Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ
on: November 10, 2008, 12:11:53 PM
Where Did All the Voters Go?
Everyone was predicting a record voter turnout this year. It didn't happen. About half of young people, for example, stayed home, though those who did vote went overwhelmingly by 2 to 1 for Barack Obama.
What also happened was that Republicans stayed home, falling to 28.7% of the electorate from the 30% in 2004. Democrats turned out in slightly higher numbers, representing 31.3% of the total vote, up from the 28.7% in 2004.
At least one Democratic strategist says he's surprised overall turnout did not increase over 2004, despite rabid anti-Bush feeling, Barack Obama's rock star candidacy and massive investments in get-out-the-vote operations (GOTV).
"It sort of calls into question some of the vaunted ground game discussion, the whole turnout machine," the unnamed Democrat told Politico.com. "The GOTV effort was redoubled in 2008 compared to 2004, but it did not seem to make that big of a difference." Among states where voter turnout actually declined this year were such battlegrounds as Ohio and Pennsylvania.
In historical terms, political scientist Curtis Gans says this year's turnout was about the same as the 1968 Nixon vs. Humphrey race as a percentage of the voting-age population. Factoring in the big increase in black participation since then, this year's turnout was actually below that of the 1960 and 1964 elections.
-- John Fund
At Least Al Franken Can Play Himself in HBO's 'Recount II'
What to expect in the stalemated Minnesota Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken? Mr. Coleman now leads by a mere 238 votes after local officials corrected a few errors in their counts. Next comes an audit of selected precincts followed by a mandatory hand recount of 2.9 million ballots.
The first deadline comes today, when all 87 counties are scheduled to submit official counts. This should be the last time the vote count shifts before the official recount. Ballot challenges are all but inevitable. Minnesota isn't Florida -- the state uses optically-scanned paper ballots, so there won't be any hanging chads. But state officials expect to discover that election machines miscounted an unusual number of ballots because so many first-time voters are believed to have mismarked their ballots. By one estimate, two votes out of 1,000 may be mismarked, which would mean the machines improperly counted as many as 5,800 votes.
Ultimately, challenged ballots will go before a state canvassing board that consists of two state Supreme Court justices, two district court judges and is chaired by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat. Starting on Dec. 16, the board will review the challenged ballots to see if "voter intent" can be fairly determined. Barring legal challenges, Mr. Ritchie hopes the process can be wrapped up a week before Christmas.
But court challenges are almost certain. The Coleman campaign already lost a bid to discard 32 absentee ballots from heavily Democratic Hennepin County. The campaign says the ballots weren't properly secured and could have been tampered with. Both camps now are directing volunteers to keep watch on ballot boxes throughout the state. Meanwhile, Mr. Coleman is still trying to recruit an election expert to monitor the recount on his behalf. U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger had agreed to take the job but bowed out after realizing it conflicted with his current assignment of investigating possible police misconduct at the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities last summer.
Mr. Coleman, who was a Democrat until 1996, has experienced his share of unusual campaigns, so at least he's steeled for the roller-coaster ride. Not only was he bested by pro wrestler Jesse Ventura in the 1998 governor's race. In 2002, he was running neck and neck in the polls with popular Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone when Mr. Wellstone died in a plane crash less than two weeks before Election Day. To take Wellstone's place, Democrats quickly nominated former Vice President Walter Mondale, who held the seat from 1964 to 1977. But Mr. Coleman still managed to eke out a 60,000-vote victory.
-- Brendan Miniter
The Palin Factor
In the closing days of the election, it was an article of faith among the pundits that Gov. Sarah Palin had become a drag on the Republican ticket. Whether because of the "Troopergate" investigation or her primetime network interviews, Mrs. Palin's popularity with the public declined considerably. Once hailed as an inspired pick, Sen. John McCain's choice of the unknown Alaskan governor was generally viewed as a missed opportunity.
So now that we have piles of exit polling data to sift through, what can we say about Mrs. Palin's effect on the election?
Asked if she was "a factor" in their vote, 60% said yes, while 33% said no. Yet of those who said Mrs. Palin was a factor, 56% voted for Mr. McCain, while 43% voted for Mr. Obama. Even among independent voters (a group Mr. McCain lost by eight points) she was a net vote-getter for the Republican ticket among those independents who said Mrs. Palin was a factor.
Mrs. Palin, however, didn't come through with one big group of voters -- those who supported Sen. Hillary Clinton in the primaries. In the immediate aftermath of Mrs. Clinton's defeat, polls suggested that a good portion of these voters were ready to support the Republican ticket. It must have seemed too tantalizing a prospect for the McCain campaign to pass up by choosing a man as a running mate. Yet, in the end, Mrs. Palin didn't seal the deal with Hillary voters, who went for Mr. Obama 83% to 16%.
On other important voting blocs, such as white women, gun owners and Evangelicals, the McCain-Palin ticket performed about the same as the Bush-Cheney team in 2004.
The conclusion? Mrs. Palin failed to win the election for Mr. McCain, but that's setting the bar awfully high. Given the headwinds, Mr. McCain perhaps was lucky to do as well as he did -- and his showing might well have been worse without Mrs. Palin on the ticket.
-- Blake Dvorak, RealClearPolitics.com
The Mercurial Mr. Jones
Nothing illustrates the Republican party's fortunes in North Carolina since 1994 better than the career of Congressman Walter Jones, a Democrat turned Republican and now apparently turned Democrat again.
In 1992, Mr. Jones ran for Congress as a Democrat to succeed his father, Walter B. Jones Sr., who was retiring after a 25-year career. The younger Mr. Jones lost the primary narrowly. Sensing that political tides were shifting in the state, he ran in a reconfigured district in 1994 as a Republican and won.
But he was never a close fit with his new colleagues, opposing the Iraq war and routinely voting as a less-than-party-line stalwart on other issues. In 2006, Congressional Quarterly called him the third most likely Republican and eighth most likely House Member to defect from his party's caucus, doing so about 36% of the time.
That record of apostasy generated a primary challenge to Mr. Jones this year, but one he weathered with 59% of the vote and the continued support of GOP party leaders. He coasted to victory over a weak Democrat last week in a district that the Cook Political Report says leans about 15 points more Republican than the nation as a whole in presidential elections.
Mr. Jones has long hinted he might be a double-switcher, especially after he was denied an Armed Services subcommittee chairmanship in 2006. He admitted being approached by Democrats at the time but told The Hill newspaper: "I just take each day as it comes; I certainly think about where I will be a year or two, three years from now, but that's God's plan, not mine. . . . I think at the present time, because of the pro-life issue primarily, I am where I need to be. But I am an independent."
Well, it's been two years since that statement and, sure enough, Mr. Jones is poised today to rejoin the Democrats. The news couldn't come at a worse time for the North Carolina GOP, which just lost a U.S. Senate seat, a U.S. House seat and saw the state shift to the Democratic column for president for only the second time since Ronald Reagan's 1980 election.
Party switchers have an indifferent record of winning their next races, which clearly is why Mr. Jones is making his switch early so as to give voters as much time as possible to acclimate themselves to his latest change in political fashion.
-- John Fund
Quote of the Day
"[Barack] Obama, who is not without an ego, regarded himself as just as gifted as his top strategists in the art and practice of politics. Patrick Gaspard, the campaign's political director, said that when, in early 2007, he interviewed for a job with Obama and [campaign adviser David] Plouffe, Obama said that he liked being surrounded by people who expressed strong opinions, but he also said, 'I think that I'm a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I'll tell you right now that I'm gonna think I'm a better political director than my political director.' After Obama's first debate with McCain, on September 26th, Gaspard sent him an e-mail. 'You are more clutch than Michael Jordan,' he wrote. Obama replied, 'Just give me the ball'" -- New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza on "How Obama Won."
The liberal news media apparently have some advice for John McCain on how to crawl back into their approval zone.
You'll recall that Mr. McCain was the toast of liberal pundits and journalists during the 2000 campaign and for many subsequent years. As he courted conservatives to win the GOP nomination this year, however, all that changed. The media wondered how Mr. McCain had wound up embracing his "dark side." But now that the election is over, he can redeem himself.
Christopher Beam, a political reporter for Slate.com, offers a guide on how Senator McCain can "rehabilitate" his image following the alleged nastiness of the just-concluded campaign.
"The media, a group John McCain once called his 'base,' have fallen off the boat," Mr. Beam writes. "Now is the time to rebuild." He suggests Mr. McCain begin by acknowledging "mistakes" in his campaign (or what the media believe are mistakes) such as his choice of Sarah Palin as running mate. He should also write a tell-all memoir, painting his own campaign in unvarnished colors. In addition to working overtime now to support President Obama, he should also make it a point to "p--- off Republicans" by adopting political stances that please the media.
Mr. McCain is certainly getting similar strategy tips from many of his aides and confidants. Just how much of that advice he takes will tell us a lot about John McCain's need for media attention and approval.
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson
on: November 10, 2008, 11:50:54 AM
"The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind."
—Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Hunter, March 11, 1790
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Good manners, social graces, and etiquette
on: November 10, 2008, 11:47:15 AM
Kind of a whiny bitch tone to this, but it addresses something I suspect many of us have felt.
By HENRY ALFORD
Published: November 10, 2008
I SOMETIMES find strangers’ manners so lacking that I have started engaging in an odd kind of activism. I call it reverse etiquette: I supply the apology that they should be giving me.
When the ebullient young woman behind the cash register at the grocery store dropped my apple on the ground, she smiled nervously, picked it up and put it in my bag, but said nothing. So I offered, in a neutral tone of voice, “Oh, I’m sorry.” This did not elicit the remorse I hoped it would — she simply grimace-smiled and said, “That’s O.K.” So I added, “Sorry about that — I really didn’t mean for you to drop that.” At which she stared off into the mid-distance as if receiving instructions from outer space.
A few weeks later, the skinny, 20-something gentleman manning the cash register at the pizzeria told me, “I can’t break a 20.” So I asked, “Would you mind terribly if I went next door and got change?” He said, “That’s fine.” When I returned, no thanks or apology forthcoming from him, I said in a flat, non-sarcastic voice, “So sorry — I hope I didn’t keep you waiting?” Confused, he shook his head no. “I forget stuff sometimes,” I said — a cue that went unmet.
How did I get here? I’d feel like a marm or a scold if I told a stranger that he has bad manners; so instead I wage a campaign of subtle remonstrance. That this subtle remonstrance was, in its initial forays at least, mostly lost on my interlocutors did not faze me: being able to sublimate my irritation was its own reward.
But I like to think that in some instances my behavior, by causing others to wonder what I’m going on about, may help to carry out etiquette’s mandate: to promote empathy. It’s my distinct hope that the person who is apologized to when she drops my apple is a person who will have an epiphany the next time someone drops her apple.
And yet, placated though I am by the realization that I am providing others with gentle, time-released lessons, sometimes the angry little man inside me wants more. Much more. To wit, an apology.
So I have become more explicit in my acts of reverse etiquette. The other day I apologized to a tall, bearded man who slammed his duffel into me at Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street. Then I told him, “I’m saying what you should be saying.” He responded, in toto, “Oh, right.”
Though this response could not be described as “blanket-like,” it nevertheless gave me enough ground to see that I was on the right track. I realized that I just need to be even more explicit with people. So the other day, when a stroller-pushing mother semi-vigorously bumped into me at Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street — this corner is apparently the Bermuda Triangle of manners — I expressed remorse, and added, “No one says I’m sorry anymore, so I do it for them.”
“My idea is that if I say I’m sorry, then at least the words have been released into the universe.”
She stared at me with equal parts irritation and faint horror, as if I had just asked her to attend a three-hour lecture on the history of the leotard.
I continued: “The apology gets said, even if it’s not by the right person. It makes me feel better. And maybe you’ll know what to say next time.”
“Wow,” she said. (The tickets for the leotard lecture were $200, or $500 at the door.)
And then, finally, came the words I have longed these many months to hear: “I’ll think about it.”
Henry Alford is the author of the forthcoming “How to Live.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues
on: November 10, 2008, 11:42:37 AM
The Protein Pyramid
Published: November 10, 2008
Per capita meat consumption more than doubled over the past half-century as the global economy expanded. It is expected to double again by 2050. Which raises the question, what does all that meat eat before it becomes meat?
Increasingly the answer is very small fish harvested from the ocean and ground into meal and pressed into oil. According to a new report by scientists from the University of British Columbia and financed by the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, 37 percent by weight of all the fish taken from the ocean is forage fish: small fish like sardines and menhaden. Nearly half of that is fed to farmed fish; most of the rest is fed to pigs and poultry.
The problem is that forage fish are the feedstock of marine mammals and birds and larger species of fish. In other words, farmed fish, pigs and poultry — and the humans who eat them — are competing for food directly with aquatic species that depend on those forage fish for their existence. It’s as if humans were swimming in schools in the ocean out-eating every other species.
The case is worse than that. When it comes to farmed fish, there is a net protein loss: it takes three pounds of fish feed to produce one pound of farmed salmon. This protein pyramid — small fish fed to farmed fish, pigs and poultry that are then fed to humans — is unsustainable. It threatens the foundation of oceanic life.
The report’s authors suggest that it would be better if humans ate these small fish, as many cultures once did, instead of using them as feed. That is one way of addressing the problem of net protein loss. The real answers are support for sustainable agriculture in the developing world and encouraging healthy, less meat-based eating habits as a true sign of affluence everywhere.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor
on: November 10, 2008, 11:09:18 AM
Editor’s Note: The following is an internal Stratfor document produced to provide high-level guidance to our analysts. This document is not a forecast, but rather a series of guidelines for understanding and evaluating events, as well as suggestions on areas for focus.
1. The U.S. presidential transition begins: Between the crises in Iraq, negotiations with Iran, the war in Afghanistan, the slow-motion disintegration of Pakistan and Russia’s resurgence, U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is going to have his plate full on Jan. 20, 2009. In reality, it is full now. The Russians in particular are pulling out all the stops to impose a reality on the incoming American president. This means that unless Obama plans on letting the Russians ride roughshod over their near abroad, he not only needs to come up with a counterpolicy quickly, he needs to work with the outgoing administration to implement that policy well before Inauguration Day. That will require Obama and his team getting up to speed on not just Central Europe and the former Soviet Union, but also on Iraq and Pakistan — locations he needs to have at least partially locked down if he is to have a free hand to deal with Moscow. Our sources tell us that the Obama team was requesting recommendations from the Bush team less than 24 hours after the election results were made official. This is going to be the fastest transition in history — and it needs to be. Obama’s presidency will, for all practical purposes, commence next week. So watch, record and — above all else — probe accordingly.
Related Special Topic Page
2. The global financial summit: Obama’s first act as “president” will be to attend (so far in an unofficial role) the global financial summit Nov. 15 in Washington, where the Europeans will attempt to force a European-style financial management program on the American system. Obama may be more willing to hear the Europeans out on the topic than the Bush administration, but he is not going to give away the farm — certainly not so long as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke are advising both Bush and Obama. (This goes doubly so for Bernanke, since the Fed chairman does not serve at the president’s pleasure; he will survive the transition’s head-chopping regardless.) We need to investigate to find out specifically what the Europeans are going to ask for at the summit — and what they plan to bring to the table in exchange.
3. Russia’s summits: On the day before the financial meeting, the Russians will be holding simultaneous summits with the European Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States. The summits will feature the Russians offering a series of carrots and brandishing a (larger) number of sticks. Before Obama can decisively take the reins, the Russians have a window in which to force their preferred world on their neighborhood. They will not spare the horses. Or the neighbors.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Support our troops
on: November 10, 2008, 11:01:46 AM
"Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country." --George Washington
USMC 233rd ANNIVERSARY
On 10 November 1775, the Second Continental Congress resolved to create two battalions of Continental Marines for the War of Independence from Britain. In 1798, President John Adams signed the Act establishing the United States Marine Corps.
It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus [or community] organizer,
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
-- Father Dennis Edward O'Brian, USMC
(In honor of our fellow Marines today, and in advance of honoring Veterans from all Service Branches tomorrow, at sunrise, we respectfully lowered, righted, and returned our flag to full mast. It is a beautiful day here in Tennessee, and our flag is waving briskly in the fall winds, a reminder of all that is still good and right with America.)
VETERANS DAY -- 11 NOVEMBER 2008
Tomorrow is Veterans Day.
We encourage all Patriots to set aside time and reflect on the sacrifice of our Patriot veterans and those serving today, and honor them accordingly.
On November 11, 1921, an unknown American soldier from World War I was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, in recognition of WWI veterans and in conjunction with the timing of cessation of hostilities at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). President Warren Harding requested that: "All ... citizens ... indulge in a period of silent thanks to God for these ... valorous lives and of supplication for His Divine mercy ... on our beloved country." Inscribed on the Tomb are the words: "Here lies in honored glory an American soldier know but to God." The day became known as "Armistice Day." In 1954, Congress, wanting to recognize the sacrifice of veterans since WWI, proposed to change Armistice Day to Veterans Day in their honor. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, former Supreme Commander in WWII, signed the legislation.
To honor those veterans who sacrificed all, an Army honor guard from the 3d U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) keeps day and night vigil at Arlington. At 11 a.m. Tuesday, a combined color guard representing all military service branches executes "Present Arms" at the tomb for the laying of a wreath by the president, followed by "Taps."
More than a million Patriots stand ready, or are actively defending our nation today. These men and women were not drafted into service, but volunteered to serve.
Every Friday, in our Profiles in Valor section, we tell the stories of some of these volunteers from around the nation.
