the executive. During the presidency of Vicente Fox (2000-2006), a former Telmex employee was miraculously named the minister of communication and transport. Judging from how little was accomplished under Mr. Fox, that minister wasn't shy about looking after his former boss's interests.

 THE AMERICAS IN THE NEWS

 
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.Until now, Mexicans have been wary of crossing the powerful Mr. Slim, who is said to control 40% of advertising in the country. But the problems caused by Telmex's uncompetitive practices can no longer be ignored. To that end the telecom regulator, known by the Spanish acronym Cofetel, has drafted a proposal aimed at creating an environment where competition can flourish. The initiative calls for interconnection for all competitors at cost-based rates. It would also introduce an institutional framework similar to that of most OECD countries, and bring Mexico into compliance with the World Trade Organization.

The trouble is that Mr. Slim has already shown that he can litigate to eternity anything coming from the regulator. So even if the new regulation is adopted, Telmex is likely to use the injunction process to block its effectiveness. That is, unless Mr. Calderón trades Mr. Slim something for his cooperation.

Economic giants have gigantic appetites, and Mr. Slim's needs to be fed again. Having consumed Mexican telephony, he now wants to begin eating into the television market by delivering video. But the terms of his 1990 purchase of Telmex strictly forbid such an expansion.

So all the Calderón government has to do to tame the Telmex beast is to enforce the terms of the existing title concession. This would mean that the company would have to adopt accounting practices that avoid cross-subsidization. It also would mean making it clear to Mr. Slim that the Telmex concession title prohibits the provision of television services.

If Telmex wants to change the terms of that original contract so it can compete in video, Mr. Calderón should exact a price. If the company otherwise complies with its original obligations, the Cofetel plan can be put on the table, along with a fee, as the cost of a television license.

Standing firm on this point is important to the future of both television and telephony in Mexico. Right now cable companies are trying to deliver telephone services, but Telmex's interconnection rates are making it difficult to compete. Mr. Slim will crush these midsized competitors if he is allowed to offer video without opening telephony.

The Slim dynasty cannot prosper if it cannot expand into television. If Mexican regulators get smart and begin to aggressively privatize the wireless spectrum, its odds are even slimmer. That's why this is the moment to drive a stake through the heart of the Telmex monopoly. If Mr. Calderón passes up the chance, he will seal his own fate as a reformer and practically guarantee that Mexico will fail to live up to its potential in the next decade.
23937  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: May 29, 2008, 06:30:04 AM
I don't understand how the US legal system has obtained jurisdiction over battlefield matters in Iraq:

http://www.blackfive.net/
23938  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Asian Banks and Rising Commodity Prices on: May 29, 2008, 12:39:33 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Asian Banks and Rising Commodity Prices
May 28, 2008
Export-based economies that depend on a steady stream of dollars are beginning to feel the effects of an economic slowdown in the United States. This was evident Tuesday when central banks in Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and South Korea began selling dollars in what is most likely an effort to strengthen their currencies against the dollar — a conscious decision to demote the importance of cheap exports in favor of controlling inflation.

Typically, East Asian countries hoard dollars in order to keep their own currencies weak. Weak currencies translate into lower prices and higher demand from foreign markets which in turn supports the export-centric East Asian economies. But this system works best when the dollar is strong and the price low for raw material like minerals (including oil), building supplies and food.

Right now this is not the case. With oil at $130 per barrel, grain prices at record highs and raw materials in fierce demand, the situation is becoming dire for manufacturing economies.

The currency-strengthening move undertaken by the central banks Tuesday is a shift in policy. Historically, a weak-currency export strategy has been a mainstay in East Asian economies. In fact, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore all dragged themselves out of post World War II doldrums using this strategy. Since then, they have migrated from manufacturing-based economies to ones that are technological and service-centered. Others like Indonesia (which is still largely agriculturally based) are also hurting from the recent rise in commodity, energy and food prices but not to the degree of a manufacturing-based economy.

The recent currency manipulation strategy raises the specter of the East Asian financial crisis, set off by the Thai government’s decision in 1997 to float the baht. While the events Tuesday do not necessarily signal the beginning of another crisis, they certainly show that at least a few East Asian countries have hit some sort of threshold. They can no longer keep up with rising commodity prices. While Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and South Korea are lower- and mid-level economies in East Asia, the decisions by their central banks are important, especially as a sign of what may come.

In fact, the real pain from high commodity prices is not necessarily being felt by the countries that tinkered with their currencies Tuesday, but by China and Thailand. As of 2006, manufacturing made up 41 percent and 35 percent of the Chinese and Thai economies respectively. By far, these countries operate the most manufacturing-dependent economies in East Asia.

In China and Thailand, factories are the backbone of the economy. In order to fuel the machines that produce the goods, these economies demand electricity, heat and large amounts of commodities ranging from iron to copper to platinum. Trucks, trains and boats are required to get those products to port and all consume fuel also. Compared to economies such as Japan, which is much more technology- and service-based, China and Thailand use far more energy and raw materials per dollar of wealth created.

Therein lies their weakness. China in particular is feeling the pain of high commodity prices. Like the other East Asian countries, it also has an export-based economy. But China’s case is special in that its top priority is political stability — a balance derived by providing its people with basic requirements like food. Thus far, China has been successful in doing so by reaping the benefits of a red-hot economy that has brought it wealth at a rapid pace. But rising commodity prices threaten the country’s economy and political stability in two ways. First, the high cost of raw materials and energy means that factories are seeing their already-tight profit margins shrink even further. Second, the rising cost of food can quickly lead to social upheaval if workers cannot afford to feed their families.