Today, we include some brief remarks from four uniformed Patriots who call our local community home -- bright young people who could have pursued promising careers in the private sector, like many of their peers, but who chose a higher calling of service to our great nation. Mr. Alexander asked each of them for brief comment about that calling.
MD, 2nd Lieutenant, USMC. Graduate, Harvard University
"My faith compels me to invest my life in some form of service to others. As a student at Harvard, I became increasingly aware of the sacrifices being made by Americans of my generation overseas. While we debated the merits of policy decisions, they lived them out, putting their lives on the line for our country. I had always been proud of my father and grandfathers for their military service in their generations' wars. My father served as a Marine machine gunner in Vietnam, both of my grandfathers served during WWII as did my great-grandfathers in WWI. I felt like I had a duty to do my part now. I joined the Marines because I wanted to serve as close to the point of impact as I could, where leadership and sacrifice make the greatest difference. Whether in the deserts of Iraq or the schools, churches and offices here at home, I believe that we are all called to give of ourselves in service to others."
DK, Lieutenant JG, USN. Graduate, United States Naval Academy
"The past two weeks have been the toughest in flight school -- three check rides so that I could be instrument and solo qualified in the helicopter. I can't believe I get paid to fly and am looking forward to my real job out to the fleet. Leadership involves constantly analyzing yourself and a willingness to constantly better yourself, not for your own benefit but for those who work for you. All of the young sailors, marines, aircrew who serve in our military have CHOSEN to serve. I want to work with these men and women and give them opportunities to reach their goals and exceed the expectations (or lack of expectations) that their families or friends or society has set before them. I get the chance to make a difference in their lives -- I get to trust them with my life -- and I get to serve not above them but beside them for a common cause. I have found that the best military leaders are those that have a strong faith. So many have seen the worst and the best of mankind and they just have no other option but to trust God and keep going."
RN, Captain, USA. Graduate, Princeton University
"I came home and told my parents I kind of felt like something was missing from my college career, and signed up in 2001. If I come back limbless or dead, that's my fate, but I worry about it happening to my guys. You live with them, you train with them, you eat with them, you dig fighting positions with them, you share misery with them, learn about their families and their girlfriends and their dreams and hopes, and they're good men, deserving of a wonderful future, and you want them to have that future. It has been very rewarding to see the improvements here in the last two years. We were the last pre-surge battalion to redeploy and the improvements have been dramatic. I have had the pleasure to get to know many Iraqis very well. Soldiers patrolling heavily populated urban areas, such as our current area of operations, spend a great deal of time getting to know shop owners, local leaders and ordinary citizens. We are routinely invited into homes for Chai tea and food. There is certainly some animosity among some Iraqis, but most that I have encountered appreciate our reconstruction projects and efforts to support the local governments and their desires in the community."
DW, Ensign, USN. Graduate, United States Naval Academy
"While there are a multitude of convictions that led me into Naval Aviation (including the events of 9/11), there is one that stands out. I'll try to state it simply: the defense of our nation is a necessary task, and that task demands service and sacrifice from individuals who are both willing and able to do the jobs that are required of them. I was not comfortable sitting idly by and trusting that someone else will do that job instead. I am a strong believer in putting one's skills to use in the best manner possible, and in my case I feel like my current occupation is the one I am best suited for -- both as a naval officer and a tactical jet pilot. I find myself obligated to another eight years of service. Fortunately, I'm enjoying every day of it, and I find it easy to sleep at night with a sense of accomplishment and pride in what I am doing and why I'm doing it."
Clearly there is a common theme reflected in the comments from these four service personnel. They are motivated to serve a cause bigger than themselves. They put their country, and those under their commands, first. They have taken an oath to defend our Constitution not as a formality, but with their lives.
John Stuart Mill wrote, "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. A man who has nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
We are concerned that the next few years will be characterized by political leadership exemplifying precisely the character deficit that Mill describes.
We remain the proud and the free because American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen have stood bravely in harm's way, and remain on post today. For this, we, the American People, offer our heartfelt gratitude and thanks.
"It's been my responsibility, my duty and very much my honor to serve as Commander in Chief of this nation's Armed Forces these past eight years. That is the most sacred, most important ask of the Presidency. Since our nation's founding, the primary obligation of the national government has been the common defense of these United States. But as I have sought to perform this sacred task as best I could, I have done so with the knowledge that my role in this day-to-day-to-day effort, from sunrise to sunrise, every moment of every hour of every day of every year, is a glancing one compared to yours. ... But it's not just your fellow Americans who owe you a debt. No, I believe many more do, for I believe that military service in the Armed Forces of the United States is a profound form of service to all humankind. You stand engaged in an effort to keep America safe at home, to protect our allies and interests abroad, to keep the seas and the skies free of threat. Just as America stands as an example to the world of the inestimable benefits of freedom and democracy, so too an America with the capacity to project her power for the purpose of protecting and expanding freedom and democracy abroad benefits the suffering people of the world." --Ronald Reagan
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Detroit Bailout?
on: November 10, 2008, 10:34:05 AM
Remember, the Sharia Compliant Finance theme is to be continued over at Sharia 101:
In the Washington mind, there are two kinds of private companies. There are successful if "greedy" corporations, which can always afford to pay more taxes and tolerate more regulation. And then there are the corporate supplicants that need a handout. As the Detroit auto makers are proving, you can go from being the first to the second in the blink of an election.
For decades, Congress has never had a second thought as it imposed tighter emissions standards on GM, Ford and Chrysler, denouncing them for making evil SUVs. Yet now that the companies are bleeding cash, and may be heading for bankruptcy, suddenly the shrinking Big Three are the latest candidates for a taxpayer bailout. One $25 billion loan facility has already been signed into law, and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) wants another $25 billion, this time with no strings attached.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met last week with company and union officials, and they later sent a letter urging Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to bestow cash from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (Tarp) on the companies. Barack Obama implied at his Friday press conference that he too favors some kind of taxpayer rescue of Detroit, though no doubt he'd like to have President Bush's signature on the check so he won't have to take full political responsibility.
We hope Messrs. Bush and Paulson just say no. The Tarp was intended to save the financial system from collapse, not to be a honey pot for any industry running short of cash. The financial panic has hit Detroit hard, but its problems go back decades and are far deeper than reduced access to credit among car buyers. As a political matter, the Bush Administration is also long past the point where it might get any credit for helping Detroit. But it will earn the scorn of taxpayers if it refuses to set some limits on access to the Tarp. If Democrats want to change the rules next year, let them do it on their own political dime.
A bailout might avoid any near-term bankruptcy filing, but it won't address Detroit's fundamental problems of making cars that Americans won't buy and labor contracts that are too rich and inflexible to make them competitive. As Paul Ingrassia notes nearby, Detroit's costs are far too high for their market share. While GM has spent billions of dollars on labor buyouts in recent years, they are still forced by federal mileage standards to churn out small cars that make little or no profit at plants organized by the United Auto Workers.
Rest assured that the politicians don't want to do a thing about those labor contracts or mileage standards. In their letter, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid recommend such "taxpayer protections" as "limits on executive compensation and equity stakes" that would dilute shareholders. But they never mention the UAW contracts that have done so much to put Detroit on the road to ruin. In fact, the main point of any taxpayer rescue seems to be to postpone a day of reckoning on those contracts. That includes even the notorious UAW Jobs Bank that continues to pay workers not to work.
A Detroit bailout would also be unfair to other companies that make cars in the U.S. Yes, those are "foreign" companies in the narrow sense that they are headquartered overseas. But then so was Chrysler before Daimler sold most of the car maker to Cerberus, the private equity fund. Honda, Toyota and the rest employ about 113,000 American auto workers who make nearly four million cars a year in states like Alabama and Tennessee. Unlike Michigan, these states didn't vote for Mr. Obama.
But the very success of this U.S. auto industry indicates that highly skilled American workers can profitably churn out cars without being organized by the UAW. A bailout for Chrysler would in essence be assisting rich Cerberus investors at the expense of middle-class nonunion auto workers. Is this the new "progressive" era we keep reading so much about?
The car makers say that bankruptcy is unthinkable and "not an option." And bankruptcy would certainly be expensive, not least for Washington itself, which could be responsible for 600,000 or so retiree pensions through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. In that sense, the bailout is intended to rescue the politicians from having to honor that earlier irresponsible guarantee. But at least that guarantee would be finite. If Uncle Sam buys into Detroit, $50 billion would only be the start of the outlays as taxpayers were obliged to protect their earlier investment in uncompetitive companies.
* * *
If our politicians can't avoid throwing taxpayer cash at Detroit, then they should at least do so in a way that really protects taxpayers. That means handing a receiver the power to replace current management, zero out current shareholders, and especially to rewrite labor and other contracts. Anything less is merely a payoff to Michigan politicians and their union allies.
As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to enter the White House, he must ponder what to do about the world's trouble spots: Iran, Iraq, North Korea, the Caucasus. And, oh yes, Detroit.
On Friday, General Motors and Ford announced more multibillion-dollar losses in the third quarter; closely held Chrysler doesn't publicly report results. When GM, which seems in the worst shape, was 45 minutes late releasing its results, rumors spread that a bankruptcy filing was imminent. It wasn't, but the company says it could run out of cash in the first half of next year. Make that the first quarter if the current cash bleed continues. GM is lobbying furiously for emergency federal assistance, with Ford and Chrysler close behind.
Let's assume that the powers in Washington -- the Bush team now, the Obama team soon -- deem GM too big to let fail. If so, it's also too big to be entrusted to the same people who have led it to its current, perilous state, and who are too tied to the past to create a different future.
Associated PressIn return for any direct government aid, the board and the management should go. Shareholders should lose their paltry remaining equity. And a government-appointed receiver -- someone hard-nosed and nonpolitical -- should have broad power to revamp GM with a viable business plan and return it to a private operation as soon as possible.
That will mean tearing up existing contracts with unions, dealers and suppliers, closing some operations and selling others, and downsizing the company. After all that, the company can float new shares, with taxpayers getting some of the benefits. The same basic rules should apply to Ford and Chrysler.
These are radical steps, and they wouldn't avoid significant job losses. But there isn't much alternative besides simply letting GM collapse, which isn't politically viable. At least a government-appointed receiver would help assure car buyers that GM will be around, in some form, to honor warranties on its vehicles. It would help minimize losses to the government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
But giving GM a blank check -- which the company and the United Auto Workers union badly want, and which Washington will be tempted to grant -- would be an enormous mistake. The company would just burn through the money and come back for more. Even more jobs would be wiped out in the end.
The current economic crisis didn't cause the meltdown in Detroit. The car companies started losing billions of dollars several years ago when the economy was healthy and car sales stood at near-record levels. They complained that they were unfairly stuck with enormous "legacy costs," but those didn't just happen. For decades, the United Auto Workers union stoutly defended gold-plated medical benefits that virtually no one else had. UAW workers and retirees had no deductibles, copays or other facts of life in these United States.
A few years ago the UAW even waged a spirited fight to protect the "right" of workers to smoke on the assembly line, something that simply isn't allowed at, say, Honda's U.S. factories. Aside from the obvious health risk, what about cigarette ashes falling onto those fine leather seats being bolted into the cars? Why was this even an issue?
When GM's bond ratings plunged into junk territory a couple years ago the auto maker sold 51% of its financing arm, GMAC, to Cerberus, a private-equity powerhouse. Then last summer Cerberus bought 80% of Chrysler from Daimler for just 25% of what the German company paid for the company a decade earlier. It looked like a great deal at the time, like buying a "fixer upper" house at a steep discount. Until, that is, you have to shell out big bucks to shore up the foundation, repair the leaky roof, etc.
Cerberus tried hard in recent weeks to sell Chrysler to GM, with government financial assistance. Controlling GMAC's lending to GM dealers and customers gave Cerberus enormous leverage at the negotiating table. Cerberus squeezed hard, say industry analysts and insiders, but the GM board balked. Last Friday the companies said the talks were off -- "for the moment," as the company's chief operating officer put it.
For the moment? How about, like, forever? Buying Chrysler would just give GM an excuse to delay the fundamental task of putting its house in order. Management would turn its energy to producing pretty PowerPoint slides with all the requisite buzzwords: synergies, transformation, downsizing, rightsizing and exercising. What's needed, instead, is exorcising.
A thorough housecleaning at GM is the only way to give the company a fresh start. GM is structured for its glory days of the 1960s, when it had half the U.S. car market -- not for the first decade of this century, when it has just over 20% of the market. General Motors simply cannot support eight domestic brands (Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac, Chevrolet, GMC, Saturn, Saab and Hummer) with adequate product-development and marketing dollars. Even the good vehicles the company develops (for example, the Cadillac CTS and Chevy Malibu) get lost in the wash.
Nevertheless, the current board of directors and management have stuck stubbornly to this structure. The lone exception was a dissident director, Jerome B. York, who resigned a couple years ago. He warned that without fundamental changes the "unthinkable" might happen to GM. Well, here we are.
Which brings us back to what the government should do. If public dollars are the only way to keep General Motors afloat, as the company contends, a complete restructuring under a government overseer or oversight board has to be the price.
That is essentially the role played by the federal Air Transportation Stabilization Board in doling out taxpayer dollars to the airlines in the wake of 9/11. The board consisted of senior government officials with a staff recruited largely from the private sector. It was no figurehead. When one airline brought in a lengthy, convoluted restructuring plan, a board official ordered it to come back with something simpler and sustainable. The Stabilization Board did its job -- selling government-guaranteed airline loans and warrants to private investors, monitoring airline bankruptcies to protect the interests of taxpayers -- and even returned money to the government.
As for Ford and Chrysler, if they want similar public assistance they should pay the same price. Wiping out existing shareholders would end the Ford family's control of Ford Motor. But keeping the family in the driver's seat wouldn't be an appropriate use of tax dollars. Nor is bailing out the principals of Cerberus, who include CEO Stephen Feinberg, Chairman John Snow, the former Treasury secretary, and global investing chief Dan Quayle, former vice president.
Government loan guarantees, with stringent strings attached and new management at the helm, helped save Chrysler in 1980. But it's now 2008, 35 years since the first oil shock put Japanese cars on the map in America. "Since the mid-Seventies," one Detroit manager recently told me, "I have sat through umpteen meetings describing how we had to beat the Japanese to survive. Thirty-five years later we are still trying to figure it out."
Which is why pouring taxpayer billions into the same old dysfunctional morass isn't the answer.
Mr. Ingrassia is a former Dow Jones executive and Detroit bureau chief for this newspaper.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives
on: November 10, 2008, 10:28:50 AM
For those here who think Reaganism' relevance remote:
Barack Obama won the White House by campaigning against an unpopular incumbent in a time of economic anxiety and lingering foreign policy concerns. He offered voters an upbeat message, praised the nation as a land of opportunity, promised tax cuts to just about everyone, and overcame doubts about his experience with a strong performance in the presidential debates.
Does this sound familiar? It should. Mr. Obama followed the approach that worked for Ronald Reagan. His victory confirmed that voters still embrace the guiding beliefs of the Reagan era.
During Reagan's campaign, the nation suffered from high unemployment and high inflation. This time around, data from the Rasmussen Reports Daily Presidential Tracking Poll showed that Mr. Obama took command of the race during the 10 days following the collapse of Lehman Brothers -- when the Wall Street meltdown hit Main Street. Before that event John McCain was leading nationally by three percentage points. Ten days later Mr. Obama was up by five and never relinquished his lead.
Mr. Obama's tax-cutting message played a key role in this period of economic anxiety. Tax cuts are well-received at such times: 55% of voters believe they are good for the economy. Only 19% disagree and see them as bad policy.
Down the campaign homestretch, Mr. Obama's tax-cutting promise became his clearest policy position. Eventually he stole the tax issue from the Republicans. Heading into the election, 31% of voters thought that a President Obama would cut their taxes. Only 11% expected a tax cut from a McCain administration.
The last Democratic candidate to win the tax issue was also the last Democratic president -- Bill Clinton. In fact, the candidate who most credibly promises the lowest level of taxes has won every presidential election in at least the last 40 years.
But while Mr. Obama was promising to cut taxes, the Bush administration took the lead on a $700 billion, taxpayer-backed bailout bill -- with very little marketing finesse. Few Americans supported the bailout, and a majority of voters were more concerned that the government would do too much rather than too little. In terms of getting the economy going again, 58% said that more tax cuts would better stimulate the economy than new government spending.
A Rasmussen survey conducted Oct. 2 found that 59% agreed with the sentiment expressed by Reagan in his first inaugural address: "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Just 28% disagreed with this sentiment. That survey also found that 44% of Obama voters agreed with Reagan's assessment (40% did not). And McCain voters overwhelmingly supported the Gipper.
The real challenge for the new president will be attempting to govern with a message that resonates with most voters but divides his own party. Consider that 43% of voters view it as a positive to describe a candidate as being like Reagan, while just 26% consider it a negative. Being compared to Reagan rates higher among voters than being called "conservative," "moderate," "liberal" or "progressive." Except among Democrats, that is. Fifty-one percent of Democrats view that Reagan comparison as a negative. There's Mr. Obama's dilemma in a nutshell.
Mr. Obama won the White House promising tax cuts, but he will be governing with a Democratic Congress bursting with desire for a more activist government. As he faces this challenge, he might remember the fate of another man who made taxes the central part of his campaign: the first President Bush, whose most memorable campaign line -- "Read my lips, no new taxes" -- was as central to his victory as Mr. Obama's promise to cut taxes for 95% of Americans. George H.W. Bush famously reneged on that promise. Voters rejected his bid for a second term.
Mr. Obama ran like Reagan. Will he be able to govern that way, too?
Mr. Rasmussen is president of Rasmussen Reports, an independent national polling company.