Although it has not employed the same methodology as the central banks on Tuesday, China has been taking action to strengthen its currency gradually since July 2005 — not by selling off dollars that it holds, but by making its yuan policy more flexible.

While other countries can buy breathing room by selling off chunks of U.S. dollars, the same luxury does not exist for China. If the yuan stays relatively weak against the dollar, then the country will continue to suffer high commodity prices and become vulnerable to food and energy shortages and thus social unrest. However, if China suddenly ramps up the current gradual strengthening of the yuan, then it risks shuttering factories that depend on exports and thus increasing unemployment. China also runs the risk of devaluing a significant portion of the approximately $1.7 trillion in savings it holds in foreign exchange reserves.

Ultimately, these actions — and those taken by the central banks Tuesday — do not change the fact that China, like all manufacturing-heavy economies, is in for some challenging times ahead.
23939  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove says on: May 29, 2008, 12:28:37 AM
Obama's Revisionist History
By KARL ROVE
May 29, 2008; Page A15

This week's minor controversy about Barack Obama's claim that an uncle liberated Auschwitz was quickly put to rest by his campaign. They conceded that it was a great uncle whose unit liberated Buchenwald, 500 miles away.

But other, much more troubling, episodes have provided a revealing glimpse into a candidate who instinctively resorts to parsing, evasions and misdirection. The saga over Rev. Jeremiah Wright is Exhibit A. In just 62 days, Americans were treated to eight different explanations.

First, on Feb. 25, Mr. Obama downplayed Rev. Wright's divisiveness, saying he was "like an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don't agree with." A week later, Mr. Obama insisted, "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial," suggesting that Rev. Wright was criticized because "he was one of the leaders in calling for divestment from South Africa and some other issues like that."

The issue exploded on March 13, when ABC showed excerpts from Rev. Wright's sermons. Mr. Obama's spokesman said the senator "deeply disagrees" with Rev. Wright's statements, but "now that he is retired, that doesn't detract from Sen. Obama's affection for Rev. Wright or his appreciation for the good works he has done."

The next day, Mr. Obama offered a fourth defense: "The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation." Mr. Obama also told the Chicago Tribune, "In fairness to him, this was sort of a greatest hits. They basically culled five or six sermons out of 30 years of preaching."

Then, four days later, in Philadelphia, Mr. Obama finally repudiated Rev. Wright's comments, saying they "denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation." But Mr. Obama went on to say, "I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother. . . ."

Ten days later, Mr. Obama said if Rev. Wright had not retired as Trinity's pastor, and "had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended . . . then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there at the church." (Never mind that Rev. Wright had made no such acknowledgment.)

On April 28, at the National Press Club, Rev. Wright re-emerged – not to apologize but to repeat some of his most offensive lines. This provoked an eighth defense: "[W]hatever relationship I had with Rev. Wright has changed, as a consequence of this. I don't think that he showed much concern for me. More importantly, I don't think he showed much concern for what we are trying to do in this campaign . . . ." Self-interest is a powerful, but not noble, sentiment in politics.

The Rev. Wright affair is just one instance where the Illinois senator has said something wrong or offensive, and then offered shifting explanations for his views. Consider flag pins.

Mr. Obama told an Iowa radio station last October he didn't wear an American flag lapel pin because, after 9/11, it had "became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues . . . ." His campaign issued a statement that "Senator Obama believes that being a patriot is about more than a symbol." To highlight his own moral superiority, he denigrated the patriotism of those who wore a flag.

Yet by April, campaigning in culturally conservative Pennsylvania, Mr. Obama was blaming others for the controversy he'd created, claiming, "I have never said that I don't wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins. This is the kind of manufactured issue that our politics has become obsessed with and, once again, distracts us . . . ." A month later Mr. Obama was once again wearing a pin, saying "Sometimes I wear it, sometimes I don't."

The Obama revision tour has been seen elsewhere. Last July, Mr. Obama pledged to meet personally and without precondition, during his first year, the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. Criticized afterwards, he made his pledge more explicitly, naming Iranian President Ahmadinejad and Venezuela strongman Hugo Chávez as leaders he would grace with first-year visits.

By October, Mr. Obama was backpedaling, talking about needing "some progress or some indication of good faith," and by April, "sufficient preparation." It got so bad his foreign policy advisers were (falsely) denying he'd ever said he'd meet with Mr. Ahmadinejad – even as he still defended his original pledge to have meetings without precondition.

The list goes on. Mr. Obama's problem is a campaign that's personality-driven rather than idea-driven. Thus incidents calling into question his persona and character can have especially devastating consequences.

Stripped of his mystique as a different kind of office seeker, he could become just another liberal politician – only one who parses, evades, dissembles and condescends. That narrative is beginning to take hold. If those impressions harden into firm judgments, Mr. Obama will have a very difficult time in November.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
23940  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Blame Congress on: May 29, 2008, 12:05:16 AM
Poor Tom-- here's yet another one for you  grin

WSJ

Blame Congress for High Oil Prices
By MACKUBIN THOMAS OWENS
May 29, 2008; Page A17

Gasoline prices are through the roof and Americans are angry. Someone must be to blame and the obvious villain is "Big Oil" with its alleged ability to gouge consumers and achieve unconscionable, "windfall" profits. Congress is in a vile mood, and has dragged oil industry executives before its committees for show trials, issuing predictable threats of punishment, e.g. a "windfall profits tax."