Please add your comments
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Be on the lookout for these individuals
on: November 10, 2008, 10:23:33 AM
Yeah, I remember Gorelick
Forgive my senior moment, but please refresh my memory as to what the GSE is , , ,
If things go right, most of the names in the following piece should go to source information:
D.C. Watson: Jihadists In America: Their “Inner Struggle” Goes On http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/023450.php#more
D.C. Watson updates his "Misunderstanders of Islam" list:
While the professional protesters masquerading as moderate Islamic lobby groups continue to cry out in anguish as a result of the rabid, (and invented) “Islamophobia” epidemic they claim is sweeping across America and most other Western nations, more misunderstanders of their peaceful and tolerant faith continue to make their way onto this running, yet incomplete slate of Muslims in the United States who have conspired to, or managed to carry out, their “jihad,” and have either been arrested, convicted, are on the run, or are deceased.
It would benefit this nation if American politicians and the American mainstream press considered the well-being of the American people who elect them to office, and who read, watch, and listen to their media product, instead of giving credibility to bullies who have taken over America’s Islamic community and appointed themselves its leaders, and who have made it a common practice to condemn not those who want to see the United States destroyed, but instead to condemn Americans who step up to the plate and confront Islamic jihadists and their supporters.
Thus far, in this arena, politicians and news sources have been a disgrace. The American public deserves better, much better.
It would also benefit this nation if the press and politicians obtained the perspective of Muslims living in the United States who are not associated with organizations such as the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, or the Islamic Society of North America.
And now, those who “struggle”:
Abdel Azim El Siddig: Financing Islamic terrorism (Missouri).
Abdelhaleem Ashqar: Criminal contempt and obstruction of justice for refusing to testify in 2003 before a grand jury investigating the Palestinian militant movement Hamas. Telephone records presented in the case records showed that Ashqar was in contact with Hamas leaders.
Abdikarim Warsame: Weapons and explosives charges. (Missouri)
Abdul Hakim Murad: Conspiring and attempting to bomb 12 airliners.
Abdul Rauf Noormohamed: Providing false terrorism tips to federal agents.
Abdurahman Alamoudi: Financing Islamic terrorism.
Adam Gadahn, convert to Islam: Treason.
Adham Hassoun: Conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim people in a foreign country.
Adnan el-Shukrijumah: Wanted in connection with possible threats against the United States.
Agron Abdullahu: Conspiring to provide weapons to illegal immigrants.
Ahmad Abdelmomen: Aggravated assault, for beating his younger sister, breaking her back, and leaving her wheelchair bound because he was upset about her relationship with a non-Muslim boy. Their parents did not immediately call for medical assistance, believing that the beating was justified. (Michigan)
Ahmad Mustafa: Aiding Islamic terrorists (Missouri).
Ahmad Saad Nasim: Filing a false 'anti-Muslim' hate crime (Arizona).
Ahmed Abdel Sattar: Assisting an Islamic militant imprisoned in the United States with communicating with his followers in Egypt (New York).
Ahmed Barodi: Smuggling bogus passports into Saudi Arabia for the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.
Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal: Pleaded guilty to conspiracy to aid the Taliban and to federal weapons charges. (Oregon)
Ahmed Mohamed: Teaching and demonstrating the making and use of an expolsive and destructive device, illegal transporting of explosive materials. (South Carolina)
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali: Terror-related charges, plotting to kill a U.S. President (Virginia).
Ahmed Ressam: Plotting to bomb the Los Angeles Airport on the eve of the new millennium.
Ali Abu Kamal: Shooting seven people on the Empire State Building's observation deck, killing one because he wanted to "punish America for supporting Israel."
Ali al-Timimi: Recruiting Islamic terrorists.
Ali Asad Chandia: Providing material support to terrorists or conspiring to do so.
Ali bin Mussalim: Investing funds for Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida.
Ali Hussein Darwiche: Involvement in a cigarette-smuggling ring that sent profits to Hezbollah. (North Carolina)
Ali Khalid Steitiye: Weapons and fraud charges. (Oregon)
Ali Mohamed Bagegni: Financing Islamic terrorism (Missouri).
Ali Warrayat: Aggravated assault and arson. Warrayat, a Muslim and former student at Arizona State, with a Qur'an and a Palestinian flag in his trunk, rammed his car through the doors of an Arizona Home Depot store, drove through the store to the section that stocks the flammable liquids, and sets it ablaze. Why? He was unhappy with his raise. Also noted in police statements was that Warrayat had referred to his religion on several occasions, and that a Qur'an was hanging from the rearview mirror inside his vehicle.
Amir Abdelgani: Seditious conspiracy, bombing conspiracy and attempted bombing.
Amjad Abunar: Arson, reporting a false 'anti-Muslim' hate crime (Texas).
Ayoub Hisham Ahmed: RICO conspiracy (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) in a case involving funneling money obtained through bank fraud to Palestinian territories. (Missouri)
Bassam Hisham Ahmed: RICO conspiracy (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) in a case involving funneling money obtained through bank fraud to Palestinian territories. (Missouri)
Bassem Khafagi: Visa and Bank fraud. Khafagi was a founding member and president of the Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA), an organization under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for terrorism-related activities. He was also a community relations director for CAIR.
Basel Saleh Salem Kassem: Charged with making a threat on a public conveyance, screaming that he had a bomb in his bag after getting into an argument with someone on an Amtrak train (Virginia).
Basman Elashi: Conspiracy, money laundering and dealing in property of a terrorist (Texas).
Bayan Elashi: Conspiracy, money laundering and dealing in property of a terrorist (Texas).
Chawki Hammoud: Involvement in a cigarette-smuggling ring that sent profits to Hezbollah. (North Carolina)
Christopher Paul, aka Abdul Malek, or Abdul Malik: Providing material support to terrorists, conspiracy to provide support to terrorists, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. (Ohio)
Clement Hampton-El: Seditious conspiracy, bombing conspiracy and attempted bombing (New York).
Dawud Salahuddin, convert to Islam: Murder of a critic of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, saying the killing was "an act of war and a religious duty." Fled to Iran after the murder he committed (Bethesda, Maryland).
Derrick Shareef, aka Talib Abu Salam Ibn Shareef: Attempting to damage or destroy a building by fire or explosion, attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against persons or property in the U.S.
Donald T. Surratt, convert to Islam: Conspiracy, terror support.
Dritan Duka: Conspiring to kill uniformed military personnel.
Earnest James Ujaama: Pleaded guilty of conspiring to supply goods and services to the Taliban.
Ehsanul Sadequee: Conspiring to provide and providing material support to terrorists. (Georgia)
Elbaneh Jaber: Pleaded guilty to charges of providing material support to al Qaeda. (New York)
El-Sayyid Nosair: Seditious conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, attempted murder in aid of racketeering, attempted murder of a postal police officer, use of a firearm in the commission of a murder.
Eljvir Duka: Conspiring to kill uniformed military personnel.
Emadeddin Z. Muntasser: Conspiracy to defraud the United States, tax violations, and making false statements by lying to the government to win tax-exempt status for Care International, an Islamic charity, and then using the nonprofit to distribute publications promoting jihad, and to support Muslim militants overseas. (Boston, Mass.)
Eman Zaeri: Threatening to blow up a local bus with a grenade in Las Vegas.
Fadil Abdelghani: Seditious conspiracy, bombing conspiracy, attempted
bombing. (New York).
Fadl Mohammad Maatouk: Conspiring to provide support to a terrorist organization. (Florida)
Faisal Al-Salmi: Lying to the FBI when he denied knowing 9/11 hijacker, murderer Hani Hanjour, who flew American Airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon. (Faisal Al-Salmi and Hani Hanjour were registered at the same time to use a flight simulator at a Phoenix flight school.)
Fares Khallafalla: Seditious conspiracy, bombing conspiracy and attempted bombing. (New York).
Imam Fawaz Damra: Obtaining U.S. citizenship by providing false information, concealing his ties to designated Islamic terror organizations (Ohio).
Fawzi Assi: Attempting to provide support to a terrorist organization.
Faysal Galab: Contributing "funds, goods and services to and for the benefit of Osama bin Laden and al Qaida.
Ghandi Hisham Ahmed: RICO conspiracy (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) in a case involving funneling money obtained through bank fraud to Palestinian territories. (Missouri)
Ghassan Elashi: Conspiracy, money laundering and dealing in property of a terrorist (Texas).
Gregory Vernon Patterson, convert to Islam: Plotting terrorist attacks against synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and military facilities in Los Angeles.
Habis Abdullah Al-Saoub: Seditious conspiracy, supplying goods to the Taliban. (Deceased).
Haider Mohammed: While in a bar in Palm Springs, began to yell that he was going to “kill all Jews."
Hamid Hayat: Providing material support to terrorists, lying to the FBI.
Hammad Abdur-Raheem: Providing material support to a known terrorist organization.
Hammad Riaz Samana: Plotting terrorist attacks against synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and military facilities in Los Angeles.
Hasan Akbar: Murder of fellow U.S. soldiers.
Hassan Abujihaad, fka Paul R. Hall, former U.S. Sailor: Supporting terrorism with intent to kill U.S. citizens, transmitting classified information to unauthorized people.
Hassan Moussa Makki: Pleaded guilty to racketeering charges and providing material support to Hezbollah. (North Carolina, Michigan)
Hazim Elashi: Conspiracy, money laundering and dealing in property of a terrorist. (Texas).
Hesham Mohamed Hadayet: With a .45 caliber firearm, went on a shooting spree at the Los Angeles International Airport while standing in line at the ticket counter of Israel's El Al Airlines, killing two people, including a 20-year-old unarmed woman. He also wounded four others, shooting an unarmed 61-year-old woman, pistol whipping an unarmed man, and stabbing a security guard with a six inch long knife he was also carrying. Side note: The wife of the murderer blamed the United States and its "hate for Islam" for the attack, saying that her spouse was a "victim of injustice."
Hesham Mohamed Hadayet: With a .45 caliber firearm, went on a shooting spree at the Los Angeles International Airport while standing in line at the ticket counter of Israel's El Al Airlines, killing two people, including a 20-year-old unarmed woman. He also wounded four others, shooting an unarmed 61-year-old woman, pistol whipping an unarmed man, and stabbing a security guard with a six inch long knife he was also carrying. Side note: The wife of the murderer blamed the United States and its "hate for Islam" for the attack, saying that her spouse was a "victim of injustice."
target="_blank">Hussein Ali Nure: Weapons and explosives charges. (Missouri)
Ibrahim Abu Mezer: Plotting to bomb New York subways.
Ibrahim Ahmed, Nashville, TN cab driver: Assault and attempted homicide, when after an argument with two non-Muslim passengers over religion, he attempted to run them over as they walked away from the taxi. He succeeded in critically injuring one.
Ibraham Ahmed al-Hamdi: "Virginia Jihad Network", weapons and explosives violations, carrying a rocket-propelled grenade in furtherance of a conspiracy to undertake a military operation against India. (Virginia).
Ibrahim A. Elgabrowny: Seditious conspiracy; assault of a Federal agent and city police detective. (New York).
Ihsan Elashyi: Illegal sales of computer equipment to known Islamic terror sponsoring states (Texas).
Ismail Yassin Mohamed while driving a stolen black Chevy Cavalier, he began intentionally ramming a blue and white taxi cab for several blocks until the cab crashed. The passenger inside the cab was critically injured. Mohamed then took off in the Cavalier and crashed it into a business. He then got out of the car and stole a school van. The driver of the van managed to get an 8-year-old boy out of the vehicle before Mohamed drove off with it. Mohamed crashed the van into another group of cars. Authorities said Mohamed was trying steal another car when witnesses pinned him down and waited for police. When asked why he did this, Mohamed replied..."Allah made me do it." Police ruled out road rage as a motive (Minneapolis).
Iyman Faris: Providing material support and resources to al Qaida (Virginia).
Imam Jamil Al-Amin: Murder, felony murder, aggravated assault on a police officer, obstructing a law enforcement officer, impersonating an officer, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Jeffrey Leon Battle: Pleaded guilty to conspiracy to levy war against the United States. (Oregon)
John Muhammad, sniper: Murdering Americans by sniper fire.
John Walker Lindh, convert to Islam: Providing support to the Taliban.
Jose Padilla/aka Abdullah al-Muhajir: Terrorism conspiracy.
Kevin James, convert to Islam: Plotting terrorist attacks against synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and military facilities in Los Angeles.
Karim Moussaoui: Possession or receiving of a firearm by a person admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa.
Kifah Jayoussi: Conspiring to provide material support and resources for terrorism and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure people or damage property in a foreign country.
Lafi Khalil: Plotting to bomb New York subways.
Levar Haney Washington, convert to Islam: Plotting terrorist attacks against synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and military facilities in Los Angeles.
target="_blank">Maher Hawash: Conspiracy to supply services to the Taliban.
target="_blank">Mahmet M. Kadayifci: First and second-degree charges of falsely reporting an incident, and using a laptop to place the three bomb threats.
Mahmoud Kourani: Supporting the Islamic terror organization, Hezbollah, through fund-raising.
Mahmud Faruq Brent: Conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Mandhai Jokhan: Attempting to blow up nuclear power plants in Florida.
Masoud Ahmad Kahn: Conspiracy to levy war against the United States, providing support to the Taliban.
Mazhar Tabesh: Arson, reporting a false 'anti-Muslim' hate crime (Utah).
Michael Julius Ford, convert to Islam: Opened fire at a warehouse in Denver, Colorado, killing one and injuring four others because he was "teased for being a Muslim and couldn't take it anymore."
Mir Aimal Kasi: Murdering two CIA agents, and wounding three others with an assault rifle near CIA headquarters. (Virginia)
Mirza Akram: Arson, reporting a false 'anti-Muslim' hate crime (Washington state).
Mohamad Atef Darwiche: Involvement in a cigarette-smuggling ring that sent profits to Hezbollah. (North Carolina)
target="_blank">Mohamad Fouad Abdallah: Sending anti-Semitic e-mails threatening rape and death to conservative TV commentator and blogger Debbie Schlussel. (Michigan)
Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer: Conspiring to kill uniformed military personnel.
target="_blank">Mohamed Judeh: Weapons and explosives charges. (Missouri)
Mohamed Shorbagi: Pleaded guilty in federal court to providing material support to Hamas with donations through the Holy Land Foundation. (Georgia)
Mohammed Ali Alayed: After experiencing a religious awakening, he murdered his Jewish friend by slashing his throat.
Mohammed Al Hassan al-Moayad: Attempting to fund terrorist organizations (New York).
Mohammed Badwan: RICO conspiracy (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) in a case involving funneling money obtained through bank fraud to Palestinian territories. (Missouri)
Mohammed Hammoud: Providing material support for Hezbollah (North Carolina).
Mohammed Junair Babar: Pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiring to provide material support to Al Qaeda. (New York)
Mohammed Khalil Ghali: Conspiracy to commit offenses against the U.S.
Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed: Conspiring to provide material support to the al-Qaeda and Hamas terrorist groups.
Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar: Nine counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to cause bodily injury after plowing a sport utility vehicle into a crowd of pedestrians, saying he wanted to "spread the will of Allah" (North Carolina).
Mohammed Saleh: Seditious conspiracy, bombing conspiracy and attempted bombing. (New York).
Mohammed Yousry: Providing material aid to terrorism and conspiring to deceive the government.
Mousa Abuelawi: Weapons and explosives charges. (Missouri)
Mubarak Hamed: Financing Islamic terrorism (Missouri).
Muhamed Mubayyid: Making false statements to the FBI, conspiracy to defraud the United States, tax violations, and making false statements by lying to the government to win tax-exempt status for Care International, an Islamic charity, and then using the nonprofit to distribute publications promoting jihad, and to support Muslim militants overseas. (Boston, Mass.)
Muhammed Aatique: Commencing a military expedition against a friendly nation, and using and discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.
Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal: Conspiring to help al Qaeda and the Taliban. (Oregon)
target="_blank">Muhammad Salah: Obstruction of justice for lying under oath on a written questionnaire involving the shooting death in Israel of an American teenager, David Boim, who was killed by Hamas in 1996 while standing at a bus stop.
Mukhtar al-Bakri: Providing material support to al Qaeda.
Muthanna Al-Hanooti: Conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign country, illegally purchasing Iraqi oil and lying to authorities after arranging a visit to Baghdad by three Democratic U.S. congressmen financed by Saddam Hussein's intelligence agency in the run-up to the Iraq war.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / His Glibness prepares to slip it to us
on: November 09, 2008, 05:59:57 PM
"Yes We Can . . . Ban Guns"--Obama Announces Gun Ban Agenda Before The Final Vote Count Is In
Friday, November 07, 2008
Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign slogan, "the audacity of hope," should have instead been "the audacity of deceit." After months of telling the American people that he supports the Second Amendment, and only hours after being declared the president-elect, the Obama transition team website announced an agenda taken straight from the anti-gun lobby--four initiatives designed to ban guns and drive law-abiding firearm manufacturers and dealers out of business:
"Making the expired federal assault weapons ban permanent." Perhaps no other firearm issue has been more dishonestly portrayed by gun prohibitionists. Notwithstanding their predictions that the ban's expiration in 2004 would bring about the end of civilization, for the last four years the nation's murder rate has been lower than anytime since the mid-1960s. Studies for Congress, the Congressional Research Service, the National Institute of Justice, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found no evidence that gun prohibition or gun control reduces crime. Guns that were affected by the ban are used in only a tiny fraction of violent crime-about 35 times as many people are murdered without any sort of firearm (knives, bare hands, etc.), as with "assault weapons." Obama says that "assault weapons" are machine guns that "belong on foreig n battlefields," but that is a lie; the guns are only semi-automatic, and they are not used by a military force anywhere on the planet.