But if there is a villain in all of this, it is Congress itself. That venerable body has made it impossible for U.S. producers of crude oil to tap significant domestic reserves of oil and gas, and it has foreclosed economically viable alternative sources of energy in favor of unfeasible alternatives such as wind and solar. In addition, Congress has slapped substantial taxes on gasoline. Indeed, as oil industry executives reiterated in their appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 21, 15% of the cost of gasoline at the pump goes for taxes, while only 4% represents oil company profits.

To understand the depth of congressional complicity in the high price of gasoline, one must understand that crude oil prices explain 97% of the variation in the pretax price of gasoline. That price, which has risen to record levels, is set by the intersection of supply and demand. On the one hand, world-wide demand has accelerated mainly due to the rapid growth of China and India.

On the other hand, supply has been curtailed by the cartel-like behavior of foreign national oil companies, which control nearly 80% of world petroleum reserves. Faced with little competition in the production of crude oil, the members of this cartel benefit from keeping the commodity in the ground, confident that increasing demand will make it more valuable in the future. Despite its pious denunciations of the behavior of U.S. investor-owned oil companies (IOCs), Congress by its actions over the years has ensured the economic viability of the national oil company cartel.

It has done so by preventing the exploitation by IOCs of reserves available in nonpark federal lands in the West, Alaska and under the waters off our coasts. These areas hold an estimated 635 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas – enough to meet the needs of the 60 million American homes fueled by natural gas for over a century. They also hold an estimated 112 billion barrels of recoverable oil – enough to produce gasoline for 60 million cars and fuel oil for 25 million homes for 60 years.

This doesn't even include substantial oil shale resources economically recoverable at oil prices substantially lower than those prevailing today. In an exchange between Sen. Orin Hatch (R., Utah) and John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Company during the May 21 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the point was made that anywhere from 800 million to two trillion barrels of oil are available from oil shale in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

If Congress really cared about the economic well-being of American citizens, it would stop fulminating against IOCs and reverse current policies that discourage, indeed prohibit, the production of domestic oil and natural gas. Even the announcement that Congress was opening the way for domestic production would lead to downward pressure on oil prices.

There is an historical precedent for such a step: Ronald Reagan's deregulation of domestic crude oil prices at the beginning of his first term. At the time, thanks to the decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to curtail output, the price of oil was at a level that in real terms is only now being matched. Domestic price controls ensured that the OPEC cartel would face little or no competition in the production of oil.

Price controls were exacerbated by other wrongheaded policies stimulated by the two "energy crises" of the 1970s. One of the most egregious was the infamous "windfall profits" tax, designed to punish oil companies for alleged profiteering. But since it applied to even newly discovered oil, its main impact was to discourage the exploration and drilling that would have increased oil supplies.

Although the energy problems of the 1970s were traceable to government policies, Reagan's decision to deregulate oil prices was ridiculed by policy makers, especially those who had served in the previous administration. For instance, Frank Zarb, who had been Jimmy Carter's "energy czar," predicted that decontrolling the price of crude oil would lead to gasoline prices of $10 a gallon. Instead, the world price of oil plummeted, helping to fuel the extraordinary economic growth of the 1980s.

Reagan's deregulation of crude oil prices created incentives for domestic producers to invest in exploration and to increase production. The threat of increased output by non-OPEC producers destroyed the discipline among OPEC members necessary to restrict production to maintain high prices. Facing the likelihood that an increase in supply would lead to lower future prices, OPEC producers increased output in the hopes of maximizing profits before prices fell. The cascading effect caused oil prices to tumble.

As in the 1970s, U.S. energy policies have essentially restricted the exploitation of domestic sources of energy. Curtailed supplies have combined with rapid, world-wide energy demand to increase the price of oil and other sources of energy. This provides leverage to foreign producers and threatens U.S. energy security. Freeing up domestic energy resources will do today what President Reagan's decision to deregulate oil prices in 1981 did then: cause oil prices to fall, thereby enhancing U.S. energy security.

Mr. Owens is a professor at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., and editor of Orbis, the journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.
23941  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Pre-emption and Sucker Punches on: May 28, 2008, 11:48:53 PM
I grew up in New York City.  I'm guessing that my sense of personal space was affected by riding on the subway  cheesy  When I first moved to LA, I sensed I was irking a lot of people.  Turns out that my New Yorker's custom of "participatory listening" out here was considered "interrupting"  cheesy cheesy   On my motorcycle I was nearly rear ending cars every day until I figured out that out here people slow down for pedestrians -- when I saw a pedestrian in front of the car in front of me I had seen no reason for it to slow down cheesy cheesy cheesy  A good friend of mine has done serious door work in Germany and Switzerland for many years and can discuss quite intelligently how the same hand gestures mean different things to an Italian or a Yugoslav, etc.  I'm told that in the Arabic cultures men can walk down the street holding hands without it being gay-- try that going into a country music bar in Wyoming. (I read a passage in an article referring to a US officer having to hold hands with a Sunni sheik as part of cross-cultural communication-- VERY funny)

Perhaps Michael would have been a little more artful if he had said something like "black ghetto culture" and "white suburban culture", but does anyone here really think that the body language of the two cultures does not have some differences?



23942  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / You can't appease everybody on: May 28, 2008, 08:49:30 PM
Ann has become , , , uneven in recent years, but this one works for me.