"Repeal the Tiahrt Amendment." The amendment--endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police--prohibits the release of federal firearm tracing information to anyone other than a law enforcement agency conducting a bona fide criminal investigation. Anti-gun activists oppose the restriction, because it prevents them from obtaining tracing information and using it in frivolous lawsuits against law-abiding firearm manufacturers. Their lawsuits seek to obtain huge financial judgments against firearm manufacturers when a criminal uses a gun to inflict harm, even though the manufacturers have complied with all applicable laws.
"Closing the gun show loophole." There is no "loophole." Under federal law, a firearm dealer must conduct a background check on anyone to whom he sells a gun, regardless of where the sale takes place. A person who is not a dealer may sell a gun from his personal collection without conducting a check. Gun prohibitionists claim that many criminals obtain guns from gun shows, though the most recent federal survey of convicted felons put the figure at only 0.7 percent. They also claim that non-dealers should be required to conduct checks when selling guns at shows, but the legislation they support goes far beyond imposing that lone requirement. In fact, anti-gun members of Congress voted against that limited measure, holding out for a broader bill intended to drive shows out of business.
"Making guns in this country childproof." "Childproof" is a codeword for a variety of schemes designed to prevent the sale of firearms by imposing impossible or highly expensive design requirements, such as biometric shooter-identification systems. While no one opposes keeping children safe, the fact is that accidental firearm-related deaths among children have decreased 86 percent since 1975, even as the numbers of children and guns have risen dramatically. Today, the chances of a child being killed in a firearm accident are less than one in a million.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine
on: November 09, 2008, 05:08:17 PM
Just noticed this in C-Kaju's post of last year concerning tourniquets:
"No matter whether applying an ACE bandage, Pressure dressing or Tourniquet... Always, check "PMS" (Pulse, Motor skills - ie. can you wiggle your fingers/toes and Sensation - ie "can you tell me what finger/toe I am touching?") distal to the wound site."
If I feel a pulse does is that a good thing, or does it mean that the Tourniquet is not tight enough?
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Sugar as an anti-biotic
on: November 09, 2008, 02:54:48 PM
USE OF SUGAR TO ENHANCE WOUND HEALING
The use of antibiotics by the PHCP in the field has the inherent dangers of improper dosing and allergic reactions. The associated activities of preparing the N/antibiotic infusion and monitoring the N drip rates can be difficult during patient transport. Given these drawbacks, the use of granulated sugar for the treatment of infected wounds offers a practical, proven approach for wound care. The use of granulated sugar for treatment of infected wounds is recommended by some as a treatment of first choice. Sugar has been called a nonspecific universal antimicrobial agent. 8 Based on its safety, ease of use, and availability, sugar therapy for the treatment of infected wounds is very applicable to the needs of the PHCP.
Sugar and honey were used to treat the wounds of combatants thousands of years ago. Battlefield wounds in ancient Egypt were treated with a mixture of honey and lard packed daily into the wound and covered with muslin. Modern sugar therapy uses a combination of granulated sugar (sucrose) and povidone-iodine (PI) solution to enhance wound healing.
As with any traumatic wound, the wound is first irrigated and debrided. Hemostasis is obtained prior to the application of the sugar (PI) dressing since sugar can promote bleeding in a fresh wound. A wait of 24 to 48 hours before the application of sugar is not unusual. During this delay, a simple PI dressing is applied to the wound. Once bleeding is under control, deep wounds are treated by pouring granulated sugar into the wound, making sure to fill all cavities. The wound is then covered with a gauze sponge soaked in povidone-iodine solution.
Superficial wounds are dressed with PI-soaked gauze sponges coated with approximately 0.65 cm thickness of sugar. In a few hours, the granulated sugar is dissolved into a "syrup" by body fluid drawn into the wound site. Since the effect of granulated sugar upon bacteria is based upon osmotic shock and withdrawal of water that is necessary for bacterial growth and reproduction, this diluted syrup has little antibacterial capacity and may aid rather than inhibit bacterial growth.
So to continually inhibit bacterial growth, the wound is cleaned with water and repacked at least one to four times daily (or as soon as the granular sugar becomes diluted) with more solute (sugar) to "reconcentrate" the aqueous solution in the environment of the bacteria.
A variety of case reports provide amazing data supporting the use of sugar in treating infected wounds. Dr. Leon Herszage treated 120 cases of infected wounds and other superficial lesions with ordinary granulated sugar purchased in a supermarket. The sugar was not mixed with any anti-septic, and no antibiotics were used concurrently. Of these 120 cases, there was a 99.2 percent cure rate, with a time of cure varying between 9 days to 17 weeks. Odor and secretions from the wound usually diminished within 24 hours and disappeared in 72 to 96 hours from onset of treatment. http://server107.hypermart.net/gogetemgear/pictures/med...%20gearSugardyne.jpg
Photo 23: Sugardyne is a commercially available sugar/povidone-iodine com- pound. Its proven antimicrobial properties make it particularly useful for infected wounds encountered in the field. (Sugardyne donated by Dr. RichardA. Knutson; distributed by Sugardyne Pharmaceuticals, INC.,Greenville, MS 38701.)
Like Dr. Herszage, Dr. Richard A. Knutson has had very successful results from the use of sugar in wounds. One of Dr. Knutson's most unique cases is recounted as follows.
A 93-year-old man was treated at Delta Medical Center for a fracture of his right hip. Concurrently, he received treatment for an old injury to his left leg, sustained 43 years earlier in 1936, when a tree had fallen on the leg while he was chopping wood. He had sustained an open fracture of the tibia and soft tissue loss to the leg anteriorly. Although the fracture had healed, bone remained exposed, surrounded by a chronic draining ulcer 20 cm x 8 cm overall. The patient was able to recall the various treatments used in attempts to heal the ulcer-iodoform, scarlet red, zinc oxide, nitrofurazone, sulfa, and a long list of antibiotics-all to no avail. He said that he had outlived six of the surgeons who had advised amputation. He was started on sugar/pI dressings, and then changed to treatment with sugar/PI compound as an inpatient. After hip surgery, the ulcer healed completely in 13 weeks. The ulcer defect filled completely, and skin grafting was not necessary.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Looking for fighters for stickfighting TV series
on: November 08, 2008, 10:49:40 PM
My name is Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny. Some of you may know me as "the Guiding
Force" of "the Dog Brothers" and/or the Head Instructor of Dog Brothers
Martial Arts. www.dogbrothers.com
. Today I speak as Dog Brothers Inc.
I have been asked by a well established Producer with a good track record in
doing athletically oriented television series for major networks to help
develop a television show based upon stick and other weaponry fights, so I
am looking for fighters. For the right men, this could be a very special
opportunity to build a career doing something you love.
For now I need to leave out the actual concept for the show. Know that it
will be interesting and quite distinctive from shows like The Ultimate
Fighter, Fight Quest, and others of their ilk. Trust me-- we will be
outside the box in many ways!
Although much of the fighting will be similar to our "Dog Brother Real
Contact Stickfighting" (see the fight clips at http://www.dogbrothers.com/pages/multimedia.html
to get an idea) because
these fights will be professional there will be some important differences.
If you would like to be considered, we need to see the following-- all
submissions become the property of Dog Brothers Inc.:
1) a one page resume. The resume should include the following:
a) age, height, weight, citizenship, languages, website/mypage/etc. if
b) martial arts background: systems, styles, teachers, fighting
experience, competitive athletic background etc.
c) contact info
2) Photos: a) Head Shot
b) Full Body shot. Not to worry if you are not body
3) The ideal candidate will be capable in as many of the following areas as
possible, but it is understood that no one will be capable in all areas.
Demonstrate as many or as few of the following as you wish. Know that if
you suck at it, you are better leaving it out altogether!
a) Double stick
b) Single stick
e) emptyhand skills: MMA or otherwise
f) gun skills (pistol, rifle, paintball)
g) other (e.g. sword and shield, whip, nunchaku, fencing, etc)
h) footage that indicates your strength and conditioning level.
These skills should be presented both solo and against a partner/opponent.
If you have fight footage please include it. MAKE CLEAR WHICH FIGHTER IS YOU
(e.g. title on screen "I am fighter in blue shorts")
ATTENTION: It is easy to develop a bit of diarrhea of the ego in assembling
such a demo disc. KNOW THAT the people who will be watching this (e.g. me)
are well seasoned in these things and do not need to see a lot to size up
your movement and skills. While some flash is fine (indeed it helps sell on
TV) remember that we are looking for fighters.
Know that if you run on too long, you run the chance of the viewer just
deciding to click on to the next candidate. Remember, we will be looking
at a lot of these. While the footage need not be shot professionally, it
should be easy to watch and hear.
4) Talk to the camera: head/upper body shot, with good clear audio. We
want to get a sense of why you do martial arts, what your philosophy is,
why you want to do this, something interesting about yourself etc. We want
to get a sense of your personality, so JUST BE YOURSELF.
Unconventional/colorful is OK. So too is conventional/serious. JUST BE
Please send your resume and Demo Reel/Disc to
Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny
Attention: TV Project
703 Pier Ave #664
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
The Adventure begins!
Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues
on: November 08, 2008, 06:30:16 PM
Just because he thinks Michele Malkin is?
Anyway, I don't think he would do that with me
I think he's a very nice person. A bit confused on some of the issues perhaps, thinks with his heart perhaps, finds it hard to back down when overextended perhaps but it is not as if he is the only one here with that quirk
A bit more seriously, I'd like to give a gentle tug on the leash in request of moving on from further reference to JDN's failure to back up his accusations of MM.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives
on: November 08, 2008, 09:56:13 AM
These words bear re-reading-- especially with BO about to give driver licences to illegals, and the vote to anyone with a driver's license:
"As for your point about the immigration thing there is probably a small *majority* of Americans (not only those on the "far right") who want the illegal immigration flood stopped. And I agree with this stance. I want to dispose of old laws that make it ok for people to come here illegally and utilize our hospitals to have babies who are thus legal citizens automatically. Or for those who come here be able to bring 12 or what is it 18 relatives over to live here. I bet more than 50% of Americans would still agree with this.
"But!!! I question if it is not *too late* for this because the voting power of the immigrants and particularly the Latino immigrants is now so huge they can make or break national candidates. Look at California, New Mexico, Colorado, and possibly NY and NJ etc.
These states have huge Latino voters.
"I feel we must be realists. Some including Rove have felt if we get too strict with the Latinos we "will lose them for generations."
After seeing the Latino voting polls he appears to be right and that was even after W and McCain taking leniency.
"Rove was pointing out how Latinos have conservative values with regards to work ethic and family and religion. While that may be true I see them wanting government sponsored health care and many government programs. If they loved Repub. ideals so much they would vote for that party. But many love the big government the Dems offer."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives
on: November 08, 2008, 09:34:21 AM
Occasionally Coulter is still funny, but mostly I wouldn't even let her perform fellatio on me.
OTOH IMHO President Reagan remains profoundly relevant on many levels, not least of which is the , , , audacity of believing in free minds, free markets, freedom of choice, freedom of worship, the pursuit of happiness, and America.
Here's this from today's WSJ:
After the shellacking it received at the polls Tuesday, the Republican Party faces a choice. It can put the loss down to the country's fatigue with the Bush Administration and the bad luck of running amid a financial panic and shrug it off. Or it can choose a new direction, with new leadership, and retake the high ground it once occupied, especially on the economy.
These columns are devoted to ideas, not party, and ordinarily we would not insert ourselves into the internal debate over party leadership. But in the current political and economic climate, it is important that somebody offer an effective argument against the interventionist, antigrowth conventional wisdom that dominates the majority party in Congress. And if the Republican Party would offer that counterargument, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan seems to be the right man to make the case.
Mr. Ryan was first elected in 1998, and he has always won re-election comfortably in a state and a district that are not particularly safe territory for Republicans. Racine County, which represents the biggest piece of Mr. Ryan's district in southeastern Wisconsin, voted for Barack Obama, 53%-46%, but still voted to re-elect Mr. Ryan 62%-37%. He is, in other words, a politician practiced in speaking to and winning over voters who are not necessarily die-hard Republicans.
But the most important reason that Mr. Ryan is the right man at the current moment has nothing to do with electoral calculation. The 38-year-old Mr. Ryan cares about free markets and economic growth and can talk about those subjects in a way that makes sense without falling back on ideology, bromides or oversimplification. He engages these subjects with a vigor that befits his age, and while he has been in Congress for nearly a decade, his is a fresh face on the national scene, one not associated with the bipartisan failures of Congress.
Mr. Ryan is also an effective communicator on television, which will be an important outlet for reaching the American people and presenting an alternative to the economic ideas of Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi and Charlie Rangel. This summer, with a Presidential election well underway and his party in the minority, Mr. Ryan unveiled a far-sighted "Road Map for America's Future."
It is a remarkable document: Other politicians, including Presidential candidates, boldly declare their intentions to push any hard or painful choices off to blue-ribbon commissions. Mr. Ryan's Road Map puts into legislative language not mere general principles, but a plan to pay for all the promises we've made to seniors while preventing government spending from achieving French proportions. "I want to be the Paul Revere of fiscal policy," he said at the time, raising the alarm on our long-term liabilities even while President-elect Obama and others insist that there's nothing to see when it comes to the long-term insolvency of Medicare and Social Security.
More generally, the Republican Party needs a prominent figure who can discuss the full range of economic issues -- growth, the dollar, global trade and monetary policy included. The economy was the top issue on voter minds in this election, and Republicans lost. The party needs someone who can put these issues into a context that voters can understand and relate to. And looking at the national field, there seem precious few candidates for the job.
Mr. Ryan did not solicit our support, and we should note that he said Thursday that he isn't seeking the leadership job. John Boehner, the current leader, wasn't the cause of this year's GOP losses and is the favorite to retain his position. If that's what House Republicans want to do, so be it. Our job is to say what we think in any case. And Mr. Ryan's economic knowledge and youthful energy make him the best choice to pull his party in a more promising direction.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters
on: November 08, 2008, 08:30:42 AM
#1 Yesterday, 09:48 PM
Senior Member Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: San Francisco, TX. I mean Austin...
Mexico Seizes Hundreds of Drug-Cartel Weapons in Record Raid
ok, so who is thinking about responding with "they better not check out my basement"? you should go to this link and check out the extra photos. i like the gold plated desert eagle.http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,449045,00.html
Friday, November 07, 2008
Nov. 7, 2008; Soldiers stand guard around a presentation of arms captured in an operation against the Gulf cartel in Mexico City.
MEXICO CITY — The Mexican army on Friday announced that it has made the largest seizure of drug-cartel weapons in Mexico's history.
The cache of 540 rifles, 165 grenades, 500,000 rounds of ammunition and 14 sticks of TNT were seized on Thursday at a house in the city of Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas, Mexican Assistant Attorney General Marisela Morales said.
"The seizure ... is the largest in the history of Mexico involving organized crime," Morales told reporters at Defense Department headquarters, where the army displayed hundreds of rifles, pistols, and shotguns, and laid out rows of grenades and crates of ammunition.
Morales said the largest previous bust involved a cache of 280 weapons found in 1984.
The weapons in this latest seizure belonged to the Gulf drug cartel, an official said after Morales made her statement. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.
Soldiers detected the cache when they chased suspects into the home after the men refused orders to stop, Morales said. Three suspects were detained.
It was unclear whether the raid was related to an FBI intelligence report obtained by a Texas newspaper in October that warned the Gulf cartel was stockpiling high-powered weapons in Reynosa to prepare for possible confrontations with U.S. law enforcement. Morales did not take questions from reporters.
The man who allegedly leads the cartel's hit squad in the area, Jaime Gonzalez Duran, was mentioned in the FBI report as having ordered dozens of hit men to the Reynosa area as part of those plans.
Gonzalez Duran was arrested in Reynosa on Friday.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reshaping the bioethical landscape
on: November 08, 2008, 07:56:27 AM
Reshaping the bioethical landscape
Nov 08, 2008 | Comments| Email to friend | Print
The electoral tidal wave which swept Democrat Barack Obama into the White House and Democrat majorities into the Senate and the House of Representatives could reshape the bioethical landscape in the United States.
The most obvious issue isabortion. Mr Obama is a strong supporter of a woman's right to abortion. The leading abortion action group, Planned Parenthood, gave him "100%" on its electoral scorecard. After reviewing Obama's legislative record, Professor Robert P. George, of Princeton University, wrote a scathing analysis of his views on pro-life issues. His conclusion: "Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States. He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate. Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress."
Under George W. Bush, a relatively pro-life president, abortion activists felt threatened. On his first day in office he had blocked federal aid to foreign groups that promoted abortion. He appointed two justices to the Supreme Court who apparently took a dim view of Roe v. Wade, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. He signed a ban on partial-birth abortion. His appointees in the Federal bureaucracy tried to thwart sales of emergency contraception to minors and promoted abstinence-only sex education. In Planned Parenthood's eyes, Bush had declared war on women.
Nor, before the election, was the situation in all of the 50 states altogether favourable for abortion supporters. The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court effectively guaranteed abortion on demand. However, opponents have managed to restrict this in a number of small ways on a state-by-state basis - banning late-term abortions, requiring parental notification, mandatory counselling, restricting health insurance payouts and so on. These form a patchwork of regulation throughout the 50 states.