You Can't Appease Everybody
by Ann Coulter

Posted: 05/28/2008
 
After decades of comparing Nixon to Hitler, Reagan to Hitler and Bush to Hitler, liberals have finally decided it is wrong to make comparisons to Hitler. But the only leader to whom they have applied their newfound rule of thumb is: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
 
While Ahmadinejad has not done anything as starkly evil as cut the capital gains tax, he does deny the Holocaust, call for the destruction of Israel, deny the existence of gays in Iran and refuses to abandon his nuclear program despite protests from the United Nations. That's the only world leader we're not allowed to compare to Hitler.

President Bush's speech at the Knesset two weeks ago was somewhat more nuanced than liberals' Hitler arguments. He did not simply jump up and down chanting: "Ahmadinejad is Hitler!" Instead, Bush condemned a policy of appeasement toward madmen, citing Neville Chamberlain's ill-fated talks with Adolf Hitler.

Suspiciously, Bush's speech was interpreted as a direct hit on B. Hussein Obama's foreign policy -- and that's according to Obama's supporters.

So to defend Obama, who -- according to his supporters -- favors appeasing madmen, liberals expanded the rule against ad Hitlerum arguments to cover any mention of the events leading to World War II. A ban on "You're like Hitler" arguments has become liberals' latest excuse to ignore history.


Unless, of course, it is liberals using historical examples to support Obama's admitted policy of appeasing dangerous lunatics. It's a strange one-sided argument when they can cite Nixon going to China and Reagan meeting with Gorbachev, but we can't cite Chamberlain meeting with Hitler.

There are reasons to meet with a tyrant, but none apply to Ahmadinejad. We're not looking for an imperfect ally against some other dictatorship, as Nixon was with China. And we aren't in a Mexican stand-off with a nuclear power, as Reagan was with the USSR. At least not yet.

Mutually Assured Destruction was bad enough with the Evil Empire, but something you definitely want to avoid with lunatics who are willing to commit suicide in order to destroy the enemies of Islam. As with the H-word, our sole objective with Ahmadinejad is to prevent him from becoming a military power.

What possible reason is there to meet with Ahmadinejad? To win a $20 bar bet as to whether or not the man actually owns a necktie?

We know his position and he knows ours. He wants nuclear arms, American troops out of the Middle East and the destruction of Israel. We don't want that. (This is assuming Mike Gravel doesn't pull off a major upset this November.) We don't need him as an ally against some other more dangerous dictator because ... well, there aren't any.

Does Obama imagine he will make demands of Ahmadinejad? Using what stick as leverage, pray tell? A U.S. boycott of the next Holocaust-denial conference in Tehran? The U.N. has already demanded that Iran give up its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad has ignored the U.N. and that's the end of it.

We always have the ability to "talk" to Ahmadinejad if we have something to say. Bush has a telephone. If Iranian crop dusters were headed toward one of our nuclear power plants, I am quite certain that Bush would be able to reach Ahmadinejad to tell him that Iran will be flattened unless the planes retreat. If his cell phone died, Bush could just post a quick warning on the Huffington Post.

Liberals view talk as an end in itself. They never think through how these talks will proceed, which is why Chamberlain ended up giving away Czechoslovakia. He didn't leave for Munich planning to do that. It is simply the inevitable result of talking with madmen without a clear and obtainable goal. Without a stick, there's only a carrot.

The only explanation for liberals' hysterical zealotry in favor of Obama's proposed open-ended talks with Ahmadinejad is that they seriously imagine crazy foreign dictators will be as charmed by Obama as cable TV hosts whose legs tingle when they listen to Obama (a condition that used to be known as "sciatica").

Because, really, who better to face down a Holocaust denier with a messianic complex than the guy who is afraid of a debate moderated by Brit Hume?

There is no possible result of such a meeting apart from appeasement and humiliation of the U.S. If we are prepared to talk, then we're looking for a deal. What kind of deal do you make with a madman until he is ready to surrender?

Will President Obama listen respectfully as Ahmadinejad says he plans to build nuclear weapons? Will he say he'll get back to Ahmadinejad on removing all U.S. troops from the region? Will he nod his head as Ahmadinejad demands the removal of the Jewish population from the Middle East? Obama says he's prepared to have an open-ended chat with Ahmadinejad, so I guess everything is on the table.

Perhaps in the spirit of compromise, Obama could agree to let Iran push only half of Israel into the sea. That would certainly constitute "change"! Obama could give one of those upbeat speeches of his, saying: As a result of my recent talks with President Ahmadinejad, some see the state of Israel as being half empty. I prefer to see it as half full. And then Obama can return and tell Americans he could no more repudiate Ahmadinejad than he could repudiate his own white grandmother. It will make Chris Matthews' leg tingle.

There is a third reason to talk to dictators, in addition to seeking an ally or as part of a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur talked with Japanese imperial forces on Sept. 2, 1945. There was a long ceremony aboard the USS Missouri with full press coverage and a lot of talk. It was a regular international confab!

It also took place after we had dropped two nukes on Japan and MacArthur was officially accepting Japan's surrender. If Obama plans to drop nukes on Ahmadinejad prior to their little chat-fest, I'm all for it. But I don't think that's what liberals have in mind.
23943  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: May 28, 2008, 07:25:56 PM
One more for you Tom:

No doubt speculation is a part of this, but ultimately speculation is a zero sum game that punishes most of its players.

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

A bold and long-overdue move aimed at curbing the spread of the latest economic cancer — the seemingly unstoppable rise in oil and gas prices — may soon be on the way.