But with the election of Obama and a Congressional majority which is broadly favourable to abortion rights, all restrictions could vanish. In 2007, as both sides of the abortion divide remember well, Obama promised Planned Parenthood that "the first thing I'd do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA). This act has been kicking around Congress since 2004, but Obama became a co-sponsor of the Senate version in 2007. The purpose of FOCA is to codify Roe v. Wade, invalidating every restriction on abortion at least up to the stage of viability.
The website of the new administration's transition team does not mention FOCA. But it does reassure abortion activists that Obama "has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women's rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as President. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case." It also declares that he will support the Prevention First Act, which will increase funding for family planning and comprehensive sex education and promote emergency contraception.
Obama still has not taken office, so many details remain to be worked out. Will hospitals which currently refuse to do abortions be threatened with loss of funding? Will health care workers effectively lose the right to conscientious objection in abortion and emergency contraception?
Stem cell research is another area which will be affected by the Democrats' victory. Obama supports "research of human embryonic stem cells derived from embryos donated (with consent) from in vitro fertilization clinics". Restrictions on Federal funding for existing stem cell lines are likely to be lifted.
The result is unlikely to be a rapid proliferation of embryonic stem cell research. Few scientists are placing their hopes for cures in ESCs. First of all, after ten years, no one has yet derived a flourishing stem cell line from cloned human embryos. And second, reprogrammed cells, which are uncontroversial ethically, are currently the best hope for useful therapies. Federal funding in the Obama Administration is likely to be directed towards them.
But what will happen when Obama is asked to fund innovative fertility technologies - as he surely will be? The Parliament in the United Kingdom recently approved a thorough-going revision of its fertility act. Apart from authorising saviour siblings, making abortion easier, and doing away with the need for a father in IVF treatment, it also gave a green light to hybrid embryos and cloning embryos with tissue harvested without consent from incapacitated adults or children. The rapid advance of stem cell technologies guarantees that scientists will be creating new dilemmas for law-makers. Artificial sperm and eggs are on the horizon, for example. These would make it possible for gays to create their own children without resorting to donors. Genetic engineering could be used to manufacture children who are free of genetic diseases or who have high IQs. Given his permissive views on abortion, would Obama resist pressure to allow these techniques to proliferate?
Another important issue which may emerge while Obama occupies the White House isphysician-assisted suicide. Voters in the state of Washington followed the lead of neighbouring Oregon on Tuesday and approved Initiative 1000, which allows doctors to prescribe legal drugs for terminally ill patients. The measure sailed through by a margin of 58% to 42%. This will embolden euthanasia activists in other states, especially California.
His attitudes on bioethical issues like these will show whether Obama is a vote-hungry pragmatist, a progressive ideologue, or basically a Christian social democrat. Any of these interpretations can be supported - although the last of these is increasingly unlikely. A few months ago, fundamentalist pastor Rick Warren organised a forum in which he tried to draw out both McCain and Obama on when life begins. McCain immediately blurted out, "At the moment of conception.". Obama wriggled: "whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade."
Bush also faced the thorny bioethical issue of stem cell research early in his first term. To give him advice he created a President's Council on Bioethics. This body was split down the middle on the issue between "progressives" and "conservatives", but under the leadership of Dr Leon Kass it produced some of the most thoughtful, well-reasoned, and eloquent discussion papers ever to emerge from a government department. Since bioethical questions are above his pay grade, Obama will no doubt appoint his own panel of bioethics experts. Which advisors he chooses will provide the best clues about the future of bioethics in the United States -- and possibly the world.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SFC part 3
on: November 07, 2008, 03:05:44 PM
She stated that:
"The Islamist government in Sudan was finally forced into a peace agreement in 2005 that stopped its genocidal jihad against the Christians, followers of traditional religions, and Muslims who resisted Shariah. Immediately they began a financial jihad, backed by the same Arab governments who backed the genocide. They are currently seducing Southern Sudanese desperate for education, healthcare, employment, and infrastructure with Islamic-financed schools, hospitals, roads, and mosques. Those who have been paying with their lives to resist the jihad of bombs and bullets are in danger of succumbing to the jihad of money."
She called for "those responsible within the United States government to examine the evidence that if they submit to Shariah-Compliant Finance at any level, they are putting the United States in far greater danger than an economic crisis."
Kyle Scheindler of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) also spoke against Sharia-Compliant Finance, opposing "this act of dhimmitude by the U.S. Treasury Department that is represented by the Islamic Finance 101 meeting," and due to the recent bailouts and acquisitions, "the U.S. Treasury has a responsibility to U.S. taxpayers greater than it has possessed at any time prior to Alexander Hamilton."
He stated that "it is supremely ironic that the Treasury Department government agency responsible for prosecuting charities which fund Islamic terrorism is now considering a financial system which will mandate banks and investment products donate to those charities. Those donations will be directed by Sharia advisory boards brimming with individuals who belong to organizations that are unindicted co-conspirators" in the Holy Land Foundation terror finance retrial.
Jim Boulet of English First also joined in the condemnation of Shariah-Compliant Finance, issuing a written statement that read "in multicultural America, no one wishes to draw lines between reasoned dissent and what is effectively an effort to overthrow the American way of life." He referenced the "The Basics of the Political System in Islam" as stating that "Islam is a 'total way of life.'" Mr. Boulet stated that this ideology recognized "no separation of church and state," and "once America's financial systems is intertwined with the Islamic system of finance, other demands can be expected, demands which will transform American society." He also challenged those supporting Sharia Compliant-Finance to consider the impacts on single women seeking to have financial independence.
Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America also shared her concerns regarding Sharia-Compliant Finance. She stated that Sharia law's "intention is to control society," and expressed concerns that "accommodating Sharia through our financial system legitimizes a world view and life style that promotes the subjugation of women, the killing of infidels, the denial of human dignity, and the imposition of cruel and inhumane practices."
She challenged the representatives of the U.S. Treasury Department sponsoring the Sharia finance training to clarify what aspects of Sharia they seek to encourage in America society: "that husbands can use physical force against their wives, the early forced marriage of a girl as young as nine, that men can have multiple marriages and multiple wives, that men can have the right of custody of children and mothers have no rights of custody, that homosexuals should be stoned to death, that women accused of bringing dishonor to male relatives should be killed."
Wendy Wright stated that the "intellectuals at the Treasury Department need a shot of common sense. You can't play with fire and not get burned, and you can't accommodate Sharia without affecting society with its inhumane practices."
Warren Mendelson of the Unity Coalition for Israel also spoke to indicate his organization's support for the Coalition to Stop Shariah. He indicated that America's financial challenges leaves it vulnerable to "schemes being advanced to put our financial house in order with SCF which has the potential for far-reaching consequences more dangerous than we face today. We would make a grave mistake to adopt SCF. It is incumbent on all of us to gain a clear understanding of exactly what Sharia law means and how it will impact not only financial state of affairs but also the consequences that conflict with our Constitutional rights."
He further stated that Sharia "requries non-Muslims to live as dhimmis, second-class citizens... and be treated in a brutal and demeaning way... it mandates discrimination against women and non-Muslims, demands the murder of homosexuals, adulterers, and apostates, and requires violent jihad against all infidels, including Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and others." He continued that "Sharia law is seditious because it calls for the violent overthrow of governments like the United States and the replacement of democratic Constitutional law with its own bureaucratic code." He indicated that the nations practicing Sharia law today are "some of the most oppressive regimes in the world."
He pointed out that Sharia Compliant-Finance works by "returns on investments from companies that must be purified partially by donating a portion of their profits to charity. Charities that receive these donations are selected by Sharia experts who are members of an oversight board. There are allegations that some of the profits support major Muslim organizations suspected of having ties to terrorism." He further referenced the ongoing Holy Land Foundation retrial, as well as the Benevolence International Foundation "was closed in 2001 for allegedly supporting Islamic terrorism." He indicated that "some analysts are concerned that Islamic banking will open Western financial institutions to help further the broader Islamic agenda.. and pour in the billions and billions of petrodollars into the financial systems of the Western world."
Frank Gaffney also read a statement from coalition partner, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
This statement included the following comments:
"Make no mistake, Sharia-Compliant Finance is neither about religion nor about God. It is about Islamist control and collectivization of Muslims against the West and free markets. SCF systems are nothing more than a ruse to give transnational Islamist movements and their controlling Muslim theocrats an economic power base. Attempts to appease requests by Islamists to provide so-called SCF are misguided. SCF provides sanction of a dangerous separatist economic system which incubates Islamist ideology among Muslims and keeps them apart from the general population. Islamist theocrats exploit Western deference to religious freedom in order to lay the foundations of a system which feigns religion in order to control the economic decisions of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. SCF allows governments and banks to empower Islamist theocrats who really only want to control Muslim economics rather than actually stimulate the open economic freedom of Muslims. This is the difference between theocracy and liberty, instead of lay citizens controlling their own economic transactions, the invisible hand becomes the hand of the Islamist cleric."
The Coalition to Stop Shariah also provided an expanded list of organizations that support their cause, which to date includes leaders of 25 organizations:
1. ACT for America - Brigitte Gabriel, President
2. American Center for Democracy - Rachel Ehrenfeld, President
3. American Islamic Forum for Democracy - Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, President
4. Center for Security Policy - Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., President
5. Christian Solidarity International - Father Keith Rodderick, Washington Representative
6. Committee on the Present Danger - Chet Nagle
7. Concerned Women for America - Wendy Wright, President
8. Endowment for Middle East Truth - Sarah Stern, President
9. English First - Jim Boulet, Jr. Executive Director
10. Family Security Matters - Carol Taber, founder
11. Florida Security Council - Tom Trento, President
12. Geostrategic Analysis - Peter Huessy
13. High Frontier - Hank Cooper, Chairman
14. Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity - Patrick Sookhdeo, Director and Marshall Sana, Director of Communications
15. Institute on Religion & Democracy, Religious Liberty Program - Faith J. H. McDonnell, Director
16. Jewish Action Alliance
17. Jihadwatch.org, a project of the David Horowitz Freedom Center - Robert Spencer, renowned author and expert on Shariah law, Director
18. Let Freedom Ring - Colin Hanna, President
19. Society of Americans for National Existence - David Yerushalmi, President
20. Tradition, Property and Family - C. Preston Noelle III
21. Traditional Values Coalition - Andrea Lafferty, Executive Director
22. United American Committee
23. Unity Coalition for Israel - Esther Levens, President
24. Women United - Beth Gilinsky, President
25. Zionist Organization of America - Morton Klein, National President
In addition, the Anti-Jihad League of America supports the cause of this group in fighting Sharia and Islamic supremacism.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SCF part 2
on: November 07, 2008, 03:04:27 PM
To date, only SEC Chairman Cox and Fed Chairman Bernanke have responded, but Frank Gaffney stated that "it is instructive that neither Chairman Cox nor Chairman Bernanke has addressed the fundamental question which is what is Sharia and why is it a problem that we have people who are promoting Sharia which is a seditious conspiracy to bring about the overthrow of the United States government and for that matter those of other secular democracies around the world in favor of a global theocracy under Sharia."
Mr. Gaffney also recommended a publication distributed at the press conference entitled "Shariah, Law and 'Financial Jihad': How Should America Respond?" that was co-sponsored by The McCormick Foundation and The Center for Security Policy.
Regarding the U.S. Treasury Sharia-Compliant Finance training course, Frank Gaffney stated that "its purpose seems unmistakable in the complexion of the speakers all of whom it appears support Sharia-Compliant Finance, none of whom it appears is prepared to talk to these government official about what Sharia is and what constitutes as a result - the problems with a financial program designed to advance this seditious conspiracy." Mr. Gaffney also referenced comments by the United Kingdom's Archbishop of Canterbury stating that Sharia would need to be tolerated in the UK, which were based on existing support for Sharia-Compliant Finance in the UK.
Mr. Gaffney stated that "we are determined not to let that happen here, and we are challenging the Treasury Department in its efforts to promote Sharia and Sharia-Compliant Finance." He also noted that the Treasury trainers include advocates of Sharia-Compliant Finance and are benefiting from that industry. He called for the Department of Treasury to have another course on Sharia "where people are allowed to talk about what Sharia is, why it is seditious, and why its manifestations in the form of Sharia-Compliant Finance must be opposed, not supported, not abetted, not implemented, especially as seems entirely possible the purpose of the Treasury Department is to use its new found leverage in the financial markets to do that kind of promotion inside our financial industry which is now owned by the Federal Government or is being influenced by the $700 billion being dangled in front of the industry."
Robert Spencer, author of Stealth Jihad and leader of JihadWatch.org, told the press conference that there has been a history of those who have sought to integrate Sharia into America's political policies. He provided the example of Harvard University's Noah Feldman as "one of the leading proponents of Sharia finance and of the spread of Sharia norms in framing of the Iraqi constitution as well as the spread of the idea of the acceptability of Sharia in the west." Mr. Spencer pointed to Feldman's New York Times magazine column on Sharia, which has been widely distributed and reprinted around the world. Mr. Spencer points out that Noah Feldman never addresses how Sharia "treats women and non-Muslims and that is getting to the heart of what is problematic about it and indeed seditious about it in many ways."
Robert Spencer pointed out "the accommodation to the norms of Islamic law that goes under the name of Sharia cannot be separated from the accommodation of Islamic law in general. Sharia financial provisions are not in any sense within Islam juridically or in any other sense separate from or separable from the larger aggregate of Islamic laws." He continued "according to authoritative Islamic jurisprudence, the entirety of the provisions of Sharia that have been dictated by the Islamic holy book (the Qur'an), and Islamic traditions (the Sunna) and agreed upon by the principal scholars of all of the principal schools of Islamic law are all considered the laws of God himself, are not negotiable, are not subject to compromise or to mitigation." "Therefore in accepting the principle that Islamic law must be the subject of special accommodation in the financial sector, the Treasury Department has set a precedent that will allow for the assertion and the acceptance of the principle that Islamic law must be the subject of special accommodation in other sectors of American society as well. This is an extremely dangerous precedent to set for a large number of reasons. In its classic and authoritative formulations, formulations that have never been seriously challenged by modernist reforms and are extremely unlikely to be so challenged given the nature of their authority within Islamic theology and law, Sharia is at variance with numerous core principles of American society, including the principles of freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the equality of rights of all people before the law. Sharia institutionalizes discrimination against women and non-Muslims. It denies the right of the human person to make the choice to hear to what he has come to believe in good conscience is the truth. It muzzles its own critics and the critics of the Islamic religion and even forbids dispassionate analysis of how Islamic texts and teachings are being used by Islamic Jihadists to justify violence and Islamic supremacism, and to gain recruits for violent and supremacist Islamic groups."
Robert Spencer then referenced 20th century writer Sayyid Abul A'la Maududi (aka Mawdudi), whose writings have been collected in "Jihad in Islam". Mr. Spencer then quoted Maududi's comments that:
"Islam wishes to destroy all States and Governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam regardless of the country or the Nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a State on the basis of its own ideology and programme, regardless of which Nation assumes the role of the standard bearer of Islam or the rule of which nation is undermined in the process of the establishment of an ideological Islamic State."
"Islam does not intend to confine this revolution to a single State or a few countries; the aim of Islam is to bring about a universal revolution."
Robert Spencer indicated that such Sharia revolutionary thinking "strikes directly and explicitly, and not apologetically, against secular government or the idea of government where there is not establishment of a religion." He further addressed Sharia activist Maududi's commentary on the Qur'an that called for subjugation of Jews and Christians under Islamic law, and added that Maududi demanded that non-Muslims have absolutely no right to wield "the reins of power in any part of God's earth," and if they do then according to Maududi, "the believers" are responsible for dislodging them from such power using any means possible.
Robert Spencer stated that "this revolution has also come to the United States and is advancing here." He referenced the objective of International Muslim Brotherhood in undermining the United States, as has been previously stated in a Muslim Brotherhood memorandum, admitted in evidence during the first Holy Land Foundation terror finance trial, where the Muslim Brotherhood calls for "eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah's religion is made victorious over all other religions." Robert Spencer also pointed out that this same Muslim Brotherhood memorandum also lists numerous Islamic groups, many of which are active in America today and viewed by many as "moderate," were to be involved in such infiltration of America. Many of these groups also support Sharia finance.
As an example of the challenge to America with such Islamic supremacist thinking, Robert Spencer also referenced ISNA Board member Ihsan Bagby who has stated: "we [Muslims] can never be full citizens of this country... because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions and ideologies of this country." Mr. Spencer stated that this type of thinking will only continue to grow with the accommodation to Sharia finance and Sharia norms. He views this as "the assumption that Islamic law is superior to American law and must one day supplant it." Mr. Spencer views that the U.S. Treasury Department's Sharia finance training, without providing the ideological background on what Sharia is and the threat it poses to human rights, will only "provide support for this kind of assumption." He stated that "Americans, both Muslim and non-Muslim, deserve better," and referenced that many Muslims came to America to escape the same Sharia that it now is finding once again America. He concluded that "Americans, Muslims and non-Muslims, who saw our nation brutally and gratuitously attacked on September 11, 2001 by adherence of the idea that Islamic law must be imposed over the entire world, they deserve better. Women deserve better. All free people deserve better." Mr. Spencer also called for the U.S Treasury to open an investigation into what Sharia means and intends to do, to provide full understanding to those being trained regarding Sharia Compliant-Finance. He also called for the U.S. Treasury to curb the spread of Sharia Compliant-Finance in our nation's financial institutions.
Dan Pollak of the Zionist Organization of America stated that his organization joins the coalition "to oppose the imposition of Sharia-Compliant financing on the American financial system." He stated that Sharia scholars "who determine where investments can be made in Sharia financing" have been united in condemning Israel and "all interactions with Israelis and Jews." Mr. Pollak pointed out that the U.S. Treasury Department should speak to the U.S. Department of Justice as it is "against U.S. law for any company to participate in the Arab-sponsored boycott of Israel." He further stated that the "division of a world where only Sharia is the guiding principle is actually the root of Arab-Israeli conflict," condemning the "intolerance of Sharia and the hatred it breeds."
Mr. Pollak implored that "our Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion does not and should not allow for imposing Sharia on the U.S. financial system... the American people must become aware of the strategies of our enemies as well as their tactics." He further stated that "they mean to fundamentally change the paradigm of the West as a tolerant and liberal place to observe any religion without compulsion."
Faith McDonnell of The Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD) also spoke out against Sharia-Compliant Finance. Within her organization, Ms. McDonnell is the Director, Religious Liberty Program and Church Alliance for a New Sudan. Faith McDonnell stated that "the Center for Security Policy has defined Shariah as 'authoritative Islam's theo-political-religious program for establishing a global theocracy.'" She indicated concerns that "such a theocracy does not come about through the use violent jihad alone. Islamists also use the less obvious forms of jihad, such as the economic jihad of Shariah-Compliant Finance."
From her organization's experience as advocates for religious liberty around the world, she stated that "the IRD has seen the devastating effects of Shariah on Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Particularly egregious has been the imposition of Shariah as well as the brutal backlash against those who resist, on Christians in Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, Somalia, and elsewhere. And we have seen the use of stealth jihad in these nations, as well." Ms. McDonnell stated that "we fear that Shariah-Compliant Finance is only an entry level course in a much broader program of Shariah, the end goal of which is to supplant modern constitutionalism with archaic and undemocratic Islamic theocracy."
Regarding her experience in the challenges in Sudan, Mr. McDonnell pointed to Sharia finance representing a new form of Jihad against freedom.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sharia Finance coming to US?
on: November 07, 2008, 02:59:18 PM
Here's more on this: The U.S. Should Ban Shari’a Finance
By Rachel Ehrenfeld
The U.S. financial crisis is attributable, in part, to a lack of transparency. If the government adopts Shari’a-based financing, our financial system will be rendered even more opaque. Such a policy also entangles American finance with Islamic law in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause which mandates separation of State from Church or Mosque.
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) created by the Saudis in 1969 for the purpose of “liberating Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa from Zionist occupation” is leading the charge for global expansion of Shari’a-based financing. The OIC High Commissioner for the Boycott of Israel coordinates the efforts of OIC’s fifty-seven member states to economically isolate the Jewish state, a blacklisting policy first declared by the Arab League Council on December 2, 1945. The boycott is enforced via the Damascus-based Central Boycott Office.
Congress unanimously condemned Saudi Arabia on April 5, 2006, (H.Con.Res.370) for its continued enforcement of the boycott in violation of commitments it made to the World Trade Organization in 2005. The U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security reported a 20% increase in Arab boycott requests in 2006 from the previous year. In June 2006, the Saudi ambassador admitted his country still enforced the boycott, and the Saudis participated in the 2007 boycott conference in Syria.
Adopting Shari’a-based financing violates U.S. law which makes it illegal for American individuals or companies to cooperate with the Arab boycott, mandates reporting of boycott requests, and imposes civil and criminal penalties against violators.
Therefore, the American Center for Democracy and Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld protest the Treasury Department's plan to subject America’s citizens and its financial industry to Islamic rule in violation of the Constitution and U.S. law.http://www.terrorfinance.org/the_ter...a-finance.html
Washington DC: Coalition to Stop Shariah Press Conference
By Jeffrey Immon November 6, 2008 TrackBacks (0)
November 6, 2008 - Washington DC: The Coalition to Stop Shariah held a press conference at the National Press Club to oppose actions by the U.S. Treasury Department today to hold a course titled "Islamic Finance 101" to "train" government employees on Sharia-Compliant Finance (SCF). The coalition, consisting of diverse groups with a shared interest in fighting Islamic supremacism, called for the U.S. Treasury Department to either cancel the training course this afternoon or to provide education on the full Islamic supremacist nature of Sharia.
Representative speakers for the coalition at the press conference included Frank Gaffney - Center for Security Policy, Robert Spencer - JihadWatch.org, Dan Pollak - Zionist Organization of America, Wendy Wright - Concerned Women for America, Faith J.H. McDonnell - The Institute on Research and Democracy, Kyle Scheindler of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), Jim Boulet of English First, and Warren Mendelson of the Unity Coalition for Israel.
Frank Gaffney described the Coalition to Stop Shariah as a group, assembled in just the past several days in reaction to the Treasury SCF training and other events, as an "interfaith, non-partisan group of individuals and organizations that have decided that this is the time to begin contesting seriously a seditious program that authoritative Islam describes as Sharia. We have come together to call attention to and to counter the insinuation of Sharia into our society and those of other freedom loving people through various means, both stealthy and nonviolent and through the use or threat of the use of force."
Frank Gaffney described the efforts to expand Sharia-Compliant Finance as a threat "aimed at the very heart of the American economy." He noted as efforts to combat Sharia have gained ground that the proponents of Sharia have renamed Sharia-Compliant Finance as "Islamic finance," "ethical finance," or "structured finance." Mr. Gaffney pointed to the efforts by the Center for Security Policy in studying Sharia-Compliant Finance that has resulted in a legal memorandum by David Yerushalmi titled "Shari'ah's Black Box: Civil Liability and Criminal: Exposure Surrounding Shari'ah-Compliant Finance." Senator Jon Kyl reviewed David Yerushalmi's report and Senator Kyl wrote SEC Chairman Chris Cox, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Attorney General Michael Mukasey asking them to respond to this report.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-Russia
on: November 07, 2008, 10:32:49 AM
U.S., Russia: The Future of START
Stratfor Today » November 6, 2008 | 2139 GMT
DIMA KOROTAYEV/AFP/Getty Images
Topol-M mobile intercontinental ballistic missilesSummary
The bilateral strategic arms control regime between the United States and Russia — essentially static for many years — could be revitalized in 2009. In December of next year, the so-called START I treaty between the United and Russia will expire, and both sides have a keen interest in its extension and ultimate replacement.
The Russian Resurgence
“The Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms” (known colloquially as START I) will expire on Dec. 5, 2009. Though real substantive action is unlikely before President-elect Barack Obama enters office, some meaningful action on a bilateral strategic arms agreement between the United States and Russia may be on the horizon.
The expiration of START has been anticipated for years now, but Washington has shown little interest in moving forward on strategic arms control. Even before the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. national security establishment was struggling with a deep uncertainty about the need for nuclear deterrence in the post-Cold War world and no longer wanted to be locked into a highly structured and inflexible treaty governing force structure.
START I, crafted just before the Soviet collapse, is characteristic of Cold War-era treaties — complex, detailed and entailing a rigorous declaration, inspection and verification regime. By comparison, the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (SORT, also known as the Moscow Treaty), signed in 2002, is an astonishingly short document, amounting to a single page. This brevity was possible (and, more important, the treaty was verifiable) because SORT was underpinned by the START I regime. SORT will not endure much beyond the expiration of START I, requiring only that on the last day of 2012 the United States and Russia shall have an aggregate number of deployed strategic warheads of between 1,700 and 2,200 apiece.
This specific range of aggregate warhead totals — 1,700 to 2,200 — actually came from a Pentagon study on post-Cold War requirements for an effective nuclear deterrent. Essentially, the White House took what the Pentagon wanted to do anyway and crafted a treaty asking Russia to do the same thing.
Geopolitical Diary: New Questions About Nuclear Sustainability
Nuclear Weapons: Devices and Deliverable Warheads
Nuclear Weapons: The Question of Relevance in the 21st Century
Nuclear Weapons: Terrorism and the Nonstate Actor
But both Washington and Moscow want something here. The United States — despite its strong desire for maximizing flexibility — does recognize the value of a long-term, verifiable and stable nuclear balance with Russia. With a properly tailored regime of regular declarations and inspections, the Pentagon can establish, with an acceptable degree of confidence, the status of Russia’s nuclear forces and significantly reduce the burden on operational forces to monitor and hedge against the unknowns. Despite the fact that it won the Cold War, the United States has no interest in going back to the days of nuclear brinkmanship. It has become accustomed to and welcomes the ongoing stability of the post-Cold War nuclear balance, so long as it retains enough flexibility to have options for dealing with other nuclear powers.
Thus, while the United States seems interested only in something loose like SORT, a somewhat longer document (though significantly shorter than START I, if Washington has its way) will almost certainly be necessary to establish declaration, inspection and verification regimes that will ensure an acceptable degree of confidence in the fidelity of both sides. Washington considers this an opportunity to set aside START I and tailor a regime for the 21st century. But if that agreement cannot be crafted quickly, an extension of START I may be considered — if only to bridge the gap.
For Russia, there is a strong desire for a long-term cap on the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Moscow remembers all too well how U.S. defense spending during the Reagan years helped drive the Soviet Union into the ground. Russia is well aware that it cannot hope to compete in another arms race with the resources and raw economic power of the United States.
Meanwhile, old age is wreaking havoc on Moscow’s nuclear arsenal, where delivery systems are becoming increasingly archaic and nowhere near enough replacements are being produced fast enough to sustain the arsenal. Thus, the further Russia can convince the United States to reduce its own arsenal, the more obtainable a long-term arsenal quantitatively comparable to Washington’s can be.
But while the Kremlin signed SORT from a position of weakness, Moscow today sees an opportunity to approach the United States from a position of strength. In 2009, Russia will come to the table having consolidated its political, economic and military power under the tenure of President (now Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin and having essentially annexed two secessionist territories from Georgia. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev’s Nov. 5 State of the State address was filled with defiance — not the least because, from the Kremlin’s point of view, not only is Obama amenable to such an agreement but he also will be weak in dealing with Russia and peripheral states of the former Soviet Union. (Whether this proves to be the case is another question.)
At the end of the day, the Kremlin will want a new agreement. But it will not be rubber-stamping any numbers brought directly from the Pentagon this time around. It will push for a more rigorous treaty that keeps the scale of the U.S. arsenal down and constrains Washington’s flexibility. And it will push hard — or use concessions as a lever — to challenge the proposed U.S. ballistic missile defense installations slated for Poland and the Czech Republic.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran & the BO administration
on: November 07, 2008, 10:27:44 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iran and an Obama Administration
November 7, 2008 | 0256 GMT
A number of senior Iranian officials on Thursday issued positive statements toward the United States. One of those was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, in a rare move, congratulated U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on his electoral victory. Then the Islamic Republic’s Prosecutor-General, Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dori-Najafabadi, called on Obama to demonstrate goodwill and end sanctions against Tehran. Elsewhere, Iranian Ambassador to Kuwait Ali Jannati said his country was ready to normalize relations with the United States and expressed hope that, under an Obama administration, Washington would change its policies toward Tehran.
Important to note in these various remarks is that they were made by prominent hard-liners as opposed to the more pragmatic conservative elements in the clerical regime. The most noteworthy of these was the Iranian envoy to Kuwait, who is the son of a very senior and powerful radical cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, chairman of the Guardian Council — the body that vets candidates for public office and has the power of legislative oversight. So, the question is, why is the Ahmadinejad administration, which would normally be lambasting the United States, now acting all warm and fuzzy?
For starters, the Iranians, like many other international actors, expect an Obama administration — in a sharp departure from the attitude of its predecessor — would invest heavily in some bold diplomacy. From Tehran’s point of view, this potentially could provide the perfect opening for it to move ahead and consolidate its position vis-a-vis Iraq and the nuclear issue. The Iranians feel that they are well placed to negotiate with a new White House from a position of relative strength, especially given Obama’s need to make good on his electoral promise to disengage militarily from Iraq.
The interest of a geopolitically emergent Iran, however, is not the only factor informing Ahmadinejad’s calculus. Before it can truly improve its position, Tehran desperately needs to get ahead of a burgeoning economic crisis. Just two days ago, Iran’s deputy central bank governor for economic affairs, Ramin Pashaei, said that Tehran needs the price of oil to average a little over $60 a barrel until March 2009 (the end of the current Iranian year) to avoid “big problems.” It should be noted that on Thursday oil prices were barely able to stay at the $60 mark.
The faltering state of the Iranian economy is the sore point for Ahmadinejad, who is up for re-election in June 2009. He, therefore, desperately needs to show some sort of victory in order to secure his re-election. The president and his ultraconservative faction also realize that Tehran must bury the hatchet with the United States in order to achieve its objective of being a global player — and Ahmadinejad wants to be able to claim this success.
On the U.S. side of this equation, an Obama administration also will want to engage diplomatically with the clerical regime — but the million-dollar question is, how does it go about doing that without creating problems for itself both at home and internationally. The Bush administration, which was not bogged down with public doubts about its commitment to national security, has been unable to make much progress on this front.
Even in its fading moments, the Bush administration is struggling between the need to deal with Iran and the need to contain it. On Thursday, the Treasury Department imposed additional restrictions against Iran’s banks — a move that comes amid reports that the administration could announce the opening of a “U.S. interests section” in Iran before the end of November. The Bush administration has also had a hard time balancing its need to engage Iran with its commitment to its Arab allies and Israel.
For an Obama administration, this could create an even bigger problem, with the Israelis and the Arabs very uncomfortable with the new U.S. government reaching out to Iran. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is hoping to be prime minister in the aftermath of the Israeli election slated for February, expressed opposition to any move on the part of an Obama administration to talk to Iran. Similarly, Saudi King Abdullah, who is due to arrive in New York next week for an interfaith gathering at the United Nations, will reportedly be putting out feelers to Obama in an effort to gauge how the balance of power in the Persian Gulf will be affected by the moves to engage Iran.
Striking a balance between the need to reach a settlement with Iran (on Iraq, at least) and the need to maintain existing relationships with Israel and the Arab states could very well prove to be the most challenging foreign policy issue that the Obama administration will find itself struggling with very early on in its term.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Pope's Engagement with Islam
on: November 07, 2008, 07:18:09 AM
Its the NYTimes: Caveat Lector:
BTW, did the Church just sign on to opposing the Danish cartoons?
Catholics and Muslims Pledge to Improve Links
By RACHEL DONADIO
Published: November 6, 2008
VATICAN CITY — Catholic and Muslim leaders worked on Thursday to deflate suspicion between their two faiths, pledging at a high-level seminar here to work together to condemn terrorism, protect religious freedom and fight poverty.
The meeting came a year after 138 Muslim leaders wrote a letter to Pope Benedict XVI after he offended many Muslims by quoting a Byzantine emperor who called some teachings of the Prophet Muhammad “evil and inhuman.” In turn, top Vatican officials have worried about freedom of worship in majority-Muslim countries, as well as immigration that is turning Europe, which they define as a Christian continent, increasingly Muslim.
But on Thursday both sides said they hoped that the seminar would open a new and much-improved chapter in Catholic-Muslim relations, as the two groups said they might establish a committee that could ease tensions in any future crisis between the two religions.
“Let us resolve to overcome past prejudices and to correct the often distorted images of the other, which even today can create difficulties in our relations,” Benedict told the Muslim delegation. He called the gathering “a clear sign of our mutual esteem and our desire to listen respectfully to one another.”
Addressing the pope on behalf of the Muslim delegation, Seyyed Hossein Nasr of Iran, a professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University in Washington, said that throughout history, “various political forces” of both Christians and Muslims had carried out violence.
“Certainly we cannot claim that violence is the monopoly of only one religion,” he said.
The three-day forum brought together nearly 30 Catholic clerics and scholars, led by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; and as many Muslim clerics and scholars, led by Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina based in Sarajevo.
The meeting “exceeded our expectations,” said Ingrid Mary Mattson, the director of the Islamic Society of North America and a professor of Islamic studies at the Hartford Seminary.
“The atmosphere was very good, very frank,” said Tariq Ramadan, a professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University. A celebrated intellectual in Europe, Mr. Ramadan in 2004 was denied a visa to the United States on the grounds that he had donated to two European charities that the State Department later said gave money to Hamas.
Mr. Ramadan said the thorniest questions the group tackled were “apostasy” and “freedom of worship in a minority situation.” Some Muslims believe it is apostasy to convert out of Islam.
The 15-point declaration the group issued on Thursday did not address issues of conversion.
It called on Catholics and Muslims to renounce “oppression, aggressive violence and terrorism, especially that committed in the name of religion.”
And it said religious minorities should be “entitled to their own places of worship, and their founding figures and symbols they consider sacred should not be subjected to any form of mockery or ridicule.”
In 2006, Muslims around the world protested, some violently, after a Danish newspaper printed cartoons of Muhammad.
One participant, Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, called the meeting “a first step” but said he hoped that the declaration would “bear fruit.”
In recent years, Islamic militants in Kirkuk have killed, kidnapped or forced Iraqi Christians to convert. Archbishop Sako noted that in their homilies, “many imams are preaching against infidels and crusaders,” and that “some simple people” believed that this referred to all Christians.
He called on Muslim leaders to publicize the declaration, with its assertion of shared Christian-Muslim values. “This should be clarified, stated, given to the media to teach people about it,” he said. “For us Christians living in Muslim countries, that would be very, very helpful.”
The Muslim delegation included representatives of Sunni and Shiite Islam, as well as several converts and participants from North Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines and Uganda.
It notably did not include any participants from Saudi Arabia, where non-Muslim worship is not tolerated and with which the Vatican has had strained ties. Two Saudis were expected to attend, but had to cancel at the last minute for health reasons, said Ibrahim Kalin of Turkey, a spokesman for the Muslim delegation and a professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University in Washington.
Yet in July, Cardinal Tauran and other Vatican officials attended an interfaith dialogue organized by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Spain.