     
That's the sunny forecast from one of the country's leading heavyweight investment strategists, Bill Knapp, who tells me relief could be coming via a sharp increase in margin requirements for the purchases of oil futures, an event he sees occurring in the next two to three months.

Speculative trading fueled by low margin requirements, where buyers can acquire a barrel of oil (now around $132.40) for about $6 or $7, or at a leveraged ratio of roughly 20 to 1, has been the major driver of the skyrocketing price.

Congress has been pushing the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates commodity futures and options markets in America, to hike margin requirements on crude purchases in an effort to temper the rise in oil prices and give consumers some relief at the gas pump.

Given the impending presidential election and the national uproar over swelling gas prices, Mr. Knapp, who helps guide strategy at a $37 billion money management subsidiary of New York Life, MainStay Investments, gives Congress a 50-50 chance of bringing about higher margin requirements and increasing the leveraged ratio to possibly 4:1.

Oppenheimer & Co.'s veteran energy analyst, Fadel Gheit, sums it up: "With the stock market acting so erratically, oil is the only game in town; it's the last bastion for traders. Government action to boost margin requirements is badly needed and long overdue."

A CFTC spokesman declined to comment.

With the price of gas likely within days of exceeding a national average of $4 a gallon, and growing speculation that prices of $5-plus will begin popping up frequently during the upcoming summer driving season, government action to halt the rise through higher margin requirements on oil purchases is also viewed as probable by a number of other pros. Each $1 a barrel increase or decrease in the price of oil eventually adds up to 2.5 cents more or less at the gas pump.

Mr. Knapp believes that an increase in margin requirements could trigger an avalanche of oil sales by traders that could knock the price down to between $60 and $80 a barrel. "Considering all the speculation, you could see a wave of profit taking by speculators that could drive down oil prices pretty quickly," he says.

He also says the price of oil could come under pressure from a falloff in demand from developed countries, notably America, Japan, and some in Europe.

Mr. Knapp cautions, though, that "if the price of oil doesn't come down really soon, you could see the U.S., as well as the whole world, dip into a recession later this year and in early 2009." Actually, given his projected boost in margin requirements for oil purchases, he thinks a recession can be avoided. This assumes, he points out, "we can weather the triple whammy, namely the downturn in housing, the credit crisis, and elevated energy prices."

The latest housing numbers, however, show continued weakness, with the backlog of single-family homes at the highest level in more than two decades. At the same time, April sales of existing homes fell for the eighth time in the past nine months as prices dropped 8% from a year ago. Still, Mr. Knapp sees some positive signs. He points, for example, to some pockets of recovery, increased affordability due to the decline in home prices, pent-up demand, and decent mortgage rates. Taking note, as well, of recent peppier figures on housing starts and permits, he reckons a housing recovery could kick off this summer.

As for ongoing credit worries, he thinks they may be overblown, given declining write-downs in the financial sector.

In arguing against a recession, Mr. Knapp holds out the possibility of a single quarter of negative growth in the gross domestic product sandwiched in between two quarters of puny GDP growth. A better-than-expected trade deficit in March suggests to him that first-quarter GDP will be revised upward to 1% growth or better from the initial estimated growth of 0.6%.

Relating his thinking to the likely direction of the stock market, Mr. Knapp observes that equities are basically attractive, assuming you burst the oil bubble, lower inflation expectations, and housing rebounds.

Technology stands out at the moment as his top-rated sector. What about those rampaging energy stocks? Despite the big gains, he views their valuations as reasonable, based on the current price of oil.

dandordan@aol.com
http://www.nysun.com/business/gas-price-help-may-be-on-the-way/78736/

23944  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The man in the parking lot on: May 28, 2008, 07:17:24 PM
About two months ago, my wife took her children along with her to the supermarket.  As she approached the van, a large aggressive panhandler came out from behind the van.  Her maternal spidersense tingled strongly.  The panhandler kept spewing his approach patter as she hustled our children behind her and sought to assert her space.  One of the men who worked for the supermarket happened to be outside and saw what happened.  Immediately and forcefully he got into the panhandler's face and ran him completely out of the parking lot.  My wife thanked him and came home.

That evening she told me of this Adventure in her day.  Inside I felt somehow wrong that I had not been there.  Foolish of course, but still, there it was.

When she was done I asked her to describe the man who had helped her.

For the past two months, I have looked for a man of that description whenever I was in the supermarket.  A couple of days ago I saw a man who matched the description helping another customer.  He carried himself with quiet dignity and pride in his work.  I waited for him to finish and approached and asked him if he had helped a woman of a certain height and hair color with children deal with an aggressive panhandler a couple of months ago.  He said he had.  "I'm the husband of that woman and the father of those children.  I want to shake your hand in thanks." 

As we shook hands I could sense his emotions at this unexpected moment in his workday.  Then a thought crossed his face as it crossed his mind.  "How did you know it was me?"

"I asked my wife for your description so I could personally thank you."

"Oh, the black guy" he guessed.

Actually the description had been slender build, about 60 years old, black, dignified-- but of course he was right that this had been part of the description-- a bummer that this touched something sad in him.   As he was there in front of me I sensed he had grown up in a different time and place-- a time and place where race could sneak up and ding a man if he weren't careful. 

Moving the conversation along, I repeated in my thanks in different words and we became simply one man thanking another for stepping forward to protect his family.  We shook hands again and I could feel his quiet pride as I walked away. 

And I felt whole for expressing my gratitude to him.
23945  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Pre-emption and Sucker Punches on: May 28, 2008, 05:20:02 PM
Lets stay light here people.  Surely we can all agree that there are cultural differences in body language?  Delineating where the cultural boundaries lay and how they are defined is a separate and additional point.
23946  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: May 28, 2008, 04:30:45 PM
"Its really hard for me though, to deal with the idea that we have allowed ourselves into the situation that has now evolved.......and why did it take so long to happen?"

Well, we have-- and a goodly portion of the reason is that for a variety of reasons, some good, some understandable, and a lot of them really stupid-- for decades the liberal left has sedulously worked to prevent the development of additional supplies.

The reason it has taken so long is that this is an amazing country that has a relatively free market (though a lot less than it used to be).

Glad to see you expanding your reading to this forum.  I think if you go back into the threads that address issues of interest to you, you will find them to be wonderful tools of self-education and research.  It is why this forum is organized this way.
===============

ACTION ALERT: Fight Back Against High Gas Prices And the Politicians Who Will Make them Higher Still
By Newt Gingrich 
 


 
There must be something about springtime in Washington that makes Senators forget where they came from.

Next week, the Senate is set to begin debate on a bill that will raise the price of gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil and aviation fuel.(view this Heritage Foundation state-by-state breakdown to find out how much Warner Lieberman will cost you). It's the Warner-Lieberman global warming bill, and its supporters are as misguided and out-of-touch with the American people as the supporters of last spring's immigration amnesty bill - and we all remember how that turned out.

Our Goal: 100,000 Voices the Senate Can't Ignore
There are two things you can do now to fight back.

First, call or email your Senator and tell him or her to vote "no" on Warner-Lieberman - "no" on raising the cost of driving to work, heating your home, and feeding your family.

Second, visit americansolutions.com/drillnow and sign our "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" petition.

The petition is simple but powerful. It says:

We, therefore, the undersigned citizens of the United States, petition the U.S. Congress to act immediately to lower gasoline prices by authorizing the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries.

In just a few short days, over 45,000 Americans have signed the pledge.

And with your help, as the Senate begins to debate Warner-Lieberman, American Solutions will present the names of 100,000 of their constituents who will hold them accountable if they fail to allow America the freedom to use its own energy resources instead of relying on foreign dictators.

Americans truly have a choice - a choice between the Pay More, Send More Money to Foreign Dictators and Cripple America Left and the Produce More, Enjoy More, Pay Less, Stengthen American Center-Right Majority.

Make your choice by visiting americansolutions.com/drillnow.
 
Newt Gingrich
23947  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: desperately seeking dogbrother on: May 28, 2008, 04:25:03 PM
PJ:

No doubt you are not alone  cheesy but I feel it best to keep a description of the actions of a troubled individual off this public place.

yip,
CD
23948  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: home made equipment on: May 28, 2008, 04:21:39 PM
Today this knuckledragger just picked up up two used large tires for sledgehammere work.  Simple mind, simple pleasures  cool
23949  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: US Iranian negotiations on: May 28, 2008, 11:52:28 AM
The U.S.-Iranian Negotiations: Beyond the Rhetoric
February 12, 2008 | 1943 GMT
By George Friedman

Tehran has announced that Iran and the United States will hold a new round of talks on the future of Iraq at some point next week. The Iranians said that the “structure of the discussions have been finalized but the level of participation has not yet been agreed.” Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to visit Iraq before March 20, the Iranian New Year. The United States has not denied either of these reports. There thus appears to be some public movement occurring in the U.S.-Iranian talks over Iraq.

These talks are not new. This would be the fourth in a series of meetings; the most recent meeting happened last August. These meetings have been scheduled and canceled before, and because who will attend this go-round remains unsettled, these talks may never get off the ground. More significant, no Iranian president has visited Iraq since the Khomeini revolution. If this visit took place, it would represent a substantial evolution. It also is not something that would happen unopposed if the United States did not want it to; by contrast, the Iraqi government lacks much of a say in the matter because it does not have that much room for maneuver. So we can say this much: Nothing has happened yet, but the Iranians have repositioned themselves as favoring some sort of diplomatic initiative from their side and the Americans so far have not done anything to discourage them.

U.S.-Iranian negotiations are always opaque because they are ideologically difficult to justify by both sides. For Iran, the United States is the Great Satan. For the United States, Iran is part of the Axis of Evil. It is difficult for Iran to talk to the devil or for the United States to negotiate with evil. Therefore, U.S.-Iranian discussions always take place in a strange way. The public rhetoric between the countries is always poisonous. If you simply looked at what each country says about the other, you would assume that no discussions are possible. But if you treat the public rhetoric as simply designed to manage domestic public opinion, and then note the shifts in policy outside of the rhetorical context, a more complex picture emerges. Public and private talks have taken place, and more are planned. If you go beyond the talks to actions, things become even more interesting.

We have discussed this before, but it is important to understand the strategic interests of the two countries at this point to understand what is going on. Ever since the birth of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq has been the buffer between the Iranians and the Arabian Peninsula. The United States expected to create a viable pro-American government quickly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and therefore expected that Iraq would continue to serve as a buffer. That did not happen for a number of reasons, and therefore the strategic situation has evolved.