Participants in this week’s conference pledged to hold another dialogue in a Muslim country in 2010.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia, Turkey, Caucasus
on: November 07, 2008, 07:11:13 AM
The NY Times is frequently a dishonest newspaper and IMHO the subject matter of this article precisely of the sort wherein the NYT is motivated to lie, mislead, misrepresent, and distort.
TBILISI, Georgia — Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the longstanding Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression.
Georgia moved forces toward the border of the breakaway region of South Ossetia on Aug. 7, at the start of what it called a defensive war with separatists there and with Russian forces.
Instead, the accounts suggest that Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm.
The accounts are neither fully conclusive nor broad enough to settle the many lingering disputes over blame in a war that hardened relations between the Kremlin and the West. But they raise questions about the accuracy and honesty of Georgia’s insistence that its shelling of Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, was a precise operation. Georgia has variously defended the shelling as necessary to stop heavy Ossetian shelling of Georgian villages, bring order to the region or counter a Russian invasion.
President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia has characterized the attack as a precise and defensive act. But according to observations of the monitors, documented Aug. 7 and Aug. 8, Georgian artillery rounds and rockets were falling throughout the city at intervals of 15 to 20 seconds between explosions, and within the first hour of the bombardment at least 48 rounds landed in a civilian area. The monitors have also said they were unable to verify that ethnic Georgian villages were under heavy bombardment that evening, calling to question one of Mr. Saakashvili’s main justifications for the attack.
Senior Georgian officials contest these accounts, and have urged Western governments to discount them. “That information, I don’t know what it is and how it is confirmed,” said Giga Bokeria, Georgia’s deputy foreign minister. “There is such an amount of evidence of continuous attacks on Georgian-controlled villages and so much evidence of Russian military buildup, it doesn’t change in any case the general picture of events.”
He added: “Who was counting those explosions? It sounds a bit peculiar.”
The Kremlin has embraced the monitors’ observations, which, according to a written statement from Grigory Karasin, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, reflect “the actual course of events prior to Georgia’s aggression.” He added that the accounts “refute” allegations by Tbilisi of bombardments that he called mythical.
The monitors were members of an international team working under the mandate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or O.S.C.E. A multilateral organization with 56 member states, the group has monitored the conflict since a previous cease-fire agreement in the 1990s.
The observations by the monitors, including a Finnish major, a Belorussian airborne captain and a Polish civilian, have been the subject of two confidential briefings to diplomats in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, one in August and the other in October. Summaries were shared with The New York Times by people in attendance at both.
Details were then confirmed by three Western diplomats and a Russian, and were not disputed by the O.S.C.E.’s mission in Tbilisi, which was provided with a written summary of the observations.
Mr. Saakashvili, who has compared Russia’s incursion into Georgia to the Nazi annexations in Europe in 1938 and the Soviet suppression of Prague in 1968, faces domestic unease with his leadership and skepticism about his judgment from Western governments.
The brief war was a disaster for Georgia. The attack backfired. Georgia’s army was humiliated as Russian forces overwhelmed its brigades, seized and looted their bases, captured their equipment and roamed the country’s roads at will. Villages that Georgia vowed to save were ransacked and cleared of their populations by irregular Ossetian, Chechen and Cossack forces, and several were burned to the ground.
Massing of Weapons
According to the monitors, an O.S.C.E. patrol at 3 p.m. on Aug. 7 saw large numbers of Georgian artillery and grad rocket launchers massing on roads north of Gori, just south of the enclave.
Page 2 of 3)
At 6:10 p.m., the monitors were told by Russian peacekeepers of suspected Georgian artillery fire on Khetagurovo, an Ossetian village; this report was not independently confirmed, and Georgia declared a unilateral cease-fire shortly thereafter, about 7 p.m.
During a news broadcast that began at 11 p.m., Georgia announced that Georgian villages were being shelled, and declared an operation “to restore constitutional order” in South Ossetia. The bombardment of Tskhinvali started soon after the broadcast.
According to the monitors, however, no shelling of Georgian villages could be heard in the hours before the Georgian bombardment. At least two of the four villages that Georgia has since said were under fire were near the observers’ office in Tskhinvali, and the monitors there likely would have heard artillery fire nearby.
Moreover, the observers made a record of the rounds exploding after Georgia’s bombardment began at 11:35 p.m. At 11:45 p.m., rounds were exploding at intervals of 15 to 20 seconds between impacts, they noted.
At 12:15 a.m. on Aug. 8, Gen. Maj. Marat M. Kulakhmetov, commander of Russian peacekeepers in the enclave, reported to the monitors that his unit had casualties, indicating that Russian soldiers had come under fire.
By 12:35 a.m. the observers had recorded at least 100 heavy rounds exploding across Tskhinvali, including 48 close to the observers’ office, which is in a civilian area and was damaged.
Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said that by morning on Aug. 8 two Russian soldiers had been killed and five wounded. Two senior Western military officers stationed in Georgia, speaking on condition of anonymity because they work with Georgia’s military, said that whatever Russia’s behavior in or intentions for the enclave, once Georgia’s artillery or rockets struck Russian positions, conflict with Russia was all but inevitable. This clear risk, they said, made Georgia’s attack dangerous and unwise.
Senior Georgia officials, a group with scant military experience and personal loyalties to Mr. Saakashvili, have said that much of the damage to Tskhinvali was caused in combat between its soldiers and separatists, or by Russian airstrikes and bombardments in its counterattack the next day. As for its broader shelling of the city, Georgia has told Western diplomats that Ossetians hid weapons in civilian buildings, making them legitimate targets.
“The Georgians have been quite clear that they were shelling targets — the mayor’s office, police headquarters — that had been used for military purposes,” said Matthew J. Bryza, a deputy assistant secretary of state and one of Mr. Saakashvili’s vocal supporters in Washington.
Those claims have not been independently verified, and Georgia’s account was disputed by Ryan Grist, a former British Army captain who was the senior O.S.C.E. representative in Georgia when the war broke out. Mr. Grist said that he was in constant contact that night with all sides, with the office in Tskhinvali and with Wing Commander Stephen Young, the retired British military officer who leads the monitoring team.
“It was clear to me that the attack was completely indiscriminate and disproportionate to any, if indeed there had been any, provocation,” Mr. Grist said. “The attack was clearly, in my mind, an indiscriminate attack on the town, as a town.”
Mr. Grist has served as a military officer or diplomat in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Kosovo and Yugoslavia. In August, after the Georgian foreign minister, Eka Tkeshelashvili, who has no military experience, assured diplomats in Tbilisi that the attack was measured and discriminate, Mr. Grist gave a briefing to diplomats from the European Union that drew from the monitors’ observations and included his assessments. He then soon resigned under unclear circumstances.
A second briefing was led by Commander Young in October for military attachés visiting Georgia. At the meeting, according to a person in attendance, Commander Young stood by the monitors’ assessment that Georgian villages had not been extensively shelled on the evening or night of Aug. 7. “If there had been heavy shelling in areas that Georgia claimed were shelled, then our people would have heard it, and they didn’t,” Commander Young said, according to the person who attended. “They heard only occasional small-arms fire.”
The O.S.C.E turned down a request by The Times to interview Commander Young and the monitors, saying they worked in sensitive jobs and would not be publicly engaged in this disagreement.
Grievances and Exaggeration
Page 3 of 3)
Disentangling the Russian and Georgian accounts has been complicated. The violence along the enclave’s boundaries that had occurred in recent summers was more widespread this year, and in the days before Aug. 7 there had been shelling of Georgian villages. Tensions had been soaring.
Each side has fresh lists of grievances about the other, which they insist are decisive. But both sides also have a record of misstatement and exaggeration, which includes circulating casualty estimates that have not withstood independent examination. With the international standing of both Russia and Georgia damaged, the public relations battle has been intensive.
Russian military units have been implicated in destruction of civilian property and accused by Georgia of participating with Ossetian militias in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Russia and South Ossetia have accused Georgia of attacking Ossetian civilians.
But a critical and as yet unanswered question has been what changed for Georgia between 7 p.m. on Aug 7, when Mr. Saakashvili declared a cease-fire, and 11:30 p.m., when he says he ordered the attack. The Russian and Ossetian governments have said the cease-fire was a ruse used to position rockets and artillery for the assault.
That view is widely held by Ossetians. Civilians repeatedly reported resting at home after the cease-fire broadcast by Mr. Saakashvili. Emeliya B. Dzhoyeva, 68, was home with her husband, Felix, 70, when the bombardment began. He lost his left arm below the elbow and suffered burns to his right arm and torso. “Saakashvili told us that nothing would happen,” she said. “So we all just went to bed.”
Neither Georgia nor its Western allies have as yet provided conclusive evidence that Russia was invading the country or that the situation for Georgians in the Ossetian zone was so dire that a large-scale military attack was necessary, as Mr. Saakashvili insists.
Georgia has released telephone intercepts indicating that a Russian armored column apparently entered the enclave from Russia early on the Aug. 7, which would be a violation of the peacekeeping rules. Georgia said the column marked the beginning of an invasion. But the intercepts did not show the column’s size, composition or mission, and there has not been evidence that it was engaged with Georgian forces until many hours after the Georgian bombardment; Russia insists it was simply a routine logistics train or troop rotation.
Unclear Accounts of Shelling
Interviews by The Times have found a mixed picture on the question of whether Georgian villages were shelled after Mr. Saakashvili declared the cease-fire. Residents of the village of Zemo Nigozi, one of the villages that Georgia has said was under heavy fire, said they were shelled from 6 p.m. on, supporting Georgian statements.
In two other villages, interviews did not support Georgian claims. In Avnevi, several residents said the shelling stopped before the cease-fire and did not resume until roughly the same time as the Georgian bombardment. In Tamarasheni, some residents said they were lightly shelled on the evening of Aug. 7, but felt safe enough not to retreat to their basements. Others said they were not shelled until Aug 9.
With a paucity of reliable and unbiased information available, the O.S.C.E. observations put the United States in a potentially difficult position. The United States, Mr. Saakashvili’s principal source of international support, has for years accepted the organization’s conclusions and praised its professionalism. Mr. Bryza refrained from passing judgment on the conflicting accounts.
“I wasn’t there,” he said, referring to the battle. “We didn’t have people there. But the O.S.C.E. really has been our benchmark on many things over the years.”
The O.S.C.E. itself, while refusing to discuss its internal findings, stood by the accuracy of its work but urged caution in interpreting it too broadly. “We are confident that all O.S.C.E. observations are expert, accurate and unbiased,” Martha Freeman, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail message. “However, monitoring activities in certain areas at certain times cannot be taken in isolation to provide a comprehensive account.”
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Argentina
on: November 07, 2008, 06:51:31 AM
Disfrute muchisimo mi reciente viaje a Argentina y espero poder repitirlo lo mas pronto posible.
Comparato con Uds ahora un articulo, desafortunadamente en ingles, escrito sobre la situacion actual alli desde un punto de vista de aqui'. ?Que opinan Uds?
"It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder."
-- Frederic Bastiat, "The Law," 1850
Our subject today is not Barack Obama's "change" plan to "share the wealth." But readers who want to know what happens to a nation that legalizes plunder -- as the 19th century French economist termed the taking of private property for socialist ends -- will want to pay attention just the same.
Argentines protest the nationalization of their pension funds, Oct. 28.
Argentina is a constitutional republic with many historical similarities to the U.S. It has a rich immigrant heritage and an abundance of natural resources. But the U.S. is a rich, advanced country and Argentina is poor.
How did the breadbasket of South America fall so far behind? One explanation goes back some 90 years, when the Argentine Supreme Court began chipping away at property rights as a way of addressing economic inequality. Argentine politicians quickly learned that lawful plunder was their path to power.
This history is still being written, and the latest chapter ought to frighten Americans.
Buenos Aires as an example of "sharing the wealth." (Nov. 3)
After seven straight years of driving up government spending and hammering every capitalist in sight, the Argentine government, which went bust in 2001, is running out of money -- again.
No surprise there. For more than a few years, analysts have warned that inflation, trade protectionism, disregard for contracts and confiscatory tax rates were having a deleterious effect on capital flows.
Suboptimal investment rates, the same analysts warned, would mean economic trouble when global growth began to slow and the commodity boom came to an end. But former President Nestór Kirchner (2003-2007) and his wife, current President Cristina Kirchner, had promised to bring change to Argentina and didn't want to hear it. They thought they saw better returns to their own bottom lines by stoking class warfare while increasing government spending.
That revenues would, at some point, fail to meet the rising expenses of the welfare state was predictable. The only mystery was when the wall would be hit and how the further plunder to make up the difference would be carried out.
On Oct. 21, Mrs. Kirchner ended the suspense by announcing that the nation's private pension system -- with a stock of $30 billion and a flow of $5 billion annually -- would become government property. To put that in words that Americans can more clearly comprehend, it would be as if the assets of all 401(k)s were suddenly swept out of owners' accounts and into a single government account.
The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
Mrs. Kirchner defended her decision to seize the pension assets by asserting that the market is too risky for retirement savings, and that the returns earned by private-sector fund managers are not adequate.
That's quite a claim considering that the average annual return of Argentina's private-sector pension managers over the past 14 years is 13.9%. But it is even more absurd if one compares the private-sector returns to those of the government's pay-as-you-go social security system over four decades.
Last week La Nacion columnist Adrián Ventura reminded his compatriots of this "history of state fraud." In the 1960s, "the law guaranteed retirees 82% of their salaries," Mr. Ventura writes. But, he says, "it became impossible to calculate." How come? Because the government did not publish the true rates of inflation and, more broadly, because politicians had zero interest in protecting the assets. "The government did little to maintain its promise to pay good pensions to workers," Mr. Ventura explains, "and it did a lot to make use, for itself, of their savings."
The columnist was not just teaching a history lesson. He was reminding change advocates that plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Today, the Argentine central bank stands accused of manipulating official inflation data and, because politicians have been spending like mad, between now and the end of 2009 the government will encounter a $10 billion financing gap.
By law half of the privately managed pension assets are already allocated to government debt. But it is not unreasonable to suspect -- as more than 70% of respondents in a Buenos Aires poll said last week -- that Mrs. Kirchner is acting not to achieve better returns, but to get her hands on the rest of the money ahead of midterm elections next year.
Mr. Ventura echoes the fears of many when he writes that her legislation "puts almost no limits on how the money can be used, and if it did, nothing would stop the government from modifying it or ignoring it."
Long-suffering Argentines know well that once converted into "an instrument of plunder" there is no limit to the pain the law can inflict. Americans might note that even when government is already highly interventionist, things can get worse.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Legal issues on Prop 8
on: November 07, 2008, 06:44:41 AM
California voters on Tuesday approved Proposition 8, which adds to the state constitution the following sentence: "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
While the wording is simple, the situation quickly became complicated. For example, what happens to those same-sex couples who married before the ruling? Legal challenges filed Wednesday raised other questions: Was the referendum process itself lawful? Does the new language conflict with other parts of the state constitution? Separately, should Proposition 8 opponents have filed challenges saying the proposition violated the U.S. Constitution?
David Cruz, a constitutional-law expert at the University of Southern California, has some answers.
WSJ: Please explain the grounds upon which Proposition 8 is being challenged in court.
Mr. Cruz: The lawsuits challenge the procedure by which the referendum was passed. Under California law, there are two categories of changes that can be made to the state constitution: amendments and revisions. Amendments are more minor changes; revisions are larger in effect. This is important because each has its own process for taking effect, essentially different ways they go before the voters. An amendment can go in the form of a ballot initiative, which requires a certain number of signatures to make its way on. Constitutional revisions, however, have to have a two-thirds blessing from each house of the state legislature to make the ballot.
Now, the problem, at least from the point of view of Proposition 8 supporters, is that the legislature had previously indicated a willingness to support same-sex marriage. So the proposition's supporters were unwilling to treat this bill as a revision and send it to the legislature, opting instead to treat it as an amendment. So the Proposition 8 opponents are arguing that this change actually constitutes a revision, not an amendment, and therefore needed to go through the legislature.
WSJ: Were any other issues raised in the suits?
Mr. Cruz: Yes. A same-sex couple that was married before the election made another argument. Remember, the California Supreme Court in May ruled that bans on same-sex marriage were not allowed under the state's constitution. (That ruling prompted Proposition 8.) Now, in that ruling, the Supreme Court essentially said two things: that same-sex couples had a fundamental right to marry and that the underlying law violated the state's equal protection clause.
The suit filed Wednesday argues that while Proposition 8 squarely addressed the marriage half of the Supreme Court's ruling, it didn't address the equal-protection half. In other words, the couple argues that the state constitution is now in conflict with itself -- part of it says that same-sex marriage is flatly illegal, and the Supreme Court has interpreted another part to say that a ban on same-sex marriage violates the state's equal protection clause.
WSJ: And a constitution can't be in conflict with itself?
Mr. Cruz: Right. There's a common principle in constitutional jurisprudence called "harmonization," which says that no part of a constitution can conflict with any other.
WSJ: Provided that the state Supreme Court rejects all these arguments and the constitutional amendment is allowed, you still have this issue as to what happens to the marriages that took place before Proposition 8 was passed, right?
Mr. Cruz: On that question the state Supreme Court would likely look at what the intent of the voters was in passing the law.
WSJ: How would the court determine that? By asking voters?