The primary American interest in Iraq at this point is a negative one — namely, that Iraq not become an Iranian satellite. If that were to happen and Iranian forces entered Iraq, the entire balance of power in the Arabian Peninsula would collapse. Whatever the future of Iraq, U.S. policy since the surge and before has been to prevent a vacuum into which Iran can move. The primary Iranian interest in Iraq also is negative. Tehran must make sure that no Iraqi government is formed that is dominated by Sunnis, as happened under the Baathists, and that the Iraqi military never becomes powerful enough to represent an offensive threat to Iran. In other words, above all else, Iran’s interest is to avoid a repeat of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Obviously, each side has positive goals. The United States would love to see a powerful, pro-American Iraqi government that could threaten Iran on its own. The Iranians would love to see a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad and the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Neither side is in a position to achieve these goals. The United States cannot create a pro-U.S. government because the Iranians, through their influence in the Shiite community, can create sufficient chaos to make that impossible. Through the surge, the United States has demonstrated to the Iranians that it is not withdrawing from Iraq, and the Iranians do not have the ability to force an American withdrawal. So long as the Americans are there and moving closer to the Sunnis, the Iranians cannot achieve their positive goals and also must harbor concerns about the long-term future of Iraq. Each side has blocked the other’s strategic positive goal. Each side now wants to nail down its respective negative goal: avoiding the thing it fears the most.

Ever since the 2006 U.S. congressional midterm elections, when President George W. Bush confounded Iranian expectations by actually increasing forces in Iraq rather than beginning a phased withdrawal, the two countries have been going through a complex process of talks and negotiations designed to achieve their negative ends: the creation of an Iraq that cannot threaten Iran but can be a buffer against Iranian expansion. Neither side trusts the other, and each would love to take advantage of the situation to achieve its own more ambitious goals. But the reality on the ground is that each side would be happy if it avoided the worst-case scenario.

Again, ignoring the rhetoric, there has been a fairly clear sequence of events. Casualties in Iraq have declined — not only U.S. military casualties but also civilian casualties. The civil war between Sunni and Shia has declined dramatically, although it did not disappear. Sunnis and Shia both were able to actively project force into more distant areas, so the decline did not simply take place because neighborhoods became more homogeneous, nor did it take place because of the addition of 30,000 troops. Though the United States created a psychological shift, even if it uses its troops more effectively, Washington cannot impose its will on the population. A change in tactics or an increase of troops to 150,000 cannot control a country of 25 million bent on civil war.

The decline in intracommunal violence is attributable to two facts. The first is the alliance between the United States and Sunni leaders against al Qaeda, which limited the jihadists’ ability to strike at the Shia. The second is the decision by the Iranians to control the actions of Iranian-dominated militias. The return of Muqtada al-Sadr — the most radical of the Shiite leaders — to ayatollah school and his decision to order his followers to cease fire dramatically reduced Shiite-on-Sunni violence. That would not, and could not, have happened without Iranian concurrence. If the Iranians had wanted the civil war to continue unabated, it would have. The Iranians cannot eliminate all violence, nor do they want to. They want the Americans to understand that they can resume the violence at will. Nevertheless, without the Iranian decision to limit the violence, the surge would not have worked.

If the prime Iranian threat against the United States was civil war in Iraq, the prime American threat against Iran was an air campaign against Iranian infrastructure. Such a campaign was publicly justified by the U.S. claim that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. With the Iranians having removed the threat of overwhelming civil war in Iraq, the United States responded by removing the threat of an air campaign. The publication of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stating that Iran does not have a nuclear program at present effectively signaled the Iranians that there would be no campaign.

There was intense speculation that the NIE was a “coup” by the intelligence community against the president. Though an interesting theory, not a single author of the NIE has been fired, none of the intelligence community leaders has been removed, and the president has very comfortably lived with the report’s findings. He has lowered the threat of war against Iran while holding open the possibility — as the NIE suggests — that the Iranians might still be a threat, and that a new NIE might require airstrikes.

The Iranians reduced Shiite violence. The United States reduced the threat of airstrikes. At various points, each side has tested and signaled to the other. The Iranians have encouraged small-scale attacks by Shia in recent weeks, but nothing like what was going on a year or two ago. During Bush’s trip to the region, the United States triggered a crisis in the Strait of Hormuz to signal the Iranians that the United States retains its options. The rhetoric remains apocalyptic, but the reality is that, without admitting it, each side has moved to lower the temperature.

Clearly, secret negotiations are under way. The announcement that an agreement was reached on the structure and subject of a public meeting this week by definition means that unpublicized conversations have been taking place. Similarly, the announcement that Ahmadinejad will be visiting Iraq could not have come without extensive back-channel discussions. We would suspect that these discussions actually have been quite substantial.

The Iranians have made clear what they want in these negotiations. Mottaki was quoted in the Iranian media as saying, “We did express our readiness for entering into negotiations with the U.S. when the talks were held by the five Security Council permanent members plus Germany over Iran’s nuclear program.” He also said that, “Revising its policies toward Iran, the U.S. can pave the way for us to consider the circumstances needed for such talks to be held.” Since talks are being held, it must indicate some movement on the American part.

It all comes down to this: The United States, at the very least, wants a coalition government in Iraq not controlled by Iran, which can govern Iraq and allow the United States to draw down its forces. The Iranians want an Iraqi government not controlled by the United States or the Sunnis, which can control Iraq but not be strong enough to threaten Iran. Iran also wants the United States to end sanctions against Iran, while the United States wants Iran to end all aspects of its nuclear program.

Ending sanctions is politically difficult for the United States. Ending all aspects of the nuclear program is difficult for Iran. The United States can finesse the sanctions issue by turning a blind eye to third powers trading with Iran and allowing U.S. companies to set up foreign subsidiaries to conduct trade with Iran. The Iranians can finesse the nuclear issue, maintaining limited aspects of the program but not pursuing all the technologies needed to build a weapon.

Rhetoric aside, we are therefore in a phase where there are ways for each side to get what it wants. Obviously, the political process is under way in both countries, with Iranian parliamentary elections on March 14 and the U.S. presidential race in full swing. Much domestic opposition is building up against Ahmadinejad, and an intensifying power struggle in Iran could be a fairly large distraction for the country in the short term. The Iranians also could wait a bit more to see how the U.S. presidential campaign shapes up before making any major decisions.

But then, a political process is always under way. That means the rhetoric will remain torrid; the public meetings few and low-key; the private discussions ongoing; and actions by each side sometimes inexplicable, keyed as they are to private discussions.

But it is clear from this week’s announcements by the Iranians that there is movement under way. If the Iranian president does visit Iraq and the United States makes no effort to block him, that will be the signal that some sort of accommodation has been reached. The United States and Iran will not recognize each other and will continue to condemn and even threaten each other. But this is truly a case where their rhetoric does not begin to reflect the reality.
23950  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: May 28, 2008, 11:47:57 AM
E-mail Warning in Juarez
While there was a slight increase in the number of murders in Ciudad Juarez over the weekend, it was hardly the bloodbath predicted in an e-mail that began circulating among residents May 22. The anonymous e-mail promised it would be “the bloodiest weekend in the history of Juarez” and warned residents to stay in their homes because gunmen would be shooting at malls, restaurants and other public places.

The e-mail referred to the upcoming violence as “La Limpia” or “The Cleansing,” which prompted Juarez Public Safety Secretary Orduna Cruz to issue a statement urging the citizens of Juarez to stay calm. As it turned out, the most significant murders of the weekend were those of police officers Fabian Reyes Urbina and Carlos Valdez Rodriguez –- both were wearing full uniforms when they were gunned down May 23 while getting into a 1993 Ford Escort. That same day, five bodies were discovered at an intersection wrapped in blankets; two of the five were decapitated and their heads were found in plastic bags next to the bodies — the typical signature of a cartel killing. Press releases from government officials in Chihuahua state put the total number of murders in Juarez over the weekend at 22. Murders for this past week totaled 33, a slight increase from 25 the previous week.

The e-mail warning had its effect in Juarez. Several night clubs and restaurants were closed over the weekend and traffic was scarce on many city streets as most of the residents stayed in their homes. Regardless of the unknown author’s intentions, the e-mail demonstrated that such a warning could have significant economic impact. Some store owners reportedly lost as much as 60 percent of their business over the weekend. Cross-border tourism from Juarez’s sister city, El Paso, Texas, essentially came to halt over the three-day Memorial Day weekend, which is normally a high-traffic holiday.

Target Lists
Banners with the names of 21 state police officials appeared on overpasses and bridges May 25 in Chihuahua City. The names were written in black ink and signed by Gente Nueva, a break-away group from the Gulf cartel that is funded by factions of the Sinaloa cartel, which has been fighting for influence in the area since early 2007. The emblazoned names are reminiscent of the list found at the fallen officer memorial in Juarez in January. Since then, of the 17 officers named, almost half have been assassinated.


May 19
A banner reading “Join us or die,” referring to local police, was posted in Juarez.
Four people thought to be Americans were shot in the head and dumped in a notorious drug-smuggling area of Rosarito.
José Martínez Quiñónez, a top commander of the security arm of the state attorney general’s office in Chihuahua state, was assassinated outside his home in the Juarez suburb of Parral.
May 20
The bodies of two high-level state police officials in Morelos state were found in the trunk of a car on a highway between Cuernavaca and Mexico City. The bodies had single gunshot wounds to the head and showed signs of torture. A note attached to the car read, “This is what happens to those who walk with El Chapo.”
Former army major Roberto Orduna Cruz took over the 1,600-man Juarez police force.
Sixteen people were killed in a firefight in Durango.
May 21
The Mexican military took control of Villa Ahumada, a small town 80 kilometers south of Juarez, after the entire police force quit. Officers were afraid of being assassinated.
May 22
An anonymous e-mail began circulating around Juarez and El Paso advising residents to stay indoors over the upcoming weekend. The e-mail also claimed that recent executions in Juarez were in response to threats made by the Juarez cartel.
The U.S. Senate passed the Merida Initiative, a $400 million aid package designed to help the Mexican government halt drug traffic into the United States. The U.S. House of Representatives passed its own aid package the previous week.
May 23
Fabian Reyes Urbina and Carlos Valdez Rodriguez, two municipal policemen in Juarez, were shot and killed as they were getting into a 1993 Ford Escort.
Juarez police discovered the charred remains of three individuals in a burned out car.
Five blanket-wrapped bodies, two of which had been decapitated, were found in the middle of an intersection in Juarez.
Four decapitated heads were found in four separate ice chests six kilometers outside of Durango.
May 24
Two men were found dead in the Rio Bravo neighborhood in Juarez.
One man was found dead in his SUV in Juarez with over 100 bullet holes in his vehicle.
May 25
A charred body was found in the back of pickup truck in a parking lot in Juarez. Authorities were unable to identify the sex of the body because of the extensive burns.
The unidentified body of a male between the age of 35 and 40 and with five bullet wounds was found at an intersection in Juarez.

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