Mr. Cruz: It would likely look at the language of the proposition itself, in addition to the title, official ballot literature, and to the advertisements that were run during the campaign. Supporters of Proposition 8 point to language on the ballot that explained that voters would be defining marriage as between a man and woman, "regardless of when or where performed." That seems to argue for invalidating the earlier marriages. But the attorney general, Jerry Brown, will likely raise the official title of the proposition, which mentions the elimination of the "right of same-sex couples to marry." Here, there's no mention of the earlier marriages, and it seems to indicate that it's the right to get married going forward that's being taken away.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Way Forward for the American Creed
on: November 07, 2008, 06:30:52 AM
'Compassionate' Conservatism Was a Mistake
By DICK ARMEY
The liberal pundits who embraced the candidacy of Barack Obama are also eager to issue a death certificate for free market capitalism. They're wrong, and they remind me of what the great Willie Nelson once said: "I'm ragged but I'm right."
To be sure, the American people have handed power over to the Democrats. But today there is a categorical difference between what Republicans stand for and the principles of individual freedom. Parties are all about getting people elected to political office; and the practice of politics too often takes the form of professional juvenile delinquency: short-sighted and self-centered.
This was certainly true of the Bush presidency. Too often the policy agenda was determined by short-sighted political considerations and an abiding fear that the public simply would not understand limited government and expanded individual freedoms. How else do we explain "compassionate conservatism," No Child Left Behind, the Medicare drug benefit and the most dramatic growth in federal spending since LBJ's Great Society?
John McCain has long suffered from philosophical confusions about free markets, and his presidential campaign reflected as much. Most striking was his inability to explain his own health-care proposal, or to defend his tax cuts and tax reform. Ultimately, it took a plumber from Ohio to identify the real nature of Barack Obama's plan to "spread the wealth."
Mr. McCain did find his message on taxes in the last few weeks, but it was too late. A Rasmussen poll of Oct. 30 reported that 31% of likely voters believed that "taxes will go down" under an Obama administration versus just 11% under a McCain administration. Shockingly, 19% of self-described conservatives believed Mr. Obama would cut taxes; only 12% thought Mr. McCain would.
The response by Mr. McCain to the financial crisis on Wall Street was the defining moment of the campaign. In what looked like a tailor-made opportunity to "clean up Washington," the Republican nominee could have challenged the increasingly politicized nature of Federal Reserve policies, and the inherently corrupt relationships between Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and various Democratic committee chairmen. Instead, his reaction was visceral and insecure: He "suspended" his campaign and promised "to put an end to the reckless conduct, corruption, and unbridled greed that have caused a crisis on Wall Street."
In the process, he squandered his political standing with the investor class, a core Republican voting bloc. An October 26-30 Reuters/C-Span/Zogby poll of likely voters showed Mr. McCain barely beating the Democratic nominee among self-identified "investors," 50.4% to 43.8% -- a dramatic drop from the 15-point lead he held in a similar poll a month earlier.
The modern Republican Party has risen above its insecurities to achieve political success. Ronald Reagan, for example, held an unshakably positive vision of American capitalism. He didn't feel a need to qualify the meaning of his conservatism. He understood that big government was cruel and uncaring of individual aspirations. Small government conservatism was, by definition, compassionate -- offering every American a way up to self-determination and economic prosperity.
Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006 because voters no longer saw Republicans as the party of limited government. They have since rejected virtually every opportunity to recapture this identity. But their failure to do so must not be misconstrued as a rejection of principles of individual liberty by the American people. The evidence suggests we are still a nation of pocketbook conservatives most happy when government has enough respect to leave us alone and to mind its own business. The worrisome question is whether either political party understands this.
What will be the fate of free market capitalism in America? Will the 2008 election look more like 1932 -- or 1992?
On both occasions, Republican presidents had abandoned their party's principles for bigger government policies that exacerbated difficult economic times. On both occasions, Democrats took control, largely hijacking the small-government, fiscally responsible rhetoric of their opponents. Of course, FDR's election ushered in the New Deal, the most dramatic expansion of government power in American history, together with policy changes and economic uncertainty that inhibited investment and growth and locked in massive unemployment for nearly a generation.
The official agenda of the incoming administration is not so different from FDR's. Whatever doubts remain about Mr. Obama's governing principles can be cleared up by looking at the governing philosophy of the Democrats in Congress he will be crafting legislation with or the liberal constituencies he is indebted to support. Democrats will not be ambiguous. They have every right to be energized, and will attempt sweeping changes to our economy and the very nature of the relationship between individual American citizens and the federal government.
Their wish list is long. Charlie Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has said he would like to redistribute a trillion dollars through the tax code, including massive tax hikes on capital accumulation and individual entrepreneurship. Labor unions want to take away the right of a worker to a secret ballot in organizing elections. Radical environmentalists demand strict curbs on energy production and use. Hillary Clinton may have lost the primary, but expect Democrats to push her favorite idea: government-run heath care.
Will Democratic overreach give the small-government movement the opportunity to reassert itself in the GOP? Former Congressman Dick Gephardt has warned President-elect Obama and the new Democratic majorities to be humble and measured. But with a legislative agenda driven by Nancy Pelosi, George Miller and Mr. Rangel, the temptations may be too great.
In 1992, Republican backbenchers including Newt Gingrich, myself, Bob Walker and John Boehner rose up to challenge the Clinton administration's agenda on taxes, spending and government-run health care. But before we could beat the Democrats, we had to beat the old bulls of our own party who had forgotten their principles and had become very comfortable as a complacent minority. We captured control of Congress in 1994 because we had confidence in our principles, and in the American people's willingness to understand and reward a national vision based on lower taxes, less government and more freedom.
That can happen again today -- but it will require a new generation of leadership, the sooner the better. Rest assured that the American people will show up for the fight.
Mr. Armey, U.S. House majority leader from 1995 to 2002, is chairman of FreedomWorks Foundation.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Clusterfcuk
on: November 07, 2008, 06:25:51 AM
I too think GM has it right.
Gov. P-whipped has done the opposite what he promised to do to get elected. No spending cuts- instead MASSIVE increases. If he simply had frozen spending we would be fine right now. Instead Gov. Global Warming has been galvanting around sucking up and selling out to his wife's friends and family.
Tom McClintock was very good and very knowledgeable on these issues when he was in the State Legislature. He just ran for US Congress. Does anyone know if he won?
Changing subjects, BO does not have to be a Clusterfcuk , , ,
If Barack Obama ran for president by calling for a heavier hand of government, he also won by running one of the most entrepreneurial campaigns in history.
Will he now grasp the lesson his campaign offers as he crafts policies aimed at reigniting the national economy? Amid a recession, two wars, and a global financial crisis, will he come to see that unleashing the entrepreneur is the best way to raise the revenue he needs for his lofty priorities?
Like every entrepreneur, Mr. Obama's rise was improbable. An unusually-named, African-American first-term senator defeated two of the most powerful incumbent political brands, the Clintons and John McCain. Like many upstarts, he won by changing the rules of the game.
Mr. Obama, following FDR's mastery of radio and JFK's success on TV, is the first candidate to fully exploit the Web. The community organizer seemed to realize that new social networking and video technologies were perfect for politics. It didn't hurt that Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes worked for the campaign. "What ultimately transformed the presidential race," Joshua Green of The Atlantic wrote in June, "was not the money that poured in from Silicon Valley but the technology and the ethos."
The results of Mr. Obama's decentralized Web effort were staggering: 8,000 Web-based affinity groups, 50,000 local events, 1.5 million Web volunteers, and 3.1 million donors who contributed almost $700 million. Republicans, Charlie Cook reported on Nov. 3, believe their large but impersonal centralized databases could not match the tacit knowledge, individual initiative and agility of Mr. Obama's diffuse social networks.
Such creativity could bubble up because Mr. Obama was stable at the top. Not just anyone could recruit an army of volunteers and let them run free, establishing their own networks, offices and events. Because Mr. McCain lurched from one message and tactic to the next with dramatic frequency, his supporters froze. They spent more time defending or deciphering his shifting policies and tactics than they did organizing and persuading. Mr. Obama's even temper and relentlessly consistent message, on the other hand, encouraged supporters to take risks without the worry of being blindsided.
The key question now is how will Mr. Obama govern? Will he stick with the policies he ran on or adopt the approach that he won with?
The only way a president can maximize economic growth is to unleash diffuse networks of entrepreneurs. As economist Bob Litan of the Kauffman Foundation says, "Government can't compel growth." But Mr. Obama's plans -- "card check" legislation to allow workers to unionize a workplace without a secret ballot election; curbing free trade; a government-led "green economy"; and higher tax rates on capital and entrepreneurs -- do not reflect his campaign's deep trust in individuals.
A thought experiment, Mr. President-elect: What if as your campaign raised more and more money it was taxed away and given to Mr. McCain to level the field? Or think of this: What if you were not allowed to opt out of the public financing scheme that left Mr. McCain with a paltry $84 million, about a quarter of your autumn total?
Opting out of monopolistic, closed or centralized systems is often the path to innovation. Sometimes we opt out through the relaxation of regulations. More often, technology allows us to leap, obliterate or ignore the obstacles altogether.
So on education, why doesn't Mr. Obama take Charles Murray's advice? Instead of spending ever more billions to send ever more students to get often-meaningless, four-year college degrees, we should disaggregate the higher education market using the Web and skill-specific short courses and accreditation exams.
Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School makes a similar argument for K-12 education, where we mindlessly follow a century-old way of doing business. Get rid of this manufacturing era, "value chain" model -- where we take inputs (students), add value (sometimes), and spit them out the other end -- in favor of a "user network" model where unique students with distinct learning styles plug in to smart software and tutoring tools that deliver a customized education.
On health care, let's face facts. We are not going to "solve" the entitlements crisis by gouging American producers to pay for the current Medicare/Medicaid abomination. Much better to transcend the issue with medical innovations and an entrepreneurial, consumer-driven market where more physicians go into medical technology, more nurses replace doctors, more technologies replace doctor visits, and, with properly-aligned incentives and real prices, more citizens take better care of their own health and thus their pocket books. The only way to escape current predictions of scarcity is the unforeseen abundance that entrepreneurship can bring.
Finally, Mr. President-elect, here's a secret: Insist on a strong and stable dollar. It worked wonders for presidents Reagan and Clinton. A weak dollar killed Messrs. Nixon, Ford, Carter and Bush 43. In the same way that Mr. Obama's millions of entrepreneurial volunteers took comfort in their leader's calm, steady, disciplined approach, entrepreneurs need the predictability and discipline of a stable currency to unleash their unpredictable innovations.
Mr. Obama should throw away his tax-regulate-and-centralize white papers. Instead, he should follow his campaign playbook and trust the networked masses. The best way to harness their power is to undo the reins.
Mr. Swanson is a senior fellow and director of the Center for Global Innovation at The Progress & Freedom Foundation.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: November 07, 2008, 06:16:27 AM
GM: That is very funny in a wicked, deranged sort of way.
Rachel: I disagree that loss was inevitable for McCain. I agree strongly that McCain failed to speak in positives-- indeed I think a large part of BO's appeal was and is his ability to speak in positives-- as vapid and internally incosistent as they may be. The American people were, and are, tired of the Hatfields and McCoy's routine out of the Patricians and Demogogues of Washington.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-Russia
on: November 07, 2008, 06:10:18 AM
The decline of oil prices and continuing Russian demographic weakness suggest that we need not run for the hills just yet
Here's this from today's WSJ:
Obama's Russia Test Article
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'Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama. . . . I guarantee you it's gonna happen." Joe Biden's famous campaign gaffe-as-prophecy was off by six months. How Mr. Obama responds to the Kremlin's provocation this week will offer an important glimpse of his Administration's approach to foreign policy.
In the yearly state of the nation address on Wednesday, President Dmitry Medvedev blamed the Georgia war, Russia's tanking markets and declining bilateral relations on a "selfish" and "mistaken, egotistical and sometimes simply dangerous" America. Presumably for effect, the national address was moved from last month to Wednesday, and started and ended with anti-U.S. tirades.
The Russian President also announced plans to deploy missiles in the Kaliningrad enclave between NATO members Poland and Lithuania unless America drops plans to deploy missile defenses in Europe. He added that Russia would jam U.S. radar. This would be an act of war if an Iranian missile, the intended target of the defenses, slipped through the net and hit America or its allies.
The U.S. struck agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic to put missile interceptors and radar on their territory after long negotiations. The countries agreed at some political risk, and clearly the Kremlin is hoping it can intimidate the new Administration into disavowing that commitment. It bears repeating that the system in no way diminishes Russia's own nuclear deterrent.
The State Department responded with its typical thunder, calling the speech "disappointing." President Bush, the U.S. head of state for another two-plus months, has said nothing. Mr. Obama's aides say the President-elect doesn't want to undermine Mr. Bush during the transition, and is focused on building his Administration.
That's fine. But he could help U.S. interests and himself merely by putting on record that an Obama-led America won't be intimidated by threatening outbursts from Russian leaders and will be a reliable partner to its allies in Europe. Any hint of doubt from the next Administration on this point will send shivers through our NATO allies and encourage more bad behavior by Russia and others. The Kremlin is doing Mr. Obama a favor by testing him so early.
All the more because Congressional Democrats have given the impression that U.S. support for Poland or NATO aspirants Ukraine and Georgia is negotiable. Money for the missile defense program was struck in May by Democrats who claimed the threat from Iran wasn't materializing quickly and a deal with Poland hadn't been signed. Some funding was restored after Poland agreed to host 10 missile-defense interceptors in August. We also hear from liberal quarters that America really is to blame for the deteriorating relationship with Moscow. The Kremlin has heard that too.
No matter who's in charge at the White House, the U.S. won't easily get along with a Russia that chokes off political freedoms at home and threatens neighboring democracies. Fortunately, America has built up strong alliances with free European countries that are, in turn, now willing to help defend the U.S. and Europe against a rogue missile threat. It'd be nice to hear from the next President that he stands by these alliances.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on Saracuda
on: November 07, 2008, 05:56:53 AM
I think this from the WSJ gets it right:
Palin and the GOP
Love Sarah Palin or hate her -- and there seems to be little in between -- the Alaska Governor has become a national political figure. She could have a big political future, assuming she and the many Republicans now trashing her learn something from their recent misadventures.
Last August we advised John McCain not to select a relative unknown like Mrs. Palin, in part because we remember the way Dan Quayle was treated. The media haze GOP candidates in a way they never do Democrats. (See Joe Biden, unreported gaffes of.) Any national-campaign novice was bound to be chewed up. Mr. McCain nonetheless decided to take one of his celebrated leaps off the high bar. (Our track record this campaign was perfect: If we proposed it, Mr. McCain did the opposite.)
In the event, Mrs. Palin's contribution to the McCain ticket was mixed. Her bravura convention speech defied the early media mockery and made her an instant hero among rank-and-file Republicans. Her reform credentials and social conservatism inspired a GOP base that was angry with its wayward party and wary of Mr. McCain. The exit polls show that conservative turnout was strong, and Mrs. Palin deserves some credit for that.
Yet Mrs. Palin was clearly thrust into the spotlight before she was prepared for the rigors of a national campaign. The McCain camp also did her no favors, initially keeping her under a quarantine that raised the stakes for any media interview she did do. When it finally handed her over to Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric, Mrs. Palin was set up to fail with ground rules that let CBS dribble out her uncertain answers night after night.
The nasty leaks and gossip about Mrs. Palin that are now emerging from sources inside the McCain campaign have the ring of score-settling. Staff aides who mishandled her, or set her up for the Couric embarrassment, are now saying she refused coaching. Perhaps these were the same advisers who told her to cite Alaska's proximity to Russia as a foreign-policy credential.
No one really cares by now who did what to whom. The important point is that Mrs. Palin isn't responsible for Tuesday's defeat. The sages who urged Mr. McCain to "suspend" his campaign and throw himself in the middle of bailout talks on Capitol Hill can take far more credit for the loss.
Mrs. Palin is of course responsible for her own campaign performance, and this was uneven at best. A generation ago, a candidate might have been able to get away with the missteps in the Couric interview, but not in the age of YouTube. On the day she was chosen, the Governor wasn't conversant enough with many of the biggest national security and economic debates. Amid the financial panic, all she could offer were populist bromides about "greed and corruption." Voters who heard those answers were no doubt among the 60% who told exit pollsters on Tuesday that they didn't feel she was ready to be Commander in Chief.
Only 44 years old, and now with a loyal conservative following, Mrs. Palin is nonetheless well-positioned to help shape the Republican future. Her grasp of energy policy suggests she's capable of mastering subjects when she wants to, and if she wants a national future she's going to have to do the same on national issues.
Our advice would be that she also broaden her appeal beyond the politics of cultural division. One unfortunate campaign decision was to turn Mrs. Palin's initial response to press criticism into a consistent theme. The Governor's stump speech took on an us-versus-them cast, framing the election as a battle between the "real America" and blue-state elites. Hard as it may be to believe, New Jersey is part of America too.
This was an odd turn for Mrs. Palin, given her reputation in Alaska of taking on her own party and reaching across the aisle. Her commitment to a set of principles -- cleaning up government, taking on crony capitalism -- is what earned her 90% job approval. Her decision to jettison that appeal in favor of a base-rallying cultural pitch turned off many independents and suburbanites. Mrs. Palin will need those Americans if she wants to rebuild a party that must win in places like suburban Philadelphia, Orlando and New Hampshire to retake the White House.
As for Mrs. Palin's Republican critics, they might consider if they can afford to write off a young leader with such natural political talent. We don't see a large constellation of other GOP stars on the horizon. Mr. McCain was right to understand that his party needs a new generation of leaders who haven't grown comfortable with the perks of Washington. Especially as Democrats once again grow the Beltway, the next GOP leaders will need to make a better case for entrepreneurship and limited government. Mrs. Palin deserves a chance to see if she has the skill and work ethic to become that kind of leader.